The Sizzle - Issue 1

Monday 5th October, 2015

Welcome to the first issue of The Sizzle! This daily newsletter is constructed so you can stay in the loop with what's going on in the tech world, without having to wade through the muck that is tech news.

It will take me a while to find my feet and no doubt there will be mistakes, changes and lots of typos along the way. Feedback is crucial so if you do want to let me know about something, or just shoot the shit about any of the topics in the newsletter, reply to this email - I read all the emails sent to this address.

I hope you find The Sizzle informative and useful for months and years to come (and cough up a few bucks when the free trial is over)!


News


Ad blocking is all the rage at the moment and the latest twist in the ad blocking saga is the good Ad Block extension is now as weird and shady as the bad Ad Block. You see, there was an ad blocker called Adblock that came out in around 2002. It was a Firefox extension and it was super popular. Here's an interview with the original creator, Henrik Aasted Sørensen and a bit of background on Adblock. In 2006 Adblock Plus was developed as a fork of the original Adblock extension and over time was moulded into a company called Eyeo that tried to work with advertisers and extort partner with them to be included on a whitelist by default and participate in an "acceptable ads" program. People thought that was all a bit shit and in 2009 a fork of Adblock Plus was made and dubbed AdBlock (note the CamelCase capitalisation). This AdBlock extension was seen as the "good" extension that didn't partner with advertisers to show you ads. Until this weekend, when a message popped up for users of AdBlock saying they're now taking part in the acceptable ads program and oh, AdBlock has been sold to an anonymous entity, for an undisclosed amount. The saga continues.

The people who re-ignited this ad blocker junk, Apple, have purchased a UK company called VocalIQ. I've never heard of them before, but apparently their expertise is in "natural dialogue" - i.e: get stuff like Siri understanding people's sentences as they say it, rather than specific key words. The VocalIQ team even throws some shade on Siri, calling it a toy that's not good enough to meet customer expectations. It doesn't take much imagination to see why Apple would throw cash at these guys if their product is any good. Siri is a huge part of how Apple envisions the future of computing, so anything to improve how it works is chump change for the world's largest company with more cash in the bank than literally anyone in the world.

St. George, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA's core baking platform has shit the bed and customers can't log in to Internet banking and can't transfer money around their internal accounts. Some poor sods have no access to their cash as bank branches are closed in NSW, SA, QLD and the ACT because of today's public holiday. Ben Grubb at Fairfax has found out from an anonymous source that the database which records the transactions has become corrupt and attempts to restore it are failing. Part of me wants them not to succeed, so we can see what happens to customers money when something major like this occurs. Will those transactions be written off and everyone's accounts put back to where they were before the error? What happens to accounts which received money instead of spent money, do they get their money back somehow? Oh to be a fly on the wall at Westpac right now.

A decent read in The Guardian today about the weird and confusing world of Silicon Valley, where companies that make no money are seen as important. Carole Cadwalladr obviously has an angle to push, that there's some sort of bubble reminiscent of the .com one a decade and a bit ago, but what I found interesting was the fact that there's so many companies we take for granted like Uber and Twitter that make no cash. They're spending more than they're making, yet this is seen as good and that more money should be thrown at it. Sometimes, maybe, you make a cool thing that people like and it generates a nice amount of money and that's it.

You can add Evernote to the list companies worth a lot of money making no cash. The new CEO, Chris O'Neill, has enacted some changes - sacking 47 staff and closing some offices overseas (though which ones exactly, we don't know yet). Besides CEO's kiss-of-death blog post (it's never good when the CEO has to use the blog), there's this article on Business Insider detailing the sort of crap that went down at Evernote. Let's hope they get their act together and focus on the core syncing and searching stuff in their app. Sync between devices should be 100% perfect, all the time.

Cool Stuff

Maciej Ceglowski is someone who has opinions regarding technology I agree with often. He's just given a talk comparing big data and how it harvests and uses data on people, to nuclear waste. The outcome may be good but the process and risks involved are bad - how do we deal with it? You can read his presentation, or watch it on YouTube. He's gonna be in Australia soon too, talking at Web Directions Sydney.

The nice cheapskates on Ozbargain have noticed that the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite has dropped in price at Dick Smith and the 30% off coupon to use on their eBay store is still valid until tonight. So if you want a Kindle, this is as cheap as a Paperwhite version is gonna get at $112.25 including delivery.

Ever wondered how something as important to the Internet as HTML becomes formalised and how the the web manages to work pretty much the same across all the different devices out there, made by different manufacturers and coded by different people with their own ideas on how the web should work? This article from the New Yorker goes through a bit of the process of formalising HTML5 as the current standard for the World Wide Web. I know it's from a year ago but still really fascinating if you haven't read it already.

Here endeth the sizzle (until tomorrow!),
--Anthony