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Month: January 2018

Mike Allen and Axios, Profiled in Buzzfeed

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Over at Buzzfeed, Steven Perlberg profiles Mike Allen and Axios, the news organization he co-founded just a year ago:

Axios has bigger ambitions than changing Washington’s news diet. Led by Allen’s fellow Politico alum Jim VandeHei, the company has a broad audience in mind: tens of millions of smart people who seek out quick news on a daily basis. Like Politico, Axios delivers news fast — but distilled down to a few sentences or bullet points. And like Playbook, Axios has created another language, framing the day’s stories under tags like: “Be smart,” “Why it matters,” “Go deeper,” and occasionally the highest praise, “Worthy of your time.” Allen calls these little framing phrases “Axioms,” and they litter Axios’s coverage of politics, media, business, and tech. Rival reporters call them primers for warmed-over conventional wisdom, but if you read Axios consistently enough, you can find yourself texting in Axiosese to friends.

Allen’s daily email newsletter, Axios AM, you’ll recall, was among my favorite email newsletters of 2017.

It’s timely, written in a personal voice by someone in the know, contains exclusive news, and – a big benefit in these crazy times – aggregates the top stories from a variety of different news outlets, so you always feel up to speed on what’s up in Washington.

Newley’s Notes 119: Morning Message Overload; Our Greece Trip; Wookies Channel Pee-Wee

2018 01 24milkyway

Edition 119 of my email newsletter went out on yesterday.

To join the list, simply enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes. If you like this newsletter, please invite others to sign up.

📝 What I Wrote in The Wall Street Journal

The Internet Is Filling Up Because Indians Are Sending Millions of ‘Good Morning!’ Texts. The story, out yesterday, begins:

Google researchers in Silicon Valley were trying to figure out why so many smartphones were freezing up half a world away. One in three smartphone users in India run out of space on their phones daily.

The answer? Two words. “Good Morning!”

The glitch, Google discovered, was an overabundance of sun-dappled flowers, adorable toddlers, birds and sunsets sent along with a cheery message.

Millions of Indians are getting online for the first time—and they are filling up the internet. Many like nothing better than to begin the day by sending greetings from their phones. Starting before sunrise and reaching a crescendo before 8 a.m., internet newbies post millions of good-morning images to friends, family and strangers.

The story has touched a nerve, it seems, having been widely shared today on Twitter and Facebook. It’s on the front page of today’s print paper and is among our most-popular stories on the WSJ site. I’ve received some heartwarming feedback from readers, much of it along the lines of: I thought I was the only one plagued by this phenomenon!

💬 What I Wrote at Newley.com

Trip Report: 2-Week Greece Getaway. Anasuya and I went to Greece in August. It was a fantastic trip. Here’s my (long-overdue) blog post about the journey, with images and maps and travel tips and more. The TLDR:

Greece is amazing. If you haven’t gone, you should visit if at all possible. We went to Athens and the islands of Mykonos and Folegandros, and loved each destination.

📲 5 Cool Tech-ish Reads This Week

1. “Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble,” is the title of a New York Times magazine piece by top technology author Steven Johnson that some folks are calling the best longform story yet about the cryptocurrency’s rise. His point: the underlying tech, known as the blockchain, could truly be revolutionary. Bitcoin? Maybe not so much.

2. The Economist on the backlash against Big Tech. This piece, written in the form of an email to the likes of Zuckerberg, Bezos, Pichai et al, summarizes what’s happened to public perception of Facebook, Amazon, Google and other behemoths:

You are an industry that embraces acronyms, so let me explain the situation with a new one: “BAADD”. You are thought to be too big, anti-competitive, addictive and destructive to democracy.

What can they do? Become more transparent, for one, according to the author.

3. Gorgeous aerial video of the earth in all its glory. “Over several months of prep and R&D we modified a LearJet and flew above the earth looking straight down at the shear beauty of what Mother Nature has to offer us that we all too often miss from the ground,” writes Vincent Laforet.

4. New site: A Google for Netflix. I love this: Flixable.com lets you see not just the new movies and shows added to Netflix every day, but also lets you search by genre, IMDB rating, release date and more. You can also see when content’s about to become unavailable on the platform. It’s also available for Canada, the UK and Finland.

5. Not tech-related, but important: “1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 Hours” is a moving New York Times story by Katherine Q. Seelye — with incredible photos by the great Todd Heisler — about how one family in New Hampshire has been hit by the opioid epidemic.

