Posts tagged Tell

What The WatchKit Developer Tools Tell Us About The Apple Watch

Apple has released its WatchKit software development kit (SDK) ahead of next year’s Apple Watch debut. Now other developers can join early partners ESPN, American Airlines and Instagram by creating their own apps for Apple’s littlest screen.

Spring-boarding off Apple’s iOS mobile platform, the SDK lets app makers code and test their Apple Watch apps. Given the timing of the kit’s release, however, it seems likely the new wearable won’t land right after the turn of the New Year. Early spring seems far more likely at this point—a leaked video transcript certainly suggests as much.

The development path carved out by the SDK presents three options for app creators:

  • Make a standard Watch App, with its own interface and features. (Though fully customizable interfaces don’t appear to be possible, at least not yet.)
  • Add snippets of info to the device’s Glances feature, to let users roll through card-like bits of swipeable data. Think news, weather, stocks, sports scores or other small, easily digestible information. ESPN has already been working on a Watch app that funnels scores and news to Glances. American Airlines will send gate changes or flight status updates to the wrist.
  • Create pop-up alerts that let users take action—like replying to a text on the wrist or silencing an incoming call with a message. Instagram has been working on an Apple Watch app that lets users like and respond to images directly through notifications, as well as view photo feeds or follow other Instagram users.

What they can’t do, however, is build a standalone Watch app, at least not yet. It’s on the road map for later on in 2015, but for now, any third-party wearable software will have to link to a companion mobile app running on an iPhone or iPad.

According to the SDK, the sizes and display resolutions of the two versions should pose no real challenge, as they merely funnel in data from the host phone or tablet. But that doesn’t mean developers can ignore the differential. The 1.65-inch tall display on the men’s version has a 312 x 390 pixel resolution; the women’s 1.5-inch screen offers 272 x 340 pixels.

For more information on the inner workings of the SDK, here are some reactions from developers who have dug into WatchKit so far. 

That jibes with the Apple Watch Human Interface Guidelines, a few highlights from which super blogger John Gruber pointed out

  • The system font is named San Francisco. That rings a bell. There are two versions: San Francisco Text, for sizes 19pt and smaller, and San Francisco Display, for sizes 20pt and up. Display is set tighter; Text has bigger punctuation marks and larger apertures on glyphs like “a” and “e”.
  • From the Watch HIG: “Avoid using color to show interactivity. Apply color as appropriate for your branding but do not use color solely to indicate interactivity for buttons and other controls.” Can we get this HIG guideline on iOS next year? UPDATE: Neven Mrgan thinks Apple means “use color not just for interactivity”, not that you shouldn’t use color alone to indicate interactivity.
  • A lot of WatchKit is about offloading processing to the iPhone — the Watch is effectively a remote display for an extension running on your iPhone. This should be good for Watch battery life, but limiting when you’re not carrying your iPhone. This is not going to be a “leave your iPhone at home” device; more like “leave your iPhone in your purse or pocket.”

Ultimately, it looks like the Apple Watch will start off as little more than a pipeline for the apps running on iPhones—which, frankly, doesn’t really distinguish it that much from other smartwatches that have already hit the scene. We’ll see how many different directions developers can take this. And when the company will really let them loose. 

Photo courtesy of Apple

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What They Don’t Tell You in School About Being an Entrepreneur by @LarryKim

Past generations might find today’s vision of the American dream unrecognizable. While the American dream was once composed of white picket fences and a comfortable home in the suburbs, today “making it” looks quite different. Many individuals would gladly sacrifice the 9-5 grind for a chance at becoming an entrepreneur, with the promise of becoming your own boss, developing a business of your own creation, and watching it grow and thrive. Starting WordStream and witnessing it develop from a startup into a truly successful company has been a wild and rewarding experience, but there are definitely some aspects about being […]

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Cops Give Away Spyware And Tell Families It’s For Their “Safety”

Hundreds of law enforcement offices across the United States are handing out free copies of software that claims to protect children and families while they browse the Web. But according to an investigative report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this software is actually spyware, and can put your data at risk.

Called ComputerCOP, the software reportedly allows parents to view recently downloaded material, identify keywords like “drugs” or “sex,” and uses a “KeyAlert” system that logs keystrokes to the hard drive, so that parents can see what their kids have been typing. 

The software works by placing the CD-ROM into the computer, and if parents choose to enable KeyAlert, the system will to capture conversation when one of the suspicious keywords or phrases is typed. 

Outdated and complicated to use, ComputerCOP is also ineffective, according to the EFF report. Researchers found that the software doesn’t do what it claims accurately—like identifying trigger words such as “gangs” in Web chat histories or in documents. What’s more, it regularly identifies documents that don’t include any of the trigger words. 

