This Week in Tech 635 Transcript
Leo LaPorte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech. Great panel for you! Ben Parr's here. Christina Warren's back. Mikah Sargent from Mobile Nations. We're going to talk about addictive algorithms. Is it your fault or Facebook's fault? Google's moved towards Bluetooth ear buds. Is it the end of the headphone jack? And another IRS Equifax story that's just going to make your head spin. It's all coming up next on TWiT!
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech. Episode 635, recorded Sunday, October 8th, 2017.
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It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show where we cover the latest tech news. We have assembled an odd panel today. I think this is going to be very interesting. To my left, Mr. Ben Parr, author of Captivology, the science of capturing people's attention. I first met Ben when he was at Mashable.
Ben Parr: Yep.
Leo: You left very kind of famously. Left Mashable to pursue…
Ben: Investing startups.
Leo: And how's it going?
Ben: It seems to be doing well.
Leo: Octane.ai is your new thing. What is that?
Ben: It is a company that lets you communicate with your customers over Facebook Messenger.
Leo: You were showing me.
Ben: L'Oréal uses it.
Leo: L'Oréal or famous people.
Ben: Yep, like Maroon 5 and 30 Seconds to Mars. So I went from this like journalism to investing to the book to the startup. So I kind of do a lot of things.
Leo: I think a lot of people in tech journalism look and feel like we're on the sidelines watching all these people make billions of dollars. And I think there's not a few of us… I do not have this problem. But who say I want to do that! So you do see people sometimes leave and maybe not for the money-I don't think you did it for the money-but to do it because I want to make something. I want to be in the battle instead of watching the battle.
Ben: So Mashable was an accident for me. I was studying entrepreneurship in college and took entrepreneurship courses at North Western in Chicago and then I moved out and just got lucky with the Mashable thing happening. I got recommended, I got articles, I got to join Christina.
Leo: Ladies and gentlemen, Christina Warren's here! This is odd too because we haven't talked to Christina since she left publishing, writing, journalism, and became a Microsoft-y. Senior Cloud Developer Advocate at Microsoft. And now a big super star on Channel Mind, Microsoft's in-house TV system.
Christina Warren: Yea.
Leo: What do you do?
Christina: So it's new actually. The first three or four months I was at Microsoft I was a Senior Content PM on a product called Microsoft Virtual Academy which is free online training in a variety of subjects targeted to developers and IT pros. And as of last week I'm now on the Cloud Developer Advocate team which is a new team at Microsoft. We basically sit between PMs and I guess what you would traditionally call evangelists. And the idea is basically for us to communicate with the public. They've hired a ton of really smart people from the community and within Microsoft to find out from customers, ‘what's the stuff you need? What's important to you?' Listen to their feedback and be part of the community. And then bring that stuff back to the people who are actually making the products. And then my role as I'm working a lot with the video teams, Channel 9, and the Docs team, I'll be creating a lot of videos for Channel 9, going to events, also maybe working with some of the other Cloud Developer Advocates to visually bring stuff out there. So that's my new job.
Leo: So how is it working at Microsoft? From within now, you're seeing it from within. Is it what you imagined or is it different from what you imagined?
Christina: Well I didn't really have a lot of… I wasn't really sure when I started, when I got the job offer, I got the first feeler ‘would you be interested in this?'
Leo: So they approached you? They head-hunted you?
Christina: Yea they head-hunted me. I'll be honest, I don't know if I would have been confident enough to even think oh with my journalism background I can be a PM and I cannot have a role that's in COMs or in marketing. Not to say that there's anything wrong with those. And people who do that stuff are incredible. But I always thought if I wasn't going to be doing something like that then I wouldn't have a place to fit at a bigger tech company. And so when they approached me and I kind of learned more about my first role and now that I'm in my new team kind of learning about what I was doing. I was like, ‘well this is interesting.' When I got to Microsoft what I found was-I saw this as an outsider as a reporter-the company has kind of changed in the last few years.
Leo: No kidding.
Christina: New CEO.
Leo: Credit to Satya Nadella for really re-steering the ship and doing what I think a brilliant job of it.
Ben: Deserves some credit.
Christina: He deserves tremendous credit. And I think you see it internally too. Where even people who have been there for a long time comment on it's a newer Microsoft and obviously every big company has their microcosms in different departments and different teams. But the teams that I've observed, it's very different than what I expected. When I talk to people who have worked at other tech companies, a lot of time there's no balance between work life and personal life. And I'm sure that on some teams that's probably true. But at least where I've been and people I work with, people leave at a normal time every day. Which is great to see. And it's not one of those…
Leo: It's not really expected! Nine to five? Really?
Christina: Exactly. Which as a journalist I didn't have nine to five. So it's weirdly that I had to go to work at a big tech company and work for a giant corporation to have an actual place to have free time. It's kind of funny.
Leo: Well so Mikah and I are looking and thinking where did we go wrong here.
Mikah Sargent: Yea.
Leo: We're still stuck in the media here. Mikah Sargent's here. He's Senior Editor with Mobile Nation: sister publication to our good friends at iMore. It's great to have you on. Mikah's been on TWiT many times. I think this is the first time with me anyway you've been on TWiT. I think you were on when I was on vacation.
Mikah: Yes. First time here with you. Happy to hang out.
Leo: Thank you for being here. A podcaster, you do cartoon casts with a woman named Christina Warren.
Mikah: Yes, we're about to make our triumphant return. We've been on hiatus for a little while. But that's about to restart-up as we're getting into the October months. We've got some spooky Halloween stuff going on.
Leo: Is it about cartoons?
Mikah: I mean here's the thing. There's like this stigma with adults enjoying and talking about and loving cartoons. And Christina Warren and I are both like unashamedly in love with cartoons. Bob's Burgers, shows for adults but also the ones that are like for kids. We have the guy who's the voice actor on the cartoons show called Clarence, which is a show directed at kids. We loved it. And we brought him on and interviewed him. And it's just a very official farts meeting episode. And anyway we're not ashamed to proclaim our love for cartoons. So she and I talk about different shows that we've watched when… the older shows, newer shows. Just all the cartoons are all good.
Leo: I realized this when, I think it was you Christina, who had the Louise costume one Halloween. And I thought oh, she's a cartoon fan!
Christina: Yep. I found those ears. I was cleaning the other day and I found those ears. And I was like yep, not getting rid of them.
Leo: No. That's recyclable.
Mikah: There's going to be a movie now soon.
Leo: Bob's Burgers? Really?
Ben: Oh yea, I did just see that.
Leo: Oh how exciting. Anyway the reason, this is kind of an idiosyncratic panel. But everybody knows everybody. It's a thrill to have you all. You're all good friends. Just kind of a little different. Somebody who works for Microsoft, somebody who's a start-up guy, and then me and Mikah.
Mikah: The journalist and the podcaster.
Leo: The journalist, oh God. So I don't know, what do you want to talk about? We could do the traditional thing which is run down nine products that Google announced on Wednesday. And I guess we'll probably get to that. Or we could talk about The Guardian article. I think I'm going to start with The Guardian article. Interviewing a number of Silicon Valley folks who have decided… well they feel guilty. Our minds have been hi-jacked, they say. It features the guy who wrote the Like button on Facebook. Saying that he now, when he gets his smartphone, has his assistant turn on parental controls so he can't install stuff onto this! He says it's dangerously addictive and I'm just wondering, this is Justin Rosenstein. They interviewed a number of people for this piece. And I think this is kind of going on right now in Silicon Valley. A number of people… I remember Steve Jobs said, ‘I'd never let my kids have an iPad or an iPhone.'
Ben: Time frames. Where his kids can do it, can use any device or can't.
Leo: Right. What did Jony Ive say?
Mikah: Jony Ive just recently said something about how we're spending too much time on our phones. I can't remember where he was being interviewed.
Christina: At the New Yorker festival. David Remnick interviewed him, I think it was Friday.
Leo: Tristan Harris, a former Google employee says all of us are jacked into this system. All of our minds can be hi-jacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are. He has been, according to The Guardian, branded as the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience.
Ben: He's a friend. He has been on a role with this. Like the whole article is really going down an area that I did research, which is like the science of attention in a lot of ways.
Leo: Well it starts with Nir Eyal and his Hooked Book. And I've interviewed Nir on Triangulation. He wrote a book that is a road map for how to addict people to your app or website. How to build habit-forming products. It's called Hooked. And he studied as did Harris with a guy at Stanford named BJ Fog. And that's where this all begins. He's a behavioral scientist. And apparently was the first to say we can use technological design to persuade people, to hook people… you were a World of Warcraft fanatic, right Christina?
Christina: I've played it before.
Leo: You never got addicted?
Christina: No, but I know people who did.
Leo: I know many people who did.
Christina: And before that it was EverQuest. People used to call it Ever Crack. But I have been addicted to the stupid other…
Leo: Simpson's Tapped Out.
Christina: Oh yea. I've spent actual money on Candy Crush Saga and things like that.
Leo: It's not your fault because all of this stuff is cleverly designed. I use World of Warcraft as an example because they have all the data. They watch. They know exactly what you're doing. And when you play that game you're playing it online. So you're playing it on their servers. So they know exactly what everybody does. And they can optimize for stickiness. And that's really what's happening. This is timely because Facebook, the Chief Security Officer at Facebook did a tweet storm yesterday saying, ‘you guys don't understand how hard it is…' Facebook is a really good example. I don't think Facebook is doing it nefariously. I think some people do. I don't think they are. I think Facebook optimizes as any company should, for profit. And the way Facebook optimizes for profit is by having an algorithm that designs the news feed to make it stickier. Right? To keep you on it. To keep you sharing and liking. And they have all the data points to optimize it. And I don't think they're paying particular attention to the political or long-range impact on this. I think they may be forced to.
Christina: I think they may be forced to because of all the inquiries coming up. And there are open questions about saying okay if we have certain regulations around the sort of political advertisements that are on broadcast television or cable or whatever. Should those things be extended or should we be at least looking at how they're being put about on online networks especially when so much of the ad traffic is controlled by Facebook and Google. And as you said they have so much information that they can kind of do. I thought Alex from Facebook… and I'm with you, I don't think they are nefarious by choice. You know what I mean? I don't look at what they're doing.
Leo: They're doing what every company does. They're optimizing for profit.
Christina: Totally. I do think his tweets were a little disingenuous. And he's kind of complaining things. It's really hard to get the full story out. And journalists aren't doing this the right way. And as a number of journalists pointed out and as I can say as someone who was a journalist until just a couple months ago, Facebook is a really hard company to get a straight answer from. They always have been, and it's become increasingly more difficult as time has gone on and as they've become bigger and bigger. So it's not just that people don't want to tell the stories. They're reach out to Facebook and his own people won't let him talk to people. Like people would love nothing more than to sit down and have a candid conversation with Alex Damos about how this stuff really works. They would love nothing more than to let Facebook explain things. But the company won't talk. So it's a little disingenuous to say the reporting isn't to get the nuances, right? When the company itself won't actually engage with the reporters.
Leo: Doesn't Facebook guard the algorithm like Coca Cola guards the recipe?
Christina: Of course.
Ben: All of it.
Christina: And Google does too. But I think you can guard the algorithm and can still have a conversation about how things work and about what's actually going on.
Ben: Like on the long term societal impact and political impact, I feel like we're coming more and more to the realization that human beings are easily manipulated by different kind of cues and signals, and different subconscious biases that are hard for us to admit-we can be really influenced by things as simple as… they talk about in the article how changing the notification from blue to red and the notification thing instantly changed how often people clicked the notification button. Small things like that have such major incredible impacts.
Leo: Yea. The Guardian pointed out that you're seeing red badges everywhere now on your iPhone and everywhere because red… that's why all these red dots on the iPhone because red is a call to action. Something to see. Blue you wouldn't react to. But red is a hot color. So they're using it. Does that mean that Apple is trying to manipulate you? No. They're just trying…
Ben: They're optimizing.
Leo: They're optimizing. Here's the problem and I'd love to hear, Alex if you want to be on the show, anytime. I have a huge respect for you Alex Stamos was the Chief of Security of Yahoo when they were broken into for three billion records. But he left because he said Marissa didn't tell me. And now he's at Facebook doing the same thing: CSO. But I do have huge respect, he's very well-respected in the community. But here's the reason people are concerned about this, Alex: it is a mysterious secret algorithm. I would grant you and I think we all agree it's optimized for profit right now. But who's to say that it wouldn't be tuned to do something else? For instance elect Mark Zuckerberg president.
Mikah: Right and I think that's the concern there. And I think when we're talking about sort of the doing this nefariously, certainly not like actively nefariously but through ignorance or through almost ignoring the fact that this has happened. We had Mark Zuckerberg sort of saying, ‘no, no, there was no influence on anything because of the way the algorithm was set up.' And now that's sort of being back-tracked. And we're seeing Twitter too. We're seeing these different bots that existed to spread news from certain organizations, foreign organizations and things like that. So it's clear that the social media networks saying these apps and things like that, they can be used in nefarious ways and if you ignore that or you sort of tend to disagree with the data, if you have the data to back it up, then as Christina Warren is saying, then let's share that data. And if you don't have the data to back it up, then maybe listen to the people who are paying attention to this and who are collecting that data. And say okay, we can't just keep twiddling our thumbs and ignoring this stuff. We have to pay attention to clearly making a huge difference. And we're making behavioral changes to people.
