This Week in Tech 627
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech! Ashley Esqueda is here from CNet, Dylan Tweeny from Valley Mail, and from Mashable, it's Michael Nunez. We're going to talk about Mark Zuckerberg's presidential ambitions, the Instagram mood detector, White Horse Email pranks, and good news: The podcast troll has been bested. It's all coming up next, on TWiT.
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode number 627, recorded Sunday, August 13, 2017.
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It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show where we cover the week's tech news with some of the best tech journalists around. Fabulous panel! Say hello to Ashley Esqueda. We scheduled her earlier, couldn't be on the show. So glad you're back from Cnet and everywhere else. Nice to see you, Ashley.
Ashley Esqueda: It's good to be here!
Leo: She's a news editor from tiny.com/edglitch.
Ashley: I just started it, and it's going to be terrible. If you want to subscribe to it... I don't want to make any promises, guys. I just want to do something fun and creative.
Leo: Wait a minute, Ashley. I just want to comment on this. This is a little humanist. We need to confirm that you're a human before I can sign up. Really?
Ashley: Those are tiny letters, not mine. If robots want to sign up, just email me directly, and I'll sign you up. All robots listening to this show, and I know there are many, Elon Musk, please feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.
Leo: Also from Mashable, Michael Nunez is back. Hello, Michael, nice to see you.
Michael Nunez: Hey! What's up? Thanks for having me.
Leo: Nice to have you back. You're in New York?
Michael: I'm in New York. I'm in an office without any air conditioning right now, so I apologize ahead of time if I get a little warm, but things are going well.
Leo: Because it's the weekend they turn it off?
Michael: It's the weekend, and we foolishly decided to come back here to the podcast. But I do have a nice cold beer, so that is keeping me cool. Feed me with plenty of good thoughts during the show.
Leo: Also here, Dylan Tweney. Good to see you.
Dylan Tweney: Good to see you too, Leo.
Leo: You were at Wired, Adventure B, what is Valley made of?
Dylan: It's a security company, does email security. So, essentially it helps authenticate email so you know when you're getting a message that you can be sure who it's coming from.
Leo: So now I'm thinking it's not pronounced valley mail but Valla mail.
Dylan: I prefer Valla mail, but if you want to call it valley mail...
Leo: Valley mail. So cool. This is really cool. I use PGP to sign my mail. But I know it baffles everybody because they say what's this? And I have to decide, because there's a couple ways I could do it with a lot of gobbledy gook in the email or as an attachment, and I decided that people are more baffled by the attachment, and they decide they don't want to open it, what's this P7 thing, what do I do with it? At least if they see gobbledy gook... 1/10th of one percent actually go let me see if this is really Leo. I'll have to give it a try. It's for business, though.
Dylan: Generally for business, but if you want to set up TWiT with it, I can...
Leo: We have a smart IT guy. I believe our email is properly set up. Prove me wrong. First hour of the show.
Dylan: is it TWiT.tv? OK. My screen is very slow. This is unimpressive now, all of a sudden.
Leo: So I could go to Valla mail and find out. That would be good. Ashley could record that for you. She's not a valley girl, but she can play one on TV should it be needed.
Ashley: I work in the valley.
Leo: There you go. Which valley?
Ashley: San Bernadino Valley.
Leo: You should probably not say that our loud. Saying I work in the San Fernando valley has different connotations in the rest of the world.
Ashley: That's the valley. I'm in Burbank.
Dylan: Leo, your SPF has some issues.
Leo: Darn it. Try Leoville.com. That one goes through Fastmail, I think I've got it all set up at Fastmail. I'll do the rest after the show. thank you, Dylan. We've been covering for the last week, and it's really been a death march, and I've never said the guy's name out loud, the Google engineer memo, I don't want to give him any additional publicity, although he has been appearing in other media, Wall Street Journal. We saw him interviewed on Bloomberg TV. Emily did a very good job. But I think we can tie a bow on this now. He's been offered a job by Julian Assange, he's published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Fortunately it's behind a pay wall. David Brooks in the New York Times said he should be fired. Said Sundar Pichai should be fired for firing him, I'm sorry. Which is the most extreme in the other direction. Go ahead, what were you saying?
Michael: Now that he's working for Julian Assange it'll be happily ever after for him, right?
Leo: They belong together. I don't know that he'll take the job, but they definitely belong together. We would be remiss if we were covering the weeks' news, it's been in the news all week long, I've weighed in on it. Every men's right activist in the world on Twitter. Ashley, you're a woman.
Ashley: I am a woman.
Leo: I think a lot of men read it and went, "Yeah. OK." Not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing. Every woman who read it was infuriated.
Ashley: My response was just ugggh. It's exhausting. I know a lot of great men and women coders, engineers, scientists. I think it's silly for anybody to say that you can't say that science says men are genetically better at whatever. You can't say these things because you have to take into consideration society and systematic oppression of people of color and women and there's a lot of different factors that go into this, and to make this weird blanket statement is ridiculous.
Leo: One thing some people said was OK. This is insulting, it's wrong, but should Google have fired him for that? Shouldn't they tolerate speech that they disagree with?
Ashley: Here's the thing. You can be a company that says if you're Google you should say if you have a political view that says we should spend more money on defense, even though Larry and Sergei don't believe that, that's fine. But this to me is not a political viewpoint, this is a human viewpoint. This is a discriminatory viewpoint that is factually incorrect. So to me, that's the line crossed. I think if you want to donate to, if you are anti-abortion, that's a political view. If you want to get into those things, be involved in those things, that's fine, but at the end of the day, even if I was a person who believed in some very liberal stuff and also wrote this manifesto, I would expect to be fired. One, this man did not post this to Medium or write a blog about it, he literally disseminated it via company email to employees in the company, which as an HR person makes you completely--you can't be worked with. You've created a hostile work environment for yourself, how can you continue to be employed?
Leo: It's my understanding that it's been floating around on a Google message board for a couple months without any notice. It wasn't until Gizmodo published it.
Ashley: Somebody probably noticed it and reported it, but I imagine a large company like Google has a serious long running HR process.
Michael: There's nothing wrong with being racist or sexist privately, they certainly exist in Silicon Valley. But the problem here is they wrote it down in a Memo. It's the same thing if you wrote it in an email. Even though it could be considered a private message, something sent between two individuals, if that becomes public, you're held accountable to that stuff. He put his name on it, and he should treat all internal communications as though they are public, and in this case, he showed his flawed logic, and for Google that is a liability, because you don't want to have someone that is making bad logical arguments publicly, especially if he's representing the engineers that work for the company. Ultimately it caused a huge controversy, so of course he was fired. It's silly to argue that he shouldn't be fired. Amy Pascel from the Sony hacks, she wasn't responsible for the hacks and sent a lot of weird and wrong messages privately, but once those were exposed she was held accountable. This has happened dozens of times over history. It was right for Google to fire the individual. What was weird about his argument was the pseudo science that he used to elaborate his point for 5,000 words. The memo was way too long. I'm surprised anybody would spend that long writing something for internal purposes, and I thought the logic was completely flawed.
Leo: What if this guy had a little impedance mismatch. He thought he was in college still. This is a thing you could posit in College and have a Socratic dialog about and be shot down or whatever. I think Google for a lot of employees feels like that open free-wheeling environment.
Ashley: They call it a campus. You're not wrong.
Leo: He maybe thought oh. He didn't think it was a company. I understand from the company's point of view, it would be pretty hard to assign him to be on a team for instance with another woman. If you're a woman you wouldn't want to work with the guy, right?
Leo: So I can understand why this isn't going to work in a company, but Google kind of fosters this impression that it's a little more open and free-wheeling.
Ashley: That's true. But I also think that this plays a little bit as to... my personal story of the worst I've ever had harassment online as I used to be Android Ashley. That's how I started hosting. I hosted a show called This Week in Android, and I...
Leo: That's why you have to let robot subscribe.
Ashley: I'm actually a robot. One year, I was like I should probably get a second line to see what's going on in IOS, I don't know what's going in IOS devices. My iPhone has a second line, I tweeted about it or maybe I posted about it on Myspace. I don't even remember. I think I tweeted about it. I got emails from people saying they hoped I was raped while waiting in line for my iPhone. Somebody wrote me an email that said they hoped the battery exploded and disfigured me permanently so that they would never have to see my hideous face on screen again, on their phone. I got all kinds of terrible messages, many of which used the term iWhore, which I thought was clever, but also really horrible. But at the end of the day, it is very easy to think that these companies, whether you're an employee or a customer are our friends, right? Which is why so many people get defensive about the Apple versus Android war and things like that, because they consider these companies to be their friend, and when they do things that their favorite company doesn't like, they get even more angry then when it's a company they don't care about.
Leo: It's a religious war.
Ashley: It really is. They get so upset, like a devout Android user would get upset about this firing and be like Google, how could you do that? I don't even know you. It is this emotional response, and that's really a big part of the response here, and also the reason he wrote this is you have this feeling of this company, we're all cool and Google is my friend, but Google is also your employer. Google is also a business and they're out to make money, and you have to remember these things. It's easy to forget.
Leo: It's easy for employees apparently to forget.
Michael: This story also touched on something that I wrote about a lot last year. There is underrepresentation among a lot of groups in Silicon Valley. This was at the heart of this engineer's memo. The fact that he was considered an anti-diversity memo. His argument was that it's really hard to find talented engineers and thinkers in certain groups such as the Black and Hispanic, and that is why there is underrepresentation in those groups, and he argued that to hire people to promote the hiring of those individuals would be to lower the standard of Google.
Leo: That is...
Michael: I think that the reality is that this gets to the core of something going on in Silicon Valley, which is that companies like Facebook and Google and other conglomerates that are multi-billion dollar companies are hiring for the same selective schools, as they should. These are in demand jobs, but what ends up happening is you have small groups of 20 people, at least in the case of the trending topics story that I read about last year, there were 20 people making decisions that influenced tens of millions of lives. Since writing those stories, I've been messaged by a number of different contractors and employees at different companies that are making decisions that they're uncomfortable with, and are unable to speak out or hold these companies to account. The underrepresentation side of it is important because you have this select group of recent graduates who are young people who are making decisions that influence a lot of different people and when you don't have members of certain communities such as Hispanic or Black or a certain gender group such as women, then you're not building these algorithms or these AI systems to take into account the lifestyles and the experiences of these different people. One outcome, for example, Google images used AI to identify what was in a photo, and this was a couple years ago, and this was a famous failure for AI, because Google images identified gorillas as black people. Obviously that's a huge problem, but it's something you can avoid if you have one black person on the team, right? You end up inserting biases that you don't mean to insert, and this is a more prevalent issue than people understand.
Ashley: It will get more prevalent as we move forward with AI and different systems that are virtual assistants and things like that. This is only going to get worse, or if we choose to bring those voices to the table, maybe it gets better.
Dylan: You can do an argument in favor of diversity along economic lines, this guy was suggesting we need to follow. If you compare more diverse teams to less diverse teams, the more diverse teams are typically more innovative, flexible, and creative. And they produce better results. The study for study has shown that. I think that as companies come around to understanding that, we're going to see, not just because it's a good thing or the morally right thing to do, but you're going to see companies like google and Facebook, and Apple increasingly striving to increase diversity for the reasons that you were saying, Michael. It makes your products more accessible or more interesting or better for a wider variety of people, but also because the teams you have in house are going to become more creative and fertile for idea generating and they're going to produce better work.
Ashley: I agree with that, and if I were a company hiring engineers, I would not only want those Ivy League engineers, I would also want people who... we look at these innovators who started companies to keep jobs. Bill Gates, look at all these people who have had very different backgrounds and ways of learning. To count out somebody because they didn't go to an Ivy League or vice versa is unfair. Also, it limits what you're actually making at the end of the day.
