Mobile Technology News, November 13, 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.
- Netflix Just Made A Big Change
Netflix wants you to watch more Netflix. And to try to make that happen, the company is giving a long-overdue makeover to its TV app on some game consoles, smart TVs and streaming boxes.
On Wednesday, the streaming service will begin to look different for the millions of people around the world who stream it to their TVs using a PlayStation 3, the forthcoming PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and some Blu-ray players, smart TVs and Roku streaming boxes.
“This is about the interface of Netflix getting out of the way and allowing the user to connect with the movie or TV show,” said Chris Jaffe, vice president of product innovation at Netflix.
The biggest changes will come to the main Netflix page. If you stream using a Roku 3, for example, the gray background will be replaced by a black one, and when you make a selection, three large images from the movie or TV show will rotate. You’ll also see a shorter description of the show, along with additional information, such as why Netflix recommended the movie or TV show or whether it’s won any awards. If you’ve connected your Netflix account to Facebook, it will show you what shows your friends have watched.
Before (Roku 3):
Netflix says it has also shortened loading time for titles, and it will no longer display a red Netflix screen during the loading process.
The changes won’t go into effect for everyone, though. People who watch Netflix on a computer, phone or tablet, or stream it onto their TV using Apple TV, Nintendo Wii or Wii U, won’t have the updated experience.
Netflix says that the majority of its members watch Netflix on a TV, but does not provide any specific figures. According to the NPD group, a market research firm, about 58 percent of Netflix titles are watched on a television. And of those who stream Netflix on a TV, 39 percent use a video game console, 19 percent use a streaming media box like an Apple TV or Roku, and 15 percent stream using a Blu-ray disk player, the firm found.
The point of the changes, of course, is to get you to watch more Netflix, and the company says the redesign works. As a test, it rolled out the redesign in April to hundreds of thousands of people who use PlayStation 3 to stream Netflix to their TV, and found that those people watched more Netflix titles. (The notoriously tight-lipped company wouldn’t provide any details about the number of titles.)
The more Netflix you watch — and the better the company is at recommending movies and TV shows you like — the more valuable the service becomes, and the more likely you are to keep paying $7.99 a month for it.
Netflix is the market leader in streaming, but the company, like Hulu and Amazon, also is investing heavily in original content and exclusive streaming deals — both to lure customers and retain the ones it already has.
Buzzfeed’s Peter Lauria reported last month that Netflix continues to add subscribers, but it spends so much on content and international expansion that it doesn’t actually make that much profit — only $31.8 million last quarter on $1.1 billion in revenue. Its stock has soared this year, but some analysts are bearish and warn that it could tumble.
The streaming service is easy to quit, so Netflix must keep customers happy and attract new ones. And improving the user experience — making it more visually appealing, faster, easier to navigate and adding features — is certainly one way to do that.
“What we really want you to do,” Jaffe said, “is turn on your TV and say, ‘I get all of this for $7.99?’ We want you to be wowed by that.”
- White House Technology Adviser To Testify At Congressional Hearing On Health Care Website
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) – A top White House technology adviser will testify at a congressional hearing on Wednesday about the troubled launch of the website at the heart of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform despite the administration’s assertions that he was too busy.
The White House confirmed late on Tuesday that Todd Park, its chief technology officer, would comply with a subpoena to testify at a hearing of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives Oversight Committee.
The White House had asked to delay the hearing until December, saying that Park was too busy helping to fix the HealthCare.gov website, which Obama has vowed will be working smoothly for most people by the end of the month.
Technical problems with the website since its Oct. 1 rollout have prevented many Americans from enrolling in the health exchanges set up under the 2010 healthcare law, also known as Obamacare.
“The partisan subpoena issued by House Republicans on Friday was an unfortunate and unnecessary step since we made clear several times that Todd Park is willing to testify,” said Rick Weiss, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when,” Weiss said.
Park was a successful healthcare IT developer before he joined the Obama administration, steering Athenahealth through a blockbuster IPO, and helping start another company, Castlight, which provides data on healthcare costs.
