If you were a teenager (or slightly older) in the eighties, there is a good chance you tried out Calvin Klein cologne. It was quite the thing — it was everywhere, so much so that you couldn’t tell if the cologne smelled like the magazines or the magazines smelled like the cologne. The musky smell was a bit too much, and you started to despise the smell and its omnipresence after a little while. I have been reminded of that overwhelming experience where the scent became a stench over the last few days on Twitter.
And the reason, of course, is again too much musk.
I am mostly a live-and-let-live kind of person: I don’t really care about the psychodramas of other people. But it is too much to ignore when they start to inch into your reality and cause unnecessary anxiety. My timeline is full of Elon references — retweets of his tweets — and, generally, the continuing reality television show starring the megalomaniacal space cowboy. And this is despite me muting Elon and shutting out his entire coterie of sycophants. In other words, the timeline has become utterly useless.
His strategy is understandable — dominate the conversation so much, stoke as much outrage, and elicit as much reaction to his controversial and outright nonsensical comments. He made some comments about Apple, and the ripple effects showed up on Reddit’s Apple threads and Apple-faced websites such as Daring Fireball. The New York Times decided to write a story about it as well.
Of course, this is precisely what he wants. The Twitter Show starring Musk means that no one is paying attention to the fact that there have been 19 recalls of Tesla in 2022, the latest being in China. Or that company might have some competitive challenges — instead, all energy is focused on Elon’s Bully Pulpit.
A few months back, this is what I wrote about why Elon wants Twitter:
He needs his bully pulpit to have enough people believe in his way of thinking so that hundreds of millions flow into his projects and thus enable his vision of the future.
The last few weeks show that I might be right about the need for this pulpit.
It is time for me to limit my Twitter usage. I am sure in time; things will settle down (or not.) And then, I can return to the platform. But for now, I will be comfortable in the relative isolation and confines of my blog and this newsletter.
Elon doesn’t need the extra attention, and his ego will not suffer much if I ignore him. But avoiding this ceaseless chatter and unbridled hero worship will be good for my sanity. I am done with Musk overload.
Nothing gets me more worked up than Taboola and Outbrain. They are advertising companies that have flooded the web with low-quality ads posing as native content and sponsored articles. “Click-bait” headlines and deceptive “sponsored content” are their calling cards. And both these companies have contributed heavily towards ruining the user experience. They are, in my books, the “herpes” of the Internet.
Yahoo, the grand old uncle of the Internet, has decided to buy a quarter of Taboola and cut a deal that will last three decades. Basically, Taboola’s crap links are going to show up on Yahoo’s pages. The executives at Yahoo might come up with grand explanations as to why they did the deal, but it is all nonsense.
The reality is that Yahoo is owned by a private equity group. Apollo paid $5 billion to Verizon to buy the company. They need to do a quick turnaround and show a boost in revenues and profits. This deal with Taboola checks those boxes. Rising revenues and profits would allow PE owners to take Yahoo public again. And if that happens, the turnaround executives are going to make a killing.
Yahoo stopped being relevant a long time ago. No one has accused them of being an innovator in a long time. And this deal with Taboola only confirms their status as the fading past of the Internet.
As someone said, don’t use services that are hostile to the Internet. He meant newcomers, Hive and Post.News, but I will extend that to old-timers as well. I have been a loyal user of Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Sports Fantasy offering. no more. I am shifting my Financial screen to Koyfin. And for baseball fantasy leagues, I will have to look for something new.
Updated on December 2nd, 2022: Yahoo is essentially replacing its legacy Gemini platform with Taboola, who will basically get larger inventory, and will be better able to manage its targeting. Yahoo, on the other hand is able to wash its hands off a laggard. And for the deal, Yahoo paid no money and got 25 percent of Taboola. It gets a board seat and 15 percent of the voting shares. Taboola is now the big fish and thus a bigger taboo.
NOW FOR SOME GOOD (TECH) NEWS
While the social web burns and does its best to destroy all hope, scientists and technologists are working hard on developing new technologies that could have an impact on how we live and interact with an increasingly hostile world.
- Scientists are experimenting with atomic-scale semiconductors and creating very low-power cameras that can eventually be used as visual environmental sensors. Machine vision would be a start. Read more.
- Apple’s AirPods Pro might be expensive and, at times, an overkill for making calls, but they can be good hearing aids, as these researchers have found out. Hearing loss is a growing problem — the third most common chronic health condition in the United States — so having commonplace earphones is a good way to help those dealing with those issues. More details on the study are here.
I will be back with another edition of the newsletter in a couple of days! Meanwhile, come back to the blog for short posts, reading lists, and some photos. Of course, my Tumblr is alive again!
November 29, 2022. San Francisco