Setapp's alternative mobile App Store & Subconscious winding down

AI's major alien concept is transparency, Setapp launches alternative mobile App Store, The Happiness Trinity, and a lot more in this week's issue of Creativerly.

Setapp's alternative mobile App Store & Subconscious winding down

My name is Philipp and you are reading Creativerly, the weekly digest about creativity and productivity-boosting tools and resources, combined with useful insights, articles, and findings from the fields of design and tech. The newsletter built for the creative community.

Hey and welcome to Creativerly 274 👋

Today's post felt a bit like a rant when I was writing it. I read through it multiple times and felt the urge to edit it, however, I then got reminded that I was writing down what I was thinking, my thoughts, emotions, and feelings. My posts should feel real and authentic. I do not want to create wrong impressions. This is how I view certain topics, and I am writing about them to express those views.

Nevertheless, I want to keep a professional tone of voice, instead of just being sensational. I favor a certain level of criticism, but I do not want to sound like a pessimist. All of that reminded me that although I am writing online for over five years now, I am still developing and evolving my writing and my style. I am still learning and polishing my words. It is a constant process, and I love it.

AI's major alien concept is transparency

AI is the talk of the town. The news are packed with reporting on which apps implemented their new AI integrations, which companies are trying to change the world with their new AI-powered idea, and who made data scraping deals with OpenAI. Regarding the latter, OpenAI introduced Data Partnerships in November 2023. In an announcement post, the company mentioned their interest in large-scale datasets that reflect human society and that are not already easily accessible online to the public today. With those datasets, OpenAI wants to create an open-source archive to train language models, but also prepare private datasets for training proprietary AI models. In the following months after that announcement, OpenAI partnered with the Icelandic Government, the Free Law Project, Axel Springer (one of the biggest publishers and owner of Business Insider, Politico, Protocol, among others), Le Monde and Prisa Media, the Financial Times, WordPress and Tumblr, Stack Overflow, and Reddit. Most of those deals are about using data provided by those platforms to train AI models and improve ChatGPT. However, as tech companies tend to use everything else besides clear language, it is unclear what kind of data is used in what way, or for how long the training of the AI models has already been a thing before announcing a new partnership.

The voices against those kind of partnerships are predominating. Once OpenAI and Stack Overflow announced their partnership to scrub the site's forum posts to train ChatGPT, loads of users started removing or editing their questions and answers to prevent them from being used to train AI. It was a form of protest which resulted with bans from the Stack Overflow moderators. Ben, who is a UI Programmer at Epic Games, shared his experience editing his most successful answers to try avoid having his work stolen by OpenAI, in a Mastodon post, highlighting that his account got suspended and his edited posts revoked.

Ultimately, transparency seems to be the major alien concept for any company operating within the field of AI or partnering with another AI-driven company. But why? It seems so easy to be transparent about the actions you take. If you need my data and you inform me about the reasons you need it, how you are going to process, store, and secure it, I am open to discuss whether my data can make a real difference. Just scraping data, train AI models, and leaving the people out who get forced to provide that data is not the right move.

It is fascinating to see this whole sector grow at an immense speed, while there are still so many uncertainties, privacy issues, and the fact that so many stuff is happening behind closed doors. Although, most of the products within that sector rely on users, it feels like they do not care about them. All they are caring about is data.

One of the most recent examples for that behavior is Slack. As loads of platforms and apps out there, Slack charged ahead with an AI vision. Slack AI's goal is to help you work smarter and save time with AI features. Among them, finding answers faster, summarising conversations, getting a daily recap of messages missed, and more. I am amazed how busy people at Slack must be that they think AI is the savior for those "tedious" tasks. In case you receive so many messages on Slack that you feel the need for a daily recap of the messages you have missed, you might need to rework your overall communication workflows. If you need human conversations in Slack summarised by AI, I feel sorry for you that you prefer some computer generated tone of voice instead of reading through that conversation to fully understand opinions and ideas provided by your colleagues.

As many other companies, Slack is using its own user data to train some of its AI services. And obviously, everyone is opted in by default. After a post on Hacker News went viral, people found out that the terms for the collection of user data to train its AI services are tucked away in an out-of-date and confusing privacy policy. It is unclear where Slack is applying its AI privacy principles. There is a clear lack of transparency. However, there is also a lack of brain cells, since Slack requires you to send an email to a specific support address in case you would like to opt out of allowing the scraping to train Slack's AI models. By the way, according to the mentioned privacy policy, Slack is using customer data to specifically train "global models" which Slack uses to power channel and emoji recommendations as well as search results. So, to summarize, you share your data with Slack to train AI models, which recommend you ... emojis. Let us pour billions of dollars into an industry that provides us and perfections emoji recommendations. Lovely. I know, I am getting cynical now.

Nevertheless, it is unclear to me how something like that can happen? How is this possible? How is this even legal? What drives those companies, those leaders? It does not feel like that they seek for change, innovation, or solving life-changing problems.

