Rian van der Merwe

Product manager • Designer • Speaker

If you’ve watched the Fyre Festival documentaries — and even if you haven’t — this article about it is so good. Favorite part, among many:

McFarland sought to move quickly and break things—the festival economy, influencer harnessed marketing—and figure it out later. He never got to figure it out later, because he so thoroughly broke things.

📖 To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library

This article on the importance of libraries by sociologist Eric Klinenberg is really interesting:

But the problem that libraries face today isn’t irrelevance. Indeed, in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed.

Why are libraries such special places? Because they’re essentially the last public spaces that don’t require people to pay money to get in, and that deliver the same services to everyone regardless of their social status:

Libraries are an example of what I call “social infrastructure”: the physical spaces and organizations that shape the way people interact. Libraries don’t just provide free access to books and other cultural materials, they also offer things like companionship for older adults, de facto child care for busy parents, language instruction for immigrants and welcoming public spaces for the poor, the homeless and young people.

We take our kids to the library 2-3 times a month, and they love it. It’s not just the unlimited selection of books (although that’s a big part of it). It’s also the educational classes, the reading contests, and ok sure, the iPads…

Of all the weird app update messages out there, this one — which never changes — strikes me as the weirdest of them all.

This is pretty neat. Security Checklist is “an open source checklist of resources designed to improve your online privacy and security.”

Anthropologist Anna Machin’s article The devotion of the human dad separates us from other apes is a fascinating look at the unique purpose that fathers were designed to fulfill:

Fathers are so critical to the survival of our children and our species that evolution has not left their suitability for the role to chance. Like mothers, fathers have been shaped by evolution to be biologically, psychologically and behaviourally primed to parent. We can no longer say that mothering is instinctive yet fathering is learned.

Bandcamp is one of my favorite places to buy music, since they give most of the funds to musicians — and you get CD quality downloads. So it's great to see that they're opening a record store in Oakland.

🎵 Wake-up music for a gloomy Portland Saturday morning.

📖 How to Fix Social Media by Injecting A Chunk of the Blogosphere

This is a really interesting essay on how to improve the social web (and how we got here in the first place):

Just by enduring, [Twitter and Facebook] have become places for lasting connections and friendships and career opportunities, in a way the blogosphere never was, at least for me. And this means that, despite their toxicity, despite their shortcomings, despite all the promises that have gone unfulfilled, Twitter and Facebook have continued to matter in a way that blogs don’t.

I can’t help but think that if Google Reader was still around, and flourishing, we would’ve had a very different social web today. One in which creating personal sites and connecting them together were not only easy, but the norm.

📖 The Internet Can Make Us Feel Awful. It Doesn't Have to Be That Way.

Eli Pariser’s article on the lack of dignity we experience online gave me a lot to think about:

Over decades in the field, Hicks saw a repeating pattern: conflicts came about when people felt they were being disrespected and treated as worthless. “We long to look good in the eyes of others, to feel good about ourselves, to be worthy of others’ care and attention,” Hicks writes. When people are treated as if we don’t matter or aren’t due respect, we become vindictive, tribalistic and vengeful. “Research suggests that we are just as programmed to sense a threat to our dignity as we are to a physical threat,” Hicks writes. “Neuroscientists have found that a psychological injury such as being excluded stimulates the same part of the brain as a physical wound.”

The gut-punch sentence, for me, is this one:

Our ability to make choices that really reflect our values is subsumed by nudges to do more of what platforms want.

I know the concept of “nudging” is really popular right now. But I still think it’s really creepy, for the simple reason that platforms make it impossible to answer one simple, essential question: Whose values are we being nudged towards? Technology is not neutral, and all platforms want more of us, no matter how they dress it up.

I wish I knew what “spark joy” was all about, but not enough to actually Google it and add another pop culture thing to my brain. I’m starting to think that choosing not to care about something is going to be our saving grace on the internet. I think about this article — and the concept of “cull and surrender” — a lot.