I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and lead strategy at PlaceIQ.

These are reactions to things I feel are important.


UberRUSH & the Return of Bike Messengers as an Icon 

I fear the tech industry might start fetishizing bike messengers again. Head for the hills.

But seriously, bike messaging became an icon of the outsider class in the mid-2000s and was co-opted by brands from Red Bull to Pabst to Adidas. The number of dollars spent on ad campaigns featuring bike messages had to have dwarfed the number of dollars spent on actual messengering.

As a result, I discussed the idea in many focus groups between 2005 and 2006. And based on this anecdotal experience, I don’t believe the mythical version of the bike messenger is a good omen.

The bike messenger as an icon rose as a symbol of freedom and authenticity admired by those in bureaucratic employment. People were burnt out and admired the idea of self-employment, no take-home work, and exercise (while ignoring the crushing healthcare costs). But they also admired the idea of working on something tangible and ‘real’. Neither of these drivers are good economic signals. Perhaps the mythical bike messenger, an easy-going self-reliant who performs tangible work, heralds corporate burnout and bloat at once. We shall see.

Ryan Lizza on the State of Chris Christie 

Chris Christie was invited to a roast of ex-New Jersey governor Byrne, but everyone kept cracking Chris Christie jokes. Then he got sore:

Joy Behar, the former co-host of “The View,” was even more pointed. “When I first heard that he was accused of blocking off three lanes on the bridge, I said, ‘What the hell is he doing, standing in the middle of the bridge?” After another barb, Christie interrupted her. “This is a Byrne roast,” he said. He stood up and tried to grab her notes. The audience laughed awkwardly. “Stop bullying me,” Behar said as he sat down. Christie said something out of earshot and Behar responded, “Why don’t you get up here at the microphone instead of being such a coward?”

Joy Behar had a solid Christie joke! (Via the New Yorker)

"The crewmembers used a 70mm camera to photograph this northeasterly looking view of the plume from the Kamchatka peninsula’s newly erupted volcano. The eruption was photographed from 115 nautical miles above Earth." (Via NASA)

On Vox

Vox Cards on Ukraine

  • Vox ‘cards' are the lovechild of the Economist, Circa, and Wikipedia. They're great, but feel wrong perusing straight from the browser. Waiting for the app.
  • The cards would be more interesting if they made their content accessible through an API. Other pubs could offload the backstory to Vox (and they would, given their current bandwidth) and drop in the explainer stack after the initial paragraphs covering the specific event being described.
  • There is a huge opportunity for a defacto fact-checking resource online.

I think about Journalism as comprising three disciplines: reporting, narrative, and fact-checking. Reporting has been largely commodified by Twitter and the rest of social media. Narrative, which includes editing, is harder to commodify and will be limited to talented writers. But Narrative also doesn’t scale into a giant internet business. You grow by hiring good writers, one at a time.

But fact-checking is a business that could scale. It could be dominated by a couple of brands who build out the resources for other pubs to use, including background vetted information and a brand grown to inspire trust among readers. Lexis Nexis could have taken this path but they’re too expensive and inflexible. Also, their brand would need to be introduced to readers.

The last generation of Journalism saw all three of these jobs – reporting, narrative, and fact-checking – wrapped into the a single publication. But now, with reporting largely commodified, news organizations will need to experiment with new structures.

Vox, with its explanatory approach to news, could grow to be a very large business if it scales its authority and trust beyond its stable of writers. If cards are open to be used by all, the business could be a behemoth. Blogs don’t have the bandwidth to source quotes, research historical context, or other jobs which were previously paid by lucrative print subscriptions. But the joint budgets of a distributed news network could support several subscription services providing Vox-like content, authority, and trust.

That thing is more than 6 inches high. Why isn’t this an app?

Last LA shots from this trip.

This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted.
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