Start Up No.1335: Tiktokers v Trump, Apple and ARM and the App Store, the mystery of Tether’s growth, ceiling fan secrets, and more


Before she was a lip-sync star, Sarah Cooper worked at Yahoo – and her overnight success has taken 12 years. CC-licensed photo by Andrew Mager on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. Not elite yet. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

TikTok teens tank Trump rally in Tulsa, they say • The New York Times

Taylor Lorenz, Kellen Browning and Sheera Frenkel:

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Brad Parscale, the chairman of Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, posted on Twitter on Monday that the campaign had fielded more than a million ticket requests, but reporters at the event noted the attendance was lower than expected. The campaign also canceled planned events outside the rally for an anticipated overflow crowd that did not materialize.

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said protesters stopped supporters from entering the rally, held at the BOK Center, which has a 19,000-seat capacity. But reporters present said there were few protests. According to a spokesman for the Tulsa Fire Department on Sunday, the fire marshal counted 6,200 scanned tickets of attendees. (That number would not include staff, media or those in box suites.)

TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally as a prank. After the Trump campaign’s official account @TeamTrump posted a tweet asking supporters to register for free tickets using their phones on June 11, K-pop fan accounts began sharing the information with followers, encouraging them to register for the rally — and then not show.

The trend quickly spread on TikTok, where videos with millions of views instructed viewers to do the same, as CNN reported on Tuesday. “Oh no, I signed up for a Trump rally, and I can’t go,” one woman joked, along with a fake cough, in a TikTok posted on June 15.

Thousands of other users posted similar tweets and videos to TikTok that racked up millions of views.

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Welllll possibly, but probably not. What the TikTokers and K-Pop fans have done, which is worse for Trump, is really screwed up the campaign’s database. Those who used their real number (rather than a Google Voice or similar) to fake-register reported that they immediately got texts from the Trump campaign. So the campaign is definitely using this as a voter registration/get-out-the-vote scheme. And now it’s got about a million screwed-up ones.

When Trump last appeared in Tulsa, in January 2016 (as one of many candidates) he drew 9,000 people. This time: just over 6,000. (The average attendance across all his rallies in 2015/16 was 5,200; median 4,000.) That data point alone should worry the Trump campaign.
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Kuo confirms ARM at WWDC: 13.3in MacBook Pro and new 24in iMac will be the first ARM Macs, released as soon as Q4 • 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:

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Kuo confirms that an all-new design iMac is launching imminently, and it will apparently be Apple’s last new Mac featuring an Intel CPU. Starting in Q4 2020 / Q1 2021, Apple will begin its ARM transition with the release of the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro running on Apple silicon, according to Kuo. The updated iMac — featuring a 24-inch display with thinner bezels — is scheduled to switch to ARM at a similar time.

Kuo expects the Mac models will offer performance improvements of 50-100% over their Intel predecessors. The transition timeline proposed by Kuo is aggressive, and faster than some other reports. With Kuo’s bold claim that all new Macs will be equipped with Apple processors starting in 2021, there would only be room in the pipeline for the redesigned iMac as the last new Intel machine (aside some possible spec bumps to existing models in the fall).

Bloomberg previously reported that Apple’s first ARM machine would debut in 2021, featuring a 12-core processor. On a recent episode of the Happy Hour podcast, Mark Gurman implied a late spring/summer launch schedule for the product. Apple is not expected to announce any concrete hardware at WWDC tomorrow, just the fact that is beginning the chip transition.

Kuo says that Apple will discontinue the Intel 13.3-inch MacBook Pro when the new ARM-based model is introduced. The fate of the Intel iMac is not specified. According to previous rumors, Apple will announce a new iMac at WWDC featuring a new industrial design with thin bezels reminiscent of the Pro Display XDR, the Apple T2 chip and AMD Navi GPUs.

