Start Up No.1204: fix the climate (here are the tools), life inside InfoWars, Reddit outdoes Twitter, Google with unions?, and more

A new study shows how people get – and share – their news about the general election. CC-licensed photo by Diego Sideburns on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Another one down. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Uncovered: reality of how smartphones turned election news into chaos • The Guardian

Jim Waterson:


in a first-of-its-kind election monitoring project conducted by the Guardian and research agency Revealing Reality, a group of voters have allowed their phone use to be recorded for three days – and the results from each individual’s phone show how the traditional media ecosystem is changing and disintegrating.

Charlie in Sunderland consumed much of his election news through memes on lad humour Facebook pages, spending more time looking at posts of Boris Johnson using the word “boobies” than reading traditional news stories. Fiona in Bolton checked out claims about Jeremy Corbyn’s wealth by going to a website called Jihadi Watch before sharing the far-right material in a deliberate bid to anger her leftwing friends. And Shazi in Sheffield followed the BBC leaders’ interviews purely by watching videos of party supporters chanting the Labour leader’s name outside the venue.

The six volunteers who took part in the project should be seen as a snapshot rather than a statistically representative sample of the population. But the behaviour chimes with previous research to illustrate a pattern of behaviour across the political spectrum – a result with huge implications for the role of responsible journalism and reliable sources.

“News is becoming intermingled with entertainment,” said Damon De Ionno of agency Revealing Reality, who ran the project after pioneering the screen-recording approach to market research in the UK. “You’re no longer asking: what’s going on in the world today? It’s very different – you want to be entertained.”

The analysts who studied the volunteers – recruited under pseudonyms to reflect a spread of demographics, politics, and geography – saw broad patterns in the way they used their phones. Some were expected, with people increasingly consuming news passively by scrolling through headlines rather than actively seeking out information; one woman in London read 29 headlines but clicked on just six and only read three articles to the end.


Reading headlines and not reading all or even most of the article isn’t new; that’s been the case with papers for years. What’s really different here is being able to share stuff you haven’t read at all, and seeking out a source for something you want to be confirmed.
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How political parties are using GIFs to boost their campaigns • Sky News

Rowland Manthorpe:


Here’s a question. What’s performed really well online for the SNP this year?

It’s not an incendiary tweet or an aggressive video, or any of the sort of things normally associated with political success online.

No – it’s a GIF of Nicola Sturgeon raising her eyebrows.


Since this second-long moving image was created by the party in February, it’s had more than 1.4 million views – more than 30,000 times the SNP’s most popular video on YouTube.

This isn’t a fluke, but a triumph of digital strategy.

Since 2016, the SNP has been creating content for use inside mobile apps.

The Nicola Sturgeon GIF is just one of 408 items it has uploaded to its channel on GIF database Giphy.


*aged voice* I remember when they used to do it with posters. Posters that they stuck to billboards.
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I worked for Alex Jones. I regret it • The New York Times

Josh Owens was given a job at InfoWars as a video editor at the age of 23, right out of college:


Suddenly, I was no longer a bored kid attending an overpriced art school. I was Fox Mulder combing through the X-Files, Rod Serling opening a door to the Twilight Zone, even Rosemary Woodhouse convinced that the neighbors were members of a ritualistic cult. I believed that the world was strategically run by a shadowy, organized cabal, and that Jones was a hero for exposing it.

I had my limits. I can’t say I ever believed his avowed theory that Sandy Hook was a staged event to push for gun control; to Jones, everything was a “false flag.” I didn’t believe that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama smelled like sulfur because of their proximity to hell or that Planned Parenthood was run by “Nazi baby killers.” But it was easy to brush off these fever dreams as eccentricities and excesses — not the heart of the Alex Jones operation but mere diversions.

