Friday, January 18, 2019

Twitter CEO dodges question about banning Trump if he called for murder | CNET

A busy day ahead for the Twitter PR department...
"But what if Trump tweeted that his followers should murder a journalist? Would that be enough to get him barred?

"That would be a violent threat. We'd definitely ... You know we're in constant communication with all governments around the world. So we'd certainly talk about it," Dorsey said in a lengthy Q&A with The Huffington Post.

When pressed again about the question, the tech mogul said, "I'm not going to talk about the particulars.""
Twitter CEO dodges question about banning Trump if he called for murder | CNET

Google buys $40 million worth of smartwatch tech from Fossil Group | Ars Technica

A timely investment; see this Fossil Group post for more details
"All of Fossil's digital-faced smartwatches run on Google's Wear OS, so the two companies have already worked together for quite some time. But Fossil is one of many companies to develop "hybrid" smartwatches, most of which have analog faces and resemble traditional timepieces in most aesthetic ways.

However, they still have the internal tech necessary to track daily activity and sleep, as well as deliver smartphone alerts through vibrations, custom watch-hand movements, and other subtle techniques. These are features that Misfit devices already had when Fossil purchased the company. Some Misfit smartwatches and trackers even used side buttons to control smartwatch functions, like taking a photo with the phone's camera or pausing music playback. While hybrid smartwatches don't have touchscreen interfaces, run apps, or store music like Wear OS devices can, they excel in longevity by having battery lives that last months to years.

It's possible that Google wants to look into the "hybrid" side of smartwatches. Google, strangely, hasn't made its own Pixel smartwatch yet, so the company may want to see if and how it can incorporate some of Fossil's technology into its next Google-made wearables."
Google buys $40 million worth of smartwatch tech from Fossil Group | Ars Technica

Microsoft’s Leap Into Housing Illuminates Government’s Retreat | NYT

Yet another reminder that elections have consequences...
"Microsoft’s announcement is welcome news in the Seattle region, where housing costs have risen faster lately than in any other part of the country. But the fact that a tech company has to step in to help ensure the development of affordable housing points to a long-building reality nationwide: The federal government has largely retreated from this role.

The government spent about three times as much on housing programs in the 1970s as it does today, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In the years since, the government has gotten out of the business of building public housing. And capital funds to repair the remaining public housing stock have been cut in half over the last 15 years.

Over this time, federal resources have increasingly shifted away from subsidizing the construction of affordable housing to subsidizing renters who find housing in the private market. And now most new below-market-rate housing is built not by public agencies, but by nonprofit developers leveraging tax credits. The value of those credits has declined recently as well, as a result of changes in the tax bill passed in 2017."
Microsoft’s Leap Into Housing Illuminates Government’s Retreat | NYT

The shutdown is breaking government websites, one by one | Washington Post

Check the full article for additional consequences of letting security certificates expire
"Various online pages run by the White House, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Archives and the Department of Agriculture appear to be affected by the latest round of expirations, Netcraft said.

The report follows revelations last week that Web pages run by NASA, the Justice Department, the federal judiciary and others have been affected by a lapse in security certification. The actual number of websites affected could be much higher than 130, said Paul Mutton, a Netcraft security consultant, as some certificates may have covered multiple pages under the same agency.

The expired certificates mean that most modern Web browsers, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, will refuse to display the pages on request — instead showing a warning message that suggests the sites may have been compromised by hackers.

In reality, nothing has happened. But security practitioners say that in another sense, that is precisely the problem."
The shutdown is breaking government websites, one by one | Washington Post

‘Why I Still Have Faith in Facebook’ | Time

A Facebook regulation reality check by Donald Graham; also see Roger McNamee's I Mentored Mark Zuckerberg. I Loved Facebook. But I Can't Stay Silent About What's Happening. | Time and "Zucked" book takes aim at Facebook | Axios
"Facebook has made plenty of mistakes since its inception. As was true at the Washington Post in 1981, it has to set about fixing them in the only possible way: accept the responsibility–all of it. Return to your basic mission and do it right. Provide a great service for people; protect every aspect of your users’ privacy; be honest about what went wrong; and be clear (with governments but above all with users) about what you are doing to fix the problems.

I admire Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and the people I knew at Facebook more than I can tell you. I’m not an insider any more since leaving the company’s board in 2015, but I can see on my Facebook page the extent of their efforts to fix what has been wrong. I would bet on them and would guess that their own efforts will be more important than those of any government or regulatory body. Regulation will slow technology companies down rather than change them as their critics hope. The beneficiaries will be their Chinese competitors–not exactly paragons of respect for your privacy. It is hard to see what form of regulation can control speech on Facebook but not control TIME’s–or yours."
‘Why I Still Have Faith in Facebook’ | Time

O.K., Google: How Much Money Have I Made for You Today? | NYT

For more on “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” Shoshana Zuboff's new book, see Thieves of Experience: How Google and Facebook Corrupted Capitalism | LARB (Nicholas Carr), 'We Are No Longer The Customers': Inside 'The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism' | On Point and How Tech Companies Manipulate Our Personal Data | NYT
"Google comes in for plenty of criticism from Zuboff, but she is equally scathing about Facebook. (She calls Sheryl Sandberg, who worked at Google before becoming Facebook’s chief operating officer, “the ‘Typhoid Mary’ of surveillance capitalism.”) Facebook has learned how to manipulate empathy and attachment in order to increase engagement and make billions. In a document sent to advertisers in Australia and New Zealand, Facebook bragged of its ability to discern exactly when a young person could use a “confidence boost.” And then there are the Facebook scandals involving Cambridge Analytica and the Kremlin during the 2016 election, with their deployment of personality tests and viral memes; it’s all fun and games until the host of “The Apprentice” becomes president.

Surveillance capitalists like to depict themselves as more socially enlightened than their industrial predecessors, but in Zuboff’s reckoning they ask for a lot while giving relatively little back. Their companies operate at “hyperscale”: Despite their enormous market capitalization, Google and Facebook each employ far fewer workers than General Motors once did, even during the depths of the Great Depression. Citing the economic historian Karl Polanyi, Zuboff shows how postwar corporations were expected to offer some sort of communal reciprocity — hiring workers and hiking wages, sharing prosperity rather than hoarding it. The ascendancy of neoliberalism in the 1970s, she says, laid the groundwork for Silicon Valley to promote an extreme form of entrepreneurial capitalism, unencumbered by any substantive responsibility to the communities it purports to serve."
O.K., Google: How Much Money Have I Made for You Today? | NYT

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star, to school House Democrats on Twitter use | USA Today

On a related note, see Fox News Debuts Premium Channel For 24-Hour Coverage Of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez | The Onion [satire]
"The House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee is hosting a session Thursday morning with Ocasio-Cortez of New York (@AOC – 2.42 million followers) and Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut (@jahimes – 76,500 followers) "on the most effective ways to engage constituents on Twitter and the importance of digital storytelling."

