Dead URLs

https://soundcloud.com/prozak-morris/evolution-of-the-hip-hop-beat doesn’t exist anymore.

I have a very rare piece of music. It doesn’t exist in any form you can access online. It’s a mixtape of Hip Hop beats spanning from 1975 to 2011. I found it shortly after it was published on SoundCloud. It’s always been special to me, but I never thought about the possibility of it disappearing. I only downloaded the audio because I enjoyed it and wanted to have it in my music collection.

In a way, I’m happy because I still have this relic. In another way, I’m really sad. There was a long and detailed description of what each piece of music in this track is from, and what it represents about the history of Hip Hop. It’s lost forever. Prozak Morris still has a SoundCloud, a Bandcamp, a YouTube.. or at least there are still publicly facing pages there.. but this one track and its associated detail is gone.

Normally, when I run into something like this, I am able to quickly find what I was missing on the Internet Archive. I did find when it was originally published, including access to comments people made on the track shortly after it was released.. but the page where it was posted (and that lengthy description was written) was never archived.

I was.. a bit desperate to find if it still exists, so I looked for other archives. To be fair, I didn’t check under every stone, but I really don’t think it does exist anymore. And I stumbled across another level of pain in the search: Google killed its archives. Used to be, you could browse archived versions or cached versions of websites that Google had indexed, and at one point in time, this page was definitely there.. but it has either long since been deleted.. or was deleted NINE DAYS AGO.

It’s possible this wouldn’t have been lost forever if I searched for it NINE DAYS AGO. Because I absolutely save everything I care about now. And when I remember something I knew about, I go looking for it.

Anything not saved will be lost.

Nintendo Wii Remote Settings “Quit Game” Message

I was going to stop typing there, with a reference to Nintendo which is always more appropriate than one might expect.. but I remembered the phrase wrong, as “Everything that is not saved will be lost.” Apparently, the entire internet remembers the phrase wrong too, as it is quoted everywhere as “Everything not saved will be lost.”

It is also referenced as an in-game quit message when it was part of the Wii Remote Settings. Additionally, a band released an album with a similar name, so now search results for the phrase only refer to that band and album. (Fortunately search suggestions still reference that it has something to do with Nintendo.. or I’d still be a bit lost on its origin.)

Kind of ironic that the origin of such a well-known phrase is almost lost itself.

And.. I only found a single image of the original message. Everything else is incorrect references.

AI Won’t Destroy Tests

When calculators first started coming out, people said they would be used to cheat and students wouldn’t learn anything. Instead, we changed how testing works to focus on learning what’s important – broader concepts and implications – instead of “what is 232+47”. With AI tools, we again need to change how tests work. This time, instead of asking if a student can regurgitate information in a way that aligns with the teacher, we can start to see if students are actually paying attention to the work. The difference between AI answers and real answers is a level of understanding deeper than the surface.

Facebook: Violating You Is Profitable

Facebook might owe you money. You should find out. June 26, 2023 is the deadline.


Facebook was recently ordered to pay $725 million to USA’s Facebook users active between 2007 and 2022 for privacy violations1. This most likely applies to at least 200 million2 people, but will not be divided equally, and doesn’t account for attorneys and courts taking up to 25% of the settlement as fees, nor the up to $15,000 to be awarded to each of 8 named plaintiffs (probably because they helped get the lawsuit going).

This is an indicator that the USA federal government values its citizens privacy between $2.41 and $3.62. Whether or not this represents 15 years of privacy violations or is closer to a lifetime value, it is woefully below an accurate value. Ironically, you don’t even have to go that far to see that at least one judge in Illinois understands this. In 2021, 1.6 million users were awarded a minimum of $345 each (with a total of $650 million, alarmingly close to the federal judgement).1

How much money did Facebook make off of these privacy violations?

Let’s start with the most generous estimate possible: Over those 15 years, Facebook reported $168.3 billion net income3. As of 2023, they have 2.96 billion users4. If these numbers went together, that’s $56.85 per user. Ignoring that Facebook makes at least 2x more per North American user than any other user5, and estimating that only 10% of their profit comes from these privacy violations, this settlement is 64% of what it should be.

