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What we've been reading: Pivoting, sound and bitcoin

  1. What we've been reading
    Francois Badenhorst

    Francois Badenhorst Deputy Editor Staff Member

    Posts: 91 Likes: 18
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    Every week we curate our favourite pieces of journalism not written by or for us. It’s a nifty little list that spans a whole constellation of topics.

    In our cynical age, no one fails anymore -- everybody pivots

    I’ve argued before that the classist subtext of basically saying ‘it doesn’t matter if you fail’ are pretty troubling.

    It does matter if you fail if you’ve tied your life savings into your idea. Move fast and break things isn’t an option when you’ve come from a working class background. Ultimately, I find a philosophy that casts entrepreneurship as an act of commercial hedonism distasteful.

    A big component of fail fast is this notion of ‘pivoting’. “Pivoting,” writes Jacob Rees, “ has become the new failure, a concept to describe a haphazard , practically madcap form of iterative development.”

    Pivoting, he explains, is also a performance. It’s about the illusion of control, though ‘the pivot’ arises out of desperation. It’s a PR flourish that has seeped into our broader culture. I mean why not? It’s perfect! A politician isn’t a hypocrite or flip-flopper - she’s merely pivoted, or evolved.  

    Inside one of the world’s largest bitcoin mines

    Here we can see the eerily joyless innards of the world’s crypto-currency boom. Situated somewhere in desolate inner Mongolia, this ‘mine’ (really a few warehouses filled with processors) is central to Bitcoin’s existence.

    So ‘mining’ is the process of adding transaction records to Bitcoin's public ledger (known as the blockchain). It’s the sine qua non of Blockchain’s decentralised system because the blockchain is what maintains order.

    But it’s also a weird relationship: inasmuch as mining is essential, the process is deliberately designed to be difficult and resource intensive. This is done to keep the miners’ output steady and consistent. There’s no rush, the blocks have to be churned out.

    I could carry on about the topic for many, many more words, but I’ll leave it to you to do some research yourself.

    At the dawn of recorded sound, no one cared

    Here’s a cool fact for you: Thomas Edison didn’t invent recorded sound, it was actually a Frenchman with an impossibly cool name — Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville.

    De Martinville’s work has only been recognised in the past decade or so. But here’s the kicker - he   didn’t realise he had created something revolutionary. He just wanted to see what sound looked like (he tracked the vibrations on soot coated glass).

    The man died shortly after and never saw his invention gain mass adoption. And as NPR’s Laura Sydell notes: “His story and the history of recorded sound reveals that even a breakthrough invention can seem insignificant if there isn't a clear market for its use. That's a lesson today's inventors should keep in mind.”

    You need an afternoon routine

    Lifehacker's Patrick Allen raises a really valid point: for all the millions of articles and thinkpieces focusing on how to perfect the morning routine, we seem to forget about the afternoon.

    For me personally, the afternoon is the toughest part of the day. The screen begins to blur, I begin to flag, and the hands don't type as fast as they could.

    So here's Allen's worthy attempt at staving off the afternoon slump. The way he tackles it might not be for you, but it's definitely worth contemplating how you can find a solution for yourself.

    <This headline is too rude to print>

    Fair play to the London Review of Books, they sure aren’t afraid to swing to fences with their headlines. We’re not quite so brave - so be warned, the headline is a little - um - jarring?

    But don’t let that stop you: it’s a brilliant, searing bit of writing and a welcome critique of a British media power broker.

    Andrew O’Hagan - he of the superb ‘Ghosting’ essay on Julian Assange - ruthlessly deconstructs Paul Dacre and the newspaper he runs.

    You might not agree with O’Hagan - I mean, he’s not exactly sitting on the fence - but sometimes it's good to read things you don’t agree with.  We’ve forgotten that and Dacre and the Mail are more guilty than most.

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