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Mobile Technology News, April 4, 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.

  • Analyst: iPhones still top dog among US carriers
    The iPhone — specifically, the iPhone 5s — has been the top seller at all four major US carriers since its introduction, a trend that continued in March according to figures compiled by Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley. The year-old Samsung Galaxy S4 took second place among three of the four carriers, though it was knocked out of second at Verizon by the new HTC One M8. The S4 took third at Verizon, with the company’s Note 3 phablet taking third at AT&T and Sprint, while the LG G2 took third at T-Mobile.


  • YouTube offers 'showdown' between Touch ID and Samsung swipe reader
    A new video posted to YouTube offers a head-to-head demonstration of the iPhone 5s’ “Touch ID” fingerprint-recognition technology and the “swipe-style” fingerprint reader found in Samsung’s Galaxy S5, its just-released latest flagship smartphone. Over the course of five minutes, the poster of the video makes clear that Touch ID, first introduced late last year, continues to offer a better overall experience. The clip covers the technical aspects of both companies’ approaches.


  • Mom's (And Dad's) Worst Facebook Flubs
    Navigating social media has proven more than a little tricky for some moms, and the hilarity of the fails is epic. The best part is we’re all there to watch and enjoy these missteps, which are ultimately pretty harmless. We’ve scoured the Internet to find some of the best to bring a smile to your face and even make you laugh out loud.

  • Hi-tech fire alarm in safety halt
    Google-owned Nest halts sales of its Nest Protect fire alarm after the firm found that users could accidentally disable the device by waving their arms.
  • White House Defends 'Cuban Twitter' Created To Undermine Communist Government
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Thursday defended its creation of a Twitter-like Cuban communications network to undermine the communist government, declaring the secret program was “invested and debated” by Congress and wasn’t a covert operation that required White House approval.

    But two senior Democrats on congressional intelligence and judiciary committees said they had known nothing about the effort, which one of them described as “dumb, dumb, dumb.” A showdown with that senator’s panel is expected next week, and the Republican chairman of a House oversight subcommittee said that it, too, would look into the program. An Associated Press investigation found that the network was built with secret shell companies and financed through a foreign bank. The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform.

    First, the network was to build a Cuban audience, mostly young people. Then, the plan was to push them toward dissent.

    Yet its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them, in the hope that the information might be used someday for political purposes.

    It is unclear whether the scheme was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president as well as congressional notification. White House spokesman Jay Carney said he was not aware of individuals in the White House who had known about the program.

    In response, Josefina Vidal, director of U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, said late Thursday that the ZunZuneo program “shows once again that the United States government has not renounced its plans of subversion against Cuba, which have as their aim the creation of situations of destabilization in our country to create changes in the public order and toward which it continues to devote multimillion-dollar budgets each year.”

    “The government of the United States must respect international law and the goals and principles of the United Nations charter and, therefore, cease its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and international public opinion,” the statement said.

    USAID’s top official, Rajiv Shah, is scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, on the agency’s budget. The subcommittee’s chairman, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is the senator who called the project “dumb, dumb, dumb” during an appearance Thursday on MSNBC.

    The administration said early Thursday that it had disclosed the initiative to Congress — Carney said the program had been “debated in Congress” — but hours later the narrative had shifted to say that the administration had offered to discuss funding for it with the congressional committees that approve federal programs and budgets.

    “We also offered to brief our appropriators and our authorizers,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. She added that she was hearing on Capitol Hill that many people support these kinds of democracy promotion programs. And some lawmakers did speak up on that subject. But by late Thursday no members of Congress had acknowledged being aware of the Cuban Twitter program earlier than this week.

    Harf described the program as “discreet” but said it was in no way classified or covert. Harf also said the project, dubbed ZunZuneo, did not rise to a level that required the secretary of state to be notified. Neither former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton nor John Kerry, the current occupant of the office, was aware of ZunZuneo, she said.

    In his prior position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry had asked congressional investigators to examine whether or not U.S. democracy promotion programs in Cuba were operated according to U.S. laws, among other issues. The resulting report, released by the Government Accountability Office in January 2013, does not examine whether or not the programs were covert. It does not say that any U.S. laws were broken.

    The GAO report does not specifically refer to ZunZuneo, but does note that USAID programs included “support for the development of independent social networking platforms.”

    At minimum, details uncovered by the AP appear to muddy the USAID’s longstanding claims that it does not conduct covert actions, and the details could undermine the agency’s mission to deliver aid to the world’s poor and vulnerable — an effort that requires the trust and cooperation of foreign governments.

    Leahy and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said they were unaware of ZunZuneo.

    “I know they said we were notified,” Leahy told AP. “We were notified in the most oblique way, that nobody could understand it. I’m going to ask two basic questions: Why weren’t we specifically told about this if you’re asking us for money? And secondly, whose bright idea was this anyway?”

    The Republican chairman of a House oversight subcommittee said his panel will be looking into the project, too.

    “That is not what USAID should be doing,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform National Security Subcommittee. “USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

    But several other lawmakers voiced their support for ZunZuneo, which is slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.

    Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said USAID should be applauded for giving people in Cuba a less-controlled platform to talk to each other.

    “The whole purpose of our democracy programs, whether it be in Cuba or other parts of the world, is in part to create a free flow of information in closed societies,” Menendez said.

    USAID and its contractors went to extensive lengths to conceal Washington’s ties to the project, according to interviews and documents obtained by the AP. They set up front companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to hide the money trail, and recruited CEOs without telling them they would be working on a U.S. taxpayer-funded project.

    “There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord Inc., one of the project’s creators. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”

    ZunZuneo was publicly launched shortly after the 2009 arrest in Cuba of American contractor Alan Gross. He was imprisoned after traveling repeatedly to the country on a separate, clandestine USAID mission to expand Internet access using sensitive technology that only governments use.

    The AP obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about the ZunZuneo project’s development. It independently verified the project’s scope and details in the documents through publicly available databases, government sources and interviews with those involved.

    ZunZuneo would seem to be a throwback to the Cold War and a decades-long struggle between the United States and Cuba. It came at a time when the sour relationship between the countries had improved, at least marginally, and Cuba had made tentative steps toward a more market-based economy.

    The social media project began after Washington-based Creative Associates International obtained a half-million Cuban cellphone numbers. It was unclear to the AP how the numbers were obtained, although documents indicate they were done so illicitly from a key source inside the country’s state-run provider. Project organizers used those numbers to start a subscriber base.

    ZunZuneo’s organizers wanted the social network to grow slowly to avoid detection by the Cuban government. Eventually, documents and interviews reveal, they hoped the network would reach critical mass so that dissidents could organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice — that could trigger political demonstrations, or “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

    At a 2011 speech at George Washington University, Clinton said the U.S. helps people in “oppressive Internet environments get around filters.” Noting Tunisia’s role in the Arab Spring, she said people used technology to help “fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change.”

    Suzanne Hall, then a State Department official working on Clinton’s social media efforts, helped spearhead an attempt to get Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to take over the ZunZuneo project, documents indicate. Dorsey declined to comment.

    The estimated $1.6 million spent on ZunZuneo was publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, public government data show, but those documents don’t reveal where the funds were actually spent.

    ZunZuneo’s organizers worked hard to create a network that looked like a legitimate business, including the creation of a companion website — and marketing campaign — so users could subscribe and send their own text messages to groups of their choice.

    “Mock ad banners will give it the appearance of a commercial enterprise,” one written proposal obtained by the AP said. Behind the scenes, ZunZuneo’s computers were also storing and analyzing subscribers’ messages and other demographic information, including gender, age, “receptiveness” and “political tendencies.” USAID believed the demographics on dissent could help it target its other Cuba programs and “maximize our possibilities to extend our reach.”

    “It was such a marvelous thing,” said Ernesto Guerra, a Cuban user who never suspected his beloved network had ties to Washington.

    “How was I supposed to realize that?” Guerra asked in an interview in Havana. “It’s not like there was a sign saying, ‘Welcome to ZunZuneo, brought to you by USAID.'”

    Executives set up a corporation in Spain and an operating company in the Cayman Islands — a well-known British offshore tax haven — to pay the company’s bills so the “money trail will not trace back to America,” a strategy memo said. Disclosure of that connection would have been a catastrophic blow, they concluded, because it would undermine the service’s credibility with subscribers and get it shut down by the Cuban government.

    Similarly, subscribers’ messages were funneled through two other countries — and never through American-based computer servers.

    Denver-based Mobile Accord considered at least a dozen candidates to head the European front company. One candidate, Francoise de Valera, told the AP she was told nothing about Cuba or U.S. involvement.

    In a statement Thursday to the Denver Business Journal, Mobile Accord said, “We provided a platform for Cuban people to connect with one another. The program ran its course and was defunded, but it was well-loved by users, and we’re very proud of the network we built for Cubans to share information about their daily lives.”

    Creative Associates referred questions to USAID.

    For more than two years, ZunZuneo grew, reaching at least 40,000 subscribers. But documents reveal the team found evidence Cuban officials tried to trace the text messages and break into the ZunZuneo system. USAID told the AP that ZunZuneo stopped in September 2012 when a government grant ended.

    ZunZuneo vanished abruptly in 2012, and the Communist Party remains in power — no Cuban Spring on the horizon.

    “The moment when ZunZuneo disappeared, (it) was like a vacuum,” said Guerra, the ZunZuneo user. “In the end, we never learned what happened. We never learned where it came from.”


    Contributing to this report were Associated Press researcher Monika Mathur and AP writers Richard Lardner, Lara Jakes, Donna Cassata and Deb Riechmann in Washington, and AP writers Andrea Rodriguez and Peter Orsi in Havana. Arce reported from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


    Contact the AP’s Washington investigative team at DCinvestigations@ap.org. Follow on Twitter: Butler at http://twitter.com/desmondbutler; Gillum at http://twitter.com/jackgillum; Arce at http://twitter.com/alberarce.

