On a 16-year-old Silicon Valley wunderkind.
An interactive fiction: a son and the illusion of his dead father; the intersection of technology and real life.
"Once I created his page I tried to return to my life. I was twenty-six years old, a man of inconsistent employment. During the winter I shoveled snow for the elderly. They paid me in germs and butterscotch candy. My landlord, an independently wealthy sexagenarian, accepted the candy as payment. She also insisted I tidy the complex. I changed light bulbs. I dusted the parking lot. I swept cigarette butts into the street. I clubbed the occasional beehive. My life was guarded and lonely, and susceptible, I soon discovered, to the distraction my father provided."
A troubled wife's obsession with her husband's ex.
"I’d been researching generic articles on divorce for a long time, but never found anything that reminded me of Henry’s. They were young, but they weren’t as stupid as he seemed to say. They seemed to have really been in love. The picture he’d shown me was of them on a boat on a lake—a lake we’d been to, one we’d brought a picnic lunch to. They looked so happy and he looked so young, his hair not yet flecked with stray whites and grays."
A pair of hardware hackers bond and brainstorm.
"I grabbed a corner and walked backward. The box was heavy, but it was mostly just huge, and when we reached his beat-up minivan, he kicked the tailgate release and then laid it down like a bomb-disposal specialist putting a touchy IED to sleep. He smacked his hands on his jeans and said, 'Thanks, man. That lens, you wouldn’t believe what it’s worth.' Now that I could see over the top of the box, I realized it was mostly padding, layers of lint-free cloth and bubblewrap with the lens in the center of it all, the gadget beneath it. "
An oddball team of ship salvage mercenaries is tasked with uprighting a tipped two-football-field-long cargo ship before it sinks into the darkness of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
An online mystery surrounding animal abuse and porn.
"A different room, a different couch, but the rest of the room just as bare as the other. The couch is a futon, in couch form for now; it will be in its bed form but only much later. The camera's pushed far back enough that you can see the couch entire and you can see part of a window above it, the thick pebbly glass of the plastic-lipped pane. The Porn Star sits upon the couch. He is reading a magazine, right leg propped, wagging. The shoes he wears have fat black tongues and the laces that keep them on tight are bright orange. His pants are riding low on him, the chain on his wallet cascading the fabric. He's wearing a hoodie, the hood cinched in close and the sleeves of the sweatshirt tube down past his hands. He's reading the magazine, foot faintly wagging. There's a look on his face but it cannot be seen."
Ted Nelson's Xanadu project began in 1960 and was supposed to be the universal, democratic hypertext library that would help human life evolve into an entirely new form. It didn't go that way.
Update: The software was finally, quietly released in April.
A 42,000-word, 3-continent spanning “hacker tourist” account of the laying of the (then) longest wire on earth.
A world in which an internal software turns anger and intense emotions into involuntary exercise.
"Then there are the monthly upgrades, downloaded automatically from GRUNT. A few months back the upgrade reprogrammed our sensors to monitor facial expressions and the tone of one’s voice, so you can’t fool it anymore by smiling or speaking softly. A quiet argument is still an argument to the executives at GRUNT. It certainly changed around Brad, my supervisor, who liked to hint at our utter worthlessness in this very quiet voice, a smile stretching across his face. There was something disturbing about watching him grin, and place his arm gently over your shoulder and lower his voice as his called your work garbage, your very existence a nuisance, all with this soft, earnest voice. Now he wears track shoes to work and does sprints in between insults, weaving in and out of the cubicles, stutter stepping like a hall of fame running back."
Technologies of literacy, technologies of memory.
"Millions of people, some my age but most younger, have been keeping lifelogs for years, wearing personal cams that capture continuous video of their entire lives. People consult their lifelogs for a variety of reasonseverything from reliving favorite moments to tracking down the cause of allergic reactionsbut only intermittently; no one wants to spend all their time formulating queries and sifting through the results. Lifelogs are the most complete photo album imaginable, but like most photo albums, they lie dormant except on special occasions. Now Whetstone aims to change all of that; they claim Remem’s algorithms can search the entire haystack by the time you’ve finished saying 'needle.'"
Disconnect and minutiae of modern urban life.
"In the end, we can be separated despite our best efforts at staying together. We can be separated by tragedy, then by arguments, by fair and unfair blame, by couples therapy. Then by divorce and new addresses. Now we are too far away and want to get closer. If we still owned a car we would park it up your street. If we owned a bike, we would ride it past your apartment. Instead there is only the bus, the cab, the train. There is only the running, sockless in our new shoes. All day we make the blue dot follow us to the places of our previous habits. They are all diminished now but we go anyway: Here is the park. Here is the restaurant. Here is the shop and the store and the bank. Tourists would need maps to find these places, but these are not the places tourists would think to find. We have lived here too long for their kind of maps. Our maps are stretched tight across our skin. We carry them everywhere with us so that when we are lost they might carry us."
Two malcontents engage in a phone romance.
