Ever wonder: who first put a dollar sign in front of a number? Why did they do it, and when?

Moreover, what motivated the invention of currency symbols in the first place? What made it necessary to differentiate between generic counting numbers and monetary figures? Which currency symbols came first, and did all currencies race to find representation in their own unique typographic symbol? What went into the design process of these symbols? Were they on physical money first? Do currency symbols go extinct when their associated civilizations go bust?

Back to the dollar sign… why does it live in front of the number and not behind it like other currencies (i.e. like the Euro (€) or even the lowly cent (¢))? …


Two big milestones and a hint at what’s next…!

My Product Hunt journey began all the way back in 2014 and today I hunted my 2500th product on Product Hunt.

And yesterday, Product Hunt founder and CEO Ryan Hoover announced that after seven years at the helm he’s stepping down and installing Josh Buckley as the new CEO.

So: a big day in the Product Hunt world!

How Product Hunt took over my life in 2020

I started hunting products as a hobby, because doing so gave me a way to “surf future trends” and to learn from other founders and makers about how they perceived problems worth solving, and then got to work implementing their solutions. …


An interview with the hashtag inventor on the symbol’s unlikely role during a challenging and unruly cultural moment

This interview was given to Andres Lomeña (professor, doctor of sociology, and contributor to Common Action Forum) for the Huffington Post. The Spanish version of this interview can be found here:

Andres Lomeña’s questions are prefixed with AL.
My answers are prefixed with CM.

AL:You have told hashtag’s origins many times, so I wonder if you have considered to write a book about it.

CM: Ha, indeed I have! But less about the hashtag itself, although I’m sure there are plenty of interesting stories to tell. Instead, I’m personally more interested in contemplating the individual’s role and responsibility for the technology products that they create, and what obligations they might have in socializing their motivations, intentions, and purpose, and reflecting on the consequences of their work. …


Elon Musk’s future Tesla is a truck like the iPhone is a phone

Silicon Valley is all wrong about the Cybertruck, but not like it was wrong about Apple’s AirPods or Amazon’s Echo Show.

The Cybertruck reimagines what a truck is, constitutionally. It’s such a savage departure from our expectations that define a “truck” that we need a new word. It’s in a class of its own.

The Cybertruck may be hired for similar jobs as the Ford F-150 (as Musk asserted), but it consequates much more.

Personally, I see parallels to Steve Jobs’ 2007 launch of the iPhone — a generation-defining moment that birthed a new category: “an iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator.” It may have been unknown that day, but it didn’t take long to feel the enormity of the iPhone’s importance as a modifier of human experience. …


That seems to be what some people believe, if the tweets in response to Kaitlyn Tiffany’s (🐦) story in the Atlantic are any indication.

In Managing Your Friendships, With Software, she writes about several startups whose apps appear to be overtaking the productivity category of the App Store as people seem to be looking for assistance in caring for and attending to their personal relationships:

There’s Dex, “a tool to turn acquaintances into allies.” Clay, “an extension of your brain, purposefully built to help you remember people.” “Forgetting personal details?” Hippo “helps you stay attentive [and] keep track of friends, family and colleagues you care for,” for just $1.49 a month. Plum Contacts sends reminders to message your friends, and rewards you with cartoon berries that “indicate how strong your relationship is.” …


You’re in control.

If you choose to opt in to the AT&T Enhanced Relevant Advertising program, you, as the account holder, allow AT&T and our affiliates (including DIRECTV) (“us,” “we”) to collect, use and share data with third parties about you and other users on your account. This includes data generated by your devices and by the use of AT&T products and services on your account. We may associate this data with an identifier other than your name, like your device ID, Apple or Android advertising ID, and share the data with third parties. This program allows us and others to deliver a more personalized experience, including marketing and advertising. …


I found this 1995 email exchange in the MIT archives of the TELECOM Digest between Bell Labs engineer Ralph Carlsen (patents) and Patrick Townson, the editor of the digest. The TELECOM Digest is the “oldest continuing e-journal about telecommunications on the Internet, having been founded in August, 1981 and published continuously since then.

Given the obscurity of that resource, I wanted to bring some attention to it — especially after this story was covered on the 99% Invisible podcast by Roman Mars and Avery Trufelman back in 2014 (“Octothorpe”) and then reprised in 2018 (“Interrobang”).

Don MacPherson was a Bell Labs supervisor and colleague of Ralph Carlsen who trained customers in use of AT&T’s new telephone systems, which included the # and * symbols, and therefore helped to socialize the term. …


The challenges of being horny on main and fucking around in the uncanny valley of professionalism

Setting the scene

Why did Chris Messina and Sonya Mann have a conversation about sexuality and social norms? Before now, the two had never even chatted online. Why discuss such a taboo topic and then publish their private exchange?

Because they’re both interested in cultural change. Societal and communal expectations are always in flux, driven by complex, iterated feedback loops of behavior and reaction. …


About that time my partner’s orgasms shook the internet

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about sex or relationships on the internet. And the last time, I really didn’t even touch on sex — I wasn’t confident enough in myself or how to speak to my sexuality to wade into that topic. Instead, I shared what I’d been learning about non-monogamous relationships (i.e. how to ethically have more than one intimate relationship at a time). Many responses were harsh and assumed negative intent, which is another way to say: just another typical day on the internet.

If it’s not completely obvious, because it takes so much less effort to criticize than to meet someone in good faith with comparable vulnerability and curiosity, it turns out many people don’t. And so I decided that opening up about opening up was best reserved for private communications (probably in person) rather than the public internet. And so that’s how I had conversations about these topics for the next four years. …


Journal entry from the first three weeks of my #MessinaOdyssey

It’s 5am and I’m heading back to San Francisco as a stopover on my way to Redmond, Oregon, where I’ll continue on to Bend. I’ve got 5 hours and 20 minutes of Airplane Mode to nail down my TEDx talk. The good news is that I feel pretty good and rested (went to bed by 10pm last night in Newark and it’s 11am in Lisbon, so I feel like I have more wind in my sails, even though my body has no idea what time it is). I know I have a lot to work out, but I have the pieces, I just need to cut this thing down and focus on my core message. Perhaps I’m getting confused with AI and voice computing and just need to focus on makers of the next generation of social technology (i.e. …

About

Chris Messina

Inventor of the hashtag. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Previously: Google, Uber, Molly (YC W18).

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