For teenage boys, maybe:
Another factor chipping away at teenage retailers may be the shifting priorities among young people. Where clothing was once the key to signaling a teenager’s identity, other items may have become more important and now compete for their dollars.
“Probably the most important thing a teenage boy has is his smartphone,” said Richard Jaffe, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. “Second, is probably his sneakers. Third, maybe, we get to his jeans.”
What may trump all of those, Mr. Jaffe said, are gaming systems, especially over the last few months, because Xbox and PlayStation both released new game consoles in 2013. That may have taken a bite out of what teenagers had to spend on clothes.
The Elizabeth A. Harris article, which focuses on declining teen expenditures on retail clothing, is interesting throughout.
The group that stalked Anthony Levandowski, an engineer at Google X, the company’s clandestine research laboratory, calls itself the Counterforce, after a Thomas Pynchon novel. About a dozen members, all dressed in black, gathered outside the Berkeley house where Mr. Levandowski lives with his partner and two young children.
They unfurled a banner and handed out fliers detailing the engineer’s work on Google’s driverless car technology, Street View and Google Maps. The flier read: “Anthony Levandowski is building an unconscionable world of surveillance, control and automation. He is also your neighbor.”
This is still just a small and fragmented movement, as the article makes clear. I predict it will vanish, but I wouldn’t have predicted its existence in the first place.
…wanted to draw your attention to http://ethereum.org/. Their testnet has just been released tonight. This is NOT another alt-coin, but something much more interesting.
It’s a blockchain with hash-based proof-of-work, similar to Bitcoin, and it has a currency at its core called “ether”. But what makes this interesting is that it includes a Turing-complete scripting language that implements a new entity, a programmable *contract* which, like addresses, can generate and receive transactions.
From their whitepaper (http://ethereum.org/ethereum.html): “A contract is essentially an automated agent that lives on the Ethereum network, has an Ethereum address and balance, and can send and receive transactions. A contract is “activated” every time someone sends a transaction to it, at which point it runs its code, perhaps modifying its internal state or even sending some transactions, and then shuts down.” So the network doesn’t just compute meaningless hashes, it is a distributed computer automating any type of financial exchange expressible in its scripting language.
In theory, all manner of things can be implemented on the network: sophisticated escrow arrangements, securities, CFD’s, order books, games of chance. And being Turing-complete, there will be many things possible that are not currently anticipated or even conceived.
The creators use an internet analogy. As a protocol, Bitcoin is like SMTP, good for doing one thing well (transferring Bitcoin from A to B). Ethereum is like TCP/IP, a generic, low-level platform on top of which other high-level protocols can be built. The internet of finance, as it were.
Haven’t had a chance to look into the code yet. It will be awhile before we know whether the thing is robust. I predict lots of teething problems. I’m just guessing here, but the biggest question mark is whether the security of the network can withstand malicious or buggy code (Bitcoin’s simple scripting language is deliberately not Turing-complete for this reason). Creators of contracts must fund them with tx fees which, as far as I can tell, are proportional to the complexity of the program. So they’re taking an economic approach to solving that problem.
You can read about Ethereum on Twitter here. Here is Wired on Ethereum. By the way, it seems Goldman Sachs may be involved. By the way, here is Sams on cryptonomics.
You can find Ezra’s words here. Do read the whole thing, here is one excerpt:
Today, we are better than ever at telling people what’s happening, but not nearly good enough at giving them the crucial contextual information necessary to understand what’s happened. We treat the emphasis on the newness of information as an important virtue rather than a painful compromise.
The news business, however, is just a subset of the informing-our-audience business — and that’s the business we aim to be in. Our mission is to create a site that’s as good at explaining the world as it is at reporting on it.
Matt Yglesias, Dylan Matthews, and Melissa Bell (and others to follow) will be coming along. Here is David Carr on the venture.
Addendum: The jobs ad is quite useful:
Project X (working title) is a user’s guide to the news produced by the beat reporters and subject area experts who know it best.
We’ll have regular coverage of everything from tax policy to True Detective, but instead of letting that reporting gather dust in an archive, we’ll use it to build and continuously update a comprehensive set of explainers of the topics we cover. We want to create the single best resources for news consumers anywhere.
We’ll need writers who are obsessively knowledgeable about their subjects to do that reporting and write those explainers — as well as ambitious feature pieces. We’ll need D3 hackers and other data viz geniuses who can explain the news in ways words can’t. We’ll need video producers who can make a two-minute cartoon that summarizes the Volcker rule perfectly. We’ll need coders and designers who can build the world’s first hybrid news site/encyclopedia. And we’ll need people who want to join Vox’s great creative team because they believe in making ads so beautiful that our readers actually come back for them too.
