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Mobile Technology News, August 26, 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.

  • Mozilla launches $33 smartphone
    Mozilla, a company best known for its Firefox browser, launches its first low-cost smartphone in India, retailing for 1,999 rupees ($33; £19.9).
  • Homemade Hovercraft Is The Childhood Fun You Never Had
    OK, dads… the bar for awesome has just been raised. A father who goes by the name of “Papa” on YouTube has made a homemade hovercraft for his kids.

    And it looks every bit as fun as it sounds.

    Papa wrote in the description that he used a polystyrene insulation board, and also posted a clip showing his first effort at a homemade hovercraft.

    He appears to be using a rope to steer the thing. And while he doesn’t mention what the motor, ViralViralVideos says he used one taken from a hand vacuum.

    Papa is the MacGyver of dads.

    (h/t ViralViralVideos.com)

  • RBC: manufacturing cost rise for Apple heralds several new products
    An analyst with RBC Capital Markets has told investors that a strong increase in Apple’s manufacturing costs means that the company is gearing up for more than just refreshes of existing products. Amit Daryanani has noted that Apple’s component and manufacturing costs are up 18.5 percent despite generally-falling component prices, suggesting both Apple’s raised expectations about the success of the iPhone 6 (which may or may not comprised two new models) and the alleged “iWatch.”

  • Australian airlines grant phone use
    Travellers on Qantas and Virgin Australia will be able to use their mobile phones and other electronic devices during flights from Tuesday.
  • What your wi-fi reveals about you
    Wi-fi-reliant smartphones may be leaking information
  • This Is What People's Faces Look Like Immediately After Getting Tased By Their Significant Other
    Cue the Fifty Shades Of Grey references.

    While photographer Patrick Hall is (probably) no Christian Grey, he did recently set up a photoshoot where he asked people to pose for him, semi-topless, while their friends and significant others tased them.

    Hall admitted in a blog post that many people, hearing of the project, thought he might be crazy, or a sadist.

    “What I found most interesting about the reactions people showed while getting [tased] was you never knew how they would react,” Hall wrote. “Some people screamed while others were quiet. A few people looked like they were experiencing pleasure while others had the most painful faces I’ve ever seen.”

    As for the friends and S/Os doing the stun?

    “Most of them were excited to cause pain to their friend and only showed remorse immediately after executing the shock,” he wrote.

    Yup, sounds like humanity.

    Thankfully for everyone involved, the project turned out pretty incredible. This is what people look like in the immediate, split-second aftermath of being stunned.

  • Facial recognition v anonymity
    Will your face be used against you?
  • SpaceX Fail? Great!

    Congratulations are due to Elon Musk and his Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for generating an amazingly cool explosion over Central Texas Saturday morning when an experimental Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) self-destructed after a launch anomaly. This temporary setback involved no risk to humans and followed an impressive number of successful tests on the path to dramatically lowering space launch costs via the development of a reusable launch vehicle.

    While NASA’s space shuttle demonstrated that an orbital spacecraft can be reused, and at least two other commercial firms are developing exciting new vehicles that can be reflown, these systems dispose of nearly all of the hardware required to put them into space in the first place. By accepting the long-standing assumption of a single-use launcher, they are locked into a cold war paradigm where every orbital launch is a $100 million event. Only SpaceX has been pushing to completely redefine the economics of space by returning the first and possible second stage assemblies and engines safely back to Earth. If perfected, such a system could reduce the cost of launching payloads or astronauts by an order of magnitude.

    Testing a truly new rocket has always involved failure. In fact, the development of any complex and innovative product should feature an iterative development process. By definition such a process is “failure driven.” As with learning to ski, if you’re not falling down you’re just not getting any better.

    However, rocket failures are exciting and highly visible in a way that most other products are not. How many secretly awful prototypes of the iPhone did Steve Jobs privately dismiss as “crap” before his team delivered the beautiful world-shaking final product? There were dozens if not hundreds of silent “explosions” in Apple’s hidden labs. Each time, Apple’s talented engineers analyzed their disasters and returned with a better product, or sometimes not. The agony of this selection process was hidden from view as it is with most great development projects. Launching thousands of pounds of material with explosive fuels and oxidizers affords no such luxury of silence and SpaceX must work in public.