The lesson comes as a generational divide between members of Congress and the tech platforms they oversee has been on full display.
[...]
The pair will be joined by representatives from Twitter and the House Administration Committee for the briefing.

House Democrats may not be the only group getting a Twitter lesson. Nicholas Pacilio, a spokesman for Twitter, said the platform conducts training on both sides regularly, "but they’re way more frequent at the beginning of every new Congress.""
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star, to school House Democrats on Twitter use | USA Today

Forget to take your medication? A new digital pill will alert you — and your doctor. | Washington Post

Later in the article: "“The health industry is behind the curve when it comes to cybersecurity,” Jason Christopher, chief technology officer at the cybersecurity company Axio, told Forbes last year. “Forget health record databases — how do you patch a digital pill?”"
"To combat patients’ fibbing and forgetfulness, Greeno has begun deploying a new tool in recent months: a pill embedded with a tiny, ingestible sensor. The sensor transmits data from inside the patient’s body to a wearable patch placed on their abdomen, which then connects to a mobile app that patients and doctors can access.

That data offers a new window into patients’ health and behavior, Greeno said, allowing doctors to remotely monitor someone’s heart rate, activity level and sleep cycle. The sensor, which is about the size of a grain of sand and dissolves in the gastrointestinal tract, also tells doctors when a patient has ingested their medication. The information is compiled in a database that doctors can access from their devices."
Forget to take your medication? A new digital pill will alert you — and your doctor. | Washington Post

Alexa gets a professional 'newscaster' voice for reading the day's news | TechCrunch

See this Amazon post for more details and some examples
"Amazon already gave Alexa the ability to whisper, and now it’s rolling out another way to change the assistant’s speaking style — it’s giving Alexa a “newscaster” voice. Starting today, when U.S. customers ask Alexa “what’s the latest?” to hear the day’s news, Alexa will respond using a voice that’s similar to how a professional newscaster delivers news.

The voice knows which words should be emphasized for a more realistic delivery of the news, explains Amazon.

To achieve this new voice, Amazon took advantage of recent developments it made with Neural TTS technology, or NTTS. This technology delivers a more natural-sounding voice, and allows Alexa to adapt her speaking style based on the context of your request. For the newscaster voice, NTTS produced speech with better intonation that emphasizes the right words in a sentence, Amazon says."
Alexa gets a professional 'newscaster' voice for reading the day's news | TechCrunch

The New York Times politics editor is building trust by tweeting context around political stories | NiemanLab

All the context that's fit to tweet
"You can guess the kinds of complaints The New York Times gets about its political coverage. It’s too biased, too liberal. Too much coverage of the horse race, not enough coverage of the issues. Too much “But her emails!” in 2016 and not enough Trump/Russia. Too much “Racists: They’re just like us.”

With a new personal Twitter project, Patrick Healy — the Times’ politics editor and previously a reporter covering the 2004, 2008, and 2016 campaigns — is trying to address some of those concerns by giving people a view into the paper’s decision-making process.

Healy “wanted to start engaging with readers about our intentions behind our stories,” he told me, in the hopes that more transparency — about why stories are chosen, why they’re framed a certain way, and what kinds of conversations go on between reporters and editors behind the scenes — can shore up trust in the Times’ motives."
The New York Times politics editor is building trust by tweeting context around political stories | NiemanLab

Facebook Deletes Pages That Were Secretly Controlled by a Russian Propaganda Network | Gizmodo

See Removing Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior from Russia | Facebook Newsroom for more details
"Facebook has deleted hundreds of pages linked to the Kremlin-backed propaganda network known as Sputnik. The pages, allegedly operated by Sputnik employees, were made to look like they were coming from outside of Russia. The Facebook pages helped spread propaganda about NATO and European politics, among many other topics.

The announcement by Facebook came early this morning and according to the company the owners of the pages “primarily represented themselves as independent news” distributors. In fact, the pages were operated by employees of Sputnik, a propaganda agency of the Kremlin very similar to Russia’s RT. And just like RT, Sputnik is focused on reaching a non-Russian audience, whether that’s people in the United States or citizens of European countries that just so happen to have elections coming up this year."
Facebook Deletes Pages That Were Secretly Controlled by a Russian Propaganda Network | Gizmodo

You Deserve Privacy Online. Here’s How You Could Actually Get It | Time

Final paragraphs from a Tim Cook op-ed; also see Tim Cook calls on FTC to let consumers track and delete their personal data | The Verge
"Meaningful, comprehensive federal privacy legislation should not only aim to put consumers in control of their data, it should also shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes. Some state laws are looking to accomplish just that, but right now there is no federal standard protecting Americans from these practices. That’s why we believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all.

As this debate kicks off, there will be plenty of proposals and competing interests for policymakers to consider. We cannot lose sight of the most important constituency: individuals trying to win back their right to privacy. Technology has the potential to keep changing the world for the better, but it will never achieve that potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it."
You Deserve Privacy Online. Here’s How You Could Actually Get It | Time

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Happy 18th birthday, Wikipedia. Let’s celebrate the Internet’s good grown-up. | Washington Post

Also see For Wikipedia’s birthday, we ask that you give the gift of a citation through #1Lib1Ref | Wikimedia News
"Wikipedia has grown enormously since its inception: It now boasts 5.7 million articles in English and pulled in 92 billion page views last year.

The site has also undergone a major reputation change. If you ask Siri, Alexa or Google Home a general-knowledge question, it will likely pull the response from Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia has been cited in more than 400 judicial opinions, according to a 2010 paper in the Yale Journal of Law & Technology. Many professors are ditching the traditional writing assignment and instead asking students to expand or create a Wikipedia article on the topic. And YouTube Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki announced a plan last March to pair misleading conspiracy videos with links to corresponding articles from Wikipedia. Facebook has also released a feature using Wikipedia’s content to provide users more information about the publication source for articles in their feed.

Wikipedia’s rise is driven by a crucial difference in values that separates it from its peers in the top 10 websites: On Wikipedia, truth trumps self-expression."
Happy 18th birthday, Wikipedia. Let’s celebrate the Internet’s good grown-up. | Washington Post

Veterans of the News Business Are Now Fighting Fakes | NYT

See this page for NewsGuard details
"A small start-up, NewsGuard, says it may have a solution. The effort is led by a pair of veteran news executives — Steven Brill, an author and the founder of the magazine The American Lawyer, and Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

The company has raised $6 million and has signed its first client, Microsoft, it planned to announce on Wednesday.

