How Online Hobbyists Can Reaffirm Your Faith in the Internet
“These days, any pastime worth pursuing — pottery, cooking, gardening, quilting, woodworking and beyond — attracts a constellation of blogs, message boards, Facebook groups, Amazon reviewers, Instagram and Etsy influencers, and many hundreds of YouTube stars. Collectively, they form the online social structure around any hobby, a group of folks who are only too happy to help you learn whatever you are trying to master. It is here, in the hobbyist internet’s daily collective struggle to make the best hamburger or grow the perfect tomato, that you can glimpse a healthier relationship with your digital devices.”
My last few years of internet usage have forced me to remember a conclusion I reached years ago about talk radio: Don’t confuse the vocal 1% that call in as representative of the reasonable 99% that don’t. Truth is, there are people on the Internet who simply want to be helpful. They don’t get the attention, but they’re out there.
Study Shows Heat Hurts Cognitive Ability
“As heat waves get hotter and more frequent around the world due to climate change, the researchers write that they’re hoping studies like this one illustrate how bad it can get for even the most healthy among us. Cognitive function deficits ‘extend to larger sectors of the population and can have significant implications on educational attainment, economic productivity, and workplace safety,’ they write in the study.”
So, heat makes us crankier and dumber. This study doesn’t address the physical and psychological affects of air conditioning’s constant pounding. At the end of some hot days my head feels like it’s wedged in a vise.
EU court says Jehovah's Witnesses must comply with data privacy laws in door-to-door preaching
“A religious community, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is a controller, jointly with its members who engage in preaching, for the processing of personal data carried out by the latter in the context of door-to-door preaching,” judges said. “The processing of personal data carried out in the context of such activity must respect the rules of EU law on the protection of personal data.”
The evolution of data privacy and the consequences that come from that evolution are going to be interesting.
Inflation nation: The rising cost of digital TV
“Many consumers end up subscribing to more than one of these skinny bundles. Eventually, consumers could expect to pay more for digital programming in total than they do now for their traditional cable package.”
“Cord-cutting” used to be synonymous with “cheaper.” That’s no longer the case. The truth is, there’s no deal to be had with digital media. If you want it, you’ll have to pay — be it through cable, bundles, and whatever else emerges. The only way to save is to accept that you won’t have access to all the stuff all the time.
Why Are People Using So Many Exclamation Points?
“Much like awesome once served a greater purpose, the exclamation point has been downgraded from a shout of alarm or intensity to a symbol that indicates politeness and friendliness. As [David] Shipley and [Will] Schwalbe put it in their guide: ‘Exclamation points can instantly infuse electronic communication with human warmth.’ And that’s what we use them for now.”
I use exclamation points in emails and texts because it’s hard to discern intent in short-form digital communication. I also rely on 👍 and 😉 for the same reason. However, I wipe out exclamation points from the articles and columns I edit. Sometimes I win that battle. Sometimes I don’t. But I believe that when you’re trying to make a point or tell a story through a longer piece, your intention should be contextual. A well-written article doesn’t need !!! and 😉 to land a point.
Danny Sullivan on being Google new search liaison
“‘We’re not a truth engine. One of the big issues that we’re pondering is how to explain that our role is to get you authoritative, good information, but that ultimately people have to process that information themselves,’ [Danny Sullivan] said. ‘We can give you information, but we can’t tell you the truth of a thing‘.”
At some point in every search query the responsibility for discerning truth and relevance switches to the searcher. We forget that sometimes.
Ways to think about machine learning
“I think one could propose a whole list of unhelpful ways of talking about current developments in machine learning. For example:
- Data is the new oil
- Google and China (or Facebook, or Amazon, or BAT) have all the data
- AI will take all the jobs
- And, of course, saying AI itself.
More useful things to talk about, perhaps, might be:
- Enabling technology layers
- Relational databases.”
This is an excellent piece. It’s a clear-eyed view on what machine learning is, what it will be, and what it might be when other things snap into place.
Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse
“Usually, one person in a relationship takes charge of putting in the technology, knows how it works and has all the passwords. This gives that person the power to turn the technology against the other person.”
Two thoughts. First, this is horrible. Imagine how scary and bewildering it must be to have your home weaponized against you. Second, we can’t expect the companies that make these devices to consider every outcome before they release their hardware and software. But we should expect them to apply their agile methodologies to address unintended consequences.
Want to Understand What Ails the Modern Internet? Look at eBay
“When the biggest platforms seem to be flailing or punting on problems, it’s often because they’re trying to address broad social issues with market solutions. They’re rediscovering, at scale and at great expense to their users, the ways in which a society is more than a bazaar, and the pitfalls of allowing human attention to be sold and resold as a commodity. If a platform is addressing a collective problem in a maddeningly strange way, consider that it might see itself, or only know to govern itself, like an eBay. If it can’t keep bad actors from using the service to exploit other users, that’s because it’s modeled after a system in which finding the highest bidder — or the biggest sucker — is gamely understood to be the point.”
There’s something interesting at the heart of this piece, but I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. It has to do with the “deals” we agree to make and the clarity of those deals. The deal on eBay is straightforward: I want to buy something, either directly or through auction, and someone sells it to me. But the deal on social networks is opaque. It seems like I’m getting something for free, or in exchange for something vague and advertising-based. Yet, the social network and its partners are actually getting access to my data and my interests and my intentions. That’s harder to grasp than a simple exchange of goods for money. This is also why it’s taken more than a decade for people to start waking up to the deals we make with social networks.
Boston approves self-driving car testing citywide
“The company [NuTonomy] described the Boston citywide testing as an opportunity to advance self-driving technology on some of North America’s ‘most complex roads’.”
“Complex” is a nice way to put it.