A sought-after speaker at IT conferences, Park is popular within the technology community. More than 1,200 allies signed a petition at lettoddwork.org calling on Darrell Issa, the Republican committee chairman, to postpone Park’s testimony.
“No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, Todd is one of the good guys. Let him do his job,” the petition said.
Park, 40, helped build the original HealthCare.gov website in 2010 when he was chief technology officer at the Department of Health and Human Services. At the time, the website provided information about public and private insurance programs, sorted by zip code.
Also slated to testify are Steven VanRoekel, the chief information officer at the White House budget office, Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Frank Baitman, chief information officer for HHS.
- Pope Francis Is Internet's Top Name Of 2013, According To Global Language Monitor Survey
Pope Francis is making the world sit up and take notice with his bold statements and radical shift in tone, and people can’t stop talking about him. In fact, he’s the most talked-about person of 2013, according to a recent survey by Global Language Monitor.
So who did he beat out for the top spot? GLM’s list of top names includes organizations and programs in their top fifteen for 2013, but here are the most mentioned individuals from their list:
1. Pope Francis
2. Edward Snowden
3. Kate Middleton
4. Ted Cruz
5. Chris Christie
6. Malala Yousufzai
7. Xi Jinping
8. President Obama
9. Hassan Rouhani
GLM’s Word of the Year rankings are based upon actual word usage throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.83 billion people. To qualify for these lists, the words, names, and phrases must be found globally, have a minimum of 25,000 citations. and the requisite ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’ of usage. Depth is here defined as appearing in various forms of media; breadth that they must appear world-over, not limited to a particular profession or social group or geography.
- Textbook seller Chegg prices IPO shares at $12.50
Kicking off trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, the startup is going public with an offering price that values the company at nearly $1.1 billion.
- Briefly: New DASH7 portable speaker, Jabra's wireless headphones
Released today, Soundmatters has announced the availability of its wireless pocket-portable speaker, the DASH7. The new DASH7 is three-quarters of an inch thick, and offers omnidirectional sound in a size that fits in a slim bag or pocket. Featuring extended Bluetooth range, the DASH7 can be used as a noise cancelling speakerphone. Available in red, white and black, the DASH7 can be purchase for $250 through various online retailers, and Soundmatters.
- VIDEO: Up close with new 'Formula E' car
Formula E’s official test driver Lucas di Grassi shows the BBC around the latest prototype Formula E car.
- Where is next generation of coders?
Who will teach our children to code?
- VIDEO: Meet the robot that teaches coding
A robot controlled by a tablet, which can turn its head 360 degrees, has been developed.
- Two Thirds Of Cheaters Would Stay Faithful If It Weren't For Technology, Survey Suggests
Your smart phone may be driving more of a wedge between you and your partner than you realize.
A new survey by Victoria Milan, a dating site for married people looking to cheat, found that out of 6,000 of its users, 45 percent said they cheated because their partner spent too much time on their phones or tablets.
What’s more, a whopping two-thirds said they wouldn’t have hooked up with someone else if it weren’t for the help of the internet and other new technologies.
“Like anything else that enhances our lives, technology is a double-edged sword,” Victoria Milan’s CEO Sigurd Vedal said in a press release. “It’s a predictable, albeit unfortunate, commentary that modern use of technology has led to a kind of social isolation — being alone in a room of many others — that leads to seeking out connections with others when we are left feeling unfulfilled in our day to day relationships. One way or the other we need to find that connection.”
The demographic most likely to stray because their partner was snubbing them with their phone use? Women ages 30-50, according to the site.
This isn’t the first time research has shown the detrimental effect cell phones and texting can have on a relationship. In October, researchers at Brigham Young University found heavy texting to be associated with relationship dissatisfaction among both women and men.
