Modern slaveries

This weekend The New York Times published an incendiary article about work culture at Amazon. It wasn’t much of a surprise, really: anyone who has read “The Everything Store”, by Brad Stone, already knew what can you find inside Amazon. Those horror aren’t new, but when several former employees showed their hands and some as the NYT share that stories the  dimension changes. Someone I know made a quick summary in Twitter about that article: A

Amazon: work ’til death and if you have personal problems, fuck yourself

This message was one amongst several ones these days. There were others such as the post at The Next Web in which the editor decided to stop buying things at Amazon considering how that company care about its employees. Praiseworthy and a good way to let Amazon know what we think… if everyone does the exact same thing. Seems complicated.

Not everyone criticized Amazon, of course. An intermediate boss shared his own story about those facts and made it clear that he hadn’t seen any of the things told in the NYT’s article. Another employee joined that crusade with a similar opinion, and that led to the final answer by Mr. Bezos himself. Amazon’s founder published a letter to his Amazonian with a discourse that could have been told by any benevolent dictator. He denied everything, he said that  “the article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know” and he proclaimed himself as a fighter against injustice. C’mon, Jeff. Some of us know how Amazon has succeeded the way it has, we know about some negotiating tactics your people use thanks to Amazon’s leverage, and we know how many people has left the company in questionable terms.

Amazon is difficult if not impossible to beat on its customer service, but almost everything I’ve read from them that speaks about it within doors leaves the company in a difficult position. Even knowing that there is people that lives to work, what is happening at Amazon is almost absurd. There was a debate at Hacker News and the summary is clear: where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

That weird kind of modern slavery is nonsense. No one is going to remember you for your hard work you did at certain company. Nonsense. Not unless -and even in that case, maybe- you’re the founder of that company. It’s good to work hard, to succeed, to get your goals, to get a better life for you and your family, but it’s abundantly clear to me that living to work is not a good idea.

I may show my hand here, but I’ve known for a while that my family quality of life is above everything else. The demonstration came a few years ago, and the change for me (job, home) has been like night and day. I’ve learned my lesson in case a similar situation affects me and my family again.

I don’t know anyone -anyone- who regrets not having worked enough in his life. Quite the opposite. I remember reading an article in The Mirror in which a nurse that had taken care of elder people told the story of the things they regretted the most in their lives. Most of them regretted working too hard. Not enjoying life enough. And we’ve got only one life. You know about this: seize the time, carpe diem… everything we say to realize that every moment is precious and that we are probably wasting it while we shout, fight, regret, fear or worry about something.

Or while we work at Amazon. Too bad.

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.

Amazon is quite famous for its work culture. In the recent video about work at Amazon someone said: “You either fit here or you don’t. You love it or you don’t. There is no middle ground.” I would add that you can love it, but not for long.

Balance between work and life should be better there, but that’s a tradeoff the employee must do. If the employer is the one who forces the kind of situations Amazon is known for, one starts to think about what real good is doing a company that punishes any signal of not devoting your live to it.

The NYT article is crude and real. We should be aware of this and think twice before buying something there. Maybe it’s time to stop promoting a company that gives a fantastic service outdoors but a poor one indoors.

Source: Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace – The New York Times

Follow up: Amazon may well be the most evil company in technology and Jeff Bezos should be ashamed

She created Japan’s Xiaomi, launching 21 gadgets in 2 months

The small Japanese company UPQ has launched 21 gadgets in 2 months and has showed that anyone can compete with the giants if he/she has talent and works hard. From the article:

When asked if she’s trying to become the Xiaomi of Japan, Nakazawa deflects. “Big Japanese tech companies are in trouble,” she says. “I want to change the way Japanese people approach making new products.”

Designing in Japan (or anywhere else) and producing the products in China (the cheapest electronics manufacturing is mostly there)  makes sense, and lots of Kickstarter projects have made this true over and over again. Good story.

Source: She created Japan’s Xiaomi, launching 21 gadgets in 2 months | TechInAsia

Even when told not to, Windows 10 just can’t stop talking to Microsoft

Several Windows 10 users require sending information back to Microsoft to take advantage of those services and improve them. Cortana and Web Search works best because of that tracking, but privacy doubts arise. You can disable most of that tracking in Windows 10 Settings, but not all of it.

Peter Bright writes:

We’ve argued recently that operating systems will continue to make privacy-functionality trade-offs. For many users, perhaps even the majority, these trade-offs will be worthwhile; services such as Cortana (Siri, Google Now), cloud syncing of files, passwords, and settings, and many other modern operating system features are all valuable, and many will feel that the loss of privacy is an acceptable price to pay. But the flip side of this is that disabling these services for those who don’t want to use them should really disable them. And it’s not at all clear that Windows 10 is doing that right now.

