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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

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.

Source: TechCrunch

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum quits Facebook due to privacy intrusions

“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 followed shortly after The Washington Post reported 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.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly commented on Koum’s Facebook post about his departure, writing “Jan: I will miss working so closely with you. I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.” That comment further tries to downplay the idea that Facebook pushed Koum away by trying to erode encryption.

The move comes 3.5 years after WhatsApp’s acquisition, meaning Koum may have vested much of his stock and have fewer financial incentives to stay. It’s currently unclear what will happen to Koum’s Facebook board seat that WashPo says he’ll vacate, or who will replace him as WhatsApp’s CEO.

One possible candidate for the CEO role would be WhatsApp business executive Neeraj Arora, a former Google corporate development manager who’s been with WhatsApp since 2011 — well before the Facebook acquisition. A source described him as the #4 at WhatsApp.

Values misaligned

Koum sold WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for a jaw-dropping $19 billion. But since then it’s more than tripled its user count to 1.5 billion, making the price to turn messaging into a one-horse race seem like a steal. But at the time, Koum and co-founder Brian Acton were assured that WhatsApp wouldn’t have to run ads or merge its data with Facebook’s. So were regulators in Europe, where WhatsApp is most popular.

A year and a half later, though, Facebook pressured WhatsApp to change its terms of service and give users’ phone numbers to its parent company. That let Facebook target those users with more precise advertising, such as by letting businesses upload lists of phone numbers to hit those people with promotions. Facebook was eventually fined $122 million by the European Union in 2017 — a paltry sum for a company earning more than $4 billion in profit per quarter.

But the perceived invasion of WhatsApp user privacy drove a wedge between Koum and the parent company well before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. A source confirms that Koum had been considering leaving for a year. Acton left Facebook in November, and has publicly supported the #DeleteFacebook movement since.

WashPo writes that Koum was also angered by Facebook executives pushing for a weakening of WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption in order to facilitate its new WhatsApp For Business program. It’s possible that letting multiple team members from a business all interact with its WhatsApp account could be incompatible with strong encryption. Facebook plans to finally make money off WhatsApp by offering bonus services to big companies like airlines, e-commerce sites and banks that want to conduct commerce over the chat app.

Jan Koum (Photo: TOBIAS HASE/AFP/Getty Images)

Koum was heavily critical of advertising in apps, once telling Forbes that “Dealing with ads is depressing . . . You don’t make anyone’s life better by making advertisements work better.” He vowed to keep them out of WhatsApp. But over the past year, Facebook has rolled out display ads in the Messenger inbox. Without Koum around, Facebook might push to expand those obtrusive ads to WhatsApp as well.

The high-profile departure comes at a vulnerable time for Facebook, with its big F8 developer conference starting tomorrow despite Facebook simultaneously shutting down parts of its dev platform as penance for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Meanwhile, Google is trying to fix its fragmented messaging strategy, ditching apps like Allo to focus on a mobile carrier-backed alternative to SMS it’s building into Android Messages.

While the News Feed made Facebook rich, it also made it the villain. Messaging has become its strongest suit thanks to the dual dominance of Messenger and WhatsApp. Considering many users surely don’t even realize WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, Koum’s departure over policy concerns isn’t likely to change that. But it’s one more point in what’s becoming a thick line connecting Facebook’s business ambitions to its cavalier approach to privacy.

You can read Koum’s full post below.

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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

Source: TechCrunch

Facebook F8 2018: How to Watch Live

Did your invitation get lost in the mail? That’s OK. You can watch the whole thing online.
Source: Wired

Comcast looks to protect cable business with new deal on faster internet speeds

To fight Netflix and Hulu, Comcast is offering a free boost to faster internet speeds if customers sign up for a cable TV package. Comcast hopes that cord cutters may be lured back to pay-TV with faster download speeds.

The post Comcast looks to protect cable business with new deal on faster internet speeds appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

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 the 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 €1.35 million 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 and 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 (decentralized governance for everything), Colony (teamwork for everything) and Upwork (freelance jobs platform for 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 decentralized 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.”

Source: TechCrunch

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 pass, 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 in 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.

Source: TechCrunch

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.

Source: TechCrunch

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.

Source: TechCrunch

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.


Source: TechCrunch

Amazing photos taken on the Samsung Galaxy S9 – CNET

These beautiful photos were all taken with the same model of smartphone.
Source: CNET