Saturday, November 17, 2018

How Plato Foresaw Facebook’s Folly | NYT

A bit deeply nested to read, earlier in the article: "Written words, Thamus concluded, “give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things but will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”"

Fast-forwarding to today:
"Tweeting and trolling are easy. Mastering the arts of conversation and measured debate is hard. Texting is easy. Writing a proper letter is hard. Looking stuff up on Google is easy. Knowing what to search for in the first place is hard. Having a thousand friends on Facebook is easy. Maintaining six or seven close adult friendships over the space of many years is hard. Swiping right on Tinder is easy. Finding love — and staying in it — is hard.

That’s what Socrates (or Thamus) means when he deprecates the written word: It gives us an out. It creates the illusion that we can remain informed, and connected, even as we are spared the burdens of attentiveness, presence of mind and memory. That may seem quaint today. But how many of our personal, professional or national problems might be solved if we desisted from depending on shortcuts?"
How Plato Foresaw Facebook’s Folly | NYT

Pick three people you think will replace Google Cloud CEO Greene, then forget them – because it's Thomas Kurian | The Register

Also see Transitioning Google Cloud after three great years | Google cloud blog
"And stepping up to the plate is Thomas Kurian, brother of NetApp boss George. Thomas's arrival at Google is a somewhat surprising development. We had assumed he would be taking a break after ejecting out of Oracle at the end of September.

Kurian was the database giant's cloud supremo, and oversaw much of its product development. He seems to be a natural fit for Google Cloud: as an experienced enterprise IT vendor executive, he follows in the footsteps of industry veteran Greene in trying to smarten up Google Cloud so it can compete against Azure and AWS for business."
Pick three people you think will replace Google Cloud CEO Greene, then forget them – because it's Thomas Kurian | The Register

Friday, November 16, 2018

Facebook and the Fires | NYT

Check the full article for Kara Swisher's five suggestions for tech companies
"The overall sense of this year is that the brilliant digital minds who told us they were changing the world for the better might have miscalculated.

Dan Lyons, a longtime tech observer and author of the new book “Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us,” recently tweeted: “Nobody in Silicon Valley can solve homelessness or figure out how to hire with diversity, but 11 electric scooter companies have raised VC funding. Oh, and a company that uses robots to make pizza. You wonder why there’s a tech backlash.”

Actually no one wonders that anymore, which is why it’s probably time to think about where the industry goes from here. While I can be hard on tech, I still have hope that it can regain its innovation, inspiration and sunny approach to the future."
Facebook and the Fires | NYT

‘No Morals’: Advertisers React to Facebook Report | NYT

You know it's bad when... See the full article for additional context-setting, e.g., "And after this article was published online, Mr. Tobaccowala called The New York Times to add to his comments. “The people there do,” he said, referring to possessing morals, “but as a business, they seem to have lost their compass.”"
"Several top marketers were openly critical of the tech giant, a day after The New York Times published an investigation detailing how Facebook’s top executives — Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg — made the company’s growth a priority while ignoring and hiding warning signs over how its data and power were being exploited to disrupt elections and spread toxic content. The article also spotlighted a lobbying campaign overseen by Ms. Sandberg, who also oversees advertising, that sought to shift public anger to Facebook’s critics and rival tech firms.

The revelations may be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief growth officer for the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s biggest ad companies. “Now we know Facebook will do whatever it takes to make money. They have absolutely no morals.”"
‘No Morals’: Advertisers React to Facebook Report | NYT

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg: "We absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news" | CBS

The buck stopped with a nameless communications team member unworthy of senior management awareness, apparently... Also see ‘Alarming’: Soros calls for investigation of Facebook after report of a smear campaign | Washington Post. Sheryl Sandberg also noted, in a Facebook post last night: " I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have. I have great respect for George Soros – and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent."
""We absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening. And again, we're doing a thorough look into what happened but they have assured me that we were not paying anyone to either write or promote anything that was false. And that's very important," Sandberg said.

The Times also reported that the firm tried to tie critics of Facebook to George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist – and frequent target of conservative anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Sandberg said the firm was hired by "the communications team" and that she only learned about its work from the paper."
Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg: "We absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news" | CBS

Indictment vs. Julian Assange Mistakenly Revealed by Prosecutors | NYT

Also consider this Dan Gillmor tweet: "Whatever contempt one may have for him, please understand that if this prosection [sic] goes forward, the same logic will someday be used to prosecute the Washington Post and New York Times" (check the tweet link for a lively discussion...)
"But even as the Obama administration brought criminal charges in an unprecedented number of leak-related cases, it apparently held back from charging Mr. Assange. Members of the Obama legal policy team from that era have said that they did not want to establish a precedent that could chill investigative reporting about national security matters by treating it as a crime.
Their dilemma came down to a question they found no clear answer to: Is there any legal difference between what WikiLeaks was doing, at least in that era, from what traditional news media organizations, like The New York Times, do in soliciting and publishing information they obtain that the government wants to keep secret?"
Indictment vs. Julian Assange Mistakenly Revealed by Prosecutors | NYT

Thursday, November 15, 2018

You've heard of AR glasses, but this startup wants to make them into contact lenses | CNET

See this Mojo Vision press release for more details. Contact lens make my eyes too dry, so I'll just look forward to using Apple AR glasses while waiting for Neuralink to get beyond beta testing...
"Investment in VR has slowed in recent years, SuperData says, amid slow sales growth and struggles by app developers to create the must-have game. AR, by comparison, has already begun attracting businesses that see opportunity in using the technology to bolster customer service or to help repair technicians by letting them work remotely with experts.

Mojo Vision's ambitious project is made all that much more interesting by who's working for the company. Mojo boasts veterans from the tech industry's biggest hitters, including Google, Amazon, HP and Apple, which is hard at work on its own headset, a product, CNET reported, that's scheduled to arrive sometime in 2020."
You've heard of AR glasses, but this startup wants to make them into contact lenses | CNET

Watch Marc Benioff try to explain what he’s going to do with Time magazine | Recode

Check the full post for an interview video excerpt (the full interview will be on MSNBC Sunday night at 10:00 PM ET)
"Swisher: “But what’s your role? What’s your role? You’re not answering my question.”

Benioff: “I’m the inspiring visionary!”

Swisher: “What does that mean? What are you going to do, walk around and say things?”

Benioff: “Yeah, I’m going to walk around and try to inspire a vision for the future of the brand.”

Swisher: “What does that mean? I don’t even understand what that means.”

Benioff: “Well, that is why I’m a visionary leader, Kara, and you’re not.”"
Watch Marc Benioff try to explain what he’s going to do with Time magazine | Recode

Oracle's JEDI mind-meld doesn't work on Uncle Sam's auditors: These are not the govt droids you are looking for | The Register

Also see GAO Statement on Oracle Bid Protest | GAO Press Center; tbd if IBM's similar and still pending protest will be retracted now that IBM is all about multi-cloud solutions...
"Oracle has been fighting to overturn a stipulation in the DoD's request for proposal that states one lucky contractor would have to provide all parts of the deal. Chiefly, Oracle – let's make that clear, Oracle – thinks locking an agency into a single legacy vendor is a bad idea in terms of innovation and security. Secretly, we think, Oracle doesn't want to risk losing it all to Microsoft or Amazon, so in all, Oracle thinks JEDI is a bad idea for Oracle.

Oracle and others also complained that, because JEDI is such a massive project, the one-vendor stipulation means that only huge companies, such as Amazon and Microsoft, can fill it, whereas if it were broken up Oracle would have a fighting chance over the pieces. Oracle had also argued that AWS may have had a hand in crafting the requirement, creating a conflict of interest.