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Wouldn’t have expected the 13.3in MacBook Pro to be the first laptop to go over. Perhaps it’s the most popular pro model. I do wonder a lot about the profit margin on ARM Macs: the CPU should be a lot cheaper. Wonder too if that’ll be reflected in the price.
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Interview: Apple’s Schiller says position on Hey app is unchanged and no rules changes are imminent • TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

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The current experience of the Hey app as a user downloading it from the App Store is that it does nothing. It is an app that requires you to subscribe to the Hey service on the web before it becomes useful.

“You download the app and it doesn’t work, that’s not what we want on the store,” says Schiller. This, he says, is why Apple requires in-app purchases to offer the same purchasing functionality as they would have elsewhere.

To be clear, this is against the App Store rules for most apps. The exceptions here are apps that are viewed as “readers” that only display external content of certain types, like music, books and movies — and apps that only offer bulk pricing options that are paid for by institutions or corporations rather than the end user.

Schiller is clear on our call that Hey does not fit these rules.

“We didn’t extend these exceptions to all software,” he notes about the “reader” type apps — examples of which include Netflix. “Email is not and has never been an exception included in this rule.”

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You may say: when exactly did these “reader” rules come in, and howcome nobody made a noise about then at the time? As John Siracusa explains beautifully in the ATP podcast (go to 1h40m), the reason why you didn’t hear before is because Apple made the change quietly, and then has quietly pulled up apps that have now fallen into the trap when they next submit an update. So there’s no single point at which every “infringing” app was told of the rule change. Instead, a stealthy divide and rule process kept them each isolated.

Apple’s now a prisoner of its own conflicting desires: give the user easy ways to pay for apps (whether subscriptions, IAPs or outright purchases), make apps and payment as scam-free as possible, keep increasing revenue from the App Store. It’s the good-cheap-fast dilemma. At least one of them is going to break down.
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The iOS App Store brings users only because it’s the only choice • inessential

Brent Simmons is the author (originally) of the Mac apps NetNewsWire and MarsEdit, the first of which he has remade and put in a mobile version onto iOS:

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This is a misconception that many people have — they think the App Store brings some kind of exceptional distribution and marketing that developers wouldn’t have on their own.

It’s just not true. It lacks even a grain of truth.

Setting up distribution of an app is easy and cheap. I do it for NetNewsWire for Mac with no additional costs beyond what I already pay to host this blog. This was true in 2005 as much as now — distribution is not some exceptional value the App Store provides.

And then there’s marketing. Sure, being featured used to mean something to revenue, but it hasn’t meant that much beyond just ego points in years. To be on the App Store is to be lost within an enormous sea of floating junk. No matter how well you do at your app description and screenshots — even if you get some kind of feature — your app will not be found by many people.

Build it (and upload it to the App Store) and they will not come.

Instead, you have to do marketing on your own, on the web and on social media, outside of the App Store. Just like always. The App Store brings nothing to the table.

So while it’s true to say that all of an iOS app’s users come via the App Store, it’s only true because there’s no other option.

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The most puzzling thing about the iOS App Store for me: who on earth spends any time at all on its “Today” tab? Are there really people who turn to it, looking for thrilling new apps, or guidance on “how to get the best out of the iPlayer” (as it was on Sunday in the UK)? If that truly drives traffic, colour me amazed.

The whole App Store thing is a supertanker collision: it’s a little distance off, but calamity is inevitable nonetheless unless Apple takes some really dramatic evasive action. Also worth reading by Simmons: The App Store doesn’t make apps safe.
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Apple diversity head leaves as tech firms reckon with racism • Bloomberg

Shelly Banjo and Mark Gurman:

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Apple Inc.’s head of diversity and inclusion Christie Smith is leaving the iPhone company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Last week, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said Apple is launching a $100m Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, adding to the company’s response to the police killing of George Floyd last month. Earlier this month, Cook wrote in a letter to employees and customers that society needs to do more to push equality, particularly for Black people.

“To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored. Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines,” Cook wrote in the letter.

Smith joined Apple in 2017 after 16 years at consultancy Deloitte. Unlike her predecessor, who reported directly to the CEO, Smith reported to Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail and People Deirdre O’Brien. The previous person in the role, Denise Young Smith, lasted only six months and left after apologizing for controversial comments she made about the mostly white makeup of Apple’s executive team.

