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Mobile Technology News, February 21, 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.

  • Google Street View Captures Remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands For First Time
    Want to visit America’s largest conservation area? Tough luck: the massive Papahanaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which includes most of the northwestern Hawaiian islands, is closed to the public.

    But, as we all know, Google specializes in making private things public, and for once, we’re very grateful.

    Last July, lucky staffers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spent a week in the conservation area with Google Street View Trekker equipment. The thousands of images they captured across five remote islands (Tern Island, East Island, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, and Pearl and Hermes Atoll), were recently made public, allowing folks like us to finally witness even a smidgen of the untouched sites’ beauty and wonder.

    Papahanaumokuākea (learn to pronounce it here) encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean — an area, Hawaii magazine points out, that is larger than all of the National Park Serivice’s sites combined.

    Its coral reefs are home to thousands of marine animals, including many endangered species, and the picturesque beaches see 22 different species of birds. The area was declared a cultural World Heritage Site as well as a natural one because of its significance in Hawaiian culture.

    The five newly mapped islands lie about 550 to 1200 miles northwest of Honolulu.

    Click each island name below to check them out for yourself:

    Tern Island
    tern island

    Pearl and Hermes Atoll
    pearl and hermes atoll

    Lisianski Island
    lisianski island

    East Island
    east island

    Laysan Island
    laysan island

    (h/t Hawaii Magazine)

  • Meg Whitman: Traditional PCs drive growth, not just tablets
    HP CEO says PC market contraction is slowing and customers need more than just a tablet for ‘real work.’
  • Google unveils 3D sensor smartphone
    Google unveils a prototype smartphone with “customised hardware and software” that enables it to create 3D maps of a user’s surroundings.
  • VIDEO: Xiaomi takes on smartphone rivals
    China’s Xiaomi is not yet a global name, but the smartphone maker is now hoping to expand beyond its native China. Puneet Pal Singh speaks to Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra.
  • WhatsApp CEO Is Against Whatever Facebook Is For
    Mark Zuckerberg may be Facebook friends with the guys whose company he just bought for $19 billion. But by all indications, Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s CEO and Facebook’s newest board member, just doesn’t like Facebook very much.

    Koum’s Facebook profile is sparse by comparison with most, with airtight privacy settings that keep strangers from viewing his friends, his photos and his interests. His Facebook profile picture is as blank as they come: It’s a plain, white square.

    When asked in a 2012 interview with The Recapp to name his favorite apps other than WhatsApp, Koum listed just three: “On my iPhone 3GS, I use Instagram, Twitter and Touch,” he said.

    Facebook, the company that just made Koum a billionaire several times over, is notably absent from that list.

    The portrait of Koum that emerges from his interviews and social media posts over the past several years is that of a company founder who jealously guards his privacy and staunchly rejects both data collection and mobile advertising — values that clash with the core principles on which Facebook is built.

    WhatsApp was created around the premise that it should collect as little information about the people using its service as possible. This commitment grew out of Koum’s personal experience with intrusive government surveillance during his childhood in the Ukraine, where he saw friends and dissidents punished for private speech. Though Facebook is certainly no totalitarian regime, the company does track each message that passes through its servers. Koum emphasized how different this model is from WhatsApp’s in an interview with Wired just before the acquisition.

    “I grew up in a society where everything you did was eavesdropped on, recorded, snitched on,” Koum said. “People need to differentiate us from companies like Yahoo! and Facebook that collect your data and have it sitting on their servers. We want to know as little about our users as possible. We don’t know your name, your gender… We designed our system to be as anonymous as possible.”

    Koum has stressed in previous interviews that he seeks to keep his personal life and his business affairs private, while Facebook prefers to have us make our lives an open book. Koum’s Facebook profile could almost pass for a spam account, though it’s the only “Jan Koum” who is friends with WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, and the account is an administrator of the WhatsApp Facebook group. Koum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Koum has also been an outspoken critic of online advertising, arguing that it intrudes on what he considers the intimate space of a smartphone and is quickly forgotten. Facebook, of course, draws most of its revenue from brands that pay to reach its more than 1 billion members.

    “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need,” Koum tweeted in 2011, quoting a line from the movie Fight Club.

    Koum and Acton have said publicly that they oppose data tracking, another favorite practice of Facebook that undergirds its core business.

    “Everything is tied to our rejection of advertising,” Koum told El Pais in 2012. “We worked for a long time at Yahoo! and when we left we decided to create something that would have nothing to do with this model where the user is the product — something that would be a more conscious, private experience.”

