Tag Archives: news

Some very good thoughts (especially at the end) and the usual ramblings on a new year (i.e. the January 2023 edition of my not-a-newsletter newsletter)

We finally closed the book on another pandemic year (2022), and have moved through the first month of 2023. Yay for us!  Is 2023 going to be a pandemic year as well? An endemic year perhaps? We don’t know. One thing for sure: compared to last January, this one has been much gentler.

I think in some ways 2023 may be a transition year. We continue to have transitions when it comes to COVID. We still have new variants like the Kraken (XBB.1.5) that has surged to 40.5% of all infections and rises in hospitalizations. But we take that as a matter of course now. Indeed, there is talk of having annual COVID and flu vaccines. COVID may be more serious than the flu in terms of illness and death, but we may end up approaching them in the same way. No one talks much of flu deaths, and perhaps other than places like Nova Scotia, no one will talk about COVID deaths either. For example, in my province of Ontario it is relatively easy to track hospitalizations related to COVID: it’s relatively hard to report on deaths.

I know because I still have been reporting on COVID hospitalizations every week on twitter for months. My last update was this one:

As I tweeted, the numbers have been dropping recently. Even the ICU numbers, which shot up due to the tripledemic, have declined as the tripledemic declined. Thank god: the pediatric ICUs in November were over 100% full for a time.

So we are transitioning in a positive direction. Good. And not just with COVID.  Everywhere you see spike graphs, like this one for unemployment:

To this one for inflation:

My expectation is that the annual inflation rate will continue to transition and decline in 2023, and interest rates will follow them. That is not to diminish the impact that inflation has had so far. Things have reached the point where people are stealing food and law firms are promising to defend them for free. That said, many, including the New York Times, expect inflation to cool this year. Perhaps it will drop back to where it used to be (i.e. below 3%). If you are skeptical, I recommend this piece in VOX.

Unlike COVID or inflation, not everything has the prospect of improving in 2023. Guns in the US  continue to be a major problem. There is no end in sight for the war in the Ukraine NATO is still supportive and continues to send weapons, although it seems like Zelenskyy had to clear the decks before that occurred. As for cryptocurrencies, it may not be a year of recovery for them as the trial of SBF and FTX unfolds. But who knows: maybe this rally will be a difference.

I suspect crypto will stay dormant for many reasons. One big reason is that tech is going to change its focus from Web3 to AI. Sorry Web3. (Sorry metaverse for that matter!) Microsoft alone is spending billions on it. AI will be all anyone will talk about this year. (No one knew what to do with crypto, save techies and rich people flogging NFTs. Everyone I know seems to be using ChatGPT and the like. That’s a key difference). I’ll be writing more about AI in standalone posts in 2023, there will be so much going on.

In 2023 I expect a continuation of the trend of people flooding back into cities after having left them, based on data like this: Annual demographic estimates census metropolitan areas and census. While residences have become scarce (and rents have become high) as a result, people have not been flooding back into offices. So much so that places like NYC are looking to convert office spaces to residential spaces. The problem with the pandemic is that the changes it has forced on society are more rapid than social systems can respond. But respond they will.

Then again, a new surge could reoccur in China. If that occurs, all bets are off. For now my bets are staying on the table.

Finally, thanks for reading this and anything else you read on this blog recently. I appreciate it. I am optimistic for 2023 in many ways. I hope you are too.

Keep wearing your masks when advisable. Get vaxxed to the max.  Try not to pay attention to Elon Musk or the fate of Twitter: that will all play out in due course. Don’t get too hung up about what AI is going to do: that will all play out as well. Continue to read newsletters. Watch streaming. Listen to podcasts. Most importantly: get out and about whenever you can.

There will always be bad people in the world, and bad acts occurring. Do what you can to prevent that from happening, but don’t rob yourself of your capacity for joy as a result. Be a happy warrior on the side of good. Joy is your armour.

Never forget: you have lived and possibly thrived through some of the most dramatically difficult times in history.  You deserve better times ahead.

