Start Up: goodbye Moto?, YouTube’s radicalising problem, Twitter stops the thieves, here come the miners!, and more


Apple may have an option when it comes to fixing the problems some people have with its new key design. Photo by Maurizio Pesce on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. No, you pivot to video. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

YouTube, the Great Radicalizer • The New York Times

Zeynep Tufekci watched some Trump videos on YouTube in 2016, and found it recommended more and more right-wing content:

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Since I was not in the habit of watching extreme right-wing fare on YouTube, I was curious whether this was an exclusively right-wing phenomenon. So I created another YouTube account and started watching videos of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, letting YouTube’s recommender algorithm take me wherever it would.

Before long, I was being directed to videos of a leftish conspiratorial cast, including arguments about the existence of secret government agencies and allegations that the United States government was behind the attacks of Sept. 11. As with the Trump videos, YouTube was recommending content that was more and more extreme than the mainstream political fare I had started with.

Intrigued, I experimented with nonpolitical topics. The same basic pattern emerged. Videos about vegetarianism led to videos about veganism. Videos about jogging led to videos about running ultramarathons.

It seems as if you are never “hard core” enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes. Given its billion or so users, YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.

This is not because a cabal of YouTube engineers is plotting to drive the world off a cliff. A more likely explanation has to do with the nexus of artificial intelligence and Google’s business model. (YouTube is owned by Google.) For all its lofty rhetoric, Google is an advertising broker, selling our attention to companies that will pay for it. The longer people stay on YouTube, the more money Google makes.

What keeps people glued to YouTube? Its algorithm seems to have concluded that people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with — or to incendiary content in general.

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She compares it to how we feast on fatty foods – driven by our evolutionary instincts, which lead us astray when such foods aren’t rare but instead are plentiful.

The question now is, will YouTube accept this, and fix it?

link to this extract


Omega-3s aren’t so great for your heart after all • Lifehacker

Alice Callahan:

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a closer look at the origin of the fish oil story shows that more skepticism was warranted from the very beginning. According to a 2014 paper published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, Bang and Dyerberg’s hypothesis was built on thin ice. For one thing, they never actually measured the incidence of heart disease in Greenland, instead relying on sketchy local estimates, which were unreliable since many people lived too far from medical facilities to have their diseases or causes of death accurately diagnosed. Subsequent studies found that rates of cardiovascular disease in Inuit populations are just as high, if not higher than in western populations, despite their high intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Plus, the Greenlanders seem to have evolved genetic differences that allow them to process their unique diet. A 2015 paper published in the journal Science identified gene variants common in Inuits (and rare in Europeans) that help them metabolize their fatty diet and keep blood omega-3 levels in balance with other fats in the body. Without that genetic background, someone of European ancestry eating an Inuit diet might end up with much higher blood cholesterol and omega-3 levels.

Fish is still good for us, though. Observational studies, which estimate how much fish people eat and their incidence of heart disease, consistently find that eating fish at least once per week is associated with a lower risk of dying of coronary heart disease.

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link to this extract


Source: Motorola is cancelling the Moto X5, moving away from niche Mods • Android Police

David Ruddock:

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According to a source familiar with the company’s plans, as part of today’s downsizing of Motorola’s engineering team in Chicago, the Lenovo-owned smartphone maker has completely abandoned plans to launch the successor to last year’s Moto X4, the as-yet unannounced Moto X5. The X5 was leaked in significant detail in January.

Motorola continues to be a drag on Lenovo, which had initially promised to turn its ailing smartphone division profitable within two quarters of its acquisition. That never happened. Lenovo slashed and burned much of Motorola’s global workforce and presence, but the business hasn’t managed to make the turnaround it so clearly needs.

Our source states that Motorola will be narrowing its focus back to E, G, and Z phones for the time being. It’s possible the Moto X name could return at some point, but that’s looking unlikely in light of this news.

Additionally, Motorola will be largely discontinuing its efforts in the realm of more… eccentric Mods for its Z phones, and instead stick to products it believes can actually turn a profit.

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So Motorola, like LG, has discovered that nobody (to a near approximation) buys Mods. That downsizing in Chicago is 190 people, or half its engineering staff there, according to the linked article. The curtain is coming down on Motorola, the mobile phone company that just couldn’t make a profit in the smartphone age, no matter who owned it.
link to this extract


Twitter just suspended a ton of accounts known for stealing tweets • Buzzfeed

Julia Reinstein:

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Many of these accounts were hugely popular, with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers.

