August 24, 2016
Are Brands Optimizing Their Marketing to Death?

Though it wasn’t looking at Facebook, an Advertising Research Foundation study released earlier this year found that once a digital banner ad reaches the same person 40 times or more in a month, sales actually decline. The value of each additional impression starts to decline well before entering that negative territory, of course.

Being exposed to the same ad 40 times or more a month is absurd. Ads are invasive and annoying enough to drive users to install ad/content blockers.

Vesper, Adieu

It’s also entirely possible that a notes app was never going to work, financially. That it was a bad idea from the get-go, and no matter how nicely designed the app was, no matter how lovingly well-crafted, no matter what price point we had picked (higher or lower), it wasn’t going to work financially. But given how well Vesper did do, I firmly believe it was possible that we could have made it, if we’d done it differently. And I’m convinced the best chance would have been with free Mac and iOS apps and a paid sync service.

I readily purchased Vesper when it was released and made a go at having it become my go to notes app. Even understanding that it was created by a very small team, the app just simply didn’t improve quickly enough to beat other apps, especially those offered for less.

John is right though, I do believe that if Q Branch had started with a Mac app and expanded to iOS, the app would have done much better.

August 23, 2016
Facebook tests auto-playing News Feed videos with sound

“We’re running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start. For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we’re running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook.”

Autoplaying is bad enough. Autoplaying with sound is worse.

Only a few Android users will get a taste of Google’s Nougat operating system today

But Google does not control how Nougat spreads to the bulk of Android devices. The latest Samsung Galaxy phones — and those from Sony, HTC, LG and others — will have to wait for the phone makers to issue an update and carriers to approve it.

Google may have the lion’s share of smart phones but, just like Microsoft’s Windows, most of the devices running the OS are using an older version. Consider how many exploits have been discovered for Android and it really becomes a security nightmare; millions of devices that will never be patched due to lack of interest from OEMs and carriers.

August 19, 2016
Pregnancy-Related Deaths Nearly Doubled In Texas After Cuts To Women’s Health

While the study does not suggest a clear cause for Texas’ alarming data, the rise in pregnancy-related deaths coincided with lawmakers slashing family planning funds by 66 percent in the state budget in 2011. The cuts forced 82 family planning clinics to close, one-third of which were Planned Parenthood clinics, and left Texas’ women’s health program able to serve less than half as many women as it had previously served. Low-income women in particular had less access to affordable birth control and thus had more babies, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Say what you will about correlation not equalling causation but when you remove women’s access to proper medical advice and care, you’re going to see an increase in medical issues. Planned Parenthood is often the only place many women can go for pre-natal care.

Being pro-life has to mean more than just the care of the unborn. It must also include caring for the pregnant woman. She’s nothing without her health.

August 18, 2016 to End Operations Next Week

After nearly fourteen years of operation, will be shutting down next week. The decision to close Gawker comes days after Univision successfully bid $135 million for Gawker Media’s six other websites, and four months after the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel revealed his clandestine legal campaign against the company.

One less source for clickbait with a final snark thrown in. Gawker is not happy they lost to Hulk Hogan and his benefactor.

August 17, 2016
In China, Brands Are Casting More Two-Child Families in Ads

In an Ikea ad, a pair of bunk beds urged buyers in Chinese to “Come on!” and have a second child. The ad was intended to start conversations among members of China’s “loneliest generation,” who grew up without siblings in the years since the country’s one-child policy went into effect.

“The ad featured a very charming child monologue about wanting to have a playmate at home,” said BBH China Senior Planning Director Siyuan Aw. “We heard on the radio reporting the news on the one-child policy being lifted, and thought it’d be great to sell Ikea bunk beds in a tongue-and-cheek way. It was proactive on the part of BBH to help the Ikea brand stay current and progressive.”

This is definitely a creative way to sell bunk beds and rather adorable. It does make me wonder though about nearly an entire generation of a country not knowing what it’s like to have siblings. I would like to see any studies regarding this “loneliest generation.”

August 16, 2016
Duo, Google’s answer to Apple’s FaceTime, is here.

Facebook has put video and botchat and loads more into Messenger, its homegrown behemoth. Why didn’t Google meld its two do-over apps together?

“We thought about that. We thought about that long and hard,” Fox replied.

