Posts tagged need
There are bad websites in the network, yes. There can be issues with junk lead submissions, yes. But for all the bad, there is a lot of good. You just have to be willing to work for it!
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This is the second part of ReadWrite’s four-part series on the future of messaging.
The central paradox of the social age is this: We share at once too much and too little.
We share too much, because it’s impossible to do more than dip into the endless stream of updates from your friends, family, coworkers—everybody.
And we share too little because we have the sense of being on display when we post on Twitter and Facebook—either to a public audience or a diffuse, ill-defined set of “friends” who don’t reflect our real networks of intimacy.
The answer to that paradox has come in the form of a big, fast-growing category of mobile experiences: messaging apps.
Why Messaging Fills A Social Need
In the first part of our series on the future of messaging, we explored how messaging apps displaced texting and social networking—and why there won’t likely be one dominant messaging app.
The rise of smartphones and mobile broadband help explain why messaging apps have attracted hundreds of millions of users around the world. But those factors don’t fully explain their popularity. To understand them properly, we have to grapple with the psychology of messaging.
In the early days of social network, there was room to breathe and express yourself. When I was a freshman in college, I had 30 Facebook friends, and followed 10 people on Twitter who also followed me. Those social networks were intimate spaces for sharing private thoughts.
That has changed. Twitter is an online version of the town square—a decidedly public space. On Facebook, we feel only slightly less exposed—whatever we post goes to a large group of friends and followers, mixed in with updates and photos you see from brands and advertisers. Even our likes and favorites have become subject to scrutiny.
Before Facebook introduced its own private-messaging service, users communicated by leaving public wall posts for each other. That made sense when the service was limited just to college students. But once parents started joining Facebook, the need for more private options became clear. Teens didn’t abandon Facebook—but they shifted more of their interactions to apps like Snapchat.
Changing Your Behavior To Fit Your Online Identity
On public social networks, it’s hard to be your authentic self. We work to construct the best possible narratives of our lives to present to our friends and family.
And that means not sharing some of our more private thoughts and opinions. According to a study by researchers from the University of Michigan, the more friends a college student has on Facebook, the less they talk about controversial issues.
The researchers wrote:
Users who have a large number of Facebook friends are less likely to talk about politics and gay rights issues on Facebook despite having access to increasing human and information resources.
Because such topics tend to spark negative reactions on Facebook, people often avoid posting about them all together. With a smaller audience, our online identities are likely to be more authentic.
With a continuously increasing number of options for communication, we’ve begun to think more about what we share, where we’re sharing it and who we want to share with. On Facebook, someone might post about an accomplishment, whereas on Snapchat, they might share a selfie with some scribbled text over it with a friend describing how frustrated they felt about how long it took to achieve it. That frustration might be an evanescent emotion—which makes Snapchat, where messages are meant to disappear after they’re read, the appropriate medium.
These fractured communications may be here to stay. According to Forrester analyst Thomas Husson, author of the report “Messaging Apps: Mobile Becomes The New Face Of Social,” people will become accustomed to using a number of different apps to chat with friends.
“The social media ecosystem is somehow fragmented by nature, due to the fact that individuals have multiple identities and will switch between apps that will provide different voices,” Husson told me. “These apps are ways to manage your identities … people assume and drop personalities while allowing them to connect.”
Creating New Social Networks, Through Messages
Social networks ask us to define the people we know in groups—friends or acquaintances, followed or not. Google+ takes this to a ludicrous stream, asking us to categorize everyone we know into one or more overlapping “circles.” But messaging apps let us discard those constraining categories and form ad hoc friend groups for every occasion.
“Sometimes apps seem safer—you can have a small group and create your own boundaries, which is what these messaging apps do,” Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, said in an interview. “So people create a messaging group that is a social network, where you’ve created the boundaries, not someone else.”
Teens might be the model for this transition, thanks to youngsters who want a place to chat with friends and not parents, but it also applies to a greater number of people that want more privacy.
“There’s an increasing awareness of the need for privacy, and the need to understand privacy settings,” Rutledge said. “Not across the board and not in a totally effective way, but we’re seeing an awareness about it which makes things like Snapchat appealing in a very face-value kind of way.”
Even though your pictures don’t technically disappear from Snapchat’s servers the way the startup originally advertised, there’s comfort in the idea that the photo or video you take in the moment will disappear soon after its viewed—not stored in your timeline for eternity.
