Mobile Technology News, November 10, 2013
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.
- Beyonce Fans Petition Against Her Attending Kim Kardashian's Wedding
Beyonce fans really don’t want her going to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding.
A Change.org petition entitled “BEYONCE CANNOT ATTEND KIM KARDASHIAN’S WEDDING” was created earlier this week by a man named John Barry, asking for fans to sign and spread the word against Queen Bey attending the Kimye wedding.
“As you all know by now Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have sadly been in the news for their ‘engagement,’” read the petition, per Fuse. “Kim Kardashian and her disgusting family are known for their rise to fame for doing absolutely nothing… Now we must do all in our power to stop Beyonce from attending that god forsaken [sic] wedding, since her husband Jay Z is BFFs with Kanye he problaby [sic] wants both of them to go…”
Barry offered some excuses the superstar singer could give to get out of going to the upcoming nuptials, including extending The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, saying Blue Ivy is sick or by simply having something better to do.
“Your [sic] Beyonce you always have something better to do than to attend a Kim Kardashian wedding,” it read.
By Saturday, the petition had received more than 300 signatures in support. However, the creator eventually pulled it saying it was all just a joke.
“IT WAS A JOKE I DONT CARE IF BEYONCE GOES OR NOT SHE’S A GROWN WOMAN!!” read the update.
Even if the petition did sustain, it’s unlikely Beyonce would’ve obliged. Aside from West’s close relationship with her husband, Beyonce has been quite nice to Kardashian in the past. In June, after the birth of North, she offered her congratulations to the new mama and her beau in a post on her Tumblr. Reports have even claimed Beyonce and Kardashian “love each other.”
- Smart Wheel By FlyKly Could Change Everything About Commuting
The phrase “This changes everything” gets thrown around a lot, but in the sustainable commuting sphere, an invention out of New York by a group of bike enthusiasts just might actually change everything.
The Smart Wheel by FlyKly Bikes is a motorized bike wheel that can fit on almost any bike, instantly turning a regular bike into an electric one, opening up the options of who can bike commute, where, how far and in what terrain.
Bike commuting in urban areas has the potential to combat an enormous number of problems: traffic congestion, air pollution, gas consumption, and commuting affordability. But would-be bikers are often limited by various constraints, including weather, physical condition, cost and time.
In most of the American cities with the worst traffic, such as Los Angeles, Houston, Honolulu or the Bay Area, commuters are constrained by hills, heat and sprawling distances.
Electric bikes, which have motors attached to them, were meant to solve some of those problems, but often end up being prohibitively expensive. Some e-bike lines’ most basic models start above $1200, and can easily surpass $2000.
So FlyKly’s Niko Klansek decided to “turn an ordinary bike into a smart bike.”
“We want to make cities more livable, and make them more people — not car — friendly,” says Klansek.
Enter the Smart Wheel, a wheel that can replace almost any bike’s back tire. The wheel hub has a self-contained, battery-powered motor that can propel a bike at speeds as high as 20 miles per hour for as far as 30 miles on one charge. The wheel recharges itself when coasting downhill.
FlyKly hopes the Smart Wheel will encourage people to use their bikes at times they previously thought they could not. “Without losing your breath or breaking a sweat,” they promise, “there’s no need to worry about what to wear to that business meeting or 8 o’clock date.”
The device earns its “Smart” moniker by being operated completely through one’s smartphone, which stays put on a handlebar mount (that also serves as a bike light and a phone charger) and connects to the wheel through Bluetooth. The FlyKly app monitors speed, distance, time traveled, location and route.
Before setting out on a ride, the cyclist sets the maximum speed at which they want to travel through the app. The wheel senses when the rider starts pedaling and adjusts speed accordingly. FlyKly says the app is also able to learn the rider’s cycling habits and routines and suggest “faster, safer, and more fun routes to take.”
The wheel can be locked via the app, and if the bike starts to move when the phone is not nearby, the app sends a message alerting its owner to a possible theft.
FlyKly hopes users will also use the app to track their preferred routes and share them with city officials who may be planning bike lanes and trying to improve bike-friendliness in urban areas. The company’s goal with the Smart Wheel is to “reshape the cities … in a way that again people, not cars, come first.”
Given the incredible early show of support, achieving their goal seems quite plausible. The company launched a kickstarter this October with a goal of raising $100,000. They have already raised over $275,000 and counting.
Though FlyKly has not yet decided what the final price for the Smart Wheel will be, they assure it will be far less than an electric bicycle. Since the wheel is removable, the invention is also more versatile than an e-bike. After all, sometimes you want to be the one powering your bike with your own pedaling. But when you don’t, or can’t, Smart Wheel will be there.
- How I Shamelessly Exploited Twitter (and Don't Anymore)
Five years ago, I was the Twitter guy at BusinessWeek. I wandered around the the offices telling colleagues to tweet. Now, as the new Twitter stock soars, I barely tweet anymore. The reason: Much as I’d like to, I don’t participate anymore in the “nugget economy.”
I’ll explain. When you tweet, you send out a nugget of information wrapped in self-branding. If people like that nugget, they retweet, and the information spreads, along with the branding. Maybe they respond with interesting information, or a relevant link. Those nuggets can be valuable. When I was at BusinessWeek, the nuggets I harvested turned into blog posts and stories. And the branding was vital for me. BusinessWeek was in late stages of collapse, and I needed the branding to promote my post-BW career, and (hopefully) to sell books. My brand, as I saw it, had been locked up in the magazine for 20 comfortable years. But I suddenly needed to fashion it into a lifeboat.
