- Don’t Follow The Crowd
- Is “Jupiter” the Future of Windows…PC, Phone &Tablet?
- Google+ Rolls Out Verified Profiles, Still Struggles With Real-Name Policy
- HP Issues TouchPad Liquidation Order – Get Yours Now For $100
- Google Taking Street View To The Depths Of The Amazon
- Snapsort Raises $500K To Expand Its Product Recommendation Engine
- Cane 2.0: The Tacit Is Hand-Mounted Sonar For The Vision Impaired
- YC-Backed Can’t Wait Is A Mobile Social Network For Movie Trailers
- Review: Brite-Strike Rugged Flashlights
- Apple Sneaks A Big Change Into iOS 5: Phasing Out Developer Access To The UDID
- HTC CEO Sticking With Android Despite Google-Motorola Deal
- YC-Funded Tagstand Greases The Wheels Of NFC Development
- Facebook Asks People To Post Questions About Interning At Facebook, On Quora
- Twitter Releases Bootstrap, A Set Of Tools To Build Web Apps Using CSS
- Fake Steve Jobs Biography Already Available In China
- LinuxCon: All About Clouds
- Microsoft: Windows Phone Mango Is Done, Manufacturers Just Need To Release It
- Apparently Ebooks Are Now Killing The Desire To Write. Sure.
- Kickstarter Project Empowers Students, Plays The Mario Theme With Plasma
- Turntable.fm, Scott Cook, and Instagram Will Mix It Up At Disrupt SF
Posted: 20 Aug 2011 08:15 AM PDT
Whenever I'm about to make a new investment, I always think about the 2×2 matrix I learned from Andy Rachleff, a former partner at Benchmark Capital.
The idea is that if you make a new venture investment (or start a company), you can either be "right" or "wrong" and you can either be "consensus" (following the crowd) or "non-consensus." Everyone knows that if you're wrong, you're not making any money. But the interesting part of the chart above is that being right and consensus isn't great for your returns either. The big money, as any horse racing handicapper can tell you, comes when you're right and you don't follow the crowd.
Fortunately (for the premier handicappers and savvy venture capitalists), the crowd's opinion is often based on "hype" rather than reality. In an efficient market, every company would fall somewhere along the dashed black line in the chart below (with hype equal to fundamentals).
In reality, however, the venture market is inefficient. There are many companies (which I'll decline to name) whose hype dramatically exceeds fundamentals and there's a whole set of companies (which many of us don't know) who are the opposite. I'm probably wrong as much as I'm right in investment decisions, but my two favorite types of companies exhibit the characteristics of either oval A or B:
Hidden Gems (oval A): These are the companies who have strong fundamentals that exceed their hype. They are often in a market, or geographic location, not widely followed by the venture industry and/or have transitioned their business in a way that the market doesn't quite yet understand. Examples of these types of investments in our portfolio include Buddy Media (2010) and Fleetmatics (2010), and outside our portfolio include RPX (2009), Palantir (2008), and Service-now (2006) If you're right, the company will grow in both hype and fundamentals. If you're wrong, the company will fade quietly away without anyone noticing. You know you've done a Hidden Gem investment if people tell you:
While Hidden Gems are clearly non-consensus because their fundamentals exceed their hype, you can make a non-consensus investment in a "hyped" company if you believe it will outperform the crowd's expectations. These rare (and expensive) companies are called:
Breakouts (oval B): These have early hype, but haven't entered the mainstream. The consensus view is that they could be "roman candles," which will soon come crashing down to reality (the blue dotted line). You can be non-consensus if you think the opportunity is much larger than even the early hype suggests. While Hidden Gem investing employs the buy low, sell high strategy, Breakout investing is buy high, sell higher. Examples of these types of investments in our portfolio include Twitter (2009) and Zynga (2008), and outside our portfolio include Square (2011), Foursquare (2010), and , most famously, Facebook (2006). If you get these investments right, fundamentals do grow faster than anyone imagined and you have an incredibly valuable business. If you get these wrong, the consensus view was correct and you massively overpaid. You know you've invested in a Breakout company if people say the following:
Ultimately, regardless of where your company is on the chart, you always want to be moving to the right as quickly as possible. So, if you're a Breakout company, feel lucky to get some hype and take advantage of it by raising money, hiring great people, and focusing on fundamentals. And, if you're a Hidden Gem, don't feel bad that nobody knows you – just remind them that you're non-consensus!
Posted: 20 Aug 2011 06:00 AM PDT
Does that mean HTML5, then, is the future of the Microsoft platform? Maybe not. A new, unannounced platform called “Jupiter” may soon have Microsoft developers leveraging their existing skills to write applications for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Which means, of course, apps that run on all platforms – not just PCs, but tablets and phones, too…and even the TV (via Xbox).
That “Jupiter” exists is not new information. There have been a number of leaks about the forthcoming platform in blogs, forum posts and some folks have even reversed-engineered leaked code to learn more.
Above: C# being used to invoke a Jupiter-based app. Looks like Silverlight animation!
