Start Up No.1337: female gamers rise up, Apple tweaks the App Store, Americans’ strong backing for climate action, a live LED Tube map!, and more


Guess how much of the food people pick up at a buffet comes from the first three items – whatever they are. CC-licensed photo by Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Yes, we are, briefly, elite hax0rs. (Thanks Walt for the pointer.) I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Dozens of women in gaming speak out about sexism and harassment • The New York Times

Taylor Lorenz and Kellen Browning:

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More than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have come forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday. They have shared their stories in statements posted to Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and the blogging platform TwitLonger.

The outpouring of stories from competitive gamers and streamers, who broadcast their gameplay on platforms like Twitch for money, led to the resignation of the C.E.O. of a prominent talent management company for streamers and a moment of reflection for an industry that has often contended with sexism, bullying and allegations of abuse.

Already, the response has been a far cry from Gamergate in 2014, when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.

Gamers began sharing their stories after a Twitter user who posts as Hollowtide tweeted about an unnamed “top” player of the online game Destiny on Friday night, referring to the person as a “scum lord.” Three female streamers, JewelsVerne, SheSnaps and SchviftyFive, saw the post and decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question, who is known online both as Lono and SayNoToRage.

The women posted their allegations, including nonconsensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment, on Twitter using their streamer handles. (The streamers did not provide their legal names to The New York Times. In years past, women gamers who have spoken out against the industry using their legal names have been subjected to further harassment, hacking and doxxing.)

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Plenty on this to come, one suspects.
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Two-thirds of Americans think government should do more on climate • Pew Research Center

Alec Tyson and Brian Kennedy on the latest polling from Pew:

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At a time when partisanship colors most views of policy, broad majorities of the public – including more than half of Republicans and overwhelming shares of Democrats – say they would favor a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change, including large-scale tree planting efforts, tax credits for businesses that capture carbon emissions and tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Public concern over climate change has been growing in recent years, particularly among Democrats, and there are no signs that the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened concern levels. A recent Center analysis finds 60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, as high a share taking this view as in any Pew Research Center survey going back to 2009.

The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted April 29 to May 5 among 10,957 U.S. adults using the Center’s online American Trends Panel, finds a majority of U.S. adults want the government to play a larger role in addressing climate change.

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Notice how even a majority of Republicans are in favour of tougher fuel efficiency – the complete opposite of what the Republican administration is doing. Wonder if this will be fodder for adverts in the presidential campaign.

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Check out this London tube map made from a working circuit board • ianVisits

Ian Mansfield:

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A clever fusion of modern computer API data to provide the tube movements and traditional circuit board design come together in the TrainTrackr.

The board shows all twelve of the main underground lines: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, DLR, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Waterloo & City, and has 333 station points lit with LEDs.

The circuit board tube map requires a Wi-Fi connection and then pulls down live tube data from TfL’s open data API to make it come alive.

Two versions are available.

A smaller 20cm x 15cm model with all white lights. Or the larger 40cm x 30cm version which used coloured lights for each line – except the Northern, which sticks with white lamps.

You can buy the TrainTrackr from here.

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Not cheap, but wonderful. The logical progression of Matthew Somerville’s 2010 hack to produce the Live London Underground map.
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Apple is changing parts of its app review process after the Hey controversy • Ars Technica

Samuel Axon:

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the Cupertino company says it will no longer hold up bug fixes over guideline violations except where legal concerns are at play. Apple also says that it will offer new channels for developers to challenge its judgments.

Apple came under fire after it rejected a bug-fix update to email app Hey, which is made by Basecamp. Apple told the app’s developers that the app would have to incorporate Apple’s own system for in-app purchases or risk being delisted. Apple also claimed it should have rejected the app to begin with but that it only noticed the issue when reviewing the bug-fix submission.

The CTO of Basecamp took to Twitter with an impassioned thread accusing Apple of criminal behavior for insisting on a cut of the app’s revenues. The tweet thread sparked a great deal of discussion, not only about Apple’s take of app revenues, but also about the company’s failure to be transparent and consistent about App Store guidelines.

Here are Apple’s words on the developer website today:

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Additionally, two changes are coming to the app review process and will be implemented this summer. First, developers will not only be able to appeal decisions about whether an app violates a given guideline of the App Store Review Guidelines, but will also have a mechanism to challenge the guideline itself. Second, for apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues. Developers will instead be able to address the issue in their next submission.

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Well isn’t that interesting. Apple’s clearly trying to avoid the worst of an antitrust case, though I don’t think this will quite get it out from under what we shall henceforth call Vestager’s Hammer.
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HomePod to add support for third-party streaming music services like Spotify • 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:

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The status quo with current software is that the HomePod will answer all Siri music requests by initiating Apple Music. Third-party services like Spotify can [presently] only be played on the HomePod by way of AirPlaying a stream from another device.

