'Why Me. You Picked a Loser.'

Howard Berkes, NPR:

Thirty years ago, as the nation mourned the loss of seven astronauts on the space shuttle Challenger, Bob Ebeling was steeped in his own deep grief.

The night before the launch, Ebeling and four other engineers at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol had tried to stop the launch. Their managers and NASA overruled them.

That night, he told his wife, Darlene, "It's going to blow up."

Surprised I had never heard this account of the Challenger disaster before now. Honestly, there's a part of me that wishes I never did. The event itself is tragic enough as it stands, but to imagine the grief that haunts Ebeling on a daily basis is heartbreaking.

It's not a long read (or listen, should you choose to consume the companion audio), but sorrow hangs upon each word. By the end, its as though something has sucked away all of the air in your chest. Take it in, and then forgive yourself for something.

(Via Nate Boateng.)

'Encryption is Foundational to the Future'

NSA director Michael S. Rogers, speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council (link to video starts around his answer):

So we've got to come up with a solution that... that is built around the idea that this Internet of things, and the broad ideas that it represents, are something foundational to our future. It's a little bit like encryption to me–hey, encryption is foundational to the future.

Surprising, considering the source. It's encouraging to hear the director of the NSA take a rational, informed stance on this subject, and not be afraid to voice it despite the anti-encryption (and ultimately anti-privacy) agenda that other notable government players have wasted a significant amount of time espousing.

Rogers couldn't be more right. It's not realistic to expect people to give up a way of life to which they've become accustomed. And trying to stymie progress because the digital reality has rendered old policing tactics obsolete is short-sighted and potentially far more damaging than what they're trying to stop in the first place. We should absolutely be pursuing new technologies, continuing to provide privacy for our citizens, and focusing on adapting to a changing landscape. Actively stifling rights under the guise of ensuring a modicum of safety is disingenuous and dangerous. It's not in the best interest of society.

Spotify's Secret Discovery Weekly Sauce

Adam Pasick, Quartz:

This morning, just like every Monday morning, 75 million Spotify users received a great new mixtape: 30 songs that feel like a gift from a music-loving friend, who might once have made a cassette tape with your name scrawled across the front.

But these playlists, from Spotify’s Discover Weekly service, were cooked up by an algorithm.

Automated music recommendations are hardly new, but Spotify seems to have identified the ingredients of a personalized playlist that feel fresh and familiar at the same time. That’s potentially a big advantage over competitors like Pandora, Google, and Apple, which largely have the same bottomless catalog of music but take very different approaches to picking the best songs for each user.

[...]

The quality of Discover Weekly’s picks is so consistently good, it’s a bit uncanny. After I received several excellent playlists in a row, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Spotify had figured me out, along with 75 million other people. Answering that question led me down the rabbit hole of how the system works in the first place—and how an algorithm can delve into the deeply subjective realm of music to predict the songs that will make my pulse race and my head nod.

If you've been listening to Limitless Adventure (and, honestly, if you haven't, why the hell not?), you know I recently switched back to Spotify after using Apple Music since its launch. If you're interested in hearing my full thoughts, that bit starts at the 24 minute mark of episode 19. There were a couple features I missed from Spotify, such as the really fun one where the iOS app remembers what songs you've downloaded and doesn't fucking randomly delete them without you knowing. Apple Music doesn't have that feature. They should look into it. It's a good one.

But the thing I've really liked since switching back is the Discovery Weekly playlist. Apple Music had a pretty stellar record helping me discover new music, and I thought it was a pretty huge leg up over Spotify. However, this particular offering from Spotify is uncanny in its ability to select tracks I have (mostly) not heard before and immediately enjoy. Pasick's piece peels the curtain back and explains how a sophisticated algorithm determines how to populate this list each week, and it's pretty fascinating. I especially love how it helps you learn how to teach Spotify what music you're actually enjoying, so your Discover Weekly playlists will continue to be stellar moving forward.

Great read that provides some interesting insight into how this thing works. This gives me a newfound appreciation for Spotify's engineers.

And if you're into the idea of having something a bit more curated, Charles and I did create a Limitless Adventure playlist that you can subscribe to. It'll evolve as we're listening to new stuff. So keep checking back, and, of course, feel free to let us know what you think.

'Nation Fondly Recalls When Just Regulating Video Games Seemed Like Solution To Gun Violence'

The Onion:

“Forget trying to figure out how to expand access to mental health services, enforce more stringent background checks in all 50 states, or restrict the sale of military-grade assault weapons and bulk ammunition—back then we figured we could just ban death metal music and call it a day. Man, those were good times.”

You know, with all of the lunatics on the spotlight nowadays, it almost makes me miss Jack Thompson. Those were the days.

John Legere to EFF: 'Who the Fuck Are You?'

John Legere has been responding to critics of T-Mobile's "Binge On" program today, trying to quell fears that what T-Mobile is doing with regards to streaming video quality isn't throttling or undermining net neutrality in any way.

I've been iffy on T-Mobile lately, mostly since the "Music Freedom" program began. I've written about it here on the site, and discussed with Charles on Limitless Adventure. It's becoming more and more apparent that my concerns are legitimate.

Then there's John Legere's video response to the EFF:

This is troublesome. I want to like John Legere and T-Mobile. I look up to a person whose company wants to break a shitty cycle of consumer hostility. However, disregarding net neutrality rules, painting a program that has become increasingly nebulous as a victory for consumers, and then displaying willful ignorance about a major proponent of Internet freedom?

This feels like Legere's jump-the-shark moment.