The National Republican Congressional Committee is defending websites that have tricked some Democratic donors into funding the opposition.
For instance, as seen in the picture above, the URL contribute.sinkforcongress2014.com, with a professional photo of Democratic candidate Alex Sink, is actually a Republican website run by the NRCC. Below the giant “Alex Sink for Congress” is a smaller font “Make a contribution today to help Defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her.”
For netizens who blitz through webpages (myself included), the structure seems almost deliberately tricky. “It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site,” Floridian Ray Bellamy told the Tampa Bay Times.
The RNCC isn’t backing down, but said it will offer a refund. “Democrats are clearly pitching stories on these effective websites because they are worried about voters learning the truth about their candidates’ disastrous records,” argued NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek. “We will refund any other Democrat plants who are asked to donate.”
Bozek’s language gives you an idea of how angry and polarizing life on a campaign can be. Instead of looking at it thoughtfully, she immediately goes into attack mode. This is what makes Americans hate elections. Let’s hope the RNCC realizes the error of its ways and hires some people who are more collegial.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
The social network claims that this new flow will make it easier for advertisers to organize, optimize and measure the ads’ performance by adding a third level to the campaign structure. In 2014, the structure will have levels for campaign, ad set and ad.
Here’s what Facebook wrote in the developers blog:
We’ll bring these features across all our client-facing ad interfaces in the first half of 2014 — including the Ads Create Tool, Ads Manager, Power Editor — and third-party client-facing ad interfaces built by PMDs, FBX partners and Mobile Measurement Partners. These changes won’t affect advertisers this year.
Here’s what advertisers will be able to do after the update:
- Specify a campaign objective to make all of its ads serve that objective, and to improve optimization and reporting.
- Use multiple ad sets, each with their own budget and schedule controls, to optimize spend and delivery within each audience segment or placement.
- Get better control and aggregate stats, including total reach, at the campaign level.
We’ll provide additional details as we get closer to launch. Until then, please remember that these changes will not affect advertisers this year.
Readers: What other changes do the ad structure would you want to see from Facebook in 2014?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Article courtesy of Inside Facebook
Google has admitted that at least one of its mystery barges (there are currently four registered, apparently) will host “interactive space[s] where people can learn about new technology.” Now, we’re privy to a glimpse at what that might look like, thanks to documents obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. As you can see, the structure, which is made from recycled shipping containers and features vast sail-like structures, is about as forward-thinking as the Google Glass devices it will likely house (among others).
The plans for the structure claim that it’s designed to host up to 1,000 visitors a day, with stays lasting around a month at various locations around San Francisco. Locations proposed in the documents for it to visit include Fort Mason, Angel Island, Redwood City, and Richmond, as well as eventual destinations down the road including San Diego and other stopovers along the U.S. West Coast.
You can just make out how the shipping containers will be repainted and stacked to form that central structure, which is said to measure 50 feet in height, and 250 feet in length. The sails are meant to “remind visitors that they are on a seaworthy vessel,” according to the design firm in the documents obtained by the Chronicle, rather than to channel dimensional energies to create a bridge between worlds, which was my first guess as to their purpose. Those sails would be lowered in bad weather, too, presumably to prevent gusts of wind pulling the barge and its cargo of would-be Explorers out to sea.
This is a very preliminary plan, according to a San Francisco Port spokesperson speaking to the Chronicle, so don’t expect to be able to set sail with Google on a journey of discovery tomorrow. There are lots and lots of forms to fill out and red tape to cut through before anyone can step foot in one of these and put a pair of Google Glass on their face. But if the finished project looks anything like this, then Google will have moved very quickly from having almost no brick-and-mortar customer-facing presence, to having one of the most ostentatious storefront-style experiences in human history.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Boulder & SF-based startup Occipital is probably still best known for its Red Laser and 360Panorama apps, but it confirmed today that it raised over $1 million on Kickstarter to bring its Structure 3D sensor to market.
