Showing all posts tagged: trends

Paper books give Gen Z much needed screen free time

19 March 2023

Generation Z, being people born between 1997 and 2015, prefer to read paper books rather than electronic ones, according to World Economic Forum data. A break from eye-straining smartphone screens, a desire to support local bricks and mortar book stores, and the smell of newly published paper books, are among reasons they cite for the preference.

Book sales in the US and the UK have boomed in the past two years, the management consultancy McKinsey found. Sales in the US hit a record of more than 843 million units in 2021, while last year had the second-highest number sales, at almost 789 million. This increasing popularity was partly because of Gen Z and its social-media trends, including the hashtag #BookTok on TikTok, McKinsey said.


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Has the world reached peak podcast?

25 February 2023

Phil Siarri, writing at The PhilaVerse, notes the number of new podcasts has declined by eighty-percent globally, compared to 2020-2022, based on data published by Listen Notes.

219,178 new podcasts were created in 2022 as opposed to 337,063 in 2019.

But James Cridland, writing at Podnews, says that while the number of new podcast shows has declined, the number of new episodes has increased:

The increasing number of episodes suggests that podcasters aren’t, as the narrative suggests, “giving up”. Committed podcasters are continuing to release new episodes, at an ever-increasing rate. Far from podcasting being in severe decline, the industry seems healthy and growing.

I can’t go anywhere on the web without tripping over a podcast show, so suggesting podcasting is in decline seems like a big call, even though some data might indicate this is the case. It seems reasonable the number of new podcast shows would fall once COVID-19 lockdowns ended, and people were no longer looking for so many ways to occupy themselves while at home.



Arrivals offset departures as Twitter exodus seems to pause

18 February 2023

Elon Musk’s arrival at Twitter last October sparked a stampede for the doors, as members worried about where Musk might take the platform. But surprisingly, departures have been matched by arrivals, says Sarah Perez, writing for Techcrunch:

Worldwide mobile app installs are up by 3.7 million in January compared with September 2022. Notably, Twitter installs didn’t decline in November. Instead, it gained new downloads even as some of its users seemingly left for other apps. In other words, any Twitter exodus may have been offset by new Twitter arrivals. Active user data would tell a better story here, but Twitter is no longer a publicly traded company and it’s not clear that Musk is analyzing user data as Twitter had before, which would allow for a direct comparison. But his claims of a burst of November signups could be directionally true, as the month saw higher app installs than October.

There’s also the point that long term Twitter members, despite their disillusionment with the present direction of the platform, have a lot invested in the microblogging service.

Many have spent years, decades possibly, establishing a profile on Twitter, and wouldn’t be in any hurry to leave. Despite the uptake in alternatives, such as Mastodon, there’s still, I think, the hope among some Twitter members that things will eventually return to normal, or some semblance of normal.


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Microsoft launches web AI copilot, but you must fly with Edge

8 February 2023

Microsoft today announced the launch of a turbo-charged version of its Bing search engine. In short, it promises to everything ChatGPT can do, and more. And on paper, at least, it sounds impressive:

We’ve updated the Edge browser with new AI capabilities and a new look, and we’ve added two new functionalities: Chat and compose. With the Edge Sidebar, you can ask for a summary of a lengthy financial report to get the key takeaways — and then use the chat function to ask for a comparison to a competing company’s financials and automatically put it in a table. You can also ask Edge to help you compose content, such as a LinkedIn post, by giving it a few prompts to get you started. After that, you can ask it to help you update the tone, format and length of the post. Edge can understand the web page you’re on and adapts accordingly.

But you’ll need to use Edge, the browser Microsoft has been relentless foisting onto Windows users, for the copilot to function. A cunning way if ever there was one to boost market share of the Edge browser. Now did someone at Microsoft think of coupling the AI powered version of Bing with Edge, or did ChatGPT make that suggestion?


