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Feb. 9th, 2016

"It’s no wonder these companies employ teams of people focused on engineering their services to be as engaging as possible. These products aren’t habit-forming by chance; it’s by design. They have an incentive to keep us hooked.

According to Adam Marchick, CEO of mobile marketing company Kahuna, less than 15 percent of smartphone users ever bother to adjust their notification settings — meaning the remaining 85 percent of us default to the app makers’ every whim and ping. Google and Apple, who make the two dominant mobile operating systems, have made it far too difficult to adjust these settings so it’s up to us to take steps to ensure we set these triggers to suit our own needs, not the needs of the app makers’."
- "Who's Really Addicting Us to Technology?" Nir Eyal

Feb. 8th, 2016

Sometimes behavior that seems malicious turns out to actually be extreme incompetence.

Feb. 8th, 2016

"This is why I spend/waste time ruminating on things like public presence versus private conversation, where my data exhaust goes and thinking on the open net as opposed to behind locked doors. I've been saying (until you're all bored shitless) that change in the online space is a constant storm, and the current situation of apparent solidity is down to a lot of people sandbagging the walls. Look at Twitter's Jack Dorsey talking about 10,000-character tweets out of one side of his mouth, leaking data about the forthcoming algorithmically-sorted timeline out of the other, while holding up a big shiny placard saying EVERYTHING IS FINE AND TWITTER WILL BE MORE TWITTERY. Look at Facebook's constant evolution, trying to stay ten seconds ahead of the moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.

Tune your world. Route around damage. Make valuable connections. Don't waste your signal. All this stuff costs time and electricity.

In the words of yet another: if you don't have a plan, you'll be part of someone else's plan."
- "Orbital Operations, Feb. 7," Warren Ellis
(You can subscribe to Orbital Operations, which always has some chewy nugget to think on, here.)

How to tell if someone is lying

"When we’re emotional, we pay less attention. Our brains take shortcuts. We get roped in...We’ll question facts. We’ll question logic. But we rarely question our feelings. And when we start trusting our feelings when someone is deliberately manipulating them, that can lead to bad decisions.

Why? Because we all secretly believe that we deserve to have good things happen to us. And when people give an emotional presentation that might be a little too good to be true, we want to believe it."
- "How to Tell if Someone is Lying," Eric Barker
(so much more good stuff in this post!)

Feb. 5th, 2016

"The internet has allowed for an explosion of population density — taking what urban offline environments started and moving it to a step growth change in density. The connections made through every major network from Facebook through to Gmail, Uber, Slack, SnapChat, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube is changing how quickly we can evolve as a civilization. It is mind boggling to think of Facebook’s billion *daily* active users, but we haven’t even seen the statistic on the number of total connections between those users. The connections between users, fan pages and huge social accounts represents density."

- "Life After Publish: A World Beyond Post and Pray" by Paul Berry

Feb. 4th, 2016

"For decades, scarce capital and constrained distribution capacity meant that the media’s industry bottlenecks sat in the middle of the value chain. Today, however, the bottleneck has moved to the very end: consumer attention. This shifts the balance of power from determining what should be made to finding a way to convince people what to watch, listen to or read in a world of infinitely abundant content."

- "Age of Abundance: How the Content Explosion Will Invert the Media Industry" by Tal Shachar with Liam Boluk

Being perfect

"For much of my life, I’ve held up this standard of Perfect Ash: she forgives careless people, isn’t affected by YouTube comment sections and always does the right thing. Every year, I bray, “this is the year! This is the year I’ll finally become Perfect Ash!”

(If you can’t tell, I stress about being vengeful, weak, insecure, aggressive and unreliable…a lot.)

Being ‘good’ is not real. Being blessed as ‘good’ doesn’t mean that all your actions from now on will be good. Acts of morality are impressive because we can always choose to do the opposite."

- "The Big Answer: Don't Wait for the Blessing," Ash Huang

The dangers of multitasking

"Multitasking makes it more difficult to organize thoughts and filter out irrelevant information, and it reduces the efficiency and quality of our work...The biggest instigator of multitasking mayhem? Our inboxes. Some studies have shown that even the opportunity to multitask, such as knowledge of an unread email in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points! The constant thrill of a new bolded email in our inbox keeps us ever-distracted. A McKinsey Global Institute Study found that employees spend 28 percent of their workweek checking emails."
- "Multitasking is Killing Your Brain," Larry Kim


After five months of diligently doing Pilates twice a week, I just took a deep breath and joined ClassPass. We'll see where that takes me!

L’esprit d’escalier

[Denis Diderot coined the phrase l’esprit d’escalier - "staircase wit" - to refer to situations where you find the perfect response to someone's comment only after you've left the room and it is too late to say anything.]

"Most of us have our own personal version of this experience. After interviewing for a job, auditioning for a role, going on a date, pitching an idea, speaking up in a meeting or in class, arguing with someone at a dinner party.

