Why have consumer drones vanished from DJI’s Hong Kong stores?

Kate Chiu:

The latest Mavic Air 2 and other consumer drones have been missing from DJI’s official stores in Hong Kong, the city where the company began

Before the rest of the world got its first taste of the Phantom or the Mavic Pro, Hong Kong was home to the team that went on to create some of DJI’s biggest hits. Founded in 2006 by a model plane enthusiast studying at a university in the city, DJI spent years developing the components behind its popular drones with the help of a local professor.

But now, as DJI prepares to ship its latest drone, the Mavic Air 2 is notably missing from Hong Kong’s official DJI stores. While it’s available for purchase elsewhere, such as Taiwan and Japan, it can’t be found in the company’s glimmering three-story flagship store in downtown Hong Kong or in the official online shop, which currently shows all consumer drones listed as out of stock. A link posted in the DJI Facebook page along with a Mavic Air 2 promo video leads to a 404 error page.

“You sure it’s purchasable in Hong Kong? You don’t even have [last year’s] Mavic Mini!” one person commented on the post. “Have you considered how long the Hong Kong store has been running out of drones?”

Former Apple Engineer: Here’s Why I Trust Apple’s COVID-19 Notification Proposal

David Shayer:

I also wrote iPhone apps for a mid-size technology company that shall remain nameless. You’ve likely heard of it, though, and it has several thousand employees and several billion dollars in revenue. Call it TechCo, in part because its approach to user privacy is unfortunately all too common in the industry. It cared much less about user privacy than Apple.

The app I worked on recorded every user interaction and reported that data back to a central server. Every time you performed some action, the app captured what screen you were on and what button you tapped. There was no attempt to minimize the data being captured, nor to anonymize it. Every record sent back included the user’s IP address, username, real name, language and region, timestamp, iPhone model, and lots more.

Keep in mind that this behavior was in no way malicious. The company’s goal wasn’t to surveil their users. Instead, the marketing department just wanted to know what features were most popular and how they were used. Most important, the marketers wanted to know where people fell out of the “funnel.”

When you buy something online, the purchase process is called a funnel. First, you look at a product, say a pair of sneakers. You add the sneakers to your shopping cart and click the buy button. Then you enter your name, address, and credit card, and finally, you click Purchase.

At every stage of the process, people fall out. They decide they don’t really want to spend $100 on new sneakers, or their kids run in to show them something, or their spouse tells them that dinner is ready. Whatever the reason, they forget about the sneakers and never complete the purchase. It’s called a funnel because it narrows like a funnel, with fewer people successfully progressing through each stage to the end.

Companies spend a lot of time figuring out why people fall out at each stage in the funnel. Reducing the number of stages reduces how many opportunities there are to fall out. For instance, remembering your name and address from a previous order and auto-filling it means you don’t have to re-enter that information, which reduces the chance that you’ll fall out of the process at that point. The ultimate reduction is Amazon’s patented 1-Click ordering. Click a single button, and those sneakers are on their way to you.

TechCo’s marketing department wanted more data on why people fell out of the funnel, which they would then use to tune the funnel and sell more product. Unfortunately, they never thought about user privacy as they collected this data.

Most of the data wasn’t collected by code that we wrote ourselves, but by third-party libraries we added to our app. Google Firebase is the most popular library for collecting user data, but there are dozens of others. We had a half-dozen of these libraries in our app. Even though they provided roughly similar features, each collected some unique piece of data that marketing wanted, so we had to add it.

Yes, China’s internet is strictly policed, but it’s also a place for weirdness, subversion, and the occasional glimpse of freedom.

Mara Hvistendahl:

The story is a familiar one by now: When a mysterious virus cropped up in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, a 33-year-old opthamologist named Li Wenliang took to WeChat to sound the alarm. “7 cases of SARS have been confirmed in the Huanan fruit and seafood market,” he wrote in a private message to a group of his medical school classmates. “They were isolated in the emergency department of our Houhu District hospital.”

Someone posted Li’s messages online. Soon afterward, local police reprimanded Li for spreading rumors and forced him to apologize. But their efforts to muzzle him backfired. Li eventually contracted the virus. On January 30, 2020, as his condition worsened, he posted publicly about his run-in with the authorities on the Twitter-like platform Weibo. What happened next reveals a great deal about the dynamics of state control and popular dissent on China’s internet.

The metaphor most often used by Western observers for the Chinese internet is a wall. The slew of controls enacted by the state to regulate internet traffic is the “Great Firewall,” and using a VPN or other tool to circumvent these controls is called pa qiang, or “climbing the wall.” But this metaphor tends to obscure what is happening on the other side of the barrier. There we find people who respond to state controls with creativity and spunk. While some spend their days trawling cat videos, others create oases of subversion within the reality that they’ve been dealt.

Facebook is quietly helping to set up a new pro-tech advocacy group to battle Washington

Tony Romm:

Facebook is working behind the scenes to help launch a new political advocacy group that would combat U.S. lawmakers and regulators trying to rein in the tech industry, escalating Silicon Valley’s war with Washington at a moment when government officials are threatening to break up large companies.

The organization is called American Edge, and it aims through a barrage of advertising and other political spending to convince policymakers that Silicon Valley is essential to the U.S. economy and the future of free speech, according to three people familiar with the matter as well as documents reviewed by The Washington Post. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the group because it hasn’t officially been announced.