For those not closely tracking Microsoft’s news, here’s what (we think) we know about Jupiter, based on the information out there:
Before you throw Microsoft developers under the bus for failing to jump on the HTML5 bandwagon, you have to understand that they’ve invested a lot of time and money over the course of many years to learn all the technologies Microsoft has pushed, including Win32, COM, MFC, ATL, Visual Basic 6, .NET, WinForms, Silverlight and WPF, explained Bright. It sounded like Microsoft was asking them to throw away decades of experience and switch to HTML5.
While obviously, HTML5 has come a long way in recent months, it’s arguably not quite ready to drive the entire Microsoft platform just yet. It’s an option, of course, as it is on iOS, Android and other modern operating systems with modern Web browsers.
But it’s not going to be Microsoft developers’ only option, it seems.
At the BUILD conference next month, it’s expected that Microsoft will reveal Jupiter to its developer community and the public, at long last.
Why does Jupiter matter so much? If it’s not clear from the technical details above, it’s because Jupiter may end up being the “one framework” to rule them all. That means it might be possible to port the thousands of Windows Phone apps already written with Silverlight to Windows 8 simply by reusing existing code and making small tweaks. Or maybe even no tweaks. (That part is still unclear). If so, this would be a technical advantage for developers building for Windows Phone 8 (code-named “Apollo” by the way, the son of “Jupiter”) or Windows 8.
Post-PC World: Microsoft vs. Apple vs. Google
Imagine if Apple was to announce something similar – an easy way to port iOS applications to the Mac, for example. Right now, there’s no simple method for this. While there are third-party tools that help, Apple developers still have to do quite a lot of work to get a mobile iOS app running on the Mac OS X desktop. That said, we imagine Apple is secretly hard at work on solving this dilemma as we speak. After all, you can clearly see iOS’s influence on Mac OS X with the latest release, Lion: there’s a iOS-like “LaunchPad” with rows of apps, support for apps that work in “full screen” mode, disappearing scroll bars, and more.
Meanwhile, at Google, there’s currently a lack of vision about how to merge desktop and mobile. Chairman Eric Schmidt has made vague statements about how, at some point in the future, Chrome OS and Android will merge. But it seems like Google has no clear idea as to how it will go about doing so.
That Microsoft is thinking about the merging of desktop and mobile is no small matter. It’s a post-PC world, as they say, and for now, Apple is the only company that seems to be able to compete here. Android is struggling in the tablet market. HP just killed its barely-launched webOS. With Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Jupiter, Microsoft, at least, seems to have a vision.
Developer Discontent Grows, Microsoft Stays Mum
But with Apple so far ahead at this point, the timing of that vision’s reveal may be key to Microsoft’s future. The fact that Microsoft has allowed discontent to grow in its developer community for the entirety of the year, just so it could have a splashy announcement at BUILD may be looked back on as a strategic mistake that contributed to Microsoft’s eventual downfall. Microsoft wants to be Apple, full of secrets and surprises, but it doesn’t have the culture to support it. With Jupiter, the news should have officially announced months ago, as a tease, with a full reveal at BUILD.
But instead, Microsoft set aside developers and their concerns, in order to win the hearts of consumers, technologists and the media with promises of “big announcements” at BUILD regarding the future of Windows. Oh, Microsoft. Whatever happened to “developers, developers, developers”? Make them happy and the rest of us will come.
Image credits: Microsoft, David Burela
Posted: 20 Aug 2011 02:44 AM PDT
William Shatner, rejoice! Earlier today, Wen-Ai Yu from the Google+ team announced with a post on Google+ and an accompanying YouTube video that the social network now boasts ‘verification badges’ for celebrities, public figures, but also people who have been added to an (undefined) ‘large’ number of Circles, with the promise to expand the verified profile system in the near future.
This is in line with an earlier report from CNN’s Mark Milian, who caught wind of Google’s ‘celebrity acquisition plan’ a month ago.
The badges are basically grey Twitter-type check mark that expand to say ‘verified name’ when you hover over them (see screenshot of my profile – I’ve apparently been added to enough Google+ Circles to make the list). People who don’t yet have a verified profile should ‘hang tight’, Yu says.
Things that are not clear:
- How celebrities and public figures are being asked by Google to verify their identity, although the CNN report mentioned that one option that was being considered by the Google + team at the time involved asking a celebrity to fax a copy of his or her driver’s license.
- Exactly how large the number of circles on has to be added to needs to be, and why some high-profile users seem to have fallen though the cracks. It doesn’t make any sense to give me a verification badge but not people like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (he’s the most followed person on Google+, ironically) and entrepreneur celebs like Kevin Rose and Tom Anderson.
- If there will be a dedicated page listing all verified profiles (or at least those of celebrities and public figures) so people can discover more people to follow, particularly when they’re new to Google+
According to a tweet from Louis Gray, who has just been hired as Google+ evangelist, there are no plans to build a ‘default’ (aka suggested user) list based on which profiles are verified by the Google+ team and which are not. He says “give me a few days”, though.
If you’re interested in such a list now, my advice is to check out this website.