In addition to stealing people’s tweets without credit, some of these accounts are known as “tweetdeckers” due to their practice of teaming up in exclusive Tweetdeck groups and mass-retweeting one another’s — and paying customers’ — tweets into forced virality.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on individual accounts, but BuzzFeed News understands the accounts were suspended for violating Twitter’s spam policy.

Tweetdecking, as it’s called, is an explicit violation of Twitter’s spam policy, which does not allow users to “sell, purchase, or attempt to artificially inflate account interactions.”

Still, Twitter has previously struggled to crack down on these accounts.

After a BuzzFeed News story uncovered the practice of tweetdecking in January, Twitter announced new spam-fighting changes to Tweetdeck, including removing the ability to simultaneously retweet a tweet across multiple accounts.

“Tweetdecking is over. Our follower gains are gonna diminish,” Andrew Guerrero, a 23-year-old tweetdecker in New Mexico, told BuzzFeed News after Twitter announced the changes in February. (Guerrero asked that his account name not be disclosed since it could get him suspended.)

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Interesting how Twitter is working inward, from the comparatively easy targets, implicitly towards the tougher ones.
link to this extract


This is what happens when bitcoin miners take over your town • POLITICO Magazine

Paul Roberts:

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The utilities’ larger challenge comes from the legitimate commercial operators, whose appetite for megawatts has upended a decades-old model of publicly owned power. The combined output of the basin’s five dams averages around 3,000 megawatts, or enough for the population of Los Angeles. Until fairly recently, perhaps 80% of this massive output was exported via contracts that were hugely advantageous for locals. Cryptocurrency mining has been changing all that, to a degree that is only now becoming clear. By the end of 2018, Carlson reckons the basin will have a total of 300 megawatts of mining capacity. But that is nothing compared to what some hope to see in the basin. Over the past 12 months or so, the three public utilities reportedly have received applications and inquiries for future power contracts that, were they all to be approved, could approach 2,000 megawatts—enough to consume two-thirds of the basin’s power output.

Just because miners want power doesn’t mean they get it. Some inquiries are withdrawn. And all three county public utilities have considerable discretion when it comes to granting power requests. But by law, they must consider any legitimate request for power, which has meant doing costly studies and holding hearings—sparking a prolonged, public debate over this new industry’s impact on the basin’s power economy. There are concerns about the huge costs of new substations, transmission wires and other infrastructure necessary to accommodate these massive loads. In Douglas County, where the bulk of the new mining projects are going in, a brand new 84-megawatt substation that should have been adequate for the next 30 to 50 years of normal population growth was fully subscribed in less than a year.

Many also fear that the new mines will suck up so much of the power surplus that is currently exported that local rates will have to rise. In fact, miners’ appetite for power is growing so rapidly that the three counties have instituted surcharges for extra infrastructure, and there is talk of moratoriums on new mines. There is also talk of something that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago: buying power from outside suppliers. That could mean the end of decades of ultracheap power—all for a new, highly volatile sector that some worry may not be around long anyway. Indeed, one big fear, says Dennis Bolz, a Chelan County Public Utility commissioner, is that a prolonged price collapse will cause miners to abandon the basin—and leave ratepayers with “an infrastructure that may or may not have a use.”

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A great piece – though the insanity behind bitcoin is just depressing.
link to this extract


Search engine for source code • PublicWWW.com

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Source Code Search Engine
Find any alphanumeric snippet, signature or keyword in the web pages HTML, JS and CSS code.

Ultimate solution for digital marketing and affiliate marketing research, PublicWWW allow you to perform searches this way, something that is not possible with other regular search engines:

• Any HTML, JavaScript, CSS and plain text in web page source code
• References to StackOverflow questions in HTML, .CSS and .JS files
• Web designers and developers who hate IE
• Sites with the same analytics id: “UA-19778070-“
• Sites using the following version of nginx: “Server: nginx/1.4.7”
• Advertising networks users: “adserver.adtech.de”…

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And many more. Sure others will find uses for this, such as tracking down copies, and sites created by the same person/people (for scams?).
link to this extract


Artificial intelligence could identify gang crimes—and ignite an ethical firestorm • Science

Matthew Hutson:

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…the partially generative algorithm reduced errors by close to 30%, the team reported at the Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society (AIES) conference this month in New Orleans, Louisiana. The researchers have not yet tested their algorithm’s accuracy against trained officers.

