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Preview: Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check

Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check



Better living through collaboration and conceptual modeling



Updated: 2017-03-25T10:02:43.921-04:00

 



Upgrade your Medium (Ev Williams on Medium)

2017-03-23T07:11:28.216-04:00

A new Medium subscription model; also see Medium debuts its paid membership subscription program (TechCrunch)

"But how does this lead to you paying Medium $5 a month?
It’s simple. Corporate advertising budgets become the primary funders of our information providers. No matter how skilled or well-intentioned, ad-driven publishers are rewarded on their ability to capture attention and even, at times, to weave a particular corporate-driven narrative. Not to provide informed perspectives, be thorough, or even be factually correct. But to capture attention. As cheaply as possible. For a few fleeting seconds. Click, click, scroll…
There is no way to fix this dynamic until we demand better — and decide to pay for it. We need a system that funds stories and ideas not just based on their ability to attract attention, but on their value to readers. This is the system that Medium is building, and as a founding member, you’ll get to help tell us what’s most valuable and how we spend that money."
Upgrade your Medium



Apple has acquired Workflow, a powerful automation tool for iPad and iPhone | TechCrunch

2017-03-23T06:59:35.736-04:00

Also see Apple bought the best utility app for the iPhone, Workflow (The Verge)

"Workflow has been around for a couple of years and we’ve covered it and its updates. It shares some similarity with the service IFTTT, in that it allows people to group together a bunch of actions that can allow them to perform complicated tasks with one tap. It had built up a sizeable number of users and downloads over the past few years.

Workflow the app is being acquired, along with the team of Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, Ayaka Nonaka and Nick Frey. In a somewhat uncommon move for Apple, the app will continue to be made available on the App Store and will be made free later today."
Apple has acquired Workflow, a powerful automation tool for iPad and iPhone | TechCrunch



Google Ad Crisis Spreads as Biggest Marketers Halt Spending - Bloomberg

2017-03-23T08:18:24.587-04:00

Also see AT&T and Johnson & Johnson Pull Ads From YouTube (NYT) and Google’s YouTube Advertiser Problem has No Easy Fix (Tech.pinions)
"On Wednesday, the boycott spread across the Atlantic as U.S. companies that are among the heaviest ad spenders pulled back, potentially costing Google and YouTube hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business.

AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc., the largest U.S. wireless carriers, said they had stopped non-search advertising spending with Google. Johnson & Johnson, the world’s biggest health-care company, paused all YouTube advertising globally.

“We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” a spokeswoman for AT&T said in a statement Wednesday. “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”"
Google Ad Crisis Spreads as Biggest Marketers Halt Spending - Bloomberg



Kindle for iOS finally gets the “Send to Kindle” feature, challenging Pocket and Instapaper | TechCrunch

2017-03-22T07:20:58.986-04:00

A handy option if you prefer reading long-form content with a Kindle (or Kindle app)

"Amazon has quietly rolled out the “Send to Kindle” feature to its Kindle for iOS application that allows you to save to the app articles and documents found on the web. That means your Kindle device or app can replace your preferred “read it later” application — like Pocket or Instapaper, for example — apps where regular web readers often store the longer news articles, features or profiles they want to dig into at a later date.

Amazon, of course, already supported saving web content to Kindle through desktop browser extensions, emails to your “Send-to-Kindle” email address and from Android phones. But now that lineup includes the default iOS browser, Safari, which will make the feature more accessible to a large number of users."
Kindle for iOS finally gets the “Send to Kindle” feature, challenging Pocket and Instapaper | TechCrunch



The next version of Android is supposed to have better battery life - Recode

2017-03-22T07:15:59.147-04:00

Actual results may vary; also see Google releases Android O to developers, promising better battery life and notifications (The Verge)
"In addition to battery life, Android O is expected to have simplified app notification settings and the ability to allow picture-in-picture display, so users can do things like respond to texts while watching videos in YouTube without having to close the video window.