Leo: It's challenging because you're talking about groups in a generalized way, but each employee is an individual. So you have to hold it both ways. Think of the women in Hidden Figures who were not only women but African Americans, and nobody thought they could do the math because they're black women. That's as low as you can get from their point of view is a bunch of white male engineers. But look at the demographics. I'm sure google wants to put this whole thing behind it. Not just because it's good business, but because it's kind of embarrassing if you look at the most recent diversity. This is in tech. 20% women, but it's even worse if you look at African Americans. 1%. Hispanic people, 3%. It's not a good, this is current! The timing of this is bad.
Michael: It also shows their failure on both sides. People like the engineer who wrote that memo are upset because they think there is an active program that is removing like-minded individuals, but on the other side I know a lot of people that are upset with these diversity reports, both Google and Facebook in particular seem to champion themselves as these Utopian, progressive... absolutely. When your staff is 1% black in both cases for Google and Facebook, it just shows that talk is cheap, essentially. These companies are not employing the ideals that they tell the public.
Leo: My guess is that's why he got fired so quickly. This is something, the VP of diversity said that's it, we got to fire this guy. This is bad.
Dylan: What's really upsetting to me about this story is that they're going to hold meetings to talk with Google employees about what had happened and take their questions and do the town hall thing, and they had to cancel those because people were reporting that they were starting to get harassed online and doxed. That's ridiculous.
Leo: It's become gamer gate. Milo Yiannopolus posted on his page eight Google employees who criticized the post and Sundar was worried for their safety.
Ashley: That's not just GamerGate. This is everywhere. It's in Charlottesville right now. It's troll culture. This is what this is.
Leo: Do you think there's more trolls than before? They feel empowered? What's going on?
Ashley: This is such a weird thing to say. I read this guy's stuff, his name is Film crit hulk, really smart guy. He talks about movies a lot. He wrote this article that I can't recall the name of, but he talks a lot about how pop culture has crafted this generation of disaffected mostly white men, and who do things for the LOLZ. Bad things don't matter, everything's a big joke. It's a terribly interesting article. He breaks down how the rise of TV shows like South Park, which can be extremely powerful and satirical also encourage that not giving any damns about what happens to anybody. It's a self -perpetuating cycle of pop culture and Internet culture makes it this toxic disease. I think at the end of the day, I don't think it's weird. I remember when the Internet started and I don't necessarily think it's worse, I just think it's louder. More than ever it's easier to find other like-minded people, regardless of what that interest is, and so that can be used for great good and great evil. I don't know what the answer to that is. I don't think anybody knows yet, but at the end of the day, I sign up for all of my stuff on C Net, and everywhere else with be good humans, and that's all we can do is be better. Be more aware and listen to people who are not like us. For me, that article is really fascinating. It is a really great article.
Leo: Hulk smash, dystopia and class divide.
Ashley: I think that's one of his newer ones.
Leo: Talks about Episode one of the Wire.
Ashley: It's called PC culture versus the big joke. It is one of the-- it's a really good read, it's a long read, but I highly recommend it. It's really fascinating, and if you're out there and you're listening to the show, and you don't understand a lot of this Internet culture stuff, I get it. A lot of people don't spend their time in Reddit, subreddits. They don't spend their time doing this stuff.
Leo: Of course there is the For the LOLZ, but I also get the feeling it's not a joke, like sorry not sorry. They cover it with the joke to get off the hook, but they're dead serious. Right?
Dylan: There's an asymmetry to. Like, I can get away with joking about this because I'm a white guy, but the impact on you, if I'm joking about raping you, I can pass that off as a joke among my peer group, but the impact on the people it's targeted at is so horrible. That seems baked into the structure of the Internet, somehow. It's really unfortunate.
Ashley: I agree.
Leo: Ashley, you can defend gaming, but I'm going to see what you say about this. I understand this is inflammatory, probably as bad as the Google, but I think we raised a generation of people who lived in their basements and did not communicate with people and spent all their time on screens. It's getting worse with Smartphones, by the way, and this generation of people never had to relate to other people in any way except gaming, and as a result, they're somewhat damaged. They're a social.
Ashley: I disagree with that. I think that what has happened, and this is what I feel is my hypothesis on this, Boomers and yuppies raised two generations of kids, gen xers and millennials. Gen Xers are raising younger millennials now. Let's just say millennials. We're killing everybody with our avocado toast or whatever. My parents did not regulate or otherwise pay attention to what I was looking at on the Internet when I first got the Internet. They had no idea what it was, and neither did I. It was like a phone call for everything. For a long time, when we first opened up the Internet, there were a lot of big gaps in oversight by parents specifically. Maybe even teachers. But at the end of the day, you have this time period of people who are now 25 to 35 who have had very little oversight on what they see online or what they saw online when they were younger and they would know how to find like-minded people and to organize really well and know how to brigade people. It really is to me, and I hope, because millennials have so much experience being connected, we are literally the earliest part of millennials is early mid 80's, that's the last generation of people who will ever remember not being connected. I think that....
Leo: It's got to have some effect.
Ashley: If i ever decide to have a kid, I am so much more aware of what is out there that I feel I would be more vigilant now, mores o than my parents were when I started using the Internet. So it feels like that might help.
Michael: AOL is different than... mad credit.
Leo: That's why you turned out OK.
Michael: Prodigy was big. I think things have changed a lot since Prodigy and AOL versus where we're at with Google and Twitter and Snapchat, and a lot of these new forms of communications. you used one word that I completely agree with, which is louder. I think that the social media companies in many peoples' minds are still startups. People think of them as the kids who wear hoodies who are biking to work and hanging out in San Francisco somewhere, and that's just not the case. These people have more influence than any other American corporation and any other segment of the American corporations. That's been the transition that I've seen and I'm trying to drill into with the work that I do. Now more than ever, these companies have a huge amount of influence, more than we understand, and one way that we're starting to see this bubble up is giving a voice to people who are uneducated and sometimes hateful. It wouldn't surprise me... the other portion of this is being anonymous online has become more poisonous. You can be more affected and spread more hate through the world by being anonymous now than in the 90's with AOL and Prodigy. The people who are making horrific comments, like some of the things you mentioned earlier were done under anonymous handles on Twitter or under anonymous screen names on Reddit. Anonymity online, although I long championed that, I'm starting to question the value...
Leo: We thought it was going to be a great thing.
Ashley: It's hard, because there are so many places in the world that require it. It's dangerous for people to be online. There's good reason for it, but it's so hard. Others use it for bad things. Not to pull from Spiderman, but with great power comes great responsibility and the Internet is probably the most powerful thing we've ever invented as humans.
Leo: Roland in our chatroom says something interesting. I think he agrees with you, Ashley. He says I have the cause and effect backwards. I was saying too much time in the basement leads to asocial people. He says there have always been forgotten people, but now the forgotten people have tools to vent rage without personal consequences. That's what you and Michael are saying.
Ashley: And find other asocial people to gather... here it's an echo chamber of hearing confirmation that those ill-informed beliefs are true and valid. And that feels good for everybody. Everyone wants to hear they're right.
Leo: Do Google and Facebook not have that responsibility, or are they just common carriers and they're delivering the message?
Dylan: Of course they have a responsibility. There's no neutral ground in this. Every interface decision they make, everything they decide to do in terms of sharing what your friends like, showing search results or pushing certain ads to you based on what you've done. I don't think you can say those are morally neutral decisions.
Ashley: But Michael has it right. These people who run these companies have tremendous amounts of influence over what we see in our everyday lives, maybe even more so than our parents, our friends, or our family. I spend more time on the Internet then I do seeing real life people. That's a lot of responsibility.
Michael: One of my friends recently announced she was pregnant. We were talking about Google's influence, and I said Google probably knew she was pregnant before her husband, and we were talking about the responsibility of knowing that type of information. These companies use deductive reasoning based on your behavior, and search results and a variety of other things to figure out what your general disposition is and what information you're looking for. Sometimes it can be very helpful. Obviously these companies have tried to do that, but otherwise it can be emotionally manipulative. Amazon is trying to sell products day after day. Facebook is trying to get you to spend more time on their network day after day and year after year. The way that they do that is by toying with your emotions showing little red dots to show you have a notification or promoting some girl you have a crush on in your newsfeed.
Leo: Cashmir Hill wrote this story five years ago for Forbes. "How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did," and it's because of where she went in the store and what she was doing. This is not new. I remember this years ago from your zip code. People could tell what magazines you might subscribe to or what kind of cars you were likely to buy, but it's gotten so refined and so good. I want to take a break, but when we come back... who has more data than anyone about you? You could say Google, but I think Mark Zuckerberg might have more data than anyone else about you, and I also worry about what he might be doing with that data. We're going to take a break, and when I come back we'll talk about Mark's latest hire. First, a word from Wordpress. WordPress runs 28% of all websites in the world, including my blog, including some of the bests publications in the world. They run many publication companies, because the WordPress platform is powerful, robust, and easy to use. It's big enough for your small business. You don't need to be a web expert to create a site at WordPress.com. You can make it easy for your customers to find you, connect with you. It's really important, frankly. If you're a business and you don't have a yellow pages ad, how is anyone going to find you. Then it was if you don't have an answering machine, how are people going to leave you a message? Now, I think if a business doesn't have a website, even if it's a plumber, I'm much less likely to use them because I can't find out more stuff about them. You've got to have a website. If you are a plumber or a school teacher or a handyman or a restaurant, designing web pages isn't your business, and you don't want to make it your business, but you've got to have that website wordpress.com. Start with amazing templates. Experts who can guide you through the entire process, they have the best support. Wordpress.com is a community. I've run self -hosted WordPress since the early 2000's, but when I moved my site to Wordpress.com, suddenly I'm part of a larger community, there's a front page. They can promote your stories on there. I have half a million followers on there. That blew me away. You'll boost your visibility for search engine optimization. That's built in, and these guys have been doing it for a long time. They know exactly what buttons and nobs to push. Social sharing makes it easy for your readers to spread the word about your site everywhere else. If you have a business site, I'd turn in the amp plug in, highly recommend that, that way your white pages look faster on mobile thanks to amp technology. I turned out a number of great plugins that make my site better, https, automatically. I want you to go there right now because we've got a special deal at wordpress.com, TWiT, you get 15% off any new plan. I registered when my daughter was born 25 years ago, I registered her name.com for twenty years. Now 25 years later, she says I need that website. It's very easy to connect it to that domain name. And you'll be Abby Laporte.com. Wordpress.com/twit. Save 15% on your brand new site right now. Mark Zuckerberg, we've talked about this before. I feel like he's going to run for President, and given the power he has with the Facebook platform, I think he could win by pushing a couple nobs, skewing the newsfeed, and it's over. He just hired, he says I'm not running, except that he's doing a 50 state tour. He's announced maybe I am a Christian after all. I'm not an atheist any more, that much I know for sure. He has now hired a pollster, Joel Benenson, who was chief advisor to Barack Obama, chief strategist of Hillary Clinton's failed campaign-that may not be the best resume builder- and in his bio he says he's the only Democratic pollster in history to have played a leading role in 3 Presidential winning campaigns. Mark Zuckerberg has hired him to work for the charity. Come on. Do you guys, A, is Mark Zuckerberg going to run for President in 2020, and B, who could stop him?
Michael: Look at the tie that dude is wearing. That is a presidential tie.
Ashley: Cornflower blue Presidential tie.
Leo: That's from him at Harvard getting his honorary degree. It was a self-effacing speech, talks about making a better world. The thing is I think you can make the argument that Trump won due in large part to his effective use of Facebook. Right?
Ashley: What happens when Mark Zuckerberg divests himself of Facebook, which at this point he doesn't have to...
Leo: He doesn't have to at this point. When they created the Mark and Priscilla Chan charity, they changed the bylaws of Facebook to literally say "And should Mark Zuckerberg take a Government job, he can still run Facebook." As we all know, Government ethics can no longer apply, no one will make him run for the other side either.
Ashley: What happens even if a small group of engineers who support him for President decide with the whole small percentage of people making decisions that affect millions or billions of people, Facebook has two billion people, we're only going to show positive stories about Mark Zuckerberg.
Leo: You could see the all hands meeting, Mark says I'm not going to tell you guys to do that, but I want you to know it would be OK with me.