But how did we get there? We probably were worrying what others would think of us, but believing we already knew what they thought; feeling powerless, and also consenting to that feeling; clinging to the outcome and attributing far too much importance to it instead of focusing on the process. These worries coalesce into a toxic cocktail of self-defeat. That’s how we got there. Before we even show up at the doorstep of an opportunity, we are teeming with dread and anxiety, borrowing trouble from a future that hasn’t yet unfolded."

This, Cuddy notes, invariably leaves us with a sunken spirit, which in turn prevents us from showing up for any interaction with our whole, unselfconscious selves...The counterpoint to this paralyzing self-consciousness, Cuddy argues, is the quality of presence — an ability to project poised confidence, passion, and enthusiasm in high-pressure situations, which can’t be easily faked but can be deliberately cultivated.

- "Harvard Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy on Mastering the Antidote to Anxiety, Self-Consciousness, and Impostor Syndrome," Maria Popova

Jan. 25th, 2016

"Turns out altruism and jerk-itude also move through networks. Here’s Nicholas:

We’ve shown that altruistic behavior ripples through networks and so does meanness. Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with. They will magnify Ebola and fascism and unhappiness and violence, but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.

And the workplace isn’t much different. Behavior is contagious there, too.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

Psychologists have observed that bad habits can spread through an office like a contagious disease. Employees tend to mirror the bad behaviors of their co-workers, with factors as diverse as low morale, poor working habits, and theft from the employer all rising based on the negative behavior of peers. – Greene 1999

When I spoke to Stanford GSB professor Bob Sutton, he told me his #1 piece of advice to students was this:

When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with — because the odds are you’re going to become like them, they are not going to become like you."

- "The Lazy Way to an Awesome Life," Eric Barker

Jan. 24th, 2016

"As Twenge and Campbell explain in The Narcissism Epidemic, it’s a myth that narcissism is just “high self-esteem” or that underneath it all narcissists are insecure and overcompensating.

Narcissists believe they really are that awesome — and you’re not. (The latter part doesn’t matter, narcissists don’t think about you much at all, frankly.)

How can you tell if someone is a narcissist? It’s easy; just ask them. Research shows narcissists feel so good about themselves they don’t mind admitting it.

And narcissism can be quite beneficial in the short term. They make fantastic first impressions. In job interviews and on first dates, narcissists get results. And in youth, being a narcissist makes you happier.

Narcissists are more likely to become leaders and narcissists who obsessively work hard are more likely to get promoted. But the stuff that works for them so well in the short term proves lethal in the long term.

That job interview is great but UPenn professor Scott Barry Kaufman explains that after three weeks people regard narcissists as untrustworthy. And narcissists might become leaders but they’re not good ones. And when prestige isn’t on the line, most narcissists don’t work that hard....

So how do you deal with them? Here are 5 strategies from scientific research."

- "How to Deal With a Narcissist," Eric Barker

Anyone out there on Peach yet?

I'm there, same user ID as usual...

Jan. 23rd, 2016

"...The illusion of audience ownership is becoming harder to sustain, and the audiences are getting bigger and bigger. 2013 was the year every major site with a social strategy broke traffic records by a mile; 2014 was the year they looked around at everyone else’s sudden success and became slightly less confident touting their numbers, because they all hit them by doing and talking about very similar things; 2015, when a single weird or clever native Facebook video can easily out-traffic a week of a site’s web content, is the year it’s becoming clear to everyone who these audiences really belong to, and what it means to borrow them. 2016 is the year we find out what the price of access will be.

But yes, this is the clear upside of feeding the platforms. Twitter and Instagram and Vine and Snapchat and especially Facebook are larger concentrations of people than virtually any conceivable publication, and these people are clicking, tapping, scrolling and sharing more vigorously than people ever did on websites. Platforms! Where the action is; where the actions are. Companies that are able to work out advertising partnerships with these platforms will be able to extract not just attention but money; those that can’t, or don’t, will find themselves in a position not unlike the one they put writers in during the last period of the internet economy: doing it for the exposure.

Klein also notes a downside: that publishing on platforms could result in a sort of lowest-common-denominator sameness as publishers spend more time and resources on content that works across many platforms. This concern is valid, but probably solves itself. The first thing you notice when you spam your content across platforms is that it’s rare, in 2015, for one thing to do extraordinarily well in more than one or two venues without significant modification. The next thing you learn is that the best way to succeed on a given platform is to write/film/record/aggregate with that platform explicitly in mind. The next thing you learn is that doing so makes that content extremely weird when taken out of context, which makes it incompatible with other venues. A Vine video might work on Facebook, if you’re lucky, but a Facebook video probably won’t work on Vine. Quizzes that explode on Facebook seem strange on Twitter. A tweet might seem powerful and informative in the Twitter timeline, but look small and pathetic embedded in a website; a tweeted joke might do decently on Twitter but function better as a screen-cap on Tumblr, if at all. The article or video or object that functions well across all contexts is either transcendently newsworthy or shocking—and therefore rare—or extensively adapted. I’m not sure this cross-compatible “lowest-common-denominator” content can even exist—that there is some sort of platonic ideal of shareable CONTENT that all platforms respect. Although it would be nice! (Wouldn’t it?) The alternative—lowest-common-denominator content, catered to the formal weirdness of each individual platform—is a lot more work. A suggestion for distressed or miserable media humans: Club yourself in the head until you don’t remember who you are, and then open all these apps again, as if for the first time. They are very different venues. This is perhaps obvious to everyone but the people pumping them full of effortful professional content."