An example of how shamelessly I used Twitter for my own ends. I started on Twitter on Jan. 5, 2008. I was in Steve Rubel‘s office at Edelman, above Times Square, asking him how Heather Green and I could update our three-year-old story on blogs. (I remember the day because Barack Obama had just won the Iowa caucases, and his face was on every television in the lobby.) Steve urged me to jump onto Twitter. At that point, I remember, he had 2,400 followers. And he asked them with a tweet why @stevebaker should get onto Twitter. Responses poured in. He was clearly at the controls of a powerful tool. I had a book, The Numerati, coming out later that year and wanted some of that network magic. But how was I going to get thousands of followers?
After a month on Twitter, I had barely 200. But then I came up with a plan to leverage my mainstream journalism asset. I would write a BusinessWeek article explaining “Why Twitter Matters.” But instead of calling up the usual sources, like @jayrosen_nyu, @jeffjarvis and @biz (Twitter co-founder Biz Stone), I would research the piece on Twitter. I would tweet topic sentences for each paragraph, and the Twittersphere would respond with examples, links and insights. Hopefully, they’d discuss and argue. Through this process, Twitter would write the story. Word would quickly spread about this story, and people who wanted to participate would follow me. I would catch up to Steve Rubel, or even pass him! I’d be hoisted up in the nugget economy.
It turned out that organizing a boatload of tweets into a coherent article took a lot of work. But it came together. The article went mildly viral and my Twitter following quintupled, finally topping 1,000. My evil strategy worked. And I even won a minor magazine award for the story. (I’ll note, in passing, that traditional journalism awards carry zero weight in the nugget economy, not unless they’re branding giants, like Pulitzers. If I were still focused on nuggets, I’d trade my dusty old Overseas Press Award for 10,000 Twitter followers in a minute.)
Months after that triumph, the economy cratered and BusinessWeek spiraled toward death. I left in late 2009, after Bloomberg snapped up the magazine for barely the price of a Superbowl commercial, and I got a book contract to write about IBM’s Jeopardy computer, Watson. Since then, I’ve been doing books. That has removed me from the nugget economy. Much of what I’m doing is vaguely secret, and timed by months, not minutes. For instance, I’m co-writing a healthcare book that Penguin will publish next spring. But they’re not publicizing it, and I guess they have their reasons. So I don’t either. I have a couple of book proposals brewing, also secret. As a result, I don’t generate good targeted nuggets. And my Twitter presence has degenerated into the occasional note about my life, a wine I drank in France, a slideshow from Africa. I’m a scattered Tweeter, virtually lapsed and widely ignored.
Now that I think about it, though, I should jump back on. I have a novel coming out next spring, The Boost. Maybe if I break down the first chapter into 150 nuggets…. No, really, I should get serious about this.
But this social media marketing is so exhausting, don’t you think?
- About that iPad Mini Retina availability: It's like this…
However unintentional, limited availability of the iPad Mini with Retina Display means Apple can nudge consumers to buy the potentially less-popular iPad Air.
- Intel stuffs its backpack with high-tech textbooks in Kno deal
Bolstering its mission to expand technology in the classroom, the chipmaker acquires educational-software company Kno.
- Why China Has A Love/Hate Relationship With Social Media
Huffington Post’s Peter Goodman discusses how China’s leaders view social media with Jon Erlichman on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.”
- Study: Teens Taking Steps to Avoid Identity Theft
You might think that kids and teens don’t need to worry about identity theft but that’s not the case. It turns out that ID thieves love kids because most have a clean credit record. And often teens won’t find out that their identity has been stolen until they apply for their first credit card or a college loan.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that teens are starting to get the message that they should guard their identity. A study commissioned by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and conducted by Hart Research Associates, found that the percentage of teens who say they are “very concerned” about their identity being stolen has gone from 43 percent a year ago to 51 percent this year. Just under three quarters (73 percent) agree that “because teens are more likely to have clean credit histories and are less likely to monitor their credit, it is reasonable to think they could be victims of identity theft.”
But, when it comes to their own situation, only 29 percent of teens think they they are personally vulnerable to having their identity stolen.
Risky and not-so risky behaviors
Just over a third (34 percent) of teens said that they have shared at least one username and password with someone other than their parents. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) say they have shared it with a friend or significant other.
Password sharing is a particularly risky behavior because it can not only lead to crimes but can result in impersonation such as someone logging onto your social networking account and posting as if they were you.
The study was released at FOSI’a annual convention taking place November 6 and 7 in Washington, DC. The research consisted of two focus groups held in September 2013 and a nationwide online survey conducted in October 2013 among 558 teens ages 13 to 17 who access the Internet.
Kids are posting other information online that isn’t particularly risk such as their full name (75 percnt), a photo (69 percent), their date of birth (54 percent), the name of their school (48 percent), and their e-mail address (47 percent). With the possible exception of full date of birth (it’s a good idea to leave off the year), none of these types of information constitute high risk, considering the hundreds of millions of people who post this type of information on Facebook and other social networks.
There are some good signs when it comes to teens and privacy. More than three fourths (76 percent) of teens said that they are very or somewhat concerned about the privacy of their personal information while 69 percent have set up one or more devices to auto-lock so that a password or PIN is required to access the device (or maybe a fingerprint if it’s an iPhone 5S).
