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Mobile Technology News, March 28, 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.

  • Snoopy drone sniffs public's data
    Security firm SensePost reveals its Snoopy drone, which can steal data from unsuspecting smartphone users, at the Black Hat security conference in Singapore.
  • Lightning From Space, As Seen From The International Space Station
    lightning
    This is what lightning looks like from space.

    A pair of photographs released by NASA earlier this week shows white lightning as seen by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The image above, snapped on Dec. 12, 2013, shows the space angle of lighting over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

    To help you figure out what’s what, NASA also released a photo with a few notes:

    lightning

    A second photo released by the space agency is even more ominous, showing lightning beneath a thunderhead as seen from space over Bolivia:

    lightning

    While the images were taken with Nikon D3S digital cameras, NASA released them to help promote new equipment aboard the ISS. The Firestation, as it’s known, measures lightning flashes, static and the short bursts gamma rays that are released by some lightning discharges, NASA said in a news release.

    Firestation is able to view about 50 lightning strikes per day.

    NASA says the images were cropped and enhanced to improve contrast and remove lens artifacts.

    (h/t LiveScience)

  • Microsoft unveils iPad Office suite
    Microsoft’s new chief executive announces versions of Office’s Word, Excel and Powerpoint software for Apple’s iPad.
  • Mandatory porn site age checks urged
    The UK’s video-on-demand regulator calls for a change to the law to make overseas pornographic websites add age verification checks.
  • Would data geeks make better football managers?
    Would data geeks make better football managers?
  • American Media Brands Cast Web Over News in India
    The Indian news cycle has been operating at a feverish pitch of late. The world’s most populous democracy is about to choose a new government, politics is at its polarizing best, and a colorful cast of characters vying for power is supplying a constant stream of sound bytes.

    If things weren’t already spicy enough news-wise, American media players are attempting to add their own ‘Spice‘ to the mix, as they foray into the Indian market for online news.

    Like Indian food though, they better have a strong stomach to digest the challenges the Indian market will throw at them — this isn’t the first time American players have courted an online audience in India, and results have been mixed so far.

    Weaving a Tangled Web

    It was a venerable publication like The Economist which had addressed the issue of India’s online news potential in an article a few years back. Offering a pointed insight about the success of India’s print news players, the article argued that one of the main reasons why India’s newspaper barons were minting money was that online news in India was consumed by just under 7 percent of the nation’s population.

    Despite online news accounting for only 3.5 percent of ad spends, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal launched India-specific news properties — India Ink and India Real Time, respectively.

    Fast forward a couple of years and data from Internet research firm Comscore is quoted to show how traffic from India to International news sites is hovering around the million mark each for some of the top players.

    No one though will talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to India — what is the state of monetization of online news in India? How have paywalls worked in the Indian context, assuming they have been tried in the first place?

    Consider the (disputed) market leader in “pure-play” online news in India today, FirstPost.comComscore data tells you it got 3.7 million visitors last year both from India and abroad. What it doesn’t tell you is that all the content on the website is free-to-view, and parent company Web 18 (part of the larger Network 18 Group) has had to fold many separate content verticals like the technology channel into the main news website due to poor numbers.

    Moreover, there is an interesting dynamic at play here — millions of Indians are paying for their print and TV news, but the web properties being run by the same media groups are offering their content for free to visitors.

    The fact that ad-based monetization offers severe challenges to online news sites isn’t exactly breaking news but someone’s got to pay the bills to justify the hype.

    American Media 2.0

    Trying to make money without a paywall though is not a foreign concept to American media. The standard bearer for this approach has been the Washington DC-based Atlantic Media, owner of marquee all-digital news brand Quartz. Launched in 2012, the site is said to have crossed 5 million visitors this January. Moreover, this is an online news site optimized for the new mobile and social web — evidenced from its clean-cut design as well as data that shows that the largest chunk of traffic (40 percent) comes from social networks.

    It’s easy to understand the excitement then around Quartz’s reported plans to enter the Indian market in collaboration with a relatively nascent homegrown news site Scroll.in. As things stand, the Indian edition of Quartz should be online by June this year and readers should expect a basket of both domestic coverage and International news and analysis.

    However, it’s not just the new kids on the block who are trying to shake up the online news landscape in India. As brands go, the UK-based BBC has had a deep connect with generations of Indians. In an apparent move to reinvent itself in the eyes of India’s younger demographic, it has announced the launch of a mobile news site before the Indian general elections. Where the BBC might have an edge is in its ability to deliver content in vernacular Indian languages — a capability none of the digital newbies have invested in.

    India Sync

    In line with global trends, Indian authorities too are increasingly inclined to clamp down on freedom of expression on the Internet. Digital freedoms for the online news community in India cannot be taken for granted. In 2012 Google reported a 49 percent increase in requests made in India for it to take down “offending” online content. There were more than 2,000 requests made for user data as well.

    When it comes to censorship in India it is not restricted to hard news either — guardians of cultural heritage abound in India, and they can bring powerful publishers to their knees. In the U.S., an offending news item may bring thousands of angry emails from readers; in India it is likely to have a political party piggyback the issue and lay siege to a news organization’s office.

    Then there is the larger challenge of delivering the right content to cater to the Indian masses. In a country where business and technology news is a much poorer cousin of political news, culture and lifestyle revolve predominantly around movies and television, and sports is synonymous with cricket; finding the right content mix to generate mass readership will be an ongoing challenge for American media players.

