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Escape the Algorithm!

Seeing as you folks are reading my newsletter, I know I am preaching to the choir, but this article, summarises my thoughts on social media excellently!

from the Art of Manliness,

At first, it wasn’t so bad. But then I started noticing that I wasn’t seeing all the updates from pages I followed on Facebook.
Come to find out, Facebook started changing their News Feed algorithm so that only the content Facebook thought you’d be interested in the most showed up in your feed. Facebook claimed they were just trying to help users sift through the firehose of information being blasted at them. Critics argued Facebook was just trying to keep people more engaged on Facebook because that makes money for Facebook. And that they were trying to force pages to pay money for their content to show up in the News Feeds they had once shown up in organically.
I was just ticked that I wasn’t seeing all the stuff from Facebook pages that I had deliberately opted into getting updates from.

Twitter added changes to their algorithm that boosted tweets to the top of your timeline based on what they thought you’d want to see. Again, Twitter claimed they were trying to be helpful. Critics argued it was just a ploy for users to engage with and stay on Twitter longer (which makes Twitter more money).
I was miffed some algorithm was deciding what I saw.

and

Besides the comments, there are those other little signals on social media that can end up skewing what you think of something: likes, RTs, faves, hearts.

And come to find out, a lot of these “one-bit indicators” (as Digital Minimalism author Cal Newport calls them) are coming from bots. Not from actual people. A lot of social media is fake. Hype.

The benefits? Here’s Brett again,

I see the content I want to see.
Am I interested in everything Marginal Revolution puts out? Of course not, but instead of some stupid social media algorithm trying to predict whether I’ll be interested in a piece of content or not, I get to decide whether I’m interested in it or not. It’s nice being in complete control of my media consumption again.

I no longer see other people’s opinions about content before I consume said content.
When you subscribe to a site’s RSS feed, you just see the content. That’s it. There are no comments or social media feedback about that content. Instead of the hot take of some internet stranger tainting how I read something, I read it completely unfiltered and come to my own conclusions.
Reading content without the social media commentary is a way to practice self-reliance. Instead of relying on other people to help you figure out what you think of something, you get to figure that out yourself. You’re in charge, and being in charge of your opinions feels good.

I spend less time online.
AoM podcast guest John Zeratsky calls Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram “infinity pools.” They’re apps in which the content is continually refreshed, and thus has no “end.” You might use Twitter to follow some “thought leader” you enjoy, but besides the stuff he puts out, you’re also presented with all the comments that his followers append to his tweets. There’s a constant stream of new content and commentary on Twitter, and as our brains desire novelty, that makes the platform massively appealing to check over and over again. You’re never done reading content on social media.
Now that I just consume my content via RSS or email, I’ve found myself spending less time online. You just read the article and you’re done. There’s some finitude to it.

I rest easy knowing that social media companies have less data on me.
Social media companies don’t charge you money to use their services, but that doesn’t mean the services are “free.” Instead of exchanging money, you hand over gobs of personal and private information about yourself, which allows social media companies to sell ads targeted to your personal dossier.
What’s more, these companies (particularly Facebook) have a lousy track record of keeping your private information private.
The rugged, individualistic, keep-out-of-my-business side of myself treasures his privacy. I like for other people or companies to not know what’s going on in all facets of my life. While I’ll likely never be able to completely eliminate my digital footprint, reducing my social media use can significantly shrink it.

I’m happier.
One of the things I’ve noticed about not using social media is that I just feel happier.
First, because I’m spending less time online I have more time to do things I enjoy in real life.
Second, because I don’t see the opinions of the masses on RSS or email, I don’t expose myself to all the negativity that plagues social media. I’ve noticed I’m less pissy the less I’m exposed to the low-grade fever of anger that constantly brews online.
Third, social media can really skew what your brain considers important. If everyone on Twitter was talking about it, it had to be important, right? Not really.
Now that I’m off social media, my brain’s bandwidth is no longer clogged up with all that faux-important social media garbage. My attention is focused on the stuff that’s really important: family, friends, health, spirituality, and of course, barbell training.

Who doesn’t want to be happier?
So the best use of our time, is probably to quit social media.
How then to keep up with things that interest us?
With old fashioned tools.
Email & RSS readers.
Subscribe to interesting newsletters, (cough, like mine, cough)
Use a feed reader to keep up with interesting sites.

Algorithms control what you see, and as what you pay attention to becomes your reality, algorithms create your reality. If you want to program your own reality, rather than having it programmed by corporate computer coding, then escape the algorithm, escape social media, take the training wheels off your online content consumption, and ride it in a more direct, autonomous, liberated way.

P.S. The whole article, is well worth your time!
P.P.S. After reading this, don’t you think, you need to forward my mails to your friends, and tell them to subscribe? :)


How To Say No to Others, Better!

Last weeks post seemed to have hit a nerve.
Most of you seem to have opened it rather quickly.
And then a few of you, complained! Rather quickly.

“All this is well and good, but I want to say No, to other people!

Well, I can help you with that too!
Eric Barker, of Barking Up the Wrong Tree fame, has an excellent post on how to do just that!

This is how we do it.