Take aways for teens and parents
It’s a good idea to remind teens that they are vulnerable to both financial crimes and an impersonation and that it’s important to keep their passwords confidential. Friends can sometimes become ex-friends so even if they trust someone, its a good idea to keep their passwords to themselves. And while teens will of course want to share some information — and that’s OK — but they need to realize that some data is best kept secret. Have a conversation with your kids but don’t make it a lecture. Start by asking what they know about identity theft and if they know how to protect themselves.
Tips from Identity Theft Resource Center
The Identity Theft Resource Center offers tips to prevent ID theft, including:
- Don’t give out your SSN unnecessarily (only for tax reasons, credit or verified employment.) Before providing personal identifiers, know how it will be used and if it will be shared.
- Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of documents with personal information. Also, use a specialized gel pen when writing out checks.
- Place outgoing mail in collection boxes or the U.S. Post Office.
- Password protect your financial accounts. A strong password should be more than eight characters in length, and contain both capital letters and at least one numeric or other non alphabetical character. Use of non-dictionary words is also recommended.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you initiated the contact.
- Use firewall software to protect computer information. Keep virus and spyware software programs updated.
- Well, Martha, Most Bloggers Really ARE Experts
This is a wonderful time to be a real person. Ordinary people — folks just like you and me — are popping up all over the place. You see us in ads for e-readers, Fords, and room fresheners. Today’s conventional wisdom, according to AdWeek, suggests that real people make a brand seem “more genuine and authentic.” If you happen to be a real person and possess an opinion, Madison Avenue wants to know what you have to say. Martha Stewart? If the brouhaha in the blogosphere is any indication, maybe not so much.
The domestic diva got herself in the soup for remarks she made in an interview with Stephanie Ruhle of Bloomberg Television. By now, everyone on the world wide web knows what Stewart said:
Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. So bloggers create kind of a popularity, but they are not the experts. And we have to understand that. [Emphasis added].
Stewart ignited a firestorm in the blogosphere, especially since many bloggers gauged her comments as hypocritical; she has been a keynote speaker at BlogHer, and her publicists actively seek bloggers to help promote her merchandise.
I’ve sat this out until now, but after considering the incident, it does seem to merit discussion about nuance, authenticity, the nature of expertise, and what bloggers can and shouldn’t do.
Some disclosure is probably in order. Stewart’s aides have never reached out to me, although as a member of the Viewpoints Blogger Reviews Panel and a contributor to its website I have offered my opinion on the Kindle Paperwhite and the KitchenAid Pro Line Dicing Food Processor, among other items. And a publicist for Verizon Wireless invited me to become a member of its Verizon Boomer Voices program, in which I offer my opinion on such mobile devices as the DROID RAZR MAXX HD smart phone and the Fitbit One.
I don’t at all mind that I’ve not been asked to serve as one of Martha Stewart’s brand ambassadors, although, had I been approached, I would have said yes. I have admired Stewart’s aesthetic and contributions to the domestic arts for years. But I find her comments troubling, especially in light of her active recruitment of bloggers. As many bloggers will tell you, our authenticity as real people who use real products gives us enormous credibility. There’s a case to be made for life experience contributing to expertise. It would appear as though the Martha Stewart brand was looking for this authenticity.
So what exactly do we mean by the word “expert” anyway?
Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, defines an expert as one “having special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” Let’s deconstruct this a moment, using my blog and one of its sections as an example.
In naming my site “The Midlife Second Wife,” I made two explicit declarations: I have lived a fair number of years and am therefore no spring chicken, and I have married for the second time. I am, at the present moment, 57 years old and have been cooking for at least 35 years. A section on my blog features recipes, many of which are mine and all of which I have prepared. In working with these recipes over the course of a lifetime, it’s fair to say that I have “tested” them. Every recipe I’ve shared on the blog has been wildly popular with my family and friends (trust me, I’m not about to share the occasional flop with you), so it’s safe to assume they are “very good.” In cases where I include recipes from some of my favorite cookbook authors–dishes I also have in my regular cooking rotation–I have asked for, and received, permission to reprint them. I make no claims to be chef, professional cook, or restaurateur; in that sense I am not an expert. But you can take to the bank the fact that I’m an excellent home cook with decades of experience in the kitchen. In that respect, I am an expert.
As for blogging, I bring experience as a published writer and editor to the enterprise. While the Oberlin Conservatory Magazine is hardly Vogue, it is nevertheless a beautiful publication featuring the students, faculty, and alumni of one of the most renowned music schools in the United States. I served as its editor for 10 years, from 2001 to 2010. I also majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Oberlin College, so I learned a thing or two about what it takes to craft a narrative.
These are my credentials — I know many other bloggers who have résumés with similar bona fides. I present mine here not because this incident is about me, but because I’m a blogger, and the Stewart incident raises the question about what we choose to blog about, what our experience has been, and how we go about the whole enterprise. I’m happy to offer my opinion in areas where I believe I have something worthwhile to contribute, and where I can provide useful and enlightening information in what I hope is an enjoyable read for you. I also tend to agree with Linda Lacina, who posits in Entrepreneur.com that the real battle bloggers might consider waging isn’t necessarily with Martha Stewart, but with shoddy content. That could have been the point Stewart was trying to make, but unfortunately, her remarks painted all bloggers with a push broom-sized brush.
Let me add that I have never — and I promise you that I will never — pass myself off as an expert by adding to the critical literature on figure-skating, cross-bow hunting, parachuting, or hand surgery. What I will do is write, to the best of my ability, about what I know. In cases where I feel compelled to write about what I don’t know, but wonder about (hand surgery, anyone?), I’ll bring in the experts. (I’ve already interviewed a few on Monday Morning Q&A.)