Both arguments were shot down by the GAO on Wednesday."
Oracle's JEDI mind-meld doesn't work on Uncle Sam's auditors: These are not the govt droids you are looking for | The Register

See your messages with local businesses in Google Maps | Google Keyword blog

For another perspective, see Google Maps will let you chat with businesses | The Verge, which notes "It is becoming overburdened with so many features and design changes that it’s becoming harder and harder to just get directions in it."
"Last year we enabled users in select countries to message businesses from the Business Profiles on Google. Sending messages to businesses gives you the opportunity to ask questions without having to make a phone call so that you can order a cake for your mom’s birthday while on the bus or find out if a shoe store has your size without having to wait on hold.
Now you’ll see your messages with the businesses you connect with via Business Profiles within the Google Maps app, where you’re already looking for things to do and places to go or shop. You’ll find these messages in the side menu of both Google Maps for Android and iOS. With these messages in Maps, you’ll never have to worry about accidentally sending “I love you, Mom” to that shoe store you’ve been sending messages to."
See your messages with local businesses in Google Maps | Google Keyword blog

Police think Alexa may have witnessed a New Hampshire double homicide. Now they want Amazon to turn her over. | Washington Post

Also see The Cybersecurity 202: Amazon is now at the center of a debate over public safety versus privacy | Washington Post
"Alexa may have been listening, as she almost always is, when Christine Sullivan was stabbed to death on Jan. 27, 2017, in the kitchen of the home in Farmington, N.H., where she lived with her boyfriend.

But does Alexa remember any of it?

That’s the question state prosecutors are hoping will produce key evidence in the murder case against Timothy Verrill, who is accused of killing Sullivan and her friend Jenna Pellegrini over suspicions that they were informing police about an alleged drug operation. Prosecutors say Alexa, the voice service for Amazon’s Echo smart devices, was sitting on the kitchen counter the entire time."
Police think Alexa may have witnessed a New Hampshire double homicide. Now they want Amazon to turn her over. | Washington Post

Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis | NYT

Another busy week for Facebook's PR department; also see Facebook Cuts Ties With Definers Public Affairs Following Outcry | NYT, Who does Facebook fire after a bombshell New York Times investigation? | Recode, and (in other Facebook news) Quitting Instagram: She’s one of the millions disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it. | Washington Post
"But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.

When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and it faced a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack."
Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis | NYT

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

So some people will pay for a subscription to a news site. How about two? Three? | NiemanLab

Must be about time for Apple to launch the next phase of Apple News...
"To be fair, these paid products offer substantially different value propositions, mixing content, membership, and experience. Quartz is keeping its main output free to read and making an interesting education-and-networking play that makes sense for a business site; New York is building a paywall that can flex open or closed depending on a reader’s predicted propensity to pay; The Atlantic is mostly offering a premium experience while leaving the main site open; The New Yorker and Bloomberg offer relatively traditional meters allowing a set number of articles a month.

But only 16 percent of Americans say they are willing to pay for any online news. If someone’s first digital subscription is to the Times or the Post — how many are willing to pay for a second, or a third, or a fourth news site? Especially if that second or third site costs as much or more than their favorite national daily?"
So some people will pay for a subscription to a news site. How about two? Three? | NiemanLab

Trump Is Spreading Bogus Voter Fraud Claims On Twitter. Twitter Says It'll Talk About It In 2019. | BuzzFeed

#NotReassuring; also see Trump, stung by midterms and nervous about Mueller, retreats from traditional presidential duties | LA Times, which notes "Publicly, Trump has been increasingly absent in recent days — except on Twitter."
"Despite Twitter's promises leading up to the election that it would "ensure that Twitter provides a healthy space for public conversation that voters can rely on for accurate election news and information," it hasn't done anything about Trump's tweets. Asked by BuzzFeed News if Twitter was considering updating its rules to address Trump's voter fraud claims, the company's vice president of trust and safety, Del Harvey, suggested that the company would wait until 2019 to address the issue, if at all.
"One of our goals for 2019 is to significantly increase transparency around those conversations as well as the principles we draw from when evaluating the impact of potential changes," Harvey tweeted at BuzzFeed News. Pressed for specifics, Harvey declined to provide any examples of what "increased transparency" might look like, noting vaguely that "we have ongoing conversations about these themes broadly.""
Trump Is Spreading Bogus Voter Fraud Claims On Twitter. Twitter Says It'll Talk About It In 2019. | BuzzFeed

Google is absorbing DeepMind’s health care unit to create an ‘AI assistant for nurses and doctors’ | The Verge

See this DeepMind post for more details; also see Google accused of 'trust demolition' over health app | BBC News
"More broadly speaking, the news clearly signals Google’s ambitions in health care and its desire to get the most of its acquisition of the London AI lab. There have reportedly been long-standing tensions between DeepMind and Google, with the latter wanting to commercialize the former’s work. Compared to Google, DeepMind has positioned itself as a cerebral home for long-sighted research, attracting some of the world’s best AI talent in the process.

DeepMind Health has produced work with more immediate and practical applications than other parts of the company, which likely made it a tempting target for the new CEO of Google Health, David Feinberg, who was appointed last week. Feinberg’s new mandate is to restructure all of Google’s disparate bets in health, from hardware to algorithms. Apparently, that also includes absorbing other parts of Alphabet if necessary."
Google is absorbing DeepMind’s health care unit to create an ‘AI assistant for nurses and doctors’ | The Verge

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

How Google and Amazon Got Away With Not Being Regulated | Wired

An excerpt from Tim Wu's latest book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age
"In total, Facebook managed to string together 67 unchallenged acquisitions, which seems impressive, unless you consider that Amazon undertook 91 and Google got away with 214 (a few of which were conditioned). In this way, the tech industry became essentially composed of just a few giant trusts: Google for search and related industries, Facebook for social media, Amazon for online commerce. While competitors remained in the wings, their positions became marginalized with every passing day.

If many of these acquisition were small, or mere “acquihires” (i.e., acquisitions to hire employees), others, like Facebook’s takeover of Instagram and WhatsApp, eliminated serious competitive threats. In the 2000s, Google had launched Google Video and done pretty well, but not compared to its greatest competitor, YouTube. Google bought YouTube without a peep from the competition agencies. Waze, an upstart online mapping company, was poised to be an on-ramp for Google’s vertical challengers, until Google, the owner of its own dominant online mapping program, bought the firm in a fairly blatant merger to monopoly. Google also acquired Doubleclick and AdMob, two of its most serious advertising competitors. The government allowed the AdMob acquisition on the premise that Apple might also enter the market in a serious way (it didn’t). Amazon acquired would-be competitors like Zappos, Diapers.com, and Soap.com."
How Google and Amazon Got Away With Not Being Regulated | Wired

How to Teach Artificial Intelligence Some Common Sense | Wired

From a broad AI market dynamics review
"Yann LeCun, a deep-learning pioneer and the current head of Facebook’s AI research wing, agrees with many of the new critiques of the field. He acknowledges that it requires too much training data, that it can’t reason, that it doesn’t have common sense. “I’ve been basically saying this over and over again for the past four years,” he reminds me. But he remains steadfast that deep learning, properly crafted, can provide the answer. He disagrees with the Chomskyite vision of human intelligence. He thinks human brains develop the ability to reason solely through interaction, not built-in rules. “If you think about how animals and babies learn, there’s a lot of things that are learned in the first few minutes, hours, days of life that seem to be done so fast that it looks like they are hardwired,” he notes. “But in fact they don’t need to be hardwired, because they can be learned so quickly.” In this view, to figure out the physics of the world, a baby just moves its head around, data-crunches the incoming imagery, and concludes that, hey, depth of field is a thing.

Still, LeCun admits it’s not yet clear which routes will help deep learning get past its humps. It might be “adversarial” neural nets, a relatively new technique in which one neural net tries to fool another neural net with fake data—forcing the second one to develop extremely ­subtle internal representations of pictures, sounds, and other inputs. The advantage here is that you don’t have the “data hungriness” problem. You don’t need to collect millions of data points on which to train the neural nets, because they’re learning by studying each other. (Apocalyptic side note: A similar method is being used to create those profoundly troubling “deepfake” videos in which someone appears to be saying or doing something they are not.)"
How to Teach Artificial Intelligence Some Common Sense | Wired

Voice tech like Alexa and Siri hasn’t found its true calling yet: Inside the voice assistant ‘revolution’ | Recode

Final paragraphs from an extensive voice assistant reality check
"Voice is much more intuitive than a mouse, but we’re still trying to find ways to make voice work.

“There’s always been a tendency to force the ‘old’ onto the ‘new’ when it comes to emerging technology platforms — the first ads on television, for example, were essentially radio ads, read out loud,” Will Hall, chief creative officer of Rain, a digital agency that specializes in voice, told Recode, regarding early attempts at voice advertising. “Eventually TV ads evolved into multi-sensory stories — images of a car driving down the highway, music blaring — and so will the voice experience.”

Until we find the app, use-case or invention that could only be possible using voice, we’re still just repurposing online content for your ears."
Voice tech like Alexa and Siri hasn’t found its true calling yet: Inside the voice assistant ‘revolution’ | Recode

The Potential Unintended Consequences of Article 13 | YouTube Creator Blog

In other YouTube news, see YouTube helps a majority of American users understand current events — but 64 percent say they see untrue info | NiemanLab
"We have already taken steps to address copyright infringement by developing technology, like our Content ID programme, to help rights holders manage their copyrights and earn money automatically. More than 98 per cent of copyright management on YouTube takes place through Content ID. To date, we have used the system to pay rights holders more than €2.5bn for third party use of their content. We believe Content ID provides the best solution for managing rights on a global scale.
The consequences of article 13 go beyond financial losses. EU residents are at risk of being cut off from videos that, in just the last month, they viewed more than 90bn times. Those videos come from around the world, including more than 35m EU channels, and they include language classes and science tutorials as well as music videos."
The Potential Unintended Consequences of Article 13 | YouTube Creator Blog

People are going to sell sex in driverless cars, researchers say | Washington Post

Passenger discretion is advised
"“Whenever anyone proposes anything beyond riding in your car and sitting belted in — whether it’s sex or getting a massage or getting your hair cut — all of those suffer from the same reality check,” Cummings said. “You’re still a body that can die in a moving vehicle. ”
Additional services will require extra safety tests.
“There are dangers of collision, of getting thrown around,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who focuses on autonomous vehicles, “and if you’re doing particularly intense activities, you’re going to be at risk of unusual injuries.”"
People are going to sell sex in driverless cars, researchers say | Washington Post

Friday, November 09, 2018

How Brad Parscale, once a ‘nobody in San Antonio,’ shaped Trump’s combative politics and rose to his inner circle | Washington Post

Final paragraphs from a Brad Parscale profile; apparently Minitrue HQ is moving to Virginia; tbd how many Facebook employees will be "embedded" for the 2020 election. On a related note, see Trump’s Interference With Science Is Unprecedented | The Atlantic
"“The whole game will be different” in 2020, said Parscale, who plans to run the operation from an office complex in a Virginia suburb. “We are no longer a grass roots campaign. We are now sitting in the White House. We have a different mission now.”

The last campaign, he said, was about presenting voters with “dreams” of what a Trump presidency could be like. Now, Parscale said, the mission will be to present voters with “facts” that prove those dreams are coming true.

“The old Republican Party is gone,” Parscale said, in his basement office at the RNC headquarters. “It’s now Trump’s party.”"
How Brad Parscale, once a ‘nobody in San Antonio,’ shaped Trump’s combative politics and rose to his inner circle | Washington Post

The Internet Is Splitting in Two Amid U.S. Dispute With China | Bloomberg

Tangentially, see Google in China: When ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Met the Great Firewall | Bloomberg
"Unlike the relatively hands-off American model, the Chinese approach is geared toward one over-arching imperative -- propelling and safeguarding the ruling Communist Party. Anything deemed to undermine that objective, from pornography and addictive games to pockets of dissent, is ruthlessly rooted out when discovered. To wit, China has the lowest level of internet freedom among 65 countries polled by Freedom House.

Critics of the model say players like Alibaba and Tencent thrive because Beijing dampens competition by making it nigh-impossible for global players such as Facebook to operate. They say the government’s heavy hand and unpredictability is counter-productive. Exhibit A: a months-long crackdown on gaming that helped wipe out more than $200 billion of Tencent’s market value this year. That cultivates a pervasive climate of fear, said Gary Rieschel, founding partner at Qiming Venture Partners."
The Internet Is Splitting in Two Amid U.S. Dispute With China | Bloomberg

VW plans to sell electric Tesla rival for less than $23,000: source | Reuters

Also see New subcompact VW all-electric I.D. Concept vehicle could start at $21,000 | Electrek
"VW and other carmakers are struggling to adapt quickly enough to stringent rules introduced after the carmaker was found to have cheated diesel emissions tests, with its chief executive Herbert Diess warning last month that Germany’s auto industry faces extinction.

Plans for VW’s electric car, known as “MEB entry” and with a production volume of 200,000 vehicles, are due to be discussed at a supervisory board meeting on Nov. 16, the source said.

Another vehicle, the I.D. Aero, will be built in a plant currently making the VW Passat, a mid-sized sedan, the source said."
VW plans to sell electric Tesla rival for less than $23,000: source | Reuters

Google has hired Geisinger's David Feinberg to lead its health strategy | CNBC

Also see Google planning health initiative, appoints leader to organize AI, Nest, & Google Fit interests | 9to5Google
"Feinberg's job will be figuring out how to organize Google's fragmented health initiatives, which overlap among many different business groups.

Among the groups interested in health care are Google's core search team, its cloud business, the Google Brain artificial intelligence team (one of several groups at Alphabet working on AI), the Nest home automation group and the Google Fit wearables team.

One particular area of interest is building out a health team within Nest to help manage users' health at home, as well as to monitor seniors who are choosing to live independently. Nest had been an independent company under Google holding company Alphabet, but was absorbed back into the Google Home team earlier this year."
Google has hired Geisinger's David Feinberg to lead its health strategy | CNBC

Tech C.E.O.s Are in Love With Their Principal Doomsayer | NYT

Inspire different
"“I’m interested in how Silicon Valley can be so infatuated with Yuval, which they are — it’s insane he’s so popular, they’re all inviting him to campus — yet what Yuval is saying undermines the premise of the advertising- and engagement-based model of their products,” said Tristan Harris, Google’s former in-house design ethicist and the co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology.

Part of the reason might be that Silicon Valley, at a certain level, is not optimistic on the future of democracy. The more of a mess Washington becomes, the more interested the tech world is in creating something else, and it might not look like elected representation. Rank-and-file coders have long been wary of regulation and curious about alternative forms of government. A separatist streak runs through the place: Venture capitalists periodically call for California to secede or shatter, or for the creation of corporate nation-states. And this summer, Mark Zuckerberg, who has recommended Mr. Harari to his book club, acknowledged a fixation with the autocrat Caesar Augustus. “Basically,” Mr. Zuckerberg told The New Yorker, “through a really harsh approach, he established 200 years of world peace.”

Mr. Harari, thinking about all this, puts it this way: “Utopia and dystopia depends on your values.”"
Tech C.E.O.s Are in Love With Their Principal Doomsayer | NYT

Ford joins micro-mobility revolution by purchasing e-scooter start-up Spin | Washington Post

Have you ridden a Ford lately?
"This week Ford, the legacy automaker from Detroit, announced that it has purchased Spin, a San Francisco-based electric-scooter-sharing company focused on the “last-mile” transportation market.

The $40 million purchase means Ford joins companies such as Alphabet, Uber and Lyft -- all of which have poured millions into the upstart e-scooter revolution.

“The number of mobility options available to people has risen dramatically in recent years,” said Sunny Madra, vice president of Ford’s innovations branch, Ford X, in an online statement. “In some situations, people use multiple forms of transportation during a single trip. The fast-paced, often experimental mobility sector requires businesses to keep up with agile and adaptable customers.""
Ford joins micro-mobility revolution by purchasing e-scooter start-up Spin | Washington Post

AI is not “magic dust” for your company, says Google’s Cloud AI boss | MIT Technology Review

From a timely AI reality check
"How big of a technology shift is this for businesses?

It’s like electrification. And it took about two or three decades for electrification to pretty much change the way the world was. Sometimes I meet very senior people with big responsibilities who have been led to believe that artificial intelligence is some kind of “magic dust” that you sprinkle on an organization and it just gets smarter. In fact, implementing artificial intelligence successfully is a slog.