Snapchat’s disappearing messages are its distinctive feature. Other chat services have their own nuances, like Kik’s emoticon stickers, WhatsApp location sharing, or Line’s built-in games. These all contribute to the texture of the conversations they draw. What they have in common, though, is a sense that the messages aren’t part of our permanent record—they’re just part of a flow of communication.
“These [messaging] apps allow you to have a multi-sensory communication in a way that’s transitive—it isn’t too precious,” Rutledge said. “When we talk to each other, those words aren’t immortalized on paper. These apps really replicate features of face-to-face conversation.
“We want whatever is going to get the job done best. All these app developers are trying to figure out how to offer a big enough array of features so they capture the audience when they finally come to rest.”
New messaging apps are cropping up every day, but whatever service ultimately wins out is going to be where our friends are—and that’s not going to necessarily be just one place.
Just like people use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr for different purposes, different friend and interest groups will gravitate towards distinct tools that offer the best possible way of communicating.
The rise of messaging applications doesn’t mean the downfall of more public social networks. Rather, it signals a shift among Internet users who are realizing that in-jokes and baby pictures might best be delivered to a small group of friends who truly understand and welcome our true, authentic selves.
Lead image courtesy of Henry Lockyer on Flickr
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Modifiers are the answer to many PPC issues. Rather than taking control away from advertisers, modifiers would give marketers the control we need.
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Nothing is more frustrating to an internet user than a slow website. You wait 3 seconds…4 seconds…10 seconds…and your site is still loading. Research has shown if your site takes more than four seconds to load, you could lose up to 25% of your visitors. Sites that take 10 seconds to load lose up to 35-40% of their visitors, according to KISSmetrics. When building your WordPress site, it is extremely important to observe best practices for coding and website design to help minimize load time. These methods will help you build a solid website with fast load times. Always Optimize Your Images You […]
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If software is eating the world, should it also “eat” your CEO?
Given how integral technology has become to modern enterprises, it’s hard to imagine an executive charting a safe course for any company without a fundamental appreciation for and understanding of technology. While she needn’t be an engineer, she needs to at least know one.
Or, better yet, be able to write a few lines of Java.
Parachuting In Engineers
Marc Andreessen rightly argues that “we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.” Yet most companies still treat technology as an afterthought.
In today’s world, that seems pretty stupid.
Taxi companies didn’t need to understand technology until Uber came along. Advertisers were safe until Google cropped up. Hotels slept soundly until Airbnb launched. The list goes on.
One obvious example of a failure to appreciate technology is Healthcare.gov. While ultimately rescued by a crack team of Silicon Valley über-geeks, Healthcare.gov points to all that is wrong with how governments—and companies—deal with technology.
Commenting on a Time magazine story on the saving of Healthcare.gov, Tim O’Reilly warns, “Bringing in Silicon Valley’s best and brightest is a powerful part of the solution, but it can blind us to the harder work still to be done.”
Governments have been getting better at recruiting technical talent to help build systems. But that’s not enough, O’Reilly argues:
[B]ringing more top quality technical people into the Federal government is only part of the solution. It won’t work if those people are just put to work building systems that they have no role in designing. The heart of the problem is the design of government programs that don’t take into account the mechanisms by which they will actually be implemented. The UK’s Tom Steinberg put it perfectly: the elites study politics, philosophy, economics, and law while failing to recognize that you can no longer run a country without a fundamental understanding of technology.
If true of countries, surely this is also true of companies?
Chief Engineering Officer
Think about it. While I’ve argued that every tech company needs an English major, I’m not confused by what makes the Valley tick: technology. Those who can code, rule.
Tim O’Reilly continues:
In Silicon Valley, the engineers are on top; if you do something, create something that people actually use, you rule the roost. Everyone else is essentially a paper pusher. In DC, though, if you write code, you’re generally about 30 layers away from the people making important decisions.
Not just in Washington, D.C., unfortunately. While you can generally find a CIO listed on most big companies’ leadership pages, they’re one of many execs, mashed in with CMOs, CFOs and sales heads. For example, Coca-Cola has a CIO, but buries him on its webpage among (literally) over three dozen other leaders, most of which are ranked higher.
