October 26, 2022

The impact of AI on content creators

Recently, I read an article that said that in the next 5-10 years, AI would generate 90% of all the content on the internet. That number seemed a bit high to me, but it got me thinking about how AI is changing the landscape of content creation. Now, mere weeks later, here we are with everyone and their mother talking about how marvelous AI art is. Even people outside the tech space are sharing their experiences, which seems only to be growing exponentially.

Before I start this article, I want to disclose that I have written this piece with the help of a new AI tool called Lex that touts to [use] AI to create a mind-blowing writing experience.” Truthfully I went in as a skeptic with this, but I must admit that this tool helped me with my writing. For example, when I was stuck in my head unable to continue, instead of rereading what I just wrote to figure out where I wanted to go next I called up Lex to read my previously written text and expound upon it in a new paragraph. Sometimes it worked beautifully and other times, what was written wasn’t exactly my style, but it did allow me to keep the flow going. To say it is good is an understatement.

After literal years of hearing about the doom and gloom of AI coming to take over the world, it does feel oddly bleak to see just how fast things hit us. Generative image creation tools like DALL-EMidjourneyStable Diffusion, and more have seemingly come into people’s lives overnight. Just a few months ago, I remembered hearing about DALL-E and seeing just how powerful it was. I thought, that’s neat, but honestly, who the hell is going to use this?” It turns out a lot of people will. Venture capitalists, programmers, creatives, and several different industries are looking at the power of AI and using it in exciting ways.

In one recent example, reported by The Verge, the popular stock photo service, Shutterstock, will soon be selling AI-generated art in partnership with OpenAI’s flagship image generator DALL-E 2. However, they are also banning the sale of any art not made using its DALL-E integration.

What I find most interesting about Shutterstock’s announcement is they plan to reimburse creators when the company sells work to train text-to-image AI models.” So not only will Shutterstock be walling up the AI in its platform, but it will be actively paying people who make AI art that sells. I think the company expects to change its payroll from professional photographers to people with knowledge of generating good AI art.

However, in a tale of two photo services, Getty Images CEO Craig Peters actually shared negative feelings toward selling AI art. His main reasoning is copyright issues, but I don’t think that is the only factor Peters uses in his criticism. He expounded on his critiques, saying, I think we’re watching some organizations and individuals and companies being reckless […] I think the fact that these questions are not being addressed is the issue here. In some case[s], they’re just being thrown to the wayside. I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s responsible. I think it could be illegal.“

As for which of these two companies will end up on the right side of things is still too early to tell but it is indeed exciting to see these two companies at odds with one another.

Don’t get me wrong; I think there is a genuine art to making good AI-generated material. Any sap can go on Midjourney today and start trying to make something mediocre (see the above image).

Only someone that genuinely understands the syntax and limitations of these services can make something special. I am sure with more time, programmers and UI designers will work together to create apps and services that allow for more granular specifications in a prompt without the user having to learn the syntax and other information of that nature. Think instead of having to know the specific keywords needed for a certain effect it is just a simple button or option to choose from.

Even still, more iterations and improvements will continue to be made, and those with a finger on the pulse of this will get ahead of those just doing this for fun and amusement.

It is my prediction that humans will still very much be a part of the creative process, just in new ways.

I am in awe about all the things that people can now do with the help of AI that they weren’t able to do before. And it’s not just content creation but also content consumption. With AIs help, people can now read and consume content at a rate that was once impossible.

For instance, the speed reading app Spritz recently announced that it is now using AI to help people read faster. The app now uses an algorithm that analyzes text and predicts which words a reader is likely to know and which ones they might need help with.”

Another example is simply watching people create AI art in real time. If you go on Midjourney today—which you can it’s free to join—you are taken to a Discord chatroom where you and several other people can put in different prompts for the AI to generate images. So not only does your art show in chat, but you can also see other people’s prompts in real time. You see their prompts and the art made from Midjourney with those prompts as well. Just by observing how others use the service, I can learn a lot about syntax and different keywords to that work.

Not only is there lots of attention behind this, but there are piles of money too. Coatue, an investment management company leaning in on AI, made some interesting observations in a recent document they shared.

