Fast Company Design has written Tech Has A Diversity Problem–So This Designer Went To Kentucky, about John Maeda's work pairing some of the top designers in the world with students in Paintsville, Kentucky.
James Beshara has a really interesting read on how communication will change and evolve in a post-verbal world, namely one where human/brain interfaces like Neuralink can more directly transmit thought between people than the medium of language allows today.
After reading the essay I wonder if people's thoughts or the neural pathways they activate, if they could be directly transmitted into another brain, would actually make any sense to someone else with a unique internal set of pathways and framework for parsing and understanding the world. The essay assumes we'd understand and have more empathy with each other, but that seems like a leap. It seems likely the neural link would need it own set of abstractions, perhaps even unique per person, similar to how Google Translate AI invented its own meta-language.
Today idea-viruses that cause outrage (outrageous?) in today's discourse have been weaponized by algorithms optimizing for engagement, and directly brain-transmitted memes seem especially risky for appealing to our base natures or causing amygdala hijack. But perhaps a feature of these neural interface devices could counteract that, with a command like "tell me this piece of news but suppress my confirmation bias and tribal emotional reactions while I'm taking it in."
I love USB, cables, and charging things. So MacRumors comparison of different wired and wireless charging options and speed for the iPhone X is my catnip. tl; dr: USB-C + USB-C-to-Lightning cable gives you far and away the fastest times. I've found this true for the iPad Pro as well.
I really enjoyed connecting with the WordPress community in Nashville this previous weekend. On Saturday I delivered the State of the Word presentation alongside Mel, Weston, and Matías. There's always a post-event buzz but I definitely noticed a change in tenor of people's thoughts on Gutenberg after the presentation and demo. The video is above, check it out when you get a chance.
Virtually all investors have been told when they were younger — or implicitly believe, or have been tacitly encouraged to do so by the cookie-cutter curriculums of the business schools they all attend — that the more they understand the world, the better their investment results. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The more information we acquire and evaluate, the “better informed” we become, the better our decisions. Accumulating information, becoming “better informed,” is certainly an advantage in numerous, if not most, fields.
But not in the eld of counterintuitive world of investing, where accumulating information can hurt your investment results.
In 1974, Paul Slovic — a world-class psychologist, and a peer of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman — decided to evaluate the effect of information on decision-making. This study should be taught at every business school in the country. Slovic gathered eight professional horse handicappers and announced, “I want to see how well you predict the winners of horse races.” Now, these handicappers were all seasoned professionals who made their livings solely on their gambling skills.
Slovic told them the test would consist of predicting 40 horse races in four consecutive rounds. In the first round, each gambler would be given the five pieces of information he wanted on each horse, which would vary from handicapper to handicapper. One handicapper might want the years of experience the jockey had as one of his top five variables, while another might not care about that at all but want the fastest speed any given horse had achieved in the past year, or whatever.
Finally, in addition to asking the handicappers to predict the winner of each race, he asked each one also to state how confident he was in his prediction. Now, as it turns out, there were an average of ten horses in each race, so we would expect by blind chance — random guessing — each handicapper would be right 10 percent of the time, and that their confidence with a blind guess to be 10 percent.
So in round one, with just five pieces of information, the handicappers were 17 percent accurate, which is pretty good, 70 percent better than the 10 percent chance they started with when given zero pieces of information. And interestingly, their confidence was 19 percent — almost exactly as confident as they should have been. They were 17 percent accurate and 19 percent confident in their predictions.
In round two, they were given ten pieces of information. In round three, 20 pieces of information. And in the fourth and final round, 40 pieces of information. That’s a whole lot more than the five pieces of information they started with. Surprisingly, their accuracy had flatlined at 17 percent; they were no more accurate with the additional 35 pieces of information. Unfortunately, their confidence nearly doubled — to 34 percent! So the additional information made them no more accurate but a whole lot more confident. Which would have led them to increase the size of their bets and lose money as a result.
Beyond a certain minimum amount, additional information only feeds — leaving aside the considerable cost of and delay occasioned in acquiring it — what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” The information we gain that conflicts with our original assessment or conclusion, we conveniently ignore or dismiss, while the information that confirms our original decision makes us increasingly certain that our conclusion was correct.
So, to return to investing, the second problem with trying to understand the world is that it is simply far too complex to grasp, and the more dogged our at- tempts to understand the world, the more we earnestly want to “explain” events and trends in it, the more we become attached to our resulting beliefs — which are always more or less mistaken — blinding us to the financial trends that are actually unfolding. Worse, we think we understand the world, giving investors a false sense of confidence, when in fact we always more or less misunderstand it.