Michael: I already made that decision. It was part of my reporting when I was at Gizmodo. They wouldn't allow stories that were about Facebook to trend on the trending news column on the site, and they were strict about what stories they allowed to trend concerning Mark Zuckerberg, so they definitely control the PR around his name. I just think that people are jumping to conclusions with a lot of decisions made around Mark Zuckerberg. He has to treat himself similarly to a politician. It's all about trust, the minute you stop trusting a network, you stop posting to it and interacting with all their different web properties. Part of the reason why he's hired so many political experts is he is trying to rebrand himself. There was a long time when people hated Mark Zuckerberg because of...
Leo: Because of The Social Network.
Leo: Which wasn't true!
Michael: Enough time has passed that enough people have forgotten about that movie, but he still faces an uphill battle in terms of getting people to see him and want to have a drink with him at a bar. That's what he champions Facebook as. It's all about communities and selling ideas. It's a virtual bar that you can go to and hang out with people and talk about different ideas.
Leo: he's got dead eyes. It's the Face of a happy, smiling person. Behind there's a robot in there in my opinion. Many people have said he's not going to run for President, why would he want to, he runs Facebook, which is bigger than the US. Mark my words. He will run for President. The nation will be thirsty for a technocrat who seems intelligent, who seems like he can solve intractable problems that we're facing. He says I have a solution. I'm not in it for the money. I just want to make the world a better place, that's all I ever wanted to do. He's not going to be blatant on Facebook, it'll be very subtle, you won't know. Gently push people. He's going to win.
Ashley: I'm voting for The Rock in 2020. Did you see that commercial with Siri? He was great. He loves technology. He used Siri in space, Leo.
Leo: I don't want to offend anybody, but I think we had our Rock moment in 2016. The pendulum now has to swing.
Dylan: I think he's going to be Governor of California.
Leo: makes sense for him to work his way up.
Dylan: Trump is learning right now it's not really command and control position. Being President is like being asked to wrangle a ranch full of cats. It's not fun. I think he'd be more interested in a job where he can get something done.
Leo: I think you underestimate his vision. I don't think Mark Zuckerberg is a guy who looks at the Presidency and sees how it's being run today and says I don't want that job. he's the kind of guy wrongly or rightly who says I can take this.
Ashley: What is that in the Social Network? What's cooler than a million dollars? A billion dollars? He's like you know what's cooler than being the head of Facebook? being the President of the USA.
Leo: I am not worried about Trump becoming an authoritarian demagogue. I am much more worried about Mark Zuckerberg. In a very benign smiling we're going to bring everybody together way, I don't think this ends at the United States. I think he wants to run the world. Now is that crazy? That's crazy.
Michael: Now I'm scared.
Ashley: Elon Musk is going to stop him. They've been fighting all the time.
Leo: Elon knows that Mark is... That's why Elon dissed him.
Michael: We now have a blueprint for someone transitioning from the business world into the political world. What you're saying, Leo, is not hard to imagine. It's terrifying to think about. I'd like to assume that he has the business interest prioritized first in his mind, but it's really easy to imagine what you're talking about.
Leo: By the way, machine learning and this study, Instagram is now able to figure out if you're depressed from your Instagram photos. There it is. OK. I'm just saying. Instagram is owned by who? Face somebody? So what they did is interesting. They took 139 people and took all their pictures and then they also asked them how do you feel? They were able to build a model that does a better job than a trained psychotherapist at assessing the emotional tenor of a person from their pictures.
Ashley: Is it the pictures or using the hashtag depressed?
Leo: It's weird stuff too. If they do a lot of muted colors in the pictures.
Ashley: And the filters they choose.
Michael: And there are less faces is another key point in that study. The thing is that Facebook has published research on this type of stuff. This happens to be an independent organization, but Facebook is actively researching this stuff. They have published how they can determine your general disposition, whether you're sad or happy, and also how they can influence it. By promoting more depressing stories in your newsfeed, they can affect your overall disposition, and this is something they openly admitted around 2012. We can only guess where they're at now. What terrifies me is that there is no regulation in place for them to disclose any of the studies they've been doing on the psychology of their users or the emotions of their users. This Instagram study reminds us of the fact that a lot can be determined by your behavior online. By the things you decide to post, by the keywords you decide to use and tweet.
Leo: They're getting better and better at this. They do it for pictures, search your Google photos for dogs, it does very good. Instagram users who were depressed tended to use the inkwell filter and happy ones tended to use Valencia. Think about it next time you use a filter.
Dylan: Inkwell is my favorite filter!
Leo: I love inkwell! We're depressed and we didn't even know it. You have a good article on Mashable. Google eating the open Internet. That's the world we live in. I think we are completely underestimating what all of this data that we're giving Facebook and Google. Somebody asked me on the radio show. What's App do with my contact list? What they say they're going to do with that is store it on their server and if somebody in your server wants to join What's App say hey we're buddies on WhatsApp, you want to connect? But what I think they're really doing is imagine if you had a billion people's contact list and you cross referenced it. You would know all the relationships anyone has. You would know who they talk to a lot and who they talk to a little. Who they work with. We had Rob Reid on last week. His new book is fantastic, it's called After On. In it, there's an app called Flutter that is based on machine learning, and three protagonists go into a bar and Flutter pops up a coupon offer. But it's more than that because they know when they arrive at the bar and they're coworkers because they must be having a work meeting, and this is minor. Obviously they could figure that stuff out. Flutter actually becomes sentient. That's another matter entirely. I'm actually not worried about Skynet and sentience. I'm more worried about what will really happen. It will happen quickly. Like a catalytic reaction. Hockey stick like. Where all of a sudden a critical mass of data will be reached, and Facebook will know everything. It will have so much data that they will know more about you than you. Right?
Michael: I think that's true. I think it goes to the level of DNA research. Facebook, Google, I believe owns... there are companies that are already set up to analyze your DNA. I think people aren't questioning...
Leo: They're a sponsor. I gave them a spit.
Michael: They're doing cool and interesting things. You have to ask yourself, do you trust a private company with your genetic code.
Leo: It was founded by Ann Wojiski. Susan Wojiski runs YouTube. Their mother rented the garage to Larry Sergei when they started Google. There is definitely a Google connection to 23 and me.
Dylan: What were you saying earlier, Michael, about 20 people making all the decisions that affect the billions of us? I think we might have stumbled on the corner of that nexus there.
Leo: It's also why it's so important that there be some diversity in this group, because they know everything. These are dangerous...
Ashley: It's what we do with that data. The more diversity we have in voices, whether that is a poor white guy or a rich white woman or a rich Indian man, or class, race... life experiences, life choices, the more diversity we have making those decisions is going to make what we do with that data better.
Dylan: I have a question. Do you guys do anything to prevent Google or Facebook from knowing anything about you? I'm screwing around. I'm putting in fake information. I'll go months without using Facebook and use Twitter instead. I use Duck Duck Go.
Leo: Dylan, that doesn't fool them. Do you think that fools them?
Dylan: I'm doing what I can to monkey wrench them a little bit.
Leo: I'll be the experiment. I'm the guinea pig. I'll give them everything. Not using any privacy filters.
Ashley: What you don't know, Leo, is there's an entire island of you somewhere. 23 and me has cloned 50 Leo Laportes, and they're conducting all kinds of terrible psychological experiments.
Leo: Cheer me up, though, you guys are younger than me. Maybe this is a symptom of getting older. I feel like we're heading into dystopia.
Michael: The problem is that there is no proficiency in technology in Washington right now. They're operating as monopolies.
Leo: If you're Google right now you're like, hey full speed ahead, let's go! Why do you think the stock market is going up? This is good for business.
Michael: I think that we're living in a time that is similar to the 1920's. These are the robber barons of our time. They are building businesses that have disrupted entire Industries. Amazon, by purchasing Whole Foods has suddenly threatened the entire grocery Industry. That's wild. Any of these companies can do that, by acquiring a business or deciding they're going to put resources into a certain area. They can completely upend Industries that have existed for decades. You see it with Tesla, Amazon, they have the resources to drill in on any Industry and upend it. Even Apple, with Watches. That's something that for a long time people thought couldn't be upended or disrupted. And Tech companies have the power to pull the switch and decide that they're going to take over an Industry. That's just the time we live in.
Ashley: I think that in every major section of our history, where we've had a series of technological innovation, like the Industrial revolution, I think those people probably also felt like they were living in a dystopia, and didn't know. There's a lot of uncertainty. I think that that's very true. But I don't know. I mean, there's always part of me that just believes in the inherent goodness of most people even the people who have all the power. A lot of them are decent people who make mistakes, sure, but I don't know. I think I'll still hold on to my Star Fleet Star Trek future. Someday, we'll get there.
Leo: That's not happening (laughing).
Ashley: I think we can get there. It will be better. I believe it.
Michael: That doesn't mean that you're necessarily pessimistic, right? Like I love technology. I've made a career from playing with it and learning more about it. And that will change. I'm an optimist at heart. However, I have access to things that a lot of people don't. And I think it would be wrong for me not to try to relay some of that information to—essentially that's my job as a journalist, right? It's to talk to people that are working at these companies and figure out what's going on, on the inside and then hopefully relay that information to the public. And I think that the one thing—like there seems to be a big disconnect between people using the services and downloading apps and looking at what has been called the black box that runs a lot of these apps. And what's going on behind the scenes? How do algorithms work? The logic that's used to sort this information out. There is a proficiency problem in America right now and when people hear the word algorithm, I think they don't understand what that means and they get intimidated by it in a lot of cases.
Ashley: Their eyes glaze over.
Michael: Definitely. And I don't blame them because it used to happen for me until I started learning about some of the algorithms that flow through these things. Like the suggestion algorithm in Amazon or the Trending News algorithm at Facebook. These are actually very rudimentary algorithm problems. It's elementary logic. They're not quite as complicated as you might think. And I think that most people don't understand that. And also, we don't have access to what that line of logic is and I think that, to me, is more troubling than anything. We have no idea how Facebook, for example, decides to sort our newsfeed. I think in the long-term, like in my lifetime, that's going to be a problem.
Leo: It's a problem right now.
Michael: It's a problem right now.
Leo: That's why Facebook is powerful because they use algorithms to shade the feed. And we don't know what they're—I mean, we can presume their optimizing for stickiness. But maybe not because remember they deprecated the link bait which was probably very sticky.
Ashley: Well, they can choose at any time to change that.
Leo: Yes. They change it all the time.
Ashley: And that they do. Right. And they do, but it never helps.
Leo: They do it non-transparently, completely.
Dylan: I think we have a lot more ability to affect the direction of technology than we think we do. And I'm really grateful for people who are trying to explain and bring to light and share with the rest of us what's going on inside these companies. Because I think in some cases it turns out that consumers care now because the users of these products care enough. Even though there may be two billion users of Facebook, they can still make a difference. I mean, look at the delete Uber campaign, right? I'm not going to say that that fixed Uber's problems overnight but it definitely made the company take seriously its issues in a way that any amount of negative press coverage or government action had failed to do. So, think that if people care enough and they're aware enough about how Facebook and Google are, and Amazon are affecting our worlds, I think that we have a lot more power than we give ourselves credit for.
Leo: I hope you're right.
Ashley: I agree.
Michael: That's true.
Leo: Oh, good. Just remember what Little Finger says. Chaos is not a pit. Chaos is a ladder.
Ashley: So true.
Leo: So true. I don't know if it's true but maybe that gives us hope. Maybe we're just climbing the ladder.
Ashley: I mean, I'm going to be a robot in 50 years, so it's fine.
Leo: Is that your plan? Because that's my plan. I just want to put my brain in a jar or something.
Ashely: No, that's 100% my plan is to be a robot and then maybe—
Leo: You're young enough to achieve it, actually.
Ashely: Shoot myself into space and just float around and see what happens.
Leo: I'm like a guy who's running down the train track. The train's pulling out of the station. I'm just hoping I can catch it before I die.
Ashley: Leo, there's a whole—I don't even know what you mean because 23 and Me has taken your DNA and Trappist One is a colony of Leo Laportes.
