Start Up: Apple Watch gets smart, how Britain voted, 1m Pixels sold!, the next Einstein?, and more


Samsung’s emoji are… different. Photo by Thomas James Caldwell on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Samsung’s bizarre emojis • Hacker Noon

Jackson Roberts:

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I have no idea what the creative process at Samsung was like while they were designing emojis. Did the children of employees draw them? Had the designers never seen or used emojis on other platforms? Were they simply running low on time?

We may never know the answer to these questions. However, we can delve into some of the most bizarre of Samsung’s emoji library.

Case 1: 😬, the grimace emoji.
In every sane emoji library, the emotion portrayed by the grimace emoji is easily recognizable.

The interpretation of the grimace is relatively consistent across all platforms. It’s a face of discomfort, showing gritted teeth with emotionless eyes. It gets the point across. However, Samsung decided to buck the trend with their grimace emoji…

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This is hilarious, and frightening. But given Samsung’s gigantic power it also means that some huge proportion of the world’s mobile users have a completely different idea about what their emoji are saying than other device users.
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Layoffs are the media’s own ‘carnage’ as the industry struggles to deal with oversupply and evolving technology • Talking New Media

DB Hebbard on the hundreds of job cuts at Time, Vocativ, Yahoo and Huffington Post:

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So, why is this happening? Is it only about traditional media’s failure to adjust to digital?

It would be nice to come up with simple answers, but the picture is far more complex than that.

Everyone seems to have an idea about what is wrong — but, to be honest, I’m tired of hearing from those who have never had success in media themselves, much less ever been responsible for creating a budget or meeting P&L objectives. Sometimes we just have to admit that the bottom line is, well, the bottom line.

But as I told one executive at a major media company this morning, things like diversification remain important. Having the right strategy is great, but successfully implementing it is important, too.

We are currently in an era where most media managers believe that there is a simple strategy that can be employed, and they are hellbent on seeing that strategy through, even if it means laying off staff every once in a while.

But it also has been said that, thanks to the increase ease of digital publishing, combined with the growth of social media, there is now an oversupply of content.

Just as once the only way to acquire music was the local record store, now nearly all music is available through iTunes, Amazon or through streaming — so too is media in oversupply. One voice is as loud as another, even if one voice comes from that of a trained journalist, the other… from who knows where.

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As Clay Shirky put it – in 1995! – “Help, the price of information has fallen and it can’t get up“.
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Apple watchOS 4 brings Intelligence to the wrist • Tech.pinions

Carolina Milanesi on the changes coming with the update later this year:

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With watchOS 4, Apple is making it simpler to get to the music you want for your workout thanks to a new multi-playlist support and automatic import.

Apple also introduced the new Siri face that makes Apple Watch much more context-aware by delivering information that is relevant to you at a specific moment in time. While Apple did not talk about it, one could see how that Siri Watch face could integrate very well with voice when you are wearing AirPods. Siri could, for instance, tell you that you need to leave for your meeting while showing you the calendar appointment on Apple Watch.

So, as Apple Watch becomes more like a coach, Siri becomes more a visible but discreet assistant that is being liberated from the iPhone. I think this is a very powerful paradigm and before nay-sayers jump to point out that Apple Watch penetration is limited, I underline that Apple Watch users are highly engaged in the Apple ecosystem and represent Siri’s best opportunity. Similar to CarPlay, Apple Watch also has a captivated audience not just for Siri’s brains but also for voice-first. With Apple Watch, voice interaction is the most natural form of interaction, especially when wearing AirPods. So much so that, with watchOS 4, SiriKit adds support for apps that are used to take notes, so that now you can use Siri on Apple Watch to make changes in any note-taking app.

Some Apple Watch critics have used the news that circulated last month that Google, Amazon, and eBay were killing support of their Apple Watch apps as evidence that Apple Watch failed. The reality is, however, as I explained numerous times, that Apple Watch cannot be seen as an iPhone on your wrist and therefore its success will not be driven nor defined by the same enablers.

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The fitness focus for the Watch is really, really effective. Those who have been trying out the beta of WatchOS 4 suggest the Siri face is really good too. Question is how to break out from the fitness niche.
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How Britain voted at the 2017 general election • YouGov

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Since last week’s election result YouGov has interview over 50,000 British adults to gather more information on how Britain voted. This is part of one of the biggest surveys ever undertaken into British voting behaviour, and is the largest yet that asks people how they actually cast their ballots in the 2017 election.

