‘Inside the Facebook Memories H.Q.’, and 6 Other Stories You Should Read
Here’s what you missed while you spent all week crying in bed after realizing that the election is still a year away…
Selected by Jess Black, customer marketing manager
This article basically asserts that Paris Hilton’s career is a piece of performance art. I don’t really buy her as a savvy business person—all of her quotes still seem pretty vapid—but it was a super fascinating read about commoditizing ditziness.
She kind of invented the “famous for being famous” thing, which dominates modern pop culture in the Internet age, and she’s made millions from her constructed persona.
The New Yorker: Inside the Facebook Memories H.Q.
Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor
This story comes from Daily Shouts & Murmurs, The New Yorker‘s online humor section, which makes it an unusual selection for this list. It’s technically a fictional piece, written by Sarah Schmelling, about Facebook employees with ridiculous job titles—like V.P. of Wistful Reminders—who manually monitor and select the memory notifications that pop up in your News Feeds. But because it is a work of fiction, I found that it gave me a new perspective on the way Facebook operates.
In reality, we all bow down to the Facebook algorithm. However, there are people who control and tweak that algorithm, and Schmelling offers us an interesting take on how self-aware Facebook must be to influence our culture. As the Repetitive Post Ninja says: “We’ve now got people covering Repetitive Green Bay Packer Posts, I Hate All of You and I’m Quitting Facebook Updates, and People Who Only Post Pies. And then there’s Carol, who’s knee-deep in Repetitively Obnoxious Parenting Posts … I am so burnt out on memories.”
It goes to show that articles about our supreme social network can be insightful without being cynical.
The Guardian: Gordon Lish: ‘Had I not revised Carver, would he be paid the attention given him? Baloney!’
Selected by Joe Lazauskas, director of editorial
Gordon Lish is one of the most famous editors of all time; he’s in many ways the godfather of new fiction, having honed the prose of infamous writers like Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, and Barry Hannah. But what’s most interesting to me about Lish is how far he went as an editor. When Carver’s widow released a book showing side-by-side comparisons of Carver’s unedited work next to versions that Lish edited, it became clear that Lish just straight up rewrote much of Carver’s work.
In a fascinating interview with the Guardian, he bluntly explains how that all went down. To me, it’s crazy that he would essentially write some of the most beloved fiction of our time and give the credit to another author. But Lish, above else, is a wild, brilliant man who will make you wish you were a writer and editor in the ’70s.
Selected by Amanda Weatherhead, distribution manager
Marketers are paid to know exactly what will resonate most with their core audience demographics, yet so many miss the mark entirely. But imagine that you had the ability to know exactly what those groups wanted to read, and could provide that content to those people, sometimes before they even knew that story was what they wanted. You’d be a superhero.
Using a complex system of algorithms, Emerson Spartz, CEO of Dose Media, is able to do just that. Dose’s technology delivers the most relevant content to various groups across the web to great success (after all, his company did just raise $25 million).
But is he peddling a marketer’s dream or a journalist’s nightmare? In the interview, Spartz vehemently criticizes clickbait, while in the same breath, he asserts that humans only need to create “some” of the content his websites share. Are we teetering back into the dark age of the content farm, where jamming stories with keywords was the quickest way to ensure success and inflated pageviews? We’d like to think that we live in an enlightened era where metrics like engagement and attention time reign supreme, but it still seems like technology is poised to have a coup over journalistic art.
The New York Times: Can’t Put Down Your Device? That’s By Design
Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor
Like cars, cigarettes, and other dangerous products whose negative effects we ignored for far too long, I suspect that social networks and other attention-dependent, content-driven networks—on smartphones, in particular—will see a backlash in the near future over health concerns. This smart and well-reported piece by Natasha Singer gets at a lot of reasons why.
While the negative effects of going online aren’t fatal like cars or cigarettes, there’s been plenty of evidence to suggest that Internet addiction is real, and that we’re all trending toward it. A recent study, for example, put our average time spent consuming media at more than eight hours a day, which is a majority of the time we’re awake. Another recent piece in the Times laid out how bad “distracted walking” has become, as people seem increasingly unable to go from place to place without a digital distraction (which can occasionally have fatal consequences). There’s also the recent trend of influential books like The Shallows and Who Owns the Future that have begun to question the narrative promoted by Silicon Valley that the Internet is an unquestionable virtue.
As the article explains, there’s a point where designing your product to promote addiction and dependency crosses both ethical and profitable lines. Exhausting your consumers’ biggest resources (which, in social media’s case, is attention) is short-sighted. When, exactly, we’ll begin to take seriously just how dependent we are on the Internet for distraction, and whether Internet companies will begin to pull back, will be a key story to follow in the coming years.
McSweeney’s: Yes, I Have Seen Master of None
Selected by Shane Snow, co-founder and CCO
Nihar Patel writes a series of conversations with people who bring up how Master of None is cool for racial reasons but not as funny as they wished, basically capturing unconscious bias toward Indians and reviewing the show at the same time. Clever stuff.
It caught my attention because I’ve been thinking about how Aziz Ansari’s book, Modern Romance, was essentially brand building for him and, in a way, acted as content marketing for the show.
The Washington Post: The Elf on the Shelf is preparing your child to live in a future police state, professor warns
Selected by Esme Cribb, editorial intern
‘Tis the season to overanalyze commercialized holiday traditions through the lens of Bentham and prison design. And in case you thought this was the sole domain of digital privacy academics: there’s precedent.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 15, 2014
Is this a tenuous argument? Probably. But considering the fact that an Elf on a Shelf has been deputized, that seems moot.