  • White House anger over Obama selfie
    The White House criticises Samsung for promoting a “selfie” photo taken by Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz with President Barack Obama.
  • Report: Apple to use Micron LPDDR4 DRAM in future products?
    Independent analyst Matt Margolis has reported on a mysterious $250 million payment to memory maker Micron, which in turn last summer bought out another memory manufacturing firm, Elpida, for $2 billion. Among Elpida’s many customers, one in particular has a habit of being both secretive and willing to pay large sums in advance to procure supply — Apple. If the payment is from the iPhone maker, it may be trying to lock in supplies of Micron’s new LPDDR4 DRAM.


  • Nasa trains robot doctor in space
    Nasa’s robot doctor will see you now
  • Does success lie up in the clouds?
    The technologies giving small firms freedom to grow
  • How 1 Sexual Assault Victim Helped 400 Others Find A Voice
    Ali Safran wanted to turn the anniversary of the date she was sexually assaulted into something positive. The Mount Holyoke College senior didn’t expect the resulting project in its first year to grow into a nonprofit corporation that inspired legislation in California and created classroom lessons used as far away as Turkey.

    Safran, now 21, launched Surviving In Numbers on April 1, 2013 — the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. She invited other victims of sexual assault to write on poster board what happened as a result of the attacks, with numbers, then photographed each person holding the poster in front of their face. She arranged to display the photos on campuses in Massachusetts. Word spread. The number of posters grew.

    One year later, Surviving In Numbers has helped tell the story of 410 survivors, collected 2,200 Tumblr followers and has had visitors from 12 countries.

    “I had no idea or intention of it growing,” said Safran, who majors in psychology and politics and still takes a full class schedule. She expects to graduate on time this spring. “I’m glad it’s grown, but was definitely not expecting that or intending for that to happen.”

    Safran was sexually assaulted in 2009, when she was still in high school, by an acquaintance. At Mount Holyoke, in Amherst, Mass., she began working as a rape crisis counselor and developed a strong desire to help other sexual assault survivors tell their stories, knowing the pressure she faced to stay quiet about her own experience.

    At nearby Amherst College, a group of students created a magazine called It Happens Here about sexual violence at the college. It Happens Here included a series of photos similar to Surviving In Numbers, with Amherst victims holding handwritten signs showing statements people had made to them.

    The women who worked on the It Happens Here photos were quick to say they did their project with the “inspiration and permission” of Project Unbreakable.

    Project Unbreakable follows the same outline of posting photos with survivors displaying hand-drawn posters of things said to them by others. While Project Unbreakable sometimes shows survivors’ faces, Safran’s project won’t.

    Safran explained that she wants to show sexual assault is “not going to happen to a specific type of person — it can happen to anyone.” She also tries to put things into numbers, such as the victim’s age when first abused, or the number of friends lost since the attack.

    In the first year for Surviving in Numbers, Safran saw her project displayed on at least eight college campuses, largely in Massachusetts. She spoke at 11 colleges. She also talked with California lawmakers and with U.S. Department of Education representatives.

    Money, of course, is an issue for a college student. Traveling and volunteering instead of working at a part-time job forced her to learn how to apply for foundation grants to help cover expenses, including hiring an assistant to handle the submissions and to help her develop a rape-prevention curriculum for high school students.

    “Money would’ve been helpful, to have more people to help out this year to lighten some of the load,” Safran said. “I could’ve reached more schools than I have so far.”

    Now she’s trying a different route: Fundraising. Safran launched an IndieGogo page on Tuesday, Surviving In Numbers’ one-year anniversary, with the goal of raising $10,000.

    “Basically the fundraising is to double the impact,” Safran said. “I’m hoping to expand this outside of Massachusetts.”

    Her fundraising effort lays out goals for the project, including implementing her rape-prevention curriculum in classrooms and training teachers. In the first two days, Safran raised more than $3,000.

    Safran said she believes the strong initial response is because there’s a lack of space for survivors to speak out.

    “I think it definitely speaks to people wanting Surviving in Numbers to get more reach this coming year,” Safran said.

  • No, Russia Isn't About To Take Over Your Internet: Protecting Internet Freedom From Both Simplistic Defenders, Internet Restricting Countries
    Let there be no mistake: the future and openness of the Internet is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, recent headlines could easily lead someone who hasn’t followed Internet policy to think the United States recently and suddenly decided to give up control over the Internet – and that this will give rise to censorship and other misfortune around the world.

    The truth, as explained by the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Wednesday, is that relinquishing control of the Internet addressing system is a strategic move not just for the United States, but for all those around the world committed to Internet freedom.

    It is exactly because such countries like Russia and China are seeking greater international governmental control over Internet content, that the recent NTIA proposal is to be lauded. It conditionally frees the existing multi-stakeholder institution from the remaining minor residual control the Department of Commerce has maintained. Under this institutional model the Internet has flourished and resisted most attempts to limit Internet freedom by various governments, including at times the U.S.

    Those who have been the leaders in the development and protection of the Internet and its freedom are convinced this move by the U.S., leading by example, will actually strengthen the role of democratic principles, and encourage liberty respecting countries to join non-profits and other legitimate stakeholders to resist authoritarian attempts to increase the role and control of governments .

