Another notification to my inbox?

Reflections on self-discovery, understanding the attention economy and how we build, create, report on, and discuss these topics — and largely end up spent.

Hey all! 👋 It’s been a while, I hope you’re doing well. I largely created this newsletter as I started research on product development for creators, and how we can build tools that provide equitable access to resources as part of my graduate program at NYU. And while it’s been about a year since I’ve started inconsistently posting in this space to a couple of hundred followers, (a byproduct of graduate school, other side projects/career, and what I want this space to be as it grows), my views in ways have shifted.

While, yes, I’m still concerned about the intersection of tech and media, and what this does to our lives, I’m more concerned about how much mental space it takes up in our lives, and overall — how this just leaves us spent. This will be the last newsletter under the erin for tech handle, and I’ll be shifting it to paid attention.

not your jam? that’s okay, no hard feelings.

Curious on my journey? I’d love to hear from you.


Another notification to my inbox?

Yes, another notification, and hopefully a notification that brings you joy, reminds you to slow the fuck down, to log off every so often.

2021 thus far, has been a lot. I’m not going to expand on this at the current moment (scroll twitter or read one of the hundreds of headlines if you care for any elaboration), but it feels awkward and trite to not acknowledge the world that we’re living in in a newsletter published in the middle of it all.

Originally, this newsletter started as a way to critique and think more about how we use tech, and discuss the different nuances between tech and journalism, but the more I threw myself into the world, the more that I realized I don’t know if that’s the problem I’m most concerned about (but yes, still one that I’m largely interested in and keeps me up at night). 

While yes, there are problems in tech, and yes there are problems in journalism, there are also problems in fishing, and in healthcare and in stock markets and in air pollution, and tech bros and overall problems across a few different boards. 

erin for tech is now paid attention

The problem isn’t the problems in itself — the problem is where our attention is currently being charged. We’ve paid attention to the tech bros, we’ve paid attention to the policies, we’ve paid our due diligence at times, but now we’re all just broke.

Join me, in a hyper-nuanced, self-discovery journey on how the tools, the tech, and the systems that we exist, are part of history repeated.  An analysis in how we pay attention, report on and discuss these topics, but largely just end up spent. 

what you can expect

infrequent musings on the inner workings of the attention economy, what this has to do with how we work, play, and live our lives, the simple acts of resistance of creating just to create, and how to avoid feeling spent.

not your jam, that’s okay. 

up your alley? let me know - I’d love to hear from you. 

are you creating to just create? I’m here for it.

The rise of audio communities

Let's start a conversation about how to make the future of community a better place.

You’re reading a brief excerpt from Media Hackers.io. Each post breaks down tech tools that newsrooms and media organizations. I’m Erin Mikail Staples, and I work at the intersection of community and product, with a work history in media organizations, tech startups, and SaaS platforms, and I’m passionate about empowering creators.

Why are you receiving this tidbit?
Well - I’ve worked with some of the best in the community biz to create a toolkit about audio content moderation. Oh! and we’re going to be hosting an event tomorrow at 3pm EST on Space. Join us! Reply to this email if you have any questions.

Peek the tool kit

Tweet the toolkit

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What’s the deal with audio-first?

Audio-first has been sort of a trending area in the last few months. Whether you’re one of the many on Clubhouse, Space, Roadtrip, Eternal… the list goes on, or if you’re one of the many pandemic podcasters, or working in an audio-adjacent space tackling issues of discovery, education, or content creation.

When the pandemic first hit, we saw a few things happen in the world of audio content. First off, podcasting had a bit of a decline for the first seven weeks. Even myself, an avid podcast listener, got out of the routine of regular podcast listening. Neiman Lab reported that this downturn started to reverse around weeks 8-9 as people settled into their day-to-day. That said, during the pandemic, it felt like everyone, and their uncle was starting a new podcast — heck my comedy podcast even went remote and had to figure out how to record in two different continents (Zencastr you are our friend!). We also saw an emergence of live audio and began exploring the world of ephemeral content.

