Ci sono troppe tech company

Il The Atlantic contesta la classificazione di “azienda tecnologica” applicata a qualsiasi azienda che sfrutti la rete, un’app o del software per sviluppare un business che opera principalmente in un altro settore, in quanto troppo vaga, ampia e libera da regolamentazioni:

There are companies that are firmly planted in the computing sector. Microsoft and Apple are two. Intel is another—it makes computer parts for other computer makers. But it’s also time to recognize that some companies—Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook among them—aren’t primarily in the computing business anyway. And that’s no slight, either. The most interesting thing about companies like Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook is that they are not (computing) technology companies. Instead, they are using computing infrastructure to build new—and enormous—businesses in other sectors.

Mentre per Apple e Microsoft la maggior parte delle entrate provengono dalla vendita di hardware e software, Amazon è un retailer, Uber sfrutta un’applicazione per ripensare lo spostamento urbano, Airbnb affitta stanze e sia Facebook (una media company?) che Google basano i loro guadagni sulla vendita di pubblicità.

Qualsiasi azienda ha — o presto avrà — a che fare con la tecnologia, e non è per il solo uso di un’applicazione che si potrà definirla azienda tecnologica. In merito, scrive Anil Dash:

That’s […] a bad way to think about technology’s role in society. Perpetuating the myth of a monolithic “tech industry” overtaxes our ability to manage the changes that technology is making to society, and that overload threatens to have increasingly negative impacts. […]

The danger isn’t simply that some blogger won’t know how to review the latest gadgets. Put simply, every industry and every sector of society is powered by technology today, and being transformed by the choices made by technologists.

La questione ha importanza perché un’azienda è giudicata e regolamentata a seconda del settore in cui opera — l’etichetta di azienda tecnologica è troppo vaga e ha finito con l’includere business che operano e influenzano settori completamente diversi.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

98 informazioni personali che Facebook usa per consegnarti la pubblicità

Fra le tante opzioni, un pubblicitario può personalizzare e scegliere a chi consegnare la propria pubblicità in base al:

  • Valore della tua casa
  • Dimensioni della tua casa
  • Valore del tuo patrimonio
  • Salario
  • Intenzione di acquistare una macchina
  • Età della macchina
  • Intenzione di donare dei soldi in beneficenza
  • Tipo di ristorante preferito

E, fra le tante altre opzioni, può dividere gli utenti in:

  • Utenti con bilancio positivo sulla loro carta di credito
  • Utenti che si trovano lontani da amici e parenti
  • Utenti in relazioni a distanza
  • Utenti con un nuovo lavoro
  • Futuri parenti
  • Utenti che comprano medicine online
  • Utenti che consumano tanto alcohol

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

L’internet cubano, via hard disk

Internet non è particolarmente diffuso a Cuba. Il costo d’accesso è di circa 2$ all’ora tramite uno dei 175 hotspot WiFi pubblici, o di 1$ per MB tramite la connessione del cellulare.

Questa situazione ha portato alla nascita di El Paquete Semanal, praticamente un dump di musica, film e riviste che si trovano online. Invece di accedere a Internet direttamente, una persona — una volta alla settimana — viene a casa tua con un hard disk di circa 1TB contenente “internet”. Il contenuto è organizzato in cartelle, dentro vi si trovano interi siti, film, aggiornamenti software, applicazioni (per PC o Android), riviste in PDF e quant’altro:

Everyone I spoke to had access to Cuba’s private “CDN”: El Paquete Semanal. El Paquete is a weekly service where someone (typically found through word of mouth) comes to your home with a disk (usually a 1TB external USB drive) containing a weekly download of the most recent films, soap operas, documentaries, sport, music, mobile apps, magazines, and even web sites. For 2 CUC a week Cubans have access to a huge repository of media while turning a blind eye to copyright.

Cubans told me of children waiting anxiously for “El Paquete Day” when they’d get the next set of cartoons, music and shows.

