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Tech Week That Was: Health Site Stumbling, Twitter's Roots

It's Friday, which means we're rounding up the tech headlines and our NPR coverage of technology and culture this week.


By far our most popular piece this week was about a trip we took to the National Radio Quiet Zone (yes, it is a thing) in West Virginia. It's a 13,000-square-mile area in which residents don't have cellphone or Wi-Fi, because they're banned. Have a listen or check out the gorgeous photos from inside the zone. And as you can see from his tweet, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep remembers the quiet zone quite well — he was there, on a pay phone, in 2001.

Also on the airwaves, Laura Sydell explained another cool new use of 3-D printers: printing your own classical art piece at home.

Reported on the blog: It turns out the team at BitTorrent was behind those mysterious NSA billboards; we unlock our phones hundreds of times a day; and Emily Siner helped choose and write about our Weekly Innovation, a vibrating ice pack that helps take the sting out of getting shots.

The Big Conversation

Technology and policy mixed for a situation that led to some serious technological failures for healthcare.gov, the main federal site for people to sign up for the new health care exchanges. For All Things Considered, I looked at the systemic government contracting issues that led to the hiring and build out of glitchy IT behemoths, and so did The Washington Post. The Post's Tim Lee also showed this stunning chart that illustrates why the system has been nearly impossible for many Americans to get through. The rocky rollout led blogger Andrew Sullivan to wonder why Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hasn't been fired yet.

Also this week, Twitter continued to dominate the chatter. Not only does the Twitter board's lack-of-women conversation — and backlash — continue; The New York Times Magazine excerpted a forthcoming book about Twitter's early days. Valleywag sums it up it this way: "[Founder] Jack Dorsey screwed his friends at Twitter."

What Caught Our Eye

BuzzFeed: The 29 Stages Of A Twitterstorm

While we're all talking Twitter lately, BuzzFeed did a great job reconstructing Twitter user outrage when "someone, somewhere does something bad."

Nieman Lab: Joi Ito On What News Orgs Could Learn From Tech Companies About Innovation

The venture capitalist and director of the MIT Media Lab compares the worlds of media and technology and offers some compelling ways to think about the road ahead for news organizations.

The New York Times: Google Sets Plan To Sell Users' Endorsements

Google's updated terms of service allow the company "to include adult users' names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube." Many Facebook users objected when that company started a similar program.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.