Start up: NHS’s unapproved Google deal, China’s smartphone bust, the email trail, design for women, and more

Well, at least they left something. Photo by iirraa on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

China’s home-grown smartphone startups face very difficult choices • Tech In Asia

Charlie Custer:

»In the early days of a company like Xiaomi, just being a Chinese smartphone startup was enough to build hype and sell phones. But a half-decade later, the Chinese smartphone market is practically overflowing with domestic competitors, and Xiaomi seems to be struggling. And while that’s arguably due in part to some poor decisions – like its new gigantic phone – I don’t envy the choices Xiaomi, or any Chinese smartphone company, has to make in the current market.

When it comes to deciding what your product strategy is going to be, there are really only four options, and none of them look appealing.


China, which is the world’s biggest smartphone market.
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Confessions of a former bike thief • Brixton Blog

Richard Cantle interviews an ex-bike thief:

»Q: So, you are an ex-bike thief from London?  When and why did you begin stealing bikes?

I started stealing push bikes when I was 16. Motivation was money; bikes are quick and easy money. There were two of us who stole pedal bikes and high performance motorbikes.

Q: Did you target specific types of bicycles and locations in London? What was the thought process?

High value bikes were the main targets like Carrera racers, no-logo fixie bikes, Boardman racers and Ridgeback bikes. These were the popular quick sale bikes that were called golds (because of the payback to time value of them).

Bike locations – there is a thing what we would call London rings or hotspots, where bike security seemed to be less of a problem. The more central you got the worse the locks, where people let their guard down more. Going out of London, locks would get better and locations fewer, so the time and effort put in would not be worth it. Borough of Islington, Hackney, West End and the central mile were our hunting grounds. The more CCTV and people the better. People are like sheep, they feel safe and pay less attention when they’re together.

At first it was a hit and miss game. Grab the bike and go kind of thing, but as time moved on and we worked out there was money to be made, we stepped up our approach. For example, if it wouldn’t sell for more than £200, it wouldn’t be taken…

…From the moment you pull up to the moment the bike is cut and bolt cutters are back on the motorbike would be 10 seconds at the most. so no one really knew what was going on. Almost, I imagine, like you have to question yourself like, did I really just see that?

No one ever confronted us or said: “What are you doing?”


Lots to absorb if you’ve got a bike in any city. But also note his motivations, which are noted elsewhere in the piece.
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London leads on open transport data • UK Authority

Mark Say:

»London has come out on top of an analysis of the performance of several major cities in providing open data on transport and mapping.

The Future Spaces Foundation, a charity that studies living spaces, has said in its Vital Cities: Transport Systems Scorecard that London’s record of providing open access to real time transport data is the best example of data sharing.

The Scorecard analyses the transport networks of 12 cities around the world on indicators ranging from breathability to the density of cycle and pedestrian networks to the use of data and apps.

London scored top marks for facilitating the creation of multi-modal apps with the open availability of its live transit feeds. But it came second to Singapore in converting data into the most user-friendly and informative travel apps.


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Shiva Ayyadurai wants my emails • Thomas Haigh

Haigh is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Ayyadurai is suing Gawker for millions for saying that he didn’t invent the concept of email:

»Shiva Ayyadurai really, really wants to look through my emails. Remember Shiva Ayyadurai? The man who has been engaged for five years on a quixotic but energetic public relations campaign to convince the world that he, and he alone, is the true “inventor of email”? Ayyadurai literally wrote the book on internet publicity. His big problem is that you can’t invent something that’s already in widespread use. Ayyadurai said that he “designed and deployed” a prototype in 1980, but historians knew very well that electronic mail had been around since at least 1965 and by the mid-1970s was the main source of traffic on what evolved to become the Internet.

I’m a historian of information technology, working in the School of Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. As chair of SIGCIS, the group for historians of information technology, I coordinated the response of the historical community to his bizarre claim. This included creating a report ( documenting what Ayyadurai was saying and comparing it to what we knew about actual email history. He rarely names me or any of the other historians who have worked on documenting the actual history of email, though his campaign has denounced the members of SIGCIS as paid stooges for Raytheon, revisionists, a cabal, and “sophisticated public relations agents that manufacture and package ‘histories,’ no different than clever propaganda, to perpetuate lies of the pre-eminence of the military-industrial-academic complex.” By this theory the entire academic history of computing community is “unconsciously cutting and copying” the work of Gizmodo blogger Sam Biddle, “believing Biddle’s sensationalistic article to be the truth.”


Ayyadurai is wasting the court’s time; I bet he thought that Gawker would fold easily after the Hulk Hogan verdict. On that, he’ll be wrong.
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The mobile-ad world sucks, and Vungle’s chief wants to make it better • VentureBeat

Dean Takahashi:

»The popularity of so many ad blockers means one thing to Zain Jaffer, chief executive of Vungle, which helps mobile game and app publishers acquire more users and make money via in-app video ads

“It tells us the advertising world sucks,” said Jaffer in an interview with VentureBeat. “Consumers are so sick of ads being intrusive that a website doesn’t even load. You need an ad blocker just to browse the Web. Advertising has become a game of … it’s the opposite of transparency.”