See also: Facebook Wants To Be Creepier Than Google With Your Data

According to the EFF, the key logs are unencrypted when running on a Windows machine, and easily decrypted on a Mac. If parents choose to get emails regarding the key logs, which they can through the ComputerCOP software, the information is sent unencrypted to third-party servers, not only putting information at risk, but rendering HTTPS protection on websites useless. The EFF was able to copy passwords using KeyAlert with “shocking ease.” 

ComputerCOP’s Clumsy Defense

Stephen DelGiorno, the head of ComputerCOP operations, told ReadWrite that  ComputerCOP only captures 500 characters at a time when a trigger word is identified, and saves them on the computer’s local hard drive to be viewed by parents later. But even DelGiorno was unclear about how secure the data is.

“I’d have to ask the programmers, I’m not 100% sure,” DelGiorno said when asked whether or not key logs are encrypted on local hard drives. “I know you can’t find it, but I don’t want to say it’s encrypted at this point.” 

“It’s no more dangerous than them sending any email from that computer to another computer,” DelGiorno said. “But I’m not saying [encrypting data sent via email] is a feature we can’t go back and add.”

About 245 law enforcement agencies including sheriff’s departments, police departments, and district attorneys offices have spent thousands in tax dollars to purchase the software and distribute for free to parents, without, apparently, checking the veracity of ComputerCOP’s claims.

See also: New Security Flaws Render Shellshock Patch Ineffective

Apart from the security risk ComputerCOP has posed to an as-yet-unknown number of families, the New York-based company which distributes the software also used false approvals from the ACLU, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the U.S Department of Treasury, which has since issued a fraud alert. DelGiorno told ReadWrite that the company never said the Treasury endorsed the product, rather just said the government body approved the allocation of funding.

The EFF estimates anywhere from hundreds of thousands to one million copies of ComputerCOP were purchased by law enforcement, but because it’s complicated to set up, and doesn’t do what it claims to, many families might not be using it. 

Lead image courtesy of DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office

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Kevin Spacey Wants You to Tell a Better Content Marketing Story #CMWorld2014 by @hubshout11

On September 10, 2014, actor Kevin Spacey appeared as a keynote speaker at Content Marketing World 2014, an event sponsored by the Content Marketing Institute, in Cleveland, Ohio. While the actor best known for playing Frank Underwood in the Netflix series House of Cards may sound like an odd choice for a keynote speaker at a content marketing convention, Spacey had an important message for content creators and marketers in attendance. “The story is everything,” he said, “which means it’s our job to tell better stories.” Spacey knows a thing or two about storytelling. The guy is, after all, an Oscar-winning actor, film director, […]

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Just How Creepy Can Targeted Ads Get? New Tool Promises To Tell You

Ever find yourself scrolling through a website and seeing an advertisement that’s a little too well-targeted? You know, as if the advertiser knew you recently twisted your ankle and need to buy some sturdier shoes? 

Columbia University researchers are working on XRay, a tool to help innocent Internet users make sense of those ads that stalk us, sometimes in ways that are worse than creepy.

Climbing In Your Inbox, Snatching Your Searches Up

As most people know by now, your personal data is the price you pay for “free” services such as Facebook and Google. When it comes to targeted ads, Google bots scan Gmail accounts looking for keywords to then serve up tailored marketing. Facebook does the same thing with “likes,” status updates and other info. 

How that information is analyzed to create personalized Internet advertising is the mystery the Columbia University researchers want to help solve with XRay, the Web transparency tool they’re currently working on.

XRay, still in development, “detects targeting through input/output correlation.” An Internet user’s “inputs”—email, searches, etc.—are compared to “outputs,” or ads that user is shown. As you can probably guess, most of the ads were largely predictable. If “shoes” shows up in an email you’ve sent, you’ll likely see an advertisement for a shoe sale at a department store.

Targeting, however, doesn’t stop at shoes. In developing XRay, researchers also found invasive ads targeting sensitive topics in user emails, including depression and pregnancy. What’s more, targeting based off such health-related keywords is potentially dangerous. For instance, one test showed that inputs containing the word “depression” would deliver ads for questionable quackery such as shamanic healing.

XRay also demonstrated the danger for consumers when companies misuse such keyword targeting:

Imagine an insurance company wanting to learn about pre-existing conditions of its customers before signing them up. The company could create two ad campaigns, one targeting cancer and the other youth, and assign different URLs to each campaign. It could then offer higher premium quotes to users coming in from the cancer-related ads to discourage them from signing up while offering lower premium quotes to people coming in from the youth-related ads.

XRay is still a prototype. Researchers tested it with Gmail to predict ads based off of email correspondence, and YouTube and Amazon video and purchasing suggestions based on previously viewed items. When widely available, XRay is expected to work across multiple platforms. In initial testing, XRay accurately predicted the types of ads that will be displayed in the future with 80 to 90% accuracy.

