Start up: Apple v Trump, Ev Williams v text, Google’s learning bet, Snapchat’s magazine plan, and more


iOS 10’s notifications are different – but there are plenty of other changes forthcoming in September (or so). Photo by tualamac on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 14 links for you. Save some for later – don’t bloat. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Ev Williams is the Forrest Gump of the internet • The Atlantic

Robinson Meyer:

»“The worst world, the scary version, is if the tricks to get attention are a skill developed and owned primarily by profit-driven companies,” [Ev Williams] told me. “I’d go back to the food analogy. What are people going to be consuming most of the time? They’re optimizing for clicks and dollars. Can a person who has a unique perspective play that game? Are they just going to get trounced?”

This is Medium’s reason for existing: to protect individual writers in the fierce and nasty content jungles. Resistance to the centralization generally is futile, he believes, citing Wu. “That’s the way the Internet works, and that’s the way humans work,” he says. “Efficiency and ROI and economies of scale and user experience—they’re all going to drive more things to consolidate. I kind of look at that as a force of nature. But if things consolidate, does that mean that everything is shit?”

That is the Medium appeal, in a nutshell. Keeping everything from being shit. It wants to do so by adopting many of the tics and habits of the original blogosphere—the intertextuality, the back-and-forth, the sense of amateurism—without being the open web. It will use its own custom metrics, like time-spent-reading, to decide who sees what stories; and it will tend to show your friends something if you “recommend” it. Medium, yes, will just be another platform, but it will run the open web in an emulator.

«

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Google’s bold move to reinvent every device on the planet • Forbes

Miguel Helft:

»the techniques used to recognize images in Google Photos are able to power StreetView’s ability to “read” signs and Project Sunroof’s ability to identify rooftops that are suitable for solar panels based on aerial images. It’s also enabling a small experimental team at Google to effectively detect diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can lead to blindness, by looking at iris scans. “It’s a pretty significant shift,” Dean says. “Word is spreading throughout the company that there is this new capability to solve problems in this way,” he says, in reference to the new AI techniques.

What started as a research project with a handful of people has grown to perhaps hundreds–Dean refuses to say how many–who have developed algorithms, computer systems and, more recently, Google’s own chips, all customized for these AI approaches. (Google Brain’s software tools are known as TensorFlow and the chips as Tensor Processing Units.) As a result there are now more than 2,000 projects inside the company applying Google Brain’s capabilities to scores of products. Dean’s group has held machine-learning office hours, and thousands of Google engineers have gone through internal courses that can last weeks. “It went from being a research project to a mainstream engineering activity,” says John Giannandrea, an AI expert appointed by Pichai to lead the company’s search efforts.

«

You have to wade through a certain amount if you’re familiar with Google, but there are useful insights here too.
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Facebook is wrong, text is deathless • Kottke

Tim Carmody on the suggestion from Facebook that “video is going to take over from text”:

»Maybe this is coming from deep within the literacy bubble, but:

Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a matter of preference or necessity. And it’s endlessly computable – you can search it, code it. You can use text to make it do other things.

In short, all of the same technological advances that enable more and more video, audio, and immersive VR entertainment also enable more and more text. We will see more of all of them as the technological bottlenecks open up.

And text itself will get weirder, its properties less distinct, as it reflects new assumptions and possibilities borrowed from other tech and media. It already has! Text can be real-time, text can be ephemeral – text has taken on almost all of the attributes we always used to distinguish speech, but it’s still remained text. It’s still visual characters registered by the eye standing in for (and shaping its own) language.

«

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And another thing about Theranos… • LinkedIn

Sten Westgard lists the ten stories about Theranos you may have missed last week, which range from negative to more negative to neutral:

»There’s so much that’s happened that it’s hard to know where to start. Indeed, most of the stories have been covered by other news outlets already, and by real journalists. About the only additional insight we can add here is a closer reading of the lightly redacted inspection report. Because buried in that are some performance details that no one else seems to have noticed.

Let’s start with the QC [quality control] failure rates. The inspection report details that there were significant out-of-control results for many tests, sometimes up to 87% of QC results were out more than 2 standard deviations!!

«

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No Signal (and other cellular drama) • YouTube

After last week’s wonderment about whether people in Star Wars are post- (or pre-) literate, here’s how screenplay writers deal with those damn mobile phones which could scupper plots in which people are meant to be out of contact and able to call help. Texas Chainsaw Massacre never had to deal with this (though probably would have in a scene like this).
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‘Could he actually win?’ Dave Eggers at a Donald Trump rally • The Guardian

Dave Eggers went to a Trump rally in Sacramento, California, incognito, and found it more mixed (racially, sexually) than you’d expect, and more relaxed, but found this:

»He has reversed himself on nearly every major issue, often in the same week, and has offered scant specifics on anything in particular – though in Sacramento, about infrastructure, he did say, “We’re gonna have new roads, bridges, all that stuff”.

His supporters do not care. Nothing in Trump’s platform matters. There is no policy that matters. There is no promise that matters. There is no villain, no scapegoat, that matters. If, tomorrow, he said that Canadians, not Mexicans, were rapists and drug dealers, and the wall should be built on that border, no one would blink. His poll numbers would not waver. Because there are no positions and no statements that matter to them. There is only the man, the name, the brand, the personality they have seen on television.

Believing that Trump’s supporters are all fascists or racists is a grave mistake. This day in Sacramento presented a different picture, of a thousand or so regular people who thought it was pretty cool how Trump showed up in a plane with his name on it. How naughty it was when he called the president “stupid”. How funny it was when he said the word “huge” the peculiar way he does, without the “h” (the audience yelled back “uuuuge!”, laughing half with him, half at him). In the same way we rooted for Clay a few years ago when he showed up as an actual actor in a Woody Allen movie, the audience at a Trump rally is thinking, How funny would it be if this guy were across the table from Angela Merkel? That would be classic.

«

It’s long, but eminently worth reading. My next question is: will Eggers go to a Hillary Clinton rally, and what would he think of what he found there? I’d like to know.
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Apple won’t aid GOP convention over Trump • POLITICO

Tony Romm:

»Apple has told Republican leaders it will not provide funding or other support for the party’s 2016 presidential convention, as it’s done in the past, citing Donald Trump’s controversial comments about women, immigrants and minorities.

Unlike Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all said they will provide some support to the GOP event in Cleveland next month, Apple decided against donating technology or cash to the effort, according to two sources familiar with the iPhone maker’s plans.

Apple’s political stand against Trump, communicated privately to Republicans, is a sign of the widening schism between Silicon Valley and the GOP’s bombastic presumptive nominee. Trump has trained his rhetorical fire on the entire tech industry, but he’s singled out Apple for particular criticism – calling for a boycott of the company’s products, and slamming CEO Tim Cook, over Apple’s stance on encryption.

«

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Understanding the DAO hack for journalists • Medium

David Siegel, with a long long long explanation of how someone hacked a cryptocurrency (another event that’s becoming everyday) and siphoned off a ton:

»I will call the attacker a lone male, even though I have no idea if he is one. What happened next was interesting. In an open letter to The DAO and Ethereum Community, the attacker supposedly claimed that his “reward” was legal and threatened to take legal action against anyone who tried to invalidate his work. Several people pointed out that the cryptographic signature in this message wasn’t valid — it could be fake. But it’s well written and, from a certain point of view, well reasoned: the premise of smart contracts is that they are their own arbiters and that nothing outside the code can “change the rules” of the transaction.

Later, through an intermediary, the attacker claimed that he would put a stop to the organized “theft” of his property by rewarding miners (nodes) who don’t go along with the proposed soft fork, saying:

»

[S]oon we will have a smart contract to reward miners who oppose the soft fork and mines the transaction. 1 million ether + 100 btc will be shared with miners.

«

This is clearly a complex dynamic system. These messages from “The Attacker” cannot be verified, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Next, I will try to categorize the responses from the community.

«

I’m really glad I’m not the person writing the story about this if this is the “understanding” bit. First explain to a newsdesk what DAO is; then what Ethereum is; then smart contracts; then…
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Ericsson Mobility Report Q1 2016 • Ericsson

Lots and lots of things in this, such as this:

»although teens reported the lowest cellular data consumption for video streaming apps among all age groups in both July 2014 and October 2015, the higher reliance on smartphones for video viewing at any time of the day means that teen video data consumption over cellular networks is growing rapidly.

Only 30–35 year olds have a higher growth rate than teens for cellular video streaming data usage. However, the overall mobile video data consumption (including both cellular and Wi-Fi) among this group is around 2.5 GB/month. That is only a fth of the teens’ data consumption and the potential for further growth is limited due to the fact that 30–35 year olds are still rooted in traditional TV viewing behavior.

Overall, teens are the heaviest users of data for smartphone video streaming apps and have the second highest rate of cellular video data consumption growth. Since we are witnessing a generational change, current teens are likely to increase their appetite for cellular data as they grow older – making them the most important group to watch for cellular operators.

«

But plenty more, such as the internet of things outnumbering smartphone subscriptions by 2018.
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Snapchat is starting Real Life, an online magazine about technology • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»In a blog post today describing the new initiative, Snapchat employee and social media critic Nathan Jurgenson writes that “Snapchat is now funding Real Life.” In an email to VentureBeat, he declined to elaborate on the nature of the funding, but he did confirm that Real Life is “owned” by Snapchat.

“Real Life will publish essays, arguments, and narratives about living with technology,” Jurgenson writes. “It won’t be a news site with gadget reviews or industry gossip. It will be about how we live today and how our lives are mediated by devices.” (This sounds a little like the turf of New York Magazine‘s recently launched Select All.) The publication will cover beauty, power, privacy, and relationships, among other things, and “we aim to address the political uses of technology, including some of the worst practices both inside and outside the tech industry itself,” writes Jurgenson.

So now Snapchat will technically have web content that is visible on desktop computers. No longer will Snapchat be constrained to mobile devices. And, at least initially, the medium will be primarily text, unlike the video stories and snaps the Southern California company has become known for.

«

Unfathomable. How does this do anything for Snapchat?
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The Talk Show ✪: Live From WWDC 2016, With Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi • Daring Fireball

»Recorded in front of a live audience in San Francisco, John Gruber is joined by Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi to discuss the news from WWDC: WatchOS 3, MacOS 10.12 Sierra, iOS 10, and more.

«

There’s also a transcript. Last year it was just Schiller. (“Just” Schiller.) I guess they can pick from Schiller, Federighi and Eddy Cue for a few years before it has to aim for the top with Cook. After whom, what?
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All the hidden, awesome stuff in iOS 10 Apple didn’t announce • Lifehacker

Thorin Klosowski:

»iOS updates aren’t as exciting as they used to be, so the best stuff is often the little features that slip through the keynote cracks but make your iPhone or iPad work much better. Case in point, some of the hidden stuff in early iOS 10 betas is way more exciting than what Apple actually announced this week.

«

It isn’t all but it’s a few of the more fun things – alarm redesign, Maps remembering where you parked if you used it to navigate in a car, no more “slide to unlock”, a few more. I think the death of “slide to unlock” (and its companion, where Music controls in Control Centre are now to the right) is going to be the one that causes the most perplexity.
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The elements of stickers • Andreessen Horowitz

Connie Chan, a partner at venture capital company Andreessen Horowitz:

»What is surprising — especially when compared to the more mature messaging ecosystem in Asia — is that many people still tend to treat stickers (i.e., the ability to easily incorporate pre-set images into texts) as just-for-fun frivolity, when they’re an important visual digital language fully capable of communicating a nuanced range of thoughts. For example, a single sticker could convey very different messages: “I’m so hungry I could collapse” or “I miss you” or “I’m sound asleep snoring”. Complex feelings, actions, punch lines, and memes are all possible with stickers.

They are an acceptable response to “end” a real-time back and forth conversation (great for punchlines). They are a low-risk way of saying hi and initiating a chat with an acquaintance. And they reduce the social friction of saying something emotional in text form; this is especially helpful in a culture that is known to be less outwardly expressive even to one’s own family members and friends (where it is far less awkward to send a virtual-fistbump sticker than it is to tell someone directly that they’re a wonderful friend).

And sometimes stickers can convey what words cannot! This form of visual communication has become so popular in Asia — especially in China’s WeChat and Japan’s LINE — that it is not uncommon to see a deep thread of multiple messages without a single word. They’re not just for those crazy young kids. More notably, stickers are commonly used in professional, not just personal, chats as well. Not so frivolous after all. In fact, stickers are so core to the success of Line, that its CEO actually credited them as the “turning point” for that app. He shared that it took Line Messenger almost four months to find its first two million users … but after stickers were launched, it took only two days to find the next million. The company now makes over $270m a year just from selling stickers.

«

This is essential to understanding why Apple has gone so big on stickers for iOS 10’s iMessage. Chan is highly worth reading on all these topics.
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How hired hackers got “complete control” of Palantir • BuzzFeed News

William Alden on how Veris Systems was hired to hack into Palantir:

»Even Palantir’s defense efforts were visible to the red team. The intruders found an “InfoSec Onboarding” page on the wiki that detailed Palantir’s security infrastructure. They monitored security devices and “ensured that their actions were not being logged.”

This was when, according to the report, the red team intruders had “complete control” of the Palantir domain. Their final task was to break into the Mac laptops of information security employees — the fortress guards. This they did, using a system that typically sent out software updates, and soon were able to get passwords and screenshots, review saved files, and “observe all user activity,” the report says.

They were finally caught while attempting to upload a screenshot to one of their own servers, according to the report. A piece of security software called Little Snitch — which regulates data sent out from a computer to the internet — was installed on one of the information security employees’ laptops, and it flagged the suspicious upload attempt, the report says. Little Snitch, while popular in the cybersecurity world, was not standard software for these employees, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Soon, Palantir security employees identified the red team’s attack tools and set up firewalls to block communications to the red team servers. These defenders “successfully demonstrated the ability to trace malicious activity across the domain and take the appropriate steps to neutralize an insider threat,” the report says.

But the red team still had an edge.

«

Veris was let through the firewall on purpose, to see what would happen if someone was spearphished. Turns out: a lot.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notifed.

Start up: Facebook’s video hope, Amy on Outlook, Apple’s neural nets, a Trump rally in Greensboro, and more

06

Deleting the default apps on iOS 10 will get rid of them, right? Wrong. Photo by tuaulamac on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Facebook is predicting the end of the written word • Quartz

Cassie Werber:

»Facebook has arguably made us all writers, since it has become the medium of choice for millions to share their views and life experiences. But in five years that creativity may look very different. Facebook is predicting the end of the written word on its platform.

In five years time Facebook “will be definitely mobile, it will be probably all video,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, who heads up Facebook’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at a conference in London this morning. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has already noted that video will be more and more important for the platform. But Mendelsohn went further, suggesting that stats showed the written word becoming all but obsolete, replaced by moving images and speech.

“The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” Mendelsohn said. “It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

«

Not buying this.
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How ‘deleting’ built-in Apple apps works in iOS 10 • iMore

Rene Ritchie:

»when you delete a built-in app, you don’t really delete it. You do remove the icon from the Home screen, the user data is flushed, and the hooks into the system for things like default links and Siri handling are removed. But, it doesn’t delete the actual app binary.

There are two reasons for this:

• Apple’s built-in apps are very, very small, taking up only 150 MB of storage. That’s because they wrap a lot of core functionality and so don’t introduce a lot of extraneous code or assets.

• When a version of iOS is released, Apple signs it so your iPhone or iPad can verify it’s legitimate and hasn’t been tampered with by a third party. That code signing covers the entirety of iOS, including built-in apps. If everyone had different apps, some present, some not, the current form of signing security wouldn’t work.

«

Deleting the user data might save a fair amount of storage, though.
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X.ai works with Microsoft Outlook.com • Business Insider

Matt Weinberger:

»For the last two years, the popular x.ai virtual personal assistant has been helping Google Calendar users manage their meetings.