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To lose one head of diversity and inclusion could be unfortunate; to lose two in three years is.. more unfortunate.
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CGV introduces electronic visitor registration to combat COVID-19 • Korea Herald

Yonhap News:

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CGV, South Korea’s largest multiplex chain, said Friday it will introduce an electronic visitor registration system based on quick response (QR) code verification technology at all of its theaters nationwide to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

CGV’s announcement came after South Korea last week mandated QR code-based registration of visitors at bars, clubs and other entertainment facilities across the country, stepping up measures against COVID-19. Those facilities are required to use smartphone QR code-based entry logs for all visitors to keep records of their personal details.

Under the CGV system, anyone who visits a CGV theater to buy movie tickets is required to complete a personal authentication process by scanning a QR code at the ticket counter using a smartphone app and entering simple information on the screen.

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That’s quite a procedure for watching a movie. (Thanks Patrick for the link.)
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Nearly $5bn in Tethers were issued since January. Why? • Decrypt

Amy Castor:

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Just how much [real] cash is disappearing from the system in energy costs? According to an estimate published by researchers at the University of Cambridge, the Bitcoin network consumes more electricity than a small country—what [academic Nicholas] Weaver calls “obscene.” 

Based on 5 cents per kWh, the Bitcoin network needs to spend roughly $335,000 every hour, Alex de Vries, a blockchain specialist at Big Four accounting firm PwC, told Decrypt. That means someone has to be on hand to buy nearly $8m worth of new Bitcoin a day for cash—just to secure the system. 

Those costs are putting the squeeze on miners right now. 

They earn 6.25 BTC every 10 minutes in block rewards. At $9,000 per BTC, that equates to $340,000 an hour. At the moment, they have to sell every BTC they mine to pay electricity costs. (Previous to the halving event on May 12, it was 12.5 BTC, so they were earning more.) The average costs will drop to 2 to 3 cents per kWh between May and September, de Vrie said. That’s because over 50% of Bitcoin mining is centered in the Sichuan province of China, which benefits from lower costs of hydropower energy in the wet season.

Electricity isn’t the only cost miners have to bear. They have to pay for their rigs, which can run up to $3,000 apiece and need to be replaced frequently as faster ASIC machines become available. They also have to pay rent, taxes, wages, and all the other costs of running a business. All of these things need to be paid in real dollars or yuan, not Tethers, resulting in a steady net drain of cash out of the ecosystem. 

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Basically: real money is being washed out of the bitcoin ecosystem by the demand for payments, which is being replaced by Tethers, a made-up cryptocoin that claims to be backed 1:1 by real dollars, except it isn’t.

What happens when all the “cash” circulating in the bitcoin system is Tethers? Then it will be cash in, cash out. Miners either go bust, or take on debt (in the hope of what? More cash coming into the system?). Or, perhaps, bitcoin’s price gets ramped by Tether issuance pushing up its apparent demand. It’s certainly ironic given bitcoiners’ complaints about central banks printing money: Tether is absolutely the money-printing central bank for bitcoin.
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Sarah Cooper’s 10,000 hours (or: How it took her 12 years to become an overnight success) • Trung T. Phan

Phan has pieced together the rise of Cooper (who does the wonderful lip-syncs of Donald Trump’s many absurd remarks) from her first comic doodle in a meeting at Yahoo in 2008 to today:

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Just last week, Cooper signed with talent powerhouse WME and her next project is “a modern, comedic take on a Dale Carnegie book for Audible Originals.” 😂

How Cooper arrived here is no mystery. 

She has been honing her comedic skills publicly on the internet for more than a decade.

Her reps include office doodles, open mics, Twitter jokes, stand-up comedy, blogging, book writing and acting in short skits. 

In an effort to outline her 10,000-hour comedic journey, I went through hundreds of Cooper’s tweets, blog posts and videos.

