Tag Archive | "love"

#Love: I’m Single, Therefore I Tinder

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Screenshot 2014-04-20 13.07.29

#Love: Do Not Pass Code

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There is a special milestone in each significant relationship that is rarely celebrated. There’s no holiday, no dinner, and no party. It just happens – one day you’re strangers, the next you’re not.

It’s the day you hand over your passwords to your SO. Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Perfecting The Enterprise End User Experience

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Editor’s note: Todd McKinnon is CEO of identity management firm Okta. Follow him on Twitter @toddmckinnon.

Everyone talks about user experience. It’s often referred to in terms of how “sticky” an app is: how easy it is to use, how engaging it is, how relevant it is to what users are doing, etc. All are elements that contribute to a compelling experience, regardless of industry or app type. But while user experience is well understood and has always been core to the development and success of consumer-facing apps, the same is hardly true in the enterprise world.

So why is that and what are we – as enterprise software companies – doing about it?

To make a lasting impact and to drive change within it requires an entirely new way of thinking about software development and large-scale technology projects. It’s also one that suggests we look to our consumer counterparts for guidance on how to put the user first and build technology second.

If we mimic companies like Uber and GoPro – resisting the temptation to simply recreate old experiences in a new environment – we’ll enable entirely new, powerful use cases. We’ll move away from the old standard of iteration to a new standard of true innovation. We’ll create business value that didn’t exist previously that ultimately makes companies more competitive. We’ll make the economy stronger. We might even make the world better.

It’s a massive challenge, but it’s also a massive opportunity.

What You Want To Do vs. How You Get There

Technology has gotten a lot easier and more efficient because many companies are moving to cloud computing and adopting more mobile devices. Traditional tasks are becoming automated, and apps no longer come with a user manual because experiences are just that intuitive.

But it’s about more than that. As our world continues to evolve, we cannot continue thinking of technology in terms of dollars saved or hosting data outside company walls. It’s not just about cost effectiveness and the bottom line. We must break out of the traditional ‘technology view’ and start to think about what technology now makes possible, creating new experiences and delivering top-line value in the process.

When the founders of Uber initially had the idea for the app, they didn’t think about a huge logistics network for routing luxury cars and cabs. Instead, they thought about making it possible to have a town car drive up to anyone’s location with a few taps of their iPhone. They thought about the user experience and innovated by focusing on delighting them versus the back-end technology to make it possible. GoPro is another example. Their team didn’t think about the technology behind creating a mobile camera to mount anywhere, one that was waterproof and offered high-res video or stop motion. They thought about their love for surfing and how to capture those incredible moments no matter where they were.

The enterprise world needs to borrow a page from the playbook of the Ubers and GoPros of the consumer world. We must first focus on helping the user do what they want to do and then build the sophisticated technology to get there.

Healthcare.Gov: Right Time, Wrong Focus

Thinking about the user first is an entirely new way of thinking in software development. We’re pivoting from the concept of functional requirements focused on business processes and data flows and turning everything around so the focus is on the end user. We’re thinking about allowing them to do what they want to do no matter where they are or the device they’re on.

The recent Healthcare.gov debacle is a good example of the old way of thinking. With Healthcare.gov integrating data from many different agencies, developers focused on looking at the data that needed to be integrated rather than the usability of the information. Focusing on usability would have led to making better decisions about how to best handle all of that data. Developers could have concluded that pricing information and plan details could be retrieved in infrequent batches, rather than in real-time, since that type of data is unlikely to change minute-by-minute. These issues could have been sidestepped if developers had focused on consumer use cases – and what they would try to do once they landed on the site – rather than back-end issues. As a result, the project was doomed from the outset.

So, What Can We Do?

What’s possible when you focus on the user first and technology second? It’s still too early to really tell, but the future does look bright.

It comes down to the opportunity for people to use apps and devices that make them most productive whenever and wherever they need them. It’s the ability to remove the barriers to getting business done so they can collaborate across companies – and so partners and customers can get access to the resources and information they need more easily.

What’s especially exciting is that there’s an innovation ‘ripple effect’ that takes place. By delivering intuitive and powerful software that just works, companies will be able to focus on new projects that differentiate their organizations. They’ll create new ways to engage with partners and customers, build entirely new products that drive top-line revenue, and design innovative new workflows that set them apart from competitors.

