'Hmm, which is more important: connectivity or malaria vaccine?'
Plus: 'A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, no'
Quotw This was the week when Bill Gates said that Mark Zuckerberg's attempts at benevolent billionaire philanthropy were rubbish. The ex-Microsoftie belittled Zuck's attempts to better mankind by getting everyone online, saying that should be pretty far down on the list of things humanity needs to have fixed.
The Facebook founder called his project to get everyone in the world online as "one of the most important things we all do in our lifetimes", but Gates disagreed, to put it mildly:
As a priority? It's a joke. I certainly love the IT thing. But when we want to improve lives, you've got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.
Take this malaria vaccine, [this] weird thing that I'm thinking of. Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that's great. I don't.
The charitable king has previously had a few hefty dollops of sarcasm for Google's idea to bring the internet to the world by floating hundreds of weather balloons equipped with solar-powered radios as well:
When you're dying of malaria, I suppose you'll look up and see that balloon, and I'm not sure how it'll help you. When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there's no website that relieves that.
This was also the week when both Apple and Google hit back at governments for their data slurping antics.
The fruity firm finally joined Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo! in revealing the numbers and types of requests for personal records it has received from law enforcement and government agencies around the world - while also hinting at other secret info probes.
The company said:
We have reported all the information we are legally allowed to share and Apple will continue to advocate for greater transparency about the requests we receive.
At the time of this report, the U.S. government does not allow Apple to disclose, except in broad ranges, the number of national security orders, the number of accounts affected by the orders, or whether content, such as emails, was disclosed. We strongly oppose this gag order, and Apple has made the case for relief from these restrictions in meetings and discussions with the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the courts.
Cupertino also managed to make itself sound like a really caring company that almost wished it didn't have to take so much of your hard-earned money, while insinuating that firms like Google and Facebook are incredibly evil:
Perhaps most important, our business does not depend on collecting personal data. We have no interest in amassing personal information about our customers. We protect personal conversations by providing end-to-end encryption over iMessage and FaceTime. We do not store location data, Maps searches, or Siri requests in any identifiable form. ... Unlike many other companies dealing with requests for customer data from government agencies, Apple's main business is not about collecting information.
Meanwhile, Google's exec chairman Eric Schmidt has had a few choice words for the NSA and its alleged surveillance of web firms' data centres. Whistle-blowing Edward Snowden has suggested that the NSA has its beady eyes on both Google and Yahoo!'s server farms, a practice that Schmidt has vehemently decried as "not OK":
It's really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that's true.
The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue its mission and potentially violate people's privacy, it's not OK.
In other Google news, the Chocolate Factory has revealed that those mysterious barges floating off opposing coasts in the US are not going to be used for any of the exciting/ridiculous things that people were suggesting, but instead are a very cool location for an incredibly dull purpose:
A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above.
Although it's still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.
And finally, Jeff Bezos' wife Mackenzie has taken to Amazon reviews to defend her hubby's good name from a new tome on the etailing behemoth's founder. The Everything Store, the book penned by tech journo Brad Stone on the rise of Amazon and Bezos, was given a scathing one-star review by Mackenzie, who questioned the author's fact-checking abilities:
Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book.
She also reckoned that Stone was biased in his portrayal of the wonder that is Amazon:
An author writing about any large organisation will encounter people who recall moments of tension out of tens of thousands of hours of meetings and characterise them in their own way, and including those is legitimate. But I would caution readers to take note of the weak rhetorical devices used to make it sound like these quotes reflect daily life at Amazon or the majority viewpoint about working there.
For example, when the author does include people whose accounts of a supportive and inspiring culture contradict his thesis, he refers to them dismissively throughout the book as robots.
And she accused Stone of presenting his own conjectures about what Bezos was thinking and feeling as fact:
'Bezos was frustrated…', 'Bezos was consumed…', 'In the circuitry of Bezos’s brain, something flipped…' - When reading phrases like these, which are used in the book routinely, readers should remember that Jeff was never interviewed for this book, and should also take note of how seldom these guesses about his feelings and motives are marked with a footnote indicating there is any other source to substantiate them.
Stone, who writes for Bloomberg, responded on that publication to the criticism:
Mrs. Bezos also suggests that there are a handful of factual errors in my account. As a journalist with a two-decade record of accuracy, that troubles me a great deal more. I spoke to more than 300 people for my book—among them current and former Amazon employees, rivals, partners, and customers. They gave generously of their time, memories, and documents to help me fill in the gaps in Amazon’s history that, as my sources pointed out, were sometimes left intentionally.
Still, I’m not so high on my own authority to ignore the obvious: there are details of this story that only Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos can know. If they point to errors, I’ll gladly correct them. But I’d also proudly note that no one has taken issue with the major revelations in my book.
But he wasn't the only one to respond to Mackenzie, Amazon’s first employee Shel Kaphan has also weighed in, writing his own review on the book:
I was at Amazon for the first 5 years of its existence, so I also have firsthand experience of those times at the company, and I have been a fairly close observer since I left. I spent considerably more time in the Amazon work environment during those years than MacKenzie Bezos did.
By and large I found Mr. Stone's treatment of that which I know firsthand to be accurate - at least as accurate as it is possible to be at this great a remove, and with no contemporaneous documentation of the early chaotic days or access to certain of the principals.
He also pointed out that if Mackenzie's intention had been to discourage people from reading the book, she might have miscalculated a tiny bit:
The irony is, of course, that by reviewing the book as MacKenzie Bezos did, she has brought an immense amount more attention to it - there are dozens of articles referring to her review via Google News this morning - and its sales rank has shot up considerably. ®