Jennifer Levin

Jennifer Levin

Searches for events will now surface a list of activities that include location and date details.

Google announced a new search feature today that will make it easier to find events.

Google app and mobile web searches for events will now surface a listing of activities pulled from Eventbrite, Meetup and other sites across the web.

Google product manager Nishant Ranka writes:

To try it, type in a quick search like, “jazz concerts in Austin,” or “art events this weekend” on your phone. With a single tap, you’ll see at-a-glance details about various options, like the event title, date and time, and location. You can tap “more events” to see additional options. Once you find one that’s up your alley, tap it to find more details or buy tickets directly from the website.

Rolled out today in the US, Google shared the following image highlighting how its latest search feature works:

Event results include filters that let you drill down by dates or look for specific events happening “today,” “tomorrow” or “next week.”

Google provided the following link to its developer guidelines for creators so that they can make sure their event listings show up in within the new search feature: Google Search Events guide.

Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Amy Gesenhues

If you’ve ever needed to take out a mortgage or a loan for your business, you probably know how difficult it is to find the right terms or borrower to work with. Magilla Loans is seeking to change that by providing a search engine designed to connect borrowers with banks that might want to lend them money.

The key to Magilla is that borrowers remain anonymous and don’t provide personal information until they decide to choose a loan. That way they can compare options without being spammed by banks or having their information sold to third parties.

By answering a series of questions based on their borrowing needs and financial situation, borrowers can receive multiple loan proposals from FDIC-insured banks in just a few hours. They can then easily compare the terms and conditions of those proposals before choosing the lender they want to work with.

But to make that work, the search engine needs to understand the underlying underwriting used by banks to determine the rates and terms they would offer to borrowers based on the information they provide.

Magilla has more than 100 bank brands represented, with coverage across the United States for a variety of loan options. So far, Magilla has helped connect borrowers with $1.8 billion in loans, just a year and a half after it launched.

Magilla was founded by Dean Sioukas and Chris Meyer, who both come to the startup world after running their own commercial enterprises. Sioukas is an attorney-turned-real estate developer, while Meyer owned a group of funeral homes.

Both faced the challenge of finding providers and comparing loan options, so they hoped to take the friction out of the process while also ensuring they were able to pick the best option for their businesses. “I didn’t have time to leave my business and go bank by bank,” Sioukas told me by phone.

So instead, he built Magilla. When they began, the website asked users to complete a digital form that was similar to the type of physical paperwork that borrowers fill out in a banker’s office. But they have simplified the process by moving to a series of questions that adapt to the business objectives and financial situation of the borrower.

While Magilla started out as a kind of Kayak for mortgages for real estate owners and developers, the company has expanded its offerings to include different types of business loans for specific industries. That includes medical and dental offices, as well as restaurants and heavy-equipment owners.

“We have a team that will use our resources and connections to find loan officers or lenders to serve them,” Sioukas said. “If you’re the first borrower, you’re the pioneer but the next one is easier.”

Source: This article was published techcrunch.com By Ryan Lawler

Binging for pennies

The uptake for Microsoft's long-suffering search engine, Bing, continues to be so dismal that Redmond has resorted to paying people to use it.

The "loyalty scheme" offers points that can be exchanged for charity donations or music, games, devices and other stuff on the Microsoft Store. Users are awarded three points per search, up to 30 a day at Level 1.

To get an idea of what they're worth, 5,300 gets you a £5 Xbox digital gift card, which equates to 10 per cent off a current-gen game. That's quite a grind – 176 days of furious Binging for pennies. But hit Level 2, by bashing Bing for 500 points per month, and you can reap 150 points a day.

Will this get more people using Bing? Maybe. Will it take Bing to the top? Perhaps not.

Google corners a hefty 77.98 per cent of the global search engine market and doesn't look like it's going anywhere soon. Bing is the second most used at 7.81 per cent, with China's Baidu rounding third at 7.71 percent.

Google once tried a similar experiment called Screenwise. You'd use a browser extension that shared your history and habits – and wind up with about £15 at the end of the year. But it's not like the Chocolate Factory needed the cash... or traffic. ®

Source: This article was published theregister.co.uk By Andrew Silver

Google warned websites against inadvertently attempting to manipulate search rankings by accepting syndicated content with spammy authors.

