1. Good Monday Morning
It’s March 8th. On Wednesday, all retail establishments in Texas can join Mississippi in opening at full capacity and without people wearing facemasks. This is counter to CDC and public health best practices. At least 220 Texans have died every day from COVID-19 during the last two weeks.
Today’s Spotlight is 1,392 words — about a 5 minute read.
2. News To Know Now
a) “Skeptics derided the notion of Amazon Prime, the $75 add-on that provides free two day shipping and low cost 1 day shipping for a $75 annual membership fee.”I wrote that in 2010 for what was then the Spotlight blog. I offer it today as context for Walmart’s announcement that anyone in their delivery areas can pay a flat $10 fee once and get up to 65 items delivered within two hours. Walmart’s latest promotion may not work, but Amazon now makes billions each year in Amazon Prime subscription revenue. (TechCrunch)
b) Microsoft’s LinkedIn is developing a new service that will allow users to find and retain freelancers. That pits Microsoft firmly against Upwork and Fiverr and is a nice way to leverage LinkedIn’s networking motif. (The Information)
c) Recipeasly caused a furor, apologized, and killed the app it built. The back story: a common joke online addresses how food bloggers often write a lot of text (stories, further cooking information, etc.). That text is often met with a cry of “Just get to the recipe!” which is what some apps including Recipeasly do, stripping the content so that only the recipe is displayed. This time, the food writers fought back — and got people’s attention. This is how many of them make their living. Besides that, it was the height of selfishness to behave in a way that suggests, “Shut up and give me the free stuff I came here for.”
Recipeasly is gone. A plain, humble apology is all that remains of their website. But they weren’t the first or the biggest that offered this type of software. And in the spirit of caring about content creators, I’ll admit that I’ve publicly shared programs that leave only the recipes online. It’s not fair, and I won’t do it anymore. We need more examples of looking out for others online, not less.
3. COVID-19 Tech News
New York Times tracker that allows you to customize a daily email with multiple cities and towns that you’re monitoring: Click here to configure.
Coronavirus & Tech News
Covid Vaccine Websites Violate Disability Laws, Create Inequity for the Blind – read at Kaiser Health News
Ghana Becomes First Country to Deliver Coronavirus Vaccines by Drone – read at Business Insider South Africa
4. Search Engine News
Google’s announcement that it will end the sale of advertising using individual tracking data is huge and important to understand in terms of how it deals with online privacy.
Inaccurate headlines dominated online conversation. “Google to no longer track the specific websites you visit,” proclaimed one very wrong headline. “Google says it won’t track you directly …” began another.
What you need to know is that Google’s announcement last week only deals with advertising. And Google will indeed track your behavior online. Google is saying that they will begin to cluster like-minded consumers into cohorts, or groups, that advertisers can target. And only third party data is affected. Google collects scads of information about people from Gmail, Search, Maps, Android, YouTube, and similar products. None of that is ending.
Relying only on first party data is an important step, but the major Internet players are also the entities who collect that data. A shakeout on U.S. consumer privacy is coming in the next several years. Google is under investigation in the U.S. and other countries over antitrust and privacy issues.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly asked Google for search and advertising results in 2015 and 2020. Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a data privacy law, the second state to do so.
Google is smart to get ahead of these coming changes, but don’t fall for the hype about not being tracked online. That part isn’t going away anytime soon and certainly not in search.
5. In The Spotlight — The NFT Craze Explained
NFT stands for non-fungible token. Since you won’t let me get away with only that, description, let’s break it down this way: the token is stored on blockchain like Bitcoin and represents some piece of digital intellectual property.
Here is an example: the NBA is selling a digital certificate for specific video highlights. The buyer doesn’t own the video. They own a certificate that CNBC smartly likened to a basketball trading card.
Don’t yawn. It’s not just the NBA, although there has been more than $200 million worth of transactions on pro basketball NFTs. Musicians and other creators are getting involved. Pop artist Grimes sold NFT digital certificates worth $6 million representing her artwork in a single week.
The thing confusing most of us: the people are not buying the artwork. Their purchase may include a digital representation, but they’re buying a certificate, or like CNBC suggested, a trading card with a picture or song. In January, animator Justin Roilland sold 16 “crypto-art” sketches for $2.3 million. The buyers did not receive framed sketches. They got a long alphanumeric code that says they were the collector of the ephemeral work.
But George, there is no there there.
Indeed, that why they’re called non-fungible. They can’t be swapped for something of a like value because each certificate is unique and there is no market except supply and demand for a specific item.
You need to understand this form of market hysteria because it continues to explode. According to Forbes, musician 3LAU sold $11.7 million worth of certificates in one day. An artist named Beeple sold a $6.6 million piece last week, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold an NFT of the first tweet on the system for $2.5 million.
When we meet here next Monday, I expect you’ll be thinking, “wow, I couldn’t get away from news about this crazy NFT stuff all week.” The good news is that the Dutch tulip bulb market craze of 1636 only lasted a few months before collapsing so maybe NFTs will only be a 2021 thing.
6. Debunked — Deepfakes
Deepfakes are videos that swap in a person’s face into a video. You’ve seen terrible examples of them for years and maybe some pretty good ones over the last couple of years. We’ve even linked to some in past Coffee Breaks.
After some Tom Cruise deepfake videos went viral last week, Lifehacker created a handy checklist for spotting deepfakes.
7. Following Up — Four Flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server
In addition to the ongoing fallout from the Solar Winds hack, Microsoft announced last week that Chinese hackers have leveraged four flaws in Microsoft’s Exchange server to access emails. Microsoft issued emergency patches, but some organizations have not yet installed them. Up to 30,000 organizations were hacked via these holes.
8. Protip — Share Text & Links Across Your Devices
You don’t have to email yourself links or text if you’re using a Windows computer and smartphone to share data. TNW demonstrates how to use a free small program called Share TXT that allows you to send links from your phone to a Windows computer and vice versa.
Yes, iPhones and Macs already do this. The rest of you need to click.
Screening Room – Five Drinks
10. Science Fiction World — Garbage
Dublin already had some pretty cool trash cans that connected online to notify the company when they were full. Now the city is piloting 350 of those cans to house additional cellular infrastructure. And 20 of those also record how busy foot traffic is in the surrounding area.
11. Coffee Break — CDC & Zombies
The CDC has to tell Americans about horrible things like gun violence and COVID-19 deaths. They’ve also expanded their online resources to instruct people on how to keep safe during a zombie apocalypse.
Yes, really. Because preparedness is similar whether for zombies or other hazards.
Free resources here, including graphic novels and posters for educators.