Start up: Adele v pirates, Alphabet’s challenge, Mayer’s end? and more


The authentic feel of everything from Shaft to.. everything else. Photo of a wah-wah pedal by Kmeron on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Handle with care. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Burma gives a big thumbs-up to Facebook » Foreign Policy

Christian Caryl:

As the vote count draws to a close, it’s clear that Burma’s long-suffering opposition has scored a landslide victory in Sunday’s historic national election. And the leader of that opposition knows whom to thank. As she was explaining the reasons for her party’s remarkable triumph in an interview with the BBC this week, Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said this: “And then of course there’s the communications revolution. This has made a huge difference. Everybody gets onto the net and informs everybody else of what is happening. And so it’s much more difficult for those who wish to commit irregularities to get away with it.”

She could have been a little more specific, though. When people here in Burma refer to the “Internet,” what they often have in mind is Facebook — the social media network that dominates all online activity in this country to a degree unimaginable anywhere else.

link to this extract


Inside the problem with Alphabet » The Information

Amir Efrati and Jessica Lessin:

[Larry] Page unveiled Alphabet in August as a way to empower entrepreneurs and strong CEOs to build new companies “with a long term view.” Mr. Page had already been creating new companies under Google, like Calico, the secretive life-extension startup that former Genentech CEO Art Levinson is leading.

Some of those companies wanted more autonomy from Google and its bureaucracy, on issues big and small; [Arthur] Levinson [in charge of Calico], for instance, bristled when Google’s food services staff tried to apply Google’s nutritional guidelines to dining areas that served Calico employees, according to several people Mr. Page told about it.

Many details about the new structure have yet to be figured out. They include whether and how Alphabet companies can raise outside capital; who will control the IP they create, especially if they borrowed some from the old Google; and how they will use Google’s technical infrastructure.

If Google’s world-class cybersecurity software extends to the new Alphabet companies and those companies are later spun out or sell a significant chunk of themselves to another party, will those companies still get to use the Google software? Does it make sense for people at an Alphabet company to get Alphabet stock as part of their compensation, given that the performance of Alphabet will be heavily influenced by the performance of Google Search ads?

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Wireless carriers are favouring the iPhone » The Motley Fool

Sam Mattera:

The gradual decline of contract plans has sparked a wave of innovation in the U.S. wireless industry. In the past, consumers mostly signed two-year agreements in exchange for heavily subsidized handsets. Today, they have a vast array of choices, including installment options and leasing programs. Most of these plans reduce upfront costs by doing away with down payments, and give consumers the ability to upgrade their smartphones more often.

But some of these plans – the most advantageous, in fact – are only available to buyers of Apple’s iPhone.

I could have sworn that the hot take on the end of subsidies (aka contract plans) was that it meant dire trouble for Apple.
link to this extract


The last days Of Marissa Mayer? » Forbes

Miguel Helft goes into detail and finds many of the same stories we’ve been hearing for the past couple of years:

Mayer hired some executives without fully vetting them with her team, and some of those decisions proved costly. One of her first big hires was Google sales executive Henrique De Castro, brought on as chief operating officer. De Castro failed to meet sales goals and Mayer fired him after 15 months, but not before he reportedly pocketed as much as $109 million in compensation and severance. Mayer also spent a year without a chief information officer after her IT operations chief David Dibble quit for personal reasons in 2013. In August 2014 Mayer finally announced to her executive staff that she had found the right person in Netflix executive Mike Kail, who came recommended by her husband, the investor Zachary Bogue. Three months later Netflix sued Kail for fraud, after he allegedly collected kickbacks from vendors. Yahoo quietly let him go in May.

Mayer’s propensity for micromanaging also exasperated many of her executives. By her own admission, Mayer spent an entire weekend working with a team of designers to revamp the Yahoo corporate logo, debating such details as the right slant for the exclamation point (9 degrees from vertical). Mayer also insisted on personally reviewing even minor deviations from a compensation policy she had instituted. When managers wanted to give top performers a bonus or raise above the parameters she had set, they had to write her an e-mail explaining the circumstances and wait for an approval or denial. Some managers dispute that this was a hard-and-fast rule. Mayer also insisted on reviewing the terms given to hundreds of contractors and vendors on a quarterly basis, whether they were engineers or writers or makeup artists. “She would go line by line and decide on what date a contract should end,” says a senior executive. Adds another: “It was a colossal waste of time.”

There’s detail, and then there’s detail that doesn’t merit a chief executive’s very expensive time.
link to this extract


EE proposes restrictions on mobile adverts » Telegraph

Christopher Williams:

EE, Britain’s biggest mobile operator, is considering introducing technology that will hand smartphone users the power to control the advertising they see online, in a clampdown that would cause major upheaval in the £2bn mobile advertising market.

Olaf Swantee, EE’s chief executive, has launched a strategic review that will decide whether the operator should help its 27 million customers to restrict the quantity and type of advertising that reaches their devices, amid concern over increasingly intrusive practices.

The review will look at options for creating new tools for subscribers that would allow them to block some forms of advertising on the mobile web and potentially within apps, such as banners that pop up on top of pages or videos that play automatically. EE customers could also get the ability to control the overall volume of advertising.

Mr Swantee told The Sunday Telegraph: “We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile.

“For EE, this is not about adblocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive.”

