Bennett Green

March 22, 2021

B5L #017 -- a Privacy Pledge; Delete LinkedIn; Thinking on Paper About Organised Lightning

A Shift for Five Links

Because I’m a rampant Apple Fanboi, every once in a while I like to visit John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. I’m very jealous of what he has created with Daring Fireball. It’s clean and crisp — completely text only — and has a massive following, which means he can keep it the way he wants it rather than chasing commercial interests. 

Last week Gruber went on a bit of a tear about privacy — always a hot topic within the Apple community — and specifically privacy within newsletters. Gruber calls out something that I’ve known but never really thought about; these newsletters allow us to sneakily track a lot about each reader’s behaviour. 

With Five Links for example, I can see when you opened the email (or that you haven’t opened it yet). I can see that perhaps you opened it six times before clicking. I can see which links you clicked, and so I can track which links were most popular. And this is all the default offered by my newsletter provider - if I really wanted to, I could add more and more tracking features to do more and more spying. 

I’ve been posting about the ‘most popular link’ of each issue on other social media channels. I’ve not been trying to hide my tracking because I considered it absolutely normal, and I never really thought about what that data represents. 

Jon Henshaw nails this ‘never thought about it’ sentiment in his post: 

The tech industry has been so used to capturing whatever data it could for so long that it has almost forgotten to ask whether it should. But that question is finally being asked. And the answer is obvious: This gluttonous collection of data must stop.

(via James Ivings)

But Gruber’s post got me thinking - do I want to be secretly tracking this data? When someone signs up for Five Links, do they know I will be able to see and track what they do within the privacy of their inbox?

I think the answer to that question is no - I don’t think people really consider this scenario when they subscribe. And once I’ve come to that conclusion, then the idea of tracking this data makes me feel a bit icky. I can be an arsehole sometimes, but I don’t want to be that arsehole. 

So I’m going to stop. 

The thing is, though, it’s not possible for me to stop immediately. This tracking is so ubiquitous within newsletters and email marketing generally that it’s not possible for me to flick the ‘tracking switch’ off. I’m going to have to move Five Links to another provider. Which one I’m not sure — if you know of the default ‘privacy friendly’ newsletter provider please reach out! 

My goal is to be able to come up with a non-creepy version of Five Links by Issue #020. Six weeks should be enough time. I’ll let you know how I get on. 

Sorry for the wall of text. 

Simple But Wrong

Something short and sharp to follow. Check out this from Richard Feynman:

 Schrödinger’s Plates


As I wrote in 5L001, I’m not a fan of LinkedIn. And so I loved, loved, **loved** this post by Joan Westenberg on why we should all delete LinkedIn. I’m seriously considering it. And you should too. 

I know some people find jobs, opportunities and meaningful connections on the platform. I am not one of them. Even if I were, I don’t think I’d enjoy it. At this point, it would feel almost like telling my grandkids that I met my husband on Grindr. LinkedIn is a wildly disingenuous and inauthentic platform. It’s filled with people who are seemingly unable to reconcile the reality of their lives with the sheen and facade of curation. People who either believe or want to believe that their job announcements have the same weight as a Beyoncé album drop.

Joan has been putting out some great stuff lately and you can subscribe to her newsletter at the Pizza Party

Think on Paper

I’ve wasted a lot of time this past fortnight messing with apps that all offer some new personal productivity edge. It’s a sickness. So far I’ve played around with Roam Research, Obsidian, Bear App, Agenda App, Craft Docs, and plain ‘ol Apple Notes. Perhaps one day I’ll write about the irony in wasting hours chasing a system intended to improve productivity. 

(For those playing at home I settled on a combination of Agenda and Bear — for now.) 

Anyways, all of these systems rely on a simple principle, which is to: WRITE THAT SHIT DOWN. Don’t rely on your brain to remember things. Write it down. And then, to make those hastily scribbled notes useful, make sure these notes exist in the same place; within a system that allows you to find them. 

I really enjoyed Ryan Holiday’s post on this core tenet, which he refers to as his ‘Commonplace Book’: 

Protect [your written notes] at all costs. As the historian Douglas Brinkley said about Ronald Reagan’s collection of notecards: “If the Reagans’ home in Palisades were burning, this would be one of the things Reagan would immediately drag out of the house. He carried them with him all over like a carpenter brings their tools. These were the tools for his trade.” 

Organised Lightning

I was late getting into Reddit. Now I find it a useful place to stir up great content, and many of these links come from subreddits like r/interestingasfuck and r/nottheonionand a few others. 

So I loved this analysis by The Generalist on Reddit and how it’s under appreciated and undervalued against its peers. I loved it for two reasons: (1) It’s really well researched and well written, and this makes it easy to digest complicated information like the implied value of a Reddit user and ‘value per MAU’ and (2) it has a great intro about George Carlin and ‘organised lightning’. 

In a world in which Clubhouse is worth $1 billion after a year of (impressive) traction, and Dispo is pegged at $100 million for an app still in beta, Reddit — cultural petri-dish, bastion of expression, distributed hedge-fund, meme-maker, group-therapist — is only worth $6 billion? 
(via Farnam Street)

If you enjoyed any of these links, the best way you can help me is by forwarding this email on to a friend. They can browse past issues and subscribe at this link.  

Thanks for subscribing!

- Bennett Green

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash