knowledge trumps iq

Suppose you were born 5000 years ago. You wouldn't be born into nothing, but into an existing culture. You'd learn a language, behaviours and ways of thinking about the world. This would be your world with all its possibilities, but also all of its limitations.

Even if you'd be really smart, you couldn't have invented any tool, idea or technology we're using today. We're not any smarter than our ancestors, but humanity's cumulative knowledge gives us tools and inventions any of our ancestors could only have dreamt of. Any normal person of today's age fluent at reading or in calculus could have easily outperformed you.

We're bound to the context we live in. We're bound to the borders of our world. What's so interesting about this thought is that you don't need a massive brain, but you only need to be able to see and connect ideas.

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summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization, by Jonathan Blow

My thesis is that software is actually in decline right now. I don't think most people would believe me if I say that, it sure seems like it's flourishing. So I have to convince you at least that this is a plausible perspective.

What I'll say about that is that collapses, like the Bronze Age collapse, were massive. All civilizations were destroyed, but it took a hundred years. So if you're at the beginning of that collapse, in the first 20 years you might think "Well things aren't as good as they were 20 years ago but it's fine".

Of course I expect the reply to what I'm saying to be "You're crazy! Software is doing great, look at all these internet companies that are making all this money and changing the way that we live!" I would say yes, that is all happening. But what is really happening is that software has been free riding on hardware for the past many decades. Software gets "better" because it has better hardware to run on.

Our technology is accelerating at a frightening rate, a rate beyond our understanding of its impact. We spend millions of dollars and countless hours researching newer, faster tools, but we haven’t bothered to research the most fundamental, strategic issues that will provide the highest payoffs for augmenting our abilities.

Andreessen's Corollary: Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering, by Bryan Cantrill

I think that the key with ethics is not answers. Don't seek answers. Seek to ask questions. Tough questions. Questions that may make people feel very uncomfortable. Questions that won't necessarily have nice, neat answers. These questions are going to be complicated, but it is the act of asking them, that allows us to consider them. If we don't ask them, we're going to simply do the wrong thing.

And I think that if you've got an organization that in which question asking is encouraged, I think you will find that you will increasingly do the right thing. That you are less likely, I think, to move adrift with respect to these principles.

Questions are more important than answers. Answers change over time and different circumstances, even for the same person, while questions endure.

21st Century Design, by Don Norman

Most of our technical fields who study systems leave out people, except there's some object in there called people. And every so often there are people who are supposed to do something to make sure the system works. But there's never any analysis of what it takes to do that, never any analysis of whether this is really an activity that's well suited for people, and when people are put into it or they burn out or they make errors etc., we blame the people instead of the way the system was built. Which doesn't at all take into account people's abilities and what we're really good at – and also what we're bad at.

Collaboration shows us that the world often isn’t zero-sum. It doesn't have to be humans versus technology, technology versus humans or humans versus other humans. Collaboration shows us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And that collaboration is succeeding because of their differences, not despite.

training wheels

How did you learn to ride a bicycle?

Most probably you were using training wheels. And someday your parents removed them and told you to go without them. And you fell. A lot. And you probably promised yourself back then that you'll never ride a bicycle again. Well, look at you now.

The interesting thing is that training wheels are actually the worst way to learn how to ride a bicycle. The one skill you have to learn is to balance and turn into turns. Training wheels prevent you from doing exactly that.

Similarly, I see many businesses with their training wheels still on.

  • They didn't make a courageous positioning decision and try to sell their services and/or products to just anyone
  • They use all the possible channels, from their website, newsletters, SEO, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google ads, Instagram, Youtube, podcasts to whatever other photo sharing platform will be invented next year
  • They think technology and digital tools will replace their sales and marketing team & efforts

I know, it is hard work to solve the above issues. But from my and my client experience it's worth it. Or in other words: Would you rather go across town on a tricycle or a bicycle?

patterns

Over the past year, I've been invited to a handful of conferences and meetups do some live website critiques of attendee's websites. How do they communicate? What problem do they solve and for whom? How can a business improve their website and digital strategy?

Once you see enough sites, you encounter similar patterns – so I want to outline a few of those:

Most businesses' value proposition is terrible A specific, actionable value proposition is unavoidable, elementary groundwork for running a successful business of any kind. Why? Because it helps your clients understand how you can help them and what expensive problem you solve for them.