Today, x.ai is finally coming to Microsoft calendars, with support for Office 365 and Outlook.com, as the company moves closer to the release of its paid business edition later this year.

«

Amy is a really terrific system – I don’t know why Google or Microsoft hasn’t snapped up x.ai.
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BNNS • Apple Developer Documentation

»Basic neural network subroutines (BNNS) is a collection of functions that you use to implement and run neural networks, using previously obtained training data.

«

Embedded in all four platforms (iOS, tvOS, watchOS, OSX/MacOS):

»BNNS supports implementation and operation of neural networks for inference, using input data previously derived from training. BNNS does not do training, however. Its purpose is to provide very high performance inference on already trained neural networks.

«

Does Android have anything comparable?
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The perils and promises of gene-drive technology • The New Yorker

Michael Specter:

»Normally, the progeny of any sexually reproductive organism receives half its genome from each parent. For decades, however, biologists have been aware that some genetic elements are “selfish”: evolution has bestowed on them a better-than-fifty-per-cent chance of being inherited. But, until scientists began to work with Crispr, which permits DNA to be edited with uncanny ease and accuracy, they lacked the tools to make those changes.

Then the evolutionary biologist Kevin Esvelt, who runs the Sculpting Evolution Group at M.I.T.’s Media Lab, realized that, by attaching a gene drive to a desired DNA sequence with crispr, you could permanently alter the genetic destiny of a species. That’s because, with crispr, a change made on one chromosome would copy itself in every successive generation, so that nearly all descendants would inherit the change. A mutation that blocked the parasite responsible for malaria, for instance, could be engineered into a mosquito and passed down every time it reproduced. Within a year or two, none of the original mosquito’s offspring would be able to transmit the infection. And if gene drives work for malaria they ought to work for other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, yellow fever, and Zika.

This is tremendously promising news, but nothing so powerful comes without risk—and there has never been a more powerful biological tool…

…Pretty soon, we are going to have to make some of the most pressing decisions we have ever made about how, whether, and when to deploy a new technology.

«

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The end of reflection • The New York Times

Teddy Wayne:

»By 2012, Google engineers had discovered that when results take longer than two-fifths of a second to appear, people search less, and lagging just one quarter of a second behind a rival site can drive users away.

“That hints at the way that, as our technologies increase the intensity of stimulation and the flow of new things, we adapt to that pace,” [author of The Shallows, Nichola] Carr said. “We become less patient. When moments without stimulation arise, we start to feel panicked and don’t know what to do with them, because we’ve trained ourselves to expect this stimulation — new notifications and alerts and so on.”

What this often translates to in the discourse of the internet is demand for immediate and perfunctory “hot takes” rather than carefully weighed judgments, whether they’re about serious or superficial matters.

Mr. Carr also noted counterarguments: Formulating relatively simple thoughts on the internet can yield more complex ones through real-time exchanges with others, and people whose reflex is to post a notion hastily rather than let it sit may not have been the most deliberative thinkers in a pre-smartphone time, either.

Nevertheless, he sees our current direction as indicative of “the loss of the contemplative mind,” he said.

«

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What is Differential Privacy’? • A Few Thoughts On Cryptographic Engineering

Matthew Green of Johns Hopkins University, explaining the system Apple says it’s using for its machine learning system:

»A much more promising approach is not to collect the raw data at all. This approach was recently pioneered by Google to collect usage statistics in their Chrome browser. The system, called RAPPOR, is based on an implementation of the 50-year old randomized response technique. Randomized response works as follows:

• When a user wants to report a piece of potentially embarrassing information (made up example: “Do you use Bing?”), they first flip a coin, and if the coin comes up “heads”, they return a random answer — calculated by flipping a second coin. Otherwise they answer honestly.

• The server then collects answers from the entire population, and (knowing the probability that the coins will come up “heads”), adjusts for the included “noise” to compute an approximate answer for the true response rate.

Intuitively, randomized response protects the privacy of individual user responses, because a “yes” result could mean that you use Bing, or it could just be the effect of the first mechanism (the random coin flip). More formally, randomized response has been shown to achieve Differential Privacy, with specific guarantees that can adjusted by fiddling with the coin bias.

RAPPOR takes this relatively old technique and turns it into something much more powerful. Instead of simply responding to a single question, it can report on complex vectors of questions, and may even return complicated answers, such as strings – e.g., which default homepage you use. The latter is accomplished by first encoding the string into a Bloom filter – a bitstring constructed using hash functions in a very specific way. The resulting bits are then injected with noise, and summed, and the answers recovered using a (fairly complex) decoding process.

«

I think “it’s complicated” will probably do as a first pass.
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Android share growth slows after historic gains last period • Kantar Worldpanel

»“In Great Britain, both Android and iOS had higher market share in the three months ending April 2016. Android represented 58.5% of the market in that period, a gain of 4.1% year-on-year,” said Dominic Sunnebo, Business Unit Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe. “And for iOS, this term showed the first increase since October 2015, though modest at just 0.4%, from 34.7% to 35.1%. Android gains came from Windows phone owners switching, a trend that produced nearly 10% of new Android customers, while 21.8% of new iOS buyers switched from Android.”

«

In other words: Windows Phone, the platform, is burning, and not in a good way. This will sound familiar to students of history, and not in a good way either.

»

“In Urban China, Android share rose 4.8% year-over-year, and 1.1% period-over-period, to capture 78.8% of smartphone sales in the three months ending April 2016,” noted Tamsin Timpson, Strategic Insight Director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia. “While movement from featurephones to smartphones has slowed significantly in developed markets like the US and EU5, this still makes up a significant proportion of smartphone sales in Urban China. Nearly a third of Android users during this time were purchasing their first smartphone, in contrast to iOS buyers, of whom only 14% were first-time smartphone customers.”

«

That doesn’t tell us whether Chinese iOS buyers were moving from Android in any measurable quantity. But clearly Android is still effective at gaining from featurephones.
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A Trump rally in Greensboro • · Storify

Jared Yates Sexton went along and tweeted what he saw and heard, with this as the tagline:

»”Anger in here is palpable”: in which a sane man live tweets insanity.

«

It really is scary. (Over 170,000 views at the time of tagging.) A question one might like to consider is whether Trump would let his wife walk unaccompanied through the car park following one of his rallies. (There’s more of Sexton’s work on this blog.)
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OnePlus X series is no more, says CEO • Engadget

Richard Lai:

»While it’s common practice for smartphone makers to offer two or three product lines to cover all the bases, OnePlus has recently decided to go from two to one. At the OnePlus 3 launch event in Shenzhen today, CEO Pete Lau confirmed that his company’s more affordable offering, the OnePlus X, will not have a followup model. That’s not to say it was a bad phone (even we liked it) nor was it unpopular, but Lau reasoned that OnePlus will instead focus on just one “true flagship” line from now on, in order to strengthen its foundation – something that Lau admitted his team neglected last year – rather than fighting the low-end price war.

«

OnePlus is on thin margins and (comparatively) low volumes, so it has to shift towards premium pricing to survive.
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Now Peter Thiel’s lawyer wants to silence reporting on Trump’s hair [Updated] • Gawker

J K Trotter:

»But if you were under the impression that praise-worthy journalism [investigating whether Donald Trump’s hair is a $60,000 wig/weave – which I would think is very likely indeed] is somehow inoculated against campaigns like Thiel’s, you’d be mistaken. Last week, Thiel’s lawyer-for-hire, Charles J. Harder, sent Gawker a letter on behalf of Ivari International’s owner and namesake, Edward Ivari, in which Harder claims that Feinberg’s story was “false and defamatory,” invaded Ivari’s privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and committed “tortious interference” with Ivari’s business relations. Harder enumerates 19 different purportedly defamatory statements—almost all of which were drawn from several publicly available lawsuits filed against Ivari.

Harder’s demands included the immediate removal of the story from Gawker, a public apology, the preservation of “all physical and electronic documents, materials and data in your possession” related to the story, and, notably, that we reveal our sources.

«

Thiel’s lawyer’s filing is nonsense; and Gawker now does not give a flying one how much it offends either of them. When you’re on Death Row, death threats hardly scare you.
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Shutterbugs, rejoice: Apple’s iOS 10 will shoot raw photos • CNET

Stephen Shankland:

»Apple’s next-gen iOS 10 software adds a new programming interface that will let camera apps retrieve unprocessed raw photo data from the camera hardware, according to Apple developer documentation. Google’s Android has supported raw photos since the release of the Lollipop version in 2014.

There’s a good reason Apple didn’t include raw photo support in its top-10 list of new iOS 10 features unveiled at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) Monday. Raw photography is complex and too much of a hassle for most people to bother with. But with photography now so central to mobile phones, and with photo enthusiasts being such an active and visible type of customer, raw photo support is a major improvement. Raw photos should help Apple’s iPhones keep their place atop the list of most popular cameras on Flickr, the photo-sharing site.

«

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: hacking Dems, Theranos loses another, Apple’s non-chatbot chatbots, slimmer Xbox!, and more

Remember when Obama had a BlackBerry? He doesn’t any more – though he’s not saying what he does have. Photo by rowdyman on Flickr.

Don’t you dare sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. No, really.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 14 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump • The Washington Post

»Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.

The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts.

The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some GOP political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available.

A Russian Embassy spokesman said he had no knowledge of such intrusions.

«

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The evil that is VPAID ads • Google+

Artem Russakovskii:

»A few months ago, I complained about the insane state of today’s advertising and the evil that is VPAID ads.

These ads destroy performance, leech bandwidth by 10s of megabytes, and are served by major ad networks, including Google’s own AdX and AdSense.

Today, these VPAID ads are as popular as ever – and that is just disgusting. They’re the real cancer of the advertising industry.

To showcase just how evil they still are, I took a single AdX ad tag and put it on an otherwise empty page. A static image ad loads, but it’s secretly a VPAID one. It then randomly switches to a video, then back to a static image, then back again – it’s like a never-ending self-reloading cascade of garbage.

Right now after several minutes of just leaving this one single ad open, I’m at 53MB downloaded and 5559 requests. By the time I finished typing this, I was at 6140 requests. A single ad did this. Without reloading the page, just leaving it open.

«

link to this extract

 


Obama finally upgraded from his BlackBerry • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

»President Obama has finally been allowed to replace his BlackBerry with something more modern — but he apparently isn’t thrilled with this new phone either.

“I get the thing, and they’re all like, ‘Well, Mr. President, for security reasons … it doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text, the phone doesn’t work, … you can’t play your music on it,'” Obama said during an appearance on The Tonight Show this week. “Basically, it’s like, does your three year old have one of those play phones?”

Obama’s been joking about his awful phone situation for years now. While his BlackBerry was considered surprisingly high-tech when he came into office, the situation quickly changed. As far back as 2010, Obama called using his BlackBerry “no fun,” and then a few years ago he lamented that security concerns prevent him from using an iPhone. While discussing his BlackBerry on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last year, Obama started laughing after a single person applauded. “The one old guy there,” Obama said, “He’s my age. Somebody my generation.”

«

Obama came into office eight years ago, and so was campaigning as much as ten years ago, when his use of its seemed radical. Times change. The unanswered question: what is he using?
link to this extract

 


Walgreen terminates partnership with blood-testing firm Theranos • WSJ

Michael Siconolfi, Christopher Weaver and John Carreyrou:

»Drugstore operator Walgreen Co. formally ended a strained alliance with Theranos Inc. as regulators near a decision on whether to impose sanctions against the embattled Silicon Valley firm.

Some officials at the Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. unit had grown frustrated at not getting more details and documentation from Theranos after learning it had corrected tens of thousands of blood tests, including many performed on samples collected from patients at Walgreens pharmacies, according to people familiar with the partnership.

In a news release late Sunday, Walgreens said it had told Theranos it was terminating their nearly three-year-old partnership, effective immediately, and that it was shutting down Theranos lab-testing services in Walgreens locations…

…The move is a significant blow to Theranos. The 40 Theranos blood-draw sites inside Walgreens stores in Arizona, which the company calls “wellness centers,” have been the primary source of revenue for Theranos and its conduit to consumers, analysts say. The tie-up also has given the blood-testing firm a stamp of credibility since it was publicly announced in September 2013.

«

This feels like the third act of a Greek tragedy; Theranos certainly sounds like it should come from a Greek word, perhaps meaning “the aching desire to find a cheap way to test blood”, but I can’t find a meaningful translation anywhere. Presently being turned into a screenplay, with Jennifer Lawrence slated to play Elizabeth Holmes, so the big question is: will Bradley Cooper play John Carreyrou of the WSJ who exposed it all?

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Apple’s response to the chatbot craze doesn’t involve any chatbots • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»Microsoft has been letting developers build integrations into Skype, and Facebook has been doing the same with Messenger. Google has revealed related plans for its forthcoming Allo app. Kik, Line, and Telegram have begun accepting outside integrations, as well. Even in the parallel universe of enterprise software, this trend is playing out — Slack is the greatest example there.

But all of these companies have chosen a text-messaging interface through which people will talk to other services — namely chatbots. Apple, in its infinite Apple-ness, is circumventing the hype around bots and will be simply letting developers build app extensions that live inside of a new “app drawer,” which users will open in Messages on iOS 10 by tapping the little blue A button that historically stands for App Store.

Developers can build these iMessage Apps using the iOS software development kit (SDK), which became available today in the beta release of Xcode 8. It’s possible to fine-tune the look and functionality of these mini apps, so that they don’t just look like the rest of Messages. (Documentation is already available.)

Onstage today, Apple’s Craig Federighi talked about a Square Cash iMessage app. It’s a bright green widget that pops up in place of the keyboard. A user selected $200 as the amount on a scrollable dial and then hit the pay button to pay that amount to the message recipient. The result was a box right underneath an earlier text message with a big $200 bill and a link to “tap here to deposit this cash.”

Federighi also demonstrated a DoorDash iMessage App through which multiple people could collaborate on one food delivery order. In a message bubble, this iMessage App displayed a dish from San Francisco restaurant and food truck operator Curry Up Now, with a little red DoorDash logo in the top left. Underneath that, there was some text — “3 people,” “Brian Croll added 2 items,” and a grand total so far of $48.68. “So I could just tap in and see what’s going on,” Federighi said. After tapping on the widget he was confronted with a full screen showing more detail, courtesy of DoorDash — a menu, prices, estimated delivery time, and a “view group cart” button. From there, Federighi checked out the cart and then added to it. When he was done, the DoorDash widget that had originally appeared in his Messages group chat was updated to reflect the changes to the order.

«

In other words, you don’t need to talk to machines to get machines to do your bidding. I don’t get the chatbot thing; it seems like wasted effort.
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iOS 10.0 • Apple Developer documentation

»In iOS 10, the NSUserActivity object includes the mapItem property, which lets you provide location information that can be used in other contexts. For example, if your app displays hotel reviews, you can use the mapItem property to hold the location of the hotel the user is viewing so that when the user switches to a travel planning app, that hotel’s location is automatically available. And if you support app search, you can use the new text-based address component properties in CSSearchableItemAttributeSet, such as thoroughfare and postalCode, to fully specify locations to which the user may want to go. Note that when you use the mapItem property, the system automatically populates the contentAttributeSet property, too.

To share a location with the system, be sure to specify latitude and longitude values, in addition to values for the address component properties in CSSearchableItemAttributeSet. It’s also recommended that you supply a value for the namedLocation property, so that users can view the name of the location, and the phoneNumbers property, so that users can use Siri to initiate a call to the location.

«

So you can switch apps and have Siri call the hotel you were just looking at. Quite neat. Also notable in the documentation: “True Tone”, the ambient display adjustment presently only on the 9.7in iPad Pro, becomes part of the OS. It’ll surely be on the forthcoming iPhones.

And why link to this but not the Android N documentation? Because this will be on about half of iOS 10-capable devices within a month of release. Android M, released last year, is on perhaps 100m devices after nine months.
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Intel gets chip order from Apple, its first major mobile win • Bloomberg

Ian King and Scott Moritz:

»Apple’s next iPhone will use modems from Intel Corp., replacing Qualcomm chips in some versions of the new handset, a move by the world’s most-valuable public company to diversify its supplier base.

