Mobile Stock Watchlist, March 2015

source: themetapicture.com

A stock broker exercising his MOM options.  source: themetapicture.com

I’ve decided to start a watch list for companies that are using mobile technology to generate revenue.  This is not investment advice so don’t be a wiseass and blame me if you loose money on these stocks.  This list is just here to give you a sense of how much revenue companies are making through mobile phones.

There’s only one stock on the list to start with.  I’ll add more later.

Watchlist

I extract the estimates for mobile app revenue from the company’s annual and quarterly reports.

Starbucks

Symbol: SBUX
Yearly Cash From Operations, 2014: $607 million
Yearly Cash From Mobile Web Apps: unknown/not counted
Yearly Cash From Native Mobile Apps: 14% of sales, estimated, $84 million
First mobile app release date: January 11, 2011
Stock price on release date: $32.26
Stock price 3/15/2015: $98.55

Should Facebook Transfer Money?

Facebook just announced that it is allowing people to send money to each other:

Facebook’s Post

News Article

I’m wondering if this is a good idea or not.  Well, I don’t mean I’m wondering if a company should transfer money between people.  I’m just wondering if it’s a good idea that Facebook does it.

Facebook Messenger’s money transfer feature is another reason to uninstall the Facebook App from your phone.  Here’s why.

The Spy Who Facebooked Me

If a phone is programmed to call people without your knowledge or consent, it’s because somebody added the code to do that.  It’s not an accident the phone was programmed to make phone calls and listen to your room without your knowledge.

Well, that’s what Facebook did.  Facebook can call it a “bug” all it wants, but the fact that the feature was added in the first place is a admission prima-facie by Facebook that the company was intent on turning your phone into a surreptitious listening device.  There’s no other conclusion you can come to.

An obsession with protecting people’s privacy is baked into my DNA somehow.  Working in healthcare helped cement the belief that third party data is inherently risky.  And companies have uncommon responsibility to protect private information.

Facebook trying to use your phone without your knowledge is simply reprehensible.   I feel bad for unsuspecting users and wish that adding secret phone calling as a “feature” would be outlawed, honestly.

My Facebook Interview

Prior to Facebook’s Spy-Phone-Gate, I had interviewed at Facebook.

In preparation of my interview, I wrote a blog article about one of Facebook’s slip-ups in the privacy department, and how I would advocate for changes to prevent that kind of thing from happening.

Long story short, I showed up for an interview.  Got a tour .. the place looked like it did in The Social Network and everything.  I was excited.  And it was obvious that they knew how I felt about privacy, cause I was there after posting my blog on privacy.

The white boarding portion went awesome, and things seemed fine.  The guy interviewing me seemed excited I was there.  Then it came my turn to ask questions.  This one seemed to stun the interviewer:

Q. So, who owns the product specification and standards?  Who signs off on the mobile software before release?

And I got a surprising answer (paraphrased):

A. Nobody “owns” them.  The developers just work on something they think is ‘cool’, and if the group likes it that feature is released.

I took that to mean that the only oversight of mobile applications were the engineers. Executive oversight, in particular, didn’t seem to be that important to Facebook employees.    I took that also to mean there were no independent code audits of Facebook’s mobile applications.

Judging by the phone calling issue that popped up in 2014, I can’t say I was wrong in thinking Facebook had a massive problem.

And it seems to have gotten worse.  Everything Facebook has to say about its money transfer feature lacks any sense of security for financial transactions. That’s bad.

Facebook’s Code Release Oversight …

You can also read about how Facebook describes it’s process, which is only about half the work that should be done to ensure a mobile app even functions, let alone respect user privacy:

How Facebook Ships Code

Facebook’s Ryan McElroy on Code Reviews

More Questions Than Answers

I’m left to wonder:

Who reviewed the code for the payment feature? Well – nobody except the developer apparently and that’s not good enough for a public company to release a public app.

Security standards used? Like ones that credit card processors rely on? None, apparently. That’s bad. Very bad.

Is Facebook security good enough to handle financial transactions through messenger?  The magic eight-ball says no.

No other conclusion can be possible because these questions are ignored in Facebook’s press release.

Perhaps if you’re lucky, when the money transfer feature screws up, the Facebook app will dial Zuckerberg so he can listen in.  Not that you’d know the phone dialed of course.

References

I’ll let you read these links to decide whether or not you want to trust Facebook with your credit card data:

Facebook data exposed.

Facebook app blacklisted.

Some issues with Facebook’s app.

Seven Annoying Attacks Facebook Misses

Facebook Phone-Gate

Will Swatch Corner the Wearables Market?

Bacon Watch.

Bacon Watch (heart monitor not included). Source: walkyou.com

Up until February 5, 2015 it seemed like all companies who could make a wearable computer “put their cards on the wearables table” except Swatch Group.  Swatch had everything needed to do it, but it chose not to until it’s 5 Feb announcement: a watch with an NFC chip that can make payments.

