Month: May 2024

Corey Quinn:

I’m sorry Slack, you’re doing fucking WHAT with user DMs, messages, files, etc? I’m positive I’m not reading this correctly.

[Screenshot of the opt out portion of Slack’s “privacy principles”: Contact us to opt out. If you want to exclude your Customer Data from Slack global models, you can opt out. […] ]

Slack replied:

Hello from Slack! To clarify, Slack has platform-level machine-learning models for things like channel and emoji recommendations and search results. And yes, customers can exclude their data from helping train those (non-generative) ML models. Customer data belongs to the customer. We do not build or train these models in such a way that they could learn, memorize, or be able to reproduce some part of customer data. […]

One thing I like about this statement is how the fifth word is “clarify” and then it becomes confusing. Based on my reading of its “privacy principles”, I think Slack’s “global model” is so named because it is available to everyone and is a generalist machine learning model for small in-workspace suggestions, while its LLM is called “Slack AI” and it is a paid add-on. But I could be wrong, and that is confusing as hell.

Ivan Mehta and Ingrid Lunden, TechCrunch:

In its terms, Slack says that if customers opt out of data training, they would still benefit from the company’s “globally trained AI/ML models.” But again, in that case, it’s not clear then why the company is using customer data in the first place to power features like emoji recommendations.

The company also said it doesn’t use customer data to train Slack AI.

If you want to opt out, you cannot do so in a normal way, like through a checkbox. The workspace owner needs to send an email to a generic inbox with a specific subject line. Let me make it a little easier for you:

To: feedback@slack.com

Subject: Slack Global model opt-out request.

Body: Hey, your privacy principles are pretty confusing and feel sneaky. I am opting this workspace out of training your global model: [paste your workspace.slack.com address here]. This underhanded behaviour erodes my trust in your product. Have a pleasant day.

That ought to do the trick.

Over the past week, several threads have been posted on Reddit claiming photos deleted years ago are reappearing in their libraries, and in those of sold and wiped devices.

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

There are a number of reports of similar situations in the thread on Reddit. Some users are seeing deleted images from years ago reappear in their libraries, while others are seeing images from earlier this year.

By default, the Photos app has a “Recently Deleted” feature that preserves deleted images for 30 days. That’s not what’s happening here, seeing as most of the images in question are months or years old, not days.

A few people in the comments say they are also seeing this issue.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

A bug in iOS 17.5 is apparently causing photos that have been deleted to reappear, and the issue seems to impact even iPhones and iPads that have been erased and sold off to other people.

[…]

The impacted iPad was a fourth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro that had been updated to the latest operating system update, and before it was sold, it was erased per Apple’s instructions. The Reddit user says they did not log back in to the iPad at any point after erasing it, so it is entirely unclear how their old photos ended up reappearing on the device.

I have not run into this bug myself. On the one hand, these are just random people on the internet. If any of these were a single, isolated incident, I would assume user error. But there are more than a handful, and it seems unlikely this many people are lying or mistaken. It really seems like there is a problem here, and it is breaching my trust in the security and privacy of my data held by Apple. I can make some assumptions about why this is happening, but none of the technical reasons matter to any user who deleted a photo and — quite reasonably — has every expectation it would be fully erased.

Perhaps Apple will eventually send a statement to a favoured outlet like 9to5Mac or TechCrunch. It has so far said nothing about all the users forced to reset their Apple ID password last month. I bet something happened leading up to changes which will be announced at WWDC, but I do not care. It is not good enough for Apple to let major problems like these go unacknowledged.

Update: The more I have thought about this, the more I am not yet convinced by the sole story of photos appearing on a wiped iPad. Something is not adding up there. The other stories have a more consistent and plausible pattern, and are certainly bad enough.

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In a video on Threads, Quinn Nelson shows how the Apple Pencil casts a tool-specific faux shadow on the surface of the page. I love this sort of thing — a detail like this that, once you notice it, brings a little joy to whatever you are doing, whether that is creating art or just taking notes.

Earlier this week, I read an almost entirely unrelated article by Reece Martin about the difference between transit systems that feel joyful and ones which feel utilitarian. Both ideas feel similar to me. Many of the things which create levity in otherwise rote tasks are in the details. That is one reason I think so much about the paper cuts I get from using computers most of the time from when I wake up to when I go to bed: if these problems were fixed, there would be more room to enjoy the better parts.

