A, B, C, D – Always Be Collecting Data

It turns out that Facebook could in fact use data collected from its Portal in-home video device to target you with ads:

Facebook announced Portal last week, its take on the in-home, voice-activated speaker to rival competitors from Amazon, Google and Apple.

The biggest question surrounding the device: Why should anyone trust Facebook enough to put Facebook-powered microphones and video cameras in their living room or kitchen? Given Facebook’s year of privacy and security issues, privacy around the device — including what data Facebook collects and how it’s used — has been an important part of the story surrounding Portal.

That’s why we need to update our reporting.

Last Monday, we wrote: “No data collected through Portal — even call log data or app usage data, like the fact that you listened to Spotify — will be used to target users with ads on Facebook.”

We wrote that because that’s what we were told by Facebook executives.

But Facebook has since reached out to change its answer: Portal doesn’t have ads, but data about who you call and data about which apps you use on Portal can be used to target you with ads on other Facebook-owned properties.

Shocking! A company making money through targeted ads based on the profiles of over 2 billion active Facebook users might use that data to help their bottom line.

The longer Facebook is around the creepier it reveals itself to be.

Donald Trump, self-made liar and thief.

A solid piece of investigative journalism from The New York Times on the “self-made” empire of Donald Trump:

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Just another reminder that Donald Trump is a liar and a thief.

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Business, Finance, Tromp

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Logitech Buys Blue

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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Business, Product

“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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Restaurant as Workspace

Nellie Bowles looks into the rise of restaurants in big cities being converted into co-working spacing during off-hours:

The company that laid the extension cords and power strips across Elite Cafe’s copper tables is called Spacious. Since it was started two years ago, Spacious has converted 25 upscale restaurants in New York and San Francisco into weekday work spaces. Membership, which allows entry into any location, is $99 a month for a year, or $129 by the month. With $9 million in venture capital it received in May, Spacious plans to expand this year to up to 100 spaces. A restaurant makes for the perfect conversion, the Spacious team argues. Bars become standing desks. Booths become conference rooms. The lighting tends to be nicer, less harsh and fluorescent, than an office, and the music makes for a nice ambience.

Originally, the founders of Spacious thought they would have to sell restaurateurs on the idea. Instead, restaurants, struggling to pay rent and wages and frustrated with disappointing lunch traffic, are coming to them, eager to strike deals for a slice of the membership dues. Only 5 percent have made the cut to become Spacious spaces, said the company, which is unprofitable.

It’s interesting to see businesses adapting to the changes in industries and technologies. The idea of using restaurant space when meals aren’t being served makes a lot of sense, but I wonder if this business model is a solution or a band-aid.

This article reminds me of a book on my to-read list, Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber.

Categories:

Business, Career

Essentially Cancelled

From The Verge, The Essential Phone 2 has reportedly been canceled:

Essential has canceled plans to develop a second phone and is exploring selling off the entire company, according to Bloomberg. Much of the details remain up in the air. Talks of a sale sound like they aren’t very far along, and the report says that Essential still has plans for future products.

One thing that does sound certain is that Essential’s second phone — at least as it was originally planned — isn’t going to happen. Bloomberg says the development was canceled and that engineers are now working on a smart home product, which is supposed to be released next year. That may be the Echo competitor that Essential announced a year ago, but which we haven’t heard a word about since.

The Essential Phone shipped months and months after they said it would be available last May, and then when it did launch, they cut the price $200.

Andy Rubin created the Android operating system, and he came to market with a decent phone, but the Android market is very crowded and Rubin clearly was not able to convince people to buy his phone over a Google or Samsung phone.

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Business, Product

Never go full robot.

“The guy telling everyone to be afraid of robots uses too many robots in his factory”:

Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Tesla’s critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3.

Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018.

You went full robot. Never go full robot.

“I trust Apple a lot less.”

I got my iPhone’s battery replaced, and I’m angry Apple didn’t tell me to sooner:

Two weeks ago, I went to an Apple Store and had a new battery put in my iPhone 6S. The very next day, I realized how unusable my old battery had been making my phone.

The repair restored functionality that had been seeping away so slowly I hadn’t really registered the loss. Apps now load when I tap them, not when they feel like it. The keyboard doesn’t freeze when I try to reply to emails in Outlook. My phone no longer clings to its charging cable like it’s a hospital drip, and the battery itself has stopped taking surprise nosedives from 40 percent charge down to zero when I have the temerity to go outside in the cold. (Yes, cold weather kills batteries.) The trust is back in my relationship with my phone, but as a result, I trust Apple a lot less.

I’m angry too.

As an admitted fan of Apple I won’t lie, this is bullshit. I’ve always known, always, that performance degraded on my previous iPhones when I upgraded to the latest version of iOS. I didn’t need an official statement from Apple or any other company to confirm or deny my suspicions.

And now here we are getting new, discounted batteries from Apple.

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Business, Technology

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Apple continues to eat the watch industry’s lunch.

Apple sold more watches than Rolex, Swatch, and the rest of the Swiss watch industry combined:

Apple is one of the biggest watchmakers in the world.

How big? Based on newly available statistics, it now seems certain that Apple outsold the entire Swiss watch industry combined last quarter.

Yep. The company best known for making iPhones outsold Rolex, Omega, and even Swatch last quarter — combined.

That’s according to Apple Watch sales estimates from industry researcher Canalys and IDC, and publicly released shipment statistics from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Canalys estimates that Apple sold 8 million Apple Watches in the last quarter of 2017.

Another industry who’s lunch Apple is eating.

Keep the success of Apple Watch in mind when you read stories about apps ditching it.

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Schnatter is the one who should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.

The papa of Papa John’s is leaving the CEO seat:

Papa John’s is a major NFL sponsor, and Schnatter wasn’t shy about sharing his thoughts about players who took a knee during the national anthem to protest the treatment of black Americans, particularly by police.

President Trump earlier this year publicly criticized players who chose to kneel, ratcheting up the controversy.

“This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” Schnatter said on a conference call with investors in November. “The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.”

Fuck that guy. Good riddance.

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Business

Net Neutrality Dismantled

F.C.C. Repeals Net Neutrality Rules:

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to dismantle landmark rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.

The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.

The action reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to better protect Americans as they have migrated to the internet for most communications. It will take a couple of weeks for the changes go into effect, but groups opposed to the action have already announced plans to sue the agency to restore the net neutrality regulations. Those suits could take many months to be resolved.

Today was a very bad day for Americans.

Categories:

Business, Politics

America’s Retail Apocalypse

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning:

The reason isn’t as simple as Amazon.com Inc. taking market share or twenty-somethings spending more on experiences than things. The root cause is that many of these long-standing chains are overloaded with debt—often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. There are billions in borrowings on the balance sheets of troubled retailers, and sustaining that load is only going to become harder—even for healthy chains.

The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary.

Not every mall can get an Apple Store to lift sales by 10 percent.

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Business

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Holden Shuts Down

Australia Mourns the End of Its Car Manufacturing Industry:

Kane Butterfield started working for Holden at 19 in a small South Australian town built around making the distinctly Australian cars.

But on Friday, after 17 years with the company at its Adelaide auto plant, he and hundreds of other employees bid it farewell, as the factory officially closed, putting an end to car manufacturing in Australia.

“I think it’s pretty tragic really that we’ve let go of one of the best cars around the world,” Mr. Butterfield, 37, told a crowd of reporters gathered outside Australia’s last functioning car factory.

Business people love to talk about innovation and “disrupting” but you don’t hear them talk much about the working class employees getting “disrupted” out the doors of their companies.

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Business, Career

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