    The difference between the values of Koum and those of Facebook is hardly bad news for the company. If anything, it may be to Facebook’s advantage — and its members’ — to have a strong advocate for privacy and anonymity in the upper echelons of the social network. And the timing is especially fortuitous for Facebook, which faces growing competition from apps like Snapchat that lets users, and their messages, disappear.

    Whether Koum’s principles will be made to disappear within Facebook, however, is another matter entirely.

  • How to Find Someone's Secret Hangups by Looking at Their Profile Photo

    2014-02-20-Photobooth.jpg
    Image by freeparking (Flickr), CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    You are judged by your appearance. Fully aware of this reality, you dress and style yourself accordingly (whether you care to admit this or not). What you might not realize is how often you are judged by your online appearance — namely your social media profile photos. Even if you have only the most rudimentary of online presences, your chosen avatars may get more views (and judgment) than your actual face.

    My interest in the revelatory nature of profile photos piqued after I kicked off ArtCorgi, a site that makes it easy to commission original, personalized art from up-and-coming artists. Many people commission social media profile images and avatars through our site as part of a concerted effort to take ownership of (and control) the way they come across online. The images they commission reflect their values, their interests and their best attributes.

    I found myself wondering if profile images are something that require more thought and careful presentation. And I realized that they do. Whether in the midst of email correspondence, Twitter and Facebook chatting, or online background checking, people are judging your online profile photos — and they might be saying more about you than you’d like.

    The Maslow’s Need Hierarchy of Profile Photos

    One way to look at online avatars is through the perspective of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory that ranks human psychological needs from the most fundamental to the most refined and developed.

    2014-02-20-Maslow.png
    By Factoryjoe, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Those who are barely functioning in society are stuck with needs at the bottom of the pyramid; those who are thriving pursue those at the top. People find it difficult to focus on more refined needs when their basic needs are not met (so even very successful and self-aware people can find themselves mentally plunked back to the bottom of the hierarchy when they feel they’re in danger or are incredibly hungry).

    Conveniently, Maslow’s needs can be seen pretty clearly in many individuals’ profile photos, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter cover photos, and pictorial updates. Let’s explore them.

    Physiological Needs

    The physiological needs associated with Maslow’s hierarchy have to do with basic everyday needs: air, food, water, sleep and sex.

    These needs shine through in those ever-popular profile and social media photos depicting subjects with hot girls/guys. They can also be seen in profile photos in which the subject is posing with food (or perhaps just showcasing the food alone).

    You may think that frequent online food photo posters might just really like food, but some psychologists suggest that the behavior may be associated with eating disorders (both associated with being overweight and underweight). Disorder or not, those touting sex and food in their social media profiles are communicating their strong desire to have physiological needs met.

    Safety Needs

    Per Maslow’s hierarchy, safety needs are associated with a desire for security, physical safety, employment, health, property and family.

    Profile photos particularly revelatory of these needs include those touting personal wealth (showing off big purchases, nice houses or expensive vacations) fancy jobs (tradeshows, important meetings, etc.) and fitness (running marathons, biking and showing off nice muscles). Those showing off their various forms of security may be revealing their heavy orientation around that particular need.

    Love/Belonging

    The love/belonging needs associated with Maslow’s hierarchy address family, friendship and sexual intimacy.

    Surely you can name several friends whose profile photos feature not just themselves, but themselves ensconced alongside a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, son, daughter or pet. Those who mostly post photos of themselves with the ones they love (or just the ones they love) may be quite likely to be caught up on this rung of the hierarchy.

    Esteem

    Maslow’s take on esteem relates to gaining others’ respect, achieving great things, being self-confident and getting along well with others.

    Nothing screams a need for esteem like a profile photo featuring the subject speaking on stage (surely you’ve seen the token TED Talk headshot floating around on more than a small handful of profiles). Other profile photos suggesting esteem needs include those depicting impressive feats (e.g. the subject climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or receiving an award) and being surrounded by smiling friends and colleagues. Esteem needs might also be reflected in the presentation of images other than oneself in a profile photo: the use of images touting causes, showcasing celebrities or depicting a favorite fictional character communicate an individual’s desire to be associated with a certain group or movement.

    Self-Actualization

    Self-actualization involves reaching the pinnacle of one’s ability: accepting facts, abandoning prejudice, acting in a moral manner, solving problems and becoming creative and spontaneous.

