Love the products, not the spokespersons


Dustin Curtis calls StockTouch his favorite iOS app. It looks really pretty.

It also looks really useless.

Curtis says:

This is an incredibly powerful data visualization; it gives an at-a-glance view of the entire market’s health. It also facilitates quick exploration.

I can see that this app is great if you want a at-a-glance view of the entire market’s health. I just can’t understand why you care about the entire market’s health unless you’re Ben Bernanke. Maybe if you’re a day trader. But you shouldn’t be a day trader because you’ll never win against computers.

So how can this app help someone who cares about non-super-short-term investing based on fundamentals? I looked through the videos and I see no way of graphing a stock’s movement against other stocks, market index, or sector index. Those are the absolute basic things you want to be able to do in order to get a sense of a stock’s true movement. The exploration may be quick and touch-friendly, but it seems not to be deep or analysis-friendly. To praise this app is to confuse visual elegance with user experience.

Can people who use this app explain to me what you use it for?

Some Jim Dalrymple Stupid

Jim Dalrymple:

The problems in the U.S. economy are not for Apple to resolve. They pay taxes — I’m sure they pay a lot of taxes — and they employ tens of thousands of Americans in high paying jobs.

Apple is not a charity, nor should it make business decisions based on a country’s needs or wants. Apple has one financial responsibility — to make money for its shareholders.

Instead of giving trillions in bailout money to companies that have been mismanaged, why not use that money to make doing business in America more attractive.

There’s just so much ignorance of policy, economics, morality, and reality here.

To start, Apple actually actively avoids paying taxes on their overseas earnings. (Note: I am not claiming that Apple is evading taxes.) Apple is a prominent supporter of another tax holiday for overseas earnings. Such a holiday is effectively the same as a bailout — in the sense that the government is giving corporations money — except even more misguided. Tax holidays have not helped the economy, but in fact create a perverse incentive for companies to stash even more money overseas. 

So, not only are Apple not helping to solve US economy’s problems, they’re actively making it worse — and fucking over American people in the process. But hey, a couple thousand people are paid and shareholders are happy, so everything is peachy.

Teach Kids to Code!

Will Kujawa:

My generation is when computer science should have started to be taught in schools. Why it’s not already a part of the core curriculium boggles the mind. I was taught how to type in elemetary school, but never taught to do anything useful with it but write. We shouldn’t still be making that mistake. 

Agreed. I think this has an important implication for the use of iPad in schools. In short: don’t. To do so would be confining students to, in a perverse way, an outmoded technology. It’d be implicitly giving them the message that learning about computing is like learning to drive — both involve the use of an appliance. An iPad may be a good replacement of PC in many ways, but certainly not for learning about computing.

Siracusa Meme

Kinda amazing.

2 years ago

Twist and Shout

Ben Brooks:

Culpan also talks about how workers want more hours, not less — a story that jives with a Reuters report.

No. Workers want more money, not less. As things stand, they have to work more hours in order to get more money. But I don’t think they’d complain if, oh I don’t know, their hourly wages were raised by 20% and they don’t have to work overtime. Indeed, here is the original quote from Tim Culpan for Bloomberg:

The biggest gripe, which surprised us somewhat, is that they don’t get enough overtime. They wanted to work more, to get more money.

It’s not false, but still misleading, to characterize that as workers wanting more hours.

Hard Question

Stephen Hackett, in a post entitled “On Android Tablets”:

Furthermore, why do sites like the Verge and others keep spending so much time reviewing [Android tablets]?

I don’t know. Why do Appleverse blogs keep talking about Android tablets (and how they’re not “winning”)?

Apple at $600

Horace Dediu at Asymco:

Apple’s share price has increased rapidly in the last few weeks. The rise to $600 was swift and broke the pattern of slow growth the the stock was able to obtain over the past few years.


What we are observing is market inefficiency.


The cause of this divergence between reality and perception is that disruptions are divergent from perceptions. A disruptive company always “leads” its valuation. There is cognitive delay for the vast bulk of observers. You can then argue that for those, like Mr. Coleman, that don’t suffer this delay, there will be profit.

Dediu is right about market inefficiency and wrong about the explanation. The effect we are observing has nothing to do with Apple being “a disruptive company” because it is not unique to Apple at all.

As The Economist summarizes (in January 2011):

Since the 1980s academic studies have repeatedly shown that, on average, shares that have performed well in the recent past continue to do so for some time. Longer-term studies have confirmed that this “momentum” effect has been observable for much of the past century. Nor is the phenomenon confined to the stockmarket. Commodity prices and currencies are remarkably persistent, rising or falling for long periods.

Perhaps Stephen Coleman, who Dediu portrays as prescient for an October 2007 prediction that Apple would hit $600, did well because he saw the fundamentals that no one else saw. (I doubt it, given that fund managers are well-known to be unable to consistently outperform indexes when adjusted for risk.) But, given the momentum effect, you would have also done quite well if you’ve simply followed the momentum and bought best recent performers.

What we are seeing are simply manifestations of psychological biases. In addition to the momentum effect, as The Economist article discusses, there are also the bandwagon effect and the value effect. There’s nothing special about Apple here, and so it’d be a mistake to attribute it to Apple’s disruptiveness, even if Apple is indeed disruptive.

