Start Up No.1825: the internet’s true fans, EU countries shut out Google Analytics, Apple headset in January?, and more

If you’re past middle age and can balance on one leg for an extended period, good news! You’re not likely to die soon. CC-licensed photo by Jakub Michankow on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Finely balanced. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

(Oh, and I’ve got a Substack too, about Social Warming. Weekly posts. Free membership.)

The rise of the internet’s creative middle class • The New Yorker

Cal Newport on how former Wired editor Kevin Kelly’s idea that you could make a living by finding “a Thousand True Fans” has panned out:


Some creative professionals can get by without even having to sell anything in particular to their 1,000 True Fans. Maria Popova, for example, makes a living publishing essays on literature, art, and science on her site, the Marginalian. Most of Popova’s income comes from asking fans to help support her work directly, without expecting anything extra in return. “If this labor has made your life more livable in the past year (or the past decade),” she writes, “please consider aiding its sustenance with a one-time or loyal donation.”

A shining example of the 1,000 True Fans model is the podcasting boom. There are more than 850,000 active podcasts available right now. Although most of these shows are small and don’t generate much money, the number of people making a full-time living off original audio content is substantial. The key to a financially viable podcast is to cultivate a group of True Fans eager to listen to every episode.

The value of each such fan, willing to stream hours and hours of a creator’s content, is surprisingly large; if sufficiently committed, even a modest-sized audience can generate significant income for a creator. According to an advertising agency I consulted, for example, a weekly podcast that generates 30,000 downloads per episode should be able to reach Kelly’s target of generating a $100,000 a year in income. Earning a middle-class salary by talking through a digital microphone to a fiercely loyal band of supporters around the world, who are connected by the magic of the Internet, is about as pure a distillation of Kelly’s vision as you’re likely to find.


(With podcasts, there’s also now direct monetisation where you subscribe directly to get a specific feed.) But Newport points out that just as the Thousand True Fans idea didn’t work for a while, and now is working, that won’t necessarily remain the case.
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Google Analytics is losing track of millions of users as EU regulators ban the service • Android Police

Jules Wang:


a growing number of countries in the [European] union are going after the use of Google Analytics for violations against the General Data Protection Regulation.

Italy is the third and latest country to prohibit the service which lets webmasters track and analyze their site traffic. The government stated in its decision that rafts of information, including IP addresses, are collected via cookies and transmitted to the United States and could potentially be seen by third parties and the government there, violating the GDPR as users aren’t ensured due process for redress. Italy’s competition authority has cited domestic web services provider Caffeina Media, giving the firm 90 days to transfer its account away from Google Analytics.

In a blog post, Google Analytics competitor Simple Analytics notes two other member states taking similar action. France’s national commission on the freedom of liberation or CNIL announced a ban for the same reason back in February while Austria’s Data Protection Authority put down its block in January (via noyb).

Google’s appeals and defenses in response to these rulings are generally being dismissed. The company would not be able to satisfactorily demonstrate that it could anonymize user data from Europe before transmitting it to the US. Encryption in this process also doesn’t matter if Google holds onto the keys.


If the US can tell Google to hand over the data – which it will do for data anywhere in the world, because Google is American, which means it doesn’t matter if the data centre is in Europe – then the EU feels it’s not safe under GDPR.
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Apple’s AR/VR headset will arrive in January 2023, analyst projects • Ars Technica

Samuel Axon:


Tech industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has offered the most specific prediction about a release date for an Apple augmented reality/virtual reality headset yet: January 2023.

Kuo has often made accurate, informed predictions about Apple’s plans in the past, based partly on information from sources in the company’s supply chain. On Thursday, he published a lengthy analysis of the VR headset industry and predicted that Apple’s device will “likely” arrive in January.