Ask any CIO what the biggest impact of cloud and mobile has been on their world, and they’ll talk about the transformation of their role within the enterprise to be “business enablers,” allowing employees and partners to be more productive, creative and competitive instead of gatekeepers.

The user experience is essential to any modern technology project today, and how organizations prioritize usability to deliver new experiences separates the wheat from the chaff. If we enable our customers to simply recreate business processes and apps of the client-server era in new environments, we fail. We fail as an industry, as a community and as individual companies.

There’s so much more opportunity than that and we need to go after those opportunities before someone else does.

Illustration: Bryce Durbin

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Read The Sonnet Co-Authored By Shakespeare, An MIT PhD Student & A Machine-Learning Algorithm

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by natematias

[Image of authoring interface by natematias]

Machine-learning as a technology is, without doubt, the force that will be shaping our digital world for years and years to come, making it smarter and more autonomous, and sometimes taking our breath away in the process with its apparent agency.

This branch of artificial intelligence is already doing that now, whether as the special sauce behind Nest, the company just acquired by Google for $3.2 billion, or the core of a non-profit startup project attempting to create a better HIV vaccine.

The basic premise is this: feed a machine-learning algorithm with particular data-set and its predictive powers can become startling.

Happily, humans aren’t excluded from this process. Machine learning remains a collaboration between man and machine — with the input of each enhancing and extending the other’s powers. So these algorithmic overlords don’t look like the type that want to harvest us for our organs. Unless you count harvesting the human brain’s ability to make decisions and process selections.

Below is just one example of machine-learning technology that has the power to startle and delight — not least because it involves a (posthumous) collaboration with the greatest writer in the English language: William Shakespeare, to create a new sonnet in the Shakespearean style.

Also involved: U.K. startup SwiftKey‘s machine-learning powered word prediction engine. And a living human mind with an ear for poetry.

How was the new sonnet composed? SwiftKey’s engine was trained on the sonnets of Shakespeare, and one of its early staff members, J Nathan Matias — now doing a PhD at MIT Media Lab — wrote a new sonnet choosing words purely from the next-word suggestions generated by the algorithm.

SwiftKey’s keyboard software can normally be found helping (mostly) Android mobile users type faster by learning their slang, syntax and writing style — and applying that learning to populate tailored three next-word predictions. Give the SwiftKey keyboard enough time to get to know how you write and, provided your writing is not akin to James Joycean streams of consciousness, the algorithm will quickly get very good at guessing what next few words you’re likely reaching for.

But — fed with a particular data-set, and with the addition of a poetically minded human agent — this machine-learning engine can evidently be applied as a creative writing tool capable of creating pastiche writings in the style of the author whose original works you first fed to it.

As well as using SwiftKey’s engine, Matias also built a visual authoring interface (pictured above visualising word suggestions in the style of metaphysical poet John Donne) that extends the core machine-learning technology to specifically aid poetry creation. He called this project ‘Swift-Speare‘: aka a set of statistical experiments in “machine-learning-assisted poetry composition”.

“To write good poetry, I needed to know more than what words might come next. I needed to anticipate future predictions – what predictions would be made later if I choose this word over that? So I created this touchscreen interface to visualize future predictions for poetry writing,” Matias tells TechCrunch.

The result? Multiple new works  (co-)created in the style of various authors — including the following ‘Shakespearean’ sonnet (which depicts a scorned lover struggling with the disconnect between his ongoing love for the outward appearance of the object of his desire, with the knowledge of rejection/betrayal that belies this surface beauty):

When I in dreams behold thy fairest shade

Whose shade in dreams doth wake the sleeping morn

The daytime shadow of my love betray’d

Lends hideous night to dreaming’s faded form

Were painted frowns to gild mere false rebuff

Then shoulds’t my heart be patient as the sands

For nature’s smile is ornament enough

When they gold lips unloose their drooping bands

As clouds occlude the globe’s enshrouded fears

Which can by no astron’my be assail’d

Thus, thyne appearance tears in atmospheres

No fond perceptions nor no gaze unveils

Disperse the clouds which banish light from thee

For no tears be true, until we truly see

The work has no single author. It’s a collaboration whose only living human agent, the aforementioned Matias, also now a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, at Harvard University – whose mind was responsible for the final word selections, and thus also for assembling (and dissembling) the poem’s core meaning — describes as requiring an acknowledged role for each of its different agents (i.e. both human and machine).

