1. Good Monday Morning
We’re back. What a busy week ahead. Don’t forget that Lent starts Wednesday. Take solace in Easter being six weeks away if the weather is too cold where you are.
Today’s Spotlight is 1,329 words — about a 5 minute read.
2. News To Know Now
Quoted:“This was a poor choice of imagery for an NFT. It has not and will not be put up for auction.“— Associated Press spokesperson Lauren Easton after the famous news organization canceled a planned NFT auction showing a boat overcrowded with refugees in the Mediterranean. It was not even the weirdest NFT story lately. Keep reading. We unpack some strange ones in Spotlight Explainer.
a) Facebook and YouTube will no longer allow Russian state media organizations to receive advertising money on their platforms in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both companies continue to receive withering criticism about what is allowed to be monetized. One of the most recent was this post from Harvard’s Neiman Lab about Facebook allowing climate change denial content.
b) Walmart may be in their boat one day soon. The retail giant announced during its quarterly earnings call that it generated $2.1 billion in advertising revenue last year. Walmart is jumping into the deep end of the digital pool with augmented reality, gamification of retail, and yes, NFTs.
c) What seems to be a coding shortcut made the Mecklenburg County (NC) Registrar of Deeds the target of some highly virulent memes. Counties in the state are responsible for making birth, marriage, land, and death records available online. As part of the same online order flow, people requesting birth certificates or marriage license records were asked if they were named in the record or if it was for someone else. Unfortunately, that code was left in place (although grayed out) for visitors who wanted to purchase death certificates.
3. Search Engine News — Google Acknowledges Cutting Traffic To Pirate Sites & Faces Conspiracy Theories
Google reported this month that a website that receives too many copyright violation notices can expect to experience their search visitor traffic to decrease an average of 89% after Google demotes the website. The data came from a Google report to the U.S. Copyright Office.
Google received an editorial recommendation from The New York Times last week after the newspaper analyzed search results from Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. The analysis was conducted after conservative commentators including Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan told audiences to use non-Google search engines. The Times says that “Bing and DuckDuckGo surfaced more untrustworthy websites than Google…” while saying that some untrustworthy sites showed in Google results, but less prominently.
4. Spotlight Explainer — NFT Marketplaces Go Bonkers
Our first in-depth issue about NFTs was one year ago this week so it was serendipitous to see seemingly the entire NFT marketplace go off the deep end in February.
An NFT is rich content (think image, audio, or video) that has been placed on the same blockchain used by cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Think of them as numbered items sold to collectors. They’re not exclusive and may be already well known in other areas.
For example, the NBA helped pioneer video clips of famous basketball plays that it sold to collectors. The buyer doesn’t own the rights to anything except that copy of that highlight. They’re often compared to buying a baseball card or record album. You own your copy, which you can sell, but you have no rights to the content and pay premium prices.
The Associated Press Steps In and Jumps Out
The AP watched rights holders making serious money and decided to wade into the NFT waters given their deep news libraries. On Thursday (yes, the day Russia invaded Ukraine), the AP tweeted that it would be minting a new NFT the next day. In their own words, that NFT would be a video “of migrants drifting in an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean.”
Despite the smell of money in the air, the AP hastily canceled their plans after the backlash they should have seen coming.
Sotheby’s and the CryptoPunks
The AP’s egregious behavior happened one day after posh auction house Sotheby’s reported that a sale of 104 CryptoPunks NFTs had been withdrawn only 25 minutes before its start. That collection was created by one of the NFT’s pioneering design firms. The entire collection is 10,000 pieces, and many have sold for more than $1 million each.
People Are Really Buying These?
- Chick’nCone, a 24 restaurant chain based in Florida, is selling 933 NFTs of their logos in different US markets for $14,500 each. If a buyer then franchises the chain, they get $22,500 off the fee.
- Brands selling NFTs now include McDonald’s, Estee Lauder, Coca-Cola (and right after, Pepsi), and Budweiser.
- In typical Nike fashion, they’re not just selling NFTs. They bought one of the top design studios.
Missteps And Weirdness Are Common in this Land Rush
Like every bubble from tulips to Beanie Babies, this crazy NFT marketplace has all the makings of a greater fool’s market that requires new buyers to keep coming in and elevate prices. Former first lady Melania Trump has sold three NFT collections although the latest sold for $170,000 to what appears to be herself. Experts say that shill bidding is common, and no one is really quite sure who is buying what since the sales are in typically anonymous cryptocurrency.
Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg just closed his acquisition of pioneering hip-hop record label Death Row Records. He says that the new company will be NFT-focused. He then sold $44 million worth of NFTs in five days.
5. Did That Really Happen? — 10 Photos and Videos That Are Not From the Russian Invasion
Amazing stories sprung from the first few days of the resistance of Ukraine to Russia’s invasion. This is the first streaming war we’ve experienced, and while disinformation and propaganda are long-used tactics, the tools used to create realistic hoaxes are better than ever. Here is a gallery of videos and images falsely attributed to the invasion.
6. Following Up — COVID Algorithm at the Pentagon
We’ve written a lot about different predictive algorithms that can be used to detect COVID-19. Now the Pentagon has announced that it has awarded a contract for work to continue on a project that uses trackers in a watch and ring to monitor personnel. An algorithm then receives the data from the trackers and predicts COVID-19 two days before the person shows symptoms.
7. Protip — Uber Driver Ratings for Passengers
Today some of you learned that Uber drivers rate passengers. Some of you already knew that you could see your average rating. Hopefully more of you are now learning that you can see how many ratings you’ve received at each level. Here’s how.
8. Screening Room — Drew Barrymore & Her Chicken
9. Science Fiction World — DNA Sequencing Cut to 5 Hours
A Stanford lab has shaved hours from the time needed to sequence a genome. They’re being feted now for shattering a Guinness World Record by shrinking the time from 14 hours to 5 hours. Team leader Dr. Euan Ashley offered even better news, “I think we can halve it again. If we’re able to do that, we’re talking about being able to get an answer before the end of a hospital ward round. That’s a dramatic jump.”
10. Coffee Break — World Photography Winners & Shortlisted Photos
Who doesn’t like to look at stunning photos? Now you’ve got access to this year’s winners and shortlisted photos plus galleries from the past ten years to occupy many coffee breaks.