Weekly Thing #198 / Facebook, News, Kyiv
Hi, I’m Jamie Thingelstad, and this is the Weekly Thing. Isn't that witty? I send this weekly, and it is full of various things. What would I call it if my last name didn’t start with thing? I have no idea!
So last week I made the leap to the iPhone 13 Pro. I upgraded from the iPhone XS, which was the first time I waited 3 years to upgrade my iPhone. I've been a consistent every-other-year upgrader until now. Initial impressions? The battery on the iPhone 13 Pro is simply amazing. I’m used to getting a new phone and having the battery run out a little faster because I’m playing with it more. The 13 Pro hasn't gotten below 20% even once on me yet. In fact, most nights when I’m plugging it in I’m still in the 30s! The camera is a huge step up from where I was. I love the new 77mm focal length on the 3x. it is a much bigger difference than some may think. I’m super happy to finally have the wide-angle options. Macro is cool, but I haven't played with it that much. The screen is great, I can’t tell the refresh rate is faster. It’s a touch bulkier than the iPhone XS, and a bit heavier, however it is still very manageable to carry around. If you're considering upgrading, I'd go for it. 👍
A bunch of people pinged me this week regarding Facebook and the whistleblower piece on 60 Minutes. I’m very glad to see more information getting into the public discussion on Facebook. Hopefully this will get more people to decide to drop it completely. I'm hopeful that we see a time when Facebook (and it’s like) are seen more like smoking — an unhealthy habit that one should try to rid yourself and your friends of. 🚭
"Hardware eventually fails. Software eventually works."
There is no attribution for this quote, but I heard it from Alan Abramson.
I’m a huge fan of Thompson and Stratechery, and this "omnibus" reference article of his is an interesting idea to collect his overall thoughts on Facebook, independent of a single topic.
I tend to agree with Thompson but not on this one. His take on Facebook is very generous. He sees benefit in the ad ecosystem of Facebook, which I don't. He also would rather trust Facebook with a large trove of personal data than data brokers. I'll agree with him that I also don't trust data brokers, but the existence of those horrible entities doesn't make Facebook a good choice.
This part though completely made me scratch my head.
Here is the problem, though: it is not at all certain that the Internet is good for society. I believe it is — I just articulated a positive vision for the democratization enabled by Facebook advertising, to take but one small example — but there are obviously massive downsides as well. Moreover, many of those downsides seem to spring directly from the fact that people are connected: it’s not simply that it is trivial to find people who think the same as you, no matter how mistaken or depraved you might be, but it’s also trivial to find, observe, and fight with those who simply have a different set of values or circumstances. The end result feels like an acceleration of tribalism and polarization; it’s not only easy to see and like your friends, but even easier to see and hate your enemies with your friends.
This is, as I noted, an Internet problem — as Facebook is happy to tell you — but the truth is that Facebook, thanks to its uber-competent focus and execution on growth, effectively made the Internet problem a Facebook problem. Sure, you can make the case that had Facebook not pursued growth at all costs there would be another social network in its place — and frankly, I believe that Twitter gets off far too easy in discussions about deleterious impacts on society — but the reality is that Facebook did win, and just because some of its spoils are rotten doesn’t absolve the company of responsibility. If you are going to onboard all of humanity, you are going to get all of humanity’s problems.
I feel like in this passage he completely flipped the context of the Internet and Facebook. It is not certain that the Internet is good for society? I have a hard time seeing a way that the Internet as a whole hasn't benefited society. Some applications built on the Internet have proven to not be good for society. I would suggest Facebook is the primary example of that, but there are many others.
The last part is that he positions Facebook as being the victim of their own success. They are so great at execution, that they won everything. If they were so great, I would suggest they would have seen these strategic problems and done something, anything, to attempt to avoid them. Instead they have ignored them, or just pretended they didn’t exist. Now those issues are coming back.
