Tag Archives: Again
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
They hope, though, that you don’t notice when those promises become, well, a little diluted over time.
It’s the thought that counts, after all.
One thought offered by Google when it committed itself to your health was that Deep Mind, its profound subsidiary that uses AI to help solve health problems, was that its “data will never be connected to Google accounts or services.”
Cut to not very long at all and Deep Mind was last week rolled into, oh, Google.
In an odd coincidence, this move also necessitated that an independent review board, there to check on Deep Mind’s work with healthcare professionals, was disappeared.
This caused those who keep a careful eye on Google — such as NYU research fellow Julia Powles — to gently point out the company’s sleight of mouth.
This is TOTALLY unacceptable. DeepMind repeatedly, unconditionally promised to *never* connect people’s intimate, identifiable health data to Google. Now it’s announced…exactly that. This isn’t transparency, it’s trust demolition.
This is, though, the problem with tech companies.
We looked at them as if they were run by wizards doing things we could never understand.
Any time we became even slightly suspicious, the tech companies murmured that we should trust them. Because, well, we really didn’t understand what sort of world they were building.
Now, we’re living in it. A world where everything is tradable and hackable and nothing is sacred.
A world where the most common headlines about the company seem to begin: Google fined..
I asked Google whether it understood the reaction to its latest Oh, you caught us, yes, we’re going to do things differently now move.
The company referred me to a blog post it wrote explaining its actions.
In it, Google uses phrases like major milestone and words like excited.
It also offered me these words from Dr. Dominic King a former UK National Health Service surgeon and researcher who will be leading the Deep Mind Streams team:
The public is rightly concerned about what happens with patient data. I want to be totally clear. This data is not DeepMind’s or Google’s – it belongs to our partners, whether the NHS or internationally. We process it according to their instructions – nothing more.
At this stage our contracts have not moved across to Google and will not without our partners’ consent. The same applies to the data that we process under these contracts.
At this stage.
Oh, but you know how creepily the online world works.
You know, for example, that advertising keeps popping up at the strangest times and for the strangest things.
Within minutes, certain apps on my phone were full of ads for Google’s new Pixel 3 phone. Which I could buy most easily, said the ads, at a Verizon store.
Who would be surprised, then, if personal health data began to be linked with other Google services, such as advertising?
Too many tech companies know only one way to do business — to grow and wrap their tentacles around every last aspect of human life.
The likes of Google operate on a basis of a FOMO paranoia that even teens and millennials might envy.
They need to know everything about you, in case they miss out on an advertising opportunity.
You are not a number. You are a lot of numbers.
And your numbers help Google make even bigger numbers.
Will that ever change? Probably not.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) made another attempt to make users’ tallies of followers more accurate on Friday, subtracting millions of suspicious followers which had reappeared on the social media service since a major purge in July.
Men are silhouetted against a video screen with a Twitter logo as he poses with a Samsung S4 smartphone in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS)
Twitter is under pressure to tackle its problem of fake users, which are a turn-off for investors and advertisers and have led to scrutiny from U.S. Congress.
The company made Friday’s move without an announcement. Pop star Katy Perry lost about 861,000 followers, according to social measurement firm Social Blade. Twitter’s own account lost 2.4 million followers.
In July, Twitter said it would stop counting accounts it “locked” as followers, in an effort to make its user data more accurate. At least seven celebrities lost as many as 2 million followers each.
By October, however, many of those accounts appeared to have been unlocked – which can happen after a password reset – and at least two dozen popular users had gained back a third or so of the lost followers, according to data from Russian ad fraud researcher Social Puncher.
Those followers disappeared once again on Friday, Social Puncher said.
Twitter said on Friday that it “discovered a bug where some of these accounts were briefly added back, which led to misleading follower counts” for “very few accounts.”
It said in July that follower counts might change “more regularly” as part of its efforts to “identify and challenge problematic accounts.” The ensuing volatility has caught the attention of prominent users, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk.
They and other users lost followers in recent days, but Friday’s cull was larger for most, according to several accounts Reuters reviewed on Social Blade.
Twitter’s own account fell by 7.8 million followers in July but gained back 2.36 million by mid-October. It lost 2.4 million on Friday, according to Social Blade.
Some users experienced a similar drop in early October, before the followers returned days later, Social Puncher said.
The firm told Reuters that it suspects the affected locked accounts are controlled by fraudsters who sell followers to artificially boost accounts’ popularity.
The accounts exhibit hallmarks of fakes, including few profile details, fans and posts, it said.
MarQuis Trill, a Los Angeles advertising producer, told Reuters that he bought 300,000 followers for $ 4,500 two years ago. He lost nearly 2.2 million followers in July, but had about 30 percent back until Friday’s purge.
