One of the issues of self-driving vehicles is legal liability for death or injury in the event of an accident. If the car maker programs the car so the driver has no choice, is it likely the company could be sued over the car’s actions. One way around this is to shift liability to the car owner by allowing them to determine a set of values or options in the event of an accident. People are likely to want to have the option to choose how their vehicle behaves, both in an emergency and in general, so it seems the issue of adjustable ethics will become real as robotically controlled vehicles become more common. Self-drive is already here With self-driving vehicles already legal to drive on public roads in a growing number of US states, the trend is spreading around the world. The United Kingdom will allow these vehicles from January 2015. Before there is widespread adoption, though, people will need to be comfortable with the idea of a computer being in full control of their vehicle. Much progress towards this has been made already. A growing number of cars, including mid-priced Fords, have an impressive range of accident-avoidance and driver-assist technologies like adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, lane-keeping and parking assist. People who like driving for its own sake will probably not embrace the technology. But there are plenty of people who already love the convenience, just as they might also opt for automatic transmission over manual. Are they safe? After almost 500,000km of on-road trials in the US, Google’s test cars have not been in a single accident while under computer control. Computers have faster reaction times and do not get tired, drunk or impatient. Nor are they given to road rage. But as accident-avoidance and driver-assist technologies become more sophisticated, some ethical issues are raising their heads. The question of how a self-driven vehicle should react when faced with an accident where all options lead to varying numbers of deaths of people was raised earlier this month. This is an adaptation of the “trolley problem” that ethicists use to explore the dilemma of sacrificing an innocent person to save multiple innocent people; pragmatically choosing the lesser of two evils. An astute reader will point out that, under normal conditions, the car’s collision-avoidance system should have applied the brakes before it became a life-and-death situation. That is true most of the time, but with cars controlled by artificial intelligence (AI), we are dealing with unforeseen events for which no design currently exists. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. Who is to blame for the deaths? If car makers install a “do least harm” instruction and the car kills someone, they create legal liability for themselves. The car’s AI has decided that a person shall be sacrificed for the greater good. Had the car’s AI not intervened, it’s still possible people would have died, but it would have been you that killed them, not the car maker. Car makers will obviously want to manage their risk by allowing the user to choose a policy for how the car will behave in an emergency. The user gets to choose how ethically their vehicle will behave in an emergency. As Patrick Lin points out the options are many. You could be: democratic and specify that everyone has equal value pragmatic, so certain categories of person should take precedence, as with the kids on the crossing, for example self-centred and specify that your life should be preserved above all materialistic and choose the action that involves the least property damage or legal liability. While this is clearly a legal minefield, the car maker could argue that it should not be liable for damages that result from the user’s choices – though the maker could still be faulted for giving the user a choice in the first place. Let’s say the car maker is successful in deflecting liability. In that case, the user becomes solely responsible whether or not they have a well-considered code of ethics that can deal with life-and-death situations. People want choice Code of ethics or not, in a recent survey it turns out that 44% of respondents believe they should have the option to choose how the car will behave in an emergency. About 33% thought that government law-makers should decide. Only 12% thought the car maker should decide the ethical course of action. In Lin's view it falls to the car makers then to create a code of ethical conduct for robotic cars. This may well be good enough, but if it is not, then government regulations can be introduced, including laws that limit a car maker’s liability in the same way that legal protection for vaccine makers was introduced because it is in the public interest that people be vaccinated. In the end, are not the tools we use, including the computers that do things for us, just extensions of ourselves? If that is so, then we are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their use. David Tuffley does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
China could have a new homegrown operating system by October, to take on imports Microsoft, Google and Apple. The US and China have had a number of disputes regarding cyber security in recent months. The operating system would first appear on desktop devices, before being extended to smartphone and other mobile devices, the head of an official OS development alliance, Ni Guangnan, says. Ni says he hopes the Chinese-made software would be able to replace desktop operating systems within one to two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years. Coin apologises to customers Connected credit card startup Coin issued an apology to customers on the weekend after mishandling the announcement of a product delay. The San-Francisco based startup was criticised last week after revealing, after months of ambiguity, it would be delaying the launch of its connected credit card and replacing it with a beta program in which its 10,000 pre-order customers could opt in to receive a prototype. They would be required to pay $30 to upgrade to the finished product when it launched. Coin reversed its stance and the beta program will now be free. It apologised to its users for a “lack of transparency and clarity” in its communications. Facebook most popular app in US In comScore’s latest mobile app report, which tracks the 25 most popular smartphone apps in the US, Facebook leads the way by a considerable margin. The Facebook app had 115.4 million US unique visitors over the age of eighteen in June 2014, with YouTube finishing in second with 83.4 million. The top subscription app is Netflix with 28 million unique visitors. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 38.27 to 17,001.22. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Google is rolling out a number of new Android app promotion features across its Google Search, the Google Display and YouTube ad networks targeted at app developers. For developers, Google now allows developers to promote their app through its ad networks, with the ads only appearing for users who haven’t downloaded the app from the Google Play app store. Developers can also embed deep links into content in their apps from ads on Google websites, with the ads only appearing for users that have previously installed the apps. The deep linking within apps mirrors a feature introduced by Twitter in January. In an official blog post, Google’s vice president of AdWords product management, Jerry Dischler, said app developers such as LINE, Zoopla and Booking.com have already signed up for the service. “Here’s how it works: let’s say someone has the Booking.com app installed on their phone and searches for “San Francisco Hotels” on Google.com; now they can go directly to the specific page in the Booking.com app that shows listings for hotels in San Francisco,” said Dischler. App downloads through the Google Play store that follow a user clicking on an ad will show up as a conversion in AdWords without any additional setup. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
There is no doubt that starting a new business is hard. However, the range of new products and services on offer means it is getting cheaper and easier to get up and running. Here are some examples of what many new businesses are using. Shared office space More and more shared office space has been opening up across the capital cities, allowing new businesses to get desks for a fraction of the price of a traditional office. Often they are month-by-month and do not need you to commit to long-term leases. There is a lot of press around the facilities provided by various incubators and accelerators; however, there are plenty of shared office spaces elsewhere. While rates can be as low as $400 per month, in Sydney it is more commonly in the $600 to $700 per month range if you want to be near the city. Voice over IP Essential to the operations of many businesses is a regular phone number. In the past the cost of getting a new number would run to the hundreds of dollars, and then ongoing monthly costs for a basic service would easily start at $30-$50 per month. And that’s before adding basic functions for voice greetings, menus to direct callers to the right place, call queues or even just voicemail. These PABX features used to require small business phone systems to be purchased and physically installed. However, this can all be provided over the internet using voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, which are quick to sign up to online and work on your computer or a cheap IP phone from a local electronics shop. They cost a fraction of the price of a physical system and generally do not have setup fees. They work over your internet connection, so there is no need to wait around for the technician to not show up. A standalone phone number with Internode’s NodePhone service costs $5 per month, and services such as Edgetel offer PABX functions that allow you to automatically answer a call during business hours with a greeting and a “press 1 for support” type menu system. You can also divert calls to different numbers, at different times of the day, ring one number or handset first before calling others, or place callers in a queue. Everything you need to make you sound like a big company, for as little as $20 per month. Online business applications Gone are the days when to have your own email address firstname.lastname@example.org would mean buying your own server, connecting it to the internet and spending thousands getting things configured. The same goes for sophisticated systems such as customer relationship management or building an online shopping website. The recent advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS) means business can now access these powerful applications online and pay for them by the month (often after a free trial). There are a huge range of applications in a broad range of categories. Some common examples include: Office style productivity, such as Google Apps, Office 365 Customer relationship management (CRM), such as Zoho, Highrise, Salesforce Accounting (invoicing, payroll, etc) such as Xerox Websites and online shopping, such as Bigcommerce, Wix, Squarespace Project management such as Jira OnDemand, Pivotal tracker, Basecamp, Trello Source code management such as Github and Bitbucket Offshore software developers For new online businesses, or those who have a significant online component, the cost of software development is usually by far the largest expense. Offshore software developers are an effective way to cut down that cost. All the software development can be moved offshore, or a blended on-shore/offshore team can be used to help maintain control and quality while still greatly reducing the price. Hiring an independent resource overseas is easy to do through myriad contract hire websites such as Freelancer and oDesk. There are also businesses such as SoftwareSeni that complement the offshore resources with Australian-based operations to provide an additional level of technical oversight and quality. Hosting In the old days, servers had to be bought and installed, and system administrators had to set them up and keep them going. Now there are a range of cloud-based hosting services like Amazon Web Services where you pay for what you use and you can increase and decrease capacity quickly. Some of the more sophisticated ones, such as Heroku and AppFog, also provide online setup and automation which empowers developers to manage the hosting, removing the need for a system administrator. Taking advantage of these “enabling” products and services will give you the ability to put your focus on your core business idea, as well as keep your cost base competitive with your peers both within Australia and abroad. Paul Russell is the managing director of SoftwareSeni, a Sydney-based startup specialising in near-shore software development seat outsourcing.