Web syndication is when a website takes content from another website, crediting the other website as the ‘author’ of that content. An interesting example of such syndication (not spammy) is this article by GaneshaSpeaks, which gives a horoscope forecast of Netflix’s performance in India using star and planetary positions. Other examples of syndication include feeds by wire agencies like PTI and ANI in news websites. Yahoo, for instance, syndicates content from several sources, including Reuters, India.com, MarketWatch, and several more.

Google said in a blog for website administrators that accepting content that is full of ‘keyword-dense’ links will be recognized as an attempt to manipulate the website’s ranking by Google. Websites found to be hosting such content may have their ranking downgraded in search results, Google warned.

To prevent syndicated content — which is often on a large scale with significant automation in posting — from affecting host websites’ ranking, Google recommended that they check syndicated feeds to make sure that i) they don’t contain link schemes that try to drive traffic to the original site where the content originates, ii) the same articles aren’t syndicated in a large number of other sites or multiple large sites, and iii) the syndicator isn’t just farming content written by authors who are not very knowledgeable on what they are writing on.

‘No-follow’

For syndicators who add a large number of links to their own website, Google recommended that such links have ‘no-follow’ added to them. ‘No-follow’ is a piece of code that tells search engines to not ‘follow’ the links into the websites to which they lead. If ‘no-follow’ isn’t added to articles that have keyword-rich links designed to manipulate search rankings, Google has warned that they will detect such attempts and downgrade the website’s search rankings.

In the post, Google addressed websites that have a combination of original content and syndicated feeds. It asked, “If a link is a form of endorsement, and you’re the one creating most of the endorsements for your own site, is this putting forth the best impression of your site?”

Update: A reference to GaneshaSpeaks has been clarified to emphasize that their pieces are not an example of spammy syndication.

Source: This article was medianama.com By Aroon Deep

Monday, 29 May 2017 13:21

Is 'Internet Addiction' Real?

When her youngest daughter, Naomi, was in middle school, Ellen watched the teen disappear behind a screen. Her once bubbly daughter went from hanging out with a few close friends after school to isolating herself in her room for hours at a time. (NPR has agreed to use only the pair's middle names, to protect the teen's medical privacy.)

"She started just lying there, not moving and just being on the phone," says Ellen. "I was at a loss about what to do."

Ellen didn't realize it then, but her daughter was sinking into a pattern of behavior that some psychiatrists recognize from their patients who abuse drugs or alcohol. It's a problem, they say, that's akin to an eating disorder or gambling disorder — some consider it a kind of Internet addiction. Estimates of how many people are affected vary widely, researchers say, and the problem isn't restricted to kids and teens, though some — especially those who have depression or anxiety disorder — may be particularly vulnerable.

Naomi had always been kind of a nerd — a straight-A student who also sang in a competitive choir. But she desperately wanted to be popular, and the cool kids talked a lot about their latest YouTube favorites.

"I started trying to watch as many videos as I could so, like, I knew as much as they did," says Naomi. "The second I got out of school, I was checking my phone." That's not unusual behavior for many teens and adults these days.

But in her hillside home across the bay from San Francisco, Naomi would dart to her room after school, curling up until after dark, watching video after video after video. When she finally emerged, she says, she was often bleary-eyed, and felt hazy and extremely agitated.

Ellen soon found herself walking on eggshells around her daughter; Naomi was often in a foul mood and quick to anger after staring at her small screen for hours. The anger and gloom were unusual for Naomi, and it went beyond typical teen moodiness, Ellen says. Her parents didn't realize it yet, but Naomi was falling into clinical depression, and her compulsive use of the Internet was speeding the descent.

The videos turned from comedy to violence

Over time, Naomi started watching videos of girls fighting each other. They'd pull each other's hair, scratch violently and sometimes knock each other out. Naomi and her friends rooted for certain fighters.

"I think it was just fun to watch because they would make me laugh," Naomi recalls. "And at that time I was having a pretty hard time dealing with depression and anxiety."

