Monday, April 29, 2013

What Makes You Click On A News Post? (A Visual Guide)

As a blogger, I have to read...a lot! I have to sift through hundreds of news stories a day to form my thoughts and analysis on a subject matter. Over the years, with practice, I've become fairly good at skimming headlines and knowing when its worth my while to click and read the whole story. If you've read my blog posts, you will find that I write about tech trends. I care about over-arching tech trends in Internet, Mobile, Cloud, Ad Tech, Social, OS Development, etc. Even when I click through to read the entire story, I look for facts and the main take-away or strategy; the what and why the company did what it did. This helps me in figuring out the direction in which the tech trend is heading and what strategies players need to deploy in order to harness market potential in the foreseeable future.

I mostly use Business Insider's Silicon Alley Insider (SAI) to get the tech stories because they do a great job of producing, aggregating and distributing tech content online. I've put together a pictorial list of their headline feed to show you a visually appealing way of which headlines fit the bill and which ones are just 'nice to read' for me. Note that I am trying to figure out what the article is about  just by reading the headline and without clicking into it and reading the entire story. 

(Disclaimer: All headline news screenshots below are from Business Insider's SAI website).

Let's begin...

The top headline is sort of an eye catcher because it says that the best windows laptop is the MacBook Pro. Well, you can partition the hard drive in a MacBook and install windows on it, which is probably what the study found and led the Macbook to be the best Windows Laptop. No need to click on the headline...let's move on.

The bottom headline is self-explanatory and it doesn't offer me any information about tech trends. I know that Apple's WWDC is coming up. What I'd be interested in knowing is what products and services Apple talked about during the WWDC. We'll wait for that news story. Let's continue.

Here, the top headline is a teaser for SAI's subscription based report about location-based services. I can tell because the author is 'Business Insider' and not an individual writer. This report is going to be bustling with facts, trends and insights! The caveat is that you have to be a paid member of the service to read the whole report. I'd read this report thoroughly for all that it offers.

The second one is a reprint about Bitcoin, the digital cryto-currency making a lot of headlines the past few weeks. Most of the news about Bitcoin explains the concept or talks about the stellar price increases and drops over the last few months. But this headline seems to tell me something else. It tells me that Bitcoin is "...Becoming a Part of Your Web Browser." Now you have to take some of these headlines with a pinch of salt. To me, this post will be about some kind of tech standardization between the digital currency and web browsers. This may reveal some kind of a trend that I'd like to know about so I'll go ahead and click on it.

Again, the first post is some gossipy entertaining news about a tech celebrity, named Zuckerberg. Apparently he got famous by making Billions by founding a social site called Facebook. If I had time, I'd click on it and read about his Hawaiian adventure.

The second headline is simply a link to an article on another tech news site. Content producers sometimes share each other's stories on their news feed. Nonetheless this headline is about Twitter's app update. Good to know, but no need to read the whole thing. I'll see the update when I use the app.

If I have time to see a 2-minute streaming video just for kicks, go ahead, otherwise move on...there's no value add here.

The second post is a Quarterly Earnings report. It'll be full of financial facts (revenues, operating income, net income, margins, volumes, EPS, P/E & guidance). I'd click on this just to get my facts right and understand where the stock is going (trend). It's also about Amazon. I follow Amazon especially since they're into everything (e-commerce, Cloud, Mobile, OS, Hardware, Streaming, Content  Producing, etc, etc.). Recently news broke out that Amazon could be doing $500 million in ads a year, which can grow to a billion dollars this year. This spells trouble for Google. Lots of strategy related stuff. Anyways, in a nutshell, follow all news about trend setters.

I've taken the above 3 posts together because they're all stories about new hires and exits of movers and shakers at various tech-related  organizations. The first one talks about an exit and typically I wouldn't be interested in reading on, but it says, the VC is leaving to start something new. I want to know what the 'new thing' is because it'll give me an idea about trends in that space. VC's usually have a ton of ideas and a lot of market knowledge since they are evaluating business plans by the thousands. So if a VC is leaving to start something new, then she or he knows something that I want to know.

The second post is boring. It's not going to give me any insights. I don't really care about a board member leaving, unless he or she is a  big influencer. Yahoo's got a super-influential CEO last year and if Marissa Mayer is still around, then it doesn't matter if a board member leaves.