    Risk-taking, failure and iterative development were key to the “Right Stuff” model that made America’s early manned space programs exciting, generally safe and enormously successful. The beloved Mars exploration program at JPL suffered a string of dramatic failures in the 90s before entering the current golden age of robotic exploration. While hindsight tells us how they might have been avoided, each disappointment was viewed as a lesson learned and the programs moved forward to ever-greater achievements.

    So, hats off to the team at SpaceX for taking big chances, something that has been missing from the orbital launch market and the government manned space program for years. I wish them many spectacular, and safe, failures in the years to come. Though not directly related to their manned flight program, NASA would be wise to place this event on the positive side of the ledger as they evaluate funding for the latest round of their Commercial Crew program.

    Greg Autry teaches technology entrepreneurship at The Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. He recently co-authored a report for the FAA Offices of Commercial Space Transportation entitled An Analysis of the Competitive Advantage of the United States of America in Commercial Human Orbital Spaceflight Markets. You can find him on Facebook.

  • Why Creating Content Trumps Face-to-Face Meetings
    On a recent Halloween, Caitlin Seida dressed up as Lara Croft, one of her favorite video game characters. Later that night, she posted a photo of herself to Facebook (see below). She thought nothing of it.

    Little did she know that while she was asleep the photo was spreading across the Internet.

    When she awoke in the morning, she quickly discovered the surprise. At first she thought it was funny. That was until she saw people’s comments (i.e., ‘Fridge Raider’ ‘What A Waste Of Space’).

    This story represents people’s worst fear on social media; posting something that seemed OK in context, only to later turn into the subject of viral shaming. What makes this story scary is that it could happen to any us.

    Our society is quickly moving from the broadcast era to the social media era and viral shaming is just one of the results.

    However, there’s an even bigger implication. You should be aware of it, because it has a much larger impact on your life than you may realize.

    The Medium Is The Message

    In 1964, famous media critic, Marshall Mcluhan, coined a phrase that is just as relevant today as it was when it was shared 50 years ago: “The Medium Is The Message.”

    What McLuhan meant was that the way content is delivered is actually more impactful than the content itself. However, we generally notice the impact of the content and ignore the impact of the medium.

    Much has been written about social media’s impact on our attention, happiness, and our existing relationships.

    However, all of these articles miss one big thing.

    The broadcast era created celebrities out of musicians, actors, tv and personalities. The social media era turns us all into microcelebrities. Here’s what this means for your life.

    The Surprising Power Of Tribal Ties

    In 1973, Mark Granovetter published a seminal study called The Strength of Weak Ties. Defying conventional logic, his research showed that weak ties are actually more influential in parts of our lives than strong ties (e.g. getting a job).

    Forty-one-plus years later, it’s time for us to consider the surprising strength of an even weaker tie, what I will call the “tribal tie.

    Weak and strong ties are people we personally know through one-on-one interactions. Tribal ties are people we don’t know, but who follow us (fans).

    Tribal ties are built by creating useful content (art, photos, articles, books, music, videos, social media posts, etc.). This includes everything from a photo on Facebook, a podcast on iTunes, a video on Youtube, to a long-form article on Medium. Your tribal ties are your fans who resonate with the content you put into the world.

    The professional implication of tribal ties is a large tribe of people who form the foundation of and receive the benefit of everything we do throughout our career. They help to co-create, fund, and spread what we release into the world.

    The personal implication is a richer life that attracts diverse perspectives and meaningfully impacts many thousands.

    Just as we all invest in our relationships with strong and weak ties throughout our life, we can invest in our tribal ties by creating content.

    Here’s why you should consider making that investment…

    Why Everyone Should Always Invest In Their Tribal Ties

    I know that this is a long shot, but does anybody happen to know a CEO of a NASDAQ or NYSE listed company?

    This was the beginning of a recent request I made to my Facebook network for our upcoming Empact Showcase event. I put it up as a last resort. I figured I wouldn’t get a response. Surprisingly, I got many within a few hours.

    Even more surprisingly, most of the people that offered help, including the person that ultimately helped, were people that I didn’t know or that I met in passing.

    Ultimately, Liana Taylor, who works at NASDAQ and who I met briefly after a speaking engagement in 2005, responded with the winning introduction. When I asked her why she helped, she responded:

    I felt that this is something where I could help. Honestly I didn’t have an end goal in mind. I love to connect people and help when I can.

