Start Up: China’s LinkedIn friends, notching Huawei?, gender pay improbability, bitcoin redux, and more

Longer tweets are more popular – by some metrics – than short ones, new data suggests. Photo by Corine Bliek on Flickr.

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A selection of 15 links for you. Things just kept coming. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

German intelligence unmasks alleged covert Chinese social media profiles • Reuters

Thomas Escritt:


Germany’s intelligence service has published the details of social network profiles which it says are fronts faked by Chinese intelligence to gather personal information about German officials and politicians.

The BfV domestic intelligence service took the unusual step of naming individual profiles it says are fake and fake organizations to warn public officials about the risk of leaking valuable personal information via social media.

“Chinese intelligence services are active on networks like LinkedIn and have been trying for a while to extract information and find intelligence sources in this way,” including seeking data on users’ habits, hobbies and political interests, they said.

Nine months of research had found that more than 10,000 German citizens had been contacted on the LinkedIn professional networking site by fake profiles disguised as headhunters, consultants, think-tankers or scholars, the BfV said.


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Huawei P11 might also have a notch • GSMArena



Huawei is preparing to launch its next flagship the P11 in February and first leaked firmware files suggest a surprise is on the way. According to XDA Developers, the Chinese manufacturer is going to introduce the phone with a notch on the front screen, similar to what we’ve seen in the iPhone X, Essential PH-1, and Sharp Aquos S2.

The overlay image comes from a reference in a configuration file that defines the “RoundCornerDisplay”. Multiple files are associated with this definition, all of them appearing to assist in avoiding drawing over parts of the screen to accommodate the unique display.

Another file has the word “notch” in its name “ro.config.hw_notch_size” with the value set to “258,84,411,27”. It might represent left, top, right and bottom offsets in moving screen content.


I think the aim of this is just to make the screen look like the iPhone X because it’s so striking, and in China – Huawei’s biggest market – it’s a status thing. See also: Huawei offering Force Touch (but then not following through).
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Twitter users like long tweets more than short ones • Buzzfeed

Alex Kantrowitz:


Given the deluge of complaints about Twitter’s 280-character limit when it debuted this fall, you’d think people would be ignoring the new, lengthier tweets.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Early data shows tweets above 140 characters are being liked and retweeted at a rate approximately double that of their shorter counterparts. BuzzFeed News obtained the data from SocialFlow, a publishing tool used by approximately 300 major publishers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

SocialFlow reviewed tens of thousands of tweets published between Wednesday 29 November and Wednesday 6 December, analyzing clicks, retweets, and likes. It determined that tweets above 140 characters are being retweeted 26.52 times on average compared with 13.71 times for tweets of 140 characters and below. The company also found that longer tweets are being liked — again on average — 50.28 times compared with 29.96 times for shorter tweets. Clicks per tweet for the time period analyzed were about even.


I’d have liked to see a comparison from before there were 280-character tweets, though Twitter claims to have done something like that itself. I’m not sure if I engage any more than I did before.
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The point of Patreon isn’t how many people earn a full-time living • Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow responds to last week’s article about how many/few people make anything like a living via Patreon:


Art is an irrational market; artists make art without regard to the laws of supply and demand. There are — and always have been — more people who’d like to make a living in the arts than the arts will sustain. That means that artists produce material without any rational expectation of any meaningful return on their investments, and this puts them at great risk from the distributors (retailers, platforms) and financiers (publishers/studios/labels, ad networks, etc) who have historically been key to connecting them to their audiences.

What’s more, there’s returns on scale in both financing and distributing, which is why (for example), we’ve ended up with five publishers, one major online bookseller, and one major brick-and-mortal bookseller. This anti-competitive concentration in both sectors has the effect of eroding the share of income from successful work that goes to the creator, moving an ever-larger slice to the other parts of the art industry. In 1999, first novels were selling to science fiction publishers for about $7,000 (about $10,200 in 2017 dollars). Today, first novels are selling for…about $7,000. And yet, if anything, more writers are producing first novels than in 1999…

…The right way to look at a 2% success rate in delivering a full-time living to creators on Patreon is to first compare that number to the percentage of people who, for example, send a demo to a record label and then get to quit their jobs to be full-time musicians (that’s a lot less than 2%). The right way to look at the remaining 98% of Patreon artists who earn some money from the service is to compare how much money they get, compared to how much money they’d get if they had to rely on more indirect (and less artist-friendly) sources like ad brokers and traditional retail channels.

On both of these metrics, Patreon is performing beautifully. On these metrics, Patreon is a fucking godsend to artists.


