Liked From forgeries to Covid-denial, how we fool ourselves (Tim Harford)

A Dutch resistance newspaper published the news and Van Meegeren waved it away, claiming that he had signed hundreds of copies of the book and the dedication must have been added by someone else. It’s a ludicrous excuse. But people wanted to believe it. Wishful thinking is a powerful thing.

Caught in a scandal, a modern-day Van Meegeren would say, “That’s not my voice on the tape,” or call the story “fake news”. And their supporters would agree. It seems that if you show people a trickster with a sense of humour, a penchant for mocking experts and the capacity to land a few blows on a hated enemy, they will forgive a lot. What they cannot forgive they will find ways to ignore. Recent experience has only reinforced that lesson.

Liked COVID was bad for the climate by Ryan BarrettRyan Barrett (

This decrease is “just a tiny blip on the long term graph.” To keep global warming under 2°C, we’d need sustained emissions reductions in this range every year for the next 20-30 years. The pandemic has been hugely disruptive, but it’s still temporary, and all signs point to a strong recovery. The drop in emissions was largely caused by lockdown, not persistent structural changes that will persist for decades to come.

Bookmarked Teen Vogue: ​​​​​​​America Has Forgotten How to Forgive by Graeme Wood (

If Teen Vogue, even in its current woke incarnation, does not exist to celebrate this period of still-expungeable error, then it may as well be calling for the abolition of the teenage years altogether. Its staff, as well as many of its advertisers, evidently think its readers deserve no bonfire, no sin jubilee, and should be hounded eternally for their dumbest and most bigoted utterances. This suggests an intriguing editorial mix of beauty tips, celebrity news, and vengeance. Who wouldn’t want to read what a modern 20-something Torquemada thinks about Zayn Malik’s Netflix queue or a new brand of facial cleansers? Because I am no longer a teenager, I have no teenage years to lose. Although if Teen Vogue has its way, I suppose I should consider myself hostage to the idiocy of my wayward teenage self until I am safely dead.

Teen Vogue’s decision to not employ Alexi McCammond as editor based on tweets posted when she was 17. This reminds me about Alex Couros and Katia Hildebrandt’s piece about identity in a world that no longer forgets.
Liked Geographic knowledge (

We used to be able to read maps, we had to in order to drive somewhere that we didn’t know. I can remember driving from Toronto to Arizona without a cell phone, and with paper maps to get me there. But now that’s a forgotten experience, and people don’t get as lost anymore. People no longer need to look at a map and not know where they are on it compared to where they are going. Their map location is always pinned. I wonder if this has affected people’s ability to look at maps and recognize countries? Has geographical knowledge been hindered by tools like Google Maps?

Bookmarked Consent app proposed by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller to address growing rate of sexual assaults (ABC News)

An app for partners to register their consent before having sex has been proposed as a way to address the growing sexual assault problem in NSW, but critics say it is “naive” and could easily be manipulated.

In response to concerns around sexual abuse, the NSW ,

Commissioner Fuller acknowledged the app might be “the worst idea I have all year”, but said COVID-19 had shown the importance of adopting technological solutions.

Dee Madigan explains why maybe an app is not the answer for everything.

Bookmarked SPLIT Function in Google Sheets (

The SPLIT function in Google Sheets is used to divide a text string (or value) around a given delimiter, and output the separate pieces into their own cells.

I love when you take a formula and dig in further Ben. I have used this three different times in my work this week. For example, I used multiple INDEX formulas to clean uo data where there were multiple points of data in the same cell =INDEX(SPLIT(A1,” “),1,1)&” “&INDEX(SPLIT(A1,” “),1,2). I was hoping that I could select multiple items using the INDEX formula in the same manner as the VLOOKUP formula, but it does not seem to be possible.
Bookmarked Google’s VR dreams are dead: Google Cardboard is no longer for sale (Ars Technica)

Google’s last surviving VR product is dead. Today the company stopped selling the Google Cardboard VR viewer on the Google Store, the last move in a long wind-down of Google’s once-ambitious VR efforts. The message on the Google Store, which was first spotted by Android Police, reads, “We are no longer selling Google Cardboard on the Google Store.”