NewsGuard has created the equivalent of nutrition labels for news organizations, rating more than 2,000 news and information sites with tags: red for unreliable, green for trustworthy. A team of roughly 50 journalists and analysts is making the evaluations."
Veterans of the News Business Are Now Fighting Fakes | NYT

Why Facebook is giving $300 million for local journalism | Washington Post

For more details, see Facebook is committing $300 million to support news, with an emphasis on local | NiemanLab
"Among the funded initiatives are: a $20 million investment in a program to help local outlets design and execute subscription and membership models; a $5 million endowment to create a grant program with the Pulitzer Center for local multimedia reporting projects; and a $2 million investment in Report for America, an initiative to recruit and fund journalists to cover under-covered topics in local newsrooms across the country.

Facebook’s financial commitment comes a year after Google pledged the same dollar amount, over the same timeline, to combat misinformation and support journalism, with a focus on boosting subscriptions to local news outlets. The pair’s investments are significant because of the tech giants' dominance in the market for online advertising, which has exacerbated the decline of American newsrooms. Together, the two companies command about 58 percent of the digital ad market, steering massive amounts of ad dollars to their platforms."
Why Facebook is giving $300 million for local journalism | Washington Post

Ford and Volkswagen are about to make cars for each other | Washington Post

Tangentially (from November 2018), see Data could be what Ford sells next as it looks for new revenue | Detroit Free Press
"Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen announced a worldwide partnership on Tuesday that’s aimed at saving the two companies millions on development of pickup trucks, vans and transit vehicles, with an eye toward working together in the future on self-driving and electric cars.

Under the alliance, each company will design and produce cars for the other. In Europe, Volkswagen will begin to sell Ford-produced medium pickups and commercial vans by 2022, and Volkswagen will develop a city-oriented van for Ford that would arrive by 2023. Each company would enjoy the flexibility to brand and market the new vehicles according to its own strategies, executives said."
Ford and Volkswagen are about to make cars for each other | Washington Post

Watson Workspace End of Marketing Announcement FAQs | IBM

I assume this effectively means the end of IBM Collaboration Solutions (as anything but a reseller), with the Lotus products sold to HCL and Watson Workspace terminated
"Q:  What is being announced?

A:  IBM has announced the end of marketing for the Watson Workspace service .  IBM also anticipates ending the Watson Workspace service on 2/28/19.  All users of Watson Workspace, both the paid and free versions, should make arrangements for alternate means of communication and save any conversations and content from the service that they wish to keep.  A tool to assist in doing so is available here.

Q: Why did IBM make this decision?

A: While there is no question that Watson Workspace is innovative and agile, we haven’t seen it sufficiently resonate with clients or obtain traction in the marketplace. Despite our best efforts and enthusiasm for these offerings, our decision to withdraw aligns to IBM’s investment strategy focused on delivering solutions that deliver measurable value to our customers and business partners."
Watson Workspace End of Marketing Announcement FAQs | IBM

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Giant Food Stores will place robotic assistants at 172 locations, company says | Washington Post

Check the full article for a video
"The robots move around the store unassisted, scanning the floors for spills and trip hazards, which are reported to human workers, the company said. Once a spill is located, the machine — which makes beeping noises as it moves — reports it by verbally communicating to human employees after paging them.

Marty says, “caution, hazard detected,” to alert customers, but the machine also sends an announcement through a store’s public address system, alerting associates.

In addition to scanning shelves for items that are out of stock, Marty also does price checks, looking for discrepancies between the shelf and the store’s scanning system, Patrick Maturo, manager of store optimization at Ahold USA, told PennLive."
Giant Food Stores will place robotic assistants at 172 locations, company says | Washington Post

Monday, January 14, 2019

AWS, MongoDB, and the Economic Realities of Open Source | Stratechery

From a timely open source DBMS reality check
"This leaves MongoDB Inc. not unlike the record companies after the advent of downloads: what they sold was not software but rather the tools that made that software usable, but those tools are increasingly obsolete as computing moves to the cloud. And now AWS is selling what enterprises really want.

Worse, because AWS doesn’t have access to MongoDB (it is only matching the API) it only supports MongoDB 3.6; the current version is 4.0.5. It is possible that if AWS’ service becomes popular that MongoDB will effectively stagnate: sure, you can get a better version from MongoDB Inc., but then you have to manage it yourself or go the effort to tie in all of your AWS services with MongoDB’s offering (then again, the potential for differentiation may be MongoDB’s salvation, and an important lesson for other companies)."
AWS, MongoDB, and the Economic Realities of Open Source | Stratechery

Electric Vehicles Are in the Spotlight at Detroit’s 2019 Auto Show | NYT

From an EV market dynamics snapshot; on a related note, Cadillac Takes Aim at Tesla With SUV Priced Below Model X | Bloomberg
"Manufacturers are developing so many electrified models primarily to compete in China and Europe, where government subsidies and stringent environmental laws are spurring sales of zero-emission vehicles, said Mark Wakefield, a managing director at AlixPartners, a consulting firm. The sales pace is less certain in the United States, in part because gasoline remains cheap and the Trump administration has pulled back on emissions regulations.
“In the U.S., you can’t assume you’re going to be selling 100,000 of one model,” Mr. Wakefield said. “You don’t want to dedicate an entire factory to E.V.s” — as Tesla has done.
Last year, 361,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were sold in the United States, just 2 percent of car purchases, according to estimates by InsideEVs.com. Tesla, which has struggled with production and delivery problems, accounted for half of those sales."
Electric Vehicles Are in the Spotlight at Detroit’s 2019 Auto Show | NYT

Friday, January 11, 2019

Apple reportedly planning three iPhones for 2019, one with new triple camera system | The Verge

Another huge WSJ scoop: Apple will release new phones this year, and they may have new features...
"Apple is reportedly planning to release three new iPhones later this year. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple will introduce a successor to the iPhone XR with an LCD display, alongside two other handsets. The high-end 2019 iPhone. presumably the largest of the three, is also rumored to include a triple camera system at the rear, in an effort that’s clearly designed to compete with the latest crop of Android handsets that include multiple cameras.

Renders of a triple camera iPhone leaked last week, with OnLeaks claiming Apple will introduce such a system later this year. It’s not clear what an additional camera at the rear of an iPhone will enable, but the rumors have emerged after reports that Sony is boosting its 3D camera output for chips that will power rear-facing 3D cameras on smartphones in 2019."
Apple reportedly planning three iPhones for 2019, one with new triple camera system | The Verge

Twitter Users in China Face Detention and Threats in New Beijing Crackdown | NYT

Also probably not good for one's social credit rating
"While it remains off limits for people in China, official media outlets like the Communist Party-controlled People’s Daily newspaper and the Xinhua news agency have used Twitter to shape perceptions of the country in the rest of the world.

