Tag: automation

Digitally Literate #209


Sometimes you gotta fly
Digitally Lit #209 – 8/10/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to issue #209 of Digitally Literate.

In this newsletter I distill the news of the week in technology into an easy-to-read resource. Thank you for reading. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.

This week I sent out the following:


“Rick Rubin” by Alison Chernick (2:50)

Last weekend I needed a break from the news so I sat down to finally binge watch the documentary series titled Shangri-La on Showtime. The four part series follows legendary producer Rick Rubin as he tours his Malibu studio.

The series is an interesting look at the components and culture of creativity. One thing in particular that I noticed was that Rubin indicated that he wears no shoes everyday.

In a conversation with Tyler the Creator, Rubin says, “The earth actually has an electrical and magnetic energy that goes into our body if we are naked on it, and if we’re covered all the time, we don’t get to feel it. In terms of health and in terms of knowing things, part of the life source is being tapped into the earth.”

I played this part over a couple times, and reflected on how interesting (wacky) this was. I also thought about the only other person that I knew that walked around barefoot…Dai Barnes.

I have a lot to say about this, but I’m honestly still processing. I would recommend checking out these great posts from Aaron Davis and Tim Klapdoor.


We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooters.

A must read op-ed. Two researchers share findings from a National Institute of Justice funded research looking at the life histories of mass shooter in the US. They studied every mass shooting since 1966.

Here’s four commonalities that they learned about the shooters.:
– Early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at an early age
– Reached an identifiable crisis point in weeks or months leading up to the shooting
– Access to actions, ideologies, and validation for their plans from other shooters
– Access to the means to carry out their plans. Can they obtain firearms?

Read more about this research here.

The El Paso Shooting and the Gamification of Terror

After these mass shootings, we learn a lot about the massacres and the motivations that play into these events. As identified in the research shared above, one of the common threads in mass shootings is the dark spaces of the Internet people go to social, subscribe to these ideologies, and sometimes become radicalized.

On a seemingly regular basis in this newsletter I seem to find threads in which harmful discourses spread online. We may not want to peer deep into these areas, but I think that in order to be a responsible citizen of the web, we need to understand the good, and bad/horrible that is out there.

Robert Evans reports on some of his investigations of far-right extremist groups in the US and the ways in which they radicalize and communicate through the Internet.

In this post, we documents the concept of high scores on 8chan, where white nationalist terror has been gamified by lonely white men seeking identity and acclaim.

‘Shut the Site Down,’ Says the Creator of 8chan, a Megaphone for Gunmen

8chan (also called Infinitechan or Infinitychan) is an imageboard website composed of user-created message boards. There is little to no interaction from site moderators or admins. 8chan picked up notoriety when the moderators at 4chan (another English-language messageboard website) got serious and started banning users for illegal, or exceptionally disturbing content.

This post shares the story of Frederick Brennan, the founder of 8chan. Brennan started the online message board as a free speech utopia. But now, 8chan is known as a megaphone for mass shooters, and a recruiting platform for violent white nationalists.

Not long after the recent round of massacres, Cloudflare indicated that they would no longer protect 8chan from attacks. Cloudflare is a web infrastructure and security company. Put simply, they protect websites when others try to shut them down. Not soon after these announcements, attacks starting coming to shut down 8chan. This has caused a number of members of 8chan to head elsewhere online. Please note, in an earlier issue of this newsletter, I detailed the use of Gab (and Mastodon support) to create a distributed space for these communities.

There is much more to talk about with this issue. I’ll stay on top of the story and try to help explain it. Please note, this also raises important questions about freedom of speech, and the role/purpose of our online discourse systems.

Study: most people would rather lose a job to a robot than a human

Really interesting survey about human opinions about workforce automation.

Scientists in Germany find that most people would rather a robot replaced them in their job than a human. On the other hand, most people would be upset if a robot took the job of a colleague.

People have different emotional reactions to being replaced by robots versus humans. I really can’t figure out the logic here. What do you think?

Publication is available here.

Scientists Just Discovered 39 ‘Invisible’ Galaxies

A much needed bit of perspective.

Scientists have found a vast array of hidden galaxies, which together could change our understanding of how the universe works.

The mysterious galaxies, which were previously unknown to researchers, were discovered by a breakthrough new approach that allowed astronomers to look more deeply than ever before into the universe.

The astronomers describe the new find as a treasure trove, representing a huge set of galaxies. It could help solve some of the most deep and fundamental questions about the universe, including the mysteries of supermassive black holes and dark matter.

The pub in Nature is here.


How to Smize

This week was really stressful. Here is the US, we seem to be set at panic mode…for justifiable reasons.

When you go out in public the next time, look at people (yes, strangers as well) and smile first. Better yet, make it believable and smize.

