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charlesarthur : tech   69

'We all suffer': why San Francisco techies hate the city they transformed • The Guardian
Julia Carrie Wong:
<p>A frequent refrain among the more than a dozen tech workers who spoke to the Guardian for this article was that it is not so much the presence of have-nots that is ruining their experience of San Francisco, but an overabundance of haves.

“The housing crisis has a huge negative impact on quality of life because of who it excludes from living near you,” said Simon Willison, a software developer who moved to San Francisco from London five years ago. “When I visit other cities I’m always jealous of their income diversity: that people who have jobs that don’t provide a six-digit salary can afford to live and work and be happy.”

“Even though people think there is diversity in the city, there isn’t really,” said Adrianna Tan, a senior product manager at a tech startup who moved to San Francisco from Singapore. “Sure, you get people from all over the world, but the only ones who can move here now come from the same socio-economic class.”

“I feel like San Francisco is between Seattle and New York, but rather than the best of both, it’s the worst of both,” said Beth, a 24-year-old product manager who asked not to be identified by her real name. Beth moved to the city directly after graduating from Stanford to work at a major tech company, but recently transferred to Seattle. “Everyone I met was only interested in their jobs, and their jobs weren’t very interesting,” she said of her time in San Francisco. “I get it, you’re a developer for Uber, I’ve met a million of you.”</p>

Fantastic article. Read it all.
sanfrancisco  tech  workers 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Why I (still) love tech: in defense of a difficult industry • WIRED
Paul Ford, in a sort of love letter/nostra culpa to the industry:
<p>People—smart, kind, thoughtful people—thought that comment boards and open discussion would heal us, would make sexism and racism negligible and tear down walls of class. We were certain that more communication would make everything better. Arrogantly, we ignored history and learned a lesson that has been in the curriculum since the Tower of Babel, or rather, we made everyone else learn it. We thought we were amplifying individuals in all their wonder and forgot about the cruelty, or at least assumed that good product design could wash that away. We were so hopeful, and we shaved the sides of our heads, and we never expected to take over the world.

I’m watching the ideologies of our industry collapse. Our celebration of disruption of every other industry, our belief that digital platforms must always uphold free speech no matter how vile. Our transhumanist tendencies, that sci-fi faith in the singularity. Our general belief that software will eat the world and that the world is better for being eaten.

It’s been hard to accept, at least for me, that each of our techy ideologies, while containing various merits, don’t really add up to a worldview, because technology is not the world. It’s just another layer in the Big Crappy Human System along with religion, energy, government, sex, and, more than anything else, money.</p>
culture  tech 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Big Tech’s original sin • The New York Times
Charlie Warzel:
<p>Facebook’s rapid rise to two billion-plus users, numerous privacy debacles and a steady stream of reported negative revelations suggest that, like its counterparts, the company’s quest for expansion trumped pressing concerns of privacy and transparency. A New York Times investigation last year reported that, “bent on growth,” Facebook executives “ignored warning signs” that Facebook could “disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe.”

Scale is also seductive at an engineering level, bottom line aside. Adding users and engagement, in one interpretation, might signal that you’re giving people what they want. In 2017, I asked a former senior Facebook employee if staff members had felt a sense of blame for Facebook’s inability to stop the spread of misinformation that plagued the platform during the 2016 election. Not exactly, the employee explained:

“They believe that to the extent that something flourishes or goes viral on Facebook — it’s not a reflection of the company’s role, but a reflection of what people want. And that deeply rational engineer’s view tends to absolve them of some of the responsibility, probably.”

We can see this sensibility today in the way the platforms tend to obfuscate and deflect responsibility. Just last week, a YouTube executive argued that its recommendation algorithms weren’t designed to nudge users toward more extreme videos. Similarly, Twitter has and will continue to argue it was not designed specifically to be disproportionately hostile to women and people of color. And Facebook will argue that it was certainly not designed to help foreign countries interfere in our elections.

But this defensive posture seems only concerned with intent. Even if we take the platforms at their word that they did not intend to profit from extremism or to become hubs for radicalization online, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Intent is far less important than the actual outcomes.</p>
tech  socialwarming 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Tech industry worker survey reveals deep skepticism of media • Buzzfeed News
Joseph Bernstein:
<p>To gain a fuller understanding of how Silicon Valley understands its changing relationship with the press, BuzzFeed News conducted the first-ever survey of attitudes of tech workers toward the media. The survey, of 1,000 professionals across a broad range of companies ranging in size from 500 to more than 10,000 employees, reveals an industry with deep skepticism toward the media and significant concerns about the role identity politics plays in press coverage of technology.

Indeed, more than half (51%) of tech industry professionals “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement that “President Trump has a point when it comes to the media producing fake news.” A separate survey conducted by BuzzFeed News, of 1,000 Americans representing the national population, found that only 42% somewhat or strongly agree with that statement.*

This finding puts in new context Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s much-publicized desire to build a site for tracking journalists’ credibility — a campaign many dismissed as eccentric grandstanding but which appears to arise from a pervasive sentiment in the industry, one that appears to be stronger than in the country at large. Older employees (over 55), employees of larger tech companies, and employees of companies with over $1bn in revenue were more likely to have a negative opinion of the media than younger employees (18-49), employees of smaller companies, and employees of companies with less than $1bn in revenue. In addition, women in the tech industry are less likely to hold a positive opinion of the media than their male counterparts.</p>
fakenews  tech  attitude  survey 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
I blocked Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple • Gizmodo
Kashmir Hill:
<p>I am using a Linux laptop made by a company named Purism and a Nokia feature phone on which I am relearning the lost art of T9 texting…

…in preparation for the week, I export all my contacts from Google, which amounts to a shocking 8,000 people. I have also whittled down the over 1,500 contacts in my iPhone to 143 people for my Nokia, or the number of people I actually talk to on a regular basis, which is incredibly close to Dunbar’s number.

I wind up placing a lot of phone calls this week, because texting is so annoying on the Nokia’s numbers-based keyboard. I find people often pick up on the first ring out of concern; they’re not used to getting calls from me.

I don’t think I could have done this cold turkey.
On the first day of the block, I drive to work in silence because my rented Ford Fusion’s “SYNC” entertainment system is powered by Microsoft. Background noise in general disappears this week because YouTube, Apple Music, and our Echo are all banned—as are Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu, because they rely on AWS and the Google Cloud to get their content to users.

The silence causes my mind to wander more than usual. Sometimes this leads to ideas for my half-finished zombie novel or inspires a new question for investigation. But more often than not, I dwell on things I need to do.

Many of these things are a lot more challenging as a result of the experiment, such as when I record an interview with Alex Goldman of the podcast Reply All about Facebook and its privacy problems.

I live in California, and Alex is in New York; we would normally use Skype, but that’s owned by Microsoft, so instead we talk by phone and I record my end with a handheld Zoom recorder. That works fine, but when it comes time to send the 386 MB audio file to Alex, I realize I have no idea how to send a huge file over the internet.</p>

So essentially like living in 1995. Take it from a survivor: we managed. (OK, there weren't Linux laptops. But Windows and MacOS at the time were pretty much the same as Linux is now.)
internet  privacy  data  tech 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
I cut Apple out of my life. It was devastating • Gizmodo
Kashmir Hill, continuing her series of blocking the big tech giants from her life in order; she's given up her iPhone and has got a Nokia featurephone:
<p>Typing on the device is excruciating. It has 15 buttons: 0-9, *, #, left, right, and enter. If you want to type “c”, you have to press 1 three times. (Or you can turn on T9 predictive text, which I do, so that I can press 1-1-8 and have it guess that I mean “act,” “cat,” “bat,” or “abu,” in that order.)

It is basic as hell, but incredibly you can access the internet on it, very slowly, via a browser from Opera.

As I leave T-Mobile, I send my husband, Trevor, a text; his is the only number I have memorized, and the new phone doesn’t have my contacts. “Hello from my new phone” is exhausting to compose, and I have to stand still while I write the message. I can’t believe people actually wanted to text rather than call when texting was this hard to do.

Trevor doesn’t text me back. Rude.

I try to explore the phone while walking home, but it’s so hard to do without a touch screen that I almost turn my ankle twice on the sidewalk before I give up.

When I get home, I find out why I haven’t gotten a text from Trevor: There are two iMessages from him on the notification screen of my (now banned) iPhone. Apple still has iMessaging turned on for me and is automatically routing text messages from people with iPhones to its own messaging service.

Apple still has iMessaging turned on for me and is automatically routing text messages from people with iPhones to its own messaging service.

Still using my damn MacBook Air, I Google “how to turn off iMessaging.” I turn it off, but it causes problems for the rest of the experiment; some people’s texts just don’t get to me, particularly if they are sent to group threads in which all the people have iPhones except me. It’s harder to get out of Apple’s ecosystem than Google’s.</p>

<a href="">The rest of the series is here</a>. Two more weeks to go.
apple  tech 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Blippar on the brink • Sunday Times
Oliver Shah says that the London-based augmented reality company is out of funding:
<p>Blippar’s failure would put 75 jobs at risk just before Christmas. It would be the latest blow for the British tech industry, following the high-profile unravellings of Powa Technologies and Ve Interactive.

Blippar once claimed to have turned down a $1.5bn takeover bid, putting it in the elite breed of start-ups valued at more than $1bn.

The development comes despite an ongoing rush of money into European tech start-ups, which attracted a total of $23bn (£18bn) this year, according to the investment firm Atomico. In 2013, the figure was $5bn.

Blippar was devised in a pub eight years ago, when Ambarish Mitra joked to co-founder Omar Tayeb that it would be “cool” if the picture on a banknote could come to life. They developed an app allowing users to scan physical objects such as supermarket promotions to produce responses on their smartphones.

Mitra, dubbed the real-life Slumdog Millionaire for his colourful — and sometimes exaggerated — backstory, has raised almost $150m from investors. Candy owns 49%, the hedge fund Lansdowne Partners holds 14%, Khazanah 12% and US tech giant Qualcomm 12%.

Blippar has burnt through money and been forced to close offices around the world to cut costs. The latest accounts, for the 12 months to March last year, showed pre-tax losses of £34.5m on sales of £5.7m.</p>

AR: still a zero-billion-dollar industry.
Augmentedreality  ar  blippar  tech 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Covering a White House where news is always just a tap away • The New York Times
Katie Rogers, who covers the White House for the NYT, interviews herself:
<p><strong>How have you seen White House tech evolve under President Trump?</strong>

I think moment-to-moment digital coverage of every single thing the president does is new with this White House. President Barack Obama had people tracking his movements through Twitter and beyond, but with this administration, journalists live-tweet, photograph and send video from pool sprays (brief Oval Office events) and Marine One departures, in addition to news conferences.

