Entangled reads, 7 December 2018

Digital minimalism, #O2down, Enlightened wall chargers, and if only the iPhone had a menu bar…

Social media reform

Facebook discussed cashing in on user data, emails suggest – it keeps getting worse for Facebook.

The problem with studies saying phones are bad for you – this piece makes some important points.

Technology and humanity

My New Book: Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport has a new book out! I’ve been looking forward to this.

Six Years With a Distraction-Free iPhone – I highly recommend this approach. It’s the only way I can use a smartphone and remain sane.

Millions of smartphones were taken offline yesterday by an expired certificate – the Entangled world in which we live.

Design

RavPower’s tiny 45W gallium nitride charger almost sits flush with your wall – this appears to be a good example of Enlightenment technology, not Entanglement technology; that is, the new thing has many tangible benefits without causing new problems.

Proof That iOS Still Hasn’t Gotten Undo Right – this critique of iOS interface design is well worth reading. I’ve long believed that the now-defunct Palm OS, with its Mac-style menu bar, had a far better and more intuitive interface than the modern iOS. Gruber says: “iOS user interface conventions are so shallow, so widely and wildly inconsistent, that an app proclaimed by Apple as the very best of the year has to start, as the very first thing you see when you launch it, by teaching you how to use Undo. That’s a sad state of affairs.”

Header image © lchumpitaz / Shutterstock

Entangled reads, 30 November 2018

Another astoundingly bad week for Facebook, time is different now, minimal surface nirvana, and new icons for Office…

Social media reform

UK Parliament seized internal documents related to Facebook’s privacy and data decisions – Facebook is imploding even more rapidly than I thought it would. Amazing to watch this play out in real time.

Is Facebook the AOL of the 2010s? A Skeptical Examination of Social Media Network Effects – ‘In 2018, joining a network like Facebook enables you to connect with or monitor the status of people you know using digital networks. Unlike telephones or Ethernet cards, however, you don’t need a private network like Facebook for these benefits.’

Fake news inquiry: Facebook questioned by MPs from around the world – ‘The problem is Facebook, everything else is just a symptom.’

The big questions that hang over Facebook’s future – ‘If there is not going to be a change of individuals then there must be a change of outlook. Facebook has to become more open about how it uses our data. It must explain this in a way that is accessible to normal users and is not hidden away in the T&Cs.’

Technology and humanity

Time is different now – ‘Flattening current events into a stream means living in a perpetual present, where events are disconnected from their antecedents and where history is counted in minutes and days rather than in months and years.’

Flickr’s Big Change Proves You Can’t Trust Online Services – whether or not you agree with Flickr’s shift to a more ethical business model (I do, FWIW), this article makes an important point. When you put your work into the cloud, you’re giving up personal control over it.

Design

Minimal surface nirvana – this is an intriguing take on the ‘disappearing computing hardware’ phenomenon by Riccardo Mori.

Privacy

Google accused of GDPR privacy violations by seven countries – Google’s dodgy approach to location tracking was a factor that led me to switch from Android back to the iPhone in 2016. Despite my many frustrations with Apple, I still wouldn’t go back to Android for privacy reasons.

Fluff and nonsense

Microsoft’s new Office icons are part of a bigger design overhaul – these new icons look nice, but it isn’t as immediately obvious what the applications do. They’re even more abstract than the previous versions – which were already pretty abstract.

Beijing to Judge Every Resident Based on Behavior by End of 2020 – the most dystopian thing I’ve read this week.

Header image © Radiokafka / Shutterstock

Entangled reads, 24 November 2018

I’ve missed a week, so even more links for you this week: emojis in business, discoverability in UI design, how Facebook threatens democracy, and more…

Technology and humanity

Technologists should abandon their craft – a great read. ‘To address the human cost and correct course, we need people who understand the technology world to do more than just build more technology.’

Deep Work and attention

Google Maps will let you chat with businesses – I don’t understand why this is necessary or even desirable. There are already a gazillion different ways to contact businesses. Giving them yet another inbox to monitor will not improve anything for anyone, and will only further train users to expect instant responses.