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Cluster of UK companies reports highly improbable gender pay gap • FT

Billy Ehrenberg-Shannon, Aleksandra Wisniewska and Sarah Gordon:


The gap between wages paid to men and women has become a hot political and corporate issue. Seeking to hold employers accountable, the UK government this year began requiring companies and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees to publicly report their median and mean gap. Roughly 9,000 companies must submit their numbers by April 1 but as of Thursday only 311 had done so.

Experts on pay said that it was highly anomalous for companies of that size to have median and mean pay gaps that were identical because the two statistics measure different things. The mean gap measures the difference between the average male and female salary while the median gap is calculated using the midpoint salary for each gender.

Of the 16 companies that said they had no pay gap, eight also said that they employed exactly the same number of men and women in the four pay grades that must be reported.

“While it is certainly possible for organisations with 250 or more employees to have no gender pay gap, common sense dictates that it is entirely implausible that they would have no gap on both the median and mean measure, while having exactly equal numbers of men and women in each of the four pay quartiles,” said Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London.


So having demanded them, will the government actually take any action and look into these extremely unlikely figures?
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Please invest responsibly — an important message from the Coinbase team • Coinbase

Brian Armstrong is co-founder and CEO of Coinbase:


Despite the sizable and ongoing increases in our technical infrastructure and engineering staff, we wanted to remind customers that access to Coinbase services may become degraded or unavailable during times of significant volatility or volume. This could result in the inability to buy or sell for periods of time. Despite ongoing increases in our support capacity, our customer support response times may be delayed, especially for requests that do not involve immediate risks to customer account security. You can read more in our Coinbase User Agreement.

We also wanted to remind customers of some of the risks associated with trading digital currency. Digital currencies are volatile and the prices can go up and down. Due to the rapidly changing price of digital currencies, some customers may not have sell limits that are sufficient relative to the value of total digital currency they are storing on Coinbase.


TL;DR: don’t play in the futures market if you can’t handle a margin call when things go south. Even shorter version: you could lose it all.
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Andy Rubin has returned to his company weeks after he took leave amid allegations of inappropriate behavior • Recode

Theodore Schleifer:


Rubin as of Friday ended the personal leave that he took in November after dealing with personal issues, according to two people familiar with his activities. His leave was reportedly only shared with employees on November 27, though a company representative said at the time that he began his leave earlier that month.

The CEO of Essential last month took leave as The Information was about to report that an “internal investigation determined that he had carried on an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate,” when he served as a top executive at Google.

Rubin has denied any wrongdoing and stressed that the relationship was consensual.

The decision to return to Essential will likely calm jitters about the future of the phone company, which has raised $330m to develop its highly anticipated product. Rubin, the creator of the Android operating system, is a dominant figure in the phone industry.

Even while on leave from Essential, Rubin was still able to show up to work at the same physical workplace. That’s because he did not take a similar leave from Playground Global, the venture capital firm he founded, which shares the same office space as Essential.


What sort of nonsense is this? Essential PR person claims he’s on leave of absence where he’s not actually absent just as questions are asked in media? Uh-huh.
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Android to iPhone, part two: What I’ve liked about switching to the iPhone X • Android Police

David Ruddock has been trying out the iPhone X for a month or so, having never used iOS before. Here’s his bit on notifications:


I will get this out of the way: notifications on iOS are terrible. Actually bad. Just not good. I will cover that in my next post.

But! iOS does do one thing right with them, at least for me: it cuts down on information overload. Just looking at my Android phone’s notification bar practically compels me to clear it out. I don’t really like that feeling – it’s a distraction and keeps me from focusing on whatever I’m actually trying to do with my phone in a given moment, constantly sending me back and forth between apps and clearing out the bar.

iOS requires you to authorize an app to send notifications on its first run after install. What I’ve noticed is that, oftentimes, I really don’t need many apps to send me notifications… ever. I don’t need to hear from the Kindle app, the Amazon app, Google Maps, Dropbox, the New York Times, YouTube, or Yelp. The list goes on, but you get the idea: I get fewer notifications on iOS than I do on Android because iOS has forced me to think about which apps I actually want to get them from.

Not only that, the lack of notification icons in the status bar area means that unless you pull down the notification tray, you just don’t see your notifications all that often. You might catch a glimpse of them when you go to unlock the phone, but as soon as your swipe up, they’re gone.

I don’t find I’m any less effective at responding to emails or messages on iOS than I am on Android. I do find I am significantly less mentally burdened with the task of managing my notifications. It’s going to make me take a long, hard look at how I manage my notifications on Android when I switch back.


