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    • A few months back, I found myself terrified of Google algorithms. SEO (search engine optimization), it seemed, was completely taking over: if you wanted a blog post or an article to be found on the first search results page on Google, you HAD to comply and write having most popular (most researched) keywords in mind. No SEO, no traffic: you can write the most brilliant blog post but nobody will read it because Google won't feature it in its search results. Comply or perish. A beautiful article on a wonderful and curious indigenous tribe in Panama would get pushed to the 3rd or 4th Google search results page, whereas a painfully dull "5 Things to do on the Caribbean Islands" listicle would be featured at the top of the first page. To beat Google algorithms, all you had to do was use the right keywords in the right sequence for the right amount of times. Sound like a job for a Google AI bot, not a creative writer, I thought.

      At the same time, I was reading Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Y.N.Harari. In it, Harari was discussing an experiment where highly educated music aficionados were played three music pieces: one composed by J.S. Bach, one by Steve Larson, a music theory professor, and one by a computer called EMI. Before the experiment, Larson had no doubt the audience would easily pick which piece was written by who; but what happened was this: the audience thought that Larson's piece was written by a computer, and that the computer's piece was genuine Bach. So if a computer can write better music than Bach, surely it's only a question of time when writers will be replaced by AI, too?

      And maybe that is in our future; who knows. In the meantime, I learned to work with the dreaded SEO. I just have to be sneaky about it or dance around it: I can still write my story about the strange indigenous tribe, but use the 'Caribbean Islands" as a keyword, sprinkling it over the text to appease the Google bots. Of course, SEO is a little more complicated than just keywords, and creative writing can still thrive regardless of what Google wants.

      So is SEO killing creative writing, or are people who think that just Luddites unable to adapt and change?

    • You know, I wrote a few stories on Cake about my old boss Steve Jobs that went surprisingly viral. One of my friends at Google said that having Steve Jobs in the title makes an enormous difference because it's the job of their algorithms to predict what recent articles are likely to become popular and all their data suggests that anything with Steve Jobs in it has high odds.

      I wrote another piece about a long-forgotten company named General Magic and I found a way to write Steve into it and put him in the title: That time in 1994 when Steve Jobs got to use a device like an iPhone

      Some random guy I don't know found it and submitted it to Hacker News where they sent 100,000 unique people to read it.

      A couple weeks later I wrote what I thought was a fascinating story about eBay, but I couldn't figure out how to get Steve in the story: The untold origin story of eBay that I lived, and the times that could have killed it

      Nobody found that one and I think it was more dramatic and fascinating than the other.

    • How fascinating! On the other hand, David Graeber wrote an article to an obscure niche magazine with no famous names or fancy SEO in it and it exploded resulting in millions of hits and two successful books. The topic was simple: the curious phenomenon of bullshit jobs:

      A stroke of genius, or a little bit of luck?

    • Haha thats brilliant! I hope they find a distribution method soon! Unfortunately i dont think they’re screening it where I am. Definitely willing to purchase it once it’s available online!

    • Hmmm, amazing. I do believe that when there is an extraordinary piece of writing on a subject that people care deeply about, algorithms and people do the right thing and sometimes discover it.

      The one that astonished me was when a 40-something undistinguished chef wrote a piece for an obscure magazine and they paid him $100. He wrote it for other cooks who would understand, a bit as a lark.

      Each week he went to the mailbox to see if they published it, and the answer was always no. He happened to complain to his mother, who said "submit it to the New Yorker!" Of course he knew that was crazy. But she was relentless so he did to get her off his back.

      One day he was cooking in the kitchen and one of the workers said "you wrote an article for the New Yorker?!" He had never expected they would run it. But they did because IT WAS EXTRAORDINARY!! Oh my God, the writing. It's on a subject very near the heart of anyone who eats out.

      And in 3 days he had a book contract.

    • I am still sad he is dead.

      One day I was walking around Yountsville (Napa Valley) with my girlfriend. We just had fresh oysters at the local market, so delicious. As we were walking out some guy in his thirties stood up from the balcony over us and started shouting "Anthony! Anthony Bourdain!! Its Anthony Bourdain everyone!". I looked up at the commotion and was shocked the dude was looking directly at me. I thought: "who is Anthony Bourdain?!" as I waved dumbfounded, saying "sorry you have got the wrong guy."

      My girlfriend knew who he was and was cracking up. She explained to me. My immediate reaction was: hell, I got confused for an old dude??! She said to trust her that its a compliment (still laughing). OK, I thought, I have gray hair now. Anyways, from that day onwards I started watching his shows and was hooked. A few months later he hanged himself. I was thinking about that today, actually.

    • 👆 I didn't know whether to put a heart or a tear as a reaction to that. So sad he's gone. So wonderful he got discovered for that one essay his mom made him submit to the New Yorker and touched so many people.

      You do look like him!

    • It's a desire to be heard, validated, appreciated, liked, popular. I envy people who can genuinely not care about that, but I want to feel needed, like I'm doing something significant. Having people read what I write helps that desire.

    • This makes me so happy that I quit Facebook a year ago. Intentionally increasing the noise so that users scroll through more ads is brilliant, I’ll admit.

      This also explains a little why Twitter doesn’t publicize the filtering strings that still work in Search.

    • Am I the only one who didn't know about them?

      I think it’s just a reflection of the evolution of software and apps to a click selection and drop down menu design aesthetic.

      I work with a lot of millennials and they are baffled when I start using CTRL+ and ALT+ key shortcuts in Word and Excel. They are powerful legacy features, just like Twitter’s search tools, but they are from a time period when people had to actually read a manual before using software.

      Software is designed nowadays for almost instant usability; however, you lose a lot of power user capabilities in the process. Cake appears to be designed with that instant usability preference. Which, if you look at other platforms today, is probably a reasonable choice.

      But imagine if I could type in the Cake search bar

      feed:all since:2018-08-01 until:2018-08-31

      and my search result returned is every conversation from August 2018, which I can then scroll through, read, and even reignite with an appropriate reply. Imagine the SEO generated on that evergreen content as well as the increased potential of that post going viral.


      I like to rant sometimes about the zero sum game of technology: you tend to lose something still useful with each evolution.

    • Back in the day I used to have heated arguments with Steve Jobs about the unintended consequence of 1-button mice: command-key shortcuts that recreated the problem we were trying to solve with mice in the first place—trying to remember all those damn keystrokes.