Of course, AI art is just the tip of the iceberg. More than 1.2 million software engineers now use GitHub Copilot, which writes 40% of their code automatically. Jasper.ai, which writes blog posts and marketing content, has seen tremendous adoption over the last two years and is rapidly becoming an industry standard. RunwayML, an AI-based video editor, now has hundreds of thousands of users, including video editors working on The Late Show, Top Gear America, and Everything Everywhere All at Once.

This incredible AI renaissance is happening simultaneously across many diverse fields and verticals. This is not a coincidence: scaling breakthroughs have enabled AI to become exponentially more powerful in a very short period of time. Engineers are now taking this technology breakthrough and applying it everywhere they can.

Along with some examples of the AI renaissance” Coatue had some bold predictions for AI. I have them in bullet points here, but I want to expand on these points just a bit.

  • AI will drive the cost of content creation (word, image, video) to near zero

I think lowering the cost of content creation can be a valuable thing. After all, lower costs and more accessible media products have changed the media landscape multiple times over. Thanks to the printing press we expanded information to the masses so efficiently. Thanks to the internet being accessible we can connect with anyone across the world with a few clicks and key presses. If we didn’t have website services making it cheaper and easier to make websites we wouldn’t have had the blogging boom in the early 2000s. If the video industry didn’t make cameras and film equipment that consumers can buy more easily we wouldn’t have had the YouTube boom over the last 10 years. Can AI be used in a new resurgence of media?

  • The value of sports increases exponentially as the only form of original content”

This isn’t exactly a hot take, seeing that this is the biggest reason people I know still have cable TV.

  • Advertising will be hyper-personalized: unique ads and commercials for every user!

That exclamation point and chipper attitude weren’t added by me. For some reason, marketing people are excited about even more specific advertising for their products and services. I anticipate that this will continue to push people to believe their phones/TVs are listening to them, which I feel will only continue to make seemingly normal people spiral into tinfoil-hat conspiracies.

Personalized advertising can be helpful for niche markets but it is also widely loathed among consumers, and I believe brands that lean in on this will get widespread backlash instead of increased profit margins.

  • Metaverse will become AI augmented reality

Of course it is. This is both feasible and predictable for anyone that has been looking into the Metaverse. That said, there is practically no one taking part in the Metaverse right now so even if the AI on it is amazing your response to it may as well be crickets.

  • Every developer will be an AI developer

Again, pretty predictable.

  • The majority of code written will be AI-generated

I think these last two points may as well have been combined into just one.

As AI improves, it will only become more ubiquitous, which begs the question of whether we, as creators, are doomed.

Creators that can lean into this AI renaissance” and use these tools to their advantage are going to be the ones that thrive. Yes, AI will change the landscape of content creation, but it will open up new opportunities for creators willing to adapt.

Nat Eliason, who writes in his newsletter Infinite Play, shared how AI generative tools like Lex may be the ones making the mundane and less human types of writing. Things like the crappy SEO blog posts, listicles, etc., will no longer need teams of people to write them and instead be handled by one or two writers working more as editorial directors of these new AI writing tools.” Nat says even some more advanced styles of writing, like non-fiction and fiction stories, may end up being created by AI as well in time. So is there anything AI can’t write? For Nat, there is one.

You’ll need to experience a life worth reading. Either through the wildness of your adventures or the depths of your introspection. You don’t have to delve into such dark topics that you end up hanging yourself. But if you’re not willing to reach that level of honesty in your work, you should probably give up now.

Anything short of the rawest, most honest human connection will be gobbled up by robots.

Heavy stuff from Nat here, but I can’t help but incline to agree with him. Short of AI gaining conscious behavior, it will be damn difficult for a computer to emulate passion, emotion, and the humanness some writers have.

Sure, AI can simulate it and even get pretty close, but it still won’t be able to replace it. And I think that is what we as creators need to lean into. The human element we can bring to our art will make us irreplaceable.

As long as we can embrace this change and adapt to it, we will be able to find opportunities that open up because of it.


October 25, 2022

Apple doesn't care about iPad-first users

As you probably saw, Apple has announced a new line of iPads, one being a new base iPad and the other being the new M2 iPad Pro. I would say that the responses online are primarily dunking on Apple’s odd decisions for the iPad lineup, and for good reason. I will provide a peek into some of these oddities, but I think these announcements from Apple are the nail in the coffin for many people hoping to see Apple truly lean into the iPad made for real work.” Instead, Tuesday’s announcements have just reinforced the failings Apple has continually provided to iPad-first users.

