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Isaiah McCall

Isaiah McCall

1 year ago

Is TikTok slowly destroying a new generation?

More on Society & Culture

Max Chafkin

Max Chafkin

1 year ago

Elon Musk Bets $44 Billion on Free Speech's Future

Musk’s purchase of Twitter has sealed his bond with the American right—whether the platform’s left-leaning employees and users like it or not.

Elon Musk's pursuit of Twitter Inc. began earlier this month as a joke. It started slowly, then spiraled out of control, culminating on April 25 with the world's richest man agreeing to spend $44 billion on one of the most politically significant technology companies ever. There have been bigger financial acquisitions, but Twitter's significance has always outpaced its balance sheet. This is a unique Silicon Valley deal.

To recap: Musk announced in early April that he had bought a stake in Twitter, citing the company's alleged suppression of free speech. His complaints were vague, relying heavily on the dog whistles of the ultra-right. A week later, he announced he'd buy the company for $54.20 per share, four days after initially pledging to join Twitter's board. Twitter's directors noticed the 420 reference as well, and responded with a “shareholder rights” plan (i.e., a poison pill) that included a 420 joke.


Musk - Patrick Pleul/Getty Images

No one knew if the bid was genuine. Musk's Twitter plans seemed implausible or insincere. In a tweet, he referred to automated accounts that use his name to promote cryptocurrency. He enraged his prospective employees by suggesting that Twitter's San Francisco headquarters be turned into a homeless shelter, renaming the company Titter, and expressing solidarity with his growing conservative fan base. “The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” he tweeted on April 19.

But Musk got funding, and after a frantic weekend of negotiations, Twitter said yes. Unlike most buyouts, Musk will personally fund the deal, putting up up to $21 billion in cash and borrowing another $12.5 billion against his Tesla stock.

Free Speech and Partisanship

Percentage of respondents who agree with the following

The deal is expected to replatform accounts that were banned by Twitter for harassing others, spreading misinformation, or inciting violence, such as former President Donald Trump's account. As a result, Musk is at odds with his own left-leaning employees, users, and advertisers, who would prefer more content moderation rather than less.


Dorsey - Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Previously, the company's leadership had similar issues. Founder Jack Dorsey stepped down last year amid concerns about slowing growth and product development, as well as his dual role as CEO of payments processor Block Inc. Compared to Musk, a father of seven who already runs four companies (besides Tesla and SpaceX), Dorsey is laser-focused.

Musk's motivation to buy Twitter may be political. Affirming the American far right with $44 billion spent on “free speech” Right-wing activists have promoted a series of competing upstart Twitter competitors—Parler, Gettr, and Trump's own effort, Truth Social—since Trump was banned from major social media platforms for encouraging rioters at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But Musk can give them a social network with lax content moderation and a real user base. Trump said he wouldn't return to Twitter after the deal was announced, but he wouldn't be the first to do so.


Trump - Eli Hiller/Bloomberg

Conservative activists and lawmakers are already ecstatic. “A great day for free speech in America,” said Missouri Republican Josh Hawley. The day the deal was announced, Tucker Carlson opened his nightly Fox show with a 10-minute laudatory monologue. “The single biggest political development since Donald Trump's election in 2016,” he gushed over Musk.

But Musk's supporters and detractors misunderstand how much his business interests influence his political ideology. He marketed Tesla's cars as carbon-saving machines that were faster and cooler than gas-powered luxury cars during George W. Bush's presidency. Musk gained a huge following among wealthy environmentalists who reserved hundreds of thousands of Tesla sedans years before they were made during Barack Obama's presidency. Musk in the Trump era advocated for a carbon tax, but he also fought local officials (and his own workers) over Covid rules that slowed the reopening of his Bay Area factory.


Teslas at the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop Central Station in April 2021. The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop was Musk's first commercial project. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Musk's rightward shift matched the rise of the nationalist-populist right and the desire to serve a growing EV market. In 2019, he unveiled the Cybertruck, a Tesla pickup, and in 2018, he announced plans to manufacture it at a new plant outside Austin. In 2021, he decided to move Tesla's headquarters there, citing California's "land of over-regulation." After Ford and General Motors beat him to the electric truck market, Musk reframed Tesla as a company for pickup-driving dudes.

Similarly, his purchase of Twitter will be entwined with his other business interests. Tesla has a factory in China and is friendly with Beijing. This could be seen as a conflict of interest when Musk's Twitter decides how to treat Chinese-backed disinformation, as Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos noted.

Musk has focused on Twitter's product and social impact, but the company's biggest challenges are financial: Either increase cash flow or cut costs to comfortably service his new debt. Even if Musk can't do that, he can still benefit from the deal. He has recently used the increased attention to promote other business interests: Boring has hyperloops and Neuralink brain implants on the way, Musk tweeted. Remember Tesla's long-promised robotaxis!

Musk may be comfortable saying he has no expectation of profit because it benefits his other businesses. At the TED conference on April 14, Musk insisted that his interest in Twitter was solely charitable. “I don't care about money.”

