Sunday, May 5, 2024

"Your data likes this. Here's more!"

I'll get to the cryptic post title in a sec. But first I thought I'd update y'all on my progress on the runner rug. I finished the weaving Friday night, a titch ahead of schedule, and cut it off the loom the same night. Here's how it looked when it was halfway off the loom. I'm stoked that my idea for the center diamond worked as planned. (Yes, the motif is supposed to be off center. I'm okay with that.)

Lynne Cantwell 2024
As you can see, it's Tigs approved -- so far. We'll see how he feels about it when it's stretched out on the bathroom floor.

Right now, the rug has been soaked and is hanging to dry. Then I'll iron it and hem it on the sewing machine. I'm hoping to finish it tonight. 

(Before someone asks: The Ruggable box contains a runner for the kitchen. It's still in the box because the new kitchen counters are going to be installed tomorrow -- at last! -- and then I have to tile the backsplash. I'll put the rug down once all the construction is done. But for those who can't wait to see it: this is the way.)


Now about that quote.

Longtime hearth/myth readers will remember when I was all excited about tiny houses. I spent years exploring the idea of downsizing to a tiny house on wheels. I even blogged about it here, here, here, here, here, and probably some other times when I didn't tag it. It wasn't the "wheels" part that excited me, but the tiny-dwelling part. Back then, I was living in an 850-square-foot apartment. It had a generously-sized living/dining room and a great galley kitchen. The bedroom was big enough for a loveseat and occasional table along with the bed and dresser. I thought it had a lot of wasted space. I was sure I could downsize to 500 square feet with no problem. (And I did when I first moved to Santa Fe. But I needed another closet, so I bought the condo, which is about 1,000 square feet.) 

Eventually, though, I dropped the idea of getting a tiny house. It wasn't the size of the living space that put me off; it was the inability to get one close enough to urban, or even suburban, amenities. Cities don't want tiny dwellings unless they're temporary units for unhoused persons. They're just now beginning to approve accessory dwelling units for folks with single-family houses to put in their backyards for Grandma to live in. But a sub-750-square-foot house by itself on a city lot is beyond the pale for a bunch of reasons, including city infrastructure, density, tax base, etc., etc., etc. So by the time I retired in 2020, I had given up on the idea.

Mama Google, though, remembers all. As recently as this week, Google's news page on my phone has suggested an article about tiny houses to me. It's been four freaking years since I moved to Santa Fe, lady -- give it a rest already!

But that speaks to the quote in the title, doesn't it? The search algorithm just keeps serving up links like the links you've already clicked on, whether you're still interested in the thing or not.

The quote is from Jordan Klepper, one of the hosts on The Daily Show when Jon Stewart isn't there. Klepper and his co-host, Ronny Chieng, were interviewing Kyle Chayka, a staff writer for the New Yorker who has a written a book called Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture. I haven't read the book, although it sounds interesting. But that quote struck me so forcefully that I wrote it down. 

Here's the thing about algorithms: When they have you pegged, how do you break free? I talked here recently about kitchen renovations. That same Google news page on my phone has been serving up kitchen remodeling articles, even though I've already past the decision phase on the kitchen. I started looking up other home improvement topics to get it to quit showing me kitchen stuff. It hasn't worked very well.

This is a minor topic to be inundated with links about. But what about major topics? What about, say, politics? One of the points Chayka made in the interview, and presumably in the book as well, is that algorithms peg our politics and then keep us pegged. Voters in the US have been funneled into one of two political buckets. How do you climb out of the bucket you're in? It ain't easy. And as many others have observed, the polarization of our electorate is damaging the country as a whole.

I wish I had an answer, but I don't think we're going to get one any time soon. For sure, the solution won't come from an algorithm.


These moments of algorithmic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!