Enjoy yourself. Live your life robustly. Whenever you feel lethargic, think back to those times of being locked down and unable to even go to a park and sit down.  Let’s go and get it. Here’s to a better year ahead. We are counting on you, 2023.

Advertisement

On the inscrutable oddness of Matt Yglesias

If you don’t know who Matt Yglesias is, the Washington Post has a good piece on him that includes this summary:

The Washington ur-blogger’s slightly contrarian, mildly annoying, somewhat influential, very lucrative path toward the political center

He is all of those things. He has been all those things since the early days of blogging. Andrew Sullivan, another major blogger from that era, used to give out something called The Matt Yglesias Award to other writers who were annoying and contrarian too.

Why I call him inscrutably odd is that I cannot tell if that annoying contrarianism is for effect or if it is just who he is. I used to think it was for effect, but I thought something different with his recent comments on Uvalde. As the Post describes:

Hours after the May mass killing at a school in Uvalde, Tex., he tweeted: “For all its very real problems, one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the contemporary United States of America is one of the best places to live in all of human history …”

Technically true. But …

“[W]hat the f— man,” New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie, who also got his start at The American Prospect, replied in a tweet.

“Real people are experiencing actual anguish right now,” tweeted Yglesias’s former Slate colleague Dana Stevens, “and don’t need your middle-of-the-road ‘Well, actually’ garbage.”

For a smart guy to make such a comment makes me think there is something lacking within him that would say: time to give the contrarianism a rest. Perhaps it was a knee jerk reaction, a result of years of being that way that caused him to automatically blurt out something terrible like that. I don’t know. Like I said, he’s inscrutable.

When he is not being contrarian he can write really thoughtful pieces on topics like housing and the economy that I get a lot from. He is also good at skewering bad ideas from the left and right. To dismiss him like some do is a bad idea.

But then he writes something daft like a defense of the Austria-Hungary empire, a piece where he takes a contrarian position and like a good debater arranges the facts to support his argument, even if it means overlooking the obvious or assuming the opposite. No wonder he can drive people crazy.

To form your own opinion, if you haven’t already, you can catch up with him with this Washington Post profile, here:  Matt Yglesias and his Substack newsletter are thriving in Biden’s Washington. If you want more, this is another piece on him.

(Photo: link to the WAPO piece.)

2022 is done. Thoughts and rambling on the last 365 days (i.e. the December 2022 edition)

Another year over. A semi-pandemic year, in a sense. Covid is still with us, but we did not (so far) get slammed with a bad new variant like we did last year with Omicron. Instead the pandemic is lesser than it was, but greater than the flu in terms of the sickness and death it brings. We still get vaccinated, though less than before. Schools are attended (though  affected),  restaurants are dined in, parties and special events are attended.

You could say things look….normal. But then you can look towards China: they seem to be struggling to deal with COVID lately. Who knows what 2023 will bring? More normal or more like China?

But that’s for 2023. As for last year and what was trending, we can look to  Google which has all its data. One place that was trending alot in 2022: China. China is struggling with both Covid and Xi’s approach to it, as this shows. As for the Chinese leader himself, it was a bad year for Xi, as well as Putin and other global bad guys, sez VOX. And it’s not just the Chinese residents that are having to deal with Xi and his government: Canada has been investigating chinese police stations in Canada. More on that here. I expect China will also trend in 2023. Let’s hope for better reasons.

Other trending events in 2022? Crypto. There was lots of talk about it and people like Sam Bankman-Fried after the collapse of his crypto currency exchange and subsequent arrest. We had stories like this: How I turned $15 000 into $1.2m during the pandemic and then lost it all. Tragic. The overall collapse of the industry has lead to things like bans on crypto mining. That’s good. It has lead to questions around the fundamentals, like: Blockchains What Are They Good For? Last, to keep track of all the shenanigans, I recommend this site: Web3 is Going Just Great. I expect crypto to remain a shambles next year. Time and money will tell.

