Facebook goes 3D in a galaxy far, far away

9:55PM | Wednesday, 23 September

Facebook has begun rolling out 360-degree videos on the news feed, with the launch allowing users to immerse themselves in, and explore, the new Star Wars trailer.   The videos are made using a set of cameras that simultaneously record 360 degrees of a scene, and viewers can then choose what angle they want to see while watching by using a cursor, their finger or even tilting a phone.   The launch includes videos from partnering media companies such as comedy/variety show Saturday Night Live, where you can spin away from Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake to see the crew or crowd. Users can also access 3D content from GoPro and VICE.   Facebook’s focus on these virtual reality videos was revealed earlier this month, with claims the social networking giant was working on a standalone app for the medium, but at the moment it seems they’ll also be fully integrating into the normal news feed.   “We’ve seen that people enjoy more immersive content on their news feed,” Facebook engineering director for video Maher Saba says in a blog post.   “This is one reason video has been so successful on Facebook and we’re excited to take it a step further with 360 video.”   Facebook has taken a big bet on virtual reality with the $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift last year, and this is the first attempt to take the new format to the masses. Although others like YouTube already boast a similar feature, this is the first time it’ll be widely available without the need to search for them.   The 3D videos have begun rolling out on the web and Android phones already, will they’ll be seen on iOS in the “coming months”.   You can try out the 3D Star Wars trailer here, which allows the user to move all the way around while riding on some sort of aircraft.   Facebook is making it clear that the platform isn’t just for big media companies though.   “In the future, imagine watching 360 videos of a friend’s vacation to a small village in France or a festival in Brazil – you’ll be able to look around and experience it as if you were there,” Saba says.   Want to grow your business with Instagram? StartupSmart School can help.

Want your kids to learn another language? Teach them code

9:20AM | Tuesday, 22 September

Among Malcolm Turnbull’s first words as the newly elected leader of the Liberal Party, and hence heading for the Prime Minister’s job, were: “The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative.”   And near the heart of the matter is the code literacy movement. This is a movement to introduce all school children to the concepts of coding computers, starting in primary school.   One full year after the computing curriculum was introduced by the UK government, a survey there found that six out of ten parents want their kids to learn a computer language instead of French.   The language of code   The language comparison is interesting because computer languages are first and foremost, languages. They are analogous to the written versions of human languages but simpler, requiring expressions without ambiguity.   They have a defining grammar. They come with equivalent dictionaries of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs; with prepositions and phrase patterns, conjunctions, conditionals and clauses. Of course the dictionaries are less extensive than those of human languages, but the pattern rendering nature of the grammars have much the same purpose.   Kids that code gain a good appreciation of computational thinking and logical thought, that helps them develop good critical thinking skills. I’ve sometimes heard the term “language lawyer” used as a euphemism for a pedantic programmer. Code literacy is good for their life skills kit, never mind their career prospects.   Scratch is one of a new generation of block programming languages aimed at teaching novices and kids as young as eight or nine to write code.     The Scratch language uses coloured blocks to represent the set of language constructs in its grammar. A novice programmer can build up a new program by dragging-and-dropping from a palette of these blocks onto a blank canvas or workspace.   The individual shapes of the blocks are puzzle-like, such that only certain pieces can interlock. This visually enforces the grammar, allowing the coder to concentrate on the creativeness of their whole program.   The Scratch language (and its derivatives) are embedded in a number of different tools and websites, each dedicated to a particular niche of novice programmers. The website is a prime example and has a series of exercises using the block language to teach the fundamentals of computer science. is a non-profit used by 6 million students, 43% of whom are female. It runs the Hour of Code events each year, a global effort to get novices to try to do at least an hour of code.   For a week in May this year, Microsoft Australia partnered with to run the #WeSpeakCode event, teaching coding to more than 7,000 young Australians. My local primary school in Belgrave South in Victoria is using successfully with grade 5 and 6 students.   Unlike prose in a human language, computer programs are most often interactive. In the screenshot of the Scratch example (above) it has graphics from the popular Plants vs Zombies game, one that most kids have already played. They get to program some basic mechanics of what looks a little like the game.     But has a ‘Show Code’ button that reveals the JavaScript code generated behind the coloured blocks (see above). This shows novices what they created in tiles, translated into the formal syntax of a programming language widely used in industry.   It’s not all about the ICT industry   Both parents and politicians with an eye to the future see the best jobs as the creative ones. Digging up rocks, importing, consuming and servicing is not all that should be done in a forward-thinking nation.   But teaching kids to code is not all about careers in computer programming, science and software engineering. Introducing young minds to the process of instructing a computer allows them to go from “I swiped this” to “I made this”. From watching YouTube stars, to showing schoolyard peers how they made their pet cat photo meow.   It opens up young minds to the creative aspects of programming. Not only widening the possible cohort who may well study computer science or some other information and communications technology (ICT) professions, but also in design and the creative arts, and other fields of endeavour yet to transpire or be disrupted.   For most kids, teaching them to code is about opening their mind to a means to an end, not necessarily the end in itself.   This article was first published on The Conversation.

Jessica Alba and Susan Wojcicki's 10 tips for female tech entrepreneurs

9:01AM | Tuesday, 22 September

Get ready for rejection and ask the stupid questions say Jessica Alba and Susan Wojcicki, who were key speakers at the Women’s Innovation Panel at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.   Hollywood A-lister Alba is founder of the Honest Company, while Wojcicki is the chief executive of YouTube.   Here are their top tips for being a woman in the tech industry:   1. Don’t be put off by rejection   Alba says when she came up with the idea for her business the people she pitched to laughed and suggested she endorse a perfume line instead.   But Alba kept on refining her pitch.   “You’ll never know that something is going to succeed if you don’t try and put yourself out there,” she says.   2. Be prepared to be in the minority   Women in technology are a minority group, which is a problem for the sector according to Alba.   “We are the ones consuming online. There should be more of us behind the scenes creating that experience,” she says.   “There’s not a lot out there to choose from, unfortunately I wish there were more women we could hire.”   Wojcicki says women are a minority in the tech industry because there are comparatively few with the appropriate qualifications and a tendency for women to drop out of the industry.   “It’s a pipeline problem, the number of women with computer science degrees is 20%, and then it’s a retention problem,” she says.   “Whenever you have an environment that is a majority of something its hard for the minority.”   3. Longer maternity leave is key   One of the factors causing women to drop out of the tech industry is a lack of maternity leave according to Wojcicki and Alba.   Most women in the United States don’t have paid maternity leave, with 25% of American women going back to work 10 days after giving birth.   “What we found was having a longer paid maternity leave actually helped us retain women,” Wojcicki says.   “You are more ready to come back to work when the kids are a little bit older.”   Wojcicki says longer periods of paid maternity leave benefits businesses as well.   “Paid maternity leave is also good for business,” she says.   4. Work hard but balance is also important   “I don’t want to say that you don’t have to work hard; you have to work hard but you need to have balance as well,” Wojcicki says.   “If I’m there at midnight by myself in the office I’m not really having so many great ideas anymore.”   Wojcicki says having work life balance can help you be more creative and productive.   Alba says she “loves” hiring people who are parents “because I know they can multi-task and they are very efficient with their time.”   Since having her own two children Alba says she has mended her workaholic ways.   “It’s important to shut down and shut off,” she says.   “Now weekends are my family time.”   5. The early years are the toughest   Wojcicki has five children and warns the early years are the toughest for women with children.   “I found it really hard when my kids were in the birth to early pre-school stage,” she says.   “It is really those first couple of years that are really hard to get through … If you can just know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and stay in the workforce.”   6. Tech can be creative   Wojcicki says many women are deterred from working in tech because of misconceptions about the industry.   “I think computer science has a reputation that is not completely accurate,” she says.   “The reality is that this is a field that is very creative, there are lots of opportunity [and] you get to work in groups and teams… those are the things that should be attractive to women.”   7. Most of your mentors will be men   As a woman in tech, it’s likely most of your mentors will be men, according to Wojcicki, purely because in most companies the leaders are still men.   “We need the men to look at their teams and say ‘Who are the women here that I can support and I can get to the next level?’” she says.   “There were men who said ‘I think you can do this job’ and sponsored me and got me to the next level … I am very grateful to them.”   8. Be prepared to ask the stupid questions   “One of the things working in tech is everybody is doing things for the first time,” Wojcicki says.   “There is a lot of firsts. You have to be prepared to ask the stupid questions, plunge in and learn.”   Wojcicki says in the tech industry you have to be constantly learning and constantly asking questions.   “That is what you have to do to be successful because things keep changing and nobody is the expert,” she says.   9. Common sense is more important than qualifications   When she is hiring people Alba says qualifications are not the be all and end all.   “I look for common sense and people who want to collaborate,” she says.   “That for me is more important than a degree.”   Alba says she also looks for real life experience and employs people at the Honest Company who are failed entrepreneurs but they have experience and “know how to hustle”.   10. The future will be more inclusive   “Technology is changing our lives in ways that we can’t even imagine now and it’s just getting started,” Wojcicki says.   “Technology has to get more inclusive and it will, it will become mainstream. I know that will happen over time.”   This article was first published on SmartCompany. SmartCompany attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.

