Elif Batuman, who was recently a Pulitzer finalist for her novel The Idiot, has a stunning story in the New Yorker on Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry, “People who are short on relatives can hire a husband, a mother, a grandson. The resulting relationships can be more real than you’d expect.”
You think from the title it’s going to be one of those gee-whiz stories or vaguely condescending toward Japanese, but what follows is actually an incredibly poignant and powerful view of society through a lens I had never imagined before. It’s a #longread but I hope you take the time to sit with it this weekend. You may need a swordsman.
On Automattic's internal BuddyPress-powered company directory, we allow people to fill out a field saying how far their previous daily commute was. 509 people have filled that out so far, and they are saving 12,324 kilometers of travel every work day. Wow!
Longreads was nominated today for its first-ever National Magazine Award, in the category of columns and commentary, alongside ESPN The Magazine, BuzzFeed News, Pitchfork, and New York magazine. Laurie Penny's Longreads columns explore important questions of consent and female desire that have strongly resonated in our current moment. In addition to this nomination, Penny's columns have been translated and republished in Italian and German newspapers, and will be collected in a forthcoming book.
I had originally planned last year to write a review of each book as I read it, but The Rules Do Not Apply threw a spanner in the works. I had no idea how to write about it, much less review it. The author, Ariel Levy, has a great interview in Longreads from when the book came out.
Speaking of Longreads, don't forget to check out their top 25 exclusives from 2017, and their number 1 picks overall. Some amazing writing in there.
Politico has a lovely story on the history and present of the NORAD Santa Tracker, which started because a 1955 Sears department store ad had “a digit wrong — and was instead the direct line into the secret military nerve center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the Pentagon was on the lookout to prevent nuclear war.”
I love USB, cables, and charging things. So MacRumors comparison of different wired and wireless charging options and speed for the iPhone X is my catnip. tl; dr: USB-C + USB-C-to-Lightning cable gives you far and away the fastest times. I've found this true for the iPad Pro as well.
Tim Ferriss’s new book Tribe of Mentors is out. I have finished it already, and can say it’s really excellent and I even liked it more than Tools of Titans even though I’m not in this one. 🙂 As I said in a message to Tim:
I learned a lot from it, took a ton of notes to follow up on, and wrote down about twenty more books I have to read.
Matias Ventura, the lead of the editor focus for WordPress, has written Gutenberg, or the Ship of Theseus to talk about how Gutenberg's approach will simplify many of the most complex parts of WordPress, building pages, and theme editing. If you want a peek at some of the things coming down the line with Gutenberg, including serverless WebRTC real-time co-editing.
Christopher Mims writes for the Wall Street Journal Why Remote Work Can’t Be Stopped, also riffing off the IBM shift I wrote about a few weeks ago. I was excited to see an Automattician Julia featured at the top and a few other colleagues having their voice in the article.
The Economist writes about who’s wrong when flyers end up in the wrong cities. This has actually happened to me! Probably 7-8 years ago, it was an Air Canada flight from New York to Montreal, and I accidentally boarded the one to Toronto. The mistake was realized when we were on the ground, but had pulled away from gate. Being Canadian, they were exceedingly nice and asked me to stay on the flight but they’d find me one from Toronto to Montreal after I landed.
There’s a new “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list out! I follow the list and try to check out restaurants on it when I’m in the area, and as of last month had made it to 28 out of 50 of last year’s list. It’s a goal but in a rolling, gentle fashion: as the list changes every year I’ll probably never make it to 100%, but I enjoy exploring the highlighted folks and I’ve never had a bad meal at one. I was able to make it to Eleven Madison last month and predicted they might take the top spot, which they did in a well-deserved win. As with any award, there are lots of detractors, but Scott Vogel at Houstonia has a great essay on Why the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List Matters, which encapsulates nicely what the list represents to me.
I’m very excited to have been selected to join the Henry Crown Fellowship Class of 2017. Many, many folks I admire including Reed Hastings, Kim Polese, Cory Booker, Aileen Lee, Stephen DeBerry, Deven Parekh, Chris Sacca, Tim Ferriss, Reid Hoffman, Scott Heiferman, Troy Carter, Bre Pettis, Lupe Fiasco, and Alexa von Tobel have been through the program in previous years, and several of those people have spoken highly of it to me. I’m excited to meet and get to know the rest of the 2017 class, and embark on a learning journey alongside them.
For the first time in… many years, WordPress.org has a new home page. What’s on the page today actually isn’t that important, even though it’s better in many ways, the key is that it’s changing again, the stone has been unstuck and can now keep rolling.
One of my favorite new .blogs is The Dongle blog, at dongle.blog. I think it’s mostly meant to be funny, but I really agree with this post pointing out you really need something that lets you plug in your lightning headphones to your laptop. I’ve been trying out the Audeze EL-8 and they only have a lightning connector.
Later today (3:45pm ET) I’ll deliver my annual State of the Word speech, which I’m very excited about. If you’d like to watch remotely, this year live stream tickets are free and you can tune in here.
Joseph Rosensteel has an outsider but savvy perspective on the updates and technology around Apple TV. Definitely a worthwhile read. I’ve experienced a lot of this frustration myself — I have a large library of things bought through iTunes, I like the interface of the Apple TV (though I liked the old one a little better), and Airplay is handy, so I want to love the Apple TV. The market is so bad right now that most review sites like Wirecutter recommend Roku, which for me came with a branded remote button for a service that is out of business (Rdio) and has an interface that feels DOS-like.
Wired has a fun and informative look at How to Rig a Presidential Election in 1000 Easy Steps. Basically it’s impossible — I hadn’t really thought of this before, but every precinct has its own officials from both parties that certify everything, there are just a ton of people involved at every step of the process. All that said, I would love if voting platforms were completely open source software and had paper receipts that could be verified manually.
Also speaking of politics getting dirty, the San Francisco State Senate race has had a ton of falsehoods and attacks from Scott Weiner, someone I’ve met before and previously thought was a nice guy, but the latest mailers I’ve seen have just been deceitful (especially considering the Guardian actually endorsed his opponent, Jane Kim).
I went back for a Round 2 answering follow-up questions from Tim’s readers on the Tim Ferriss podcast. About an hour long and covered a wide range of topics. One of these days I need to start podcasting more directly. In the meantime, please give it a listen! Already some great tweets and responses have started to come in.
I’m still catching up with things after the Automattic Grand Meetup, but excited today to be included on the Fortune 40 under 40 list, which I’ve graduated to after being termed out of the under 30 lists. I came in at #20 and it’s great to see lots of friends on the list as well.
The first-party premier Simplenote native apps for Android, iOS, and macOS are now fully open source. I’m very proud of the team for this, and excited that the broader Simplenote community can now see behind the scenes of how things are developing with the app, which remains one of my personal favorites across every platform. What’s Simplenote? It’s the easiest way to have your plain text notes synced instantly across every device and browser you use.