    It’s worth noting that the only area in which the U.S. has significant jurisdiction relating to the Internet is in connection with a contract it has with the non-profit that manages the Internet addressing system so that no two websites share the same address.

    The gradual transfer of remaining U.S. government stewardship of Internet addresses to the Internet’s global multi-stakeholder community – a process being facilitated by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) — has been established U.S. policy since 1998, supported by successive administrations and the legislative branch. Reneging on this promise would seriously damage U.S. credibility worldwide and provide an excuse and rationale for Russia, China, and others to seek enhanced roles for their governments.

    ICANN is an international group that facilitates multi-stakeholder Internet governance, and it is in a strong position to take the Internet to its next stage of growth and combat challenges by those who would seek to censor the Internet or exert more government control over content.

    In response to the NTIA announcement, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who co-chairs the Internet Caucus, said that a “strong multi-stakeholder system free from the control of any government” is desirable, and that “innovators and entrepreneurs” are more trusted than government “bureaucrats” when it comes to ensuring an open, well-functioning global Internet.

    But lawmakers who have not been as deeply involved in the details of Internet policy did not seem to understand why this was an adroit strategic move and instead called it a defeatist policy.

    Sadly even former Wall Street Journal publisher L. Gordon Crovitz’s opinion piece “America’s Internet Surrender” (March 18) argues that the United States is making a big mistake by giving up its remaining control over Internet addresses to the global multi-stakeholder community. While we appreciate someone of Mr. Crovitz’s stature supporting Internet freedom in general, it is short-sighted and unwise to think the U.S. can somehow prevail on this, alone, through sheer force of will.

    My tech association has been a steadfast voice for Internet Freedom for many years and recently participated as part of the U.S. State Department delegation to the WCIT conference and helped resist efforts by countries like Russia and China who seeks greater international government regulation of the Internet through a U.N. group that Crovitz references in his editorial.

    Having been on the ground fighting Internet surveillance and censorship for two decades, my tech trade association would be the first to join the chorus of those denouncing this U.S. move if there was truth to these arguments that it would lead to a less open Internet. But we are convinced it is the right move for the outcome that both those praising and criticizing the Commerce Department want.

    The Internet faces unprecedented challenges and it faces them while the U.S. credibility is damaged in the wake of the Snowden revelations. Strengthening a multi-stakeholder group like ICANN, backed by like-minded Internet freedom allies, is likely a more effective way to prevent Internet restricting countries from succeeding. We do not — and should not — try to retain or expand the role of any governments seeking to control of this borderless communications tool.

    The U.S. is much stronger by fighting alongside not just other democratic countries, but also with their NGOs and non-profits. We’re going to need those numbers and breadth of support because we’ll be up against any religious group, government or government faction around the world that has ever had a complaint about any Internet content or its inherent ability to facilitate free speech and strengthen democracies.

  • Vine Just Unleashed A Private Messaging Feature (We All Know How This Ends)
    Now you don’t have to worry about whether your latest Vine is appropriate for everyone. The app’s latest update lets you share private video messages directly with other users.

    The Twitter-owned video-sharing app announced Thursday that users can now record six-second videos and send them directly to individuals, rather than sharing them with the entire Vine community.

    Friends can reply to private messages with either a video or a written message. Vine users can even send private videos to non-Vine users via text.

    vine messaging

    “To create your own Vine message (VM), select the new ‘Messages’ option in the navigation menu, record a video and send it to your friends,” reads a post on the Vine Blog, describing the announcement. “You can send a VM to multiple people. Each conversation is one-to-one; if you want to send a video to eight friends, you will start eight separate conversations. Your messages inbox has two sections: Friends (people you know) and Other (people outside your network). If you want to receive messages only from the people you follow or know, you can turn off your Other inbox in Settings.”

    Furthermore, if people find a post on Vine that they think a friend would enjoy, the new messaging feature allows them to share that post directly with that friend.

    The new Vine update is available now for Android and iOS users.

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Let's Talk About Instagram
    I get it. I get that we all want to look like a glamorous celebrity by posting our Cobb salads on Instagram (and let’s be honest, you probably didn’t really enjoy that Cobb salad). I understand that. I am guilty of posting something on Instagram in hopes to look like my life is immensely interesting. (I am sitting on my bed with a glass of milk and Lily Allen music in the background, so that shows how interesting I really am.)

    Luckily, I have not been guilty of posting pictures of my half-eaten food because I know that no one really cares that I had homemade mac and cheese for lunch, but I sometimes enjoy seeing pictures of other people’s Starbucks drinks (for some people, that is their lunch. Yum).

    One of the things I have noticed from many people is the “importance” the amount of likes has become. I am shocked by how many people spend their time trying to take the perfect Instagram picture to post. Fine, fine. I am guilty of this too. Sometimes, if I feel that something is exciting enough to take a picture of, I will attempt to look as attractive as possible (whether I succeeded or not is debatable). I am not sure if this is a way for all of us to one-up each other in the game of “Who has the better photo?” or if we are all craving attention from each other. I think we have all fallen guilty to the idea of becoming instantly famous through Instagram photos/videos because so many people have become sensations in one night. For some of us, we just want to show off a “hot” photo that we took on the beach when were on vacation in a tropical paradise in the middle of winter.