In December, American Edge formed as a nonprofit organization, and last month, it registered an accompanying foundation, according to incorporation documents filed in Virginia. The setup essentially allows it to navigate a thicket of tax laws in such a way that it can raise money, and blitz the airwaves with ads, without the obligation of disclosing all of its donors. Many powerful political actors — including the National Rifle Association — similarly operate with the aid of “social welfare” groups.

The big Facebook crash of 2020 and the problem of third-party SDK creep

Rambo:

You know how people are saying these days that it’s dangerous how companies like Apple and Google control their ecosystems, to the point of accusing them of monopoly? I’m not going to dismiss that completely here, but I think we have a much bigger problem that’s been lurking in our apps for several years, unnoticed: third-party SDK creep.

It’s quite possible that every single app you use on any particular day is running code from Facebook, Google and other data-gathering and data-mining companies. Because of the way this code is integrated — by linking to a dynamic library at build time — it means these companies can effectively control those apps, or worse, access all of the data those apps have access to.

We saw a demonstration of this power yesterday: it was as if Facebook had an “app kill switch” that they activated, and it brought down many of people’s favorite iOS apps — Apple’s appocalypse video never felt so real. Of course it was a bug and not something done intentionally, but it highlights the point that they do have control over apps that include their code.

Even if you don’t sign in with Facebook in a particular app, the app will run Facebook’s code in the background just for having the SDK included. You don’t need a Facebook account for it to track you either, they can track people very well without one.

People, Power and Technology: The 2020 Digital Attitudes Report

Catherine Miller:

The public is once again recalibrating its relationship with technology.  The pandemic lockdown has accelerated even further the already dizzying speed of technological change: suddenly the office has become Zoom, the classroom Google and the theatre YouTube. 

The transformations wrought in this period will be lasting. The outcome of this period of increased tech dependence must be one where technology serves people, communities and planet. 

Doteveryone fights for better tech, for everyone. To achieve this it’s vital to listen to – and respect – the views of the public. This report puts the people who are experiencing this tremendous transformation front and centre. 

Based on our groundbreaking 2018 research on the public’s digital attitudes and understanding, we ran a nationally representative survey just before lockdown and focus groups shortly after it began, benchmarking the public’s appetite, understanding and tolerance towards the impacts of tech on their lives.   

This year’s research finds people continue to feel the internet is better for them as individuals than for society as a whole. 81% say the internet has made life a lot or a little better for ‘people like me’ while 58% say it has had a very positive or fairly positive impact on society overall. 

Yes, websites really are starting to look more similar

Sam Goree:

On the one hand, adhering to trends is totally normal in other realms of design, like fashion or architecture. And if designs are becoming more similar because they’re using the same libraries, that means they’re likely becoming more accessible to the visually impaired, since popular libraries are generally better at conforming to accessibility standards than individual developers. They’re also more user-friendly, since new visitors won’t have to spend as much time learning how to navigate the site’s pages.

On the other hand, the internet is a shared cultural artifact, and its distributed, decentralized nature is what makes it unique. As home pages and fully customizable platforms like NeoPets and MySpace fade into memory, web design may lose much of its power as a form of creative expression. The Mozilla Foundation has argued that consolidation is bad for the “health” of the internet, and the aesthetics of the web could be seen as one element of its well-being.

And if sites are looking more similar because many people are using the same libraries, the large tech companies who maintain those libraries may be gaining a disproportionate power over the visual aesthetics of the internet. While publishing libraries that anyone can use is likely a net benefit for the web over keeping code secret, big tech companies’ design principles are not necessarily right for every site.

This outsize power is part a larger story of consolidation in the tech industry – one that certainly could be a cause for concern. We believe aesthetic consolidation should be critically examined as well.

That Hypocrite Shanahan — Cueing Systems vs. Context Analysis

Timothy Shanahan:

Teacher question:

I attended your recent webinar and you said that students should figure out the meanings of words from context and that they needed to be able to deal with syntax. But I’ve also read that you are against the 3-cueing systems. Isn’t that a contradiction? It seems hypocritical to criticize teachers for teaching 3-cueing and then to turn and around and recommend that they do just that.

Shanahan responds:

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that, “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

What I said may seem inconsistent, but it would be foolishly so if I had ignored the fact that two distinctly different processes have to be developed in reading —word reading/decoding and reading comprehension. That these two processes have different purposes and operate somewhat differently shouldn’t be beyond the grasp of even the “small minds” among us 

The idea of cueing systems comes from analyses of oral reading errors (or miscues), and a theory of how words are read that simply has not held up to scrutiny. The late Kenneth Goodman examined word reading and found that when words were misread, you could categorize the errors. For example, a student is reading a sentence like:

Madison Student Senate candidates adjust to virtual campaigning

Scott Girard:

A year ago, Anika Sanyal was visiting each of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s high schools and talking to as many of her peers as she could.

The Memorial High School student, now a junior, was campaigning for a Student Senate elected position, the student representative on the Madison School Board.

“Last year I remember I was missing so much school to go to different schools,” Anika said.

This year, she’s running to be the Student Senate president. But instead of visiting schools, which are all closed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, she and others have to get creative to get their message out and get their peers to pay attention.

“Now that I haven’t had that opportunity to talk to students, it’s definitely been harder to outreach,” she said.

While Anika is unopposed for her office, there are two students hoping to succeed her in the School Board representative role. East sophomore Gordon Allen and West junior Julia Amann are both navigating an especially difficult campaign season for the seat, trying to get creative to reach their fellow students, who will vote on the positions later this month.