What do YouTube, Instagram & GitHub have in common?

I have had a few days to think about Microsoft’s decision to buy GitHub for $7.5 billion and I am increasingly convinced that this is a good deal for Microsoft, as long as they don’t pull the same shenanigans they did with Skype. The acquisition makes a lot of sense, especially when you see it from the lens of two of the most successful “buys” of recent years. Continue reading "What do YouTube, Instagram & GitHub have in common?"

You know that thing called blogging

It has been almost ten days since I have been able to read properly. The bug I picked on my recent travels along with severe conjunctivitis turned out to be a forced vacation from screens. I am woefully behind on emails and also on my reading. And as usual, I caught up with some of my favorite bloggers, Dave Winer and John Gruber. And as I sped through their writing, it finally clicked.

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Leica, ready to flip?

After five years of using Leica products, I can safely say that Leica does make fantastic products, and expensive as they might be, they are going to last what seems like a lifetime. I bought my Leica SL, about three years ago. It was so advanced and perfectly built that even today, I find it at par with recent competitive products. The lenses — especially the M class of lenses — cost a lot of money, but I am leaving those for my godchildren. In other words, the very qualities that make Leica products expensive, make it hard for the company to monetize their customer base. With overall camera market shrinking, thanks to the rise of computational photography, like all its rivals, Leica must see the writing on the wall.

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Our homes are filled with essentials (aka things we can’t live without), non-essentials (aka things that add comfort and enhance our daily life) and junk. In fact, most of our life is full of junk.

These are the artifacts we like—or, more accurately, think we like—but they don’t serve a purpose or bring us joy. The average American home contains more than 300,000 items, and most of it is junk. While this junk often masquerades as indispensable, it actually gets in the way of a more meaningful life.

It is jut not things. We have junk relationships, junk food, junk news and junk information. We also have too much junk. Over past three years, I have been slowly and slowly shedding stuff and finally as the clutter is starting to go away, I realize I have been crowding myself out of my own life.

Goodbye Anthony Bourdain

It has been six days since I got back from Iceland. And every single day has been spent in bed – dealing with conjunctivitis, cold, cough and fever. Despite all precautions, all sort of vitamins and even getting decent sleep. And yet, it has been a rough few days. Even though I have tried to keep up with work — thanks to Zoom video conference, I have fallen behind on my emails. 

And if that was not enough, I have been devastated by the news of the suicide of Kate Spade, a designer who works were appreciated by millions of women around the world. But today, my world got a little darker. Anthony Bourdain, a chef and a food journalist I admired deeply committed suicide in France. His show Parts Unknown was the only show worth watching on CNN. I loved his previous travel shows as well. 
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We are all trapped in the “Feed”

Every afternoon, during lunch, I open up YouTube, and I find myself marveling at the sheer dumbness of its recommendations. Despite having all this viewing data of mine, world’s second most popular search engine is dumb as a brick. It shows me propaganda channels from two ends of the political spectrum. It surfaces some inane celebrity videos. It dredges up the worst material for me — considering I usually like watch science videos, long conversations and interviews, and photography-focused educational videos. Continue reading "We are all trapped in the “Feed”"

May 25: Worth Reading


  • Remember GoTV? Or the Verizon’s much talked about the acquisition of once-very-hot Vessel? And all those press releases from Verizon where it talked up its dreams of being an OTT video giant. All those have resulted in nothing, and The company has called it quits and is now looking to partner with former competitors. The latest retreat is not a surprise – it is hard to be anything but a telecom. (LightReading)
  • Talking about Verizon. As a long time customer, I discovered that for a while my wireless network was slower than it used to be. It felt even slower when I used a T-Mobile connection. Well, now I know why. The unlimited data-plans pushed into the market by T-Mobile put Verizon on the back foot. Lately, Verizon LTE has got a spring in its step. My former colleague Kevin Fitchard breaks down the state of mobile broadband Continue reading "May 25: Worth Reading"

Blockchain Phones? Really!

It seems a whole new slew of phones that are optimized for blockchain applications are currently under development.   Sirin Labs is going to debut its Finney phone in October 2018 which runs a custom Android OS.  The phone will have built-in crypto wallets and will allow seamless behind-the-scenes conversions between different types of tokens. Blacture is also working on the Motif phone, which is supposed to launch in Fall 2018.

These are exciting developments, for sure. And while they might not make sense now, but don’t be surprised to see phone makers such as Apple start to incorporate chips and OS level integration for seamless behind the scenes conversions. For me, this is a trend to watch.