    The profile photos of self-actualized people are amongst the most difficult to pin. The most common behavior amongst those considered to be self-actualized (successful leaders, CEOs, etc.) is to post straight-on headshots. This could have just as much to do with these people having professional headshots done for other purposes and designated teams managing their online appearances as it has to do with their supposed enlightenment. But if one is at peace with oneself and focused on higher goals, is a straightforward headshot not the most logical thing to use for an image that is supposed to depict… well… a straightforward headshot?

    Think Through Your Online Image

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is simply one of many psychological theories and by no means a universally-accepted means by which people’s psychological needs can be placed. That said, it doesn’t hurt to take time to consider what your profile photo says about your interests, needs and values, and Maslow’s hierarchy offers a simple structure to use.

    I encourage you to evaluate your present online avatars (and other social media photos) to determine if they line up with the identity you wish to project.

    When in doubt: get a nice headshot!

  • Domain shift sends cyber world dotty
    How new top-level web domain names will transform business
  • Amazon Prime Pricing: A Sensitive Subject
    Churn Data Belies Intent to Renew Memberships
    Loyalty Depends on Video, Other Factors

    Consumer Intelligence Research Partners released new survey analysis of member loyalty and price sensitivity of Amazon Prime members from Amazon, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). This analysis indicates that Prime membership is growing even as customers already cancel memberships at a higher-than-expected rate, and a price increase could dampen membership growth.

    Based on our survey analysis, we estimate that as of February 7, 2014 Amazon had approximately 26.9 million Amazon Prime members, an increase from our estimate of 16.7 million as of September 30, 2013. Amazon Prime members account for 45% of all Amazon customers (see chart). Among Amazon buyers, 32% are not and never have been Amazon Prime members, while 23% previously had a Prime membership that they did not renew.

    Amazon Customer Prime Membership Status

    2014-02-20-chart1.jpg

    Almost a quarter of Amazon buyers in the survey period had a Prime membership, but let it lapse. One way to look at this is that Amazon Prime is not for everyone, but trying out Amazon Prime is for almost everyone. About three-quarters of those that did not renew their membership did so because of cost.

    Among Amazon Prime members, almost all intend to renew their current membership at the current $79 price. 94% of survey subjects “definitely” or “probably” will renew their membership (see chart).

    Intent to Renew Amazon Prime

    2014-02-20-chart2.jpg

    CIRP also checked the renewal intent at the proposed $99 and $119 prices, and found dramatically different results. At $99, under half of subjects think will either definitely or probably renew. And at $119, 40% of subjects say they will definitely not renew their membership.

    Frequent use of Amazon Prime free Instant Video seems to be the most powerful lever to promote loyalty. Among frequent users of the Amazon Prime Free Streaming Video service, defined as those that use it at least once a week, 100% say they will “definitely” or “probably” renew their Amazon Prime membership, assuming the current price. At $99, 69% of frequent video users say they will “definitely” or “probably” renew, and at $119, 29% say they will “definitely” or “probably” renew.

    Amazon has created a set of loyal customers using both free shipping and free streaming video benefits of Amazon Prime. Yet it seems that even these dedicated customers have their limits, and a 50% price increase to $119 could push a significant portion of them away from Amazon Prime.

    CIRP based these findings on its survey of 300 subjects who made a purchase at Amazon.com in the three-month period ending February 7, 2014.

    For additional information, please contact CIRP.

  • Barclay's analyst downgrades AAPL on growth worries
    There is a tendency among analysts to think of Apple as only “the iPhone maker” and ignore its other products and services, feeling that the fortunes of its most popular and profitable product — the iPhone — is the key to the company’s overall health, at least in terms of its performance on Wall Street. Barclay’s analyst Ben Reitzes told investors in a memo on Thursday that he expects AAPL to stay within a narrow range for the next two years.

        



  • No Games, No Ads, No Gimmicks: Why WhatsApp Is The Startup Silicon Valley Deserved
    Two days ago, if I’d mentioned the name Jan Koum, you would’ve had no idea who I was talking about.

    Today, you might recognize him as the now billionaire CEO of WhatsApp, the messaging service that on Wednesday announced it was acquired by social networking juggernaut Facebook in the largest acquisition ever for a venture-backed company.

    The deal has understandably drawn a staggering amount of media attention. There are now profiles of Koum and his humble beginnings and statistics justifying the deal’s high price tag. The publicity has shed some light on this otherwise very understated company run by a couple of very private men.

    And the more I hear about Koum, the more I think Silicon Valley needs to be taking notes. In a land of pushy 20-something wunderkind CEOs and data leak scandals, he’s a 37-year-old black sheep who just wants to build a great product without media attention, without selling his customers’ data, without even worrying about advertising his product. No muss, no fuss. And, bigger than that, he’s just a nice guy about it — a quality that extends to his product and how he does business. (Apparently, it’s paid off.)