Vungle tries to generate more revenue for mobile-app makers and get better exposure for brands as they follow consumers into the huge mobile-apps market and the $34 billion mobile-game market. Roughly half of Vungle’s business is in games. Vungle’s video ad technology is used in apps that generate billions of views a month. And Jaffer wants to keep improving return on investment and performance so that the value of the advertising is transparent.


I’m puzzled by how people who want other people to see more adverts always start from those who use adblockers, and say “clearly, people are sick of ads! So we need to figure out how to show them ads.”
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No, eBook sales have not fallen in the UK • The Digital Reader

Nate Hoffelder:

»Like the NYTimes last fall, The Telegraph has misinterpreted data collected by a trade group and assumed that it represented the entire market. As the UK Publishers Association explained when I followed up, this is simply not true:

The figures related to publisher invoiced sales, grossed up from the PA sales monitor which represents 75% of UK publishing industry turnover (both members and non –members ) and involves both publishers and distributors.

And the PA’s data is even less than complete when it comes to ebook sales. Remember, the Author Earnings report showed that 30% of the ebook sales in the UK Kindle Store went to indie authors, and another 15% went to Amazon.

This means that 45% or more of the ebooks sold in the UK’s dominant ebook store do not show up in the PA’s annual stats. And the figure is probably worse than that given that the PA has said that their data is not complete.

Furthermore, The Telegraph’s report offers a misleading take on the market. According to The Bookseller, the PA’s stats showed that overall digital revenues rose last year.


Amazon doesn’t care if people get those stats wrong or not; it has cornered the market in ebooks.
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The world is designed for men • Medium

Kat Ely of HH Design:

»If you work an office in the U.S., you’ve probably noticed that women often find that they’re too cold, while men report being perfectly comfortable.

This is because the algorithms that dictate temperature regulation in many office buildings were designed in the 1960s for a 154 pound male. Women, who typically have smaller frames and less muscle mass, naturally feel a bit colder than men do. This, along with faulty climate control systems, leads to many women feeling uncomfortably cold at the office.

The effects of temperature go beyond comfort and have a measurable impact on performance. A 2004 Cornell Study found “that when ambient office temperature [was] increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, typing errors fell by 44 percent and typing productivity increased by 150%”.

Women in the U.S. on average make 78 cents to every dollar their male counterparts make. There are many factors that contribute to the pay gap but it seems the unintended effect of workplace climates designed for men’s comfort could be a piece of the puzzle.


Also applies – as she demonstrates – to crash test dummies, power tools, and smartwatches. Unconscious bias in design is so subtle, yet far-reaching; remember how the first version of Apple’s Health app didn’t have anything for recording menstrual periods?
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When websites won’t take no for an answer •

Natasha Singer looks at anti-customer “dark at terms” practices:

»or instance, when ride-hailing apps run promotions offering customers free rides to sign up their friends — and the friends get free rides as well — both the company and consumers benefit.

And then there’s JustFab, an e-commerce start-up that runs subscription apparel sites including, which sells fitness clothing. BuzzFeed has pilloried the site’s practices.

Last week, Fabletics was offering a “new V.I.P. membership exclusive” in which it discounts various outfits to $25. When first-time shoppers choose clothing and check out, the site gives them a pricing choice that highlights the discounted V.I.P. membership offer in black and red — while displaying the regular, non-V.I.P. price in gray.

But this initial choice page does not inform consumers that the membership involves a $49.95 monthly subscription fee for clothing. That disclosure comes at the bottom of a subsequent membership page, where the site explains that it emails members a personalized selection of clothing on the first of every month.

To avoid the $49.95 clothing fee, members must opt out online by the 5th of each month. To cancel their membership, they must call customer service.


LinkedIn also makes an appearance.
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Forbes tests new tactics to combat adblocking • WSJ

Jack Marshall:

»For the past couple of weeks, users with ad blockers turned on have gotten another option: they can still access so long as they register for a Forbes account, providing personal information, or log in via Facebook or Google. Forbes might not be able to deliver ads to those users, but obtaining that information instead might be a valuable alternative.

Users who sign in via Facebook agree to share information with Forbes including their email address, name, profile picture, age range, gender and other information that’s “public” from their Facebook profiles.

Users who sign in via Google give Forbes access to their email address, full name and any publicly available information from their Google+ profiles. Forbes is also granted permission to manage users’ Google contacts.

“Email address is always very valuable and, with proper terms of service, figuring out a way to monetize these things in the right way could be interesting,” Mr. DVorkin [of Forbes] said.


