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charlesarthur : analysis   31

Smarter voice assistants recognize your favorite brands—and health • Communications of the ACM
<p>At January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a boost to the artificial intelligence (AI) that allows smart speakers like the Echo, Google Home, and Apple Homepod to reliably recognize everyday sounds—and to act on them—is set to lend the devices powerful new capabilities, including the ability to recognize your favorite brands from the noises they make.

Based on sound recognition technology from a British AI startup called Audio Analytic, these capabilities include allowing voice assistants to recognize the sounds of the brands you use day to day, to boost your home's security by listening out for out-of-the-ordinary "anomalous" sounds around the house, and, for the first time, to collect health data by recognizing coughs, sneezes, sniffles, yawns, and snores, in order to recommend medicines, or pharmacies.

…[But] University of Michigan engineers Florian Schaub and Josephine Lau told the 21st ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSAW 2018) in November that smart speaker makers need to design effective, usable privacy controls—because the risk to our privacy is increasing as voice assistants are fast migrating beyond tabletop speakers to our cars, smartwatches, fitness trackers, wearables, wireless headsets, TV streaming boxes, security cameras, and smart heating/lighting controllers.

All these platforms are able to exploit the patent pending "brand sonification" technology that Audio Analytic will be plugging at CES 2019, the Consumer Technology Association's annual event in Las Vegas in January.

The basic idea behind brand sonification, according to Audio Analytic CEO Chris Mitchell, "is to have voice assistant devices respond to the sounds that brands make when they are used."</p>

"The sounds that brands make when they are used"? The advertising-oriented mind is so weird.
voice  sound  analysis  marketing 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Are Pop Lyrics Getting More Repetitive?
<p>In 1977, the great computer scientist Donald Knuth published a paper called The Complexity of Songs, which is basically one long joke about the repetitive lyrics of newfangled music (example quote: "the advent of modern drugs has led to demands for still less memory, and the ultimate improvement of Theorem 1 has consequently just been announced").

I'm going to try to test this hypothesis with data. I'll be analyzing the repetitiveness of a dataset of 15,000 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1958 and 2017…</p>

But how?
<p>You may not have heard of the Lempel-Ziv algorithm, but you probably use it every day. It's a lossless compression algorithm that powers gifs, pngs, and most archive formats (zip, gzip, rar...).

What does this have to do with pop music? The Lempel-Ziv algorithm works by exploiting repeated sequences. How efficiently LZ can compress a text is directly related to the number and length of the repeated sections in that text.</p>

This is wonderful: the graphics are brilliantly done, and the discoveries (top 10 songs are always more repetitive than most) unexpected.
music  analysis  data  compression 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Why Wikipedia works • NY Mag
Brian Feldman:
<p>On YouTube, I might make one video about the Stoneman shooting, and you might make another with a totally opposite idea of truth; they’d then duke it out in “the marketplace of ideas” (the YouTube search results). On Wikipedia, there’s only one article about the Stoneman shooting, and it’s created by a group of people discussing and debating the best way to present information in a singular way, suggesting and sometimes voting on changes to a point where enough people are satisfied.

Importantly, that discussion is both entirely transparent, and at the same time “behind the scenes.” The “Talk” pages on which editorial decisions are made are prominently linked to on every entry. Anyone can read, access, and participate — but not many people do. This means both that the story of how an article came to be is made clear to a reader (unlike, say, algorithmic decisions made by Facebook), but also that there is less incentive for a given editor to call attention to themselves in the hopes of becoming a celebrity (unlike, say, the YouTube-star economy).

Wikipedia articles also have stringent requirements for what information can be included. The three main tenets are that (1) information on the site be presented in a neutral point of view, (2) be verified by an outside source, and (3) not be based on original research. Each of these can be quibbled with (what does “neutral” mean?), and plenty of questionable statements slip through — but, luckily, you probably know that they’re questionable because of the infamous “[citation needed]” superscript that peppers the website.

Actual misinformation, meanwhile, is dealt with directly. Consider how the editors treat conspiracy theories. “Fringe theories may be mentioned, but only with the weight accorded to them in the reliable sources being cited,” Wikimedia tweeted in an explanatory thread earlier this week. In contrast, platform companies have spent much of the last year talking about maintaining their role as a platform for “all viewpoints,” and through design and presentation, they flatten everything users post to carry the same weight. </p>

Succinct, and accurate. What if YouTube was forced to limit itself to a single, checked, accurate video per topic? Sure, it's like asking musicians to only write one song. Yet there's that suspicion that there's a better way to organise it even so.
advertising  analysis  youtube  google  wikipedia 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
The ridiculousness of sentiment analysis • Diginomica
Dennis Howlett got an email (three times!) from a PR company certain that it had got some amazing sentiment analysis on peoples' opinions on social media about United Airlines suffocating a pet:
<p>It was accompanied by the dross, breathtakingly insightful, no sh-t Sherlock commentary that:
<p>This latest incident could be another massive blow to United’s reputation unless upper management takes control of the storm on social in an effective way. In this instance, United will need to do more than just apologize — they will need to provide solutions and reassure their wide customer base, and to do so intelligently, they must be mindful of the overwhelming responses they’re already receiving about the incident. Leveraging social listening during a crisis can help any brand gauge the right response, and hopefully, make a comeback.</p>

And your point is…..????

