Weeknotes: design, maps, power, ways of knowing and imagining

Via Adrian McEwen, a thread from Jay Rosen about how we need more than exposure of bad things in the press. Adrian has also collected highlights of Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher. I've not read the book - perhaps I should. Highlights mine:
[...] we need to ask: how has it become acceptable that so many people, and especially so many young people, are ill? The 'mental health plague' in capitalist societies would suggest that, instead of being the only social system that works, capitalism is inherently dysfunctional, and that the cost of it appearing to work is very high.

... As a consumer in late capitalism, you increasingly exist in two, distinct realities: the one in which the services are provided without hitch, and another reality entirely, the crazed Kafkaesque labyrinth of call centers, a world without memory, where cause and effect connect together in mysterious, unfathomable ways, where it is a miracle that anything ever happens, and you lose hope of ever passing back over to the other side, where things seem to function smoothly. What exemplifies the failure of the neoliberal world to live up to its own PR better than the call center? Even so, the universality of bad experiences with call centers does nothing to unsettle the operating assumption that capitalism is inherently efficient, as if the problems with call centers weren't the systemic consequences of a logic of Capital which means organizations are so fixated on making profits that they can't actually sell you anything.

... At this point, suddenly, the causes of abuse or atrocity are so systemic, so diffuse, that no individual can be held responsible. This was what happened with the Hillsborough football disaster, the Jean Charles De Menezes farce and so many other cases. But this impasse — it is only individuals that can be held ethically responsible for actions, and yet the cause of these abuses and errors is corporate, systemic — is not only a dissimulation; it precisely indicates what is lacking in capitalism. What agencies are capable of regulating and controlling impersonal structures? How is it possible to chastise a corporate structure? Yes, corporations can legally be treated as individuals — but the problem is that corporations, whilst certainly entities, are not like individual humans, and any analogy between punishing corporations and punishing individuals will therefore necessarily be poor.

... the left should argue that it can deliver what neoliberalism signally failed to do: a massive reduction of bureaucracy. What is needed is a new struggle over work and who controls it; an assertion of worker autonomy (as opposed to control by management) together with a rejection of certain kinds of labor (such as the excessive auditing which has become so central feature of work in post-Fordism). This is a struggle that can be won — but only if a new political subject coalesces; it is an open question as to whether the old structures (such as the trade unions) will be capable of nurturing that subjectivity, or whether it will entail the formation of wholly new political organizations. 

Ranjan Roy on public spaces (from 2019):
We are losing the spaces we share across socioeconomic strata. Slowly, but surely, we are building the means for an everyday urbanite to exist solely in their physical and digital class lanes. It used to be the rich, and then everyone else. Now in every realm of daily consumer life, we are able to efficiently separate ourselves into a publicly visible delineation of who belongs where.

We lost the lunch line. We lost the coffee cart....Meanwhile, the crumbling of the subways aren’t felt by an ever growing number of the somewhat well-to-do.

We're losing our kid’s schools. And on and on it goes. One by one, we dismantle any semblance of public shared experiences thanks to the magic of segmenting out a society of consumers by their willingness-to-pay. It's like our entire daily routine slowly becomes an airplane boarding process.
(The side point about the way startup language has infiltrated even the food sector is kind of depressing. I can't really recommend the video.)