- Why Retailers + Developers Should Pay Attention to Apple's iBeacon
By Ryan Matzner
This past June at the WWDC, Apple quietly announced a new feature called iBeacon along with the new iOS7. iBeacon allows any Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled device to be turned into a “beacon” that transmits data to iOS7 devices once they are detected and within range. iBeacons have a higher degree of location accuracy than GPS and can be utilized to geofence very specific regions (including indoor spaces) using relatively low-cost signal emitters or other iOS devices, making it an ideal profile for app developers seeking basic micro-location capabilities.
iBeacons will allow mobile apps to target users more accurately than any other technology has allowed before without draining your phone’s battery. For these reasons and more iBeacon presents a revolutionary opportunity for app developers and retailers interested in indoor mapping, mobile payments and targeted advertising.
But What About NFC?
Apple has largely chosen to bypass NFC, the longstanding norm, for BLE and the company’s “all-in” strategy with BLE may be an astute one. BLE technology such as iBeacon has a few key differences from NFC that could potentially propel it to become the norm, or at the very least, help it see heavy adoption in the retail sector.
Perhaps the most significant and revolutionary difference is that BLE-enabled iBeacon can transmit data up to 160 feet. Compared to NFC, which only works only over very short distances, this is a big deal, particularly for anyone interested in the indoor mapping and mobile payments space, the latter of which is heating up with payment companies like Square and Venmo in the mix.
With this type of long range, any retailer will be able to set up BLE beacons and develop apps that guide users around its space. Phones will also be able to detect when a person is standing in front of a particular display, and tailor messages or media to them in that moment. (Remember this scene from Minority Report?)
Users can also pay for their goods in a store without having to whip out their phones or credit cards to “touch” or “tap” anything. The payment experience will be completely hands-free. In fact, the “hands-free movement” may be the next iteration of mobile payments; PayPal’s implementation of BLE, called PayPal Beacon, has already launched in San Francisco in hopes to usher in this new movement.
iBeacon also presents perks to developers and third parties who choose to implement beacons in their physical spaces. For starters, it’s far more affordable to implement BLE than NFC; a BLE-enabled beacon like Estimote can cost $99 for a set of three, whereas NFC tags at let’s say, ten cents each, added to individual products in a retail store could add up to tens of thousands of dollars.
BLE presents other efficiencies too: firmware updates can be transmitted over-the-air, making maintenance a breeze. The iBeacon profile also allows for open source development. Apple has yet to release specifications for iBeacon, but a few hardware developers such as Kontakt have already begun to provide dev kits by reverse engineering the software. With the iBeacon’s profile specifically, Apple has an advantage over Google and Microsoft: Apple’s iOS devices from the iPhone 4S and up are all BLE-enabled, whereas Android devices are highly fragmented, making it a less stable platform for the technology.
A Retail Revolution in the Making
There are many applications that currently use iBeacon, and they’re all just a taste of the revolutionary applications to come. It has been reported that Apple may have demonstrated its first public application of iBeacon (or at the very least, BLE-enabled technology) with a “one-touch-setup” of Apple TV. “Tapping” an Apple TV 3G with a recent, Bluetooth-enabled iOS device during setup will auto-configure the device, creating a seamless and elegant experience for the user.
Major League Baseball has also begun experimenting with iBeacons for a better fan experience in its stadiums. It plans to roll out iBeacons to deliver targeted information and offers based on a fan’s location within the park.
The rise of iBeacons also naturally means the rise of hardware that supports the technology. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has identified many profiles for BLE, among them “health care” and “sports and fitness” profiles, which make the technology ripe for wearables. While not related to either of these spaces, BeLuvv Guardian is a wearable device for children built upon iBeacon. The basic premise is that any child wearing this device can be located by their parents if they happen to run astray, or be protected by designated “guardians” with iOS7 devices.
We should expect to see more wearable devices and other hardware that will take advantage of BLE and iBeacons in the near future, as well as hardware companies that will build beacons themselves such as Estimote. Already, innovations like the August Smart Lock and “help me find my lost items” tech like Chipolo and Tile utilize BLE and have received much buzz. Technology like iBeacons may even be the missing link that can help proliferate the Internet of Things and the creation of a network of “smart” physical objects and goods.
- Marrying an Entrepreneur
And then there was one bread winner in the family: me.
Funny? Not really.
