Simplifying Your Life, Bots, Smile

3/11 - What's Next

Hey there and hello from Medellin, Colombia!

Enjoy the newsletter and please reach out if you have any questions.


Articles to Read.

Why can't bots check “I am not a robot” checkboxes?

How complicated can one little checkbox be? I mean it’s just OH MY GOD YOU CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE.

For starters, Google invented an entire virtual machine – essentially a simulated computer inside a computer – just to run that checkbox.

That virtual machine uses their own language, which they encrypt twice.

This is no simple encryption. Normally when you password protect something, you might use a key to decode it. Google’s invented language is decoded with a key that is changed by the process of reading the language, and the language also changes as it is read. Google combines (hashes) that key with the web address you’re visiting, so you can’t use a CAPTCHA from one website to bypass another. It further combines that with “fingerprints” from your browser, catching microscopic variations in your computer that a bot would struggle to replicate (like CSS rules).

So why is all this hard for a bot to beat? Because now you’ve got a ridiculous amount of messy human behaviours to simulate, and they’re almost unknowable, and they keep changing, and you can’t tell when.

America’s Cities Are Running on Software From the ’80s

The staffers have to open and exit several menus to input stuff as simple as addresses. To put it mildly, the setup “doesn’t reflect business needs now,” says the city’s assessor, Carmen Chu. San Francisco rarely conjures images of creaky, decades-old technology, but that’s what’s running a key swath of its government.

In San Francisco the assessor uses a Cobol-based system called AS-400, whose welcome screen reads, “COPYRIGHT IBM CORP., 1980, 2009.” As the city tax rolls jumped 22 percent over two years, workers were struggling to keep track of the changes on their ancient systems. At one point they fell three years behind. It’s a “lot of manual work” just to perform basic functions, Chu says.

The Four Fundamental Skills of All Investing

When you first start to study a field, it seems like you have to memorize a zillion things. You don’t. What you need is to identify the core principles – generally three to twelve of them – that govern the field. The million things you thought you had to memorize are simply various combinations of the core principles.

This extends beyond those learning a new field. I think it’s most relevant for those who consider themselves experts. The root of a lot of professional error is ignoring simple ideas that seem too basic for those with experience to pay attention to.

Strange Ways Animals Adapt to the Human-Built Environment

squirrel on a power line

Bill Bateman, a zoologist based in Perth, Australia, began to notice something interesting about how animals were navigating the bush: When mining companies created small paths through the previously tangled environment to install seismic lines, animals started preferentially using those trails to move from one place to another.

How I simplified my life by selling (nearly) everything I own

Indeed, the items we are selling probably cost us well over half a million pounds and we would do well to realise one-third of this. Ringo Starr’s old sneakers would have been a much better investment, though rather less decorative.

Money Out of Nowhere: How Internet Marketplaces Unlock Economic Wealth

Fortunately, the rise of the Internet, and specifically Internet marketplace models, act as accelerants to the productivity benefits of the division of labour AND comparative advantage by reducing information asymmetry and increasing the likelihood of a perfect match with regard to the exchange of goods or services. In his 2005 book, The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman recognizes that the Internet has the ability to create a “level playing field” for all participants, and one where geographic distances become less relevant. The core reason that Internet marketplaces are so powerful is because in connecting economic traders that would otherwise not be connected, they unlock economic wealth that otherwise would not exist. In other words, they literally create “money out of nowhere.”

The Trauma Floor - The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America

The panic attacks started after Chloe watched a man die.

She spent the past three and a half weeks in training, trying to harden herself against the daily onslaught of disturbing posts: the hate speech, the violent attacks, the graphic pornography. In a few more days, she will become a full-time Facebook content moderator, or what the company she works for, a professional services vendor named Cognizant, opaquely calls a “process executive.”

For this portion of her education, Chloe will have to moderate a Facebook post in front of her fellow trainees. When it’s her turn, she walks to the front of the room, where a monitor displays a video that has been posted to the world’s largest social network. None of the trainees have seen it before, Chloe included. She presses play.

The video depicts a man being murdered. Someone is stabbing him, dozens of times, while he screams and begs for his life. Chloe’s job is to tell the room whether this post should be removed. She knows that section 13 of the Facebook community standards prohibits videos that depict the murder of one or more people. When Chloe explains this to the class, she hears her voice shaking.

Over the past three months, I interviewed a dozen current and former employees of Cognizant in Phoenix.

More to Check Out: 
- This Company takes the Grunt Work out of Using the Cloud
- The Tech Whiz Behind Vine and HQ Trivia Made Millions in His 20s. He Was Dead by 34.
Teen Becomes First Hacker to Earn $1M Through Bug Bounties
- How 18th-Century Writers Created the Genre of Popular Science
- Whole Foods is becoming “Whole Paycheck” once again


Question: What is your favorite book? Let me know!

View My Bookshelf


My Update.

  • The past week has been a great change of pace. Went to Panama City for a 2 days and am now in Medellin. Tomorrow, I leave for NYC (will be there for 2 days) and then onward to Philadelphia (for 4 days).

  • Are you hiring or looking for a job? Email me! I can try to help :)

  • I am convinced that reading this list of links will make you a much better person.

Thanks so much for reading! Find me on twitter : )