    As far as why you specifically? I don’t go out of my way helping people who I don’t like or respect although if it’s a life or death situation, I would help anyone. After being Facebook friends with you for many years, I think I’ve gotten a peek at your character (or maybe you just put on a good show), which I like and respect. Given this, if there is something I could help you with, I’ll do it any day and don’t really need anything in return.

    This one example illustrates the power and serendipity of tribal ties when you consistently create and share content that reflects your character and shares your insights.

    The Amazing and Unexpected Scale And Impact Of Creating Content

    Over the past year, I’ve written extensively on the art and science of building authentic relationships. I’ve written about the power of everything from cultivating one-on-one relationships and making introductions to organizing dinners. I’ve interviewed many of the world’s top relationship builders and researchers and then applied what I’ve learned in order to share the most powerful ways to build relationships. Ironically, what I’ve found to be most impactful has been the act of writing itself.

    How could I miss something that was right in front of me for all along?

    The answer is that I never looked at writing as a form of relationship building, and it’s not surprising why. As I write these words, I’m sitting alone in my living room. It feels like the opposite of ‘true’ relationship building that I’ve grown up with; real-time conversation.

    However, I’m not sure that my 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son will grow up with this same bias. A lot of the communication in their lifetime will be through social media. Many of the words they write, pictures they share, and videos they upload will not be in real-time, and the recipients will be unknown in advance.

    As I’ve let go of my pre-existing definition of what an authentic relationship is, I’ve learned one important lesson. What creating content lacks in one-on-one connection, it more than makes up for in size, impact, action, and depth:

    • Content Scale Exponentially More Than One-On-One Relationships. There is no more scalable way to share who we are with the world than creating content. Each in-person meeting you have takes time to have and to upkeep afterwards. Content doesn’t. We don’t have to write a new article for each person we meet. Our tribal ties have the potential to be several orders of magnitude larger and more diverse than our weak and strong ties.

      For example, it likely that 10,000 people will eventually read this article. Let’s assume that the average person spends two minutes reading it. Timewise, that’s equivalent to spending over 8 weeks connecting with people one-on-one.

    • Even Though Content Isn’t Personal, It Can Be Life-Changing. Are there any books, articles, interviews, or songs that have changed your life? Sharing your insights and personal experiences can be deeply transformative for someone’s life even if you don’t interact with them personally.

      Because content is asynchronous, it gives us a lot of time to refine what we truly want to say and make sure it has the most impact. It’s taken me over 30 hours to write this article, and it will only take you a few minutes to read it. It is the culmination of many hours of research, interviews, writing, reflection, and feedback. There is no way that I could have spontaneously shared everything in a conversation.

    • Tribal Ties Sometimes Help You More Than You’re Closest Friends. Counterintuitively, sometimes the people who are closest to us, are not our biggest fans. One doesn’t have to to look further than the early stages of a romantic relationship to understand this. Someone in the courtship stage goes out of their way deepen the relationship in a way that the average married couple does not. In the same way, a superfan, someone who doesn’t really know us at all might be the first person in line when we release anything new or publicly ask for help on a project.
    • Content Deepens Relationships With People You Already Know. Writing has not only helped me build tribal ties, it has unexpectedly led to the dramatic deepening of my relationships in two ways. First, my writing has often preceded my first meeting with someone. This means that the meeting starts with trust and respect. Second, it has accelerated my relationships with people I already know. It has done this by helping them learn more about other parts of my journey and the lessons I’ve learned along the way that I might not normally bring up in conversation.

    The Invisible Tie That Can Make Or Break Us

    The increasing importance of tribal ties can be easy to miss. Most social media users are observers, so they’re invisible. However, underestimate these ties at your own peril.

    We often realize the power of our tribal at the extremes; when something we create spreads virally into a virtual shame storm or a positive story that deepens the network as was the case with Caitlin Seda.

    Caitlin’s story has an happy ending. After a period of shock and depression, she decided to write an article for Salon.com that actually became more viral than the original photo of her. In the article, My embarrassing picture went viral, she owns her experience fully, even going so far as to repost the photo. She ends the article with sharing her lessons learned, “But I refuse to disappear. I still go jogging in public. I don’t hide my flabby arms or chubby ankles for fear of offending someone else’s delicate sensibilities. I dress in a way that makes me happy with myself. And this Halloween, I’m thinking of reprising my role as Lara Croft just to give all the haters the middle finger.”

