Today’s Top Stories
Pokemon Opens Up, Hits Jackpot: What happens when a notoriously closed company goes open?
Google Offers Free Wi-Fi–At What Cost? A deal with New York City raises important issues.
YouTube Stars Matter: The company’s CEO challenges them to help make positive change.
How Twinkie Survived: By firing people, mostly.
How’s That Pivot to Respectability Going? Uber is in trouble for its behavior. Again.
Pokemon Opens Up, Hits Jackpot. Several years ago, it was easy to make fun of the nerds using Ingress, an augmented reality game that was both clunky and worked only on Android, the platform that the cool kids avoided. Well, the joke’s on us now, as Ingress is the foundation of Pokemon Go (Guardian), the app that took over the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand over the weekend, and will likely do the same to the rest of the world once server capacity improves. If you’re in those three countries, there’s a pretty good chance that over the weekend you saw far more people than usual walking around your neighborhood hunting for Pikachus. Yes, this is the story of two large companies–Google and Nintendo–coming together to make something big, but it’s also a story about openness. For many years, Nintendo resisted making its games available on anything but its own hardware. Now that it’s vaulted to the top of the Apple App Store almost immediately, it sees the value of going where the audience actually is, not where it wants the audience to be.
Google Offers Free Wi-Fi–At What Cost? When a technology goes through a dynastic shift, what happens to the detritus? Landfills bulge with CRT-style televisions, but some obsolete technologies are harder to toss. That’s why Google is transforming NYC’s pay phones into a ‘personalized propaganda engine’ (Village Voice). The good news is that these kiosks don’t cost the city a dime and will provide citizens with free Wi-Fi and charging. The not-so-good news is that Google parent Alphabet, the ultimate underwriter of the project, will extract its value via the ads it presents and the data it collects on the people who use the kiosks (there’ll be 500 spots this month, but the plan is to top out at 7,500). This Voice longread definitely has a point of view, characterizing Google as “the great white shark in the sea of user data” and pointing out troubling issues with Google’s privacy policies as applied to physical spaces. The company intends to roll the pilot out to cities around the world; it’s probably wise to work the bugs out in famously feisty NYC first.
YouTube Stars Matter. There’s a long history of entertainers supporting social issues or becoming politicians. They bring with them large and loyal audiences, and some subset of them seem committed to improving the world. That’s why YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is asking YouTube stars to speak out against racism and violence (Recode). “You have earned their love, their respect and their attention,” she writes. She doesn’t dictate what the PewDiePies should say, but it will be fascinating to see how–and if–online stars use their platforms to promote something other than themselves.
How Twinkie Survived: The Washington Post has an entertaining story on what it took to save the Twinkie. The brand is safe and a public offering is coming. But it buries the real news in paragraph 15: Five years ago it employed 8,000 people, three-fourths of them represented by a union. Now it has 1,170 workers. For all the talk about reviving the company, the cost in people was staggering.
How’s That Pivot to Respectability Going? Uber secretly investigated its legal foes and got caught (Verge).
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