“The idea of the author is a well known myth within writing and publishing. Just like startups that promote the myth of the genius founder, we reward individuals for collective projects,” Matias tells TechCrunch, when I ask what sort of authorial ratio he would assign to the work.

“The economic and social impact on people’s lives is a core motivation of my work at the Media Lab and the Berkman Center. Together with my collaborators, I’ve been doing large scale data analysis and experiments to measure and change women’s visibility in online media. I’m also trying to change how we acknowledge creativity online.”

“There are two related issues in your question,” he continues. “Who do I acknowledge and who holds copyright. I personally acknowledge all of us. Just like John Kani and Winston Ntshona get recognition with Athol Fugard for the plays they brainstormed together, I think that all three of us should be acknowledged. I tend to avoid ratios and talk instead about roles. Shakespeare supplied material for inspiration, SwiftKey clustered it, making suggestions. I made the final choices and arrangement.”

Matias concedes that copyright is a “trickier” question – owing to another disconnect between this type of co-creation — and more broadly between language as a shared communication medium rich with intentional and subconscious linguistic resonances echoing down through the ages vs the rigidity of the legal system.

“Bots already hold copyright and legally serve people for copyright infringement. According to Tim Hwang of Robot Robot & Hwang, copyright and patent trolls sometimes use algorithmically generated shell companies to pursue these claims and minimise risk to themselves. Tim, who’s one of the fellows at the new data & society research institute, is trying to map out these bots and figure out ways that the legal system can account for and respond to them,” he says.

“Even inside our heads, we write with other people’s words in mind,” he adds. “‘Words belong to each other,’ says Virginia Woolf in the only surviving recording of her voice. She once said that she couldn’t think of the phrase ‘multitudinous’ without also thinking of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, who wonders if trying to wash his hands of guilt might make ‘the multitudinous seas incarnadine.’ (Maria Popova has posted this clip to SoundCloud).”

On the flip side of Matias’ algorithmically aided poetry, are bots and algorithms that search for found poetry online.

“Now that we have large amounts of human text available on the Internet, we’re also seeing search bots that try to find poetry in large datasets. The Times Haiku finds haikus in New York Times text, and the Pentametron finds iambic pentameter in tweet text,” he points out, adding: ”Algorithms that search for poetry are the reverse of my work — they’re looking among ordinary text for unexpected poetry that has already been written.

“My work with Swift-speare looks among existing poems for probable poetry that has not yet been written.”

Matias says he is currently collaborating on a “stealth art project” that involves another area of computer-assisted creativity known as “human computation”.

“Human computation is a third area of computer assisted creativity. Michael Bernstein at Stanford has pioneered a kind of writing that asks humans to perform writing tasks that we might ordinarily ask an algorithm. It’s a fascinating area,” he adds.

Does Matias believe an algorithm could ever become a poet in its own right? Meaning without any human agent involved in word selections, and without taking a brute force approach to composition — i.e. by writing infinite numbers of poems to stumble, by accident, upon a few good ones?

“I think I’ll see a successful automated poet in my lifetime. It won’t be easy: a poet is more than someone who makes poetry. Yet that doesn’t rule out algorithms,” he says. ”It’s true that Western audiences want the stories of writers as much as we want their work. Especially at a time when readings are such an important part of poetry, it would be difficult for an algorithm alone to do everything.

“But people were disappointed when they learned that @horse_ebooks wasn’t a bot, and Hatsune Miku is popular in Japan despite being a humanoid persona in front of a voice synthesizer.”

As for machines taking the “sweating labour” route to composing poems — writing everything and letting people pick the poems they like — well, why not, argues Matias. Arrange enough words, and some of those configurations will resonate with someone, somewhere.

“This is the Internet; why not generate all the possible poems and see what turns out to be popular? This is how some of the online t-shirt sellers work. When it doesn’t land them into trouble, it seems to work well. Why not poetry?”

[Sonnet reproduced with kind permission of J Nathan Matias, SwiftKey -- and, well, we couldn't ask William Shakespeare but we hope he would approve]

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Need A Date Idea? Delightful Sells Tailored Dates For The Couple That Has Done Everything

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delightful 1

I know you.

You’re lucky enough to have found the love of your life — and somehow, you’ve convinced her (/him) to love you back. For years and years, even!

You want to take them on the finest adventures. Symphonies. Speed boats. Friggin’ magic-carpet, whole-new-world kind of stuff.