Dan Hill writes about speed and growth and how we think about them, for Generation C (a virtual symposium I've barely started to parse, helped by pointers from Patrick Tanguay).  One highlight:
A couple of weeks ago, videos started circulating of thousands of Uber/Jump shared bikes being destroyed en masse at a recycling plant. They were not surplus to requirements, but surplus to Uber’s ‘blitzscaling’ growth model, which values constant upgrades over resilience. (Only a culture as crass as that of ‘Silicon Valley’ would appropriate the word ‘blitz’ for a business strategy.)
(I've never really bought blitzscaling, but this was an angle on the word I'd not spotted before. Ouch.)
It was hard to watch, particularly at a time when the New York Times reported that the US is facing “a severe bike shortage” due to the disruption in global supply chains, and with key workers all over the country needing bikes to get to work whilst public transit is down.... Yet these Jump bikes shone only through the tangle of metal and plastic at the dump, their pristine red livery indicating how young and reusable they were. 
... As I’ve written elsewhere, judged purely through the reductive lens of traditional user-centred design processes, systems such as Uber and Jump appear to be well-designed. One cannot blame an interaction designer working on refining the user experience of the Jump app for this wider breakdown. She is only following orders, as it were. Yet if design more generally, almost half a century after Papanek’s shattering intervention in ‘Design for the Real World,’ still has little grip on the growth dynamics that surround and value that user experience, we have failed as a discipline, just as economics has. Watching metal jaws crush those perfectly good bikes brings that home in the most visceral of terms. Uber’s stock market value is not tied intrinsically to the movements of those jaws. Nor is design’s alleged value. Nor is GDP, which in fact benefits from each transaction implied in this sorry episode.

That single short video has all these mental models in play: valuing growth-obsessed startups and ‘market cap’ over real world outcomes; practices aimed at market domination; a design practice centered on individualistic user experience rather than broader resilience; implicitly valuing obsolescence and ‘creative destruction’ over repair and re-use, the tone-deaf ignorance by the tech sector of the wider social context and needs, and so on.
Damien White's essay (also for Generation C) dives deeper into the role of design, and the politics/economics of 2020. Highlights mine:
Through facades, packaging, rendering, styling, streamlining, prototyping and performative promises, design has always been good at hiding. COVID-19 has revealed things below the surface about the design worlds we live in that the mainstream design industry, and a good deal of design education, has not been so keen to linger on over the last two decades. Design has many potential valances. There have been moments across the twentieth century when it has been open to systemic critiques of what exists and provided a space for dialogue with revolutionary social movements about the material, visual, spatial and cultural forms that could support an emancipatory future. There have been times when design has created a space where different kinds of voices could engage in worldmaking and desire-shaping. Yet design is also very easily drawn into formalist and instrumental approaches which cleave making from history, design from politics. A good deal of design thinking over recent times has largely traded systemic inquiry for the search for incremental win-win solutions within the existing system. This has oftentimes run alongside cultivated innocence for exploring the entanglements of race, class, gender, empire and other modes of subordination and ecological unravelling with our designed economies.  
I think this is the bulk of the design work I've been exposed to in the tech startup scene.
...If generational talk might not always help us grasp populations that can shelter in place and populations who are effectively seen as disposable, it would also seem apparent that if design is to grasp what is politically at stake in this moment, we need to explore not only the racialized political economy but also the political ecology of the pandemic. Notably, we will have to think harder about the ways in which the pandemic has operated as an epidemiological disrupter of the social ecologies that we have been busy (mal)designing for decades.  
...We have seen a resurgence of interest in mutual aid, neighborhood support, talk of the virtues of victory gardens, WWI style and the like. If this contributes to a broader sense of communal possibility, it could be beneficial. If it merely re-enforces the default of the last few decades into more localist, small is beautiful, anarcho-radical interventions though, an opportunity will be lost.

... Green industrial revolutions that are primarily focused in the first instance in the Global North or ongoing expansions of digital infrastructures and networks are not going to break overnight with existing exploitative forms of resource extraction and ecologically uneven exchange between North and South. The Green New Deal in the US, at present, is going to rely on the extraction of Lithium, Coltan and other rare metals mostly from the planetary mining industries located in the global South. Similarly, planetary scale computing is currently also sustained by all kinds of high carbon infrastructure and has all kinds of planetary scale material and energy impacts. Extraction of the raw materials and even dis-assemblage of many low carbon energy materials or e-waste material is intimately connected to black and brown labor.