PERMALINK 1 COMMENTO TWEET

L’infrastruttura perduta del web aperto

Anil Dash:

As extraordinary as it seems now, there was a point when one could search most of the blogs in the world and get a reasonably complete and up-to-date set of results in return. Technorati was a pioneering service here, and started by actually attempting to crawl all of the blogs on the Internet each time they updated; later this architecture evolved to require a “ping” (see Updates, below) each time a site updated. On the current internet, we can see relatively complete search results for hashtags or terms within Twitter or some other closed networks, but the closure of Google Blog Search in 2011 marked the end of “blog search” as a discrete product separate from general web search or news search

I social network ci hanno portato i like e un sistema semplice per seguire i nostri amici online, ma non tutto è diventato più semplice. Mentre una volta c’era un sistema per trovare tutti gli articoli pubblicati dai vari blog online, oggi bisogna cercarli dentro ciascun social network, separatamente. Un’altra funzionalità che è andata quasi completamente perduta è il TrackBack — un modo semplice per comunicare fra siti, inviare e ricevere risposte su domini differenti.

PERMALINK 2 COMMENTI TWEET

La Apple di Tim Cook, cinque anni dopo

A distanza di cinque anni da quando è diventato CEO di Apple, Tim Cook discute con il Washington Post di cosa significhi essere il CEO di Apple.

Riguardo al perché dicano no a molte opportunità, che certi investitori, analisti e blogger, ritengono perse:

Technology is one of these industries where every week there’s a new shiny object that people are skating to. Netbooks — look back, everybody was writing like netbooks were this unbelievable thing, everyone was asking us, “Why aren’t you making one?” Same thing with the PDA. Remember what happened with the PDA? Up and down. It was like the hula hoop. Technology is full of those.

I’m not saying we’re not going to do anything else. I’m saying this is still an unbelievable product category to be in, and not just for this quarter, year or for years. So I would not want anybody to think this, oh, this “better days are behind us” thing.

Riguardo la divisione servizi dell’azienda:

In today’s products we have services [iCloud, App Store, Apple Pay and the like], which over the last 12 months grew about $4 billion to over $23 billion [in sales]. Next year we’ve said it’s going to be a Fortune 100 company in size.

E riguardo la privacy, e la diatriba con l’FBI:

Customers should have an expectation that they shouldn’t need a PhD in computer science to protect themselves. So I think they depend on us to do some things on their behalf. So with that responsibility comes an obligation to stand up. And, in this case, it was unbelievably uncomfortable and not something that we wished for, wanted — we didn’t even think it was right. Honestly? I was shocked that they would even ask for this. That was the thing that was so disappointing that I think everybody lost in the whole thing. There are 200-plus other countries in the world. Zero of them had ever asked this.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Ricevi le notizie del giorno nella tua inbox

Ogni mattina: 5 link selezionati con cura + le notizie del giorno

Donald Trump è un algoritmo di machine learning

Cathy O’Neil:

In that sense he’s perfectly objective, as in morally neutral. He just follows the numbers. He could be replaced by a robot that acts on a machine learning algorithm with a bad definition of success – or in his case, a penalty for boringness – and with extremely biased data.

The reason I bring this up: first of all, it’s a great way of understanding how machine learning algorithms can give us stuff we absolutely don’t want, even though they fundamentally lack prior agendas. Happens all the time, in ways similar to the Donald.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Apple sta preparando un grosso aggiornamento ai MacBook Pro

Mac Rumors:

Consistent with previous rumors, the article says the updated notebooks are thinner and will include a touchscreen strip along the top of the keyboard, which is expected to present functions on an as-needed basis that fit the current task or application, as well as integrate Touch ID to enable users to quickly log in using their fingerprint.