But you’re also busy. When you’re not with them, you’re working (or, occasionally, sleeping.) You’re a hopeless romantic with hopelessly little time.

I know you, for you are me.

Delightful is a service built for couples to make date night easier. Delightful stealthily debuted into Beta at the end of 2013, launching as one of the first products out of OkCupid Labs (which itself is a part of IAC, the same company that owns Vimeo, Ask, Dictionary.com, CollegeHumor, UrbanSpoon, Tinder, and a zillion other mega brands that most people have no idea are related.)

This morning, the company is leaving Beta and launching their iOS app. Delightful is only available in SF at the moment, though some of the dates branch out to the East/South Bay Area.

You pick a date idea from their library, and Delightful gets everything ready. They’ll make the reservations, they’ll make sure everyone involved knows its a special night, and they’ll try to custom tailor the evening any way they can. (In one couple’s night out at the symphony, for example, Delightful made sure that glasses of champagne were waiting just outside of the theater at intermission so the couple didn’t have to wait in the drink line.) When you’re out on the town, you’ve got e-mail/phone/text access to an on-call concierge in case you need something in a pinch.

delightful 2

Alternatively, you can “Build A Date”. You punch in the details on when you’re free and what you’re up for (Dinner and Drinks? Something educational? Something artsy? All of the above?), any custom requests (Vegetarian-friendly restaurants only? Need a taxi pre-scheduled to arrive at your place?), and their “date concierge” will work out the details.

In some cases, Delightful is able to offer up discounts. Businesses see it as a way to get a regular stream of customers who will (at least theoretically) have a particularly good experience, so they might drop the price a bit. But discounts aren’t the focus, co-founder Brian Luerssen says. “This isn’t a Groupon,” he tells me. “We don’t want people to have to print out a voucher, or bring in a coupon. They’re on a date. We want to help them focus on that. We’ll make sure the place knows you’re coming.” When Delightful can’t get a discount, they can often get something thrown in — a couple glasses of wine, VIP entrance, or a behind-the-scenes tour — to sweeten the deal.

Some examples of the sort of dates currently on the site:

  • Three-hour glassblowing class for two, plus complimentary flowers, for $180 (When I checked the glassblowing studio’s site, a pair of tickets was around $190)
  • A reservation at San Francisco’s E&O, two movie tickets, and two glasses of champagne — currently free for members.
  • Three-hour two of a bunch of Oakland restaurants, complete with tour guide and food at each stop, for $150
  • A pre-packed picnic basket, blanket and all, delivered to an SF park of your choice for $45.
  • A tour for two of the Kink.com (heads up: that’s not a link because it’s waaaay NSFW) armory/porn studio, followed by a round of drinks, for $25 (Yelp says this tour for two usually costs $50, or $35 if you find a promo)

So how do they make money? At its core, Delightful is a subscription service. After the first 30 days, membership costs $12 a month — though around half of the dates seem to be available sans-membership, albeit at a slightly higher rate. They also make a bit of money from each date, though the margin varies from date to date. With the above pre-packed picnic, for example, the margins are pretty solid because they provide everything; with the restaurant dates, they take a smaller (or no) percentage.

“Dumb!”, someone shouts from the crowd. “Just plan your own dates, lazy!”

And they’re not wrong! At least, not in an ideal world.

But sometimes, people who spend 10 hours a day working want to have a nice date without sweating the details. Sometimes, couples who’ve been together for years and feel they’ve tapped out all of their fresh ideas (and all of Google’s results for “Fun things to do around San Francisco”) could use a hand coming up with something special. And sometimes, people are just plain uncreative. At $12 a month (about what you’d pay for the tip on a decent meal for two) with the added bonus of occasional discounts and “VIP” add-ons, the price isn’t crazy.

With that said, this certainly seems a bit tough to scale. They’ve got the OKCupid ties, so they’ve got a pretty massive audience to pitch these dates to. The more they succeed, though, the more “concierges” they’ll need, and the more businesses they’ll need to get on board — which, presumably, means a bigger sales team. And, of course, some will appreciate this concept more than others — perhaps more than the other person in a relationship. Does a special night become less special when you paid someone else to plan it?

SF residents can sign up for Delightful now, or you can find their new iOS app right over here.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Microsoft Publishes Sexist Form Letter To Help Dudes Convince Women To Let Them Buy An Xbox One

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Update: According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft has slightly edited the letter following complaint. Good on them for doing so.

