Start Up: social media explained, Oreo reviewed, cheaper iPads?, make your own Brexit!, and more


Is the BBC approaching the end of the line? Photo by l-b-p-2011 on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. None co-written by Paul Manafort. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

A simple theory of Moore’s Law and social media • Marginal REVOLUTION

Tyler Cowen, here in part:

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6. Consider a second distinction, namely between people who are too sensitive to social information, and people who are relatively insensitive to social information.  A quick test of this one is to ask how often a person’s tweets (and thoughts) refer to the motivations, intentions, or status hierarchies held by others.  Get the picture?  (Here is an A+ example.)

7. People who are overly sensitive to social information will be driven to distraction by Twitter.  They will find the world to be intolerably bad.  The status distinctions they value will be violated so, so many times, and in a manner which becomes common knowledge.  And they will perceive what are at times the questionable motives held by others.  Twitter is like negative catnip for them.  In fact, they will find it more and more necessary to focus on negative social information, thereby exacerbating their own tendencies toward oversensitivity.

8. People who are not so sensitive to social information will pursue social media with greater equanimity, and they may find those media productivity-enhancing.  Nevertheless they will become rather visibly introduced to a relatively new category of people for them — those who are overly sensitive to social information.  This group will become so transparent, so in their face, and also somewhat annoying.  Even those extremely insensitive to social information will not be able to help perceiving this alternate approach, and also the sometimes bad motivations that lie behind it.  The overly sensitive ones in turn will notice that another group is under-sensitive to the social considerations they value.  These two groups will think less and less of each other.  The insensitive will have been made sensitive.  It’s like playing “overrated vs. underrated” almost 24/7 on issues you really care about, and which affect your own personal status.

9. The philosophy of Stoicism will return to Silicon Valley.  It will gain adherents but fail, because the rest of the system is stacked against it.

10. The socially sensitive, very smart people will become the most despairing, the most manipulated, and the most angry.  The socially insensitive will either jump ship into the camp of the socially sensitive, or they will cultivate new methods of detachment, with or without Stoicism.  Straussianism will compete with Stoicism.

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An excellent analysis. (There are 13 points in all.) Though I think it’s Metcalfe’s law, relating to networks, that’s more relevant than Moore’s.
link to this extract


Android Oreo review: an iOS user’s review (Introduction) • BirchTree

Matt Birchler:

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I have been using the Google Pixel 2, which is the latest and greatest Android phone out there. I chose this phone for my experiment because I wanted to leave no room for my conclusions to be colored by a bad OEM skin on top of Android or by a lower quality phone as my comparisons to iOS should be as fair as possible. Since I wanted to review Oreo, a Pixel was my only option in October, and thankfully that Pixel has top of the like specs and the best Android camera out there. This is Android how Google intended it.

The very, very TLDR version of my review is as follows:

Android has grown up considerably over the last decade. It’s no longer a complete disaster of a user experience, and some elements have actually surpassed what Apple is doing with iOS. Notifications are much better than they are on iOS and Google Assistant is more accurate and more helpful than Siri. that said, there are a million little (and not so little) things that truly make Android a sub-par experience for me. Your milage may vary, but the abysmal third party software available for the platform, poor inter-app communication, and countless stability issues make Android a place I only want to visit for a month or two per year, not something I can see myself using full time.

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Everyone praises Android’s handling of notifications. Birchler’s points about inter-app communication (in the second part of this series) may surprise those who think it’s an Android strength.
link to this extract


Brexit options: interactive diagram • Brexitoptions

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Click on the buttons above to explore some Brexit scenarios — relevant sections will turn purple

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This is a terrific illustration of where the UK would (will?) sit under various outcomes. Most of them look worrying to me. (Guess which one puts the UK on the same side of the fence as Turkey. Some irony there.)

Beautiful graphics, too.
link to this extract


TV channels have ‘up to 10 years’ to meet tech threat • FT

Matthew Garrahan:

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concerns are growing across Europe that the central role of public service broadcasters, or PSBs, will diminish.

“The growth and dominance of these companies is a threat to our entire media ecosystem,” said Noel Curran, director-general of the European Broadcasting Union, which represents PSBs. “Everybody in European media needs to ask: where are we going to be in five to 10 years?”

In Britain, programming delivered via broadband and made available on-demand has shaken television’s hierarchy, under which PSBs were the first ports of call on a television’s remote control and were easily regulated.

“What we have taken for granted as critical to the health of UK television is coming under serious threat,” said Jonathan Thompson, chief executive of Digital UK, which is owned by the BBC, ITV and Arqiva, the company that owns and operates the national transmitter network.

Under UK broadcasting regulations, public service channels must be prominently displayed in the electronic programme guides of cable and satellite providers.