    While Quartz would like to entertain notions that the new age Indian Internet audience is eager for their offerings, maybe they should pay heed to other data about Indian digital consumption habits. Video consumption has doubled in just two years in India as per Comscore data. Google, primarily YouTube, dominates. Mobile TV channels are being aggressively marketed by a raft of new media players, some with old media moorings.

    Is the written word, whether in print or in digital, going to retain its primacy for long? The answer from India and the world may be no different.

  • Tech Revamps in Prolific Places: Touch Screens in Museums, Libraries With APIs
    When it comes to restoring historical buildings or cultural landmarks, there is a certain amount of sensitivity needed in regards to the preservation and essence of such institutions. Such anxieties are admittedly rational, given the chance of potentially disrupting and ruining a treasured artifact or institution.

    Technology solutions can help to preserve some of the world’s most prolific institutions for generations to come while maintaining historical or artistic integrity. However, incorporating new technology into a solidified cultural landmark or institution is like walking a fine line.

    One wrong decision can garner the public backlash from countless fans, members or philanthropists. Collaborating with key personnel and decision makers to understand the institutions vision as well as the perspective of visitors, fans and members is crucial.

    Preserve Tradition and Assure Future Scalability

    Incorporating technology driven processes into historical and culturally significant institutions is similar to creating remakes of popular classic films. Such projects must take into account contemporary audiences as well as long-term dedicated fans. There is a definite fine line between betraying the trust of loyal followers and selling out to catch attention from newcomers.

    For an example of such a successful technology implementation, take a look at the Cleveland Museum of Art. By incorporating touch technology and software applications for interacting with exhibits, the museum was able to update their exhibits for current and future generations, without alienating core attendees.

    Widen the Audience and Increase Exposure

    In today’s technology driven landscape, adapting an institution for present day expectations is crucial. Adults and teenagers alike have become incredibly discerning when it comes to judging technology. If you plan on incorporating touch screen technology, you should hold yourself up to standards such as iPhone and Android apps or HTML5 websites. Consider the fact that the average American spends one hour everyday on a smartphone and 13 hours per week online.

    With such exposure to new media and technology, the average visitor to a museum will be well equipped to judge the tech-savvy nature of an institution. Regardless of the technology, the main focus is to revamp an institution for the purpose of increased exposure, visitors, donations and awareness. Most of these organizations are nonprofit and depend on the dedication of their members, philanthropists and visitor donations to operate.

    Update the Experience but Maintain Authenticity

    In April 2013, the Digital Public Library of America was officially opened. The entirety of archives from multiple universities, museums and libraries across the country have been digitized and made available through this website. Not only has the project opened access to a trove of information to the public, but the development team also created an API available to app developers.

    On the main page of the website, there is an apps section which features apps for searching through the plethora of information in the libraries’ records. Such incorporation of technology to expand upon the already rich value of such an institution is a perfect example of how technology can expand upon something that is already great.

    As a technology company, it is difficult to walk the line between preservation of an institution’s historical identity, and the desire to update the experience for future generations. Thankfully, technology has the ability to open up access and widen the audience for institutions, historical or contemporary.

    Are there any institutions that come to mind that you feel could benefit from a technological upgrade?

    Himanshu Sareen is Founder and CEO of Icreon Tech.

  • The Rapid Transormation of Business Leaders Is Underway
    Some recent studies reveal a dramatically changing face of business leaders already underway; and, what the leadership needs of the future will look like. I see these and other related observations coinciding with a broader shift in our society, and perhaps worldwide. It’s towards heightened interconnection and interdependence, desire for diversity, collaboration as part of the DNA, and a major shift in attitudes about hierarchy and success.

    One study of Fortune 100 executives, featured in the Harvard Business Review, found that the majority of senior executives today went to state universities, not the more elite schools. A Washington Post report of the study pointed out that “In 1980, just 32 percent of leaders went to a public university. By 2001 that had grown to 48 percent, and in 2011 the number reached a majority, with 55 percent of corporate leaders going to state colleges.”

    Moreover, nearly 11 percent are foreign born. And while women still deal with the glass ceiling, they have a more rapid rise to the top ranks, today. Nevertheless, it’s significant to note that nearly 87 percent of corporate board seats are held by white workers. According to research by DiversityInc and the think tank Catalyst, six African Americans are Fortune 500 CEOs, and 7.4 percent hold corporate board seats; eight Hispanics are Fortune 500 CEOs, and 3.3 percent hold corporate board seats.

    Even so, it’s clear that a shift is underway along many fronts. For example, in a Washington Post interview, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli pointed out that another one of the study’s major findings was “…sharp decline in the lifetime employment model among senior guys. The percentage of top leaders who spent their entire careers at one company dropped from 50 percent in 1980 to 45 percent in 2001 to less than a third in 2011.”

    Not only is the education background and employment patterns of top corporate leaders becoming more equal over time, the orientation and skills they will need in the future are also changing. And that’s becoming increasingly visible as well. For example, a fascinating study by the Hay Group and German futurists at Z-Punkt identifies six trends that their research indicates will shape leadership needs in the years ahead. I think their findings align with similar shifts in the larger culture: an evolution in all sectors of society and in individual lives today — again, towards heightened collaboration, connection, emotional attunement to others, and diverse interdependence.

    Consider the findings of this report, Leadership 2030. It speaks of the rise of the “altorocentric” leader. In a Washington Post interview by Jena McGregor, Georg Vielmetter of the Hay Group explained that “Altrocentric” means

    …focusing on others. Such a leader doesn’t put himself at the very center. He knows he needs to listen to other people. He knows he needs to be intellectually curious and emotionally open. He knows that he needs empathy to do the job, not just in order to be a good person. (and) …leaders in the future need to have a full understanding, and also an emotional understanding, of diversity.”