Most websites have no idea whom they're talking to I often ask: who's your client? It is unclear shockingly often. But you have to address your ideal client to actually be able to start a conversation. In other words: with a broken elbow would you go to a general practitioner or to a surgeon specialized in elbow fractures?

People try to make out on the first date – or not at all Just because someone is visiting your website doesn't mean they're interested in buying your service or product right away. Websites are processes and you have to help your visitors get to the next step. Make it clear what the next step is and optimize your page for that.

I hope this helps.

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summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

Socializing technology for the mobile human, by Bill Buxton

Everybody's into accelerators and incubators and wants to be a millionaire by the time they're 24 by doing the next big thing. So let me tell you what I think about the next big thing: there's no such thing as the next big thing! In fact chasing the next big thing is what is causing the problem.

That the next big thing isn't a thing. The next big thing is a change in the relationship amongst the things that are already there. Societies don't transform by making new things but by having their internal relationships change and develop.

I'd argue that what we know about sociology and how we think about things like kinship, moral order, social conventions, all of those things that we know about and have a language through social science apply equally to the technologies that we must start making. If we don't have that into our mindset, we're just gonna make a bunch of gadgets, a bunch of doodads, as opposed to build an ecosystem that's worthy of human aspirations. And actually technological potential.

We’re living in the present and we’ve forgotten that true innovation is about system transformation, not just a linear forward progression. That distinction is key to understanding the problem.

Privacy Rights and Data Collection in a Digital Economy, by Maciej Cegłowski

The internet economy today resembles the earliest days of the nuclear industry. We have a technology of unprecedented potential, we have made glowing promises about how it will transform the daily lives of our fellow Americans, but we don’t know how to keep its dangerous byproducts safe.

There is no deep reason that weds the commercial internet to a business model of blanket surveillance. The spirit of innovation is not dead in Silicon Valley, and there are other ways we can grow our digital economy that will maintain our lead in information technology, while also safeguarding our liberty. Just like the creation of the internet itself, the effort to put it on a safer foundation will require a combination of research, entrepreneurial drive and timely, enlightened regulation. But we did it before, and there’s no reason to think we can’t do it again.

No technology is entirely positive or even neutral. Every technology is both a burden and a blessing. It is never a matter of either/or – it will always be both. And we must ask with urgency, is whether we're gonna manage the machine or whether it will manage us.

Notes on AI Bias, by Benedict Evans

I often think that the term ‘artificial intelligence’ is deeply unhelpful in conversations like this. It creates the largely false impression that we have actually created, well, intelligence – that we are somehow on a path to HAL 9000 or Skynet – towards something that actually understands. We aren’t. These are just machines, and it’s much more useful to compare them to, say, a washing machine. A washing machine is much better than a human at washing clothes, but if you put dishes in a washing machine instead of clothes and press start, it will wash them. They’ll even get clean. But this won’t be the result you were looking for, and it won’t be because the system is biased against dishes. A washing machine doesn’t know what clothes or dishes are - it’s just a piece of automation, and it is not conceptually very different from any previous wave of automation.

That is, just as for cars, or aircraft, or databases, these systems can be both extremely powerful and extremely limited, and depend entirely on how they’re used by people, and on how well or badly intentioned and how educated or ignorant people are of how these systems work.

Is it really about making machines and tools smarter and more intelligent? Or about augmenting the individual to be smarter or to be more productive? Maybe we should aim for something different: contributing to raising our collective intelligence. Because that is the intelligence we're part of, that shapes us as we shape it, that defines our culture and ultimately the borders of our world.

be considerate

I recently stumbled on a touching article by Eric Meyer in which he recounts how a well-intentioned feature by Facebook wasn't quite well-intentioned after all. A while back, Facebook launched year in review, a feature which highlights and shares a user's meaningful moments from the past year.

And so Eric was presented with a photo of his daughter. Tragically, his daughter had passed away a few months earlier.

I am not trying to pick on Facebook. But I'll definitely pick on the plurality of thoughtless process we unleash on our users, clients and prospects. Websites that don't help our clients, but distract them. Newsletters and emails that steal time instead of sharing value. Tools and gadgets that don't make us better but just reinforce old, bad habits.

