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Big Tech and Big Government

Joe Biden

Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from last week, from the year's breakout video startup to tech's role in the Biden transition.

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As always, let me know what you think, and what you'd like to see more of in our weekend edition. I'm, or you can just reply to this email. Thanks! On to the good stuff.

Best of Protocol

Is Hopin this year's breakout tech startup? Investors seem to think so, by Biz Carson

  • Pre-pandemic, nobody had heard of Hopin. Which was fine: it raised a seed round, had a few users, kept chugging along. Now, thrust into the spotlight by a videochat world, it's a $2 billion company, has 3.5 million users, and a lot of people think it's the next big thing. That's exciting for Hopin, but it's also complicated.

Why Joe Biden and Donald Trump are both wrong about Section 230, by Neil Chilson

  • The Section 230 fight is some serious four-dimensional chess. First, you have to understand the law, then how it's implemented, then how it's enforced, then how it's argued about, and before you know it things are actually way off course. Neil's piece is a good step back to figure out what's being fought about.

Ron Klain, Biden's new chief of staff, gets tech, by Issie Lapowsky

  • Biden's transition team is absolutely loaded with tech talent, including a bunch of people who tech critics would rather not be so entrenched in the government. But Ron Klain, a longtime Biden confidante and recent Revolution Capital partner, seems to get almost universal praise from the industry.

Next Gen is finally here, by Seth Schiesel and Shakeel Hashim

  • Are you spending your weekend kicking back with your new Xbox Series X or PS5? (If you couldn't get one preordered, know that I feel your pain.) This week's Gaming newsletter dug into what this generation means, and what to watch for in the two companies' surprisingly different approaches.

Datadog's CEO: Software will only get more complex, by Tom Krazit

  • So many parts of a modern organization feel like black boxes, and Olivier Pomel told Tom that's not going anywhere. A whole industry will be built on that complexity. "The biggest part of it is our customers understanding what's going on, engineers understanding what's going on, engineers understanding what they can write to, or [how] they can modify something, fix it and what's going to happen in production when we ship it," Pomel said.


Welcome to the age of synthetic media

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Best of Everything Else

Elon Musk's totally awful, batshit-crazy, completely bonkers, most excellent year — Vanity Fair

  • More than almost anybody in tech, Elon Musk contains multitudes. This story, about Musk's attempt to do a million things at once and stay sane in the process, should feel familiar to anyone feeling stretched thin in 2020. (And maybe a little comforting, since Musk's stretched a lot thinner.) It's also a study in the pros and cons of being yourself, and not giving a crap what people think.

How Hasan Piker took over Twitch — The New York Times

  • We mentioned Piker last week as one of the digital-native stars of election season, and this story makes it clear: The future of news is like the future of gaming, in that it involves countless hours of grinding in front of a webcam, thinking aloud and exploring the world alongside thousands of your friends. Authenticity is beating expertise every time.

Apple announces the Apple silicon M1: Ditching x86 — AnandTech

  • Apple seems to be absolutely convinced that the M1 processor is going to change the PC world. Like, tomorrow. And while it's not like you can license the thing, it's useful to understand what Apple did and what the rise in Arm chips is going to do to the industry in general. It won't just be Apple that comes out with new kinds of devices soon.

The scammer who wanted to save his country — Wired

  • What starts as a run-of-the-mill hacking story turns into a weird, fascinating tale of digital patriotism, whistleblowing and all of the good and bad of the internet mingling together at once. Make this one your Sunday morning, second-cup-of-coffee read.

The digital nomads did not prepare for this — The New York Times

  • This will end up being one of the seminal stories about this transitional moment in our work lives, as a thousand trends slam together into one deeply messy future. Work from anywhere, anytime, however you want! It sounds so compelling, and it's almost always too good to be true.

One Person's Opinion

Everything about the way we work seems to be changing right now: where we work, the tools we use, how we communicate, the hours we keep, what "work" even means. Rippling's goal is to make all the administrative parts of work easier by combining disparate data and processes into a single system.

Vanessa Wu, Rippling's general counsel, spends a lot of her time thinking about things like employee privacy, responsible data-sharing and how companies interact both internally and with the world. She came on this week's Source Code Podcast to discuss all that and more. And, of course, she told us about a few of the things she's into right now.

  1. Among Us. "I must thank [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] for introducing me to the world of Among Us via her pre-election Twitch livestream. Clearly I'd been missing out on online Mafia-style deception during this pandemic. In the past week, I've opened up an #among-us channel at work and created my very first custom Slack emoji of an Among Us character that is triggered by typing :sus:. Quite proud of that one!"
  2. Trading stocks and reading Money Stuff. "I maintain that there is no better way to learn about our financial markets and all the weird things happening in our economy than buying and selling stocks. I started investing in the stock market several years ago after I checked my bank account and realized that I was earning 0.1% interest on my savings. It was by purchasing a few shares in a restaurant group, a solar company, a SaaS company and so on that I've gotten so much more knowledgeable and curious about the impact of our Federal Reserve and other economic policies, especially during the pandemic ... By the way, if you do decide to commence a day-trading career to learn about the world, you also must subscribe to Matt Levine's Money Stuff newsletter. He has somehow been gifted with the magical ability to turn dry economic news into the most witty and insightful bits of financial analysis."
  3. E-biking. "I started looking into getting an e-bike in February because public transit didn't seem like the best idea during COVID-19. Once lockdown hit, I pulled the trigger. Having an e-bike in a hilly city with two tots has been game-changing. Since we're no longer in a rush to get places, it's allowed us to enjoy the outdoor journey of riding up to Twin Peaks, around the Conservatory of Flowers or down to the beach to picnic. By far my best COVID purchase — and to think I used to be one of those drivers who got annoyed by bikes on the road! Ha! More bike lanes please."
  4. Bob Wachter. "Dr. Bob Wachter has become my must-read for COVID information on Twitter. He's the chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, and has been doing a hero's service in providing regular updates on infection rates, developing therapeutics, and other pandemic-related news, backed up with great data."
  5. University endowments. "David Swensen, chief of Yale's $31 billion endowment, made headlines recently when he told investment firms that they'll be evaluated on their ability to hire and retain more women and minorities. There are very few women and minority 'check writers' at venture capital and private equity firms, and correspondingly few women and minority entrepreneurs as a result. I've long thought that one of the most impactful ways to influence change in the makeup of money management was for the funders (a.k.a. university endowments, public pension and retirement funds) to add accountability. University endowments collectively manage over $600 billion [in the U.S.], which is multiples of the amount funneled into venture capital. What Yale is doing as the second-largest university endowment is huge and unprecedented. I've been writing my own alma mater about this for a few years and would love to see others do the same."


Welcome to the age of synthetic media

Content generated or manipulated by AI through machine or deep learning is changing how we create, distribute, consume, and democratize media. What does synthetic media have the power to change next?

Learn more

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