The problem started because Microsoft enables these tracking features by default. And now even disabling them doesn’t stop some of the tracking (inocuous, but suspicious). Not a good way to launch a new Operating System. And I’m a Windows 10 supporter in many other areas, but this is not fair for users.

Source: Even when told not to, Windows 10 just can’t stop talking to Microsoft | Ars Technica UK

The smartphone price wars are not victimless

Vlad Savov on The Verge writes:

Say that you do buy the rock-bottom-priced, Shenzhen-produced Android phone with the lofty specs from a random brand. It has a replaceable battery, but where will you get one when you decide you want a spare? It runs the latest Android today, but who will ensure it does so tomorrow? And who will bear responsibility for any overheating issues or display flaws?

These aren’t problems only related to local Chinese makers. Android updates are a big problem for big brands too, but Savov makes a good point. We should pay for certain features.

There has to be an intermediate point between the absurd margins of Apple iPhones and the equally absurd war we’re seeing on the entry level. Are we seeing the beginning of a disposable smartphone market? Uhm.

Source: The smartphone price wars are not victimless

Google Announces Plans for New Operating Structure

Brin and Page are natural cofounders. I guess the maturity of Google is boring to them. They want to start projects, not manage them once they’re established. This a good excuse to create Alphabet and leave Google in the best hands: Sundar Pichai seems really competent.

I don’t really get why Google is part of Alphabet when this company is much important than the rest combined. At least, it is now. Anyway, it gets distractions apart from Google, that now can focus on its core business.

Update: The Verge has a good explanation of the new structure. Now everything makes sense.

Source: Google Announces Plans for New Operating Structure – Investor Relations – Google

Force Touch on iPhone 6S revealed: expect shortcuts, faster actions across iOS | 9to5Mac

Apple, who never implemented the right clic mecanism on their desktop computers, now introduces it in their smartphones. Force Touch will allow to access to several options more quickly.

Instead of opening up a large window of extra controls that did not fit on the screen, as is done on the Apple Watch, Force Touch on the iPhone is designed to skip existing lists of options or button presses

It seems to be a great idea: considering the screen as a big button can really give users new chances to improve their experience with the OS. I see this coming to competitors as well.

Source: Force Touch on iPhone 6S revealed: expect shortcuts, faster actions across iOS | 9to5Mac

There’s no such thing as post-PC

Steve Jobs is famous for talking about the post-PC era. Tablets seemed then to conquer the traditional PC users, but five years after the launch of the iPad here we are, still using PCs like crazy although obviously smartphones are the devices that go with us everywhere. Tom Warren on The Verge:

As iOS 9 turns the iPad more into more of a PC, and Microsoft turns phones into PCs, the questions over which devices will be important in the future won’t be around their traditional forms, but their function. PCs will continue to evolve, as will the versatility of devices that are shaping the mobility of computing. Perhaps it’s time to kill off the idea of “post-PC” in favor of just personal computing. After all, smartphones, tablets, and laptops are all just PCs anyway.

Exactly.

Source: There’s no such thing as post-PC

Ubuntu phone goes global, but you’ll get slow speeds in the US | The Verge

4G isn’t supported in the US, but the problem isn’t the hardware at all. Ubuntu for phones is not mature. Only recommended for Linux & Ubuntu lovers. And even those will suffer the lack of many other platform features.

Source: Ubuntu phone goes global, but you’ll get slow speeds in the US | The Verge

The future shouldn’t be nerdy

Tech readers and users know about a new piece of technology long before most of the population does. They understand what that technology can do for everyone before people actually know that technology exists. So when that software or hardware product finally gets away from the geeky cave, their features and highlights must be clearly clarified.

Which doesn’t happen that much. Geeks and nerds seem geeks and nerds before and during the development and even launch of their products, but most of the times they continue to look like that, and their products do too. Media companies often like to show us that products in a way that may interest the general public… but not the right way.

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People couldn’t help it. A meme was born.

It happened with Google Glass and the shower moment, and it has happened again with Virtual Reality and the akward Time magazine cover that has become the new big meme thing.  Lot’s of images have been makking the rounds on the Internet, lots of listicles (and another one, and another one) have appeared around the new meme phenomenom, and even Time magazine editors themselves have embraced that publicity with their own favorites.

That’s a good way to react against a mistake that could damage their recognized brand, but there’s no sign of admitting that this cover does not sell that technology very well to the non-tech-initiated population. It makes Virtual Reality look like a toy, like something you look stupid with, and does not reflect the impact that this revolutionary technology can have in our world.

I haven’t read the article and I hope the text there reflects that, but that cover, wich is what people will remember, is a mistake. And a big one.

Please, stop that discourse. Technology revolutions will not make anyone a nerd or a geek. They will tranform us and our lifes, hopefully for the better. This kind of message does not help that mission. I’m not the only one who thinks that. There are lots of critics around. Lots of them.

PS: By the way: don’t miss the featured article that The Verge did on this subject. It’s amazing.