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Posts tagged “tech”

  1. Google blew a ten-year lead.
    secondbreakfast.co

    Will Schreiber:

    I haven’t installed MSFT Office on a machine since 2009. Sheets and Docs have been good enough for me. The theoretical unlimited computing power and collaboration features meant Google Docs was better than Office (and free!).

    Then something happened at Google. I’m not sure what. But they stopped innovating on cloud software.

    Docs and Sheets haven’t changed in a decade. Google Drive remains impossible to navigate. Sharing is complicated. Sheets freezes up. I can’t easily interact with a Sheets API (I’ve tried!). Docs still shows page breaks by default! WTF!

  2. Google’s Top Search Result? Surprise! It’s Google
    themarkup.org

    Adrianne Jeffries and Leon Yin look into how Google search gives preferential treatment to Google’s own results:

    In Google’s early years, users would type in a query and get back a page of 10 “blue links” that led to different websites. “We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible,” co-founder Larry Page said in 2004.

    Today, Google often considers that “right place” to be Google, an investigation by The Markup has found.

    We examined more than 15,000 recent popular queries and found that Google devoted 41 percent of the first page of search results on mobile devices to its own properties and what it calls “direct answers,” which are populated with information copied from other sources, sometimes without their knowledge or consent.

    When we examined the top 15 percent of the page, the equivalent of the first screen on an iPhone X, that figure jumped to 63 percent. For one in five searches in our sample, links to external websites did not appear on the first screen at all.

  3. Frustration grows in China as face masks compromise facial recognition
    qz.com

    Ah, the irony. Anne Quito:

    Face masks are mandatory in at least two provinces in China, including the city of Wuhan. In an effort to contain the coronavirus strain that has caused nearly 500 deaths, the government is insisting that millions of residents wear protective face covering when they go out in public.

    As millions don masks across the country, the Chinese are discovering an unexpected consequence to covering their faces. It turns out that face masks trip up facial recognition-based functions, a technology necessary for many routine transactions in China. Suddenly, certain mobile phones, condominium doors, and bank accounts won’t unlock with a glance.

    And beyond quotidian transactions, the technology is a linchpin in the Chinese government’s scheme to police its 1.4 billion citizens.

  4. I want to believe

  5. How NYT Cooking Became the Best Comment Section on the Internet
    theringer.com

    Zach Gage tweeted:

    i wish all internet comments were like the comments on nyt recipe pages

    Turns out a big part of why they’re so nice has to do with nomenclature:

    This might be because Cooking’s comments aren’t comments at all—they’re notes, a distinction Times food editor Sam Sifton emphasizes several times over the course of our conversation. “We made the conscious decision not to call them comments,” Sifton tells me. “The call to action was to leave a note on the recipe that helps make it better. That’s very different from ‘Leave a comment on a recipe.’ And the comment might be ‘I hate you.’ ‘You’re an asshole.’ ‘This is bad.’ And that’s helpful to no one. I see that on other recipes, and I’m glad that we don’t have those comments, because we don’t have comments. We have notes.”

    While it’s delightful to think that that could be enough, human moderation is also involved:

    On the internet, moderation is something of a dying art, often outsourced, automated, or even discontinued altogether by resource-strained news outlets. At Cooking, however, every single note is approved or rejected by an actual human being.

  6. 16-Inch MacBook Pro First Impressions: Great Keyboard, Outstanding Speakers
    daringfireball.net

    John Gruber spent some time with the new MacBook Pro:

    It feels a bit silly to be excited about a classic arrow key layout, a hardware Escape key, and key switches that function reliably and feel good when you type with them, but that’s where we are. The risk of being a Mac user is that we’re captive to a single company’s whims.

    Great that they fixed the keyboards, but I’m guessing repairability hasn’t improved. My 2014 MacBook Pro’s battery started expanding recently, and I was surprised to learn that a battery replacement isn’t a simple job, even for this older generation. The battery is glued in place, so replacing it means an entirely new top case, keyboard, and trackpad — and in my case a week without my computer. That’s bad design too, and a side of it that Apple isn’t getting enough flak for.

  7. The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising
    thecorrespondent.com

    Jesse Frederik and Maurits Martijn:

    It might sound crazy, but companies are not equipped to assess whether their ad spending actually makes money. It is in the best interest of a firm like eBay to know whether its campaigns are profitable, but not so for eBay’s marketing department.

    Its own interest is in securing the largest possible budget, which is much easier if you can demonstrate that what you do actually works. Within the marketing department, TV, print and digital compete with each other to show who’s more important, a dynamic that hardly promotes honest reporting.

    The fact that management often has no idea how to interpret the numbers is not helpful either. The highest numbers win.

  8. Tech and Liberty
    stratechery.com

    Ben Thompson defends Facebook’s recent decision to let politicians lie in ads, arguing that free speech should be considered in terms of culture, not law.

    Here are his concluding remarks:

    Facebook, obviously, is not the government, and thank goodness: the fact that Zuckerberg answers to no one is deeply concerning to me. To be fair, in the case of political ads, this was arguably a benefit: I think he is making the right decision in the face of massive resistance. In the long run, though, it is very problematic that such a powerful player in our democracy has no accountability. Liberty is not simply about laws, or culture, it is also about structure, and it is right to be concerned about the centralized nature of companies like Facebook.

