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Issue #372

23rd February 2020
Hello!

It's been half-term for my kids so I've been working less this week. I used the change of pace to carve out some time for the creation of a couple of ebooks:
The first one is a free sampler downloadable from thoughtshrapnel.com, while the second is an experiment available via Gumroad. You can choose your own price for that one, and I'm hoping that people who can't support Thought Shrapnel on a monthly basis might find it a good opportunity to buy me a one-off Earl Grey tea?

Thanks in advance ๐Ÿ™‚

I published these two ebooks in lieu of an article and microcast this week, so I'm going to include Friday's link roundup in full here. Finally, you might want out my weeknote, which (thankfully!) was a little less eventful than the previous week's...

    Image by Luc van Loon

    Friday facings

    This week's links seem to have a theme about faces and looking at them through screens. I'm not sure what that says about either my network, or my interests, but there we are...

    As ever, let me know what resonates with you, and if you have any thoughts on what's shared below!

    The Age of Instagram Face

    The human body is an unusual sort of Instagram subject: it can be adjusted, with the right kind of effort, to perform better and better over time. Art directors at magazines have long edited photos of celebrities to better match unrealistic beauty standards; now you can do that to pictures of yourself with just a few taps on your phone.
    Jia Tolentino (The New Yorker)

    People, especially women, but there's increasing pressure on young men too, are literally going to see plastic surgeons with 'Facetuned' versions of themselves. It's hard not to think that we're heading for a kind of dystopia when people want to look like cartoonish versions of themselves.

    What Makes A Good Person?

    What I learned as a child is that most people donโ€™t even meet the responsibilities of their positions (husband, wife, teacher, boss, politicians, whatever.) A few do their duty, and I honor them for it, because it is rare. But to go beyond that and actually be a man of honor is unbelievably rare.
    Ian Welsh

    This question, as I've been talking with my therapist about, is one I ask myself all the time. Recently, I've settled on Marcus Aurelius' approach: "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one."

    Boredom is but a window to a sunny day beyond the gloom

    Boredom can be our way of telling ourselves that we are not spending our time as well as we could, that we should be doing something more enjoyable, more useful, or more fulfilling. From this point of view, boredom is an agent of change and progress, a driver of ambition, shepherding us out into larger, greener pastures.
    Neel Burton (Aeon)

    As I've discussed before, I'm not so sure about the fetishisation of 'boredom'. It's good to be creative and let the mind wander. But boredom? Nah. There's too much interesting stuff out there.

    Resting Risk Face

    Unlock your devices with a surgical mask that looks just like you.

    I don't usually link to products in this roundup, but I'm not sure this is 100% serious. Good idea, though!

    The world's biggest work-from-home experiment has been triggered by coronavirus

    For some employees, like teachers who have conducted classes digitally for weeks, working from home can be a nightmare.
    But in other sectors, this unexpected experiment has been so well received that employers are considering adopting it as a more permanent measure. For those who advocate more flexible working options, the past few weeks mark a possible step toward widespread -- and long-awaited -- reform.
    Jessie Yeung (CNN)

    Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess? Working from home is great, especially when you have a decent setup.

    Setting Up Your Webcam, Lights, and Audio for Remote Work, Podcasting, Videos, and Streaming

    Only you really know what level of clarity you want from each piece of your setup. Are you happy with what you have? Please, dear Lord, don't spend any money. This is intended to be a resource if you want more and don't know how to do it, not a stress or a judgment to anyone happy with their current setup
    And while it's a lot of fun to have a really high-quality webcam for my remote work, would I have bought it if I didn't have a more intense need for high quality video for my YouTube stuff? Hell no. Get what you need, in your budget. This is just a resource.

    This is a fantastic guide. I bought a great webcam when I saw it drop in price via CamelCamelCamel and bought a decent mic when I recorded the TIDE podcast wiht Dai. It really does make a difference.

    Large screen phones: a challenge for UX design (and human hands)

    I know it might sound like I have more questions than answers, but it seems to me that we are missing out on a very basic solution for the screen size problem. Manufacturers did so much to increase the screen size, computational power and battery capacity whilst keeping phones thin, that switching the apps navigation to the bottom should have been the automatic response to this new paradigm.
    Maria Grilo (Imaginary Cloud)

    The struggle is real. I invested in a new phone this week (a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G) and, unlike the phone it replaced from 2017, it's definitely a hold-with-two-hands device.

    Society Desperately Needs An Alternative Web

    What has also transpired is a web of unbridled opportunism and exploitation, uncertainty and disparity. We see increasing pockets of silos and echo chambers fueled by anxiety, misplaced trust, and confirmation bias. As the mainstream consumer lays witness to these intentions, we notice a growing marginalization that propels more to unplug from these communities and applications to safeguard their mental health. However, the addiction technology has produced cannot be easily remedied. In the meantime, people continue to suffer.
    Hessie Jones (Forbes)

    Another call to re-decentralise the web, this time based on arguments about centralised services not being able to handle the scale of abuse and fraudulent activity.

    UK Google users could lose EU GDPR data protections

    It is understood that Google decided to move its British users out of Irish jurisdiction because it is unclear whether Britain will follow GDPR or adopt other rules that could affect the handling of user data.
    If British Google users have their data kept in Ireland, it would be more difficult for British authorities to recover it in criminal investigations.
    The recent Cloud Act in the US, however, is expected to make it easier for British authorities to obtain data from US companies. Britain and the US are also on track to negotiate a broader trade agreement.
    Samuel Gibbs (The Guardian)

    I'm sure this is a business decision as well, but I guess it makes sense given post-Brexit uncertainty about privacy legislation. It's a shame, though, and a little concerning.
    Until next week,
    Doug
    Doug Belshaw
    Dr. Doug Belshaw is an Open Educational Thinkerer, currently working with Moodle and We Are Open Co-op to improve our world.

    You can connect with Doug by replying to this email, or via LinkedIn or Mastodon (here's a guide to getting started with latter!). I don't use Twitter nearly as much these days.

    Some say he's harsh. Others say he's an arse. No-one thinks enjoys trudging through a marsh.
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