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Mobile Technology News, February 8, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • Firefox's new interface is almost here
    Mozilla gears up for the biggest overhaul to Firefox in more than three years as it prepares Australis for all.
  • Innovation In Financial Services-Oxymoron? Future Tech Lessons Learned From The Asian Financial Forum
    My personal passion for innovation and tech (Geek Girl alert!) has lead me to try and push financial services firms from a stone-age mentality about technology toward the Jetsons-era approach taken by most other industries. I have long held that financial services firms tend to see technology spends as merely “expense items” rather than the “revenue generators” that they can be. In other words, they will only invest in new tech when the old stuff is kaput, rather than imagine how making investments in new technologies early might give them an edge over the competition. It’s an attitude born out of a financial services culture that privileges rigidity and sticking with the status quo.

    But that culture has to change. Today, there is extra urgency behind the need for a shift toward innovation: many new financial services competitors that are small, nimble and on the cutting edge of technology entered the market right after the financial crisis, when established firms were busy licking their wounds. The old guard is going to need to stay on top of innovation just to keep up with the new guard.

    When the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) invited me to attend the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, I got a chance to hear first-hand what kind of thinking on financial services innovation is happening in Asia. The HKTDC has more than 40 offices globally to promote offshore and existing business in Hong Kong, mainland China, and all of Asia. The Asian Financial Forum is the largest financial services conference in Asia, boasting over 2000 attendees, over 100 distinguished speakers from the private sector, and public sector–both business people and policy makers. About four out of five of the participants were CEO-level or other C-Suite executives. The conference also drew more than 500 journalists from 39 countries.

    There was one session that caught my eye immediately: Financial Services Innovation Workshop, sponsored by Deloitte. I thought, financial services innovation? Was that an oxymoron? I was eager to hear what fresh ideas the executives on the panel from Deloitte China, AIA Insurance and the Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange, among others, might be able to offer.

    Here are a few key points they made that really had an impact on me and could have a big impact on you and your business:

    Independent Innovation Teams: To foster the conditions in which real innovation will occur, financial services firms must create innovation teams that are independent, made up of industry outsiders, and given room to fail. This also means giving them the resources they need to try things that may fail. “Give an innovation team enough budget, enough autonomy to take some risks, to fail, learn from their failure, and not be punished for their failure, and just try some really new things,” said Simeon Preston, Group Chief Strategy and Operations Officer, AIA Insurance. Preston warned that if the AIA’s innovation incubator were housed within the larger firm of AIA, “antibodies” might destroy the group’s efforts to innovate. Gregory Gibb, Chairman, Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange Co, said similarly that firms must try and innovate first and push risk/compliance to the end of the process. Otherwise, innovative ideas will never get off the ground.

    Customer-Focused Innovation: Financial services firms are very transaction-focused, but they need to pivot to a customer focus when it comes to innovation, said Preston. Firms must try to generate new ideas that will benefit the customer first, rather than deciding what works best for the institution and “stuffing” customer’s needs into the model after the fact, he said. Some innovations will work great in certain markets, but not others, for example. Customers need to be “served” the way that they want to, whether it be in-person, or digitally–as in over email, mobile or skype, said Tim Pagett of Deloitte China. That means a hybrid approach. Preston agreed. In the past, firms would “demonstrate” their stability and size by the number of branches they had in local markets. Now some see a large branch network as an expense rather than a strength, said Preston.

    Networked vs. Siloed Operations: The “old” financial services business model of siloed teams and “we need to invent it here” mentality does not encourage innovation, said Christopher Harvey, Global Industry Leader of Financial Services–Deloitte. He said that separate yet networked and collaborative units would create more agility to adjust to change when necessary. Further, today’s banks and other financial services firms have grown outward into providing more services rather than teaming with best in class providers to create a kind of innovation “grid,” said Harvey. Financial services firms must decide what their core competencies are, Harvey said, and then create partnerships in areas where they are weaker to achieve this networked world.

    Mobile/Social/Virtual World: Some of greatest innovations down the line will likely occur in mobile payments, crowdfunding/lending, virtual currencies and alternative payment systems like Paypal and Alipay, said Gibb. He argued that even mobile payments were becoming passé and that in the future, cell phones could serve not just as communication devices but as identification and currency. This would cut down the steps between payor and payee. He conjectured that the financial services business model of the future would be a tech firm that offered financial services products.

    Regardless, the future of financial services looks bold and bright-for those firms that can embrace innovation/change to be nimble and agile. This is a sea change that financial services firms need to get comfortable with sooner rather than later.

  • Which Game Should Have Won 'Game Of The Year'? (POLLS)
    The 17th annual D.I.C.E. Awards (that’s Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain to you n00bs), which celebrates outstanding achievements in the world of gaming, took place Feb 6.

    Among the nominees for “Game of the Year” were critically acclaimed fan favorites like “Grand Theft Auto V,” “BioShock Infinite” and “The Last of Us.”

    So which game took home the big honor?

