Week in Review – August 27, 2017

Eclipse 2K17!

Tech & Programming

Books & Reading

Disney’s Choice

Stratechery

Vertical companies like Apple achieve profits by selling differentiated goods at high margins. Horizontal companies like Google, on the other hand, achieve profits through scale, which by extension means being free (or as low cost as possible) is more important than being the “best”; the brilliance of Google’s model, of course, is that having more users, and thus more data, means it is the best as well.

Epic of Gilgamesh

Wikipedia page

This story is over 4000 years old but was only discovered in 1853. Time deteriorated the tablets and filtered the text to what we have today. The story is about King Gilgamesh of Uruk and his quest to beat death, but what amazed me was the insight it gave to the scale of humanity at the time the story was written (my thoughts were influenced from just reading Sapiens). If all stories were kept on multiple tablets of similar size, where are all the others? What happened in the 4000 years that we never decided to make another copy? Today, it seems the internet will preserve all we create for the foreseeable future, so Gilgamesh will live on.

Everything Else

CinemaSins

CinemaSins is great for screening movies of questionable quality without investing the entire 2 hours on a rotten tomato (but the Kong director doesn’t think so). For example, Power Rangers. Now I know I only need to watch the end to see Megazord. Granted this is not a replacement for watching the movie, just a way to rearrange your list of what to watch next. Still, such nostalgia.

Don’t forget the second step

Seth Godin

Showing up and doing it again and again until you’re good at it, and until it’s part of who you are and what you do.

Gothic Basin

A preview of what’s to come…

At the top of Gothic Basin

Earworm
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Two Weeks in Review – August 20, 2017

It's about time

Thoughts

on Renew Psychology

Here’s a test. I decided not to renew nautilus for $29 a year. I already have another 1 year on my subscription, and while I currently would like to have the magazine for another year I am balancing a few things to decide if in one year I want it for another year. In reality, the $29 for a year is really, $29 for two more years since I already acclimated to the original cost. So now, I am taking the option of not wanting the magazine in a year at the cost of an increase over $29. My current rate is $35 a year, so my value on the option is $6.

 

Readings

Aziz Ansari Quit the Internet

via Cal Newport (via GQ)

when he gets into a cab, he now leaves his phone in his pocket and simply sits there and thinks; when he gets home, instead of “looking at websites for an hour and half, checking to see if there’s a new thing,” he reads a book.

Like Macklemore

 

Podcasts

 

Tech and Learning

 

Knick-knacks

San Juan Island

Ferry and driving tour

Cele is no more

I removed it from the App Store. It had a good run, but it was time for other things.

Gated Reverb

via Vox on YouTube
and a Spotify playlist

Weekly Productivity

I like the option I have with this iPad to either read, or write in the mornings. I swing back and forth between the two activities (right now trying to finish Sapiens), but I thought a lot last night about how I was going to write a book. That fell flat in July and August. Replaced with video editing, coding, and having fun with friends. All in moderation is my way of doing things.

Stories

Folded newspaper, cup of coffee, and phone on a wooden table

Some of the articles and podcasts that came through my feeds recently had similar themes. It got me thinking about a few things.

  1. The idea of using misinformation as a way to hack one’s mind and shape one’s view of reality.
  2. How we carry out our lives differently. We surround ourselves with people we like and ideas we agree with.
  3. And after reading of Russia’s influence into the discussions of fake news and alternative facts, when we are all content in our filter bubble (how many buzzwords can I fit into one sentence?), slight white lies that confirm our beliefs go unnoticed.

The Invisibilia podcast episode called The Culture Inside explored feedback in the real world and confirmation bias in what we experience.

COX: Human brains are very good at learning things and not so good at unlearning things.

SPIEGEL: Because of the way that our minds work, it is just much easier for a stereotype to perpetuate itself than to be overturned because to change a concept you need to get extremely consistent feedback that the concept is incorrect. But most of the time we get no feedback at all.