I don’t know if these people have noticed, but following the United Breaks Guitars fiasco, the company barely missed a beat in reporting earnings.

The most recent incident, while wildly more egregious than the earlier one, will have almost zero effect on United. Unless…a few large corporate specifiers put ethics to the front of their choice parameters and say enough is enough.

The likelihood of that happening is almost zero because, like the other major U.S. airlines, United operates what are near monopoly hubs that act as choke points for others. You wanna go to the Bay Area from Chicago, Houston, Frankfurt or Denver? UA is pretty much your only realistic choice. In short, the U.S. airline majors operate as a set of cartels, ostensibly in competition, but in reality, having ‘safe’ harbors into and out of which they are the mob bosses owners with very little to lose.</p>
sentiment  analysis 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
News UK finds high levels of domain spoofing to the tune of $1 million a month in lost revenue • Digiday
Jessica Davies:
<p>To investigate the level of domain spoofing occurring against its news brands, News UK conducted a programmatic blackout test for two hours in December. The result: 2.9 million bids per hour were made on fake inventory purporting to be News UK’s The Sun and The Times of London newspaper brands.

From the results, the publisher estimates that marketers are wasting £700,000 ($950,000) on domain-spoofed inventory per month. A total of 650,000 ad requests were made each hour, according to the publisher.

The publisher conducted the test between 3a.m. and 5 a.m. on Dec. 4, deliberately choosing a time that would be less disruptive to site visitors and wouldn’t hamper revenues or ongoing campaigns. The publisher shut down all programmatic advertising on its sites, including all supply-side platforms, its header bidding wrapper and all networks. During this time, it was impossible to buy programmatic inventory on The Sun, the Times or News UK’s fantasy football brand Dream Team. That made it easy to isolate inventory that still appeared to be offered on its sites as fraudulent.</p>

That's a lot of money which is being sent to fake sites pretending to be News UK. You can bet it's repeated far and wide through the ad business. Third-party digital ads must, surely, <em>surely</em> now be reaching some kind of point where it's not worth advertisers using them, at which point the system collapses?
advertising  analysis  fake  domain  unsustainable 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Regulate Facebook like AIM • Motherboard
Louise Matsakis:
<p>The FCC imposed the restrictions on AOL [forcing it to be interoperable with other instant messaging systems] because the merger with Time Warner created the largest biggest media business in the country. Government regulators feared that the behemoth would become a powerful monopoly, particularly when it came to instant messaging. At the time, AOL had over 140 million customers—or 90% of the market— using AIM as well as its other chat service, ICQ, combined.

The FCC's decision to force AOL to remain open provides a blueprint for how the government could similarly regulate today's gigantic internet platforms, like Facebook.

Stoller said you can look at Facebook—with its over 2 billion monthly users—as having egregious control over our relationships on the internet, or what he calls the "social grid." If Facebook were forced to make room for other services on its platform in the same way AOL made room for other chat apps, new services could emerge.

"Facebook has to allow people to access their relationships however they want through other businesses or tools that are not controlled by Facebook," Stoller said. "Having them control and mediate the structure of those relationships—that's not right."

Of course, people can opt out of Facebook and choose to use other, smaller social networks. But those businesses are essentially unable to thrive because of the hold Facebook has on how we communicate online.</p>

This is a good idea.
facebook  analysis  antitrust  aol 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Analysis of Twitter Accounts • Luca Hammer
Hammer has provided a tool for analysing Twitter accounts - how often and when they tweet, who they respond to, what they use, how they tweet (RT, QT, etc) and so on. One for the bookmarks for investigative journalists.
analysis  twitter  data 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Android 8.0 Oreo, thoroughly reviewed • Ars Technica
Ron Amadeo has been inside ur android for years now; here's his review of an OS whose layers will be coming to people some time in the next, oh, a few years. These are just the headings; it's too big (20,000 words) to excerpt. (Though if you want to jump to the "Good, Bad, Ugly" wrapup, it's <a href="">here</a>.)

Remember when desktop operating systems used to merit long piece-by-piece reviews?
<p>So, coming soon to your phone, your tablet, your watch, your TV, your car, your "things," and your VR headset—it's Android 8.0 Oreo. Let's dive in.

