Donald Trump’s fake Twitter followers

Nick Bilton in Vanity Fair:

The problem, like almost everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth, is that this number is drastically exaggerated. A large number of those followers aren’t potential voters. They are not even people. They’re bots.

The percentage varies tremendously according to who you ask: anywhere between 3.4 and 41 per cent.

I enjoyed the payoff to this paragraph:

Back in the early days of fake followers, the programmers who made the bots often just plucked pictures of people from Google, created a fake name, fake biography, and—voilà—you had a fake follower. But now, to subvert being found out, bots have become incredibly clever, even sometimes becoming indistinguishable from real people. They use semantic analysis to understand what people are tweeting about, and reply with answers that are mostly coherent, which also more or less describes how Trump uses the service, too.

Related: my friend Phil on the user experience of buying fake followers.

My father, the YouTube star

Kevin Pang on his parents’ surprise hit—a Chinese cookery YouTube show:

The first few emails were marked “Fwd: Jeffrey Pang sent you a video,” so I ignored them. Statistics were on my side: In the history of parental email forwards, roughly 0.001 percent have been worth opening.

Later he followed up by phone. I told him I hadn’t found time to watch whatever it was he sent. Several seconds of silence hung between us before my dad replied: “Oh.”

This is how it had gone for 30-some years — a father-son relationship kept cordial and indifferent through habit and physical distance. I live in Chicago; he’s in Seattle. Once a week, we’d talk on the phone for five minutes and exchange the least substantive of pleasantries: “How’s the weather?” “Plans this weekend?” Not a meaningful conversation so much as a scripted set of talking points.

Only when my mom nudged did I open the video Dad had sent.

Fade in: the company logo for Creative Production, with the E-A-T in “Creative” highlighted. Cue soft piano melody, the type of royalty-free soundtrack that sounds like the hold Muzak when you call your dermatologist. Dissolve to title screen: “Catherine Mom’s Shanghainese Green Onion Pancake,” with its translation in Chinese. And then a photo of my mother (Catherine) and my grandma. A shot of our white kitchen island, and my mother’s hands, her unmistakable wedding band, digging into and massaging wet dough. My virulently anti-technology Chinese parents were starring in their own internet cooking show.

Then one video turned into a few dozen, and now, somehow, my retired, 65-year-old father has nearly a million views on his YouTube channel.