Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. Can Microsoft Make LinkedIn Indispensable?

When Microsoft announced that it would buy LinkedIn for $26 billion, it struck many as a technology non sequitur. Paul Ford, writing in the tech newsletter Track Changes, is optimistic about the partnership, and he offers nine ideas on how it could work:

Microsoft designs for people who have to do boring things with computers in order to make money. It’s the 9–5 software vendor. LinkedIn is the social network of 9–5, too. It’s also a tire fire of failed UX patterns; it looks like robot poop. That’ll be the part we see: when Microsoft slowly starts applying pressure, fixing the long-standing, painful bugs, improving the overall product experience, bringing everything up to code until LinkedIn looks like a fully modern, business-focused social network. The part we won’t see, though, that’ll be amazing.

Ann Friedman’s take is more pessimistic, as she contends that LinkedIn is nothing but “a networking site [that] burrows its way into users’ inboxes with updates spinning the gossamer dream of successful and frictionless advancement up the career ladder….[but] it’s an Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder.”

2. Tom Perkins: Brilliance and Madness

Tom Perkins, the legendary venture capitalist who died this month, was a caricature of the Silicon Valley billionaire. He collected vintage Bugattis, built giant yachts, offered impolitic opinions, and even wrote a terrible, steamy sex novel. His biographer, David A. Kaplan, saw both sides of Perkins as he researched the brilliantly titled Mine’s Bigger. Kaplan offers this posthumous take:

I had seen Perkins’s remarkable intelligence, ambition, curiosity, prescience, and charm — along with his petulance and ruthlessness. When he wanted lunch “in 20 minutes,” the crew knew it meant five. When he lost his temper, which happened a lot, he famously stomped on his Dunhill hat; the dance led some of his friends over the years to refer to him as Rumpelstiltskin.

Not surprisingly, Yachting World has a colorful account of Perkins’s sailing obsession.

3. Is Bill Simmons a Disrupter?

Bill Simmons, the sports-media maverick who left ESPN in a huff and killed Grantland in the process, was the subject of a fawning profile in The New York Times. Deadspin dissents:

Simmons claiming that he was being a “disrupter” when he called Roger Goodell a liar is simply revisionist history…This happened during a time when just about every member of the sports media was casting aspersions on the NFL commissioner. At that point in time, calling Roger Goodell a liar was one of the least-controversial things a person could possibly do. Simmons was suspended not because he made an attack on Goodell, but because he publicly thumbed his nose at his bosses. Throughout his time at ESPN, Simmons was repeatedly reprimanded for taking shots at his own colleagues, not for taking brave and controversial positions.

4. Who Will Make the Roadmap to the Future

Not just for cartography nerds! Justin O’Beirne offers an incredibly detailed look at the differences between Google Maps and Apple Maps – “two of the most important maps ever made.” As O’Beirne points out, these two maps are “in a race to become the world’s first universal map,” yet no one has adequately compared them:

I can easily find hundreds of articles that’ll tell me the differences between an Apple iPad and a Microsoft Surface, or even the differences between iOS and Android. But I can’t find anything comparing Google Maps and Apple Maps, despite how important they’ve become. 

One difference O’Beirne finds is that Apple Maps labels more cities, but Google Maps identifies more roads. These differences will become critical for future services like autonomous driving.

5. Brexit: Who Are the Real Provincials?

Following the Brexit vote, ridicule is being thrown at both the Leave and Remain forces. It has become conventional wisdom that the big losers are the “experts” who botched their predictions, and all non-Londoners have been tagged as provincial bigots. Tyler Cowen, a pro-immigration economist who supported the Remain vote, offers this sympathetic take on the Leave side:

Much has been made of the supposed paradox that opposition to immigration is highest where the number of immigrants is lowest. Yes, some of that is the racism and xenophobia of less cosmopolitan areas, but it would be a big mistake to dismiss it as such or even to mainly frame it as such. Most of all it is an endowment effect. Those are the regions which best remember — and indeed still live — some earlier notion of what England was like. And they wish to hold on to that, albeit with the possibility of continuing evolution along mostly English lines…Most of all, I conclude that the desire to preserve the English nation [sic] as English is stronger than I or indeed most others had thought. There is a positive side to that. And if all along you thought there was no case for Leave, probably it is you who is the provincial one.

6. Best TED Parody Ever?

This parody of a TED talk on “thought leadership” gets everything right: from the humble head nods, to the pregnant pauses, to the moment the speaker says, “By making a list with my fingers, I’ve made you believe there is a point.” A must-watch.


Websites Worth Reading


Feeds We Follow