The week that was

Army cadets, eager to one-up their rival Navy before the big game, kidnapped Navy’s billy goat mascot but FUBAR’d the mission and made off with the wrong goat.

It was so cold at a Canadian football match (18 F, -8 C) that the sideline Gatorade froze solid.

As gasoline prices spiked, President Biden released 50 million barrels from the strategic oil reserves. Due to a shortage of maple syrup, the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers released 50 million pounds of its strategic maple syrup reserves.

Crypto-currencies swooned on fears of Omicron, a new coronavirus variant. The group of crypto-investors that raised over $45 million to buy a physical copy of the US Constitution lost their bid to a hedge fund investor. A new “decentralized autonomous organization” (DAO) was founded to raise funds to purchase an NBA team.

Mr. Goxx, the internet-famous hamster speculator passed away peacefully on Wednesday.

After testing prices last summer, the Dollar Store officially rolled out its $1.25 pricing.

While driving down Interstate 5 outside San Diego a door on an armored car flew open and bags of money hit the road and broke open, scattering bills everywhere. Chaos ensued.

“Christmas is not canceled” proclaimed billionaire Ty Warner, inventor of Beanie Babies. Chartering more than 150 flights from airports across China Warner flew inventory to eager collectors in the United States, bypassing the container ship logjam.

A man who was caught smuggling copies of Netflix’s dystopian series, Squid Games, into North Korea has been sentenced to death by firing squad.

For the first time, the United States was added to a list of “backsliding democracies.”

The expansion of the UK’s recognition of animals as sentient beings with certain legal rights expanded from pets and farm animals to lobsters, octopus, and crabs.

The week that was

A Japan Railways train driver sued JR West for ¥56 which was deducted from his paycheck over a one-minute delay which he is contesting. New York City’s subway on-time performance (defined as “within 5 minutes”) improved to 83.2% last month.

A Michigan woman pled guilty to attempting to hire someone to murder her husband after she was confronted with a “service request form” she filled out on rentahitman.com. The site was actually a cyber-security test site, not an e-commerce site for assassins.

Scientists have confirmed what many of us had suspected. The human brain is getting smaller.

The number of new COVID cases in Minnesota overwhelmed the state’s capacity to verify and log new data.

The flooding from torrential rains were so bad in Northwest Canada that farmers had to use jet skis to ride out to the fields and lead their cattle to safety.

A few days after the COP26 environmental summit where President Biden told world leaders that his administration is committed to slowing climate change with “action, and not words,” his Interior Department oversaw one of the largest oil and gas lease sales in American history.

Work began on America’s first major offshore wind farm. The facility, Vineyard Wind 1, is about 15 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, near Cape Cod.

A nightclub in Scotland is partnering with a geothermal energy company to harness the heat from dancers, storing it as renewable energy.

For a brief moment, the United States had its first female president when Joe Biden signed over his presidential powers to Kamala Harris before going under for his colonoscopy.

The Staples Center in Los Angeles sold its naming rights and will be called Crypto.com Arena starting from December 25 when the LA Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets.

A group of crypto-currency investors that raised $47 million in a failed attempt to buy a physical copy of the US Constitution will now collectively have to decide where to deploy their capital in a true test of distributed finance.

A Frida Kahlo self-portrait sold for $34.9 million, the highest price ever for a piece of Latin American art sold at an auction.

Marty McFly’s hoverboard from Back to the Future II sold for $500,000.

Tesla drivers that relied on the app to unlock their cars were left out in the cold for several hours when the app stopped responding due to network trouble.

The California State Fair will feature more than just pies and pigs this year. There will be an official cannabis category which will measure CBD, THC, and each strain’s unique terpene profiles.

Heinz and Hunt are battling it out on limited edition versions of their ketchup attempting to mimic what it would taste like if the tomatoes were grown on Mars.

The week that was

A working Apple-1 computer in a rare wooden case was sold at an auction for half a million dollars. The 44-year old computer was purchased for $650.

