A Blog by Jonathan Low


Aug 24, 2019

Netflix Is Testing Collections Curated By Humans Rather Than Algorithms

An early indication, perhaps, of user resistance to overly regimented - or obvious - machine generated content. And a way to fight the coming Disney onslaught with originality. JL

Chris Welch reports in The Verge:

Netflix is testing a new Collections section that rounds up content into themed lists like “Watch in One Weekend” and “Stream & Scream.” Netflix told TechCrunch that Collections are put together by “experts on the company’s creative teams” instead of the algorithms that ordinarily recommend content to you on the main home screen.

What Happens When You Print Out Your Entire Facebook History?

The least time consuming question then appears to be: what doesnt Facebook know about you? JL

Katie Good reports in Slate:

I wanted to learn how much it knew about me. My Facebook was more than 10,000 pages long. Inside the .zip file were dozens of HTML documents detailing specific categories of Facebook activity like “Friends.html” and “Event Invitations.html.". Opening the file called “Posts and Comments” in a folder called “Likes and Reactions,”  revealed a log of every time I had “liked” a friend’s post or comment on Facebook. Other files included “Advertisers Who Uploaded a Contact List With Your Information."  “Facial Recognition Code” translated my face into a solid block of jumbled text

The Rise of the Virtual Restaurant

On the web no one knows your a dog. And it is increasingly the case that no one knows you're a tab on an app, not a restaurant. JL

Mike Isaac and David Yaffe- Bellany report in the New York Times:

Food delivery apps are starting to reshape the $863 billion American restaurant industry. As more people order food to eat at home, and as delivery becomes faster and more convenient, the apps are changing what it means to operate a restaurant. No longer must restaurateurs rent space for a dining room. All they need is a kitchen — or even just part of one. Then they can hang a shingle inside a meal-delivery app and market their food to the app’s customers, without the hassle and expense of hiring waiters or paying for furniture and tablecloths. Diners who order from the apps may have no idea that the restaurant doesn’t physically exist.

Why People Keep Falling For Viral Hoaxes

Humans process information in ways that confirm their base precepts - because, harking back to humanity's earliest days on the African savanna, that world view has already helped them survive to this point in their lives. JL

Paris Martineau reports in Wired via ars technica:

Like most other hoaxes it was easily debunked by a quick Google search and, went viral anyway. Hoaxes have staying power because of the way people process information and arrive at beliefs. When confronted with new information, humans don’t always do the logical thing and evaluate it on its own merits. Instead, we often make snap decisions based on how the information adheres with our existing worldviews. If the story pushed by a meme or hoax fits in a way that feels like a coherent narrative to a critical mass of people, it’s game over. The sort of story is primed to appeal to the average person because it contains a kernel of truth

The Reason Advertising Targeting Outside the Home Is Growing Exponentially

Out of Home advertising, generally thought of as billboards, is experiencing a resurgence not seen since 2007 - not coincidentally the year the iPhone was introduced.

The reason is consumers' growing facility with their smartphones and, subsequently, their ability to act via mobile, when they see an ad that triggers interest. JL

Minda Smiley reports in Ad Week:

66% of U.S. travelers report taking an action on their smartphone after exposure to an OOH (outside of home) ad. By generating engagement in the real world, OOH’s value to brands is stronger than ever.” “The strong quarterly growth occurred across all four major OOH channels: billboards, street furniture, transit and place-based. Digital OOH posted the highest increases,  31% of total OOH revenue.” OOH is the only “traditional” medium experiencing growth.OOH revenue grew 7.7%, marking the sector’s highest quarterly growth since 2007.

High Prices and 5G Extend US Buyers' Smartphone Turnover To Almost 3 Years

Market saturation, lack of innovation and higher prices are a recipe for stagnant smartphone sales. JL

Jeremy Horwitz reports in Venture Beat:

U.S. users are hanging onto their devices for nearly three full years rather than upgrading on an annual or biannual basis. Consumers believe that there’s been too little major innovation between prior flagship device generations, reducing the need to upgrade more frequently. “At the same time, we’ve “seen smartphone prices rising towards and above $1,000." The average iPhone has been in use for 18 months, versus 16.5 months for Samsung. While 5G network technology could elicit wows, prices for 5G phones will be a barrier. 

Aug 23, 2019

Are reCAPTCHA Taking Longer To Make the Web More Secure - Or Is Google Just Using People To Train Its AI For Free?

Is it just me? Or just you? Or is everyone finding it harder to complete a reCAPTCHA test these days? And if so, why?

It turns out  every time people have to do a reCAPTCHA prompt over a few times they are helping to train Google's AI so that it will be more adept at getting them to buy stuff.  JL

Nils Gronkjaer reports in The Next Web:

In 2017 and 2018, the time to solve one of these was 8 seconds. Now, the average time is over 30 seconds. But don’t for one second think it has anything to do with increasing level of complexity in the war against bots. The reason that people fail reCAPTCHA v3 prompts so consistently now is because Google realized there is more to gain by forcing people to train their AI for free. "We have now hit such a dystopian phase in internet history that people are hiring humans to sit in front of a screen and solve other people’s reCAPTCHA prompts.”