We have a responsibility to look at things from the other person's point of view – and to do what's best for them. In other words, be considerate.

trust and lemonade

There's a lot of buzz around generating new leads passively, about having people cold call or get cold traffic for you. But the most important thing everybody seems to ignore in these discussions is this: In a business situation like most of us are in, the major limiting factor is trust. If you think that a social media ad or a list of leads for cold calling is creating trust, you have to seriously question yourself – because most of the time it won't.

Standalone initiatives don't build trust; long-term relationships do. What you really should focus on is building these relationships. Technology is great for augmenting this process, for automating parts of it and for scaling up. But it can never replace genuine human connections.

Things might look a bit different, if you're selling lemonade on a hot, sunny day. But then again, maybe not.

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summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

Defining the Dimensions of the “Space” of Computing, by Weiwei Hsu

Traditionally, we have thought of computing not in terms of a space of alternatives but in terms of improvements over time. Moore’s Law. Faster. Cheaper. More processors. More RAM. More mega-pixels. More resolution. More sensors. More bandwidth. More devices. More apps. More users. More data. More “engagement.” More everything.

While trending technologies dominate tech news and influence what we believe is possible and probable, we are free to choose. We don’t have to accept what monopolies offer. We can still inform and create the future on our own terms. We can return to the values that drove the personal computer revolution and inspired the first-generation Internet.

Glass rectangles and black cylinders are not the future. We can imagine other possible futures — paths not taken — by searching within a “space of alternative” computing systems. In this “space,” even though some dimensions are currently less recognizable than others, by investigating and hence illuminating the less-explored dimensions together, we can co-create alternative futures.

It's difficult to suspend our current view of how technology shapes our world, and to imagine something completely new or different. We never paused and asked whether there was a way to build from a better, different blueprint instead of building on top of the existing technology. One of the most thoughtful pieces I've read lately.

Hypertext and Our Collective Destiny, by Tim Berners-Lee

It is a good time to sit back and consider to what extent we have actually made life easier. We have access to information: but have we been solving problems? Well, there are many things it is much easier for individuals today than 5 years ago. Personally I don't feel that the web has made great strides in helping us work as a global team.

Perhaps I should explain where I'm coming from. I had (and still have) a dream that the web could be less of a television channel and more of an interactive sea of shared knowledge. I imagine it immersing us as a warm, friendly environment made of the things we and our friends have seen, heard, believe or have figured out. I would like it to bring our friends and colleagues closer, in that by working on this knowledge together we can come to better understandings. If misunderstandings are the cause of many of the world's woes, then can we not work them out in cyberspace. And, having worked them out, we leave for those who follow a trail of our reasoning and assumptions for them to adopt, or correct.

Technology does not and cannot solve humanity's problems. We can enable, augment, and improve with technology, but ultimately humans have to deal with human problems.

Rebuilding the Typographic Society, by Matthew Butterick

Now and then there’s a bigger event—let’s call it a Godzilla moment—that causes a lot of destruction. And what is the Godzilla? Usually the Godzilla is technology. Technology arrives, and it wants to displace us—take over something that we were doing. That’s okay when technology removes a burden or an annoyance.

But sometimes, when technology does that, it can constrict the space we have for expressing our humanity. Then, we have to look for new outlets for ourselves, or what happens? What happens is that this zone of humanity keeps getting smaller. Technology invites us to accept those smaller boundaries, because it’s convenient. It’s relaxing. But if we do that long enough, what’s going to happen is we’re going to stagnate. We’re going to forget what we’re capable of, because we’re just playing in this really tiny territory.

The good news is that when Godzilla burns down the city with his fiery breath, we have space to rebuild. There’s an opportunity for us. But we can’t be lazy about it.

Technology should not replace humans, but it should play out its real strength, which is amplifying human capabilities. And once we understand how technology works, we can begin to focus on improving its quality, creating tools that truly make things cheaper, faster, and better without destroying the very fabric of our humanity.

effective websites

Just because your site is well-designed doesn't mean that it's effective.

There's one simple reason for this: most people fail to understand that websites are processes.

Websites are processes and start way before people come to your website and only end with clients buying your service or product.

It's no longer about optimizing your websites for SEO and hoping for the best. It's about optimizing your presence across the web and in the real world as well. It's about building bridges between your efforts, online and offline.