But no such regulations exist for programming viewed on-demand: global digital subscription services such as Netflix “with deep pockets and big ambitions . . . are quickly muscling their way into prime position,” Mr Thompson said.

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link to this extract


F-35 stealth fighter caught spying on its owners • News Australia

Jamie Seidel:

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While privacy is a concern when it comes to personal internet and smartphone use, it’s becomes a whole different matter when applied to the military.

“Due to national considerations, there is a need for a filter where the user nations can exclude sensitive data from the data stream that is shared by the system with the manufacturer Lockheed Martin,” Gjemble told ABC Nyheter.

An unidentified participant walks past a poster advertising US defence equipment manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth multirole fighter at the 2017 Berlin Security Conference in Berlin.

At the heart of the problem is the F-35’s artificial intelligence dubbed ALIS: it is responsible for logging performance data, as well as monitoring and optimising the aircraft’s sophisticated equipment. To do so it ‘phones home’ to Texas.

Norway says it has become impatient with continued delays in the promised provision of a data “filter” by Lockheed Martin. So it’s started its own project to find ways to block its new F-35s from reporting back to their former US masters.

It’s also worried that it won’t be able to optimise — or protect — the extremely sensitive Mission Data Files. These data packs optimise aircraft performance under different conditions, as well as provide a database of regional challenges and conditions.

Again, Norway wants Lockheed Martin out of the loop.

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link to this extract


Apple agrees to deal with Ireland over $15bn unpaid tax issue • WSJ

Natalia Drozdiak:

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Ireland will begin collecting €13 billion ($15.46 billion) in back taxes from Apple Inc. as soon as early next year after both sides agreed to the terms of an escrow fund for the money, Ireland’s finance chief said Monday.

The European Union in 2016 ordered Dublin to retrieve the billions of euros from Apple in uncollected taxes, which the EU said Apple avoided paying with the help of sweetheart tax deals from Ireland.

A year after that decision, however, Ireland still hadn’t recouped the money, leading the EU in October to refer Dublin to the bloc’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, for failing to implement the decision.

Ireland has said the money collection was held up by negotiations over the escrow account, which will hold the company’s dues while both Apple and Ireland appeal the EU’s 2016 decision in court.

Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe Monday said he expected the flow of money from Apple to begin in the first quarter of 2018 once they complete the tendering processes to determine who would operate the account and who would then manage the fund.

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Apple’s still disputing it, but this gets the money a little closer to Ireland’s exchequer.
link to this extract


I tried emailing like a CEO and quite frankly, it made my life better • Buzzfeed

Katie Notopoulos:

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On a Monday morning, I began my experiment. I opened my email, deleted a few purely mailing list items, and got to work. For all the PR pitches I wasn’t interested in, I fired off a quick, “Thanks, but this is a pass for me.” It felt empowering.

The week before the experiment, I sent 21 emails total.

The week I started the experiment, I sent 84. (To be fair, about 25 of those were replies to people who emailed me specifically after I tweeted out that I was doing this experiment. I got a bunch of jokey emails, which I dutifully replied to.)

The other key part of boss-style email is doing a lot of email on the phone. This meant goodbye to my old crutch of “I’ll reply when I get to a computer.” I would fire off emails from my phone on the subway, walking around at lunch, on the toilet at the office. For the first time, I actually started using the suggested Gmail replies, which are actually pretty useful in the sense of purely transmitting information.

That first Monday, as I fired off a bunch of not-super-important emails, something strange happened. I felt…extremely good. I was high on the fumes of efficiency. No longer did a little cloud hang over me, the nagging feeling you get when you know you’re supposed to do something and can’t remember what.

The high didn’t wear off after that first day. It lasted all week. I applied the method to my personal email as well, and although I don’t get as many personal emails, I found it worked even better there.

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FINALLY.
link to this extract


No, I don’t want to configure your app! • Quils in Space

“Quil”:

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There seems to be a very interesting trend re-emerging in software development lately, influenced by Node’s philosophy, perhaps, where to use anything at all you first need to install a dozen of “dependencies,” spend the next 10 hours configuring it, pray to whatever gods (or beings) you believe in—even if you don’t. And then, if you’re very lucky and the stars are properly aligned in the sky, you’ll be able to see “Hello, world” output on the screen.

Apparently, more configuration always means more good, as evidenced by new, popular tools such as WebPack and Babel.js’s 6th version. Perhaps this also explains why Java was such a popular platform back in the days.

HYPOTHESIS: The popularity of a tool is proportional to the amount of time it makes their users waste.