Live audio is a beast of its own and has taken the tech/VC world by storm. With a few new players in the game from Chalk AppSpace Chat, and the notorious/infamous Clubhouse, we’ve seen a wave of potential in this medium. But this isn’t the first time this has been tried, — Facebook tried live audio in 2016.

With everything happening in the space, it’s natural that we want to be breaking this down and figuring out where we can make this the best place for this.

Read the full post at Media Hackers


Quick Links


Longer issue comin’ at you this week. Thanks for being my pleasant place on the internet! In the meantime — I look forward to seeing you tomorrow on Space.

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But Capitalism...

How we could actually make a better internet (but those making lots of money would probably make less and that would make people mad).

That whole tech anti-trust thing and wtf does it mean?

And maybe, is it time that we start looking at the impacts that tech has across different industries, instead of just the tech industry

If you’ve been on the internet, and sucked into tech news this week, or have encountered someone who has been sucked into tech news this week, you’ve probably heard about the Big Tech Anti Trust hearings.

Yesterday, individuals gathered to answer questions about the four Big Tech giants — Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook — and review how they operate. With claims that these companies are just using their power to crush one another, using tactics like predatory pricing, unfair business negotiations, claims of infringing on patents of the little guys, and questionable ethics on how the data is used — I’m not shocked at any point that this was brought up.

Watching the statements yesterday, and reading through what happened and its supposed impacts, I’m left with more questions than answers. While we’re in a time where we’re figuring out how, and if companies will be held accountable, I’m still wondering how much catch up some of these congressmen have to play?

Among my journey to where I’m at today, I took a detour and worked for a progressive lobbying firm, that advocated for tech. Part of my role was to help educate people on how the technology worked, the good and the bad side. Imagine explaining the internet, blockchain technology, and the internet of things to your local representative.

That’s why this quote from the Atlantic’s Anti-Trust coverage hit me smack dab in the face:

When Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill two years ago, the hearings were an embarrassing exercise in congressional cluelessness. They furthered a cliché: The doddering American political elite, who sometimes seemed to confuse Messenger with the passenger pigeon, would never have the savvy to keep up with the dynamism of Big Tech, let alone regulate it.

Franklin Foer for the Atlantic

If we’re talking of takeaways from this Anti-Trust hearing, I’ve got a few that make me concerned for the future of tech ethics:

1. How are we including people who actually understand how technology works, in the policy behind this technology?

The doddering American political elite seems to stick out in this situation. My husband paid his way through college working as a Geek Squad agent, and the stories I’d hear of people who struggled with technology concern me — and not because of how technology is “easy” (it’s not, it’s at times purposely confusing), but on how nuanced this shit is.

Many times, tech is an insider club. It almost feels like it operates in its own lingo and operational standards. It leverages this and the allure of the future to draw folks in. And I’ve even felt like I’ve lived in a community that’s been a victim of techs allure — living in Reno, Nevada at the time of Tesla’s arrival, a contested arrival that came with the promise of $1.3 billion dollars in tax incentives. Needless to say Nevadan’s weren’t too happy with how that deal turned out.

My ask: let’s start getting people who are great at tech, involved in the policymaking process, helping hold tech giants accountable, and educating the public to the impact that this technology has on our lives.

One person who’s done this exceptionally well is Bianca Wylie — who has done a lot of coverage on Google’s Sidewalk Labs, and the impact of the data that they collect. Earlier this year, she wrote a piece about how we need governments to take a more active voice on tech efficacy. She takes a look at the framework in which we’re living in, which often looks at tech to be a solution, and how that needs to be met with questions as well:

Sidewalk Labs is but one of thousands of companies stepping into this narrative void and mixing marketing with crisis. This note is not an effort to malign the intent. But as we know, good intentions do not always lead us to the best places. Without the fuller picture of this conversation, which is also about masks and hospital beds and tests, the creep of techno-solutionism continues along very slowly over time.  The fault and pressure resides with governments and public science to step up and step in to frame this conversation properly. I’m not encouraged but it doesn’t mean we should stop asking.

