Good Links – Weekly: August 14
Alistair for Hugh: Put on your tinfoil hats: they really are out to get you! This Washington Post piece on Top Secret America includes an interactive exploration of the off-the-books US military spending, showing how much money goes where. Not only is it entertaining fodder for conspiracy theorists, but it’s a great demonstration of how journalism can work well in the digital age: this isn’t something that can be easily vacuumed up via an RSS feed and repurposed by someone else. This is part of a 2-year investigative project by the Post, nicely wrapped in interactive applications and videos.
Alistair for Mitch: As the world agonizes over privacy and anonymity, triggered in part by Google’s CEO’s assertions that we should just get used to no longer being anonymous, the Wall Street Journal put together a great illustration of the most prevalent invasion of privacy, tracking cookies. Cookies are a much-maligned scapegoat for cyber-crime; without them, we wouldn’t have the dynamic web we enjoy today. But when cookies are used to share information across sites, they can be put to all kinds of nefarious uses. This interactive app puts tracking in plain sight. The surprise leader? Dictionary.com, which puts 159 cookies, 23 flash components, 41 beacons, and 11 first-party cookies – 168 of which don’t let visitors opt out – into your web browser. Really? Why do I need over 200 cookies to find out what paranoid means, anyway?
Hugh for Alistair: There’s been much talk about happiness and parenthood of late, with more studies showing that kids (supposedly) make you unhappy. I’ve come across the Last Psychiatrist blog a few times in the past couple of weeks, and each time come away thinking: reading time well spent. Here he cuts apart the premises upon which the happy/unhappy parent paradigm is built. Conclusion: ego overload.”
Hugh for Mitch: Mitch recently had to cancel a lunch with me because of a funeral. I’ve had two close friends (one real life, one online) die of cancer in the past three months. Death is a fact of our existence that we aren’t good at coping with in Western culture. This is an interview with Tony Judt, the prolific British/Amercian historian, from a few months back, when he was suffering a quick decline from Lou Gehrig’s disease, an affliction to which he succumbed this week. It’s funny, and smart and moving.
Mitch for Alistair: It’s sort of freaky that Alistair’s recommended link for me was The Wall Street Journal‘s look at cookies and online privacy, considering I had this Blog post from Doc Searls (co-author of the magnificent business book, The Cluetrain Manifesto) pegged for him. While Doc does his usual role of breaking through the chaff really well, it’s his own thoughts on the subject (and the amazing comments within the Blog post) that really makes this piece shine. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on about this topic, this Blog post made me love Blogs and everything the Internet has done for society even more because of the open conversation.
Mitch for Hugh: This story will either make you marvel at technology or leave you shaking your head and paranoid about the coming singularity. In this Blog post from the Google Books people, they attempt to define what, exactly, a ‘book’ is (a topic near and dear to Hugh’s heart – if you’ve ever listened to our audio Podcast, Media Hacks), how to count/track the amount of books and – on top of that – how many books Google believes have been in the world (and – if you know anything about Google – it’s an exact number). A pretty fascinating read about books, publishing and the future.