If I’m on the road, it’s easy for me to tune into a pool spray or speech through someone else’s Periscope live-streaming account, for instance. And when the president is at one of his properties, including the Trump Hotel or Mar-a-Lago, I often lurk on Instagram to see who is hanging out with him.

The Trump White House also had journalists switch over to an in-house Wi-Fi network, which made some reporters understandably uncomfortable for security reasons. The West Wing has also made more use out of devices that scan for gadgets including phones — I can understand why Signal is so popular. I think the anxiety over surveillance is perhaps more heightened than it was under the Obama administration, which, by the way, did its part to pave the way for these types of procedures.

<strong>What are your most important tech tools for keeping up with breaking news from the White House and talking to your sources?</strong>

I’ve been on this beat since January. I thought I was pretty much tethered to the news before, but this job requires you to imbibe a daily tidal wave of news. So that’s fun.

A lot of my monitoring is Twitter-based, so I use tools I’ve relied on for years. I use Nuzzel, a social news app that lets me know what the people I follow on social media are sharing, which is helpful for identifying the stories getting traction. And I use Twitter’s list function to sort all of the noise into manageable buckets: I have lists of White House reporters, politicians, White House aides and Washington chatterboxes.</p>

And of course Signal for keeping in touch secretly with contacts. What she has to say about the Trumps' use of technology might surprise you.
whitehouse  trump  tech 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the collapse of the tech mythology • The Atlantic
Alexis Madrigal:
<p>Where does this almost unbelievably bad news cycle end for these companies? And what if the news stays bad, but the people using their products can’t extract themselves from the platforms tech has built?

A historical analog for this fall from grace does exist. There was a time when Americans loved and talked about the transcontinental railroads the way we loved and talked about the internet. The steel lines spanning the nation were, as the Stanford historian Richard White put it, “the epitome of modernity.” “[Americans] were in love with railroads because railroads defined the age. The claims made for railroads by men who wrote about them were always extravagant,” White wrote in Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. “The kind of hyperbole recently lavished on the Internet was once the mark of railroad talk.”

Then the public turned on the transcontinental railroads. “The innovations entrepreneurs brought to the railroads—financial mechanisms, pricing innovations, and political techniques—were as harmful to the public, to the republic, and even to the corporation as they were profitable to many of the innovators,” White continued.

The railroads became some of the most despised institutions in the country and a core reason why monopoly became such a terrible word. When the railroad mythology collapsed, it helped create an entire political ideology: the progressivism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.</p>
google  facebook  monopoly  tech 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
The dream of virtual reality is dying • The Outline
Joshua Topolsky:
<p>Several prominent studios have shut down or ceased VR efforts, including Viacom and AltspaceVR, and Microsoft is a steadfast “no” when it comes to dipping its toes in the water via the Xbox. Sony has boasted about sales of the PSVR hitting 3 million in two years, but there are 82 million PS4 units in the hands of consumers (and keep in mind that Microsoft sold 35 million Kinects but still discontinued the product). With cumbersome hardware (which, let's be honest, looks really stupid to most people), absurd PC requirements, and nearly no AAA titles to lure the curious into the world of VR, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that we’ll see a major shift to virtual reality any time soon.

Also worth noting: if you’re looking to Magic Leap for a kind of bridge to the future with its AR efforts, don’t get too wound up. Brian Merchant’s <a href="">excellent and detailed feature story for Gizmodo</a> on the company’s struggles to get around the same hardware, software, and consumer adoption issues that plague VR make it clear there is no easy answer in this space.</p>

The top quote is from the CEO of CCP Games, responsible for Eve:Online, who says “We expected VR to be two to three times as big as it was, period… A lot of people bought headsets just to try it out. How many of those people are active? We found that in terms of our data, a lot of users weren't".

But would two or three times larger have really given it enough momentum? Anyway, off it goes through the Trapdoor of Doom (a little-known opening in the Hype Cycle).
virtualreality  tech 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
The global tech backlash is just beginning • The Toronto Star
Christopher Mims:
<p>The largest tech businesses reach more people than any other companies have in history, and by many metrics they have also grown at unprecedented speeds. The companies themselves argue tech is bringing great benefits to people and improving their lives, yet when they enter industries, they consolidate power and make competitors miserable in ways not seen since the Gilded Age.

As people around the world become more familiar with the internet, their views tend to change from enthusiasm to caution. A survey by the Centre for International Governance Innovation reveal that in Kenya, for example, people are singularly positive about the impact of tech, whereas in North America and Europe, people are more concerned about Big Tech’s overreach.

“Familiarity breeds contempt,” says Fen Hampson, director of global security and politics at CIGI, who conducted the survey.

As the backlash plays out, it has the potential to subdivide the internet, forcing the biggest players to create separate products and procedures for different regions. The results—following a costly, complicated and protracted transition—will be better for consumers in some cases, and significantly worse in others. Europe and the U.S. The global tech backlash starts in the West, where countries have been feeling the results of Big Tech’s growing power the longest.</p>

(Syndicated from his home at the WSJ. Free to read!)
tech  contempt 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Corporate tax and tech companies in the UK • Tax Watch UK
George Turner:
<p>In this paper we seek to estimate the revenues made by five of the largest technology companies in the world – the Tech 5 – from their UK customers. The companies included in the study are: Apple, Google, Facebook, Cisco Systems and Microsoft. We then estimate the profits these companies are making from their UK sales based on the published profit margins of those companies. From there we can make an estimate of how much tax these companies would generate in the absence of profit shifting.

In total we estimate that in 2017 these five companies earned revenues of £23.4 bn from UK customers. We further estimate that profit attributable to these sales was £6.6bn, which at the prevailing rates would have given a tax liability of £1.26bn.

The profits declared in the accounts of the UK subsidiaries of these companies, and their tax liabilities, were far less. In total, the accounts of the main UK subsidiaries of the companies we looked at suggested a combined tax liability of £191m. This is more than £1bn less than we calculate would have been due if the accounts of the UK subsidiaries of the Tech 5 more accurately reflected the revenues and profits made from UK customers.

These findings bring into focus just how much money the UK government is losing to profit shifting by large multinationals every year, and how efforts to combat this practice have largely failed. To put this into context, HMRC estimates that corporation tax avoidance by all large companies costs the Treasury just £700m a year.</p>

It's budget day in the UK. But according to Turner, "We find that years of naming and shaming, tax investigations and efforts to change the tax system have largely failed."
tech  tax 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Inside the private Justice Department meeting that could lead to new investigations of Facebook, Google and other tech giants • The Washington Post
Brian Fung and Tony Romm:
<p>A meeting of the country’s top federal and state law enforcement officials on Tuesday could presage sweeping new investigations of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and their tech industry peers, stemming from lingering frustrations that these companies are too big, fail to safeguard users' private data and don’t cooperate with legal demands.

The gathering at the Justice Department had been designed to focus on social media platforms and the ways in which they moderate content online, following complaints from President Trump and other top Republicans that Silicon Valley companies deliberately seek to silence conservative users and views online.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened the meeting by raising questions of possible ideological bias among the tech companies and sought to bring the conversation back to that topic at least twice more, according to D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine.

But the discussion proved far more wide-ranging, as attorneys general from eight states and the District — and officials from five others — steered the conversation toward the privacy practices of Silicon Valley. Those in the meeting did not zero in on specific business tactics, but they did cover such issues as how companies collect user data and what they do with it once the information is in their hands.

“We were unanimous. Our focus is going to be on antitrust and privacy. That’s where our laws are,” Jim Hood, Mississippi’s attorney general, said in an interview.</p>

So basically they told Sessions to recall the US's First Amendment, and moved on to topics not covered by that legal topic. I do like the idea of Sessions discovering his, er, session being hijacked and made to talk about serious issues.
antitrust  tech  america 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Tech-support scams prompt Google to act • WSJ
Samarth Bansal and Rob Barry:
<p>The move comes after a Wall Street Journal investigation found fraudsters were exploiting Google’s advertising system by purchasing search ads and masquerading as authorized service agents for companies such as Apple.

For instance, the first result in a recent Google search for the phrase “Apple tech support” showed a link to and a toll-free number, with the suggestion: “Get instant help from our experts.” The Journal found that the phone number didn’t belong to Apple and instead led to a call center that engages in tech-support scams.

Responding to questions about the ads earlier this week, a Google spokeswoman told the Journal the company was committed to removing bad ads, and last year removed more than 100 such ads per second for violating company policies.

On Friday, Google announced a more stringent crackdown on tech-support ads. “We’ve seen a rise in misleading ad experiences stemming from third-party technical support providers and have decided to begin restricting ads in this category globally,” Google’s global product policy director David Graffsaid <a href="">on the company’s blog</a>.

Google plans to roll out a verification program “to ensure that only legitimate providers of third-party tech support can use our platform to reach consumers,” Mr. Graff wrote…

…A 2018 study found 72% of sponsored ads on major search engines related to technical support queries led to scam websites.

These scams are on the rise: Microsoft Corp. , which receives around 12,000 complaints about tech support scams every month, reported a 24% increase in such complaints through 2017. The Federal Trade Commission registered 45,000 complaints about online tech support fraud in 2016, which the agency estimates is only a fraction of the true total.</p>

I first wrote about these scammers <a href="">back in 2010</a>, and they'd been going for a while even then. Also, how exactly is Google going to "verify" that a company is legit, and that it won't just sell its database to a scam group?
google  tech  scammers 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Michael Cohen paid a mysterious tech company $50,000 'in connection with' Trump's campaign • CNBC
Christina Wilkie:
<p>Buried in the <a href="">legal documents released Tuesday as part of Cohen's guilty plea</a> on eight felony counts, there was a new, previously unreported payment Cohen made in 2016 to help Trump: $50,000 for work that prosecutors say Cohen "solicited from a technology company during and in connection with the campaign."

The documents do not identify which tech company Cohen paid the money to, or what, exactly, the company did for him. But the mere existence of the previously unknown payment suggests that Cohen may have been doing more for Trump, and for the Trump campaign, than simply paying off women.

Furthermore, the way that Cohen reported the $50,000 expense to the Trump Organization in January 2017 suggests the money may not have been paid out through traditional financial channels.

According to prosecutors, Cohen presented Trump executives with bank records for several of the expenses he incurred on Trump's behalf. But for his $50,000 payment to a tech company, Cohen provided no paperwork, just a handwritten sum at the top of one of the other bank documents.

The Trump Organization would later say that the $50,000 was a "payment for tech services." However, prosecutors say the $50,000 "was in fact related to work Cohen had solicited from a technology company during and in connection with the campaign."