Once I started working there, however, it became obvious that one was impossible to separate one from the other. Soon after I was hired, Jones’s Infowars-branded store — which sells emergency-survival foods, water filters, body armor and much more — introduced an iodine supplement, initially marketed as a “shield” against nuclear fallout. Still learning the ropes, I was tasked with creating video advertisements for the supplement, which he ran on his online TV show. One of these ads started with a shot of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as it exploded. I doubled the sound of the explosion, adding a glitch filter and sirens in the background for dramatic effect. Jones stood over my shoulder as I edited. “This is great,” he said. “See if you can find flyover footage of Chernobyl as well.”


Life inside a cult: remarkably cult-like.
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We need to halve emissions by 2030. They rose again in 2019 • MIT Technology Review

James Temple:


The world likely needs to halve greenhouse-gas emissions within the next decade to prevent dangerous levels of global warming. Instead, year after year, we’re still pumping out more climate pollution.

Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels will rise for the third straight year in 2019, ticking up an estimated 0.6% to a record 37 billion metric tons, according to the closely watched annual report from the Global Carbon Project. Slight declines in the US and European Union were offset by projected increases in China, India, and other parts of the world, where economic growth is fueling rising energy demands.

In fact, carbon pollution is likely to climb again in 2020, given expected increases in use of oil and natural gas in emerging economies.

“Even with all the attention of the youth movements and growing climate focus around the world, we still haven’t turned the corner to stabilize and bring emissions down,” says Rob Jackson, professor of earth system science at Stanford and chair of the Global Carbon Project, an international research collaboration established in 2001 to track global climate pollution.


Got that? Next up is your chance to fix it. Yes, really.
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En-ROADS Climate scenario modelling • MIT Management Sustainability Initiative


Welcome to the beta version of En-ROADS from Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan’s Sustainability Initiative.

The simulator is most powerful when used in a role-play game or policy workshop.


This is really detailed. With the default assumptions, it’s forecasting that we’ll be 4.1C above baseline by 2100. You have lots of levers to pull: economic growth, population growth, coal/oil/nuclear/renewable/gas/bioenergy use, carbon pricing, energy efficiency, transport electrification, industry electrification, deforestation, reforestation, methane emissions from land and industry, carbon sequestration.

You pull them all really hard and suddenly the only way to keep the world from cooking is to be Thanos.
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France not ruling out response to cyber attack on hospital • Bloomberg

Helene Fouquet:


French authorities said they may hit back at cyber assailants who’ve struck a public hospital, forcing it to suspend all but the most vital systems.

“The attacker is still active, and looking for targets in France,” said Guillaume Poupard, the head of the national cyber security agency ANSSI. He spoke on the sideline of a conference in Paris. “The French law allows us to be active against the attacker, to neutralize it. We’re not ruling it out,” he said.

Authorities said the Nov. 15 attack’s characteristics are similar to those of a criminal group from Russia called TA505 and have deployed 50 agents at the Rouen hospital to repair networks and restore operations. Poupard said a series of attacks in the past weeks hit public and private operators with an emphasis on the health sector. He declined to say if publicly listed companies had been targets.

While French police may be limited in their response, national agencies are increasingly launching their own cyberattacks across borders. French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the Economist that he wants to collaborate on cyber security with Russia, an area where “we’re waging total war against one another.”


What are they going to do, bomb them? One rather loose quote gets turned into an overcooked story.
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Reddit’s monthly active user base grew 30% to reach 430M in 2019 • TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:


In a year-end retrospective released this morning, Reddit says its user base grew 30% this year to reach 430 million monthly active users, as of the end of October. Its users also contributed 199 million posts, 1.7 billion comments and 32 billion upvotes, the company says.

Last year, Reddit reported 330 million monthly active users — bigger than Twitter.

Monthly comments and monthly views were also up on an annual basis in 2019, with increases of 37% and 54%, respectively.

…Meanwhile, the most upvoted AMA (Ask Me Anything) post on the site was with Bill Gates, which received 110,000 upvotes.