Leo: I also would tell Alex that's the concern, is what the algorithm is doing and why. And what it could be used to do later. He sets up a straw man. Maybe it's not a straw man, saying you guys and the press think it would be so easy to design an algorithm that would find fake news. Well I want to tell you, it's really hard. Well I believe it. In fact I've always said of course it's going to be hard. One person's fake news is another person's rock truth. And it would be very difficult. And so I don't blame Facebook for that. But I do think going back to our original question: Facebook is designed to become more addictive. And ultimately there is power there. And Google too. And that power isn't necessarily being misused now but could be. Could it not? Misused.
Ben: So it does lead to another question, which I'd be curious to what the panel thinks. Both Steve Bannon and Democrats proposed the idea of things like Facebook becoming like utilities. Being more managed or more regulated. Is that a good idea? Is that a terrible idea? Because I feel like that's the course that this seems to be going down in some way.
Christina: Yea, you're not wrong. It becomes an interesting question. I do think that if you do that, want to have any sort of regulation on that stuff, it would have to be treated as a utility.
Leo: You don't want the government to have control of the algorithm. That would be terrible!
Christina: Of course. There's a difference between the government having control of the algorithm and the government putting in sanctions about how certain things can be done. Again, the broadcast networks: that's considered a utility. So there are equal time rules.
Leo: There were.
Ben: Did you see the equal time tweet today?
Leo: There haven't been equal time rules in some time. Did Trump tweet about equal time rules?
Ben: Yea, he did today!
Leo: What does he want?
Christina: He thinks it's unfair how much equal time he doesn't get.
Christina: And then Bob Corcoran tweeted that it looks like…
Leo: The President is optimized for attention. He's exactly like the news algorithm. He's designed for sneakiness. He gets more coverage than anybody.
Ben: Yes he does.
Leo: Maybe it's not exactly coverage he would like or can control.
Christian: I'm not opposed in theory to companies having to be more transparent about how information is collected and about what they're doing with it. But I don't… I'm uncomfortable with the fact that the government is going to regulate a service like Facebook or a search engine like Google.
Leo: I don't even know what rules you would make.
Christina: Well we've seen already what's happening in the EU with Google. And Microsoft, my employer, has had to do things too. Where you have to abide by certain privacy standards and rules. And it can make it difficult to operate. And I don't know if that would be a net positive. And also, the current FCC, I don't think would ever approve that. They're already looking at basically dismantling net neutrality and making the internet a utility. I can't see them going a level beyond that which would be to start…
Leo: This is the opposite.
Mikah: Think about the entertainment industry though. The movie industry and also video game industry said oh dear, the government is on its way to come in and regulate us. So here's what we're going to do. We're going to set up these movie rating systems: R, PG, PG-13, etcetera. And we're going to regulate it ourselves and we're going to be very forward about that. And the government said okay, we can keep our hands off. That's what I want to see these different companies do. For them to take care of it themselves.
Leo: That's what's going on right now, isn't it? I mean that's exactly what's going on right now. Facebook is finally cooperating with Congress after months-and Twitter-of denying, Facebook denied that they had any influence from Russia. That Russia bought any ads for months. And then finally said here's a few thousand. This was on 60 Minutes last, or actually is it, it says October 6th… Trump Campaign Director Brad Parscale talking with Lesley Stahl, I guess it will be on tonight, said that Facebook and Twitter by the way, and Google, embedded employees in the Trump campaign to help them maximize their effectiveness. Furthermore, he says, now I'm not surprised that they're the first, of course if you're a big customer and spending a big company on advertising, Google will help you. They'll send a sales person. As would Facebook.
Christina: I agree. I think that saying embedded is a little bit off, right? Because what it is that you're a big customer and they're doing what they can to make sure that your buys are affecting… it's not the same thing as saying we're actively working… no, you're just making sure that…
Leo: Parscale said they better be Republicans. And he screamed to make sure they're Trump supporters. That I don't credit. That's BS. So that's not surprising though.
Ben: I think he would have tried.
Leo: He would have tried. Yea, yea, I'm a supporter. I'm a Republican.
Ben: This is a practice that these companies have done for a while. I had a friend who was one of these people, like a liaison to one of the big campaigns.
Leo: I'm sure they did the same thing for the Clinton campaign.
Ben: Oh yea, they totally did.
Christina: Of course they did.
Leo: If they bought enough ads, they're going to come help you. They want you to buy more ads.
Leo: So Alex, come on the show. Alex, I'd love to have you, love to hear your point of view. I think you're wrong about assuming the press doesn't understand how hard it would be to detect fake news. There's a big drum beat that Facebook should detect fake news. I agree that's a very difficult thing to do. I don't even know how you would approach that. Facebook is putting a more info button now on articles where you can find out more about the source. Which I think is a good start. That's a safe, fair start. Part of the news feed update, they're going to give you context when you click a button, you'll see information from the publisher's Wikipedia page, a link to follower the publisher's Facebook page, and other links that might be related. You know what else I'd like to see Facebook do, and they haven't done this yet, they have given Congress those Russian purchased ads in the campaign-it seems very simple for Facebook and I'm not sure why they wouldn't do this: to have a database of all the people buying ads and all the ads they bought. Because part of the problem is these are dark ads. When Russia buys an ad, only the very specifically-targeted people see them. And not the rest of us. So we don't know what influence is trying to be exerted. That would be easy for Facebook to do. I think that Congress needs to at least suggest they do that. Maybe they'll do it voluntarily.
Mikah: That first thing, the more info button, the context, all that kind of stuff: I'm going to be a mean press person right now and say I think those are good ideas and they are direct solutions I can offer, but I think for the most part those things are a tiny bit an empty gesture. And the reason I think that is because you can go to any… Christina I'm sure you can cite plenty of articles, Ben, we can all cite plenty of articles, where you literally have people asking in the comments of an article something that answered in the article. People read headlines, they maybe read 140-character tweets. They don't click more info buttons. When we were doing data studies to try and figure out how best to optimize our social media posts and things like that, if you have a Facebook post where you have to click that more button, like 98% of people don't even click that more button to see more text. Nobody's looking for more info. They're just looking at that first thing and then they have the information they want.
Leo: And that's the problem with fake news. People are just looking for stuff that reinforces their beliefs anyway. So it doesn't really matter. I don't know fake news is as big as a problem as it was made out to be.
Christina: I think it creates an echo chamber. And it can...
Leo: But that's there anyway.
Christina: You're not wrong. But I think if you start hearing the same things over and over, reading the same things over and over again, your reality can become more dim.
Leo: The point of view that somebody has that watches MSNBC for their news versus somebody who watches Fox for their news. They are in different countries, different universes. Right?
Christina: Yes, but I'm more concerned about people who already or don't already have their opinions laid. So kids who are watching YouTube all the time who now have views warped by YouTubers. Who have certain opinions?
Leo: Do you want PutiePie to teach your kids how to talk?
Ben: There's a whole piece of the YouTube world, there's a whole alt-right section of YouTube that does not probably highlight to most of us. But totally I've seen other ones. And on the other hand there's part of us…
Leo: And there's Islamic terrorist YouTube videos designed to convince people to become terrorists. There's a lot of stuff on YouTube that we don't see. It plays to the people who are already in that camp, I would guess, right? Are they persuasive?
Mikah: They can intensify your beliefs though. You might start out here and as you see these things that sort of confirm the beliefs that you have, you start to get inundated with more stuff and then you're suddenly going down that little route there. And you're super far one way or the other.
Ben: And then you join. You're young and you join a sub-Reddit dedicated to the alt-right.
Leo: Isn't this what Eli Pariser was talking about in his book the Filter Bubble? The way the internet works is it segregates information. And people only hear the stuff they agree with, basically. And I don't' know if this is a difference from the past: Jeff Jarvis says this has always been going on. If you get the newspaper you'd get the liberal or the conservative newspaper. There were always filter bubbles. Where you live, the neighborhood you live in is very much a filter bubble. We aren't really exposed… in fact Jeff says it's quite the opposite. The internet has given us exposure to a broader range of opinions just through serendipity and accident than ever before.
Christina: I think the difference is there were fewer content sources before. So it would be difficult for you to have your entire media diet consumed by one point of view. Whereas now because there are so many different kinds of things and channels that if you never wanted to leave a bubble before, you could.
Leo: And why would you ever want to leave your bubble?
Mikah: To steal wholesale from Georgia Dow, thank you Georgia, the fact is this is confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. And this is the thing, it goes back to our primitive brain. When we were many many years ago hunting in packs and we were small little groups, we had to find the people who were like us. And anything that was different was dangerous because it could mean that we don't get to eat that day. Or that somebody was going to come steal our food. And we have this primitive basis in our brain that still exists. And that's why it's scary to have anything that goes against our beliefs. And there's literal pain in your brain whenever something challenges your very belief system. And so when you see all these things that agree with you, it's like oh this feels good, this is nice. But those things that exist outside, there's a danger to that. And that is why we get into these bubbles because there's so much discomfort involved to expand our viewpoint. So the challenge in being more evolved humans is to fight past that cognitive dissonance, fight past that confirmation bias and let in those other things. And so now we have that opportunity to find new viewpoints and new beliefs. But the fact is you have to take that or stay in your little group and sort of go down that hole and be part of that pack.
Leo: And then the way this takes us back to where we began, these Silicon Valley refuse-nicks who said we created something far too addictive and we think you should turn it off. Is that one way to get out of the filter bubble? Two nights ago, I was up at 3am on Facebook and it got me so angry that I deleted Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter from my phone. It's not like I kill my cow. I still have it on the desktop and so forth. But Apple estimates that we pick up and unlock our phone 80 times a day. That we spend a lot of time doing this. And you know what, I haven't really… my battery life really soared because there's no reason to turn my phone on. There's nothing on here I want to see.
Ben: I have a theory that, we're seeing more and more people start to put implementations to limit the amount of their Facebook or remove their Twitter from their phones. But I also feel like it's a little bit of a privilege. Like if you are high-paid or if you are lucky and your people will still contact you even if you don't check those things regularly then you can do that. But in smaller parts of the country, rural, Facebook is where you talk to your friends. And if you're not there, you have nothing.
Leo: I can do it because I don't like people. So I don't mind.
Ben: My guess is there could be also sociological…
Leo: You're right. Not everybody could do that. Yea, that's a really good point. So what do we do? How do we solve this? These are two problems we have. We have the filter bubble. We have this unified world view and we're not hearing from other points of view. And we also have this addiction problem. Not maliciously, but these companies are designing super-addictive products. What's the answer?
Ben: If anyone actually could answer, that person would also be a billionaire. This is the hardest… the thing too here is it you can't truly blame Facebook or any other company for being evil because this is such a complicated question. With so many complicated answers.
Leo: No I'm stipulating. They're not evil, they're just trying to maximize my profits.
Ben: But I don't have any clue what the answer is and that's hard…
Leo: I think the answer is it's up to us! You got to delete Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.
Mikah: It's self-control there. Whenever the Apple… and I know Google has had this for a long time. So please don't be angry at me for all those out there listening. When Apple came out with the do not disturb while driving thing, I had wrote up a piece about that. And I got a lot of flak. Because people were just like why can't you just control yourself. You don't need to have a setting to turn it off.
Leo: I turn that do not disturb on right away.
Mikah: Right. Because people will… you see that notification pop up and then you're wanting to pay attention to it. Your brain is spinning circles around it. But it is, you have to take it into your own hands. Whether that be like, go see a therapist. If this is something that's seriously something that's enough of a concern where you've got some sort of Facebook addiction or internet addiction. Versus finding a way to get to that self-control. It's all about beating that primal brain I think
Leo: Is that passing the buck, Christina, to say that it's personal responsibility. Keep maximizing profits, it's our job.
Christina: I think it is a little bit. Yea, obviously I think ultimately it's our job to do this. I think the big solution-and I don't know how to do this-you have to de-incentivize people from wanting to take advantage of these things. Which Google has effectively done in some of their other algorithms. And maybe Facebook should do too. When you figure out what dark patterns are existing and what people did to get people to stay addicted in certain ways. You have to look and say is this ultimately helpful or harmful long term. Beyond just is this good for our revenue stream. But I do think it is passing the buck a bit to say well we all should just have self-control. Because these things, like we were saying at the top of the piece, those people in The Guardian story they were talking about: they're using science. And they're literally designing things so that people will be more engaged and will do it. So they'll click more. So that they'll be more addicted. And I don't think you can blame… it would be like blaming drug addicts for taking drugs because they're addicted to them. Part of it is personal responsibility. But part of it are people are on the streets and they're offering it to you. So I think it's passing the buck a little bit. Like Ben said I don't know the solution. I wish I did.
Leo: We do have… the war on drugs is a failure.
Christina: Yes absolutely it is. The war on drugs has been a political movement. Not about really stopping drugs but stopping… anyway I don't want to get into that. I'm not going to do that. But yea, the war on drugs has been a failure. The opioid crisis in particular has gotten worse over time. And I think that kind of shows; I think part of the reason the war on drugs has been a failure is because it's been attacking the victims rather than attacking the source.
Leo: But I think we have tried to shut down the cartels, the cocaine cartels. We have tried to cut off the import of drugs into the United States. You can't do it because the demand is there. The profit is so high.
Christina: That's the thing. The incentivization is there.
Leo: The incentive is too high.
Ben: In other countries they focus on the other side of the issue-I'll try not to make this a drug thing-but…
Mikah: This Week in Drugs.
Leo: But what would be the Netherlands approach to computer addiction? So their solution to drug addiction is to legalize everything. Have treatment centers. What would you do, what is the equivalent for technology addiction?