Here are two key takeaways from my research:

• Keep experimenting. Gary Vaynerchuk equates social apps and digital tools to “crayons” that can be used to create new types of art. Cooper has experimented with every “crayon” available to find her comedic voice.
• Work in public. To find success, Cooper says, “You need to do a lot of work. You need to finish a lot of work. You need to share a lot of work.” The lesson here is that you never know who’s reading, watching or listening. If you’re already creating, you might as well put it out there and give your audience a chance to find you.  

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Creativity takes hard, hard work over long periods. That’s so easy to overlook.
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Man reveals secret, dual-purpose of ceiling fans: ‘What type of sorcery is this?’ • Yahoo Style

Alex Lasker:

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If you have a ceiling fan — particularly an ineffective one — it may come as a surprise that you’ve been using it wrong for years.

Anthony Bertoncin, a 20-year-old TikToker from Kansas City, Mo., left social media users in disbelief after sharing the simple trick on TikTok with his over 1.5 million followers.

“Today, I finally realized that my ceiling fan has been making my room a sauna for six years,” Bertoncin says in his clip, which has since been viewed over 2.2 million times.

After explaining his struggles with temperature control in his room, which led him to constantly leave his ceiling fan on, Bertoncin said that one day, a friend serendipitously showed him how to change the direction of his fan during a FaceTime call.

“While we’re FaceTiming, he switches the direction of his fan to heat his room in the winter,” Bertoncin said. “I’ve been suffering for six years, and I just now realizing my f*** up today.”

The science behind the switch is pretty simple. When a ceiling fan rotates counterclockwise, the slant of the blades pushes air down, causing a noticeable breeze, Today’s Homeowner explains.
When rotating clockwise, however, ceiling fans can produce the opposite effect by pushing air upward and gently circulating hot air that is trapped near the ceiling, making the gadget useful for all seasons.

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Definitely one that all British readers with ceiling fans will find useful.
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Twitter will let you tweet with your voice • CNN

Kaya Yurieff:

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the company said it’s allowing a “limited group” of iOS users to create tweets with their voice. In the coming weeks, all iOS users should have access to voice tweets.

The feature comes after the launch of a buzzy, invite-only app called Clubhouse, which encourages users to spontaneously drop into voice chat rooms. But it also potentially opens the door to new forms of abuse, whether it be verbal harassment or spreading hateful content via audio that could be harder to detect initially than text.

When asked how the company would handle any abuse of the feature, a Twitter spokesperson said it’s working to incorporate additional monitoring systems ahead of rolling voice tweets out more broadly. The spokesperson also said it would review any reported voice tweets in line with its rules and take action.

Twitter also said users won’t be able to use audio to reply to tweets.

Creating a voice tweet is similar to regular tweeting, but users tap a new icon with wavelengths on it to record. Voice tweets are limited to chunks of 140 seconds – an apparent nod to Twitter’s original character limit – but users can keep recording and it’ll automatically create a thread.

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A 280-word tweet is about 50 words tops, which is about 30 seconds, so 140 seconds is very, very long. This would make sense if the intent were to help unsighted people “hear” Twitter, but it isn’t, and you could already include video with tweets, so this is a real headscratcher. Will there be automatic transcription? Twitter says no. In which case I think this will sink pretty fast. I click away from YouTube videos which begin “Hey guys how’s it going––” because I’m already bored by them. I’m not going to hang around for more than two minutes of burbling. (Thanks Wendy G for the link.)
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Just because they’ve turned against humanity doesn’t mean we should defund the Terminator program • McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Carlos Greaves:

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By now you’ve probably heard the news that a Terminator has killed another innocent civilian just days after the last innocent civilian was killed by a Terminator. This unfortunate incident has led to renewed calls to divert funding from the Terminator program and reallocate it into other services that would prevent Terminators from being necessary in the first place. But just because a growing number of Terminators have ignored their AI programming and begun slaughtering humans left and right doesn’t mean we should take the dangerous and radical step of defunding the Terminator program.