This week my husband announced that he is leaving Path to start his own company with a close friend and co-worker. In Silicon Valley, an announcement like this is expected, the norm, no big deal. It is exciting, and talked about, but definitely not scary or crazy. The thing is, it is terrifying to me. Maybe Silicon Valley feels the same, and just never talks about it, but my heart definitely dropped the moment I entered the “married to an entrepreneur” world.
I was raised in a very traditional household. You were either a doctor or a lawyer, and that’s about it. Sure, I broke out of that mold a couple years ago when I quit my law firm and joined a small startup (two weeks later to be acquired by Facebook), and sure I now embrace the unknown, the rollercoaster, the success and the failure, and the insanity. And yet, I am terrified! A lawyer can only be a non-lawyer part of the time (fact). No doubt, I am inherently a planner, who loves security, and tries to counter this by doing crazy things every so often, all the while knowing that those crazy moments are way beyond my comfort zone.
Who goes to Iceland in the winter? We do.
So here I am, terrified, and yet also insanely excited. Drastic change in tone, I know. This week, I fluctuated between tears, smiles and screams, way too many times. This photo about sums it up:
One-year wedding anniversary, trashing the wedding dress.
The thing is, as long as I have known Matt, he has always been an entrepreneur in heart and practice. He started a number of companies while in high school and college (even sold one for $600), and he helped Logan Green co-found Zimride (now Lyft) in the early days. Yet, he had not fully worn the CEO hat, nor had he fully devoted his career to one engine, run by him as founder. He made sure to repeatedly remind me throughout our past seven years together that this would in fact happen. He wanted no misconceptions about our future: We would partake in some traditional life commitments (marriage, dog, house, children, in no particular order), but everything else was up for grabs, with guaranteed! career instability. He would be a founder and CEO of a company, he would change the world (intense, yep), and we would enjoy it every step of the way. Such confidence, right? One of the many reasons why I adore him.
These conversations only became more pronounced and important over the years. As Matt met and worked for incredibly brilliant entrepreneurs (you know who you are), he developed into this now refined, knowledgeable, ready, entrepreneur. His mind and his soul transformed from a dream to a reality. I have never in my life witnessed someone set such an aggressive life goal, and perfectly devote seven years to preparing for making the dream come true.
Many may have a dream, and generally try to reach it over the years, but do they really transform substantially along the way? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, anomaly or not, Matt is truly a very different person than he was when I met him, and he could not be more ready for this exciting venture.
And so, I put my fears behind me, because he has always reminded me, continuously, that this is who he is. It is this spirit, courage and confidence that I love so much, and that makes the non-professional part of our lives so exciting and fun. I know with him my life will never be boring. We may bring more ups and down into our lives, but at least our lives will be one big adventure.
Super Bowl, 2013, booked two weeks in advance.
I also can’t help but bow down to all of those who have supported him and guided him through this crazy world. From high school, to college, to Digg, to Path, thank you. From long time friends to anyone and everyone who has ever spent time with him, thank you. Each of you helped mold him into this ready founder, and I am forever grateful. The attorney wife could only do so much over the years to help him grow in tech (she is more useful now, don’t worry), and so you and Matt did all of the heavy lifting together. I just sat back and watched with a smile.
It is with love, tears, fear and excitement, that I now enter a whole new world with Matt. It is time, and I am ready too.
One last note: Thank you, Matt, for supporting me through life, and helping me make my dreams come true. Now, it’s your turn.
- Why Innovating in "Older" Industries Will Be Harder
Innovation and the Internet. Currently, these are the buzzwords that are driving economic growth and recovery. Innovation and the Internet seems to be today’s panacea to cure all that ails every organization, whether it is reviving a stagnant culture or reinvigorating an old product line. The unfortunate reality is that the success that innovation and the Internet have achieved is in some respects due to a number of convergent factors, including:
(a) New Technologies: The Internet has revolutionized every aspect of business processes from creation to distribution. In many aspects, existing business processes have been completely upended and transformed due to the Internet.
(b) New Industries: New industries have practically sprung up overnight due to the Internet. From mobile advertising to social media, new industries have not only created thousands of new jobs but have also provided new avenues for individual self expression.