COX: You know, imagine you’re walking around downtown and you see a guy in a pink shirt who’s maybe listening to Britney Spears, maybe talks with a lisp. And often people will see that and what’ll pop to mind is the idea that he’s gay. They’ll make an assumption. Oh, look at that gay guy. But they’re not going to run up to him and ask him, oh, are you gay? I had the thought that you were gay, but I just want to, you know, confirm or disconfirm it.

SPIEGEL: If you instantly found out that the man wasn’t gay, that stereotype wouldn’t gain power. But you don’t, so just the assumption strengthens the stereotype.

COX: The way it gets stored in their memory is that that was a gay guy, that having a pink shirt means he’s gay because that’s how our learning happens. It happens by the activation of these associations.

SPIEGEL: In other words, the deck is kind of stacked in favor of whatever stereotype is already in there.

From an early episode of Better Call Saul (I can’t find the episode, but here’s a montage and reddit post), I posited that in today’s world it is impossible hustle people and too easy to call BS (baloney sandwich). They can simply look up the answer on the internet and believe it as true. But what happens when we run into truthiness and the things we take as fact are not quite so?

This part of the TED Radio Hour Truth and Lies episode about credibility of what we see online makes novel connections between the real world and the web. How to hack your mind, reality, truth, and lies via misinformation on the internet.

The dependence that we have for not just our news but really for how we’re thinking about our collective experience as people and as a country and as a world is just so intensely derived from the Internet right now. Your smartphone is more your reality than walking down the street. So it’s now time to figure out what seems fake, what seems real, why that’s the case. And you don’t yet have the same Spidey feeling or, you know, goosebumps on the back of your neck that you get when you’re walking down the street and there’s a shady character walking down and, you know, you’re not going to trust something that they say or take it at face value. You don’t have that feeling yet on the Internet.

As our realities are increasingly based on the information that we’re consuming at the palm of our hand and from the news feeds that we’re scanning and the hashtags and stories that we see trending, the Russian government was the first to recognize how this evolution had turned your mind into the most exploitable device on the planet. And your mind is particularly exploitable if you’re accustomed to an unfettered flow of information now increasingly curated to your own tastes. This panorama of information that’s so interesting to you gives a state – or anyone, for that matter – a perfect back door into your mind.

It’s this new brand of state-sponsored information operations that can be that much more successful, more insidious and harder for the target audience – that includes the media – to decipher and characterize. If you can get a hashtag trending on Twitter or chum the waters with fake news directed to audiences primed to receive it – all tactics used in Russian operations – then you’ve got a shot at effectively camouflaging your operations in the mind of your target. This is what Russia’s long called reflexive control. It’s the ability to use information on someone else so that they make a decision on their own accord that’s favorable to you.

Ben Thompson discusses truth vs beliefs in his post Not Ok Google:

Deciding how to respond to fake news is a trade-off; in the case of Facebook, the fact that fake news is largely surfaced to readers already inclined to believe it means I see the harm as being less than Facebook actively taking an editorial position on news stores.

Google, on the other hand, is less in the business of driving engagement via articles you agree with, than it is in being a primary source of truth. The reason to do a Google search is that you want to know the answer to a question, and for that reason I have long been more concerned about fake news in search results, particularly “featured snippets”

Facebook may be pushing you news, fake, slanted, or whatever bias there may be, but at least it is not stamping said news with its imprimatur or backing it with its reputation (indeed, many critics wish that that is exactly what Facebook would do), and said news is arriving on a rather serendipitous basis. Google, on the other hand, is not only serving up these snippets as if they are the truth, but serving them up as a direct response to someone explicitly searching for answers. In other words, not only is Google effectively putting its reputation behind these snippets, it is serving said snippets to users in a state where they are primed to believe they are true.

And finally, in The Stories We Tell Ourselves, Todd May discusses the complicated lives we all lead:

Why might this matter? Here is one reason. The presidential election has displayed in stark terms a phenomenon that many have commented on in recent years. With the proliferation of various cable news channels, the internet, niche marketing, clustering in communities of like-minded people, most of us live in echo chambers that reflect the righteousness of our lives back to us. We are reinforced to think of ourselves as embodying the right values, as living in ways that are at least justified, if not superior. Reflecting on the stories we tell about ourselves might reveal to us other aspects of who we are and what we value, aspects that would complicate the simple picture provided by our echo chamber.

