Is a supermarket discount coupon worth giving away your privacy?

David Lazarus:

Most large companies doing business in California are required by the state’s new privacy law to disclose what they know about customers and how that information is used.

This resulted in fairly straightforward announcements by many businesses.

Then there’s Ralphs, the supermarket chain owned by Kroger.

Customers recently encountered a form at stores spelling out information that may be collected when joining the company’s Ralphs Rewards loyalty program.

The form is eye-opening, to say the least, in laying out the extensive efforts Ralphs says it could take to learn about customers’ lives beyond the supermarket, including your job, your education, your health and your insurance coverage.

While most if not all such corporate disclosures define possible data collection as broadly as possible to err on the side of caution, Ralphs’ form is unusually all-encompassing for a supermarket loyalty program.

“It’s scandalous,” said Joseph Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania who focuses on privacy issues. “Why does a grocer need to know so much about its customers?”

Stop donating your customers’ data to Google Analytics

Kemal Ahmed:

In 2020, with better alternatives available, using Google Analytics (GA) to track your web usage is nothing short of donating data to a multinational corporation. Aside from only letting you sample 25% of your traffic, GA is a free ticket for them to sell your customers’ data to their advertising partners.

Compared to AWS Pinpoint, which is even HIPAA compliant, GA works by asking you to add a tracker to your website that cross examines your customers’ habits across all the websites they use to find out everything about them.

And if you think that’s okay, you should take your head out of the sand because consumers are demanding it. Please tell me how many of your users like the large cookie agreement popups that they have to dismiss…I-I mean read and accept just to consume your content. Agreements that you’re forced to have them agree to because you’re using cookie-based trackers like GA.

Tracker blockers are increasing in popularity so consumers can protect themselves against this tracking, reducing the effectiveness of your analytics.

Home ownership is the West’s biggest economic-policy mistake

The Economist:

In 1990 a generation of baby-boomers, with a median age of 35, owned a third of America’s real estate by value. In 2019 a similarly sized cohort of millennials, aged 31, owned just 4%. Young people’s view that housing is out of reach—unless you have rich parents—helps explain their drift towards “millennial socialism”. And homeowners of all ages who are trapped in declining places resent the windfall housing gains enjoyed in and around successful cities. In Britain areas with stagnant housing markets were more likely to vote for Brexit in 2016, even after accounting for differences in income and demography.

The State of Mobile in 2020: How to Win on Mobile

Lexi Sydow:

Mobile has completely transformed the way we order food, buy groceries, book trips, stream content, game, and shop — making our lives easier every day and transforming nearly every industry in the process. It is a vital channel for interacting with consumers, and companies that succeed in mobile are reaping financial rewards.

As the leading mobile data and analytics company helping brands and publishers win on mobile, we are excited to share The State of Mobile 2020 report. This annual appraisal provides insight into mobile’s expansive impact across industries and the global economy, highlighting publishers and brands that are outperforming their peers. Download the industry’s leading mobile report covering everything you need to know about how to win on mobile in 2020, including:

Staffer in Middleton High School testing flap remains on leave

Chris Rickert:

Three months after a Middleton High School staffer allegedly used race to segregate students for a district-required test, the employee remains on paid leave and the district has yet to complete its investigation into the incident.

The district was quick to respond last fall after about 60 ninth- and 10th-grade students of color were segregated from the rest of the student body on Oct. 16 to take the STAR math and literacy test.

The staff member involved was placed on leave the next day and in a videotaped statement the day after that, Superintendent Dana Monogue called the incident a “mistake” and “wrong,” twice said it caused “harm,” and added “we sincerely apologize.”

The story of Casper shows there is no DTC ‘revolution’

Mark Ritson:

Barely a month went by without one bright-eyed team of white-shirted millennials or another springing forth with a hot new startup that had a strange, slightly misspelled name, newsworthy origin and hot new design. Crucially, all of them  had a “different model for marketing” too.

Leesa, Lola, Winc, Ayr, Nanit, BarkBox… the names and the categories they aimed to disrupt changed but the DTC model each ascribed to was strikingly similar. Gradually, as the army of casually dressed founders multiplied and their stories piled on top of each other, a model for DTC marketing became apparent.

The model for DTC marketing

First, you had to circumvent the traditional indirect channels and forge a direct distribution model that allowed you to keep all the profits, and enabled optimum proximity and data access with the target consumers. Wholesale distributors and physical retail were dead.

Second, you had to avoid traditional media channels and utilise only digital media because it enables precise targeting and new modes of interaction with the target market. Use influencer marketing, TikTok and whatever newfangled approach comes next.

The medium was not the message, it was the signal. Irrespective of its reach or effectiveness, it had to communicate the newness of the company behind the campaign. Vague allusions of digital ennui were needed to ensure the DTC business seemed radical and contemporary, and not simply another late entrant in a traditional category.

Third, you had to use these new digital channels to communicate a different kind of message. Use storytelling – yeah, storytelling – to move beyond product benefits and onto emotional tales about the company, its founders and core purpose.

Digital sharecropping

Nicholas Carr:

A while back I wrote that Web 2.0, by putting the means of production into the hands of the masses but withholding from those same masses any ownership over the product of their work, provides an incredibly efficient mechanism to harvest the economic value of the free labor provided by the very many and concentrate it into the hands of the very few.