Taxi app Uber will trial a home delivery service in the US, potentially taking on tech titans Amazon and Google in the e-commerce logistics space. In a blog post yesterday, Uber announced its ‘Corner Store’ pilot program will run in Washington DC for the next few weeks. Items such as allergy medicine, diapers and toothpaste can be ordered straight to a customer’s door through the Uber app and be charged directly to their Uber account. Uber is offering free delivery on the items and although the inventory currently includes around 100 items, Uber is taking requests on other items customers would like to see made available. And while Uber says Corner Store is an experiment, it says the more its customers “love it, the more likely it will last”. Wired is reporting the move is a play at Amazon and Google in the logistics space, aimed at transforming Uber from a pure transportation app into a fully-fledged logistics company. Amazon and Google have also stepped up their game in the same day delivery space recently, according to Wired, with Amazon expanding its Get It Today service and Google adding more retailers to its Shopping Express service. Uber has already disrupted taxi and public transport networks the world over, but CEO Travis Kalanick may be looking to further diversify the brand with a long-term vision for Uber. The growing tech company, which started in the US five years ago, hasn’t been afraid to take competition head on in the past, even playing dirty with rivals Lyft. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Australian tech startup Squixa has released the second version of its cloud-based website acceleration platform, having recently completed a funding round. Squixa’s cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) web acceleration platform reduces the size of web pages, optimises page code, and manages content delivery for a flat monthly fee per host. Websites on the platform are served from 168 locations globally through content delivery networks run by Amazon, EdgeCast, OnApp and Highwinds. This means websites are always served from a location close to the end user. The company claims to have attracted 70 high-profile customers, including NRMA, nib, Lorna Jane and Temple & Webster. Squixa chief executive Stewart McGrath told StartupSmart the latest version of the software adds some important new features. “We’ve been in business two-and-a-half years, and in that time we’ve been focusing on adding features and capabilities that weren’t in version one. For customers, that means faster websites and more flexibility to achieve their goals. “It’s a major advancement. The underpinning structure has been shuffled around. We’ve added new modules, including support for Varnish web servers and LUA scripting capabilities, which is something tech folks will be excited about.” McGrath says another growth opportunity, with Google punishing the search rankings of websites that don’t use SSL, is that all content served from Squixa’s platform is automatically served with SSL. “We can help any customer move to SSL, giving them an instant SEO boost,” McGrath says. “We’ve grown and bought on new tech people, but kept the same mantra of doing everything to simplify the lives of website owners. Being a website owner is a challenge for a myriad of reasons, including conflicting options and demands for content and speed.” Squixa was originally founded in 2012 by McGrath and fellow former GraysOnline executive Daniel Bartholomew. In July of last year, StartupSmart reported it was pursuing a funding round. “We closed another small round of funding since then. Existing investors who saw the promise came back in, and we added new investors too.” McGrath says while international expansion is in the pipeline, there are still large opportunities to be had in the Australian market. “The Australian market is an interesting space. There are a lot of Australian websites that can use a little help, especially with a competitive international market. “There are some Australian sites serving Australian customers, some Australian sites serving international customers, and some overseas sites being run from Australia.”
Google has been working to overhaul its Web services so it can legally allow children to use them, The Information reports. It’s looking at features that include a dashboard for parents to oversee their kids’ activities, a child-safe version of YouTube and requiring people who sign up for a Google account on Android devices to share their age. The effort is being driven by Google’s desire to find new ways to expand its user base. Tumblr partner will now scan photos for clues about brand affiliation Yahoo-owned Tumblr has inked a deal with Ditto Labs, a company that analyses photos on social media for brand related data. The deal will see Tumblr start to search through all the images on the site looking for clues about the brand affiliations of users. Tumblr head of business development T.R Newcomb says the company isn’t planning on doing anything ad-related with that data, rather it will be available to advertisers who want to understand how they are perceived on the platform. US nuclear regulatory commission hacked In the last three years, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission computers have been hacked by foreigners twice and an unidentifiable individual once, according to an internal investigation, Nextgov reports. One incident involved emails sent to about 215 NRC employees in a phishing attempt which took users to a cloud-based Google spreadsheet. Twelve employees fell for the attempt. The IG Cyber Crime Unit was able to track the person who set up the spreadsheet to a foreign country. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 175.83 to 16,838.74. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
The worldwide market for smartphones hit a record 301.3 million units worldwide during the second quarter, according to the latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. To put the market size into perspective, the worldwide market for PCs stands at around 75.5 million units per quarter, meaning that there are now just under four smartphones sold each quarter for each PC. The overwhelming majority of smartphones shipped worldwide during the second quarter ran Android, with the platform claiming 255.3 million units and 84.7% market share. This was up 33.3% from 191.5 million units and 79.6% market share during the same quarter a year earlier. In a statement, IDC mobile phone team research manager Ramon Llamas says Android is making significant gains in emerging markets. "During the second quarter, 58.6% of all Android smartphone shipments worldwide cost less than $200 off contract, making them very attractive compared to other device," Llamas says. "With the recent introduction of Android One, in which Google offers reference designs below $100 to Android OEMs, the proportion of sub-$200 volumes will climb even higher." Within the Android market, IDC previously released figures showing Samsung claimed a market share of 25.2% off 74.3 million units, down by 3.9% from 77.3 million a year earlier. By comparison, Apple and iOS smartphones now make up just 11.7% of the market off shipments of 35.2 million units, with the company’s share of the market falling slightly from 13% a year earlier. Meanwhile, Windows Phone shipments fell to 7.4 million units, down 9.4% from 8.2 million a year earlier, while BlackBerry’s fell a massive 78% from 6.7 million units a year ago to just 1.5 million. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
For 20 years, consulting firm Gartner have been calling the future of technology using its now iconic “Hype Cycle”. The Hype Cycle: from hype to reality The Hype Cycle breaks the introduction of new technologies into five phases starting with the “Technology Trigger”, the first point at which a technology comes to the attention of the press and businesses. Technologies then rapidly become oversold or hyped. This is the point at which expansive claims are made about how technology X is going to radically transform and disrupt and the early innovators push to be amongst the first to ride the wave of excitement that technology generates. The initial hype eventually leads to a “Peak of Inflated Expectations” which is subsequently followed by the crash as it is realised that the technology isn’t going to be adopted in quite the way everyone predicted, nor is it generally as useful. This part leads to a “Trough of Disillusionment” which is accompanied by an increasing number of negative articles, project failures and lessening of interest in the technology generally. For some technologies however, the disillusionment is followed by a gradual increase in a more realistic adoption of the technology which eventually results in a “Plateau of Productivity”. Technologies for the next 10 years For Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle, the notable technologies are speech recognition which they are claiming to be well into the productive phase. Certainly mobile phones and increasingly, wearables, have driven the adoption of voice control and interaction and it is definitely usable on a day-to-day basis. Having said that however, Gartner also puts wearable user interfaces as having passed the peak of inlfated expectations and rapidly heading to the trough of disillusionment. Given that Google has based their interface for wearables very heavily on the use of voice, it seems odd that these two technologies would be so far apart according to Gartner. The position of the Internet of Things at the peak of inflated expectations will also come as a disappointment to all of the companies like Cisco that are claiming that we are already well and truly in the era of billions of interconnected and independently communicating devices. The future is lumpy Although the Hype Cycle is a convenient way of visualising the progress of technology from invention to universal use, it over-simplifies the way progress is made in innovation. As science fiction writer William Gibson once said: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed” Technology innovation is never smooth and never takes a single path. There can be businesses and individuals that are using technologies to radically improve productivity at the same time as almost everyone else is failing to do the same. A good example of this is the hype around “Big Data”. Whilst everyone acknowledges that we are creating enormous amounts of data that ultimately must hold valuable information and knowledge, very few organisations are attempting, let along succeeding, in finding it. Those that are experts in Big Data are the companies that have made digitally massive infrastructure their entire existence, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Whilst Gartner has predicted that Big Data will reach the plateau of productivity within five to 10 years, it is also possible that it will never get there and that very few companies will have the skills to be able to take advantage of their amassed data. The other issue with Gartner’s representation of the technologies that it surveys is that it doesn’t distinguish between the different categories of technologies. Those that are aimed at consumers as opposed to the business sector. Here again, we are likely to see very different paths to adoption and acceptance of those technologies with very different time frames. What we are increasingly seeing is how technology is increasingly being used to enable a concentration of a very small number of very large companies. In turn, these companies are able to focus their resources on introducing new technologies for the public, rapidly iterating on designs until they work. Wearables from Apple, Google and companies like Samsung is a good example of this. As always with predictions around technology, it is very hard to tell what will be the key technologies next year, let alone in five to10 years time. Given that the Hype Cycle has been with us for 20 years however, my prediction is that it will still be here for the next 20. David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Facebook today unveiled the latest weapon in its digital arsenal: cross-device tracking capability. This enables advertisers to track individuals' usage behaviours between devices. This means that your Facebook (and related) usage patterns are being tracked and matched across devices whether you are using an old-world PC, your latest feature-packed smartphone or possibly even your internet-capable wearable technology. The common thread is your Facebook login. This, in turn, will allow Facebook to offer its paid advertisers the added accuracy to track precisely who had been presented which specific advert, and when, where, how (such as which device you’ve used) and whether they accessed (or clicked) the advert. They will also be able to track your individual site or app usage patterns and behaviours. In other words, your every move is constantly in the crosshairs of the online marketers and our globally dominant digital landlords. Ignore the hype – it’s old news Cross-device or cross-platform reporting is nothing new. Google announced last October a similar cross-device capability for its AdWords paying customers, so the marketing hype around Facebook’s offering has more to do with attracting and keeping its paying advertisers, with you being the product. Your online identity is the key that unlocks the doors to the online advertiser’s kingdom. By being able to