"We talked for a long time, more than an hour, until I got sleepy, so I started to fall asleep with her on the phone. The next night, around the same time, she called me again. I was really happy she did that. We had a nice conversation. She told me this story, how she used to prank call a math teacher of hers in junior high. She did it so much, she figured out how to reprogram his outgoing message, using his two-digit remote-access code. She redid his outgoing greetings, said things that were explicitly sexual. Her teacher didn’t understand technology or remote-access codes. He assumed someone was breaking into his house each day to rerecord his message. It filled him with fear and paranoia. He bought a dog. He had an alarm installed and got a prescription for sleeping pills. It was a long time—nearly a year—before the police identified Koko and got to the bottom of the mystery. "
An "architectural fiction" centered around a city built by machines, for machines.
"Social spaces for machines bear the fragments of their tasks, and nothing superfluous. Machines don't need places to eat or sleep, but they need places for their own sorts of socially evocative maintenance rituals. They need places where auto parts can be partially assembled and taken apart, time and time again, like a game. Machines hang out in cafes while working on mundane maintenance tasks, with their component addresses made public in unique ways, so that other machines can gather together and show off their range of operations. Machines that build other machines take their half-finished constructions out in the company of other machines, so that they can build them together and get input on possible alternatives. There are public machine exercise spaces, where machines go through their range of motions and data abilities, for the purpose of showing off their various tolerances."
A middle-class father, seeking to impress his daughter, purchases an unusual status symbol.
"After dinner, strolled grounds with Emmett, who is surgeon, does something two days a week with brain inserts, small electronic devices? Or possibly biotronic? They are very small. Hundreds can fit on head of pin? Or dime? Did not totally follow. He asked about my work, I told. He said, Well, huh, amazing the strange, arcane things our culture requires some of us to do, degrading things, things that offer no tangible benefit to anyone, how do they expect people to continue to even hold their heads up?"
Disorientation and dissociation in urban Taiwan.
On the bus Erin slept with her head on Paul’s lap. Paul’s father slept one row behind. It was around 10:30 p.m. Paul stared at the lighted signs, some of which were animated and repeating like GIF files, attached to almost every building to face oncoming traffic—from two-square rectangles like tiny wings to long strips like impressive Scrabble words but with each square a word, maybe too much information to convey to drivers—and sleepily thought of how technology was no longer the source of wonderment and possibility it had been when, for example, he learned as a child at Epcot Center, Disney’s future-themed 'amusement park,' that families of three, with one or two robot dogs and one robot maid, would live in self-sustaining, underwater, glass spheres by something like 2004 or 2008. At some point, Paul vaguely realized, technology had begun for him to mostly only indicate the inevitability and vicinity of nothingness.
A cautionary satire about the potential excesses of an unchecked Google.
"'My Google Being anticipates everything I would think, everything I would want to say or do or feel,' Larry explained. 'Everywhere I would go. Years of research have gone into this. It is in every way the same as me. So much so that my physical form is no longer necessary. It was just getting in the way, so we removed it.'"
The first published excerpt of J.G. Ballard's disturbing novel.
"The optimum auto-disaster. Panels consisting of drive-in theatre personnel, students and middleincome housewives were encouraged to devise the optimum auto-disaster. A wide choice of impact modes was available, including roll-over, roll-over followed by head-on collision, multiple pile-ups and motorcade attacks. In an overwhelming majority of cases a crash complex was constructed containing elements not usually present in automobile accidents, i.e. strong religious and sexual overtones, the victim being mounted in the automobile in bizarre positions containing postural elements of both perverse intercourse and ritual sacrifice, e.g. arms outstretched in a notional crucifixion mode."
On the business of selling books.
A “crude table-tennis arcade game” called Pong and the birth of the video game industry.
Our entire way of life depends upon the “cold chain,” the network of artificially refrigerated spaces that have reshaped the modern world.
A master troll on trial in New Jersey.
How conspiracy theory links the internet’s first spam (a series of randomly generated words with the subject line Markovian Parallax Denigrate) with a woman who posed as a CIA agent and was convicted of receiving funds from Saddam Hussein’s government.
How a team of 40 engineers helped reelect Barack Obama.
An argument for outing a notorious message board member: “Under Reddit logic, outing Violentacrez is worse than anonymously posting creepshots of innocent women, because doing so would undermine Reddit’s role as a safe place for people to anonymously post creepshots of innocent women. I am OK with that.”
The trials and silliness of Facebook, from beyond the grave.
"In a last, desperate attempt to recapture our imaginations, Madeline began posting pictures of herself with dead celebrities like Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, even Benjamin Franklin. But they were doing things like high-fiving, watching TV, and playing darts. As a community, we agreed it was in bad taste."
For the first time, the giants of the tech industry are spending more on creating, buying, and fighting patents than they are on R&D.Part of New York Times' ongoing iEconomy series.
Separated from his older brother at a train, five-year-old Saroo Munshi Khan found himself lost in the slums of Calcutta. In his 20s, living in Australia, he began his search for his birth home armed with nothing but hazy memories and Google Earth.
Convicted and facing jail time plus a crippling fine in Sweden, the founders of the torrent site The Pirate’s Bay have scattered across the world towards new lives: fatherhood in Laos, a junkie’s life in Phnom Penh, and start-up work in Berlin.
