YouTube Increases Ad Load #1622



YouTube has increased the number of ads viewers endure to unprecedented numbers. Some of them are as short as six seconds, with many ads across programming unable to be skipped, and viewers are not happy. This is one reason why I pay for an ad-free YouTuber experience. How many ads are you being forced to watch on my YouTube channel?

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JLab Offers Skin Tone Wireless Earbuds with the Go Air Tones



Over the years, headphones have been predominately black with a few exceptions like Sennheiser’s HD414s and their iconic yellow ear pads. Apple made white fashionable with the AirPods and since there have been a few companies offering vibrantly coloured earbuds.

Today, rather than standing out, the JLab Go Air Tones earbuds look to blend in with a collection of seven skin-toned wireless earbuds. These have been available in the USA for a few months and they are now available in the UK and Ireland.

Taking the more colourful Go Air Pop earbuds as a base, JLab worked with Los Angeles-based Orly Color Labs to develop a series of authentic skin tones. Starting with over 60 different shades, the selection was whittled down to seven skin tones that are inclusive and diverse.

Elina Gitig, Orly’s Director of Special Projects, and Emma Guy, Orly Color Labs’ Senior Mixologist, made sure that the skin tone shades not only matched actual skin tones, but were also flattering. To ensure that these shades can be replicated on earbuds, the team also matched each shade to a Pantone color.

I think the Go Air Tones are great for anyone who wants to be discrete and JLab should be applauded for making the effort and investment.

On to the technical details….the Go Air Tones offer 8 hours of listening time on a full charge with an additional 24 hours available from the charging case, though it will take a little over 2 hours to charge the earbuds from empty. Three earbud tips (S, M, L) should provide ear comfort and it’s possible to use each earbud on their own if desired. The earbuds feature touch controls for a range of functions including volume, track control, answering calls and connecting to your smart assistant. There’s no noise cancellation but that’s not unexpected at this price level.

As I mentioned earlier, the Go Air Tones are launching in UK and Ireland and can can be purchased for £19.99 from JD Williams and Amazon in the UK and Harvey Norman in Ireland for €24.95.


California Attorney General Sues Amazon For Blocking Price Competition



California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a lawsuit against Amazon alleging that the company stifled competition and caused increased prices across California through anticompetitive contracting practices in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law and Cartwright Act.

Further information includes:

In order to avoid competing on prices with other online e-commerce sites, Amazon requires merchants to enter into agreements that severely penalize them if their products are offered for a lower price off-Amazon. In today’s lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta alleges that these agreements thwart the ability of other online retailers to compete, contributing to Amazon’s dominance in the online retail marketplace and harming merchants and consumers through inflated fees and higher prices.

“For years, California consumers have paid more for their online purchases because of Amazon’s anticompetitive contracting practices,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Amazon coerces merchants into agreement that keep prices artificially high, knowing full well they can’t afford to say no. With other e-commerce platforms unable to compete on price, consumers turn to Amazon as a one-stop shop for all their purchases. This perpetuates Amazon’s market dominance, allowing the company to make increasingly untenable demands on its merchants and costing consumers more at checkout across California…”

The Attorney General provided information about the lawsuit against Amazon and requested relief:

The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks an order from the San Francisco Superior Court that stops Amazon’s anticompetitive behavior and recovers the damages to California consumers and the California economy. Specifically, the lawsuit asks the Court to:

  • Prohibit Amazon from entering into and enforcing its anticompetitive contracts that harm price competition;
  • Require Amazon to affirmatively notify vendors that it does not require sellers to offer prices on par with off-Amazon prices;
  • Appoint a Court-approved monitor, to ensure Amazon’s compliance with the Court’s order;
  • Order damages to compensate for the harms to consumers through increased prices; and
  • Order Amazon to return its ill-gotten gains and pay penalties to serve as a deterrent to other companies contemplating similar actions.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the suit is the result of an investigation the began in early 2020. It seeks unspecified damages for harm to the state economy and $2,500 for each violation of the state’s civil and professional code proved at trial.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit represents the biggest legal challenge to date in the U.S. for Amazon, which was previously sued by the District of Columbia and is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, the European Union, and a congressional committee. Because California is the nation’s most populous state and biggest economy, its business regulations have long swayed how companies operate across the country, The Wall Street Journal reported.