A spokesman for the Trump Organization did not respond to questions from CNBC Wednesday about the payment. Trump's campaign, likewise, did not answer questions about whether it knew Cohen had paid a tech company $50,000 to aid in Trump's election bid.</p>

Delighted to note that we now have a Trump-Cohen-tech nexus. Cambridge Analytica or one of its offshoots, perhaps? Also: if it's to do with the campaign, shouldn't it have come out of the campaign finances? On that, everyone's unclear at present.
trump  tech  cohen 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
‘I felt colossally naive’: the backlash against the birth control app • The Guardian
Olivia Sudjic tried an app called "Natural Cycles":
<p>One paid-for post I saw featured a still life of a puppy, a pair of on-trend headphones, a self-help book and a thermometer, with a 250-word caption starting with “5 things I need in the morning. Cuddles from Bee [the dog], tea, music, positive quotes and the first thing I do when I wake up – my Natural Cycles thermometer.” But I found that taking your temperature regularly is not so easy. The number of times I leapt out of bed bleary-eyed and needing to pee, then realised I hadn’t first taken my temperature, meant I started waking up in the middle of the night to pre-emptively urinate, panicked about missing my measuring window in the morning. On the pill, it didn’t matter if I’d just woken up, was lying down or standing up when I took it. With Natural Cycles, the slightest motion seemed to count. It was comedic until it became tragic; I got pregnant when the predictions of fertile and infertile changed back and forth in one day, turning from green to red, after I had unprotected sex.

I now know that the ideal Cycler is a narrow, rather old-fashioned category of person. She’s in a stable relationship with a stable lifestyle. (Shift-workers, world-travellers, the sickly, the stressed, insomniacs and sluts be advised.) She’s about 29, and rarely experiences fevers or hangovers. She is savvy about fertility and committed to the effort required to track hers. I could add that her phone is never lost or broken and she’s never late to work. She wakes up at the same time every day, with a charged phone and a thermometer within reach.</p>

Tech is no match for the female reproductive system.
tech  hormones  birth  reproduction  fertility 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
British broadband speed map • FT
Alan Smith, Nic Fildes, David Blood, Max Harlow, Caroline Nevitt and Ændrew Rininsland:
<p>The areas of the country with ultrafast internet have often taken a go-it-alone approach. Small telecoms operators such as B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) in Lancashire and CityFibre in York have replaced old copper wires with their own fibre-optic networks that are independent of the traditional national network, controlled by Openreach, BT’s engineering arm.

And while the data show that speeds are generally faster in urban areas compared with rural ones, this is often the result of strong investment in the suburbs. One of the most striking features of the British internet reality is that connections are very poor in the centre of the main cities, including London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. In many of those cases, the speed is below the 10 MBit/s threshold set for the “universal service obligation” that the government is set to introduce as a minimum standard for broadband access over the coming years.

In Britain, the digital divide is often not between urban and rural areas: it is between the suburbs and the inner city.</p>

Terrific interactive where you input a postcode and get an idea of how you compare against somewhere else. (The introductory graphic comparing part of Knightsbridge, in expensive London, with rural Shropshire is an eye-opener.) However we're no closer to truly fast, universal wired broadband because there hasn't been competition, unlike the situation that was mandated in mobile (where there were two, then four, then five principal competitors).
uk  tech  broadband  map 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Clash of the titans: Chinese and US tech giants go at it in emerging markets • The Economist
<p>According to CBInsights – a data firm – Tencent, Alibaba and its Ant Financial affiliate have backed 43% of all Asian “unicorns”, meaning startups worth more than $1bn. Alibaba’s investment in Lazada, South-East Asia’s largest e-commerce platform, has soaked up $4bn. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and boss, has pledged $8bn to India alone.

Their different approaches reflect the way the Western and Chinese firms make money. Google and Facebook earn the bulk of their revenue from advertising against services their users flock to. This requires little localisation, bar a bit of website translation to attract native users.

Chinese firms’ competitive advantage, by contrast, has historically come from being able to process payments and organise distribution of goods in a country where doing such things had previously been tricky. A business based on solving such nuts-and-bolts problems is hard to export. “For that sort of thing, it is difficult to have a one-size-fits-all approach for different countries,” says Tan Yinglan of Insignia Ventures Partners, a tech-investment firm. Being a distribution expert in Singapore (whose former postal monopoly is now 14% owned by Alibaba) brings little insight into distributing packages throughout Indonesia’s 17,500 islands, say. Nor does the ability to process payments in Vietnam smooth transactions in Brazil or in Nigeria, with their vastly different banking and regulatory systems. Such intricacies, in other words, might be better delivered by local entrepreneurs who can be bought out once they have cracked them.

How are these differing strategies panning out on the ground? The most intense Sino-American rivalry thus far is focused on India and South-East Asia. The scale of investment reflects the stakes: Indian start-ups received $5.2bn in Chinese tech money last year, according to Tracxn, a data provider, up from $930m in 2016. Forrester, a market-research group, says that Chinese tech giants (including Didi and spent $6bn on acquisitions in South-East Asia in 2017.</p>

Quite a clash where these two strategies come together.
china  us  tech  giants 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Tech CEOs criticize separating families at the US border • Mashable
Rachel Kraus:
<p>The tech industry isn't staying silent. In addition to Apple's Tim Cook, CEOs Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Dara Khosrowshahi‏ (Uber), Susan Wojcicki (YouTube), and others have taken to social media to speak out. Many have also pledged donations, with Zuckerberg leading a fundraising effort that has so far raised over $25,000.

In a Tuesday memo to Uber employees, Uber execs said the company's legal team is looking into connecting families with lawyers and already donated $100,000 to a nonprofit helping separated children, according to Business Insider.

Other tech industry leaders that have called for change include representatives from Airbnb, Box, eBay, Cisco, and others. 

Microsoft also issued a statement saying that it is "dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border." That comes after reports of employee anger over Microsoft's cloud computing deal with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). Microsoft managed to overcome its dismay long enough to reassure the public that "Microsoft is not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border."

Tesla's Elon Musk also expressed his support with a puzzling series of tweets.</p>

I'm surprised this policy survived the weekend, but increasingly it feels as though it cannot survive the indignation - and funding - being aimed at it. The stain on the US administration's character is spreading.
tech  families  us  policy 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Mary Meeker’s 2018 internet trends report: All the slides, plus analysis • Recode
Rani Molla pulls some highlights from <a href="">the full presentation</a>; these are a few of the higher highlights:
<p>• Despite the high-profile releases of $1,000 iPhones and Samsung Galaxy Notes, the global average selling price of smartphones is continuing to decline. Lower costs help drive smartphone adoption in less-developed markets.<br />• Mobile payments are becoming easier to complete. China continues to lead the rest of the world in mobile payment adoption, with over 500 million active mobile payment users in 2017.<br />• Voice-controlled products like Amazon Echo are taking off. The Echo’s installed base in the US grew from 20 million in the third quarter of 2017 to more than 30 million in the fourth quarter.<br />• Tech companies are facing a “privacy paradox.” They’re caught between using data to provide better consumer experiences and violating consumer privacy.<br />• Tech companies are becoming a larger part of U.S. business. In April, they accounted for 25 percent of US market capitalization. They are also responsible for a growing share of corporate R&D and capital spending.<br />• E-commerce sales growth is continuing to accelerate. It grew 16% in the US in 2017, up from 14% in 2016. Amazon is taking a bigger share of those sales at 28% last year. Conversely, physical retail sales are continuing to decline.</p>
internet  meeker  smartphone  tech 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Will 2018 be the year of the neo-luddite? • The Guardian
Jamie Bartlett:
<p>the whole of society seems to have woken up to the fact there is a psychological cost to constant checking, swiping and staring. A growing number of my friends now have “no phone” times, don’t instantly sign into the cafe wifi, or have weekends away without their computers. This behaviour is no longer confined to intellectuals and academics, part of some clever critique of modernity. Every single parent I know frets about “screen time”, and most are engaged in a struggle with a toddler over how much iPad is allowed. The alternative is “slow living” or “slow tech”. “Want to become a slow-tech family?” writes Janell Burley Hoffmann, one of its proponents. “Wait! Just wait – in line, at the doctor’s, for the bus, at the school pickup – just sit and wait.” Turning what used to be ordinary behaviour into a “movement” is a very modern way to go about it. But it’s probably necessary.

I would add to this the ever-growing craze for yoga, meditation, reiki and all those other things that promise inner peace and meaning – except for the fact all the techies do it, too. Maybe that’s why they do it. Either way, there is a palpable demand for anything that involves less tech, a fetish for back-to-basics. Innocent Drinks have held two “Unplugged Festivals”, offering the chance of “switching off for the weekend ... No wifi, no 3G, no traditional electricity”. Others take off-grid living much further. There has been an uptick in “back to the land” movements: communes and self-sustaining communities that prefer the low-tech life. According to the Intentional Community Directory, which measures the spread of alternative lifestyles, 300 eco-villages were founded in the first 10 months of 2016, the most since the 1970s. I spent some time in 2016 living in an off-grid community where no one seemed to suffer mobile phone separation anxiety. No one was frantically checking if their last tweet went viral and we all felt better for it.</p>
Luddite  tech 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
Why are there few women in tech? Watch a recruiting session • Wired
Jessi Hempel:
<p>In 2012 and 2013, researchers attended 84 introductory sessions held by 66 companies at an elite West Coast university. (They never explicitly name Stanford, but…) Roughly a quarter of attendees at these one-hour sessions were women, on average. The researchers <a href="">documented</a> an unwelcoming environment for these women, including sexist jokes and imagery, geeky references, a competitive environment, and an absence of women engineers—all of which intimidated or alienated female recruits. “We hear from companies there’s a pipeline problem, that there just aren’t enough people applying for jobs. This is one area where they are able to influence that,” says Wynn. They just don’t.

The chilling effect, according to Wynn, starts with the people companies send to staff recruiting sessions. As students entered, women were often setting up refreshments or raffles and doling out the swag in the back; the presenters were often men, and they rarely introduced the recruiters. If the company sent a female engineer, according to the paper, she often had no speaking role; alternatively, her role was to speak about the company’s culture, while her male peer tackled the tech challenges. Of the sessions Wynn’s research team observed, only 22% featured female engineers talking about technical work. When those women did speak, according to the sessions observed, male presenters tended to interrupt them.

Similarly, the follow-up question-and-answer periods were often dominated by male students who commandeered the time, using it to show off their own deep technical know-how in a familiar one-upmanship. Rather than acting as a facilitator for these sessions, male presenters were often drawn into a competitive volley. Wynn and Correll describe one session in which men asked 19 questions and women asked none.</p>
Women  tech  sexism  recruitment 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
Silicon Valley techies still think they're the good guys. They're not • WIRED
Erin Griffith:
<p>Talking to tech founders every day, it’s clear how little their lives have changed in the last year, even as the world around them has shifted. Even top bosses who’ve noticed the change in public opinion aren’t willing to adjust. On his blog, Y Combinator president Sam Altman argued that political correctness was damaging the tech industry. “This is uncomfortable, but it’s possible we have to allow people to say disparaging things about gay people if we want them to be able to say novel things about physics,” he wrote. On the ground, the startup kings haven’t changed their behavior. They’re still pitching me their companies with the same all-out exuberance. They’re continuing their quest to move fast and break things—regardless of what broken objects are left in their wake.

