Wiser! #101: Elon and Twitter continue to grab the headlines. Who could have made this up? Tweeters try Hive. Researchers find the iPhone is not as private as you think. Nike play in the Metaverse. FTX fallout continues. Home delivery drones get closer.
w/Wiser! #101 - Friday 25th November
Is Musk just an attention seeker hiding under a halo or a maverick genius who knows how to change the world? Who knows and, frankly, over the past few months I've stopped caring a few times.
But, like any great soap opera, the Twitter Affair keeps pulling me back. More on Elon, Trump and Twitter in this week's Wiser!
- I bet you thought you had privacy with your iPhone? (or, maybe not as much as you thought!)
- What's the fuss about Hive, another ad free alternative to Twitter?
- Nike has yet another web3 play for the Metaverse,
- The fallout from FTX continues. But is it right to call this the end of crypto?
- I speak with Paul Armstrong on the future of emerging technology,
- Amazon and Walmart launch home delivery with drones, as Amazon signal the end of Alexa,
As always, there are dozens of links, headlines and stuff to keep you informed and up to date on what's happening and what's coming next in tech.
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🍎 Do you think you have total privacy on your iPhone?
Not As It Seems: An investigation by independent researchers found that Apple continued to track customers in its mobile apps even after they had turned off tracking on their iPhones.
The researchers discovered that Apple was gathering user data across first-party apps even after users had turned it off in the iPhone's settings. The researchers tested Apple's own apps, including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks. They found that removing this setting and other privacy protections didn't stop Apple's data collecting.
- In other words, Apple has stopped tracking from third party apps like Facebook but not when it comes to its own apps.
Back in 2021, ahead of Apple releasing the App Tracking Transparency feature in iOS14, the EU's antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, said "it can be competition if it is shown that Apple is not treating its own apps in the same way."
- Which is a sure fire way of saying that you can expect the EU regulators to be following up on this!
The researchers also found that the iPhone contains information that can directly link details about how a device is used, its performance, features, and more, directly to a specific user, despite Apple's claims otherwise.
This research comes at a bad time for Apple who are being sued this week for collecting users’ personal information regardless of whether or not the user had turned off iPhone Analytics. The class action lawsuit contends Apple's privacy promises violate the California Invasion of Privacy Act.
Other BigTech News
- Apple plan to use US-made chips from 2024. On first blush, this looks like a coming-home story. But it is more about where Tim Cook is COMING FROM rather than where he's GOING TO. This is all about Apple reducing its reliance on factories in Taiwan, where 60% of the world's processors are produced. It also removes a source of tension with China, Apple's 2nd largest market. Source: Engadget
- Apparently, Apple are not going to build an ad business on the iPhone, as was previously reported by Bloomberg. I'm not entirely convinced by the story. The Apple ecosystem is a closed shop and rich in data. The temptation to monetise is too great. But that's just my opinion! Source: The Information
- The biggest surprise in Amazon's announcement they were laying off 10k staff was that it included staff working on Alexa. It appears that the Jeff Bezos flagship product was losing billions of dollars a year. This was meant to be at the centre of Amazon owning the home automation space but it seems that Alexa is used as a glorified clock-radio and not the Star Trek control centre envisioned by the Amazon founder. Source: The Information
- Tencent has a new automated music-generation project that released 1,000 AI generated songs in China. One of these computer generated tracks was streamed more than 100 million times. Source: Music Week
- UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has canned plans to introduce an ecommerce online sales tax because it’s "too complex". This was meant to be a means to tackle the scandalous situation where BigTech avoided paying taxes in the country where sales are made. They do that by paying “royalties” to shell companies in tax havens, thereby making no profit here, only there, where there's little or no tax. Source: The City
- Meta may have pivoted to the Metaverse and pumped $12 billion last year into its VR R&D division, but it’s WhatsApp that we're told is the next big cash cow for the firm formerly known as Facebook. Source: Reuters
Trump’s Twitter Resurrection: The People Have Spoken
Last weekend, Elon Musk tweeted a poll: should Donald Trump’s account be reinstated on Twitter? Around 15 million votes went 52:48 in favour of Trump. It was classic Musk theatre to get public support for a decision he said he would do anyway.
But: The decision to reactivate Trump’s Twitter account is a dangerous one.
Here's why? The "way Twitter works" and "the way Trump speaks" are identical.
- Trump and Twitter share three primary structural biases: simplicity, incivility, and impulsivity.
These biases make for a lousy basis for engaging in thoughtful, sustained discussion of serious matters. If you don't believe me, try having a rational debate on Twitter. Add to that, social media is uniquely adept at igniting emotion, particularly negativity, anger, and outrage.
