Adblocker pop-ups

I’m having a pop-uppy day today. First time I’ve encounter this one from The Atlantic:

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Which reminds me of this one from Forbes:

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I still feel a mixed bag of reactions to these sorts of messages. I totally understand the need for these publications to make money in order to exist, but I resent the imposing way that ads track and impair my browsing experience, slowing websites to a crawl sometimes and eating my mobile data. 

Options like these then, were you can pay or sign in for the sites to be add free are smart and seemingly the best option. Thinking about the Forbes option here though, I wonder how they get value from me just signing in with Google? Now I’ve done it I’ve stopped ads in exchange for just my basic Google profile details (so said the authentication box). Let’s see if I start getting loads more marketing emails maybe… 

Wait But Why

Just added a note to my post about members, funders etc. as I’ve added my ‘patronage’ to Wait But Why which I feel like I’ve know about for years, but it turns out it only started in 2013. Whatever And Whenever, only now am I getting chance to really dig though all the past posts and they are even more fantastic than I remember. 

In particular, there is something about the way Tim writes that I find effortless easy and enjoyable to read. A master of writing like he talks perhaps. 

I would recommend my favourite posts, but on reviewing them I can’t pick so just suggest you head over to the homepage and start at the top

Members, funders, investors, consumers, subscribers, supporters and semantics

I pay for my TV licence. I pay for my Netflix plan. I fund people on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I sponsor people to fundraise. I invest in a start up. I subscribe to Apple Music. I also subscribe and support via Patreon. And now I have membership to a blog

All these things are true, but all the words are different, and so too the feelings associated with each type of transaction. Yet, each activity is just me, parting with my money in order to benefit myself (and yes, sponsoring someone to fundraise for a charity makes me happy, so in part, it’s like me buying any other thing that makes me happy).

I’ve long been intrigued by the semantics of capitalism and commerce and that interest peaked when I first learned about Kickstarter, during the ‘funding period’ of 3 September 2009 – 13 October 2009 (39 days) for my friends Art Book – A Dictionary Story. Sam had been approached by the founders, five months after Kickstarter was founded, and asked if he’d like to try the platform. 

Frustratingly, I couldn’t fund at the time due to the Amazon payment/fund holding functionality not working with old accounts that were set up via amazon.co.uk, or something. Still, talking with Sam about the idea I was amazed at what he was telling me about the platform and it’s use of the word ‘fund’ to basically mean ‘pre-order’. 

Here was an ecommerce website, selling things that weren’t yet made – selling ideas in essence – from people with no clear evidence of being able to fulfil or produce their ideas (for all you knew), and with no guarantee of an actual shipping date, or even if the thing was going to be made.

Imagine going to an Amazon product page, or eBay auction page (’product’ vs ‘auction’ being another interesting example), and the page details informing you that the product does not yet exist, that the company that might make it has never made it before, and that even if you assume it is going to be made, that you are unable to know when it will arrive. Would you add it to your basket or place a bid? Hell no! Amazon Prime, shipping time guarantees and seller ratings are all critical details for consumer trust when buying something anywhere else online, so why on Earth was this Kickstarter project looking so attractive (and not just because it was my friends project)?  

Clearly then, and proved thousands of times since then, by changing the ‘Buy’ button to a ‘Back This Project’ button, alongside words like fund, pledge and support, and wrapping it all up in a lovely story about the creative personality behind the project, Kickstart and many other crowdsourcing and funding platforms are engaging in some awesome NLP-like semantic magic:

These are not Products; They are Projects. You do not buy; You Fund. You do not question their production and delivery schedule; You support their efforts and wish them well. Oh, and yes, while you are supporting and funding the idea like an investor, no, you are not an investor. You do not get equity; You just get to feel nice, and if you’re lucky, something you bought months or years before might arrive at your door.

Such a smart twist on consumerism and the start-up investor narrative that we see playing out in the news. So clever. I fall for it every time. And all because of the language. 