“On the one hand, state media takes advantage of the full features of these platforms to reach millions of people,” said Sarah Cook, a senior analyst for East Asia at Freedom House, a pro-democracy research group based in the United States. “On the other hand, ordinary Chinese are risking interrogation and jail for using these same platforms to communicate with each other and the outside world.”"
Twitter Users in China Face Detention and Threats in New Beijing Crackdown | NYT

AT&T says it’ll stop selling your location data, amid calls for a federal investigation | Washington Post

T-Mobile and Verizon are also "winding down" similar services; tangentially, see Your Old Tweets Give Away More Location Data Than You Think | Wired
"AT&T said Thursday it will stop selling its customers' location data to third-party service providers after a report this week said the information was winding up in the wrong hands.

The announcement follows sharp demands by federal lawmakers for an investigation into the alleged misuse of data, which came to light when Motherboard revealed a complex chain of unauthorized information-sharing that ended with a bounty hunter successfully tracking down a reporter’s device."
AT&T says it’ll stop selling your location data, amid calls for a federal investigation | Washington Post

Trump vs. Ocasio-Cortez: Who Will Win the Internet? | NYT

Interesting "Extremely Online" times... Also see Beware of livestreaming politicians | Axios
"It would be a mistake to dismiss their practices as just noise. Because, as Mr. Warzel noted correctly, they are controlling the narrative by doing this so effectively. “It’s agenda-setting,” he wrote, whether we’re talking about the wall (Mr. Trump) or taxing the rich (Ms. Ocasio-Cortez). “Constant content creation forces your opponent to respond to you.” It means you are creating the news.

While there is a danger in that, it’s probably the way it’s going to be from here on out, and those who can do it well are more likely to get the attention in this very dissonant world."
Trump vs. Ocasio-Cortez: Who Will Win the Internet? | NYT

Thursday, January 10, 2019

People older than 65 share the most fake news, a new study finds | The Verge

See Less than you think: Prevalence and predictors of fake news dissemination on Facebook | Science Advances for details; also see The kids are alright. Grandpa’s the problem. | Jeff Jarvis
"Across all age categories, sharing fake news was a relatively rare category. Only 8.5 percent of users in the study shared at least one link from a fake news site. Users who identified as conservative were more likely than users who identified as liberal to share fake news: 18 percent of Republicans shared links to fake news sites, compared to less than 4 percent of Democrats. The researchers attributed this finding largely to studies showing that in 2016, fake news overwhelmingly served to promote Trump’s candidacy.

But older users skewed the findings: 11 percent of users older than 65 shared a hoax, while just 3 percent of users 18 to 29 did. Facebook users ages 65 and older shared more than twice as many fake news articles than the next-oldest age group of 45 to 65, and nearly seven times as many fake news articles as the youngest age group (18 to 29)."
People older than 65 share the most fake news, a new study finds | The Verge

Google lets users see their related search history with new card | Search Engine Land

For more details: Pick up where you left off on Search | The Keyword
"Google is now rolling out a new feature in search named “your related activity.” This feature lets signed in Google users pick up on previous searches they’ve done related to the query they just added. So if they searched for cooking tips, then got pulled away for something and then came back later and did a related search, Google may show you this related activity card.

What it does. Google will show you links to pages you’ve visited in the past through your search history. In addition, Google will show you the searches that led you to those pages. You can also mark a page to read or reference later. To do so, touch and hold the link to quickly add items on your activity card to a collection. Google said, “you can access your collections by tapping the menu on the top left of the Search page (on mobile web), or through the bottom bar of the Google app.”"
Google lets users see their related search history with new card | Search Engine Land

CES 2019: It’s the Year of Virtual Assistants and 5G | NYT

Check the full article for CES highlights; also see Ignore 5G, for Now | Wired
"Car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW showed off concepts of autonomous vehicles powered by artificial intelligence and 5G wireless connections. But consumers won’t be able to buy self-driving vehicles from a dealership anytime soon, in part because companies still need much more data on how people drive cars. Smarter cars with features like built-in voice assistants to help people use maps, play music or get a sports update without taking their eyes off the road are available now, however.

If the economy does cool off, sales of cutting-edge gadgets will drop. Fast. But that didn’t faze people here. None of the CES attendees I spoke to expressed concern.

Matt Strauss, who oversees Comcast’s Xfinity internet and cable service, was especially bullish about the year ahead. He said just about everything announced at CES required an internet connection, so that’s the last thing that people would cut off.

“It’s become like oxygen,” he said."
CES 2019: It’s the Year of Virtual Assistants and 5G | NYT

Missing the (Bamboo) Forest for the (Apple) Trees | Platformonomics

Final paragraphs from a timely Charles Fitzgerald reality check; on a related note, see China’s slowdown is the biggest threat to world economy | Washington Post
"Tech needs to set aside the intoxicating dream of selling just one product to each and every person in China and parse the new reality. The Great Firewall of China model of parallel ecosystems may expand to other domains, as today’s deeply intertwined global economy starts to disentangle. Supply chains will have to factor in tariffs and national security concerns. Cross-border flows of capital and acquisitions will flow less freely. Non-tariff barriers and even further technology executive hostage taking may escalate. The prospects for China’s private tech titans (i.e. BAT) are in flux as they find themselves with a Party invitation they can’t refuse.

I don’t believe Mr. Xi’s China’s model will prevail. Despotism undermines itself and it is hard to think of a worse way to build an advanced economy than looking to Mao for guidance. And the Chinese people have seen and tasted too much of the rest of the world to go along with Xi. But the happy path for China’s rise over the last two decades is over and we need to recognize that. It will be bumpy, and not just for Apple."
Missing the (Bamboo) Forest for the (Apple) Trees | Platformonomics

Paul Manafort Is Terrible With Technology | Wired

See the full article for other Manafort tech challenges. Final paragraph: "Of course, Manafort could have avoided this whole mess by not committing crimes in the first place. However, he also really struggled to cover them up."
"In this redacting fail, Manafort’s lawyers revealed that Mueller alleges the former Trump campaign chair shared polling data “related to the 2016 presidential campaign” with Konstantin Kilimnik, a political consultant the FBI says is connected to Russian intelligence. The “hidden” paragraphs also indicate that the government believes Manafort initially lied to the special counsel and investigators about discussing a Ukraine peace plan with Kilimnik and meeting with him in Spain.

At this point, Manafort’s complicated legal battle with Mueller’s office has dragged on for over a year. But this latest wrinkle is evidence of a problem that has plagued the former lobbyist even longer than that: He appears to be very bad at using technology, at least according to evidence that has been made public in court and in leaked documents."
Paul Manafort Is Terrible With Technology | Wired

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Apple's wearables revenue is already exceeding peak iPod sales, Tim Cook says | CNBC

Also see Tim Cook teases new Apple services: Our 'greatest contribution' will be 'about health' | CNBC and The WSJ calling the iPhone XR a failure that 'can't sell' is ludicrously mistaken | AppleInsider
"Revenues for Apple's wearable products, particularly the Apple Watch and AirPods wireless headphones, have exceeded the iPod's revenues when the music player was "at its peak," Apple CEO Tim Cook said Tuesday.

