Switchback: Talking Tech (Nov. 21)

Nov 21, 2014

The team from The Switch discussed everything from the latest political tech news to the gadgets you’re eyeing.

Hey guys! Hey! Let's do this! 

Sorry, that was a lot of exclamation marks. 

The flap about the privacy stuff has been everywhere, but is this actually hurting Uber, like, for real for real? How many of you are deleting your Uber apps?

 I haven't deleted my Uber app, and certainly haven't taken the extra step to e-mail them to close my account, though I did think twice about taking a ride the other day and just flagged down a normal cab. 

It's definitely early to say that they're going to die on this hill, but if more egregious and widespread privacy violations get publicized, that could have a serious effect.



Like Hayley, I haven't deleted my Uber app — yet. Inertia helps them here, I think.

The week's news about Uber fits into an unfortunate pattern about both the company and Silicon Valley at large. It's plausible that the sturm and drang over this corporate culture eventually builds to some change. But the more we hear, are we simply going to get desensitized to it? I don't pretend to have the answer. What do you guys think?

What's the next step with a version of the USA Freedom Act? How long will it take to get a new bill going with Congress?

I think it's just kind of screwed, to be honest. Certainly, it seems very unlikely it will be passed through during the lame duck -- and then you sort of have to start over getting things through the House again. 

There was also a divide among some NSA opponents about just how effective the version of the USA Freedom act that was up for debate in the Senate would have been at actually ending bulk surveillance. Marcy Wheeler had a very interesting dissection on that point. 

Many reform supporters are now looking to next June, when some key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to sunset. 

So the new Kindle app looks great and all, but no local news? Really? That's a killer for me. After all, you'd assume the Washington Post would feature some great news about, you know, Washington.

The new app is part of a push to go more national and international, so that's what's behind the thinking there.

But we hear you and we'll pass that comment on to the Kindle app design team.

Re/code's getting rid of their comment sections -- following Popular Science's lead last year. Do you think comment sections are valuable? Or have they outlived their usefulness? 

I despise comments, generally speaking. A lot of the comments we get on The Switch are actually helpful, but a bad one can poison my whole day. Therefore, I pretty much avoid reading them.

I agree with Re/code's position that most of the good duscussion nowadays happens on social media, and I also find the quality of discourse I get in reader e-mails is way better than anything I've ever found in the comments. 

To the extent we can provide alternative venues for engagement — like these livechats! — I think it becomes more acceptable to close off commenting. Commenting, like e-mail, is broken, but media organizations haven't figured out the best alternative yet. 

Cost of car owner/lease has dropped for last couple of decades and fuel is dropping. Taxi and bus/train system are widespread. This solves what problem? It seems like a Woody Allen problem. The food here is terrible and the portions are too small.

I use Uber most when I'm in places where I can't hail a cab and, for whatever reason, don't feel comfortable trying to get to a bus/Metro/whatever. I'm sort of a spatial idiot, and when it's cold and dark I'd rather just spend the money to get a car. I also use it, when possible, when I'm traveling in cities I don't know and where taxis aren't as easy  to flag down. (Looking at you, SF.) 

It's definitely not a pressing or serious problem, but  it does fill a need that people are obviously willing to pay for. 

Are y'all enjoying the black friday/cyber Monday pitches you are getting? :)

Love them. *cough* The best one I got was for a Kickstarter campaign (therefore "tech," in someone's mind) for bags in which gentlemen could, um, keep parts of their anatomy in place, even in tight pants. 

That didn't make the list for our  gift guide, which is going up later today. (I offer as an explanation of why I've posted so little this week.) 

By the way: Hayley is a MACHINE who has written essentially a whole section her self this week. #TeamHayley

Hayley (n.): A beast.

Aw, feeling the love today.

How in the world can anyone trust Snapchat enough to use their money sending feature at this point?

That is a great question. I don't have a good answer for it. 

Their answer would be that you can trust them with it because they don't actually store it. They're partnering with Square.

Now, is that a good argument? I'd say I probably won't be an early adopter for this one.

Wild wild westness of the Web is diappearing. Re/place with Facebook? The Intercept reveals that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets among them people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats. Big agency and lots of people with nothing to do but contribute to the trillion dollar debt creation machine daily. Comments are the problem?

In your opinion, what's been the best/nerdiest sci-fi/tech movie of the year?

I just saw "Interstellar" last weekend and it was glorious. 

I know that the current zeitgeist is toward the Libertarian notion that regulation is bad and it keeps businesses from innovating and providing service to customers, but I just have to LAUGH at everyone finding out that Uber is doing what it wants with your information. Without regulation companies WILL do this. It is not debateable. So make your choice but understand the long term consequences. I think we are eventually going to end up with the working conditions from the early 20th Century with 7 day work weeks, mandatory overtime, and company scrip. Can't have regulations you know!

At least the FTC is trying?

I love the idea of comments and have in the past found them to be enlightening and useful, but I'm afraid the evidence is in and I would not be sad to see them disappear, except for sites with some form of curation that works. Otherwise they are a depressing cesspool and who needs that.

Come on Brian, Intersteller was mediocre to decent. They should have named it, "A Texan goes to Outer Space."

Um -- spoilers! I'm seeing it on Sunday. 

I've only seen, like, two movies this year, so I'm ill qualified to answer this. I like "Guardians of the Galaxy," though.


Great visuals, a few gripping moments and a fantastic soundtrack allow me to overlook its other flaws.

Guardians of the Galaxy was entertaining, but it was a popcorn kind of movie for me.

Popcorn movies are my favorite kind of movie.

Depressing cesspool. I grew up like George Carlin. We swam in sewage!

Do you expect that the new Washington Post app for Kindle Fire will eventually migrate to other platforms like iOS? I'd love a better app for my devices, I generally end up using the web version for now.

Yup, plan is to launch for Android and iOS next year. Also, the existing iOS and Android apps -- as well as the "classic" WaPo app -- do still have local sections.

Honestly, I think that all reporters should be required to read the comments on their articles. Readers frequently raise valid issues, especially with media bias. Reporters need to get outside the little world of their newsroom where everyone tends to share the same views and deal with their readers.

I hear you, I really do. But it's so incredibly unpleasant, especially as a minority woman. 

I have an e-mail address, it's at the top of every article. I encourage people to use it.

That's all folks. We're taking next week off, so here is some early turkey. 

In This Chat
Brian Fung
Andrea Peterson
Nancy Scola
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