Weeknote 18/04/2021

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Reading

https://www.wired.com/story/pink-princess-plantfluencers-pink-congo-scam/

I like articles like this, which open a window into a world or subculture that I never would have thought of myself – I didn’t need to know that “plantfluencers” exist, but I enjoyed the article regardless. The author explained enough horticulture terms to lead readers through the story, but kept the focus on the human quirks: the drive people have to collect seemingly anything to display social status through those collections, and how often people turn any trend into a chance to make quick money.

Reading through the article, it became clear that only people only needed a small amount of knowledge about plants to realise that the pink congo plant couldn’t be real. TL:DR: only the green parts of plant leaves contain chlorophyll, the substance that lets plants photosynthesise to feed themselves. As a result, a plant would never produce solidly-pink (or any other colour) leaves by itself, as producing leaves with no chlorophyll makes the plant risk starving. Breeding plants to have colourful leaves and still survive takes careful and long-term work by growers. So this also article shows how scams (and malicious trends) rely on people being swept up in FOMO and hype in order to succeed.

Speaking of FOMO…

https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/15/22385957/arcade-fire-45-minute-long-single-headspace-meditation-app

I‘m already sceptical about the idea of meditation apps, so I’m a little biased here, but to me this goes beyond illogical and into counter-productively stupid. I’m aiming the criticism at Headspace rather than at Arcade Fire, who I know nothing about, as Headspace are likely to be the party who had the most impact in bringing this idea to fruition.

The gamification aspects of meditation apps, such as using points, badges, or achievements to reward consistent app usage, are already a debated aspect; some people could see gamified elements as a stepping stone that helps them stick with the app until the beneficial effects of meditation become clear to them. Alternately, people can see these elements as misguided attempts to “hook” users on to the app, and encourage them to pay for extra features in the app by appealing to loyalty and to our desire to complete collections.

But adding gated “exclusive content” in this way goes beyond even the existing questionable trend of adding “influencer content” such as stories read by celebrities. I just don’t understand how any service can claim to be encouraging mindfulness and deliberation with their apps when they’re designing those apps to contain many of the worst traps of materialism and consumerism.

While I was fairly annoyed after reading the article about Headspace, this article by science communicator Sally Le Page left me bemused instead.

https://sallylepage.medium.com/in-2017-uk-water-companies-still-rely-on-magic-6eb62e036b02

There is so much evidence that dowsing doesn’t achieve anything and cannot find water, that I have no idea why any company would continue to spend time and money on it. Le Page shares screenshots of each company’s Twitter responses to the question of dowsing, and they would be funny if these weren’t the companies in charge of looking after the water supplies of over 60 million people.

Gaming

I’ve spent far too much time playing Two Point Hospital this week, as I restarted my save file when I picked it up again a few weeks ago… I didn’t think that choice through, as it means I still haven’t got to the new DLC hospitals that I bought last month.

I think the mid-game hospitals will probably stay being my favourite even after I’ve progressed further through the game, as I’m already finding it difficult to remember the layout of my hospital blocks. Spatial awareness is not something I’m good at, and I think the larger maps might hold an extra layer of difficulty as a result. However, I don’t think any new maps will be worse than the 19-plot chaos of Roquefort Castle, at least!

When I managed to tear myself away from the slightly hypnotic TPH, I finished and reviewed Stacking, then moved on to Forza Horizon 2. While FH2 made a really good impression at its start, its road-trip system (where after completing a set of 4/5 races, you drive to another part of the map to start the next set) quickly started feeling like padding more than like participating in a large interconnected festival.

Work

I’ve been invited to be a ”special guest” in one of our larger team meetings next week, where I’ll be teaching other staff how to use our new volunteer management software more effectively. While one person has sent over a small collection of issues that people have mentioned they’re stuck on, which is a helpful starting point, I’m still a bit nervous about the idea of telling people things they already knew. Conversely, I don’t want to assume people know more than they do, and make them feel bad about asking for clarification. Giving face-to-face (well… zoom-to-zoom) advice is unfamiliar for me, as I usually prefer to write things like this down so that I can make sure it makes sense.

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