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Feeling at home with Facebook

The first mobile-phone call was made 40 years ago this week, by a Motorola engineer roaming the streets of New York. Phones have made amazing advances since then: I for one would be lost without Google Maps, literally and all the time. Having something called a “smartphone” makes me feel… well, smart. (Non-smartphones are known in the industry as “feature phones”.) And now the latest exciting evolution of the phone has just been announced: Facebook Home. Premiered on a new phone, the HTC First, it’s a forthcoming Android app that replaces your “home screen” with direct Facebook access. Wake up your phone and your Facebook news feed is right there. OMG, “Like”! Right?

Facebook promises that this will result in a “great, living, social phone”, which gives me alarming mental images of something alive wriggling around in my pocket, connected directly to Mark Zuckerberg’s brain. The instantly available news feed is apparently “for those in-between moments like waiting in line at the grocery store or between classes when you want to see what’s going on in your world”, which oddly implies that “your world” is not what is actually going on around you – which you could, after all, see by simply staring at it rather than fumbling for your phone. No, “your world” is Facebook’s world. Welcome to it!

Read the rest at the Guardian.

8 March 2013

Do you want to write like Ernest Hemingway or Bruce Chatwin? Then you need a Moleskine notebook. Purchase one of these marvels of stationery engineering – the strokable black cover with rounded corners, the bookmark, the expandable back pocket, the sewn pages – and it surely won’t be long before you are composing muscular sentences about exotic perambulations and recently deceased animals. The Moleskine has become such a writer’s fetish object, indeed, that the company is now planning to go public on the Milan stock exchange, potentially valuing it at €600m.

This despite the fact that Hemingway and Chatwin never actually used a Moleskine. The Italian publisher Modo&Modo created the brand in 1997, so its “heritage” – the website also mentions Picasso and Van Gogh – is more myth than fact. Even so, Moleskines (based on a description by Chatwin of a type of notebook he used to buy in France) are seriously good products. And writers must be allowed their little tool obsessions – some swear by £80 mechanical pencils, others by a certain obscure brand of Japanese gel pen.

Read the rest at the Guardian.

17 January 2013

Downtrodden employees of the world, take heart: a rebel hero walks among us. A man in his mid-40s, identified in reports only as “Bob”, was a star programmer earning a six-figure salary at an American infrastructure company. When the company commissioned a network-security audit, they belatedly discovered that “Bob” had outsourced his own job to a Chinese software company for a fifth of his pay. Relieved of his workload, Bob would spend his entire office day on the internet, flicking from eBay to Facebook to cat videos, before writing a progress-report email for his bosses and knocking off at 5pm. Sadly, upon finding out how resourcefully Bob had managed his own productivity, the firm sacked him rather than marvelling at his initiative and promoting him to senior management.

Described as a “family man” and “quiet and inoffensive”, Bob is a tech-wizard Bartleby for an age of “flexible” labour markets.

Read the rest at the Guardian.