Start Up: ‘heartbreak’ monetisation, Chrome’s blockers, Trump’s lying success, and more


Spotify’s hardware probably won’t look like this. So what will it look like? Photo by Blixt A 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 10 links for you. But in which number base? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Spotify to launch hardware, cites Alexa and Snapchat • Zatz Not Funny!

Dave Zatz:

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A trusted source indicates that Spotify, the highly regarded music streaming service, will soon follow in Snapchat’s footsteps with a foray into hardware. While details on the upcoming “wearable” were not provided, several job listings seemingly provide clues.

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Job 1: sr product manager – hardware:

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join the Platform & Partner Experience team working to build frictionless and creative Spotify experiences via fully-connected hardware devices. You will be leading an initiative to deliver hardware directly from Spotify to existing and new customers; a category defining product akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles. You will define the product requirements for internet-connected hardware, the software that powers it, and work with suppliers/manufacturers to deliver the optimal Spotify experience to millions of users.

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Job 2: product manager – voice:

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responsible for the strategy and execution of Spotify’s voice efforts beyond our core apps. Our tribe is responsible for all Spotify consumer experiences outside of Spotify’s core iOS and Android applications. We focus on areas like desktop, TVs, speakers, cars, wearables, headphones and partner application integrations to make Spotify available wherever our users are.

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I’m tempted to say that Spotify has decided to find more ways to lose money, but hardware could actually be a clever way to lock people in to the ecosystem. Worked for Apple.
link to this extract


We can do better • Unroll.me

Jojo Hedaya is CEO of the company which was revealed to be gathering data from everyone signed up to its service so it could resell it to companies such as Uber:

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Our users are the heart of our company and service. So it was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service.

And while we try our best to be open about our business model, recent customer feedback tells me we weren’t explicit enough…

…I can’t stress enough the importance of your privacy. We never, ever release personal data about you. All data is completely anonymous and related to purchases only. To get a sense of what this data looks like and how it is used, check out the Slice Intelligence blog.

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This is probably the most hilarious use of “heartbreaking” ever. (Unroll.me offers to “clean up your inbox. Instantly see a list of all your subscription emails. Unsubscribe easily from whatever you don’t want.” Nothing in its FAQ about selling your data.
link to this extract


Uber loses another top executive as Marakby departs • Automotive News

Katie Burke:

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Sherif Marakby, vice president of global vehicle programs at Uber, left his post at the ride-hailing company on Monday.

Marakby, 51, who joined Uber in April 2016 after a 25-year career at Ford Motor Co., helped the tech company launch its self-driving ride-hailing pilot program in Pittsburgh. A source close the matter said Marakby will be taking a break before deciding what comes next.

“Self-driving is one of the most interesting challenges I’ve worked on in my career, and I’m grateful to have contributed  to what will soon be a safer future for everyone,” Marakby said in a statement.

Marakby’s move to Uber after serving as Ford’s director of global electronics and engineering was viewed as a merger between legacy automakers and the Silicon Valley upstarts looking to transform the industry.

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“Unrelated to the Waymo lawsuit”, per statement. That suggests things are even worse than you think.
link to this extract


Demo • Lyrebird

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Lyrebird will offer an API to copy the voice of anyone. It will need as little as one minute of audio recording of a speaker to compute a unique key defining her/his voice. This key will then allow to generate anything from its corresponding voice. The API will be robust enough to learn from noisy recordings. The following sample illustrates this feature, the samples are not cherry-picked.

Please note that those are artificial voices and they do not convey the opinions of Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

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This is all getting slightly worrying.
link to this extract


How Trump succeeds without succeeding • POLITICO Magazine

Michael Kruse:

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He flopped as an owner of a professional football team, effectively killing not only his own franchise but the league as a whole. He blew up his first marriage, married his mistress, and then divorced her, too. He bankrupted his casinos five times over the course of nearly 20 years. His eponymous airline existed for less than three years and ended up almost a quarter of a billion dollars in debt. And he has slapped his surname on a practically never-ending sequence of duds and scams (Trump Ice bottled water, Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, Trump magazine, Trump Mortgage, Trump University—for which he settled a class-action fraud lawsuit earlier this year for $25m). Other risk-taking businessmen might periodically cop to falling short while pivoting to what’s next. Not Trump. He has dealt with his roster of losses largely by refusing to acknowledge them as anything other than wins.

More than a belief in the power of positive thinking or the casual audacity of a tireless salesman, Trump has perfected a narrative style in which he doesn’t merely obscure reality—he tries to change it with pronouncements that act like blaring, garish roadside billboards. Unrelenting in telling his own story, he has defined himself as a success no matter what—by talking the loudest and the longest, and by insisting on having the first word and also the last. And it’s worked. Again and again, throughout his adult life, Trump in essence has managed to succeed without actually succeeding.

This, not his much-crowed-about deal-making prowess, is Trump’s most singular skill, I’ve heard in more than a dozen recent interviews.

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Kruse also finds that some people think he’s going to continue doing this – and that for some people, that will be enough to indicate that he has succeeded, facts be damned.
link to this extract


Transcript of AP interview with Trump • Associated Press

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A transcript of an Oval Office interview Friday with President Donald Trump by AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace. Where the audio recording of the interview is unclear, ellipses or a notation that the recording was unintelligible are used…

…AP: Do you feel like you’ve been able to apply that kind of a relationship [as you had with the Italian prime minister] to your dealings with Congress as well?

