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