The people behind “the only American luxury compact sport sedan.”
Indentured Servitude, Money Laundering, and Piles of Money: The Crazy Secrets of Internet Cam Girls (NSFW)
“If you think cam girls—those flirty naked characters that plague porn site pop-up ads—are raking in easy money, you’re right. If you think cam girls are bleakly stripping online out of desperation, you’re also right.”
How meteorologists are improving their predictive powers.
A look inside Google’s Ground Truth.
How the self-proclaimed “inventor of all things streaming” went from dot-com millionaire to crime ring accomplice.
“For the first few days after the surgery, it was difficult to separate out my newly implanted sense from the bits of pain and sensation created by the trauma of having the magnet jammed in my finger.”
A tech reporter tells the story of his ruined digital life.
No, but for security software companies it’s a useful fiction.
The emotional toll on drone pilots.
The author ("media inventor" Robin Sloan) describes this as a "short story about recession, attraction, and data visualization."
"That night, at the bookstore, I started working on the new visualization, thinking I could impress Kat with a prototype. I am really into the kind of girl you can impress with a prototype."
Libertarian, futurist, billionaire: a profile of Peter Thiel.
How an art project led to a visit from the U.S. Secret Service.
A history of the divide between computing and language, and why we “define and regiment our lives, including our social lives and our perceptions of our selves, in ways that are conducive to what a computer can ‘understand.’”
Inside the hacker ecosystem.
The story of an opportunity missed.
A look at Apple stores, where jobs are high stress, with low pay and little opportunity for advancement.
How technological progress slowed from its 20th-century peak, why we’ve shifted from changing reality to simply simulating reality, and whether capitalism is the true culprit.
The game’s past, present, and future.
Invented in 1899, it hasn’t been improved upon since.
Shiva Ayyadurai told the world he invented email. Not everyone agreed.
How Google’s utopian/dystopian plan to scan the world’s books failed and the Harvard-led team that’s picking up the pieces.
Teaching Ted Kaczynski’s anti-technology ideas.
A profile of Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka Sabu, a hacker star of Anonymous and resident of a New York City housing project.
How a surgical innovation allowed Dallas Weins to find a new face.
Inside the ultra-Orthodox Jewish rally at Citi Field to discuss the dangers of the internet:
A man in a black fur hat asked him what, exactly, was an app, and he explained it to him. The man grimaced and walked away.
From failure to Pixar, Steve Jobs’ “wilderness years.”
A profile of Mark Zuckerberg, savvy CEO.
On board the Perl Whirl 2000, a conference of hard-coding geeks on a luxury cruise ship.
Competing teams, some powered by billionaires and some by open-sourced code and volunteers, race to land a robot on the surface and claim a massive prize from Google.
How a lonely, self-taught hacker found his way into the private emails of movie stars – and into the underworld of the celebrity-skin business.
How killing by remote control has changed the way we fight.
Jonathan Blow is both the video game industry’s most cynical critic and its most ambitious game developer. As he finishes his indescribable game-opus, a trip inside the head of a videogame auteur.
A profile Hunter Moore, the founder of the controversial revenge-porn site Is Anyone Up.
For over one hundred years, a malicious supercomputer named AM has enslaved five tortured survivors who look for a way out.
"Oh, Jesus sweet Jesus, if there ever was a Jesus and if there is a God, please please please let us out of here, or kill us. Because at that moment I think I realized completely, so that I was able to verbalize it: AM was intent on keeping us in his belly forever, twisting and torturing us forever. The machine hated us as no sentient creature had ever hated before. And we were helpless. It also became hideously clear:If there was a sweet Jesus and if there was a God, the God was AM."
How the website mastered “Social Publishing”:
To understand some of the principles underlying BuzzFeed’s strategy, he recommends reading The Individual in a Social World, a 1977 book by Stanley Milgram, who is known, among other things, for his experiments leading to the six degrees of separation theory. “When some cute kitten video goes viral,” says [Jonah] Peretti, “you know a Stanley Milgram experiment is happening thousands of times a day.”
An Iowa dad’s surprisingly short path from commentor to screenwriter.
After years of avoiding the uncomfortable truths about how his gadgets are made, a Mac fanboy travels to Foxconn to see for himself.Update 3/16/12: This American Life retracted this story today after it was revealed to have "contained significant fabrications."
On the mysterious disappearance of a beloved coding legend (and his code) with stops along the way for a short history of programming languages, an ethnography of code-based communities, and an inquiry into what it means to “die young without artifact.”
On the ever-expanding world of targeted online advertising.
When computer science legend Jim Gray disappeared, his friends and colleagues – including Bill Gates and Larry Ellison – used every technological tool at their disposal to try to find him.
He was fired from the company he helped create, YouSendIt. Then the cyberattacks started.
The Machine supports all remaining life and is not to be questioned in this science fiction classic.
"Advanced thinkers, like Vashti, had always held it foolish to visit the surface of the earth. Air-ships might be necessary, but what was the good of going out for mere curiosity and crawling along for a mile or two in a terrestrial motor? The habit was vulgar and perhaps faintly improper: it was unproductive of ideas, and had no connection with the habits that really mattered."