XRay’s code will be open source, and eventually this tool will be available to everyone with an Internet connection. Such insight could help the average Internet user better understand how companies use their data. It might also help privacy watchdogs call out malicious advertisers who abuse keyword targeting.

The team will release its research paper this week at USENIX Security 2014, a top security conference in San Diego, Calif. XRay is supported by the National Science Foundation, DARPA, Google and Microsoft. 

Lead image by Asja Boroš

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Interns Tell Us What They Would Change At Silicon Valley’s Top Companies

I saw the massive line of interns long before I could see the venue. The young crowd waiting outside Broadway Studios in San Francisco on Tuesday chatted with friends and checked their phones, eagerly awaiting to get inside.

Interns line up outside of Internapalooza 

Approximately 2,000 interns from around the Bay Area signed up to attend Internapalooza, an industry-sponsored event for Silicon Valley’s interns to meet each other, chat up potential employers, and hear some of the tech industry’s finest give advice and share experiences from their younger, soul-searching years.

Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal, and top tech journalist Kara Swisher were among speakers. Overall, the lineup  included eight white men, one man of color, and two white women, which spoke volumes about the current state of tech’s not-so-diverse demographics.

Scanning the Internapalooza audience, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of gender and ethnicity. Examining Silicon Valley’s young generation of interns can tell us a lot about the future of technology and about the new faces of leadership. 

While there is a lack of diversity among tech’s current leaders, the Internapalooza attendees suggest just how multifaceted the future of Silicon Valley may be. 

The fresh faces of Internapalooza

Waiting in line to get into the sold-out event  felt worse than waiting in line to get into a club. 

Interns stood shoulder-to-shoulder inside the steamy venue. A few wore business casual, but many were decked out in the true tech wear of t-shirts, jeans and backpacks. The aroma of free hot dogs didn’t help the claustrophobia, nor with the nostalgic feeling of filing into college orientation.

Many of the interns in attendance were  college students or recent college graduates—50% of attendees were rising seniors at their universities. One hundred attendees were interns at Salesforce, 90 came from Google, 50 interned at Facebook and another 50 at Apple. Close to 200 interns hailed from UC Berkeley, and more than 150 attendees studied either at Harvard, Stanford or MIT.

Interns take their seats to hear from more than 10 leaders in tech

The Silicon Valley culture of interns is unlike the Devil Wears Prada, fetching-coffee type of industry jobs, or the kinds of cheap labor positions that are pervasive within Manhattan and Los Angeles’ media-based internships.

Here in San Francisco’s tech industry, companies actively seek interns as potential full-time employees, and not just semester-by-semester rotations of unpaid staff. It’s a competitive market and the statistics of the attendees at Internapalooza are proof. Over half of the interns in attendence major in computer science, and 80% have studied something related to engineering.

Re/code’s Kara Swisher telling it like it is

Speakers hit the stage around 7 p.m, giving life advice in an almost believable, I was a kid once too! fashion. Quick words were said about the necessity of figuring out the rest of their lives. These pieces of advice must have seemed daunting and unreachable coming from the leaders who have already made achievements in technology.

For the many interns looking to break into Silicon Valley, their personal stories were a little more raw.

Cori Shearer, Intern at Pandora

Hearing about Internapalooza from a Bay Area interns group on Facebook, Cori Shearer attended, wanting to be inspired.

“I’m always on the hustle and grind, so sometimes I need events like this to reinvigorate my energy and to remind myself why I’m here in the first place,” says Shearer.

An intern at Pandora, Shearer works in sales technology and on building ad products.

She is also quick to discuss the need for more diversity in tech—noting that many startup’s lack of gender and racial variety occurs when founders look only towards their friends to build their company.

“You need to be in business with people who aren’t like you, and take risks to start your own company. As a female minority, I really want to do something innovative and helpful in the future,” says Shearer.

The Pandora intern hopes to see more people of color on stage at events like Internapalooza.

“Not seeing people on stage that looks like you has an effect because you want to be able to look up to someone,” says Shearer. “This affects future generations, but I am hopeful for change.”

Brian Clanton, Intern at Zynga

Developer Brian Clanton is a first-time intern at Zynga, and hopes one day to become a development lead.

Clanton says he finds it difficult to set himself apart from other interns in Silicon Valley’s ultra-competitive race towards tech employment. This feeling is made all too real while standing amongst the hundreds of interns gathered in the venue.

“In order to set myself apart I need to do well in school, gain lots of work experience, and just work on different projects,” says Clanton.