Today Microsoft released a form letter essentially created for men to send to women, encouraging their partners to let them buy an Xbox One console, as the new device will be great for both of them.

The letter, which can be customized slightly, is incredibly bad, playing to ridiculous male and female gender stereotypes. It presumes that women don’t like sports or play video games and need to be condescended into technology purchase decisions by their male partners as they oh-so-certainly couldn’t come to those conclusions on their own!

After all, women and technology, amirite?

Holy hell, Microsoft. I know that young male gamers can be a touch on the ignorant side when it comes to gender equality, but from a company worth more than $300 billion, and with better-than-normal female representation in its senior leadership, producing something this sexist and ignorant is an incredible disappointment and shame.

Propagating sexist stereotypes isn’t something to be tolerated. What’s almost incredible in the letter (before its language is potentially shaken up by the user) is that it manages to be directly sexist in implication, using loaded language like “honey” and comments on the physical appearance of the unnamed recipient, while eliding direct indication of gender. But it’s there. If you can’t see it, open your eyes.

This from a company that managed to come out on the right side of history on gay rights in Washington. The letter is also stridently heteronormative. Its almost oppressively straight tone is off-key from a company such as Microsoft, which has a large LGBT workforce. You almost want to wonder what’s up over in Xbox-land.

For flavor, a few quotes:

Hey honey, Not sure if you’ve heard, but Xbox One is now available.

After all, women don’t follow news, let alone technology news, and so how could she know! Time to let her in on the secrets of little boxes with blinky lights!

Maybe you don’t LOVE games like I do, but there’s really something for everyone. [...] You love movies and I love football. Well, with the Xbox One, we can love both. 

Again, women don’t play games. Ever. And apparently don’t like football. But they do love those movies! You know, the ones with the actors and actresses they read about in their fluffy women’s magazines! The sort of magazines that never discuss technology, of course. We know that as we’ve already established that the women this letter is for have never heard of the word “Xbox” before!

We can talk on Skype with your favorite sister whom, of course, I love dearly. 

Because men don’t have close family! That’s for women! And dear heavens if men have, you know feelings and all that. Those are for women! And fine dear we can talk to your goddamn sister so long as I get Man Time later to shoot things. Pew, pew, pew, woman.

So what do you say? Let’s be like an awesome movie montage-just me, you, and my [the my is crossed out] our Xbox One-together at last.

Again, women don’t own consoles! Silly women!

P.S. Did I mention how beautiful you are? And how I really appreciate that you love me more than anything?

Microsoft, did I mention how stupid this letter is and how much respect for you I just lost?

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 11.31.56 AM

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Neat Cuts The Cord With The New NeatConnect Scanner

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Late-night TV commercial stalwarts Neat may seem a little chintzy at first blush, but rest assured that their products – essentially very simple document scanners – are surprisingly good. Their latest version, the $499 NeatConnect, is a completely wireless scanning solution that lets you scan documents to services like Dropbox, Evernote, Box, Skydrive, and Google Drive. You can also scan documents into Neat’s own cloud solution, NeatCloud.

Neat scanners are good for a few things. First, they’re great for moving from a paper filing system to an online storage solution. To use the scanner you simply put documents, receipts, or business cards into the right slots (they’re marked on the front) and press scan. In this new iteration you can select where you want to send the documents by tapping on a small business-card sized touchscreen. It’s here that you set up your various accounts as well, including email accounts, Evernote, and Dropbox.

Users of Neat will remember the love/hate relationship with the Neat desktop app. This app held documents in a big bundle, ensuring that your anger knew no bounds when all of your business cards got mashed in with your tax documents. To be fair the optical character recognition did make it easy for you to search through documents with a few keystrokes but it definitely felt less than user-friendly.

The first thing you’ll notice about the NeatConnect is that it only needs a single power cable. You don’t have to connect the device to a computer but it does have a USB port and an SD card slot to use it as a TWAIN/Image Capturedevice or to store data right to an SD card. All of the setup is done on the screen by way of a surprisingly usable onscreen keyboard. It connects to your Wi-Fi network automatically (I did notice a few issues latching on to a WPA connection but those were intermittent). All of the settings – color/black and white, dual-sided scanning, and DPI, are selectable from the screen.