Richard MacManus’s new analysis of web traffic patterns helps illustrate the point. Despite the explosion of web content, spurred in large part by the reduction in the cost of producing and consuming that content, web traffic appears to be growing more concentrated in a few sites, not less. Using data from Compete, MacManus shows that the top ten sites accounted for 40% of total internet page views in November 2006, up from 31% in November 2001, a 29% increase. The greater concentration comes during a period when the number of domains on the web nearly doubled, from 2.9 million to 5.1 million.

Even if we grant that traffic numbers are unreliable and that page views are not the only way to measure traffic, the trend seems clear: A few big sites increasingly dominate the web.

On the surface of it, this might seem to contradict the long-tail, or power-law, theory. But it’s not so simple. As MacManus shows, the greater concentration of traffic can largely be explained by the popularity of two “social networking” sites, MySpace and Facebook, which together accounted for 17% of all page views in November 2006. Both MySpace and Facebook are made up of millions of “user profiles” created by their members. If we counted each profile as a separate site, which in a content sense it is, we would find no increase in the concentration of traffic, consistent with the long-tail theory.

Cities With the Best Work-Life Balance – 2020 Edition

Nadia Ahmad:

It’s difficult to pursue your passions and manage your various commitments given the time that they require, especially if they are not directly linked to your job. In an ideal world, though, you earn enough to sock away sufficient savings to enjoy your leisure activities without logging excessive hours at the office or on a punishing commute. Not all cities allow professionals to strike a happy medium, so SmartAsset decided to take a look at the cities with the best work-life balance.

To find the cities with the best work-life balance, we compared data for the 100 largest cities across the following 10 metrics: entertainment establishment density, dining establishment density, bar density, housing costs as a percentage of income, average number of weeks worked per year, average number of hours worked per week, average commute time, percentage of workers with commutes over an hour, unemployment rate and labor force participation rate. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

App stores saw record 204 billion app downloads in 2019, consumer spend of $120 billion

Sarah Perez:

Consumers downloaded a record 204 billion apps in 2019, up 6% from 2018 and up 45% since 2016, and spent $120 billion on apps, subscriptions and other in-app spending in the past year. The average mobile user, meanwhile, is spending 3.7 hours per day using apps. This data and more comes from App Annie’s annual report, “State of Mobile,” which highlights the biggest app trends for the past year, and sets forecasts for the years ahead.

According to App Annie, the record growth in mobile downloads in 2019 can be attributed to the growth taking place in emerging markets like India, Brazil and Indonesia, which have seen downloads soar 190%, 40% and 70%, respectively, since 2016. Meanwhile, download growth in the U.S. has slowed to just 5% during that same time, while China saw 80% growth.

Best Recruiting Platform: Part 2 – Social CRM Recruiting

Keeping connected is an essential part of recruiting.

Our enterprise CRM connects your managers, agents and co-brokers automagically.

Here’s how:

  • Our cloud system scans your deals, as they occur.
  • A congratulatory, on brand message is sent to your agent upon closing.
  • The message asks if the co-broker would be valuable addition to your firm.
  • If so, your agent is given a few encouraging steps and an introduction to a recruiter.
  • Your agent is reminded that an incentive awaits if that agent joins your firm.
  • The recruiter’s contact information is included in the message.
  • Your manager/recruiter receives a list of co-broker prospects. They can begin working your current and prospect agents.

Grow your business with our enterprise platform.

Email or call 608 468 6013 for a deeper dive.

Urban Growth and its Aggregate Implications

Gilles Duranton, Diego Puga

We develop an urban growth model where human capital spillovers foster entrepreneurship and learning in heterogenous cities. Incumbent residents limit city expansion through planning regulations so that commuting and housing costs do not outweigh productivity gains. The model builds on strong microfoundations, matches key regularities at the city and economy-wide levels, and generates novel predictions for which we provide evidence. It can be quantified relying on few parameters, provides a basis to estimate the main ones, and remains transparent regarding its mechanisms. We examine various counterfactuals to assess quantitatively the effect of cities on economic growth and aggregate income.

New study: The ad­ver­ti­sing in­dustry is sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly breaking the law

Finn Myerstad:

The online advertising industry is behind comprehensive illegal collection and indiscriminate use of personal data, research from the Norwegian Consumer Council shows.

Based on the findings, more than 20 consumer and civil society organisations in Europe and from different parts of the world are urging their authorities to investigate the practices of the online advertising industry.

The report uncovers how every time we use apps, hundreds of shadowy entities are receiving personal data about our interests, habits, and behaviour. This information is used to profile consumers, which can be used for targeted advertising, but may also lead to discrimination, manipulation and exploitation.

– These practices are out of control and in breach of European data protection legislation. The extent of tracking makes it impossible for us to make informed choices about how our personal data is collected, shared and used, says Finn Myrstad, director of digital policy in the Norwegian Consumer Council.

What kind of data is my new car collecting about me? Nearly everything it can, apparently

Matt Bubbers:

Your car knows all about you – your habits, where you like to go and when, and maybe even what sort of temperament you have. Cameras inside cars even track your eyes to see whether you’re watching the road.

If you spent as much time one-on-one with a friend as you do with your car, your friend would know an awful lot about you, too. The difference is that car companies, unlike friends, have a financial incentive for knowing things about you.