Ben: Technology treatment centers!
Leo: You know this may be something where there is no answer to this. This may be our future. And I feel bad for our kids who are growing up this way. And it does seem-and this is the point of The Guardian article-it does seem to have somewhat perverted our political process. And that's a cause for concern. But maybe that's just a liberal point of view unhappy with the results of Brexit and the Presidential election in the United States. Maybe it hasn't perverted our political process. I'm just too much of a relativist.
Mikah: Whenever you think about drugs and where we are with marijuana and with some harder drugs like opium and things like that, heroin; these drugs hit the scene and at the time people have trouble. And there's a crisis yes, but we also know more about the drugs. And are continuing to learn more about the drugs. And are continuing to get better at treatment for those drugs. And we're living in this technology boom right now. And so later on down the line when we better understand this, our kids are going to be so knowledgeable about this and they'll go on to be researchers, scientists, and psychologists, and psychiatrists, and things like that. So they'll probably know more about the technology as well and be able to better handle it. Right now we're sort of just like bathing in it. And are learning as we go. Whereas they will have hindsight and things like that. So it may be our future for a while but eventually I think we'll get to a place where either we're all killed because the artificial intelligence has taken over. Or we've gotten better at it.
Leo: It's hard for me not to just get grim and say we're screwed. But these are very very hard things to solve. And no apparent solution presents itself. And yet at the same time, I'm glad we talked about it because I think it's really important, to admit that there's something going on. There is an issue. Tristan Harris, when he wrote in 2013 a memo at Google, he was a Product Manager. It was called a Call to Minimized Distraction and Respect Users Attentions. It spread to five thousand Google employees including senior executives who said, ‘Tristan, we're going to give you a new job. You're our in-house design ethicist and product philosopher.' Looking back here I see he was promoted into a marginal role. He says, ‘that basically was getting rid of me. I got to sit in the corner and think and read and understand.' And that's that. So that's one way a company can handle it. We're going to take a break. When we come back Google is being accused in a big lawsuit of racketeering. Kind of the same kind of thing that Microsoft was accused of in the 90's, the engulf and devour strategy. Talk about that in just a little bit. Ben Parr is here, the author of Capitivology, the Science of Capturing People's Attention. And he's the founder of a new company called Octane AI that helps… you're part of the problem. You're helping make bots! We're talking to the enemy; he's sitting right here!
Ben: Personalized conversation.
Leo: Have you read Hooked?
Ben: I interviewed it for Captivology actually.
Leo: He's a smart guy.
Leo: I think even Nir has misgivings though about how technology is used.
Ben: Talks about it a little bit, about how he's emitting it home in some way.
Leo: Yea. What have we done? It's like Oppenheimer when they invented the atomic bomb. He said now we are Shiva. We've been made destruction. Say again? I have become death. There's a happy though.
Ben: The world did not die though.
Leo: Not yet! Not yet! Give it time. It's only 50 years old, 60… what is it? Eighty years old, the atomic bomb. It's not that old yet.
Ben: I prefer to be an optimist. What I do.
Leo: Also with us: it's great to have Mikah Sargent for the first time. Mikah is of course Senior Editor at Mobile Nations and hosts a ton of podcasts.
Mikah: Too many.
Leo: Too many podcasts.
Ben: There's never such a thing as too many podcasts.
Leo: With many of our favorite people in the world, too. You work with Brianna Wu and Christina and lots of other people. Georgia Dow you mentioned?
Mikah: Yes, yes.
Leo: What's the podcast you do with Georgia?
Mikah: Georgia, Brianna, and Steve Lubitz and I all do a podcast called Disruption. It's sort of like what we just talked about where it gets a little more political. It's tech and the surrounding society basically. And it's a question and answer show as well. So we have people call in with their questions. And we help them out with things. It's great to have Georgia on that show.
Leo: How do you do that? We used to do that way back when with Talk Shoe. We could take calls on the podcast. What technology do you use to take calls?
Mikah: We actually have a number that calls into Skype and Call Recorder can actually leave a voicemail.
Leo: Oh so they leave a question.
Mikah: Yea. We don't do it live. Although there is a-I can't even think of the technology now-but it's made by one of the audio recording something.
Leo: I'd like to do it in real-time. Wouldn't that be cool?
Ben: That sounds dangerous
Leo: It's like calling on the radio. It is dangerous, very dangerous.
Mikah: It would be fun.
Leo: Mikah, somebody in the chat room-Robert Bigelow-says Disruption and Rocket are my favorite on Relay FM. Two of them.
Mikah: Christina is on Rocket. That's a fantastic show. I sometimes get to join Christina.
Leo: Simone de Rochefort and Brianna Wu. That's a great show. You are so good on that, Christina.
Christina: Aw, thank you so much. We love doing it.
Leo: And Christina is here. Christina Warren: film girl now at Microsoft. Where she's in charge of… well she's a Senior Cloud Advocate.
Christina: Yes, I work on the Channel 9 team and do some other cool stuff. Reformed Technology with Christina Warren.
Leo: I had a great experience the other day. This is our ad for Trackr. We went to a concert and I went aw crap I've lost my keys. And because I was wearing a Scotty vest and I had like 100 pockets to put the keys in there. So I looked all around my seat, couldn't find it. Then I went back to the bar and searching all around. And I thought wait a minute, I have a Trackr attached to my keys and there's a button on the phone, in fact I could press it right now-I don't know where my keys are-there's a button on the phone that makes the keys ring. And I pressed it. I was so embarrassed because I heard the sound coming from my coat. And I realized I put it in some obscure Scotty vest pocket. So you must absolutely have to have a Trackr if you have a Scotty vest because there's so many pockets. You will lose it. The Trackr is a great Bluetooth tracking device. They've got a couple of form factors: the Trackr Bravo which is aluminum, anodized aluminum. Very lightweight, about the size of a quarter. I have that attached to my keys. But I also have the Trackr Pixel which is actually phenomenal. I put that on my remote controls because when you press the button on the phone app for the Trackr Pixel, not only does it make a sound, it lights up. It has LEDs all around it. So when I lose the remote control down in the cushions and stuff I can see it. It lights up, I can find it. You will never lose anything again with the Trackr. Trackr is Bluetooth. It's not GPS in there but it pairs with your phone. You can have up to 10 Trackrs paired to the Trackr app on your phone. Trackr's the only one that does this, you can have one Trackr shared to multiple phones. So everyone in your family can have the Trackr app looking for your keys. It kind of has also the best crowd-sourced network out there, the crowd GPS network. That's really their secret sauce. See they've sold five million Trackrs of the last couple of years. That means there are people running the Trackr app all over the world. So here's the scenario: you lose your keys. Let's say I left my keys at the bar. Now it's easy to find it if I left them at the bar because the Trackr app will say the last time I saw them was at the bar. I go there but wait a minute, somebody picked them up at the bar and decided to move to Mozambique. I hate it when that happens. But fortunately, the next time somebody running the Trackr app walks by my keys, the app says oh, those are Leo's keys and sends my app and my phone a ping saying your keys are in Mozambique buddy. That is awesome. That's the Trackr crowd GPS network and it is the secret sauce. Trackr, actually the hardest thing to find at this point is the website. You'll never lose anything again. But the website is a little hard to find, it's at thetrackr-there's no E in Trackr at the end there-thetrackr.com. Use the promo code TWIT, load up your basket. Get the Trackr Bravos, Trackr Pixels. You can get the waterproof Trackr covers so you can use the Trackr for your pet. Great way to keep track of your pet. All kinds of things. And take 20% off any order. Boom! Right off the top when you use the offer code TWIT. And you know what, this one you can tell your friends. Because they'll all save 20% off at thetrackr.com, promo code TWIT. If you're nervous, 30-day money-back guarantee. You have nothing to lose, literally, with the Trackr: thetrackr.com, promo code TWIT. Let's see. I feel like we should do something light after that heavy discussion. Who's buying a Pixel 2? You're all Apple people, aren't you?
Christina: Yea. Although if I was going to get an Android phone, that's probably what I would get. But I'm waiting for that iPhone…
Mikah: Exactly the same.
Leo: The iPhone X or iPhone 8, Christina?
Christina: The iPhone 10. Come on Leo.
Mikah: Yea, come on Leo.
Leo: Mikah, you're waiting for the 10 as well?
Mikah: Yea, yea.
Leo: You know there's only about 30 of them for sale in the whole world.
Christina: Yea, it's going to be…
Mikah: I'll be up.
Leo: Oh we're all going to be up dude! 12:01 Pacific time, October 27th, we're all going to be going refresh, refresh, refresh! No one is going to get one!
Christina: It's going to be like February and I'm still going to be stuck with my 7 Plus.
Mikah: And then I'll get the Pixel 2.
Leo: Or the iPhone… I got the 8.
Mikah: I won't.
Leo: But the 8 you know, in fact people criticize the Pixel 2, the small one, because it had bezels. Now bezels all of a sudden are like the kiss of death. Oh look at the size of those bezels; that's disgusting. The new thing is going to be bezel-free. I have a bezel-less phone.
Christina: You have a Note?
Leo: Better than that. This is the Essential phone. It's even got a notch like the iPhone 10.
Leo: Adorable is the word. They sold 5,000.
Ben: All to you?
Leo: I feel bad for Andy Ruben. I decided I'm going to be contrarian. I'm going to use the Essential phone. It's actually a very nice phone.
Christina: I'm sure it is. You and all 5,000 of your friends.
Leo: Me and my close friends. The only problem with this-same problem with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7, and the same problem with the Pixel XO-can you guess what problem I'm talking about?
Christina: Battery life.
Ben: No headphone jack.
Leo: Headphone jack. What the hell?
Christina: What is up with that?
Leo: What's the story there? It's dead?! You agree with it?
Ben: It's dead.
Christina: I don't agree with it. It's just the number one company in the world got rid of it a year ago and everybody followed suit. So it's gone.
Leo: Nilay Patel said famously it was a user-hostile gesture.
Christina: He's not wrong but it's still dead.
Leo: He made I thought a very good point on the Verge, saying this is just more walled garden. Okay so obviously no headphone jack. Bluetooth headphones, right? But not just any Bluetooth headphones. If you want to get the most out of your iPhone 7, 8, or 10, you get out the AirPods with the W1 chip and Siri. Now Google's doing it. If you want to get the most out of your Pixel 2, you get the-what do they call them-the Google Buds?
Mikah: Pixel Buds, maybe?
Ben: Babble Fish?
Leo: Pixel Buds? It's a terrible name.
Christina: These are cool. The Babble Fish…
Leo: Yea but you want the Babble Fish instant translation, you want Google Assistant in your ear, you've got to use a Pixel. So what Nilay's point is and I think this is well-taken, is that the side effect maybe not even unintentional, the side effect of eliminating the headphone jack is now you have to buy the branded headphones to go with it.
Leo: Big money. $150 for AirPods. $160 for the Google Pixel Buds.
Ben: But if the headphone jack was there, there wasn't an option at that point to get the best experience because of the headphone jack. I don't understand the argument that because it's gone, now there are walled gardens. There sort of always were because Apple may have made their best headphones at the time even when there was a headphone jack.
Leo: At least you could use as I do, etymotic headphones with my iPhone.
Christina: You still can. It's not that pairing is the same way…
Leo: First of all Bluetooth audio quality-I think you would all agree-is worse than wired audio quality.
Leo: Problem number one. Problem number two: even with a flaunted W1 chip, I still get Bluetooth dropping out once in a while, dropping call, right? Because this is wireless. And wireless is adherent. And three now, in order to take advantage of these new phones, you have to buy that company's-you don't have a choice-you have to buy that company's.
Ben: If you want the full-feature suite.
Leo: But you will, right? You want that instant translate. That's cool! You want to have Siri in your ear.
Ben: I don't want Siri in my ear. I use these Bose QC35s which are wireless and they're great.
Leo: They have Google Assistant now! The new QC35s have Google Assistant.
Ben: I did not know that until now. And now I feel…
Leo: Are you excited?
Ben: Maybe I have to get a Pixel 2!
Leo: I don't think you have to have a Pixel in that case. Somebody's saying there are dongles but that's not a good solution.
Ben: Dongles are horrible.
Leo: Dongles are horrible. I have to have a type-C dongle for the Pixel and for the Essential phone. I have to have a Lightning dongle for the iPhone. I have to keep track of the dongles. Of course I know most people don't have both.
Christina: I just keep my dongle attached to whatever headphones I'm using.
Leo: Yea, now the headphones are Lightning headphones.
Ben: I have a dongle bag.
Leo: You have a dongle bag?!
Ben: Here, I have it.
Leo: Now this is what happens when you have dongle bags. You spend time bending over looking for your dongle.
Ben: I just have a dongle bag!
Leo: That's so sad.
Mikah: It's like a Mary Poppins bag. You just keep reaching down.
Leo: My dongle bag! Alright, so you disagree with Nilay, you don't think this is a big deal.
Christina: No, I just think that it's past. I think that getting upset about it… I mean we all got mad about it a year ago and we got over it.
Leo: Yea but Google hadn't done it yet. Now Google's done it. Samsung still can make a great phone with all the features of these other phones. The Note 8, with a headphone jack!
Christina: You're right, they can.
Leo: So why can't Apple and Google?