    Unfortunately, the idea of “the perfect Instagram photo” has taken over some of our minds, and it has become silly to watch. We have become obsessed who liked someone’s photo and how many likes a photo has received. I have seen situations in my own life where I am asked which border would be the best to use to get the most likes on a photo. I am actually a hypocrite for calling these people out because I have been guilty of doing this on my Twitter page. I have not asked someone which tweet is the best to post, but I do not tweet much unless I find it to be something that people would like instead of a tweet that describes the amount of people at the mall that day.

    For a moment, I am going to describe some of the Instagram photos that I have seen the most during my time on the site.

    1. The bikini shot: No, I am not talking about the photo that someone took of you posing at the beach (while also trying to work fantastic “beach” hair). I am talking about the one you take of yourself in the new bikini you bought at the store the day before the beach trip. Yes, I am talking about the one where you can see their entire body laying on a towel, and they are very close to a nip-slip.

    2. Tilt Tuesday: The photo/audition for Cirque de Solei where you put your leg behind your head in various locations. These locations can include bridges, the middle of the street, backyard, school or by the pool. Basically, wherever you can make people around you uncomfortable.

    3. Throwback Thursday: I am fan of Throwback Thursday photos, but I am only a fan if the photo is not from last week. I have even seen a couple that were from earlier that week. No.

    4. Bible Quotes: Straight-up Bible quotes. As I say for Twitter bios, no one is going to pick up the Bible and find the passage that you put on your Twitter bio. The same rule for Instagram applies.

    5. Man Crush Monday/Woman Crush Wednesday: I always love seeing which “crush” Instagram-ers will post for these two days, but I am still waiting for the day where someone posts Vladimir Putin as their Man Crush Monday.

    6. Selfie Sunday: I thought Instagram was supposed to be for selfies every day? Isn’t #selfiefordays a thing?

    Bottom line, we Instagram-ers have these staple photos, but we cannot get caught up on how many likes it has versus how many likes it should get it. We don’t have time for that, and it is giving us more anxiety than it should. Once we cross the territory of questioning what border or frame would be best to have the most likes, then we know that we have to turn the ship and actually think about other things in life. Maybe I should start by doing that myself because I already deleted a couple of photos off my Instagram from before #SelfieSunday became a thing (circa 2012 — Throwback Thursday).

    Back to my fellow Instagram-ers, let’s be honest: the photo that you want to post probably looks fantastic with all of the borders and filters and all, but let’s all just calm down. It will get likes. Somebody will comment that you look like a “princess with a skirt on” and you will probably respond with “No, YOU are the princess!” For now, if you are staring at the one photo, just post it and eat a cookie to calm you down. Life goes on, hun.

  • How We Research: A Look Inside the Buffer Blog Process
    I often get asked about my research process for the Buffer blog. For my science and life hacking posts in particular, I rely heavily on scientific research to back up my points, so there’s a lot of research to be done.

    Unfortunately there’s no secret sauce or magic bullet when it comes to this process. It’s mostly just a matter of time and practice. I do have a few tips to share about where and how I find the sources for my research, though, so hopefully you’ll find these useful.

    Finding the research you need

    The first thing I do when I start a research-heavy post is start digging into the topic to learn everything I can. Here are a few ways I find studies and research papers for my posts.

    Google Alerts

    I have a few different Google Alerts set up to send me new research papers. Thanks to some advice from Leo, I usually get interesting scientific studies in my inbox once a week from these alerts.

    google alerts email

    Most of my alerts include the words “study OR research.” Using Google’s search operators like OR make my results more useful.

    google alerts email 2

    Here are some of the alerts I have running currently:

    • study OR research + sleep
    • harvard OR stanford OR columbia AND “new research”
    • study OR research + exercise

    Just head to google.com/alerts to set up a new alert, and choose to have it delivered immediately, daily or once per week. I get mine once per week so my inbox isn’t overloaded, and I usually run through the list and save any interesting links to my reading list.

    reading list

    Read a lot

    The other way I collect research material is to simply read a lot. I follow authors and blogs I like reading on Twitter–you might prefer to use RSS, Facebook or Google+ for this. Whenever I come across something that seems interesting, I save it to my read later list.

    I end up reading a lot of material that I never use, because I always keep track of things that might be relevant some day, rather than only what I need right now. I try to keep track of ideas and topics I read about, however, so that I can come back to them later on when they are relevant.

    For instance, I use Day One to save quotes from blog posts or books I read, and tag them with whatever topics they touch on. This makes it easy to go back through all of my saved quotes to see what’s relevant to the blog post I’m writing today.

    day one quotes

    I also drop ideas and notes into Day One, and tag them with topics they relate to. I used to use a Moleskine notebook for the same purpose, but I like being able to search by tags in a digital journal.

    dayone notes

    I also like reading related stuff, to expand my knowledge of particular areas. I often end up saving five or six books to my Amazon wishlist at a time, because I find a lot of the related books to be quite interesting. Here’s an example of what my wishlist tends to look like:

    amazon wishlist

    Bloggers often make this easy for you as well, by including links to related posts at the bottom of each one, or by including inline links to other, related posts they’ve written. Here’s an example of how we do this on the Buffer blog:

    buffer inline links

    Save all the research you find

    I save everything I read that might come in handy one day. I use Pinboard for this, but there are lots of free options you could try, such as Delicious, Kippt, Diigo or Saved.io.


