Twitter announces new video partnerships with NBCUniversal and ESPN

Twitter is hosting its Digital Content NewFronts tonight, where it’s unveiling 30 renewals and new content deals — the company says that’s nearly twice as many as it announced last year.

Those include partnerships with the big players in media — starting with NBCUniversal, which will be sharing live video and clips from properties including NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo.

Twitter also announced some of the shows it will be airing as part of the ESPN deal announced earlier today: SportsCenter Live (a Twitter version of the network’s flagship) and Fantasy Focus Live (a livestream of the fantasy sports podcast).

Plus, the company said it’s expanding its existing partnership with Viacom with shows like Comedy Central’s Creator’s Room, BET Breaks and MTV News.

During the NewFronts event, Twitter’s head of video Kayvon Beykpour said daily video views on the platform have nearly doubled in the past year.

“Twitter is the ultimate mobile platform where video and conversation share the same screen,” said Kay Madati, the company’s head of content partnerships.

As Twitter continues to invest in video content, it’s been emphasizing its advantage in live video, a theme that continued in this year’s announcement.

“Twitter is the only place where conversation is tied to video and the biggest live moments, giving brands the unique ability to connect with leaned in consumers who are shaping culture,” said Twitter Global VP of Revenue and Content Partnerships Matthew Derella in a statement. “That’s our superpower.”

On top of all the new content, Twitter is also announcing new ad programs. There are Creator Originals, a set of scripted series from influencers who will be paired up with sponsored brands. (The program is powered by Niche, the influencer marketing startup that Twitter acquired a few years ago.) And there’s a new Live Brand Studio — as the name suggests, it’s a team that works with marketers to create live video.

Here are some other highlights from the content announcements:

  • CELEBrate, a series where people get heartwarming messages from their idols from Ellen Digital Studios.
  • Delish Food Day and IRL from Heart Magazines Digital Media
  • Power Star Live, which is “inspired by the cultural phenomenon of Black Twitter” and livestreamed from he Atlanta University Center, from Will Packer Media.
  • BuzzFeed News is renewing AM to DM until the end of 2018.
  • Pattern, a new brand focused on weather- and science-related news.
  • Programming the Huffington Post (which, like TechCrunch, is owned by Verizon/Oath), History, Vox and BuzzFeed News that highlights women around the world.

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Video: Larry Harvey and JP Barlow on Burning Man and tech culture

Larry Harvey, founder of the counterculture festival Burning Man, passed away this weekend. He was 70.

Harvey created a movement and contributed to the flowering both of counter-culture and, ultimately, of tech culture.

Both he and John Perry Barlow, who also passed in February this year after a long period of ill health, were huge advocates of free speech. Barlow wrote lyrics for the Grateful Dead, and then became a digital rights activist in later life.

In 2013 I caught up with both of them and recorded a joint 24 minute interview, just a short walk from the venue for the ‘Le Web London’ conference.

Amid the street noise and the traffic, they discussed some of the intellectual underpinnings of startup entrepreneurship and its parallels with Burning Man, in what might have been their first-ever joint interview.

We went over early computer culture, and how there was a “revolutionary zeal in the notion of intellectual empowerment” in Psychedelia which found common cause in tech culture.

We present for you once again, this iconic interview, in memory of these great men.

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WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum confirms he’s quitting Facebook

“It is time for me to move on . . . I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee” WhatsApp co-founder, CEO, and Facebook board member Jan Koum wrote today. The announcement follows The Washington Post’s report that Koum would leave due to disagreements with Facebook management about WhatsApp user data privacy and weakened encryption. Koum obscured that motive in his note that says “I’ll still be cheering WhatsApp on – just from the outside.”

You can read Koum’s full post below. We’ll have more analysis shortly.

It's been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp, and it's been an amazing journey with some of the best…

Posted by Jan Koum on Monday, April 30, 2018

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Covee uses blockchain to allow experts worldwide to collaborate

Solving complex data-driven problems requires a lot of teamwork. But, of course, teamwork is typically restricted to companies where everyone is working under there same roof. While distributed teams have become commonplace in tech startups, taking that to the next level by linking up disparate groups of people all working on the same problem (but not in the same company) has been all but impossible. However, in theory, you could use a blockchain to do such a thing, where the work generated was constantly accounted for on-chain.

That’s in theory. In practice, there’s now a startup that claims to have come up with this model. And it’s raised funding.

