Blue buys Logitech

Back on July 30 it was announced Logitech is acquiring Blue Microphones for $117 million in cash:

Logitech is making a big purchase to secure a foothold in high-end audio recording. Tonight, the company announced that it’s acquiring Blue Microphones for $117 million. The all-cash transaction will result in Blue, known for USB condenser microphones including the Snowball and Yeti, joining Logitech’s existing portfolio of brands. Aside from Logitech and Logitech G, the company also owns Astro Gaming, Jaybird, and Ultimate Ears. Yeah, it’s putting together quite the roster.

This seems like a good move.

I’ve been using a Yeti mic by Blue for a few years now to record Weekly Exhaust and I’ve always been a fan of Logitech peripherals, particularly their M705 wireless mouse.(h/t The Wirecutter)

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I only speak orders when I’m at a restaurant

The Reality Behind Voice Shopping Hype:

Amazon and Google both tout voice shopping—the ability to make purchases and check on the status of orders with verbal commands—as significant features of their smart speakers. Some forecasts call for annual voice shopping sales to reach $40 billion in just a few years.

But it appears that only a small fraction of smart speaker owners use them to shop, and the few who do try it don’t bother again. The Information has learned that only about 2% of the people with devices that use Amazon’s Alexa intelligent assistant—mostly Amazon’s own Echo line of speakers—have made a purchase with their voices so far in 2018, according to two people briefed on the company’s internal figures. Amazon has sold about 50 million Alexa devices, the people said.

This statistic sounds about right.

My 71-year-old father, who’s very tech-savy, hooked up his two Alexa devices to all of the lights and two televisions on the ground floor of his house, but I don’t think he’s ever made a voice purchase with them.

As someone who doesn’t own an Alexa device, I can maybe see myself making voice purchases for utility items like toilet paper and cleaning products, but definitely not for things like clothing, books, or electronics (maybe for low top black Chuck Taylors).

Private Service, Not Public Utility

Shoshana Wodinsky writing for The Verge on the platforms that have removed Alex Jones:

The biggest criticism of Jones and Infowars centers on the seemingly endless torrent of conspiracy theories that were a part of the network’s regular programming — including the idea that the Sandy Hook shooting was entirely staged with paid “crisis actors” and that global pedophilia rings are run by Hollywood and DC elites. Despite being patently false, as well as involved with the incitement of real-world physical violence, some platforms, including Facebook, initially declined to ban Jones from its platform even while acknowledging the damage he does while spreading false information.

After Apple booted five of the six Infowars podcasts available via iTunes earlier this morning, Facebook took down four Infowars pages from its site for violations of the site’s guidelines, including “glorifying violence” and “dehumanizing immigrants.” Hours later, Youtube gave Jones the boot, cutting off the 2 million-plus subscribers regularly tuned into the channel, and killing many of the videos on the Infowars site as a result. Even Pinterest felt pressure to quietly nudge the pundit off of its site.

As many other people who have functioning brains have pointed out, these are private companies with their own platforms that are banning Jones. They are not public utilities and this has nothing to do with denying Jones of his First Amendment rights.

Jones still has his own website and app on which he can spew his vitriol and lies. 

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Community, Law

attention and money

[I have a backlog of articles related to Instagram I’m trying to get through and post (like my last two posts here and here). I spend a decent amount of time on Instagram and I find the mechanics and strategies behind account creators and Facebook interesting.]

Writing for The New York Times, Daisuke Wakabayashi on the mating rituals of brands and online stars:

Deals between big brands and viral online video performers, once an informal alternative to traditional celebrity sponsorships, are quickly maturing into a business estimated to reach $10 billion in 2020. Some brands pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single sponsored video. Brita, the water filter company, paid Rudy Mancuso and Andrew Bachelor, who is known as King Bach, to make music videos with the basketball star Stephen Curry. Mr. Bachelor’s song imagined being roommates with Mr. Curry, who would regularly refill the Brita container. Mr. Mancuso’s song imagined Mr. Curry helping him live a healthier life by drinking water from a Brita instead of a bottle.

Despite The Fat Jew believing Instagram is super-saturated with influencers, it seems unlikely they’re going away anytime soon.

What’s the alternative? Broadcast television? What’s broadcast television?

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Community

Flophouses, sorry, flop accounts on Instagram

Over at The Atlantic, Taylor Lorenz informs us teenagers are using ‘flop accounts’ on Instagram to debate and distribute the news.

What the hell are flop accounts?

[…] pages that are collectively managed by several teens, many of them devoted to discussions of hot-button topics: gun control, abortion, immigration, President Donald Trump, LGBTQ issues, YouTubers, breaking news, viral memes.

And their content?

The accounts post photos, videos, and screenshots of articles, memes, things, and people considered a “flop,” or, essentially, a fail. A flop could be a famous YouTuber saying something racist, someone being rude or awful in person, a homophobic comment, or anything that the teen who posted it deems wrong or unacceptable. Some of the teens who run a given account know one another in real life; more likely, they met online.

The kids say these accounts are more accurate than what’s being put out by news organizations:

“A lot of news nowadays claims to be facts, but it’s based off people’s opinions or they purposefully omit information,” she said. “I wish we could trust articles more, but it’s been proven multiple times of people reporting things that aren’t true. It’s just hard to know who to trust, so you always feel the need to check things yourself. You can’t just read an article and take it as fact, because there’s always a chance that it isn’t.”