Reddit also noted a number of trends across its more than 100,000 active communities, including sizable increases in its top 50 beauty and style communities, which grew 63+% and 52%+ year-over-year, respectively. To some extent, these increases were driven by the blogger beauty feuds — for example, the r/beautyguruchatter community jumped up by 87% year-over-year. The r/skincareaddiction community was the most popular beauty community, reaching over 1 million subscribers, Reddit says.


Bigger than Twitter. But as influential as Twitter? Isn’t influence the next metric of the attention economy?
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Kuo: Four new OLED iPhones in 2020, iPhone without Lightning port in 2021 • 9to5Mac



Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is out today with a new investor note focused on Apple’s iPhone lineup for 2020 and 2021. Kuo says there will be four new OLED iPhone models in 2020, followed by a new iPhone without a Lightning port in 2021.

Kuo predicts that Apple will introduce 5.4in, two 6.1in, and a 6.7in OLED iPhone models in 2020. He says that all four of these iPhones will also feature 5G connectivity. The difference between all of these models, other than screen sizes, will be camera technology.

According to Kuo, the 5.4-inch OLED iPhone will feature a dual-camera setup on the back. The lower-end 6.1-inch iPhone will feature a similar dual-camera system. The higher-end 6.1-inch model and the 6.7-inch model will include triple-lens camera setups as well as time-of-flight 3D sensing technology.

In terms of design for the 2020 OLED iPhone, Kuo says the form factor will be “similar to the iPhone 4.”


What the hell does he mean, “similar to the iPhone 4”? Are they really going to get that much thicker?

As for not having a Lightning port.. possible, but that’s really assuming a lot of wireless chargers will be sold and installed over the next 24 months.
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2020 iPhone rumored to have under-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner supplied by Qualcomm • MacRumors

Joe Rossignol:


The reports claim that Apple plans to use Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor technology in at least one iPhone model set to be released in 2020, although the timeframe could be pushed back to 2021. GIS would cooperate with Qualcomm to supply necessary components.

This lines up with recent reports from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Barclays analysts, Bloomberg, and others who expect Apple to release an iPhone with both Face ID and under-display fingerprint authentication in 2020 or 2021.

There are currently two types of under-display fingerprint sensors, including optical and ultrasonic. Optical variants rely on light from a smartphone’s display to create a 2D image of a fingerprint, while ultrasonic variants make use of high-frequency sound to generate a 3D image of a fingerprint.

Qualcomm already supplies ultrasonic fingerprint sensors for Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note10 smartphones, but iPhones could use an even more advanced version of the technology by time 2020 or 2021 rolls around.

…Qualcomm today at its Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii unveiled a 30x20mm in-display fingerprint sensor for smartphones, said to be 17x larger than the one in the Galaxy S10.


Sounds like a lock for the under-display fingerprint then; especially as 3D Touch is gone, so things are less complicated under the display. As well as Face ID.
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Google fired us for organizing. We’re fighting back • Medium

Google Walkout For Real Change:


Other topics, like Google’s work with Customs and Border Protection, the decision to place an anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant think tank leader on the company’s AI Ethics council, developing drone technology for the U.S. Department of Defense, the unequal and unethical treatment of harassment and discrimination on YouTube, a secret project to work with the Chinese government to launch a censored search engine in China, and the hiring of one of the architects of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, extend far beyond, impacting not just our workplace, but also Google’s users and customers, and indeed the entire world.

So we spoke up, and how did they respond? Google didn’t respond by honoring its values, or abiding by the law. It responded like a large corporation more interested in revenue growth than in ensuring worker rights and ethical conduct. Last week, Google fired us for engaging in protected labor organizing.

We’ve all been subjected to interrogations, some of us for hours, and all of us had our reputations smeared in the press as Google spread rumors that we were rule-breaking troublemakers who “leaked” sensitive information. This is flatly untrue, and in the privacy of our meetings with HR and Google’s internal investigations team, the company acknowledged this. A careful reading of their statements will only confirm this.