Take time to carefully craft your value proposition. Help people to easily get how you can help them. Make sure that your landing page works. A value proposition, a deep dive into your client's big, expensive problem and a call to action are essential. And finally, provide means to stay in contact. If you use an email list, don't send these spammy newsletters. Personalize. Give value. A lot.

the 10,000 visitor fallacy

I want 10,000 visitors a month on my website. Can you do that?

Recently I was having a meeting with the CEO of a moderately successful boutique consulting firm and this was the first thing he told me.

The problem: they only had about 300 visitors... a month. Now, it's not impossible to scale up to that number, but here's the catch. I knew the CEO was enjoying giving talks at many different conferences and meetups every month. So we took his calendar and put it below the website stats. Guess what... the numbers lined up perfectly.

And the audience of this talks were almost exclusively made up of... guess again? Right, people who were interested in the firms' services and fit their client profile perfectly.

What we did instead was preparing small, custom landing pages (e.g. example.com/conference-name) with additional information which he would announce at the end of each talk. We didn't even get close to 10,000 visitors each month, but this will keep their sales team busy for months.

And this seems to be a common problem: we're so overwhelmed keeping up with technology and jumping on the latest bandwagon, that we don't spend a single minute thinking about how we can use technology to augment our businesses. This idea is small and trivial, but I guess being able to see it is not.

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summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

What the Hell is Going On? by David Perell

Like fish in water, we’re blind to how the technological environment shapes our behavior. The invisible environment we inhabit falls beneath the threshold of perception. Everything we do and think is shaped by the technologies we build and implement. When we alter the flow of information through society, we should expect radical transformations in commerce, education, and politics.

By understanding information flows, we gain a measure of control over them. Understanding how shifts in information flow impact society is the first step towards building a better world, so we can make technology work for us, not against us.

We shape our technological environment and our technological environment shapes us. But if we're blind to that change, how can we go against the negative effects and augment the positive ones?

The Long Nose of Innovation, by Bill Buxton

What the Long Nose tells us is that any technology that is going to have significant impact in the next 10 years is already at least 10 years old. Any technology that is going to have significant impact in the next 5 years is already at least 15 years old, and likely still below the radar. Hence, beware of anyone arguing for some “new” idea that is “going to” take off in the next 5 years, unless they can trace its history back for 15. If they cannot do so, most likely they are either wrong, or have not done their homework

The Long Nose redirects our focus from the “Edison Myth of original invention”, which is akin to an alchemist making gold. It helps us understand that the heart of the innovation process has far more to do with prospecting, mining, refining, goldsmithing, and of course, financing.

It's such an interesting notion, that technology innovation is not that fast moving thing it seems to be. Rather, technological change takes time, revolutionary change even more so. As the saying goes, it takes years to become famous over night.

WTF and the importance of human/tool co-evolution, by Tim O'Reilly

I think one of the big shifts for the 21st century is to change our sense of what collective intelligence is. Because we think of it as somehow the individual being augmented to be smarter, to make better decisions, maybe to work with other people in a more productive way. But in fact many of the tools of collective intelligence we are contributing to and the intelligence is outside of us. We are part of it and we are feeding into it.

It changes who we are, how we think. Shapes us as we shape it. And the question is whether we're gonna manage the machine or whether it will manage us. Now we tell ourselves in Silicon Valley that we're in charge. But you know, we basically built this machine, we think we know what it's going to do and it suddenly turns out not quite the way we expected.

We have to think about that fundamental goal that we give these systems. Because, yes there is all this intelligence, this new co-evolution and combination of human and machine, but ultimately it's driven by what we tell it to optimize for.

So much in computing is optimized for the single user. The personal computer, the smartphone, but also apps and most of our infrastructure. These days almost every room is equipped with electricity, light and buttons to control it. But just imagine a world, where everyone would carry a flashlight in their pockets, seeing only one thing at a time, charge it up every night, buy a new version every two years, and having one hand always busy. How small and lonely that world would be.

marketing secrets

I guess I do marketing, but I don't think of it that way. For one, I don't run ads. Almost all of my publicity happens via word of mouth. Ironically I don't do much work to optimize my own conversion funnel. Instead, I try to work in public, help people and other businesses, share what I know and try to teach people in a way that's helpful and sustainable.