As someone that used to do a podcast all about the iPad and made an iPad my daily computer for years, it truly pains me to say that Apple doesn’t care about iPad-first users. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the iPad hardware, software, and the iPad lineup.

Hardware

Apple announced two new iPads, one being an all-new base iPad with flat edges and a Surface-style folio keyboard, the other being an updated iPad Pro. The new base iPad is an addition to the lineup, making the entire iPad lineup now up to 5 different flavors. All of them have their downsides, but some are just unforgivable.

One of the more ridiculous things I have seen from this announcement is that the new base iPad, which looks akin to the refreshed iPad Air and iPad Pros, still only works with the first-generation Apple Pencil.

What’s more comical is thanks to the new USB-C charge port, you now have to use a silly cable to charge the Apple Pencil on the iPad. So much for USB-C bringing clarity and ease of use for charging.

Also, the new iPad Pro has little to write about regarding what Apple has done. Sure they slapped on the latest and greatest M2 processor, but other than that, Apple hasn’t innovated anything. They cared so little about upgrading the iPad Pro that the display and camera hardware weren’t even updated! Even so, I would argue Apple doesn’t think the iPad Pro deserves a significant refresh because iPadOS will continue to be the throttle holding the iPad Pro back.

However, third-party app developers like those behind DaVinci Resolve have decided to try and beef up the iPad’s abilities as they bring a full-fledged video editor to the iPad. The app is not here yet and hasn’t provided any release date, though, so we will have to wait and see. However, if this kind of app makes its way to the iPad and works well, I think it brings hope that third-party developers will be the heroes the iPad Pro deserves.

Software

I used to flame people on Twitter for saying that the iPad wasn’t a real computer,” but as I step further away from my iPad, the less I feel like it was ever meant to be a primary computing device. I love my iPad Pro (11” 2020 model), and I use it for several things like podcast editing, handwriting notes, mind mapping, and even using pro tools like Affinity Designer. Still, most of the apps and tools I use on the iPad aren’t from Apple, which should be telling to any pro iPad user.

Apple refuses to port over its pro app lineup like Logic and Final Cut and instead has relied on third-party developers like Black Magic to fill the void. I love the Affinity software and even left Adobe’s costly suite of apps for them, but Apple needs to put its money where its mouth is and show that they believe in the iPad as a pro” machine.

On top of making their pro apps accessible on the iPad, Apple needs to focus on the features they are making on the iPad and make them more reliable.

Take Stage Manager, for instance. This feature was announced in June and was immediately hit with controversy as they limited it to just M1 iPad Pros, even though the earlier versions of the iPad Pro seemingly had more than enough power to handle the window-management feature. Eventually, Apple (uncharacteristically) listened to their users and expanded it to more iPad Pros. Still, more than four months later, there are continuous bugs and issues revolving around Stage Manager with no indication Apple might pull it from the iPadOS 16.1 launch coming October 24th.

So more people will see just how flaky and buggy Stage Manager is, and I honestly can’t see that Apple cares about the poor experience they are about to give millions of iPad users worldwide.

If we expect Apple to honestly care about iPad-first users, they have a lot to do on the software side of things to make up for it.

The Clunky iPad Lineup

When I look at the iPad lineup, the one word I think of is bloated. There are a ton of options with very few differentiating factors. Hell, even the iPad Air and iPad Pros were the same when they both had the M1 processor.

I think Matt Birchler surmised it best in his post recently:

I think the iPad lineup is kinda weird right now too. There’s not a clear, linear increase in features across the line (which now has 6 distinct models), so even if you have unlimited money to spend, you’re going to have to compromise on something.

Want a webcam in the proper spot? Gotta get the regular iPad (the new regular iPad). Want to also use the latest (4 years old) Apple Pencil? You can’t; now you gotta get an Air, Mini, or Pro. Want a keyboard case? We’d need to bust out a compatibility table to even begin to answer that question.

The Tim Cook era of Apple has seemingly caused the Apple lineup to grow exponentially, leaving many to Google and research which Apple device is best for them, only to compare them all in a table. I am all for having options, but this is getting out of hand.

I also can’t help but think that this expansion in the lineup is spreading the Apple product team(s) too thin. They are so busy trying to ship something new that they don’t have the time or resources to innovate current products in any meaningful way. For example, the flagship iPad Pro should have gotten more than a processor upgrade, and Apple Pencil hover support.

