Start Up No.1881: corporate America’s design passion, Cloudflare’s eSIM project, AI art gets copyright, TikTok abbreviators, and more

Skipping stones sounds like (and is) an innocent recreation, but of course anything can become competition. And one man is world champion. CC-licensed photo by Chris PotakoChris Potako on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Gyrating. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Why corporate America broke up with design • Fast Company

Suzanne Labarre:


for all of design thinking’s appeal, it didn’t always produce exhilarating results. “People were like, ‘We did the process, why doesn’t our business transform?’” says Cliff Kuang, a UX designer and coauthor of User Friendly (and a former Fast Company editor). He points to PepsiCo, which in 2012 hired its first chief design officer and opened an in-house design studio. The investment has not yielded a string of blockbusters (and certainly no iPhone for soda). One widely promoted product, Drinkfinity, attempted to respond to diminishing soft-drink sales with K-Cup-style pods and a reusable water bottle. The design process was meticulous, with extensive prototyping and testing. But Drinkfinity had a short shelf life, discontinued within two years of its 2018 release.

“Design is rarely the thing that determines whether something succeeds in the market,” Kuang says. Take Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. “Jeff Bezos henpecked the original Kindle design to death. Because he didn’t believe in capacitive touch, he put a keyboard on it, and all this other stuff,” Kuang says. “Then the designer of the original Kindle walked and gave [the model] to Barnes & Noble.” Barnes & Noble released a product with a superior physical design, the Nook. But design was no match for distribution. According to the most recent data, Amazon owns approximately 80% of the e-book market share.

There’s no question that design has become incredibly powerful over the past 20 years. The rise of mobile computing has forced companies to create effortless user experiences—or risk getting left behind. When you hail an Uber or order toilet paper in a single click, you are reaping the benefits of carefully considered design. A 2018 McKinsey study found that companies with the strongest commitment to design and the best execution of design principles had revenue that was 32 percentage points higher—and shareholder returns that were 56 percentage points higher—than other companies.


Those two data points certainly make it sound like corporate America hasn’t broken up with design at all, and that it’s reaping the benefits.
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The first Zero Trust SIM • Cloudflare

Matt Silverlock (director of product) and James Allworth, both of Cloudflare :


Given the billions of mobile devices on the planet — they now outnumber PCs by an order of magnitude — it should come as no surprise that they have become the threat vector of choice for those attempting to break through corporate defenses.

The problem you face in defending against such attacks is that for most Zero Trust solutions, mobile is often a second-class citizen. Those solutions are typically hard to install and manage. And they only work at the software layer, such as with WARP, the mobile (and desktop) apps that connect devices directly into our Zero Trust network. And all this is before you add in the further complication of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) that more employees are using — you’re trying to deploy Zero Trust on a device that doesn’t belong to the company.

It’s a tricky — and increasingly critical — problem to solve. But it’s also a problem which we think we can help with.

What if employers could offer their employees a deal: we’ll cover your monthly data costs if you agree to let us direct your work-related traffic through a network that has Zero Trust protections built right in? And what’s more, we’ll make it super easy to install — in fact, to take advantage of it, all you need to do is scan a QR code — which can be embedded in an employee’s onboarding material — from your phone’s camera.

Well, we’d like to introduce you to the Cloudflare SIM: the world’s first Zero Trust SIM.


It’s an eSIM (clever!) which, if I’m reading this correctly, takes your data through Cloudflare’s network, prevents SIM swapping or cloning, ties SIMs more closely to specific employees and devices. Good for corporate users, probably. eSIMs seem to be rushing up the rails to become a really important addition to phone capabilities. (I’m going on holiday in late October – Overspill pause alert! – and will use one for data at my destination.)
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Artist receives first known US copyright registration for latent diffusion AI art • Ars Technica

Benj Edwards:


The registration, effective September 15, applies to a comic book called Zarya of the Dawn. [Kris] Kashtanova created the artwork for Zarya using Midjourney, a commercial image synthesis service. In their post announcing the news from Tuesday, Kashtanova wrote:


I got Copyright from the Copyright Office of the USA on my Ai-generated graphic novel. I was open how it was made and put Midjourney on the cover page. It wasn’t altered in any other way. Just the way you saw it here.
I tried to make a case that we do own copyright when we make something using AI. I registered it as visual arts work. My certificate is in the mail and I got the number and a confirmation today that it was approved.


