TechSummit Rewind #028: June 21st, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Apple Music free trial ‘shocking, disappointing’: Taylor Swift

Apple Music

Taylor Swift has posted an open letter to Apple on her blog explaining why her latest album, 1989, from Apple Music. The problem, according to Swift, is that for the three month free trial period every consumer gets, Apple won’t pay artists for those streams.

“Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done.

“These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child.”

-Taylor Swift, 1989 creator

Many artists Swift knows share her feelings, according to the artist, but are “afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much.”

“I hope that soon I can join [Apple Music] in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music.”

-Taylor Swift

Amazon improving customer reviews system with machine learning

Amazon logo

Amazon is rolling out a big change to its US customer reviews system, introducing a new machine learning platform developed in-house to surface newer and more helpful reviews.

“The system will learn what reviews are most helpful to customers… and it improves over time. It’s all meant to make customer reviews more useful.”

-Julie Law, Amazon spokeswoman

The change, which started Friday, will gradually alter the star ratings and top reviews on product pages. The new system will give more weight to newer reviews, reviews from verified Amazon purchasers, and those that more customers vote as being helpful.

A product’s five-star rating, which was a pure average of all reviews, will become weighted using the aforementioned criteria.

The new platform was looked at “very closely” before implementing, according to Law.

“It’s just meant to make things that much more useful so people see things and know it reflects the current product experience.”

-Julie Law

For example, a company will make small tweaks to a product or address customer complaints, though the product isn’t officially updated or renamed. With the new system, according to Law, these small modifications should become more noticeable when shoppers are buying products.

Amazon shifting Kindle author payment model to pay per page read


Amazon is going to begin reimbursing some authors based on how many pages are displayed on screen using its Kindle platform long enough to be read, starting in July.

Currently, the Seattle-based company sets aside a pool of money and divides it among the authors based on the amount of downloads their works get.

Starting next month, Amazon will divvy up the pool based on the aforementioned metric for Kindle Select books published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program that are read from the Kindle Unlimited and/or Kindle Online Lending Library programs. Both programs are subscription services that offer access to over 800,000 titles: the Lending Library is available through the $99/year Amazon Prime service, while Kindle Unlimited is available for $9.99/month.

The formula is changing because of the concern “that paying the same for all books regardless of length may not provide a strong enough alignment between the interests of authors and readers,” according to Amazon.

Authors won’t be able to rely on using a bigger font, because of the Kindle Edition Normalized Count (KENPC), a new standardized metric, that starts at the “Start Reading Location.” However, “non-text elements within books including images, charts, and graphs will count toward a book’s KENPC,” according to Amazon’s documentation.

California reveals self-driving car accident details

Google self-driving car

California state officials have released reports detailing six accidents that involved self-driving car prototypes.

Most of the cars were in self-driving mode when the accidents happened, according to the reports, and the other driver caused the accident. None of the crashes were serious enough to injure anyone involved.

Google and parts supplier Delphi Automotive, who operated the cars, submitted their own accounts. Police have only investigated the Delphi crash.

“After further review, DMV has determined that it is possible to release the factual information related to the autonomous vehicle reports [as long as the driver’s personal information and other details are blacked out].”

-Roger Sato, California DMV attorney

Five accidents involved Google-outfitted Lexus SUVs featuring sensors and cameras, with the sixth involving a Delphi-retrofitted Audi. All were in the Silicon Valley strongholds of Mountain View and Palo Alto.

In four of Google’s accidents, the Lexus was in self-driving mode, according to the reports. In the fifth, the SUV began applying its breaks when it sensed a 2015 Audi S6 ran a stop sign and was just about to hit it. The operator behind the wheel took control of the Lexus just before the Audi hit its right rear.

The Delphi car crash occurred when the car was waiting at an intersection.

Windows Insiders get Windows 10 for free


The Windows 10 RTM will arrive to Windows Insiders, who have been testing Windows 10 for several months, like any other Windows 10 build thus far through Windows Update, according to Microsoft.

“As long as you are running an Insider Preview build and connected with the [Microsoft account] you used to register, you will receive the Windows 10 final release build and remain activated. Once you have successfully installed this build and activated, you will also be able to clean install on that PC from final media if you want to start over fresh.”

-Gabe Aul, in a blog post


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