Why have neither the virtual assistant AI technology from Amazon (nor the one developed by Google) reached the promised land?

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Remember when guilty pleasures were a thing? I'm well aware that 2020 mercilessly redefined that term and now they’re just “pleasures” but, kids, there was a time when we used to work hard to hide these peculiar preferences of our lives. For those who have been Tigerkinging their way to sanity since March, the expression “guilty pleasures” is usually associated with unhealthy food, tacky or bizarre cultural taste, or some odd habit. Roxane Gay's guilty pleasure, for example, is watching Law & Order: SVU. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s is reading trashy novels.

Mine are Korean TV shows (Crash Landing on You is pure genius) and asking silly questions to voice-enabled devices (as in “Alexa, find me Chuck Norris”), a refined hobby that has increased significantly in 2020, as you might have guessed, and led me to an inevitable speculation: Alexa, shouldn’t you be the voice of your generation by now? …


The false dilemma of cord-cutter vs cord-forever has newspapers fiasco written all over it

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Not Fight Club, not The Matrix, and not even Pulp Fiction. The best movie of the 90’s, by far, is Groundhog Day — if the original ending had survived Hollywood’s narrow-mindedness.

For those under 30, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, tells the story of a TV reporter that gets stuck in a time-warp and must live the same day over and over again. “Like Palm Springs?”, some young lady raises her hand at back of the room. Yes, dear, like Palm Springs, but lonelier.

There are many other movies with this same time-loop plot, sure, but what makes Groundhog Day remarkable — and the same applies to last year’s Palm Springs — is its ability to mock the ephemeral nature of human existence without invoking any truisms. …


What do solo media professionals such as YouTubers, podcasters or writers miss without an editor, and how the overprotective culture will ruin most of them

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Maxwell Perkins was not exactly famous. Ok, the very notion of “famous” is a complicated one, but even in his own epoch and métier, Perkins wasn’t well-known and exalted as his boys Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe. For one thing, he wasn’t a writer, he was a book editor — yes, he’s that guy from the movie Genius (2016) — , and secondly, Perkins, while a major literary figure, always practiced what he preached: book editors should remain invisible.

But what would this fame equation look like if we applied some creative reverse engineering? Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe would be eternally “visible” without Perkins? Would The Great Gatsby be brilliant as it turned out to be? Would Look Homeward, Angel ever see the light of day? …


Behold the tales of how one single person can spread two million fake news messages per day and why Facebook’s messaging app will soon become an even worse misinformation machine

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As the most expensive acquisition in technology — $19 billion in 2014 — WhatsApp has a curious cachet in the United States. Despite being the leading messaging platform in 169 countries, WhatsApp’s share in the domestic market still hasn’t taken off: only one in four smartphone owners use the app.

This is probably why every time the issue ‘Fake News’ resurfaces in the American media cycle, WhatsApp is given a reprieve. It receives minimal attention from tech sites, it is rarely mentioned during Congress’ ‘Fake News’ hearings, and it barely appears in those trending docs aka The social dilemma or The great hack. …


“Wonderwall”? Not really. The fact that 99 of the Top 100 most played songs on Spotify are from the 2010’s reveals a lesson that holds true for TV channels, radio stations, and news sites…

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"Wonderwall" hits 1 billion streams: by now you should've somehow realized what you gotta do…

When people say that Spotify’s team lacks creativity — and people say that a lot — there’s a reason.

In December 2016, for the first time ever, a single song hit one billion streams on Spotify. Drake’s One Dance got its place in music history, not only by reaching this ten-digit figure but by pioneering a whole new kind of milestone. …


Tech giants keep handing out bags of money to fund “journalism,” and everybody knows they’re buying good press, but that’s the least interesting item of this shopping cart

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In 2016, journalist Stephen Witt wrote a stellar book called How Music Got Free, in which he explains — with tons of information and zero guessing — what happened to the music industry in the last 25 years. It’s a first-rate, detail-oriented, any-hyphenated-compliment-you-want book — and I’ll call the New York Times’ critic Dwight Garner to strengthen my position: “The richest explanation to date about how the arrival of the MP3 upended almost everything about how music is distributed, consumed, and stored.”