Sarebbe anche ora. Mi chiedo anche quando i MacBook Air usciranno di scena. Resistono solo per il basso costo, ma rappresentano una via di mezzo non più necessaria fra i MacBook e i MacBook Pro.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Amazon sta costruendo una flotta di aerei

Amazon:

Now, we see the same opportunity to innovate in transportation. I’m very excited to introduce Amazon One, a Boeing 767-300 that is our first ever Amazon branded plane which will serve customers by adding capacity to support one and two day package delivery in the US. Adding capacity for Prime members by developing a dedicated air cargo network ensures there is enough available capacity to provide customers with great selection, low prices and incredible shipping speeds for years to come. Over the next couple of years, we’ll roll out 40 planes just like this one.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Apple e l’emoji della pistola

Nell’ultima beta di iOS l’emoji della pistola è passata dall’essere un revolver — quindi una rappresentazione piuttosto realistica — a una pistola giocattolo, di quelle che spruzzano acqua.

L’intento è quello di renderla meno adatta a fini violenti. L’intento è ottimo, ma c’è un problema, come scrive Jeremy Burge, di Emojipedia:

All other vendors display this emoji as a real gun. Even if they all decided to follow-suit and change to a water or toy gun(which could happen, if Apple sticks with this), the change would take a considerable amount of time.

La rappresentazione di un emoji varia da piattaforma a piattaforma, e può causare disguidi e incomprensioni. Su Windows Phone, Android e tutte le versioni precedenti di iOS l’emoji rimane (per ora?) un revolver: significa che inviando una pistola giocattolo, il destinatario — se usa un sistema operativo diverso, o una versione vecchia di iOS — potrebbe ricevere una rappresentazione meno giocosa della stessa, che suggerisce un messaggio differente.

La strada intrapresa da Apple è per me quella corretta — spero che Android, Windows Phone, Samsung e gli altri la ricalchino — ma è bene tenere in mente le incongruenze fra le emoji di OS diversi nell’usarle. In certi casi ci può essere un’incomprensione minima sul tipo di emozione trasmessa, in questo caso la differenza è un po’ più seria.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Chi è Ev Williams

Il The Atlantic ha un lungo profilo su Ev Williams, il CEO di Medium (e prima di Twitter, e prima ancora di Blogger). Si parla di open web, e di quello che Williams sta facendo per salvarlo, anche se personalmente non sono del tutto persuaso dal suo discorso (di come e del perché Medium sarebbe diverso — più aperto? — di altri social network):

The open web’s terminal illness is not a story that he alone is telling. It is the common wisdom of the moment, espoused by Times columnists and longtime tech bloggers. The developers who wrote Drupal and WordPress, two important pieces of blogging software, both recently expressed anxiety over the open web’s future. Since so many of these social networks are operated by algorithms, whose machinations are proprietary knowledge, they worry that people are losing any control over what they see when they log on. The once-polyphonic blogosphere, they say, will turn into the web of mass-manufactured schlock.

Something like this has happened before. Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, argues in his book The Master Switch that every major telecommunications technology has followed the same pattern: a brief, thrilling period of openness, followed by a monopolistic and increasingly atrophied closedness. Without government intervention, the same fate will befall the internet, he says. Williams cites Wu frequently. “Railroad, electricity, cable, telephone—all followed this similar pattern toward closedness and monopoly, and government regulated or not, it tends to happen because of the power of network effects and the economies of scale,” he told me.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Intervista a Susan Kare

Lenny:

AR: I had no idea there were so many women back then. Looking at pictures from that era, it’s remarkable how young Jobs was. What was it like working with him then?

SK: It was always really fun to show Steve something new because, if he liked it, he was so joyful. Sometimes he brought in visual material to share that had caught his eye, such as graphics from Memphis, a 1980s Italian design group founded by Ettore Sottsass. And it’s no secret that he had a shiny Bösendorfer grand piano and BMW motorcycle in the lobby of the Macintosh building so that everyone could be inspired by examples of design excellence.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

La cronologia del browser è rotta

Patryk Adas:

I can search for a term in Google, but I’m not going to get a single result that answers my question. Rather, I’m going to get a lot of results, and all of those results will have bits and pieces of information that are relevant to me.