    I use multiple tags for each item. For studies, for instance, I’ll add the tag “research” and then tags like “sleep,” “naps” or “running” to help me find it again later.

    pinboard tags

    Google searches

    Once I have a good idea for a blog post I usually need a lot more research to fill it out. This is when I’ll turn to Google and start hunting for related studies. I usually start with a Google Scholar search:

    google scholar

    I usually start with a fairly basic phrase to start uncovering related studies:

    google scholar search

    After a few tries of different keyword combinations, I’ll start to work out which keywords researchers use in the kind of studies I’m after. This process isn’t usually much fun, but it’s important if I want to find the right studies for my topic.

    The other useful thing about Google Scholar results is that they often show the number of citations a paper has received. This isn’t necessarily proof that it’s a high-quality paper, but it’s a clue that it’s at least popular and worth taking a look at. It’s a bit like when you see someone on Twitter with a high follower count: It doesn’t prove that they’re the best, but you’d probably give them a try, at least.

    google scholar citations

    Bringing it all together

    When I have some research ready for each point I want to make, it’s time to start bringing it all together into a draft.

    Start with the basics

    Usually I’ll find that I need some background about the basics of a topic I’m looking into—both for my own understanding and to add context for readers. A good example is this recent post I wrote: 6 Research-Tested Ways to Improve Your Memory.

    I started out with a basic break down of how memory works before moving into the main topic of the post, which was how to improve your memory.

    I get this basic information from a few places. One of my favorites is this book which covers each section and function of the brain in just a few pages. It’s a great way to get a really basic understanding of how something like memory works and where to start looking when I dive further into the research process.

    I also use Wikipedia for this. I don’t use Wikipedia as a research source, since it’s not reliable enough, but for my own understanding it’s a really helpful place to start.


    Read studies carefully

    From reading a lot of research studies, I’ve discovered a few important things that I try to keep in mind. Whenever I can, I read the full study rather than just an abstract. I usually find that any statistics and mathematics sections are beyond my understanding, but I find the introduction, results and discussion sections to be really helpful.

    The discussion section of a study paper usually talks about suggested causes of the results found, caveats to what the study has shown (such as a small sample size or results that apply to a specific group of people only), and related research areas.

    Reading full studies can be quite expensive, so a lot of the time I’m stuck with only an abstract or a preview to go on. In these cases, I try not to draw conclusions from the abstract that may not be true–an abstract usually doesn’t include any caveats about the study, or a detailed analysis of what the results mean.

    Link to original sources

    Studies often get covered by multiple news sites which simplify the results of the research for a non-scientific audience. This can sometimes lead to inaccuracies and misunderstandings. For that reason, I try to always link back to an original study or source, rather than linking to someone who has interpreted the information. That’s almost like relying on other people to do your research for you.

    Doing the work myself to fully understand the research I’m using helps me to feel more confident about backing up the points I make, and sharing information that isn’t misleading.

    Don’t include everything

    One of the most important things I’ve learned recently about research-heavy posts is that I don’t need to include every single bit of research I can find. A good example is this post I wrote about junk food cravings: Why we crave junk food and how to turn down the cravings.

    I first got the idea for that post when I read about a study that showed eating avocado at lunchtime can stave off food cravings in the afternoon. Once I’d written the piece, I struggled to find a place to squeeze in that fact about avocados. No matter where I put it, it just didn’t fit in with the rest of the post. Eventually I realized it just wasn’t necessary.

    Sometimes knowing what to cut is just as important as knowing what to write.

    What research methods do you have? Let us know in the comments.

    If you liked this post, you might also like From Ideas to Traffic Results: How We Run a Blog with 700,000 Readers Per Month and El Bibliomata; xkcd

  • The 72 Worst Internet Sayings, Ranked
    The Internet has given us a lot of great things. Wikipedia comes to mind. Maybe email and online shopping make your list. I don’t know (or really care).

    But the Internet has also created a lot of terrible things, and most of them are words. And some, like Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read, want to put an end to this Internet speak.

    Read sent a message to Gawker employees on Thursday laying out new rules for the website’s language and banning Internet words like “epic,” “win” and “OMG.”

