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Social Networks

Facebook Copied Snapchat a Fourth Time, and Now All Its Apps Look the Same ( 81

Facebook is copying Snapchat again. From a report on Recode: Today it launched Stories, the 24-hour photo and video montages that ultimately disappear, inside of its core Facebook app. This is the fourth time Facebook has cloned the key Snapchat feature in the past nine months; the social giant has already copied it into Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. On the surface, Facebook's move simply looks like an unabashed defense strategy against Snapchat, the company's most obvious threat since 2011, when Google tried to dive into social with a service that turned out to be much more like a bellyflop. This is getting serious. What many people don't realize is that even if Facebook manages to get half a percent of its users to use its copycat tools, Snapchat will lose a substantial number of potential customers that could have joined its service. With Facebook, which has over 1.8 billion users (+ the possibly tens of millions of people that use WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger app and don't have a Facebook account), increasingly offering all of Snapchat's features on its apps, the future of Evan Spiegel's company doesn't look all that good.

Comment Re: While its not my cup of tea (Score 1) 626

"Those circumstances" were that he had never taken administrative or personal action against anyone under his managerial authority while working at Mozilla, but people didn't like his personal opinions. It seems like the problem is on somebody else's end, but the fact that everyone else is an insecure asshole doesn't matter in the real world.

People can be offended by donations of $1,000 to advancing the legalization of same-sex marriage. Should they press for resignation of CEOs who support same-sex marriage because they don't like them, or would that be wrong?

Comment Re: While its not my cup of tea (Score 1) 626

Not liking gays and being hostile in the workplace are two different things. There are a lot of people I don't like for the simple fact that they disturb me; I deal with that by avoiding them. Since I have no administrative power over them, that doesn't do them any harm; if I did, well, I'd have to deal with them when necessary, and otherwise avoid them. So maybe I'm not going to hang out with you at the bar after work, but I'm not going to pass you up on a raise, a promotion, or an important project because you're weird and make me direly uncomfortable.

Some people are actually mature. They're allowed to work in their own interests.

Comment Re:What will happen to humans? (Score 1, Interesting) 363

Basically, everyone is misinterpreting this paper.

The conclusion was robots displace jobs in the local region. It's like factories in Detroit shutting down because we've automated manufacturing, meanwhile Seattle, Silicon Valley, and the East Coast tech industry start growing.

Technical progress reduces the cost of goods and services, which reduces the minimum price. When the minimum price falls lower, more people can access those things, broadening the market and allowing for more competition; this effect tapers off as markets become large (because the things are cheap and common goods), and instead cost reductions just directly control (reduce) prices because any new guy on the block can jump in and take a chunk of the market by selling it cheaper--and the existing players can try to take away from competitors in the same way. Do note that "reducing" prices can be done by increasing them more slowly than progress; the monetary policy discussion is really long and complicated, and the short version is to think of price in terms of hours of wage paid instead of in terms of currency.

Here's the thing: what happens if cars get cheaper?

Well, cars could get cheaper by replacing Detroit workers with machines. If those workers's wages and benefits are 20% of the cost of the car, then replacing 90% of them cuts the cost of the car by 18%. What happens?

Everyone who buys cars from Detroit now pays 18% less for the same car--or buys a fancier car for the same price--roughly 80% of which goes to the other 80% of the production chain. In either case, you end up with many fewer people working at car factories in Detroit.

Since some of that money either goes unspent or goes to the car maker's suppliers, it's going somewhere other than Detroit. If it goes unspent, then car buyers can now buy local services, such as more food out of home (a continuing trend in the past few decades). They can import something else--iPhones, Spotify (which isn't run in Detroit, but is American), or some other thing. Even if they import a Chinese good, that good must be shipped and retailed in America, which means jobs are created across the country--not in Detroit.

Your population keeps growing; ratio of number-of-employed to size-of-labor-force (everyone 16 and older who isn't retired--this isn't unemployment, but rather is an employment number that ignores labor force participation) continues to hover around the same stable span; and people who lost their job in one place remain unemployed while people the next city or state over get shiny new jobs.

It's not that everyone gets jobs buliding the robots--that wouldn't make sense. It's that it takes half as many people to both build the robots and operate the robots; we build twice as many robots, make twice as much stuff, and most people are now robot operators. Thing is most of the robot operators aren't the same people whose jobs were replaced by a robot and a smaller workforce; a new market appears somewhere else.


A Lawsuit Over Costco Golf Balls Shows Why We Can't Have Nice Things For Cheap ( 250

Ephrat Livni, writing for Quartz: Unless you're a golfer, you probably don't think about golf balls. But a new US lawsuit about these little-dimpled spheres has an economics lesson for all shoppers, showing why consumers have cause for concern when companies use court for sport. Costco, the wholesale membership club, rocked the golf world in 2016 when it started selling its Kirkland Signature (KS) golf balls at about $15 per dozen, a quarter to a third the price of popular top-ranked balls. Industry insiders called it a "miracle golf ball" for its great performance and low cost, and Costco sold out immediately. It's planning to release more in April. In response to the bargain ball's reception, however, Acushnet -- which makes the popular Titleist balls -- sent the membership club a threatening letter. It accused Costco of infringing on 11 patents and engaging in false advertising for claiming that KS balls meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.