“Cars already collect a significant and growing amount of data,” says Teresa Scassa, Canada Research Chair in information law and policy at the University of Ottawa. The car itself is collecting driving data such as speed and braking patterns, but the built-in navigation and entertainment services are also collecting information of a more personal nature, she says. That could include location information, taste in music, voice commands, search history and so forth. Apps such as Waze, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connected to the vehicle will also be collecting similar data.

New cars have more radar sensors and cameras than a typical smartphone, and the number and quality of those sensors will only increase as cars eventually become capable of driving themselves.

Best Recruiting Platform. Competing with Compass: Part 1

Visiting with a number of brokers over the past few months, one topic rises above all: work hard to improve recruiting amidst a very competitive market.

There are, of course, many ways to address recruiting, from buying agents to brand, lifestyle, social activity, support, deal making, deal flow and tech platforms.

On the tech platform front, a long time client introduced our leads to closing platform as follows:

“Imagine you are home and need to send an updated document to move a deal along. Up until now, you must keep track of many different systems. Starting today, you can use one app on your phone/iPad or an integrated desktop system to auto-fill, complete, share and sign the document, anywhere.

I’ve long followed Softbank funded Compass ($1.5B raised to date) which is engaged in a 7 year effort to create the “first end-to-end software platform for real-estate agents“.

It may be useful to compare the Compass platform, based on publicly available data to our Main Street leads to closing, single entry system.

Compass Desktop Marketing Center (via Business Insider)

Main Street Desktop Cloud: leads to closing (agent and public apps will be covered in future posts)

Recruiting/Retention Benefits:

  1. Easier to learn due to fewer steps.
  2. Search all listings (1.7M in this client example) on the home page. Compass requires additional steps.
  3. Recent activity immediately available from leads to closings, and everything in between, including CMA’s, buyer presentations, documents, analytics, contacts and listings. Compass requires many more steps.
  4. Agent, Office, Company and MLS directory available from one screen.
  5. Agent production is one tap away.

A recent instagram post indicates renewed executive attention to Compass technical development staff and spending:

Can brokers, agents and teams compete using many, incompatible systems (despite vendor rhetoric asserting “compatibility”)?

Compass is correct to focus on a winning platform.

Contact or 608 468 6013 for a deeper dive.

Volkswagen Bids Farewell to the Beetle, With Help From the Beatles

David Gianatasio:

Johannes Leonardo gives Volkswagen’s Beetle an emotional Times Square sendoff, as the iconic compact car—a staple of popular culture for decades and one of the most beloved automobiles ever made—drives off into the sunset.

With sales slipping, and the German automaker preferring to focus on electric vehicles, crossovers and SUVs, the “Final Edition” Beetle rolled out over the summer. To bid auf wiedersehen to the celebrated coupe (and occasional convertible), VW launched an evocative animated film, created with Nexus Studios, at midnight on three prominent outdoor screens in New York City’s Times Square, where it will enjoy a weeklong engagement. 

By turns uplifting and bittersweet, the 90-second video, titled “The Last Mile” and set to a choral version of the anthemic 1970 Beatles track “Let It Be,” features Easter eggs and celebrity cameos. Look for funnyman/VW influencer Andy Cohen, pop-art legend Andy Warhol (who put the Bug in a screen print) and Kevin Bacon (he drove one in Footlose) as the Beetle glides into history: 

Chrome Scans PC’s and reports data to Google.

Martin Brinkman:

Software Reporter Tool, the executable file is software_reporter_tool.exe, is a tool that Google distributes with the Google Chrome web browser.

It is part of the Chrome Cleanup Tool which in turn may remove software that causes issues with Chrome. Google mentions crashes, modified startup or new tab pages, or unexpected advertisement specifically.  Anything that interferes with a user’s browsing experience may be removed by the tool.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

America’s love affair with the single-family house is cooling, but it won’t be a quick breakup

Robert Parker & Rebecca Lewis:

For decades land use regulation across the U.S. has emphasized single-family houses on large lots. This approach has priced many people out of the quintessential American dream: homeownership. It also has promoted suburban sprawl – a pattern of low-density, car-dependent development that has dominated growth at the edges of urban areas since the end of World War II.

Now, however, Americans may be starting to question the desirability of a private house. In the past year, the Minneapolis City Council and the state of Oregon have voted to allow duplexes and other types of multi-unit housing in neighborhoods where currently only single-family homes currently are allowed. Democratic lawmakers in Virginia, who recently won control of their state’s legislature, are seeking to enact similar legislation. And several Democratic presidential candidates have included changes to zoning laws in their housing policies.

‘Do Not Sell My Info’: U.S. retailers rush to comply with California privacy law


Others like Home Depot will allow shoppers not just in California but around the country to access such information online. At its California stores, Home Depot will add signs, offer QR codes so shoppers can look up information using their mobile devices and train store employees to answer questions.

The most popular smartphones by country

Device Atlas:

The following statistics are based on mobile web traffic over Q2 2019 to a global network of partner websites using the DeviceAtlas device detection platform.

The end of ‘someone’

Seth Godin:

There are people and organizations that are racing to break the fabric of community that we all depend on. Either to make a short-term profit or to atomize/vaporize widespread trust to hide from accountability and to slow change.

