1. Transit Seat Covers:
Designing seat covers for a transit system means solving the age old problem of producing something aesthetically pleasing that hides stains well. Going by the covers, the solution set is small.
2. Measuring Success: To build great products, you need vision. Sure. But you also need to figure out all the ways a product can be “not great” and measure them carefully.
Google search is a great product. And the 164 page booklet (pdf)
on how Google evaluates search results is a great illustration of the level of conceptualization of success and devotion to good measurement that is needed to build a great product. Inspiring and edifying.
The white paper lists four ways Google combats disinformation:
Make Quality Count: Rank items so that quality > (most likely to click). Google is ok with losing some money to improve user welfare.
Counteract Malicious Actors: I like that Google is not defensive when referring to “malicious” actors.
Give Users Context: Provide contextual information about a topic from trusted sources.
Monetization is a privilege: On content sharing platforms like YouTube that it owns, Google doesn’t let publishers monetize low quality content.
All four points seem reasonable but three obvious points deserve listing. Where Google draws the line on quality matters. So does iterating on how best to give users context. Lastly, it is slightly worrying that so many important decisions are Google’s to make when the cost of making bad decisions in a variety of scenarios are not a lot for Google.
I would love to know from you if you think there are other big things that Google is not doing to combat disinformation.
The white paper has some fun nuggets. For instance, it was a shock to learn how manual the evaluation of quality can be:
“YouTube has thousands of reviewers who operate 24/7 to address content that may violate our policies and the team is constantly expanding to meet evolving enforcement needs. Our review teams are diverse and global [as] [l]inguistic and cultural knowledge is needed to interpret the context of a flagged video and decide whether it violates our guidelines.”
“contrary to popular belief, there is very little personalization in [Google] Search based on users’ inferred interests or Search history before their current session.”
4. Get an Infinite Number of Email IDs:
Filter, tag, and prioritize your email by exploiting this Gmail feature. For instance, use a slightly different ID when signing up for a newsletter.
5. Intellectual Humility
“Why it’s so hard to see our own ignorance” is a compelling question. The author lists three reasons:
- Society rewards overconfidence
- Society makes it costly to accept mistakes
- Humans process information in a way that we mistake perception for truth so we never become aware of how erroneous most of our perceptions are.
Apparently, the second point is not true. Later in the article, the author notes: “People are unlikely to judge you harshly for admitting you’re wrong.” An unwitting homage to the topic of the essay?