This week, start here:
Shane Greenstein has written a great piece on the evolution of consumer metadata — in celebration of the cookie’s 20th anniversary — and uses secondary markets in music and cellular metadata to illustrate the challenges of making this data useful.

As is a recurring theme in Dark Matter, the utility derived from this data is consistently limited not by technologies but rather by the nature of the organizations who control the information. Says Greenstein:

If this industry had a history of not sharing before the Internet, who thought the main participants would share metadata? Who would have expected the participants to agree on how to aggregate those distinct data flows into something useful and valuable? Only the most naive analyst would expect a well-functioning system to ever emerge out of an industry with this history of squabbling.

There are enormous unrealized markets in quelling the squabbling, btw.


Somehow, we missed this back in June when it broke — perhaps you did, too — around 75% of IKEA’s product and room photography are computer generated. Doh. Says Martin Enthed of IKEA Communications: “Now, we only talk about a good or a bad image – not what technique created it”. Brilliant

If you missed IKEA’s introduction to its 2015 ‘book book’ catalog, that’s worth seeing, as well.

LCD Soundsystem (RIP) frontman / hipster lizard king James Murphy was commissioned by IBM to develop a real-time soundtrack for the US Open from live match data. Watch an overview, but take a few minutes to listen to a match — perhaps this 3rd round battle between Milos Raonic and Victor Estrella Burgos.

Meanwhile, FirstRound had a smart interview with Pandora Chief Data Scientist Gordon Rios on what he’s learned from his time inside the organization. This, in particular, jumped out at us:

When scientists can ship, you save on headcount and you have people with the skills to turn data into meaningful products.

Turns out, by the way, that machines can algorithmically spot fraud in the language of scientific papers. In a wonderfully Minority Report moment, though, they deliver false positives 30% of the time. So far.

We’re quite taken, in fact, with the idea behind Algorithmia — an online matchmaking service that couples organizations in search of specific algorithms with researchers who have created academic works for which similar work has already been developed — an algorithmic Github or Tinder, if you will.

Do take a few minutes and read about the conflict between ‘big data and big anecdata’ in the battle to algorithmically determine the safest walk home.

This caught our eye: using Beacon technology to see ourselves in the outfits on retail store mannequins. It’s still a bit primitive/clunky, frankly, but it portends something interesting.

Somewhere in the whitespace between geocaching, Dungeons & Dragons, the Society for Creative Anachronism and the city of Indianapolis is A Fork in the Road — a real world / digital game developed by Pan Studio. We rather like it.

As Nick Carr notes in this piece on Amazon’s purchase of Twitch, the notion of spectator sports is evolving rapidly. Anytime you can cite Roland Barthes in a post on video games, you have us hooked.

Do (please) read Melissa Mandelbaum’s piece for the Percolate blog on the application of architectural thinking and concepts to the design of digital products. It’s a really smart bit of writing, and a series we’ll be following. We’ve said it many times: smart organizations are looking to adjacent fields for talent — and winning when they do.

Grant McCracken thinks we should dispense with the notion that organizations are families. Every point he makes is spot on, and yet it’s a difficult metaphor to walk away from.

The slides from Audrey Watters’ talk on ‘Ed-Tech’s Monsters’ are brilliant and captivating — and share a lot of the same fertile ground as Anab Jain’s wonderful talks — channeling Bruno Latour and Alan Turing in a grand statement on technology and the future of pedagogy. There’s a great deal to be taken from it as relates to organizational embrace of systems and tools.

Finally, Pete Ashton has a wonderful piece this week on Joss Whedon, Anita Sarkeesian, gamers and the complexities of corporate fetishization of fan culture. Consider bookmarking and read it when you can give it your full attention.


Artist Kim Dong Kyu works contemporary devices and products into classic works of art on his Tumblr Art x Smart. It’s a rather good rabbit hole, and perfect source material for your next client deck on the second screen phenomenon.