Next. Square is a super hot company because it operates in a super hot space, digital payments. There are several companies and several tech standards fighting for their place in the industry. There is too much going on in this space and even a bit of information related to digital payments may help me figure out where the pieces may fall. Anyways, this particular post may reveal professional background information about the the new hire, which may tell me what the company might be doing. New product development? Expansion plans? Change in strategy? In this case its a replacement for Keith Rabois.

In the above screen shot, the first post is a reprint about innovation in Ad Tech. The headline tells me how a new innovation tech (facial recognition) might shape the ad tech industry. This has 'trend' written all over it and I'd definitely click to read more. From what I've read before, I know that developers are working on a facial recognition software that will read the expression on your face and show you ads based on your mood, age, etc. This post also states that a facial recognition software has been developed. Al the more reason to get the details.

The second post is another link to a tech news site. It says that a possible competitor to Google Fiber is offering the same service as Google Fiber does, for half the price. Here, the headline tells me everything I want to know. I doubt that a state telephone company will be able to deploy gigabit internet infrastructure nation-wide and be a serious threat to Google. Lets move on.

 Let's make this the last one. So the first headline is a 'nice-to-know' story and the headline tells me enough. Executive compensation stories make for a nice 'OH WOW' read, but here it doesn't offer me any meaningful trends or insights.

The second post is so apt for this blog post I am writing because its exactly the kind of innovation I need. The post is about summarization technology, a topic I covered in my earlier blog post. You may have heard of Yahoo's acquisition of Summly, an app that uses summarization technology to summarize news articles! Hey exactly what I need, right??! This post talks about Google's acquisition of an app, Wavii, that does pretty much the same thing as Summly. Knowing Yahoo's acquisition and reading this headline tells me that Summarization is the way to go! I'd click on this for sure.

I can't wait for summarization technology to hit mainstream. It uses Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing to summarize articles you want to read. There have been 3 notable acquisitions in the newsreader app category recently. The first being the acquisition of Pulse by Linkedin for $90 million. Pulse doesn't summarize news however, it aggregates news from different sources and presents it in a minimalistic style. The other two acquisitions are of Summly and Wavii. These acquisitions show a clear trend in what mobile customers are doing on their devices and how to gain their eye balls. This is the beginning of summarization. My prediction is that most online news content will use some kind of summarization tech to appeal to the reader-on-the-go. Hope you're listening, Henry Blodget.

Like I said, Business Insider is a super-duper online news producer and distributor. Kudos to Henry and team for building an awesome online media company. I've only used BI as an example and to illustrate how I try to decipher news content by reading the headlines only. We could just as much use other news producer's headlines to illustrate the same point. 

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Google Glass Takes Summarization Technology To A New Level

The ubiquity of Smartphones has ushered a different way of consuming bits and bytes. Unlike on a desktop, we no longer want to read long articles, or watch a 120 min movie on our Smartphones. Grab one and we instantly transform into the 'Mobile' user. We can associate several connotations with the Mobile concept. For one, we are multi-tasking. Since we are 'Mobile,' we are going some place...walking, taking the subway, driving, shopping, doing a sales pitch, etc. In certain time intervals, we fish out our smartphone and try to complete a quick task before we continue on our journey of the task at hand.  The key here is "...certain time intervals..." Think of it as 'snacking' on your Smartphone; a quick read of a news headline, a timeline update on Facebook, a tweet or an email reply to a colleague.

Source: FreeWheel Video Monetization Report, Q3 2012

We can see the online trend in watching shorter-form videos is taking over longer-form videos.

Source: Business Intelligence Via Ooyala

Even though videos that are longer than 10 mins are watched more as a percentage of total time spent watching videos online, we tend to watch videos in the '1 to 3 min' category longer on smartphones than on any other device category. Note that the above data is not the number of times we watch videos of different length but how long we watch the videos of different length. So, inherently, videos of length greater than 10 minutes will take up more of your total time spent watching videos. Thus spending 25% of your video watching time watching '1 to 3 min' videos on your Smartphone is relatively impressive. This trend will be amplified as the number of smartphones takeover the number of desktops out there.