    The content we create will increasingly play a fundamental role in how we build relationships. It is often our first impression for people we’ve never met and our second impression after we’ve met someone for the first time.

    Face-to-face meetings will continue to be the best way to build deep emotional one-on-one relationships. However, creating content trumps face-to-face meetings for building tribal ties. People already understand the power of face-to-face meetings, but they rarely understand the importance consistently creating content. By creating useful content, we all have an opportunity to not only deepen our weak and strong ties, but also to build an entirely new network of tribal ties that play a critical role throughout our entire life.


    This article is the first in a series in how to create content that builds authentic relationships. Upcoming articles will focus on digital storytelling, how to share your unique insights, and how to interact with your tribal ties. To receive those articles, subscribe to Michael Simmons’ newsletter.

  • What does Amazon hope to gain from Twitch?
    Has Amazon overreached?
  • Tech Companies Offer Workers The Most Paid Parental Leave
    Any amount of paid maternity or paternity leave is still a luxury for most American workers. But some companies are doing better than others.
  • What Fitness Trackers Revealed About The South Napa Earthquake
    By Bahar Gholipour, Staff Writer
    Published: 08/25/2014 02:02 PM EDT on LiveScience

    It might be possible to know how many people woke up during the South Napa Earthquake that struck 3:20 a.m. yesterday (Aug. 24) by looking at their fitness trackers.

    The 6.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Northern California was the strongest to strike the region in 25 years. Data scientists at Jawbone, which makes the UP and UP24 fitness trackers, analyzed how the earthquake may have affected thousands of UP wearers in the Bay Area who track their sleep using the fitness devices, according to a statement from the company.

    The results showed that 93 percent of UP wearers who were within 15 miles of the earthquake’s epicenter — in the areas of Napa, Sonoma, Vallejo and Fairfield — suddenly woke up at 3:20 a.m. when the quake struck. [Photos: The Great San Francisco Earthquake]

    Farther out, about 25 to 50 miles from the epicenter in San Francisco and Oakland, only 55 percent of UP wearers woke up, while the rest seem to have slept through the shaking. In Sacramento and San Jose, which are 50 to 75 miles from the epicenter, 25 percent of UP wearers woke up, according to Jawbone.

    Even farther out, in Modesto, Santa Cruz and other places between 75 and 100 miles from the epicenter, almost no UP wearers were awakened by the earthquake, according to their fitness tracker data.

    The Jawbone UP is a wrist-worn device that can track users’ movements during sleep, and provides a record of the time they spent in bed, as well as the time spent in deep and light sleep. These records give users a ballpark estimate of their sleep quality and enable them to track their sleep patterns over time.

    The device also tracks people’s steps when they are walking, and that’s how Jawbone scientists know people actually woke up, and were not simply being shaken during their sleep by the quake. “Steps look a lot different than earthquakes,” Brian Wilt, Jawbone’s senior data scientist, told Live Science in a tweet. “We have to filter [people’s] motion in cars, trains, etc. all the time.”

    The Jawbone data also showed that it took people a long time to go back to sleep, especially in the areas that felt the shaking the strongest. In fact, 45 percent of UP wearers living less than 15 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter stayed up the rest of the night, Eugene Mandel, from Jawbone’s data science team, said.

    Email Bahar Gholipour or follow her @alterwired. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

    Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ]]>

  • Some iOS apps vulnerable to auto-dialing URLs, developer notes
    A number of iOS apps — including Facebook Messenger, Gmail, and Google+ — have a security vulnerability that could allow malicious parties to force an iPhone to auto-dial, observes Romanian developer Andrei Neculaesei. iOS supports a tel:// URI that can make a call automatically, even though developers are allowed to bypass confirmation prompts for the dialer if they want. Through a vulnerable app and the right web code, a person could potentially be tricked into dialing a toll number. A FaceTime variant could let someone capture images of a person before disconnecting.

  • Engineers Don't Make Jobs, Jobs Make Engineers: Politicians Got it Wrong Again
    Our politicians have been saying if we just get better grades in math, America will always be a leader in innovation even though all the things we invent are made in factories in China.

    But now we’re told that the inventors who got straight As want to be in China where all the factories that make the nifty gadgets are.

