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Google’s team-building, A Wolf Among Us, AquaSonic and much more

What We're Reading

It’s been an amazing week on the Interwebs, which means it will be an entertaining and informative jaunt through today’s edition of What We’re Reading, Marxent’s weekly series featuring staff members dishing on whatever media caught their eye in the last 7 days. This week, the Marxent staff went deep with stories from the New York Times, The Verge, Popular Science and more. We get started this week with a story from the Times that will make you see teamwork in a whole new way. Enjoy!

The Best Thing We Read This Week …

Google Logo

What makes a great team? And how do you go about building one? These questions, and quite a few others, lie at the heart of a fascinating New York Times article titled “What Google Learned From its Quest to Build the Perfect Team,” by Charles Duhigg. It was first spotted by Marxent Quality Assurance Analyst Saundra Baughman, who found it fascinating — and with good reason. Focusing largely on the data Google collected and the way their basic assumptions about teamwork were repeatedly undermined, Duhigg’s article will have you re-evaluating your own working relationships and the way you respond to a team environment. The story even gets touching near the end, as a surprise illness puts the work/life balance into perspective. Final note: This is kind of a long one, but stick with it. It stays insightful right up to the end.

The Best Game We Played This Week …

A Wolf Among Us

Marketing Creative Director Joe Johnson has been playing his way through The Wolf Among Us, a neo-noir set in 1980s New York. In the game, all of the old world’s fables — werewolves, vampires, etc. — are real, and they have emigrated to America, where they live in hiding among the “mundanes.” Those that can afford it wear glamours, which disguise them as normal human beings. Those who can’t live on “the farm” in upstate New York. The Big Bad Wolf (Bigby Wolf) is the Fables’ sheriff, tasked with policing the dysfunctional, mythic beings. It’s not going well. The game is interactive fiction, a high end choose-your-own-adventure set in the some of the most glorious artwork ever produced for a computer.

While we’re on the subject of video games, concept artist Carlo Spagnola recommended the IGN article “Forging Alliances in Total War: Warhammer,” by Stace Harman. Carlo has been following the game for a long time and was dying for the May 24 release date to get here. He was far from the only one, however, as the game set a franchise sales record upon release.

For Your Listening Pleasure …


Marxent music guru Nick Kizirnis continues shining a light on under the radar auditory glory. This week, that includes Denmark experimental quintet “Between Music,” which just premiered their latest work “AquaSonic.” The result of two years of researching underwater singing techniques and building new underwater instruments, this might be the creepiest music Nick’s ever heard. Not for the faint of heart! Spoiler alert: the vocals come in at the 1:50 mark. Make sure the lights are on.

All the way from Australia, song-writer Courtney Barnett is here to save rock ‘n’roll for you. Reminiscent of Liz Phair, Lou Reed and and Patti Smith, Courtney Barnett will make you happy music is in your life. Thanks to Brian and Trace for making Nick aware that there is still hope for rock music.

On the podcast front, Nick recommends Tanis, one of two amazing podcasts from Pacific Northwest Stories. Tanis is a radio drama combining the styles of hits like “Serial” and “This American Life” with the classic radio dramas of yesteryear, and deals with the search for the last great mystery in the world in an age when every question is a Google query away. It’s mysterious, it’s supernatural, hi-tech, lo-tech and worth every strange minute.

What we wrote this week …

Marxent @ Work: QA

There were two new entries in the Marxent @ Work series this week, both of which are worth checking out. First up, quality assurance analyst Angela Boehmer wrote a piece titled “How to be a quality assurance analyst without being an a**hole,” which breaks down strategies for giving direct, honest feedback without being a jerk about it. And Marxent CEO Beck Besecker sounded off on meetings in “News flash: Meetings aren’t over when they’re over; Use these 3 tips to get more out of meetings,” a must-read for anyone who has to plan and run meetings as a part of their job.

Side Note: Forbes also weighed in on meetings this week, with a post titled “7 Questions That Make You The Smartest Person In The Meeting,” by David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom. Consider it a nice companion piece to Beck’s article.

And finally, Joe Bardi (aka, the guy who puts this column together each week) unveiled Marxent’s PIONEERS framework for AR/VR proof of concepts, and showed how it helped Lowe’s achieve their Virtual Reality dreams with the Lowe’s Holoroom.

But wait, there’s (so much) more …


Special Forces from around the world invaded Florida this week — relax, it was all a part of the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, held in Tampa. Marxent Director of Sales Jeff Morrow was there, and shot the above video of the exercises put on by some of the most highly trained soldiers on earth. The Washington Post provided full coverage of the assault, including some must-see video shot by cameras attached to the troops.

Technology is amazing, and it’s hard to picture going back to a time before smartphones and tablets put outsized computing power in the palm of your hand. But what if all that technology was messing with you? That’s Tristan Harris’ take, in an article titled “How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist.”

On the entertainment front, big-screen purveyors IMAX are planning to bring Virtual Reality to movie theaters as early as this year. Moving to video games, Microsoft’s CEO of X-Box, Phil Spencer, is dropping hints about when the so-called “Xbox Two” will hit store shelves. The new console is expected to be VR ready and will most likely go public sometime near the release date of the Sony’s Playstation VR system.

Ever wondered what it would be like to live in a cult? For 22 years, Will Allen did just that, and now he’s sharing his story with Rolling Stone writer Jason Newman, in a piece titled “‘Holy Hell’: How One Man Documented 22 Years Inside a Sadistic Cult.” It’s a fascinating read, but don’t get too sucked in …

And finally …

Atlantic cover

It’s not every day that someone makes a discovery with the potential to completely upend our agreed-upon view of human history. Ed Yong’s piece in The Atlantic, “A Shocking Find In a Neanderthal Cave In France,” details one such discovery. The tale starts with an industrious 15-year-old boy who found the long-buried cave, and moves on to the almost unbelievable results of carbon dating done at the site. The results: The ruins are anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 years old, which means they weren’t the work of homo sapiens, but of neanderthals. Only problem: Until now, scientists have not thought neanderthals capable of the work found in the cave. History, it’s time for a rewrite!

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