Dark Matter: 28 June 2017

Thanks again this week for all of the kind notes and shares. On to the connected ephemera

This week in everybody in Cannes is totally talking about how scent is the new UI:

The London Squared Map (4min) is a fascinating idea with a challenging remit:

How can a city be reshaped to allow for a more even presentation of data without obliterating the forms that make it a recognizable space?

Put more simply: how does one design to avoid the distortion normally built into map-based data visualizations? After the Flood have done some really smart work here. H/T to Matt Webb for the link.

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Joanne Schofield has written a smart primer on content design (3min) for the Co-op blog. Circulate it generously within your organization.

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Racked has a fabulous profile of ‘indie artisanal perfume pioneer’ Frederic Malle (5min) that you should absolutely read. Really. Still not sold? Consider the opening:

“I was at Chateau Marmont yesterday in the elevator and there was this girl preparing for a party, and I was really sad for her because she smelled like a Duty Free.”

You’re welcome.

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Shipping containers are the new Sarah Records singles: (4min):

He has been keeping his eyes out for a refrigerated Maersk box, which he has never seen. “Maersk might not be the most boutique one to spot,” he said, “but it’s my favorite as a layperson in the world of container spotting.”

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This week in ‘I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought a DMP’:

Preach, Paul Graham:

“Markets don’t work for everything. Truth is one place where they fail.”

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Plenty of people have been circulating Andrew Chen’s excellent essay on the challenges of growth at the end of a tech cycle (9min), and with great reason. He outlines six key trends that serve as meaningful obstacles to product growth, namely:

  1. mobile platform consolidation
  2. competition on paid channels
  3. banner blindness
  4. superior tooling
  5. smarter, faster competitors
  6. “Competing with boredom is easier than competing with Google/Facebook”

The most interesting to me is the parity produced by the fourth factor, superior tooling, through products like Mixpanel that commoditize cohort analysis. We’re working at a really interesting time when complex analytics tools are becoming commonplace. Read the whole piece, please.

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Zillow is threatening to sue the McMansion Hell blog (3min) — always a sign that things are going well.

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I finally got around to Ramzi Yakob’s piece on the enterprise value of first-party data (7min). You should, too. This is especially good:

To me, ‘meaningful use of data’ is any use that has a positive contribution to one of the three ways you can grow a business:

  1. Increase usage of the existing product or service (more people and / or more often)
  2. Increase the value derived from each instance of use (higher price)
  3. Increase the utility of your business by serving a larger number of needs (new products & services / bigger share of wallet)
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Sam Ford on ‘slow innovation’ (6min) is wonderful:

Slow innovation is the realm of pattern recognition: searching for emerging developments outside the organization’s immediate line-of-sight or that may be happening steadily, but not rapidly.​

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This week in training Watson on a steady diet of vintage Geoff McFetridge prints:

Lauren Berliner’s work cataloging LGBTQ ‘It Gets Better’ video templates (7min) makes for absolutely fascinating reading — particularly as relates to the production values of youth publics.
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I love this so much: what is a model? (9min) by Shane Parrish
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It will shock you not at all to learn that consulting firm PwC has developed a 2×2 grid designed to illustrate the role of AI in creative economies (8min). The Creative Intelligence Matrix is poorly named, albeit with some compelling points to make:
“(Organizations) have to invest to create what our colleague Todd Supplee calls data factories: systems that can combine data from proprietary, third-party, and public- and partner-generated sources and extract value. While doing so, they must build the capacity for data governance and be sensitive to norms, regulations, and expectations surrounding transparency and privacy.”
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Using neural networks to explain neural networks (better on desktop than on mobile).

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Until next week.

Dark Matter: 20 June 2017

If you read nothing else this week, make it Longreads‘ excerpt from Adam Greenfield’s new book Radical Technologies— which is next up in my reading list — on the sociology of the smartphone (27min). It’s a long piece, yes, but with some absolutely bang-on points. For example:

“The individual networked in this way is no longer the autonomous subject enshrined in liberal theory, not precisely. Our very selfhood is smeared out across a global mesh of nodes and links; all the aspects of our personality we think of as constituting who we are—our tastes, preferences, capabilities, desires—we owe to the fact of our connection with that mesh, and the selves and distant resources to which it binds us.”

Hat-tip to reader (and Almighty co-founder) Chris Smith for the link.

