‘The Wizards of Like,’ and 6 Other Stories You Should Read This Week

By Contently January 8th, 2016

Here’s what you missed while you spent the week hitting the gym just like you said you would…

The New York Times: At Señor Frogs in Times Square, It’s Spring Break Forever

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief

This restaurant review probably has the greatest lede I’ve ever read. “I was having my second Frogasm of the night when dinner got weird.”

This is one of the most amazing restaurant reviews I’ve ever read—but even more amazing is the fact that a piece with sentences like this appeared in the Times: “The drink that was going in, a deviant margarita, came in a plastic cup that had a long, thrusting, curved, ridged shaft, ostensibly modeled on the trunk of a palm tree but impossible to grasp without thinking: ‘ribbed for her pleasure.'”

Needless to say, it prompted a contingent from Contently to head to Times Square last night and check out this magical place. Everything that was promised came true: I danced in a congo line; I wore a majestic balloon hat; and as promised, the food was absolutely terrible.

Wired: How a Nation of Tech Copycats Transformed Into a Hub of Innovation

Selected by Ann Fabens-Lassen, communications manager

One of today’s most interesting economic theories is that prosperity allows creativity—it’s the idea that the opportunity to fail is a luxury. Back in 2000, when 4 percent of China’s population was middle class, the mindset was, as writer Clive Thompson describes it, “better to keep your head down and stay safe.”

Here, Thompson paints a very different picture of today’s Chinese youth, both as consumers and as entrepreneurs. Now that Chinese entrepreneurs are breaking the mold—and shaping the mold—and with consumers craving more and more, I’ll be very interested to see what an updated version of this article will look like in 2030.

The Atlantic: Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories

Selected by Erin Nelson, marketing editor

While Harry Potter defeats evil with his wand, Huckleberry Finn steals a raft to right a social wrong. Here, Gillard takes an anthropological look at why the heroes of British and English children’s literature analyze and approach their challenges in distinct ways.

Digging into the cultural heritage of pagan Britain and monotheistic (colonized) America, Gillard gives historical significance as to why the Brits embrace a fantastical storytelling framework that helps children assess their fears, understand their environment, and combat evil. A story about stories, this article reminds us what it is like to be a kid navigating the world. Gillard also makes us wish, just a little bit, that we were British.

TechCrunch: Too Private to Fail

Selected by Amanda Weatherhead, distribution manager

I went to see The Big Short last week, and although I’d love to review that movie, this column is not called “What We’re Watching.” I wish I could claim to be a visionary Michael Burry or Steve Eisman, but sadly I can’t claim to have predicted the impending market crash years ago. So at the risk of stating the obvious, I couldn’t help but be struck by the eerily prescient comparisons you can make between the years leading up to the crash in 2008 and today’s economic climate. Watching all of the major banks cling steadfast to their belief that the housing market was the safest investment available was as maddening as watching today’s VCs invest in companies with questionable business models.

We’re #blessed to be living in one of longest bull markets in history, yet everyone is still convinced that we’re living on borrowed time with a tech bubble about to burst. However, VCs keep pumping millions into tech companies. In fact, VCs invested more in U.S. startups during the first three quarters of 2015 ($47.2 billion) than the yearly totals for 17 of the last 20 years.

So what gives? Have these investors lost their minds?

In this article, Nik Milanovic uses Blackberry’s acquisition of Good Technology as a cautionary tale for startup employees. Good Technology’s CEO made off like a bandit between earnings and a severance package, while his employees who exercised their options (and paid taxes on them) as if they were worth more than three dollars per share, even though the shares were only worth 88 cents. As a result, many of these irate employees are suing the company for shirking its fiduciary duty.

If history is doomed to repeat itself—why are we so blind to the events of the previous decade? Is it because the majority of startup CEOs are too young to have been burned by the crashes in ’01 and ’08? Or did the events of 2008 teach titans of the finance industry and top government officials that they’re untouchable?

Either way, I can’t wait to read Michael Lewis’s take on the next market crash.

Vulture: The Brand Keeping Oprah in Business

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

Tyler Perry has made 15 movies and six TV shows, but I’ve never seen a second of any of them. I do, however, know that Perry is an incredibly successful brand. If you stick his name on something, it’s going to make money. It’s also going to make a lot of people upset.

In a recent profile, former Grantlander Rembert Browne, who’s now the writer-at-large for New York magazine, interviews Perry about the criticisms he’s faced on his way to building a $400 million media empire. For whatever reason, many of those criticisms are personal. Rembert, himself, admits he “spent years disliking him and his work.” The work part I can understand, but it’s really interesting that Rembert disapproved of a guy he’d never met and knew little about on a personal level.

Considering we’re in the age of the individual as a media brand, Perry makes it clear that he writes for a specific audience, and he seems unapologetic about whether or not certain people perceive his work as lowbrow or stereotypical: “There are so many people that society says their stories don’t matter because they’re poor… These are real versions of us. And every one of us has the right to tell our own story.”

Regardless of your artistic tastes, it’s tough to disagree with that.

The Cut: How the Internet Picks Its Boyfriends

Selected by Jess Black, customer marketing manager

I’m just as into Internet boyfriends as the next brunch-eating, bae-saying #cumberbitch, and this article caught my eye with a perfect Internet boyfriend formula. Really, it could be used as a recipe for any Internet sucesss. The writer stipulates that the things that make these men perfect for online idolization are…

1. An aura of authenticity: Think Oscar Isaac loving this puppy. THE STARS ARE JUST LIKE US.

2. Defying a stereotype: In other words, rarely playing the classic rom-com lovesick male (think Rami Malek as a socially awkward hacker on Mr. Robot).

3. Advocacy: Think Benedict Cumberbatch identifying as a feminist.

I would argue this is basically an outline for what every person, place, thing or brand needs to do to gain a loyal Internet following. Let’s all be Internet boyfriends!

The New Inquiry: Wizards of Like

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

For all the energy expended on examining Faceboook in the media, it’s rare that I see an article take a step back from all the tech coverage hype. It’s too bad, because there are basic questions about Facebook’s core functions that haven’t been answered.

For example: Why is the News Feed structured the way it is? Why “likes”? What kind of behavior does the News Feed algorithm promotes? Sure, Facebook has boilerplate answers to these questions, but as Rob Horning makes clear, we are almost certainly too trusting of the benevolence of the people behind the Feed.

Horning makes a convincing argument that the like and the News Feed are optimized for one thing, and one thing alone: advertising. It’s obvious when you connect the dots—our data and the space on our News Feed is Facebook’s product, after all—but the consequences didn’t really hit home for me until I read this piece.

I could go on with the all the interesting points Horning makes (the algorithm functionally dissuades substantive, complex content to make advertisements fit better! the algorithm promotes and then kills organically effective content types, forcing content producers to pay to play!), but you should probably just read the actual piece if you’ve made it this far.

Tags: , , , , , ,