When people come in and say “How do I actually implement this artificial-intelligence project?” we immediately start breaking the problems down in our brains into the traditional components of AI—perception, decision making, action (and this decision-making component is a critical part of it now; you can use machine learning to make decisions much more effectively)—and we map those onto different parts of the business. One of the things Google Cloud has in place is these building blocks that you can slot together."
AI is not “magic dust” for your company, says Google’s Cloud AI boss | MIT Technology Review

Thursday, November 08, 2018

What the iPad Pro Enables Matters More Than What It Replaces | Tech.pinions

Also see this Benedict Evans Twitter thread, which starts with "I remain *puzzled* by reviews of the new iPad that describe use cases that apply to 1% of the PC base, point out that the iPad does not cover them, and then declare that it can’t replace a laptop for ‘most people’"
"We can argue as much as we want about whether or not an iPad Pro is a PC or not but I think we cannot argue with the premise of what the next computing experience is likely to include:
  • a mobile, not a portable device that is always connected
  • a more versatile operating system that transcends product categories
  • multiple input mechanism: touch, pen, and voice
  • “satellite” experiences driven by other devices such as AR glasses, wearables, IoT devices and sensors
Because of these characteristics, new workflows will be created, and old ones will evolve. Like for other industries, like the car industry, these changes will happen over the course of many years and impacting, people differently based on their line of work, their disposable income, the market availability in their region and most importantly their entrenched behaviors. Who gets there first does not get a medal but gets to show the way to others by showing what works and what does not."
What the iPad Pro Enables Matters More Than What It Replaces | Tech.pinions

There Was No Midterm Misinformation Crisis Because We've Democratized Propaganda | BuzzFeed News

Final paragraphs:
"Our public square is being redefined by platforms that ruthlessly prioritize and reward sensationalism. The soapbox has been replaced by an advertising system — one that rewards our least dignified impulses and empowers anyone willing to embrace them. And the result is a transformation of political discourse and the establishment of a new insidious vernacular — of division, deceit, of victory at all costs. And since there appears to be little desire to rethink the incentives that govern these platforms (attention!), it’s not hard to see the last two years as a trial run for the next cycle.

“We’ve democratized propaganda, made gaming distribution the key skill required to reach and influence people,” DiResta said of the realignment. “We have a powerful, still-young infrastructure for speech and persuasion, and I don’t think we’ve adapted yet.”"
There Was No Midterm Misinformation Crisis Because We've Democratized Propaganda | BuzzFeed News

This is Samsung’s foldable smartphone | The Verge

Also see Samsung's Folding Smartphone Concept Bends All the Rules | Wired
"Samsung isn’t the only phone maker working on foldable devices, though. Huawei reportedly plans to release a foldable handset next year. Lenovo and Xiaomi have also started teased their own prototypes, and LG is also working on flexible OLED displays and TVs that roll up into a box.

Microsoft is even working on a multiscreen device, which could be a modern take on the old Courier concept. Microsoft Surface chief Panos Panay previously revealed that a pocketable Surface device is “absolutely my baby.” Phone makers you’ve probably never heard of are also experimenting with tablet-like devices that fold into a phone form factor, so expect to see a lot more of these handsets in 2019."
This is Samsung’s foldable smartphone | The Verge

Facebook Had a Good Election Day. But It Can’t Let Up Now. | NYT

From a timely Facebook reality check
"It’s worth asking, over the long term, why a single American company is in the position of protecting free and fair elections all over the world. But that is the case now, and we now know that Facebook’s action or inaction can spell the difference between elections going smoothly and democracies straining under a siege of misinformation and propaganda.

To Facebook’s credit, it has become more responsive in recent months, including cracking down on domestic disinformation networks, banning particularly bad actors such as Alex Jones of Infowars, and hiring more people to deal with emerging threats.

But Facebook would not have done this on its own. It took sustained pressure from lawmakers, regulators, researchers, journalists, employees, investors and users to force the company to pay more attention to misinformation and threats of election interference."
Facebook Had a Good Election Day. But It Can’t Let Up Now. | NYT

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Apple walks Ars through the iPad Pro’s A12X system on a chip | Ars Technica

From a detailed review
"Apple has come to dominate in mobile SoCs. In a lot of ways, though, Qualcomm has been an easy dragon to slay. Should Apple choose to go custom silicon route on the Mac platform, Intel will not be quite as easy to beat. But the rapid iteration that has led to the iPad Pro's A12X makes a compelling case that it's possible.

Apple won't talk about its future plans, of course. You could say that's all in the future, but when you have a 7nm tablet chip that rivals the CPU and graphics performance of most laptops and beats two out of five of the modern gaming consoles on the market with no fan at barely over a pound and less than a quarter-inch thick... it feels a bit like at least some particular future is now."
Apple walks Ars through the iPad Pro’s A12X system on a chip | Ars Technica

You Already Email Like a Robot — Why Not Automate It? | NYT

Tbd when Cortana-powered Clippy++ will appear... (Or maybe not; see Goodbye, Cortana: Microsoft's Javier Soltero leaves, putting the digital assistant's future in doubt | PCWorld)
"Depending on what your current inbox looks like, this might not require much imagination at all. A study conducted in 2016 by researchers at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business in Canada tried to understand the role email had come to play in the modern office. They surveyed “highly educated baby boomer or Gen X” subjects who were mostly “managers or professionals” working in office jobs and found that they spend on average a full third of their workweeks “processing” email. Whatever their titles, they are — like many office workers — to a large extent professional emailers. Even if their roles are otherwise highly specialized, in this significant way they are not. They are their own assistants.

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes wrote that, thanks to new efficiencies, workers of the future could expect “three-hour shifts or a 15-hour week.” He guessed that this would happen within a century. Automation and the abundance it produced has indeed led to countless economic changes, but it did not negate or replace the entire order. Asked for evidence of the success of this newest tool, Google says that Smart Compose is already “saving people a billion characters of typing each week.” This statistic supports one half of what Keynes might have predicted at the dawn of automated communication — the abundance and the glut — but is tellingly silent on the other half, the same half he couldn’t quite see the first time. Self-automation can free us only to the extent that it actually belongs to us. We can be sure of only one thing that will result from automating email: It will create more of it."
You Already Email Like a Robot — Why Not Automate It? | NYT

Blockchain-based elections would be a disaster for democracy | Ars Technica

Another timely blockchain reality check
"An important property for an election is finality: you want a well-understood process that makes people confident in the result. The paper-based process used in most states today isn't perfect, but it's pretty good on this score. Each vote is recorded on a paper ballot that's available for anyone to look at. Everyone understands how paper ballots work. People can observe the vote-counting process to verify that no ballots were altered. So not only does the process usually lead to an accurate count of peoples' votes, it also builds public confidence in the integrity of the result.

Blockchain voting would be much, much worse. Hardly anyone understands how a blockchain works, and even experts don't have a good way to observe the online voting process for irregularities the way an election observer does in a traditional paper election. A voter might be able to use her private key to verify how her vote was recorded after the fact. But if her vote wasn't counted the way she expected (or wasn't counted at all) she'd have no good way to prove that she tried to vote a different way."
Blockchain-based elections would be a disaster for democracy | Ars Technica

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Tim Berners-Lee unveils 'contract' to protect and strengthen the web | CNET

See this page for the core principles
"The same spirit of collaboration will be used to shape and negotiate the contract as a document using the guiding principles the Web Foundation has laid out. Berners-Lee envisages working groups and discussions that will allow people across the whole spectrum of internet users to have a say on subjects from openness and accessibility to anonymity and hate speech.

"It's all about everybody talking together," he said. The contract should be finalized and ready to sign by May 2019.

Facebook, Google and the French government are three of around 60 early backers of the contract -- a list that includes tech companies, political figures, and non-governmental and digital rights organizations."
Tim Berners-Lee unveils 'contract' to protect and strengthen the web | CNET

Did You Vote? Now Your Friends May Know (and Nag You) | NYT

Tbd when there will be a new app store category for shaming apps
"I know these details not because the dentist, the bookseller and the accountant volunteered to share their voting histories with me. I found out from VoteWithMe and OutVote, two new political apps that are trying to use peer pressure to get people to vote Tuesday.

The apps are to elections what Zillow is to real estate — services that pull public information from government records, repackage it for consumer viewing and make it available at the touch of a smartphone button. But instead of giving you a peek at house prices, VoteWithMe and OutVote let you snoop on which of your friends voted in past elections and their party affiliations — and then prod them to go to the polls by sending them scripted messages like “You gonna vote?”"
Did You Vote? Now Your Friends May Know (and Nag You) | NYT

Amazon Plans to Split HQ2 in Two Locations | NYT

 HQ2/2
"After conducting a yearlong search for a second home, Amazon has switched gears and is now finalizing plans to have a total of 50,000 employees in two locations, according to people familiar with the decision-making process.

