Start Up No.1,104: Superhuman rows back, Samsung in hot (salt) water, Apple running with scissors?, India’s water problem, and more

A tiny number of YouTube videos get a huge number of views; in theory, it could dump most of them and barely notice the difference. CC-licensed photo by Manuel Cernuda on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Who’s got the remote? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

What content dominates on YouTube? •

Rasty Turek:


Forget the Pareto principe (80/20 rule). YouTube’s distribution is significantly worse. Only 0.64% of all videos ever reach more than 100,000 views.

Why does it matter?

Distribution of views as % of total views on the platform

Because these 0.64% represent an incredible 81.6% of all views on the platform. You read it right. Should YouTube remove 99.36% of all underperforming videos, they would save an astounding amount of money and still retain most of the revenue (especially considering that most of the underperforming videos are on channels that don’t meet monetization criteria).

Distribution of views per category

Music is the only category that consistently attracts hundreds of millions of users to watch the same videos over and over. The first video that ever broke 1B view mark was a music video. The vast majority of videos with over 1B views are music videos.

Not all content is equal.


Just doing the numbers, 0.64% of all videos (5.2bn of them) is 33.3 million videos. They get 23.6 trillion views.

All the rest – 5.166bn videos – are getting 5.3 trillion views, or an average of a thousand views. And you can bet there’s a Pareto principle, or more, going on there. But of course it wouldn’t dump unwatched videos, and more than Google would limit itself to a single page of search results.
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Read statuses • Superhuman

Rahul Vohra is CEO of Superhuman, the pricey email app which has been getting dinged this week:


Over the last few days, we have seen four main criticisms of read statuses in Superhuman:

• Location data could be used in nefarious ways
• Read statuses are on by default
• Recipients of emails cannot opt out
• Superhuman users cannot disable remote image loading

On all these, we hear you loud and clear. We are making these changes:
• We have stopped logging location information for new email, effective immediately
• We are releasing new app versions today that no longer show location information
• We are deleting all historical location data from our apps
• We are keeping the read status feature, but turning it off by default. Users who want it will have to explicitly turn it on
• We are prioritizing building an option to disable remote image loading.


That was satisfactorily quick. Vohra seems sincere in his apology (though he also points out that other “prosumer” email apps use “read status on by default”.
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D-Link agrees to new security monitoring to settle FTC charges • Ars Technica



Tuesday’s agreement settles a 2017 complaint by the US Federal Trade Commission that alleged D-Link left thousands of customers open to potentially costly hack attacks. The hardware maker, the FTC said, failed to test its gear against security flaws ranked among the most critical and widespread by the Open Web Application Security Project. The 2017 suit also said that, despite the lack of testing and hardening of its products, D-Link misrepresented its security regimen as reasonable.
Specific shortcomings cited by the FTC included:

• hard-coded login credentials on its D-Link camera software that used easily guessed passwords
• storing mobile app login credentials in human-readable text on a user’s mobile device
• expressly or implicitly describing its hardware as being secure from unauthorized access
• repeatedly failing to take reasonable testing and remediation measures to protect hardware from well-known and easily preventable software security flaws

“We sued D-Link over the security of its routers and IP cameras, and these security flaws risked exposing users’ most sensitive personal information to prying eyes,” Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a release.


There are almost surely more egregious IoT flaws out there, but they simply haven’t come to the FTC’s notice. (Though my current router has had a firmware upgrade available for roughly two years, and I haven’t wanted to install it because, well, it works fine at the moment.)
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Samsung accused of false claims about smartphone water resistance • SamMobile



an IP68 rating certifies that the device can be submerged in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. However, the official classification mentions that it must be fresh water since the tests for assigning these ratings are conducted in lab conditions. The devices are not tested in a swimming pool or the beach.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s issue is that Samsung’s advertisements show that the devices will be fine with exposure to all types of water, including ocean water and swimming pools, and that they “would not be affected by such exposure to water for the life of the phone.” The claim here is that Samsung showed people in its ads using the devices in pools and beaches even though the IP68 certification explicitly mentions fresh water. It has collected 300 examples of such ads.

The consumer watchdog adds that Samsung has denied warranty claims for customers whose phones were damaged after being used in water. It then points out that Samsung’s own website mentions that the new Galaxy S10 series is “not advised for beach or pool use.” Thus the ACCC is now initiating court action against Samsung and will be seeking penalties.

“Samsung stands by its marketing and advertising of the water resistancy of its smartphones,” the company said in a statement


Yeah, good luck with that. The ads are bad enough, but if it denied warranty claims, there’s no defence.
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User Inyerface – A worst-practice UI experiment


Hi and welcome to User Inyerface,
a challenging exploration of
user interactions and design patterns.