The NeatConnect is clearly expensive because of the hardware built in. The small screen is actually a tiny mobile computer that handles scanning and transmission wirelessly. The UI is as simple as can be – big buttons set the destination and the various settings – and everything can be managed from the device itself, thereby allowing you to put the Neat anywhere. Scanning is very quick and uploading on a good Wi-Fi connection takes a few seconds.

How well does it read documents? I’d give its OCR abilities about a B+. As evidenced from the above business card most of the important stuff is there. Names and phone numbers tend to pop up without problems but unique fonts will mess things up. Luckily the images are stored alongside the text so you can edit them as necessary. As long as your receipts are placed in a separate folder the app will collate them, add up the expenses (when it can read them) and include receipt images. I also use the app to store receipts and simply drag them onto the desktop or our expense manager when I need them. It’s a great solution to a surprisingly annoying problem.

Where Neat excels is at creating expense reports. To build one you simply move your receipts to a folder, name it, and run the report. The result is usually an accurate representation of the receipts inside complete with a total as well as an easy-to-read collation of your receipts. You can also just pull receipts out of the cloud and upload them to your device.

NeatCloud also bears a bit of attention. This solution allows you to store almost anything on Neat’s servers and you can even email items to the cloud and search other services like Evernote when you search in the cloud app. You get three months of NeatCloud access when you buy the scanner and the annual plan costs $60 up front or $6 a month. Because you can upload stuff right to Evernote and Dropbox, however, NeatCloud is a “nice-to-have” rather than a “need-to-have.” It depends on your own preference.

Why is the NeatConnect important? It does one thing and it does that thing surprisingly well. It is a single purpose device, to be sure, but if you have a lot of paper there is no easier way to scan and store it without fuss. There aren’t a lot of devices that can make that claim. Neat has been doing one thing – scanning documents – for years, and the NeatConnect is a nearly perfect home or small office scanner. It doesn’t scan negatives and I wouldn’t run precious family heirlooms through it but it will definitely help reduce your paper clutter and streamline your expense process immensely.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

AOL Asks AOLers To ‘Disrupt AOL’

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disrupt all the things

Over the last few years, TechCrunch has done a pretty good job of Disrupting things. We’ve Disrupted San Francisco, we’ve Disrupted New York City, and most recently we’ve Disrupted Europe.

But now, our parent company wants TechCrunch employees, and all the rest of the company, to “Disrupt AOL.”

In an internal memo today, AOL Global CTO Curtis Brown announced an “exciting event” that will be taking place next month in AOL campuses “around the world.” In an “exciting twist” on the TechCrunch-branded Disrupt events, the company will be running an internal “Hackathon” and “Idea Battlefield” in which participants will be able to “pitch their ideas” in front of “judges.” Winning ideas will be “considered for actual development.”

Oh yeah, and there is a “pretty sweet prize package,” “including CASH.”

Then there’s a whole part about the “AOL Open philosophy,” which I’ve never heard of but apparently “challenges and rewards AOL brands to be more open,” which I have never actually seen happen. (One could argue that having the Disrupt branding “borrowed” without our knowledge for this “exciting event” is an example of such “openness.”)

The memo touts the company’s “long history of innovation,” which is qualified by the number of patents AOL has been awarded. Because patents = innovation.

Putting aside the fact that an internal hackathon is actually a cool idea, and that encouraging cross-promotion of various internal APIs is a good thing, and that yeah, we could come up with some new ideas for this “Idea Battlefield,” I began to worry that maybe AOL could become too Disrupted.

For instance, what if someone Disrupted our broadband business, the most profitable part of the company, and our grandmothers ended their 15 year-old AOL subscriptions? What if someone Disrupted our horrible internal employee portal, which is only accessible through the most arcane and impossible VPN you might never hope to use? What if someone found a way to Disrupt our massive – and growing – layer of middle management at AOL, thereby crippling our bureaucracy and spiraling the company out of control?

Would barnyard animals sprout wings? Would dogs and cats live peacefully together? Would AOL as we know it cease to exist?

Almost forgot: If you’re an AOL employee, not only can you submit your ideas to “Disrupt AOL,” but you can also help choose the logo you’ll be forced to look at while doing so. (I’m voting for D.)

Full text of the memo:

Hey AOLers –

About a month ago, we held Beat The Internet Breakfasts in multiple AOL offices. We asked you to share thoughts and ideas about the AOL community, our products, and how we work. We read through each and every submission, and we started to take action.