TRUMP: I have great relationships with Congress. I think we’re doing very well and I think we have a great foundation for future things. We’re going to be applying, I shouldn’t tell you this, but we’re going to be announcing, probably on Wednesday, tax reform. And it’s — we’ve worked on it long and hard. And you’ve got to understand, I’ve only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do Obamacare. I’ve been here 92 days but I’ve only been working on the health care, you know I had to get like a little bit of grounding right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I’ve been working on health care for 60 days. …You know, we’re very close. And it’s a great plan, you know, we have to get it approved.

AP: Is it this deal that’s between the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus, is that the deal you’re looking at?

TRUMP: So the Republican Party has various groups, all great people. They’re great people. But some are moderate, some are very conservative. The Democrats don’t seem to have that nearly as much. You know the Democrats have, they don’t have that. The Republicans do have that. And I think it’s fine. But you know there’s a pretty vast area in there. And I have a great relationship with all of them. Now, we have government not closing. I think we’ll be in great shape on that. It’s going very well. Obviously, that takes precedent.

AP: That takes precedent over health care? For next week?

TRUMP: Yeah, sure. Next week. Because the hundred days is just an artificial barrier. The press keeps talking about the hundred days. But we’ve done a lot. You have a list of things. I don’t have to read it.

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Lots of this is nonsense, or nonsensical. Trump hasn’t got any sort of consensus among Republicans about what to do on health care, and the clock is ticking – this week is the deadline – towards a government shutdown. Reading the whole thing is to gain an insight into someone who misrepresents, forgets, or just ignores reality.

Might work in business. Don’t see how it can work with a gigantic legislature that can block what you do.
link to this extract


35% of Google Chrome users blocking ads on desktop • GlobalWebIndex Blog

Katie Young:

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Rumors emerged last week that Google could be planning to add default ad-blocker functionality to its mobile and desktop versions of Chrome – a move that could potentially halt the growth of third-party options and give Google more control over the definition of what is an ‘acceptable ad’.

GlobalWebIndex’s research shows that Chrome is by far the most popular desktop web browser at a global level. And usage of ad-blockers has taken off among its users: over a third of those who use the desktop version of Chrome are currently blocking ads on their main computers, with figures on or above the 30% mark in all the 5 regions.

Clearly, then, this move by Google could resonate with a large section of its user base. And there is another key aspect here – mobile. Mobile ad-blocking has been slower to take off in the West, but it’s not hard to see how default ad-blocking in a mobile browser as popular as Chrome could be a game-changer here.

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Looking at that graphic, it looks more like Google wanting to ensure that in fact the ads that get blocked aren’t theirs – because at the moment I bet a lot of that 40% in the US (and nearly the same in Europe) hits them. So ironically an adblocker would mean more of Google’s ads being shown.
link to this extract


School Cuts • National Union of Teachers

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SCHOOLS URGENTLY NEED MORE FUNDING

Unless the Government allocates more money, schools will lose £3bn a year in real terms by 2020.

Search below for data on your local school.

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The About page explains that

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We used published Department for Education data to calculate cuts to England’s primary and secondary schools over this Parliament, 2015 — 2020.

Using the 2015/16 funding as the baseline, we calculated the impact of the cash freeze on the amount of funding for each pupil, the proposed cut to the Education Services Grant and the proposed introduction of a National Funding Formula.

The calculations were made using the following evidence:

That the national funding formula due to be introduced in April 2018 will be that proposed by the Secretary of State on Wednesday 14 December 2016.
That inflation for schools will amount to 8.7% over the lifetime of this Parliament. This figure is in “Financial sustainability of schools” published by the National Audit Office on 14 December 2016.
That the Government will cut the Education Services Grant (ESG) by 75%, as George Osborne announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement.
We have only measured the ESG cut to academy and free school budgets. For all other schools, the ESG goes to the local authority to fund services for schools. These services are now being cut.

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This makes all the noise about grammar schools look like exactly that – noise. Distracting noise from a much quieter but more important topic.
link to this extract


Unite against the Tories • Tactical 2017

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UNITE AGAINST THE TORIES

Most constituencies can only be realistically contested by two parties.
This site shows which way you should vote on 8th June to prevent the Tories from getting into power again.

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With this you choose your location, and hence your constituency, and it suggests how you should vote. It’s based on a spreadsheet.

What seems interesting to me is that we now have multiple efforts to create tactical voting systems which are driven from the grassroots. (This is by David Kitchen, who I think is a centrist Labour activist.)
link to this extract


I spent two hours with a mobile video genius and learned 26 useful things • Fluxx Studio Notes

Tom Whitwell:

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14. Put your finger over the camera lens and film a few seconds of fuzzy red to make a more interesting background for titles than the default black. Try filming the sky through a shirt, the sun through a leaf, or a blurry closeup of a TV or laptop screen.

15. Just before filming, clean your camera lens, then tap and hold the focal point on your iPhone screen to lock the exposure and focus.

17. For many people the word ‘interview’ means a stressful job application process or a politician being interrogated on TV. “Could we talk… do you mind if I video this?” might work better.

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These are all terrific, though I’d never come over 14 above (it’s brilliant). If you have to video, this is the video you want to do.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: re coal, Germany and Poland have more coal plants than the UK in Europe (Turkey also uses more than the UK). The graph in yesterday’s post came from this Bloomberg article, which makes the point that Germany isn’t phasing out coal as fast as could be hoped; the UK aims to get rid of it by 2025.

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