💫 1 Silly Thing

“What if Wookiees Sounded Like Pee-Wee Herman?”. Here’s your answer.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

The Internet Is Filling Up Because Indians Are Sending Millions of ‘Good Morning!’ Texts

Goodmorning 2018 01 23

That’s the headline of my newest story, an A-hed out yesterday.

It begins:

Google researchers in Silicon Valley were trying to figure out why so many smartphones were freezing up half a world away. One in three smartphone users in India run out of space on their phones daily.

The answer? Two words. “Good Morning!”

The glitch, Google discovered, was an overabundance of sun-dappled flowers, adorable toddlers, birds and sunsets sent along with a cheery message.

Millions of Indians are getting online for the first time—and they are filling up the internet. Many like nothing better than to begin the day by sending greetings from their phones. Starting before sunrise and reaching a crescendo before 8 a.m., internet newbies post millions of good-morning images to friends, family and strangers.

All that good cheer is driving a 10-fold increase in the number of Google searches for “Good Morning images” over the past five years. Pinterest, the San Francisco visual-search platform, added a new section to display images with quotes. It saw a ninefold increase over the past year in the number of people in India downloading such pictures.

Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging service—which has 200 million monthly active users in India, making the country its biggest market—added a status message last year so users could say good morning to all of their contacts at once.

The story, which is on the front page of Tuesdays print WSJ, seems to have touched a nerve. It’s been widely shared online, and has been among the most popular stories on WSJ.com since it was published.

Trip Report: 2-Week Greece Getaway

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A and I took a fantastic trip to Greece in August, our first visit to the country.

TLDR: Greece is amazing. If you haven’t gone, you should visit if at all possible. We went to Athens and the islands of Mykonos and Folegandros, and loved each destination.

Greece map

We began the trip with a flight into Athens, traveling on Qatar Airways from Delhi, connecting in Doha.

In Athens, we stayed with our incredibly gracious friends, who were the key to the entire trip, providing an impetus to go in the first place and top travel tips once we arrived.

We would return Athens later in the trip, but first…

Greece map islands

Mykonos

…The next morning we took a short ferry ride to Mykonos.

The island is known as a party destination. And it is definitely that, with many holiday-makers visiting from elsewhere in Greece, Italy, France, and other places.

It has sparkling beaches and hip bars and restaurants. But it’s also idyllic and picturesque. Here are some images (all the pics in this post were taken with my iPhone.)

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I mean, can you believe these colors?

We stayed with our friends near the sleepy village of Ano Mera, and spent some enjoyable afternoons at the nearby Agrari beach:

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After Delhi’s daily chaos, the island’s beauty and quiet were highly restorative.

And. The. Food!

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We ate memorable meals at Giorgos & Marina Fisherman Tavern in Ano Mera village, where the staff were extremely welcoming, and had a spectacular birthday lunch with our pal at the picturesque Kiki’s Tavern, overlooking Agios Sostis beach.

And for a fun evening out, we really enjoyed cocktails at Caprice Bar, downtown, with the seafront lapping at your feet.

Mykonos tips:

  • You may want to rent a car to get around. We used a company called Mykonos Drive.
  • For all your grocery store needs, visit one of the Flora Super Market branches on the island. They have excellent produce, not to mention actual, live DJs! (High roller? No worries. They’ll deliver to your yacht, as well.
  • Grab a coffee and a bite to eat at the excellent il forno di Gerasimo bakery in downtown Mykonos.
  • You can easily buy ferry tickets to get around the islands; our friend got ours (from Athens to Mykonos) online before we arrived, then we booked our own on the fly from travel agencies as we continued our trip.

Folegandros

After several days of eating and drinking and beach-going, we took off on our own for Folegandros, a smaller, even quieter island several hours by ferry to the south.

It came recommended by our pal, who we’d asked to suggest a destination where we would find ourselves so relaxed we’d become bored.

He delivered:

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We stayed at Hotel Paraporti, which we found online. It was nearly the last room available in the Chora, the central village on the island, as it was high season for summer travel.

Hotel paraporti

As you can see in the map above, the hotel is situated next to the village, where you can walk around, eat, drink, and basically revel in the ridiculously gorgeous surroundings bathed in ridiculously gorgeous Mediterranean light.

The view from our room’s patio:

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And some images from around Folegandros:

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As if all of that weren’t beautiful enough, there’s also a church high up on a hillside, overlooking the village and coastline.

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You can take the 15 minute walk up for the – yes – ridiculously gorgeous sunsets. (There was even a gentleman providing donkey rides up.)