And now Swatch’s competitors may be screwed.

The amount of money spent by other companies on wearables to design, market and produce smart watches runs into the many millions … perhaps billions of dollars.  Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, and Nike, etc are at risk: they won’t get their money back if they can’t sell enough  product.

Those companies’  sales plans can be destroyed by a competitor who finds a way to sell a cheaper watch that does enough of what people want.

And that might easily happen with a company like Swatch Group doing the disrupting; this company has already mastered market penetration for all demographics in wearable devices.

While other companies have to ramp up production lines and find shelf space, Swatch’s changes to watches will be incremental to its existing product line.  Much easier and potentially less costly by comparison.

And now finally after all those other companies committed vast treasures bringing smart watches to market, they have to compete a space that is new to them, and old hat to Swatch.  And I think last month’s announcement will do the trick for Swatch.

Are you a watch snob who thinks Swatch Groups’ watches will fail because they’re inferior to Apple’s?  It doesn’t matter.  It’s not about what you value.  It’s about how many watches a company can sell.  Swatch’s success will be Apple’s torment.  Simple.

Swatch is in such a sweet position market wise it’s not even funny.

It’s choosing to limit it’s wearable tech to a few core functions.  The other companies didn’t seem to understand the importance of that.   Swatch Group seems to want watches to remain watches, but add some basic functions that make sense – like payments, NFC and bluetooth.  Nike took a similar approach with its Fuel Band, which is a basic smart watch.  But Nike Fuel Band lacks NFC capability so far, and I’m guessing that Nike wants to focus on licensing Nike Fuel to other companies … as opposed to helping people buy Big Macs.

Swatch Group’s idea is simple.  Turn watches into payment machines.  Literally cash generating devices.  And that’s all.  Simple.  Genius.

People are going to ask themselves,

Should I spend $400 on an Apple watch, or ..

$150 on a Swatch and put $250 on the payment chip so I can buy stuff?

At the end of the day, any wristband device is limited by what it can do.  It doesn’t make sense to add bulky batteries or huge screens.  Add too much functionality, and you risk making the user feel like they’re doing surgery on their wrist just to pull up stock quotes.

The more complicated watches like Apple’s watch and Microsoft’s band pose that risk.

But it’s also helpful to see other technologies that have been successful with the minimalist approach.  Take Disney’s Magic Band for example.

Disney Band

Disney Magic Band. Source: disney.com

Disney Magic Band. Source: disney.com. Image copyright not by me.

Disney’s Magic Band is an incredible device.  It’s a proven incredible device, that lets consumers get what they want … an easy, less involved shopping experience.  It cuts down on waiting in lines and talking to cashiers.

And it helps Disney transfer money from consumer to Disney.  So, it’s a win-win for everyone.

And now with Swatch entering the arena, we could see something like the Disney experience expand throughout the planet.

Cards Against Humanity May Have Gone Too Far

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 4.13.53 PMWhat would happen if you had someone send a message to a person that implied they were going to die? Well, that’s exactly what you can do, because Cards Agains Humanity’s 10 Days of Kwanzaa or Whatever will send, on your behalf, a card with another person’s name on it that implies that person is going to die in 2015.  If you’re thinking of doing that, at least you’ll be aware of what you’re in for after reading this blog.  You may want to think twice.

Depending on who you are and who the recipient is, completing the sentence in the image to the right could be funny:

… a mass murderer who is scheduled to die in 2015 and really deserves it.

Or endearing:

… a dear friend who is terminally ill and about to commit assisted suicide to end a lifetime of pain, and this card tells them you’ll remember them for ever.

Or sad:

… your spouse who just got done fighting ebola.

Or it could be construed as a death threat? Try asking CAH to send 10 Days of Kwanzaa or Whatever on your behalf to these people and you might get a knock on the door from the local sheriff:

  • an ex-wife who is threatening to kidnap the children from you for the holidays.
  • the boss you hate, who you openly declare is the one person who (metaphorically) “should eat shit and die today”.
  • your fun loving grandma, who gets a kick out of CAH, because morose humor about life took her mind off of assisted suicide.
  • the President of the United States, or some other official.

This is a departure for CAH, because that i know of CAH only refers to dates of death as a historical fact, not in a predictive sense.    The problem is, despite the fact that CAH doesn’t disclose they’re going to use this particular text, once that gift with predicted year of death arrives you can’t take it back.  You may have not intended any threat, but convincing someone else of that may be a huge problem … simply because this kind of message is not historical, it’s PREDICTIVE.

So, CAH, I’m surprised that after all the laughs I’m having this reaction.  But there it is.

A mobile app to weed out bad judges (and judges who appoint them)?

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 10.57.15 PM

Judge Lynn D. Rosenthal was arrested on a D.U.I. charge in May 2014 – in the parking lot of the Broward County, Fla., courthouse. Source: New York Times.

