Bookmarked How Private Is My VPN? – The Markup (

Only four VPN websites had no trackers of any kind, and only three of those VPN apps didn’t track its users in any way. The Markup’s analysis found that the VPNs Mullvad, IVPN, Windscribe, and ProtonVPN had no trackers on their websites. Other than ProtonVPN, whose app uses customers’ email addresses for advertising, their apps don’t collect any data for marketing, either.

Alfred Ng reports on the different ways in which different VPN providers collect data on users.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that VPN privacy policies are built on trust, as these companies have the capability to collect a ton of information and it’s not always obvious what they’re doing with it.

Safety Detectives provides a useful breakdown of the different VPN options, including privacy.

Bookmarked “Somebody That I Used To Know”: A 10th Anniversary Oral History (Stereogum)

Gotye, Kimbra, and behind-the-scenes principals on a monster hit.,How does it feel to have written one of the biggest pop songs of the last 20 years, or possibly ever? Don’t ask Wally De Backer. Ten years ago, the Belgian-Australian singer-songwriter known to the world as Gotye achieved the kind of massive, world-conquering hit that few even dream of releasing: the oceanic, soaring soft-rock juggernaut “Somebody That I Used To Know.” The song (released 7/5/11) was a duet with New Zealand singer Kimbra from Gotye’s third album Making Mirrors, and it topped charts in nearly every place there’s a chart to top.

On the tenth aniversary, Larry Fitzmaurice looks back at Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know. He speaks with Wally De Backer, Kimbra, the producer Francois Tetaz, De Backer’s manager John Watson, the director for the film clip Natasha Pincus and the body artist associated with the clip Emma Hack. There was some interesting observations, such as De Backer reflecting upon the moment when you know something is iconic.

A year or two down the line, I was in a post office in Melbourne, and when I walked up to the window, the woman working there was like, “You’re the guy!” and swished her hand around her face to signify that I was the guy with the face paint. That, to me, is when you know you’ve made something iconic.

In reflection, Watson suggests that in Australia Heart’s a Mess still the more beloved song.

In Australia, “Hearts A Mess” is his most beloved song. “Somebody That I Used To Know” is the bigger hit, but if you look at lists of the top Australian songs of all time, it’s on there.

I would agree with this. Like Drawing Blood is also still my favourite Gotye album. There is also something strange and off-putting when everybody else starts getting hyped about an artist you have followed for so long. Like buying Powderfinger’s Double Allergic and then having to go through all the excitement of their later albums as if they were somehow new.

I have always been intrigued by De Backer has not followed up. Maybe what it all captures is that such moments involve chance and the pressure to reproduce this is unrealistic or maybe ‘Gotye’ is itself something of a dead metaphor with little purpose in resurrecting that project?

I’m just trying to give myself time to step through a lot of questions to see where I arrive — and maybe I won’t find answers. I want to allow myself to be guided by other principles other than “This is a reasonable amount of time before you have to put out another record.” I’ve probably had too many projects over the years, some of which are finished, others are on the shelf, and a huge amount that’s unfinished — and I’m just trying to work out what, and how, to finish all of it. What’s the story, and how do I tell it to other people? We’ll see.

In other spaces, Kimbra spoke on the Switched on Pop podcast about the song. Also, there is a J File on Gotye which provides more context.


Ben Collins shares a formula for generating a reference column in a document:



I did my part. Gave up waiting for Morrison and I went and got my jab of AZ.
Bookmarked The life of Dr Norman Swan (ABC Radio Australia)

How a boy from Glasgow named Norman Swirsky grew up to become Australia’s most famous doctor

With the release of So You Think You Know What’s Good for You, Norman Swan speaks with Sarah Kanowski about his upbringing in Glasgow, a failed drama career, coming to Australia, the stress of his daughter’s Italian accident, and his role with Coronacast. Although I heard much of this before in his interview with Barrie Cassidy on One Plus One, one thing that I had not heard him speak about was his thoughts on the coronavirus as a political pandemic. He argues that it would not have happened ten years ago and that it has been in part caused by political ineptitude to get on top of it early, as well as respond to it once it was out.
Bookmarked We Need To Talk About The Insecurity Industry by Edward Snowden (Continuing Ed — with Edward Snowden)

Prior to this week’s Pegasus Project, a global reporting effort by major newspapers to expose the fatal consequences of the NSO Group—the new private-sector face of an out-of-control Insecurity Industry—most smartphone manufacturers along with much of the world press collectively rolled their eyes at me whenever I publicly identified a fresh-out-of-the-box iPhone as a potentially lethal threat.

Edward Snowden responds to news of the Pegasus Project.

