Chloe and Halle, Source Code Sorcery, and Chris McCandless: Today’s Recommended Reading

Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Today we have an inside look at the news curators at Facebook, a profile of Chloe and Halle, two of Beyoncé’s proteges, an explanation of the perceived wizardry of source code, and an update on the story of Chris McCandless of Into the Wild, written by Jon Krakauer himself.


First is a profile of Beyoncé stars Chloe and Halle, two very young sisters who caught the legendary singer’s attention on YouTube, which is the all-too-regular way of going about achieving fame these days, it seems. The two young ladies are supremely talented, and, if this profile at The Cut is any indication, also extremely charming. Perhaps that’s why they earned a spot in Lemonade, or why Michelle Obama was willing to rearrange her schedule to accommodate them. 

It’s not just Beyoncé. Michelle Obama, too, has become something of a patron, urged along by daughters Malia and Sasha. Chloe and Halle were featured on her all-star charity single for girls education and have performed live onstage for the First Lady twice, once as the opening act to her keynote discussion at the SXSW Music Festival in March with Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott and a week later as the last-minute opening act for the White House Easter Egg Roll. In fact, the First Lady insisted that the latter event’s entire schedule be rearranged to accommodate the sisters after meeting them at SXSW.


Over at The Atlantic, Samuel Arbesman writes about coding, and how the green-on-black language has continued to captivate the code illiterate world for decades, to the point that those of us who know little more than HTML (or, fine, some CSS) tend to think of the language behind laptops and iPhones as magic beyond most mortals’ comprehension. What’s odd is that this misconception has continued to hold as the barrier to entry of coding has grown ever smaller. 

But the gap between magic and code is shrinking. We are now awash in a world of Slack bots and messaging apps—artificially intelligent text chat services that allow us to do an increasing number of tasks via something akin to a command line. These bots provide us a mechanism to use commands—textual magic—to perform things in the real world, from requesting cars to ordering food. And with the advent of such devices as the Amazon Echo, you can utter something that feels very similar to an incantation, summoning a device to do your bidding.


The Internet’s fascination with self-publishing has contributed mostly trash to the world, and yet Medium, a kind of self-publishing, ahem, medium, manages to draw great talent to its blank pages. Most recently, author Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild, wrote an update to the story of Chris McCandless, who died when he attempted to survive in the Alaskan wilderness on his own. Krakauer found that there might be a different explanation for McCandless death than he originally thought, thanks to the avid work of a reader. 

Hamilton is neither a botanist nor a chemist; he’s a writer who until recently worked as a bookbinder at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania library. As Hamilton explains it, he became acquainted with the McCandless story in 2002, when he happened upon a copy of Into the Wild, flipped through its pages, and suddenly thought to himself, “I know why this guy died.” His hunch derived from his knowledge of Vapniarca, a little-known World War II concentration camp in what was then German-occupied Ukraine.


It’s old news to any of us in media that Facebook has pivoted to be a source of news for its user base, but until today it was very difficult to gather any real info as to how Facebook had decided to curate its news offerings. Well, Gizmodo managed to speak to some ex-staffers there, who detail pretty grim working conditions and very ominous messages from management that makes it sound as if, sometime in the near future, Facebook will not be using humans for news curation or headline writing at all; instead, it’ll be done entirely by robots. 

That said, many former employees suspect that Facebook’s eventual goal is to replace its human curators with a robotic one. The former curators Gizmodo interviewed started to feel like they were training a machine, one that would eventually take their jobs. Managers began referring to a “more streamlined process” in meetings. As one former contractor put it: “We felt like we were part of an experiment that, as the algorithm got better, there was a sense that at some point the humans would be replaced.”


Lastly, and with little comment: Michelle McNamara, a writer and wife of Patton Oswalt, as well as the mother of his child, passed away suddenly in April. Until now, Oswalt had remained silent on the matter. Today, TIME posted his brief and very touching message about his wife. It should be read in full, and you can do that here