…It’s currently unclear if other audio apps like podcast clients will be able to participate.

Later this year, Apple is expected to grow the HomePod family with a HomePod mini. Supporting services other than Apple Music helps expand the HomePod’s appeal. It also helps address some of the anticompetitive allegations the company is receiving, with Spotify filing a formal complaint to the EU last year that Apple explicitly disadvantaged competing music services to promote Apple Music adoption.

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That’s two antitrust issues that Apple has addressed by way of tiny mentions on slides rather than mentioning them in its speeches: default apps and also the HomePod, which Spotify grumbled about.
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Apple rejects Facebook’s gaming app, for at least the fifth time • The New York Times

Seth Schiesel:

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Since February, Apple has rejected at least five versions of Facebook Gaming, according to three people with knowledge of the companies, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are confidential. Each time, the people said, Apple cited its rules that prohibit apps with the “main purpose” of distributing casual games.

Facebook Gaming may also have been hurt by appearing to compete with Apple’s own sales of games, two of the people said. Games are by far the most lucrative category of mobile apps worldwide. Apple’s App Store, the only officially approved place for iPhone and iPad users to find new games and other programs, generated about $15bn in revenue last year.

Apple’s rejections of the app from Facebook, a fellow Silicon Valley powerhouse, illustrate the control it exerts over the mobile software and entertainment ecosystem — clout that regulators are increasingly examining. On Tuesday, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, said it had opened a formal antitrust investigation into Apple to determine if the terms that the company imposes on app developers violate competition rules.

“We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president in charge of competition policy.

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The problem with Facebook’s app is that it would contain self-contained programs that run inside a self-contained program, which Apple treats as a potential malware threat, and also routing around its payment systems.
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What’s at the front of the line? • Seth’s Blog

Seth Godin:

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A study of behaviour at breakfast buffets showed that the first item in the buffet was taken by 75% of the diners (even when the order of the items was reversed) and that two-thirds of all the food taken came from the first three items, regardless of how long the buffet is.

This means that optimizing marketers usually put the things they most want to sell first.

And that smart consumers benefit from adopting patience as they consider what’s on offer.

Of course, this game theory applies to a lot more than food.

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Meaning you can tweak peoples’ diets so that they will eat more healthily – put the fruits and so on at the front of the breakfast buffet. From the days when people all used to line up for the same food.
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Can the cult of Bang & Olufsen last? • WIRED

Rob Walker:

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B&O got out of mobile phones and MP3 devices entirely, and those cutbacks have helped it survive the global financial crisis. But the company is still struggling to adjust to the contemporary universe of products, software, and services. “This is about carving out our niche — our reason to be, really — in a market that has completely changed,” Mantoni says.

It’s open to debate whether the image projected by B&O’s products is even desirable nowadays. “There’s an ‘impress the neighbors’ quality” to this gear, says Lucian James, founder of brand consultancy Agenda, which specializes in the luxury market. “And that’s an embarrassing concept to a lot of people these days.” Louise Rosen, a 40-year-old brand consultant in Paris, illustrates the problem from the consumer’s point of view. Her Danish mother, she says, is of a generation that aspired to own the company’s wares: “Every electronic device in her house is Bang & Olufsen.” But Rosen has never bought B&O, finding its aesthetic off-putting. “For me,” she says, “it’s nonsense.”

Good taste is no minor matter in Denmark. “We are very aware that Danish design is something the world knows us for,” says Jeppe Trolle Linnet, a social anthropologist and consumer-culture expert in Copenhagen. For proof, go to the city’s Stroget shopping thoroughfare and step into Illums Bolighus, a stunning emporium with four floors of home-design products. You’ll see long-celebrated Danish creations like the refined housewares of Georg Jensen and the legendary PH lamps of Poul Henningsen, with their nested shades that tame glare by emitting reflected light; they were devised around the time B&O was founded and are still sold today. You’ll also see newer arrivals on the Scandinavian design scene: Normann Copenhagen’s amusing round-bottomed tumblers, Muuto’s clever tea-light holders that feature a slot to accommodate a match. These engaging wares make a collective statement about “thingness,” a palpable feeling that every object, no matter how trivial its function, ought to be treated seriously and built to last.

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The article is a fascinating insight into the company’s slightly mad thinking, though it doesn’t answer the question posed in the headline. Looking at its financials, with three successive quarters in the red and revenues slightly down, you might not feel confident.
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Unsubscribe: the $0-budget movie that ‘topped the US box office’ • BBC News

Joshua Nevett:

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In normal times, blockbuster movies usually dominate the box office charts.

The big-budget productions, directed by the likes of James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, regularly draw the biggest crowds at cinemas across the US and beyond.