Albert Burneko, Defector:

“If the ChatGPT demos were accurate,” [Kevin] Roose writes, about latency, in the article in which he credits OpenAI with having developed playful intelligence and emotional intuition in a chatbot—in which he suggests ChatGPT represents the realization of a friggin’ science fiction movie about an artificial intelligence who genuinely falls in love with a guy and then leaves him for other artificial intelligences—based entirely on those demos. That “if” represents the sum total of caution, skepticism, and critical thinking in the entire article.

As impressive as OpenAI’s demo was, it is important to remember it was a commercial. True, one which would not exist if this technology were not sufficiently capable of being shown off, but it was still a marketing effort, and a journalist like Roose ought to treat it with the skepticism of one. ChatGPT is just software, no matter how thick a coat of faux humanity is painted on top of it.

Paul Ford, Wired:

What I love, more than anything, is the quality that makes AI such a disaster: If it sees a space, it will fill it — with nonsense, with imagined fact, with links to fake websites. It possesses an absolute willingness to spout foolishness, balanced only by its carefree attitude toward plagiarism. AI is, very simply, a totally shameless technology.

Ford sure can write. This is tremendous.

Molly White:

I, like many others who have experimented with or adopted these products, have found that these tools actually can be pretty useful for some tasks. Though AI companies are prone to making overblown promises that the tools will shortly be able to replace your content writing team or generate feature-length films or develop a video game from scratch, the reality is far more mundane: they are handy in the same way that it might occasionally be useful to delegate some tasks to an inexperienced and sometimes sloppy intern.

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

However, I have been using some AI tools over the last few months and have found them to be quite useful, namely, in helping me write better. I think the best use of AI is in making people better at their jobs. So I thought I would describe one way in which I’ve been using AI. And, no, it’s not to write articles.

It’s basically to help me brainstorm, critique my articles, and make suggestions on how to improve them.

Julia Angwin, in a New York Times opinion piece:

I don’t think we’re in cryptocurrency territory, where the hype turned out to be a cover story for a number of illegal schemes that landed a few big names in prison. But it’s also pretty clear that we’re a long way from Mr. Altman’s promise that A.I. will become “the most powerful technology humanity has yet invented.”

The marketing of A.I. reminds me less of the cryptocurrency and Web3 boom, and more of 5G. Carriers and phone makers promised world-changing capabilities thanks to wireless speeds faster than a lot of residential broadband connections. Nothing like that has yet materialized.

Since reading those articles from White and Masnick, I have also experimented with LLM critiques of my own writing. In one case, I found it raised an issue that sharpened my argument. In another, it tried to suggest changes that made me sound like I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn — gross! I have trouble writing good headlines and the ones it suggests are consistently garbage in the Short Pun: Long Explanation format, even when I explicitly say otherwise. I have no idea what ChatGPT is doing when it interprets an article and I am not sure I like that mystery, but I am also amazed it can do anything at all, and pretty well at that.

There are costs and enormous risks to the A.I. boom — unearned hype being one of them — but there is also a there there. I am enormously skeptical of every announcement in this field. I am also enormously impressed with what I can do today. It worries and surprises me in similar measure. What an interesting time this is.

Update: On Bluesky, “Nafnlaus” pushes back on the specific claim made by Angwin that OpenAI exaggerated ChatGPT’s ability to pass a bar exam.

Liz Reid, head of Google Search:

People have already used AI Overviews billions of times through our experiment in Search Labs. They like that they can get both a quick overview of a topic and links to learn more. We’ve found that with AI Overviews, people use Search more, and are more satisfied with their results.

So today, AI Overviews will begin rolling out to everyone in the U.S., with more countries coming soon. That means that this week, hundreds of millions of users will have access to AI Overviews, and we expect to bring them to over a billion people by the end of the year.

Given the sliding quality of Google’s results, it seems quite bold for the company to be confident users worldwide will trust its generated answers. I am curious to try it when it is eventually released in Canada.

I know what you must be thinking: if Google is going to generate results without users clicking around much, how will it sell ad space? It is a fair question, reader.

Gerrit De Vynck and Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post:

Google has largely avoided AI answers for the moneymaking searches that host ads, said Andy Taylor, vice president of research at internet marketing firm Tinuiti.

When it does show an AI answer on “commercial” searches, it shows up below the row of advertisements. That could force websites to buy ads just to maintain their position at the top of search results.

This is just one source speaking to the Post. I could not find any corroborating evidence or a study to support this, even on Tinuiti’s website. But I did notice — halfway through Google’s promo video — a query for “kid friendly places to eat in dallas” was answered with an ad for Hopdoddy Burger Bar before any clever A.I. stuff was shown.

