Start Up No.952: jigsaw melding, Russia jamming GPS?, the faked heavy metal fans, YouTube v Article 13, and more


Editing: please can we not have it for tweets? Photo by Wesley Fryer on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Formatted correctly this time. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

This artist uses jigsaw puzzles, with the same die cut pattern, to make these terrific mashups • Boing Boing

Rusty Blazenhoff:

»

Oh boy, I think I have a new hobby. I’ve just learned that you can combine puzzles, that have the same die cut, to make really awesome pieces of art. It had never occurred to me that manufacturers of mass-produced puzzles cut different puzzles of theirs in the same way, making the pieces interchangeable. It makes complete sense, of course, but my mind is still blown!

I learned about the art of “puzzle montage” from one of the readers of my inbox zine, Marcia Wiley (she’s the gal in Seattle who’s fixing up that cool old Checker Cab). She was visiting the Bay Area and we met up for the first time this past Friday. That’s when she told me about her friend Tim Klein, who makes incredible puzzle montages. I’m excited to share his work with you.

In an email exchange, Tim told me that he learned about puzzle montages from the man who first made them, art professor Mel Andringa of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, “As far as I know, he and I are the only artists ever to pursue it seriously. And I think he’s moved on to other things nowadays, so I may be the sole surviving practitioner.”

«

They’re absolutely amazing. I think the below one is my favourite. More at Puzzle Montages.


link to this extract


Dorsey says Twitter is thinking about an edit button to fix typos in tweets • The Next Web

Ivan Mehta:

»

For the first time since the end of 2016, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shed some light on the company’s thoughts about building an edit button for tweets. Speaking at an event in India’s capital of New Delhi, he said that the company has to carefully consider use cases for the edit button before making it a reality – and it could potentially be tooled to help fix typos.

“You have to pay attention to what are the use cases for the edit button. A lot of people want the edit button because they want to quickly fix a mistake they made. Like a misspelling or tweeting the wrong URL. That’s a lot more achievable than allowing people to edit any tweet all the way back in time,” Dorsey said.

He added that Twitter will ideally prevent unlimited editing, because then anyone could abuse the feature to alter their controversial or damning statements later on. Dorsey noted that the company wants to implement a solution that solves a problem and removes what “people see as friction in the service.”

“We have been considering this for a while and we have to do in the right way. We can’t just rush it out. We can’t make something which is distracting or takes anything away from the public record,” said the Twitter CEO.

«

I wish Dorsey just had the courage to say that an edit button is a bad idea because it will be abused, and leave it at that. You know it will be: trolls will change tweets to alter their meaning, not for typos. Accept that we make mistakes and leave it at that and focus on making the network better – for example, by preventing verified accounts being taken over and used for bitcoin scams.
link to this extract


Russia suspected of jamming GPS signal in Finland • BBC News

»

“It is difficult to say what the reasons could be but there are reasons to believe it could be related to military exercise activities outside Norway’s borders,” Wenche Olsen, director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Norway, told the Barents Observer earlier this month.

Russia is also suspected of jamming the GPS signal in Norway’s border area last year when it held its own war games.

Relations between Nato and Russia have been strained since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The Finnish region of Lapland and northern parts of Norway close to the Russian border were affected, with the Norwegian regional airline Widerøe confirming its pilots had experienced GPS disruption, Germany’s DW news site reports.

However, the airline pointed out that pilots aboard civilian aircraft had other options when a GPS signal failed. “This is not a joke, it threatened the air security of ordinary people,” said Mr Sipila, who is himself an experienced pilot. “It is possible that Russia has been the disrupting party in this. Russia is known to possess such capabilities.”

GPS is a global navigation system originally devised by the US military which works by sending signals from satellites above the Earth back down to receivers. “Technology-wise, it’s relatively easy to disturb a radio signal, and it’s possible that Russia was behind it,” Mr Sipila was quoted as saying.

