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News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@aerin

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, the suggestion that he might run the platform into the ground was, for many, including me, a shorthand. Many supposed that Musk would roll back key moderation policies or reinstate some banned accounts, or that his ownership would be some kind of anti-woke Bat-Signal, flooding the platform with people who are attracted to social media for its capacity to alienate people.

Instead, less than a month into Musk’s tenure, he seems to be doing everything in his power to throw a wrench in the gears of Twitter’s infrastructure. As some Twitter insiders predicted, Musk has drastically and indiscriminately cut engineering staff with crucial institutional knowledge and gutted teams that deal with Twitter’s complex legal and privacy policies and their enforcement. He’s also frozen code deployment and has pledged to disconnect Twitter’s microservices, which are part of the website’s technical architecture, but which Musk sees as costly bloat. Anecdotally, users across the world—and specifically outside the United States—are reporting all kinds of abnormalities and glitches in the way tweets load. Since Musk’s layoffs started, current and former Twitter engineers have publicly and privately expressed concern that the world’s richest man is making decisions that could cause Twitter to structurally decay and go offline during peak moments.

In recent days, I’ve had conversations with three former Twitter employees, all with varying knowledge of the platform’s infrastructure. They each argued that Musk appears to know very little about how the company he purchased actually works—that Twitter has its own, custom-built and self-hosted infrastructure, which runs out of multiple data centers, for example. And they were uncertain whether those crucial and complex parts of the company were still adequately staffed: Thousands of people have been laid off from Twitter in recent days, and remaining employees were offered buyouts yesterday. (“We will need to be extremely hardcore,” Musk reportedly wrote to staffers. “This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.” If that promise somehow fails to entice, workers can opt for three months’ severance instead.)

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

After haggling with the author Stephen King (don’t worry about it), Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, decided that Twitter users would have to pay $8 a month to keep their blue verification check marks. Previously, these check marks were free and indicated an account was authentic—that’s the real New York Times, the real President Joe Biden, the real Slim Jim, and so on. They’re sort of a status symbol, in the sense that check marks make users stand out, and the process for getting one is opaque and mysterious. And they kind of confer importance by suggesting that a person or an entity or a brand with a check might be someone who someone else would attempt to impersonate. People sometimes talk about verification badges as being signifiers of “clout.”

Musk renovated the blue-check-mark system with the stated intention of making it, like, more egalitarian or something: Anybody could have a check if they paid a fee, and then they would have the glory of the check mark, even if it would no longer indicate anything other than the user having paid a fee. This devolved into chaos about as quickly as you would imagine. A blue check appeared next to an account pretending to be George W. Bush, which tweeted, “I miss killing Iraqis” with a sad-face emoji. A blue check appeared next to an account masquerading as the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, which tweeted, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” (The verification program is now on pause until after Thanksgiving.)

For those disgusted or confused by Musk’s antics, there is an alternative: Just go back to Tumblr, where the antics are better.

The famous microblogging website for freaks is constantly rumored to be at death’s door, but things are on the upswing there—and people are paying attention, thanks to the company’s inspired response to Twitter’s tumult. Last week, it started offering users the option to purchase, for a onetime fee of $7.99, not one but two “Important Blue Internet Checkmarks” to display next to their username. “Why, you ask? Why not?” the announcement explained. (The page for purchasing the check marks discloses that they “may turn into a bunch of crabs at any time.”) This was a good joke from the jump, but it got better when users realized they could buy more than two check marks. Someone bought 10. Because this is Tumblr, the check marks quickly became the subject of fan art—“the Important Blue Internet Checkmarks are gay and married actually,” etc. Tumblr is also selling blue-check-mark pins in its shockingly good merch store.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

Cities are unpredictable places. Not just in the hustle and bustle of dusty street corners, but across the sweep of time itself. Take Leipzig for example. Once the fifth largest city in Germany, it tumbled into steep decline after German reunification in 1990. Residents left the city in droves, decamping to new developments outside the city boundaries. By the year 2000, one in five homes within the city stood empty.