And I promise to edit myself as carefully as I can.
“Martha Stewart Speaks Out: Bloggers are not Experts,” Bloomberg.com
“Note to Bloggers: Fight Bad Content, not Martha Stewart” by Linda Lacina, Entrepreneur.com
“Whatever, Martha” by Adam Roberts, The Huffington Post
“Does Martha Stewart Owe Food, Lifestyle Bloggers an Apology?” by Rene Lynch, the Los Angeles Times
“Dear Martha Stewart, Here’s What You Should Have Said About Bloggers” by Julie Ross Godar, BlogHer.com
“Martha Stewart Likes Bloggers. I Have Proof.” by Gabrielle Blair, DesignMom.com
“Martha Stewart and the Case of the Not-So-Expert Food Blogger” by Tracy Beckerman, LostinSuburbia.com
Earlier on Huff/Post50:
- Congress should avoid knee-jerk reactions to patent trolls
commentary Yes, patent trolls are a big problem, but recent legislative proposals are poorly thought out and won’t resolve the issue.
- 15 Remarkable Colorized Photos Will Let You Relive History
One thing we really need to thank the internet for: colorized historical photographs. Of course, the phenomenon comes to us courtesy of Photoshop and the talented editors who transformed black and white images into digital works of art. We’re just happy we get to feast our eyes upon them.
1. This boy clutching a stuffed toy in 1945 London.
2. Albert Einstein enjoying a Long Island summer in 1939.
3. This young boy in Baltimore in 1938.
4. This stunning snapshot of Audrey Hepburn.
5. This unemployed lumber worker in 1939.
6. These Japanese archers circa 1860.
7. The tragic Hindenburg Disaster of 1937.
8. These British troops on the first stage of their trip to the front lines in England, 1939.
9. This startling picture of Joseph Goebbels allegedly frowning at photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt after finding out he’s Jewish, 1933.
10. This ‘Old Gold’ store in 1939.
11. This portrait of Walt Whitman in 1887.
12. This car crash in Washington D.C. in 1921.
13. Mark Twain lounging circa 1900.
14. Charlie Chaplin in 1916, at the beautiful age of 27.
15. Elizabeth Taylor in 1956.
- Adobe Lightroom 5.3 candidate supports hot new cameras
The test version of the photo editing and cataloging software handles raw photos from new Nikon, Fujifilm, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, and Canon cameras and squashes some bugs.
- No turning back from new Firefox design Australis
Mozilla has been preparing a new look for Firefox, one that takes its cues from both mobile and touch screens, but it will be difficult to reverse course once implemented.
- Should Your Children Be The Center Of Your World?
In the latest parenting post to go viral, Stephanie Metz reaches an important conclusion for all the wrong reasons.
“Why My Kids Are NOT The Center of My World,” is the title of her piece, and in it she worries that today’s parents have raised a generation that won’t be able to cope. How will our sheltered, coddled, indulged children — raised to believe the world revolves around them — handle their first critical professor or unhappy boss?
A question worth asking, to be sure. But Metz’ examples of our misguided parenting? Her definition of the kind of choices that are bubble-wrapping our children? Those are confusing at best and damaging at worst. She begins with the moment her son decided not to take his favorite action figure to show and tell because an accessory to that toy, which her son had always treated as “a drill”, she writes, might look like a gun to the teacher “and then I’ll get in trouble.”
Which led her to this:
My boys are typical little boys. They love to play guns. They love to play good guy versus bad guy. They love to wrestle and be rowdy. That’s the nature of little boys, as it has been since the beginning of time.
How long will it be before their typical boy-ish behavior gets them suspended from school? How long before they get suspended from daycare??? How long will it be before one of them gets upset with a friend, tells that friend to go away and leave them alone, and subsequently gets labeled as a bully?
The mentality of our society in 2013 is nauseating to me, friends.
She goes on to lament that time was when bullying was “slamming someone up against a locker and stealing their lunch money,” not merely calling names, and she yearns for the good old days when “kids got called names and got picked on, and they brushed it off.” Nowadays, she writes, “if Sally calls Susie a bitch (please excuse my language if that offends you), Susie’s whole world crumbles around her, she contemplates suicide, and this society encourages her to feel like her world truly has ended, and she should feel entitled to a world-wide pity party. And Sally – phew! She should be jailed! She should be thrown in juvenile detention for acting like – gasp – a teenage girl acts.”
Have we gone overboard as a society in protecting our children? Yes. I think we all agree that we have. But Metz’ view that all these OTHER parents are crazy and if we could only go back to the good old days all would be dandy, is simplistic to the point of caricature.
First, she discusses these changes as if they occurred in a vacuum –as if one morning parents just woke up and decided to hover over their kids while, in that same moment, schools decided on a whim to enforce no tolerance policies against bullying and violence.
In reality, of course, this new paradigm is a reaction more than a cause. It’s a direct result of a long list of reasons, starting with the fact that the good old days Metz misses weren’t always that good at all and ending with the reality that the new days are more complicated.
Did kids used to “brush it off” when called names or threatened? Some did, but others carried scars for decades, which we failed to notice back then. Also, social media now acts as a magnifying lens for bullies, multiplying the damage and the danger.