    So, Mark Zuckerberg, you spent $19 billion bringing WhatsApp into the Facebook fold. Want to get your money’s worth? Here are some lessons you can learn from your new Facebook board member:

    • Stick to Your Guns: In the beginning, Koum said there would be no advertisements. Five years later, WhatsApp still has no advertisements and has no intention of using them anytime soon. Koum repeatedly states that WhatsApp stores no data from its users; he says it doesn’t need to if it’s not making ads. There’s absolutely no money-grab aspect to WhatsApp. It’s just a great service for which you pay a small fee.
    • Make it Easy for the Consumer: One of the key elements of WhatsApp — what helps to make it work — is that it’s very easy for the consumer to use. It syncs with your address book. You don’t have to build a new friends list or remember a password or find a username that’s not embarrassing. You use the phone number and list of phone contacts you’ve been building for years.
    • Don’t Get Fancy: …if it sacrifices quality. In a market in which messaging services have become saturated with features like desktop versions or usernames, WhatsApp has been keepin’ it clean and simple. The result is an easy to use, consistent product that is never bogged down with unnecessary features and buttons. It doesn’t worry about how brands will use it to connect to consumers. It doesn’t worry about attracting teenagers. It does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to provide an easy, convenient messaging service for the consumer. Nothing more, nothing less. And more than 400 million monthly active users seem to like that.
    • Patience is a Virtue: If you make it, they will come… if it’s good. WhatsApp watched its service grow, slowly, throughout the course of several years with no marketing effort on its part. Focusing on organic growth, WhatsApp spread by word of mouth from user to user — a strategy that was so effective that even charging for services early on didn’t hinder the product’s growth.
    • No News is Good News: WhatsApp doesn’t really bother with a lot of media hype. Leave Apple and Google to their “look at me” product launches and rumor mills; WhatsApp has instead asked bloggers and journalists to stop spreading rumors. In an interview at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference last May, he politely asked bloggers to be more “responsible,” since addressing rumors distracts from what’s important: building a great product.
    • Stay Humble: It’s a mark of Koum’s “good-guy-edness” that his product has more active users than Twitter, and we’re only finding out about him now. He has routinely avoided the limelight, stayed out of the public eye and focused on his product first. In the same interview at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference, he said he’s concerned he’s wasting time being interviewed when he should be answering customer service emails. Based on what I’ve read about him, it doesn’t seem likely that attitude will change now that he’s a multi-billionaire.

    So Silicon Valley, are you taking notes? Because you should be.

  • Can Your Phone Teach You a New Language?
    This post first appeared on The Linguisticlast, a blog dedicated to language learning and all things language. You can follow The Linguisticlast on Twitter at @linguisticlast. 

    Spoiler alert: No, your phone cannot teach you a new language. Your ability to accomplish that depends entirely on you and your motivation, but having a smartphone can certainly help. Here’s how:

    1) Live Your Digital Life in Your New Language.

    The very first thing I always do when trying to learn a language is change my phone — along with my email accounts, social media accounts, search browsers, etc — into that language. Do not underestimate the power of passive learning. Before you even crack open a phrasebook, you’ll know words like “send,” “delete,” “edit,” “message,” “cancel,” and all sorts of other vocabulary just from using your phone on a daily basis.

    2) Find A Flashcard App

    Hey — the ’90s called. They want your paper flashcards back. The cool kids now use flashcard apps on their phones. I love my flashcard app, Flashcards Deluxe. Why? With the app, you can create all of my own flashcards, with up to five sides, and upload them to your phone using either Google Drive or Dropbox. You can choose how you’d like to learn your flashcards, either through a standard sequence or by using a spaced repetition system (SRS). Spaced repetition knows when you’re likely to forget a piece of recently learned information because it tracks your performance and usage history. It then sequences your flashcards so that that information is constantly fresh in your mind. I would actually go so far as to say that flashcards comprise the lion share of my language learning method. And because I have them on my phone, they’re always there with me — on the metro, in the waiting room at my dentist’s office, before I turn out the light and go to sleep. My point, flashcards and I have a very intimate relationship.

    3) Your Phone As a Dictionary

    Finding a good dictionary on your phone can be tricky, but it’s crucial, especially while you’re in public. During my first few weeks in France, I often found myself glued to my phone in supermarket aisles trying to figure out what I was buying. After you start speaking and gaining some confidence, switch to a monolingual dictionary to challenge yourself.