Gen-Z Employees Don’t Do Email – this article made me facepalm all the way through reading it. Rather than pandering to nosediving attention spans, why aren’t we trying to do something about it? Not everything can be conveyed through a string of emojis.

Design

The iPod click wheel was the pinnacle of purposed hardware design – the click wheel was a masterpiece, and I think it’s a shame that hardware is becoming so homogenous. Nice article.

Amazement at iOS cursor movement shortcut says a lot about discoverability – there are many hidden gestures in iOS that cannot be discovered intuitively, and with the iPhone X’s gesture-based control system the situation is getting worse. They’re fine once you learn them, but early GUIs (such as the original Macintosh) were significantly easier for beginners to get to grips with. Even the modern Mac has a far more discoverable interface than iOS.

Social media reform

Flickr’s new boss, not the same as the old boss – Riccardo Mori makes a compelling case for why Flickr’s new business model is trying to do the right thing.

YouTube CEO calls EU’s proposed copyright regulation financially impossible – ‘YouTube has gone on the offensive over the last month to garner support in opposing the EU’s copyright directive.’

There’s more evidence Facebook can make you feel lonely – ‘our experiment strongly suggest that limiting social media usage does have a direct and positive impact on subjective well-being over time, especially with respect to decreasing loneliness and depression.’

Facebook threatens democracy, says Soros-backed foundation – hard to disagree with this assessment. It’s becoming clearer all the time that Facebook is causing damage in multiple areas.

Instagram will now let users shop items from video posts – Instagram is deteriorating rapidly. Called it.

Despite its flaws, Facebook still holds my memories, and giving that up is hard – another good piece from the Verge. It’s not just the data, it’s the metadata.

Automation

You Already Email Like a Robot — Why Not Automate It? – ‘We can be sure of only one thing that will result from automating email: It will create more of it.’

Privacy

Plans to microchip UK workers spark privacy concerns – this is the most dystopian thing I’ve read this week.

Google ‘betrays patient trust’ with DeepMind Health move – patient data may remain under the patient’s control for now, but who knows what will happen in the future?

Another Meltdown, Spectre security scare: Data-leaking holes riddle Intel, AMD, Arm chip – an important part of the Entanglement’s definition is that as complexity increases, problems and bugs will continue to proliferate. This is what we’re now seeing with massive CPU-level flaws coming to light.

Fluff and nonsense

ReBirth: Pre-internet technology – this is pretty cool. A designer has imagined web-era services and platforms as hardware gadgets from 80s or 90s.

Header image © Alex Gontar / Shutterstock

Entangled Reads, 10 November 2018

Burnout and screen time, another reminder to switch your notifications off, a computer faster than its own OS, and deepfakes in mainstream politics…

Deep Work and attention

Why doctors hate their computers – a fascinating study on the relationship between tech use and burnout in medical workers. The conclusion: one of the strongest predictors of burnout was how much time the doctor spent staring at a computer screen.

On Physician Burnout and the Plight of the Modern Knowledge Worker – Cal Newport’s take on the above story.

The Three Scientific Reasons You Shouldn’t Check Your Notifications – I find smartphone notifications intolerable, and have kept them all switched off since 2014. If you hate your smartphone, or if it makes you anxious, it’s possible that notifications are the specific cause of this reaction. Without notifications a smartphone becomes a lot less needy.

What Boredom Does to You – this is a longish piece, but it’s worth reading if you’re a Medium member. ‘People who are bored think more creatively than those who aren’t.’

Hardware

Facebook Portal review: trust fail – I’ll say it again: if you buy one of these devices, you are a moron.

Faster than its own OS – Riccardo Mori takes a look at the new iPad Pro. ‘…a question that’s been nagging me – a question I still haven’t found a satisfactory answer to – is this: All this staggering performance… to do what, exactly?’

7,000 UK households still watching TV in black and white – while most people will have replaced their TVs countless times to obtain ‘upgrades’ of questionable value, a few thousand holdouts are sticking with technology that just does its job. Fair play.

Information preservation

This Library Has New Books by Major Authors, but They Can’t Be Read Until 2114 – thanks to David Lintern for sending me this one. I love the idea of creating a book that won’t be read for a century. We need more projects like this.