Then I’m going to go exploring through the internet, collecting lots of tabs along the way. Some of those tabs will be duds, so I close them. Some of those tabs will be relevant and will have twenty more links, so I open them all, and in this way I keep crawling.

Then after a while I have a cloud of pages in my head that I visited and the answer is more or less complete.

But if I try to revisit this later, it’s impossible. I can remember what I found, but it wasn’t a linear progression, therefore my browser history is useless.

Il modo in cui navighiamo su internet è cambiato. Come mostra una recente ricerca del Nielsen Norman Group, quango cerchiamo qualcosa apriamo in successione un numero consistente di pagine web per poi vagliarne la validità e utilità in seguito. Alcune di queste pagine rimangono parcheggiate, sotto forma di tab, per giorni nella finestra del browser — altre vengono chiuse dopo pochi minuti.

La cronologia del browser, per come funziona ora, non è di alcuna utilità: registra qualsiasi pagina nella stessa maniera, senza conservare alcuna informazione su come l’abbiamo raggiunta o per quanto tempo l’abbiamo tenuta in memoria. In maniera disordinata ci ricorda di tutte le tab che abbiamo aperto, senza però aiutarci a distinguere quelle che si sono rivelate utili da quelle che abbiamo chiuso dopo pochi minuti.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Perché il leak di dati di LinkedIn riguarda tutti noi

Verso inizio giugno sono apparsi sul dark web i dati — inclusa password e email — di 117 milioni di account creati su LinkedIn, ottenuti durante l’attacco che LinkedIn subì nel 2012 (potete controllare se anche il vostro account venne compromesso su haveibeenpwned.com).

Come spiega Arstechnica, ogni volta che c’è un leak di queste dimensioni e entità (recentemente: Ashley Madison) gli hacker diventano un po’ più bravi a indovinare le nostre password su altri siti — dato che possono fare affidamento ai dati già collezionati (sia su noi stessi, preferenze e dettagli, sia sulle password), compilando così lunghissime liste di potenziali combinazioni e password:

Back in the early days of password cracking, we didn’t have much insight into the way people created passwords on a macro scale. Sure, we knew about passwords like 123456, password, secret, letmein, monkey, etc., but for the most part we were attacking password hashes with rather barbaric techniques—using literal dictionaries and stupid wordlists like klingon_words.txt. Our knowledge of the top 1,000 passwords was at least two decades old. We were damn lucky to find a password database with only a few thousand users, and when you consider the billions of accounts in existence even back then, our window into the way users created passwords was little more than a pinhole. […]

When you take both RockYou and LinkedIn and combine them with eHarmony, Stratfor, Gawker, Gamigo, Ashley Madison, and dozens of other smaller public password breaches, hackers will simply be more prepared than ever for the next big breach.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

La storia di ‘questo sito è ben fatto’

Ci sono segnali, cose, aspetti di un sito che uno sviluppatore web va a cercare per stabilire la qualità del sito in questione. Un po’ di tempo fa, ridimensionavo ossessivamente la finestra del browser a tutti i siti nuovi che incrociavo.

Adrian Holovaty nota come questi aspetti cambino nel tempo; com’è cambiato ciò ci aspettiamo da un sito:

In 18 years as a web developer, I’ve come to love these subtle hints: Oooh, nice URLs on this site. Or: Lovely job making the site responsive on smaller screens. If you’re a web developer or designer, how many times have you resized your browser window while looking at a site you didn’t make, just to admire the responsiveness?

Over time, technology stabilizes and the techniques become expected. 10+ years ago, in the era of .cgi and .asp, I remember geeking out with Simon Willison about beautiful URL structures we’d seen. No file extensions! Readable! Hackable!