One of the coolest lines ever to be written in a court document may have just been filed in California:

California could no more immunize divorce tribunals from civil rights abuse than it could deputize a priest to perform an exorcism.

That can be found at weightiermatter.com.  Or here on page 48.

Citizens don’t usually stop and think that once they elect a judge to office, that judge can claim immunity for just about anything.  And if the case above filed by The California Coalition for Families and Children is any indication, people are seriously questioning whether or not judges should have that immunity in the first place.

Good.  A democracy needs to question authority.

As for Judge Rosenthal, well … she used to be a federal prosecutor before she got appointed to be a judge.  You might be interested in knowing who appointed her around election time.

How about an app for that?

Just sayin’.

If you comment with links to apps that do that already I’ll be happy to spread the word.

A New Face on Mars?

Statue ... Source: NASA

Statue … Source: NASA

Beings on another another planet are awesome.

But what about the search for those beings itself?  For me the search itself is just as important as the day we communicate with extraterrestrials.  As part of the search we see people do what they do best – find themselves in the universe around them.  It’s a human trait.

Take the image in this blog, for example.  Do you see the face right in the center?  Looks like a sculpture of some indian deity’s head sitting on the sand.  As if that deity lived on the planet where the statue is found for a thousand years.  And if you look closely you might see the outline of a hand sticking out of the sand – just below and to the left of the face.

Is it a statue, or just our brain interpreting shadows as sculpture of some human looking face?

We don’t know cause we can’t visit the place.  That’s because the place is on Mars, and the image was taken by the Mars Science Laboratory.  The original image can be found here:

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl-raw-images/msss/00554/mcam/0554MR2246023000E1_DXXX.jpg

Is this a new face on Mars?  You decide.  As for myself … I enjoy not knowing for sure.

Here’s the same image annotated … the larger circle is the head of course. The smaller circle surrounds what looks like a sculpted hand.

NASA image annotated

NASA image annotated

Eclipse can be so BLONDE sometimes.

americas-next-top-model-season-7-ANTM-7-caridee-photo-dumb-blonde-model-reading-book-upside-down

Eklipsa. Photo courtesy another blog.

A developer who works on Eclipse started an argument with me today.

No, (s)he wasn’t talking to me in person, but the code this person wrote pissed me off.

So, I’ll just pretend that person is some irritating blonde chick.  You know, the same box-o-rocks that crushed your feelings in high school, who you’d have sex with anyway. The one you’d kick out of the house but then invite right back in.  The one you’d get so pissed at it would make you destroy all the furniture in the house.  And then you’d lie to her about why you did it so you didn’t hurt her feelings and she’d come back to have sex with you:

No, honey, really, I was chasing a rodent.  It was big. He destroyed the couch though.

Yeah, Eclipse developers can be like that chick.  Eclipse makes you insanely mad and then you take it back anyway.

That person wrote the bit of code that causes Eclipse to modify R.java files.  We’ll just call her, Eklipsa.

So, here’s how my conversation with Eklipsa went today.

me: “Eklipsa, you overwrote R.java from that library that I imported.”

Eklipsa: “Yeah. I know!  Isn’t the new one soooooo cute?!?”

me: “Not really, see I needed that file to be un-molested. Why did you modify it? My project won’t build.”

Eklipsa: “Molested? Ewww.  You’re computer’s such a PERV.”

me: “No honey. I mean the code you wrote caused a problem, and I’d like to know what happened to R.java. When Eclipse imports it from a library, Eclipse modifies it.”

Eklipsa: “I, like, soooo don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s like how it’s supposed to work … or something.”

me: “Never mind.  Wanna go shopping?”

Eklipsa: “Sure!”

me: “Here’s $100 bucks. Can you go to Abercrombie and find me a sky hook for my socks?”

Eklipsa: “Sure! Like … ?”

me: “Sky hooks are used to hang those cool socks you get at Abercrombie.  Prevents wrinkles. They’re right next to the sweaters.”

Eklipsa: “It’s like, summer, silly.  They won’t have sweaters.”

me: “Look just go away for three hours so I can figure out why you’re screwing up my project.”

Three hours later.

me (calling loudly): “Eklipsa, are you back yet?”

Eklipsa: “Like … yeah.”

me: “find my sky hook?”

Eklipsa (holds up mangled hanger): “The guy at the store said they were out. So I made you one!”

me: “Never mind.  I figured out what happened to my file R.java

Eklipsa: “Oh that’s like so smart.”

me: “If I have a layout in my project that has the same name as a layout in a library project, you destroy the library’s R.java. “

Eklipsa: “Well yeaaah silly.  That’s called, like, code refutability or something.”

me: “I think you mean code reusability, and no this is not that.  You completely overwrite the imported R.java with the wrong data. It’s a bug.  You made me waste a whole day figuring out your insanity.”

Eklipsa: “Wanna have sex?”

me: “Whatever. Fine.”