Is my phone eavesdropping, or what?

I don’t need to tell you my story about youtube ads that seem to be chosen based on the content of a conversation I’m having IRL because you have your own story about that.

Lets go deeper and crazier. Have you got at story where you were thinking about something and then saw social media react? Here’s mine: I was thinking about someone I used to know (and aren’t to troubled that they left my life), then about someone I met through said person, and then thought “I wonder what they’re up to”. The next time I logged on to facebook, the first friend request was for that person (the other suggestions don’t change too much.

The quartz article Your Phone is not Recording You- The Truth Might Be Even Creepier  argues that the big companies have a kind of model of you on their servers that predicts your thoughts so accurately that it gives the impression it’s actually listening. Which is a pretty good model. Tristan Harris calls it a voodoo doll, in the source video.

I’m sure that it’s possible that Facebook isn’t upfront about whether their software records, but it’s irrelevant for my case, I didn’t say anything. It could be a coincidence too, but there’s no post in that, so lets keep moving.

There’s a great quote from a poker player who was getting nailed by the AI Liberatus:

It felt like I was playing against someone who was cheating, like it could see my cards. I’m not accusing it of cheating, it was just that good.

I’m not suggesting that there is some mysterious breakthrough in which all AI programs are connected and consciously reading our minds, the poker AI is specifically for playing poker. This is an emergent phenomena though, showing that he thoughts we considered internal and private are exposed through our actions and decipherable by programs.



At The Shitface

My Year Without Alcohol

I heard that one of the 5 precepts of Buddhism is to refrain from intoxicants. I’m not Buddhist, but I find their mindfulness techniques useful and wondered if following this last precept for a while might lend me some clarity and help me to, either, do the things I have been intending to do, or be at peace with the fact I’ll never do them. I should mention that I often feel uncomfortable when I find myself getting drunk with friends and I feel like there is a bit of a pattern developing, where we aren’t really doing anything, aside from drinking and it’s happening regularly. I knew that I was about to be spending time with a new group of people who definitely drink more habitually than my current circle already do so abstinence was seeming like polite option. The last straw was finishing a 1L bottle of gin (Hi Sal!) between two people and a hangover I felt was going to require a year to recover from.

I was scared about telling people about my new commitment because I had expectations about how they would react. In every case the expectation was worse than reality. Most people didn’t really care and often would regularly forget if I did tell them. People would  ask why I wasn’t drinking and I eventually learnt to have a clear answer ready. Heavy drinkers seem to have more respect if the answer is something like “I drank too much”. If I feel like the person I was talking to wasn’t trying to be too blokey, I would talk about clarity. Some people assume that you’re an alcoholic. I felt the inclination to clarify that I’m not drinking at all, but then you realise that we’re all just tangled up in a big web of assumptions and that squirming around isn’t gonna help.

The first thing that I noticed was that often when I am in a drinking situation, there are new people to meet. Sometimes meeting someone new is easy, I accidentally get started in a conversation and one thing leads to another. Other times I become aware that I haven’t introduced myself to someone, and the longer nothing is said, the more impossible it feels. This happened when I was drinking and it a happened when I wasn’t drinking. The only difference was that once I stopped drinking it became clear to me that I just have to choose if I am going to be social or not. Comfortably social or awkwardly not social, but also awkwardly social or comfortably not social. I read a book about small talk, which I believe has had a lot more of a bearing on my ability to, er, have small talk than getting drunk did. I learned that the perceived positive effects of alcohol are derived from the marketing of specific drinks, rather than personal experience (1). So the same goes for participating and dancing. Sober, I was more likely to recognise a crappy party vibe and change it or leave. Similarly I was able to quickly recognise when the music was right and it was time to channel shapes from another dimension.

There were times that I had flagged for myself that I needed to have an important conversation with a friend, family or associate, only to notice that the person had had a few drinks before encountering them. I would decide that the conversation could wait until next time. For some people though, the same scenario would repeat again, and I became aware that I was loosing confidence in being able to count on them for a straight conversation, whilst being denied the ability to talk about something I thought was important. Is this what I have done to others for 18 years? Sorry.

I learned, in November, that non alcoholic beer exists. It’s nice to be able to separate the craving for a tasty cold drink on a hot day or after work from the side effects of diminished brain functionality. You could literally drink and drive. Actually, thinking about diminished cognitive ability is not something that I could really do while I was a proponent of it. It’s one of those things that you can be told about, but you don’t learn it… Especially while you’re actively reducing your capacity to learn.

I noticed that I loose a lot of time to drinking and recovering. through out this year I have been ticking off a lot more things from my to-do list. I never put ‘get drunk’ on my lists, it just seems to be the default thing if you don’t plan anything. I see the merit in planning group games, music and activities so that people don’t have idle hands.

I saved a lot of money. It’s amazing to grab a $50 note on your way out to meet people at a pub and then find the same $50 note in your pants when you’re taking them off.