To us, they were signals that a web development team sweated the small stuff. It’s like the famous Steve Jobs story about making the inside of the hardware look just as nice as the outside, even if nobody ever sees it, because you have pride in your work.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Cuffie, cuffie dappertutto

Il New Yorker si chiede se la diffusione delle cuffie — della musica ascoltata in mezzo agli altri, ma in solitudine — abbia influenzato il tipo di musica che viene prodotto:

As more and more people choose to listen to music on headphones—and we are now nearly forty years deep into portable audio; I have a friend who claims he only listens to music on headphones—it seems silly not to wonder how that technology might be beginning to dictate content. If headphones allow for more introspection, do headphone users favor introspective sounds? […]

Ambling down a city street with headphones on—you know, maybe it’s dusk, maybe it’s midsummer, maybe you had a really nice day—is, without a doubt, one of life’s simplest and most perfect joys. Humans have long enjoyed secret communions with sound, and headphones allow for the development of a particularly private and tender relationship. How headphones’ sudden omnipresence might affect the ways in which musicians attempt to communicate with their audiences—how it might dictate what people require of or appreciate about songs; how it will change the way records are made and produced—is, of course, still being sorted out. It seems possible, though, that we are slowly reconfiguring music as a private pleasure—that, in fact, all pleasures, soon, may be private. We are all the lone stars of secret films, narrated by and in our own minds, and we seek out music that validates that position: separate, but forever plugged in.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

La risposta di Audible ai podcast

Audible (di Amazon) ha introdotto dei canali tematici, curati da enti come la PBS, sia fatti di materiale originale — ovvero, si tratta di podcast — che di articoli longform tratti da varie testate, nati in forma testuale e trasformati in racconti audio:

Audible has, to some extent, already won the battle to become the “Netflix for podcasts,” or “spoken audio,” or whatever it is you want to call non-music audio programming. After all, the company long ago beat the fundamental barrier to entry for any subscription content business: a critical mass of paid customers, which it cultivated and solidified through its years outmaneuvering and outpacing its relatively technologically flat-footed competitors in the book publishing business before sidestepping into podcasts and non-music audio content more broadly. By expanding its understanding of the product it serves and reducing audiobooks into one of many product categories that it will deal with, Audible instantly holds a tremendous structural advantage over any newcomers.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Come funziona una Tesla in modalità Autopilot

Marco Arment, che possiede una Tesla Model S, spiega cosa è in grado di fare una Tesla ora come ora. Mentre per via dell’hype a volta se ne parla come di un’auto che si guida da sola, la realtà è ben diversa: secondo Arment è proprio questo hype che potrebbe causare i danni maggiori, inducendo i guidatori a distrarsi e ad affidarsi con troppo entusiasmo a una funzionalità ancora in beta e poco sicura.

Autosteer è la funzionalità che ha fatto discutere di recente, a causa di un incidente mortale — ed è probabilmente ciò a cui tutti si riferiscono quando parlano di Autopilot. Grazie a Autosteer l’auto è in grado di riconoscere i segnali stradali e di posizionarsi automaticamente al centro delle corsie — la macchina procede insomma da sola, seppur Tesla richieda che il guidatore mantenga le mani sul volante.

Secondo Arment, dato come funziona per il momento, è quasi sorprendente che Autosteer sia legale:

Autosteer is a strange feeling in practice. It literally turns the steering wheel for you, but if you take your hands off for more than a few minutes, it slows down and yells at you until you put your hands back on the wheel. It’s an odd sensation: You’ve given up control of the vehicle, but you can’t stop mimicking control, and while your attention is barely needed, you can’t safely stop paying attention.