The company is nearing a deal to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, according to two of the people briefed on the discussions. Amazon is also close to a deal to move to the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., a Washington suburb, one of the people said. Amazon already has more employees in those two areas than anywhere else outside of Seattle, its home base, and the Bay Area."
Amazon Plans to Split HQ2 in Two Locations | NYT

Chinese Web giant Tencent rolls out toughest gaming restrictions amid crackdown on industry | Washington Post

From a gaming market dynamics reality check
"While China has taken a notably drastic approach, video game addiction has garnered international attention and criticism lately for players of all ages. In June, the World Health Organization added video game addiction to its International Classification of Diseases. But the designation specifies that “gaming disorders” — where gaming eclipses all other desires for a period of more than a year — are very rare, affecting at most 3 percent of gamers. The American Psychiatric Association identified Internet Gaming Disorder as an area for further study in the 2013 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the central resource for identifying and diagnosing disorders in the United States. It has yet to be officially added.

The online game Fortnite, which hosts tens of millions of players and generates more than $1 billion in revenue, has been at the heart of the gaming addiction debate in the United States. As parents struggle to manage their children’s playing time, professional sports coaches are facing a similar battle with their players, worrying that time spent playing video games is eroding the pro athletes' practice and sleep regimens."
Chinese Web giant Tencent rolls out toughest gaming restrictions amid crackdown on industry | Washington Post

The Supreme Court won’t take up net neutrality | Washington Post

Getting a bit deeply nested...
"But even as the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the appeal, the FCC under Republican chairman Ajit Pai moved to rescind those very rules. The new FCC in 2017 voted to reject much of its authority over Internet providers, and handed much of the responsibility for net neutrality to a sister agency, the Federal Trade Commission. The repeal went into effect this summer.

The GOP-led effort to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality rules set off a separate round of litigation, as tech companies and consumer groups sued to block the deregulation. That suit, which is also pending before the D.C. Circuit, is quickly becoming the center of the legal battle over net neutrality now, with the Supreme Court deciding not to hear its net neutrality case. The Justice Department has also agreed to suspend its recent suit against California over the state’s new net neutrality law, at least until the case before the D.C. Circuit is resolved."
The Supreme Court won’t take up net neutrality | Washington Post

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Pen(cil) is Mightier Than the Mouse | Tech.pinions

For some mouse-fan perspectives, see Apple iPad Pro Review 2018: The Fastest iPad is Still an iPad | The Verge and Nope, Apple’s new iPad Pro still isn’t a laptop | Washington Post
"While in it’s early stages, I contrast this with Microsoft’s Windows Pen/Ink support. With Windows a mouse is still available to use as a precision pointer, meaning most people will still choose this method by default. The presence of a mouse/trackpad enables the user to stay in their comofort level rather than embrace a new paradigm. The implication is the pen is likely only used for pen use cases and not in a position to become the new mouse. The lack of a traditional mouse pointer/trackpad is precisely the reason Apple has the potential to innovate and encourage software to be built around new precision input paradigms instead of old ones.

It will be very interesting to see how Apple continues to develop the gestures feature on Pencil and what developers do with it. I’d love to see Microsoft run with this idea and explore new Office experiences focusing on the pen as a new type of precision input that can go beyond just ink/drawing.

From a use case standpoint, when you need a precision input tool, there is not that much different in motion than taking your hand off the keyboard and using a trackpad then picking up the pencil. And, I’d argue that what can be enabled by pencil, gestures, and software, will take precision input to a level not possible with a trackpad/mouse."
The Pen(cil) is Mightier Than the Mouse | Tech.pinions

Apple’s Social Network | Stratechery

From a wide-ranging Apple reality check
"“Engaged” is an interesting choice of words, as engagement is an objective normally associated with social networks like Facebook. The reasoning is obvious: the more engaged users are, the more they use a social network, which means the more ads they can be shown. Social networks accomplish this by aggregating content from suppliers as well as users themselves, and continually tweaking algorithms in an attempt to keep you swiping and tapping, and coming back to swipe and tap some more.

This is a world that has always been foreign to Apple: its past attempts at facilitating social interaction on its platforms are memorable only as the butt of jokes (iTunes Ping anyone?). This isn’t a surprise: Apple’s culture and approach to products is antithetical to the culture and approach necessary to create and grow a traditional social network. Apple wants total control and to release as perfect a product it can; a social network requires an iterative approach that is designed to deal with constant variability and edge cases.

This, though, is why Today at Apple is compelling, particular Ahrendts’ reference to bringing people together in a “real social way” — and she could not have emphasized the word “real” more strongly. Apple is in effect trying to build a social network in the real world, facilitated and controlled by Apple, and betting that customers will continue to pay to gain access."
Apple’s Social Network | Stratechery

Facebook Tamped Down on Hoax Sites, But Polarization Thrives | Bloomberg

Apparently Facebook hasn't fixed all human cognitive biases in time for the midterms...
"Facebook built a system that specifically addresses hoax news websites and pages. But that shifted some of the fake news activity to posts and images that go viral in Facebook groups, in which old photos are often doctored or retitled to apply to current news events.

If hoax publishers aren’t as much of a problem in the U.S., polarization still is. Publishers on the far right or far left -- who don’t publish fake news so much as news in a skewed context, meant to alarm readers -- still thrive on Facebook. The social network has been asking users to rate publishers by trustworthiness, and baking the scores into its algorithm to address the issue. Still, hyperpartisan news thrives."
 On a related note, from The Real Lesson of My Debate With Steve Bannon | The Atlantic:
"The story ends, then, in a great irony. Integral to the liberal project, again in the broad sense of the word liberal, is confidence in the power of reason. Words and arguments can overbear ignorance and prejudice. Over the long term, words and arguments can even overcome oppression and violence. That’s why liberals in the broad sense are so uniquely horrified by official lying: How can reason prevail unless words connect to reality? How can we argue against people who will spread fictions, if serviceable to them, without a qualm?

Illiberals and anti-liberals, on the other hand, appreciate the dark energy of human irrationality—not merely as a fact of our nature to be negotiated, but as a potent political resource. People do not think; they feel. They do not believe what is true; they regard as true that which they wish to believe. A lie that affirms us will gain more credence than a truth that challenges us. That’s the foundational insight on which Trump built his business career. It’s the insight on which Trump’s supporters built first their campaign for president and now their presidency itself." 
Facebook Tamped Down on Hoax Sites, But Polarization Thrives | Bloomberg

Tencent to Check All Gamers' IDs by 2019 in Unprecedented Move | Bloomberg

Relationship with China's social credit system tbd...
"The Chinese social media and entertainment titan intends to check all gamers’ identities against police databases by 2019, extending a procedure it pioneered for the mobile phenomenon Honour of Kings. It will kick things off with its 10 of its most popular games before expanding that system to its entire library, the company said in a post on its official WeChat account on Monday. That enormous undertaking -- covering scores of titles -- should help surface under-aged users who’re subject to curbs on playing time.

While China’s 700 million-plus internet and social media users are growing accustomed to constant policing of their activities, Tencent’s initiative widens the net to include hundreds of millions of children and casual players. The company has come under fire for fomenting game addiction, particularly via the self-developed Honour of Kings. While it’s already put a raft of measures in place -- such as limiting play-time for kids -- the company remains hobbled by regulators who’ve effectively shut down its once vibrant pipeline of new titles."
Tencent to Check All Gamers' IDs by 2019 in Unprecedented Move | Bloomberg

Apple’s new MacBook Air faces strong Windows and iPad competition | The Verge

Also see The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 is a Glorious Creation Machine (Lance Ulanoff)
"Apple is now going to make it difficult to see how people are making that choice. Apple has traditionally been surprisingly transparent with its Mac and iPad sales numbers, reporting them every quarter unlike the rest of the industry. That’s all about to change, though, as Apple’s price hike strategy shows early signs of paying off. Apple will no longer report sales numbers for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, so it will make it more difficult to see just how well the MacBook Air and iPad Pro compete against traditional PC laptops.

