Start up: Apple v Trump, Ev Williams v text, Google’s learning bet, Snapchat’s magazine plan, and more


iOS 10’s notifications are different – but there are plenty of other changes forthcoming in September (or so). Photo by tualamac on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 14 links for you. Save some for later – don’t bloat. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Ev Williams is the Forrest Gump of the internet • The Atlantic

Robinson Meyer:

»“The worst world, the scary version, is if the tricks to get attention are a skill developed and owned primarily by profit-driven companies,” [Ev Williams] told me. “I’d go back to the food analogy. What are people going to be consuming most of the time? They’re optimizing for clicks and dollars. Can a person who has a unique perspective play that game? Are they just going to get trounced?”

This is Medium’s reason for existing: to protect individual writers in the fierce and nasty content jungles. Resistance to the centralization generally is futile, he believes, citing Wu. “That’s the way the Internet works, and that’s the way humans work,” he says. “Efficiency and ROI and economies of scale and user experience—they’re all going to drive more things to consolidate. I kind of look at that as a force of nature. But if things consolidate, does that mean that everything is shit?”

That is the Medium appeal, in a nutshell. Keeping everything from being shit. It wants to do so by adopting many of the tics and habits of the original blogosphere—the intertextuality, the back-and-forth, the sense of amateurism—without being the open web. It will use its own custom metrics, like time-spent-reading, to decide who sees what stories; and it will tend to show your friends something if you “recommend” it. Medium, yes, will just be another platform, but it will run the open web in an emulator.

«

link to this extract

 


Google’s bold move to reinvent every device on the planet • Forbes

Miguel Helft:

»the techniques used to recognize images in Google Photos are able to power StreetView’s ability to “read” signs and Project Sunroof’s ability to identify rooftops that are suitable for solar panels based on aerial images. It’s also enabling a small experimental team at Google to effectively detect diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can lead to blindness, by looking at iris scans. “It’s a pretty significant shift,” Dean says. “Word is spreading throughout the company that there is this new capability to solve problems in this way,” he says, in reference to the new AI techniques.

What started as a research project with a handful of people has grown to perhaps hundreds–Dean refuses to say how many–who have developed algorithms, computer systems and, more recently, Google’s own chips, all customized for these AI approaches. (Google Brain’s software tools are known as TensorFlow and the chips as Tensor Processing Units.) As a result there are now more than 2,000 projects inside the company applying Google Brain’s capabilities to scores of products. Dean’s group has held machine-learning office hours, and thousands of Google engineers have gone through internal courses that can last weeks. “It went from being a research project to a mainstream engineering activity,” says John Giannandrea, an AI expert appointed by Pichai to lead the company’s search efforts.

«

You have to wade through a certain amount if you’re familiar with Google, but there are useful insights here too.
link to this extract

 


Facebook is wrong, text is deathless • Kottke

Tim Carmody on the suggestion from Facebook that “video is going to take over from text”:

»Maybe this is coming from deep within the literacy bubble, but:

Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a matter of preference or necessity. And it’s endlessly computable – you can search it, code it. You can use text to make it do other things.

In short, all of the same technological advances that enable more and more video, audio, and immersive VR entertainment also enable more and more text. We will see more of all of them as the technological bottlenecks open up.

And text itself will get weirder, its properties less distinct, as it reflects new assumptions and possibilities borrowed from other tech and media. It already has! Text can be real-time, text can be ephemeral – text has taken on almost all of the attributes we always used to distinguish speech, but it’s still remained text. It’s still visual characters registered by the eye standing in for (and shaping its own) language.

«

link to this extract

 


And another thing about Theranos… • LinkedIn

Sten Westgard lists the ten stories about Theranos you may have missed last week, which range from negative to more negative to neutral:

»There’s so much that’s happened that it’s hard to know where to start. Indeed, most of the stories have been covered by other news outlets already, and by real journalists. About the only additional insight we can add here is a closer reading of the lightly redacted inspection report. Because buried in that are some performance details that no one else seems to have noticed.

Let’s start with the QC [quality control] failure rates. The inspection report details that there were significant out-of-control results for many tests, sometimes up to 87% of QC results were out more than 2 standard deviations!!

«

link to this extract

 


No Signal (and other cellular drama) • YouTube

After last week’s wonderment about whether people in Star Wars are post- (or pre-) literate, here’s how screenplay writers deal with those damn mobile phones which could scupper plots in which people are meant to be out of contact and able to call help. Texas Chainsaw Massacre never had to deal with this (though probably would have in a scene like this).
link to this extract

 


‘Could he actually win?’ Dave Eggers at a Donald Trump rally • The Guardian

Dave Eggers went to a Trump rally in Sacramento, California, incognito, and found it more mixed (racially, sexually) than you’d expect, and more relaxed, but found this:

»He has reversed himself on nearly every major issue, often in the same week, and has offered scant specifics on anything in particular – though in Sacramento, about infrastructure, he did say, “We’re gonna have new roads, bridges, all that stuff”.