    4) Change the Music You Listen To

    This is one is fairly self-explanatory. I love to look up the lyrics to foreign language songs and translate them line-by-line. The result is that no matter how rusty my Spanish gets, I think it’s likely I’ll always know all of the words to Bacilos’ “Caraluna.” It’s also worth mentioning that the language in which a song is sung can change the music itself. As William Weir writes on Slate, “English-only listening habits deprive us of the natural rhythm and melody of other languages — the nasal vowels of French, the alveolar trills of Portuguese, the consonant clusters of Czech.”

    5) Learn a Language Through… Your Texts?

    Yes — texts. You read that correctly. Texting with your native speaker friends will help you pick up on phrases you would otherwise miss in ordinary conversation. Write them down; look them up; ask your friends what they mean. Texts are little goldmines for finding slang words and colloquial expressions you’d otherwise miss in a classroom setting or while speaking.

    6) Podcasts

    Podcasts can help you learn everything from Portuguese to Pashto, and they’re a great way to spend a period of time during which you’d normally listen to music or the radio, like your walk to work.

    7) Duolingo

    Though I haven’t personally used the Duolingo app, Apple named it 2013’s “free iPhone App of the Year.” My friends who use it swear by it, and some have gone so far as to say it’s addicting. The app works like a game: You advance through different levels while learning your target language. In the process, however, you help to translate chunks of the Internet. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Duolingo’s founder, Luis von Ahn, also created reCAPTCHA, which does the same thing, except with those annoying CAPTCHAs you have to decode to prove you’re human. Pretty cool, huh?

     8) For iPhone Users: Bonjour Siri!

    Siri is now available in for use in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean. It just so happens that those are some of the most widely learned languages as well. How convenient! In my experience trying to use Siri in French and Spanish, I’ve had difficulty if my pronunciation is off, but I also have plenty of difficulty using Siri in English as well. I’ve found that Siri’s voice recognition ability has greatly improved with the introduction of iOS7.

  • HP's Q1 beats estimates as PC business surprises
    The PC business didn’t suck nearly as bad as feared, and Hewlett-Packard’s first quarter benefits. The company sees strong enterprise demand for PCs as Windows XP systems are tossed.
  • Let's Put an End to '30 Under 30 Lists' and Recognize What Is to Come in Your 30s As a Woman in Tech
    I read an article today about how the lists that the tech world put out like “30 under 30,” top blah blah blah under blah, etc. are really really wrong. We should stop doing them. The author of that post from The Huffington Post, Carolyn Gregoire, writes about some things that I want to think more about and talk about here.

    All these lists focus on one thing: how young you are and how wonderful you must be for doing something awesome like becoming a CEO at a certain age where most normal people don’t. There has always been this obsession with young people doing cool and awesome things, but now it is more than ever focused on tech blogs and media lists focusing on the success of young people in their career. These lists are making it hard for anyone over 40 to be seen as someone doing something great. Why can’t we just recognize greatness at any age? Age should not be part of a discussion in whether or not you are successful.

    I am turning 30 in a couple of months, and this article stuck out to me because soon, I will never ever be able to be on a list like this. I never made it on a list like that and for some reason, that makes me sad. What if those lists didn’t exist? Then, I wouldn’t be feeling like this. I bet I am not alone.

    I also start to think about what I have done later on in my career in my 20s. I have learned so much over the course of my 20s, and I think as I move into my 30s, I am more in a place than ever before where I should be celebrating my successes. If it took me longer to do it in my 20s, then fine. We need to stop putting so much pressure of people at certain ages as to what success should look like for them.

    Make success whatever it should be to YOU and have it be at whatever time in your life you want it to be. It should not be relative or contingent upon an age.

    In my 20s, I was and still am obsessed with doing my best. I actually don’t think that will change just because I am turning 30. I am already stressed out enough. I don’t need the media constantly comparing me to people. I compare myself to people already and don’t need them doing it to me as well. Playing devil’s advocate, I do think that it helps to keep 20-somethings motivated to do more and more with their time. When you see these lists, you start asking yourself questions… Are you good enough? Are you doing enough? All these thoughts start streaming through my mind when I see these kinds of lists… Why don’t I have my own company? Why am I not a CEO?

    I can tell you why… I AM NOT READY FOR THAT. What I am ready for is to learn as much as possible in my 20s to prepare me for my 30s. I am ready to learn as much as I possibly can in my role here at HubSpot. I need to learn how to be the best sales person ever and that is what I am doing right now. Learning. I want to take that knowledge and then in my 30s or 40s or 50s — who knows when? — take that knowledge and bring it to another company where I can make a huge difference. I don’t know if being a CEO or doing something so fantastic in my 20s would be a good thing for my long-term goals. Don’t let these lists and the media tell you what success is for your 20s — or any time in your life.