Christina: Because it's been proven over the past year that it doesn't matter. That as outraged as the technolati got, it didn't matter. Because most people-let's be honest-most people not listening in this audience, but most people buying a phone use whatever headphones come with it. So whether it's going to have a Lightning cable or a 3mm jack, it doesn't matter. You're going to use whatever comes with it. Is it more annoying now that you can't charge your phone and listen to your wired headphones at the same time? Sure, that's frustrating. But that aside, I think most people use whatever comes with their phone. They weren't upgrading to better headphones anyway.
Leo: You're right.
Christina: That doesn't mean that it's not user-hostile because I think that it is. I wrote when I think I was still at Mashable, I've come to terms with the headphone jack going away. I'm already planning for it. It's terrible and I'm not happy about it. But I'm used to it. I've come to terms with it. I went through my five stages of grief and I feel like a year later it's like yea it would be surprising to me if the other companies hadn't followed suit if that makes any sense.
Leo: Do you think Samsung will follow suit next year?
Christina: I think it depends on maybe their schematics and whatnot. And if they see it as a true differentiator if anybody's actually buying their phones because of it. Maybe they would keep it on. But again I don't see anybody, I don't think anybody is going to choose to buy the Galaxy Note 8 or the Galaxy S8 because it has a headphone jack. I think they're buying those phones for other reasons. They want the camera, the battery life, that edge-to-edge screen. Right? They want the Samsung experience. I don't think anybody's saying oh I was going to get an iPhone but it doesn't have a headphone jack. I was going to get a Pixel but it doesn't have a headphone jack. I think they're saying I want the phone for the reasons…
Ben: Didn't Samsung have a commercial last year where they were like ‘we have a headphone jack!'
Christina: They did but they also had a phone that blew up.
Ben: It lit your pants on fire!
Leo: Yea. Alright so we just have to live with it.
Ben: Other cool products though…
Leo: Am I old-fashioned and want a headphone jack? Am I like passé now?
Mikah: I don't think it's passé.
Leo: Saying like I want a floppy disk in my computer.
Christina: I think that-and this goes back to the argument we had a year ago-I think the difference was that when we replaced floppy disks with optical media or with flash media, it was superior. Whereas as you were saying, Bluetooth is getting better but you still have drop-offs. The audio quality isn't as good. So we haven't necessarily replaced it with better technology.
Leo: I do admit that I bought the Google Pixel Buds because of the translation thing.
Christina: I was going to say that's awesome. And in fairness I like that. I like that sort of thing, that sort of pairing of hardware and software. Even if it annoys me as an iPhone user that I wouldn't be able to get that same experience with an iPhone; that would be one of those things where if I were going abroad a lot and I didn't speak the language, that would be a real selling point not just for Android but for the Google Pixel phone. That's a really cool feature.
Leo: I'm going to Japan in the spring and I hope that I'll have it by then.
Ben: Did they say when it's supposed to be here?
Leo: I'm supposed to get it next month. But I mean that would be really… I don't know. I might be embarrassed to use it.
Ben: I'm going to German at the end of the month. I really kind of want to get them by then so I can…
Leo: You will get it by the end of October.
Ben: Someone help me. I want to review…
Leo: Wouldn't that be cool though? Yea!
Ben: I need to review them!
Leo: Yea, Japan for me is impenetrable. It's not like a romance language where I can kind of understand them. I have no idea what somebody's saying in Japanese. So I think it would be really intriguing. The way it works is you launch the Translator and you do that with audio. You tap the thing and say, ‘I'd like to speak Japanese' or something. And then the person says [Japanese] and in my ear I hear, ‘how are you doing?' And I say something in English and it comes out of my phone in Japanese. And the demonstration they did was almost-it wasn't simultaneous-but it was almost instantaneous. So as soon as I say something it comes out in Japanese. As soon as she says something in Japanese it comes out in English in my ear. You can now have a conversation. That is remarkable. Now Microsoft demonstrated something very similar with Skype.
Leo: But that's Skype and that's not in person.
Christina: Exactly. And obviously this sort of technology has existed. Google has been doing visual stuff for a long time. And I think even doing new apps like Dual Lingo, have existed for a long time too that will do this for a conversion. What's really remarkable about this-assuming it works, and I don't have any reason to believe that it won't-is that like you said, it's that instantaneous, on the fly translation. And that's really impressive. I'm really interested in seeing that and seeing good use of it. If it works even half as well as what they're showing, that could be huge for so many circumstances.
Mikah: The Google Translate app actually already does it. It just doesn't have of course the headphones and into your ear and that kind of thing. But I was just testing it, I was out of town and for some reason I opened the Google Translate app for something and I forgot that feature existed. So I had tested it. I was trying to learn a Spanish phrase that had been said on the television. So I was speaking in Spanish to it and hearing it sort of speak things back in English. So to have that instantaneous and right in your ear takes it to the next level. That's really cool.
Leo: Every once in a while you see something in this industry where you go, ‘okay, now we're in the future.'
Ben: It's like the Star Trek button, that universal translator.
Leo: Now we're in the future! Actually useful and could even change the world. Right? Because if you can communicate people, that can change everything.
Ben: I want it.
Leo: I want it! See that's why I'm going to buy Bluetooth headphones and the Pixel 2.
Mikah: I guess I'm getting the Pixel 2 now. I'm convinced.
Leo: Alright, here's one too. Google announced a Chromebook. It's very nice. But remember most Chromebooks are around $150-$500. Google's new Pixel Book starts at $1,000.
Ben: They've gone premium!
Leo: Well they were premium last time. They've always been premium with their Chromebooks. You felt like the last Chromebook Pixel that Google did which was also over $1,000 was really just like a demonstration.
Christina: Totally. This one they're like oh it will be in 1,000 retail stores. And I'm like really?
Leo: Best Buy's going to sell them. Who's going to buy them?!
Christina: If you spec it all the way out and it can be very powerful. An i7, the five 12-gigabye SSD, 16-gigabytes of RAM. This thing if you do all the bells and whistles, it's $1,650.
Christina: And I'm looking at that and I'm like okay, you don't even run a real operating system. And I know, I'm hearing all you guys in the audience. I get it. You can run CH Root on it. You can get the version…
Leo: That's not fair though. It's Chrome OS. Whatever you can hack it with, it's Chrome OS.
Christina: Exactly. And for me, look the one thing that could make it sort of compelling-but again this is such a small-use case-Ken White the security researcher was telling me on Twitter that apparently they made some commits to the Chrome OS where virtual machines will act as containers and can basically be first-class citizens. You could have a bunch of Docker containers of your different…
Leo: Wait a minute, you can run Docker on Chrome OS?
Christina: Well apparently it's not there like first-party but apparently that looks like that's going to be coming.
Leo: Oh, so then you can have a Mac OS… that would actually be really cool. I don't have to put up with this Mac hardware. I can get the Mac operating system on my Pixel.
Christina: That's what I'm saying. That potentially makes it interesting. If you were able to have Docker containers running natively. That could be really cool. But it's not there yet. Even if you assumed that that's going to happen and that's coming down the line, I still feel like at that price point, you're at a very limited user base who's saying why would I get this machine for this price? Nice hardware aside, when I could get a MacBook Pro or I could have Docker instances. Or I could have a Surface book. Why am I not getting these things that are already fully functioned?
Leo: I'll tell you why: because some people don't need the complexity and the security problems that a general-purpose operating system offers.
Christina: Okay but again I guess I'm asking: why then spend, why get this $1,600-version?
Mikah: Yea, this premium device.
Leo: Well alright, so I bought the $1,000 version, which is still expensive. I mean for $1,000 you can get an Apple. Well maybe you can't. You can almost get a MacBook. Yea, an Air… or you can certainly get plenty of Windows machines for under $1,000. But maybe I don't want, maybe I don't need all the complexities of Windows 10. Maybe I just really surf the web, do email, send postcards to my grandkids. Maybe that's not a bad choice. And by the way if this, and it looks like it fully supports the Android store, I could put Photoshop Mobile on it. I can put Libre Mobile on it. I can put Snapseed on it so I can do all my picture stuff. There's a lot of Android apps to do almost anything. By the way, Microsoft does excellent Android apps. I can do Microsoft Office.
Christina: Yea, Microsoft does great Android apps. But being the bigger concern with me, and I haven't tested the latest version so my tests are going back to April or so… but the last time I was trying to use the Android apps on Chrome OS, and I was using a Samsung that had been specifically designed to do that, some of the apps, the Adobe ones worked well. And Microsoft to their credit actually does the job…
Leo: Oh, their Android apps are superb. Yea.
Christina: They're great but they've also done a good job optimizing them to work on the Chromebooks. Having said that, a lot of apps just aren't optimized to work on the Chromebook.
Leo: Oh, that's true.
Christina: And so, you really never know, is this going to work or is this not going to work.
Leo: That's true. Google needs to promote more people designing their Android apps to work on both Chromebook and—
Leo: And they need to surface the good stuff in the store. And maybe they'll do that. I don't know.
Christina: I hope so. For a long time there's been rumors that Google will formally kind of you know merge Android and Chrome OS and I think that for this sort of thing to work, especially if you're going to have a thousand dollar plus strategy, I think you've got to have to do that. Because otherwise, everything you're saying about why people buy Chromebooks even though I personally, it's not for me. I've tried, not dissimilar to why I wouldn't be able to use an iPad Air, or not iPad Air, an iPad Pro as my main computer. I just need different—I have different needs. But there are plenty of people who a Chromebook is perfect for them.
Leo: Most people I would guess.
Christina: I would agree with you that most people can do just fine with a Chromebook. That said, I just don't understand why you would choose a thousand-dollar Chromebook over a really nice Samsung or Acer five hundred-dollar Chromebook. Like it's a great build quality but it's not going to be so much better for you to be spending double. Like that's what I don't understand.
Ben: Like if I were buying for my parents or something like that, would I be paying—for $1,600—
Leo: Yea, the Samsung Chromebook plus, yea.
Ben: Exactly. It would be the same. There wouldn't be much of a difference.
Leo: And Google, actually Florence Ion and I covered the stream as we do, you know, snarking about the stream during the event, Florence Ion pointed out that Google kept calling it a laptop. Is that fair to call it a laptop?
Ben: Can you put it in your lap?
Leo: All right. Ok. But I mean a laptop kind of implies that it is more like a full computer. I don't know. I think this is a really interesting experiment.
Ben: Google is trying to say that this is a full computer.
Leo: It's a full computer.
Ben: Even though it really isn't.
Leo: Well, it is.
Ben: But it also isn't.
Leo: But it is. You can't install apps on it.
Leo: But, I mean you can install apps. You can't install Windows apps on it. You can't install Mac apps on it.
Ben: Where like a Chromebook is a kind of thing where like I don't think I could ever—
Leo: What makes a full computer? What is it missing that makes the full computer? Photoshop.
Christina: Video editing.
Leo: Video editing, Photoshop, audio editing. Designing rocket ships. Building architectural designs for—
Ben: Advanced programming.
Leo: No, you can do a lot of programming on the internet.
Christina: There are a lot of cloud IDEs. I honestly think and I've even talked people into saying you know, my full design workshop and people who are professional designers who use apps like Sigma and use Chromebooks for that. And obviously Micah and I and a lot of people who are very proficient and using an iPad Pro for all of their work. I don't want to discount that although I think it takes more work. But when I look at a Chromebook, the one thing that is, that I think a lot of people do that you still can't do, you can't replicate is video editing. And that's something that's—you can at least do that on an iPad.
Leo: I never thought civilians would ever want to video edit. As a TV person for years, I went into edit booths with editors and slaved over a hot AVID for hours and I thought, "Why would anyone want to do this if they didn't have to do it?" And yet, they do apparently because they all want to be YouTube stars. Maybe that's the incentive.
Ben: It's the number one thing. You ask kids what they want to do.
Leo: I want to be a YouTube star.
Ben: I want to be on YouTube.
Leo: They used to say I want to be Shaq. Now they want to be a YouTube store. Shaq tried to be a YouTube star. Failed miserably. Hey, let's talk about that when we come back. YouTube is back at it, trying to get mainstream talent to do big time, episodic television on YouTube. Is that a smart move or is it just going to throw away another hundred million dollars like they did last time? We're going to take a break. Great panel here. Mikah Sargent. Do you actually, Mikah, do everything on an iPad Pro? Is that what Christina said?
Mikah: No, no, no. We know people who do it.
Christina: Yea, we know people.
Mikah: A couple other people, the co-founders of Relay, Mike Hurley and a few people there.
Leo: Really? Mike only uses an iPad?
Mikah: Well, he says he does. I mean can we really know for sure?
Mikah: They try to do everything possible on that. But again, that word, try. You know—
Leo: If feels like you're putting handcuffs on and saying, "But I can still you know, give manicures." I mean it's not—why do that? Why wear manacles? Who needs manacles?
Mikah: I'm going to get internet punched for saying this, but I agree with you. Absolutely.
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Leo: One thing Google announced that I thought was really weird. Now, maybe you guys can explain it, is the Clips Camera. This is—I don't even know if they—I don't think even Google takes this seriously. $249-dollar stand-alone little camera. It's tiny. I mean it's the size of a postage stamp and the idea is it stand on its own or you can clip it. Actually, in their video, onto a flour sack is how they did it. But the idea is, it's got artificial intelligence built in. And you just—you know, when you're like with the family, you're doing something, you point it at and you just forget it for a while and then it takes the best pictures, like of the most exciting—I don't know how it would know, but somehow artificial intelligence knows, oh that's a great shot. Oh, that's a great shot. And you get to relate to your family and then at the end, it's got 16GB of storage. You take your phone. You copy them to your phone. Pick the ones you want and upload them. What do you think?
