Make something wonderful, Kat Cole, nag metrics, and the age of average
Isabelle Levent down the human-centered generative AI 🐇🕳️
Welcome to the startupy newsletter, a laid back newsletter about very serious ideas.
Here are this week's 6 cool things curated in our universe:
THE NAG METRIC
Every day, product managers are having conversations like this:
A: We need more people to sign up/try this feature/engage with this content/convert to payer.
B: Okay. Let's add more call-to-actions and make them more prominent.
The result: you add more CTAs, conversion rates may rise, people are annoyed, and trust in your brand is tarnished.
When we don’t account for nagginess, the Internet ends up looking like this.
But what if we had a way to quantify nagginess so we can make appropriate tradeoffs about the cost of attention-getting elements? That’s what Julie Zhuo describes as the nag metric.
Curated in designing for emotions.
THE HOT-SHOT RULE
Kat Cole was the former president of Focus Brands, which owns companies like Cinnabon. This podcast is a treasure trove of insights from her. The hot shot rule was particularly good:
There's a very easy-to-do reflective exercise. I call it my “hot shot rule” where I envision a badass in my role tomorrow and I ask myself “what is one thing they would look at and immediately address?”
We've all had that first-day perspective. That act of pausing, reflecting, and asking what someone else would do is powerful because it's not hard to see what you should do when you think about it through someone else's lens. And then the trick is taking action right away. I take action within 24 hours.
A BEAUTIFUL ODE TO STEVE JOBS
If you need a weekend pick-me up, this free ebook on Steve Jobs is a wonderful collection of musings on life, work, creativity, and building something wonderful.
THE AGE OF AVERAGE
I enjoyed this essay on how everything looks the same now - the interiors of our homes, coffee shops and restaurants. The buildings we live in. The cars we drive. The way we look and dress. The brands we buy.
Perhaps when times are turbulent, people seek the safety of the familiar. Perhaps it’s our obsession with quantification and optimization. Or maybe it’s the inevitable result of inspiration becoming globalized.
ED SHEERAN ON SONGWRITING
Watch this 45 second clip if you’re starting a new project
GENIUS AND SOLITUDE
Ben Franklin’s schedule is proof that most people attribute to genius what is just long periods of focused time. It reminds me of my all-time favorite essay from William Deresiewicz, which argues for the importance of being alone.
Symbolic Systems student at Stanford
Rabbit hole: Human-centered Generative AI
Why is Human-Centered Generative AI interesting?
Generative AI has the potential to change the way we engage in fundamental cultural, creative, and communicative activities. But for me, the “human-centered” component is what’s most important—being thoughtful and critical about what values this technology embodies and its larger impact in human systems. What new modes of creation will this technology enable? How can we center creatives—poets, novelists, painters, photographers, filmmakers—in this artistic and technological evolution? How do we think about attribution, compensation, and consent for artists whose work is used in the training of models?
These aren’t easy questions to answer, and they’re only scratching the surface. There’s so much room for interdisciplinary conversation, design, and discovery. I’m starting to have these discussions in a new interview series with experts exploring how generative AI is changing the way we create and consume culture. Subscribe here.
Things worth reading and watching on the topic
So many! This LA Times article is one of the most thoughtful, non-technical pieces on generative AI I’ve seen— it spans from artist perspectives to discussion of copyright. The actual design of the article is also really engaging and apt.
Within AI research, I keep coming back to “Creative Writing with an AI-Powered Writing Assistant: Perspectives from Professional Writers,” a Wordcraft paper. Several writers from Robin Sloan to Ken Liu were commissioned to write a short story using LaMDA (Google’s large language model) over the course of 8-weeks. The paper examines how these professional writers engaged with the model and where the interactions fell short.
A favorite article when thinking about implicit values in technology is “Do Artifacts Have Politics,” which explores the ways in which all technology is political and encourages (or requires) certain systems of power.
I’ve been embedded in AI research for the past couple years, so am especially interested in the public awareness of AI outside my bubble. “Who Gets Credit for AI Generated Art,” explores the impact of anthropomorphizing AI on public perception and the complexity of defining the human actors involved in the process.
Projects worth following on the topic
I’m super excited by Runway, a suite of AI tools for filmmakers that allow you to augment existing footage or create new, AI-generated video essentially from thin air. This clip is a great example of what’s possible.
I’m looking forward to Katy Gero’s paper “Social Dynamics of AI Support in Creative Writing.” She’s a recent PhD graduate from Columbia, and does exciting work at the intersection of creativity, writing, and computation.
Serpentine Galleries has a R&D arm that supports this awesome Creative-AI lab— a database of resources along with commissioned works and research. Their research agenda is expansive and interdisciplinary, inviting creative work to push against prototypical values in machine learning (a much needed effort!).
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