How To Be Influenced; Source Guides; Comcast
How To Be Influenced
Ian Leslie, over at The Ruffian, has a great essay on "How To Be Influenced":
I spend a non-insignificant amount of time thinking of how we got to where we are, right now, in the US, and many of the research paths lead to the fact that we humans are quite susceptible to outside influences. Thanks to our ubiquitous glowing rectangles, a seriously decent portion of us are awash in "influencers" from the moment we wake up to the second we fall asleep.
If you Google "How to be an influencer?" you'll find a specially curated page 🧐 full of “guidance” on how to win the hearts, minds, and dollars/euros of susceptible fans.
Ian noticed that there isn’t so much content out there on how to be influenced:
We live in age of social influence, and while there is no shortage of advice on how to take advantage of that - how to influence others, how to build a following, how to change minds - there is a dearth of thinking on how to be influenced. Which is odd, because that seems, to me, to be one of the key questions of the age.
Each human being is bounded but permeable, a creature capable of making its own thoughts and actions but prone to copying and adapting those of others. When everyone around us is doing the same thing, we feel a pressure to join in that is almost physical in its force.
We aren't just buying new things, eating new foods, or streaming new music suggested by these influencers: sometimes, they're changing who we are:
It’s not just our behaviours which are influenced by those around us but our feelings and thoughts. These days, we use the word ‘meme’ to describe the viral images, slogans and videos which circulate in endlessly varied forms on Twitter and TikTok. But the word meme has a broader application. It was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 to describe the way that ideas, beliefs and behaviours replicate themselves and spread through populations by finding human hosts.
One characteristic I've seen in tribes on both major sides in the U.S. is that vast majority of each tribe are the equivalent of parrots who have been trained to unconditionally respond — often forcefully and angrily — with pre-programmed words and phrases to INSERT-HOT-BUTTON-TOPIC-HERE, rarely taking the time to look up facts (on both sides of the argument) and validate assertions and assumptions before doing so. Ian says this way more succinctly:
If there is one thing the advent of social media has brought home to us, it is how little we think for ourselves.
I am not immune to influence (though it's more often of the "buy this ooh shiny thing!" kind), and I've pulled back from many (many) communities to avoid the influence trap, since there are only so many mental defense cycles one can expend in a 24-hour period. I've definitely overcompensated in this respect, which — as Ian notes — also has some downsides:
Each of us, then, has to try and strike a balance. Be impervious to social influence and you get closed off from the best that your fellow humans have to offer. Be defenceless against it and you become easily manipulable, boring, and unhappy.
But it’s harder than ever to strike this balance, because we live in societies where influence is everywhere, pressing upon us from all sides. We can instantly find out what strangers think, or at least what they say they’re thinking, on any given topic. We can consult with our friends every second of the day. It’s easier to outsource your opinions than ever; it feels good, it feels safe, to side with a crowd. There are higher costs to non-conformity, too: online communities assiduously police the boundaries of acceptable thought and behaviour.
For almost every decision we have to take, bidders line up to take the contract.
So on the one hand, we have access to a broader range of information and insight than any generation in history, which ought to make us all more interesting. On the other, it’s very difficult, amidst the crossfire hurricane of influence, to think and act for yourself - to be you.
I heartily encourage you to read the full essay and give some consideration to how you, too, are being influenced, and what changes you may want to make as a result of this reflection.
Source (@source) is an OpenNews project designed to amplify the impact of journalism code and the community of developers, designers, journalists, and editors who make it.
They have a number of Guides which are great for everyone — i.e. you do not need to be a journalist or in that community to take advantage of them:
Hiring & Careers
Speaking Securely with Sources
Defending Accounts Against Common Attacks
News Apps Essentials
The Care & Feeding of News Apps
Sure, some guides/topics lean heavier on the "news" side, but most are applicable across many disciplines (and in your personal group interactions). Who among us would turn away advice for data wrangling?
I'll let the Comcast developers explain this for me (I'm including it today as it's a really cool and useful project, but also because of the inherent slam it makes on a certain ISP that I'm forced to use):
Testing distributed systems under hard failures like network partitions and instance termination is critical, but it's also important we test them under less catastrophic conditions because this is what they most often experience. Comcast is a tool designed to simulate common network problems like latency, bandwidth restrictions, and dropped/reordered/corrupted packets.
It works by wrapping up some system tools in a portable(ish) way. On BSD-derived systems such as OSX, we use tools like
pfctlto inject failure. On Linux, we use
tc. Comcast is merely a thin wrapper around these controls. Windows support may be possible with
wipfwor even the native network stack, but this has not yet been implemented in Comcast and may be at a later date.
Late post as I've remembered how to go back to work after a 2-week sabbatical, and realized at just how much I need to get caught back up on. ☮