Pegasus is the hacking software – or spyware – that is developed, marketed and licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli company NSO Group. It has the capability to infect billions of phones running either iOS or Android operating systems.

The earliest version of Pegasus discovered, which was captured by researchers in 2016, infected phones through what is called spear-phishing – text messages or emails that trick a target into clicking on a malicious link.

Snowden argues that this is validation to what he has been saying for a long time, that the “phone in your hand exists in a state of perpetual insecurity, open to infection by anyone willing to put money in the hand of this new Insecurity Industry.” The challenge ahead is incentivising change and introducing a level of liability. A part of this is getting governments to understand that subsidising such organisations does not serve their purpose.

If we don’t do anything to stop the sale of this technology, it’s not just going to be 50,000 targets: It’s going to be 50 million targets, and it’s going to happen much more quickly than any of us expect.

The Guardian have also shared a number of posts and podcasts unpacking the topic further.

Bookmarked Differentiating online variations of the Commonplace Book: Digital Gardens, Wikis, Zettlekasten, Waste Books, Florilegia, and Second Brains by Chris AldrichChris Aldrich (

Many of these products are selling themselves based on ideas or philosophies which sound and even feel solid, but they’re completely ignoring their predecessors to the tune of feeling like they’re trying to reinvent the wheel. As a result, some of the pitches for these products sound like they’re selling snake oil rather than tried and true methods that go back over 2,000 years of intellectual history.

With so much discussion of note taking tools, Chris Aldrich considers some the examples found in history of Western civilization. This includes commonplace books originating from Ancient Greece, Florilegium in Medieval Europe, Zettelkasten in 15th century Germany, Waste books/Sudelbücher derived from double-entry journals, and Wikis and digital gardens associated with the web. One area I wonder about is outliners and where these fit within the discussion of commonplace books? Are they a flavour or digital gardening? It has been interesting seeing some of Dave Winer’s engagements with Roam Research

It is also interesting to think about this alongside Clive Thompson’s exploration of to-do applications. I am intrigued to how they sometimes crossover.


Most significant thinkers, writers, and creators throughout history have kept something resembling a commonplace book. While many may want to attribute the output of historical figures like Erasmus, Newton, Darwin, Leibnitz, Locke, or Emerson to sheer genius (and many often do), I might suggest that their works were the result of sustained work of creating personal commonplace books—somewhat like a portable Google search engine for their day, but honed to their particular interests. (One naturally can’t ignore their other many privileges like wealth, education, and time to do this work, which were also certainly a significant factor in their success.)

Bookmarked Peter Zinovieff in 2018 (BBC)

BBC Archive catches up with composer Peter Zinovieff, 50 years after he appeared on a Tomorrow’s World report about computer music.

He explains how he procured his first computer (perhaps the first computer to be installed in a private home in Britain), and reminisces about its limitations and its trailblazing live performance at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

What impact might computers have on the way we experience music in another 50 years’ time?

Peter Zinovieff reflects upon electronic music and how it differs from traditional music. It is also interesting to consider Zinovieff’s quote from a performance in 1968:

One of these days, a computer could produce a sound as emotionally satisfying as a full symphony orchestra

“@BBCArchive” in BBC Archive on Twitter: “The hugely influential synth pioneer Peter Zinovieff, has died aged 88. A couple of years ago, BBC Archive caught up with the great man and asked him about his 1968 appearance on Tomorrow’s World and what music would sound like in another 50 years time.” / Twitter ()


Interesting listening to Greta Thunberg after reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future.
Bookmarked Leading schools in lockdown: Compassion, community and communication by Fiona Longmuir (

Last year, I spoke with eight school leaders in Melbourne during the lengthy lockdown periods in 2020. This research showed how the circumstances of uncertainty and disruption to normal modes of practice influenced their work.

Fiona Longmuir explores the challenges associated with leading during Melbourne’s long lockdown in 2020. After reflecting on the responses, she identified how the crisis strengthened their communities, pretty good decision in time (that might need later adjustment) was better than waiting too long, and the feeling of being heard as important as fixing problems.

It is interesting to read this alongside Alma Harris and Michelle Jones’ discussion of school leadership in disruptive times, as well as Simon Breakspear’s discussion of building back better. I also wonder what the responses would be now? Would it be any different?

Bookmarked Plunging Into the Abyss – GEN by Douglas Rushkoff (

Those of us back here in reality must work together to enact a Gentle Awakening for our friends and loved ones who have gotten addicted to this video game. There is no man behind the curtain, no secret cabal controlling our destinies, no marvelous or nefarious plan driving Covid, vote counting, or global affairs. They need to awaken to something way way more frightening than politicians eating children: shit just happens, no one is in charge, and chaos reigns. There really is no scapegoat — never was. The only way through is to find ways of coming together, instead.

