AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

Facebook to Buy WhatsApp for $16+ Billion →

February 20, 2014 |

Re/code:

The move marks the social giant’s biggest acquisition to date, as Facebook paid $16 billion in cash and stock for the company. In addition, the deal includes another $3 billion in restricted stock units for WhatsApp employees, which will vest over a period of time.

Wow. Congratulations to the WhatsApp team, that’s an amazing deal. $16 billion is a huge amount of money, but Mark Zuckerberg has historically been very clever when acquiring other companies, even at prices that seemed insane at the time (think Instagram, for example).

I think this makes sense for Facebook, clearly they’re interested in reaching WhatsApp’s large user base. For me as a user, unfortunately, it means yet another reason not to trust WhatsApp.

The problem is, right now there’s no clear alternative. The most interesting one is Telegram, but even though their goal to protect their users’ privacy is noble and their implementation seems serious, it still smells too much of vaporware to me. They refuse to accept money or show adds, so I’m not clear on how that bodes for its long-term survival. For now, I think it will have to do, but this is obviously a great opportunity for another player to step in. With a serious proposition, they could grab a significant piece of the market.

For a messaging app, being ubiquitous is the ultimate goal of course, which is why WhatsApp has been able to negotiate such a great deal. Being reliable and gaining your users’ trust, though, is just as important. We’ll see how it goes.

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Why Indie Developers Go Insane →

February 13, 2014 |

Jeff Vogel writes a great article on how hard success (and the subsequent fame it brings) can be on most indie developers:

It’s just that indie developers tend to have high visibility, high stress, and small support groups. These factors mean that, when these devs break, you see it, and it’s spectacular. Twitter has only helped to make self-immolation faster, easier, and more public.

I assume (I’ve never quite been in the position myself) that finding yourself in the spotlight all of a sudden must have an absolutely terrifying effect. We’re all hyper-aware of our own shortcomings, and these insecurities are greatly magnified by negative feedback, even if it’s without merit. It’s just how we’re wired. I can easily see how deeply disturbing it must be to be exposed to an overwhelming amount of negative and destructive criticism, especially if it’s the first time it happens to you.

Precisely this is what happened to Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen these past few weeks. He rose to fame thanks to a little game called Flappy Bird, which skyrocketed to the top of both the App Store and Google Play Store in a matter of days. However, along with the cash, this sudden increase in visibility brought him much unwanted attention and considerably harsh criticism, most of it unwarranted. It is no surprise that Nguyen finally gave in to the pressure and removed his game from the stores entirely:

Dong Nguyen quit. A fortune coming through the door, and he walked away. As I write this, Flappy Bird has been removed from app stores. Think about this. I mean you, personally. Think about what it would take to make you run from a gold mine like this. Really. Think about why someone would do this. This is not about money.

The Internet can be a cruel place sometimes. It doesn’t hurt to remind us every so often that behind all those pixels there’s always a human being.

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Placebo-philes | Anxious Machine →

February 10, 2014 |

Last week, Marco touched on a subject I’ve always found fascinating: how higher-end audio equipment (read: more expensive) doesn’t necessarily sound better after a certain quality threshold has been met. I find it funny because the audiophile world is full of enthusiastic people who swear by their equipment, and couldn’t possibly “compromise” when it comes to their listening experience.

Most of it is nonsense, of course. Why then, do people keep buying thousand-dollar headphones? Well, the main reason behind it is the placebo effect: When you know you spent a fortune on a pair of headphones, you have every incentive to convince yourself that they sound better. Even if they don’t, really. Especially when they don’t. Because the opposite would mean you’re just an idiot who spent his hard-earned cash chasing unicorns. Bad news is, you probably are. Sorry about that.

Oh, don’t take it personally. We all are.

The placebo effect is universal, and the more you think you’re immune to it, the more you will fall under its spell. Robert McGinley has an interesting take on this, which Marco also linked to last week:

I had moments almost as absurd with my headphones, when I heard things inside songs I swore Id never heard before, when I felt as if parts of the music were two dimensional backdrops and then three dimensional shapes would leap out of the picture towards me, or the music would drizzle over my head, or crackle like lightning, or Id swear I could smell the studio where the song had been recorded, or something.

It’s amazing how we convince ourselves of the most ridiculous claims in order to rationalize and justify our decisions. It’s just human nature, I suppose. However, what I particularly like about this issue is that, being a subjective experience, we can actually game the system and use the placebo effect to our benefit:

It’s easy to sneer at the placebo effect, or to feel ashamed of it when you’re its victim. And that’s precisely why I found Felix Salmon’s piece revelatory, because instead of sneering at the placebo effect of fancy wine, its marketing, and its slightly higher prices, he thinks we should take advantage of it. If the placebo effect makes us happy, why not take advantage of that happiness?

Why not, indeed?

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Microsoft, Past and Future →

February 05, 2014 |

John Gruber:

Satya Nadella needs to find Microsoft’s new “a computer on every desk and in every home running Microsoft software”. Here’s my stab at it: _Microsoft services, sending data to and from every networked device in the world_.

I very much agree with his take. The tech world works much like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection: you adapt or you die.

