Media

  • Why washing machines are learning to play the harp. “Appliance makers believe more and better chimes, alerts, and jingles make for happier customers. Are they right?” While not the general gist of the article, I wanted to note two points. On the influence that sound can have on us:
    A wealth of studies in consumer psychology attests to the power of sound to affect our decision making. In one famous experiment from the ’90s, British wine shoppers bought five times as many French bottles as German bottles when French accordions played in the store; when an oompah band sounded, German wine outsold the French. Still other studies have suggested that slot-machine noises, often high-pitched and in major keys, can nudge gamblers to keep playing and can even encourage riskier bets.
    But then there’s the tragedy of commons of sound:
    Too many sounds, carefully designed though they may be, runs the risk of turning into an irritant, or worse. Dexter Garcia, a co-founder of Audio UX, pointed me to a 2010 article in The Boston Globe describing “alarm fatigue.” Nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital had become so bombarded by constant alerts, they ignored the critical beeps signaling a dying patient. The problem is pervasive: In a study at Johns Hopkins Hospital, nearly 60,000 alarms were recorded over 12 days—that’s 350 alarms per patient, per day, hammering staff ears.
  • Logo mashups of fast food rivals. Some interesting brain teasing going on there.


  • Mozilla releases Common Voices, the largest to-date public domain transcribed voice dataset.







  • CJR: There are a lot of rote tasks a good AI interviewer could do for you.
    “AI could also be used for fact-checking; the system could call sources to confirm quotes or facts. Or it could be used in other reporting scenarios: Automated interviews would allow for more comprehensive data collection, such as canvassing a neighborhood to find individuals affected by a local policy change, routinely updating events calendar databases, or staying on top of local commercial real-estate developments, to name just a few.”

Why being mid-digital revolution leads to absurd questions and terminology

Three ways to think about the post-digital age. “In the pre-digital age, products generally did one thing well — whether that was a DVD player, a TV, a magazine — and in the post-digital age everything will work — consumers will move seamlessly between devices, personalisation will be real, data will be secure.”

“The digital world doesn’t really exist any more, Goodwin said: asking a teenager how much time they spend on the internet makes no sense to them — you have to explain what the internet is, when it starts when it stops. “But that has no relevance — it would be like asking us how much time we spend with electricity every day.”

Emphasising the point, he continued: “There is no such thing as online dating, it is just dating in 2018. There is no such thing as mobile banking, it is just how you do banking if you’re not an idiot.

Ilya






Strange Horizons: Freshly Remember’d — Kirk drift

Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift. An epic essay on how Star Trek’s original captain is so misremembered — and why it matters.

It starts off with a bang:

Good parties diverge widely; all bad parties are bad in the same way. I am trapped at a dull dinner following a dull talk. […] The man sitting across from me and a little down the way, a bellicose bore of vague continental origin, is execrable. He is somehow attached to a mild woman who is actually supposed to be here: a shy, seemingly blameless new grad student who perpetually smiles apologetically on his behalf, in an attempt to excuse whatever he’s just said. […] We reach the point of no return when the omnijerk (really I suspect there’s just one vast eldritch horror sitting in another dimension that extrudes its thousand tentacles into our own, and that each one of This Guy is merely an insignificant manifestation of the beast: they couldn’t all be so boring in precisely the same way by chance, surely) decides to voice some Dinner Party Opinions on original-series Star Trek. God knows why. It’s not five seconds before he’s on ‘Kirk and the green women’. He’s mocking the retrosexist trope, but smiling a little weirdly while doing it. His own insufficiently private enjoyment is peeking out, like a semi-erection on his face. […] “You’re thinking of Pike,” I say. “The captain in the unaired pilot. Some of that footage got reused for a later story, which made Pike into a previous captain of the Enterprise. And it never actually happened — it was a hallucination sequence designed by aliens who didn’t know what they were doing in order to tempt Pike. He rejected it.”

The essay is persuasive, funny and rich with examples that made me go and re-watch some of the episodes mentioned. I’ve cherrypicked a few fragments that resonated with me, but you should really read it in full. (It will take some time.)

Why can’t we see what’s in front of us? Why can’t we read? Why do we remember green women, molested, when there weren’t any, and the wrong “three little words”? Why has Kirk Drift occurred, affecting this character and this text? I contend this is not just random mismemory, but a sort of motivated, non-accidental, culture-wide process of forgetting. It’s the result of a kyriarchal tendency in reception and in memory that affects not only the reboots, but even our ability to see what happens in a text. Even when it’s right before our eyes, we can’t see Star Trek for our idea of it.

