Recommended Reading: A lengthy ramble through many responses to that FaceTime Attention Correction tweet

I just read and enjoyed this:

The latest beta of iOS 13 came out, and there’s a feature called FaceTime Attention Correction which, on video calls, silently manipulates the image of your face so that you’re looking the other person directly in the eye. Which on first blush to me sounded cool (eye contact is good! Maybe?) but on further thought made me do a weird face.

Read “A lengthy ramble through many responses to that FaceTime Attention Correction tweet”

A good ramble with some interesting links for earlier research on gaze detection that I hadn’t been familiar with.

My gut reaction to the news of FaceTime manipulating video call imagery to redirect the gaze of callers was a feeling of uneasiness. Which is interesting, because I don’t find the idea of a “beauty filter” that removes skin blemishes etc. particularly irritating. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become accustomed to the idea of image manipulation for changing the appearance of a person in advertising and media, whereas the novelty of manipulating the behavior of a person is still troubling (c.f. deep fakes). Whatever the reason, these are useful reminders that digital communication is always mediated (even when it doesn’t feel that way, as in the case of video calling) as Matt Webb points out.

User Inyerface


User Inyerface is a deliberately terrible user interface created by design agency Bagaar.

It deliberately violates many fundamental principles of good user interface design and is a great showcase of what happens when these principles aren’t followed. If you can make it to the end, congratulations: you’re definitely more patient than I am.


Recommended Reading: Anatomy of an AI System


The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources:

A cylinder sits in a room. It is impassive, smooth, simple and small. It stands 14.8cm high, with a single blue-green circular light that traces around its upper rim. It is silently attending. A woman walks into the room, carrying a sleeping child in her arms, and she addresses the cylinder.
We start with an outline: an exploded view of a planetary system across three stages of birth, life and death, accompanied by an essay in 21 parts. Together, this becomes an anatomical map of a single AI system.

Related (previously): a preliminary atlas of gizmo landscapes

(As an aside, rediscovering this article after more than nine years was more difficult than anticipated. I’m just glad it’s still available.)

Also related (previously): iPhone Deconstructed

(Which sadly appears to have vanished from the internet many years ago, thus the link.)

Also (kinda) related: Leonard E. Read’s 1958 essay I, Pencil, making the argument that no human knows enough to create something as seemingly simple as a pencil. (Disclaimer: I don’t fully buy into the Invisible Hand narrative, but I wouldn’t entirely dismiss it either.)

Recommended Reading: Better Words

I just read and enjoyed this:

Last year I jotted down in a notebook: “Art is anything that’s better than it needs to be.” (Consider it an extension or adaptation of Brian Eno’s “Culture is everything we don’t have to do.”) I don’t know how well my definition holds up for others, but at the very least it’s a fun and generous thought exercise.

Read “Better Words”

Blocking JavaScript

Brent Simmons recently wrote about two features he wants most in a web browser: The ability to block cookies and JavaScript by default and whitelist them on a case by case basis.

To which Nick Heer added the following observation:

When you think about it, it’s pretty nuts that we allow the automatic execution of whatever code a web developer wrote. We don’t do that for anything else, really — certainly not to the same extent of possibly hundreds of webpages visited daily, each carrying a dozen or more scripts.

Which, if you put it like that, makes a lot of sense. So I’ve been trying (and struggling) to approximate the desired behavior of a JavaScript whitelist recently – there are browser add-ons and extensions for that, but most of them are not very good (or not what I had in mind). The one I like best after trying several, both large and small, was the generically named Javascript Control for Firefox by Erwan Ameil. Maybe it works for you, too. Or maybe I’ll give up on this little experiment within a week, once I realize that today’s web doesn’t function without client-side JavaScript.

❤️ Palm

The Palm Pre launched ten years ago today (as I was helpfully reminded by The Verge’s eminent Palm enthusiast Dieter Bohn), which gives me the opportunity to dig out another article by Dieter Bohn that I’ve always meant to post here but never got around to: What the iPhone X borrowed from the Palm Pre.

I have a soft spot for Palm in my heart – not just the new Palm webOS, but the original Palm OS as well. Back in 2007 when I first laid hands on the iPhone, I was struck by the similarity to Palm OS (especially the application launcher) and I do believe that our current smartphone platforms owe some debt to the work of Palm.

Recommended Reading: Notes on AI Bias

I just read and enjoyed this:

Machine learning finds patterns in data. ‘AI Bias’ means that it might find the wrong patterns – a system for spotting skin cancer might be paying more attention to whether the photo was taken in a doctor’s office. ML doesn’t ‘understand’ anything – it just looks for patterns in numbers, and if the sample data isn’t representative, the output won’t be either. Meanwhile, the mechanics of ML might make this hard to spot.

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Recommended Reading: The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, but It’s Not What We Expected

I just read and enjoyed this:

The Future Book was meant to be interactive, moving, alive. Its pages were supposed to be lush with whirling doodads, responsive, hands-on. The old paperback Zork choose-your-own-adventures were just the start. The Future Book would change depending on where you were, how you were feeling. It would incorporate your very environment into its story—the name of the coffee shop you were sitting at, your best friend’s birthday. It would be sly, maybe a little creepy. Definitely programmable. Ulysses would extend indefinitely in any direction you wanted to explore; just tap and some unique, mega-mind-blowing sui generis path of Joycean machine-learned words would wend itself out before your very eyes.

Read “The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, but It’s Not What We Expected”