Without context Google’s billion device “Assistant” claim is B.S.


ReBlogged from om.coNick Bilton photo

Google says its “Assistant” (the voice-based query service) is soon going to be on a billion devices –primarily phones, and a majority of them being on the Android phones. There are some obvious questions that the report should have covered. For instance:

  • Are these pre-installed on the OS as part of deals with handset makers or phone companies?
  • What some money involved to get these pre-installed if they were pre-installed?
  • What percentage of these were downloaded by end customers?
  • How many Google Assistant speaker-type devices has the company sold and not just given away as part of some promotion?
  • What is the number of daily active users of the Google Assistant?
  • How is the daily usage trending? Any data? Claiming global active users have grown four times over past one year is utterly meaningless!
  • What countries is the Assitant popular in?
  • And is it GDPR compliant?
  • How does it correlate with Google’s current business model of placing advertising against search results?

In other words, without the relevant context, Google’s claim is no better than old fashion bullshit. For whatever its worth, I find Google Assistant is very good at understanding my accent than Alexa and Siri. They are also much more accurate than those two. Unfortunately, I don’t trust Google to let them into my apartment on a device.

Ditto! I agree.

Cockroaches, Unicorns, Startups. Enough Already! — by Om Malik


Zombie Unicorn

An article on the UK-version of BusinessInsider got me a little worked up and I made a post on my Facebook page. An intense conversation followed and Dave Winer suggested that this would make a good blog post. He was right – as always!

“Everything is about resiliency now to weather the storm,” says Tim McSweeney, a director at technology-focused merchant bank Restoration Partners. “Unicorn, it’s a mythical beast, whereas a cockroach, it can survive a nuclear war.”

I was annoyed by this comment mostly because I get really annoyed by these dumb labels that are put on startups. I hated the label unicorn, and have not been shy about pointing that out:

“A unicorn is a mythical thing which doesn’t exist. It’s a big fat lie. If you’re calling yourself a unicorn as a company, you’re a big fat lie. Why don’t you just say what you are, that you’re a startup with some valuation?”

I have been investing for a few years now, as an investor I have never looked for a “unicorn” or a “cockroach” startup. I have always looked for a good startup. I have looked for passionate founders, full of convinction, who are okay to be first and are comfortable with a future that others don’t see just yet. I like ideas and solutions for real problems. I like technology startups. As my partner Jon Callaghan often says, venture capital is for creating brave new markets. It is about creating entire new industries. It is about inventing new way of solving problems. Some ideas are small. Others radical.

But none of them are a unicorn, donkey, horse, ox or a cockroach. These made up words represent a limited grasp on vocabulary of those who are seeking cheap attention. As an investor, what I don’t look for is startups that come with dumb labels, popularized by reporters who don’t know what the hell they are talking about and are looking for cheap slogans to put on their click bait bullshit headlines.

The so called technology/business media is doing as much damage as wannabe investors and wantrenpreuers. Story tellers have forgotten in their race for page views – words have a meaning and words can shape narratives.

I second that emotion.

Thanks, Om

Study raises questions on the value of a college education (U.S.)


Chemistry major?

Studying alone, reading and writing more, are helpful

A new study provides disturbing answers to questions about how much students actually learn in college — for many, not much — and has inflamed a debate about the value of an American higher education.

The research of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

One problem is that students just aren’t asked to do much, according to findings in a new book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.” Half of students did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week…

The study, an unusually large-scale effort to track student learning over time, comes as the federal government, reformers and others argue that the U.S. must produce more college graduates to remain competitive globally. But if students aren’t learning much that calls into question whether boosting graduation rates will provide that edge.

I’ve been arguing for a long time that graduation rates, in and of themselves, are meaningless.

Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.

No surprises here, especially regarding the nonsense that somehow working in groups will magically improve student performance.

Social engagement generally does not help student performance. Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth….

Read it all, and see if anything surprises you.

The field of education is full of texts from new faces on the proper way to teach– always some idea that has somehow escaped the imagination of lesser mortals. And there is always some fool ready to buy a couple cases to hand out as required reading for his teaching staff.