One of the many stories Witt managed to fit into his book recalls when Karlheinz Brandenburg, the German mathematician behind the development of MP3 data compression, found out that his technology had become the driving force of music copyright infringement. Guess where he went to wave the warning flag? To the headquarters of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in Washington. Better yet, Brandenburg had an agenda, which included: a) exposing bootleggers, b) presenting an MP3 version with copy protection, and c) convincing RIAA to embrace the technology as fast as possible. His logic posited that offering a legitimate version of MP3 would be the best defense against piracy. …


The company that provides tools for creators to run their own subscription service just got bigger. And there’s room for a lot more

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One of the greatest rock bands of the 21st Century, The Strokes produced two noteworthy videos from their second album, First Impressions of Earth (2006). The first one, Juicebox, stars David Cross, from Arrested Development, as a radio DJ that welcomes the band into the studio but has no idea who they are. While introducing them, he asks: “You guys are huge, huge in Europe, right?”

Obviously, it is half self-mocking, half showbiz criticism, but since I learned about Patreon, a few years ago, I always picture the company’s CEO, Jack Conte, in a real American TV studio being introduced by some random dude like this: “You guys are huge in Europe, right?” …


The most famous music streaming service in the world has no real competition, which is terrible for them and even worse for us

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Benchmark is “something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged.” And benchmarking is “the act of measuring the quality of something by comparing it with something else of an accepted standard.” “Dictionarily” speaking, of course. In real life, my worn out textbook would say: “It should be operationalized as a core metric to measure performance, but its meaning and usage shifts according to personal interests.”

Picture loads of big numbers that almost nobody knows how to interpret: 1 million page views, 80,000 impressions, 400 interactions, 6,000 mentions, you know the drill. …


Zuckerberg has dreamt about building the ultimate Matrix for humankind, but all he got was Tiksnaptube… for now

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Of all the insane conspiracy theories related to COVID-19, my favourite is the one that claims coronavirus is just a ploy to use a vaccine developed in collaboration with — drum roll — Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) in order to insert a “digital certificate” in every human being. There’s more: this “digital certificate” is supposedly — one more — the mark of the beast (yes, that beast) and it will be used for DNA harvesting. Better the devil you know than the DNA you don’t, I guess.

It is fascinating, truly. But it could be even wittier.

Since the beginning of the decade, when Facebook had almost one billion users, Mark Zuckerberg has planned to build a fully operational virtual world with all those people trapped in it (or “living in harmony”, if you may). It was intended to be some sort of blue Matrix in which the supreme power would be lodged in his own hands, of course, and the only pill available would be, well, the blue one. That’s what Internet.Org, Spaces, Oculus, Watch and, more recently, Libra are about: to build an entire ecosystem capable of offering free internet access, user-friendly virtual reality, addictive video experiences and easy financial transactions, all at once. …


The social media platform famous for having a really hard time controlling data leaks and its own news feed will launch a global currency

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If — and that’s a rhetorical “if” — you’re an active user of Mark Zuckerberg’s ecosystem (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and/or WhatsApp), you belong to a multitude that includes something between 1 billion (Instagram) to 2.3 billion people (Facebook). Amongst other frivolous gratifications, this position gives you the benefit of two assurances in life. First: Facebook’s not going anywhere — there’s no kodak-blockbuster-compaq storyline in the foreseeable future. Second: every-exact-thing that has happened in the past years (a mix of mass reality distortion pumping into social media pipes delivered to our doors) will happen again.

I would deepen the argument by using Donald Trump’s ready-to-go strategy for the 2020 US Elections, but professor Frederic Filloux has already done it in a way I could never accomplish, so I suggest we all take five (seven, actually) to read it before we move on. …

About

Alexandre Botão

Two decades of hardcore journalism in a past life; now Digital Media PhD candidate @ University of Porto, coffee taster and vinyl aficionado

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