Something that’s not changing: As with previous updates to Android, no one knows what fraction of Android users will get the update. Android might be the most common mobile phone operating system, but pushing out updates to users is often up to carriers and manufacturers, not Google.

According to Android’s developer site, a mere 3 percent of Android users have Nougat, which is the latest version now available. By contrast, 79 percent of iOS users are currently on the latest version of iPhone software, iOS 10."
The next version of Android is supposed to have better battery life - Recode



Crossing the Border? Here’s How to Safeguard Your Data From Searches - The New York Times

2017-03-22T06:59:36.199-04:00

Check the full article for some timely travel tips

"Legally, citizens are not required to unlock their cellphones or share their passwords with United States government officials. But rules may vary depending on where you are traveling to and from. And any stopping by a government official can be inconvenient, and even intimidating.

What to do? There’s one thing all the experts agree on: Do not lie to government officials about your passwords or social media accounts.

“They’d make your life miserable if they found that out,” said Jeremiah Grossman, the head of security strategy for SentinelOne, a computer security company.

But there are methods for safeguarding your cellphones, tablets and computers from invasive searches, all while remaining honest. Here are some of the best tips, based on interviews with security and forensics specialists."
Crossing the Border? Here’s How to Safeguard Your Data From Searches - The New York Times



A.I. Expert at Baidu, Andrew Ng, Resigns From Chinese Search Giant - The New York Times

2017-03-22T06:46:23.303-04:00

See Opening a new chapter of my work in AI (Andrew Ng on Medium) for more details

"In 2014, Baidu announced a hiring coup in the world of artificial intelligence: It had brought in the Stanford and Google alumnus Andrew Ng to lead a new research lab in Silicon Valley.

Just under three years later, Mr. Ng said in a blog post on Tuesday that he was leaving the Chinese search engine company.

His departure is a blow to Baidu, which has been betting big on artificial intelligence, a technology that is expected to undergird a range of others, like voice recognition and driverless cars."
A.I. Expert at Baidu, Andrew Ng, Resigns From Chinese Search Giant - The New York Times



'Disputed by multiple fact-checkers': Facebook rolls out new alert to combat fake news | Technology | The Guardian

2017-03-22T06:06:46.470-04:00

Better late than never

"Facebook has started rolling out its third-party fact-checking tool in the fight against fake news, alerting users to “disputed content”.

The site announced in December it would be partnering with independent fact-checkers to crack down on the spread of misinformation on its platform.

The tool was first observed by Facebook users attempting to link to a story that falsely claimed hundreds of thousands of Irish people were brought to the US as slaves."
'Disputed by multiple fact-checkers': Facebook rolls out new alert to combat fake news | Technology | The Guardian



SoftBank Drops $100 Million Investment in iPhone Rival - WSJ

2017-03-21T07:16:32.319-04:00

Also see SoftBank Invests $300 Million in WeWork (Bloomberg)

"SoftBank Group Corp. scrapped a planned $100 million investment in a smartphone startup founded by the creator of Google’s Android software, partly because of the Japanese investor’s increasingly close relationship with Apple Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

The planned investment would have valued the startup, Essential Products Inc., at $1 billion, these people say, a lofty amount for a company that has yet to sell a product in one of technology’s most cutthroat industries. It had already been agreed to informally, and final investment contracts were being drawn up, say people familiar with the deal, a stage at which venture deals are rarely abandoned."
SoftBank Drops $100 Million Investment in iPhone Rival - WSJ



Trump is using @POTUS to live-tweet at the FBI director as he testifies before Congress - Recode

2017-03-21T07:48:50.444-04:00

Probably not a usage scenario Jack Dorsey had in mind when he sent the first tweet 11 years ago today; also see FBI Director James Comey Takes On New Role Fact-Checking the President’s Tweets (The Intercept)
"Here’s a real thing that happened today: As the head of the FBI testified before Congress about possible Russian involvement in the 2016 election, the White House took to the @POTUS twitter account to argue with the head of the FBI.