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Paper, The Opening Sentence In Facebook's 10-Year Plan | Co.Design →

February 04, 2014 |

Paper radically re-imagines what Facebook is on a mobile device as a fluid river of cards featuring news articles, photos, status updates, and more, with no ads to sully the experience (yet). It’s being released next week on February 3rd, just one day before Facebook’s 10-year anniversary, and there’s a reason for that: Paper is the opening sentence in Facebook’s next 10-year plan.

It looks interesting, naming issues aside. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet though (as of today, it’s still not available on Spain’s App Store), so I can’t speak for its usability. Perhaps even more interesting than the app itself is Origami, the design tool they created to build the interface. Pretty clever and, surprisingly, free.

It seems to me that Facebook, for all the things I don’t like about them, have gotten one thing straight: they’re not standing still, and they’re not afraid to try new things. That’s the key for long-time relevance (and survival) in the tech world.

Via Daring Fireball.

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Happy Belated Birthday, Mac →

January 27, 2014 |

Wonderful special feature on Apple’s website about the history of the Mac. It all started in 1984 with a boyish-looking Steve Jobs and the promise of insanely great things. 30 years later, the Mac has become an iconic piece of technology that empowers artists, designers, writers and many more creative professionals to be the very best they can be. It has literally changed the world; it’s made a dent in the Universe.

Without the Mac, none of the things I do for a living would be the same; none of them would be as enjoyable, as empowering or as fun. Some of them would not even exist.

It is no exaggeration to say the Mac has changed my life.

Happy belated birthday, Mac. May you live to be a hundred.

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Shawn Blanc introduces his new podcast, The Weekly Briefly →

January 27, 2014 |

From my review on iTunes (which, by the way, is something you should always do for the shows you like):

This show is amazing. It’s great that Shawn is putting this out there for all people to listen to. This is a weekly, freely available episode of his members-exclusive podcast, “Shawn Today”, which is chock-full of great advice for geeks, indies and technology enthusiasts in general, but also eminently enjoyable for the public at large. If you enjoy The Weekly Briefly (and I’m sure you will), you should consider [becoming a member](http://shawnblanc.net/members/) on his site and supporting Shawn’s work: outstanding stuff from an awesome human being on a daily basis. What more is there to ask for?

Easiest 5-star rating I’ve given in a pretty long time.

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Matt Gemmell: Making changes →

January 21, 2014 |

Matt Gemmell explains the reasons behind his career transition into writing full-time. Refreshingly honest article, as usual:

I’m scared, but being scared isn’t the same as being unsure. I was a programmer for a living, but for better or for worse, I’m meant to be a writer.

You should read the entire article to truly appreciate the thought and care that went into this decision. I wish Matt only the best, and I’m deeply grateful for his contribution to the tech community over the years. But as he said himself, he was always going to be a writer in the end. Those of us who have been reading along for a while already knew on some level that this day would come, eventually. And I, for one, could not be more excited about it. I think he’s going to be a terrific writer, quite simply because in my book he already is.

Now it’s time to support his dream by becoming a patron of his writing. I’m putting my money where my mouth is and already signed up. If you appreciate great writing and want to see more of it, you should too.

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Yale student takes matters into his own hands over website censorship →

January 20, 2014 |

Sean Haufler, an Economics student at Yale, on how the University censored a course-selection website made by two fellow Yale students:

Last Friday (1/10/14), Yale blocked YBB+’s IP address on the school network without warning. When contacted, Yale said that YBB+ infringed upon Yale’s trademark. Harry and Peter quickly removed the Yale name from the site, rebranded it as CourseTable and relaunched. Yale blocked the website again, declaring the website to be [malicious activity](http://haufler.org/img/blocked.png).

Haufler then decided to take matters into his own hands and came up with a clever way to bring back the same functionality:

I built a Chrome Extension called [Banned Bluebook](https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/banned-bluebook/cglpifkaeakoloeiafbanoginnfocinj?hl=en&gl=US). It modifies the Chrome browser to add CourseTable’s functionality to Yale’s official course selection website, showing the course’s average rating and workload next to each search result. It also allows students to sort these courses by rating and workload.

Best of all, this extension is built in a way that doesn’t infringe on any of Yale’s stated trademarks, and it cannot be censored via IP-blocking:

Banned Bluebook never stores data on any servers. It never talks to any non-Yale servers. Moreover, since my software is smarter at caching data locally than the official Yale course website, I expect that students using this extension will consume less bandwidth over time than students without it. Don’t believe me? You can read the [source code](https://github.com/seanhaufler/banned-bluebook). No data ever leaves Yale’s control. Trademarks, copyright infringement, and data security are non-issues. It’s 100% kosher.

This is awesome on so many levels. But it’s not all. In what can only be described as having balls of steel, Haufler ends his post by personally addressing the Dean:

Dean Miller, I humbly request that you, on behalf of Yale, either uphold or deny students’ right, under [school policy](http://policy.yale.edu/policy/1607-information-technology-appropriate-use-policy), to build software like Banned Bluebook. If Yale affirms this right, I’d like you to publicly apologize for the events that have transpired over the last week, including Yale’s censorship of CourseTable and the pattern of hypocrisy we’ve seen in Yale’s copyright enforcement of course data. If Yale denies this right, I’ll see you at the punishment committee.

Students like Haufler should be rewarded for their integrity, not punished or threatened just so that they keep quiet. If the Dean is listening, the ball is on his court.

Via The Loop.

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