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The best tech writing of the week, May 27

long reads

We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.

On covers

The digital revolution's done a pretty good job of killing the cover as we knew it, and Craig Mod looks at a way forward once we acknowledge it.

@craigmod: Craig Mod - Hack the Cover

The cover image may help quickly ground us, but our eyes are drawn by habit to number and quality of reviews. We’re looking for metrics other than images — real metrics — not artificial marketing signifiers. Blurbs from humans. Perhaps even humans we know! And within the jumble of the Amazon.com interface, the cover feels all but an afterthought.

On Holopac

What exactly does Coachella's hologram Tupac mean?

The New Inquiry: Melissa Graeber - All Eyez on Not-Me

Tupac rapping about the halcyon days of the early 90’s may represent a bygone era, and yet Holopac epitomizes the way a generation has been primed to filter most experiences through a tweet, video, or status update (something the Coachella organizers surely banked on). It’s increasingly easier to watch an "exclusive" moment online, then close the tab with the satisfied belief that we too experienced it. We are no longer the protective owners of one-of-a-kind experiences.

On Google+

Remember how excited people used to get in advance of the launch of a new Google product? That pre-Wave-I'll-do-anything-for-an-invite hysteria? Alexis Madrigal sees a way for Google to capture that for Google Plus, which he describes as "an abandoned city in the desert."

The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - How Google Can Beat Facebook Without Google Plus

So, where are the neighborhoods where humans are already hanging out? Google has a variety of products that while not explicitly "social networks" could easily be thought of as places that help people "share," a la Facebook’s mantra. Just think about them all: Reader. Picasa. Scholar. Earth. Books. Blogger. Hell, even Zagat. It’s these already bustling communities that should form the core of Google’s next-level social offering.

On Cook's Apple

Adam Lashinsky offers a glimpse at Tim Cook's approach to running Apple.

Fortune: How Tim Cook is changing Apple - How Tim Cook is changing Apple

What shocked the Apple investors that day was that CEO Tim Cook popped into the room about 20 minutes into Oppenheimer's talk, quietly sat down in the back of the room, and did something unusual for a CEO of Apple: He listened. He didn't check his e-mail once. He didn't interrupt.

On computer sales

With the help of some incredible imagery and old ad copy from the Computer History Museum, Matthew Lasar details how computers were advertised.

ars technica: Matthew Lasar - Make mainframes, not war: how Mad Men sold computers in the 1960s and 1970s

"Speed, efficiency, economy, and reliability," were the standard buzzwords. But as computers got smaller, cheaper, and more powerful, ads encouraged consumers to see them as more than just calculating machines. Pamphlets foregrounded the growing female labor force that ran them first as key punch operators and programmer assistants, then as programmers and computer buyers themselves.

On scrollbars

1997: Alan Dix explains why computer scrollbars are so often on the right side of the screen.

Graphical User Interface Gallery Guidebook: Alan Dix - Hands across the screen

Why are scrollbars on the right, and is it the best place for them? There are good reasons to think that the left-hand side may be the better choice, but in virtually every interface since the Xerox Star the scrollbar has appeared on the right-hand side.

Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.

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