The bigger sample size allows us to break the results down to a much more granular level and see how different groups and demographics voted on Thursday.

And this is telling too:

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As they point out, the older people get, the more likely they are to vote Conservative. But: those with degrees (from any time) are more likely to vote Labour; those with GCSE or below (9th grade, in the US) vote Conservative 55-33 Labour.

Lots more to digest.
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Uber faces a fresh probe from U.S. regulators over its privacy practices • Recode

Tony Romm:

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One of the U.S. government’s most powerful consumer protection watchdogs appears to be quietly probing Uber and the company’s privacy practices.

The inquiry is under way at the Federal Trade Commission, according to four sources familiar with the matter, where the agency’s investigative staff appears to have focused its attention on some of the data-handling mishaps that have plagued the company in recent years — perhaps including employees’ misuse of “god view,” a tool that had previously allowed some at Uber to spy on the whereabouts of politicians, celebrities and others using the ride-hailing app.

The sources cautioned to Recode that FTC staff regularly question companies on consumer-protection matters, like privacy — and often, the agency chooses not to pursue any penalties while closing its investigations as quietly as it began them.

Still, the scrutiny could easily blossom into a full-fledged legal complaint against Uber — a reality the company knows well.

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It’s getting hard to pick just one Uber story per day. But this is today’s pick.
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Play Store downloads show Google Pixel sales limited to 1 million units • Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo:

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Unlike just about every hardware manufacturer on Earth, Google doesn’t share official sales numbers for the Pixel phones, choosing to bundle the income under Alphabet’s “Other Revenues” during earnings reports. We do have one very solid signal for Pixel sales, though: the Play Store, which shows install numbers for apps. If there was an app that was exclusive and install-by-default on the Pixel phones, like say, the Pixel Launcher, the install number would basically be the number of sold activated phones.

This calculation is complicated by the fact that Google Play doesn’t show exact install numbers; it shows installs in “tiers” like “100,000-500,000.” So most of the time, we won’t have an exact Pixel sales number—except when the Pixel Launcher crosses from one download tier to another. So guess what just happened? The Pixel Launcher just crossed into the “1,000,000-5,000,000” install tier (you can see some third-party tracking sites, like AppBrain, still have it listed at 500,000). So for this one moment in history, eight months after launch, we can say Google finally sold a million Pixel phones.

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Turns out there are more people who have sideloaded to other rooted devices (1.3m). Pixel is allegedly nice, but hardware is not for the timorous.
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Harvard thinks it’s found the next Einstein — and she’s 23 • LinkedIn

Guy Delbaen:

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Harvard University believes the world’s next Einstein is among us — and she’s a millennial.

At age 23, Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski is already one of the most well-known and accomplished physicists in the U.S.

The Cuban-American Chicago native graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in just three years with a 5.0-grade point average, the highest possible, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard with full academic freedom — meaning she can pursue her own study on her own terms without staff interference.

Pasterski first attracted the attention of the scientific and academic community after single-handedly building her own single-engine airplane in 2008, at age 14, and documenting the process on YouTube.

MIT professors Allen Haggerty and Earll Murman saw the video and were astonished. “Our mouths were hanging open after we looked at it,” Haggerty recalls. “Her potential is off the charts.”

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Find some of her physics papers at http://physicsgirl.com/ – “Semiclassical Virasoro Symmetry of the Quantum Gravity S-Matrix,” “Gaussian Measures and the QM Oscillator,” and “Low’s Subleading Soft Theorem as a Symmetry of QED.” And others. (QED does not stand for “quod erat demonstrandum” in this case.)
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London fire: Muslims beginning Ramadan fast may have saved lives in Grenfell Tower • HuffPost UK

Sarah Ann Harris, Lucy Sherriff, Becky Barnes and Paco Anselmi:

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Muslims who were awake because they were beginning their Ramadan fast “saved people’s lives” when a deadly blaze broke out at a west London tower block, HuffPost UK has been told.

At least 50 people have been taken to five hospitals for treatment as hundreds of residents in the 27-storey, 120 flat, Grenfell Tower in north Kensington have been evacuated from their flats in the building that caught fire just after 1.15am.