Covee, a startup out of Berlin has raised a modest EUR 1.35m, in a round led by LocalGlobe in London with Atlantic Labs in Berlin and a selection of Angels. Prior to this, the company was bootstrapped by CEO Dr Marcel Dietsch, who left his job at a London-based hedge fund, and his long-time friend, Dr Raphael Schoettler, COO, who had previously worked for Deutsche Bank. They are joined by Dr Jochen Krause, CTO, an early blockchain investor and bitcoin miner, and former quant developer and data scientist, respectively, at Scalable Capital and Valora.

What sort of things could this platform be used for? Well, it could be used to bring together people to use machine learning algorithms to improve cancer diagnosis through tumor detection, or perhaps develop a crypto trading algorithm.

There are obvious benefits to the work of scientists. They could work more flexibly, access a more diverse range of projects, choose their teammates, and have their work reviewed by peers.

The platform also means you could be rewarded fairly for your contribution.

The upside for corporates is that they can use distributed workers where there is no middleman platform to pay, no management consultancy fees, and access a talent pool (data engineers, statisticians, domain experts) which is difficult to bring inside the firm.

Now, there are indeed others doing this including Aragon (decentralised governance for everything), Colony (teamwork for everything), and Upwork (freelance jobs platform individuals). All are different and have their limitations of course.

Covee plans to make money by having users pay a transaction fee for using the network infrastructure. They plan to turn this into a fully open-source decentralised network, with this transaction fee attached. But Covee will also offer this as a service if clients prefer not to deal with blockchain tokens and the platform directly.

Dietsch says: “Covee was founded in the first half of 2017 in Berlin and relocated to Zurich, Switzerland late 2017 where we incorporated Covee Network. Moving to Switzerland was important for us because it has one of the oldest and strongest blockchain ecosystems in the world and an excellent pipeline of talent from institutions such as ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. The crypto-friendly stance of the country means it has all the necessary infrastructure as well as clear regulations for token economies.”

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Senate Democrats plan to push rollback of FCC’s new net neutrality rules in May

One of the several ways opponents of the FCC’s new net neutrality rules plan to push back is to use the Congressional Review Act to nix the Commission’s order before it has a chance to take effect. Although Democrats in the Senate are currently one vote short of success, they plan to force the vote soon anyway, perhaps as early as mid-May.

As explained in other posts about the steps that can be taken to combat the unpopular Restoring Internet Freedom order, the CRA allows for a quick vote on whether to roll back a recently established regulation. The current administration used it a great deal to undo later Obama-era rules, but now the shoe is on the other foot — partially, anyway.

So far Senate Democrats have a total of 50 votes, including that of Republican Susan Collins — much more than required to force a vote but one short of the 51 needed to pass the resolution. And even if it did passed, its chances of passing in the House are even smaller, and after that, it would be DOA on the President’s desk.

But as many have pointed out, the goal isn’t just to roll back the rules, but to get everyone on Congress to weigh in on the record whether they support the new rules or not. This will be critical to making net neutrality an issue in the 2018 midterms.

Hopes that another Republican Senator will voluntarily cross the aisle seem to have petered out, and so Democrats are reportedly planning to press the button on May 9, after which procedural step it could be as little as a week before the vote actually takes place. Politico and Fight for the Future reported the date, which was not disputed by a Senator’s aide I contacted. The latter is organizing a bit of online activism around the CRA, which you can follow here.

As for the rules themselves, it’s not clear when they’ll actually take effect — they did not, as I erroneously wrote a week ago and as some regulations would have, come into play on April 23. They are under consideration by the Office of Budget and Management and won’t be official until it has provided its stamp of approval.

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Hazelcast 3.10 brings split-brain, consistency improvements

Open-source in-memory data management company Hazelcast announced the version 3.10 release of Hazelcast IMDG as a production-ready build today, bringing a conflict-free replicated data type (CRDT) for high-performance counting operations, a Flake ID generator and several enhancements for split-brain protection and functionality, all based on open-source community input.

Hazelcast IMDG 3.10 is the first iteration of the utility to include a CRDT implementation, “a specially designed data structure used to achieve strong eventual consistency,” the company wrote in its announcement. Hazelcast’s CRDT PN-Counter localizes operations to each user and maintains consistency of increment, decrement and query counting operations between users, which the company says the software can achieve with little latency and high-performance regardless of load. Hazelcast uses counting likes, page views or connected users as typical examples of CRDT operations.

“Now that we have our first CRDT, additional CRDTs will be easier to implement so we are eager to hear what you think and which CRDTs you would like to see next,” Matko Medenjak, software engineer at Hazelcast, wrote in a release blog.

