Tag Archives: news

On Elon Musk, 2022

Elon Musk is a hard guy to categorize. Perhaps the easiest thing for me to say is that he is his own worst enemy. He creates companies that are revolutionary and worthy of great praise, but he also goes around posting idiotic memes like a sulky teen to unwittingly draw attention to the worst parts of himself.

Like the man himself, his SpaceX technology is a mixed bag. While it is great that he does this, Elon Musk activates Starlink in Ukraine, the technology itself is going to be damaging to astronomy if not space itself, as this shows: SpaceX’s Starlink Satellites Leave Streaks in Asteroid-Hunting Telescopes.

I have mixed thoughts on the Tesla too. Great car in many ways, though this review is tough: 2021 Tesla Model Y review: Nearly great critically flawed. I also think this feature calls into question “do you really own your Tesla?”: Tesla now monitors how often you adjust your seat position and will disable controls for certain drivers. Finally, I don’t think this is a good development: Tesla opens showroom in region of China associated with genocide allegations.

However problematic Musk seems to me, he is head and shoulders better than other plutocrats, like Peter Thiel. Could he be better still? Sure, he could emulate billionaires like Mark Cuban, who is opening an Online Pharmacy to provide affordable generic drugs.

I know there are plenty of fans of Musk, and I can see why they are. I also know many loathe him, and I get that too. I remain in the middle for now, and I hope he improves over time and I get to be more of a fan.

What is going on with Google and Facebook in Australia and why you should care

Map of Australia
Have you been following what is happening with Google and Facebook in Australia?  I found it interesting for a number of reasons. One, it seems Facebook and Google have taken very different approaches, with Google coming to an agreement with the Australian government while Facebook has not. (At least not as of Feb 20, 2021.) Two, I believe whatever happens in Australia will have an effect on what is happening in Europe and the United States when it comes to the big digital giants.

I’ve read a number of pieces on it, but I found this one especially detailed: Australia’s Proposed “Fox News Tax” | by James Allworth | Jan, 2021 | Medium

If you want to get a deeper dive into what is driving things with regards to Facebook and Google in Australia, start there.

(Photo by Joey Csunyo on Unsplash)

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Some thoughts on the New York Times and how it is becoming a behemoth

I had some thoughts on the New York Times after reading this: It is possible to compete with the New York Times. Here’s how. – Columbia Journalism Review

In some ways, it confirms what I have long thought: the goal for some newspapers is not to be a regional or even national newspaper anymore: the goal now is  to be a global one. The Daily Mail in the UK recognized that long ago. I know little of what they publish in the UK, I just know that they seem to be able to get a lot of people to read their online articles. In other words, they write locally but think globally. The same with the Guardian. And now I think the same is true for the Times.

The Times, according to the article, knows that most people are only going to subscribe to one paper. They want that paper to be the Times. And they seem to be winning this battle so far. Other papers might depend on click throughs, and no doubt the Times does too, but they also want to ensure that they have the one subscription you or your household pays for.

In some ways, the Times reminds me of a software company. They want to be the one platform you depend on and use every day.  The way Facebook or Google or Amazon or Microsoft want to be the sole platform you use for information or social media or other essential IT.

I think there are ways to compete with the Times, just like there are ways to compete against those other behemoths. You can be a niche competitor. You can provide a deeper and richer experience tailored for a specific audience.  You can be more nimble than they are. You can move to the future markets faster than they can.

None of these things are easy. But they are not impossible.

If you are in the news business, you need to learn how to compete with the New York Times. Because the Times is not going away and it is not getting smaller any time soon.

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Thinking about how topics of interest change


I was thinking about how topics of interest change when I came across this link I had saved since 2016: Should we have intervened in Syria? I don’t know – and neither do most armchair generals.

Back when Obama was president, whether or not the US should intervene in Syria was a hot topic. Articles like this struggled with whether or not something should be done about it. It was hard not to think about, both because it was terrible and because there was alot of media devoted to it.

Then Trump became President. Suddenly everything shifted. Terrible things went on in Syria, but it was no longer a topic of interest in much of North America.  I confess I barely know what is going on there now.

It’s a good reminder to me how much of what I think about is driven by who ever can get information in front of you. And it’s also a reminder of why disinformation campaigns will get stronger and stronger.

I don’t know what the answer is. I just know I have to constantly remind myself that just because it appears something is important or unimportant, my ability to assess that is shaped very much by others. There may be topics I spend a lot of time thinking about and researching. But most of the time, and for most people, that is not possible.

The further decline of Peter Thiel

The man who threw his lot in with Donald Trump continues to sink in the world. Case in point: Y Combinator Quietly Ends Relationship With Peter Thiel.

July, 2021: Here is a piece on how he exploited Roth IRAs to make a fortune and pay no taxes. Just a bad guy.

February, 2022: Further news on Thiel: he’s stepping down from Facebook’s board and going full time MAGA. He’d be tragic if he wasn’t so malicious.

 

Zeitgeist links for December, 2016

I often come across links that capture the spirit of the time, links that I save using Pocket or Instapaper.  Here are some of them, with quick comments.

Politics, mostly American:

Culture:

Psychology, mostly links about glumness in America

Work, mainly grim or putting a good face on work.

When people propose solutions on how to deal with terrorists, read this next

And by next, I mean this: How do you spot the next terrorist? – The Globe and Mail.  Chances are the solutions they are proposing are wrong and harmful. Read that and know why.

Facebook Publishes New York Times, BuzzFeed with “Instant Articles”. Let’s note this.

According to Re/code, the New York Times, BuzzFeed and others have received really good terms with Facebook regarding the publishing of “Instant Articles”. For instance:

Facebook’s “Instant Articles” are designed to load, um, instantly on Facebook’s iOS app — which is the heart of Facebook’s pitch.

Facebook lets publishers use their own publishing tools, and then converts stories automatically into a format that works on Facebook’s app. There are also some cool bells and whistles, like a photo and video-panning feature Facebook imported from its all-but-forgotten Paper app. Here’s a demo video:

Facebook will let publishers keep 100 percent of the revenue they sell for “Instant Articles”; if they have unsold inventory Facebook will sell it for them via its own ad network and give publishers 70 percent of that revenue.

Facebook will give “Instant Article” publishers access to performance data on their stuff, provided by Google Analytics and Adobe’s Ominiture.

ComScore, the Web’s most important measurement company, will give “Instant Article” publishers full credit for any traffic those stories generate on Facebook’s app.

Publishers can control much of the look and feel of how Facebook presents their stories; the item BuzzFeed publishes tomorrow won’t be mistaken for National Geographic’s.

Facebook says it won’t alter its algorithm to favor “Instant Articles” over any other kind of content. But given their novelty, and the fact they’re designed to be eye-catching, it seems very likely that these things will get lots of attention at the start.

Very generous. Enticing, even.

I am keen to revisit this in a year from now, to see if Facebook has revised these terms. If Facebook treats these terms like they treat your privacy, in a year or so I expect the revised terms will not be as generous. And if some companies are not careful, they will find they let their own IT teams dwindle and they will have no choice but to stick with Facebook.