Start Up No.1472: reddit v the hedge funds, will offices charge EVs?, Twitter buys newsletter company, iPhone timers lie!, and more

When Adobe killed Flash, it halted China’s Dalian rail system in its tracks – because it relied on Actionscript. CC-licensed photo by shankar s. on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

This is personal. For all of us. • reddit/wallstreetbets

User benaffleks:


his is a big moment. A tug of war between tradition and the future.
Hedge fund managers live in the past, and continue to look down upon the retail investors. They truly believe that we, the average retail investors, don’t know anything about finances or the market (which may be true), and we’re just gambling our money away.


This is the world they want to live in. This was the past.

Remember that scene from the Sopranos, where Tony’s wife calls to buy 5000 shares of Webonics, after she was manipulated emotionally to so? Institutions and hedge funds want us to be stuck in that world.

They’re scared of the future. They’re scared because, so much information is available for free now. There’s no more fees for trading. We have large communities that discuss stocks and trading openly.

We can think and make decisions for ourselves, which scares the FUCK out of old school institutions and hedge funds.

Fuck them all. This affects every single one of you, whether or not you’re holding $GME.


The Sopranos reference puts a certain age on the writer, but /wallstreetbets is ramping Gamestop’s stock price up wildly in the expectation that it will make a hedge fund go bust. (I think not – the fund will surely have been smart enough to have unwound its short position when it saw that it was up against an army, won’t it?) Some of the denizens have made multimillion-dollar profits in the couple of days. (Ah, but try to liquidate your stockholding and see how it goes.)

Stock markets still aren’t a game for amateurs, but we now have something like the gentlemen players of the Victorian era: good enough at it and not really in it for the money.
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How charging in buildings can power up the electric-vehicle industry • McKinsey

Zealan Hoover, Florian Nägele, Evan Polymeneas, and Shivika Sahdev:


More than 250 new models of battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) will be introduced in the next two years alone, and as many as 130 million EVs could be sharing roads the world over by 2030.1 To support these numbers, significantly expanded charging is required—and it will not be cheap. In fact, an estimated $110bn to $180bn must be invested from 2020 to 2030 to satisfy global demand for EV charging stations, both in public spaces and within homes.

While EV charging stations in private residences are quite common today, on-site commercial charging will need to become a standard building feature in the next ten years to meet consumer demand. Across the three most advanced EV markets—China, the EU-27 plus the United Kingdom, and the United States—charging in residential and commercial buildings is the dominant place for the foreseeable future and will remain key to scaling the industry. Yet without upgrading buildings’ electrical infrastructure, there simply will not be enough accessible EV chargers to satisfy demand. Further complicating matters, EV charging at scale requires careful planning of a building’s electrical-distribution system as well as local electric-grid infrastructure.


But if we’re not going to offices any more.. I guess we’re all charging at home? Also the cost implied in this suggests that you’re not getting a free charge at the office. (Via Benedict Evans.)
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Twitter acquiring newsletter publishing company Revue • Axios

Sara Fischer:


Twitter on Tuesday said it has acquired Revue, a newsletter platform for writers and publishers.

The deal marks Twitter’s first step into building out long-form content experiences on Twitter, and its first foray into subscription revenue.

While deal terms weren’t disclosed, Twitter presumably didn’t break the bank to acquire Revue. The five-year-old Dutch company has 6 employees and has raised only around $318,000, according to Crunchbase.

Twitter will be acquiring the team and plans to expand it once onboard.

Revue offers free and paid newsletter options. The free version lets writers send newsletters to up to 50 people. The paid version lets them email up to 40,000 people.

Revue takes a 6% cut of paid newsletter revenues as a part of its transaction fee. Twitter says it will be lowering that cut to 5%.

Twitter says it welcomes all creators to join the platform, including experts, curators, journalists, publishers and more.


Now that would be a hell of a way to find a lot of subscribers for your newsletter. And the cut it takes is half what Substack does.
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Why the iPhone Timer app displays a fake time • Luka Shermann


Javascript likes to use milliseconds when dealing with time, 1000ms equals 1s. Here [on the page] is an example of a 5s countdown that starts at 5000ms and uses the setInterval() function to deduct 10ms every 10ms, simple enough. Milliseconds are converted to seconds by dividing by 1000 and rounding down like so: Math.floor(milliseconds / 1000)

The timer jumps to 4s right when hitting start and once the timer switches to 0s there are still 1s to go. This makes a lot of sense when counting up, for example, 10:00 is displayed during the first minute of 10 AM, not 10:01, always rounding down. But for a countdown timer, this is counterintuitive. It is easier to understand if the timer has a fractional seconds display.