Kuo called the headset “the most complicated product Apple has ever designed,” noting that many current Apple suppliers are involved in the supply chain for the product. He also supported other recent leaks and speculation that the upcoming headset will not be exclusively or primarily focused on augmented reality (which places virtual options in real-world space) rather than virtual reality (which immerses the wearer in an entirely virtual space).

Kuo echoed other recent reports and noted that the device would support “video see-thru,” and allow for switching between modes. Thus, he predicted the headset would be a boon for the immersive game industry.

The analysis was not exclusively about Apple’s headsets and covered other parts of the VR/AR industry. It pointed out several weaknesses in the mixed reality business at Meta (which owns Oculus headsets, as well as Facebook and Instagram). He wrote that Meta is slowing down its investment, creating an opportunity for upcoming competitors like Apple. He further suggested that Meta’s practice of selling VR headsets at a loss is unsustainable, a fact that could contribute to Apple’s opportunity.


Kuo’s post isn’t quite as certain about some of these points as people are making out: he thinks it will offer augmented and virtual reality, but doesn’t state it will. From his own numbers, the VR headset market is really pretty small – a few million per quarter – after many years of effort. It really doesn’t feel like the portable music player market in summer 2001, awaiting an iPod.

If Apple has made something Google Glass-like for augmented reality, I’m interested. But I’ve tried many bulky headsets down the years, and they’re a non-starter.
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Rare ‘triple’ La Niña climate event looks likely: what does the future hold? • Nature

Nicola Jones:


An ongoing La Niña event that has contributed to flooding in eastern Australia and exacerbated droughts in the United States and East Africa could persist into 2023, according to the latest forecasts. The occurrence of two consecutive La Niña winters in the Northern Hemisphere is common, but having three in a row is relatively rare. A ‘triple dip’ La Niña — lasting three years in a row — has happened only twice since 1950.

This particularly long La Niña is probably just a random blip in the climate, scientists say. But some researchers are warning that climate change could make La Niña-like conditions more likely in future. “We are stacking the odds higher for these triple events coming along,” says Matthew England, a physical oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. England and others are now working to reconcile discrepancies between climate data and the output of major climate models — efforts that could clarify what is in store for the planet.

More La Niña events would increase the chance of flooding in southeast Asia, boost the risk of droughts and wildfires in the southwestern United States, and create a different pattern of hurricanes, cyclones and monsoons across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as give rise to other regional changes.

La Niña and its counterpart, El Niño, are phases of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that occur every two to seven years, with neutral years in between. During El Niño events, the usual Pacific winds that blow east to west along the Equator weaken or reverse, causing warm water to gush into the eastern Pacific Ocean, increasing the amount of rain in the region. During La Niña, those winds strengthen, warm water shifts west and the eastern Pacific becomes cooler and drier.

The impacts are far reaching.


Always worth repeating: climate change/global heating doesn’t make specific events happen. It makes things that happen when it’s warmer more likely to happen.
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Meagre savings of Pompeii victims suggest they were slaves or city’s poorest • History First

Mark Bridge:


The eyewitness Pliny the Younger described a “black and dreadful” cloud rising above Vesuvius in this interval, and cinders, pumice and burning rock raining down on panic-stricken crowds. 

A silver denarius of the emperor Vespasian, predating the destruction of Pompeii in 79AD. Photo: Shutterstock
Now a study of the coins found on around 200 of the 1,150 bodies excavated at the site — which was preserved under ash and rock as if frozen in time — offers new clues to the victims’ identities and the reason for their deaths. 

Archaeologist Kimberly Bowes, professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences, studied groups of coins found alongside bodies, as well as coins in savings boxes, for an article on Roman savings habits in the Journal of Roman Archaeology. 

The dataset, drawn from the publication of a detailed inventory of Pompeiian coins finds, the Rinvenimenti monetali a Pompei, comprised 431 different hoards: 206 from skeletons and 225 from savings boxes in homes and shops, with a total of 25,430 coins.

She reckoned that the coins found on individuals would be a good proxy for their liquid savings, as it was likely they would have sought to gather all their portable wealth ahead of fleeing, or in case they later had to flee.

