Today in Technology October 14, 2013

  • When It Comes to Technology, Sometimes It Makes Sense to Slow Down
    Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

    Everyone is in a hurry — overbooked, overworked, and generally overwhelmed. With life churning forward at a pace that makes the “rat race” of the ’50s feel like a Sunday picnic, is it any wonder we’re hungry for new ways to work faster and more efficiently? In this relentless, obsessive pursuit of speed, we treat technology as a toolkit and a magic wand, by turns practical and sublime. David Pogue’s tech tips are a sterling example of the practical aspect of technology, focusing as they do on how the savvy user can speed up mundane tasks to free up time for more pleasant pursuits.

    Now, I’m not looking to rain on David’s parade. I’m a busy guy myself, and I’m glad to hear about any approach that can squeeze more utility out of my devices and make my day more productive. I’ve already put some of his suggestions to the test, and they work like a charm.

    That said, I’m here to propose a different sort of life hack — unorthodox, but at least as useful. I’m here to tell you that in certain cases, the most efficient move you can make is to slow down.

    I have a specific context in mind: the place where technology, identity, and personal finance meet. Having spent my life working in consumer privacy, financial advocacy, identity theft and credit, let me assure you that to chart and navigate the world of credit and finance demands solid knowledge, a cool head, and clear judgment. In these areas, one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal is the ability to check your impulses and take a thoughtful pause instead.

    Mind you, there are instances where quick, decisive action is called for — but there are many more where stopping to consider the consequences before you click, sign, or hit Submit can save you months or years of heartache down the road. Here, by way of example, are three ways of saying “No” that, put into practice, could help you to avoid disaster.

    1. Question authority. Email or text messages and phone calls warning of problems with our credit cards, bank accounts, or tax returns push our buttons in the worst way, combining fear and authority in a single toxic cocktail. The response is often instantaneous compliance — which generally means providing whatever identity and account information is being demanded in hope of defusing the crisis.

    The problem is that all too often, that supposed “authority” is actually an impostor — a fraud artist trolling for the sort of data that enables new accounts to be opened, existing accounts to be emptied, and all manner of wrongdoing to be conducted, all in the victim’s name. Thinking before you act can save you from a world of hurt. Here, too, slowing down long enough to pay attention is the key to keeping your finances and reputation intact.

    2. Learn restraint. A similar premise applies to phishing emails, which rely on fear and intimidation to prompt recipients to click on links that lead to bogus bank web sites or deliver viruses and Trojans to the user’s computer. From May 2012 through April 2013, phishing attacks were received by 102,100 Internet users worldwide each day — twice the number of the previous two years. In 20 percent of those attacks, the scammers were impersonating banks; of all fake and deceptive websites, 50 percent of those surveyed sought to impersonate banks, credit card companies and other financial services such as PayPal. The numbers are increasing because phishing emails work. If you get one, don’t let it work on you. Be skeptical and resist the impulse to click on every link you see.

    3. Adopt moderation. Americans tend to be impulsive in their use of credit — often pressed by tough circumstances to make rash choices which may feel necessary at the time, but quickly cascade into an unmanageable degree of debt. Older Americans, for instance, have been pushed to the wall financially: In 2012, those age 50+ had an average combined credit card balance of $8,278, versus $6,258 for those under 50. Likewise, millions of older Americans are suffering with unsustainable levels of student debt, and bankruptcies are rising rapidly. The elderly are especially vulnerable to the combination of rising expenses, abuse from debt collectors, questions about their rights, and reluctance to ask for help — but they are not unique in this vulnerability. For them as for others, it’s essential to seek solid advice before taking on further debt, taking out further credit cards, or making arrangements with debt collectors. Taking that pause can be the difference between uncontrolled credit obligations and a manageable plan.

    One could offer other examples, but their premise would be the same: where our finances or our identities are at risk, tactical hacks designed to shave seconds off a task must give way to more strategic life hacks oriented toward the longer term. Smart use of technology can speed things up when speed is called for — but we also should remember that sometimes slowing down is the best way to get where you’re going.

    Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today’s most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email tedweekends@huffingtonpost.com to learn about future weekend’s ideas to contribute as a writer.

  • Lena Dunham Wants Instagram To 'Get Down With The Nipple'
    There’s a new lactivist online.

    Lena Dunham may have kept new mom friend Sarah Sophie Flicker’s breast covered up with a tasteful daisy to abide by Instagram’s no nudity rules, but the GIRLS creator made it clear that she didn’t like having to do it.

    My @sarahsophief feeding the brand new Dusty. I made the flower crown and she added the flower censor. Wish she didn’t have to cuz the nipple is dope. Instagram, get down with the nipple.