Apple has chosen Intel modem chips for the iPhone used on AT&T’s U.S. network and some other versions of the smartphone for overseas markets, said people familiar with the matter. IPhones on Verizon Communications’s network will stick with parts from Qualcomm, which is the only provider of the main communications component of current versions of Apple’s flagship product. Crucially for Qualcomm, iPhones sold in China will work on Qualcomm chips, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Apple hasn’t made its plans public.

«

So this seems like Qualcomm keeps the CDMA versions, but Intel gets the GSM market. China might be a toss-up.
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Devices able to run iOS 10, biggest iOS release ever • Apple

»iOS 10 will be available this fall as a free software update for iPhone 5 and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini 2 and later, and iPod touch 6th generation.

«

Ah, so that’s a lot clearer. There seemed to be suggestion on Monday that it would run on the iPad 2 and iPad 3; but they’re explicitly not in the list for the iPad. (Nor is the first iPad mini.)

The minimum iPad spec is the iPad 4, or iPad mini 2; for the phones, it’s the iPhone 5/C (which are the same thing).
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Microsoft reveals the new, slimmer Xbox One S, coming this August • TechCrunch

Brian Heater:

»The system the company showed off today arrived in a bright white color (“robot white,” according to press materials), a lightening up of the previous console. The device will come with a vertical stand, so users can decide how they want to orient it on their shelf.

The Xbox One S is 40% slimmer than the last version. Inside you’ll find a hard drive sporting up to 2TB and an integrated power supply. The new console features a built-in IR blaster, front-facing USB port (there are still two on the rear) and does 4K video. The One S also features HDR video support, for a more vibrantly colored gaming experience and higher contrast between dark colors and light.

«

One area that smartphones and tablets haven’t quite swallowed up. Notable how much more storage they’re offering; even as games are increasingly downloaded from the cloud, gamers want more local storage to keep data.
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This USB adapter is Microsoft’s final admission that Kinect failed • The Verge

Tom Warren:

»Hardware planning takes years, and it’s clear Microsoft quickly realized that bundling Kinect was a mistake. The new Xbox One S doesn’t even include a Kinect port, and Microsoft has created a USB adapter that you’ll need to use if you want Kinect support. It’s a free adapter if you already own an Xbox One and Kinect…

…Microsoft is now working to bring Cortana to the Xbox One in an update this summer. While it was originally supposed to debut last year, Microsoft announced Cortana would require Kinect at E3 last year, before mysteriously delaying the feature. It’s clear part of that delay was related to getting headsets working with Cortana, and you won’t need a Kinect to use the digital assistant this summer.

The removal of the Kinect port on the Xbox One S is the final admission that Microsoft’s accessory is dead. It’s hard to imagine that the Project Scorpio console will re-introduce a Kinect port next year, and the accessory wasn’t even mentioned during any of Microsoft’s demos on stage. Microsoft claimed at E3 last year that “there are games actually that are coming out for Kinect,” but at E3 this year the only mention is a USB adapter that admits Kinect failed.

«

Kinect is such an odd footnote in tech history: the fastest-selling piece of tech ever, considered a potentially useful tool for surgeons, and now an undesired add-on.
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Follow the sun • The Economist

»Led by big projects in these two countries [China and India], global solar-energy capacity rose by 26% last year. More remarkable is the decline in its cost. Studies of the “levelised cost” of electricity, which estimate the net present value of the costs of a generating system divided by the expected output over its lifetime, show solar getting close to gas and coal as an attractively cheap source of power. Auctions of long-term contracts to purchase solar power in developing countries such as South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Peru and Mexico provide real-world evidence that such assumptions may even prove to be conservative (see chart).

In sunny places solar power is now “shoulder to shoulder” with gas, coal and wind, says Cédric Philibert of the International Energy Agency, a prominent forecaster. He notes that since November 2014, when Dubai awarded a project to build 200MW of solar power at less than $60 a megawatt hour (MWh), auctions have become increasingly competitive.

«

And that’s because the price of solar panels has fallen by 80% since 2010. Hell of a thing.
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Yes, there have been aliens • The New York Times

Adam Frank, who co-wrote a scientific paper on this vexed question:

»Instead of asking how many civilizations currently exist, we asked what the probability is that ours is the only technological civilization that has ever appeared. By asking this question, we could bypass the factor about the average lifetime of a civilization. This left us with only three unknown factors, which we combined into one “biotechnical” probability: the likelihood of the creation of life, intelligent life and technological capacity.

You might assume this probability is low, and thus the chances remain small that another technological civilization arose. But what our calculation revealed is that even if this probability is assumed to be extremely low, the odds that we are not the first technological civilization are actually high. Specifically, unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in 10 billion trillion, then we are not the first.

To give some context for that figure: In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.

«

So howcome they haven’t got in touch asking to borrow money? (The paper is available in full for free.)
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Motorola confirms Moto 360 Gen. 1 will not receive Android Wear 2.0 update • Android Police

David Ruddock:

»While you may have seen reports via Motorola’s Twitter account that the Moto 360 Gen. 1 would not be receiving Wear 2.0, we decided to follow up with Motorola’s official PR this morning on this news and received direct confirmation: the Moto 360 Gen. 1 won’t get Wear 2.0.

The Moto 360 was heavily hyped leading up to its launch nearly two years ago, and understandably so: a [semi-]circular display made it stand out from pretty much any smartwatch that had been released previously. While LG’s G Watch R was, in my opinion, a better take on the circular watch, the Moto 360 still stood out with its small bezels and minimalistic, lugless style. It really was, and is, a striking device.

Still, it seems more than a bit frustrating that Android Wear devices – which Google has time and again implied shouldn’t “age” like your smartphone does as new OS updates launch – are seemingly little-different in terms of support windows than smartphones. Watches, after all, are supposed to last for years, especially watches that cost upwards of $300.

«

Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola completed in October 2014, having been announced in January 2014. The Moto 360v1 was launched in September 2014, and would have been in the works for at least a year before. Lenovo is now losing money on its smartphone business.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lenovo/Motorola quietly dropped out of the Android Wear business at least until that specific sector shows signs of life. Speaking of which…
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How will the $34bn wearables market combat wearables fatigue? • Forbes

Paul Armstrong:

»Some sobering stats:

•50% of consumers lose interest in the product within a few months. [Endeavour Partners]
•More than half of US wearable owners who have owned a device no longer use it. [Pew Research, 2013]
The wearables market will be worth $34bn in 2020. [CCS Insight]


SOURCE: CCS Insight

It takes 66 days to make a new behaviour stick – that’s a long time in the fast-paced, notification saturated world we live in. Wearable devices can help but the person has to have a decent amount of willpower or the behaviour wanes. Successful apps usually demonstrate a good combination. For example; a fitness tracker and something like MyFitnessPal which monitors macronutrients food intake and can give you some great data points but it doesn’t give tailored advice. Based on the data above there may be trouble ahead if consumers don’t begin seeing value in wearable devices. The issues are clear – either the tech doesn’t work or it’s not of value.

«

Wearables’ biggest problem is battery life, no doubt. Means you have to take them off.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Gov.uk vetoes apps, Buzzfeed nixes Trump ads, Twitter’s growth trouble, and more

We’ve got some bad news about the BlackBerry Priv. Photo by liewcf on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Why Britain banned mobile apps • GovInsider

Joshua Chambers spoke to Ben Terrett, former design chief at the UK’s Government Digital Service, which often acted as a sort of “tiger team” to fix big or little projects that had got bogged down in spec-land:

»Key to the GDS’ approach is designing for user needs, not organizational requirements, Terrett says. “That is how good digital services designed and built these days. That is how everyone does it, whether that’s google or facebook or British Airways or whoever.”

The problem is that public sector agencies tend not to design with citizens in mind. “Things are just designed to suit the very silos that the project sits in, and the user gets lost in there,” Terrett adds.

For example, opening a restaurant might require multiple permits from different agencies. A good digital service should combine them all in one place.

Focusing on user needs also needs officials to cut bad ideas out. Most Ministers might want there to be sharing options on websites so that citizens can easily promote government on Facebook and Twitter. But the GDS tested this, and found that only 0.1% of citizens ever clicked on them. These stats allowed officials to remove them from the design, making the site simpler, cleaner and quicker to load.

«

The mobile apps stuff? Because then you have to update them for each version of each platform. Responsive websites are better.
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BlackBerry Priv is faring worse than expected • CNET

Roger Cheng:

»”The BlackBerry Priv is really struggling,” the high-level executive [at AT&T], who asked not to be named, said last week. “We’ve seen more returns than we would like.”

Wireless carriers are seldom publicly critical of their handset partners, and the sobering comments offer a rare glimpse into the troubles BlackBerry faces with the Priv, which is the first of its phones to run on Google’s Android software. BlackBerry, once a global leader in smartphones, hoped the Priv, which features a slide-out physical keyboard, would at least get the company back on its feet in the mobile devices business…

…BlackBerry and the carrier expected to see demand for an Android phone with a physical keyboard. Instead, most of the buyers were BlackBerry loyalists, the executive said. Those faithful, however, struggled with the transition from the BlackBerry operating system to the Android operating system, leading to a higher-than-expected rate of return.

BlackBerry’s decision to market the phone as a high-end device also hurt its prospects, the executive said. The Priv initially sold unlocked for $699, above the starting price of the iPhone 6S, which sells for $650. Few premium phones have fared well beyond devices from Apple and Samsung.

“There isn’t much volume growth in the premium segment, where Apple and Samsung dominate,” the executive said.

«

The Priv camera app on the Google Play store still has fewer than 500,000 downloads globally, having launched in November. That’s seven months on sale. BlackBerry’s hardware division is a money pit. (BlackBerry’s fiscal first quarter ran to the end of May. Results later this month.)
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Why the economic payoff from technology is so elusive • The New York Times

Steve Lohr:

»for several years, economists have asked why all that technical wizardry seems to be having so little impact on the economy. The issue surfaced again recently, when the government reported disappointingly slow growth and continuing stagnation in productivity. The rate of productivity growth from 2011 to 2015 was the slowest since the five-year period ending in 1982.

One place to look at this disconnect is in the doctor’s office. Dr. Peter Sutherland, a family physician in Tennessee, made the shift to computerized patient records from paper in the last few years. There are benefits to using electronic health records, Dr. Sutherland says, but grappling with the software and new reporting requirements has slowed him down. He sees fewer patients, and his income has slipped.

“I’m working harder and getting a little less,” he said.

The productivity puzzle has given rise to a number of explanations in recent years — and divided economists into technology pessimists and optimists…

…Some economists insist the problem is largely a measurement gap, because many digital goods and services are not accurately captured in official statistics. But a recent study by two economists from the Federal Reserve and one from the International Monetary Fund casts doubt on that theory.

«

So much doubt, so little clarity. The most likely explanation? Technology actually hasn’t gotten that far into the economy.

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BuzzFeed pulls out of $1.3M advertising deal with RNC over Donald Trump • POLITICO

Hadas Gold, Mike Allen and Alex Spence:

»In an email to staff on Monday, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti explained that in April, the RNC and BuzzFeed signed an agreement to “spend a significant amount on political advertisements slated to run during the Fall election cycle.” But since Trump became the nominee his campaign has proven themselves to be “directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States,” because of proposed bans on Muslim immigration and comments about descendants of immigrants, among other policies.

“We don’t need to and do not expect to agree with the positions or values of all our advertisers. And as you know, there is a wall between our business and editorial operations. This decision to cancel this ad buy will have no influence on our continuing coverage of the campaign,” Peretti said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.

“We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company,” Peretti wrote. “However, in some cases we must make business exceptions: we don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”

«

Peretti knows Buzzfeed’s audience, though, and knows accepting the ads would be bad for the site’s long-term health.
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How to vote in the EU referendum • Martin Lewis’ Blog…

Lewis is an ex-Financial Times journalist who set up the Moneysavingexpert.com website, which has brought him great respect from the wider public as someone who understands money, understands the economy, and isn’t in anyone’s pockets. So his post on this was greatly anticipated:

»My mailbag’s been drowning with questions and concerns. The biggest being: “Please just tell us the facts, what’ll happen if we leave?” I’m sorry, but the most important thing to understand is: there are no facts about what happens next.

Anyone who tells you they KNOW what’ll happen if we leave the EU is a liar. Predicting exact numbers for economic, immigration or house price change is nonsense. What’s proposed is unprecedented. All the studies, models and hypotheses are based on assumptions – that’s guesstimate and hope.

So accept the need to wrestle with uncertainty. The EU referendum is far from a black and white issue; there are more shades of grey than E L James’s bookshelf.

Frustratingly though, most politicians try to come across as doubt-free. Those pro-EU pout that all elements are good, while those against frown at them. Yet like life, it’s a mix, and the debate would be better if both sides admitted that.

«

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A statement on my position • Jacob Appelbaum

Writing in Berlin, Appelbaum, who left the Tor project last week, says:

»Vague rumors and smear campaigns against me are nothing new. As a longtime public advocate for free speech and a secure internet, there have been plenty of attempts to undermine my work over the years.

Now, however, these unsubstantiated and unfounded attacks have become so aggressive that I feel it’s necessary to set the record straight. Not only have I been the target of a fake website in my name that has falsely accused me of serious crimes, but I have also received death threats (including a Twitter handle entitled ‘TimeToDieJake’).

I think it’s extremely damaging to the community that these character-assassination tactics are being deployed, especially given their ugly history of being used against fellow members of the LGBT community. It pains me to watch the community to which I’ve dedicated so much of my life engage in such self-destructive behavior. Nonetheless, I am prepared to use legal channels, if necessary, to defend my reputation from these libelous accusations.

I want to be clear: the accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false.

«

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New York Times ‘exploring’ ad-free digital subscription • AdAge

Jeremy Barr:

»The New York Times is “exploring the possibility” of selling an ad-free digital subscription package, chief executive Mark Thompson said at the IAB Ad Blocking & User Experience Summit Monday.

“We do want to offer all of our users as much choice as we can, and we recognize that there are some users — both subscribers and non-subscribers — who would prefer to have an ad-free experience,” he said, according to a copy of his remarks provided in advance to Ad Age. (The all-day summit, which is intended for publishers, is not open to the press.)

«

Love the irony in that last sentence. The article’s conclusion:

»Generally speaking, Mr. Thompson said marketers “need to think like programmers rather than as traditional advertisers,” by “offering consumers content which actually has value to them.”

Advertising will always be a vital revenue source for the Times, he said, pointing out that some 107 million of the 110 million people who access the Times are not paid subscribers.

«

Hm.
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Twitter’s anti-Semitism problem is exactly why Twitter has a growth problem — Quartz

Paul Smalera:

»[New York Times reporter Jonathan] Weisman, in his story about being attacked [by anti-Semites], writes that, “An official at Twitter encouraged me to block the anti-Semites and report them to Twitter.” In other words, Twitter’s advice to users is that they police the hate themselves. It’s not an awful idea to ask users to report abuse, but the problem is that Twitter trolls can open up new accounts just as fast as Twitter closes down old ones. And with the power of search, newly opened accounts can quickly regain the followers and reach that shuttered ones had.

I haven’t signed up for Twitter or Facebook accounts for years, so I quickly opened up a browser in anonymous mode and went through the signup processes for each. Facebook stopped me several times, prompting me to use my real name. I had put in “Bad Guy” as my name, and eventually had to change it to “Badrick Guyowski” to get the service to let me in. Even when I was able to create an account, Facebook access was limited until I confirmed my email address–which was impossible for me to do, since I had entered a fake one. In essence, Mark Zuckerberg’s social network is inaccessible to someone who is not willing to part with at least some pieces of information that can be tied back to a real world identity.

Meanwhile, Twitter accepted these credentials to allow me to create an account, without protest, and without a phone number.