Conclusion

I’m aware it doesn’t help to be pessimistic all the time, but it sure is hard not to be when you take a good hard look at the iPad right now. Still, I hope this device’s future does indeed improve, and I think continuing the conversation is a good start for change.

I hope that Stage Manager gets improved, and I hope that Apple removes the first-generation Apple Pencil altogether and makes app iPads support the magnetic second-generation Apple Pencil.

I hope third-party developers see the potential in bringing truly pro apps like DaVinci Resolve or Affinity Designer and decide to fill the void Apple continues to ignore.

I also hope that Apple does lean in on the pro side of iPads and unleashes the true potential of the iPad, maybe even allowing macOS on it. Something has to be done to enable the iPad Pro to flourish and differentiate from the rest of the iPad lineup. And while they are at it, bring some color to the iPad Pros too.

As I stated from the beginning, I love my iPad, and I hope to one day look at it as my daily computer again. Still, right now, with the current state of iPadOS and the current iPad lineup, I can’t justify grabbing my slab of glass over my MacBook Air.


October 5, 2022

Spotify is Making it Easier to Find Misinformation on their Podcasts

Mitchell Clark writing for The Verge:

Spotify is acquiring Kinzen, a startup that specializes in using machine learning to analyze content and report potentially harmful statements to human moderators. In a press release, Spotify says the acquisition is meant to help it deliver a safe, enjoyable experience on our platform around the world,”

[…]

Spotify has already been working with Kinzen, claiming that it’s been partnered with the company since 2020 and that the startup’s tech has been critical to enhancing our approach to platform safety.” According to Kinzen’s site, its tech is capable of analyzing audio content in several languages, and it uses data from the internet and human experts to figure out if certain claims are harmful. (It even claims to be able to spot dog whistles, seemingly innocuous phrases that actually refer to something with a darker meaning.)

It’s interesting that there is indeed software that not only spots misinformation, but also finds dog whistles (a term I didn’t know about until today). To add to this, I can’t help but think that Kinzen is forever going to be adding to the database of misinformation to ensure it’s the most up-to-date it can be.

According to their website, Kinzen uses a blend of human expertise and machine learning to provide early-warning of the spread of harmful content in multiple languages.”

My issue here is: I’m not sure just how effective it will be to notify, or even eliminate, misinformation on Spotify. One of the biggest being Joe Rogan, who has come under fire after multiple instances of misinformation and dog whistling. Since all he got was a virtual slap on the wrist for his antics before, I doubt they will turn up the heat on their cash cow.

Twitter and Facebook have added misinformation notifications since Covid-19, but I’m honestly not sure how well they have thwarted people from believing the lies and deceit they see on their timelines. In fact, I think it may have caused anti-vaxxers and QAnon followers to flock to the flagged information.

The option of doing nothing, which is what Substack does, has become the go example of what not to do as a platform. While it gave Substack millions, it also created the ongoing problem of allowing harmful information to be shared as fact. In fact, it’s partially why I decided to leave the platform.

There isn’t an easy answer to deal with misinformation on media platforms, but I am interested to see what comes of this acquisition (if anything).


September 21, 2022

Focus on your platform, not someone else's

Lee Peterson:

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and it’s apparent lack of care for it’s users. To the platform you are a potential revenue maker. Selling you to advertisers and not putting in controls to stop hate and harassment.

I’ve been looking to remove myself from it, then it dawned on me. Why are we adding value to the very platform that doesn’t respect us? Wouldn’t it be better to build this content on our own platform. My platform is this blog, instead of sharing my thoughts on here I’ve been adding content to Twitter, something I’m going to be doing less of going forward.

When ever I get back on the blogging horse I invariably have the thought that I wish I stuck to a single platform. Had I done that it would have been easier for people to view all of my work in one spot, and on my platform no less. Who knows, maybe it would have even grown my readership, or at the very least retained more people. I have tried my best to migrate my work every time I move platforms but I am sure there are plenty of things that fell through the cracks over the years.

I decided a few months back to hide the Twitter app from my home screen and turn off notifications. I can say without a doubt that it has absolutely limited my Twitter usage. Now, I spend more time in Reeder looking at the blogs I have followed for years and seeing what they have to say on their platforms.