In my opinion, marketing has not much to do with advertising, spamming, growth hacking or giving away free stuff. Instead:

  • Marketing means making it easy for people to notice you, to relate to you and to refer you – your positioning
  • Marketing means listening to your clients' problems and providing matching solutions – your value proposition
  • Marketing means staying in contact with your clients, prospects and leads, helping them and developing trust & relationships – your business strategy

Most importantly, look at everything through your client's eyes and do what's best for them. That's the best marketing.

the 300 million dollar button

One of the articles I shared most with my clients last year was a story by Jared Spool in which he describes how changing a simple button increased a site's annual revenues by 300 million dollars.

While my firm belief is that there are no silver bullets, no growth hacks and no get rich quick schemes, many of my clients and prospects had at least one 300 million dollar problem (or a figure nearby) which could be solved cheaply, quickly and easily. Think of things like:

  • Will your new contacts be just another skeleton in your LinkedIn contacts? Or do you have a seamless client experience in place that supports your company's brand, regardless of touch point, channel or device starting from your business card or referral?
  • Are your website visitors confused by what services you provide and how exactly you can help them? Or do you have a website in place that tells your story perfectly, how you can help your clients and provides options to directly get in touch with you?
  • Are you forgetting about your previous clients and prospects? Or are you leveraging digital channels and tools to keep in constant, valuable contact with your clients, prospects and leads?

I'd be very much interested in what your 300 million dollar problems or solutions have been. Let me know!

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summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

Big Idea Famine, by Nicholas Negroponte

I believe that 30 years from now people will look back at the beginning of our century and wonder what we were doing and thinking about big, hard, long-term problems, particularly those of basic research. They will read books and articles written by us in which we congratulate ourselves about being innovative. The self-portraits we paint today show a disruptive and creative society, characterized by entrepreneurship, start-ups and big company research advertised as moonshots. Our great-grandchildren are certain to read about our accomplishments, all the companies started, and all the money made. At the same time, they will experience the unfortunate knock-on effects of an historical (by then) famine of big thinking.

We live in a dog-eat-dog society that emphasizes short-term competition over long-term collaboration. We think in terms of winning, not in terms of what might be beneficial for society. Kids aspire to be Mark Zuckerberg, not Alan Turing.

Ask yourself: What ideas, spaces and lifestyles will you leave behind for your grandchildren?

Forget privacy: you're terrible at targeting anyway, by Avery Pennarun

The state of personalized recommendations is surprisingly terrible. At this point, the top recommendation is always a clickbait rage-creating article about movie stars or whatever Trump did or didn't do in the last 6 hours. That's not what I want to read or to watch, but I sometimes get sucked in anyway, and then it's recommendation apocalypse time, because the algorithm now thinks I like reading about Trump, and now everything is Trump. Never give positive feedback to an AI.

This is, by the way, the dirty secret of the machine learning movement: almost everything produced by ML could have been produced, more cheaply, using a very dumb heuristic you coded up by hand, because mostly the ML is trained by feeding it examples of what humans did while following a very dumb heuristic.

There's no magic here. If you use ML to teach a computer how to sort through resumes, it will recommend you interview people with male, white-sounding names, because it turns out that's what your HR department already does. If you ask it what video a person like you wants to see next, it will recommend some political propaganda crap, because 50% of the time 90% of the people do watch that next, because they can't help themselves, and that's a pretty good success rate.

There's lots of talk about advancements in artificial intelligence or machine learning, but very little about their shortcomings and effects on society. Surrounded by hysteria, mistaken extrapolations, limited imagination and many more mistakes we're distracted from thinking productively about our future.

The Bomb in the Garden, by Matthew Butterick

Now, you may say “hey, but the web has gotten so much better looking over 20 years.” And that’s true. But on the other hand, I don’t really feel like that’s the right benchmark, unless you think that the highest role of design is to make things pretty. I don’t.

I think of design excellence as a principle. A principle that asks this: Are you maximizing the possibilities of the medium?

That’s what it should mean. Be­cause other­wise it’s too easy to congratulate ourselves for doing nothing. Because tools & technologies are always getting better. They expand the possibilities for us. So we have to ask ourselves: are we keeping up?