...What the pandemic has drawn our attention to is this institutional gap in our design thinking. Building the capacity for low carbon housing, climate resilient transport and public infrastructure, democratic digital cultures, or modes of distribution and new modes of ownership will require institutional re-designs at multiple scales. Struggles for climate, economic, digital and racial justice here have to be entangled in common projects to democratize the political order. ...The Green New Deal and the need to build effective systems of governance, coordination and transparency around the rise of planetary scale computing is going to require a revalidation of democratic planning, of competent and trustworthy public expertise, and the need for public agencies that actually function in the public interest and which are staffed by civil servants who can do their job.
I came across GenieShares - a scheme for entrepreneurs to give 1% to the NHS, key workers etc. I'm not sure I entirely buy this sort of scheme - share options for startup staff are just lottery tickets, so this is a bit like giving a key worker a lottery ticket. Nice if it works, but not really a structural change. 

People used to be obsessed with multi-tasking in the heyday of desktop computing. Screens were big enough to have something to focus on and ALSO peripheral awareness, so we got menu bar indicators and taskbar news tickers, etc.

I think, with phones, we’ve kinda forgotten about it… perhaps because people are already multi-tasking when they’re using their phones because we’re simultaneously watching TV, or walking down the street, making team and so on. Phone have small screens and so they’re naturally focus devices.

BUT, we’re multi-tasking animals. I pay attention better when I’m doodling and making notes.

Personal theory: as we’re at home more, and smartphones ebb, the technology that succeeds will be the technology that facilitates multi-tasking.
The hallway track is often the best bit of events, and the virtual equivalents continue this. I've noticed though - for the limited set of events I've attended online recently - there's a lot less Twitter activity around them. Perhaps people are using the attendee networking chat spaces for this sort of thing? For paid events, does this make them more exclusive, as useful insights permeate out less?

Nadia Eghbal's bite-size notes are great, even if I usually only consume the highlights in her main newsletter. It's a real, lightweight form of thinking aloud which reminds me of an earlier internet of blogging and newsgroups. Here's two:
  • I'd rather be a memos-driven company culture than a numbers-driven culture. Are these two things at odds? Do they develop in different ways?
Amazon, alongside other strong company practices, does memos. Numbers, though, they are hard to evade, I think?
  • "Builder communities" that are oriented around an activity? (making open source software, playing Minecraft, choreographing dance routines, etc) Getting to know ppl by doing something alongside them is often better than milling around and talking. This was true of offline communities already, but can we now use that as a design principle for online communities as well?
There's no doubt that communities do build that way online, but the intentionality and openness to newcomers that you might expect are perhaps harder to craft. I'd love to find examples of this being done well.

It seems clear to me that individuals, not just groups, are defining the next generation of the internet. Social platforms don't just connect us to people we already know, but also serve as a stage for us to discover, follow, and interact with creators. In the shift from “friends” to “followers,” these communities became parasocial in nature, centered around individual creators, rather than a distributed crowd.

.... For me, it was open source developers that helped me make sense of the future. They've long experienced the frog-boiling that came with prior social norms of “everybody participates” butting up against the reality of “participation doesn't scale.” And they have to figure it out in a way that other creators don't. An Instagram creator who doesn't look at their DMs might miss a few good ones. But if an open source developer doesn’t read their bug reports, other people's lives are materially impacted, visible in the form of site outages and security breaches flitting through the news headlines.

.... Online content is an unresolved conundrum since the dawn of the internet. It's extremely difficult to monetize, despite being worth quite a lot to us socially.

To address this, I decided to evaluate the economics of code and content in terms of a reputation-based economy. We’ve historically treated con­tent as a first­-copy cost problem, which intellectual property helps to solve for. But the challenges facing online creators today derive from playing a repeated game, not a single one. It’s not enough to make one good hit: you have to keep making content to stay relevant. Examining who produces content, not just what they produce, can help us understand how to think about the value of online content today.
Are there too many webinars these days? More to the point, do webinars limit our modes of thinking and knowing? Sachini Perera discusses this (thanks to Alix Trot for the link.)
While feminists have clarity on the injustices of capitalism, there is no denial that capitalist conceptions of work, productivity, efficiency, etc. are embedded in our movements, especially the institutions within our movements like nonprofits and donors. This is inevitable when you’re trying to survive within the very systems you’re trying to challenge and dismantle.