I’m a big fan of Cal Newport's approach to news and practice it myself. I do value being informed, but I don't need to be hyper informed. There is a very real limit to the value of continual news, and being thoughtful on how you limit incoming news is important. And, just as Facebook and social media have figured out how to grab your attention by the scruff of the neck and never let go, so have media companies.
Here is what I do:
- I subscribe (pay for) three news sources: International, National, and Local.
- I do NOT install any apps or allow any push notifications from these services.
- I consume the vast majority of the content from these news sources via their email services, where I can read it on my time and without the web of distractions around it.
Works great for me.
I've been to Kyiv well over a dozen times and the city has a great character and such a wide variety of experiences to offer.
The difference between a city and a person is that a city can’t love you back, but Kyiv frequently gives the impression that it is trying, in that it instantly repays whatever attention you might lavish upon it. It is a city of hidden courtyards and underpasses and bars that you come across by mistake, all of which enables a sense of personal ownership over discoveries everyone has already made. This still isn’t a reason. I can’t say why Kyiv knocked me out the way it did any more than I could objectively account for why and when I fell in love, other than to establish for the record that a feeling of instant affinity is still possible, where matters progress with a speed both astonishing and inevitable.
I've never been to a party in the forest though, or in an abandoned factory.
Drinking: Tyler had one of these this summer and has been eager to return to Caribou Coffee for another Frozen Hot Chocolate. We finally did, and it is really good!
Watching: This last weekend Tyler and I watched TRON: Legacy. It was Tyler's first time watching it and I really don't care what Rotten Tomatoes says (58%?), it is a great movie.
Listening: Brandi Carlile's new album In These Silent Days is out and it is fabulous just like all of her other albums. Carlile is such an incredible songwriter, singer, and musician. Do yourself a favor and give some of her music a listen.
Silver gleaming brew kettles.
Oct 7, 2021 at 4:37 PM
Finnegan's Taproom, Minneapolis, MN
In short, the A15 delivers 15% more performance using 5% less power. The efficiency of the Apples System-on-a-Chip continues to get better and better. Largely tried and true means of getting it by doubling the SLC to 32MB and the L2 cache up 50% to 12MB. Clock speed is also up to 3.18GHz. The fact this stuff sits in your pocket still blows my mind. 🤯
There is a lot of wondering about the more "pedestrian" upgrades to this years A15.
The possible reason for Apple’s more moderate micro-architectural changes this year might be a storm of a few factors – Apple had notably lost their lead architect on the big performance cores, as well as parts of the design teams, to Nuvia back in 2019 (later acquired by Qualcomm earlier this year). The shift towards Armv9 might also imply some more work done on the design, and the pandemic situation might also have contributed to some non-ideal execution. We’ll have to examine next year’s A16 to really determine if Apple’s design cadence has slowed down, or whether this was merely just a slippage, or simply a lull before a much larger change in the next microarchitecture.
Cost is measurable in the cloud, and should be a component of good architecture and operational oversight. I like how our team at SPS has tackled this and made it a transparent component of a service and its solutions. The net result is better efficiency, less waste. 💰
What if Recommendation Algorithms Like Facebook’s Grappled Directly with Bad Content? by Dan Frankowski | Medium
My friend Dan Frankowski has years of experience working on recommendation engines. His observations on two different models being trained for competing objectives is interesting. He also makes the great point that all algorithms have to be optimized to some outcome. Thus, any content that is algorithmically determined is optimizing for something. The only neutral methods of ordering information are in time, or random.
If you are still trying to understand the basics of NFTs this is a good explainer on the main concepts. The DeFi and NFT stuff was news to me. You can actually use an NFT as collateral for debt.