attribute your purported Facebook identity such as user name, gender, age and so on to every online interaction through Facebook and related sites, irrespective of which device you are using, this will allow interested parties to stitch together and link these patterns to you and not just the device. For the most part, and without being aware of it, the rules of the marketing jungle are continually being reshaped by the evolution of the underlying technologies, all tied together with our online identity. Face(book) the facts The fact that privacy and internet should not be used in the same sentence is nothing new. What is new, though, is the increasing intensity of the arms race by marketers and commercial organisations in grabbing their share in the monetisation of your every step in cyberspace. As the capabilities of our technologies evolve, your every move on the internet is being increasingly scrutinised with finer and finer granularity. The accelerating uptake of mobile computing devices such as tablets and smartphones together with the relentless push by organisations to have you preferably interact with them online, is further fuelling the global monetisation of our individual use of the internet. The increase in people accessing the internet or using apps from their mobile devices means that there are more “views”, “hits” and “clicks”. These numbers are the fuel for the global digital marketing and advertising engine. The adage that “if you’re not paying, then you’re the product” applies more now than ever before. Rob Livingstone has no financial interests in, or affiliations with any organisation mentioned in this article. Other than his role at UTS, he is also the owner and principal of an independent Sydney based IT advisory and mentoring practice. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
A new app allows job seekers to spam politicians with job applications in response to the government’s proposed work for the dole policy. Founder Bowz Chapman told StartupSmart the idea for DoleBludger came to him after Joe Hockey handed down the Abbott government’s first budget. Since then, the government has released plans of to force job seekers to look for 40 jobs a month in order to be eligible for the dole. DoleBludger hopes to work around the proposed policy – as well as poke fun at it – by spamming politicians with job applications via email. “I’ve been on welfare between jobs so I know what it’s like,” Chapman says. “As an individual, there’s not a lot you can often do. This is the one policy issue I cared about and could actually see a way of doing something against just by flipping it on its head.” The app also gives the user the opportunity to attach a resume and select or filter out parliamentarians based on categories such as their state or party. According to Chapman, the app has sent out 5000 applications in just two days. “As much as it is a joke – it honestly is a joke – I hope people will use it to show the government how stupid this policy really is,” he says. The 27-year-old, who is based in Western Australia, says this is his first app – however he has a background in IT. While the app is only available on Google Play at the moment, Chapman says a desktop and iOS version are currently being developed. “I just thought, if I’m going to do this, I need to get out there as soon as possible so it gets traction while the issue is current,” he says. “It was just easier with the Android than it was with the iPhone.” Since the government announced its proposed job-seeker policy, a range of apps have sprung up as ways to get around having to manually apply for 40 jobs a month. Smartphone app AppApp trawls through employment websites on behalf of the user. Meanwhile, SpamBludger automatically emails job applications to businesses while CCing employment minister Eric Abetz. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The move from HTTP to HTTPS won’t have a dramatic impact on startups just yet, according to Online Store Guys’ strategy director Scott Kilmartin, and Pocketbook co-founder Alvin Singh. Last week Google confirmed that it’s been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in the companies search algorithms. The company says after seeing positive results from those tests, it’s starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. While it’s only a weak ranking signal for the time being, Google may decide to strengthen it because the company would like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. StartupSmart asked Singh and Kilmartin their opinions on Google’s HTTPS push. Scott Kilmartin, strategy director, Online Store Guys: “The washup is that business cannot sit idle with their website if they want to improve user experience and be rewarded for staying with current online technology.” “On a practical level for existing sites, a couple of lines of code need to be written to make the change over. “It may have an impact on the type of SSL certificate required, we’ll know in the next few weeks when Google gives full details. Some sites may need new certificates.” Alvin Singh, founder, Pocketbook: “The general consensus among the SEO community is that it won’t have a big effect on SEO rankings – with a big YET,” Singh says. “Google have said that this is just the start and we can be sure that they will start ratcheting this up going forward – similar to a grace period for the wider internet. “HTTPS has been around since the early days of the internet it is only really now that there has been a large push towards SSL everywhere. It is interesting to look at what is driving this change – undoubtedly for the good of all. “There has been a heightened awareness and sensitivity towards security breaches – as more and more data (and our lives) move online, there has been an increasingly greater urgency to protect that data. “Coupled with this has been the increased activity from all internet and cloud companies world-wide in the post-Snowden era to further secure their data and infrastructure from threats not only from hackers, but also from government associated entities. “We absolutely support this move and in our case, from day 0 we started out on SSL and the highest strength SSL which requires further verification steps. While SSL is about security, it is also about assurance and a mark of trust. It's about knowing that your data hasn't been seen or manipulated by anyone on the way to its intended destination. “It also isn't the be all and end all of security, but it is certainly an absolute requirement for any security architecture to have any credibility. With today’s abundance of computing power and services such as CloudFlare making SSL freely and easily available to all, there aren't any excuses left for not being on SSL.”
