Monday Morning Links

Here’s a few things the internet served up that got me thinking this morning. Maybe you’ll find them interesting too.

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Publishers Are Rethinking Those ‘Around the Web’ Ads

It’s about bloody time:

Usually grouped together under a label like “Promoted Stories” or “Around the Web,” these links are often advertisements dressed up to look like stories people might want to read. They have long provided much-needed revenue for publishers and given a wide range of advertisers a relatively affordable way to reach large and often premium audiences.

But now, some publishers are wondering about the effect these so-called content ads may be having on their brands and readers. This month, these ads stopped appearing on Slate. And The New Yorker, which restricted placement of such ads to its humor articles, recently removed them from its website altogether.

The New York Times (Login Required)


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The Rise Of Digital Oligarchies

In fact, we are currently living in a business environment in which the consolidation of economic power into the hands of a few massive entities is unprecedented.

Outside of China, Google and Facebook completely dominate the internet. There are literally millions of publishers on the web trying to earn a living. Google and Facebook account for 72% of all the online media revenue.

There has never in history been a duopoly that so dominated a medium. And was so free of governmental restraint. Or self-restraint, for that matter.

They are not just selling media space like the TV, radio, and print people are. They are weaving their way into the fabric of the world’s leading companies.

The Ad Contrarian


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 Why we need to clear our cluttered minds

Butterfly on Window Ledge

For a while now, I’ve taken “internet free” days. More recently, I’m finding that the more often I disconnect from internet enabled devices in the eveneings and on weekends, the more connected and productive I seem to be overall. It might be time for me to revisit this subject with a proper post.

In the meantime, here’s Daniel J. Levitin:

Focusing on what really matters is difficult at the best of times. But as our daily lives have become busier, we have paradoxically incorporated all sorts of new distractions, from email to texts to social media, into our routines. Multitasking is addictive, Levitin concedes. “We’re a productive species and we have an evolutionary history that finds pleasure in accomplishing things. So, every text message you send, every email you reply to, every Facebook update you post, makes you feel like you’ve crossed a task off your mental list.” In turn, that triggers the brain’s reward system, which releases dopamine and other neural chemicals that induce feelings of contentment and happiness.

There’s also a growing body of evidence that suggests our “smart” devices are, in fact, making us dumber. As search engines and databases have proliferated, we have come to rely on them for the kind of basic facts and figures—phone numbers, loved ones’ birthdays, the year Samuel de Champlain first sailed up the St. Lawrence—that we used to carry around in our brains. (To save you checking, it was 1603.) As our comfort level with such “outsourcing” grows, we seem to retain less and less information.

Macleans


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Why Apple’s MacBook Touch Bar was the right thing to do

Speaking of clutter… I already thought the clutter of negative press on Apple’s new MacBook Pro line was overblown. Here’s an article with a different perspective (which I agree with):

People love a Greek tragedy. Icarus has flown too close to the sun and tumbled to Earth. Apple has forgotten its core users and been eclipsed by Microsoft. The Touch Bar is a compromise between adding a touch screen on a MacBook and ignoring touch entirely.

These narratives are easy to sketch because they sell better to readers than moderated, honest inspection of sentiment and behavior. If you have heroes and villains, then everything is a zero-sum game and nothing that competitors do can exist on their own merits.

The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar is the right thing to do because people don’t use touch screen laptops like they do tablets.

Tech Crunch


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Before the Flood

On a more serious note, Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary on climate change for National Geographic is available in its entirety on YouTube. I’m hoping to find time to watch it this week:


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Australian researchers find and drink beer from 220-year old shipwreck

australian-researchers-find-and-drink-beer-from-220-year-old-shipwreck2

On a decidedly less serious note, I think the idea of reviving brewer’s yeasts from 220 year old ale is delightful. Too bad they aren’t planning mass distribution. I’d like to try some:

While the findings were stored away for a few decades, the possibility to sample a centuries-old brew became too much for some Australian scientists. Indeed, when the existence of the beer was brought to the attention of historian and chemist David Thurrowgood, he did what any other beer lover would do when they found ancient beer – find a way to drink it.

Lost at E Minor

Does anyone even care about WordPress?

I’ll be capping off WordCamp Winnipeg tomorrow with a talk entitled: “Does Anyone Even Care About WordPress?”

I threw it out there as a topic a few months ago, because I had this little itch in my brain about it all. And then it took me a long time to struggle with why. I think it’s because the question is very similar to: Does Anyone Even Care About The Open Web? I won’t ruin my talk by writing a post that replicates it beforehand, but it’s an important question that I think we need to ask.

In a time where it seems like the gated web has won. In a time where everyone is deeply absorbed in (and maybe manipulated by) Big Data. In a time where there are many proclaiming that blogging is dead, social media having sucked it’s blood and left it in the dungeons of the internet content machine. In a time where a small business can use Square Space or any other number of DIY template on a shoe-string, hosted proprietary systems, who cares about WordPress or the open web?