This is an incredible leak. All source code and a ton of data taken. Reminder that Amazon owns Twitch. The leaked payout data that some Twitch streamers are receiving is incredible. The top streamer, xQcOW, was paid $752,467 in just the month of September. Maybe we should encourage the kids to play video games some more. 😬
I think it would be so interesting to bring Monte Carlo simulations to business. Most businesses use fairly straightforward projections and only create a small, finite set of models. Monte Carlo simulations would do a much better job of identifying best and worst cases, and giving you probability of different outcomes. Alas, it’s all a bit too hard to generate, and the bigger issue is it is harder to read and interpret. This article is a good explainer on writing Monte Carlo simulations in code.
The Tech Worker Handbook is a collection of resources for tech workers who are looking to make more informed decisions about whether to speak out on issues that are in the public interest. Aiming to improve working conditions, direct attention to consumer harms, or otherwise address wrongdoing and abuse should not be a solo or poorly resourced endeavor.
I've long felt that we should explore a robust ethics program, both as part of formal education and professional certification, for technologists. Technologists are creating the code and systems that we increasingly live our lives in. Ethical matters abound, and as an industry there is little to help people navigate it.
I appreciate how Rockwell writes brief and to the point, although it does start to look like a listicle at times. These recommendations are a great way as a leader to test how you are engaging and make sure you feel good about your answers for each one.
This is such a delightful new service! I love the description.
Stay in touch, grow closer together, and discover things you never knew with the most important people in your life.
Letterloop lets you create a newsletter with a small group, and the contents of the newsletter are collected from the members. What a cool way for a distributed group of friends to stay connected. You can also include photos and a variety of other content. I just love the pace, the intentionality. I dig that the entire service runs in email. It’s very cheap (no ads). This is the kind of thing that warms my heart on the web. 💛
Regular readers of the Weekly Thing know my position on Facebook. I’m glad to see this getting such widespread media attention, and hopefully it will cause people to think deeply about what they are engaging with at Facebook.
Interesting deeper dive into how location data is collected, aggregated, and sold. I like the details here and the specific explanations of the use cases.
Data from location intelligence firm Thasos Group has been used to measure the number of workers pulling extra shifts at Tesla plants. Political campaigns on both sides of the aisle have also used location data from people who were at rallies for targeted advertising.
Fast food restaurants and other businesses have been known to buy location data for advertising purposes down to a person’s steps. For example, in 2018, Burger King ran a promotion in which, if a customer’s phone was within 600 feet of a McDonalds, the Burger King app would let the user buy a Whopper for one cent.
The Wall Street Journal and Motherboard have also written extensively about how federal agencies including the Internal Revenue Service, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. military bought location data from companies tracking phones.
Incredible how many use cases there are for this data.
Good overview of fundamentally different programming language paradigms.
I am aware of seven ur-languages in software today. I’ll name them for a type specimen, the way a species in paleontology is named for a particular fossil that defines it and then other fossils are compared to the type specimen to determine their identity. The ur-languages are:
ALGOL, Lisp, ML, Self, Forth, APL, and Prolog
Many programmers will spend nearly their entire career just in the one branch -- ALGOL. And moving between languages in that branch really isn't that hard. It’s syntax difference, but the approach is similar enough. Moving to another branch is much more difficult.
IPFS still makes my head hurt a bit. I've played with it some, and put some content on it, but how it works for use beyond putting a single image out there still seems very odd. With that said, it seems foundational relevant and at some point I expect browsers will natively support IPFS. Cloudflare continues to lead the way here bridging IPFS into the current web.
I've been on the Web since the beginning and clearly remember when we first started hearing about Web 2.0 and all the AJAX glory it provided. I tend to define Web 1 as a read-only web, and Web 2 as a read-write web with the primary example of that capability being social. In my head Web 3 adds Identity, Payment, Assets to the stack of web capabilities to build in. It is interesting to see organizations framing these thoughts. Cloudflare is even creating apps to help you get started on Web3.
My brother-in-law is big into shoes, Jordan's specifically. He buys and sells them and has a good eye on what will be hot. This article uses that sneakers market to help create an understanding of the value of NFT's.
