The ghost economy, partisan feminism, and eight other stories you might have missed

The year is ending.
The year is ending.
Image: AP Photo/Michael Probst
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1. The Mod Squad

“I didn’t shake hands for like three years because I figured out that people were disgusting. And I just could not touch people. Most normal people in the world are just f-cking weirdos. I was disgusted by humanity when I left there. So many of my peers, same thing. We all left with horrible views of humanity.” It’s hard to argue that ugliness on the internet can still surprise us at this point. But it did feel like the lowest forms of discourse crossed a chasm this year. And that’s just what end-users saw. The really terrible stuff is intercepted by human content moderators before it gets in front of our eyeballs. And those moderators don’t escape unscathed. The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal on The basic grossness of humans. (That wouldn’t be a bad title for a review of 2017.)

2. Garbage is a dumpster fire

“Imagine a 176-pound (80 kilogram) pile of discarded products with a battery or plug in your living room. That’s how much e-waste the average American household of four throws out every year.” Each US family trashes 400 iPhones’ worth of e-waste a year. (Whenever I throw away devices, my kids fish them out of the garbage and sneak them up to their rooms. Now I realize they’re just good environmentalists.)

+ The world produces more than 3.5 million tons of garbage a day. Here’s some of it. Plus, the world is drowning in ever growing mounds of garbage.

3. Weekend whats, 2017

Every Friday, I use this section to share books, documentaries, music, and other things I think are worth checking out. Since this is the final NextDraft edition of the year, allow me to present… The 2017 smart binge, doc, music, pod, book and geek guide. (This should keep you busy over the holidays.)

+ Missed some excellent articles over the course of the year? Check out Longform’s best of 2017, the top picks from Longreads, Bloomberg’s jealousy list, and Pocket’s year in review.

+ We lost artists, we experienced extreme weather, Bitcoin went nuts, gun violence continued, and stranger things were everywhere, on TV and off. This is the story of our year as told through what we searched for. Google trends year in search 2017.

4. Ghostwriter

“I joined a temp agency and became the biggest ghost of them all, a member of America’s invisible workforce: people who ship goods for big box stores like Wal-Mart or Marshalls, sort recyclables for Waste Management, fulfill online orders for Nike, bottle rum for Bacardi. I’d found my squad, a cadre of screw-ups, felons, floozies, single moms, the differently abled, students, immigrants, the homeless and hungry, the overqualified and under-qualified, all of us ghosted by the traditional marketplace.” Melissa Chadburn on The human cost of the ghost economy.

+ What being a bike courier taught me about our broken economy.

5. Gender bender

Yes, this was the year that we finally started listening to women who were coming forward with stories about sexual harassment. But it was also the year when political persuasion was more persuasive than anything else. “A sizable minority of American women do not believe in the existence of gender discrimination, think that women who charge men with gender discrimination are trouble makers, and are inclined to side with a man accused of discriminatory behavior.” The Atlantic on The growing partisan divide over feminism.

6. What Boston harbors

“Google the phrase ‘most racist city,’ and Boston pops up more than any other place, time and time again.” Both racism and the importance of investigative journalism were prominent topics in 2017. So this is the perfect moment for the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team to take on its hardest question with a 7 part series: Boston. Racism. Image. Reality.

7. The needle and the damage done

“Every day was filled with worry. Every night, when he went out, I wondered: Will I see him again?” In Vogue, Mimi O’Donnell reflects on the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the devastation of addiction. This is one of thousands of such stories from the past year in America.

+ Another one of America’s costly addictions: Guns. In 2017, we kept count of the dead. But we often ignore the injured. David Bernstein explains why Americans don’t really understand gun violence.

8. Fake chews!

“Farming the meat for beef burgers takes a hefty toll on the environment around the world. But would you have been happy with the spongy substitute some vegetarians enjoy? What if there was another way of recreating the sensory extravaganza of a burger?” Meatless meat will be a big story next year. And AI could play an important role in creating a more meat-free world.

+ James Hamblin: Here comes the meat tax.

9. Light of my life, fire of my coins

If you want to enjoy peaceful gatherings over the holidays, it’s probably better not to bring up politics. But there will be no avoiding the questions about the other hot topic of the moment. So this is your last chance to be prepared: Ars Technica: Want to really understand how bitcoin works? Here’s a gentle primer.

+ And here’s a look at the hard math behind bitcoin’s global warming problem.

+ Bitcoin isn’t the only tech contributing to climate change. Your adult movie habit has a big carbon footprint. (At least, I think that’s a foot…)

10. Feel good Friday

This recently added section of good news must have been must-needed, because it’s quickly become one of NextDraft’s most popular features. Let’s start this final 2017 Feel Good Friday in an unlikely place: Jury Duty. “I’m away till Monday. I’m 54, a bachelor and it’s my first time in love.” Judge excuses man, 54, from jury duty after he confesses to being in love for the first time. (It actually might be harder to get out of jury duty than it is to find true love.)

+ Here are two videos that are amazing for different reasons: First, don’t miss the reaction of this 16 year-old when he finds out he got into Harvard. And, there’s no shortage of embarrassing ignorance on the internet. But this QandA performance by a Trump judicial nominee really stands out.

+ “People with the genetic condition cystic fibrosis (CF) are all told by their doctors not to meet each other. Any physical contact poses a serious cross infection risk.” But that didn’t stop this group of musicians from forming the choir that can never sing together.

+ How a former sharecropper in an SUV helped drive Doug Jones to victory in Alabama’s Black Belt.

+ Someone used wet string to get a broadband internet connection. (After the net neutrality decision, they’re figuring out how to give big companies a thick rope while indies will get a thread.)

+ Feel good by helping out a local paper make it when many others aren’t. The Bklyner needs some support.

+ At the risk of being repetitive, here’s a note from the office of redundancy and duplication.

+ Aah, it wasn’t all bad. Here are some hopeful images from 2017.

+ And let’s round things up with some animals: Behold, The most hilarious wildlife photos of 2017.

Quartz now syndicates NextDraft, a daily roundup for the day’s most fascinating news curated by Dave Pell. Read the archive here. Sign up to get the newsletter or download the app here.