This week, start here:
Thoughtful, heady, heavy stuff on the intersection of networks, big data, customer-centricity and ethics from Mary Gray, whose post on Culture Digitally poses a really essential question for both marketers and platforms, namely:

Do we cross a line when testing a product also asks a scientifically relevant question? If researchers or systems designers are “just” testing a product on end users (aka humans) and another group has access to all that luscious data, whose ethics apply? When does “testing” end and “real research” begin in the complicated world of “The Internet?”

This is scarcely academic. Facebook has been met with scathing criticism for what was, to a very real extent, the very sort of A/B testing that we simultaneously applaud on more traditional commerce sites.

If that gets you excited, Martin Weigel’s piece on sentient machines, privacy and the data state is both long and completely wonderful.

Do take a few minutes to read Andy Whitlock’s smart piece on the Made by Many blog on the dangers of fetishizing customer development — fundamentally less a post on user testing and more on the need to avoid a work culture in which we thoughtlessly parrot internal mantras .

Our personal data stored in mobile devices — or at least that of Italian study participants — is worth more on and around public holidays. This is a rather interesting (very early) look into the future of personal data markets .

Along similar lines, devices connected to the XOX “emotional technology platform” seeks to capture ongoing data about a user’s emotional states — think personal biometric sentiment analysis.

Please don’t use ‘emotional technology platform’ in a deck, folks.

Bookmark, store away, and circulate in internal emails as necessary in the future: Gerry McGovern has a smart post on when to design for self-service, and when to focus on face-to-face . Also, this:

Simplicity doesn’t come cheap. It takes lots of effort to create and maintain a simple self-service environment.

We love UserOnboard, so when they broke down the entire the customer onboarding process for Instagram in incredible detail, we felt compelled to share it. A reminder: this is really important, instructive stuff, and you ignore this kind of experience design at your own peril.

No idea where this goes, but things are getting interesting fast. An Oculus Rift + Kinect + a suit full of electrical stimulators allows us to experience the phenomenon of living inside someone else’s body.

We’ve been enjoying The Data of Cool for a few weeks — a site dedicated to digging into the metrics that drive trend phenomena, like FiveThirtyEight meets A Continuous Lean. Features on the economics of the Ace Hotel caught our eye, but this week we’re excited to hear that Boston is mathematically the third most hipster city in America, beating out both Nashville and Portland.