Hey! Oh, sorry – I didn’t mean to frighten you. It’s Friday, relax. Well, relax as much as much as the start-up life will allow you.
It’s time for the latest edition of What we’ve been reading. If you’ve got a spare minute, check out our favourite pieces of journalism this week.
If you don’t have time – well, uh, skive a few minutes off work.
Got a nifty idea? Wanna put it on Kickstarter? Just know China’s IP vultures are jealously regarding your lovely idea.
The piece describes the frankly bewildering predicament of one Israeli entrepreneur: “one week after his product hit Kickstarter in December 2015, Sherman was shocked to see it for sale on AliExpress—Alibaba’s English-language wholesale site.
“Vendors across China were selling identical smartphone case selfie-sticks, using the same design Sherman came up with himself. Some of them were selling for as low as $10 apiece, well below Sherman’s expected retail price of £39 ($47.41).”
They even stole his idea’s name!
Google’s former product philosopher wants a Hippocratic Oath for product design. Tristan Harris sees products that manipulate user’s psychology as unethical. “A race to the bottom of the brain stem,” he says.
Harris argues it is companies’ responsibility to help users disengage from their devices. “You could say that it’s my responsibility” to exert self-control when it comes to digital usage, he explains, “but that’s not acknowledging that there’s a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job is to break down whatever responsibility I can maintain.”
It’s not that simple, though. This article balances both sides of the debate beautifully. As one Silicon Valley guru tells the author: “Saying ‘Don’t use these techniques’ is essentially saying ‘Don’t make your products fun to use.’ That’s silly.
“With every new technology, the older generation says ‘Kids these days are using too much of this and too much of that and it’s melting their brains.’ And it turns out that what we’ve always done is to adapt.”
Barack Obama has reached that wonderful point in his presidency where he has no elections left to win and can now just bust people’s chops.
The next stop on Barry O’s Sick Burns Greatest Hits Tour? Silicon Valley.
It’s become a popular idea in the US – Trump’s entire campaign is predicated on it – that government should be run like a business. Eliminate waste! Cut spending! Not so fast, says Obama. There are, he says, no externalities in government.
“Government will never run the way Silicon Valley runs because, by definition, democracy is messy… part of government’s job, by the way, is dealing with problems nobody else wants to deal with.”
Nothing revelatory or deeply philosophical here, it’s just interesting.
In this piece, Jan Losert, a London-based product designer, gives a comprehensive rundown of how things are made.
It’s a fascinating look at best practice.