Bowes found that most people were carrying sums of money that were “astonishingly low” and there was a large gulf between this majority and a minority carrying significantly larger sums. Nevertheless, even these sums were trivial relative to the price of assets such as property, land and slaves. 

“Most of the people had very, very little. When you start looking at where these very poor people are found, it’s surprising, because they’re found in the largest houses. That led me to speculate that these were enslaved people, which makes a lot of sense, given who would be asked to stay behind over the 17 hours that it took for Pompeii to be destroyed? You asked your slaves to stay behind.”


Gruesome. Imagine the doubts for those tasked with staying behind: there probably weren’t that many ways out, so defection could be discovered quickly. But what would staying behind be like? Would you feel briefly safer inside the house?
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This 10-second test could measure middle-age people’s risk of death, study says • BGR

Joshua Hawkins:


A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine posits that a 10-second balance test could help measure your overall risk of dying.

The study was conducted by several scientists using a pool of 1,702 people aged between 51 to 75 years. They examined data about the participants taken between 2008 and 2020 and measured how well they could perform a 10-second one-legged balance test. The results, they say, could allow doctors to better measure your risk of death.

The 10-second test requires the participant to stand on one leg, with the free leg resting on the back of the standing leg. They then place their hands at their side and try to stay still. During the study, the participants were given three chances to complete the balance test. Around 20% were unable to complete the test. The number of people unable to complete it also increased with age.

Of participants age between 51 and 55, 5% failed, while 8% between 56 and 60 failed. From there, 18% of people aged 61 to 65 failed, and then 37% of those 66 to 70 years of age. Finally, 54% of people between 71 and 75 years of age failed the test to measure their risk of death.

The researchers found that most who failed the balance test tended to have higher body weights, or suffered from cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. Additionally, after they adjusted the findings for age, sex, and existing health conditions, the scientists believe those who failed had an 84% increased risk of death over the next seven years.

But how does it work? …Balance is an important aspect of our body. And many doctors believe that balance can be a good indicator of how healthy a person is. Since the test only takes 10 seconds to complete it isn’t a bad way to measure the possible risk of death. However, it also isn’t going to tell you any in-depth information about your risk of any diseases or other issues.


The “limitations” part of the study (at the end) allows that much more work needs to be done, but it may be indicative. I think that British doctors have been doing a form of this test for quite some time, though possibly it was only a cohort study tracking people as they aged. Anyhow, I tried it: seems you’re stuck with me for a while yet.
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Goldman Sachs leading investor group to buy Celsius assets: sources • Coindesk

Tracy Wang:


Goldman Sachs is looking to raise $2bn from investors to buy up distressed assets from troubled crypto lender Celsius, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The proposed deal would allow investors to buy up Celsius’ assets at potentially big discounts in the event of a bankruptcy filing, the people said.

Goldman Sachs appears to be gauging interest and soliciting commitments from Web3 crypto funds, funds specializing in distressed assets and traditional financial institutions with ample cash on hand, according to a person familiar with the situation. The assets, most likely cryptocurrencies having to be sold on the cheap, would then likely be managed by participants in the fundraising push.

Celsius has tapped restructuring advisory firm Alvarez & Marsal, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon.

Goldman Sachs did not respond to a request for comment.

Celsius, which had more than $8bn lent out to clients and $12bn in assets under management as of May of this year, abruptly announced on June 12 that it would stop withdrawals from its platform, citing “extreme market conditions.” The disclosure exacerbated those conditions, briefly sending bitcoin’s price below $20,000.


No customers’ yachts. Not even customers’ apes. No indication whether those who put their money in will get any part of it back.
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How period tracking apps and data privacy fit into a post-Roe v. Wade climate • NPR

Rina Tochinsky:


Millions of people use apps to help track their menstrual cycles. Flo, which bills itself as the most popular period and cycle tracking app, has amassed 43 million active users. Another app, Clue, claims 12 million monthly active users.

