Rian van der Merwe

Product manager • Designer • Speaker

Not gonna lie, this is a question that has kept me awake many times. But no more! Why can’t a bot tick the ‘I’m not a robot’ box?

There is difference between how humans move the mouse versus how bots do.

Google’s reCaptcha system takes advantage of the above fact to predict whether you are a human or not. Google’s reCaptcha system has a predictive model trained with sample mouse movements made by both humans and abusive bots.

As you move your mouse over the “I’m not a robot” widget towards the checkbox to click, every tiny movement is captured and sent to the predictive model.

The predictive model analyzes your mouse movements against the sample set of data and decide whether you are human or a bot.

This review of Part of the Light by Ray LaMontagne had me falling over myself to find it and click play:

The way I figure it, Ray LaMontagne was dropped on his head sometime last year and woke up days later, thinking it was 1971, he was Pink Floyd, and he had to go into the studio right now and make an album.

(Spoiler: the review is not wrong)

📖 Book review: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I read Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport over the weekend, and it exceeded my expectations. I was a little worried it would just be a re-hashing of his previous book Deep Work, through a slightly different lens, but it’s not that at all. Cal brings in lots of psychology, and provides practical (and pragmatic) recommendations for cultivating a better relationship with technology.

He also draws heavily from the experience of about 1,600 people who undertook a 30-day “technology declutter” during the research phase for the book. Cal uses their stories to share what worked for them, what didn’t work, and ways to address some of the most common pitfalls of trying to become a digital minimalist.

I won’t lie, this book is scary. It’s making me rethink every single online service I use, and I realize that I’m going to give up a lot of it. But I also somehow feel lighter and freer, having come to those conclusions.

Cal isn’t dogmatic in his approach in this book. He lays out the evidence for why the intermittent positive reinforcement and drive for social approval that are built into social media is detrimental to our mental health and relationships. He gives practical advice on how to choose and use the tools that will provide benefit to you. But then he also tells you to use the principles behind what he’s saying, but do what works for you. I really appreciate that.

Below are some of the quotes that I wanted to remember.

Ok this is blowing my mind a little bit:

Like botanical pinball machines, you could design, plant, and grow entire forests based on their ability to reflect future WiFi signals in very specific ways, artificial landscapes destined to perform computational tasks.

🎵 New release album pick for the week of February 8, 2019

We’re still early in 2019, so it’s been slim pickings so far in terms of new releases. But this week I’ve been really enjoying Already Ready Already by Galactic. The AllMusic review sums it up pretty well:

Galactic juxtapose modern dancefloor and funk rhythms alongside electronic instrumentation in putting across their ass-shaking funk pop & roll.

It’s a short album that, at 24 minutes, feels more like a mixtape than anything else. But the way they mix genres and beats makes it an incredibly fun ride.

Snow drama.

📍 Atkinson sledding hill, Portland.

Snow music.

🎵 Sting, Mercury Falling

The kind of album that can save a life if you hear it at the right time.

🎵 Nils Frahm, Spaces

Woah. amo by Bring Me The Horizon is such an interesting mix of genres in one album. Definitely worth checking out.

Here’s a scary reminder that your digital identity has three layers, and you can only protect one of them:

The bad news is that when it comes to your digital profile, the data you choose to share is just the tip of an iceberg. We do not see the rest that is hidden under the water of the friendly interfaces of mobile apps and online services. The most valuable data about us is inferred beyond our control and without our consent. It’s these deeper layers we can’t control that really make the decisions, not us.