To play the game, simply fill in the form
as fast and accurate as possible.


You didn’t have anything planned for today, right?
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Kuo: Apple to include new scissor switch keyboard in 2019 MacBook Air and 2020 MacBook Pro • 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:


Apple is apparently set to ditch the butterfly mechanism used in MacBooks since 2015, which has been the root of reliability issues and its low-travel design has also not been popular with many Mac users.

In a report published today, Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple will roll out a new keyboard design based on scissor switches, offering durability and longer key travel, starting with the 2019 MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro is also getting the new scissor switch keyboard, but not until 2020.

The new scissor switch keyboard is a whole new design than anything previously seen in a MacBook, purportedly featuring glass fiber to reinforce the keys. Apple fans who have bemoaned the butterfly keyboard should be optimistic about a return to scissor switches.

Kuo says that Apple’s butterfly design was expensive to manufacture due to low yields. The new keyboard is still expected to cost more than an average laptop keyboard, but it should be cheaper than the butterfly components.

Apple has introduced four generations of butterfly keyboards in as many years, attempting to address user complaints about stuck keys, repeated key inputs, and even the loud clackiness of typing when striking each keycap.


The butterfly keys have all these problems in use and they have low yields? Those things are Pelion piled on Ossa. (Though I’m hoping my ageing 2012 MacBook Pro will survive long enough to let me skip the whole butterfly age.) But what’s the thinking behind using glass fibre? Is anyone complaining that their keys are breaking?
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Google Translate: In the second half of 2018, Apple removed 517 applications at the request of the Chinese government • VOA China


US Apple released a transparency report for the second half of 2018 on Wednesday, revealing that Apple, at the request of the Chinese government, removed 517 applications from China’s “app store” in the second half of last year.

In the report, Apple pointed out that the Chinese government filed a total of 56 requests for Apple to remove applications in the second half of last year, involving 626 applications, and Apple removed 517 of them. In comparison, Apple’s total number of applications requested by the government in the rest of the world is only 117. Apple said that the vast majority of applications that were removed in China were “related to illegal gambling or pornography.”

The report also shows that the Chinese government’s request for Apple to provide personal device information has increased dramatically, including who owns the device and what it is purchased with. The Chinese government requested 137,595 Apple devices in the second half of last year, up from 30,764 in the previous six months, and China’s figure is more than seven times that of the US, far exceeding half of the global total. Apple said the high figure “is mainly due to tax fraud investigations by tax authorities.”


The transparency report is here, or just grab the full PDF. Biggest number of “device requests”? Germany. Largest number of “devices specified in requests”? China, by a factor of about 10.
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Why not to use two axes, and what to use instead • Chartable

Lisa Charlotte Rost:


We believe that charts with two different y-axes make it hard for most people to intuitively make right statements about two data series. We recommend two alternatives strongly: using two charts instead of one and using indexed charts.

From time to time we get an email asking if it’s possible in Datawrapper to create charts with two different y-axes (also called double Y charts, dual axis charts, dual-scale data charts or superimposed charts). It is not – and we won’t add it any time soon. We’re sorry if that makes our user’s life harder, but we agree with the many chart experts[1] who make cases against dual axis charts. We hope you’ll hear us out.

We will first look at situations when people want to use dual axis charts, then we explain their problems, and afterward we’ll look at four alternatives


This blogpost is referenced in the slightly wordier, but not less good (just harder to excerpt) blogpost from the Office for National Statistics on the same topic. When the ONS comes out against dual axis, you know it’s bad.
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India staring at a water apocalypse • Asia Times

Saikat Datta:


While the ICIMOD study used climate change data and thousands of reports, another study using spy satellite imagery confirms that the loss to the glaciers has already arrived at an alarming stage. The study, published in the journal Sciences Advance, says that the region is losing 8.3 billion tons of ice every year. The average annual loss of ice between 2000 and 2016 doubled due to climate change. “Himalayan glaciers supply meltwater to densely populated catchments in South Asia,” the study notes, painting a grim picture of the region’s ability to sustain habitats.

If glaciers melting by the year 2100 is bad news, the outlook is worse when it comes to ground water. Himanshu Thakkar, who leads the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) in New Delhi, has been tracking water policies for decades. “Every study on the availability of water has now confirmed that ground water is the biggest source of water in the subcontinent. However, most governments are refusing to accept this as a reality. As a result, we have seen a succession of bad policies that has made matters worse,” he said.

Thakkar was part of a government committee in 2012 set up under the central planning commission, which used to design and implement India’s five-year development plans. Another study headed by noted water and development expert Mihir Shah concluded in 2016 that two-thirds of India’s irrigation needs depended exclusively on ground water.”However, since most of the finances are geared towards surface irrigation methods such as dams and canals, government agencies refuse to accept a scientific fact. As a result we have a slew of bad policies that have no bearing on reality,” Thakkar said.