Even places like The Verge has made it a point to link out to other publications and blogs, which I feel is a refreshing take on how news” should be shared.

Nilay Patel on the new Verge:

Our goal in redesigning The Verge was actually to redesign the relationship we have with you, our beloved audience. Six years ago, we developed a design system that was meant to confidently travel across platforms as the media unbundled itself into article pages individually distributed by social media and search algorithms. There’s a reason we had bright pink pull quotes in articles and laser lines shooting across our videos: we wanted to be distinctly The Verge, no matter where we showed up.

But publishing across other people’s platforms can only take you so far. And the more we lived with that decision, the more we felt strongly that our own platform should be an antidote to algorithmic news feeds, an editorial product made by actual people with intent and expertise. The Verges homepage is the single most popular page at Vox Media, and it should be a statement about what the internet can be at its best. 

So we sat down and thought about what was really important to us and how to make our homepage valuable every time you open it. We also thought about where we came from and how we built The Verge into what it is today. And we landed on: well shit, we just need to blog more.

So we’re back to basics with something we’re calling the Storystream news feed, right on our homepage. Our plan is to bring the best of old-school blogging to a modern news feed experience and to have our editors and senior reporters constantly updating the site with the best of tech and science news from around the entire internet. If that means linking out to Wired or Bloomberg or some other news source, that’s great — we’re happy to send people to excellent work elsewhere, and we trust that our feed will be useful enough to have you come back later.

I am not saying that blogging is getting a new resurgence. What I am saying that as someone that thinks a lot about platforms it’s cool to see more people to care less about going viral on Twitter and care more about making their corner of the internet the best it can be.

Link

September 20, 2022

Blot Image Shortcut

After getting my Blot theme shared on Do By Friday, I thought it might be fun to share my most used shortcut. This Shortcut will automatically resize, upload, and create a markdown image link for you to paste in your favorite text editor.

You can get the shortcut here and make it your own if you want.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Shortcut

July 10, 2022

Mobile Games Are Trash and We All Know It

Matt Birchler:

I love video games, and I love some mobile games (Alto’s Odyssey, Holedown, Grindstone, Golf on Mars, to name a few), but we all know that those games aren’t what Mobile Games are all about. Mobile games are a shit industry with shit companies making shit games that don’t exist to entertain, they exist to extract as much money as possible from a few whales who will spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Fun is not the point.

Compare this to the top selling non-mobile games of May 2022.

[…]

This is why I roll my eyes when someone says, actually, iOS is the biggest platform for video games because the most money is spent on mobile.” Okay, fair enough, but it’s the absolute worst part of the industry, even if it is profitable. I really appreciate game-makers who avoid the Mobile Game B.S., but they’re few and far between, and all the mainstream stuff is whale hunting junk.

I could not agree more with Matt here. There are a number of games I do play (mostly Zach Gage games). Aside from a few handful of games, the large majority of games for iOS and iPadOS are just shitty cash grabs.

Link

June 6, 2022

My Note-Taking System with Craft

It’s rare to find a productivity app that does everything perfectly—no matter what kind of app. There will always be pros and cons to each. For example, I recently have been in the market for a notes app, and my journey involved 11 different apps and dozens of hours of seeing what worked best for me. I have finally found a system that allows me to write three issues of Clicked a week. So here is my workflow for capturing content, making notes on them, and using those notes to create original content for Clicked.

What I Need in My System

The first thing I did to find a notes app that works with me was figure out a system. I wanted a place to save links to read later, a place to save ideas and thoughts, and a way to make connections with the permanent notes I make.

Read Later

When it came to picking a place to save links for reading later, I decided to go with Pocket; it is a read later app I enjoy using, and it has never been an issue for me at any point. Instapaper and Matter are also good options, but Pocket has been my read later app of choice for years now, and I decided to stick with what I knew and focus on other things with this system. So any articles, media, or tweets I like, I send to Pocket either on my phone or my Mac. Thanks to the Share Sheet on iOS and Pocket’s web browser extensions, it’s super easy.

Anything I save in Pocket is not in my notes system, and for a good reason. Not everything I save deserves to be a permanent note in Craft. For me, notes are kept for only things written in my voice. I don’t want to copy and paste someone else’s words into my notes because it doesn’t allow me to comprehend the writing thoroughly.

