Start up: pregnant on the internet, mapping road deaths, think car!, the joy of comments, and more

Multiply by 2.5 million, and you get an expensive sort-of recall. Photo by HL | B on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Without a doubt. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The internet thinks I’m still pregnant • The New York Times

Amy Pittman was overjoyed to find herself pregnant (and downloaded an app to follow her embryo’s virtual progress), and then deeply saddened when she miscarried at one month:

»all those milestones I had been anticipating came and went: first ultrasound, hearing the heartbeat, fingernail development, the gender reveal and so on.

Had I been pregnant, each phase would have filled me with excitement, trepidation and wonder. As each non-milestone ticked by, I lay awake at night imagining the little chocolate chip growing to the size of a walnut and then a peach as the sadness descended upon me and remained until I fell asleep.

I hadn’t realized, however, that when I had entered my information into the pregnancy app, the company would then share it with marketing groups targeting new mothers. Although I logged my miscarriage into the app and stopped using it, that change in status apparently wasn’t passed along.

Seven months after my miscarriage, mere weeks before my due date, I came home from work to find a package on my welcome mat. It was a box of baby formula bearing the note: “We may all do it differently, but the joy of parenthood is something we all share.”


Yes, you guessed. The app passed on her pregnancy status (even though she had told it of her miscarriage).
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People in Los Angeles are getting rid of their cars • BuzzFeed News

Priya Anand:

»Eric Spiegelman grew up in a six-car family in the San Fernando Valley and has lived in Los Angeles for the majority of his life. At the end of May, he let the lease on his Volkswagen CC expire, opting to live car-free in a city synonymous with car culture. For the past three months, he’s been commuting to and from work exclusively via Uber and Lyft — mostly using Pool and Line, cheaper options that allow passengers to share trips with other riders on similar routes.

“It ran so contrary to the culture that I’d been brought up in, and also my sense of what was doable,” Spiegelman, 39, told BuzzFeed News. “It was the most unnatural feeling thing at first. But it was so freeing.”
An understandable sentiment — after all, Spiegelman is president of the LA Taxicab Commission.

Spiegelman had been studying the economics of riding Uber and Lyft versus a taxi or driving a personal vehicle when he decided to run the math for his own car. He made a spreadsheet outlining the cost of leasing his Volkswagen: $458 monthly for the lease itself, $158 for insurance, $70 for gas, and at least $72 for parking, for a total cost of about $758. Based on those calculations, he said he has saved more than $1,100 in the last three months, spending an average of $3.42 for each UberPool or Lyft Line ride to work in August.


Thinly sourced; there’s no real data on how many people are getting rid of their cars. But as an indicator, it could be relevant. Parking tickets (and the hassle of finding parking places) rather than other costs might be important. Notice how large parking charges were in Spiegelman’s calculation.
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How the Apple iCar could crack the automotive industry • Autocar

Greg Kable:

»Those who have held talks with the Apple president during the past 12 months, including executives from Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz are under no illusion of the company’s intentions. They are convinced Cook has already given the go-ahead to the partly autonomous iCar and expect it will be launched by 2021 as a precursor to a fully autonomous successor model to be introduced around 2026 as regulatory conditions are altered to allow features such as fully automated parking.

Apple’s goal? An initial 500,000 sales annually, according to those that have met with Cook. That might not sound like much for a company that manages to shift some 230 million smartphones each year. However, it is an acceptable target for a company new to the automotive scene and 10 times what another one of California’s electric car startups, Tesla, managed in 2015. As a further point of reference, combined sales of the BMW i3 and i8 totalled just 29,500 last year.

To ensure widespread appeal for the Apple car, Cook is relying on the implementation of what automotive business leaders interviewed by Autocar describe as “disruptive technologies” – a term given to features that are expected to significantly change the face of motoring in much the same way the touchscreen altered our use of the mobile phone: highly efficient electric propulsion, rapid charging, autonomous driving capability, gesture control, holographic displays, wireless internet functions, artificial intelligence… the list goes on.