The debate over tablet vs. laptop will rage on for many years, but it’s clear that Apple’s new MacBook Air now faces stronger competition than it has ever faced before. The PC industry has changed for the better, thanks to both the MacBook Air and the iPad, but it’s the iPad that will now shape its future and not the new MacBook Air."
Apple’s new MacBook Air faces strong Windows and iPad competition | The Verge

Tracing a Meme From the Internet’s Fringe to a Republican Slogan | NYT

See the full article for a timely case study; also see Far-Right Internet Groups Listen for Trump’s Approval, and Often Hear It | NYT
"Since President Trump’s election, his loyalists online have provided him with a steady stream of provocative posts and shareable memes, often filtered up from platforms like Reddit through media channels like Fox News. In return, Mr. Trump has championed many of their messages as his own, amplifying them back to his larger base.

This feedback loop is how #JobsNotMobs came to be. In less than two weeks, the three-word phrase expanded from corners of the right-wing internet onto some of the most prominent political stages in the country, days before the midterm elections."
Tracing a Meme From the Internet’s Fringe to a Republican Slogan | NYT

Friday, November 02, 2018

Apple warns on holiday sales, sending value below $1 trillion | Reuters

This just in: apparently Apple doesn't completely control the global economy after all...
"Apple Inc on Thursday warned that sales for the crucial holiday quarter would likely miss Wall Street expectations, which Chief Executive Tim Cook blamed on weakness in emerging markets and foreign exchange costs.
The disappointing forecast by the world’s most valuable technology company helped send shares down as much as 7 percent, taking roughly $70 billion off Apple’s market value and forcing that value below $1 trillion. The forecast could also deepen concerns for technology companies that saw a sell-off after misses by Amazon.com Inc and Google parent Alphabet Inc."
Apple warns on holiday sales, sending value below $1 trillion | Reuters

Elon Musk: The Recode interview | Recode

Check the source for the podcast and this page for a full transcript
"On Halloween night, we sat down at Tesla HQ in Palo Alto for an 80-minute conversation about how those companies are faring, why he was working 120-hour weeks, his public animosity for the press, Donald Trump’s Space Force, accepting money from Saudi Arabia and more.

Also on the menu: Musk’s rabid fans on Twitter, dying on Mars, a Tesla pickup truck that will look like something out of “Blade Runner” and talk of an electric bike and VTOL plane — but not a Tesla scooter because those “lack dignity,” apparently."
Elon Musk: The Recode interview | Recode

I ditched the Mac for the iPad, and I’ll never go back | Fast Company

Final paragraphs from a long-term Apple perspective:
"The new iPad furthers the case for tablets to be full desktop or laptop replacements. The new hardware design is gorgeous, with rounded corners, small bezels, and square edges. More importantly, it is a true processing powerhouse. Apple claims that it can match the graphics performance of the Xbox One S–which is Microsoft’s top game console, a monster capable of moving a gazillion 3D polygons at UltraHD 4K resolution. That’s incredible for a product that is 94% smaller than that game console–and runs on batteries. During its introduction, Apple also said that the new iPad Pro is faster than 92% of all laptops sold last month.

All while keeping the simplicity of the “information appliance” and modal computing. The new machine will run full Photoshop as fast as most laptops and desktops. And the new Apple Pencil–with its magnetic latch, gesture controls, and wireless charging–is icing on the cake for those who draw for a living, or for anyone who needs to annotate documents or create presentations.

So yes, iPad is the future. And for me, as cliché as it sounds, the future is now."
I ditched the Mac for the iPad, and I’ll never go back | Fast Company

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Geekbench scores for new iPad Pro surface, rivals 2018 MacBook Pro performance | 9to5Mac

The Apple product line architectural singularity approaches...
"At least in single-core, Apple only sells a single configuration of portable Mac that is decidedly faster than the iPad Pro — the Core i9 MacBook Pro. Reminder: Apple sells the A12X-equipped iPad Pro from $799. The i9 MacBook Pro sells for more than $3000. Going beyond portables, the iPad Pro matches or beats almost all 2017 iMac configurations, and rivals the iMac Pro on single-core prowess."
Geekbench scores for new iPad Pro surface, rivals 2018 MacBook Pro performance | 9to5Mac

New tool helps stand guard against fake news | Boston Globe

See the NewsGuard site for details
"A high-stakes federal election comes up in less than a week, and on the Internet the digital lies are flowing as freely as ever. I wrote recently about scientists developing software to detect fake news stories, but their programs still aren’t ready to go.

Steven Brill isn’t waiting.

Brill, cofounder of American Lawyer magazine, has joined forces with former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz to develop NewsGuard, a browser-based tool that tries to fend off fake news using human brains, rather than silicon chips."
New tool helps stand guard against fake news | Boston Globe

Apple’s Aim to Please Event | 500ish Words

I'm guessing the MacBook (minus Air or Pro) will simply fade away -- or perhaps be rebranded as a smaller-display Air (hopefully not MacBook Air mini...)
"If you just stop to think about it, it makes almost no sense that both the MacBook and this new MacBook Air now exist. Previously, the MacBook Air was the low-cost Apple laptop, starting at $999. Now it’s up to $1199 — just $100 cheaper than the MacBook. A device which is smaller and lighter than the MacBook Air. I know I’m overthinking this: Apple has a winning brand in the MacBook Air, so they wanted to make a new one, knowing it would sell. But the branding makes no sense.²
Again, this shouldn’t ultimately matter — certainly not for the new Air. But it’s hard to see who buys the MacBook now. If you prefer just a slightly smaller device and/or screen? Or if you want fewer ports? Or don’t want TouchID?³ Want worse battery life? Hate recycling?⁴ Perhaps it’s slightly faster — there’s oddly only one processor choice for the new Air — but that’s impossible to know before the benchmarks.
We’ll see what they do with the MacBook next year. It’s clear that the line should be whittled to a MacBook (consumer) and a MacBook Pro (professional) duopoly, but instead we have something more like: MacBook Air (consumer), MacBook (prosumer?), and MacBook Pro (professional)?⁵ Again, it’s a muddled message that will undoubtedly hurt the MacBook."
Apple’s Aim to Please Event | 500ish Words

Press struggles with amplifying Trump's pre-midterms claims | Politico

Also see Exclusive: Trump says supporters demand his red-hot rhetoric | Axios
"The key to resisting that tactic, according to journalists and media experts, is not ignoring what the president says but adding context, even if it means taking longer to publish a story.

“Presidents often make proposals that may not have much chance of ever becoming law, sometimes to shape a campaign and sometimes just to generate a national debate on an issue they care about,” New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker said in an email. “That doesn't mean we shouldn't cover them. It means we should help readers understand the context in which the proposals are made and the circumstances that surround them.”"
Press struggles with amplifying Trump's pre-midterms claims | Politico

Apple’s Vertical Integration Shines with the New iPad Pro Line | Tech.pinions

See the full post for more on "the iPad's journey"
"For Apple, there is no question that the future of their computing experience is in the iPad Pro rather than the Mac. You just need to look at the latest products to see how much Apple owns the experience on iPad Pro from the silicon for both performance and intelligence, to the ecosystem of apps and services, to the accessories, pretty much everything they need to control the end to end experience.

It is interesting that when I look at Surface Pro, the sole iPad Pro competitor in my mind,  I see clearly that the lack of that vertical control is what is holding them back especially in the consumer segment. Ironically Microsoft is better than Apple at first-party apps that take advantage of what the OS and the hardware have to offer to drive their vision of new workflows, but the lack of custom silicon and the much weaker App Store makes it much harder for them to compete on equal footing.

Apple has been known to drive change even when the market does not seem to be ready. With the future of computing, they have the luxury of not having to rush. They have built a strong platform and they will continue to lead people to it without yanking away the safety net that Mac products provide to many."
Apple’s Vertical Integration Shines with the New iPad Pro Line | Tech.pinions

Alas, the Blockchain Won’t Save Journalism After All | NYT

It appears there is a chance blockchain is not a panacea...
"Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (which introduced blockchain technology to the world) and Ethereum are commodities — like gold, they fluctuate in value whether they are used or not. CVL tokens were designed to function as consumer items. In practice that means that Bitcoin and Ethereum have tempted even know-nothings to make a purchase in the hopes of getting rich quick. Civil is asking people to buy in for the privilege of enthusiastically participating in running a blockchain-media platform.