Sames goes to a smaller extent with Airbnb, who pull out their share of calculated accommodation cost under the line item ‘Service fee’, rather than ‘Airbnb fee’. It leads the mind toward the service they provide in a way that saying ‘Tax’ would not. Deliveroo too, list their fee in a similar, yet more cutesy vein as a ‘Roo Charge’. These are obvious little touches perhaps, but it makes me wonder if other services could benefit from the simple language trick. You know, in a Nudge Unity / Behavioural Insights fashion. 

Rather than Council Tax, I want a Hackney Services Fee. Rather than a TV Licence, I’d like to pay for my Membership. And Rather than National Insurance being taken out of paycheques, perhaps salaries should only be shown in their ‘post-deduction total’, with NI showing as an employer contribution based on your salary. So rather than saying someone is on £20K from which £1,400 would be ‘taken out as NI tax’, say the salary is £18,600 and that such a salary ‘gives you an allowance’ of £1,400 toward your NI. All very Nudge yes, but such language changes could help in so many more positive ways I think. 

In this respect, I’ve always hated when people moan about the TV licence and how expensive they think it is, when I’m very much one of the many who believe that it’s a relatively tiny cost for what it provides. From the TV Licensing website:

A standard colour TV Licence costs £145.50 – the equivalent of £12.13 per month or just under 40p per day. The fee you pay provides a wide range of TV, radio and online content, as well as developing new ways to deliver it to you. In addition to funding BBC programmes and services, a proportion of the licence fee contributes to the costs of rolling out broadband to the UK population and funding Welsh Language TV channel S4C and local TV channels. This was agreed with the government as part of the 2010 licence fee settlement.

It pays for practically everything that the BBC produce on TV, Radio and online! And it part funds the signal distribution network across the entire country! And part of all that means employing more than 20,000 people. That’s awesome! But that word ‘licence’ and the threat of a fine if you don’t pay for it, makes people resent it and distances the fee / funding / sponsorship / pledging / backing from the amazing return to each and every person on the UK. 

For comparison in my mind, I always think of other things that I willingly pay for that use alternate words to get my money, in return for what they produce. Here’s my list of ongoing ‘content’ costs (because adding phone bills, broadband and utilities start to confuse the clear point of enjoying just what’s produced):

Apple Music Family Membership: £179.88/year (14.99/month)
TV Licence: £145.50/year (£12.13/month)
Audible 1 Book Monthly Membership: £95.88/year (£7.99/month)
1 screen Standard Definition Netflix Plan: £71.88/year (£5.99/month)
Kottke.org Membership: £47.93/year (£3.99/month)
Kurzgesagt Patreon Support: £18.48/year (£1.54/month)
Wikimedia Foundation Subscription/Donation: £12/year (£1/month)
CGP Grey Patreon Support: £9.24/eyar (77p/month)

Straight off, I’m paying more just for music and the digital delivery of it to me, my partner and my Mum, than I am for everything that the licence fee pays for. Same price if I used Spotify. 

Next up, paying for one audio book per month, costs just £49.62 less per year than the cost of everything that the licence fee pays for. Followed closely by Netflix which is practically half the annual licence fee, for the part creation and delivery of a tiny percentage of the content I watch onscreen, for use on just one screen at a time.

Thereafter the costs fall and become much more ‘funding’ like in my choice to pay directly to creators and resources that I like, but collectively, for one blog, some short science and sociology animations, and for Wikipedia*, I pay £87.65 per year. That’s £57.85 less than I pay for everything that the licence fee provides. 

I’m labouring the point, but only because it feels so laboured in my mind. I love the BBC and would pay double for what it gives to my family, but I think that the language of ‘licence’ is distracting and allows others to better capitalise on social and civic duty with words like ‘backing’ and ‘support’. Language isn’t the only issue obviously, with many licence fee naysayers having ulterior motives I’m sure, but it’s a small design detail that the TV Licence fee website could benefit from at the very least. 

My point, other than thinking these thoughts aloud, is a slight aside to my other collected thoughts on Content Design. Not quite the 4th part I had planned, but something I think I needed to get out before I could complete part 4. A content dump. Now dumped. 

* I actually feel a little guilty for giving such a small donation to Wikipedia which I use almost every day. At the same time, I reconcile the guilt somewhat due to the fair number of dubious ‘facts’ in it. It’s a great reference, but it’s far from fallible. 