Like all shifts, there will be a counter-shift. But keep your eyes open, because the rules are clearly changing. Remaining trusted and consistent will become ever more valuable as it becomes more scarce. A resolution to be in higher-resolution for those you seek to serve.

In the meantime, it’s worth confirming the source before you believe what you see.

Software Complexity: Mercedes Benz Edition

Dan Neil:

The MBUX represents a unique belt-and-suspenders, suspenders-and-belt approach to human factors. MBUX incorporates no less than four input devices: the landscape-oriented center touch screen; the haptic-response, pressure-sensitive touchpad in the center console; phone-like capacitive buttons and roller selectors embedded in the arms of the steering wheel; and what Daimler AG optimistically calls “natural speech recognition”—or, as the glitchy system itself might hear it, “Slap your feet on the ignition.”

But the MBUX’s interfacing redundancy is just beginning. This thing has more buttons than a hussar’s tunic. There are hard switches at the bottom of the center stack, for instant summoning of climate, navi, audio, vehicle systems and favorites displays. Just above that is a discrete panel for climate control switches and, in the middle of that, a knurled paddle switch marked MENU that brings up—what?—the climate control’s home-page animation, where airflow and temperature, represented in waves of blue and red, can be fine-tuned.

Seniors Want to Go Back to Class. Universities Want to Sell Them Real Estate.

Will Parker:

Mary Warren received her sociology Ph.D. at Arizona State University in 1997—and enjoyed her time at the Tempe campus so much she has decided to go back and live there.

The 72-year-old recently paid around $500,000 for a two-bedroom apartment at Mirabella, a 252-unit high-rise project on ASU’s downtown campus aimed at seniors and developed by the university with a private real-estate firm. Ms. Warren said she’s looking forward to moving in and auditing courses at the university when the development opens at the start of the 2020 fall semester.

“There’s so much out there to learn, you might as well take advantage of it,” said Ms. Warren, an early-childhood-education professor.

The untapped potential of the ‘longevity economy’

Mari Shibata:

In 2018, for the first time in history, those aged 65 or older outnumbered children younger than five globally. And the number of people aged 80 years or older is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.

The population aged 65 and older is growing faster than all other age groups, especially as the global birth rate has been plummeting since the second half of the 20th Century. According to the World Health Organization, fertility rates in every region except Africa are near or below what’s considered the ‘replacement rate’ – the level needed to keep a population stable. In most high-income countries this hovers around 2.1 children per woman.

The population isn’t just ageing, though: people are living longer and increasing their ‘healthspan’ for prolonged health, too. That means that as the population of elders increases, so grows a group of consumers, workers and innovators. In other words, they’re not simply a group that needs services from the ‘silver economy’, which is aimed solely at older and ageing people – rather, the ageing population can continue to be full-service participants in the economy at large.

Audio gives new voice to books in the digital age

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson

Everybody thought the ebook was going to be the thing, and it turns out the audiobook is the thing,” says Maria Pallante, president of the Association of American Publishers.

Her members’ audiobook revenue shot up from $200m in 2010 to more than $500m in 2018, or 6.6 per cent of industry sales. Including Amazon’s imprints and self-published titles on its Audible and ACX platforms, US sales are approaching $1bn. Audiobooks are growing even faster in the UK, jumping by 43 per cent between 2017 and 2018 to reach £69m, according to Nielsen. Global sales, according to forecasts by Deloitte, could hit $3.5bn in 2020.

“At the beginning there was a feeling that it was a fad and it wouldn’t stick,” recalls Patch McQuaid, who started his London studio business with unwanted equipment after the CD-Rom fad faded. “Digital changed everything.”

The story of the audiobook boom is not just a financial one, though: it is one of the unexpected effects that techno­logy has had on us — and of our need to escape technology. Whether our genre is self-improvement or frothy romance, it also speaks volumes about how we have responded to a decade of dislocation and distraction.

Google collects face data now. Here’s what it means and how to opt out

Dale Smith:

Google’s latest smart display brings with it a controversial new feature that’s always watching. Face Match, introduced on the Google Nest Hub Max, uses the smart display’s front-facing camera as a security feature and a way to participate in video calls. It also shows you your photos, texts, calendar details and so on when it recognizes your face.

This mode of facial recognition sounds simple enough at first. But the way companies like Google collect, store and process face data has become a top concern for privacy-minded consumers. Plenty of people want to know who has their personal information once it makes its way into the cloud.

What Does California’s New Data Privacy Law Mean? Nobody Agrees

Natasha Singer:

Millions of people in California are now seeing notices on many of the apps and websites they use. “Do Not Sell My Personal Information,” the notices may say, or just “Do Not Sell My Info.”

But what those messages mean depends on which company you ask.

Stopping the sale of personal data is just one of the new rights that people in California may exercise under a state privacy law that takes effect on Wednesday. Yet many of the new requirements are so novel that some companies disagree about how to comply with them.

Even now, privacy and security experts from different companies are debating compliance issues over private messaging channels like Slack.

How has Prop. 13 affected tax distribution in Santa Clara County?

Janice Bitters:

Most Californians are aware that the way property taxes in the state are divvied out is uneven, skewed by a state law known as Proposition 13 that could be amended next year through a vote at the ballot box.

But a recent report outlining property values in Santa Clara County breaks down the disparity in some creative ways, offering a deeper dive into how the law, passed in 1978, has affected assessed property values in Silicon Valley.

