Start up: Reddit implodes, catching criminals via Spotify, Cameron’s mad encryption plan, and more


A better way to think of Reddit? Photo by avisualstudy on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. With added anchors, so you can link direct to observations Kontra. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Cops nab fugitives in Cabo San Lucas by tracking Spotify IP address » Ars Technica

David Kravets:

Husband Peter Barr and wife Brittany Nunn of Wellington, Colorado, were brought to Denver days ago and face felony charges in connection to the children’s disappearance. Nunn had lost custody of her children to their fathers, but she did not appear when the exchange was supposed to happen in December. The duo had been on the lam ever since, and they are accused of unlawfully taking the woman’s two biological children, 4 and 6, to Mexico, according to The Coloradoan.

The case was broken by Larimer County Sheriff’s investigator Drew Weber. According to the paper:

Drawing on new investigative tactics, Weber executed a search warrant and pulled records from Nunn’s Spotify account. He found it was being used from an IP address in Mexico. He later pulled search records from Netflix and Nunn’s other accounts and eventually tracked a package that Nunn had ordered to be shipped to Cabo San Lucas.

A private investigator soon joined Weber and helped monitor the family for months while agents with FBI, customs officials and the US State Department worked with the consulate in Mexico on a plan to bring the children and alleged abductors home.

This is how it’s going to be from now on: go on the lam, stay offline. Or get caught. And staying offline will be increasingly difficult.
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Student’s Dilemma, a riff of the Prisoner version with extra credit » Flowing Data


By way of Chris Volinsky, a quiz dilemma for students who want extra credit. It’s a variation on the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a popular game theory example that uses two criminals instead of students and lesser jail time instead of extra credit.

What’s your answer? I take the two.

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FTC exploring Apple rules for streaming music rivals in App Store » Reuters

Diane Bartz and Julia Love:

U.S. government antitrust regulators are looking into claims about whether Apple’s treatment of rival streaming music apps is illegal under antitrust law, according to three industry sources.

Apple recently launched a new music streaming service, Apple Music. It also provides the App Store platform for competing streaming services including Jango, Spotify, Rhapsody and others.

Apple takes a 30% cut of all in-app purchases for digital goods, such as music streaming subscriptions and games, sold on its platform.

While $9.99 has emerged as the going monthly rate for music subscriptions, including Apple’s, some streaming companies complain that Apple’s cut forces them to either charge more in the App Store than they do on other platforms or erode their profit margins.

That’s OK – all Apple needs to do is put its Beats sub on the App Store and take a 30% cut. Oh, wait!

But the 30% tithe has been in place since before Apple had a streaming service. Hard to see the antitrust case here, unlike the ebooks “let’s agree to alter prices upwards” case. Google also has the same 30% cut in place, and a larger market share.
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Bruce Schneier: David Cameron’s encryption ban would ‘destroy the internet’ » Business Insider

Rob Price:

amid heightened terror fears, Cameron says “we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.”

The prime minister first indicated that he would try to clamp down on secure communications that could not be decrypted by law enforcement in January, after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. His comments sparked an immediate flurry of condemnation from privacy and security activists, but his recent statements show he’s not backing down. (Number 10 has not responded to requests for clarification about Cameron’s comments.)

Business Insider reached out to Bruce Schneier to discuss the feasibility of Cameron’s proposed ban on “safe spaces” online. Schneier, a widely respected cryptography and security expert, is a fellow at the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, serves on the board of the digital-liberties pressure group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and writes frequently on encryption and security. He didn’t hold back.

The Cameron suggestions are clearly nonsense, which as Schneier points out, raises the question of why nobody around him has said “er, we can’t implement that, because it’s totalitarian, and also unworkable.”

So how does Cameron extricate himself from this?
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Why Android and Windows should embrace RAW photography before Apple catches up » The Next Web

Napier Lopez:

Sticking with JPEG is like watching The Lion King on VCR when it’s available on Blu-Ray.