“Apps tend to do best when they’re super-focused. But it’s harder for an app to do well if it tries to do everything, and does none of those things really well,” he said. “The idea is focus — do one thing very well. How it evolves over time, you know, we’ll see.”

Apple succeeds with FaceTime because it’s part of the operating system. If the person you’re calling has nearly any Apple device, the likelihood they can receive a FaceTime call are increasingly high and will only grow each passing year.

Facebook wins with Messenger because Facebook forced their users to stop using the main Facebook app if they wanted to chat. Facebook has a large user base which is already accustomed to using the company’s app. The transition was painful and some, like myself, have abandoned the split entirely as having multiple apps for the same service is not appealing.

This is where Google falls. They are introducing new apps and hoping for adoption. There are quite a few people I know who use Google’s services but none who have used their messaging options.

Duo users are going to be stuck trying to get their friends to install the app. This is not a great way to increase usage as people don’t like to install a new app to talk to someone they know when they already have a way to do so unless that new app is far and away better. Google doesn’t seem to have that here.

Good money for damaged goods

On Monday, interested parties were expected to submit bids by 5 p.m. ahead of the auction, which begins on Tuesday. Digital media firm Ziff Davis had already offered $90 million for Gawker’s seven main online properties, including, Deadspin and Jezebel, setting a floor or “stalking horse bid” in the auction.

That’s a lot of money to be spending on essentially an online tabloid. Every now and then, these sites will post a worthwhile story however it almost always surrounded by some of of the worst trash journalism.

All I can see here are companies spending big money on the domain names as I can’t imagine the buyers would want to carry on what Gawker was doing.

August 12, 2016
CVS Pharmacy launches its own mobile payments and loyalty solution, CVS Pay

CVS Health today is launching its own mobile payments solution that will allow customers to pay for products, pick up prescriptions, earn ExtraCare loyalty rewards, as well as pay – just by scanning the barcode in the CVS mobile app. The idea, the company explains, is to eliminate the number of steps it takes today to complete a checkout, which today is a very manual process.

CVS Pay will be the first mobile payments solution CVS Pharmacy has adopted. The company doesn’t support Apple Pay or other rival, NFC-based technologies at its registers.

I switched my pharmacy to Walgreens after they started accepting Apple Pay. CVS was one of the companies behind CurrentC, the failed QR code based competitor to Apple Pay.

CVS Pay will fail for the same reasons all the other company specific payment systems fail:

  1. Use of barcodes or QR codes.

    You need to find the app, open it, go through the process of getting ready to pay, allow the cashier to scan the code (which often times doesn’t work the first or second time), and then complete your transaction.

  2. Direct access to your checking account.

    Nearly all of these payment systems want direct access to your cash instead of using the intermediary credit card. This puts all the liability on the customer. It’s much harder to recover funds withdrawn this way versus charges against your credit card. There is also the possibility of completely emptying the account due to the lower safeguards on debit transactions.

My prediction is the app will linger around for a while before updates quietly cease. CVS will later say it was merely an experiment when uptake stays basically zero and it will be removed from app stores with nary a word.

Microsoft leaks its Golden Key, unlocking Windows Secure Boot and exposing the danger of backdoors

Security researchers MY123 and Slipstream published a detailed explanation of how Microsoft bungled its security keys, and then failed to correctly patch for the issue, resulting in an ongoing issue that “may not be possible to fully resolve.”

There are now potential millions of devices at risk now. Just as in the Blackberry release of it’s secure key, the only way to secure your Windows install is to get rid of it.

August 5, 2016
Facebook: Further Reducing Clickbait in Feed

Our system identifies posts that are clickbait and which web domains and Pages these posts come from. Links posted from or shared from Pages or domains that consistently post clickbait headlines will appear lower in News Feed. News Feed will continue to learn over time — if a Page stops posting clickbait headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change. We’ll continue to update how we identify clickbait as we improve our systems and hear more from people using News Feed.

Over time the news feed on Facebook has become an ever increasing list of links that are begging for people to click on. People post their own writing less and less. Seeing as how the feed is completely driven by algorithms instead of the old chronological method, I wonder how heavily the content will shift over time.

BlackBerry CEO ‘disturbed’ by Apple’s hard line on encryption

“One of our competitors, we call it ‘the other fruit company’, has an attitude that it doesn’t matter how much it might hurt society, they’re not going to help,” he said.