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This week in be the algorithm you want to see in the world:

Now you can own that co-worker who started dropping oblique references to neural nets and machine learning in morning stand-ups: Machine Design has published a quick guide to the distinctions between machine learning and AI (3min). Commit it to memory.

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It’s Tim Hwang’s world, and the rest of us occasionally get to occupy it: Y-Combinator has a fascinating, wide-ranging interview posted with Google’s new Global Public Policy Lead on AI (12min) that gets to some really interesting points on the relationships between government and AI policy. To wit:

one of the most interesting aspects of the GDPR, which is a new privacy regulation in Europe, is the potential for this, what they call kind of a rights explanation. So the idea is for certain kinds of automated decision-making, it might be so significant as to require or give citizens the right for that system to be able to produce some kind of human understandable explanation for what it’s doing.

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All of the cool kids in Cannes this week are going to be talking about  “quantum supremacy” (5min) is going to be a really important idea over the next few years.

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What happens when you put portable DNA sequencing in a $1,000 package you can fit in your pocket (7min)? Things we never imagined. The possibilities presented by MinION are mind-boggling.

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This week in the lost productivity attributable to clever GIF-related Slackbots:

It’s been true for a while, but it’s still wonderfully refreshing to hear someone like BBH CCO Pelle Sjoenell say it into a microphone (5min) (in a terribly candid interview with Shots):

Historically, the only route to mass communication was to hire an agency, that’s why we still bill by the hour like lawyers. But now someone on YouTube could make better ads than I do. They have the tools, the tech, the access and we have to compete with that. ​

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Mike Davidson’s written a thoughtful piece on a remarkably under-addressed topic: how to give product feedback that’s useful to product teams (6min). Bookmark and share liberally.

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It sounds heretical, but Amir Salihefendic’s piece on why Doist quit Slack cold turkey (10min) is a story I’m hearing with increasing frequency. To summarize:

  • it’s addictive
  • it’s built for shallow conversations
  • it’s disorganized
  • it only simulates transparency

I’ve not tried the product their team developed in response, Twist — but there are some nice notes within the piece on design decisions that operated in direct response to the perceived tyranny of Slack’s UI (the online status indicator chief among them for me).

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Lara Hogan’s Github repository of HR docs and resources from her time at Etsy is an absolute goldmine. Download immediately or bookmark forever, kids.

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I wasn’t going to do much with Amazon + Whole Foods, but now I am because Ben Thompson. His point: Amazon acquired a customer, not a retailer (12min) — a point laid out in extraordinary detail and with a strong understanding of the dynamics of the grocery business. It’s wonderfull stuff.

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This week in ‘I’m a voice designer’ is the new ‘I’m an organizational designer’:

Anab Jain is a superhero, and her work on alternative futures at Superflux is the kind of vocation many of us dream about building for ourselves. Her April TED keynote is finally available, and it’s extraordinary. Seriously, the best fourteen minutes you’ll spend today.

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Ana Andjelic has, as usual, written a really on-point piece on the choices facing fashion houses (4min) as their industry, too, moves from a focus on the corporation to a focus on the customer.

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Fjord has shared a set of principles for voice UI design, wrapped up in their own nifty web UI. Some of this is well-trod, but other parts break some new ground. I’m particularly drawn to reminders that in conversation, ‘everything happens in sequence’. Well-worth a bookmark, though it’s a clubhouse leader for most-cited report in 2017 pitchware writeups.

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Amal Graafstra and his friends are norm-coring human chip implants (4min), folks. From a piece this week by The Institute for the Future:

“A good implant,” Amal explains, “becomes so integrated with your daily life that it disappears. It’s unmanaged. You think about it about as much as you think about your kidneys doing their job. Every time I come home, I go to my door, I swipe, I grab the doorknob. I don’t think about it at all.”

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Grant McCracken has a smart, short piece this week on the validity of using Google Trends data to make life decisions (4 min). I’d love to see him build out an entire series on this topic, as I think it lends itself well to exploration. In the meantime, are you caught up on his Artisanal Economies Project?

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As always, my thanks to each of you who makes room in your inbox for Dark Matter. Thanks for all of the kind words on the Twitter. If you’ve enjoyed it, why not pass it along to a colleague or co-worker.

Until next week, I leave you with a complete history of mutually assured destruction (9min).