    Flicker, a performer and director with The Citizens Band, shared the photo on her own feed with a similar sentiment: “Found the best breast feeding get up. @lindseythornburg dress. Crown & photo by the talented @lenadunham. Flower censor by me due to instagram’s super lame blocking of the breast feeding ladies.”

    Instagram’s community standards do indeed say nudity is grounds for removal, but the photo sharing site has told The Huffington Post that breastfeeding photos are allowed. In June, after online breastfeeding community The Leaky Boob’s account was suspended, they actually apologized for what they called an error. “When our team processes reports, we occasionally make a mistake,” a representative told HuffPost Parents at the time.

    Stiill, moms and activists who seek to normalize breastfeeding in public and online have become increasingly frustrated with social media platforms removing breastfeeding images. Jessica Martin-Weber who runs The Leaky Boob, started a Facebook group called “Instagram, stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and babies” that is “dedicated to educating and inspiring Instagram to stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and babies by no longer deleting images of breastfeeding or disabling accounts that post them and to provide for breastfeeding images in their [terms of use].” Fans of Amy Woodruff (aka Naked Yoga Breastfeeding Mom) started a #savedaughterofthesun campaign after her account was disabled, though Woodruff’s case was not as clear cut. She told HuffPost that her photos were in line with Instagram’s rules, and a representative from Instagram could not comment on specifics there.

    Most recently, Ashlee Wells Jackson who created the viral “4th Trimester Bodies Project” — a photo series highlighting what real moms’ bodies look like after childbirth called for changes. After, her personal Instagram account was once deactivated, and she was blocked from posting photos on Facebook for 30 days, she created petition on Change.org. It read, in part:

    Women, mothers, are often treated as if breastfeeding, the most natural way of sustaining human life, is something foreign or taboo. We are often told that our real bodies with stretchmarks and scars are not beautiful when they should in fact be celebrated for created and sustaining life. By removing these photos, Facebook and Instagram are contributing to this societal injustice.

    Dunham, as her fans well know, is very comfortable with on-camera nakedness. Perhaps lending her famous voice to the chorus of women seeking justice when it comes to breastfeeding will help bring about real change.

    Here are 21 more famous faces who have spoken out about breastfeeding…

  • Data-raped By the Internet
    The two biggest threats to my sanity are Internet advertisements and my mother. Have you ever had one of those creepy days where you think the Internet knows EVERYTHING about you and then sends you advertisements to exploit every last insecurity? And if not, then your mother did something similar?

    I think it’s no surprise that Internet service providers do something called remarketing that sends you customized advertisements based on anything you’ve already searched online. So if you were ever having a weak moment and wanted to be more beautiful, less fat, more educated or stalked the girl you got dumped for and then searched for any related content, you can suddenly get inundated with ads exploiting your darkest hour and your day could end feeling like you just got gang-raped by the cyber gods, like Mark Zuckerberg just tapped that ass and left a ‘Z’ imprinted on it, like Zorro.

    2013-10-13-TheRealTerrorist.jpg

    On glorious mornings before the Internet tries to assault me, I stand naked in the mirror after I finish my Flashdance routine and try to stroke the reflection of my sweaty face while reciting my daily affirmations: “I’m Blonde, I’m Fertile, I’m Literate, and Doggone It, People Love Me!” I try erasing any new wrinkles by pulling at them while making horror movie faces, then try to convince myself that my $500 Crème de la ‘Merde’ beauty regimen is actually working. I put on my new Victoria’s Secret ‘Barbie would cut you for these’ bra and marvel at how my boobs and my love handles don’t look like Siamese twins anymore. Fascinating. I also see that I don’t need another bikini wax from that Russian sadist at the Don’t Get Your Twat in a Knot spa for at least another two weeks. Sweet. I skip out the door to work feeling invincible, like a Kardashian.

    Then I get to work and log onto my computer but before I can begin tackling the 100+ emails piling up in my Inbox, an Esquire billboard ad on my Yahoo homepage says, “Hey girl, you know who makes you look like Charlize Theron in Monster today?” Who dammit? They float a photo across my screen of Scarlett Johansson wearing a smaller version of a Kleenex that says, “Scarlett wins Sexiest Woman Alive…for the second time!” Twice? Wow. Insecurities awaken. I couldn’t even win BINGO twice if I lived in a nursing home. Pants feel a little tighter all of a sudden. Maybe I shouldn’t have had those churros dipped in chocolate for dessert last night. The shame starts to creep in. I start making something with paperclips at my desk that resembles a noose.