Leo: Oh, I hope so. But—
Dylan: Guys, I'm going in the opposite direction. In like 20 years, I'm going to be unplugged and sitting under a redwood tree way up in the mountains somewhere.
Leo: That is likely my end as well, Dylan, yea. I don't know, though. I hate to—don't you want to know how it's going to all turn out?
Dylan: At some point I'm going to be like, "Screw it. I'm out of here."
Ashley: You're like Bicentennial Man. At some point, you'll be like a robot that chooses to be a human because you want to go back to humanity. It will be like that.
Leo: Wow. Fascinating stuff. Ashley Esqueda is here. She's from—how do you want me to attribute you? From CNET? But you do so many things.
Ashley: Yea, it's hard because I'm a host and I am a Senior Editor at CNET. That's my main job. But then I also—
Leo: You have a comic book podcast now, right?
Ashley: Yea, I host Alpha Comic Book Club over at Nerdist which is really fun, on their Alpha subscription video service which is, it's pretty cool. I really like it. I'm getting into a lot of new comic books that I wouldn't have read otherwise, so it's fun.
Leo: You're the comic book person who didn't grow up reading comic books. You're like the, "Oh, let's tell Ashley about this. She's going to read it for the first-time stuff."
Ashley: Yea, I was really excited because we did fables which I'm a really big fan of and I had read before and the other two people had not. So, that was like a big win for me.
Leo: Nice. Nice. Alpha Comic Book Club. Oh, do you have to pay to listen to this?
Ashley: I think Alpha's like $5 bucks a month. They're a subscription video thing. They have a whole bunch of different shows that are on Nerdist Alpha and then it's sort of like a Comic Con HQ or you know, any of those sort of smaller channels. But yea, there's me talking with Hector. Hector Navarro and Damion Poitier.
Leo: Nice. Did they make you wear that flannel shirt?
Ashley: No, I bought it for myself.
Leo: (Laughing). It's lumberjack Ashley.
Ashley: Dude. Lumberjack Ashley is awesome.
Leo: No kidding. I'd buy that doll. Also with us from Mashable.com, it's great to have you Michael Nunez. He's the Deputy Tech Editor over there. And a guy who's already kind of retiring from tech, kind of in a way. Formerly at VentureBeat, now at Head of Communications at ValiMail, Dylan Tweney.
Dylan: Oh, my God.
Leo: Oh, my God, ValiMail.
Dylan: I am not retiring from tech.
Leo: I guess not.
Dylan: Nor am I retiring from writing. I'm not a journalist at the moment but I'm still writing.
Leo: Are you posting it on Medium? Where are you writing?
Dylan: I haven't decided where everything ultimately lives. I put stuff on my blog but I also put it up on Medium and LinkedIn and whatever new platform comes along, I'm sure I'll be posting there too.
Dylan: That's it.
Leo: Yep. Our show today brought to you by the TrackR. Now, this—sometimes tech does make your life better. If you've ever lost stuff, you know—or if you've ever spent the morning late for work trying to find your car keys, you know that there must be a better way. Why do I keep losing my phone, my car keys. And you know, if you've used Find My iPhone you realize there is a better way. And that's kind of what the TrackR is. It's like Find My iPhone for all of your other stuff. So, what you do is you take the TrackR. They have two little ones one. There's the TrackR Bravo, it's about the size of a quarter but lighter. It's anodized aluminum and they have the new TrackR Pixel which has—it's even smaller and lighter. I think it's the smallest Bluetooth tracker ever. And it lights up with LEDs around it so it helps you find stuff not just with audio signals but with lights. You put it on your keys. That's the first place I put it, on my backpack. And then I put it in my luggage. You put it on the remote control. You put it on the dog. It's small enough to put on a collar and they have a little waterproof holder for it to protect it. And now, once you've paired it to your phone, you can see where your stuff is, where your TrackRs are or whatever the TrackR's attached to, on your phone. You get a map. But here's the other cool thing. If somebody takes your—let's say you put it on your keys. Now, when you leave the room, your phone will say, "Hey, you left your keys." And by the way, the other way around, too. When you leave your phone lying around your keys start going, "Weep, weep, weep." You can also, if you say, "Oh, I know I left my phone somewhere around here," press a button on the TrackR. That will make the phone, even if it's silenced, make the phone make noise. That's very handy. I really like that. But also, there's this issue. Because once you get out of Bluetooth range out of 100 feet, all the TrackR software can say, "This is the last time I saw this." But here's the beauty part. There are 4.5 million, actually, it's got to me more now. Probably more like 5 million—TrackRs out there all over the world. And if at any time, any one running the TrackR software sees your keys with the TrackR on it, it will ping your phone and now you're map will be updated to the last time anybody saw your keys. So, no matter where they are—look at this map. All over the world you can find your stuff. The lightest Bluetooth tracking device on the market. That's the TrackR Pixel. Both the TrackR Pixel and the TrackR Bravo have replaceable batteries. Not like some of these other guys, so you don't have to throw it out when it's—you can just put the battery in every year. It's Bluetooth LE. It goes about a year. I love it. Take advantage of TrackRs 30-day money back guarantee. No risk. See that? You can put engraving. You can put on the TrackR Bravo or a picture. And if you go right now to theTrackR.com and you use our promo code TWiT, you get 20% off your order. So, just load up the basket. Save 20% with the promo code TWiT. T-H-E-T-R-A-C-K-R.com. Promo code TWiT. The TrackR. I like this product because I'm a big—I misplace things. I think Newsweek estimated that people spend 55 minutes a day looking for stuff that they own but they don't know where the hell they went (laughing).
Michael: I can easily believe that one.
Leo: I believe it. That's the way it is in my house. We had a lot of fun—
Michael: Oh, we have a dog now.
Leo: Oh, what kind of dog? What's her name?
Ashley: That's Filo.
Leo: Ok, I've got to ask you. Filo as in phyllo dough or as in Filo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television?
Ashley: Filo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television.
Leo: Wow. Deeply geeky.
Ashley: Yes. Deep cuts. Got to get those deep cuts. Yea, he's our new puppy, so he's got--
Leo: Is he a greyhound? What is he?
Ashley: He's an Italian greyhound. We have three Italian greyhounds, so he's about 6-months old.
Leo: He's beautiful.
Ashley: And he got sad. He came in here, wandered in here and was like, "Uh, will you please pay attention to me?"
Leo: I don't need his Instagram note. Now, they don't get as big as regular greyhounds, right?
Ashley: No, they'll probably be—our two older ones are about 17 to 20 pounds and then he'll probably be about the same size. And they're actually kind of big for Italian greyhounds. Yea, they're actually a little bit big for Italian greyhounds which are usually around like 12 pounds.
Leo: Are they neurotic? Are they like crazy?
Ashley: We rescued one and she is very neurotic.
Leo: Yea, that's sad.
Ashley: Mostly they're kind of couch potatoes though. Like they're snuggly little dogs. They love people. They're little Velcro dogs and they can me annoying but they're also really goofy and funny and they have lovely personalities.
Leo: I'll tell you, that's what I look for. I look for a dog that just wants to sleep. That's what I'm looking for. OK, we've done the depressing stuff.
Michael: Yea, there's a lot of it this week. Too much of it.
Ashley: So much. Too much.
Leo: I have never been so depressed in my life. And I don't think it's me, I think it's situational. I just feel like what happened? In fact, I'm starting to not care because I think Kim Jong-Un's going to set us off a nuclear war and then it doesn't matter.
Ashley: I think it's just that sort of exhaustion.
Dylan: Have you tried using a different Instagram filter, Leo?
Leo: Maybe I should stop using Inkwell. That's a problem. I'm going to start using Valencia from now on.
Ashley: Nashville and Valencia only.
Leo: It's funny because isn't that they saying that if somebody is an optimist they look through the world with rose colored glasses? Look at the world through rose colored glasses?
Ashley: But now you can say they look at it through Nashville.
Leo: Through Nashville. I'm a Hefe fan myself. That's kind of in between.
Ashley: Yea, that's nice.
Leo: It's warm. It's a little muted. It's kind of like my personality. Actually, there's an algorithm, this is from the MIT Technology Review. There's an algorithm that's been trained on emoji, that knows when you're being sarcastic on Twitter. This is one of the toughest computer problems. How do computers understand sarcasm?
Ashley: Can I be honest for a second? Like how hard was it for this algorithm to figure out people are being sarcastic on Twitter, right?
Michael: It's like 90% of the time.
Ashley: Oh, look, 99% of people are sarcastic on Twitter. That seems like a really—that study seems suspect to me. It's a little suspect.
Dylan: You know what's amusing about this study to me is there's no emoji for sarcasm, right? Like what emoji do you use?
Ashley: You can use an eye roll.
Leo: Is there an eye roll? What's an eye roll emoji?
Ashley: The one that's like, you know it's like just a little face, like a guy. And then I also use the one with the upside down smiley face. That's a good sarcasm one I think.
Dylan: Oh, yea.
Michael: Even a standard smiley could work. There's a lot of nuance here because you can—it depends on how creative you are.
Leo: What about the one where it's just eyes and a line? Like it's not—you know, it doesn't mean anything. It's like flat.
Ashley: Yea, it's expressionless.
Michael: Yea, yea.
Leo: So, according to—
Ashley: Or the one without a mouth. That's another good one.
Leo: According to this article, again, MIT, right? The robot was better at identifying sarcasm on Twitter than humans. Humans average score, 76%. Robots, 82%. And now there's a DeepMoji website. They're calling it DeepMoji where you, too,--
Ashley: I take back everything I said. We do live in a dystopia. I take it all back.
Leo: Well, you have deep thought, right? Deep blue and now DeepMoji. So, should I type a sentence? Oh, how about this? Chaos is not a pit. Chaos is a ladder. That will be a good one. Let's see if it thinks that is sarcastic or what. So, we're going to submit it.
Ashley: Maybe they can help us figure out what is going to happen in Game of Thrones.
Leo: High confidence that I'm being sarcastic. I don't know. Look, they gave me fist bump. They game me, what is that? Cross arms one. I don't know.
Michael: Oh, that's a good one. Crossed arms lady.
Dylan: I haven't seen that one.
Leo: They gave me a skull.
Ashley: What is happening? Is it like this? Like I'm trying to recreate this and I'm—is it like this?
Leo: (Laughing). Ok, ok.
Ashley: I've never made this gesture.
Leo: Ok, Dylan, Ashley, Michael, let's all do it. Let's all do it and see what we think it is.
Dylan: Oh, that's uncomfortable.
Ashley: It's really uncomfortable.
Leo: But I feel like she's got her thumbs up but here fists are pointing backwards.
Ashley: What is this? What is it?
Leo: Ok, we've just sent the Illuminati the secret message.
Ashley: I don't want to hear you.
Leo: I tricked you.
Ashley: Or I don't want to hear anything.
Leo: I've got my thumbs in my ears.
Dylan: That's an extremely sarcastic gesture in some cultures.
Leo: It must be. It must be. This is not—this is a different culture.
Ashley: Wait, do I feel more sarcastic when I do that? Oh, sure. Sure. No. No I don't. I don't feel more sarcastic. It's weird.
Dylan: Well it's not like the W, like or how do you do it? Yea, whatever. Like that's a sarcastic gesture. We need that.
Ashley: Yea, yea, yea, yea. I have so many questions.
Leo: How about if I just type, "Ya think?" That's sarcastic, right? Yea, that's sarcastic. I don't understand what I'm seeing here. Now I've got the eyes.
Ashley: Low confidence.
Leo: Low confidence.
Ashley: This DeepMoji doesn't know what's going on.
Leo: DeepMoji thought chaos is a ladder is sarcastic but ya think—or maybe it's just low confidence because—
Ashley: Oh, how about you go, "I'm sure everything will work out just as planned." I'm sure it will. I'm sure you can make it work out.
Leo: What could possible go wrong?
Ashley: Yea, that's good.
Leo: Medium confidence? What?
Dylan: That's like the most sarcastic sentence in the English language.