Sound like you? Then apply now.
And Ezra explains more here.
Argentina has introduced new restrictions on online shopping as part of efforts to stop foreign currency reserves from falling any further.
…Items imported through websites such as Amazon and eBay are no longer delivered to people’s home addresses. The parcels need to be collected from the customs office.
Believe it or not, there is several hours wait at the customs office. There is more here, via Counterparties.
Think about content monetization, for example. One reason media businesses such as newspapers struggle to charge for content is because they need to charge either all (pay the entire subscription fee for all the content) or nothing (which then results in all those terrible banner ads everywhere on the web). All of a sudden, with Bitcoin, there is an economically viable way to charge arbitrarily small amounts of money per article, or per section, or per hour, or per video play, or per archive access, or per news alert.
Another potential use of Bitcoin micropayments is to fight spam. Future email systems and social networks could refuse to accept incoming messages unless they were accompanied with tiny amounts of Bitcoin – tiny enough to not matter to the sender, but large enough to deter spammers, who today can send uncounted billions of spam messages for free with impunity.
Finally, a fourth interesting use case is public payments. This idea first came to my attention in a news article a few months ago. A random spectator at a televised sports event held up a placard with a QR code and the text “Send me Bitcoin!” He received $25,000 in Bitcoin in the first 24 hours, all from people he had never met. This was the first time in history that you could see someone holding up a sign, in person or on TV or in a photo, and then send them money with two clicks on your smartphone: take the photo of the QR code on the sign, and click to send the money.
There is more here, interesting throughout.
It seems the answer is no. There is an interesting new NYT piece by Mark Oppenheimer, here is one excerpt:
Hampton found that, rather than isolating people, technology made them more connected. “It turns out the wired folk — they recognized like three times as many of their neighbors when asked,” Hampton said. Not only that, he said, they spoke with neighbors on the phone five times as often and attended more community events. Altogether, they were much more successful at addressing local problems, like speeding cars and a small spate of burglaries. They also used their Listserv to coordinate offline events, even sign-ups for a bowling league. Hampton was one of the first scholars to marshal evidence that the web might make people less atomized rather than more. Not only were people not opting out of bowling leagues — Robert Putnam’s famous metric for community engagement — for more screen time; they were also using their computers to opt in.
According to Hampton, our tendency to interact with others in public has, if anything, improved since the ‘70s. The P.P.S. films showed that in 1979 about 32 percent of those visited the steps of the Met were alone; in 2010, only 24 percent were alone in the same spot.
…this was Hampton’s most surprising finding: Today there are just a lot more women in public, proportional to men. It’s not just on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. On the steps of the Met, the proportion of women increased by 33 percent, and in Bryant Park by 18 percent. The only place women decreased proportionally was in Boston’s Downtown Crossing — a major shopping area. “The decline of women within this setting could be interpreted as a shift in gender roles,” Hampton writes. Men seem to be “taking on an activity that was traditionally regarded as feminine.”
Across the board, Hampton found that the story of public spaces in the last 30 years has not been aloneness, or digital distraction, but gender equity. “I mean, who would’ve thought that, in America, 30 years ago, women were not in public the same way they are now?” Hampton said. “We don’t think about that.”
The piece is interesting throughout.
Douglas Rushkoff writes:
Welcome to the world of “present shock,” where everything is happening so fast that it may as well be simultaneous. One big now. The result for institutions—especially political ones—has been profound. This transformation has dramatically degraded the ability of political operatives to set long-term plans. Thrown off course, they’re now often left simply to react to the incoming barrage of events as they unfold. Gone, suddenly, is the quaint notion of “controlling the narrative”—the flood of information is often far too unruly. There’s no time for context, only for crisis management.
Sure, the rate at which information spreads and multiplies has accelerated, but what’s taking place now is more than a mere speeding up. What we’re experiencing is the amplification of everything that happens to be occurring at the moment, and a diminishment of everything that isn’t. It’s not just that Google search results favor the recent over the relevant; it’s that suddenly an entire society does.
…It wasn’t always like this. As recently as the end of the 20th century, the zeitgeist was animated by a kind of forward-leaning futurism. There was a sense that we were accelerating toward a big shift fueled by new technologies, networks and global connectivity. Today, that shift may have finally occurred, but rather than encouraging us to look further ahead, it has instilled in us a pervading “presentism.” Our old obsession with the pace of progress has been drowned out by the onslaught of everything that is happening right now. It’s impossible even to keep up, much less to look ahead.
