The YouTubers who blew the whistle on an anti-vax plot

While rational minds worry about the impact of biased cable TV channels, and as the Delta mutation spreads globally, a mysterious marketing agency is offering to pay social media influencers to post anti-vax disinformation. Mirko normally ignores offers from brands asking him to advertise their products to his more than 1.5 million subscribers. But the sponsorship offer he received in May this year was unlike any other. An influencer marketing…

Why your brain’s so bad at letting go of negative comments

Negative comments engage avoidance motivation. When you’re motivated to avoid something bad, then an important strategy is to be vigilant for more bad things in the environment to make sure that you’re aware of problems as soon as they happen. This may have been an adaptive strategy when there were people or animals out there trying to hunt you in some evolutionary environment. However, it’s a less effective strategy in…

That Class Where Stanford Profs Projected Hundreds of Zoom Students on a Video Wall

Of course, not all institutions happen to have a video wall that’s 32-feet wide and 8-feet tall. But Stanford already did, in its Wallenberg Hall. So the three professors reached out to the university’s director of classroom innovation, Bob Smith, to see what they could rig up. No matter how big your screen, Zoom can only display up to 49 people in each session. So the class was divided into…

The Internet Is Rotting

I do what I can. It’s disheartening how, in the past three or so years, several of my free instructional web pages that used to be high in the Google search results have been pushed out by predatory services that provide custom term papers (for a fee, of course). Users of social media are trained to use a flashy, well-designed app, but they don’t learn how to curate and maintain…

No, this Jeopardy! contestant was not making a white supremacist hand gesture

Conspiracy theories, knee-jerk tribal thinking and stubbornness are not confined to one end of the political spectrum, as this NYT analysis of a recent Jeopardy! conspiracy theory establishes. Mr. Donohue’s case is unusually clear-cut, and the allegation is obviously false. So the element of this story that interests me most is how the beating heart of nerdy, liberal fact-mastery can pump blood into wild social media conspiracy, and send all…