‘Moby-Dick in the ClickHole,’ and 5 Other Stories You Should Read

Here’s what you missed while trying to ignore Cup-Gate…

The New Republic: My 2.5 Star Trip to Amazon’s Bizarre New Bookstore

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

I had no idea Amazon opened a brick-and-mortar bookstore until I read Dustin Kurtz’s recent New Republic article. Kurtz takes a trip to Amazon Books, in Seattle, and writes a review of the atmosphere, calling it “wildly banal,” which is the perfect description for the experiment.

Why did arguably the most disruptive business in the world decide to open a traditional bookstore? Is it just a vanity project? Is Amazon trying to twist the knife in Barnes & Noble and every indie bookstore still scraping by? I have no idea. I assume Amazon has a master plan, but I just can’t see it yet. Kurtz gives some possible insight—for example, suggesting that Amazon could promote its own struggling publishing house in the store—but he really just raises a lot of interesting questions about a tech company oddly contradicting itself. I’m curious to see if we ever get answers.

The Wall Street Journal: Secretive, Sprawling Network of ‘Scouts’ Spreads Money Through Silicon Valley

Selected by Amanda Weatherhead, distribution manager

This article offers a fascinating peek inside the Skull and Bones of Silicon Valley.

We may think that Wall Street is run by an old boy’s club, and that Silicon Valley is the last true meritocracy in America, but it’s clear that’s not the case. The largest West Coast VCs are quietly amassing empires of their own, and are embroiled in their own clandestine arms race.

The New Republic: Moby-Dick in the ClickHole

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

Call me a narcissist, but I’m pretty sure this article was written just for me. It discusses, among other things, my favorite book (Moby-Dick), Facebook’s domination (a topic I write and think about way too much), the anxiety of what happens to art and literature in the digital age (one of my favorite anxieties), one of the best sites on the Internet (ClickHole), and ends with a particularly evocative description of social media as narcissism made real (I made sure to tweet this article to confirm its accuracy).

“Moby-Dick in the Clickhole” makes admittedly tenuous connections between all these topics, but Ryu Spaeth manages to weave it all together masterfully.

Stratechery: Grantland and the (Surprising) Future of Publishing

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, director of editorial

I’m still not over the sudden shuttering of Grantland by its increasingly-corporate overlord, ESPN. I still instinctively navigate to the homepage once a day, staring at it like an ex-girlfriend’s Instagram.

It’s especially hard to let go of Grantland because its demise feels like an indictment of the media industry as a whole. If a site with the most celebrated and poignant pop culture and sports on earth can be shuttered in an instant, does that mean we should all just give up and become stock brokers?

Maybe, but none of us want to become stockbrokers, so instead we have to figure out the flaw in the business model. In this excellent piece, Ben Thompson comes to an intriguing conclusion: “the future of publishing in particular has artificially restricted itself to monetizing text.” Thompson calls for “writing as lead generation”; basically, media companies should think of text—the easiest content format to create and access—as a lead generation tool for some other product, such as podcasts, which can be monetized at much higher rates than text articles.

What’s intriguing to me is that Thompson essentially ends up arguing for media companies to adopt a content marketing mindset, using content to drive interest in some other product that funds the whole venture. It’s a sign of the times. As we head into 2016, media is increasingly thinking like marketing, marketing is increasingly thinking like media, and quite often, it feels like we’re all just running through a giant field on fire, waiting for someone to point us to a like and say, “Good job, son. You’ve finally figured it out.”

Wired: Tor Says Feds Paid Carnegie Mellon $1M To Help Unmask Users

Selected by Esme Cribb, editorial intern

We teach law enforcement agents that they can use Tor to do their investigations ethically, and we support such use of Tor — but the mere veneer of a law enforcement investigation cannot justify wholesale invasion of people’s privacy, and certainly cannot give it the color of “legitimate research”. Whatever academic security research should be in the 21st century, it certainly does not include “experiments” for pay that indiscriminately endanger strangers without their knowledge or consent.

On Wednesday, Roger Dingledine, director of the Tor Project, accused Carnegie Mellon of providing research regarding how to attack hidden services users—such as those who use Tor and other anonymity software—calling it “a violation of our trust and basic guidelines for ethical research.”

This isn’t the first time that law enforcement has collaborated with academic researchers to avoid ethical questions, particularly regarding civil rights. The establishment of precedent regarding information security and online identities is still very much in the works, and the introduction of massive sums of money only complicates matters.

Esquire U.K.: Interview with Noel Gallagher[note]There’s not an official headline[/note]

Selected by Sam Slaughter, vice president of content

I quite enjoyed this amazing interview with Noel Gallagher where Esquire asks him about Radiohead and he says, among other things:

I reckon if Thom Yorke fucking shit into a light bulb and started blowing it like an empty beer bottle it’d probably get 9 out of 10 in fucking Mojo.

Nowadays, celebrity beefs seem so contrived and commercialized. Like, someone’s publicist advises them to talk shit on someone else, and then some analyst tracks the ROI in terms of press mentions and record sales. Meek Mill vs. Drake? Please. Give me Liam and Noel starting beef with virtually everyone in the world just because they’re total assholes any day of the week. They really just don’t make ’em like Oasis anymore, and it’s a damn shame.

Image by Blanka Berankova

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