Not everyone cares about taking better photos, but it’s clear many do. Just take a look at apple’s “Shot with iPhone” campaign; advertising for flagship phones centers around cameras, flaunting things like resolution and aperture when a more substantial improvement lies with a feature right under our noses.

For Android and Windows Phone, investing resources into making their RAW files more accessible can help give them a big head start over Apple. RAW support on its own is awesome, but software developers and manufacturers need to make it easy to use before the masses adopt it. I should be able to upload a RAW file straight onto Instagram, not be forced to buy a Lightroom Mobile subscription or load it onto my computer.

In any case, it’s likely RAW will come to iOS too.

Might do, although probably only as an option; it sucks up a lot of storage, and some people are already pushing it on their photo libraries.
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Reddit is not the front page of the internet » The Daily Beast

Samantha Allen with an excoriating (but also pinpoint accurate) take:

Reddit became a web destination and a traffic powerhouse by virtue of the clicking, viewing, and typing habits of a relatively narrow subsection of Internet users. 74% of Reddit users are men, the highest of any social networking website. Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube all come much closer to gender parity. Describing Reddit without making reference to its gender asymmetry is akin to reporting on Pinterest, which is 72% female, without noting that the site caters to women.

And, indeed, when The New York Times reviewed Pinterest in 2012, they rightly referred to it as “female-oriented,” but when the CEO of a 74% male social network resigns after facing intense criticism from its users—much of it laced with misogyny—they somehow forget to label Reddit, in turn, as “male-oriented.” Reddit too often passes in the media as unmarked and neutral territory while sites like Pinterest get pigeonholed as girly.

Reddit is also one of the most youthful social networks, with nearly 60% of its visitors coming in under age 34. For comparison, over 60% of Facebook users are above age 34. Increasingly, younger Internet users seem to perceive Facebook as a network for grandmas but, in 2015, grandmas are as vital a part of the internet as anyone else—even if they’d never be caught dead on its supposed “front page.” Only 2% of people over 50 use Reddit.

She also captures it in one phrase elsewhere: “Reddit is not so much the generic front page of the Internet as it is its spacious, tricked-out man cave: a lot of people can fit inside, but only some people feel comfortable hanging out there.”
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The death of Reddit » Chuq Von Rospach

Von Rospach has been in charge of online community efforts at Apple and Palm, among others:

I see poor management with a naive attitude about the use of the site, weak tools and IP, a mis-aligned power structure where there’s no need for the people with the real power to care what the company wants, no real communication between company and its moderators or users, and a lot of really toxic users and groups that have caused the site major PR and reputation disasters but which the company is both reluctant and in many cases unable to control or remove.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

How do you fix this?

You don’t. You can’t. Reddit has failed, and we are now witnessing its immolation.
So what should Reddit do? Let me say up front this basic fact: if the Reddit board were to call me up and offer me a blank check to come in and fix Reddit for them, I would laugh and hang up. I wouldn’t touch this disaster under any circumstances. But if they were to ask me what advice I have for the idiot stupid enough to take this gig, here’s what I’d tell them:

Don’t try to fix it. It’s broken. It can’t be fixed. Instead, it’s time to decide what the service you want is, and build that service out of the ashes of the failure of this Reddit. A great starting point is the AMA and the most popular reddits. Figure out the revenue model and make sure it’s baked in to this new model. Anything that isn’t part of this new model that exists on the old site will end up being shut down. you can expect that won’t go well when you announce it.

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The dark side of Google 10x » Business Insider

Jillian D’Onfro on how Google’s “10X” projects, which are meant to be the “moonshots” that are ten times better than anything else, can go awry:

One former exec told Business Insider that the gospel of 10x, which is promoted by top execs including CEO Larry Page, has two sides. “It’s enormously energizing on one side, but on the other it can be totally paralyzing,” he says. 

“Larry’s job is to point out things you haven’t thought of, so he has to suspend reality a little bit,” he said.

When it comes to building out-there ideas like smart contact lenses, that contrarian instinct makes a lot of sense. But this former employee believes it’s dangerous when that logic gets applied to products that don’t need it. 

