I’ve been exploring my note taking, trying to shape it as a more deliberate practice. As part of that exploration I’ve been reading Sönke Ahrens ‘How to take smart notes’ on Luhmann‘s Zettelkasten (now digitised). More later on that book. What stands out in all things I find about note taking is the importance of taking time to process. Going through notes iteratively, at least once after you created them first.

My own main issue with a lot of the stuff I collect, is just that, it’s a collection. They’re not notes, so the collection mostly never gets used. Of course I also have a heap of written notes, from conversations, presentations I attended etc. There too a second step is missing, that of going through it to really digest it and lift the things out that are of interest to myself and taking note of that. Putting it into the context of the things I’m interested in. The thing I regularly do is marking elements in notes I took afterwards (e.g. marking them as an idea, an action, or something to blog), but that is not lifting them out of the original notes into a place and form where they might get re-used. Ahrens/Luhmann suggest to daily take time for a first step of processing rough notes (the thinking about the notes and capturing the results). Tiago Forte describes a process of progressive summarisation, every time you happen to go back to something you captured (often other’s content), for up to 4 iterations.

There are different steps to shape in such a process. There is how material gets collected / ends up in my inbox, and there’s the second stage of capturing things from it.
I started with looking at reading non-fiction books. With my new e-ink reader, it is easy to export any notes / markings I make in or alongside a book. Zotero is a good tool to capture bibliographic references, and allows me to add those exported notes easily. This covers the first step of getting material in a place I can process it.

The second step, creating notes based on me digesting my reading, I’m now experimenting which form that should take. There are several note apps that might be useful, but some assume too much about the usage process, which is a form of lock-in itself, or store it in a way that might create a hurdle further down the line. So, to get a feel for how I want to make those notes I am first doing it in tools I already use, to see how that feels in terms of low barrier to entry and low friction while doing it. Those two tools are a) Evernote (yes I know, I want to ditch Evernote, but using it now is a way of seeing what is process friction, what is tool friction), and b) my local WordPress instance, that basically works as a Wiki for me. I’m adding key board shortcuts using TextExpander to help easily adding structure to my notes. I’ll do that for a few days to be able to compare.

I made 7 note cards in the past 2 days, and as the number grows, it will get easier to build links between them, threading them, which is part of what I want to experience.

Nicholas Carr wrote a blog post well worth a read last January, positing the impact of social media is content collapse, not context collapse. Indeed when we all started out on social software the phrase context collapse was on our lips.

Since 2016 Carr sees context restoration however, a movement away from public FB posts to private accounts, chat groups, and places where content self-destructs after a while. In its place he sees a different collapse, that of content.

Context collapse remains an important conceptual lens, but what’s becoming clear now is that a very different kind of collapse — content collapse — will be the more consequential legacy of social media. Content collapse, as I define it, is the tendency of social media to blur traditional distinctions among once distinct types of information — distinctions of form, register, sense, and importance. As social media becomes the main conduit for information of all sorts — personal correspondence, news and opinion, entertainment, art, instruction, and on and on — it homogenizes that information as well as our responses to it.

Content collapse, because all those different types of information reach us in the exact same templated way, the endlessly scrolling timeline on our phone’s screen.
Carr posits our general unease with social media stems from this content collapse even, and names four aspects of it:

First, by leveling everything, social media also trivializes everything….

Second, as all information consolidates on social media, we respond to it using the same small set of tools the platforms provide for us. Our responses become homogenized, too….

Third, content collapse puts all types of information into direct competition….

Finally, content collapse consolidates power over information, and conversation, into the hands of the small number of companies that own the platforms and write the algorithms….

My first instinct is that it is that last aspect that causes the most unease. The first and third are ultimately the same thing, I feel. The second trivialises not the content but us. It severely limits people’s response range, leaving no room for nuance or complexity (which makes unease and lack of power more tangible to users, such that I suspect it significantly amps the outrage feedback loop in people’s attempts to break the homogeneity, to be seen, to be heard) It is what removes us as an independent entity, a political actor, a locus of agency, an active node in the network that is society.

So here’s to variety and messiness, the open web, the animated gifs of yesteryear, and refusing the endlessly scrolling algorithmic timelines.

I need to much more closely read this report. It is very much connected to the things I tried to express during the 2010 SHiFT closing keynote, when I labelled it as MakerHouseholds. A label under which I have done various projects related to making and networked agency in the past decade. There’s a richness in perspective to explore, written by people, some of whom I already follow in my feedreader. (ht Alper Çugun)

Bookmarked The New Old Home by The Yak Collective

Rediscovering the home as a production frontier

The Yak Collective’s second report, The New Old Home, offers 22 perspectives built around Pamela Hobart’s central thesis: as work returns to the home in the form of remote work opportunities (a trend now dramatically accelerated by pandemic circumstances), we can turn to historical modes of integrated living, reconsidered in light of newer technology, to guide our attempts at co-located life and work.

