Friday five: bubbles, podcasts and memes

Some lovely entries this week, with more of a leaning toward the frivolous than the deep (although it is possible to be both, right?):

The Facepalm Years – by Adam Westbrook for The Memo

Adam Westbrook wanted to come up with something to put in a digital time capsule that would represent our decade, now that we’re more than half-way through. This is his suggestion:

image via The Memo

image via The Memo


  • It represents our decade’s obsession with .gifs.
  • It sums up the ridiculousness of valuation bubbles.
  • It pokes fun at the fashion sense of hipsterdom.
  • It explores the growth of the visualisation of conversation (emojis, anyone?).
  • It underlines fatigued disappointment when words will not suffice.
  • This is the decade of the remix.

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This time it’s different – by Nick Bilton for Vanity Fair

An epic tale of hubris and impatience, sprinkled with wealth and innovation.

“This time it’s different”: A decrease in IPOs… Money flowing backward… The explosive growth of mobile phones… A sense of social good…

And a new financial structure. The quantitative easing and the relaxing of investment regulations for funds and governments have led to a lot of money searching for the mythical returns of venture capital. The prevalence of late-stage private financing vs IPOs is worrying in that the accounts never get public scrutiny, and the high valuations are in many cases totally arbitrary. Furthermore, as Nick points out:

The problem with being a unicorn, indeed, is that there aren’t many exit strategies. Either you can go public, which is inadvisable without a lot of revenue, or you can sell, which is difficult given the paucity of companies that can afford to make such an offer. So, for many, the choice becomes fairly simple. You continue to raise more and more money, or you die.

So, can this continue? Unconventional but statistically relevant indicators that we are in a bubble include an inflated art market, extravagant parties, and an increase in the number of prostitutes.

And did you know that virtually every bubble bursting has been preceeded by the attempt to build the tallest buildings? Witness the construction of the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, 200 feet higher than the Transamerica pyramid.

I love Nick’s synthesis of the current startup mega-trend:

“All across the Valley, the majority of big start-ups are actually glorified distribution companies that are trying, in some sense, to copy what Domino’s Pizza mastered in the 1980s when it delivered a hot pie to your door in 30 minutes or less. Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Luxe, Amazon Fresh, Google Express, TaskRabbit, Postmates, Instacart, SpoonRocket, Caviar, DoorDash, Munchery, Sprig, Washio, and Shyp, among others, are really just using algorithms to deliver things, or services, to places as quickly as possible. Or maybe it’s simpler than that. As one technologist overheard and posted on Twitter, “SF tech culture is focused on solving one problem: What is my mother no longer doing for me?””

Personally, I’m starting to collect bubble stories. Maybe there’ll soon be a reckoning, maybe not. Either way, it will be fun to look over these a year from now. Or two. Or five. You can see my collection on my Flipboard magazine “Tech bubbles“.

flipboard bubbles

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Today’s Internet Is Tomorrow’s Aesthetic – by John Herman for The Awl

This article is almost poetry. It talks about blog/reblog aesthetics of Tumblr, and makes me want to (almost, sort-of) give Tumblr another try.

image via The Awl

image via The Awl

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Trivia – from The Guardian

Wanna hear a fun fact? Google now has a “fun fact” feature, for those down-time moments when you could use a little intellectual stimulation. Just type in “fun fact” or “I’m feeling curious” into the search bar, and feel your brain grow.

fun fact

(Go on, tell me you knew that one!)

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The Boom in Podcasts – via Medium

If you had any doubts about the boom in podcasts, this graph should dispel them:

graph via Medium

graph via Medium

I’ve written before about how pleased I am that podcasts are now a “thing”. I can’t begin to tell you how much more walking I get done. And how good some of them are. I’m currently racing through Alex Blumberg’s first season of Startup, which is entertaining, slick and at times painfully real (been there!).

I was surprised at the breakdown of popular categories, and then I was surprised that I was surprised: Christianity came a comfortable #1, well ahead of the #2 category Music. My preferred sector, tech news, didn’t even make it into the Top 10. It used to be way up there, because podcasts were a geeky thing to listen to. Altogether now, let’s say “mainstream”.

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Hipster Barbie’s Instagram Account – from Wired

One day I’ll share with you my favourite Instagram accounts. This is now one of them: @socalitybarbie.

hipster barbie


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Enjoy the weekend! Yay, September! (I miss August!)

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