skip to main content

Links

Hand-picked links worth sharing.

Subscribe via RSS or JSON Feed.

  1. Shopping Sucks Now
    vice.com

    Casey Johnston tries to come to terms with a problem that I, too, suffer from — if you’re trying to buy the right thing, there’s no longer any limit to the amount of work you can put into research:

    For a long time, our problem was there were not enough things to choose from. Then with big box stores, followed by the internet, there were too many things to choose from. Now there are still too many things to choose from, but also a seemingly infinite number of ways to choose, or seemingly infinite steps to figuring out how to choose. The longer I spend trying to choose, the higher the premium becomes on choosing correctly, which means I go on not choosing something I need pretty badly, coping with the lack of it or an awful hacked-together solution (in the case of gloves, it’s “trying to pull my sleeves over my hands but they are too short for this”) for way, way too long, and sometimes forever.

    The degree to which you feel this problem definitely depends on your income, or at least, being in the privileged position of not having to make do with the only thing you can afford. But for people with even a limited ability to make an investment purchase, if it’s worth it, there’s even more pressure to get it right. Knowing you wasted a big chunk of money on a cheaper, worse thing that falls apart when you could have spent a little more money on a thing that is good and lasts feels like failure. You’ve then wasted your money, wasted your time, you’ve contributed to global warming, and now you have to start the entire thing over again and hope you don’t somehow end up making the exact same mistake.

  2. How Bong Joon Ho Designed the House in “Parasite”
    indiewire.com

    Chris O’Falt interviews Bong Joon Ho and production designer Lee Ha Jun about Parasite’s brilliant set design:

    According to Bong, the challenge he gave his “Snowpiercer” production designer was not only to create a believably “visually beautiful” set, but a stage that served the precise needs of his camera, compositions, and characters, while embodying his film’s rich themes. In an interview with IndieWire, Bong described the home as “its own universe inside this film.” He added that he took pleasure in hearing that the famous directors on this year’s Cannes jury — which included Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Kelly Reichardt — were all convinced that the movie took place in a real home. In truth, Bong asked his production designer to create an “open set,” built on an outdoor lot.

  3. How NYT Cooking Became the Best Comment Section on the Internet
    theringer.com

    Zach Gage tweeted:

    i wish all internet comments were like the comments on nyt recipe pages

    Turns out a big part of why they’re so nice has to do with nomenclature:

    This might be because Cooking’s comments aren’t comments at all—they’re notes, a distinction Times food editor Sam Sifton emphasizes several times over the course of our conversation. “We made the conscious decision not to call them comments,” Sifton tells me. “The call to action was to leave a note on the recipe that helps make it better. That’s very different from ‘Leave a comment on a recipe.’ And the comment might be ‘I hate you.’ ‘You’re an asshole.’ ‘This is bad.’ And that’s helpful to no one. I see that on other recipes, and I’m glad that we don’t have those comments, because we don’t have comments. We have notes.”

    While it’s delightful to think that that could be enough, human moderation is also involved:

    On the internet, moderation is something of a dying art, often outsourced, automated, or even discontinued altogether by resource-strained news outlets. At Cooking, however, every single note is approved or rejected by an actual human being.

  4. 16-Inch MacBook Pro First Impressions: Great Keyboard, Outstanding Speakers
    daringfireball.net

    John Gruber spent some time with the new MacBook Pro:

    It feels a bit silly to be excited about a classic arrow key layout, a hardware Escape key, and key switches that function reliably and feel good when you type with them, but that’s where we are. The risk of being a Mac user is that we’re captive to a single company’s whims.

    Great that they fixed the keyboards, but I’m guessing repairability hasn’t improved. My 2014 MacBook Pro’s battery started expanding recently, and I was surprised to learn that a battery replacement isn’t a simple job, even for this older generation. The battery is glued in place, so replacing it means an entirely new top case, keyboard, and trackpad — and in my case a week without my computer. That’s bad design too, and a side of it that Apple isn’t getting enough flak for.

  5. The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising
    thecorrespondent.com

    Jesse Frederik and Maurits Martijn:

    It might sound crazy, but companies are not equipped to assess whether their ad spending actually makes money. It is in the best interest of a firm like eBay to know whether its campaigns are profitable, but not so for eBay’s marketing department.

    Its own interest is in securing the largest possible budget, which is much easier if you can demonstrate that what you do actually works. Within the marketing department, TV, print and digital compete with each other to show who’s more important, a dynamic that hardly promotes honest reporting.