«

Because Twitter has a growth problem, though, it can’t tackle its anti-Semitism problem. Wall Street is worried about its growth, so anything it does that might slow that “growth” looks bad, even if it improves the quality of the network, and so its attractiveness to the users who are already there, or aren’t there.
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A May 2016 look at Big Five ebook pricing Author Earnings

“Data Guy”:

»One of the key points we made in our recent DBW presentation was that higher ebook prices end up hurting newer debut authors far more than they hurt long-established authors, who already have existing fanbases and sustainable writing careers — especially those perennial bestsellers who have managed to become household names. We could see in our data clear indications that, between 2014 and 2016, higher prices had progressively damaged the earnings of new Big Five debuts, and even more crucially, crippled their *discoverability* — that all-important key to establishing the brand-new readership and fanbase necessary to establishing a long-term writing career. The triptych of slides below make that case with glaring starkness: in them, we can see Big Five debut authors dropping from 22% of ebook sales by debut authors in early 2014, down to barely 9% of those vital, career-launching initial sales in early 2016.

«

I wonder if ebooks have some lessons for app stores – as ebooks have been around for slightly longer, though with less volume, and so might have worked out the trends that app stores are revealing. Discoverability matter, but people won’t spend on things they’re not familiar with already.
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Google misfires as it aims to turn Star Trek fiction into reality • Stat

Charles Piller:

»Google employees, squeezed onto metal risers and standing in the back of a meeting room, erupted in cheers as newly arrived executive Andrew Conrad announced they would try to turn science fiction into reality: The tech giant had formed a biotech venture to create a futuristic device like Star Trek’s iconic “Tricorder” diagnostic wizard — and use it to cure cancer.

Conrad, recalled an employee who was present, displayed images on the room’s big screens showing nanoparticles tracking down cancer cells in the bloodstream and flashing signals to a Fitbit-style wristband. He promised a working prototype of the cancer early-detection device within six months.

That was three years ago. Recently departed employees said the prototype didn’t work as hoped, and the Tricorder project is floundering.

Tricorder is not the only misfire for Google’s ambitious and extravagantly funded biotech venture, now named Verily Life Sciences. It has announced three signature projects meant to transform medicine, and a STAT examination found that all of them are plagued by serious, if not fatal, scientific shortcomings, even as Verily has vigorously promoted their promise.

The Tricorder, as Conrad and others at Verily call the device, is “in the realm of not only science fiction, but beyond that — science fantasy,” said David Walt, a Tufts University chemistry professor and nanoscience expert who met with Verily scientists and engineers last year to share his concerns. “And I’m not sure it will ever be science reality.”

The company has also touted a glucose-sensing contact lens as a substitute for frequent blood tests on diabetics, but independent experts said it is scientifically dubious at best.

It claims a billion-dollar “Baseline” study of human health will define what it means to be healthy and help identify early signs of disease. But researchers said design weaknesses make these lofty goals far-fetched.

Largely through Verily, Google has positioned itself to be a giant in life sciences by marrying technology and big data with science to cure diseases that have, so far, defied the best minds. But its setbacks and prominent scientists’ skepticism call into question this vision of the future of medicine.

«

Piller has gone into this thoroughly. Verily starts to look like a clunker. (They’ve featured here before, also through Piller, who noted that Conrad was “divisive”. Sounds familiar somehow.)
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Nest’s time at Alphabet: A “virtually unlimited budget” with no results • Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo peers over the smoking ruins:

»It’s hard to argue with the decision to “transition” [founder and chief executive Tony] Fadell away from Nest. When Google bought Nest in January 2014, the expectation was that a big infusion of Google’s resources and money would supercharge Nest. Nest grew from 280 employees around the time of the Google acquisition to 1200 employees today. In Nest’s first year as “a Google company,” it used Google’s resources to acquire webcam maker Dropcam for $555m, and it paid an unknown amount for the smart home hub company Revolv. Duffy said Nest was given a “virtually unlimited budget” inside Alphabet. Nest eventually transitioned to an Alphabet company, just like Google.

In return for all this investment, Nest delivered very little. The Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke detector both existed before the Google acquisition, and both received minor upgrades under Google’s (and later Alphabet’s) wing. A year after buying Dropcam, Nest released the Nest Cam, which was basically a rebranded Dropcam. Two-and-a-half years under Google/Alphabet, a quadrupling of the employee headcount, and half-a-billion dollars in acquisitions yielded minor yearly updates and a rebranded device. That’s all.

«

Didn’t make an “audio device”, didn’t come up with a home hub language or door sensor or window sensor. Too much money can be bad for a startup.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: more iPhone rumours, tablet use falls, six useful algorithms, and more


TV in the US is losing its audience, and especially its paying audience. Photo by quinn.anya on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Yes they are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Introducing comment moderation for Periscope • Medium

»Dear Periscope Community,

We’ve seen incredible communities and real-life friendships form on Periscope because it’s live, unfiltered and open. We’ve also seen broadcasters get discovered and quickly grow a large, public following. But with this openness comes an increased risk for spam and abuse, and this is something that we take seriously.

Above all, we want our community to be safe on Periscope. Comments are a vital part of the experience and we’ve been working hard on a system that still feels true to the live and unfiltered nature of our platform. Specifically, we want to develop a system that is: transparent, community-led, and live.

«

It was inevitable. Let’s see how this goes.
link to this extract

 


Apple moving to 3-year ‘major’ iPhone cycle, adding complex vibrations to 2017 model – report • Apple Insider

Roger Fingas:

»Apple will likely be waiting until next year to debut its next major iPhone refresh, treating this year’s “iPhone 7” as yet another interim upgrade, a Japanese report said on Tuesday.

The 2017 iPhone is expected to make the switch to OLED, among other important design changes, Nikkei said. While that would support recent rumors, the business publication also made an original claim that the device will have a new vibration motor, capable of producing more complex patterns than earlier iPhones.

That could indicate that Apple will use an evolved version of its “Taptic Engine,” found in devices like the Apple Watch and the iPhone 6s. The technology lets devices produce different, subtle responses to user actions and notifications.

The “iPhone 7” is likely to stay mostly the same, Nikkei said, the most noticeable difference being the removal of the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. Camera, water resistance, and battery technology should be improved, the paper continued, also mentioning that “a high-end version of the model will give users better-quality photo capabilities via correction functions.”

Rumors have suggested that the standard iPhone 7 might gain optical image stabilization, while a “7 Plus” will have a dual-lens camera.

«

link to this extract

 


Tablet usage declines • Global Web Index

Katie Young:

»Certainly, tablets have enjoyed healthy growth in recent years; since 2011, the numbers getting online via these devices have more than trebled – jumping from just 10% at the start of the decade to more than 1 in 3 in 2016.

However, from market to market, region to region, a closer look at these figures reveals that the boom days for tablets appear to be over. The speed of the increases slowed dramatically during 2015 and, in the first quarters of 2016, tablets have now started to decline. What’s more, 16-24s now lag behind virtually all other age groups in terms of usage.

Clearly, these devices are struggling to convince many that they are must-have rather than just nice-to-have devices. So, unless tablets can provide a level of functionality sufficiently higher than mobiles to warrant the expense, we can expect this trend to continue.

«

link to this extract

 


Nearly 1 in 4 people abandon mobile apps after only one use • TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:

»Based on data from analytics firm Localytics, and its user base of 37,000 applications, user retention has seen a slight increase year-over-year from 34% in 2015 to 38% in 2016.

However, just because this figure has recovered a bit, that doesn’t mean the numbers are good. Instead, what this indicates is that 62 percent of users will use an app less than 11 times.

Says the report, “this is not a sustainable business model.”

These days, 23% launch an app only once – an improvement over last year, but only slightly. For comparison’s sake, only 20% of users were abandoning apps in 2014.

On iOS, user retention saw some slight improvements. The percentage of those only opening apps once fell to 24% from 26% last year, and those who return to apps 11 times or more grew to 36% from 32% in 2015.

«

That seems depressing. Then again, thinking of my own use, I tend to install apps, and not use them for ages; then I’ll suddenly discover a use, and go with it. It’s not quite “abandonment”. There aren’t that many apps that I have to use every day, or even every month. But there are lots that I might use once a year. (And there’s no particular distinction between mobile and desktop in that regard.)
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The TV industry will unravel faster than you think — Lightspeed Venture Partners • Medium

Alex Taussig says it’s all going to go bad for the big networks:

»The most obvious beneficiaries of the decline of old TV media will be the dominant social networks who nail video: Facebook, Snapchat,* and perhaps Twitter, if the whole Periscope thing works out. (A new social network built natively with video could also be a contender. Email me if that’s what you’re working on!) They each have their own power law dynamics and, by most measures, are significantly larger and more global than the TV networks. Their data allows them to target videos more precisely; so, despite larger quantities of social video in the world, the odds of a specific consumer engaging with a given video are (in theory) much higher. If properly executed, they could expand the $73bn TV advertising market today by transforming it from an audience-based to a performance-based medium.

The second group of beneficiaries will be the new stream aggregators: Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Twitch, and the like. These streams will continue to aggregate and package long tail content and form direct relationships with consumers. Again, there will only be a few winners here.

«

Taussig points to two key bits of data: US pay TV penetration rates are falling

and only those aged over 65 now watch more TV than they did five years ago:

Hard to argue with his reasoning.
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Dell reveals industry’s first 17in 2-In-1 laptop • Twice

Joseph Palenchar:

»The PC industry’s first 17-inch two-in-one convertible Windows laptop is among six new Inspiron two-in-one laptops unveiled by Dell at Computex in Taiwan, Microsoft announced.

All six of the convertible two-in-ones come with touchscreen display and secure Windows Hello login via optional or standard built-in infrared cameras. A 360-degree hinge delivers four modes: laptop mode, tent mode for presentations, stand mode for playing movies, and tablet mode.

«

OK, that’s too big. Thanks, Dell, for showing us the limit, beyond which you’ve gone.
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Six algorithms that can improve your life • WNYC

Manoush Zomorodi:

»There’s been a lot of negative press lately about algorithms (Facebook, Snapchat, the prison system). But this week we’re exploring ways that mathematical and scientific algorithms can actually help improve how we live.

Brian Christian co-wrote the book “Algorithms to Live By” with his friend, Tom Griffiths, a psychology and cognitive science professor at UC Berkeley. Brian is all about the intersection of technology and humanity, and figuring out how to use data to help people optimize their lives.

In their book, Brian and Tom offer really practical applications for scientific principles, which we’ll get to in a minute. But first, here’s the catch: There’s no formula for perfection. Even if you apply these algorithms to your life, things will go wrong. But by trying out these algorithms, you can statistically give it your best shot.

«

Includes: how to find stuff on your desk, stop tagging/filing your emails, arrange appointments faster, and more. Also with audio.
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Economist editor: ‘We don’t want to be the grandpa at the disco’ • The Guardian

Mark Sweney interviews Zanny Milton Beddoes, editor of The Economist:

»Despite this success, as at other publishers print sales at the Economist have fallen across the globe, although the circulation still stands at 1.25m copies a week. Digital edition sales have broken through the 300,000 mark, up by 50% or more year-on-year in most markets, including the UK but not North and South America. Minton Beddoes says the print decline is in part to do with a “drive to quality” – getting rid of bulk copies and converting readers to paid subscribers.

“The overall circulation is slightly down but the profitability of our circulation is rising and print is still holding up remarkably well,” she says. “I’m completely agnostic [about whether] people read print or digital, I really want them to have a premium subscription giving them access to both.” The Economist is still willing to embrace the potential of print, as is shown by it launching 1843, a bi-monthly magazine (which replaced Intelligent Life) aimed at the “globally curious” which aims to speak to them “when they have their feet up, on a weekend break, on holiday”.

Minton Beddoes says the Economist is not feeling the same extreme pressure as advertising-reliant newspaper publishers. “I’m very simple about this. You make money out of things people pay for,” she says. “Subscriptions is the bulk of our business, ads are nice to have on top of that. We are in the midst of a massively changing disrupted industry and that is incredibly exciting but it is also challenging. There are going to be winners in that and losers. It is foolish for anyone to be complacent. I am confident and hopeful and paranoid at the same time.”

«

link to this extract

 


Are Trump hotels taking a ‘yuge’ hit? • Tailwind by Hipmunk

Kelly Soderlund on data from hotel-booking system Hipmunk:

»The Trump brand is associated with a variety of hotels, apartments, and products. On one hand, a growing number of political supporters could boost sales of Trump products; on the other, a growing number political detractors could lead people to avoid his brand. So which of these two forces is stronger?

We set out to answer this question by comparing the number of bookings at Trump Hotels’ most-booked locations this year on Hipmunk to bookings in the same locations the year prior (before he attracted national political attention).

The results? The share of bookings at Trump Hotels on Hipmunk as a percent of total hotel bookings are down, decreasing 59% compared to the same period last year.

While overall Hipmunk hotel bookings have been on the rise year-over-year, that has not been the case with bookings of Trump Hotels.

«

You could think of all sorts of possible reasons, but just not wanting to put any money into Trump’s pockets, and instead favouring Any Other Hotel Chain, seems like the immediately most plausible.
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Forced Windows 10 upgrades push users to dangerously disable Windows Update • PC World

Brad Chacos:

»Ironically, improved security is one of Windows 10’s selling points. But by pushing it on users in such a heavy-handed way, Microsoft is encouraging users who have very valid reasons to stick with Windows 7/8 to perform actions that leave their machines open to attack. That’s bad. Very bad.

For the record: Don’t disable Windows Updates unless you’re an advanced user who wants to parse and manually install Windows patches. Instead, leave them active but also install GWX Control Panel or Never10, free tools that block the Get Windows 10 pop-ups and behavior. Microsoft’s been known to push out new patches that work around those tools in the past, however—again, violating Windows Update’s sanctity to push its new OS. Be sure to read the fine print if a GWX pop-up does appear in order to avoid being tricked into Windows 10.

«

Coming to something when people complain of feeling “tricked” into getting an operating system for free that they would have been queueing around the block to pay for a few years ago. Well, 20 years ago.
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How big an issue is the nausea problem for virtual reality products? • Quora

Steve Baker is ex-Rediffusion Simulation, Hughes Aircraft, L3 Simulation:

»I’ve been working with helmet mounted displays in military flight simulation for several decades – I am an expert in the field.

IMHO – these devices should be banned – but that may not be necessary because after the first wave of early adopters I think it’ll go the way of 3D televisions. But that’s just my opinion. Let me explain why.

Everyone thinks these things are new and revolutionary…but they really aren’t. All that’s happened is that they dropped in price from $80,000 to $500…and many corners have been cut along the way.

There are several claims that the nausea problem has either been fixed, or will soon be fixed, or that application design can be used to work-around the problem.

The claims that it’s been fixed are based on the theory that the nausea is caused by latency/lag in the system, or by low resolution displays or by inaccurate head motion tracking…all of which can (and are) being fixed by obvious improvements to the system. Sadly, the $80,000 googles we made for the US military had less latency, higher resolution displays, and more accurate head tracking than any of the current round of civilian VR goggles…and they definitely made people sick – so this seems unlikely.

«

He has plenty more to say too about focal lengths and depth perception, and aftereffects. Worth considering. Of course, you could always assume that your users are going to be confused to begin with…
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VR Party Game is a ridiculously confusing virtual reality experience for Cardboard • Android Police

Rita El Khoury:

»What if virtual reality was just reality, with a small asterisk? What if you could strap on your VR headset, regardless of the brand or technology behind them, and see the same thing that’s in front of you… but mirrored? Or upside down? Or delayed by 2 seconds? Ha, what a novel idea!

VR Party Game does just that. It’s a Cardboard app/game that transmits your smartphone’s rear camera view onto the screen, but applies one of three special effects to confuse you. It can delay the view by 2 seconds, mirror it, or flip it upside down. The idea is to use it as a party game with friends, asking each other to complete a few tasks while wearing the Cardboard headset…

…VR Party Game is just mindless fun and as such, you may find the price a little steep. The app costs $0.99 but that only gives you the delay and mirror modes. Upside down is another $0.99 IAP.

