It has become quite a habit now: at the end of the year, I look back and see how often I have tended to my digital homestead. In more prosaic terms, it translates to the total number of posts during the year. Over the past 12 months, I posted 128 times (129, if you include this post.)  I have to say — things aren’t as spiffy as they used to be. In 2021, I posted 164 times, while in 2020 (during the pandemic), I was posting pretty much every single day.  (307 posts, in total and resulted in this e-book, The Longest Year)

There are two ways to parse the 2022 data. My 2022 goal was to be respectful of the reader’s attention. I am glad that when I did write, I wrote about what felt important and not as “content filler.” Looking back, my posts around Twitter, Elon, and the end of social were just enough. That man doesn’t need any more attention from me or anyone else for that matter.

That said, I wish I had written more often, especially in a pivotal year like the one we had. Whether it is the impact of machine learning, augmented intelligence or some of the newer technologies that are making their way into our lives. Technology and the new breakthroughs in science are an opportunity and a challenge, and it’s a shame that most of my thoughts didn’t make it out of my journal and notes app. 

I suppose when you lose a friend who is your sounding board and your bullshit detector, you tend to lose a lot of confidence when it comes to hitting the publish button. If my writing suffered during 2022, I started to speak a visual language more clearly and strongly. It has been a pleasant surprise and a source of personal pride that I can walk a path that gives me creative satisfaction. I wrote about it here and shared some examples.) On the road to imperfection – On my Om

But you can’t bring back the time that has flown by — the best you can do is move forward. As the new year beckons, it has become obvious that in the year ahead, I will have to learn publicly, together with the community, just as I have always done with my writing.

So that’s it — time for me to say goodbye to the year that was. I wish you all a very happy & jolly new year.

December 31, 2022. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Top Posts of 2022

  1. Brunello Cucinelli. A conversation.  (Originally published in April 2015)
  2. Instagram is dead 
  3. Goodbye Spotify 
  4. A Final Goodbye. A post I wish I didn’t have to write, 
  5. Musk or not, Twitter CEO needs to go. 

Some of my favorite posts from 2022

 

How did it get so late so soon? 
It’s night before it’s afternoon. 
December is here before it’s June. 
My goodness how the time has flown. 
How did it get so late so soon?
Dr. Seuss

It has been a few weeks since I sent one of these updates. I thought I would write one last month. Like all writers, I, too, have developed a penchant for procrastination. It is a deadly affliction, especially if your think in words and write to bring order to your inner self. So this morning, when a 4.0 Earthquake woke me up, I knew I couldn’t go back to sleep, and I took it as a cue to sit down and write this quick note. 

Over the past few weeks, I have been busy playing with new technologies and jotting down ideas for future (longer) pieces. It is a much better use of time and a good distraction from the shit show around us. Twitter, in particular, is a dumpster fire. And while I am not on Mastodon (yet,), I might set up a personal instance and tinker with it over the holidays.

Mastodon, in itself, isn’t novel, as it mimics Twitter. The idea of Fediverse and, by extension, ActivityPub, are interesting because they hark back to an early vision of the web, one that wasn’t dominated by the “centralized attention” economy. I feel there is a big opportunity for WordPress (my blog publishing system) to give a push to Fediverse and ActivityPub. More on that in a future communique.

In case you missed some of the recent writing, here are a few links.

December is almost half done, though I am just getting started. Winter months are my favorite time of the year — when I take my camera and head out wherever there is snow. 

And now for some recommendations: 

  • If you are looking for a nice, calm (cozy) crime series to view this holiday season, I highly recommend Three Pines, which is based on a novel by Louise Penny and stars Alfred Molina. Molina is just such a great pick for the role of Chief Inspector Armand Ganache. It is spectacular viewing and free to watch for Amazon Prime members.
  • If you are in London and are looking for a modernist twist on Indian cuisine, I highly recommend Bibi. Great ambiance, a fresh take on food and flavors I am familiar with, without pandering or diluting the originals. 
  • Closer to home in San Francisco, check out El Rey Taquiza Artesanal, which has a fresh (and I mean really fresh) take on Mexican food. I have been there a dozen times already and have never been disappointed. 
  • If you are on Mac, you should check out Arc, a new, simpler, modern take on the Chrome browser. It is kinder to your computers than the junk Google puts on the market. There is a waiting list.
  • I got rid of Google search and replaced it with Neeva. It is a new search engine built by Google Search team members. For me, it has been worth switching. 

PS: Please visit the website more often and catch up on my short posts, recommendations, and photos. You can leave comments and start a conversation now that we are avoiding Twitter. 

December 17, 2022

blue and white heart illustration

If you were a teenager (or slightly older) in the eighties, there is a good chance you tried out Calvin Klein cologne. It was quite the thing — it was everywhere, so much so that you couldn’t tell if the cologne smelled like the magazines or the magazines smelled like the cologne. The musky smell was a bit too much, and you started to despise the smell and its omnipresence after a little while. I have been reminded of that overwhelming experience where the scent became a stench over the last few days on Twitter. 

And the reason, of course, is again too much musk. 

I am mostly a live-and-let-live kind of person: I don’t really care about the psychodramas of other people. But it is too much to ignore when they start to inch into your reality and cause unnecessary anxiety. My timeline is full of Elon references — retweets of his tweets — and, generally, the continuing reality television show starring the megalomaniacal space cowboy. And this is despite me muting Elon and shutting out his entire coterie of sycophants. In other words, the timeline has become utterly useless. 

His strategy is understandable — dominate the conversation so much, stoke as much outrage, and elicit as much reaction to his controversial and outright nonsensical comments. He made some comments about Apple, and the ripple effects showed up on Reddit’s Apple threads and Apple-faced websites such as Daring Fireball. The New York Times decided to write a story about it as well. 