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Folegandros tips:

  • To get around, it’s easiest to rent a motorbike. The roads are in excellent condition, there’s little traffic, and the views are stunning. We visited a lovely beach not far from Chora called Angali.

Here’s a video from one of our rides:

Athens

Then it was back to Athens for some more metropolitan action.

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In the photo above, you’ll see the “forever a loan” graffiti, commentary on the country’s economic difficulties. (Speaking of which, lovers of street art will love Athens.)

Meanwhile: If you’re Newley Purnell and you find yourself in a European capital, you immediately check to see what kind of football (soccer) is on offer.

Amazingly, Panathinaikos F.C. – one of Athens’s two biggest clubs – was playing, at home, (are you ready for this?) a UEFA Europa League game against Spain’s Athletic Bilbao!

I asked the concierge at our hotel, and luckily for me he was a Panathinaikos supporter and called the ticket office to see if tickets were still available. It turned out that yes, thank goodness, they were, but only…

…with the ultras.

Obviously we jumped at the opportunity. A scored us some scarves and we were off the game:

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The atmosphere was excellent, which chanting and flares; the home team went up two-nil, but sadly Bilbao fought their way back and ended up winning 3–2.

Then, of course, no trip to Athens is complete without a visit to the Acropolis.

I wasn’t able to snap many photos, except this one, from the cafe of the excellent museum not far away.

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Athens tips:

  • If it’s high season, get to the Acropolis early in the morning, before the crowds get too big.
  • I wouldn’t worry too much about the precise location of your hotel. Athens is fairly small and easy to navigate by taxi and on foot, so many parts of the city are easily accessible. We stayed at the Melia Athens, which we booked online from Greece, and were very happy with our stay, though the surrounding area of Omonia Square was fairly unremarkable.

After a few days in Athens, it was back to Delhi. It was a fantastic trip.

Some sketches

And finally, I was inspired during the trip to do some drawing and even some watercolor painting. Here are a few of my sketches.

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Folegandros

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Ferry ride

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At a Folegandros cafe

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Previous trip reports:

Newley’s Notes 118: Hot CES Gadgets; Facebook’s Big Change; HQ Trivia is Killing It

abstract

Edition 118 of my email newsletter went out on Sunday.

To join the list, simply enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes. If you like this newsletter, please invite others to sign up.

💬 What I Wrote at Newley.com

My Favorite Email Newsletters of 2017 — The last in a series of year-end posts. My recommendations for newsletters to stay on top of politics, media news, tech and more. (Earlier, I re-capped my most popular blog posts of the year, and the ten best books I read in 2017.)

📲 5 Cool Tech-ish Reads This Week

1. The most buzzed-about tech from CES, the annual Las Vegas tech trade show that went down this week, can be seen in this clickable WSJ gallery.

Included here: a smart pet bed (hmm…), a cuddle-able sleep robot (creepy?), the coolest-looking smart speaker yet (pretty dope if you’re into these gadgets), and electric skates (cooler than Wheelie shoes?). For a round-up of the biggest news stories, Axios has a day-by-day collection of announcements.

2. Facebook’s changing its news feed. Our WSJ story puts things in perspective. (Emphasis mine.)

Facebook Inc. is broadly overhauling the way it presents news and information on its platform, as it struggles to address criticism from users and others about the quality of the content shared there and its effect on society.

Under planned changes announced Thursday, Facebook will favor posts, photos and videos in the news feed that are shared and discussed among users and their friends over those posted by businesses and news organizations—a likely blow to companies that rely on Facebook to reach customers. The company also is weighing another major change that could eventually elevate media outlets deemed more trustworthy compared with publishers considered less credible, people familiar with the matter said.

TLDR: You’ll probably see more stuff from your friends and family in your newsfeed, and fewer news stories (both legitimate ones and clickbait).

Related: an important piece in Washington Monthly from early Facebook investor Roger McNamee that’s gotten a lot of attention: “How to Fix Facebook—Before It Fixes Us.”

3. The biggest threat facing U.S. workers, writes Danny Vinik at Politico Magazine, isn’t robots or automation. It’s the rise of independent contractor jobs, aka the “gig economy”:

The repercussions go far beyond the wages and hours of individuals. In America, more than any other developed country, jobs are the basis for a whole suite of social guarantees meant to ensure a stable life. Workplace protections like the minimum wage and overtime, as well as key benefits like health insurance and pensions, are built on the basic assumption of a full-time job with an employer. As that relationship crumbles, millions of hardworking Americans find themselves ejected from that implicit pact.