It’s about adblocking. And potentially creating a whitelist.. in paid-for manner?
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Syria’s climate-fuelled conflict, in one stunning comic strip » Mother Jones

I would hotlink to the strip directly, to embed it, but that would probably take more scrolling room than you want to bother with here. However, it makes a crucial point: the Arab Spring wasn’t caused by some abrupt realisation among the peoples of the Middle East that democracy would be nice; instead, it was driven by the rising cost of staple foods and rural displacement to cities, which created huge tensions – which authoritarian regimes couldn’t handle without causing more unrest.

Thus when people snigger at Prince Charles saying that the refugee crisis is a result of climate change, he’s not the one who’s wrong; they are.
link to this extract


Adele is NOT No.1 on this chart (and it’s a really important one) » Music Business Worldwide

Tim Ingham:

The Pirate Bay’s regularly-updated Music chart shows the 100 most popular torrents on the service in the past 48 hours.

The shock news: [Adele’s new album] 25 is nowhere. Literally nowhere.

Below, you can see the 25 most popular music files on TPB as of yesterday morning (November 22) UK time – two days after the astonishingly successful release of Adele’s new LP.

Not only does 25 not feature in the tracks we’ve featured above – it didn’t feature in the entire top 100.

It was the same story on Saturday (November 21) – a day after release – and it’s the same story this morning.

Adele did briefly claim a position on the TPB chart yesterday, MBW noticed – at No.63, with her previous release 21 – but she’s since disappeared.

Speaks again to the different generations interested in Adele. If it had been, say, a new Nine Inch Nails album, it would have been all over the pirate sites.
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I worked in a video store for 25 years. Here’s what I learned as my industry died » Vox

Dennis Perkins makes the point that a lot of it is about choice and curation:

It was a point of pride that we had everything and could turn people on to some obscurity we knew would appeal. A video store had sneaky cultural punching power — movies championed by our staff got watched. They stayed alive. You know, as long as we did.

By contrast: Netflix routinely adds and removes films at a whim based almost exclusively on licensing agreements. These agreements just don’t mean that movies any respectable video store would have remain “unavailable for streaming,” but that a substantial portion of Netflix’s (rather small) 10,000 film inventory is garbage: direct-to-DVD movies (or movies that bypass DVD for streaming entirely) accepted as part of package deals to get the rights to titles somebody might actually want to see. Although not everything you might want to see. As of this writing, you can’t watch Annie Hall, Argo, The Exorcist, This Is Spinal Tap, Taxi Driver, Schindler’s List, The Muppet Movie, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Fight Club, or Frozen on Netflix. You can, however, stream Transmorphers or Atlantic Rim, two suspiciously titled low-budget knockoffs of the movie you meant to watch.

His other key point: you had to choose to go to a video store. Netflix and its kin generally offer “let’s settle for this” content.
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How LSD microdosing became the hot new business trip » Rolling Stone

Andrew Leonard:

“Ken” is 25, has a master’s degree from Stanford and works for a tech startup in San Francisco, doing a little bit of everything: hardware and software design, sales and business development. Recently, he has discovered a new way to enhance his productivity and creativity, and it’s not Five Hour Energy or meditation.

Ken is one of a growing number of professionals who enjoy taking “microdoses” of psychedelics – in his free time and, occasionally, at the office. “I had an epic time,” he says at the end of one such day. “I was making a lot of sales, talking to a lot of people, finding solutions to their technical problems.”

A microdose is about a tenth of the normal dose – around 10 micrograms of LSD, or 0.2-0.5 grams of mushrooms. The dose is subperceptual – enough, says Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, “to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you are tripping.”

This will become the new go-to explanation for crazy startup ideas.
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The invention of the wah-wah pedal » Priceonomics

In 1965, in a small back room of a Los Angeles facility, Thomas Organ’s engineers began to build Vox amplifiers. Among these engineers was a bright-eyed 20-year-old by the name of Brad Plunkett.

Plunkett was given a challenging task by Thomas Organ’s CEO: he was to take apart a Vox AC-100 guitar amp and find a way to make it cheaper to produce while still maintaining the sound quality.

“The first thing I noticed,” he recalls in the documentary Cry Baby, “was this little switch [on the amp] entitled ‘MRB.’”

This switch, invented by British engineer Dick Denney and installed on all Vox AC-100 amps at the time, stood for “middle range boost.” When flicked on, it would highlight the middle sound frequencies of the guitar (notes between 300 and 5,000 hertz); in doing so, it would tame the extremes (very high and very low pitches), and produce a flattened, smoother sound. Plunkett realized that he could replace this pricey switch with a potentiometer – essentially an adjustable knob that divided voltages and acts as a variable resistor – and achieve the same effect.

“The switches were very expensive, about $4 each,” Plunkett continues. “The potentiometer would only cost about 30 cents.”

After a few days of fiddling around with spare parts, Plunkett succeeded in designing a circuit that could change the frequency of notes by simply rotating a potentiometer. Then, something unexpected happened.

(This makes an hour-long video.)

Patented as “foot controlled continuously variable preference circuit for musical instruments”. The patent came too late. Everyone could figure it out. Still, should the wah-wah pedal be added to the list of serendipitous discoveries, along with vulcanized rubber and Post-It notes?
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

One thought on “Start up: Adele v pirates, Alphabet’s challenge, Mayer’s end? and more

  1. Pingback: controlling pop up adverts and videos that automatically start playing | alifesgayventure

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