True story, captured on TV and on the internet, in real time."
Trump is using @POTUS to live-tweet at the FBI director as he testifies before Congress - Recode



Bixby: A New Way to Interact with Your Phone - Samsung Newsroom

2017-03-21T06:59:55.561-04:00

Details on Samsung's big Bixby bet -- see the full post for more on completeness + context awareness + cognitive tolerance; also see Say hi to Samsung Bixby, the new voice assistant in the Galaxy S8 (Mashable)

"Samsung has a conceptually new philosophy to the problem:  instead of humans learning how the machine interacts with the world (a reflection of the abilities of designers), it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us.  The interface must be natural and intuitive enough to flatten the learning curve regardless of the number of functions being added. With this new approach, Samsung has employed artificial intelligence, reinforcing deep learning concepts to the core of our user interface designs. Bixby is the ongoing result of this effort.

Bixby will be a new intelligent interface on our devices. Fundamentally different from other voice agents or assistants in the market, Bixby offers a deeper experience thanks to proficiency in these three properties:"
Bixby: A New Way to Interact with Your Phone - Samsung Newsroom



Platform Companies Are Becoming More Powerful — but What Exactly Do They Want? - The New York Times

2017-03-21T06:51:29.514-04:00

Pondering platform permutations

"Uber, like so many other successful tech companies in 2017, is a “platform business,” one built around matchmaking between vendors and customers. If successful, a platform creates its own marketplace; if extremely successful, it ends up controlling something closer to an entire economy. This is intuitive in a case like eBay, which connects buyers and sellers. Airbnb, too, resembles an age-old form of commerce, connecting property owners with short-term lodgers. TaskRabbit and Fiverr connect contractors with people looking to hire them. Some of the largest platforms are less obviously transactional: Facebook and Google connect advertisers with users, users with one another, software developers with users. But while the transactions that happen on their platforms largely take a different form — taps, shares, ads served and scrolled past — the principles are essentially the same, as are the benefits. These businesses are asset- and employee-light, low on liability and high on upside. They aspire to monopoly, often unapologetically, and have been instrumental in rehabilitating the concept. (The logic is seductive and often self-evident: Facebook is more useful if everyone is on it, therefore everyone should be on Facebook.)"
Platform Companies Are Becoming More Powerful — but What Exactly Do They Want? - The New York Times



Inside Amazon’s Battle to Break Into the $800 Billion Grocery Market - Bloomberg

2017-03-21T06:45:49.147-04:00

A Fresh start
"Amazon’s goal is to become a Top 5 grocery retailer by 2025, according to a person familiar with the matter. That would require more than $30 billion in annual food and beverage spending through its sites, up from $8.7 billion — including Amazon Fresh and all other food and drink sales — in 2016, according to Cowen & Co.

Reaching that milestone would require a new wave of store and warehouse investments around the country, costing billions of dollars. That’s an existential change for Amazon, which initially stayed away from perishable goods and has mostly avoided the overhead of physical stores since it started in 1994. 
“A bunch of smart people at Amazon have been thinking about re-imagining the next phase of physical retail,” said Scott Jacobson, a former Amazon executive who is now a managing director at Madrona Venture Group. “They want more share of the wallet, and habitual, frequent use of Amazon for groceries is the ultimate goal.”"
Inside Amazon’s Battle to Break Into the $800 Billion Grocery Market - Bloomberg



Apple’s Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality - Bloomberg

2017-03-20T09:59:45.406-04:00

From a detailed Apple AR deep-dive; also see Apple's Augmented Reality Team is bringing in more Specialists to work on their Future Platform (Patently Apple)

"Tim Cook has talked up a lot of technologies since becoming Apple Inc.'s chief executive in 2011. Driverless cars. Artificial intelligence. Streaming television. But no technology has fired up Cook quite like augmented reality, which overlays images, video and games on the real world. Cook has likened AR's game-changing potential to that of the smartphone. At some point, he said last year, we will all "have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you."