We somehow think, technology becomes better because it gets faster. But that is simply confusing technology consumption for technology innovation. Consumption simply allows us to do more of the same, while innovation augments us to do things that were previously impossible.

in data we trust

The average person today is about as naive as was the average person in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, people believed in the authority of their religion, no matter what. Today, we believe in the authority of our science, no matter what.

Neil Postman

We believe in data because it is the only objective fact we can hold on to. We count website visitors, conversion rates, click behaviours, heatmaps and how many people went through our sales funnels. The problem is that algorithms treat data as unbiased fact and we believe in the scientific objectivity of our algorithms' results. We no longer interpret data, we see it as unbiased and untouchable.

We believe in data because we think it's objective and will give us the full point of view. But we're past the point of just experimenting. Our technologies have real implications and become the foundation of our world and our businesses. We expect the computer to take over our thinking, willing and judging mind, which of course is doomed to fail.

Data is great to analyze & optimize specific processes, specific domains. But if we keep seeing data as the only truth we miss out on the big picture and forget about what really counts – building and maintaining a relationship with our clients.

broken websites

Recently, a client of mine showed me their new website for their consulting business. Four months in the work, fully responsive, neat, fast and a good looking. He asked me about my opinion, smiling from ear to ear. I looked at it and said I liked it, but...

But what?

Where do you explain who's your ideal client and what expensive problem you're solving for them?

Ehm... he said

Where is the call to action? Do you have any workflows, like drip campaigns, newsletter and contact possibilities in place to connect and keep in touch with prospects?

Ahem...

What does the workflow or funnel from the landing page towards qualification and acquisition of a client look like?

Uhh...

You see, design is utterly important, but functionality trumps design. A website that looks nice, but does not explain why and how you solve a client's problem is not helpful. A website that shows how to solve a client's problem like a champ but looks shitty is pitiful but works. Good design and functionality together is killer.

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summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create It. But Is It Already Too Late? by Alan Kay

Albert Einstein's quote "We cannot solve our problems with the same levels of thinking that we used to create them" is one of my favorite quotes. I like this idea because Einstein is suggesting something qualitative. That it is not doing more of what we're doing. It means if we've done things with technology that have gotten us in a bit of a pickle, doing more things with technology at the same level of thinking is probably gonna make things worse.

And there is a corollary with this: if your thinking abilities are below threshold you are going to be in real trouble because you will not realize until you have done yourself in.

Virtually everybody in the computing science has almost no sense of human history and context of where we are and where we are going. So I think of much of the stuff that has been done as inverse vandalism. Inverse vandalism is making things just because you can.

One important thing here is to not get trapped by our bad brains, by our thinking abilities. We're limited in this regard, and only tools, methods, habits and understanding⋅can help us to learn to see and finally get to a higher level of thinking.

Don’t be seduced by the pornography of change, by Mark Ritson

Marketing is a fascinating discipline in that most people who practice it have no idea about its origins and foundations, little clue about how to do the job properly in the present, but unbounded enthusiasm to speculate about the future and what it will bring. If marketers became doctors they would spend their time telling patients not what ailed them, but showing them an article about the future of robotic surgery in the year 2030. If they took over as accountants they would advise clients to forget about their current tax returns because within 50 years income will become obsolete thanks to lasers and 3D printing.

There are probably two good reasons for this obsession with the future over the practical reality of the present. First, marketing has always managed to attract a significant proportion of people who are attracted to the shiny stuff. Second, ambitious and overstated projections in the future are fantastic at garnering headlines and hits but have the handy advantage of being impossible to fact check.

If your job is to talk about what speech recognition or artificial intelligence will mean for marketing then you have an inherent desire to make it, and you, as important as possible. Marketers take their foot from the brake pedal of reality and put all their pressure on the accelerator of horseshit in order to get noticed, and future predictions provide the ideal place to drive as fast as possible.

And this does not only apply to marketing. Many fields today, computing & technology included, are currently obsessing about a revolutionary potential that has always been vastly, vastly overhyped. The hype surrounding these topics is sometimes so pervasive that raising skepticism can often be seen as one's failure to recognize that the hype is deserved.

Design in the Era of the Algorithm, by Josh Clark

Let’s not codify the past. On the surface, you’d think that removing humans from a situation might eliminate racism or stereotypes or any very human bias. In fact, the very real risk is that we’ll seal our bias—our past history—into the very operating system itself.