The Santa Clara County Assessor’s annual report, released in full in November, shows that across the board, a smaller portion of new property owners are paying for a larger portion of the county’s property taxes. But how much would assessed property values — the values on which property is taxed — change without Proposition 13?

“The global answer is nobody knows what that might be,” said Larry Stone, assessor for Santa Clara County. “My guess is that the fair market value of all of the property would probably more than double (the current assessment roll).”

What we know about you when you click on this article

Rani Molla:

If you’re reading this story on, we have probably already collected quite a few bits of information about you. We, as well as our third-party advertisers, likely know which type of device you’re on, what browser you’re using, what you do on our site (which articles you read, how long you stay, what ads you visit), and what site you visit next when you click somewhere else. We know where you are based on your device’s IP address — a unique identifier assigned to each device connected to the internet — but don’t use GPS to actively track your location.

Google – Competition is just one click and 27 billion US Dollars away

Tech @Cliqz:

If you work on a competitor to Google’s search, you will eventually hear that “you only need to build a better search engine and you would capture significant market share”. Wouldn’t users immediately switch? The former Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously phrased that Google’s dominance is not a problem since “competition is just one click away”. This is a dangerous statement: it justifies Google’s 93% monopoly[1]. It is also a discouraging statement: it implies competition is just not able to build a good search engine. And it is a very wrong statement: It implies that people choose Google only because of its quality. Yes, the quality of the product is a necessary condition for success. It is however not a sufficient condition. Almost all browsers and almost all phones today come with Google as the default search engine. It is not by chance. Google pays a heavy sum to be pre-installed at these positions. They are standing in front of yearly bribes (yes, you read it right, a bribe), of 27 billion US dollars[2] to make sure they monopolize all search entry points and ask you to look somewhere else.

Building a search engine is without doubt a hard and challenging task[3]. You need data, you need access to crawling, you need good algorithms, you need smart people and you will most certainly need more than tens of millions of dollars. There are many technical challenges, network effects working against you, and data barriers to entry. But it can be done. Microsoft did it. We, Cliqz, did it. Others did it. But still Google has a 93% market share in Europe and even 97% on mobile.

The modern web is becoming an unusable, user-hostile wasteland

Abid Omar:

In one of Gerald Weinberg’s books, probably The Secrets of Consulting, there’s the apocryphal story of the giant multinational hamburger chain where some bright MBA figured out that eliminating just three sesame seeds from a sesame-seed bun would be completely unnoticeable by anyone yet would save the company $126,000 per year. So they do it, and time passes, and another bushy-tailed MBA comes along, and does another study, and concludes that removing another five sesame seeds wouldn’t hurt either, and would save even more money, and so on and so forth, every year or two, the new management trainee looking for ways to save money proposes removing a sesame seed or two, until eventually, they’re shipping hamburger buns with exactly three sesame seeds artfully arranged in a triangle, and nobody buys their hamburgers any more.

Facebook fails to convince lawmakers it needs to track your location at all times

Lauren Feiner:

Facebook said that even when location tracking is turned off, it can deduce users’ general locations from context clues like locations they tag in photos as well as their devices’ IP addresses. While this data is not as precise as Facebook would collect with location tracking enabled, the company said it uses the information for several purposes, including alerting users when their accounts have been accessed in an unusual place and clamping down on the spread of false information.

Facebook acknowledged it also targets ads based on the limited location information it receives when users turn off or limit tracking. Facebook doesn’t allow users to turn off location-based ads, although it does allow users to block Facebook from collecting their precise location, the company wrote.

“By necessity, virtually all ads on Facebook are targeted based on location, though most commonly ads are targeted to people with a particular city or some larger region,” the company wrote. “Otherwise, people in Washington, D.C. would receive ads for services or events in London, and vice versa.”

“I didn’t produce the simplest version of the product that would provide value”

Matt Layman:

If there is anything redeeming about College Conductor, it was as a teaching tool. I’ve done a lot of Django code for work, and I brought that same thoroughness to this project. After listening to an episode of The Changelog about live streaming software development on Twitch, I started to share my efforts on College Conductor live.

Over a year later, I have streamed nearly 40 lessons in an episodic format to teach people about Django and building real projects. My service may have had no real customers, but the techniques I apply to building things are very much the techniques that I use at work.

Is Facebook dead to Gen Z?

Olivia Moore, Justine Moore:

The writing is on the wall for Facebook — the platform is losing market share, fast, among young users.

Edison Research’s Infinite Dial study from early 2019 showed that 62% of U.S. 12–34 year-olds are Facebook users, down from 67% in 2018 and 79% in 2017. This decrease is particularly notable as 35–54 and 55+ age group usage has been constant or even increased.

There are many theories behind Facebook’s fall from grace among millennials and Gen Zers — an influx of older users that change the dynamics of the platform, competition from more mobile and visual-friendly platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, and the company’s privacy scandals are just a few.

Google Street View image of a house predicts car accident risk of its resident

Kinga Kita and Lukasz Kidzinski:

Road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death worldwide. Proper estimation of car accident risk is critical for appropriate allocation of resources in healthcare, insurance, civil engineering, and other industries. We show how images of houses are predictive of car accidents. We analyze 20,000 addresses of insurance company clients, collect a corresponding house image using Google Street View, and annotate house features such as age, type, and condition. We find that this information substantially improves car accident risk prediction compared to the state-of-the-art risk model of the insurance company and could be used for price discrimination. From this perspective, public availability of house images raises legal and social concerns, as they can be a proxy of ethnicity, religion and other sensitive data.

