This Week in Tech 551
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech. A great show planned for you. We've got Will Remis here from Slate, from Engadget, Roberto Baldwin, Peter Cohen FLARG is here from backblaze.com. We'll talk about all the latest news, of course a little bit of Apple, DOJ stuff, some revelations, we'll talk about hacking an amazing experiment from fusian.net, and how the Facebook Timeline works and whether they're going to pay attention to the new little sad faces and the confused face. Stay tuned, TWiT is next.
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This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 551, Sunday, February 28, 2016.
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It's time for TWiT: This Week in Tech, the show where we cover the latest tech news. This is going to be fun, because I have three guys I truly respect in the business, but only one of them has ever been on TWiT before, and he's only been here a couple of times. We're talking about Peter Cohen, great to have you back, Peter. Long time Macintosh reporter, Gaming reporter, he was at iMore, now at Backblaze. What are you doing at Backblaze?
Peter Cohen: Backblaze is a backup service provider. You can back up your computer to the cloud, and there's a lot of stuff to talk about when it comes to backing up computers. That's what I'm going to be writing about for the blog and for the guides that you're going to see on their website.
Leo: Still play a game or two, now and then?
Peter: Yeah. Absolutely. I play games whenever I can squeeze it in.
Leo: As you get older, that gets harder and harder, doesn't it?
Peter: Yeah it does. Your free time dwindles and then you want to do other things like sleep.
Leo: I haven't been able to squeeze it in in years. That sounds dirty. Also joining us, from Engadget, he's a senior editor there, Roberto Baldwin. It's great to have you, Roberto.
Roberto Baldwin: Thanks for having me on!
Leo: Thanks for bringing the Chevee Bolt, that was really fun.
Roberto: Yeah. Except it turned into a Volt while I was sitting in the parking lot.
Leo: I feel so bad. I was so excited, I thought you were bringing a Bolt, the new one they announced at CES, and I start the interview and I say let's take a look at the new Chevee Bolt. Poor Roberto has to say it's the Volt.
Roberto: The Bolt won't be out until December.
Leo: I should have known. I got to thank you though. You started this, you didn't finish it, but before moved to Engadget, last time we talked you were at Popular Science.
Leo: Also from Slate, I believe he's still at Slate. Wired. Right. He's still at Slate. Ladies and gentlemen, Will Oremus.
Will Oremus: It's actually Salon. Just kidding!
Leo: It's a Chevy Volt. You guys, all three of you, Peter you dodged having to write about the Apple story.
Peter: Yes I did.
Leo: In the nick of time, but I know both Will and Roberto have been spending a lot of ink. You guys use ink still?
Leo: I know we have spent a lot of video and audio tape on the subject as well. Talked about it for an hour last week. This is one of those stories that evolves. I have a feeling this is going to be like Microsoft versus the DOJ. This may go on for years.
Peter: Certainly seems that way.
Leo: The story so far, you already know the story so far. I have to say, on Friday we got Apple's response to the Department of Justice, but Neli Patel at the Verge, who is an attorney, says it's a very un-lawyery document. He was surprised by it. This is almost as much a PR document as it is a pleading. For instance, normally you would start with your strongest argument, that's the one that the judge is going to read before she falls asleep, in this case they started with the easiest to understand argument and moved to the more complicated arguments. He implied this may have been more of a PR...
Roberto: Apple was very forthcoming during a conference call that this document was written so that the average person could read it.
Leo: Not the judge.
Roberto: This is written for the Average Joe. The FBI, two motions. They only needed to do one motion, but they did two. Now it's been a PR war.
Leo: The FBI went to the victims of the shooter and got them to plead for help from Apple. I think people who watch this show are technically saavy, so they know that it is not really about this particular phone. Yet, I think we have to point out, the things I have learned in this process don't reflect all that well on Apple either. I feel like both sides are now playing a PR game, for instance, it's become apparent. I should have known this before, but now it is obvious. Apple has always had access to the contents of your iCloud backup and would willingly give this to any law enforcement agency that had a court order. They told the FBI to wait until it backs up. Bring it to an active WiFi, and it will back up.
Roberto: If we have the data, we will give it to you.
Leo: Was that revelation, or was that me being slow to pick up on things?
Will: Can you back up just a second here?
Leo: Apple's iCloud backup is not encrypted, or it is, but Apple has the key. They have everything... the only reason that this phone is different, and the FBI knew that too, obviously, because they made sure the case was about a phone that hadn't backed up in six weeks, and by the way they changed the password just in case they changed the password so it couldn't back up. No. We weren't doing that, we just wanted... I don't know why they changed the password, but they changed the password. Maybe they were trying to read the backup. Apple said hey just come to us we'll give you that stuff. That's one. Apple, Tim Cook in his interview with ABC kind of implied if we write this it's like creating a cancer. But it's pretty clear the way Apple signs firmware updates this would be specific to this phone and no other. That particular piece of software that Apple doesn't want to write wouldn't be usable on other phones. The real point here is that it would be a precedent. Right?
Roberto: Yes. It's a precedent. If that software gets out, it will still be tough for someone to sign it. It doesn't mean it's impossible because...
Leo: Apple has the keys and I'm sure Apple does everything it can to protect those keys.
Roberto: Once the precedent is set, the New York DA says we have a bunch of phones in New York and they're ready as soon as this precedent is set to say Apple we need you to bypass the encryption that's on these phones as well.
Leo: A lot of people say Facebook, Microsoft, and Google are supporting Apple on this. You say that Google wants you to think that, but they're not.
Will: That's changed a little bit. They're initial response which was glossed as support for Apple really wasn't. It was as tepid as you could get.
Leo: Sundar Pichai's tweets.
Will: Tweeted from his personal account. He phrased everything in a really general way so that it sounded like he was really supporting Apple, but he really wasn't saying anything. If this is a backdoor, then that's wrong. We don't support that, we don't support the idea of forcing companies to hack their customer's iPhones. He didn't say whether he thinks that's actually the case here or not, and that's what the whole question turns on. Is this a backdoor, does it amount to a backdoor? Or does it not amount to a backdoor? That's the dispute that's in question. It was interesting to see because the tech companies that are Apple's rivals were under immediate pressure. People on Twitter made sure of that. They were under immediate pressure to respond to this and to weigh in. It was interesting to watch. You could almost hear the backroom meetings with lawyers going on at each of those company's headquarters saying what can we say what can't we say? There was no response at all for the first 24 hours or so, and then yes. Sundar Pichai had his tweets that were not really saying anything. It was designed to sound like it was saying something without saying something. Google has since backed Apple in a more substantive way. Other tech companies are coming around as well, some more than others. I thought it was interesting. The one other tech CEO, the one other high profile tech CEO that weighed in strongly right away and said Apple is right, I stand with Apple, it was the CEO of WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. Maybe because his company is owned by Facebook he doesn't have to back up what he says because he doesn't have the authority to decide what WhatsApp does. He has to go through his boss, Mark Zuckerberg.
Leo: He must fear what Apple fears, which is he would be approached. They do use encryption, but they would be approached immediately to hand over whatever they could hand over.
Will: Whatsapp has built its business to a large extent on privacy. Apple, that's appropriate, because that's what Apple is trying to do now as well. My immediate response when this case went public was this doesn't surprise me because Apple has been spoiling for this fight ever since the Snowden revelations. There was a backlash against the tech companies for standing by and letting everybody's data be hoovered up. Apple, Tim Cook and Apple execs got together and said look. We should be the company that's out front on this. Look at our rivals. Google, Facebook, look at the other big tech companies out there. Their businesses are built on harvesting their users' personal data, our business isn't built on that. We sell phones. Our customers are our customers, they're not our product, and that gives Apple the ability to take the high ground and be the company that will fight for your privacy. The company that cares about protecting your data, rather than packaging your data for targeted advertisements, and I think it has become a part of Apple's strategy ever since then, and I think they were looking for a fight like this just as much as the DOJ was.
Leo: At the same time, again, Apple would like everybody to think this is all private, but in fact they have your backup, and if you do backup to iCloud, they will give it to the law enforcement. What's interesting is that there have been stories that Apple has been working on an un-crackable phone. One that they can't... by the way. You know and I know. It's not a backdoor. It's not about undoing the encryption. What it is is about helping the FBI unlock the front door the very weak four digit passcode on this iPhone 5C, but Apple even calls it a backdoor. In their response to the court, they say this is not a case about one isolated phone, this is about the department of justice and the FBI seeking through the courts a dangerous power that Congress and the American people withheld. The ability to force companies like Apple to undermine the basic security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe. That I might agree with, but then it says the Government demands that Apple create a backdoor to defeat encryption on the iPhone. Again, this is not written very precisely, because it isn't a backdoor.
Roberto: I mean, the CEO of the RSA calls it a backdoor.
Leo: A backdoor implies the golden key, that we would give you a key that would allow you to un-encrypt other iPhones. That's the implication Apple wants to give you. It isn't that at all. They modify the firmware so that the FBI can brute force this phone, and that's a very specific situation that wouldn't work, in fact, on the six digit code they now use. As an exercise, I took my iPhone and I thought, if I wanted to lock this down, first thing you do is turn off iCloud backup. The second thing you would do is turn off the four or six digit pin and turn on a long password, which I did. So I have a 16 character mixed case mixed numbers case password that's a real pain to type in, and I turned off fingerprint unlocking, because we don't know how secure the fingerprint is. Now this phone is encrypted, you would need to brute force a virtually uncrackable password unless you have some magic. Then I realized here is the interesting irony, and this was brought up, most software already has a golden key. Even when I've done all that to my iPhone, Apple could push an update to this phone that would unlock it. All they have to do is wait until I unlock the phone, the data is now unencrypted and available and upload it to the server without telling me, and they've got it.
Roberto: That's basically what the FBI wants Apple to do.
Leo: The point is, that's true for everything. That's true for a Google phone, that's true for Windows, that's true for Macintosh. If there is a system update... that's true for things we think of as secure. If there is a system update mechanism, every system has a golden key backdoor.
Peter: There was an auto update to Adobe creative cloud that happened a week ago that...
Leo: I think you know about that one, don't you, Peter?
Peter: I got a front row seat on that one, thanks to my new gig at Backblaze. It started deleting the first hidden directory on Mac Hard drives, which in the case of Backblaze users happened to be a directory that was there because of the app. It started causing problems for our customers but also for a lot of other people who had their information put in these kinds of accounts. I got bitten by because I'm a cloud user and I had left on auto update, so I got the auto update pushed out and blam, all the stuff stops working right. Something else happened with the Mac last week. Ether net ports on some macs stopped working and it turned out to be some kind of weird software push that Apple fixed itself, but people had to delete P List files in order to resurrect the Ethernet ports on their devices.
Leo: If creative cloud is well behaved and you don't have auto updates turned on, your safe, but I think that it's probably the case that creative cloud or Microsoft could ignore your auto update settings. I know Apple silently updates Macintosh all the time with Malware signatures.
Peter: Yeah, Gatekeeper.
Leo: You don't know it's doing that. You don't have a choice. It doesn't say, "Would you like me to do this now?" It just does it.
Peter: Don't worry your pretty little head. Here's the thing. The part of the whole Apple FBI thing that I find so very interesting is that Apple has positioned privacy as this major important cornerstone of how it likes to do business with its customers and how it differentiates itself from its competition. Here's the inherent problem that I've got. I have this perspective from having sold these devices to people for the past two years while I was working at iMore I was also working at an Apple retailer. What I found is that people think it's BS. Muggles don't believe that Apple is any better at privacy.
Leo: They're right.
Roberto: I wouldn't use an Android phone.
Leo: My Android phone is safer than your iPhone. I'll tell you why. First of all, there's no mass backup than the Android phone, you could turn off...
Roberto: I don't have mass backup of my stuff.
Leo: Turn off iCloud. Most people it's on and they leave it on. You could turn off backups to Google. You can use a strong password. Not all Android phones, but all Google Android phones and many others are encrypted by default, strong encryption with a strong password. The backdoor exists for this as it does everything including all of Apple's products that you can update behind the scenes and leak information out.
Peter: I want to go back to something that...
Leo: My point is, and I'll let you finish. My point is this is theatre on Apple's part. They aren't protecting our privacy any better than anybody else. Everybody is vulnerable to exactly the same thing. They're all beholden to law enforcement court orders and have always been doing this. Apple's first request to the FBI was let's keep this on the low down. Let's seal this. It was the FBI who said let's make this public. Apple wanted to say if you had the iCloud backup we could get that up and running for you. They didn't want to have this public conversation. I think it's theatre on all parts. I don't think Apple is better than anybody else. I'm sorry, go ahead.
Peter: Frequent guest of the show, Renee Ritchie, likes to talk about how there's this constant tug of war between security and convenience in everything that we do. Touch ID is great, but touch ID essentially is an overlay for the passcode system that you've already got on your phone.
Leo: Most people aren't going to do what I did. As soon as this show is over I'm turning it off, because it's a big PITA. You want convenience. There's two points. If you're a bad guy, you can do things because you're willing to be inconvenienced because you hide your stuff, that the normal person isn't going to do. But my larger point is even if you do that, if you're using a SmartPhone you can be compromised at will any time.
Peter: We've seen so many celebrity hacks, we've seen so many other incidents where devices have been compromised. I don't dispute what you're saying, Leo, but I think that it's interesting to see Apple craft the conversation or try to direct the narrative the way they're trying to direct it because it is very telling that they're trying to position themselves as the absolute arbiters of personal privacy when it comes to consumer products. It's great marketing, and it's a message they're way out in front of.
Leo: But who is more evil? The company that pretends to protect your privacy when they're not, or the company that says you don't have any privacy.