Mum’s the word: YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki on why she’d quit without good maternity leave

9:13AM | Monday, 21 September

Generous parental leave packages are good for business, according to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.   Wojcicki, who Forbes recently named one of the 10 most powerful women in the world, alongside the likes of Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel, recently took her fifth paid maternity leave from Google.   Speaking at Salesforce's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco last week, Wojcicki says if the company didn't have a good maternity leave program in place, she'd quit. Parent company Google currently offers 18 weeks paid leave for mothers, and 12 weeks paid leave for fathers.   "So what we found, and I just went through this so I felt like I had the same experience, you're more ready to come back to work when the kids are a little bit older," she says.   "You're sleeping better, they're sleeping better, they're getting closer to eating real food, instead of just you, and milk. So I thought about it on day 10, and I could barely walk, you're barely sleeping, you're very sore. And you're homes are readjusting. I thought, what would happen if I had gone back to work on day 10. I thought I'd quit, that's what I would do, because I wouldn't be able to do that.   "The really sad thing in the US is a lot of women don't have that choice."   Google has found that since increasing its maternity leave program from 12 weeks to 18 weeks in 2007, the rate at which mothers left the company declined by 50%.   It's these sorts of policy changes, which aim to foster a more supportive working environment, that are required to bridge the diversity gap in tech, Wojicicki says.   She also blames misconceptions about the industry for reducing the number of women entering technology, and low diversity figures for pushing out those that do.   "If you look at the number of women who have degrees in computer science, it's less than 20% right now in terms of graduating from US universities," she says.   "And then I think it's a retention problem. Women who come into tech are more likely to leave. Whenever you have an environment that's a majority of something, it's hard for the minority.   "But I think there are other things. I think computer science has, incorrectly, got a reputation that's not completely accurate and that's scared away a lot of women.   "This is a field that's very creative, there's lot of opportunities, you get to work with groups and teams, you get to build products and change the world. These are all things that should be interesting and attractive to women and diverse audiences.   "I think (computer science) should be a required course for everybody when they're going to school. Just like we take biology, and chemistry, and physics.   "That's one way to address the issue, suddenly, instantly, everyone has access and is digitally literate."   StartupSmart attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.

Apple's mobile ad blocking will hasten the death of online advertising

8:07AM | Thursday, 27 August

 Apple is about to open a new front in the ongoing war against online advertising. The new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 9, will support ad blocking by Safari, its mobile web browser.   A study by Adobe and pro-advertising company PageFair finds that the popularity of ad blocking extensions in desktop web browsers is responsible for US$22 billion in lost revenue to the websites that host ads.   They estimate that there are now 198 million users worldwide actively blocking ads. Amongst 400 users surveyed by the report’s authors, the main reasons cited for using ad blocking software were avoiding privacy abuse by targeted advertising as well as the number of ads encountered when browsing.     A typical message from a website about the use of any ad blocking. screen grab   The practice of trying to guilt users into switching off their ad blocking software when visiting sites doesn’t appear to be working and the display of messages to ad blocking users by web sites has diminished.   Ad blocking apps that will be available for Safari on iOS 9 are already being made available to beta testers. One such app, Crystal, not only blocks ads but experiments by the developer has shown that using this ad blocking software speeds up web pages loading in the browser by four times. This also results in a significant reduction in data being used, which is significant on a mobile device using cellular data.   Another ad blocking app Purify that is also in beta testing appears to also block ads on YouTube.     The stand out, and that’s precisely why so many people block them. Pascale Kinchen Douglas/Flickr, CC BY-SA   Ad blocking on mobile is not completely new Ad blocking has been available for some time on Android for users of the Firefox mobile browser and for Google Chrome. In the case of blocking ads by Google Chrome, an app needs to be installed which is not from the Google Play app store.   Ad blocking has also been available on Apple devices but have worked by blocking access to certain domains that serve up the ads. AdBlock for example works by pretending to be a virtual private network (VPN) connection and filters out access to specific sites. This of course only works if the list of sites to block is up-to-date. It also doesn’t allow for “whitelists”, which are sites that are allowed through because they are deemed “acceptable”.   However, the move by Apple is going to boost ad blocking on mobile dramatically because it is going to make the process of doing so that much easier. This has advertisers, and sites that make money from advertising, increasingly worried because it raises their costs in terms of creating ads that are less intrusive and deemed more acceptable (although this may still not convince the public to view them).     Apple’s iOS 9 is due to be released later this year and will include content blocking. Apple   For Apple, though, the move to allow ad blocking gives iPhone users a better browsing experience at no cost to Apple. Apple makes no money from online advertising through mobile browsing. And, of course, its own ads that are served up through apps are unaffected by ad blocking software.   As a bonus to Apple, the company who is most affected by ads being blocked is Google, which derives 90% of its revenue from advertising.   Apple is able to increase the level of privacy it offers its customers without directly getting involved itself and risking annoying companies that rely on revenues from advertising.   The advertisers' dilemma   Many ads can be deliberately deceptive. Create Meme   It is hard to feel sorry for the advertisers and the sites that resort to displaying targeted invasive ads, such as those sold by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others.   These ads are designed to target individuals based on information gathered about them as they use the internet. So not only are they annoying, but they are exploiting people’s privacy. Adding insult to injury, the inclusion of ads slows down web page loads and potentially ends up costing end-users money by using their data allocation.   The argument that content providers are only able to provide content based on the exploitation of their visitors is not a good one because it implies that those visitors signed up to an agreement to view ads in exchange for the content. Of course, users generally do no such thing. And given the explicit choice, might easily opt simply not to visit the site.   Most users don’t necessarily mind being provided with information that allows them to make a reasoned choice about a product when they have decided to buy it. But advertising that tries to persuade a consumer to buy something they weren’t considering buying is a different matter.   Once advertisers do more of the former and less of the latter, perhaps ad blocking will no longer be necessary. David Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Does Alphabet spell success for Google?

8:27AM | Wednesday, 12 August

Google has taken the idea of a company reorganisation to a new level with a restructure that sees the creation of a new overall parent company called Alphabet.   Founder Larry Page will be Alphabet’s CEO with his co-founder Sergey Brin, its President. Sundar Pinchai will become the new CEO of the existing Google company.   Google itself will be slimmed down and will become one of the subsidiary companies, along with: Calico – a biotech focused on life extension Sidewalk – smart cities or urban innovation Nest – home automation Fiber – internet provider Google Ventures and Google Capital – investment and venture capital Incubator projects – including Google X and others What’s in a name? Alphabet’s new url,, reflects the quirkiness of the new structure, although this may have been because the domain has already been claimed.   In fact, Alphabet’s creation has spurred a race to create domains, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts that Google may want. An earlier Twitter account, @aIphabetinc (with a capital “i” instead of an “l”), was mistaken as Alphabet’s official account and has now been suspended. Another account, @GoogleAlphabet is likely to meet the same fate.   There are a range of business reasons why the restructure makes some sense. First and foremost, Google found it difficult to justify the diversity of its interests when its primary moneymaking business is online advertising.   So being a division rolling out high speed internet within a company that is focused on advertising proved a very tough sell. There is a difference in priorities, culture and, ultimately, moneymaking objectives. Being a separate company increases transparency and allows it to develop its technology and products in its own way.   Three other possibilities exist for what triggered the creation of the new structure. The first is that it is simply another way of reducing tax and the second that it is the imposition of financial discipline by Google’s CFO Ruth Porat.   The third reason is based on rumours that Twitter was desperate to hire Sundar Pinchai as its new CEO and that Google decided to clear the path so that he could be CEO of Google.   The last reason seems a little far fetched, given that being the CEO of Twitter wouldn’t be a particularly attractive proposition given its difficulties in turning a profit.     What does it spell? Google   Searching for a purpose Ever since search, where Google has dominated, it has had great difficulty in achieving anywhere near the same success with any other technology. This has led to an almost shotgun approach to its technological purchases which have been as diverse as home thermostats from Nest to weaponised robots from its acquisition of Boston Dynamics.   Buying into these areas, and others, seemed to have had more to do with the personal interests of Page and Brin than a meaningful business strategy or technological vision.   Splitting its diverse technological portfolio into separate companies makes each company responsible for a particular line of business, and more importantly, for their profit and loss.   However, as separate companies, they lose the opportunity to share skills and knowledge that they may have had when they were all under one corporate structure. Having everything separate makes that much harder. Worse, the companies could end up competing against each other.   Show me the money Another problem with this structure is the imbalance of where the money for the overall structure comes from. 90% of Google’s revenues are from advertising. All of the revenue will continue to be generated from Google.   The only way that any of the other companies will be able to get access to money to expand and invest would be from the parent company, and it is not clear how that will work.   Google may see itself as an advanced technology company with diverse interests, like cars, home automation and internet infrastructure, but ultimately, it is still an advertising company. All of its technology underpins that single fact.   Its mobile platform Android is a sophisticated electronic billboard for its ads. YouTube is all about delivering content in order to display yet more ads, and even its autonomous cars could be argued to be a precursor for advertising to passengers without the distraction of having to actually drive.   Google’s attempts in the past to branch out into new businesses have not fared particularly well. Its wearable spectacles, Google Glass, never lived up to expectations and its foray into producing mobile phones with the Motorola acquisition ended as badly for them as Microsoft’s failed attempt with Nokia.   Nothing about this restructure suggests any new coherent technological strategy on Google’s part. Rather, it provides a way for Google to experiment with “Moon shots” that can live, thrive and possibly die, in a sandbox without impacting the central business.   Splitting the companies and making them financially responsible for their futures could work out better for Google, but it replaces an existing set of known problems with new and perhaps even more challenging ones in their place.   David Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Can't seem to stop those ads following you around? Why not become 'metaliterate'?

