Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, August 09, 2021

Ever since Governors Island reverted back to New York State control (after decades as a Coast Guard base), there’s been no shortage of ideas for what to do with the small spit of land off the southern tip of Manhattan.

While I think the elaborate Brooklyn-to-Manhattan gondola system still takes the cake, the corporate world has come up with a doozy. Viacom’s Nickelodeon Network has proposed turning Governors into an Orlando-like Nickeloden Family Suites tourist trap.

Suddenly, those giant manatee sightings in the Hudson River last week take on a viral marketing tone… Maybe Nickelodeon is seeding its notion of Florida-like resort entertainment in the five boroughs by sneaking in Sunshine State aquatic life! What’s next, a resurgence of alligators in the sewers?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/09/2021 11:43:46 PM
Category: Florida Livin', New Yorkin'
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I’ve been having volume issues with my iPod lately. I suspect the earbuds are failing, because even when I crank the sound up to near-maximum, the result seems less powerful than it should be. (I’ve also considered that maybe my hearing, after years of abuse, is failing; but I doubt it, because I can still hear exterior noises without trouble.)

To test the earbuds, I tried switching them with another, older set while the iPod was in playback. In the process, I discovered a quirky little feature: When you unplug whatever’s connected to the audio/speaker jack while the iPod is playing, the iPod responds by automatically pausing.

It’s a curious feature. I can see the benefit: If you should accidentally drop the player or otherwise disconnect the output, it stops whatever was playing at that point so you don’t lose your place. (I guess that becomes moot if the accidental disconnect results in the iPod crashing onto a concrete floor…)

But in this case, it was a pain. I was switching off earbuds in mid-play so I could get a quick read by my ears. Having the thing pause like that added a distracting delay.

So upshot, I couldn’t really tell if the earbuds are at fault. So instead, I just wiped the iPod’s hard drive clean and reloaded all the media back onto it, on the off-chance that some of the song files somehow degraded. If that doesn’t do it, I’ll find somebody with a fresh set of ears to give a listen, and see from there if I need to pick up a new set of ‘buds at the Apple Store.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/09/2021 11:06:08 PM
Category: iPod
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Yet another reminder that you’re hardly at all faceless online: The leaked search logs of thousands of America Online users are, by nature of the patterns they reveal, relatively easy to link to the supposedly anonymized people who performed them. Aside from the hordes of Web sleuths who are poring over the much-disseminated data online, the New York Times illustrates how they tracked down AOL Searcher No. 4417749, one Thelma Arnold of Lilburn, Georgia:

No. 4417749 conducted hundreds of searches over a three-month period on topics ranging from “numb fingers” to “60 single men” to “dog that urinates on everything.”

And search by search, click by click, the identity of AOL user No. 4417749 became easier to discern. There are queries for “landscapers in Lilburn, Ga,” several people with the last name Arnold and “homes sold in shadow lake subdivision gwinnett county georgia.”

The worst part is that this affected AOL subscribers. By nature of the service’s approach and longevity, they tend to be the least sophisticated Web users out there. So they’re also least likely to understand the implications of leaving a digital trail online, either through archived search queries or other activities.

John Battelle, the author of the 2005 book “The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture,” said AOL’s misstep, while unfortunate, could have a silver lining if people began to understand just what was at stake. In his book, he says search engines are mining the priceless “database of intentions” formed by the world’s search requests.

“It’s only by these kinds of screw-ups and unintended behind-the-curtain views that we can push this dialogue along,” Mr. Battelle said. “As unhappy as I am to see this data on people leaked, I’m heartened that we will have this conversation as a culture, which is long overdue.”

Wishful thinking on Battelle’s part. I doubt this is going to give many casual Web surfers second thoughts. I predict this is going to come off as strictly an AOL quirk — that as long as you’re not using AOL, you’re somehow exempt from this problem. (I also wonder how sanguine Battelle would be if he were one of the ones exposed.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/09/2021 09:06:56 AM
Category: Internet, Society
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One of the things that struck me when I moved to New York was the preponderance of banks on seemingly every corner. It seemed like I could walk a block without passing by a Bank of America or Chase sign, with a storefront ranging from a full-fledged branch to a kiosk of ATM machines.

It’s not just my imagination: Banking companies are bulking up on their branch presence in New York and other cities, seeing them as keys to growth:

The rush into retail banking reflects a fundamental shift by the industry. A decade ago, most big banks were shedding their branches, not building more. They steered their customers away from teller lines and encouraged them to use cash machines and telephone banking services, which were less expensive to operate. And many had grand visions of Internet banking, even if consumer-friendly technology had not yet arrived.

Today, there has been a serious change of mind. Banks view their branches as gold mines, not costs. Their checking accounts can generate a steady stream of fee income. Their tellers can sign customers up for new products, spurring overall sales. All the while, branches can collect millions in cheap deposits that can be lent out at higher rates. Even as they offer options like online banking and kiosks in convenience stores, banks still hope to lure customers inside a physical branch.

The upshot is that big banks are treating their branches more like traditional retail outlets than ever before. Bank of America’s New York regional manager is a former Barnes & Noble executive who talks about his “distribution network.” Commerce promotes its evening and weekend hours; Wells Fargo executives refer to their branches as stores. And across the industry, there is greater focus on branding, customer service and placing more products — from home equity to retirement savings accounts — into existing customers’ hands.

The retailing aspect of these branches is evident: As soon as you walk into a place, you see nothing but promotional materials and signage. This extends down to the automation: Chase has been pushing use of its ATMs by giving away free tickets to the U.S. Open on random transactions.

This harkens back to the old “free toaster with new accounts” strategies from decades ago (that also became zeitgeist punchlines when every single bank came to employ them). It’s interesting how the market approach has ebbed and flowed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/09/2021 08:17:32 AM
Category: Business, New Yorkin'
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