    Don’t worry; we’re going to reveal the winners of each category, including “Game of the Year.” But first we want to give you the opportunity to pull a Kanye and tell us which game you really think should have won.

    Vote in each of the polls below, and then click the link to learn the winner.

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: BioShock Infinite
    bioshock infinite

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us – Ellie
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons
    brothers a tale of two sons

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: Plants vs. Zombies 2
    plants vs zombies

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: Diablo III
    diablo iii

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: FIFA 14
    fifa 14

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: Forza Motorsport 5
    forza motorsport 5

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: Injustice: Gods Among Us
    injustice gods among us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: XCOM: Enemy Within
    xcom enemy within

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: Super Mario 3D World
    super mario 3d

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: Plants vs. Zombies 2
    plants vs zombies

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: World of Tanks
    world of tanks

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: BioShock Infinite
    bioshock infinite

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: Grand Theft Auto V
    gta v

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us

    Click here for the winner!

    Winner: The Last of Us
    the last of us
  • Sochi Olympics Cybersecurity Threats Cited By U.S. In Travel Alert
    By Will Dunham
    WASHINGTON, Feb 7 (Reuters) – The United States on Friday issued a fresh travel alert for Americans attending the Sochi Winter Olympics, citing cybersecurity threats and warning them to have “no expectation of privacy” using Russian communications networks.
    The U.S. State Department’s alert – coming the same day that Turkish security forces in Istanbul seized a Ukrainian man accused of trying to hijack an airliner and redirect it to Sochi – updates one issued two weeks ago.
    “U.S. travelers should be aware of cybersecurity threats and understand that they have no expectation of privacy when sharing sensitive or personal information utilizing Russian electronic communication networks,” the department said.
    The warning comes in the middle of a controversy in which U.S. officials blame Russia for the Internet leak of recordings of a senior State Department official and the U.S. ambassador discussing a possible future government for Ukraine.
    Victoria Nuland, a high-ranking U.S. diplomat, is heard on the recording using an expletive to tell the ambassador it would be better if a new Ukrainian government is backed by the United Nations than the EU.
    The State Department alert also said that “Russian police officers have the authority to stop people and request identity and travel documents at any time and without cause.” The alert strongly advised Americans in Sochi to carry at all times their passports, Russian visas and other important documents.
    Officials said on Thursday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration was temporarily banning carry-on liquids, aerosols, gels and powders on flights between Russia and the United States.
    The State Department reiterated that U.S. citizens attending the Olympics “should remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times” and that such events represent an “attractive target for terrorists.”
    The Winter Olympics formally opened on Friday. Several U.S. and European security officials have said that last-minute intelligence reports about possible Olympics-related attacks continue to flow into Western agencies.
    (Additional reporting by Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
  • Composing music with your thoughts
    Headset that turns your thoughts into music
  • Cook talks Motorola sale, iPhone's limits in full WSJ interview
    The Wall Street Journal has published the full contents of yesterday’s interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook, in which he announced the company’s expanded share buyback plan. Commenting on Google’s recent sale of Motorola to Lenovo, Cook says that he “wasn’t surprised,” and that it “seems like a logical transaction,” since Motorola is losing money and Google isn’t committed to it. “I think it’s really hard to do hardware, software and services and to link all those things together. That’s what makes Apple so special,” he adds. “It’s really hard, so I’m not surprised that they are not going to d


  • US DOJ ceases investigation of potential Samsung FRAND patent abuse
    Following the ITC-ordered embargo of Apple products and subsequent Presidential veto, the US Justice Department commenced an investigation of Samsung, and its use of standards-essential patents (SEPs) as a legal weapon. Declining any action, the Department of Justice is closing the investigation, but noted that Samsung was guilty of abusing SEPs legally, and that it would keep monitoring patent lawsuits filed by the Korean electronics manufacturer.


  • Millennials In Love: Why They're Not So Different From Their Parents After All
    This is a whole new breed of breeders.

    Except it’s not. The popular trope of the Millennial age is that sex and love might not be any different now from what they’ve always been, but the way they’re practiced and pursued has changed meaningfully, in large part because of the technology that enables it. The school dance gave way to the singles bar which gave way to the personal ad, which gave way to the Internet which gave way to the smartphone—your handheld, in-pocket, 24-hour police scanner for love. OKCupid and Match.com have always-with-you apps; Grinder and a host of other new apps trump that by swapping compatibility for geography: who’s nearby and who’s available—right now? Tinder gamifies it all—dating and mating as a portable match game, with an unending succession of faces appearing on your screen, all dispatched with a swipe one way to pick the winners and a swipe the other to designate losers—and somewhere out there, your face is being swiped too.

  • Facebook Is Down For Some, Don't Freak Out [UPDATE: It's Back Up]
    UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. — Facebook is now back, according to Down Right Now. “Earlier this afternoon, we experienced a load-balancing issue that prevented some people from accessing Facebook for a brief period of time,” Facebook said in a statement to the Huffington Post. “We resolved the issue quickly, and we are now back to 100%. We’re sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused.”

