Shared posts

03 May 16:34

The Glory of Stanley Park

by pricetags

The exuberance of a west-coast spring is on display in Stanley Park – notably at the Greig Rhododendron Garden (south of Lost Lagoon, north of the pitch-and-putt course, steps from the West End).

Rhodo 1

Rhodo 4


A wonderful perennial experience – and yet so fleeting.

Rhodo 2

Rhodo 3

03 May 16:46

The Shame of Stanley Park

by pricetags

The bike route that connects the seawall from English Bay to Coal Harbour runs by the garden illustrated below, and of course attracts heavy traffic.  Most of it is separated from the pedestrian path – except for one critical piece:

SP tunnel


This dank and dark little tunnel under Stanley Park Drive crams peds and bikes together, with room for neither, on a blind curve.  It’s been like this for years, even as the conflict has grown – and it’s not the only case where bad design suggests that the Park Board has not really prioritized active transportation in their plans.

03 May 16:58

Mailing-List Mush: End of Life for Firefox on OSX 10.6-8, ICU dropping Windows XP Support

by chuttenc

Apparently I’m now Windows XP Firefox Blogging Guy. Ah well, everyone’s gotta have a hobby.

End of Life for Firefox on OSX 10.6-8

The Firefox Future Releases Blog announced the end of support for Mac OSX 10.6-10.8 for Firefox. This might be our first look at how Windows XP’s end of life might be handled. I like the use of language:

All three of these versions are no longer supported by Apple. Mozilla strongly encourages our users to upgrade to a version of OS X currently supported by Apple. Unsupported operating systems receive no security updates, have known exploits, and are dangerous for you to use.

You could apply that just as easily and even more acutely to Windows XP.

But, then, why isn’t Mozilla ending support for XP in a similar announcement? Essentially it is because Windows XP is still too popular amongst Firefox users. The Windows XP Firefox population still outnumbers the Mac OSX (all versions) and Linux populations combined.

My best guess is that we’ll be able to place the remaining Windows XP Firefox users on ESR 52 which should keep the last stragglers supported into 2018. That is, if the numbers don’t suddenly decrease enough that we’re able to drop support completely before then, shuffling the users onto ESR 45 instead.

What’s nice is the positive-sounding emails at the end of the thread announcing the gains in testing infrastructure and the near-term removal of code that supported now-unused build configurations. The cost of supporting these platforms is non-0, and gains can be realized immediately after dropping support.

ICU Planning to Drop Support for Windows XP

A key internationalization library in use by Firefox, ICU, is looking to drop Windows XP support in their next version. The long-form discussion is on dev-platform (you might want to skim the unfortunate acrimony over Firefox for Android (Fennec) present in that thread) but it boils down to: do we continue shipping old software to support Windows XP? For how long? Is this the straw that will finally break WinXP support’s back?

:milan made an excellent point on how the Windows XP support decision is likely to be made:

Dropping the XP support is *completely* not an engineering decision.  It isn’t even a community decision.  It is completely, 100% MoCo driven Firefox product management decision, as long as the numbers of users are where they are.

On the plus side, ICU seems to be amenable to keep Windows XP support for a little longer if we need it… but we really ought to have a firm end-of-life date for the platform if we’re to make that argument in a compelling fashion. At present we don’t have (or at least haven’t communicated) such a date. ICU may just march on without us if we don’t decide on one.

For now I will just keep an eye on the numbers. Expect a post when the Windows XP numbers finally dip below the Linux+OSX as that will be a huge psychological barrier broken.

But don’t expect that post for a few months, at least.




03 May 16:47

A Seawall in Seattle

by pricetags


03 May 17:06

How to price education in Vancouver

by pricetags

According to Langara College:


03 May 19:46

6 Strategies for Scaling Your Customer Feedback Program

by Sara Aboulafia
The following is an excerpt adapted from Building a Feedback Machine, our free eBook geared towards product managers who need an effective, scalable method of capturing and leveraging customer feedback. Get the full version for detailed advice on how to build your a process that works for you and your organization.

Customer feedback is a driving force behind every product’s development; we can use it to make decisions about how we build our products, validate ideas, prioritize roadmap initiatives, and we can even leverage it as a source of ideas when searching for new opportunities to innovate.

Relevant, actionable feedback can be worth its weight in gold (figuratively, of course), but only if you have the structure to gather it. Unfortunately, gathering quality feedback from internal teams is a challenge for even the most experienced product managers at organizations of all stages and sizes.
While there’s a huge desire to incorporate more feedback from users and customer-facing teams into product decisions, the majority of product managers don’t have a functional feedback communication process in place. Fortunately, it’s not impossible to develop one — it just takes some strategic know-how and the willingness to implement a few best practices:

1. Improve product roadmap communication

improving product roadmap communication
It’s pretty hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. Establishing where you’re heading in the long-term will help guide your more short-term objectives like quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and get everyone on the same page. In other words, in order to see the details, everyone must know and understand the larger vision.

What’s most important is that you’re keeping customer teams informed about what your product team is working on and the goals of each initiative. This way, they can share relevant feedback with you that aligns with these goals rather than guessing at what feedback matters or, worse, sharing self-serving feedback.

2. Pick the right feedback communication channels

There are several ways to gather feedback from your team. Master any or all of them:

  • Email and chat – collect feedback directly through personal messages.
  • Team meetings – sit down monthly or bi-monthly to have face-to-face conversations.
  • Feedback reports – collect customer feedback reports from each team
  • Individually – collect feedback from individual stakeholders.
  • Collaborative spreadsheets – customer-facing teams enter feedback into a spreadsheet.
  • Feedback collection platforms – designated software to collect and organize feedback

3. Establish a scalable feedback process

You shouldn’t waste your time implementing a system or process that your team will outgrow in 6 months. Spending a little extra time up front to find a solution that can grow with you is well worth it. It will help prevent the game of telephone that happens when feedback is coming in from all directions and there’s no system in place to filter it.

As a general rule, writing down feedback and keeping it in one place is a much easier to manage it than sharing it verbally, but in some instances you’ll need to continue the dialogue with the colleague or customer who shared it with you.

Be sure whatever process you go with allows you to easily reach the original source of feedback so that you can follow up with more questions, involve them in beta testing (if the source is a customer), or even close the loop with them about any decisions made based on the feedback.

4. Gather the right feedback

You need to ensure that you adopt a process that allows you to capture and store both qualitative feedback and any accompanying quantitative data that’s shared with you without having to do a ton of extra work. Also, you’ll thank yourself later if your system makes it easy for you to organize the feedback you receive in a manner that is easy for you revisit and use to make decisions without having to spend a lot of time searching.