Table of Contents

Project Treble—Finally, real progress on the fragmentation problem<br />HAL versioning and deprecation<br />Working with SoC vendors<br />A ROM revolution<br />Isolating the media stack<br />Android's biggest re-architecture, ever<br />Notifications—Android's best feature gets better<br />The new layout—and its awesome “By the Way” section<br />The new colors and media notifications<br />Snoozing notifications<br />Notification Channels: Great for apps that have it, terrible for apps that don't<br />Icon badges and shortcuts<br />The new ambient notification display<br />The Great Background Processing Lockdown<br />Mandatory JobScheduler<br />RIP Implicit Broadcasts<br />No more wakelocks, no silent background services<br />(Somewhat) gracefully declining on older OSes<br />Limiting scans for location and Wi-Fi<br />A real API for floating apps<br />Security<br />Google Play Protect—Google says "please don't install antivirus apps"<br />Sideloading changes<br />Security grab bag<br />Emoji: New glyphs and an all-new design<br />EmojiCompat and Downloadable fonts—updating emojis without a system update<br />System UI improvements<br />Adaptive icons—Shape shifting, animated icons<br />A new widget picker<br />Picture-in-Picture for phones and tablets<br />Smart text selection and TensorFlow Lite<br />AutoFill<br />Settings—A new theme, a new layout<br />Streaming OS Updates—never fail an update due to storage space again<br />Rescue Party<br />Android Go—Scaling Android for the next billion users<br />The OS in "Go" mode<br />Google Play Services gets chopped up<br />Apps get special "Go" versions and features<br />Color management<br />Physics-based animation and the new Easter Egg<br />The new "SDCardFS" file system wrapper<br />Grab Bag<br />"Foundational" improvements address updates, security, speed, and battery life<br />The Good<br />The Bad<br />The Ugly</p>
android  analysis  oreo 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Misunderstanding Apple Services • Monday Note
Jean-Lois Gassée:
<p>the biggest misunderstanding isn’t the theoretical placement [of the revenue from Apple Services] in the Fortune 100 list, or the comparisons to Facebook. It’s the consideration of Apple Services as a self-standing business. Remove “Apple” from “Apple Services”…would this stand-alone “Services” company enjoy the same success were it to service Android phones or Windows PCs?

Apple Services is an important member of the supporting cast that pushes the volume and margins for the main act: Apple Personal Computers. These come in three sizes, small (iPhone), medium (iPad), and large (Mac). If rumors of the addition of a cellular modem are true, we may even see the Watch, today an iPhone accessory, added to the cast as the newest and smallest performer.

<img src="*YPXm8B7YDKOYR-pUy993XQ.png" width="100%" />

Everything else that Apple offers has one raison d’être: fuelling the company’s main hardware act, without which Apple is nothing. As an example, headphones, earphones, loudspeaker sales, and music distribution revenue isn’t the goal (note the fall in music purchases on Horace’s chart above).

With Services, Apple enjoys the benefits of a virtuous circle: Hardware sales create Services revenue opportunities; Services makes hardware more attractive and “stickier”. Like Apple Stores, Services are part of the ecosystem. Such is the satisfying simplicity and robustness of Apple’s business model.</p>

A lot of people are missing this point.
apple  analysis  services 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
WannaCry about business models • Stratechery
Ben Thompson:
<p>This comparison [by Microsoft of the EternalBlue exploit to a Tomahawk missile], frankly, is ridiculous, even if you want to stretch and say that the impact of WannaCry on places like hospitals may actually result in physical harm (albeit much less than a weapon of war!).

First, the U.S. government creates Tomahawk missiles, but it is Microsoft that created the bug (even if inadvertently). What the NSA did was discover the bug (and subsequently exploit it), and that difference is critical. Finding bugs is hard work, requiring a lot of money and effort. It’s worth considering why, then, the NSA was willing to do just that, and the answer is right there in the name: national security. And, as we’ve seen through examples like Stuxnet, these exploits can be a powerful weapon.

Here is the fundamental problem: insisting that the NSA hand over exploits immediately is to effectively demand that the NSA not find the bug in the first place. After all, a patched (and thus effectively published) bug isn’t worth nearly as much, both monetarily as ShadowBrokers found out, or militarily, which means the NSA would have no reason to invest the money and effort to find them. To put it another way, the alternative is not that the NSA would have Microsoft about EternalBlue years ago, but that the underlying bug would have remained un-patched for even longer than it was (perhaps to be discovered by other entities like China or Russia; the NSA is not the only organization searching for bugs).

In fact, the real lesson to be learned with regard to the government is not that the NSA should be Microsoft’s QA team, but rather that leaks happen: that is why, as I argued last year in the context of Apple and the FBI, government efforts to weaken security by fiat or the insertion of golden keys (as opposed to discovering pre-existing exploits) are wrong.</p>

(Well, the US government *buys* Tomahawks from Raytheon. But anyway.) Thompson says the real problem is that software licences were single-payment, rather than subscription. Fair point, but the business wasn't ready for subscription models then.
security  analysis 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Data science of the Facebook world • Stephen Wolfram blog
<p>More than a million people have now used our Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook. And as part of our latest update, in addition to collecting some anonymized statistics, we launched a Data Donor program that allows people to contribute detailed data to us for research purposes.

A few weeks ago we decided to start analyzing all this data. And I have to say that if nothing else it’s been a terrific example of the power of Mathematica and the Wolfram Language for doing data science. (It’ll also be good fodder for the Data Science course I’m starting to create.)

We’d always planned to use the data we collect to enhance our Personal Analytics system. But I couldn’t resist also trying to do some basic science with it.</p>

Lots of graphs, especially about what topics that people discuss, gradated by age.
facebook  analysis  data  wolfram 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
How to know if you've sent a horrible tweet • Esquire
Luke O'Neil:
<p>by and large, the way Twitter works is that to reply means to disagree. When a tweet is good, there are simple, elegant tools for expressing your appreciation via the like and retweet buttons. There are junkier workarounds like quote-tweeting and manual retweeting. A perfect tweet is a pure thing, and ideally, is shared off into the world without commentary, letting its engagement numbers bloom unmolested. In fact, there's nothing worse than replying to an expertly executed tweet, particularly when it comes to trying to riff off of a joke, or even worse, improve on it. On the other hand, when a tweet has pissed someone off, the user is more inclined to let the author know directly how much they suck. "Delete your account" and "Retire bitch" being two of the better known refrains.