Also, I only create notes when I feel they can be used for future ideas and projects. For example, a short article about a new Apple rumor will likely not make it into my notes system because it is an unfounded rumor and will be less relevant as time goes on. My goal when I create a new note is that it adds to my overall knowledge and insight into something rather than being just a timeline of things that happened.

Daily Note

I have also found a daily note to be critical to me. When I have a fleeting thought, task, or idea, I just put it in my daily note so that I have captured that thought in a trusted system to be later processed. Then, I try to process those ideas and fleeting notes made throughout the day to keep things organized and limit the backlog to a minimum.

Fleeting notes have proven to be the buffer I need between an idea and a full-fledged note. As David Allen, creator of the GTD system, says,

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

- David Allen

Making Connections

Finally, having everything in Craft allows me to make connections and link back to other notes or ideas as a way to have new ideas and things to write about possibly.

Thanks to backlinks, I can also see the links I have made to the note I am in. For instance, if I am looking at a note about podcasting, I can see all of the notes I have made linked to the podcasting note at the bottom. This allows me to see connections I might not have seen otherwise.

What I Learned

After trying numerous notes apps and tweaking my system, there are a few things that I have learned, and feel can be helpful for anyone getting started in content creation.

Just Pick a Notes App

I chose Craft as my notes app, but there are a ton of other options that I think can work for someone looking to make their own a system. Among the apps I tried, these are some of the ones I felt were great but not the best option for me.

If I am being honest, there are things that some of these apps do that are better than Craft; but as a whole, I chose Craft because it fits the most of my needs and wants in a notes app, and I let its shortcomings fall to the wayside. The same thing could be said about any of the note apps above because — like I said — there is no perfect app for storing and organizing notes.

Also, stick with your notes app because a note-taking app is only as valuable as what you put in it. If you don’t stick with a notes app for long and hop from one to another, you are losing the actual value of a notes app. The value isn’t the features or the bells and whistles it has; the important stuff is the content you bring to that app. That content and those connections you make with them are exponentially growing in importance every time you add to that notes system.

So once you pick an app, dedicate yourself to it for at least six months to a year. I put my money where my mouth was and paid for a year of Craft Pro. That $48 a year I spent locked me into this app because I invested my hard-earned money, and I want to get my money’s worth out of it.

Final Tips and Further Research

I hope this has helped you understand how I work on Clicked, and more importantly, I hope it has helped you know what a note-taking system can be.

If you want to learn more about the features a notes app has or compare different apps to choose what is best for you; I highly recommend going to NoteApps.info; it is a beautiful site to use to find and compare features in a notes app.

If you want to learn more about Craft you can read my article Why Craft is the Note Taking King.

Until then, I will see you Wednesday, June 8th, with links from the past week I found to be interesting, entertaining, weird, or all of the above.

Note Taking

May 11, 2022

What it Means to be a Creator

On May 9th Jason Kottke announced he would be taking a sabbatical after over 24 years of blogging. He started his blog in 1998 and has been regularly posting and sharing links to intriguing things online ever since.

In fact, Kottke was one of the reasons I decided to give this newsletter a go. I felt that I, like Kottke, liked to dive into rabbit holes and make connections along the way. I also enjoyed allowing the internet to regularly take me to new and fascinating places.

In my view, Kottke is a pioneer in blogging, and I will miss him as he takes time for himself.

Why is he taking a sabbatical? I think I will let his words speak for themselves.

I’m burrrrned out. I have been for a few years now. I’ve been trying to power through it, but if you’ve read anything about burnout, you know that approach doesn’t work.
I support a lot of individual writers, artists, YouTubers, and bloggers through Substack, Patreon, and other channels, and over the years I’ve seen some of them produce content at a furious pace to keep up their momentum, only to burn out and quit doing the projects that I, and loads of other people, loved. With so many more people pursuing independent work funded directly by readers & viewers these days, this is something all of us, creators and supporters alike, are going to have to think about.

Kottke brings up a point that I have dealt with repeatedly as a creator: consistency.

I have tried writing when I felt like it, only to go months without posting because I deemed what I was writing wasn’t good enough.” I have written on a schedule of two or more newsletters a week only to quickly burn out and feel like my writing was a chore and not worth my time.

I currently write this newsletter once a week. Full disclosure I am writing this in my pajamas at 11 p.m. the night before I need to post this. I have allowed this writing to sit in my head without taking action for two days now, and I am terrified this will be some of the shittiest writing I have ever written.