Going by their announcement, Kashtanova approached the registration by saying the artwork was AI-assisted and not created entirely by the AI. Kashtanova wrote the comic book story, created the layout, and made artistic choices to piece the images together.

It’s likely that artists have registered works created by machine or algorithms before because the history of generative art extends back to the 1960s. But this is the first time we know of that an artist has registered a copyright for art created by the recent round of image synthesis models powered by latent diffusion, which has been a contentious subject among artists.


The picture in the Ars Technica story looks very like this thread by “UrsalaV” from earlier this month. Which, wouldn’t you know it, was made with MidJourney. Time required: “a couple of months”.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t see an obvious legal problem with these AI systems, because you can’t point to anything inside them that contains copyrighted information. Training them on copyrighted data is the same as humans do.
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TikTok creators are condensing Hollywood films like Gone Girl and Danish Girl into minutes and getting millions of views • Rest of World

Viola Zhou:


Turning movies into short videos has been popular in the Chinese-speaking world for years, on video platforms like Douyin (TikTok’s Chinese counterpart), Kuaishou, and Bilibili. And now, as the domestic video industry becomes more competitive, creators capitalizing on their popularity are taking these videos to the banned-in-China platform, TikTok. 

“Movies and TV are for everyone from everywhere in the world,” Wilson, a movie-clip producer in the eastern province of Jiangxi, told Rest of World. Wilson, who declined to give his full name due to privacy concerns, says he makes about $1,400 a month from his 10 TikTok accounts. “We all cry, laugh and complain for the same things.” 

For his TikTok accounts, Wilson downloads movie and TV clips from Chinese platforms like Douyin. He writes his summary script in Chinese, uses the translation service DeepL to turn it into English, then generates a new voiceover with the dubbing app Moyin. Eventually, Wilson assembles everything in Adobe Premiere, making sure to remove a few frames or horizontally flip others to evade TikTok’s plagiarism detection. 

Another TikTok movie editor, Bi, who only gave his last name due to privacy concerns, told Rest of World that he makes up to £300 ($342) per movie clip, using two TikTok movie accounts “based” in the U.K. with a VPN. Popular clips include those from British shows like Peppa Pig, but he’s even found success on those accounts with Chinese shows like Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf. “On TikTok you get traffic from all over the world,” he said. “As long as you keep editing and posting, someone will be watching.” 


Summary for Gone Girl: “High IQ woman revenge for cheating husband”, and includes a voice over a clip saying “this woman knocked over everything in the house, then drew 800 cc of her own blood”. Pretty good. And for The Danish Girl: “The wife let the husband dress up as a woman, and he is addicted to it.” Hmm, OK.
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What happens with a hacked Instagram account – and how to recover it • WeLiveSecurity

Jake Moore was asked to help out his friend Ellie, whose Instagram account was hacked (because she didn’t use 2FA, and had an easily guessed password):


When Ellie tried to recover her account, she felt like she was at a dead end – even after following the steps on the Instagram help site, she felt stuck. When she requested a login link from Instagram to be sent to her primary email address, nothing genuine came through even though she could still access this account. (You will, of course, need access to the email address connected to your account. If for any reason you cannot access this email account, Instagram will not let you regain access to your Instagram profile.]

I had remembered that hackers can often get into the associated emails via the same reused passcode, and then hide or block recovery emails sent from Instagram regarding the hacked accounts.

To my (relative) shock, this was exactly what had happened. In her Yahoo account, she clicked on the “Blocked List” and three email addresses ending in had been blocked.

Once unblocked, she followed the process again and Instagram sent another login link. She was then asked to submit a video selfie to help verify her identity (this was only possible as she has photos of herself on the account).

Within 20 minutes, she received an email saying that she had now been granted access back into the account and given a small number of one-time recovery codes to use. We both thought we were on the road to victory!

But it was short-lived.


He did eventually manage it, but there was a great deal of back and forth – with minimal help from Instagram support. Hacked accounts are popular for various scams, and the problems radiate outwards. (Also, don’t say on Twitter that you’ve had an account hacked. You’ll get a ton of bots promising to sort it. They can’t.)
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Not a revolution (yet): data journalism hasn’t changed that much in four years, a new paper finds • Nieman Journalism Lab

Laura Hazard Owen:


When you hear the words “data journalism,” you also often hear words like “revolution” and “future.” But — according to a new paper that looks at a couple hundred international data journalism projects nominated for awards over four years — most of the journalism itself hasn’t changed as much as you’d think: It still mostly covers politics, it’s still labor-intensive and requires big teams, it’s still mostly done by newspapers, and it still primarily uses “pre-processed public data.”