5. Give your feedback context

Without context, a piece of customer feedback is just a soundbite: a string of words and maybe a few emotions that tell part of a story. It can be difficult to make informed decisions without the full story because, as the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. In this case, the details are data.
If you can get support and other customer-facing teams into the habit of bringing you the full story via “quantified qualitative feedback” — customer feedback that’s tied to the metrics you use while making product decisions — you’re already improving your feedback process. Suddenly, “Customers are asking for feature X” turns into “20 of our most unhappy long-term customers who collectively spend a total of $200k a month on our product are asking for feature X.” Now that’s more like it.

6. Not all customers are created equal

building a customer feedback machine
Yes, all of your customers are important — but some customer feedback is more important than other customer feedback.

Before making any decisions based on customer requests, you should always determine the weight of the feedback, including how long the feedback-giver has been a customer, their Net Promoter Score, etc. Keeping this at the forefront of your process will save you mega-time and give you better insight into what you should prioritize.

Once you’ve put these critical feedback practices in place, you’ll have a new, shiny feedback machine — long-lasting, self-sufficient, able to grow with you, and helping to improve your product development process for years to come.

Learn more about creating a scalable feedback process by downloading our free eBook “Building a Feedback Machine”.


The post 6 Strategies for Scaling Your Customer Feedback Program appeared first on UserVoice Blog.

03 May 21:53

A Watch That Makes You Wait

by Federico Viticci

It's hard for me to disagree with the premise of Nilay Patel's piece on Circuit Breaker about the Apple Watch: it's slow.

If Apple believes the Watch is indeed destined to become that computer, it needs to radically increase the raw power of the Watch's processor, while maintaining its just-almost-acceptable battery life. And it needs to do that while all of the other computers around us keep getting faster themselves.

I know what you're thinking – you're using the Apple Watch primarily for notifications and workouts, and it works well. I get that. But when something is presented as the next major app platform for developers and then every single app I try takes seconds to load (if it loads at all), you can understand why enthusiasm is not high on my list of Apple Watch feelings.

I didn't buy the Watch for notifications. I bought it with the belief that in the future we're going to have computers on our wrist. Patel is right here: the slowness of the Apple Watch is undeniable and it dampens the excitement for the Watch as the next big Apple platform.

I disagree, however, with his idea for another "choice" for Apple:

The other choice is to pare the Watch down, to reduce its ambitions, and make it less of a computer and more of a clever extension of your phone. Most of the people I see with smartwatches use them as a convenient way to get notifications and perhaps some health tracking, not for anything else. (And health tracking is pretty specialized; Fitbit seems to be doing just fine serving a devoted customer base.)

I've seen similar comments elsewhere lately. Even with the flaws of the first model, I think you'd be seriously misguided to think Apple would backtrack and decide to make the Apple Watch 2 a fancier Fitbit.

I still believe that, a few years from now, a tiny computer on our wrist will be the primary device we use to quickly interact with the outside world, stay in touch, glance at information, and stay active. All of these aspects are negatively impacted by the Watch 1.0's hardware today. Looking ahead, though, what's more likely – that Apple shipped a product a bit too early and then iterated on it, or that the entire idea of the Apple Watch is flawed and Apple should have made a dumber fitness tracker instead?

If anything, Apple's only choice is to continue to iterate on the original Watch idea: your most personal device. Faster, more sensors, faster apps, smarter apps, a lot more customization options. Gradually and then suddenly, we'll realize the change has been dramatic.

That, of course, doesn't soften my disappointment for the state of the Apple Watch as an app platform today. But knowing how Apple rolls, it makes me optimistic for its future.

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03 May 21:19

Pair Programming is a Skill to be Learned

by Eugene Wallingford

David Andersen offers a rather thorough list of ways that academics might adapt Google's coding practices to their research. It's a good read; check it out! I did want to comment on one small comment, because it relates to a common belief about pair programming:

But, of course, effective pair programming requires a lot of soft skills and compatible pairs. I'm not going to pretend that this solution works everywhere.

I don't pretend that pair programming works everywhere, either, or that everyone should adopt it, but I often wonder about statements like this one. Andersen seems to think that pair programming is a good thing and has helped him and members of his team's to produce high-quality code in the past. Why downplay the practice in a way he doesn't downplay other practices he recommends?

Throughout, the article encourages the use of new tools and techniques. These tools will alter the practice of his students. Some are complex enough that they will need to be taught, and practiced over some length of time, before they become an effective part of the team's workflow. To me, pair programming is another tool to be learned and practiced. It's certainly no harder than learning git...

Pair programming is a big cultural change for many programmers, and so it does require some coaching and extended practice. This isn't much different than the sort of "onboarding" that Andersen acknowledges will be necessary if he is to adopt some of Google's practices successfully in his lab upon upon his return. Pair programming takes practice and time, too, like most new skills.

I have seen the benefit of pair programming in an academic setting myself. Back when I used to teach our introductory course to freshmen, I had students pair every week in the closed lab sessions. We had thirty students in each section, but only fifteen computers in our lab. I paired students in a rotating fashion, so that over the course of fifteen weeks each student programmed with fifteen different classmates. We didn't use a full-on "pure" XP-style of pairing, but what we did was consistent with the way XP encourages pair programming.

This was a good first step for students. They got to know each other well and learned from one another. The better students often helped their partners in the way senior developers can help junior developers progress. In almost all cases, students helped each other find and fix errors. Even though later courses in the curriculum did not follow up with more pair programming, I saw benefits in later courses, in the way students interacted in the lab and in class.

I taught intro again a couple of falls ago after a long time away. Our lab has twenty-eight machines now, so I was not forced to use pair programming in my labs. I got lazy and let them work solo, with cross-talk. In the end, I regretted it. The students relied on me a lot more to help them find errors in their code, and they tended to work in the same insulated cliques throughout the semester. I don't think the group progressed as much as programmers, either, even though some individuals turned out fine.

A first-year intro lab is a very different setting than a research lab full of doctoral students. However, if freshmen can learn to pair program, I think grad students can, too.

Pair programming is more of a social change than a technical change, and that creates different issues than, say, automated testing and style checking. But it's not so different from the kind of change that capricious adherence to style guidelines or other kinds of code review impose on our individuality.

Are we computer scientists so maladjusted socially that we can't -- or can't be bothered -- to learn the new behaviors we need to program successfully in pairs? In my experience, no.

Like Andersen, I'm not advocating that anyone require pair programming in a lab. But: If you think that the benefits of pair programming exceed the cost, then I encourage you to consider having your research students or even your undergrads use it. Don't shy away because someone else thinks it can't work. Why deprive your students of the benefits?

The bottom line is this. Pair programming is a skill to be learned, like many others we teach our students.

03 May 23:00

Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao launches tech industry diversity advocacy group

by Patrick O'Rourke

Ellen Pao today announced the launch of Project Include, a new advocacy group that aims to promote greater diversity in the largely male dominated tech industry.

The group, started by Pao and a group of female engineers and executives, including employees at Slack, Pinterest and other Bay Area companies, will create initiatives that help make the hiring practices at tech companies, particularly in the startup space, more inclusive.