The Structure isn’t just any 3D sensor though. It’s an incredibly small one — so small, in fact, that it can onto the back of your iPad (note: it’s compatible with any iOS device with a Lightning port) and connect without completely killing your battery life. While run-of-the-mill users can use the Structure and its early batch of companion apps to scan objects for printing at Shapeways or to fling balls for virtual kittens to chase around the 3D representation of a room, Occipital was really gunning to pick up developer support this time.
It’s certainly a nice little show of financial validation for the team, especially considering this is their first big foray into consumer-facing hardware and the fact that they didn’t exactly need the cash in the first place. At the time, CEO Jeff Powers remarked to me that since the company still had money left over from its previous funding round, the Kickstarter was meant in large part to be a marketing tool that would help gauge the demand for its curious gadget. The team originally set out to raise $100,000 when the campaign officially kicked off in mid-September, and early momentum put the project over the top in just three hours.
But could the project’s popularity ultimately prove to be detrimental? After all, I can think of a few projects that ultimately took flak because overwhelming demand outweighed the producers’ ability to deliver on what they promised. For now though, the team remains positive about its chances at delivering the Structure to 3D-hungry developers and tinkerers — to hear Occipital marketing director Adam Rodnitsky tell it, this current level of demand won’t affect shipping schedules “at all”.
“We put a lot of effort into setting up our supply chain well in advance to make sure we could deliver on what we promised to backers,” he said in an email. “We’re ready to meet this demand… and hopefully much more.”
In case you haven’t been keeping tabs on the Structure’s voyage from curious concept to crowdfunding darling, you can check out our interview with CEO Powers and demo of the Structure in action below.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
The folks at San Francisco-based Occipital are very much software people — the company’s RedLaser app was a big hit in the early App Store days before the team sold it to eBay, as was 360 Panorama before iOS 6′s Panorama feature took some of the wind out of its sails.
Their roots may be in software, but now the team is trying something very, very new. Occipital just launched a Kickstarter campaign for its very first hardware project: the Structure, a portable 3D sensor that straps to the back of your iPad that should ship by next February.
“It took us out of our comfort zone,” CEO Jeff Powers admitted. “We went from a team of basically three to about 13, which is still ridiculously tiny, and no one sleeps anymore.”
Those sleepless nights seem to have paid off. The Structure itself is an awfully handsome piece of kit. Small and clad in colored anodized aluminum, it doesn’t look anything like the clunky 3D sensors you may have already been exposed to. That’s a testament to the sort of fastidious tweaking that went into making the Structure what it is — there’s a full-sized PrimeSense Carmine sensor in there, but it was up to Occipital to cut out the physical cruft so the Structure could fit in a pocket. Power consumption also had to be cut dramatically since it runs off the iPad 4′s battery (though it’ll technically connect to any iDevice in your arsenal that has a Lightning dock connector).
The really astonishing bit is how quickly the Structure works in capturing all of this data. Powers took the Structure and a few of the bundled demo apps for a brief spin in our New York office, and in a matter of mere moment he was able to capture a virtual bust of his ever-present marketing director and firing it off to Shapeways for printing. Scanning the topology of a side room was similarly quick, as was the process of throwing a virtual cat into the mix that would chase after balls that bounced off of 3D interpretations of couches and under coffee tables.
That breadth of those demo apps speaks to the sort of ecosystem that Powers hopes will rise up around the Structure in the weeks and months to come. After all, as neat as it is, the market for a gadget that lets its users capture and export 3D models for printing is still pretty limited. Powers’ vision is much more expansive: the SDK that’s being released alongside the Structure sensor will allow developers to build consumer-facing apps that take advantage of all that 3D data.
“We’re not really just building a device, we’re building a platform,” Powers said. As far as he sees it, Occipital can’t possibly build every possible augmented reality game or measuring app on its own. Instead, the team is going to make the low level data accessible to developers, and make high level APIs available to developers who know nothing about computer vision in a bid to make the Structure as accessible as possible.