(c) Improved Workforce: Just as Gutenberg’s press revolutionized and democratized the distribution of information, the Internet has brought about another round of information revolution and democratization. Employees are now better educated and more knowledgeable than ever before.
(d) New Culture: As a result of the end of the Cold War, and due to the growth of new avenues of collective and individual expression thanks to the Internet, a new culture of self reliance and responsibility has emerged in the workplace.
(e) Lack of Regulation: When the Internet first appeared during the 1980s, very few individuals believed it would become the tool that would revolutionize nearly every aspect of humanity. As such, governments paid little attention to the Internet and left it to form its own standards and frameworks. Today, governments are still attempting to catch up and continue to write laws to take into account the profound changes that the Internet has had on society.
The successes that the world has seen with the increasing growth of Internet-related industries have been in no small part due to the greenfield approach that they were able to exploit. Not only was the Internet capable of developing due to a common global technological base, Internet pioneers were also able to build their business visions with very little interference from government, multinational corporations and entrenched and vested interests. Innovating in a greenfield space is easy. Innovating in a shark tank is a lot harder, which is the case of “older” industries.
While innovation continues within Internet-related industries, progress has been slower in “older” industries. This is due to:
(a) Significant Regulatory Hurdles: Industries, from automotive to health care, where one would expect Internet technologies to make significant impact have been extremely slow to innovate. One of the key components is significant regulatory hurdles that exist in these industries. “Older” industries must contend with mountains of regulations that control every aspect of the business cycle from research and development to marketing and sales. The added regulatory complexity combined with the increase compliance costs make it very difficult to integrate new innovative methodologies into existing regulatory frameworks.
(b) Liability: One of the advantages of the Internet since its inception was that it grew and prospered without any expectations. There were no standards to adhere to from either a legal or regulatory perspective. Even though the Internet has become ubiquitous, it still retains the “trial and error” approach that defines tech culture. From the prevalence of the “Hacker Way” to the “Lean Startup”, technology companies have been focused on “trial and error” rather than risk mitigation or liability. Unfortunately, risk mitigation and liability are the high priority concerns of “older” industries and rightly so. Too many corporations in “older” industries have been burned with lawsuits or negative press for risk mitigation not to be a top corporate priority.
(c) Existing Dominant Players: From health care to automotive, “older” industries have dominant players who not only have both the financial and non-financial resources to protect their interests and market share, but who can effectively set industry ground rules.
(d) Entrenched Vested Interests: From unions to non-governmental organizations, there are a number of interests that rely on the strength and stability of “older” industries and will do everything in their power to maintain the status quo.
(e) Competing Non-Business Interests: From environmental issues to equality issues, “older” industries have to deal with a significant number of non-business issues that not only significantly impact decision making, but increase costs as well as reduce the ability to move quickly.
Some people state that the lack of innovation in “older” industries isn’t a significant concern, and that a combination of technology and socio-economic change will force “older” industries to adapt. This is a naïve comment not supported by history. Social inertia is a powerful force that has influenced human history. As many individuals know from the 1960s civil rights movement, the struggle to change social norms is a difficult and long struggle that continues over generations. Changing business processes in “older” industries is no different, and due to growing interconnectivity, even more difficult than before.
Interconnectivity is the new reality in today’s dynamic economy. While those interconnected linkages may not overtly appear, they do exist. Technology companies would like to ignore the messiness of “older” industries, but they cannot, due to the interconnectivity they have helped foster.
Indeed, the technology industry is taking small steps to adapt to this interconnected reality. From the hiring of lobbyists to setting up political action committees (PACs), the technology industry is starting to use some of the tools that “older” industries have used for decades to promote their own agendas. A question arises whether or not technology companies can bring about positive change or will they be co-opted by the existing system? Will technology companies become the slow, risk adverse industries they currently abhor or will they be able to infuse new and innovative solutions into “older” industries? Only time will tell.