«

At ground level, GPS signals are incredibly weak, essentially lost in background noise; it’s only by knowing how the signal varies that it can be picked out. In turn, that means you can jam them.
link to this extract


LA band Threatin faked a fanbase to land a European tour no one attended • MetalSucks

Vince Neilstein:

»

Talking up your own band a little bit to make it appear that you’re more popular than you are is a rite of passage for young acts. We’ve heard of plenty of bands that’ve exaggerated sales or live show numbers to land a gig or two, or talked themselves up to national media for some press attention. It comes with the territory, and it’s usually harmless.

But the Los Angeles band Threatin have taken that idea to a level previously thought unimaginable: the band was able to book an entire tour of Europe despite having no fanbase whatsoever, and it’s all in the process of crashing down around them.

¶ To do it, the band’s frontman and leader, Jered Threatin, posed as a nonexistent booking agent / promoter to land the gigs, used faked live footage of allegedly packed shows in L.A., bought Facebook likes, event RSVPs and YouTube views and lied about ticket sales numbers to swindle venue owners and talent buyers into taking on the shows.

Posts started making the rounds on social media when the tour kicked off on November 1st in London. A post by the venue The Underworld, which hosted the show, alleged that the band’s agent claimed the band had sold 291 tickets in advance but only three people turned up:

Things didn’t get any better from there. The Exchange in Bristol realized they’d had a similar hoax pulled on them a few days later, with the “promoter” saying 180 tickets had been sold in advance only to have no one show up but a few people from the opening band’s guest list.

«

There’s cocky, and then there’s this. Seems they also created a fake record label, phony press outlet, nonexistent award “and more”. Seems there’s also live footage. Oo.
link to this extract


The potential unintended consequences of Article 13 • YouTube Creator Blog

Susan Wojcicki is CEO of YouTube:

»

We have worked hard to ensure creators and artists are fairly compensated for their work. In the last year, YouTube paid content owners across the EU €800m. We have also paid the global music industry more than €1.5bn from advert-generated revenue alone.

However, this creator economy is under threat from a section of the EU’s efforts to revise its copyright directive, known as article 13, which holds internet companies directly responsible for any copyright infringement in the content shared on their platform.

While we support the goals of article 13, the European Parliament’s current proposal will create unintended consequences that will have a profound impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.

The parliament’s approach is unrealistic in many cases because copyright owners often disagree over who owns what rights. If the owners cannot agree, it is impossible to expect the open platforms that host this content to make the correct rights decisions.

Take the global music hit “Despacito”. This video contains multiple copyrights, ranging from sound recording to publishing rights. Although YouTube has agreements with multiple entities to license and pay for the video, some of the rights holders remain unknown. That uncertainty means we might have to block videos like this to avoid liability under article 13.

«

One suspects there’s a teensy bit of dissembling going on here. An FT article from September says

»

One of the most contentious elements of the draft legislation, known as article 13, would require the use of “upload filters” to pre-scan user uploaded content to ensure it did not breach copyright rules. Critics say this would hamper internet freedom and kill off content such as social media memes.

«

Come on, Google. Despacito is a piece of licensed music. Where rightsholders are unknown, money gets paid into account for when they turn up. The filter stuff is going to hurt YouTube.
link to this extract


Facebook failed to police how its partners handled user data • The New York Times

Nicholas Confessore, Michael LaForgia and Gabriel J.X. Dance:

»

When a team from PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted the initial F.T.C.-mandated assessment in 2013, it tested Facebook’s partnerships with Microsoft and Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry handset. In both cases, PricewaterhouseCoopers found only “limited evidence” that Facebook had monitored or checked its partners’ compliance with its data use policies. That finding was redacted from a public version of PricewaterhouseCoopers’s report released by the F.T.C. in June.

