OKCupid Plays Games With Its Customers' Relationships

First Facebook, now this:

Similarly, the research conducted by OKCupid and Facebook didn't necessarily have to manipulate or lie to users. Surely, OKCupid's customers have dated in defiance of its algorithm before. Why didn't OKCupid, rather than misleading people, simply follow the fortunes of those who dated with a low predicted probability of success? In some of those cases, the algorithm would be right, and in others it would be wrong. With enough interactions between its users, it seems that OKCupid could have put together a data set similar to the one it got by subterfuge.

Listening to this story reported on BBC Radio 4 yesterday afternoon I was annoyed that it wasn't being called out as the unethical and shoddy business practice that it is. Can any of OKCupid's customers trust them ever again? Especially when founder Christian Rudder posts stuff like this. I can think of a better experiment: If all of your customers stop paying for the stuff you're "just making up", how long before you go out of business?

Source: http://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/why-eng...

Marvel's Iron Fisted Man

Some at Disney are so intimidated, says one source, that they believe "he has spies or is listening in on phone calls," though this person allows that "it could be paranoia." (Or not: A Marvel veteran says "the way to curry favor is to tell Ike that someone spent more than he should have.") Perlmutter once complained that journalists at a junket were allowed two sodas each instead of one, and Disney ran out of food at an Avengers media event because of Perlmutter's constraints, causing reporters to pilfer from Universal's nearby suite for The Five-Year Engagement.

There's no arguing with Marvel's success as a studio, but It sounds like a nightmare working with Perlmutter. Great article. 

Source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-...

Over 1 Trillion Images A Year

Ben Evans on the phenomenal, out-of-control explosion of imaging:

We can't yet see how much this will change things. The proliferation of imaging is a profound change that bears comparison with the way vinyl and especially the transistor took music everywhere two and three generations ago, or the way the steam press and railways took print everywhere in the 19th century.

And:

The universal scope of the camera and the saturation of our lives with the photos we take also means that 'taking pictures' is now no more meaningful a term than 'writing'. Hence Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook or WhatsApp photo sharing are no more all 'photos' than Word, Indesign, Wordpress and twitter are all 'text'. Photos are no longer a category.

The end of photography as an actual thing, then?

Source: http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2014/6/...

Bangkok Mall Overtaken By Fish

I've always enjoyed Bangkok's shopping malls not for their opportunities to engage in acts of consumerism, but for the way they highlight cultural differences between the western brands that dominate and the native people of the city. This though, is on a whole different level:

There's something particularly eerie about an abandoned shopping mall. Perhaps it's the stark contrast from its intended purpose: to see such a sterile place once designed to entice throngs of shoppers into its doors, now so completely devoid of any human life, dilapidated and darkened with time. It's basically the very definition of post-apocalyptic. But in the case of the (now ironically named) New World shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, abandonment by humans doesn't equate with lifelessness. The mall, which reportedly caught fire in 1999 (rumored to be arson by a competitor), has since flooded with several feet of water and become a paradise for koi and catfish.

Amazing photos. Like something out of a Sandy Skoglund shoot.

Source: http://www.theverge.com/2014/6/30/5856856/...

More Digital-To-Analogue Tomfoolery

This time: Turning CDs into playable vinyl.

Using a modified Wilcox-Gay Recordette—a 1950s home stereo and recording device—Kolkowski cuts grooves into a CD, making it playable on a turntable. The re-engineered CD plays at 45 rotations per minute for up to two minutes and 50 seconds. The audio result is “a nice, warm sound, like it’s been remastered through an overdriven tube amplifier.”

Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/arch...

Get The Web In Newspaper Form

Fun new (UK only, for now) service from Newspaper Club, for diehard paper fiends:

PaperLater is a new service, brought to you by Newspaper Club, to help take stuff you don’t want to read on screen and print it as a newspaper. It’s quick and easy and only £4.99.

I've seen a few things printed by Newspaper Club, and they're great. 

