‘How Facebook Became Cool Again’ and 6 Other Stories You Should Read

By Contently February 26th, 2016

Here’s what you missed while you spent the week trying to investigate if Ted Cruz really is the Zodiac Killer

The New York Times MagazineFailure to Lunch

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

“The way people eat at work is pretty sad.”

Studying office culture will always be fascinating because a lot of our decisions require sacrificing long-term benefits for short-term efficiency. This Times Magazine article from Malia Wollan—which also includes a depressing slideshow from photographer Brian Finke—gives a detailed look at the uncomfortable sacrifices workers make when eating their midday meal.

That relationship is more complicated than just getting work done. A survey found that 40 percent of full-time professionals were unaware of whether or not office fridges were cleaned, a problem that can lead to harmful bacteria. And a Cornell professor pointed out that research suggests workplace satisfaction increases when you eat with colleagues.

However, a majority of Americans spend a third of their meals during the week hunched over a desk, shoveling in food while staring at a computer screen that’s one foot away. That is pretty sad. It’s also pretty sad that I did that an hour before I wrote this.

Stratechery: Apple Versus the FBI, Understanding iPhone Encryption, The Risks for Apple and Encryption

Selected by Carly Miller, editorial intern

The Apple vs. FBI case has inspired some sensationalist headlines, but Ben Thompson, tech analyst and creator of Stratechery, reminds us that the story is much more nuanced. While Tim Cook’s backdoor-to-the-iPhone analogy is a powerful sound byte, Apple isn’t being asked to create a backdoor to Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone per se; it’s more like a shortcut to “brute force” the passcode. And the shortcut doesn’t even guarantee access, as Thompson explains: “A 4-digit numeric passcode would only take 34 minutes to brute force, while an 8 digit alphanumeric passcode would still take over a million years.”

Even a broadly-defined backdoor to the iPhone is untenable; a master encryption key will inevitably get stolen and jeopardize the future of privacy.

Al Jazeera: OPINION: Six hot media startups to watch in 2016

Selected by Kieran Dahl, social media editor

I found this article hilarious for four reasons.

One, it co-opts the absurd jargon these “hot media startups” use with utter sincerity to describe themselves. (The New Republic, in its own words: “We’re a 100-year-old startup building a mission-driven media organization.” LOL.)

Two, the GIFs.

Three, the fact that if you covered up the names of the media companies mentioned, you wouldn’t be able to tell which description matches which company. They’re all targeting millennials, they’ve all raised millions of dollars to disrupt journalism, they’re all. The. Same.

Four—and this is by far the funniest part—Al Jazeera America removed the piece from its website within hours of it going live because of its “commentary on our company that we believe was not appropriate given its imminent closure.” AJAM, whose chief executive said its business model is “not sustainable,” is shuttering its website this spring, a fact that evidently slipped by the editor of this piece. For that lapse in judgment that led to this hilarious bit of irony, I’m thankful.

(I’m also thankful for the Internet Archive, which makes this deleted piece accessible for eternity.)

GQLeaving Reality

Selected by Ann Fabens-Lassen, communications manager

If I’m being honest, I only read the entirety of this article because I was getting a hair cut and had nothing better to do. It’s an absurdly long article considering the topic is reality TV, but if you have the time it’s worth the read.

This quotation pretty much sums up the depressing but hilarious tone that John Jeremiah Sullivan uses to explain the whole reality TV phenomenon:

And I just get so exhausted with my countrypeople—you know the ones, the ones you run into who are all like, “Oh gosh, reality TV? I’ve never even seen it. Is it really that interesting?” I mean, I’m sorry, but go starve. To me that’s about as noble as being like, “Oh, Nagasaki? I’ve never even heard of that!” This is us, bros. This is our nation. A people of savage sentimentality, weeping and lifting weights.

Medium: Reflections on the new Quartz App

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief

I’m not shy about telling people how bullish I am on chat apps. My money is on Facebook’s Messenger following the lead of Tencent in Asia and completely reinventing social business through chat. What I’ve been more skeptical about is the future of chat apps as a broadcast platform for content. Quartz’s new app this week, however, shows how I could be wrong.

Roger Ebert: The Grace of Keanu Reeves

Selected by Sam Slaughter, VP of content

There’s really nothing I can say about Angelina Jade Bastién’s 2,600-word essay about Keanu Reeves other than it’s one of my favorite things ever. If you’re a fan of Keanu—and if you’re a human with a pulse and a soul, you clearly are—you’ll love how this story gets right to the heart of what makes him so great. I mean seriously—what other actor could have the following two sentences describe them, and have both be completely accurate:

1. “Keanu is more powerful than actors who rely on physical transformation as shorthand for depth, because he taps into something much more primal and elusive: the truth.”

2. “Reeves’s attempt at London vernacular [in Bram Stoker’s Dracula] has been cited as one of, if not the, worst accents in the history of recorded film.”

Facts. Keanu is the greatest. I’m counting the days until John Wick 2.

New York MagazineHow Facebook Became Cool Again

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

Late last year, I got a Facebook invite to attend “Nothing.” The date and time were set for Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 3:25AM. The location? “nowhere,” of course. As of today, 52,000 people were planning to attend.

Facebook was finally getting weird, and it’s only gotten weirder since. One of my favorites is “Byron brown your major,” a parody of Bufallo’s mayor that I can’t even remember how I found. Facebook has always been extremely sterile, so it’s been a beautiful thing to see absurd, purposefully misspelled bullshit in-between all the actual bullshit.

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