Leo: I think it is. I think it is the most—
Ashley: Wait, wait. Put at the very beginning of it, like, oh, comma, what could possibly go wrong? See if anything—yea.
Ashley: Let's add a little flavor to it. Let's see what happens.
Leo: How about just O period. Like full stop. Oh.
Ashley: Yea, yea. Let's try that.
Leo: Oh. What could possibly go wrong? No, it didn't help at all.
Ashley: Still medium. That's weird.
Michael: DeepMoji, come on.
Leo: Words are highlighted based on emotional impact. Click a word to turn it on or off. So, I could turn Oh on or off. I don't know what these emojis mean.
Dylan: Is that like the emoji translation of your sentence?
Michael: That's what I thought?
Ashley: I did not realize the emoji movie was so bad. I mean I knew it was bad.
Leo: Did you see it?
Ashley: I didn't see it. I refuse.
Michael: I want to.
Leo: I think it got a 5 on Rotten Tomatoes (laughing).
Michael: I feel like for that reason it deserves my attention. I need to see if it's that bad.
Leo: If it's that bad you might want to see it.
Ashley: No. There's so much good to see out there. There's so much great. Like don't waste your time with that.
Leo: Yea, there are some very good movies.
Ashley: Watch Glow instead.
Leo: Glow is good. I was surprised. Marc Maron, finally, a podcaster makes it big, right?
Ashley: Are you going to be on Season 2, Leo?
Leo: I want to be on—I have the mask.
Ashley: You should go. You should go on Glow Season 2 and you should like introduce the girls to the Apple Computer because it's in the 80s.
Leo: Oh. Is it in the 80s? It's actually a true story, right? There were the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in the 80s were this thing.
Ashley: Yea. Great documentary about it on Netflix. You should watch it. It's a great complimentary piece to the fictional TV series.
Leo: Glow is—
Michael: I will second that. It's a very good doc and it is very—it's actually great to watch right after the show.
Leo: I've only seen the first two episodes. But I am ready.
Ashley: Oh, my God, Leo (laughing).
Leo: I have my Lucha Libre mask. I think it's quite fetching actually.
Ashley: Wow. I like that it's a San Francisco 49ers Lucha Libre.
Leo: Niners. Niners.
Ashley: Wow. Wow.
Leo: For people not watching but listening at home, you're missing all of this.
Ashley: You're missing out. You are really missing out.
Leo: I think—I don't remember where I bought this. I think I bought it in Mexico but I may be wrong. I could be wrong.
Ashley: I like that you just have it at your desk. Like it just happened to be there. That is my favorite thing. You're like, "You know what? Maybe today. Today is going to be the day."
Leo: Today's the day.
Ashley: Put that underneath your desk and you're like, "Oh, please. Fingers crossed."
Leo: Well, and I want to point out to everybody, you mentioned Glow. I didn't put any words in your mouth.
Ashley: I know.
Leo: It just happened. Mark Maron plays a—a perfect part for Mark Maron, which is a disinfected cocaine sniffing director. And I think he's quite good in it.
Ashley: So funny.
Leo: To really be fair, he had a career as a—a well-known career as a comic before he interviewed Barak Obama on his podcast. But I feel like, still, he's one of us and he's made it into the mainstream world. So, I'm very proud of him. Very proud.
Ashley: Good stuff.
Ashley: Can we talk about the HBO hack? The hackers that got HBO?
Leo: Thank you. We haven't talked about that.
Ashley: Because Game of Thrones is going to be on in about an hour and I feel like we've got to talk about this HBO stuff because it's scary, it's really scary for HBO.
Leo: Let me do a commercial because I want to make sure you get out of here before Game of Thrones. Wait a minute. You're on the west coast. You've got plenty of time.
Ashley: I watch it on HBO Now, so I watch it at 6:00.
Dylan: You get to watch it at 6:00?
Ashley: Guys, you're missing out. On HBO Now it goes up right at 6:00.
Leo: Now, HBO GO does it go up right away too?
Ashley: It should, yea.
Ashley: Don't wait.
Leo: Now you know why you watch the show. It's for life hacks like that.
Dylan: Scoop of the week. Scoop of the week.
Ashley: Wow. That should be your headline. Did you know, C-I-L.
Leo: (Laughing) We're almost at—is this the last one or the 2nd to last one for this first part of the season?
Ashley: I think second to last.
Leo: Yea, it's the penultimate. There's only one more episode. Oh, I love it when they say that. Oh, there's one more—there's two more.
Dylan: And how many more season after this?
Leo: There's a half season and they're going to do one more half season.
Ashley: Yea, like seven more episodes after the season's over and that's it.
Leo: It's over and the people—finally, the people of Croatia are safe once again.
Dylan: I am honestly having trouble remembering what happened in earlier episodes.
Leo: Oh, every time.
Dylan: It was like 5 years ago and a hundred dead characters ago.
Leo: Dylan, wait until you're my age. That happens with everybody. Who's he? What did he say? Why is he there? Who's that? Every show. Why did he shoot that arrow? Who shot? He did what?
Dylan: It's a real challenge but this one, though. I mean how many episodes?
Ashley: It's a lot of characters.
Leo: Ashley, especially I think probably has notebooks and maps.
Ashley: I know them all. I know them all.
Dylan: They kill everyone I care about. And I just can't remember that far back.
Ashley: I won't go too deep. I don't want to spoil anybody for watching. I don't want to spoil anything.
Leo: I know and I wish, you know, I've got to do one of those podcasts where it's a spoiler cast and you can talk freely because none of our shows are we allowed to talk about this stuff because our audience is—
Ashley: People get mad.
Leo: Full of the kind of people who are like "Spoiler Alert." Spoilers. No spoilers.
Ashley: It's so good this season. It's really great.
Leo: I think it's the best season yet.
Ashley: I agree.
Leo: Especially after last week. Ok?
Ashley: I think last week's episode is one of the best in the series period.
Leo: Put it right over the top.
Ashley: Yea, it's one of the best.
Michael: But I heard the first ones were kind of weak. Is that true?
Leo: The first one was exposition. But that's every year, every season they do that.
Ashley: They've got to reset it all up.
Leo: So, there's a lot of exposition and Cerci standing at the map saying, "I'm going to take this all over," and all that stuff.
Ashley: Hey, Leo, no spoilers, no spoilers.
Leo: That's not a spoiler. You didn't know from day one that Cerci—
Ashley: She's been doing that since the beginning of the series.
Leo: I'm going to take this all. This is all mine, baby. I want that Iron Throne. That's mine. Well, I don't know how it's going to end. Nobody does because we're off book.
Ashley: So off book.
Leo: It's a mystery. We don't know how it's going to end but I can tell you one thing. If Cerci's looking for a job, she should go to ZipRecruiter.com
Ashley: That was a great segue, Leo. Good one.
Michael: Quality, yea, yea.
Ashley: A plus. Ten out of ten.
Leo: I couldn't even do that with a straight face (laughing).
Leo: If you're hiring or if you're looking for a job, ZipRecruiter's the best place to go. I'll tell you why. As someone who's hiring, I love it because you're posting—see, I always assumed the right person—if you've got a job opening, the right person is there somewhere. It really—the challenge is, it's like a needle in a haystack. How do you find them? What job sites are they haunting? So, where do you reach them? Where are they? ZipRecruiter solves it. You post once on ZipRecruiter, they post it to more than a hundred job sites and social networks and Twitter and Facebook, everywhere. So, it is the easiest way to reach everybody. You just—and you cast a wide net because you're more likely to reach that one person. Now, the problem, the reason people don't do this is they don't want a million emails or a million phone calls but you don't have to worry about that with ZipRecruiter. Your jobs, the applicants flow into the ZipRecruiter interface. They don't have your phone number or email. They just—it all goes into the ZipRecruiter interface where they make it really easy for you. They preformat all the resumes. They're unified so it's easy to read them. They give you screening questions so, you know, you can say, "Are you the mother of dragons, yes or no?" And if they say yes, you can just immediately, "Not today, thank you." And then you go through the rest and you rank them and you hire the right person fast. You're going to get—in fact, on 80% of jobs posted on ZipRecruiter, you're going to get a qualified candidate in just 24 hours. Great if you're trying to reach techies because techies love ZipRecruiter. But not just techies, any kind of professional. Take your company to the next level with the perfect hire. You're going to be a hiring hero. More than 300 applications delivered, more than a million people use ZipRecruiter. You've got to try this today. ZipRecruiter. In fact, we've got a free trial. There's no reason not to. ZipRecruiter.com/twit. ZipRecruiter.com/twit. Who will it be? Will it be Cerci or the mother of dragons looking for work? We don't know but either way, ZipRecruiter.com/twit.
Leo: And maybe Lord Baelish will need to hire some people, some more eunuchs to staff. I don't know.
Ashley: A toggle over option.
Leo: More little birds.
Ashley: I've got to tell my mom to get on that because she's a recruiter, so she'd probably really like that site.
Leo: I bet you she knows about it. Recruiters love it.
Leo: I'm sure she knows all about it. So, HBO—this is actually a new trend. I don't think Sony started it. I really think Korea hacked Sony. I think that North Korea, I think that was really a political job. But might have opened the eyes of other hackers saying, "You know, there's probably money to be made." Of course, remember the production company that did some of the Netflix originals got hacked. They got Orange is the New Black but they kind of blew it because they got all but the last two episodes, right? And they said, "Hey, Netflix, if you don't pay us we're going to release them." And Netflix said, "Pbbtt." Because who cares about—it's the last two episodes. Everybody's going to watch it anyway. If you don't have—
Ashley: Yea, if you're going to subscribe to Netflix.
Leo: You're going to subscribe—in fact, it's the best possible publicity. You can watch every—
Ashley: That was our favorite friend, the Dark Overlord.
Leo: The Dark Overlord. That's right. You do a very good Dark Overlord. So, do you think it's the Dark Overlord? We won't do a reprise of that unless it comes up, but she does an excellent Dark—did you ever here from the Dark Overlord after mocking him?
Ashley: I never did. I never did. He probably subscribes to my tiny letter.
Leo: (Laughing). I'm asking the Dark Overlord, and I just want you to know, I love you. So, they got some scripts. They didn't get the video of The Game of Thrones. They got—
Ashley: No, I think it was the video too.
Leo: Oh, did they?
Ashley: This is—it's like a terabyte and a half of data. It's a lot of data.
Dylan: That's what they say.
Leo: That's not even one episode of the Game of Thrones.
Ashley: I don't know. I mean if they're sending around a couple of advanced screeners, that's not that big. Those files aren't going to be that big, so, I don't know.
Leo: This is—apparently they have emails, you know, personal data which might be more compelling frankly to HBO. In a five-minute video letter from somebody calling themselves Mr. Smith to HBO Chief Executive Richard Plepler, the hackers told the company to pay within 3 days or they would put online—yea, I guess so—the HBO shows and confidential corporate data they claim to have stolen. But this was like a week ago, right?
Michael: Yea, I also want to add that Mashable has that video. We accessed some of this.
Leo: Do you? Can I watch it?
Michael: You can watch the ransom message purportedly sent to the HBO CEO Richard Plepler and we have what we believe is his full contact list from his phone and there were a lot of other documents.
Leo: What? How did you get that?
Michael: Well, so, the hackers have been in touch with some members of the press and they've released small batches of the total lump 5 terabytes that they believe, I heard, that they allegedly have. So, you know—
Leo: Is this a video or is this your video of the video?
Michael: No, this is their—this is raw video from this data leak.
Leo: They put piano music in it?
Michael: They put the Game of Thrones soundtrack, which I don't watch Game of Thrones, but it's—
Michael: I know. I know.
Leo: Dear Richard Plepler. Actually, Ashley, will you do the honors here and can you read this?
Ashley: Oh my God. Yea, sure. Oh, I can't see the whole screen at the same time.
Leo: You can't see it?
Michael: I'll warn you ahead of time, the English is completely—it's like broken English.
Leo: I'll do it this time, all right?
Ashley: I can do it. I can see it now.
Leo: You can see it? Ok.