“Generating social media interactions is easy; mobilizing activists and persuading voters is hard”

David Karpf:

Online disinformation and propaganda do not have to be particularly effective at duping voters or directly altering electoral outcomes in order to be fundamentally toxic to a well-functioning democracy, though. The rise of disinformation and propaganda undermines some of the essential governance norms that constrain the behavior of our political elites. It is entirely possible that the current disinformation disorder will render the country ungovernable despite barely convincing any mass of voters to cast ballots that they would not otherwise have cast.

Much of the attention paid by researchers, journalists, and elected officials to online disinformation and propaganda has assumed that these disinformation campaigns are both large in scale and directly effective. This is a bad assumption, and it is an unnecessary assumption. We need not believe digital propaganda can “hack” the minds of a fickle electorate to conclude that digital propaganda is a substantial threat to the stability of American democracy. And in promoting the narrative of IRA’s direct effectiveness, we run the risk of further exacerbating this threat. The danger of online disinformation isn’t how it changes public knowledge; it’s what it does to our democratic norms.

Hashtag Steganography

Terrence Eden:

The art of hiding secret messages in otherwise innocuous texts has a long history. Let’s bring it into the modern day. Suppose we want to track whether someone has control of a Twitter account – we could ask them to tweet a seemingly innocent hashtag with invisible characters in it.

For example, using the diacritic “dot bẹlow” is likely to be unnoticed on a dirty screen. Did you spot it in the previous sentence?

Or, for absolute invisibility, use ͏ . Did you see that character? Nope! It is the combining grapheme joiner (U+034F). Completely invisible to the user, but it appears in the URL. For example #T͏esting links to

You can read Tom Ross’s blog post about checking for information leakage using hidden characters to understand more of the theory.

Apple’s Ad-Targeting Crackdown Shakes Up Ad Market

Tom Dotan:

This shift is significant because iPhone owners tend to be more affluent and therefore more attractive to advertisers. Moreover, Safari makes up 53% of the mobile browser market in the U.S., according to web analytics service Statscounter. Only about 9% of Safari users on an iPhone allow outside companies to track where they go on the web, according to Nativo, which sells software for online ad selling. It’s a similar story on desktop, although Safari has only about 13% of the desktop browser market. In comparison, 79% of people who use Google’s Chrome browser allow advertisers to track their browsing habits on mobile devices through cookies. (Nativo doesn’t have historical data so couldn’t say what these percentages were in the past.)

“Apple users are more valuable [to advertisers] based on demographics, being higher income, et cetera,” said Jason Kint, CEO of industry trade group Digital Content Next. He argues that Safari users have been “wrongly devalued” in the short term and says marketers just need to find better ways to reach them online.

As an example, Kint points to ads that relate to the articles someone is reading—contextual advertising—as a format that doesn’t run afoul of privacy issues. He says the format is growing and credits Apple’s clampdown for one reason.


Cyber Monday totalled $9.4B in US online sales, smartphones accounted for a record $3B

Sarah Perez & Ingrid Lunden:

Cyber Monday — the final day of the extended Thanksgiving weekend that traditionally kicks off holiday season spend — broke another e-commerce record: US shoppers racked up a total of $9.4 billion in online sales, according to figures from Adobe.

To put that number into some perspective, at its peak, consumers were spending $12 million per minute; this was the first day to see sales via smartphones break the $3 billion mark; and this was $1.5 billion more than shoppers spent on Cyber Monday a year ago (remember the days when breaking $1 billion was a big deal?). There has been $81.5 billion spent online since the beginning of November.

On the other hand, there is an undercurrent of more sluggish buying than had been anticipated. Following the pattern set during Thanksgiving and Black Friday which fell short of its predictions, the total was just on target, rather than surpassing, what Adobe had expected for the day. Adobe expected an increase of nearly 19%.

The Pursuit of Clout – and dependency

Taylor Lorenz:

“I want to have enough clout to be recognized for who I am, but I don’t ever want to see myself like a famous person,” Rowan said one day in his bedroom. “I just want to be able to have connections everywhere and be financially secure and monetize what I like doing.”

Rowan’s economy was a primarily teenage one. Mostly he sold ads on his Instagram to other teenagers looking to promote their own pages, apps or online storefronts. He negotiated deals through direct messages on Instagram and posted about 10 ads per day — some in the form of comments, links and images — on his various accounts. The profits supported his lifestyle; he bought Saint Laurent sneakers, an iPhone XR, a Gucci wallet. He planned to purchase a Tesla next year, when he’s eligible to get his driver’s license.

Rowan’s meme account was not his first business. Like many teenagers, Rowan had begun leveraging the internet early for financial and social gain. In middle school he’d order stickers in bulk on Amazon, then sell them at a markup to his classmates by promoting them on Snapchat.

By the time he reached high school, Rowan had entered the apparel resale market. He would purchase designer clothes and accessories from brands like Supreme on websites like Letgo, OfferUp and Craigslist, then resell them on Grailed, an app for consigning luxury items.

