The Blue-or-Yellow Edition Monday, February 24, 2020

Big Tech Is Testing You, by Hannah Fry, New Yorker

Physics, chemistry, and medicine have had their revolution. But now, driven by experimentation, a further transformation is in the air. That’s the argument of “The Power of Experiments” (M.I.T.), by Michael Luca and Max H. Bazerman, both professors at the Harvard Business School. When it comes to driving our decisions in a world of data, they say, “the age of experiments is only beginning.”

In fact, if you’ve recently used Facebook, browsed Netflix, or run a Google search, you have almost certainly participated in an experiment of some kind. Google alone ran fifteen thousand of them in 2018, involving countless unsuspecting Internet users. “We don’t want high-level executives discussing whether a blue background or a yellow background will lead to more ad clicks,” Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, tells the authors. “Why debate this point, since we can simply run an experiment to find out?”

Myst: The Drawbacks To Success, by Jimmy Maher, The Digital Antiquarian

Robyn Miller, one half of the pair of brothers who created the adventure game known as Myst with their small studio Cyan, tells a story about its development that’s irresistible to a writer like me. When the game was nearly finished, he says, its publisher Brøderbund insisted that it be put through “focus-group testing” at their offices. Robyn and his brother Rand reluctantly agreed, and soon the first group of guinea pigs shuffled into Brøderbund’s conference room. Much to its creators’ dismay, they hated the game. But then, just as the Miller brothers were wondering whether they had wasted the past two years of their lives making it, the second group came in. Their reaction was the exact opposite: they loved the game.

So would it be forevermore. Myst would prove to be one of the most polarizing games in history, loved and hated in equal measure. Even today, everyone seems to have a strong opinion about it, whether they’ve actually played it or not.


You Don’t Owe Your Company Undying Loyalty, by Alison Green, Slate

But it can be tough as an employee to shed these beliefs about loyalty, damaging as they are. That’s especially true if you’re a conscientious worker who truly likes your colleagues and your company. In most other areas of life, when we like people and spend a lot of time with them, a duty of loyalty does develop, so it’s confusing when the rules are different at work. Ultimately, though, we’re paid to be at work, and the relationship—while it may be warm and supportive and even a source of real joy and satisfaction—should last only as long as it remains in both parties’ best interests.


Locations Of Media Files In MacOS 10.15 Catalina, by John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Why in the world all the folders in \~/Library/Group Containers/ are prefixed with these ugly seemingly-random identifiers, I have no idea, but it strikes me as one more step along the path of Apple no caring less and less about what the back of the cabinet looks like.

Internet Founder Scales Up Efforts To Redesign Way Web Works, by John Thornhill, Financial Times

Sir Tim, who invented the world wide web in 1989 but has become increasingly critical of the way it has been captured by giant corporations, said there had been a “rush of interest” from open source developers, entrepreneurs, tech company executives and government officials to support Inrupt’s mission to decentralise the web and hand power back to users.

But Inrupt now had to focus on the complexities of turning its underlying Solid technology into a scalable platform. “For the world to experience the true value of the web we’re building, we must address the vital issues related to privacy, trust and security,” he wrote in a blog post.

Bottom of the Page

This is one automation I wish I can set up for my iPhone: If audio is playing while the volume is at 0, please pause after 1 minute.

Occasionally, I don't pause my podcast when I remove my AirPods. Most of the time, the podcast player will correctly pause. But, very occasionally (like today), the podcast player didn't receive the memo and continue to play through my podcast queue. Silently. (I typically has the speaker volume turned off.) By the time I discover this, a bunch of podcast episodes have disappeared from my iPhone.


Thanks for reading.