Leo: Let me—
Ashley: I am Mr. Smith.
Leo: I'll scroll back for you.
Leo: I'll scroll back. Here you go. Ok. Shh. Ok, be quiet.
Ashley: I love that I have a soundtrack. Dear Richard Plepler. I am Mr. Smith and I have the honor to inform you, on behalf of my colleagues, that we successfully breached into your huge network. We are glad to say that in a complicated cyber operation, infiltration to your network accomplished and we obtained most valuable information. WE confess that HBO was one of our difficult targets to deal with but we succeeded. It took about six months.
Leo: (laughing) Oh, my God. Oh my God.
Ashley: I should stop there. Stop there. I can't do it anymore.
Leo: They say—wait a minute. How about his paragraph?
Ashley: The soundtrack really makes it exciting.
Leo: Start with now. Can you see that?
Ashley: Yea. Now, we have your precious data which costs you millions of dollars: Insecure 2, The Deuce S1, Barry Season 1—
Leo: What's Barry?
Ashley: Room 104 Season 1, Ballers Season 3, Vice Principals Season 2, Steven Spielberg Documentary, A World in Disarray, Tour de Pharmacy, Defiant Ones and etcetera.
Leo: (Laughing) They wanted 6 months worth of their salary in Bitcoin. But what is their—what is their salary?
Michael: The message is so long and so dumb. It's about 6-million-dollars.
Leo: 6-million-dollars? They said, they claim they make a million-dollars a month?
Dylan: These guys don't seem like the sharpest tools in the hacker's shelf.
Leo: I think it's the Dark Overlord. You humiliated him so badly, Ashley, that he wants to call himself something else now. Mr. Smith. He says, "You can't mock me as Mr. Smith." By the way, good to know, we are white hats. You must trust us.
Ashley: HBO said, "Oh, well, if you're white hats, we'll offer you—"they offered them, what, a quarter of a million dollars as like a bug bounty. And I don't know if they—I think they refused to pay that.
Leo: I'm sorry, that's less than one week's salary (laughing).
Ashley: It's not enough.
Leo: It's not enough. You have three days to make the decisions to decide wisely.
Michael: So, since then I think they've actually dumped a little bit more data including a couple of episodes from the upcoming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. So, I think that broke today if I'm not mistaken, like this afternoon.
Leo: Is it a video, an actual video?
Michael. Yes. I haven't had a chance to look at that set of data, but that's what Bloomberg reported earlier today.
Leo: And HBO's response is, "No. We're not going to give you the money?"
Michael: So, HBO's been slow to comment. I mean we included a statement that essentially says they're working with the FBI. They really don't want to talk about a pending investigation, etcetera, etcetera. But they would not verify the message that we published. So, they wouldn't tell us whether it was in fact sent to their CEO and I think they're playing their cards very close to their chests is an easy way to say it. They're not really saying too much about this hack.
Leo: Someone in the chatroom said, "We should name this hack WannaLaugh." (laughing).
Michael: Yea, yea, that's good.
Leo: The letter ends with—maybe, Ashley, just one more, if I might—do we have to pay you extra? Do we have to pay SAG scale for this?
Ashley: I feel like now, I feel like scale next time. Next time. Third time. So, the first two times is you can Taft-Hartley me, and then after that it's SAG rates.
Leo: I'll do this. I'm cheaper. There are two mottos. Which one is remembered? Winter is Coming or HBO is Falling or Winter is Coming, HBO is standing and everlasting. As Architect said in Matrix II—all right. Now showing they have no taste at all, "The problem is choice." Good luck to HBO. In other news, rogue deer attacks innocent man in a parking lot.
Dylan: I think HBO's best strategy with this is just to kind of do exactly what they're doing which is like hang back and let these guys prove whether they're idiots or not. They're probably idiots.
Ashley: And honestly, even if they leak scripts or whatever it is, like Game of Thrones last week is still the most highest rated show on television.
Leo: Incidentally, it is both the most highest rated show on television and the most pirated show on television already. So, that just—it doesn't matter in other words, right?
Michael: Yea, I didn't know that statistic. I mean we wrote an interesting—or one of our reporters wrote an interesting story that posited the question, do you pay the ransom in situations like this? What are the upsides and what are the downsides? And it gets into some of the game theory that these companies have to deal with when they're deciding to negotiate with hackers or at least address some of the problems that come up when someone steals as much as a terabyte or more of your information. So, the thing is, do you think that HBO under any circumstance should pay this ransom?
Dylan: Never pay the ransom.
Ashley: Absolutely not. Never negotiate with terrorists. They should listen to their own content that they've put online and broadcast out. Never negotiate with terrorists.
Dylan: It doesn't even work. Half the time they take the money and then they're like, "Sorry."
Ashley: And they release it all anyway.
Michael: But the Sony hack, I think it shows what can happen when you don't negotiate with terrorists, right? So, there was actually quite a—there was a lot of money that was lost. There were people that lost their jobs. They obviously, the movie the Dictator didn't have a successful roll out.
Leo: The Interview. The Interview.
Michael: I'm sorry, the Interview.
Leo: I don't want Sung Myung Moon, whatever his name, coming after us now. Just—the Interview. Not the Dictator. He's our leader.
Ashley: Michael, isn't there something to be said about the fact that that particular situation was more of like we were saying, like a government sponsored thing to keep a movie from coming out? It's sort of—it's a little bit of a different situation than a group of third party hackers somewhere in the world going, "Hey, let's just go hack HBO and hold them for ransom."
Leo: It must scare Hollywood a little bit, though, because it appears now that Hollywood is being targeted.
Ashley: Yea, Disney was, yea.
Michael: You know, so we can't say definitively that this is not a nation state hack, right? No one knows who the source of the hack.
Leo: I am Mr. Smith and I am King Darklord's little brother.
Ashley: I agree. But I mean anybody who pays this, anybody who pays a ransom has no guarantee that that data continuing to be safe.
Michael: Sure, but let's say Game of Thrones, the last episode of Game of Thrones goes online tonight or tomorrow. Then what? Isn't that a huge opportunity, or I don't know if the right term is opportunity costs, but doesn't HBO risk losing some of the—
Leo: No. Zero risk. Every single HBO fan will avoid it as a spoiler or even if they watch it, they will absolutely watch the last episode and nobody's going to cancel an HBO subscription because they saw the last episode on the internet.
Dylan: Yea, and how many new subscriptions are they expecting in the next week, anyway? And what percentage would be affected by some dark net version of the show being available? Most people aren't clever enough with bit torrents.
Leo: I think the real risk is not the shows but the individual personal information.
Leo: It's emails. And if there's Richard Plepler saying in an email, "Oh, that Tyrian Lannister, he's too short," or whatever. That could be embarrassing. In fact, that's what cost Any Pascal her job at Sony with those emails.
Dylan: But surely HBO has a pretty good idea of what's in their own emails, right? So, my guess is unless there is something explosive, they're not going to negotiate.
Leo: Personal phone numbers of actors, no big deal. You pay a little money, you get the actors all to change their numbers. That's not a big deal. If there were—I can't, you know, unless there's nude—well, even if there are nude photos of Cerci Lannister, what are they going to do? Shame. Shame.
Ashley: That's right. Shame. Shame. That happened last year. We all saw it.
Leo: There's nothing to see here.
Ashley: There's nothing they can gain. Like network television, that's different because those people aren't naked. It's HBO. Seen it.
Michael: What you're saying implies that there's no—like this hack is meaningless and there are no risks involved in this hack which I think is a little bit overstated, right? There is some money to be lost from HBO and you already said, this is the most pirated television show in the world I think that was said. And so, you know, if that's the case then maybe there are more people that would watched a leaked episode than we realize.
Leo: Oh, I'm sure there are. I'm sure there are but—
Ashley: But those people—here's my argument is that those people that are watching leaked episode, they're already Torrenting HBO.
Leo: And, by the way, they're the biggest fans. Now, maybe they don't buy HBO if they weren't buying it before either probably, right?
Ashley: Right, that's my argument is that those people are already torrenting television.
Leo: And if you're a big fan, I think a not insignificant number of the probably still pay for HBO. The only people who don't are people who can't afford it and so they justify it saying, "Well, I can't afford it but I'm still a Game of Thrones fan." But I think if you're a real fan and you can afford it, you pay for it because you want to support HBO. I don't know. I mean I'm sure there's consequences. There's not $6-million-dollars-worth of consequences. And, more to the point, the larger risk is encouraging more attacks.
Michael: Yea, I can agree with that.
Ashley: To me, that's the bigger risk. That $6-million-dollars—paying $6-million-dollars is opening the door to a lot of other people stealing your stuff and saying, "Well, you paid these guys. Why not pay us?"
Leo: Oh, no.
Dylan: $6-million-dollars buys an awful lot of network hardening and you know, pen testing and other kinds of security measures that might actually make a significant difference in preventing future attacks.
Leo: I actually think that one of the reasons Amy Pascal had to quit was because Sony did such a crappy job of protecting their network, even in the face of multiple threats and they knew there was a problem and they said, "Na, we don't care about security."
Dylan: That was a spectacularly bad setup at Sony. So, that was part of their problem.
Michael: Yea, I just think that you know, there has to be a circumstance in this HBO. Like if the hackers truly have 1.5 terabytes of data, there has to be a scenario where this costs HBO more than $6-million-dollars and it's just something worth considering. But, I would agree for the most part, you don't negotiate with terrorists. I think that you would only encourage people to do this type of, to commit this type of crime more frequently. But I think if you're evaluating the economic repercussions of this, there has to be a scenario where this costs HBO much more than $6-million-dollars because I'm pretty sure on the Sony hack, they lost more than that amount I would think. I don't know exactly what it cost them but my guess is that it was more than $6-million.
Leo: Oh, yea. Oh, God, yea.
Dylan: There was no attempt to collect a ransom in the Sony case, was there?
Michael: That's actually a good point.
Leo: I think there was but I think it was a half-hearted attempt.
Ashley: No, it was, "Don't release the movie." That was what the ransom was. It was just don't release The Interview.
Leo: Yea, which frankly would have been a boon for everyone.
Ashley: I feel like they could have very easily avoided this by saying, "Oh, well, it's not a good money. We just won't release it anyway."
Dylan: Why didn't they do that with the Emoji Movie?
Leo: The one good thing you can say about the Sony hack is it got a lot more box office for The Interview. I think far more people saw it. I watched it because of the hack then didn't. Now, here's a bigger concern. The White House. We know the White House security practices are perhaps less than perfect. There's a guy from the UK, he calls himself Email Prankster, who has had email conversations with Anthony Scaramucci before he got fired. That wouldn't be a weird thing except he was posing as Reince Priebus.
Ashley: Oh, this made me laugh.
Leo: He has sent emails to Tom Bossert, Eric Trump. He has posed as Jared Kushner, The Homeland Security Advisor. He said—he thought he was talking to Jared Kushner. He wasn't. It was the Prankster. He gave him his personal email address saying, "Jared, anytime you need me just email me at home." This is the guy in charge of the cyber of our security. He should be using ValiMail.
Dylan: Yea, exactly. He should.
Ashley: I really love that that guy didn't even bother. The Prankster didn't even bother masking the email address. Like that's my favorite. He was like, "I'm not even going to bother, just to see." And they couldn't even—
Dylan: He used like a Gmail account or something and he just called it—
Ashley: Yea, it was like ReincePriebusmail@gmail or something like that.
Leo: I'm going to hyperventilate now. Oh, my God. He made up new email addresses on Gmail, Yahoo, and Mail.com. He didn't bother faking anything. They didn't bother checking. The guy in charge of Homeland Security, Cyber-Security didn't even—he was just like, "Oh, it must be Jared because it says so."
Dylan: So, this guy has been actually going around targeting a bunch of different people. He got like the CEO of Goldman and Barkley's Bank in the UK and some other banks. So, like a bunch of bank chiefs, some British government officials. He's fooled a ton of people using exactly the same playbook.
Leo: Is it illegal?
Dylan: I don't think so.
Leo: He hasn't been prosecuted. Eric Trump said, "I'm going to get the FBI on him." But, you know.
