(First published on 3/6/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)
I don’t know about you, but I continue to use Twitter less and less these days. Which sucks, I love Twitter. But while I had hoped the Trump mania would have subsided by now, it has not.
Believe me, I like to be as informed about the current state of things as anyone. But I do that these days by reading The New York Times and The Economist daily and weekly, respectively. I don’t need all the incessant talking in circles and hot takes that Twitter offers. Nor do I want it shoved in my face in real time, all the time.
So thank god for the new “mute” options Twitter unveiled last week. I don’t believe they’re live yet (at least not for me), but having granular options to mute certain keywords and/or people for set periods of time is great — exactly what I was looking for.
Holding out hope that these tools make Twitter great again.
Nick Stockton on Elon Musk’s stated goal for SpaceX to fly humans to the moon — yes, the moon — by 2018:
Though he was asked repeatedly by reporters, Musk would not reveal the two would-be astronauts, who “have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission,” he says. Musk would only say that the price the pair are paying will be slightly more than sending astronauts to the ISS. Before launching them into space on a highly compressed timeframe, they’ll undergo health and fitness tests, along with training to begin later this year. The mission should last approximately a week. “Skim the surface of the moon, go quite a bit further out into deep space and then loop back to earth,” says Musk. “I’m guessing probably distance-wise probably 300,000 to 400,000 miles.” Which is about 33,500,000 miles less than it takes to get to Mars, if anyone’s counting.
It seems crazy to think about a private company doing this. I mean, beyond the incredible technical hurdles, the risk involved is well, terminal.
Then again, considering that no human has even gone beyond low Earth orbit since 1972 — yes, 45 years ago — you have to applaud Musk for pushing the envelope here (even if he doesn’t hit the 2018 goal, which seems a stretch, to say the least). At the very least, he should push NASA to move faster (well, assuming they have the budget).
Speaking of space and the Moon, The Economist highlighted something interesting about the newly-discovered Earth-like planets:
That is because TRAPPIST-1’s planets are unlike Earth in one important way. Their proximity to their star means that all seven are thought to be tidally locked — in other words, their orbits and rotational periods are synchronised such that they always show the same face to their parent star, in the same way that the Moon does to the Earth. On an airless world, that would leave one side baking while the other froze, with perhaps a thin strip mild enough for water. On a planet with an atmosphere, the effects are less clear, though climatic models suggest it would cause a constant rush of wind from the hot side to the cool, helping to smooth out the temperature differences between the two hemispheres.
Felix Gillette with a deep-dive into YouTube’s new television subscription service — the aptly named: YouTube TV. First on the current state of these new bundles:
These TV-lite packages offer many of the same enticements (they’re low-cost and mobile-friendly) now being touted by YouTube, yet none has gotten off to a particularly strong start. Sling TV, which launched in February 2015, recently topped 1 million subscribers, less than 1 percent of the 120 million U.S. households that currently have some form of TV. PlayStation Vue, which entered the market shortly after Sling, has attracted upward of 100,000 customers. In January, AT&T revealed that DirecTV Now drew about 200,000 customers during its first month of operation.
Yes, those numbers are very, very small. For now. YouTube’s offering, at least on paper, sounds like perhaps the most compelling yet — especially thanks to the unlimited cloud DVR. But trade-offs remain:
There are plenty of gaps in the lineup. Subscribers won’t be able to watch anything from Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV), Discovery Communications, AMC Networks, A+E Networks (History, A&E), or Turner Broadcasting (CNN, TBS, TNT), to name a few. Replicating the entire cable-TV bundle would have been too costly, says Wojcicki. Instead, her team targeted a selection of channels that would deliver the essential elements — particularly live sports. Through the deals with Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC (whose parent company, Disney, owns ESPN), YouTube TV subscribers will be able to watch pro and college football, basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey, tennis, and golf. “We’ve designed the service to be great for sports lovers,” she says.
Nabbing CBS is awesome. The current guys (Sling, DirecTV Now, etc) don’t have them — but undoubtedly will cut similar deals. But as many have pointed out, sports without TNT means not a lot of basketball, likely during the time you’re going to want to be watching a lot of basketball (this will probably launch around the time of the NBA playoffs). Yet, hope remains:
The selection will likely grow and evolve. Additional tiers of programming — catering to fans of comedy, say, or European soccer — could eventually be added and subscribed to for an extra monthly fee. “The mix in a couple years will be the result of lots of learning, lots of testing,” says Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer.
And more content will indeed be coming, because YouTube (and the others are paying a premium):
And a wildly rich friend at that. The largest TV networks stand to benefit from YouTube TV and its rival services in part because, to gain entry to the market, the deep-pocketed newcomers are likely coughing up significantly more per subscriber than established distributors.
“We are really open to being in business with anybody as long as they pay us fairly and appropriately for our content,” says Leslie Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS Corp. “The YouTube people were terrific to deal with. They have a very young constituency, which is something we’re always trying to reach. They are very attuned with what we do and what our needs are.” Moonves declined to say how much YouTube is paying CBS but called it “a very fair deal for both parties.”
So, a very fair deal for CBS.
Likewise, native YouTube programmers say they’re salivating over the dawn of YouTube TV, which will put their shows on equal footing with the big TV brands. “The idea that our series and movies could be on a slate of programming with all this other quality content from major TV networks is really appealing to us,” says Burnie Burns, who co-founded Rooster Teeth Productions LLC, a webcentric company in Austin.
Technical chops and CBS aside, this is the most compelling part of this offering: it drastically elevates YouTube content. It may not get quite the same billing as the traditional television channels, at least at first, but it will all be there. As will the traditional television advertisers…
Speaking of the future of television, Lauren Goode sat down with Apple’s Eddy Cue:
In an interview with The Verge, Cue said that Apple isn’t against the idea of making more original TV, but emphasized that there would have to have some sort of interactive element for it to make sense for the tech giant right now.
Cue said he could see a TV environment where content makers are creating a more interactive TV app, and where viewers watch the program on their Apple TV, iPad, or phone, using the remote or simply the touchscreen to interact with a show.
“Interactive TV”? What year is this? 1997? And, of course, Planet of the Apps looks beyond lame. Both of these give me quite a bit of pause about Apple’s future in the space. But the good news is that it’s still going to be years before the “future of TV” shakes out as noted above and below.
I feel almost silly linking to this given that it one big part (below) has seemingly already been debunked. But, for discussion’s sake, here’s what Takashi Mochizuki says is coming in the upcoming iPhone:
They said Apple would introduce other updates including a USB-C port for the power cord and other peripheral devices, instead of the company’s original Lightning connector. The models would also do away with a physical home button, they said. Those updates would give the iPhone features already available on other smartphones.
While it would be nice to be able to carry around only one cable for (newer) MacBooks and the iPhone, anyone with the just-released AirPods would still need the Lightning cable. So yeah, it would seem far more likely that the USB-C element here is the other end of the cable.
Still, the other parts of the new iPhone, all of which do seem accurate based on various reports, sound awesome. I can already sense my current iPhone’s performance degrading just in time to upgrade in the fall…
In these times of trouble, bookstores get clever both with and without words…
All the tweets that are fit to print…
“We need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”
Great read on Jerry Colonna by Jessi Hempel.
On the topic of television, cable, and the new skinny bundles…
(First published on 3/6/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)