Here's The Thing: Trump’s discourse since losing the presidency in 2020 has been motivated a desire for revenge. Putting him back on Twitter is like pouring petrol on a pile of dry wood and throwing a match at it.
With Musk at the helm, the content moderation guardrails are lower than they were before (when Trump was banned). With Trump's prospects of being selected as the presidential candidate looking shaky, and the threat of criminal charges looming large, he will turn to the best form of defence he knows: attack.
And with unrestricted access to 80+ million followers on Twitter, compared to a few million on Truth Social, Trump would have the attention platform he craves.
However, so far trump has resisted Twitter despite Musk's best efforts to get him back...
Other Twitterverse news
- Musk told employees of his plans, dubbed Twitter 2.0, to add secure direct-messaging, and voice and video chat to the social media platform.
- This was after he fired half the Twitter staff because he doesn’t think they’re needed. And just before Twitter systems started breaking. (Forbes reported a user tweeted the latest pirate copy of The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift in two minute chunks over a 50 tweet thread because the anti copyright detection system didn't kick in.)
- Ever the free speech absolutionist, Musk fired around 20 employees for freely expressing speech that was critical of him on Twitter’s Slack channel.
- Around 137,000 people paid for a Twitter Blue subscription before the service was put on hold by Musk. That generates a little over a $1 million a month, compared to the $4 million a day that Musk says Twitter is losing.
Why is Musk doing this? A subscription model is a great idea for Twitter. Influencers get tons of value from Twitter for free (Tesla/Musk spend zero on marketing, General Motors spend $2 billion.)
Influencers with a following of over, say, 10k should/would pay for Twitter. But what Musk is doing is charging the wrong users.
- The average number of followers for these Blue accounts is just 560.
They're paying $8 a month for what? To see fewer ads (they'll still see ads, just less of them!)
When it returns, this will be the 3rd iteration of Twitter Blue. IMHO, it will fail again unless Musk aligns the subscription service to where the value exchange is most obvious; which is to monetise the accounts with the largest following.
🔦 Spotlight on Twitter alternatives: Hive
Different: The topic of conversation on last week's podcast was Mastodon, the decentralised social media platform that's picking up plenty of Twitter defectors.
But there are plenty of other contenders to be the next Twitter. Hive is one of them. And ex-Tweeters are flocking to it faster than the app can handle. Like Mastodon, Hive is free from algorithms and advertising.
Also like Mastodon, Hive is swarming with new users.
- Recent data from Sensor Tower found that the app has been installed over 214,00 times on iOS and Android devices over the past month.
- TechCrunch reckon that Hive has 3/4 million users with alomost 9 in 10 of them outside the US. For comparison, Hive founder Kassandra Pop says that number is jumped over a million.
- Hive has jumped up the App Store charts to #17 in the US and UK (up from 338), and #24 in Canada.
Here's The Thing: Hive has a team of only 3 developers, inc the founder, Pop. Between them they've built a social media platform that does not use algorithims to decide the content in the feed. Like Mastodon, it's all chronological - the latest one first.
The business model is based on micro-payments for extra bits and bobs. Such as 99 cents so that you can have an extra song on your profile (as well as adding a profile pic, users can add a piece of music to represent their personality. For 99 cents, you can have 2 songs.)
Unlike Mastodon and more like Twitter, Hive is a centralised platform. Which means it doesn't have the user challenges of understanding how the thing works.
- It's also a fun experience, more MySpace than cesspit.
🎙️ For more on Mastodon, listen to the latest episode of Big Tech Little Tech:
Meanwhile: New findings from UK regulator Ofcom found that:
64% use an online intermediary to access news and information regularly
Nike announce new play for the Metaverse
Swoosh: That's the name for Nike's latest initiative that enables consumers to create and sell sneakers for the Metaverse economy.
- Effectively, this gives creators & Nike fans the opportunity to create and sell their own designs directly to Nike and earn a royalty cut in return.
But this is more than just a gimmick to sell a few pairs of trainers. This is about building community. It is an innovative use of emerging technology aimed at strengthening loyalty amongst existing customers.
The sneakers will come with NFTs that enable a dynamic membership with exclusive benefits that can be developed over time.
Nike have been prolific when it comes to NFTs, having sold more than any other brand in 2021 (around $180 million).
Johnnie Walker are ones to watch in NFTs
I've just loaded the use-cases for Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, Johnnie Walker, JBL, Jacob & Co and Hypnotiq into the Brand Strategy database.
These latest examples of consumer brands in emerging tech are all NFT-based projects with Johnnie Walker being the most active.