    Also significant, Vielmetter pointed out, “…positional power and hierarchical power will become smaller. Power will shift to stakeholders, reducing the authority of the people who are supposed to lead the organization.”

    He emphasized that

    The time of the alpha male — of the dominant, typically male leader who knows everything, who gives direction to everybody and sets the pace, whom everybody follows because this person is so smart and intelligent and clever –this time is over. We need a new kind of leader who focuses much more on relationships and understands that leadership is not about himself.

    Regarding the younger generation, Vielmetter adds that

    With the Baby Boomer generation, you understood you climb up the ladder and you’re the boss at the end. The new generation has less and less interest to do this….for them it’s just not so important to become the boss. That causes a big problem for organizations. They offer people big jobs, and they don’t want them. They value their private life more.

    Similarly, writing in the New York Times, Tom Agan, co-founder and managing partner of Rivia, points out that the younger generations of workers can have a significant positive impact upon workplace culture and leadership. That embracing it can enhance innovation and creativity, especially when joined with the experience of older workers.

    Agan writes, “Social media permeate the personal, academic, political and professional lives of millennials, helping to foster the type of environment where innovation flourishes. So when compared with older generations, millennials learn quickly — and that’s the most important driver of innovation.”

    And,

    If corporate cultures don’t align with the transparency, free flow of information, and inclusiveness that millennials highly value — and that are also essential for learning and successful innovation — the competitiveness of many established businesses will suffer. Millennials are becoming more aware of their rising worth. Coupling their ability to learn quickly with their insistence on having a say, they pack a powerful punch.

    Those who build and sustain highly successful companies are very much in tune with and leading the kinds of shifts the above studies and observations describe. One good example is Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson who has emphasized the business value of seeking a wide, diverse range of people. Branson writes in Entrepreneur,

    Over more than 40 years of building our businesses at the Virgin Group, my colleagues and I have seen time and time again that employing people from different backgrounds and who have various skills, viewpoints and personalities will help you to spot opportunities, anticipate problems and come up with original solutions before your competitors do.

    All of these findings and observations have significant implications for corporate cultures and people’s lives, ambitions and goals — today and tomorrow. What will be the impact on outlook, vision, and management perspectives from the ever-increasing diversity of people, in conjunction with a growing shift in worker’s orientations to the job, to what they look for from management, and to what they define as “success?” All of the above are parts of a broader shift of mentality, values, outlook on life, and behavior. It will shape how people conduct their personal relationships, what they seek from their careers and from public policy, as well. There are many moving parts, and they’re all moving as we speak.

    Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Progressive Development, and writes its blog, Progressive Impact. dlabier@CenterProgressive.org. For more about him on The Huffington Post, click here.

  • Obama Decides To Seek End Of NSA Phone Records Program, But Many Questions Linger
    Civil liberties advocates cheered President Barack Obama’s step on Thursday toward ending the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone records. But they also warned the move could obscure more intrusive programs still being carried out in secret.

    In a step telegraphed earlier this week, Obama said in a Thursday statement he believes “the best path forward is that the government should not collect or hold this data in bulk.”

    “I am confident that this approach can provide our intelligence and law enforcement professionals the information they need to keep us safe while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns that have been raised,” he added.

    Obama’s still-developing plan calls for the NSA to stop collecting bulk records on who Americans call, when and for how long. Instead, that data will be sought from phone companies only when necessary for terrorism investigations, and after a special surveillance court’s approval.

    Whatever shape it ultimately takes, Obama’s proposal will still need congressional approval. The administration has rejected a suggestion made by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) to simply stop seeking court reauthorization of the program. Friday is the next deadline for seeking court reauthorization.

    Nevertheless, the plan represents a stunning turnaround for an administration whose officials — up to and including the president — have called bulk call records collection legal and necessary. When former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations were first made public in June 2013, Obama offered a full-throated defense of call records collection. As recently as a January speech, the president was grappling to preserve the program in some form by requiring phone companies to hold data longer, or by establishing a third-party group to collect the call data.

    But as two factions in Congress, whose memberships cut across political lines, battle over whether to end the call records program or to expand the NSA’s powers further, the president may have foreseen gridlock stalling reauthorization ahead of a statutory mid-2015 expiration date.

    “I suspect that there is some sort of political calculation going on here about fighting to the death [over the program],” said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. Her group has praised the president’s proposal as a step in the right direction, but Richardson nonetheless warned of “much bigger programs going on that are flying under the radar.”

    The bulk collection of American telephone records has aroused the most bipartisan ire since Snowden’s leaks exposed it — but as Snowden’s documents have also shown, the NSA operates many other programs that collect data both domestically and abroad.

    The president did not address other collection activities going on under the same section of the Patriot Act, which could range over a wide record of business records, from product sales to library histories. Nor did the president touch on other authorities that could be used to collect the actual content of Americans’ communications, or American phone metadata offshore.

    “[The plan] satisfies the optics of reform … without looking at some of the other authorities that are far more intrusive,” said Katherine Maher, advocacy director for the global digital rights group Access.

    Even when it comes to just the NSA phone records collection, many question marks still remain.

    “In some ways I feel a little bit frustrated at the very vague information we have gotten from the White House on the proposal,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program.

    The NSA is in possession of years’ worth of Americans’ phone records, in bulk. What happens to that data going forward is unknown.

    And in the future, if the administration plan is put into place, it is also unknown what will happen to phone call data that the NSA requests from the telecommunication companies and places into the agency’s “corporate store,” over which it asserts free reign.