Regardless, the CIO is the last to know what’s happening down in the code, as Billy Marshall once quipped. And technology vision isn’t something that can be offloaded to a third party.
The CEO needs to grok technology.
Get That CEO A Command Line
The question is, how deeply? I don’t expect every company to go out and hire a GitHub hero to run their companies. (Given some of the “brogrammer” scandals roiling the Valley these past few months, that might not be such a great idea.)
Nor should would-be CEOs skip the MBA to study engineering, though in some cases this arguably wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
But it seems reasonable to expect existing or prospective CEOs to spend time learning about the technology that undergirds their companies. And maybe all CEOs should learn a little programming. This isn’t as hard as it sounds for, as the Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims points out, “Computer programming … has become a trade. Like nursing or welding, it’s something in which a person can develop at least a basic proficiency within weeks or months.”
In other words, enterprises need executives that understand technology, and there are quality resources available to help.
So, if you or someone you know is in a CEO role but doesn’t understand technology and needs immediate help, please get them started at Codecademy or otherwise train them to at least a basic level of technical proficiency. They’ll thank you later. So will their shareholders.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Nearly 10 years ago, Excite founder Joe Krause, now an investor at Google Ventures, declared “there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.” Kraus was talking about the economics of startups—the cheapness of servers, networks, and other raw ingredients of computing.
A decade later, Andreessen Horowitz investor Sam Gerstenzang has one-upped Kraus. He’s arguing that it’s not just costs that are at historic lows. So, too, is the level of competence required to engineer a product.
In other words, even an engineering nobody can start a company.
No Money? No Problem!
While it seems quaint now, it used to be expensive to build an app and start a company around it. Hardware was expensive. Software was expensive. Storage was expensive.
Engineers, however, were relatively cheap.
As Kraus noticed in 2005, however, things were starting to change. By that time “hardware [had] literally become 100X cheaper…. Back in the Excite days, we had to buy proprietary Sun hardware and Sun hard drive arrays…. Today, we buy generic Intel boxes provided by one of a million different suppliers.”
Furthermore, he wrote, “back in 1993 we had to buy and continue to pay for maintenance on everything we needed just to build our service—operating systems, compilers, web servers, application servers, databases. You name it.”
“Not only was it costly,” he writes, but “the need to negotiate licenses took time and energy.”
By 2005, however, “Free, open source infrastructure [was] the norm,” with the ability to “get it anytime and anywhere.”
As a result, “More people can and will be entrepreneurs than ever before” because “a lot more people can raise $100,000 than raise $3,000,000.”
Developers Don’t Get Cheaper
One thing Kraus didn’t mention, however, was that even as other costs got cheaper, the cost of a good developer kept going up. The relative cost of a hiring a developer and acquiring storage, for example, looks like this:
In 1985, storage was a key expense, running $100,000 per gigabyte, while a developer could expect to get paid $28,000 per year.
By 2013, things had changed considerably. Now storage is cheap, costing $0.05 per GB. Developers, on the other hand, are expensive: $90,000 per year.
Today, engineering pay is at an all-time high, and rising fast:
According to Gerstenzang, whose firm has backed Instagram, Pinterest, and other big Internet names, that may be about to change.
The Rise Of The Average Developer
Citing the acquisitions of engineer-light and user-heavy companies like Snapchat and Instagram, Gerstenzang posits that “fewer engineers and dollars to ship code to more users than ever before” is “the new normal,” making “the potential impact of the lone software engineer … soar.”
And as impact goes, so does cost.
However, Gerstenzang notes that much of the hardest engineering is now done for developers: Amazon Web Services and other platform or infrastructure providers abstract away the most difficult engineering problems, making it easier to code—or downright unnecessary:
[T]he barriers to becoming a code creator are falling fast. The same software foundation (open source software, development tools like Github, infrastructure as a service provided by the likes of Digital Ocean, and more) that allowed Whatsapp and Imgur to scale, means that experience and skill writing software become less important.
An individual can now scale a web app to millions of users with Digital Ocean, Heroku and AWS (perhaps coordinated by Mesosphere). It no longer requires a sophisticated understanding of MySQL parameters to scale a database on Google App Engine, just as it no longer requires a knowledge of the CPU chip it’s all chugging away on.
In other words, there has never been a better time to be average.