Also introduced in the new release is the Hazelcast FlakeIDGenerator, providing higher throughput than the existing Hazelcast IdGenerator for generating cluster-wide unique identifiers.

“In single-node systems, unique ID generation is a relatively straightforward process,” the company wrote in the announcement. “However, problems can occur in distributed implementations, for example preserving uniqueness, eliminating contention, and maintaining safety during failures. The Hazelcast FlakeIDGenerator replaces the existing ID Generator. It generates IDs without coordination between Hazelcast members, meaning it can generate unique IDs even during split-brain and network partitioning failures.”

The final major addition to Hazelcast IMDG in version 3.10 are improvements to split-brain protection and functions. Where version 3.9 only supported merging after a network partition occurred in Map, ICache and ReplicatedMap, this function has been expanded with split-brain merging policies for ISet, IList, IQueue, Ringbuffer, MultiMap, IAtomicLong, IAtomicReference, IScheduledExecutorService and CardinalityEstimator.

The company says that it has improved the flexibility of split-brain protection in Hazelcast 3.10, in which users can now set severity levels to split-brain protection. This protection will now take into account member heartbeats, membership changes, lost ICMP pings and successful ping reattempts, whereas in version 3.9, only the number of currently-observed members was considered.

Medenjak says that many small improvements and optimizations have also been made version 3.10, alongside JCache 1.1 compliance and an interface for protecting sensitive information in XML configuration files.

“A major reason why we are adopted by open source projects and developers is because we listen to community feedback and act upon it,” Hazelcast CEO Greg Luck said. “This new release is a testament to the strength of our community following and the quality advice we receive from it. This release brings the fastest split-brain detection, protection against mutation across almost all data structures during split brain and comprehensive healing across almost all data structures. To cap all that off, we have added some conflict-free data structures such as Flake IDs for ID generation, and CRDT Counters, as a conflict free alternative to AtomicLong.”

The post Hazelcast 3.10 brings split-brain, consistency improvements appeared first on SD Times.

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Discovering that deckhands make great waiters — and why this matters

Breakthroughs in HR tech are not only giving employers game-changing tools with which to enhance processes and attract the best talent, they’re also solving longstanding labor gremlins, such as gender pay parity and blind hiring. At the same time, they’re giving employees novel means by which to accrue and auto-tag prequalifying skill sets for job scenarios far beyond their current positions. But there are opportunities in matching current/future employee needs with what employers can offer.

In January, Gartner projected that HR tech would drive growth in worldwide IT spending in 2018. I’ve spent the last few months better understanding the landscape, so I’m better-positioned to gauge how the cards will fall. I interviewed 10 leaders in human resources — thanks to people like Jan Fiegel (SideWalk Labs), Parker Barille (former VP Product LinkedIn), Cindy Cordon (Policy Genius). Here’s what I gleaned.

First, let’s clarify misconceptions

HR tech is a huge space

Yes. It will be, but it is still not that big today. The global HR tech industry is estimated at $400 billion, but investments are sensitive to economic shifts. Deal activity in HR tech has increased steadily since 2012, or 175 percent from 2012 to 2016, as shown in the chart below. But investment dollars peaked at $2.4 billion in 2015. In 2016, there were 402 deals worth approximately $2.2 billion in funding, and 2017 closed out with about $1.1 billion in funding for HR tech companies.

Source: CB Insights

Diving in deeper, current spend on HR is small compared to most other functions within a company. For example, while the global HR software market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.4 percent, reaching $9.2 billion by 2022, Gartner shows Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at a $36.5 billion worldwide market in 2017.

But, the venture opportunity with HR tech will grow over time, fueled by social pressures, by industry need for data and efficiency, and to rise above in a competition for top talent.

HR benefits platforms are the next big thing

A new workforce generation is driving exciting use cases for HR benefits platforms. Companies are hatching creative perks for employees, such as adopting progressive health plan “plus” platforms like Robin Care or LUCY, a service for employees with families, whose motto proclaims that it “helps employees love the family they grow and grow the career they love.”

But platforms like these could potentially be on the chopping block if recessions strike. A change of mindset and a saturation threshold will need to be reached for employers to accept these as “indispensable” employee needs and not just exotic perks for the millennial crowd. That said, I’m cautiously bullish on these platforms and would love to see them succeed.

We have some ways to go before HR benefits platforms prove sticky in the post-recession era. According to a Bloomberg BNA report, HR department budgets grew ~4-7 percent annually before the Great Recession, just 2 percent in 2009 and have only semi recovered to a 4 percent annual growth rate. Sustained market growth will be key to ensuring that value-added platforms become the new normal.