    For these companies, important private-sector stakeholders in any changes to the NSA program, the potential effects of the new proposal are unclear. They fear being forced to reformat the data they already keep on customer calls, or having to store it longer.

    Verizon General Counsel Randel Milch blogged a statement applauding the president’s suggestions, but stressed that Congress and the administration would need to “get the details of this important effort right.”

    This article has been updated to clarify details about the NSA’s data collection, and the potential impacts of the new proposal.

  • What Do They Know? Dismissing a Viral Presumption About Millennials
    Digital media has been abuzz recently thanks to findings from a survey about how clueless Americans are concerning Internet terminology. While further investigation of the “study” suggested that it was likely a publicity stunt on the part of a public relations firm, the reaction to the findings may be more worrisome than the findings themselves. As one reporter noted,”It’s like they only interviewed my grandma and her friends!”

    Assumptions are rampant about how savvy today’s millennials are when it comes to technology in contrast to their apparently clueless parents and grandparents.

    The glitch: neither assumption is based on empirical evidence. If anything, considerable research has shown by now that there is large variation in Internet skills among young adults, often related to their socioeconomic status, and factors other than age explain skill differences across generations such as a person’s level of income and education.

    I have been surveying young adults about their digital savvy for a decade and have shown repeatedly that there is large variation in their know-how. Some young adults are quite savvy indeed; they can create their own videos from material found online and upload these to websites and garner large audiences with which they actively engage. But others lack very basic skills, such as knowing how to read and parse web addresses and understanding basic email functionality such as the role of bcc.

    Before jumping to the conclusion that this is because young adults do not use email, note that that is another unfounded assumption. They do use email although it may not be their preferred method of communication for corresponding with their friends.

    While it is certainly the case that most children and young adults have grown up surrounded by technology and indeed spend considerable time using digital media, it is wrong to equate hours spent on such devices with automatic savvy.

    Given that many youth only do a handful of things online, (such as watch playful videos, check in on Facebook or contact a friend through Snapchat) they are much less likely to be familiar with countless other web-based activities. Accordingly, they are not knowledgeable about many aspects of the online world.

    Of course, some of them are.

    But research has shown that these tend to be children from more privileged backgrounds. For example, those youth may live in a household with more educated parents. Worse, these socioeconomic differences are remarkably consistent over time. That fact I was able to uncover by surveying the same group of young adults over four years.

    Given the mounting empirical evidence about the varied skills of young adults, believing in their digital predisposition is a mistake.

    By assuming that each student who walks through the doors of an elementary, middle or high school is a fully knowledgeable online citizen, we are perpetuating societal inequalities that exist among the more and less privileged when it comes to their Internet skills and by extension, the potential benefits they may or may not reap from spending time online.

    Widespread assumptions about universal digital savvy among today’s youth are doing a disservice to that generation as it results in no time, effort or resources dedicated to improving their online know-how.

    This is how some youth end up engaging in activities that get them into trouble whether that concerns relying on incorrect information they get from a website as they write their homework assignment, or voicing opinions publicly that may jeopardize their college admission prospects. Without a moderate level of understanding of the Web and its reach, many youth have demonstrated too much trust in content they find online or they divulge information more publicly than they may have intended not recognizing the potential repercussions of such actions.

    My research with Danah Boyd has shown that college students vary considerably in their likelihood of changing the privacy settings of their Facebook accounts. Those with higher general Internet skills were more likely to have done this more often. In subsequent work with Eden Litt, we found that those with higher privacy-related Internet skills were more likely to have “changed the privacy settings or content of [their] online profile in anticipation of employers searching for information about [them].”

    Again, these actions were not universal despite only young adults participating in the study. And again, careful use of the Internet was related to one’s online skills.

    Intergenerational assumptions of relative know-how are incorrect as well. Analyzing data from the Federal Communication Commission’s Broadband Survey about the Internet skills of adults of varying ages, I found that among people 50 and under, there was no relationship between age and Internet know-how. Rather, higher income and higher education were related to higher Web-savvy.

    Reports are increasingly common of people losing their jobs and getting into other trouble because of what they do online. Young adults, members of the supposedly super-savvy online generation, are not immune to these scenarios.

    It is time to move past rhetorical assumptions about the universal Web-savvy of youth. By recognizing that many youth lack considerable Internet skills, we can finally take steps toward introducing relevant instruction into curricula so that we are not leaving a generation behind when it comes to tools that are now an essential part of daily life, whether at work or at play.

  • Amazon To Release FREE Netflix Competitor: WSJ
    Watch out, Netflix. Amazon is planning to launch a free, ad-supported streaming service in the coming months, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

    The move would allow customers to obtain Amazon streaming services without purchasing Amazon Prime, the $99 annual membership service that gives users access to Amazon’s library of streaming television shows and films, in addition to free two-day shipping.

    Sources familiar with Amazon’s plan also indicated to the WSJ that the service would offer free music videos.

    Such a free service would more directly pit the e-commerce giant against Google’s YouTube and Netflix, which charges $7.99 per month for unlimited streaming.

    The report comes amid an intensifying race to obtain content rights and create original programming for an online audience. Amazon last year made a $1 billion investment in original content, when it let viewers decide which of 14 original pilots made specifically for Amazon would be made into original series. Five were chosen.

    The news also follows months of speculation that Amazon will release its own set-top box next week at an event in New York City. Amazon Prime currently relies on third-party set-top boxes such as a Roku or Xbox One.

  • BuzzFeed's Perelman, We Offer Video Scale To Brands
    LONDON – BuzzFeed’s commercial stock in trade is offering sponsored editorial articles to brand marketers. Now it is extending the offering to digital videos.