A local woman told HuffPost UK: “Muslim boys saved people’s lives. They ran around knocking on people’s doors. Thank God for Ramadan”

Khalid Suleman Ahmed, 20, recently moved to Grenfell Tower with his auntie and lives on the eighth floor.

He said he would not normally have been up in the middle of the night but had stayed up during Ramadan for Suhur, the meal before Muslims begin fasting again during daylight hours.

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Grenfell Tower • Harley Facades Limited

Harley Facades produced the cladding used on the Grenfell Tower – which calamitously caught fire on Wednesday morning. Oddly enough, the page with the case study sheet was removed from Harley Facades’s website.
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Google YouTube crisis still has some brands sitting out, Thygesen says • CNBC

Ari Levy:

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After YouTube’s advertising crisis in recent months that saw ads running alongside neo-Nazi and jihadist videos, Google has been able to lure most brands back to the site. But not all.

“We still have some high-profile advertisers that have not returned,” said Allan Thygesen, Google’s president of the Americas, at a conference on Tuesday hosted by investment bank Rutberg. “We will not rest until we get them all on.”

In early February, The Times of London reported that ads for brands like Mercedes-Benz were showing up in YouTube videos promoted by hate groups. Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan, AT&T and Verizon were among companies that subsequently suspended or pulled advertising with Google, following media buying agency Havas in the U.K.

Google’s parent, Alphabet, responded with a blog post in March, announcing that the company was more aggressively removing ads from hateful content, giving brands more control over where their ads are placed and providing more transparency to marketers so they can see where their ads are appearing.

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Didn’t last long, did it? Wonder if it needs something more dramatic – or if this brief storm in a teacup was all there was.
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Google for Jobs is secretly out to kill job sites • Inc.com

Jason Nazar is founder of Comparably, a job search site:

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In order to fix the broken process of job searching and placement a couple things need to happen. First, there needs to be platform that has access to the widest set of candidates, both active and passive. Then it requires a product experience that regularly engages those candidates, and not just when they’re looking to switch jobs. For example, show people what different office cultures are like, how much they should get paid, and which companies are the best fit for them. And companies hiring need a better way to find and notify qualified prospective candidates. There are still way too many times great potential candidates never know about companies and jobs that would be an ideal fit. Employers are spending way too much money inefficiently to promote their jobs. They should have much better tools and access to find the candidates they need to hire. And here where is Google comes in.

Google is happy to have other companies like ZipRecruiter, Monster, and LinkedIn go to the trouble of getting job postings, and they’re also happy to send them traffic and revenue. Google knows that if they ultimately own the relationship with job candidates and seekers then they’re really the ones that own the market. They money they share with others in the process in inconsequential to them. Whoever owns the original job search owns the market, and Google for Jobs is a concerted effort to get consumers to spend more time directly with Google for all their job needs.

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It wouldn’t be the first time that Google has been accused of being after a big sector, but it never hurts to be extra-paranoid about it either. This will probably put it into direct competition over time with Microsoft’s LinkedIn. The old rivals meet again.
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Don’t blame China for the fall of American steel • Bloomberg Gadfly

David Fickling:

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With Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross set to announce possible anti-dumping measures to protect the U.S. industry as soon as this week, though, it’s worth asking whether that relationship is as straightforward as it seems. After all, about the closest thing the global steel industry has to a fundamental law of nature is the steel intensity curve.Poor countries use very little steel per unit of gross domestic product. As they industrialize, this steel intensity increases rapidly, to the point where the country starts to transition toward consumer-led growth. At that point, steel intensity starts to slip again, as spending shifts from industrial products like machinery and buildings, to less metal-intensive categories, such as yoga mats and degustation menus:


Steel intensity curves. Source: EY

Considered in the context of the evolution of steel intensity, it’s clear that U.S. metal output isn’t declining because of overseas competition, but because as America gets richer, it’s buying different stuff.

Employment is also suffering because the steel the U.S. does still produce is being made more efficiently: Labor productivity in the U.S. primary metal sector has risen from 54 in 1987 to 115 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You have to squint quite hard to even see Chinese steel imports to the U.S., when compared to the size of the domestic trade.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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