    I try to refocus on the email I was typing to a client, but Google, the 800 lb. gorilla of search engines, intercepts that idea with another pop up ad that says, “Hey there! Churros got you feeling down today?” What? How did you know that, Google? “Oh, let’s not talk about HOW I know. I just want to tell you about this new app that will rip the churro right out of your hand. It’s called FATASS.” I start searching for the app on my phone. It costs $4.99. Fuck it. Scarlett Johansson probably has it. I press ‘download’ feeling like a schmuck. I speed through my work for the next hour knocking out 20 email responses and 50 Kegel exercises before lunch.

    After lunch, I start reading an article that’s on my to-do list but Yahoo tries to assassinate me instead with a pop up ad for Asian Brides and a Paint By Numbers set. They want to make sure I remember the time I fought over a boy with the perfect female specimen, the Ivy League Asian girl… and lost. You know the girl. The one who went to MIT, discovered the God particle, paints murals in Brazilian favelas in her spare time, breastfeeds soy milk and has a vagina holding magic secrets like a fortune cookie. Oh yeah, thanks Yahoo, I DO remember that. Delete. I decide to visit Facebook instead. Browsing through the fabulously curated lives of friends I never speak to always makes me feel better

    After a few minutes of browsing through my Facebook newsfeed, the esteemed University of Phoenix builds a skyscraper next to the news article I’m reading. It says, “Hey blondie, don’t like your job? Get your PhD online.” The ad is a photo of an Elle Woods type sitting at home in her PJs, licking an ice cream cone on her chaise-longue and reading Proust. YES, Facebook! You GENIUS you! I’d totally rather be doing that! I check the balance on my former student loans. Nope. Not gonna happen. I strive for 50 more Kegel exercises. Doesn’t anyone have a newspaper I can read instead?!!

    Finally, the clock strikes 5 and the workday is over! I’m in my car on the way home when my phone whistles at me, “Yoo-hoo, over here!!” It’s another Facebook notification. “YOUR MOTHER HAS JUST COMMENTED ON A PHOTO OF YOU.” Damn you, Zuckerberg! My mother is the biggest terrorist on the Internet, my own personal Wikileaks, exposing secrets and humiliating me at every turn. She once endorsed me for 75 skills on LinkedIn, and one of them was “Pets.” Then she typed out the entire lyrics to a Beach Boys song on my Facebook wall. Expecting to be mortified, I click on the notification. It’s a photo of several girlfriends and I wearing our sexiest lululemon yoga pants. OK, how bad can this comment possibly be then? I scroll down, life turns to slow motion, I anticipate death… and there it is. “Sweetie! I can see your camel toe in this picture.” Cardiac arrest. Let’s repeat that. “Sweetie! I can see your CAMEL TOE in this picture.” Are you kidding me, Mom? Dammit. That isn’t a camel toe, that is my new magic fortune cookie vagina I have been working on for months. Delete.

    2013-10-13-fortunecookie.jpg

  • If The Plastics Had iPhones, This Is What They Would Look Like
    If iPhones had existed in ancient times (2004), “Mean Girls” would have looked very different. From Google search histories to iMessages, here’s a sample of what could have been.

    Cady Heron’s Google search history

    cady google search

    Cady Heron’s iMessages

    cady text

    Cady Heron’s Notes

    plastic sabotage

    Gretchen Wieners’ Google search history

    gretchen weiners google history

    Gretchen Weiners’ iMessages
    gretchen text

    Gretchen Weiners’ notes

    gretchen note

    Karen Smith’s Google search history

    karen google history

    Karen Smith’s iMessage

    karen text

    Karen Smith’s Notes

    karen notes

    Regina George’s Google search history

    regina george google

    Regina George’s iMessage

    regina text

    Regina George’s Notes

    regina notes

  • Google's New Policy and the Conscientious Click
    On Friday, Google announced an update to its terms of service that allows the company to include adult users’ names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube.The New York Times

    Data often know best. Remember the story of how Target figured out a girl was pregnant before she told her parents? This was just based on what she had searched online and purchased in the store. The personalized advertisements on Google are exactly that: matched to what the search engine believes to be our interests and preferences. And isn’t that kind of nice? It’s like having your own personal shopper, without the hindrance of having to explain yourself. They simply know your tastes. On the other hand, the idea of being outed by a search engine makes me feel vulnerable. I can’t even remember everything I’ve “liked.” Have I embarrassed myself without knowing it?

    I understand why some people think the update — like the personalized ads on Facebook — is creepy. It’s always a weird feeling to learn that someone else who you don’t know is watching what you do. There appears to be an imbalance of power, as though we’re alone inside the Panopticon with big company analysts observing us and taking notes as though we’re zoo animals. But that feeling just doesn’t make sense. I always laugh in the subway when I see signs that say, “Don’t become a statistic.” While the message is usually positive, the premise is technically absurd. Paying taxes, filling out the census — just being born in America — we are data points automatically in millions of statistics. Already, so much of who we are and what we do is logged and recorded as data: what we click and how often, what we buy, our gender, age, financial, homeowner, and marital statuses. All this happens in a way that is invisible to us. The moment it’s made visible, exposed in a newspaper article or railed about on a blog, we begin to protest. Unlike the current controversy with the NSA, however, there aren’t constitutional protections on this type of consumer information, and with good reason: it doesn’t really jeopardize our civil liberties.

