Start Up: another $1m+ crowdfunding bust, why people join IS, Google’s watching your cards,


There’s a straight line from the ZX Spectrum to Frank Sidebottom (here seen in statue form in Timperley). Come and follow it. Photo by Pimlico Badger on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Say your prayers. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Makers of the Panono 108MP 360-degree camera filing for bankruptcy • Digital Photography Review

Lars Rehm:

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German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for insolvency proceedings at a court in Berlin, Germany. Unfortunately this means it’s very unlikely that the backers of the original crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo will ever receive their camera. 

The small number of buyers who purchased a Panono through retail channels after the Indiegogo campaign could be affected as well. At this point it is unknown if the the Panono servers, which power the automatic stitching of the Panono’s 360-degree images, will remain functional for the foreseeable future.  

Initially things had gone well for the German start-up. The Indiegogo campaign generated 1.25 million dollars in 2013. However, it soon became obvious that the team had miscalculated the development time for the camera which back then only existed in prototype form.

The final product was due to ship in 2014 but instead there was only a second prototype in February 2015. A few months later first shipments were announced, but not to the project backers.

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“a throwable panoramic ball camera which captures everything in every direction for amazing 108 megapixel, 360° X 360° full-spherical panoramic images.” Nothing on the page itself, so far.
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How the ZX Spectrum helped bring about famed pop parody Frank Sidebottom • The Conversation

Rhys James Jones:

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Sitting at their keyboards, bedroom coders [in the 1980s in the UK] had unique, almost auteur-like, visions for their code. Like film directors Alfred Hitchcock or Francois Truffaut, many had full control, with only occasional suggestions from a software distributor. They could earn rock star size royalty cheques, but this was not necessarily about the money. Micros were seen as creative tools, much like a musical instrument.

The late Chris Sievey knew this better than most. Frontman of new wave band The Freshies, he restlessly experimented with new ideas, including self-produced videos. In 1983, with the band on hiatus, Sievey went solo. His single Camouflage saw his producer Martin Hannett at his most commercial on an expansive, hook-heavy track which used the Cold War as a metaphor for love’s frustrations.

Camouflage’s B-side was even more significant, as it contained three programs written by Sievey on his newly-gifted Sinclair ZX81. Software on vinyl wasn’t a new concept, but the true innovation was the first of the programs: a computerised promo video for Camouflage itself.

Once loaded, the user was asked to press a button on the ZX81 when the first chord of the record kicked in. Thanks to Sievey’s graft, Camouflage’s lyrics were then perfectly synchronised. With the length of each delay loop decided by his trial-and-error, and the ZX81’s frame rolls made into art, Camouflage – though it was a flop on release – remains an inspiration today.

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But this is only the prelude to the curtain-raiser for Sidebottom.
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Why do people join ISIS? Here’s what they say when you ask them • Defense One

Patrick Tucker:

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Perhaps one of the most important findings is that the fighters’ motivations tended to vary by their country of origin.

Foreign fighters from places like the United States and Western Europe were far more likely to be facing some sort of identity crisis, a desire for a personal sense of recognition that ISIS provides. They were also more likely to be motivated by a rejection of Western culture. A story in the New York Times over the summer, titled “ISIS and the Lonely Young American” details how ISIS sympathizers who are able to make contact with curious and socially isolated Westerners and then manufacture a sense of community and belonging through constant online interaction (not simply one-way messaging, as some have suggested.)

People who joined ISIS from another Muslim country, however, are far more motivated by the perceived plight of the Syrian sunnis. For this group, the report found that  “fighting the Assad regime are the most common catalysts (45%).”  They are primarily thrill and status seekers.

The fact that joining ISIS could have a benefit in terms of one’s immediate social status underscores how differently ISIS is perceived in the Arab world than in the West.

Internal ISIS fighters — Sunni fighters primarily from Syria and Iraq — were also motivated by money and status. “Internal fighters believe they have a mission to defend their community (duty, Jihad) but they also have personal interests (money, staying alive),” according to the report.

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A mum didn’t sell anything at a craft fair so Twitter bought everything • Buzzfeed

December 2016:

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Martyn Hett is a 28-year-old from Manchester, England. What you can’t see in this photo is that he’s actually son of the year after he saved his mum’s knitting career via Twitter.

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This is only one of many acts of joyful sharing by Hett, who was killed by the bomb detonated at the Manchester Arena. Remember people for their deeds and the happiness they bring.
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Comcast vendor sent cease-and-desist to operator of anti-Comcast website • Ars Technica

Jon Brodkin:

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A Comcast vendor sent a cease-and-desist letter to the operator of “Comcastroturf.com,” a website that helps people find out if their names were used by bots that have flooded the Federal Communications Commission with anti-net neutrality comments.

Fight for the Future, the advocacy group that operates the site, issued a press release accusing Comcast of censorship and posted an image of the letter that accuses the group of trademark infringement. The letter was sent by LookingGlass Cyber Security Center on behalf of its client, Comcast, and demands that Fight for the Future “take all steps necessary to see that the Domain Name [Comcastroturf.com] is assigned to Comcast.”

The Comcastroturf website violates a law against “using domain names that are identical or confusingly similar to someone else’s trademark,” the letter said.

“Our client is… prepared to resolve this matter amicably and without pursuing its claims for damages, but only if you immediately comply with its demands,” the letter said.

Despite the threatening letter, Comcast told Ars that it has decided not to take any further action.