Disclosure: I’m an Apple stockholder since November 2007. (Does that make me kind of prescient too? Self-congratulations!)


Love the backend of Dustin Curtis's new blogging system, Svbtle. The ideas / posts area is especially innovative.

Not a huge fan of tying it to a “network” with the same frontend. However, that’s probably just because I’m not invited to the party. ^_*

Strawman Deontologist

Ben Brooks, strawman deontologist:

So I can only assume that lying, in Topolsky’s eyes, can be justified if it is done so out of necessity. That’s a good reason not to read a single word Topolsky writes.

Yo, look up “murderer at the door”.

I don’t think Mike Daisey’s fabrications are justified, because I think they ultimately harm more than they help. Witness the distraction from the real issues that they have produced now.

However, even if Daisey’s fabrications are not justified, it’s pretty obviously false that no lie is ever justified. It even seems definitional that a lie is justified when it is “done out of necessity”; otherwise it wouldn’t be necessary.


Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, from February 2012:

The word you hear over and over and over is that targeted ads can be “creepy.” It even crops up in the academic literature, despite its vague meaning in this context. My intuition is that we use the word “creepy” precisely because it is an indeterminate word. It connotes that tingling-back-of-the-neck feeling, but not necessarily more than that. The creepy feeling is a sign to pay attention to a possibly harmful phenomenon. But we can’t sort our feelings into categories — dangerous or harmless — because we don’t actually know what’s going to happen with all the data that’s being collected.

I’d go so far to call for a ban of the word “creepy” from any rational discussion of tech, but if you aren’t willing to come alone, at least follow Madrigal’s advice.

Don’t let “creepy” be the last word. At most, it’s a sign that we need to think further about an issue. Sometimes we’re prone to labeling something “creepy” simply because we aren’t used to it and aren’t sure what to make of it. That’s very different from saying something is morally bad. The latter requires a full investigation of the potential problems and payoffs.

Unfortunately, in the discourse nowadays, tech writers (yes, I’m talking about you, Ben Brooks) are content with using “creepy” as the last word without further investigating the potential problems and payoffs. So here is a call to stop this practice.

Mike Daisey, Again

The Economist:

I don’t know what other people are mentally accusing Apple of, but in my book, the relevant question in this whole drama has always been very simple: is Apple adequately ensuring that its Supplier Code of Conduct is being enforced, and is that code of conduct itself adequate? The question is not whether it is sinful to buy an iPhone. The question is not whether Apple is a force for good or evil in the world. The question is not whether trade with China is good or bad. The question is not whether iPhones should be manufactured in America. The question is simply whether Apple is, knowingly or through negligence, allowing widespread violations of its Supplier Code of Conduct, and hence allowing misery to enter the world that has no reason to be here.

Exactly right. In my view, people whose rhetoric are filled with words like “evil” and “sin” are either charlatans or apologists. Unless someone has always been a media watchdog, the fact that they talk extensively about Mike Daisey and not the workers’ conditions nowadays is a fairly good sign that they are, intentionally or not, evading the real issue.

(Yes, irony duly noted.)

Path Redux

Ben Brooks:

David Barnard asked Path to delete all his user data and got a support email confirming the data was gone.

Today he signed back up and all his old data was still there for him to use.

But I’m sure everybody does it so it’s okay. Can’t wait to hear MG Siegler and Michael Arrington’s defense of this.

P.S. Why are people still using Path?

P.P.S. Obviously I never even used Path in the first place, and people shouldn’t have. So, I’m just concern-trolling.

Anonymous said: Strictly, Gruber's reply about the temperature was good science, just not useful for most people. Percentage comparisons only matter when you are working from a real, well-defined zero. If you can move the zero, what's the point? If I define Google's stock price minus one dollar as the baseline for comparison with Apple stock, a share of Apple is worth eleventy billion percent more than a share of Google. That's a retarded way of comparing things.

But the zero in Celsius is well-defined when the material is known. And I’m sure you can go to iFixit to find out what the new iPad is made out of. Being tied to kinetic energy is not the only way of being real.

And holy fuck, this is two more posts than I ever planned to write about temperature scales. The point is that both the original article and the reply are highly irrelevant. If you agree, the rest is whatever.

P.S. Don’t use “retarded” this way. It’s offensive. Use “Sieglered” instead.

Apple Says

Apple enthusiast John Gruber:

The actual larger truth — underage workers, unsafe conditions, grueling hours, crowded dormitories — are all real problems, and all deserve our attention. But that’s exactly what Apple itself has been saying for five years. It’s also what journalists from the Times to ABC Nightline have been reporting for years.

True, Apple has been putting out Supplier Responsibility report for five years. Show of hands: how many people watched the new iPad presentation? how many people read any of the previous Supplier Responsibility reports? Or, take another measure: how many posts were there on these issues on Daring Fireball before?

Apple deserves credit for acknowledging these issues. But let’s not pretend they’ve been working to make them known. Again, let’s shame Mike Daisey plenty, but let’s not absolve Apple of blame.

gypsycabco said: In this particular case, could one use room temperature as a base for measurements?

Sure. That seems as good an arbitrary point as any.

I think the relevant questions are much simpler, though. Does it overheat? No, then let’s move on. Does it burn your manparts or ladyparts when you use it while sitting on the toilet? No, then let’s lay this matter to rest.