Sure, there will still be a need for “10x engineers,” those superwomen and supermen that are “still needed to build the foundation [e.g., infrastructure].” But, he concludes, “[A]s we build out the common foundation, the skill and experience an individual needs to accomplish a task on top of the platform decreases.”
Not only does it decrease, but it may actually go away:
Today, if you have a great idea for a software product, you need to either be an engineer or find one. Tomorrow, that billion-dollar startup acquisition might not need an engineer at all.
For the English majors of the world, life just got much better.
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Security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski started a firestorm over the weekend when he presented findings that Apple has—apparently deliberately—created undocumented “backdoors” in its iOS operating system that third parties could use to siphon personal data from iPhones and iPads under certain circumstances without notice, much less consent of the user.
Apple, meanwhile, has taken issue with Zdziarski’s analysis, although its response—such as it is—falls short of a complete denial.
It’s a complicated issue, so here’s a quick FAQ to help you sort through it all.
Should I panic?
No. In a blog post summarizing his work, Zdziarski includes this helpful note: “DON’T PANIC.”
The backdoors he describes aren’t the sort of thing your average cybercriminal can easily exploit. There’s no evidence that they’ve been used for identity theft or any sort of related criminal attack on iPhone or iPad data. At least so far, that is.
See also: The Bugs Are Piling Up In Apple’s iOS 7
On the other hand, if you think the NSA or regular law enforcement might be tracking you, then Zdziarski might have described some of the backdoors by which their agents could be delving into your digital life.
Beyond that, they’re an intriguing mystery—one that Apple has yet to explain.
Hold on a moment. What’s a backdoor?
Like the word suggests, a backdoor is a simple or unguarded route into an otherwise secure system. Think Matthew Broderick’s character in War Games sussing out a way to access WOPR by guessing a backdoor password specific to the system’s creator (his dead son’s name—a classically terrible password, by the way).
How would the NSA (or whoever) make use of these backdoors?
Zdziarski, a forensics expert and one-time iOS jailbreaker who’s written several books about iPhone development, described three iOS services that appear to have an unusual degree of access to raw and potentially sensitive data gathered by or stored on the phone. These services are also apparently designed to collect that information, package it and dump it out upon request, either via USB or wirelessly over Wi-Fi.
These features are undocumented, meaning that they’re not described by Apple in the sort of detail it normally provides to third-party developers who might make use of them. According to Zdziarski, however, they are installed and active on roughly 600 million iOS devices. They provide no indication that they’re operating, and there’s no way for users to turn them off.
Perhaps most ominous, these services can send out unencrypted information even if users have chosen to encrypt the data they back up through iTunes. Zdziarski calls this behavior “bypassing backup encryption” and considers it deceptive at best.
That all sounds pretty panic-worthy. Isn’t it?
Turns out there’s a catch. These services only work when an iPhone or iPad is “paired” to a trusted device, such as the computer you run iTunes on. (Bluetooth pairing with, say, a set of headphones doesn’t count.) That greatly limits the ability of any attacker to exploit these services and rifle through your iPhone.
It is, however, possible to spoof that pairing. Every pairing generates a set of cryptographic keys and certificates designed to identify trusted devices to one another—and on the iPhone side, those keys and certificates are never deleted unless the user does a full restore or a factory reset on the device. Prior to iOS 7—the version used by most iPhones—pairing happened automatically without any user intervention. (iOS 7 now requires the user to approve pairing with a “trusted” device.)
As Zdziarski put it in a March 2014 technical journal article describing his findings: “[E]very desktop that a phone has been plugged into (especially prior to iOS 7) is given a skeleton key to the phone.” And that skeleton key is transportable, because a sufficiently motivated attacker can copy pairing keys and certificates from one computer to another.
Who would go to all the trouble of tracking down those keys and copying them?
Well, the police might, if they thought you were involved with organized crime. So might the NSA, the FBI or a number of other intelligence agencies. And of course some of these outfits could also create seemingly innocuous “paired” devices such as an alarm clock or charging station that would run malicious code once connected to your phone.
As noted above, though, it’s not the sort of thing your average Belarusan hacker is likely to use to take over your phone any time soon.
OK, tell me more about these undocumented services. What are they and what do they do?
In a presentation he made at the Hope X hacker conference in New York this past weekend, Zdziarski focused on three particular services known by the technical names com.apple.pcapd, com.apple.mobile.file_relay and com.apple.mobile.house_arrest. (You can see the slides from Zdziarski’s talk—all 58 of them—here.)