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ChatGPT is the fastest growing consumer application ever

4 February 2023

Krystal Hu, writing for Reuters:

“In 20 years following the internet space, we cannot recall a faster ramp in a consumer internet app,” UBS analysts wrote in the note. It took TikTok about nine months after its global launch to reach 100 million users and Instagram 2-1/2 years, according to data from Sensor Tower.

ChatGPT is going to change the world, and everyone wants a piece of the action.


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What is the most successful Hollywood movie? It depends

3 February 2023

Information is Beautiful looks at the different of assessing a film’s success.

By worldwide box office gross takings, Avatar, made in 2010, by James Cameron, tops the list. But adjust the takings for inflation, and the picture changes. Sort of. Avatar still tops the stack, but Titanic, also directed by Cameron, comes in at number two, with 1977’s Star Wars close behind.

And then, using the not so great return on investment metric — which favours productions with smaller budgets — films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Australia’s own ocker hit Crocodile Dundee, rate highly.



Instagram creators launch news reading app called Artifact

3 February 2023

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, creators of the original Instagram, who sold the photo-sharing to Facebook for one billion dollars in 2018, have launched a new app called Artifact. Rather than curating photos though, Artifact serves up popular news articles and blog posts:

The simplest way to understand Artifact is as a kind of TikTok for text, though you might also call it Google Reader reborn as a mobile app or maybe even a surprise attack on Twitter. The app opens to a feed of popular articles chosen from a curated list of publishers ranging from leading news organizations like The New York Times to small-scale blogs about niche topics.

Artifact sounds like the sort app I could make use of, but ads appearing on the news pages the app displays, don’t make for a smooth reading experience, according to John Gruber, writing at Daring Fireball, who has been trialling Artifact:

I’ll give it some time, but at the moment, it’s a disappointment. The articles they show come directly from publishers’ websites, but because Artifact isn’t a web browser, per se, there’s no ad filtering. It’s just ads ads ads, interrupting seemingly every single article, every couple of paragraphs. This same “man, I miss ad blockers” feeling strikes me when I use Apple News too, but Apple News articles have way fewer ads, and better ads, than what I’m seeing so far in articles I read in Artifact.


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ChatGPT may take your job but ChatGPT may make your next job

30 January 2023

Jobs in education, finance, software engineering, journalism, and graphic design, are among some of the occupations under threat from OpenAI chatbot ChatGPT, writes Alex Mitchell for the New York Post. That’s a wide gamut of work. But ChatGPT will also play a part in creating new work opportunities:

From the financial sector to health care to publishing, a number of industries are vulnerable, [Pengcheng] Shi said. But as AI continues its mind-blowing advancements, he maintains that humans will learn how to harness the technology.


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ChatGPT cannot take author credit for academic papers published by Springer Nature

28 January 2023

The United States Copyright Office (USCO) recently declared it only wants to grant copyright protection to artworks created by people, not AI technologies.

Now Springer Nature, one of the world’s largest publisher of scientific journals, says hot AI technology of the moment, ChatGPT, along with other large language models (LLM) tools, cannot be credited as the author of any academic papers they publish. The OpenAI engineered chatbot can however assist with research writing, but their use must be disclosed:

First, no LLM tool will be accepted as a credited author on a research paper. That is because any attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, and AI tools cannot take such responsibility. Second, researchers using LLM tools should document this use in the methods or acknowledgements sections. If a paper does not include these sections, the introduction or another appropriate section can be used to document the use of the LLM.


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Australians prefer physical books says Amazon Kindle research

25 January 2023

Amazon Kindle recently quizzed just over one thousand Australians about their reading habits. Here are some of the findings that caught my eye:

  • Almost half those surveyed read fewer than five books in the past twelve months
  • Meanwhile just over five percent said they’d read fifty or more books in the same time frame. That’s almost a book a week, maybe more, for some in that five percent band
  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents read physical books, compared to twenty-two percent who favoured electronic formats
  • Mystery, true crime, and romance, where among the most popular fiction genres. Sadly, poetry barely rated a mention. Literary fiction, apparently, was not assessed
  • About twenty-five percent of people said they read to experience escapism and alternate realities, while not quite forty percent read for relaxation
  • On the other hand, about one percent of respondents said they did not enjoy reading at all. Hmm, ok, I see.