Outside the bubble, things are different. We’re not egging on startups that willingly flaunt regulations. We’re wary of artificial intelligence and its potential to eliminate jobs. We’re dubious of tech leaders’ promises to make their products safe for their kids to use. We are all sick of the jokes that no longer feel funny: lines about the lack of women in tech, about obscenely rich 20-somethings, about awkward coders with bad people skills, about “hustling” and growth at any cost. It all feels inappropriate.

But this backlash against tech is difficult to see from inside the Silicon Valley bubble. And it’s not hard to understand how we got here. In the late 2000s, just after the financial crisis, the world was eager to hear positive stories about tech. The fast rise of services like Twitter and Facebook was thrilling—a spot of optimism in the gloomy aughts—and their geek genius founders made better heroes than the greedy Wall Street jerks that had just tanked the economy.</p>
siliconvalley  tech 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Amazon, Google and Apple top the biggest tech disappointments of 2017 • CNBC
Todd Haselton with his list of things that he wasn't happy about. Those mentioned are Amazon, Google, LG, Fitbit, Apple and Essential.

However there's one key difference between the Apple product, and the products from the others. See if you can guess what it is before you click through.
disappointment  tech 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon • Law and Political Economy
Frank Pasquale:
<p>Economists tend to characterize the scope of regulation as a simple matter of expanding or contracting state power. But a political economy perspective emphasizes that social relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”

We are familiar with that power in employer-employee relationships, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise juridical power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as massive digital platforms exercise more power over our commercial lives…

…For example: Who needs city housing regulators when AirBnB can use data-driven methods to effectively regulate room-letting, then house-letting, and eventually urban planning generally? Why not let Amazon have its own jurisdiction or charter city, or establish special judicial procedures for Foxconn? Some vanguardists of functional sovereignty believe online rating systems could replace state occupational licensure—so rather than having government boards credential workers, a platform like LinkedIn could collect star ratings on them.

In this and later posts, I want to explain how this shift from territorial to functional sovereignty is creating a new digital political economy. Amazon’s rise is instructive.</p>

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Frank at Cambridge University earlier this year when he was a visiting fellow. He's very incisive. <a href="">His talk is here</a> (on YouTube), if you have 16 minutes to spare. You do, right?
amazon  tech  power 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Three ways to remake the American economy for all • The Guardian
Senator Elizabeth Warren is a Democrat senator who might be a candidate for president in 2020. She gave a <a href="">speech at the Open Markets Institute</a> about dealing with monopoly power, especially in technology:
<p>Donald Trump used to talk about the danger of monopoly. But that talk has pretty much disappeared now that he is president. Once he took the oath, he began stacking his administration with a who’s who of former lobbyists, Wall Street insiders, and corporate executives committed to tilting the scales even further in favor of their powerful friends and against everybody else. And just days ago, the Republican Congress handed out a giant tax giveaway to Wall Street corporations and the super-rich, leaving working families and college students to pick up the tab.

To rebuild an economy that works for everyone, not just the big guys, it is critical to reduce concentrated power in our markets. The federal government has the tools to do it; Congress handed antitrust enforcers those tools over a century ago. But those tools have been sitting on the shelf for decades, gathering dust.

Antitrust enforcers placed those tools on the shelf when they adopted Chicago School principles that narrowed the scope of antitrust laws; they moved away from the goal of protecting competition. It’s time to demand that antitrust enforcers pick up those tools, dust them off, and start enforcing the law again…

…It’s time to hold those corporations accountable for these competition-killing practices. And let’s be clear: holding everyone accountable means everyone. The investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 election has exposed how influential giant tech platforms can be. There is no exception in antitrust laws for big tech.

It’s time for antitrust enforcers to start looking critically at the ways in which massive amounts of data can be manipulated in ways that choke off competition.</p>
warren  tech  google  antitrust 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Silicon Valley is sneaking models into this year’s holiday parties • Bloomberg
Sarah Frier:
<p>Local modeling agencies, which work with Facebook- and Google-size companies as well as much smaller businesses and the occasional wealthy individual, say a record number of tech companies are quietly paying $50 to $200 an hour for each model hired solely to chat up attendees. For a typical party, scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 8, Cre8 Agency LLC is sending 25 women and 5 men, all good-looking, to hang out with “pretty much all men” who work for a large gaming company in San Francisco, says Cre8 President Farnaz Kermaani. The company, which she wouldn’t name, has handpicked the models based on photos, made them sign nondisclosure agreements, and given them names of employees to pretend they’re friends with, in case anyone asks why he’s never seen them around the foosball table.

“The companies don’t want their staff to be talking to someone and think, Oh, this person was hired to socialize with me,” says Kermaani, who’s sending models to seven tech parties in the same weekend.</p>

Now they're just going to suspect it of everyone, though.
tech  culture  siliconvalley 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Liberal arts and tech • Tech.pinions
Bob O'Donnell (who is a "liberal arts" graduate):
<p>while no two liberal arts programs are the same, the one consistent thread across them is that they teach people to think critically, ask these essential why questions, and work through the implications and longer-term impact of ideas and concepts, particularly as they relate to people. Applying these kinds of human-centric principles to tech could make a profoundly important impact.

Consider, for example, where social media has brought us as a society. From a scientific and programming perspective, it’s clearly impressive to be able to not only link billions of people around the world and let them communicate with one another, but to use advanced computer science to create algorithms that can continuously feed each one of us with the kind of information that specifically interests each one of us (in theory, at least).

However, a liberal arts major familiar with works like Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” John Mill’s “On Liberty” essay, or even the work of ancient Greek historians, might have been able to recognize much sooner the potential for the “tyranny of the majority” or other disconcerting sociological phenomena that are embedded into the very nature of today’s social media platforms. While seemingly democratic at a superficial level, a system in which the lack of structure means that all voices carry equal weight, and yet popularity, not experience or intelligence, actually drives influence, is clearly in need of more refinement and thought than it was first given.

Beyond these more philosophical debates, there are an increasing number of very practical concerns around the ethical application of technology in fields ranging from medicine to transportation to basic data analysis. Toss in the mind-numbing array of questions that arise from technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and it’s clear that there’s a lot more discussion that needs to happen around how technologies get applied, rather than just how to build them.</p>
arts  tech 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Note to employees from CEO Sundar Pichai • Google blog
Pichai delayed his holiday to deal with the fallout from "that memo":
<p>Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”

The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive,” showing a “lower stress tolerance,” or being “neurotic.”</p>

The employee was fired because "portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace."

I <a href="">wrote about this for CNN</a>:
<p>Amid the furor around the Google "man-ifesto" -- the male author of which, James Damore, has since left the company after his 10-page thinkpiece on why women aren't that well suited for coding went viral -- there's one question that nobody seems to have asked.

Why haven't we heard about any internal pro-diversity manifestos written by women within Google? Or within Uber? Or any of the scores of Silicon Valley companies?

They must exist. Google employs thousands of women, from its chief financial officer Ruth Porat down, and some of them must have thoughts about how to increase the pool of talent from which to draw its future managers and leaders. (Porat, one should acknowledge, was hired from outside.) So why haven't we heard about them?</p>

One other point: the case brought by the US Department of Labor seeking lots of data about Google's pay to its staff <a href="">has been reined in by the judge</a>, who says the DoL demands were overbroad, intrusive and insufficiently focussed.
google  tech  sexism  diversity 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
Silicon Valley could be next target for Trump-style nationalism • Axios
Mike Allen:
<p>The Bannon wing of the White House would like to take on the lords of the Valley now over outsourcing, the concentration of wealth and their control over our data and lives. But this fight is on hold for a later date, officials tell us.

The bigger problem for tech is that many Americans are rethinking their romantic views of the hottest and biggest companies of the new economy. As people look for villains to blame, tech might get its turn:

• Some shine has come off Facebook (though not in user data, Dan Primack points out: People still love the service), as executives fend off grievances about fake news, live violence and the filter bubble.

• Silicon Valley makes itself a juicy target with its male dominance, concentration of wealth (in both people and places), and reliance on foreign workers.

• Robots will soon be eating lots of jobs, with working-class, blue collar workers — an engine of the Trump coalition — at the most immediate risk. Many think this will be the story of the next 10 years.

• Anyone familiar with military intelligence will tell you cyber-risk is much greater than most people realize. Russians used cyber tools to try to throw the 2016 election, and electronic attack is perhaps the greatest US vulnerability to an international power.</p>

Quite how the Bannon wing would do anything is an interesting question.
siliconvalley  tech  trump 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Google’s perfect future will always be just around the corner • WIRED
David Pierce:
<p>For two and a half hours, CEO Sundar Pichai and a handful of execs rattled off a staggering list of futuristic features and products: A camera that understands what it sees! AI tools a high-schooler can use to help detect cancer! An omniscient, omnipresent virtual assistant! Independent, incredible, immersive virtual reality! To watch the address was to feel like the future had just arrived, all at once, right before your eyes.

Then you go down the list of actual new things, the stuff you can try right now. An Assistant app for iPhone, a way of sending simple email replies without typing them, Google for Jobs. And you realize I/O felt less like a Jobsian product reveal and more like a TED talk: good ideas, educated guesses, and impressive research, but precious little practical application. The same could be said for last year’s event, too. Remember that awesome Google Home launch video? You’re still waiting for many of the things it promised. It was a vision for a product, not a product.

Google’s not alone. In many ways, the entire tech world finds itself in limbo. The internet, smartphones, and Facebook conquered the world and are now ubiquitous. Meanwhile, the next wave of technology lingers just around the corner: Self-driving cars ruling the road, a world filtered through augmented-reality glasses, and artificial intelligence in every person, place, and thing. All of that and more is definitely coming. Someday. And every day it doesn’t, it feels late.</p>

I certainly feel like tech is in a limbo period. In that way, it's like the period from 2000 or so to 2007 in phones. That's how long this not-happening stuff can go on.
tech  google 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Retailers foreshadow tech debt carnage • Bloomberg Gadfly
Shira Ovide and Lisa Abramowicz:
<p>US retailers are dropping like flies. And it's worth wondering whether the retail implosion could be a preview of potential pain for the technology industry. 

This year has brought a surge of retailers that are closing stores, slashing jobs and filing for bankruptcy protection in record numbers. The boom of online shopping and a glut of stores are common factors for the retail carnage.