“Our findings challenge the widespread notion that [data-driven journalism] ‘revolutionizes’ journalism in general by replacing traditional ways of discovering and reporting news,” write Wiebke Loosen, Julius Reimer, and Fenja de Silva-Schmidt, in a paper published online last week in the journal Journalism. (It’s paywalled.)

Loosen and Reimer (both from the Hans-Bredow-Institut for Media Research in Hamburg, Germany) and De Silva-Schmidt (University of Hamburg) analyzed 225 projects that were nominated finalists (not just submitted) for the Data Journalism Awards between 2013 and 2016, logging data sources and types, visualizations, interactive features, topics, and producers, to see how projects changed over time, how award winners differed from projects that were only nominated, and where there might be room for innovation and improvement. Why look at these projects? They’re “what the field itself considers to be significant examples of data-driven reporting,” the authors write, and the winners are likely to shape future development of the field.


Four years? Some of us have been doing data journalism for 15 years or so. Ironically in that time a lot of the mapping APIs have got worse (Google made its Maps API more restrictive) but many of the ways to do the analyses have improved.

A lot of the criticisms offered don’t strike me as well-based. It’s labour-intensive? Most journalists are bad at maths. Relies on official data? So does most work. Looks at politics/social/business issues? Those are the ones that affect people. Visualisations haven’t improved? They’ve been pretty similar for 100 years or so. Good interactivity is rare? It’s also hard to implement – and requires a different skill from actual data journalism.

I’d say data examination is an integral part of journalism now. Whether it shows up as lots of numbers is a different, but not always relevant, question.
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Charging cars at home at night is not the way to go, study finds • TechXplore


In February, cumulative sales of EVs [electric vehicles] in California reached 1 million, accounting for about six% of cars and light trucks. The state has targeted 5 million EVs on the road by 2030. When the penetration hits 30% to 40% of cars on the road, the grid will experience significant stress without major investments and changes in charging habits, said [Stanford University associate professor Ram] Rajagopal. Building that infrastructure requires significant lead time and cannot be done overnight.

“We considered the entire western US region, because California depends heavily on electricity imports from the other western states. EV charging plus all other electricity uses have consequences for the whole western region given the interconnected nature of our electric grid,” said Siobhan Powell, lead author of the March study and the new one.

“We were able to show that with less home charging and more daytime charging, the western US would need less generating capacity and storage, and it would not waste as much solar and wind power,” said Powell, mechanical engineering Ph.D. ’22.

“And, it’s not just California and western states. All states may need to rethink electricity pricing structures as their EV charging needs increase and their grid changes,” added Powell, who recently took a postdoctoral research position at ETH Zurich.

Once 50% of cars on the road are powered by electricity in the western US—of which about half the population lives in California—more than 5.4 gigawatts of energy storage would be needed if charging habits follow their current course. That’s the capacity equivalent of five large nuclear power reactors. A big shift to charging at work instead of home would reduce the storage needed for EVs to 4.2 gigawatts.


But who pays for the charging at work? Work? Or the employee?
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Exclusive: Google faces pressure in India to help curb illegal lending apps • Reuters

Nupur Anand and Ira Dugal:


Indian regulators have already asked lenders to step up checks against illegal lending apps, which became popular during the pandemic. Regulators seek to control the proliferation of such apps that engage in unscrupulous activities such as charging excessive interest rates and fees or in recovery practices which are not authorised by the central bank or violate money laundering and other government guidelines.

Google said that last year it revised its Play Store developer program policy for financial services apps, including requiring additional requirements for personal loan apps in India effective September 2021.

“We have removed over 2,000 personal loan apps targeting India from the Play Store for violation of the Play policy requirements,” a Google spokesperson said, adding that such steps are taken if its policies are violated.

“We will continue to engage with law enforcement agencies and industry bodies to help address this issue,” the spokesperson added.

While India’s central bank requires that any lending apps listed on app stores be backed by regulated entities, it is up to Google to enforce this and monitor compliance.


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Video allegedly shows crypto miners jet washing Nvidia RTX GPUs • Tom’s Hardware

Mark Tyson:


The Ethereum blockchain changeover from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake, commonly referred to as the Merge, effectively meant crypto coin mining with consumer graphics cards was no longer profitable. While gamers looked forward to cheaper new and used GPUs becoming the norm, according to a series of videos posted to Twitter by I_Leak_VN, GPU crypto miners in Vietnam appear to be jet washing gear their old mining kit before putting the components up for sale on eBay or local equivalents.