8:37PM | Tuesday, 11 August

 In today’s mobile media environment, an incredible amount of information is available to every one of us, every minute of every day. With our cell phones close by, we can easily search for answers to trivia questions, word definitions or find the perfect recipe for the confetti eggplant bought at the farmers’ market. When traveling, we have instant access to the conversion rate between the euro and the dollar and can map directions to any location. And then there is all the personalized information posted by our Facebook friends. So, how do we keep up with and understand the wide array of information? How do we integrate this into our lives as we participate in a connected world? And how do we make meaningful additions to these spaces as originators of information in the online venues that matter to us? As researchers of library and information science, we use the term metaliteracy as a way to look at literacy in the social media age. Previously, the usage of the term metaliteracy was mostly in connection with literacy studies. We expand the idea further in our book: Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners. We use it as a way to recast information literacy for reflective learning with social media and emerging technologies. So, what exactly is metaliteracy, as we define it?     Metaliterate mindset To understand it, let’s consider some common web-based situations that we encounter daily.   When browsing the web or scrolling Facebook, you may have noticed the ads that appear often align very closely to searches you’ve performed previously.   For instance, after searching for consumer products such as a new sofa, you probably encountered the same exact products and stores you originally sought out. At times, this might be just what you want. But after a while, it might start to feel a bit intrusive.   Yes, you can adjust your ad settings to increase the chances that relevant advertisements appear only when you are on Google sites such as YouTube. But did you also know that you can opt out of this feature?   Here is where metaliteracy comes into play.   A metaliterate learner would always dig deeper into the search process, ask good questions about sources of information, consider privacy and ethical issues, and reflect on the overall experience, while adapting to new technologies and platforms.   Filtering in a connected world There is more going on here than we might think we know.   For instance, did you know that often the information we see online is being filtered for us, by someone else?   Google has been personalizing your search results since 2005 if you were signed in and had your web history enabled. If you were being cautious and didn’t sign in, starting in 2009 they began using 180 days of your previous search activity to accomplish the same thing.   Google might call it personalizing, but others see it as constricting.   Yes, but how many of us use other search engines? Patrick Barry, CC BY-SA   Information filtering, or “filter bubbles,” as author and cofounder of Upworthy Eli Pariser calls it in his TED Talk, can circumscribe the information we see when we conduct those searches.   Filtering results in isolated information ecosystems of our own making.   What about other search engines? If we are willing to break away from the convenience of Google, we could use other search services. DuckDuckGo and Startpage are just two of several search engines that provide more privacy than some of the big names.   For, instance, DuckDuckGo does not engage in “search leakage,” as that firm calls it. It notes that other search engines save not only individual searches, but also your search history: Also, note that with this information your searches can be tied together. This means someone can see everything you’ve been searching, not just one isolated search. You can usually find out a lot about a person from their search history.   But worse, search engines may release searches without adequately anonymizing the information, or that information may be hacked.   Startpage allows you to funnel your search in a way that obtains Google results without your personally identifiable information traveling along with the query.   But, how many of us opt to use a search engine other than Google? Google is still the dominant search engine worldwide.   Filtering information So, then, are we weaving our own webs without carefully thinking about the many implications of doing so?   Look at how we selectively create and share our experiences on the fly, editing and filtering digital information along the way, and making choices about permissions to view and to share. For instance, imagine the millions of selfies that reflect our individual personas while being shared within a larger social mosaic of interconnected audiences.   Sometimes we may not even be aware of who can access our content or how it is distributed beyond our immediate circle of friends. Consider our focused concentration on texting while being in large crowds and ignoring the chance encounters with others or missing the random scenery of everyday experience.   Information-filtering is ongoing in all these contexts and is both internally and externally constructed.   Empowered contributors What does metaliteracy do?   Metaliteracy prepares us to ask critical questions about our searches and the technologies we use to seek answers and to communicate with others.   We do not just accept the authority of information because it comes from an established news organization, a celebrity, a friend, or a friend of a friend. Metaliteracy encourages reflection on the circumstances of the information produced.   It prepares us to ask whether or not the materials came from an individual or an organization and to determine the reason for posting or publishing it. As part of this process, the metaliterate learner will seek to verify the source and ask questions about how the information is presented and in what format.   Metaliterate individuals gain insights about open environments and how to share their knowledge in these spaces. For instance, they are well aware of the importance of Creative Commons licenses for determining what information can be reused freely, and for making such content openly available for others' purposes, or for producing their own content.   They also understand the importance of peer review and peer communities for generating and editing content for such sites as Wikipedia, or open textbooks, and other forms of Open Educational Resources (OERs).   The truth is that we can all be metaliterate learners – meditative and empowered, asking perceptive questions, thinking about what and how we learn, while sharing our content and insights as we make contributions to society.   Trudi Jacobson is Distinguished Librarian at University at Albany, State University of New York.Thomas P Mackey is Vice Provost for Academic Programs at SUNY Empire State College. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What If Google Bought Twitter?

