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On Ice Bucket Challenges and Surviving Social Media: Re/code's 2014 #Mustreads From Other Sites

Harassment and abuse on the Internet, Amazon vs. everyone and more.

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This year was a strange one for the Internet.

One bright spot was the birth of Clickhole (and us!). Unfortunately, just about everything else was garbage: Gamergate, celebrity nude photo hacks, misreported longreads, plagiarism scandals and a boatload of people who really should have never opened a Twitter account. Oh, and millions of people dumped buckets of ice water on their own heads because even greater millions of complete strangers on the other end of a global network of interconnected tubes said it was a good idea. Exciting times we live in!

In spite of it all, there was also a bunch of really good stuff on the Internet this past year, about technology and beyond. You should look at these:

  • In January, months before the emergence of the loosely coordinated Internet misogyny mob of Gamergate, Slate’s Amanda Hess penned a brilliant feature for the Pacific Standard on how and why it’s so awful to be a woman on the Internet. She loops together a story of her own ordeal with death threats with the general fecklessness of authorities trying to deal with the problem, and the product is a chilling precursor to a banner year for Internet harassment.
  • John Herrman, one of the co-editors of the digital magazine The Awl (and, full disclosure, a former boss of mine), is one of the sharpest thinkers on the topic of how social media shapes the way people try to make money on the Internet. His posts under the tag “Content Wars” are an incisive look at how Content™ is farmed, processed, packaged and shipped out for delivery.
  • Good articles report on human experiences with technology. Great articles go a little further under the surface, and the best ones use a story to uncover and discuss fundamental truths about people. Leslie Horn’s essay in Gizmodo on how her dad’s passing made her a staunch defender of voicemail, and just about anything Paul Ford writes fall into this latter category.
  • This joint Jaden and Willow Smith interview with the New York Times was weird, sure. But in an age where most celebrity encounters are carefully managed by PR people so as to not betray even an iota of actual humanity, weirdness is refreshing. Besides, we should all be getting in touch with our inner theoretical physicist.
  • There were also, as expected, a bunch of somber New Yorker longreads this year that made for great Sunday reading. Jill Lepore took a battle-axe to the legacy of one of Silicon Valley’s philosopher-kings, Harvard professor and “disruption” theory champion Clayton M. Christensen. Dale Russakoff dove deep into the colossal failure of Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million pledge to Newark’s schools. George Packer traced the impact of Amazon on the publishing industry, and patiently explained how it plans to take over the world.
  • First, Adrian Chen traveled to Southeast Asia and wrote an award-winning story for Wired about the untold thousands of low-paid workers who screen graphic content to make the Internet safe to use for the rest of us. Then, he authored a great piece for The Nation about the “hacktivist” collective Anonymous and why it does far more harm than good. And if you have the stomach for it, Chen also visited a strip club with some of the folks behind the Gamergate HQ 8chan (an even more terrifying version of the social news site 4chan), and wrote it up for New York magazine.
  • This to-the-point Deadspin post, “A Compilation of People Fucking Up the Ice Bucket Challenge,” has garnered just over 16,000,000 page views to date. It deserves every single one.

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