We awkwardly shuffle amongst groups of interns and gawk at the sheer number of people in attendance. I ask him about the fanaticism surrounding Silicon Valley. What makes the tech industry such an appealing place to work?

“Kids want to work in Silicon Valley because there’s an image projected out there that it’s a lot of fun, and that all of these companies have great working environments. They have hammocks! It appeals to a younger generation,” says Clanton.

Meron Foster, Intern at Captûre Wines

Meron Foster says that she wants to pursue technology because that’s where the future lies. An intern at Captûre Wines, Foster works in sales and events, but not being a technically-inclined person often leaves her feeling left out of the tech bubble.

“It’s tough to find jobs in Silicon Valley. It’s a tight-knit circle, and if you’re not ‘a techie’, it’s intimidating to break into that culture. But I’m good at sales and marketing. It’s just hard to portray that to the tech industry without any tech skills,” says Foster.

Like Shearer, Foster wants to see more people of color working in tech. Although the hundreds of interns at Internapalooza are diverse in gender and ethnicity, the leaders of tech companies often are not.

“Events like this have a lot of young people of color here. Tech has lots of folks of Asian descent, but that’s still a specific color that tech indulges in. This will change with time. There are so many different people, and tech is not closed off to us,” says Foster.

Bay Area interns gathered together

As I leave the venue, the doorman tells me more than 60 interns who could not initially enter waited throughout the night to get inside. With such overwhelming interest, the tech industry is clearly not hurting for qualified candidates. The draw of Silicon Valley for these interns may be as superficial as hammocks and nap pods, or perhaps it’s the in desire for inclusion and for more diverse representation. 

The students at Internapalooza overall were intelligent, driven, and hopeful for positive change.  We are in good hands. 

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Why Google’s Reported CPC Declines Can’t Tell The Story Of “A Mobile Advertising Problem”

It’s still happening. Google reported on Thursday that the average cost-per-click (CPC) was down again in Q2 from the prior year, marking the eleventh consecutive quarter in which the average CPC fell year-over-year. Some analysts and news outlets have been pointing to this as evidence of…



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How To Tell If Amazon’s Netflix For Books Is For You

My Amazon Kindle has me pegged. I have the ad-supported Paperwhite, which means anytime my Kindle sleeps, it shows me an advertisement for a book Amazon thinks I’d like to read. More often than not, it’s correct, and I’ll click on the ad and buy the e-book, usually for a price in the range of 99 cents to $5.

Which is why I’m the perfect audience for Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s new e-book subscription service launching today. At first blush, it seems like a great deal—but I’m not going to buy it just yet.

Is It A Good Deal?

Kindle Unlimited offers Kindle device or Kindle application users unlimited access to more than 600,000 books for $9.99 per month. (For comparison, that’s out of approximately 2.7 million ebooks Amazon offers in the U.S.) The subscription also includes three months of free Audible service, giving users access to more than 2,000 audiobooks. 

The Netflix-style subscription service features some popular titles, including the Hunger Games trilogy, the Harry Potter series, The Lord of The Rings trilogy, thousands of classics like Animal Farm, as well as books only published on Kindle. What you won’t find are current bestsellers or any other titles from the big five publishers like Simon and Schuster and Hachette Book Group. (Hachette is currently embroiled in a dispute with Amazon stemming from failed contract negotiations that have troubled the companies for months.)

The Netflix model for reading is nothing new. Amazon Unlimited will be joining startups like Oyster and Scribd that offer similar services for less money.

The books are only available for as long as you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription—so you don’t own them. But it offers more titles as well as access to audio books compared to Amazon’s other e-book borrowing service the Kindle Owners Lending Library, available only to Amazon Prime subscribers with Kindle devices.

Amazon recently hiked the cost of Prime membership to $99 per year. So, if you’re already paying for Prime, Kindle Unlimited isn’t worth it.

However, if you’re a voracious reader with a Kindle or its Android or iOS app, a $10 per month e-book subscription might save you some money.

What’s not clear is how authors or publishers make out in this deal. According to the Washington Post, “once a subscriber has read a certain percentage of a given book, it’s considered a “sale,” and the company that runs the subscription pays the publisher for it.”

Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial subscription to Kindle Unlimited so people can find out if they’re willing to fork over $10 per month for e-books. I’ve already downloaded a couple myself.

Image screencapped from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited video

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SPONSOR MESSAGE: A Backlink Analysis Will Tell You Exactly Where You Stand

Building links is like building relationships; you want to make sure you are connected to the right people. A backlink analysis will show you which connections are helping and/or hurting your website. Our knowledgeable team will carefully analyze your backlink portfolio and set up a convenient time…



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5 Ways to Tell if Your Content Marketer is on The Up And Up

Not all SEOs are shysters. Too many, however, are. Not all content marketers are shady either. Still, too […]

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