8:33AM | Monday, 10 August

  Twitter has been in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons. Business media report that Twitter shareholders are disappointed with the company’s latest results; this follows recent turmoil in the company’s leadership which saw the departure of controversial CEO Dick Costolo and the (temporary) return of co-founder Jack Dorsey until a permanent replacement is found.   All this has served to feed rumours that Google, having recently called time on its own underperforming social network Google+, might be interested in acquiring Twitter. From one perspective, this would clearly make sense – social media are now a key driver of Web traffic and a potentially important advertising market, and Google will not want to remain disconnected from this space for long. On the other hand, though, given its chequered history with the now barely remembered Google Buzz as well as major effort Google+, Twitter users (and the third-party companies that serve this userbase) may well be concerned about what a Google acquisition of the platform may mean for them.   I had the opportunity to explore these questions in some detail in an extended interview with ABC Radio’s Tim Cox last week. In a wide-ranging discussion, we reviewed the issues troubling Google+ and Twitter, and the difficulties facing any player seeking to establish a new social media platform alongside global market leader Facebook. Here’s the audio: Let us take this conversation further: what if Google did buy Twitter? From my point of view, this could turn out a positive move, if Google treats the platform appropriately (as it did, arguably, with past acquisitions such as Blogger, YouTube, and Google Maps). It’s become very obvious over the past months that Twitter’s stock market listing has been a curse at least as much as a blessing: while it’s raised substantial new capital, of course, it’s also exposed the company to the expectations of shareholders who seem to fundamentally misunderstand what Twitter is or can be.   As a platform, Twitter is not and will never be a competitor to Facebook, whatever its shareholders seem to think. Both might be classed under the overall rubric of “social media”, but any direct comparisons constitute a category error: the appeal of a strong-ties, small-world networks platform like Facebook, where we tend to network predominantly with family and friends, is necessarily fundamentally different from that of a weak-ties, large-world space like Twitter, where we can follow – and attempt to strike up conversations with – celebrities, politicians, and other users outside of our immediate networks.   That’s a very different kind of social network, with its own unique uses, and it is futile to hope that Twitter will eventually attract the same number of users, or the same user activity patterns, as Facebook. Worse still, to try to reshape Twitter in Facebook’s image by force will almost inevitably kill off the platform.   If Google understands this, and treats Twitter appropriately (which probably includes accepting it as a loss leader for the time being), this could well turn the platform’s fortunes around. Twitter’s recognised strengths are as a flat, public, and open network that excels especially in live contexts; Twitter is the place where most recent breaking news stories first broke, and a space where users gather as a temporary public and community to collectively participate in shared experiences from the World Cup to Eurovision. Beyond any marketing hype, it genuinely serves as the pulse of the planet in a great many contexts.   This live insight into what news stories and other information are currently hot (and thus should be served as search results, too) may well be valuable enough for Google to fork out a few billion, even if there still doesn’t seem to be a workable model for generating significant direct advertising revenue from the platform.   But whoever takes on Twitter, one of the first things the new CEO will need to do is to fundamentally rebuild Twitter’s relationship with those on whom, historically, its successes have most depended: the flotilla of third-party developers and researchers that surrounds the Twitter mothership. As Jean Burgess and I have documented in our contribution to the forthcoming collection Digital Methods for Social Science, those developers – and the early adopters and lead users whom they have served – have made the platform what it is: they developed powerful Twitter clients and tools, and laid the groundwork for the social media analytics approaches that have become crucial for making sense of trends on Twitter and elsewhere.   Sadly, though, especially under Dick Costolo Twitter’s relationship with these crucial allies in the promotion of Twitter as a platform and a community soured significantly: abrupt and radical changes to the terms of service of the Twitter API (which govern what data companies and their tools could gain access to) in pursuit of more revenue undermined this crucial third-party ecosystem and stymied further innovation. And if anything, the handful of exceptions from this new, more restrictive régime – such as the Twitter Data Grants for researchers, which supported a total of only six out of 1,300 proposed projects – caused further offence rather than restoring goodwill.   Absent any major new investments, a Twitter relying mainly on the support of its shareholders seems unlikely to change tack in this way – it will continue to chase revenue by attempting to commercialise its data, and in the process also continue to alienate the crucial third-party developer community. This is a path of diminishing returns: the data are valuable only as long as there are popular and meaningful applications for Twitter as a platform, but those applications have historically been created by the third-party developers and the power users they support.   Freed from the short-term, unrealistic demands of the stock market through an acquisition by Google (or another cashed-up investor), on the other hand, Twitter could dial back its desperate efforts to commercialise its APIs and the data they provide, and return to its original, more permissive data access régime in order to nurture and support new efforts at research and development. Such a shift in policy could well be the shot in the arm Twitter needs to ensure its longer-term survival – but it depends on the intervention of a new benefactor. Is Google ready to play – or is it still too disheartened from its past attempts to enter the social media market?   Axel Bruns is Professor, Creative Industries at Queensland University of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Technolog: Forget fixed broadband: Large phones and 4G drive UK over mobile tipping point

8:25AM | Friday, 7 August

 UK communications regulator Ofcom has released a report that gives a fascinating snapshot of digital society in the UK. It highlights the dominance of mobile, and the centrality of social media in social interactions and relationships. The change has been brought about, not by improvements in fixed broadband but by the availability of larger, more capable phones and faster 4G mobile networks. Phones and 4G are in turn facilitating communication through a variety of channels, especially social media.   Bigger phones allow people to do more In terms of the importance of mobile, 33% of UK residents now view their smartphone as the most important device to connect to the Internet compared to 30% who chose their laptop. This switch in preference has come about because of the general increase in the size of phones. The release of Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6S in response to the popularity of Android phones of the same size has helped cement the larger form-factor as a standard. People can now comfortably carry out many of the tasks that would have normally been reserved for a laptop, PC or tablet.   4G is the other key enabler of move to mobile The second reason has been the increase in speed of the average smartphone connection. 45% of UK smartphone users have access to 4G networks, a 28% increase on the previous year. The faster speeds have not only resulted in greater use of mobile data generally but has shifted what users will do with their phones. 4G users are more likely to use their phones to access audio-visual content(57% 4G users compared to 40% non-4G users). They are also more likely to use their phones to make online purchases and use online banking.   Faster fixed broadband plays a smaller part What is interesting is that the changes brought about by the increased use of smartphones have had more impact than the increase in speeds of fixed broadband services to the home. 83% of UK premises are able to receive broadband speeds of 30 Mbit/s or higher. 30% of homes have connected to broadband at these higher speeds. Mobile 4G users were less likely to use their home wireless than those not on 4G showing a general trend to “cutting the cord” even in the area of Internet access.   Changing communication and social media UK Internet users believe that technology has changed the way that they communicate and that these new forms of communication have made life easier. Traditional forms of digital communication such as email and text messaging are still dominant but 62% of online adults use social media and 57% instant messaging to communicate regularly with family and friends. Technologies such as Skype, Facetime and Google Hangout are also used by 34% of adults.   In terms of social media use, Facebook is by far the dominant platform with 72% of adults having a social media profile and 97% of those having one on Facebook. Although teenagers are likely to use other social media platforms, 48% of social media users use Facebook exclusively.   People are also spending greater amounts of time on Facebook than any other service. In March of 2015, users spent 51 billion minutes on Facebook’s website and apps compared to 34 billion on Google’s. YouTube was also watched by more people via mobile devices than on desk/laptops.   Change, but not in productivity Although digital technologies have brought about a major change in society in the UK, this hasn’t been reflected in any changes in productivity in the UK economy. The UK continues to rate behind France, Germany, US and even Italy in terms of worker productivity.   The results of surveys such as these enable several important points to be underscored. The first is that investment in fixed broadband infrastructure is not necessarily as important as investment in universal high speed wireless access in terms of its impact on society. Second, although we may see radical changes in social norms through the use of digital technologies, it won’t show up in increased productivity. The last point has to be qualified however. It may well be that existing businesses do not show any improvements in productivity but new forms of industry and business are enabled by a mobile economy which may well bring about radical changes in productivity. Uber, Airbnb, and other industries as part of the so-called “gig economy” threatens to disrupt industry and this will only be possible through the use of mobile phones and high speed wireless.   David Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Up next: video-on-demand shakes up the television industry

8:25AM | Tuesday, 4 August

 Telstra last week announced that it will launch Telstra TV in September. This could be the “all-in-one” video streaming service many Australians have craved, bundling together the three leading video-on-demand (VoD) services: Netflix, Stan and Presto.   However, it also puts Telstra in an odd position, straddling multiple services, some of which compete with other products Tesltra is intimately involved in, such as Foxtel.   It also underscores how the introduction of VoD services have disrupted and fragmented the television market in Australia. Even ISPs are now starting to play a role in delivering content to the biggest screen in the house.   So what will the future of television look like in Australia?   All-in-one Telstra TV will run on the Roku 2 device, which is comparable in function to Google Chromecast and Apple TV. The Roku 2 already runs hundreds of international apps, although it is unclear how many will be available when the device launches in Australia.   An attractive feature of the new service could be that it will launch with access to Netflix and Presto, with Stan to follow. Telstra has said it is trying to negotiate a bundled price for all three services for less than A$30 a month.   The announcement by Telstra raises questions about where the company sees its future and involvement, not only as an ISP but also as a media distributor.   The Telstra TV device, based on the Roku 2, and remote. Telstra   Telstra is already heavily involved in a number of areas of the Australian media, across broadcast and streaming. The company has an even share of 50% with News Corp Australia in Foxtel, which has Foxtel Play, arguably a competitor to Netflix, Stan and Presto. Foxtel itself is involved in a joint venture in Presto with Seven West Media.   Foxtel also recently purchased a 15% share in the Ten Network, and last year completed the joint production of Goggle Box with the network, which was broadcast on pay television with a one day delay to free-to-air (FTA).   In addition to Telstra’s various media company associations, it also has services that could be argued to compete with its new Telstra TV service. Telstra’s current T-Box could be seen as offering many similar digital services to Telstra TV. Despite this, there is no discussion that it will be discounted when the new service is launched.   One key reason for this could be due to the fact that T-Box provides access and recording of FTA broadcast television, similar to its competitor Fetch TV, a service linked with Optus and iiNet. The Roku 2 does not allow FTA viewing or recording, therefore solely relying on internet and app entertainment.   As a Telstra spokesperson said: “We will not be positioning this as a substitution for Foxtel at all. This is very much for non-pay TV customers.”   Despite this claim, Damien Tampling from Deloitte said there is “potential the move would cannibalise Foxtel customers”.   The Roku service does provide access to HBO Go, which provided immediate access to the most recent season of Game of Thrones, a series high on the piracy list for Australians. If HBO Go was to become available in Australia this would impact Foxtel, which relies heavily on exclusive programs such as Game of Thrones.   Shake up This move by Telstra also raises questions for the future of television and VoD in Australia, such as: who will be the big media players in the future? Will the future of these services rest with the current traditional broadcasters, free-to-air and pay-TV? Or will ISPs play a larger role in this space in the future?   Telstra has the largest number of individual customers subscribed to Netflix of all Australian ISPs, but the lowest percentage: only 5.2%. This is far less than the leader, iiNet, at 16.8%.   Stan and Presto are yet to have a strong uptake since their launch at the beginning of this year. Recent figures show Netflix had three times more users than Presto, Stan, Quickflix and Foxtel Play combined.   Telstra’s spokesperson said live sports will be the reasons for customers to stay with Foxtel and free-to-air TV. But even sports broadcasting is changing, with new players such as YouTube, along with sporting organisations becoming their own broadcasters.   What’s next on TV? There is no doubt that 2015 will be an interesting year for TV.   We will see how VoD might force old players to adapt to the changing media landscape. Seven and Nine are already involved with VoD services, with only Ten yet to make a move in this space, although the recent purchase by Foxtel could change the network’s direction.   There will also be interest around any new players that may appear as the race continues to establish some structured approach to a changing media distribution environment. In this we might see ISPs take a greater role as media outlets.   Marc C-Scott is Lecturer in Digital Media at Victoria University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