But we can do better than that. In 2017 Q1, Facebook made $17.10 per user in revenue. This is the lowest value I could find over the range, and it went much higher – so it seems fair to use as an estimate. Assuming this is average for the entire period and using 200 million users in the USA, Facebook brought in $1,026 per user. They only kept 29.7% of their revenue in profit, so that turns into $305.30 per user. This time, let’s pretend privacy violation only gives them 5% of their profits. In that case, this settlement is 23.7% of the profit they made.

(Because of how close this calculated value is to the Illinois settlement, I’d argue it’s at least much closer to an accurate value. The Illinois settlement seems unusually correct in the amount of harm done compared to most large settlements.)

This is complicated, and most of the data isn’t easy to find. Even so, you can see the disconnect between corporate fines and corporate profits. Most companies don’t care about the law, because they know they can make more money than they will be fined for violations.

Will Facebook actually pay $725 million?

It may sound like a silly question, but out of 200 million people entitled to a cut of this settlement, how many of us will actually sign up and receive our pay? Not many. The FTC released a study6 a few years back that shows only around 9% of those entitled to large settlements claim their share.

When people don’t sign up, the excess award is sometimes divided amongst those who did sign up – boosting their payment. Other times a designated charity receives the difference (which can be good or bad). The third option? The defendant gets to keep it.7 While the rate of claims is not directly proportional to how much a company has to pay, Facebook could get away with paying $65 million or less depending on how the court ordered this settlement.

(If they get away with that, they are paying at most 2.1% of what they should be paying.)

Sources

  1. Have you used Facebook in the past 16 years? You may qualify for payment.
  2. Number of Facebook users in the United States from 2018 to 2027. Obviously this is based on estimates beyond a certain point, but it’s close enough to use for calculations.
  3. Annual revenue and net income generated by Meta Platforms from 2007 to 2022.
  4. Essential Facebook statistics and trends for 2023.
  5. Facebook’s Average Revenue per User by Geography (Q1 2017 – Q1 2022).
  6. FTC’s comprehensive study finds median consumer class action claims rate is 9%.
  7. What Happens to Unclaimed Class Action Settlement Money?

(And if you’re still here, I find it amusing that Facebook’s net margin is a little below the tech sector average.)

Are All Headlines With A Question Mark Answered “No”?

Yes.

But actually, it’s sometimes more complicated. Perhaps a better question is “Should you ever use a question as the headline to an article?” The answer is still no.. but it’s more complicated. Such headlines are often associated with fake news, but NPR lists a few guidelines where such a headline may still be useful.

They don’t get to the point until the end of a long page though, so I’ll save you a click:

Using a question in a headline may be acceptable if the answer to the question is not clear, your post provides detailed analysis and explanation, and the headline cannot be easily reworded into a statement.


Archived copies of articles linked above:

  1. If there is a question in a headline, the answer is always no
  2. ResearchGate does not allow archival via the Wayback Machine, because they’re stupid.
  3. Should you write a question headline? It depends …

“Doing Nothing” is a Vital Part of Work

Recently, I saw a video of a construction worker hanging from a crane in Toronto. They’re okay, suffering minor injuries to a hand (though, no one talks about mental health, and I can imagine this was a rather terrifying experience). Their hand became stuck in a cable, which is how they ended up in this position, but I have to ask how there wasn’t another person with a radio present to command the crane operator to put this pallet back down immediately after it became apparent there was a problem (or even earlier, before it became dangerous).

No one has an answer to that question at the time of writing, but it brings my attention to an important part of construction work.. doing nothing. There is a trope of seeing construction workers standing around, apparently doing nothing, and this is often used to justify calling them lazy, and construction overpriced.

The beginning of the following video covers what’s actually going on in these situations very well, but the tl;dw of it is: Things don’t always go according to plan, everyone needs breaks, and looking out for problems is very important. Why wasn’t someone standing around to notice a stuck hand before it became dangerous?

While keeping a watch for safety is a specific job that is only employed for certain activities at certain times, everyone who is standing around is another set of eyes that can notice a problem before it becomes dangerous (or even just.. a problem that will hinder the construction effort), or who can respond in the event of an emergency.

Breaks are important, and supervising takes less effort than physical labor. People standing around to take a break are also supervising the work. They may not have the documents or job title to say they should be watching, but everyone with experience watching activity onsite is helpful.


The above was written in July, shortly after the publication of the embedded video. I have much more to say about work, but it has been half a year without publication. I feel it is important to not leave this draft lying around.