"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.
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"
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"
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"
Publisher tech teams do their best to wage war on bloat and improve experience, but with these industry forces acting as a counterweight, doing so is often akin to trying to balance the federal budget by cutting funding for the arts. Pity the media company CTO who has to deal with orders to improve their UX while also improving viewability and programmatic and mobile CPMs.
Confronted with the Sisyphean task of improving their own user experience, media companies are instead doing what the music and movie industry did when confronted with a superior unsanctioned user experience: They are responding with legal threats and attempts to make the unsanctioned user experience worse."
- Tony Haile, "The Facebook papers part 2: The user experience revolt."
- Warren Ellis, "Orbital Operations"
(In this issue Ellis details his work process. The detail makes several things clear: first, he's one of the highest-functioning people out there; second, even someone as high functioning as Ellis has to give up a lot of what they want to do in order to get the things they have to do done; third, no matter how talented and successful you are, you can still be caught up in the same frustrations, self-doubts and issues as us mere mortals.)
When we make the case for crediting our sources, most of us concentrate on the plight of the original creator of the work. But that’s only half of the story—if you fail to properly attribute work that you share, you not only rob the person who made it, you rob all the people you’ve shared it with. Without attribution, they have no way to dig deeper into the work or find more of it.
So, what makes for great attribution?"
- Austin Kleon, "Credit is Always Due" (h/t @jessedee for recommending Kleon's work to me!)
The Traffic Test is passed when I’m finishing up a hangout with someone and one of us is driving the other back home or back to their car, and I find myself rooting for traffic. That’s how much I’m enjoying the time with them.
Passing the Traffic Test says a lot. It means I’m lost in the interaction, invigorated by it, and that I’m the complete opposite of bored.
To me, almost nothing is more critical in choosing a life partner than finding someone who passes the Traffic Test. When there are people in your life who do pass the Traffic Test, what a whopping shame it would be to spend 95% of the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t."
- Tim Urban, "How to Pick Your Life Partner" Part 1 Part 2
It’s a mess. And with the monkey in charge, the procrastinator finds himself spending a lot of time in a place called the Dark Playground.
The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread. Sometimes the Rational Decision-Maker puts his foot down and refuses to let you waste time doing normal leisure things, and since the Instant Gratification Monkey sure as hell isn’t gonna let you work, you find yourself in a bizarre purgatory of weird activities where everyone loses."
- Tim Urban, "Why Procrastinators Procrastinate"
Tim Urban points out that the typical advice for procrastinators — essentially, to stop what they’re doing and get down to work, is ridiculous, because procrastination isn’t something that extreme procrastinators feel as though they can control.
“While we’re here, let’s make sure obese people avoid overeating, depressed people avoid apathy, and someone please tell beached whales that they should avoid being out of the ocean,” Urban writes.
But there are some simple tips, those who study the subject say, that can help procrastinators get down to business."
- Ana Swanson, "The real reasons you procrastinate - and how to stop"
But where does that leave the people who don’t have a calling or enough resources? To drop everything and do what you love, you need a safety net, flexibility, and a passion that also happens to be a marketable skill. It’s a beautiful thing when someone turns the fire in their belly into a fulfilling career, but the stories we tell about creativity don’t apply to everyone.
It’s time we examine the messages we’re sending about creative fulfillment and explore new ways to talk about our work."
- Kate Kiefer Lee, "Putting Work In Its Place"
The bigger problem with comparison, however, isn’t just that it hurts our perception of ourselves, it’s that it’s actually counterproductive to connection and sisterhood. When we compare ourselves to others, we aren’t appreciating them—we’re challenging our own worthiness.
We’re also harboring negative feelings about why we don’t look like them, and those feelings often end up reverberating off of the women against whom we’re comparing ourselves. This breeds resentment, jealousy, and disconnection.
When we compare what we have to what someone else has, we rarely see the full picture. We might think someone “has it all” and lust after their figure or their looks, but we don’t know about the darkness that they might have to battle each day, the struggles that they must overcome. We don’t have to fight their demons. Not to mention, we don’t have their genetics, which plays a huge role in the way our bodies develop.
This tendency to compare has painful consequences when it comes to how we show up in the world. We wind up placing much of our focus on someone else’s world, rather than being fully present in our own. Inevitably, we miss out on the opportunity to live in the moment."
- Neghar Fonooni, "You Are More Than Your Body (Fat)"
...Cinematic VR necessitates breaking the traditional construct of a linear story that hits certain beats: this happens, then this, then this. Good immersive content doesn’t just deviate from this pattern, it flips it on its head. Instead of plotting moments on a timeline, it builds a world for the viewer to experience on their own. Instead of trying to control what the viewer sees or feels, the filmmaker is sculpting a time in space, where everything that happens in between the beats is part of the story too."
- Meghan Neal, "How Traditional Storytelling is Ruining Virtual Reality Film"
...Welcome to the world of creatives with day jobs, populated by the vast majority of artistic people. But among the broken dreams is a world in which you can not only survive, but thrive. You don’t have to be cynical and bitter, you can be optimistic and realistic. Yes, realistic optimism is an actual thing that involves recognizing harsh realities while understanding how to make the best of them. This post isn’t about giving up on your dreams, it's about embracing the journey to achieve them. It's also about accepting the reality that you may never be able to work on your number one creative passion full time. Here’s how you can live like that and be happy."
- "How to Be an Artist With a Day Job," Evan Brown
- "Shoppers Browse, Chatbots Don't: Why Chat Sucks for Shopping"
(yes, this is a little bit of self promotion! Give it a read and let me know what you think.)
To prove our point, we’re taking a closer look at body ideals over the last 100 years—which shows that, as they say on Project Runway, 'In fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.'"
- Maria Hart, "See How Much the 'Perfect' Female Body Has Changed in 100 Years (It's Crazy!)"
(Some really great infographics in this one!)
To tackle it, Lin needed to make sure that he had a good picture of where such toxicity was coming from. So he got a team to review chat logs from thousands of games each day and to code statements from players as positive, neutral or negative.
The resulting map of toxic behaviour was surprising. Common wisdom holds that the bulk of the cruelty on the Internet comes from a sliver of its inhabitants — the trolls. Indeed, Lin's team found that only about 1% of players were consistently toxic. But it turned out that these trolls produced only about 5% of the toxicity in League of Legends. “The vast majority was from the average person just having a bad day,” says Lin. They behaved well for the most part, but lashed out on rare occasions.
That meant that even if Riot banned all the most toxic players, it might not have a big impact. To reduce the bad behaviour that most players experienced, the company would have to change how players act.Lin borrowed a concept from classic psychology. In late 2012, he initiated a massive test of priming, the idea that imagery or messages presented just before an activity can nudge behaviours in one direction or another..."
- Brendan Maher, "Can a video game company tame toxic behaviour?"
There’s an easy answer: Don’t.
Yeah, it’s a trick question. But we’ve all been led to believe that self-confidence or self-esteem is the answer to everything. It’s not. In fact, research shows it’s the cause of a lot of problems.
We don’t need more self-esteem. We need more self-compassion.
- Eric Barker, "How to Be More Confident: 3 Secrets Backed By Research."
- Eric Jhonsa, "Facebook Takes on YouTube and Tries to Halt a Sharing Decline"