It’s the year 2060. You gather together with your kids and grandkids for a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit (the new edition just came out). The first card drawn is history: “In what years was Broadway theater in New York City completely shut down due to a pandemic?"
As the kids rack their brains, the oldest child turns to you and asks “That was in the ‘20s, right? Or was it over by then?"
You smile and glance out the window at the vast expanse of space. The earth is only a small green dot now, but it will still be four months before you arrive with your family on Mars. Thank goodness you had the foresight to buy all that Gamestop stock and could afford to evacuate with your entire family.
The youngest in the room asks “What’s bawd-way?” You laugh. Life is weird.
👀 Dat samizdat
Yes, I both use and enjoy TikTok. I find it wonderfully entertaining. But based on a couple of recent conversations, I feel like I can’t just say that I enjoy TikTok without explaining myself further.
Like many others, I didn’t really understand TikTok. That is, until Ben Thompson contextualized it in the Scratchery:
This is where it is important to understand the history of ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner. ByteDance’s breakthrough product was a news app called TouTiao; whereas Facebook evolved from being primarily a social network to an algorithmic feed, TouTiao was about the feed and the algorithm from the beginning. The first time a user opened TouTiao, the news might be rather generic, but every scroll, every linger over a story, every click, was fed into a feedback loop that refined what it was the user saw.
Most technological advancements are iterations on something that existed before. Facebook Stories is an evolution of the Timeline which is an evolution of individual profile pages where you’d connect with friends. But TikTok is different. It’s not an evolution of a social network. It’s an evolution of a news app. While social networks are designed to connect people, news apps just care about the content. Coming at it from this new perspective has made for a surprisingly unique and high-quality product IMHO.
TikTok is putting the algorithm front and center, not the people or your friend graph. It feels different.
I recommend giving TikTok a try. Spend a couple days feeding the algorithm and see what it gives you in return. You may be surprisingly impressed.
This remix of Jeff Goldblum’s bizarre laugh from Jurassic Park came up in conversation recently, and I was reminded just how amazing it is. What are you rocking out to this week?
🍫 Sweetness Overload
Nestle announced a new Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that’s all peanut butter. You heard that right: screw the chocolate — just shove peanut butter inside more peanut butter. This follows the rich tradition of iconic products such as the KFC Double Down and the Tracy Jordan Meat Machine.
I don’t know if I’ll like it as much as a regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but I definitely plan on giving it a try once it hits shelves in April. But I can’t say the same about Peeps Pepsi. I’m not that adventurous.
🏦 Class Signaling
I’ve been thinking a lot about this interview with Austen Allred of Lambda School, a coding bootcamp that frames itself as the American-Dream-as-a-Service. Specifically, the part of the article about coding interviews being as much a filter for class as it is skill.
Then [one of Lambda School’s graduates] shows up to work on day one and they tell him: Alright, you know, put in your bank account information here to get direct deposit. He's like, no just cut me a check and I’ll run to the check-cashing store.
The Uber people reached out to me and said: We don’t know if this is going to work. I was like, he's a smart guy, it’s just that he doesn't have a bank account. So now we set up bank accounts for every student that doesn't have a bank account.
The interview is full of poignant anecdotes, like not understanding what “ping” meant, or that Google Calendar even exists. If you’re of a certain class, it’s so easy to just take so much for granted.
The Lambda School is not without criticism, but the point here is extremely valid. As society shifts more and more towards knowledge work, those of us fortunate enough to work in technology fields have a responsibility to be as inclusive as possible. Like it or not, and no matter where you came from before, you are now a gatekeeper. Be a kind one.
📺 You Tubed
It’s finally happened. I’ve finally been demonetized on YouTube. It’s not like the last time I was demonetized, when all I needed to do was ask people to click my Subscribe button since my account was below the new minimum subscriber threshold.
Apparently, you need to be active on YouTube to be eligible for monetization, and it’s been three years since I uploaded a video. I really can’t blame them for that, as much as I loved the passive income I was generating from work I did nearly half a decade ago.
In 2020, I pulled in around $720 in Adsense revenue from my old YouTube videos. For a largely inactive account, that’s a decent chunk of change. Every time I’d get one of those deposits, I’d have an urge to start making videos again. I’d think, if I got ~$60/mo for that small amount of old content, what could I make if I actually focused some energy there?
But it’s not in the cards for my life right now. And that’s a-okay. Maybe someday I’ll have an active Podcast and YouTube channel again. For now I just say goodbye, YouTube. 👋
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