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Are the current tech layoffs a result of over recruitment?

23 January 2023

The layoffs in the tech sector continue, with Microsoft and Google among companies announcing mass redundancies across their operations last week. Ten thousand people are impacted at Microsoft, and twelve thousand workers at Google have been sacked. Although both company CEOs struck a contrite tone in breaking the news, that will be cold comfort to workers who have lost jobs when higher inflation, and rising interest rates, are already posing challenges for many people.

But why are so many employers in the tech sector announcing layoffs, almost one after the other? A few weeks ago I read an article by Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, of the Stanford Graduate School of Businese, who suggested the redundancies were a form of social contagion. One company sacks some workers, other feel they have to do the same.

John Gruber, meanwhile, writing at Daring Fireball, sees another possible reason for the job losses. He thinks many of the companies announcing layoffs had spent the last few years over recruiting:

There are numerous reasons the tech industry wound up at this layoffpalooza, but I think the main reason is that the biggest companies got caught up in a game where they tried to hire everyone, whether they needed them or not, to keep talent away from competitors and keep talent away from small upstarts (or from founding their own small upstarts). These big companies were just hiring to hire, and now the jig is up.



Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, part of cassette tape revival, but why?

14 January 2023
Cassette tape, image by Ratfink1973

Image courtesy of Ratfink1973.

Taylor Swift and Harry Styles are among musicians to recently release material on… cassette. As in cassette tape, or compact cassette. But at least eighty percent of both performers’ target audience must be under the age of thirty-five. How many of these people would have even heard of cassettes, let alone have access to a cassette player?

Australian writer and radio presenter Richard Glover is on the money in saying cassettes, along with rotary dial telephones, VHS tapes, camera film, and typewriters, having had their day, belong in the past:

But not every piece of old technology was a boon. The typewriter, for instance, was a menace. The sliding carriage seemed designed to knock over any coffee cup momentarily perched on your desk, while vigorous typing would produce tiny portholes on the page every time you hit the “o” or the “p”.

Music in digital formats might have its naysayers — high compression, reduced quality — but it has eliminated the need to haul cumbersome players, speakers, and storage cabinets for all those cassettes, around with us. Call me a philistine, but I’ll take the convenience of carrying my music collection, and my books come to that, in my pocket, any day of the week.


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The American Dialect Society word of the year 2022 is –ussy

13 January 2023

Are you ready for some word play?

-ussy, which, in this context, is actually considered a suffix — but, in this case, is still a word — has been chosen as the American Dialect Society’s (ADS) word of the year for 2022:

“The selection of the suffix -ussy highlights how creativity in new word formation has been embraced online in venues like TikTok,” Zimmer said. “The playful suffix builds off the word pussy to generate new slang terms. The process has been so productive lately on social media sites and elsewhere that it has been dubbed -ussification.”

Remember the word e-mail, before it simply became email? The e- suffix was selected as the ADS word of the year in 1998. Somehow e- felt more like a word of the year than -ussy, but then I guess that’s what someone who doesn’t use TikTok would say.



The exorbitant cost of luxury goods is why people queue up to buy

12 January 2023

Despite their cost, the goods sold by some luxury retailers are not always quality buys, though such matters seldom deter customers. It’s the price tag they’re interested in. And the higher the price, the better, writes American author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin:

Luxury goods are items that are worth more (to some) because they cost more. The cost itself is the benefit that is being sold.

But the exorbitant cost isn’t the only… benefit. The roped-off queuing areas outside the store, where customers must wait for a sales agent to become available, are another. There’s a luxury in lining up to enter a luxury retailer, it’s the hope of being seen waiting for admission. The picture windows adorning many of these stores, and their relatively confined floor space, are another benefit. They combine to create an additional opportunity to be seen shopping.