Angelo Fregolent parked his Lancia Fulvia 1962 in 1974 and left the car there for 47 years. It has since become a local landmark.

Glen de Vries, who recently blasted off into space with William Shatner died in a small plane accident in Sussex County, New Jersey.

105-year-old Julia ‘Hurricane’ Hawkins set a new track-and-field record for the 100-meter and is set to go against her rival, Diane “Flash” Friedman. Heather Hann ran a 10k in 40:04 to break the Guinness World Record for running while pushing a stroller. Alyssa Clark broke a Guinness World Record by running 95 marathons in 95 consecutive days.

A woman visiting the Bronx Zoo climbed over the barrier near the lion exhibit, threw money in the air and exclaimed, “King, I love you, I came back for you.”

Arby’s is coming out with a curly fries-flavored vodka.

The week that was

“Those celebrating Pakistan’s victory will face sedition,” warned the chief minister of India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh after Pakistan defeated India at the Twenty20 World Cup.

A group of crypto investors are buying 40 acres of land in Wyoming to establish a blockchain-based city.

Scientists discovered water in a galaxy 12.8 billion light years away.

While other nations were discussing climate change in Glasgow, Ireland calculated that it would need to cull up to 1.3 million cattle to meet greenhouse gas limitations.

What’s a nuclear reactor’s worst enemy? Jellyfish.

A team from the University of Utah has found a way to restore sight to the blind by combining a brain implant with a pair of camera glasses.

New Jersey’s Democratic state senate president for the past 11 years lost his seat to a Republican furniture store truck driver who spent less than $10,000 on his campaign.

A publisher of scientific research was forced to retract 40 recently published papers after admitting they were “nothing more than garbled jargon.”

The Mayor Elect of New York City committed to get his first three paychecks in crypto-currency to encourage an industry founded on de-centralization to centralize in NYC.

An alleged Capitol Insurrection rioter who put his house on Zillow was hauled in for further questions after FBI agents zoomed in on his whiteboard which listed “numerous firearms listed and explosive devices.”

The week that was

Astronomers have detected mysterious radio waves from the center of the galaxy that vary dramatically and “seem to shut off at random.” Let’s hope it’s not another microwave.

Tesla stock had a good week and is now more valuable than all other car manufacturers combined. Elon Musk, a majority shareholder, is now the richest man in the world. 

A French sailor is gearing up to take a run at breaking the speed record for a sailboat. The last record was 65 knots using foiling boards. Alex Caizergues, is hoping to break 80 knots with a kite pulling a surface-skimming trimaran.

A man spent over $57k on a single Pokémon card. The Justice Department news release was stingy on details. The man was getting hauled in because that money was most of his Covid business loan.

The Taiwan Army is building mechanical exoskeletons for their soldiers so they can “run faster and carry heavy objects with ease.” The gear should also come in handy if they have to fight with the People’s Liberation Army who apparently also is giving exoskeletons to its troops too.

Buzzfeed deleted all images on its site from before 2015 to ward off claims of copyright infringement. They even purged the images on the post, 23 images that need to be deleted from the internet.

Walmart recalled bottles of the Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones because it contains a “rare and dangerous” bacteria that causes “a condition that is difficult to diagnose and can be fatal” and also killed two people.

City officials in Austin attempted to mow a man’s lawn and were met with aggression and firearms. SWAT was called in, the man’s home caught on fire, he was shot and later died.

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of business is now offering an Economics of Blockchain and Digital Assets program and, yes, you can pay tuition in crypto.

Scientists are using artificial intelligence to suggest unique chemical combinations for new types of batteries.

After formally recognizing animals as sentient beings under UK law back in May, the United States is now recommending similar legal protection, specifically for Pablo Escobar’s pet hippos.

The week that was

A small town in Tennessee put itself up for sale for $725,000.

The NYC Board of Health declared racism a public health crisis.

Propagandists in China are blaming Covid on imported lobsters from Maine.

Apple unveiled a $19 polishing cloth.

Nokia launched a new phone that you can buy for $80.