The rockets and weed jokes make it easy to see Musk as unique—and his crazy buyout will undoubtedly add to that narrative. However, he is a megabillionaire who is risking a small amount of money (approximately 13% of his net worth) to gain potentially enormous influence. Musk makes everything seem new, but this is a rehash of an old media story.

Frederick M. Hess

Frederick M. Hess

1 year ago

The Lessons of the Last Two Decades for Education Reform

My colleague Ilana Ovental and I examined pandemic media coverage of education at the end of last year. That analysis examined coverage changes. We tracked K-12 topic attention over the previous two decades using Lexis Nexis. See the results here.

I was struck by how cleanly the past two decades can be divided up into three (or three and a half) eras of school reform—a framing that can help us comprehend where we are and how we got here. In a time when epidemic, political unrest, frenetic news cycles, and culture war can make six months seem like a lifetime, it's worth pausing for context.

If you look at the peaks in the above graph, the 21st century looks to be divided into periods. The decade-long rise and fall of No Child Left Behind began during the Bush administration. In a few years, NCLB became the dominant K-12 framework. Advocates and financiers discussed achievement gaps and measured success with AYP.

NCLB collapsed under the weight of rigorous testing, high-stakes accountability, and a race to the bottom by the Obama years. Obama's Race to the Top garnered attention, but its most controversial component, the Common Core State Standards, rose quickly.

Academic standards replaced assessment and accountability. New math, fiction, and standards were hotly debated. Reformers and funders chanted worldwide benchmarking and systems interoperability.

We went from federally driven testing and accountability to government encouraged/subsidized/mandated (pick your verb) reading and math standardization. Last year, Checker Finn and I wrote The End of School Reform? The 2010s populist wave thwarted these objectives. The Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Trump/MAGA all attacked established institutions.

Consequently, once the Common Core fell, no alternative program emerged. Instead, school choice—the policy most aligned with populist suspicion of institutional power—reached a half-peak. This was less a case of choice erupting to prominence than of continuous growth in a vacuum. Even with Betsy DeVos' determined, controversial efforts, school choice received only half the media attention that NCLB and Common Core did at their heights.

Recently, culture clash-fueled attention to race-based curriculum and pedagogy has exploded (all playing out under the banner of critical race theory). This third, culture war-driven wave may not last as long as the other waves.

Even though I don't understand it, the move from slow-building policy debate to fast cultural confrontation over two decades is notable. I don't know if it's cyclical or permanent, or if it's about schooling, media, public discourse, or all three.

One final thought: After doing this work for decades, I've noticed how smoothly advocacy groups, associations, and other activists adapt to the zeitgeist. In 2007, mission statements focused on accomplishment disparities. Five years later, they promoted standardization. Language has changed again.

Part of this is unavoidable and healthy. Chasing currents can also make companies look unprincipled, promote scepticism, and keep them spinning the wheel. Bearing in mind that these tides ebb and flow may give educators, leaders, and activists more confidence to hold onto their values and pause when they feel compelled to follow the crowd.

The Velocipede

The Velocipede

1 year ago

Stolen wallet

How a misplaced item may change your outlook

Photo by Robert Isenberg

Losing your wallet means life stops. Money vanishes. No credit. Your identity is unverifiable. As you check your pockets for the missing object, you can't drive. You can't borrow a library book.

Last seen? intuitively. Every kid asks this, including yours. However, you know where you lost it: On the Providence River cycling trail. While pedaling vigorously, the wallet dropped out of your back pocket and onto the pavement.

A woman you know—your son's art teacher—says it will be returned. Faith.

You want that faith. Losing a wallet is all-consuming. You must presume it has been stolen and is being used to buy every diamond and non-fungible token on the market. Your identity may have been used to open bank accounts and fake passports. Because he used your license address, a ski mask-wearing man may be driving slowly past your house.

As you delete yourself by canceling cards, these images run through your head. You wait in limbo for replacements. Digital text on the DMV website promises your new license will come within 60 days and be approved by local and state law enforcement. In the following two months, your only defense is a screenshot.

Your wallet was ordinary. A worn, overstuffed leather rectangle. You understand how tenuous your existence has always been since you've never lost a wallet. You barely breathe without your documents.

Ironically, you wore a wallet-belt chain. You adored being a 1993 slacker for 15 years. Your wife just convinced you last year that your office job wasn't professional. You nodded and hid the chain.

Never lost your wallet. Until now.

Angry. Feeling stupid. How could you drop something vital? Why? Is the world cruel? No more dumb luck. You're always one pedal-stroke from death.

Then you get a call: We have your wallet.

Local post office, not cops.

The clerk said someone returned it. Due to trying to identify you, it's a chaos. It has your cards but no cash.

Your automobile screeches down the highway. You yell at the windshield, amazed. Submitted. Art teacher was right. Have some trust.

You thank the postmaster. You ramble through the story. The clerk doesn't know the customer, simply a neighborhood Good Samaritan. You wish you could thank that person for lifting your spirits.

You get home, beaming with gratitude. You thumb through your wallet, amazed that it’s all intact. Then you dig out your chain and reattach it.