What still rings true

Companies still want better candidate assessment tools

LinkedIn only works for mid to senior-level hires. For fresh college grads and junior white-collar workers, it is hard to go off a traditional resumé because experience can be unconventional at best. It’s why companies like Portfolium and Strive Talent are finding creative ways to showcase skills and are boycotting traditional experience-based resumés. HireVue has a video-based assessment system that can literally read candidates’ faces and assess their honesty and the quality of their answers.

HR by VR (and AR) combines immersive experiences with efficiency, and there have already been significant investments in the space this year. Israeli startup ActiView, which has developed VR technology for assessing job applicants, raised $6.5 million in a Series A financing round from Teddy Sagi Group. AllyO, a provider of AI recruiting technology, raised a $14 million round.

Companies want to know what software to use

As the number of HR tech companies grows — just take a look at this HR tech landscape by Silicon & Salsa — companies at times struggle with the overabundance of choice. A platform to find your best tech solution, like the Salesforce AppExchange, is a gap in the market to help companies navigate options. TechnologyAdvice is a good start, but the UI is not friendly or intuitive.

Imagine an enviable world in which employees have all the support they need to achieve the pipe dream of work/life balance. 

Beyond just picking the best-in-class app, there needs to be a data sync across different platforms to improve predictors around candidate attributes and future churn. With companies targeting segments of HR tech, there’s a clear need for an overarching data record system that can enable big data analysis across platforms.

HR staff spend too much time recruiting new employees

On average, the interview process spans 24 days in the U.S. Automation is key to decreasing the amount of time existing employees spend courting a candidate and interviewing, and there are platforms addressing these time-intensive tasks, as well as others.

The recruiting landscape is crowded, but ripe for experimentation with feature/benefit creep. Companies like LearnUp are not only helping companies schedule interviews and prep for them, they’re also adding to their platform skills-building lessons and job-coaching resources. Taking it one step further, companies like madeBOS are creating economic mobility for entry-level workers in retail and adjacent sectors by empowering employees to drive their own development, saving valuable HR staff time.

Matching skills to jobs for blue-collar workers enables high performance

When a restaurant recruits wait staff, they typically look for people who have worked at other restaurants. The same is true in retail. In finance, we always caveat previous performance or experience by indicating that it is not indicative of future performance. And this reliance on the past couldn’t be more misguided in hiring hourly employees, because it is the skills that matter — speed, good interpersonal skills, memory (for orders), etc.

If you were able to match skill sets only, a deckhand makes a great waiter. LA-based Talytica boasts an ability to assess cognitive ability, personality, strong career interests and specific job skills in the hourly talent management space, theoretically resolving this critical disconnect.

Imagine an enviable world in which employees have all the support they need to achieve the pipe dream of work/life balance. Or one in which candidates are sifted by skill and not the biases associated with background, gender or ethnicity. These are just two of the tectonic benefits HR tech can deliver across the board, connecting dots and leaving bare why certain deckhands could make exquisite waiters. Having explored this vertical, it’s clear to me that HR tech platforms are the surest way to yield the unquestioned must-haves the market now demands on both sides. It now remains to be seen which companies can deliver on engagement and codify this season’s visionary investment choice into the industry’s “new normal.”

Are you an entrepreneur with a fresh take on HR tech? Reach out and tell me more.

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Spam filters and AI help figure out what animals do all day

The pond-dwelling Hydra is not a very complex little animal but it does have a complex repertoire of moves that aren’t clear until after extensive human observation. Examining these moves took a long time and scientists were never sure that they had seen all of them. Now, thanks to an algorithm used to catch spam, researchers have been able to catalog all of the Hydra’s various moves, allowing them to map those moves to the neurons firing in its weird little head.

“People have used machine learning algorithms to partly analyze how a fruit fly flies, and how a worm crawls, but this is the first systematic description of an animal’s behavior,” said Rafael Yuste, a neuroscientist at Columbia University . “Now that we can measure the entirety of Hydra’s behavior in real-time, we can see if it can learn, and if so, how its neurons respond.”

Luckily, the little Hydra was pretty predictable. From the report:

In the current study, the team went a step further by attempting to catalog Hydra’s complete set of behaviors. To do so, they applied the popular “bag of words” classification algorithm to hours of footage tracking Hydra’s every move. Just as the algorithm analyzes how often words appear in a body of text to pick out topics (and flag, for example, patterns resembling spam), it cycled through the Hydra video and identified repetitive movements.

