Weekend Reads

For the profit and pleasure of subscribers, here's a few longer reads on economic, political and social matters for the weekend.

The meteoric rise and very sharp fall this week of right wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was yet another bizarre outcrop in the Trump story. Here's the Vox explainer on him, which explains in part how the attention economy works these days.

This Axios piece on how Facebook and Google's algorithms and business models weaponised partisan and fake news outlooks is an eye-opener. Yiannopoulos was an editor at Breitbart and rode this trend to infamy.

"Facebook, in particular, algorithmically favors content that appeals to user bias and interest. According to comScore Vice President Andrew Lipsman, to elicit high engagement and repeat visitation, "sites must usually speak to a very specific audience." Although this limits the appeal to a broader readership, it creates a sustained and engaged audience that appeals to advertisers," Sara Fischer and Shannon Vavra write.

The less-than-civil landscape in social media and the world of technology was also to the fore this week in the debate over the sexist culture of some tech firms.

It all kicked off when a just-departed Uber executive wrote a tell-all post about how she had been sexually harassed by a boss and then her official complaints were ignored. Uber immediately launched an investigation, but the post prompted a whole new round of Uber deleting.

This post by the founder of Ruby on Rails, (the coding language that the Hive News website is built with) David Heinemeier Hansson, is an essential read on the issue, and on the worryingly sociopathic culture endemic in parts of Silicon Valley. He weaves Peter Thiel and Donald Trump into the narrative.

"I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both Peter Thiel and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick have been chummy and beyond with Trump. There’s an unmistakable ideological kinship between the three. A ruthless disregard for the law and any institutions that stand between them and more billions or settled scores. A pattern of vindictive power moves against the press and others," Hansson wrote.

Speaking of Trump supporters with radical views, this NY Times piece on conspiracy theorist and fellow provocateur Alex Jones reflects the increasing power of extreme views in a world of filter bubbles and confirmation bias.

The culture of trolling is a big part of the Trump circle. Here's Dale Beran revealing that 4Chan was the skeleton key to explain the rise of Trump.

There's more on the fake news industry from Wired, which took a trip to Macedonia.

Elsewhere on the Trump beat, Bloomberg takes a look at Trump's views on the 'flood' of illegal and criminal migrants, and finds it's a myth.

Trump also likes to blame China for the death of US manufacturing jobs. He's mostly wrong about that because automation has been the biggest job killer. But he and we ain't seen nuthin' yet because automated trucks are set to destroy millions of truck driving jobs, as the Guardian points out. Trump's supporters are in for a tough time.

Sadly though, facts don't seem to change our minds, as the New Yorker explains.

I tried to avoid Trump, but it's impossible. New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo tried it too, and also failed.