…Don’t get me wrong, we all remember Judgement Day, when the Skynet gained self-awareness and initiated a nuclear holocaust, killing millions. That was a terrible moment in our nation’s history. And the human uprising led by John Connor was definitely justified even though we felt like some of the violence and destruction of Skynet property was a bit unnecessary. But it’s important to remember that Judgement Day was initiated by a few rogue Terminators, and isn’t indicative of a widespread problem with Skynet. Yes, given Skynet’s response to the human uprising — where Terminators fired plasma rifles at the Resistance and mowed over legions of human fighters with HK-Tanks — one might conclude that there’s a larger issue with the entire Skynet AI.

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Another piece of brilliant skewering by Greaves – who also wrote the utterly brilliant “Sure, the Velociraptors Are Still On the Loose, But That’s No Reason Not to Reopen Jurassic Park“. As the numbers show, the micron-sized velociraptors are quite happy about it.
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The doom where it happened • The New York Times

Bret Stephens on the character of John Bolton:

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It took cynicism to work for a president whose character he disdained and whose worldview he opposed. It took gullibility to think he could blunt or influence either. It took cynicism to observe the president commit multiple potentially impeachable offenses and then sit out impeachment on the pathetic excuse that Democrats were going about it the wrong way and that his testimony would have made no meaningful difference. It took gullibility to assume his book would have any effect on Trump’s re-election prospects now. It took cynicism to reap profits thanks to a president he betrayed and a nation he let down. It took gullibility to imagine he’d be applauded as a courageous truth-teller when his motives are so nakedly vindictive and mercenary.
Above all, it took astonishing foolishness for Bolton to imagine that his book would advance the thing he claims to care about most — a hawkish vision of US foreign policy. That vision will now be forever tarred by its association with him, a man considered a lunatic by most liberals and a Judas by many conservatives.

I write all this as someone who shares many of Bolton’s hawkish foreign-policy views. I’m also someone who urged Bolton, while he was still in office, to resign on principle. It’s a shame he didn’t do so while he still had a chance to preserve his honour, but it isn’t a surprise. Only the truly gullible can act totally cynically and imagine they can escape history’s damning verdict.

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Why, it’s almost as if Bolton makes serially bad judgements about the outcomes of his actions, and fails to learn from them even when they’re demonstrated to be incorrect; like a super-bad forecaster. Please tell me a single Bolton action or policy which has subsequently been shown to have led to the best possible outcome. I’m not even sure the moustache flatters him.

In other news, I’m in complete agreement with Bret Stephens, so the apocalypse must be near.
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2013: A day with Katie Hopkins: separating the Apprentice ‘superbitch’ from her soundbites • The Independent

Simon Usborne writes profiles for The Independent, and in 2013 observed that Hopkins [banned permanently from Twitter last Friday] seemed to be annoying people professionally:

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I had emailed Hopkins via her website to ask if I could go along for the ride. I disagreed with everything she said, I told her, also sharing my concerns about what I might be feeding. But I wanted to find out what it pays, emotionally and financially, to court hatred, and what the rise of people such as Hopkins says about the outrage mill that large parts of the media have become.

…The week had started with an innocuous press release about the rise of unusual baby names. Hopkins got a call from a producer at This Morning, where she’s a regular. She outlined her views and agreed to appear. The day before, a researcher spoke to Hopkins for about an hour.

“They are a consumer purchasing a commodity – me – and I have to demonstrate its value,” she says. “They create not a script for the interview but scaffolding. That’s submitted to lawyers, who draw boundaries. People mock daytime TV as unsophisticated and populated by lame idiots seeking attention, but a lot goes into it.”

This account makes the shock of Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, her co-presenter, seem rather disingenuous. They knew what they were getting. Hopkins says she chatted with them afterwards, and that everyone was pleased about the debate.

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And, as he points out, the clip went viral on social media, and Hopkins knew exactly how many views it had. What’s just as interesting to me, seven years after this was written, is how some of the TV and radio stations are trying, just a little, to dial back from the “outrage economy”.

On Twitter, she had more than a million followers. When I checked Instagram on Saturday (bio: “public figure”), she had fewer than 80,000. It was a couple of thousand past that by Sunday evening, but the need to post a photo and the lack of virality clearly hurts her.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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