Will: On what grounds are you saying it's all pretense? Certainly there are theatrics here. Certainly there's grand standing that fits in with Apple's marketing push, but on what grounds are you saying that somebody can hack your SmartPhone at will at any point? If that were the case, why would we be having this fight?
Leo: First of all, we already know that if your phone is backed up to the iCloud, which is almost everybody...
Roberto: Five gigs is nothing. Unless you have a tiny 16 gigabyte, 5 gigs doesn't do anything. You have to pay extra to have..
Leo: Most people don't use iCloud backup?
Roberto: Why would I have to...
Leo: The bad guy did, obviously.
Roberto: That was his work phone. The private phone probably had all the information. The work phone... that's the thing. We don't know if there's anything on this phone.
Leo: That's a good point. Is anybody disputing my thesis that Apple does have access? They have the key.
Roberto: They said they have the key. If we have the data, we will hand it over to the authorities, but if we don't have it and it's your personal stuff, and you don't want it backed up, we're not going to give that to you because of privacy. Whether or not this is theatre...
Leo: They legitimately don't want this precedent because they don't want the trouble of being asked to do this. I don't blame Apple from a pure business point of view, but I think it's market speak to say we're the privacy company.
Will: I think there's a key point you're missing here. Apple intentionally put this stuff out of its own reach with the security updates in IOS 8. Apple could have kept the system as it was, and it would be able to comply with these types of requests at any point. Apple made a conscious decision after the Snowden affair in 2013 that it was going to put your data if you had a passcode on your phone and you had the data encrypted, it was going to build IOS 8 in the way that even Apple could not get into it so that when the FBI came calling or when the local police department came calling, Apple would have to throw up its hands and say we can't get in here. That was on purpose.
Leo: A couple things. They had a weak front door on it, which is the passcode. I understand they did it because customers want the convenience, which is exactly what you're talking about, Peter. The tradeoff between convenience and security, so Apple, in order to be secure on an iPhone, you have to do a lot of things that nobody is going to do because they're a pain in the ass and I tried them, but at the same time I believe that one has to understand that any company-- and maybe that's why Apple wanted to have this conversation-- any company can push an update that would make everything moot. I'm not talking about an update that the FBI can try as many passcodes as they want. A simple update that says while the data is decrypted, just send it up to the cloud. Done.
Roberto: That's what they don't want to do, because that means that... It's not just Apple. If Apple loses, it's everybody. Suddenly every device that you own... suddenly the only people encryption is going to work for are the bad guys.
Leo: My point is, it's dopey to think you have privacy on this. The conversation should be... This Week in Law we said wha the public conversation needs to be with congress and is do you want these to be private or not? Do the concerns of law enforcement and national security over ride our desire for privacy given that this is a treasure trove of your personal information, including GPS locations, microphone, camera, this phone in your pocket is the best spy device ever. That's why law enforcement is drooling over it. The question is can Apple make it secure, and do we have to have the national will? I suspect what the FBI thinks is we're going to go all the way to the Supreme Court and we're going to win this one, but better yet we'd lose it and then we can go to Congress and say we need KALEA two, we need a law that says they have to cooperate, they have to help. There is no privacy on a SmartPhone.
Will: I think you've nailed what the big idea is here. Should a company have the right to create a device that can't be opened? That can't be tapped for spying purposes? In the past, phone systems, the Government won that battle, they require the phone carriers to allow them to place a wiretap. The Pen register.
Leo: That's CALE, Communications assistance for law enforcement. Passed in 1994, long before 9/11.
Will: Now we have so much more information on our devices. Not just our SmartPhone. A number of people have pointed out recently, the growing number of devices we have in our home, whether it's the nest thermostat, or a security camera or the Amazon Echo and it's listening to everything you say all the time. More of our personal data and more of our sensitive stuff is on these devices and that's a two edged sword. On the one hand, that is why law enforcement is terrified of the idea that companies can create unlockable devices because all of a sudden the power the Government has had to tap into your phone or to bust down your door if necessary if they have a warrant, that becomes moot in the face of all the digital devices where we now live so much of our lives on these devices and online. On the other hand, we have so much data on there, if the Government could tap into it at any time that would be more horrifying in a lot of ways than just being able to wiretap your phone or to show up at the door with a warrant in hand.
Leo: That's what Congress is going to need to decide in the long run. That's what law enforcement wants is a second CALEA. CALEA only is for telecommunications carriers.
Roberto: The department of justice tried to get CALEA two, but Congress and the white house were like no I don't think so and that would force companies to create back doors. Now we're going to have to go through all of that again.
Leo: I suspect so. All right. That's enough. we've talked enough about it. I wanted to bring it up. It's a big story, it's going to continue to be a big story because we won't... interestingly Apple has moved its even to the day before the court decides. I don't know... what's the theatre there? They're going to announce new phones, new tablets? Then the next day, you're screwed.
Peter: They're going to launch their campus into orbit and go above the jurisdiction of the Feds.
Will: Whatever they announce, they don't want that to be viewed as a reaction to...
Leo: Right. But they moved it up. We were thinking the ides of March, March 15, they moved it to the 21st. Coincidence, maybe? We'll see. They may even say if we could have five more days we'd have time to write IOS 9.4 that encrypts everything.
Roberto: Maybe they already have. Like when someone types in the wrong password it just bursts into flames.
Leo: That's the phone I want. I think the take away is you shouldn't assume you have any privacy on your phone. At this point, Congress is going to need to do something if we're going to get that, and you should write your Congress...
Roberto: Burn our phones. We've all seen the Wire. You know what to do.
Leo: Tim Cook's interview with ABC was bad guys know how to do stuff.
Roberto: The CIA knows how to do it as well. They've been working on breaking into the iPhone.
Leo: The thing is, I suspect the NSA.. the NSA has zero days on the iPhone. I suspect the NSA could help the FBI.
Roberto: But they want the precedent. Instead of doing all this work to create O days, how about we make them do it? Make them do the work and we can go back to spying on you.
Peter: Giving the FBI wedgies and sticking them in lockers.
Leo: Get it together guys. We've invented this hand that goes through passcodes very quickly. Would you like it?
Roberto: Put it on a dock and everything gets sucked out.
Leo: This was a big problem before Apple and others started encrypting the phones, law enforcement had a device, they just plug your phone in, they copy everything off, and that would be it. They could do it at a traffic stop. That's what Apple was responding to exactly. I'm sorry, Peter. We keep cutting you off.
Peter: I'm just babbling. I don't know. It's depressing. Getting back to the subject at hand, when it comes to the iPhone and security, the other thing you're leaving out, Leo, that is worth talking about is ultimately, the data that's on our phones or the data that's on our computer is our responsibility to take care of. Employ as much security as you need to given your circumstances, whether that means two factor authentication, whether that means file encryption, whether that menas tokenizing everything that you're using, whether that means putting yourself in a big panic room, like Jodie Foster. I don't know. I don't care. Not my circus, not my monkeys. Bottom line is your data is your problem. Whether it's in the Cloud or on your phone or on your device, keep track of it. Understand how it's being used and do what you have to to make sure that it's secure as possible under the circumstances.
Leo: Peter Cohen now at BackBlaze. Great to have it. Flargh on the Twitter. Roberto Baldwin is also here. He is a senior editor at Engadget, he has the odd Twitter handle. All you guys have weird... Strngwys with no vowlels. Will Oremus from Slate.
Will: A man and his hanger.
Leo: Is that a political statement you're making there? The empty bookshelf.
Will: I'm actually in an interrogation room right now.
Leo: We'll have more in just a moment. I want to talk about Kevin Roose of Fusian did a really interesting video piece for their... TV show? Real future hack attack. It ties into this. He asked two hackers to pawn him. They did. We'll talk about that when we get back but first a word about mail. I'm talking about US mail. If you're in the business of selling stuff online, you mail that stuff out. If you send brochures. If you use the postal service, you really have a choice. I get a lot of packages from Ebay somebody has licked stamps and they've wrapped it in brown paper with Twine and they've hand written the address, doesn't give the most professional look to it. Frankly it's harder for you to do it that way when you can do it with stamps.com. Go to stamps.com right now. They can take it over. You won't ever have to go to the post office again. Everything you do at the post office you could do at your desk including buying and printing US postage from your computer at your printer. You don't need a postage meter. That's Grandpa's way of doing it. They'll print beautiful labels for your packages. Right on the envelopes if you want with your logo, they automatically get the return address from your website if it's Etsy or Amazon or wherever you sell online. They even give you discounts you can't get a the post office, which is awesome, including discounted postage insurance with the click of a mouse. Package insurance, plus all the forms are filled out. Even international customs forms. No more handwriting, no more laborious data entry, it's all handled by stamps.com, and then when it's all ready to go, you press a button and the mail carrier comes and gets it. You're done. You'll look more professional, you'll save money, your life will be 100 times better if you go to stamps.com right now. Here's how you get started. Click the microphone at the top of the homepage, at stamps.com, see that? It says special offer for radio and podcast listeners. Put your promo code, TWiT in here, actually this is a really good offer. It's a $110 dollar bonus value. It includes $55 in free postage. You can use that over the first few months of your account. You get a digital scale, USB scale. You do have to pay five dollars shipping and handling. They give you a five dollar activity kit and a month free of stamps.com, and you get to keep the postage meter. It's awesome. scale. By the way, they'll even suggest this could go medium mail. You could save a lot of money. Stamps.com, click the Microphone, use the promo code TWiT. 110 bonus offer awaits. stamps.com. Did you guys see this Kevin Roose piece? I didn't see the TV show, I read the article. He says I dared two expert hackers to destroy my life. You won't believe what happens next. He doesn't say that, but he should have, he missed an opportunity. It's pretty bad. He went to two different Pen testing companies. These are white hat, but apparently accomplished hackers who do this for companies. They test their security. One of the companies specializes in social engineering. A hacker named Chris Hagnaggy, and this is something companies need to be trained in. They don't hack your computer, they hack customer service reps. The problem with the customer service reps is the first two words. Customer service. If they think you're a customer they're going to try to give you service. All you have to do is give them a sob story. Here's what happened. HIs company called Social Engineer, by the way, Kevin said you have two weeks to hack me as hard as you can using any tool you want, but you may not steal my money or data, and you may not cause any permanent damage or fallout. You can't tweet in my name, or whatever. Before he began, Chris emailed me, may god have mercy on you. I'm scared already, right? First thing he did was he doxed Kevin. Kevin is a public guy, so he got his email address his employer, his social media accounts. That was easy. They did things that are interesting. He got his home address by finding a picture that Kevin had tweeted of his dog. They zoomed in on the collar of his dog and that was his home address. When I think about the stuff I've tweeted. Once they had personal information, they tried to find somebody he was a customer of, so they called Time Warner and Comcast pretending to be his girlfriend to see if he had an account. They called his local utility company to see if he had an account. He didn't. It's not under his name. They were able to find his social security number on a special purpose search engine. They had a 13 page Docier on the guy and they finally figured out this is what we're going to do. They had one of his social engineers call his cell phone company and say I need access to his account. To make it more convincing, they played a YouTube video of a crying baby in the background. She said, I'm his wife, he's not married. He's left the country on business and I just need to get in the account because there's information I need to apply for a loan. We really need to do it right now. Of course the customer service rep says of course. You poor woman, let me give you access to his account. Now they have access to his cell phone account. They change his password, and it goes on from there. They were good actors. There was no hack. It was social engineering. Next guy is worse. Dan Tentler, he's with fobos group. Tentler sends him a spear fishing attack, an email. He sent an email that looked like it came from SquareSpace saying, hey Kevin, in light of recent security issues in light of SSL, we're taking an intiative to make our services more secure. We've made a number of changes and we're acquiring changes to your local SSL certificates. Just go to SquareSpace.com/certificates and you can take advantage of our strongest security offering effort. Even though Kevin knew he was being hacked that he was the target, it was so convincing that he believed it, of course it wasn't SquareSpace. It was one letter away from SquareSpace, he clicked the link, didn't notice the change in the URL. He didn't download a certificate, he in fact installed a Trojan and he was OWNED. Dan had a shell into his computer, he could execute commands, he got into everything. He put an OS X popup asking for his administrator password, Kevin typed it. He installed a keystroke logger. Used that to get his credentials for one password, which meant he had every password Now it's over. He had his drop cam credentials, so he used the camera in his house to spy on him. He installed a remote access Trojan or a rat that snapped photos every two minutes from his laptop's camera and took a picture of his screen. The hack culminates with a robotic voice, Kevin is sitting at his computer, a robot voice saying Kevin, you look bored. Coming out of his computer! He was owned. I guess the point of this article is this is a smart guy who is using reasonable protections. If you're a target, there's nothing you can do.
Roberto: If you're a target by anyone with low level resources, you're in trouble.
Leo: It's not just you. They can call your phone company.
Roberto: When Matt Honen was hacked at Wired... the staff on the gadget lab had to re-create the hack. We kept hacking our own accounts. We made sure that we got information that was publically available on the Internet. I was able to change my Apple ID, my Amazon password, my Amazon credit card number. There's a couple companies you call up and OK Yeah, that sounds great. I can't remember my password, but I know the last four digits of my credit card number. That's good enough.
Leo: The hack they did at Matt was very interesting. They changed the credit card on Amazon and from that they got some information. Both companies have supposedly remediated. The problem is the customer service rep is a weak link.
Roberto: There's a room where you can go and watch the social engineering and you can watch the social engineer. You'll stick them in a booth and they'll just call trying to get higher and higher up in the company. Your job is to get ahold of the VP of this company.