"On a trailing basis, ... the revenue for wearables is already 50 percent more than iPod was at its peak," Cook told CNBC in an interview with "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer.

He added that the Watch and the AirPods have each generated between four and six times more in sales than the iPod had generated in the same amount of time since its launch."
Apple's wearables revenue is already exceeding peak iPod sales, Tim Cook says | CNBC

Self-rolling suitcases and roll-up TVs: CES 2019’s craziest and coolest gadgets | Washington Post

I had not realized my life was incomplete without a roll-up TV...
"Hello future, you are weird.

At least it is here at CES 2019, the tech industry’s biggest annual conference. It’s where companies big and small come to launch gadgets and test new ideas.

Not all of them make it to stores. But there’s an eternal optimism that technology can solve, well, almost any problem — even ones you never knew you had. There are suitcases that push themselves and automatic toilets for dogs.

The big news this year is that artificial intelligence is working its way into all sorts of places, from your bedroom to the concierge desk. Amazon’s Alexa is battling with Google Assistant to control our fans, faucets, clocks, you name it. Alexa is winning the race for more gadgets, though Google seems smarter — just ask it to be your interpreter."
Self-rolling suitcases and roll-up TVs: CES 2019’s craziest and coolest gadgets | Washington Post

Manafort filing reveals alleged campaign communications with Russian operative | CBS News

Moral of the story: if you're going to lie to federal investigators, it's prudent to first confirm your lawyers know how to properly use redaction tools in their preferred document editors; also see Paul Manafort's lawyers tried to redact a court filing but it didn't work. Oops. | Mashable and Paul Manafort’s Lawyers Appear to Accidentally Blow the Door Open on Collusion | Rolling Stone
"In their response on Tuesday, Manafort's attorneys inadvertently revealed that the special counsel alleges Manafort "lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign."
Manafort's attorneys argue in the filing that he had answered the special counsel's questions truthfully to the best of his ability, but that his work on Ukrainian political events and of the alleged information sharing with Kilimnik "simply were not at the forefront of Mr. Manafort's mind during the period at issue." His attorneys added that "it is not surprising at all that Mr. Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed.""
Manafort filing reveals alleged campaign communications with Russian operative | CBS News

I Gave a Bounty Hunter $300. Then He Located Our Phone | Motherboard

Summary: "T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are selling access to their customers’ location data, and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country."
"Whereas it’s common knowledge that law enforcement agencies can track phones with a warrant to service providers, IMSI catchers, or until recently via other companies that sell location data such as one called Securus, at least one company, called Microbilt, is selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries, ranging from car salesmen and property managers to bail bondsmen and bounty hunters, according to sources familiar with the company’s products and company documents obtained by Motherboard. Compounding that already highly questionable business practice, this spying capability is also being resold to others on the black market who are not licensed by the company to use it, including me, seemingly without Microbilt’s knowledge.

Motherboard’s investigation shows just how exposed mobile networks and the data they generate are, leaving them open to surveillance by ordinary citizens, stalkers, and criminals, and comes as media and policy makers are paying more attention than ever to how location and other sensitive data is collected and sold. The investigation also shows that a wide variety of companies can access cell phone location data, and that the information trickles down from cell phone providers to a wide array of smaller players, who don’t necessarily have the correct safeguards in place to protect that data."
I Gave a Bounty Hunter $300. Then He Located Our Phone | Motherboard

Mark Zuckerberg wants to talk about the future. We should probably listen. | Recode

For more details, see this MarkZ post
"There will be a lot of people who don’t care to hear from Zuckerberg right now. His company is at the center of virtually every major issue facing the internet today — from so-called fake news to hate speech to internet addiction. Facebook is the current poster child for digital privacy mishaps and creepy ad targeting.

People are pretty much fed up.

But I’d say that’s all the more reason that we should hear from Zuckerberg more regularly. As arguably the most powerful internet executive around — he controls a company with well over two billion monthly users for a single product — understanding how Zuckerberg views the future will be key to the rest of us preparing for it. If he has wonky ideas about the future of artificial intelligence, for example, it could be useful to know about those now, before Facebook implements them to everyone who has a smartphone."
Mark Zuckerberg wants to talk about the future. We should probably listen. | Recode

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Amazon's new ad strategy: Free samples based on what it knows about you | Axios

In other Amazon news, see Amazon is the most valuable public company in the world after passing Microsoft | CNBC
"Amazon is quietly piloting a program to let brands like Maybelline and Folgers pay to send free samples to consumers — all based on what the retail giant already knows they're likely to buy.

Why it matters: Turning free samples into new targeted ads plays to Amazon's strength as a trusted delivery service of everyday goods, something Americans already expect from the company. Amazon is betting the sample strategy is something its biggest competitors — Google and Facebook — can't match.

The big picture: Analysts see this as a big advantage for Amazon in its efforts to take on Google and Facebook's ad dominance. The tech giant has the purchasing data and logistics infrastructure to offer samples of actual products, which could be more effective than display ads on Facebook or search ads on Google for certain kinds of consumer packaged goods brands."
Amazon's new ad strategy: Free samples based on what it knows about you | Axios

WikiLeaks tells reporters 140 things not to say about Julian Assange | Reuters

Also see Irony Alert: Wikileaks Sends Reporters A List Of 140 Things Not To Say About Julian Assange; Tells Them Not To Publish | Techdirt
"The 5,000-word email included 140 statements that WikiLeaks said were false and defamatory, such as the assertion that Assange had ever been an “agent or officer of any intelligence service”.

WikiLeaks also said it was false and defamatory to suggest that Assange, 47, had ever been employed by the Russian government or that he is, or has ever been, close to the Russian state, the Kremlin or Putin.

Other items listed as false and defamatory included more personal claims including that Assange bleaches his hair, that he is a hacker, that he has ever neglected an animal or that he has poor personal hygiene."
WikiLeaks tells reporters 140 things not to say about Julian Assange | Reuters

Apple’s growing attraction to non-iPhone revenue in one chart | Recode

Diversify different
"
Services made up about 16 percent of Apple’s total revenue in the forth quarter of 2018. It made up less than 10 percent in Q4 2015. Services revenue is higher than iPad but lower than Mac sales. iPhone revenue is growing too, thanks to larger price tags, but those markups have contributed to stagnant unit sales — and further price increases could only make the situation worse.