If things work out the way Attorney General Bonta wants them to, I think it will could cause other states to create similar lawsuits against Amazon. The result could potentially make it less expensive for people to buy products from Amazon.


Patreon Laid Off 80 People



Patreon founder and CEO, Jack Conte, announced a layoff at Patreon of 80 people. This comes after Patreon laid off at least five employees from its security engineering team. It certainly sounds like things are not going very well for Patreon.

In “A note from Jack”, CEO Jack Conte clarified what has happened within his company. The note was posted on September 13, 2022. It starts with “Today I announced a layoff at Patreon of 80 people, or about 17% of our teammates. Here is the note that I sent to the Patreon team about it earlier this morning.”

Here’s a little bit from Jack Conte’s note:

…Today we will lay off 80 Patreon teammates from our Go-to-Market, Operations, Finance, and People teams, with roughly 17% of our team leaving the company. Before I get into the reasons for this decision, I want to recognize that today will be difficult for much of our team and even harder for those leaving Patreon. Over the last 9 months, we’ve seen the tech industry – and the whole economy – change considerably. Many of you have asked me about layoffs at All Hands meetings as we’ve set out to tighten our focus, and I’ve said that layoffs would be a last resort. Today we are taking that step, and I am deeply sorry to the kind, talented, creator-first people who will be leaving Patreon…

Conte also wrote about the people in Patreon’s European offices:

…As part of these changes, we are closing our Dublin and Berlin offices, and continuing operations in Porto. In the case of Dublin, we are consolidating our engineering teams in the US to improve collaboration and efficiency, as nearly all of our engineering teammates are located in our US offices. We are offering our nine Dublin engineering teammates relocation packages to join these US-based teams.

In the case of Berlin, the office was solely focused on Sales and Marketing, and that’s one area where we’ve reduced our budgets in order to shift resources toward our product. Moving forward, we will adopt a more scaled approach to helping creators onboard, in which US-based teams will support multiple regions. We will be consolidating our marketing efforts to our US teams, focused on updating our brand, developing creator resources, and launching new products.

Our Support and Trust & Safety teams in Porto will continue to invest in one-on-one support for our creators and patrons in Europe, and moving forward, we will continue to translate our products, provide support in local languages, and cultivate a presence in Europe, but with a smaller geographic footprint.

It certainly sounds like things are not going very well for Patreon.

The Verge reported that Patreon’s laid-off workers in the US will receive three months’ severance pay as well as two extra weeks per half year of tenure they have beyond their first year at the company. European workers will get a similar deal, with three months of healthcare coverage, whereas Americans will get COBRA through the end of 2022.

According to The Verge, Patreon is closing two of its European offices and giving nine engineers in Ireland the option to relocate to the US.

To me, it sounds like the posting of Jack Conte’s note explains why the people from Patreon (Ellen Satterwhite, and Emily Metcalf) declined to answer questions after speaking with Gizmodo and TechCrunch. They needed wait to until the note went public.


Governor Newsom Signs Social Media Transparency Measure



California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he has signed a first-of-its kind social media transparency measure to protect Californians from hate and disinformation spread online. Bill 587 was proposed by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D – Encino) and is called “Social media companies: terms of service”. The law requires social media companies to report data on their enforcement of the policies.

Obviously, this bill, which has been signed into law by Governor Newsom, provides protection to people who live in California. It does not to cover people who do not live in California.

This is, in some ways, similar to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which became law in 2018. It gave Californians the right to know about the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared; the right to delete personal information collected from them (with some exceptions); the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information; and the right to non-discrimination for exercising their CCPA rights.

“California will not stand by as social media is weaponized to spread hate and disinformation that threaten our communities and foundational values as a country,” said Governor Newsom. “Californians deserve to know how these platforms are impacting our public discourse, and this brings much-needed transparency and accountability to the policies that shape the social media content we consume every day. I thank Assemblymember Gabriel for championing this important measure to protect Californias from hate, harassment and lies spread online.”

The Verge reported that Governor Newsom signed a law aimed at making web platforms monitor hate speech, extremism, harassment, and other objectionable behaviors. The Governor signed it after it passed the state legislature last month, despite concerns that the bill might violate First Amendment speech protections.