Leo: People are trusting. They don't expect somebody to be evil. Interesting quote though. He talks to a guy named Morgan Marcus Boir who is a security guy at firstlook media. Marcus Boir said look. Do you worry about trained martial artists beating you up on the street? Not really said Kevin. But you're aware they exist. You probably couldn't do anything about it if one of them wanted to beat you up on the street. The danger isn't the trained martial artist attacking you because that's your target. At that point you're screwed anyway. It's doing dumb things like leaving your car unlocked so somebody can just walk in. Some basic stuff, VPN on a wifi network to factor authentication. Don't click on suspicious links, be more suspicious about phishing emails. Change your passwords regularly. The upshot of this article is your screwed. You're F***. I don't want to offend Donald Trump. I'll just say you're effed.
Roberto: If you're a target, all bets are off, especially if you're a journalist. People who are CEOs, VPs, they're a higher target. Government officials are a much higher target, and so you have to start... someone tries to hack into my Google account at least once a month.
Leo: Don't we all get emails all the time saying hey, you want to change your password, right? You just hope that nobody has access to your Google account because if they did...
Roberto: I'm changing passwords constantly on my accounts. I have two factor, I have VPNs. That's my job. The average person--- my wife doesn't need to do that. She should, maybe, your parents are also a great avenue, because your parents are way more trusting. Oh yeah, Robby lives here. We're doomed. The average person, you're less likely to have this level of hacking coming after you.
Leo: I just put an Amazon Echo in my office. I have three at home. You wrote this great article which is saying if Apple loses you're screwed because of the Internet of things. Didn't we already hear that from the director of National Intelligence? We're just going to use all the IOT stuff, so it doesn't really matter.
Roberto: Everything is... that's the thing. The apple thing is a precedent. It's allowed the Government to make the companies give them the keys as opposed to right now, they probably already have the keys, they're employing people who will get into this stuff illegally. Everything... your car. They have cameras, sensors, microphones, all that could be used by the Government, but also by someone who is trying to get to you.
Leo: I blew it. I said Cyrus Vans Junior had 70 iPhones. He once unlocked... He has 175 iPhones. Geeze. I went to school with him. He used to be a nice guy. By the way, that's the other great point, which is this is law enforcement trying to protect us. We asked them to protect us.
Roberto: That's the issue with the argument. On one hand, I want my civil rights, I want my privacy as much as I don't put out there on the Internet. On the other hand, terrorism. Murder. Kidnapping. The problem with the precedent, once it becomes something they can use on terrorism, then it becomes something they can use on murder and rape and suddenly it's a felony and maybe a misdemeanor. Maybe he stole something from the 7/11. Let's check his house.
Leo: That's the problem.
Will: I think we would all have a little more trust of the Government and its motivations if it hadn't been, I'm sorry to keep harping on this, but if it hadn't been from what we learned from Snowden. IF we knew that it was really true that the Government was going to get access to the data on one device at a time and just get access to that device. OK. We're OK with search warrents. We're OK with the idea that if you're a target, then your data is not going to be secure, whether it's a criminal hacker or it's the Government or spies or whatever. What spooks me at least is we know that the Government was involved in programs where they were sucking up everyone's data on mass and you can write software programs to comb through it. You can find people who haven't been accused of anything who are mentioning the wrong word in their private email. that's what gets me. It's not going to be a case by case basis. If the Government has a way to get into your devices that there will be ways to analyze all the data from everybody and run algorithms and target people based on that even if you're not the subject of a terror investigation.
Leo: I want to find something more cheerful. Here's a good thing. Banks are not going to use Facebook to decide on your credit after all. Phew.
Roberto: Of all the evils banks do, that's one less thing.
Leo: Lenders were thinking of, you know you have a Fico score, they were going to start looking at social media but they decided it was creepy. What? When did that stop them? Regulatory hurdles as well. Did that cheer you up?
Roberto: Yeah. My Facebook, all my social media is horrible. If you're following me, I apologize. It's mostly baby goats. And cats, and random things that pop out of my head.
Leo: What's the Facebook goat that's big?
Roberto: I think all the goats were big. I love them all equally. All the goats on Facebook.
Leo: Buttermilk Sky! You know Buttermilk Sky? You better follow her. We'll be with you Will and Peter. She's a Nigerian dwarf goat and she does backflips. Now I feel better.
Roberto: Watch this. Wait. All the other goats are like, "hey what's going on?"
Leo: I followed her on Facebook and she sent me a message. Really nice goat. Sorry. Will is going I thought this was a serious show.
Will: Goats are very important. Was it the llamas that were getting chased..?
Leo: we should mention this is the one year anniversary of the blue and black dress.
Roberto: I remember being so upset about that dress.
Leo: Were you?
Roberto: People were like no. They're tricking us. They thought Buzzfeed was doing an AB test.
Leo: I missed this, by the way, when it happened. Somebody told me about it a few days later. I missed the whole thing.
Roberto: We all know it was purple and orange.
Peter: It's been a year since left shark. Let's think about that.
Leo: Left shark! What was...?
Roberto: Last year was awesome. This year is kind of lame.
Leo: Starting out bad. Mobile world congress. Did anybody go? We sent a priest to Spain. Father Robert Ballacer did our coverage. I'm excited because my Galaxy S7 comes tomorrow. I ordered that immediately. LDG 5 looks very good. But the most interesting device of the world congress was the HP Elite phone. Windows X SmartPhone. You're not picking up on this one? You're not excited about that? A revolution in mobility. The Elite X3. A transformation is coming. The World of Computing Is about to be reinvented. This is a six inch Windows X phone that has a doc and a laptop like device that allows you to use it as a desktop computer.
Will: I like the Windows X soundtrack.
Leo: Somebody spent a lot of money on a product that's never going to go anywhere.
Will: Let me make the case in defense not of this device...
Roberto: I hope it's on that chart behind you. The other side!
Will: You don't know what's on the chart behind me. The thing about Windows X, nobody has one, Microsoft missed out on the game, but there's a real idea behind Windows devices is that the future is different devices, all of our devices whether you call it a phone or a table or a fablet, they're all just different sized screens with different input devices and slightly different UIs for the same information. Microsoft was the first company to really see that and decide there should be one operating system for all these devices and that it's stupid to have a different OS depending on what device you're using.
Leo: They address that in the video. It says "Want apps?" HP Workspace, it's Citrix for your SmartPhone. It has Skype.
Peter: It's interesting to compare what Microsoft is doing with Windows compared to where Apple is when it comes to the development of its workflow. Apple is taking a very workflow centric perspective on this. Johnny Ives has talked about this. Their goal at apple is to make the user interface invisible. Just to make the work the key thing, but they understand when you're using an iPad or iPhone or Mac, you're using a different device and you've got a fundamentally different user experience for each device because of the way that data is input because of the way that you interact with it because of the screen because of the operating system that's running on it, because of the applications. Whatever. None of that stuff is important. What's important is getting the work done that you want to get done and then getting out of your way as quickly as possible.
Leo: I think what scared Microsoft is that all these people were bringing iPhones into the enterprise and that was a wedge that worried Microsoft.
Peter: What makes it so interesting is yeah. It's whole strategy, the narrative that we hear them promoting with Windows Mobile is it doesn't matter what device is in your hand, the work is going to be the same.
Leo: All the best apps they're writing are for the iPhone.
Peter: It's interesting, isn't it? Now we're seeing Microsoft take a much more service centric view towards the way it does business as well. Office 365 is a pretty good corporate citizen on the Mac side of things. Sure we don't get access.
Leo: That's fine. I can live without access. I could live without Outlook. All I need is Word and Excel.
Peter: Otherwise, if you're invested in Office 365, you can use it on up to five computers, Macs PCs, doesn't matter. Your mobile devices, and you've got workflow. As long as you're brought into the way that Microsoft wants you to work.
Leo: Microsoft did just buy Zamarin which is Miguel De Caza's open source product putting .net on Linux, and then it became .net everywhere, and now it's a tool that allows you to write once and put your apps, your .net apps on iPhone, on Android. I presume Windows phone has to be in the mix as well. That's a huge deal. They're making an attempt.
Roberto: The deal with the phone, is it's awesome. This phone is also my computer. But then you get somewhere and you're like, "Now I need a computer to plug my phone into." I have to shove it inside a laptop...
Leo: Why don’t I just bring a computer?
Roberto: Exactly. At a high level you’re like, “Oh, this is awesome.” And then you’re like, “Wait a second.”
Peter: It’s 2016. Why can’t I just get a fiber optic jack stuck on the back of my head at this point. I was promised this stuff by Johnny Mnemonic 20 years ago.
Leo: Come on. I want to jack in. The Metaverse awaits. Actually that’s the VR conversation. We’ll get to that in just a little bit. I’m really glad to hear, this is good news, that somebody finally realized that slide to unlick shouldn’t really be a patentable technology. Apple sued Samsung claiming that they had violated Apple’s patent by putting slide to unlock on a Samsung phone. A jury found Samsung guilty of 3 of Apple’s patents and awarded Apple $119 million dollars. It’s not the $2.2 billion Apple was asking for but it’s, you know, $119 million. It’s something. Well, a judge has thrown it out. In face has thrown out two of the patents including slide to unlock. And the judgement is reversed which I think is right.
Roberto: Auto-correcting text
Leo: Auto-correcting text and slide to unlock, really? Can you patent those?
Roberto: Come on.
Leo: Come on.
Peter: If you don’t defend your patent you’ll lose it so whatever.
Roberto: It’s also a weird patent.
Leo: They did win the trade dress lawsuit for like a billion dollars, right, so Apple won that one.
Will: Yea there were some lawyers I believe they were from Switzerland but I’m sure somebody will correct this if I’ve got it wrong. There were some lawyers who sat down with me when this whole Apple Samsung stuff was going on a couple years ago, and they said, “Look, the reason that you’re having all these crazy, frivolous lawsuits is because you guys let a jury of regular people decide IP cases. That’s insane. You know it’s great that you guys have this jury system so that if you or I get accused of murder than we get a jury of our peers. But if Samsung gets accused of ripping of certain technical elements of Apple’s phone, why on earth should it be a jury of average Americans who are deciding that case and if that weren’t the case, then you wouldn’t have all this insanity.” So in that country they have, it’s like a panel of experts who decide those cases. It’s not a matter for a jury trial.
Peter: Corporations are people, friend.
Roberto: Oh, yea. I forgot about that.
Leo: By the way, that’s part of Apple’s defense, right? If corporations are people then you can’t force us to write firmware because that would be violating the 1st amendment. That’s speech. Code is speech. Corporations are people. War is peace. Black is white. Right is wrong.
Roberto: 2 plus 2 is 5.
Peter: Soylent Green is also people.
Leo: Oh my God.
Roberto: Why would you name that product Soylent by the way?
Leo: I drink it. It’s good. I should have brought you some. You could have tried it.
Roberto: All right. You should have brought some.
Leo: Next time I’ll bring some in.
Roberto: Yea, bring some in. I’ll try it. Don’t we have Ensure? Isn’t Ensure—
Leo: It’s basically Ensure for young people.
Roberto: Yea, it’s like we’ve got some Ensure.
Leo: I have three or four cases of Soylent at home. You’re more than welcome.
Roberto: (Laughing) three to four cases. That’s the saddest thing anyone’s ever said to me today.
Leo: (Laughing) briefly, I’ve always had the fantasy that you could develop something I call People Chow. Because you can keep an animal alive—
Peter: That’s a worse name.
Roberto: Oh, I’ve got some thumbs today on this one.
Leo: Keep an animal alive just eating the same thing out of the same bag day in, day out for years. Why do we have to cook and menus? Just give me People Chow.
Roberto: Opposable thumbs, that’s why.
Peter: People Chow would be a great name for a podcast show.
Roberto: Oh, yea, that would be.
Will: A cooking show?
Leo: A cooking show. People Chow.
Roberto: People Chow.
Leo: So I thought Soylent was People Chow. I thought and there are people, crazy people who’ve tried to live on this. And usually their hair falls out and bad things happen to their teeth. But I don’t know. I think they say it’s nutritionally complete, don’t they?
Peter: It’s Ensure.
Leo: It’s Ensure. It is. It’s Ensure for young people.
Roberto: It’s Ensure for the kids.
Leo: I’m also wearing adult diapers for young people. So there you go.
Will: But Leo, if you offer your dog a T-bone, would he take it?
Leo: Oh, yea.
Will: Ok, so.
Roberto: What have you been feeding me and look at this. You had this the whole time?
Leo: Oh yea.
Roberto: What’s wrong with you? You’re a horrible owner.
Leo: Is that in the future opening crazy? Bachelor Chow.
Peter: Bachelor Chow.
Leo: Now with flavor (laughing). See the future, I know, I’ve been there. All right let’s take a break. I think we have an exciting short play describing some of the things that happened this week on the network. Take a look.
Narrator: Previously on TWiT.
Father Robert Ballecer: Bryan, do you want to put your hand into that?
Bryan Burnett: Eww, what’s in here? They feel like little eyeballs.
Narrator: Security Now.
Leo: You’re not going to explain it?
Steve Gibson: One way to look at this—
Leo: What was that?
Steve: Is that Apple wasn’t quite clever enough with the security. I’m impressed that the FBI figured out what to ask for.
Leo: We should point out, that you can encrypt and all that stuff, but if it’s a four digit passcode to unlock it, it’s a weak password.
Narrator: TWiT Live Specials.
Fr. Robert: The crew is tired. My feet hurt and I’ve eaten entirely too much ham. I’m Fr. Robert Ballecer, the digital Jesuit with the TWiT TV Network and this is the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.
Narrator: Tech News Today.
Megan Morrone: Reporter Steven Petrone who was hacked midflight while he was writing about the iPhone encryption story.