Elon Musk also managed to trend quite often due to his take over of Twitter and more. He still has fans, but many are disillusioned. After all, his campaign to win back Twitter Advertisers isn’t going well. He was outright booed on stage with Dave Chapelle. (No doubt being a jerk contributed to this.) Tesla stock is tanking. Even his  Starlink is losing money. What a year of failure. I can’t see his 2023 improving either. Hard to believe he was Time’s Man of the Year in 2021!

Because of Musk, people are looking to join other networks, like Mastodon. (BTW, here’s some help on How to Make a Mastodon Account and Join the Fediverse). Some are looking to old networks, like this: the case for returning to tumblr. Some are looking at new ways to socialize online, like this.

Musk was not alone in trending this year due to being a bad guy. Let’s not forget that Kanye West trended as well due to his freakish behavior and antisemitism.

AI was another big trend this year, with things like ChatGPT and stable diffusion (here’s how you can set it up on AWS). We also had stories like this: Madison Square Garden Uses Facial Recognition to Ban Its Owner’s Enemies. Not good. What’s next for AI?  This takes a look. I think we may get an AI winter, but we have 12 months to see if that holds true.

For what it’s worth, Newsletters like Matt Yglesias’s are still going strong, though levelling off I think.

Trends and development aside, here’s some other topics I found interesting and worth being up to close the year:

Assisted death was a grim topic in 2022 in Canada. I remain glued to stories like this: We’re all implicated in Michael Fraser;s decision to die, and  this and this. It all seems like a failure, although this argues that assisted dying is working.

Here’s two good pieces on homelessness Did Billions in Spending Make a Dent in Homelessness? And ‘It’s a sin that we all had to leave’: Moving out of Meagher Park.

Need some advice for the new year? Try this: How Much and Where Are You Really Supposed to Tip? Consider this a good approach to  reading. Here’s a good approach to  slowing down, while here’s a good discussion on  Boundaries. Things to avoid:  the biggest wastes of time we regret when we get older.

Things I found interesting in sports this year:

Things I found interesting in general this year:

Finally, here’s some good advice to close out the year: Don’t Treat Your Life as a Project.

Thanks for reading this and anything else you read on this blog in 2022. I appreciate it. I managed to blog about roughly 3000 things on the internet this year. I hope you found some of them useful.

Happy New Year!

What was new in our crazy mixed up world, November 2022 edition

Yowza! It’s been a crazy month, this month, between surges in diseases, Twitter turning into a dumpster fire, crypto imploding, inflation hanging on, the war in Ukraine intensifying with seemingly more attacks on civilians, the US GOP becoming more Nazi curious….you name it.  Let’s take a look.

Pandemic: we are still seeing the effects of the pandemic rippling through our society. In Ontario the ICUs of our children’s hospitals have been slammed, with usage up to 108% at one point. Blame the pandemic on that. Other things to blame the pandemic on? Nursing shortages. In fact work shortages in general: long COVID continues to affect many people and has taken many of them out of the workforce.

In response, people are still wearing masks, though not many. Some people are carrying their own CO2 monitors to tell them when internal air quality is risky. Other people are even making their own. Fortunately new vaccines are rolling out, and you can still get COVID tests for free at some places, although that may be going away. Get that flu shot too, don’t end up being a flu statistic.

Will things gradually improve? I believe they will, but who knows. Some people thought worse variants would come along, but so far so good.

Social media: after years of something of a status quo, social media has entered a meltdown/transformation phase. This has been lead by Elon Musk, who has taken over Twitter. Initially people were wondering: will it matter? Turns out it mattered a lot. He started by firing lots of people. Then he told those left to either be “hardcore” and work under insane work conditions or quit. Not surprisingly, many quit. Other people quitting? Celebrity users. And most importantly, advertisers like GM. It doesn’t help that Musk has loaded up the company with a lot of debt. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, if it even can get better.

With Twitter in chaos, what can users do? Some people like me are considering moving on to other platforms, like Hive and Post and Mastodon. However, the alternatives have not really taken off yet, and in some cases, they are not keen for people like journalists to take their business there.  (Maybe they should have read these mastodon tips.) Who knows how it all shakes out.