- Bootstrapping a Top App: <i>Grenade Fishing Jr</i>'s Jacob Pollock Shares His Insights
I was fortunate to field a few questions with local game developer Jacob Pollock, the creator of Grenade Fishing Jr. The game was launched on November 2nd, and has gained early acclaim as a featured app on the iTunes App Store, as well as the number one sports game on Toucharcade. Jacob was kind enough to share some of his insights in bootstrapping an app launch as an independent game publisher.
My questions are in bold.
Can you explain Grenade Fishing Jr, and why it’s fun?
In Grenade Fishing Jr, you control a bear in a rowboat who has gone fishing with grenades. Players swipe the screen to toss grenades into the water and tilt to steer the boat in order to catch the falling fish. It is a skill-based “quick-fix” action title with 18 levels and a “hand-drawn” feel.
The fun of the game comes from the thrill of blowing things up and the challenge of the engaging live-action gameplay. It features realistic physics simulation, water dynamics, and fish behavior and uses the device touch-screen and accelerometer. Things get pretty interesting when the waves get big and the fish get smart. We are excited to launch the game on the Apple App Store.
What inspired you to pursue making a game?
I have been making games since I was 8 years old when I was programming text-based adventure games in BASIC on a Commodore-64 computer. This was before I picked up an ATARI-2600 game console at a garage sale for $20. I always found game-making fascinating and pursued it as a hobby. I had the idea for Grenade Fishing about 10 years ago and started to build it in Flash for a web-based game. I finally picked it up again last year after I got an iPad and realized that I could actually write apps for it.
What were some of the challenges you’ve encountered in making Grenade Fishing Jr.?
The largest challenges were refreshing my C++ skills and diving into the OpenGL API. The game actually does a large amount of calculations for the wave and fish motion and displays a large number of characters at once, so optimizing the graphics performance was a major challenge. I wanted it to run at high FPS, even on older devices.
Living in Hawaii, do you think our physical isolation makes a difference?
Not from a software-development stand-point. To me, it seems that it can be done in relative isolation and the physical location is not as important. Besides that, there is a supportive tech community here along with a lot of undiscovered talent in development and design.
What challenges do you feel Hawaii’s tech community faces in developing and releasing products that are unique to our community and culture?
I think that the challenge there lies in making products that have both a local and global appeal. We want to support and represent our culture, while making something that will be adopted by the masses.
How do you think we may be able to overcome these obstacles?
One way may be to harness the mass appeal of Hawaii itself. If we can make products with an “aloha” feel that truly provide value to customers, then we have differentiated ourselves. Another way is to pursue continued investment in Hawaii tech start-ups, through the State and other avenues. We really have a supportive and growing tech community here that is producing some great ventures. An important thing is to continue to aid each other.
What are some of the best insights you’ve gained from building and releasing a product?
One of the biggest for me was “don’t get distracted by the funding”. There are a lot of opportunities for investment out there, but it is easy to get caught up in pursuing that funding and let product development slip to the wayside. This is especially true for a small team or one-man-operation. I think it is important to keep things moving despite the potential opportunities.
I am still learning a lot about social media marketing and the App Store environment. I have learned that click-through-rates and post/link/page engagement do not necessarily translate into conversion. You may have very strong interest in a product and a lot of web traffic and interaction that does not actually bare any real fruit. For the App Store, you want to build something that will appeal to Apple in order to get them to feature/promote it. It should be making them money, through ads, in-app purchases, or paid downloads. It seems to me that they look for something that essentially would make someone want their newest product so they can use your app on it.
Finally, take advice and seek feedback wherever you can, even in unlikely places. Some of the best ideas come from where you least expect.
Do you have any advice for other tech startups in our community?
Support each other and believe that you can make new tech happen in Hawaii. Fail early and fail often, those lessons are invaluable. Make the physical location/isolation a non-issue for clients and customers from the start.
Do you think that developing tech is important to Hawaii?
Absolutely. Hawaii has the opportunity to establish itself in the global tech ecosystem. This not only makes the State more competitive when it comes to attracting new companies and investment, but it will take advantage of the talent that already exists here, building jobs and opportunities. It provides the opportunity for people in Hawaii to work in the tech realm rather than the hospitality industry that dominates our state.