Steven Petrone: It hacked into my computer through the GoGo Internet Service. I’m the kind of person that always said, “Well I don’t have anything to hide.” But now I realize I have information, data that I want to protect. And I want to control who has access to that kind of information.
Narrator: TWiT. Making the world safe for technology.
Leo: Oh, guys, this is depressing. We’ve got to (laughing)—this is horrible. We’re getting hacked left and right. Ah. What’s ahead? Megan Morrone, from Tech News Today, this week.
Megan: Thanks, Leo. Here is a look at some of the things that we’ll be talking about this week on Tech News Today. The Launch Festival is happening. It’s organized by Jason Calacanis. Launch is a place where startups come together to show off their startup, meet investors and get funding. Jason Howell will be there on the scene with lots of coverage from Launch and calling in to give us the scoop. RSA Security Conference is also next week and it is bound to be a good one now that the encryption debate is so hot, hot, hot, hot. Can you imagine the conversations at the Moscone Center? I’m excited about that. And speaking of that, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have all pledged to file briefs in support of Apple as we’ve heard. So we will sure talk about that next week. Supporters and opponents of Apple can submit their briefs until next Thursday, March 3rd. We’ll be talking about a lot more next week so tune in. Thanks, Leo.
Leo: Thanks, Megan. Tech News Today, Monday through Friday, 4:00 PM Pacific, 7:00 PM Eastern, 2400, that’s midnight right? UTC on TWiT.tv if you want to watch live. And you can subscribe and get it every day and that way you can listen in the morning and have your commute full of tech news. Our show brought to you by Braintree which we love. You use it. This is kind of fun. You may not know it but you’re using it if you’ve ever used GitHub or Airbnb or Uber or Hotels Tonight. Braintree is code for easy mobile payments. And it makes it not only easy, but seamless. And isn’t that the secret of Uber is you’re done with the ride, you get out of the car, it’s paid for. It’s done. You can add it to your app with a few lines of code and instantly you’re able to accept any kind of payment your customers want: Apple Pay, Android Pay, PayPal, Venmo, credit cards, even Bitcoin. And if some other way to pay comes along, well, Braintree will support that too. And it’s very easy to turn on, right there in the control panel. I talked to my old buddy Harper Reed about something called contextual commerce and how that’s changing the landscape of online payment and why it’s something you want to pay attention to. Listen.
Harper Reed: I’m looking for a lamp right now. So I Google it up, image search, I find the lamp I want, I click on it and it takes me to like 5 pages deep and I’m yet to find a place where I can buy it. There’s opportunities for that discovery to be combined, that have the context of purchase. So we see this with Pinterest Viable Pins for example. That’s a really neat opportunity. Actually my favorite one, so if you look at Facebook and you look at Uber, those are two very trusted brands. They’re combining an interface that everyone loves and it’s easy to trust. I just love the idea of just being able to say, “Hey I want a car.” And then the car showing up. It’s that same thing. Like you and I are chatting on Facebook and it’s like, “I’ll come meet you.” I think the key is that the future of commerce is that it is available. And that’s it. That commerce is available at any time.
Leo: And the systems get out of the way. Your customers want it. You want it. You’ll get fast payouts. Of course superior fraud protection. You don’t want to write this stuff yourself. You want the experts at Braintree to do it. And they’re ready to scale with you whether you’re earning your first dollar or your billionth. See fewer abandoned carts. See more sales. Braintree’s best in class mobile checkout experience awaits you now at Braintreepayments.com/twit. Braintreepayments.com/twit. And by the way, to get you started, your first $50,000 dollars in transactions are fee free. It’s easy to use, easy to integrate. They have a sandbox. You can play with it right there. They’ll even do the integration for you if you’re too busy. Braintreepayments.com/twit. You guys know anything—I don’t know where I want to go. Let’s see, I do want to do VR. Don’t let me, Peter, don’t let me forget because you’re still a gamer. Are you excited about VR?
Leo: No? Why not? Aren’t you excited?
Leo: You don’t want to put on—you just said you wanted to jack in. This is the closest thing to jacking in until you get a port in the back of your head.
Peter: I said I wanted a port in the back of my head. I didn’t say I wanted to be all VR-y. I don’t want to have to put in the mouth guard and you know, do the whole Minority Report thing with my hands. No.
Leo: There’s a mouth guard involved?
Peter: Look, you know I see—
Leo: How am I going to barf if I have a mouth guard in?
Peter: I see the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard and all this other stuff and here’s my take on VR. As long as it looks like a toaster is having sex with your forehead, this stuff is not going to catch on.
Leo: (Laughing) Did you see, I think you might be right. Did you see LG? They look kind of like steam punk googles. Because they have the screens built in and then the phone connection is down there. Maybe that’s better for you? It’s lighter?
Peter: You know I’ve got a million dollar idea. I’m just trying to talk somebody into it. I’m workshopping it a bit. But my idea is auto tune but for your personality.
Leo: No, come on. You would like to wear these, wouldn’t you? Look at this. This is styling. It’s attractive (laughing). It doesn’t look like a toaster. It’s more like—
Peter: It looks like Cyclops on the weekend. This is like casual wear for Cyclops at Professor X’s home for mutants.
Leo: That is a little mutant isn’t it?
Roberto: Casual Friday.
Peter: It really is. Ok, hey, he looks like Bender. It looks like Bender’s eyeballs.
Will: Oh, you could have eyeballs on the end.
Leo: Oh, yea that’s what they should do. Just draw in your eyes.
Roberto: Put little googley eyes then while you’re doing stuff the eyes are rolling around.
Leo: People think you’re looking at them.
Peter: Actually just one big one. One big monster Cylclops eye.
Leo: Cyclops eye.
Will: Guys, go look at my Twitter avatar, Will Oremus on Twitter. It’s actually—there you go. Wow that was quick.
Roberto: Oh, there we go. Boom. Genius.
Leo: You have the patent on googely eyes on an Oculus Rift.
Will: I do not. That is actually—I took, that was an Oculus selfie that I took—
Roberto: Hold on. I’m on the patent department site. Just give me a second.
Will: Stanford virtual reality lab which is where legend has it, that’s where Mark Zuckerberg went and got so excited about virtual reality that he was like, “We’ve got to buy Oculus.” That’s where it was and they had that there.
Leo: It’s the new Origin myth. Steve Jobs at SRI, now Mark Zuckerberg at Stanford. This is where it all began. We’re building a massively expensive computer just for the Oculus Rift and now you’re telling me it’s not going to be good? It’s going to look like a toaster is mating with my forehead?
Roberto: I’m never going to stop thinking about that.
Leo: I can’t get that out of my mind. Curse you, Peter Cohen.
Peter: My work here is done.
Leo: (Laughing) Well that was a short conversation. You’re not going to get a lot of juice out of VR now. Will, did you enjoy it when you were there at the Stanford lab? Was that cool?
Will: Yea, it was actually really cool. It kind of blew me away. But I should say that what they have, the setup that they had there, this was a couple of years ago, the setup that they had there at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab was you know, is not what you’re going to put in your living room. You stand in a room and there are sensors all around the room that are able to track your position in space in the room.
Leo: Oh, it’s the Holodeck.
Will: Well, yea the Holodeck, yea the Holodeck has some capabilities like that and also you know, we read this story about Project Tango, Google’s project that has been billed as an indoor mapping project. But there was a really good article in The Verge recently that was saying, “Look this could really be a VR product.” Because if you have found a way to allow mobile devices to map their position in space within a room without all these external sensors, then suddenly you’ve got the ability to do the kind of stuff that you could do in that Stanford lab where—you know, you could have a person standing next to you in the room in real life and on the screen they would be there too. And you reach out to touch the person on the screen and you actually touch the person’s shoulder who’s next to you. And that kind of stuff really, really is amazing but it’s not the kind of thing that you can just put in a cardboard box assembly kit.
Leo: Yea. You just probably saved me some money because in 14 hours I was going to order the $800 HTC Vive.
Leo: Vive? Vive? Vive? Viva la Vive.
Roberto: You’ll get all sweaty in your face and you’ve got this thing.
Leo: It does look like a toaster.
Roberto: It’s a toaster on your face.
Leo: (Laughing) I’m so bummed.
Roberto: Oh, you should just order it.
Leo: You just ruined it for me.
Roberto: Just like down a Soylent, throw that thing on and live long.
Peter: I want a picture of Leo wearing a VR helmet and sucking down some Soylent.
Roberto: Just living.
Leo: I want to live in the future.
Peter: In a bathrobe.
Leo: In a bathrobe. In a tub. In a tub. I want to be in a warm saline solution.
Will: There was a video put out by Business Insider over the weekend that talked about how while playing in VR may feel awesome, watching somebody play in VR, not so awesome.
Leo: No, that’s the worst because as you know, you look like the Star Wars kid (laughing). You just look like an idiot. Oh my God, this is horrible. We’re watching video right now of this guy. The game, if you’re in the game, man, you’re slaying robots and stuff. Dork.
Roberto: Yea, but think of the great Vines we’re going to get with VR of people like shooting their friends doing VR. Vine is going to blow-up. Twitter’s going to be like, “Yea. We don’t have to invest in VR at all, our Vines are just going to blow-up.”
Will: You guys see that picture from Mobile World Congress of Mark Zuckerberg walking into the room, people all with their Samsung Gear VRs on?
Leo: That was really—
Will: Telling them how it’s the most social device in the world and they’re all oblivious to his presence because they’re all sitting there Wall-E style immersed in their little worlds.
Leo: It was so funny. It was good stagecraft because everybody put on their headsets at the Samsung Event to watch a video and Mark snuck in and they take off their headsets and there he is on the stage. And by the way, we had a couple of people there, they said it was nuts. People were rushing the stage to take pictures. It was like Justin Bieber had arrived in the auditorium.
Roberto: Yea but doesn’t the fact that he snuck in while you were wearing VR give you pause?
Leo: Well he’s the only guy in the real world. The rest of us.
Roberto: People are like, oh, this looks like a nice thing.
Peter: Do we know if he actually snuck in or was he just a VR projection? That’s what I want to know.
Roberto: You just blew my mind again.
Leo: Rich McCormick in The Verge said, “he’s the billionaire Superman with a rictus grin.” (laughing)
Leo: “Superman, striding straight past human drones tethered to machines and blinded to reality by blinking plastic masks.” I like it.
Will: And he’s the one guy who’s not in the Matrix, right? He’s the agent.
Will: But what blows me away is that Zuckerberg thought the optics in this were good. He posted it on his own Facebook page.
Leo: Yea, this is his picture.
Will: Yea, it’s not like a paparazzi photo that makes him look bag. He was like, “Oh, this is cool. Here’s me looking like the one guy who has not turned myself into a blind idiot. And I’ll put that up there.” And of course the press went nuts with it.
Roberto: I’ve already replaced Mark with the Atlas robot walking in a GIF.
Leo: I think this is the photo that launched a million memes obviously.
Roberto: Yea, he’s, yea, yea.
Leo: Can you pull up some of those, Jason? Let’s see, I want to see Roberto’s first, but—
Roberto: I’ll have to look it up. It’s on my Twitter.
Leo: It’s on Twitter. You can find that. It’s easy. It’s on the Twitter.
Roberto: It’s on the Twitter.
Leo: You’re right. See, it’s funny because I looked at this and I did not have that reaction. I thought, “Yea, that’s pretty cool.” So I guess I’m one of the guys in the visors.
Roberto: You’re ready.
Leo: I’m ready for the new overlords.
Will: The connection between VR and Sci-Fi is so strong in our minds, you said Holodeck earlier.
Will: Is it the Holodeck or the HoloLens, right?
Leo: Ah. Oh, there’s Leonardo DiCaprio. There’s the light saber, the red—
Roberto: That’s just weird.
Leo: I want to see John Travolta walk in there going, “What? What was that?” Is he in there? There he is (laughing).
Roberto: There you go.
Leo: What? That’s it. That’s the one. Ok.
Will: I didn’t mean to talk over the memes. I didn’t realize.
Leo: No, but you have to because most people aren’t watching the video so we always have to keep talking at all times.
Roberto: Keep talking.
Leo: Because otherwise—no dead air ever.
Roberto: Ever. Keep talking. Never stop talking with your VR helmets on now.
Roberto: Because we’re going to be talking in your face. We could have this show and then we could have a 3D and then you think that you’ll be in here.
Leo: No. I’ve been planning that. You can look around. You’ll be in – I’m going to have a chair for you. And you just wear the helmet and there’ll be a camera sitting in the chair, but it could be your chair.
Roberto: Just sit across from you like a meal.
Leo: Yea, yea. Like you’re at a bar with us.
Roberto: Like they’re at your house. That’s nice.
Leo: Every once and a while I’ll ask you a question. You can nod or say no. I think that’s—who was it? Was it Samsung? I think Samsung announced a ball camera that’s for that. That’s going to have live streaming to your S7.
Will: Yea, the Gear 360.
Leo: You just put it right there. And then you could be at home watching the show. All you people who came out to sit in these chairs, your butts would feel so much better. You could be in a warm tub with saline solution, bathing your limbs to keep the muscles from atrophying.
Peter: While eating People Chow.
Roberto: Move your arms.
Leo: We’ll get Soylent in the veins. It will be great.
Leo: There’s algae in Soylent. That’s the secret ingredient, algae.
Roberto: Algae? Oh.
Leo: That’s the food of the future.
Leo: It grows in the ocean.
Roberto: Isn’t the ocean kind of getting screwed up?
Leo: Algae, smalgae. Actually, yea, it killed our Dungeness crab season, right? We’ve got no crab because of the algae. Carrageenan. Is that made of algae?
Peter: Yea, isn’t Carrageenan just algae? Or seaweed?