    But it also means we have to change the way we operate online. It’s important to be aware that the companies and products we “like” are private choices made public. If we “like” something, that is a kind of official endorsement, and unless we “unlike,” we are linking ourselves to that company or product visibly and perceptibly. My takeaway here is that I’ll probably become more conservative with my “likes.” For instance, before publicly associating myself with an organization, I’d want to make sure that I believe their practices and goals are ethically aligned with my own. Why not do the same online and learn to be a conscientious “liker”? Part of the popularity of the “liking” system comes from the fact that you can do it with one click. Maybe one click isn’t enough. Before we get swept away by the current of appreciation for an exciting new company or item, we need to start doing our homework.

    Whether you like it or not (weak pun intended), every click you make online, every purchase, every article you read, says something about you. And with the rise of targeted advertising, that information is increasingly convertible into dollars. While some worry that this sneaky “watching” steals autonomy from the consumer, it actually gives us a new medium to communicate with companies and show them what is really important to us — in other words, the power to click conscientiously.

  • 'The Walking Dead' Ratings Break Records With More Than 16 Million Viewers For Season 4 Premiere
    “The Walking Dead” Season 4 premiere ratings are record-breaking. More than 16 million viewers tuned in to see the return of AMC’s zombie drama.

    Among those 16 million viewers were 10.4 million adults in the 18-49 demographic, making “The Walking Dead the No. 1 show on TV in the 18-49 demo. When time-shifting playback is accounted for, “The Walking Dead” Season 4 premiere ratings will likely clock in more than 20 million viewers.

    “Sincere thanks to the fans, who have welcomed ‘The Walking Dead’ back for its fourth season with the highest-rated episode in the show’s history,” AMC President Charlie Collier said in a statement. “We could not be more proud of this show and everyone on both sides of the camera who work so hard to give life to this story of character, leadership and survival. It starts with series creator, writer and executive producer Robert Kirkman, show runner and executive producer Scott Gimple and the director of last night’s episode (and the man behind the make-up) executive producer Greg Nicotero, their fellow executive producers and an extraordinary cast and crew who are giving their all every day. So clearly, thanks to them, the dead have never been more alive.”

    “The Walking Dead” Season 4 premiere ratings broke the show’s previous record set in Season 3. The Season 3 finale had 12.4 million total viewers and 8.1 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic.

    “The Walking Dead” airs Sundays, 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

  • Will Arnett Hints At Next Season Of 'Arrested Development'
    Netflix must have realaized there will always be money in the banana stand: It looks like more “Arrested Development” really is on its way.

    Will Arnett, who plays Gob on the cult-hit series, told Digital Spy that “everybody involved in the show” is ready to give it another go.

    “I know that there’s been a lot of talk. The truth is that we are actually just trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to do it. There is a plan to do something — I don’t want to say exactly what it’s going to be yet, but we are actively talking about how it’s going to come together in its next form,” Arnett said. “Needless to say, we are going to continue on in telling the story of the Bluths and it will be sooner rather than later.”

    The fourth season of “Arrested Development” premiered on Netflix this past May, and while fans of the original three seasons had waited seven years for the show to return, the reaction to the new episodes were mixed to say the least.

    Last month Ted Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for Netflix announced there was “no question” that more “Arrested Development” was on the way and that “It is just a matter of when and what form it takes.”

    Arnett can currently be seen in “The Millers” airing 8:30 ET Thursdays on CBS.

  • Eric Schmidt's Face Shows Up All Over Google+ In Protest Of New Ads
    After Google announced on Friday that it will start putting people’s names and faces into online ads, some Google+ users decided not to take the news lying down. The few who use still use Google’s Facebook clone protested the move by switching their Google+ profile pictures to images of the company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.

    The effect? Now, when strange personal endorsements show up across Google, it will be Schmidt’s face hawking a local bar or “Duck Dynasty,” not theirs.

    Google’s new type of ads — in which restaurants ratings and long-forgotten YouTube comments can be repurposed with your name and Google+ profile picture — is similar to Facebook’s much-protected “Sponsored Stories.” There is a way to opt out of the program, but isn’t it more fun to dig up old pictures of Schmidt and go on a commenting spree?

    profile picture eric schmidt

    profile picture eric schmidt

    profile pictures eric schmidt

    profile picture eric schmidt

    [h/t Bill Cahill]

  • For Everyone Tired of Hearing That Learning to Code Is Easy, the Real Scoop
    Last week, the man himself, Fred Wilson published a blog post about the importance of learning to code.