    “We’ve done roughly 1,300 videos, 20% of them have over a million views.” says the publisher’s agency strategy VP Jonathan Perelman, who also recently took on its video GM role.

    BuzzFeed opened a video production studio in LA just over a year ago. Perelman says the output is clocking over 100 million monthly views: “We’re now working with brands to create shareable video content.”

    Although Perelman cites views in depicting the project’s growth, just as with BuzzFeed’s text articles, it is shareability on which the videos’ success is judged.

    We spoke with him at the FT Digital Media Conference. To view all our coverage of the conference,  visit this page.

    You can find this post on Beet.TV.

  • Woman Finds Her Stolen Facebook Photos In Prostitution Ads (VIDEO)
    Dallas Miller is not a prostitute — but you would certainly have thought otherwise if you’d seen this suggestive ad online over the weekend:

    dallas miller

    Miller, 21, told ABC affiliate WKRN.com that she absolutely did not create or post that ad on the Web. Instead, she says almost a dozen of her photographs were stolen off her Facebook page and used in prostitution advertisements on the free ad-listing site Backpage.com.

    “It’s been tough,” Miller, who lives in Whites Creek, Tenn., told the news outlet of the experience. “I definitely feel victimized.”

    Backpage.com has reportedly pulled the ads off its site.

    After Miller’s story made headlines this week, netizens stepped forward to offer support for the young woman.

    Others pointed out how Miller’s experience should be a wake-up call to anyone who doesn’t takes their online security seriously.

    “Protect your FB pics,” Trinidadian TV anchor Samantha John tweeted Thursday. “This just goes to show that your face can end up anywhere.”

    The FBI warns all social media users to always use “high security settings on social networking sites, and be very limited in the personal information you share.” For more tips on how to protect yourself online, go to the FBI’s website (here).

    (Hat tip, Yahoo! News)

  • Turkey's War On Social Media Could Scare Off Foreign Investment
    ISTANBUL — When Turkey’s embattled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blocked Twitter last week, Deniz Oktar, a 29-year-old CEO and co-founder of two tech startups, was more than a little worried. And after the government moved to block YouTube on Thursday, citing national security concerns, Oktar says he began to fear the worst.

    “I found my last client from Twitter,” he said, sitting in his eclectic office on Yildiz Technical University’s campus, where a slew of other technology companies are based. “What happens if Google is blocked? What happens if the Internet is taken down?”

    Oktar is one of an increasing number of young tech entrepreneurs in Turkey. He employs a small team, made up mostly of young Turks, that provides software development services to companies in the United States. His latest client is a Boston-based startup from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    For years, Turkey has tried to foster a space for tech innovation, providing support in the form of small loans and national research grants. Some of Oktar’s own work is funded through such a grant. In 2012, President Abdullah Gul spent time in Silicon Valley courting Twitter, Microsoft and the like. Gul has also boasted that a new Apple store set to open in Istanbul in April will “attract worldwide attention.” But recent moves by Erdogan and his government could stunt the country’s startup scene and scare off foreign investors from tech companies, analysts say.

    “Undoubtedly foreign investors are very scared by what is happening,” said Bayram Balci, a visiting scholar on Turkey at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Turkey was an island of stability before the Gezi Park [anti-government] protests, but now what we see is that Turkey is no longer the stable market it was.”

    This is the “beginning of something serious,” he added.

    Erdogan launched a war against Twitter last week in an attempt to stop leaks of recordings that allegedly implicate him in a massive corruption scandal. One of the recordings appears to show Erdogan telling his son to hide millions of dollars in cash. He then moved to block YouTube on Thursday after a recording surfaced of Turkish officials reportedly discussing possible military operations in neighboring Syria. Turkey’s role in the civil war remains a contentious issue, with many saying Erdogan is supporting hardline Islamist rebels within Turkey’s borders.

    The reported YouTube ban comes just days before municipal elections on Sunday, which are widely seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s political party that has ruled for 11 years.

    “Twitter…mwitter,” Erdogan said in front of thousands of his supporters last week. “I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.”

    Turkey’s 10 million Twitter users are still finding ways to access the site through domain name servers (DNS) and virtual private networks (VPN). Yet there is a pervasive fear about the government’s mentality that social media and technology are the “enemy.” On Thursday, Turkey’s foreign minister said the leaked recordings were a “declaration of war” against the country.

    Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who lives in the United States and has a huge international following, of trying to undermine his rule by leaking what he says are forged videos and recordings. The battle between the two former allies has caused a dramatic political rift between their supporters and fueled divides among Turks throughout the country. The tumult is causing some foreign investors to shy away from Turkey, according to experts and entrepreneurs.

    Sevin Ekinci, a Turkish economist who regularly consults foreigners looking to invest in Turkey, said that if she was a foreign investor, she wouldn’t put her money into a company here.

    “Banning Twitter is an extreme roulette card,” she said. “My expectation is things will get worse.”

    While explaining how the social media bans are affecting the tech scene in Turkey, Oktar referenced one particular post from Hacker News, an online forum popular in the startup community.

    “I was there on business in 2010 and I said ‘Man, this is a country on the move! We need to set up an office here,'” the thread began, explaining why Turkey had the perfect cocktail for a booming tech scene. “Things have fallen apart so quickly since then,” the post continued. “Wouldn’t touch it now.”

    But it’s not just the Twitter and YouTube bans that worry Oktar. “When there are protests, none of my employees are here,” he said, referring to recent anti-government demonstrations. “Stability is very important. Clients who we are currently working with trust us enough that this is not going to be a major problem. However, new clients who do not know us are very concerned.”