    Earlier …

    Facebook appears to be down for many people on Friday afternoon. Users are getting an error message when they try to navigate to the site.

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen this before on Facebook. pic.twitter.com/v5M3MhAQy3

    — Josh Sternberg (@joshsternberg) February 7, 2014

    FB now down for me. pic.twitter.com/RGpjkS0bn1

    — Steve Kovach (@stevekovach) February 7, 2014

    facebook is down for some. didn’t see that coming mr. prophet hands, did you? pic.twitter.com/7cXQhi7A5W

    — drew olanoff (@drew) February 7, 2014

    Down Right Now says that there is a “likely service disruption” on Facebook as of two hours ago.

    Try not to lose your mind.

  • New Tech Tools for Travel

    By Jessica Hoffman

    When planning a trip across India, expect to be shocked by the number of ways you can go from point A to point B. According to Amit Somani from website MakeMyTrip.com, the country’s 1.2 billion people and its thousands of cities are connected by a staggering 18.5 million routes that involve a transfer (like from a bus to a train).

    “Only two percent of them, just 400,000 routes, are direct connections,” says Soman. Add just one more stop for a “three-hop route between these 4,300 cities,” and Somani says you’re up to an astonishing 27 billion possible routes, a number that can overwhelm even a seasoned commuter.

    India may be the most perfect example of the complicated choices that travelers face, but the problem isn’t unique. Here we present four hot companies that are striving to solve the problem of complicated travel routes:



    In India, and now around the world, the Route Planner (from the aforementioned MakeMyTrip) aims to take the headache out of the equation. Simply enter your departure location and your destination, and in an instant Route Planner displays the best 10 routes between locations, complete with route times, prices and direct booking options. The website covers more than 1 billion multi-modal routes and provides service via Web, mobile apps and even SMS. The company’s technology was well-received when it was showcased at the 2013 PhoCusWright travel technology conference, where the company was recognized as the most innovative new travel service in the business-to-consumer space.



    The CEO of route planning website WanderU was struck with the idea for the service while on a road trip of her own. In 2011, Polina Raygorodskaya and Igor Bratnikov–a WanderU co-founder–were traveling cross-country to promote rideshares when they found themselves stranded after a last-minute cancellation. The struggle to find a ride led them to the idea of “a search to help people find ground transportation between any two points in the country.”

    From that idea grew WanderU. With coverage along the East Coast from Montreal to Miami, users can find and select bus and train routes between any two cities, add stops along the way, and even select amenities like added leg room, Wi-Fi access and more. Polina and Igor themselves used the service from Boston to Austin on “a week-long bus road trip [with stops] in Nashville, Montgomery and New Orleans.”

    While WanderU currently only covers the eastern United States, Polina says the ultimate goal is becoming “the travel search for the next generation.” Watch for more expansions to come as it focuses on widening its coverage to the entire U.S.



    No matter where you are or where you want to be, Rome2Rio can get you there. It has partnered with hundreds of airlines, train and ferry operators and thousands of bus operators to provide you the best possible route from anywhere to anywhere.

    Based in Melbourne, Australia, Rome2Rio is constantly working to expand its global transportation network. Want to go from Charlotte to Granada? Type in the search terms and see all your options, including layovers, alternate routes, accommodations and cost of each leg of the trip.

    Eco-conscious travelers will especially love the site’s “Carbon Footprint” option. Select it when you choose a route to see what you can do to reduce the effect of your trip on the environment.



    We simply can’t leave Google Maps off this list, even though it’s not a dedicated travel company like MakeMyTrip, WanderU or Rome2Rio. The reason we can’t ignore Google is the popularity of the Google Maps application. Roughly 54 percent of all smartphone users accessed its services in 2013, and it was the fifth most downloaded iPhone app of 2013 (only Vine, YouTube and two game apps were more popular). It’s not hard to understand why, either; the app is highly intuitive, accurate–provided you’ve enabled your phone’s GPS–and offers the top three routes to your destination, quickly displaying distance and time for each route. Users can easily alter the route by selecting various modes of transportation, from public transport to personal vehicle and even walking. The only downside is that Google Flights is still not integrated into the Maps tool.

    Find more tips and travel ideas at www.wheretraveler.com.

    More from WhereTraveler.com:

  • British Drone Taranis Completed Secret Test Flight, Officials Confirm (VIDEO)
    In a major boost for the growing spread of drone technology, a British-made fighter drone has successfully completed secret test flights, the British government revealed this week.

    Named after the Celtic god of thunder Taranis, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was first unveiled to great fanfare by British defense manufacturer BAE Systems in July 2010.

    Details of the British drone program were then classified, until BAE and the government on Wednesday released footage of the maiden flight. A government statement said that Taranis completed a perfect first test flight last August and has made several more since. The location of the tests was not disclosed, but the BBC reports that Taranis is widely believed to be flying in the Australian desert.