    His decree was simple and straightforward: If You Aren’t Technical, Get Technical. In particular, if you are a non-technical co-founder at a tech company…you must get technical.

    As the founder of Skillcrush, a technology education company, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I, too, know the value of getting technical from experience, both in the workforce, and also as a startup founder. I was never a non-technical founder, but I was a less-technical-than-I-am-now founder, and I am extremely thankful for all of the technical skills I have acquired in the past year and a half of building my company.

    But I think that Mr. Wilson is making the process of learning to code seem easier than it is, and I think its worth addressing the very real, but totally overcome-able, challenges of transitioning from non-techie to techie.

    I do want to note that I love Fred Wilson for all of his tech-education advocacy and I know that his intentions were only to encourage more people to learn to code (a mission I fully support!).

    For everyone who is tired of hearing that learning to code is easy…
    I do truly believe that most people who say learning to code is easy have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, for many, hearing that it’s easy sounds a lot more like, “duh, everyone knows how to do it” then “you can totally do it!”

    If you feel like learning to code is hard, you are NOT alone! Learning to code IS hard. And frustrating. Sometimes, you will get stuck on a problem for hours and then be annoyed when you finally discover a relatively simple solution.

    This is to be expected.

    One of the first things every new coder has to learn is the inevitable ebb and flow of coding. Sometimes it comes fast and furious and you will solve a complex problem in a matter of minutes. Other times it is slow and painful.

    If you can accept this reality and stay zen, even when you are being smacked in the face over and over by error messages, you will have an amazing future in code!

    That said, coding isn’t impossibly hard. It’s just hard in the way that anything worth having is hard.

    And if you break it down into smaller steps, it’s downright… manageable :)

    For everyone who has just needed someone to help them…
    It is SO MUCH easier to learn to code when you have a community of people, whether instructors, fellow students, or friends, to help support and guide you.

    Over the past two years, I have spoken to hundreds of people who have attempted to learn to code and what separates those who have succeeded from the rest is absurdly simple:

    The people who succeeded had someone to turn to with their questions.

    Those who were left to themselves and turned to google searches or forums, did not.

    You cannot take the human element out of education and expect students to succeed (especially online).

    Everyone gets stuck, discouraged, and frustrated. Everyone needs to be able to reach out to someone from time to time and get a helping hand.

    And as amazing as services like Stack Overflow are, they too rely on real-live human beings to make them magic.

    So plan for this reality! If you have a friend who knows how to code, ask them (nicely) if you can bug them with questions. If you know someone else who wants to learn, commit to taking a class together. And look for online resources and communities where you will be able to ask questions of real instructors (like Skillcrush!).

    Take these simple steps, and your chances of actually learning to code will grow exponentially.

    For everyone who thinks they aren’t young enough, mathematical enough, nerdy enough, or male enough for the tech world…
    The developers I know are musicians, artists, and knitters. Some of them, all three. They are college students, mid-career professionals, and grandmas. They have photography degrees, English degrees, economics degrees or no degrees at all!

    Look, thanks to Hollywood and the media love for a few programmers (cough, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, cough), developers writ large have gotten a bad reputation for being nerdy, awkward, and male. And although there are plenty of nerdy, awkward men in tech, there are lots of others too (and the numbers are EVER growing, I know, I am personally training an army of them).

    It’s not to say that we don’t need more diversity in the field (OMG we do!), but there is no one-size-fits all model for what makes a good technologist: except an excitement for the field and its infinite possibilities.

    Moreover, the skills that truly make for good technologists are not what you think.

    The best technologists I know are two things: they are creative and they have a really deep understanding of what the user really needs.

    Neither of those qualities have anything to do with math skills.

    Remember, you are a (peaceful) warrior on the front lines…
    In the 1450s Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press, and for the first time in the history of humanity made the printed word available “at scale.”

    Just think of how reading, and the printed word, has changed your life.

    In 1990 Tim Berners-Lee created the web and made it possible to share the printed word with unfathomable ease.

    Just think of how coding, and being able to build web apps, will change your life.

    The dawning of the digital age means that tech is for EVERYONE and everyone should have a hand in making it.

    Learning tech skills is amazing, and powerful, and I want to help make it a reality for you. If you have any questions about whether you should learn to code or how you should do it, I am here to answer them.

    Email me at adda@skillcrush.com, I promise to respond within 24 hours. Scouts honor.

