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Big data, Big Tech and Big crypto

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Your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from tech’s struggle to make sense of its data deluge to the endless ups and downs of life in crypto-land.

The best of Protocol

AI needs massive data sets to work. Meta is testing a way to do more with less, by Kate Kaye

  • The case for data collection has always been something like “the more the merrier,” right? But Meta and other companies have struggled to find signal in all that noise, especially when it comes to spotting harmful content. So Meta’s trying something new: few-shot learning, which needs less data and starts working much faster.

How political advertisers skirted Facebook’s rules in 2020 — and got away with it, by Issie Lapowsky

  • Speaking of signal and noise (and Meta), it turns out that Facebook advertisers don’t always tell the truth about whether their ads are political, and Facebook isn’t very good at policing them when they lie. And as bad as things could be in the U.S., they’re far worse in other countries where Meta is paying less attention.

The giant slayers: How Spotify, Tile and Match brought an antitrust fight to Apple, by Ben Brody

  • For a long time, Apple looked unbeatable in Washington. Then a surprising group of companies including Epic, Spotify, Tile and Match found a way to band together to make a dent in the world’s most valuable company. They managed to start a real fight, but can they win it?

Does ‘reopening’ even make sense anymore? by Allison Levitsky

  • Spoiler alert: No, not really. Offices around the tech industry are starting to open, but not everyone’s coming back. It looks unlikely that everyone will ever come back. So what does it even mean to reopen anymore? And what do we do with all this empty space?

How to lay off your employees without totally blowing it, by Shalene Gupta and Sandra Sucher

  • The moral of the story is don’t be like It’s a complicated thing, having to lay off even a few employees during a pandemic when you can’t gather folks in an office. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it in a haphazard, shocking way. Here’s a good guide on how to get it right.

Crypto CEOs and Congress share a worry: What happens to the U.S. dollar? by Hirsh Chitkara

  • There were a lot of tech-related hearings this week, but the one about the crypto industry was by far the most constructive. (Sorry, Adam Mosseri.) It was a good look at lots of the questions left to answer, including the big one for Congress: Can crypto win without killing the dollar? And if not, what next?

On the schedule

Big Tech and gaming platform wars

Big Tech is more interested than ever before in trying to own and define the platforms of tomorrow, but game companies have their own unique visions for how we’ll play and socialize in virtual spaces in the future. Join Protocol's Nick Statt in conversation with Manticore Games CEO Frederic Descamps and Zynga CPO Scott Koenigsberg at 10 a.m. PT on Tuesday.

RSVP here.


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The best of everything else

Half a billion in bitcoin, lost in the dump — The New Yorker

  • Were you late to the crypto craze and feel like you left money on the table? Well at least you weren’t so early you thought it didn’t even matter, and so you threw your 8,000 bitcoins away. There are lots of stories like this, and they never get less devastating to read.

Return-to-office chaos is the best thing to happen to consultants since Y2K — Bloomberg Businessweek

  • What do you call a time full of upheaval and uncertainty, where nobody knows what comes next or even where they should start? A cash machine for consultants. The problem is, they don’t know what’s coming next, either. There’s no precedent for any of this.

How trans women are finding safe spaces on Twitch and YouTube — Input

  • The story of VTubing — in which people make videos and vlogs using virtual avatars rather than their physical selves — is a story about digital identity and what it means to be able to truly choose who you are. It’s also more complicated than you might think.

Inside Apple Park: First look at the design team shaping the future of tech — Wallpaper

  • Come for the details on how the Apple design team works, stay for the obviously-staged-but-still-fascinating photos of the company’s design offices and labs. Apple’s push to bring everyone back to the office makes a little more sense now.

A normie’s guide to becoming a crypto person — New York Magazine

  • A fun peek down the rabbit hole of all things crypto, starting with the rug pulls and doges and ending with you spending all your money on a bunch of NFTs and changing your personal website to a .eth domain. Send this to all your relatives, and you won’t have to spend your holiday explaining what BAYC stands for over and over.

How to spend 432,870 minutes on Spotify in a year — The Atlantic

  • In addition to being a genius marketing ploy, Spotify Wrapped is also a system for understanding the psyche of music listeners everywhere. Including the people who spent 82% of the hours of 2021 — not the work hours, not the waking hours, all the hours — listening to Spotify. How that happens, and how users react, is pretty interesting.


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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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