There's an absolutely phenomenal story in the New York Times with dozens of Facebook insiders dishing up dirt on how top management dropped the ball on all the controversies Facebook's been involved in the past three years. You gotta read the entire thing to get a full overview of the incompetence and arse covering from Zuck & Sandberg, but the highlight for me was this paragraph: "Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic". At this point Zuck and Sandberg are just sad and pathetic people, trying to cling to their wealth, consequences be damned.
The Greens launched a bunch of digital & technology related policies in Canberra last night. The centrepiece of the announcement was a $1.3b Federal Telecommunications Concession that will give Health Care Card owners $60/quarter to subside the cost of connecting to the internet. The Greens reckon the internet is so important for everyone to have access to, that it's unfair low income earners have to make do with shitty internet just because they're poor. The Greens also want to rip up the HFC & FTTN parts of the NBN and replace it with fibre. To round out their digital policies, The Greens want a GDPR style law, mandatory data retention repealed and a $100m Games Investment and Enterprise Fund. If the federal election ends up being a close one and the Greens decide the balance of power, some of this stuff could turn into a reality - maybe.
Google has introduced a chat feature into its best product, Maps. Users will be able to send messages to businesses via Maps, with the intent of asking questions about the products they sell, services they offer and shit like that. I reckon it's really useful. I mean, sure, you could just call the business and ask what's up, but that's just me showing my age. Nobody under 30 uses the phone any more, do they? Businesses use Google's "My Business" app to handle the messages flowing in from Maps. Considering how many people use Google Maps, it'll no doubt be a popular feature, hidden among the dozen or so other business related features Google keeps slapping in there.
Amazon has launched Blueprints in Australia, meaning Aussie Alexa owners can make their own Skills without knowing how to code. Some examples from Ausdroid include Interactive Instructions - "let your babysitter interact with Alexa to find things in your home or get instructions for your child’s routine (or your petsitter – it’s versatile!)" or a Chore Tracker - "set up a list of household chores and the names of people who should do them. Alexa will remember whose turn it is to do each chore each day". The Blueprint website has a bunch of other templates to work from too. Combine this, with IFTTT and you can do some pretty interesting stuff if you're into the voice command thing (I am not, can't stand the fucking thing).
The general concept of Venezuela's government contracting ZTE to build a system that'll give millions of Venezuelans ID for the first time in their lives sounds like a great idea. People will be able to open bank accounts and start businesses and all kinds of stuff they can't do now. According to fresh Reuters reporting based on the whistleblowing of a Venezuelan government technical advisor, once the government saw China's social credit system, they loved the idea of being able to "monitor everything from a citizen's personal finances to medical history and voting activity" and turned an innocent ID project into a big ol' spying machine they call "fatherland". The worst part of it all is that to drive adoption of the ID card, the government is making having one mandatory to get food handouts, which 90% of Venezuela relies on to survive.
There's a new version of Pocket Casts! This is the first major update since the boys from Adelaide were acquired by WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life. There's new features galore, like being able to search the contents of a podcast feed for keywords, your Up Next list can now be sync'd across devices, a listening history, a whole new UI featuring an "extra dark" theme, AirPlay 2 and Siri Shortcut support on iOS, plus a few other niceties. I know a few of you unpatriotic traitors prefer Castro or Overcast (*spits*), but if you are a cross platform device user, nothing comes even close to Pocket Casts. MacStories has a review of the update if you want to get someone else's opinion before splashing the cash.
Also in the realm of software updates, Microsoft finally got around to releasing a stable version of their Windows 10 October update - in November. Anandtech has a good look at what's new in this major, minor release of Windows. The main feature is "Your Phone", which lets you link your Windows PC to an Android phone to share photos and send SMS. The clipboard gets some love, showing a history of what you've put there and using the cloud to sync it between other devices. Screen Sketch gets a big update to make scribbling on screenshots and photos nicer. There's also more dark mode stuff (i.e: Explorer), a new emoji picker, the ability to log in to a Remote Desktop session using Windows Hello/biometrics, improved wireless projection features and increased HDR/wide colour gamut support.
That's it, see ya tomorrow!