    This shouldn’t be a surprise. Anyone with first hand knowledge of what it takes to make things knows that innovation is tied to the factory floor, and when factories go overseas so go the workshops of innovation.

    Read the history of Apple and you’ll see how the personal computer industry sprang from defense industry assembly lines. Steve Jobs worked those lines in what is now called Silicon Valley and so did Steve Wozniak. Every capacitor, resistor and computer chip in the radar, missile guidance and avionic systems built in the South Bay was made in America. These components wound up in the electronic surplus stores where Woz scrounged parts for the Apple prototypes he built in the garage. Simple: No assembly lines, no spare parts, no garage inventors.

    The Wall Street Journal tells us now that China has all those factories, it’s in line to become a global leader in innovation (emphasis added).

    “China will be one of the most advanced research-and-development centers for the new convergence between hardware and software, given it’s the world’s factory,” said Annabelle Long, a director of venture capital for Bertelsmann Group.

    A new generation of Chinese inventors is taking advantage of the multitude of companies supplying China’s electronics industry.

    Proximity to that supply chain lets inventors tweak their pet projects at the factory itself, giving them greater control over the finished product.

    Bertelsmann has invested in Zepp Labs, a start-up founded by a Chinese engineer trained by Microsoft (in China). Zepp has offices and “teams” in Silicon Valley and China, but one can guess where the action is.

    “In China, the company has ‘a team on the ground to develop and manufacture its products,’ said Jason Fass, Zepp’s chief executive and a former Apple Inc. product manager. “Having that coverage has been enormously helpful.”

    And Bertelsmann isn’t the only Western venture capital outfit bankrolling China’s great leap forward into innovation. James Krikorian, an investor with venture capital firm DCM, told the Journal that China’s expertise in tech manufacturing gives it an edge.

    “Location is critical,” he said. “That can absolutely serve as a benefit to the market and spur local innovation.”

    Even American inventors are moving to China. Zach Smith, a cofounder of a 3-D printer company — the next big thing! — moved to China to be close to manufacturers like Foxconn, the Apple assembler. He calls it “paradise for a maker/engineer-type geek.”

    Let’s recap: American companies moved factories to China, then all the suppliers followed them, and Western companies moved R & D there as well. Now venture capital firms bankroll startups in China, and even the American inventors of “the next big thing” want to be there, too.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, our politicians would have us believe Americans are somehow naturally pre-disposed, genetically or otherwise, to be the world’s innovators. If it’s not outright racist, it displays an arrogance based on ignorance of history and facts.

    The much-vaunted Yankee ingenuity that built our country sprang from a mixture of theft, thrift and a burning desire to overtake Britain. New England’s textile industry took off in the 18th Century after American mill owners offered a bounty to anyone who would steal British trade secrets for mechanized textile production and deliver them to our shores. China’s is running the same play, but it doesn’t have to offer a bounty for our trade secrets – they steal what Western companies don’t willingly surrender. And while the geniuses in Washington talk about strategic partnerships and “not falling into the trap of strategic rivalry“, don’t believe for a second that China isn’t as hungry to overtake the West as we were to stick it to Great Britain three centuries ago.

    Our politicians also still seem to believe production follows innovation, rather than the other way around, which is how it really works, as any engineer or even the Wall Street Journal will tell you. Nancy Pelosi and others talk about driving a renaissance of American manufacturing by training more engineers and developing “innovation clusters” around university research centers. Andrew Cuomo is big on innovation clusters as the cure for the decades-long decline of upstate New York following the offshoring of its heavy industry, and has proposed a $50 million state-run venture capital fund to help entrepreneurs commercialize university research. Besides the fact that 50 million is a mere pittance, the whole thing misses the point: entrepreneurial start-ups that commercialize basic research do not produce a lot of jobs. The greatest number of jobs – the source of wealth for most Americans – lies in the mass production phase of a commercialized technology, not in basic or even applied research. And, as we’ve seen, production does not follow innovation. In fact, investors nowadays essentially demand start-ups do production offshore. (It’s not fair to single out Nancy Pelosi and Andrew Cuomo; their views are shared by plenty on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Mitch McConnell even said “it’s not my job” to bring jobs to his home state.)