“Project Include started as dinner brainstorming sessions on how to make tech meaningfully more diverse,” said Pao in a statement sent to MobileSyrup. “Today we’ve joined forces to provide CEOs with comprehensive tools – frameworks, research, metrics, and recommendations – for diversity and inclusion. And the early feedback we’ve heard repeatedly from CEOs is, ‘I wish I had had this earlier.'”

In 2012 Pao sued venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, her former employer, for gender discrimination, alleging she was passed over for promotions and excluded from corporate events because of her gender.

Pao lost the trial and then later stepped down from her position as Reddit’s CEO following a targeted harassment campaign related to Reddit users being unhappy with the direction she took the divisive and often vitriol-filled online community, as well as the controversy surrounding her discrimination suit. The backlash she received sparked a debate both on the treatment of women in the technology industry and importance of transparency in a company that relies on volunteers like Reddit.

Project include plans to accept as many as 18 startups that are able to apply to receive hiring recommendations via a program called Start-Up Include.

“The CEO can’t do it alone. We want to give employees  –  including Diversity & Inclusion and People Operations leads  –  ways to convince others, especially CEOs who have not yet made diversity a priority,” reads Project Include’s website. “We want every tech employee to understand how diversity and inclusion helps everyone when designed thoughtfully. We also urge VCs to use their considerable influence to lead change in their firms and their portfolio companies.”

As well as her role as CEO at Reddit and junior investing partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Pao also worked as corporate director at Flipboard.

03 May 18:06

Everything as a Service

by Ben Thompson

Last month Benedict Evans observed that The Best is the Last:

A technology often produces its best results just when it’s ready to be replaced — it’s the best it’s ever been, but it’s also the best it could ever be. There’s no room for more optimisation — the technology has run its course and it’s time for something new, and any further attempts at optimisation produce something that doesn’t make much sense.

The development of technologies tends to follow an S-Curve: they improve slowly, then quickly, and then slowly again. And at that last stage, they’re really, really good. Everything has been optimised and worked out and understood, and they’re fast, cheap and reliable. That’s also often the point that a new architecture comes to replace them. You can see this very clearly today in devices such as Apple’s new Macbook or Windows ‘ultrabooks’ — they’ve taken Intel’s x86 and the mouse and window-based GUI model as far as they can go, and reached the point that everything possible has been optimised. Smartphones are probably at the point that the curve is starting to flatten…

Evans’ post was particularly timely as only days later Apple released quarterly results and an earnings forecast that were well under expectations,1 and the primary reason cited by Apple CEO Tim Cook was a significantly slower iPhone upgrade rate.2

It is certainly reasonable to argue that this slowdown is temporary — an artifact of the iPhone 6 pulling forward upgrades from iPhone users clamoring for larger screens — and that the iPhone 7 will return the franchise to growth; personally, I tend to agree with Neil Cybart that iPhone growth has indeed peaked — structural growth factors like new countries and carriers are largely tapped out,3 and while Apple will still draw switchers, they won’t draw enough to make up for existing customers not upgrading — but even if you disagree, your disagreement by definition must be one of timing.4 As we’ve seen with first PCs and then tablets, as hardware matures upgrade cycles inevitably lengthen and choke off growth. That the iPhone grew far beyond either of these product categories — far beyond any product ever, at least in revenue and profit terms — is a testament to the incredible market that was smartphones, and the incredible product that was the iPhone.

Indeed, it was the best market — and best product — we’ve ever seen; the question is if it is the last.

The Manufacturing Model

From the industrial revolution on, the dominant business model has been manufacturing goods and selling them at (hopefully) a profit. This had a huge number of knock-on effects, including the shift in population from rural areas to urban ones, in cities created around transportation hubs and markets. Manufactured goods (or food produced on increasingly mechanized farms) were transported to a central location, made available for purchase, and carried home by individual buyers, themselves primarily occupied in the creation of said goods. Over time, as economies matured, new types of businesses sprang up like professional services (lawyers, doctors, etc.), transportation, or luxuries like grooming or dining, but it was manufacturing that led to the creation of the critical mass of people necessary to make these sorts of businesses viable.

Over the past thirty years, this way of organizing people (in developed countries) has been increasingly hollowed out; thanks to improved communication and transportation links a wave of globalization has shifted manufacturing to the developing world and made services an increasingly central part of the economy (78% of U.S. GDP in 2015). This, though, has made companies capable of working and selling across borders more valuable than ever before, and chief amongst these is Apple.

Apple has arguably perfected the manufacturing model: most of the company’s corporate employees5 are employed in California in the design and marketing of iconic devices that are created in Chinese factories built and run to Apple’s exacting standards (including a substantial number of employees on site), and then transported all over the world to consumers eager for best-in-class smartphones, tablets, computers, and smartwatches.

What makes this model so effective — and so profitable — is that Apple has differentiated its otherwise commoditizable hardware with software. Software is a completely new type of good in that it is both infinitely differentiable yet infinitely copyable; this means that any piece of software is both completely unique yet has unlimited supply, leading to a theoretical price of $0. However, by combining the differentiable qualities of software with hardware that requires real assets and commodities to manufacture, Apple is able to charge an incredible premium for its products.

The results speak for themselves: this past “down” quarter saw Apple rake in $50.6 billion in revenue and $10.5 billion in profit. Over the last nine years the iPhone alone has generated $600 billion in revenue and nearly $250 billion in gross profit. It is probably the most valuable — the “best”, at least from a business perspective — manufactured product of all time.

Apple and Services

Yesterday Tim Cook appeared on CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer to defend the iPhone’s prospects. Cook said:

Let’s look at how did we do in this quarter, and what you would find is $50 billion and $10 billion in profit. No one else is earning anywhere near this.

They’re the best!

But, the real answer to your question, is that the thing that is different is that customers love Apple products. And the relationship with Apple doesn’t stop when you buy an iPhone. It continues. You might buy apps across the App Store. You might subscribe to Apple Music. You might use iCloud to buy additional storage. You might buy songs. You might rent movies. And so there’s a significant number of things. You might use Apple Pay every day now. Or at least several times a week. And so that relationship continues.

This, though, is a subtle shift: Cook is not talking about Apple’s ability to sell new iPhones — to make money with the old model — he is referring to the fact that Apple can (and does) make a significant amount of revenue from people using the iPhone. This is the “services” business model and the fact it shares a name with the economic activity that rose up around manufacturing over the last century is not an accident.6

The fundamental difference between manufacturing and services is that one entails the creation and transfer of ownership of a product, while the other is much more intangible: you visit a doctor or hire a lawyer, and you don’t get a widget to take home. Moreover, if you want more of a service, you have to pay more — when your hair grows back you don’t get credit from the hairdresser for having visited just a few weeks or months prior.

