Posts tagged wants
Open source is different things to different people: software licensing scheme, business model, development model or community model. However we choose to think about it, though, across the board clever people are using open source to disrupt or change how markets behave.
Therefore, I found it fascinating to sit down recently with a German entrepreneur using an open source approach to disrupting the mobile application market. Paul Müller is the CTO and co-founder of Adeven, a mobile advertising tracking and analytics company based in Berlin that is entering the U.S market to compete with firms like Has Offers, Apsalar, Localytics and Flurry.
At Adeven, Müller has built an open source software development kit (SDK) that is hosted on GitHub. The SDK is used by some of the largest eCommerce and publishing companies in Europe. While relatively new to the U.S. market, Adeven has Fab.com as a client, which boasts 12 million users and a top ranking on Apple’s App Store.
Prior to Adeven, Müller and his team were app developers and publishers at their previous company. They got fed up with poorly written, proprietary SDKs required by third-party analytics and tracking services. Those SDKs crashed their apps and cloaked interactions with user data. The results were poor app performance along with security and privacy risks. The logical conclusion was to build their own SDKs and open source them.
I spoke to Müller about why open source SDKs can make all the difference in mobile.
ReadWrite: In the Web world, you almost never hear about companies integrating SDKs to measure user behavior. Why are SDKs so critical for this task when it comes to native mobile apps?
Müller: Measuring user activity and reporting it in a relevant fashion to app publishers is far more complicated in mobile than in the Web world. There are two main problems in mobile. The first is defining a session. The second is erratic connectivity with mobile.
At first it was easy to define a session: apps were either on or off and, when the user left the app, the session was closed. When platforms started to support multi-tasking, these status changes became more diffuse. Just because the app is put in the background doesn’t mean that the session is over. Users increasingly flip between different states such as “resume,” “background” and “foreground.” Figuring out what counts as a session has become considerably more chaotic.
We chose to define a standardized session as a continuous stream of actions and state changes with no more than a 30-minute gap in between. This, of course, requires analytics to gather information on a variety of state changes and events, and keeping these up to date is not a job most developers want to take on by themselves.
ReadWrite: You mentioned a second challenge: connectivity?
Müller: Yes. Mobile network connections are unreliable and sometimes very poor. With package loss and connections to the server dropping more often than we realize, the SDK has to make sure that data actually reaches the server. This includes accounting for data gathered while offline and relaying it when online.
Even when the SDK isn’t fully offline, requests aren’t fire-and-forget: they are sometimes lost and need to be repeated. What if Angry Birds never saw the sessions that happened on the subway? We see up to 20% of all sessions take place offline. So you need an analytics tool that is embedded in the runtime of the app itself that records activity and then sends it up later.
ReadWrite: So why is open source in SDKs so much more important in mobile?
Müller: Because an SDK must be injected into your application codebase, it can dramatically impact stability. If it’s poorly written or uses outdated code, then the SDK may crash your app. That’s about as bad as it gets. If an app crashes once, users get annoyed. If it crashes twice, they could leave and never come back.
Because most mobile app SDKs are compiled binaries and are closed source, there is no way for an app developer to know for sure whether the SDK is the cause of the crash. A developer definitely cannot spot the specific part of the SDK code that may be causing a conflict. With open source SDKs, all of that is possible. You can easily trace a crash back to the offending SDK (apps are often running more than one) and even trace it back to the specific line of code.
ReadWrite: You also have mentioned privacy as another important reason to use open source SDKs.
Müller: Yes, definitely. If the SDK is a black box, then the app developer cannot know what information the SDK is collecting about the app users or how that information is being collected. Yet, it is the app developer who is legally on the hook to comply with all privacy regulations.
Analytics companies that pull data out of apps via an SDK may also be feeding that information to other companies for other purposes. So, for example, your app may be violating the new California privacy standards for “Do Not Track” signaling standards. If you break those rules, either the government or private parties can sue you. If you are using only open source SDKs, then at least you have the option of reviewing the code to see how information gathering and distribution is handled inside the app itself.
ReadWrite: I assume there are other hazards of relying on closed source analytics.
Müller: Definitely. If you are using a mobile tracking service that has a closed-source SDK and you need to request a feature change, you are totally at the mercy of the SDK maker. With an open-source SDK, you can write the code modifications you want, submit a pull request, and probably get someone to at least consider including your code or possibly to give you their blessing to run a slightly forked version.
Also, if you plan to integrate your analytics data with other third-party marketing or revenue optimization tools – particularly using APIs—it’s very helpful for their technology teams to have access to the SDK. With an open source SDK, that’s never an issue because anyone can see the code if they need it.