Bianca Wylie

2. What actions will actually be taken from this antitrust hearing? How does our capitalist system impact the potential impact of this?

There’s been a lot of conversations about these platforms and how they’re “too big to moderate effectively,” but does that mean we should just give up? Wired shared a piece about Facebook’s size, and how the notion of “too big to moderate” is actually more of a case of “would cut significantly into their profit margins to moderate.” In reality — isn’t that a problem and even more so of a case to take it to look towards regulation. We don’t do that for other industries? But we turn a blind eye to what tech is doing and what they can do in the future.

In a time where content is king, and we’ve got the tools to access and content in everyone’s hands — not necessarily a bad thing, we’ve got to be conscious of the impact of this content. As Kevin Roose, tech journalist for the NYT recently shared, misinformation spreads like wildfire.

There’s a difference between moderating terrible hot takes, I for one believe that if you have a terrible hot take (cough cough, Andrew Sullivan) the court of public opinion will take care of you (and that’s not cancel culture, that’s consequences), but when it comes to takes that are dangerous and misinforming that’s when platforms have the responsibility to step in.

It’s true that no site that relies on user-generated content, and has millions or billions of users, can ever perfectly enforce its content rules at scale. But in no industry, save perhaps airlines and nuclear power plants, do we suggest that anything short of perfection is equivalent to failure. No one says there are simply too many people in the world to enforce laws at scale; we just employ a ton of cops. (Of course, the protest movement against police violence has powerfully argued that those funds would be better spent elsewhere—a question for another article.)

Enforcing the rules can be done; it just costs money. Not enforcing the rules has costs, too. They just end up on society’s balance sheet, not Facebook’s.
Gilad Edelman for Wired

Are we okay with the cost of not regulating the content online? I’m constantly in awe of what we appear to tolerate in a) lack of moderation and b) lack of fair ethical treatment for those who are actually moderating the content. I think you make enough money, Zuck — the human impact of society is a bit more important to me.

3. Tech involves every area of our lives; why don’t we act like it?

Tech has successfully infiltrated every area of our lives, and that’s not a bad thing. We have better health care tech, cool new cures, ways of connecting with one another and sharing information with one another, but at the end of the day, that’s even more the reason for us to make sure that we know how this works.

We have tech journalists, education, and tech degrees — but when are we just going to admit that we need people who can discuss and talk about technology and its day to day impacts? All Things Considered covered how tech has changed our lives in the last 10 years, and one thing that it brought up was the simple use of smartphones — we don’t even communicate in the same way anymore.

And it’s not limited to communication — in fact, I experienced many of the tech advances during this pandemic, when I did a surgical follow up for an appendectomy, sending photos of my scars through an app, getting married on Zoom, or discussed the pros/cons ethically of photos at protests from a data perspective — these are all things that tech has influenced on our lives. None of the above are directly in the “tech” industry, but have significant lasting impacts on our health, personal lives, and even our criminal justice systems — let’s talk about them like they do. Sure, they’re convenient as hell, but let’s look at how it can change our society for the long run.

Pew Research published a large essay on the positives of digital life, how we can “find our people” or connect with others, but I’m over here thinking about the conversations that are happening behind the scenes, what do these company roadmaps look like? What is their long term game? How are they monetizing?

Sound Black Mirror-ish? It’s because some of it probably is.

The reason that show is so damn terrifying is because it’s based in truth.

Oh, and one more tweet on why this is important:


Quick Links


That’s all for this week’s Erin for Tech. I’m looking forward too seeing you next week! As much as the internet can be a dumpster fire, this has been a pleasant place to be, and in the meantime — I look forward to seeing you on Media Hackers, a newsletter dedicated to looking at different ways tech tools can help empower creators, media makers, and journalists, without sacrificing a code of ethics.