«

OH NO. A WHOLE $1.98??
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: mobile phones still safe, Clinton’s email screwup, Apple Store life, Facebook everywhere, and more


You can study first dates using economics. Ask about their STDs! Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. There you are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Cellphone radiation is still safer than viral science stories • Mashable

Jason Abbruzzese:

»Here’s the study’s title: “Report of Partial findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley® SD rats (Whole Body Exposure)

And here’s a summary from Mashable science editor Andrew Freedman: “The partial results show that exposing large doses of radiation over about two years to male rats can cause unusually high rates of two specific kinds of tumors. But the comparison to humans is a question mark and comparison even to the control group of rats is problematic because of abnormalities in that group. There are a lot of statistical oddities in the study.”

And now, a selection of headlines from various outlets that covered the study.

«

They’re all terrible misrepresentations. Survival in the control group of males was lower than in the exposed group of males. So.. mobile phones make you live longer?
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Why Google and Boston Dynamics are parting ways • Tech Insider

Danielle Muoio:

»In 2015, Google attempted to take control of the robotics groups to learn what they were working on and how it could be translated into a consumer product, the former employees said.

“That’s when we first started seeing Google…actually trying to have leadership structure over all those robotic groups,” one former employee said. “Where they’re saying, ‘Okay, what do you do? Are you mobility, are you vision?’ …. and grouping them and directing them toward a commercial product space.”

It’s still unclear what exactly Google wanted in terms of a consumer product. One former employee said Google wanted an easy-to-use robot that could help with basic tasks around the house. One idea pitched was that it would roam around on wheels, which could arguably be seen as more consumer friendly than a complex, legged robot.

Boston Dynamics, given that it was born out of the MIT Leg Lab, was rubbed that wrong way by that concept.

«

Word is that Boston Dynamics is being sold to Toyota.
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Clinton’s email shenanigans sure don’t look like an honest mistake • Bloomberg View

Megan McArdle:

»Today is the day that so many of us have been waiting for: The State Department’s Office of Inspector General has released its report about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state. The report does not uncover any smoking guns – no records of Clinton saying “Heh, heh, heh, they’ll never FOIA my e-mails NOW!!!!” – what it does lay out is deeply troubling. Even though her supporters have already begun the proclamations of “nothing to see here, move along.”

It lays to rest the longtime Clinton defense that this use of a private server was somehow normal and allowed by government rules: It was not normal, and was not allowed by the government rules in place at the time “The Department’s current policy, implemented in 2005, is that normal day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorized Automated Information System (AIS), which “has the proper level of security control to … ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the resident information.”

It also shreds the defense that “Well, Colin Powell did it too” into very fine dust, and then neatly disposes of the dust…

… it isn’t minor. Setting up an e-mail server in a home several states away from the security and IT folks, in disregard of the rules designed to protect state secrets and ensure good government records, and then hiring your server administrator to a political slot while he keeps managing your system on government time … this is not acceptable behavior in a government official. If Clinton weren’t the nominee, or if she had an R after her name rather than a D, her defenders would have no difficulty recognizing just how troubling it is.

«

Clinton really, really screwed this up.
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Q&A with an Apple Store worker: ‘yes, it’s like a cult’ • Business Insider

Jim Edwards had a long chat with an ex-Apple Store employee, who has tons of fascinating detail, including this:

»BI: You were at Apple for four years. Why couldn’t you become a store manager?

A: It’s very difficult at Apple. We had between five and eight store managers during my time at the store, of varying kinds. Only one of them had started at Apple the rest had been recruited from elsewhere. From, say, Dixons or HMV.

BI: Why don’t they promote from within? Surely the regular sales staff are the most knowledgeable?

A: That was a hugely contentious issue. They did try to fix that with a “Lead and Learn” programme, where you train on the shop floor by acting as a manager without being a manager. We had some great people on the shop floor, people who had been there for five years, who were selling more than anyone else. But they were still just specialists or experts [two of the lowest ranked positions at Apple].

BI: So why is Apple not promoting these people?

A: I don’t know. It was controversial, hence the “Lead and Learn” programme. But as far as I’m aware — and I’m still in contact with these people — no-one on this programme has been promoted to manager. There are other jobs in-store that can earn you more money, but they’re technical jobs, like working at the Genius Bar, which a lot of people absolutely hated because you’re dealing with really angry customers.

«

Tons more in there. Worth the time.
link to this extract


Facebook wants to help sell every ad on the web • WSJ

Jack Marshall:

»Facebook has set out to power all advertising across the Internet.

To that end, the social network and online advertising company said Thursday it will now help marketers show ads to all users who visit websites and applications in its Audience Network ad network. Previously Facebook only showed ads to members of its social network when they visited those third-party properties.

The change is a subtle one, but it could mean Facebook will soon help to sell and place a much larger portion of the video and display ads that appear across the Internet. The change will also intensify competition with Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google, which dominates the global digital-advertising market, and a wide range of other online ad specialists.

“Publishers and app developers have some users who aren’t Facebook users. We think we can do a better job powering those ads,” said Andrew Bosworth, vice president of Facebook’s ads and business platform.

«

1.6bn people on Facebook; 3.2bn people using the internet worldwide. Room to grow.
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How many stories do newspapers publish per day? • The Atlantic

Robinson Meyer:

»The [New York] Times says it publishes several hundred stories from the Associated Press or other wire services online every day, but almost all of them expire and go offline after a few weeks. The number of wire stories that make it to the print paper—about 13 per day—hasn’t changed significantly since 2010.

At The Wall Street Journal, the set-up is different. Because the Journal’s online content more closely mirrors what makes it into the paper, it publishes only about 240 stories per day. That’s both online and in print. About seven wire stories per day make it into the paper.

At the Journal, the number of stories per day has fallen more significantly than at other venues. Five years ago, the paper published about 325 stories per day. A spokeswoman told me that the recent drop in Wall Street Journal stories per day can be explained by the fact that the paper integrated its own newsroom with the Dow Jones wire service in 2013.

«

Wolfgang Blau, formerly at the Guardian and now at Conde Nast, has a comment on this, including this dangerous observation:

»journalism – just like search, social or e-commerce, but with a delay – is now globalizing and will be dominated by publishers whose home base is already large enough to make it there, i. e. the US or China. The British model of having to expand into the US just to finance their domestic operation (Daily Mail, Guardian) is doomed…

«

link to this extract


Does online media have a political agenda? • Parsely

Conrad Lee:

»A couple of months ago, Journalist Nicholas Kristof wrote a controversial op-ed column in The New York Times about how “The Media Helped Make Trump.” In the piece, he argued that the $1.9 billion in free publicity that the media has given Donald Trump so far during this election cycle has provided him with a platform from which to spew “outrageous statements that [draw] ever more cameras — without facing enough skeptical follow-up questions.” In the aftermath of Kristof’s piece, readers and journalists fervently debated the veracity of his claims.

Because we work with media sites around the world to help answer questions about how readers are responding to content, Parse.ly is in a unique position to provide insight into this particular debate. We analyzed more than one billion page views across more than 100,000 articles to figure out which of the last five remaining major U.S. Presidential candidates were getting the most attention both from reporters and readers.

PLAY WITH OUR DATA

The results surprised us, suggesting that while journalists seem to be preoccupied with covering Trump, the public is not especially interested in reading about him.

«

link to this extract


The celebrity privacy case that exposes hypocrisy of Silicon Valley power brokers • The Guardian

Evgeny Morozov:

»Silicon Valley’s elites hate such intrusion into their personal lives. Had they worked for any other industry, their concerns would be justified. But they work for an industry that tries to convince us that privacy does not matter and that transparency and deregulation are the way to go. Since they do not lead by example, why shouldn’t their hypocrisy be exposed?

If tech elites are so concerned about privacy, they can start backing initiatives such as the right to be forgotten. Why can’t Thiel – a backer of the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual gathering of the world’s dissidents where the Human Rights Foundation awards the Václav Havel international prize for creative dissent – help us to make sure that embarrassing content, taken out of context and now enjoying worldwide circulation thanks to social networks and search engines, is easier to manage?

This won’t happen, as the right to be forgotten undermines the very business model – grab whatever data is available – on which the untaxed riches of Silicon Valley are built. In Thiel’s ideal world, our data flows freely and the tech companies can hoover it up as they see fit. Should someone else pry into our lives, disclosing intimate details and making money out of it, then it suddenly becomes a crime against humanity.

A world where the tech elites have all the privacy that they want while the rest of us have to either accept living in public or invest in market solutions like online reputation systems is a world that rests on foundations that are so hypocritical and so ridiculous that they must be exposed.

«

link to this extract


Google steps up pressure on partners tardy in updating Android • Bloomberg

Jack Clark and Scott Moritz:

»Smaller Android phone makers didn’t even attempt the monthly goal [for security updates to Android]. HTC Corp. executive Jason Mackenzie called it “unrealistic” last year. Motorola previously tried to get handsets three years old or newer patched twice a year. It’s now aiming for quarterly updates, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Google is trying to persuade carriers to exclude its security patches from the full series of tests, which can cost several hundred thousand dollars for each model, according to an executive at a leading Android handset maker.

“Google has come a long way since Stagefright,” said Joshua Drake, a senior researcher at mobile security firm Zimperium. But it’s still a struggle because some carriers don’t treat security as a priority, while phone makers have other incentives, such as selling new devices, he added.

Google is using more forceful tactics. It has drawn up lists that rank top phone makers by how up-to-date their handsets are, based on security patches and operating system versions, according to people familiar with the matter. Google shared this list with Android partners earlier this year. It has discussed making it public to highlight proactive manufacturers and shame tardy vendors through omission from the list, two of the people said. The people didn’t want to be identified to maintain their relationships with Google.

“Google is putting pressure on,” said Sprint’s [vp of product development Ryan] Sullivan, who has seen data that Google uses to track who is falling behind. “Since we are the final approval, we are applying pressure because our customers are expecting it.”

«

link to this extract


On Peter Thiel and Gawker • Elizabeth Spiers

Spiers was the founding editor of Gawker (2002-3) which “was mostly interested in insider media stuff, and even then, it just wasn’t that scandalous”; now she’s a venture capitalist. She has never met Thiel, but thinks his acts in going after Gawker might worry future co-investors or entrepreneurs working with him:

»he would have been someone I’d have been curious to meet, in part because I am convinced that he’s smart, provocative, and thinks in a very long term way about big thorny problems.

But there’s interesting-fun-mercurial and there’s the kind of mercurial where you start to worry about being anywhere near the blast radius when the person blows up, for of being completely incinerated — maybe even unintentionally. And that’s where I wonder what he’s like as an investor in situations where he’s actively involved. If you have a disagreement with him, is the result a reasonable adjudication of the conflict, or is there always a possibility that even small things could result in total annihilation?

And because I know there’s someone somewhere reading this and thinking “well, what the fuck is wrong with total annihilation when someone screws you over?”, here’s what I’d say: there’s a reason why proportionality is an important concept in the ethics of warfare and I think there’s a parallel here. I don’t want to go into Just War Theory/jus en bello rules of engagement or whether it’s a morally correct military doctrine, but if we didn’t largely hew to it, we could easily end up in a “because we can” cycle of foreign policy that allows wealthy powerful nations to catastrophically and relentlessly attack weaker ones for minor offenses. Disproportionate response facilitates tyranny.

«

link to this extract


When journalism gets confused with cyberbullying • Medium

Kristi Culpepper:

»What I do find interesting, however, is that so many journalists clamored to Gawker’s defense. Most non-journalists that I converse with were delighted to see Gawker taken down so spectacularly. Gawker is a morally repulsive publication — and not Larry Flynt repulsive, but let’s utterly destroy some random person’s life for giggles repulsive.

Gawker relishes abusive content and most of the time does not care if the claims they are making about people can be verified. We aren’t talking about a publication that stops at publishing celebrity nudes and sex tapes without permission, but that publishes videos of a woman being raped in a bathroom stall in a sports bar despite her begging them not to. Contrary to what several of the reporters in my Twitter feed have suggested, Gawker does not have a reputation for “punching up.” They just punch.

I think reporters’ displays of support for Gawker in this case raises a lot of questions about ethics in journalism and demonstrates an overarching decline in editorial standards as traditional media competes with online venues. The test of journalism should be whether reporting or writing serves a public purpose. It says a lot about the state of journalism that public interest is now confused with arbitrary victimization and cyberbullying. There are pre-teens on Facebook with more professional restraint.

«

Culpepper describes herself as a “bond market geek” (so hardly a hedge fund owner or billionaire), and points to the fact that it was Gawker which published the ironic tweet by a PR boarding a plane and turned it into a job- and career-destroying experience, besides plenty else.

That said, print publications have done plenty of mad damage to people too.
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The market failure of first dates • Priceonomics

Sarah Scharf:

»While not rocking the boat may seem like ideal strategy for getting a second date, [economist Dan] Ariely argues that sticking to neutral topics (haven’t we all been on a date where the weather was discussed ad nauseum?) creates a “bad equilibrium”—an outcome where both sides converge, but neither side is pleased with it.

In an experiment he ran with online daters, subjects were forced to eschew safe topics in their messages and only throw out probing, personally revealing questions like “How many lovers have you had?” or “Do you have any STDs?”

The result? Both sides were more satisfied with the outcome. So the next time you find yourself on a “boring” date, the solution may be to push the envelope—and converge upon a new equilibrium.

«

This economic look at why and how dates work is great. (Note: I haven’t been on a first date for more than 20 years but am guessing stuff hasn’t really changed.) the next article in the series is how Subaru targeted lesbians to get a foothold in the US market. I’m agog.
link to this extract


Jawbone stops production of fitness trackers • Tech Insider

Steve Kovach:

»It’s been over a year since Jawbone has released a new flagship fitness tracker. Despite entering the wearables market almost five years ago, Jawbone has failed to gain any significant market share in the space. FitBit and Apple currently dominate.

Jawbone raised a new $165m round of funding in January. The company’s CEO Hosain Rahman told Tech Insider a few months ago that the company plans to use that money to develop clinical-grade fitness trackers.

«

Jawbone is also looking to sell its speaker business. It’s cashing in its chips in the consumer space and heading upmarket, having been driven out of business at the low end. Wearables is consolidating fast: there have been a number of purchases of smaller companies by larger ones in adjacent spaces.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Android on ChromeOS!, the PC squeeze, play like Steve Reich, Bluetooth tampons?, and more


Theranos’s next home might be in the parking lot. Photo by jurvetson on Flickr.

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A selection of 15 links for you. Started, couldn’t stop. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Android apps are just what Chromebooks needed • The Verge

Dieter Bohn:

»Google just announced that Chrome OS finally has what many people have been clamoring for almost since its introduction five years ago: true native apps. And it has a massive number of them, too. When support for them launches later this year, there will be more and better apps than you can find in the Windows Store. They just happen to all be Android apps.

The Google Play Store, that massive repository of Android apps, is coming to Chrome OS. It will be available to developers in early June, then a month or two later it’ll hit the more stable “beta” channel, and finally it will be ready for all users this fall.

Google waited until day two of its I/O developer conference to announce what might be its biggest and most impactful news. With the Play Store, Chrome OS is suddenly a lot more compelling to users who might have shied away from using a device that could only use the web and web apps. Sure, most of those new native apps were originally designed for phones, but they run quite well on the Chromebook Pixel 2 I saw them on.

Better than quite well, in fact. They were fast and felt fully integrated with the OS.

«

At a stroke this brings all the Microsoft suite to Chromebooks – turning them into potentially much cheaper PC replacements for businesses and schools. That might drive down the average price of computers. Speaking of which…
link to this extract


Profit opportunities exist for PC vendors • Gartner

»Many vendors in the mid-tier of the PC ecosystem are struggling. “They are severely reducing their regional and country-level presence, or leaving the PC market altogether,” said Ms. Escherich. “Between them, Acer, Fujitsu, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba have lost 10.5% market share since 2011. In the first quarter of 2016, Dell, HP Inc. and Lenovo gained market share but recorded year-over-year declines.”