Some defendants charged with storming the U.S. Capitol are representing themselves in court. One said the law didn’t apply to her and another presented the court with a schedule of fees for his services.

A yoga teacher and four students had to be rescued after they drifted out to sea while meditating on their paddle boards.

New Zealand laid off a wizard who had been on the public payroll for the past two decades.

Kellogg’s is being sued because the fruit filling in Kellogg’s Whole Grain Frosted Strawberry Toaster Pastries does not have enough strawberry.

A fake startup in the UK hired influencers to promote it, created t-shirts and swag, held a party, “launched,” then vanished with $500k from its swindled investors. The company was called, CryptoEats.

The price of gasoline hit $7.59/gallon at one town in California.

Chevron announced it will reduce emissions by using solar and wind to power its pumps and drills.

A steel mill in Colorado will get most of its power from an array of 750,000 solar panels.

Scholars finally know why John Steinbeck scrawled the word “Slut” in big letters at the end of his manuscript for The Grapes of Wrath.

The week that was

The Santa Barbara fire department rushed out to rescue what turned out to be a mannequin dangling from a cliff.

Like the eddy of a stream clogged with leaves, one dead end street in San Francisco became a gathering spot for lost self-driving Waymo taxis.

On National Coming Out Day, DC Comics announced that Superman’s son is bi-sexual.

Details of Jonathan and Diana Toebbe’s spycraft spilled into the news including details of how they passed secrets on an SD card hidden in a peanut butter sandwich. The criminal complaint is worth a read.

A man travelled to Germany to pick up his brand new Lamborghini Huracan and excitedly drove it back to his home in Norway. He was clocked by Danish police doing almost 150 MPH. His car was confiscated.

Another court document revealed that criminals used machine learning technology to deepfake the voice of a company executive and trick a bank into transferring $35 million to fraudulent accounts.

Jony Ive launched a website.

The week that was

Spectators of a flying drone light show in China ran in panic as the drones “went awry” hitting buildings and bystanders on the ground.

The Trump 2024 presidential campaign rebranded itself with a refreshed, albeit uncreative name, Make America Great Again, Again.

For the first time in 20 years, Donald Trump fell off the list of Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America.

Two men who fired off flares off Block Island to celebrate a friend’s wedding have been fined $10,000 because of the resulting multi-hour rescue mission involving a surface vessel and two Coast Guard helicopters.

The shine is off as scientists who measure the glow of the Earth by looking at the light reflected off of the moon. Our planet has dimmed as climate change has “essentially scuffed up our planet.”

That 70s Show is getting a re-boot. The new show will be called That 90s Show.

Researchers at Bangor University in Wales have discovered high levels of cocaine and MDMA in a stream that runs near the site of the Glastonbury Festival. They concluded the seasonal spike is from festival goers urinating in and around the stream and that it is affecting the local fish population.

Last week it was Cup Noodle soda, this week it is Cracker Jack Pepsi. At least this one comes with a prize.

Netflix has been forced to edit out a few frames from the hugely popular Squid Game series. The scene includes a shot of business card with a Korean phone number. The hapless owner on the other end of that number has been getting upwards of 4,000 calls a day with his cellphone’s battery draining before he can use it.

Enragement Metrics

Last night 60 Minutes scored an interview with Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower behind the document leak that led to last month’s “bombshell” Facebook Files investigation. She shared internal research that confirms what we’ve known all along. Feeding users polarizing content works great at engaging people and converting them into repeat visitors and that the revenue from those engaged users is intoxicating.

For a humorous TL;DR, check out this 2018 clip from The Daily Show.

What if Facebook were a Real Place?

Engagement is a metric used by social networks to measure how often someone uses your app or visits your website. Each service counts an engaged user in different ways, new user or old, daily visitor or monthly, but it all boils down to repeat visits. An engaged user is someone who comes back, repeatedly.

If your service is ad-supported, repeat visits generate cumulative ad impressions and revenue. If you track your users and personalize your ads, the more engaged a user is, the higher their value to advertisers. It’s the old “eyeballs” metric of Web 1.0 but with higher definition. In the mobile app world, it’s called ARPU, Average Revenue Per User.