"I would say any time you have more replies than favs, you fucked up in some capacity," says Twitter investigative reporter Ashley Feinberg of Gizmodo. "People on this site are extremely lazy and also idiots, like myself. If you've pissed off enough people that they're a) too embarrassed to engage and b) feel compelled to actually write words, you did a bad tweet."

<a href="">This, from CNN's Chris Cillizza</a>, whose Twitter bio quotes the president as calling him "One of the dumber and least respected of the political pundits," is a nice solid example of The Ratio at work, Feinberg says. Not astronomical numbers, but solidly in the sweet spot of just over 2:1.

"What impresses me most about it is how reliable it is," says David Roth, of Vice Sports. Roth is also the author of one of the finest Trump-related Twitter gags ever. "For all the examples of how markets don't work, and Twitter's particularly ridiculous scrambling hustle for attention, it really does seem like a bad enough tweet by a high-profile enough person is going to wind up with that like 500-to-75 ratio that Matt Lewis had going. They get discovered."</p>

I look forward to a data scientist doing this analysis on Trump's tweets.
tweets  analysis  emotion 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Ad agencies and accountability • Stratechery
Ben Thompson on the Google-UK government-Havas-extremist-videos shenanigans:
<p>there are reasonable debates that can be had about hate speech being on Google and Facebook’s platforms at all; what is indisputable, though, is that the logistics of policing this content are mind-boggling.

Take YouTube as the most obvious example: there are 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute; that’s 24,000 hours an hour, 576,000 hours a day, over 4 million hours a week, and over 210 billion hours a year — and the rate is accelerating. To watch every minute of every video uploaded in a week would require over 100,000 people working full-time (40 hours). The exact same logistical problem applies to ads served by DoubleClick as well as the massive amount of content uploaded to Facebook’s various properties; when both companies state they are working on using machine learning to police content it’s not an excuse: it’s the only viable approach.

Don’t tell that to the ad agencies though.</p>

Let's consider for a moment how Google (and Facebook) can hope to solve this with ML. They'll need to pick out a load of extremist videos, train a network against it, and set it loose on all of YouTube. It notes the videos that it thinks are "extremist" (or "extreme"?) or somewhere in the shades of extremity. Because it must be a spectrum, correct?

Imagine how that is going to play out.
google  advertising  analysis  youtube 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
Alexa, Siri, Cortana: the problem with all-female digital assistants • WSJ
Joanna Stern:
<p>So if we can’t have genderless helpers, why did we end up with so many more gal bots than guy bots? The answer is pretty simple: Both women and men find the female voice more welcoming and warm.

In 2008, Karl MacDorman, a professor at Indiana University who specializes in human-computer interaction, <a href="">set up an experiment with some fellow researchers</a>. When they had men and women listen to male and female synthesized voices, both groups said the female voices were “warmer.” The most interesting part? In further tests of less voluntary responses, women showed a stronger implicit preference for the female voice. (Men showed no significant implicit preference for either gender.)

Amazon and Microsoft found the same preference for the female voice in their market research. “For our objectives—building a helpful, supportive, trustworthy assistant—a female voice was the stronger choice,” says a Microsoft spokeswoman. Amazon says it tested several voices with customers and internal groups and found that Alexa’s female voice was preferred.

Siri may default to a female voice in the U.S. but Apple provides both male and female voice options for iPhone and iPad users to choose from. In fact, on iPhones where the language is Arabic, French, Dutch or British English, Siri defaults to a male voice.</p>
ai  analysis  audio  gender  bots 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Sad to announce: Hans Rosling passed away this morning • Gapminder
Anna Rönnlund and Ola Rosling:
<p>We are extremely sad to announce that Professor Hans Rosling died this morning. Hans suffered from a pancreatic cancer which was diagnosed one year ago. He passed away early Tuesday morning, February 7, 2017, surrounded by his family in Uppsala, Sweden.

Eleven years ago, the three of us, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Rönnlund founded Gapminder. In 2007 Hans decided to “drop out” of university to work only 5% as professor at Karolinska Institute. That was a great decision. The 95% he worked for Gapminder made him a world famous public educator, or Edutainer as he liked to call it.

Across the world, millions of people use our tools and share our vision of a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand. We know that many will be saddened by this message. Hans is no longer alive, but he will always be with us and his dream of a fact-based worldview, we will never let die!</p>

I <a href="">wrote about Rosling's work in January 2007 at The Guardian</a>. He had already done so much - discovering a new disease - before he decided to challenge governments' reluctance to make their data open. He inspired me. Anyone who does data journalism is in his debt.
analysis  data  rosling  gapminder 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Apple’s 2016 in review • Chuqui
Former Apple employee Chuq von Rospach:
<p>Why make a product?