What would you like the tech community of Hawaii to do to better support one another?
I really think that we are doing it and we are on the right path. We are all together here, so we need to avoid in-fighting and identify synergies. There are so many exciting things happeniing with tech in Hawaii right now, I am just happy to be a part of it. Aloha!
The reviews on the iTunes store have been nothing short of glowing, and looks to be on the right path to join the ranks of Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds as a classic game with solid gameplay, appropriate for anyone that has the ability to hold a mobile device. It’s inspiring to see local developers stepping up and bootstrapping hit projects like Grenade Fishing Jr, and hopefully others will be able to follow in their footsteps.
- Your Facebook Statuses Are Gibberish. Here's Proof.
Want to find out how annoying you sound to your Facebook friends? Check out “What Would I Say?” a new site that generates Facebook statuses in your voice.
Created at Princeton University’s HackPrinceton 2013 over the weekend, the site puts together pieces of your old Facebook statuses to make new ones that uncannily sound like you. You just log into your Facebook through the site and press “GENERATE STATUS.”
You don’t have to worry about your privacy being invaded because, as the site explains, your personal information is only ever seen by your own browser and it isn’t stored at all.
I’m only moderately upset by what this site taught me about my web presence.
I use a LOT of capital letters.
I’m also a tad dramatic.
I’d say that sums me up pretty well.
- Aren't We Over Kickstarter Yet?
Once upon a time, I was way into the Kickstarter concept.
I’m all about supporting creativity. Independent artists and philanthropists with a dream finally had a way of making their dream happen — and we, those who believed in their art, had a way to show our support.
Perhaps it was the novelty of it all, at the time. But it seemed to be a good idea.
But the shiny veneer has begun to wear off, and the tarnish is starting to show.
Is Kickstarter at its essence nothing but panhandling? I wouldn’t have said so a few years ago. But then I started to get the emails from random acquaintances pleading for funds to complete their ill-conceived projects. The most offensive late was when a local dessert shop I actually adored emailed that they had started a Kickstarter to fund them moving to a larger location. So…wait…you want me to give you money so you can ultimately make more money off me? And, what? You are offering me a cookie in exchange? Seriously? Kickstarter is infested with projects that ask for large sums of money but offer very little in return, and what started out as an oasis of creatives and innovation has become a haven of scammers and greedy business blunderers.
Friends, there’s these new-fangled things called banks. They give you money for your business investment and then you pay them back with a thing called interest — not cookies. Look into it.
The community that stands together falls apart. I remain very attracted to the community aspect of Kickstarter. I’ve invested a scant few times, but when I have, it’s been for people and projects I truly believed in and felt close to. I believed so strongly in it, I wanted to be intimately attached to its potential success. But we’re not really investors — we really don’t get a say or a stake in the final project. Even the term backers is a pretty generous one. Ultimately, we’re little more than customers — customers of a product that doesn’t even yet exist.
But it’s flawed model with a lot of potentials for chaos and confusion. What happens when the backers do their part, and the project creator can’t — or chooses not to — do theirs? What if they reach their goal, but the money they ask for ultimately isn’t enough to fund the project anyway? What if they take your money — and then a year goes by and no project or rewards are delivered? Why create negative PR before even having a product to publicize? And what happens if the project ends up with far greater funding than intended? What happens to that extra money? We’d like to believe it all gets invested the project, but….
Beware false gods. Does everyone remember The Ten Commandments and what happened to those who chose to worship the golden calf?
Beware of false idols. Kickstarter was meant to be a sort of savior for all that is artistic and creative. It was to be the playground of the future’s greatest innovators. But…then we realized. No one is actually innovating. And while it can be amazing for an independent artist, it can also be an absolute windfall for the charlatan who wants to scam the masses into supporting them. Or, their friends and family. Same difference in this case.
And it’s gotten out of control. For every valiant cause or philanthropic effort there’s the acquaintance mass emailing everyone they ever met, asking them to give them money so they can start a fledging business out of their basement. Or pay their rent while they try to break into the world of puppeteering. And much like the kids of our friends who want you to buy their girl scout cookies, suddenly you feel OBLIGATED. It’s not that you necessarily believe they will be the best puppeteer ever, but at the same time, you don’t want to be that asshole who kept them from getting there, either.