Naomi's parents were arguing a lot and she wasn't connecting with her dad at all. Then her grandmother died. For the first time in her life, it was tough to keep up with school.

"She woke up one morning really depressed, and I brought her to the hospital," Ellen says quietly. Naomi had received a poor grade on a test and told her mom she wanted to hang herself — she spent nearly a week at a psychiatric hospital under a suicide watch.

After she was released, Naomi turned back to her phone for comfort and companionship. She'd stopped going outside or visiting friends after school. She started clicking on how-to videos about ways to commit suicide. "I got the idea to overdose online," says Naomi. "I was researching how many pills I had to take to die."

Three weeks later, she ended up in the hospital again, after downing a bottle of Tylenol.

"She was home alone and we had been told to lock it up, but we just didn't think this would ever happen," says Ellen, who is now in tears.

Naomi's parents were shattered, and desperate to find a way to help their daughter.

The road to recovery

When Naomi was released from her second hospital stay, her family checked her into an addiction recovery center for teens called Paradigm. The high-end facility is a converted mansion at the end of a winding road in San Rafael, Calif. The family is tapping their retirement accounts to pay the $60,000 fee for Naomi's six-week, in-patient stay.

Jeff Nalin, head psychologist and co-founder of Paradigm, has been treating teens for substance abuse for more than 20 years. In the last few, he says, he's seen an increasing number of cases similar to Naomi's. She was diagnosed with a depression that led to what Nalin sees as an addiction disorder.

"I describe a lot of the kids that we see as having just stuck a cork in the volcano," says Nalin. "Underneath there's this rumbling going on, but it just rumbles and rumbles until it blows. And it blows with the emergence of a depression, or it emerges with a suicide attempt."

These teens are using smartphones and tablets, he says, for the same reasons others turn to hard drugs — to numb themselves from what's really going on inside.

Most teens with this compulsion come to Paradigm because they've hit bottom in the same way someone addicted to drugs or alcohol does, Nalin says. But the treatment for compulsive Internet use is trickier, he says, because you can't really function in today's society without interacting with the digital world.

"The best analogy is when you have something like an eating disorder," says Nalin. "You cannot be clean and sober from food. So, you have to learn the skills to deal with it."

When does obsession become addiction?

"Digital addictions," whether to social media, video games, texting, shopping or pornography, are not official mental disorders listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), and there's a debate among psychologists about whether that should change.

Dr. Anna Lembke, a Stanford University psychiatrist and assistant professor in addiction medicine, says she is seeing a classic addictive pattern of behavior in many of her clients who compulsively use the Internet.

"Addiction begins with intermittent to recreational use, then progresses into daily use, and then progresses into consequential use, which in some cases will progress to life-threatening use," Lembke says.

"That's followed by a pattern of consequences like insomnia, dysfunctional relationships and absent days at work or school," she says. "That's the natural narrative arc of any addiction, and the same is true with an Internet addiction."

China has labeled Internet addiction as a mental disorder, she notes, and that's surprising — historically the Chinese have considered addiction a moral failing rather than a clinical disorder.

Some experts attribute China's change in attitude to the widespread involvement of middle- and upper-class Chinese adolescents in what looks like addictive online behavior.

"A little like our opioid addiction here," says Lembke. "People say no one cared about the opioid epidemic until it affected white suburban kids."

Lembke predicts Internet addiction will become a validated clinical diagnosis in the U.S. as more and more cases mirror Naomi's.

Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist and the director of Stanford's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic, says there's also increasing physiological evidence that the use of the Internet can become addictive for some people. Some studies using scanning technology have looked at people's brains while they're online, he says, and compared them to scans of the activated reward pathways in the brains of people who have a substance abuse disorder. "Similar pathways seem activated," he says.

He also says tolerance builds in people who compulsively use the Internet, just as it does with the use of hard drugs. He sees "people needing more and more time on a particular online video game, for example," he says, "to get the same kind of euphoric feeling."

Psychologists are still studying whether it is the overall use of the Internet that becomes pathologically compelling, or specific behaviors that people engage in while online — like shopping, gambling, playing video games or viewing pornography.