In the video it is somewhat startling to see what is purportedly a Vietnamese GPU miner casually jet washing several racks packed with powerful GPUs. Twitter’s I_Leak_VN shared a collection of these intriguing videos today. Alongside the videos came repeated warnings about buying used graphics cards.

The powerful jets from this kind of cleaning system can easily cause potential physical damage (who’d miss a random surface mount resistor?) or water ingress into places it might not easily evaporate from. Also, thermal paste or lubricating grease may possibly be removed too, so watch those fans.

The water allegedly being used in the jet washing / bathing wasn’t particularly “clean”. It could easily leave deposits behind on the PCB, potentially causing damage that could lead to short circuits or other electrical damage once these products are powered up./p>«

Lots of people are going to end up with these screwed-up GPUs which they’re going to think are a great bargain, and get a lot less than they bargained for.

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I watched an 857-hour movie to encounter capitalism’s extremes • Passage

Ashley Darrow:


In 2008, Swedish artists Erika Magnusson and Daniel Andersson came up with an idea. As they describe on the Logistics website, they got fascinated with “the fact that the sourcing of just about every object in our surroundings involves almost inconceivable global logistics,” and wondered what those journeys looked like. They determined that in order to truly satisfy their curiosity, they’d need to track, in reverse chronological order, the journey of the “sort of anonymous clutter that everyday life is full of.” 

Eventually, Magnusson and Andersson decided upon tracking the course of a pedometer they bought in Stockholm to the factory it was manufactured at in Shenzhen, China. They write that, “Four years later we found ourselves on the largest container ship in the world on our way from Sweden to China.” As per the trip: “We had started the journey by truck to Middle Sweden, then by freight train to the port of Gothenburg, and after four weeks at sea, we filmed from a truck again, this time from the port of Shenzhen to a factory in Bao’an.”

Logistics was first exhibited in December 2012 to January 2013 in Stockholm, in both the window of a cultural centre as well as a library. It would go on to be shown in China and Germany as well.

What made me hit play on Logistics — and keep watching — was a desire to encounter an extreme. As legendary filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky wrote in his 1984 book, Sculpting In Time, the purpose of art should be to “prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.” If a silent, 857-hour movie with no recognizable plot or characters can’t do a little harrowing, what can? 


35 days and 7 hours worth of it. That’s certainly one way to encounter the extremes.
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Stone skipping is a lost art. Kurt Steiner wants the world to find it • Outside Online

Sean Williams:


In the fall of 2000, Kurt was reading local classifieds when he came across an advertisement for an amateur stone-skipping contest being held 100 miles west in Franklin. It would be the city’s first, and a feeder for the July 4 tournament on Mackinac Island. Kurt still had a pretty mean throw, and Paula encouraged him to sign up. “My marriage played into my skipping,” he told me. “Ironically.”

That September, Kurt lined up on the bank of Franklin’s Riverfront Park, ready to put his years of throwing to the test. Beside him was a local guy named Russ Byars, who had a towering physique and a shock of blond hair. The two were neck and neck going into the final throw, but Kurt nailed it and won the event, qualifying for the following year’s Mackinac pro tournament.

Byars won at Franklin the following year, earning his golden ticket to Mackinac. Kurt struggled during his debut on the island’s choppy water. This meant that, in 2001, both men would meet in Michigan. It was the beginning of an era-defining rivalry.

“You can fall in love with a rock,” Dave “Spiderman” Ohmer, a five-time Franklin winner, told me. “It’s that rare—it’s just got everything.” It was my third day with Kurt, and the three of us were sitting in the corner of an Erie bar, several IPAs deep and discussing the topic of searching for competition-worthy skipping stones.

“You can search for years and say, ‘OK, this is the best stone I have found,’ ” said Kurt. “And then you’ll find another one. And if you take the time to look at the differences between the two, they have unique characteristics. And it’s not just size, it’s not weight, it’s not thickness. It’s every little feature. You start to pick up on things over time.”

Becoming a world-class stone skipper is as much an asymptotic quest for the perfect rock as it is about honing technique. Some skippers, and most skimmers, use slate, specifically the kind of slate most commonly found in Britain and the northeastern United States. Japanese throwers mostly skip sparkling, metamorphic schist.


Weird but absorbing tale about something that most of us do when we’re young, and then forget about. Steiner didn’t forget about it.
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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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