    The fact that management often has no idea how to interpret the numbers is not helpful either. The highest numbers win.

  6. Tech and Liberty
    stratechery.com

    Ben Thompson defends Facebook’s recent decision to let politicians lie in ads, arguing that free speech should be considered in terms of culture, not law.

    Here are his concluding remarks:

    Facebook, obviously, is not the government, and thank goodness: the fact that Zuckerberg answers to no one is deeply concerning to me. To be fair, in the case of political ads, this was arguably a benefit: I think he is making the right decision in the face of massive resistance. In the long run, though, it is very problematic that such a powerful player in our democracy has no accountability. Liberty is not simply about laws, or culture, it is also about structure, and it is right to be concerned about the centralized nature of companies like Facebook.

    To that end, the fact that this debate is even occurring is evidence of the problem: those opposed to Facebook’s decision about ads wish the company would wield its power in their favor; my question is whether such power should even exist in the first place. Facebook can close Munroe’s door on anyone, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    Ben makes a good case, but I have conflicting feelings about it. These last few moves by Twitter and Facebook have left me hopelessly lost in this debate. When does a lie become fraud?

  7. This essay is just Harry Potter for people who think comparing things to Harry Potter is stupid
    theoutline.com

    Rosa Lyster:

    “Fight club is just the matrix for incels.” “Big Thief is just Fleetwood Mac for sad bois.” “The Handmaids Tale is just Harry Potter for middle aged liberals.” “Otessa Moshfegh is just Mary Gaitskill for girls who talk too much about how they sometimes miss their periods due to being so waifish and slender.” “Bob Dylan is just Joni Mitchell for men who beat their wives.” “American Psycho is just the Joker movie for older white perverts.” “ABBA is just Fleetwood Mac for middle-aged suburban housewives whose drug of choice was cocaine instead of marijuana.” “Billie Eilish is just Avril Lavigne for girls who have too many cups in their bedroom.” This is fun to do, and definitely hilarious for people who love zingers, but it also sucks, and replaces the flash of real insight with the far cheaper thrill of recognizing things. It turns a constellation of possible meanings through which we might better know each other and ourselves into a vast Extended Universe.

    Damn, that’s pointed.

  8. AI Is Coming for Your Favorite Menial Tasks
    theatlantic.com

    Fred Benenson:

    When people talk about the effects of automation and artificial intelligence on the economy, they often fixate on the quantity of human workers. Will robots take our jobs? Others focus instead on threats to the quality of employment—the replacement of middle-class occupations with lower-skill, lower-wage ones; the steady elimination of human discretion as algorithms order around warehouse pickers, ride-hailing drivers, and other workers.

    What’s less understood is that artificial intelligence will transform higher-skill positions, too—in ways that demand more human judgment rather than less. And that could be a problem. As AI gets better at performing the routine tasks traditionally done by humans, only the hardest ones will be left for us to do. But wrestling with only difficult decisions all day long is stressful and unpleasant. Being able to make at least some easy calls, such as allowing Santorini onto Kickstarter, can be deeply satisfying.

    “Decision making is very cognitively draining,” the author and former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes told me via email, “so it’s nice to have some tasks that provide a sense of accomplishment but just require getting it done and repeating what you know, rather than everything needing very taxing novel decision making.”

  9. Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs
    wired.com

    Kevin Kelly:

    In the coming years our relationships with robots will become ever more complex. But already a recurring pattern is emerging. No matter what your current job or your salary, you will progress through these Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, again and again:

    1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do.
    2. OK, it can do a lot of them, but it can’t do everything I do.
    3. OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often.
    4. OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks.
    5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do.
    6. Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more fun and pays more!
    7. I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now.
  10. The World-Wide Work
    ethanmarcotte.com

    Finally watched Ethan Marcotte’s talk from this year’s New Adventures conference. It’s as good as everyone said.

    The sewing machine was introduced to the public in the middle of the 19th century. When it was made commercially available, it was advertised as an appliance that would free women from the routine drudgery of hand-sewing.

    A few short decades later, this pamphlet said that a female operator could use a Singer sewing machine to produce 3,300 stitches per minute.

    That shift in tone is really intriguing to me: as the technology improved, the messaging around sewing machines shifted from personal liberty to technical efficiency.

    People are promised that technology will free them; ultimately, as the technology matures, it captures them.

    I’d like to propose that what happened with the sewing machine is currently happening with the Web: that the Web is becoming industrialized in the same way that the sewing machine was.