YouTube could change the way we broadcast sport in Australia

6:16AM | Monday, 22 June

  Australian rugby league games could be heading online following reports the National Rugby League (NRL) has been in discussions with Google as part of the sporting organisation’s latest media rights. The discussions are said to be associated with having NRL games broadcast via Google’s YouTube video website.   These are not the first discussions rumoured to have taken place between YouTube and an Australian sporting organisation. Last year it was said that the Australian Football League (AFL) was in discussions with YouTube, as part of its new media rights deal to start in 2017.   It should also be noted that YouTube has made a shift toward professional sports media over the past few years. In 2010 it secured the live-streaming rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket. Three years later, YouTube began to experiment with major American sports, including Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).   How would a deal between an Australian sports organisations and YouTube impact Australian sport media rights?   International sport media rights   Sports media rights are much sort after. The investment banking group Jefferies Group LLC sees sports as vital for TV channels because 97% of all sports programming is watched live.   This is evident by the high stakes of the sports media rights globally. In the UK recently Sky and BT paid a record £5.136 billion (A$10.48 billion) for live Premier League soccer television rights, almost doubling the previous £3 billion (A$6.12 billion) deal.   The annual amounts paid for sports media rights in the US range from US$1.5 billion (A$1.93 billion) annually for Major League Baseball to US$3 billion (A$3.85 billion) per year for the National Football League (NFL). The NBA’s recent media rights deal of US$2.66 billion (A$3.42 billion) annually more than doubled its previous deal.   How does this compare to Australian sport media rights?   The AFL’s current media rights, which includes Seven West Media, Foxtel, Fox Sports and Telstra, are valued at A$1.25 billion. The new media rights are expected to reach more than A$2 billion for a five year deal. The current NRL media rights deal with Nine and Fox Sports are valued at A$1.025 billion over five years, just under the AFL.   There is a clear gap between the value of Australian sporting media rights and those in the UK and US, which is arguably one factor in YouTube’s interest in the Australian sports market.   Could YouTube become a sport broadcaster?   Today the online video market is estimated to be worth US$200 billion to US$400 billion (A$275 billion to A$514 billion), with YouTube having the largest share. YouTube currently has more than 1 billion users, has more than 300 hours of video uploaded to its site every minute, is localised in 75 countries and available in 61 languages.   It was recently reported that in the US YouTube reached more Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 than any cable channel, including ESPN. There has also been a 50% growth in the amount of time users spend watching videos on YouTube year over year, of which 50% of viewing is via a mobile.   The live streams on YouTube have the potential to far outweigh the highest audience ratings of Australian television broadcasters. Felix Baumgartner’s world record free fall skydive, for example, had 8 million simultaneous viewers. VIDEO 1   Who will pay? Advertisers or the users   If YouTube was to commence broadcasts of Australian sports, the question is, who will pay?   YouTube has a subscription based services already available that would allow Australian sports to charge per game, per month or per year. But how would this impact the current alternative platforms that both the AFL and NRL have?   Both have services for mobile and online viewing, part of digital rights deals with Telstra. The AFL’s deal worth A$153 million and the NRL deal worth A$100 million. Any digital rights deal with YouTube would have an impact upon the current approach toward digital rights.   A similar deal could be struck as with the IPL, where YouTube “involves every country outside the US”. YouTube could become a digital partner to broadcast AFL and NRL for countries other than Australia, assisting in the internationalisation of the codes.   YouTube and new ways to watch sport   In addition to the shear reach of YouTube globally, the other area to consider is broadcast technologies and the way in which YouTube has begun to experiment in this area.   In recent months Virtual Reality (VR) and 360 degree video, has been a big talking point. Particularly with the release Microsoft’s Hololens and more recently the new Oculus Rift VR headset, now owned by Facebook.   Google has also released Google Cardboard which gives anyone with a smartphone a cheap entry to the VR headset. Google also recently announced its Jump camera rig for 360 degree videos, which holds 16 GoPro cameras, costing well over US$8,000 (A$10,280) with cameras.   But there are cheaper alternatives to Jump coming into the market. The Giroptic camera is under US$500 (A$643) and the Bubl camera is US$799 (A$1,027), both are smaller than Jump and extremely affordable in comparison.   YouTube allows for 360 degree video to be upload to its site, something that has been taken up by artists such as Björk and the Red Bull Formula 1 racing team.   The 360 degree effect only works when viewed in Google’s Chrome web browser.   Sporting organisations are willing to experiment with new technologies. This is evident by the recent virtual reality content filmed for Samsung’s Gear VR at the NBA’s all-star weekend. The National Hockey League (NHL) also experimented with using GoPro cameras for its all-star weekend to give viewers a point-of-view perspective.   Example of NBA All-Star Virtual Reality via a Samsung Gear VR Headset These new ways of viewing video content could have a major impact on the future of sports broadcasts and what the viewer sees on a screen, but does not need to entirely replace the current methods.   Future of sports broadcasting   In the current media environment it seems that YouTube will not replace the current broadcast of sport.   For Australia, the anti-siphoning laws prevent subscription or pay-for view only broadcasting many Australian major sporting events. This would prevent YouTube from having a major impact in the near future of sports broadcasts, but it could shake up the digital rights component.   The other factor is Australian viewing habits of television. The current reports still show a strong difference between television viewing and online video viewing habits.   What YouTube could do for Australian sports is allow for both the AFL and NRL to be internationalised by making it available to people outside Australia, something that the AFL in particular has been strongly working on.   In addition to providing a liner stream, YouTube could be a potential platform for sporting organisation to experiment further with new broadcast and viewing technologies, such as the 360 degree video.   Imagine being able to experience being in the crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. A 360 degree video could allow the viewer – both in Australia and overseas – access onto the ground, a fly on the wall perspective, via cameras installed on goal posts or positioned above the ground.   YouTube thus does have the potential to lead the way in new forms of sports broadcasting. Marc C-Scott is Lecturer in Digital Media at Victoria University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The byte may destroy the book but the novel isn’t over yet