Update, 18 November 2016: Just added another £12/year (£1/month) on Pateron for Wait But Why. This takes my conscious annual content funding total to £99.65 per year, £45.85 short of the TV licence fee. 

Foldscope

The Foldscope is an ultra-low cost microscope made from common materials such as paper.” It could cost less than one dollar to produce, and there maybe be a Kickstarter coming for it soon.

I love it when a TED talk becomes reality. I saw this a couple years back and forgot about it until recently. Many more details in this research article. The idea and design of this thing are genius. From one piece of paper, plus a lens and battery to power an LED (shown below in black):

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It constructs and looks something like this:

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And from the side operates something like this:

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My kids are at an age when things like germs and bacteria are being discussed, due to their persistent asking of ‘why’ about everything, so to help explain when things get too small for them to see, this will be an incredible help. At least, more of a help than showing them Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, which was entertaining enough, but possibly a little too abstracted for having to explain what a light year was. Fun to try though. Give it a go next time you have access to a four year old. 

More YouTube creator love. This time for the fantastically entertaining, educational and sometimes scary world of Kurzgesagt (In a nutshell). This is their latest but there are loads more to pick from. Stand out episodes(?) for me have been one on CRISPRHuman Origins, Antibiotic Apocalypse, What Is Something?Addiction and What is Light?. And sometimes less sciencey ones, like How Facebook is Stealing Billions of Views. Many many more too. All reminding me that I always forge to support them on patreon.com. Usually too mind bent after watching to think straight. This time though. 

Early adapter

I heard someone say this yesterday when meaning ‘early adopter’. I like how it broadens the spectrum of technological adoption though. Wonder what other groups and phases are identifiable?

Before early adopter I suppose there are the creators of some sort. Or the ones that hack their own version of something. Like people who jailbreak their phones or mod their own computers, only for their ‘hack’ to later become part of the operating system. For want of a less muddied term, these people are the Innovators I suppose. 

Early adopters are a funny bunch also. We sort of hail them in some respects for being future forecasters, but as with everything in life, they’re not 100% perfect. Early adopters often adopt things that don’t work out. Like a Segway user or a Narrative Clip owner (a link which at the time of writing goes to a page noting the suspending of operations after the product failed). 

Even at the best of times though, early adopters take the brunt of a buggy version one of something, thus goes the progressive and almost public services nature of early adopters, paving the way with their exploration and risk for early adapters to come in once things look safe and version two is on the market. For the most part I think I’m in this category. Early adapting, having felt burned too many times from my attempts at early adoption. 

Next comes the slow accepter perhaps. Those that take to the new thing with ease, the more prevalent and unavoidable that it becomes. Some time after the late accepter, reluctant to change, accepts that times have changed and that they have to adopt this – now old – new thing. Often these are the ones that pooh-poohed it at first, but deny any recollection to their being a time before the now. Physical keyboard supports come to mind here.   

Then, once the norm is absolute, we enter early abandon. Those who were innovators or early adopters at the start, are moving on, inventing and adopting the next new thing and continuing the cycle. 

I mentioned the Dutch, the Netherlands and Holland in my last post, all the while thinking ‘which name was for which bit again?’. Then I remembered this helpful video from the helpfully prolific CGP Grey. What I remember most is that it’s actually pretty confusing and so I feel less bad for not knowing it all by heart. I still don’t and I’ve just watch the video above again. History madness.

Essencial viewing after that one is his similar piece The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained.

And if you’re in the European mood then follow that with Where is Scandinavia?.

Up for more? Then with crazy  elections brewing abroad, remember how made our own system is in the UK with The Problems with First Past the Post Voting Explained.

Oh, and if you recognise the style, that’s because he also did the recently awesome, The Simple Solution to Traffic which is right up my current traffic and road systems street.

And his previously awesomely scary Humans Need Not Apply.

Heck, just watch everything he’s made in order of popularity. Get yourself a YouTube account if you’ve not already got one and subscribe to him even. Better yet, support him on patreon.com/cgpgrey. He was the reason I finally signed up to it myself.