What We’re Reading: Brands, Brands, Brands; Political Doxing; and Twitter’s Decay

Here’s what you missed while you were researching the Egyptian pyramids for the fist time since second grade…

Landor: The Three Unspeakable Verbal Identities and How to Avoid Them

Selected by Shane Snow, founder and CCO

“It’s not what you’re saying, it’s how you’re saying it.” How many times has your significant other/mom/whomever scolded you with this phrase? I’ll plead the fifth. Talk however you want on your own time, but when you’re speaking as a company, you need to be conscious and consistent—across all platforms.

This post is a great primer on the subject. Stop being a weirdo, IHOP Twitter Person!

Schneier on Security: The Rise of Political Doxing

Selected by Esme Cribb, editorial intern

Last week, CIA Director John Brennan’s personal email was hacked and, for the most part, posted on Wikileaks. Here, Bruce Schneier of the Electronic Frontier Foundation discusses the impact of doxing as a tactic, and the existing political precedent, from the Sony and iCloud hacks last year to Ashley Madison and Snowden’s surveillance disclosures.

In a world where the the boundary between the public and the private sphere is constantly being reevaluated as people share more and more information, how can we balance the right to privacy with the reality of data collection? Schneider provides a concise summary of recent events, making this a great resource for anyone looking to understand the ethical and political complications involved.

The Awl: The Brand Circle of Life

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, director of editorial

If you’re a loyal reader of TCS—and if you care enough about us to read this article, you probably are—you know I love making fun of brand speak. And that’s why I love this piece from the Awl, which lampoons the ridiculous positioning of the Swiss Water® Coffee Studio, which just opened within the guts of a gas station across the street from our office, where you are “invited to experience the Art of Coffee Without Caffeine.” It is, as Matt Buchanan writes, an attempt “to turn a decades-old industrial decaffeination process into a Brand.”

“The Swiss Water® process is in fact, ‘the world’s only branded decaffeination process,’ according to the Ten Peaks Coffee Company, the Canadian company which owns “all of the interests of the Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company Inc.” and is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Since the Swiss Water® Coffee Studio opened on Friday, Ten Peaks’ stock has dropped ever so slightly, but there’s still a whole week left to experience its Brand, and the outlook for the company and its Brand is quite strong.”

I am Brand. You are Brand. We are all Brand.

The New York Times: Conflict of Interest in T Magazine’s Tech Article

Selected by Ann Fabens-Lassen, communications manager

I love the New York Times Public Editor. It’s such a crazy job! Margaret Sullivan publishes critical posts of the Times in the Times, often taking aim at the well-respected journalists and editors who run the publication… Suffice to say, she’s pretty badass. Her recent piece about “Five Visionary Tech Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World,” which ran in T Magazine (The New York Times‘s ad-filled fashion magazine), got me thinking about the many conflicts of interest that exist in today’s editorial climate.

We think about it a lot, especially since TCS is a brand-backed publication. When it comes to a conflict of interest, I generally think the most important safeguard is disclosure. In this case, however, Sullivan argues that a disclosure from author Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen—who is married to famous tech god Marc Andreessen, an investor in Airbnb, one of the five companies featured in the piece—isn’t enough. There isn’t an easy answer for this issue, but it’s important for editors and writers to keep asking these types of questions, whether they work for a brand publication or The New York Times. Maybe we need a TCS Public Editor?

The Atlantic: The Decay of Twitter

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

I’m not a fan of every part of this article—is it a column? is it an academic analysis of Twitter? can the author stop butting in with random interjections?—but some of the anthropological theories about social media that Robinson Meyer quotes are fascinating.

One of the big changes we’ve seen in the past few years is a kind of exhaustion with the Internet. Facebook and Twitter, the most public of the major networks, often seem more like a chore than “fun,” and plenty of studies suggest that using Facebook makes us unhappy. In response, many—especially young people—have been shifting to private “micronetworks” like Snapchat, Kik, and the Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

Facebook still has the same kind of exhausting, superficial identity issues as Twitter, but unlike Twitter, it has only grown, a contradiction Meyer doesn’t really address. The reason, to me at least, is obvious: Facebook has assimilated digital news, and because of its chat feature and massive user base, it’s almost impossible to not be active. In other words, Facebook no longer relies on public interaction—the network evolved past that function a long time ago.

That tension between public and private functions is something Twitter and every other major social network will have to navigate as long as they’re around.

Image by Doug Meek/Shutterstock.com

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