Apple has become the latest in a string of major tech companies to admit it has a problem with gender and ethnic diversity, according to figures it released overnight. The news follows a similar revelation from Google in May, which led to a string of other major tech companies, including LinkedIn and Twitter, admitting they too have gender and ethnic diversity issues. According to Apple’s figures, 70% of its 98,000-strong global workforce is male, a rate higher than LinkedIn where 61% of staff are male, but roughly equal to Google and Twitter. The figures also show 80% of Apple’s tech positions and 72% of its leadership positions are held by men. However, it’s not just in tech roles where Apple has a gender diversity problem, with the figures showing female employees make up just 35% of non-tech roles. This compares to 50% at Twitter. In terms of ethnic diversity, 55% of Apple’s US workforce identify as white, 15% as Asian, 11% as Hispanic, 7% as Black, 2% as two or more ethnicities, 1% as other and 9% are undeclared. However, the figures for ethnic diversity in leadership positions are far worse, with 64% identifying as white, 21% as Asian, 6% as Hispanic, 3% as Black and 6% as undeclared. In a statement, chief executive Tim Cook said “inclusion and diversity have been a focus” for the company under his leadership, but admitted the tech giant still has a long way to go. “Let me say up front: As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page,” said Cook. “They’re not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we’re committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products.” Cook said the company is taking a number of steps to overcome gender and ethnic inequality, including its sponsorship of LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign, and its recent pledge of $100 million to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative. He also said the recent appointments of senior executives Eddy Cue, Angela Ahrendts, Lisa Jackson and Denise Young-Smith are examples of how the company’s culture is changing under his leadership. The figures were released just one day after the Victorian ICT for Women Network organised an event at Melbourne’s Deakin University called Go Girl Go for IT. The event was aimed at encouraging more high school aged girls, from Years 8 to 11, to consider a career in IT in order to overcome the gender disparity in the tech industry. Go Girl Go for IT communications team lead Sara Ogston told SmartCompany the challenge is to encourage more girls and women in the education system to consider a tech-related career. “I think a lot has to do with when applications are open for tech-related jobs, if girls or women don’t have the skills, they won’t apply or be considered for those jobs. So we need more diversity at the education level, at university and high school,” says Ogston. “I also think having work experience and internships available to people who aren’t necessarily from tech-focused universities or courses can also potentially be a first step into a tech-related role.” This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Melbourne-based social marketing startup Tiger Pistol, which existed primarily as a DIY platform for small businesses, has launched a Do It For You package, making it the first platform in the world to help small businesses with a full social marketing suite that includes organic, advertising and reputation management. Tiger Pistol, which is global preferred marketing developer for Facebook, will use its recommendation platform to power the service, identifying not just what to post and when to post it, but how to build campaigns that deliver results. The service is still marketed at small businesses, with Do It For You packages starting from $249 a month. The change came about after it became evident a much larger number of its customers wanted more help than a DIY option. Through the Do It For You packages, a Tiger Pistol social expert will manage a customer’s reputation across Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, Trip Advisor, LinkedIn, Urbanspoon, Pinterest, Foursquare and Yellow Pages. The new service is an extension of the Tiger Pistol Do It Yourself packages that launched late last year. Cofounder and CEO Steve Hibberd says that Tiger Pistol is still technology-driven. “We provide this level of service at such low pricing due to the efficiency we get from our technology, especially our patent pending recommendation engine that drives what we do for customers across content and advertising,” Hibberd says. “Our social experts don't have to spend hours on strategy or reinventing the wheel, the activity is guided by a deep understanding of our customers coupled with real time data.” Hibberd says that “this semi-automation is the key to success in the small business space” by using both a super simple software and an efficient service layer. “We can still have infinite opportunity to scale while our customers receive great results.” Hibberd says no other product on the market gave small businesses the power to conduct sophisticated advertising campaigns. “Others focus on content posts whose organic reach is rapidly declining or, at best, promote posts using real cash to generate a few more likes and comments which are generally wireless,” he says. “Social ad platforms are great for experienced marketers but very few small businesses have the time or experience to do that, so they need help. “Reputation management is the other key pain for small business...90% aren't aware of the online reviews around their business, yet 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. “People are talking about their buying experiences across a variety of social channels every day, small business operators simply don't have enough time to be across this, so Tiger Pistol wraps this up in a single, simple package.” Tiger Pistol, announced in October last year that it had closed a $1 million round of funding from the $6m local venture fund Rampersand.
There has long been a breed of urban scavenger that has taken great delight in searching through the collection of old furniture, broken appliances and other odds and ends that gather by the kerbside on indestructible rubbish day. It seems there is no shortage of people trying to find a treasure amidst someone else’s trash by giving preloved goods a second lease on life. Now a startup called Ziilch is updating the concept by taking the old goods ‘on the nature strip’ online. Ziilch founder and managing director Michelle Power told StartupSmart describes Ziilch as being an online marketplace, like eBay, except with one key difference – everything’s available for free. “It’s been operating for three years now. I originally had the idea in 2008 or 2009, when renovating my home,” Power says. “I had a lot of items being thrown out because they weren’t suitable for donation.” While Ziilch is a national website, Power says its user base at this stage is the strongest in its home city of Melbourne. “We have a very active community across Melbourne of just under 50,000 members, who have posted just under 17,000 items in total,” she says. Aside from both being free to browse and offering free goods, it is also free to place classifieds on the site. The only catch is that users need to organise their own collection. Power’s fellow director, Don Milne, explains the business generates revenue through other forms of advertising. “Our revenue stream at the moment mirrors Gumtree. We use traditional Google ads, as well as some charges for premium listings,” Milne says. With growing concerns about the amount of waste generated by consumer culture, Milne predicts the demand for the service is set to grow. “We see Ziilch as becoming a household name over the coming years,” he says. Image credit: Flickr/nahemoth