    The size of a small fighter jet, Taranis is designed to avoid detection by radar and eventually fly faster than the speed of sound, the BBC reports. Taranis’ chief pilot, Bob Fraser, told the Financial Times that the combat drone can be programmed to fly itself and even make some decisions, although the company stressed that it would be keeping a pilot in charge.


    The British government, which spent £185 million ($300 million) on Taranis, calls it the “most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers.”

    The Financial Times reports that countries such as Britain and France are working hard to compete with the American drone industry, which is worth billions of dollars. Last month, France and Britain agreed to pool their drone technology to develop a combat UAV to be used in battle, the FT said.


    The specter of an arms race in drone technology may disturb critics of unmanned warfare, who argue that drone operators are too far-removed from the battlefield. America’s secretive drone strike program in countries like Pakistan and Yemen has prompted political backlash at home and abroad.

    The International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British security think tank, said last week that drones are becoming more prevalent across the world as the cost of UAV technology falls, The Telegraph reported.

    BAE systems video about Taranis

  • Northwestern University Alumni May Lose An Email List, And They're So Angry
    Alumni of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism are incensed over the school’s decision to discontinue a widely used group email list and replace it with a new social network the university has created.

    A message sent to the email list at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday from Belinda Clarke, director of communications and alumni relations at Medill, told the former students that the list will be gone on May 30.

    “As I explained briefly in the newsletters that went out last week, the Northwestern Alumni Association has spent the last several years building a new online community for Northwestern alumni, students, faculty and staff called OurNorthwestern,” Clarke wrote. “It’s now live, and each of you has a pre-loaded profile page in it.”

    Pushback came within the hour, with many alumni arguing that the university is trying to fix what isn’t broken. So many emails went out to the group list that it reached its daily limit of 100 emails by 4:30 that afternoon, preventing anyone else from chiming in on the news. The email thread, which an alumnus forwarded to The Huffington Post, was wholly free of any support for the change.

    “I don’t need ANOTHER website to visit, ANOTHER social media profile to manage,” one graduate wrote. “It just ain’t gonna happen.”

    Currently, all Medill graduates are placed into the distribution email network by the university. Many of them use it to find jobs and apartments, solicit advice from fellow alumni and keep in touch with one another.

    Clarke elaborated to the group list that the school’s quarterly newsletters, events, ticketing and emails will soon be managed by the new OurNorthwestern site.

    “The system has a few glitches, but over all, this is a good thing,” Clarke wrote.

    Not everyone thinks so. One graduate sent a sarcastic email blast after trying to use OurNorthwestern, saying: “Awesome. So utility. Much easy. Wowe.”

    Many alumni insisted they would not bother to get involved with yet another social network, especially since they already use email so frequently.

    “Despite the obvious flaws of email, it will for all intents and purposes continue to [be] my PRIMARY way of connecting,” one alumna wrote. “Not Facebook messages, not LinkedIn groups, not even OurNorthwestern posts.”

    Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations at Northwestern and himself a Medill alum, told HuffPost that school administrators realize it’s “a bit of a change,” but are “confident that our alums will be able to adapt.”

    “We understand that the listserv is popular with a number of Medill alums and serves as a good tool for a variety of purposes,” Cubbage said. “But we also think the new Northwestern alumni site, OurNorthwestern, will meet those needs, as well as provide other info to alums on events, clubs, access to the alumni directory and other services.”

    Cubbage wouldn’t disclose whether OurNorthwestern or the old email list is cheaper for the university, but he said that “cost wasn’t a key factor — it’s just a matter of trying to provide a good hub for all alumni communications.”

    Medill grads, for their part, are already trying to find an alternative way to stay connected via email. One set up a Google Group and reported back to the other alumni that 30 people had signed up within 15 minutes.

  • Top 7 Myths in Small Business Wireless Security

    Being a professional services consultant, I have the pleasure of working with some of the largest organizations in the world — solving their IT security problems. This allows me to see many different of network designs and configurations. Thus, in my time in this field, I have heard many myths that organizations believe to be true when it comes to their WiFi security.

    Is your network safe? The answer might surprise you. Here are seven common myths in WiFi security and some tips on how to properly secure your network.

    1. Our wireless network requires a password: therefore it is safe.

    While requiring a password to access a wireless network is better than leaving it open to unauthenticated users, it may not even prevent even a novice hacker from breaking into the network. Even after all of the warnings over the years about using Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protection, we still see companies use it. We see it used to support hand scanners or other one-off equipment that does not support stronger encryption, however WEP is cryptographically flawed–avoid using it or engage a professional to build a layered defense. Lastly, limit the use of WiFi Protected Access (WPA)-Pre Shared Key (PSK) for user authentication because the key would need to be rotated after every employee departure since it is static and the same for all users.

    2. My Internet Service Provider (ISP) securely set up my wireless network.

    This is an unfortunate myth, as many ISPs and equipment manufacturers still default to WEP protected networks. In fact, even if you are using one of the largest ISPs and they performed your install or you picked up an install kit, your network is most likely using this antiquated wireless protection.

