Fasten your seatbelt, Super8’ers. This month, Sebastian Griffiths curated eight out-of-this-cyberworld articles that, Super8-style, get us thinking.
Have you ever thought about the cultural and ecological impacts of the “Cloud” or the global domination of search engines like Google?
From privacy and cybercrime to an article on Wordle you probably haven’t read (but should), we’ve got you covered. Welcome to Super8 in February.
1. The staggering ecological impacts of computing and the cloud.
- Read it full article here.
- Written by: Steven González Monserrate.
- Contributed by: Sebastian Griffiths.
Ah, ‘the Cloud’. An infinitely complex computing resource created by humans, for humans, and it is a resource that we use a lot.
But like any resource, it exerts a strong pressure on our external environment. In fact, the environmental impacts of the “Cloud” and the large data centers that generate it are quite significant, so much so that “the Cloud” has a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry.
The cloud is both cultural and technological. Like any aspect of culture, the trajectory of the cloud — and its ecological impacts — are neither predetermined nor immutable. Like any aspect of culture, they are editable.
Drawing on five years of research, anthropologist Steven Gonzales shares amazing stories about the impact big data centers and cloud computing have on society and the world.
2. Your Wordle results are boring, but not for the reasons you think.
Of the ~1200 Wordle articles published this month, this is probably our favorite.
Shared by Tim Copland, one of August’s front-end developers and accessibility enthusiast, this is a must-read on why sharing your Wordle results isn’t just annoying (for haters, that is), it is inaccessible.
For those using assistive technology, the layout makes it almost impossible for a screen reader to navigate the grids of green and yellow.
All told, there are still plenty of opportunities to share your results until Wordle’s inclusiveness changes kick in as part of The New York Times’ recent acquisition. Until then, it’s up to us as users to ensure that the content we share is inclusive, regardless of where it comes from.
3. The emphasis on saying no.
Historically, Apple has pushed hardware in directions that were initially unpopular but ultimately proved radical. Often what they created was shaped as much by what they included as what they chose to exclude.
“Saying no is like saving your money in the bank, saying yes is like spending it. Most of us are exposed. Before saying yes, ask yourself if it is necessary.
During Steve Jobs’ tenure, these choices were successful business decisions that stood the test of time and positioned Apple as a trailblazer.
Why? Because Steve Jobs had a singular purpose and understood the power of saying no to get the right yes.
4. How scholars once feared that the book index would destroy reading.
In 2008, Nicholas Carr wrote a popular article for the Atlantic’Is Google Making Us Stupid? »for which the answer was clear and simple – certainly, yes.
We are in the age of distraction, a time when search engines dominate the world and the way we read about it.
As Dennis Duncan argues in this article, the art of reading has no platonic ideal. And with every change in our social and technological environment, an evolutionary effect is produced by changing our ideas about what “reading” really means.
This insightful piece enters into a great discussion, signaling the long and storied history of concerns about how we read and consume information.
5. Minimize card test fraud on your donation page.
Read it full article here.
Written by: Robert Wright.
Contributed by: Sergio Moreira.
With increased online activity during COVID, cybercrime and fraud are rampant. Non-profit organizations can be targets, especially for testing whether credit cards are valid for exploitation.
In addition to the techniques suggested below to mitigate fraud, August’s Sergio Moreira also suggests:
- Attempt to identify users or sessions and block the number of donations made in a short period of time
- Automatic blocking of IP addresses that make a high number of requests to a specific page or endpoint
6. Neural network from scratch.
- Read it full article here
- Written by: Simon Hørup Eskildsen.
- Contributed by: James Otter.
This week, OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever controversially tweeted that large neural networks could be “mildly self-aware”. That’s a discussion for another time, but taking a step back, what is a neural network? It seems safe!
This “Napkin Math” article on creating a mental model of a neural network is a great explainer.
7. Analyze 25 years of privacy policies.
Privacy is rightly a hot topic right now (to the point where it’s been successfully weaponized against Facebook).
The average reader would need to spend 400 hours of “annual reading time” in order to penetrate the growing word count, obscure language, and use of vague language that characterize the modern privacy policies of some of the busiest websites. .
But are privacy policies becoming clearer for end users to understand? A quantitative analysis looked at 25 years of privacy policies, to find out where the changes were happening.
8. The case of B2B
Regardless of the industry, it’s always important to understand your customer’s needs. On the other hand, it’s also important to assess the level of customer buy-in you need to be successful, and that’s where B2B comes in.
If you feel inclined to learn more, this podcast with John Hickman provides valuable insight into B2B marketing practices.