Published in Super8 -

Super8: Eight intriguing articles from February.

Buckle-up, Super8’ers. This month, Sebastian Griffiths has curated eight out-of-this-cyber-world articles that, in true Super8 fashion, has us thinking.

Have you ever considered the cultural and ecological impacts of ‘the Cloud’ or the world domination of search engines like Google?

From privacy and cybercrime to an article about Wordle you probably haven’t read (but should), we have you covered. Welcome to Super8 in February.

1. The staggering ecological impacts of computation and the cloud.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by: Steven Gonzalez Monserrate.
  • Contributed by: Sebastian Griffiths.

Ah, ‘the Cloud’. An infinitely complex computing resource created by humans, for humans—and it’s a resource that we use a lot.

But like any resource, it places a large stress on our external environment. In fact, the environmental impacts of ‘the Cloud’ and the large data centres that generate it are quite significant, so much so that ‘the Cloud’ has a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry.

The Cloud is both cultural and technological. Like any aspect of culture, the Cloud’s trajectory — and its ecological impacts — are not predetermined or unchangeable. Like any aspect of culture, they are mutable.

Drawing on five years of research, anthropologist Steven Gonzales shares some astounding anecdotes as to the impact that large data centres and the computation of the Cloud has on society and the world.

2. Your Wordle results are annoying, but not for the reasons you think.

Of the ~1200 Wordle articles published this month, this is probably our favourite.

Shared by Tim Copland, one of August’s front-end developers and accessibility aficionado, this is a must-read as to why sharing your Wordle results isn’t just annoying (for the haters, that is), it’s inaccessible.

For those who use assistive technology, the layout makes it near-impossible for a screen-reader to skim past the grids of green and yellow.

All things said and done, there is still plenty of opportunities to share your results until the changes to Wordle’s inclusivity come into play under the New York Times’ recent acquisition. Until then, it’s on us as users to ensure that the content we share is inclusive, regardless of where it comes from.

3. The focus to say no.

  • Read the full article here
  • Written by: Farnam Street.
  • Contributed by: Sarah El-Atm.

Historically, Apple has pushed hardware in directions that were initially unpopular but ultimately proved radical. Often what they created was shaped as much by what they included, as what they chose to exclude.

“Saying no is like saving your money in the bank, whereas saying yes is spending it. Most of us are on overdraft. Before you say yes, ask yourself if it’s necessary.”

During Steve Jobs’s tenure, these choices were successful business moves that stood the test of time and positioned Apple as trailblazers.

Why? Because Steve Jobs had a singular focus and understood the power of saying no to get the right yes.

4. How scholars once feared that the book index would destroy reading.

  • Read the full article here
  • Written by: Dennis Duncan.
  • Contributed by: Elliott Grigg.

In 2008, Nicholas Carr wrote a popular article for the Atlantic ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?’, for which the answer was plain and simple—admittedly, yes.

We are in the Age of Distraction—a time where search engines rule the world and how we read about it.

As Dennis Duncan states in this piece, the art of reading does not have a platonic ideal. And with every shift in our social and technological environment, an evolutionary effect is produced by changing our ideas around what ‘reading’ really means.

This insightful piece enters a great discussion, flagging the long and rich history of concerns around how we read and consume information.

5. Minimise card testing fraud on your donations page.

Read the full article here.
Written by: Robert Wright.
Contributed by: Sergio Moreira. 

With the surge of online activity during COVID, cybercrime and fraud are rife. Non-profits can be targets, especially for testing out whether credit cards are valid for exploitation.

In addition to the techniques suggested below to mitigate fraud, August’s Sergio Moreira also suggests:

  • Attempting to identify users or sessions and blocking the number of donations made in a short timespan
  • Automatically blocking IPs that make a high number of requests to a specific page or endpoint

6. Neural network from scratch.

  • Read the full article here
  • Written by: Simon Hørup Eskildsen.
  • Contributed by: James Otter.

This week, OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever controversially tweeted that large neural nets may be “slightly conscious”. That’s a discussion for another time, but taking a step back, what is a Neural Network? It sure sounds sentient!

This “Napkin Math” article on creating a mental model of a neural network is a great explainer.

7. Analyzing 25 years of privacy policies.

Privacy is a deservedly hot topic at the moment (to the point where it has been successfully weaponised against Facebook).

The average reader would need to devote 400 hours of ‘annual reading time’ in order to penetrate the growing word counts, obfuscating language and vague language use that characterize the modern privacy policies of some of the most-frequented websites.

But are privacy policies becoming clearer to understand for end-users? A quantitative analysis looked at 25 years of privacy policies, to find out where shifts were occurring.

8. The case for B2B

Regardless of industry, it is always important to understand your client’s needs. On the other hand, it’s also important to gauge the level of client buy-in you need to succeed—which is where the case for B2B comes in.

If you’re feeling inclined to understand more, this podcast with John Hickman provides some valuable insights around B2B marketing practices