Rowan also experimented with dropshipping. This entails setting up an online storefront that ships products from third-party retailers to customers, profiting on the difference. Before he monetized his meme account, Rowan also sold shout-out videos on Fiverr. His followers could pay a small fee to receive a video of Rowan delivering a personalized message.

All of these are popular ways for teenagers to make money on the internet. Rowan, however, was unusually successful.

On July 26, 2019, Rowan’s world turned upside down. He was lying in bed around 11 p.m., refreshing Instagram, when he got a notification: @Zuccccccccccc had been disabled.

He figured it had happened by mistake. His page had been wrongly penalized before; he’d regained access through appeals to the company. That wasn’t the case this time, and he wasn’t alone: Instagram had shut down dozens of popular meme pages without warning or reasoning. (According to an Instagram spokesperson, Rowan’s account was removed for violating policies.)

Oakland shows how to expand housing supply: tell developers they can put up new homes.

Phillip Sprincin:

California’s housing crisis, particularly in the Bay Area, is notorious and well covered, with news stories chronicling homeless encampments, “pod” housing, and people forced to live in cars. But a surprising and encouraging piece of news emerged from Oakland recently. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland will produce almost 50 percent more housing units this year than San Francisco—6,800 versus 4,700—though Oakland has half the population and only 40 percent as many jobs as San Francisco. Just as surprising is the jump in Oakland’s housing production: the number of units brought to market in 2019 will be almost 15 times the number completed in 2018 and more than three times the number of units produced between 2013 and 2018 combined.

What caused this burst of production? Simple: Oakland told developers that they could build homes. In 2014 and 2015, the city passed a series of neighborhood plans in and around downtown that relaxed zoning and removed parking requirements, making it easier and cheaper to build. Now, after the four to five years required for design, permitting, and construction, Oakland is reaping the benefits of private development. By contrast, San Francisco continues to make it hard to build housing, with byzantine planning regulations, expensive development fees, restrictive zoning, and long delays.

Globalization dissolves local cultures, even as technology turns us inward.

Joshua Mitchell:

During the run-up to the 2016 election, leaders in the Democratic and Republican Parties who had agreed about nothing for a generation concluded that “populism” was the emergent threat. But partisans seldom have clear vision. To understand our troubled world, we must do better. “I have tried to see not differently but further than any party,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his introduction to Democracy in America. “While they are busy with tomorrow, I have wished to consider the whole future.” We should follow his lead, in the hope of seeing further than today’s parties.

Democracy in America, written shortly after Tocqueville’s visit to Jacksonian America—that brief historical period of which the supposed “populism” of today is an echo—makes no mention of populism. What did Tocqueville see? During the 1950s, scholars thought that he saw American exceptionalism and invoked his insights to argue that Marx’s ideas could never take hold in the United States. In the 1990s, they thought that Tocqueville saw the need for civic association, and relied on his views to argue that formerly Communist countries required such connections for the spirit of democracy to take hold. These are valid but partial glimpses of the larger meaning of Tocqueville’s work. In a haunting letter, written in 1856, a few years before he died, Tocqueville lamented, “This profound saying could be applied especially to me: it is not good for man to be alone.” This observation brings us closer to the truth. Tocqueville’s writing about Jacksonian America was informed by the central problem that he saw everywhere he looked: existential homelessness. Democracy in America is an extended rumination on the homeless man of the democratic age.

The world needs Cliqz. The world needs more search engines

The illusory truth effect

This has been even worsened and amplified since Google extracts answers (“facts”) from websites – it’s their attempt to keep traffic and money in Google. It clearly works. Now less than half of searches lead to a click to another website. More than a half of searches end on Google. We have reached the tipping point where people start and end their information request in Google. Users might believe everything they see there is true. But Google extracts these answers from any website, good and bad ones. Google is not Wikipedia, there is no community governance. There are not multiple arguments. There are no checks and balances. This wouldn’t be a problem if Google wouldn’t be so big. Here, the one answer Google choses, becomes the fact for 93% of searches. And when you repeat something often enough, however false – it becomes the truth.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Privacy and 1st and 3rd party cookies

This Is How Google Will Collapse

Daniel Colin James:

At its peak, Google had a massive and loyal user-base across a staggering number of products, but advertising revenue was the glue that held everything together. As the numbers waned and the competitors circled, Google’s core began to buckle under the weight of its vast empire.

Google had been a driving force in the technology industry ever since its disruptive entry in 1998. But in a world where people grew to resent being tracked and profiled, Google’s business model was not innovation-friendly, and it missed several opportunities to pivot, ultimately rendering its numerous grand and ambitious projects unsustainable. Innovation costs money, and Google’s main stream of revenue had started to dry up.

In a few short years, Google had gone from a fun, commonplace verb to a reminder of how quickly a giant can fall.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts us Google services, including Madison.

“Spinning the Compass Flywheel for the Future”

Michael Quinn:

When I was interviewing at Compass, I was struck by how simple yet powerful the mission statement was: help everyone find their place in the world. Despite the important role the Real Estate industry plays in helping people find their home, the Real Estate brokerage model has not benefited from the advances in technology and innovation like other industries have.

