Google leaves no room for dessert

Google’s cutesy era of naming versions of its mobile operating system after desserts is over.

The company insists it has nothing to do with the fact there are no desserts that begin with the letter Q, which is where they’re up to now.

Google’s Sameer Samat, head of Android product management and hater of desserts, spoke to The Verge about it:

“We’re going to deal with that skepticism,” he says. Google’s actual reason for switching the naming, he says, isn’t that Q is hard, but rather that desserts aren’t very inclusive. “We have some good names, but in each and every case they leave a part of the world out,” he argues. Android is a global brand, used by more people in India and Brazil than in the US, so going with an English word for the dessert leaves some regions out.

Pie isn’t always a dessert, “lollipop” can be hard to pronounce in some regions, and “marshmallows aren’t really a thing in a lot of places,” Samat says. Numbers, at least, are universal.

This, I can tell you, will have a dramatic effect on Android’s 2 billion users. Which is to say, most won’t notice, and the rest won’t care.

For reference…

Won’t somebody think of the children?

No, seriously:

In Scott County, teachers and staff are on standby. To make sure a child doesn’t go home to an empty house, bus drivers have been given strict instructions to have a “visual reference to a parent or guardian” before they drop the student off. If there is not a parent home, the child will be taken back to school, McGee said.

I find it hard to comprehend what day-to-day life must be like for young, immigrant children living in the US. As if going to school under the threat of gun violence wasn’t enough – they now have to confront the daily reality that their parents may have been taken away by ICE by the time they get home.

Ideas for saving local journalism

The New York Times has a piece today looking at four distinct ideas for saving local journalism (though not necessarily local newspapers). Of the four, it’s the first – philanthropy – that feels most likely to me:

The local media ecosystem of the future must have a much bigger role for nonprofit media and philanthropy. We accept this reality in the worlds of education and health care. It’s time to embrace it for local journalism. We believe people have an obligation to support libraries and symphonies. Now they have to support good accountability reporting.

Another thought: what if the local newspapers of old, run into the ground by profit-chasing owners, were replaced with essentially outposts of the larger media companies? Much like regional public radio feeds into NPR, and vice versa, regional newspapers could be propped up by the deeper-pocketed newspapers, and provide great localised content in return.

They wouldn’t just get money, of course – it would mean local papers wouldn’t have to concern themselves with billing infrastructure, IT support and so forth.

Thoughts on Facebook’s plan for a TV device

The Information*’s Alex Heath with an exclusive on Facebook’s plans to create a TV set-top box:

The device, which Facebook is aiming to release this fall, will use the same video-calling technology that is in Facebook’s camera-equipped smart speaker, called Portal, which has a screen of its own and is designed to sit on kitchen counters and desks, according to two people familiar with the project and documents viewed by The Information. The new device, code-named Catalina, will also come with a physical remote and streaming video services similar to other television boxes like Apple TV.

Remove its negative PR image and Facebook would be a formidable hardware company by now. Portal is excellent tech for normal people. Oculus Quest is thrilling. In this context, a TV offering incorporating some of that ease of use and marketing budget isn’t a bad idea.

But then, it’s Facebook. As I suggested recently, the company’s punishment for Cambridge Analytica is a lot bigger than $5bn.

(*Subscribe to The Information. It’s terrific.)

Be patient with the LA Times’s low subscriber numbers

Nieman Labs has some interesting analysis around the low digital subscriber numbers for the LA Times, which currently stands at fewer than 200,000, compared to 2.7m New York Times paid members, and 1.7m for the Post.

There is a business to be had selling digital subscriptions to newspapers. But it’s a business dominated by two papers on the East Coast. Papers that used to have competitive scale in print — where the limitations of physical distribution gave them market power — just aren’t able to play on the same field as the big boys in digital. That’s the barbell shape: a couple heavyweights on one end of the spectrum, a lot of small fry on the other, no one in between.

The LA Times could be the “in between”, the piece suggests, but more investment in attracting readers is needed.

I’d argue a few things in defence of the newspaper and its efforts. First, it’s surely too early to be judging the “new” LA Times just yet – it was only brought under new ownership last year. Second, the paper had shrunk into something much more damaged than what Jeff Bezos picked up when he acquired the Washington Post – so there’s a lot more of the basics to rebuild first to get the LA Times back on track.

And third, there is an unquestionable Trump bump for the papers on the East Coast, and subscribers have flocked to them in the hope of understanding a crazy political world. The LA Times really can’t compete with that. It just feels too distant.

The communities most affected by politics in Los Angeles are, for reasons of lower wealth, not your typical newspaper subscriber. The middle classes seem more content to casually keep up with news about the city, rather than subscribe to a paper that still has work to do to show readers it is turning things around and becoming a vital read.

And the most wealthy people in LA… well they live on a different planet altogether.

As ever with subscriptions, the strategy must be to be distinct. The LA Times needs to look at its product, and its city, and find out what they can put in their paper that nobody else can offer.

