Arts Creativity Tech

The gutless algorithm

In today’s age, you get picked (and judged) by algorithms and your number of social media fans.

No matter your unique talent, it is the statistics that predetermine your success.

But the element of surprise is not over.

John Hammond discovered Billie Holiday, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan at the clubs. As a staunch contrarian, he looked for talent that offered a fresh and rebellious sound.

Meanwhile, the Goldman Sachs algorithmic machine incorrectly picked Germany to make the World Cup final.

Data or gut, predicting future success is impossible because everything thrives on chance.

Truth happens to an outcome.

Read The Data Or The Hunch?


Developing an algorithmic eardrum

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gif via hypebot

Discovery requires effort. It’s for this reason we outsource the work to algorithms. We don’t want a list of items completely unfamiliar.

Spotify’s Discover Weekly succeeds because it balances the unknown and the recognizable. Familiarity breeds trust. Algorithms are the new peer recommendations.

But behind every machine is a human engine. From the curators to the avant-garde, someone has to know the difference between the good and the bad and what makes a piece of art edgy.

Art stirs emotions and requires human sensibility. When it comes to algorithms, brains and emotions are still the equalizers, for now.


The ephemerality of new music

frank ocean
Frank Ocean’s new album ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is due out on Friday

We consume faster than we produce. Such rapidity is disproportionate to the time it takes to craft a new record or book. We live in a mobile-first feed-based culture where smart algorithms intend to save us time by lifting the most popular stuff to the top.

Why do we so much emphasis on what our friends or influencers are engaging with the most when we can make judgments on our own?

When we get lost in a book or album, the rest of the world disappears. Creators often talk about their flow state– a state of unbreakable focus and productivity. The audience can also get into a fluid state of consumption. We can absorb a book on a deeper level with sustained concentration, which is known to add years on to our life.

“One of the ways we deal is through categorization: mentally swiping left on the things we don’t want to pay attention to, and bookmarking the rest for later. It means that everything is graded the instant it comes out. Consumed, and then promptly forgotten.” – Writer Jenna Wortham in Fader Mag

We should listen and read more carefully the things we enjoy, ignoring the temptation to skip or fast-forward on to the next thing. The artists bust their ass just to make us think, cry, or smile. Give them the proper time and attention they deserve.

Apps Arts Creativity Social Media

Reading: The network’s the thing

How many people reading this have already uploaded a landscape or portrait photo to Instagram 🙋?  I’ve gone back and forth but appreciate Instagram’s decision to make square optional. Landscape mode lets your videos breathe.

1 in 5 Instagrams rejected the square format. Instead of resisting the data, Instagram gave into its community. Why wouldn’t it?

“In fact, this move by Instagram validates the power of their network. If they were failing they either wouldn’t have survived long enough to make such a move or it would be positioned as some desperate pivot. Instagram is dealing from a position of strength here, expanding the flexibility of its tools to meet the needs of a still growing user base.”

Now, how many people reading this post have tweeted this week? Right.

Twitter is the Swiss Army Knife of social networks but when you can tweet anything you end up tweeting nothing. Some people can’t cope with that creative freedom. For all the fence-sitters, yes, retweets are endorsements.

Twitter needs to scratch the itch and modernize. It can start by excluding usernames from its 140 character limit. Or, to be more aggressive:

“I’d actually remove the 140 character limit on Tweets as well, though such a move would undoubtedly spawn even more of a public outcry than Instagram’s move since so many power users of Twitter are journalists. Yes, a 140 character limit enforces some concision in writing, rewarding the witty among us, but it also alienates a lot of people who hate having to edit a thought multiple times just to fit in the arbitrary limit.”

If social networks are places, the networks have to keep them fun to hang out. That means adapting to the way people communicate online without disrupting the experience for the hardcore users. At the end of the day, a social network thrives on its strong content, a little bit of human curation (fuck algorithms), and a vibrant community. In short, social networking has to be fast, fun, and mobile, an extension of today’s fast-paced lifestyle. That’s why Snapchat is perfect.

Eugene Wei’s blog:  “The network’s the thing”



What’s Your Algorithm

What things are you going to let in and disallow in your life? 

A good algorithm moderates both online and offline behavior and prevents the mind from becoming too fat.   

What things do you want other people to know about you? 

A good algorithm shows your work while remaining humble.  And it connecs  you to with like-minded people, aka your scenius.

Your algorithm is unique.  People may share its characteristics but not it’s subtleties.  Your algorithm is also elastic, recasting itself to a world that constantly demands attention.

Have you checked your algorithm lately?

Arts Culture Tech

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Algorithms curb the discovery process. Amazon tries to recommend you books. Pandora examines your listening behavior to recommend music. tries to introduce you to new art based on your preferences.

Algorithmic predictions feel a bit like Google, crowdsourced information that displays results for what the masses are also looking for in the aggregate.

The information, art, and music DJs that really know their stuff ignore algorithms altogether. They have trusted sources and spend the time to find new and emerging sources to pluck gems from. These curators master the art of showing people what they know people will like and what they think people will like.

I believe everyone should research at least one category of art and dig into it as much as they can. That means scouring the Internet for niche blogs, listening to obscure podcasts, seeing what the DJs are recommending, and following influencers on forums and on Twitter.

Discovery is an active process, not a passive one. Turn off mainstream radio and find something new or rediscover something old. The real gems lie in the nooks and crannies. Predict what’s next, not what’s now.