“I didn’t buy that many to be losing like that,” he said.
Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Bill Rigby
Warren Buffett said the following:
I call investing the greatest business in the world … because you never have to swing. You stand at the plate, the pitcher throws you General Motors (NYSE:GM) at 47! U.S. Steel (NYSE:X) at 39! And nobody calls a strike on you. There’s no penalty except opportunity lost. All day you wait for the pitch you like. Then when the fielders are asleep, you step up and hit it.”
I distinctively remember Apple (AAPL) at around $ 90 a share back in 2016. Sentiment was on the floor, commentary was circulating on mass that iPhone growth was history. Fast forward a couple of years and shares have more than doubled. I suspect few would have thought that AAPL would have recovered so quickly. However as the chart illustrates below, AAPL also suffered a steep decline in 2013 but came roaring back to life soon thereafter. Why didn’t investors “trust” the charts instead of one or two disappointing earnings reports? Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.
Then we have Gilead (GILD). Shares collapsed to close to $ 60 a share last year and have been very slow to gain momentum since then. Granted Gilead’s shares collapsed more than Apple’s and over a much longer time frame, but you can be sure that many investors doubled down on their positions or bought at levels much higher than the present share price. Apple and Gilead before these share price declines relied mostly on one product which was obviously the iPhone in AAPL and HPC cures for Gilead. So why did one stock bounce back strongly whereas the other flattered to deceive?
I think these articles are helpful because it is at these inflection points where the most fortunes are made. With AAPL, for example, you had the likes of Buffett joining the party, but then you had the likes of Carl Icahn who ran for the exit. Now both of these billionaires made a lot of money but Icahn as we can see now sold far too early.
Buffett also has stated.
“Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble.”
The problem though is that everything is so easy in hindsight. AAPL’s top line sales have come roaring back to currently stand at $ 247.41 billion over a trailing 12-month average. Gilead’s top line sales growth has deteriorated to currently stand at $ 24.69 billion (almost $ 8 billion down from its 2015 high).
Many newsletters got Gilead wrong which is why one should always make their own investing decisions. Why? Because an opinion backed by research and hours of study usually means one will stand by the position even if the going gets tough for a while. Gilead never rebounded because it ultimately cured hepatitis C. I wrote more about this here but many were caught out on this at the time.
Here though was the skinny compared to Apple. Although Gilead was generating strong cash flows from the likes of its HCV and HIV divisions, there was absolutely no link between the two segments. These two diseases are totally different and one cannot “lift up” the other, so to speak, when the likes of HCV is struggling.
We cannot though say the same about Apple. I remember its March quarter in 2016 when revenue collapsed by 13% to print the worst top line quarter since 2003. The main culprit was of course iPhone unit sales which were down 16% over a rolling quarter basis. However there were a number of reasons for the decline both in dollar amount sales and iPhone unit sales. Softness in China, currency headwinds plus also a poor product mix led to the disappointing quarter. Shares headed toward $ 90 as investors ran for the exit. However the launch of the iPhone 7 in September kept the purists hopeful.
However it wasn’t that model that turned the tide for AAPL. It was the fact that smartphone growth was still in an uptrend (still is to this day) and Apple was working really hard in the background to both coax customers from Android (through the likes of the iPhone SE) while also tie in customers more and more into its ecosystem of products. Just remember the strength of AAPL’s ecosystem today will dictate the strength of sales in the future. Gilead never had this competitive advantage and its results demonstrated this.
So when the next blip occurs, we will look at the strength of that ecosystem to see how growth rates are faring in other products. It’s all about engagement and loyalty going forward. These metrics are probably the best ones to measure when the inevitable happens and iPhone growth slows once again. As for Gilead, there still seems to be no catalyst in the cards to help growth. AAPL despite its valuation and snap back rally continues to look a far better long contender here.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
[unable to retrieve full-text content]
(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump launched his second attack in a week on Amazon.com Inc on Saturday, accusing the world’s biggest online retailer of getting unfairly cheap rates from the U.S. Postal Service and not paying enough tax.
Trump’s comments on Twitter reiterated criticisms he made on Thursday about the company. He may have been prompted by a report from news website Axios saying he was obsessed with Amazon and considering ways to rein in the company’s power, possibly with federal antitrust or competition laws.
Investor concerns about regulatory action sent Amazon shares down 3.3 percent over Wednesday and Thursday, knocking $ 24 billion off the company’s market value.
“While we are on the subject, it is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $ 1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to Billions of Dollars,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
A Citigroup analysis last year showed that if the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) reallocated costs to account for the growing volume of packages it delivers, it would cost $ 1.46 more to deliver each package. Federal regulators, which review contracts made by USPS, have not raised any issues with the terms of its contract with Amazon.
