Monthly Archives: June 2017

PM’ing my way to El Segundo

Do you ever play the game of “Feature or Bug?” with your own characteristics? Being tall, for instance, could be a feature until you’re crammed into a tight airline seat.

For me it often comes down to wildly ambitious, encompassing visions. They’re exciting, they’re inspiring… and then I lose folks. Time & again I’ve found myself talking with a colleague, getting them excited about some idea or other—but then I go blasting off in my one-man rocket ship, watching through a lonely porthole as their smile & energy fade, then disappear under a plume of my conversational exhaust. As my old boss Kevin observed the other day, “It’s not leadership if no one follows.”

I still want to take people to the moon, but lately, to borrow a phrase from Chris Rock’s character Cheap Pete, I’m first trying just to take ‘em to El Segundo. It’s a little like this…

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Automatically share photos of specific people via Google Photos

Computer vision FTW!

Bad old world: Even though I’m standing next to my wife while she snaps pics of our kids, it’s only if Facebook buzzes my phone that I see what she took & shared. The rest remain a mystery.

Good new world: Every photo I take of the kids can be automatically shared with her, and vice versa. 

With shared libraries, sending and receiving photos with one person is effortless—you can automatically share your full photo library or customize just what you want to share. Suggested sharing uses machine learning to automatically identify photos and suggest recipients, making sharing as simple as a single tap. 

I’ve been waiting for this for years. Setup is super simple: pick your partner, select people to share (or whole library), send invite; goodness ensues. You can check out the details here, and you can use the feature now on iOS, Android, and Web. Enjoy!

“Persuasion & Control”: A dark, bracing podcast

“Like a meeting room that simply seeks to prolong the meeting”—so says writer Zeynep Tufekci of Facebook, YouTube, and other sites that seek to maximize their command of your attention. In this conversation with Sam Harris she explains, among other things…

  • how machine learning draws us towards the edges of discourse (because that’s simply what we’re most likely to click)
  • how political campaigns can (and now do) target specific people (e.g. black men in Philadelphia in 2016) in order to depress their votes
  • how marketers could detect a manic-depressive person’s manic upswing & comp him airline tickets to Vegas, knowing that he’s most vulnerable to blowing all his money
…and more. It’s fascinating, dark stuff that should give pause to all of us—especially those of us who merrily work to extract more & more insights into individuals, in order to better shape their behavior (for good, we swear…).

Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about “surveillance capitalism,” the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook, AI-enabled marketing, the health of the press, Wikileaks, ransomware attacks, and other topics.

Merry f’ing Christmas.

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Netflix introduces “interactive storytelling”

As an ex-child old enough to remember Captain Power and “interactive TV” in the 80’s, I’m intrigued that Netflix is introducing branching, Choose Your Own Adventure-style storytelling:

So do kids really want this kind of more lean-forward experience? No one seems sure:

We’ve done extensive research and talked to lots of kids and parents, collecting qualitative data to better understand if this is something viewers will like. While we’ve gotten positive feedback (for example, parents like the fact their child has the ability to make decisions and take a seat in the director’s chair, if you will), we’re eager to learn how our members will engage with the experience. Which choices or storylines will be the most popular? Will the mean bears or the friendly bears be more popular? Are members more compelled to rewatch and uncover all of the different storylines?

They say that old age is a second childhood, so this dovetails nicely with my (otherwise super proper, Midwestern Catholic) dad now yelling profanity at Trump on MSNBC. 😝

On a similar note, the Choose Your Own Adventures books haven’t been updated in nearly 20 years (!), but they’re being reissued with maps of the hidden structures in each book:

Nick Montfort, a poet and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies interactive fiction, has a habit of asking people what they know about “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. “They often say, ‘You have two choices after every page,’” he says. “That’s not true. Sometimes you have one choice. Sometimes you have more than two. When you show the maps, you can see that these books don’t look exactly the same.”

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