Dotcom didn’t look like a criminal genius. With his ginger hair, chubby cheeks, and odd fashion sense—he often wore black suits and white-on-black wingtip shoes—he looked like he should be setting up a magic table.
How Kim Schmitz, the proprietor of Megaupload, made his fortune and landed in a New Zealand prison.
Inside the world of targeted marketing.
On the popular iPhone app.
Just the day before, President Barack Obama had signed on and begun sending out photos. This seemed like a real sign that Instagram had arrived. Obama already has accounts on Flickr and Facebook. He (or his people) must have seen something unique and wonderful in Instagram's audience, some way to reach people via that channel that it couldn't through others. When the President joins your network, it's news. And while it's great news, it can be the kind of thing a company isn't prepared for. But as it turns out, Obama is a fractional compared to Justin Bieber.
Inside the attempt to turn a World War II-era antiaircraft deck (that its owner claims is an independent nation) into “the world’s first truly offshore, almost-anything-goes electronic data haven.”
The rise and fall of the Internet mogul.
The autonomous car of the future is here:
I was briefly nervous when Urmson first took his hands off the wheel and a synthy woman’s voice announced coolly, “Autodrive.” But after a few minutes, the idea of a computer-driven car seemed much less terrifying than the panorama of indecision, BlackBerry-fumbling, rule-flouting, and other vagaries of the humans around us—including the weaving driver who struggles to film us as he passes.
How the U.S. government used a serial con who was caught running a mail-order steroid pharmacy in Mexico to prove that Google was knowingly placing ads for illegal drugs.
“We’re trying really hard to make things better,” said one former Apple executive. “But most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from.”
Previously: ”Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class”
How the U.S. lost out on iPhone work.
How the game gets made.
In a dark echo of Rear Window, a wheelchair-bound hacker seizes control of hundreds of webcams, most of them aimed at young women’s beds.
Walter Isaacson’s book is long, dull, often flat-footed, and humorless. It hammers on one nail, incessantly: that Steve Jobs was an awful man, but awful in the service of products people really liked (and eventually bought lots of) and so in the end his awfulness was probably OK.
A profile of Christopher Soghoian whose “productions follow a similar pattern, a series of orchestrated events that lead to the public shaming of a large entity—Google, Facebook, the federal government—over transgressions that the 30-year-old technologist sees as unacceptable violations of privacy.”
Relying on programmers to map real world social connections is like “hiring a Mormon bartender” and other observations on why our strange urge to document the nodes of friendship is doomed.
On the TechCrunch founder’s venture capital fund, and a new breed of startup investor.
As Twitter-loving VC investors have become brand names themselves (Fred Wilson, Marc Andreessen, Chris Sacca), what one might call the auteur theory of venture capitalism has emerged—the idea that startup companies bear the unique creative signature of those who invested in them. To study a venture capitalist’s portfolio is to study his oeuvre.
Considering the screen saver.
Even when napping, the computer seems beset by iterative nightmares of a deadline. The pipes come to represent, rather than imaginarily suspend, the clogging of the task queue when one is away. When the screen has become as dense as Celtic knot-work, the entire image cracks and dissipates, as if burned out from its involute frenzy—before beginning again in the dark.
A tricked-out Toyota Supra accelerates a family's unraveling. From the author of 2011's Busy Monsters.
"I know the ins and outs of what he did to that car, the numbers and brands and details, perhaps better than I know anything else on earth: I spent my most formative years steeped in this information, flipping through the automotive magazines with him, attending weekend car shows, listening to his ecstatic dinner-time talk of his next modification, of how that Supra would be the slickest in all of New Jersey."
This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.
An interview with futurist Ray Kurzweil on the “Singularity” and the overlap between technology and spiritualism.
Mr. Jobs's pursuit for aesthetic beauty sometimes bordered on the extreme. George Crow, an Apple engineer in the 1980s and again from 1998 to 2005, recalls how Mr. Jobs wanted to make even the inside of computers beautiful. On the original Macintosh PC, Mr. Crow says Mr. Jobs wanted the internal wiring to be in the colors of Apple's early rainbow logo. Mr. Crow says he eventually convinced Mr. Jobs it was an unnecessary expense.
Steve Jobs, age 29.
"It’s often the same with any new, revolutionary thing. People get stuck as they get older. Our minds are sort of electrochemical computers. Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them. It’s a rare person who etches grooves that are other than a specific way of looking at things, a specific way of questioning things. It’s rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing. Of course, there are some people who are innately curious, forever little kids in their awe of life, but they’re rare."
How amateur tinkerers electronically contacted Russia during the Cold War:
The object of Joel's attention at this moment, however, as it is much of the time, is his four-pound, briefcase-size Radio Shack Tandy Model 100 portable computer. "I bought this machine for $399. For $1.82 a minute - $1.82! - I can send a telex message to Moscow. This technology is going to revolutionize human communications! Think what it will mean when you can get thousands of Americans and Soviets on the same computer network. Once scientists in both countries begin talking to each other on these machines they won't be able to stop. And we'll be taking a running leap over the governments on both sides.