Meanwhile, the debate about the real name policy on Google+ rages on. Joining the social network requires mandatory real name and gender disclosure, and Google has already suspended accounts because it believed users were using a pseudonym.
These days, when Google finds that a profile name does not adhere to its policy, users are given a 4-day grace period to change it before they get booted off the social network.
Power user Robert Scoble this morning sent an open letter to Google’s Vic Gundotra – and published it on his Google+ profile to boot – providing several suggestions for change to the real name policy, which Scoble says is not being enforced fairly, or properly, and causing distraction.
(Hat tip to Michel over at WebSonic)
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:36 PM PDT
Wow. The day after HP announces they’re discontinuing all their webOS devices, and they’ve already issued a liquidation order. Best Buy, Future Shop, The Source, London Drugs, and Staples will be selling the 16GB TouchPad for $100, and the 32GB version for $150 starting tomorrow. Well, in Canada at least.
No word on when this will spread to the US, UK, EU, and so on — but somehow I doubt many TouchPads will be selling for full price while this fire sale is going on, so the switch will probably happen right away. Also unclear is the 64GB version’s fate.
Buy one recently? Get thee to the refundery. Got a few bucks? Try picking one up. That’s a hell of a price for a decent device — even if it won’t be getting any support, people will be hacking the hell out of it soon. One commenter says they already have Honeycomb up and running.
Your best bet is to call your local gadget shop and check for stock and pricing, then run like a bat out of hell to get yours before they’re gone.
[via Pre Central]
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:50 PM PDT
It’s hard to believe that Google’s Street View has been in use for over four years. What’s more amazing, perhaps, given the rate at which they have canvassed the world’s streets and alleyways, that there is anywhere left unmapped. But while their teams have successfully traced the surfaces of most large cities and a number of other interesting areas, I suppose it won’t come as a surprise that the remote reaches of the Amazon have not yet been put under the lens.
They aim to change that, however, and have detailed in a blog post their plans to Street-View-ize a large section of the river. It’s being done in collaboration with the Foundation for a Sustainable Amazon, a nonprofit working in the area.
To map the entire length of the Amazon, its tributaries, and distributaries, is the work of years, however, so Google won’t be attempting that just yet (though there are plenty of spots to drop the orange guy if you’re curious). For now, they’re focusing their efforts on a 50km stretch of the Rio Negro starting around Manaus, right about at the center of this image:
They’ll also be going down the dirt paths to small villages with the Street View Trike, mapping all the while, and will set up the tripod they use to show business interiors to give a panoramic taste of village life. And as a little parting shot of charity, they’ll be leaving behind some equipment, probably some cameras and laptops, for FAS and the locals to use. The whole thing is sort of a publicity play for sustainability, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
No word on when the project will be complete — from what I’ve read (travelogues from the 1800s, but still), these kinds of trips generally take longer than expected — but you can see some more pictures of their work over at the Google blog post.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 04:46 PM PDT
Snapsort, until today known a popular camera recommendation site, has raised $500K from undisclosed investors to expand its algorithmic product recommendation technology to other verticals, starting with cars at Carsort.com and phones at Geekaphone.com.
Snapsort co-founder Christopher Reid compares Snapsort’s technology to Factual and Metaweb, but tells me that its data is much cleaner than the former and richer than the later. Snapsort.com, previously in stealth mode, has over 5 million monthly pageviews, with an average site time of 4 minutes and an average conversion rate of 10% for US visitors according to Reid. It took Reid and the three people on his team a year to build.
Snapsort, Carsort and Geekaphone scrape data daily from sources including retailers, manufacturers and aggregate reviews. On a Snapsort site user can discover products based on drill down criteria like price, model and make through a user-friendly interface.
“We’re more like the friendly knowledgable geek you trust for all your gadget advice, less like the list of products on the Best Buy website that you can’t freaking differentiate,” Reid explains, referring to Snapsort’s human friendly ambitions.
The company plans on being in 20 verticals by the end of the year and has its sights set on dominating product recommendation for electronics, entertainment, travel and parenting. “We want to provide advice on everything,” Reid says.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 03:29 PM PDT
Every once in a while you see an invention that seems a long time coming. The Tacit, a hand-mounted system that pings surroundings and transmits distance information to the user, is one of those. While the reliable white cane and occasional accommodations for the blind and vision impaired ameliorate the difficulty of navigating the world sans sight, technological advances that are both useful and ready for deployment are few and far between.
We’ve seen a lot of research into artificial vision systems, and there are often hacked-together projects by people personally concerned with issues like vision or mobility — we’ve seen a Kinect-powered navigation system, the Eyewriter, and Ken Yankelvitz’s paraplegic-accessible controllers. This project is an amazing example of what one guy can do with a soldering iron, some off-the-shelf parts, and an inventive mind.
The system uses two ultrasonic sensors that can detect the distance of objects between 2cm and 3m away. Mounted facing off to the right and left, they can be swept across a room and will be able to sense most common obstacles and dangerous objects. They send their signal through an Arduino Mini controller, which governs a pair of servos. These servos each press a loop of foam down on the wrist: the closer the object, the harder they press. The whole thing is powered by a 9V battery and straps onto either hand.