"My view is that it is both," says Aboujaoude. "These behaviors have long been known to be addictive, but the Internet, in part by making them so easily accessible, changes the equation and increases the likelihood that they will become addictive."

Some people studying the condition compare the development of an Internet addiction to that of a gambling disorder (sometimes called gambling addiction), which is included in the DSM-V. With gambling, even though most of the time when you're sitting in front of a slot machine you don't win, every once in a while you do. And that intermittent reward is what hooks people.

Think about your own use of personal electronic devices. Most of the time when your phone dings, the notification is about something trivial. But, every once in a while, it's something meaningful to you — like, perhaps, a notification that someone has tagged you in a Facebook photo. Researchers studying Internet use say that kind of message is irresistible.

Still, not everyone is convinced that "addiction" is the right way to think about this compulsion. Chris Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University, believes moral panic is fueling the rush to label the problem an addiction. "Sometimes with new technology you see these heightened claims of harm, these exaggerated focuses on the detriment of the new media."

Patrick Markey, a psychologist at Villanova University, agrees that society should go slow in using the "addiction" label. He worries some researchers are casting an age bias on younger generations.

"If we see kids playing video games or watching YouTube videos, in our eyes it's as if they're wasting their time and not being productive," Markey says. "We might want them to be outside playing baseball or something, but for that generation that's their pixelated playground. It might not be a sign of a pathological behavior."

Markey acknowledges it's possible to spend too much time interacting with a screen. But both he and Ferguson believe that spending long hours on the Internet falls into the same category as other behaviors that healthy people can overindulge in — like sex, food, exercise, religion and work.

"There's no agreement about whether these pathological behavioral disorders are really the same things as substance abuse addictions," says Ferguson. "But in my opinion they're not comparable to, say, methamphetamine addiction or heroin addiction."

A crusade for change

Even as researchers debate whether the Internet is clinically addictive, many if not most of us feel tethered to our devices. That's not a coincidence. Tech companies are invested in hooking people into spending more and more time online, and they're getting better and better at it, says Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. His job, he says, was to help the company create products that weren't inherently manipulative.

"When you look at the Facebook news feed, it's not just some neutral thing," Harris says. "That's powered by massive farms of computers who are calculating, with Ph.D.s and large data sets: 'How I can get you to scroll?' "

Harris eventually quit his gig at Google to form a nonprofit called Time Well Spent, because, he says, he was disgusted by the tech industry's race for our attention. He says Google had good intentions, but it was too difficult to turn the tides at the tech giant.

"Never before in history have a handful of technology designers working at three tech companies influenced how a billion people spend their attention," Harris says.

He's now on a crusade to inspire Facebook, Google and Apple to design products that don't deliberately hook kids like Naomi.

Back at Paradigm, Naomi is getting ready for a session with her therapist, who is helping her integrate her devices back into her life. She is now in a month-long outpatient program four days a week after school. She says she doesn't plan to isolate herself again. In fact, she's asked her mom to restrict her phone use, so that she can't use the phone when she's alone.

"I've realized what it's done to me in some ways," Naomi says, "and I've seen what it has done to some of my friends."

Recently some of Naomi's friends were suspended from school for posting inappropriate videos to YouTube. Naomi doesn't want to follow in their footsteps. She hopes she can resist the allure of the digital world and return to the activities she used to love.

Source: This article was published npr.org By LESLEY MCCLURG

Gaming on our Android phones and tablets has become more popular than ever. And powerful hardware and beautiful displays have only added to the charm of gaming on the platform.

From the first 2D games released in the early 2000s to the VR games of 2017, games on the Android platform have come a long way from their humble beginning in 2007. The Google PlayStore today acts as a repository that hosts tens of thousands of games. 

However, this large selection of games can often end up becoming a pain for many users who find it extremely difficult to sift through and find the perfect game for the day. 

So, here are our top picks for 2017. 

Injustice 2 

Screenshot 1

The sequel to the highly acclaimed game, Injustice: Gods Amongst Us, brings more of the same in its latest offering. Injustice 2, a game crafted from the mould of the popular Mortal Combat games was released along with its beefier console and PC versions on May 17. 