You hear it all the time from even the most seasoned investors and financial “experts” that this trend or that “doesn’t make sense.” “It doesn’t make sense that the dollar keeps going lower” or “it makes no sense that stocks keep going higher.” But what’s really going on when investors say that something makes no sense is that they have a dozen or whatever reasons why the trend should be moving in the opposite direction.. yet it keeps moving in the current direction. So they believe the trend makes no sense. But what makes no sense is their model of the world. That’s what doesn’t make sense. The world always makes sense.
In fact, because financial trends involve human behavior and human beliefs on a global scale, the most powerful trends won’t make sense until it becomes too late to profit from them. By the time investors formulate an understanding that gives them the confidence to invest, the investment opportunity has already passed.
So when I hear sophisticated investors or financial commentators say, for example, that it makes no sense how energy stocks keep going lower, I know that energy stocks have a lot lower to go. Because all those investors are on the wrong side of the trade, in denial, probably doubling down on their original decision to buy energy stocks. Eventually they will throw in the towel and have to sell those energy stocks, driving prices lower still.
Tim Ferriss’s new book Tribe of Mentors is out. I have finished it already, and can say it’s really excellent and I even liked it more than Tools of Titans even though I’m not in this one. 🙂 As I said in a message to Tim:
— Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) October 16, 2017
I learned a lot from it, took a ton of notes to follow up on, and wrote down about twenty more books I have to read.
In the lead-up to WordCamp US we're in right now I chatted with Brian Krogsgard at Post Status in an hour podcast and we spoke about the core releases this year, Gutenberg, React, WooCommerce, and WordPress.org. On the 29th I'll be talking to WP Tavern, so tune in then as well. For something completely different, I was on the new OFF RCRD podcast with Cory Levy about the earliest days at Automattic and entrepreneurship.
When I look back over the last 25 years, in some ways what seems most precious is not what we have made but how we have made it and what we have learned as a consequence of that. I always think that there are two products at the end of a programme; there is the physical product or the service, the thing that you have managed to make, and then there is all that you have learned. The power of what you have learned enables you to do the next thing and it enables you to do the next thing better. — Jony Ive
As an interim update to my 2017 gear post, I'd like to strongly endorse the Aer Fit Pack 2 as my new primary backpack, replacing the Lululemon bag I suggested before. It has better material, much better zippers, a logical design, more pocket distribution inside, and it's cheaper! I put this bag and its predecessor through all the rounds, including taking it to Burning Man, and it's been a champ. If you're reading this and work for Automattic, this bag is also now available as an official choice for your bag and it'll come embroidered with a cool logo. (Previously we only offered Timbuk2.)
As you prepare for Halloween you'll enjoy this Drake parody, especially if you're familiar with his catalog.
[Gauguin] was penniless and adrift, trying to paint his way through the devastations of his dying marriage, his rejection by the cliques of the Parisian art establishment, and the precarity of his friendship with Vincent van Gogh, who shortly before Christmas had assaulted him with a razor and, after Gauguin’s departure that evening, used the same blade to cut off his own ear […] Despite the promises of the name, it can be a challenge to find actual olives at Olive Garden.
Probably my favorite food writing I've read this year is Helen Rosner's comprehensive review of Olive Garden for Eater.
Matias Ventura, the lead of the editor focus for WordPress, has written Gutenberg, or the Ship of Theseus to talk about how Gutenberg's approach will simplify many of the most complex parts of WordPress, building pages, and theme editing. If you want a peek at some of the things coming down the line with Gutenberg, including serverless WebRTC real-time co-editing.
Nautilus Magazine has an interesting look at the question of Is Matter Conscious? Worth reading to learn what the word "panpsychism" means. Hat tip: John Vechey.
Big companies like to bury unpleasant news on Fridays: A few weeks ago, Facebook announced they have decided to dig in on their patent clause addition to the React license, even after Apache had said it’s no longer allowed for Apache.org projects. In their words, removing the patent clause would "increase the amount of time and money we have to spend fighting meritless lawsuits."
I'm not judging Facebook or saying they're wrong, it's not my place. They have decided it's right for them — it's their work and they can decide to license it however they wish. I appreciate that they've made their intentions going forward clear.
A few years ago, Automattic used React as the basis for the ground-up rewrite of WordPress.com we called Calypso, I believe it's one of the larger React-based open source projects. As our general counsel wrote, we made the decision that we'd never run into the patent issue. That is still true today as it was then, and overall, we’ve been really happy with React. More recently, the WordPress community started to use React for Gutenberg, the largest core project we've taken on in many years. People's experience with React and the size of the React community — including Calypso — was a factor in trying out React for Gutenberg, and that made React the new de facto standard for WordPress and the tens of thousands of plugins written for WordPress.