6:01AM | Friday, 5 June

In This Will Destroy That, also known as Book V, Chapter 2 of Notre Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo presents his famous argument that it was the invention of the printing press that destroyed the edifice of the gothic cathedral. Stories, hopes and dreams had once been inscribed in stone and statutory, wrote Hugo. But with the arrival of new printing technologies, literature replaced architecture. Today, “this” may well be destroying “that” again, as the Galaxy of the Internet replaces the Gutenberg Universe. If a book is becoming something that can be downloaded from the app store, texted to your mobile phone, read in 140-character instalments on Twitter, or, indeed, watched on YouTube, what will that do to literature – and particularly Hugo’s favourite literary form, the novel? Click to enlarge Debates about the future of the book are invariably informed by conversations about the death of the novel. But as far as the digital novel is concerned, it often seems we’re in – dare I say it – the analogue phase. The publishing industry mostly focuses on digital technologies as a means for content delivery – that is, on wifi as a replacement for print, ink, and trucks. In terms of fictional works specifically created for a digital environment, publishers are mostly interested in digital shorts or eBook singles. At 10,000 words, these are longer than a short story and shorter than a printed novel, which, in every other respect, they continue to resemble. Digital editions of classic novels are also common. Some, such as the Random House edition of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962), available from the App store, are innovatively designed, bringing the novel into dialogue with an encyclopaedic array of archival materials, including Burgess’ annotated manuscript, old book covers, videos and photographs. Also in this category is Faber’s digital edition of John Buchan’s 39 Steps (2013), in which the text unfolds within a digital landscape that you can actually explore, albeit to a limited degree, by opening a newspaper, or reading a letter. But there is a strong sense in which novels of this sort, transplanted into what are essentially gaming-style environments for which the novel form was not designed, can be experienced as deeply frustrating. This is because the novel, and novel reading, is supported by a particular kind of consciousness that Marshall McLuhan memorably called the “Gutenberg mind”. Novels are linear and sequential, and post-print culture is interactive and multidimensional. Novels draw the mind into deeply imagined worlds, digital culture draws the mind outward, assembling its stories in the interstices of a globally networked culture. For the novel to become digital, writers and publishers need to think about digital media as something more than just an alternative publishing vehicle for the same old thing. The fact of being digital must eventually change the shape of the novel, and transform the language. Click to enlarge Far from destroying literature, or the novel genre, digital experimentation can be understood as perfectly in keeping with the history of the novel form. There have been novels in letters, novels in pictures, novels in poetry, and novels which, like Robinson Crusoe(1719), so successfully claimed to be factual accounts of actual events that they were reported in the contemporary papers as a news story. It is in the nature of the novel to constantly outrun the attempt to pin it down. So too, technology has always transformed the novel. Take Dickens, for example, whose books were shaped by the logic of the industrial printing press and the monthly and weekly serial – comprising a long series of episodes strung together with a cliffhanger to mark the end of each instalment. So what does digital media do differently? Most obviously, digital technology is multimodal. It combines text, pictures, movement and sound. But this does not pose much of a conceptual challenge for writers, thanks, perhaps, to the extensive groundwork already laid by graphic novel. Rather, the biggest challenge that digital technology poses to the novel is the fact that digital media isn’t linear – digital technology is multidimensional, allowing stories to expand, often wildly and unpredictably, in nonlinear patterns. Novelistic narratives - as we currently know them - are sequential, largely predicated on the presence of a single unifying consciousness, and designed to be read across time in the order designated by the author. Last year, this presented a serious problem for many would-be readers of David Mitchell’s short story The Right Sort, a fictional work composed of 280 tweets, sent out in groups of 20, twice a day, for seven days. Frustrated readers complained that they couldn’t catch the tweets - that half the narrative had gone missing in the digital ether. It was basically far more comfortable reading the printed version via the link in the Guardian – where readers found a beautifully turned albeit somewhat conventional short story, whose major concession to its digital environment was that it was composed of short scenic snatches 140-characters long. Another difference between digital and print technologies is that the printed novel encourages private reading, whereas digital readers tend to share their experiences in networked, highly social environments. Click to enlarg  Today, even authors of traditional novels are expected to maintain an online presence for themselves. In order to publish a book, you need a hashtag, a Facebook page, a blog tour, a book trailer on Vimeo or YouTube and a Twitter account. Much was made of the potential for this type of media to supplement a novelistic text when Richard House’s “digitally augmented” thriller The Kills (2013) was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. But potential exists for this kind of interaction to go beyond merely “augmenting” a novel, to integrating with, and actually expanding it. In the not-too-distant future, digital novels will find themselves expanding horizontally across platforms, and readers may well be finding themselves interacting with, transforming, and even contributing the content. This may well be the moment when the walls of literature (as we know it) come tumbling down. Yet, the scathing critic might do well to remember that Dickens was revolutionary in his day, not only for charting the course of serialisation, thereby making literature popular and accessible, but also for making ordinary people the subject matter of his writing. One novel that gives you a glimpse of what the digital novel might turn out to be is The Silent History (2014), created by Eli Horowitz – best known as an editor at the New York based literary journal McSweeneys – in collaboration with Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett. Click to enlarge The story is set in the second quarter of the 21st century, when children begin to be born who fail to develop the necessary cognitive functions to acquire, understand or use language. The prose is dazzling, the characters, and their predicaments are moving, and just as importantly, the digital aspects of the book are set deeply in its design. They are not only present in its themes – though these aptly deal with the problem of communication – but also in its collaborative structure, and interactive details. The Silent History is available in print and ink, but it was originally developed as an app. The written sections of the text – called “Testimonies” – which contain the main trajectory of the story, were uploaded sequentially, along with a variety of mixed-media elements, including video and photographs. One of the striking aspects of the work is its capacity to grow through user-generated content. The writers gradually expanded the “Testimonies” through the inclusion of “Field Reports” – that is, short narratives submitted by readers and other writers. These can only be unlocked using the map on your mobile or tablet device at a specific location – a bit like a GPS-activated and endlessly proliferating instalment of Dickens. The digital novel wasn’t on show at the Sydney Writers’ Festival last week, but there are clear signs that this counter cultural curiosity is edging its way into the literary mainstream. But the wary can rest assured. Despite Hugo’s protestations, architecture wasn’t destroyed by the printing press. It was only transformed. So too, the novel isn’t over yet. This article orignially appeared on The Conversation.

Google Jump, GoPro, and YouTube 360 have virtual reality pushing towards the mainstream

5:38PM | Sunday, 31 May

Above: GoPro's Jump-ready 360 camera array uses HERO4 camera modules and allows all 16 cameras to act as one.   Key announcements by Google at its annual Google I/O developer conference have put virtual reality on the cusp of going mainstream, according to two key figures in the Australian virtual reality community.   During the conference, Google unveiled a new virtual reality ecosystem known as Jump, as well as new camera arrays that can capture 360-degree vision, and streaming stereoscopic virtual reality videos on YouTube.   Virtual Reality Ventures managing director Stefan Pernar told StartupSmart the commodification of virtual reality is likely to happen over the next 12 to 18 months.   “The big news from Google I/O is a virtual reality targeted Go Pro rig, one in a six-camera version and one in a 16-camera version, along with the Jump initiative. There’s also a set of assembly tools that allows you to stitch the thing together and extract 3D info from a range of perspectives,” Pernar says.   Pernar says that creating and sharing a virtual reality experience will soon be as easy as buying a GoPro rig and uploading the video clip on to YouTube 360.   He also points out that a string of consumer virtual reality headsets are set to hit the market in late 2015 and the first half of 2016, including Sony Morpheus, the HTC/Valve device and the consumer version of Facebook’s Oculus Rift. Samsung is also likely to heavily push its Gear VR headset in the lead-up to Christmas.   “That’s what Facebook buying Oculus was all about – sharing your user-created virtual reality experience with your family and friends on Facebook,” Pernar says.   “The landscape is changing. Virtual reality company’s focus will not so much be on stitching video together. That problem has been solved.   “Instead, they will need to add value, in the form of interactive and value added content.”   According to Pernar, creating more professional virtual reality shoots is a potential growth opportunity for virtual reality producers.   “The smartphone camera in your pocket is now better than the cameras used to shoot Star Wars. So why doesn’t everyone just whip out their phone and shoot Star Wars? It’s not just a matter of hardware – there’s also cinematography.   “A year ago, virtual reality was just a tech process. Even simple, stationary shots were state-of-the-art. Now you need to manage movement.”   The announcements mark a very exciting time for the VR industry, according to Anton Andreacchio – whose virtual reality production company Jumpgate Virtual Reality recently released a 90-second trailer for the upcoming Cyan Films horror film Scare Campaign. “It’s what happened with film – it’s democratisation. On the tech side, equipment isn’t cost-prohibitive anymore. From a hardware perspective, this solves the post-production issue of stitching video clips together,” Andreacchio say.   “This is another big step, the process of making [VR] a systematic production method, and getting big companies a clearer path.   As for Pernar’s sentiments about VR going mainstream, Andreacchio is cautiously optimistic.   “I know I should say yes 100%, but we don’t know. But certainly a lot of time, money and energy is being thrown at this at the moment. So I suspect we are, but ultimately that’s up to the consumers,” he says.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Gamifying content and tapping into personal goals the key to successful education startups

5:06AM | Wednesday, 13 May

User retention is the major hurdle facing education startups and there are no easy solutions, according to the founder of an online platform that teaches people how to develop mobile apps.   Pablo Farias, the founder of Zenva Academy, recently graduated from the Bank of Queensland's sponsored entrepreneurship program and raised more than $30,000 on Kickstarter – smashing his original target of $4000 within a matter of hours.   Farias says despite the success of his startup, which sometimes hits five figures a month in revenue, retaining users is still a “massive” issue and something all startups in the education space have to tackle.   “Before we had online startups we just had books, and no one knows what the retention rate of books is,” he says.   “So the stats on the education industry in terms of retention and content consumption sound a bit harsh at first, but then we don’t know the real statistics with books.”   While there is no perfect solution, Farias says challenging users and also tapping into their personal goals and motivations is an approach that seems to work well.   “What Duolingo is doing in terms of gamification and trying to show your results is the way to go,” he says.   “We do that by having project-based results, so when someone completes a course they see the game [in action]. And then we promote the games people make and motivate other students to do the same.”   More and more Aussie startups are turning to crowdfunding to get their ideas off the ground and more importantly raise some much-needed awareness. Farias says the success of Zenva Academy’s recent Kickstarter lied in having an existing pool of loyal customers.   As for how to get that audience in the first place, he suggests startups release free content – even if it’s simply a blog or YouTube channel.   “Over the years we already had a pretty good number of students taking our courses and people on our mailing list and reading our blogs,” he says.   “So were able to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time. Then when Kickstarter saw that approach doing well it also pushed it up the ranks and gave it much more exposure.”   Farias moved to Australia from Chile around a year ago, and says while the Brisbane startup scene is small the close-knit community certainly has its advantages.   “It’s obviously a much smaller community than in Melbourne and Sydney, but there are a lot of people making cool stuff,” he says.   “Participating in the sponsored program allowed me to meet a lot of entrepreneurs and mentors and see what they’re doing. I’ve met people from Uber and Halfbrick, so it’s a good place I think to make your startup.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Australian women in tech startups disrupting the disruptors