Leo: Probably the Soylent guys are just putting carrageenan in there but just like—
Will: They say algae.
Leo: They say evaporated cane syrup instead of saying sugar.
Leo: Fancy. They probably put carrageenan in it. It’s not—I’m drinking Soylent 2.0 though.
Leo: (laughing) it’s not the original.
Peter: Are you on the Beta?
Roberto: 3.0. He’s growing an extra pinky, that’s the 3.0. Really.
Leo: It’s so much more productive. A slow-metabolizing disaccharide synthesized from beets, aka sugar.
Leo: Vitamins and minerals.
Leo: Some white powder that’s unspecified as vitamins and minerals.
Roberto: And potentially cocaine.
Leo: You’ll feel extra good.
Roberto: Oh, that’s what the 2.0 stands for.
Leo: Damn, I’m bringing some in. Remind me, next time Roberto’s here, I’ll bring him a case.
Roberto: That includes one fifth, 20% of—what is a micronutrient?
Leo: Oh, well you’ve got your macronutrients, that’s carbs, your protein and your fats. You’re micronutrients are everything less than that.
Leo: Like vitamins and things.
Roberto: Oh, vitamins.
Leo: One fifth of all – so if I drank 5 bottles of this, I’d have—
Roberto: But is it one fifth of your daily allowance of all those or is it just one fifth of them.
Leo: A subset.
Roberto: Like you’ll only get like A & B and maybe a little bit of C.
Leo: That wouldn’t be good. No, I want to live on this. It says, I think you can—well, it doesn’t say anymore. It used to say you can live on it.
Will: But then they realized you couldn’t.
Roberto: Well you could but what kind of life do you want? What kind of live is that?
Leo: These people, they’re happy. They’ve got animals. They’re living in a park.
Roberto: I was in college and I lived on Top Ramen. It doesn’t mean it was a good life.
Will: Somebody did like a 30 day on Soylent thing.
Leo: Yea. And his hair fell out I think. It wasn’t good.
Will: It wasn’t good. I think they lost 10 or 12 pounds. They were doing ok nutritionally. They couldn’t handle the monotony.
Leo: It was boring. Yea, it was boring.
Roberto: Does it give you gas with all soy?
Leo: No, you feel great. You grow breasts but you feel great.
Roberto: All right.
Peter: I have kind of a, I don’t know, a unique perspective on this because I had gastric bypass surgery about a year and a half ago and I’ve been basically living on whey protein isolate shakes.
Leo: Really? You can’t eat food?
Peter: Two of my meals a day. I’ve been eating those. Well, you know, gastric bypass patients need to take supplements and stuff like that. So when I hear about people going on an all Soylent diet and watching their hair fall out, it’s like, yea, idiot, you probably should have been taking some biotin or some B12.
Leo: A little bit of something.
Peter: Or how about a couple of Flintstones chewables for crying out loud.
Roberto: You can get the gummy vitamins now. Come on.
Peter: Gummy vitamins don’t work so well for since the bypass but anyway.
Leo: They go right through you.
Roberto: Well see, I’m a vegetarian and I always here the story, I was a vegetarian for 3 months and I was so sick. And I’m like, “Well, what did you eat? Did you eat the same thing every day because that’s the only vegetable you’ll eat?” “It was carrots.” Well, yea, you’re going to get sick if all you’re going to eat is carrots. You’re probably going to turn orange too.
Peter: Are you a damn rabbit?
Roberto: Just some Soylent and some carrots and you’re good to go.
Peter: So yea, this whole Soylent thing, I’m like, yea, ok, whatever, get me another whey protein isolate shake. Yay.
Leo: That’s kind of what this is, isn’t it. It’s probably very similar to what you drink.
Peter: Whey protein isolate’s a little bit different. This stuff’s soy—
Leo: That’s not as good?
Peter: Nutritionally it’s better for me anyway. I don’t give a damn what these Soylent people think. You know, let Silicon Valley be weird. Ok, you want to waste your money on that stuff? That’s great. You know, meanwhile you can go to GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe and you know, stock up on cheaper products that probably work better. And you know, eat a regular at least once a day. But the reason why it’s become so popular, Blue Apron and all this other stuff is happening, is because people have less and less time you know to deal with basics.
Leo: I want People Chow.
Peter: But we’re becoming the Jetsons, right, where George just kind of dumps himself out in the morning and the conveyor belt brushes his teeth and then dumps him onto the car.
Leo: I wouldn’t mind Rosie. She’s kind of hot.
Peter: Oh yea, yea.
Peter: If I Robot came out with Rosie I would buy one in a heartbeat.
Leo: Wouldn’t you?
Peter: That would be so much better than these little trilobites running around vacuuming up the rug. They creep me out.
Roberto: I’m afraid my cat’s going to like puke and then the Roomba’s going to spread the puke all over the house. Or worse, get angry and leave poop somewhere. And just leave a trail, like, “Oh, we don’t know where the Roomba went. We can follow the trail of poop.”
Leo: We have 2 Roombas as well.
Peter: My concern was always that the cat is going to figure out some way to hack the Roomba and then I going to lead it into battle.
Roberto: My cat realized that if he pushed the button on the top of it, it would turn the Roomba on. And he always wants to be fed at 4:00 AM. So he would go to the Roomba and push it and you hear, “Do Do Do, Beep, beep, beep, grrrr.”
Leo: In the early morning.
Roberto: And I would have to go and turn it off and he would be like, “Meow?” And then I’d have to feed him because now I’m already awake.
Leo: This is what my cat does with the Roomba.
Roberto: Does your cat sit on it? I try to get him to sit on it but he wouldn’t. He was like, no, no.
Will: Yea the cat in the shark costume. Where’s the duck? Is there a duck around?
Roberto: And the dog. She’s just like I’m just doing my regular stuff.
Leo: It’s so cruel. There’s a cat in a shark costume. Is this what happened to Left Shark? He’s riding on the Roomba.
Will: Which is the cool part. He’s actually wearing a shark costume, the fact that he’s enjoying the ride on the Roomba.
Leo: Is he enjoying the ride? I don’t know.
Roberto: He’s always on that.
Peter: He can get off if he wants.
Peter: He’s resigned. He’s resigned.
Roberto: He’s not wearing a safety belt.
Leo: The people, they keep feeding me cat chow and I sit on this thing all day. He’s depressed. He’s a depressed cat.
Roberto: It’s like that band from the 80s that has the one hit and he just has to always play that hit when he plays it live, so now he has to always be on that Roomba. He’s like, “Oh, I want to be on the YouTube so I better put the suit on and dance for you.”
Leo: I love that the Roomba bangs into stuff and the cat just sits there. Just another day at the Roomba factory.
Peter: Another day at the salt mine.
Roberto: He almost fell off. He made sure he wouldn’t fall off.
Leo: So he apparently likes it.
Peter: Because he’s like, “Floor’s level. The floor is not level. What?”
Leo: ah, oh, ah, oh, ah, oh, ah, oh.
Roberto: Let’s see if he gets back on.
Female Voice: Alright, that’s it.
Leo: Oh yea. Done. Floor’s clean. My work here is done. Oh wait a minute. Now the dog wants to ride the Roomba.
Roberto: I love that that cat just totally paws that dog. The cat is like, “Get away from me.” He’s like, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
Leo: He’s trying to cheer people up because now we have a story about LA Yellow Cab, their phone lines tied up in a hacker attack and ransom demanded. Since Wednesday. It’s a D-DOS on the phone system.
Will: Uber did it.
Leo: Uber did it. Think so?
Roberto: Maybe it was Lyft? You think Lyft is like, “Everyone will blame Uber if we do this.”
Leo: And then of course the hospital paid of $17,000 dollars in Bitcoin, actually 40 Bitcoin to the hackers who had unaccountably been able to crash the hospital’s system and encrypt it. And now the IRS says, “You know that hack we told you where 100,000 tax returns were stolen by hackers? Yea, it was actually 700,000.”
Roberto: It’s like your social security number, your birthdate.
Leo: Oh, everything.
Roberto: Those two pieces of information right there, we have everything we need to take over your life, to hack into your accounts. And every company, the IRS, we’ll give you a year of credit monitoring. Like when T-Mobile, they were using Experian and Experian got hacked so then they’re like, “Oh, we’ll give you a year of credit monitoring from Experian.”
Leo: Just give us some more information so we can monitor—
Roberto: We all basically have free credit monitoring at this point.
Will: Didn’t we just get off hacking?
Leo: No, but it doesn’t stop.
Will: It never stops.
Leo: That’s why we had to briefly watch some cats on a Roomba.
Will: We need more Roomba cat now.
Roberto: Roomba cat will save us.
Leo: So really this is a dystopian future and it’s already here. We’re in this VR patent—here’s a patent for a power glove like controller. This guy is really mating with a toaster (laughing).
Peter: I love you, toaster.
Leo: New glove based controller. I don’t even know, I can’t.
Roberto: Move your hand around. It’s gestures that don’t work right now anyway.
Leo: I’m really sad about this one. This is another sad story. But SlySoft which for years managed to skirt the law. You know they have a Blu-Ray ripping program because they’re in Antigua. And apparently the long arm of the Motion Picture Association of America doesn’t reach across the Caribbean waters. In fact, there was a lawsuit in 2014. A local court in Antigua found SlySoft owner Giancarla Bettini guilty of 6 charges of copyright violation. They charged him $5,000 in offense. He probably made that back the next day selling any DVD. Anyway he’s out of business. In fact if you go to the website, due to recent regulatory requirements, we’ve had to cease all activities related to SlySoft. We want to thank our loyal customers for their patronage over the years. So for years I did recommend this as your DVD burning, your Blu-Ray DVD burning solution.
Roberto: It was a ripper?
Leo: Yea, it was a really good ripper.
Roberto: This is how lazy we’ve gotten. I have Blu-Ray’s, DVDs on a bookshelf, not unlike what Will has behind him. And I’m like, “Oh, should I watch that movie?” I’m like, “Oh wait, it’s on Netflix.” Or I’ve ripped it already, or I’ve ripped it. And now I’ll just watch it on Plex. I can’t remember the last time I grabbed, let me take this off, and let me take the thing, and put it in the front.
Leo: Me too. Me too.
Roberto: Where do I have? Oh, the PlayStation will do it. Then turn on the PlayStation.
Leo: Why did we even buy those movies?
Peter: Yea, exactly. I can’t remember the last—actually I do remember the last time I bought an actual disk. I was when Pacific Rim came out. I think that was the last disk that I bought. Maybe Godzilla 2.
Leo: I have that Blu-Ray too.
Peter: We should have a video party.
Leo: We should have a party. You start it exactly the same time I do. And we can tweet at each other.
Peter: There we go. And then we can be sad about Pacific Rim 2 being on hiatus.
Leo: Really? They were going to make another one?
Leo: That was a good movie, considering. It was like Godzilla but it, you know.
Roberto: It was a good popcorn movie.
Leo: It was a good popcorn movie.
Peter: It was a good popcorn movie. So yea, I mean you know, the physical media has sort of become secondary so I can’t really—
Leo: I’ve been saying this for years but people always yelled at me, but it’s obvious, right? You don’t even, your computer doesn’t even have a disk thing.
Roberto: I don’t have a computer in my house anymore.
Leo: You don’t have a computer?
Roberto: That has the slot.
Leo: That would be really 21st century.
Roberto: We have an iMac.
Leo: No computers—
Roberto: It’s all VR.
Leo: I just wave my hands.
Roberto: Yea, wave my hands.
Leo: That would be great.
Roberto: I would be so tired. I guess I would be in good shape, better shape.
Leo: I’m going to write an article like this.
Roberto: Working on an article about Apple and the FBI. I got this. Cool. I’ll add a picture. Oh, my VR crashed. I lost everything.
Peter: Oh good I just got another stand achievement from my Apple Watch.
Leo: Did you? It’s 10 of?
Peter: No. I was just kidding.
Leo: Do you wear an Apple Watch? Peter?
Peter: Who me? Yea. But not on my wrist. Yes I do.
Leo: (Laughing). That would be interesting. I’m wearing the Fitbit Blaze. Which is actually surprisingly useful. It’s got a good heartrate monitor. It has exercises built in. You can even see like what your resting heartrate is. My heartrate right now, I don’t know why, is only 67 beats per minute.
Roberto: We’re relaxing you like cats.
Leo: It’s the cats. I swear to God it was 100 a minute ago. It’s the cats.
Roberto: More cats on the internet riding Roombas.
Peter: Mines 81 so I guess you’re exciting me a little bit, Leo.
Leo: Yea. Well that’s because of where you’re wearing your watch. Our show today brought to you by—
Will: Wait until you’re accused of a crime and you’re Fitbit gets subpoenaed and they can look at what your heartrate was at the time.
Leo: Wasn’t there somebody who posted his heartrate when is girlfriend broke up with him?
Roberto: Oh, yea, his heartbreak.
Leo: His heartbreak.
Roberto: In the exact moment of his heart breaking.
Leo: He had a graph.
Roberto: Which is sad.
Leo: So pathetic.
Roberto: I wouldn’t share that.
Leo: Well, anything for a story. You know how it is when you’ve got to file, you’ve got a deadline.
Roberto: You’ve got to file.
Leo: You’ve got to file, baby.
Roberto: I would write, I don’t know, what I had for lunch.
Leo: (Laughing). All right. Talk amongst yourselves.
Roberto: Oh, really?
Leo: I have nothing to talk about.
Roberto: Nothing to talk about?
Roberto: The battery on my computer died so I don’t have anything. My brain is gone.
Leo: Here, have this. Borrow some.
Peter: There’s a Mobile World Congress rundown.
Leo: Let’s do that.