His supporters do not care. Nothing in Trump’s platform matters. There is no policy that matters. There is no promise that matters. There is no villain, no scapegoat, that matters. If, tomorrow, he said that Canadians, not Mexicans, were rapists and drug dealers, and the wall should be built on that border, no one would blink. His poll numbers would not waver. Because there are no positions and no statements that matter to them. There is only the man, the name, the brand, the personality they have seen on television.

Believing that Trump’s supporters are all fascists or racists is a grave mistake. This day in Sacramento presented a different picture, of a thousand or so regular people who thought it was pretty cool how Trump showed up in a plane with his name on it. How naughty it was when he called the president “stupid”. How funny it was when he said the word “huge” the peculiar way he does, without the “h” (the audience yelled back “uuuuge!”, laughing half with him, half at him). In the same way we rooted for Clay a few years ago when he showed up as an actual actor in a Woody Allen movie, the audience at a Trump rally is thinking, How funny would it be if this guy were across the table from Angela Merkel? That would be classic.

«

It’s long, but eminently worth reading. My next question is: will Eggers go to a Hillary Clinton rally, and what would he think of what he found there? I’d like to know.
link to this extract

 


Apple won’t aid GOP convention over Trump • POLITICO

Tony Romm:

»Apple has told Republican leaders it will not provide funding or other support for the party’s 2016 presidential convention, as it’s done in the past, citing Donald Trump’s controversial comments about women, immigrants and minorities.

Unlike Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all said they will provide some support to the GOP event in Cleveland next month, Apple decided against donating technology or cash to the effort, according to two sources familiar with the iPhone maker’s plans.

Apple’s political stand against Trump, communicated privately to Republicans, is a sign of the widening schism between Silicon Valley and the GOP’s bombastic presumptive nominee. Trump has trained his rhetorical fire on the entire tech industry, but he’s singled out Apple for particular criticism – calling for a boycott of the company’s products, and slamming CEO Tim Cook, over Apple’s stance on encryption.

«

link to this extract

 


Understanding the DAO hack for journalists • Medium

David Siegel, with a long long long explanation of how someone hacked a cryptocurrency (another event that’s becoming everyday) and siphoned off a ton:

»I will call the attacker a lone male, even though I have no idea if he is one. What happened next was interesting. In an open letter to The DAO and Ethereum Community, the attacker supposedly claimed that his “reward” was legal and threatened to take legal action against anyone who tried to invalidate his work. Several people pointed out that the cryptographic signature in this message wasn’t valid — it could be fake. But it’s well written and, from a certain point of view, well reasoned: the premise of smart contracts is that they are their own arbiters and that nothing outside the code can “change the rules” of the transaction.

Later, through an intermediary, the attacker claimed that he would put a stop to the organized “theft” of his property by rewarding miners (nodes) who don’t go along with the proposed soft fork, saying:

»

[S]oon we will have a smart contract to reward miners who oppose the soft fork and mines the transaction. 1 million ether + 100 btc will be shared with miners.

«

This is clearly a complex dynamic system. These messages from “The Attacker” cannot be verified, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Next, I will try to categorize the responses from the community.

«

I’m really glad I’m not the person writing the story about this if this is the “understanding” bit. First explain to a newsdesk what DAO is; then what Ethereum is; then smart contracts; then…
link to this extract

 


Ericsson Mobility Report Q1 2016 • Ericsson

Lots and lots of things in this, such as this:

»although teens reported the lowest cellular data consumption for video streaming apps among all age groups in both July 2014 and October 2015, the higher reliance on smartphones for video viewing at any time of the day means that teen video data consumption over cellular networks is growing rapidly.

Only 30–35 year olds have a higher growth rate than teens for cellular video streaming data usage. However, the overall mobile video data consumption (including both cellular and Wi-Fi) among this group is around 2.5 GB/month. That is only a fth of the teens’ data consumption and the potential for further growth is limited due to the fact that 30–35 year olds are still rooted in traditional TV viewing behavior.

Overall, teens are the heaviest users of data for smartphone video streaming apps and have the second highest rate of cellular video data consumption growth. Since we are witnessing a generational change, current teens are likely to increase their appetite for cellular data as they grow older – making them the most important group to watch for cellular operators.

«

But plenty more, such as the internet of things outnumbering smartphone subscriptions by 2018.
link to this extract

 


Snapchat is starting Real Life, an online magazine about technology • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»In a blog post today describing the new initiative, Snapchat employee and social media critic Nathan Jurgenson writes that “Snapchat is now funding Real Life.” In an email to VentureBeat, he declined to elaborate on the nature of the funding, but he did confirm that Real Life is “owned” by Snapchat.