Go Girl Go for IT, a free upcoming event for high school girls from years 8 to 11 organised by the Victorian ICT for Women Network, aims to encourage girls to consider a career in the tech industry. This year’s event, to be held at Deakin University’s Burwood campus, is set to attract 1500 girls from 54 schools across the state, including some from as far away as the regional city of Wodonga. Go Girl Go for IT communications team lead Sara Ogston told StartupSmart the 2014 theme is about changing perceptions about a career in IT. “The big theme for the event is ‘IT is it’, it’s about talking through the opportunities in the sector,” Ogston says. “It’s about getting away from the stigma around IT and making sure girls understand IT is no longer just about sitting at a computer all day or plugging in cables in a server room – it can be a really creative career. “IT and ICT can be intimidating. The big thing is we want to open up these girls’ eyes to how there’s also a lot of opportunities in it.” Go Girl Go for IT co-director and the head of cloud practice service optimisation at Telstra, Irene Evgeniadis, told StartupSmart the event is about showcasing the variety and diverse opportunities available to women who want to study or work in IT. “We do this by having industry speakers and sponsors (corporate, educational and government) who give the girls with a glimpse into the excitement, opportunities and career satisfaction that IT can provide,” Evgeniadis says. “Our past surveys have clearly shown us a rise in the number of girls wanting to consider a career in IT, after attending our Go Girl, Go for IT event.” The event begins at 9.30am with a keynote speech by 2014 patron and Twitter Australia managing director Karen Stocks. The students will then break up into five streams, where they will hear from a range of leading women from the tech industry. Speakers include NAB senior digital strategist Tammy Barlow, York Butter Factory’s Richenda Vermeulen, Telstra’s Anne Libel, ANZ’s Krish Beresford, and Krishna Nair from Deloitte, among many others. Following the group sessions, a trade fair will allow the students to ask questions. Meanwhile, a Facebook page has also been created allowing the conversations to continue online. Gender inequality has long been an issue for the tech sector, with the number of young women choosing to study tech-related subjects at a tertiary level declining over recent years. It is an issue that has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months, with a string of tech giants including Google and LinkedIn admitting they have serious problems in terms of gender equality. In the case of Google, just 30% of its workforce are women.
When Google+ launched in 2011, it enacted the ‘real name’ policy in order to prevent spam, trolling and to try to give users more confidence to connect with new or other people. So what went wrong with this policy? Google loosened restrictions on real name requirements Last year there was outrage by YouTube users when Google implemented the policy which forced YouTube users to sign up for a Google+ account in order to post comments. It was done to try to crack down on spam comments, trolling and low quality posts. This change upset so many users that they filed a petition on Change.org to try to force Google+ to reconsider its decision. In an effort to try to appease, Google+ has been loosening its restrictions on the Google+ real names policy over the past few years by allowing maiden names and nicknames to be included but still displaying the ‘real’ names next to it. But it was still not enough In the last few weeks, Google+ has now caved in to all the complaints and requests to allow multiple or fake names. They are apologizing, stating that the original policy was confusing and it excluded some people who wanted to use Google+ without including their real names. There was a lot of controversy when this was required as it meant that people could not post comments and use the internet anonymously. There was support for this. And there were complaints. A lot of complaints. The only restriction Google has put on this ability to change your name on Google+ is that once you make a change to your profile name it is locked for three months, so you cannot change it multiple times during the period. Google+ also made it clear that if you impersonate someone else, they will suspend your profile. What does it all mean now? Users can change their name by clicking their existing username while they are in their Google+ profile. You just select Profile from the drop-down menu in the upper left corner, click on your name and enter your ‘preferred’ name. It’s that easy. When you change your username on Google+, it also changes your ID on the other Google products such as Gmail and YouTube. What this means now is that people are now permitted to use fake names, nicknames, pseudonyms, etc on Google+ and YouTube users can now again comment anonymously. And now the trolls can come out to play…
App store optimisation (ASO) is a practice to improve your app store ranking. It’s SEO for mobile apps. Here are our top five ASO techniques we used to generate over 400,000 downloads on iOS and Google Play for our startup Native Tongue. 1. Make incremental changes to your app description For our app description, we aim to make one change at a time or a limited set of changes that support one hypothesis, which we can track. This can involve adding or editing one line, several lines or a paragraph in the app description. We also keep previous drafts of the app store copy so it can be compared. After changing the app store description, the next step is to track the ranking on the app store for keywords and downloads. We will manually track the rank in the app store position on a daily basis for specific keywords in a spreadsheet. Now there are tools which do this, such as App Annie’s ASO keyword feature. By making incremental changes we can understand the impact. If the change caused the app to fall in its rank, the changes can be rolled back. If the change caused the app to rise, then we can understand what worked and continue with more changes. We use the lean startup methodology of hypothesize-implement-measure cycle for not just the app description but also our app marketing, app development, and design. 