    Since from a purely profit-driven perspective, it makes sense to move factories, research, development, innovation and investment to China, one might ask: why do we even care if America is the innovation leader of the world?

    It only matters if we care about and believe in something called the United States of America. It matters if we care more about our own people, communities and country than another country, just as a parent cares more about her children than her neighbor’s.

    It’s called patriotism.

    But patriotism not very fashionable among the elites on both the left and right. They identify more with their Ivy League classmates from around the world than with the people in the town where they grew up. Some see patriotism as what bitter people cling to along with God and guns. Others, financial sophisticates and fundamentalist libertarians, can’t find patriotism on a profit and loss statement, so it’s irrelevant in the spreadsheets and theories they use to explain the world and everything in it.

    To sum up: Innovation follows production, not the other way around. Most jobs are in production, not innovation. If politicians truly care about American jobs and innovation, they should craft policies to ensure production stays in America. The rest will take care of itself: Our people will have jobs — and the know-how, tools and resources to invent “the next big thing.”

    But first, politicians have to forget about the “global economy” so beloved by their corporatist campaign contributors and just do what’s right for America.

  • Bill, Melinda Gates Donate $1 Million To Gun Control Campaign

    OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, have donated $1 million to a Washington state campaign seeking to expand background checks on gun sales, bringing the total amount the campaign has brought in up to nearly $6 million.

    The donation to the Initiative 594 campaign was given Friday, but it was not made public until Monday, when it posted on the state’s Public Disclosure Commission website.

    I-594 would require background checks for all gun sales and transfers in Washington state, including at gun shows and for private sales. Under the measure, exemptions would exist, including gifts within a family and antiques.

    In a joint written statement issued Monday, the couple said that they believe I-594 “will be an effective and balanced approach to improving gun safety in our state by closing existing loopholes for background checks.”

    The large donation comes on the heels of fellow Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s $500,000 donation earlier this month. Also last week, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer donated an additional $1 million, bring his total donation to the campaign to nearly $1.4 million.

    Other prominent figures who have made large donations to the campaign include former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, who have given $580,000.

    A rival campaign, Initiative 591, would prevent the state from adopting background-check laws that go beyond the national standard, which requires the checks for sales by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers. That campaign has raised just over $1 million so far.

  • Amazon buys game site Twitch
    Amazon buys video-game streaming service Twitch for $970m (£585m), surprising many after rumours emerged earlier this year that Google’s YouTube was in final stages to purchase the firm.
  • Ten Steps to Using Twitter in the College Classroom
    Like all college and university faculty, August means finalizing fall syllabi and lesson plans, and pre-reading articles for fall courses. For many professors, this process includes thinking (or rethinking) on how to leverage social media to engage students in the semester’s learning.

    At Rutgers, my fall Understanding and Designing Social Media Course is designed as a hybrid — the best of a well-structured, MOOC-style online learning environment with a robust schedule and structured activates from Tuesday-Thursday of each week, and a weekly, in-person meeting on Wednesdays.

    Having experimented with social media for learning — especially Twitter — across my courses, I am convinced that social media offers powerful opportunities to connect with students, by providing new ways for them to own the learning. But doing it well takes a good deal of planning and structure, especially if social will be part of your graded class activities.

    Below are 10 strategies and tactics for integrating Twitter into your college course.

    1) Assign a course #hashtag. The hashtag is the most basic of Twitter formalities. Assign your course hashtag early, include it on all of your materials, and reference your hashtag consistently to drive the culture of Twitter across your course learning. The tag should be short, catchy and relatable (bad example: #introcommunication101CFU). My fall course at Rutgers will tweet under #rusocial14.

    2) Provide Twitter training(s). One misnomer of the millennial generation is that they come to higher education with high-level social media skills. By and large, they don’t. The digital natives, the Instagram generation, the selfie generation — whatever label we assign — is born texting, tweeting and socializing on digital. But, like all communication skills, strategic use of social media is a learned skill. IF you expect students to live-tweet Ted Talks, learn to follow and engage with issues via Twitter, or even create critical mass around course discussions, trainings must be offered as part of your course. Mid-career students returning to learning, or continuing their education also, are unlikely to have used social media — especially Twitter — in a strategic context. These are important skills to learn in the context of a modern higher education.