One good thing about the twitter debacle: it has lead to some good essays. Like this one: Welcome to Hell, Elon. Or this one on the fraudulent king. This one by McSweeney’s was funny.  Also this. Last but not least, this piece with a rundown on how Musk is a terrible person.

If Twitter is quickly imploding, Facebook/Meta is slowly collapsing. Like Twitter, it has had its shares of layoffs. The whole Meta project seems to be failing or at least flailing. It has suffered security problems, too. Generally the company is seen poorly, as this piece by Om Malik shows. It doesn’t help that much of the popular content is trash on Facebook, though they have tried to clean it up. I’m not sure what will happen with this company either, so I’ll leave the last word on Facebook/Meta to Stratechery.

In other news, Trump’s Truth Social continues to be a dud. Tumblr is allowing nudity. And Youtube, which is kinda social, struggles with ad targeting. Just one dumpster fire after another.

How to consider all this? Maybe by reading this piece in Nature on collapsing social networks. I found it very insightful.

Crypto/NFTs: other things melting down recently is the whole crypto currency business. This was lead by Sam Bankman-Fried and his FTX company.  Not that the lunacy is limited to him: Peter Thiel had a new company that lasted three months.  Relatedly, NFTs are not doing well, but people are still flogging them. Companies are looking to incorporate them into TVs.  Into the restaurant scene. Even into famous paintings like the work of Hilma af-Klimt. Ugh. Crypto winter can’t come soon enough.

Christmas: speaking of winter, for those of you celebrating Christmas, here’s a few links you might like. Here’s some gift ideas for those of you on a budget. Here’s more gift guides you can use. I especially thought this would be a good gift for young and aspiring scientists. For people looking for cool decorations, check out that link.

Other Cool stuff:  I’ve recently got an Apple Watch and it is excellent for anyone worried about their heart. Here’s something on how it detects arrhythmia. I recommend the Apple Watch just as a health device. In terms of other devices, if you use a Kindle, I recommend Libby. This is also a cool plant device (shown below).

Inflation: Inflation is like a tenacious beast, hanging on. One place in particular that people are experiencing it is in food prices. Lots has been said about the cost of food these days. Companies like Loblaw have done quite well in turn. There has been some attempt by them to respond to this, despite these moves, I expect there will be more pressure on them in the months ahead. For one thing, the Walmart giant is waking up. Maybe more people will join me and get their groceries there. I’m a happy customer. Let’s see.

Work: workwise, things are still unsettled post pandemic. Wages aren’t rising, despite inflation. Some employees are returning to the office, but aren’t necessarily happy about it. Indeed, employees seem to be unhappy in general. It doesn’t help to be reading of layoffs in many places, even Amazon. Odd times.

Ukraine: the war in Ukraine slogs on. It could be a very tough winter for Ukrainians, though they continue to fight back in many ways. I don’t think anyone knows how to end the war. Either one side will collapse or it will be a stalemate. Zelenskyy wants it to end. The head of Turkey says Putin wants it to end. Let’s hope and pray for a quick ending.

Finally: for new fans of football watching the World Cup, here’s how to determine offsides. You’re welcome. 🙂

Thank you to those who have read this far. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you! Enjoy the last few days of 2022: here’s to a brighter 2023.

 

A ramble through what was new in the world, Oct. 2022 edition

Here’s a month end cornucopia of things I found interesting and worth reading but don’t really fit into any specific category. (I would have posted it yesterday, but I had that very important 12 foot skeleton post to submit. :))

As I’ve said before, I like posting these because I will be curious to see how they read in the next 5-10 years. I hope you find it worth reading now, though. And thank you!

AI and art: Artists and non-artists continut to make art and play around with AI. Microsoft is even going to incorporate some of the tools into their software. Where this goes, I am not sure. But here’s something on an artist in Amsterdam using it. Not everyone is keen on it: the Getty is banning it.

