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"Until she was 54 years old, Kim was totally unaware that there were things in the world she couldn't see.

"This was the whole problem," Kim says. "I had no clue what the problem was."

All Kim knew was that over and over and over again the world didn't respond the way she expected. People would say things and do things that seemed completely unrelated to what was actually going on. It happened all the time.

Once, as a kid at summer camp, she saw two girls trying to put up a sail on a sailboat. "And I'm always really good at doing that kind of stuff, and I looked at them and I could see what their problem was," she says. And so she walked up to them, explained that she could help, could show them how to do it.

"And they were mad at me," she says. The girls started screaming, telling her to go away.

"It was so strange," she remembers. "It was like ... why would they be mad when I'm trying to help them? That makes absolutely no sense. I don't understand that."

That was in 1966, when Kim was 12. More than 40 years later, after a researcher spent 30 minutes pressing a fancy magnet to the top of her head, Kim would finally experience firsthand the critical element of the sailing scene that she had missed in 1966: the subtle emotions swirling around..."

- Alix Spiegel, "What An Hour of Emotion Makes Visible"
(OMG, this article!)
"People make mistakes all the time. They start companies they think they can manage. They have grand and bold visions that were a little too grandiose. This is all perfectly fine; it’s what being an entrepreneur or a creative or even a business executive is about. We take risks. We mess up.

The problem is that when we get our identity tied up in our work, we worry that any kind of failure will then say something bad about us as a person. It’s a fear of taking responsibility, of admitting that we might have messed up. It’s the sunk cost fallacy. And so we throw good money and good life after bad and end up making everything so much worse.

Let’s say the walls feel like they’re closing in. It might feel as if you’ve been betrayed or your life’s work is being stolen. These are not rational, good emotions that will lead to rational, good actions. Ego asks: Why is this happening to me? How do I save this and prove to everyone I’m as great as they think? It’s the animal fear of even the slightest sign of weakness.

You’ve seen this. You’ve done this. Fighting desperately for something we’re only making worse. It is not a path to great things."

- Ryan Holliday, "Ego is the Enemy"

"At the heart of any management framework is the goal of making better decisions. As people naturally gravitate to the different permutations of better — quicker, higher quality, cheaper, etc. — they neglect to take a nuanced look at the distinct types of decisions that a company makes. In an annual letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks of two varieties of decisions: the irreversible (Type 1) and the changeable (Type 2). Here’s how he describes them:

  • Type 1 decisions: “Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before.”

  • Type 2 decisions: “But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.”

As a company grows, there’s a tendency to broadly apply the Type 1 decision-making process to every choice, including Type 2 decisions. To paraphrase Bezos, what results is a slowness and an unthoughtful risk aversion that leads to a failure to experiment and diminished invention."

- First Round Review: "How A/B Testing at LinkedIn, Wealthfront and eBay Made Me a Better Manager"
"So why do we avoid intellectual discomfort? Because it requires our deepest level of thought, attention, and presence – much of which we’ve lost touch with as a result of full inboxes, the growing number of social media platforms, and media content that updates constantly. Deeply intellectual work is soul work that takes more time and energy.  And it goes against the ways we’ve conditioned ourselves to work – on autopilot. We observe life versus engaging in it, whether we mechanically scroll through our social media feed to distract ourselves or use apps to make every step of our day more mindless.

But rarely do we improve when the task is easy..."

- Carson Tate, "How to Fight Through Intellectual Discomfort."

The Moral Economy of Tech

"People who excel at software design become convinced that they have a unique ability to understand any kind of system at all, from first principles, without prior training, thanks to their superior powers of analysis. Success in the artificially constructed world of software design promotes a dangerous confidence.

...the real world is a stubborn place. It is complex in ways that resist abstraction and modeling. It notices and reacts to our attempts to affect it. Nor can we hope to examine it objectively from the outside, any more than we can step out of our own skin.

The connected world we're building may resemble a computer system, but really it's just the regular old world from before, with a bunch of microphones and keyboards and flat screens sticking out of it. And it has the same old problems.

Approaching the world as a software problem is a category error that has led us into some terrible habits of mind."

- Maciej Cegłowski, "The Moral Economy of Tech"

(This post is one of those posts that is so full of good that it's very difficult to excerpt just one piece. If you read one thing this week, it should be this.)

Cannes Lions, in bullets and slides

The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is the world's top advertising and creative communications conference. Many bottles of rosé are drunk between sessions on advertising, publishing, fashion, movies, and more. It's fascinating if you work in one of those industries and probably just as fascinating if you loathe those industries.

Want to get a taste of it all in one go? Read Cannes Lions 2016 in Bullet Points.

