Newley's Notes

Newley’s Notes 185: Facebook Branding; Alexa and Siri Concerns; Hungry Service Dogs


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Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

🔌 Last week I shared my most recent story, about the rising popularity of inexpensive “smart feature phones” in big emerging markets like India. The headline: The Hottest Phones for the Next Billion Users Aren’t Smartphones.

📱 I’m happy to say the story struck a chord. In addition to being teased with a graphic on the WSJ front page the day it ran, it was the most popular article on for some time.

The story was also picked up by popular tech news sites Slashdot (here) and Hacker News (here). And it’s been mentioned in two of my favorite tech newsletters, Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View (here) and in Benedict Evans’s weekly email (here).


Here are ten items worth your time this week:

™️ 1) Facebook Shows Who’s Boss by Adding Its Name to Instagram, WhatsApp [WSJ]

“The branding change is the latest move by Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to stitch together Facebook’s family of apps, even as regulators scrutinize whether the company has acquired startups including Instagram and WhatsApp to stymie competitive threats, the Journal reported this week.”

🗣️ 2) The Man Who Built The Retweet: “We Handed A Loaded Weapon To 4-Year-Olds” [Buzzfeed News]

“’Only two or three times did someone ask a broader and more interesting social question, which was, ”What is getting shared?” Wetherell said. ‘That almost never came up.’"

🍎 Shot: 3) Apple halts practice of contractors listening in to users on Siri [The Guardian]

“Apple has suspended its practice of having human contractors listen to users’ Siri recordings to ‘grade’ them, following a Guardian report revealing the practice.”

🔉 Chaser: 4) Amazon Gives Option to Disable Human Review of Alexa Recordings [Bloomberg]

“ Inc. will let Alexa users opt out of human review of their voice recordings, a move that follows criticism that the program violated customers’ privacy.”

🤳 5) Where Everyone’s an Influencer [The Atlantic]

“In recent years, more people have appended ‘influencer’ to their credentials, she said: model/DJs are now model/DJ/influencers. ‘[Social-media following is] sort of a default method of currency that at this point has been ingrained in our societal structures,’ she added.”

🤑 6) Economics-related story of the week: Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class [WSJ]

“The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle. Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.”

🎚️ 7) Inside Tokyo’s audiophile venues [Resident Advisor]

“With a rich network of sound-obsessed cafés, bars and small clubs, Aaron Coultate explains why Tokyo might be the best place in the world to listen to music.”

🆒 8) Every Noise at Once []

“Every Noise at Once is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 3,295 genres by Spotify…”

⚾ 9) Fan Who Hit 96 on Stadium Radar Gun Signs MLB Contract [Sports Illustrated]

“A 23-year-old who hasn’t played competitive baseball since high school just landed a contract with the A’s, thanks mostly to the internet.”

🐶 10) Service dog needs Service [Reddit]

💡 Quote of the week:

“The perilous time for the most highly gifted is not youth…The perilous season is middle age, when a false wisdom tempts them to doubt the divine origin of the dreams of their youth…” – Elizabeth Peabody

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,


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