  • When Apple Became Microsoft, and Other Business Tragedies
    Steve Jobs was a hologram — you could see in him whatever you wanted to see. Visionary, mean boss, bully, genius of the century — all were true.

    The sad thing is that his company, just a year after his passing, has surrendered what made it special.

    The core difference between Apple and its competitors, especially Microsoft, wasn’t innovation, sleek design, or savvy marketing and sales, as critical as each of those elements are to Apple’s success. The real differences: Apple’s insistence that no product go out the door until it is absolutely perfect.

    This was the biggest point of difference between Steve Jobs’ Apple on the one hand and Bill Gates’ Microsoft and all of the other technology companies on the other.

    Microsoft viewed and views the world as a bunch of unpaid beta testers. Its attitude is this: We’re going to unleash a new piece of software, operating program, hardware device, or whatever. It’s going to be buggy. It’s going to be a mess. You’ll get back to us, and you’ll tell us where the problems are.

    And you’ll pay us for the privilege to do so.

    That’s Microsoft’s model, and as the 700-pound gorilla, or 7,000-pound gorilla, or 7 million-pound gorilla, it could get away with it.

    Enter Apple, under Steve Jobs.

    Sometimes he would set a deadline and make it stick, as he did when he introduced the first iPod.
    But by and large, nothing left Apple until it was absolutely perfect.

    You weren’t just paying for the innovation and the sleek design. You were paying for the experience of perfection.

    Tim Cook may be a great manager, a great barbecue guy, and a terrific Little League dad, for all I know. But so far he’s proven himself singularly lousy at carrying on Steve Jobs’ most important legacy: the delivery of perfection.

    Here are three disasters that have occurred in the last 12 or so months, all under Tim Cook’s watch:

    1. Apple Maps. What a stinking mess. Anybody who’s used it — and I’m one of them — can tell you that the thing is so mistake-filled that even Microsoft would be too shame-faced to launch it. And yet, Apple was so insistent on detaching from Google Maps that it put an inferior product into the marketplace.

    I’ve seen stories about people who have been told to cross airport runways in Alaska because of the directions they got from Apple Maps. Just this week, my daughter and I were looking for a restaurant in Los Angeles and instead we were giving options…in Krakow, Poland. I kid you not.

    2. Siri. Siri works incredibly well about two-thirds of the time. The other third, it dials the wrong person, takes down your dictation incorrectly for the text, otherwise screws up, or declares itself unavailable for tasks right now: please try back later.

    Tim Cook’s Apple, defending Siri, hid behind the fig leaf of beta-dom — they claimed that Siri was still in beta, and that’s why it was okay that it made all those mistakes.

    But wait a minute. Apple’s the company that never released anything in beta. That’s what Microsoft did. That’s why you paid the premium for Apple. Oops.

    3. The 7.0 operating system. It’s an ugly mess. People are literally getting nauseous or seasick from the floating icons. The operating system, from a user’s standpoint, is not nearly as intuitive or attractive as the previous version. But Apple won’t let you go back to 6.0, claiming security reasons. Are you kidding me?

    There’s no way on earth that Steve Jobs would ever have permitted Apple Maps, beta Siri, or the 7.0 operating system to leave Cupertino.

    He would never have shipped anything that was less than perfect.

    Apple’s stock has taken a massive beating on Wall Street, and I don’t think anyone’s terribly surprised. And in the marketplace, Apple’s devices have lost their coolness factor to Samsung, to Android, and for all I know, to Microsoft.

    Apple stands at the crossroads. After Walt Disney died prematurely, his company hewed to his vision, and after some misfires, runs stronger than ever — based on Disney’s own relentless pursuit of perfection, to borrow Lexus’s tagline. Tim Cook stands at the turning point. He can either turn Apple into Disney or into Microsoft.

    He can either stand for perfection or be responsible for trashing what made Apple so unique.

    I’d keep going, but I’m heading to the phone store. Gonna get me a Galaxy. I’ve had enough.

  • Afraid of Piracy? What the Online Community Willingly Pays For
    Those who grew up with the internet were raised in an environment in which paying for intellectual property has almost always been an option, not a requirement. If you were tech savvy and didn’t want to pay for music, software, games, TV shows, or movies, you didn’t have to. This option has been present since the online community was in its most nascent stages, and whether ethical/legal or not, it will not disappear. For companies to thrive in the online community they need to do more than punish pirating, they need to identify what the online community is willing to pay for.

    Ownership of intellectual property is not deemed by the online community to be a legitimate grounds for payment. The fact that your company spent money to develop the piece of content is more of a jumping off point for negotiations as to whether or not people should pay you for it (I am not arguing that this viewpoint is legitimate or illegitimate, only that it exists). Does this mean it is no longer an intelligent investment to create content for the online community? Under what circumstances will they actually pay for something?