The language and rhetoric of outputs, outcomes, impacts and theories of change drive the power dynamics within the movement and there are explicit and implicit expectations of accountability closely linked to these. While some donors explicitly reached out to their beneficiaries and partners at the start of the pandemic to formally and informally provide more flexibility in how funds can be spent, the implicit expectations of donors and also from within our organizations hang heavy. These implicit expectations, both external and internal, are often of visibility, performance and credibility. A constant pressure to be seen doing and saying things, reaching people, coming up with quick responses and positions (even to a public health crisis of a scale and nature we had not experienced before), running awareness campaigns, and at the same time keep up with regular programming so that we continue to be funded in the future.

I’d argue that webinars are a meeting place for these various expectations and have thus become a preferred method of creating and sharing knowledge during Covid-19.... I’d still argue that the urgency and sheer number of webinars right now are mostly due to the external and internal expectations of visibility, performance and credibility which do not give us the luxury to slow down, breathe, and take time to regroup before we take things online.
The affordances and the (limited) accessibility of the webinar support a certain way of knowing:
... Feminist activists and researchers are constantly challenging knowledge creation and sharing that is rooted in heteronormativity, hegemonic masculinity and prioritization of intellectual knowledge.
... To use the internet for feminist activism is to constantly occupy faultlines. We critique and challenge capitalism on capitalist platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We trade off some of our privacy to use affordable, frictionless and accessible platforms whose business model is based on surveillance and data extractivism. We build feminist autonomous infrastructure and sites of feminist knowledge and solidarity. We co-opt platforms and technology for our activism at the risk of facing hate, violence, censorship, and even incarceration. Just as any kind of knowledge production cannot be fully free of bias, our use of webinars and other modes of communication for feminist knowledge creation and sharing on the internet is also a constant negotiation at these faultlines. And that’s okay.

... However, asking ourselves questions like those I posed earlier about external and internal pressures, feminist ways of knowing, crip time as community time, affordances and (dis)affordances of technology, etc. might help us with such negotiations and the consequent choices and decisions we make. They might lead to radical changes in the spaces we create and make them more accessible, caring and pleasurable. They might give us more power to say no to colleagues, partner organizations and donors who want us to constantly engage outwardly and instead be more imaginative in the format of our engagements and less invested in their visibility and frequency. They might allow for more collaborations, chaos and messiness through which feminist ways of knowing can emerge.

Bryan Boyer writes (also for/in Generation C) about maps. There are a lot of good thoughts here and I'm quoting too many. If this were a physical commonplace book I'd've stuck the whole article in and just underlined some bits. Highlights mine.
Ask a child to map their block and you may find that smells and intangible memories mix with concrete places and landmarks. Unfurl a pirate’s treasure map and what you see is a world of singular focus on the X that marks the spot. ...Walk into a government planning office and examine the view they have onto the world to see what has been erased or is slated for erasure: wetlands to become subdivisions or neighborhoods to become highways, all too often blackness becoming whiteness in ways both metaphorical and literal.

The worlds that maps give us are so reductive in nature that the things left off a map are usually more telling than the items affirmatively indicated on it. The concept of externalities may be the original sin of economics, but mapmaking is the practice that converts externalities from tools of convenience to tools of exclusion, by choosing what’s on the paper and what’s left off. 

....A map the same size of the country is one paltry attempt to make a map without simplifications, errors, or externalities, and Borges teaches us that this level of exactitude is an asymptote, not an obtainable goal. Nevertheless, not everyone reads Borges and so today’s version of the perfect map he wrote about is called a "digital twin," which is a highly detailed 3D model used to understand a city.

 ... Somewhere right now in the physical territory of Singapore there’s an act of protest that’s missing from its digital twin.