New driverless shuttle injures elderly man

A new driverless shuttle is being tested in Utah. In what was called an “incredibly unfortunate incident” by the state’s Department of Transport, an elderly man was hurt:

Gene Petrie, 76, was thrown from his seat Tuesday when the autonomous shuttle came to a sudden stop. His face hit a handrail near the door, bruising him badly and causing black eyes.

The top speed has been reduced from 12 to 9mph,  and the DOT is investigating what went wrong.

UK kicks Huawei can down the road

As had been expected, the UK’s verdict on whether Huawei can be trusted to provide telecoms infrastructure has been delayed. The reason? America’s move to place Huawei on the entity list of banned companies.

BBC News:

Mr Wright said the US decision “could have a potential impact on the future availability and reliability of Huawei’s products, together with other market impacts, and so are relevant considerations in determining Huawei’s involvement in the network”.

Last week, MPs said the government needed to make a decision on Huawei as “a matter of urgency”, warning continued delays were damaging international relations.

As Rory Cellan-Jones points out later in that piece, the indecision is of great concern to the UK’s mobile operators who may need to rip out and replace some Huawei equipment that is already installed. With this latest delay, the decision will now be made by the next Prime Minister – who also has the small matter of Brexit to deal with.

Newsweek: “Don’t Tell Me This Rant About Ilhan Omar Isn’t Shocking.”

A new new line has been crossed, argues Madeline Peltz, a researcher who watches Tucker Carlson’s Fox show every night. The public should not lose sight of that. Excellent opinion piece here on the importance of recognising racial escalations:

For media consumers who wish to see Fox held responsible for its recklessness, we cannot afford to be worn down by the dull repetition of racist propaganda. Instead, it is imperative to remind advertisers time and time again that we see they are paying for on-air fascism.

 

The media is still covering Trump’s campaign rallies. They just don’t realise it.

Within all the soul-searching that took place after Trump’s election win in 2016, one of the consistent themes was anger around disproportionate air-time owing to The Donald’s celebrity status.

Cable news outlets were eager to broadcast Trump rallies at length. At the time, it was hard to blame them: they were an undeniably gripping spectacle, even to those who despised him. Other candidates would see their rallies broadcast, sure, but only for as long as viewers could keep stay awake.

On top of this, programmes would trip over themselves trying book Trump onto their shows. The campaign relished in this attention, and took to offering phone interviews, a scenario which made it easier to appear on more shows, and much harder for interviewers to interject. (And with no cameras, it’s easy for aides to feed Trump information – a technique enthusiastically adopted by certain under-the-kosh technology companies, incidentally.)

All told, the pull of Trump added up, according to one estimate, to $5.6bn-worth of “free airtime” during the 2016 campaign.

That won’t happen again, broadcasters said. Here’s a report from Newsweek last month, marking that change of mood:

News coverage of President Donald Trump’s Orlando, Florida, rally Tuesday showed cable news networks and the media in general appear reluctant to give him the same $5.6 billion of free airtime he received during the 2016 election. Both CNN and MSNBC dropped live coverage of the president’s Orlando rally even though Trump had not finished his speech to the raucous crowd.

Fox News was the exception – it carried the rally in full. Fox News gonna Fox News, as they say. But, as far as the other broadcasters were concerned, they weren’t going to just let the cameras roll like they used to.

But, and excuse me for sounding like a stark-raving YouTuber, here’s the real truth the media doesn’t want you to know. It is covering Trump campaign rallies. Perhaps with even more fervour than in 2016. They’re just… different.

There were several this week: a White House Social Media Summit that didn’t involve a single social media company, but did include a Trump stump speech – carried live – in front of his biggest, most influential supporters. Everyone covered it, myself included. In case you missed it, you can watch it in full on the Washington Post’s YouTube channel.

Then on Friday, the campaign – and the cameras – moved to McAllen, Texas, where Vice President Pence took a tour of a migrant detention center. Pictures, beamed on cable news all day, included young children watching television on a bench, and grown men who seemed uncomfortable, but ultimately able to handle themselves. Pence remarked to reporters that he was not surprised by the trip as the system is overwhelmed.

Mission accomplished: a rally event designed to portray conditions as fine, actually, and to suggest the was – as ever – too many migrants. As the footage is seen all over the country tonight, on every channel, Trump knows the message will be this: “I told you there was a crisis.”

And then, it’s the weekend.

Trump told reporters on Friday that ICE would carry out raids to round-up and deport illegal immigrants, adding there was no need for it to be “secret”. This despite warnings from former officials that making plans public, even vaguely, “puts officers in a disadvantage and the agents that are out there in harm’s way”.

So why do it? It’s a campaign rally. In fact, it’s better than a rally. Speaking to the LA Times, public policy Professor Roberto Suro put it this way: “One audience is supposed to feel like something is happening, and the other is supposed to be scared to death.”

**

I’m not going to pretend to have an answer to this issue. It’s the media’s duty to cover what a nation’s leaders are doing – and as President, there will be no avoiding giving Trump 2020 more air time than any other candidate.

His political opponents will need to think deeply, and innovatively, about how to handle that, while editors, producers and reporters will need to keep learning how to fulfill their obligations, while simultaneously finding ways to call a spade a spade.