But guess what, I have to send this out Wednesday at 9 a.m. before I leave for work. I promised a weekly newsletter to you all, and by golly, I will give you a newsletter.

With the thought of burning out and being a creator comes the cost” of creation.

In the superb piece The Cost of Creation, Shaun Gold, writer of Youtopian Journey, talks about what you must pay to be a creator.

There is a cost of creation and that cost is far too high for the multitude to pay.

And what is this cost?

It is the agreement with yourself to constantly create, to dedicate yourself to becoming a manufacturer of your mind. Yet this factory of facts that you have setup within your head does not have a union. It does not have off hours or holidays. It does not have benefits. It has only you, the foreman, the CEO, the president, the creator.

This piece by Gold had me go down a rabbit hole about Charles Bukowski, and I learned a lot about him, but I think two things sum up my takeaways from him.

The first is a video from the Pursuit of Wonder YouTube channel, which gives a biography about Bukowski and some astute speculation about why his tombstone reads DON’T TRY.”


With no real sight of success or money or fame — or even just creating a living from writing — Bukowski continued to write nearly every day before work for years of course we know how Bukowski’s story ended. He’s being spoken about right now as a writer; a renowned, successful, and important enough one to be spoken about with significance decades after his passing. To be considered one of the greats of all time…Only after a long-continued attempt at writing did Bukowski’s work finally become noticed and appreciated by an audience…Arguably, perhaps, this is where the most important idea can be found, not in just Bukoski’s work but in his life.

The second is a quote from another video I stumbled upon where KCET features Bukowski. He performs readings of his work in it, and in between each reading is a short interaction Bukowski had as the camera crew followed him around for a day.


One thing that stuck with me in this video was when he was discussing his poetry and how with poetry, the realities are never explained, and then he said this:

The reason I kept writing was not because I was so good but because they were so damn bad.

- Charles Bukowski

That quote reminds me of another great creator, Ira Glass from NPR. In a short piece called The Gap, Glass explains how when you start, what you make isn’t what you thought it would be, and you know that because you know what is good.


Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

The thing I would say to you with all my heart is most everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have this special thing we wanted it to have. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.

- Ira Glass

Whether it’s writing, making videos, painting, or sculpting, creating will take some time to learn and even more time to perfect. If you want to create, especially if you’re going to do so regularly, you must have an inextinguishable need to do so. If you don’t have that, you’re screwed. The temptations from TikTok, Netflix, that book on your nightstand, or the latest podcast you downloaded will envelop you like a net in the ocean catching a school of Mackerel.

If you do have that flame under you pushing you to create, you must make that thing you have wanted to make. Whether or not it is good isn’t in the equation, and neither is how many people will see it. Creating is for you, and you deserve to have that waterfall of dopamine after finishing what you set out to do.

So make the damn thing.

Creativity

May 10, 2022

The iPod is now dead

Apple has officially said that the iPod is no more. You can still buy one, but only while supplies last.

Since its introduction over 20 years ago, iPod has captivated users all over the world who love the ability to take their music with them on the go. Today, the experience of taking one’s music library out into the world has been integrated across Apple’s product line — from iPhone and Apple Watch to iPad and Mac — along with access to more than 90 million songs and over 30,000 playlists available via Apple Music.

I remember when I got my first iPod, it was the original iPod Shuffle. After that, I got the first iPod Nano, the wide iPod Nano 3rd generation, and eventually bought the iPod with video.

The iPod with video was my pride and joy, and it was also my first encounter with handling digital video. I learned about different video formats, how to download videos from the web, converting those videos to fit the settings needed to have them play properly, and the beauty of the internet. There were many times I would be scouring forums and chats to figure out how to get Handbrake to output the right video I needed or how to rip music from YouTube and get it onto my iPod.

Now, as someone that does video production for a living, I am happy to have had that experience.

The iPod was also my first Apple product. I grew up in a PC home, like most in the early 2000s. I remember getting that magical experience of flipping my thumb over the wheel of an iPod to select from a list of menus and options. I had my entire audio library in my pocket, and the best part was it would never skip as a portable CD player did. It would be several years before I’d get an iPhone or Mac computer, but the iPod was what sold me on Apple, the company.