Supposedly a smize, or smiling with your eyes makes you look more genuine. If you smile first, many times this will be returned with a smile from a stranger. Who knows…it may make you feel better as well.

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You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.

Toni Morrison

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This week I was digging Echoes of Japan from the Minyo Crusaders. Minyo Crusaders reworks traditional Japanese folk songs (minyo) with Latin, African, and Caribbean rhythms.

Digitally Literate is a summary of all the great stuff from the Internet this week in technology, education, & literacy. Say hey with a note at hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

We Need Mandatory Enduser APIs for Social and Search Systems

We Need Mandatory Enduser APIs for Social and Search Systems (Continuations by Albert Wenger)

We Need Mandatory Enduser APIs for Social and Search Systems When #DeleteUber was a trending hashtag it was relatively easy for people to take action in those cities where Lyft, MyTaxi or some other…

The brief #DeleteFacebook run was a different story. There is no obvious other place to go (and please don’t say WhatsApp, as that’s Facebook also). The network effect in social is much stronger than the liquidity effect in on demand transportation. So not only did #DeleteFacebook run out of steam quite quickly but it doesn’t appear to have impacted user numbers.

Agreed. I don’t think many people will delete/leave Facebook. For better or worse, they have the land-grab and network effect to make them the defacto digital social commons for most.
Yes, there are a multitude of reasons why we should not trust Facebook (among others) as we should not wholesale give them our data/identity. But, I do not think most will actually leave/delete Facebook, or stay away.
For my purposes, I’m slowly starting to change my signals as I work online. More on that to come. The direction I’m heading is informed by the IndieWeb models as detailed by Aaron Davis.
Davis states:

There seems to be two schools of thought on this:
– PESOS: Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate (to your) Own Site
– POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere
Dries Buytaert’s graphic provides a useful breakdown of the differences.

This is the direction I’m choosing to head. I’m test-driving this and will share guidance as I learn and create. But…sometime soon…I’ll head out on this new path, and most likely upset my friends/followers, and the networks/systems themselves. Despite this possible negative reaction as I reboot my relation to these discourse systems…I think this is the better path.

What about the bots?

Also, in regards to the link above, I definitely think there is a need/opportunity to have a bot to represent you online.
I’ve been interested by the thinking by Tim Ferriss about outsourcing your life. This means that he pays someone to handle small tasks for him. This could be conducting research or scheduling meetings. I’ve heard examples of people that hire someone overseas to “worry” for you…so you don’t spend time worrying before that big project or presentation.
I’ve also tested the use of bots in my classes and MOOCs as a possible “teaching assistant” for learners. I think there is a very real use in these instances. Some times students just want to be heard, or feel like someone is listening. Some times they don’t know, or care that it is a bot that is doing all of the work.
As I build up outside work and expand my digital identity, I’ve thought about hiring someone to maintain these signals so I can focus on deeper work/thinking. If I were rich and famous, no one would think twice about me having someone else monitor my feeds. Heck…this morning Eminem just made news because he decided to take back control of his Twitter feed.
Why wait until I’m rich and famous to have this form of service. If I could automate, and train a bot to handle my digital self I would definitely do that. My bot could get in and wish happy birthday to individuals as Facebook notifies me. When someone sends me a note on Twitter, I could have the bot respond back, and keep the dialogue running. I would definitely have a bot handle my email inbox and knock out the random requests that fly in.
Would this mean that in the future we might have a place where my bot is talking to your bot all day long, and deciding things for us? Yep. I’d train my bot to send me the stuff it cannot handle. Everything else…I’d happily ignore.
In many ways, we’re slowly seeing AI injected into our email services, calendars, and social apps. The devices are slowly starting to try and give a value add. I for one cannot wait. Sign me up. I’ve got bigger things to think about. 🙂

Automation, Generation

A really insightful post by Aaron in which he unpacks the challenges and opportunities with automation, or working within/against templates.
I see this in my classes in K12 and higher ed when giving assignments. If I give students a template for their work, or an exemplar to follow…I’ll get 25 examples of what I showed them. But, if I share my objectives and give them the tools…I get 25 different examples of student work that were previously unimaginable by myself…or the students. The challenge is that I also have to coach up the students and keep them on the path…while dealing with their frustrations. I think it’s worth it in the end…but the journey can be tough.
I’ve also seen the same experience in having students/learners start with a new program. In workshops, I’ll have students/learners play with starting up a new website, or learning Scratch, or making a movie. If I give them the template to get started, they’ll take the time for the learning curve, and then spend a lot of time at the end breaking the template…or deleting and starting over. Whereas, if I start them with a blank slate, there is some angst and consternation at the beginning…but after that it’s a much better starting point.