... Despite the fact that maps are always constructed with externalities or simplifications, and despite the fact that those externalities can so easily be weaponized, the level of mapping activity underway today is larger than it has ever been. ... Here it would seem that the relationship between maps and complexity is akin to that between highways and traffic: the former should lead to a cessation of the latter, but is almost always an inducement instead
... To find a way forward, it’s useful to think again about what maps do for humans. A map as an object is a piece of paper, usually flimsy, and more often than not susceptible to getting soaked in the rain. Despite its fragility as an object, the map is also a deceptively capable comfort blanket. Maps symbolize a surety. They are confidence flattened into paper, and that confidence is exactly the problem. So if we find ourselves unable to make use of maps both literal and conceptual because of their implicit biases and incompleteness, the work is to replace maps as a tool that not only helps us navigate the complex world, but helps us do so with some modicum of confidence.
... When one receives the convenient confidence of a map, it’s as if one is collaborating and an invisible group of predecessors to understand the world. They struggled here first so that I may pass with ease. This invisible collaboration is what makes maps conceptually similar to another feature of the contemporary world: silos of knowledge and effort.

In a world of silos, collaboration happens by trusting others enough to build your work upon theirs. The ability to exclude some aspects of the world from your decision-making is what allows you to focus on a few things in your silo while trusting that other humans are focusing on different things in their own silos. Without the ability to trust others, specialization is impeded and silos are duplicative.
... So when we gather together as flocks of strategic designers, thoughtful scientists, and concerned policymakers bemoaning the stifling role of silos, we must also confront the fact that we are broadcasting our hesitations about trusting others who are not present, as well as decisions and realizations that have been made in our absence. Workshops or studios that attempt to "get the system in the room" and seek to work from "first principles" exhibit these characteristics. Worthy goals, yes, but limited in scale to relatively small numbers of people. If silos are clusters of adjacent vertical efforts, more horizontal organizational alternatives favored by the design community are akin to rafts: lashed together provisionally and better at floating atop waves of complexity, but only large enough for a few people at a time.

That works counter to much of what we know about scale in 2020. Pick a statistic, plot it against time, and wait for the "hockey stick" to appear with the dots on plotting up and to the right exponentially. ... The figure of the exponential is so familiar now as to feel haunting, but one condition continues to resist: Trust. In a moment when compound increases feel normal, for good and bad alike, trust evades this pattern by refusing to scale any which way but linearly, built in small atomic bonds between individuals.

... Stories are grandiose and compelling, but myopic and parallel; excel is out of the question; science is a belief system among many; history is written by the winners; and maps are drawn with the invisible ink of exclusion. ...Though this may not be understood as a paragraph brimming with optimism it should nevertheless be read as such. The frightening optimism of moments when there’s no truth to be had is that we face the future unburdened by lazy assumptions or half-baked answers. 
Useful tips from Phoebe Tickell on how to make sense of things and take in information.

Via Nat Buckley's weeknotes, I found this paper by André Spicer - "Playing the Bullshit Game: How Empty and Misleading Communication Takes Over Organizations "
In this paper, I claim bullshitting is a social practice. I will argue that in particular speech communities people are encouraged to play the language game of bullshitting, and when it is played well it can bolster their identity. Under certain conditions, bullshitting is relatively harmless and can even be beneficial. But bullshitting can quickly spiral out of control and take over an entire organization or industry.
... I will argue that bullshitting is triggered by a speech community with many conceptual entrepreneurs, significant amounts of noisy ignorance and permissive uncertainty. These conditions are likely to spark the language game of bullshitting. This entails people articulating empty and misleading statements that are processed in a shallow way and lead to surface-level agreement. When this game works, it can enhance the image and identity of players. If this happens, they are likely to engage in further rounds of bullshitting and reinvest in the speech community which perpetuates bullshitting. When the game backfires, it can undermine the players’ identity and image.
It's a fun paper to skim through, particularly for the way André distinguishes between bullshit and other forms of misleading or empty communication, and some of the examples. As ever I find it interesting to see what a paper from a very different field looks like, in length, structure, and so on.