We had a many-thousand word announcement talking about how great React is and how we're officially adopting it for WordPress, and encouraging plugins to do the same. I’ve been sitting on that post, hoping that the patent issue would be resolved in a way we were comfortable passing down to our users.
That post won't be published, and instead I'm here to say that the Gutenberg team is going to take a step back and rewrite Gutenberg using a different library. It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.
Automattic will also use whatever we choose for Gutenberg to rewrite Calypso — that will take a lot longer, and Automattic still has no issue with the patents clause, but the long-term consistency with core is worth more than a short-term hit to Automattic’s business from a rewrite. Core WordPress updates go out to over a quarter of all websites, having them all inherit the patents clause isn’t something I’m comfortable with.
I think Facebook’s clause is actually clearer than many other approaches companies could take, and Facebook has been one of the better open source contributors out there. But we have a lot of problems to tackle, and convincing the world that Facebook’s patent clause is fine isn’t ours to take on. It’s their fight.
The decision on which library to use going forward will be another post; it’ll be primarily a technical decision. We’ll look for something with most of the benefits of React, but without the baggage of a patents clause that’s confusing and threatening to many people. Thank you to everyone who took time to share their thoughts and give feedback on these issues thus far — we're always listening.
Update: This post received an incredible response from the wider web and open source community, and a few days later Facebook reversed their position.
Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams, the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men.Thank you to the WP Tavern conversation that helped me write down many of these ideas, and Michelle Weber. This post started in Google Docs then revised in Gutenberg 0.9.
The illustrious Chance the Rapper was looking for a new intern.
I'm looking for an intern, someone with experience in putting together decks and writing proposals
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) March 27, 2017
Some people responded with regular resumes, replying as images, but Negele “Hopsey” Hospedales decided to make a website on WordPress.com:
— Hosp the Plug ? (@Hospey) March 28, 2017
The happy ending is written up in Billboard: he got the gig and went on tour with Chance. Hospey wrote a great article on it himself: How To Work For Your Favourite Rapper.
The company Bayer is famous for inventing aspirin in 1898, which is arguably one of the world’s most beloved brands, and for good reason. But I was surprised to learn that just two weeks earlier, the same three guys who gave the world aspirin also created Bayer’s other big brand, heroin, which was marketed for about eight years as the world’s best cough medicine.
From Andrew Essex on his book about the End of Advertising. Hat tip: John Maeda.
I found this funny anecdote from a CNET article about the future of power:
Power and utility companies must exactly balance supply with what people consume at any given moment. UK grid operators famously must cope with a demand surge after the TV soap opera “EastEnders” ends, when thousands of people start boiling water for tea.
Last week we released version 4.8 “Evans” of WordPress, as I write this it has had about 4.8 million downloads already. The release was stable and has been received well, and we were able do the merge and beta a bit faster than we have before.
When I originally wrote about the three focuses for the year (and in the State of the Word) I said releases would be driven by improvements in those three areas, and people in particular are anticipating the new Gutenberg editor, so I wanted to talk a bit about what’s changed and what I’ve learned in the past few months that caused us to course correct and do an intermediate 4.8 release, and why there will likely be a 4.9 before Gutenberg comes in.
Right now the vast majority of effort is going into the new editing experience, and the progress has been great, but because we’re going to use the new editor as the basis for our new customization experience it means that the leads for the customization focus have to wait for Gutenberg to get a bit further along before we can build on that foundation. Mel and Weston took this as an opportunity to think about not just the “Customizer”, which is a screen and code base within WP, but really thinking in a user-centric way about what it means to customize a site and they identified a number of low-hanging fruits, areas like widgets where we could have a big user impact with relatively little effort.
WordPress is littered with little inconsistencies and gaps in the user experience that aren’t hard to fix, but are hard to notice the 500th time you’re looking at a screen.
I didn’t think we’d be able to sustain the effort on the editor and still do a meaningful user release in the meantime, but we did, and I think we can do it again.
4.8 also brought in a number of developer and accessibility improvements, including dropping support for old IE versions, but as I mentioned (too harshly) in my first quarter check-in there hasn’t been as much happening on the REST API side of things, but after talking to some folks at WordCamp EU and the community summit before I’m optimistic about that improving. Something else I didn’t anticipate was wp-cli coming under the wing of WP.org as an official project, which is huge for developers and people building on WP. (It’s worth mentioning wp-cli and REST API work great together.)
To summarize: The main focus of the editor is going great, customization has been getting improvements shipped to users, the wp-cli has become like the third focus, and I’m optimistic about REST-based development the remainder of the year.
I’ll be on stage at WordCamp Europe in Paris tomorrow afternoon doing a Q&A with Om Malik and taking audience questions, will also have a few announcements. You can get to the livestream tomorrow on the WordCamp EU homepage.