Will: What happened to Facebook?
Leo: What happened to Facebook? You want to talk about Facebook? Tell us what happened to Facebook. Will, tell us, please. Go ahead.
Will: Yea they just rolled out the new alternative to the like button.
Roberto: Oh, yea you can love things.
Will: It’s not just like you’ve got wow and sad and angry.
Roberto: The heart. That’s actually really nice.
Will: That’s actually the most—
Peter: I was hoping for some additional ones like passive aggressive sigh.
Roberto: Eye roll. It needs eye roll. It definitely needs eye roll.
Peter: I mean, angry is ok, but—
Roberto: Angry’s pretty good. But eye roll would be better. Because I get a lot of friends who post “I found a thing that says Obama’s the Anti-Christ and that I read a thing where—“
Peter: A useful thing would be a check Snopes emoji.
Roberto: Oh, a check Snopes. That would be great. That would be pretty awesome. Bill Gates is going to send us all $15 billion dollars if we like this article. Ok, well this sounds legit. He seems to have a lot of money. He is Bill Gates. Why would he lie? Bill Gates from Apple will send you $15 billion dollars if you do this thing.
Will: Peter, I found these.
Roberto: Aw. The sad one is the most apt.
Peter: Sad VR.
Roberto: Sad VR. Toaster face.
Will: This episode is going to be really hard on the audio listeners. There’s little smiles. Can I narrate for them? I feel bad.
Leo: Yea, would you please? Yea, explain what you’re seeing.
Will: The screen is showing these little Facebook smiles but they all have, are those Samsung Gear VR headsets?
Peter: Yea, Gear VR. Yea.
Will: Yea, so they’re haha and wow and sad and angry. But you actually can’t see their eyes because they’re masked with VR.
Leo: So how many of you use these already on Facebook?
Roberto: I’ve used them.
Will: I have too.
Leo: Once. And that was it. It was over.
Leo: Do you use them a lot?
Roberto: Not a lot but I have used them.
Leo: I forgot about it. I’ve been clicking like for days. I did it the first day and then I just forgot. I just click like now.
Will: Well that’s the thing. Everybody was always complaining that the like button reduced everything to either you like it or you don’t. And what if something sad happens, you want to acknowledge it but you don’t want to like that somebody’s grandfather died.
Leo: Right. But they don’t have negative. They have sad but they don’t have not like. They don’t have don’t like. Just sad.
Will: So that’s the question. Is now we’ve got it to 6 emotions right? Now we’ve got 6 little smiles to cover the spectrum of human emotion. What’s more reductionist? When you just had like and it could stand in for anything? You know there could be all these nuances.
Leo: There’s like, love, haha, wow, sad and angry.
Will: And now there’s six of them and you’re—you can’t feel snarky or smug or whatever else you might be feeling.
Leo: That’s all you can do. Snarky.
Peter: Yea but I never feel good saying I liked it when my best friend’s dad passed away.
Leo: But what are you going—oh, I guess you can use sad.
Roberto: But sad seems—if someone passed away I don’t know if I would use sad.
Will: It feels a little weak doesn’t it? It doesn’t feel like quite enough. It’s like it’s one little tear.
Peter: Well you can do the heart, the love. It’s like I’m giving you my love. I’m sharing my love.
Leo: That’s good.
Peter: People are going to start misusing them accidentally, like you know.
Will: But I’m sure I’m not going to want to like it. So instead I would not act on it. And then he would be like, “Wow, nobody really cared that my dad passed away.”
Peter: Joe and Deborah are getting divorced. Haha.
Roberto: I’m just going to start using angry for everything. I’m like, aw, this looks good. I’m going to anger it. People will be so confused. And then how does that work in to the algorithm? Because if you liked certain things—
Leo: Apparently everything’s like.
Roberto: Oh, everything is like? It doesn’t matter?
Will: This is what I wrote about when this happened which is Facebook was really shrewd about how they pitched this to the public. The whole thing grew out of some of those Mark Zuckerberg town halls where he opens it up to questions from anybody around the world. And at two different town halls, Zuckerberg was asked by somebody, “What about the—shouldn’t we have a dislike button?” And he always sort of deflected it. But it gave Facebook, it started that conversation. He was always very coy about it and it would start this conversation about should Facebook have a dislike button. I think that Facebook really has been wanting to do this all along. Because if you look at Facebook’s algorithm, the like button is one of the biggest signals that Facebook has as to how people are interacting with the content on the social network. So the like button, if something gets liked a thousand times to Facebook’s algorithm, that’s goes, oh, this is a great post, let’s show this to more people. But the problem is that the like button doesn’t tell you very much. All it really tells you is that this post was somehow framed in a way that got people to hit like on it. They’re even posting—a lot of people will like a post without actually reading the whole thing just to say, “Oh, yea. I saw that.” Or to send a signal of acknowledgment to the friend or something like that.
Peter: Wait, wait. What are you saying? That people react to things on the internet without actually bothering to do any reading?
Will: I would never say that.
Roberto: It must be a small, small, group.
Peter: It’s a small minority.
Will: But the thing for Facebook is that its algorithm is, they’re always looking for more and finer grained data on how people are behaving on the site. And so as long as the like button was crucial to the algorithm, then Facebook’s algorithm would end up sending these posts viral that people were just hitting like on because the post was somehow framed to make you hit like. Or to trick you into hitting like.
Leo: So they’re going to know the difference now. They’re going to pay attention to sad and angry.
Will: Yea. If they can get people to start using these alternatives to the like button, they will have all sorts of new data that they didn’t have before. And what exactly, how exactly a given post is resonating.
Leo: But don’t they really want dislike? I mean that’s the real—I don’t know how you treat like different. I thought they were going to treat it all as a like. Because I don’t know how you can treat sad differently from a like.
Will: They haven’t said yet. I talked to someone about this. They haven’t said yet exactly how they’re going to do it. They said that for now, all 6 to the algorithm will just register as a like.
Leo: Right. That’s what I thought, yea.
Will: So if you click a sad, it will just show up as a like to the algorithm. But that’s not going to be the case forever. They’re going to start, the algorithm’s going to start finding ways to incorporate this. I pushed them, I talked to the product manager, and I pushed them a little bit on how it might do this. And they were really hesitant to say. “Oh, we just want to get a feel for how people are using it and we really just want to make the experience the best for the users.” You know I’m sure that’s all true, but I speculated a little bit about some ways that they could use this data to improve the algorithm. So one idea is you know when you have a newscast on TV or a show like This Week in Tech, you don’t want to have every single segment be really heavy, right? You want to mix in some funny stuff, some human interest stories.
Leo: Cats on Roombas, yea.
Will: Cats on Roombas, exactly. So maybe Facebook uses this data to try to fine tune your feed. It can do some experiments and figure out what’s the optimal mix of stories that make you happy versus stories that make you sad versus stories that make you angry. Maybe they learn about you over time. You don’t like stories that make you angry. It makes you, you just end up closing Facebook and not coming back. And Facebook’s algorithm reacts to that. And then doesn’t give you stories that make you angry.
Leo: And it does make sense they would love more signals. Here’s a duck on a Roomba by the way.
Roberto: I love that.
Will: I was waiting for the duck.
Leo: This is the same cat with the shark suit but now there’s a duck involved.
Roberto: They’re like all friends. This is a very odd house.
Peter: It’s a little palette cleanser.
Roberto: It’s the best house actually now that I think about it.
Peter: Cat’s like, “Duck you best be out of my way. I’ve got stuff to do.”
Roberto: I’ve got places to go, buddy.
Leo: How can I train my cat to do that?
Leo: Cable TV?
Peter: No, kibble. Like a bowl of kibble.
Roberto: Yes, give your cat cable TV. They love Bravo. Make sure they have Bravo, AMC and ESPN. They like the balls on ESPN. They’re kind of like attack the screen.
Peter: Netflix too. Orange is the New Black. They are so into it.
Roberto: Yea, yea.
Leo: So, you pointed out that there were other choices. There was a yay button that they decided not to use. And apparently according to Casey Newton there was a confused button.
Will: Yea, I didn’t know about the confused button. I should have read Casey’s story. Yea, they had a yay button in some of the early testing. They told me the actually did a bunch of different tests with different configurations. Nobody used the yay button. I guess people particularly outside the United States, people didn’t know what the heck it was.
Leo: Oh. Because don’t we have that inscrutable emoji where the hands are going like this and it’s raining and that’s kind of a yay, isn’t it?
Will: Nobody can agree on whether it’s called raised hands or praise hands. I’ve seen it both ways and it doesn’t make sense either way.
Leo: It’s an inscrutable emoji. And it’s popular. So why wouldn’t they, people use a yay button? Seems like that—
Will: If you’re looking at my theory which is that this is not just about the user experience on Facebook but it’s also about Facebook gathering more data, an inscrutable’s not good, right? You want it to be the opposite of inscrutable. You want it as scrutable as possible.
Will: So they want these to be very clear because you know who else might like this? It’s not just the newsfeed algorithm but advertisers would love to know when they’re advertising on Facebook how people are reacting to those ads. I mean famously the problem with advertising is that you don’t know if it’s doing any good. Or you don’t know how people are responding to it. And there are all these ways you try to measure it. This could be a way for Facebook to be able to tell, to give advertisers access to some more data about how their ads are performing.
Roberto: Because if you didn’t like some of these ads, you just ignored them. Now you can actually go in and say, “Angry. This makes me angry.” And they’ll be like, “Oh, this seems like maybe we shouldn’t have ads with, you know.”
Leo: But don’t you remember Dig used to have you give a thumbs up or a thumbs down ad? And they said advertisers wanted that because they don’t want to show you an ad that makes you unhappy. So that was a useful signal to the advertisers. A thumbs down is a value to them.
Roberto: And they love it and they share it. Every little bit of information they can throw into the giant machine and the machine mixes it all up.
Leo: I know why they didn’t have the confused button. Because everybody on Facebook would use that all the time.
Roberto: Yea. Like half the posts I see are confusing.
Leo: I’m confused. And on Twitter they’re all confusing.
Roberto: Like here’s the thing about Donald Trump. I’m just going to put up anger. Watch. Boom. Angry. Ta-da.
Leo: You’ve got to think that Facebook—
Roberto: Especially during—
Leo: Would somehow use that. So that’s a valuable signal of some kind.
Will: Christina Warren has asked for all responses to her posts on Facebook be the anger.
Leo: Yea I did that for her.
Leo: Yea. I was angry that she even asked.
Peter: I’ll do that just on general principal.
Leo: Isn’t it interesting when you have a billion and a half users that even something as trivial as this has huge impact, potentially huge impact.
Roberto: Every little itty bitty change they have is like—
Leo: It’s like the butterfly effect.
Roberto: Yea. That the amount of data they get every time you refresh or you scroll down or the three second video viewing. Everything is tracked. Now look, it says I watched that video even though I moved away from it.
Peter: Every time you like a video an angel gets its wings.
Leo: Do we think that Facebook’s getting better because of this? Actually the reason I wanted to get you on, Will, is because of that great article on the algorithm that you wrote.
Will: Can you tell, I nerd out on this stuff? I love that algorithm. Because to me it’s this, people don’t even realize it. It’s one of the most complex and influential machine learning algorithms out there in the world. They have these artificial intelligence experts working on how to extract the maximum possible insight from these crude little actions that you take on Facebook. Whether it’s hitting like or how long you spend viewing a given post on your mobile phone before you scroll past it. They look at more and more all the time and the reason is because they want them to keep that algorithm from being gameable. You know if it’s just clicks and likes then you end up with a Facebook that’s very much like the one we had I’d say around 2012, 2013 where everybody is forced to write their posts in such a way that they’re tricking you into either clicking or liking and that is in fact what happened. A direct result of the fact that Facebook’s algorithm used such crude data sources. So the more different data sources Facebook can incorporate into that algorithm, the more difficult it becomes to game and the closer your newsfeed becomes to your own ideal newsfeed of what you would like to see when you open Facebook every day and that’s different for different people. Some people want nothing but cats on Roombas chasing ducks and other people want nothing but serious discussions of—they claim they want to see a lot of serious discussions about politics and news or that sort of thing. Other people just want to see their friends’ photos and why shouldn’t they be able to have a Facebook that’s just their friends’ photos. So Facebook’s working on that all the time in these minute ways. And it’s just amazing the level of sophistication that they’ve already achieved in terms of doing that.
Leo: Without really any change on my part, my Facebook feed got a lot better. Obviously it is doing something to notice what I’m looking at. And I’m not the person that wants all the viral stuff. I want actually—and in fact I get, believe it or not, I’ve noticed of late that Facebook’s actually a really good source for news stories for me.
Will: Yea if you use it that way. It’s all based on how you use it. You know I always hear these people and these people who comment on my story and they’ll say, “I went on Facebook for the first time in 6 months and it was terrible. I hated the stuff.” I was like, “Well, of course. Because the only way that it’s going to get half decent is by getting to know you the more you use it.”
Leo: Yea. Were they fairly forthcoming about how they do what they do? I always get the sense that that’s kind of secret sauce.
Will: It is. Yea their secret sauce. They actually, they were more forthcoming with me than they had been in the past. They let me actually see a little bit of the code of the newsfeed algorithm on somebody’s computer as long as I didn’t take any photos. They were careful. I mean I had to go to the bathroom and someone had to walk with me over to the bathroom to make sure—
Roberto: Did they give you a drug test?
Leo: You’re not stealing anything.
Roberto: They don’t know if you like copy down the code on a piece of paper and rolled it up and then flushed it down to the guy working at the sanitation? Like, “Oh there it is. We’ve got the code, guys. We’re going to fix Google +.”