Ironically, while India is facing one of its worst water crises and the southwest monsoons continue to be delayed, lawmakers who were recently elected in the general election don’t seem concerned.


“Government agencies refuse to accept a scientific fact” is going to be written on humanity’s gravestone.
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Facebook resolves day-long outages across Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:


The issues started around 8AM ET and began slowly clearing up after a couple hours, according to DownDetector, which monitors website and app issues. The errors aren’t affecting all images; many pictures on Facebook and Instagram still load, but others are appearing blank. DownDetector has also received reports of people being unable to load messages in Facebook Messenger.

The outage persisted through mid-day, with Facebook releasing a second statement, where it apologized “for any inconvenience.” Facebook’s platform status website still lists a “partial outage,” with a note saying that the company is “working on a fix that will go out shortly.”

Apps and websites are always going to experience occasional disruptions due to the complexity of services they’re offering. But even when they’re brief, they can become a real problem due to the huge number of users many of these services have. A Facebook outage affects a suite of popular apps, and those apps collectively have billions of users who rely on them.


Obviously, this wouldn’t be a problem once all your money and transactions were tied up in a digital currency which relied on Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp to validate and carry them out. Outages would be a thing of the past. Of course. (Interestingly, Apple had a two-hour outage on a number of its iCloud services and Apple Pay on Thursday. Linked to Amazon?)

Related: this week the Talking Politics podcast discusses Libra, Facebook’s digital currency (isn’t really a cryptocurrency). Always worth listening.
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UK regulator proposes ban on crypto-based derivatives • Financial Times

Philip Stafford, Cat Rutter Pooley and Martin Coulter:


UK market regulators are planning to ban derivatives on cryptocurrencies for retail investors, warning it is “impossible” to value them reliably, and that trading them is “akin to gambling”.

A paper by the Financial Conduct Authority on Wednesday set out plans to prohibit the sale or marketing of derivatives linked to cryptoassets such as bitcoin and ethereum from early next year.

An 18-month study of the market by the watchdog concluded that cryptocurrencies could not be valued as easily as other volatile assets such as gold or orange juice.

In one example, the FCA found that two analysts using the same pricing model arrived, separately, at bitcoin valuations of $20 and $8,000. “This makes it impossible to reliably value the derivatives contracts . . . linked to them,” the paper said.

The ban would cover futures, options and exchange-traded notes, as well as contracts for difference — seemingly simple products that allow users to bet on whether prices will rise or fall. Consumers would avoid losses of £75m to £234m a year under the ban, the FCA said.


That’s also £75m-£234m that the scammers are going to try to get by other means, so watch out.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

4 thoughts on “Start Up No.1,104: Superhuman rows back, Samsung in hot (salt) water, Apple running with scissors?, India’s water problem, and more

  1. A milestone and bad for the “services” narrative: Apple’s AppStore downloads seem to be down in H1 2019 for the first time ever (revenue are still up)

    Bears repeating: iServices sell to iDevices (actually, to iUsers); so, long term, Apple needs to sell devices. Apps are the more mature “service”, and reveal this obvious issue with Apple’s mono-platform service strategy.

    Other than that, same as always: Android generates a lot more downloads, but only slightly more revenue (we’re missing the China figures still, last time I looked the split was almost exactly 50:50 PlayStore:Others; with Apple weakening in China Android’s Apps revenue lead might have increased a bit.

  2. Anandtech’s CPU Deep Dives Are always a pleasure, Matched only by Ars Technica OS deep dives

    I like underdogs so I went with AMD for as long as I could, but once Intel got off the Pentium IV cul-de-sac AMD became a hard sell. Especially because beyond CPU, their north bridges were iffy and I kept running into USB issues on my last AMD box. Maybe it’s time to give them another go. Also on my do-not-buy list: Motorola (got a terrible phone w/ flaky connectors, flaky software, and zero service); Sony (terribad service. I’m OK with premium but service has to be good), Teclast (don’t last), Acer (4 purchases, 4 defects/early failures). Preferred list: Xiaomi, Anker, Benq. To-try list: Realme.

    Whoever releases a 7+” Android P or Q phone first gets my next meaningful IT purchase… It’s interesting how those get released by the hungriest OEMs: Samsung, then Huawei, then Xiaomi. I’m hoping for Realme next, two birds w/ one stone. I’m also actually looking at pants that’ll let me pocket an 8″ tablet… or a tailor who can enlarge pockets… Fashion-forward me ! 😦

    • More on topic, the way Intel’s fabs have gone from a seemingly unconquerable advantage to a ball and chain is fascinating. All the ore because there’s barely been any commentary about it. Marketing dollars at work.

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