- The whiskey brand are using NFTs as a means to connect the scarcity of limited edition bottles and the status of owning them, with exclusive benefits, all wrapped up in a digital token.
The Collection currently has 88 brands (from A to J), 36 celebrities and 15 locations listed in the collection. Drop 2, which includes the brands from I to M, will be released in the first week of December.
Other Metaverse News
- Apple is developing a mixed-reality AR/VR headset. This guide contains everything that is currently known about realityOS. Source: MacRumours
- To celebrate this years Thanksgiving Day Parade, Macy’s has created a virtual parade in the Metaverse. The immersive version of the parade also features five NFT galleries as Macy’s continues to connect with a younger demographic via emerging technology. Source: Retail Dive
Listen to this: Neal Stephenson is the author of Snow Crash, and the man credited with inventing the term "Metaverse." In this podcast, Stephenson explains his view on today's version(s) of the Metaverse. It's well worth a listen. Source: Spotify
FTX fallout continues
What's struck me most in the aftermath of the collapse of FTX is how quickly it has ignited "the end of crypto" narrative. Coupled with the decline of the total market cap of crypto, down from $3 trillion a year ago to $875 million or so today, the FTX scam is presented as the proof that the whole thing is a fake.
But! When confronted with this narrative, my question is "how is this different to Wirecard?"
If you're not familiar with Wirecard, they were a German payments business that was once more valuable than Deutsche Bank and the darling of the DAX. However, it turned out that the whole thing was a sham and that most of what they said they had, they hadn't.
It's hard to see how FTX is that much different. At the end of the day, both failed because of individuals who were emperors with no clothes.
The latest on FTX:
- Founder Sam Bankman-Fried thought he was having an off-the-record conversation on Twitter DMs with a Vox reporter. This is what they said.
- The new CEO, John Ray III (who oversaw the Enron bankruptcy) released his first statement on the failed crypto exchange. It’s the worst he’s ever seen, he said, with no finance team, cash management, list of its bank accounts, and no list of employees or their terms. The company was buying apartments for staff in their names with corporate funds, and loaned the founder a billion dollars.“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information.”
- At the first hearing in the bankruptcy case, the lawyer representing FTX said of Sam Bankman-Fried, “What we have here is a worldwide, international organisation but which was run as a personal fiefdom of Sam Bankman-Fried.”
- “I can’t point to other brand-name institutional firms that have delivered this amount of money to one company with this lack of governance and level of this disaster, but it’s possible there are others,” NFX general partner Pete Flint told The Information about Sequoia’s FTX investment. A black eye for one of Silicon Valley’s finest VCs.
Other Web3 News
- Citigroup, HSBC, Wells Fargo, and MasterCard, among others have joined forces with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to explore using distributed ledgers to connect deposits. Source: Defiant
- The SEC has crypto in the crosshairs. Source. NYT
- The state of crypto, explained in a Twitter thread.
- Japan has plans for a digital Yen next year. The Central Bank Digital Currency pilot will involve the central ban and other leading Japanese banks with the goal of issuing the CDBC in 2026. Source: Watcher.Guru
- A Reuters investigation discovered software disguised as American apps was actually from Russian company Pushwoosh. The mobile apps where found to be used by the CDC, US Army, NRA, and Unilever.
- Bloomberg News is using an AI translation system, from Papercup, to convert its content into Spanish. Source: Press Gazette
- It was never going to be long before the AI generative technology would be used for porn. There are two troubling roads this will go down. One is deepfake to change the face in the video. The other is “make a video where this happens” (and this can be anything). Source: TechCrunch
- Amazon showcased its new Sparrow robotic arm, which can identify and pick up specific items for packing. Amazon engineers say it can correctly identify over 65% of the millions of products the company handles. Source: The Robot Report
- Italy outlawed the use of facial recognition and smart glasses in public spaces. The new law will see local authorities given leeway to make an exception if the technologies are being used to help fight crime. Source: Reuters
- Amazon uses offshore workers, often in India, to train the AIs that track workers at their fulfilment centres. Source: The Verge
- FIFA is touting an AI-powered decision-making system that will use sensors in the actual soccer ball to help determine calls. A vast network of facial recognition-enabled cameras will track the crowd using the same technology deployed by the controversial firm Clearview AI. Source: Politico
- As Amazon rolls out its drone-delivery system, Walmart has partnered with DroneUp to get its own fleet in the air. Source: Fast Company
- Online “scam mills” in Cambodia are using “cyber slaves” as workers. Source: Rest of World
📽️ Future of emerging tech
Paul Armstrong is an emerging tech strategist. Here's our conversation about crypto, metaverse, web3 and AI generative art.
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