Weekend Roundup: Layoffs, the ‘Hybrid Cloud,’ and Alexa Listening In

You’re busy, we’re busy, everyone is busy. You can’t catch everything that happens in tech (and let’s be honest, sometimes you just don’t care enough to click on yet another article from The Verge). We get it. That’s why we’re here!

Here’s what happened in tech for the week of April 8, 2019.

Layoffs Land: Are MOOCs in Decline?

We like Udacity. The promise of an education at your own pace is interesting, and the platform does a really nice job of creating lesson plans that work. But it also just laid off 75 employees, which reduces its full-time workforce to around 300. The layoffs came amidst a restructuring, so we’re hopeful it’s a temporary setback.

The timing is interesting because many other MOOCs are pivoting to an enterprise-first model, and seeking corporate clients over individual learners. When it comes to online education, there are a ton of YouTube videos on just about every subject for self-learners… and let’s not forget Udemy, which is quickly becoming a fan favorite. With all that in mind, are these layoffs a sign the “traditional” MOOC model is flailing, or did Udacity just over-expand?

Google Cloud is Everywhere, Now

Google announced an interesting ‘hybrid cloud’ service called Anthos, which essentially helps you manage and deploy workloads across any cloud provider. It also has a single user interface, so you’re not dipping and diving across various UIs and tooling.

If your stacks are spread between Google Cloud, Azure, and AWS, this is a big deal. The management system also works with Elastic, VMWare, GitLab, Confluent, Citrix, Robin, and MongoDB.

Old man yells at cloud

Alexa Has Human Ears

Admit it: you ask your in-home digital assistant some weird things. You tell yourself: “Who cares, nobody is listening!” Except, you know, they are.

Bloomberg reports Amazon has “thousands” of humans worldwide who listen to voice recordings that Alexa captures. The stated goal is to help the platform learn: the team listens to the recordings, transcribes your query, annotates those transcriptions, then feeds it back into the Alexa mother-brain. These people work nine hours a day, and listen to roughly 1,000 audio clips per shift.

Oh, and Alexa queries are tagged to your Amazon account… so they know you’re a weirdo, and can’t sing, and what you call your kids when they’re not within earshot.

Notarization Now Mandatory

Want to distribute apps on macOS? They must be notarized, now.

Apple began urging developers to submit their apps to the notary program late last year, which algorithmically checks for nefarious code you copy-pasted, and adds user-side clearances for accessing microphones and cameras. It’s not app review, just an algorithm checking for wonky code and the right permissions so users feel safe.

We saw this coming, but we have to wonder if its deployment now has anything to do with a cross-platform app API and/or SDK coming at WWDC 2019. We sure hope so.

Enjoy your weekend!