Regional markets are also changing. Low oil prices and political uncertainties are driving economic tightening in Brazil and Russia, changing these countries from drivers of growth to market laggards. In terms of volume, the US, China, Germany, the U.K. and Japan remain the top five, but consumers in these markets have also been cutting their number of PCs per household…

…Despite a declining PC market, the ultramobile premium segment is on pace to achieve revenue growth this year — the only segment set to do so. It is estimated to reach $34.6bn, an increase of 16% from 2015. In 2019, Gartner forecasts that the ultramobile premium segment will become the largest segment of the PC market in revenue terms, at $57.6bn.

“The ultramobile premium market is also more profitable in comparison with the low-end segment, where PCs priced at $500 or less have 5% gross margins,” said Ms. Tsai. “The gross margin can reach up to 25% for high-end ultramobile premium PCs priced at $1,000 or more.”

«

5% gross margin – $25 per machine? And that’s before operating costs.
link to this extract


This $5bn software company has no sales staff • Bloomberg

Dina Bass:

»Brandon Cipes, vice president for information systems at OceanX, has spent enough time in senior IT positions to hate sales calls. “It’s like buying a car—a process that seemingly should be so simple, but every time I have to, it’s like a five- to six-hour ordeal,” he says. “Most of our effort is trying to get the salespeople to leave us alone.” Cipes didn’t always feel that way, though. Back in 2013, he was used to the routine. His conversion began when he e-mailed business-software maker Atlassian, asking the company to send him a sales rep, and it said no.

Atlassian, which makes popular project-management and chat apps such as Jira and HipChat, doesn’t run on sales quotas and end-of-quarter discounts. In fact, its sales team doesn’t pitch products to anyone, because Atlassian doesn’t have a sales team. Initially an anomaly in the world of business software, the Australian company has become a beacon for other businesses counting on word of mouth to build market share. “Customers don’t want to call a salesperson if they don’t have to,” says Scott Farquhar, Atlassian’s co-chief executive officer. “They’d much rather be able to find the answers on the website.”

«

link to this extract


Verification: I can’t even • honestlyreal

Paul Clarke:

»Yes folks, it’s back again! The Queen’s Speech today promises yet another Mumsnet/Mail pleasing crackdown on one-handed websurfing – age verification!

Ha, brilliant – so obvious – all we have to do to send the kids back to the era of damp grotmags in the bushes is do a bit of proving-who-you are when someone clicks their way to a nacky site. No proof, no nacky.

Couldn’t be easier!

So how are they going to make it work then?

Short answer: they can’t.

Longer answer: they’d have to solve the Big Problem, and also some Littler Problems.

The Big Problem is an ancient conundrum: how do you build a checking system that’s solid enough to be worth doing, but not so solid that it doesn’t immediately bugger up the life of someone who loses access to their digital self?

«

link to this extract


Google’s Allo fails to use end-to-end encryption by default • Graham Cluley

»Google has announced that later this year it will be releasing a new messaging app called Allo.

You can think of it as a competitor to WhatsApp, iMessage or Signal.

Apart from there’s one big difference. Because, unlike those messaging apps which came before it, Allo doesn’t have end-to-end encryption enabled by default.

Instead, if users wish to feel confident that their private messages are properly protected from interception by unauthorised parties, they will have to change a setting in the app – enabling something called “Incognito” mode.

Seriously, it’s great that Google is going to have an end-to-end encryption option in Allo, and I’m reassured that they are partnering with Open Whisper Systems (developers of the Signal protocol) who are experts in secure messaging, but I want to know why it isn’t the default?

Because if there is one thing we have learnt over the years, it’s this. Few users ever change the default settings.

«

It really is strange. Why isn’t Google doing this? People say, reflexively, “data mining”. But isn’t the metadata – knowing who you spoke to and for how long – enough, if you already have them signed in? And one of the developers who consulted on security says he wants it on by default, because that would fit with what people want – disappearing messages.
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CEO Larry Page defends Google on the stand: “Declaring code is not code” • Ars Technica UK

Joe Mullin:

»Page’s testimony comes in the final hours of the Oracle v. Google trial. The lawsuit began when Oracle sued Google in 2010 over its use of 37 Java APIs, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems. In 2012, a judge ruled that APIs can’t be copyrighted at all, but an appeals court disagreed. Now, unless a jury finds that Google’s use of APIs was “fair use,” Oracle may seek up to $9bn in damages.

«

Page’s testimony is persuasive (though of course we only hear a little). This feels like it will go Google’s way.
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Why porting an iOS design to Android will not work • Martiancraft

Landon Robinson:

»It is very important for designers, developers, and product owners to consider that iOS and Android have different native standards when it comes to navigation patterns and screen transitions, and to be aware of the most current information available on these things. Google’s Material Design documentation does a fantastic job of detailing screen transition use, and applying proper navigation patterns to your app.

Android users are accustomed to certain navigation and UI patterns. Most apps adhere and keep the user’s experience consistent with Android’s UI patterns.

iOS navigation often uses the bottom tab bar for navigating throughout the app. For Android users this is inconsistent with the standard design language and may frustrate users at first glance. It is better not to utilize the bottom tab bar options and present the navigation options under the hamburger icon which is standard on Android. A great example is how Yelp did this for both to its mobile apps. (Starting in Android N, Google is introducing bottom navigation. However there is no release date on when it will be available to the public.)

«

Won’t need to worry about Android N for a couple of years though. The design differences between the two platforms are quite big – and increasingly static. The differences in animation are surprising – but also pretty static.
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The Kimpact: how celebrity apps are changing mobile gaming • Mixpanel

Christine Deakers:

»When “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” launched in the App Store in 2014, what seemed like a vanity app shocked the industry with recording-breaking numbers of downloads – and revenue. With more than 42 million downloads to date, “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” shone a spotlight on a relatively quiet player, working behind the scenes. Glu Mobile, who produced the app, positioned itself as the strongest and most proven celebrity studio for mobile gaming.

As their largest title in Q4 2015, “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” generated $13.6 million dollars in earnings, approximately 24% of Glu Mobile’s total revenue. As Christopher Locke, GM of Glu Canada revealed, the app’s core audiences are “fans of celebrity culture” and women ages 18 to 36.

In “product-talk”, a public Slack channel, I asked a number of product managers what they thought of “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.” Most of them believed it was a mere novelty and money-making scheme for the Kardashian empire. However, they didn’t seem to recognize the financial impact this and other celebrity apps are having on the greater industry, both for mobile advertising and what is now considered the table stakes for a successful mobile game.

«

Data point: women who game on mobile are 42% more likely to be retained than men.
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Play with Steve Reich’s techniques in a free iPhone app • createdigitalmusic

Peter Kirn:

»Steve Reich’s musical etudes are already a kind of self-contained lesson in rhythm. Inspired by drumming traditions, Reich distills in his music essential principles of rhythmic construction, introducing Western Classical musicians to cyclic forms. That makes them a natural for visual scoring – doubly so something interactive, which is what an iPhone can provide. And so one percussion ensemble has made an app that both reveals Reich’s techniques and opens up a toy you can use to make your own musical experiments. Plus – it’s free.

The app is called “Third Coast Percussion: the Music of Steve Reich” – that’s a mouthful. And the app is packed with content.

«

It’s also great fun. Like this:

Play it and read on.
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Theranos voids two years of Edison blood-test results • WSJ

John Carreyrou:

»Theranos Inc. has told federal health regulators that the company voided two years of results from its Edison blood-testing devices, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Edison machines were touted as revolutionary and were the main basis for the $9 billion valuation attained by the Palo Alto, Calif., company in a funding round in 2014. But Theranos has now told regulators that it threw out all Edison test results from 2014 and 2015.

The company has told the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that it has issued tens of thousands of corrected blood-test reports to doctors and patients, voiding some results and revising others, according to the person familiar with the matter.

That means some patients received erroneous results that might have thrown off health decisions made with their doctors.

«

This means just short of 2m test results voided; Carreyrou has confirmed this by checking with doctors in Phoenix. “Unprecedented”, one medical expert called it. I don’t see how Theranos can continue in its present form. Meanwhile, the WSJ’s reporting on this has demonstrated how it justifies its paywall.

Unrelated: Theranos is looking for a writer. Apply today!
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Google Spaces’ fatal flaw: it requires too much mental energy • EWeek

Mike Elgan:

»One way to share with Google Spaces is to start with Spaces, using the mobile app to do the Google Search. When you find it, you press the big button, designate which Space it goes in (or create a new one). Then you share by tapping on a button to any site or via any medium, including email. The recipients click on the link, coming back to the Space you created. In this scenario, Spaces is really a feature of Google Search, with the Spaces app actually being an alternative Google Search app with social sharing as a feature.

Similarly, Google’s Spaces Chrome extension adds a social feature to your browser. You simply click on the Spaces button to share the current tab.

Spaces looks like a product, but it’s really a version of Google Search and Chrome with social added as a feature.
I expect Spaces to be integrated with all kinds of Google sites and apps to add social as a feature so people don’t have to use a social product like Facebook.

Spaces allows Google to escape the surly bonds of the network effect.

On social products, a company is expected to provide access to other users. The more users are on a network, the more new users want to be on that network. That’s the network effect.

Google tried to compete against Facebook by creating a superior social networking product: Google+, but Google was defeated by the network effect because it was late to the game.

With Spaces, there is no network effect, er, in effect. Google provides no users. Nobody is “on” Spaces. Nobody can call Spaces a “ghost town” because there’s no town. You don’t need a Google+ account to use Spaces. You don’t even need a Google password to read content on Spaces you’ve been invited to.

«

I don’t get it. As in, I can’t create a mental model of the situations where this would be useful. Elgan also points out that some of the content design (in the “Activity” stream), using truncated sentences, will make people recoil rather than lean in. I’d say the clock is already ticking for this one.
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This Bluetooth tampon is the smartest thing you can put in your vagina • Gizmodo

Alex Cranz:

»Every single person with a vagina has had that horrifying moment: you look down, and there’s blood everywhere. It’s always annoying, it’s usually embarrassing, and more than half the time it happens in front of the entire student body.

my.Flow, a new startup currently looking for additional funding, is hoping to save a slew of people from the mortification of period mishaps. It’s a tampon with Bluetooth connectivity—yes, you read that correctly—that that lets a user know when the tampon is completely saturated and needs to be changed.

The original concept included a Bluetooth module inside the tampon, but my.Flow found that many users were uncomfortable with having a wad of electronics shoved up their hoo hah. So the latest version, developed at an incubator in Beijing, is a tampon with an extra long string that connects to a Bluetooth module on your waist.

The new concept is not without some… drawbacks.

«

I think I can discern one. But Cranz says women agree that for a teenager, it could be really helpful. (And bonus marks for the headline.)
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Cars, trucks, iPads, and laptops • Macworld

Jason Snell:

»The assumption many of us have made, myself included, is that it will really take a new generation of computer users, those weaned on iPhones and iPads, before the iPad and other touchscreen devices take their place as the computing trucks of the future. It makes sense, right? Kids love iPhones and iPads. The touch interface is easily understandable, even by small children. The future is inevitable.

So here’s the problem with that way of thinking. My daughter, born in 2001 and raised in a world of iPods, iPhones, and iPads, has two devices she absolutely requires in order to live. (My understanding is that she would shrivel up into some sort of husk and die if either of them were to go away.) One of those devices is her iPhone, of course. She is endlessly iMessaging, Instagramming, Snapchatting, and FaceTiming with her friends.

The other device is a laptop. (A Chromebook Pixel, in this case, but it could just as easily have been a MacBook Air.) In fact, when I offered her the use of my iPad Air 2 instead of her laptop, she immediately dismissed it. A native of the 21st century–the century where the keyboard and mouse are left on the sidewalk with a cardboard FREE sign as we embrace our tablet futures–is flatly refusing to switch from a laptop to a tablet.

Of course, I asked my daughter why she prefers the laptop to an iPad.

«

The answer, as they say, will surprise you. Well, it might. The reasoning around which screen to watch TV on is an “oh, of course” moment.
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Technology betrays everyone • Errata Security

Rob Graham:

»My presentation in 2006 wasn’t about email passwords, but about all the other junk that leaks private information. Specifically, I discussed WiFi MAC addresses, and how they can be used to track mobile devices. Only in the last couple years have mobile phone vendors done something to change this. The latest version of iOS 9 will now randomize the MAC address, so that “they” can no longer easily track you by it.

The point of this post is this. If you are thinking “surely my tech won’t harm me in stupid ways”, you are wrong. It will. Even if it says on the box “100% secure”, it’s not secure. Indeed, those who promise the most often deliver the least. Those on the forefront of innovation (Apple, Google, and Facebook), but even they must be treated with a health dose of skepticism.

So what’s the answer? Paranoia and knowledge. First, never put too much faith in the tech. It’s not enough, for example, for encryption to be an option — you want encryption enforced so that unencrypted is not an option. Second, learn how things work. Learn why SSL works the way it does, why it’s POP3S and not POP3, and why “certificate warnings” are a thing. The more important security is to you, the more conservative your paranoia and the more extensive your knowledge should become.

«

link to this extract


R.I.P., GOP: how Trump is killing the Republican party • Rolling Stone

Matt Taibbi with a tour de force:

»Of course, Trump is more likely than not to crash the car now that he has the wheel. News reports surfaced that Donald Trump, unhinged pig, was about to be replaced by Donald Trump, respectable presidential candidate. No more schoolyard insults!

Trump went along with this plan for a few days. But soon after Indiana, he started public fights with old pal Joe Scarborough and former opponents Graham and Bush, the latter for backtracking on a reported pledge to support the Republican nominee. “Bush signed a pledge… while signing it, he fell asleep,” Trump cracked.

Then he began his general-election pivot with about 10 million tweets directed at “crooked Hillary.” With all this, Trump emphasized that the GOP was now mainly defined by whatever was going through his head at any given moment. The “new GOP” seems doomed to swing back and forth between its nationalist message and its leader’s tubercular psyche. It isn’t a party, it’s a mood.

Democrats who might be tempted to gloat over all of this should check themselves. If the Hillary Clintons and Harry Reids and Gene Sperlings of the world don’t look at what just happened to the Republicans as a terrible object lesson in the perils of prioritizing billionaire funders over voters, then they too will soon enough be tossed in the trash like a tick.

«

This is a terrific, albeit long, read. A quick word of warning: there’s autoplay video on the page, and it’s got Trump in it.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Hubspot culture, bad citations, Wikipedia for piracy, how Tay was pre-broken, and more

Who’d have guessed that letting a browser page vibrate your phone could be abused by scammers? Photo by queenkv on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

My year in startup hell at Hubspot » Fortune

Dan Lyons got dumped by Newsweek, having been a journalist for decades, and then as a 50-something joined a Boston startup whose pitch is basically spam people (but never call it spam), created by a co-founder who is only ever referred to by his first name:

»Dharmesh’s culture code incorporates elements of HubSpeak. For example, it instructs that when someone quits or gets fired, the event will be referred to as “graduation.” In my first month at HubSpot I’ve witnessed several graduations, just in the marketing department. We’ll get an email from Cranium saying, “Team, just letting you know that Derek has graduated from HubSpot, and we’re excited to see how he uses his superpowers in his next big adventure!” Only then do you notice that Derek is gone, that his desk has been cleared out. Somehow Derek’s boss will have arranged his disappearance without anyone knowing about it. People just go up in smoke, like Spinal Tap drummers.

Nobody ever talks about the people who graduate, and nobody ever mentions how weird it is to call it “graduation.” For that matter I never hear anyone laugh about HEART or make jokes about the culture code. Everyone acts as if all of these things are perfectly normal.

