The tech behind podcasts (and this newsletter), awe, self-improvement, AI & phishing, evidence (real or otherwise), metaphors, and getting out of your comfort zone.
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1. “I want more than just podcasts to benefit”
Remaking Podcasts For Text – Ernie Smith – (Tedium)
This is absolutely a techie thing, but interestingly enough, if you’re reading this via email, you’re soaking in it.
The RSS (or Rich Site Syndication) format is a way of encapsulating content more easily consumed by RSS-reading applications. That may all sound like so much gobbledygook, but if you’ve ever listened to a podcast, you’ve used RSS. Sites that publish podcasts do so in RSS format, and podcast listening applications are one example of a purpose-built RSS reader. General purpose RSS readers like Feedly allow you to subscribe to feeds and read them at your leisure, without the interference of things like spam or your uncle’s MLM pitch.
This email is send out using RSS. 7Takeaways.com has an RSS feed (most WordPress sites have one by default), and my mailing list provider checks it and sends out an email with the contents of the most recent item every time I publish something new. I use this technique for several newsletters, but with a feed reader, you can subscribe to the feed directly, bypassing email completely.
Some originally characterized RSS as the death of email. That didn’t happen, as we now know. But it’s still a fascinating tool for independent content distribution and publication. The takeaway is the bottom line from Smith’s essay: it could enable so much more. Still.
Do this: If you’re a publisher, or a techie, or both, consider how RSS might impact your publication creation and consumption efforts.
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2. “The little things we now take for granted”
In tech, magic becomes mundane! – Om Malik – (Personal blog)
This is a short item where Malik basically lists several technologies being used mid-air as he flies from one place to another.
had you told me about them 20 years ago, it would have seemed like pure magic.
Indeed. I recall a similar moment of awe when I was flying Seattle to Amsterdam, and having text chats with people at both ends of my trip, simultaneously, from 35,000 feet in the air.
It’s so easy to overlook the things we now take for granted haven’t always been so.
Do this: Look around at what you take for granted today.
3. “This need to make ends meet – can create a problem of false gods.”
Do you wonder whether you’ve “achieved” enough in life? – Susan Cain – (The Quiet Life with Susan Cain newsletter)
It’s more than just “hustle culture”, so popular in entrepreneurial circles. It can be as simple as just trying to live a life.
Because we must make money to support ourselves and our families (a worthy and legitimate goal), we sometimes confuse the tools that help us achieve this goal (eg., mastering customer service, spreadsheets, management techniques) with the values that feed the soul (higher order goals like self-discovery; the pursuit of beauty and truth; love).
Focusing on the former, we often ignore the latter.
Do this: Save time and energy for the latter.
4. “AI will groom bank customers to be phishing victims.”
How I got scammed – Cory Doctorow – (Personal blog)
If Doctorow can get scammed, we can all get scammed. That’s the immediate takeaway from this essay. He’s a technology and security icon, and if it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to post about it whenever I get scammed. I find the inner workings of scams to be fascinating, and it’s also important to remind people that everyone is vulnerable sometimes, and scammers are willing to try endless variations until an attack lands at just the right place, at just the right time, in just the right way. If you think you can’t get scammed, that makes you especially vulnerable.
The scenario of his compromise shows exactly how plausible it is that we’re all at risk somehow.
The AI comment relates to the eventual outsourcing of customer support, particularly after-hours fraud support, will end up training us to have certain expectations that scammer will then exploit.
Do this: Be ever wary.
5. “When everything is evidence, nothing is.”
‘Evidence Maximalism’ Is How the Internet Argues Now (14 day gift link) – Charlie Warzel – (The Atlantic)
‘Evidence Maximalism’ is, essentially, the concept that all evidence, pro or con, can support a position.
- Any small thing can be evidence of my thing.
- Any big thing is always evidence of my big thing.
- All your evidence against my thing is, on closer inspection, very strong evidence for my thing.
As Warzel points out, confirmation bias is nothing new, but it’s been “supercharged” by the internet.
The only real solution is to pay attention, to think, and to remain skeptical. That’s all particularly difficult when faced with our current deluge of information.
Do this: Think.
6. “Most of our ordinary conceptual system is metaphorical in nature”
Metaphors make the world – Benjamin Santos Genta – (Aeon)
Fascinating article. I rely heavily on analogies and metaphors when explaining technology, and so understand the value of a good comparison, and the utter disarray resulting from a bad one. And yet, while a good analogy that works for most folks is often hard to find in tech, it’s important to understand that they’re a fundamental component of how we exchange almost all ideas and concepts.
And that makes us vulnerable.
It should be clear that the power a choice of metaphor(s) has in structuring our thoughts makes the tool vulnerable to be hijacked by grifters and politicians to advance their own agenda.
If you look closely at current political discourse, you’ll find it full of comparisons, analogies, and metaphors, often carefully chosen to shape popular opinion.
Do this: Watch carefully for metaphors and take the time to judge whether they’re truly appropriate.
7. “Your comfort zone is not your friend.”
This Is How to Get Your Life Off Autopilot – John P. Weiss – (Blog)
The status quo is comfortable. Like an overstuffed recliner, it’s easy to fall into and difficult to get out of.
If you want to want to get your life off autopilot, then you need to get comfortable with discomfort, and do the following: Try new things.
Sometimes this can be a real challenge. Especially if whatever it is we’re dealing with “on autopilot” feels overwhelming enough. And yet, if we want to grow, if we want to deal with that overwhelm, discomfort is often exactly what’s called for.
Do this: Embrace new things.
Random links and thoughts
- Why the Dutch always say what they mean – BBC REEL – Can confirm.
- Inside the Underground Site Where ‘Neural Networks’ Churn Out Fake IDs – not unsettling at all.
- What in Tarnation Is ‘Tarnation’? – Includes an appearance by the Mandela Effect.
What I’m Reading
- What Life Should Be About: Elegant Essays on the Things That Matter – John P. Weiss
- Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results – Shane Parrish
- Ringworld – Larry Niven
- The Odyssey – Homer (Audio)
- A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts – Leo Tolstoy
A full list of my common sources is on the sources page.
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