Our favorite tech long reads of 2011

The Internet is flooded with thousands of tech articles every day. Buried among all of the breaking news, reblogs, how-tos and product reviews are some great long-form journalism gems. Instead of falling out of favor with today’s short-attention-span-having readers, solid and deeply reported features actually saw a resurgence in 2011, thanks to tools such as Instapaper, smartphones and tablets, and dedicated e-readers.

Here are a few of our favorite tech-related #longreads of 2011. Share your own picks in the comments.

How Digital Detectives Deciphered Stuxnet, the Most Menacing Malware in History

By Kim Zetter, Wired.com

It’s a 2833-word story about malware. It’s also an incredibly gripping, suspenseful and well-crafted piece of journalism tracing the discovery and deciphering of Stuxnet, a virus using zero-day exploits to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program.

This Tech Bubble is Different

By Ashlee Vance, Businessweek

Silicon Valley is pumping out new money-makers and social networks everyday, but is finding the best way to serve ads really innovation? Vance asks some hard questions about the waste of talent in the current tech bubble and the possible fallout when it pops.

What Happened to the Future?

By The Founders Fund

Follow the previous article with Peter Theil’s Founders Fund manifesto, posted in July. They’re interested in funding innovation over cash-cows, focusing on aerospace, biotech, artificial intelligence, energy and the Internet.

How I Failed, Failed, and Finally Succeeded at Learning How to Code

By James Somers, The Atlantic

Developer James Somers uses his own failed attempts to pick-up a programing language to explore a different way to teach: “Get your student to want to find something out.” Project Euler uses the same puzzle/answer approach that finally helped Somers crack the code of learning.

Dropbox: The Inside Story Of Tech’s Hottest Startup

By Victoria Barret, Forbes

Inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs: Dropbox grew from idea on a bus to a profitable digital storage company with 45 million users in four years. Barret gets close to co-founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi to tell the story of the rapidly growing company.

The Web Is a Customer Service Medium

By Paul Ford, Ftrain.com

If you produce content for this crazy medium we call the Web, Ford has insight into how you can tap into consumers’ innate need to give feedback and be heard. Another great piece by Ford was Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings? in New York Magazine.

Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck?

One comment on a New York Times article inspires filmmaker Errol Morris to investigate his deceased brother’s role in inventing e-mail. His brother, Noel Morris, was an MIT student in the 70s with Tom Van Vleck, who is credited with co-creating one of the first email programs. Errol interviews Van Vleck and digs into his own family’s past in this article packed with great images and ephemera from an exciting time in technology’s history.

Robots Say the Damnedest Things

By Jon Ronson, GQ

Ronson has a series of entertaining, random and sometimes insightful conversations with robots. Artificial-intelligence fans should also check out Brian Christian’s “Mind vs. Machine” from The Atlantic.

Xbox: The making of a bad-ass machine

By Dean Takahashi, VentureBeat

Yes, this is one of ours, but it’s also a great read (really!). Our own lead games writer, Dean Takahashi, is something of an Xbox expert. He’s been following the story of the console since it was created 10 years ago, and is intimately acquainted with the people who made it happen, the drama behind the scenes, and the ways this incredible piece of machinery went from concept to hit product.

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs

By Mona Simpson, New York Times

There was a lot of analyzing, musing and eulogizing in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death, but my favorite was a simple piece by Jobs’ sister, Mona Simpson, that ran in the New York Times. Its personal and honest depiction of the human side of Jobs was a welcome chaser to all the genius/saint/tyrant coverage. Another interesting Jobs piece was “What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really?” by Steve Silberman on PLoS.

And just for kicks, my favorite non-tech long read of the year…

Inside the mind of the octopus

By Sy Montgomery, Orion Magazine

A love letter to the octopus: “Although an octopus can taste with all of its skin, in the suckers both taste and touch are exquisitely developed. Athena was tasting me and feeling me at once, knowing my skin, and possibly the blood and bone beneath, in a way I could never fathom.”

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