See the different logos below/attached? We need you to pick one. For a t-shirt, for an invitation to the Event we are announcing today and for the design on the $2,500 check you and your co-workers might win as one of the prizes…. But more on that in a second.

We are pleased to announce an exciting event coming next month. Disrupt AOL will take place on our campuses around the world on December 3rd, with a Judging Event broadcast globally on December 5th. Putting a twist on TechCrunch Disrupt, this event will be comprised of a Hackathon and an Idea Battlefield, and will culminate in your projects being pitched before judges and considered for actual development. Oh yeah, winners also will get a pretty sweet prize package, including CASH.

This event is designed to drive the AOL Open philosophy and to challenge and reward AOL brands to be more open. AOL has a long history of innovation, with more than 1000 patents awarded since the inception of the company. By being open and letting the AOL community- all of you bright and creative people- loose on some of our APIs, I’m convinced we will generate some awesome ideas that will help move the company forward in significant ways.

You Want Open? How’s this for Open. Ryan Sagawa, our talented AOL Events intern, has come up with 4 logos for Disrupt AOL. Now we want you to choose the winner. Go to Inside RIGHT NOW to vote for the logo you think should represent Disrupt AOL on all our branding- including the t-shirts all participants will be receiving.

For the Hackathon, teams of up to five people will compete to come up with and code an original, open, viable, and innovative idea within a 12-hour time period. If you are interested in participating in the Hackathon and are in search of a team, send an email to DisruptAOLTeam@teamaol.com and we will connect you to other team members. Teams are encouraged to have a mix of both engineers and product managers.

The Idea Battlefield will allow individuals and teams across the company to submit their potential products for review by a judging panel, with the best submissions going on to a finalist round to pitch their ideas.

Rules, registration, and prizes can all be found now Inside, and we’ll announce the API’s you can choose from in the near future. Please check in often for updates.

I realize that we have a lot going on and many, many, competing priorities, but this event is hugely important to the future of the company so I encourage you to take the time to participate. My hope is that the next great AOL product will be born from this event and we will all win. Think big, take chances, have fun, show your love for what you do, and go out there and root for your colleagues. Look for more information on the Inside later this week for how to register as well as the great prizes up for grabs.


Curtis Brown
Global CTO, AOL Inc

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

The Best And Brightest Startups From Around The World Come Out For Our First Disrupt Europe

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Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 4.30.28 PM

The first TechCrunch Disrupt Europe is now in the can. The energy was electric. Every seat was filled. Startup Alley was packed. Pavel Durov stopped by for an unscheduled Fireside Chat with TechCrunch Co-Editor Alexia Tsotsis. Benchmark’s Bill Gurley explained Snapchat. And one lucky TechCrunch fan even talked Michael Arrington into an impromptu interview and pitch – an event that has never happened before.

Fifteen startups launched on the Disrupt Europe stage. From enterprise data companies to consumer electronics, the mix ably represented the best of Europe’s exploding startup scene. But Germany-based Lock8 won it all and will keep the Disrupt Cup here in Berlin.

If nothing else, Disrupt Europe was a great melting pot of entrepreneurial spirit. Startups from more than 80 countries exhibited their products in front of the international crowd. The highlights are below.

Saturday & Sunday, October 26 & 27, 2013

With the first Disrupt in Europe came the first Hackathon in Europe. The crowd was focused. On point. The hundreds of attendees formed teams, eventually presenting nearly 100 hacks on the massive Disrupt stage. PreCheck, a Foursquare system that lets people express intent to visit places before they go, bested the other teams and took home the $5,000 prize. #hotdogcam

Monday, October 28, 2013

Disrupt Europe:Berlin started with a Fireside chat with Mike Butcher and Marc Samwer where the Global Founders Group partner explained European entrepreneurship, copy cats and more.

Google Ventures general partner MG Siegler took the stage longtime entrepreneur Marco Boerries to talk about founding a company in Europe and his latest startup, which has been in stealth for the last 4 years.

TechCrunch International Editor Ingrid Lunden led a panel with three startups founded in Europe, but two of them eventually moved to the States. Ingrid inquired about the reasons for moving to the Valley or staying put in Europe.

Games are big business and Anthony Ha led a panel with industry leaders including Jens Begemann from Wooga, Misha Lyalin from Zeptolab, and Rina Onur from Peak Games.