“Facebook claimed that its data-sharing partnerships with smartphone manufacturers were on the up and up,” [Oregon Democratic senator Ron] Wyden said. “But Facebook’s own, handpicked auditors said the company wasn’t monitoring what smartphone manufacturers did with Americans’ personal information, or making sure these manufacturers were following Facebook’s own policies.” He added, “It’s not good enough to just take the word of Facebook — or any major corporation — that they’re safeguarding our personal information.”

In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman said, “We take the F.T.C. consent order incredibly seriously and have for years submitted to extensive assessments of our systems.” She added, “We remain strongly committed to the consent order and to protecting people’s information.”

Facebook, like other companies under F.T.C. consent decree, largely dictates the scope of each assessment. In two subsequent assessments, Facebook’s October letter suggests, the company was graded on a seemingly less stringent policy with data partners. On those two, Facebook had to show that its partners had agreed to its data use policies.

A Wyden aide who reviewed the unredacted assessments said they contained no evidence that Facebook had ever addressed the original problem. The Facebook spokeswoman did not directly address the 2013 test failure, or the company’s apparent decision to change the test in question.

«

The FTC hit Facebook with a privacy consent decree in 2010. Except Facebook gets to decide the scope of the assessment? That’s ludicrous. And then PWC redacts important content?
link to this extract


Amazon’s HQ2 spectacle isn’t just shameful—it should be illegal • The Atlantic

Derek Thompson:

»

there are three major problems with America’s system of corporate giveaways.

First, they’re redundant. One recent study by Nathan Jensen, then an economist at George Washington University, found that these incentives “have no discernible impact on firm expansion, measured by job creation.” Companies often decide where they want to go and then find ways to get their dream city, or hometown, to pay them to do what they were going to do anyway. For example, Amazon is a multinational company with large media and advertising divisions. The drama of the past 13 months probably wasn’t crucial to its (probable) decision to expand to New York City, the unambiguous capital of media and advertising.

Second, companies don’t always hold up their end of the deal. Consider the saga of Wisconsin and the Chinese manufacturing giant Foxconn. Several years ago, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker lured Foxconn with a subsidy plan totaling more than $3bn. (For the same amount, you could give every household in Wisconsin about $1,700.) Foxconn said it would build a large manufacturing plant that would create about 13,000 jobs near Racine. Now it seems the company is building a much smaller factory with just one quarter of its initial promised investment, and much of the assembly work may be done by robots. Meanwhile, the expected value of Wisconsin’s subsidy has grown to more than $4bn. Thus a state with declining wages for many public-school teachers could wind up paying more than $500,000 per net new Foxconn job—about 10 times the average salary of a Wisconsin teacher.

Third, even when the incentives aren’t redundant, and even when companies do hold up their end of the bargain, it’s still ludicrous for Americans to collectively pay tens of billions of dollars for huge corporations to relocate within the United States.

«

His suggestion: federal legislation which claws back 100% of any state subsidy.
link to this extract


Amazon selects New York City and northern Virginia for new headquarters • About Amazon official blog

Day One Staff:

»

• As part of Amazon’s new headquarters, New York and Long Island City will benefit from more than 25,000 full-time high-paying jobs; approximately $2.5bn in Amazon investment; 4m square feet of energy-efficient office space with an opportunity to expand to 8m square feet; and an estimated incremental tax revenue of more than $10bn over the next 20 years as a result of Amazon’s investment and job creation.

• Amazon will receive performance-based direct incentives of $1.525bn based on the company creating 25,000 jobs in Long Island City. This includes a refundable tax credit through New York State’s Excelsior Program of up to $1.2bn calculated as a percentage of the salaries Amazon expects to pay employees over the next 10 years, which equates to $48,000 per job for 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000; and a cash grant from Empire State Development of $325m based on the square footage of buildings occupied in the next 10 years. Amazon will receive these incentives over the next decade based on the incremental jobs it creates each year and as it reaches building occupancy targets. The company will separately apply for as-of-right incentives including New York City’s Industrial & Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP) and New York City’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP).

