How to Leave a Mark on People

David Brooks, writing for The New York Times:

What makes an institution thick? If you were setting out consciously to create a thick institution, what features would it include?

A thick institution is not one that people use instrumentally, to get a degree or to earn a salary. A thick institution becomes part of a person’s identity and engages the whole person: head, hands, heart and soul. So thick institutions have a physical location, often cramped, where members meet face to face on a regular basis, like a dinner table or a packed gym or assembly hall.
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Such institutions have a set of collective rituals — fasting or reciting or standing in formation. They have shared tasks, which often involve members closely watching one another, the way hockey teammates have to observe everybody else on the ice…

Churches should be thick institutions. They should force you to rub shoulders with the other believers and look each other in the eye. These are the things that an online church or campus can’t do.

Yes, the church is not a physical building, but there’s something about physically being around people that at online church can’t replicate.

via How to Leave a Mark on People – The New York Times

The Future of Facebook Instant Articles

Casey Newton, writing for The Verge:

…two years after it launched, a platform that aspired to build a more stable path forward for journalism appears to be declining in relevance. At the same time that Instant Articles were being designed, Facebook was beginning work on the projects that would ultimately undermine it. Starting in 2015, the company’s algorithms began favoring video over other content types, diminishing the reach of Instant Articles in the feed. The following year, Facebook’s News Feed deprioritized article links in favor of posts from friends and family. The arrival this month of ephemeral stories on top of the News Feed further de-emphasized the links on which many publishers have come to depend.

I think Instant Articles is good product. However, I’ve never been comfortable handing over content to Facebook in this manner.

Also, as the article points out, Instant Articles does not seem to fit their long term vision which is heavily based on videos. If Facebook is trying to lure large scale companies to invest in their platform, why not try to go after TV networks and create Facebook TV? This would allow them to go head to with YouTube, Netflix, and all the other players in the video industry.

via Instant recall – The Verge

a16z Podcast: Brains, Bodies, Minds … and Techno-Religions

One of my favorite episodes of this podcast. Yuval Harari’s work is on my reading list for 2017 and he comes across as someone who’s thought a lot about the future and what it will look like.

Check it out right here.

Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?

Matt Richtel writing for The New York Times:

Amid an opioid epidemic, the rise of deadly synthetic drugs and the widening legalization of marijuana, a curious bright spot has emerged in the youth drug culture: American teenagers are growing less likely to try or regularly use drugs, including alcohol.

With minor fits and starts, the trend has been building for a decade, with no clear understanding as to why. Some experts theorize that falling cigarette-smoking rates are cutting into a key gateway to drugs, or that antidrug education campaigns, long a largely failed enterprise, have finally taken hold.

But researchers are starting to ponder an intriguing question: Are teenagers using drugs less in part because they are constantly stimulated and entertained by their computers and phones?

I think it’s an interesting concept. However, I would argue that the lack of drug use could be for a variety of reasons. Technology in this case is an easy culprit, the same way video games are for violence.

I would also love to see if there is correlating data to see there’s been a drop off in athletics as well. In other words, are teenagers dropping out of real life social activities (good or bad) for online activities?

via Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones? – The New York Times

Will Snapchat Be as Fleeting as Its Photos?

From Julia Skylar in the MIT Technology Review:

With Instagram Stories, pictures and videos come out much clearer and sharper, and more generally, it’s simply easier to find people on Instagram than on Snapchat. You don’t need to know a specific username; you can very easily search for people and companies to follow—and receive stories from—just by typing in their actual name.

But whether more millennials flee Snapchat for Instagram might not even matter that much, because both platforms may face an even bigger issue: what if it turns out that disappearing photos and videos are simply another digital fad?

Interesting to pose the idea that disappearing photos and videos as a fad. I just had a conversation with a group of young adults who said that the disappearing aspect of photos and videos were annoying.

I’ve never been a fan of disappearing content, I think it promotes carelessness as an art form versus taking the time to curate your work.

via Will Snapchat Be as Fleeting as Its Photos? – MIT Technology Review

Why Typography Matters — Especially At The Oscars

Benjamin Bannister writes:

With a modified card, even if the presenters had gotten the wrong one, none of this would’ve happened because the presenters would’ve looked at it and one of two things would’ve happened: their eyes would’ve read “Best Actress,” or, “Emma Stone.” Reading either of those would indicate that this wasn’t the card for Best Picture, and they would’ve asked Jimmy Kimmel or a producer to the stage to get it corrected.

As a creator, the importance of typography is an absolute skill to know, and people — not just designers, should consider learning it. Typography can be immensely helpful when writing a resume that’s well-structured, creating a report that looks exciting, designing a website with an intuitive hierarchy — and definitely for designing award show winner cards.

This article is a fantastic breakdown on how with just a few small tweaks, the whole Oscar catastrophe could’ve been avoided.

via Why Typography Matters — Especially At The Oscars

Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all your friends

From Owen Williams:

When Instagram Stories launched well over a year ago, I thought it was cute, but couldn’t understand why I’d ever jump from Snapchat. Simply put, like you, I was hooked on snapping everything as it was. I loved sharing photos into my story, and rarely send pictures directly to others, because it’s a fun way to passively share what I’ve been up to over the course of the day.

Throughout each day, friends browse my story and fire back a chat message if they like it, and I do the same. Before I switched, I was probably checking Snapchat once an hour to see if anything new had happened. Like you, I was addicted to the service — more than a disturbing amount.

But I’ve noticed over recent months a shift: less people are using Snapchat around me, and I’ve stopped entirely. Photos in my stories that regularly got over 5,000 views a day, now get less than half of that — and only a handful of the people I actively followed along with are even sharing anymore.

I’ve tried Snapchat and I thought the user interface was a mess. However, I thought the their value was unique and they would have staying power. But if Facebook keeps innovating and mimicking their features, they could go the way of Vine.

via Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all your friends – Charged Tech – Medium