Weekend read: The Adultery Arms Race

I’m not judging. And I think this goes beyond questions of fidelity, I think it goes in to issues of our individuality. As tools let us always know where our partners and friends are, there is a convenience similar to the way that you have forgotten what it was like arranging a place to meet and having to stick to it. We all send a text now saying we’re a bit late or can we try that Sushi place next door?

There is also an easing, a relief, a reassurance. If my wife is away driving a long route, I do worry about her so in theory being able to see that she’s got there would be good. I can do this, we can do this, but I won’t. If she takes a left turn and wanders off down a scenic route, isn’t that her business? If the scenic route is a euphemism then my heart rate just went up but still, fundamentally, I don’t own her. I need to keep her by making her want to be, not because I’ve got GotchaApp 2.1.

The Atlantic website is less concerned than I am about individuality, it’s initially more concerned with the betrayed spouse. But in a piece that is at first 1984-like worrying, it goes through both the technical and some of the emotional issues – plus for all the tools to help someone catch their partner, it turns out there are tools helping the partner evade detection. Hence The Atlantic’s title of The Adultery Arms Race.

Here’s a taste from the start:

In an earlier era, a suspicious husband like Jay might have rifled through Ann’s pockets or hired a private investigator. But having stumbled upon Find My iPhone’s utility as a surveillance tool, Jay wondered what other apps might help him keep tabs on his wife. He didn’t have to look far. Spouses now have easy access to an array of sophisticated spy software that would give Edward Snowden night sweats: programs that record every keystroke; that compile detailed logs of our calls, texts, and video chats; that track a phone’s location in real time; that recover deleted messages from all manner of devices (without having to touch said devices); that turn phones into wiretapping equipment; and on and on.

Jay spent a few days researching surveillance tools before buying a program called Dr. Fone, which enabled him to remotely recover text messages from Ann’s phone. Late one night, he downloaded her texts onto his work laptop. He spent the next day reading through them at the office. Turns out, his wife had become involved with a co-worker. There were thousands of text messages between them, many X‑rated—an excruciatingly detailed record of Ann’s betrayal laid out on Jay’s computer screen. “I could literally watch her affair progress,” Jay told me, “and that in itself was painful.”

The Adultery Arms Race – Michelle Cottle, The Atlantic (14 October 2014)

Read the full piece.

No. Please, no: an app for rating your colleagues

It’s called Knozen and thank goodness I can’t test it for you: you have to have a company of at least seven people who have all signed up. It’s just you and me here and I think you’re great.

But if you were to have seven people and you were to use this service, this is the type of thing Knozen would pop up with on your iPhone:


Those shots are from Business Insider which was able to test it out and so also got screens like this:


That’s the data for Business Insider journalist Alyson Shontell who wrote the article about Knozen that gave me a double take. From her piece:

Knozen is a new iPhone app that lets coworkers rate each other’s personalities anonymously. It’s like Lulu is for men, or Yelp is for restaurants.

Founded by former Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella, Knozen pits two coworkers against each other and asks the user a series of questions such as, “Which person is friendlier?” or, “Who is more likely to buy cookies from a girl scout?”

The user then selects which coworker best fits the description and is told how many other colleagues voted the same way. At least seven people from an organization need to sign up for Knozen before they’re allowed to start rating each other to protect everyone’s identity.

Knozen might sound like a recipe for disaster, but Cenedella argues that it’s merely a way to “bring personality to the internet” and that the content is always “positive and upbeat.” You won’t find questions about a co-worker’s appearance, for example

New App That Raised $2.25 Million Lets You Anonymously Rate Coworkers – Alyson Shontell, Business Insider (30 June 2014)

I’d not heard of Lulu – other than the apparently completely separate printing and publishing company – and I also can’t seem to get you a link. But it’s reportedly a women-only app that takes your Facebook friends list and lets you rate the men you and mutual friends know.

But I’m minded more of the Bang with Friends app which became famous for upsetting the delicate sensibilities of Apple for the word Bang and reportedly for having problems with games manufacturer Zynga whose apps include “Words with Friends”. It renamed itself Down and says it’s “the anonymous, simple, fun way to find friends who are down for the night” and you’re saying yeah, sure, and why exactly is it anonymous?

Like Knozen and Lulu, it presents you with a list of people you know – this time solely through Facebook – and you can say whether you would like to get down with them. Look, we’re talking sex. It’s a who-do-you-fancy app. The thing of it is that if they also have this Down app and they have also said they fancy you, sparks are automatically messaged back and forth and either very good or very bad times happen.

I know this because I was hugely amused by the naming problems: with Apple disliking the ‘Bang’ and Zynga objecting to the ‘With Friends’ bit, there wasn’t a lot of the name left. Obviously I don’t know this because I use the app myself and nobody fancies me.


How Chocolate Might Save the Planet

Saving the planet is good, obviously. But mmm… chocolate…

Okay, the logic in this piece from America’s National Public Radio is just that people prefer chocolate to sex and that if there are enough Mars bars in the world, we will therefore have fewer babies and the population won’t continue to destroy the planet with its demands for resources. Fine. Back to the chocolate – and how it works, how it actually works on us.

Plus statistics about that sex thing.

When you unwrap it, break off a piece and stick it in your mouth, it doesn’t remind you of the pyramids, a suspension bridge or a skyscraper; but chocolate, says materials scientist Mark Miodownik, “is one of our greatest engineering creations.”

How Chocolate Might Save the Planet – Robert Krulwhich, NPR

Go grab a Snickers and read the full piece.