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Telegrams Go Viral with Crazy New App

posted Sunday Aug 31, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Telegrams Go Viral with Crazy New App

So, this one is pretty weird. Miranda July believes that technology is far too impersonal, and wants to change it to the far extreme: making technology the conduit for personal communications, with a twist. Instead of calling your friend on the phone and having a fairly human-to-human interaction, July has developed a application that allows you to send a text message to a stranger, who will then find your friend and deliver the message verbally. July describes it,

The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.

Now, to be fair, if a stranger walked up to me in public and relayed a message as if they know me, nervous would not quite describe my reaction. On the other hand, I could pretend I am a secret agent receiving an assignment, so there is an aspect of not terrifying involved, I suppose.

Luckily, in reality, you get a warning that you will be approached by a stranger. Here's how the app works: you pick your friend from your contact list and ask them if they are available, then you choose your messenger from a list of participants around your contact. You can see photos, reviews and success rates for the deliverer, helping you decide whom to use. You then send the message, a photo and instructions to your agent so they can find the person to whom they will deliver the message.

Clearly, this little project only works if there are people around using the app. Since the app is only available on iOS, your selection of delivery agents will be very limited. To try and overcome this limitation, there is a concept of a hotspot, which is essentially a place for people to go to deliver and receive these incredibly off messages. While several liberal arts colleges have set up hotspots, anyone can register one, at concerts, conventions, etc.

You have probably already figured out that this is less of a messaging platform and more of a distributed performance art platform. July said,

Unpredictable, undocumented, fleeting interactions with strangers can bring great joy and inspiration! Pretending to be someone else is liberating. The feeling is a little like Truth or Dare and Charades.

I don't know if this is enough of a reason to create an awkward, uncomfortable stranger meetup, but if this seems like your thing, you can get the app from the source link.

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Flickr Account Plays Home to Internet Archive of Images of the Past

posted Sunday Aug 31, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Flickr Account Plays Home to Internet Archive of Images of the Past

One of the great and positive accomplishments of the Internet is the ability to save pieces of history forever. This happens every day on the Web, but one of the major projects has been archiving photographs from as early as 1500 onto Yahoo's newly renovated Flickr. The idea was that 14 million images from the Internet Archive Blog would be preserved on Flickr by Kalev Leetaru, a technology scholar. This week, the Flickr account eclipsed 2.5 million images that can now be searched, viewed and shared.

Leetaru has taken the task of scouring through 600 million pages in the Internet Archive, with help of course, in order to showcase history in a new and interesting way via Flickr. Previously, if one wanted to look at the 1600s version of Lolcats, the task would've proven more difficult. Now, within a few clicks, you can quickly take a glimpse into the past through a vast array of imagery.

As Leetaru puts it, for too long the Internet has been concerned with simply scanning in text and keeping that in PDF form.

For all these years all the libraries have been digitising their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works. They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that.

The images he's after range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright laws place limitations on the ability to simply scan and preserve works of art and other media. Leetaru also developed him own software to accomplish this goal. Instead of previous OCR software that is able to ignore pictures, his code actually takes that information to specifically target images to save as individual files. The software is then able to snag a caption for each image, when applicable, and can grab the text right before and after the image as well. After that's done, the software automatically posts the image to Flickr, text included.

All of this came to be after Leetaru worked on a communications technology project at Georgetown University, where the research was funded by Yahoo, which explains how Flickr became the method of choice. "Stretching half a millennia, it's amazing to see the total range of images and how the portrayals of things have changed over time," he said. What's even cooler is the ability to type "cat" or "telephone" and you're then able to see all images that fall under the specific tag.

Leetaru has added that he wants to see Wikipedia and other common license organizations get involved with his Flickr endeavor so that all media can be tagged and categorized so it can be easily searched. Have you viewed the page yet? There's some pretty incredible images from over 300 years ago. What's your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Amazon Steps In, Picks Up Twitch for $970 Million

posted Friday Aug 29, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Amazon Steps In, Picks Up Twitch for $970 Million

So it turns out the entire Internet was wrong, including us, and Google didn't actually buy Twitch. All the changes just seemed to be coincidence, as it was announced this week that Amazon stepped in and laid out $970 million for the video game streaming service.

It seems that Google was in talks with Twitch for some time, but when the two companies discussed possible anti-trust issues, something Google is extremely familiar with, the sides could not come to an agreement on a "break-up" fee in case the deal couldn't go through. When that happened, Twitch continued to shop around and Amazon was in the wings the whole time. Amazon's $970 million check makes Twitch the largest aquisition for the company.

So what happens now? Obviously this maintains competition in the market and puts Google on the defensive. Twitch seemed to be the clear answer for YouTube's failing YouTube Live service, and now Google will have to come up with an alternative plan to attract new content creators. Of course, there's other competition like Hitbox, and Vimeo is also considering a stronger push to live content, but YouTube is now in a position of do-or-die.

For Twitch, this is good news all around. More server support, more resources and the ability to continue to grow are what comes to the table from Amazon. Twitch CEO Emmett Shear puts it all into perspective for us on why this all went down.

We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We're keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon's support we'll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.

My outlook on this whole thing is much more optimistic than it was two weeks ago. YouTube picking up Twitch was going to make most gamers very sad, however the myriad of changes that Twitch implemented since the rumors started aren't going away. So what will happen now? Content creators didn't really leave Twitch, despite their threats from last week, so hopefully this news will entice them to stay. Twitch is still breaking records, too, and we'll probably see more growth, unique viewers and new channels coming to the service by the end of the year.