The tipping point, however, was the private equity buyouts in recent years that left many retailers with debt that they couldn't repay. Of the 19 companies on a Moody's list of distressed retailers in February, 15 are owned or part-owned by private equity firms. Private equity didn't kill these retailers, but they helped make the hangman's noose. 

Some of the same ingredients that created the retail carnage are now present in technology, which became a surprise darling of private equity buyouts. Dell, BMC Software, Rackspace, Informatica and Marketo were among the tech companies purchased in recent years with private equity money and debt.

In the first quarter, about one in five private equity buyouts in the U.S. involved tech companies, according to data from PitchBook. That is far above the industry's typical 10% to 15% share of U.S. private equity deals.

Silver Lake and other private equity firms have raised billions of dollars for even more technology buyouts. And the tech industry's share of loans related to acquisitions and leveraged buyouts has risen by a factor of six since 2007, according to Barclays research published last fall.That's not to say some of the buyouts in technology will blow up as they have in retail, but the industries have echoes.</p>

Squeaky bum time for Dell, one might have thought.
retail  tech  debt 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Google accused of 'extreme' gender pay discrimination by US labor department • The Guardian
Sam Levin went along to this hearing:
<p>Google has discriminated against its female employees, according to the US Department of Labor (DoL), which said it had evidence of “systemic compensation disparities”.

As part of an ongoing DoL investigation, the government has collected information that suggests the internet search giant is violating federal employment laws with its salaries for women, agency officials said.

“We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” Janette Wipper, a DoL regional director, testified in court in San Francisco on Friday.

Reached for comment Friday afternoon, Janet Herold, regional solicitor for the DoL, said: “The investigation is not complete, but at this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.”

Herold added: “The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”</p>

Google strongly denies the accusations. Shouldn't be hard to sort out by releasing pay data, right? The DoL <a href="">filed suit in January</a> asking Google to do so; the reason being that Google is a contractor for the government, and so has to abide by equal pay laws.

Google has refused to hand over the data. But surely open always wins?
google  gender  tech  pay 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Acquisitions in tech have a checkered history • Tech.pinions
Jan Dawson, following up on the awful Bloomberg article from yesterday which suggested Apple should drop nine figures on, well, <em>something</em>:
<p>Some companies seem to fare particularly poorly. Microsoft has three of the four big failures, with Alphabet having the other. But it’s also done well with some deals and all the big failures happened during the Steve Ballmer era rather than under new CEO Satya Nadella. Alphabet’s deals have mostly done well, Facebook’s are a mixed bag, and Samsung’s only big acquisition looks smart on paper but hasn’t even closed yet. Apple has only the one pretty successful acquisition on the list.

The reality is M&A is a risky business, with one of the biggest challenges being cultural fit. That’s particularly challenging at Apple because it sees its culture as both unique and uniquely important. That means smaller deals for technology and tight-knit teams of people are a better fit than massive established businesses with large workforces. For other companies with more generic engineering and software cultures, such acquisitions may be easier.

But it’s also fair to say the biggest failures include several attempts to use big acquisitions as levers for massive strategic shifts, while the most successful acquisitions have often been logical extensions of existing businesses. Skype, Nokia, and aQuantive at Microsoft all fell into the former category, for example, whereas Zappos at Amazon, YouTube and DoubleClick at Google, and Instagram at Facebook were all fairly adjacent businesses. Big strategic shifts have rarely been enabled by taking on entirely new and different businesses – those are often best established through organic change or technology acquisitions which enable broader changes.
To me, it looks like the smartest companies in this group understand this and are very discerning about the acquisitions they make.</p>
tech  acquisition 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Tech and the Fake Market tactic • Medium
Anil Dash:
<p>These new False Markets only resemble true markets just enough to pull the wool over the eyes of regulators and media, whose enthusiasm for high tech solutions is boundless, and whose understanding of markets on the Internet is still stuck in the early eBay era of 20 years ago.

Fake markets don’t just happen in traditional products and services — they’re coming to the world of content and publishing, too. Publishers are increasingly being incentivized to use platforms like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s AMP format. Like Uber’s temporarily-subsidized cheaper prices and broader access to ride hailing, these new publishing formats do offer some short-term consumer benefits, in the form of faster loading times and a cleaner reading experience.

But the technical mechanism by which Facebook and Google provide that faster reading experience happens to incidentally displace most of the third-party advertising platforms — the ones that aren’t provided by Facebook and Google themselves. Facebook publishers who use these new distribution channels are incentivized to use Facebook’s advertising platform, where payment rates and profit margins can be unilaterally changed at any time. Just as Uber subsidizes fares during the phase when they’re displacing regulated taxis, Facebook subsidizes publishers’ ad rates during the phase when they’re displacing third-party advertising networks.</p>
market  tech 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Apple, Google, Uber, Tesla, And Others React To Trump's Refugee Ban - BuzzFeed News
Charlie Warzel and Sheera Frankel:
<p>Apple, Google, Uber, Tesla, And Others React To Trump’s Refugee Ban; Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Oracle CEO Safra Catz serves on a Trump administration advisory committee.</p>

You can guess most of it. They're against it - though Uber seems to have a problem, because its CEO spoke out in favour of Trump (early in the administration, i.e. more than a week ago) while its CTO came out strongly against.

Oracle's position is... let's say compromised.
tech  trump 
january 2017 by charlesarthur
Photo: Who sat where during Trump's meeting with tech leaders • Business Insider
Biz Carson has the lowdown, along with everyone else. The seating plan doesn't seem to allow for an exchange of views; instead, they're all mixed in with each other. <a href="">Reuters video</a>: "I'm here to help you folks do well, and you're doing well right now... right now everybody in this room has to like me at least a little bit…"

trump  tech 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
As Trumplethinskin lets down his hair for tech, shame on Silicon Valley for climbing the Tower in silence • Recode
Kara Swisher:
<p>When I call these top leaders — of course, it has to be off the record — I get a running dialogue in dulcet tones about needing to cooperate and needing to engage and needing to be seen as willing to work together. Also that Trump means very little of what he says out loud — which I will now officially dub the Peter Thiel take-it-seriously-not-literally defense. And they assure me that they will say what they really think behind closed doors where no one can hear it but each other.

This, even though it will be a certainty that Trump will tweet the whole thing with his doubtlessly warped take of the proceedings. My only hope is that often-erupting Tesla and SpaceX’s Elon Musk — who is also now attending — will also erupt when he realizes the farce he has agreed to be part of.

Or maybe I don't get it because I am of the old school that when something smells fishy, there is probably a dead fish somewhere to be found. But to my ear, it’s a symphony of compromise, where only now and then a sour note sounds from someone who breaks from the platitudes they are spewing.

Like one tech leader who suddenly stopped mid-sentence about how to really make deals, Kara, because the truth just had to be out. “Trump is just awful, isn’t he? It makes me sick to my stomach,” the leader agonized, as a real thinking person would. “What are we going to do?”</p>

There's also an excellent (brief) <a href="">tweetstorm by Mark Suster</a>, pointing out that Trump's bullying tweets against companies are "a classic authoritarian move that shouldn't be tolerated".

Trump isn't president yet. When he is, let him call people in. Right now, he's a businessman with a poor record and worse self-control.
twitter  tech  politics 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
Trump invites tech leaders to roundtable next week • USA Today
Jessica Guynn and Jon Swartz:
<p>President-elect Donald Trump has invited technology industry leaders to a roundtable next week in New York.

The invitation for the Dec. 14 summit was sent by Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, and transition team adviser Peter Thiel. Among the CEOs who plan to attend the meeting are Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz.

The tech industry, which bet heavily on Hillary Clinton in the months leading up to the presidential election, is looking to build bridges to the incoming administration…

…Facebook declined to comment whether it would attend next week's tech roundtable. [Peter] Thiel [who is advising the Trump transition team] sits on the board of the giant social network.

Leading Silicon Valley companies such as Alphabet's Google declined to comment.

Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and self-described "proud Republican" who had supported Trump rival Hillary Clinton in the campaign, won't attend, the company said.</p>

Do we think Twitter will attend, and will upbraid Minority Donald for offensive tweeting aimed at individuals?
trump  tech 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
Gender bias in hiring: interviewing as a trans woman in tech • Model View Culture
February Keeney is half-Puerto Rican, and now works at GitHub on its anti-harassment systems:
<p>We know a lot about bias in hiring. Study after study confirms the very real phenomenon of bias <a href="">against women</a>, <a href="">against people of color</a>, <a href="">against LGBT</a> candidates. A fascinating phenomenon has shown up in some of the more recent studies: those who have very little explicit bias often have a lot of internalized implicit bias. That is to say, those who externally and consciously seem the least discriminatory, tend to be more likely to discriminate on a subconscious level.

My life has played out what many of these studies have simulated by replacing names on resumes, and other sleights of hand. The same exact candidate, in one instance presented as male and another as female, had not just slightly different results in the job search, but radically different results.

My career has become an A/B Test in gender. With the clear “winner” being male.

Being trans brings an entire new layer of bias and discrimination to play in every interview. In many circumstances I can avoid being read as trans. But almost never in a technical interview. Get me talking about tech and I will subconsciously drop voice. If the interviewer — almost always male — had suspicions about me prior to that, they have now been confirmed.

At this point a whole new set of factors come into play. Do they find me repulsive? Or worse, do they find me attractive? You can almost see the internalized homophobia in their eyes when this happens; that moment when they realize they are attracted to a trans woman. You see the fear in their eyes as they think “does this mean I am gay?”

I want to yell at them, “No! That is not how that works! It makes you straight! But even if it did make you gay: what’s wrong with that?”

Instead I sit there and hope they don’t sabotage me in their interview feedback. How often do these feelings translate into “not a good fit” or “she made me uncomfortable”?</p>

Keeney is very interesting on this topic; equally good as the above is <a href="">this interview with Techies Project</a>. How galling would it be to be refused a job you know you're qualified for because, basically, you wore lip gloss?

This is part of tech's problem: it almost unconsciously enforces a strongly homogeneous culture.
trans  tech 
december 2016 by charlesarthur
Why Jamaica knows about Apple’s new products before the rest of the world — Quartz
Joon Ian Wong and Christopher Groskopf:
<p>The tech giants are exploiting a US trademark-law provision that lets them effectively claim a trademark in secret. Under this provision, once a mark is lodged with an intellectual property office outside the US, the firm has six months to file it with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When the firm does file in the US, it can point to its original application made abroad to show that it has a priority claim on the mark.

In the meantime, though, the provision prevents competitors from guessing at a firm’s product plans from public filings. “Competitors could search, ‘What has Apple filed for? What are they thinking about?'” says Nehal Madhani of legal-software provider Alt Legal, who has <a href="">researched the issue</a>. Think of it as arbitraging global intellectual-property laws.