The game is a must-have for all DC Comics faithfuls who’ve grown up with the various heroes and villains of the Comic book giant's lineup. Its superior graphics, in-game mechanics backed by a gripping backstory that piggybacks to the various DC characters found in the game, make it one of the best games available on the Android platform currently. 

injustice-2-copy_052417030232.jpg

Injustice 2 comes with 28 characters, with every fighter bringing to the game unique playstyle, abilities, moves, and super moves, and comes recommended for gamers looking for a fighting game to keep them busy for days to come. 

Google Play

Lumino City

Image result for lumino city android

The much-awaited game which was first released on iOS, and finally made its way to the Android platform in May 2017, puts you in the shoes of young protagonist Lumi who must rescue her grandfather after he was forcibly abducted from his home while she was busy making tea downstairs. Lumi uses clues left behind by her grandfather in this puzzle adventure. 

The plot of the game is dark, with many twists and turns, however, it's not anywhere close to being the main draw of this game. 

Lumino City's beautiful world is not the result of brilliant CGI work, but instead a product of innovative thinking by its British developers – State of Play – who constructed an entire miniature mountain-top city made out of cardboard for the game. 

The game is truly original in its approach and builds a captivating world that users can immerse themselves in. It has won several awards and as such comes highly recommended. 

Google Play

Super Mario Run

Image result for Super Mario Run android

For decades, Mario has remained shy of crossing over from the Nintendo ecosystem, and games featuring the Italian plumber hero have only been found on dedicated Nintendo gaming systems. However, with the growing popularity of Mario games, and subsequent calls for titles on other mobile devices, Nintendo earlier in April finally released a game tailored specifically for the mobile platforms. 

The much-awaited Super Mario Run from the franchise has been received well by users and critics alike. Game review websites such as IGN and pocket lint have given it above 80 per cent score, making it highly recommended. 

The game's objective is simple, and so are its mechanics, which see players control the Italian plumber with just one hand as he runs forward into hurdles and enemies in his path. Users can make Mario jump by tapping on the screen, allowing him to avoid obstacles and enemies, and collect coins along the way.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Episode 1

Image result for Guardians of the Galaxy: Episode 1 android

Another interesting addition to the list is the "Guardians of the Galaxy" from Telltale Games. The game features a unique story which deviates slightly from Marvel's cinematic universe. Telltale Games is releasing it in the form of episodes – much like the latest Hitman game. 

The game uses Telltale's story-driven narrative style and has received favourable reviews for its engaging plot and immersive graphics. However, the first episode is a bit short, and the game leaves you craving for more. 

Google Play

Tomb Raider

Image result for tomb raider game

Not necessarily a new title, this Tomb Raider game is a port of the one released on PC and consoles years ago. A full port of the original Tomb Raider reboot, it comes with the complete story and missions. The game sees Lara Croft exploring the in-game world and fighting off enemies as she embarks on a journey to uncover mysteries. 

But there's a catch. The game is only available for NVIDIA Shield Android TV users, and if you're not one of them, then there's no news on when your wait will end. 

Google Play

Well then, happy gaming!

Source: This article was published dailyo.in

At Google’s developer jamboree, Google I/O, last week the search giant paraded a host of big name case studies and compelling stats to herald its success with two initiatives to make the mobile web better and faster: Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Progressive Web Apps are a Google innovation designed to combine the best features of mobile apps and the mobile web: speed, app-like interaction, offline usage, and no need to download anything.

Google spotlighted this relatively new web product at last year’s Google I/O, where the Washington Post showed off a newly-built Progressive Web App to enhance its mobile experience.

Whether companies believe in or plan to adopt Progressive Web Apps, the initiative (along with AMP) has done a fantastic job of highlighting a) the importance of making websites and apps lean and mean so they perform better on mobile and b) how ridiculously bloated, slow and inefficient websites and apps have become.

PWA and AMP are not the only answers to mobile bloat, but being led and backed by Google, they bring the potential for 1) broad adoption, 2) lots of resources, and 3) favorable treatment from Android, Chrome and Google Search.

What’s so great about Progressive Web Apps?