If you boil business down to essentials, there are only three reasons a product should exist:

Because it makes you money: Most products need to make you money and contribute to the financial success of the company. Some are going to be more profitable than others, but you shouldn’t be doing products that lose you money (buy hey, we’ll make it up in volume!). Unless…

Because it’s strategic: Sometimes you create a product for strategic reasons: it’s not going to make you money, but it’s necessary to compete, or it creates other opportunities where you can profit indirectly (iTunes is a great example of this, where most of the profit came from iPod sales and later music and media sales), or you’re investing in in something that in the long term you expect will make you money some day, but you need to start now and let the market grow (but you can’t really wait until it does, because someone else will take the market from you first) — the Apple TV, while labelled a hobby for years, was such a strategic investment. So were the early Airport devices, because Apple saw wireless as a big part of its future and a long-term competitive advantage, but existing WIFI devices were pretty terrible and had horrible user experiences.

Because it matters to you: And sometimes you do it because you feel it has to be done. Apple’s strong commitment to accessibility is one very visible place where they are clearly investing not because it’ll make them money, but because it’s an important thing to do.

I bring this up because it helps me frame my view of the reality of the Macintosh product line and why I think Apple’s gotten some things very wrong with it.</p>

This has been a very widely shared article (but linked here just in case). Von Rospach makes many good points: one gets a feeling that Apple is struggling to keep its arms around everything it's doing and keep it all timely. That has become a much bigger problem with its expanding product range, and there have been lacunae when it was smaller (iMovie and iPhoto languished for years, as did iWork). But that doesn't excuse the stunning lag on the Mac Pro, and the decisions around the MacBook Pro - for which von Rospach gives this analogy from experience:
<p>Back when I was running most of Apple’s e-mail systems for the marketing teams, I went to them and suggested that we should consider dumping the text-only part of the emails we were building, because only about 4% of users used them and it added a significant amount of work to the process of creation and testing each e-mail.

Their response? That it was a small group of people, but a strategic one, since it was highly biased towards developers and power users. So the two-part emails stayed — and they were right. It made no sense from a business standpoint to continue to develop these emails as both HTML at text, but it made significant strategic sense. It was an investment in keeping this key user base happy with Apple.</p>
apple  business  macbook  review  analysis 
january 2017 by charlesarthur
Mobile is eating the world • Benedict Evans
<p>As we pass 2.5bn smartphones on earth and head towards 5bn, and mobile moves from creation to deployment, the questions change. What's the state of the smartphone, machine learning and 'GAFA', and what can we build as we stand on the shoulders of giants?</p>

A new version of Evans's presentation, in slide form and also as a video (embedded below). Some of the points - about machine learning and retail ("the internet lets you buy, but not yet shop") are subtle but, once you consider them, far-reaching.

<iframe src="" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
mobile  analysis 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
How “Westworld” failed the western • The New Yorker
Aaron Bady:
<p>“Westworld” is filmed in Castle Valley, Utah, where Ford filmed his last four Westerns, and it is built upon the foundation of tropes, clichés, and cinematic shorthand that Ford’s work popularized. When Teddy and Ed Harris’s Man in Black character are hunting for Dolores, their quest resembles the plot of “The Searchers” (along with mirroring the movie’s iconic doorway shots); the character of Clementine recalls Ford’s 1946 “My Darling Clementine”; the Winchester rifle of Maeve’s strapping robot henchman, Hector, has the same “loop” handle as the rifle John Wayne was holding in his star-making entrance to “Stagecoach.” Most important, the Western’s core memory—the genocide and forced removal of the continent’s indigenous people—is projected onto the native people themselves: a tribe called “Ghost Nation” intermittently appears, killing and rampaging, exactly as the Comanche in “The Searchers” are shown to do. Even the park’s creator seems to be a personal fan of the Western director. Dr. Ford’s name is no coincidence: when explaining to Bernard why he has hidden the truth of the park’s original co-creator, Arnold, he explains that stories take precedence over reality by quoting the most famous line of what might be Ford’s last great Western, “The Man Who Killed Liberty Valance”: “When fact becomes legend, you print the legend.”</p>

This is a fascinating take on Westworld. Contains gigantic spoilers if you haven't seen the last episode; if you have, then it offers a fascinating - and unusual - insight into what you watched.
westworld  analysis  western 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
End of cycle? • Elad's blog
Elad Gil:
<p>we are seeing a shift to a boom in the variety and type of companies being funded as tech investors pursue other areas that I would characterize as "software aware" (I mean some software is used by the startup; however, the true basis for value for the startup has little to do with software despite claims by the founders) versus "software driven" . There are two ways I interpret this trend:

1. There are lots of industries suddenly available for transformation.

While I think the range of markets about to be transformed by software is large, the interpretation of what is truly a tech business is being misapplied. Software, the Internet, and AI are transforming a variety of industries on an ongoing basis and I am a huge fan of software is eating the world pmarca statement. However, people are starting to apply software valuations to low gross margin, physical good businesses that are not software businesses. In other words, lots of tech investors are now investing in areas they do not understand, at valuation multiples that do not make sense for these alternate businesses. This is similar to the 2001-2003 bad period of cleantech and nanotech.