If you prefer pictures, take a look at 100+ Beautiful Slides from Cannes Lions 2016. You can take a trip down memory lane with the "100 Beautiful Slides" from 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 and "100 Bullet Points" from 2012 and 2011.

"But the more I've learned about the history and the science of media consumption, the more I've come to believe this is the future of how we will appreciate television and movies. Maybe not everyone will watch on fast-forward like I do, but we will all be watching on our own terms.

In a way, what's happening to video recalls what happened to literature when we stopped reading aloud, together, and started reading silently, alone. Beginning in the Middle Ages, people no longer had to gather in groups to hear tales or learn the news or study religion. They could be alone with a text and their own thoughts, an unprecedented freedom that led to political and religious turmoil and forever changed intellectual life.

With computers, video consumption is also becoming a solitary, self-paced act — and maybe a more analytical act, as well. If you believe, as I do, in the artistic potential of television and film, then perhaps we are on the brink of another cultural transformation — viewers finally seizing control of this medium. And the medium will be better for it."

- Jeff Guo, "I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything."

(OMG, READ THIS ARTICLE. It has information on the history of reading that I never knew, and it's just fascinating from a consumption-of-information viewpoint.)


I just got invited to a beta for a cool service - and now I'm inviting you.

Highly allows you to highlight things on the web and then share them with your friends. I find this really useful because there's a number of articles where there's one or two good paragraphs that I want to remember.

Interested? Join me on Highly to read my highlights and share your own. www.highly.co/by/rednikki

This Is How to Make Good Decisions

"Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful — and neuroscience backs this up. Trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain and makes you feel out of control.

Via The Upward Spiral:

Trying for the best, instead of good enough, brings too much emotional ventromedial prefrontal activity into the decision-making process. In contrast, recognizing that good enough is good enough activates more dorsolateral prefrontal areas, which helps you feel more in control…

Sound too easy? Too simplistic? Okay, let’s look at a real world example of how people at the highest levels make decisions.

James Waters was Deputy Director of Scheduling at The White House. (Word on the street is they make some pretty big decisions there.) What did James tell me?

“A good decision now is better than a perfect decision in two days”
- Eric Barker, "This is how to make good decisions: 4 secrets backed by research"

Life in the People's Republic of WeChat

"I drift by company displays and find myself at the table for Yoli, a business that offers a sort of speed dating for English learners: 15-minute on-demand tutoring sessions with native speakers through WeChat. Two sheets of paper taped to the table each bear a pixelated QR code: Scan one to become a teacher, scan the other to become a student.

The Chinese term for this ritual, sao yi sao, quickly becomes familiar. Everyone and almost everything on WeChat has a QR code, and sao yi sao-ing with your phone is both constant and strangely satisfying. James, a tanned American with unruly blond hair who mans the Yoli table, is here to host a workshop called “How We Built a WeChat App & Recovered Our Development Costs Within 24hrs.” He scans my code, which gives him my WeChat profile and also generates the equivalent of a friend request; I accept, and we agree to meet during the week, skipping right over the old-fashioned niceties of last names and business cards.

The presentations are about to start, and jet lag is kicking in. I hurry to the coffee counter for an iced Americano. There’s a QR code in a plastic photo frame. The woman ahead of me is scanning it. I try it, and … WeChat fail. I’ve entered a credit card into WeChat, but it won’t work, and my WeChat wallet is empty. I feel distinctly self-conscious fumbling around for yuan. I’ve been in WeChat-era China one day, and already cash money feels embarrassing."

- Dune Lawrence, "Life in the People's Republic of WeChat"
"Some observers believed Harner resorted to plagiarism to keep her rankings up, Carew said. Before she was caught, Harner was considered unusually prolific, producing 75 novels in five years. Amazon rewards writers who come out with new books quickly by putting them higher in the rankings, which in turn means more sales. This policy also puts pressure on authors to write more to maintain visibility and to offset the dropping price of ebooks. “This may sound crazy, but I have 18 releases planned for this year,” Carew said. “In order to survive, I have to put out as many books as I can ... If you’re living on your writing like I am, the stress can get to you.”

When a reader buys a self-published book, Amazon keeps 30 percent of the royalties and gives the rest to the authors—meaning the company makes money whether the book is plagiarized or not. A traditional publisher is liable if it puts out a book that violates copyright. But Amazon is protected from the same fate by federal law as long as it removes the offending content.

Amazon regularly complies with this rule, and plagiarized books are removed from the site. However, it can take a while for the company to respond to complaints, which can be maddening for authors, since every day a fake book is up is a day they’re losing sales. The company spokesperson Justin O’Kelly said Amazon has a team dedicated to stopping plagiarism, but he wouldn’t go into details about their methods for fear of giving plagiarists ideas. “In the rare instance when plagiarized titles make it through, that same team makes sure they are taken down quickly, and repeat offenders are blocked,” he said."
- Joy Lanzendorfer, "Stealing Books in the Age of Self-Publishing."