4. HQ Trivia is the new hotness. The mobile trivia game (iOS app here; Android version here), in which people participate in live contests for cash, just passed one million players. I haven’t tried it. Have you?

5. Streaming officially rules audio consumption. For the first time, more people last year consumed audio in streaming format than any other way, Nielsen says.

💫 1 Silly Thing

The trailer for “Silicon Valley” season 5 is out. You can watch it here.

Related: If, like me, you’re a fan of Thomas Middleditch, who plays Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks on the show, be sure to follow him on Instagram for even more laughs.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

My Favorite Email Newsletters of 2017

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In an age of information overload, email newsletters remain an excellent way to keep abreast of topics you’re interested in without having to try to monitor the daily output of traditional media outlets, tweets from every corner of the world, various cable news shows, streaming content, Facebook posts, blogs and more.

After all, email simply comes to you, and you can benefit from experts’ curation of the most important, timely, informative, entertaining material.

Here are some of my faves:

General news and politics

  • Axios AM, by beltway insider Mike Allen. Ten things you need to know for the day. (It’s delivered in the mornings, U.S. time, so arrives in the early evening here, but is still great.)
  • Today’s Paper, from The Wall Street Journal. All the day’s most important stories, arranged by section. Yes, just like an actual newspaper!
  • Sunday New New York Times Digest, by Matt Thomas. A weekly rundown of highlights from the famously large edition.

  • The New Yorker Minute. A weekly scan of must-reads and okay-to-skips from the print magazine. Tagline: “Your secret weapon against the Three-Foot-Tall Stack Of Unread New Yorkers Sitting In Your Apartment.”

Media:

  • Reliable Sources. The day’s top media news, by CNN’s Brian Stelter. Especially helpful in these fraught times, when it can be hard to stay on top of things.

  • Morning Media. Politico’s daily “guide to the media circus.” A bit more inside baseball, with industry news like comings and goings of journalists from one outlet to another.

Tech

  • Briefing, from The Information. A daily, subscriber-only dispatch with commentary from the site’s journalists on the biggest tech news, as it happens. Highly informative.

  • Exponential View, by Azeem Azhar. A weekly, in-depth review of recent tech news, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence.

  • Asia Tech Review, by Tech Crunch’s Bangkok-based Jon Russell. A weekly round-up of what’s happening in this part of the world, broken down by country and region. If it’s big tech news in the region, you can trust Jon will be on it.

  • Login, another from Axios. This one’s penned by Ina Fried. The top tech news, every day, with a healthy sense of humor.

  • Recode Daily. Stories from the well-known tech site and other sources.

  • Mine! To get Newley’s Notes – my recent writings and five interesting tech-related stories every week – just click here and enter your address in the box.

Others

  • Longform. The week’s best deep dives.

  • Noticing. A newsletter just launched by Jason Kottke, whose blog I’ve been reading for more than 15 years. I’m confident it’s gonna be great.

Related post from 2013: Some of My Favorite Email Newsletters.

5 Most Popular Newley.com Posts from 2017

2017 in review

Here are the five most popular Newley.com posts from last year, measured by number of visits.

What proved to be most-clicked were largely my personal dispatches about matters like the late, great Ashely, and our various travels:

  1. Ashley, 2008–2017 – A tribute to our beloved Bangkok street dog, who died on March 7.
  2. My Top 10 Southeast Asia Travel Tips – Advice for journeys in this culturally rich and diverse region.
  3. Trip Report: Varanasi, India’s Holiest City – notes from our February sojourn.

  4. Trip Report: Three-Day Getaway to Neemrana Fort Palace – a post about a memorable trip we took to a very cool fort that’s been converted into a hotel

  5. Google CEO’s Advice to Ambitious Students: Loosen Up – a lighthearted story about Sundar Pichai’s tips.

Previously: My Top 10 Posts from 2016

Onward, my friends, to 2018!

💡 Newley’s Notes 117: A Browser You’ve Never Heard of Challenges Google; 2018 Tech predictions; ‘Kylo Ren challenge’

Mountains

Edition 116 of my email newsletter went out yesterday.

To subscribe, simply enter your email address at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes. If you like this newsletter, please invite others to sign up.

I hope everyone’s 2018 is off to a great start so far.