“If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $ 2.6 Billion’,” Trump tweeted, although it was not clear what report he was citing. “This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!”
A White House spokeswoman said on Thursday the administration has no Amazon-related action at this time.
Trump also accused the Washington Post, owned privately by Amazon Chief Executive and founder Jeff Bezos, of being a “lobbyist” for Amazon.
The newspaper, a frequent target of Trump’s ire, won a Pulitzer Prize last year for its critical investigation of Trump’s donations to charities.
Amazon declined comment. The Washington Post did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Bill Trott
A version of the technology that’s meant to make cryptocurrency payments faster and cheaper went live Thursday.
The software, called Lightning Network, can now be used for Bitcoin payments after more than a year in which thousands of developers tested it. Lightning Labs, one of the firms developing the technology, released this initial version, which is compatible with networks being developed by other groups, such as Blockstream and Acinq.
Bitcoin has become digital gold — or a viable investment alternative — to many, but it has been harder for it to fulfill its original purpose of becoming digital money, as transaction fees have skyrocketed to as high as $ 50, while confirmation times took as long as a week at their peak. Enthusiasts say the Lightning Network will solve these problems with fees at a fraction of a cent and instantaneous transactions.
The Lightning Network rolls out, another technology meant to speed up transactions, Segregated Witness, gains traction, with the number of transactions using it doubling to more than 30 percent of total Bitcoin transactions in the past month. Bitcoin transaction fees have plummeted in part thanks to this, but the total number of transactions has also declined. Lightning Network is also meant to help lower fees on the main Bitcoin network.
The Lightning Network allows Bitcoin users to open payment channels between each other. The parties can than conduct transactions without having to post them to the Bitcoin blockchain, avoiding delays and costs that result from recording those transactions each time. Once the channel is closed, only the resulting balances are recorded on the blockchain, not the full transaction history of the channel, and only then are Bitcoin fees paid. There is no required time or transaction limit required to close a payment channel, so they can potentially remain open for months of years.
Elizabeth Stark, Lightning Labs founder and chief executive officer, says merchants and especially online businesses will be the most likely users as it facilitates a high volume of payments and its near-zero fees allow for micropayments. Cryptocurrency exchanges could also use the software to accelerate deposit and withdrawal of funds, she said.
The network is currently able to process transactions in the low thousands per second, according to Stark, which is still far from Visa Inc.’s maximum of 56,000, but an improvement on Bitcoin’s five transactions per second. More than 4,000 payment channels have been opened since the technology was released in January 2017, and even though it was in testing, some merchants already started using it. Block & Jerry’s, an online ice-cream store playing on American ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, is one.
“Bitcoin enthusiasts have gotten excited about this, merchants are excited about this,” Stark said. “It feels like we’re right on the edge of mass cryptocurrency adoption.”
Atlanta is the smartest show on television. I’m unoriginal in that sentiment—for the entirety of its first season, which emerged in 2016 with the marvel and depth of an art-house indie film, it was regarded as such—but that doesn’t make it any less genuine, or true. Depending on how you color it, that view does present its creator-star Donald Glover with a high-stakes dilemma for the second season: How do you reinvent the most inventive show currently on TV?
In the lead-up to last year’s Emmy Awards—where Glover won for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series—I wrote about Atlanta‘s expanding narrative parameters. For the whole of its first 10 episodes, Glover introduced viewers to a universe that was familiar to some, and imaginatively new to others. There was a cultural knowingness alive in his telling; one that, until its debut, had never been granted room on TV (partially due to the racial and gender conservatism Hollywood refuses to assess properly, even now). But, ultimately, a magician has only so many tricks and trap doors at his disposal.
Looking back, it seems ridiculous to think that a series of such tender truths could ever fail in a climate besieged by such baroque distortions and deliberate misbeliefs. Yet, even Glover was prepared for the show to do just that. Thankfully, powerfully, it did the opposite. The TV landscape benefitted from Atlanta’s refusal to be made small and indistinguishable from its contemporaries.
During its 15-month sabbatical—remember, the Season 1 finale aired two Novembers ago—fans wondered if Glover could deliver magic once again. Would he be more daring in Season 2? What unpaved direction would he take us in? Would black Justin Bieber reappear like a unicorn in the forest of our tangled lives?
Reinvention, like all good TV, is predicated on risk. And with the second season, Glover has gambled on one of the riskiest propositions an auteur can: shrinking the expanse of his show and turning the camera to the prejudices and motivations of its audience.
It’s still TV’s most self-defined and self-propelled series, but the Atlanta that returned earlier this month, officially styled as Atlanta Robbin’ Season, is fueled by a new narrative structure altogether. If the first season blurred the lines between the bizarre and the real, the second suggests that the ravine between life and death for black people—at the bottom looking up, just trying to get by—is moored by a grim, mundane fate.