"A fascinating aspect of the Kleiner Perkins ritual is how the extremely detailed and comprehensive slide deck leaves unsaid the important extrapolations that can be made from it. There is no room here for a mention of Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who secretly funded Hulk Hogan’s devastating lawsuit against gossip and news site Gawker, and the subsequent debate about the controls on and role of free speech in a powerful commercial sphere. Population and employment trends are nodded to without a discussion of how every job we currently hold is going to be done better by a robot. There is a celebration of listening devices, and “audio search”, and an unrelated chart about how people feel about privacy and data without an explicit link being made between the two.

Issues which spring from the highly concentrated world Meeker describes, issues of money power and culture, cannot be charted in the line graphs and pie charts which tell us where the money and eyeballs are going. In fairness it isn’t an investment firm’s job to do this, but the cultural and political inferences that ought to be made from these “big picture” presentations are profound."

- Emily Bell, "'Bible of trends' for the media industry charts more famine than feast."

"Harry found the gig on Crowdflower, a crowdworking platform. Usually that cell-tagging task would be the job of pathologists, who typically start their careers with annual salaries of around $200,000 — an hourly wage of about $80. Harry, on the other hand, earns just four cents for annotating a batch of five images, which takes him between two to eight minutes. His hourly wage is about 60 cents.

Granted, Harry can’t perform most of the tasks in a pathologist’s repertoire. But in 2016 — 11 years after the launch of the ur-platform, Amazon Mechanical Turk —  crowdworking (sometimes also called crowdsourcing) is eating into increasingly high-skilled jobs. The engineers who are developing this model of labor have a bold ambition to atomize entire careers into micro-tasks that almost anyone, anywhere in the world, can carry out online. They’re banking on the idea that any technology that can make a complex process 100 times cheaper, as in Harry’s case, will spread like wildfire.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that in a few years, software will swallow up these jobs, too. But as the tech conversation has fixated on how artificial intelligence will affect the job market, crowdwork has quietly grown in impact and scale.

The next jobs to receive the crowd treatment? Doctors, managers and teachers."

- Mark Harris, "Say Goodbye to Your Highly Skilled Job. It's Now a 'Human Intelligence Task.'"

What I’m referring to are those that believe being “industry famous” in the creative world is success in of itself. Especially those that start out with that goal in mind. This is where the Complex can poison talent. Being industry famous should be the result of some contribution to the world that the industry respects and wishes to learn from. Or insights unique and useful that it genuinely makes people’s lives better.

Increasingly “creative coaches” and people with “keynote speaker” in their Twitter bios are making their quest to earn authority a higher priority than the very reason they got into this in the first place. Fueling the Complex is alluring catnip that feels like you’re advancing your career the same way answering a bunch of emails just feels productive.

If someone cares more about what their industry peers think of them than the problems they are solving, they’re a bullshitter. If the idea of being “known” is barometer of their success above user (or reader) success stories, they’re a bullshitter. They are the internet’s equivalent of a reality TV star, taking advantage of the attention economy by catering to our worst instincts in lieu of substance.”

- Sean Blanda, "The Creative World's Bullshit-Industrial Complex"

(thanks @jessedee for the link)
"Because Twitter was a reverse chronology network once a Tweet had passed by your stream you were unlikely to see it. The “half life” was very short. As somebody who invested his time heavily in writing and wanting to share his thoughts through a blog I learned that I had to Tweet a post 3 times to get it read: 5am, 8am and 10pm. The readers seldom overlapped so nobody seemed pissed off at me as being an “over sharer” but it was clearly a fear of mine. You don’t want your friends to stop following you because they think you’re polluting their stream.

Facebook had an elegant solution to the “half life” problem in that it developed an algorithm that determined what users saw in their feeds. I’m not an expert in the algo but essentially if a “post” got some heat (lots of people clicking, favoriting & sharing) in a short period of time then more people saw the post in their feeds. The more heat you got the more your post would stay at the top of the feed of your friends....

...The puritans in us loved the former, the pragmatists in us knew the algo produced more engaging results. Eventually Twitter acquiesced and started putting Tweets that you missed “while you were away.” I actually think they did a pretty good job of introducing what was a controversial change and navigating the trolls in all of us that resist change...

And Snapchat has changed the game and in ways that I think the community doesn’t even quite understand yet..."