“I found that disturbing as a citizen. I think BlackBerry, like any company, should have a basic civil responsibility. If the world is in danger, we should be able to help out.”

This is CEO of a company which willing gave over a global encryption key which allowed over one million messages to be intercepted and read between 2010 and 2012. Any Blackberry at the time not attached to a corporate account was, and potentially still is, wide open. By giving the key to one government, we must assume it was subsequently shared with other nations.

The only way to secure your Blackberry is to get rid of it.

July 20, 2016
Verizon Begins Charging a Fee Just to Use an Older Router

“Our records indicate that you have an older model router that is being discontinued,” states the e-mail. “If you do plan to keep using your current router, we will begin billing, on 9.29.16, a monthly Router Maintenance Charge of $2.80 (plus taxes), to ensure we deliver the best support.”

Blatant cash grab is blatant.

A Twitter Ban is Not Limiting Free Speech

Two years ago, Randall Munroe of XKCD fame created a nice comic explaining that free speech does not guarantee an audience. Since then an argument has been birthed wherein free speech somehow equates to being able to spout any vitriol that comes to mind without repercussions. That somehow if anyone removes you from their private websites, your rights are being trampled on.

This is pure and unadulterated ignorance.

Any private organization can limit what you do on their service. Any hosting company can refuse to host your hate. Any business can refuse service to anyone.

This is not your free speech being taken away. These entities are not silencing your message. They are also exercising their rights to not be affiliated with you.

In a brief interview on Tuesday evening, Mr. Yiannopoulos said, “This is the beginning of the end for Twitter.”

“Some people are going to find this perfectly acceptable,” he said. “Anyone who believes in free speech or is a conservative certainly will not.”

Sorry Milo but you did this to yourself. Twitter doesn’t want you. You’ll have to find another medium to dispense your particularly nescient views.

July 14, 2016
The Republican Convention Potential Disaster

Looking ahead to Philadelphia, [Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist who is not supporting Trump] said of the Democrats, “Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren — they’re all going to be out there swinging for the fences. But the Republicans, it’ll be like a hostage video of people forced on stage.”

There have been names dropped about who could speak at the Cleveland convention but four days out, nothing is finalized. No agenda. No message. No support from party heavy hitters. Only reluctant guests.

“On Earth 2,” Wilson said, “you’d be showing the Republican Party isn’t this stupid white boys’ club. But Donald Trump has rejected everybody who’s not in the stupid white boys’ club. At this point, we might as well have a giant cross burning out front.”

Most political conventions are packed rooms. Will the Republican convention be as well or will they need to carefully frame shots to hide empty seats in the arena? How many faces will be any color other than white? We’ll know in four days.

July 1, 2016
Facebook is Shutting Down its Paper News-reading App on July 29th


This is what my newsfeed looks like when I open Facebook on my laptop.

Only one item is relevant which I’ve highlighted. There are three large ads, a trending section which has never once been interesting to me, and a very bloated side navigation also full of links I will almost never click.

When Facebook introduced the Paper app, I was all for it. It was creative, showed nothing but a stream of what my friends were posting, and, most importantly, had Messenger built in. It was was the best way to use Facebook from your phone.

Every “improvement” Facebook has made to it’s main app only made me thankful that Paper was there. I did not want a separate app for messaging. I did not like how the main Facebook app was a huge battery drain due to it’s excessive use of background activity. I certainly did not like how, for a time, nearly every three post was a “Suggested Post” (read: an ad).

I’ve since deleted Paper from my iPhone. I will not be reinstalling the Facebook app let alone that horrible stand-alone Messenger app. Something tells me my usage will be dropping off quite substantially.

June 9, 2016
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Uses New Device To Seize Money During Traffic Stops

[T]he Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.

It’s called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month.

Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.

State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, said that removes due process and the belief that a suspect is presumed innocent until proven guilty. He said we’ve already seen cases in Oklahoma where police are abusing the system.

“We’ve seen single mom’s stuff be taken, a cancer survivor his drugs taken, we saw a Christian band being taken. We’ve seen innocent people’s stuff being taken. We’ve seen where the money goes and how it’s been misspent,” Loveless said.

This is absolutely outrageous. First, police have absolutely zero right to do this. Second, how can banks allow this to happen without a warrant?

Let’s call this what it is: theft.

Any officer who has used this device or authorized usage of this device needs to be fired and immediately arrested for violating the victim’s rights.