«

Some people hate Lyons, but he’s never less than incisive to the point of sulphuric.
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January 2014: potential malicious use of the HTML5 Vibrate API » Terence Eden’s Blog

This was Eden writing just over two years ago:

»There is a new API in town! HTML5 will (soon) let you make the user’s device vibrate. What fun! Obviously, it’s useful for triggering alerts, improved immersivness during gameplay, and all sorts of other fun things like sending Morse Code messages via vibration.

At the moment, Chrome (and other Android browsers) ask for permission before accessing features such as geo-location, camera, address book etc. This is a security measure to prevent your private information leaving your hands without your knowledge.

At the moment, accessing the HTML5 Vibrate API doesn’t trigger an on-screen warning. Its use is seen as pretty innocuous. Because, realistically, the worst it can do is prematurely drain your battery. Right?

I’m not so sure.

«

He was right not to be sure. Comments from this year show that this is indeed being used by scammy ads. (It’s supported on Chrome for desktop and mobile, not on Safari for desktop or mobile; you can check your browser’s capability.
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Citation, appropriation, and fair use: News Genius picks up again where failures left off » Glenn Fleishman’s Glog

Fleishman points to previous attempts to let people write content on top of other peoples’ work:

»As with many Internet tools created without any forethought about abuse, opting out, and reporting and resolving issues, [News] Genius [which lets people put commentary onto web pages without the consent of the author] seems malicious in absence rather than in intention. As Ella [Dawson] wrote:

»

You can hate-read my content all you want—I know that is a risk of being a person who says things on the Internet. But when you create a tool that pastes commentary directly on top of my work without letting me opt-in and without providing a way for people to turn off the annotation on their pages, you are being irresponsible. You are ignoring the potential your tool has to be abused, and you are not anticipating the real harm your tool can do.

«

Contrast this with Medium’s approach to annotation on Medium’s site. Essay authors can receive public or private notes, and choose which to make public and which to remain private or delete. Commentary on a post, called “responses,” is presented at the end like comments, but each response is a full-fledged Medium post.  (Last year, Medium added the ability for everyone, instead of certain outlets or requiring email, to disable responses to appear linked; they can still be made, they just don’t appear at the end of the referenced post.)

«

Past experience suggests News Genius will die a death; it’s just a question of how long it will take, and how many people will have lousy experiences like Dawson.
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Wikipedia doesn’t realize it’s the developing world’s internet gatekeeper » Motherboard

Jason Koebler:

»If you’re just catching up, Angolans are using free access to Wikipedia and Facebook to trade copyrighted movies, music, and television shows, a development that is decidedly against Wikipedia’s rules. The product is called Wikipedia Zero, which “zero rates” all data going to and from Wikipedia websites from mobile phone users in 64 developing countries, meaning the customer doesn’t pay any money for it. In Angola, 50mb of mobile data normally costs $2.50; the median annual salary is $720.

At first glance, giving people in developing nations unlimited access to Wikipedia or Facebook’s Free Basics program seems like a no-brainer. Some access is better than no access, the thinking goes, and Wikimedia, as a nonprofit corporation focused on spreading knowledge, has gotten less public flak than Facebook has for Free Basics, which critics say serves only to indoctrinate the developing world into Facebook’s ecosystem. But the situation in Angola shows that there are problems with zero-rating that Wikimedia’s nonprofit status and knowledge-sharing mission can’t solve.

«

link to this extract

 


Land Registry faces privatisation » The Guardian

Heather Stewart, Hilary Osborne and Rowena Mason:

»The Land Registry is being put for up for sale less than two years after the Liberal Democrats blocked previous plans for a £1bn-plus privatisation.

Sajid Javid, the business secretary, faced immediate criticism for announcing the selloff of the 150-year-old agency – which maintains records on the ownership of land and property across England and Wales – just as the Easter break was about to begin.

Union leaders criticised what they called the “cynical” timing. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “Homebuyers and owners rely on the Land Registry to provide an impartial professional service and it must remain under public control, free from any profit motive and conflict of interest.

«

In the UK, sales of properties and land must be registered with Land Registry. Privatising it would create a private monopoly with the force of law. This would create a company that could raise fees on any product and which would not be answerable to Freedom of Information requests.

This is an unbelievably stupid idea. I’m thus not surprised that Savid Javid is backing it.
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Fly-eye phones are coming » Kevin Marks

Written in January, and increasingly relevant:

»the cameras built into phones have reached the limits of useful resolution, and the differences in responsiveness have been competed away too. The next step will be multiple cameras on each side of the phone. I expect we’ll first see 2 cameras at opposite ends of the phone, so you can take stereoscopic images and videos with natural eye spacing.

However, having simultaneous spaced images means you can extract 3d information from the photo – Google’s camera app has done this for a while but you need to pan up and down. This means you can change depth of field synthetically to give nicer images by blurring unwanted foreground or background details out. This also means you can more easily compensate for lens distortion, making faces less spherical looking in close-ups.You can even reconstruct 3d objects, scanning smaller ones, or panning around a room to derive a more accurate 3d model.

Once you have an accurate 3d model of the room, doing Augmented Reality becomes much more practical – you can place elements on the walls or floors, and have them pass behind and in front of object in a more realistic fashion. Think of the gratuitous effects Snapchat can do with that – 3d halos, birds flying around your head.

«

Look what Snapchat can already do with face recognition (Face Swap) and you get an inkling.
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TayAndYou – toxic before human contact » Smerity.com:

Stephen Merity argues, very convincingly, that Microsoft’s Tay going haywire wasn’t shocking, surprising or unpredictable at all:

»The entire situation was made worse by a few factors:

• TayAndYou would repeat phrases uttered to it, a trivial attack vector
• The facial recognition on images included a small number of utterances, another trivial attack vector that could be gamed for negative results
• TayAndYou produced over 96,000 tweets in a single day, meaning little to no quality oversight would be in place – if there were any potentially insulting responses they were near guaranteed to be found

Was implementing a filter for swearing out of scope..? To be fair, the bot would still find something insulting to say but I’m certain the majority of worst cases would be flagged.

Even if filtering on the generation end was considered too much, the training data shouldn’t have been toxic. Maybe at least filter the training data for anything discussing Hitler. If a PR department wouldn’t want their humans tweeting about Hitler, I’ve no clue why you’d want a bot to.

«

Meanwhile, Microsoft is ever so ever so sorry.

If you’re working in AI/deep learning, Merity’s blog is worth rummaging through.
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Donald Trump will win in a landslide. *The mind behind ‘Dilbert’ explains why. » The Washington Post

Michael Cavna:

»[Scott] Adams, in other words, believes that Trump himself has turned the campaign game around. On the stump, the real-estate mogul is not running on the knowledge of his numbers or the dissection of the data. He is running on our emotions, Adams says, and sly appeals to our own human irrationality. Since last August, in fact, when many were calling Trump’s entry a clown candidacy, the “Dilbert” cartoonist was already declaring The Donald a master in the powers of persuasion who would undoubtedly rise in the polls. And last week, Adams began blogging about how Trump can rhetorically dismantle Clinton’s candidacy next.

Adams, mind you, is not endorsing Trump or supporting his politics. (“I don’t think my political views align with anybody,” he tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, “not even another human being.”) And he is not saying that Trump would be the best president. What the Bay Area-based cartoonist recognizes, he says, is the careful art behind Trump’s rhetorical techniques. And The Donald, he says, is playing his competitors like a fiddle — before beating them like a drum.

«

It’s about irrationality. And people are irrational, no matter what they might think. (I’m very much hoping this is wrong.)
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The readers’ editor on closing comments below the line » The Observer

Stephen Pritchard is the readers’ editor of The Observer, the Sunday sibling to The Guardian:

»While there is a general desire to open comments on as many subjects as possible, moderators are made aware in advance of opinion pieces that are likely to need careful handling.

Last weekend, after consultation, comments were delayed on several Observer articles, including Nick Cohen on becoming a Jew, Victoria Coren Mitchell on the Adam Johnson underage sex case and Barbara Ellen on Jamie Oliver’s advocacy of breastfeeding.

Comments opened once moderators were in place, but within minutes antisemites and Holocaust deniers were hounding Cohen, apologists for sex with teenagers were appearing in the Coren Mitchell thread and misogynists were busy insulting Ellen. It had to stop.

The Telegraph is in the process of ending commentary on its site. That’s not being proposed here, but editors need to think harder about when it would be wise to switch off the ability to comment if a subject is likely to attract so much rage that a mature conversation becomes impossible. It devalues our journalism and offends our readers.

«

Fewer open comment threads also means less moderation, which saves money. But I think this is a broader trend: general news sites will have fewer and fewer open comment threads. It’s just not worth the trouble. Speaking of which…
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Public Access: we’re shutting down our comments … see you next week » Engadget

Here’s Amber Bouman at tech site Engadget:

»The thing is, we like having a comments section. It gives our readers a place to share their experiences, point out mistakes we’ve made, offer up different perspectives and provide more information. Our comments section can be an incredible place to visit, and we value that our readers take the time out of their day (often repeatedly) to participate. But we can’t take pride in a comment system that isn’t offering you the features you need to participate; that runs amok with racist, sexist or homophobic slurs and threats; or that takes joy in in-fighting and provoking fights.

A quality comments section should make it easy for users to contribute. A good comments section has users who feel a sense of duty and kinship, who act as a community. An exceptional comments section informs its readers, corrects authors and provides worthwhile insights in a polite and constructive manner.

«

It can be done; I think you make people pay to be commenters, and revoke that – without refund – if they cross the line.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none specified.

Start up: Spotify hits 30m, Google’s Syria wish, Apple’s iPhone aim, the truth behind Powa, and more

Is it really a good idea to do a charity parachute jump? Photo by puritani35 on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Spotify hits 30 million subscribers » The Verge

Micah Singleton:

»Spotify has 30 million paid subscribers, CEO Daniel Ek announced today in a tweet. This is the first subscriber update Spotify has given out since it announced it had 20m subscribers days before Apple Music hit the market last June, and shows the increased competition has had little to no effect on Spotify’s growth.

In the nine months that Apple Music has been available, the service has picked up 11 million subscribers. Spotify has added 10m paid subscribers in the same time.

The Swedish streaming service is now adding an average of 10m paid customers a year — it only had 10m subscribers total in 2014— a growth rate it will need to maintain as it goes up against Apple Music and its substantial marketing war chest.

What’s also notable is the flood of exclusive content put out by Apple Music and Tidal over the past few months seemingly hasn’t harmed Spotify’s user retention.

«

It was going so well until that last sentence. Singleton has no idea what has happened to Spotify’s user retention; it might be seeing colossal churn (people joining while others leave) or be rock steady. The raw numbers don’t tell you. It’s a reasonable guess, but that’s all it is – a guess.

That might seem like nitpicking, but it matters: it’s key to knowing whether Spotify really does have loyal users, or just fly-by-nights. And it’s also a bad idea to state things as fact that you don’t know directly.
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Apple: the mother of all iPhone installed base models, via Stifel » Barrons.com

Tiernan Ray:

»After combining the installed base numbers, churn, new sales, upgrade rates, and such, Rakers arrives at a “guesstimate model” for how the Apple installed base may expand, and how that trickles down to potential iPhone sales.

That results in numbers that would be above his own estimates. For example, Rakers figures if Apple’s installed base total 625m units in 2015, if Apple maintains an 18.8% share of the global smartphone market this year, which is projected to be 3.958bn units, and it if gets 19.6% of the expansion of that total smartphone market, it would bring Apple’s installed base to 744m units.

Rakers then backs out of that an “implied gross change” of 144m units, backs out of that refurbished sales of 95 million, and comes up with 49 million “implied net new iPhone installed base shipments.” He then combines that with “new iPhone shipments into prior year installed base,” and comes up with a potential sales level of 239m iPhones this year.

That’s above Rakers’s own estimate for 217.4m units, and above what he deems Street consensus of 208m units. It would also be growth from last year, versus the decline everyone’s expecting this year.

«

The pricing for the new iPhone SE, lower than any new iPhone, could make a difference there.
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US top court agrees to hear Samsung-Apple patent fight » Reuters

Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung:

»The US Supreme Court on Monday stepped into the high-profile patent fight between the world’s two fiercest smartphone rivals, Apple and Samsung, agreeing to hear Samsung’s appeal of what it contends were excessive penalties for copying the patented designs of the iPhone.

Samsung Electronics paid Apple more than $548m in December related to a jury verdict from 2012. It is seeking to pare back the $399m of that amount that was awarded for infringing on the designs of the iPhone’s rounded-corner front face, bezel and colorful grid of icons, saying they contributed only marginally to a complex device.

Apple sued in 2011, claiming the South Korean electronics company stole its technology and ripped off the look of the iPhone.

«

The Jarndyce and Jarndyce of the digital world. But it also matters (notes Neil Cybart) because it affects how one values design. Google and Facebook wanted the Supreme Court to hear it; Apple didn’t, he says.
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Trump supporters aren’t stupid » Medium

Emma Lindsay with a terrific insight:

»Normally, when liberals talk about racism, they use “racist” as an end point. “Trump is racist” is, by itself, a reason not to vote for him, and “being racist” is an indicator of a person who is morally deficient.

But, if you don’t take this as an end point — if you instead ask “what do people get out of being racist?” — you’ll start to unravel the emotional motivations behind it. One of the best unpacking of this I have read is Matt Bruenig’s piece Last Place Avoidance and Poor White Racism. To summarize, no one wants to occupy the “last” place in society. No one wants to be the most despised. As long as racism remains intact, poor white people are guaranteed not to be “the worst.” If racism is ever truly dismantled, then poor white people will occupy the lowest rung of society, and the shame of occupying this position is very painful. This shame is so painful, that the people at risk of feeling it will vote on it above all other issues.

«

And as she also points out, “America is terrible at giving its citizens dignity and meaning.” This should be required reading in many places.
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Parachuting for charity: is it worth the money? » PubMed

»All parachute injuries from two local parachute centres over a 5-year period were analysed. Of 174 patients with injuries of varying severity, 94% were first-time charity-parachutists. The injury rate in charity-parachutists was 11% at an average cost of 3751 Pounds per casualty. 63% of casualties who were charity-parachutists required hospital admission, representing a serious injury rate of 7%, at an average cost of £5,781 per patient. The amount raised per person for charity was £30. Each pound raised for charity cost the NHS £13.75 in return.

«

Caveat: it’s from 1999. Even so, you can’t be too careful. (You can read the paper in full for $31.50. Perhaps raise the money through a sponsored parachu..? OK then.)
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Why we should fear a cashless world » The Guardian

Dominic Frisby:

»We already live in a world that is, as far as the distribution of wealth is concerned, about as unequal as it gets. It may even be as unequal as it’s ever been. My worry is that a cashless society may exacerbate inequality even further.

It will hand yet more power to the financial sector in that banks and related fintech companies will oversee all transactions. The crash of 2008 showed that, when push comes to shove, banks have already been exempted from the very effective regulation that is bankruptcy – one by which the rest of us must all operate. Do we want this sector to have yet more power and influence?

In a world without cash, every payment you make will be traceable. Do you want governments (which are not always benevolent), banks or payment processors to have potential access to that information? The power this would hand them is enormous and the potential scope for Orwellian levels of surveillance is terrifying.

Cash, on the other hand, empowers its users. It enables them to buy and sell, and store their wealth, without being dependent on anyone else. They can stay outside the financial system, if so desired.

«

The two opposing viewpoints are: in a world where corporations try to avoid tax and there might be a dwindling workforce, it’s important to have visibility of every transaction so that the taxable ones are visible. Alternatively, as Frisby argues, the ability to spend shouldn’t depend on access to technology which can be denied, or surveilled at will.
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Clinton email reveals: Google sought overthrow of Syria’s Assad » Washington Examiner

Rudy Takala:

»Google in 2012 sought to help insurgents overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to State Department emails receiving fresh scrutiny this week.

Messages between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s team and one of the company’s executives detailed the plan for Google to get involved in the region.