Audrey Watters on science fiction's dubious influence on powerful bits of today's world - tech, education:
Now, you can talk about the popularity of TED Talks all you want — how the ideas of Sal Khan and Sugata Mitra and Ken Robinson have been spread to change the way people imagine education — but millions more people have watched Keanu Reeves, I promise you. This — The Matrix — has been a much more central part of our ed-tech imaginary than any book or article published by the popular or academic press. (One of the things you might do is consider what other stories you know — movies, books — that have shaped our imaginations when it comes to education.)

The science fiction of The Matrix creeps into presentations that claim to offer science fact. It creeps into promises about instantaneous learning, facilitated by alleged breakthroughs in brain science. It creeps into TED Talks, of course. Take Nicholas Negroponte, for example, the co-founder of the MIT Media Lab who in his 2014 TED Talk predicted that in 30 years time (that is, 24 years from now), you will swallow a pill and "know English," swallow a pill and "know Shakespeare."

What makes these stories appealing or even believable to some people? It's not science. It's "special effects." And The Matrix is, after all, a dystopia. So why would Matrix-style learning be desirable? Maybe that's the wrong question. Perhaps it's not so much that it's desirable, but it's just how our imaginations have been constructed, constricted even. We can't imagine any other ideal but speed and efficiency.

We should ask, what does it mean in these stories -- in both the Wachowskis' and Negroponte's -- to "know"? To know Kung Fu or English or Shakespeare? It seems to me, at least, that knowing and knowledge here are decontextualized, cheapened. This is an hollowed-out epistemology, an epistemic poverty in which human experience and human culture and human bodies are not valued.

... There are other stories, other science fictions that have resonated with powerful people in education circles. Mark Zuckerberg gave everyone at Facebook a copy of the Ernest Cline novel Ready Player One, for example, to get them excited about building technology for the future — a book that is really just a string of nostalgic references to Eighties white boy culture. And I always think about that New York Times interview with Sal Khan, where he said that "The science fiction books I like tend to relate to what we're doing at Khan Academy, like Orson Scott Card's 'Ender's Game' series." You mean, online math lectures are like a novel that justifies imperialism and genocide?! Wow.

It seems like I've never blogged about the carrier bag theory of fiction (although this may just be that Blogger, being a Google product, has a woefully useless search function). So I'll also include this bit from later in Audrey's article:
In her essay "The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction," science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin offers some insight into the (Capital-H) Hero and (Capital-A) Action that has long dominated the stories we have told about Western civilization, its history and its future. This is our mythology. She refers to that famous scene in another Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which a bone is used to murder an ape and then gets thrown into the sky where it becomes a space ship. Weapons and Heroes and Action. "I'm not telling that story," she says. Instead of the bone or the spear, she's interested in a different tool from human evolution: the bag — something to carry or store grain in, something to carry a child in, something that sustains the community, something where you put precious items that you will want to take out later and study.
... But the genre of science fiction, to the contrary, has largely embraced that older Hero narrative. [quoting Le Guin:]

 If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic. "Technology," or "modern science" (using the words as they are usually used, in an unexamined shorthand standing for the "hard" sciences and high technology founded upon continuous economic growth), is a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph, hence ultimately as tragedy. The fiction embodying this myth will be, and has been, triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now).

I'd say that this applies to science and technology as fields not just as fictions. Think of Elon Musk shooting his sports car into space.

An amusing rant about the 'coronagrifting' and PR-chitecture rampant in the design world.

Medical device repair has (again) been threatened with copyright claims, as iFixit was told to take down documentation for medical equipment. 

Fairphone 2 is still getting Android updates - now Android 9. If they can do it, why don't other phone manufacturers, asks the Register in a thoughtful article.