Dutch Scientist Proposes Circular Runways For Airport Efficiency ( 320

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: While airport terminal architecture has a solid history of style and innovation, rarely is a proposal put forth to utterly redesign the runway. But that's precisely the aim of Henk Hesselink, a Dutch scientist working with the Netherlands Aerospace Center. Dubbed the "endless runway," Hesselink's brainchild is a 360-degree landing strip measuring more than two miles in diameter. Since airplanes would be able to approach and take off from any direction around the proposed circle, they wouldn't have to fight against crosswinds. And three planes would be able to take off or land at the same time. Hesselink's team uses flight simulators and computerized calculations to test the unconventional design, and have determined that round airports would be more efficient than existing layouts. With a central terminal, the airport would only use about a third of the land of the typical airport with the same airplane capacity. And there's an added benefit to those living near airports: Flight paths could be more distributed, and thereby making plane noise more tolerable. BBC produced a video detailing Hesselink's circular runway concept. The concept is fascinating but there are many questions the video does not answer. Phil Derner Jr. from NYC Aviation writes via Business Insider about some of those unanswered questions in his article titled "Why the circular runway concept wouldn't work." The fundamental issues discussed in his report include banked runway issues, curved runway issues, navigation issues, and airspace issues. What do you think of Hesselink's concept? Do you think it is preposterous or shows promise?

Submission + - Hong Kong Government Loses Laptops with all Voter's Data

fatp writes: Hong Kong Free Press reports that the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) has lost laptops with personal data of all 3.7 million voters after the Chief Executive election. The REO said "the personal data was encrypted and there was no evidence that it had been leaked." Only 1,194 people had right to vote in the election.

Comment Re:Sounds nice! (Score 1) 127

Historically, cut-down populations lead to growth. Nobody in history established a policy to reduce the population "to conserve resources", and then held it down that way. The GP is suggesting that population is too big; there is a popular argument that we need to cut the world population back a few billion to conserve our resources, and he's made the first part without stating the conclusion. My response was in that context: the economic boom you describe wouldn't happen because we would prevent growth.

Comment Re:OK, cool... (Score 1) 133

That wasn't the point. The cost differences in shipping and installation are because the panels are of various sizes and weights; if I could get an impossible device that's a cubic centimeter, 3 grams, and generates 500GW of power, I could ship it via 32 cents of postage and install it in a few minutes of labor. Do you know how much it costs just to ship the concrete to build the nuclear containment building for a reactor?

Moving material around requires time. Mining large amounts of material requires time. You're going to expend more to install and maintain a big, 1%-efficient array than a small, 24%-efficient array.

Comment Re:Poor business (Score 1) 395

Probably not. He's likely better at saying things with big words; and he's also human, and likely looks at people playing real instruments and people doing exactly the same thing with a thing shaped like a real instrument as ... well, performance art. His brain would immediately recognize the visible, physical aspect of playing the game as something he's accepted as performance art, and would build his entire appreciation of the game based on the presumption that it's leading people to engage in a non-video-game artform.

From there, attacking the game is attacking performance art. He might have actually had the impulse to attack the game based on his existing bias against video games, with the uncomfortable sensation of attacking performance art pushing back--simultaneously.

Whatever he then came up with from there is, in all likelihood, compensation for said irreconcilable conflict.

Seriously, what's the difference between Guitar Hero 4 and The Beatles: Rock Band? GH4 has a 5-button, plastic guitar; The Beatles: Rock Band has a two-octave keyboard that you can play in the same physical manner as a real instrument. Why wasn't Guitar Hero art?

Comment Re:Poor business (Score 2) 395

Uh, April 2010, "Back Then". Roger Ebert says "video games can never be art." Can never.

Let's make a new Plinkett/Bechtel type test right here. Describe artistic game expression without relying on irrelevant (to the medium) things like pretty backgrounds, models, or movie cut scenes.

Video games are mechanics affecting these things. Even Atari games move a few pixels. Those things have to be identifiable.

Xenosaga does this with cutscenes, voice acting, complex 3D graphics, orchestral music, and the like; Golden Sun did it with two-dimensional sprites and some transformations, along with text-based dialogue and some sound-effects, and music; and Adventure: Colossal Caves did it with only text. The first two have immensely complex stories and deeply-developed characters, like a Brandon Sanderson novel or a TV series such as Babylon 5; the last is largely an exploration of a descriptive and somewhat-fantastic world inside a mountain cave, with much less depth of plot and character.

The Metroid games does the same kind of thing, notably with Fusion, Other-M, and Prime; Super Metroid is said to have a strong story backing it, but doesn't express it directly via any kind of dialogue or cut-scenes, which draws some argument from people like me who say a game that doesn't demarcate plot and purpose isn't exactly conveying a story from the writer's mind to the player's. Nevertheless, even the original 8-bit game had complex level design and creative ideas of how a game is played, combining the "platformer" and "action-adventure" genres.

Video games are often a medium to tell a story (any genre), evoke an emotion (e.g. horror), or describe a place (the world in which the game occurs). Movies and books have to tell a story; static art (images) can only describe a situation at a moment (although, as with my argument about Super Metroid not demarcating plot elements, many people argue that a picture implies a timeline events leading into and out of the situation, and thus can tell a long and complex story on its own). A video game can just world-build, giving you a place to explore without explanation or purpose other than to see it; or it can create that place and then render it in a particular art style to show off the visual medium; or it can deliver a deep and immersive cinematic experience with the player in control, or at least the illusion of control. It has options.

Ebert's main argument was that video games aren't art because art is a thing you do and show others. Video games allow players to control the outcome--you can go left or right at this point--thus they have not expressed what the player will see and hear, and so aren't art. He essentially claims anything that doesn't play out exactly the same for everyone who observes it is not an artistic expression.

Comment Re:Poor business (Score 1) 395

The idea that he considered for even a moment trying to make an argument that music is not art is preposterous.

I said he probably didn't think he could get away with the argument; I didn't specify how long it took him to conclude that, or by what route. The game he conceded on is essentially performance of music.

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