Dylan: You could use maybe the Canned Spam Act which says that you have to have a legitimate—like you have to say who you really are in the from field of a message. Maybe you could use that against him?
Ashley: They're not Spam. That's the thing, he's not spamming anybody. It's just that he's catfishing someone.
Leo: Catfishing. Is catfishing legal?
Dylan: I think it's what you do with it.
Ashley: When it's malicious. Yea, exactly. If you steal someone's identity, yes, that's illegal but if you're—
Dylan: Or if you get them to download some malware and you infect their computer with something, right. But just embarrassing people? I'm not sure.
Ashley: Yea, no, I don't think that's illegal. That's not illegal.
Michael: I was going to say, we'll find out soon enough.
Leo: So far, there's been no action.
Dylan: What have you been up to, Ashley?
Leo: Yea, maybe—
Ashley: I hope it's not illegal because it's hilarious. Big businesses? Hilarious.
Leo: (Laughing) We have some good news. To celebrate the EFF continues to beat the podcast troll. We received a letter from Personal Audio some years ago asking for us I think $2.5-million-dollars. That was a mistake because you're supposed to—let me just—a little tip for patent trolls out there. You should always ask for an amount that's less than it would cost to defend the case and the $2.5-million is considerably more even in the highest estimate. They did settle with a number of companies which game them a bankroll, enough of a bankroll to appeal. So, the EFF won with the Patent and Trademark Office. They got them to overturn the patent so, Personal Audio appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. It's the Washington D.C. Court that rules mostly on patent law. They ruled also now in favor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I would say, "Yay, it's over." But they could still go to the Supreme Court if they wanted to. No word about whether Personal Audio will continue to appeal it. But that's one that really sent a chill a few years ago. They sued Adam Carolla. They sued NPR. They sued a lot of companies looking for some money and apparently it already won money from Apple and others in other patent troll cases. Good news for a good man and a good friend, Mike Masnick of Techdirt. He was being sued by a guy who claims to have invented email. Masnick poopooed the claim in fairly strong terms. So, this guy sued using, by the way, the same attorney who represented Hulk Hogan, his case against Gawker. As you imagine, Techdirt is not a huge company and probably doesn't have very deep pockets. But fortunately, a number of people have come to their aid and a quarter million-dollar defense fund has been raised, from all people, the Charles Koch Foundation. Craig's List founder Craig Newmark, Union Square Ventures, Automattic, the Word Press parent, our sponsor and the Freedom of the Press foundation. More than quarter million dollars. That should be enough or at least it should help in Mike Masnick's defense. Mike said, "The lawsuit's already taken a massive toll on us and our ability to function and report." And I have to say, it's a fairly frivolous lawsuit. This guys' claims are completely nonsense.
Dylan: Leo, that guy actually filed the same lawsuit against Gizmodo or against Gawker Media. And while it was like a rider or a sideshow to the main Hulk Hogan one. But he won. Like that's one of the reason's he's going after Techdirt is because he won against Gawker Media. Because they had no defenses. They had already been blown away by Hulk Hogan.
Leo: Well, that's interesting.
Michael: I was there at the time. I was working for Gizmodo and it was, you know, there was a lot of—it was a painful time I think for a lot of the reporters there because there were only a couple of articles that had to be removed following the Hogan lawsuit and one of them was this article that called into question this individual who claims to have invented email when every computer expert that these reporters could contact said otherwise. And so, anyways, yea, it was a really painful time and you know, and it's not—there you go. So, right now we're looking at the page on Gizmodo and the story had to be removed and Gawker Media had a really strict policy about never removing any of the stories that were written, especially if they were true. And so, in this case, yea, it was rough and it's sad to see that this is continuing.
Leo: Gawker paid him three quarters of a million dollars.
Michael: So, I will say if you go to the internet archive, if you're interested in this story, I would encourage you to go to the internet archive and Google this person's name who I don't want to—you know, who's name I don't really want to say on air, but anyways, you can read the full article via the internet archive and I would encourage you to do that because it's a really good one. And the person that wrote it is now working at The New York Times.
Leo: Well, there you go. Yea. I don't want him to sue me but if you look at the facts of the case, Mike clearly is in the right, so, we'll see what happens. But I'm glad he's got a defense fund. But you can see, a quarter of a million dollars may not be enough. Wow.
Michael: Yea, and what a huge claim, too, to have invented email is so—it's such a substantial claim and—
Leo: And it's also demonstrably—I mean you can look at history and see where—he says he invented email but it sounds like he feels like, I think he genuinely feels like he invented it. But he invented it kind of independently after it had already been invented.
Dylan: In the 1970s or something is when he came on.
Leo: Right. So, it's very odd. Yea.
Michael: So, yea, and what this individual claims is that he invented it as a teenager or maybe even younger than a teenager. So, I don't know.
Leo: I thought, before I even knew email existed, I thought of it. It's not—
Michael: You invented it in a school project.
Ashley: I thought of the Snuggy too, but here we are.
Leo: There you go.
Dylan: I invented the iPad way back in the 90s.
Leo: Yea, I duck taped my phone to a clipboard and—
Dylan: It's practically the same.
Leo: It's practically the same.
Ashley: It's exactly the same thing. I mean, seriously.
Leo: Snapchat, said story. Snapchat stock goes down 17%. Revenue and daily user growth, they did not have good quarterly results even with the hotdog filter. They just, you know, it seems to be Instagram is eating their lunch. Or maybe, the kids are just tired of Snapchat.
Ashley: Well, Instagram is—well, the thing is you blatantly copy a company's entire business model and you have a bigger, built-in user base. I mean anybody who's on Facebook or joins Facebook is encouraged to join Instagram. It's like it's so integrated that it's easy.
Leo: Actually, the Wall Street Journal wrote this article, The New Copycats: How Facebook Squashes Competition from Startups. This is Betsy Morris and Deepa Seetharaman. But Microsoft did that for years and everybody knew it. It was engulf and devour, you know? And they got away with it most of the time. They'd occasionally get sued but they got away with it most of the time.
Michael: But they were eventually brought in front of Congress because there were monopoly accusations, if I remember correctly.
Leo: Yes. Yes.
Ashley: Oh, I remember that.
Michael: So, I was young so I read about it.
Leo: It was 1998, the Department of Justice said, "You're a monopoly and you're using your monopoly power with the browser to put Netscape out of business, essentially." And it went on for a long time. And in fact, they lost. The Department of Justice got a consent to create for a long time and there was a monitor in Microsoft watching their behavior. They had similar problems in the EU and also lost there.
Ashley: The EU has a lot harder—they have harder rules there.
Michael: Is there overlap between what was happening then and what's happening now on social media because it seems like Facebook is able to squash any form of competition at this point. You know, I think Snapchat's not the only social media company that's struggling to compete with Facebook, right, and Twitter is another prime example. I'm sure there are plenty of others that aren't publicly traded that are having troubles. I wasn't around. I mean I was using computers but I was still too young to really understand what was going on with Netscape and Internet Explorer and Windows in that deal.
Leo: I'll tell you the difference. You want to know what the difference was?
Leo: At that time, the Department of Justice prosecuted trusts and they had anti-trust prosecution. I don't see, I doubt very much that there will be any anti-trust prosecution and there hasn't been in a while and I doubt very much that there will be for at least the next 4 years. There's just no interest in doing that.
Dylan: It was very clear cut with Microsoft, too. I mean there were basically two choices for computers. You know, if you wanted to use a personal computer and Microsoft controlled 95% of them plus.
Leo: And in 96 Microsoft gave Apple $150-million-dollars, not because they loved Apple but just to keep them alive so there would be some competition.
Dylan: Exactly. Whereas Facebook, even though they reach $2-billion people, they have an enormous reach, there are still significant alternatives. You can point to Twitter. You can point to LinkedIn. You know, Snap for that matter and then the second thing is you have to catch them doing something to abuse that monopoly power. You have to—like forcing people to install Instagram instead of Snap.
Leo: It's not going to happen in the US. It might happen in Europe. There's certainly a lot of activity there. But at this point, I feel like Microsoft had nothing on Facebook. Facebook is so dominant.
Ashley: We were just talking about, it's funny, like two or three stories today have been about how these huge companies just eating everybody else's lunches. Amazon, Google, Facebook. It's just—
Leo: The thing Facebook can do that Google maybe can't do and Microsoft can't do is really point to other social media. So, what are you talking about? We don't own the market. Look at Twitter. Look at—
Ashley: Look at Google +, you guys.
Leo: Google +.
Ashley: Right there waiting for everybody.
Leo: Bitcoin is now over $4,000-dollars. It's finally reached the point where I actually started to download my Bitcoin Wallet, a 128GB worth. Actually, that's the whole block chain but trying to recover by Bitcoin. Look at this. And this is an interesting story because it's after the fork, after the Bitcoin Cash fork a couple of weeks ago and I think you can now declare victory for the original Bitcoin, that the Bitcoin Cash has not taken off. It's all up to the miners. And well, we'll see. We'll watch with interest but boy, Bitcoin is very, very strong. Our show today—I'm going to wrap it up with a final commercial and final words from our fabulous panel of experts. Ashely Esqueda from CNET. From Mashable.com, Michael Nunez, Deputy Tech Editor there. And from the brand-new Valley Girl, I mean ValiMail, Dylan Tweney, Head of Communications over there. This is a system that validates your email what? What is that, how does it do?
Dylan: So that people receiving your email can be sure that it comes from you.
Leo: Very important. Businesses would use this, right, more than—you've got to call the White House (laughing). You've got to get right on the White House line. I think this one would be really good. I'm just checking. Checking my domain. This is going to be really protected. Damn it. Damn it. I'm sure this one's really safe. Our show today brought—I do have a SPF record but it's got one or more issues and the day market record has critical errors.
Dylan: You get an A for effort.
Leo: I tried. At least I have a SPF record.
Dylan: You're trying.
Leo: I'm trying. I have no visibility in a 3rd party email services. I'm partially optimized to control deliverability. I'm totally unprotected against impersonation attacks. So, go on, spammers, just use it. Use it all you want.
Leo: Our show today brought to you by my doorbell. At least my stoop is safe. My front stoop, completely protected by the Ring Video Doorbell. I put that in a couple of years ago. I told you about it then. I'm not a handyman. It was easy to install. I replaced my old doorbell and then I paired the Ring up to my internet, my Wi-Fi. And now—it's got a camera, a microphone and a speaker—when somebody—and motion sensors. When somebody walks by my door, I can see him. When somebody rings my doorbell, I can talk to them. I can say, "Hey, what do you want?" Or, "Leave that package." Or, "I'm in the bathtub. Don't break in right now." They did an interesting study. Ring gave Ring Doorbells to 10% of the homes in a Southern California community. Crime was reduced by half. Crooks do not like the Ring Video Doorbell. They're really not going to like Ring's new floodlight cam. I love this. If you go to Ring.com/twit you can get up to $150-dollars off a Ring Security Kit that includes the doorbell and the floodlight cam, one, two or three floodlight cams. The camera—you've seen this before. Motion activated floodlights, a lot of people have that and it's actually a great convenience when you walk down the side alley of your house or behind your house or out by the barn, if you have a barn. I don't have a barn but if you have a barn, the things light up and it lets you see your way. But the other thing that's there is a camera and a speaker and a microphone. It's just like the Ring Video Doorbell. So, you get notification, even if you're not home. Wherever you are, on your phone. Somebody is out back. You can see them. You can talk to them. You can say, "Get out of here." And if they don't leave you can press a button on the app and send 110 decibels alarm out in to their ears and man, if that doesn't scare them away, I don't know what to say. This is really effective in protecting your security. And if you don't, well you've got a great HD video of them which will be helpful for the prosecution later. Ring.com/twit. I love these and I'm a big fan. You will be too. I want you to go to Ring.com/twit and save up to $150-dollars. The Wall Street Journal's Best of CES 2017. It just gets better and better and better. Ring.com/twit. It's very satisfying actually. Because the doorbell, like I know when people come and go. I have a record, a time record of everyone who's come and gone, or even just walked by the house. And then with the things in the back, like it's very satisfying. You can see—mostly in our neighborhood it's deer. But it's still fun to scare them away. Just go and I can't wait. If I ever get a prowler I'll scare them away.