Paul Müller is the CTO and co-founder of adeven, a mobile advertising tracking and analytics company. Prior to adeven he was the CTO and Managing Director for two companies, rapidrabbit and Müller & Wulff GmbH.
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Today Facebook announced an update to its news feed ranking that emphasizes shared news posts over memes and similar airy material that’s often shared on the social network.
Facebook’s push to incorporate more news into timelines could be a response to Twitter’s success as a news platform. According to Pew Research, Facebook still has some catching up to do—only 47 percent of Facebook’s total users get their news on the site, compared to 52 percent of users on Twitter.
Goodbye, Grumpy Cat
Facebook says people prefer “high quality content” over popular memes, so the company is putting an emphasis on tracking how frequently articles are clicked on from news feed on mobile to deliver more relevant posts.
“We’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook,” the company said in a blog post.
It’s unclear how exactly Facebook will define news, and how publications like UpWorthy and BuzzFeed, two media sites known for their viral videos, listcicles and GIFs, will be affected. While Facebook does provide a vague definition of “high quality content,” it’s a subjective explanation that might not satisfy everyone.
The move represents Facebook’s latest push to eliminate “low quality” posts from users’ news feeds. In August, the company announced a similar algorithm update to encourage the managers of Facebook pages to post less junky material and to provide users with better-targeted updates.
Not all users will be thrilled with eradicating memes. In fact, many Facebook pages are entirely meme-based and garner millions of likes.
Facebook And Twitter Go Head-To-Head
In the fight to own your news reading, Twitter and Facebook are in a death match.
With the today’s update, Facebook users will start to see suggested articles directly beneath news feed posts that are similar to the ones they have already read—an attempt to play catch-up to features Twitter released months ago.
Facebook also wants to promote conversation on its platform, so it will occasionally resurface news stories that have new comments from friends—an addition similar to Twitter’s “conversations” feature that tracks @-replies with thin blue lines.
But Facebook’s recent news feed updates are just the latest in a stream of changes that mirror some of the most popular features on Twitter. You may remember recently seeing hashtags and trending topics on Facebook, and embedded posts across the Web. The company is sending data trends to a variety of media companies and encouraging them to post more stories to the social network.
Not Just About Friends
For all that, only four percent of U.S. adults consider Facebook their most important news source.
And by putting an increased focus on news consumption, Facebook risks deemphasizing the experience many of its users originally signed up for—that of staying connected to friends. While you’ll still see updates from those friends, your news feed might just become a little more serious with actual news leading your timeline.
Lead image by imjustcreative on Flickr
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On Sunday, Amazon announced an innovation in package delivery so fantastic sounding, it had to assure people that it wasn’t a hoax.
Prime Air is the company’s conceptual new service in which octocopter drones—unmanned aircrafts with eight rotors—deliver Amazon packages weighing up to five pounds to your door in just 30 minutes. On a 60 Minutes segment, CEO Jeff Bezos previewed a recent test run:
If it sounds too incredible to be true, it’s because it is—for now. Bezos predicted Prime Air is still “four to five” years off. Why announce it now? Probably to ensure that, on the eve of Cyber Monday, Amazon is all anybody will be talking about.
Amazon has caught our attention, but can it, well, deliver? Here are some of the hurdles Prime Air will need to overcome in order to become a reality.
The most pressing hurdle in Prime Air’s way is the fact that the Federal Aviation Administration currently doesn’t permit commercial drones in U.S. airspace. Congress has ordered the FAA to deliver a road map by the end of this year; the first draft was announced in November.
As Amazon observes, the FAA is supposed to have a roadmap for integrating drones in place by 2015. Amazon says, “we will be ready at that time.”
Surprisingly, the FAA’s reluctance to legalize quickly drones has nothing to do with the gadgets reputation as killing machines elsewhere in the world. It’s all about privacy concerns, and whether or not drones in U.S. airspace could be used to spy on citizens. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, eight states have passed legislation against commercial drones concerning surveillance data collection.
Of course Prime Air drones won’t be designed to spy on people; the question is whether or not they could be used that way. Unfortunately, since the FAA’s 100-page draft roadmap fails to meet legislators’ privacy concerns, it may be a little longer than 2015 until we find out.
There’s a reason Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired turned commercial drone mogul, called delivery by drone “incredibly stupid.”
“We love drones for agriculture because there are no people there, but using drones for delivery in built-up areas around people might not be the best idea,” he said.
It’s easy to imagine the problems that could come from the eight-rotored flying robots coming into contact with soft human flesh. And unlike the unmanned aerial vehicles the U.S. military uses for overhead surveillance around the world, octocopters fly low in the sky, diving low enough to touch when they hover to deliver packages.
