Weekly Links & Thoughts #172

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Usually published every Wednesday/Thursday (CET),  just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • The Limits of Expertise (quilette.com, 2)
    Brilliant analysis of how experts’ lack of humility and overestimation of their predictive abilities in open systems have caused the erosion of trust in expertise.
  • Looking for Life on a Flat Earth (newyorker.com, 3)
    Fringe beliefs such as those of “Flat Earthers” might be the direct consequence of the erosion of trust in expertise.
  • Your Phone Is Listening and it’s Not Paranoia (vice.com, 2)
    Talking about beliefs: Even after reading this piece, I still find it hard to conclude whether large tech companies do in fact listen to conversations and use the data for targeted ads or not. Lots of people (including the author) report having noticed this. But this still could be cognitive biases at work (such as selective perception or frequency illusion). I’m now testing it myself: Saying out loud to my smartphone that I really want a new Espresso Machine. I don’t drink Espresso and don’t interact with coffee content, so technically I should never be targeted with an Espresso Machine ad. However, particularly on Instagram, I get targeted with all kinds of irrelevant ads. So even if I should notice an ad for an Espresso Machine over the next days or weeks, this wouldn’t be a sufficient proof.
  • The Jeff Bezos Way: How to Design Your Ideal Future (medium.com, 2)
    Interesting read on how Jeff Bezos makes decisions about a future that he (like anyone) doesn’t fully understand.
  • YouTube’s top creators are burning out (polygon.com, 2)
    Being an influencer/YouTuber isn’t easy, and one becomes a slave to the algorithm.
  • “The Scale Is Just Unfathomable” (logicmag.io, 2)
    For large-scale tech platforms, moderation is industrial, not artisanal. Interesting perspective on how reality of content moderation differs from people’s imagination.
  • The Real Scandal of AI: Awful Stock Photos (medium.com, 1)
    Brave to bring this up.
  • A Glass of Ice Water in the Desert (500ish.com, 2)
    I wouldn’t usually recommend someone’s thoughts on a developer conference in this weekly link selection, but MG Siegler’s take on Apple’s WWDC 2018 is highly entertaining and comes with the right (small) dose of snark.
  • How do Apple’s Screen Time and Google Digital Wellbeing stack up? (theverge.com, 2)
    Both Apple and Google want to (or feel they have to in the light of current debates) discourage smartphone overuse.
  • Behind the Messy, Expensive Split Between Facebook and WhatsApp’s Founders (wsj.com, 3)
    If you don’t have paid access to the WSJ, here is a summary: After Facebook acquired WhatsApp, there was a slow but steady built-up of tension between the WhatsApp founders as well as their team and Facebook’s management, mostly related to philosophy about privacy and monetization. The WhatsApp people didn’t want to adopt Facebook’s proven but invasive ad-based business model, but once it got clear that there was no escape, the founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum decided to leave, walking away from about $1.3 billion in unvested shares (but when you already have billions, maybe that’s not that much of a sacrifice).
  • Useful Hacks (collaborativefund.com, 2)
    There are no shortcuts for being successful. These “hacks” are pretty great.
  • Want More Time? Get Rid of the Easiest Way to Spend It (raptitude.com, 2)
    Social media. Of course. It really is that simple.
  • Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore (theatlantic.com, 2)
    95 % of the calls I receive are from sales people. So I don’t usually answer anymore either.
  • Software is Eating the World-Tesla Edition (marginalrevolution.com, 1)
    “The larger economic issue is that every durable good is becoming a service.”
  • Visualizing the Books That Bill Gates Loves and Recommends (visualcapitalist.com, 2)
    Over the years, Bill Gates has recommended 190 books on his blog.
  • The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations (citylab.com, 2)
    How to nudge people into behavior which makes tight train operations possible and more efficient.

Podcast episode of the week:

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