Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Main Stream Media And Me

It's been several weeks now since I dropped out of main stream media consumption. My consumption vectors have become...

  • daily curated news/content emails from curators I learn about and can subscribe/unsubscribe to/from if/when they prove their quality/lack-of-quality
  • my Twitter feed. real-time signal from who I follow. if Twitter builds a platform that allows for Journalists to more consistently represent themselves and their work, I could see this platform becoming the bulk of what I want. I blogged a little about some of these concepts here.
  • my feedly.com feed. my own source curation.
  • FlipBoard magazines. awesome feature of the day here is you can now tune FlipBoard to filter out content from shitty sources (e.g. TechCrunch). this is really powerful as it gives the user source-level control in the platform over what hits their eyes.
  • I still sit down with the Sunday Times each week. this is the most "main stream" I come in contact with.
I use Instapaper for "read later" and it's proven to be great. especially the "speed read" functionality; big time saver.

What I've found so far...
  • I spend 100x fewer cycles thinking about bullshit and the latest depressing shooting-of-the-day.
  • I spend 100x fewer cycles reading regurgitated link-bait stories cobbled together by children, and 100x more cycles reading thoughtful original content.
  • I eat-my-spinach constantly now, reading long-form, well thought out, journalism.
  • I miss out on "main stream" stuff; as expected. I'll find myself the only person in the room that hasn't heard about the latest media firestorm. this makes me feel like the odd man out at times, but it's a trade I'm willing to make.
  • I feel better. main stream media/content is depressing.
  • I feel smarter.
  • I don't wind up down link-bait rabbit holes that the reptile part of my brain wants to wander down.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Journalist Rank (jRank) & News Feeds

I just got back from a run and wanted to flesh this notion out a bit. I was listening to a This Week In Startups "news" roundtable in which Declan McCullagh was talking about his new "news" app called "Recent" (btw Declan, if you're not using Stream on the backend, you should consider it (disclosure, I'm an investor)). Someone started talking about ranking journalists, and someone else used the word "jRank" and jokingly compared it to Google's gRank. Declan passively suggested Recent was doing something like this in its algorithm to filter news. During this latest rush to build news apps, I'd like to see journalist rankings blend into the algorithms, and ultimately I'd love to be able to turn jRank dials in my profile to tune my feed accordingly.

You'd have to start with a ranking system first of course. From there, software could consider it when producing my feed, and from there a UI element could be presented to me to allow me to filter/dial journalists accordingly.

Proposed jRank factors for a given journalist

  • age
  • languages
  • primary country (city?) of residence
  • mediums (video, books, newspapers, web, a... blah blah blah)
  • first published article/video
  • most-recent published article/video
  • freelancing date-ranges
  • on-staff date-ranges
  • outlets (e.g. cnn, foxnews)/platforms (Twitter, Instagram...) published on (incl. links)
  • sponsors (explicit/implied) (this one would take some work, but the idea is to have transparency into where the journalist gets their dollars). think 
  • website (system can cull gRank-like data from it)
  • list of social profiles (to be crawled and individually ranked, then those ranks are subsumed into jRank)
  • etc.
The idea would be consider all the interesting factors that go into a producer of words. There are times I want to see content from random citizens who happen to catch a "news worthy" moment while walking the dog, and there are times I want to see stories on a known topic produced by someone who just spent a year of their life embedded in a specific environment studying a topic. And, everything in between. The combination of deeper knowledge around who produced the content, and the platform aggregated/presenting it, gives me, the user, a lot of control. Of course, "news platforms" relying on the crowd for the content can have all the dials turned up to 11 for the default stream.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

After Several Weeks With Apple Watch

I keep putting it on each day which means something I suppose.

I use it for

  • Checking the time.
  • Strava start/stop for commuter rides when I'm wearing the watch. I don't wear it for true sports activities.
  • Paying for stuff at the grocery with Apple Pay. _awesome_
  • Checking in on Swarm.
  • Reading text messages as they come in, and quick pre-set responses.
  • Composing text messages via Siri when I'm in a quiet room.
That's pretty much it. I like being able to tell time without pulling my phone out, receiving glanceable notifications that I deem important, and being able to initiate specific, simple, actions (Strava start/stop, Swarm checkins) from my wrist.

In the end, I suspect all I really care about is checking the time and I'll probably go buy a regular old analog watch now that those are back in style.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Human Travel Agents

They're baaaaack!

For the past several months I've been using an app called Native to book leisure travel. For the past several months I have NOT had to...

  • deal with busted hotel, airline, restaurant, and other travel websites
  • deal with constantly changing workflows of said websites. "Look at us, we've upgraded our website! It's better now!" No... it's not.
  • deal with busted payment processes with said websites
  • deal with login credentials with said websites
  • call hotels or restaurants to get questions answered
  • try to orchestrate last minute travel changes by hand
  • have awareness of hours of operation of places I have questions for prior to arrival
Instead, now I send a few texts to Native (human agents) and it's over. Here's one I sent the other day.

"NYC please. Personal card. Two ppl (myself and daughter). Depart DEN to LGA in the morning on X date, return LGA to DEN on Y date mid-late afternoon (enough time to grab lunch in Brooklyn on way to airport)."

Native knows my airline, seat preferences, the hotel I stay at in NY, and ground transport needs.

A few texts later I've confirmed details, and it's over. A trip that would've taken at least an hour to pull together (flights, hotel, cars, events, reservations), takes minutes now.

Totally impressed. Happy the modern travel agent is back.