It’s not hard to imagine the sorts of applications that could come along with adoption of the Structure. Looking to buy a new couch? Scan your living room and see if that sucker fits next to your bookshelf. Real estate agents could benefit from easy-to-capture, manipulable models of office spaces and homes (though some startups already have a head start on that front). Thankfully, while the Structure is designed to fit on the back of your iPad, ambitious devs can use connect to PCs, Macs, and Android devices thanks to a so-called hacker cable that allows for a standard connection over USB.
At first glance, this whole thing seems like a drastic shift for a company that has only ever focused on crafting software, to say nothing of on the production perils and pitfalls that come with building hardware at scale. That’s not to say that Occipital’s 3D ambitions have come completely out of the blue though. Earlier this year the company closed its acquisition of French startup ManCTL, which was best known for a 3D scanning desktop app called Skanect that let users fire up cheapo 3D sensors like the Kinect or the Asus Xtion to capture 3D data and convert them into full-color models in a matter of minutes.
Structure, then, seems like the next logical step. It’s a convergence of two seemingly divergent realms of expertise, and it’s arguably happening at just the right time. Smartphones and tablets are growing more capable by the day, which leads people to expect more from their daily companions. And with 3D printers moving into the mainstream, there’s a growing sense of awareness around the value of converting objects and environments into 3D representations.
Even the Kickstarter campaign is a sign of the times. Powers concedes that Occipital doesn’t actually need to go the crowdfunded route — he says they’ve got enough left over from its previous funding round to cover these very early production runs — but it couldn’t hurt to help build buzz among developers and gauge demand for a pricey tablet add-on. If you’re interested in throwing your hat in the ring you can lay claim to an early adopter package for $329, but the package will cost you $349 if you wait too long.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Startup AppScale has launched its open-source backup up service for Google App Engine (GAE), which is compatible with standard cloud services that developers use when building apps.
The company, which was one of six startups that presented at the Structure conference last week, stood out even if it did not win an award for overall best startup and even though it wasn’t the audience award winner. Here’ why: It is a backup Platform as a Service (PaaS) for a PaaS and infrastructure services.
ScaleSafe, the company’s first product, automates the failover and migration of cloud apps and data from GAE. Company Co-founder and CTO Chandra Krintz calls the service a portability layer between a developer’s app and cloud services.
Krintz said the AppScale platform supports standard services such as NoSQL storage, SQL storage, object/blog storage, data caching, authentication, full text search, background multitasking, MapReduce and other services.
AppScale, which launched last week, is available for installation on a company’s own servers either as source code or a virtual machine. With it, developers can write against the AppScale API to get the backup capability. The company lists VirtualBox, Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine, OpenStack and CloudStack, Eucalyptus and Rackspace as infrastructures it can run on.
At API Days this weekend, when attendees asked about the viability of PaaS and backend as a service (BaaS), it reminded me AppScale’s capabilities. There are dozens of PaaS providers, and the BaaS market is not much different. The companies that provide services in these markets represent a new reality that demands apps be built faster than ever before. The hand-stitched software stack is getting replaced by the pre-configured developer environment. AnyPresence, for example, is a meta-API that served as a BaaS.
And so I take exception when I hear people say there is not a market for Paas or BaaS. In fact, it’s arguable that the next wave of API management companies will look more like Paas or BaaS platforms than the one-dimensional services that marked the early days of the API movement.
But the market will not emerge if there is not a data-backup capability. That’s where companies like AppScale enter the picture. The storage market boomed over the past decade due to the need for backup. Services like AppScale have the potential to attract attention for the similar values they provide to enterprise app developers.
There should be ways to back up apps from different PaaS providers. Heroku has had several outages in the past two years, and AWS has had its fair share. AppScale is the kind of service needed to avoid the expensive losses that can come with a down service.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
When James Deer led digital design agency DEER/digital, he says he encountered the same issue over and over — when his team built content-rich websites, it was largely an email-based process, where they had to dig up images and files from email threads that were months old, or copy content from Word documents that were hundreds of pages long. To reduce their own headaches, Deer’s team member built a product to manage the content collaboration process, and eventually the agency spun that product out into a new startup, called GatherContent.