Ben: It's a cool concept and it will be used in some very interesting ways I think.
Leo: Oh, wow. You have a dirty mind.
Ben: (Laughing) I didn't even—I meant crime. But, now I'm thinking sex.
Leo: Oh, yea, now you are. Oh, that's terrible.
Ben: There's a cool idea there of like being present and in the moment and having the thing at like a big event, taking pictures so you don't have to think about it, but it totally could be used for all sorts of like other things and I – it's cool. It's cool. But it could also be used in creepy ways. But we'll see what happens with it.
Leo: I didn't even think about that, Ben. You are a—(laughing).
Mikah: Oh, I did immediately.
Leo: Did you? Really?
Mikah: Yea, yea. And like everyone I was talking to was like—
Leo: What, you put it in the bathroom or something?
Mikah: I mean you're being an optimist here which I'm not used to because we were just being really negative about things.
Leo: Oh, don't tell me now. Tell me later.
Mikah: Think about like a stalker or something like that. They could put this thing in someone else's house or on their porch.
Christina: You can already to do that.
Mikah: It's just like another more like mainstream possibility here. And the interesting thing to me was the sort of press roll-out that happened after Google announced this. Immediately, all of these bit sites—like, I watched The Verge video on it and they were talking immediately about how, yes, this is creepy but everything happens on the device. The AI, the storage is all local, all this and everything. And so like Google I think knew that people would be sort of skeezed out by this but I mean it's still, regardless, it's still sort of—I understand why people are concerned.
Leo: One of the things, they did think that people would be skeezed out because you would be able to upload it to the net, so they went through great pains to say, "No, no. It's just local. It only saves to—"
Christina: It's local, right, right, right. Which I mean is better than the alternative. I don't know. I mean it's in a lot of ways it's kind of similar to a GoPro, right? Except it's using your phone rather than GoPro usually uses like an SD card. I wonder how many people are actually going to want to use this. Like I think that's the challenge more than the skeevy factor is how many people are going to remember to be—like, oh, I'm having this great time. You know, you pull out a little camera and set it up and make sure I'm capturing everything.
Leo: Google also said there's a light on it, that they intentionally made the lens look really lens-y. So, it's obviously a camera.
Christina: Yea, they're going out of their way to make sure it looks really obvious. Yea, no, they learned from Google Glass. I'm just saying I wonder how many people are going to like want to carry this around in addition to all the other stuff you carry around to capture the moments. But I mean I don't mind the concept. Obviously we're all kind of skeeved out by it, as Mikah was saying.
Leo: I'm not. I didn't even think of that.
Ben: You have a pure mind.
Christina: No, I wasn't even thinking about in what context. I'm just saying, people potentially capturing you when you're not sure or what not. Although, it is what it is. If people want to put spy cameras in your house, they can. Drop cams, desk cams do those sorts of things now and they stream it to the cloud.
Leo: Now I'm horrified.
Christina: But, but, but, I think—
Leo: I swear to God, I didn't even think of that. I just thought, "Oh, that's cool." Because my kids hated it when I took pictures of them. They would always got like this and so I just like the idea I can you know, put something there that would do that for me.
Christina: What I kind of like about it is in some ways it's kind of similar to the Snapchat Spectacles which idiots like me waited in line for and now everyone's forgotten about. But it's kind of the same idea where that, you know, again they went through great pains to make sure that you know when it's recording and whatnot. But the idea of being present in a situation, that's a similar thing where you capture it and then transfer it to your phone and then you would choose if you wanted to upload it or not. But this is—obviously a separate device has better quality. And like Ben was saying, I do kind of like the idea of being at a party or out someplace and not having to be buried in your phone the whole time. I think this is what they're trying to get at. I don't know that this is the right approach, but I think what they're aiming for, and this is I think actually pretty notable especially given what we were talking about at the beginning of the show, is to say rather than being stuck in our phones all the time and constantly on our screens, you can be in the moment and still go back later and say these are the most important parts.
Leo: I thought that was cool, yea. Now I'm thinking I'm probably on some list for ordering one (laughing). Maybe I won't buy it. It is $250-bucks. It's very expensive.
Ben: Are you going to pull it out to like do that? Is it going to be a selfie like this?
Leo: No, I would put it here.
Ben: Yea, but for the most part, for most parties you wouldn't get the good angles like what I'm thinking is like camera work is all about the angles, it's all about the lighting and the shot and you don't control any of that.
Leo: It's just a strange product. It's 130-degree field of view, so it's very wide. I don't know. It is a strange product.
Mikah: It's like those apps where you push the button and you don't know what the photo looks like and it like pretends to develop the photo for you. You see it like the next day.
Leo: Yea, I don't like that either. I like to know what I've gotten, take it again if I didn't get anything good. By the way, Christina, don't feel bad. Evan Seigel said they sold 150,000 Snapchat Spectacles.
Christina: Is that good? I don't think that's good given all the hype.
Christina: Yea. I don't know. Maybe that's good? I don't know.
Leo: That's 150,000 times $100-bucks. It's not bad.
Christina: I mean, I guess.
Ben: That doesn't make a dent for Snapchat as a company.
Leo: Yea, I don't know. That was a promotional thing, right?
Christina: Oh, yea.
Leo: What is Google's purpose in making this thing, the Clips?
Christina: I mean I think that they're trying to maybe trying to see—I think when I look at a product like this, you know what I kind of thought? And I kind of got this from the Google Home devices too, is I feel a certain amount of Amazon envy from Google with some of this stuff, where Amazon has done better than any other company right now in a lot of this kind of space is really kind of taken over the home space because of the success of the Echo products and some of their other things. And so, I look at the new Google Home minis and the redesigned Google Home and all that stuff and I look at even these things because I think that it's kind of like them trying to succeed the way that Amazon has in those kind of new spaces like the Home.
Leo: Well, let's take a break and then we'll talk about that because we are going to have a war in the home. There is going to be stuff galore listening to you, taking pictures of you, invading your privacy. And Google's getting in on the action just as much as Amazon is and now I guess Microsoft is. There's going to be a Cortana appliance from Hardon-Kardin. Apple apparently, there's going to be a number of Siri appliances. Your home's going to be all seeing, all talking soon. It's fun to have you all. Christina Warren's here. New job but I'm—at first I thought, oh, I can't have her on now because she works at Microsoft. Then I thought, no, of course I can. Christina's not going to—she's not going to shut up. She's going to be Christina and I was right. Always great to have you. You are one of my favorite people on the show. Ben Parr, one of my favorite people period, author of Captivology and my new best friend, Mikah Sargent. It's great to have you too, Senior Editor at MobileNations.
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Leo: Did you know Siri is six years old, turns six years old on October 4th? Wow. It seems like it isn't really mature yet (laughing).
Christina: I remember the original Siri, the 2010 Siri which was an app before Apple bought it.
Leo: Right. In fact, those guys started was it VIV.AI which then got purchased by Samsung, yea.
Christina: Yea, sure did.
Leo: So, they're still around. It was on the iPhone 4S. So, this was Apple's version of it on the iPhone 4S. Siri was cute at first because she had funny responses. But, ok, you're all Apple phone users. Do you find Siri useful? I find myself swearing at Siri more than I do thanking her.
Christina: I use it as an alarm. That's about it.
Leo: For setting alarms, reminders, calendar appointments, yea.
Ben: Limited, limited use cases. Like there will be sometimes though I'll ask it a very basic question like the weather, it will work.
Leo: Yea, it can do the weather but if you ask it anything more than that, it will almost always say, "I found something on the web for this," which is never anything you want.
Mikah: My favorite thing is when you get a new app and it's leaving you a bunch of stupid notifications and so you're getting annoyed by it, you can ask Siri to open up the notification settings for that app so you don't have to tab all the way through to get to that page.
Leo: Oh, I didn't know that.
Christina: I didn't know that either. That actually is huge.
Leo: See, this is part of the problem with all these voice assistants. They can do things but there's no way to figure out what they can do. That's a great one, Mikah. That's really useful. So, what do you say?
Mikah: You say, "Open blah, blah, blah's settings."
Leo: Open settings for the camera app. I have to unlock the iPhone first. Let's see what I found on the web for that. Oh, no. It did. It worked. Yay, Siri. You're the best. I'm sorry I said anything bad about you.
Mikah: It should go directly to the page, so, anytime, especially food delivery apps, they love to say, "Oh, we've got 20% off for the next hour." Open settings immediately. I go right to that page and shut off notifications.
Ben: You installed some apps from your phone. My thing has been turning off notifications for every single thing except Slack.
Leo: But Apple does not make that easy because you have to go app—first of all, it's always driven me crazy, all the settings in the iPhone, they're not in the app. Well, some of them are.
Christina: Some of them are, yea. That's bad.
Leo: It's confusing. Some of them are and then most of them are there, I guess Apple wants them to be in these notifications.
Christina: They want it to be in the settings thing. Yea, they wanted them to be in the settings app and not the app itself, but you're right. Some apps don't follow that.
Leo: There needs to a switch though that says, "Turn off." There's do not disturb but there needs to be a switch that says, "I don't want notifications from anybody." Like reverse it. I'll tell you if I want a notification from you. But the default is everybody notifies you for everything all the time. Don't like it. And I have hundreds of apps. I'm not going to go through these one by one.
Ben: What if they had original information the overlook we talked about at the beginning of this episode? So, those notifications, naturally it's new information every time it pops up. I have to check. You're trained. You have to check it. You have to check it.
Leo: The phrase is continuous partial attention. That's the phrase. I bet you Georgia Dow uses that. That sounds like something Georgia Dow would have thought.
Mikah: It does. It does, yea. I mean you're constantly spinning little parts of your cognitive lobe to your notifications.
Leo: You never pay one hundred percent attention to anything anymore. It's all partial attention to everything.
Ben: I feel like in this assistant war—so, there's like that and then this assistant war like, for example I have a Google Home and I have an Alexa and I find the Google Home can answer more questions and has better context. But the Alexa has a better ecosystem.
Leo: Call it Echo so we don't turn—yea.
Ben: So, the Echo has a better ecosystem. More skills have been built.
Leo: Yea, I use Echo all the time and I have a Google Home but I rarely use it.
Ben: But it recognizes more things.
Leo: Mostly because I use the Echo for music and for timers.
Ben: Yea, my Echo's the one that's set for all the lights in my house.
Mikah: Yea, same.
Leo: Well, that's why I felt like what Google did this week was interesting because they made a strong play for the Home. And I've actually talked to developers who say it's hard to develop for Apple's Home. Everybody's very interested though and if you ask me, everybody I've talked to at Amazon, that's where you want to be. Google clearly says, "No, no, no. We want to be the assistant you control your home with." But the problem, this is that ecosystem thing again, consumers are going to—you don't want all of them. You're going to pick one and invest in one. And the investment at some point is going to get high enough that you're just done. You can't switch.
Christina: Totally. And I think that the fact that Amazon and Microsoft are working together so that Cortana and the Echo will work together kind of shows that even within those companies, they're kind of picking winners so to speak. And you're right. Google is definitely making a big play for the Home and I wouldn't count them out in the slightest. And definitely I think that they're going to make it easier for people to write things than the Home Kit stuff is because Apple's very specific about who can have Home Kit access. And I understand that from a privacy perspective and a user data perspective. That's all very good but what it means is that it's a lot more difficult for cool things to happen. And so, also, frankly, until the Home Pod, which is very expensive comes out, there won't be a single appliance that's not your phone that will be able to kind of do a lot of these things or your Apple TV to a much lesser degree. But I think that Amazon has—I don't think they expected the Echo, the original Echo to be so successful. But I think with Echo Dot and it can have its own ecosystem by having a really good STK and an open API you know from the beginning, for the skills and whatnot, even if most of the stuff isn't that useful, they really kind of won mindshare for a lot of people. And so, everything works with the Echo. Everything works with Amazon whereas it's going to be a much harder thing for any other company to kind of get even the bigger players on board, not to mention the smaller people. But if you are a consumer, like if I'm trying to say what home assistant should I buy, if you're really into the Google ecosystem, Google Home could be great. And like Ben said, it could be better at answering certain questions, right? But, if you're saying I have some things from this company, and some things from this company. I really just want to control music and maybe my lights, maybe do a couple of other things, basically every light provider and every smart home provider at this point is hooking in to the Amazon Ecosystem if they can. So, it's kind of hard to recommend against them if that makes any sense.
Leo: Yea. No, right now, Amazon's the lead horse. The real question is if Google can catch up. But the other question is, given that Siri's the first of these, what did Apple do wrong? Why isn't Apple doing better?
Mikah: A lot of people argue that it's the fact that it's, because of Apple's tie to privacy and things like that, and so they don't have necessarily as much as the online processing that some of these other companies have. And the way that it works to collect information and process that and then roll it out. But I also think it's the fact that up to this point, like Apple is just now finally coming out with this sort of disembodied device that is just meant to interface with Siri, whereas we've had the Echo and we've had the Google Home for quite some time. And these devices have the Google system and A-L-E-X-A respectively. And so, we've sort of tied our brains at least to this assistant that lives in a tube or this weird circular thing that the Google Home speaker is.
Leo: Oh, wait a minute. You've got one with a copper bottom.
Mikah: Yea, well, it's orange, a real orange color back there.
Leo: Now I don't like it as much. Did it come in orange or did you get one of those special inserts that they were making now?
Mikah: Yea, I bought one because I didn't like—it was grey.