5:33AM | Wednesday, 6 May

It's the stuff that makes you look good, and your life and job easier, that really matters when it comes to technology.   Online tools that are not only easy to use, but fun and enjoyable at the same time. Things that offer a smooth, intuitive and beautiful end-user experience that don't require a short course or YouTube clip to master.   And I'm so happy to see that two such tools are being developed locally, and led by female entrepreneurs.   This fact alone proves that tech companies (like all companies) will see their products benefit from a diverse range of inputs during development. Increasingly, truly scalable ideas must have a feminine touch, or risk missing 51% of it's target market.   So who are these women doing some seriously disruptive work?   Well they're not the household names you already know about.   On Tuesday, online design tool Canva announced it completed a $6 million investment round ($7.7 million), and launched its suite of design tools for business It already has 2.4 million users worldwide (65% who've signed up in the last six months), three global offices (including in Sydney) and a team of 42.    Canva's CEO and co-founder is Melanie Perkins, who came up with the idea for creating simple-to-use design tools for non-designers which teaching graphic design at the University of Western Australia. She originally partnered with Cliff Obrecht to launch Fusion Books, an online program for schools to create year books. Later, they connected  with former Google guy Cameron Adams to go one step further and 'empower the world to design'.   Canva's on the list of online tools that have actually made my life and work better. Yes, designers might be horrified by what I've produced using the platform (which can manage everything from presentations to infographics and other images) but it gets the job done quick and easy for me.   Also on the list of seriously useful online tools is all-in-one event management platform Ivvy.   Ivvy's Brisbane-based creator Lauren Hall has her eyes set on a $1 billion exit for the business. She's been working on it — albeit in different version — for seven years, after experiencing frustrating challenges while organising her own events. Having just secured a number of global venue chains, Ivvy looks set to change how we manage, procure and secure event-based services and suppliers.   Away from Melanie Perkins and Lauren Hall, there are many, many other women doing some seriously disruptive work in technology in Australia. All at varying stages of their startup journeys and with different problems to solve.   Two I want to mention here are Marnie Shanahan and Sarah Liu.   These two had just the barebones of a business idea back in November when they pitched in front of our panel of judges at the Rexona Clinical Women's Agenda Pitch Off.    But they were good ideas with serious potential, inspired by personal needs and stories.   Less than six months later, those ideas are gearing up for launch, with significant milestones reached in the last couple of weeks.   Shanahan's business is The New Kid, is a platform that connects safe and legal internships with students. Still in her early twenties, Shanahan has taken the idea to New York in recent months, where she's developing it further and has just launched its website.     Liu's business is Gemini3, a platform promoting, educating and connecting people around job sharing opportunities. Gemini3 (initially called 'The Dream Job' when she pitched it) is the latest in a series of initiatives for Liu, who is running a number of companies and fast proving herself as a formidable entrepreneur.    A great idea solves a serious challenge. Liu and Shanahan, like Melanie Perkins and Lauren hall before them, are determined to offer solutions.   And a great solution has a feminine touch.   This article was originally published at Women's Agenda.

The health tech revolution will be televised: New accelerator offers $40,000 and broadcasting services

4:06PM | Sunday, 19 April

A new virtual accelerator program focusing on health tech startups is offering $40,000 in broadcast time and services in exchange for 7% equity, with the possibility of a further $40,000 cash in exchange for another 7% in equity.   The Rumpus Oz Innovation Challenge is a six-month accelerator program coordinated out of Little Tokyo Two in Brisbane, Fishburners in Sydney and either i9 or York Butter Factory in Melbourne.   Co-founder Leigh Angus told StartupSmart along with gaining access to experienced mentors, senior advisors and investors, participants will also be featured in a six-part observational documentary.   “It’s a documentary around the accelerator that focuses more on the characters in the startups than the people running the program,” Angus says.   “During the six-part series, there will be stories around topics such as co-working and angel investing. While we all speak startup, most of the general public aren’t familiar with these terms, and so the aim is to raise awareness of startup terms in the general community.”   The program will be shown on YouTube, with the organisers saying they’re also in talks with various broadcasters, and each episode will be an opportunity for the startups to showcase their products and services before they raise money directly from viewers through Kickstarter.   “We will also offer up to $40,000 – more for some and less for others – as we take the cohort through. We’ll isolate those that need the capital during the program,” Angus says.   Angus points out that along with some of the leading co-working spaces on the east coast, the program is backed by the main health tech meetup groups in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.   The program also boasts an impressive list of advisors. They include Fishburners founder Peter Davison, iAsset president Scott Frew, muru-D/AWI/Pollenizer mentor Nick Gonios, RedEye founder Wayne Gerard, Health Tech Innovation Queensland founder Greg Beaver, NICTA UX design manager Hilary Cinis and St. Vincent’s Hospital’s Dr Pamela Blaikie.   However, some in the startup community have questioned the value of $40,000 worth of broadcast time, publicity and services in comparison to other accelerators that offer either $40,000 in cash, or services an early-stage startup would typically need, such as service development.   “The difference between this program and other accelerators is that most will get startups investment ready, then send them out to angel investors. But Australia has a fairly young angel investment community, and many startups end up spending a lot of time knocking on door,” Angus says.   “We’re trying to bypass the angel round altogether by getting products to consumers, and allowing them to fund the startups they like directly.   “Most smart entrepreneurs don’t just go to accelerators for money, go to accelerators for money, they also go for exposure and mentoring. So we’re offering them a more national network that’s more comprehensive in the advice they receive.   “We take our cohort from bootcamp to broadcast.”   The health tech focus of the first program follows in the footsteps of Innovyz in Adelaide and STC in Melbourne, which recently closed applications for their health tech accelerator programs. There is also an equity crowdfunding platform, called Healthfundr Australia, which is set to focus on the health tech sector.   Meanwhile, meetup groups in both Melbourne and Brisbane are booming in terms of attendances, while Queensland-based incubator ilab has recently hosted Australia’s first Startup Weekend for health.   Applications for the program close on May 3, with the bootcamp and initial filming on May 16 (Brisbane), May 23 (Sydney) and May 30 (Melbourne). The program commences on June 30, with an elimination round at the end of July, broadcasting scheduled for the end of September and program completion at the end of October.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How children view privacy differently from adults