Investors impatient for Apple's next breakthrough will be happy to know that Cook is very serious about AR. People with knowledge of the company's plans say Apple has embarked on an ambitious bid to bring the technology to the masses—an effort Cook and his team see as the best way for the company to dominate the next generation of gadgetry and keep people wedded to its ecosystem."
Apple’s Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality - Bloomberg



CEO says Slack is growing up, but maybe not going public - Axios

2017-03-20T07:53:37.422-04:00

Also see Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield: Tech alone can't stop Trump (Axios)

"Microsoft released Teams last week, and Google is reconfiguring Hangouts to be more of a player. Do you see those two companies becoming tougher competitors than they have been?

Certainly than they have been, because they are more or less new entrants. They are each a little bit different. We are working pretty closely with Google on the partnership side and deeper and deeper integrations. I think there's a relationship there that works even if we are competing on some fronts. We had Diane Greene on stage for (a) launch event just a couple months ago.
There's two senses in which we think about it. One is me as a fiduciary to the company to take the competition seriously and the other is me as someone who really enjoys making software. It's exciting and exhilarating for the same reason it's more fun to play basketball against an opponent than to shoot hoops against yourself. I think we're really well positioned in both cases."
CEO says Slack is growing up, but maybe not going public - Axios



From Seattle it came: How Jeff Bezos is taking over the world - The Boston Globe

2017-03-20T07:45:09.158-04:00

From a timely Amazon reality check; tangentially, see Jeff Bezos looks a little too happy piloting a giant mechanical robot (The Verge)
"His empire now threatens big name companies as diverse as The New York Times and Walmart. And the list of rivals keeps expanding. Amazon has gone head to head with Hulu, Netflix, and HBO with original television and movie production. When the rapacious company announced that it needed to increase shipping capacity, UPS and FedEx were quickly put on high alert. There seems to be no limit to Bezos’s desire to grow — his space-exploration company, Blue Origin, envisions Amazon-style delivery to the moon — and that means that countless other companies may no doubt find themselves in Amazon’s crosshairs.

As his empire and his ambitions swell, Bezos looks like a new kind of competitor on the global scene: someone with essentially bottomless pockets, an ever-expanding cache of data, and a willingness to keep investing in insurgent businesses until the rest of the world recognizes the value in them. Ironically, in an economy fixated on short-term results, exceptional patience pays off."
From Seattle it came: How Jeff Bezos is taking over the world - The Boston Globe



Sorry, a Robot Is Not About to Replace Your Lawyer - The New York Times

2017-03-20T06:59:39.992-04:00

On a related note, see The real estate industry has something the Internet can’t offer: The human element (The Washington Post)

"But recent research and even the people working on the software meant to automate legal work say the adoption of A.I. in law firms will be a slow, task-by-task process. In other words, like it or not, a robot is not about to replace your lawyer. At least, not anytime soon.

“There is this popular view that if you can automate one piece of the work, the rest of the job is toast,” said Frank Levy, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “That’s just not true, or only rarely the case.”"
Sorry, a Robot Is Not About to Replace Your Lawyer - The New York Times



Two Executives to Leave Uber, Adding to Departures - The New York Times

2017-03-20T06:49:58.934-04:00

Also see In Silicon Valley, a Voice of Caution Guides a High-Flying Uber (NYT)
"Jeff Jones, Uber’s president of ride sharing, has left the company after just six months, Uber said on Sunday. In addition, Brian McClendon, vice president of maps and business platform at Uber, also plans to leave at the end of the month. [...]