Leo: Yea, it's grey fabric. Google's all over the fabric. I don't understand why. Everything's fabric colored.
Christina: Yea, no, they really like that. I mean and some people really like it. I mean I think it does make it look a little bit less sterile. Makes it look more like a piece of furniture.
Leo: Yea, it's not plastic anyway, yea.
Christina: Exactly. I mean and even if you look at the stuff that Amazon announced last week, I mean they're kind of going in that direction too, trying to make it—
Leo: Well, look at Apple's Home Pod. That's a fabric thing, right?
Christina: Yea, exactly.
Ben: Fabric colored tater tot.
Leo: (Laughing) It was interesting. Google clearly is responding to Apple's Home Pod. They have now the Google Home Mini which looks like a nice pink donut with sprinkles. They have the Google Home—they don't call it this but they have the Google Home Midi, the original Google Home. And they have a Google Home Maxi for those heavy flow months. No, for—
Leo: I'm sorry. I tried to avoid, I tried to avoid that and I couldn't. This is a little bit—it's not as big as it might appear. They're really careful to only show it in abstract, but it's about as big as a shoebox.
Ben: Looks like a Sonos.
Leo: It looks a lot like a Sonos.
Christina: It does. I mean, which this week, Sonos finally announced the official Amazon—
Leo: And it works. I'm happy to say, I installed it. I can now—I put a Dot. You have to connect a—because I know the Sonos One I don't have yet, their new speaker that will do this. But if you have an Echo Dot, you can plug it into the back of the Sonos. I don't know how they're doing it. It's some sort of magic. There's an Echo skill you have to turn on. And now, I can shout anywhere in my house, I have to shout—what do I shout? It's a complicated—if I had to parse this in English class, I'd fail. "Echo, play Kenny Rogers on master bathroom Sonos." And that will—
Mikah: Oh, no.
Christina: But the next Play One will actually just have the Echo stuff built in. So, presumably, you'll be able to just—
Leo: It wasn't hard to set it up. And it works. What's interesting is not all the Amazon Echo features will work. But, I can hear the music that I want, all the Sonos music. Actually, they should have done this months ago but by being so late to the market—
Christina: They were supposed to. They were supposed to. Sonos had originally announced this integration in, I want to say, August of last year. I was up in New York. And they were beta testing. It was supposed to be out early 2017. So, now, more than a year after it was announced, it's finally rolled out. But I thought the bigger news, obviously the integration is great for the existing Sonos users who I think there's probably, if you were to look at it, probably a huge overlap between people who have a Sonos and people who have at least one Echo product. But I think having the new Play One that has it built in is really compelling. And especially at this price point because at that point I'm saying, why would I buy a Google Home Maxi or why would I buy a Home Pod if I can get this Sonos thing which will provide great sound and work with my existing system?
Leo: And I think, my sense is, you get one and one and it control's all your Sonos speakers. You don't have to—
Christina: Yes, yes.
Leo: So, they're all now Echo enabled, which is great.
Mikah: Yep. And later on, I think they said in 2018, they'll bring the Google Assistant and well, Siri through an iOS device, but the Google Assistant whole heartedly into the Sonos One as well. So, I think that's really cool that you're basically getting to choose between the three. With the Apple integration not as great as the other two, but to be able to choose between A-L-E-X-A and the Google Assistant I think is really nice.
Leo: And I just want to set the record straight. I don't actually listen to Kenny Rogers in the shower.
Ben: (Laughing). You should just embrace it.
Leo: That was an example.
Ben: Just embrace it.
Leo: I listen to Led Zeppelin in the shower.
Mikah: Nice. Nice.
Leo: I sing along, too. (Humming). I'm sorry.
Mikah: You know they made a real mistake I think with the Google Home Mini by not including a headphone jack.
Leo: Oh, I thought you were going to say sprinkles.
Christina: I think you're right there. I think you're right there, Mikah. I think you're dead on.
Leo: Headphone jack? What would that—
Mikah: That's what makes the Echo Dot so great is that you can get a Dot and then connect it to a fantastic speaker system that you already have in your home.
Leo: Oh, not for headphones but for a live out jack.
Christina: Yea, a live out. A live out.
Leo: No, I agree. That's the best thing about the Dot. In fact, my Dots, all the Dots I have in the house are connected to bigger speakers, actually speaker systems. And in fact, that's one of the things that will allow Sonos to use a Dot as it's controller because you take the line out of the Dot and put it into the line in on the Sonos. So, that's interesting.
Mikah: I don't know why they didn't include it.
Leo: Why didn't they do that? Maybe it was the same reason they didn't put a headphone jack on the Pixel.
Mikah: Less space. You've got to have a dongle for that now.
Leo: Yea, it just takes too much space. It's a Bluetooth speaker, though, right? You can Bluetooth it.
Christina: Yea, you can Bluetooth which you can do with the Dot as well, but I think you're right. I mean I do the same thing that you guys do. Like I use my Dots. I have them connected to better speakers. That's what I think makes it such a good value at $50-bucks is that—
Leo: So, what do consumers—now, we do this. You did this earlier with the Pixel, but we're on group. But obviously, very different from the normal consumer. Does anybody know what normal people think (laughing)?
Christina: My in-laws—
Ben: Is anyone normal out there?
Leo: What do simple folk do?
Christina: Look, I will just say this. Without prompting, my in-laws this year were really on the Echo bandwagon and got them for like a ton of people including my husband. Like it was actually really interesting. And they're not part of—they're not really tech savvy. You know, they usually ask me for advice on things and they bought Echo Dots for a lot of people as Christmas gifts.
Leo: Did they buy them without asking?
Leo: Wow. So, that means they were confident. They knew what they would do. They knew they would be well-received. So, they really—in other words, they understand Amazon's Echo.
Christina: I mean maybe not all the intricacies, but they've heard enough about that, saw—
Leo: I agree. Amazon's the winner in this.
Christina: Yea, I mean and you look at—according to Amazon anyway, you know, they claim that during the last holiday season and also, I think during Prime Day, that they've sold, that the best line item was the Echo Dot. So, they're clearly selling tons of these things. So, I mean I think that regular people, that's probably—again, I think it just goes in line with what developers are doing and one of the reasons why the mindshare tends to be there. They're the ones that everyone has.
Mikah: Agreed. That's been my experience as well. I remember going over to a friend's house who's not a techy in the slightest, and he turned on the lights with a command to the Echo device. And I was like, "You have an Echo? I just wasn't expecting that." And I mean that was one he probably found out how to set it up. Got it all figured out and enjoyed it. And that's been the experience that I've seen is people going to that one. I think part of the thing, too, is though, like a lot of people do shop on Amazon and knowing that is right there and you're able to purchase it and you see the commercials but then you know where to go. It's interesting how many people don't necessarily know like, I need to go to what? What Google site do I go to? How do I find how to buy a Google Home? Or how do I find where to buy a Home Pod? It's not as easy as we think it is.
Leo: You can by an Echo at Whole Foods now (laughing).
Mikah: That's true.
Ben: Prediction. That like ten to fifteen years from now, we'll be getting our checkout with A-L-E-X-A at our Whole Foods.
Leo: Yea. Wow, that's interesting. Wow. You can order. I mean I can order groceries through the Echo. I was at our local Whole Foods the other day. They now have Amazon lockers there. They have Amazon deals. They cut the price on their ribeye steaks. Amazon special. So, Amazon's really changing Whole Foods. It's very interesting and I bet you will end up being at a place where you can buy Amazon hardware which is—
Christina: Oh, I'm sure. Why would you not? They have—it would be kind of the same way you know the Apple Store exists kind of to push things and you know, Barnes and Noble when they were trying with the Kindle and things like that and Microsoft has their stores. I mean, Amazon, it's really interesting. They had some of their book stores in various cities but now by buying this grocery chain, they actually have a way now to push some of their items even if you wouldn't normally like think that you would buy a gadget in a grocery store. But I mean that's what the Super Walmart's have taught us is that clothing and clothes and food and electronics can all sit side by side and no one really bats an eye.
Leo: So, first of all this is a very surprising category. It came out of nowhere. I mean, maybe with Siri people thought, "Oh, this is that." But Amazon really came out of nowhere and just owns this. Can they hold this lead or who's their challenger? It feels like Google's the only one that can offer them a serious challenge, not Microsoft. I don't think Siri is going to offer a serious challenge. Is this Amazon's to lose?
Ben: At the moment, for sure.
Ben: And to their credit, they have like 5,000 people working on the Echo division. They like massively increased the number. They're investing hard in it as they should. But Bezos is not one to lose a lead.
Leo: Jeff is an amazing fella. I feel like I would never want to bet against Jeff Bezos.
Ben: Never want to be against Bezos.
Leo: No kidding.
Mikah: Have you seen those charts? They're always going up.
Leo: Yea. Pretty impressive. But if anybody's going to do it, it would be Google. Google's got the resources. Where Google has a huge advantage, and where they could—I think right now it's a one- horse race and Amazon's way ahead. But if I were looking at Google, I'd say that kid could do it because they've got a huge advantage in artificial intelligence, right? No one has as much data. No one's been doing it as long. No one has as much machine learning. Google could become, you know, Her. Scarlett Johannsen in your ear, whereas I don't think Amazon's close to anything like that. They don't have the data. They don't have the software.
Christina: No, I think you're right, although I don't think, again, and I don't know all the details other than what they publicly announced, but I think that's where the Cortana-Amazon relationship becomes sort of interesting. Because obviously Microsoft has been doing a ton of stuff with artificial intelligence and machine learning. And that actually does become interesting if you start to maybe think about how that partnership could help take on—
Leo: So, you think this is Bezos saying, "Well, Microsoft's going to give us stuff we're missing in terms of AI."
Christina: Right and I think that the reverse is true, is that Microsoft is saying, "Even though we're going to have devices in the home maybe through other people and even though Windows 10 which has hundreds of millions of installs, has Cortana built into it and all that sort of thing, we don't have the Echo-like product. So, this will help get us to more places in a different situation." And Amazon's saying, "And we can use some of Microsoft's experience with AI and machine learning to help our stuff improve." And then together they might actually be able to be a challenge to what the Her sort of thing that Google is potentially doing.
Leo: Here's an interesting question. Microsoft with Cortana, Apple with Siri, even Google with their Chromebooks, have a desktop assistant. There's actually in the new Pixel books, there's a button for Google Assistant. Of course, Cortana, you just say, "Hey, Cortana." It pops up. Siri, same thing. I never use it. I actually don't even really use it on the phone that much. There's something magical, at least for me, about talking to my house is what I really want to do. Is that your experience as well?
Christina: That's my experience. What I will say, and I never use Siri on my Mac ever, ever. In the year that I've done it, I've almost never used it, primarily because it's not that good. I have found myself, because I've been using a Surface Book at work for the last few months and before that I hadn't really used Cortana. I will say, although I don't speak to it, I don't talk to Cortana, I do find myself typing things into the Cortana bar because I find that to be very good, to find a certain file or to get information about the weather or something else. I find it useful.
Leo: That's not a speech assistant though. That's just Spotlight.
Christina: I agree. Right. But it's still asking a specific question in a way that I couldn't ask Spotlight. It's still giving me more updated information. But I'm with you. For whatever reason I don't talk to my computer but I talk to my house.
Leo: It just feels natural.
Ben: It does.
Christina: And you know, the one thing is weird because here's the one case I do use Siri. I use Siri with my Apple TV.
Leo: Ah. Me too. Yes.
Christina: I use Siri with my Apple TV all the time.
Leo: And I use Google Assistant with my Android TV.
Christina: Yea, and I use—
Leo: It's natural to search for, I want Alec Baldwin movies. It's natural to do that, yea.
Leo: But that's the one time you do it and it's because you can't really type on a TV.
Christina: Yea, the typing's terrible, but also it works the way you expect it to work. I think that's the real important thing. And I think this is still—we were talking about how it's the 6th year anniversary of Siri, I think part of the problem with Siri has been is when it first came out, you know, it was good at certain things and it wasn't good at others. And people kind of gave up on us. And it has improved a lot over the years. But a lot of people, myself included, just don't want to try because I just remember what is was like when it couldn't—even now, as you were saying, you ask it a question, it will send you to the web results for results or it will say, "I don't understand that." And you know, you just kind of got used to, at least in my mind, well, Siri's not going to be able to give me an answer so I'm just not going to ask it things. Whereas the number of years that have passed since Siri launched on the iPhone 4S and the first Echo came out, you know that was like I guess 3 years. And at that point, it was 2015 that the—I guess it was 4-years. No, it was 3-years. It was the end of 2011 and then the beginning of 2015. In that time, I think that it improved to the point where we didn't have a lot of high expectations for the original Echo and then when it started to be able to do things and you know, control your lights, play music, give the weather, set a timer, do that sort of stuff, you became more comfortable with talking to it in addition to it just being more convenient to talk to your house versus having to hold down originally on a button on your phone and that sort of thing.
Mikah: A data point there, too, my partner is sort of my litmus test for the norms as I call the people who are not as into technology as we are. People who are not interested in technology. And it's interesting because you know, early on, he I think gave Siri way more chances than I ever did. Yea, we all got used to the fact that it failed a lot and it may have gotten better, but I just don't want to take the time to watch it fail if it will. But he uses A-L-E-X-A all the time. He'll ask it questions. He'll ask it about the traffic. I mean, no problem at all and even when it will fail occasionally, then he's forgiving of it and will try again or say it in a different way. So, I think Amazon really has gotten out ahead here and has sort of—these other companies have a lot of work to do, I think.