Join us at Media Hackers

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Cross-industry collaboration.

How looking outside what we know will be the way that we survive

Welcome new friends who have joined me on this adventure at Erin for Tech! If you’re reading this, and aren’t part of the subscribed crew yet - join us by subscribing below.


How do we conquer the tech x media divide?

I’ve long thought that the solution to the current media crisis that we’re in is largely going to rely on collaboration between the tech and media worlds, but it’s proving hard to do, for a few key reasons.

Media has a fundamentally different goal than tech products

Journalism’s job is, to tell the truth, to inform, to facilitate discussion, and well, tech… not so much. Tech, and commonly startups, often get into that job because they’re working to build a new future. Which is great! There are lots of things that need to be fixing, but as those who have written a startup business model know, oftentimes, there’s research to know and research to show. The mere concept of research to know v. research to show is at a natural odds with Media products.

Furthermore, the concept of even measuring success differs between these two industries. In journalism, you’re looking to inform. How do you measure if you’ve informed someone or not? There’s no comprehension quiz at the end of a news article, nor are there perks for getting more reads and shares — it’s not necessarily a sign of success (points to the fact that the majority of people don’t actually read what they share.). Startups and tech, you typically have a goal - profitability, and metrics that show you’re successful at that can include paid signups, purchases, app downloads, active users. Something you can measure. Something that also doesn’t have the ethical quandaries of how you get that information.

Platforms and media outlets are at odds with how we should handle information.

Log onto twitter somedays and its a boxing ring. You see a tweet, and you can ‘like’ it, or add something along the lines of “me too” or “hey no you’re wrong,” Nuance isn’t built into 240 characters, heck we have enough trouble putting context into a single news article. We argue that journalists either don’t go into enough depth, or, are so in-depth that it’s hard for the layman to understand, and for the average news consumer outside what I assume us to all be news junkies, this is a hard problem how to overcome. Journalists need to be on these platforms, even if they can be dumpster fires at a time, but informing the public, and playing the role of teller of truth is naturally at odds with what the algorithm is looking for.

Tech journalism is already in a tough spot

When the recent story about Clubhouse broke, countless folks in tech tweeted out about how some actively shouldn’t talk to journalists. (WTF?!?!)

[Friendly reminder: my definition of the function of journalism is to tell the truth, inform, and facilitate discussion. These are all means of holding people accountable and building a better society. This is the reason why the freedom of speech is so important.]

Hold tech accountable, get slaughtered by tech on twitter, run their press release, lose journalistic integrity. There’s no “winning” in this debate. Furthermore, industry publications have a hard time critically reporting on tech, because they’re part of the ecosystem.

Secrecy has become baked into Silicon Valley to an extent, in this report from the Columbia Journalism Review - it talks of the dangers this has to actual accountability journalism:

There are a number of reasons that such secrecy has become integral to the Valley’s culture, not least the need to protect intellectual property from fast-moving rivals. But the press atmosphere around tech also made it possible. Thanks to a compliant and often cheerleading media, companies could easily control their narratives and shut critics and reporters out.
- Howard Lake for Columbia Journalism Review

These problems aren’t just problems for those in tech and those in journalism, they’re problems for the mass majority of people who are looking to gain insight and structure into what the actual impacts are on our lives vs. the “gossipy” culture problems. And it’s a problem half created by technology, in this Slate podcast - we chat with different tech reporters of how we actually got here as tech journalists.

Continuing to report critically on something that has seeped into all the different aspects of our lives is something that very much needs to be done. This makes the idea of combining forces with tech one a tense topic of discussion.


Building a toolkit

Let’s start working together to build a better future, welcome to Media Hackers.

To start this divide, I’m starting with my own community. How do we create or use tools at the intersection of media and technology to improve the future of these industries? It’s a hard route, but one I believe we can have growth in.