Especially this one which is hard but true:

screenshot of tweet
This somehow segues into Matthew Taylor's thoughts on leadership, which is a nice outline of what the crisis has meant for leaders, but the only bit I'll quote here is sadly familiar:
The centralising impulse does not just come from the top down. I recall many years ago, in Birmingham, being on the board of a very leftist third sector organisation run on collective principles. Cuts in council funding meant we had to reduce the headcount. The well-meaning directors asked the staff to suggest a method for selecting redundancies; they not only refused but made clear they would vigorously oppose whatever method the board chose. We ended up putting names in a hat while the staff went on a symbolic 48-hour walkout. Pass the responsibility parcel is not a game to play in difficult times.
I wonder what the best answer is in this situation.

Ben Thompson writes [paywall] about big tech power:

In fact, I would go so far as to say that executives in the tech industry are more afraid of Apple in 2020 than they were of Microsoft two decades ago. App Store Review is such an absolute gatekeeper, and the number of ways that Apple can retaliate are so varied and hard to verify, that no one is willing to publicly breathe a word against the company — again, except for Basecamp. I wish I could prove this to you — the stories I have received the last few days tell the tale — but no one is willing to go on the record, to me or to regulators. The risk is too great, because Apple’s level of control, and willingness to use it, is so overwhelming. I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not.

And in another one of his newsletters [paywall]:
Apple [has been] holding bug fixes hostage so that it can pressure developers to incorporate in-app purchase... a lot of bug fixes are security related, which is to say that Apple was purposely making its users less secure so that it could pressure developers for more money. I’m glad this is being changed, but every Apple customer should be outraged that this was ever the company’s policy.
And another, looking at Apple and Hey, the new email-like thing.

Ultimate the App Store review process means that businesses are stuck with a very powerful gatekeeper. Ben points out that it's not about the money, but about control - a multi-platform paid service which works through in-app purchases on iOS is a support nightmare and horrible for users who might also be using it on Android, Windows, Linux, whatever. Indeed, it might not be workable at all.
If you are Basecamp with Hey, and lots of money, you can maybe take on Apple. Small developers are just stuck.

Diane Coyle reviews Angrynomics:
The book has an interesting idea about government auctions of collective data rights – like spectrum auctions – which answers my profound objection to the proposal ‘create property rights in personal data and sell them’, namely that the value in data is collective, is due to aggregation.

Local data for local places could be saving lives (more Peter).

CSaP's latest podcast included infectious disease experts and was a great insight into where things are up to:
"We need to plan to live without a vaccine” - this week I caught up with two infectious disease experts, Julia Gog and James Wood, who summarise current knowledge of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their stark message for policy makers is that although progress has been made, we are going to have to learn to live with Covid-19 for years to come - and this is going to mean changing the way we live and work. ...
We also talk about the human dimension of science advice, what toll is it taking on the experts? What are they learning? Julia and James both talk about how the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and the disproportionate impact on BAME people in the UK, and how science can develop by drawing on better social and political analysis.
Social science still seems to be missing or under-rated in much of the response I've encountered. I seem to be brought in for technical expertise and I end up being the person who pushes back against tech solutionism and suggests we might need to think about people, behaviour, relationships, etc.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The thing that struck me in this article about pandemic data was the use of bidding in ads auctions to get granular data on search term popularity.  Google Trends gives you the headlines, but you can do more if you pay.

A useful reminder in Ross Anderson's reliably interesting write up of the Security and Human Behaviour conference.
Ben Collier was next, explaining how cybercrime is often boring. He’s been studying cybercrime as a service through underground forums. Cybercrime has become deskilled and industrialised over time, from the lone artisan hacker to gangs using tools made by others in a hacker community to service economies using shared infrastructure. This has created a lot of really boring support jobs in customer service and system administration. Evading law enforcement takedowns involves a lot of tedious setup work; so does policing bad services, such as to crack down on rippers and CSA material. These deviant office jobs have low hacker cred; workers get bored and burn out. Sociologists talked of anomie driving people to more exciting deviant cultures; the reality is now the other way.
When things move sometimes they move quickly. Last 'week' I posted just before the Register covered GitHub replacing 'master.'

Tools for living which mean you don't go back to normal - buying food, making decisions, communicating online, etc.

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