For starters, there’s less episodic dissonance this season, which gives the series more of a backbone and traditional arc for its 11 episodes. It’s also thick with plot, and threaded together by a heavy presence of violence that hangs overhead, the kind of violence that unveils itself in upheavals large and small. “Robbin’ season. Christmas approaches and everybody gotta eat… Or be eaten,” Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) and Earn (Glover) observe in the debut episode (“Alligator Man”). They’ve caught sight of a lifeless body surrounded by police. Nearby another man sits with his wrists tightly handcuffed. There’s terror and desperation in the air, and they know it well.
But the failure is ours when we register brutality and dread as exceptional when really they are constants for people who have nothing and are often forced to impose those realities on the people and communities around them. Glover doesn’t want us to unsee what’s right in front of our eyes. Life unfolds this way, in wrinkles and creases, in beginnings and bloody ends, a scorched harvest with no guarantee that the rain will replenish the land, with no sure bet that the land itself won’t also betray you. Glover’s weaponized Atlanta against its residents. The violence needn’t always be physical, though. There’s a deadlier violence that presents itself socially, through slow-moving gentrification, or psychologically, through subtle racist remarks made by people who don’t realize they’re making subtle racist remarks. All of it compounds, and eventually someone cracks.
Early on, we see Alfred, aka Paper Boi (a moon-eyed Brian Tyree Henry), grappling with newfound local fame. It’s not exactly how he envisioned rap life—having to show face at an out-of-touch streaming company modeled in the vision of Spotify (where one white executive jests: “Everyone calls me 35 Savage”); or being robbed at gunpoint during a drug transaction by a dealer who tells him he can recoup lost funds through his on-the-rise rap career (it’s financially stalled, but the dealer doesn’t know that). The mundane darkness of the season begins to jell more visibly in tonight’s third episode (“Money Bag Shawty”), when Earn encounters a series of repeated defeats (that is, more than his usual share per episode). It’s date night with Van (Zazie Beetz) and he’s finally got some money, but the thing is, life’s still out to flatten him. He quickly learns that money is of no value if people refuse to extend trust, or are clouded by racist beliefs. At the strip club, Al clarifies: “Money is an idea. There’s a reason that a white guy dressed like you can walk into a bank and get a loan and you can’t even spend a hundred dollar bill.”
The season is not without flash and levity. Darius’s philosophical neurosis is even more endearing this time around. Upon first meeting Al’s father Willy (played with dynamism and bite by comedian Katt Williams), he offers: “I would say ‘nice to meet you,’ but I don’t believe in time as a concept. So I’ll just say we always met.” There’s also a young, crosstown rapper who’s more performance art and business acumen than actual skill (although the former may be the only skill that matters in the music industry at the moment). “And we drink Yoo-hoo like it’s dirty Sprite,” he gleefully raps in a commercial for Yoo-hoo, a living parody of art that’s been made fruitless by capitalist ambitions.
In a passing scene from episode two (“Sportin’ Waves”), one of the show’s central questions begins to reveal itself. Walking through the mall, speaking about the animated dark comedy BoJack Horseman, Tracy (Khris Davis) says to Earn: “Don’t get me wrong it’s a funny show, but the way they dive into depression, especially after what he did to her daughter, I was like, ‘Can I even feel bad for this horse anymore?’” That question also extends to Glover’s universe. Should we sympathize with Earn and Alfred? As observers, even if you’re from Atlanta, we watch the show from the outside, its moments so distinctively hyper-specific that everyone plays the role of spectator in most scenarios. The result of that positioning allows Glover to test the elasticity of human empathy—he’s not telling us what to feel, but I do believe he is challenging the motivations behind our compassion and concern for each character. It’s not that we’re wrong in feeling the way we do, it’s the reason behind our sentiments that Glover is poking at, and curious about. Why do you feel what you feel? Where did that come from? How did that come to be? Which gets at perhaps the show’s most important question: How do people come to know themselves? In Atlanta, it’s violently, unavoidably simple. By understanding that life can be a blade.
More WIRED Culture
It’s almost certainly not aliens, but once again, Tabby’s Star is acting hella weird. The star that first became our planetary obsession back in the fall of 2015—when astronomer Jason Wright suggested its weird flickering behavior might be the result of an alien megastructure—is, once again, flickering. But unlike…
Despite films like Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo that helped popularize breakdancing in the ‘80s, the craze has, for better or for worse, become kind of lame over the past few decades. As these dancers demonstrate, however, maybe what was missing was nothing more than a few smoke grenades to liven things up.