Yet Another Twitter Redesign

Twitter announced yet another news feature yesterday, which is designed to help you see what's happening on the service much easier by surfacing topics, breaking news, events and other stuff into a new explore tab.

The amount of times that I've heard "Twitter is focusing in on news" in the last three years or so is a bit mind boggling. There was Project Lightning, which became Moments, the push for live video, the push into TV, the move off TV boxes and so on.

Twitter's push into live video actually kinda seems to be working, with many events broadcast directly on the service — like Zuckerberg's US hearings — alongside a timeline.

What's unfortunate about the news today, is it's yet another attempt to create a version of Twitter everyone can understand, but without much incentive for existing users to continue tweeting in general. Oh, and it's region-locked to the US, just like Moments' limited rollout, which still hasn't made it to mainland Europe, or many other places.

Jack Dorsey says internally; "we want Twitter to be the bird on your shoulder that tells you what you need to know," but will that matter if people eventually give up on tweeting because the service has been dumbed down for everyone over time?

The new effort is a good idea, but is the 123412313th time that Twitter redesigned the explore tab to lure people in; this time it's different, it claims, but what's still missing if it works is a reason to tweet. 

Researchers say Bitcoin's price was manipulated

A bombshell report by The New York Times today claims that the price of Bitcoin in 2017, which soared beyond five figures, was manipulated by what appears to be a small group of people:

"Mr. Griffin looked at the flow of digital tokens going in and out of Bitfinex and identified several distinct patterns that suggest that someone or some people at the exchange successfully worked to push up prices when they sagged at other exchanges. To do that, the person or people used a secondary virtual currency, known as Tether, which was created and sold by the owners of Bitfinex, to buy up those other cryptocurrencies."

The paper claims that they were able to correlate "half of the increase in Bitcoin's price in 2017" with manipulation related to Bitfinex and Tether, but what's now missing are the documents to prove it.

Bloomberg's Matt Levine wrote about what this might mean, and it's my favorite take:

I do not personally claim enough expertise to evaluate this theory, though Griffin’s and Shams’s paper seems quite careful. I will say, though, that of these two explanations— 

1) Bitcoin’s rapid and sustained rise is due to the fact that it satisfies a real economic need in an elegant way, and people have responded to that; or
2) Bitcoin’s rapid and sustained rise is due to a magical fountain of fake dollars that everyone just decided to treat as real dollars, and that can be used to manipulate its price any time it’s in danger of falling— 

The second is possibly more impressive. Like, creating billions of dollars’ worth of value by building a useful thing is relatively straightforward. Creating billions of dollars’ worth of value with a ridiculous perpetual-motion fake-dollar-printing machine is a real innovation.

Bitcoin is down a lot over its highs last year of around $19,000 all the way to $6,000 today, and while I don't want to be the skeptic in the room here, none of this is surprising at all. 

I expect we'll hear much more about this soon, but if you'd like an entertaining read beyond this I point you to the Hacker News thread where people are doing backflips to justify the legitimacy of it all.

From the community

Hugo, on the Apple tracking changes:

"It’s interesting to see privacy conscious products launching in the wake of this kind of thing, like Fathom which does “trustworthy” analytics. Also worth noting, is the fact that it’s open source!"

As it turns out there are more keyboard fans out there than expected... so if you're looking for recommendations, that thread is the place to get them, including this one from John:

I have an Ergodox-EZ 4 and I also blame @hugo - but my life is much better now. As someone who has already had one wrist surgery, I’m pretty keen on not going through that again! Took a solid 3 weeks to get used to it, first week was hell, but now I absolutely love it. The only thing I don’t love is writing code on it, which the blank keycaps are really not helpful for.

Tab Dump

Comcast throws in $65 billion for Fox in attempt to block Disney
You probably heard a while back that Disney is acquiring 21st Century Fox, but Comcast isn't taking it, with an all-cash bid of $65bn for the studio in an attempt to block it. 

What's wild is what Comcast would get with this: a studio powerhouse, oh, and Hulu. Everyone's scared as hell of a world in which Disney has its own streaming empire up against Netflix and wants a piece of the pie.

iOS 12 closes law enforcement loophole
Apple's been locked in a public fight with US law enforcement since the FBI demanded in 2015 that the company unlock an encrypted iPhone involved in the San Bernardino shooting, and Apple refused. 

Law enforcement found a way around Apple's restrictions and broke into the phone using a tool over the USB port of the iPhone, but iOS 12 closes that loophole by disabling the port after an hour of inactivity.

Elon Musk's tunnel building company won a contract to build a train to Chicago airport
"It is unclear exactly what the Boring Co. high-speed airport link would involve, but last year Musk tweeted about his ideas for Chicago. "Electric pods for sure," he wrote. "Rails maybe, maybe not.""

Facebook plans to archive news content, along with political ads