One step, and one day at a time.

Douglas Rushkoff reflects upon how people of all types and backgrounds are falling under the conspiracy fever. He explains that it is not about the truth, but rather the addiction of finding a missing piece of information in order to receive a hit of endorphin.

What are they addicted to? It’s not the Q myth, Trump, or any particular club or narrative. They’re addicted to staying online and reading and scrolling until they get that little dopamine rush that comes from connecting one dot to another. Fauci-China-Gates-Covid-Epsten…ah! It’s delightful. It makes temporary sense. And then if they post the idea, it gets a few hits and likes and comments from others, and ding ding squirt squirt….another hit of dopamine. And another and another.

This reminds me of Tom Chatfield’s work on social media as a game. It also makes me wonder if there can actually be too many dots?

Bookmarked 4 Lessons From the Improbable Rise of QR Codes – OneZero by Clive Thompson (

The pandemic created an actual, honest-to-goodness problem for society: When we were out in public, nobody wanted to touch things. In the early months, everyone was worried about “fomites” and catching the coronavirus from surfaces. Obviously we know now that’s not how people really catch COVID-19, but for months the CDC was insisting we be super careful. If you went to a restaurant, you didn’t want the waiter to hand you a menu. At a doctor’s office, you didn’t want to touch forms. Nobody wanted to handle cash.

Suddenly the QR code became legit useful. Restaurants used QR codes to take you to their menu. Same with doctor’s offices and intake forms.

Clive Thompson reflects on the rise of QR Codes from being something of a gimmick to an actual solution to a problem during the pandemic. In the process, he identifies four lessons learnt through the process:

  • Technologies that seem silly can become unexpectedly powerful
  • Sometimes a tool is still waiting for its problem
  • Iteration can make dumb tools become good ones
  • “Open” usually wins over “closed”

As an easter egg, Thompson includes an “ouroboros of publishing” with a QR Code linking back to the actual article where the code is found. I remember doing something similar on Twitter in my early days. Thinking I was somehow clever or funny, I made my profile picture a QR Code linking back to my Twitter profile. However, when someone point out the effort they had to go through in scanning it, I soon changed it. The things we do sometimes I guess.

Bookmarked How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain by Markham Heid (

Your attention is a lot like the beam of that flashlight. You can focus it closely and intensely on something, or you can relax it — allowing it to grow soft and diffuse.

Markham Heid discusses the importance of finding balance in our attention diet. He divides these activities into hard and soft fascinations.

Natural environments are just stimulating enough to gently engage the brain’s attention without unhelpfully concentrating it.
“[W]hat makes an environment restorative is the combination of attracting involuntary attention softly while at the same time limiting the need for directing attention,” wrote the authors of a 2010 study in Perspectives on Psychological Sciences. Nature, they added, seems to hit that sweet spot.
On the other hand, activities that grab and hold our attention too forcefully — books, social interactions, pretty much anything on a screen — entertaining through they may be, are unlikely to recharge our brain’s batteries. “Unlike soft fascination, hard fascination precludes thinking about anything else, thus making it less restorative,” the study authors added.

This reminds me of Michael Easter’s ‘20-5-3’ Rule for engaging with nature.

It also has me thinking about something Jack Antonoff discussed in regards to relaxation and his interest in cooking videos.

The definition of relaxation is to enjoy something that fascinates you but does not inspire you.

I wonder where things like notifications and attention literacy fit within all this too?

Bookmarked How the Groundhog Day grind of lockdown scrambles your memory and sense of time (
Adam Osth reflects upon lockdown and the impact that staying home has on our memory. He explains that the link between memory and the context in which it occurs, a theory known as contextual-binding theory.

As we link more and more memories to the same cues, it becomes harder to find a memory with those cues. This is like a Google search – it’s easiest to find what you’re looking for if your search term is unique to that particular thing.

Osth explains that the answer is to mix up your routines and surroundings where possible. Also, James Herman explains that the brain can recover:

“If you create for yourself a more enriched environment where you have more possible inputs and interactions and stimuli, then [your brain] will respond to that.”