The group of four (two men, two women) are urging people in technology companies – especially the big ones – to create unions in their workplaces. That’s going to create some dramatic corporate culture clashes. But it also finally, definitely marks the passing of the time when people joined Google to get rich.
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The Alphabet of Google A and Google B • Asymco

Horace Dediu, back in August 2015, when Google became (part of) Alphabet:


For the last few years, I’ve been proposing that the way to conceptualize Google is as two separate entities: Google A and Google B.

Roughly speaking Google A was the R&D organization and Google B was SG&A [sales, general and administrative expenses]. You can find the operating expenses of running each of these organizations in the company’s income statement.  In the last quarter R&D was about $2.8 billion and SG&A was about $3.5bn. The two entities are further distinguished as follows:

• Google A was led by Eric Schmidt and Larry Page and Google B was led by persons unknown, but mostly represented by the [then] “Chief Business Officer” Omid Kordestani.
• Google A spends money. Google B collects money.
• Google B sends a check to Google A while Google A sends data to Google B (which then sells it on to advertisers and collects money).
• Google A communicates frequently with optimism and enthusiasm about the future. Google B remains quiet.
• Google A solves problems of humanity, Google B solves problems for advertisers.
• Google A has users, Google B has customers (to whom it sells users.)

In summary, Google A is altruistic, Google B is pragmatic. Google A engages in research, Google B engages in commerce. Google A operates in a structure similar to a Bell Labs for the good of humanity,  Google B operates in a structure similar to AT&T and collects monopoly rents but without any government oversight.

This was an effective construct for analysis which explained to me much of how Google operated and how it made decisions. So what do we make of Google’s new Alphabet?


Pretty much everyone who has an opinion is of the opinion that Alphabet, as a structure, isn’t long for this world. “Long” probably meaning four to five years tops.
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5G captured 5% of the global premium market in Q3 2019 • Counterpoint Research

Varun Mishra:


According to Counterpoint Research Market Pulse service, the global premium market sell-through declined 7% YoY. The contribution of 5G within the price segment was 5% during the quarter. Samsung led the 5G segment with 74% of the market share followed by LG (11%) and Vivo (5%). This was driven by the early adoption of 5G in South Korea, followed by North America and China. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G was the top-selling model, capturing over one-third of the total sales of all 5G devices.

All major OEMs in the premium segment now have 5G-capable devices, except Apple. Still, Apple alone captured over half of the premium market in Q3 2019. Apple grew 1% YoY increasing its market share from 48% a year back to 52% during the quarter. This was driven by both the initial, strong demand for the iPhone 11, as well as the continued success of the iPhone XR. iPhone XR was the top-selling model globally in the premium segment.


5G is a terrific way to keep pushing up prices – though the top segment (over $1,000) shrank in the quarter compared to 2018. By my calculations, even though the number sold fell by 7%, the value of the whole premium segment fell by just 2% because there was a 50% rise in the value of the ~$900 segment. LG in particular must be relieved: 5G might be its mobile division’s temporary saviour.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

3 thoughts on “Start Up No.1204: fix the climate (here are the tools), life inside InfoWars, Reddit outdoes Twitter, Google with unions?, and more

  1. I’m curious how Apple, which pretends to be green, will spin forcing wireless charging, which really isn’t green.
    On the other hand, given how their customers failed to pick up on the same issue/contradiction about headphones, Apple can probably keep going. Goes well with the localizing no-location setting ;-p

  2. re 5G: on the Android side, we won’t get a choice, Qualcomm is bundling its 2020 high-end SoC with a 5G modem, willy-nilly. And the one below that. Mediatek isn’t even bundling, but building-in. Expect lots of ink to flow about the growth of and demand for 5G.

    Banana peels are also going strong.

  3. Interesting: after distributing Fortnite outside Google’s PlayStore, Epic seems to be kinda trying to get it on the PlayStore – minus Google’s commission.

    We’ll see which way this goes, whether Google accepts (doubtful), Epic gives up the 30%; or this just gets filed for some later antitrust suit. Must mean there’s some friction getting users to install the Epic appStore.

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