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Congressional Wikipedia Vandal Faces Another Ban

posted Sunday Aug 24, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Congressional Wikipedia Vandal Faces Another Ban

For some reason, Congressional staffers love to spend time editing Wikipedia. Often times these edits are innocuous, but from time to time they can be material edits to content. Occasionally, those edits are not only material, but inflammatory. Fortunately for those of us who rely on the information on Wikipedia, the organization has a process for dealing with these edits.

If a registered user makes edits that are not in the best interest of the information, a moderator has the ability to prevent that user from making further edits, either to the particular topic or as a whole. Unfortunately, there is also the ability to make edits anonymously; this creates a whole different issue.

Firstly, the ability to edit anonymously creates a scenario in which someone can make an edit without any accountability. Once you remove the accountability, for some you also remove the humanity. Secondly, how do you handle content vandalism when the edit is made anonymously?

That topic has come to the forefront thanks to some anonymous Congressional edits that are considered vandalism. From a member of the House of Representatives staff comes an edit to the page for Netflix series Orange is the New Black which shows off a special type of stupidity. The change revolves around series regular Sophia Burset, who is a transgendered character, played by Laverne Cox. The original text read, "played by a real transgender woman" but was edited to read, "played by a real man pretending to be a woman."

Obviously the response in the talk page to this edit was not positive. Other Wikipedia users are calling for the IP address of the editor to be banned from Wikipedia entirely. This would not be the first time this IP has had a ban on it, though. It just recently came off of a ban, which was followed almost immediately by this edit. The editor believes that they are being targeted because the community does not agree with their opinion, which they have forced into the page, and therefore they are calling it vandalism. Other members claim that the offense is in the addition of opinion where, before, there was only well-defined words used.

Whether you agree with the editor's wording agenda or not, it is hard to argue the fact that the edit injected opinion where there was none before.

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Ballmer Steps Down as Microsoft Board Member

posted Sunday Aug 24, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Ballmer Steps Down as Microsoft Board Member

Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO and now the owner of the NBA's LA Clippers, has officially stepped down as a board member with Microsoft this week, effective immediately. In an open letter to new CEO Satya Nadella, Ballmer mentions that his six month mark of retirement is coming up and he's had a lot of time to reflect on what he's done and what he wants to do moving forward.

Given my confidence and the multitude of new commitments I am taking on now, I think it would be impractical for me to continue to serve on the board, and it is best for me to move off. The fall will be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season so my departure from the board is effective immediately.

After buying the Clippers for $2 billion, I figured the team would occupy his time, especially considering he paid four times more for a basketball team than anyone else ever has. And as mentioned in the letter, he's also going to be teaching. Ballmer will be teaching an MBA class, STRAMGT588: Leading organizations, for the Stanford School of Business come fall. Then in the spring he will move over to USC's Marshall School of Business.

Ballmer left Nadella some encouraging words, saying that Microsoft will have to be "bold" and "make big bets" in order to remain on top. He also said that he still believes in the company's mobile-first and cloud-first approach. As far as his shares, Ballmer will remain as a shareholder and still wants to give his opinion on new ideas.

Count on me to keep ideas and inputs flowing. The company will move to higher heights. I will be proud, and I will benefit through my share ownership. I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can.

In response, Nadella thanked Ballmer for his contributions and assistance during the CEO transition, wishing him the best of luck in the future.

As you embark on your new journey, I am sure that you will bring the same boldness, passion and impact to your new endeavors that you brought to Microsoft, and we wish you incredible success. I also look forward to partnering with you as a shareholder.

What do you make of all of this? Is there an underlying reason that Ballmer would leave everything but his shares of Microsoft? Or is he really going to be too busy to contribute effectively? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Analysts Predict HBO to Make $600 Million for Standalone Video Service

posted Friday Aug 22, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Analysts Predict HBO to Make $600 Million for Standalone Video Service

With Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Redbox owning the video-streaming service without needing to rely on customers having an active cable subscription, it would only make sense for companies tied to those cable companies to want a piece of the action. It also isn't surprising that financial groups are starting to talk about the benefit of those endeavors. This is why Barclays Capital issued a report this week saying that if HBO would sell its programming - something we all have thought would happen at some point soon - the company could make an additional $600 million per year.

The report contains the inner-workings of Barclays' analysts showcasing a bunch of different plans that could lead HBO to providing either a direct service to customers or having other companies buy its content, all while keeping cable providers happy. In one of the scenarios, HBO content would be able to be streamed at $11 per month, but the content would only be available for six to twelve months after the shows air on the network's cable offering. In other case, all HBO content would be readily available indefinitely but customers might have to pay higher than the $15 per month they pay to cable companies, about $18 a month.

If HBO chose to go with the less expensive model, Barclays analysts predict that somewhere between 4.5 and 7 million homes would pick up HBO at only $11 a month. Only 300,000 to 800,000 might opt for an $18 per month package. However, Kannan Venkateshwar, the creator of the report, says that if HBO were to offer both packages on a tiered system, HBO could rake in about $600 million each year. As a reference, HBO made about $1.7 billion in 2013.

As we've even said on the show, it makes total sense for HBO to offer its own service outside of HBO GO, which currently requires an active cable subscription and HBO subscription for the service to work. And HBO is becoming less affordable to most consumers, as cable bills are constantly on the rise. A standalone Netflix-style business model could open up huge opportunities for this current trend of cable cutters. However, cable companies would take notice quickly and may put up more of a fight than Barclays might be willing to admit.

What do you think? Would you subscribe to HBO video-streaming if you didn't have to be tied to a cable company? Do you currently have cable to have HBO Go? Let us know your situation in the comments below.

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