Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

30th Jan 2016

1) Why Renaissance Florence is a better model for Innovation than Silicon Valley. ‘Silicon Valley is too new, too now, to glean lessons from. Those hoping to launch the world’s next great innovation hub would be better off looking to an older, even more remarkable genius cluster: Renaissance Florence. The Italian city-state produced an explosion of great art and brilliant ideas, the likes of which the world has not seen before or since. This hothouse of innovation offers lessons as relevant and valuable today as they were 500 years ago‘.

2) Interesting new work from Bernard E Harcourt – Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age. ‘The expository society exploits, rather than represses, our desires and (at the same time) government and commercial surveillance infrastructures have wholly merged.

3) The company from Menlo Park is big in the news this week –

Inside Facebook’s Decision to Blow Up the Like Button. ‘Changing the button is like Coca-Cola messing with its secret recipe’. No (replacement) idea was good enough to qualify for public testing.The solution would eventually be named ‘Reactions’. It will arrive soon and it will expand the range of Facebook-compatible human emotions from one to six.

Facebook Takes On Periscope By Giving Live Streaming To All U.S. iPhoners – finally we’ll see whose approach wins: Twitter and Periscope with a separate app and replays that can only be watched for 24 hours, or Facebook Live with its feature integrated into the popular social network and which allows replays to live on permanently.


Facebook is Expanding Its Burgeoning Ad Network to the Mobile Web. The company will begin making its Facebook Audience Network available for publishers and advertisers outside of publishers’ native apps. The Audience Network for the mobile Web will include the same kind of targeting data available through apps.

4) This is the land where Tower Records still rules . In Japan, 85% of all music sold, moves around on those circular, scratch-prone pieces of plastic that went out of style years ago in the West – the venerable compact disc.
Why? – Bureaucracy. ‘In Japan it is illegal to sell CDs under $25 a pop, so bargain-bins don’t exist to dump stock. Also, red tape has made it near impossible for global music e-tailers to get a foothold in the Japanese music market. Digital streaming giant Spotify rented offices in Japan in 2011, but is still not green-lit for business, and it took iTunes over seven years to acquire Sony Music Japan’s catalogue in 2012.’

5) In 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published, on its cover, a “Doomsday Clock”. The clock was designed to represent the existential threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons. That year, it was set at 11:53, or “seven minutes to midnight”. At the height of the Cold War, the time was set to 11.58. What time is it showing today? – 11.57.

6) Why Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ will dominate digital life for the foreseeable Future. ‘Tech people like to picture their industry as a roiling sea of disruption, in which every winner is vulnerable to surprise attack from some novel, as-yet-unimagined foe. “Someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us” Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s executive chairman, is fond of saying.
But for much of the last half-decade, most of these five giants (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) have enjoyed a remarkable reprieve from the bogeymen in the garage. And you can bet on them continuing to win.

7) If audiences had ever wanted a guide to the internet, here it is, courtesy of a 73-year-old Bavarian who barely owns a mobile phone, never mind actually switches it on. Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, which has premiered at Sundance, raises many, many questions about our machine age.

8) Solving the “Longbow Puzzle”: why did France and Scotland keep their inferior crossbows? The authors (of a recent paper in The Journal of Law and Economics) hypothesise that the French and Scottish monarchy were too afraid of being overthrown to allow their citizenry to possess and train with longbows, while the relative social stability in England gave the state the confidence to adopt the weapon, giving it an advantage in its wars with other, less well equipped powers.

9) Great fun. This animation imagines old Star Wars characters meeting new Star Wars characters, all in the pursuit of proving how similar the first and most recent films are.

10) Finally (and rather beautifully) here is one day’s observations from Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, animated in a loop. It shows the western Pacific, Australia, and parts of Asia, Antarctica, and Alaska as they looked on one day in mid-2015. It covers 24 hours in 12 seconds – a time lapse factor of 7,200×. Here is Glittering Blue.