    Oktar said that his Internet connection, like that of many Turks, has recently been slower than usual with more glitches — and he doesn’t think this is a coincidence. As the government goes after social media sites, rumors are running wild that the Internet will be slowed drastically or shut down altogether.

    Fast Internet is essential for his work, he said, and without it, everyday tasks like connecting with clients in the United States via video chat become difficult, costing him time and money. Many companies, he continued, are also having trouble getting Google Analytics to run on their websites, an important tool used for tracking things like how many people have looked at a site.

    Now, his team is discussing alternative ways to access the Internet.

    “I’m spending time thinking about this and I shouldn’t have to,” he said. “It’s absurd.”

    “Maybe Turkey will be the next generation of tech geniuses because we’ll all be so tech savvy,” he added, laughing at the irony. “Even my mom knows what a VPN is.”

  • Beyond Texting: Face-to-Face Communication for Teens
    2014-03-27-beyondtextingbookcover.jpg

    Technology is a such a blessing… Until it becomes a curse. Or a crutch. Maybe it’s all three, actually, when you really stop to think about it. After all, it’s lovely to text a friend, letting her know you are running late for a get-together but being constantly tethered to a device and the never-ending beeping and ringing can be exhausting. Blessing vs. curse.

    But it’s the crutch part that resonated with me to such a level that I wrote my third book, Beyond Texting: The Fine Art of Face-to-Face Communication for Teenagers. I didn’t go willingly, as they say.

    The book was a result of being asked by my publishers, friends, and colleagues to please write a book for the younger generation. I didn’t want to do it. I texted and emailed and FaceTimed my publisher over and over again refusing. But by then my brain had been tuned into the teenagers and 20-somethings I encountered everywhere I went, and after watching so many of them, including my own, relying on their devices to make it in the world, I relented.

    Seeing teenagers constantly head down, earbuds in and hunched over their smartphones really made a mark on me. I first considered going to chiropractic school, knowing that the future generation is going to have loads of neck problems (for all of you entrepreneurs out there, may I suggest considering this line of work because surely there is money to be made) but I am no spring chicken, and small talk is my gig.

    So, the book and the blogs and the talks begin now. Not to blow my own horn, but I am basically singlehandedly saving the world. I know, I know — it’s a big job. But without face-to-face communication skills, the next generation will be unable to make conversation, ask for a date, propose to a mate and, thus, create the next generation. The entire human race could die off if we don’t start teaching our teens how to communicate! I don’t know about you, but I’d like some grandchildren one day. And someone to serve me tapioca in the home — when and if the time comes.

    How do you teach your teen the proper way to build relationships and interact with others? While my book offers an in-depth approach, these three tips will help you both get started:

    Exude Energy:
    It’s normal to feel nervous and overwhelmed when entering an unfamiliar situation. Take a deep breath and relax. Can’t? Well, fake it if you can, and remind yourself that everybody else is feeling the same way. Put away your phone and look at others in the eye, smile and extend a firm handshake. It will feel awkward at first, and you will be itching to reach for your device as a way to curb your panic, but force yourself to engage on a human level because it gets easier. I promise. By appearing energetic, interested, engaged and friendly, people will be drawn to you, making the vibe in the room even more inviting and comfortable for you and others.

    Break the Ice:
    Initiating a conversation with a stranger is a gift that keeps on giving — to both you and the your conversation partner. Even after all these years of small talk, I always enter a room with at least three topics to talk about. Always. So, here are some conversation starters that work:

    • How’d you do on the test? The essay part was the toughest for me!
    • Have you met the new science teacher?
    • Biology is killing me — can we study together?
    • I was behind you at the assembly this morning. What did you think about the presentation?
    • I love your (band) shirt. Did you know they are playing here this summer?

    There is no ‘perfect’ conversation starter, but there is always an ‘A’ for effort, so saying hello first will earn you credit. Sure, you’re going to get rejected sometimes and that’s life. But by trying, and by being kind and genuine, you have a better shot of starting a meaningful exchange.

    Introduce (and then Re-Introduce) Yourself:
    This is so basic – but so often overlooked! Sometimes you’ve managed to actually start and carry on a great conversation and you walk away realizing that you have no idea what someone’s name is and they have no idea what yours is! Give someone the gift of your name, even if you think they may know you already:

    John (to a professor): I was so happy with the B on the final

    Professor: Yes, good work.

    John: I’m John Smith – I am in your Tuesday/Thursday class and am registering for your course next semester.

    Professor: Great, John. I’ll look forward to seeing you in class.

    John: Thanks Professor Green; have a good summer.

    John re-introduced himself to his professor and established a connection. Next semester, if John needs some additional help or is looking for a reference, he’s already set himself apart from the other hundreds of students Professor Green sees every week. One small exchange can result in big things.

    When I look back on my teen years, I shudder at the memories. My hands shook during presentations. My mouth went dry when a boy talked to me. My heart pounded when I walked into a party alone. The tips I shared here — and the others in my book — are not earth-shattering but oh so necessary. Social media may be killing all of of our social skills. But by teaching our teens the basics, and helping them embrace face-to-face communication, we are saving the world! And we have a greater chance of having successful, self-supporting adult children! And grandchildren! And tapioca!

  • Warning: These Perfect Loop Gifs Will Hypnotize You
    There’s nothing quite as momentarily incapacitating as a perfect loop GIF. No matter what is occupying your mind at the moment — be it work, a first date, a bank robbery, whatever — show someone a GIF that seamlessly plays over and over, and it’s practically mandatory that the rest of the world be put on hold for at least three loops.

