A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech
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This week - tech is front and center as issues engage public debate. Wikipedia is looking for big tech to pay up. Bravo! The true cost of Bitcoin and NFTs makes interesting reading from OneZero. China is focused on 'Private Traffic' - and the opportunities and risks that are in that phrase. Clubhouse continues to grow at a dramatic rate. And Senator Amy Klobuchar is ready to take on big tech. 

It's a week to remember. At the same time, the NYC Media Lab had an amazing hour at SXSW the Perils of De-Platforming with Ben Smith, Media Columnist, The New York Times, Jillian York, Director For International Freedom Of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Kate Ruane, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU and Amarnath Amarasingam Assistant Professor, School of Religion, Queens University, and myself. We had almost 1,000 audience members - and you check it out HERE.

Lot's more ahead - always open to ideas and suggestions. 


Steven Rosenbaum
Executive Director
The NYC Media Lab
Wikipedia Is Finally Asking Big Tech to Pay Up

For the past two decades, Google and Wikipedia have had a relatively placid, mutually beneficial relationship (except for the time Google tried to start its own encyclopedia, called Knol - and yes, that's a Wikipedia link). Wikipedia provides Google users with answers while getting exposure via the search engine. It's not just Google - Siri, Alexa, and other tech rely on the free service.

Companies have dedicated teams to import Wikipedia's clunky data - either through its biweekly data dumps or a "firehouse" of real-time changes. Recently, the Wikimedia Foundation launched a commercial product - Wikimedia Enterprise - to make it easier for teams to extract relevant content from the site. Enterprise will offer the data dumps and real-time changes in compatible formats, a customer service number, technical support, and more.

As the bastion of an open, free internet, Wikipedia's move is conflicting - compounded by the fact that it will host a private version of the encyclopedia on AWS for the robust infrastructure. But Wikimedia CRO Lisa Seitz-Gruwell says that "having a reliable additional revenue stream from companies would offer stability for the foundation, particularly as it embarks on an ambitious agenda for the year 2030 to reach more parts of the worlds and more communities with 'free knowledge.'"

WIRED / 7 min read
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The True Cost of Bitcoin and NFTs

Bitcoin mining needs a lot of compute. The Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index says its energy consumption is close to the entire nation of Chile, and its carbon footprint to that of Slovakia. One paper in Nature Climate Change made the frightening prediction that "if Bitcoin is implemented at similar rates at which other technologies have been incorporated, it alone could produce enough emissions to raise global temperatures by 2°C as soon as 2033." Even the most optimistic outlooks admit that "bitcoin as currently structured is far from environmentally friendly," writes OneZero senior writer Will Oremus.

"Ultimately, cryptocurrency's climate problem is just the latest symptom of the world's systemic climate problem, which is that the social cost of pollution isn't captured by the free market. If carbon were priced according to its impact on humanity, rather than its market value, cryptocurrency protocols would likely have evolved quite differently. Instead, we'll have to see which gives way first: bitcoin, or the global emissions-reductions targets that didn't take bitcoin into account."

OneZero / 7 min read 
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China's 'Private Traffic' Obsession

The past two years, Chinese tech CEOs have been captivated by the concept of siyu liuliang - translated as private domain traffic. With internet penetration at 70% (989M internet users), Chinese tech companies are now focusing on turning public traffic into private traffic, which "can come from users dedicated to a company's app, or from followers of an influencer's personal livestreaming channels." This is crucial as new internet user growth slows down and current users deepen their loyalties to their platforms of choice. And the biggest source of private traffic is WeChat.

A few years ago, Chinese ecommerce giant Pinduoduo did something unconventional for the time. Instead of driving users to purchase from its own app, it encouraged them to "invite friends on WeChat groups to purchase collectively, further lowering prices on products that were already heavily discounted," and launched a mini-app inside WeChat's ecosystem to attain even more private domain traffic. Without the initial boost of private domain traffic, there would be no Pinduoduo," says Jie Chen, managing partner at VC firm Celtic House Asia Partners.