- Mark Suster, "Half Lives. Social Media. And Snapchat Stories."
"No one disputes that the Black Death happened or that it was a society-reordering disaster. But, as Sarah Kaplan reports in The Washington Post, researchers haven’t had much to go on to confirm the claims that a quarter to half of Europe’s population perished because of the plague. Compared to modern plagues, like the Spanish flu in the early 20th century, which killed about 3 percent of the world’s population, the number killed by the Black Death seemed high.

That’s one reason archaeologist Carenza Lewis of the University of Lincoln decided to dig a little deeper. She excavated 2,000 one-meter-square pits in 55 rural settlements occupied before and after the plague across eastern Britain, looking for the concentration of pottery shards, broken bits of everyday pottery...

Her findings, which will appear in Antiquity Journal, show that in many places the pot shards are plentiful in pre-plague layers, while in the time after the disease they seriously diminish. According to Maev Kennedy at The Guardian, the overall decline was about 44.7 percent. The devastation was not equal, though, with places in England like Norfolk showing a 65 percent decline and Gaywood and Paston showing up to 85 percent drops. Kennedy points out that the numbers are likely conservative since villages that were totally wiped out or abandoned because of the Black Death were not sampled."

- Jason Daley, "Research Reveals More Complete Picture of the Devastation Wrought by the Black Death."

"Where does technology exploit our minds’ weaknesses?

I learned to think this way when I was a magician. Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.

And this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.

I want to show you how they do it..."

- Tristan Harris, "How Technology Hijacks People's Minds - From a Magician and Google's Design Ethicist."

For examples of these deceptive techniques in action, visit the Dark Patterns website.

"It isn’t about product. It’s about getting paid. There are plenty of products people want, but they’re not good businesses. It is because they fail as businesses that they can’t be built as products, not the other way around.

Take productivity apps. People won’t pay enough extra for a good calendar or address book vs. a mediocre one to power a healthy business without massive scale. And, since most of these apps aren’t inherently “viral,” the cost of acquiring new customers is too high to justify a low contribution-per-customer business.

A lack of a great business model makes maintaining long-term focus and attracting a top-notch team to solve a problem nearly impossible. This lack puts things which consumers might want fundamentally out of reach as realized products."

- Sam Lessin, "The Non-Monetizable Product Blind Spot"

"Many more established companies are sure to follow suit [by acquiring or building platform businesses], as are thousands of startups. But before they tread this path, they should consider a few caveats. First, most products and services are not substantial enough to make a good platform. And even if they are, it is not always a good idea to turn them into one, says Ms Gawer, who is co-authoring a book to debunk myths about the concept. The late Steve Jobs, for instance, long resisted opening Apple’s app store to others for fear of losing control.

Second, network effects often fizzle. All sides of an online marketplace have to be nurtured in parallel to avoid imbalances, such as having far more sellers than buyers. During the dotcom bubble most business-to-business marketplaces failed because their pursuit of growth led to such lopsidedness. Even firms that had a head start, such as MySpace and Nokia, a social network and a mobile-phone maker respectively, didn’t manage to turn themselves into fully fledged platforms. Most successful ones are the product of specific circumstances and even chance, reckons Peter Evans of CGE. Amazon, for example, took off in part because its customers did not have to pay sales tax if they were outside the firm’s home state, Washington.

Third, it is not always easy to make money from platforms. Misjudge how much to charge each group of customers, and the flywheel can come to a juddering halt. What is more, for a platform to make good money, switching to a rival has to be costly, argues Andrei Hagiu of Harvard Business School. This risk even hangs over Uber, the fast-expanding taxi-hailing service: using a competitor is easy for both passengers and drivers."

- Schumpeter, "The emporium strikes back"

"In effect, what Facebook has done with Instant Articles is eerily similar to what Amazon did with Amazon Web Services. Prior to AWS, startup costs were so high as to create a significant barrier to entry for most new enterprises. Value accrued to the large companies that could leverage their scale to build new businesses. With AWS, new startups were able to compete with a fraction of the initial capital and infrastructure previously required. Now Facebook has broadly done the same thing to media.

Small ad-supported media companies previously didn’t have the scale to access high CPMs, couldn’t make the comScore Top 50, and were stuck in remnant hell making tiny CPMs. Even hot media companies like Vice would aggregate sites together to boost their audience numbers and make them more palatable. Now new entities will be able to spin up a company with a fraction of the investment required, and without the legacy overhead of their traditional peers...

This kind of leveling of the playing field creates fertile conditions for startup creation. Just as we saw ultra-light startups emerge and use AWS to compete and disrupt the giants in their industry, so will we see ultralight media companies emerge and use Facebook to compete with traditional media. Ev Williams is attempting to provide much the same set of services with Medium’s publisher tools, making the bet that the platform-based world is the future, and that there's room for more than one."

- Tony Haile, "The Facebook Papers, Part 3: Facebook pulls a page from the Amazon playbook"

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