What GeekWire’s top stories of 2016 say about the state of humanity

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Unprecedented global connectivity, a search for solitude in a fast-paced world, a yearning to connect with something bigger than ourselves … and, of course, the insatiable human desire to play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One.

As we looked back at GeekWire’s top stories of 2016 this past week, I was struck by what the stories said about the current state of the human condition. Many of them are driven by a common theme: going against popular trends as people try to find themselves — and some larger meaning — in a world full of information and interruptions.

And then there’s that Xbox story, which I can explain.

Later this week, we’ll be posting a list of the top 25 stories published on GeekWire this year. But in the meantime, to illustrate my point, here are a few of stories from our top 10 this year. Our year-end gift to you: this sampling, at least, is Trump-free.

Just shut up and let your devs concentrate, advises Stack Overflow CEO Joel Spolsky

Developer Joel Spolsky (left) speaks with GeekWire co-founder Todd Bishop on the second day of the 2016 GeekWire Summit (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire).

If you want to attract and keep developers, don’t emphasize ping-pong tables, lounges, fire pits and chocolate fountains. Give them private offices or let them work from home, because uninterrupted time to concentrate is the most important and scarcest commodity.

That was GeekWire reporter Dan Richman’s summary of comments made by Joel Spolsky, CEO of developer Q&A site Stack Overflow, on stage during the GeekWire Summit in Seattle in October. This story struck a nerve with many readers who have been troubled by the shift in technology and business to open offices designed for team collaboration, often at the expense of concentration.

Read the full story.

Ray Kurzweil: The world isn’t getting worse — our information is getting better

Ray Kurzweil on stage at Tune’s Postback conference in July. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

The author, inventor, computer scientist, futurist and Google employee spoke in July at mobile marketing company Tune‘s Postback conference in Seattle, and some of his comments went against popular notions about where the world is headed.

“People think the world’s getting worse, and we see that on the left and the right, and we see that in other countries. People think the world is getting worse,” he said. “That’s the perception. What’s actually happening is our information about what’s wrong in the world is getting better. A century ago, there would be a battle that wiped out the next village, you’d never even hear about it. Now there’s an incident halfway around the globe and we not only hear about it, we experience it.”

Read the full story.

They’re not saying it’s aliens, but signal traced to sunlike star sparks SETI interest

SETI researchers say an intriguing radio spike was detected last year by the RATAN-600 radio telescope. (Credit: SAO RAS)

SETI researchers are buzzing about a strong spike in radio signals that seemed to come from the direction of a sunlike star in the constellation Hercules, known as HD 164595. The signal conceivably fits the profile for an intentional transmission from an extraterrestrial source – but it could also be a case of earthly radio interference, or a microlensing event in which the star’s gravitational field focused stray signals coming from much farther away.

That was the report by GeekWire’s aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle in August. A few days later, word came back that it was definitely not aliens. But the tantalizing possibility of contact with extraterrestrial life continues to excite and engage people at a time when the ability to connect with our fellow humans is greater than ever.

Read the full story.

For defying no-call lists, Dish faces potential fines totaling $24 billion

Dish’s telemarketers allegedly failed to heed no-call lists, and the satellite-TV provider may be fined up to $24 billion, a sum larger than the company’s current market value. … Dish spokespeople responded to the requested fines by saying the company was shocked by the fine amounts. They noted the fines were far larger than those requested in similar cases.

That was the report in January, which struck a nerve with people still rattled by unwanted phone calls by telemarketers. So what happened? I checked the online docket this morning, and the case is still ongoing in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

Read the full story.

Yes, you can: How to play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One

Plugging the Xbox 360 into the Xbox One via HDMI.

This story by GeekWire’s Taylor Soper, originally published in November 2013, continues to draw huge amounts of interest as the most-popular story in the history of the site.

The backstory is that Taylor and I were getting a briefing at Microsoft on what was then the new Xbox One, and we asked if there were any hacks or workarounds to play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. At the time, there was no official backward compatibility, but we learned it was possible to literally plug the Xbox 360 into the Xbox One to get some basic form of integration, as Taylor documented in this post.

We thought it was a worthwhile trick to share, but as you’ll see in the comments, many people did not agree. Fortunately for everyone, Microsoft unveiled actual compatibility between the Xbox One and Xbox 360 games a couple years later. So yes, in fact, you can now play many Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One, no matter how you define it.

Stay tuned for more year-end stories this week on GeekWire. In the meantime, our best wishes for a 2017 full of meaningful connectivity, personal solitude and introspection — and who knows, maybe we’ll finally hear from ET this year for real.

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