Well, it took long enough, but we finally have a winner in the 2020 election. The next four years of tech's life will happen with Joe Biden as President, which means a lot of investment in infrastructure and maybe fewer fights about Section 230. But the government's battle with Big Tech is far from over.
It was tempting this week to give tech's biggest platforms a pat on the back for the fact that nothing catastrophic and world-ending seemed to happen online. But that doesn't tell the whole story, and it's not clear that the social internet is ready for what's coming next. Or what's already happening.
You've surely seen the labels on tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos all week, with various messages telling you that content may not contain the whole truth. But what do those labels actually accomplish? Emily and Issie looked into why the companies all bought into this strategy, and why applying a label may not be a sufficient solution.
This is the biggest story that went under the radar this week: The world's biggest IPO was scuttled by politics and politicking. Ant is a giant in the fintech world, with giant ambitions to match, and how its IPO plays out from here will be important for the entire sector.
Another story you might have missed: The free ride with Docker is over and developers all over the industry are trying to figure out how to handle the new world order. On the one hand, it's good news for a cloud business that's turning into a stable industry. On the other, nobody needs more work right now.
California's Prop 24 passed this week, which means it's time to rethink all the privacy laws we just finished rethinking. So it's a good moment to re-read Issie's story from earlier this year, profiling Alastair Mactaggart and the people who originally wrote CCPA only to decide it wasn't actually good enough.
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Facebook surveyed more than 49,000 employees, and found that only 51% of them thought Facebook was good for the world. Only 56% had good feelings about the company's leadership, too. I suspect this trend isn't unique to Facebook: Employees everywhere seem to be starting to question their role and their company's role in the world. But everyone at Facebook, and in tech more broadly, should worry about the results.
If I had to guess, I'd say the big question facing social companies (and internet companies of all kinds) over the next four years will be about video and security. How do you monitor and police video? How do you make sure video isn't deepfaked or misleadingly edited? Text is one thing; video is harder. And every bit as important.
A wild, thoroughly internetty story about a man that everyone knew only as Mostly Harmless. It's about what technology knows about us, and what even Facebook and DNA tests still don't know. Trust me: just read it.
Everybody's favorite tinkering-computer maker now has a PC that's built right into a keyboard. Looking for a good weekend project? Turn this thing into a home theater PC and connect a webcam to make your living room your new video-chat spot. Also, the 400's backstory — which started with the Raspberry Pi team watching someone drill through an older model — is really fun.
The Xbox Series X goes on sale this Tuesday, and the PlayStation 5 starts rolling out on Thursday. So many things to watch for here, from how the companies manage inventory and server capacity to whether there are enough next-gen games worth upgrading for. But I liked this review, because it makes an important point: The industry spent a decade trying to make game consoles about TV and smart homes and everything else, and the next generation is very much about games again.
One Person's Opinion
Kyle Wiens, CEO at iFixit
Kyle Wiens had a pretty good week. Wiens, the CEO of iFixit and one of the leaders of America's right-to-repair movement, was thrilled to see a ballot measure pass in Massachusetts that will force car makers to make more diagnostics and information available to car owners and third-party repair professionals. It was a hugely expensive fight, but ultimately not a very close one. And Wiens thinks it could be the start of something big for tech repairability in general.
He came on this week's Source Code Podcast to talk about the history of the right-to-repair fight, what happened in Massachusetts this week, and what a rule about cars might mean for the rest of the tech industry. As always, he also told us about a few of the things he's into right now.
Fixation, by Sandra Goldmark. "It just came out, and it's really fabulous. Sandra runs pop-up repair shops in NYC where they'll fix [everything] from an umbrella to an iPhone, and she explores our emotional connection to our objects in a really revealing, intimate way. I'm really inspired by her thought and approach to caring for things."
Building real-life roads. "A neighbor told me I could use his old bulldozer if I fixed it. So before I could learn how to build the road, I had to learn how to fix a bulldozer. Which involved learning how to work with hydraulics and replace hydraulic lines. The best projects are the ones that are actually projects nested in projects nested in projects. But I did it! The bulldozer runs great, and the road has held up quite well so far. But the rains are coming soon and I may need to work on the drainage."
Agbogbloshie. "The infamous e-waste scrapyard in Ghana changed my life. I met young boys who were scrapping electronics — literally mining our old computers for copper. They are incredibly resourceful and capable, figuring out how to make a living from our trash. But it was really frustrating seeing electronics getting melted down that could be repaired and used. That set me on a mission to make sure that the information on how to fix all the things in our lives was available to everyone everywhere in the world."
Katherine Maher at Wikipedia. "An amazing leader. Her background focused on enabling access to technology in the developing world and she's making real progress improving representation of women [on] Wikipedia. Wikipedia is just so effective at community organizing and keeping people with wildly different backgrounds and motivations working together to build the Commons."
Buying used things. "It's amazing what you can get out there for almost nothing that just barely doesn't work. Put a little effort into it and it'll work like a charm. We have three jetskis now and I didn't pay more than $200 for any of them. I bought a beat up old tractor and have been having all kinds of fun fixing it up. I just added an LED lightbar! I've got the brightest tractor in the neighborhood."
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