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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Facebook, Spotify, and Apple are all prioritizing podcasts. What’s behind the recent emphasis?

For at least the past five years, most experts would tell you the podcast market was saturated. Everyone has a podcast, they’d say, and the window of opportunity to break in was closed. Podcasting technology had some room to grow, but an RSS feed and a Play button mostly did the trick. Apple, the company that put the ‘pod’ in ‘podcasts,’ even seemed to forget the genre existed. It updated its podcasting app about as often as Tim Cook praised Mark Zuckerberg.

But recently, and seemingly out of nowhere, some of the world’s largest tech companies have made podcasting a…


‘Dark patterns’ aren’t always malicious mind control. They’re often a symptom of disjointed company culture. Will the Times change?

A recent New York Times op-ed, titled “Stopping the Manipulation Machines,” derided the use of dark patterns: design tricks that push people to do things online by confusing or deliberately inconveniencing them.

Kudos to the writer, Greg Bensinger, a member of the Times’ editorial board, who does a laudable job calling out obnoxious dark patterns.

His first target is the Amazon Prime unsubscribe process, which he calls “a labyrinthine process that requires multiple screens and clicks.”

Bensinger claims Amazon deters customers…


Thank you for approving of my house, stranger.

On Wednesday morning, I appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss my new novel How Lucky, which is available wherever books are sold this very second. It was a fun conversation with Willie Geist, Claire McCaskill and Mike Barnicle, and it featured the following screenshot, which is the sort of screenshot one appreciates when one is trying to sell books.


The numbers make it painfully obvious

More than a third of the global population of 7.8 billion people use Facebook. They post 350 million photos a day and no one seems to know (except Facebook) exactly how many overall posts Facebook sees per second (it has to be in the millions).

Now imagine human moderators standing before that tsunami of content, all 15,000 of them, spread across the globe, interpreting languages, nuances, cultural norms, political imperatives, and ideological nuances for content that crosses the line. It’s like a feather trying to hold back a hurricane.

I’ve known these numbers for a long time and have always…


Whether you call it a Facebook PR scheme or the Supreme Court for social media, the Facebook Oversight Board is moving beyond its initial remit. Now things get interesting.

The hot takes have poured in following the Facebook Oversight Board’s decision on Donald Trump. On Wednesday, the “independent” board — made up of third parties selected by Facebook — announced it would uphold Facebook’s ban of the former president while asking Facebook to come up with something less arbitrary than an “indefinite” suspension. People called the board a threat to democracy, a Facebook branding campaign, an insufficient check on Facebook’s power, and something more powerful than the United Nations.

In reality, the board is a feeble institution funded and designed by Facebook — not a boogeyman upon which we…


Whatever your view of tech’s impact on our children, here are commonsense rules we can all follow

By Nir Eyal and Jonathan Haidt

Recent social science research has parents concerned about whether deep immersion in digital technologies is bad for their children.

A variety of studies find that rates of teen anxiety, depression, and self-harm have risen since 2012, in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada, although the evidence that this rise was caused by smartphones and social media is hotly debated.

It may take another decade for researchers to reach agreement, but parents need guidance now if their kids are to develop a healthy relationship with technology.

To limit or not to limit, that is the…


Your audience doesn’t mind if you’re fake

About a month ago a motorcycle-loving Japanese woman with 27,800 followers on Twitter revealed that he was actually a 50-year old Japanese man who had been using a photo app to make his face look like a young woman.

According to the BBC, the man (named Soya) did this because, “No one will read what a normal middle-aged man, taking care of his motorcycle and taking pictures outside, posts on his account.” By editing his pictures to look like a young, attractive woman, he was far more popular on Twitter. …


Internet Nostalgia

Did you know they switched boats on us?

Welcome to part 11 of our Internet Nostalgia series, which looks back at phenomena that captured the internet’s imagination and attention for a fleeting moment and then vanished as everyone moved on to something else. This series looks back at those olden times and what they told us about the internet and ourselves. If you have a suggested topic, email me at williamfleitch@yahoo.com. Last week, we looked at the Ice Bucket Challenge. This week: Boaty McBoatface.

Date: March 2016.

The story: The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is a perfectly normal, rather boring U.K. organization that funds scientific endeavors and…


It’s not your fault the social media giant is like this

Today, Facebook’s self-created Oversight Board released a decision and guidance about whether or not the social network made the right call in banning the former President of the United States from its platform after a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

I have a confession though. It’s all my fault. None of this would’ve happened if I had just quit Facebook.

I could’ve stopped it.

It’s hard to talk about the problems with Facebook without being told that the solution is to “Just quit Facebook.” You’re annoyed by the flood of unnecessary notifications from the app? Quit Facebook. Your data…


Facebook still has a lot of explaining to do

Former President Donald Trump is, as of this moment, still banned from Facebook, but before you cheer or deride the decision, know this: The Reckoning is just beginning.

The Oversight Board agreed with Facebook’s initial actions: kicking Trump off its platforms (Facebook and Instagram) as the Capitol riots unfolded and then extended it indefinitely the next day. However, the board, which operates independently of Facebook, also called out the social media giant for seeking to avoid its responsibilities. Facebook tried punting on the long-term decision to permanently ban the ex-president.

Now, however, the ball is back in Facebook’s court. Will…

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