The filings made overseas aren’t, of course, actually secret—they’re just not easy to access if you can’t go in person. For instance, the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office allows visitors to search filings in person at its office in Kingston. People can also ask the office to search filings for them, but a Jamaican address is required to receive the results, and the process takes three weeks. A lawyer in Jamaica, however, can be appointed to perform the search, the office told Quartz. It said it has no current plans to put its filings database online. Alt Legal compiled a list of 65 other countries with offline trademark databases like Jamaica’s.</p>

This is a story about Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, among others. You'll know Apple's brand really has trouble when headlines on stories like this one mention Google rather than Apple. (Notice how Microsoft has faded from view in that sense.)
apple  google  trademark  tech  jamaica 
october 2016 by charlesarthur
Access, accountability reporting and Silicon Valley • Nieman Reports
Adrienne LaFrance:
<p>It’s typical to see technology coverage that simply aggregates directly from a tech company’s blog—the modern-day equivalent of a press release—with little or no analysis or additional reporting. One damning example of this lack of skepticism is evident in the early, glowing coverage of Theranos, the health-technology company that said it had developed a cheap, needle-free way to draw and test blood. It wasn’t until last year that an investigative reporter from The Wall Street Journal, prompted by a sunny New Yorker profile of the Theranos founder, began to ask serious questions about whether the technology actually worked the way Theranos claimed it did. That reporting, from John Carreyrou, encouraged other reporters to be more skeptical, too, and ultimately led to a federal criminal investigation into whether the company misled investors and regulators about the state of its technology.

Investigations like Carreyrou’s—or getting inside the grueling corporate culture at Amazon, as The New York Times did last year; or detailing Google’s powerful but hidden lobbying efforts, as The Washington Post has; or contextualizing the cultural complexities of programs like Facebook’s Free Basics, as I’ve tried to do; or establishing a drumbeat of smart, in-depth coverage of the fight between Apple and the F.B.I.—is the only way to begin to understand the complex social and political impact of technology.

Technology companies “are all dedicated to revamping our daily existence,” says Streitfeld, who reported and wrote the Amazon piece for the Times with Jodi Kantor. “What happens when they succeed? Who loses? When they stumble, like Facebook in India, what does it mean? The rise of tech is, in my opinion, the great story of our time”…

…according to Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, “To actually cover technology properly,” Bell says, “it’s about society and culture and human rights. It’s about politics. This idea that you can have a Washington bureau where you don’t have somebody who really understands some of the issues in [computing] infrastructure or A.I., and how data is really political? They are new systems of power, and that’s one of the areas where I think news organizations have been slow.”</p>
journalism  media  tech 
august 2016 by charlesarthur
Exclusive: Hackers accessed Telegram messaging accounts in Iran - researchers • Reuters
Joseph Menn and Yeganeh Torbati:
<p>Telegram's vulnerability, according to Anderson and Guarnieri, lies in its use of SMS text messages to activate new devices. When users want to log on to Telegram from a new phone, the company sends them authorization codes via SMS, which can be intercepted by the phone company and shared with the hackers, the researchers said.

Armed with the codes, the hackers can add new devices to a person's Telegram account, enabling them to read chat histories as well as new messages.

"We have over a dozen cases in which Telegram accounts have been compromised, through ways that sound like basically coordination with the cellphone company," Anderson said in an interview.</p>
tech  telegram  hacking  iran 
august 2016 by charlesarthur
Airbnb's racism “the greatest challenge we face as a company” • The Memo
Oliver Smith:
<p>in 2015 a Harvard Business School study <a href="">reported</a> that there is “widespread discrimination against African-American guests” taking place on Airbnb.

Last month Chesky kick started a company-wide review of discrimination on Airbnb, and this morning he announced that [it will be led by] former US attorney general Eric Holder, the country’s first black person to hold this most senior legal position.

Chesky also reflected on why Airbnb had been so painfully slow to respond to these serious problems.

“Joe, Nate, and I started Airbnb with the best of intentions, but we weren’t fully conscious of this issue when we designed the platform,” he wrote.

“After speaking to many of you, I have learned that there have at times been a lack of urgency to work on this, and we need to rectify that immediately.”

The big question now for Airbnb, and many sharing economy businesses like it, is can they fix both the technical issues allowing discrimination to take place and then win back the trust of users.

In many ways Airbnb’s plight highlights just how significantly better Uber’s system is. Auto-matching passangers and drivers, giving drivers little option but to accept rides, and with a dispassionate rating system which uses average ratings to simply exclude ‘bad’ passangers and drivers.</p>

When tech becomes woven into society, you start to see its social effects.
airbnb  racism  tech 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Tech companies blame price rises on Brexit vote • BBC News
Leo Kelion:
<p>US computer-maker Dell and the Chinese smartphone company OnePlus are both raising their prices in the UK and saying the move is the result of the nation's vote to leave the EU.

Another company, used by several camera equipment-makers to bring their goods to the UK, has also revealed it will soon follow suit. Intro 2020 said it had been "punched in the stomach very hard" by sterling's drop after the Brexit referendum. Experts predict further price rises.

The pound hit a fresh 31-year low against the dollar earlier on Wednesday - it has dropped more than 12% since the eve of the Brexit referendum result. Falls against some Asian currencies have been even larger.</p>

Others will follow; it's just going to be a matter of time. Only a lunatic would have hedged for that big a drop in sterling, which means dollar-denominated prices will rise in a month or two.
sterling  tech  prices 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Why tech support is (purposely) unbearable • The New York Times
Kate Murphy:
<p>You can also find excellent tech support in competitive markets like domain name providers, where operators such as Hover and GoDaddy receive high marks. Also a good bet are hungry upstarts trying to break into markets traditionally dominated by large national companies. Take regional internet and phone service providers like Logix and WOW, which rank near the top in customer support surveys.

But tech support veterans and mental health experts said there were other ways to get better tech support or maybe just make it more bearable. First, do whatever it takes to control your temper. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Losing your stack at a consumer support agent is not going to get your problem resolved any faster. Probably just the opposite.

“I definitely remember seeing parts of myself I didn’t know were there as far as getting irritated with people and using passive-aggressive behaviors,” said John Valenti, a video producer in Rochester, who worked as a tech support agent at an internet phone company from 2007 to 2012 to put himself through graduate school. He made an <a href="">absurdist film</a> about it for his master’s thesis at the Rochester Institute of Technology.</p>

Here's the film - 21 minutes of your time, perhaps to be watched while you're on hold about something: <iframe src="" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href="">TECH SERVICE: A Memoir by John Valenti</a> from <a href="">John Valenti</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>
tech  support 
july 2016 by charlesarthur
Hillary Clinton's initiative on technology and innovation •
The would-be president who doesn't say outrageous things (and thus gets no coverage outside the US) has a detailed set of tech proposals, which has lots of "would be nice" ideas but also this:
<p>Copyrights encourage creativity and incentivize innovators to invest knowledge, time, and money into the generation of myriad forms of content. However, the copyright system has languished for many decades, and is in need of administrative reform to maximize its benefits in the digital age. Hillary believes the federal government should modernize the copyright system by unlocking — and facilitating access to — orphan works that languished unutilized, benefiting neither their creators nor the public.

She will also promote open-licensing arrangements for copyrighted material and data supported by federal grant funding, including in education, science, and other fields. She will seek to develop technological infrastructure to support digitization, search, and repositories of such content, to facilitate its discoverability and use.

And she will encourage stakeholders to work together on creative solutions that remove barriers to the seamless and efficient licensing of content in the U.S. and abroad.</p>

There's also privacy, smart government, more broadband, and plenty more.
clinton  tech 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Rohan Silva has no idea what he’s talking about • FT Alphaville
Kadhim Shubber takes issue with former No. 10 tech policy adviser Silva, who suggests cutting corporation tax to 10% to (re?-) attract businesses:
<p>He goes on to say that we should “transform the efficiency of our immigration system” by using “data analytics and machine learning”, which has become something of a verbal tic in the tech community.

This sort of thinking crops up whenever society faces complicated, difficult problems. If only taxes or regulation didn’t exist, neither would recessions or financial crises. It has the impression of being proactive — we don’t have time, just cut the red tape and save the economy already! — but is more likely to exacerbate the fractures in our society than heal them.

It will take months and years before we fully understand what happened in the UK last week, but it is highly plausible that this was the backlash of a class of people left behind by globalisation. They have much to be angry about: de-industrialisation; massive tax avoidance; the pain and misery caused by the financial crisis; the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small international elite. If we want to assuage this fury, we might start by better redistributing the fruits of globalisation.

In that context, turning the UK into a global tax haven would be akin to rubbing salt in the wound. Silva seems to imagine the economically disenfranchised people who just plunged the UK into crisis will be content to give him and other business owners more money. It’s not only a stupid idea, it’s a dangerous one that risks inflaming tensions.</p>
brexit  tech 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Lessons from the tech elite: eat carrots, shower more and tape up your webcam • The Guardian
Stuart Heritage on the many strange things that tech elites do:
This gold nugget came from Elon Musk in a Reddit AMA last year. When asked “What daily habit do you believe has the largest positive impact on your life?” he replied: “Showering.” This could be because the time he spends alone in the shower each day makes him more receptive to inspiration. Or it could be because he naturally emits such a hideous stench that nobody would work with him otherwise. Either way, if you want to be as successful as Musk, wash sometimes.

Make an entire room out of gold
Yoshiro Nakamatsu invented the floppy disk. Why? Because he spends all his downtime relaxing in a room tiled with 24-carat gold. The gold, he says, “blocks out radio waves and television signals that are harmful to imagination”. This sounds like the ravings of a lunatic, but remember he invented the floppy disk. What have you ever invented? Nothing. And you never will until you start living like Donald Trump’s wet dream.</p>

tech  weird 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
How artificial intelligence will transform our high streets • Tech City News
Rosh Singh, director of digital innovation at Kinetic Active:
<p>the environment we live in is already being transformed at an astounding rate. For instance, the death of the high street owing to the growth of eCommerce, is often lamented. But new technologies are actually making high streets more accessible, more engaging and more personal than ever before.

For proof, look no further than the rapid rise in campaigns linking out-of-home (OOH) media to mobile marketing. Kinetic recently formed a partnership with Exterion to experiment with beacons used in conjunction with digital out-of-home (DOOH) media. Eventually we will be able to know exactly who is standing in front of a screen at any given time, personalise digital copy based on in-app activity, and serve useful messaging that is unique to every individual.