1. Notice the no’s: Saying no rarely leads to vendettas or blood feuds. It’s more common and less risky than you think.
People say no to requests all the time and suffer no ill consequences. The sea doesn’t turn to blood and frogs don’t fall from the sky. The requester just shrugs and says, “Okay.”
But you forget those all too easily and train your attention on the 0.02% of the time when the other person blew up and stormed away, never to speak to you again.
So watch your interactions and the interactions of others more closely. Notice all the times “no” doesn’t cause any problems and try to develop a more realistic perspective.


2. Buy time: I’m not sure I can summarize this one right now. I’ll get back to you later.
When you feel pressured for a yes, don’t give the yes — relieve the pressure. Ask for time. This will allow you to calm down and properly evaluate whether you really want to agree or not.
Memorize two of these phrases and make them your default response to any request:

  • “I need to check my calendar; I’ll get back to you.”
  • “Let me check with my husband/wife/partner to see if we’re free that day.”
  • “I’ve got to think about that; I’ll let you know.”
  • “I’ll have to call you back in a few minutes.”

Don’t turn them into questions. They’re statements. And use a pleasant but assertive tone.


3. Have a “policy”: Sorry, but it’s my policy to never summarize the third point.
… suppose a friend asks for a loan you don’t want to extend. Utter the phrase “Sorry, I have a policy about not lending money,” and your refusal immediately sounds less personal. In all kinds of situations, invoking a policy adds weight and seriousness when you need to say no. It implies that you’ve given the matter considerable thought on a previous occasion and learned from experience that what the person is requesting is unwise. It can also convey that you’ve got a prior commitment you can’t break. When you turn down an invitation by saying, “Sorry, I can’t come—it’s our policy to have dinner together as a family every Friday night,” it lets the other person know that your family ritual is carved in stone.


4. Be a “broken record”: I can’t summarize this. I can’t summarize this. I can’t summarize this.
How do you deal with people who don’t take no for an answer?
First thing to do is say you can’t help them.
The second through seven-hundredth thing to do is repeat the first thing.


5. Use a “relational account”: If I summarized this for you I wouldn’t have time to summarize for others.
Your response should take the structure of: “If I helped you, I’d be letting others down.”


6. Make a counteroffer: I can’t summarize this but I can link you to another blog that will.
What if you don’t want to give a flat no? You want to help but can’t commit to the specifics of what they’re asking for. Here’s what to do …
They want you to donate $487,000. Um, no way. But I can give you $10 …
“I’m not qualified to do what you’re asking, but here’s something else.”
“This isn’t in my wheelhouse, but I know someone who might be helpful.”
You can make a counteroffer to almost any request by offering someone a different resource or the name of someone else who might help.

Like my summary of Eric’s summary?
You should go read his post. It has the why, and the how and tons of examples and references!

P.S. And if you’re reading this on my blog, you should subscribe to the newsletter!


go-bonkers-do-the-work

— via Neil Gaiman

o0moxxie0o asked: Hi I just finished outlining a novel and now I'm worried it's bonkers. Did you ever worry that something you wrote was too much, or just have second thoughts about what you're planning? I'm going crazy over this thing.

I assume that unless it’s bonkers I’m not doing the work.


Testing Nikola Native Code Highlighting

def foo(x, a): 
    """ 
    x: a positive integer argument 
    a: a positive integer argument returns an integer 
    """ 
    count = 0 
    while x >= a: 
        count += 1 
        x = x - a 
    return count


Well, there isn’t any for Lanyon, at least.
Will have to figure this out later.

Update: Chris Warrick graciously pointed out to me (in the Nikola IRC channel) that Nikola does indeed, support code highlighting via Pygments and that I just had to specify what program I was using along with my code backticks.

Like so, “ ```python ”

And here’s a shell script

#!/bin/sh # This is a comment! 
echo Hello World # This is a comment, too!

RIP, Rutger Hauer


I've, seen things, you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire, off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams, glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those, moments, will be lost, in time, like, tears, in rain.
Time, to die.

Blade Runner was the first movie I saw, that had a morally ambigous ‘hero’.
And the villain is not bad?
And he saves the hero?
This was the first movie that made me look at the world in shades of grey, in shades of acceptance.

And all that, because of the pitch perfect Roy Batty, speech.
Like Robert Caro writes,

There are sentences that are said to you in your life that are chiseled into your memory.

Tears in rain was the earliest of those for me.
Rest in peace, Rutger Hauer.
And thank you, for changing my life.

NGINX Redirect .html to just slugs

I like Nikola’s pretty URLs feature and have been using it at the personal site.

And after a year of prettiness there and .html here, I decided to switch this site to use it too.
All my urls look nice now :)
Which also means all the old links are now broken.
And so, the last bit of work was to redirect all the links in the wild and on the blog to the new addresses

A quick web search led me to this stackoverflow answer.

#at the top of location /
if ($request_uri ~ ^/(.*)\.html$) {  return 302 /$1;  }

#within \.php$
if ($request_uri ~ ^/([^?]*)\.php($|\?)) {  return 302 /$1?$args;  }

All I needed was the top bit and all was well, with my world :)

Update: Gave up on the redirect idea, beacause it was breaking pagination on the blog. Well, I tried :)