Quotebacks have been mentioned in various corners of the IndieWeb a lot in the past few weeks. As it was launched as a Chrome plugin, I didn’t try it out (Chrome is an unpalatable ad delivery vehicle imo). Now however there is a Firefox Quotebacks plugin, Tom Critchlow announced.

As Tom says, Quotebacks are meant to reduce friction in quoting other blogs/sites/sources, and if that increases the number and length of distributed conversations I’m all for it.

I think of it as smoothing some friction for behaviors we’re interested in encouraging

How is it different from a block-quote? It isn’t actually, under the hood it is still a block-quote. It’s just styled differently, and the browser plugin makes it very easy to capture everything you need and paste it into your blog-editor. The quoteback you see above is a html block-quote in the source:

screenshot of the html code of a block quote styled as quoteback

While reading you can select text and in Firefox press alt s, and the plugin will pop-up. It allows you to add / edit things, and then copy the html encoded quote to your clipboard, to paste into your blog editor.

screenshot of the Quoteback plugin pop-up during browsing

I like the easy ‘quote, copy, paste’ flow and having it look nice. I do think that the styling, which mimicks how e.g. Tweets are embedded in websites, may sometimes however actually break the flow of a blogpost, where a block-quote is more like a highlight in the pace and rhythm of a text, while a quoteback is presented as an embed, a different thing separate from the text. In fact I mostly actively dislike the embedded tweets in e.g. ‘news’ articles. There it feels like a way of not having to write an actual article or story, resulting in ‘news’ items along the basic template of “X said something, Twitter wasn’t having it” (With the article often stating the content of a tweet in its text, and then embedding the tweet below it, repeat 12 times. Voila, ‘journalism’ done.) It’s an additional visual amplification, easy on the eyes yes and instantly recognisable as a visual pointer to elsewhere, that probably isn’t always warranted, and may even reduce attention to the post the quote is used in. That would then decrease the level of distributed conversation, not increase it as intended.

Of course it is entirely possible to use the quoteback plugin, and not having the visual style of embedding applied. Below is the exact same quoteback as above, but with the class="quoteback" removed, reverting it back to a regular block-quotes (but keeping the link to the source and comments you may have added). Alternatively you can also delete the script element that provides the styling information for the quoteback. (I do exactly the same with Flickr embeds)

I think of it as smoothing some friction for behaviors we’re interested in encouraging

I’ll experiment for a while to see how it works for me in practice. I’ve put the script that styles the embed on my own domain, so I can also fiddle a bit with the styling if I want.

Mijn Open State Foundation collega Wilma Haan wordt per 1 september adjunct-hoofdredacteur bij de NOS. Het is een prachtige stap in haar staat van dienst in de journalistiek. Helaas is de consequentie wel dat Wilma daarmee haar huidige rol opgeeft als directeur van de Open State Foundation (waar ik bestuursvoorzitter ben sinds Wilma’s aantreden). Dat vind ik heel jammer, want we waren eigenlijk net lekker op dreef met elkaar. Zoals ze zelf zei kun je de timing van unieke kansen die voorbij komen zelf niet plannen. Vanuit de Open State Foundation zullen we snel een vacature openstellen voor een nieuwe directeur om de belangrijke missie van Open State Foundation voort te zetten met ons toffe team. Tot september werken Wilma, het bestuur en het team nauw samen om te zorgen dat een nieuwe directeur een vliegende start kan maken.

Came across this article from last year, The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising. It takes a look at online advertising’s effectiveness. It seems the selection effect is strong, but not accounted for, because the metrics happen after that.

“It is crucial for advertisers to distinguish such a selection effect (people see your ad, but were already going to click, buy, register, or download) from the advertising effect (people see your ad, and that’s why they start clicking, buying, registering, downloading).”

They don’t.

All the data gathering, all the highly individual targeting, apparently means advertisers are reaching people they would already reach. Now people just click on a link the advertising company is paying extra for.

For eBay there was an opportunity in 2012 to experiment with what would happen if they stopped online advertising. Three months later, the results were clear: all the traffic that had previously come from paid links was now coming in through ordinary links. Tadelis had been right all along. Annually, eBay was burning a good $20m on ads targeting the keyword ‘eBay’. (Blake et al 2015, Econometrica Vol. 83, 1, pp 155-174. DOI 10.3982/ECTA12423, PDF on Sci-Hub)

It’s about a market of a quarter of a trillion dollars governed by irrationality. It’s about knowables, about how even the biggest data sets don’t always provide insight.

So, the next time when some site wants to emotionally blackmail you to please disable your adtech blockers, because they’ve led themselves to believe that undermining your privacy is the only way they can continue to exist, don’t feel guilty. Adtech has to go, you’re offering up your privacy for magical thinking. Shields up!