5ish Links

On This Day 12 Years Ago…

(First published on 3/20/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)

I got a notice on Facebook over the weekend that it was my 12 year anniversary on the service. In the era where many of us are used to services popping in and out of our lives, this seems insane. Crazier still to think that I’ve probably used the service in some capacity (even if not core Facebook, through Messenger, etc) every single day for those past 12 years.

I distinctly remember being very hesitant to sign up for Facebook all those years ago. After all, I already had a Friendster account… And I had graduated from college the year before. It still seemed like a college thing at the time — and you had to sign up with your .edu email address to prove your collegiate affiliation.

Even after I was pushed into signing up by friends in other parts of the country, I refused to give the Facebook my actual face for a long time. I instead used various humorous pictures as a representation of me. I was decidedly luddite about the whole thing. Funny to think back on that now…

5ish Links

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00liberaltv1 facebookjumbo

Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin:

The turbocharged ratings are a surprise even to seen-it-all television executives, who had been bracing for a plunge in viewership after the excitement of the presidential campaign. Before election night, networks were scrambling to generate new hits and digital offshoots that could stanch the bleeding.

Instead, the old analog favorites are in, with comfort-food franchises like “Saturday Night Live” drawing its highest Nielsen numbers in 24 years. Despite a dizzying array of new media choices, viewers are opting for television’s mass gathering spots, seeking the kind of shared experience that can validate and reassure.

This doesn’t surprise me. When there’s something for the village to talk about, they gather around the biggest watering holes. There’s still a very real sense of “what the fuck is going on?” mixed with the urge to laugh about what the fuck is going on (with SNL, The Daily Show, etc).

But if they keep doing stunts like Rachel Maddow’s re-enactment of “The Decision” the other night to reveal little about President Trump’s tax records, the crowds will start to disperse again…


Jeremy Kahn:

Neural networks, software which is loosely based on the structure of synapses in the human brain, are considered the best machine learning technique for language translation, image classification and image generation. But these networks suffer from a major flaw scientists call “catastrophic forgetting.” They exist in a kind of perpetual present: every time the network is given new data, it overwrites what it has previously learned.

In human brains, neuroscientists believe that one way in which memory works is that connections between neurons that seem important for a particular skill become less likely to be rewired. The DeepMind researchers drew on this theory, known as synaptic consolidation, to create a way to allow neural networks to remember.

Amazing — even more amazing:

The researchers tested the algorithm on ten classic Atari games, which the neural network had to learn to play from scratch. DeepMind had previously created an AI agent able to play these games as well or better than any human player. But that earlier AI could only learn one game at a time. If it was later shown one of the first games it learned, it had to start all over again.

09state illo facebookjumbo
09state illo facebookjumbo

Farhad Manjoo:

Perhaps most consequential, the rising dependence on cameras is changing our language. Other than in face-to-face communication, we used to talk primarily in words. Now, more and more, from GIFs to emoji, selfies to image-macro memes and live video, we talk in pictures.

This is something that people who long-ago disparaged Instagram as “just another camera app” failed to see. This is about communication. Visual communication. Snapchat is the logical extension of that trend. There will be others. And Facebook will continue to move into these spaces…

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Linking to a Ben Thompson article which is behind his Stratechery paywall, because you should subscribe if you haven’t yet. Last week, he had some great thoughts about Microsoft Teams versus Slack:

Teams versus Slack is the front lines of this battle: Microsoft is betting that the suite still matters, both in terms of how you acquire software and in how it ought to work together; Slack is betting that the future is all about the cloud and the user experience, not just in terms of chat apps, but all apps, and that by being the layer that ties everything together — the integrator — they can be the most valuable app of all.

At the risk of putting my mouth where my money is: this is absolutely correct. It’s impossible to know how this will play out for sure, of course, but I like the bet on Slack.

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Rich Barton:

SEO and natural search results are in decline. And, as alternative search paradigms (mobile, Alexa, AppStore) grow, and as Facebook / YouTube / Snapchat radically increase the volume and diversity of “avails,” I would argue that we are entering a new golden age of marketing and branding.

Perhaps a little early to see this clearly, but I also do believe this shift back is happening…

Quickish Hits

Great, thoughtful, funny essay by John DeVore:

I don’t really know anything except that I quit drinking and I’m a man, or at least, I am a reasonable facsimile of one. But why men drink isn’t the right question, of course.

Jon Pareles:

And Mr. Berry’s music has remained on tour extraterrestrially. “Johnny B. Goode” is on a golden record in the Voyager I spacecraft, launched in 1977 and awaiting discovery.eptual genius, a songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves.

To the point about the television channels “winning” above, the top of the newspaper business is also looking a lot better these days…

Not as crazy as the headline makes it seem at first glance…

(First published on 3/20/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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