Of course, the fortunes of many of Apple’s services — iCloud, Apple Music, Apple Pay — are still partially contingent on the success of the iPhone. So increasing services revenue isn’t a silver bullet, but it’s better than the alternative."
Apple’s growing attraction to non-iPhone revenue in one chart | Recode

Samsung warns of sharp sales and profit decline | The Verge

Also see Samsung Joins Apple in the Revenue Estimate Hurt Locker | Gizmodo
"The forecast has shocked investors and analysts, which CNBC notes were expecting 13.2 trillion won of operating profit from 62.8 trillion in revenue. Unusually, Samsung has issued a statement explaining its guidance; the company normally waits for the full earnings release before commenting on its performance in detail.

The two main factors in Samsung’s poor performance are identified as “lackluster demand in the memory business” and “intensifying competition in the smartphone business.” Memory shipments are said to have declined due to unforeseen inventory adjustments from Samsung’s data center customers, while the company says it spent more on smartphone marketing in the face of flat sales and strong seasonality. Results were also apparently affected by an unspecified “non-recurring expense.”"
Samsung warns of sharp sales and profit decline | The Verge

Oracle’s Ellison Reveals $1 Billion Stake in Tesla | Bloomberg

Because people who plan to live forever will need electric vehicles...
"Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison has emerged as the second-biggest individual investor in Tesla Inc. with a holding worth $1 billion in the electric carmaker.

His stake was confirmed in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The disclosure came after Ellison, a close friend of Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and a fellow larger-than-life technology titan, became a director in December."
Oracle’s Ellison Reveals $1 Billion Stake in Tesla | Bloomberg

Facebook is investigating the political pages and ads of another group backed by Reid Hoffman | Washington Post

I'm not condoning this activity, but where's the outrage over Brad Parscale's brazen use of voter suppression propaganda during the 2016 campaign?
"Some of News for Democracy’s pages inserted Democratic messages into the feeds of right-leaning voters, according to a review of Facebook’s ad archive. News for Democracy ran ads touting Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) on “The Holy Tribune,” a Facebook page targeted to evangelicals, the archive shows. Another page called “Sounds Like Tennessee” focused on local sports and news but also ran at least one ad attacking since-elected Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

“People start to trust the content emanating from the page, because it appeals to their interests, and once there is a certain degree of trust, you can start to pivot by slowly adding in kernels of disinformation or overly politicized information that lacks context,” said Benjamin T. Decker, research fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, who called such tactics an “intentional act of deception” that mimicked strategies of Russian operatives around the 2016 presidential election."
Facebook is investigating the political pages and ads of another group backed by Reid Hoffman | Washington Post

Bitcoin is Less Secure than Most People Think | Marginal Revolution

From a timely Bitcoin reality check; on a related note, see Blockchain’s Occam problem | McKinsey & Company
"It’s often said that Bitcoin creates security with math. That’s only partially true. The security behind avoiding the double spend attack is not cryptographic but economic, it’s really just the cost of coordinating to achieve a majority of the computational power. Satoshi assumed ‘one-CPU, one-vote’ which made it plausible that it would be costly to coordinate millions of miners. In the centralized ASIC world, coordination is much less costly. Consider, for example, that the top 4 mining pools today account for nearly 50% of the total computational power of the network. An attack would simply mean that these miners agree to mine slightly different blocks than they otherwise would.

Aside from the cost of coordination, a small group of large miners might not want to run a double spending attack because if Bitcoin is destroyed it will reduce the value of their capital investments in mining equipment (Budish analyzes several scenarios in this context). Call that the Too Big to Cheat argument. Sound familiar? The Too Big to Cheat argument, however, is a poor foundation for Bitcoin as a store of value because the more common it is to hold billions in Bitcoin the greater the value of an attack. Moreover, we are in especially dangerous territory today because bitcoin’s recent fall in price means that there is currently an overhang of computing power which has made some mining unprofitable, so miners may feel this a good time to get out."
Bitcoin is Less Secure than Most People Think | Marginal Revolution

Monday, January 07, 2019

Apple’s Errors | Stratechery

Final paragraphs:
"The good news for Apple is that, to the extent these errors really were predictable, there is nothing structurally different about the company’s competitive position today versus six months ago, when the current stock slide began.
  • The next iPhone hardware revision should sell better in China, simply by virtue of being new (and the implication of it being easy to switch away from iOS is that it’s easy to switch back).
  • Customers still prefer Apple’s flagship iPhones, no matter how expensive they are.
  • Headwinds like currency and battery replacement programs will go away, and phones, thanks to their centrality in people’s lives as well as the greater likelihood of harm, will always have a faster replacement cycle than PCs.
Meanwhile, the company’s Services business continues to grow, along with its installed base (including in China); the company is clearly putting more strategic emphasis in this area, effectively abandoning also-ran hardware products like HomePod and Apple TV to increase the reach of its services. I would expect significant announcements in this area through 2019.
That is not to say the company is finished with hardware: wearables are a huge area of growth, as both AirPods and Apple Watch are big successes, and it seems likely that an augmented reality product is coming in the next few years. Nothing will match the iPhone, but that’s ok; the sky is not falling, only the stock."
Apple’s Errors | Stratechery

Embracing Apple's Boring Future | The Atlantic

Final paragraph:
"One of the saving graces of blue-chip companies that sell toothpaste and cars and, now, smartphones, is that they provide something else, too: stability over time. Apple’s a part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a stock-market index that was built to track blue chips, those companies that are supposed to do well in good times or bad, over the long haul. Google and Facebook are not components of the Dow, but Apple and Microsoft (and Intel, IBM, and Cisco) are. As trade war looms and the stocks enter what looks like the end of the longest bull market in history, maybe the American economy—and the soul of its people—don’t really need another gizmo like the iPhone, around which their lives might be redesigned anew. Maybe they just need the lives they have, contorted though they’ve been by the smartphone, to enjoy responsible, long-term support and maintenance. The iPhone is here to stay. Imagine if Apple could make that state of affairs feel like a comfort, rather than a burden."
Embracing Apple's Boring Future | The Atlantic

Authors Guild Survey Shows Drastic 42 Percent Decline in Authors Earnings in Last Decade | The Authors Guild

Later in the post: "The only exception came among self-published authors, who saw book-related income almost double since 2013. Despite this uptick, self-published income levels remain 58 percent lower than traditionally published authors." and "Amazon controls approximately 85% of the self-published market and so most self-published authors have no options other than to accept Amazon’s non-negotiable terms."
"The respondents reported a median author income of $6,080, continuing a sharp decline over the last decade: $8,000 in 2014 and $10,500 in 2009 (per the Authors Guild’s 2015 Survey), down again from $12,850 in 2007, as reported in a joint Authors Guild/PEN survey.