Compass’ goal is to change that. We are combining the best people with the best technology to build the first modern real estate platform to ensure that both our customers (real estate agents) and their clients have an efficient and delightful experience finding their place in the world. The result is a unified real estate platform that everyone — Buyers, Sellers and Real Estate Agents — benefit from.

As Compass looks into the future, the natural question is what’s next? During our quarterly All Employee Team Meeting a few months ago, our CEO Robert Reffkin unveiled the Compass Flywheel, the core strategy for Compass’ future. While celebrating our growth and achievements, we also looked into the future to see where Compass is headed.

First thing’s first — what, exactly, is a Flywheel? And why is this Flywheel key for Compass as we build an end-to-end real estate platform?

An interesting assertion: “we’ve built the first modern real estate platform…”.

Introducing the value of knowledge flows for individuals and the enterprise

Nicolas Granatino:

Knowledge management (KM) is defined in Wikipedia as ‘the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organisation’.  It originated in the early 90’s as a scientific discipline and its practice was adopted in enterprise to manage and leverage an intangible asset which was increasingly seen as being strategic.

In its early days, the practice of KM and its enabling software solutions focused on digitisation, storage and retrieval of documents.  KM was then mainly preoccupied with stocks of knowledge.  However, with the emergence of Wikis (1995), RSS (early 1999) and Weblogs (also in the late 1990s and now more commonly known as Blogs), individuals and enterprises saw the emergence of new possibilities around knowledge and information management.  Although I first became aware of the increasing importance of knowledge flows in KM for the enterprise in John Hagel et al.’s series of articles in the Harvard Business Review in 2009 where the authors advocated quite provocatively to ‘Abandon Stocks, Embrace flows’,  Lee Lefever had written an earlier series of 3 articles more nuanced headlined ‘Introduction to Stocks and Flows in online communications’ back in 2004 (thanks to Harold Jarche for the info).  He defined the two as follows:

Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information


Data-driven products and services are often marketed with the potential to save users time and money or even lead to better health and well-being. Still, large shares of U.S. adults are not convinced they benefit from this system of widespread data gathering. Some 81% of the public say that the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits, and 66% say the same about government data collection. At the same time, a majority of Americans report being concerned about the way their data is being used by companies (79%) or the government (64%). Most also feel they have little or no control over how these entities use their personal information, according to a new survey of U.S. adults by Pew Research Center that explores how Americans feel about the state of privacy in the nation.

Americans’ concerns about digital privacy extend to those who collect, store and use their personal information. Additionally, majorities of the public are not confident that corporations are good stewards of the data they collect. For example, 79% of Americans say they are not too or not at all confident that companies will admit mistakes and take responsibility if they misuse or compromise personal information, and 69% report having this same lack of confidence that firms will use their personal information in ways they will be comfortable with.

State of Digital Marketing 2019


CDP = “Customer Data Platform“.

If you care about user privacy, do NOT use Facebook JS SDK


Social Login buttons like the ubiquitous Login with Facebook/Google/Twitter/… button is convenient for users as they don’t have to go through a lengthy registration process and create yet another username/password. And without a proper password manager (which probably 99% users don’t use), they tend to reuse the same password which is bad in terms of security!

However behind the scene, some SDKs (I’m looking at you Facebook!) inject an iframe in your website to display the Continue as {MyName} or Login with Facebook button. Loading this iframe allows Facebook to know that this specific user is currently on your website. Facebook therefore knows about user browsing behaviour without user’s explicit consent. If more and more websites adopt Facebook SDK then Facebook would potentially have user’s full browsing history! And as with “With great power comes great responsibility”, it’s part of our job as developers to protect users privacy even when they don’t ask for.

“For the most part, the top of Google’s page of results directs you towards more Google products and services”

James Temperton:

As a result, 50 per cent of all Google searches now end without a click. Great for Google, bad for the list of websites below that also contain this information and that you will never visit. Do the same search on DuckDuckGo and the top result is IMDb. It might sound small but issues like this are fundamental to how the internet works – and who makes the most money from it. Google’s prioritisation of its results, and a perceived bias towards its own products and services, has landed the company in hot water with the European Commission slapping it with multi-billion pound fines and launching investigation after investigation into alleged anti-competitive behaviour. What’s good for Google, the commission argues, isn’t necessarily good for consumers or competitors.

Then there’s privacy. Search for something on DuckDuckGo and, for the most part, you just get a list of links or a simple snippet with exactly the information you were looking for. And it does all this without storing or tracking my search history. Nor is what I search for collected and shared with advertisers, allowing them to micro-target me with a myriad of things I’m never likely to buy. The ads I do see in DuckDuckGo, which the company explains makes it more than enough money to operate, are more general. My search for bank holidays in the UK returned an advert for a package holiday company.

A quick office survey revealed similar search banality: recent Googles included ‘capitalist’, ‘toxoplasmosis’ and ‘hyde park police’. For the most part, what we’re looking for online is simple: it’s definitions, companies, names and places. Where DuckDuckGo has struggled is when I look for something incredibly specific. So, for example, search for ‘film Leonardo Dicaprio goats scene’ in DuckDuckGo and it doesn’t work out you’re looking for Blood Diamond. Google does. While Google, with its vastly greater tranche of search data, is able to second-guess what I’m after, DuckDuckGo requires a bit more hand-holding. That doesn’t mean I can’t find what I’m looking for, but it does mean I have to modify my search term a couple of times to narrow things down.