5 stories worth reading

  • Facebook’s full of fake accounts. And despite it saying it stopped nearly 538 million so far this year, there are almost 80 million fake accounts on the service. And they are for sale, Charlie Warzel of Buzzfeed reports. After reading the story, it is clear that this is a much broader problem.
  • I once joked with Tony Fadell that I had so many connected toys that it looked like a Sharper Image catalog. That joke is becoming a nightmare, as we are creating mountains of waste with old devices, reports Stacey Higginbotham for IEEE Spectrum.
  • If you think coal is an environmental nightmare, then you haven’t seen the damage done by coal ash. It is as big a problem as massive oil spills. .
  • Doc Searls says GDPR will pop the ad-tech bubble. I don’t know — the ad companies are way too crafty to work around regulation.
  • Google’s employees don’t Continue reading "5 stories worth reading"

My only camera rig

I love between analog and digital worlds. My 12.9 inch iPad Pro and Logitech K811 keyboard are my preferred computer combination. For a timepiece, nothing like the artful work from masters at Grand Seiko. And for photography, I now work exclusively with Leica M-A and an f2/50mm Summicron.

All my other film and digital cameras, except for my Leica SL and Fuji x100F are on their way to new homes. It is very freeing to have a handful of lenses — imperfection is my new mantra. My film of choice Kodak Tri-X 400. My camera strap (Dsptch x Stash Special Edition) is a gift from my friend, Dsptch founder Richard Liu.

PS: I accidentally posted this on my photo blog instead of posting here.

538 Million: Why did Facebook’s Fake Account Problem Got So Big?

Something about Facebook’s transparency report doesn’t add up to the numbers it has previously filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As part of its new transparency report, Facebook today announced that it shut down 538 million fake accounts — which is a gigantic number for a company with 2 billion accounts.

Fake accounts3 Continue reading "538 Million: Why did Facebook’s Fake Account Problem Got So Big?"

Passion, Optimism and Techno-Utopianism

MIT Media Lab chief Joi Ito has been receiving criticism for promoting techno-utopianism in a 60 Minutes segment about technology and the impact of technologies developed in the media lab on modern society. Many argue that given the times we live in it is time for ethics and impact of science should become a critical part of the discussion. And I certainly agree with that point of view.

However, as Joi rightfully pointed out that he and his colleagues are aware of today’s reality, but a 12-minute TV segment isn’t going to delve into a thoughtful discussion, despite the fact it was on 60 Minutes, known for their journalism. One thing which stood out for me was this one line in Joi’s blog post:

Passion and optimism drive us to push the boundaries of science and technology. It’s healthy to have a mix of viewpoints-critical, contemplative, and optimistic-in our ecosystem.

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AI Needs Power: lots of it

I was reading a blog post, and this tiny bit stood out:

Kaushik Roy of Purdue University compared the power consumption of Deep Blue for chess (15kW), Watson for Jeopardy (200kW), and AlphaGo for Go (300kW) to show that matching human behavior in games does not come easy.

It would be interesting to see how the rise of AI/ML will impact the energy consumption at data centers and in general. I wonder if we are all thinking about the power needs of software-driven, silicon-optimized future deeply enough.

Skype, Interrupted

Skype, was once a beloved product, one that I loved using every day. It was a product I wrote about long before it was trendy. I sent the team feedback. Like all tiny apps that are good at what they do, it became popular and grew really fast. It was sold to eBay, and then re-sold to Microsoft. And that’s when the magic disappeared. Through series of mergers and managers, Skype became an exact opposite of what I loved about it — independent outsider which was great at — chat, messaging and phone calls. It had just enough features, and its desktop client was minimal in its perfection.  Now, as I tweeted in the past, it is “a turd of the highest quality.”

Bloomberg took a closer look at the Skype and its decline. Microsoft argued that the “criticism is overblown and reflects, in part, people’s grumpiness with software updates.” They say that now the focus is the corporate market. But that doesn’t deny the fact that it is a terrible interface, inhuman and difficult to use. It lacks any imagination — a fact that is repeatedly reinforced on social media every time you bring up Skype and its user experience.  “It is like Tim Tebow trying to be a baseball player,” I told Bloomberg reporters. “The product is so confusing, kludgey and unusable.” Continue reading "Skype, Interrupted"

Jony Ive talks about the Apple Watch, finally

Ben Clymer is Anna Wintour of the Watch World, an editor of immaculate taste and deep understanding of the watches and their relationship with culture. He is also the founder of Hodinkee (a True Ventures-backed company), that is at the center of all things watches. So it doesn’t surprise me that he got to sit down with Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive to talk about watches in general and Apple Watch in specific. Watch, it seems to me was a Jony Ive Joint.  Continue reading "Jony Ive talks about the Apple Watch, finally"

Facebook, Social Media & the Social Contract

Last Monday, I attended the Milken Global Conference and participated in a panel on “Social Media and the Social Contract.” The panel was moderated by Willow Bay, dean of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. My fellow panelists included esteemed folks such as Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, Cheddar CEO John Steinberg, and Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. VentureBeat published a report of the event (video here).

My opinions about Facebook and how it treats privacy as a yo-yo for the amusement of its real customers — the advertising community — are well documented on the blog (and elsewhere). So a lot of it might not seem new, but there are a few things I wanted to highlight and give more context.

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