It’s automated enough that people will stop paying attention, but it’s not good enough that they can. You could say the same about cruise control, but cruise control feels like an acceptable balance to me, whereas Autosteer feels like it’s just over the line. History will probably prove me wrong on that, but it feels a bit wrong today. […]

While I like using Autosteer on long highway trips, frankly, I’m amazed that it’s legal. I don’t think it’s a big enough advance over adaptive cruise control to be worth the risks in its current implementation. I’m scared for what will happen to Tesla and the progress of autonomous driving as more people use Autosteer in situations it’s not good at, or as a complete replacement for paying attention.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Il settore tecnologico è responsabile della sorveglianza di massa futura

Maciej Ceglowski sul perché il settore tecnologico dovrebbe smetterla di collezionare quanti più dati possibili sui suoi utenti — evitando così che, per paura e terrore, in un futuro un governo possa richiedere di farne pessimo uso.

We tend to imagine dystopian scenarios as one where a repressive government uses technology against its people. But what scares me in these scenarios is that each one would have broad social support, possibly majority support. Democratic societies sometimes adopt terrible policies.

When we talk about the moral economy of tech, we must confront the fact that we have created a powerful tool of social control. Those who run the surveillance apparatus understand its capabilities in a way the average citizen does not. My greatest fear is seeing the full might of the surveillance apparatus unleashed against a despised minority, in a democratic country. […]

We have to stop treating computer technology as something unprecedented in human history. Not every year is Year Zero. This is not the first time an enthusiastic group of nerds has decided to treat the rest of the world as a science experiment. Earlier attempts to create a rationalist Utopia failed for interesting reasons, and since we bought those lessons at a great price, it would be a shame not to learn them.

There is also prior art in attempts at achieving immortality, limitless wealth, and Galactic domination. We even know what happens if you try to keep dossiers on an entire country.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

La vita di Snowden come robot

Il New York Magazine racconta la strana vita di Snowden come robot. Seppur per Snowden non sia tuttora possibile mettere piede negli negli Stati Uniti (a meno di non voler finire subito arrestato), ha trovato il modo di partecipare a conferenze — o addirittura di essere presente all’inaugurazione di una mostra sullo spionaggio al Whitney di New York — tramite BeamPro, un monitor che sta in cima a due gambe metalliche, rigide, telecomandato a distanza da Snowden stesso.

Con BeamPro Snowden può — senza spostarsi da Mosca — aggirarsi per i corridoi di un museo, vedere chi gli sta attorno e comunicare con queste persone un po’ come se si trovasse per davvero davanti a loro:

The idea that Snowden is still walking the American streets, virtually or otherwise, is infuriating to his former employers in the U.S.-intelligence community.

Snowden’s case is a study in the boundless freedoms the internet enables. It has allowed him to become a champion of civil liberties and an adviser to the tech community — which has lately become radicalized against surveillance — and, in the process, the world’s most famous privacy advocate. After he appeared on Twitter last September — his first message was “Can you hear me now?” — he quickly amassed some two million followers.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

I linguaggi che avrebbero potuto prendere il posto del CSS

Zack Bloom ha riassunto le vicende attorno alla nascita del CSS, la cui prima specifica venne pubblicata nel Dicembre del 1996. Nei quattro/cinque anni precedenti, tuttavia, ci furono delle proposte alternative — che Zack presenta nel post, e che probabilmente a noi oggi appaiono astruse e innaturali:

When HTML was announced by Tim Berners-Lee in 1991 there was no method of styling pages. How given HTML tags were rendered was determined by the browser, often with significant input from the user’s preferences. It seemed, however, like a good idea to create a standard way for pages to ‘suggest’ how they might prefer to be rendered stylistically.

But CSS wouldn’t be introduced for five years, and wouldn’t be fully implemented for ten. This was a period of intense work and innovation which resulted in more than a few competing styling methods which just as easily could have become the standard.

While these languages are obviously not in common use today, I find it fascinating to think about the world that might have been. Even more surprisingly, it happens that many of these other options include features which developers would love to see appear in CSS even today.

PERMALINK COMMENTA TWEET

Non ne hai avuto abbastanza?

Leggi altri post