On Sam Jain and Daniel Sundin, the fugitive kings of scareware.
As part of his obsessive search for evidence of UFOs, Gary McKinnon worked his way into thousands of government computers. The U.S. charged him with terrorism. Doctors diagnosed him with Asperger’s. And his lawyers started arguing a new version of the insanity defense.
On the Google conundrum:
It’s clearly wrong for all the information in all the world’s books to be in the sole possession of a single company. It’s clearly not ideal that only one company in the world can, with increasing accuracy, translate text between 506 different pairs of languages. On the other hand, if Google doesn’t do these things, who will?
On the battle between Shaquille O’Neal and his former IT guy, who’s in control of much of O’Neal’s archived (and often damning) correspondence.
On cell phones and the decline of public space.
One of the great irritations of modern technology is that when some new development has made my life palpably worse and is continuing to find new and different ways to bedevil it, I'm still allowed to complain for only a year or two before the peddlers of coolness start telling me to get over it already Grampaw--this is just the way life is now.
On the railways of China and a trip aboard its latest spectacle, a $32 billion line carrying passengers between Shanghai and Beijing at 170 MPH.
In Silicon Valley, up all night coding in the dorms with the aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs of tomorrow.
The idea that people would “inexpensively have access to a tremendous global computation and networking facility” was supposed to create wealth and wellbeing. Has it instead created a technologically advanced dystopia?
The web has revolutionized communications and commerce, but what does it mean for art?
In the first seven months of 2011, 94,000 people were sued for illegally downloading porn. Not one case has been decided by a jury. On the industry’s new strategy to make downloaders pay.
In the film bullets approach in slow motion a series of glistening roundels, resembling condoms just taken out of their paper wrappings. Most of the bullets go right through, leaving a clean hole. But the last roundel in the film collapses slowly, wrapping itself around the bullet like a blanket on a laundry line hit by a wayward football. It is a piece of artificially bred human skin, reinforced with eight layers of transgenic spider silk, the material spiders produce to spin their webs.Translated from the original Dutch, exclusive to Longform.org.
A cautionary inquiry into the unchecked hive mind.
A profile of Jaron Lanier, virtual reality pioneer and the author of You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto.
On a decade-long war:
Hackers from many countries have been exfiltrating—that is, stealing—intellectual property from American corporations and the U.S. government on a massive scale, and Chinese hackers are among the main culprits.
On how search and advertising became indistinguishable, the finer points of not being evil, and why privacy is by nature immeasurable. How Google made us the product:
“Google conquered the advertising world with nothing more than applied mathematics,” wrote Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired. “It didn’t pretend to know anything about the culture and conventions of advertising—it just assumed that better data, with better analytical tools, would win the day. And Google was right.”
Codenamed “Synapse”, the Match algorithm uses a variety of factors to suggest possible mates. While taking into account a user’s stated preferences, such as desired age range, hair colour and body type, it also learns from their actions on the site. So, if a woman says she doesn’t want to date anyone older than 26, but often looks at profiles of thirty-somethings, Match will know she is in fact open to meeting older men. Synapse also uses “triangulation”. That is, the algorithm looks at the behaviour of similar users and factors in that information, too.
Around the world, governments and corporations are in a race for code that can protect, spy, and destroy—hacks some secretive startups are more than happy to sell.
The story of a small Latvian counterfeiting business that got far too big for its own good.
How a Massachusetts psychotherapist fell for a Nigerian e-mail scam.
Is the streaming Swedish music service, now making its U.S. debut, the best shot the industry has at staying profitable and relevant?
How a musical subculture evolved alongside a technological subculture:
Rave's rise mirrors the Web's in many ways. Both mixed rhetorical utopianism with insider snobbery. Both were future-forward "free spaces" with special appeal to geeks and wonks.
On Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and the gender dynamics of Silicon Valley.
On the development of South Korea’s New Songdo and Cisco’s plans to build smart cities which will “offer cities as a service, bundling urban necessities – water, power, traffic, telephony – into a single, Internet-enabled utility, taking a little extra off the top of every resident’s bill.” The demand for such cities is enormous:
China doesn't need cool, green, smart cities. It needs cities, period -- 500 New Songdos at the very least. One hundred of those will each house a million or more transplanted peasants. In fact, while humanity has been building cities for 9,000 years, that was apparently just a warm-up for the next 40. As of now, we're officially an urban species. More than half of us -- 3.3 billion people -- live in a city. Our numbers are projected to nearly double by 2050, adding roughly a New Songdo a day; the United Nations predicts the vast majority will flood smaller cities in Africa and Asia.
Inside the world of online dating:
If the dating sites had a mixer, you might find OK Cupid by the bar, muttering factoids and jokes, and Match.com in the middle of the room, conspicuously dropping everyone’s first names into his sentences. The clean-shaven gentleman on the couch, with the excellent posture, the pastel golf shirt, and that strangely chaste yet fiery look in his eye? That would be eHarmony.
A profile of new Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard, who in another life was a touring musician and hated Ticketmaster just like everyone else.