Or, as Mr. Iles put it: “We even think that we are going to be able to show people that it’s more fun, it’s more rewarding, to pay for the news using CVL tokens as opposed to cash.”

But many people aren’t willing to pay normal money for journalism.

“Look, we sometimes get asked, are we too early?” Mr. Iles said. “And the answer is absolutely yes. But you only are ever going to be too early or too late.”"
Alas, the Blockchain Won’t Save Journalism After All | NYT

How Mark Zuckerberg Became Too Big to Fail | NYT

Final paragraphs from a timely Facebook reality check; on a related note, see Facebook Could Be Unrecognizable by 2020 | The Atlantic
"One fix for Facebook might be to give the board greater power over the company. Trillium Asset Management, an investment firm, recently put forward a shareholder resolution supported by several state funds that would require Mr. Zuckerberg to step down as Facebook’s chairman, though he would still maintain majority voting control of the company.

“I think by taking the step to relinquish the position of the board chair, it’s a very important structural change so that he would not have a completely free hand to muscle his way through decisions,” said Jonas Kron, a Trillium senior vice president.

A Facebook spokesman said the company had not yet taken a position on the resolution. In the past, similar measures have been voted down by Mr. Zuckerberg and his allies.

Which leaves us here: Either Mr. Zuckerberg fixes Facebook, or no one does. That’s the choice we face, like it or not."
How Mark Zuckerberg Became Too Big to Fail | NYT

Father of Web says tech giants may have to be split up | Reuters

Later in the article: "“I am disappointed with the current state of the Web,” he said. “We have lost the feeling of individual empowerment and to a certain extent also I think the optimism has cracked.”" Tangentially, see From Silicon Valley elite to social media hate: The radicalization that led to Gab | The Washington Post
"“What naturally happens is you end up with one company dominating the field so through history there is no alternative to really coming in and breaking things up,” Berners-Lee, 63, said in an interview. “There is a danger of concentration.”

But he urged caution too, saying the speed of innovation in both technology and tastes could ultimately cut some of the biggest technology companies down to size.

“Before breaking them up, we should see whether they are not just disrupted by a small player beating them out of the market, but by the market shifting, by the interest going somewhere else,” Berners-Lee said."
Father of Web says tech giants may have to be split up | Reuters

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In Apple’s new iPad Pro and MacBook Air, competing ways to get to work | NYT

Final sentence: "A decade ago when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs first introduced the Air by pulling it out of a manila envelope, he redefined the design of portable computers. If you want Apple’s vision today, look to the iPad Pro." For an overview of the product updates, see The biggest news from Apple's iPad and Mac event | Engadget along with Apple press releases for the new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini
"Two slabs of glass and metal, two different tales.

Apple shared its vision for the future of portable computers on Tuesday: A super-powerful redesigned iPad Pro you operate with fingers and a stylus. But in case you’re dubious a tablet can replace a laptop, Apple also unveiled a refresh of its classic MacBook Air.

That was the mixed message from the consumer tech giant’s product event in New York City, a follow-up to its September launch of new iPhones and Apple Watches. I had a chance to try both the $800 iPad Pro and $1,200 MacBook Air after Apple’s presentation. Each was given a beautiful new design, renewed purpose — and a 20 percent price hike."
In Apple’s new iPad Pro and MacBook Air, competing ways to get to work | NYT

I Thought the Web Would Stop Hate, Not Spread It | NYT

From Kara Swisher's latest NYT column; on a related note, see The Internet Will Be the Death of Us | NYT
"So where are we now? Far too much of the money social media companies are using to host thugs like Mr. Sayoc and Mr. Bowers was paid for by thugs like Prince Mohammed. And, other than some tut-tutting about the horror of it all, there are no signs that the industry that considers itself the most woke on the planet is thinking of giving the money back or talking about not taking it in the future.

I cannot tell you how sad that is to write, because when I first saw the internet way back when, I hoped that it would help eliminate the attitudes that had fueled those horrible letters to me. I naïvely thought a lone man sending a reporter a missive of malevolence could not find such refuge on the wide-open internet, where his hate would be seen for what it was and denounced and exorcised.

I was obviously very wrong. Instead, the internet gave people like him the space to grow and thrive. Tech made no real rules, claiming the freedom from any strictures would be O.K. in what is the greatest experiment in human communications ever."
I Thought the Web Would Stop Hate, Not Spread It | NYT

Facebook expects rising costs to combat scandals to moderate after 2019 | Reuters

For more details on Facebook's latest quarter, see Mark Zuckerberg's overview
"Facebook Inc (FB.O) on Tuesday relieved investors by forecasting that margins would stop shrinking after 2019 as costs from scandals ease up, sending shares up despite a second-straight quarter with record-low user growth.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg repeated the company’s warning that growing user interest in private messaging, video and safer content would cause costs to rise faster than revenue for “some time.” But he said he was focused on bringing them in line."
Facebook expects rising costs to combat scandals to moderate after 2019 | Reuters

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Ian Small, former head of TokBox, takes over as Evernote CEO from Chris O'Neill | TechCrunch

Also see Inventing the Future: Greetings from Our New CEO | Evernote blog
"O”Neill had been Evernote’s CEO since 2015, when he took over the position from co-founder Phil Libin. Small previously served as CEO of TokBox, which operates the OpenTok video calling platform, from 2009 to 2014, and then as its chairman from 2014 to July of this year.

O’Neill’s departure as CEO is the latest significant leadership shift for Evernote, which has withstood several key executive departures over the last few months. In early September, we reported that the company had lost several senior executives, including CTO Anirban Kundu, CFO Vincent Toolan, CPO Erik Wrobel, and head of HR Michelle Wagner, as it sought funding in a potential down-round from the unicorn valuation it hit in 2012. According to TechCrunch’s sources, Evernote had struggled to grow its base of paid users and active users, as well as enterprise clients, for the last six years."
Ian Small, former head of TokBox, takes over as Evernote CEO from Chris O'Neill | TechCrunch

Billionaires Chase ‘SpaceX Moment’ for the Holy Grail of Energy | Bloomberg

Cash in fusion
"One of the most ambitious ventures is Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a company founded last year by six MIT professors. Backed by some of the biggest names in business, they’re confident they’ll be able to produce a prototype of a so-called net energy reactor by 2025.

The startup raised $50 million in March from a group led by Italy’s Eni SpA, one of several oil producers preparing for a carbon-neutral world. And last month it secured an unspecified sum from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund seeded by Gates, Bezos and fellow tycoons including Richard Branson, Ray Dalio and Michael Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

“The greater danger is not having anybody succeed than having everybody,” Commonwealth Fusion CEO Bob Mumgaard said by phone from Cambridge, Massachusetts. “We need more smart people driving very hard to crack this.”"
Billionaires Chase ‘SpaceX Moment’ for the Holy Grail of Energy | Bloomberg

China’s King of Internet Fluff Wants to Conquer the World | NYT

Might want to carefully read the end user license agreement, especially on data sharing
"A Chinese internet company that serves up homemade break-dancing videos, dishy news bites and goofy hashtag challenges has become one of the planet’s most richly valued start-ups, with a roughly $75 billion price tag. And it has big plans for storming phone screens across the rest of the globe, too.

You may not have heard of the company, Bytedance. You may never have used any of its breezy, colorful apps. But your nearest teenager is probably already obsessed with Musical.ly, the video-sharing platform that Bytedance bought for around $1 billion last year and folded into its own video service, TikTok."
China’s King of Internet Fluff Wants to Conquer the World | NYT

Twitter’s rumored killing of the “like” button highlights its misplaced priorities | Vox

What's not to like? Also see Twitter Should Kill the Retweet | The Atlantic and On Social Media, No Answers for Hate | NYT
"To be fair to Twitter, it has made changes designed to weed out hate speech. Its most sweeping action against bad actors on the site, an algorithmic change designed to remove them from public feeds, caused so much outrage from conservatives that Dorsey was not only pressured into to undoing the change but also had to testify before Congress in a bizarre day of political grandstanding. Yet because Twitter’s overall record has been one of inconsistency and waffling, it’s received little credit for the changes it has made.