Earnings from book income alone fell even more, declining 21 percent to $3,100 in 2017 from $3,900 in 2013 and just over 50 percent from 2009’s median book earnings of $6,250.

The survey showed a shift in book earnings to other writing-related activities, such as speaking engagements, book reviewing or teaching. Including those sources, respondents who identified themselves as full-time book authors still only earned a median income of $20,300, well below the federal poverty line for a family of three or more."
Authors Guild Survey Shows Drastic 42 Percent Decline in Authors Earnings in Last Decade | The Authors Guild

Apple is putting iTunes on Samsung TVs | The Verge

Something to watch; also see Five big questions about Apple putting iTunes on Samsung TVs | The Verge
"Samsung’s 2018 and 2019 range of televisions will be able to access and play your iTunes movie and TV show library, the company has announced. You’ll also be able to buy and rent content from iTunes directly from the TV. The content will be available through a dedicated app which will debut exclusively on Samsung’s TVs. The TVs will also include support for AirPlay 2, Apple’s wireless streaming standard.

The iTunes Movies and TV Shows app, which will be available in 100 countries on both Samsung’s 2019 TVs as well as its 2018 models (after a firmware update), marks the first time Apple has allowed third-party devices to access its video library outside of Windows PCs. It could also be a prelude to a video streaming service that Apple is currently rumored to be working on — which is tellingly also reported to be coming to 100 countries."
Apple is putting iTunes on Samsung TVs | The Verge

Tesla’s Life After Hell: 7 Charts Show Musk on Firmer Footing | Bloomberg

Check the full article for a Tesla reality check
"To start 2019, Tesla is turning out more than 4,700 Model 3s each week. The electric-car maker has emerged from its year of existential uncertainty as one of the most valuable car companies in the world, with a stock value greater than Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., BMW AG and, depending on the day of the week, Daimler AG. This may end up helping the company reduce its debt obligations and limit future borrowing costs. The hot mess that was last year has, somewhat surprisingly, forged Tesla into a company on more solid footing for the year ahead.

As more cars roll out, money is flowing in. The Model 3 is now  generating more revenue than any other sedan in the U.S., and Tesla’s cash flows have flipped from burning about $1.7 billion in the first half of 2018 to generating $774 million in the third quarter. (Results for the fourth quarter and full year are expected in February.)"
Tesla’s Life After Hell: 7 Charts Show Musk on Firmer Footing | Bloomberg

Friday, January 04, 2019

Alphabet's Verily gets $1 billion in funding round led by Silver Lake | CNBC

On a related note, see Google is quietly infiltrating medicine — but what rules will it play by? | Stat
"Verily, the life sciences arm of Alphabet, raised $1 billion in fresh capital in a funding round led by private equity firm Silver Lake.

Alphabet Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat is also joining Verily's board along with Egon Durban from Silver Lake, according to a statement on Thursday. The announcement comes two years after Verily took in $800 million of outside capital from Singapore's Temasek, and puts the company, one of Alphabet's so-called Other Bets, a step closer towards potential independence.

"We are taking external funding to increase flexibility and optionality as we expand on our core strategic focus areas," said Verily CEO Andrew Conrad, in the statement. The new investors will prepare the company to "execute as healthcare continues the shift towards evidence generation and value-based reimbursement models," he said."
Alphabet's Verily gets $1 billion in funding round led by Silver Lake | CNBC

Los Angeles Accuses Weather Channel App of Covertly Mining User Data | NYT

In other weather data adventures, see 'A Kind Of Vague Hostility': Michael Lewis On How Trump Loyalists Run Agencies| NPR and Michael Lewis’s latest — available only as an audiobook — offers a severe weather warning | Washington Post
"One of the most popular online weather services in the United States, the Weather Channel app has been downloaded more than 100 million times and has 45 million active users monthly.

The government said the Weather Company, the business behind the app, unfairly manipulated users into turning on location tracking by implying that the information would be used only to localize weather reports. Yet the company, which is owned by IBM, also used the data for unrelated commercial purposes, like targeted marketing and analysis for hedge funds, according to the lawsuit."
Los Angeles Accuses Weather Channel App of Covertly Mining User Data | NYT

The Bad Stuff That the Stock Market Worried About Is Starting to Happen | Bloomberg

Looks like the final months of the Trump administration aren't off to a great start...
"For the first time during Donald Trump’s presidency, both economic statistics and sentiment indicators are missing analysts’ expectations. So-called hard data includes government and private-sector data on consumer spending, jobs, manufacturing and housing, while the soft stats looks to Fed factory surveys and consumer confidence polls.

Anything that suggests cracks in the earnings and macro foundation would go down poorly on Wall Street. That’s what was happening Thursday, as Apple’s outlook clouded profit forecasts at everything from semiconductor suppliers to electronics retailers, and the Institute for Supply Management index miss spurred speculation the economy isn’t doing as well as hoped."
The Bad Stuff That the Stock Market Worried About Is Starting to Happen | Bloomberg

Workplace, Facebook’s enterprise platform, adds another major customer, NestlĂ© | TechCrunch

 Another huge Workplace win
"Workplace positions itself as different from its competitors in a couple of ways: it says its communications platform is designed for all different employment demographics, covering so-called knowledge workers (the traditional IT customer) as well as waged and front-line employees; but it also claims to be the most democratic of the pack, by virtue of being a Facebook product, designed for mass market use from the ground up.

In the workplace, that translates to apps that do not require company email addresses or company devices to use; a strong proportion of employees at Workplace’s bigger customers, such as Walmart (2.2 million employees) and Starbucks (nearly 240,000 employees) do not sit at desks and, until relatively recently, would not have been using any kind of PC or phone on a regular basis on any average day."
Workplace, Facebook’s enterprise platform, adds another major customer, NestlĂ© | TechCrunch

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Silver Lining in Apple’s Very Bad iPhone News | Wired

If this Wired article makes you feel excessively optimistic, also see Five Ways to Look at Apple’s Surprise Bad News | The Atlantic
"Given a long enough horizon, Apple may see a financial benefit from less frequent upgrades as well. An iPhone that lasts longer keeps customers in the iOS ecosystem longer. That becomes even more important as the company places greater emphasis not on hardware but on services like Apple Music. It also offers an important point of differentiation from Android, whose fragmented ecosystem means even flagship devices rarely continue to be fully supported beyond two years.

“In reality, the big picture is still very good for Apple,” Maldonado says. Compared with Android, “Apple’s in a better spot, because the phones last longer.”

That’s cold comfort today and doesn’t help a whit with China. But news that people are holding onto their iPhones longer should be taken for what it really is: A sign of progress and a win for everyone. Even Apple."
The Silver Lining in Apple’s Very Bad iPhone News | Wired

Censoring China’s Internet, for Stability and Profit | NYT

Minitrue, c2019
"China has built the world’s most extensive and sophisticated online censorship system. It grew even stronger under President Xi Jinping, who wants the internet to play a greater role in strengthening the Communist Party’s hold on society. More content is considered sensitive. Punishments are getting more severe.