Source: https://www.paperlater.com

Jimmy Iovine Speaks His Mind

 

The Beats partnership with Hewlett-Packard? A marriage of convenience that will be terminated when the contract is up. “Computers are made for talk,” he said. Aside from Apple, “every other computer sounds like a portable television.” Beats struck the HP deal, he said, to make Dell jealous enough to improve the sound of its computer speakers.

Hollywood? “Desperately insecure.” Silicon Valley? “Overconfident.”

I could grow to like Jimmy.

Source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/29/a...

Don't Back Up To Optical Discs

Be warned: Optical storage just isn't a long-term back-up medium.

Recordable CDs—the kind you can burn or rewrite—tend to have more complicated degradation issues than their professionally-recorded counterparts. That's partly because they're made from organic dyes that break down faster, France told me. And as far as different kinds of discs go, CDs tend to be more stable than DVDs, mostly just because DVDs hold more data, so there's more to lose.

I used to back up to CD/DVD, until I tried to access some of those files. All gone.

Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/arch...

Roger Christian Offers Clue To The Look Of Episode VII

Great interview with one of the original Star Wars' geniuses, and this caught my eye:

ESQ: What are your thoughts on the upcoming Episode VII? Do you hope to be a part of it somehow?

RC: It's a different animal now, because George really isn't involved at all. John Rinzler [Lucasfilm executive editor and writer] said, "Look, you should be an adviser for them, because they're trying to do what you did with the [production set] look and everything." He gave my name. So we'll see.

Promising.

Source: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/star-...

The Amazing F1 Steering Wheel

This is some User Interface. Wow.

That’s because an F1 car has dozens of parameters that can be adjusted on the fly, but only by the driver. Although telemetry provides a nonstop stream of data to engineers on the pitwall and at team HQ, the driver has sole control over things like differential settings, the air-fuel mix, and the torque curve. All of these settings can change several times during a race, or even a lap. Adjustments must be made while keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the track, which is why a modern F1 wheel might have 35 or more knobs, buttons and switches flanking a small LCD screen introduced this season. Drivers also use small paddles behind the wheel to shift up and down as many as 4,000 times in a race, and a third paddle to engage the clutch.

Source: http://www.wired.com/2014/05/formula-1-ste...

Why Did Japan Get Great Mobile Phones?

Great answer by Benedict Evans on Quora.

In fact, it was not until Apple came along and broke the log-jam that a similar integrated model became possible elsewhere. Apple offered (generally the weaker) operators an exclusive hot device in exchange for what looked like a one-off relaxation of their usual approaches, and generally got it. Having broken down the door - flat rate data, no customisation, manufacturer app store, there was no going back and the other operators had to follow.

Source: http://www.quora.com/Historically-why-has-...

China's War On Pollution

About time. Driving up to Guangzhou a couple of weeks ago the haze of smog was shocking, and the reduced air quality was immediately apparent.

Rapid industrialization and a burgeoning middle class have strained resources in China, with devastating effects on its air, land, and waterways. Coal-burning plants have fueled regular smog crises in some parts of the country, and widespread pollution has put extra pressure on limited water supplies. Earlier this month, the government announced that one-fifth of its farmland is contaminated by pollutants like cadmium and arsenic. And despite world-leading investments in renewable energy, China continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels to meet its energy needs: it remains the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and accounts for about one-third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/1/5671510/c...

An App To Cure Jet Lag

I'd have paid good money for this these last few days.

So you've exhausted all your options - melatonin, prescription sleeping pills, alternative therapies such as lavender oil, changed your eating times and got some exercise - and still can't seem to beat jet lag?

Next time, try some good old mathematics for a change. Researchers at the University of Michigan have created a free iPhone app that offers users lighting schedules that they say are mathematically proven to adjust you to new time zones as quickly as possible.

Source: http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health/artic...

Gillette's Latest Innovation

Kevin Roose over at New York magazine takes down the ProGlide FlexBall:

By now, everyone knows how razor companies make their money. They sell you cheap razor handles, then burn you later with expensive cartridge refills. On top of that business model, Gillette and other market leaders introduced an arms-race component to the industry – going from two blades to three, then to four and five and six. Each new blade adds only a smidgen of extra utility, but it convinced gullible customers that they needed to upgrade their models every few years to stay current.

