Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

April 10, 2016

Computers and the Internet Facebook has some pretty lofty ambitions

It's not a non-profit, and it's not a charity. Users would be wise to keep that in mind.

News Neuroscience classes in prison

The effect it has on the incarcerated students tells us some important things about education -- and about what we should seriously consider doing to fix our criminal-justice system

Business and Finance The Treasury doth protest too much

When the Treasury Department issues a special statement announcing that they weren't targeting anyone in particular with a brand-new set of rules (that happen to have a serious impact on a high-profile event), it doesn't take all that much cynicism to suspect that the lady doth protest too much.

Broadcasting Netflix is hiking prices for customers on grandfathered plans

The product is "sticky" enough that it's hard to imagine a lot of people quitting their subscriptions over $2 a month

News Saving the mountain gorilla

Some of the best strategies for saving the gorillas may also be very good ways of helping human beings, too

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - April 10, 2016

We leave way too much human potential unfulfilled

April 9, 2016

Business and Finance The Baltic Dry Index is rising, but it's still at a very low point

Telling signs about the world economy at large -- if shipping costs (as tracked by the index) are very low, then that's a symptom that goods aren't moving on the high seas

Threats and Hazards A toxic lack of interest in others

Video circulates showing people being attacked in hotels in China as bystanders just let it happen

Business and Finance Kansas City's Federal Reserve chief is a hawk

Someone needs to be the hawk at the table -- even if, on balance, the Fed still probably needs to be dovish

Broadcasting Netflix is going to raise subscription fees

A bunch of people grandfathered into cheap streaming plans are going to have to pay a couple of extra dollars a month

Computers and the Internet Slumping Yahoo should pick through Google's product graveyard

Google has gotten pretty good at creating products, demonstrating market demand, and then pulling the plug. Yahoo should try harder to be a fast follower.

April 8, 2016

Threats and Hazards Disengagement from communities may make people more likely to vote for a terrible candidate

People who are invested -- even just a little bit -- in their local civic institutions are probably less likely to fall for the siren song of a candidate who wants to blow up everything about civic society.

Computers and the Internet Senate drafts an encryption bill that doesn't have a lot of fans

This is why we need technologically literate adults everywhere, but especially in the halls of Congress

Business and Finance Looking at the microeconomic data may signal a macro recession

When you see freight shipments declining at the biggest railroads (as they are now), you need to question whether all is well in the economy at large

Computers and the Internet Twitter buys NFL Thursday night game streams for $10 million

Seems like a bargain, and the NFL says it wasn't the highest bid. But it does put the NFL in the middle of the preeminent real-time events service on the Internet, while giving Twitter something new entirely to attract new users. An interesting gamble all around.

Aviation News SpaceX finally sticks the landing

They managed to launch and then land a rocket, vertically, on a floating platform in the ocean. It was the fifth try and its success means this has been a very, very good week to be Elon Musk. The landing as viewed from the chase plane is downright surreal.

April 7, 2016

Computers and the Internet Why you need to own the domain of your name if you're in the public view

A bunch of staffers at Mashable just got laid off abruptly. They work in the public eye, and reports have it their e-mail accounts were shut down as part of the sudden layoffs. People who are (or might be) in the public view need control over their public-facing image, and it doesn't get more public-facing than the Internet.

News American admiral wants to challenge China in the South China Sea

But the White House doesn't want him (or people like him) saying anything out loud

Business and Finance Should a fiduciary rule apply to investment advisers?

In theory, a fiduciary rule should apply -- but whether the government should be the party imposing the rule (instead of consumers simply have the requisite knowledge to know what to demand of their service providers) isn't an open-and-shut case. Among other things, it's not enough just to require that the adviser have good intentions -- consumers also need to be able to discern when they're getting bad advice from well-meaning people.

News Saving a newspaper the hard way may be the only way

A Boston Globe editor asks his associates to ponder: "If a wealthy individual was to give us funding to launch a news organization designed to take on The Boston Globe, what would it look like?" And that's exactly the right question. All sympathies and sentimentality aside, the value of a company is what it's going to be able to produce in the future. From that perspective, what exists today isn't as important as what an organization would build if starting from a blank sheet of paper.

Computers and the Internet Verizon moves closer to an offer for Yahoo

Google may be considering a bid, too

April 6, 2016

Computers and the Internet Google's habit of dropping products is catching up with it

A customer of a home-automation product acquired by Google is mad because the product -- acquired by Alphabet subsidiary Nest -- is being bricked on May 15th. Is it Google/Alphabet's prerogative to do so? Yes. Does it reflect badly on the company? Yes. Does it undermine the company's reputation for customer support? Yes.

Computers and the Internet Guest Tweeting is a dangerous game

It's one thing to bring in a "guest editor" to put together a special edition of a magazine. But it's quite another thing to let someone apart from an editorial staff take over the Twitter account of a publication. The New Republic just learned that the hard way.

News When a major Presidential candidate isn't serious

Senator Bernie Sanders knows how to whip up a movement, but he's not showing an adequate grasp of his own policies to be able to implement them. That lack of seriousness is not trivial.

The United States of America How much runway is left for an independent Presidential run to take off?

Not a huge amount, but not zero, either

The United States of America Voter histograms

Who's voting where, for whom, for what reasons -- in a very bizarre Presidential campaign

April 5, 2016

Aviation News Why Rwanda is going to get drone-based package delivery before your neighborhood

It all boils down to the need for critical supplies and a shortage of safe and reliable transportation options. One may recall the scene from the late "West Wing" episode in which the retiring CJ Cregg responds as follows to an offer of a $10 billion philanthropic grant: "Highways [...] It's not sexy. No one will ever raise money for it. But nine out of ten African aid projects fail because the medicine or the personnel can't get to the people in need. Blanket the continent with highways and then maybe get started on plumbing."

Computers and the Internet Expect more chatbots in your world

Businesses are using artificial intelligence to provide customer service without the human customer-service reps

Computers and the Internet Changes to AP style

The Internet is now just the internet

The United States of America How heterosexual American couples meet

Several key methods of meeting seem to be missing from the data (like "mutual interests"), so the graph itself is suspect. But it still seems to strike a lot of people as true.

Threats and Hazards GAO warns that nobody's in charge of responding to cyberattacks

Once again raising the question: Do we need a dedicated military branch or agency dedicated to cyberwarfare?

Computers and the Internet A peek behind the curtain of startup mythology

There's a point at which people substitute a lot of dignity for impressions of status. Some tech startups exploit that.

April 4, 2016

Computers and the Internet How people learn depends on their socioeconomic status

High-income, high-education people turn to the Internet for lifelong learning. People with lower incomes and less education don't as much.

Computers and the Internet Computer programmers are more self-taught than classroom-educated

A lot of fields reject self-taught" authorities on a subject. Computer programming does not.

Weather and Disasters You don't have time to run from a tornado you can see

Man stops to film tornado from his attic. It turns and obliterates his home before he can make it downstairs.

The United States of America Nebraska may go back to a winner-take-all rule in the Electoral College

A sad prospect -- Nebraska is one of the only states to allocate electors by Congressional district, which is actually a sensible practice that more states should follow. Let the overall state winner take the two statewide electors.

Business and Finance What happens with prohibitively-high minimum wages

Tracking the minimum wage to some kind of inflation-related index? Probably reasonable. But large jumps do run the serious risk of causing employers to take drastic measures, like automating or leaving the affected jurisdictions.

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