The Reacting-to-Culture Edition Saturday, December 10, 2022

Playlists Don’t Hit Like They Used To, by Elias Leight, Billboard

Not long ago, a placement on Spotify’s RapCaviar or Apple Music’s Today’s Hits playlists could ignite a single’s streaming numbers overnight. “Today’s Top Hits [32 million followers on Spotify] used to be the holy grail,” says one manager of several major-label acts. “Or even Pop Rising [2.7 million] — it was like, ‘If a song got on Pop Rising, it’s going to get to Today’s Top Hits and do 5 million streams a week.’ ”

But in 2022, the manager continues, “it doesn’t feel like that’s the case.” This realization is growing around the music industry. “The Spotify and Apple editorial playlists don’t have as much punch” as they did, agrees Kieron Donoghue, founder of Humble Angel Records and former vp of global playlists strategy at Warner Music Group. “The major streaming platforms are reacting to culture now rather than driving it,” adds Tatiana Cirisano, music industry analyst and consultant for MIDiA Research.

The Legal System Is Completely Unprepared For Apple AirTag Stalking, by Samantha Cole, Motherboard

In California, where Dozier lives, ​​the law states that “no person or entity in this state shall use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.” But there are aspects of stalking through AirTags that can make it even harder for married people to get recourse; for example, if a tracking device is left in a car that they share, and that car is registered in the abuser’s name, this law doesn’t apply, and it can be nearly impossible to prove in court that the target was being stalked at all.

Dozier sent the district attorney Motherboard’s previous reporting on AirTag stalking crimes, to try to explain the seriousness of the situation. “Judges and officers don't know enough about AirTags... and in criminal law, it's harder to prove [intent] beyond a reasonable doubt on the perpetrators because there's no hard evidence that they are in fact stalking, especially when you've been in a relationship with this person or you share a child with this person,” Dozier said.

Activists Respond To Apple Choosing Encryption Over Invasive Image Scanning Plans, by Mitchell Clark, The Verge

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, or NCMEC, was going to be one of Apple’s partners for its image scanning system, with the center providing both the hashes of known CSAM images and assistance with reviewing anything the system found before contacting the authorities.

As you might imagine, NCMEC isn’t particularly pleased with Apple’s decision to drop the feature, and the company’s simultaneous announcement of even stronger iCloud privacy measures that will end-to-end encrypt backups doesn’t seem to be helping matters. “The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children opposes privacy measures that ignore the undisputed realities of child sexual exploitation online,” said Michelle DeLaune, the organization’s president and CEO, in a statement to The Verge.

Apple Works

Apple To End Employee Gagging Clauses After Activist Campaign, by Patrick McGee, Financial Times

Apple has agreed to drop all employee gagging clauses related to workplace harassment in a win for shareholders and activists who had pressured the iPhone-maker’s board to investigate following a worker uprising called Apple Together.


Apple’s use of concealment clauses received widespread attention in November 2021 when a former software engineer on its security team, Cher Scarlett, broke her non-disclosure agreement by showing media that Apple had made her severance package contingent on withdrawing a work complaint to the National Labor Relations Board and agreeing not to “encourage” other complaints against Apple.


Sofa 3.4: List Sharing, Shortcuts Actions, Lock Screen Widgets, And More, by John Voorhees, MacStories

What I appreciate most about version 3.4 of Sofa is that it extends the app beyond its existing boundaries with list sharing and new Shortcuts support. To round out the update, Sofa also adds Lock Screen widget support and TV and movie provider details for Super Sofa subscribers. It’s an excellent batch of new features for an app that I already consider one of the finest in its category.

Ocenaudio Audio Editor Review, by Angel Garden, TechRadar

Ocenaudio is a free audio editor that’s as accessible as they come. With little in the way of barrier to entry, it’s ready to record or import your sounds in many formats including MP4, so very useful for video editing purposes.

Boom 3D 1.4, by Agen Schmitz, TidBITS

The audio enhancement utility now provides an immersive virtual surround feel by spatializing all audio channels of a 5.1 surround audio from games, music, and movies—providing a distinct perception of different audio channels on headphones with clarity.

What You Should Know Before Using The Lensa AI App, by Reece Rogers, Wired

AI-generated profile pictures have always raised questions about digital privacy, however. If you’re curious whether it’s a good idea to use Lensa, here’s what you should consider before spending money and uploading your selfies.


Can AI Write Authentic Poetry?, by Keith Holyoak, MIT Press Reader

Of all the actual and potential consequences of AI, surely the least significant is that AI programs are beginning to write poetry. But that effort happens to be the AI application most relevant to our theme. And in a certain sense, poetry may serve as a kind of canary in the coal mine — an early indicator of the extent to which AI promises (threatens?) to challenge humans as artistic creators. If AI can be a poet, what other previously human-only roles will it slip into?

So, what is the current state of AI and computer-generated poetry? This is a less central question than might be supposed. Especially in this time of rapid AI advances, the current state of the artificial poetic arts is merely a transitory benchmark. We need to set aside the old stereotype that computer programs simply follow fixed rules and do what humans have programmed them to do, and so lack any capacity for creativity. Computer programs can now learn from enormous sets of data using methods called deep learning. What the programs learn, and how they will behave after learning, is very difficult (perhaps impossible) to predict in advance. The question has arisen (semiseriously) whether computer programs ought to be listed as coauthors of scientific papers reporting discoveries to which they contributed. There is no doubt that some forms of creativity are within the reach, and indeed the grasp, of computer programs.

Why Are Docking Stations So Damn Expensive? The Answer Surprisingly Makes Sense, by Darragh Murphy, Laptop

Docking stations are pricey because delivering the number of ports, along with the variety of connectivity options and power adapters they come with, is no small feat. In a way, it offsets the price of our favourite laptops, even if we wish there was an extra port or two on them.

Bottom of the Page

I have a day podcast playlist and a night podcast playlist. The former accompanies me while I write code. The latter accompanies me when I cannot get back to sleep.


Thanks for reading.