    One set of progressive exercise I start my in-person classes off with is the following:

    Step 1: Have all students open the Twitter app on their phones or laptops while projecting Twitter in front of the room, monitoring the class hash tag.
    Step 2: Have everyone tweet one thing they would like to learn this semester, and remember to include the class hashtag. This allows everyone to see the hashtag string unfold in front of them.
    Step 3: Now, Pose a question to the class, via Twitter (again, using the hashtag) — like, “what is important about #Twitter?” Remind everyone to respond by including your twitter handle, and the class hashtag.
    Step 4: Have students find a response they like, and retweet it, first by clicking the retweet button, and then by quote tweet, spelling out, for example: RT: @llorenzesq “Twitter connects ideas” #rusocial14

    3) Demystify Twitter language. Once your students have done some hands-on experimenting, make sure everyone has the language and insight needed to grow their use of the platform. Taking a snapshot of a tweet, highlight the main components in front of your classroom, highlighting the handle(s), hashtags, links (shortened), and how and why each are used. I call this “the anatomy of a tweet.”

    4) Provide a glossary. RT, MT, PT, H/T, and some of the most often-used hash tags, like #ff, #icymi and others, can make a great one-slide glossary of terms to help demystify the platform.

    5) Determine Influencers. The key to the Twitterverse is figuring out how to find and pay attention to what’s important, and minimize distraction from the lunches, daily gripes, and assorted fluff that can flood your Twitter feed. Ask your students to do a web search (off of Twitter) for Twitter influencers + (insert subject of interest). Many bloggers have written about this, or preassembled lists of influencers. Students should return to class with a short list of twitter influencers in any field, and articulate why they are influential on, and off Twitter, and why.

    6) Integrate Twitter in Grading. In my fall hybrid course, students will earn points for participation in Twitter conversations on each unit of assigned reading. Initial tweets, and two replies are due at set times during the week, and students receive points based on quality of engagement. Remember to offer a rubric for your grades, so that everyone is clear on how excellent Twitter engagement is defined for the purposes of your class. Number of tweets alone is not enough. Rather, the engagement should be measured by several factors: tweeting out to others is the minimum expectation; replying to classmates, engaging with ideas, and connecting external resources is higher level engagement, worthy of full credit. Storifying (via www.storify.com) students tweets from a unit, and reviewing those together, in class, is a great way of bringing their ideas and communication skills into the classroom.

    7) Engage Your Guest Speakers on Twitter. Having a guest speaker via Skype, or in person? Provide his or her Twitter handle to your students a day or two before they address the class, and encourage your class to engage with the speaker before their talk, and to live-tweet during the conversation as well.

    8) Live tweet Lectures. I have found even the least talkative students more likely to engage course lectures and ideas on Twitter. Asking students to live-tweet your lectures under the class hashtag — either pulling out important ideas throughout the lecture, or simply tweeting a few of the main ideas after — provides a powerful tool for engagement. You might ask a question during your lecture, or end the lecture by asking students to tweet the one or two of the most important ideas, crowd-sourcing the answer live in front of your audience.

    9) Release course materials and resources on Twitter. The Hootsuite tweet-scheduling feature can allow you to schedule tweets at specific times during your class — so that an essay question, or an activity prompt is tweeted during your class.

    10) Ask what is trending. Whether running a course on K-12 education, modern history, civic engagement and community change, applied science, engineering or, in my case, social media, there is a conversation evolving on Twitter. Asking your students to begin some classes by answering the question, “what is trending?” gives students an opportunity to answer the question with examples, and an evaluation of why that issue or conversation is moving online.

    Higher education teaching must evolve, and we must meet students where they are, and where the future of the economy demands. While the classroom, lecture and podium will have an important role in higher education for the foreseeable future, even the most traditional of courses can benefit from smart integration of Twitter, and other digital tools. Whether integrating one, or all of these ideas, students will benefit from more opportunities to learn, and more opportunities to engage in what is increasingly the medium of choice.

    One caveat on all of this: When teaching millennials, a conversation about expectations for Twitter-worthy conversations, versus what should be kept to email is important. Your younger students, who live on this technology, may not hesitate in asking about grades and other issues in Twitter’s public space. This is all part of the learning.

    Future posts will explore additional aspects of social media and learning.