The iCar will get you from A to B, but it’s set to be much more than mere transport for masses. Like the iPhone, it has been conceived to also be a personal assistant with a level of connectivity far beyond that of any existing car of today.


There’s a fair bit of speculation, but also plenty of hard fact in this. The 500,000 sales figure is gigantic in comparison to other electric car companies. One to watch.
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Mapping traffic fatalities • Lucas Puente

»On Monday, August 29, DJ Patil, the Chief Data Scientist in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Mark Rosekind, the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), announced the release of a data set documenting all traffic fatalities occurring in the United States in 2015. As part of their release, they issued a “call to action” for data scientists and analysts to “jump in and analyze it.” This post does exactly that by plotting these fatalities and providing the code for others to reproduce and extend the analysis.


Looks like this:

I know: close all the roads! Should sort it. (Something like this would be great for the UK too, of course. The data thing.)
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Huge damages: Samsung unlikely to achieve goals of sales, operating profit after Galaxy Note 7 recalls • BusinessKorea

Cho Jin-young:

»The biggest problem is sales suspension of the new handset. When a company has low sales, it makes more losses. A senior official from the industry said, “The more smartphones a company produces, the lower fixed costs it will achieve. So, operating profits can rapidly reduce when production stops and there are no new sales due to the incident. The amount can even reach trillions of won.”

Marketing is another problem. The company has to delay or cancel new marketing campaigns which are scheduled this month. An official from the industry said, “There are limits to increase production so the company can boost the production by 10 to 20 percent. However, it is impossible to double it. The company may have an extensive marketing plans after the release and it will make an additional loss when the plan doesn’t go well as scheduled.”

This is why some market watchers say that the company will see a vicious cycle that new sales suspension and contracted marketing plans can lead to the decrease in operation profits and then to lower sales of new products. In particular, many expect that it is the structure that hit both semiconductor and display sectors at the same time. It means that the low sales of the Galaxy Note 7 will adversely affect on the performance of the semiconductor and display divisions of Samsung Electronics, reducing the total profits. Moreover, how to bear losses with component firms will have a considerable effect on the performance.


Estimates it will hit profits in the quarter by $1.3bn. I wonder, though, if it will lose sales: the Note 7 is hardly an impulse buy, so wouldn’t those who want it be prepared to wait? Also, it’s not quite an official recall; it’s a sort-of sales halt with replacement. (Recalls are more expensive.)
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Apple reportedly hikes order volumes for new iPhone devices • Digitimes

Siu Han and Steve Shen:

»Apple reportedly has revised upward orders by 10% for parts and components needed for production of the new iPhone devices scheduled to be released on September 7, according to sources from the iPhone supply chain in Taiwan.

The hike in order volumes indicates that Apple still remains positive about replacement demand for new iPhones from existing iPhone users, said the sources, adding that Apple originally predicted that shipments of the new iPhone devices in the second half of 2016 will reach only 60% of iPhone shipments recorded in the year earlier period.

Shipments of iPhone 6s reached 30m units a month on average in the second half of 2015, the sources noted.


So that’s.. 66% of last year’s figure? Or 70%? Either way, the market saturation at the top end is biting.
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Dan Lyons: ‘It made me confront myself… I’d never felt old before’ • The Guardian

Andrew Anthony interviewed Lyons, whose wonderful book Disrupted is now published in the UK:

»Q: As a tech journalist, startups weren’t an entirely new world to you. But were you taken by surprise?
DL: It was a big revelation. I had a lot of ideas about what it would be like. They turned out to be wrong or incomplete. One big thing, for example: I always thought that when these tech guys go on about changing the world and making it a better place that once us reporters went home and they were on their own they sort of laughed. That they were cynical and it was bullshit.

I didn’t expect that there were people who really believed that stuff. I was really taken aback by that. I thought, I can do that fake changing the world shit. I can do that marketing song and dance, I know the racket. But I was shocked by that – that people had really drunk the Kool-Aid.