📝 What I Wrote in The Wall Street Journal

A Browser You’ve Never Heard of Is Dethroning Google in Asia – A look at the success of Alibaba’s UC Browser in attracting users in countries like India and Indonesia. The story begins:

JAKARTA, Indonesia—A mobile browser rarely used in the West has outflanked Google’s Chrome in some of Asia’s fastest-growing markets, giving owner Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. an advantage in the race among technology giants to capture the next generation of internet users.

Hundreds of millions of people in India, Indonesia and other emerging markets getting online for the first time are picking UC Browser, owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, over ones made by U.S. rivals. Users say UC Browser works better in countries dominated by low-end smartphones and spotty mobile service.

“It’s faster, it takes up less memory, and it looks better” than Chrome, said Rizky Ari Prasetya, a 20-year-old Jakarta resident who recently ditched Chrome for UC Browser.

India and Indonesia are among the last, great untapped markets for internet users. Just 30% of India’s 1.3 billion people are online, and only 25% of Indonesia’s 260 million use the web, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations body.

Click through to read the rest.

💬 What I Wrote at Newley.com

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2017 – From books about India and tech to dog psychology and a novel set in post-apocalyptic Bangkok, all my faves are here.

This week’s theme:

📲 Tech predictions for 2018

1. Eight “mostly pessimistic” prognostications from Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic, include musings on monopsonies, Facebook, labor and more.

2. Predictions for smartphones: more Chinese brands, artificial intelligence integrations, and camera enhancements are likely, writes Axios’s Ina Fried.

3. The tech backlash will continue, prominent investor Fred Wilson predicts. Less clear is whether the cryptocurrency bubble – if it’s a bubble – will pop, and whether well-funded startups will continue putting off IPOs.

4. Journalism trends in the year ahead could include more women in newsroom leadership roles, the continued primacy of TV and video, and more, according to media watchers surveyed by Harvard’s Nieman Lab.

5.The year in space exploration, as Abigail Beall writes at Wired, could include “privately-funded missions to the moon” and “Nasa’s journey to ‘touch’ the Sun.”

🌟 1 Silly Thing

The “Kylo Ren challenge,” inspired by a “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” scene in which Adam Driver/Kylo Ren/Ben Solo appears shirtless, has inspired fans to post topless images in tribute.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

A Browser You’ve Never Heard of Is Dethroning Google in Asia

Uc browser

That’s the headline of my newest story, out today. It begins:

JAKARTA, Indonesia—A mobile browser rarely used in the West has outflanked Google’s Chrome in some of Asia’s fastest-growing markets, giving owner Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. an advantage in the race among technology giants to capture the next generation of internet users.

Hundreds of millions of people in India, Indonesia and other emerging markets getting online for the first time are picking UC Browser, owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, over ones made by U.S. rivals. Users say UC Browser works better in countries dominated by low-end smartphones and spotty mobile service.

“It’s faster, it takes up less memory, and it looks better” than Chrome, said Rizky Ari Prasetya, a 20-year-old Jakarta resident who recently ditched Chrome for UC Browser.

India and Indonesia are among the last, great untapped markets for internet users. Just 30% of India’s 1.3 billion people are online, and only 25% of Indonesia’s 260 million use the web, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations body.

Click through to read the rest.

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2017

Best books 2017

Here are the top 10 books I read during 2017. I may add individual Book Notes writeups for some of these later, but wanted to share the list as the year has come to a close.

(As in previous roundups, these are books I encountered during the year, not books published only in 2017.)

I chose these nonfiction titles mostly due to my professional and personal interests: technology trends, India, economics, media – and, let’s not forget, dogs!

I also see now that I read a shockingly small amount of fiction in 2017. I may try to remedy that in 2018. (I did consume a beach read or two that weren’t memorable enough to add to this list, I should note.)

In no particular order:

Nonfiction

Fiction

  • The Windup Girl,” by Paolo Bacigalupi. Sci-fi, set in a post-apocalyptic Bangkok? Yes, please! A fast-paced, thought provoking novel about genetic engineering (both agricultural and human), the environment, money, and power. Highly recommended.

  • The Circle,” by Dave Eggers. I didn’t think I’d like this book, as I’d heard it involves ludicrously far-fetched technologies. But it’s in many ways an important novel of our times, showing what could happen if societies continue to obsess over the digital rather than the physical world, and a fictional reminder that startups outwardly driven by utopian ideals are companies like any other, pursuing profits and influence. Also highly recommended. (Note: I haven’t seen the movie.)

Previously: The Best Books I Read in 2016.

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