How what was once one of the most popular websites on Earth—with ambitions to redefine music, dating, and pop culture—became a graveyard of terrible design and failed corporate initiatives:
In retrospect, DeWolfe says, the imperative to monetize the site stunted its evolution: "When we did the Google deal, we basically doubled the ads on our site," making it more cluttered. The size, quality, and placement of ads became another source of tension with News Corp., according to DeWolfe and another executive. "Remember the rotten teeth ad?" DeWolfe says. "And the weight-loss ads that would show a stomach bulging over a pair of pants?"
On digital animators’ quest to capture the endlessly complex human face.
The surreal existence of an AOL content writer:
I was given eight to ten article assignments a night, writing about television shows that I had never seen before. AOL would send me short video clips, ranging from one-to-two minutes in length — clips from “Law & Order,” “Family Guy,” “Dancing With the Stars,” the Grammys, and so on and so forth… My job was then to write about them. But really, my job was to lie.
On Bitcoin, the world’s first “decentralized digital currency.”
On LA Noire and the gaming paradoxes presented by pairing nuanced storytelling with a player’s free will.
The bitter rivalry within the aerospace industry to produce unmanned combat aircrafts.
What IARPA's project calls for is the deployment of spy resources against an entire language. Where you or I might parse a sentence, this project wants to parse, say, all the pages in Farsi on the Internet looking for hidden levers into the consciousness of a people.
A field trip to the video gamey world of the modern trader.
On why we need to stop questioning Wikipedia and start thinking about what comes next.
Today, in the electronic age of instantaneous communication, I believe that our survival, and at the very least our comfort and happiness, is predicated on understanding the nature of our new environment, because unlike previous environmental changes, the electric media constitute a total and near-instantaneous transformation of culture, values and attitudes.
On the ground in Nigeria with the nation’s notorious scam artists, who share a remarkable number of qualities with America’s top entrepreneurs.
A profile Mark Pincus, the founder and C.E.O. of Zynga—the company that created FarmVille, CityVille, and Zynga Poker, the most popular online poker game in the world.
An essay on music and family, sparked by the author’s realization that his speakers sucked.
On the “world’s largest social network that you probably haven’t yet heard of” and its enigmatic founder.
The rise, fall and stubborn survival of a teenage Internet celebrity who discovered that the real world can be a very scary place.
“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”
At times, Mr. Hsieh comes across as an alien who has studied human beings in order to live among them.
A profile of the Zappos CEO.
An insider history of the fall of Myspace; from Rupert Murdoch calling Facebook a mere “communications utility” to the disastrous 2006 deal with Google that demanded huge pageviews and ads everywhere, and finally the present day ruins of a titan.
I love combing through The Atlantic’s archives. There’s almost no better way of grasping the strangeness of the past than to flip through a general interest magazine from 1960. Here, we find Fred Hapgood grappling with what human intelligence meant in the light of new machines that could do something like thinking. Intelligence was being explored in a new way: by finding out what was duplicable about how our minds work. Hapgood's conclusion was that if you could automate a task, it would lose value to humans. What tremendous luck! Humans value that which only humans can do, he argued, regardless of the difficulty of the task. And that because computers were so good at sequential logic problems, we'd eventually end up only respecting emotional understanding, which remained (and remains) beyond the reach of AI.
Steven Levy’s piece on cypherpunks and Internet libertarians could not feel more relevant in the wake of WikiLeaks’ rise and the heavily scrutinized role of online organizing in recent revolutions. During Wired’s first year, I’d just gotten an Internet account and had somehow stumbled on the magazine. It became my guide to this hybrid life that we all live now, half-online, half-offline.
"I have the sensation, as do my friends, that to function as a proficient human, you must both 'keep up' with the internet and pursue more serious, analog interests."
An essay on technology’s reach into daily life.
The closest thing that the international network of hackers Anonymous has to an organizer lives in a 378 sq. ft apartment in Dallas and, at the time of this interview, was on his fourth day of opiate withdrawal.
A story written about Twitter and one its founders, Evan Williams, when the company’s chief source of revenue was subletting desks in their partially filled office.
One of the most valuable cars in the world crashes going 200 mph on the Pacific Coast Highway. Its owner claims to be an anti-terrorism officer. In fact, he’s a former executive at a failed software company—and a career criminal. The unraveling of an epic con.
A technical, thrilling account of how Pinboard, a tiny bookmarking service, dealt with the fire hose of new users after news leaked that Yahoo would discontinue Pinboard’s massive rival, Delicious.
“If 4chan sounds trivial, that’s because it is. The site certainly doesn’t make much money…In fact, you could say that 4chan has cornered the market on the trivial on the Internet, which is no small feat (the trivial usually spreads by accident on the Web, according to no logic).”
The next frontier of search is… everything. Voice recognition, image recognition, and why Google’s data set is one of the most valuable scientific tools of our age.
Inside the most ubiquitous distraction of its era.
Thoughts on the current era of online anonymity.
The definitive story of a ubiquitous software. PowerPoint’s origins, its evolution, and its mind-boggling impact on corporate culture.