    That’s a good start. But there are a lot of other Internet words that need to go. So many, in fact, that we’ve decided to rank them in descending order from “just sort of annoying” to “anyone who uses this word dies.” Without further ado:

    72. SMDH

    71. STFU

    70. BRB

    69. OMG

    68. IRL

    67. WTF

    66. TBH

    65. Da fuq?

    64. ICYMI

    63. TTYL

    62. KK

    61. Bae

    60. FOMO

    59. TIL

    58. L33t

    57. TL;DR

    56. JK

    55. Plz

    54. Cuz

    53. Big, if true

    52. Smart take

    51. AFAIK

    50. Amirite?

    49. Thx

    48. Think piece

    47. …

    46. L8er

    45. All of the things

    44. Awkwaaaard

    43. Stahp

    42. G2G

    41. FOMO

    40. ICYMI

    39. In XXX Charts

    38. +1

    37. #TBT


    35. Kthxbai

    34. Lolwut

    33. LOL

    32. Lawl

    31. Lulz

    30. LMFAO

    29. ROFL

    28. IMHO

    27. This

    26. I can’t

    25. Trolled

    24. 5ever

    23. Om nom nom

    22. Literally

    21. Broke the Internet

    20. Won the Internet

    19. All of the feels

    18. Win

    17. Haxor

    16. Totes

    15. Totes magoats

    14. Adorbs

    13. Brogrammer

    12. Because ______. (“I hate Times Square, because tourists.”)

    11. Lollercoaster

    10. “…and you won’t believe what happens next.”

    9. FTW

    8. “…is everything.”

    7. The Internets

    6. Epic

    5. Fail

    4. Amazeballs

    3. Pwnd

    2. Roflcopter

    1. Derp

  • Vine iOS, Android apps get private messaging feature
    Twitter-owned Vine has updated its iOS and Android apps with a new direct messaging feature. The option lets people send videos privately, regardless of whether the recipient is a Vine user. People who don’t have a Vine account will instead get the videos via SMS or email.


  • Chinese Investment In U.S. Tech Booms Despite Cybersecurity Fears
    Chinese tech companies have splurged on major acquisitions of U.S. high tech firms in the first quarter of 2014, spending big bucks in pursuit of the markets, technology and talent found in the U.S., according to a report released Tuesday by the Asia Society and the Rhodium Group. But with cybersecurity questions driving a wedge in U.S.-China relations recently, the acquisitions are generating equal amounts of excitement and anxiety.

    “This ought to be the most positive new trend in the bilateral economic relationship in several decades,” said Daniel Rosen, co-founder of the Rhodium Group and co-author of the report. “Unfortunately there have been misapprehensions on both sides that took a really positive story and turned it into an anxious story, a fraught one.”

    Chinese firms have already spent $6 billion this year on direct investments in high tech firms in the U.S., surpassing their cumulative investment from 2009 to 2012, according to data collected by the Rhodium Group, an advisory firm that closely tracks these numbers. The direct investment includes the opening of new facilities as well as purchases of at least a 10 percent stake in existing companies.

    The growing Chinese interest, including a recent high-profile acquisition of Motorola, comes as part of a broader boom in Chinese investment. Last year marked the first time that Chinese direct investment in the U.S. outstripped flows in the opposite direction, according to Rosen. But when executed in technology-intensive industries, otherwise straightforward investments can spark fears of new vulnerabilities on cybersecurity, the report said.

    In recent years, the U.S. federal government has blocked attempted acquisitions of American companies by Chinese telecom juggernaut Huawei, labeling the firm a “national security threat” because of alleged ties to the Chinese government and military. But documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden recently revealed that the NSA was building “back doors” into Huawei equipment to monitor communications. This is exactly what Congress had accused the Chinese government of doing on equipment in the U.S.

    With ire building between Washington and Beijing, many have advocated a more localized approach to trade and investment relations.

    Speaking Tuesday at a conference in San Francisco for the release of the new report, business leaders and China analysts agreed that states like California (which stand to benefit the most from investment in high tech) should take the lead in deepening ties with China.

    “California is the perfect place to develop the best possible model for interacting with China on high tech or almost any other kind of investment,” said Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. “Washington is really irrelevant here. Not only irrelevant, but by and large if there’s going be trouble made, they’re going to make it. They’re the ones who generate the foul political atmosphere.”

    Despite the international wrangling over cybersecurity, many Chinese high tech companies dramatically expanded their footprint on U.S. soil. Chinese computer and smartphone manufacturer Lenovo has led the way, first announcing its U.S. arrival in 2005 with its landmark purchase of IBM’s PC division for $1.7 billion. This year, Lenovo followed up by spending billions of dollars on an IBM server division and Motorola. Those acquisitions, along with a Chinese firm’s $150 million purchase of failing American electric car company Fisker, cap a multi-year rise in Chinese investment that the report’s authors say is starting to truly take off in 2014.

    “There was very little activity before 2010, then a slight increase that signals a structural change, and looking forward there’s really a lot in the pipeline,” said Thilo Hanemann, research director at the Rhodium Group and co-author of the report. “2014 looks to be a breakthrough year in terms of high-tech deals.”

    Analysts are quick to point out that even the record-breaking totals in recent years remain small compared with the vast sums of money flooding into U.S. tech fields. But they say the trend hints at shifts that could have dramatic implications for innovation in the U.S. and China for years to come. Chinese firms are arriving in states like California and North Carolina in search of the technology and talent that will help them survive changes brewing in the Chinese economy. As economic reforms aim to wean China off growth fueled by easy credit and low-end manufacturing, innovation has become the holy grail for private companies.

    Along with cybersecurity worries, some analysts have raised fears that Chinese companies will take an extractive approach to U.S. tech. But the report played down the likelihood of a nightmare scenario in which American facilities would be shut down after Chinese investors made off with prized technology.