Some early quadcopters have found at least superficial solutions to the problem. The Ardrone Parrot comes with a foam frame around its rotors so they can’t run into people. But the problem is compounded when you consider the fact that Prime Air could have dozens of octocopters hovering around the same apartment building during a particularly busy Cyber Monday.
We know it’s easy to deliberately hurt people with drones. Prime Air will have to develop a way for octocopters to do their jobs while keeping people safe.
Theft and Hacking
With any new development in technology, there are criminals and pranksters who find ways to turn it on its head.
When the news hit Twitter late Sunday, many users cracked jokes about the supposedly increased ease of Amazon package theft.
Couch conversation: if I shoot that down, I keep the box. Right?
— Max Fenton ✰ (@maxfenton) December 2, 2013
Most people wouldn’t hijack a mail truck. Yet, much in the way antisocial behavior increases over the Internet, criminal behavior might seem less harmful when it’s against a robot instead of a human. It could become one more way to lose a package in transit.
Even if this scenario is a little too breathless for you, it’s still well known that today’s drone technology is vulnerable to being hacked. Last year, a research team at the University of Texas told Congress how it was able to hack an $80,000 drone with a store-bought GPS device.
“If you can convincingly fake a GPS signal, you can convince an [unmanned aerial vehicle] into tracking your signal instead of the authentic one, and at that point you can control the UAV,” said Todd Humphreys, an assistant professor specializing in orbital mechanics.
The good news for Amazon is that commercial drone services in other countries may face these hurdles first. For example, Shenzhen-based Chinese delivery company SF Express is already experimenting with octocopter delivery.
SF Express’s pioneering service could be Prime Air’s petri dish, resolving these issues before Prime Air even gets off the ground.
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A new Google patent describes a comprehensive social media bot, one that can analyze your past messages from social networks, email, text messaging, etc., and then suggest suitable yet seemingly personalized responses for various social platforms.
View full post on Search Engine Watch – Latest
Today’s Google Doodle (or Whodle) commemorates the 50th anniversary of the hit BBC science fiction show “Doctor Who”. The premise: the Doctor’s mortal enemy, the evil Daleks have stolen the Google logo, and it’s up to the Doctor, to Save The Day.
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Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, published a post on his personal blog today asking for feedback about how Google can improve Webmaster Tools in 2014. Google’s webmaster console allows you to verify your website and be alerted of manual webspam actions that will directly affect your site. They have also improved how they […]
The post Matt Cutts Wants To Know How You Would Improve Google Webmaster Tools by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
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There are hundreds of thousands of schools in America. And MakerBot wants to put a 3D printer in every one of them.
MakerBot Academy is the 3D printing company’s new initiative to get students learning about technology. According to the company, it’s a direct response to President Obama’s Feb. 2013 State of the Union address, which encouraged businesses to think about ways to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.
“3D printing [has] the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything,” said the President. “[We must] guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America.”
Beginning Tuesday, any person or business interested in getting MakerBot Academy into schools can visit DonorsChoose. Teachers can register their classroom to request a MakerBot Academy bundle. So far, a handful of classrooms, mostly in highly impoverished areas, have already requested the 3D printer.
MakerBot will begin by funding the first few classrooms, at schools in the company’s hometown of Brooklyn, New York, on it’s own.
Each MakerBot Academy bundle contains a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer, three spools of MakerBot PLA Filament, and a full year of the MakerBot MakerCare Service and Protection Plan. The company and its new partners are also in the process of developing a 3D-printing curriculum for teachers to use.
Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot and a former teacher himself, said he hopes the initiative introduces students to key manufacturing skills they’ll need for the workforce.
“When you have a MakerBot Desktop 3D Printer, you see the world differently,” he said in a press release. “Instead of waiting for someone to create a product for you, you can create your own. It can change the whole paradigm of how our children will see innovation and manufacturing in America.”
Photo of MakerBot founders Adam Mayer, Zach Hoeken Smith and Bre Pettis courtesy of MakerBot.
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SEO update: Google wants your content to be faster
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Google has teased us before. Rumors swirled for months that Motorola would introduce a customizable smartphone that would let consumers decide what kind of hardware—a bigger battery, choice of processor, a better camera—they wanted. The notion of a consumer-grade open hardware platform quickened the heartbeats of geeks across the globe.
What we got instead was the Moto X, a smartphone that can be “customized” by picking your colors, getting an engraving on the back and adding a personalized message to the startup screen. This was not the revolution in smartphone hardware we wanted.