Some of the piece is too much of an unfiltered onslaught of all the negative thoughts about modernity the author came up with, with not enough care to separate the convincing arguments from the dross. Nonetheless his core point resonates with me, although I suppose you shouldn’t ask someone who has been blogging for eleven years.
This Michael Rosenwald article is entitled “Smartphones get more sophisticated, but their owners do not,” here is one excerpt:
Some of the most highly touted smartphone innovations are barely used at all. A 2012 Harris Interactive poll showed that just 5 percent of Americans used their smartphones to show codes for movie admission or to show an airline boarding pass. Whether that’s because of a lack of interest or lack of know-how (or both) is not entirely clear, but experts who study smartphone use, as well as tech-support professionals who work with the confused, say they see smartphone obliviousness at all ages and for all kinds of reasons.
The article is interesting throughout. By the way, while I am not sure of the exact definition of an “app,” in general I do not use them.
Major airports are often congested which leads to an inefficient allocation of resources. For example, some planes carry low-value packages that are not time-sensitive. Other planes carry high-value, time-sensitive packages. You don’t want to delay the plane carrying the heart for transplant so that a plane carrying 3-day mail can land a bit early. Vernon Smith and co-authors created and tested a combinatorial auction market to allocate airport slots and improve efficiency. In an auction market when there is congestion the high-value packages can outbid the low-value packages so not every package pays the same freight. Prices in an auction market are also valuable signals telling us where congestion is most severe and expansion most warranted. Revenues from pricing can be used to fund expansion.
Some people, however, are against prioritizing package delivery because they argue that treating every package equally will increase innovation.
Addendum: Don’t take these points as the only or determining considerations but I would like to see more attention given to analysis and less to slogans.
Cecilia Kang and Michael Fletcher have a new article with a variety of interesting observations, here are some bits:
A tablet, running Google’s Android operating system, will pop out of the dashboard. The device can be passed around so passengers can find YouTube clips and order songs and audio books from the Google Play store for the car’s entertainment system.
Prefer Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks? Google may be able to decipher that by driving behavior and deliver the appropriate ads to an e-mail account or smartphone.
…The executives added that Google, not the automaker, would control any personal data generated by the car. And, they said, the information would be stored in servers, not the actual vehicles, to safeguard the data in case the car is stolen or sold.
…Much of the data that Web-connected cars generate may seem mundane — the route someone takes to work, where they are at a certain time, whether their car needs a tire alignment or more coolant — but they can be lucrative to companies in the business of closely targeted marketing.
“If you are a business that provides services to someone in that car, you have a captive audience for an hour a day,” Smith said. “Think about how much anybody would like to have a captive marketing audience for an hour a day. It is a gold mine.”
Much of the new discussion concerns new Audis, but of course such innovations may spread to other cars as well. Ads emanating from the car radio are old news, so what other mechanisms of ad delivery will be found? And will drivers be lured with free services (which?) for being willing to hear or view or smell such ads? I miss the old days of the open window and the eight-track tape.
The Los Angeles Public Library announced Thursday that it is teaming up with a private online learning company to debut the program for high school dropouts, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
It’s the latest step in the transformation of public libraries in the digital age as they move to establish themselves beyond just being a repository of books to a full educational institution, said the library’s director, John Szabo.
Since taking over the helm in 2012, Szabo has pledged to reconnect the library system to the community and has introduced a number of new initiatives to that end, including offering 850 online courses for continuing education and running a program that helps immigrants complete the requirements for U.S. citizenship.
The library hopes to grant high school diplomas to 150 adults in the first year at a cost to the library of $150,000, Szabo said. Many public libraries offer programs to prepare students and in some cases administer the General Educational Development test, which for decades was the brand name for the high school equivalency exam.
But Szabo believes this is the first time a public library will be offering an accredited high school diploma to adult students, who will take courses online but will meet at the library for assistance and to interact with fellow adult learners.
The article is here, and for the pointer I thank Robert Tagorda.
One study of 7,000 New York Times articles by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that sad stories were the least shared because sadness is a low-arousal, negative state. People were more likely to share positive stories because it was a way to show generosity and boost their reputations. Sharing pleasant things in public made them appear nice themselves.
That is from a gated piece by John Gapper. To paraphrase Robin Hanson, “sharing isn’t about sharing.”