Ben: It's also just even like having to pull up a phone and having to hold down the button to do that.
Leo: That's so much trouble. Although, you know you can say—
Ben: Yea, maybe the other thing too is just like the amount, the perfection of voice recognition really does matter. And I feel like it just feels like maybe it isn't anymore but it used to feel like Siri would just miss at least two different words. Alexa will miss less words. Google Home even less. So, I tend to talk to those two.
Leo: My wife and I have a—she uses it a lot and we have kind of a standing joke. I just say, "You continue to have faith, don't you? You believe. You believe." And it never works out. Although, when it does, it's kind of magical, isn't it? Like when you ask a question—
Christina: Yea, it does. You're like, "Oh, thanks. Oh, good." What?
Leo: Wow. Wow. She actually understood me. And said something instead of a snarky joke.
Mikah: Yea, in fact I'll be like the jaded person. He'll say something and I'll say, "That's not going to work." And then it works and I'm like, what?
Leo: Well, this is, to me it's the surprise category that really is exciting. I mean I think it's one of the most exciting things that's happening in tech. It's not smartphones. It's not cameras. It's not self-driving cars. It's voice assistants. It's really kind of taken off and it's interesting how the battle is shaping now. Apple's Home Pod comes out in December. Google's Maxi comes out in December. And I think the Harmon-Kardin Cortana device comes out in December. It's just going to be a very—and then Amazon has like 18 form factors nobody even understands. What is this? Why do you—what does that do?
Christina: And Amazon's just like which one goes back?
Leo: Pick one.
Christina: Just pick one. Fine.
Leo: The real test will be, I ordered the clock one. What is that called?
Mikah: Me too. The Dot? No, that's not it.
Leo: It's got a camera on it and the real test is if my wife will let me put it on my bedside table or not.
Mikah: It's arriving.
Leo: It's coming?
Mikah: It's arriving on my birthday and I can't wait to set it on my table.
Leo: Will you put it in your bedroom, Mikah?
Mikah: Oh, absolutely.
Mikah: I know it's got a camera on it. I know. But it's—
Leo: Yea, it's like I don't know. For me, I don't care if it catches me walking around in my underwear. But I think maybe it's different for women, that they don't, that they worry. I don't know. I feel like who's going to see that? Nobody's going to see that. On the other hand, we know it could leak out, right? Because everybody's been breached. Yahoo now says, "Oh, sorry. It wasn't a billion. It was 3 billion." Turns out everybody. If you had a Yahoo account—
Christina: Which makes sense because they reset everyone's password.
Leo: We just thought they were being proactive. It turns out they knew something. Yea.
Christina: I wonder how the board members at Verizon feel when they're like—
Leo: Aren't they going to be pissed? Yea.
Christina: They paid like a quarter less. They shaved off, what was it, like a billion dollars off of the sales price because of the one billion disclosure. And now they realized it was actually three times as big?
Leo: Lawsuit? Lawsuit?
Christina: What are they going to do?
Leo: Who do they sue?
Christina: Who are they going to sue? Exactly. Exactly. I mean, you know what I mean? They made the deal. They clearly didn't do their due diligence enough. I mean exactly who are they going to go after?
Leo: Or you can make the case that Yahoo covered it up.
Christina: I mean I guess. If you can prove that, you know.
Leo: Yea, hard to prove. What happened? Is Marissa Meyers still there?
Leo: She left.
Ben: She left.
Leo: She took her pay out and—
Ben: Yea, it's all Tim Armstrong.
Leo: She was going to stay, not with the old part, but with the—
Ben: The Alibaba holding thing.
Leo: The Alibaba holding thing.
Ben: I don't think she's with that anymore.
Leo: She didn't stay there either?
Ben: I don't think so.
Leo: So, she's just on the beach enjoying life with her $100-million-dollar payout and—
Christina: Can you blame her?
Leo: No. No, no. It's funny though because usually—that's what I would do. But usually people like here, like immediately go, well, my next big challenge is going to be, I'm going to figure out how to—
Christina: I'm sure she will have her own VC funders, soon, just as soon as she's had some time to decompress.
Leo: She'll join you. She'll start doing venture capital.
Ben: I would invest with Marisa.
Ben: We did one company together.
Leo: Did you?
Ben: A company called uBeam. Wireless electricity over distance.
Leo: How's that working out?
Ben: That is working out super awesome and I know things that I cannot talk about.
Leo: It's working?
Ben: It is working.
Leo: Remember the rumor when it was going to be, that Apple was going to be able to charge. You'd just go into the room and it would charge. And I said at the time, "That's never going to happen."
Christina: That's amazing.
Ben: They're not—
Leo: But uBeam was the technology everybody was talking about.
Ben: uBeam showed off the technology at a conference earlier this year and showed that it worked. But I invested because I literally tried it.
Leo: But doesn't it like fry you?
Ben: Nope. Ultrasound does not fry babies.
Leo: Oh, it's using sound. That's right. It's not using electricity or RF. It's just sound.
Mikah: I want that so bad.
Ben: There's cool things. There's so many cool things.
Leo: It might scramble your—
Ben: It will not.
Ben: It will not.
Leo: Ok. Ok.
Mikah: My cell walls. They're scrambling.
Leo: Scrambling. How far? How far will it go?
Ben: I can't talk about that.
Leo: Come on. Nobody's here. Just us.
Ben: (Laughing) Just the four of us.
Leo: Just the four of us.
Mikah: Just hold out your hands, Leo, and then start going in and then he'll nod his head.
Leo: Is it this far? Is it this far? Tug your ear. Is it this far?
Christina: Yea, exactly. Blink once.
Leo: No, I won't put Ben on the spot. That's interesting though. You're an investor in uBeam. Nice. Well, I'm going to stay friends with you (laughing).
Mikah: We're all friends today, right?
Leo: We're all friends. Google's accused of racketeering. And a well-known architect, Eli Attia, spent 50 years developing what he calls the "game-changing new technology for building construction." In 2010, Google said, "Hey. Eli, that's cool. We'd like to work with you to commercialize it as software." Attia moved to Palo Alto to focus on it, code named Project Genie. It was part of Google X. It was one of the first Google X moonshots. But then, according to the lawsuit, Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin plotted to squeeze Attia out of the project, pretended to kill it, but then spun off Project Genie into a new company which Attia had no stake in. Attia is accusing Google of racketeering saying it's not the first time, it's not the only time. They do this all the time. It's cheaper to steal than to develop your own technology. This is what Microsoft was accused of, remember, in the 90s. They would do a NDA with a company. They would learn all about it saying, "We're just acquiring you." And then say, "Yea, no, we decided not to," and build exactly the same thing. A judge in Santa Clara County Superior Court approved the addition of the racketeering claims to the lawsuit. The suit was filed a few years ago but now this new racketeering charge has been added. Apparently, according to some, Google likes to do this sort of thing. The renamed Project Genie the Flux Factory. Now it's called Flux. It's headquartered in San Francisco. It sells building design software and markets itself as the first company launched by Google X. Google says, "Hey, we paid him for his technology. We own it now. That's that." We'll watch that case with interest.
Ben: While we don't know much about what was right or wrong with that case, there is definitely a culture of bigger companies doing NDAs, finding out as much as they can, and then building their own stuff internally, more than even a few years ago.
Leo: It's always the fear of an inventor that this will happen. That they'll bring it to a big company and they'll say, "Oh, that's very interesting. But, no, we're not really interested." And then build it. So, don't know the merits of the case. But, interesting. I'm now looking at an old rundown I think because it says—this is an old story. Let me see if I can find—yea, here we go. Actually, let's take a break and then I'm going to ask you all why it is the tech community is so anxious to defend Eugene Kaspersky. Ok? Ok. When we come back. Before we get on with the show, I realize that there were a lot of things that happened this week on TWiT that you might have missed. We decided we could make up for that by editing a little kind of highlight reel. Watch.
Narrator: Previously, on TWiT.
Paul Thurrott: And if you really were using—
Leo: Something horrible is happening to Mary Jo (laughing).
Paul: The menace. Look at her.
Mary Jo Foley: Oh, I was just watching the—no, no, no, no.
Narrator: Tech News Weekly.
Megan Morrone: You wrote earlier that Snapchat looks on their platform and didn't have any problems. So, are we to believe that we're living in a world where the only news we can trust is from Snapchat?
Tony Romm: The Russian Intelligence Agencies can't take out a tab on Snapchat Discover without setting up a deal with Snapchat. So, that by itself makes it very difficult for anyone to really game the system.
Narrator: iOS Today.
Megan: We wanted to talk a little bit about terms of service, so we have—
Leo: My favorite lawyer.
Megan: The princess of terms of service, Denise Howell.
Leo: What should people do when they're confronted with a 56-page legal document that they're asked to agree to before they can use their new iPhone?
Denise Howell: You can make this assumption, that everything in there is in there because it benefits the company and covers the companies rear end in some way.
Leo: I did assume that.
Narrator: TWiT. We read the tech news so you don't have to.
Alex Lindsay: I'm still testing whether shaking the phone makes a webpage load faster.
Leo: It's how you shake it. You've got to do it like a polaroid.
Rene Ritchie: Like a polaroid, shake, shake.
Leo: I've been doing it all wrong.
Alex: I've been shaking it like a hammer.
Leo: Rocket Mortgage is our sponsor today, a big, big company. Quicken Loans, the number 2 lender in the country, billions of dollars in loans, has created something just for geeks. When that happens, I have to celebrate it. Yay, they're thinking of us. They have created an entirely online home loan process so you don't have to go to the bank. You don't have to go to the attic to find all the paystubs and all the paperwork. You can do it all on your phone, on your laptop. You could do it on your phone at an open house and get loan approval in minutes from the best lender in the country, Quicken Loans. It's called Rocket Mortgage. It gives you the confidence you need when it comes to buying a home or refinancing your existing home loan. You'll understand all the details. It's all very transparent. Because they have trusted financial partners, you can share your information with Rocket Mortgage easily, with the touch of a button. And once they get that information, they can crunch those numbers fast because computers. Last home loan I got about 4-years ago. The guy actually had a calculator and he had a sheaf of papers that he was calculating what the amortization table on his super-duper calculator. I thought, "This is not exactly 21st century technology here." Rocket Mortgage is, whether you're buying your first home or your 10th, they can calculate in minutes and give you a loan based on income, assets and credit, that's right for you, for a loan for which you qualify. You choose the term. You choose the rate and you're done. You could do it at an open house and buy it right then and there. Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Apply simply. Understand fully. Mortgage confidently. Equal housing lender. Licensed in all 50 states. NMLSconsumeraccess.org number 3030. Now, I know you might not be buying a house right this minute. I hope not, that you're just listening to us, but bookmark this site if you do down the road want to buy or re-fi. RocketMortgage.com/TWiT2. RocketMortgage.com/TWiT2. It's really a great idea. We thank Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage for their support of This Week in Tech.
So, Eugene Kaspersky is a very well-liked guy in the tech industry. I know so many people say, "Oh, he's great. I love Eugene." Kaspersky makes anti-virus software. I remember Dvorak, it was his favorite software. He loved it. And then recently, the Department of Defense said, "Don't use Kaspersky anti-virus because Kaspersky's known to have written software for the Russian FFB, the secret police." The Wall Street Journal this week published an article saying hackers working for the government, for the Russian government, stole confidential material—and see, a NSA contractor. This keeps happening to the NSA. Just like Edward Stone. A NSA contractor decided, "You know, I think I'm going to bring all of this stuff home and put it on my personal computer, my personal computer that's loaded with Kaspersky anti-virus." According to The Journal, the government believes, the NSA believes that the Kaspersky AV scanning his computer, found those documents. Maybe they were viruses created by the NSA. Notified Kaspersky. Kaspersky notified hackers in the Russian government who then exfiltrated the stuff, maybe with the help of the Kaspersky software. It's unknown. And stole, and penetrated the NSA contractor's computer and stole the files. Now, it may be that Kaspersky had nothing to do with it, right? Best Buy on September stopped selling their software and offered free removals and credits towards competing packages. US Department of Homeland Security directed all USA agencies to stop using Kaspersky products and services last month. You guys use Kaspersky Anti-Virus? See, Dan Gooden and ARS Technica and others defending, because Kaspersky's saying "Well, not so fast," Dan writes. "We don't know what really happened."
Mikah: Are they defending the person or are they defending the software?
Leo: I think, well, they're defending Kaspersky, the company but I think that, I have to trace this back to the fact that Eugene Kaspersky, the founder, he's a very genial, jovial guy, who used to go to trade shows, CES and Comdex, bought drinks for people. Everybody loves Eugene Kaspersky. And I think they don't want to believe that—but if you were a spy (laughing), wouldn't you buy drinks for everybody and be lovable?
Mikah: It's the long con.
Leo: Right? Anyway, I guess none of you are friends of Eugene Kaspersky and want to defend him. Kaspersky officials say, "Kaspersky Lab has not been provided any evidence substantiating the company's involvement in the alleged incident reported by The Journal. It's unfortunate the news coverage of unproven claims continue to perpetuate accusations about the company. As a private company, Kaspersky Lab, which is in Russia, does not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia and the only conclusion seems to be Kaspersky Labs caught in the middle of a geo-political fight."
Ben: Which is the 2nd part for sure is true. It almost doesn't matter at this point if the accusations are true or not. The fact that you're talking about a Russian based security company just makes it difficult if not impossible for it to in this environment, be on US computers, especially computers used by government.