The peril of running a campaign. Look, I’ve had close friends running campaigns. I know it’s not fun on that end either. Ultimately, like many other business models, crowd-funding is a potentially great tool if utilized effectively. It can lead to incredible possibilities for artists who otherwise may have not had the same opportunities. But, I’m sorry, the process is is (plainly) broken right now. There’s no guarantee anyone’s project or abilities will match their ambition. There’s no guarantee they aren’t going to misuse your money — or dick around and run off with it. There’s no guarantee you are ever going to see your promised rewards. Some work out, lots don’t, and unless you have tons of money to burn, you have to decide if it’s worth your time (or money).
You guys, Kickstarter once upon a time promised to change the world. No one ever necessarily said for the better.
Totally disagree with everything I said? Think I’m an asshole for not supporting the independent artist dream? Tweet me at @AlyWalansky and lets talk about it!
- VIDEO: Robot rings the Nasdaq bell
A robotic arm has rung the Nasdaq closing bell to honour the launch of Robo-Stox, an index of robotics and automation tech companies.
- Grumpy Cat vs. Oscar The Grouch: One Epic & Adorable Battle
Grumpy Cat met Oscar the Grouch and it was epic … and adorable. The two had a grump vs. grouch staring contest in the midst of garbage. The winner? Viewers.
It seems that Oscar taught Grumpy Cat the ways of the grouch, but the student has become the teacher now! “That cat drives me crazy. I’ve got to hang out with her more often,” Oscar says in the video above.
“Sesame Street” airs on PBS. Check your local listings.
- Supreme Court Considers Whistleblower Protections
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is looking back at the collapse of energy giant Enron to determine who is protected from retaliation after blowing the whistle on a company’s misdeeds.
The justices heard arguments Tuesday in an appeal brought by two former employees of companies that run the Fidelity family of mutual funds. The workers claimed they faced retaliation after they reported allegations of fraud affecting Fidelity funds. They argue that a provision of the Sarbanes Oxley Act, passed in 2002 in response to the Enron scandal, protects their whistleblower activity.
But the court spent most of an hour Tuesday discussing Enron’s bankruptcy in 2001 amid startling revelations that its top executives manipulated the company’s earnings and stock price by lying to employees and investors about Enron’s financial health.
- Yahoo Adopted One Of Microsoft's Worst Ideas, Just As Microsoft Killed It Off
Looks like Yahoo and Microsoft are pulling a switcheroo.
Microsoft told employees on Tuesday that it’s ending its so-called “stack-ranking” system. Under Microsoft’s infamous system, workers were ranked on a curve, and those at the low end would be fired or dealt with in some way. The goal in stopping these rankings is to focus more “on teamwork and collaboration,” according to an internal memo human-resources chief Lisa Brummel sent to Microsoft employees, which The Verge got its hands on.
Yahoo employees can’t be happy to hear that news. Just last week, it was reported that CEO Marissa Mayer had recently begun implementing this exact strategy at Yahoo. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher reported that Mayer asked managers to rank their workers on a curve, and more than 600 people have been fired in the past few weeks.
Stack ranking certainly didn’t do Microsoft any favors over the years, breeding resentment and distrust among employees. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Vanity Fair’s Kurt Eichenwald wrote in a 2012 profile of Microsoft.
The biggest problem with stack ranking is that it encourages employees to be competitive with one another rather than collaborative. And it was just as anti-collaborative as Microsoft suspected. According to Eichenwald, Microsoft’s top performers avoided working on the same teams “out of fear that they would be hurt in the rankings.”
Microsoft now wants employees to focus on “how you leverage input and ideas from others, and what you contribute to others’ success,” the memo said.
This system of stack ranking started with Jack Welch at General Electric in the 1980s before getting picked up by Microsoft. Stack ranking then became popular at Google, but it’s not clear if Mayer, who was previously a vice president at Google, was involved in implementing it.