In this newsletter, you’ll get active tools, tips, and tricks towards building better media products and communities around them using no-code tools, basic monetization strategies, and community-building tactics. I’ve even already sourced interviews for those who are leaders in this regard, using or creating tools for a better media future.

Join us at Media Hackers

I don’t believe I know the solution right now to solve this media or tech divide, but sitting on our hands and not testing is not going to do us any good. Join me, and let’s build together - a better future at this intersection.


Quick Links


That’s all for this week’s Erin for Tech. I’m looking forward too seeing you next week! As much as the internet can be a dumpster fire, this has been a pleasant place to be, and in the meantime — I look forward to seeing you on Media Hackers.

Join us at Media Hackers

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Humans are messy, computers write formulas.

Why we need to be okay with messiness of the world around us.

howdy there 👋
I’m so glad you’ve followed along in the past months as I’ve worked out this newsletter and figured out what it is, and what it isn’t. And I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride. I’m building a few more things onto this space, so keep your eyes peeled — newsletter subscribers get it first. ✨ Until then, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being part of this little online community
❤️


My conflicted feelings on tech, social platforms, and the dichotomy between being a “thought leader” and actually informing.

Recently, I’ve been reflecting. I’m wrapping up my Masters in journalism, and have published articles as a journalist. I’ve conducted research, written articles, explored this industry, but only to walk away from it confused. Tech appealed to me, tech fascinated me, and became a way I made a living, but simultaneously frustrated because at times, it felt like platforms were naturally incentivized to perpetuate the dumpster fire that social platforms can be.

And today, chatting to someone I looked up to, as someone who had made a living at the intersection of journalism and technology, a former journalist working at a tech platform, I realized that our frustrations were often one and the same.

The things that gain reach, and widen our audience on social media, are naturally at odds with actually informing. Click baiting headlines, twitter thought bro general statements, and easily shareable content wins out over informing the public and in-depth conversations.

This natural dichotomy between building a following, establishing oneself as a “thought leader” and actually informing your audience is one that has been written about many times over again. In Jenny O’Dell’s book - How To Do Nothing, she claims this in the prologue.

I am not anti-technology. … I am opposed to the way that corporate platforms buy and sell our attention, as well as to designs and uses our technology that enshrine a narrow definition of productivity and ignore the local, the carnal and the poetic.

… It is furthermore the cult of individuality and personal branding that grow out of such platforms and affect the way we think about our offline selves and the palces where we actually live.

Jenny O’Dell, “How To Do Nothing”

O’Dell also touches on the idea of the cult of individuality and personal branding online, and honestly, it’s something I wish I learned about more at a younger age. Your perfect Instagram is what gets many followers, but lacks depth. When I was in undergrad, much in the time of total domination of Instagram, and the wild wild west days of social media before we started critically thinking about what these platforms were doing to us, we were encouraged to have perfect profiles and tweet nearly robotic tweets about our projects, and dare not post something that could be too political or too out there… whatever the hell that means. Now, I think we’re starting to see how that was very much not human.

When I taught as an adjunct professor, there was much discussion among the faculty of how much students should be publishing content online. There was some fear that because they were still learning, they were still learning how to create content, that they’d ruin their online footprint.

I firmly disagree with this way of thinking. Most people are a lot smarter than you give them credit for. Post your work, share what your interests are, and to quote one of my graduate professors “people want to know your obsessions, what problems can you not stop thinking about, share those!”

Unfortunately, its all of these forces at work that make it quite, well, hard to know what’s “good.” Do I share my content? or not? Does it matter if I get 10000 likes? Do I write a novel, or create a youtube broadcast?

At times, we’re rewarding the concept of gaming the system, and leveraging the algorithm, rather than just creating good things — but isn’t that what tech taught us to do?

My takeaway: Be human, share your thoughts, tell me what’s on your mind, show me a work in progress, explain your thought process, share your interests, talk to people — these things will create authentic human connection much deeper than any tech platform could.

