Ralph Vartabedian on cable boxes:

The seemingly innocuous appliances — all 224 million of them across the nation — together consume as much electricity as produced by four giant nuclear reactors, running around the clock. They have become the biggest single energy user in many homes, apart from air conditioning.

A set-top cable box with a digital recorder can consume as much as 35 watts of power, costing about $8 a month for a typical Southern California consumer. The devices use nearly as much power turned off as they do when they are turned on.

Insane. The title, however is incorrect. The correct title should be: Piece of Shit Cable TV Boxes Become 2nd Bigger Energy Users In Many Homes.

Todd Woody:

No one is sure how pervasive the problem is. There are no industrywide figures about defective solar panels. And when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret, making accountability in the industry all the more difficult.

The quality concerns have emerged just after a surge in solar construction. In the United States, the Solar Energy Industries Association said that solar panel generating capacity exploded from 83 megawatts in 2003 to 7,266 megawatts in 2012, enough to power more than 1.2 million homes. Nearly half that capacity was installed in 2012 alone, meaning any significant problems may not become apparent for years.

Important given where this appears to be heading. And that last stat is just insane.

Christopher Mims for Quartz:

All this will encourage yet more homeowners, businesses and communities to buy solar panels as power from the grid gets more expensive. You can see where this is going: The EEI says it could become a feedback loop that eventually wrecks the whole US utility industry, or at least greatly diminishes it.

Eventually, people will only be using the grid as a backup, combining ever-cheaper solar panels with ever more affordable batteries to store the power for when the sun isn’t shining. That’s called an energy transition.

The gist is that as solar panels continue to get cheaper, more people will install and use them. This, in turn, will cause the traditional electric companies to jack up rates to offset the decreased usage (they have pay off long-term plant investments). And that, in turn, will cause more people to buy solar panels.

Two good thoughts by Stephen Baker for The New York Times. First on the move towards advertising being fully data-centric:

While the rise of search battered the humanists, it also laid a trap that the quants are falling into now. It led to the belief that with enough data, all of advertising could turn into quantifiable science. This came with a punishing downside. It banished faith from the advertising equation. For generations, Mad Men had thrived on widespread trust that their jingles and slogans altered consumers’ behavior. Thankfully for them, there was little data to prove them wrong. But in an industry run remorselessly by numbers, the expectations have flipped. Advertising companies now face pressure to deliver statistical evidence of their success. When they come up short, offering anecdotes in place of numbers, the markets punish them. Faith has given way to doubt.

Data has spoiled everyone. It can’t just be about the data or advertising will die. It has to be creative and quantified. Don Draper still needs to exist in this world; some people have simply been tricked into thinking data can replace him. Those people are stupid.

Second, on “social media” as a conduit for advertising:

Dave Morgan, a pioneer in Internet advertising and the founder of Simulmedia, an ad network for TV, points to the early years of electricity. In the late 19th century, most people associated the new industry with one extremely valuable service: light. That was what the marketplace understood. Electricity would displace kerosene and candles and become a giant of illumination. What these people missed was that electricity, far beyond light, was a platform for a host of new industries. Over the following years, entrepreneurs would come up with appliances — today we might call them “apps” — for vacuuming, laundry and eventually radio and television. Huge industries grew on the electricity platform. If you think of Apple in this context, it’s a $496 billion company that builds the latest generation of electricity apps.

Brilliant way to think about it. It’s easy to be blinded by the first innovation to spring from a new technology and think that nothing else will follow. Something else always follows.