And that complication, in turn, could lead us to another revelation: that those who live outside our echo chamber might also be more complicated than we have imagined. While the values we take them to be expressing might be mistaken — or even abhorrent — to us, there are perhaps other aspects to their lives as well, other values those lives express, values that would become manifest to us if we listened to some of the stories they tell about themselves. If we are more complicated than we like to think, perhaps others are also more complicated than we would like to think. (And also more complicated than they would like to think.)

 

Week in Review – August 6, 2017

Stock image of a person simulating an open office environment

Meditation and Routine:

I took time this morning to meditate. I noticed I was going to rush to make it to the bus, and decided to wait and take the one leaving 30 minutes later. It was a simple decision that has big impact for the day. I leave in a calmer state and am able to get more done in the morning (at a relaxed pace). If only I would wake up earlier to take advantage of the time with my scheduled routine. My alarm goes off just after 7am and the next 20-25 minutes are spent snoozing and scrolling on my phone. I should re-read my routine post.

 

Readings:

Anil Dash on open space workplaces

via Medium

Anil Dash is not a fan of open offices for programmers. Programmers need to get into a state of flow to focus on the work in front of them and go deep. This is difficult with constant visual and auditory distraction.

At home it is quiet and there is little going on. Because of this I am able to stay focused and get work done. Deep work can come at with a loss to collaboration, but Cal Newport details how deep collaboration can be done.

More on open space at Fog Creek.

1000 True Fans

Kevin Kelly

I read this before,

“A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author—in other words, anyone producing works of art—needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.”

but it came up again (via Ryan Holiday)

“So don’t wait. Build your platform now. Build it before your first project, before your first great perennial seller comes out, so that you have a better chance of actually turning it into one. Build it now so that you might create multiple works like that. Build it so you can have a career—so you can be more than just a guy or gal with a book or movie or app. Because you’re more than that. You’re an entrepreneur, an author, a filmmaker, a journalist. You’re a mogul.”

Tuesday’s hard fork of bitcoin

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are fascinating. Some analysis on the bitcoin cash spinoff. I don’t know anything about it him, but I’ll have to read more from Matt Levine.

BCH spun off from BTC on Tuesday afternoon, and briefly traded over $700 on Wednesday (though it later fell significantly). But BTC hasn’t really lost any value since the spinoff, still trading at about $2,700. So just before the spinoff, if you had a bitcoin, you had a bitcoin worth about $2,700. Now, you have a BTC worth about $2,700, and also a BCH worth as much as $700. It’s weird free money, if you owned bitcoins yesterday.

Apple and the Oak Tree

Stratechery

The iPods Shuffle and Nano, the last two iTunes-dependent (i.e. non-iOS) MP3 players Apple sold, were quietly discontinued last Tuesday. The revelation two days later that Apple was, at the behest of the Chinese government, removing VPN apps from the App Store in China, drew considerably more interest

 

Podcasts

Long Distance

Reply All (Ep. 1 and Ep. 2)

Wow. The two part episode lacks closure, but is a captivating detective story that spans the globe.

 

danah boyd — The Internet of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

On Being with Krista Tippett

 

“Even the most fleeting acquaintance with the history of information and communication technologies indicates that moral panics are episodic and should be taken with a grain of salt.”

 

danah boyd on why fake news is so easy to believe

The Ezra Klein Show

 

“Give me more kale”

These interviews are so similar, it’s almost as if they are with the same person. Still, each interviewer provides their own color. Tippett takes a more human approach while Klein focuses on the news, but both are searching for truth

 

 

Interactive thingy

The Evolution of Trust

Nicky Case

“We are punished by our sins, not for them.”