Designs like this are the reason we have a patent system. And while tech companies are filing thousands of patents for trivial UI items and software methods, the inventor, Steve Hoefer, has opted instead to give away his invention for free under a Creative Commons license. As is increasingly common with interesting hacked inventions like this, he has published the parts list, detailed instructions, a circuit diagram, and the source code for the Arduino controller.
Hoefer says the system has a learning curve of “seconds,” and I can’t see why that shouldn’t be the case. Nothing is naturally intuitive; everything is learned, even vision and our concepts of space and navigation. Hand-based tactile feedback is something many blind people have grown up with, and the addition of this extra information, while at first foreign, will likely be welcomed as highly beneficial. They have also proven themselves very capable of synthesizing this kind of information into a cohesive mental map — sometimes incredibly so.
There are some other haptic vision projects, like the HALO system — but this seems more practical to me. The sweeping of the hand mimics the path of the eye, and unlike a head-mounted system, this one can be used to, say, locate a pen on a table. With such a low cost, it could be easily manufactured and made a common aid item, unlike fascinating but costly and impractical (at the moment) ideas like vision substitution.
It’s always heartening to see real inventors inventing real things, and for no other reason than a problem needed solving.
[via Hack A Day]
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 03:20 PM PDT
Anyone who’s spent a late night hour or three browsing movie trailers on trailers.apple.com will understand the utility of the Can’t Wait iPhone app. Co-founders Eric Florenzano and Eric Maguire tell me that the app’s closest competitor is trailers.apple.com itself — and that the only way to track the updates on that site is via its RSS feed.
Can’t Wait is a slick mobile movie trailer player built on top of YouTube’s API. It’s hardly the first app that includes movie trailers (see the movie apps like Flixster and Fandango, for example), but the app has a strong focus on interacting with other users and also on reminding you when movies you’re interested in are being released.
Cinephiles can download the app to view recent movie trailers, which includes options to sort by Just Added, Popular and Release date. After viewing a trailer, users can then choose to share it with specific friends both inside and outside Can’t Wait or with all users of the app by clicking on Gonna Pass or Can’t Wait.
Pressing the Can’t Wait button will also opt you in for notifications as to when the movie will hit theatres, when other similar trailers are posted, or when a friend recommends something. The co-founders plan on incorporating even more social features, like the ability to comment on a friend’s post about a trailer in later versions.
Of course, because movie trailers are basically the first point of conversion to theatre ticket sales, you can buy movie tickets from within the app — Can’t Wait monetizes by taking an affiliate fee from Fandango. In addition, people who click Can’t Wait and share a trailer with friends (essentially bringing in new users) have the opportunity to win a free movie ticket. The co-founders are mulling over expanding this into some sort of movie-Groupon inspired feature.
Florenzano says that eventually he hopes that Can’t Wait will help people organize their nights out with friends and that they’re planning on building out algorithmic technologies that will help people surface what trailers they’d like to see the most. He’d like to see the Can’t Wait model of consuming content to expand to video games, music and consumer electronics. An Android app is also in the works.
“People are bored, they're sitting at the train station, at the bus stop and they've got their phone will them and have got time to kill,” says Florenzano. “They don't have time to watch a whole movie or do something important, but they do have 1 to 2 minutes to watch a trailer. We're not curing cancer, but we're helping people have some fun.”
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 01:30 PM PDT
I was sitting outside a cafe the other day when an older man sat down next to me and attempted to assemble a flashlight he’d bought at Walgreens. It was the chintziest piece of garbage I’ve seen in a long time, and I had to help him put together this thing, which after some tinkering finally emitted a feeble glow. He wanted something to keep in his car just in case. I wouldn’t trust that junk device, however cheap it may have been. Flashlights are something you want to buy once and appreciate forever, which is why I wanted to check out EPLI’s line of waterproofs — is it something I can recommend to friends, perhaps over the traditional Maglite, or just another toy?
Fortunately I can say that these little guys are definitely worth recommending. I think I’ll always want to keep a traditional four-cell bulb Maglite around, but an emergency or rainstorm, a Britestrike or something similar is a good bet to make.
EPLI and Blue Dot
I checked out two sizes: the “Executive” pen light and a mid-range “Blue Dot” tactical-style light, meant for police and so on, attachment to pistols and rifles. Both are bright LED lights, both have three lighting modes (high, low, and strobe), and both are waterproof.
The differences between the two are bulk, brightness, finish, and of course price. The EPLI is just over five inches long, a bit thicker than a pen, and produces 160 lumens. The tactical is actually a bit shorter, but much wider, and it covered in a crenelated grip pattern that makes it practically impossible to drop, and also makes it into an effective impact weapon. It produces 210 lumens from two cells.
They’re made for single-handed operation, which sounds silly at first, but many flashlights require you to hold them and turn a dial or rotate the crown to switch modes or focus. On the Brite Strikes, it’s done by hitting the button on the end once, twice, or three times. The bright mode is bright, the dim mode is dim, and the strobe mode just gave me blue spots in my eyes for a few minutes. It’s very bright when you’re in its focus and it’s ideal for signaling your location, getting the attention of motorists from afar, or flashing in the eyes of that puma or mugger.
Both flashlights are extremely well-built. I tried pretty hard to damage them, but they resisted all my attempts at banging, bending, dropping, and throwing. They’re also waterproof, their openings sealed with rubber o-rings. I’m not sure I’d trust the EPLI in a dive, but I wouldn’t have any problem taking these guys out in a rainstorm, dropping them in puddles, or putting them down on wet ground. The tactical one is naturally the more robust, with a thicker o-ring and only one opening.
Both have the eerie white light of LEDs, of course, which isn’t something you can avoid. The EPLI has a colder light and narrower focus, as you see above.
The classy look of the EPLI makes it a solid addition to the nicest nightstand, desk, or pen cup. It provides a pretty insane amount of illumination for its size, and it’s not going to break or short circuit if you drop it down the stairs or leave it on the ground while you fix a flat in the dark. To be honest I would feel more comfortable if my friends and family kept one of these around in their glove box or purse. It’s capable, rugged, and I wouldn’t want it flashing in my eyes if I were a mugger. You can find it for under $50 right now, which I think is a good price for a serious device like this.
The tactical one can be found for the rather higher sum of around $125. That’s a lot more than a Maglite. But this thing would live through a hurricane and a half, and will probably last forever. It also has a nice little range of accessories. Want to make an investment you won’t regret? This thing will probably pay off its price tag a few years from now.
I spend so much time with cheap plastic gadgets that it was nice to get my hands on something that I don’t think I could break if I wanted to. Why don’t they build phones like this?
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 01:24 PM PDT
Apple is making a lot of big changes to its mobile operating system with iOS 5, which is dribbling out in betas for developers ahead of a general release later this year. But there is one big change some developers are just starting to take notice of that Apple isn’t talking about that much. In a recent update to the documentation for iOS 5 (which is only available to registered Apple developers, but a copy was forwarded to me), Apple notes that it will be phasing out access to the unique device identifier, or UDID, on iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads.
This is a big deal, especially for any mobile ad networks, game networks or any app which relies on the UDID to identify users. Many apps and mobile ad networks, for instance, uses the UDID or a hashed version to keep track of who their users are and what actions they have taken. App publishers are now supposed to create their own unique identifiers to keep track of users going forward, which means they may have to throw all of their historical user data out the window and start from scratch.
Here is the language from the Apple Developer documentation:
The change may be in response to privacy concerns or as a way to pre-empt them. Mobile ad networks, for instance, use the UDID to target ads. It is not clear whether Apple itself will stop relying on the UDID as a unique identifier for iAds, Game Center or other services. “I guarantee Apple will not stop using UDID,” predicts one mobile industry CEO. If Apple does continue to use UDID for itself but denies it to developers that would be an “extremely lopsided change.” It would give Game Center and iAds yet one more advantage over competing third-party services.
If you are an iPhone developer, please weigh in with your comments below. How much of a hassle will this change cause, or is it just a minor annoyance?
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 01:09 PM PDT
"We welcome the news of today's acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”
That was Peter Chou’s line from right after the Google-Motorola deal was announced, and it would appear he’s sticking to it. Today, the HTC CEO has announced his intention to stick it out with Google and Android in spite of the multi-billion dollar acquisition.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Chou was careful to reiterate his support for the deal, stating that it would benefit the entire ecosystem because Google would have a stronger patent shield thanks to the acquisition. The end result: a stronger Android for manufacturers to work with.
Chou has dispelled the recent rumor that HTC was considering building an OS of their own, stating that the company’s goal is to differentiate their products while “leveraging partnerships” with software partners Google and Microsoft. Chou’s strategy certainly seems to be working so far: HTC is the #1 Android handset manufacturer in the country, with Motorola coming in second.
Mr. Chou also mentioned that Google was deeply committed to their relationship with HTC, and with good reason: I don’t need to remind you that HTC was Android Partner Number 1, and worked with Mountain View to bring the first Google Phone to life back in 2008. While it’s believed that the Google/Moto deal could make for rough seas between Google and their other Android device manufacturers, Chou and HTC seem to have faith that Google will live up to their famous “don’t be evil” credo.
HTC, in a way, seems almost fearless these days: Chou’s vehement support of Google, HTC’s new patent suit against Apple, and their acquisition of a majority stake in Beats have a sort of maverick, “we can handle anything” air about them. Even if Motorola does happen to receive preferential treatment (and I have a hard time imagining that they wouldn’t), HTC seems poised to take whatever comes next with a smile and a new phone in hand.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 01:08 PM PDT
One of the more exciting technologies on the horizon is NFC, short for Near Field Communication. You’ve probably heard quite a bit about the technology already: it’ll let you pay for things simply by tapping your phone against special sensors, and it’s already been integrated into the Nexus S — with a slew of NFC-equipped Android devices on the way (iPhone support has been long rumored, but it may not be included in the iPhone 5).
Granted, NFC has been “on the horizon” for quite a while now, and it still has a long way to go before it achieves any kind of mainstream adoption. But the potential’s there, and plenty of developers are eager to get a head start on the market. There’s just one problem: small developers and brands looking to get their hands on NFC stickers often have to deal with long waits, particularly when they’re ordering them in small batches.
Now a new Y Combinator-funded startup called Tagstand is hoping to become their new best friend, by offering to ship custom NFC stickers within less than 24 hours (plus however long it takes to ship them). And they’re also making the tags ‘smart’, by offering a bit.ly-like short URL service that’ll let you track when each one is used. Each sticker runs around $1, which seems to be around what other sites are charging for small batches (sidenote: Tagstand is already one of the top Google results for “buy NFC stickers”).
If you’re interested, Tagstand also has a special deal running for TC readers: head to this link, enter the discount code “techcrunch4nfc”, and you can order a free NFC sample pack (you’ll still have to pay for shipping).
The short-URL feature is pretty straightforward: when you place your order, Tagstand will associate each sticker with a unique URL. Then, once you receive your stickers, you can log into the site’s dashboard and configure where you’d like each of these short URLs to point to (the upshot to this is that you can change the URL even once the stickers are deployed in the field). The site also provides analytics on how often each of these stickers is used.
In the longer term, the Tagstand team says they don’t see themselves as an NFC sticker company, at least not exclusively. Instead, they want to be help make NFC as easy as possible for developers to take advantage of — and that includes building software, too. They’re currently working on developing libraries that will help programmers integrate NFC into their own applications more easily.
But for now their current focus is on selling the custom stickers, which has a nice side effect: in the process of distributing these stickers, Tagstand is connecting with a lot of developers and brands interested in NFC, which gives them a sense of how people will be using the technology. Which, in turn, will help them shape their future products.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:09 PM PDT
Yes yes I know Facebook Questions pivoted into some kind of “poll your friends” thing back in March but still this is sort of funny, simply because it’s the most symbolic concession of the Q&A space I’ve seen from Facebook yet. Hey, people interested in interning at Facebook, ask a question about it, ON QUORA.
Granted Quora is a more appropriate place to discuss a nerd topic like this and Facebook Questions (once posited as “the next killer app of Facebook”) no longer has the “ask a question to all” functionality, but still, people could have just left their questions in the comments. In the meantime, when was the last time you made or voted on a
According to Facebook, the last time one of my friends answered a Facebook
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:07 PM PDT
Twitter has just released Bootstrap, a new toolkit to build web apps using CSS. It includes base CSS styles for typography, forms, buttons, tables, grids, navigation, alerts, and more. You can access Bootstrap on GitHub here.
Twitter says that Bootstrap was launched as a way to provide a consistent framework for the front end of individual applications. The toolkit was originally developed during Twitter's first Hackweek, and Twitter has been working on the tools to release to developers.
The advantages of using Bootstrap is that it is built with Less (read about Less more here), which Twitter says is a more flexible pre-processor that offers much more power and flexibility than regular CSS. With Less, developers can access features like nested declarations, variables, mixins, operations, and color functions. It also makes Bootstrap easy implement (drop it in your code and go, says Twitter), and extremely simple.
The company says that Boostrap has become a popular front-end tookit when developing new apps and sites because of its flexibility. From the post: Bootstrap is a very simple way to promote quick, clean and highly usable applications.
Twitter has been trying to engage developers more meaningfully of late, recently launching a new developer portal. In fact, there are currently over one million registered third-party apps, built by more than 750,000 developers around the world. And a new app is registered every 1.5 seconds.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:06 PM PDT
If you can’t wait for the official Steve Jobs biography, why not pick up a fake one for $8? “Translated” by someone apparently named “John Cage” (presumably there are 4.33 pages blank near the middle), the book has sold 4,000 copies at $10 a pop.
MICGadget has a quite a bit of poorly translated info on the book, which has been out since April. No one is claiming that this is the real deal but they’re not going to pull it from the shelves, either, claiming it’s close enough. The book’s title translates roughly to “Steve Jobs Gives 11 Advices To Teenager,” which suggest this might be a clever mash-up of a commencement speech and a 19-page Ars Technica OS X Lion review.
Regardless, you probably won’t be reading this biography over here any time soon, but it’s nice to note that iPhone 5s aren’t the only unreleased Apple-related products being pirated in China.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:00 PM PDT
Almost every single keynote at LinuxCon, and certainly every private conversation I had with folks here, involved “cloud” in some way. As Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst observed in his keynote, there’s no single definition of “cloud”. There’s no doubt that Amazon has really pioneered the default cloud offering, but there’s a lot of work going on to build better, more robust, and more open cloud solutions.
Red Hat has OpenShift, their Platform as a Service offering, and CloudForms, their Infrastructure as a Service offering. The long-term vision, according to Whitehurst, is that a company’s developers would begin building something on OpenShift, and not worry about any of the underlying infrastructure. When that product is ready to be deployed internally, it would go on the customer’s CloudForms installation inside the company’s firewall. Basically, developers will select the platform and operations can then own and manage that platform.
Canonical is pushing Ensemble, their “service orchestration” solution. Rather than think about applications, Canonical wants to see folks start thinking about services. Rather than deploy a web server application that talks to a database application to present information and receive input from Internet visitors, instead think of a “blog service” that you can deploy through a series of recipes. According to Canonical’s Allison Randal, Canonical feels that Amazon’s AWS sets a good standard, and the Amazon APIs should be adopted by everyone. This will allow users of cloud services to have some modicum of portability: if my cloud provider jacks up their prices, I should be able to transition smoothly to a different cloud provider — or onto my own private cloud — because the underlying mechanisms for interacting with it (the published APIs) should be the same between providers.
When Randal told me this, I was initially skeptical. If your cloud provider jacks up their prices, that’s a business problem. It’s not specific to the cloud, or to the technology sector in general. Is there real value in being able to switch from one cloud provider to another, or to bring a public cloud solution in-house? Then I listened to Marten Mickos’ keynote. Mickos, formerly CEO of MySQL AB, is now at Eucalyptus Systems pioneering private cloud solutions. His keynote touched on a couple of very interesting things.
First, he succinctly cleared up the confusion around public and private clouds and why you might want to use both. Consider the telephone. The public telephone infrastructure has been around for about a hundred years, and yet almost every company still runs their own internal PBX system. This is a pretty solid analogy with respect to clouds.
But the most interesting thing that Mickos brought up was the importance of the free software principles as applied to cloud solutions. With the old paradigm of Linux distributions, the four freedoms provided by the GPL are fundamentally essential to the long-term success of the platform, because it specifically allows derivative works. Moving to the cloud, though, we’re looking at images, rather than distributions, and the entire notion of a derivative work becomes fuzzy at best. How are the four freedoms of the GPL applied to cloud situations?
Suddenly Randal’s comments make a lot more sense. So, too, does OpenStack, a result of collaboration between RackSpace and NASA to build a common, open cloud framework.
Mickos wrapped up his keynote by reiterating that Linux has gone from a disruptive force to an innovation force. His closing remarks dovetailed very nicely with Whitehurst’s opening remarks: Linux is now the default choice for new technology deployments, and is the foundation upon which most future technical advances will be built. Both Whitehurst and Mickos observed that the transition we’re seeing now to the cloud is at least as fundamentally radical as the shift from mainframes to client/server.
As innovation continues atop Linux in the cloud, Mickos offered some very profound advice: we must strive to ensure that no one closes that which we have opened.
Photo credit: Clouds by karindalziel, on Flickr.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 11:56 AM PDT
Today, Microsoft was that company, and the product was Windows Phone 7 Mango.
Peter Wissinger, Microsoft’s director of Mobile Business in the Nordic countries, today released an official statement on Mango’s status:
And for those whose Swedish might be a bit rusty, the translation:
(Shout out to WinMobile.se for spotting the statement first)
The only hang-up: Just because Microsoft finished Mango a bit early doesn’t mean that its OEM partners are ready to rock and roll. Currently, Microsoft’s list of hardware partners includes HTC, LG, Samsung, Dell, Acer, Fujitsu, ZTE Corporation and, of course, Nokia. We already know that Fujitsu has something (probably the Toshiba-Fujitsu IS12T) in the works slated for a September launch, and towards the end of June we got a quick peek at Nokia’s first Mango smartphone, the so-called “Sea Ray”.
There’s really no telling how long it will take manufacturers to get their WP7 Mango-powered devices out, nor when we might expect non-Mango devices to start seeing updates — but from this point on, the ball is out of Microsoft’s court.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 11:55 AM PDT
A couple of days ago, I took issue with those who whine that ebooks are killing publishing. In fact, I argued, “The Golden Era Of Books Isn't Over. The Golden Era Of Books Is Now“. Apparently, though, not everyone agrees.
In an interview with the BBC’s World At One radio program, Booker Prize winning author Graham Swift claimed (with a straight face) that ebooks might actually discourage new writers from writing. He said:
You can read my response here, on The Awl. Spoiler alert: I don’t agree. At all.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 11:49 AM PDT
This cool Kickstarter allows you to build a working speaker using plasma energy. It’s a little esoteric, but here’s the deal: this is a little kit that contains everything you need to play music using a plasma arc. If that doesn’t seem like your idea of a good time, you might be reading the wrong post.
That said, here’s how it works: for $40 you get the bits that make the arc vibrate and for $80 you get all of the bits, including a power supply and flyback transformer. The kit was designed and built by StudentRND a group of cool kids in Seattle who, along with volunteers, build wild technological artifacts. This looks to be one of their first Kickstarter projects and they requested $2,000 to build a few kits and support their mission. They’re over their minimum, so the project will get funded and you will be able finally play Smoke On The Water using a tiny plasma arc.
Even if you’re not down with shooting electricity through the air, StudentRND seems like a great organization and they’re clearly having fun with science, which is something I can definitely get behind.
Posted: 19 Aug 2011 10:57 AM PDT
We like to mix things up onstage at Disrupt SF, which is only a month away so get your early bird tickets now. One session I am really excited will be on lean startups with Eric Ries on the day he will release his book, The Lean Startup (you can watch a video I recently did with Ries on the topic). The Lean Startup movement is picking up steam, and not just among startups, so we decided to bring two founders who take the approach to heart: Intuit’s Scott Cook and Instagram’s Kevin Systrom. What could a huge company like Intiut and a tiny startup like Instagram have in common? Come to Disrupt to find out.
Speaking of pivots (a lean startup strategy), one of the hottest early stage startups right now is Turntable.fm, which truly did pivot from its previous incarnation as Stickybits. Co-founders Billy Chasen and Seth Goldstein will come give us an update on the growth and interest in the social music site where you can grab the DJ stand and plays tracks to a crowd of bopping avatars. Maybe we can even convince investir Chris Sacca to come spin some tunes onstage (he is very musical, you know). Personally, I find it fitting that Turntable will be representing at Disrupt SF since I discovered the site working late the weekend before Disrupt NYC.
Other speakers will include Elon Musk, Vinod Khosla, Peter Thiel, Mike McCue, Dustn Moskovitz and many others. You can see the growing list of speakers here.
Early bird tickets are only available until August 24th, so for the best prices please be sure to get your tickets now.
Disrupt SF is going to be held at the massive San Francisco Design Center Concourse, and we have partnered with Oyster.com to provide several hotel options surrounding the area. Go ahead and visit the Oyster/ SF Disrupt website to make reservations. Be sure to use the code “Disrupt SF” for a 10% discount.
Disrupt is also known for its amazing after parties. Each ticket gets you into every after party, with all three parties starting at 9pm and going until midnight. One after party hotspot we will be taking over is Roe, with another after party at Mighty
Scott Cook started his career at Procter & Gamble, where he learned about product development, market research, and marketing. He soon began using the insights he was learning there to look for an idea for a company of his own. That idea came to him one day when his wife was complaining about paying the bills. With personal computers just coming out at the time, Scott thought there might be a market for basic software that would help people pay their bills. He launched Intuit in 1983, which today offers software and online products to help individuals and small companies manage their finances. Scott Cook, a founder of Intuit, has been a director of Intuit since March 1983 and is currently Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board. He served as Intuit's Chairman of the Board from February 1993 through July 1998. From April 1983 to April 1994, he also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Intuit. Mr. Cook also serves on the boards of directors of eBay Inc., and The Procter & Gamble Company. Mr. Cook holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Southern California and a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School, where he serves on the dean's advisory board.
Kevin Systrom is a co-founder of Instagram, a photo sharing application for the iPhone. He also founded Burbn, an HTML5-based location sharing service. Kevin graduated from Stanford University in 2006 with a BS in Management Science & Engineering—he got his first taste of the startup world when he was an intern at Odeo that later became Twitter. He spent two years at Google—the first of which was working on Gmail, Google Reader, and other products and the latter where he worked on the Corporate Development team. Kevin has always had a passion for social products that enable people to communicate more easily, and combined with his passion for photography, Instagram is a natural fit.
Billy Chasen is the Co-founder of Turntable.fm. Before Turntable.fm, Billy Chasen was the Founder and CEO stickybits.com. Prior to stickybits, Chasen was on the founding team of betaworks, where he created chartbeat.com, a real-time analytics service and firef.ly, a chat service. Chasen has a B.S. in computer science from the University of Michigan. His art website is located at billychasen.com and his blog is anerroroccurredwhileprocessingthisdirective.com
Seth creates and invests in really awesome companies. Most recently he and Billy Chasen created turntable.fm, an addictive social music service. In 1995, Seth founded Sitespecific, which pioneered online advertising solutions for companies like Duracell and Travelocity. It was acquired by CKS Group in 1997. In 1999, Seth joined Fred Wilson as Entrepreneur in Residence at Flatiron Partners where he built a practice in "pervasive computing," investing in companies Kozmo, Modo and Vindigo. In 2002, Seth created Majestic Research, the first Wall Street research firm to mine primary data for hedge funds to forecast the financial performance of public companies. Majestic Research was acquired in 2010 by Investment Technology Group (NYSE: ITG). In 2005, Seth started Root Markets with renowned Salomon Brothers trader Lew Ranieri and the Chicago Board of Trade to create the first financial exchange for online mortgage leads. Seth started SocialMedia.com in 2007 which makes ads more relevant across the Web with a unique social advertising platform. SocialMedia was acquired in 2011 by LivingSocial. In 2007, Seth created the pre-eminent start-up ghetto Pier 38 in SanFrancisco, which houses Dogpatch and dozens of other startups. In 2010, Seth co-founded Stickybits, which connects digital media to real-world objects via barcodes. Seth has served on the board of the Internet Advertising Bureau, where he co-chaired its Social Media committee and helped architect the first set of best practices in social advertising. Seth was the original investor in Web 2.0 pioneer del.icio.us which was acquired by Yahoo! in 2005, and was one of the first investors in Etherpad which was purchased by Google in 2009.
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