Of course, this is precisely what he wants. The Twitter Show starring Musk means that no one is paying attention to the fact that there have been 19 recalls of Tesla in 2022, the latest being in China. Or that company might have some competitive challenges — instead, all energy is focused on Elon’s Bully Pulpit. 

A few months back, this is what I wrote about why Elon wants Twitter:

He needs his bully pulpit to have enough people believe in his way of thinking so that hundreds of millions flow into his projects and thus enable his vision of the future. 

The last few weeks show that I might be right about the need for this pulpit. 

It is time for me to limit my Twitter usage. I am sure in time; things will settle down (or not.) And then, I can return to the platform. But for now, I will be comfortable in the relative isolation and confines of my blog and this newsletter. 

Elon doesn’t need the extra attention, and his ego will not suffer much if I ignore him. But avoiding this ceaseless chatter and unbridled hero worship will be good for my sanity. I am done with Musk overload.



YAHOO TABOO

Nothing gets me more worked up than Taboola and Outbrain. They are advertising companies that have flooded the web with low-quality ads posing as native content and sponsored articles. “Click-bait” headlines and deceptive “sponsored content” are their calling cards. And both these companies have contributed heavily towards ruining the user experience. They are, in my books, the “herpes” of the Internet.

Yahoo, the grand old uncle of the Internet, has decided to buy a quarter of Taboola and cut a deal that will last three decades. Basically, Taboola’s crap links are going to show up on Yahoo’s pages. The executives at Yahoo might come up with grand explanations as to why they did the deal, but it is all nonsense. 

The reality is that Yahoo is owned by a private equity group. Apollo paid $5 billion to Verizon to buy the company. They need to do a quick turnaround and show a boost in revenues and profits. This deal with Taboola checks those boxes. Rising revenues and profits would allow PE owners to take Yahoo public again. And if that happens, the turnaround executives are going to make a killing. 

Yahoo stopped being relevant a long time ago. No one has accused them of being an innovator in a long time. And this deal with Taboola only confirms their status as the fading past of the Internet. 

As someone said, don’t use services that are hostile to the Internet. He meant newcomers, Hive and Post.News, but I will extend that to old-timers as well. I have been a loyal user of Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Sports Fantasy offering. no more. I am shifting my Financial screen to Koyfin. And for baseball fantasy leagues, I will have to look for something new. 

Updated on December 2nd, 2022: Yahoo is essentially replacing its legacy Gemini platform with Taboola, who will basically get larger inventory, and will be better able to manage its targeting. Yahoo, on the other hand is able to wash its hands off a laggard. And for the deal, Yahoo paid no money and got 25 percent of Taboola. It gets a board seat and 15 percent of the voting shares. Taboola is now the big fish and thus a bigger taboo.


NOW FOR SOME GOOD (TECH) NEWS

While the social web burns and does its best to destroy all hope, scientists and technologists are working hard on developing new technologies that could have an impact on how we live and interact with an increasingly hostile world. 

  • Scientists are experimenting with atomic-scale semiconductors and creating very low-power cameras that can eventually be used as visual environmental sensors. Machine vision would be a start. Read more.
  • Apple’s AirPods Pro might be expensive and, at times, an overkill for making calls, but they can be good hearing aids, as these researchers have found out. Hearing loss is a growing problem — the third most common chronic health condition in the United States — so having commonplace earphones is a good way to help those dealing with those issues. More details on the study are here.

I will be back with another edition of the newsletter in a couple of days! Meanwhile, come back to the blog for short posts, reading lists, and some photos. Of course, my Tumblr is alive again!

November 29, 2022. San Francisco

I returned from a quick trip to London on the day of Thanksgiving, thus missing the bonhomie of the weekend. While I did miss the slices of pie, it was good to spend the time watching The Silence of Water on PBS Masterpiece (via Amazon Prime.) The Italian crime show is beautiful in location, cinematography, and acting. And despite having to follow the subtitles, it is worth binging. 

The show was an excellent way to stay away from the incessant come-hither siren call of Black Friday — a disease that has also spread to the United Kingdom. I used the opportunity to stock up on memory cards, but that’s all. For the rest of America — despite economic doldrums, it seems to be the season of shop till you drop. I call this the consumerism curse.

The long weekend was also a good time to reflect and read. 

What I am reading

Amazon was losing $10 billion a year on its Alexa business. Google, too needs to learn how to make its voice-interface business profitable. And Apple’s Siri is not going anywhere as, well. So what is the future of voice interfaces in this era of economic frugality

Talking about Apple is becoming an ad company. On its blog, Proton, the privacy company, breaks down how Apple’s tracking works. I, for one, am disgusted by this direction taken by Apple. (Related: The golden noose around Apple’s neck.)

If you are struggling with the whole FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried’s shenanigans, here is a very easy-to-understand explainer of how the whole con worked. Alex Tabarrok has done a good job, and worth a read. 

On the other end of the spectrum is a breakdown of the disaster that was FTX by an accomplished finance professor who digs into the intricacies of the con.(https://www.coindesk.com/)

Ken Kocienda, a former Apple user experience guru, breaks down the design and user experience challenges of Elon Musk’s proposed changes to Twitter’s verification systems. The whole piece is worth reading

Given all the obsession with Twitter, we must remember that the new generation of Internet natives doesn’t care much about the platform or its peer Facebook. For them, it is all about YouTube and TikTok

The A to Z of climate change by Elizabeth Kolbert is the most sobering piece I have read this weekend, and it is an important reminder of the existential threat we are facing as a collective. 

November 27, 2022. San Francisco