    Writing off the online community as a potential market segment may be feasible for some industries, but businesses that predominantly target young, tech-savvy males will find it very hard to take that loss. The crucial value of the online community can be seen starkly in the video game industry, their heavy reliance on young tech-savvy males means that that the online communities opinion of products in this field can single handedly lead to their success or failure.

    Increasing the level of piracy protection is not the answer. The online community is an interconnected echo chamber that will either come to love or hate a company based on its behavior (there is rarely a middle ground) and they hate piracy protection which disrupts their enjoyment of a product. Resounding disdain (or love) of your company can cause the online echo chamber to begin exporting its message to media through sites like Reddit. The echo-chamber effect of online chatter combined with media amplification manifested itself with the disastrous release of SimCity in 2013 hated largely due to strict anti-piracy measures, which ultimately led John Riccitiello, the CEO of Electronic Arts, to resign. A similar online community blowup took place in reaction to the anti-piracy measures that were to be included in the XBox One, which resulted in Mark Pincus being forced out of his position as running Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business to run the Hindenburg of gaming companies, Zynga.

    However, history has demonstrated that piracy can be lessened from the online community. Before the video game company Valve released its Steam storefront, computer game piracy was extremely commonplace. After the launch of Steam, the amount of piracy within the games through that online marketplace declined rapidly- primarily due to three major factors: convenience, customer loyalty, and free products and services. (A similar effect has been seen in online video through sites like Netflix, which drastically reduce piracy when they enter new markets.)

    Businesses looking to make bank online would be wise to capitalize on convenience. When Steam was first implemented, it made it more convenient to buy a game than to steal it. The state of the video game industry had become so bad that in some cases, pirated copies of games would be better than legitimately-purchased versions because they were stripped of draconian anti-piracy measures that hampered smooth gameplay. Steam allows customers to do things like download a game before its release date, then gain access and be able to immediately play that game the moment it was released. Moreover, unlike similar online marketplaces for music (such as iTunes) games purchased through Steam can be deleted from your computer and reinstalled whenever you want.

    Customer loyalty plays a pivotal role in online payment. Valve encourages people to pay for things they wouldn’t pay for otherwise because it has styled itself as a company people want to reward. Whether you want to believe this or not, the online community gets to choose whether or not it pays your company. The best way to get them to pay you is through making them want to give money to your company.

    Valve did two things in particular that really boosted customer loyalty. First, they put genuine effort into the creation of sequels to their popular games and tried to release products that would appeal to the fans of their previous games. This tactic naturally built up good will and lies in stark contrast to approaches taken by Electronic Arts, a company with a history of buying popular and well-made game franchises, then turning out half-assed sequels created for “a larger audience.” Customer goodwill has also been maintained by Valve through effective price discrimination. Not only do games go on regular and steep (50 percent off) sales a few times a week, but a few days a year during the “Steam Summer Sale,” a large portion of the marketplace’s inventory is given incredible discounts (90 percent off) for a short period. As games frequently cost around $50 when they are first released, they are out of the price range of a good portion of the general public, which makes it far easier for them to justify piracy to themselves. The knowledge that a steep sale will come at least once a year is a good way to prevent individuals from acting on a sense of disillusionment.

    Surprisingly, one of the best ways to convince the online community to pay you is to offer them your product for free. This tactic has been successful across a number of FTP MMOs (Free to Play Massive Multiplayer Online Games). An example of this can be seen with Riot Games, which produced the most-played game in the world, League of Legends. In their model, the user plays the game for free, but can give money to the company to customize their gaming experience in superficial ways (such as changing their character’s clothing). It is absolutely crucial that these benefits be superficial and tangential to the game, otherwise the game will gain the label within the online community of a “play to win” game. This label is used to describe a game in which the people who pay money to play have a gameplay advantage over those that don’t.

    The tactic of making a product free to ultimately drive sales isn’t unique to the game market. In interviews with Gigaverse, bestselling author Hugh Howey and successful internet-based entrepreneurs Danny Iny and John Lee Dumas touted free book giveaways as a means of not only driving book sales, but sales of related products. It turns out that giving eBooks away for free can boost the number of favorable reviews received on Amazon (which can lead to a book being more prominently featured), enable those interested in print copies to try something before buying it, and effectively tout the value of other (non-free) books, products, and services individuals offer.

    In addition to convenience, good behavior, and better/related/expanded versions of free products, the online community is willing to pay for customized IP and truly unique products. This willingness can be seen on sites like deviantART and Etsy, though customers commonly commission entirely unique products and works of art.