Manufacturing can and does undergird services: your lawyer owns computers and has office space in a building that was constructed, and your doctor buys medical devices and prescribes drugs. Even your hairdresser buys scissors and clippers and hair rollers. Similarly, Apple’s services by and large depend on you having bought an iPhone on which you can then subscribe to music or leverage the App Store or make a payment with Apple Pay. In most services business, though, what is manufactured is a modular component of the overall offering, subject to an ongoing cost-benefit comparison with competitors that drives down profits over time.7

To be sure, these transactions are much smaller on an individual basis, at least compared to an iPhone: you would need to buy more than $1000 worth of apps for Apple to earn the same gross profit as the entry-level iPhone 6S, or subscribe to Apple Music for nearly 10 years, or make over $215,000 in purchases with Apple Pay. What makes services so attractive, though, is that that is possible! Because services revenue is recurring and not tied to the delivery of a physical item it can scale indefinitely; Apple, on the other hand, faces a limit based on the number of people who can both afford their devices and are willing to upgrade.

Software and the Services Model

In this, services sound a lot like software: both are intangible, both scale infinitely, and both are infinitely customizable. It follows that a services business model — payment in exchange for service rendered, without the transfer of ownership — is a much more natural fit for software than the transaction model characteristic of manufacturing. It better matches value generated and value received — customers only pay if they use it, and producers are rewarded for making their product indispensable — and more efficiently allocates fixed costs: occasional users may be charged nothing at all, while regular users who find your software differentiated pay more than the marginal cost of providing it.

These advantages have always been obvious (along with other consumer-centric ones like the need to not install updates, or to move costs from capital to operational expenses), but when the software industry first emerged the model simply wasn’t practical: there was no way to measure how often software was used, or to seamlessly add and remove users. There were, in short, significant distribution and transactional costs that were characteristic of the old manufacturing world, so a manufacturing business model was used.

The Internet has changed that: it is possible to run software on a central server for multiple clients (spreading the fixed costs amongst them), and there are zero transactional costs involved in calculating usage or in supporting new users (even free ones);8 the result is that nearly all software now is now sold on a service model (or based on advertising, which is the same concept of pricing based on usage), including software that used to be sold like physical goods (like Adobe and Microsoft’s offerings).

Hardware as a Service

What happens, though, if we apply the services business model to hardware? Consider an airplane: I fly thousands of miles a year, but while Stratechery is doing well, I certainly don’t own my own plane! Rather, I fly on an airplane that is owned by an airline9 that is paid for in part through some percentage of my ticket cost. I am, effectively, “renting” a seat on that airplane, and once that flight is gone I own nothing other than new GPS coordinates on my phone.

Now the process of buying an airplane ticket, identifying who I am, etc. is far more cumbersome than simply hopping in my car — there are significant transaction costs — but given that I can’t afford an airplane it’s worth putting up with when I have to travel long distances.

What happens, though, when those transaction costs are removed? Well, then you get Uber or its competitors: simply touch a button and a car that would have otherwise been unused will pick you up and take you where you want to go, for a price that is a tiny fraction of what the car cost to buy in the first place. The same model applies to hotels — instead of buying a house in every city you visit, simply rent a room — and Airbnb has taken the concept to a new level by leveraging unused space.

The enabling factor for both Uber and Airbnb applying a services business model to physical goods is your smartphone and the Internet: it enables distribution and transactions costs to be zero, making it infinitely more convenient to simply rent the physical goods you need instead of acquiring them outright.

Services and the Future

This idea of a new service-based economy that deprioritizes ownership in favor of renting what you need when you need it isn’t a new one: people have been speculating about this for a few years, and in many cases experimenting with building such businesses out. Still, outside of Uber, success has been limited. I’m reminded, though, of one of my favorite Bill Gates quotes:

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.

It was less than ten years ago that the iPhone was launched — that’s how quickly the world can change. And while changing the status quo is hard, in the grand scheme of things, the fact that Uber and Airbnb only launched only seven and eight years ago respectively is pretty amazing. Moreover, it may be the case that some models require generational changes, or may first spring up in other geographies where people simply have less stuff.10

With regards to the iPhone, it’s hard to see its record revenues and profits ever being surpassed by another product, by Apple or anyone else: it is in many respects the perfect device from a business perspective, and given that whatever replaces it will likely be significantly less dependent on a physical interface and even more dependent on the cloud (which will help commoditize the hardware), it will likely be sold for much less and with much smaller profit margins.11

More broadly, I suspect it is going to be increasingly difficult to analyze the future with any lens based on the past. The two companies that dominated earnings in a largely gloomy quarter — Facebook and Amazon — are both uniquely enabled by the Internet; Amazon lets you rent compute power without buying a server, and Facebook serves 1.6 billion people customized content from an effectively infinite number of sources.

Just as importantly, both companies are enabling new business models in their own right: I wrote last fall about how Amazon Web Services has dramatically lowered the barrier to entry for startups, and as I wrote last week Facebook may very well do the same when it comes to advertising: it is easier, cheaper, yet more measurable (and thus justifiable) for a small business to advertise on Facebook than any other medium ever. Indeed, for all the billions that Apple has extracted from the App Store by virtue of owning distribution onto iPhones, it is Facebook that is actually “earning” the billions it is paid by app developers thanks to the disruptive nature of its advertising product. No, neither company has Apple’s profits, and will not for a long time if ever, but then again, they are at the beginning of something new, not the best of the last.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

— Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’

Ironically, and tellingly as to the difficulty of this transition, only available on a transactional basis in iTunes

  1. Not just Wall Street’s but also Apple’s; while Apple does not release forecast numbers more than a quarter out, as I noted in the Daily Update the Q1 2016 earnings call included several allusions to Apple’s full-year expectations that clearly did not countenance what is now forecast for the next quarter
  2. This is another thing that Apple got wrong; last year Cook suggested on every earnings call that there was nothing particularly remarkable about the iPhone 6 upgrade rate, in direct contrast to this call
  3. And China is a real concern
  4. And please, note the distinction between noting that iPhone growth may have peaked and saying that the iPhone is dead or that Apple is doomed
  5. I.e. not retail
  6. To be very clear, as I laid out two weeks ago, services are much more than just online services like email or search; they are any sort of recurring activity that does not entail a transfer of ownership
  7. A challenge — and opportunity! — for Apple will be in maintaining its selling prices and margins even as it ramps up its services businesses
  8. Yes, I am talking about Aggregation Theory
  9. Or leased
  10. This, for example, is why car-sharing services are so huge in China: many people don’t have a car at all, and the car in your garage has always been Uber et al’s biggest competitor
  11. Implicit in that statement is that Apple will continue to sell a lot of iPhone for the foreseeable future

The post Everything as a Service appeared first on Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

03 May 17:43

Medium or WordPress?

by rands

As you may have noticed, I’ve been posting work to Medium for several months now. This started out as an experiment to see the magnitude of the reaction to successful pieces I’ve already written here.

The results? There are a lot of humans out there and many of them traipsing around Medium had never read these pieces. In general, an article that performed well here will play well on Medium provided that it hasn’t been posted here recently.

