It’s funny that I have to spend time and energy to identify stop signs in a CAPTCHA, in order to prove that I am not a computer, while at the same time computers are driving cars around on roads trying to identify stop signs.

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Email marketing process

I used PayPal many years ago. Not so many years ago, I tried to delete my PayPal account and I think I have tried at least once every year ever since.

This has not worked, at least not till now. In light of GDPR I made another attempt, thinking PayPal might have gotten their act together. They might have.

Apparently my account was “closed” (not “deleted”) but nevertheless I received a marketing email a couple of days ago, two days after I closed my account.

I inquired how this could be and got:

This is not the first time I have received an explanation of “yes, you asked us for no more emails, but their may be a queue of emails heading your way in the coming days”.

I don’t understand why companies or departments hand over these emails separately, and days before, rather than making a live fetch. We are talking about computers here, not letters with addresses printed on them.

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Virtual Assistant Dark Patterns and Amazon’s Alexa

It is probably unfair to go after Amazon and their Alexa, but this time it was them.

Amazon confirms that Alexa, their Virtual Assistant, was triggered by the sounds in the home to start listening, parsed the following information to mean it should send a message to a contact and then started recording.

The contact then received the recording from the private home.

The Dark Pattern here is that it is very easy for the users to activate the virtual assistant, and have it perform a series of actions, by accident.

But of course the question could also be, who on Earth want to place internet connected recording devices that are always on, in every room of their home?

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How China and the West are different

In China facial recognition and ML is used to track criminals, dissidents and built a giant database of who interacts with who.

In the West facial recognition and ML is used to track celebrities at the a royal wedding, so people watching from home can see their favourites.

From tomorrow that last part will be illegal in the EU.

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Adtech and advertising

First I thought I was right, then that I was wrong and now I think I might have been sort-of right all along.

When the web took off some people believed micro-transactions would be the viable financial model for content. I didn’t, I believed advertising would.

Then, as the tech got more and more advanced and as ads were no longer sponsorships but instant negotiations in a race to the bottom, I realized that this was unsustainable. Only the biggest players would be able to earn enough to support their generation of content, which let to click-baiting, escalating fake news and much worse.

And now I realize that I was wrong to think of those two different things as the same. Advertising and adtech are not the same, even if the visual result is an ad. I had unconsciously reached this conclusion some time ago but it took me until I read Doc Searls’ article before I realized it. Here, in a shortened version (read the entire post):

First, advertising:

  1. Advertising isn’t personal, and doesn’t have to be. […]
  2. Advertising makes brands. […]
  3. Advertising carries an economic signal. […]
  4. Advertising sponsors media, and those paid by media. […]

Second, Adtech:

  1. Adtech is built to undermine the brand value of all the media it uses, […]
  2. Adtech wants to be personal. […]
  3. Adtech spies on people and violates their privacy. By design. […]
  4. Adtech is full of fraud and a vector for malware. […]
  5. Adtech incentivizes publications to prioritize “content generation” over journalism. […]
  6. Intermediators take most of what’s spent on adtech. […]
  7. Adtech incentivizes hate speech and tribalism by giving both—and the platforms that host them—a business model too.
  8. Adtech relies on misdirection. […]
  9. Compared to advertising, adtech is ugly. […]
  10. Adtech has caused the largest boycott in human history. […]

I was surprised by how big a cut the intermediators take with adtech (#6): 60%. That article explains further that another 37 percentage points is lost as well.

Searls ends his article with 4 tips which I will also quote in truncated form:

Pro tip #1: don’t bet against Google

Pro tip #2: do bet on any business working for customers rather than sellers

Pro tip #3: do bet on developers building tools that give each of us scalein dealing with the world’s companies and governments

Pro tip #4: do bet on publishers getting back to what worked since forever offline and hardly got a chance online: plain old brand advertising

Oh, and by the way, I think the Patreon model has shown itself to be a viable financial model. We will have to wait and see if it can remain so.

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The GDPR is like a ballistic missile headed for the adtech sector. It might well work as intended but collateral damage is certain. Nonetheless I see the GDPR as an important political work towards securing our right to privacy.

And the reason for GDPR is the first rule of privacy, as written by Thomas Baekdal:

I am the only one who can decide what I want to share!

And every time someone violates that rule, they go against the wishes of their users.

Almost every website has violated that rule for years. The EU was very clear that this had to stop and when the adtech industry, with Google and Facebook in front, instead chose to weaponize privacy violations, the EU crafted their ballistic missile.

The GDPR is what happens when an industry is unable or unwilling to regulate itself.

As an aside, you can also read Baekdal’s efforts to make his site GDPR compliant here.

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Should I be worried?

In Sweden this folder, “Om krisen eller kriget kommer” (the link is for the english language version), is being distributed by the government to all households.

I believe the last time they did something like this was during the Second World War.


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I wish everyone experiences something akin to this at some point in their life.

In this case it was when Swiss/German duo BOY played for the first time in New York:


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Intelligence, conscientiousness and productivity

Isn’t it weird that while intelligence, conscientiousness and creativity are normally distributed, creative productivity is a power law?

Price’s Law: Half of the productivity comes from the square root of all contributors.

So in a group of 100 people, 10 people will produce half of all. This kind of matches with Frederick Brooks’ “Surgical Team” recommendation. See also the Pareto distribution, also called 80-20.

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People do not care about whether or not they succeed. They care about whether or not they fail.

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