Google is putting an end to its work with Google Cardboard. I liked the idea of it, but always felt inhibited by how it would work practically in the classroom.
Bookmarked Changes to LastPass Free – The LastPass Blog (The LastPass Blog)

We’re making changes to how Free users access LastPass across device types. LastPass offers access across two device types – computers (including all browsers running on desktops and laptops) or mobile devices (including mobile phones, smart watches, and tablets). Starting March 16th, 2021, LastPass Free will only include access on unlimited devices of one type.

LastPass recently made the decision to limit their free subscription to one device type. As Mark Vandevelde suggests, this basically forces people to pay:

Experts say it is hard to know whether the new limitations on the free version of LastPass will encourage more paying users to sign up.
“Without the ability to sync, there’s very few users who will really be able to use [LastPass],” said Joseph Bonneau, a cryptography researcher and computer security expert at New York University. “They’re making the free version so difficult to use that most people will be forced to pay or use another solution.”

I was also interested in Chris Smith’s discussion of trackers.

The Register points out that LastPass rivals 1Password and KeePass do not have any trackers. Bitwarden has two trackers, and Dashlane has four.

I decided to use this as an opportunity to reassess. If I am going to pay then I feel I would rather pay for 1Password.

📰 Read Write Respond #062

February felt like it had it all. In Melbourne, we were thrown into a circuit breaker lockdown. In the middle of this, my wife and I were successful in buying a new home. Having lived in our current home for twelve years, I had forgotten how much is involved in getting things organised to move. I guess sometimes it pays to be naive or maybe a little ignorant, but it has definitely kept us busy.

On the work front, schools have been getting into the swing of things again finalising the end of last year, as well as all the census activities. One particular challenge I have is when people say they get what you are on about, but you know that it has not quite clicked. No matter how much you rush, I have found that building capacity takes times. The issue is that systems and deadlines do not always allow for such time.

Personally, I finished reading Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and listened to a lot of Daft Punk. Sadly, long form writing.

Here then are some of the posts that have had me thinking:


A free chapter of The Data Detective audiobook

In this excerpt from The Data Detective, Tim Harford shares the importance of scientific curiosity when it comes to being a data detective.

50 Great Classic Novels Under 200 Pages

Emily Temple follows up her list of 50 short contemporary novels with a focus on classic novels.

Edtech sci-fi

Ben Williamson puts together a collection of science fiction texts which depict education.

Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole

Charlie Warzel profiles Mike Caulfield and his work with four moves and SIFT.


Facebook and the news: should the divorce be permanent?

In response to Facebook’s decision to temporarily remove all news in Australia, Waleed Aly, Scott Stevens and Belinda Barnet investigate whether if it is even right for news organisations to depend upon Facebook as the modern form of distribution in the first place.

An Appeal for Friction Writing

Richard Hughes Gibson pushes back on the frictionless experience to help foster clearer judgement.

American Idle

Eugene Wei takes a deep dive into the world of TikTok. He explores the the various features and the user experience. This includes the way in which creativity feeds creativity, the abstraction of a bunch of steps into an effects or filters (e.g. Duet feature), improvement on productivity, ability to easily remix based on length, the place of the network and comments in regards to context and success, the way in which the message is in the medium, and how TikTok is entertainment Cheetos.

Privacy Without Monopoly: Data Protection and Interoperability

In this EFF white paper, Bennett Cyphers and Cory Doctorow continue the conversation about adversarial interoperability and the means of breaking up big tech by opening it up to data flows that also have a focus on privacy.

Praxis and the Indieweb

Daniel Goldsmith reflects on the IndieWeb and where it is heading. He lays out a number of concerns and criticisms, including that you never really own your own data, that there is a design bias towards a few select individuals, that the technical requirements are too high and that cost is often exclusionary.


Beyond Burned Out

Jennifer Moss reflects on the results of a global survey on the impact of burnout during COVID-19.

How too much mindfulness can spike anxiety

David Robson reports on the growing research around mindfulness and its limitations. In particular, Robson criticises the one-size-fits-all approach that some take.

The masks, the music, the magic: remembering the genius of Daft Punk

With the release of Epilogue, Daft Punk have announced that they are calling it quits.

Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ Changed Political Pop Forever

Spencer Kornhaber discusses the legacy associated with Lady Gaga’s track Born This Way and the criticism raised about the song.