But on 10 June, one box office-topping movie was watched by just two people, in one cinema.
Unsubscribe, a 29-minute horror movie shot entirely on video-conferencing app Zoom, generated $25,488 (£20,510) in ticket sales on that day.

Nationwide, the movie hit the top of the charts, according to reputable revenue tacker Box Office Mojo.

The budget of the movie: a flat $0. How was that possible?

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This is wonderful. (Like the B+O article, this is also stolen shamelessly from Benedict Evans’s newsletter.)
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Chinese study: antibodies in COVID-19 patients fade quickly • CIDRAP

Robert Roos:

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A new study from China showed that antibodies faded quickly in both asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 patients during convalescence, raising questions about whether the illness leads to any lasting immunity to the virus afterward.

The study, which focused on 37 asymptomatic and 37 symptomatic patients, showed that more than 90% of both groups showed steep declines in levels of SARS-COV-2–specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies within 2 to 3 months after onset of infection, according to a report published yesterday in Nature Medicine. Further, 40% of the asymptomatic group tested negative for IgG antibodies 8 weeks after they were released from isolation.

The authors said the findings suggest that it could be risky to assume that recovered patients are immune to reinfection, which may have implications for how long to maintain physical distancing restrictions.

The patients included in the study were among 2,088 people who were tested for COVID-19 because they were close contacts of confirmed patients in China’s Wanzhou district. Of those who tested positive, 60 had had no symptoms in the preceding 2 weeks but were hospitalized for isolation. Of those, 23 people who had mild symptoms on admission or soon afterward were excluded from the study, leaving 37.

…Among the main findings was that IgG levels in 93% (28/30) of the asymptomatic group and 97% (30/31) of the symptomatic group declined greatly during the early convalescent phase (by 8 weeks after release from the hospital). Antibody levels dropped by 71.1% in asymptomatic patients and 76.2% in the symptomatic group.

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Speaking as someone who have Covid-19 (symptomatically) three months ago, this is bloody annoying.
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Novak Djokovic is latest tennis player to test positive for virus after protocol-flouting tour • The Washington Post

Liz Clarke:

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Djokovic, 33, announced his positive result in a statement Tuesday morning, explaining that his family was tested upon returning to Belgrade after the tour stop in Croatia.

“My result is positive, just as Jelena’s, while the results of our children are negative,” Djokovic wrote, adding that he intends to self-isolate for 14 days.

Originally scheduled over four weeks in three Balkan countries, the Adria Tour kicked off with a news conference in Belgrade that included Djokovic, third-ranked Dominic Thiem, seventh-ranked Alexander Zverev and 19th-ranked Dimitrov seated side by side, without protective face masks, while fielding questions from several rows of reporters who also were not wearing masks.

On the court, there was no apparent effort to keep players from shaking hands or draping arms around one another following matches. And off the court, they danced and partied shirtless at a Belgrade nightclub.

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Djokovic lost in the exhibition match, possibly because he was already ill. If he sickens to any significant extent, his career is effectively over: this is not a forgiving disease, and it’ll affect his stamina. Especially if in a few months he gets reinfected. Djokovic is an anti-vaxxer, by the way. (Wonder if he’ll stay that way if a vaccine becomes available?) Viruses, of course, don’t care about beliefs.
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Superhuman’s email app is overhyped and overpriced – The Verge

Chaim Gartenberg:

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Superhuman is one of the most in-demand startups right now, with the invite-only app considered one of the most exclusive services in the tech industry. That’s impressive, for an email app. It’s even more impressive for an email app that merely accesses your existing Gmail account and costs $30 per month to use. The buzz — both from the company’s marketing and around Silicon Valley — is off the charts. Superhuman bills itself as “not another email client,” promising an inbox that’s been “rebuilt from the ground up” that will make you “feel like you have superpowers.” The website is peppered with accolades from startup CEOs praising how it has changed their relationship with email.

But does it live up to the hype? I spent a month using the service to find out.

Just getting into Superhuman, which launched way back in 2016, is a task all on its own. First, you’ll either need to submit a request for access or be invited by someone who’s already using the app. In most cases, that’ll put you on a waiting list — which, as of last June, was reportedly 180,000 members long — which may or may not result in the company contacting you to move on with your application.

Assuming that you are accepted, you’ll be asked to fill out a lengthy workflow questionnaire so Superhuman can learn more about how you use email — and whether your workflow is the right fit for its app.

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We last heard about Superhuman back in July last year, when it was getting ragged for failing to protect users’ privacy. Still ridiculous, but it’s obviously just a Veblen good (or service), much as Vertu phones used to be. Oh, Vertu? Went bust because people realised they were after all fungible for cheaper things.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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