The personal health data stored in these apps is among the most intimate types of information a person can share. And it can also be telling. The apps can show when their period stops and starts and when a pregnancy stops and starts.

That has privacy experts on edge because this data — whether subpoenaed or sold to a third party — could be used to suggest that someone has had or is considering an abortion.

“We’re very concerned in a lot of advocacy spaces about what happens when private corporations or the government can gain access to deeply sensitive data about people’s lives and activities,” says Lydia X. Z. Brown, a policy counsel with the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “Especially when that data could put people in vulnerable and marginalized communities at risk for actual harm.”

At least 26 states were “certain or likely” to ban abortions if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Now, it’s a reality.

…The Flo app has come under fire for sharing data before.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with the popular fertility and period-tracking app amid allegations that it misled users about the disclosure of their personal health data. The settlement followed a 2019 Wall Street Journal investigation that found the app informed Facebook when a user was having their period or if they informed the app that they intended to get pregnant.

Under the settlement, the FTC said Flo must undergo an independent review of its privacy policy and obtain user permissions before sharing personal health information. Flo did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.


Lot of app deletions going on. Lot of Filofaxes being bought.
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Meta clamps down on internal discussion of Roe v. Wade’s overturning • The New York Times

Mike Isaac and Ryan Mac:


Meta told its workers on Friday not to openly discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion on wide-reaching communication channels inside the company, people with knowledge of the situation said.

Managers at Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, cited a company policy that put “strong guardrails around social, political and sensitive conversations” in the workplace, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said managers had pointed employees to a May 12 company memo, which was issued after a draft opinion on potentially overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked from the Supreme Court.

In the May 12 memo, which was obtained by The New York Times, Meta said that “discussing abortion openly at work has a heightened risk of creating a hostile work environment,” so it had taken “the position that we would not allow open discussion.”

The policy has led to frustration and anger, the people said. On Friday, some contacted colleagues and managers to express their dissent with the company’s stance. Managers were advised to be empathetic but neutral on the topic, while messages that violated the policy in team chats were removed, two people said. In the past, Meta employees often used internal communication forums to discuss sociopolitical issues and current events.

Ambroos Vaes, a Meta software engineer, said in a post on LinkedIn that he was saddened that employees were “not allowed” to widely discuss the Supreme Court ruling.


Not widely known that internally, Facebook uses (a form of) Facebook, which means that things that get a reaction get amplified. Which logically means that if discussion about this obviously polarising topic were allowed to run rampant, it would lead to the sort of strife internally that, well, you see externally on Facebook.

Can’t really disagree with this one.
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How will TV and streaming adapt to TikTok? • Vox

Peter Kafka:


The people who bring you video entertainment could be in for a rough time: A looming recession could hurt their advertising revenue and consumer spending on subscription TV streaming services. But they’re also facing a foe that has nothing to do with the economic cycle: TikTok is coming for their eyeballs.

The free, Chinese-owned video-sharing service sometimes gets described as a social network, but that description masks what it really is: a colossally powerful entertainment app that keeps viewers glued to an endless stream of clips.

And TikTok is getting bigger every day: It now says it has 1 billion monthly users, but even that number likely understates its importance, because TikTok users spend a lot of time on TikTok — a year ago, the company was telling advertisers its users were spending nearly 90 minutes a day on the app. By contrast, US TV and streaming watchers were spending nearly five hours a day watching their shows and movies — but TV skews very old, and TikTok is very young. You can’t ascribe TV’s long-running viewer losses to a new app, but it’s very easy to see how it’s going to make it harder than ever to train young would-be viewers to watch traditional TV or even streaming.

“It is safe to say that TikTok has rapidly grown to be one of — if not the — largest social/communication/video apps in America in terms of time spent,” analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a report last week.


Ignore TikTok at your peril.
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• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Read Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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