~ Elbert Hubbard

Almost as cool as the game. The history of making it: https://github.com/ncase/trust/commits/gh-pages

 

Movies

 

Earworms

 

Cryptocurrency

Man facing away standing on a Brazilian street

Here’s an unformed thought for the day

What is the value of a cryptocurrency? If something like Ripple makes sense from an application perspective, but the blockchain is not as useful, does it adhere to the crypto manta of fat protocols and lean application layer? Not sure exactly what that means yet, but if the application is the selling point, it seems like blockchain is not the most well suited to the problem.

When we look at Bitcoin, the value of the blockchain is defined by its ability to record financial transactions, and rewarded in the verification, or Ethereum, where the value is the smart contracts and again rewarded in verification, the inherent the value of the coin is in the blockchain, the fat protocols that give life to the thin task layer above.

Does bitcoin, the currency, have financial value because of the Bitcoin blockchain? I am not quite sure. Where does the $2.5k+ price point come from? I sort of understand the opportunity of blockchain as a technology, but the value in the currency still alludes me.

Here’s another coin that makes some sense. Filecoin. This is a cryptocurrency that is paid to users who lend unused hard drive space. File transactions are stored in blockchain and contracts are paid out via a filecoin drop (how to upper and lower case coins differ? Bitcoin vs bitcoin?). With Filecoin is a tangible contract. A seller who has unused hard drive space in s server somewhere. A buyer who needs hard drives to store data. And a currency, filecoin, as a means for the transaction to take place. The Filecoin blockchain (I’m sticking with upper case for the blockchain itself, and lowercase for the coin, maybe that’s right), records all the transactions keeping a history of what went where (again, maybe this is just for Bitcoin). I kinda had it: http://filecoin.io/

What else is out there?

Steemit, Synereo, Akasha? I like the tag line of mining your mind. One could see this becoming the way of the future on the internet. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies solve the problem of advertisers. From the get go, there are blockchains set up to pay people for their creations. I’m still unsure this is the best use of the tech, but it is great to see a new way of funding artists, creators, and makers.

“Within each Bitcoin transaction is the ability to write a little program. For example, you can write a little program in a Bitcoin transaction that says “this transaction isn’t valid unless it’s June 15th, 2016 or later”. This is very powerful because you can move money automatically with computer code and everyone can see the rules by which that money moves and know those rules will be followed.” (From Ethereum is the Forefront of the Digital Economy)

More fascination

We needed to invent something completely different to get people to crowd fund projects. How do we have headlines like “the easiest way to monetize your open source work” that work in currency most people don’t even know about, but we cant’t do the same with fiat currency? It is similar to government efforts to fix hyperinflation. Where was it that changed the currency and tried to replace people’s perception of the money? I think I heard about it in a Planet Money podcast. Ah Brazil: How Fake Money Saved Brazil and How Four Drinking Buddies Saved Brazil (Podcast)

Replace URV with BTC and hyperinflation with spammy internet ads, and you nearly have the same story.

Fact check – URV or BTC?

Create a currency that doesn’t exist. No coins, no bills
URV (its called BitCOIN, duh)

He and three friends had been studying X since they were graduate students — four guys at the campus bar complaining to each other about how no one else knew how to fix this.  And now they were being told “Fine, do it your way.”

Find X: Brazilian Inflation or Spammy Internet Ads
Brazilian Inflation

Enough of that. People will catch on.

Lightening round

DAO sounds fun, but I don’t get it (and neither does coindesk)
(The DAO Just Raised 50 Million, But What is It?)

Only the dull mine Ethereum. Go create!
(An Idiots Guide to Building an Ethereum Mining Rig)

More questions

What do Ethereum miners verify on the blockchain? Completion of all the contracts? What is the Bitcoin verification process for that matter? I think i conflated cryptocurrency and blockchain, what is the distinction?

Getting tired. Taking a break for a few.

Next time on internet ramblings with Ryan: How to prepare a balanced meal of energy usage, water consumption, and animal ethics.

Edit

(this post didn’t publish correctly a few weeks ago)

Now this is happening: Bitcoin is forking to BTC and BCC. Coinbase is only supporting BTC. People are concerned. This seems like a stock split. Speculation abound.

(didn’t post again…)

Some analysis on the fork Bitcoin Exchange Had Too Many Bitcoins