• The community will benefit from New York City providing funding through a Payment In Lieu Of Tax (PILOT) program based on Amazon’s property taxes on a portion of the development site to fund community infrastructure improvements developed through input from residents during the planning process. Amazon has agreed to donate space on its campus for a tech startup incubator and for use by artists and industrial businesses, and Amazon will donate a site for a new primary or intermediary public school. The company will also invest in infrastructure improvements and new green spaces.

«

Struggling startup Amazon getting a billion-dollar helping hand there from NYC. So kind.

A reminder that the kickback to Foxconn helped get Scott Walker kicked out in Wisconsin. I wonder how it’s going to play for the politicians who were behind this? The ones who aren’t – notably new electee Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez – are making a lot of noise about it.
link to this extract


This is all Donald Trump has left • Deadspin

David Roth:

»

All Trump wants, all he has ever wanted, is to be able to keep doing and taking and saying whatever he wants whenever he wants. He ran for president for this reason and this reason only.

His politics, to the extent that they’ve ever been legible, have always been off-the-rack big city tabloid bullshit—crudely racist exterminate the brutes/back the blue authoritarianism in the background and ruthless petty rich person squabbling in the front. His actions since becoming president have been those of a dim, cruel child playacting at being a powerful—giving orders without quite knowing what they mean or how they might be carried out, taunting enemies, beating up the people he can afford to beat up without having to be called to account for it, lying as needed or just for yuks. He hasn’t changed a thing since graduating from punchline to president. It’s been clear for decades that Trump was both an asshole and a dummy; this is now a problem not just for the odd unlucky cocktail waitress and his staff of cheesy apparatchiks but literally every person on earth.

Presidents exert a kind of ambient influence on the culture, but as Trump is different than previous presidents his influence necessarily feels different. Barack Obama wanted to be a cosmopolitan leader who brought people together and into a deeper empathy through a mastery of reason and rules; the country he governed doesn’t work like that, though, and the tension between that cool vision and this seething reality grew and grew. By the end, his presidency had the feeling of a prestige television show in its fifth season—handsomely produced and reliably well-performed but ultimately not really as sure what it was about as it first appeared to be. Trump has no such pretense or noble aspiration, and has only made the country more like himself; living in his America feels like being trapped in a garish casino that is filling with seawater, because that is what it is.

«

It’s a tour de force, and should be obligatory reading from the top. This is Trump’s obituary; nothing more true can be said about him.
link to this extract


Amazon asked to share Echo data in US murder case • BBC News

»

A judge in the US has asked Amazon to hand over audio recordings from an Amazon Echo which was in a house where two women died.
Their bodies were found under the porch of a home in New Hampshire with multiple stab wounds.

The man accused of their murder has pleaded not guilty and is due to stand trial next year.

Amazon said it would not hand over any data about the device without a legally-binding instruction.

The judge had also requested any additional data, such as which devices were paired with it at the time the women were attacked in January 2017.

Amazon told the Associated Press it would not hand over anything “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us”.

Last year the tech giant did agree to hand over data from an Echo that may have been operating at the time of a murder in Arkansas – but only after the defendant consented.

«

This is going to become standard operating procedure for police forces very quickly. And that’s before you get to Nest devices, proximity sensors and so on.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: the email for Start Up 951 had a formatting glitch – this happened because Flickr allows PNG format as well as JPG, and my composition script only expects JPG, so it pulled in a ton of extra stuff, and after the edit I overlooked a size setting on the main image, so the email tried to be super-wide like the image. But let’s talk about how HTML is too easy.

2 thoughts on “Start Up No.952: jigsaw melding, Russia jamming GPS?, the faked heavy metal fans, YouTube v Article 13, and more

  1. re. Edits, there are a couple of workarounds:
    – an edits log. The nerds at Ars Technica sometimes do it by hand even ^^
    – a timer. I think there’s one at The Verge. You got 30s to fix your typos.

    I’m very typo-prone and since I usually comment while multitasking, I really-really need the ability to edit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.