Read Write Respond #062

So that was February for me, how about you? As always, love to hear.
Bryan Mathers' sketch
Cover Image: “go go curiosity!” by Johnson Cameraface is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Liked VCU: The Long Goodbye (Patterned but not Standard) by Tom Woodward (

One one end of the spectrum with WordPress multisite might be a site that’s locked down. It has a narrowly defined purpose and very limited themes and plugins. You may find there is only one theme and the plugins are all network activated. Your choice in this space is still greater than what you’d get in Facebook or Twitter but it’s pretty tightly controlled. This can be good for some people and some purposes. It’s consistent. Very little can go wrong because there are so few choices. People are not overwhelmed by choice.

On the other end of the spectrum is what we tried to do with Ram Pages. You have a couple hundred themes and a couple hundred plugins. The goals is to make pretty much anything people wanted to do happen in that space. You can’t install your own themes/plugins but we’ve covered most of the bases and would respond to unmet needs pretty aggressively. If we didn’t find a theme, plugin, or combination that met people’s needs then we’d make one.

Bookmarked Bots, Disruptors, and Frictionless Interactions by Sign in – Google Accounts (W. Ian O'Byrne)

The bot can act as a guide on the side and assist with some resources that may help. The bot can recognize the prior achievement of the learner and adjust the level of support it provides. The bot can provide realtime assurance by walking through the assignment with the learner, and either collecting the assignment, providing feedback and a chance to resubmit, or granting an extension of the deadline if things get too pressing.

Ian O’Byrne talks about the place of bots in making our learning experiences frictionless. As he explains, this potentially frees teachers from the trivial.

Done well, the use of bots in education offers an opportunity to free up the instructor while offering better scaffolding for learners. Educators can be freed up from the traditional frustrations of data collection, report filing, and administrative tasks.

Technology provides the starting point, but we cannot lose high touch when we move to high tech. Culture and professional development for learners, instructors, and support staff are even more important.

This reminds me of Bill Ferriter’s argument that technology makes learning more doable. I guess the question then becomes what sort of learning is supported and made more doable. Maybe sometimes friction actually serves a purpose?

Bookmarked American Idle by Eugene Wei (Remains of the Day)

Some people find my posts too long. I’m sympathetic to the modern plague of shortened attention spans, but I also don’t want lazy readers. At the same time, this piece felt like it was missing a through line that would help pull a reader through.

And then I had a minor epiphany, or perhaps it was a moment of delusion. Either way, it provided an organizing conceit: I decided to write this piece in the style of the TikTok FYP feed. That is, a series of short bits, laid out vertically in a long scrolling feed.

This piece is long, but if you get bored in any one section, you can just scroll on the next one; they’re separated by horizontal rules for easy visual scanning. You can also read them out of order. There are lots of cross-references, though, so if you skip some of the segments, others may not make complete sense. However, it’s ultimately not a big deal.

Eugene Wei takes a deep dive into the world of TikTok. He explores the the various features and the user experience. This includes the way in which creativity feeds creativity, the abstraction of a bunch of steps into an effects or filters (e.g. Duet feature), improvement on productivity, ability to easily remix based on length, the place of the network and comments in regards to context and success, the way in which the message is in the medium, and how TikTok is entertainment Cheetos.

Wei also provides thoughts on what is missing, such as the ability to trace trace multi-part videos, sort by descending popularity and improved search rankings.

One of the things that stood out in this piece is what Wei says about ideas and the origin of innovation:

One day, the conditions are finally right, and an idea that has failed ten times before suddenly breaks out. Sometimes it’s a tweak in execution, maybe it’s an advance in complementary or enabling technology, sometimes it’s a cultural shift.

Most of the best ideas in tech first appeared in science fiction books in the 1960s, and many of those are still waiting for their time to come. This is why rejecting companies that are trying something that’s been tried before is so dangerous. It’s lazy pattern-matching.

“John Naughton” in Tuesday 23 February, 2021 | Memex 1.1 ()

Listened Plaid :: Stem Sell (Touched Music) from

Given the amount of time they’ve been supporting Touched Music as a label and all the good stuff it stands for, it’s both exciting and surreal to finally have a Plaid release on the roster—not only that, it’s a collection of remixes and Stem Sell doesn’t disappoint. I’m always excited by the prospect of a new Plaid release but remixes and reworks so frequently appear on singles and B-sides, hard to find compilations or limited-runs, that it’s hard to get access to them all and those that you do you may have only ever heard at a gig, on a dodgy rip or in otherwise less-than-perfect circumstances.