PWAs bring native app-like functions and features to websites. They should (depending on the quality of the build) work on all smart devices, adapting the performance to the ability of the device, browser and connection.

The key features that get people excited about PWAs are:

  • The ability to send push notifications
  • Option to save to the device (home screen and – now – app launcher), so it loads even faster next time
  • Ability to work offline (when there is no internet connection)
  • Make payments. One of the most significant PWA announcements at Google I/O was that PWAs can now integrate with native/web payment apps, to allow one tap payment with the users preferred provider, including Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Alipay and PayPal
  • Closer integration with device functions and native apps.

The margin of what native apps can do compared with a web-based app (N.B. PWAs do not have a monopoly over mobile web apps) is disappearing rapidly.

The last year has seen a remarkable 215 new APIs, allowing web apps to access even more of the native phone features and apps, announced Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, VP, product management at Google, in his Mobile Web State of Union keynote.

He pointed out that you could even build a web-based virtual reality (VR) app (if you wanted to), citing Within and Sketchfab, which showcase creations from developers around the world.

Who ate all the pies?

But the most compelling thing about Progressive Web Apps is their download size, compared with iOS apps and Android apps. Check out the size comparisons in the image below for two case studies featured at Google I/O: Twitter Lite and Ola Cabs (the biggest cab service in India, delivering 1 million rides per day).

  • Size of Twitter’s Android app 23MB+; iOS app 100MB+; Twitter Lite PWA 0.6MB.
  • Size of OLA Cabs Android app 60MB; iOS app 100MB; PWA 0.2MB.

Why does size matter? Performance on the web is all about speed. The smaller the size the quicker the download. Think SUV versus Grand Prix motorbike in rush hour traffic.

Image: Who ate all the pies? Size of Twitter’s Android app 23MB+; iOS app 100MB+; PWA 0.6MB. Size of OLA Cabs Android app 60MB; iOS app 100MB; PWA 0.2MB.

Interestingly, Twitter markets the PWA as Twitter Lite particularly targeted at people in tier two markets where connections may be inferior, data more expensive and smartphones less advanced; while Ola Cabs markets the PWA at second or third tier cites where there are similar issues with connections and smartphones.

This (cleverly) helps to position the PWA as non-competitive to their native apps.

Which companies have launched Progressive Web Apps?

A growing number of big name brands (see image below) have launched PWAs. These include:

  • Travel companies: Expedia, Trivago, Tui, AirFrance, Wego
  • Publishers: Forbes, Infobae, Washington Post, FT, Guardian, Independent, Weather Company
  • E-commerce companies: Fandango, Rakuten, Alibaba, Lancôme, Flipkart
  • Formerly native app-only companies: Lyft, Ola Cabs.

Map shows companies that have launched progressive web apps, including Expedia, Trivago, Tui, AirFrance, Wego, Forbes, Infobae, Washington Post, FT, Guardian, Independent, Weather Company, Fandango, Rakuten, Alibaba, Lancôme, Flipkart, Lyft and Ola Cabs.

At I/O, Google trumpeted the achievements of a number of companies, inviting several to share their experiences with the audiences – only the good stuff, clearly.

1. Faster speeds; higher engagement

m.Forbes.com has seen user engagement double since launch of its PWA in March (according to Google).

For the inside track see this Forbes article. The publisher claims its pages load in 0.8 seconds on a mobile device. The publisher was aiming for a Snapchat or Instagram-like experience with streams of related content along with app-like features such as gesture-based navigation.

In this video case study, embedded below, created for I/O, Forbes claims to have achieved a 43% increase in sessions per user and 20% increase in ad viewability.

The Ola Cabs PWA takes 1-3 seconds to load on the first visit – depending on the network, “including low 3G” Dipika Kapadia, head of consumer web products at Ola, told I/O attendees. On subsequent visits it takes less than a second as it only needs to download the real-time information, including cab availability.

Ola achieves this partly due to its size: the app is just 0.5MB of which only 0.2MB is application data. As it downloads it prioritizes essential information, while other assets download in the background.

2. Consumers readily download PWAs to their home screens

When mobile visitors are using the mobile app, they receive a prompt to save it to the home screen, so it loads faster next time. It does this by caching all the static parts of the site, so next time it only needs to fetch what has changed.