Protocol / 5 min read
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Cheat Sheet: How Publishers Are Finding Audiences on Clubhouse

Publishers are flocking to Clubhouse for a more direct connection to their audience as they figure out ways to monetize their time on the fledgling platform
. Business Insider hosted an event this month that drew a total of over 700 listeners; Yahoo finance reporter Kristin Myers hosts a weekly show called Black Wealth Wednesday that draws 1k-2k listeners every week; and Cosmopolitan held their first panel on the platform earlier this month. Brands are already approaching Business Insider's sales team "expressing interest in working with the publisher to enter Clubhouse," which is currently in beta and ad-free.

Digiday / 4 min read
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Livestreaming, Still Niche, Grows as a Tool for Retailers

The format that the Home Shopping Network and QVC pioneered decades ago is being repurposed by YouTube stars like Matt Granite, aka The Deal Guy, who are using e-commerce livestreaming to start conversations with shoppers and get commissions from sold products. Started in 2017, Amazon Live allows brand representatives - and personalities like Granite - to stream directly on the platform and tout their products. Munira Rahemtulla, the director of Amazon Live, says that a personal goal of hers is for "Amazon Live to become a customer's favorite way to shop. It's still early for us, and we have a lot to learn, but we're excited to continue inventing on behalf of our creators and customers."

Instagram is going in a similar direction with Instagram Shopping, and TikTok livestreamed a shopping event with Walmart in December. Mark Yuan, co-founder at And Luxe, a livestream ecommerce consultancy company in New York, says that unlike in China, "no American company had quite mastered it. According to him, success entails more than just adding a video to the typical e-commerce experience. Instead what's needed is a mix of content that isn't tied to shopping but can attract new viewers, limited-time deals and even products exclusive to that live stream."

NY Times / 6 min read
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What We're Watching
How Covid-19 Is Boosting Innovation
"Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of technologies and pushed the world faster into the future. As businesses and organisations look towards the post-pandemic era, what lessons can be learned about innovation?"

The Economist (YouTube) / 19 min watch
Watch Now
What We're Listening To
Podcast: Bonus: Senator Amy Klobuchar On How Congress Will Take On Big Tech
On a recent Big Technology Podcast: "Senator Amy Klobuchar will be leading the charge in Congress as the legislature interrogates the power of big tech, and potentially takes action to restrain it.... Klobuchar and I spoke this past week ahead of the first hearing she held to kick the off process."

Spotify / 19 min listen 
Listen Now
Virtual Events
Free Event: The Future of Virtual Collaboration
Date: March 24, 6:30PM - 8PM EDT
"Join us to learn from an expert panel on the Future of Virtual Collaboration and enter a virtual world where you can network and socialize." Register Here.

Paid Event: Data Science Day 2021
Date: April 21 10AM - 1PM EDT
Data Science Day provides a forum for innovators in academia, industry, and government to connect, and will feature a keynote address; two sessions of Lightning Talks from leading Columbia University faculty members; and an interactive session of data science posters and demonstrations. Register Here.
A Deeper Look
Deep Learning Enables Real-Time 3D Holograms On a Smartphone

To create the illusion of depth, holographic media needs to encode an immense amount of data, so much so that generating holographic video has required "a supercomputer's worth of computing power." Recently, researchers at MIT published a deep-learning method that is so efficient, "it can generate holograms on a laptop in a blink of an eye." It's fascinating stuff:

"The new technique uses deep learning to essentially figure out how to cut a cake into eight slices using just three cuts, says [lead author Liang Shi, a computer scientist at MIT]. The convolutional neural network—a system that roughly mimics how the human brain processes visual data—learns shortcuts to generate a complete hologram without needing to separately calculate how each chunk of it appears, 'which will reduce total operations by orders of magnitude.'"

"The new system requires less than 620 kilobytes of memory, and can generate 60 color 3D holograms per second with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels on a single consumer-grade GPU. The researchers could run it an iPhone 11 Pro at a rate of 1.1 holograms per second and on a Google Edge TPU at a rate of 2 holograms per second, suggesting it could one day generate holograms in real-time on future virtual-reality (VR) and augmented-reality (AR) mobile headsets."

IEEE Spectrum / 4 min read
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