It’s not just about Kirk:

Kirk Drift is strongly at work in our popular histories as well as our texts. We are always being robbed of our radical inheritance: of black stories, of queer stories, of rupture.

Emphasis mine:

The “Zapp Brannigan says Trump quotes” meme is not in and of itself anything like so directly, screamingly incorrect. It is, however, exemplary of the drift to toxic masculinity that made these ridiculous figures possible. If Brannigan is a parody of heroism, he must necessarily also represent an actual idea of it, and what art reflects it also helps create. The fail condition of subversion/parody is reification. We have laughed Zapp Brannigan right into the White House.

There’s a fascinating contemplation over what’s worth forgetting but ultimately the author makes the case for the importance of a diverse memory:

If history is written by the winners, then people with power will always be the ones who control what is remembered, and marginal people’s truths and histories will be what is occluded. It is thus now. We cannot live without memory (and to do so would be to live without meaning). Given this, it becomes a question of what survives.

Ilya


  • Digital “editions” pays off for The Times. “Users of the … paid-for mobile app are up 30 percent since this time last year, and people are viewing three times as many pages per visit as they were a year ago. Those rises all stem from a decision The Times took a year ago to push away from the trap of commoditized online news and focus on publishing three updates to the digital editions a day: at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.”

  • Google pitches AMP as a solution to bloated websites and poor user experiences. But, Andrew Betts asks: “could AMP actually be bad news for the web, bad news for news, and part of a trend of news distribution that is bad for society in general?”


  • The tools you use matter, even your CMS. Good tools are a joy to use, bad tools don’t protect you from your mistakes. A good example of this is Washington Post’s trouble adopting a new CMS.
    “The redesigned website is just the surface manifestation of a huge organ transplant,” Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton said, pointing out it took more than a year to complete. The most important remark was his description of how difficult the change had been. “Every newsroom employee is struggling with it, not just the tech people.”


  • The future of algorithmic personalization. Interesting evaluation of the various problems of personalization.
    In the end, personalization as a concept derives from the world of industrial mass production and marketing. Maybe, in order to mark a new era of algorithmically assisted decision-making — and to emphasize the importance of personal agency — we should talk about choice algorithms instead of personalization algorithms.

2016 is the year of VR in the same way that 1895 was the year of film

Lucid Streaming. I have no interest in virtual reality, but as a technologist, I feel like I should. This essay observes that we shouldn’t think of VR’s limitations as technical failings but rather as defining characteristics of a new medium.

Ilya


Yahoo Finance knew redesign would upset users

The head of Yahoo’s popular finance app says he knew the redesign was going to ‘piss some people off’. It always does.

Ilya

  • NYT Magazine: The Agency. “From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities.”

You are in a startup. All around is a burning runway. There are exits to the North and East…

Stef Lewandowski DM’s a text-based adventure game of startup on Twitter. Hilarious!

Ilya





The Conversation

I watched The Conversation on Saturday. Hat tip to @higgis for the recommendation: it’s a great movie. One thing that struck me is that it included a lot of dialog that was either abortive or just hard to work out the meaning of. I’m not sure if this was just to make it more realistic (our everyday spoken language is riddled with utterances that “change directions” mid-sentence) or if the phrases and comments would have made more sense to contemporary audiences.

Ilya

Introducing The People’s Operator

The founder of Wikipedia wants to be your mobile operator. Really interesting bootstrapping of business models. The People’s Operator (TPO) is also a social network (“similar to Twitter”). It’s free marketing for the operator that leverages the network effect. It also puts the operator’s billing relationship (and infrastructure) to use to power frictionless — and commission-free — payments to make it easy to raise money for charities.

Ilya

  • The Stranger: Camming is not like any other kind of sex work. “There’s another couple I wound up getting really close to,” Eevie tells me after I meet Boggers and Sarah. “They were a younger couple, they had a 2-year-old boy at the time, and they'd been trying to get pregnant again for like a year, and it wasn’t working. They watched me, sometimes together and sometimes separate.” When the couple finally got pregnant and received the results of the gender test, “They made a video of them opening the envelope together and sent it to me that day, and they named their little girl Eevie Juliet.”


  • Why Circa failed. Tl;dr: Too factual (boring), generalist and wasn’t shareable.





  • Asbury & Asbury: Conversation my arse. A hilarious look at two long-term trends in marketing: mission escalation (when branding reaches escape velocity and shoots off into abstraction, like Burger King’s “Be Your Way” tagline) and conversation (Andrex’s “scrunch or fold” campaign).

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