Issue #426
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How goes it? This week I almost, and I mean almost, switched from self-hosting my newsletters with MailPoet to Revue. I was an OG user of the latter, and it's recently been acquired by Twitter so has some nice integrations. However, it's still flaky, and I realised the error of my ways while experimenting during a time when the whole service went down.

Anyway, this month has been as they say a month and I'll let you peruse the links below to find out why. The biggest clues, as ever, are in the weeknotes, but if you're only here for the link goodness you're of course welcome to skip those. I've separated out my three favourite links from the 31 others for those who might self-identify as 'time poor'.

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💥 Best of Thought Shrapnel

Of the 34 posts I published this month on Thought Shrapnel, these were my three favourites.

Brand-safe influencers and the blurring of reality

Earlier this week, in a soon-to-be released episode of the Tao of WAO podcast, we were talking about the benefits and pitfalls of NGOs like Greenpeace partnering with influencers. The upside? Engaging with communities that would otherwise be hard-to-reach. The downside? Influencers can be unpredictable.

It's somewhat inevitable, therefore, that "brand-safe" fictional influencers would emerge. As detailed in this article, not only are teams of writers creating metaverses in which several characters exist, but they're using machine learning to allow fans/followers to "interact".

The boundary between the real and fictional is only going to get more blurred.
FourFront is part of a larger wave of tech startups devoted to, as aspiring Zuckerbergs like to say, building the metaverse, which can loosely be defined as “the internet” but is more specifically the interconnected, augmented reality virtual space that real people share. It’s an undoubtedly intriguing concept for people with a stake in the future of technology and entertainment, which is to say, the entirety of culture. It’s also a bit of an ethical minefield: Isn’t the internet already full of enough real-seeming content that is a) not real and b) ultimately an effort to make money? Are the characters exploiting the sympathies of well-meaning or media illiterate audiences? Maybe!
On the other hand, there’s something sort of darkly refreshing about an influencer “openly” being created by a room of professional writers whose job is to create the most likable and interesting social media users possible. Influencers already have to walk the delicate line between aspirational and inauthentic, to attract new followers without alienating existing fans, to use their voice for change while remaining “brand-safe.” The job has always been a performance; it’s just that now that performance can be convincingly replicated by a team of writers and a willing actor.

Source: What’s the deal with fictional influencers? | Vox

Fall Regression

I've only just discovered the writing of Anne Helen Petersen, via one of the many newsletters and feeds to which I subscribe. I featured her work last week about remote working.

Petersen's newsletter is called Culture Study and the issue that went out yesterday was incredible. She talks about this time of year ⁠⁠— a time I struggle with in particular — and gets right to the heart of the issue.

I've learned to take Vitamin D, turn on my SAD light, and to go easy on myself. But there's always a little voice suggesting that this is how it's going to be from here on out. So it's good to hear what other people advise. For Petersen, it's community involvement.
A teacher recently told me that there’s a rule in her department: no major life decisions in October. The same holds true, she said, for March. But March is well-known for its cruelty. I didn’t realize it was the same for October, even though it makes perfect sense: the charge of September, those first golden days of Fall, the thrill of wearing sweaters for the first time, those are gone. Soon it’ll be Daylight Savings, which always feels like having the wind knocked out of the day. People in high elevations are already showing off their first blasts of snow. We have months, months, to go.
As distractions fade, you’re forced to sit with your own story of how things are going. Maybe you’d been bullshitting yourself for weeks, for months. It was easy to ignore my bad lunch habits when I was spending most of the day outside. Now it’s just me and my angry stomach and scraping the tub of the hummus container yet again. Or, more seriously: now it’s just me swimming against the familiar tide of burnout, not realizing how far it had already pulled me from shore.
Is this the part of the pandemic when we’re happy? When we’re angry? When we’re hanging out or pulling back, when we’re hopeful or dismayed, when we’re making plans or canceling them? The calendar moves forward but we’re stuck. In old patterns, in old understandings of how work and our families and the world should be. That’s the feeling of regression, I think. It’s not that we’re losing ground. It’s that we were too hopeful about having gained it.

Source: What's That Feeling? Oh, It's Fall Regression | Culture Study

Blissed, Blessed, Pissed, and Dissed

Austin Kleon summarises Bill O'Hanlon's idea around there being 'four energies' that writers can dig into. They may need translating for a British audience ('pissed' means something different over here...) but I like it as an organising idea.

Related: Buster Benson's 'Seven Modes (for seven heads)' from his seminal post Live like a hydra.
The energies are split between “what you love and what upsets you”:
O’Hanlon goes on to say many of his early books were “written from a combination of pissed and blissed.”

Source: The Four Energies | Austin Kleon

✍️ The rest of Thought Shrapnel

Everything's subjective, right? Here's the other 31 posts I published:

📅 Weeknotes

  • Weeknote 43/2021 — "We’ve been on holiday this week, spending a few nights away in Dumfries & Galloway. In a quirk of geography, this is a part of Scotland that’s actually no further north than..."
  • Weeknote 42/2021 — "I’m composing this from bed, a privilege afforded to me by both being on holiday and it being ‘blackout weekend’ for youth football. In a surprising breakout of common sense, the FA have..."
  • Weeknote 41/2021 — "Those who read my last weeknote will not be surprised to learn that I haven’t slept that well this week. Sleep is the most foundational of what I usually refer to as..."
  • Weeknote 40/2021 — "This week started off with a migraine. My wife, Hannah, was away on a combined work trip to visit the NHS Digital offices in Exeter and to see family in Devon. I got the kids into bed early on Sunday night so that I could..."
  • Weeknote 39/2021 — "I’m only managing to put time aside to sit down and write this late on Sunday afternoon, which is unusual. With one less adult around Chez Belshaw, this weekend has been a whirlwind of..."

Until next month!

Doug Belshaw
Thought Shrapnel Weekly is published by Dr. Doug Belshaw. You can connect with him by replying to this email, or via Mastodon, Twitter, or LinkedIn

Some say he's sluggish. Others think he's thuggish. No-one thinks he's puggish.
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