The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money. 

Whistleblower: Facebook is misleading the public on progress against hate speech, violence, misinformation

If your company’s “true north” metric is engagement, what happens if you optimize for that and run a business that, above all else, keeps your users coming back and staying longer? If you discover that inflammatory content is the nectar that keeps users coming back aren’t you then measuring the level of a post’s ability to provoke a reaction? This is what I call Enragement Metrics.

Add the quarterly pressure for a trillion dollar public company to meet and exceed revenue targets and corporate incentives can get distorted. Responsibility is foggy in a large company of distributed teams with a shared ethos of “move fast and break things.”

The pursuit of engagement and the momentum of a market that rewards it created a Faustian Bargain that distracted the leadership at Facebook from the impact it was having on not only its users but, as a source of traffic and revenue for its publishing partners, the entire media ecosystem.

“There is a perfect reverse correlation where the angrier you are, the more traffic leaves Facebook and goes to your publishing site.”

Haugen will testify before Congress where she is hoping they will regulate Facebook because, in her view, Facebook is unable to regulate themselves.

“Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety,” she said. Haugen, who will testify before Congress this week, said she hopes that by coming forward the government will put regulations in place to govern the company’s activities.

Ex-Facebook manager alleges social network fed Capitol riot

The tech and media world will be watching. As with newspapers, radio, and television, before it, a touch of regulation can build trust and improve a technology and balance the pursuit of profit with the benefit for the public good. But if there is stumbling and uninformed regulation, it will either hobble innovation or, in the worst case, favor those with deep pockets for lobbyists that will lock in their client’s dominance.

When the Haugen testimony picks up on Tuesday and they haul in someone from Facebook to explain themselves, I hope there is substantive discussion on a way forward and not the brow-beating grandstanding we so often see on Capitol Hill. I optimistically believe that no one at Facebook set out to poison the public well on purpose but that runaway algorithms and market forces drove them there.

Just as the publication of Silent Spring helped lead to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, I hope these hearings on the adverse effects of social networks will lead to intelligent discussion of the role these products and the algorithms that power them in our society.

Environmental and safety regulations give businesses a framework against which to justify expenditures that take away from profits. We need an EPA-like independent organization for social networks and machine learning algorithms to regulate an industry and create best practices and guidelines for what they can and cannot do.

Social Networks and machine learning algorithms are powerful tools that can stimulate, motivate and transform society. As with all new technology, they can be put to good use or bad. It’s up to all of us, working together to understand their power and harness it for good.

The week that was

Inflation became reality as the Dollar Store started testing out items priced at over $1.00.

The markets were down sharply this week but a hamster trading crypto is outperforming the S&P 500.

I don’t know why you would but you could if you wanted to, buy and consume, a can of Cup Noodle-flavored soda.

A “naturopath” was ordered by a Canadian court to literally stop selling shit.

The South Australian government is using drones with facial recognition software to do a census of the koala population.

Amazon’s new domestic robot Astro looks like a cute version of the Echo on wheels but some are saying it’s a Roomba designed to hoover up loads of personal data about you and your house.

A Dutch artist was given $84,000 and commissioned to make a statement about people’s relationship with work. He delivered an empty frame and called the work, “Take the Money and Run.”

A team of music historians, musicologists, and composers teamed up with computer scientists and used artificial intelligence to finish Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony.

An outfit called TinyCircuits made a tiny Gameboy from a Raspberry Pi Pico. It’s called Thumby and can fit on your keychain.

Rolls-Royce is going electric in a big way. They announced their first EV, the Spectre, and an electric airplane.

Just one final approval is all that remains to allow driverless taxis on the streets of San Francisco.

“I felt a chill go down my spine when I heard that the monkey is back in the village,” said Jagadish who is being stalked by one disturbingly-focused Bonnet Macaque.

A Turkish man believed to be lost in the forest stumbled into his own search party and helped them for awhile until he heard them calling his name. “I am here” he said to the startled rescue party.