Twitter Lite, as Patrick Traughber, product manager atTwitter, told the Google I/O crowd, sees 1 million daily visits from the homepage icon.

Since launch of the Progressive Web App, in April 2017, Twitter has seen a 65% increase in pages per session and 75% increase in tweets.

3. Notifications

The ability to send notifications to mobile users to encourage them back to the app, used to be one of the big advantages of native apps over mobile web. No longer.

Notifying users about recent activity is very important to Twitter, said Traughber. And Twitter is taking full advantage of this capability, sending 10 million push notifications each day.

For the inside track on Twitter’s PWA, see this article.

4. Winning back customers that have deleted your native app

App-only companies face the challenge that users only download and retain a limited number of apps on their smartphone and will uninstall those that aren’t used as regularly as others, thus once deleted, it’s over.

Thus it is an eye-opener that 20% of Ola PWA bookings come from users who have previously uninstalled the native app.

See Google’s case study on Ola’s PWA.

5. PWAs appeal to iOS users

Compared with other mobile browsers such as Chrome, Edge, Opera and Samsung, the default browser on Apple devices, Safari, can be slower when it comes to adopting advancements in mobile web. This means Safari users won’t experience some of the more advanced features of PWAs, yet.

Despite this, brands are seeing improved mobile engagement after launching a PWA. Lancôme Paris has seen session length improve by 53% among iOS users, according to this case study of the Lancôme PWA, cited at Google I/O.

6. Conversions

According to Wego’s video case study, embedded below, created for I/O, the Singapore-based travel service has combined both PWA and AMP to achieve a load time for new users is 1.6 seconds and 1 second for returning customers. This has helped to increase site visits by 26%, reduce bounce rates by 20% and increase conversions by 95%, since launch.

If you need more impressive stats to make the case for a web app, visit Cloud Four’s new PWA Stats.

Source: This article was published searchenginewatch.com By Andy Favell

Older generations are closing the gap on younger age groups

Over half those who have never used the internet are aged 75 and over

For most people, the internet is an indispensable tool for both their work and social lives - life without it now seems unimaginable.

But according to research released on Friday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), around 1 in 10 UK adults have never used the internet, despite an uptake in usage from older generations in particular.

From January to March this year, 89 per cent of adults in the UK had recently used the internet - defined as within the last three months - according to the ONS, up from 88 per cent in 2016.

Unsurprisingly, 99 per cent of adults aged 16 to 24 and 25 to 34 years were recent users, although older generations are closing the gap - recent usage among adults aged 75 and over is up from 52 per cent in 2011 to 78 per cent in 2017.The proportion of adults who have never used the internet was down from 10 per cent in 2016 to 9 per cent this year. Of the 4.8 million adults who had never used the internet in 2017, just over half (2.6 million) were aged 75 years and over.

The findings show that men are fractionally more likely to use the internet than women, with 90 per cent of males registering as recent users compared to 88 per cent of females.

Northern Ireland is catching up with the other UK regions in recent internet use, reaching 84 per cent in 2017, however, it remained the region with the lowest recent use.

Source: This article was published independent.co.uk By Miles Dilworth

As the global infosec community continues to fight back against the threat of new attacks, the cybercriminals behind the WannaCry ransomware attacks are still at it, attempting to reap as much profits as possible. Security experts have detected new ransom demands made by the WannaCry hackers. Some experts working to mitigate the attacks and come up with a decryption key for infected users have reportedly been targeted by DDoS attacks, leveraging the proliferate Mirai botnet.

The attacks are an attempt to go after the kill switch, activated by 22-year-old British security researcher working for Kryptos Logic, Marcus Hutchins aka MalwareTech, who became the "accidental hero" by stopping the first wave of global ransomware attacks that hit numerous companies and networks across 150 countries.

Mirai-powered DDoS attacks against the WannaCry kill switch

Once news broke out about MalwareTech stopping the attacks, the sinkhole – the kill switch website used to direct malware to a specific web address to contain it – almost immediately came under attack from the WannaCry hackers.