Automation

Basic Income Won’t Solve Our Crisis of Meaning – I’ve often thought about this. As more and more jobs become automated out of existence, we’ll be creating a crisis of mental health the like of which the world has possibly never seen. These are not easy problems to solve, and I’m not optimistic that humanity is wise enough to solve them.

Google Night Sight and the Importance of Photography Limitations – another Medium Members story (sorry) but also worth reading. Google’s new ‘Night Sight’ (an implementation of computational photography that enables hand-held night shots that look clear as day) could erode a fundamental limit in photography. How will that affect our creativity?

Fluff and nonsense

The fake video era of US politics has arrived on Twitter – deeply disturbing.

Header image © Stock-Asso / Shutterstock

 

Entangled reads, 2 November 2018

The Mona Lisa doesn’t tweet, how Silicon Valley parents restrict the tech their kids use, Google repeats Facebook’s mistakes, dystopian network ads, and more…

Deep Work and attention

Social media is a symptom, not a tactic – ‘The Mona Lisa has a huge social media presence. Her picture is everywhere. But she doesn’t tweet. She’s big on social media because she’s an icon, but she’s not an icon because she’s big on social media.’

The Dumb Device Counterculture – I live in hope that one day ‘dumb devices’ won’t be considered countercultural, but a legitimate choice. We shouldn’t have to enslave ourselves in order to participate in modern society.

You are not a talent agent (so why do you work like one?) – another great piece from Cal Newport. Being in constant communication never used to be the norm, and is it really necessary – and are we any better for it?

A dark consensus about screens and kids begins to emerge in Silicon Valley – I find this highly significant. When Silicon Valley parents are terrified of giving their kids access to the technology they are creating, it’s time to take note.

Social media reform

Will Google’s homepage news feed repeat Facebook’s mistakes? – pretty sure this is a terrible idea. It’s an excellent time to switch to DuckDuckGo, as I have.

Twitter is thinking about killing the Like button — but don’t hold your breath – ‘Like buttons can encourage addiction to the platforms as people seek external validation, according to many psychology studies.’

Hardware

Apple Pencil 2 Not Compatible With Older iPads and Original Apple Pencil Won’t Work With New Models – taking planned obsolescence to new depths. Related: Apple’s unit sales are now mostly flat in all categories, but their profits continue to rise due to price increases. This is likely to be their modus operandi for the foreseeable future. Apple users can expect to pay more and more for the privilege.

Security and privacy

Private messages from 81,000 hacked Facebook accounts were for sale – oops.

Information preservation

Why we’re changing Flickr free accounts – fair play to Flickr for adopting a sustainable business model, but this will screw over a lot of people who used to rely on Flickr. Nothing lasts forever on the web. The only platforms worth relying on are open platforms you control.

Fluff and nonsense

#PhonesAreGood – this advert from the Three network is the most dystopian thing I’ve seen on the web in a while (and as a student of the Entanglement that’s saying something).

72 Hours Offline: A Digital Detox Experience – the delicious irony of a digital detox fluff piece that claims ‘you deserve time to breathe, without notifications, without phone calls, without emails’ one moment and then pleads for engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and via email the next.

Header image © lee_photo / Shutterstock

Entangled reads, 26 October 2018

Hello and welcome to my first weekly roundup of Entanglement-themed links from around the web. I have run a similar column on my main site for some time, and it’s proven popular. The concept is simple: every week, I post a few links I’ve found relevant and interesting.

The World Is More Complex than It Used to Be – without actually calling it by name, this is a neat summary of the Entanglement problem.

Android’s new multitasking is terrible and should be changed back – I’m not an Android user, but I find it infuriating when things are changed for no good reason. Muscle memory is important.

Gates, Allen & Yesterday’s Terabyte – “If we need to fight the scourge of fake news, we need systems of record — Google, Facebook, and Twitter — to shift from being dominated by a time-based news feed to a contextual information system. It is the only way to find facts in this world dominated by half-truths and even more half-lies.”

Gamified life – this is fascinating.

Apple News’s Radical Approach: Humans Over Machines – I’ll happily criticise Apple all day long, but they are taking the right approach here.

Header image © Shutterstock / Dario Lo Presti