Folks have asked. No, I’m not done posting here. My policy is to continue to post all new content here and occasionally post pieces to Medium.

Now you know.


04 May 01:00

Fast-charging corridor for electric cars to go up between Quebec and Ottawa by 2017

by Rose Behar

Electric Circuit, Canada’s first public charging network for electric vehicles, announced yesterday that its proposal to create a “fast-charge corridor” between Quebec and Ottawa, has been accepted by the Ontario government.

This means 14 500-volt fast-charging stations will go up along Highways 401, 416, 417 and 17. The proposal also included the commissioning of eight 240-volt Level-2 charging stations to be built within the city of Ottawa.

Owned by Hydro-Quebec, Electric Circuit has a nationwide network of 624 charging stations, including 31 fast-charge stations. Members generally pay $1 an hour for Level-2 charging, which can take several hours to provide a full charge, or $10 per hour for fast-charging, which generally charges a vehicle in less than 30 minutes.

Electric Circuit submitted the proposal alongside grocery chain Metro, fast-food chain St-Hubert and the city of Ottawa, all of which will host charging stations.

“This initiative reflects the ambitious objective set out in our Transportation Electrification Action Plan 2015-2020, which aims to have 100,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on our roads by 2020,” said Jacques Daoust, Quebec’s minister of transportation, sustainable mobility and transport electrification, in a statement sent to MobileSyrup.

Another way Quebec is considering furthering that ambition is by mandating that all new homes in the province be built with Level-2 charging stations, as Daoust recently confirmed.


Related reading: Quebec might require all new homes to be built with electric charging stations


02 May 14:03

A Better Quarter, Sort of

Mirrorless camera shipments were up 13.9% in the first quarter of 2016 versus last year. DSLR shipments were down 5.1% for the same reporting period. Mirrorless volume was 36% that of DSLR volume during the quarter.

03 May 12:58

Who's Investing in Ed-Tech (2010-2016)

Some Background…

Way back in 2012, I wrote an article “Who’s Investing in Ed-Tech?” It remains one of the most popular posts on Hack Education, even though it’s totally out-of-date. The article explains a bit how venture capital works, and it lists some of the best known investors in education technology, along with a few of the companies they’ve funded. No doubt the popularity of the story reflects how often folks query “who’s investing in ed-tech?”

I wrote an update to the article last year that pointed to other resources for tracking ed-tech investment – CB Insights, Ambient Insights, and Edsurge, for example, which sell reports on the topic, as well as Crunchbase, which (for the time being at least) offers an startup database that’s free to search.

Some Methodological Considerations…

In 2015, I started my own startup database for tracking investments and acquisitions, a research project I’ve continued and expanded this year. See:

I created my own database for a number of reasons: I wanted to have access to the raw data, not just to the PDFs and JPGs that most reports offer. I wanted to be able to make the raw data available to other journalists, so that they could draw their own conclusions rather than rely solely on industry analysts. (To that end, all the data – licensed CC-BY – is in the GitHub repo that powers my funding research site.)

Industry analysts’ figures for the total amount of money invested in ed-tech vary wildly, but it’s hard to know why without knowing their methodology or viewing their data. (And that’s why I’ve started tracking this myself: in order to make these calculations, at least on my part, more transparent.) These discrepancies arise because accurate data is hard to come by; companies aren’t always forthcoming about the names of their investors or the amounts of funding they’ve raised. Industry analysts’ figures differ too because of “what counts” as ed-tech.

Here’s how Edsurge recently described the scope of its research in a report on ed-tech funding:

This analysis looks at all investments in US-based technology companies (for-profit or non-profit) that improve education outcomes for K–12 learners from 2010–2015. There were many different companies that didn’t clearly fit into these categories. To give a better understanding of how we made these decisions about individual companies, here are a few examples: Social Finance, a company that provides student loans and other services, is not included in our analysis because it is more a financial company than an education one. We included AltSchool because it uses (and develops) technology to help students learn.

I chuckled at that first sentence, I admit, because it’s really debatable which ed-tech companies, if any, “improve education outcomes.” What does that even mean?! It’s a nice buzz-phrase, but its actual meaning is really not clear.

In my database, I do include those companies that offer student loans, and I’d contend you can’t really understand what’s happening in the education sector if you ignore that these are among the most well-funded companies and most frequently funded types of companies. Investors like Peter Thiel might pay lip service to a disastrous “college bubble,” but at the end of the day, folks like him are still banking – literally – on people going into debt for more education. Furthermore, these private loan companies are also connected to the growth in coding bootcamps – many of the latter have struck partnerships with loan companies as part of their marketing to prospective students. Considering larger debates about student loan debt and for-profit higher education, I think it’s misleading to ignore this.

But it’s not always as clearcut, in my mind, what should or shouldn’t be included. Sometimes companies raise a bunch of money and announce that they’re planning on using the funds to target the education market. Do they now count as ed-tech? Sometimes companies pivot away from education. Should they be removed from the database? Sometimes companies target a certain age market in a way that gets conflated with education – “millennials” as “college students,” for example. Should these companies count? Are recruiting and job placement startups – again, sometimes connected to schools or training programs – education companies? Are those companies that provide products and services for libraries – public libraries, school libraries, university libraries, etc – education companies? What about companies that provide products and services to university researchers and scientists? Do “educational toys” count? What makes a toy or a game “educational”? How much “tech” do they need to possess to be “ed-tech”? (Edsurge’s framework – does it “improve education outcomes” – is, obviously, not that helpful in answering these questions. Admittedly I don’t always have a good answer to “what counts” either, but that’s why I show my work by making the data that powers my analysis available. In a nutshell: I try to consider “education” really broadly so that I have a better understanding of the economic and political landscape.)

So… Who’s Investing?

I’ve only kept a startup database for the past 17 months, but I recently decided to go back to when I launched Hack Education in 2010 and track all investors and all their education investments.

2010 is close to the beginning of the most recent swell in ed-tech funding, a “boom” that by some indications is rapidly turning to “bust.” I’d actually peg the very start of this renewed interest at 2008, but I’ve chosen the launch of Hack Education as the Important Historical Marker here. And I’ll briefly note here, as I’m wont to do, that there’s a much, much longer history: this is a resurgence, not a brand new surge. The ed-tech industry has experienced bubbles (and busts) before.