“Real Life will publish essays, arguments, and narratives about living with technology,” Jurgenson writes. “It won’t be a news site with gadget reviews or industry gossip. It will be about how we live today and how our lives are mediated by devices.” (This sounds a little like the turf of New York Magazine‘s recently launched Select All.) The publication will cover beauty, power, privacy, and relationships, among other things, and “we aim to address the political uses of technology, including some of the worst practices both inside and outside the tech industry itself,” writes Jurgenson.

So now Snapchat will technically have web content that is visible on desktop computers. No longer will Snapchat be constrained to mobile devices. And, at least initially, the medium will be primarily text, unlike the video stories and snaps the Southern California company has become known for.

«

Unfathomable. How does this do anything for Snapchat?
link to this extract

 


The Talk Show ✪: Live From WWDC 2016, With Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi • Daring Fireball

»Recorded in front of a live audience in San Francisco, John Gruber is joined by Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi to discuss the news from WWDC: WatchOS 3, MacOS 10.12 Sierra, iOS 10, and more.

«

There’s also a transcript. Last year it was just Schiller. (“Just” Schiller.) I guess they can pick from Schiller, Federighi and Eddy Cue for a few years before it has to aim for the top with Cook. After whom, what?
link to this extract

 


All the hidden, awesome stuff in iOS 10 Apple didn’t announce • Lifehacker

Thorin Klosowski:

»iOS updates aren’t as exciting as they used to be, so the best stuff is often the little features that slip through the keynote cracks but make your iPhone or iPad work much better. Case in point, some of the hidden stuff in early iOS 10 betas is way more exciting than what Apple actually announced this week.

«

It isn’t all but it’s a few of the more fun things – alarm redesign, Maps remembering where you parked if you used it to navigate in a car, no more “slide to unlock”, a few more. I think the death of “slide to unlock” (and its companion, where Music controls in Control Centre are now to the right) is going to be the one that causes the most perplexity.
link to this extract

 


The elements of stickers • Andreessen Horowitz

Connie Chan, a partner at venture capital company Andreessen Horowitz:

»What is surprising — especially when compared to the more mature messaging ecosystem in Asia — is that many people still tend to treat stickers (i.e., the ability to easily incorporate pre-set images into texts) as just-for-fun frivolity, when they’re an important visual digital language fully capable of communicating a nuanced range of thoughts. For example, a single sticker could convey very different messages: “I’m so hungry I could collapse” or “I miss you” or “I’m sound asleep snoring”. Complex feelings, actions, punch lines, and memes are all possible with stickers.

They are an acceptable response to “end” a real-time back and forth conversation (great for punchlines). They are a low-risk way of saying hi and initiating a chat with an acquaintance. And they reduce the social friction of saying something emotional in text form; this is especially helpful in a culture that is known to be less outwardly expressive even to one’s own family members and friends (where it is far less awkward to send a virtual-fistbump sticker than it is to tell someone directly that they’re a wonderful friend).

And sometimes stickers can convey what words cannot! This form of visual communication has become so popular in Asia — especially in China’s WeChat and Japan’s LINE — that it is not uncommon to see a deep thread of multiple messages without a single word. They’re not just for those crazy young kids. More notably, stickers are commonly used in professional, not just personal, chats as well. Not so frivolous after all. In fact, stickers are so core to the success of Line, that its CEO actually credited them as the “turning point” for that app. He shared that it took Line Messenger almost four months to find its first two million users … but after stickers were launched, it took only two days to find the next million. The company now makes over $270m a year just from selling stickers.

«

This is essential to understanding why Apple has gone so big on stickers for iOS 10’s iMessage. Chan is highly worth reading on all these topics.
link to this extract

 


How hired hackers got “complete control” of Palantir • BuzzFeed News

William Alden on how Veris Systems was hired to hack into Palantir:

»Even Palantir’s defense efforts were visible to the red team. The intruders found an “InfoSec Onboarding” page on the wiki that detailed Palantir’s security infrastructure. They monitored security devices and “ensured that their actions were not being logged.”

This was when, according to the report, the red team intruders had “complete control” of the Palantir domain. Their final task was to break into the Mac laptops of information security employees — the fortress guards. This they did, using a system that typically sent out software updates, and soon were able to get passwords and screenshots, review saved files, and “observe all user activity,” the report says.

They were finally caught while attempting to upload a screenshot to one of their own servers, according to the report. A piece of security software called Little Snitch — which regulates data sent out from a computer to the internet — was installed on one of the information security employees’ laptops, and it flagged the suspicious upload attempt, the report says. Little Snitch, while popular in the cybersecurity world, was not standard software for these employees, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Soon, Palantir security employees identified the red team’s attack tools and set up firewalls to block communications to the red team servers. These defenders “successfully demonstrated the ability to trace malicious activity across the domain and take the appropriate steps to neutralize an insider threat,” the report says.

But the red team still had an edge.

«

Veris was let through the firewall on purpose, to see what would happen if someone was spearphished. Turns out: a lot.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notifed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s