- "Mutually Assured Content," John Herman
(note: The entire article is worth reading and goes far more in depth into the future of the Internet)

Jan. 20th, 2016

'It started with an offhand remark from a friend as she grimaced at her phone: “What a novel.” She gestured to the Facebook message filling her screen.

The message in question was polite and standard: a salutation, a reference to how they met, a socially-savvy balance of interest and casual. There was nothing that should have sparked such displeasure.

What was happening here?
Let’s do some science!

From my friend’s comment, it sounded like the length of the message had a lot to do with her ‘ick’ response. Since the UI can affect how long a message appears, I wondered: “Would people react differently to the same message displayed in different UIs?”'

- "Facebook and how UIs Twist Your Words" by Chantal Jandard

(Go read, it's fascinating!)

Habits vs. routines

"Building a habit is relatively simple — just harness the impulse. For new habits to take hold, provide a clear trigger, make the behavior easy to do, and ensure it occurs frequently. For example, by completely removing unhealthy food from my home and eating the same thing every morning, my diet became a healthy habit. I extracted the decision making process out of what I eat at home.

However, if the behavior requires a high degree of intentionality, effort, or deliberation, it is not a habit. Although proponents of habits tout them as miracle cures for doing things we’d rather not do, I’m sorry to say that’s snake oil. All sorts of tasks aren’t habits and never will be. By definition, doing things that are effortful aren’t habits.

Unfortunately, this means behaviors that require hard work and deliberate practice aren’t good candidates for habit-formation. For example, although I make time for it every day, writing is not a habit. Writing is hard work. If I waited for an “impulse” to write, I’d never do it. To get better at writing requires concentration and directed effort to make sense of the words as they go from the research to my head and then to the screen. Similarly, lifting weights isn’t a habit because getting stronger requires working harder."

- "Are Habits Overhyped? Here's What Really Works: The Strange (But Effective) Way I Stick to Hard Goals." Nyr Eyal

Jan. 13th, 2016

We will never be the same again. But here’s a little secret for you—no one is ever the same thing again after anything. You are never the same twice, and much of your unhappiness comes from trying to pretend that you are. Accept that you are different each day, and do so joyfully, recognizing it for the gift it is. Work within the desires and goals of the person you are currently, until you aren’t that person anymore, and everything changes once again.
- Cecil, Welcome to Night Vale, Episode 75

Five questions!

Thanks veek for the questions!

1) What are your ideal reading circumstances?

It's probably shorter to ask what AREN'T my ideal reading circumstances. I will read anytime, anywhere, under any conditions. I have been known to read cereal boxes in-depth because it was the only reading material available.

Counterintuitively, however, I've found that with the Kobo e-reader I need to use two hands to read (one to hold the book and one to turn the page), while with paper books I was quite adept at reading one-handed.

2) Assuming time and money are not an issue, what's your next dream travel destination, and why?

My next dream trip is an ACTUAL trip that we're going on! We're going to Australia and New Zealand for a month - two weeks each. We're visiting several places in Australia I've never been, including Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, the Barossa Valley and Coober Pedy. We're also going to do the South Island of New Zealand, which I've never been to.

However, if I could augment this, I'd add the Cape to Cape Walking Track in Australia and the Milford Track in New Zealand. But Mike isn't into hiking like I am, so those are things I'd need to do on my own.

3) What's your favorite self-care activity these days?


4) What's your relationship with sleep like?

Better than it has been for years but still not ideal. It takes me a while to fall asleep and I tend to wake up frequently in the night. My dad's morning person genes finally kicked in as well, so I regularly wake up around 5am.

5) What's the most fun thing you're looking forward to in the near future?

Depends on what you mean by "near." If you mean "this year," it's the above trip. If you mean sooner, I'm going to this which may be relevant to your interests (albeit not near enough to you to attend).
I'm still pondering this one. A friend posted it last night; she got it from a friend of hers. It's an exercise I'll be working on for a little while yet.

Jan. 10th, 2016

'It’s weird, then, that most of us continue swallowing thoughts that sicken us, over and over. “Swallowing” thoughts simply means believing them. When we believe a thought that’s wrong for us, our hearts and bodies struggle, retch, and spasm, trying to eject them. It’s not a subtle reaction, yet we grimly keep down our poisonous beliefs by refusing to question them.

“I’m bad.” “I’m ugly.” “I never get it right.” Just hold those thoughts in your mind and feel how sick they make you. I mean physically sick—weak, tired, achy, and vulnerable to stress. Then begin focusing on any evidence that refutes them. “My dog thinks I’m good.” “Some parts of me are beautiful.” “I got a lot of things right today.” Pay attention, and you’ll feel your sickness begin to lessen.'

- "Don't Swallow Poison," Martha Beck

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