2. We are at the end of an economic cycle for tech, and tech investors are desperate for the next new thing.

It is always hard to call the end of an economic or innovation cycle[2]. Technology-driven shifts will continue to be incredibly resilient and transformative. However, the rate of creation of truly fundamental massive businesses accelerated for a few years, and may decelerate for a few years before the next wave hits. During this period of deceleration, entrepreneurs and investors will go into a search pattern to try to find the next wave.</p>
analysis  business  venture 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Google hires Rick Osterloh as SVP for new unified hardware division » Re/code
Mark Bergen and Ina Fried on the hiring of Rick Osterloh, formerly president of Motorola (acquired by and then dumped by Google):
<p>For years, Google has struggled to get sure footing on its various hardware initiatives — moving delicately to handle partners and, at times, deliver products that consumers actually use. When one of its hardware chiefs, Regina Dugan, who ran its Advanced Technology and Project group, departed for Facebook, we reported that Google was plotting a hardware shake-up.

Here it is now. Osterloh will now oversee Google’s Nexus devices. His new hardware division also includes a suite of products called the “living room,” demonstrating Google’s priority on owning that space.</p>

Lots of things here. Osterloh will be in charge of Nexus (phones), Chromecast, consumer hardware (laptops), OnHub (router), ATAP (Project Ara) and - wait for it - Google Glass, which Tony Fadell at Nest had been an adviser to. (He remains an adviser.)

So here's the setup now. Fadell isn't going to drive Glass any more; and Nest is consumer hardware, just outside the main Google division. Won't it get folded into Osterloh's division now? Which leaves Fadell usurped.

Give it 18 months and see if Fadell's still there.
analysis  business  google 
april 2016 by charlesarthur
Presentation: Mobile ate the world » Benedict Evans
<p>Updated for spring 2016, this is a snapshot of why mobile matters, where it is and where it's going. I've written quite a lot of blog posts discussing these issues, which I collated in <a href="">this [other] post</a>. </p>

76-slide presentation, with lots of subtle points in it to absorb; I think that AI will play a more important role than is immediately obvious, because it can be subsumed into the device. That, though, isn't what the platform opportunity is about.
analysis  mobile 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
Vice CEO Shane Smith on dealing with agencies: ‘We want to make great shit but it's a war.’ » Digiday
Shareen Pathak reporting on the 4A Transformation conference on Tuesday:
<p>The issue of “not rocking the boat” is a consistent charge leveled at ad agencies. Last week, a top buyer at a media agency told Digiday that agencies are often afraid of starting from scratch to solve client problems because it’s too hard. And that kind of mindset has helped fuel to the rise of innovative branded content at publishers like Vice and the New York Times. [NYT chief executive Mark] Thompson said the [NY] Times's brand content arm, T-Brand Studio, now has 70 employees and is doing $60m in revenue.

Of course, the pressure is also on publishers: Thompson said the talk of “disruption” happening at the agency-oriented conference this week is old news to publishers and journalism organizations, which have now realized that ads and subscription-based businesses are not going to cut it. “In the digital publishing and legacy publishing business, winter is coming,” he said. “A lot of people have bet their futures on very large, wide and thin digital audiences, monetized through commoditized display advertising. I think a lot of people are going to go out of business.”</p>

"Winter is coming".
analysis  business  media  advertising 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
Why Xiaomi, Lenovo, and Huawei can't compete with Apple » Tech in Asia
Charlie Custer:
<p>Chinese handset makers did quite well in 2015. But can they climb that cliff? Could they actually beat out Apple?

No. At least not in the sense of eating into Apple’s specific chunk of the market.

Why? For one, they don’t share a clear target market with Apple. Say what you will about Apple – and I’ve said some bad things in the very recent past – but it knows its market. And so do you, probably. Quick, picture an iPhone user. You’re probably picturing somebody young-ish, urban. Somebody who likes a simple user experience that doesn’t change much from model to model. Somebody who admires good industrial design, and who has the money to fit a $600-$800 phone into their budget.

Now, picture a Huawei user. It’s much harder because they’re all over the place. The prices range quite a bit, and the company offers dozens of different handset models. Lenovo is pretty similar. Even once-simple Xiaomi now offers three different major product lines with a confusing assortment of models in each line (do I want the Mi 4 or the Mi 4i or the Mi 4c?).

That’s not to say that none of these devices have clear target markets, of course, but none of them really overlap with the iPhone market. All three companies offer lower-priced devices, and because of their split focus they really can’t hope to compete with Apple’s single-minded focus when it comes to the iPhone market. They may be able to boost their numbers by picking up more users in developing regions, but none of the three is likely poaching any of Apple’s market anytime soon.

Plus, they’re not competing in the same ecosystem. Technologically speaking, there’s nothing on the iPhone that you can’t get on a dozen Android handsets except for one thing: iOS. And while I’ve argued that a lot of the native iOS apps are getting worse, there’s still no doubt that once a user buys into an ecosystem, it’s difficult to get them out of it.</p>
analysis  apple  huawei  lenovo 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
What Everyone’s Got Wrong About Twitter (Including Twitter) | Re/code
Ian Schafer is founder and chairman of Deep Focus:
<p>Twitter is a platform unlike any other, in that it has enough real-time data and intelligence that can be mapped against over 300 million active users. These users are more likely to be more influential and use other media concurrently (especially TV).

Therefore, a compelling argument can be made that, if used properly, Twitter’s real-time user behavior and media-consumption data can be among the most valuable consumer data. In most cases, advertisers will be willing to pay a premium for that. But because so many scrutinize Twitter’s ad experience, doubts abound.