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Though this post is from January 2016, it’s still true. I did try an app called Focos, which shows the output from the depth-mapping systems on the iPhone, and it has a different approach to making you configure the app: it doesn’t even begin explaining how to use it until you press some element. (Then it shows you in detail.) Much better than forcing you to sit through an intro.
link to this extract


Spam is back • The Outline

Jon Christian:

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an individual who posted on a blackhat hacker forum that he could sell a database of tens of millions of US phone numbers, complete with associated email and postal addresses, told me that though he himself is annoyed by robocalls, he does what he needs to in order to earn a living. He obtains phone numbers from data sellers and lead generation sites that offer users free stuff in exchange for giving up their contact information, he said, and insisted that though he’s been slapped with fines in the past, he now complies with laws governing the sale of phone numbers.

“I mean I see it as a tool to help marketers find the right person,” said that man, who identified himself as Brian Masin during a Skype chat interview.

Masin, who said he’s based in the DC metro area and made as much as $160,000 per year in the internet marketing business, though not all from selling phone numbers, also mused that “if you buy homesec[u]rity online then you deserve” to get “duped.”

In addition to the FTC, a number of app developers and people like telecom consultant Roger Anderson, who created a posse of phone bots designed to waste robocallers’ time by pretending to be human, have all taken up the fight — but today, the calls still persist.

The second coming of spam isn’t just robocalls, of course. It’s rampant on Twitter, for example, where vast botnets boost follower counts for money and push political propaganda. It crops up on Tinder and OkCupid, where bots with voluptuous profile pictures stumble through flirty banter — “I am totally a sex addict” — and inevitably send links to websites that demand credit card numbers. Ashley Madison, a hookup site for extramarital affairs that gained notoriety when its user data was stolen in 2015, harbored millions of “sexbot” accounts intended to sucker users into paying for premium membership.

The volume of spam email has leveled off overall, and Google says it can detect 99.9% of spam and phishing attempts in Gmail. But what email spam is left has become more sophisticated and criminal.

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Spam never went away, it just mutated. It’s like E.coli – its presence is an indicator of a sort of health.
link to this extract


Video: Seoul taps citizens for ambitious solar power goal • Tech in Asia

Here’s the transcript (via Steven Millward):

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South Korea is building a “solar city.” In Seoul, mini solar panels are installed on apartment balconies. One can produce enough energy to run a fridge, which means lower electricity bills.

Goal: 1 million households with mini solar panels.

Target: Seoul’s citizens will produce 1 gigawatt of power by 2022. That’s about the same as one nuclear reactor

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It doesn’t look particularly pretty, but you have to admire the determination.
link to this extract


Apple plans new inexpensive 9.7in iPad for 2018, says sources • Digitimes

Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai:

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Apple is considering a new inexpensive 9.7in iPad priced at around US$259 for 2018, according to sources from related upstream suppliers, which added that the device should be able to attract more demand from price-oriented consumers, allowing Apple to maintain its present 10 million-unit tablet shipments a quarter.

With the new device, the sources expect the tablet market to witness a new wave of price competition among first-tier players including Samsung Electronics, Amazon, Huawei and Lenovo.

With the tablet market already becoming mature, Apple has been seeing weakening sales for its iPad series, while Android-based tablet shipments have also been declining. Most second- and third-tier brand vendors had already stepped out of the market, while China-based white-box tablet players had also shifted their focuses to other product lines after Intel stopped providing subsidies for using its CPUs.

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To be precise, the non-iPad market has shrunk for the past two quarters (per IDC) while iPad sales have grown for two quarters, but it’s too soon to call a trend – though total tablet sales, including Windows tablets (by IDC’s definition, ie “slates”) have been falling for 12 successive quarters. Given that, any sort of growth is good. If Apple is going after the cheaper players, that could drive some out. Lenovo has no business selling tablets: it’s too small and doesn’t make money on them.
link to this extract


Australia to probe Facebook, Google over media disruption • Reuters

Jonathan Barrett and Tom Westbrook:

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Like their rivals globally, Australia’s traditional media companies have been squeezed by online rivals, as advertising dollars have followed eyeballs to digital distributors such as Google, Facebook and Netflix Inc.

The government ordered the probe as part of wider media reforms, amid growing concern for the future of journalism and the quality of news following years of declining profits and newsroom job cuts and the rise of fake news.

“We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

The inquiry also would study how Facebook and Google operated to “fully understand their influence in Australia”, he added.

A Google spokesman said, “We look forward to engaging with this process as relevant.” Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The idea for an ACCC investigation was hatched during media reform negotiations in parliament earlier this year, which resulted in a relaxation of ownership laws to allow the country’s big players to boost their market share to better compete against online disruptors.

Independent media analyst Peter Cox told Reuters it was unclear what measures the competition regulator could recommend to the government even if it found the country’s media sector was increasingly anti-competitive.

“You could see this as a stepping stone towards another type of reform, such as tax,” said Cox.

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So some means of getting them to pay taxes? Still not sure how that would work. And it’s completely obvious what they’ve been doing. (Thanks Oh Aye for the link.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: apologies for the malformed page yesterday, caused by a long long long Reddit link.

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