A large shopping centre I visit has a dedicated “luxury precinct”, an area set aside solely for luxury stores. I’m not sure all the people I see queuing up outside these stores are exactly in the luxury store demographic, but maybe that’s another benefit of the luxury shopping experience.



The wave of tech company layoffs and social contagion

12 January 2023

I’ve worked in a number of organisations in the past that have been subject to rounds of staff layoffs or redundancies. In most cases the prime motivation was cost cutting, and the decision to proceed was usually made by a senior executive who would not have to deal directly with the subsequent fallout. For anyone not familiar with the process, it was not pleasant. Stress, anxiety, baseless rumours, and misinformation, were all in abundance.

Despite noises made to the contrary by management, the negative impact on workers — both those departing, and those staying behind — was seldom given thought. In one situation, a former colleague made what is probably a common observation: there’ll still be the same amount of work to do. New work processes and technologies might reduce some of the load, but likely not markedly.

Like many people, the recent wave of layoffs in the tech sector has puzzled me. One company announced a round of redundancies, and the next thing other tech companies are following suit. But why? Surely all these companies, Meta (the Facebook owner), Linkedin, Twitter, Tesla, Netflix, and Salesforce — who are but a handful of organisations to send employees home in recent months — cannot all be struggling financially.

This make the staff cuts all the more baffling. But as Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business explains, the layoffs are a case of social contagion. In other words, because one or two tech companies have been shedding staff, everyone else feels they must do the same. Long story short, there is no real reason for the redundancies, and the turmoil they create for workers, and the organisations themselves:

The tech industry layoffs are basically an instance of social contagion, in which companies imitate what others are doing. If you look for reasons for why companies do layoffs, the reason is that everybody else is doing it. Layoffs are the result of imitative behavior and are not particularly evidence-based.



Apple Books puts AI narrators to work voicing select audiobooks

8 January 2023

Text-to-speech AIs have begun narrating select romance and fiction audiobooks available from Apple Books. Audiobook listeners electing an AI… entity (is that how I should refer to them?) to recite their title can choose between two digital voices, named Madison and Jackson. An additional two AI narrators, Helena and Mitchell, will soon be reading out non-fiction titles. Apple says the move will reduce costs, making it easier for independent authors and publishers to produce audiobooks:

The feature represents a big shift from the current audiobook model, which often involves authors narrating their own books in a process that can take weeks and cost thousands for a publisher. Digital narration has the potential to allow smaller publishers and authors to put out an audiobook at a much lower cost.

I don’t know what professional book narrators will think — though I can guess — but the move also makes sense for those authors who currently chose to narrate their own work. They can save several weeks of recording time, leaving them to focus on what they do best: write. While it could be said AI narrators were inevitable, that will be cold comfort for their human counterparts.


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Monique Judge: bring back personal blogging in 2023

5 January 2023

Monique Judge, writing for The Verge:

Buy that domain name. Carve your space out on the web. Tell your stories, build your community, and talk to your people. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t need to duplicate any space that already exists on the web — in fact, it shouldn’t. This is your creation. It’s your expression. It should reflect you.

I’m all for this, obviously. But as I wrote last month, social media apps have made it so easy to create a web presence (should I even use that term in 2023?), that buying a domain name, and installing a blogging application, seems like a lot of work.

Still to those willing to put in the hard yards, more power to you. And, for a more… succinct call to action, read Start a Fucking Blog, by Kev Quirk.