    Say I had been on one of those lists — one of those 30 under 30 lists — by now. That probably would have meant I had started a company. My 20s would have been way different than they were. I don’t know if they would have been better or worse. Would I have learned more? Would I be smarter now? Who knows? I don’t care, though, because I am secure in what I am doing with my 20s. I made a proactive decision to learn as much as I can here at the company I work for now in my 20s and moving into my 30s even. I want to take that knowledge and experience and do something with it in my 30s, 40s etc. when I am smarter, older and more knowledgeable than I am now. I hope that pays off for me.

    Your 20s and 30s are for figuring things out. Like I said, I don’t know everything and from what I have seen and even experienced for myself, the older I get, the more I learn and the wiser I become. I should keep figuring things out in my 20s and get really good at what I do so in my 30s or 40s, I can crush it with that knowledge and experience.

    Apparently, amazing things happen for people in their 30s. I look forward to it. Bring it on, 30.

    Since my 30th birthday is right around the corner, I keep having these weird moments where I am thinking to myself Holy cow, have I done enough? Am I doing what I should be doing? Am I on the right path? All those things that happen to people before a moment that the world has made seem like a big deal. They say your 30s are the time for breakthrough moments. Maybe my breakthrough moment will be in the next 10 years.

    Here’s my number one point: Later on in your life, you will know more, have experienced more and will likely do better at what you set your mind to doing.

    Hopefully, everything I am learning now will help me in my later years in my life. I hope that the things I have learned in my 20s in the business world will set me up for even more success than if I had been super-super-successful (in the eyes of the media) in my 20s. I personally think I have been successful in my 20s. Who is the media or blogs to tell someone what success is in their 20s?

    What do you think about not hitting what the tech blogs and tech media says is success in your 20s? Is that okay?

    This post originally appeared on Womenpreneurs.

  • Inequality, Productivity, and WhatsApp

    If you ever wonder what’s fueling America’s staggering inequality, ponder Facebook’s acquisition of the mobile messaging company WhatsApp .

    According to news reports today, Facebook has agreed to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion.

    That’s the highest price paid for a startup in history. It’s $3 billion more than Facebook raised when it was first listed, and more than twice what Microsoft paid for Skype.

    (To be precise, $12 billion of the $19 billion will be in the form of shares in Facebook, $4 billion will be in cash, and $3 billion in restricted stock to WhatsApp staff, which will vest in four years.)

    Given that gargantuan amount, you might think WhatsApp is a big company. You’d be wrong. It has 55 employees, including its two young founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton.

    Whatsapp’s value doesn’t come from making anything. It doesn’t need a large organization to distribute its services or implement its strategy.

    It value comes instead from two other things that require only a handful of people. First is its technology — a simple but powerful app that allows users to send and receive text, image, audio and video messages through the Internet.

    The second is its network effect: The more people use it, the more other people want and need to use it in order to be connected. To that extent, it’s like Facebook — driven by connectivity.

    Whatsapp’s worldwide usage has more than doubled in the past nine months, to 450 million people — and it’s growing by around a million users every day. On December 31, 2013, it handled 54 billion messages (making its service more popular than Twitter, now valued at about $30 billion).

    How does it make money? The first year of usage is free. After that, customers pay a small fee. At the scale it’s already achieved, even a small fee generates big bucks. And if it gets into advertising it could reach more eyeballs than any other medium in history. It already has a database that could be mined in ways that reveal huge amounts of information about a significant percentage of the world’s population.

    The winners here are truly big winners. WhatsApp’s fifty-five employees are now enormously rich. Its two founders are now billionaires. And the partners of the venture capital firm that financed it have also reaped a fortune.

    And the rest of us? We’re winners in the sense that we have an even more efficient way to connect with each other.

    But we’re not getting more jobs.

    In the emerging economy, there’s no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them. In fact, the combination of digital technologies with huge network effects is pushing the ratio of employees to customers to new lows (WhatsApp’s 55 employees are all its 450 million customers need).

    Meanwhile, the ranks of postal workers, call-center operators, telephone installers, the people who lay and service miles of cable, and the millions of other communication workers, are dwindling — just as retail workers are succumbing to Amazon, office clerks and secretaries to Microsoft, and librarians and encyclopedia editors to Google.

    Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line — or spread the gains more widely — our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.

    ROBERT B. REICH’s film “Inequality for All” is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix in late February. Watch the trailer below:

  • Kepler Space Telescope's Amazing Discoveries Highlighted In New 'Deep Astronomy' Video
    How much have we really learned about alien planets?

    Twenty years ago, we knew nothing about any other worlds outside of our solar system. Now, we’ve discovered the Milky Way is teeming with planets just like Earth.

    That’s thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which launched in 2009 to explore our galaxy’s interplanetary systems. A new video from the YouTube channel Deep Astronomy highlights some of the telescope’s amazing discoveries. Just check it out above.

    “The Kepler space telescope has opened up a new era of astronomy in our lifetimes,” Tony Darnell, video blogger and social media manager at the Space Telescope Science Institute, says in the video. “For the first time in our history when we look up at the night sky, thanks to Kepler, we know that there are more planets up there than there are stars.”

    So far, Kepler has looked at just a small slice of the Milky Way, discovering 3,538 potential worlds — 104 of them are in the so-called “habitable zone,” meaning their environment could potentially support life, and 10 are about the size of Earth, according to NASA.

    In fact, NASA data suggests that there are at least 8.8 billion stars with Earth-size planets in the habitable temperature zone. Wow.

  • iPhone leads to surge in China Mobile's high-speed data subscribers
    China Mobile added 14 million more high-speed data subscribers in January, a growth faster than at any other time in its history, according to data from Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White. The 7.4 percent increase is attributed mainly to the iPhone, which Mobile started selling on January 17th. In December, by contrast, Mobile’s high-speed base grew by less than 6 percent.

        



  • Google Wanted To Buy WhatsApp, Too
    Two separate sources have told me that’s how much Google (GOOG) offered to purchase WhatsApp.
  • What State Lasts The Longest (And Shortest) In Bed?
    If you’ve got some time, head to New Mexico.

    Fresh data from Spreadsheets, a sex-tracking App launched last August, may show how your state measures up — endurance-wise — to its neighbors.

    “We’re creating a sort of thermometer for sex,” co-creator Tyler Elick, 29, told The Huffington Post. In addition to how long you’re lasting, Spreadsheets can keep track of thrusts per minute, audio levels, and frequency of sex.

    “Our goal is to provide a product that … connects people on an intimate level,” he said. Elick and co-creator Danny Wax “saw a need in the market” when they realized that people were already tracking activities like their runs and sleep cycles.

    This week, Nerve.com compiled a state-by-state rundown of averaged sex times, which can be seen below. The data comes from approximately 5,000 users and 23,000 individual sex sessions in the U.S. (there are about 10,000 users worldwide). Here’s the list, from longest to shortest:

    1. New Mexico (7:01)

    2. West Virginia (5:38)

    3. Idaho (5:11)

    4. South Carolina (4:48)

    5. Missouri (4:22)

    6. Michigan (4:14)

    7. Utah (3:55)

    8. Oregon (3:51)

    9. Nebraska (3:47)

    10. Alabama (3:38)

    11. Delaware (3:33)

    12. Hawaii (3:28)

    13. Wisconsin (3:22)

    14. North Dakota (3:18)

    15. Arizona (3:17)

    16. Maryland (3:15)

    17. Mississippi (3:10)

    18. Rhode Island (3:09)

    19. Connecticut (3:07)

    20. Texas (3:06)

    21. New Hampshire (3:04)

    22. Wyoming (3:03)

    23. New York (3:01)

    24. Pennsylvania (2:58)

    25. Maine (2:58)

    26. Washington (2:51)

    27. Iowa (2:50)

    28. Illinois (2:49)

    29. North Carolina (2:47)

    30. Tennessee (2:46)

    31. Kansas (2:38)

    32. California (2:38)

    33. Massachusetts (2:31)

    34. Florida (2:29)

    35. New Jersey (2:28)

    36. Indiana (2:26)

    37. Virginia (2:23)

    38. Oklahoma (2:21)

    39. Colorado (2:21)

    40. Minnesota (2:19)

    41. Ohio (2:18)

    42. Louisiana (2:17)

    43. Kentucky (2:14)

    44. Arkansas (2:08)

    45. District of Columbia (2:08)

    46. Nevada (2:07)

    47. Georgia (2:07)

    48. Montana (2:03)

    49. Vermont (1:48)

    50. South Dakota (1:30)

    51. Alaska (1:21)

    But before you New Mexicans start swelling with pride, (or you Alaskans shrink in embarrassment), keep in mind that it’s tough to say what — if anything — these stats actually represent.