Leo: Let's see. A couple of last minute things here. The FCC is extending its comment period two weeks. That's a positive sign. If you have not yet gone to gofccyourself.com, John Oliver's site, where you can make your comments to the FCC to preserve net neutrality. They've decided to extend it to August 30th. The deadline was originally the 16th. So, we've got a little reprieve. That's actually great.
Ashley: Go do that.
Leo: By the way, the broadband industry did not want to extend, so, maybe there's a chink in the armor. Maybe there's a little opportunity.
Ashley: Yea, go do that and then if you have a couple of extra bucks a month, donate it to the EFF.
Leo: I send over $100 bucks a month. I'm thrilled to do it.
Ashley: Yea, I have a recurring donation.
Leo: It's automatic.
Ashley: I have my t-shirt.
Leo: They're doing God's work, trying to protect us. And you can find out more at EFF.org by the way. That's good. Thank you, Ashley. Good to give them a little plug. The guy who wrote the original NIST document on Password says, "I'm sorry. I'm wrong.' And it's been plaguing you all this time. Bill Burr wrote it in 2003. He's the guy who said, "Use numbers, obscure characters and capital letters," but worse said, "Change it a lot. Every three months or more. Every 90 days or more." And that's why you keep getting notices from your company saying, "It's time to change your password again." So frustrating. NIST has finally updated this saying, "There's no good reason to change your passwords regularly. Don't unless you think you've been compromised." Mr. Burr, he's now 72 and retired, said, "Much of what I did I know regret." Oh, come on. No. No.
Ashley: Don't say that.
Leo: Don't say that. Don't say that.
Ashley: You know what? I bet he uses Inkwell a lot.
Leo: (Laughing). So, if you haven't read the new NIST recommendations, I recommend you do and more importantly, if your IT guy or your SYS admins are requiring that you change your password every three months, the company I work for on the Radio Show does. It drives me nuts. Send them the new NIST regulations or not regulations, not regulations, recommendations and let him know he doesn't have to do that anymore.
Ashley: Use a password manager. That's what I do.
Leo: Well, that's the obvious answer. Let the password manager do its job, generate long passwords, the longer the better and you only have to remember one password, the password manager's password.
Ashley: A+. That's the best way. I've been trying to get family members little by little over to password managers and it's a little inconvenient at first but then once you get the hang of it, it's so much better.
Leo: Yes. And finally, in the annals of biohacking, you know that we've seen a text that would compromise a PDF or a JPEG and use flaws in the software that renders the JPEG or the PDF to hack your system. Those are well known attacks. One of the few attacks where data can actually infect your system. Biohackers have figured out how to synthesize DNA that will infect computers running sequencing software and let them take it over. They're going to present at the USENIX conference on Thursday. You can now pwn a computer with malicious DNA.
Ashley: Well, and they were able to put a movie on a strand of DNA so it makes sense. Does it make sense?
Leo: I think that the tech revolution we've seen over the last 20 years, the internet revolution, nothing compared to what's about to happen with CRISPR. I mean bio—
Ashley: AI. Robotics.
Leo: And it's happening so fast that we just—there's no way we can prepare for it. Just buckle your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
Michael: Wow, grim. Grim, Leo.
Leo: It's going to be fun. No, it's going to be fun and at the end, we'll all be in jars. Our brains will be in jars. And Ashley will be a robot. She'll be a robot reporter.
Ashley: I'll either have my very own or I will be some version of Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons.
Leo: I think you can come around and put new saline in our jars and keep us happy.
Dylan: The only thing we're using our DNA for is for watching old YouTube videos that will be encoded on them, right?
Leo: Yea, right.
Ashley: Well, they've already hacked Leo's DNA. They got into 23andMe and they're like, "We've got to get in here and hack his DNA."
Leo: You know how you can tell? The clones use the Inkwell filter. That's how you can tell. That's a dead giveaway. Hey, you guys are great. Thank you so much for being here. Michael Nunez, what are you working on right now at Mashable as Deputy Tech Editor?
Michael: Oh, so I'm not allowed to say but I can promise you that it's really exciting and you should just stay tuned and please keep checking on Mashable Tech. We cover a lot of gadgets and hopefully we will start doing some investigative stuff pretty soon, so.
Leo: Oh, how exciting. You're going to get to do that?
Michael: Yes. Definitely. I wouldn't have come here if otherwise. So, yea. We're definitely—there's more going on than I'm able to talk about but certainly we're watching the HBO stuff very closely and a couple of other things.
Leo: Now, I did not do your story about Elon Musk who created an AI that beat the world champion Dota 2 player at his own game. I did not do this only because I don't understand why that's a big deal. Wouldn't you expect a computer to be better than humans at computer games?
Michael: You would think but the way that it was described, or the way that I understood it is that this is like 4-dimensional chess or something like that. You know, this is—it's like a board game like chess.
Leo: There's so much strategy. I don't know Dota 2 well enough. There's so much strategy in it that this is a strategy game?
Michael: Yes. That's right. It's not only how fast you click but it's also where you're putting different pieces and so you know, it's like a very—it's like a very fast game of chess. Essentially you have different tiers of players and they can be moved around the board more dynamically than in chess. And so, my understanding is this is actually quite hard and this achievement was actually something very substantial, beyond what I fully understand to be totally honest. I just understand it as a tough game and a tough challenge for AI.
Leo: Somebody, was it Karsten saying, the real takeaway from this story is that Dota 2 – the purse was $10-million-dollars. It's like this is big business.
Ashley: It was on ESPN2 this weekend. Or there's an E-Sports channel that runs it. Actually, my whole weekend was spent watching the Overwatch, the quarter finals or whatever from BlizzCon.
Leo: See, I dig Overwatch. I like Overwatch.
Ashley: Overwatch Championship. That's my jam. That's what I've been doing all weekend.
Leo: But that—a computer can win Overwatch easy, right, because it's just about how fast you move and—
Ashley: Not versus me, my friend. Not versus me.
Leo: Oh. What character, what heroes do you like?
Ashley: Well, my main is Pharah but then I play Winston a lot because a lot of people in my SR rating are not very good at Winston. So, I play Winston and I have a pretty good Zenyatta and a really, like fight dirty Symmetra, so, it's fun. I love it. Overwatch is the best.
Leo: That's interesting. Do you prefer female heroes?
Ashley: Not necessarily. I just—this is a really weird—God, I can't believe I'm admitting to this on your show to so many people. I used to be a professional E-Sports player, like way a long time ago.
Leo: What? What game? Quake?
Ashley: Unreal Tournament 2003.
Leo: Unreal Tournament. Wow.
Ashley: I was signed to Global Gaming before it was like a thing. This was a long time ago.
Leo: What was your handle?
Ashley: It was Vila from Nordic mythology and I guess Harry Potter, so that was like a double surprise. So, yea, that was my—
Leo: It's both Harry Potter and Nordic mythology.
Ashley: No. Guys? I'm the Dark Overlord. That's the spoiler alert. I actually speak like that. No, it's—yea. So, I love like fun, colorful first-person shooters and so I don't really love Call of Duty and the ones that are like how can we make killing people as realistic as possible. I'm not into that.
Leo: That's why I like Overwatch. Overwatch is beautiful. It's fun. And the heroes are amazing and they all have weird abilities. The only problem I have is that it's just so fast. You have to work your way up to that.
Ashley: It's so fast.
Leo: It is tough.
Ashley: It's so fast.
Leo: It gets so hairy instantly.
Ashley: I play Pharah mostly because I love the rocket launcher. That's so good.
Leo: Yea, well who doesn't, right? It's Blizzard, right?
Ashley: Yea, that's Blizzard.
Michael: and they make quality games across the board.
Leo: The know how to run a network.
Ashley: Yea, pretty much. Yea. Full disclosure, my brother works at Blizzard so, I'm not required to say that but we have loved Blizzard Games since before he worked there. And he works on—
Leo: Who doesn't? Diablo. I mean, come on. The StarCraft.
Ashley: Warcraft, StarCraft. Hearthstone is one of the biggest—it's a huge card game.
Leo: It's a card game, yea. It's fun.
Ashley: Everyone plays it.
Leo: It's probably the best iOS card game. There are a lot of magic style card games on iOS but that's easily the best.
Ashley: It's really well put together, yea.
Leo: Well, thank you for being here, Ashley. I had no idea. We now know something about you.
Ashley: You do. And I feel like I don't—it's weird. I don't tell people that, but yea.
Leo: I love that. No, we honor that. That is like total geek cred. It's awesome.
Ashley: It was a fun time. It was a fun time.
Leo: Dylan Tweney is at ValiMail, V-A—I should spell it so people can find it, V-A-L-I-M-A-I-L.com. Is it a startup? Is it pretty new?
Dylan: Yea, it's a startup, about a year and a half old. 30 people maybe.
Leo: Nice. Are you enjoying startup life?
Dylan: You know, I did not set out to join a startup. In years of covering startups, I kind of had decided when I left Venture Beat that that was the last thing I wanted to do. But I did some work for these guys and they seem to have their heads screwed on straight. It's not kind of like you—the classic story of a startup where people are running around with barely any idea what they're doing.
Leo: No, I like startups. I love security startups.
Dylan: I would have to say, yes, I'm enjoying it.
Leo: Good. Yea, I'm going to find out more. This looks really, really amazing. And I think every company should be using it after, well, you saw what happened at the White House. Obviously, it's pretty important.
Dylan: Yes. I think so too, Leo.
Leo: Yes. But you know what they need? They need a really good director of communications because I don't think it's immediately obvious what this is all about. I understand it. But I think in general, business doesn't know. What do you mean, validate my email? What do you mean?
Dylan: It's a little hard to explain, yea, and then you get into all these internet standards like SPF and DCAM and people get really confused, so I have some work to do.
Leo: Good. That's a good job, a chewy job. We're going to let everybody go because apparently, I didn't know this, Game of Thrones is available on HBO Now in 25 minutes, so, I've got places to be.
Leo: Yes. Let's all go. I'll make the popcorn (laughing). And I understand that Ashley will wear the Pharah costume so, that will be really fun.
Ashley: Oh, yea, totally. Rack up my rocket launcher, my helmet. Justice reigns from above. Justice is in the forecast.
Leo: Ok, one more question. Have you ever done Pharah cosplay?
Ashley: No, but there's a friend of mine who does and she is a dead ringer for Pharah. Her cosplay's amazing. Her name is Milynn Sarley and you should look it up because it's the best thing you'll ever see.
Ashley: I mean, she literally—it's the full blue and gold costume, rocket launcher. She looks just like Pharah. It's incredible. She is an A+, 12 out of 10 cosplay. It's unbelievable.
Leo: It's like armor, right? That's armor.
Ashley: Yea. I mean it's amazing. She is—there it is. Look at that. It's so good.
Dylan: Wow. Wow.
Ashley: She was walking around BlizzCon last year and I was just like, "I cannot believe you put that together and it is absolutely incredible."
Leo: Thank you everybody for joining us today. It's been a fun TWiT. If you want to watch us live you can do that every Sunday afternoon. We do a new show every Sunday at 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern. 2200 UTC. Just tune in TWiT.tv/live. If you do do that, please join us in the chatroom because that's a great place to participate in the show and as you can tell, it's a big part of our content, the feedback from the chatroom. IRC.twit.tv but you'll find more information at TWiT.tv, the website. In fact, you'll find on demand audio and video of the show there as well and all of our shows. TWiT.tv or subscribe, whatever you do to get your podcasts, whatever program you use, if you search for TWiT, you will find TWiT, one of the oldest podcasts on the internet. And still going strong after 12 years. If you'd like to be in the studio, we'd love to have you. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll put a seat out for you. Thanks for being here. We'll see you next time. Another TWiT is in the can. Bye-bye. Good show! Fun!