For example, when Google was designing the remote control for its early iteration of Google TV, Page didn’t think any of the prototypes were ambitious enough.

Why doesn’t it have a screen in case you needed to go to the bathroom and keep watching? Page asked. Why not a mouse pad, a keyboard?

When the team tried to argue that a remote didn’t need those things, Page kept pushing for more ambitious features that no other controllers out there came with. 

There are more.
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Google Photos may be uploading your pics, even if you don’t want it to » Nashville Business Journal

David Arnott:

All I had to do to turn my phone into a stealth Google Photos uploader was to turn on the backup sync, then uninstall the app. Whereas one might reasonably believe uninstalling the app from the phone would stop photos from uploading automatically to Google Photos, the device still does it even in the app’s absence. Since making this discovery, I have re-created the issue multiple times in multiple settings on my Galaxy S5.

I reached out to Google, and after reaching someone on the phone and describing the issue, was told to wait for a comment. Several hours later, I received a terse email that said, “The backup was as intended.” If I want to stop it from happening, I was told I’d have to change settings in Google Play Services.

It goes almost without saying that this makes no sense, and makes me not trust Google. Plus, it seems to me to possibly represent a security issue. If I understand how Google Photos works, none of my photos were made public to the wider world. But that’s beside the point — I didn’t want Google to have them, either.

Here’s his tweet when he first discovered it. This might make sense for people who don’t really care, but you delete the app and it lives on? That’s counterintuitive.
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Consumers are ‘dirtying’ databases with false details » Call Week

It only takes a relatively small percentage of database entries to be ‘dirty’ before its value disproportionately declines, according to the report. Companies therefore need to up their efforts to encourage people to give the right information.

The research shows that 60% of consumers intentionally provide incorrect information when submitting their personal details online. Broken down by the types of data provided, birth dates are the most commonly falsified, as almost a quarter of consumers (23%) give the wrong date of birth to companies ‘some of the time’, 9% do this ‘most of the time’ and 5% ‘always’ give the wrong date.

The research also shows that nearly one-third of people give a fake email address and a made-up name at least some of the time. It is a similar story for incorrect information given about home addresses, phone numbers, job titles and company names.

“The upside of providing information has not been articulated,” says managing director at Verve Colin Strong. “The case is not always made by companies about what consumers
are going to get in return for providing information, but people see the immediate effects of being put on more marketing lists and being pursued by online advertising and email spam.”

The original article is actually on Marketing Week, but you have to register, and — you get the picture. The upside is far smaller than the downside (“happy birthday!” emails from sites you logged in to once, say).
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Microsoft mission statement: so many words, most of them empty » FT.com

The wonderful Lucy KEllaway eviscerates Satya Nadella’s memo in which he axed thousands of jobs in Windows Phone:

With some clearing of the throat about how proud he is in announcing it, the CEO unveils the new mission of Microsoft: “to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”.

The first sign of trouble is the word “planet”. There is a rule that says whenever this word is used as a substitute for “world”, the sentence in which it appears is utter tosh. If the cosmic resonance is gratuitous, the author is writing through his hat.

In the early days of Microsoft, Bill Gates came up with a vastly better mission: a computer on every desk and in every home. There was no windy nonsense about planets, nor any tiresome talk of empowering. Best of all, it was precise. The main problem with the new mission is not its grandiosity but its emptiness. Achieve more what? On this vital question, Mr Nadella is silent.

Indeed, the best way to empower people on the planet to achieve more would be to persuade them to love their mobile devices a little less and turn them off occasionally and get on with something real instead.

Not content with announcing his new mission, Mr Nadella empowers himself to achieve still more: “Today I want to share more on the overall context and connective tissue between our mission, worldview, strategy and culture.”

To have a mission and a vision and worldview is greedy. But to have so many abstract things with lots of connective tissue between them leaves one feeling slightly sick.

One good thing, though: parsing this sort of stuff will remain beyond AI for many years to come. Human: “Oh, he’s firing a ton of people in Devices.” Machine: “VOID.”
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