The departures add to the executive exodus from Uber this year. Raffi Krikorian, a well-regarded director in Uber’s self-driving division, left the company last week, while Gary Marcus, who joined Uber in December after Uber acquired his company, left this month. Uber also asked for the resignation of Amit Singhal, a top engineer who failed to disclose a sexual harassment claim against him at his previous employer, Google, before joining Uber. And Ed Baker, another senior executive, left this month as well."
Two Executives to Leave Uber, Adding to Departures - The New York Times



Head in the cloud: What Satya Nadella did at Microsoft | The Economist

2017-03-17T07:54:29.548-04:00

Excerpt from a profile of Microsoft in transition

"Mr Nadella has changed the firm’s organisation as well as its culture. It is now more of a vertically integrated technology firm—“full stack”, in the jargon. It not only writes all kinds of software, but builds its own data centres and designs its own hardware. Mr Nadella points out that it now even develops some of the chips for its data centres.

His imprint can be seen on three businesses in particular: the cloud, hardware and AI. Microsoft does not break out by how much it has increased investment in the cloud, but building data centres is expensive and its capital expenditure is soon expected nearly to double, to $9bn a year, from when Mr Nadella took over. If you take only basic services, such as data storage and computing, Microsoft’s cloud is much smaller than Amazon Web Services, the leader in cloud computing, which is owned by Amazon, an e-commerce giant. But if you add Microsoft’s web-based services, such as Office 365 and other business applications, which are only a negligible part of AWS’s portfolio, the two firms are of comparable size. Both AWS’s and Microsoft’s cloud businesses boast an annual run rate (the latest quarterly revenues multiplied by four) of $14bn. Microsoft hopes to reach $20bn by its 2018 financial year, a fifth of total expected revenues."
Head in the cloud: What Satya Nadella did at Microsoft | The Economist



How DeepMind’s Memory Trick Helps AI Learn Faster - MIT Technology Review

2017-03-17T07:43:28.469-04:00

tl;dr: for better neural episodic control, simply remember everything

"Pritzel and co have used this approach as their inspiration. Their new system has two approaches. The first is a conventional deep-learning system that mimics the behaviur of the prefrontal cortex. The second is more like the hippocampus. When the system tries something new, it remembers the outcome.

But crucially, it doesn’t try to learn what to remember. Instead, it remembers everything. “Our architecture does not try to learn when to write to memory, as this can be slow to learn and take a significant amount of time,” say Pritzel and co. “Instead, we elect to write all experiences to the memory, and allow it to grow very large compared to existing memory architectures.”

They then use a set of strategies to read from this large memory quickly. The result is that the system can latch onto successful strategies much more quickly than conventional deep-learning systems."
How DeepMind’s Memory Trick Helps AI Learn Faster - MIT Technology Review



Guardian pulls ads from Google after they were placed next to extremist material | Media | The Guardian

2017-03-17T07:25:38.697-04:00

Also see Google summoned to appear before the UK government to explain why ads keep appearing next to extremist YouTube videos (Business Insider)
"Ads for the Guardian’s membership scheme are understood to have been placed alongside a range of extremist material after an agency acting on the media group’s behalf used Google’s AdX ad exchange.

David Pemsel, the Guardian’s chief executive, wrote to Google to say that it was “completely unacceptable” for its advertising to be misused in this way.

He said the Guardian would be withdrawing its advertising until Google can “provide guarantees that this ad misplacement via Google and YouTube will not happen in the future”.   
The content included YouTube videos of American white nationalists, a hate preacher banned in the UK and a controversial Islamist preacher."
Guardian pulls ads from Google after they were placed next to extremist material | Media | The Guardian



Google Home is playing audio ads for Beauty and the Beast - The Verge

2017-03-17T07:19:14.172-04:00

A "tale" of advertising innovation

"“By the way, Disney’s live action Beauty and The Beast opens today,” the Assistant says, after covering the usual time, weather, and commute routine. “In this version of the story, Belle is the inventor instead of Maurice. That rings truer if you ask me. For some more movie fun, ask me something about Belle.” Meunier didn’t respond, so Home simply said “Have a good one” and moved on to the day’s news headlines from NPR. Google Home doesn’t yet work with Fandango, so it’s not like users could even take advantage of the ad and quickly reserve tickets at a local theater. The company has since stopped serving the Beauty and the Beast content to users.