“Content chaos is just rife,” Deer says. “We want to bring content harmony.”
To do that, GatherContent (which is launching publicly today), offers a drag-and-drop interface to lay out the structure of each web page. Someone can create a template that identifies each element of the page, as well as guidelines for length and content — for example, you could say, “The product description goes here (no more than 200 words)” and “product screenshot goes here.” Then other users can come in and fill out the content. So a design agency could work with their client to develop the structure of the website, then different team members can come in and add the element that they’re responsible for.
Of course, you can already manage some of that process through a product like Google Docs, but GatherContent adds more structure, for example by allowing users to manage their approval processes and deadlines. Different users can also have completely customizable privileges depending on their roles within their organization. And there’s a chart showing you how much progress has been made on each project.
When you’re done building the website, you can export the document as a PDF, and GatherContent is also working to integrate with other content management systems, starting with a plugin for WordPress.
The product has been in private beta testing until now, with customers including Unicef and JWT. And although it was built for agency-client collaboration, Deer says companies are using for other types of content creation too, for example writing internal newsletters.
Deer adds that he has actually turned some investors away from the company — for now, it’s being funded by the agency (in the form of loans), though he’s open to raising money later, when the product has more traction. Pricing starts at $24 per month.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Facebook today announced an “explicit sharing” parameter for Open Graph apps, which will allow developers to publish more prominent News Feed stories on behalf of their users who want to share actions like taking photos, checking into locations or providing commentary.
When Facebook introduced the concept of Open Graph apps last year, the idea was that users would consistently share their app activity after a one-time authorization. This activity would be added to a box on a user’s Timeline and distributed to friends through Ticker. Whether the story would appear in a friend’s News Feed would depend on the weight of the action — for example earning a rare achievement within a game — and a user’s relationship to the friend and affinity for a certain category of app — for example, showing more news activity to users of social reader apps. These algorithms, as any, are a work in progress that will require more signals to be truly relevant.
Not only was this somewhat difficult for developers who want to maximize their reach, it could be quite unclear to users who wanted to share something from an app with all their friends. Facebook uses the example of how when people choose to share a run they took with a fitness app, they expect the content to appear as if they had posted it directly to Facebook.
Now with explicit sharing, developers can indicate which actions should be shared more prominently in the feed, for example, location sharing or a user-generated photo or message. Activity that happens naturally through using an app — listening, reading or watching — or lightweight actions such as following, favoriting or saving, will continue to be distributed and aggregated as before.
This change is likely to help developers drive more traffic to their apps and improve the experience for users. When Facebook debuted Open Graph apps at f8 last year, the company emphasized “frictionless sharing.” This term led some developers to focus on the auto-sharing aspect at the expense of user experience and trust. Now Facebook has to do damage control on the user and developer side. Users need more ways to control how they share, and developers need resources to understand how Open Graph apps work and what their value is besides auto-publishing.
One benefit is the noun-verb construction, which lends itself to powerful stories on a user’s Timeline and rich aggregations in the feed. For instance, Ticker stories about what a person’s friends are listening to right now might be considered noise, but being able to see that three friends listened to the same album in one week might be interesting. This information is even more useful when it appears not in the feed but when someone is actively searching for information about an artist, which is why Facebook displays these stories on musicians’ pages. And for many app users, it’s valuable to be able to see their own activity over time, either to recall something in the past or to learn something new about themselves.
These situations are possible because of the structure of Open Graph. With the new explicit share option, we may see more developers begin to think beyond auto-sharing and build apps that take advantage of this unique format. Developers who want to make their existing Open Graph actions eligible to explicitly shared will have to resubmit their actions for review. Facebook says it may take up to seven days to provide feedback to developers. Documentation for the new parameter is available here.
Article courtesy of Inside Facebook