Everyone Inhabits A News Bubble – 7 Takeaways No. 171

We're all more comfortable in our bubble. Scandal trumps boring old truth. Some things that don't work. More AI impact. Suffering fools. Tabloids & royal conspiracies. Sharing wisdom.

An adult middle-aged male is inside a large, transparent bubble, focusing intently on a computer screen in front of him. The computer screen prominently displays the word "NEWS?" in bold letters, with a question mark, suggesting a theme of inquiry or skepticism. The setting is serene and somewhat futuristic, emphasizing the concept of isolation or being in one's own space while staying connected to the outside world. The man wears casual attire, suggesting a comfortable yet engaged demeanor. The bubble and the man are illuminated by the soft glow of the computer screen, casting subtle reflections and highlights around the bubble's interior. The background is blurred, focusing attention on the man, the bubble, and the computer screen. The overall mood is one of contemplation and curiosity.

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1. “Everyone inhabits a news bubble”

Welcome to Me Mountain – Dahlia Lithwick – (Slate)

By now everyone knows about information bubbles. Here’s the thing: it’s much worse than you think.

One of our common visceral reactions is “how can they support X when it means Y?”. The catch? “They” have never even heard of “Y”. Seriously. The issues you and I might find appalling and obvious and unthinkable are issues that “they” never hear of. It’s not that they disagree, it’s that they don’t know. Why?

they have quite specifically organized their news not to tell them about it.

I know it’s all the rage to blame “the algorithm” for what we see, but it’s just as responsible for what we don’t see as well.

And, what “they” don’t see.

We can choose to fix what we see. As for everyone else, I’m at a complete loss.

Do this: This one’s important. Read the article.

#algorithms #bubble

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2. “The general public is mostly interested in scandal versus progress.”

Why Polarity Pays – Evan Armstrong – (Every.to Napkin Math)

This essay got my attention because it’s specifically about technology reporting, but could apply equally to just about any other topic, particularly today’s political reporting.

There are several factors at play influencing a reporter’s choice of style and content. Want readers? Go for controversy, even making small things look worse for those all important clicks. Want future access to the players on which you report? Only print items favorable to them.

Want to bore people and eventually lose your readership? Post detailed analysis of how well things are going and why.

The post that sounds convincing and is written in an entertaining way will get more traction than a dull but accurate and intelligent take.

To that I would also add the post that reinforces your audience’s existing beliefs in an entertaining, including sensational, way will get more traction still.

Do this: Look at the meat, not how it’s packaged.

#media #polarity

3. “Making sense of interactions with crazy people.”

Things that don’t work – – (Dynomight newsletter)

Not your average listicle. It runs the gamut from entertaining, challenging, to downright insightful. 43 things that don’t work.

A couple of examples include arguing with someone to change their mind (nope), and expecting people to read the instructions (again, nope).

If you can follow moderately complicated instructions, that’s almost a minor super-power.

Things that work? “Dogs, vegetables, index funds, jogging, sleep, lists, …”

Do this: Stop wasting energy on things that don’t work.

#listicle #choices

4. “Putting more I in the ‘AI’”

AI is changing writing – Om Malik – (Blog)

Coincidentally, I posted recently how I use AI at Ask Leo!. In a sense, this is Malik’s equivalent, but without the demonstration.

I know there’s a lot of hand-wringing around AI, what’s going to change because of it, and if those changes are appropriate. He and I view it as an additional tool in our arsenal.

My approach to AI has been to embrace and extend my capabilities.

In my case, I find AI more creative than I am in some ways, and more complete, reminding me of issues that I might otherwise overlook. It’s the “fast intern” model, meaning everything needs to be checked and double checked. As it should be.

Writing, thinking, and creating is how my soul works, and AI can’t replace that.

I seriously doubt AI will replace my particular brand of knowledge, priorities, humor, and snark soon. But it’s a helpful tool along the way.

Do this: recognize tools for what they are: tools.


5. “Life is too short for bullshit”

Thinking About Quackery – David Gerrold – (Patreon, open post)

Gerrold’s a writer I admire, and one I occasionally fancy myself wanting to emulate, particularly his non-fiction think pieces.

This one’s about the folks that he sees commenting on various items online, both his and others. He does not suffer fools lightly. And yet, he points out that many major advances in history originated among those who, at the time, were considered fools (or worse). It’s not always black and white.

His conclusion is interesting.

I think this is why FB can be a resource. People who are qualified to comment on a subject are usually fairly erudite in exposing it.

As always, the challenge is separating the wheat from the chaff. (There’s so much chaff.)

Do this: Look for those actually qualified to have an opinion, and take the rest with a gigantic bag of salt.

#skepticism #quackery

6. “Everyone hates the tabloid papers, until they become them.”

I Hope You All Feel Terrible Now (gift link) – Helen Lewis – (The Atlantic)

I’m not a Royal follower, per se, other than a passing interest in the day’s news. This caught my attention not so much because of it accusing the press of bullying Kate Middleton into revealing her diagnosis, but how social media, mass media, mainstream media, and all the other media played into it. (And to a lesser degree, how the Royals mishandled it.)

We often think that people who believe conspiracy theories are outliers and incapable of rational thinking. Then we run across situations like this one where an attempt at simple privacy by a celebrity makes hundreds of otherwise “rational” people fall into the conspiracy and fact-free theorizing hole.

Today’s statement represents a failure of Kensington Palace to control the narrative

In an ideal world, they shouldn’t have to control the narrative. But here we are, looking for answers whether or not we’re entitled to them.

Do this: Withhold fact-free judgement and theorizing.

#conspiracies #media

7. “I think I can share these lessons with others”

What Is the Ache You Can’t Get Rid Of? – John P. Weiss – (Blog)

The essay’s about creative inspiration, or perhaps more accurately, motivation.

I want to move people. Inspire them. Reassure. Heal.

In reflecting on this, I thought about my own motivations, from answering technical questions, to my own sporadic blog writings, to this very newsletter.

In part, I feel a responsibility to use the knowledge and skills I have in service of others. For Ask Leo!, that’s clear. Some time ago, though, I decided that my non-technical efforts would have the intent of capturing wisdom (however you define it) targeted at those 20 or 30 years younger than myself. Things I might have considered at that age had I had the direction.

We all have lessons to share, regardless of our age.

Do this: Share yours.

#wisdom #lessons #motivation

Random Links & Thoughts

  • Standard Ebooks – Similar to Project Gutenberg, but apparently with more careful attention to detail.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


A full list of my common sources is on the sources page.

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