The Jordan analogy highlights an important element of NFTs as equities of the future: They’re also collector’s items. No one collects shares of Google stock other than investors who believe in the company. The shares are fungible and liquid. There’s nothing aesthetically beautiful to display if you own a share of GOOGL.
NFTs come with aesthetic and communal value. They come with a history detailed on chain. And they will attract collectors in ways that stocks never could.
I’m still on the record that I don't understand the absolute value of some of the NFT's out there, but I do agree that they have value. The important thing will be how many of these NFT's really develop communities around them, like the Jordan sneaker market has.
The first time I restarted my iPhone 13 Pro I saw this notice that Find My capabilities would continue to operate while the device was off. How? Well, it turns out there is a whole subsystem that does this stuff.
There's only little public documentation about the AOP. All chips and various embedded devices Apple manufactures run a real-time operating system, called RTKitOS. The AOP on the iPhone is no exception. However, the AOP has a special role. It connects to almost every other chip in the iPhone. For some chips, it only does basic tasks like power management, and for other chips, it acts as a transparent proxy that wakes up iOS when needed.
Super interesting. The security, cryptography, and privacy on much of this Find My infrastructure makes it very difficult to follow how these systems work.
Roundup of multiple blog posts highlighting all of the issues with Shortcuts in iOS 15. I've personally experienced this in a meaningful way. I use Shortcuts to automate a lot of things both personally, professionally, and for various hobbies. I've had struggles since upgrading and the vast majority of them are with Shortcuts itself. This is rough, and Apple needs to get some firefighters looking at that code right away. 🧑🚒
I've been running thingelstad.com on micro.blog since micro.blog launched. I originally used micro.blog as an alternative Twitter. After the platform matured it become obvious to me that I wanted all of my blogging to be this easy. The simple fact is there is no easier way to get a picture and some words on the internet than micro.blog. I have also learned that any friction is a problem in writing. I don't even want to have to name a file. And micro.blog removes more friction than any other solution.
Just got my flu shot! First time I’ve gotten one. The pandemic experience educated me on the importance of it. 💉
Our family created an all original custom jigsaw puzzle together! 🧩 We finished the box design and ordered 50 puzzles tonight. Celebration City is the first Jiggy Thing Puzzle! Zoomed in view of Ant Hotel shown here. 🤩
On “my” Internet Facebook and all of its properties are blocked every day, so I didn’t realize they had some downtime today. The Internet works just fine, better even, without it.
Tyler and I after our team won today's Edina Soccer match. I've been having a great time coaching the boys. They've won all four of their first games. ⚽️🤩
A very common business mistake I see is attempting to adopt practices from companies with total revenue close to yours. I think growth rate is a better way to determine what you can learn from outside practices.
Transferring data to the iPhone 13 Pro. Upgrading from the iPhone XS. Most excited to try out all the camera innovation over the last three years!
Searchable database of incident reports for hundreds of different companies. I don't think this data has ever been collected like this. → The Verica Open Incident Database (VOID)
Commentary from Jeff Jarvis on social networks and how we adapt to them. → God made a social network — BuzzMachine
Highly scalable key value store, but uniquely built to allow for strictly serializable transactions. → FoundationDB: A Distributed Unbundled Transactional Key Value Store
Facebook and it’s properties went offline for a while and everyone lost their mind. It is striking when the biggest of Internet operations has a critical issue like this. → What Happened to Facebook, Instagram, & WhatsApp? – Krebs on Security
Now I know what caused the SSL warning I was getting last Thursday evening… 😬 → Internet goes down for millions, tech companies scramble as key encryption service expires
Here is your fortune…
Good news from afar can bring you a welcome visitor.
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I’m a focused practitioner of the Getting Things Done methodology and am focused on it as a lifelong skill to continually improve my productivity but even more important to give me the mental space and clarity to focus on what I want to focus on at any time.
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