    German-Hungarian artist David Ope just made it a little harder to look away. His hypnotizing GIFs are so impressively smooth and beautiful that you might want to clear the rest of the afternoon to admire them.

    Can’t get enough? There’s plenty more on his Tumblr page to keep you mesmerized.

    Let your eyes glaze over. Doesn’t it look like ocean waves?

    When I clap my hands three times, you’ll get the sudden urge to give me $1,000.

    It’s like the inside of an anemome … an amemone … an anemonenene.

    Graphic, cartoon-style bouncing jello is almost as good as the real thing.

    Everyone loves a slinky. It’s science.

    Neon has never looked so cool.

    (Hat tip, The Washington Post)

  • Going Wild On The World's Most Expensive Instrument
    Stradivari’s “MacDonald” viola, poised to make history as the most expensive instrument in the world, has three bodyguards and its own white-gloved handler. But David Aaron Carpenter was going just a little crazy on it.

    For an informal recital Monday at the Manhattan headquarters of Sotheby’s, which is handling the viola’s multi-million-dollar auction later this spring, Carpenter, an acclaimed violist, had chosen to play Isaac Albéniz’s 1892 “Asturias.” The piece is fast and intense, with passages that sound like nothing so much as heavy-metal shredding. It’s more modern than most of the music the 300-year-old MacDonald must have encountered during its lifetime. Which is just what Carpenter was after.

    “Of course you can play Bach on it. But you can also play a more contemporary work and have an instrument so old and unique make it sound incredible,” Carpenter explained later. (Hear him play it in the video above.) “I wanted to showcase this instrument for what the viola could be. The fact that it’s been sleeping in a vault for about 30 years — I just wanted to wake it up and give it a voice.”

    Carpenter’s fingers danced across the neck of the viola, one of just 10 in existence made by the master craftsman Antonio Stradivari, and one of two that date from the peak of Stradivari’s career. (By comparison, Stradivari made some 600 violins). Of the two remaining violas from Stradivari’s “Golden Period,” one belongs to the Russian government, which has failed to preserve the viola’s fine exterior. The other is the so-called “MacDonald” viola, which will fetch at least $45 million, almost three times the price of the world’s next most expensive instrument, when it goes on sale later this year.

    The MacDonald is said to be in impeccable condition — “it’s as if Stradivari handed it to you from his workshop,” Carpenter observed. But after being kept in a safe for several decades, the sleeping beauty will need several years to develop its voice. Carpenter predicts its sound will only improve with time: Even in the five days since he first picked it up, he said, he’s heard the viola “[open] up tremendously.”

    “This week, it has been a joy to get to understand it,” Carpenter said. “And even though has an incredible sound at a moment, it has so much more potential than what it is.”

    Lesser fiddles tend to have a more muscular and muted sound, or develop a less pleasing voice over time, said Carpenter. What distinguishes the MacDonald is the “very sonorous,” “very vibrant” quality of its melodies, as well as its ability to project a clear, strong song.

    The MacDonald has been owned by a marquis, a duke, a baron and, most recently, the violist of the Amadeus Quartet, Peter Schidlof. He called the viola “utter perfection” in an interview shortly before his death.

    One clumsy step during Carpenter’s performance earlier this week, and the historic MacDonald could have been just that — history. Yet the violist insists he wasn’t nervous cradling the equivalent of 375 college tuitions under his chin.

    Really? Are you sure? Not even a little bit?

    No. It feels “like an extension of your body,” Carpenter said.

    “It’s the pinnacle of my career,” he added. “Every moment up until this point has prepared me to get to this moment and show the world what an instrument of this caliber can really do.”

  • 3 Myths Americans Still Believe About Innovation
    For much of the 20th century, the U.S. outpaced the rest of the world when it came to innovation. Americans soared in aviation, put the first man on the moon, discovered DNA, pushed the envelope in plastics, and invented the personal computer, the Internet and social media.

    From the perspective of technology breakthroughs — and the industries and good jobs that often result from them — the 20th century can fairly be called the American Century.

    But the outlook for the 21st century is far less clear. Signs point to an erosion of America’s innovative power and a surge in the capabilities of other nations. In 2000, America topped the list of best countries for nurturing innovation, but most recently The Economist reported it now ranks fourth. What’s more, since 2008, the number of foreign-origin patents that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted annually has surpassed the number of domestic-origin patents.

    In effect, the U.S. has neglected key innovation ingredients even as other countries have cultivated them. This neglect is rooted in three myths about innovation that are widely held by Americans.

    Myth No. 1: The Free Market Is the Only Answer

    According to this age-old myth, our capitalist society owes its wealth and way of life to freewheeling entrepreneurs and unfettered captains of industry. A corollary is that attempts to orchestrate economic activity amount to stymieing central planning. In other words, the failure of communism proved definitively that government planning is counterproductive — if not an affront to human liberty — and that it must be avoided as much as possible.

    That is an oversimplification. Several decades ago, well-funded corporate research departments generated a steady string of innovations critical to U.S. prosperity. And the private sector continues to play an indispensable role in bringing new products and services to life. But as corporate spending has shifted away from fundamental research largely due to the perceived uncertainty about the prospects of unproven technologies, America’s faith in the free market — and corresponding concern about government involvement in the economy — tends toward fanaticism.

    The narrative of America as a nation of self-reliant entrepreneurs is a simplistic, romantic story we tell ourselves. And, it gets in the way of more promising approaches to innovation that combine the public and private sectors.

