Tech News in Brief Dec. 4th

Flipping point: A couple of months ago, Google put a few bucks into its expensive YouTube acquisition and started requiring anyone who wanted to comment on a video to log in using a Google+ account, ostensibly to cut down on the troll-like behavior endemic to sites that don’t have measures enforcing responsibility for one’s posts. The results were predictable; to paraphrase Dr Malcolm, trolls found ways of getting back at Google for daring to try to rein them in, notably increasing spam posts.

Of course, it’s all a smokescreen; Google isn’t really interested in cleaning up the comments in YouTube. Google is interested in getting more information about its users, and Google+ does that to a greater degree than anything else the company can do. More data — at least in Google’s world — means better targeting of advertising, and that means Google can charge more money for what it delivers to the users’ screens. Equally hypocritical, though (okay, maybe not equally, but close) is the change.org petition demanding that Google reinstate anonymous posting. Free accounts and free entertainment come at a price; the user is no longer the customer, but the product, a slave to be bought and sold for fifty cents a click.

We got your order right here: 23andMe, the company owned in part by Google founder Sergie Brin’s wife Anne (who is also Google garage landlord Susan Wojcicki’s sister), was told to stop selling its DNA-testing kits, but because itscorporate DNA comes from Google, it responded with little more than “yeah, we got your letter”. In case you’re curious, Google’s revenues in one quarter are three times the FDA’s annual budget. Damon Runyon advised who to bet on.

Fun and games: One of the excuses big box retailers used for starting Black Friday as early as Thursday morning was that the shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a week shorter this year — which also means that holiday get-togethers will be more frequent, as will suddenly-scheduled doctors appointments and other schemes for not getting a lot of work done. So, as a public service, we offer the following time-sinks:

Elephant in the room: Social networks still don’t drive customers — except maybe “away”. Oh… and that whole bit about “why advertisers continue to pour money into something that doesn’t work” argument? Easy: elephants travel in herds.

Hiding in plain sight: Yahoo is going to start encrypting its traffic to keep it out of spying eyes. Until, of course, some government asks for it (and they have been for a while). Also in hiding: Yahoo Mail users.

Ooops.

Show me the money: Never mind the philosophical arguments that would rage between Adam Smith and Karl Marx (not to mention Keynes). Bitcoins are here to stay, at least until someone decides to corner the market on them — at which point they’ll be worth less than the paper they’re printed on. But no worries; a total of 21,000,000 of the electronic “coins” will be created between now and 2140 (not quite sixty per cent are already out there, and you can track where they are and what they’re worth), minus the 7,500 that are in a landfill in Wales. Now all the world needs is an exchange dealing in alternative non-currencies.

In requiem: Paul Walker, star of the Fast & Furious movie series, one of our favorite guilty pleasures.

Crowd avoidance: If you haven’t bought your new Xbox One, there’s a good reason to not be an early adopter: the disc drive might be faulty. Redmond is making good by replacing the consolve and giving a free download… but don’t cuss on Xbox Live.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Bill Gates’ foundation has funded another health project. We’re not going to publish any emails with bad jokes, so don’t send them, please. An Ohio WalMart is holding a food drive for its employees. The CEO isn’t eligible. Copyright infringement run amok (at least they know where to find lawyers, right?). First world problems: a pecan shortage.

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