    If there is one unifying theme behind online citizens’ willingness to pay, it is a perception that payment is truly earned. Just because the online community can choose not to pay does not mean they will always withhold funds — in most cases, people are happy to support brands they believe in. We have simply entered an era in which companies earn the right to be paid not only by creating great products, but by delivering them in a respectful manner. The more a company factors this consideration into their product development (and casts off legacy traditions and outdated legal paradigms), the more likely it is to thrive in the decades to come.

  • British Airways Smartphone Bag Tag Could Save Time For Frequent Fliers
    If waiting in lengthy lines to check your luggage peeves you and starts your travels off on the wrong foot, British Airways has found a solution for you.

    Replacing the traditional paper bag tags, digital bag tags equipped with near-field communication technology, electronic ink and smartphone bar-code scanning would make checking bags a whole lot easier, The Telegraph reports.

    Ideal for frequent fliers who constantly are in and out of airports, the digital tag would allow users to check in their luggage via the smartphone app. Currently, fliers can use the app to check in for flights and obtain an e-ticket, but still need to queue up and wait to check luggage.

    The airline is currently testing prototypes and the tags are on track to be released in 2014.

    One downside to the tag: fliers will have to purchase them individually from the airline which adds another cost to travel. Another downside? The tags won’t cure lost-luggage woes — they don’t feature a tracking device.

    Watch the video below for more information on British Airways’ smartphone bag tag!

  • HTC One Max With Fingerprint Scanner Debuts Only Weeks After iPhone 5S

    NEW YORK (AP) — At your neighborhood coffee shop, you can order your beverage in small, medium or large. Now, you can do that with phones, too.

    HTC Corp. is introducing a larger version of its popular HTC One phone, becoming the latest phone maker to offer its flagship device in three sizes — and, of course, three prices.

    The new HTC One Max has one feature unavailable on the smaller models: a fingerprint identification sensor similar to that on Apple’s new iPhone 5S. It’s an optional way to unlock a phone without using a four-digit passcode. Unlike Apple’s version, however, the Max can be programmed to automatically open one of three favorite apps, depending on which finger is used.

    HTC spokesman Tom Harlin said the company designed the Max with a fingerprint sensor to make the larger device easier to operate with one hand. Engineers also moved the power button to the side. On smaller models, it’s on top of the phone, when held vertically.

    The Max has a screen that measures 5.9 inches diagonally. That compares with the 4.7 inches on the standard version and the 4.3 inches on the HTC One Mini. HTC is designing its software to take advantage of the larger screen. With many Android phones, images and text simply get larger on bigger phones. With the Max, the layout of selected apps is reformatted to fit more content.

    The Max also has more battery capacity than the smaller models, but otherwise shares their design and hardware features. Like the other Ones, the Max has a camera that can capture better low-light shots than the typical smartphone camera, but images are of lower resolution, at 4 megapixels. The Max weighs 7.7 ounces, which is more than the 5.9 ounces for Samsung’s 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3.

    The price hasn’t been announced, but it likely will be comparable to the $300 for the Note 3 and Motorola’s Droid Maxx. That price typically requires a two-year service agreement and is $100 more than the regular HTC One, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Motorola’s Droid Ultra when they launched. (Mini versions of the One and the Droid go for $100 with a contract; the S4 Mini is currently available only overseas.)

    Harlin said HTC is offering variety to meet consumers’ differing needs. Some might prefer a small device that is cheap and can fit in the pocket of skinny jeans, while others might want more screen space.

    As for the fingerprint sensor, HTC is including similar security safeguards found in the iPhone 5S. A mathematical representation of the fingerprint is stored on the phone in a secured location, inaccessible to other apps or remote servers. However, HTC does plan to eventually offer a way for other apps to use the ID system, without accessing the fingerprint data directly. Apple has no current plans for third-party access.

    Despite assurances of security from Apple, a German hacking group claims to have bypassed the system using a household printer and some wood glue to create an artificial copy of a genuine fingerprint. Apple hasn’t commented on that.

    HTC said Verizon and Sprint Corp. will sell the HTC One Max in the U.S. in time for the holidays. AT&T Inc. has been offering the Mini since August. All four national carriers, including T-Mobile US Inc., have the standard version.

  • 'Don't Tweet' Brings No Doubt Classic To The Twitter Age
    YouTube star Franchesca Ramsey just released this parody of No Doubt’s 1996 hit “Don’t Speak,” with lyrics updated to reflect how some people really, really should think twice before pressing “send” on their social media.

    Some sample lyrics:


    Don’t tweet
    I don’t care what you’re eating
    Stop that FourSquare check-in
    Don’t tweet it ’cause it sucks

    Don’t tweet
    Just because you think it
    Doesn’t mean you tweet it
    Don’t tweet it ’cause it sucks

    Check out out the video above.

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