According to The Verge, AB 587 requires social media companies to post their terms of service online, as well as submit a twice-yearly report to the California Attorney General. The report must include details about whether the platform defines and moderates several categories of content including “hate speech or racism,” “extremism or radicalization,” “disinformation or misinformation,” “harassment,” and “foreign political interference.”

The law also requires social media companies to offer details about automated content moderation, how many times people viewed content that was flagged for removal and how the content was handled. AB 587 fits well with AB 2273, which is intended to tighten regulations for children’s social media use.

Personally, I think that AB 587 is a great idea. It might be exactly the push that social media companies need in order for them to actually remove hate speech, racism, extremism, misinformation, and everything else the bill requires. It would be great if social media companies removed the accounts of people who are posting threats of violence and/or engaging in harassment on their platform.

I remember when Twitter was brand new, and we all had less characters to use to say something. Back then, it was easy to find like-minded people who were also on Twitter. (For me, it was mostly fellow podcasters). I’d love to see Twitter go back to the good old days.


Starbucks Introduces Starbucks Odyssey



Starbucks announced Starbucks Odyssey, a new experience powered by Web3 technology that will offer Starbucks Rewards members and Starbucks partners (employees) in the United States the opportunity to earn and purchase digital collectable assets that will unlock new benefits and immersive coffee experiences.

Starbucks claims it is one of the first companies to integrate non-fungible tokens (NFT’s) with an industry-leading loyalty program at scale, while creating a digital community that will enable new ways for Starbucks to engage with its members and partners.

Personally, I’m not quite certain that what Starbucks claims is accurate about being the first to allow people to “unlock new benefits and immersive experiences”.

In August of this year, Small Business Trends reported that Taco Bell and Decentraland had hosted a contest where they chose one couple for a full wedding experience in Decentraland’s digital universe.

Mashable reported earlier this month that Minecraft announced it would not get involved with NFTs, but brands like Gucci and Tiffany are getting into non-fungible tokens, and M&M’s are releasing a Board Apes version of its candy. Mashable also reported that brands believe in NFTs, but consumers don’t.

What does Starbucks Odyssey offer?

According to Starbucks, Starbucks Odyssey will be an extension of Starbucks’ Rewards program that members can access using their Starbucks Rewards login credentials. Once logged in, members can exchange Starbucks Odyssey ‘journeys’, a series of activities, such as playing interactive games or taking on fun challenges to deepen their knowledge of coffee and Starbucks. Members will be rewarded for completing journeys with a digital collectable ‘journey stamp” (NFT).

Members can also purchase ‘limited-edition stamps’ (NFTs) through a built-in marketplace within the Starbucks Odyssey web app experience. Limited-edition stamps will be available for all members to purchase directly with a credit card. No crypto wallet or cryptocurrency will be required – making the Starbucks Odyssey experience a fun and easy way for members to access this new technology and claim an ownership stake in their loyalty to Starbucks.

Each digital collectable stamp will include a point value based on its rarity, and the stamps can be bought or sold among members within the marketplace, with ownership secured on a blockchain. As stamps are collected, members’ points will increase, unlocking access to unique benefits and experiences that have never been offered before. These experiences could range from a virtual espresso martini-making class, to access to unique merchandise and artist collaborations, to invitations events at Starbucks Reserve Roasteries or even trips to Starbucks Hacienda Alscia coffee farm in Costa Rica.

In addition, Starbucks says it is committed to reducing its carbon, water, and waste footprints and is taking a thoughtful and thorough approach as the company works towards the launch of Starbucks Odyssey this year. They will utilize a “proof-of-stake” blockchain technology built by Polygon, which Starbucks claims “uses less energy than first generation “proof-of-work” blockchains.

As for me, I’m really not a fan of NFTs so I won’t be participating in Starbucks Odyssey. If you are a Starbucks Rewards member, you can sign up for the Starbucks Odyssey waitlist starting today.


Blue Origin Capsule Safely Escapes #1621



Blue Origin Capsule Safely Escapes after the main stage suffered an anomaly. This was an uncrewed flight, but the systems worked as advertised, the capsule was fully recovered, and the main stage was lost. While tragic, the simple fact that the safety systems worked as advertised is a real confidence builder.

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