Our data comes from the flawed world we live in. In the realms of hiring and promotion, the historical data hardly favors women or people of color. In the cases of predictive policing, or repeat-offender risk algorithms, the data is both unfair and unkind to black men. The data bias codifies the ugly aspects of our past.

Rooting out this kind of bias is hard and slippery work. Biases are deeply held—and often invisible to us. We have to work hard to be conscious of our unconscious—and doubly so when it creeps into data sets. This is a data-science problem, certainly, but it’s also a design problem

The problem with data is not only the inherited bias in the data set, but also in algorithms that treat data as unbiased facts and humans believing in the objectivity of the results. Biases are only the extreme cases that make these problems visible, but the deeper issue is that we prevent ourselves to interpret and study nature and thereby defining our limits of interpretation.

getting rid of humans

So apparently the AI revolution is coming. Taxi and truck drivers will be replaced by self-driving cars, robots will replace workers, drones will be delivering packages to our doors and big data algorithms will find our perfect date. Also, robots will soon take over the world.

Well, I don't believe a single word.

What I believe is this: we are immersed in technology that is quietly reducing human interactions.

We stare at our devices while waiting for the next train and avoid the glance of the pretty girl/boy a few meters away, we use online ordering and delivery services in order to not sit alone in a restaurant, apps to call a ride or get the fastest route from A to B so that we don't have to talk to anyone. We use personal assistants and online stores so that we don't have to talk to that shop assistant, social media where everybody seems to have a perfect life in order to avoid the sometimes harsh conversations of the real life. All powered by AI, which allegedly should make our lives better.

But we humans don't exist as segregated individuals. We're social animals, we're part of networks. Our random accidents and behaviours make life enjoyable.

We should use our technologies to augment these capabilities, to make us better humans. This is the reason why I tell my clients to make use of their website to start genuine conversations with their clients, to help them to make their life better. That is the sweet spot of our technology, of our websites, of digital innovation and automation.

digital laziness

A few months ago, Facebook wanted us to send them copies of our nudes so that they can block those images if they are later uploaded by someone else. I don't even want to know how they came up with such utter nonsense. But regardless of that, it is a perfect example of what I call digital laziness. Instead of fixing the actual, hard and sometimes messy problem we come up with an easy technological solution.

I often get approached with similar requests – well, not nudes – but similar nonsensical ideas. We want 10,000 visitors on our website! We want to sell our high touch consulting service directly from our website! We don't want to do anything and still be able to grow our business!

We can use websites, drip campaigns, newsletters and digital marketing strategies to get more and better clients. But we'll fail utterly if we don't assert the fundamental goal we're trying to achieve. Instead, we have to see the above as tools we can use to reach these goals and augment parts of our businesses.

summing up 106

summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

The "Next Big Thing" is a Room, by Steve Krouse

Our computers have lured us into a cage of our own making. We’ve reduced ourselves to disembodied minds, strained eyes, and twitching, clicking, typing fingertips. Gone are our arms and legs, back, torsos, feet, toes, noses, mouths, palms, and ears. When we are doing our jobs, our vaunted knowledge work, we are a sliver of ourselves. The rest of us hangs on uselessly until we leave the office and go home.

Worse than pulling us away from our bodies, our devices have ripped us from each other. Where are our eyes when we speak with our friends, walk down the street, lay in bed, drive our cars? We know where they should be, and yet we also know where they end up much of the time. The tiny rectangles in our pockets have grabbed our attention almost completely.

These days almost every room is equipped with electricity, light and buttons to control it. It's so common that we hardly trouble ourselves thinking about it. It is not a device we carry around in our pockets, have to charge up every night and buy a new version every two years – like a flashlight. Imagine how small and lonely a world like this would be, where everyone carries his own, personal flashlight, seeing only one thing at a time and having one hand always busy.

Machine Teaching, Machine Learning, and the History of the Future of Public Education, by Audrey Watters

Teaching machines were going to change everything. Educational television was going to change everything. Virtual reality was going to change everything. The Internet was going to change everything. The Macintosh computer was going to change everything. The iPad was going to change everything. And on and on and on.

Needless to say, movies haven’t replaced textbooks. Computers and YouTube videos haven’t replaced teachers. The Internet has not dismantled the university or the school house. Not for lack of trying, no doubt. And it might be the trying that we should focus on as much as the technology.

