Linkages

Booting Up: The Wall Street Journal Has Discovered Weird Twitter

(Photo: Twitter)

Members of Congress know as little about what the NSA’s up to as American citizens do. [The Guardian]

Here, have some unsolicited advice about how to solve the tech talent shortage from airplane aficionado Henry Blodget. [Business Insider]

Barry Diller has finally unloaded Newsweek onto IBT Media, but is keeping the Daily Beast in the IAC fold. [L.A. Times]

The Obama administration has vetoed a product ban on Apple that would mean the company couldn’t sell certain types of iPads and iPhones in the U.S. [New York Times]

“A part of a burgeoning Twitter subculture known as Weird Twitter, he is speaking in a purposefully nonsensical code that is meant to satirize the growing presence of corporate brands and marketers on the popular social network.” This is going to be a long week. [Wall Street Journal]

Dead Trees

You Think Crash-Landing a Startup Sucks? Try Running a Magazine Into the Ground

Not the business it used to be. (Photo: flickr.com/johnf49)

The sheer churn-and-burn of the startup scene can be grueling: Some hot new company is always ascendant, and some formerly hot new company is always headed for the ash heap of history. Ever wanted to just chuck it all and retreat to the more stable environs of an old-fashioned profession like, say, magazines?

Now, before you begin laughing, its worth first considering this Ad Age paen to this year’s honorees for the magazine’s A-List Awards, which asks, “Would You Rather Own a Magazine or a Digital Startup?” The subtitle clarifies, “That is not a trick question,” and the article goes on to point out that for every Newsweek, there’s a Marie Claire doing a brisk business in ad pages. The conclusion: “You probably won’t read about that on TechCrunch or Mashable, but you’re reading it right here.”

Felix Salmon promptly replied with a long, measured answer that basically amounts to “digital startups for $800, Alex.” Read More

In Tablet We Trust

Tablet for Two: The Brothers Mueller, Twin Maestros of the iPad, Will Make You See Double

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Kirk (left) and Nate Mueller at the SPD Awards dinner.

Identical twins Kirk and Nate Mueller sat side-by-side in identical leather chairs wearing identical GANT gabardine suits fiddling with identical Le Pen pens. It was chilly December afternoon just before the New Year at the Fort Greene offices of Studio Mercury, a boutique design firm made up entirely of alumni from the Rhode Island School of Design’s hyper-exclusive Digital + Media graduate program.

The Muellers’ similarities are more than superficial. The twins, who are 27 and stand 5’5″, share the same bank account. They share the same calendar. They share the same curriculum vitae. The same sexual orientation (gay), brownstone (Prospect Heights) and taste in boyfriends (“over 30”). They share the same profession, and the same specialty (interactive design). They even, in a manner of speaking, share an identity. Email the Brothers Mueller at their shared account, and the only way to tell which Mueller is responding is by whose name shows up first in the signature: Nate & Kirk versus Kirk & Nate.

“We have this little notation,” said Kirk.

“Some people figured it out,” chimed in Nate, who, along with his brother, seems unburdened by matters of selfhood.

One stutters trying to figure out how to address them. “The Brothers, the Brothers Mueller, or ‘the twins,’ or ‘the boys,’” Kirk said.

In the year and a half since the Brothers got their master degrees from RISD—sharing the podium as commencement speakers in 2010—and moved to New York, they have created iPad apps for Martha Stewart and e-books for Vanity Fair and Bon Appetit. Coming soon are a political website for The New Yorker and an iPad app for Newsweek. Whereas most graphic and user-interface designers tend to hand off the technical work, the brothers do it all, relying on Nate’s speed in programming and Kirk’s facility with design. Read More

The Tao of Steve

Time Magazine Literally Stops the Presses to Honor Steve Jobs, With Help From His Biographer

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Time magazine was almost finished closing its latest issue, which will hit stands Friday, when the news of Steve Jobs’ death broke. So for the first time in what AdWeek says may have been three decades, the magazine stopped the presses. Mr. Jobs’ image now graces the front cover for the eighth and perhaps final time. Its entire ‘feature well’ will also be devoted to covering his legacy.

Businessweek and Newsweek also have special issues planned, the former an ad-free tribute. Wired.com‘s striking black homepage is also still ad-fee–featuring only an image of Mr. Jobs and quotes mourning his passing–just as it did last night. But Time‘s issue is of particular note because it will feature an essay from Walter Issacson, Mr. Jobs’ biographer, who just had his deadline pushed up by Simon & Schuster.

Mr. Issacson’s essay is behind a paywall, but Fortune.com has excerpted the part where he describes the day Mr. Jobs first tried to pitch him on writing his life’s story. Read More

What Could Guo Wrong?

How Newsweek’s Most Notorious Fellow Got Caught Conning Silicon Alley

jerry guo puppy

UPDATE: AOL Editor who fired Mr. Guo in 2008 writes to say he regrets not doing more to warn others. Story here.

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Jerry Guo considers himself a modern nomad. The 24-year-old Chinese-American stays in a different apartment each month, couch surfing or subletting, whatever works best. “Moving around makes it easier to find cool new venues,” Mr. Guo explained. His recently launched startup company, Grouper, sends six users on platonic group outings to lux hotspots around New York, so maintaining a fresh supply of trendy locales is key to Mr. Guo’s success.

“I like to keep moving,” Mr. Guo told Betabeat, hunching down into a leather chair at our Midtown offices. He wore a purple sweatshirt, jeans and yellow-trimmed topsiders with no socks. Over the last two years the rakish Mr. Guo has touched down in exotic locales on practically every continent on earth. There was a rare trip inside North Korea, which Mr. Guo wrote about for the Washington Post. And the time he spent running with the rebel forces in Iran during the summer of 2009, which he chronicled in The New York Times. It was his Chinese passport that allowed him access to nations typically hostile to America*.

“Jerry is…I think the best word is irreverent,” said his co-founder at Grouper, Michael Waxman, who met Mr. Guo when the two were freshman at Yale in 2005. “After all the crazy shit he has done, he’s lucky just to be alive, so he kind of brings that to the table as an entrepreneur.” Mr. Waxman is the CTO/CEO of sorts, while Mr. Guo handles partnerships, operations and marketing. “He has the kind of charisma you can’t learn.”

Check Out Our Slideshow Adventure Around the World With Jerry Guo >>

Mr. Guo’s charisma—and his irreverence—were on stark display in the spring of 2011, when he reached out to Adam Sachs, CEO of the very successful group dating site, Ignighter. He told Mr. Sachs that he was a freelance journalist who had been commissioned to write a piece on Ignighter for The Atlantic Monthly, and sent along some of his clips from his time at Newsweek by way of credentials.

“It was really strange,” Mr. Sachs said. “He showed up to the interview with this other guy, who I later learned was his co-founder. They asked a ton of questions and we talked for maybe an hour.” A few weeks went by and Mr. Sachs heard nothing, so he emailed Mr. Guo to ask about the story. “He told me it was still being edited and that it would come out soon.” Another month or so passed. “Then all of a sudden I see Grouper.” Both companies relied on users’ social graphs to choose clusters of people they would send on group outings.

Mr. Sachs emailed editors at The Atlantic, who informed him that Mr. Guo had indeed pitched the story but that it had never been assigned. He emailed Newsweek, who told him that his complaint was just one of many they were sorting through involving Mr. Guo. Mr. Sachs was upset, but he didn’t feel threatened by Grouper, and he decided to let things go. We thought the incident warranted a closer look. Read More