Q2 2016 Quick Links, Part 5 (Miscellaneous)

E-Commerce/Sharing Economy

* Reuters: EU cautions governments against banning Uber, Airbnb

* Needle Inc. v. Department of Workforce Services, 2016 WL 1729547 (Utah Ct. App. April 28, 2016). Finding that product advocates, who did online customer chatting on an ad hoc bases, were employees of the recruiting service, not independent contractors.

* Techdirt: DOJ Drops Stupid Drug Trafficking Charges Against FedEx After Judge Criticizes Its ‘Novel Prosecution’. Recall that UPS paid the DOJ $40M to settle a virtually identical prosecution.

Science and Technology

* If you think Congress is clueless about technology, you should favor reinstating the Office of Tech Assessment (OTA). Unfortunately, Congress again refused to fund it.

* Washington Post: FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

* Time: The Ambiguous Role of Photography in Presenting Innocence and Guilt.


* The New Yorker: How ‘Silicon Valley’ Nails Silicon Valley. I love the show! I especially like that they show how IP can be used as a weapon to thwart new competition. Two awesome passages from the article:

During one visit to Google’s headquarters, in Mountain View, about six writers sat in a conference room with Astro Teller, the head of GoogleX, who wore a midi ring and kept his long hair in a ponytail. “Most of our research meetings are fun, but this one was uncomfortable,” Kemper told me. GoogleX is the company’s “moonshot factory,” devoted to projects, such as self-driving cars, that are difficult to build but might have monumental impact. Hooli, a multibillion-dollar company on “Silicon Valley,” bears a singular resemblance to Google. (The Google founder Larry Page, in Fortune: “We’d like to have a bigger impact on the world by doing more things.” Hooli’s C.E.O., in season two: “I don’t want to live in a world where someone makes the world a better place better than we do.”) The previous season, Hooli had launched HooliXYZ, its own “moonshot factory,” whose experiments were slapstick absurdities: monkeys who use bionic arms to masturbate; powerful cannons for launching potatoes across a room. “He claimed he hadn’t seen the show, and then he referred many times to specific things that had happened on the show,” Kemper said. “His message was, ‘We don’t do stupid things here. We do things that actually are going to change the world, whether you choose to make fun of that or not.’ ” (Teller could not be reached for comment.)

Teller ended the meeting by standing up in a huff, but his attempt at a dramatic exit was marred by the fact that he was wearing Rollerblades. He wobbled to the door in silence. “Then there was this awkward moment of him fumbling with his I.D. badge, trying to get the door to open,” Kemper said. “It felt like it lasted an hour. We were all trying not to laugh. Even while it was happening, I knew we were all thinking the same thing: Can we use this?” In the end, the joke was deemed “too hacky to use on the show.”

It’s hard to be cool when you can’t handle your rollerblades. And…

[T.J.] Miller met [Elon] Musk at the after-party in Redwood City. “I think he was thrown by the fact that I wasn’t being sycophantic—which I couldn’t be, because I didn’t realize who he was at the time. He said, ‘I have some advice for your show,’ and I went, ‘No thanks, we don’t need any advice,’ which threw him even more. And then, while we’re talking, some woman comes up and says ‘Can I have a picture?’ and he starts to pose—it was kinda sad, honestly—and instead she hands the camera to him and starts to pose with me. It was, like, Sorry, dude, I know you’re a big deal—and, in his case, he actually is a big deal—but I’m the guy from ‘Yogi Bear 3-D,’ and apparently that’s who she wants a picture with.”

Who is smarter than the average bear?!

* Farhad Manjoo: Why the World Is Drawing Battle Lines Against American Tech Giants. The singular “Internet” is dead. We’re already committed to a world of only-partially-overlapping Internets.

* Facebook VP: 5 years from now, your News Feed will be “probably all video”

* Washington Post: The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it

* Cuba sounds like it is planning to substantially expand its private sector. Market economies FTW! Related post.

* State v. Thomas, 2016 WL 3402040 (N.M. June 20, 2016):

While we make no bright-line ban prohibiting judicial use of social media, we caution that “friending,” online postings, and other activity can easily be misconstrued and create an appearance of impropriety. Online comments are public comments, and a connection via an online social network is a visible relationship, regardless of the strength of the personal connection….Judges should make use of privacy settings to protect their online presence but should also consider any statement posted online to be a public statement and take care to limit such actions accordingly….A judge’s online “friendships,” just like a judge’s real-life friendships, must be treated with a great deal of care. The use of electronic social media also may present some unfamiliar concerns, such as the inability to retrieve or truly delete any message once posted, the public perception that “friendships” exist between people who are not actually acquainted, and the ease with which communications may be reproduced and widely disseminated to those other than their intended recipients.

* AP: Florida AG asked Trump for donation before nixing fraud case. Just business as usual?

* Cracked: 6 Ways You Didn’t Realize Ronald Reagan Ruined The Country. I don’t agree with all of this, but I also don’t understand the modern beatification of Reagan, either.

* NY Times: When Dungeons & Dragons Set Off a ‘Moral Panic’

* Wired: The Emoji Is the Birth of a New Type of Language (No Joke)