Will: They didn’t come inside. But to their credit they were forthcoming about and they were willing and they want it to be understood that their real goal here with the newsfeed is to make it better and better so that over time it really becomes sort of your personal ideal newsfeed.
Roberto: I covered Facebook for a really short amount of time and it was, every time I was like I want to know about the newsfeed. And they’re like, “Well, you know, it’s—maybe we can talk to somebody.” And then you would talk to somebody and they wouldn’t tell you anything. It was just like this is kind of—
Leo: It’s kind of like asking Google. I mean they’ll tell you page rank but they’re not going to tell you the deep inside information.
Roberto: Yea they wouldn’t tell me anything so I got tired of asking. Then I stopped covering Facebook and I’m a better person because of it.
Leo: Yea. I find it fascinating frankly. Let’s take a break we’ll come back with more in just a second. Will Oremus is here from Slate Magazine. I call him Uncle Oremus. That way—
Will: You’re welcome to call me that.
Leo: I can remember the pronunciation of his name. Well it’s great to have you. Roberto Baldwin also a senior editor—two senior editors from Edgadget and Slate irrespectively because I did it in the reverse order. And Peter Cohen who is now at Backblaze where he writes about technology and backup at that backup company. It’s great to have you all today. Our show brought to you today by Squarespace, the place to make your next website. It is so hard to bring a Squarespace site down because they marry the best web hosting with the best software and they’re very tightly integrated. So when your site needs more bandwidth, it gets more bandwidth. It is amazing. And of course your page always looks great because you’re getting the best designers to start with. And then you customize it. You give it your particular ethos and style. You’re going to get a great website, a blog, a portfolio, a landing page for your business. I use the Squarespace cover page for my cover page. Because it’s a great place just to kind of say, “Here’s 10 images or whatever, any number, that reflect me and say something about me.” And then it links onto my social presence, my blog. It’s all there. And every page is mobile responsive. It looks great on any size screen whether it’s a tiny little iPhone or a giant 70” monitor. You get a free custom domain with your annual purchase. You can power your business with Squarespace Commerce. Each and every template has commerce built it. In fact I love this because it’s built into the template so you’re shopping cart isn’t some sort of weird, kind of hanging thing off of your website, a sidecar on your website. It’s part of it. It looks the same. It’s the only platform that lets you create, manage and brand your store as beautifully as you do the rest of your business and your site. You’re going to love Squarespace. I want you to try it right now free. Go to Squarespace.com and then if you decide to buy, all I ask is you use the offer code TWIT to get 10% off and share your support for this show. Squarespace.com. Squarespace you should. Don’t forget the offer code TWIT. It is well worth it. Well, keep writing, Will, on the Facebook social feed or the news feed. Because I do find it very intriguing. It’s probably the single most powerful social media presence. Although Twitter is always an interesting conversation. And when I get new people on the show I like to ask them, “How do you feel about Twitter?” You all use it, right?
Roberto: I use Twitter way too much.
Leo: But use it for dopey stuff more.
Roberto: Yea, I mean I put articles on there. But for the most part, Twitter is—while I’m writing I have you know, just random things that pop into my head.
Leo: I think that’s better. I don’t like it when people use it as a promotional feed.
Roberto: Yea, I’m horrible on Twitter.
Leo: It should just be your offhand thoughts.
Roberto: I share some stuff and I have conversations with friends on Twitter and sometimes with readers or people who just follow me for whatever unknown reason. I’m a big fan of group DMs. I mean I chat with a lot of people.
Leo: Really? Group DMs.
Roberto: I use group DMs a lot.
Leo: I never knew anybody that did that.
Roberto: Yea, and GIFs. Because I’m a big GIF.
Leo: I didn’t even know you could do group DMs.
Roberto: Yea, group DMs. That’s secret Twitter. That’s where you have like 10 people that you—
Will: Dark Twitter. Yea.
Roberto: Yea, that’s Dark Twitter.
Will: You guys could, props to you guys for using Twitter in a way that keeps it real. I’ll be honest, I use it for self-promotion. I put my stories on there. I feel like the reason people follow me on Twitter, I don’t think anybody really cares what I have to say about this or that. I mean I’m assume they’re following me because they want to see my stories. And so if not, if they were coming there hoping to see the real Will Oremus and get an insight into what kind of guy I am they’re going to be, they’ve probably unfollowed me by now because—
Leo: All you can do is get in trouble on Twitter.
Will: But maybe that’s a good thing because I was thinking about it. Leo, you asked if could call me Uncle Oremus, sure anytime. But if—I bet I could see somebody on Twitter saying, “You know what? Will just endorsed this racist caricature.”
Leo: Yea, that’s racist. Why don’t you call him Little Black Sambo.
Will: That’s true. It is true. And that’s powerful. I know people get frustrated about people calling each other out for politically incorrect things on Twitter, but I think it’s honestly a force for good. Because 95% of the racism, the sexism that’s in this world is unthinking. It’s not, people aren’t trying to be racist. They don’t realize. And Twitter is a place where, when people say stuff that’s racist or sexist it gets noticed. It’s called out. It gets publicized. And all of a sudden we can have an open conversation about that stuff and maybe people can learn from it.
Leo: That’s an interesting take.
Will: So I think Twitter is a force for good in that respect.
Peter: My insight to it is it’s also, it becomes a mechanism for the internet outrage we see sort of perpetuate itself.
Roberto: And then we have the Twitter Pile-on.
Leo: What’s that?
Roberto: The Twitter Pile-on, where you say something and one person’s like, “Oh, this is horrible.” And every tweet which you said somebody else finds it horrible and suddenly you have all these people who are piling on you. And sometimes, if you have a feed that’s full of garbage. It’s just the garbage people, and you just constantly tweeting garbage then ok, that’s. But if you’re, something’s taken out of context, like the rest of your feed is fine, and then you make this joke or you make this observation that isn’t politically correct or does sort of hit home for somebody else out there, suddenly you’re being villainized because you said this one thing that they found offensive. Which in reality you might just be, you might be a pretty nice person.
Will: Well I wish we could get to the point where you can be condemned for what you say and people could point out the way you said it was offensive. And we could all talk about that. But we could recognize that look, everybody in the world is going to say things that are offensive sometimes. And I think the real problem is the rush to condemn the person as opposed to what the person said. And I think that gets magnified because Twitter is your public face a lot of times. Remember the woman who was, she worked for the Daily Beast or something? She was in PR. And she got on a place to South Africa and she was from South Africa. But she had tweeted a joke that a lot of people probably rightly found offensive before she got on the plane. By the time she landed she had been fired already. It moves that fast. So what if we didn’t fire her? What if we were able to point out that this was offensive without deciding that the person is a horrible person. That would be nice I think.
Leo: Every time somebody says Twitter’s dead it comes back and show its value. Tonight’s the Oscars. I’ll absolutely have a live feed flowing through my screen.
Roberto: They’re doing the red carpet right now on Twitter.
Leo: You can tell, right? You see the pictures. I saw yesterday a very powerful series of tweets, about 20 tweets form a public defender calling out a cop for lying about his client. And I think that that, you know, it’s not what Twitter was designed to do. That would normally be a blog post or something. But it really worked. And it got a lot of people’s attention. You don’t have to look much farther than the Donald Trump campaign. Now it’s interesting because one has to think that Trump supporters are not particularly bit Twitter users. But yet he has used it so effectively. And because the media watches his feed and repeats his tweets, those tweets become much more public than they would normally, right? He’s using it very effectively.
Roberto: Yea if he had a Tumblr page, we wouldn’t know.
Leo: We wouldn’t know.
Roberto: We wouldn’t know any of it because it’s out. It’s Twitter. It’s so easy. The barrier to interact with individuals on Twitter is so low. All you do is follow. One button, that’s it. And you don’t even have to follow someone. You can just get retweets. I don’t follow Donald Trump but I’m pretty sure I see every tweet he’s every sent.
Leo: Any controversial tweet for sure.
Roberto: Yea. Which is every tweet he’s ever sent.
Peter: Trump has a Tumblr and it’s all furry porn GIFs.
Leo: (Laughing). You know, you can say that but it won’t hurt the man.
Roberto: That’s true.
Leo: It just bounces right off. It’s amazing. He actually did—so he’s abandoned Apple. He was tweeting with an iPhone and now he says we have to boycott Apple because of the FBI thing. So apparently he’s using a Samsung.
Roberto: Oh, let’s find out today.
Leo: Or as people—but you have to check, right, because you don’t know. Actually Twitter no longer puts that on there.
Roberto: You have to use—
Leo: TapBot or somebody will do that? He did delete some poorly spelled tweets. And then there was a lot of fun at his expense including I think it was Merriam Webster, the dictionary, which I know, I had to try every possible combination of Donald Trump to find him. It’s real Donald Trump.
Roberto: The latest tweet. Twitter for iPhone, his last tweet only 25 minutes ago.
Leo: For iPhone?
Leo: He’s given up on the boycott.
Roberto: Well then someone was arguing with me that his tweets—well, he doesn’t do all of his tweets. His team does tweets. And like so everyone should boycott Apple except for his Twitter team? They’re like, “Oh, shut up.” I’m like, “Ok.”
Leo: That doesn’t mean, it’s foolish to ask for consistency. That’s not the point of any of this. That’s right. He is a Twitter candidate. He was made for this medium, don’t you think?
Leo: Quick sound bite, moving on, it’s done. Next thing, next thing, next thing.
Roberto: Massive crab. Twitter for iPhone.
Will: Just put out a tweet for Leonardo.
Leo: That’s the bear mauling Leonardo and his Golden Globe as he tries to reach the golden statuette as we know as Oscar.
Will: It’s labeled “It’s so close.”
Leo: He’s going to win. There’s no way he doesn’t. You don’t get mauled by a bear, or as somebody pointed out, a guy in a blue suit who will later be CG-ed into a bear and not win an Oscar.
Roberto: You don’t get mauled by blue people without winning an Oscar.
Leo: That’s Oscar material.
Roberto: It was a big upset when the Smurfs movie didn’t win anything.
Roberto: Huge upset.
Leo: Let’s take a break because we do want to get out of here in the next half hour because, well, we’ve got a show to watch. Chris Rock will be onstage in just a few minutes. Our show today brought to you by my doorbell. Where’s my doorbell? Here’s my doorbell. It’s actually attached to my door but this is a reasonable facsimile of the Ring Video Doorbell. You talk about the internet of things. This is interesting. They do this right. So I didn’t know this but you remember there was an article published about the Ring Video Doorbell that a security researcher said, pointed out you can remove the doorbell, hack it, get somebody’s Wi-Fi access point and password and then put it back on. Of course I’d have video of you doing that, I should point out if you do that. But Ring was notified before this went public and fixed it. They pushed out a—so this is exactly how IOT needs to be done where you can update it immediately, directly from the factory. The Ring Video Doorbell is a very clever idea. It’s a doorbell that takes over from your old one. If you’re like me, you probably have a silly old kind of dopey doorbell that rings a chime in the house. It was easy for me. Just a couple of screws. Remove that. The nice thing is the Ring Video Doorbell comes with all the tools you need including things you might not need but it’s nice to have like a drill bit and this special screwdriver with a special torque bit on one end and a Philips on the other. A level so you can mount it looking beautiful. You replace the two wires coming out of your door jamb, comes through this plate. You replace the old doorbell with the Ring Video Doorbell and now this is awesome. You hook it up to your Wi-Fi. It will ring your phone, your tablet, wherever you are, anywhere in the world when somebody rings your doorbell. And you can talk to them. There’s a speaker and a microphone in it. So I can say, “Hey, I’m in the shower. Leave the package please. Oh, please, you know me, Ted, my UPS driver. I can’t come out right now. Please leave it.” And he’ll leave it. You can watch the package, make sure nobody steals it because it also has a motion detection on it. You can—it’s really awesome. And I have a record on my phone of everybody’s who’s come and left my house. I just love this Ring Video Doorbell. $200 bucks. We’re going to get you expedited free FedEx shipping if you use our offer code ring.com/TWiT. Ring.com/TWiT. I found so many uses for it. When my daughter comes in at 3:00 in the morning I know. I can tell who’s at my door, who’s in my home. And the nice thing is you’re actually going to thwart burglaries because it turns out about 95% of home robberies happen in the daytime. Bad guy comes to your front door, rings the doorbell. If you don’t answer, he goes around back, breaks in. Now you can answer. And you have crystal clear HD video of them as they run as fast as they can away from you. Works with iOS and Android and I love it. I love my Ring Video Doorbell. And you will too. By the way even if you don’t have a wired doorbell you can use this because it has a built in battery that’s good for a year. Like mine are rechargeable. Ring.com/TWiT. Let’s see, all right. We’re down to the dregs here, the last few stories. I know, that’s not exactly an incentive to stick around.
Roberto: SpaceX aborted their rocket launch.
Leo: I heard that. That was going on right now. So if you, if you watch TWiT live and didn’t watch the space launch you didn’t miss anything.
Roberto: You didn’t miss anything. So everybody wins.
Leo: It’s just sitting there.
Roberto: Except for the SpaceX people. I’m sorry. Space is hard, man.
