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.

The week that was

The population of Alabama is shrinking. Due to the deadly combination of the pandemic and vaccination hesitancy, the state recorded more deaths than births.

Not to be outdone by AT&T’s Flying COWS announced a couple of weeks ago, the Verizon PR team trotted out their own emergency response solution, THOR.

Taking another step towards our Skynet future, quantum computers are now being deployed to design better quantum computers.

A large crowd gathered in Tokyo to say goodbye to the Sega Ikebukuro Gigo arcade. The nine floor video game parlor was closing its doors after 28 years.

A US military base on the outskirts of Tokyo is in a heightened state of alert because of a potential invasion from wild monkeys.

The CEO of Apple Computer, Tim Cook, said employees who leak memos do not belong at Apple, according to leaked memo.

Children in New Zealand who uncovered a unique set of fossils while on a field trip have now been credited with discovering a completely new species of prehistoric penguin.

Samuel Adams’ latest batch of its specialty Utopias line of beer (aged over 30 years in aquavit barrels with a touch of Vermont Maple Syrup) is so potent it’s banned in 15 states.

Following recent news the El Salvador government recognized Bitcoin as legal tender, the Chinese central bank officially declared all cryptocurrency transactions as illegal.

The week that was

As cooler temps set in and songbirds started their migration south, the annual crashing of birds into the Manhattan skyscrapers season began.

In-person schooling started but the bus driver shortage was so severe in Massachusetts that they had to call in the national guard.

Japan announced that they have successfully tested a new kind of rocket engine that uses shock waves instead of thrust sending a 30 meter rocket over 230 kms into space during a 4 minute flight.

A UK firm announced that it is working on a blimp. The Airlander 10 is the world’s largest aircraft and can fly 100 passengers, 4,000 kms over 5 days with nearly zero emissions. It also has a nickname, The Flying Bum.

Who says you can’t reinvent the wheel. Michelin announced its airless tires are ready for mass production.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully delivered four civilian astronauts into three days of orbit and a successful splashdown landing in a self-driving rocket ship. Elon Musk also sent the obscure cryptocurrency Floki Inu up 1000% when he named his dog Floki.

A prankster put out a fake press release announcing Walmart’s adoption of Litecoin, a cryptocurrency, in a classic pump-and-dump scheme.

Kanye [Ye] West made news by unfollowing his ex-wife Kim Kardashian on Instagram. He made news again by re-following her. The last time there was this much excitement on the IG Follow beat was back when Drake followed Kim when K & K were married.

The week that was

Snow came early to Mt. Fuji. 21 days earlier than last year.

AT&T restored cellular service to the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Ida using flying drone antennas, also known as Cell-on-Wings (COWS).

College football started up again to packed stadiums of hopefully vaccinated fans. The Hoosier uniform staff had to explain how they misspelled their state and University of Miami fans found a new use for the American flag.

A recent power outage in the New York subway system was traced to someone accidentally pushing an “Emergency Power Off” button.

Singapore is testing patrol robots to look out for “undesirable” behavior. The robots, named Xavier (after the Jesuit missionary?), will roam public areas and use onboard 360-degree cameras to scan for violations such as smoking in prohibited areas, illegal hawking, and non-compliance with COVID-19 restrictions and send real-time alerts to the authorities.

An unspecified Southeast Asian military service placed an order for two jetpacks.

A standoff between police and an armed suspect was briefly interrupted when a naked woman drove a golf cart in between the two and refused to heed commands to take shelter. There was “a distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her person, and she was completely nude.” The event took place in Florida but authorities were quick to point out the woman was from Boston.

A first edition Spider-Man comic book sold for a record $3.6 million, beating out Superman.

The El Salvadorian government officially recognized Bitcoin as legal tender to make it less expensive for its citizens abroad to transfer money home. The price of the cryptocurrency promptly plummeted.

Ben John, a 21-year old Nazi sympathizer, was found with over 9,000 right-wing and terror-related documents on his hard drive which he claimed he collected due to his “academic fascination.” To avoid prison time, a British judge ordered Ben to read Austin, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, and Trollope and agree to be tested on what he read.

Sept 11

Twenty years ago I was in Redmond, Washington at Microsoft on a business trip. Izumi called me at my hotel early in the morning to tell me something terrible had happened and that I should turn on the television to see.

For the next three days I was stuck in Redmond with no way to get back to New Jersey where I was living at the time. Izumi was alone with Tyler and pregnant with Julia and felt very alone. There were a few other visitors from the East Coast stuck with me at Microsoft and we were very close to renting a car to drive back home across the country when my travel agent called to say she secured a reservation to get me home (god bless her, she booked multiple reservations just in case one fell through). I got one of the first flights out of Seattle and, after connecting through Denver, made it home.

I’ll never forget coming back up the driveway, you could see the plume of smoke on the horizon from our house in Pennington, a good 60 miles away. I went to NYC several times over the next few weeks leaving from Hamilton Station, a stop on the NJ Transit commuter line. Each time I went in, you’d see several cars that hadn’t been claimed since 9/11, tickets piled up on the windshield, their owners were not coming back.

Tonight I noticed the twin beams shining up in the sky and took my bike out to ride down to the 9/11 memorial, like a moth to a flame. It was quite touching – many people were there, mostly in silence, to reflect and show their respect.

I spent a few hours riding around the city, viewing the lights from several vantage points. September 11 hits harder here in New York City, where it happened. Fireman dressed in their honor guard uniforms were out in force – many had been out drinking. It was like Fleet Week in San Francisco but instead of everyone giving high fives to the sailors, people were slapping the backs and thanking the firemen for their service. This was their day to honor the 300+ they had lost that day. So strange that 9/11 was the day and that 911 is the number you call in an emergency.

Remember this day. It is too soon to ask what lessons can be learned, time has not yet healed the wounds of those it has touched. Just remember this day and be reminded that life is fleeting and that those that passed away only live on in our memories.

Published
Categorized as Home Tagged ,

France 2024 Hype Videos

Now that both Olympic and Paralympic Games have closed, all eyes look to the next Olympic Games, Paris 2024. During the closing ceremonies they played a hype video to get you excited for France and it did not disappoint.

Click here to see the NBC broadcast including the tri-color jetstream

An equally impressive performance was shown at the closing ceremonies of the paraolympics.

The parolympic hype video was no less impressive

PlayTime

One more highlight from our recent visit to the MOMA was a clip from PlayTime, Jacques Tati’s 1967 comedic classic commentary on “confusion in an age of high technology” Tyler insisted we watch closely and upon multiple viewings you can see several story lines un-spool in the background.

You can watch the full two hours online from either Amazon or Criterion but I’ve been told you really should try and seek it out in its full 70mm glory because there are so many details that you’ll miss when you watch it on TV.

Nevertheless, here are a couple of clips just to give you a taste.

on bad UI
at the office
Published
Categorized as Home Tagged