Don't Get X'd

I am proposing yet another definition of X. It is a verb this time.

You know that you’ve been X’d when the platform that you’ve been sharecropping on suddenly pulls the rug out from under you.

Are you familiar with Nassim Taleb’s parable of the turkey?

If not, here’s a quick summary from my friend Claude:

The parable goes that a turkey is fed by a farmer every day for 1000 days. Each day confirms the turkey’s belief that the farmer cares for it and will continue feeding it. On day 1001, right before Thanksgiving, the farmer kills and eats the turkey.

The point is that the turkey suffered from confirmation bias and misunderstood its true environment. Just because something has worked numerous times in the past doesn’t mean it will necessarily continue working that way in the future. The turkey made the mistake of inductively inferring a rule from a set of observations that were not representative of the full set of possible observations.

So in essence, the parable is a cautionary tale about the problem of induction, optimism bias and believing the future will resemble the past without enough evidence to support that belief. It’s meant to encourage wariness of black swan events - those that lie outside the realm of regular expectations but carry extreme impact.

(If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend The Black Swan.)

There’s also the story about the highly profitable McDonald’s at the top of the volcano. (It’s a very short story.)

I’m not recommending that everyone switch to running Arch Linux. As they say, “Linux is only free if your time is worth nothing”. In fact, these days I’m not really trying to give recommendations.

Instead of advice, here are some questions I’m asking myself, in an attempt to not get X’d. More accurately, to make f(x) less painful when I inevitably do get X’d. (RWRI joke)

  • Do I own it? (Am I paying for it? What exactly do I own?)
  • Can I export all of my data? (And how painful is that operation? And have I actually tried practicing getting my data out? )
  • What is the “true” business model of the company making the product/platform?
  • How much will my life suck if Elon Musk buys the company that makes this product?
  • How long has it been around? (Lindy’s Law)