11/4/2024

Mozilla is testing a Firefox built in text translator

Mozilla is testing the translation of selected text in Firefox. For now, as Omg! Ubuntu shows, it’s only available in experimental versions of the browser.

It’s a fantastic feature, similar to what Apple introduced in macOS 12 Monterey in 2021. By the nature of what I do, I deal with lots of texts in English throughout the day. (My mother tongue is Portuguese.) Having a decent translator just a click from the mouse away, anywhere in the system, is a super power that I didn’t know I needed.

Recently, I tried to use only Linux (and Firefox as the main browser) for a week. I resorted to the DeepL extension, which offers a similar feature, although a little unstable. Having a translation tool built into the browser is probably better.

The Firefox solution is limited to Firefox/browser. It’s a shame, but better than nothing.

10/4/2024

The “follow” button is Substack's attempt to extinguish newsletter competition

I like to be right (who doesn’t?), but for some predictions I would like to be proven wrong. One of these is that Substack is a time bomb. Turns out it blown up earlier than I imagined.

In August 2023, Substack released a weird new feature: a button to follow people on its network. Why does a newsletter platform, which by definition employs this feature (we “follow” a newsletter when we subscribe to it), need to have a “follow” button?

According to the official blog post,

A follow offers a lightweight way to start a relationship with a writer or reader, with the option to convert it into a subscription at any time. By following them, you can stay up to date with what they’re reading, liking, publishing, and subscribing to—through the Notes feed and on their profiles.

This is so “social media” that Substack app asks for access to contacts to synchronize them and discover friends who are also in the Substack.

At the end of 2023, newsletters owners on Substack noticed a change in behavior on the platform, according to The Wrap: a significant increase in the number of followers on Substack and the stagnation of new subscribers to the newsletters.

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9/4/2024

New family plans and pricing on Fastmail

Fastmail has changed its plans and now charges in 20 different currencies instead of only USD. The new plans are aimed at “individuals and families”, and include one, two or even six users. The old ones continue to exist, but now in a “business” category.

The old standard plan now offers 50 GB of storage instead of 30 GB, and the basic one bumps from 2 to 5 GB. Those who are already customers will be migrated to the new plans and local values later this year, but already enjoy the extra storage.

7/4/2024

How tech giants cut corners to harvest data for AI

The New York Times published a bombshell report on how, behind the scenes, large AI companies find a (sometimes illegal) way to harvest content to train their large language models, the basis of generative AI.

The funniest part is Google turning a blind eye to OpenAI transcribing 1 million hours (!) of YouTube videos to power GPT-4 because Google itself was doing the same for Gemini. (The practice violates the terms of use of YouTube.)

It gets better. Two days earlier, YouTube CEO Neal Mohan told Bloomberg that the use of videos by OpenAI to train Sora, its astonishing AI video generator, would be against the platform’s terms of use.

7/4/2024

Hiding my face on the internet

Two unrelated events — the birth of someone’s baby close to me and a site that generates random ugly avatars — led me to rethink the exposure to which I submit, almost always voluntarily, on the internet.

My face is in several places. Back there, before the facial recognition algorithms and the generative AIs, I thought it would be good to show the face to pass… credibility? Confidence? I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t even a necessity as it’s today, because we didn’t have AIs that wrote convincing gibberish. Simpler times.

I started thinking about removing some of the photos from my face from the internet. I deleted some photos of obvious places that are under my control, such as social media and my website, and found that it takes time for search engines and some platforms to “notice” the update or even delete the images. I was reminded that, also in a very literal sense, the internet doesn’t forget.

Then I realized that I posted dozens of videos on YouTube showing my face. Maybe it’s a lost case.

Still, I decided to use a silly avatar where possible: an orange ball with a smiling face. You can see it on this site’s footer.

Before that, I tried to use one of the ugly avatars I mentioned up there. I replaced my picture with it on Telegram and right after I got an email from someone thinking my account was hacked.

5/4/2024

Almost no one cares whether your site is on social media

In March 2024, I ran an experiment in my Portuguese-written blog: I stopped distributing its content on social media (Mastodon, mostly) and messaging apps (Telegram and WhatsApp channels). It has a small following in a few places — ~2,9k on Telegram, ~450 on WhatsApp and three Mastodon profiles (two with autopost) that sums ~5k followers.

The result was that… little has changed.

The blog got ~107k unique visitors who viewed ~172k pages. Compared to the average of the previous six months, the March figures were 33.7% and 30.3% higher, respectively.

The reason for this increase, however, was an uncontrollable external player: Google. On March 27th, I posted a link in our readers forum of a Brazilian viral anonymous Google spreadsheet with reports of bad companies to work for. Google, for any inexplicable reason, put this link in front of many pairs of eyes, and almost 38k people arrived at my blog in the few days remaining in March.

(This created tragicomic situations, such as people posting anonymous reports of toxic companies in the comments of the blog and one that threatened to sue me if I didn’t take down the spreadsheet.)

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