There’s plenty more to digest in this post. His next one, later this week, will be about the things he hasn’t liked with iOS, and he says it’s going to be longer.
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Android Oreo review: performance and stability • BirchTree

Matt Birchler, continuing his series comparing his experience using Oreo on a Pixel 2 with his experiences on an iPhone; though he’s usually an iOS user, he’s also very familiar with Android:


In day to day use, Android on the Pixel 2 does not feel much slower than the iPhone 8. Apps launch quickly on the Pixel, sometimes even faster than they do on the iPhone. Part of this is due to the shorter animations on Android, but other times it is just that the Pixel is just as fast or faster than the iPhone. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say this before, but apps actually tend to launch a tiny bit quicker on Android than they do on iOS.

Once you get into apps, the experience changes a bit. While iOS takes milliseconds longer on average to load apps, once you’re in apps everything seems to go in iOS’s favor. First is general performance things like scrolling, which holds steady at what appears to be 60fps much more often than Android. Scrolling through lists or websites is where this is more noticeable, as Android has a slightly harsher feeling to moving around pages. It’s not bad by any means, and may be a preference thing, but i just feel more like I’m directly manipulating content on iOS than I do on Android.

Adding to this feeling of direct manipulation is the touch response on the Pixel 2 is noticeably slower than it is on the iPhone. There’s a slight delay in my finger moving and the screen updating behind it on iOS, but on Android the delay is much more pronounced. This lends to the overall feeling I sometimes get that I’m imputing commands to the phone rather than directly moving around the content on screen.

Finally, I have had some inconsistency when tapping a notification on my lock screen to go straight to that app. Usually it’s fine, but there have been dozens of times where the phone locks up for about 5 seconds between entering my fingerprint to unlock and the app actually coming up.


He’s also not complimentary about Android stability, or third-party apps. The latter is a situation that seems to be unchanging over time.
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Amazon, Google and Apple top the biggest tech disappointments of 2017 • CNBC

Todd Haselton with his list of things that he wasn’t happy about. Those mentioned are Amazon, Google, LG, Fitbit, Apple and Essential.

However there’s one key difference between the Apple product, and the products from the others. See if you can guess what it is before you click through.
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YouTube to launch new music subscription service in March • Bloomberg

Lucas Shaw:


The new service could help appease record-industry executives who have pushed for more revenue from YouTube. Warner Music Group, one of the world’s three major record labels, has already signed on, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private talks. YouTube is also in talks with the two others, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, and Merlin, a consortium of independent labels, the people said.

Paid services from Spotify and Apple Music have spurred a recovery in the music business, which is growing again after almost two decades of decline. Yet major record labels say the growth would be even more significant if not for YouTube, which they criticize for not compensating them enough, considering how much people use the site to listen to tunes. Music is one of the most popular genres of video on YouTube, which attracts more than a billion users a month.

YouTube hasn’t had the same success as Apple or Spotify in convincing people to sign up for its paid music services, though it’s not for lack of trying. Google introduced audio-only streaming service Google Play Music in 2011. YouTube Music Key came along in 2014, giving subscribers ad-free music videos. That morphed into YouTube Red in 2016, letting users watch any video without advertising.

The new service, internally referred to as Remix, would include Spotify-like on-demand streaming and would incorporate elements from YouTube, such as video clips, the people said. YouTube has reached out to artists to seek their help in promoting the new service, one of the people said.


I was going to say – isn’t this what Google Play Music is already meant to be? Though I’ve never seen a single statistic for the number of signed-up users for that.

However, if this gets going it will be the final nail for Pandora, which looks ropey anyway. And what about Soundcloud and Deezer?

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The Bulgarian government is sitting on $3bn in bitcoin • CoinDesk

Nikhilesh De:


A crackdown on organized crime by Bulgarian law enforcement in May resulted in the seizure of more than 200,000 bitcoins – an amount worth more than $3bn at today’s prices.

According to a press release dated May 19 from the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC), a regional organization comprised of 12 member states including Bulgaria, a total of 213,519 bitcoins were seized that month. Twenty-three Bulgarian nationals were arrested during the operation, and officials said at the time that the arrests and subsequent asset seizures followed an investigation into an alleged customs fraud scam.

As of press time, the amount seized is worth approximately $3.3bn, at a price of roughly $15,524, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).


The seizure was because some hackers tried to evade $6m in customs fee on some imports. At the time, the bitcoins were worth $500m – still nothing to sneeze at.
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Bitcoin is hot, but good luck using it • Bloomberg Gadfly

Stephen Gandel:


The idea, though, that bitcoin is being rapidly adopted, or even just gradually, is a myth. In 2013, a number of retailers and companies, large and small, started accepting bitcoin. Four years later, shoppers can’t use it at any large physical retailer. What’s more, not only have Walmart and The Gap not adopted bitcoin, many of the places that said they would no longer do.