I think these Instagram accounts are fine as an outlet for kids to talk about issues with their peers, but the irony is they are exactly what they claim to be fighting against. Ah to be young and ignorant.

The teenage admins of these flophouses need to truly understand how journalism works and how companies like The Washington Post and The New York Times operate.

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Community, Journalism

A super-saturation of Instagram influencers

Josh Ostrovsky, aka The Fat Jew, is pivoting from Instagram to his next venture, selling wine. His venture is called Swish and they have wines called ‘Babe’, ‘White Girl Rosé’ and ‘Family Time Is Hard.’ Those are funny names and I bet he makes a killing with Swish.

He’s seeing us approach peak-influencer on Instagram:

“Eventually there will be too many influencers, the market will be too saturated and the value of influencer posts will continue to plummet,” Ostrovsky said. “It’s a very standard value proposition. The more people join, the more options there are for the brands — the less each influencer is worth.”

I was pissed back in 2015 when news broke that Ostrovsky was caught stealing comedians’ jokes. But hey, Robin Williams was also a notorious joke-stealer within the comedy world and he’s beloved, so what do I know?

There are clearly industries that have way too many influencers, but in the circles I run in on Instagram I don’t see them.

Sidenote question: What is the name of the industry of hot chicks in yoga pants who only post pictures of their asses and protein suppliments with an inspirational quote in the captions? I don’t think they teach about that industry in business school.

I compare it to my year living in Los Angeles. People — mostly those who have never lived there — love to say that Los Angeles is fake. My response to this is yes, LA is fake if you’re fake. If you’re a dude like me who likes dive bars with juke boxes and pool tables, then you’ll gravitate to and find non-fake areas of town.

I’m also not rich, which shielded me from a significant amount of fakeness in LA. When I start making bags of money from my clothing line, I’ll gladly take on the responsibility of dealing with fake people.

“We’re not equipped for it.”

Om Malik on e-cigarette company Juul:

In a CNBC news report, Juul spokesman Matt David said: “Like many Silicon Valley technology startups, our growth is not the result of marketing but rather a superior product disrupting an archaic industry.” First of all, there is nothing technological about this company — unless you count behavioral addiction as a common ground with Facebook and others like them. It is utter bullshit, and reporters should know better than letting this slide without serious questioning.

From Business Insider (which called it iPhone of e-cigarettes) to CrunchBase, everyone seems to marvel over their growth rates, their post-Unicorn valuations, and jaw-dropping success at raising capital. And very rarely have I seen anyone stand up and point out that it is no different than traditional tobacco peddlers like Marlboro and Camel. They are peddling nicotine-based addiction. By focusing on charming founders, their backgrounds, large amount of funds raised and crazy valuations, no one is asking the right question: why are we supporting this company that is essentially Camel 2.0?

Addiction is a profitable and high-growth business. Ask the cartels selling other addictive products. “And is it an ethical business?,” asks Crunchbase. “We can’t answer the latter question here as we’re not equipped for it.” Yes, you are! Any halfway decent person can see that tobacco & nicotine industries are driven by greed and have preyed on human frailty.

Their “we’re not equipped for it” response reminds me of Facebook’s initial response to the use of social media platforms by Russians to manipulate politics in the United States. “We’re powerless! There’s nothing we can do!”

Fast-forward to today when Facebook announced it removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior:

It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.

Rather than be proactive about taking down accounts & pages that violate Facebook policies, they’d rather do nothing until something bad happens. They don’t want anything effecting their bottom line so they’d rather do nothing. It’s shameful.

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Business

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thermal bug

Jim Dalrymple has the scoop on the firmware fix for the overheating MacBook Pros (via Daring Fireball):

“Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we’ve identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro,” An Apple representative told me. “A bug fix is included in today’s macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended. We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70% faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2X faster, as shown in the performance results on our website.”

That was quick.

Microsoft Surface is the billionaire cockroach that won’t die.

From Wired: Surface Go Is Microsoft’s Big Bet on a Tiny-Computer Future:

Panos Panay is the betting type. You can see the evidence in Microsoft’s Building 37, where two $1 bills stick out from beneath a Surface tablet sitting on a shelf.

When I ask Panay about the dollars during a recent visit to Microsoft, he says it was a wager he made a few years back on a specific product. I ask if it was a bet on Surface RT, the very first Surface product Microsoft made, and he seems genuinely surprised. “I would have lost that bet, and I’m going to win this one,” he says. “It’s about a product that’s in market right now.” And that’s all he’ll volunteer.

Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, isn’t there to talk about the ghosts of Surface’s past, or even the present. Panay wants to talk about his next big bet in the Surface product lineup: the brand-new Surface Go. But to call it “big” would be a misnomer, because the Surface Go was designed to disappear.

I have to hand it to the people at Microsoft. They won’t give up on Surface. You cannot give up in the hardware game when you have billions of dollars in your pockets already.

I’ve thought Panos Panay is particularly adorable ever since he introduced the Surface Book back in 2015. Look at him, the little-big engine that could. You get excited at your show-and-tell day at school! Yeah!

Panos is clearly the right guy for the job, but the real question is whether Surface is the right hardware for the job. I can’t find Microsoft having any meaningful representation on tablet marketshare stats for 2018 (or 2017 or 2016).

But hey, what do I know? If Apple starts screwing up iPads like they’re currently screwing up their MacBook Pros, maybe Microsoft has a shot at getting in the race (just kidding, they don’t).