    In addition to equipment defaulting to WEP, the technicians either do not have a standard installation process or it is not always followed. Personal experience indicates that the encryption chosen by the installers depends on their knowledge and personal preference rather than a standard process.

    Fortunately ISPs and hardware manufacturers are slowly changing. The latest wireless gateways and routers are finally shipping with WPA as the default, but if your organization does not have the latest equipment, you may need to change your security manually.

    The bottom line is that hardware and ISPs vary and will need to be investigated on a case-by-case basis. You will have to perform due diligence as this area has been neglected for a very long time.

    3. The hardware required to break into my wireless network is too expensive and hard to obtain.

    While this may have been true 7-10 years ago, it is not true anymore. In fact, ordinary laptops are powerful enough to easily crack keys or brute force passwords — the information needed to access the network. A very capable USB wireless adapter that can be used for wireless hacking is available online for just $16 with free shipping. Lastly, the operating system needed to perform this wireless attack is freely available for download from the Internet.

    4. The time and skills required to break into my wireless network are more than an attacker would invest.

    A well-versed attacker can break into a weak wireless network in just 5-10 minutes. Even a novice Linux user could stumble through it in less than an hour after following any of the numerous tutorials and YouTube videos available on the Internet. Moderately protected networks do not stand a chance over time. Great care must go into design and implementation to prevent a good attacker from breaking in before a network defender is able to detect and stop the attack.

    5. No one wants to break into my wireless network. We share our data anyway.

    Attackers do not necessarily break into networks with malicious intent — sometimes it is just boredom, curiosity or a challenge they are seeking. However, keep in mind that the moral compass is not always functional for all individuals. Plus, even if you aren’t worried about corporate espionage, you most likely deal with employee records or accounting at some point. Thus, everyone has something to lose, whether that is money, privacy, or both.

    6. Our computers are patched and the firewalls are enabled, therefore an attacker on my network cannot harm me.

    Even if your computers are patched and firewalled, an attacker can still perform a man-in-the-middle attack and intercept your communication. This attack involves tricking a victim into routing their traffic through the attacker’s computer. You will most likely not even notice any strange behavior; however, this attack enables invaders to not only to obtain the data sent across the wire, but also your credentials needed to continually authenticate to your critical systems.

    7. I will notice if an attacker is close enough to my work place to be able to access the wireless network.

    Ninety-five percent of the wireless assessments we conduct suffer from wireless signal bleed. This means that the wireless signal is available outside of the building. Sometimes from as far away as the corners of their parking lots and even the next building over. Ideally, the wireless signal strength should be just strong enough to provide a reliable wireless connection without making it available to all of your neighbors. Also remember that if you are in a shared office building, you not only have to worry about horizontal bleed, but also vertical bleed for the floors above and below that are not owned by your organization.

    Lastly, inexpensive antennas can be purchased or easily assembled to increase the wireless gain enough to produce a usable wireless signal from blocks away. You will not even see the attacker or the vehicle they are sitting in while they are breaking into your network. We have seen wireless bleed so extreme that we were able to launch our attacks from a café about 75 yards from the building.

    The hope in writing this article is to raise awareness, which is always the first step in moving toward securing your network. Keeping in mind these myths, work with your trusted IT manager to properly design and implement the most secure wireless architecture for your business.

  • Analyzing Your Media History

    Each spring semester for the past eighteen years, I’ve taught a course at Tufts University called Children and Mass Media. And each January I’ve chosen to begin the class the same way. On the first day of class, I give my students their first assignment: analyze your personal media history.

    Years ago I asked them to write about their personal television history, but with the dominance of the Internet, the growing importance of social media and the multiple uses of different types of mobile platforms in the lives of young people, I’ve had to revise the assignment. Even though the prompt has morphed a bit, I find that the results are always the same: it’s a great way to get students to start thinking about how their media preferences and consumption as children colors their media preferences and consumption as young adults. I don’t grade this assignment, but I do use it to get conversation going. And I learn a lot about my students, because it turns out that media use is intricately and intimately connected to a lot of personal issues.

    Over the years I’ve had students write this paper, I’ve seen some fascinating trends emerge. One pattern is an inverse relationship between the amount of control parents or caregivers exert over a child’s media intake and the amount of media that child — now grown into a young adult — freely admits she or he consumes. When parents greatly limit a child’s media use, the child-cum-adult uses a lot of media; when parents do not set enormous barriers to a child’s media use, she or he tends to view and use media far more moderately as a young adult. There are exceptions to this rule and I have to admit I have not tracked this very systematically, but there’s no doubt the overall pattern exists.

    For instance, one student this year wrote, “Ten or so years of extreme parental control over my media use were followed by a few years of absolute media saturation. I’m sure that my parents’ stringent media rules during my childhood strongly influenced my desire to over-consume media when I first got to college.” And conversely, a student whose parents “truly set no limits as to what my brothers and I could watch or listen to or surf” found that “today I actually spend very little time with media. I watch practically no TV and am a much lighter consumer of most social media than many of my peers. I have to think that because my parents never forbade us from media and had such a laissez-faire attitude about it influenced my siblings and I to have pretty moderate and balanced views and use of media today.”