Here are the most active ed-tech investors – and a sample of their portfolios – since Hack Education (VC-free 4 life) was founded. (These are the investors who have made 20 or more education-oriented investments since 2010 – about one per quarter over the last 5.5 years):

500 Startups: Apptuto; Chalkable (Acquired); Cheddar Up; Chromatik; Codementor; Colingo; CultureAlley; Descomplica; eSpark; Experiment; Floqq; Internmatch; Kiwi Crate; Mindsnacks; Mom Trusted; Monkimun; Mystery Science; Okpanda; OneSchool (Closed); OnlineTyari; Platzi; Springboard; Stickery; Storypanda; Studypool; Taamkru; Timbuktu; Tinkergarten; Tynker; Udemy; Veduca; YongoPal (Closed)

Accel: Collegefeed (Acquired); Educreations; eduK; Edupristine; Fidelis; FreshGrade; Grovo; Knewton; (Acquired); Osmo; ResearchGate; Vedantu; Wyzant

Deborah Quazzo: BridgeU; CampusLogic; Clever; Degreed; Dreambox Learning; Educents; Gojimo; Handshake; Luvo; MasteryConnect; Nearpod; Parchment;; Ranku; Smarterer (Acquired); Speakaboos; ThinkCERCA

First Round: Abl Schools; AltSchool; Bloc; CareDox; Civitas Learning; Earnest; Kiwi Crate; Knewton; Kno (Acquired); Koru;; Remind; SchoolFeed (Closed); Upstart

GSV Capital: Chegg (IPO); ClassDojo; Clever; Course Hero; Coursera;; Declara; Dreambox Learning; Edsurge; Fullbridge; General Assembly; Grockit (Acquired); Knewton; Kno (Acquired); Parchment; rSmart; Tynker

ImagineK12: AdmitSee; Blendspace (Acquired); Bloomboard; ClassDojo; Classkick; CodeHS; DigitWhiz; Edsurge; Education Elements; Educents; Educreations; Eduvant; Front Row; Goalbook; Hapara; Kaizena; Learnsprout (Acquired); NoRedInk; Nunook Interactive; Panorama Education;; Remind; SchoolMint; Securly; Showbie; Socrative (Acquired); Studyroom; Teachboost

Kapor Capital: Allovue; Chromatik; ClassDojo; Classkick; Clever; CodeHS; Constant Therapy; Curriculet; EdCast; Educents; Engrade (Acquired); enuma; Fidelis; Front Row; Hopscotch; Inkling; Internmatch; Mytonomy; Newsela; NoRedInk; NovoEd; Okpanda; Piazza; SchoolMint; Schoolzilla; Student Loan Genius; Tinybop; UniversityNow; WriteLab; Zeal Learning; Zoobean

Learn Capital: Acceptly (Closed); AltSchool; Andela; Bloc; Bloomboard; Brainly; Bridge International Academies; BrightBytes; Chromatik; ClassDojo; CodeHS; CourseHorse; Coursera; Desmos; Edmodo; Edsurge; Educents; eSpark; Experiment; Learnzillion; MasteryConnect; Mystery Science; NoRedInk; NovoEd; OneSchool (Closed); popexpert; Rockit Online; Savvy; ShowMe; Udemy; Verbling; VersaMe; WriteLab

New Enterprise Associates: BenchPrep; Bridge International Academies; Coursera; D2L; Duolingo; Edmodo; Everfi; Guidespark; LearnUp; MasterClass; Quad Learning; Tynker; Upstart

NewSchools Venture Fund: BetterLesson; BrightBytes; ClassDojo; ClassWallet; CodeHS; Curriculet; EdCast; Edsurge; Education Elements; Educreations; Ellevation; Engrade (Acquired); enuma; eSpark; FreshGrade; Goalbook; Grockit (Acquired); Kaizena; Kidaptive; Learnzillion; MasteryConnect; Mystery Science; Mytonomy; Nearpod; Nepris; Newsela; Readworks; SchoolMint; Socrative (Acquired); Tales2Go; Tuva Labs; Tynker; Zaption

(In 2015, NSVF spun its investment vehicle out into a new for-profit fund, Reach Capital: Abl Schools; BetterLesson; ClassDojo; Edsurge; eSpark; Gradescope; Nearpod; SchoolMint; Volley; WriteLab; Zeal Learning)

Rethink Education: 2U (IPO); Ace Learning Company; Allovue; Bridge International Academies; BrightBytes; Civitas Learning; Degreed; Education Elements; Ellevation; Engrade (Acquired); Everfi; General Assembly; Hapara; Neverware; Noodle Education; NoRedInk; Pathbrite (Acquired); Smarterer (Acquired); Straighterline; Voxy

SV Angel: Boundless (Acquired); ClassDojo; Clever; Codecademy; Course Hero; Experiment; Hullabalu; KidAdmit; Kno; LearnUp; Panorama Education; Piazza; ShowMe; Skillshare; Tutorspree (Acquired); Verbling; WayUp

Beyond “The Most Active” Investors…

But a list of the “most active investors” really only gives you a partial glimpse into who’s investing in ed-tech. One of the reasons I started my own startup database is that I was interested in questions beyond “who’s making the most investments” or even “who’s making the biggest investments.” Like, who’s invested regularly in companies that have had “successful exits”? Who hasn’t? Who hasn’t made any education investments at all lately? Which trends do investors seem to cluster around? How has that changed over time? Which education CEOs are investors in their own startups or in others? What’s in the portfolio of celebrity investors – folks like Mark Cuban, Peter Thiel, Mark Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, John Doerr, and Ashton Kutcher – and/or those who loudly push particular narratives about “the future of education”?

What does the network of education technology investment look like?

An Ed-Tech Investor Graph

This last question is particularly interesting to me (although, I confess, social network analysis is outside my wheelhouse).

I’ve taken those “top” education investors listed above and created a graph that shows the relationships among them and their portfolio companies. This is, once again, just a partial glimpse at the roughly 3500 ed-tech investments that have happened since I launched Hack Education.

Pretty! And pretty frustrating too, isn’t it, when you don’t have all the data, and you have to rely on someone else to interpret what's going on. Lucky for the ed-tech industry, right there at the center of the graph’s middle cluster: Edsurge.

I’ll be digging into this data some more, and I’ve made it openly available so that others can too. Coming soon: What does the ed-tech investor graph look like for the MOOC trend? For the coding bootcamp trend? For “personalized learning”? And who's investing in these investment funds?

04 May 03:11

Uber legalized in Toronto

by Ian Hardy

After many months of debate and riots, ride-sharing services in Toronto are officially legal. The most notable being Uber’s UberX service.

This news came late Tuesday after what is being called a ‘marathon’ vote in City hall. The total vote in favour of legalizing ride-sharing services was 27-15 and leading the charge was Mayor John Tory.

“I believe this motion represents the best possible way to do the two things I have talked about, which is to regulate these companies that have come into the marketplace and to make sure that the taxi industry can survive and thrive going forward,” said Tory.

To make this happen, amendments were made to rules that will ‘revolutionize’ Toronto’s ground transportation business, specifically creating a separate category for “private transportation companies” (PTCs). In addition, the base fare for ride-sharing services now lines up with taxis with its minimum price set at $3.25, which is an increase from the current Uber X fare of$2.50.

Probably the most notable change — and to keep the industry competitive — is the addition of surge-pricing for taxis. However, this only applies to customers booking directly through a smartphone app. Companies like Beck, City, and Diamond Taxi all have dedicated apps with booking features.

