Links that made me think — 28 January 2018

Over on my website, I have begun posting a daily link that made me think. I have decided to publish a weekly ‘omnibus’ of these links here on Medium.

Here are the links I featured over the past week.

There is so much positivity in the digital world of media

As ever, Thomas Baekdal is brilliant and insightful on where traditional media companies are getting it so wrong. He compares the consistently negative focus of news outlets to successful YouTubers, all of whom are filled with “excitement and positivity”.

[I]t makes traditional journalists appear reactive, while digital natives appear proactive…

You can’t just be negative. You also have to give your readers hope and invite them to join you on a journey into a better future.

Tiny wins

Some great examples of why it is good to focus on achieving small victories, as well as pursuing the bigger projects. The effort/impact matrix is your friend.

Kickstarted: iA Writer for Windows

I am a fan of iA Writer, a writing application designed to help you focus. The only problem is that it is not available for Windows.

I have the Android version installed on my phone. But I don’t know about you — I don’t tend do my writing on my phone. Meanwhile, those fancy Mac users have had a desktop application for a while.

On my Windows machines I have had to make do with using Sublime Text with some Markdown packages installed. Which kind of does the trick, but is not as slick

Finally, a Windows version of iA Writer is coming, and you can back it on Kickstarter. I am looking forward to it and the promised web version.

Crash: how computers are setting us up for disaster

The headline is slightly over-the-top. But this is nevertheless a fascinating long read on the paradox of automation — how our reliance on computers leaves us incompetent to act when we are needed the most.

First, automatic systems accommodate incompetence by being easy to operate and by automatically correcting mistakes. Because of this, an inexpert operator can function for a long time before his lack of skill becomes apparent — his incompetence is a hidden weakness that can persist almost indefinitely. Second, even if operators are expert, automatic systems erode their skills by removing the need for practice. Third, automatic systems tend to fail either in unusual situations or in ways that produce unusual situations, requiring a particularly skilful response.

If you’re still shying away from using technology to improve customer experience — you’re doomed

Some observations from Paul Taylor on digital experience in Myanmar, where internet usage has skyrocketed recently.

For three weeks I’ve not dealt with any paper, any spreadsheets, and very few emails. I’ve negotiated seven hotels, seven flights, taxi’s and boat trips through a mix of apps, increasingly powered by automation and artificial intelligence.

In some respects coming home seems like arriving in the third world, rather than coming from it.

It reminds me of stories about smartphone usage in China, which is totally different to the west.

Westerners try to use their phones like tiny PCs. But because many people in developing countries didn’t have widespread access to PC, they don’t have those mental models. As such, they take fuller advantage of the capabilities of modern mobile devices.

People and tooling

On the increasingly complex nature of design and development.

The way we build for the web right now feels problematic in so many ways. Instead of welcoming everyone from our teams with their various skills, we create layers of complexity that shut many out.

I sense this is deliberate, albeit in a subtly unconscious way. There is a culture among some in technology that seeks to belittle and exclude those who find complicated things intimidating. So development has grown in complexity over time, probably needlessly so.

AI don’t kill people, people do

Reflections on whether technological advances will ‘take our jobs’.

…[I]n Western societies, technical advancement has allowed many of us to extricate ourselves from physical, dangerous and demeaning forms of work, and to create careers that are fulfilling beyond renumeration: creatively, intellectually, socially… “job satisfaction”.

Historically, technological advances haven’t meant humans losing jobs. But it has meant we have taken on increasingly complex and interesting jobs. Perhaps the future will bring us further job satisfaction.

That’s not a bad place to be at all. A reminder that we should be grateful for the luxury we have in being able to pursue a good career in the first place, rather than slaving away to make ends meet.

See also: Why you shouldn’t follow your passion

Let me know if you found this interesting. And don’t forget you can find these links at as and when they are published daily.



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