    Increasing numbers of my students are writing about how they have made very deliberate decisions to take a break from social media. I’ve written a column previously about how students are taking a holiday from Facebook, but this year I’ve found even more students who not only opt out of Facebook, but also are disabling their Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter accounts. “When I realized how much time I was wasting reading everyone’s tweets, I realized it was time to get off that social media merry-go-round” wrote one young man.

    As Tufts has become ever more diverse in terms of the racial, ethnic, global and economic backgrounds of our students, some of these socioeconomic factors have also found their ways into this assignment. This year a student who had grown up in both Seoul and New York wrote about how her confusion over whether she was Korean or Korean American translated into the television shows she selected as a child. A student who hails from Turkey wrote of how she learned to speak English primarily from watching Disney films and how this created a disconnect with her parents, who did not know a word of English. A student who grew up in a single parent household in South Central Los Angeles wrote of how her mom was determined to do what she could “to protect me and my four siblings from the negative influences of the world all around us, and that included prohibiting us from seeing the glitzy world on television and in advertising that was so different from the reality of our lives.” A student who was raised in multicultural Hawaii stated that she “never saw the kind of people I was surrounded with in any of the media I saw as a child.” And a student from Ghana wrote about how the dominance of American media in his life as a child meant “”I often dreamed of spending a whole day just watching American programming.”

    Some students wrote prescient essays about how different forms of media had held social significance for them at different points in their childhood. Writing about his presence on AOL growing up, one young man admitted that, “I could create an AOL profile through which the whole world could see me the way I wanted to be seen, and talk to the girls I was too socially awkward to talk to at school. I literally could not summon the courage to ask a girl for her help on homework at school, but I was flawless in the placement of a coy smiley face and spelling cool ‘kool,’ or ‘kewl’ — whatever the coolest way to spell it was that week.”

    Another student discussed her thoughts on some of the ways in which memories of childhood media use had proved a bonding mechanism, a form of social indoctrination, during her first days at Tufts: “In the confusion and excitement of the first week of college orientation, some particular conversations seem to be repeated constantly with various groups of fellow freshmen. Few topics come up as continuously as television and other media consumption beyond names, dorms and dining hall food. Possibly in a show of solidarity as a generation, reminiscing on children’s television from “the good old-days” of the mid- to late-nineties is a common practice of college students, both in person and on the Internet. Discussing the ninja-turtles’ obsession with pizza or playing the Rugrats theme song on a piano would probably considered valid and relatable conversation-starters for many Tufts students and current undergraduates in general. These types of interactions are representative of the sentiment that certain media consumption is considered ubiquitous for my demographic.”

    Finally, I have found that students often link their media use to other issues that affected them in childhood. Sometimes these issues are intense and profound: The student who wrote about how her parents’ addictions to alcohol and drugs shaped her own “addictive personality, which at times has included an addiction to media.” There are always students who write about how media use figured into figuring out relationships with parents who had split up. This year, I read about one student whose divorced parents had very different rules about media use in their homes which made my student and her siblings acutely conscious of how media use at respective parents’ homes led them to periodically favor one parent over another, and about another student who obsessively watched The Sound of Music because the film was the only positive memory she had to hold onto from the father from whom she’d become estranged.

    There are always stories like the one from the young man who wrote that he loved playing video games as a child because “feelings of triumph, sadness and anxiety got funneled through a fictional world to the point where I realized that I was using all my emotional energies there and had little to spare for the real world in which I sometimes lived.” And then there are the young women who write poignantly and movingly about their obsession with teen magazines or unhealthy and unobtainable body images of television models. “I truly thought that the runway models and the girls in acne commercials were typical. I never saw anyone overweight on TV. I couldn’t change my eyes, my nose or freckles, but the one thing I could change was my weight. Overcoming anorexia recast my relationship with TV.”

    I don’t think I knew when I first came up with this assignment just how revealing it would turn out to be. I asked my students for permission to quote from their papers anonymously in this piece, and without exception, they gave it to me. They realized, as I have, that this assignment says a lot about the relationship between media use and cultural issues. It’s proven to be one of the best assignments I’ve ever given.

  • Aligning Content Marketing Teams and Processes
    As content marketing becomes more commonplace, brands are becoming savvier about creating processes and building teams to support content initiatives. In fact, Curata’s recent survey of 500 marketers found that 71 percent say they plan to boost their investment in content marketing in the areas of people (internal and external) and technology during 2014. Twelve percent say they will make a significant increase in investment.

    Investing in people often means hiring a dedicated content marketing team, including Chief Content Officer, VP, or Director of Content to oversee the team. Forty-three percent of the companies surveyed already have an executive focused on overall content strategy.

    But once they have a content executive in place, how do savvy brands align marketing with broader organizational goals? Here’s a look at four best practices to maximize content marketing success.