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Barnes & Noble reverses death spiral, will open new bookshops

2 January 2023

In a move that must have surprised many people, American bookseller Barnes & Noble (B&N) recently announced plans to open thirty new bookshops. This in an age where bookshops are considered old hat, passé. It’s an incredible turnaround for a company once on the verge of collapse, but the B&N revival is something not only other booksellers can learn from, but also a host of other media, including music, newspapers, and film, writes American author Ted Gioia:

All the cool and up-to-date technologies are in financial trouble. Tesla share price has collapsed. Crypto is in decline. Netflix stock has dropped more than 50% in the last year. Facebook is in freefall. Even TikTok might be in trouble. But Barnes & Noble is flourishing. After a long decline, the company is profitable and growing again — and last week announced plans to open 30 new stores. In some instances, they are taking over locations where Amazon tried (and failed) to operate bookstores.

This is great news for people who still like to buy print books in a shop. I don’t think any B&N stores are slated to open in Australia any time soon, but nonetheless this is surely music to the ears of authors and book readers.


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What’s wrong with people who don’t eat meat or drink? Nothing

2 January 2023

Despite Australia’s apparent reputation as a nation of big drinkers, forty-six percent of Australians either abstain completely from alcohol, or only consume one drink a month. If the thirteen percent of people who only partake of a tipple two to three times monthly are added, that’s almost sixty percent of the population who barely drink at all.

Yet people who have chosen to give up alcoholic beverages still find themselves under pressure to drink at social gatherings, particularly at this time of the year. This is something I’ve seen in the now ten years since I cut back on alcohol. Today I might have a drink maybe once every two months. While most people appear to be accepting of this choice, I’ve run into a few who aren’t. One or two even seem to feel threatened when the question comes up, but I’m not sure why this should be.

Australia, for instance, is also a nation of coffee drinkers, of which I am one, but I don’t hear of anyone who doesn’t drink coffee, or only has decaffeinated coffee, being put-down. The same goes for people who, say, don’t own a car, or even drive. I think you can even choose to refuse recreational drugs with total social impunity. Why then are some lifestyle choices greeted with virtual indifference, while other cause derision?

I also know people who embrace veganism are sometimes subjected to the same contempt as non-drinkers. Some people choose to eat a non-animal based diet instead of an animal one. So what? What’s in the Australian psyche that results in people who avoid meat or alcohol being derided? It is because those who we perceive to be outliers appear to pose some sort of threat? It is because meat and alcohol are — or were — so ingrained in our way of life, and no one should therefore upset the apparent status quo?

I might be optimistic, overly optimistic maybe, but I think attitudes are changing, albeit slowly. Is it really so hard to live and let live?


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Australian CBDs will bounce forward, not back, in 2023

29 December 2022

Rob Stokes, NSW Minister for Cities, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Rather than forcing workers back into CDBs, many of whom took to working from home during COVID lockdowns of the last few years, the NSW State government is looking at other ways of reinvigorating city centres across Australia’s most populous state:

Our CBDs are going to bounce forward, not back. They will rebound on a totally different trajectory in 2023. Over the course of the pandemic, the NSW government has invested $66 million in ways to reinvent how our central urban areas function. Programs to move dining into streets and public spaces, pop-up events, new walking and cycling paths, and reduced controls over music, retail and service of food and drinks have all changed the way we experience city streets.

The writing has been on the wall for CBDs for some time. With the advent of robust technologies allowing more people to work from home with greater ease, it was only a matter of time until workers migrated away from city centres. The COVID lockdowns, and work from home mandates, only brought forward the present state of affairs, it did not precipitate it.

None of that helps businesses who have long been based in CBD areas, and are struggling with the change though. Many are still reeling from the impact of COVID, not to mention construction of Sydney’s light rail transit system. Here’s hoping these initiatives are of benefit.

And here’s something intriguing. According to Stokes, the concept of CBDs was devised by white, middle class men, for white, middle class men:

The phrase “central business district” was coined by white, male, middle-class planners in Chicago in the 1930s and 40s, based on the notion that cities work most efficiently when different groups work, live and play in different precincts. CBDs were designed to be used by white, middle-class businessmen, 9-5, Monday to Friday. They were never really designed to include anyone else.


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