Leo: Kind of a revolt in Wikimedia. Remember the story a couple of weeks ago, that Wikimedia, the foundation that runs Wikipedia was going to do their own search engine that was commercially clean, right? Turns out it wasn’t quite the real story. And now the executive director of the foundation has had to resign. I wasn’t following this but there’s been a severe revolt going on in social media and Wikipedia mailing lists. Lila Tretikov basically has been accused of lying to the community about this search engine. According to leaked internal documents, they wanted to do a Wikimedia Knowledge Engine that would have been the internet’s first transparent search engine completely free of commercial interest. Many within the community did not want to do that. So the folks on the board said, “Oh, no, no, no. It’s not that. It’s just going to be a search engine that will lead people to Wikipedia, be a better search for Wikipedia.” Many in the community were furious according to this article in Motherboard that the details of such a large project had been withheld by an organization that prides itself on radical transparency. The public story that they weren’t working on a search engine was directly contradicted by a grant proposal they made to the Knight Foundation. And now the director has gone. I love, I give them money every month. I love Wikipedia. I’m very grateful. I think it’s a perfect example of what the internet can do when people get together kind of pro-bono to do great work. But a little trouble there in paradise. It’s unfortunate. YouTube has now a team to protect, to minimize copyright violations. Actually really what it is to prevent content ID from incorrectly penalizing their best content creators. They’ve been complaints, a lot of complaints from some of the top channels on YouTube that they’ve been losing money, they’ve been losing revenue, they’ve been losing hits because of content ID pulling these things down automatically. It happened to us for a long time. Because this is a news show so through fair use we’ve used a cat on a Roomba, which was a YouTube video and could theoretically get pulled down. We always appeal that on fair use grounds and they always reverse it.
Roberto: But the fact that they be reminded every time.
Leo: Yea, every time. Here’s a dog dressed as a hammerhead shark. The cat dressed as a great white shark. And the duck dressed as a duck.
Roberto: That’s a really good costume, that duck.
Leo: (Laughing) it’s very believable.
Roberto: It’s amazing. I feel like they’re really cheap. Like they spent all the money on the duck costume.
Leo: I feel like they need the Roomba because there’s so much animal poop on the ground. There must be.
Roberto: No but that would just drag it around the house. That’s my fear.
Leo: Yea, you’re right to worry about that.
Roberto: We gave our Roomba away.
Leo: We have two Roombas and all they ever do is pick up cat toys and break (laughing).
Roberto: They flip over and burst into flames.
Leo: They get like 5 feet. Or it’s unfortunate but somehow we’ve managed to purchase a lot of furniture that’s just high enough for the Roomba to get wedged underneath it.
Roberto: Oh, yea.
Leo: And then it makes loud sounds in the middle of the night because the Roomba, unfortunately when it runs out of battery, it’s supposed to go back and recharge. It runs out of battery. It doesn’t go back and recharge. And then it resets its clock. So it always goes off now at 2 in the morning. And it starts going (banging on desk).
Peter: Whatever you do, don’t set your Roomba’s date to 1970.
Leo: It’s a UNIX problem. It’s a UNIX Problem.
Will: I suspect there’s a business back story to Google doing this because they are terrified of Facebook Video. You know Facebook has, you know, one of those algorithm tweaks they have made so that if you post a video natively on Facebook, it can go viral so much faster than anything YouTube could ever hope to do.
Leo: It really is true, yea.
Will: And so Facebook has been gaining tremendous ground on YouTube sort of quietly through its native video efforts. But one of the edges that YouTube and Google still have is that Facebook has gotten a really bad reputation for people pirating other people’s videos. You know they call it free booting. You know you take somebody’s YouTube video, you rip it and you repost it on your Facebook page and it goes nuts and helps your business out. So Facebook has gotten sort of a bad rap with a lot of people who create videos for a living. And I think, I would read this, I could be wrong, I would read this as Google trying to bolster its standing with those creators and make sure that they stay loyal to YouTube because you know, if YouTube is pulling down their videos for content ID, for mistaken content ID violations, then you know, maybe they reconsider. Maybe they do go over to Facebook instead.
Leo: I think you’re absolutely right. And I want to thank you for bringing it back to Facebook once again.
Will: I can bring anything back to Facebook.
Leo: No, but I think you can look at a lot of Google’s moves as a response to Facebook, absolutely. As with Twitter. Facebook is rapidly becoming the 800 pound gorilla.
Roberto: I wish Facebook videos were easier to share. The YouTube videos are so easy to share. You just like click here, click there.
Leo: You don’t just press a share button?
Roberto: Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s working. I’m like, what, am I being AB tested? What’s happening here on Facebook? When you’re inside that Facebook internet—
Leo: I can share inside the Facebook Universe.
Roberto: Yea, inside. But once you get outside of it, it’s a mess.
Leo: But outside of it, no, you’re right.
Will: Hey, try sharing on Twitter.
Leo: No, you can’t. You’re right.
Will: Yea, that’s not an accident.
Roberto: Yea they’re like, “Stay here. It’s cool. It’s warm.”
Leo: It’s something to remember.
Roberto: “We have all your stuff. We fixed the like button. Come one. We’ve got Candy Crush in here. We’ve got all those games you like.”
Leo: I really gave up and I just embraced the Facebook future because for instance I was using Telegram, trying to get everyone to use Telegram. I love Telegram. And apparently they now have 100 million users so they’re doing ok. That pales compared to WhatsApp or Facebook. But I finally gave up and now I’m using Facebook Messenger because that’s where everybody is. Why, you know, it’s too much trouble. You just give up. That’s how they’re going to win.
Roberto: Yea. That’s how—Events on Facebook. I use events all the time.
Leo: Why not?
Roberto: That’s how I keep of all my friends’ bands. That’s how I know because they know we have to make Events on Facebook so you’re, all right, and I keep track of them. Like what am I doing on Friday? Oh, I’m going to see this. The groups, the secret groups is great if you have to make groups because everybody’s on Facebook.
Leo: What? How do you—is there a manual where you find all this stuff that nobody knows about? Like the group DMs and now what? There’s groups on Facebook? Oh, you have friends. That’s my problem. I don’t know anybody. So there wouldn’t be any reason to have a group DM or—what is Facebook Groups? What is that?
Roberto: It’s Groups. You can make private Groups, you can make public Groups. Just people talking about shared—
Leo: Like a forum?
Roberto: Yea, like a little mini forum. So I use Secret Groups for—
Leo: What’s Secret Groups?
Roberto: Like for bands. Like I have bands and then a secret.
Leo: Did you guys know about this?
Roberto: We share files on it.
Leo: Have you been holding out on me?
Roberto: I bet Will knows.
Will: Well Facebook Groups have been around for longer than the newsfeed has. Groups are one of the very, very first features on Facebook back when it was only at a few colleges.
Will: But actually there are some really interesting uses. Groups, I mean it’s one of those things like Yahoo Groups, if you’re not a Yahoo person, if you’re not like old and use Yahoo mail and I know I’m demographically stereotyping but Yahoo Groups is an enormous business as well. Facebook Groups is too. And actually I was talking to somebody the other day who was telling me that in a lot of countries where there isn’t, where EBay isn’t a big thing, Facebook Groups are the big sit where people buy and sell stuff. I think in India in particular Facebook Groups are one of the big venues where online commerce happens.
Leo: Where is this? I want to go there. I want to—Oh, there it is. It’s a heading right there.
Roberto: Look, you have a group.
Leo: I’m in the Laporte World Association Group.
Roberto: That’s a Group.
Leo: Huh. I don’t even—oh, that’s my genealogy. A lot of it’s in French so I don’t, I didn’t even know I was in it. So it’s just this heading on the side here and you can create groups or you can, how do you join groups? How do you find groups? Oh, I’m already in a bunch of Groups. I didn’t even know that.
Roberto: You’re even managing Groups.
Leo: I am?
Roberto: You have Staff Groups. Look at that.
Leo: (Laughing) there’s one other person in there. Jason, is that you?
Leo: Are you in my Group?
Jason Howell: No, go to your home page and look on the right side. Go to your front page of your Facebook account.
Leo: Every time I use Facebook I feel like an idiot.
Jason: Now go to your right and down.
Leo: Yea, and down.
Jason: So there’s suggested Groups right there. See the black and white photo?
Leo: Pages. That says pages not Groups. I don’t understand the difference. It’s terminology. I don’t understand it. That’s one problem with Facebook. It’s got a lot of stuff on it.
Roberto: It’s got a lot of stuff.
Leo: It’s got a lot of stuff.
Roberto: But you can kind of make it your own. That’s what I’ve done with Facebook. And it works really well for me.
Leo: So you have Groups.
Roberto: Yea, I have Groups. I have, like there’s a bunch, I have a bunch of Groups right there.
Leo: See I have a—well this is a sad thing. I have Groups and I don’t even know I have Groups and I’ve never visited my Groups. Even though I joined.
Roberto: That’s how big Groups are. Sneaking in.
Leo: At some point I joined Groups and I didn’t even know it.
Roberto: Like a black hole you can’t escape the Groups.
Leo: Yea. All right I think we should wrap this up because it’s not going to get any better, frankly. We tried (laughing), huh, Peter? He’s shaking his head. Peter Cohen Backblaze. Do you like the new gig? You don’t have to leave the house anyway, whatever you do.
Peter: This is true. I get to work from home and working with a great bunch of really talented people so I’m very excited.
Leo: I like Backblaze a lot. Carbonite is a sponsor so you won’t hear me talk about it much. But I think a lot of people use Backblaze. And it was great that they found that Adobe Creative Cloud bug so quickly.
Peter: Yea, they were, you know, I was just sitting on the fence on that one. Just watching them work but—
Leo: How did they know? Because what basically their signal was a lot of customers all of a sudden said, “My Backblaze isn’t working.” How did they know to look for BTVOL and I mean how do they know?
Peter: As I understand and I’m not speaking on behalf of the company, I’m speaking on behalf of a user because I had Backblaze installed in Creative Cloud. But my experience was pretty consistent with what I think a lot of our other customers saw which was at some point right after the Adobe Creative Cloud update was deployed, all of a sudden we started getting an error message from Backblaze saying, “Hey, this directory is missing so your backup has stopped.” And the support department figured it out almost immediately. They knew what was going on. And actually posted a work around very quickly.
Leo: That’s impressive because they had to figure out not only what was going on, but where, but what was going wrong. I mean who was deleting that file?
Peter: Right, exactly. And then you know once we narrowed it down to Adobe Creative Cloud, we pulled them into the discussion as well and we got a whole bunch of their customers talking about it. So you know, it was just kind of an interesting thing they way that it unfolded.
Peter: But we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the right solution. What’s heartbreaking is hearing from folks who found out that we knew what was going on and had identified the problem only to find out that they weren’t CrashPlan users, or Crash Plan users, Carbonite users, Backblaze users, or even Time Machine users. People who didn’t have any backup whatsoever and they lost their files permanently. And as far as I know there was no way for those folks to recover. But you know for our customers at that point weren’t affected by it.
Leo: Thank you, Adobe. Thank you, Adobe.
Peter: Well, look. Stuff like this happens. We’ve seen stuff like this happen with Apple before. And it without being didactic about it, I think it goes to the importance to making sure you’ve got a viable backup of your stuff.
Leo: And maybe more than one. Like a variety of different places, that kind of thing.
Peter: Yea. I like to tell my customers that if you’re only backed up once, you might as well not be backed up at all. You know, try to have 2 backups.
Leo: Thank you for being here, Peter. Great to see you again.
Peter: Thank you, Leo. Always a pleasure.
Leo: Thanks to Will Oremus, Oremus. Gosh darn it. I’m sorry, Will.
Will: I took away your pneumonic device and now you’re lost again.
Leo: Gosh darn it. Dag nab it. Will Oremus, he is Senior Technology Writer for Slate. Does a great job and I read you regularly. I really always wanted to have you on the show so I’m glad you could join us. I hope you come back. It wasn’t too horrible.
Will: It was great. The only horrible thing was that I made some factual errors. Can I correct one right now?
Leo: Please do. I do it all the time and it’s a good thing to correct, yea.
Will: I mentioned India as the country where people were using Facebook Groups to buy and sell stuff. It’s Indonesia is the country where Facebook has said people are doing that.
Leo: Easy mistake. They’re both in the Pacific.
Roberto: Did the hanger tell you that? Did the hanger behind you go “It’s Indonesia.”
Leo: Roberto, you’re so bad. I love the hanger.
Will: No, it was on that chart that’s behind me.
Leo: (Laughing) they found the map.
Roberto: It’s a map.
Leo: I found the map. Will, great to see you. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
Will: Thanks a lot. It was fun.
Leo: Thanks to Roberto Baldwin. I am really sorry about the whole Volt thing.
Roberto: Oh, it’s fine.
Leo: He drove his Chevy Volt all the way up here. I was all excited because I thought it was a Chevy Bolt. Easy confusion.
Roberto: Yea, it’s confusing that they would name two cars Bolt and Volt.
Leo: Bolt and Volt. Anyway, thank you for driving it up here. It’s a nice car.
Roberto: I would have driven it up here anyways.
Leo: I don’t reject you or your car.
Leo: I just didn’t think it was a –
Roberto: As long as you don’t reject me I’m totally fine. Just reject the car.
Leo: Well, come back because we have a great time and I appreciate you being here. Roberto of course Senior Editor at Engadget. Thank you all for being here. We love doing this show and we hope you’ll come back and do it again with us every Saturday, I’m sorry, Sunday afternoon, 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern, 2300 UTC. We gather together to talk about the tech news. I promise we’ll only talk about Apple and FBI a few more years. And then we’ll move on to something else. It’s one of those, it’s like the DOJ Microsoft thing. Will, you’re too young, but man, that’s all we could talk about for a year it seemed like. If you can’t watch live, you can always be in the studio by the way. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. We love having a live studio audience. Thank you all for being here. And you can also watch after the fact on demand audio and video, always available on our website TWiT.tv, wherever you get your podcasts of course the TWiT apps. They’re everywhere. Roku and we now have I think 5 apps on Apple TV. We didn’t write any of them. Thanks to our fans who were also great programmers. We appreciate it. We’ll see you next time! Another TWiT is in the can. Bye-bye.