    To that end, the fact that this debate is even occurring is evidence of the problem: those opposed to Facebook’s decision about ads wish the company would wield its power in their favor; my question is whether such power should even exist in the first place. Facebook can close Munroe’s door on anyone, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    Ben makes a good case, but I have conflicting feelings about it. These last few moves by Twitter and Facebook have left me hopelessly lost in this debate. When does a lie become fraud?

  9. AI Is Coming for Your Favorite Menial Tasks
    theatlantic.com

    Fred Benenson:

    When people talk about the effects of automation and artificial intelligence on the economy, they often fixate on the quantity of human workers. Will robots take our jobs? Others focus instead on threats to the quality of employment—the replacement of middle-class occupations with lower-skill, lower-wage ones; the steady elimination of human discretion as algorithms order around warehouse pickers, ride-hailing drivers, and other workers.

    What’s less understood is that artificial intelligence will transform higher-skill positions, too—in ways that demand more human judgment rather than less. And that could be a problem. As AI gets better at performing the routine tasks traditionally done by humans, only the hardest ones will be left for us to do. But wrestling with only difficult decisions all day long is stressful and unpleasant. Being able to make at least some easy calls, such as allowing Santorini onto Kickstarter, can be deeply satisfying.

    “Decision making is very cognitively draining,” the author and former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes told me via email, “so it’s nice to have some tasks that provide a sense of accomplishment but just require getting it done and repeating what you know, rather than everything needing very taxing novel decision making.”

  10. Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs
    wired.com

    Kevin Kelly:

    In the coming years our relationships with robots will become ever more complex. But already a recurring pattern is emerging. No matter what your current job or your salary, you will progress through these Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, again and again:

    1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do.
    2. OK, it can do a lot of them, but it can’t do everything I do.
    3. OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often.
    4. OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks.
    5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do.
    6. Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more fun and pays more!
    7. I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now.
  11. The World-Wide Work
    ethanmarcotte.com

    Finally watched Ethan Marcotte’s talk from this year’s New Adventures conference. It’s as good as everyone said.

    The sewing machine was introduced to the public in the middle of the 19th century. When it was made commercially available, it was advertised as an appliance that would free women from the routine drudgery of hand-sewing.

    A few short decades later, this pamphlet said that a female operator could use a Singer sewing machine to produce 3,300 stitches per minute.

    That shift in tone is really intriguing to me: as the technology improved, the messaging around sewing machines shifted from personal liberty to technical efficiency.

    People are promised that technology will free them; ultimately, as the technology matures, it captures them.

    I’d like to propose that what happened with the sewing machine is currently happening with the Web: that the Web is becoming industrialized in the same way that the sewing machine was.

  12. Catalina Vista
    mjtsai.com

    The macOS Catalina situation seems to be pretty bad. My biggest reasons for upgrading are Apple Arcade and Reminders, but in return I’d have to:

    • give up Photoshop CS6
    • give up a bunch of games on my Steam library
    • deal with my old Aperture libraries as the app is finally broken
    • learn a new shell, or replace it
    • fix all the tooling stuff that will break due to the new read-only system volume
    • put up with all the permission annoyances
    • deal with all the damn bugs

    Marco Arment’s take on ATP is right: “not enough carrot to take the stick”. For the first time ever I might actually skip a major version of macOS.

  13. The China Cultural Clash
    stratechery.com

    Ben Thompson:

    I am increasingly convinced this is the point every company dealing with China will reach: what matters more, money or values?

    John Gruber summarizes Ben’s points really well:

    The gist of it is that 25 years ago, when the West opened trade relations with China, we expected our foundational values like freedom of speech, personal liberty, and democracy to spread to China.

    Instead, the opposite is happening. China maintains strict control over what its people see on the Internet — the Great Firewall works. They ban our social networks where free speech reigns, but we accept and use their social networks, like TikTok, where content contrary to the Chinese Community Party line is suppressed.

    Worse, multinational mega corporations like Apple and Disney are put in a bind — they must choose between speaking up for values such as the right to privacy and freedom of speech, or making money in the Chinese market.

    And Nilay Patel makes a great comparison:

    It’s not hard to understand that carmakers in the US market build to California emissions standards because they are the strictest - it’s the most efficient choice.

    Not a leap to think global companies will hold themselves to China’s speech restrictions for the same reason.

  14. Simplicity (II)
    bastianallgeier.com

    Bastian Allgeier:

    I have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to programming:

    less code === less potential issues

    This rule of thumb controls my own feelings towards a solution. It shouldn’t take 120 MB of code to uglify some JS. But maybe I’m wrong.

    In practice, this dependency hell has bitten me so often already that my life expectancy probably sank by 2-3 years. You want to build a JS file? Please update Webpack first. Oh, that new version of Webpack is no longer compatible with your Node version. Oh, your new Node version is no longer compatible with that other dependency. Oh, now you have 233 detected security issues in all your node_modules but you can’t fix them because that would break something completely unrelated.