“Interesting”. Can these people not hear what they sound like?
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Exclusive: Google’s NHS deal does not have regulatory approval • New Scientist

Hal Hodson:

»Google does not have regulatory approval for its NHS healthcare deal. Two weeks ago, New Scientist revealed that Google’s artificial intelligence company DeepMind has access to the personal medical information of millions of UK patients through a data-sharing agreement with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. But that’s only part of the story.

A New Scientist investigation has found that the project is being carried out without the ethical and regulatory approval that experts say are required.

Google and the Royal Free both claim to be acting in compliance with the rules as they interpret them.

A collaboration between DeepMind and the NHS has the potential to do great things. Let loose on patient data, Google’s technology could lead to earlier diagnoses of disease, saving lives. DeepMind and the Royal Free are using the patient data to develop a medical app called Streams for monitoring kidney conditions.

Yet they do not have regulatory approval:

● Google and the Royal Free have neither applied for nor obtained ethical approval for handling patient data.
● Google has not registered its Streams app as a medical device with the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

DeepMind announced in February that it was working on Streams in partnership with clinicians at three London hospitals run by the Royal Free Trust – Barnet, Chase Farm and the Royal Free. The partnership gives Google access to data consisting of fully identifiable information – including names, addresses and details of medical conditions – for the 1.6 million patients treated at the three hospitals each year. It also includes data for all patients treated in the past five years.

However, development of the app started without first going through the ethical and regulatory approval process run by the Confidentiality Advisory Group, set up by the NHS. This was set up to ensure that such systems are safe, and to protect the interests of patients whose data is being shared.


I also want to know who owns the information and lessons from the deal. Does the NHS get to keep it?
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Theft of Kickstarter-raised funds • Peachy Printer

Ryland Grayston:

»On September 20th 2013 me and my investor David Boe launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Peachy Printer – The World’s First $100 3D Printer. The campaign was a monumental success, raising $651,091 from 4,420 backers in just 30 days.

It is important to note that David’s role in the company was Business Administration & Financial Management, while my role was Product Development & Technical Team Management. David hired an Accounting and Financial Consulting firm to assist in the management of Peachy Printer’s finances. I was confident that with my partner David, and a reputable firm watching the business end of Peachy, I had delegated the right people to ensure things were done properly, so I went to the shop and buried my head into R&D.

Peachy Printer Inc. was not established until November 6th of 2013 – weeks after the campaign had ended. At the time of incorporation myself and David each held equal shares in the company as 50% owners. Due to the fact that the Kickstarter campaign was over before Peachy Printer existed as a corporation, we did not have a corporate bank account set up to receive the funds. As a result, David’s personal account was set up to receive the funds. David promised to hold the Kickstarter funds in trust until the company account had been created. After the company account was in place, our bank manager recommended that we move the money in smaller chunks to avoid having our funds tied up if something were to go wrong with the transfer. David then transferred $200,000 to cover initial operating expenses.

It was David’s responsibility to transfer the remainder of the funds to the corporate account. This was never accomplished. Instead, the funds remained in David’s personal account, and by March 5th – just five months after receiving the funds – he had spent every penny. The total amount of stolen funds – $324,716.01

David claims that he intended to pay the money back before I could realize it was gone, but evidently he failed to do so.


Evidently. Grayston is now encouraging people to get the Canadian police to investigate.
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Bangladesh Bank heist similar to Sony hack; second bank hit by malware • Reuters

Jim Finkle and Sanjeev Miglani:

»In Bangladesh, cyber-security experts hired by the central bank said in a report that hackers were still inside the bank’s network, monitoring the investigation into one of the biggest cyber heists in the world. Reuters reviewed parts of the report, but the source who shared the document declined to provide access to its full contents, saying the release of some details could hamper a multinational effort to catch the criminals.

Asked about the report, a Bangladesh Bank spokesman said: “We have engaged forensic experts to investigate the whole thing, including this.” He did not elaborate.

Investigators have determined that one team of hackers, dubbed Group Zero in the report, was responsible for the heist and remained inside the network. Group Zero may be seeking to monitor the ongoing cyber investigations or cause other damage, but is unlikely to be able to order fraudulent fund transfers, the investigators wrote.

Two other groups are also inside the bank’s network, which is linked to the SWIFT international transaction system, the report found. One of the two is a “nation-state actor” engaged in stealing information in attacks that are stealthy but “not known to be destructive”, it said.


That’s three separate hacking groups inside the system. They make it sound like having mice rather than people intent on stealing all your money.
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.Blog • Matt Mullenweg

»It’s now public that Automattic [the company behind] is the company behind Knock Knock Whois There LLC, the registry for the new .blog TLD. (And a great pun.) We wanted to stay stealth while in the bidding process and afterward in order not to draw too much attention, but nonetheless the cost of the .blog auction got up there (people are estimating around $20m).


Trademark registrations start August, the free-for-all in October. Might this be he TLD that people actually want?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

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