The transformational, revolutionary potential of these technologies has always been vastly, vastly overhyped. And it isn’t simply that it’s because educators or parents are resistant to change. It’s surely in part because the claims that marketers make are often just simply untrue.

The hype surrounding our technologies is sometimes so pervasive that raising skepticism can often be seen as one's failure to recognize that the hype is deserved. This is the game we're playing. It's no longer about the real transformational power, about real change & potential, but mostly about a superficial pop culture.

What We Actually Know About Software Development, and Why We Believe It’s True, by Greg Wilson

Think about how much has changed. Some things have changed without recognition, sadly the way we build software hasn't. There is nothing you do day by day that wouldn't have been familiar to me 25 years ago. Yes, you're using more powerful machines, yes you're using browsers and all this other stuff. But the way you work day to day has not improved.

Most of software development today is based on myth, superstition or arrogance. And this won't change until we're willing to be humble enough to admit when we're wrong. Only then we can find out how the world actually works and do things based on that knowledge.

archive

2018

black belts and silver bullets summing up 105 - the mother of all demos bicycles or tricycles you vs. i tyranny of choice summing up 104 i loathe restaurant websites summing up 103 most businesses' positioning is terrible another one bites the dust summing up 102 summing up 101 summing up 100 summing up 99 summing up 98 summing up 97 summing up 96 summing up 95 summing up 94

2017

summing up 93 vdb17 summing up 92 summing up 91 summing up 90 summing up 89 summing up 88 summing up 87 summing up 86 razzle dazzle websites summing up 85 your business in munich podcast summing up 84 summing up 83 humane websites summing up 82

2016

websites are processes summing up 81 the lost medium - live summing up 80 my voxxed days belgrade talk summing up 79 summing up 78 summing up 77 on discoverability summing up 76 summing up 75 summing up 74 summing up 73 summing up 72 on ditching css frameworks and preprocessors summing up 71

2015

we really don't know how to compute the interactive web logic or biology on advice the gervais principle the psychology of pricing change of affiliation empowering kids to create the web we lost information entropy all my blogs are dead project managers, ducks, and dogs marking territory lego's 1981 ad campaign building a princess saving app summing up is dead, long live summing up summing up 70 summing up 69 summing up 68 sketchpad summing up 67

2014

the humane representation of thought summing up 66 summing up 65 networks without networks summing up 64 summing up 63 summing up 62 summing up 61 summing up 60 summing up 59 not just a label relaunch summing up 58 summing up 57 summing up 56 summing up 55 summing up 54 summing up 53 the help me help you dinner summing up 52 summing up 51 summing up 50 summing up 49 summing up 48 summing up 47 summing up 46 summing up 45 summing up 44 summing up 43 summing up 42 summing up 41 the internet regression summing up 40 summing up 39 hiring and firing for startups summing up 38 pencil and paper thinking big ideas summing up 37 summing up 36

2013

summing up 35 the future of computing summing up 34 summing up 33 summing up 32 summing up 31 summing up 30 summing up 29 summing up 28 summing up 27 luck summing up 26 summing up 25 summing up 24 summing up 23 summing up 22 summing up 21 the bullet hole misconception summing up 20 dear mr nokia summing up 19 some thoughts on the real world by one who glimpsed it and fled summing up 18 summing up 17 do not be a front rudder summing up 16 summing up 15 gnome outreach program yearbook 2013 summing up 14 on why removing features makes people unhappy summing up 13 summing up 12 summing up 11 quick tip for remembering names at, during and after meetings summing up 10 summing up 9 summing up 8 summing up 7 summing up 6 summing up 5 application specific passwords for dovecot summing up 4 summing up 3 summing up 2 summing up 1 jquery scramble plugin

2012

typical development processes of free and open source software projects the sane way of adding custom latex packages summer of code is over - a summary the gnome bazaar gnome outreach program yearbook 2012 that is all folks gnome release schedule

2011

creating beautiful graphics with pgfplots return of the travelling gnome missing in action gnome screencasts - take six gnome screencasts - take five gnome screencasts - take four gnome screencasts - take three gnome screencasts - take two gnome screencasts hdr photography cheese was taken over by the portuguese opw is over gnome video effects gallery


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