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Code/red: All Aboard the Google Barge-B-Cue

Plus, Aereo's "path forward," Echo is dumb and the best Off Topic in weeks.


  • The first anniversary of Twitter’s IPO.

I Christen Thee the S.S. Floating Firetrap

When reimagining cargo barges as “interactive spaces where people can learn about new technology,” it’s probably unwise to pack them full of combustible materials — particularly if compliance checks with the U.S. Coast Guard are part of the vetting process. Yet that appears to be just what Google did with the floating showrooms it moored off the coasts of San Francisco and Portland, Maine, late last year. Documents made public under a Freedom of Information Act request from the Wall Street Journal reveal that fire safety concerns scuppered Google’s silly barge initiative. “These vessels will have over 5,000 gallons of fuel on the main deck and a substantial amount of combustible material on board,” a Coast Guard official told Google’s contractor last March, warning that design choices like that wouldn’t exactly keep the barges safe in case of fire. Following an August review in which the Coast Guard found that the barge design still didn’t incorporate the fire safety features “typically required” of such vessels, Google began charting a new course for the project: The scrap heap. They should have sold it to Amazon for Fire Phone launches …

Unable to Disrupt TV, Aereo Disrupts Workforce Instead

Media mogul Barry Diller once said there was “no Plan B” for Aereo if it lost its Supreme Court battle with the broadcasters who accused it of stealing their programming. Evidently, he was right. On Thursday, the controversial TV-streaming service said it would shutter its Boston office, sacking the employees there and a few others in New York as well — nearly 60 people, sources say. And what of the few managers and employees that remain? According to Aereo’s leadership, they’ll be “charting the company’s path forward” — “path” presumably being a euphemism for the short walk to insolvency.

The Economist Threatens Readers With Awkward Eric Schmidt Elevator Ride

The Economist has recreated its famous Henry Kissinger ad with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Reminds me of the setup for a certain M. Night Shyamalan film.

It’s Harvard, So Nobody Had to Look Up Panopticon

Harvard professor Harry R. Lewis on the electronic monitoring of students for research: “Just because technology can be used to answer a question doesn’t mean that it should be. And if you watch people electronically and don’t tell them ahead of time, you should tell them afterwards. … None of us, students or faculty, want to be treated like inmates of some academic Panopticon, never knowing for sure whether we are being or have been under scrutiny while we were going about our daily business of teaching and learning.”

Nokia-Free Lumia Drops Next Week

Tuesday, Nov. 11. That’s when Microsoft will debut its forthcoming Lumia smartphone — the first that drops the Nokia moniker in favor of its own name. Microsoft has been working hard to stoke anticipation for the device by seeding the tech media with partial photographs of it, though full pictures and specs have been available on the website of China’s TENAA certification agency for a few days now.

Allow Me to Explain: You Will Download Messenger and You Will Like It

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on forcing us all to download Messenger: “Why wouldn’t we let people choose to install the app on their own at their own pace? The reason is that what we’re trying to do is build a service that’s good for everyone. Because Messenger is faster and more focused, if you’re using it, you respond to messages faster, we’ve found. If your friends are slower to respond, we might not have been able to meet up.”

Tell Us a Funny Joke, @dickc

Twitter marks the first anniversary of its IPO today, and the Wall Street Journal is celebrating it with a damning takedown of CEO Dick Costolo, who wisely declined requests to be interviewed for it.

Hey, Amazon, Siri on My Wrist Obviates the Need for Echo Pretty Much Anywhere

The spectacular failure of Amazon’s Fire Phone hasn’t diminished Amazon’s hardware ambitions. On Thursday the company uncrated Echo, a voice-driven AI assistant in a can — a solution for a problem that’s already been solved by Siri, Google Now and Cortana, none of which require wall sockets and counter space.

Maybe It’s Time for an Intervention

Developer Dustin Curtis: “There is simply no rational explanation for [Amazon’s hardware] products. The only thing I can come up with is this: Amazon continues to make hardware because it doesn’t know that it sucks, and it has a fundamentally flawed understanding of media. With, it can heavily and successfully promote and sell its products, giving it false indicators of success.”

Off Topic

The absolutely fantastic Interesting Ball.

Thanks for reading. Send tips, comments, Off Topics and functional punching bag keyboards to, @johnpaczkowski. Subscribe to the Code/red newsletter here.

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