Now the timer displays 0.9s seconds instead of 0s to show clearly that there is still time left on the clock. However, I didn’t want to show fractional seconds for my timer.

Now I was curious how my iPhone solves this conundrum. So I set my iPhone timer to 5 seconds.

After I click “Start” the iPhone timer shows 5s, not 4s like in the example above. But it switches to 4s before a full second expired. It then counts proper seconds until it reaches 0s which, again, is not a full second. And if you tap “Pause” just after it jumped to 0s it will promptly jump back to 1s to show you that there is, in fact, still some time left on the countdown.


The amount of attention that has to go into stuff like this is remarkable. To make a digital artefact behave like an analogue one, you have to first realise how its behaviour is different.
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Bets, bonds, and kindergarteners • Jefftk

Jeff Kaufman:


Bets and bonds are tools for handling different epistemic states and levels of trust. Which makes them a great fit for negotiating with small children!

A few weeks ago Anna (4y) wanted to play with some packing material. It looked very messy to me, I didn’t expect she would clean it up, and I didn’t want to fight with her about cleaning it up. I considered saying no, but after thinking about how things like this are handled in the real world I had an idea. If you want to do a hazardous activity, and we think you might go bankrupt and not clean up, we make you post a bond. This money is held in escrow to fund the cleanup if you disappear. I explained how this worked, and she went and got a dollar:

Then: [she played and had a wild time with the packing material]

When she was done playing, she cleaned it up without complaint and got her dollar back. If she hadn’t cleaned it up, I would have, and kept the dollar.

Some situations are more complicated, and call for bets. I wanted to go to a park, but Lily (6y) didn’t want to go to that park because the last time we had been there there’d been lots of bees. I remembered that had been a summer with unusually many bees, and it no longer being that summer or, in fact, summer at all, I was not worried. Since I was so confident, I offered my $1 to her $0.10 that we would not run into bees at the park. This seemed fair to her, and when there were no bees she was happy to pay up.

Over time, they’ve learned that my being willing to bet, especially at large odds, is pretty informative, and often all I need to do is offer.


I really wish I’d read this (or thought of this) when my children were small. It’s a terrific way to create incentives and indicate trust. You could argue that it makes children too focused on money. But the amounts are trivial and it’s more about creating a framework for expectations. (Via John Naughton.)
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Gay dating app “Grindr” to be fined almost €10m ($11.7m) • None Of Your Business (Noyb)


In January 2020, the Norwegian Consumer Council and the European privacy NGO filed three strategic complaints against Grindr and several adtech companies over illegal sharing of users’ data. Like many other apps, Grindr shared personal data (like location data or the fact that someone uses Grindr) to potentially hundreds of third parties for advertisment.

Today, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority upheld the complaints, confirming that Grindr did not recive valid consent from users in an advance notification. The Authority imposes a fine of 100m NOK (€9.63m or $11.69m) on Grindr. An enormous fine, as Grindr only reported a profit of $31m in 2019 – a third of which is now gone.


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Research Data Agreement • SOCIAL SCIENCE ONE

Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science:


Today, we are a big step closer to providing society with insights and information about how social media impacts elections and democracy. After months of work, we can report that on behalf of Social Science One we have completed negotiations over the principles to govern the relationship between researchers (and their universities) and Facebook as articulated in a new Research Data Agreement. Signing this agreement enables approved researchers to obtain legal, trusted, secure, and privacy-protected access to Facebook data under the Social Science One framework.

As we negotiated this agreement, we consulted with attorneys from the general counsel offices, the offices of sponsored research, and offices for technology development at our universities and half a dozen others, in addition to our own independent legal counsel.  The unprecedented nature of this partnership and the special data access researchers will receive has led to the inclusion of a few unusually restrictive provisions researchers may not have encountered before. If you are granted access to the data, we suggest you talk to attorneys at your university to understand this further and make an informed decision, but here is a summary a few of the key provisions and how we think about them.