Still, Motorola’s engineers were paying attention. Today the company announced Project Ara, an open hardware platform where users can pick and choose what type of components they want to build their smartphones.
The Module Connects To The Endoskeleton
Motorola has been thinking about Project Ara for a year. It started the campaign with a project called “Sticky,” a truck wrapped in Velcro and loaded with rooted and hackable Motorola smartphone components and 3D printing equipment. The truck would hold “MakeAThon” events with engineers who would take the raw components and build their own smartphones.
Project Ara aims to take that concept to its logical conclusion. According to Motorola, Project Ara is a “free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones.”
The devices are built out of what Motorola calls endoskeletons and modules. The “endo” is the frame of the device, while the modules are the hardware, which could be just about anything that a hardware developer could dream up. Want a smartphone that specializes in barometric readings and air humidity? If someone designs and builds a module focused on sensor capabilities, you could add it to an endoskeleton—although with other modules like a CPU, storage, a camera, a radio and so forth.
To build modules for Project Ara, Motorola will make an alpha release of a “Module Developer Kit,” or MPK, within the next few months.
The Real Life Phonebloks
When I first saw Phonebloks, I thought it was a joke. An interesting one, but still a joke. Phonebloks was a video created by Dave Hakkens, a Dutch designer who envisioned a smartphone that consisted of a universal motherboard and hardware blocks that could be placed on to it like Legos to give you a highly customized smartphone.
The video concept of Phonebloks (below) in intriguing indeed. Alas, most people dismissed it as the pipedream of a designer with too much time on his hands.
Motorola didn’t see the video and dismiss it. The company met with Hakkens and tapped into the growing community of Phonebloks realists. And now we have Project Ara, the potential fulfillment of Hakkens’ vision.
If you know about how computers are made, it was easy to ditch Phonebloks as some weird dream. Hardware at the smartphone level is highly customized to run with mobile operating systems it is built for. If you want a camera in your smartphone, it has to be able to work with Android or iOS or Windows Phone and be compatible with the computer processor and the graphics processor and a variety of other hardware and software elements.
An open hardware platform where users could add whatever components they want willy nilly? It’s a quality-assurance nightmare.
Project Ara will likely run into the problem of compatibility as open source hardware developers build new modules for the experiment. As the creator of the project, Motorola is going to have to introduce certain standards and practices to the platform to make sure all the components of an Ara smartphone play nicely with each other. The biggest mountain Ara may have to climb will likely involve getting open source module builders on the same page.
Let’s be clear: Ara is an experiment. One that could’ve been cooked up on a university campus somewhere, where students tinker with their own open-sourced-hardware smartphones, but never bring a real device to market. Students at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass., have done similar projects.
But if Motorola can actually create a viable commercial project out of Ara, it would be the epitome of the do-it-yourself maker movement—not to mention a fulfillment of the dream sparked by those early Moto X rumors.
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What should software cost?
In the age of Google Apps, when Microsoft bundles Office with its Surface tablets, the right price seems to be zero.
Hence Apple’s announcement that it will now give away its desktop operating system, Mac OS X Mavericks, as well as its iLife and iWork application suites for the Mac, iPhone and iPad.
Strictly speaking, Apple has never sold its Mac operating system as a standalone product; it came bundled with Macs, and Apple only sold upgrades to the latest version. Those upgrades have been coming down in price; in recent years, the price has fallen from $99.99 to $29.99 to $19.99 for Mountain Lion, the version before Mavericks.
Since becoming Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook has stressed the company’s combination of hardware, software and services. As such, it hardly makes sense to break out the cost: It’s all part of the package for the consumer.
A Software Dream Deferred
Indeed, one of the things that may have been holding Apple back from making this move earlier are the abstruse accounting rules around selling software. When Apple sells an iPhone or a Mac, it must technically hold back, or defer, some of the revenue it receives, recognizing that some of the value it gives the buyer will come from software upgrades and associated services it has not yet delivered.
But that software and those services come over the airwaves now, not in a packaged box. Apple Stores once had shelf after shelf of shrink-wrapped software boxes; they are making way for cases and other accessories, as the Mac and iOS App Stores take over their software-sales function.
The green-eyeshade brigade may need some time to figure out how to put a value on Apple’s free software. But consumers have already voted: They expect their connected devices to work out of the box, and they don’t put fine distinctions on what’s an app and what’s part of the operating system.
Is voice calling or text messaging an app? Technically, yes, yet no one would buy a phone without these functions. Maps used to be something we thought of as an app, but it’s increasingly becoming subsumed into systems. Likewise, the tools we use to manage and manipulate photos, videos, and documents.
It all should just work—and it should be free with purchase.
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