NFTs: speaking of the art world and new technology, they continue to flirt with NFTs, as you can see here: MoMA and NFTs. Also here’s a piece on what Christie’s is doing:  Meet The Artist Who Just Launched Christie’s New Platform For NFT Sales. This investment by museums does not seem like a good idea to me, as this shows: NFTs and art going bust. Not to mention that NFTs are tanking on Opensea and these six-figure NFTs are down 99%. That won’t stop people trying to make money from them, such as these private clubs using nfts. But there has been some payback: Kim K getes a fine for crypto flogging. NFTs have been terrible forever and that doesn’t look like it is changing soon.

Pandemic/Inflation: we continue to make our way through the pandemic as COVID remains a threat. Even though we also continue to try and live with it, the disease has brought big pandemic life changes,  Fortunately there are more booster coming out. Also a number of people I know are using  CO2 monitors to measure CO2 in indoor spaces. There is still some mask wearing.

In Canada there’s been some complaints about the cost of the arriveCAN system. It was expensive, for sure.  This piece breaks down the costs. Meanwhile, some jokers convinced some in the media it could be built for next to nothing at a Hackathon. This just tells me the media needs to get more tech savvy to such boasts.

One holdover from the pandemic is the rise of tipping for everything. I get it, but I also think it has gotten out of control. This piece touches on that: Why tip requests on touchscreen tablets are everywhere (and make us feel guilty.

Part of the problem is that everyone feels they have to cut back due to inflation, tipping and otherwise. So we get pieces like this from Consumers Reports on how we save money now . Or this on how inflation is costing lives. Relatedly, car prices are crazy right now, so you see lots of pieces like this  How to Negotiate With Car Dealers as Prices Keep Rising.

Canada: We’ve had some political changes in Canada. A new premier in Quebec. A new one in Alberta. The PM is promising money to the folks out east to recover from Fiona.

Meanwhile in Toronto we had an election with poor turnout and mostly incumbents voted back in, including the mayor. People in the city are worried about the fact that the city is cashed strapped and the mayor isn’t going going to do anything about it other than cut services like the Toronto Public Library. Grim. The Mayor was even mocked in this art installation called austerityTO.

Totally unrelated but not grim: the Canadian legend Mr. Dressup is getting a documentary! Nice.

Work: employers continue to struggle with remote work. The Times argues: Remote Work Is Here to Stay. Lean In Employers.. The flip side of that is we get many stories of employers tracking workers. It’s a strange new working world. Speaking of that, here’s a piece arguing for using AI to supercharge workers. As a long time automation specialist, I agree.

The World: In the US, here’s some pieces on the January 6th commision: Jan 6th and the Oath Keepers and Laws passed to prevent another Jan 6th. Lizzo played a historical crystal flute and racism broke out. Never mind, Lizzo: you sounded great. The right wing is morphing into something ugly in America, so you get things like this:  We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives. I think the word they are looking for is Fascist. Finally, here’s a piece on the US Supreme Court: Inside the law school chaos caused by SCOTUS decisions. More on SCOTUS .

In China, everyone was shocked by what happened to  Hu Jintao. More on Hu Jintao here.  Meanwhile, Noah Smith uses game theory to explain why he thinks an invasion of Taiwan probably means WW3. Yikes. In other news, China Delays the Release of G.D.P. and Other Economic Data. Never a good sigh.

Elsewhere in the world, the right wing leader is unusual to say the least, based on this: How Lord of the Rings Inspires Italy’s Giorgia Meloni. Ok. Meanwhile lots of speculation on the  Russian nuclear threat. Clearly a sign of how bad things are going for Putin. Speaking of going badly, we have the chaos currently underway in UK Strong and stable? Maybe maybe not.

Signs of the times: A weird chess scandal broke out recently. I thought these pieces in the WSJ here and here did a good job on assessing it. As did this piece in the Atlantic.

Cheating is not just a chess thing either. The Times had a story on the  Fishing Contest Rocked by Cheating Charges After Weights Found in Winning Catch. Lots of money and fame can bring the cheaters out everywhere.