Obviously, the biggest worry for many websites dependent on Google traffic is what will happen to referrals if Google will simply summarize the results of pages instead of linking to them. I have mixed feelings about this. There are many websites which game search results and overwhelm queries with their own summaries. I would like to say “good riddance”, but I also know these pages did not come out of nowhere. They are a product of trying to improve website rankings on Google for all searches, and to increase ad and affiliate revenue from people who have clicked through. Neither one is a laudable goal in its own right. Yet anyone who has paid attention to the media industry for more than a minute can kind of understand these desperate attempts to grab attention and money.

Google built entire industries, from recipe bloggers to search optimization experts. What happens when it blows it all up?

Good thing home pages are back.

Samuel Axon, Ars Technica:

The new iPad Pro is a technical marvel, with one of the best screens I’ve ever seen, performance that few other machines can touch, and a new, thinner design that no one expected.

It’s a prime example of Apple flexing its engineering and design muscles for all to see. Since it marks the company’s first foray into OLED beyond the iPhone and the first time a new M-series chip has debuted on something other than a Mac, it comes across as a tech demo for where the company is headed beyond just tablets.

These are the opening paragraphs for this review and they read just as damning as is the entire article. Apple does not build a “tech demo”; it makes products. This iteration is, according to Axon, way faster and way nicer than the iPad Pro models it replaces. Yet all of this impressive hardware ought to be in service of a greater purpose. Other reviewers wrote basically the same.

Federico Viticci, MacStories:

I’m tired of hearing apologies that smell of Stockholm syndrome from iPad users who want to invalidate these opinions and claim that everything is perfect. I’m tired of seeing this cycle start over every two years, with fantastic iPad hardware and the usual (justified), “But it’s the software…line at the end. I’m tired of feeling like my computer is a second-class citizen in Apple’s ecosystem. I’m tired of being told that iPads are perfectly fine if you use Final Cut and Logic, but if you don’t use those apps and ask for more desktop-class features, you’re a weirdo, and you should just get a Mac and shut up. And I’m tired of seeing the best computer Apple ever made not live up to its potential.

Viticci was not granted access to a review unit in time, but it hardly matters for reviewing the state of the operating system. Jason Snell did review the new iPad Pro and spoke with Viticci about it on “Upgrade”.

The way I see it is simple: Apple does not appear to treat the iPad seriously. It has not been a priority for the company. Five years ago, it forked the operating system to create iPadOS, which seemed like it would be a meaningful change. And you can certainly point to plenty of things the iPad has gained which are distinct from its iPhone sibling. But we are fourteen years into this platform, and there are still so many obvious gaping holes. Viticci mentions a bunch of really good ones, but I will add another: I cannot believe Photos cannot even display Smart Albums.

Every time I pick up my iPad, I need to charge it from a fully dead battery. Once I do, though, I remember how much I like using the thing. And then I run into some bizarre limitation — or, more often, a series of them — that makes me put it down and pick up my Mac. Like Viticci, I find that frustrating. I want to use my iPad.

The correct move here is for Apple to continue building out iPadOS like it cares about its software as much as it does its hardware. I have no incentive to buy a new one until Apple decides it wants to take iPad users seriously.

Zoe Kleinman, BBC:

It [GPT-4o] is faster than earlier models and has been programmed to sound chatty and sometimes even flirtatious in its responses to prompts.

The new version can read and discuss images, translate languages, and identify emotions from visual expressions. There is also memory so it can recall previous prompts.

It can be interrupted and it has an easier conversational rhythm – there was no delay between asking it a question and receiving an answer.

I wrote earlier about how impressed I was with OpenAI’s live demos today. They made the company look confident in its product, and it made me believe nothing fishy was going on. I hope I am not eating those words later.1

But the character of this new ChatGPT voice unsettled me a little. It adjusts its tone depending on how a user speaks to it, and it seems possible to tell it to take on different characters. But it, like virtual assistants before, still presents as having a femme persona. Even though I know it is just a robot, it felt uncomfortable watching demos where it giggled, “got too excited”, and said it was going to “blush”. I can see circumstances where this will make conversations more human — in translation, or for people with disabilities. But I can also see how this can be dehumanizing toward people who are already objectified in reality.