Did parents used to insert themselves into their children’s schooling as much as they do now? No. But learning issues also went unrecognized, and expectations of what a child needed to achieve in order to successfully navigate the classroom were lower then, too. College admissions was not the arms race that it is today, and the job market was not an impenetrable fortress.
Could “boys be boys” and shoot ‘em up for fun on the playground? Yes. Did shooting up playgrounds carry the same history and baggage that it does right now? No. Did boys being boys in preschool lead to a culture of macho swagger and college campus violence? Not necessarily. But maybe. And that’s enough reason to question the way things used to be.
Metz is angry about the new ways. I am sad. Her anger is rooted in the fact that she sees these changes as frivolous political correctness. I am sad because I see them as heartfelt scrambling by concerned parents reacting to real dangers. And the answer is to fix rather than ignore those dangers. To figure out how to ward off bullying without shackling our kids, how to help those who learn differently without spoon feeding them, how to allow boys to be boys and girls to be girls — heck, children to be children — without fear that their pretend play will reflect an armed camp of a world.
Our first reactions have been over-reactions, but many first drafts of social change are. So Metz is right that we need to recalibrate — not so we can go back to the way things were, but so we can finally get to wherever they are supposed to be.
- How One Scientist Learned to Tweet and Love to Blog
Recently I surpassed 5,000 followers on Twitter, achieving a milestone I set for myself when I began to use the social media platform in November 2011. I initially used Twitter in support of a gathering we hosted here at the Gates Foundation for grantees and partners working on Achieving Impact at Scale in Family Health. Passing this milestone caused me to pause and reflect on my journey with social media, and ask myself some questions: Why do I spend time engaging in social media? What do I get out of it? What does it achieve for the women and children in poor communities that I strive to reach with global health and development solutions? Might I do things differently going forward?
I originally engaged in social media as a means to be more transparent about our strategies in Maternal Newborn and Child Health, Nutrition, and Family Planning. The Gates Foundation has been and continues to be criticized for a lack of transparency, so I was looking for new ways to communicate and dialogue more effectively and comprehensively with our grantees and partners around the world. I wanted our grantees, partners and engaged public to have a better idea of who we are, what we focus our work on and why, how we work and who we work with to achieve our goals, what we are learning along the way, and what we are doing to improve our performance and impact.
Publishing results in peer reviewed journals is critically important, but our obligation for knowledge sharing does not stop there.
I was responding, in part, to a deeply held belief that our fundamental “currency” or value-add as a foundation is the knowledge and learning that we create. In order to optimize the spread and use of this knowledge, and ultimately to “leverage” our investments and fulfill our mission to give everyone the chance to live a healthy and productive life, we must reach out proactively to share this learning and to catalyze the adoption of knowledge by policy makers, researchers, program managers, frontline health workers, mothers, etc. Publishing results in peer reviewed journals is critically important, but our obligation for knowledge sharing does not stop there. The learning generated by our investments must be made more widely available, and ultimately be adopted, for it to impact women, children, families and communities.
A favorite social media activity of mine has been twitter chats linked to blog series each spring which attempt to capture our learning and stimulate dialogue on key challenges we are facing. The twitter chats were highly engaging, but the blog series seemed to be primarily a one-way flow of information out, with relatively little commentary coming back outside of the “chats.” And the twitter chats didn’t have the reach into poor communities that I look for. I felt that we were primarily “preaching to the choir,” although it was encouraging to see many partners grappling with us to solve our most pressing challenges.
I continue to wrestle with these questions (as I know others do as well): How do I increase the two-way dialogue, and how do I achieve greater reach to women and families in poor communities?
In addition to using Twitter and blogging to share what we are learning, I use these vehicles as a chief means for my own learning. My “followers” become my teachers.
One mechanism that I have been excited to be part of as a founding curator is Catapult. This crowd-funding site enables me to link followers and people I meet in person and in social media spaces to a place where they can engage, identify projects and partners doing work they want to support, and follow the impact of their investments, which can be of any size. It’s been very exciting for me to see several of the projects I highlighted become fully funded, and to see the boost this gives to the organizations and the communities that are supported.
In addition to using Twitter and blogging to share what we are learning, I use these vehicles as a chief means for my own learning. My “followers” become my teachers! I learn new perspectives and gain factual information on topics of interest, I become aware of important events, and I learn more about what resonates with an engaged public and how to communicate ideas more clearly and compellingly.
My followers also become catalysts for change through further spread of ideas and information. In tweeting out a message, I often imagine myself standing in front of an audience of 5000 enthusiastic listeners, each of whom, in turn, is speaking to an audience of their own. What do I want to tell them and how can I say it in a way that captures their interest and sparks their imagination, and stimulates them to spread the idea? What an amazing network of passionate individuals that I can tap into at any moment!
Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter has offered an analogy: While television shows were previously limited to the people watching in any one room, “Twitter expands the room… you’re often better off focusing on the people who are likely to watch a particular program and then be inclined to talk about it.”
In this way, I see Twitter and blogging as ways to reach a select group of people who are inclined to action, providing an important avenue for “leverage” and for achieving impact in the lives of women and children at scale.
Being a scientist who is driven by data and evidence, another shortcoming of social media that I also continue to grapple with is defining the return on the time I am investing in these vehicles. I have fun. I learn. I feel better connected. I am gratified to know that people are “listening” to my ideas. But what tangible impact is really being achieved by my presence on social media channels? This is a rapidly evolving and exciting area for monitoring and evaluation. I don’t have an answer yet but I’m still tweeting and still blogging… for the health (and development) of it.