Humans are messy, computers write formulas. You can’t formulate human connection. Take the time, and use social platforms as a tool to facilitate the human part, thinking less about the impact of the algorithm.


Galaxy models and centering individuals… are these healthy relationships?

AKA how the first few people can dictate a company’s culture.

Most commonly of tech, we hear of the celebrity founder, the one who builds their company around them, and becomes so intrinsically tied to the organization that they founded that it’s hard to separate them — for better or worse. Steve Jobs, Kanye West, Steph Korey, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Hendricks, you get the idea.

I was reminded about this reading Ana Andjelic’s newsletter last week, where she covered the Galaxy of Kanye and the concept of founders becoming the iconic figure of the company, for better or for worse, and this made me thing — are these the type of healthy relationships we want to be building?

My morbid brain often thinks about the idea of “if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, where would my work sit,” which aside from being a dark thing to think about, is something that for many startups and businesses, especially those who are building platforms that other businesses are built off of, it’s a dangerous game to play.

As Andjelic writes:

“The Galaxy model doesn’t revolve around the heritage, craftsmanship, or the exceptional product quality (like e.g. Hèrmes). Instead, invents weaves a mythical story and emphasizes image, merchandising, and the atmosphere of the environments where this story can be lived through brand experience and products.”

The harder part of this is it makes it harder not just for early employees, but for pretty much anyone outside of the founder to play an active role in the company culture. It’s not a culture of heritage, craftsmanship, or quality as Andjelic writes, its a culture around one human. Their flaws, their victories, their shortcomings, and their bias. And if we’ve learned anything from the last few years of media, its that we’re all flawed humans on this planet.

Building an additive culture: scaling beyond a founder of one.

For many, both in journalism and tech, there will come a time where you’ll be forced to scale beyond the founder of one. Actually, scratch that, you should scale beyond a one person operation.

However, this is something that is far easier said than done. We’re human, we can be stuck in our ways, lines of thinking, and even thought methods. There are founders and the notorious Founder’s Syndrome complete with lack of delegation that one would expect.

The important thing to keep in mind while you’re transitioning, is the role of active listening, especially when it comes to your early team members.

In my opinion, the most important part of workplace culture, is creating a culture that is open for space to learn, grow, and most importantly - filled with critical thinking and questioning. The inner journalist inside of me loves what you can learn through a well-crafted question.

Now that we’ve all been remote for a few months now. 🥴 There are companies that are building remote-first, that have never known an in-person presence. This has unique hurdles for creating a company culture. There’s countless articles about “culture fit” and if its biased or not (IMHO, not a good “culture fit” can be a code word for something else).

There’s a good article from the Harvard Business Review on how to hire from Patty McCord, who ran hiring at Netflix. In it she chats of multiple circumstances and situations of what she faced and how she built a positive culture. Throughout the article, I was impressed on how she looked at ways that an individual could be additive to a companies culture. This skill not only requires you to thoroughly know whos on your team, but also, how your team reacts to change, and new ideas. And if your team isn’t one that can have conversations with questions, are you operating in the most healthy team environment at all?


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A quick ask: I’m trying something new

Hey friends! 👋 I’ve got an idea & a draft of what to add more to provide value to this space and looking for a few people to give me feedback. If you’ve enjoyed this newsletter, reply to this email or slide in my twitter DM’s. I’d love to have your help.


Until next time, I’ll catch you on the internet my dudes. 👋

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Erin for Tech is a weeklyish newsletter about trends in tech and media and this very online world she hangs out in more than she probably should. She is wrapping up her graduate studies in media innovation with a focus on entrepreneurship in media - taking a peek at one-person newsrooms, and will be sharing more tidbits about that here soon. Erin works at the intersection of product and community, thinking a lot about how these areas are a lot closer than we may all realize. Oh! And she just got married, so its soon to be Master Mrs. Erin Staples to you.

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