Meanwhile, social media continue to dominate some people’s lives, based on this:  Want to Get Noticed by a Celebrity? Snag Their Username on Social Media. Speaking of social media, Facebook/Meta is tanking and Elon Musk took over Twitter. Oh well. Blogging is still going strong! As are you if you are reading this: thanks very much!

Happy Autumn!

What was new in the world, September 2022 edition

Here’s a month end cornucopia of things I found interesting and worth reading but don’t really fit into any specific category. Among other things, I like posting these because I will be curious to see how they read in the next 5-10 years. I hope you find it worth reading now, though. 🙂

China: China has been making noise about invading Taiwan. A recent visit by Nancy Pelosi especially helped stir that pot. Foreign Policy had some good pieces on it here and here. China has been threatening Taiwan with drones, although it will take much more than drones to accomplish it.

Other things to note that are happening in China are a Banking Scandal and a poetry contest that causes problems. For more on China, this talks about how China is dealing with Covid. This addresses how China’s Surveillance State is encountering public resistance. Businesswise, Huawei is running into problems. More stories on China’s entrepreneurs.  Last, this piece and this one address how good or bad Xi Jinping is as a leader.

Asia: in Japan, Chie Hayakawa imagines a Japan where the elderly volunteer to die. Bleak. Here’s a piece on how the Unification Church causes problems in Japan. Meanwhile, India scrambles to contain fallout over insulting comments about Islam.

Europe:  Mikhail Gorbachev recently passed away. Vox looked at his legacy. As everyone knows, the Queen also died. Here’s why VOX thinks monarchies are better than republics. As for the new king, some think that he could be an improvement, at least when compared with Charles I and II 🙂

The right is strong elsewhere in places like Poland and Hungary, though the paths of those countries have diverged. Indeed, as the war goes on in Ukraine, Polish pilots Training to fly the Bayraktars war drones. Meanwhile, The right is ascendent in places like Italy and Sweden.

The U.S.: While Biden and Trump are likely to be fighting to be president in 2024, others are looking to content. Politico looks at how Nikki Haley raises money. And Josh Barro dismisses Gavin Newsom . AOC ponders if she will ever be president. Some day. Maybe. Finally, here’s a piece on the DeSantis Martha’s Vineyard stunt. Odious. Speaking of odious, Ken Starr died. Politico properly assesses his poor legacy.

Canada: Here in Canada the Conservative party has a new leader. Let’s see how that goes. I’d like to pause for a moment to highlight the interim leader, Candice Bergen. She forced the previous leader out of Stornoway so she could move in. Then she retires. Nice. Have to remember that the next time the Tories complain others not being fiscally conservative. More on that  here and here.

On the passing of Queen Elizabeth II today

The Queen died today. There has been an outpouring of response to such an event. No doubt you’ve read a number of them. You will likely see many more in the days and weeks to come.

Of the ones I came across, I thought this collection by the BBC was good: Queen Elizabeth II: A life in pictures. I thought this summary by Helen Lewis also worthwhile: Queen Elizabeth’s Unthinkable Death in The Atlantic.

I have been familiar with the Queen since I was a young child. She was in post offices, on our stamps and on our money. Here’s an interesting piece on the Queen on the bank notes, from the Bank of Canada Museum.

I have written about her occasionally here. This was from 2015: What happens when Queen Elizabeth II dies? This touches on something I have always been curious about: Why did the Queen sit for a portrait painted by Lucian Freud? And finally, I will have to update this: On Liz 2 and Chuck too. (Monarchy Watch).

Rest in Peace, ER II.

(Image: link to image in Museum piece)

 

 

 

 

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.

July 1st update:  As his companies continue to sink, he threatens to fire remote workers. So they all come in and there is not enough space for them. Amazing.

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)

Quote

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.

Quote

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.

July, 2022: this piece is on the “enigma” of Peter Thiel, but it’s becoming clearer the guy is a fascist.

 

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.