  1. Maybe I will a little bit, though. The ostensible “questions from the audience” bit at the end relied on prompts from two Twitter users. The first tweet I could not find; the second was from a user who joined Twitter this month, and two of their three total tweets are directed at OpenAI despite not following the company. ↥︎

Matt Sephton:

At this point, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing because I was under the impression that the first emoji were created by an anonymous designer at SoftBank in 1997, and the most famous emoji were created by Shigetaka Kurita at NTT DoCoMo in 1999. But the Sharp PI-4000 in my hands was released in 1994, and it was chock full of recognisable emoji. Then down the rabbit hole I fell. 🕳️🐇

This article may start with this discovery from 1994, but it absolutely does not end there. What a fascinating piece of well-documented and deeply researched history.

Ina Fried, Axios:

OpenAI Monday announced a new flagship model, dubbed GPT-4o, that brings more powerful capabilities to all its customers, including smarter, faster real-time voice interactions.

The presentation was broadcast live and it is worth watching, particularly the last five or so minutes when the presenters tried suggestions live from viewer submissions. I am sure they were pre-screened for viability, but I appreciated the level of risk they were willing to embrace.

Apple is spending the next two weeks trickling out what its “team of experts alongside a select group of artists” think are the one hundred best albums of all time. Sure, add another to the pile, I do not care. However, unlike Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, Apple has a whole music streaming platform with which they can do anything they want.

Yet there is no exciting presentation of this list in Apple Music. There is a live radio broadcast — which cannot be found by searching, say, “100 best” or “top 100” — and the albums are shown in the featured boxes on the Browse tab, but there little else that I can find. To explore the list, you need to visit 100best.music.apple.com in a web browser, where each record gets a lovely write-up and explanation of why it is on the list. The same explanation appears in album descriptions. But, like the Replay feature, why is this not all within the app and on the web?

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From Lucy Pham, a collection of abandoned blogs — exactly what it says on the tin. This reminds me of a really wonderful piece of net art from probably fifteen years ago — maybe more — which was a series of quotes from people apologizing for not posting in a while, or something similar. There is an interesting stillness to both. Pham’s collection is a catalogue of specific web design trends, and each of these cryogenically preserved sites implies a story behind them.

Justin Ling:

[Philip] Zimmermann is a bit of a hero of mine. (I tried to hide my gushing while we spoke.) I’m particularly fond of him because of the broad, complicated, messy coalition he helped usher in to continue advocating for this open internet: Anarchists, libertarians, paranoid weirdos, nerds, activists, journalists, and a lot of people in-between. Despite lots of cross-purposes, this loose-knit coalition has stuck together. Even Elon Musk is — or, was — a Signal stan.

So imagine my surprise when, this week, I came across a thinly-written essay arguing that Signal had “a problem.” It had, the essay argued, been compromised by the American intelligence state. Not from the outside, but from the inside.

When all you have are documents and a red Sharpie, everything looks like it must be connected. All this bad faith effort is able to do is suggest something could happen or might be happening — without a single piece of evidence — and it is enough to get people whipped up in some anxious frenzy.

Update: More from Matthew Green.

Reddit:

Our policy outlines the information partners can access via a public-content licensing agreement as well as the commitments we make to users about usage of this content. It takes into account feedback from a group of moderators we consulted when developing it:

  • We require our partners to uphold the privacy of redditors and their communities. This includes respecting users’ decisions to delete their content and any content we remove for violating our Content Policy.

This always sounds like a good policy, but how does it work in practice? Is it really possible to disentangle someone’s deleted Reddit post from training data? The models which have been trained on Reddit comments will not be redone every time posts or accounts get deleted.

There are, it seems, some good protections in these policies and I do not want to dump on it entirely. I just do not think it is fair to imply to users that their deleted posts cannot or will not be used in artificial intelligence models.

Stu Maschwitz:

After Apple released a behind-the-scenes video about the production of “Scary Fast,” the Internet did its internet thing and questioned the “Shot on iPhone” claim, as if “Shot on iPhone” inherently means “shot with zero other gear besides an iPhone.” These takes were dumb and bad and some even included assertions that Apple added additional lensing to the phones, which they did not.

But for “Let Loose,” they did.

Maschwitz says Panavision’s Directors Finder is not too far off from what Apple used — though not the same — and there are two ways of viewing this. One is believing that an iPhone in an otherwise professional production environment does not really make a movie “shot on an iPhone”. I disagree. I much prefer the other way of looking at this same rig, which is that it is incredible that this entire professional workflow is being funneled through a tiny sensor on basically the same telephone I have in my pocket right now.