    Jason Llorenz, JD is a scholar at Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, where he teaches courses in technology and social media. His research focuses on universal digital inclusion in the digital economy. Twitter: @llorenzesq

  • Grindr 'Tipster' Warns Users Of Gay Social App's 'Security Flaw'
    An anonymous user has reportedly been sending messages to Grindr users in countries that have anti-gay legislation or are otherwise known to be hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens warning them of a “security flaw” within the popular social app.

    Although Grindr is often used by gay men to meet other men discreetly, the tipster warns users that they could be targeted, persecuted or even murdered as a result of the app’s location data, NDTV is reporting. The message includes links to a Twitter handle, YouTube video (which can be viewed above) and a Pastebin dump, according to the report.

    “Officials at Grindr have been informed several times within the past months about these issues, which would seem to imply that the concept of ‘social responsibility’ is lost upon Grindr,” the tipster, who is identified only as “a guest” on the Pastebin dump, writes. “Knowing that Grindr-Users in countries such as these are being put unnecessarily at a high risk should be reason enough for Grindr to change its system.”

    A Grindr spokesperson told HuffPost Gay Voices that the location data was not a security flaw. In addition, users who were concerned about the app revealing their proximity have the option to remove it.

    “As part of the Grindr service, users rely on sharing location information with other users as core functionality of the application and Grindr users can control how this information is displayed,” the spokesperson wrote. “As always, our user security is our top priority and we do our best to keep our Grindr community secure.”

    LGBT software developer Chris Ward praised Grindr and other geo apps for “revolutionizing” the way people were able to meet, nothing that they have “in many ways helped those in less gay-friendly areas meet those who are like-minded.” Still, he was quick to add that “there is always a risk.”

    “The answer is simple,” Ward wrote in a blog that was re-posted by Pink News. “If you don’t want somebody to know your location, don’t provide your distance or don’t use geo apps at all.”

  • Google Mates With an Emu
    When most of us hear the word “Google” we think search engine. When we hear “Emu” we think a big Australian bird with long legs that doesn’t fly. Put the two together however and you end up with something entirely new and frankly, rather scary. That’s because the Emu in question here is a company just purchased by Google that offers a brand new channel for Google to spy on what you do and sell what it finds, privacy be damned.

    I get that this sounds like a Chicken Little “sky is falling” metaphor, but sadly it is not. In fact, you might want to wear a hard helmet as you read on. Emu is, or I should say was, a startup with a cool mobile messaging app. Part instant messaging client, part Siri-type virtual assistant, the app can monitor everything you are talking about when you chat. Objectively, such an app sounds useful. It could be a great time-saver and a big help by offering useful suggestions. But that’s not the reality here, not when there’s profitability involved based on your private data.

    So what is really happening underneath Emu? The app uses an artificial intelligence engine to snoop through all your messages and then share what it finds to help you act on your messages. Like a well-seasoned stalker, the app does all this behind the scenes, letting you go about your day with no idea what is lurking in the bushes. All you see are the results that pop up as a result of your text. When you describe it that way, it sounds kind of creepy, no?

    Just to be clear here, Emu currently doesn’t use the app this way. But the technology was specifically designed to enable such a scenario. And after all, this is Google; the data hog that was fined $22.5-million for tracking Safari users in “cookiegate.” Clearly Google didn’t buy the company for what it is doing, but rather for what it can do, and that is to fill the “chat” hole in Google’s ad offerings by inserting relevant links and flooding you with targeted ads. In the end, that means a new channel for advertising based on a tried and true methodology of ignoring the privacy of what you share and with whom.

    Google is not alone in this endeavor. Last month, Facebook announced that its mobile app users would be forced to download the separate Facebook Messenger app in order to use the chat function. Foursquare just rolled out a new version that, by default, tracks your movements continuously, negating the need for a “check in” button. The story is the same, with the names, dates, and faces changed to protect the not-so innocent.

    At what point does this all end? Do we need every avenue we use to communicate and search online mined and spied upon? This is but another sign of large service providers seeing how far they can push before people push back.

    I truly feel that a shot heard round the world is on our horizon, one that pushes people over the line to take unanimous action. Companies big and small should reflect which side they are on and which side they want to be on in the aftermath. Those that choose wisely will be the ones who have true privacy and respect for their members integrated with their profitability models. Those that don’t, regardless of the size and space they currently take, will become a footnote in history and a lesson on how not to do business.

    As Emus go, this one won’t fly.

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