    Build a solid content team. The executive in charge of content–sometimes called a Chief Content Officer or VP or Director of Content–needs a team of strong writers to execute on his or her vision. Oftentimes, these writers have a journalism (rather than a traditional marketing) background, ensuring that they know how to source credible information and tell stories in a compelling and authentic manner that isn’t overly salesy. In addition to building an internal team, many brands also outsource part of their content creation to agencies or freelancers. Outsourcing helps them maintain a steady stream of fresh content without exhausting the internal content team. The best marketers avoid “cheap” content and ensure that all the content developed for the brand is high quality and meets company standards.

    Align internally. In addition to building a core content team (perhaps including a blog or content manager, content specialist, and content writers), it’s also smart to identify individuals and teams across the organization to be part of an extended content marketing team. They can contribute content as time allows or if they’re less comfortable writing, help generate brand-appropriate ideas from other corners of the organization. In addition, these members of the extended marketing team can help evangelize support for content marketing by securing executive buy-in.

    Rethink the process. Content marketing succeeds when it’s aligned with global and local marketing strategies. Identify what content you will produce and how that content will flow from creation to distribution to analysis. Establishing metrics to help improve the content marketing creation process is also key. Metrics exploring engagement, ROI, and other areas can help hone the content strategy and justify the brand’s investment in content marketing. For example, when reviewing your company’s blog, how much traffic does it drive to your corporate site? Look at which blog articles produce the most social shares and tweak your editorial calendar to include a similar styles of content.

    Encourage innovation in content marketing. As the pace of publishing content continues to accelerate, the need to create more relevant pieces will only increase in 2014. To keep content fresh and relevant, consider mixing up your content mix by crowdsourcing from readers, curating from third-party sources, or drawing inspiration from customer questions. Continuing to innovate and reinvent the creation process will keep the content from getting stale. For instance, you could repurpose a webinar as a series of blog posts or turn it into an ebook to get more mileage out of every piece you create. The content marketing pyramid offers ideas on creating longer or shorter pieces with existing content.

    Want to read more about content marketing best practices? Download Content Marketing Tactics Planner 2014, Curata’s third annual benchmark study covering the strategies of successful content marketing teams, the role of new technology, and much more.

  • Bill would make antitheft tech mandatory on smartphones in California
    Democratic State Senator Mark Leno of California has introduced a bill that would require any smartphone or tablet sold in the state to include some form of “kill switch” antitheft technology, says the New York Times. The bill is being sponsored by San Francisco district attorney George Gascón, who along with the attorney general for New York has been pressuring cellphone makers to add the technology for some time. Under the proposed law, any unprotected mobile device sold in California on or after January 1st 2015 would net the vendor a fine up to $2,500 per unit.


  • The Issue With Gary Vaynerchuk and Applying the 1947 Newspaper Isolation Effect to Today
    Among other hot images making the rounds lately, an image of suit-clad businessmen and women absorbed in newspapers on a subway is garnering support for the idea that minimizes, diminishes and pooh-poohs the impact of technology on our behavior and thoughts. Gary Vaynerchuk, author of The Thank You Economy and Crush It!, recently wrote a rant on Medium.com entitled “Technology hasn’t changed Us”.

    His basic premise is that people are doing what they have always wanted to do: ignore other people and settle into our natural state of distraction. While I agree with this premise, there’s still something wrong here. Let’s look at this more closely. What is the difference between the subway image of 1947 and today’s image of devices in our faces instead?


    With newspapers, there was nothing but news. You didn’t have a choice of what to view. When we see people on devices today, on the plane, at restaurants, tripping over their shoelaces while walking, it’s important to realize that every person isn’t necessarily doing anything useful on their device. Every single person in the picture on the right is looking at something different. They may not be learning anything new.

    And like anything else, what makes the distinction is self-motivation. What have we learned from marketing and advertising in the last century? People are lazy. People like taking the easy road. So what does the Internet contain? What do devices contain? What products and services do people create that is now marketed on our technology platforms? Games, advertising, self-generated psychobabble and meaningless distraction. Along with useful information that could transform the world and that is transforming the world already.

    What would have been a more meaningful comparison is when TVs entered the media arena, not newspapers. But the thing with TVs is that you couldn’t take them with you… until now.

    Gary’s right: We are doing what comes naturally, what comes easiest to us. But the reality is that what comes easiest, comes easier than ever before. The steepness of the downhill slide just exponentially increased.

    The positive side to technology is huge. I’m not crying, “Doom for the world, technology is here!” What I’m saying is that technology unquestionably has an impact and to deny that is ignorance. If you’re like me (and probably like Gary!), you make the effort to filter all the content that is in your face. You build up motivation to figure out where you want to spend your time. Gary got that right — if a kid today wants to go and play outside, they will get up and go play outside. What he got wrong is that, now, there is a much bigger mental barrier to overcome because of the choice to stay and eat what technology is feeding you.

    The guys with the newspapers? They didn’t have to make that choice. Guess what? You do. And that choice is either made by you or for you. You decide. Welcome to Escaping Digital Comas 101.

