In particular I've noticed a steady stream of woke articles being pushed my way despite me having little interest in that sort of thing.
These things are supposed to be fed by our preferences, but while I'm happy to read across the board brow-wise, most of my reading is of the deeper articles and yet genuinely intellectual essays are rarely offered up.
It's frustrating as a reader, and interesting to hear about it from the view of the writer.
The Google Scholar widget has a new feature where you can save articles for later perusal. You can also subscribe to alerts with new academic studies on your topic of interest.
Youtube can also be way more intellectual than most people appreciate. Because of Audible, Youtube, HN, Marginal Revolution, and Google Scholar, I no longer have the patience for most articles on current events. I just keep abreast of the major developments. I definitely ignore most local news (shudder). I'm usually surprised when it rains out. Who cares.
I commented a while back on someone asking "Why recommend me a ladder if I just bought a ladder, couldn't the system understand that people usually only buy one ladder?" But the fact is, the commenter was wrong about his priors. Actually someone who buys a ladder is indeed more likely to buy another one ... even if most people that buy ladders only buy a single ladder. The fact that you bought a ladder, puts you in the cohort of people that buys ladders, which means you are more likely to buy another one than someone who isn't on the record buying a ladder.
Be that as it may it’s still ridiculous. There are very many other things I am going to buy before I buy another ladder. And Amazon should be able to know that because of having seen me search for very many other things in the past that I have not yet bought.
And if nothing else, couldn’t they let me at least click a little button next to any suggestions to tell their algorithm that no I am not interested in this recommendation?
That's why you aren't seeing the better solution. You're only seeing what you know, which is the (tired old) signal you know how to detect. But you already detected it, and monetised it.
A better recommendation signal would be the one that you don't know how to detect. It's the signal people get unexpectedly from other people, when they chat about the thing they just bought. Call it the n+1 recommendation signal.
> The fact that you bought a ladder, puts you in the cohort of people that buys ladders, which means you are more likely to buy another one than someone who isn't on the record buying a ladder.
OK, but that's still the n recommendation signal, which has already been monetised, and won't be refreshed for quite some time, in the same way a Venus fly trap takes time before it will open and trigger again.
What can a person do with a ladder that she couldn't do before?
That question is what begets the n+1 recommendation signal. It isn't a question that even gets asked explicitly. It happens through association.
She says "I got a new ladder, and a paintbrush and some paint." and her friend says, "Oh great, I just used my ladder to hang a bird feeder from the sycamore tree!" and then she says "Oh! I've got a sycamore tree too! Where'd you get your bird feeder?"
That is what you get, and I thought in 2020, this would be an accepted wisdom: if you optimize for what gets the most engagement from people, you end up with things that cater to our most primal urges. It's a statistical phenomenon; you're more likely to ignore a nugget of deep knowledge than a headline which makes your eyes red before you even finish reading it.
SSC had a good essay on it back in the day: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/17/the-toxoplasma-of-rage....
Give the ability to provide negative feedback. One-click "blacklist this video/channel". One-click "don't show me things like this". One-click "show me less of these". In a way that actually works.
Allow to explicitly tune the recommendation algorithm. Like, modify the list of categories that get prioritized, and even their relative priority.
All that boils down to: give people autonomy to curate their own experience to match their own goals, instead of letting an algorithm do it in the background to optimize for company's goals.
As for "the spurious correlations from bad attempts to quantify it", yeah, I'd love to read about them too. But perhaps not on the front page of the news, in context of how it hurts people.
However, I'm not sure that the issue he is discussing is mostly caused by algorithms. It seems to me that the internationalisation of newspapers and media organisations is the main culprit. As the author says, if you can read art reviews in the NYT, why bother with 'small time' critics? Personally, I share the author's view that having a local perspective is still valuable but it seems clear that a lot of people don't.
When you compare what he writes to the content that gets pushed to us like in that Social Dilemma documentary in another thread (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24468533), smart people are writing, they're just getting drowned out. Content algorithms are like rating food on how efficiently it can deliver sugar and caffeine with no other criteria for "good."
Interesting niche content like the author writes is exploding. In contrast, it sounds to me like this particular outlet is missing out on the opportunity to provide niche and offbeat content by bean counting.
In other words, I’d hesitate
to assume that all digital media outlets are blindly chasing “engagement” without making any other considerations. I would think that big legacy media companies are easily led off a cliff by “doing what everyone else is doing.”
We are in the infancy of digital media, as much as it seems like it’s been around for a long time at this point. Many outlets, especially traditional ones, are ultimately still doing “the wrong things” that digital media firms in 2050 will look back on as being primitive and crude.
One last point: while the “flip through the pages of the paper and discover odd topics on art and culture” is dead, that doesn’t mean the interest and readership is dead. What’s dead is the idea that institutions like The Times or The Globe have any relevance in acting as aggregators of that content.
That’s why most companies don’t let you turn them off (or make it difficult to opt out.)
Eg., this is how netflix maintains a large library of niche films. It is enough just that they profit on them, not that they are popular.
The issue in OP appears to be that his articles were always included with the printed newspaper, and some people were curious enough to read it. However those people would never think to seek out that content.
So it's a question of "how do you serve the intellectual curiosity" in an era where mere popularity is the main recommendation system?
I don't think it's as big of a problem as he seems to think, only, that newspapers now have no answer to it. Many institutions for the intellectually curious (newspapers, universities, etc.) don't serve that function anymore.
Wirecard and me: Dan McCrum on exposing a criminal enterprise: https://www.ft.com/content/745e34a1-0ca7-432c-b062-950c20e41...
Alternatively, and depending on your views about copyright etc, you can submit the article's url to archive.is - which will either return anything already "archived", or try to fetch it for you.
Still, I think that in the case of well-known newspapers I probably won't try to work around their policies (difficult to explain the reason as I'm not sure myself about the "why" - maybe a mix of ethics and other stuff specific to newspapers).
Wokeist trends usually originate in the WaPo, percolate through the NYT and eventually end up in the WSJ, all happening predictably with a time lag of 2-5 years
All news outfits are biased, including the WSJ, but some try a lot harder than others to be unbiased, and some have given up all pretense of being news.