And then everything changed. In the new millennium the German economy started gathering steam and jobs flowed back to the center of Leipzig. Those once-vacant properties were demolished to make way for new housing developments. As new immigrants chose to make their homes closer to the heart of the city, Leipzig’s suburban sprawl started to contract again. Today it is one of the fastest-growing cities in Germany, adding around 2 percent to its population every year.

Leipzig’s riches-to-rags-to-riches transformation has been dramatic, but it is just one sign of an urban renaissance taking place across the continent. After decades of slowly creeping outward with the creation of new suburban commuter belts, Europe’s cities are growing denser once more—and providing a potential boon for the environment and our well-being in the process. American cities, take note.

Between the 1970s and early 21st century, most cities went through a period of what urban planners call de-densification. Think of it as middle-aged spread: As societies became more affluent and car-based, low-density housing developments on the outskirts of cities provided larger homes for people who wanted more space but to still be within driving distance of jobs and shops. The growth of suburbia was the predominant trend for most cities all over the world in the second half of the 20th century, says Chiara Cortinovis, an urban planning researcher at Humboldt University of Berlin.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2012, I was working at a hotel in Glacier National Park when a man I’d just met invited me for a day of tubing and drinking beer on the river. Little did I know, I would nearly drown in the rapids.

But this story doesn’t begin in the water.

This story begins at Many Glacier Hotel the night before the start of the summer season. The employees, most of us new to each other, new to Glacier, gathered in a basement theater space typically reserved for a folk singer who performed songs about mountaineering. A seasoned National Park Service ranger stood before us in the usual wide-brimmed hat and stiff green trousers.

“Glacier National Park is dangerous,” she said. “And every year, there are fatalities. Climbing accidents, deadly encounters with animals. Some of you have experience in nature. Some of you are new to it. Either way, statistically, one of you will die this summer.”

Perhaps it was the growing darkness outside, the perfectly triangular silhouette of Grinnell Point above the mirrored surface of Swiftcurrent Lake, or the forest, thick with night, but her words sounded like a campfire story. We listened, but we did not believe. Instead, we thought of the cold beers we’d later share on the porch outside the employee dorms, tomorrow’s hike to Iceberg Lake, the beds in the hotel that needed linens, linens for guests who were on their way to this sacred corner of Montana.

I’m not going to die this summer, I thought the next day in the employee dining room, dousing a plate of rubbery scrambled eggs with hot sauce. I was young. It was my first season in the park. I’d seen the group of veteran Glacier employees headed for foreboding black cliffs with their helmets, headlamps, and worn copies of A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park. I wasn’t going to do anything like that. At least not yet.

An hour later, I stood on the bank of the Swiftcurrent River, barefoot in a bikini, inflating a cheap plastic inner tube.

“It’ll be mellow,” Luke* said over the thrum of the water. Like me, he was a server at the hotel restaurant. He handed me a warm can of beer and we made our way down the berm, sat on our tubes, and pushed ourselves into the water.

The river was swollen with alpine runoff. Clear and cold enough to drink big gulps. He was right at first; it was mellow. The water tugged us along steadily, then slowed, picked up the pace, slowed again. Like the ride at a water park I’d loved as a kid, or the game I’d played in neighborhood pools where we’d move in big circles to create a current. Mellow.

Halfway through my beer, the trickle mutated into a torrent. Suddenly, the river roared as it curved through the valley. It forked. Luke went one way; I went another. It became a force bigger than me, a surge of water pouring over downed trees that sliced my arms and legs, poked holes in my pathetic yellow tube which began to deflate, deflate, deflate. The muddy riverbank was out of reach. I sank. The current tossed me from my tube. I held onto the handle of the sinking vessel, my entire body underwater except for my fingers, the bones of my shins hitting every rock on the riverbed, downed tree branches stabbing my ribs, my lungs filling with water as I gasped for air and was denied. The river was in charge now, I realized, and though I fought it as long as I could, my veins electric with fear, I kept swallowing water, choking on it, until I was breathing more water than air, until my legs were bruised and useless, until my grip began to loosen on what was left of the inner tube. And then my head went heavy, my vision went dark. The rushing river in my ears became a song guiding me toward the unknown.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

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News 18.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Nina* was scrolling Apple News in July 2021 when she came across a headline that looked familiar. Even before opening the story, she had a feeling she might be in it.