2. Choose relevant keywords Customers will search on the app store using search terms, so it is important that we choose relevant keywords for our app. We consider the relevancy, search volume, and the difficulty for ranking for those search terms. You may be able to rank very highly for a niche keyword but there may not be a great volume of searches. Conversely, a search term which has a lot of volume may be hard to rank given the number of competing apps. Tools such as Sensor Tower provide keyword rankings, keyword optimisation and can compare keywords in competitor's apps. We also find out what keywords our customers are using. One way to do this is by asking customers that make enquiries how they discovered your app and what search terms they used. We discovered through this process that our customers were searching for “Learn Mandarin”, “Chinese vocabulary game”, and “Learn Chinese”. So the app was optimised for these terms by including them in the app description, app name and keywords. 3. Ask engaged users to leave a review When we have more app reviews and ratings, particularly 4 or 5 star ratings, our app would increase in its ranking. To date, our apps have an average rating of 4 or more stars on Android and iOS. We targeted customers that enjoyed using our app. So we asked them to leave a review after they have opened our app 10 times. A customer that has used our app at least 10 times is probably engaged and likes using our app. Ideally, you should ask a customer that is engaged and happy to leave a review. This could be after progressing several stages, achieving specific milestones or after a certain number of plays. A positive review isn’t solely based on asking engaged users, you also need to have a quality app. 4. Impressive annotated screenshots A decision to download an app can be made in a few seconds of seeing the app screenshots. Customers can skip the app store description entirely and go straight to the screenshots. So it is important to show the best visuals for your app. We annotate the screenshots with the features or benefits of using the app. Our screenshots tell a story and excite the customer by annotating each screenshot. The annotated text shown is “Fun Arcade Style Gameplay!”, “3 stages and 41 levels!”, “Unlock bonus levels!”. We also constantly iterate on the screenshots by making changes to the text and the screenshots shown. 5. Launch and make changes on Google Play first On iOS (Apple), you can be waiting for approval for four days or longer depending if your app gets rejected. On iOS you are also limited in changing your app screenshots, keywords, and app icon with every app update. Google Play (Android) has an advantage as there is no approval process and your app can be available in the app store on the same day of submitting. You can also change the icon, screenshots and marketing assets at any time. By launching our apps on Google Play first, we can understand how customers will use it and improve the app based on feedback. We also make ASO changes on Google Play first. Based on our learnings on Google Play, this is then replicated on the iOS store. For more ASO tips, see this presentation on “Advanced App Store Optimisation Tips and Tactics”. Matthew Ho is head of product development at Tapmint, a consultancy that provides mobile app marketing, design and development services.
Google announced a major change to how news-related content is added and maintained on its Google News aggregation and search service last night. The changes are based around the introduction of a new website called the Google News Publisher Center, where the key details of websites can be managed and maintained. After verifying ownership of a site using Google Webmaster Tools, website owners are now able to submit their website for inclusion in Google News, or remove it from the service, through the website. In addition, website owners are able to update key details such as the name of the website, labelling the site as “blog”, “satire” or “opinion”, update Google about site structure or give website sections labels. The feature will initially be rolled out in the US only, however, Google has already announced it plans to both introduce it into other countries and add more features. In a statement, Google says readers will be “more informed about the articles they’re clicking”, while website owners will “benefit from better discovery and classification” of news content. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Perth-based startup Prezentt has launched its cloud-based slideshow service which it hopes will complement, rather than compete with, existing presentation apps such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides or Apple Keynote. Co-founder Jeff Robson told StartupSmart the new service is designed to work in a web browser. “Before a presentation, [the presenter] uploads a PDF of their slideshow,” Robson says. “Then, during the event, while the presenter shows off their PowerPoint presentation, the attendees can view the slides on their own smartphone or tablet, take notes on their mobile device, or request a contact. In the future, you will also be able to share your presentation on social media.” Because it works in a web browser, Robson also says that aside from Apple or Android smartphones and tablets, Prezentt will also work on a range of other platforms, including BlackBerry and Windows Phone. According to Robson, a number of high-profile customers having already signed up to use the product, including News Corp, RSM Bird Cameron, SaaSu, Access Analytic and Pitcher Partners. “We have about 200 people signed up from a range of different industries – big businesses, small businesses, consultants who present, and even charities. There’s directors who use it for meetings and presentations,” Robson says. “At our launch event, we had a number of people from local universities, so tertiary education is an obvious market. But there’s no reason it couldn’t be used in high schools or even schools at more junior level.” In terms of monetisation, the cloud-based service uses a subscription-based model rather than advertising. Robson justifies the strategy, saying if it manages to land a presenter one extra sale per year, the subscription price pays for itself. “There’s nothing worse than having your slides with your competitors’ ads on your slides,” he says. “So it’s subscription-based, where it’s free for the attendees, presenters get their first four presentations free per year… But if you want to do more than that, the subscription is $20 per month if you pay annually.” The service has already won critical acclaim, taking out the development domain prize at Western Australia’s premier Information Technology awards event, the WAiTTA Awards. Prezentt will now represent WA at the National ICT iAwards in Melbourne later this month. Looking ahead, Robson says slideshows are a market ripe for disruption over the coming years. “We see this as the future of presentation – a little like mobile banking. Seven years ago, no-one did mobile banking. Now, if you went into a bank branch and told you they don’t have an iPhone or Android app, you’d think they were a little backward, he says. “We think it will be the same thing with presentations.”