While the iPhone has replaced the iPod for me — and has for the better part of a decade — it’s still sad to see the end of an era here.

Link

April 27, 2022

The Reason CNN+ Failed

The average housefly can live for around 28 days, which means that there are literal bugs that will have outlived CNN+ as they close their streaming service on April 30th.

An Explanation of What Happened

Better journalists than me have explained what happened with CNN+, and I would much rather you learn the details from them.

Two come to mind after reading dozens of articles on the matter:

Alex Sherman, writing for CNBC, explained the timeline of CNN+ leading to its demise; it is worth your time to read in its entirety.

Chris Licht wasn’t supposed to start his new job as CNNs chief until May.

But on Thursday he found himself addressing about 400 full-time CNN+ staffers, some in person and some through a remote video feed… Licht told employees the project they’d been working on for the past six to nine months, the subscription streaming service CNN+, was ending April 30…He acknowledged that many would lose their jobs.

- Alex Sherman, CNBC

John Koblin wrote in his New York Times piece explaining the difficulty of launching CNN+ during a merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery. This merger could be part of the reason we learned about the measly 10,000 daily users I shared in my last issue of Clicked. That reason, allegedly, wasn’t because a disgruntled CNN employee leaked the numbers, but rather from Discovery executives trying to shut the service down through negative PR.

CNN executives were dismayed. And they grew suspicious of their new superiors from Discovery, believing they had leaked the data to create a pretext to shut down the service.

- John Koblin, The New York Times

This isn’t the whole story, there are still some underreported things missing here, the first being the other group that deserves the blame.

The McKinsey Problem

Sherman mentioned this firm in his explainer article, but McKinsey & Company deserves a fair share of the blame for CNN+ shutting down. Their track record should have been a dead giveaway.

For those unfamiliar with McKinsey, here’s a quick blurb about them from Wikipedia (sources are linked):

McKinsey has been either directly involved in, or closely associated with, a number of notable scandals, involving Enron in 2001, Galleon in 2009, Valeant in 2015, Saudi Arabia in 2018, China in 2018, ICE in 2019, an internal conflict of interest in 2019, and Purdue Pharma in 2019, among others.

One more thing you can now add to the list of others” is CNN+. It turns out that CNN hired McKinsey to consult on the service’s launch.

McKinsey essentially told CNN what they wanted to hear, claiming they would accrue 2 million US subscribers in the first year and 15-18 million after four years. CNN reportedly garnered just 150,000 subscribers in the first few weeks.

That said, it was only getting about 10,000 daily users. Something doesn’t add up here, and it is evident that McKinsey was not just off by a bit but utterly incorrect. The problem here is that McKinsey has already moved on to its next project without any consequences or repercussions coming to them.

One could argue that getting 150,000 subscribers in the first month is excellent. To that, I say if you compare it to HBO Max, which has over 75 million subscribers (including cable subscribers), CNN+ isn’t even worth Warner’s breath, and the Discovery execs knew it.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that CNN+ is officially shutting down this Saturday.

That’s where many people stopped reporting, but I think that the people directly affected by this decision deserve some light shed on them as well. Hundreds of people are now without a job because of a shitty consultant firm and bad decisions made by the executives upstairs.

The Fallout

CNN pulled the rug right out from under hundreds of workers, many of which joined after recruitment from CNN. They decided to overturn their lives and, for some, move across the country. All employees look like they will be getting 90 days’ pay as severance. From there, they have three months to figure out what is next within the company, or they must hit the road.

Some will be lucky and find employment within CNN and Warner Bros. Discovery, but not all. Journalists take risks every day, but I don’t think anyone who accepted a position at CNN+ would have foreseen just how fast things turned on its head.

The crew members that were hired to work in the new studios and the marketing team are all but surely out of a job, and there was no warning. In fact, Chris Licht, CNNs chief, was shaking hands with staffers just days before announcing they are no longer employed.

The Times is reporting that those who do not find a job within the company will be getting an additional six months of severance, which is a good start in my opinion.

If you think that 9 months of severance is worth a few weeks of work you clearly aren’t caught up on the difficulty of finding a place to live. Whether it is an apartment or a house you are going to have a hard time finding something within 6 months and you will most likely be paying more than you want. My heart goes out to those affected and if anyone finds a GoFundMe or something similar to help those affected I will happily donate to help them.