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I work and write at the intersection of technology, media, and society.

I've been a startup founder, mission-driven VC, engineer, and product lead. Right now I'm Chief Technology Officer at The 19th.

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benwerd

benwerd

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19thnews.org

 

Don’t write this, write that

“Yet despite all of this, I don’t believe you can ignore the audience. You can’t aim at them, you can’t change to suit an imaginary audience in the hope of getting a real one. But writing is not for writers, it is for readers and if they are not in your mind in some way, I think your writing becomes self-indulgent.”

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In ‘The Last of Us,’ a survivor of the AIDS crisis saw his partner's death honored

““As I’m watching it, I’m like, ‘Oh my god,’ [‘The Last of Us’ co-showrunner] Craig Mazin wrote this piece that just made me feel like someone saw me and Robert,” he said. “Somehow Mazin wrote this piece of art that reflected not just the life that Robert and I had, a falling in love in this dystopian time, but the lives of so many of my friends who also found loves that they loved and lost.””

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The contagious visual blandness of Netflix

“There are more green screens and sound stages, more CGI, more fixing-it-in-post. As these production tools have gotten slicker and cheaper and thus more widely abused, it’s not that everything looks obviously shitty or too good to feel true, it’s actually that most things look mid in the exact same way. The ubiquity of the look is making it harder to spot, and the overall result is weightless and uncanny. An endless stream of glossy vehicles that are easy to watch and easier to forget.”

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Noma, Rated the World’s Best Restaurant, Is Closing Its Doors

“The Copenhagen chef René Redzepi says fine dining at the highest level, with its grueling hours and intense workplace culture, has hit a breaking point: “It’s unsustainable.”” Time to close with one last audacious s’mores dish?

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Tom Lehrer Puts Whatever He Hadn’t Already Donated To The Public Domain Into The Public Domain

These are the only rights of which the news has come to Harvard … there may be many others but they haven’t been discarvard.

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Glaswegian who 'invented' chicken tikka masala dies

“A Glaswegian chef credited with inventing the chicken tikka masala has died, aged 77. Ali Ahmed Aslam is said to have come up with the dish in the 1970s when a customer asked if there was a way of making his chicken tikka less dry. His solution was to add a creamy tomato sauce, in some versions of the story a can of tomato soup.”

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Public Domain Day 2023

“On January 1, 2023, copyrighted works from 1927 will enter the US public domain. They will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon. These include Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and the final Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, the German science-fiction film Metropolis and Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller, compositions by Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, and a novelty song about ice cream.”

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What The 19th loved in 2022

“To close the year, we ask our staff what brought them joy — not within journalism, but life outside of it. Some picked up new hobbies, some spun their favorite album a modest 600 times, others reflected on new babies or engagements (keep reading to find out who!). Big or small, here are some of the musicians, shows, sports teams, hobbies and people that got The 19th through 2022.” Including mine.

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Inclusive American Girl book faces anti-LGBTQ+ backlash from right-wing outlets

“In an effort to be factual and make the kids reading [American Girl] books feel good and informed, we think it’s an incredibly logical and important step for the brand to include these new sections, and we’re not shocked that they thought to add them in. We’d say it takes a bit of willful ignorance to assume that the brand’s values don’t align with being gender-inclusive.”

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Huge decline of working class people in the arts reflects fall in wider society

“The proportion of working-class actors, musicians and writers has shrunk by half since the 1970s, new research shows.”

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Oxford Word of the Year 2022

“‘Goblin mode’ – a slang term, often used in the expressions ‘in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode’ – is ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.’”

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'Y'all,' that most Southern of Southernisms, is going mainstream – and it's about time

“My examples push “y’all” back 225 years before the citation in the “Oxford English Dictionary,” and they show that the word appeared first in England rather than the United States.” Wait, does this mean I can use y’all in my accent? Should I?

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Books We Love

NPR’s annual list of recommended books is as extensive and as beautiful as ever.

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Octavia Butler’s Science Fiction Predicted the World We Live In

“What readers, fans and scholars often note about Butler’s work is its predictive qualities: Her vision about the climate crisis, political and societal upheaval and the brutality and consequences of power hierarchies seems both sobering and prescient.” She was brilliant. And this tribute is beautifully done.

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Ray Bradbury on feeding your creativity

“He said that nothing is lost and you must resist the urge to throw out things that meant so much to you when you were younger. What is most important, he writes, is “the continual running after loves.””

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How ‘A League of Their Own’ and Anne Rice Are Making the Internet Rethink the Rules of Fanfiction

An interesting piece about the evolution of fanfiction, the separation between fanfic and original creators, and how the two might dovetail back together.

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The Hollow Core of Kevin Kelly's "Thousand True Fans" Theory

“On closer examination, it turns out there are many things wrong with it. Thousand True Fans is a hollow philosophy. It is Chicken Soup for the Digital Creator's Soul, ultimately devoid of any real nutritional value. […] We can have a tiny rich patron-class whose tastes and whims are the only thing that reliably gets catered to, or we can tax that rich patron-class and use the funds to actually fund the arts again.”

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BBC And Disney Branded Television Join Forces on Doctor Who

I don’t know what Doctor Who with a Disney budget even looks like, but I’m in. Obviously.

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How the first female Time Lord changed Doctor Who forever

“So what does it mean when shows such as Doctor Who increase diversity in front of and behind the camera? Mort says increased on-screen diversity will improve the self-esteem of those represented, and having behind-the-camera talent from communities being portrayed on-screen will ensure the authenticity of these narratives. “This way, diverse narratives can be told, not just stereotyped,” says Mort.”

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Bakery Creates ‘Pan Solo,’ a 6-Foot Replica of ‘Star Wars’ Hero Made of Bread

“Finally, after a month of work, he was ready: a lovingly wrought 6-foot recreation of Han Solo frozen in carbonite, made entirely of bread. The duo behind the creation, Hannalee Pervan and her mother, Catherine Pervan, called him “Pan Solo.””

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How Chinese citizens use puns on Weibo to talk about MeToo and zero-Covid without being censored

“This particular approach to internet speak — substituting words that sound like or are spelled like others — has been an essential part of being online in China for decades, allowing netizens to use the humor and cleverness of spoken Mandarin to dodge censorship.”

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Hundreds Of Authors Ask Publishers To Stop Attacking Libraries

“Tons of authors, including some very big names like Neil Gaiman, saying that the publishers need to not just stop going after libraries, but especially that they need to stop doing so in the name of authors.”

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‘We can continue Pratchett’s efforts’: the gamers keeping Discworld alive

“Not only does it feature most of the key locations, from the city of Ankh-Morpork to areas such as Klatch and the Ramtops, it has seven guilds, player-run shops, and countless quests and adventures featuring many of the Discworld’s most notable characters. It even has its own newspaper.”

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Artist receives first known US copyright registration for latent diffusion AI art

“In what might be a first, a New York-based artist named Kris Kashtanova has received US copyright registration on their graphic novel that features AI-generated artwork created by latent diffusion AI.”

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Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools

“Some groups appear to feed off work to promote diverse books, contorting those efforts to further their own censorious ends. They have inverted the purpose of lists compiled for teachers and librarians interested in introducing a more diverse set of reading materials into the classroom or library.” Despicable.

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