Their algorithm recognized 10 previously described behaviors, and measured how six of those behaviors responded to varying environmental conditions. To the researchers’ surprise, Hydra’s behavior barely changed. “Whether you fed it or not, turned the light on or off, it did the same thing over and over again like an Energizer bunny,” said Yuste.

The system used to map the Hydra’s reactions can be used to map more complicated systems. The researchers essentially “reverse-engineered” the Hydra and may be able to use the technique to “maintain stability and precise control in machines, from ships to planes, navigating in highly variable conditions.”

“Reverse engineering Hydra has the potential to teach us so many things,” said Shuting Han, a graduate student at Columbia.

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DNC launches tech marketplace for Democratic candidates

The Democratic National Committee is trying to help Democrats regain the pole position as the tech-savviest political party in the U.S.

After getting Trumped in the 2016 election (pwned on security, data analysis, and at the polls), the DNC is launching I Will Run a marketplace for software, services and training to upgrade the campaigns of Democratic candidates.

Announced today by Sally Marx, the tech program manager for the DNC, the new marketplace will have a host of tech tools that campaigns can use to get off the ground, manage their progress, and ensure easy outreach to voters.

A profusion of political services have sprung up in the months since Donald Trump took the Presidency. Energized technology developers (on the whole a pretty left-leaning bunch) tuned in to politics, turned on new services and (in some cases) dropped out of their careers at high profile shops like Google, Facebook, and other Bay Are behemoths to join the political circus — or at least build tools for it.

“[We’ve] heard repeatedly from candidates and campaign staff that they are unsure what tools are out there, and simultaneously feel as if they are being fed too much information by vendors,” says Marx. “On the other hand, many of these innovators are not always reaching campaigns effectively  –  some state parties and campaigns, therefore, are in the dark about some of the innovative new technology that they should know about. And, finally, we’ve been in touch with funders and supporters who want to boost the progressive tech ecosystem, but aren’t clear on where those opportunities are.”

The marketplace, which Marx writes is explicitly for Democratic campaigns is a curated compilation of tools used by campaigns and tools tested by DNC-funded case studies.

One of the companies already on the platform is the secure messaging service, Wickr, which has been working with campaigns from both parties to secure their communications. Wickr’s one of around 56 companies and non-profits that are listed on the site in one of six categories: digital (which is crazy general), finance, research, security, training organizations, and voter outreach.

The DNC tech team will also use the site to coordinate training, volunteers and pricing for Democratic campaigns. They’re piloting the program in states like Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Texas, Florida, Massachusetts and Iowa.

For campaigns interested in seeing what wares I Will Run has on offer, the DNC tech team is taking its show on the road with a whistle-stop tour at DNC events so state parties and campaigns can demo the tech.

 

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There’s something called Bacoin now

To paraphrase a saying popularized by countless dorm room stoners: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you use the hype around decentralized crypto economies sell bacon.” The latest example of this age-old adage comes to us from Oscar Meyer and involves their exciting new cryp-faux-currency, Bacoin.

The currency can be redeemed for bacon and you “mine” it by sharing the good news of bacoin with your friends. Instead of taking up massive amounts of electricity, the production of the final store of value – pig parts – requires only a massive agricultural system dedicated to the wholesale destruction of mammals that are as smart as dogs and, in the right context, quite cute. The end product, bacon, is considered by many to be far more interesting than anything Vitalik created. In short, it’s a win-win.

How does it work? It’s basically a sweepstakes. From the rules and regulations:

The value of the Bacoin is tied to overall sharing meaning that the more people who share via the Website (as outlined above), the higher the value of the Bacoin. If overall sharing is slow, the value of the Bacoin will decrease. If sharing is slow and the value of the Bacoin is low, Sponsor may increase value of Bacoin in its sole discretion. The current value of the Bacoin will be displayed on the Website. Once the Bacoin is at a value you want, follow the instructions to “cash out” and you will receive a coupon with the corresponding value (all possible values of the Bacoin coupon are outlined in Section 4 below).

The current value of a single mined bacoin is about 28 slices of bacon and the more you share the more you mine. Given that is is in no way a decentralized cryptocurrency and has nothing to do with anything technical at all I’m hard pressed to find a reason to post this here except to admire the sheer chutzpah of a company who knows exactly what breed of Reddit-loving bacon eater will jump at a chance to Tweet about pork products. To paraphrase another saying by my friend Nicholas Deleon: I hope the asteroid they promised comes for us all soon.

Bacoin. Yeah.

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