Q: One point you make in your book is that the financial structure of startups is less about creating new products than shifting money to a few fortunate individuals. Was that a shock?

DL: You think I’d have known that beforehand. I think I’d never seen it that clearly. It was a revelation to me that to some of these guys, the companies were secondary to extracting money. The companies were just vehicles to achieve that.


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These are the subtle tweaks that Kayak, Google, and Marriott are using to make you spend more • Quartz

Leslie Josephs:

»Earlier this year, travel search site Kayak swapped out the word “Select” when listing flight options to “View Deal” and said a 1% bump in revenue followed. For its Europe site, Kayak highlighted a recent price decline using a bright green font, which also led to a 1% increase in sales.

It gets higher commissions from hotel bookings than from airlines, so it also sets hotels as the default search on its site, even though some customers may have other preferences for their lodging.
Kayak told Quartz it conducts some 30 experiments a month, testing out new designs and language. Many users may not even notice anything has changed on the site. (Google this summer also added a “deal” label that pops up when a hotel’s price is below historical rates for certain dates.)

Where you book may not seem like a big deal, but it is to a hotel company, which doesn’t want to pay out a commission to third-party online travel agents like Kayak. So they’re trying to make life easier.


When Google did its search deal with AOL, the finance was on a knife edge. Then one of the coders discovered that putting the search ads in bold led to more clicks. It guaranteed Google’s profit. Tweaks can make a big difference.
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Everyone seems to hate online reader comments. Here’s why I treasure them • The Washington Post

Margaret Sullivan:

»I find value in reader comments that can’t be adequately reproduced elsewhere. The argument that the conversation has migrated to Facebook and Twitter is flawed. Those are good places for discussion, but they are no substitute for having discussion take place where the story itself lives. I’m convinced that many smart readers with something to contribute will not follow a story onto social media to talk about it. News organizations should fix online comments rather than ditch them.

They need fixing, for sure. Too often, they are a place where trolls congregate, ready to offer their mean-spirited opinions. Too often, comments are racist, misogynistic, abusive and even libelous. They can also hurt newsgathering, sometimes criticizing reporters’ sources and making them more reluctant to talk to reporters next time.

In 2010, when I was the editor of the Buffalo News, managing editor Brian Connolly and I were disturbed enough by the gutter-bound, destructive comments to try an experiment. It was weird enough to get us some national attention, though that wasn’t our goal: we took away the anonymity of reader comments, requiring readers to use their names and tell us their locations, in much the same way as traditional letters to the editor.

It was inconvenient and time-consuming for us, and it reduced the number of comments substantially — but it made a world of difference in terms of civility.


I will write at greater length about comments (honest), but the key problem with news sites’ use of them is that they don’t have a method to highlight good ones and make the useless ones vanish. Good comments are invaluable. But without being able to find the good ones quickly, you’re left with a timesucking morass.
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Vendors realising the importance of robust offline smartphone distribution in tier 2&3 cities and beyond • IDC India

»The China based vendors on the back of their quality products at affordable prices and wide availability have largely contributed to the growth of price segment $150-$200 & $200-$250 across top 30 cities contributing 28% in Tier 1 cities in Q2 2016 as compared to 19% in Q1 2016 and 24% in Tier 2&3 cities as compared to 17% in the previous quarter.

“Apart from Reliance Jio (Lyf), other Indian vendors were unable to hold on to their market share in Q2 2016. Similar was with global vendors except for Samsung which managed to sustain its market leadership position. This has led to a sharp increase in the market shares of China based vendors across all Tiers even with their mid segment ASPs (ranging from $150-$200) purely on the back of strong distribution channel, better channel schemes and huge promoter programmes as compared to the rest” says Varun Singh , Market Analyst, IDC India. “This is a clear indication that the offline channel cannot be wished away by vendors for operating long term in highly competitive Indian market” adds Singh.


Chinese vendors, unable to find growth at home, are muscling in on India. Meanwhile Apple’s tiny share of the overall market there translates to a 35.6% share of the $300+ market.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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