    Myth No. 2: Breakthroughs Come From Solo Geniuses

    Blind faith in laissez-faire economics may stem, in part, from another popular myth: that innovation comes from heroic, solo inventors cooking up world-changing technology in a vacuum. This is a deeply held assumption for most Americans, one tied to the country’s self-image as a nation of rugged individualists. And, it’s why many believe efforts to organize innovation through teams of people or institutions are bound to fail. By definition, collective activity crimps the creativity of gifted individuals and results in something “designed by committee.”

    To be sure, achievers and innovators are smart and driven. But in field after field, there is a hidden story of success that is crucially dependent on social setting and personal and professional networks. We can do better as a country when we recognize the power of collaboration and connectivity when it comes to commercializing breakthrough technologies.

    Myth No. 3: The Best Discoveries Happen by Chance

    Closely related to the myth of the lone genius, this myth holds that spontaneous flashes of brilliance and chance mistakes are the primary way we make scientific and technological progress. The result of this belief is that there is little incentive to organize the innovation process. And, the conventional wisdom is that we should invest in pure, basic science, leave researchers alone, and hope for the best.

    As with the other two myths, the theory of discovery-as-accident has some evidence to support it. The consequences of fundamental scientific research cannot be predicted, and findings in one era may lie dormant for decades or centuries before being put to use. And some important technologies are the result of lab mistakes. But Americans go to an extreme in believing that discoveries are accidental. Our popular fascination with fortuitous failures and “a-ha!” moments hides a full appreciation of the way vital insights and breakthrough technologies often stem from planned effort and a framework of organized innovation.

    The Myths Are Alive and Well, Threatening Our Future

    These innovation myths are thriving and undermining our economic prosperity. They continue to blind us to the state of the country’s innovation system. It is unorganized to a fault. An “innovation gap” has emerged in recent decades in which businesses tend to focus on incremental product development while universities concentrate on often-esoteric basic research. This gap, and our disorderly approach to innovation, endangers our collective future.

    It’s not too late. We can better organize our innovation ecosystem of federal agencies, research universities and businesses to optimize the way our country generates breakthrough technologies. But to push forward America’s innovation leadership from the 20th century into the 21st — and to benefit the global economy and well-being worldwide — we have to face up to our faulty assumptions around the free market, solo geniuses and serendipitous discoveries. We need to rethink innovation and how to achieve it.

    Steve Currall is the co-author, along with Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry and Emily Hunter, of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity (Oxford, 2014).

  • Google Shows Us the Way
    I’m always on the lookout for little green shoots of sanity in the world of business. In a realm largely devoted to enriching its investors and top executives, occasionally a business — even one with a household name — will do the right thing. Few public companies now take all stakeholders into consideration when they shape their business strategy: communities, employees, customers, relegating shareholders to their proper position as only one interest group among an entire ecology of interests. A couple years ago, Google did something remarkable, considering the way most corporations consider “business as usual.”

    Here’s how it evolved.: In April 2011, Google experienced a remarkable increase in revenue — 27 percent with a 17 percent leap in income. The problem was that it didn’t live up to the expectations of stock analysts. It’s stock fell. Analysts were not only displeased by the inaccuracy of the forecast — even though the results were astonishingly good — they quibbled with Larry Page’s decision to reward employees with a 10 percent raise. He also hired another 1,900 new workers. In a conference with analysts, he snubbed his nose at all of them by announcing these moves and then shut down the event after rightly calling the companies results “tremendous.”

    No CEO of a public company wants to alienate the stock analysts. They have too much sway over stock price and, therefore, shareholder satisfaction. But Page’s move was a corrective one. In The Daily Beast, Roger Martin offered a great glimpse into the big picture here. The game, he said, that Google was refusing to play was the one where shareholders continually ask for better and better results, quarter by quarter, forcing companies to eventually do anything and everything to goose their bottom line. That often means shutting down crucial lines of business, laying people off, cutting not just fat but muscle and bone from the company’s operations. It’s destructive to everyone except those shareholders who simply want short-term gain regardless of how it cripples a company down the road. The only way to keep increasing the share price is to fuel expectations of greater returns — even though a healthy company can go through long periods of steady-state profit-making. That’s good for everyone, but the greedy shareholder who isn’t willing to hold stock for years and watch the company’s value steadily and slowly go up. (Google wasn’t offering dividends so a greedy shareholder would want only a steadily increasing stock price.) So these shareholders keep demanding pleasant surprises and when that becomes the focus for management, the real goal — producing value for customers — can quickly get obscured.

    “The only way for Google to satisfy the expectations market is to keep on creating positive surprises for its shareholders because every prior positive surprise is built into today’s stock price. Neither Google nor any other company has ever or will ever keep generating positive surprises forever. But many die trying,” Martin wrote. “They keep taking greater risks to meet more unrealistic expectations. The result, both in 2000 and 2008, was a huge and painful meltdown as all the companies trying, in their real operations, to keep feeding the expectations monster started failing spectacularly, taking real performance and expectations down with them.”

    We’re heading down the same road — we never really got off it. The quiet emergency we face in our economy and in the world of business management is to find a new GPS with which to guide our growth. Keeping shareholder value — and by that we now mean short-term growth in stock price — as our lodestar in the executive suite will only widen the perilous income gap in the developed world. And it will also lead to bubbles in stock price that always burst. Google, and some other companies, are apparently waking up to the this and taking steps away from the quarterly report mindset that is a central part of what’s eroding our economy.

    Peter Georgescu is the author of The Constant Choice. Follow him on Twitter.

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