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Those bots are infuriating: people are discovering their names being used to post fake comments all over. Who’s behind it? Is the aim to make the public comments so poisoned that they’ll be ignored?
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US international tourism market share is falling under Trump, Foursquare data shows • Buzzfeed

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The United States’ slice of the international tourism pie is declining, according to a new report from Foursquare that looks at data from millions of phones worldwide.

The US share of international tourism dropped 16% in March 2017 compared with the previous year. And it declined an average of 11% year over year in months spanning October 2016 to March 2017, according to the report.

The drop coincides with the final month of the US election, the Trump transition, and the early months of the Trump administration, which notably imposed a travel ban on people from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017 that was eventually halted in court but is currently under appeal. Declines in tourism market share from people originating in the Middle East were more pronounced than the rest of the world, down 25% this January, along with a smaller decrease from South America, Foursquare found.

The data accounts for the percentage of international tourism coming to the US and not the absolute number of tourists, but Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told BuzzFeed News that it’s unlikely tourist visits to the US increased while share declined.

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Foursquare previously got it right for data on Chipotle seing a downturn and McDonalds revenues recovering. So don’t ignore this.
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Google now knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff • The Washington Post

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg:

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To power its multibillion-dollar advertising juggernaut, Google already analyzes users’ web browsing, search history and geographic locations, using data from popular Google-owned apps like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps and the Google Play store. All that information is tied to the real identities of users when they log into Google’s services.

The new credit-card data enables the tech giant to connect these digital trails to real-world purchase records in a far more extensive way than was possible before. But in doing so, Google is yet again treading in territory that consumers may consider too intimate and potentially sensitive. Privacy advocates said few people understand that their purchases are being analyzed in this way and could feel uneasy, despite assurances from Google that it has taken steps to protect the personal information of its users.

Google also declined to detail how the new system works or what companies are analyzing records of credit and debit cards on Google’s behalf. Google, which saw $79bn in revenue last year, said it would not handle the records directly but that its undisclosed partner companies had access to 70% of transactions for credit and debit cards in the United States.

“What’s really fascinating to me is that as the companies become increasingly intrusive in terms of their data collection, they also become more secretive,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He urged government regulators and Congress to demand answers about how Google and other technology companies are collecting and using data from their users…

…Google executives say they are using complex, patent-pending mathematical formulas to protect the privacy of consumers when they match a Google user with a shopper who makes a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store.

The mathematical formulas convert people’s names and other purchase information, including the time stamp, location, and the amount of the purchase, into anonymous strings of numbers. The formulas make it impossible for Google to know the identity of the real-world shoppers, and for the retailers to know the identities of Google’s users, said company executives, who called the process “double-blind” encryption.

The companies know only that a certain number of matches have been made. In addition, Google does not know what products people bought.

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Inside Snap’s growth struggles • The Information

Tom Dotan:

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Last summer, members of Snap’s growth team presented CEO Evan Spiegel and other executives with worrying data showing user growth had slowed sharply. In one week, the company had lost 1 million daily active users, out of its total of around 150 million.

The growth team spelled out to Mr. Spiegel a number of likely causes. Among the top factors was Instagram’s recent launch of its copycat feature Stories, the team said. But Mr. Spiegel initially refused to accept there was a growth problem at all, according to two people familiar with the matter. Instead, he asserted the user slowdown was due entirely to a recent move Snap made to deactivate an old version of the Android app, which meant some Android users had been cut off. He told other executives the data itself was flawed, according to the people.

The growth team spent the next several weeks working to prove the data was sound and that the mothballed Android app couldn’t have caused the entire slowdown. Mr. Spiegel eventually was convinced that Snap’s growth was indeed decelerating and the company needed to take action. But his response at that point was, in part, to kill a feature he thought annoyed people—Auto Advance, which automatically transitioned one person’s story to the next. One person close to Snap says there was no data suggesting Auto Advance was hurting user growth. 

Mr. Spiegel also focused on a more widely acknowledged problem: reducing glitches in the Android version of the app. He went so far as to personally pull engineers off other tasks to work on the Android fix. Snap declined to comment…

…People involved with Snap say that the company could have done more in response to the slowdown, including more testing to understand the cause better. Or it could have embraced more aggressive push notifications to users to prompt them to use the app. But Mr. Spiegel has made plain that he dislikes such tactics.

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You and I probably side with Spiegel, but push notifications and keeping old Android versions supported does actually work in the real world. He doesn’t want the app to become “spammy”; clearly his vision is that it serves a niche which desires it, rather than feels it’s a needy pet.
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Google Assistant will make money from ecommerce • Recode

Tess Townsend:

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Google Assistant, the search giant’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, will make money from ecommerce, according to Google ads chief Sridhar Ramaswamy.

The revenue model for Google’s AI service, which lives on devices like Home and smartphones like Pixel, had remained unclear until now. Apple’s main revenue source, the iPhone, clearly benefits from its AI platform, while Amazon’s Alexa technology is designed to stoke more buying on Amazon.

Earlier this year, a promotion that played on Google’s Home devices was a clue to how ads might work. Google said the promotion, for the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast,” wasn’t a paid spot, just an experiment.

“Promotion is only one aspect,” said Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of ads and commerce, at the Google Marketing Next conference in San Francisco Tuesday. “More transactional than ads is how I would think about it right now.”

He mentioned the option to purchase items from select partners through Assistant, a feature added in February, as an example of Google’s approach to making money with Assistant. Google would likely take a cut of each sale, essentially the equivalent of an affiliate fee.

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This could easily go ever so wrong if the pushiness gets too insistent.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: Rick Fillion wasn’t credited as the author of the Agilebits blogpost about 1Password’s Travel mode. Sorry, Rick.

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