Carl T. Holscher fights for the customers.

Category: Observations Page 1 of 88

Why note-taking apps don’t make us smarter

Initially, I threw myself into this kind of associative note-taking. I gathered links around concepts I wanted to explore (“the internet enables information to travel too quickly,” for example, or social networks and polarization). When I had an interesting conversation with a person, I would add notes to a personal page I had created for them. A few times a week, I would revisit those notes.

I waited for the insights to come.

And waited. And waited.

My gusto for concept-based, link-heavy note-taking diminished.

Why note-taking apps don’t make us smarter

Throwing notes into a system is all well and good but it’s not going to do the thinking for you. You can have the largest collection of notes with back-links and tags and immaculate organization. But at the end of the day, you still need to do the work and review those notes and find those connections to write about or to learn from.

Deep dives into hidden niches

Three Years – Culture Study

Over time, I also figured out that I also wanted to do interviews with people who aren’t famous but spend their days deep in the trenches of a particular subject


Anne Helen Petersen’s Culture Study remains a must-read newsletter and she beautifully nails the why. It’s the interviews with people deep in their niche. It’s the insight (and exasperation) that comes from someone who has spent years toiling in a trench that’s never seen let alone acknowledged. It’s always something interesting and insightful that I never would have thought to seek out because I did not know it existed.

Is a part of you powering AI?

The internet is user-generated content. We’re all making things and contributing whether publicly or “privately”. With our names or without.
AI” is years of our data being scraped, packaged and sold back to us.

ChatGPT and the other Large Language Models (LLMs) are little more than someone who is incredible well-read with perfect recall. They’re taken the internet’s data and packaged it and put a neat little plain language front-end on it for us to interact with.

The reason chatGPT can write such good fanfiction is because it scraped 32billion words from AO3. And that was in 2019. So there’s likely even more fanfic in the large language model today. If you look at this and say, “but it’s only fanfiction, who cares?” Would it be acceptable to other writers?

It’s abhorrent that a program which purports to support a community of writers has based at least 32 billion words of its program on the writing of a community that did consent to have their work used.

Writing fic is not stealing, but taking fic and using it to develop a dataset, and then offering that dataset to the public without having gotten permission from literally anyone is ethically gross.

How Bots Like ChatGPT Have Stolen Fanfiction, and What It Means

What if your entire history of writing that you had publicly posted to the Internet was scooped up and used without your permission for another company to make money from?

Well, that it likely the cast as Kevin Schaul, Szu Yu Chen and Nitasha Tiku writing for The Washington Post have researched and reported on.

To look inside this black box, we analyzed Google’s C4 data set, a massive snapshot of the contents of 15 million websites that have been used to instruct some high-profile English-language AIs, called large language models, including Google’s T5 and Facebook’s LLaMA. (OpenAI does not disclose what datasets it uses to train the models backing its popular chatbot, ChatGPT)

See the websites that make AI bots like ChatGPT sound so smart

What about social media?

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter — the heart of the modern web — prohibit scraping, which means most data sets used to train AI cannot access them. Tech giants like Facebook and Google that are sitting on mammoth troves of conversational data have not been clear about how personal user information may be used to train AI models that are used internally or sold as products.

So while your posts to social media may not be in ChatGPT, it’s certainly going to be included in Meta/Facebook’s own product. And they’re long history of scooping up and and all data, it’s certainly far more extensive.

What about if you have ever written in a blog on powered by WordPress, Tumblr, Blogspot and Live Journal? Then you’ve included too.

My own site is included in the data set at rank 1,953,276.

If you write on the web, you’re likely there too. You can search through the data by scrolling to the bottom of The Washington Post’s article: See the websites that make AI bots like ChatGPT sound so smart.

As with any story that talks about data, there’s a section at the end describing how the Post came to this data and the 15.1 million unique domains included in this dataset.

How do you feel about your writing being included in this gigantic data sets and being used to build products?

Be a problem solver

It drives me nuts when people at work, who should know better, report problems without an ounce of troubleshooting, or even basic questioning.

What did you try? Anything at all?

Is the server down? Likely not… did you make an attempt to ping it?

You have access to The Cloud.

I’m not asking you to pour over log files but if you’re not able to access the domain name and you can login to the cloud where this server lives… can you connect to it through the console on the web page?

What about error messages? Do you see anything that might lead you to a solution?

“EC2 can’t…” is a pretty good starting point. I don’t need you to understand what it can’t do or why it can’t do it. But some times the answer is in the error message.

If your error message says “Server cant do Thing because of Reason then ask then report that and let the people who can make the Server do the Thing work on it. Because they may be aware of the Reason.

But reporting an error and then floundering is unacceptable for someone in a technical role.

Using Twitter after all the good apps were killed off

I only post to Twitter now using Tweetdeck on a computer. Killing Tweetbot means I no longer look at it on any mobile device (phone/iPad). I took the Twitter Lists I already follow and added them to Readwise’s Reader and read them like I would any other RSS feed.

The value of Twitter (for me) has been the ability to create lists of people for interests I have (Destiny 2 video game, Capitals Hockey, local news accounts). I have a timeline of some accounts but in some ways those aren’t the most important people I follow.

I’ve never used apps that show timelines out of order. I’ve long said that would be the end of Twitter for me if I had to suffer through ads and recommended junk. Twitter is skating very close to that sun. But I’ve been here since 2006 and that’s a weird point of pride.

Tweetdeck, despite being owned by Twitter, has largely been forgotten. It never got the algorithmic timelines, ads, polling, or really any new features in years. Each time I was prompted to reload it because a new version was available I held my breath to see if this was the end of my enjoyment of it. But it’s allowed me to largely ignore everything that drove me from other platforms.

If I have to fight with the timeline to see what Twitter wants me to see, I’m gone.

If my timeline becomes riddled with ads, and ads for absolute garbage, as I’ve seen others share, I’m gone.

Killing off third party Twitter apps, not for the first time, stopped my Twitter usage from mobile devices in a single day. I won’t use the official apps because it forces a non-chronological timeline and tries to recommend people or tweets to follow to drive engagement.

I am as engaged as I want to be and pulling a Facebook and trying to drive outrage will drive me completely off the platform. Twitter is not anything I need in life. But it’s something I’ve grown fond of, despite all of its issues. But when Twitter starts actively being a pain to use, it gets relegated to RSS since the communities I follow are still largely on Twitter because that’s where everyone is.

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