There’s a lot of talk from people who want Twitter to open up its APIs again. I think they’re half-right.

If Twitter wants to realize its full potential, it will make its data completely portable for advertisers, becoming the primary source for real-time business and consumer intelligence. It will use its (and its users’) media savviness to feed a global dataset that ad exchanges, app developers, advertisers and corporations will pay increasingly large amounts of money to access, making it a media-led data company. It has already displayed success in this area; the Twitter Audience Platform and MoPub have gained traction, and with Facebook’s Parse shutting down, Twitter’s Fabric toolkit should gain traction with third-party app developers, as well.</p>

Can you guess that Deep Focus is an ad agency?
advertising  analysis  twitter 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
The last days Of Marissa Mayer? » Forbes
Miguel Helft goes into detail and finds many of the same stories we've been hearing for the past couple of years:
<p>Mayer hired some executives without fully vetting them with her team, and some of those decisions proved costly. One of her first big hires was Google sales executive Henrique De Castro, brought on as chief operating officer. De Castro failed to meet sales goals and Mayer fired him after 15 months, but not before he reportedly pocketed as much as $109 million in compensation and severance. Mayer also spent a year without a chief information officer after her IT operations chief David Dibble quit for personal reasons in 2013. In August 2014 Mayer finally announced to her executive staff that she had found the right person in Netflix executive Mike Kail, who came recommended by her husband, the investor Zachary Bogue. Three months later Netflix sued Kail for fraud, after he allegedly collected kickbacks from vendors. Yahoo ­quietly let him go in May.

Mayer’s propensity for micromanaging also exasperated many of her executives. By her own admission, Mayer spent an entire weekend working with a team of designers to revamp the Yahoo corporate logo, debating such details as the right slant for the exclamation point (9 degrees from vertical). Mayer also insisted on personally reviewing even minor deviations from a compensation policy she had instituted. When managers wanted to give top performers a bonus or raise above the parameters she had set, they had to write her an e-mail explaining the circumstances and wait for an approval or denial. Some managers dispute that this was a hard-and-fast rule. Mayer also insisted on reviewing the terms given to hundreds of contractors and vendors on a quarterly basis, whether they were engineers or writers or makeup artists. “She would go line by line and decide on what date a contract should end,” says a senior executive. Adds another: “It was a colossal waste of time.”</p>

There's detail, and then there's detail that doesn't merit a chief executive's very expensive time.
analysis  business  yahoo 
november 2015 by charlesarthur
The mobile video ad lie » Medium
Rob Leathern found a page apparently with no video ads on the NY Post was loading 10MB. But how?
The large JPG files I referenced earlier make up the majority of the payload of this page — and are coming from the domain. Here again are those example1 and example2 of the image files.

Remember, I didn’t see any video content nor any video ads at all. If there is not willful fraud here, loading ads in the background that are impossible to see, then at the very least it is ‘user-hating’ irresponsible behavior to have a 10+mb payload with hundreds of http calls in a mobile browser.

Many publishers simply must have a sense that something nasty is going on — when their users complain about slow page loads on mobile web — but they either don’t have the tech savvy and/or more likely, they won’t ask questions about how their site could possibly be monetizing as well as it is when simple math indicates that their users aren’t watching that many video streams. Many simply turn a blind eye.

Ad industry insiders talk about “improving viewability” — but make no mistake, these are likely not mistakes made by inexperienced workers — just as mobile ads that pop up iTunes Store pages for mobile app installs are not casual errors — this is an industry that persists by helping already-fraught businesses like newspapers and online publishers survive at the expense of the advertisers who supposedly help us users have free content.

Is it any wonder desktop ad blocking has been on the rise, and many iOS users are excited at the prospect of using content blocking in iOS9 to get rid of mobile ads? The industry has only itself to blame.

I find these stories - which are growing in volume - fascinating. This is a boil that the internet community is looking to lance with vigour.
advertising  analysis 
august 2015 by charlesarthur
Apple pushing music labels to kill free Spotify streaming ahead of Beats relaunch » The Verge
Micah Singleton:
Apple has been using its considerable power in the music industry to stop the music labels from renewing Spotify’s license to stream music through its free tier. Spotify currently has 60 million listeners, but only 15 million of them are paid users. Getting the music labels to kill the freemium tiers from Spotify and others could put Apple in prime position to grab a large swath of new users when it launches its own streaming service, which is widely expected to feature a considerable amount of exclusive content. "All the way up to Tim Cook, these guys are cutthroat," one music industry source said.

Sources also indicated that Apple offered to pay YouTube’s music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label stopped allowing its songs on YouTube. Apple is seemingly trying to clear a path before its streaming service launches, which is expected to debut at WWDC in June. If Apple convinces the labels to stop licensing freemium services from Spotify and YouTube, it could take out a significant portion of business from its two largest music competitors.