In the future, knowing you are heading out shopping, the screens on your route would serve you intuitive nudges to remind you of vital items missing from your connected fridge or your cupboards, and share information like in-store discounts, details on busiest shop times or new stockists.</p>

I'm giving this a no-way-Jose.
shopping  tech 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
uBeam: Former engineers doubt it can work • Business Insider
Biz Carson:
<p>While the tech press and investors lauded the startup's gusto, skeptics of the company have long questioned uBeam's technology.

Over time, the startup has claimed it can charge devices as far as 20 to 30 feet away, even in your pocket at a café. "The technology makes it possible for a device to move freely around a room, in a pocket or purse, while constantly charging," the New York Times wrote about the company. 

It has since walked back all of those measurements when it published its "confidential secrets" in TechCrunch.

The real range, uBeam proclaims, will be 4 meters, or 12 feet. And, it can only charge devices that are out in the open — not in a pocket, a laptop sleeve, or around any obstruction. 

The company has never published articles in a peer-reviewed journal.
[Former CTO Paul] <a href="">Reynolds' blog argues</a> that the math, using uBeam's public-facing numbers, just doesn't add up. 

The company fails to address the problem of saturation, Reynolds' post says. At the frequency, decibel level, and distance that uBeam claims, its ultrasonic waves will quickly distort, emitting a lot of heat. However at that level, the air also becomes saturated with the ultrasonic waves — it could keep pushing waves to generate power, but it would be doing very little more. </p>

TechCrunch (which, to be fair, has published articles doubtful about this) had an earlier version which didn't manage to find out who was writing the blog. Carson has found not one, but three sources.

And yes, this feels a lot like Theranos - high-tech startups doing edgey physical stuff which suddenly fall apart in the face of ex-employees' revelations. Then again, there's a reason why they're called the laws of physics. (Cap'n.)
ultrasonic  tech  ubeam 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
A poem about Silicon Valley, made up of Quora questions » Fusion
Jason Gilbert:
<p>Why do so many startups fail?
Why are all the hosts on CouchSurfing male?
Are we going to be tweeting for the rest of our lives?
Why do Silicon Valley billionaires choose average-looking wives?

What makes a startup ecosystem thrive?
What do people plan to do once they’re over 35?
Is an income of $160K enough to survive?
What kind of car does Mark Zuckerberg drive?</p>

And there's more. This is splendid.
tech  siliconvalley  poetry 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
Kickstarter’s biggest shitshow somehow got even messier » Motherboard
Jaason Koebler:
<p>A decidedly not chill development for 36,000 Kickstarter backers of the “Coolest Cooler”: Coolest is now considering asking people who haven’t yet received their coolers to pay an additional $97 for “expedited delivery” of the long-past-due all-in-one disaster, a prospect that has allegedly led some backers to threaten Coolest employees.

If you’re not familiar, at the time it launched, the Coolest Cooler was the most popular Kickstarter of all time, raising $13 million. The 55-quart cooler has a built-in blender, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a USB charger, and a bottle opener. You can buy one on Amazon, right now, and have it by the weekend if you pay $399.99.

That $399.99 price point is important—when Coolest Cooler was launched on Kickstarter, it cost between $165 and $225, a price its creator Ryan Grepper said in an update to backers was far too low…

…Coolest Cooler doesn’t have money to produce the remaining coolers, which is why it’s selling existing stock on Amazon but not sending them to backers who haven’t yet received the product (the company has delivered about 20,000 coolers to backers, but 36,000 more people are waiting). Reviews of the cooler are mixed — most say that it is indeed cool, but that it is very heavy and isn’t worth $400. </p>

I'm trying to imagine a cooler that would be worth $400, even with those add-ons. The article's comparison with the Welsh drone screwup Zano isn't right, though; Zano had absurdly inflated claims. This is just poor pricing.
crowdfunding  internet  tech 
april 2016 by charlesarthur
Clippy’s back: the future of Microsoft is chatbots » Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Dina Bass:
<p>Whether you think bots are exciting or alarming, a lot of people are already using them. Microsoft’s Chinese version of Tay, called Xiaoice, has been available for 18 months and has 40 million users. Conversations with Xiaoice (pronounced shao-ice) average about 23 exchanges per session. Few users chat that long with Siri. Facebook is working on an assistant named M and already has bots operating on its Messenger app that let users book a haircut or send flowers. The Wall Street Journal reported in December that Google is working on a bot-based app that will answer users’ questions. Amazon has its best-reviewed product in years in the Echo, a voice-controlled black cylinder that sits in customers’ kitchens and performs a fast-growing list of tasks—it can look up recipes, order groceries, turn on the news, play songs, and read e-books aloud. Slack, the corporate messaging service, has bots that can manage your expenses and order the office beer.

On March 30, at Microsoft’s annual Build conference for software developers in San Francisco, Nadella will try to undo the damage from Tay and unveil his vision, which he calls “conversation as a platform.” Microsoft will show off several different bots and programs that manage tasks via discussion. Some you’ll be able to text with, like Tay; others are just concepts cooked up for the show to spark developers’ imaginations. </p>

The question is whether, as with Tay, the corpus (that it learns from) is <a href="">already poisoned</a>. Humans learn not to do certain things in social situations; Tay and its brethren are being thrown into situations where learning is almost impossible because the barriers between good and bad behaviour are surprisingly narrow. "Hitler could have done a better job" can be said ironically, or flatly; its meaning to the listener depends on a lot of pre-knowledge.
ai  bots  microsoft  tech 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
What does your reaction to a robotic trash can say about you? » Atlas Obscura
Cara Giamo:
<p>Imagine you’re in a cafeteria, finishing up a bag of chips and chatting with some friends. You’re beginning to think about getting up to throw away your wrapper, when—suddenly—the nearest trash barrel approaches you instead. It rolls back and forth, and wiggles briefly. It is, it seems, at your service.

How do you respond?</p>

Like this: <iframe src="" width="100%" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p>The trash barrel has delivered some particularly unique insights. First of all, Sirkin and Ju say, it highlights how good people are at subtly refusing to acknowledge interactions they don’t want or need—a behavior the team has dubbed “unteracting.” If the trash barrel approaches a table of people, and they have no trash to give it, they generally won’t shoo it off. They’ll just steadfastly ignore it until it rolls away again. “They’re using their gaze as a tool for deciding when they’re engaging or not,” says Ju. (You can see this about halfway through the video, when a man on a cell phone refuses to look at the barrel until it backs off.)

On the other hand, people who did make use of the barrel felt miffed when it didn’t respond more. “People kind of expected it to thank them,” says Sirkin. “They’ll say ‘I fed the robot, and it didn’t thank me, and that was insulting.'” Some would also whistle for it, or dangle trash in front of it enticingly.</p>
robots  tech  society 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
Why you should try that crazy virtual reality headset » WSJ
Joanna Stern provides a number of examples - with 360-degree video - to show how VR can have real-world applications:
<p>By visiting places in the real world that I’d already seen in VR, I came to realize that these silly headsets can be magical. They also have a dark side: It’s easy to end up nauseous, and—more frighteningly—virtual experiences can sometimes get too real. More often than I imagined, the line between the two realities starts to blur.

I’m walking into the master bath of a $7.3M penthouse that just hit the market. The blue tub that backs up to a stunning view of downtown San Francisco is perfect. While examining the square showerhead, I feel something I never have before, a newfangled sort of déjà vu. Though my physical body has never been here, I remember it. In my office just two days ago, I was staring at the same brass spigot, via a VR headset.

The first person you try VR with could be a realtor rather than a Best Buy employee. San Francisco realtor Roh Habibi now keeps a Samsung Gear VR headset in his car. “I’ve locked in showings just after having a client put on the headset,” he says. Sales gimmick or no, when I set foot in that house, I knew exactly how to get to that bathroom.</p>

(Though the examples are, when viewed just on a browser, pretty much a recap of <a href="">Quicktime VR</a>, which dates back to 1994.)
tech  vr 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
Intel officially kills “tick-tock” » The Motley Fool
Ashraf Eassa:
<p>back in mid-2015, Intel admitted that its 10-nanometer technology was in rough shape and wouldn't go into production at the end of the year as expected. In the company's most recent form 10-K filing, it went ahead and officially declared "Tick-Tock" [by which it reduces the die size in one year, and in the next year improves the microarchitecture] dead.

Intel's wording in the form 10-K filing is as following:

"We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize out 14 [nanometer] and out next-generation 10 [nanometer] process technologies, further optimizing out products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions."

The company even includes an interesting visual aid to contrast the differences between the previous methodology and the current one:

<img src="" width="100%" />

Intel says that its third 14-nanometer product, known as Kaby Lake, will have "key performance advancements as compared to [its] 6th generation Core processor family." The extent of these enhancements is clear, but leaks to the Web suggest enhancements to graphics and media.</p>

Along with Moore's Law fading, this is an epochal moment.
intel  tech  technology 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
Apple developing wireless-charged iPhone for as soon as 2017 » Bloomberg Business
Tim Culpan:
<p>In 2010 Apple made a <a href=",086,864.PN.&OS=PN/9,086,864&RS=PN/9,086,864">patent application</a> outlining a concept of using an iMac personal computer as a hub for wirelessly recharging at a distance of about 1 meter using a technique called near-field magnetic resonance. Apple currently uses a similar technique, called induction, to charge its Watch within millimeters of the power source.

Another Apple patent outlined a method for making aluminum phone casings that allow radio waves to pass through, a technique that would minimize the problem of metal interfering with transmitted signals.

Apple has previously played down its interest in any charging technology that still needs to be plugged into a wall socket because such methods would add little convenience.

Semiconductor makers Broadcom and Qualcomm are among those who have developed or are developing technology and standards for wireless charging.</p>

How much demand is there for wireless charging?
apple  tech  wireless  charging 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
November 2013: Bitcoin under pressure » The Economist
The Economist doesn't name writers, but I happen to know this is by Glenn Fleishman, writing back in 2013:
<p>Server farms with endless racks of ASIC cards have already sprung up. But as part of Bitcoin’s design, the reward for mining a block halves every 210,000 blocks, or roughly every four years. Sometime in 2017, at the current rate, it will drop to 12.5 Bitcoins. If the returns from mining decline, who will verify the integrity of the block chain?

To head off this problem, a market-based mechanism is in the works which will raise the current voluntary fees paid by users (around five cents per transaction) in return for verification. “Nodes in the peer-to-peer network will try to estimate the minimum fee needed to get the transaction confirmed,” says Mr Hearn.

Bitcoin’s growing popularity is having other ripple effects. Every participant in the system must keep a copy of the block chain, which now exceeds 11 gigabytes in size and continues to grow steadily. This alone deters casual use. Bitcoin’s designer proposed a method of pruning the chain to include only unspent amounts, but it has not been implemented.

