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Lobbyists, Guns and Money

Paul Krugman:

We seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.

Scary yet unsurprising story about how organisations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are not only supporting, but writing wholesale legislation to benefit their corporate benefactors.

Of course, if it’s happening in the US, it’s happening here in Britain too. Indeed, I was reminded of this fascinating article by Adam Curtis, which charts the rise of the political ‘think tank’:

If you go back and look at how they rose up – at who invented them and why – you discover they are not quite what they seem. That in reality they may have nothing to do with genuinely developing new ideas, but have become a branch of the PR industry whose aim is to do the very opposite – to endlessly prop up and reinforce today’s accepted political wisdom.

Our political leaders are no longer interested in the concerns of the electorate and increasingly led by lobbyists – regardless of what destruction (societal, economic, environmental…) may result from their policy suggestions.

It surely can’t carry on like this, can it?

Next Larger Context

Eliel Saarinen:

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.

No Longer Loving Google

Nelson Minar:

I refuse to give in to a cynical view of Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto; that ethos was very real, a sincere and important guiding principle. And if a big company like Google can’t avoid being evil, then what world-changing enterprise can? But I think Google as an organization has moved on; they’re focussed now on market position, not making the world better. Which makes me sad.

Google is too powerful, too arrogant, too entrenched to be worth our love. Let them defend themselves, I’d rather devote my emotional energy to the upstarts and startups. They deserve our passion.

Sound familiar? As much as I despise Facebook, Google isn’t any better behaved. In fact, its crimes are often far worse.

I still have a Google account, although the only services I rely on are search and Reader. DuckDuckGo is looking like a promising replacement for search, but nearly every decent RSS reader still syncs with Google Reader (even if through unofficial and undocumented APIs). As soon as that changes, my Google account will be deleted.

Created by Machines

Marissa Mayer addressing Google designers, as quoted in In The Plex by Steven Levy:

“It looks like a human was involved in choosing what went where,” Marissa told them. “It looks too editorialized. Google products are machine-driven. They’re created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That’s what makes our products great.”

This explains everything.

(via Buzz Andersen)

The Social Graph is Neither

Pinboard’s Maciej Ceglowski:

Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.

Because their collection methods are kind of primitive, these sites have to coax you into doing as much of your social interaction as possible while logged in, so they can see it. It’s as if an ad agency built a nationwide chain of pubs and night clubs in the hopes that people would spend all their time there, rigging the place with microphones and cameras to keep abreast of the latest trends.

Required reading.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address is a lesson on how to lead a life of fulfilment:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

And death allows for no excuses:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

I aim to do so.

Richard Madeley

David Sim:

When I fell asleep in front of BBC1, dinosaurs were on. When I awoke, Richard Madeley had traced his ancestors. Seems a waste of evolution.

To Fly. To Serve.

Whatever you may think of British Airways, it’s hard not to be impressed by this latest campaign. Part of a brand repositioning exercise that sees the return of the company’s coat of arms, this advert meticulously recounts the history of BA through its planes, people, ancestor companies and branding. It also features a nostalgic nod to Concorde, which still looks like an aircraft of the future rather than one of the past.

In many ways, I’m reminded of a similarly retro themed advert that BA’s arch rival Virgin Atlantic produced to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2009.

Gowalla 4 and Loss Of Personal Milestone Data

Garrett Murray perfectly sums up my thoughts on the changes to Gowalla:

This version steps away from the straight-forward check-in functionality and replaces it with a more social version called “stories” The basic idea is that you create a story at a location, tag your friends, upload photos and comment. I think this is a terrific idea, and I think it’s something relatively unique in the check-in app space.

But it’s not what I want.

I’m willing to keep the app on my iPhone for a little while, if only in the hope that the new city guides will prove useful during my forthcoming trip to the US and Canada. Still, it’s hard to see myself using this application much more than I used to, if at all.

Speaker Deck

I quickly tired of posting my presentations to SlideShare as the service became increasingly laden with features and countless advertising.

Thankfully there’s now an alternative in the form of Speaker Deck, which publicly launched this week. Designed by Ordered List, this new service gives presentations the distraction free environment they deserve, and is an exemplar of detail-driven design. Don’t let the simplicity of the product fool you. Attention has been fostered on even the tiniest details; skim over thumbnail images to see what I mean.

If you have presentations you wish to showcase, I encourage you to try Speaker Deck. You won’t be disappointed.

The End of the Web as We Know It

Adrian Short:

You can turn your back on the social networks that matter in your field and be free and independent running your own site on your own domain. But increasingly that freedom is just the freedom to be ignored, the freedom to starve. We need to use social networks to get heard and this forces us into digital serfdom. We give more power to Big Web companies with every tweet and page we post to their networks while hoping to get a bit of traffic and attention back for ourselves. The open web of free and independent websites has never looked so weak.

A timely post. When read in tandem with Nik Cubrilovic’s post ‘Logging out of Facebook is not enough’, the features announced at Facebook’s most recent f8 event aren’t just creepy, but downright sinister.