I was suckered by Gillette for years. About 18 months ago I bought one of these beauties. I'm picking up good blades online at about 10 cents each (6 of our shiny British pence), and they're good for a week of shaves.

Source: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/...

Roland Barthes On "Adventure Time"

Or as near as we'll ever get:

Unlikely as it is that Roland Barthes could have imagined anything remotely like it, his essay “The Death of the Author” exactly prefigured the sense of collaboration informing Adventure Time, which is in every sense “a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture” and “a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash.” It is delightful to find that the basic tenets of twentieth-century French literary theory are the opposite of boring when harnessed in the service of a cartoon about a boy and his magical dog in a fantastical post-apocalyptic Earth.

Wonderful. I adore Adventure Time, and Maria Bustillos' piece is a lovely tribute to its charms.

Source: http://theholenearthecenteroftheworld.com

Galaxy S5 Fingerprint Scanner Also Vulnerable To Print Spoofing

Noting surprising here in itself, as the same spoof has been shown to work on the iPhone 5S, but this should worry Samsung owners:

With Apple’s Touch ID system, users are required to input their password one time before using a fingerprint for authentication. The password must be used again once each time the device is rebooted. This extra step seems annoying, but it prevents the very spoof achieved by SRLabs.

On Samsung’s Galaxy S5 however, no password is needed to access the device. Even after a reboot, a simple swipe of a finger will unlock the phone. And what could be much more alarming is the fact that, even after a reboot, users don’t need a password to access PayPal and make payments through the app if it has been configured for fingerprint authentication.

Of course it hardly matters if the fingerprint scanner rarely works properly, as The Verge wrote:

 

Even in hardware, Samsung touts capability rather than quality. One of the S5's flagship features is its fingerprint sensor, which lets you unlock your phone and even pay for things with one swipe of your finger. It does work, as long as you hold the phone in two hands and oh-so-carefully swipe your finger down the exact center of the home button, at the perfect angle and speed. If you get it wrong, it falls back on a pointlessly complex alphanumeric password. It's impossible to do in one hand, and I could type the world's longest, most secure password in less time than it typically took me to get the sensor to work. Next to Samsung's implementation, Apple's TouchID suddenly feels easy and consistent. (It's not.) I'll never actually use the S5’s fingerprint security, and I can't imagine anyone else will either.

Source: http://bgr.com/2014/04/15/galaxy-s5s-finge...

Apparently, "Good Enough" Is Worth 7.8/10

Heaven knows what The Verge would have rated the S5 if the fingerprint sensor actually worked, or if the system wasn't a "confusing mess".

This is a theme with the S5. Samsung says it refined its focus, but that's not really true: there are still too many features, too many options, too many weird ideas about how we want to use our phones. It's just all been tossed in a pile, thrown under a blanket, and swept into the corner where we hopefully won't notice. The S5's settings menu is 61 items long, and shows by default a grid of all-but-identical circular icons. Good luck with that.

The notification pull-down menu has 20 different options, from Airplane Mode to Toolbox (which toggles a button that toggles a list of apps you might want to open, which is not to be confused with the multitasking view or the multi-window view or the app drawer). And for all the "simplification," there are still 27 options in the camera menu. Samsung's latest version of TouchWiz is layered on top of Android 4.4.2, and it's a lot more cohesive in appearance than before, but it's still little more than a junkyard full of 11 ways to do the same thing you’ll never ever want to do. Samsung says all the right things about cleaning up and simplifying the experience, but the S5 bears few of the fruits of those promises.

Imagine if they'd thought iOS 7 to be a pile of mind-boggling options, and then ask yourself if you can imagine them rating the iPhone 5S this highly. No, me neither.

Source: http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/14/5608222/...

Behind The Great Firewall

I'm spending a few days in China, and it's proving surprisingly hard to get reliable internet access at the moment. It's interesting seeing which services are completely inaccessible (eg. Twitter), which are very slow (iCloud photostreams), and which are just fine (Squarespace, thank heavens). I wonder how hard it is for the average company or individual to do online international business here, but then I guess China has plenty of home grown services that work just fine. Is that sustainable in the longer term? We'll see.