The BuzzFeed article, titled “People Are Sharing Non-Obvious Signs That Are Actually A Cry For Help, And It’s Eye-Opening,” was taken from a Reddit thread posted earlier in the day asking how to recognize when someone is struggling with mental health issues. The story pulled in more than a dozen Reddit responses to create a numbered list. A comment Nina had left was right at the top.

“I posted something extremely personal and it happened to be the first quote in their article which was one of the top articles of the day on Apple News,” Nina told The Verge in an email. (Nina requested a pseudonym to protect her privacy.) “That’s scary. I had no idea, I didn’t know my username would be linked with it, and it was a total accident I stumbled upon it.”

When Nina asked other Redditors about BuzzFeed’s sourcing practices, she found a sense of resignation but also open frustration — a sense of theft. BuzzFeed was “sleazy,” some said, and most journalism was a “clickbait fiesta.” Even a few conspiracy theories emerged, like the suggestion that BuzzFeed writers planted r/AskReddit questions for upcoming stories. (BuzzFeed spokesperson Matt Mittenthal says the outlet doesn’t do this, instead crowdsourcing responses from readers.)

BuzzFeed built an empire on posts like this — mining Reddit, Tumblr, and other social media sites for content with the potential to go viral, repackaging it for a broader audience, and collecting the resulting traffic from Facebook shares. In the early to mid-2010s, the strategy seemed all but unstoppable: cute animals and feel-good photos subsidized a ferociously ambitious hard news division, and BuzzFeed’s ability to drive internet culture sparked outright jealousy from others in the media.

“I hate myself because I don’t work at BuzzFeed,” the letter read

An anonymous note sent to The Awl’s advice columnist in 2015 captured BuzzFeed’s cultural cachet: “I hate myself because I don’t work at BuzzFeed,” the letter read. “BuzzFeed is the most widely recognized media brand among young people, and will inevitably eclipse the major media organizations and one day become a super-hegemonic media power the likes of which we’ve never seen.”

But what worked in 2015 is a far cry from what works in 2022. On Monday, BuzzFeed reported earnings for the fourth time as a public company, recording $103.7 million in revenue for the latest quarter, above its own projections. But the rest of the news was dire: BuzzFeed lost $27 million, and the time audiences spent with its content plunged 32 percent from a year ago — its fourth straight quarterly decline. The company expects revenue in the fourth quarter of 2022 to dip compared to last year as well.

BuzzFeed’s ability to reflect, amplify, and create massive cultural moments by giving a staff of hundreds free rein to invent new formats led to a $1.7 billion valuation in 2016. It built a Pulitzer-winning newsroom with BuzzFeed News, popularized a genre of simple and stylized cooking content with Tasty, and launched a slate of beloved shows like BuzzFeed Unsolved and Another Round.

Today, BuzzFeed’s high-profile hosts have moved on, its news division has been gutted, and its core website pays contractors flat rates starting around $100 per post to chase trending topics. The company’s valuation is down to just $237 million, and dozens of current and former employees are suing BuzzFeed for losing out on millions, saying they weren’t able to sell their shares during the brief financial bright spot after the company went public last year. They now watch from the outside as the company’s value plummets and newer, more ruthless competitors native to the platforms themselves generate viral chum faster and more cheaply.

As social platforms continue to limit its reach, BuzzFeed needs to generate one more neat trick to reinvent digital media — and save itself in the process.

Read the rest of this article at: The Verge

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.