One area to highlight is the document’s so-called “open science” provision, which requires that researchers agree not to seek patent protection for any invention that results from access to Facebook’s confidential information. Facebook’s goal for this provision is to ensure that research results arising from access to Facebook confidential information can be made available to others for future research and that researchers cannot use Facebook data under this research program to patent technology that could limit the benefits to the research community or restrict Facebook’s ability to conduct business.


That’s a big step forward. And does mean that they will be able to see how election ads were targeted.
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Close the borders now – there won’t be a second chance • CapX

Alex Morton:


Nothing would give me greater pleasure right now than a holiday somewhere warm. I suspect that this is true of many. But this option has to remain off the table for some time to come. At present, border controls are being discussed in the same breath as school reopening at half term or Easter, or when pubs could serve again. But this totally misses the point: if a vaccine resistant strain arises in the UK then this will undo every single hope of a return to normality – no schools, restaurants, pubs, family visits, offices or anything. We will be back to square one just with a crippled economy and compliance exhaustion.

The success or failure of this Government hinges on how fast the UK returns to normality, with people allowed to behave as usual and Covid deaths and serious cases remaining low. The UK’s success in rolling out vaccines could massively boost this country. But if lax border controls allow a new strain that is vaccine resistant to enter, or escape, there will be severe implications across a number of fronts:

• Economic costs: this would require at least another six months of lockdown
• The Union: a new strain in England could mean internal UK borders
• Social and health costs: lockdown could collapse with severe ramifications
• Global leadership: the UK would be seen to have failed and jeopardised other nations
• The Conservative party would, put simply, risk collapse.

The risk is real.


Daily Struggle: stop Covid or destroy Tories?
That’s quite the dilemma.
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QAnon’s ‘meme queen’ marches on • The New York Times

Kevin Roose:


Ms. Gilbert used to get push notifications on her phone every time Q posted a new message. But Q, who once sent dozens of updates a day, has essentially vanished from the internet in recent weeks, posting only four times since the November election. The sudden disappearance has caused some believers to start asking questions. Chat rooms and Twitter threads have filled with impatient followers wondering when the mass arrests will begin, and if Q’s mantra — “trust the plan” — is just a stalling tactic.

But Ms. Gilbert isn’t worried. For her, QAnon was always less about Q and more about the crowdsourced search for truth. She loves assembling her own reality in real time, patching together shards of information and connecting them to the core narrative. (She once spent several minutes explaining how a domino-shaped ornament on the White House Christmas tree proved that Mr. Trump was sending coded messages about QAnon, because the domino had 17 dots, and Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet.)

When she solves a new piece of the puzzle, she posts it to Facebook, where her QAnon friends post heart emojis and congratulate her.

This collaborative element, which some have likened to a massively multiplayer online video game, is a big part of what drew Ms. Gilbert to QAnon and keeps her there now.

“I am really good at putting symbols together,” she said.


We’re all really good at deluding ourselves that we’re really good at putting symbols together.
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When Adobe stopped Flash content from running it also stopped a Chinese railroad • Jalopnik

Jason Torchinsky:


I have a little experience with Flash and its programming language, ActionScript, from some past lives. My goofy hoax Kyrgyzstani dead-goat-polo arcade machine’s code was written in Flash/ActionScript, and I pissed away most of my money in the early 2000s trying to start a webcasting company that used a Flash-based player. So, I know it can actually be made to do all kinds of interesting things.

Hell, YouTube used to run on Flash until 2015. It wasn’t all stupid little web games but, that said, I can’t for the life of me fathom why anyone would want to run a freaking railroad network on it, with physical, multi-ton moving railcars full of human beings on it.

So, when Adobe finally killed Flash-based content from running, this Tuesday Dalian’s railroad network found itself ground to a halt for 20 hours.

The railroad’s technicians did get everything back up and running, but the way they did this is fascinating, too. They didn’t switch the rail management system to some other, more modern codebase or software installation; instead, they installed a pirated version of Flash that was still operational. The knockoff version seems to be known as “Ghost Version.”


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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

3 thoughts on “Start Up No.1472: reddit v the hedge funds, will offices charge EVs?, Twitter buys newsletter company, iPhone timers lie!, and more

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