As the rate of transactions increases, squeezing all financial activity into the preset size limit for each block has started to become problematic. The protocol may need to be tweaked to allow more transactions per block, among other changes. A further problem relates to the volunteer machines, or nodes, that allow Bitcoin to function. These nodes relay transactions and transmit updates to the block chain. But, says Matthew Green, a security researcher at Johns Hopkins University, the ecosystem provides no compensation for maintaining these nodes—only for mining. The rising cost of operating nodes could jeopardise Bitcoin’s ability to scale.</p>

Following <a href="">Mike Hearn's farewell</a> the other day, I think Fleishman is allowed to say "told you so".
bitcoin  finance  tech 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
Tech faces hour of reckoning as fundraising drops, layoffs rise » USA Today
Jon Swartz:
<p>Is tech in for a rude awakening this year after a magic carpet ride the past few years?

The numbers, and recent actions by once-highflying start-ups, would seem to suggest so.

Consider: Mega-rounds, defined as funding of more than $100 million for venture capitalist-backed companies, are in free fall. The rate of private start-ups attaining unicorn status — a valuation of at least $1 billion — are grinding to a crawl. Friday layoffs at tech start-ups, deemed Black Fridays, are increasing. Bellwether tech stocks such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have been taking it on the chin.

"It's a time to re-calibrate — so many companies can't burn extraordinary amounts of money forever," says Sunil Panel, co-founder of Sidecar, a pioneer in the crowded ride-sharing space that shuttered operations on Dec. 31.

Last year, Silicon Valley projected unbridled swagger. Today, "there is definitely an era of reckoning," says Chris Sacca, a venture investor with stakes in Uber and Twitter. "Reality is setting in."</p>

Not sure about "grinding to a crawl" (note to USA Today subs: things grind to a halt, or slow to a crawl), but the slowdown in stupid ideas is palpable.
tech  funding 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
Mozilla will stop developing and selling Firefox OS smartphones » TechCrunch
Ingrid Lunden:
<p>Firefox OS was first unveiled in 2013, with the aim of targeting the developing world and late adopters with low-cost handsets.

To differentiate from Android and iOS, Mozilla and its carrier partners focused on a web-first platform, with no native and only web apps. <a href="">Sales, however, were always poor</a> and the devices themselves failed to ignite a lot of consumer interest, and a number of OEMs cornered the market with a flood of cheap handsets. In a business that depends on economies of scale, it was a failure.

Mozilla has been on a streamlining track lately. Last week it announced that it would be looking for alternative homes for its Thunderbird email and chat client. The aim is for the company to focus more on its strongest and core products and reputation. </p>

Came really late to the game, and never made table stakes - an app ecosystem - because it didn't think that that table was right. Apps trump the mobile web.
firefox  mozilla  tech 
december 2015 by charlesarthur
Engadget unveils redesign focused on technology’s effect on society » WSJ
Lukas Alpert:
<p>Launched in 2004, Engadget’s audience had begun to decline in recent years, Mr. Gorman said. Despite that, advertising revenue has remained steady, said Ned Desmond, general manager of AOL Tech.

“Revenue has been fine for quite a while,” he said. “Of course it is a better scenario when your audience is growing again in a sustainable way. Advertisers appreciate that.”

As the site increasingly began to focus on broader tech issues earlier this year, traffic has begun to tick back up. Unique visitors to the site in October were up 25% compared with same month last year at 10.8 million, according to comScore Inc. By comparison, rival CNET was slightly down in October year-over-year at 32.2 million. Traffic to the Verge jumped 27% in the same period to 19.8 million.

Overall, the tech media space has become very crowded in recent years, making it harder to stand out.</p>

That "audience declined but advertising revenue stayed the same" suggests more ads being thrown at people, which could make them go away faster. Changing the editorial position seems to be the way to reverse that. But the "social impact" space could get crowded fast too.
tech  engadget 
december 2015 by charlesarthur
You may be more exposed to the tech bubble than you think » Quartz
Allison Schrager:
<p>First, you might have a stake in these companies if you own any actively managed mutual funds, perhaps through your retirement plan. According to Todd Rosenbluth, director of mutual fund research at Standard &Poor’s, large mutual funds have been investing in non-public companies for years. “Most people have no idea.” he says. The payoffs can be big if some of these firms successfully go public, but the risks are significant because it’s impossible to assign a consistent, accurate value to these investments, and they are hard to sell if the fund faces redemptions. However, regulation keeps mutual funds from holding large amounts of private shares, which would mitigate the impact. “It’s a tiny part of their portfolios,” Rosenbluth says. For example, only about 2% of the Fidelity Blue Chip Growth fund is made up of tech startup investments.

The second way you’re exposed is through public pensions, whether you’re a direct beneficiary or not.</p>

Feels like a stretch, to be honest. And certainly nothing like the dot-com bust.
tech  bubble 
november 2015 by charlesarthur
The fastest-growing mobile phone markets barely use apps » Quartz
Africa and Asia, the two fastest growing mobile markets, aren’t very big on apps.

The overwhelming majority of mobile internet activity in the regions is spent on web pages, according to a <a href="">report released</a> on 28 July by Opera Mediaworks. In Asia and Africa, websites made up 90% and 96% of mobile impressions, respectively, in the second quarter.

Their habits are a sharp contrast to the US, where apps accounted for 91% of impressions. Globally, there’s a more even distribution, with apps making up 56% of mobile impressions and websites comprising the remainder…

…“A big portion of the mobile audience in mobile-first regions like Africa and [Asia-Pacific] are still using low-end feature phones because of the cost factor,” a spokesman tells Quartz. “This therefore compels them to use the mobile web more than apps, which are usually dominant on smartphones.”

Today's challenger for the "well duh" prize.
mobile  tech  geography 
july 2015 by charlesarthur
Study suggests Google's ad-targeting system may discriminate » MIT Technology Review
Tom Simonite:
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the International Computer Science Institute built a tool called AdFisher to probe the targeting of ads served up by Google on third-party websites. They found that fake Web users believed by Google to be male job seekers were much more likely than equivalent female job seekers to be shown a pair of ads for high-paying executive jobs when they later visited a news website.

AdFisher also showed that a Google transparency tool called “ads settings,” which lets you view and edit the “interests” the company has inferred for you, does not always reflect potentially sensitive information being used to target you. Browsing sites aimed at people with substance abuse problems, for example, triggered a rash of ads for rehab programs, but there was no change to Google’s transparency page.

What exactly caused those specific patterns is unclear, because Google’s ad-serving system is very complex. Google uses its data to target ads, but ad buyers can make some decisions about demographics of interest and can also use their own data sources on people’s online activity to do additional targeting for certain kinds of ads. Nor do the examples breach any specific privacy rules—although Google policy forbids targeting on the basis of “health conditions.” Still, says Anupam Datta, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who helped develop AdFisher, they show the need for tools that uncover how online ad companies differentiate between people.

Google didn't respond to the researchers' requests. But, oddly, it changed the language on that transparency page. I think <a href="">this is the AdFisher study</a> (but couldn't get it to download.)
advertising  google  tech 
july 2015 by charlesarthur
How the tech press forces a narrative on companies it covers » Medium
Aaron Zamost:
I don’t remember who told me company narratives were like a clock. I was at Google, where I’d taken a job on the communications team despite zero experience in communications. During my early days there, I tried to navigate my new profession by listening to the many comms experts already at the company from whom I would learn so much. One theory about narratives stuck with me:

A company’s narrative moves like a clock: it starts at midnight, ticking off the hours. The tone and sentiment about how a business is doing move from positive (sunrise, midday) to negative (dusk, darkness). And often the story returns to midnight, rebirth and a new day.

It was a passing remark, and hardly revolutionary — it closely followed the hero’s journey and other theories of storytelling. But it made a ton of sense.

Oh wow, does it ever. (Though: not just tech, is it?)
news  pr  tech 
july 2015 by charlesarthur
How aging millennials will affect technology consumption » WSJ
Christopher Mims on how the post-1980 "millennials" are moving into a new stage in life:
Data from comScore suggest most switching between Android and iPhone is in favor of Apple, and iPhones have a significantly higher average selling price than Android. So we can assume that, all other things being equal, as millennials age and their earning power increases, their taste in consumer electronics will become more expensive.

This is good news for Apple—and others targeting the higher end of the product spectrum. It’s also fantastic news for pretty much the entire consumer-electronics industry and countless online retailers such as Amazon: A giant demographic bulge is about to enter 20 years of peak earning power. This is a generation that likes its on-demand services, which means the coming decades will almost certainly see more Uber rides and same-day deliveries than ever.
tech  millennial 
may 2015 by charlesarthur
Meerkat is dying – and it’s taking US tech journalism with it » BGR
Tero Kuittinen:
Writing about the mobile app industry is a curious niche; you don’t actually have to understand download statistics, different product segments or other industry fundamentals. Unlike movies, fashion, cars or the book industry, you don’t have to focus on products that possess real consumer appeal. In the United States, app industry reporters can simply choose to cover an app their buddies claim is cool and then prioritize the 200th most popular app in the country over apps that have actual heft and significance.

The whole sordid Meerkat mess is an eerie echo of what happened with Secret, another failed social media app with incredible media coverage.

Soon after its launch in January 2014, Secret was pronounced the next huge social media app by a preening murder of California media crows. Hundreds of stories about the importance of Secret were published in February 2014. The app peaked at No. 130 on the U.S. iPhone download chart — and then it dropped out of the top 1000 by end of February.

It was an utter flop and all subsequent relaunches failed miserably. Yet it managed to raise nearly $9m in March despite the February collapse… and then another $25m the following July.

There's a lot of truth in this: tech blogs/sites love to think that they've picked up on the Next Big Thing. But equally, shouldn't they pick up on the things that are spiking? I think US tech journalism is pretty ill, though that's not connected with getting VC money. (Well, not tightly connected.) Mull over this as we move to the next link...
tech  journalism  meerkat 
march 2015 by charlesarthur
Three phases of consumer products » Medium
Arjun Sethi:
There are three phases. Consumer products start as a want then turn into a need. In the final phase, which most don’t get to, they evolve into a utility. Here’s how I define the three phases:

• Want — Solves a core value proposition that’s very unique and feels like a novelty.<br />• Need — People can’t live without it and keep coming back for more.<br />• Utility — It becomes a feature of other products.

The fastest growing consumer products have already gone through these phase,s while the up and coming ones are in the middle of one of these three phases right now. Facebook and Twitter are great examples of growing companies with large user bases that have gone through or are in the middle of this progression…

The ones that become huge are the ones that take the core and spread it out over time. You can’t get there over night and you don’t start by creating the network from day one. You start by creating a novel, memorable experience for people. Most ideas are fun or stupid with a core value proposition and over time they become a utility as they get embedded to become culture.
consumer  tech 
march 2015 by charlesarthur

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