Source: KISS Metrics
My gut feeling is that the trend of consuming shorter-form content extends to all other content and not only video. Yahoo recently purchased a startup called Summly at a price tag of $30 million from a 17 year old, Nick D'Aloisio. Summly is an App specially designed for Smartphones (currently only for iOS) that provides summarized versions of news articles from hundreds of sources. In other words Summly is designed for the 'Mobile' snacking world. The App algorithmically generates summarized versions of news using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). These technological concepts are powerful tools in transitioning our 'longer-form' professional and personal lives into summarized versions optimized for mobile snacking. Maybe the 'eat every 2 hours' applies in our digital diet too! OK enough geek jokes...lets get back to Summly. The former owners of the App outsourced the development of Summly to SRI International, a non-profit R&D institution with technical prowess in AI and other next-gen tech such as robotics, sensing and the likes. SRI also developed another App and sold it to another mainstream tech may have heard of. That's right Siri was developed by SRI and sold to Apple. And just as Summly does, Siri too helps summarize your life by eliminating the need to touch or look at your smartphone screen. The reason that these high-profiled acquisitions by Marissa Mayer and Steve Jobs are important ones, is because they highlight the need to gain access to SRI's cool tech. More importantly these acquisitions show the trend of summarization technology in the mobile world.

Lets take mobile summarization to the next level. We can see whats's available on the horizon.  Yep, Google Glass and iWatch. I am going to focus more on GLASS because, its a piece of technology which is closer to being commercialized. The #ifihadglass initiative is already allowing developers and advocates to get their hands on GLASS and start developing third-party services for it. Think of services for GLASS just as you would think of Apps for your Smartphones. Check out the video below about creating services for Google Glass. Skip to the 3:10 mark to see the promo video about GLASS.  If you already saw the promo video a while back then skip to 12:30 to see a live working of GLASS and the 'cards' system.  

Cards are simply the different screens on GLASS with different information. For example, weather information or a photo or a news headline. Cards on GLASS is the technological concept that takes the summarization of experiences to that 'next level.' 
Watch the video from 26:50 to 27:50 and 31:45 to 34:36 to get an understanding of how GLASS is a platform built to summarize. 

Cards rely on the Google Mirror API (Application Programming Interface), the communications protocol for Apps (or services) to communicate with the host. The Google Glass API is built on three pieces of software. Firstly, ReST is web architecture used for transporting data between services using HTTP. This is the engine for developer services to connect with the Google cloud ecosystem.  The second piece of software language for GLASS is OOF2 ('O OF 2') which is basically a way to allow third-party services to post to the GLASS timeline. Lastly, JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is simply an encapsulation for the entire third-party service. Why am I boring you with this tech mumbo jumbo? (sorry engineers). What I am trying to get at is that its relatively simple to develop for GLASS. It's not built on scores and scores of software code but rather on simple code to support the cards concept of GLASS. It's a platform that is intended to give the user quick bursts of information and content and a limited set of activities (like sharing  or replying) attached to the content. Remember 'digital snacking.'

From Desktops to Laptops to Smartphones and Tablets to wearable tech; technology is physically getting closer to you and as it does, you will only and exactly want the content, information and digital interactions that matter to you at that moment. Can you imagine Summly on GLASS...with a 'Read Aloud' feature! Folks, the summarization of your life has only begun.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Technological Singularity: Human Convergence & The Spiritual Implications Of Uploading Your Consciouness

I think I am now officially a borderline case of OCD for convergence. You would be wondering "what in the world is he going to talk about converging today?" I've talked about virtually converging the mobile OS across device categories and physically converging devices themselves (converging a smartphone with a tablet by way of foldable screens). Well this time I've definitely taken it over the top. I am going to talk about converging us. You heard right. I am talking about the convergence of you with me. Human convergence with technology, on the other hand, is nothing new. Technologist, scientists and futurists have been working on bringing technology closer to your body...literally. Ray Kurweil popularized the concept of Technological Singularity - the theory of creating super-intelligent humans with the advent of Artificial Intelligence and new technologies such as molecular nanotechnology.

Today we carry powerful computing devices in our pockets. Google and Apple are working on putting technology on our skin (think iWatch and Google Glass). Companies are working on putting technology under our skin. Students and Professors at Belgium based Ghent University and at Washington University have prototyped a computer screen contact lens.