  • Knocking Big Data Down to Size
    Building loyalty and engagement with big data and gamification doesn’t mean you have to lasso the moon.

    My Coke Rewards

    Strategic marketers like Coca-Cola‘s Taylor Miffleton talk a lot about brand love. After all, it’s the purest form of loyalty. Brand love emerges only after consumers make a primal connection with a product or service – a bond that’s stronger than the lure of lower prices or snazzy new features.

    Not long ago, cultivating brand love required equal helpings of hard work, patience and luck. But few companies today, no matter how hard they work, can afford to patiently wait for consumers to come around, and counting on a surfeit of good luck isn’t much of a strategy.

    Creating brand love today requires getting out in front of a fast-moving, digitally connected customer base marked by constantly shifting allegiances and an ability to chase the next best deal. In other words, you need all the help you can get.

    Increasingly, that assist is coming from big data. For marketers, this means the swirling cosmos of structured and unstructured information culled from the mobile devices, social networks, enterprise applications, and networked products that mediate virtually everything we do in modern life. Every time we take action online or with a mobile device, we’re revealing what interests and motivates us. With each of us throwing off this kind of data all day, every day, what brand wouldn’t want to take advantage of it?

    Yet while big data is getting plenty of attention in news headlines – thanks, NSA! – its practical uses seem to be eluding most marketers. This is a core thesis in a new book by Lisa Arthur, chief marketing officer for data analytics and warehousing giant Teradata. In Big Data Marketing: Engage Your Customers More Effectively and Drive Value, Arthur recounts a Teradata survey of marketers that powerfully illustrates the problem: 45 percent of marketers surveyed feel that data is the most underutilized asset in their organization, and just 10 percent believe they use data in a systematic, strategic way. This isn’t what you want to hear from marketing executives expected to help drive incremental sales, improve customer retention, and generate demand in the marketplace.

    Waders for Your Big Data Pools

    Fortunately, Arthur’s book offers some useful prescriptions for those trying to wade through the vast pools of new data their target users are creating every day. For instance, Step 3 in her five-step plan for big data marketing exhorts marketers to “Untangle the Data Hairball.” By this Arthur means filtering out worthwhile signals from the great volume of data noise that can too often confuse and distract marketers. In other words, it’s about knocking big data down to size so you can make some real use of it.

    To do this, Arthur argues you need to start by defining your vision – what it is you want to accomplish. Only after you define those business goals can you determine which data is useful to your marketing effort and which isn’t.

    I can’t agree more with this approach, and it’s a key best practice of gamification, which essentially is motivating people through data. Take SAP, the enterprise software leader. Its gamified social business network, the SAP Community Network (SCN), has more than 2 million members, including SAP customers, partners and employees. SCN members generate plenty of big data by engaging in thousands of discussions every day, and interacting with hundreds of thousands of pieces of informational content. SAP uses that data to shape the gamification experience in ways that motivate members to participate, engage, and contribute more quality content to the community. But not everything in that stream of big data is useful for achieving those goals, so some hairball untangling is in order. For instance, since a key aim is to encourage more high-quality contributions, the gamified experience rewards contributors not for how often they post (which is determined by simple post volume data), but rather for the quality of their contributions (as determined by how many “helpful” votes their posts receive from other members).

    I’m In the Mood for Brand Love

    One of the by-products of a gamification program is a collection of user activity data that can be used to generate insights, be predictive, and last but not least, cultivate brand love. Which brings me back to Coca-Cola, who recently launched a gamified version of its MyCokeRewards site. The site offers fans of Coke, Coke Zero and other products a way to earn status and accumulate reward points that they can redeem for coupons, tickets and other perks. The gamified site differs from traditional rewards programs because it’s not transaction-based (where you buy a soft drink and enter the code printed under the cap to get free stuff). Instead, Coca-Cola is rewarding consumers for sharing their love on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram through posts and photos bearing specific hashtags.

    The campaign gives Coca-Cola a way to observe how consumers share their brand preferences with peers – which is a kind of Holy Grail for marketers, since 90 percent of shoppers surveyed in 2013 said they trust social media word-of-mouth over any other kind of advertising. The data of course feeds and influences the gamification experience, but it will also inform other marketing campaigns. And not incidentally, motivating consumers to engage in these behaviors begets another happy result: more brand ambassadors for Coke.

    No matter how you’re planning to build brand love, take a page from Lisa Arthur’s Big Data Marketing and from the best practices of gamification: Take the time to unravel the data hairball and understand which information will help you reach your business goals. It’ll keep you from feeling that your big data is just too big to be useful.

    Big Data Marketing

  • Walter White's Facebook Look Back Video Is The Perfect Bit Of 'Breaking Bad' Nostalgia
    No one except you really cares about those Facebook Look Back videos you’ve been posting online. But here’s one you’ll actually want to watch. Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues made one for good ol’ Walter White, and it’s pretty spot on.

    From his family vacation to that pizza throw, the would-be Facebook Look Back video for Walter White gives us everything we’ve been missing since the “Breaking Bad” finale.

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