4:40PM | Thursday, 16 April

Have you seen the how-to video of a teenage girl styling her hair that went disastrously wrong? She was obviously very disturbed by what happened, yet still uploaded the footage onto YouTube. Do you think a 45 or 50 year-old would upload an equivalent video of themselves?   The majority of young people now share lots of things online that many adults question and feel uncomfortable about: their likes, dislikes, personal views, who they’re in a relationship with, where they are, images of themselves and others doing things they should or maybe shouldn’t be doing.   In fact, a study undertaken in the US by Pew Research found that 91% of 12-to-17-year-olds posted selfies online, 24% posted videos of themselves. Another 91% were happy posting their real name, 82% their birthday, 71% where they live and the school they attend, 53% their email address and 20% their mobile phone number. Overstepping Children’s fondness for online sharing is a global phenomenon, and in response governments internationally have initiated awareness campaigns that aim to ensure children are more private online.   In the UK, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children recently launched a Share Aware campaign. This includes the recent TV advertisement, called I saw your willy, which depicts the ill-fated consequences of a young boy who as a joke, texts a photo of his penis to his friend.   The ad emphasises to children the need to keep personal information about themselves offline and private.   Similarly the Australian Federal Police have launched Cyber safety and ThinkUKnow presentations for school students, which highlights the social problems that can arise when you’re having fun online.   Adults often interpret children’s constant online sharing to mean that they don’t care about privacy and/or don’t understand the potential longer-term issues. There is some truth to this perspective. But simply labeling children as either disobedient or naïve is too simplistic. There is an important need to understand why children are overstepping adult-defined marks of privacy online. Shifting attitudes In the words of Facebook, our relationship status with privacy can be summed up as: it’s complicated.   Part of the complexity comes down to how privacy is defined. Many adults understand privacy to mean being selective about what one reveals about themselves so as not to reveal too much personal information. We often assume that children will adopt the same conceptualisation, but should we?   Privacy is a fluid notion. Think of Victorian times and the imperative for women to keep their ankles hidden. Part of the reason its definition is shaped and reshaped is due to the changing social environment in which we live. This idea is useful for thinking about why children divulge so much information online.   Children are growing up in public (not private) times, in which people freely and constantly reveal themselves on their screens. This is not solely associated with physical nudity and the stream of semi-clad women that constantly inhabit advertisements, music videos and the like. An environment that idolises nudity certainly contributes to children seeing such behaviour as the norm. Privacy, however, is not just about nudity and sex.   Given the exponential growth of reality shows and social media, children now have unprecedented access to the inner thoughts and personal actions of others. Children are growing up watching real people freely share their deep personal ideas, experiences, opinions and actions. The very purpose of these mediums is to encourage such sharing of information!   Children watch everyday people in the Big Brother house openly discuss their sexual experiences, develop friendships, go to the toilet, get ready after their morning shower and, explain deep personal childhood issues.   Similarly, they watch Survivor and The Bachelor where people can reveal the darker side of their ambitions, world-views and ways of dealing with others. Their revelations are under the guise of competition however they offer subliminal messages about what we can and should share publicly share.   Consistently watching others reveal themselves on screen feeds children’s understanding of what is private information and what isn’t. Its impact is strengthened because children watch these revelations on their personal screen such as their tablet or mobile, which can make it more of an intimate, one to one connection for the child. Generation gap Add to this, the dynamic stage in life young people are at, which is characterised by risk-taking behaviour. This combination results in the understanding that sharing what many adults might consider to be private ideas, is really just part of life.   In previous generations it was assumed that the average person wouldn’t want to give up privacy. But for this generation, giving up privacy for a social life, fame (or infamy for some), easy access to shopping and studying or working from home is the norm.   Children’s penchant for online sharing is a much larger cultural transformation than it’s given credit for. The whole idea of what is private and what is public is being disrupted and reshaped by new screen-driven interests and activities.   There is a need to move away from simply judging and reprimanding for their online sharing habits. There is always a need for safety and awareness campaigns, although it is also important to move beyond older and outmoded views of privacy so that we can actually understand young people’s privacy negotiations.   In this way we might have more of a chance to meaningfully support negotiations that are transparent, equitable and foster children’s well-being.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Hilary Clinton hires Google executive to oversee technology behind presidential bid

4:28PM | Wednesday, 8 April

Former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, who is tipped to announce her presidential candidacy in coming weeks, has snapped up a Google executive to be her chief technology officer.   Clinton has hired Stephanie Hannon – Google’s director of product management, civic innovation and social impact – in order to develop new ways to engage voters through technology, according to The Washington Post.   Hannon will oversee a team of software engineers and developers who will build websites and apps for the campaign.   The move comes after a string of technology hires in US politics. Last month the Obama administration brought on Silicon Valley veteran Jason Goldman as the White House’s first chief digital officer. YouTube confirms plans to launch an ad-free subscription service YouTube has today confirmed it will be launching an ad-free subscription service for users in exchange for a monthly fee, according to TechCrunch.   In an email to YouTube partners, the company said it would be creating “a new paid offering” following the success of its Music Key service and YouTube Kids app.   “We’re excited to build on this momentum by taking another big step in favour of choice: offering fans an ads-free version of YouTube for a monthly fee,” the email reads.   “By creating a new paid offering, we’ll generate a new source of revenue that will supplement your fast-growing advertising revenue.” Twitter drops discover stream in favour of trends Twitter is dropping its “Discover” stream in favour of a “Trend” section in order to give users a better understanding of what people are talking about on the social media platform.   The new stream will have brief descriptions of trending hashtags, along with other details such as how many tweets have been sent about a particular topic.   The updates are being rolled out on Twitter for iOS and Android. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 5.43 points, falling 0.03% to 17,875.42. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.4 US cents.

Social media enters the social video broadcasting age

3:23AM | Monday, 30 March

Social media has entered what is likely to be a wildly popular new phase with the advent of live video streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat. Both apps allow people to broadcast live video and sound from their phones to other people on Twitter. Periscope allows viewers to interact with the broadcaster in the form of text messages and sending “hearts”, the equivalent of Facebook likes, by tapping on the video.   On the surface, making everyone a “broadcaster” is a grand idea. As the announcement for Periscope proclaimed   What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia?   And it is true, live stream video from anyone around the world, has the capacity to bring the experience of ordinary people around the world, in raw and undiluted form, to anyone on Twitter.   The idea is not necessarily new. Ustream for example has been providing a live streaming service for the past 8 years. The Occupy Wall Street movement showed the potential of live stream video to great effect by broadcasting demonstrations, live action, and interactions with the police. As immersive an experience it was, the problem with Ustream was that it wasn’t integrated with social media platforms and so discovering what was going on and reaching a large audience was difficult.   Twitter recognised this problem and solved it by buying Periscope for a reported $100 million. Twitter and Facebook have both recognised that video is is the next area of growth in social media. Although YouTube has long been held up as the service to beat, it is far less of a social platform than what Periscope is likely to be. From that perspective, Twitter has taken the lead in this space over Google and Facebook.   The problems facing these services however, are substantial. Already, the technical issues are surfacing with difficulty in viewing the livestreams because of the demand. Very few of the livestreams currently play, and simply say Loading before changing to Ended. Periscope, at least, offers the option of watching the recorded version. The cost of providing this service will be substantial and it is certainly not clear how Twitter will be able to monetise the service. From the user’s perspective, broadcasting using the phone’s cellular data is likely to limit the length of the streams and certainly have the mobile network providers seeing a surge in demand.   More challenging however, will be the social problems that a world of live streams. Encouraging millions of people with phones to broadcast what is going on around them to the rest of the world is going to raise enormous privacy issues. Already, videos with titles like “My Girlfriend Taking a Shower” suggest the potential direction this service could take as people race to the bottom in search of viewers. As in many other cases, social media has   Admittedly, these are early days for Periscope and it is possible that they were forced to release the service early because of the launch of rival service Meerkat. Although Meerkat has been reported to have raised another $12 million in funding, it is clear that as a service it is effectively dead when compared to Twitter’s offering. Twitter has already moved to block Meerkat from having access to information from Twitter vital to its social networking service. Meerkat’s only chance of survival is for Facebook to buy it in competition to Twitter.   Despite the problems, video is going to be the future of social networks. Mainstream media have yet another challenge to face with this new service and it is unlikely that they will deal with this any better than they have dealt with the rising challenge of Vine and YouTube celebrities.   As academic Clay Shirky predicted in his book “Cognitive Surplus”, everyone is capable of becoming their own version of a mainstream media producer. As Shirky said however, for every serious project that is created by the world’s cognitive surplus, there will be the cat videos. On Periscope, cat videos abound along with curiously a preoccupation with fridges.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Ashton Kutcher launches new venture capital fund

3:30PM | Sunday, 15 March

Ashton Kutcher and his business partner Guy Oseary are launching a new venture capital fund called Sound Ventures.   TechCrunch reports the fund will be stage-agnostic, allowing the pair to invest in later-stage startups.   Kutcher has previously invested in companies such as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb through his first fund A-Grade Investments.   The actor and tech investor was in Australia last month for the Tech My Way conference, where he speculated that virtual and augmented reality, biotechnology and artificial intelligence were the next big things in tech. Controversial app developer slams critics An Aussie app developer who promised to give thousands of dollars to charity and was exposed for not handing over the money has hit back in a rambling Facebook post.   Belle Gibson, the founder of The Whole Pantry, solicited donations from around 200,000 people for various causes and said she would give away a quarter of her company’s profits – however, an investigation by The Age found no such contributions were ever made.   Now the entrepreneur has hit back, according to Fairfax, writing in a Facebook post that those who were speaking to the media about her were bullying “myself and my family”.   “I know the work my company and it’s [sic] contents did changed [sic] hundreds of thousands for the better,” she said. YouTube could be considering a subscription model for premium content YouTube could soon have its own paid video on demand service, according to The Verge.   The company is exploring the concept as a means to improve its bottom line and allow popular content producers to access a higher percentage of ad revenue.   The rumours come from an unnamed executive at a company that partners with YouTube to produce video content.   Competition between streaming providers has heated up in the past 12 months, with Netflix confirming it is launching in Australia on March 24 and taking on local companies Quickflix and EzyFlix. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 145.91 points, falling 0.82% overnight to 17,749.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.23 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.