    “In most of these cases where Chinese companies come in and acquire a U.S. company, they’ve actually increased local staff post-acquisition,” Hanemann said. “That’s exactly why they come here, because there’s a lack of talented staff back in China and they’re trying to actively tap the talent here in the U.S.”

    Chinese tech firms are also attracted to investing in the U.S. because of its laws and intellectual property protections. Alan Chen, CEO of the online game company Perfect World Entertainment, chose to open U.S. operations in 2008 in order to access overseas markets insulated from Chinese politics.

    “Because we’re in the culture-related business of video games, there’s a concern that the government may have different policies at different times, and that may really limit the market’s development in China,” Chen said.

    He pointed to the example of China’s video game consoles, which the Chinese government banned outright in 2000, citing worries about violent content. China’s State Council announced in January that it planned to lift this restriction in the newly opened Shanghai free trade zone, an area created by China’s new leaders to pilot reforms designed to invigorate the economy.

    Analysts and business leaders say they hope that U.S. politicians and corporations can overcome fears about cybersecurity and Chinese advances in high tech fields. Rosen of the Rhodium Group said that openness to Chinese investment is the best route to maintaining America’s edge in innovation.

    “There’s a temptation to think that we’re going to address our long-term competitiveness by how we address foreign investment at the border. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Rosen said. “In fact, America’s long-term competitiveness depends on letting those foreign investors into our economy.”

  • ZunZuneo, USAID and How the U.S. Lost the Confidence of the Cuban People
    A recent article by the Associated Press brought to light an intricate cover operation by the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) in Cuba. With the help of mobile and technological contractors, bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and computer and social media whizzes, USAID developed a Twitter-like communication style in the island called “ZunZuneo.” The service allowed Cubans to send text messages, have followers and share thoughts about soccer, music and hurricane updates through their mobile phones, and participate in a mobile community that evaded the government’s restrictions over the Internet. Pretty much all the things we do on the internet right now.

    The main objective of ZunZuneo, however, was to promote, through text messages, a strong political motivation to change the current Cuban government or, as USAID called it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

    The ZunZuneo operation will create three prominent outcomes in Cuba.

    1. Cuba recoils

    ZunZuneo is a déjà vu to the CIA’s Operation Mongoose in the 1960s. Authorized by President John F. Kennedy, Operation Mongoose aimed to ignite the revolutionary spark in Cuba necessary to topple the communist regime and flush Fidel Castro out of the island. The operation failed, wasted millions of dollars, and exposed the eerie desire of American policymakers to get rid of the Castro revolution.

    Operation Mongoose did succeed in making Cuba citizens more wary of the U.S., and fueled hours of political speeches by Fidel Castro.

    ZunZuneo, although not as radical as Operation Mongoose, will impulse Raul Castro to call on his defense to deter western offensive to his regime. It may not make Cuba more secluded to what it already is, but it will certainly hurt any advances by Cuban social entrepreneurs that are less preoccupied with past communist ghosts than a more inclusive and interactive society.

    2. Foreign investment? Oh, wait a second…

    USAID’s operation will have an indirect effect on the recently passed foreign investment law. As Cuba aims to lure foreign investor to sectors like agriculture, electronics, constructions and others, the government might be more careful to grant foreign companies easy access to Cuban resources. Tighter measures to assure there is no American involvement in the island could potentially increase the risk of nationalization and consequently scare away any potential foreign investor.

    This might be potentially dangerous to a Cuban economy that is begging for cash. Although the oil bonanza that Venezuela provides to the Castro government (estimated to be$9.4 billion per year) is still flowing, recent economic measures imposed by Nicolas Maduro, as well as political turmoil in the allied country can make the Cuban future more ominous.

    3. No resources for entrepreneurs

    In 2010 Raul Castro introduced new private enterprise laws that have helped to produce a healthy growth rate on small entrepreneurial ventures in Cuba. From tourism to restaurants to cinemas, Cubans have savored the advantages of freer business.

    ZunZuneo followed along the entrepreneurial lines. It had a healthy relationship with the Cuban youth that saw the site as a success history in a country that denied free access to press and the Internet. For instance, on September, 2009, the site got around 100,000 replies to a question related to the “Peace without Borders” concert organized by Colombian singer, Juanes.

    My guess is that, now that is it has been proved that USAID and other contractors were behind ZunZuneo, the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cuban society will change. Cubans might see technological advances as irrelevant to the progress of society, as well as be more careful about creating new information tools that might anger the government. This change will mean more dependency to regular, not so society-changing ventures such as tourism and restaurants, and hence delay the search for more access to information that could yield a more democratic society.

    Kudos to USAID for thinking outside the box and trying to solve this 20th century problem with 21st century technologies. Nonetheless, the agency failed too soon and too publicly in a topic as hotly debated as Cuba.

    My guess is that USAID will see more vigorously scrutiny to its resources and programmatic activities.

  • Mozilla boss quits following gay row
    The chief executive of Mozilla, who had been heavily criticised for supporting a ban on same-sex marriage, has stepped down.
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