It’s an “interesting paper,” says Pete Burnap, a computer scientist at Cardiff University who has studied crime data. But although the predictions could be useful, it’s possible they would be no better than officers’ intuitions, he says. Haubert agrees, but he says that having the assistance of data modeling could sometimes produce “better and faster results.” Such analytics, he says, “would be especially useful in large urban areas where a lot of data is available.”

But researchers attending the AIES talk raised concerns during the Q&A afterward. How could the team be sure the training data were not biased to begin with? What happens when someone is mislabeled as a gang member? Lemoine asked rhetorically whether the researchers were also developing algorithms that would help heavily patrolled communities predict police raids.

Hau Chan, a computer scientist now at Harvard University who was presenting the work, responded that he couldn’t be sure how the new tool would be used. “I’m just an engineer,” he said. Lemoine quoted a lyric from a song about the wartime rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, in a heavy German accent: “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?” Then he angrily walked out.

Approached later for comment, Lemoine said he had talked to Chan to smooth things over. “I don’t necessarily think that we shouldn’t build tools for the police, or that we should,” Lemoine said (commenting, he specified, as an individual, not as a Google representative). “I think that when you are building powerful things, you have some responsibility to at least consider how could this be used.”

Two of the paper’s senior authors spent nearly 20 minutes deflecting such questions during a later interview. “It’s kind of hard to say at the moment,” said Jeffrey Brantingham, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s basic research.” Milind Tambe, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, agreed. Might a tool designed to classify gang crime be used to, say, classify gang crime? They wouldn’t say.

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link to this extract


Bad traffic: Sandvine’s PacketLogic devices used to deploy government spyware in Turkey and redirect Egyptian users to affiliate ads? • Citizenlab

Bill Marczak, Jakub Dalek, Sarah McKune, Adam Senft, John Scott-Railton, and Ron Deibert

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• Through Internet scanning, we found deep packet inspection (DPI) middleboxes on Türk Telekom’s network. The middleboxes were being used to redirect hundreds of users in Turkey and Syria to nation-state spyware when those users attempted to download certain legitimate Windows applications.

• We found similar middleboxes at a Telecom Egypt demarcation point. On a number of occasions, the middleboxes were apparently being used to hijack Egyptian Internet users’ unencrypted web connections en masse, and redirect the users to revenue-generating content such as affiliate ads and browser cryptocurrency mining scripts.

• After an extensive investigation, we matched characteristics of the network injection in Turkey and Egypt to Sandvine PacketLogic devices. We developed a fingerprint for the injection we found in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt and matched our fingerprint to a second-hand PacketLogic device that we procured and measured in a lab setting.

• The apparent use of Sandvine devices to surreptitiously inject malicious and dubious redirects for users in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt raises significant human rights concerns.

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link to this extract


Apple might be fixing the MacBook’s most annoying problem • Gizmodo

Alex Cranz:

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Apple’s patent suggests three primary ideas. One is to apply a membrane between the mechanism that moves the key (also known as a switch) and the keycap. That’s a funny one to attempt to patent as a number of keyboard makers already do something similar, including Apple. Topre and Razer both make “hybrid” switches that incorporate a membrane and a mechanical component, too. This latest Apple hybrid would simply add another membrane to specifically protect the mechanical elements.


These key switches would use air to clear debris. Image: Apple

The second idea Apple has is using a perforated membrane that would, it appears, emit gas or air with each keypress, effectively clearing the key of debris.

The third idea is to create, essentially, an awning around the keycap that funnels debris away from the key switch.

All three ideas, implemented in a wide variety of ways, can be found in the patent here.

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This is well overdue; Apple has a big PR problem with its new keyboards’ penchant for sticking. Personally, I’m waiting until that’s solved before buying a new one. Though this one I’m using (from 2012) still runs fine – in the past six months it’s had a new battery and logic board. Nothing wrong with it.
link to this extract


MacBook Air: Why won’t it die? • Macworld

Jason Snell:

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While I love Retina displays, I know a lot of people who either don’t see a difference or don’t care about the difference. The processors might be a few years old, but for a lot of use cases, the MacBook Air [which lacks a Retina display] is fast enough. (I’ve edited dozens of complex Logic Pro X projects on an old 11-inch Air.)

USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports might be exciting and new and offer a lot of potential for improved throughput, but for most regular users they’re a liability, a confusing and incompatible port that requires an additional investment in adapters and dongles to further raise the price of moving to a new laptop. (The Air also has that old-style keyboard. A lot of people like the new keyboard on modern Mac laptops, but for others it does take some getting used to. The keyboard on the Air requires no adaptation.)

And can we deny that the MagSafe adapter on the MacBook Air is a better way to charge your laptop than using either half (in the case of the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar) or 100% (in the case of the MacBook) of your available USB-C ports?

Maybe this is what happens when Apple introduces innovative new features—and some portion of the buying public simply shrugs and fails to see the value in it, given the price. (This may also explain why several people I know have sold their modern 15-inch MacBook Pros with Touch Bar and gone back to the previous-generation model.)

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I just don’t see the MacBook Air going away, nor getting a price cut, while it keeps selling. If you have a rock-solid winner which pulls in the profit quarter after quarter, and has done so for years – while your other models are having to work to justify their existence (*cough*keyboard*cough*USB-C*) then it’s utterly a no-brainer to keep churning it out.
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What Siri creator Norman Winarsky thinks of Apple’s Siri now • Quartz

Corinne Purtill:

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This isn’t where Winarsky thought Siri would be at this point. In a recent interview with Quartz, Winarsky said that the AI’s current capabilities fell short of his earlier predictions for the assistant in several key ways.

Siri is great for setting reminders, checking the weather, sending texts for you and other relatively mundane tasks. But it has an imperfect grasp of users’ preferences and past history. Its predictive intelligence is limited—it’s not great at knowing what you want before you know you want it. And while vastly improved from its earliest days, Siri still isn’t a sparkling conversationalist. “Surprise and delight is kind of missing right now,” said Winarsky, now a consultant and venture capitalist.
Winarsky acknowledges that some of this disappointment stems from the sheer difficulty of predicting the pace of major technological advancement, which Bill Gates once summed up as the human tendency to “overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.”

But part of it is also likely because Apple chose to take Siri in a very different direction than the one its founders envisioned. Pre-Apple, Winarsky said, Siri was intended to launch specifically as a travel and entertainment concierge. Were you to arrive at an airport to discover a cancelled flight, for example, Siri would already be searching for an alternate route home by the time you pulled your phone from your pocket—and if none was available, would have a hotel room ready to book. It would have a smaller remit, but it would learn it flawlessly, and then gradually extend to related areas. Apple launched Siri as an assistant that can help you in all areas of your life, a bigger challenge that will inevitably take longer to perfect, Winarsky said. (It’s certainly not an impossible one—competitors like Google Assistant have already surpassed Siri’s ability to navigate travel and other logistics.)

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link to this extract


Kodak pt 5: KodakCoin ICO Light Paper finally released! • Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain

David Gerard:

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The ICO [initial coin offering] template is:

• State a problem;
• assert that ERC-20 tokens on the ethereum blockchain will solve it;
• there aren’t any other steps.

This section of the paper outlines steps one and two — why photographers will want to sign up to sell their photos on KodakOne:

Money: KodakOne’s AI-powered Big Data infringement detection — an automated copyright trolling engine — will pay you instantly! In KodakCoin.
Trust: Every transaction and license agreement “immutably stored in our decentralized registry”!
Time: Distribution is work. Our decentralised platform will be your central one-stop shop!

Not answered: why a centralised registry benefits from decentralisation, how the magic AI pixie dust works, or — a question not answered at any point — why professional photographers would want to be paid in a minor crypto that can’t even be legally traded, rather than actual money.

They don’t even offer to redeem these untradeable objects for cash, though you’ll be able to buy things from WENN Digital with them in the future:

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KODAKCoin tokenholders will have no right to return KODAKCoin to WENN Digital or to receive a refund or otherwise require WENN Digital to exchange any amount of KODAKCoin for fiat currency. However, holders of KODAKCoin will have the ability to use them to purchase goods and services on the KODAKOne Platform’s marketplace.

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Photo licensing sites abound. Why should anyone use this one?

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Another notable quote from this takedown: “They’ve licensed the name ‘Kodak’ from Eastman Kodak, the flayed and tattered hide of what was once a famous film company.”

link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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