“Please keep close hold, but my team is planning to launch a tool … that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from,” Jared Cohen, the head of what was then the company’s “Google Ideas” division, wrote in a July 2012 email to several top Clinton officials.

“Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition,” Cohen said, adding that the plan was for Google to surreptitiously give the tool to Middle Eastern media.

«

The headline is overwritten: Google wasn’t seeking Assad’s overthrow. It was seeking to provide help to those inside Syria who wondered how many were really defecting. As the story points out, though, the anti-Assad movement helped create the conditions for ISIS to become strong.

And it’s really not good for Google to be visible as having tried to influence the internal affairs of a Middle Eastern state – even in this roundabout way. Now one begins to wonder where else it might have tried to be “helpful”.
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Powa: The start-up that fell to earth » BBC News

Rory Cellan-Jones spoke to multiple people who had worked for Powa, a British company run by Dan Wagner which once claimed a $2.7bn valuation but collapsed into administration in February:

»What those people have told me is that Powa was an almost textbook case of how not to run a company – no clear strategy, directionless management, overblown claims about the technology and a reckless attitude to money.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been receiving emails from Powa’s PR agency urging me to cover the company’s ground breaking technology the PowaTag which “allows users to purchase anytime, anywhere in just three seconds by simply scanning an item or advertisement with their smartphone”.

Eventually, the company claimed that it had 1,200 businesses signed up to use the PowaTag.

I was not particularly impressed. I saw little evidence that the technology was being used, but one investor did bite. A Boston-based firm Wellington Management invested a sizeable sum in Mr Wagner’s venture. Eventually they along with other investors poured more than $200m into Powa.

It seems likely they were told the same story that was peddled to journalists – that the PowaTag was going to be used by some of the world’s leading brands including L’Oreal and Carrefour.

But what’s emerged since the collapse of the business is that none of those companies had signed contracts, merely “letters of intent”, which did not commit them to anything. One senior figure in the company told me that young inexperienced sales staff were rewarded with a £2,000 bonus every time one of these letters was signed “so they weren’t particularly concerned about the quality of the deal”.

«

Textbook piece of investigative journalism where you talk to people and gather facts and talk to more people. (The headline is also clever – read all the way to the article’s end to find out why.) I bet there’s plenty more that Cellan-Jones couldn’t include because the BBC’s lawyers wouldn’t let it past. (Notably, FT Alphaville puts Powa’s real value at $106m, based on court documents filed in the US.) None of it looks good for Dan Wagner. Speaking of whom..
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Talk:Dan Wagner » Wikipedia

From the Talk (discussion about editing/content) page relating to Wagner:

»Wikipedia definition of Vandalism = Vandalism is any addition, removal, or change of content, in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of Wikipedia. [[2]]

The amends I made that Techtrek has reverted as being “vandalism” were externally sourced, and links provided. I ask Techtrek to explain on what basis they consider them to be vandalism? It has been requested that any changes are raised and can be discussed on here so that we can get consensus.

It is my belief that by reverting any negative and independantly verified and sourced updates Techtrek is responsible for vandalism as they are deliberately attempting to compromise Wikipedias integrity. They have made a number of unsourced claims to the re-write and repeatedly used language that is not in keeping with Wikipedias guidelines [3]. It has been claimed on User talk:Techtrektalk page the they are Flame PR [[4]] if so then this must be disclosed. I ask Techtrek to please respond otherwise I will revert the change. Ol king col (talk) 09:26, 21 June 2014 (UTC)

«

That’s a busy PR company if it’s burnishing a client’s personal Wikipedia page. Wonder how much of the VC money went to Flame PR? Though the fact that the Wikipedia user only edits Wagner’s page is… notable.
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An iCloud scam that may be worse than ransomware » Malwarebytes Labs

Thomas Reed was contacted by a woman who said her iMac was hit by “ransomware”:

»From the screenshots she sent me, it soon became clear what had happened. The hacker had somehow gotten access to Ericka’s iCloud account.

Using this, he was able to remotely lock her computer using iCloud’s Find My Mac feature, with a ransom message displayed on the screen. (For some reason, the iPhone did not actually end up locked, but displayed the same message.)

The message read: “Contact me: hblackhat(at)mail.ru All your conversation sms+mail, bank, computer files, contacts, photos. I will public + send to your contacts.”

She also received an e-mail message, in similarly broken English, from her own iCloud address. The message said he had access to all her bank accounts, personal information, etc, and would publish it if she didn’t respond within 24 hours.

This is a pretty serious threat, and quite different from the typical Windows malware. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Apple designed Find My Mac/iPhone as an anti-theft feature. It is intended to allow you to take a number of actions on a lost or stolen device, including displaying a message, locking it, locating it physically and even remotely erasing it.

«

As Reed points out, the same happened previously in Australia in 2014. Perils of the connected world: do you want to be able to find your machine if it’s stolen? But then, how secure is your cloud account?
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What Americans don’t understand about Nordic countries » Business Insider

Anu Partanen moved to the US seven years ago:

»Americans are not wrong to abhor the specters of socialism and big government. In fact, as a proud Finn, I often like to remind my American friends that my countrymen in Finland fought two brutal wars against the Soviet Union to preserve Finland’s freedom and independence against socialism. No one wants to live in a society that doesn’t support individual liberty, entrepreneurship, and open markets.

But the truth is that free-market capitalism and universal social policies go well together—this isn’t about big government, it’s about smart government. I suspect that despite Hillary Clinton’s efforts to distance herself from Sanders, she probably knows this. After all, Clinton is also endorsing policies that sound an awful lot like what the Nordics have done: paid family leave, better public schools, and affordable day care, health care and college for all.

The United States is its own country, and no one expects it to become a Nordic utopia. But Nordic countries aren’t utopias either. What they’ve done has little to do with culture, size, or homogeneity, and everything to do with figuring out how to flourish and compete in the 21st century.

«

The article originally appeared at The Atlantic, but the comments at BusinessInsider show how incredibly difficult Americans find it to grasp the idea of everyone benefiting from everyone paying more general taxes. While they defend their terrible healthcare system. And overlook the products that the Nordics have produced, such as Ikea and Lego and Linux.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Trump’s casino flop, Micromax hits a bump, Samsung’s warning, the prime conspiracy and more

Google’s Deepmind systems are used to recognise handwriting in images. Photo by invisible monsters on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

Here’s how Donald Trump treats the little people » Mother Jones

Kevin Drum on the publicly listed Trump casino-controlling company in the 1990s:

»Trump’s fans were conned into buying up his debt-laden properties and turning them into a public company. Trump, who plainly had no interest in running a casino and had demonstrated no corporate management skills during the prior decade, paid himself millions of dollars from the company’s coffers for doing essentially nothing. He then unloaded his third casino onto the public company at an inflated price.

The public company didn’t show a profit during a single year of its existence. In 2004 the stock was delisted and the company forced into Chapter 11 reorganization. It was renamed Trump Entertainment Resorts, but with Trump still at the helm it continued to pile up losses and amassed debts of nearly $2bn. In 2008, after missing a $53m bond payment, it declared bankruptcy yet again and Trump resigned as the company’s chairman. Its investors lost all their money.

In case you’re curious, this is how Trump treats the little people.

«

Just so you can’t say you weren’t warned. Would a President Trump be as corrupt as Berlusconi? Odds seem strong.
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Google DeepMind: What is it, how it works and should you be scared? » Techworld

Sam Shead interview with Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Deepmind, who explains where the systems are used inside Google:

»We use it to identify text on shopfronts and maybe alert people to a discount that’s available in a particular shop or what the menu says in a given restaurant. We do that with an extremely high level of accuracy today. It’s being used in Local Search and elsewhere across the company.

We also use the same core system across Google for speech recognition. It trains roughly in less than 5 days. In 2012 it delivered a 30 percent reduction in error rate against the existing old school system. This was the biggest single improvement in speech recognition in 20 years, again using the same very general deep learning system across all of these.

Across Google we use what we call Tool AI or Deep Learning Networks for fraud detection, spam detection, hand writing recognition, image search, speech recognition, Street View detection, translation.

Sixty handcrafted rule-based systems have now been replaced with deep learning based networks. This gives you a sense of the kind of generality, flexibility and adaptiveness of the kind of advances that have been made across the field and why Google was interested in DeepMind.

«

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Letter to shareholders » Samsung Investor Relations

Oh-Hyun Kwon, CEO of Samsung Electronics:

»In 2016, the overall global economy may slow down, and uncertainties such as financial risks in emerging markets are expected to increase. The IT industry will change in an unprecedented speed, and competitions will intensify further.

We expect core products of our company, such as smartphone, TV, and memory, will face oversupply issues and intensified price competition. Our competitors will follow close behind our leading position in the global IT industry with aggressive investments and innovations. Moreover, innovative business models such as O2O (Online to Offline) and sharing economy are undermining the importance of hardware, which is our strength, and shifting the core competitiveness to software platform.

To cope with these changes in the business environment, we will continue to implement groundbreaking changes and innovations, and strive to secure differentiated competitiveness.

«

“Oversupply issues” probably doesn’t apply to the smartphones, but the price competition will. And there’s no explanation of how it’s going to cope exactly with that shift to software-based competition.
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Privacy absolutism » AVC

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson:

»I do not think that because we now have the technology to lock things down (strong encryption) and because the industry that develops and maintains all of this technology has a strong libertarian bent that we should just abandon the framework that has worked in our society for hundreds of years. If society thinks someone is doing something wrong, and if law enforcement can get a warrant, there should be a mechanism to get access to our devices.

I would love to see the tech sector work to figure out a smart way to address this issue. My partner Albert has suggested an approach on his blog. There are some interesting approaches that are already being used in cold storage of bitcoin that could be applied to this situation.

But my meta point here is that I am saddened by the tech sector’s absolutist approach to this issue. The more interesting and fruitful approach would be to think about the most elegant solutions and build them.

«

The linked suggestion by his partner is this:

»I would posit that each device should ship with an *individual* key that is created by the manufacturer specifically for the purpose of unlocking the device. The key should then be stored in a way where it can be requested by law enforcement (either by the manufacturer or a third party that specializes in compliance for this). The process for such a request should run via the judiciary and mirror that for a warrant.

«

It’s also known as “key escrow” and was part of the “Clipper chip” idea which was proposed by the Clinton administration in the 1990s and comprehensively shown to be a bad idea by Matt Blaze (who is still around, on Twitter and elsewhere).

Wilson is the one who was previously stunned by Apple not making iMessage cross-platform, despite the fact that it is demonstrably valuable as an iOS exclusive. I’m approaching the point where I learn what Wilson’s view is on something, and then assume the opposite is what will happen.
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Microsoft stops taking Bitcoin for Microsoft Store payments » Digital Trends

Trevor Mogg:

»Much was made of Microsoft’s move two years ago to start accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for purchasing content from its online store.

The situation has, however, quietly changed, as the computer giant has recently added a note to its website revealing it’s no longer accepting the cryptocurrency in the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 devices.

“You can no longer redeem Bitcoin into your Microsoft account,” the message says, though adds that existing balances in user accounts “will still be available for purchases from Microsoft Store, but can’t be refunded.” So to be clear, any funds in your account now are good to use, but forget trying to make any new deposits into your account using Bitcoin.

«

Microsoft accepted Bitcoin? For Windows apps? Doubt that troubled the blockchain very much.
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India’s Micromax, once a rising star, struggles » Reuters

Himank Sharma:

»A year ago, Micromax vaulted past Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to become India’s leading smartphone brand. Today, its market share has nearly halved, several top executives have resigned, and the company is looking for growth outside India.

In Micromax’s slide to second place is a tale of the promise and peril of India’s booming but hyper-competitive smartphone industry.

India is the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market. Shipments of smartphones jumped 29% to 103m units last year.

Rapid growth has helped nurture a crop of local brands, led by Micromax, that outsourced production to Chinese manufacturers. Now, as Samsung rolls out more affordable phones, the same Chinese factories are entering the Indian market with their own brands, depressing prices and forcing Indian mobile makers to rethink their strategies.

“What the Indian brands did to the global brands two years ago, Chinese phone makers are doing the same to Indian brands now, and over the next year we see tremendous competition for Micromax and other Indian smartphone makers,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research in New Delhi…

…Last May, Alibaba walked away from a mooted $1.2bn purchase of a 20% stake, citing a lack of clarity on growth plans, according to one executive involved in the discussion. Micromax co-founder Vikas Jain said in an interview with Reuters this week that the company and Alibaba disagreed on a future roadmap.

«

The smartphone business’s evolution has been like the PC business’s evolution speeded up; India’s is like the smartphone one, speeded up again.
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Here’s what a knockoff Apple Watch looks like » Daily Dot

Mike Wehner, way back in April 2015:

»The story of how I came to own this forgery isn’t particularly remarkable: In early March, just as the hype around Apple’s new wearable was reaching a fever pitch, I found a Taiwanese seller who claimed to be selling the Apple Watch for immediate shipment. There was no size option or “collection” to choose from, just four colors, so I selected one and placed an order. It cost me the equivalent of roughly $53, and while I knew the watch that eventually arrived wouldn’t be anything impressive, I was nonetheless curious about just how bad it would be. Now I know.

«

Pretty dire. Wonder if they’re any better now?
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Music piracy hasn’t gone, it has merely changed its spots » MIDiA Research

Mark Mulligan:

»P2P piracy was tailor made for the 2000’s when:

• Home internet connections were slow
• Most content consumption was desk top based
• People still liked owning music

Now in the streaming era all three of those market dynamics have lessened massively. So little wonder then that piracy technology has evolved to meet the needs of the streaming consumer.

With YouTube the number one digital music destination, and with a catalogue that no other music service will ever be able to match, it makes complete sense that YouTube rippers have emerged as one of the key strands of music piracy tech. Many of which transform YouTube into a fully offline, on demand, ad free, high quality music service.

«

And that’s why the music labels tend to hate YouTube.
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GMG’s David Pemsel: Membership will make up a third of the Guardian’s revenue within three years » The Media Briefing

Chris Sutcliffe:

»The Guardian has not been agile enough to respond to the challenges faced by the publishing industry over the past few years, according to Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel.

Speaking at Digital Media Strategies 2016, Pemsel said that an overly narrow focus on the “big number” of its global audience masked some of the strategic issues that the Guardian was facing:

»

“I think all those big numbers are a proof point about how fast and innovative we’ve been in getting to digital [but] monetising anonymous reach is essentially over.

“To be able to parade around and say ‘we’re big’ is not good enough. We want to convert our anonymous reach into a known audience.”

«

That conversion of its unknown audience to a known one is a “massive opportunity”, based around a refinement and reinvention of The Guardian’s membership scheme, which Pemsel believes could make up one third of the Guardian’s overall revenue within three years.

«

The point about “monetising anonymous reach is essentially over” is a key one. Pemsel is saying that online advertising in itself isn’t enough to fund the Guardian – which ought to worry everyone else.
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Mathematicians discover prime conspiracy » Quanta Magazine

Erica Klarreich:

»Two mathematicians have uncovered a simple, previously unnoticed property of prime numbers — those numbers that are divisible only by 1 and themselves. Prime numbers, it seems, have decided preferences about the final digits of the primes that immediately follow them.

Among the first billion prime numbers, for instance, a prime ending in 9 is almost 65 percent more likely to be followed by a prime ending in 1 than another prime ending in 9. In a paper posted online on Sunday, Kannan Soundararajan and Robert Lemke Oliver of Stanford University present both numerical and theoretical evidence that prime numbers repel other would-be primes that end in the same digit, and have varied predilections for being followed by primes ending in the other possible final digits.

“We’ve been studying primes for a long time, and no one spotted this before,” said Andrew Granville, a number theorist at the University of Montreal and University College London. “It’s crazy.”

«

My first objection on reading those paragraphs was “they should do it in a different number base than decimal”. Then it turns out that they started in a different number base (3) and worked out from there. So yes, this is a spooky property.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: