Apple will today launch a new, personalized shopping experience in its 254 U.S. retail stores, the Associated Press reports
According to the report, Apple will use iBeacon technology, which tracks customers' movement inside an Apple Store, to offer info such as order status, price comparison and more
For example, if you walk by an iPhone table, you might get a message asking if you want to upgrade to a newer model, together with pricing info
The technology is opt-in and will require customers to install the official Apple Store app on their iDevices Read more...More about Apple, Tech, Apps Software, Mobile, and Ibeacon
When shopping for the tech-obsessed this holiday season, you'll likely consider the obvious: a new Xbox One console or a new iPad Air. But if you dig a little deeper, many other unexpected products will make even the techiest techie geek out.
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From a Lego-inspired tablet case and a Maker's Mark USB drive to a connected basketball to a Pebble smartwatch, the options this year are wide-ranging and innovative. Here's a look at our picks for top tech gifts.
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Image: SmallWorks Read more...More about Iphone, Features, Tech, Holiday Gifts, and Spotify
In 2011, Google changed the way it ranked websites, in an effort to punish spammers and “content farms” that showed up high in search results but delivered crummy pages.
This week Facebook announced that it was changing the way it ranked content in its all-important News Feed — the main page Facebook users see on their desktop and on their phones — in order to promote “high-quality content.” And Facebook said it would make things like “meme photos” harder to see.
The immediate reaction from several publishers I’ve talked to this week: “This is Facebook’s Panda.”
But if that’s the case, then who is Facebook trying to punish? And why does Facebook care about this anyway — isn’t the crucial thing that people like the stuff, and not what the stuff is?
One way to get some answers is to ask a Facebook executive directly. News Feed manager Lars Backstrom got on the phone with me to explain the company’s thinking.
Peter Kafka: Your post says that you want promote some kinds of content and demote other kinds of content. But I don’t really understand what you want to push up and down, and why.
Lars Backstrom: We don’t really think about it that much in terms of promoting and demoting certain kinds of content. The way we think about it is that we’re doing a better job of identifying value.
In the past there were a lot of things that all fell into one bucket, and we would treat them all the same, even though they clearly weren’t. If you see a funny meme photo in your feed — sure, you get some value from that. But if you compare that to reading 1,000 words on All Things D, you would presumably get more value from that experience than the first one. And in the past we were treating them as the same.
But if I like them both, aren’t they the same? From a Facebook perspective, shouldn’t the things that people like be the things that people like?
I’m not saying that one doesn’t have value. And we’re not trying to impose our will and view on the world. But we went and asked people which of those things they get more value from. We’ve run surveys and asked people to rate stories and things.
And they’ll say, “The cat photo was great, and I had a good chuckle, but of those two, the second one enriched my life more, and I got more value out of it”.
It’s not us trying to be more proscriptive. We’re trying align our definition of value with that of our users.
You make a good point, which is that the surveys are not necessarily the truth. But it’s just as naive to treat every single click as having the same value.
Are you paying attention to the source of the content? Or is it solely the type of the content?
Right now it’s mostly oriented around the source. As we refine our approaches, we’ll start distinguishing more and more between different types of content. But for right now, when we think about how we identify “high quality,” it’s mostly at the source level.
So something that comes from publisher X you might consider high quality, and if it comes from publisher Y it’s low quality?
In your post you specifically call out meme photos that are hosted on other sites. Is there something about photo hosting sites you have an issue with?
No, that was just an example. There’s no targeting of one category or another.
This seems very reminiscent of Google’s Panda changes a few years, which was a really big deal for search. Is that what you’re doing here for social?
I’m not totally familiar with the details of Panda. At least from the way you described it, it’s maybe not quite at that scale. But it’s kind of a step in that direction.
Whenever we make a change like this, it has the potential to break some of the strategies employed by people who get distribution on Facebook. My favorite example of this is when you have a photo, and then a very explicit call to action where you say “one like = one respect.”
So when the text or photo has a call to action, those posts naturally do much better. And in a traditional feed ranking where we’re evaluating just on the number of likes, those things all did very well.
So “like this if you like puppies” is the kind of thing you want to push down. What about publishers like BuzzFeed, and then Upworthy, and now a slew of Upworthy clones, that seem to have figured out how to crack the Facebook/viral code. Are you trying to rein in those guys?
I wouldn’t say we’re trying to rein in anybody. I’m not sure how the most recent changes will affect those sites.
Our goal is to provide user value. We’re trying to do that algorithmically, and if people find ways to game the algorithms that we have, then we have to adapt.
So this is not aimed at BuzzFeed?
What about Upworthy?
We don’t have any sort of specific enemies or targets.
In the past you guys have made changes to the way the News Feed works, and it has had a big impact on people who depended on Facebook for distribution. Like Zynga. Or more recently, SocialCam and Viddy. But those people did things that regular users didn’t like, and here regular users like the stuff …
I think you’re making this into a slightly bigger thing than what it is. We’re trying to be as proactive as possible about messaging even things that might have a 10 or 20 percent impact.
So it’s not like you’re never going to see a funny cat photo from Imgur or some photo-sharing site anymore. It’s that maybe you’ll see 10 percent less of that, and 10 percent more articles and things like that.
We’re trying to be a little better about that.
And even a 10 percent change can be very significant to some companies, given Facebook’s power.
The main thing I want to be clear about is that we want to optimize for user value. We recognize that this is one of the harder things we have to do.
There are certainly people that come to Facebook looking to see funny cat photos. And we want to make sure that it’s a good experience for them as well as people who are looking for more serious news. Ultimately we’re trying to make it as personalized as possible, and give people what they really want to see.
[Panda photos via Imgur]
When a natural disaster occurs, it is often difficult for conventional aircraft to deliver aid to people in need. Normal landing areas can be littered with debris, which makes for a potentially dangerous landing.
But a new aircraft, dubbed the Extremely Short Take Off and Landing On any Surface project, or ESTOLAS, may solve that problem.
ESTOLAS is a new breed of airborne vehicle that combines the flight mechanisms of a helicopter, plane and hovercraft. It's built to take off in shorter distances and at slower speeds than the average plane, meaning it doesn't need a conventional runway. Neither do helicopters, but ESTOLAS will presumably use less fuel and hold more cargo Read more...More about Disaster Relief, Blimp, Plane, Aircraft, and Dev Design
Complaining of boredom? You might want to be more specific.
According to new research, there are no fewer than five types of boredom — one more than previously theorized. This new type of boredom is marked by a strong strain of apathy, psychologists reported in the November issue of the journal Motivation and Emotion.
"Of particular concern is the relative frequency of apathetic boredom observed in the present research," lead psychologist Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz in Germany and his colleagues wrote. Among high-school students studied, they found, apathetic boredom made up 36% of their boredom experiences. Read more...More about Science, Emotions, Lifestyle, Health Fitness, and Travel Leisure
Better Call Saul producer Peter Gould (who also happened to create the Saul Goodman character) has a great interview in Yahoo TV, where he talks about putting together after his work on Breaking Bad. According to Gould, the spinoff isn’t going to be as broadly comedic as once intended:
“Frankly, I’ve been hanging around in courtrooms lately, and it’s not as broad as I thought originally. He dresses in a ridiculous way, he’s got billboards, he’s got ridiculous ads, but he is a shrewd customer. If you listen, most of his advice to Walt over the years in the show was really good advice. If Walt had listened to Saul a little bit more, I think the show would have gone very differently and probably would not have been as exciting.” Read more...More about Amc, Entertainment, Tv, Video, and Breaking Bad
In Tumblr's year-in-review round up, the blogging platform collected some of the most popular posts on the site under several different categories. According to the review, Tumblr calculated popularity by factoring in "total volume of posts and tags (including reblogs) and total traffic." Tumblr users are passionate about a number of subjects, so it's no surprise the most popular tech posts highlighted some of the most innovative tech of 2013.
The social media site encourages various types of media, which means that posters don't need to rely on images alone to show off new and innovative tech that inspires them. Tumblr's design allows users to view GIFs as part of a whole post seamlessly, like a regular photo. This means users can view the technology in action right on their screens as opposed to loading a video or viewing still shots in succession. Read more...More about Mobile, Gadgets, Tumblr, Features, and Tech
Scientists have captured their best view yet of how extreme magnetic fields shape superfast jets from the most powerful explosions in the universe.
The new research tracked polarized light from cosmic explosions, known as gamma-ray bursts, and offered an unprecedented glimpse into how intense magnetic fields shape the evolution of the outbursts.
"Gamma-ray bursts are the most extreme particle accelerators in the universe," said Carole Mundell, a professor of extragalactic astronomy at Liverpool John Moores University, who led the new study. "They're objects of all kinds of extremes: extreme speeds, extreme gravity, extreme magnetic fields. So they're the ultimate laboratory for testing or laws of physics." Read more...More about Space, Nasa, Explosion, Science, and Universe
Google has filed a patent for a software bot that would control your social media presence
The software would first learn your voice by studying all of your social media accounts, then it would automatically suggest updates and replies it can make for future posts. The aim is for the bot to learn how you tweet and Facebook so it can gradually manage that for you — effectively outsourcing how you digitally socialize
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Of course, you would first have to give Google permission to access your entire online presence, from social to email and everything in between. This limitless access has some cyber privacy experts concerned. Nick Pickles, the director of Big Brother Watch, an organization dedicated to protecting privacy, warned against the possible dangers. Pickles told the Daily Mail: Read more...More about Google, Email, Facebook, Twitter, and Social Media
The genetics testing company 23andMe announced Thursday night that it won't stop selling its popular "spit kits" — but that it will have to stop providing customers with any kind of analysis on what their genetic data means
The announcement is the latest twist in an ongoing feud between 23andMe and the Food and Drug Administration. On November 25, the FDA ordered the genetics company to "immediately discontinue marketing" of its $99 saliva collection kits, because the company hadn't addressed various legal and regulatory issues raised by the agency. It also slammed CEO Anne Wojcicki for not communicating with the agency for six months Read more...More about Genetics, Us World, Us, and 23andme
Despite Barbie's persistent presence in American culture, the shapely doll isn't exactly known for her realistic representation of a woman's body
Atlanta-based photographer Sheila Pree Bright used the classic toy to emphasize the disconnect between commercialized beauty ideals and real women for her series, "Plastic Bodies."
See also: Artist Imagines Barbie Without Makeup
Bright digitally manipulated photographs to morph portraits of women of color with images of Barbie dolls. According to Bright's website, the series examines "the global assimilation of cultures, ethnicities and loss of personal identity many women of color experience as a result." Read more...More about Pics, Art, Photography, Barbie, and Watercooler
Slippery clay that looks like scaly black dragon skin is the crucial clue needed to explain the 2011 Japan earthquake's surprising impact, according to three studies published Thursday in the journal Science.
Scientists now have four lines of evidence (including a February 2013 study also published in Science) that help explain why Japan's earthquake-generating fault acted so weirdly during the 2011 temblor.
"It seems that frictional resistance at this location is getting close to zero, and we never really thought it could go so low," said Patrick Fulton, a geophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz and lead author of one of the studies. "This is definitely providing new ideas and challenging our understanding of earthquakes and fault ruptures." Read more...More about Earthquake, Japan, Science, Japan Earthquake, and Natural Disaster
Nelson Mandela, former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary, died on Thursday at age 95. He leaves behind a legacy of courageous leadership that will undoubtedly inspire generations to come
"He achieved more than could be expected of any man," President Obama said in a statement shortly after Mandela's death. "Today he has gone home [...] He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages."
While world leaders address their nations on an international stage, how will teachers do the same with their students in the classroom this week? We asked a few how they'll share Mandela's story. Here's what they said. Read more...More about Teachers, Inspiration, Students, History, and South Africa
The personal genetics startup 23andMe announced this evening it will stop giving new customers genetic analysis information after being warned by the FDA over compliance issues.
It is not discontinuing sales, however, as we initially thought based on the company’s wording. 23andMe said it would “comply immediately with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s directive to discontinue consumer access to its health-related genetic tests during the ongoing regulatory review process.”
However, that doesn’t mean it’s stopping sales of new kits. Rather, new customers will only receive “raw genetic data without interpretation.”
It’s a departure from the company’s response of two weeks ago, which was to continue selling the kits but stop advertising them.
Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe had publicly apologized for being slow to respond, after the FDA complained of delays and threatened seizure, injunction and civil financial penalties.
23andMe said tonight it will continue offering services and research for customers who bought kits before November 22, when it received the warning letter.
The FDA wants 23andMe to wait for clearance as a medical device before it can offer diagnostics to customers. It is concerned about people acting on information they receive about their genetics, or getting false complacency if the company’s testing clears someone from risk in error.
However, the agency doesn’t yet offer classifications for many things 23andMe promises to do, so it will likely be a long road ahead to actually comply.
Here’s the notice now posted on 23andMe’s site, and a press release:
Welcome to 23andMe.
At this time, we have suspended our health-related genetic tests to comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s directive to discontinue new consumer access during our regulatory review process.
We are continuing to provide you with both ancestry-related genetic tests and raw genetic data, without 23andMe’s interpretation.
If you are an existing customer please click the button below and then go to the health page for additional information. If you are a customer who purchased before November 22, 2013, you will still have access to your health-related results.
We remain firmly committed to fulfilling our long-term mission to help people everywhere have access to their own genetic data and have the ability to use that information to improve their lives.
Upon entering the site, please confirm you understand the new changes in our services.
I understand that 23andMe only sells ancestry reports and raw genetic data at this time. I understand 23andMe will not provide health-related reports. However, 23andMe may provide health-related results in the future, dependent upon FDA marketing authorization.
Current 23andMe customers who received health-related results prior to November 22, 2013 will continue to have access to that information.
Customers who purchased kits before November 22, 2013 will still receive health-related results.
Customers who purchase or have purchased 23andMe’s Personal Genome Service (PGS) on or after November 22, 2013, the date of the Warning Letter from the FDA, will receive ancestry information, as well as their raw genetic data without interpretation. These new customers may receive additional health-related results in the future, dependent upon FDA marketing authorization. Customers who purchased kits on or after November 22, 2013 will be eligible for a refund. 23andMe will be sending an email with refund instructions to all eligible customers.