Ian Black, Uber Canada’s general manager, stated, “We’re certainly pleased. This is a great day for the riders in the city of Toronto, a great day for drivers as well using the Uber platform.”

Source Uber Canada, Star
03 May 20:30

Kids’ Screen Time is a Feminist Issue

by Alex

The cultural panic over kids and screen time has never made sense to me. But one of the great joys of writing for JSTOR Daily is the opportunity to delve into academic research that sheds light on this kind of mystery.

In my latest JSTOR post, I dig into feminist history for analogies to the current anxiety about kids and technology, and discover there’s plenty of precedent. As I write in my post:

When we worry that parents are shirking their duties by relying on an electronic babysitter, we’re really worrying that mothers are putting their own needs alongside, or even ahead of, their kids’ needs.

It’s a worry that rears its head any time someone comes up with a technology that makes mothers’ lives easier. As mothers, we’re supposed to embrace—or at least nobly suffer through—all the challenges that parenting throws at us. We’re supposed to accept having little people at our heels while we’re trying to buy the groceries, make dinner, or go to the bathroom. We’re supposed to accept the exhaustion that comes from working a full day at the office and a second shift at home before falling into bed for an inevitably interrupted sleep. We’re supposed to accept the isolation that comes from raising children in a world that regards a crying child as a crime against restaurant patrons or airplane travellers.

The mother who hands her child a smartphone is taking the easy way out of these challenges. But since so much of parenting consists of situations in which there is no easy way out, I’m deeply grateful when somebody offers me a cheat.

Read the whole story at JSTOR Daily.

03 May 21:00

Links for May 3rd

by delicious
  • "I am here for you freelancers where every day is a new war; I am here for you day-jobbers where it’s all the same old battle and then family at night and you’re too tired to work on the story and all you want to do is watch TV. I see you and I want you to know that you’re okay. That we all fight this battle in different ways, and I know you’re doing the best you can. Living is hard. Creating is harder. I am here for you on the weeks you write zero words and the weeks you only write 500 and the weeks it all flows out of you like salt water and you’ve written 10,000. I see you when you look back over it and wonder if any of it is any damn good at all. Keep it. It’s good. Keep going. You can edit when you are done." There is no expiration date. This was good.
03 May 20:56

Google and Fiat Chrysler sign deal to equip Pacifica minivans with driverless car technology

by Jessica Vomiero

Just last week, it was reported that Google and Fiat Chrysler were teaming up to capitalize on Google’s autonomous vehicle technology.

In a recent development, The Verge reports that Google and Fiat Chrysler signed a deal today to equip 100 2017 Pacifica minivans with plug-in hybrid drivetrains as part of the first phase of developing autonomous vehicles.

This story was first reported this morning by Bloomberg, whose anonymous sources confirmed that Fiat plans to equip the Pacifica with Google’s technology this year.

The article went on to say that this partnership would mark Google’s first significant deal with an automotive company, as a deal with General Motors couldn’t be reached because of conflicts over technology and data ownership.

By adding 100 Pacifica minivans to Google’s test fleet of self-driving cars, which already includes Lexus RX crossovers and Google’s own prototypes, the number of cars available to Google for testing will more than double.

Word of this partnership first surfaced last week, when the industry blog AutoExtremist reported the rumours for the first time.

Since Google’s parent company Alphabet decided it wanted to be the developer of autonomous vehicle technology rather than the primary manufacturer of the physical vehicle, the tech giant has been looking to partner with like-minded automotive manufacturers.

Though few details of the partnership between Google and Fiat Chrysler have been revealed, reports have indicated that the deal is not mutually exclusive, giving both companies the freedom to collaborate with other companies on developing driverless cars as well.

Related ReadingFiat Chrysler and Alphabet are reportedly partnering on self-driving cars

SourceThe Verge
03 May 18:17

Why and How Cyclists Should Use Strava

by Average Joe Cyclist

Strava is a great, free app used by millions of cyclists around the world to record their bike rides, plan routes, and virtually compete against themselves and against other cyclists. But if you are one of those cyclists who don’t use Strava, there are now two very good reasons to start: the Strava Metro initiative, and the upcoming Global Bike to Work Day, which Strava is planning for May 10. Read on to find out why you should join in !

The post Why and How Cyclists Should Use Strava appeared first on Average Joe Cyclist.

03 May 00:00

Learners Voice


Graham Brown-Martin, Medium, May 04, 2016

This is a pretty good statement of the issues surrounding learner voice in the development of their own education programs, though I think it ends with a bit of a thud. Before you get to that disappointing finish, though, there are some good points. For example: "no one considers anything a person who thinks in a way that favours both imagination and practicality says because they are not following what society wants them to follow." P.S. it was Francis Bacon who said "knowledge is power", in 1597.

[Link] [Comment]
03 May 08:30

Apple vs everybody else

by Volker Weber


It's done. You can download it now.

Everybody else:

We have just released it. Users will start receiving it next week. We will now start lying to you.


03 May 07:43

IBM Cognitive

by Volker Weber

IBM Marketing is going to be so pleased with the thousands of social network reactions from people who never buy enterprise IT systems. Hey Siri and Cortana, let's go visit Alexa. OK, Google, you can tag along.

03 May 08:02

Android Security – Culture vulture

by windsorr

Reply to this post

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Security issues highlight more pressing problems. 

  • Google is trying hard to fix the endemic security issues that continue to plague Android devices but unfortunately it is making almost no progress.
  • Since August 2015, Google has been releasing monthly security updates to address the security flaws but there are two big problems.
    • First. Any security patches that Google makes to Android only apply to its own Nexus devices.
    • These devices make up an insignificant proportion of the Android device population meaning that almost no-one receives the updates.
    • Second. The updates themselves have yet to address all of the known security issues in Android.
    • For example, despite monthly updates the mediaserver (finds and indexes media on the device) remains critically flawed.
    • Google is playing a horrible game of whack-a-mole with this component as every time it fixes one flaw, another pops up.
  • I have long believed that Google’s inability to effectively manage Android security and its updates is rooted in its history as a server company.
  • When Google wants to update its search algorithms it simply updates the code on the server and the job is done.
  • Because devices run their own software, they have to be individually updated and it this is very different to the way Google has operated for many years.
  • Consequently, it has taken Google a very long time to come to grips with this problem and I am far from convinced that the issue is close from being resolved.
  • To be effective, all Android devices need to receive these updates which brings in two more big problems.
    • First. Most Android devices are not updatable.
    • Android is a commoditised, brutally competitive market meaning that in the mid-range every cent of cost matters.
    • Making a device updateable means that extra resources have to be added to the device which are never reflected in the price.
    • Consequently, the vast majority of Android devices are not updateable to later versions of Android as there is no incentive for the device maker to add this capability.
    • Second. Google has no control over the update process for any of the devices that run its services.
    • It can update Google Mobile Services (GMS) from Google Play but lower level system updates (Android) are controlled by either the maker of the device or the mobile operator.
  • Consequently, I think that Google has to take control of Android because in its current state, it is very unsecure with no scope for improvement.
  • I continue to believe that this may happen in 2017 as Oracle has provided Google with the perfect excuse to do so (see here).
  • This would result in a series of proprietary ecosystems based on an Android kernel of which GMS, Cyanogen and MIUI would be three.
  • Google still has another good year ahead of it thanks to the underlying growth of Android users, but the medium term urgently requires for this problem to be fixed.
  • I prefer Samsung and Microsoft to Alphabet in the long-term, although the immediate term for Alphabet continues to look good with absolute user numbers still growing very nicely.
03 May 09:53

Members Did {X} More Than Non-Members

by Richard Millington

Of course they did, your members are your best customers.