The pcapd service starts what security professionals call a “packet sniffer” on an iOS device—basically, software that records all data traffic to and from your iPhone. It’s installed by default on all iOS devices, and operates whether a phone is in “developer mode” or not, suggesting that it’s not a developer-specific feature. And it gives the user no warning when it’s activated.
“This means anyone with a pairing record can connect to a target device via USB or Wi-Fi and listen in on the target’s network traffic,” Zdziarski wrote in his March paper.
The file_relay service, according to Zdziarski, exists to vacuum up large volumes of raw data from particular sources on an iPhone and then to dump it out in unencrypted form. Several years back, file_relay appeared fairly innocuous. In iPhoneOS 2.0 (an early predecessor to iOS), it was only able to access six data sources, including “Apple Support,” “network,” and “CrashReporter.”
By iOS 7, however, file_relay‘s reach had expanded to include 44 data sources, many of which specifically address the owner’s personal information. These include the address book, accounts, GPS logs, maps of the phone’s entire file system, a collection of all words typed into the phone, photos, notes, calendar files, call history, voicemail and other records of personal activity that have been cached in temporary files.
Small wonder Zdziarski calls file_relay “the biggest forensic trove of intelligence on a device’s owner” and a “key ‘backdoor’ service” that provides a significant amount of data that “would only be relevant to law enforcement or spying agencies.”
The third service, house_arrest, originally allowed iTunes to copy documents to and from third-party apps. Now, however, house_arrest has access to a much broader array of app-related data, including photos, databases, screenshots and temporary “cached” information.
Couldn’t these services have legitimate functions?
Maybe, although it’s difficult to understand why they they’d have such apparently untrammeled access to so much information. That’s a pretty major security failing under any circumstance.
Zdziarski also runs through a number of possible explanations—that they might be used in iTunes or Xcode (Apple’s iOS app-development environment), or in developer debugging, or by Apple support, or in Apple engineering debugging—and shoots each one down in turn.
It’s very difficult to construct an explanation for legitimate, non-surveillance uses of services that aren’t documented, that bypass backup encryption, that have access to otherwise inaccessible user data and that give the user no notification that they’re accessing and dumping out information. Oh, and whose code Apple has maintained and updated across several versions of iOS.
Given Apple’s historical issues with lack of cooperation and infighting between technical teams, it’s also conceivable that these services grew without much direction at all, almost by accident, as engineers struggled to solve other technical problems without writing a whole bunch of new code. Call this the it-ain’t-pretty-but-it-works explanation.
Is it plausible? Your guess is as good as mine. And it’s still a major security fail.
What does Apple have to say about all this?
In classic fashion, not very much. Apple didn’t get back to me when I emailed it for comment, although I’ll keep trying.
Apparently, however, it did email a statement to Tim Bradshaw, a reporter for the Financial Times, who tweeted it:
The statement, of course, is rife with ambiguity. Is Apple referring specifically to pcapd, file_relay and house_arrest here, or just issuing a general statement about its diagnostic functions?
And it fails to address most of Zdziarski’s basic questions. If these services are diagnostic functions, why aren’t they documented? Why do they operate even if users haven’t agreed to send diagnostic information to Apple? Why can’t users deny their consent to having information taken off their devices this way? Why can’t users turn these services off?
It is certainly interesting that Apple feels compelled to deny that it has even “worked with any government agency from any country” to engineer backdoors into its products or services. Especially since Zdziarski hadn’t accused them of such.
Does Zdziarski have thoughts about Apple’s statement?
Does he ever. In a new blog post Monday night, he summed up his reaction this way:
I understand that every OS has diagnostic functions, however these services break the promise that Apple makes with the consumer when they enter a backup password; that the data on their device will only come off the phone encrypted. The consumer is also not aware of these mechanisms, nor are they prompted in any way by the device. There is simply no way to justify the massive leak of data as a result of these services, and without any explicit consent by the user.
I also contacted Zdziarski for comment, but haven’t heard back.
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SEO Questions Franchise Owners Need to Ask
When it comes to SEO and franchises, the same standard rules apply, but the way you go about SEO is different. You have different problems and responsibilities as a franchise company that other companies don't see–multiple managers and locations, …
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