This post was written by Dr. Gary Darmstadt, Senior Fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. You can follow him at @gdarmsta.
- Few Options For Obama To Fix Cancellations Problem
WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he’ll do everything he can to help people coping with health insurance cancellations, but legally and practically his options appear limited.
That means the latest political problem engulfing Obama’s health care overhaul may not be resolved quickly, cleanly or completely. White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that the president has asked his team to look at administrative fixes to help people whose plans are being canceled as a result of new federal coverage rules. Obama, in an NBC interview Thursday, said “I am sorry” to people who are losing coverage and had relied on his assurances that if they liked their plan, they could keep it.
The focus appears to be on easing the impact for a specific group: people whose policies have been canceled and who don’t qualify for tax credits to offset higher premiums. The administration has not settled on a particular fix and it’s possible the final decision would apply to a broader group.
Still, a president can’t just pick up the phone and order the Treasury to cut checks for people suffering from insurance premium sticker shock. Spending would have to be authorized by law.
Another obstacle: Most of the discontinued policies appear to have been issued after the law was enacted, according to insurers and independent experts. Legally, that means they would have never been eligible for cancellation protections offered by the statute. Its grandfather clause applies only to policies that were in effect when the law passed in 2010.
More than five weeks after open-enrollment season started for uninsured Americans, Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement is still struggling. Persistent website problems appear to have kept most interested customers from signing up. Repairs are underway. Friday the administration said the website’s income verification component will be offline for maintenance until Tuesday morning. An enrollment report expected next week is likely to reflect only paltry sign-ups.
Website woes have been eclipsed by the uproar over cancellation notices sent to millions of people who have individual plans that don’t measure up to the benefits package and level of financial protection required by the law.
“It was clear from the beginning that there were going to be some winners and losers,” said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, who supports the health overhaul. “But the losers are calling reporters, and the winners can’t get on the website.”
In the House, a Republican-sponsored bill that would give insurers another year to sell individual policies that were in effect Jan. 1, 2013, is expected to get a floor vote late next week. In the Senate, Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu has introduced legislation that would require insurers to keep offering current individual plans. Democrats, who as a group have stood firmly behind the new law so far, may start to splinter if the uproar continues.
The legislation faces long odds to begin with, but it may not do the job even if it passes. The reason: States, not the federal government, regulate the individual insurance market. State insurance commissioners have already approved the plans that will be offered for next year. It may be too late to wind back to where things stood at the beginning of this year.
“It has taken the industry many months to rejigger their systems to comply with the law,” said Bob Laszewski, a health care industry consultant. “The cancellation letters have already gone out. What are these guys supposed to do, go down to the post office and buy a million stamps?”
The insurance industry doesn’t like the legislative route either. “We have some significant concerns with how that would work operationally,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans.
Behind the political and legal issues, a powerful economic logic is also at work.
Shifting people who already have individual coverage into the new health insurance markets under Obama’s law would bring in customers already known to insurers, reducing overall financial risks for the insurance pool.
That’s painful for those who end up paying higher premiums for upgraded policies. But it could save money for the taxpayers who are subsidizing the new coverage.
Compared with the uninsured, people with coverage are less likely to have a pent-up need for medical services. At one point, they were all prescreened for health problems.
A sizable share of the uninsured people expected to gain coverage under Obama’s law have health problems that have kept them from getting coverage. They’ll be the costly cases.
Obama sold the overhaul as a win all around. Uninsured Americans would get coverage and people who liked their insurance could keep it, he said. In hindsight, the president might have wanted to say that you could keep your plan as long as your insurer or your employer did not change it beyond limits prescribed by the government.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace, David Espo and Kevin Vineys contributed to this report.
- Putting Computers in Their Place: <em>Computer Chess</em> and The Nerd Origins of Today's Technopoly
Computers need to be put in their place. They really do.
That’s why I’ve been looking forward to the DVD release this week of Andrew Bujalski’s cult Sundance hit Computer Chess. Computer Chess finally spills the beans about where these little monsters came from in the first place.
Every time I pick up a newspaper these days — I’m one of the twelve people left who still read physical newspapers — I read about how computers are spying on us, destroying jobs, or infuriating health insurance customers. Like a hungry Rottweiler off its leash, computers are getting out of control and tearing up the neighborhood.
If you believe what you read, computers are also in the process of wrecking the book publishing and music industries, eliminating celluloid photography — and just this week computers claimed their latest victim, one near and dear to my heart: the local video store, as Blockbuster finally succumbed to laptops, smartphones and tablets as the preferred ways of renting all those movies you couldn’t afford to see (or were too embarrassed to see) when they were in theaters.
No more video stores — who would’ve believed it, even just ten years ago? That means no more pimply teenagers to recommend midnight horror movies to me (“Sir, I definitely recommend C.H.U.D. over TerrorVision“), no more aimless browsing or listening to neighbors argue over which Steven Seagal movie to rent, no more cheap licorice sticks at the checkout counter.
I never thought I’d miss those things so much — but suddenly I do. And it’s all because of our ‘friend’ the computer. Computers are becoming like the Yankees during the ’90s: gobbling up everybody else’s talent, then telling us how good it is for baseball.
The propaganda over the wonders that computers supposedly bring to our lives is getting out of hand. In the very least, it’s out of proportion to the destruction computers are simultaneously causing — that ‘disruptive’ effect Silicon Valley gurus salivate over, like vampires at a blood drive.