In other words, as your routine returns to its pre-pandemic state, your brain should too. The stress hormones will recede as vaccinations continue and the anxiety about dying from a new virus (or killing someone else) subsides. And as you venture out into the world again, all the little things that used to make you happy or challenged you in a good way will do so again, helping your brain to repair the lost connections that those behaviors had once built

Bookmarked A New Tool Shows How Google Results Vary Around the World by Tom Simonite (WIRED)

Search Atlas makes it easy to see how Google offers different responses to the same query on versions of its search engine offered in different parts of the world. The research project reveals how Google’s service can reflect or amplify cultural differences or government preferences—such as whether Beijing’s Tiananmen Square should be seen first as a sunny tourist attraction or the site of a lethal military crackdown on protesters.

Tom Simonite discusses Search Atlas, a search engine designed by Rodrigo Ochigame1 and Katherine Ye that lets you search across languages and locations. This reminds me of some of the work of Alan November. It will be interesting to see what it looks like once it is beyond private beta.
Bookmarked Hundreds of Ways to Get S#!+ Done—and We Still Don’t by Clive Thompson (WIRED)

This is what makes to-do software unique. The majority of tools we use in our jobs are about communicating with someone else. All that messaging, all those Google docs, all that email—it’s about talking to other people, documenting things for them, trying to persuade them. But a to-do list is, ultimately, nothing more or less than an attempt to persuade yourself.

Clive Thompson takes a fascinating dive into the world of to-do applications. It is fascinating to consider the applications I have tried over time, including Evernote, Google Keep and Trello. All have worked to a point, but eventually get to a point where they no longer serve the purpose intended. With my work, I have come to rely on the incident management system to manage things.
Bookmarked Self-publishing – Cory Doctorow – Medium by Cory Doctorow (Medium)

Unless you feel you can figure out how to market your book, unless you want to devote as much energy to that marketing plan as you did to its authorship and production, unless you are prepared to sustain your marketing effort through constant iteration and refinement, you probably shouldn’t self-publish.

Cory Doctorow reflects upon the monopolisation of the book publishing industry and the perils associated with self-publishing. He shares some of the lessons that he has learnt along the way:

I’ve evolved a checklist for would-be self-publishers that makes success more than a matter of pure luck.

  1. Observe the publishing fortunes of books whose audiences you imagine to be similar to your book’s audience;
  2. From these observations, formulate a falsifiable hypothesis about how you will reach a similar audience;
  3. Based on this hypothesis, formulate a plan to get your book to that audience;
  4. Execute your plan, and measure its progress by comparing your book’s performance to your hypothesized performance;
  5. As new data comes in about where your hypothesis was mistaken, revise your hypothesis and make a new plan, and execute that;
  6. Go to step 4. and repeat.

This won’t guarantee that you succeed, but without something like this, you will almost certainly fail.

I am intrigued to how this differs in Australia or if it is the same all over the world.

Doctorow also shared a reading of the piece on his podcast:

Bookmarked Bullshit Ability as an Honest Signal of Intelligence: (SAGE Journals)

Navigating social systems efficiently is critical to our species. Humans appear endowed with a cognitive system that has formed to meet the unique challenges that emerge for highly social species. Bullshitting, communication characterised by an intent to be convincing or impressive without concern for truth, is ubiquitous within human societies. Across two studies (N = 1,017), we assess participants’ ability to produce satisfying and seemingly accurate bullshit as an honest signal of their intelligence. We find that bullshit ability is associated with an individual’s intelligence and individuals capable of producing more satisfying bullshit are judged by second-hand observers to be more intelligent. We interpret these results as adding evidence for intelligence being geared towards the navigation of social systems. The ability to produce satisfying bullshit may serve to assist individuals in negotiating their social world, both as an energetically efficient strategy for impressing others and as an honest signal of intelligence.

A team of Canadian researchers have presented some preliminary findings associated with ability to bullshit and its association with intelligence. Through their study, they found that the ability to bullshit was an honest signal of a persons ability to ‘successfully navigate social systems’:

Overall, we interpret these results as initial evidence that the ability to bullshit well provides an honest signal of a person’s ability to successfully navigate social systems, fitting the current work into existing frameworks whereby human intelligence is geared towards efficiently navigating such systems

The researchers were mindful to point out that the inability to bullshit was not a sign of a person being unintelligent.

By analogy to humor, a person who is funny is likely to be rather intelligent, however one can identify many brilliant people who are profoundly unfunny.

Interestingly, they found that you can indeed “bullshit a bullshitter.”

we find that those more willing to bullshit were also more likely to be receptive to pseudo-profound bullshit (i.e., rate pseudo-profound bullshit items higher on profoundness) … Thus, contrary to the common expression, it may indeed be possible to “bullshit a bullshitter.”

It is an intriguing idea, especially when you consider the fine balance of buying into the lie.

” wiobyrne” in Honest Signals of Intelligence – Digitally Literate ()