Because even faith could use a little help.

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David G Chen

David G Chen

1 year ago

If you want to earn money, stop writing for entertainment.

When you stop blogging for a few weeks, your views and profits plummet.

Because you're writing fascinating posts for others. Everyone's done ithat…

My medium stats for May-June

If I keep writing, the graph should maintain velocity, you could say. If I wrote more, it could rise.

However, entertaining pieces still tend to roller coaster and jump.

this type of writing is like a candle. They burn out and must be replaced. You must continuously light new ones to maintain the illumination.

When you quit writing, your income stops.

A substitute

Instead of producing amusing articles, try solving people's issues. You should answer their search questions.

Here's what happens when you answer their searches.

Website stats by pageviews per day

My website's Google analytics. As a dentist, I answer oral health questions.

This chart vs. Medium is pretty glaring, right?

As of yesterday, it was averaging 15k page views each day.

How much would you make on Medium with 15k daily views?

Evergreen materials

In SEO, this is called evergreen content.

Your content is like a lush, evergreen forest, and by green I mean Benjamins.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Do you have knowledge that you can leverage? Why not help your neighbors and the world?

Answer search inquiries and help others. You'll be well rewarded.

This is better than crafting candle-like content that fizzles out quickly.

Is beauty really ephemeral like how flowers bloom? Nah, I prefer watching forests grow instead (:

Christianlauer

Christianlauer

1 year ago

Looker Studio Pro is now generally available, according to Google.

Great News about the new Google Business Intelligence Solution

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Google has renamed Data Studio to Looker Studio and Looker Studio Pro.

Now, Google releases Looker Studio Pro. Similar to the move from Data Studio to Looker Studio, Looker Studio Pro is basically what Looker was previously, but both solutions will merge. Google says the Pro edition will acquire new enterprise management features, team collaboration capabilities, and SLAs.

Dashboard Example in Looker Studio Pro — Image Source: Google[2]

In addition to Google's announcements and sales methods, additional features include:

Looker Studio assets can now have organizational ownership. Customers can link Looker Studio to a Google Cloud project and migrate existing assets once. This provides:

  • Your users' created Looker Studio assets are all kept in a Google Cloud project.

  • When the users who own assets leave your organization, the assets won't be removed.

  • Using IAM, you may provide each Looker Studio asset in your company project-level permissions.

  • Other Cloud services can access Looker Studio assets that are owned by a Google Cloud project.

Looker Studio Pro clients may now manage report and data source access at scale using team workspaces.

Google announcing these features for the pro version is fascinating. Both products will likely converge, but Google may only release many features in the premium version in the future. Microsoft with Power BI and its free and premium variants already achieves this.

Sources and Further Readings

Google, Release Notes (2022)

Google, Looker (2022)

Merve Yılmaz

Merve Yılmaz

1 year ago

Dopamine detox

This post is for you if you can't read or study for 5 minutes.

Photo by Roger Bradshaw on Unsplash

If you clicked this post, you may be experiencing problems focusing on tasks. A few minutes of reading may tire you. Easily distracted? Using social media and video games for hours without being sidetracked may impair your dopamine system.

When we achieve a goal, the brain secretes dopamine. It might be as simple as drinking water or as crucial as college admission. Situations vary. Various events require different amounts.

Dopamine is released when we start learning but declines over time. Social media algorithms provide new material continually, making us happy. Social media use slows down the system. We can't continue without an award. We return to social media and dopamine rewards.

Mice were given a button that released dopamine into their brains to study the hormone. The mice lost their hunger, thirst, and libido and kept pressing the button. Think this is like someone who spends all day gaming or on Instagram?

When we cause our brain to release so much dopamine, the brain tries to balance it in 2 ways:

1- Decreases dopamine production

2- Dopamine cannot reach its target.

Too many quick joys aren't enough. We'll want more joys. Drugs and alcohol are similar. Initially, a beer will get you drunk. After a while, 3-4 beers will get you drunk.

Social media is continually changing. Updates to these platforms keep us interested. When social media conditions us, we can't read a book.

Same here. I used to complete a book in a day and work longer without distraction. Now I'm addicted to Instagram. Daily, I spend 2 hours on social media. This must change. My life needs improvement. So I started the 50-day challenge.

I've compiled three dopamine-related methods.

Recommendations:

  1. Day-long dopamine detox

First, take a day off from all your favorite things. Social media, gaming, music, junk food, fast food, smoking, alcohol, friends. Take a break.

Hanging out with friends or listening to music may seem pointless. Our minds are polluted. One day away from our pleasures can refresh us.

2. One-week dopamine detox by selecting

Choose one or more things to avoid. Social media, gaming, music, junk food, fast food, smoking, alcohol, friends. Try a week without Instagram or Twitter. I use this occasionally.

  1. One week all together

One solid detox week. It's the hardest program. First or second options are best for dopamine detox. Time will help you.


You can walk, read, or pray during a dopamine detox. Many options exist. If you want to succeed, you must avoid instant gratification. Success after hard work is priceless.