As was pointed out, if someone in the music business calls you "cutthroat", then wow. But would the labels really be able to keep free music off YouTube? They might like to, but it's the elephant in the room in any music streaming question.
analysis  apple  business  music 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
Apple Watch: an overnight multi-billion dollar business »
Carl Howe used to analyse this sort of stuff for a living. Here he helps you think of the supply chain issues involved in the Apple Watch by likening it to producing a million origami lobsters:
Now let’s make this a little more realistic. As it turns out, we really want a million lobsters of two different sizes. Further, ordinary paper tears too easily and is the wrong color for Origami lobsters, so we’ve decided to make our own paper; that will require its own process. We also need to be able to deliver some of the lobsters with glitter and others with hand-painted decorations; we’ll need to plan to supply and apply those materials too. Oh, and we want to make a few thousand out of two colors of pure gold leaf instead of paper. You’ll have to manufacture the paper for that too.

What’s your plan look like now?

There’s no rush; you can deliver your million lobsters any time during the month, provided that you don’t mind people complaining that you are way too slow at getting this done. Oh, and you’ll be criticized in the international press for every failure to produce perfect lobsters.

And now, imagine this same plan, except with this twist: no one has successfully folded this particular type of Origami lobster before, so you really don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. And your reward if you are successful will not be praise, but demands that you build even more next month.

This is such a wonderful post for wrapping your head around supply chain issues - as good in its way as <a href="">Greg Koenig's commentary about the amazing mechanics of how the Apple Watch is made</a>.

Howe has a number for how many Watches have been sold, but you need to read his piece to find out. He's probably right. (He also notes in <a href="">an update</a> that there's only one module - that is lobster - so the Watch is even more profitable.)
analysis  apple  business  watch 
april 2015 by charlesarthur
Mathematicians have finally figured out how to tell correlation from causation >> Quartz
Zach Wener-Fligner:
determining causal relationships is really hard. But techniques <a href="">outlined in a new paper</a> promise to do just that. The basic intuition behind the method demonstrated by Prof. Joris Mooij of the University of Amsterdam and his co-authors is surprisingly simple: if one event influences another, then the random noise in the causing event will be reflected in the affected event.

For example, suppose we are trying to determine the relationship between the the amount of highway traffic, and the time it takes John to drive to work. Both John’s commute time and traffic on the highway will fluctuate somewhat randomly: sometimes John will hit the red light just around the corner, and lose five extra minutes; sometimes icy weather will slow down the roads.

But the key insight is that random fluctuation in traffic will affect John’s commute time, whereas random fluctuation in John’s commute time won’t affect the traffic.

Smart - watch for this to filter through into all sorts of everyday algorithms in the next few years.
analysis  economics  mathematics 
december 2014 by charlesarthur
Why the Sony hack is unlikely to be the work of North Korea >> Marc's Security Ramblings
<a href="">Marc Rogers</a>, with the only piece you need to read on the Sony hack, making 10 points (a couple excerpted here:
It’s clear from the hard-coded paths and passwords in the malware that whoever wrote it had extensive knowledge of Sony’s internal architecture and access to key passwords. While it’s plausible that an attacker could have built up this knowledge over time and then used it to make the malware, Occam’s razor suggests the simpler explanation of an insider. It also fits with the pure revenge tact that this started out as.

4. Whoever did this is in it for revenge. The info and access they had could have easily been used to cash out, yet, instead, they are making every effort to burn Sony down. Just think what they could have done with passwords to all of Sony’s financial accounts? With the competitive intelligence in their business documents? From simple theft, to the sale of intellectual property, or even extortion – the attackers had many ways to become rich. Yet, instead, they chose to dump the data, rendering it useless. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that a “Nation State” which lives by propaganda would be so willing to just throw away such an unprecedented level of access to the beating heart of Hollywood itself.

5. The attackers only latched onto “The Interview” after the media did – the film was never mentioned by GOP right at the start of their campaign.

Increasingly, I agree with Rogers and think this is the action of an insider. Think of the two biggest "hacks" of the past few years whose identities are known: the US cables (via Wikileaks) and the Snowden documents. Both came from insiders with access. If I were Sony, I'd be looking over the details of people who left or were let go from the company in the past couple of years, perhaps under a cloud. It's the same motive - and to some extent MO - as (the old version of) Pelham 1-2-3.

What now puzzles me is why US sources are indicating that they think it is North Korea. It clearly isn't.
analysis  sony  hack 
december 2014 by charlesarthur
Unethical uses for public Twitter data >> Adrian Short
After outlining how there are many analysis methods which can reveal more than you think (and they're worth reading for themselves), Short points out: <blockquote class="quoted">This is the tip of the iceberg. Even if you’re a professional data analyst, you’ve got no way to know how any one of these techniques could be used, either in good faith, recklessly or maliciously, to invade the privacy and damage the lives of people who have done nothing more than post to Twitter.

I hope it’s clear that your tweets can reveal your legal identity, relationships, group memberships, interests, location, attitudes and health even where you haven’t explicitly or obviously volunteered that information. This can, and of course is, being used to change people’s lives, very often for the worst. It can affect people’s job prospects, relationships, health, finances, it could cost people their liberty or even their lives.

There is no meaningful way to consent to this, no way that any one person could comprehend the genuine risk from their social media exposure, either in the light of current known techniques or of data analysis methods yet to be devised. Increasingly, opting out isn’t an option either. At best you lose the benefits of being part of social networks online. At worst, your absence flags you as an outsider or someone with something to hide.
twitter  dataprotection  sentiment  analysis 
november 2014 by charlesarthur

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