A profile of Jack Dorsey, co-founder (and displaced CEO) of Twitter. Dorsey’s latest venture, a mobile credit card system called Square that only officially launched in February 2011, already processes more than a million transactions per day.
“While its source remains something of a mystery, Stuxnet is the new face of 21st-century warfare: invisible, anonymous, and devastating.”
How a journalism professor named Dan Sinker became the most entertaining part of the Chicago mayoral race.
Tackling the science of cooking, one perfect french fry at a time.
How J.C. Penney gamed Google and became the top result for searches on everything from “area rugs” to “skinny jeans.”
When Conan O’Brien left NBC, he agreed to stay off TV for months and stay quiet about the network and its executives. The agreement contained no mention of social media, however. On the origins of a digital renaissance.
Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity; when will our minds meld with the machine?
From the Greeks to George Lucas, 2,200 years of failure.
On the group of friends who came to rule the bizarre, decreasingly lucrative world of Internet porn.
A trip to Râmnicu Vâlcea, a town of 120,000 where the primary (and lucrative) industry is Internet scams.
“I’m not the kind of guy who hears voices. But that night, as I passed the station, I heard a little voice coming from the back of my head…‘If you do it that way, if you use that algorithm, there will be a flaw. The game will be flawed. You will be able to crack the ticket. You will be able to plunder the lottery.’”
How a legally dubious FBI sting lured a pair of Russian hackers stateside.
How YouTube went from ubiquitous to profitable; and where it goes next.
A remembrance of relationships formed when the author, at 13 and using a false identity, frequented hockey chat rooms.
Forty years ago, a trio of student teachers created the most popular educational game of all-time.
Most military experts agree that robots, not people, will inevitably do the fighting in ground wars. In Tennessee, a high-end gunsmith is already there. The story of Jerry Baber and his robot army.
A profile of Jobs. The themes: immortality, relinquishing control, and how being adopted affected his choices for Apple. The lede: “One day, Steve Jobs is going to die.”
Fifteen years ago, Sherry Turkle developed a little crush on a robot named Cog. Since then, the MIT professor has been studying our ever-increasing emotional reliance on technology. She’s not optimistic about where we’re headed.
How the social networks that popped up in Facebook’s absence—the site is not available behind the Great Firewall—are changing Chinese culture.
But the web is not just some kind of magic all-absorbing meta-medium. It's its own thing. And like other media it has a question that it answers better than any other. That question is: Why wasn't I consulted?
How Internet porn has altered the ways we think about, and engage in, sex.
The new purgatory; what becomes of digital identities after death.
How Zion, Ill., a fundamentalist Christian settlement with a population of 6,250, created one of the most popular stations in the country during the early days of radio.
A working definition of ‘net neutrality’, a bestiary of the major players, and why the issue isn’t a cut and dry case of good vs. evil.
On boot camps designed to break kids of their web addiction.
Where the actual online money is centralized, and where Google will have to go to continue chasing it.
What happened to the minds behind Napster, Gnutella, WinAmp, and BitTorrent after their creations irrevocably changed business and culture.
An interview with Douglas Hofstadter, who after winning the Pulitzer for Gödel, Escher, Bach retreated into the lab and published only sparingly in technical journals, on what it would mean if a program could generate humor and/or masterful compositions.
The prosecutor in the case of hacker turned F.B.I. informant (but still hacker) Albert Gonzales and his organization Shadowcrew : “The sheer extent of the human victimization caused by Gonzalez and his organization is unparalleled.”
New technology has historically been a friend to the porn industry, first VHS, then online DVD sales. But free streaming sites like YouPorn have sent the establishment into a tailspin, and due to anonymous domain registration, they don’t even know who their competition is. Will the internet kill porn?
The difference between a social network and a movie about a social network, and what it says about the Facebook generation.
The perpetually underpaid author takes a moonlighting job with Demand Media, publisher of search-engine optimized articles with titles like “Hair Styles for Women Over 50 With Glasses”, absurdity ensues.
The article that spawned a school of thought; an elegy for the age of the megahit and a primer for the niche-based future.
Yes, 311 helped solve the mysterious case of the maple syrup smell. But with the data from more than 100 million calls, it’s primed to explain far more.
How virtual worlds like Ultima Online form economies and the sellers who make a living in digital goods.
An early attempt to explain the world-changing power of computer software—and the minds of young programmers like Bill Gates—to a mass audience. “Software,” the article begins, “is the magic carpet to the future.”
How two Italian teenagers hacked the Soviet space program and may have heard the dying breaths of a lost cosmonaut.
Are we at war? The U.S. government’s evolving response to cyber security and its impact on privacy.
The story of two Canadian artificial intelligence visionaries who became bitter rivals and then both committed suicide in the same month.
The story of Charles Goodyear, who dedicated his life to inventing usable rubber yet has little to show for it, aside from his name on the side of a blimp.
Can real activism happen on Twitter and Facebook? Malcolm Gladwell says no.
Google’s founders and CEO as they moved from the search business into… everything.
A 2006 profile of Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook opened from a college-only site to a public social network.
A new strain of educational thought (and practice) involves embracing the technology of the moment - which means bringing video games into the classroom.
