Weekly Passport: Internet Freedom for All, Crazy People, and the Downside of Upworthy

EA Weekly Passport_mar25_mar31-01How the Web Needs to Change in the Next 25 Years

“The web has gone from a kind of information management system for a niche community of computer geeks to a universal tool of empowerment and what many consider to be a basic human right.” Launched in 2009 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet (people forget he was knighted), the World Wide Web Foundation “works to establish the open and free web as a global public good and a basic right, and to make sure that everyone can benefit from it.” So says the Foundation’s CEO, Anne Jellema. A lot of people think internet access is free (people who obviously can afford to think this way, which is typically the case); sure, the infrastructure for broadband connection is there, even in developing nations, but Jellema reminds us that by no means is it free. Whereas in the developed world where a broadband package costs one to two percent of one’s income, “it will cost you up to 150 percent of your income” in the developing world. And that’s one barrier alone, which says nothing of the barriers of officious and peremptory governments going so far as to restrict internet access. “None of that will change,” insists Jellema, “unless ordinary people demand they have to have a say.” “If we leave it to the politicians and the security agencies and the techies, things may not turn out the way that we want them to.” (Vice)

How Ideas Gain Traction
Advice for the Budding Conscientious Entrepreneur

When considering which ideas to support, think beyond the strictly fiscal implications. Sometimes, the most groundbreaking ideas don’t immediately present a fiscal payoff.So writes author Ilan Mochari according to the entrepreneurial advice of Keith Hopper, co-founder of The Awesome Foundation. A nonprofit that offers one thousand-dollar grants to “people devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe,” the Foundation specializes in “funding the unfundable”, says Hopper, or ideas that upon fruition may prove valuable in one important sense (e.g., culturally) yet may never yield immense value in the financial sense. It seems to be working as its grants have enabled many groundbreaking inventions and “viral” work in the arts and sciences. Part of its success owes itself to the Foundation’s “hands off” approach; entrepreneurs are given considerable freedom in their projects—”unconditional pursuit“. Another reason for its success is its eye for what author John Butman refers to as the “fascination” element—something that “enables you to make a connection with other people.” He attests the myriad of enterprising people who’ve “built empires from their ideas” via a human connection. Everyday Ambassador is hardly surprised. (Inc.)

People the World Deems Insane & Insane People Who Change the World

The bigger the change you attempt to create, the wider its reach, the deeper its roots, the more insane you have to be to achieve it. But you don’t have to literally be crazy…just slightly off your rocker.So writes Paul Hudson for Elite Daily. A self-proclaimed philosopher and entrepreneur, Hudson makes a convincing and motivating case for ambition—even though it’s rife with melodrama and hyperbole (e.g., “There isn’t a single person in the world who doesn’t believe change can be made for the better—not a single one.”). Overall, he echoes Einstein’s famed definition for insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”; Hudson reminds us of how “most people are taught to believe they have limits,” or how “most individuals accept circumstances for what they are and do their best to make the most out of what is given to them, never creating anything for or taking anything for themselves.” The best thing he says—which seems to be true of every generation—is that “we’re taught to survive, not flourish.” Everyday Ambassadors are “insane” to most people; it’s “crazy” where they go, what they do to help people, and how much they accomplish. It’s that crazy ambition that allows them to flourish, unlike so many others who sleepwalk through life; it’s that insanity that enables them to change the world. (Elite Daily)

One-Third of Web Ad Traffic ISN’T Human | All the More Reason to Hide Online!

The fraudsters erect sites with phony traffic and collect payments from advertisers through the middlemen who aggregate space across many sites and resell the space for most Web publishers. The identities of the fraudsters are murky, and they often operate from far-flung places such as Easter Europe, security experts say.” So writes Suzanne Vranica, reporting for WSJ. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, as much as thirty-six percent of web traffic is fake—”the product of computers hijacked by viruses and programmed to visit sites.” This obviously hurts advertisers because “marketers typically pay for ads whenever they are loaded in response to users visiting web pages—regardless of whether the users are actual people.” So much automated spam… Any avid user of Instagram with a public profile, for instance, wouldn’t be surprised by this, as a significant number of any given user’s “likes” are by fake users or are fake themselves—which brings us to Elizabeth Dwoskin’s article on internet privacy, or lack thereof really. With the average internet user being tracked online over two-thousand times a day, and with Facebook able to track visitors in nearly half of the twenty-five hundred most popular sites in the US, it’s no wonder more and more people are relying on apps to “hide their digital footprint”. (WSJ | WSJ)

The Team Behind Upworthy Explains its Success
(—and Unwittingly its Biggest Flaw…)

The content’s designed to ‘reach people where they’re at,’ building from points of agreement rather than points of contention.” So reports Nitsuh Abebe, having sat down in Brooklyn with the collegial staff of the wildly successful, shamelessly sensational, “viral” content king known as Upworthy.  Specializing in feel-good, oft-inspiring, ultra-shareable “clickbait“, Upworthy has taken the internet by storm. To put it in perspective, the site apparently received eighty-eight million unique visitors in one month last Fall. It’s hard to believe they accomplish this by purposely not being “cool”—”Coolness is about standing apart,” remarks Abebe, “whereas Upworthy’s mission is to reach a broad mass of Americans.” But therein lies a serious disservice: with so much focus on the “lowest common denominator”,—i.e., highlighting “positive” stories or messages that resonate with an overwhelming majority of viewers,—do we really learn anything? Christopher Hitchens was arguably the most devastating opponent of religion, but he’d have been the first to stand up for some zealot’s right to freely advocate his religion if his right were threatened. Why? Because, in Hitch’s words, “most of what I know I’ve learned from arguing with people with whom I disagree—often very violently.” We learn—and thereby better ourselves—through discourse. How then is Upworthy really all that healthy for society at the end of the day if it insists on appealing again and again to views and sentiments already widely held? What do we gain from resigning ourselves to the same platitudes over and over? (New York Magazine)

“Your Weekly Passport” is a series curated by Everyday Ambassador writer and editor Michael Nebab. Every Tuesday, we will post a round-up of meaningful media tidbits and Everyday Ambassador must-reads. To stay current with our latest edition, follow #weeklypassport on our other platforms, and check back for updates.

Author: Michael Nebab
Writer. Learner. Thinker. Realist. American.

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