    According to the Nerve.com writeup, these times represent intercourse alone because “the app doesn’t cover foreplay,” but Elick told HuffPost that’s just not true.

    “Our app isn’t purely about penises entering vaginas,” he said. “Our app is more about tracking entire amounts of sexual activity. If that includes foreplay for people, we’re open to that.”

    While a user can set the phone on a mattress to monitor “movement,” the timing feature of the app can be used as a simple timer. One user may opt to start the timer before foreplay begins, while a different user could interrupt the mood completely to go fiddle with his phone prior to entering thrust-city.

    However, with the median at around two and a half minutes, we really hope people aren’t clocking in until the main event.

    Elick was quick (but not as quick as an Alaskan — hey-o!) to point out that some users may also be skewing the results low by pulling out the app to show a friend or partner, and running the clock for only a few seconds.

    Either way, though, Elick believes the stats are valuable because of the kinds of conversations they can spark.

    “Real data makes people more comfortable and ideally less highly sensitive … or over-sensationalist about physical intimacy,” he said.

    Elick also wants people to know that he and Wax don’t have access to data for individual users or sessions. Instead, they rely on Google analytics, which aggregates the duration and session count for particular regions. “We don’t want to be the sexual Big Brother here,” he said.

  • Poor UX Could Kill Your Start Up
    If you have a tech start up, the chances are you are trying to get to grips with product design, but you can’t afford to pay a full time UX designer to help develop your interface. Good user experience is essential if you are trying to scale your product, but money is always an issue for start ups. I know of many cases where start ups have ended up with poor UX as a result of trying to keep costs down by hiring a graphic designer to work on their product. This blog will hopefully help you navigate this journey better.

    In the pre software days, designers used to make things look pretty. The job description “UX designer” started in Silicon Valley in the 1990s. It has only become mainstream in the last decade. When a UX designer is doing their job well, using software is effortless, meaning that often they only get noticed when things went wrong. UX is the design behind the visual.

    Good UX people always have the mantra of “I am not the target audience” running through their heads. They can also predict ahead, i.e. if you do customer discovery, people will largely tell you what you want to hear. They also think they want different things to what actually works for them. An experienced UX designer will see through a lot of this and be able to predict what people will like.

    Remember graphic designers still do great work. They will make your website look slick and are essential for your branding and content marketing. But you need to know when to stop using a graphic designer and start using a UX designer if you are creating a product. This can be confusing; I have witnessed firsthand how graphic designers, keen to win business, may tell start ups they can do UX work. To try and avoid this, you need to know the following.

    1. What product and UX work they have done before — you don’t want them to be learning on your time. Make sure you have a look at this closely. Website design is totally different to designing a product.

    2. Is the person you are communicating with going to be doing the hands on UX work? If not, things can get lost in translation. Especially if they are off shoring the work which happens a lot in UK and Ireland.

    3. You expect them to be asking you a lot of questions, as a good UX designer will know that user experience is influenced by a multitude of things such as:

    • marketing copy
    • speed
    • functional performance
    • colour scheme
    • personality
    • customer support,
    • set expectations
    • financial approach.

    I recently attended a UX training course and the lecturer, Colman Walsh, who has worked in UX for the last 15 years in Silicon Valley and Europe explained

    “Because of the word ‘design’, UX often gets conflated with styling. But they’re not the same. UX is a problem solving discipline. Identifying problems, solving them and designing elegant solutions. Styling is often part of the solution, but doesn’t have to be.”

    Lets look at some practical examples. Survey monkey have built up a huge reputation around good UX. Having recently used the software (initially for free and then paying) the experience was a good one from start to finish. I have tried to break down why it was good and why I will use survey monkey again and recommend it. These second two benefits show that good UX is critical to the success of software.

    Survey monkey is clear about what it is offering you, it is helping you create and distribute a better survey without over loading you with advice. The process is streamlined from start to finish, and when you have completed the survey the analytics are good. You can take a number of months break from pre paying the monthly subscription and your data will still be there. All this and more means that survey monkey has totally nailed the UX without the graphics being anything special while you are working through the process.

    For those like survey monkey who have mastered UX, it is easy to see their money spent on this area is giving a great return on investment. For you and me it is sometimes harder to join the dots from good UX work to the bottom line of your business. However, good work is being done here by Elisabeth Hubert and others who are actively working towards mapping user experience activity to business value.

    Always remember that the ability to understand and communicate can be as, or more, important than graphic ability with a UX designer. It is also a much more iterative process than you might expect, so be patient!

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