The Rise of Private Messaging and Other Fascinating News on the Web

December 13, 2013

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  1. A Private Message

    This week, Twitter added photo-sharing to its direct messaging functionality, and Instagram gave its users the ability to share messages plus photos and videos with a single person or small group. One one level, these services are merely trying to keep up with a host of new and wildly popular chat programs. But we could also be seeing the beginning of a new and important trend. Multiple companies are racing to win the messaging game and be the platform where you share your private messages (as GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram points out, no one will completely own the space). After years watching a race to make everything public, we could be seeing companies, large and small, responding to our desire to make things a little more private.

    + New Republic’s Noreen Malone on the change of direction: “It’s a shift away from the public-broadcasting instinct that drove the creation of so many social networks just a few years ago.  For years, the social Internet seemed determined to strip away the possibility of privacy. Now, it seems to be reversing course.”

    + A mall in Bangkok is this year’s most Instagrammed place in the world. I’m guessing some of those shots would be better off private.

  2. The Spy Left Out in the Cold

    “In an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules, a team of analysts – with no authority to run spy operations – paid Levinson to gather intelligence from some of the world’s darkest corners. He vanished while investigating the Iranian government for the U.S.” After years of sitting on the story, AP shares the details of a CIA spy mission gone wrong, and the scandal that followed: American missing in Iran was on unapproved mission.

    + By this morning, a lot of major newspapers followed AP’s lead and released their own versions of this story. Here’s the AP on why they decided to publish this story now.

  3. Weekend Reads

    You want some extra weekend reads as the holiday season approaches? Well, Longform has plenty of incredible articles (organized by category) in their Best of 2013 list.

    + You’ll find more great articles in Buzzfeed’s excellent list of the 15 most memorable profiles on 2013.

    + “The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans — and likely hundreds more — during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports.” The WSJ’s Michael Phillips on The Lobotomy Files.

  4. Kim Jong Un’s Uncle Executed

    There are concerns about instability in the region following news of the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle in North Korea. Jang Song Thaek was considered to be the country’s second most powerful leader.

    + The Daily Beast: North Korean blood feud is Richard III with nukes.

  5. Next Time, Let’s Play Touch

    “During my football career, I dislocated my shoulder multiple times, separated both shoulders, broke my tibia, broke a rib, broke my fingers, tore my medial collateral ligament in my right knee, tore my groin off the bone, tore my hamstring off the bone twice. I had bone chips in my elbow, bone chips in my ankle, concussions, sub-concussions, countless muscle strains, labral tears in either hip, cumulative trauma in the lower spine, sciatic nerve damage, achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis in both feet, blisters—oh the blisters! My neck is bad. My clavicles are misaligned. I probably have brain damage.” Nate Jackson in Deadspin: How I shot, smoked, and screwed my way through the NFL.

  6. Fordham Admissions Error

    “Congratulations once again on your admission to Fordham University.” That was the message received by 2,500 applicants earlier this week. Unfortunately, the email came from a third party contractor, and the message was wrong. Later in the day, the applicants learned that they had either been rejected or deferred. I wonder if this was one of the contractors that worked on the health care site.

    + A former Columbia teaching assistant explains why she inflated grades: “I just didn’t want to deal with all the complaining.” (That’s the same explanation I give when people ask me why my kids are eating ice cream for dinner.)

  7. Say Her Name

    How could Beyonce create an album and a collection of videos along with Jay Z, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Drake, and Frank Ocean without anyone hearing about it until the moment it was released? Who knows? But people across social media heard about it big time when it dropped on Thursday night. This is big news because it marks an interesting shift in the way a major album is marketed. Word got out on social media and by this morning, news of the new album (and it’s secrecy) was being reported across the web. Oh, who am I kidding? This is big news because it’s Beyonce.

    + Slate: How Beyonce got us to pay for music.

    + For now, Beyonce’s album is only available on iTunes. Many of us have switched to streaming. But not that many of us are paying for it. (Just wait. We will.)

    + Here are the four alcohol brands that dominate popular music lyrics.

    + You know how music lessons can improve your intelligence? Well, according to some Harvard Researchers, that’s a myth.

  8. Toy Stories

    This holiday season, many of us will be tempted to buy our kids toys that promise to teach them important lessons, improve their skills, and get them interested in academic subjects. Do these toys really make a difference? And more importantly, do we really care? Whatever happened to the value we place on our kids just having fun? Elizabeth Weiss examines the topic in The New Yorker: Can toys create future engineers?

  9. Yes, More Charts

    You loved yesterday’s list of year’s best charts so much that today, the Internet is back with yet another (even better) list. From The Wire: The best charts of 2013.

  10. The Bottom of the News

    “You wouldn’t want this person defusing a nuclear bomb. He’s a very glamorous person, he gets all the girls and that’s totally incompatible with the lifestyle of an alcoholic, which he is.” Doctors analyzed 14 novels to better understand how much James Bond drinks. The answer: A whole lot. That’s why he always repeats Bond twice. He forgot he said it the first time.

    + “Ben postulated that all our customers wanted really big chunks. As if everybody likes big chunks!” Ben and Jerry discuss ice cream.

    + Every time Paul Rudd promotes a movie on Conan, he plays the same clip.

    + Three hundred movies from 2013 in seven minutes.