All of this has impacted the way Twitter users reacted to the news about the potential removal of the “like” button. In that context, the idea of Twitter responding to the many problems plaguing it at the moment by removing the “like” — one of the few consistently positive forms of interaction on the site — might be the most bizarre example yet of Twitter zigging when its users are begging for a giant zag."
Twitter’s rumored killing of the “like” button highlights its misplaced priorities | Vox

Monday, October 29, 2018

IBM’s Old Playbook | Stratechery

I'm surprised IBM's stock is only down ~3% as I type this -- from a timely Stratechery reality check:
"The best thing going for this strategy is its pragmatism: IBM gave up its potential to compete in the public cloud a decade ago, faked it for the last five years, and now is finally admitting its best option is to build on top of everyone else’s clouds. That, though, gets at the strategy’s weakness: it seems more attuned to IBM’s needs than potential customers. After all, if an enterprise is concerned about lock-in, is IBM really a better option? And if the answer is that “Red Hat is open”, at what point do increasingly sophisticated businesses build it themselves?

The problem for IBM is that they are not building solutions for clueless IT departments bewildered by a dizzying array of open technologies: instead they are building on top of three cloud providers, one of which (Microsoft) is specializing in precisely the sort of hybrid solutions that IBM is targeting. The difference is that because Microsoft has actually spent the money on infrastructure their ability to extract money from the value chain is correspondingly higher; IBM has to pay rent"
IBM’s Old Playbook | Stratechery

This Is How We Radicalized The World | BuzzFeed News

Also see Social Media Is a Weapon of War. How We Use It Is Up to Us | Motherboard
"The way the world is using their phones is almost completely dominated by a few Silicon Valley companies. The abuse that is happening is due to their inability to manage that responsibility. All of this has become so normalized in the three years since it first began to manifest that we just assume now that platforms like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Twitter will exacerbate political and social instability. We expect they will be abused by ultranationalist trolls. We know they will be exploited by data firms. We wait for them to help launch the careers of populist leaders.

To be sure, populism, nationalism, and information warfare existed long before the internet. The arc of history doesn’t always bend toward what I think of as progress. Societies regress. The difference now is that all of this is being hosted almost entirely by a handful of corporations. Why is an American company like Facebook placing ads in newspapers in countries like India, Italy, Mexico, and Brazil, explaining to local internet users how to look out for abuse and misinformation? Because our lives, societies, and governments have been tied to invisible feedback loops, online and off. And there’s no clear way to untangle ourselves.

The worst part of all of this is that, in retrospect, there’s no real big secret about how we got here."
This Is How We Radicalized The World | BuzzFeed News

Clean energy is catching up to natural gas | Vox

From an extensive and encouraging clean energy market dynamics reality check
"The cost of natural gas power is tethered to the commodity price of natural gas, which is inherently volatile. The price of controllable, storable renewable energy is tethered only to technology costs, which are going down, down, down. Recent forecasts suggest that it may be cheaper to build new renewables+storage than to continue operating existing natural gas plants by 2035.
That means natural gas plants built today could be rendered uncompetitive well before their rated lifespan. They could become “stranded assets,” saddling utility ratepayers and investors with the costs of premature decommissioning."
Clean energy is catching up to natural gas | Vox

IBM to Buy Red Hat, the Top Linux Distributor, for $34 Billion | NYT

I'm guessing IBM's stock price isn't going up today; also see IBM Buying Open Source Specialist Red Hat for $34 Billion (Wired)
"The IBM cloud strategy is to supply both hardware and software for companies to build their own private clouds, and it also has a third-party public cloud offering.

IBM, analysts say, cannot really compete broadly with so-called hyperscale cloud companies — Amazon, Microsoft and Google — which tap their deep coffers to spend many billions of dollars a year to build more giant data centers.

But IBM and Red Hat say they are well placed to be leaders in helping corporations make the transition to cloud computing without getting locked into the technology of an internet giant."
IBM to Buy Red Hat, the Top Linux Distributor, for $34 Billion | NYT

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bytedance Is Said to Secure Funding at Record $75 Billion Value | Bloomberg

Funding secured; future tbd (later in the article: "Bytedance’s biggest potential risk may be China’s notoriously sensitive censors.")
"Six-year-old Bytedance, owner of news aggregator Toutiao and video sensation Tik Tok, has surpassed Uber Technologies Inc. to become the world’s most valuable startup, according to CB Insights, which values Uber at $72 billion. Having become a major player in China’s internet scene, it’s now planning to use its influx of cash to take on Western rivals. Its biggest overseas hit is a video service called Douyin -- known as Tik Tok beyond China -- that’s siphoning attention from the likes of Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Facebook Inc.
Bytedance is said to have earned $2.5 billion in revenue last year and had initially targeted 50 billion yuan ($7.2 billion) for 2018, but has yet to turn a profit. It started life as a producer of apps for sharing crass jokes before moving to its signature news aggregation service Jinri Toutiao, which means “Today’s Headlines.” It then spent years building up its user base and perfecting its recommendation systems. Toutiao’s now a hit among users who spend almost as much time on Toutiao as they do on WeChat, the Tencent super-app that acts as phone, social media and digital wallet for over a billion users."
Bytedance Is Said to Secure Funding at Record $75 Billion Value | Bloomberg

Can’t Get Enough Fox News? ‘Superfans’ Can Pay $65 a Year for More | NYT

Might be more profitable to go with a VHS option...
"In a first-of-its-kind test for the cable news market, Fox News said on Thursday that its stand-alone streaming service will debut next month, with subscribers paying about $65 a year.

The product, called Fox Nation and set to become available on Nov. 27, is a bid to bring the channel’s programming into the digital realm that has increasingly lured audiences away from traditional TV.

Whether Fox News devotees come along is an open question. The median age in the Fox News audience is roughly 65, according to Nielsen, a demographic that is more likely than younger viewers to stick with meat-and-potatoes cable and satellite packages."
Can’t Get Enough Fox News? ‘Superfans’ Can Pay $65 a Year for More | NYT

Christie’s sells its first AI portrait for $432,500, beating estimates of $10,000 | The Verge

The art of open source AI
"The artwork was created by a collective named Obvious. The three members of Obvious, a trio of 25-year-old French students, used a type of machine learning algorithm known as a GAN (generative adversarial network) to create the picture. The network was trained on a dataset of historical portraits, and then it tried to create one of its own. Obvious printed the image, framed it, and signed it with part of the GAN’s algorithm.
However, as The Verge reported earlier this week, the Belamy print has been the subject of controversy within the AI art world. Obvious admitted to using code from another AI artist, 19-year-old Robbie Barrat, to create the print. It’s not clear how much was borrowed, but experts say the amount was probably substantial. It’s also not clear if Barrat can make a claim for ownership of the artwork as his code was shared under an open-source license."
Christie’s sells its first AI portrait for $432,500, beating estimates of $10,000 | The Verge

The Amazon Selling Machine | The Atlantic

Just getting started...
"On Thursday, Amazon reported that the category of its business devoted to advertising and “sales related to our other service offerings” made nearly $2.5 billion in net sales in just the third quarter of 2018. In the third quarter of 2017, it made less than half that, $1.12 billion. A September report from eMarketer estimated that Amazon is now the number three digital-ad seller in the country, behind Facebook and Google. Brands will spend $4.61 billion advertising on the Amazon platform this year, the report estimated. Mike Olson, an analyst with PiperJaffray, anticipates that Amazon advertising revenue will reach $8 billion this year, a number that will double to $16 billion by 2020, and that will soon overtake in profitability Amazon’s big moneymaker, Amazon Web Services, which sells cloud-computing services.
Amazon is catnip to advertisers for the simple reason that it is already an integral part of the way we buy. About half of online shoppers start their product searches on Amazon. But the company also owns Whole Foods, Twitch, Zappos, Audible, and IMDb, and sells TVs, tablets, Kindles, Echos—what Helen Lin, the chief digital officer at Publicis Media, calls “this whole canvas of properties that allow brands to go broader.”"
The Amazon Selling Machine | The Atlantic