Once circumspect about its controls, China now preaches a vision of a government-supervised internet that has surprising resonance in other countries. Even traditional bastions of free expression like Western Europe and the United States are considering their own digital limits. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube have said that they would hire thousands more people to better keep a handle on their content.

Workers like Mr. Li show the extremes of that approach — one that controls what more than 800 million internet users in China see every day.
Censoring China’s Internet, for Stability and Profit | NYT

Apple Cuts Revenue Forecast Because of Slow iPhone Sales in China | NYT

Also see Apple’s Glum News About China Sales Sends Global Stocks Lower | NYT, Letter from Tim Cook to Apple investors | Apple Newsroom, and Steve Jobs and Apple’s Last Previous Earnings Warning | Daring Fireball
"Apple reduced its revenue expectations for the first time in 16 years on Wednesday because of poor iPhone sales in China, an unexpected development that underscored the slowing of China’s economy and raised fears of further turmoil in global markets.
Apple’s surprise announcement was the clearest confirmation yet that the Chinese economy is in serious trouble. Beijing’s effort last spring to clamp down on credit, which sparked a slowdown, and an intensifying trade war with the United States have unnerved consumers and businesspeople alike."
Apple Cuts Revenue Forecast Because of Slow iPhone Sales in China | NYT

Microsoft allies with Facebook on A.I. software | CNBC

Surprising the reporter didn't also mention Microsoft's Chromium capitulation
"But the direction is clear. "The momentum of community, really, is around PyTorch and TensorFlow, and so that's where were throwing the bulk of our emphasis," said Eric Boyd, Microsoft's corporate vice president of AI platform. "Having community adoption is hugely important."

The move around Cognitive Toolkit is part of a recent trend at Microsoft to embrace technology from outside the company. It has embraced Linux, making it accessible from within Windows 10 and creating a Linux version of its SQL Server database software. It has reduced its efforts around Windows for mobile devices and ramped up development of applications for Apple's iOS and Google's Android. And Microsoft stopped developing its own big-data software, Dryad, and threw its support around the Hadoop open-source tools."
Microsoft allies with Facebook on A.I. software | CNBC

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The Media’s Post-Advertising Future Is Also Its Past | The Atlantic

Final paragraphs from a journalism + advertising reality check
"Every once in a while, somebody asks me whether we’ll ever get back to a place where the country can agree on a “single set of facts.” Those asking the question tend to be nostalgic for the 1950s, when they could count the number of television channels on one hand and rely on Walter Cronkite and a local media monopoly to control the flow of information.

That past is dead and irrecoverable. We’ve accelerated backward, as if in a time machine, whizzing past the flush 20th century to a more distant, more anxious, and, just maybe, more exciting past that is also the future."
The Media’s Post-Advertising Future Is Also Its Past | The Atlantic

Economists calculate the true value of Facebook to its users in new study | Ars Technica

Tbd how much of the >= $1K value is assigned to Bloom County (exclusively available via Facebook)...
""We found that consistently, on average, people would have to be paid more than $1,000 a year to go without Facebook," said Corrigan. It's the connectivity that adds the value, or what economics call network externality. "[Social networks] are more valuable the more people there are who use it, and this is the largest social network in the world." Facebook boasts more than two billion users globally.

The rationales people offered for why they required so much money to quit varied, but usually it was because their livelihood depended in some way upon the service. For instance, one participant relied on Facebook to communicate with their boss about their weekly work schedule. So they were highly motivated to stick with the social network. Those who required less money to quit often were already considering doing so, and even a little bit of cash was sufficient to sway them. "As an economist, I was happy to hear people approaching this fairly rationally," said Corrigan. "They responded to incentives just like we hoped they might do.""
Economists calculate the true value of Facebook to its users in new study | Ars Technica

The Failure of the United States’ Chinese-Hacking Indictment Strategy | Lawfare

Final paragraph:
"The bottom line is that United States continues to be asymmetrically vulnerable to cybersecurity threats against private-sector companies on which U.S. economic and national security depend. By and large, the private sector has not been incentivized to invest in measures sufficient to prevent major compromises of intellectual property and trade secrets. And U.S. commitments to free speech, privacy and limitations on domestic government surveillance make it difficult for the U.S. government to identify, prevent and respond to malicious cyber operations. These domestic issues add to the geopolitical complexities that have paralyzed the U.S. government from responding more vigorously, leaving the country with a series of high-profile criminal indictments that have achieved no discernibly positive effects and that might, on balance, be self-defeating."
On a related note, see this review of “Dawn of the Code War: America’s Battle Against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat”
The Failure of the United States’ Chinese-Hacking Indictment Strategy | Lawfare
A timely reality check via tweet:

The 'Godfather of Deep Learning' on Why We Need to Ensure AI Doesn't Just Benefit the Rich | Gizmodo

An excerpt from Martin Ford's excellent Architects of Intelligence: The Truth About AI from the People Building It:
"MARTIN FORD: What about other risks, beyond the military weapon use? Are there other issues, like privacy and transparency?

GEOFFREY HINTON: I think using it to manipulate elections and to manipulate voters is worrying. Cambridge Analytica was set up by Bob Mercer who was a machine learning person, and you’ve seen that Cambridge Analytica did a lot of damage. We have to take that seriously." 
 From another part of the interview (in the book chapter but not in the Gizmodo excerpt):
"MARTIN FORD: You gave an interview toward the end of 2017 where you said that you were suspicious of the backpropagation algorithm and that it needed to be thrown out and we needed to start from scratch. (https://www.axios.com/artificial-intelligence-pioneer-says-we-need-to-start-over-1513305524-f619efbd-9db0-4947-a9b2-7a4c310a28fe.html) That created a lot of disturbance, so I wanted to ask what you meant by that.
Geoffrey Hinton: The problem was that the context of the conversation wasn’t properly reported. I was talking about trying to understand the brain, and I was raising the issue that backpropagation may not be the right way to understand the brain. We don’t know for sure, but there are some reasons now for believing that the brain might not use backpropagation. I said that if the brain doesn’t use backpropagation, then whatever the brain is using would be an interesting candidate for artificial systems. I didn’t at all mean that we should throw out backpropagation. Backpropagation is the mainstay of all the deep learning that works, and I don’t think we should get rid of it."

Ford, Martin. Architects of Intelligence: The truth about AI from the people building it (pp. 78-79). Packt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
The 'Godfather of Deep Learning' on Why We Need to Ensure AI Doesn't Just Benefit the Rich | Gizmodo