Nearly overnight, Airbnb reinvented travel, a thought that TechCrunch writer Ryan Lawler discussed with the company’s founder, Nathan Blecharczyk, during an on-stage edition of Founders Stories.

Is Bitcoin the new Euro? That was the theme of the panel, led by TechCrunch writer Kim-Mai Cutler, where the general consensus was that the future of the digital currency lies in the hands of upcoming startups, the regulatory system and China.

Berlin’s startup scene is growing so rapidly that during a talk between TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington and Matt Cohler, Peter Fenton, Bill Gurley and Mitch Lasky, all from Benchmark Capital, Cohler declared there is no better place to be than Berlin – a statement backed up by the VC firm’s massive presence around Disrupt.

The highlight of the first day was arguably when Pavel Durov, founder Russia’s largest social network, talked with TechCrunch Co-Editor Alexia Tsostis about VK, privacy, and throwing money out of the window.

Two years ago, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong fired TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington. The two reunited on stage as Arrington grilled Armstrong about that event and Aol’s pivot to content. Then, during an audience Q&A session, a long-time Michael Arrington fan talked his way on stage and took Armstrong’s seat for a once-in-a-lifetime chat with TechCrunch’s founder.

Startup Battlefield

  1. ASAP54

  2. ASAP54

  3. ASAP54

  4. ASAP54

  5. ASAP54

  6. ASAP54

  7. ASAP54

  8. Exversion

  9. Exversion

  10. Exversion

  11. Exversion

  12. Exversion

  13. Exversion

  14. Exversion

  15. High Mobility

  16. High Mobility

  17. High Mobility

  18. High Mobility

  19. High Mobility

  20. High Mobility

  21. High Mobility

  22. import.io

  23. import.io

  24. import.io

  25. import.io

  26. import.io

  27. import.io

  28. import.io

  29. intergreight

  30. intergreight

  31. intergreight

  32. intergreight

  33. intergreight

  34. intergreight

  35. Lock8

  36. Lock8

  37. Lock8

  38. Lock8

  39. Lock8

  40. Lock8

  41. Lock8

  42. mySkin

  43. mySkin

  44. mySkin

  45. mySkin

  46. mySkin

  47. qardio

  48. qardio

  49. qardio

  50. qardio

  51. Satago

  52. Satago

  53. Satago

  54. Satago

  55. Satago

  56. Satago

  57. Sher.ly

  58. Sher.ly

  59. Sher.ly

  60. Sher.ly

  61. Sher.ly

  62. Shufflehub

  63. Shufflehub

  64. Shufflehub

  65. Shufflehub

  66. Shufflehub

  67. Shufflehub

  68. Voicesphere

  69. Voicesphere

  70. Voicesphere

  71. Voicesphere

  72. Voicesphere

  73. Voicesphere

  74. Voicesphere

  75. Voicesphere

  76. Voicesphere

  77. Voicesphere

  78. Voicesphere

  79. Voicesphere

  80. What now

  81. What now

  82. What now

  83. What now

  84. What now

The Loog Crowdfunded Kids’ Guitar Goes Electric

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“Judas!” cried someone from the carpeted, block-strewn floor. Mrs. Felton, the third grade teacher, looked at the kids with contempt.

“I don’t believe you!” she yelled.

Felton turned to her band – Alicia, Timmy, and little Sheldon Cho – and strummed her $150 electric Loog guitar forcefully, stalking across the room like a lion enraged.

“You’re a liar,” she screamed. Another strum along the Loog’s three strings. She played open chords because they were easier for the kids to learn. Sheldon was playing his blue electric Loog and Timmy was on the mini-xylophone. Alicia was warming up her recorder.

“Play it totally super loud!” she yelled, nearly cursing.

“Please!” she added.

She began to sing:

A-tisket a-tasket
A green and yellow basket
I wrote a letter to my love
And on the way I dropped it.

The crowd went wild. Mrs. Felton had finally gone electric, bringing rock and roll to the benighted halls of PS 103 in the Bronx. Although arguments raged for years over the true value of electric guitars in grade-school rock, one thing was clear: the new electric Loogs – a mere two years after the launch of the first, acoustic Loog guitars for kids – were an absolute hit. A new, easy-to-learn, child-centric guitar sound was born and grade school would never be the same.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

April 2014
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