So as Twitter — the company currently reducing our public discourse to snarky, 140-character outbursts — celebrates its gaudy IPO right now, I’d like to recommend a new movie out on DVD this week that casts digital technology in a very different light: Computer Chess.
You probably haven’t heard of Computer Chess. After all, it has no stars in it. Neither Disney nor Sony are building spin-off franchises around its characters. Chris Hemsworth doesn’t swing a hammer in the film, and Kate Upton wasn’t invited to the premiere (although it would’ve been funny if she was).
What Computer Chess has going for it, though, is that it tells the unvarnished, gawky truth about the early days of this public menace we’ve come to know as the ‘computer.’
Actually, Computer Chess isn’t all that obscure a film. Written and directed by mumblecore auteur Andrew Bujalski, the film debuted to critical acclaim earlier this year at Sundance (where it won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize), where I had the pleasure of seeing the funky little movie in a packed house with an appreciative crowd. It was a total hoot, especially for people like me who remember how uncool computers used to be before Steve Jobs arrived on the scene. In fact, you arguably can’t appreciate Jobs’ legacy properly unless you’ve seen Computer Chess — and witnessed what a clunky, nerdy, socially maladroit computer world Jobs inherited.
Computer Chess is set around 1980, in a shabby suburban motel that serves as the film’s entire setting over the course of one weekend. The aristocracy of the computer science world – the geek gods of Cal Tech, MIT, Bell Labs and elsewhere — have gathered for their annual computer chess tournament, with the winning machine getting the chance to face off against the pompous tournament host, who has never yet lost a game to a computer.
So it’s game on, as Apple IIs and Tandy TRS-80s — and their nerd jockeys — take each other on for all the marbles.
The film follows the impossibly awkward programmers as they compete with each other for the (slightly dubious) title, haul blocky computer mainframes around on push-carts, debate the future of computers in late-night bull sessions, and make cringe-inducing attempts at romance and/or sexual conquest with the tournament’s lone female competitor, a hopelessly bespectacled programmer named Shelly. The programmers also have a few droll encounters with a New Age group that shares the motel with them, who try to open up the nerdy programmers’ repressed emotional lives.
Good luck with that.
The performances Bujalski gets out of his mostly non-professional cast are uniformly natural and believable — with special kudos going out to Patrick Riester and Wiley Wiggins as the no-nonsense leads, Myles Paige as the egomaniac/would-be lothario ‘Michael Papageorge,’ and Robin Schwartz as the sweet, ungainly female programmer.
Indeed, Bujalski’s strategy of keeping things real (several cast members are actually programmers themselves) is the best thing Computer Chess has going for it. It’s easy to see how this film could’ve been botched by importing a Michael Cera or Jonah Hill into the mix with their pre-packaged nerd schtick. Computer Chess is too austere and genuinely indie for such Hollywoodisms — to the point that the movie was actually shot in low-res, black-and-white 4:3 analog video using a Sony AVC-3260 camera, dating from the late 1960s.
Bujalski clearly intends Computer Chess to feel like a ‘found object’ of the era — and the film does seem incredibly authentic as a depiction of early-80s geek culture.
The special kick of watching Computer Chess, though, is knowing how the awkward misfits depicted in the film — and the big, blocky, semi-functional machines they cart around — will someday conquer the world. Today’s gods of Silicon Valley (who are apparently getting pretty full of themselves these days) — the slick young guys in hoodies who debut their stock offerings with multi-billion dollar valuations, or who get played by Jesse Eisenberg or Justin Timberlake in the movies are of course no longer the introverted weenies of yesteryear, as depicted in Bujalski’s film. Today’s techies are more likely to drive Porsche 918 Spyder-hybrids, date swimsuit models, or eat granola parfait at Palo Alto’s University Cafe.
What a difference 30 years makes.
Computer Chess is probably not the kind of movie these newer guys — and they’re still mostly guys (with all due respect to Sheryl Sandberg) — want to watch, because it doesn’t suit their current self-image. Computer Chess is like that embarrassing family album from the ’70s you keep in the attic, filled with horrid images of bad hair, braces and bell-bottom jeans — where everybody looks like they just stepped off the set of The Hardy Boys. It’s the kind of thing your relatives pull out during the holidays to keep you humble.
And this is actually why Silicon Valley’s geek aristocracy — and you know who you are – should embrace this film, because it does something vital: it humanizes them, at a time when a lot of us feel that what they’re doing to our society is, well, inhuman. Reading about the NSA and Healthcare.gov these days is depressing enough, but it’s even worse after years of reading about how companies like Google and Facebook have been undermining our basic sense of privacy, which is the delicate foundation of our freedom.
By the way, Computer Chess actually hints — in a sly, fun way — that the Cal Tech team’s fictional TSAR chess program might be the forerunner of dystopian supermachines of the future, like Skynet from the Terminator films. But the movie is pretty gentle and non-conspiratorial about these things. It could get much worse.
For example, Computer Chess could’ve more been more hard-edged, like Panos Cosmatos’ dystopian cult thriller Beyond the Black Rainbow, released here in the U.S. in 2012. Similarly set in the early 1980s, Black Rainbow depicts a young woman’s escape from a controlling, futuristic New Age research institute. The film’s high-tech ‘Arboria Institute’ — led by a psychotic, permanently disfigured scientist — harbors pretentions of harnessing technology in the achievement of higher spirituality. (By the way, the ‘Arboria Institute’ could easily have been the forerunner to the sinister, New Agey internet company ‘The Circle’ from Dave Eggers’ new novel of the same name.) Black Rainbow‘s Dr. Barry Nyle — along with his mentor, Dr. Mercurio Arboria – represents the dark side of the early ’80s tech and self-actualization gurus depicted comedically in Computer Chess.