When contacted by The Verge for more information, Google denied that the audio snippet was actually an ad, initially providing this rather strange statement: “This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales.” That appeared to describe... an advertisement. Using Beauty and the Beast references."
Google Home is playing audio ads for Beauty and the Beast - The Verge



iPhone users can now access Amazon’s Alexa on the go | Ars Technica

2017-03-17T07:06:01.362-04:00

Check this Amazon page for details

"Although this puts Alexa in direct competition with Siri, Apple's voice assistant has the upper-hand in that it's truly hands-free. With Siri enabled, you can say "Hey Siri!" and your iOS device will hear you and listen to your command. To talk to Alexa, you need to open the Amazon Shopping app and press the microphone icon before you can say any commands.

However, Alexa may truly challenge Siri when it comes to smart home controls. You can control HomeKit-compatible devices with Siri in the same way that you can control Alexa-compatible devices with Amazon's assistant. Amazon has a larger library of Alexa-ready smart-home products, and iOS users who already use Alexa to control most of their smart home may embrace this mobile way of doing so. That could also compel users just getting into the smart-home space to buy Alexa-compatible products over HomeKit-ready devices (but there is overlap between those two device groups, too)."
iPhone users can now access Amazon’s Alexa on the go | Ars Technica



Samsung needs its next phone to be a success. Here’s how it may lure you back. - The Washington Post

2017-03-17T06:58:06.761-04:00

When these (and a headphone jack...) may be near the top of the list of competitive differentiation features, Samsung is likely to have another rough year; see the full article for other anticipated features

"Desktop mode: The new phones will have a mode that will let them connect to a monitor and be used more like a PC, according to an anonymous tip received by the tech blog All About Windows Phone. Users will reportedly be able to open multiple apps alongside each other, similar to the way Microsoft’s “Continuum” feature gives users a computer-like work environment using just their smartphone and a monitor.

A new assistant: Samsung last year bought Viv, the company originally behind Apple's Siri assistant. So it makes sense that the new phone would have a new assistant that would perform many of the same functions as Siri, as reported by the Guardian.

The assistant's reported name, Bixby, appears to have been confirmed by Samsung itself, through an Italian-language privacy policy published online that mentions the name."
Samsung needs its next phone to be a success. Here’s how it may lure you back. - The Washington Post



Fury Road: Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google? - Bloomberg

2017-03-17T06:37:56.684-04:00

Excerpt from this week's Bloomberg Businessweek cover story

"“Google is the Xerox Parc of self-driving cars,” says George Hotz, the founder of Comma.ai, another autonomous car startup. It’s a backhanded compliment: Although Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center invented the modern computer operating system, it didn’t bring the invention to market; Apple Inc. did. “The real question is, why hasn’t Google shipped?” Hotz asks. He regards Google’s lawsuit as a deliberate conflation of two different beefs. The first—the accusation that Levandowski stole documents—is serious. The second, Hotz says, “just signals weakness on Google’s part.” In Silicon Valley, and at the Googleplex, litigation is looked upon as the last refuge of the undisruptive.

Whatever Levandowski did with Google’s files, he’s not wrong that Google has struggled to commercialize technology that’s widely regarded as the best in the automotive industry. Before Google worked on its current prototype, a two-seater that has a top speed of 20 miles per hour and vaguely resembles a koala bear, the company pitched Elon Musk on outfitting his electric Tesla vehicles with Google tech, according to two people familiar with the deal. Musk passed and a few years later launched Tesla Inc.’s highway autopilot service on his own. A former Google executive says John Krafcik, who joined the car project as CEO in 2015, would sometimes appear rattled by the competitive moves of Tesla and Uber, wondering aloud if Google may have already been “leapfrogged.” He would grow particularly irritable “every time Elon would post something on Twitter,” the executive says."
Fury Road: Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google? - Bloomberg