A few people have asked if I am going to start drinking again; I don’t have a pact that I won’t, but I have definitely changed my ideas about how frequently I want it to happen. I feel confident about all this too which is weird since I haven’t been taking my courage medication…


Stakeholder distributed marketing

For an event, instead of paying staff & performers a base rate plus a percentage of profit; instead of asking everyone to promote the event in their social circles and hoping it translates to ticket sales- staff are given tickets and taught how to sell them directly. The number of tickets is proportional to their fee plus extra for the work selling them.

This article relates to financing and promoting an event, other creative concerns won’t be discussed.

For The Imaginary Cabaret of the Past we invited all our favourite performer friends to come and perform. We told them that we hoped they would get paid but that it would depend on ticket sales. We made posters and put them in all the places that we thought people should normally put posters… well not all the places, I put a few of mine up and I hope the promotions people put theirs up.

We needed to rent toilets, so we asked an investor for some money. The investor was also nice enough to sell the tickets for us, so they provided the door staff etc.

I think the event went well, I didn’t see the final figures though, since the investor took over that. I got paid what I asked, but I think it was a push and I know others didn’t.

Weaknesses of this process (that specifically relate to the strengths of what I am going to write afterwards)

  • Peoples promotion efforts were not measurable or encouraged so we don’t know how hard they tried to reach their social circle
  • Peoples promotion efforts are not supported,     so they might have tried to reach their social circle, but been lousy with it.
  • Investors, sales staff and promotion staff draw from the pool profit to be shared
  • Organisers energy is diluted between a lot of different people performing different roles, along with the event’s vision.
  • There     is uncertainty about sales, meaning we spend time stressing and preparing for the worst outcome (in addition to aiming for the best outcome)


Consider another event, The Imaginary Cabaret of the Future: We contacted the same performer friends and asked how much they wanted to be paid to be part of the new show. We also asked a security guard, lighting & sound technician, graphic designer, printer, film maker, venue and portable toilet company (and let’s call them stakeholders).

We added up all our expenses and then divided the total by the capacity of the venue to come up with the ticket price. Then we divided each of the stakeholder quotes we received by the price of a ticket, to see what the equivalent amount of tickets would be.

We then went back to the stakeholders and said (for example):

Hey, we need your help with promoting the show, so would you be happy if we gave you 15 tickets, which you can sell for $15 each? Instead of giving you $225 after the show only if it sells out?

We will give you heaps of photos and text for you to post on your social medias in the lead up, and we will also give you posters for you to stick on your mum’s fridge or whatever. And have a look at what the tickets look like… Nice huh?

We will give you a few calls throughout the process to check it’s going alright, give you advice and put you in touch with the others to see how they are going and see if they have advise.

The only stake    holder who didn’t agree to these terms was the toilet people, but when we said that it was ok to give out the tickets to their family, friends and customer, they agreed.

The sound and lighting lady did not feel comfortable with the amount of tickets she had to sell, but ended up being happy to get an offsider and spit the work and spoils.

The benefits of this approach

  • Stakeholders are encouraged to promote the show to their social network and rewarded for actually closing the sale then and there.
  • No promotions team needs to be paid separately
  • Promotions team (stakeholders) have meaningful things to talk about with potential     customers which makes the sale easier (and less like a sales pitch)
  • Discourages stakeholders who aren’t committed to the success of the show.
  • The effect of someone who doesn’t put in effort promoting the show is isolated to themselves.
  • There is no external investor taking a big piece of the pie and pushing their agenda.
  • People who don’t-get-it or are uncomfortable about the success of the show, or are too     concerned with how other people are going to deal with the project     will betray their doubt before getting involved with the project.


Possible weaknesses of this approach

  • People may have no experience selling things.
  • People may be self-conscious about selling themselves.
  • There may be unforeseen costs.
  • Someone may be left behind due to bad sales technique or life event.
  • Someone might have to pull out.
  • Majority of stakeholders might decline.

How to maximise the opportunity for success of the Imaginary Cabaret of the Future

To circumvent any doubt the stakeholders have about this technique, the support strategy for stakeholders selling tickets needs to exist at the time that they are being pitched the idea. Then they can assess their odds of success themselves and hopefully be confident of success. The support strategy should involve a support person who monitors the progress of all stake holder’s sales comparatively.

People who are self-conscious could be encouraged to play down their involvement and sell the other performers.

Stakeholders should be given the opportunity to invest capital in the event, which they can make back through ticket sales. This provides a mechanism for keen sellers to address the unforeseen cost issue and tie investment to the success of the event.

A more traditional contract could dictate what happens if a performer has to pull out. Something like: give back your tickets and a percentage of the money you made (since they put some effort into selling the tickets).

If majority of stakeholders decline then it’s a fail for the event, but a useful exercise for the industry, hopefully the creators would report on their experiences and it would be a valuable lesson for anyone else to read.