It's more than books out there

Good quality information can come from many places

Created on 6 September 2022.

You might have noticed from the books tag on this blog that I've done a couple of articles where I express some thoughts I had after reading certain books. While those aren't the only ones I opened, it is safe to say that I'm a person who enjoys reading.

I believe that books are a great resource overall. However, there are other resources just as good or important I would say.

In my case, lately, I've been using YouTube more and more to learn new things.

Complementary sources also come from my networks (Twitter and LinkedIn) - either I'm following really smart and interesting people whom I admire, or I stumble upon threads, conversation or links to other blogs that provide real value.

It is a journey and it is awesome.

The problem is related to the algorithms. Actually, it's problems. Plural. Let's analyze each one.

  • Situation 1: You are just starting out

In this situation, you aren't really sure who to trust, who to follow, who is right etc. The easiest road would be to start with the popular ones. But does popularity equal quality? Certainly not every time.

This can be easily seen, for example, when visiting YouTube in incognito mode. On a new IP class maybe (privacy advocates know what I'm talking about). The homepage is filled with various videos that have no true connection to you.

And searching for a specific topic will return popular results thus arriving to our first situation/issue.

How to remedy this?

For now, I'm simply not using them as first source/choice. First I will be following leaders, people I know, authors I've read. And then I start with their accounts. Watch their content. After a while, similar content should be suggested and the journey begins. But eventually, this will lead to situation number 2.

  • Situation 2: You've been at it for a while and keep swimming in the same circles

Once you follow a number of accounts/users, and maybe you start interacting by liking, commenting, retweeting etc. the current algorithms take all these signals into consideration whenever they will suggest a topic, a channel, an account, the next video, etc.

And this is where it gets tricky. Not only because you can quickly go down the rabbit hole and become very focused on a single vertical (unintentionally) but you aren't even becoming an expert in that vertical. You will most likely become biased to a part of that vertical. For certain topics such as political ones this can quickly lead up to becoming (or at least believing, extremists).

I don't believe in extremism. On the contrary, I believe in finding your balance. Clearly, this road is not something I'm a fan of.

To sum up, the main problem with situation 2 is that it becomes much harder to listen to different perspectives. Which will not help you in making the best decisions.

How to remedy this?

First step is being aware of this potential problem. Early on is best. Second step is taking proactive measures. Making steps in purposefully searching for different perspectives and consuming and interacting with that content just as much. This will lead to balancing the suggestions from the algorithms and in turn you are increasing your chances of getting to hear "both sides" of a story.

But this requires effort. For some, this is enough to let things slip away.

This is probably the point where I would jump to another topic: the responsibilities of developers, engineers, CTOs etc. when working with algorithms, MLs and AIs. But not today. It is (or can be) a really hot debate specifically because of the huge ramifications and implications these can have on a person and on the society as a whole.

But I won't go there now. Maybe another time.

On a semi-related note, I found that a similar issue is also encountered by people who are just starting out there careers in software development. Not knowing where to go, who to listen to from the beginning, many fall pray to empty promises and waste time on useless content. Or worse, get tricked into spending a lot of money for courses which are mostly worthless.

If this is you - If you somehow stumbled upon this piece of content and are at the beginning of this wonderful journey called programming, hit me up. All you might really need is a mentor. Reach out to me via whatever medium works best for you and let's talk. It's free :).

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