5 min read

Weekend Briefing No. 5

A famous phrase bandied about in the artist and creative circles I frequent is that "good artists copy, great artists steal."
Weekend Briefing No. 5
Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA / Unsplash

Good Saturday morning! In this weekend's briefing, we cover the cost of labor that many Reddit moderators are giving away for free, highlight what a resource suck that LLMs are, investigate interesting statistics about pickleball, and talk about how you have to steal to make great art.

Interesting data points

Free Reddit labor

I recently wrote about the dumpster fire that's going on at Reddit right now, and I became interested in just how much free labor the moderators and Redditors do for the platform. It wasn't long until I found this research paper.

View of Measuring the Monetary Value of Online Volunteer Work

In 2020, Reddit moderators worked a combined 466 hours per day which is about $3.4 million per year in wages when using Upwork median hourly rate of $20. That's a lot of free labor Reddit gets from its moderators, and if reports are true that they're replacing moderators that are sabotaging their subreddits, Reddit will have to start paying for this work by hiring more people.

I can understand why some moderators and users are pissed, they put countless hours into the platform only to have the API rug pulled out from under them. Many moderators have used these third-party apps and API integration to do the hard work of moderating their subreddits.

This topic begs for a longer post and perhaps when building a forum like Reddit, you should have professional moderators that are paid from the start. I never liked the idea of changing business models or go-to-market models in midstream, especially if you have a large user base.

Large language models need to do more with less

More mainstream media is picking up on how much of a computer resource hog these large language models (LLMs) are.

The bigger-is-better approach to AI is running out of road
If AI is to keep getting better, it will have to do more with less
This gigantism is becoming a problem. If EpochAI’s ten-monthly doubling figure is right, then training costs could exceed a billion dollars by 2026—assuming, that is, models do not run out of data first. An analysis published in October 2022 forecast that the stock of high-quality text for training may well be exhausted around the same time.

While cost is a huge factor, the keyword that jumped out at me was "high-quality text for training." Not only do I worry about the resources training these models use but how "clean" and garbage free is the data?

Pickleball is growing fast

One of the reasons I still hang out on Twitter is for the strange and interesting things that cross my feed. This week's interesting thing is a Tweet by @SamRo which highlights the popularity of pickleball. Simply put, pickleball is catching on like wildfire.

Pickleball had a 150% growth rate from last year which loosely supports our single observation data point. Our tennis club has more pickleball players than ever, so much so that we took over an entire tennis court.

What's also interesting is the race and income distribution. Perhaps pickleball is just another rich white man's game, much like golf was at one time. In 2010, minorities only accounted for 20% of all golf players with men (+75%) dominating the sport.

However, if the players in our tennis club are an indication, pickleball is more of a husband & wife team sport where you play against other couples. It reminds me of the game of bridge, but outside and with balls.

End Notes

I'm closing this weekend's briefing with a famous phrase bandied about in the artist and creative circles I frequent. It's the phrase "good artists copy, great artists steal." This particular incarnation of the phrase was said by the late Steve Jobs and has existed in several forms throughout the decades, but what does it mean?

"I told you we'd meet later, unfortunately, it's in a place like this which I'd never be, I'd never hang out with these idiots after work, ever, I had fashion friends. - Jared Vennet, The Big Short

What it means is this, if you want to a be great artist, not just a good one, you have to steal ideas and foundational elements from someone great. On the surface, it's not plagiarism but it's the "storyline" you're stealing.

An Artist Explains What “Great Artists Steal” Really Means
“A good composer does not imitate; he steals,” Igor Stravinsky supposedly said. Faulkner allegedly phrased it as “Immature artists copy, great artists steal.” Steve Jobs put it most simply: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” The saying regularly inspires artists, thinkers, and dorm-room poste…

The LifeHack article compares the forest marching to Dunsinane in Shakespeare's Macbeth to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Ents uprooting themselves and marching to Helm's Deep. Tolkien either directly or indirectly stole the idea of a forest marching somewhere for battle. In the case of Macbeth, it was soldiers that cut branches of a forest and hid themselves behind but the idea was the same. Ironically, we tend to remember Tolkien's marchin forest over Shakespeare's one!

Another comparison is the Star Wars movie storyline to that of Harry Potter. They're eerily familiar and similar. Luke Skywalker is raised by his Aunt and Uncle just like Harry. They both go away to learn magic, one uses The Force, and the other spells and wands. Both main characters mature and are primed to fight a great evil.

Once again we see the same foundational elements, but I argue that it's the details that make your writing, art, or other creative endeavor great. Harry Potter and Star Wars are great stories, they share the same foundational elements but it's the details that make us forget they were stolen.

It's Han Solo's response of "I know" to Princess Leia's declaration of love for him that makes the movie The Empire Strikes Back. It's the complex character of Severus Snape that keeps us guessing as to what side is he really on that makes Harry Potter so interesting.

Yes, the foundational elements might be the same but it's the details that turn it from a good story into a great story. Details with strong foundational elements are what makes your creative and artistic endeavor great.

Take a moment to examine your creative expression, whether it's music, painting, writing, or turning wood. Think about what foundational elements you can steal from a great artist in your community and add your own details to make it something great.

Remember to smash the thumbs up or thumbs down button to let me know what you think of these weekend briefings! Thank you!