June 21, 2016

Despite his secret funding of lawsuits against Gawker Media, Peter Thiel will remain on the board of Facebook—a potential conflict of interest given Facebook’s increasing influence on web traffic to news and media sites. Mark Zuckerberg, who controls 60 percent of the board, cast the decisive vote to keep Thiel. The controversy is complicated: Gawker argues that its disclosure of Thiel’s sexual orientation in 2007 was a legitimate example of freedom of the press, while Thiel sees it as a private matter, and has sought—privately—to bankrupt the company. “Peter did what he did on his own and not as a Facebook board member,” Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg said of Thiel’s role in the lawsuits.

Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, called Revisionist History, looks likely to become the next Serial. The podcast—part of a new listening series, Panoply, started last year by the Slate Group—examines past events Gladwell believes have been misinterpreted, and is predicted to draw 500,000 downloads per episode. Bloomberg’s Joshua Brustein examines the so-called Golden Era of Podcasting; you can listen to Gladwell’s first episode, “The Lady Vanishes,” here.

Tumblr launches a new streaming feature today, to compete with Twitter’s Periscope, Amazon’s Twitch, and Facebook Live.

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

In a digital era, should children still be taught how to form cursive’s weird capital G? Definitely, reports the New York Times. Handwriting stretches young brains—in particular, a region called the fusiform gyrus—in ways that typing does not. According to one scientist quoted in the article, “The letters they produce themselves are very messy and variable, and that’s actually good for how children learn things.”

“Sometimes I forget that poetry can do real, tangible work,” says the poet Maggie Smith in an interview with Slate. “It’s a ‘machine made of words,’ after all, as William Carlos Williams famously wrote.” Smith’s poem “Good Bones”—“For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird. / For every loved child, a child broken, bagged, / sunk in a lake” are a few of its lines—has been widely shared on social media in the wake of the Orlando shooting. “I’m being retweeted in Welsh and French and other languages I can’t read,” Smith posted on Facebook. “I can’t even.”

Cough and you’ll miss it—a word you’ve never heard and may never hear again. The World in Words podcast has a live taping at the New York Public Library tonight. The subject is endangered languages.

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