Leo: I'm not going to use it.
Ben: I mean I never—well, Mac never used it.
Leo: I don't use anti-viruses anyway because anti-viruses inevitably put more holds on your system more than they protect you.
Ben: Less important than it used to be.
Leo: Yea, that's the point. Yea.
Ben: But for like Kaspersky, the company, it's a death knell. Wrong location, wrong time and era. Security company plus Russia.
Leo: Who would you trust more, Eugene Kaspersky or John MacAfee?
Christina: I mean, Eugene Kaspersky, but that's just because—I mean, that's really hard.
Mikah: But who would you back in a fight?
Ben: Maybe it will be the Libertarian Party for the next election.
Leo: That's right. He wanted to run for president. Actually, Gooden does point out that the real story here, is this is now the 3rd time that private contractors have exfiltrated stuff from the NSA and either leaked it or lost it. So, maybe NSA, you want to start thinking about your security? I don't know.
Christina: Maybe? I don't know.
Leo: Maybe? Equifax says, "Oh, it wasn't 143-million. It was 145 and a half million."
Christina: It's everybody. I mean, you know.
Leo: And the CEO of Equifax in his testimony before Congress says, "You know what? It boils down to one guy not doing his job."
Christina: But not him. Not him.
Leo: Not me. Oh, no.
Christina: Not him. He retired and took his nice $90-million-dollar retirement package.
Leo: It just makes my blood boil. And you really want your blood to boil? This is just unbelievable. The IRS has awarded Equifax a no-bid, $7.25 million-dollar contract to help them keep track of information that was leaked from Equifax. Or—
Ben: Doesn't anyone at the IRS say, "Stop. This is a bad idea."
Leo: The IRS' concern is that people will use the Equifax information to falsely apply for refunds. So, who better to ask than the company that leaked the information to help them figure that out?
Ben: More face palming. So much face palming.
Leo: Yea, that's all you can do. O-M-G. Elon Musk talking to the governor of Puerto Rico, or as our president would say, Puerto Rico.
Mikah: Oh, God. Three times.
Christina: Three times. It's horrible.
Leo: Puerto Rico. To rebuild the grid. Now, this is actually an opportunity for Puerto Rico. They're going to have to rebuild their grid. It was completely knocked out by Hurricane Irma. Musk says, "Guess what? We can do it with solar and power walls. Big batteries and solar. What do you think?" Let's do it.
Ben: On Musk's part it's brilliant.
Leo: It's good PR. You can't lose.
Ben: You can't lose. And if it works, then every state and every country will want it.
Leo: Isn't that always the opportunity, though? If you have no infrastructure, you can leapfrog and do something really smart.
Ben: It's not a bad deal at all for Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico.
Leo: Puerto (laughing). So, Uber gets kicked out of London because they won't submit to fingerprints. Uber and Lyft kicked out of Austin because they said, "No, no. You can't fingerprint our drivers." The State of California said, "No, you know what? They're right." The Public Utilities Commission says, "Although we recognize the public's familiarity with fingerprinting, we do not see that it demonstrably creates a level of safety to be added over and above the current background check protocols." The PUC says, "You don't have to do fingerprints. That was a bad idea." See, the public understand fingerprints and thinks that will help. But it turns out, there's a lot of false positives. It isn't necessarily you know, proving that the person is connected to whatever crime that fingerprint's connected to. Fingerprint checks aren't the answers says the PUC. I thought this was fascinating. It turns out, it's the taxi commissions. Taxi drivers are generally required to give fingerprints in London, in Austin and in other places. It was the taxi commissions that said, "Why should we have to do it and not Uber and Lyft?"
Christina: Which is a fair thing to ask. I mean, in New York City, for instance, all the Uber drivers have to be approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. But Uber pays, and Lyft, they basically pay the fees. But you have to be registered with the TLC.
Leo: And that's important because the TLC is not the—doesn't represent taxi drivers, right?
Christina: No. No, no, no. It just means that in order to have a car that can pick up passengers, you have to be registered with them. And that's different from almost any other city that Uber operates in and Lyft too for that matter. And they made that concession because New York was such an important market. And you know, they fought in Austin and ended up being reinstated and who knows what will happen with London. London might be an important enough market that Uber will change its policies. But, I mean, but it's a valid question for the taxi operators to say, "Why do our drivers have to follow these rules when the others don't?" especially since the services for the most part are so similar.
Leo: It does feel like there's more to this story than I thought. I just thought, well, why wouldn't they have fingerprints?
Ben: Why wouldn't Uber and Lyft just say, "Ok, we'll do it."
Leo: Why wouldn't they do that? Well, apparently, it's expensive. It's time consuming and it has a high-rate of false positives.
Christina: And that's the thing. It has a—and for them, you have to think of, ok, the big case, New York again is kind of an outlier in the market because again, most of the people who drive in New York are professionals or at least trying to make their living by driving. And some other cities are like that too, but New York is one of the big ones. If you'd think that the big value proposition for Uber and Lyft has always been, even though this is false, there's like a great game that I think Fast Company or someone made that actually showed how hard it is to like earn money driving for these services. It has been that anybody can do it in their spare time. And the more friction you bring into the process, ok, now I have to be fingerprinted. Now I have to go through this background check. I have to do that. The fewer people are going to be willing to be part of your ecosystem. Now, ok, all things said, Uber and Lyft, Uber more than Lyft, want to be in a place where self-driving taxis will pick anyone up anyway, right? But until we get to that point, you do need to have you know, people willing to do it. And that—it takes—the more red tape you put into it, the harder it is to have people willing to be your drivers, so.
Leo: All right. Two things started 20-years ago this week. One's surviving. One's not. AOL Instant Messenger closing its doors finally. You're young enough, Christina. I bet you used AOL a lot when you were a teenager.
Christina: I absolutely did. I mean Mikah may be too young to have used it, but I know me and Benji for sure.
Ben: You and I were going back and forth on that. What was your user name?
Leo: Film Girl?
Ben: Was it Film Girl on that?
Christina: No, I was TBFreaking998.
Ben: Mine was YGRPG. It stood for—I was a video game nerd. It stood for Yoshi Genuine RPG from the video game I played.
Christina: Oh, God. I love it.
Leo: My daughter's 25 now, grew up on AIM. Instead of calling as high schoolers did when I was a kid. We actually had phones back then. But my son is 22, actually missed that. They didn't even use AIM by the time he was a teenager they were using Skype and Video Chat and Video Conferencing with Google Hangouts and stuff. So, it really was this kind of slice of time. Her, just for completeness, her AIM handle was GottaBassnotaLife, which I thought was good except she didn't play the bass. But anyway, it was clever. I liked it.
Mikah: I can't remember mine. I'm sad about that. I didn't use it as much as some of my other friends did all the time.
Leo: You were on the tail end of it probably.
Mikah: Yea, I turned 25 this year. So, I was on the tail end. But we wrote a eulogy over at iMore about it because it's still sad to see it go and there were good times for sure.
Leo: So, an Ode to AOL Instant Messenger from Tory Foulk from Mobile Nations. An Ode. Is there actually a singing? Anything I can—
Mikah: There should be. There should be.
Christina: There should be because we always set our away messages as song lyrics. That was always the thing, is you could tell how EMO someone was being based on what song lyric they were choosing.
Leo: Well, I like this, though. Thanks. And this is kind of how it was on AIM. Thanks—no vowels, fr th Mrmrs. And then a bunch of emojis. You didn't have emojis. Hearts. Plusses.
Christina: Yea, Unicode.
Leo: 1997 – 2017. You know what else was started in 1997 that my generation loves? Slashdot. Slashdot. Rob Malda, "CMDR Taco," wrote. He doesn't have anything to do with Slashdot. It's been sold and other companies run it. But he wrote a really nice kind of history of Slashdot on Medium on the free code camp Medium Feed. It was originally a section on his homepage called Chips and Dips. And eventually he decided, he was running static HTML. Eventually he decided to create something a little bit more sophisticated called Slashdot.org. It was running on a deck. Alpha of all things which he got for free for getting a Space Invaders clone. It was about a 486 speed but it ran Linux and he was pretty happy about that. Slashdot was almost immediately slash dotted which is kind of ironic but Slashdot was pretty amazing. For many years, that was the source of tech news and it's now 20-years old. But it's still going.
Christina: It's so interesting, because before there was Hacker News, before there was Reddit, before there was Digg, you know, like Slashdot was the place, you know? Even Twitter to a certain extent. Like that's where you would kind of go to figure out what was at least in the nerd sphere, that kind of tech sphere. And I know that as a writer, I know that when I first started writing professionally, if the link got on Slashdot it was a big deal. Then it became like Digg and Hacker News and Reddit and whatnot. But, yea, so funny.
Leo: I think, in fact, I remember Kevin telling me I think that Slashdot inspired Digg. Because we used Slashdot on Tech TV all the time, so that gave him the idea to do Digg. And then Digg was very clearly, I think Alexis Ohanian told me this, was the inspiration for Reddit. So, it all really started way back here. And it's run, is it run—who runs it? Is it the—I'm not sure who owns it these days.
Christina: It's been sold a couple times.
Leo: Source Forge.
Ben: Source Forge owns it?
Ben: I'm looking on the Wikipedia of which, you know—
Christina: Someone bought it. Like Dice bought it but then sold it.
Ben: It says BizX owns it. I don't even know what that is.
Leo: The irony of these sites is that it doesn't really matter who owns it as long as they keep the code base working because it's really a creation of the people who use it. So, Slashdot today is not at all different from Slashdot 20-years ago.
Christina: The same thing happened at Digg, too. You see some of the users and editors like migrate from one place to another. And so, the community around it like becomes important to keeping those things relevant. I mean, Rob Malta was with—I think he left 2011 I want to say is when he left Slashdot. But he was there for a really, really long time. And kind of went through a bunch of the changes and yea, even though it's not the same place it was and only certain people I think still hang on and kind of go to Slashdot every day. Like I certainly don't visit it ever unless something like this happens and I see it. Really, I saw it on Hacker News, I saw the Slashdot link but I was like, "Oh, man. Yea, that was such of its time." And such an important part I think of like news culture and internet culture and it's awesome that it still exists after 20-year and that people like Robert are still able to share the oral history so to speak of how it came to be.
Leo: And finally, this was a bad week to be 66-years old. First, Tom Petty passed away and then a couple of days ago, the former CEO of Intel, Paul Otellini passed away at the age of 66. He oversaw a very big growth era for Intel. But also, was there when Intel kind of missed the boat on mobile. Yea. So, I think you could say his reign from 2005 – 2013 was pretty successful. Maybe he didn't set the best tone for the future of Intel. Intel's revenues went to $53-billion-dollars at the end of his tenure from $34-billion dollars before he started. Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes this edition of This Week in Tech. I want to thank you guys. You're fun. Everybody must come back. I started it saying it was going to be a weird one and you guys did not disappoint. Thanks to Mikah Sargent. He's the Senior Editor of MobileNations. M-I-K-A-H S-A-R-G-E-N-T on Twitter and of course you can hear his multiple podcasts including the cartoon podcast, the cartoon cast that he's resurrected with his partner Christina Warren, Film Girl, who's also with us today. Now at Microsoft, but that hasn't slowed her down one bit. Senior Cloud Dev Advocate. You can catch her work soon on Channel 9. Yay.
Leo: Yay. And Ben Parr. He's a longtime Mashable guy along with Christina. They've got the Mashable team on. Also, the author of a book called Captivology. He's now co-founder at a company called Octane.AI and an investor and it's great to see you. What is Captivology about?
Ben: It's about the science and psychology of attention and why do we pay attention to all these things.
Leo: I should have spent more time asking you about that because that's what we were talking about, wasn't it? Yea.
Ben: In support of my research (laughing).
Leo: Yea. You even talk about politicians and how they sell their agenda using these techniques.
Leo: Yea, framing. Well, everybody should read it. The science of capturing people's attention, Captivology. It's in paperback now, too, but I happen to have an early hardback edition. Thank you all for being here. We do This Week in Tech every Sunday afternoon, 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern Time, 2200 UTC. Please stop by and say hi. You can watch live at TWiT.tv/live. If you do, join us in the chatroom at irc.twit.tv and we also have an open studio policy, so, if you'd like to be in the studio audience, you're more than welcome. We do ask if you want to be and visit the studio that you email tickets@TWiT.tv. Our studio schedule is changing a little bit and I don't want you to come here and not be able to get in. So, there are days. I think Monday is one of them. We won't be open at all anymore. So, please do. Just email tickets@TWiT.tv. We'll send you directions. We'll make sure that we're open at that time and we'll put a chair out for you. We'd love to have you. It's always great to have a live studio audience when we do the show. If you can't be here in person, if you can't be here watching the stream or in the chatroom, you can always get on demand versions of all of our shows. Yes, you can ask your favorite speech assistant and in most cases it will work if you have an Echo. Just say, "Echo, listen to This Week in Tech on TuneIn." TuneIn's the provider on the Echo. You can also listen to our live stream. "Echo, listen to TWiT Live on TuneIn," and you'll be able to hear whatever's going on in the studio on any given moment. You can also go to our website, TWiT.tv. Download episodes or subscribe using your favorite podcast catcher. Number one is still iTunes. Number two now is Pocket Casts which is interesting. And then there's Overcast and Stitcher and Slacker and a lot of other platforms. But we do like it if you subscribe. That way you don't miss an episode. Thanks for being here. We'll see you next time! Another TWiT is in the can.