If you tell your customers to join a community, those that know and like you best will dominate membership.

If you then compare the spending of community members against non-members you shouldn’t be surprised to discover that members spend more than non-members.

That’s not the ROI of the community, that’s a comparison of your best customers against the rest.

This mistaken formula handily guarantees every community shows a positive ROI, but it’s damaging when exposed.

It’s not whether members do {x} more than non-members that matters. It’s whether that metric’s increased more than non-members since joining the community.

If the average spending of members increased by $50 and non-members by $20 since joining the community, that’s $30 per member which might be attributable to the community.

Multiply this by the number of active members and you might have something.

Not a bullet-proof formula but far more defensible than comparing your best customers with the rest.

03 May 11:47

Beware the litany of passive accusations

by Josh Bernoff

Dan Lyons’ book Disrupted tars the whole startup business with the brush of his experience at HubSpot. One key element is to show that the rest of Silicon Valley is also corrupt with a recitation of all the recent sins of tech companies. Whenever you see a list like this, you should be skeptical. Here’s a paragraph … Continue reading Beware the litany of passive accusations →

The post Beware the litany of passive accusations appeared first on without bullshit.

03 May 13:00

Canadians buying VR hardware have the biggest budgets in the world

by Rob Attrell

It’s widely believed that 2016 is year of virtual reality, though mainstream adoption of the technology won’t begin for some time.

It’s difficult to ignore the excitement that stems from trying out the technology. Limited availability, however, and high prices remain adoption issues for the burgeoning tech.

An online survey  of 35,000 people ages 10-65 across 16 countries conducted by marketing firm Newzoo, indicates 11 percent of consumers plan to buy a VR headset, with Spain, Italy and the United States showing the highest levels of interest.

When it comes to annual hardware budget among potential VR buyers, Canada topped the list, with over a quarter of potential buyers budgeting over $600 annually. That kind of budget puts those Canadians in the high-end VR market, if respondents choose to spend their money that way, which only seven percent of those surveyed said they would.

The majority of respondents who described themselves as esports enthusiasts said they planned to purchase VR hardware in the next six months. This is a particularly interesting statistic, as the lucrative esports market is relatively untapped in the realm of virtual reality right now.

03 May 10:43

Working Parents

by Nathan Yau

Parents Who Work Like You

Here are the mothers and fathers who work like you. Read More

03 May 14:00

Sony’s patent for contact lens cameras is so detailed it includes provisions for animals

by Rose Behar

Sony has applied for a patent covering camera contact lens technology, putting itself in the race to produce commercial smart lenses alongside Google and Samsung.

The present disclosure was filed April 7th  but appears to have been in the works since May 2013, when the foreign application data was first submitted. The application goes in to significant detail about the lenses compared to Samsung or Google‘s patents, giving the appearance that the technology is at a fairly advanced stage of development.

As described in the patent, the technology will allow users to take pictures through deliberate blinks, which will be differentiated from regular blinks through the length of time the eye is closed. By way of example, Sony says a blink over 0.5 seconds would activate the camera, as normal blinks are generally between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds.

The pictures can be taken one at a time or in bursts according to settings users can regulate from an external device. Once taken, they are sent to an external storage device via a built-in transmitter. Also in the patent is mention of a display unit that activates when eyes are closed and uses a head-tilt sensor to scroll through pictures.

The camera itself, the patent states, will have image stabilization, autofocus and zooming, as well as aperture and exposure adjustment.

Perhaps one of the more fascinating aspects of the patent is the section where Sony gives a passing reference to animals wearing the lenses. The mention is in a section regarding display elements placed in matrix on a curved surface corresponding to the curved surface of a human eye. It notes: “In the case where another animal wears the contact lens 1, an eye of the animal.”

Are we approaching the days of high-tech animal spies? One can only hope, but from the in-depth nature of Sony’s patent, it appears it may be available to us humans in the near future.

Related reading: Google granted patent for glucose-tracking smart contact lens

03 May 13:20

Beme relaunches

by Volker Weber

If you have trouble understanding Snapchat, Beme is a tough nut to crack. I tried it last year, and it sucked big time. Now the team releases a new app for Android and iOS. The idea is simple. You broadcast what is happening around you. No filter, no fancy fonts, nothing. Just cover the proximity sensor and it starts recording.

Casey Neistat, YouTuber of the Year has this idea, that we should stop posing and instead of looking at a screen to just share what we see. What we really see. And I like that. I like it more than Snapchat.

I know two people who play with Beme: Teymur and me. And we are both not convinced that Beme will fly. But we both like what Casey is doing.

03 May 12:03

NextEV Co-Founder Lands $120M For Consumer Electric Vehicle Company

by Emma Lee

Chinese electric vehicle company Chehejia has raised a combined 780 million RMB (US$120 million) in series A funding at a valuation of 2.98 billion RMB from seven investors, according to company founder Li Xiang.

Founded in July last year, Chehejia is backed by a group of seasoned entrepreneurs. Li Xiang has launched two successful startups, and US-listed automobile site He is also a co-founder of NextEV, the electric car maker looking to take on Tesla. Li Xiang and Li Bin, another co-founder of launched NextEV last year to go after the top-tier electric vehicle market.

Unlike NextEV which is currently developing high-end concepts and supercars, Chehejia provides smart transportation solutions for mass market users. The ten-month-old startup is developing two smart car models: an SEV for short-distance urban transportation and a more powerful SUV for long-distance journeys.

According to Li, the two models will cover over 90% of the transportation demands of urban citizens, adding that Chehejia’s vehicles will be less dependent on charging piles.

Li has been seeking funding to support his vision since November last year and the current round will increase the company’s total funding raised to 2.5 billion RMB. He noted then that it will take US$200 million and four years for product development and marketing before the Chehejia vehicles are available for mass production.

LEO Group leads this series with a 350 million RMB in exchange for an 11.74% stake in the Beijing-based startup. Other investors include Source Code Fund, Changzhou Wujin Industry Fund and Future Capital.

The latest injection of capital will be used in R&D and the construction of production bases, according to the company. The firm disclosed that the construction of an aluminum production plant and a battery manufacturing factory located in Changzhou Wujin High-Tech Park has begun.