Of course, even Black Rainbow doesn’t compare to a film recently unearthed by Criterion: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1973 sci-fi classic World on a Wire, which originally aired on German television as a two-part miniseries. In World on a Wire (based on American author Daniel F. Galouye’s novel Simulacron-3), an ‘Institute for Cybernetics and Future Research’ develops a computer simulation program featuring an artificial world — based on the real one — with over 9,000 avatars living as human beings, unaware that their world is only a simulation subject to manipulation. The purpose of the simulation? Advanced market research, of course. Things get dicey when the movie’s hero, Dr. Fred Stiller (actor Klaus Löwitsch), begins to suspect that this simulation may actually have multiple layers — and that he himself might be one such avatar.
Such dark visions suggest the will-to-power, the urge to control and manipulate, that many people now associate — with good reason — with a fully computerized society (what Neil Postman back in 1992 called a ‘technopoly‘). Whether that society is controlled by unseen government bureaucracies or huge and indifferent corporations hardly seems to matter anymore.
So the honeymoon is now over. Computers just aren’t that cool any more — mainly because of all the precious things in our lives that they’re destroying. That’s why a lot of us are now looking at the fine print when we buy in to the latest gadget or app, as we ask ourselves this basic question: as shiny and empowering as this new piece of digital technology is, what is it going to destroy that I don’t know about?
All of this stuff seemed a lot more innocent back in 1980, when Computer Chess is set. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Computer Chess is basically about the race to create a machine that can outperform and (thereby replace) a human being. Back in 1980, that premise just seemed a lot funnier and more charming than it does right now.
Right now computers just don’t know their place.
- Schildi, Abandoned And Disabled Tortoise, Gets Lego Wheel Prosthetic Leg (PHOTO, VIDEO)
When an abandoned tortoise called Schildi lost his leg, most likely from an accident, he had trouble adapting to his new prosthetic. The artificial leg given to him by his German rescuers had a double-wheel structure that made it difficult to turn corners, according the Local. But one of his veterinarians found a positively charming solution — he fitted Schildi with a single Lego wheel leg.
Story continues below.
Now, with his new Lego leg, Schildi is back on the move, recovering at an animal rescue and “doing really well again.”
“We will see him again once in a while for check-ups,” Azmanis told the Local. “If he gets a ‘flat tire’ it will be a simple matter to replace the wheel. They move around quite a lot so I’d expect to see him for a new wheel about once a year.”
We’re dying from the cuteness.
- Angry Mom Uncovers 'Toddler Bashing' Facebook Group That Makes Fun Of 'Ugly' Babies
A Florida mother is speaking out against a group of mean moms after uncovering a secret Facebook group apparently dedicated to “toddler bashing.”
Melissa Antenucci, of Boca Raton, told ABC-affiliate WPBF 25 News that she was horrified when she accidentally found the Facebook group online. She said the group comprised mothers who were secretly taking photos of children from other Facebook accounts before re-posting them online and making fun of the kids.
“It’s horrible,” Antenucci said. “The things that these mothers said were the most horrific things I have ever seen, being a mom and knowing that they are moms.”
Antenucci says that many of the group’s targets were children with disabilities. Toddlers that were dubbed “ugly” were also subject to ridicule.
Describing some of the group’s Facebook posts, Fox 10 News wrote:
Under one photo of a baby, a woman wrote, “It’s hideous.” Another woman commented, “You can absolutely not fix ugly.” Another wrote, “An ugly baby thread.. I have died and gone to heaven. Why can’t you guys live near me so we can do this over cocktails?”
A mom named Ellen Veach, who says her 2-year-old daughter was a victim of this online bullying, told Fox 10 News that she was shocked when she saw her child’s photo being ridiculed by strangers.
“So I’m posting pictures of my [kids], just naively posting it up there so my friends can see, not realizing there’s a group that takes these pictures and targets these children and makes fun of them. Like that’s just something I wouldn’t even think a mother or grown woman would do,” she said.
News of the group has prompted worldwide outrage, with The Stir’s Nicole Fabian-Weber calling the practice “disgusting.”
Internet cruelty rarely comes as a shock these days, because sadly, it’s so pervasive. But making fun of random babies and toddlers — the most innocent people there are — truly takes things to a new low and just makes me, personally, sad about humanity. Imagine finding your kid’s photo up on a website with a string of comments underneath it from strangers, talking about how ugly they are. It’s disgusting.
The “toddler bashing” page has reportedly been taken down, and many of the moms associated with the page are said to have disabled their Facebook accounts. However, some moms involved with the group have defended themselves, citing freedom of speech.
“This is Facebook, not the Salem witch hunt,” one woman wrote on Facebook, according to WPBF. “This is a free country and I was laughing because it was funny… Thanks for your comments, next.”
- iPhoto for iOS may be plagiarizing third-party app icon
The new iOS 7 version of iPhoto appears to have stolen icon art from a third-party app, Pic Stitch, users note. The icon for iPhoto’s "Web Journal" option (located under the Share menu) appears to be virtually identical to the Pic Stitch app icon except that it’s rotated and the colors are swapped. The developer of Pic Stitch, Big Blue Clip, has yet to respond to inquiries.