AI is developing fast, way too fast. It is developing that fast, that all those companies switch off their brains for the sake of banking millions of dollars and leaving user privacy aside. Getting back to the Slack example, in a piece by TechCrunch, they shared the following paragraph:

In a reply to one critical take on Threads from engineer and writer Gergely Orosz, Slack engineer Aaron Maurer conceded that the company needs to update the page to reflect “how these privacy principles play with Slack AI."

Slack has been entitled to be home of some of the smartest people in the world. Yet, the decision to ship AI-powered features, opt-in all your users to train "global models", scrape your users' data without informing them about those changes, not providing any insights how the data gets handled, prevent confusion and uncertainty, seems like one of the dumbest decision made.

The fast-paced world of AI development is no excuse for not caring about user data. Once our data gets involved, the least thing to expect from the company handling it, is transparency.

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Fresh Updates & News

Setapp Mobile alternative App Store

MacPaw just launched its Setapp Mobile App Store as an invitation-only beta in the EU. Setapp Mobile is an alternative app store that could potentially shake up the entire sector. The EU's Digital Markets Act forced Apple to allow third-party marketplaces for iPhone apps. After the launch of AltStore PAL, Setapp Mobile is the second alternative app store to launch in the EU, opening up an exciting new way of using an iPhone.

As of writing this, The Setapp Mobile App Store is only available as private beta and to get access to it, you need to wait for your invite. The invite-only version currently includes 13 apps, which are Focused Work, CleanMyPhone, SideNotes, Itemlist, Taskheat, MonAI, Mindr, NeatNook, Subjects, BasicBeauty, Optika, Downie, and ClearVPN. In the open beta version, which is set to launch later in the summer, users will get access to over 30 apps.

You can sign up for the waitlist to secure your spot for the invite-only beta of Setapp Mobile.

CleanShot X* →

The newest CleanShot update (version 4.7) brought some exciting new enhancements, improvements, and features. One of the most requested features is now here, the possibility to easily change the screenshot resolution without leaving CleanShot. Besides that, this update introduces a new smart highlighter, which can automatically detect words and adjust the brush size accordingly. You can now also automatically apply your presets to all screenshots, text automatically gets formatted into left-aligned paragraphs for easier reading (especially for longer texts), choose between 10 new backgrounds, and a lot more.

To get a full overview of all the updates and improvements, make sure to check out this lovely video by Matt Bircher.

Subconscious winding down

In March 2021, Gordon Brander announced that he has started working on something new at the intersection of an autopoetic feedback loop between your past and future self, a knowledge garden, a particle collider for your thoughts, a seed crystal for a new multiplayer computing platform, and an open-ended and evolvable distributed system. The result of that was Subconscious, which he and his team developed for the last three years, and raised a seed round in 2022. Throughout those three years, Gordon Brander shared insights into the Subconscious Alpha, Noosphere (a protocol for thought), the soft launch of the Subconscious Beta, and more.

In the most recent newsletter, Gordon Brander shared the news, that Subconscious is winding down, as he realized that they did not find product-market fit, were aiming at the wrong target, and that the shape is wrong, the runway too short. In the newsletter, Brander gave some sort of retrospective of what went wrong and what went right, as well as a small teaser of what Brander will work on next.

Mental Wealth

Why it seems like the sky is falling for digital design, and how to come out of the storm stronger - “If you are a designer and look around the internet now, it’s tough. It seems like it is all falling apart as our inboxes and feeds are filled with alarming headlines such as ‘UX is dead, we killed it’, ‘Designers are facing an existential crisis’, or even ‘The big design freak-out: Design leaders grapple with their future’, ‘All my friends are quitting design’ and more. It's no wonder that many are second-guessing their career choices and their future in the industry. But is this wave of pessimism just a noise, or is there indeed something more profound going on?

The Happiness Trinity – “After writing about how and why Americans are depressed, I thought I’d turn things around for a change. What matters most for happiness—marriage, money, or something else entirely?”

Craft and beauty: The ROI of marrying form and function – “It’s easy to dismiss craft and beauty as mere aesthetics, says Katie Dill, Head of Design at Stripe. But that changes in a crowded market. “The quality and details become the differentiation,” she says. “We’re eager to prioritize craft and beauty not simply because we think the world is better when it’s more beautiful, but also because quality is important for growth.” In fact, it was this focus on quality and details in the Stripe Optimized Checkout Suite that helped businesses using it see 11.9% more revenue on average.”

Four Responses to Feedback – “If feedback isn't a gift, what is it? It's data. About our impact on a particular individual at a particular point in time. And while it may be "true" in the sense that the feedback-giver is accurately representing their perspective, that doesn't make it The Truth. Because feedback always says as much about the giver as the recipient. It's filtered through their reality-distortion fields, reflecting their personal values and priorities.”

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I just published the second part of a recently introduced content series on Creativerly: Tiny macOS utility apps I love. In the second post, I wrote about OpenIn, SideNotes, and Dropzone.

❯ Quick Bits

Till next time! 👋‌‌‌‌

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