A long list of merchants that take bitcoin has circulated the Internet for the past few years, published most recently on But the list is mostly bogus. Many of the businesses on the list no longer take bitcoin or never did. There is a bitcoin payment button for online electronics retailer, but when I tried to use it for a Nintendo Switch, it didn’t work. Even Bloomberg is on the list, but my colleagues in billing say you can’t pay your terminal fee in bitcoin. Nor can you get a subscription to BusinessWeek or any of Bloomberg’s other publications or services…

…a number of sites that track bitcoin, like, show that use is up. On average, the daily value of bitcoin transactions has risen just more than 400% this year compared with the first 11 months of last year, according to But given the fact the number of places accepting it is falling, that seems hard to believe. The number is supposed to track just the volume of bitcoins used to buy actual goods or services. Even bitcoin believer Burniske thinks the figure has likely been inflated by all the people who have rushed into bitcoin as an investment. Worse, the cost to complete those transactions is rising even faster, with fees charged up nearly 2,200% this year, although it’s still minuscule on an absolute level, a fee of just 0.05% of the average transaction this year. 


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The simple thing people miss about cryptocurrencies • The Information

Jessica Lessin:


Given the technical nature of these tokens, it shifts power to engineers not bankers. And it treats money as a product that can be improved and optimized for different purposes.  

Thinking of currency as product is a big leap for most traditional investors to make. Of course, you can invest without making that leap. You can make or lose money by buying the tokens just because you think they will go up or down without understanding anything about them. It’s also true that most tokens issued today are flawed products, with limited utility that aren’t worth trying to understand let alone betting on over the long-term.

But discussing cryptocurrencies based on how much bitcoin has appreciated this month (or year) misses the big picture. Technology is changing every industry and it is impossible for me to believe it won’t change our financial system. That’s particularly true because our current system—while stable—is imperfect.

Cryptocurrencies can be more secure and more efficient to exchange. They can be inflation-proof and are easier to settle and easier to interoperate. Those advantages, more than the relentless rise in bitcoin’s price, is what drives the true bitcoin believers. They believe bitcoin could be a superior financial product…

…Consumers may not even notice the impact of the technology. Most of the benefits of cryptocurrencies will play out of the back end of the financial system. You may still transact with your credit card. Everything that happens once you swipe may be different.

While certainly a disruptive idea, evolving our current financial system to take advantage of cryptocurrencies is not a crazy one. When you use a dollar or a euro, you are deciding to trust the U.S. or the EU. When you buy bitcoin or ethereum, you are choosing to trust the community of people who maintain the software and the system that keeps track of the transactions (the ledger).


This is a much more reasonable take on bitcoin and the interest in it.
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Later iPhone X release hurts Apple share • Kantar Worldpanel


In the three months ending October 2017, iOS share fell in key markets, making clear the impact of the flagship iPhone X not being available to buy in the month of October. And, as Windows continued to drop in share, Android was able to gain 4.3 percentage points in the big five European markets, 8.2% in the USA, and 7.5% in Japan. Urban China remained a bright spot for Apple, with its share edging up 0.5% in the latest three months to reach 17.4%…

…Urban China, a market once overrun with new challengers, is maturing, with the top five players all posting strong growth and the long tail of challenger brands falling away rapidly. In the three months ending in October 2017, the top five brands – Huawei, Xiaomi, Apple, Vivo, and Oppo – made up 91% of sales, compared to 79% a year earlier.

“Chinese brands like Meizu, LeTV, Coolpad, ZTE, and Lenovo were once on the same trajectory as the like of Xiaomi, but any momentum they once had has abruptly stopped, with many struggling to get past a 1% share,” Sunnebo said. “Samsung’s performance in China continues to deteriorate, with its share now down to just 2.2% of that market.”


The crunch in China is quite a thing, unnoticed (mostly) in the west. (Neil Cybart of Above Avalon picked up on it, though.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

2 thoughts on “Start Up: China’s LinkedIn friends, notching Huawei?, gender pay improbability, bitcoin redux, and more

  1. Some of the Android comments are weird:

    1- Notification overload. On android, long-touch a notification, a menu pops up: disable notifs fro this app altogether, disable notif sound but keep notif, keep full notif.

    2- the stats have been in for years: Android on the whole is more stable than iOS. (,news-23872.html ). I single app can have a strong impact though, I know my Firefox/Andorid crashes weekly, yet I keep it ‘coz it’s the lone browser that supports addons on Android.

    3- None of those guys mentions homepage widgets, which I and everyone around me uses heavily, for news and email and todo. The provide a very “pull” mode for info, instead of notifications relentless “push”.

    • 1. The irony is that the iOS user admires Android’s approach, and the Android user (for the past 10 years) likes the “quieter” iOS.
      2. it’s often hard to separate stability of an app that you use a lot from stability of the OS, especially because you can’t be quite certain which of them is bringing the other down.
      3. I’m pretty sure that one of them mentions homepage widgets. I think it’s David Ruddock.

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