A game called Spacewar is developed by early computer engineers in their spare time, improved in University comp-sci labs, and ultimately made available in coffeeshops for ten cents per game.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, on the eve of the release of The Social Network, believed to be a deeply unflattering portrait of him and the genesis of his company.
Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong tabloid tycoon, thinks he’s found the future of journalism: an animation assembly line that can crank out clips recreating–or anticipating, or imagining–breaking news.
A 2009 profile of the guy behind 4chan, Christoper “moot” Poole, his anonymous army of millions, and how it’s all losing him money.
A 13 year old gets a webcam and starts doing dirty shows online, ending up running a smut business in Mexico with his deadbeat father.
A profile of Kanye West written in the style of an all-access magazine piece - using only quotes and statements that Kanye West has made on Twitter and other web outlets.
Why our entire understanding of copyright is due for an overhaul.
An American, born into privilege, became a bootleg DVD kingpin in Shanghai and then, in an unprecedented development, landed in Chinese prison.
How Madden NFL went from a programmer’s childhood dream to a $3 billion business.
How phone phreakers, many of them blind, opened up Ma Bell to unlimited free international calling using a technical manual and a toy organ.
Scott Dadich, 34, has been described by a former boss as a “combination of Pelé and Jesus” and is now tasked with figuring out the future of the magazine. All he’s got in his new Times Square office: an iPad and a book of George Lois’ Esquire covers.
When members of China’s massive bulletin-board forums perceive wrongdoing, they form a “human flesh search engine” and seek out real world vigilante justice.
Selections from the leaked documents about the war in Afghanistan portray a military effort that is ineffective and frequently absurd. (Part of the NYT War Logs series.)
Inside the real lives of trolls–those who intentionally provoke, confuse, and generally screw with strangers online–whose pranks balance gleeful malice with organized efforts against Scientologists.
An interview with Clay Shirky on “why no medium has ever survived the indifference of 25-year-olds.”
When spouses get upset because their husband or wife wants to be frozen upon death, it’s not because they find the practice sacrilegious. It’s because their partner is consciously considering a future without them.
An early 1995 peek at what happens when secretive groups meet the Internet: a Scientology Usenet group, populated by believers and critics, stirs conflict that results in raids.
After his wife disappears, Hans Reiser’s defense contacts a Wired writer who they believe can help explain the world of groundbreaking code, video games, and sci-fi that defines Reiser’s existence.
Political races don’t run on ideas and grassroots activism–they run on voter databases. And no one has more voter data than Aristotle Inc., whose information has helped elect every president since Reagan.
When Japanese men in their teens and twenties shut themselves in their rooms, sometimes for a period of years, one way to lure them out is a hired “big sister.”
Clay Shirky, writing in 1999 on the Web eclipsing TV’s reach: “We will always have massive media, but the days of mass media are over, killed by the explosion of possibility and torn into a thousand niches.”
Carl Malamud is on a quest to change the way average citizens can interface with the government – by scanning its paperwork and making it available free online. And he’s financing his effort with his own credit cards.
It’s the furthest artificial intelligence has come. And while the supercomputer may get attention for competing on Jeopardy!, Watson could also change everything from customer service to emergency rooms.
An email dialogue between David Gates and Jonathan Lethem on writing fiction in the age of online experiences.
“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.” –Steve Jobs, 1996
Foursquare and Gowalla are in a VC-funded race to become the dominant location-based social network. But their founders say both companies have a larger purpose.
In the wake of 9/11, terrorist networks moved their recruitment and training efforts online, giving birth to Jihad-geeks like Irhabi_007.
In the chaotic days before the Berlin Wall fell, the East German secret police shredded 45 million pages. Fifteen years later, a team of computer scientists figured out how to put it all back together.
What fragmented reading experiences do to neural circuitry. (It’s not good.)
He was an 18 year old Marine bound for Iraq. She was a high school senior in West Virginia. They grew intimate over IM. His dad also started contacting her. No one was who they claimed to be and it led to a murder.
The not-so-underground culture of neuroenhancing drug use, and where it’s headed.
The Conficker ‘worm’ has replicated itself across tens of millions of computers. Only a few hundred people have the knowledge to recreate how, and no one (except its anonymous maker) fully understands why.
The editors of N+1 recap the revolution that is/was the internet with pit-stops to survey the Bolshevik Revolution, the NYT’s messy relationship with tech, and the value of an ad.
A growing movement is seeking a deeper knowledge of themselves through tracking sleep, exercise, sex, food, location, productivity. Technology has made it possible—but hasn’t taught us how to interpret the findings.
Advice from 1982 on how and why one should buy a computer. “I can hardly bring myself to mention the true disadvantage of computers,” Fallows writes, “which is that I have become hopelessly addicted to them.”
“Amazon has done a great job,” Jobs said. “We’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a little bit farther.” Or they were planning to stand on Amazon’s neck and press down hard.
Tom Bissell was an acclaimed young writer when he started playing Grand Theft Auto. For the last three years he has been sleep deprived, cocaine fueled, and barely able to write a word—and he has no regrets.