We're are not too far off from having nano-computers embedded in our brains. Imagine the power of 'Watson' inside us! 

We will have access to all the digital information in the world - public libraries, Wikipedia, public servers, Facebook get the point. Think of us all as connected biological devices. Do we have the processing power to hold all the world's information? We don't need to. The embedded computing power will sense our brains trying to figure out a problem or remember information. The computer will go out to the 'World Wide Minds' (which now have our brains and servers connected to it) and fetch the right kind of information to complete whatever cognitive task we were trying to figure out.

Even though some amount of cognitive processing will be individualistic, intellectual open communities will allow 100% sharing of their minds. So in essence humans will not only converge with technology, but also converge with other humans! We are all going to be clones of each other from a cognitive perspective. 

There are spiritual or karmic implications associated with the singularity or human convergence concept. For the agnostic, there is the implication of the consciousness 'living' on in the connected biological realm. Take, for example, Kim Souzzi, a 23-year old woman who died of brain cancer.  She successfully raised money to have herself cryogenically frozen (check her last post she wrote on her blog). OK so lets fast forward to the future; a time when we are technologically capable of bringing her BACK TO LIFE! I have obviously assumed several things as a, political, societal and of course technological and biological. Is she the same person? More importantly, is she the same soul? How is her destiny decided? Does she start with a clean Karma slate or continue from where she left off? Lets take another example. A tech guy (we don't know his name) wants to live long enough for him to be possible to transfer his brain (cognitively speaking) in to a machine. The same set of questions apply to him...or should we say apply to the new entity that's created out of his uploaded consciousness.

We have reached a point in technological evolution where we are thinking about meddling with the state of consciousness or spirituality. Even Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, talks about God when describing about Google's future direction.  Larry Page started Singularity University back in 2008. My take is that spirituality will evolve as societies evolve just as it has been evolving since cavemen days to now.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mobile-First or Mobile-Only Social Companies Are Fragmenting Facebook

This infographic from Business Insider's Business Intelligence shows some of Facebook's features being offered by social niche players such as Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr. Most of these narrower social-service offerings are being used by teenagers, who are slowly abandoning the Facebook platform.

Source: BI Intelligence

The rise of niche players in the Social Media landscape shows that users are trending towards using platforms that offer a stripped-down service; one or two features such as photo sharing or quick updates or messaging. Facebook is worried about declining teenage usage and it already said so in its annual 10-K.  Here is the statement directly from Facebook's 10-K:

We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook. For example, we believe that some of our users have reduced their engagement with Facebook in favor of increased engagement with other products and services such as Instagram. In the event that our users increasingly engage with other products and services, we may experience a decline in user engagement and our business could be harmed.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Are You A Marketer Or A Social Media Junkie? Fly Through All The Platforms In 30 Minutes A Day

Each social media platform is different in terms of its offering to its users and audience. Use Linkedin to recruit the best talent or shine out to get recruited. Use Google+ for longer-forms of discussion. Use Twitter for shorter bursts of info. Take a look at this handy infographics from Pardot to breeze through them all.

social media marketing
This infographic is brought to you by ExactTarget, a leader in social media marketing.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mobile Payments: A Race Between NFC & Card Readers / Apps

I wrote about the Mobile Payment industry back in February '13.  The post mentioned that the two dominant technologies vying for market-leadership are NFC and Card-reader (or software-based).

Business Insider's Business Intelligence (BI) released their latest presentation on the Mobile Payment industry. BI analyses polled data and industry players and technologies to piece together the state of the industry and where it's headed.  As I mentioned in my post, Apple is still missing from the payments industry.  With only a Mobile Non-payment Wallet, Passbook, Apple hasn't dived into the mainstream payments arena...yet.

While start-ups such as Square and PayPal have seen their payment values surge in the last couple of years, only 10% of the US and European populations use some form of mobile payment. Similar to my post, BI's analysis of the market has found it to be fragmented in terms of players and offerings to consumers. Various companies in various industry segments (from carriers to manufacturers to consumer internet solution providers) offering various solutions to the end user.  In addition to the clutter, user's are most concerned about security of their transactions.

Click on the BI presentation slides below and gain a bird's-eye-view of the industry.

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