How the global WannaCry ransomware attacks were stopped by this 'accidental hero'

"Pretty much as soon as it went public what had happened, one of the Mirai botnets started on the sinkhole," MalwareTech told Wired. He added that the DDoS attacks may not have been the work of the original WannaCry authors. Instead, he believes that this may be the work of other hacker groups that want to restart the WannaCry epidemic just for fun.

"They've obviously got no financial incentive. They're not the ransomware developers," the researcher said. "They're just doing it to cause pain." He added that the attacks appear to be coming from known Mirai-based botnets that appeared when the botnet's source code was first publicly released by its creator Anna_Senpai. Hutchins believes that the attacks are the work of low-level hackers using publicly available tools.

"Now any idiot and their dog can set up a Mirai botnet," Hutchins says.

However, Hutchins is confident that he and his colleagues at Kryptos Logic can keep the attackers at bay. The firm has also enlisted the help of an unspecified DDoS mitigation company to help defend against the hackers.

New ransom demands

Despite the spread of the attacks having been stopped, the WannaCry attackers are sending out new ransom demands to victims. According to a tweet post by Symantec, as of 18 May, victims were still receiving new messages from the WannaCry hackers.

A Twitter account cataloguing the activity of the three bitcoin wallets tied to the WannaCry attacks in real time shows that numerous people have paid ransoms and some continue to do so. As of now, over $94,000 has been raked in by the attackers, according to the Twitter bot.

However, so far, none of the money has been transferred out, indicating that the attackers controlling the bitcoin wallets may be playing it safe, in efforts to avoid attracting the attention of the numerous law enforcement agencies now actively hunting them.

WannaCry: What happens if you pay the ransom?

There's still uncertainity surrounding the identity of the WannaCry authors. Although some security experts said the North Korea hacker group Lazarus, also believed to be behind the infamous Sony hack, may be linked the ransomware, a recent statement by Interpol indicates that attribution is yet to be nailed down conclusively.

Experts are tirelessly working on creating viable decryption tools that may help WannaCry victims get back access to their lost data. Find out more about how you can recover your lost data here.

Source: This article was published International Business Times By India Ashok

When a daggy but twinkly-eyed stranger approached Good Weekend writer Stephanie Wood via her dormant online dating profile, she responded with due diligence and low expectations. Live a little, said her friends. She did. And learnt a lot.

HE LAUGHED when I pointed out the axe. "Well," I said. "That could have ruined my weekend." I joked about axe murderers. "What was I thinking?" I said. "I still have no idea who you are." I considered the concept of me as a headline; something sensational, something like, "Journalist slain in farmhouse love-tryst tragedy."

But by the time we'd found the axe, it was the morning after the evening before and I was a bit loved up. The playlist I'd made had drifted through the night, through Peggy Lee's Fever and April Stevens' Teach Me Tiger. The high anxiety I'd felt about spending a weekend away with a man I barely knew had subsided. It was a crisp, lovely morning in June 2014 and we were brushing close. Easy then, to find comedy value in a horror trope. Besides, this man wasn't an axe murderer. He was daggy and gentle and his green eyes twinkled.

Photo: istockPhoto: istock 

The man had found my dormant profile on a dating website some weeks earlier. Generally, I'd rather stay home and clean the oven than venture into the badlands of 21st-century dating. The things you do in the search for simpatico: the weary keyboard hours, the assaults on eye and sensibility. And then, as despair descends, someone marginally interesting flashes up. One minute you're looking at a tattooed torso with a come-hither trail of abdominal hair and a rescue-shelter expression; the next, there was his message.

He said he had retired from his architecture practice and now divided his time between caring for his two children in Sydney and his small sheep farm south of the city. I was encouraged because he put apostrophes in the right place. We exchanged photos. In one, he wore a battered Akubra and looked thin and sullen. In another, he was in a boat and looked friendlier, chubbier. I emailed to say I liked his hat and that I didn't get seasick.

I WAS LATE for our first meeting at a city bar, stuck in a cab in traffic. He texted me: I'm here, a tad early. Inside the front door, in green jacket, warming myself by this roaring candle and feeling like a total wallflower. He had a glass of pinot noir waiting for me when I rushed in. I think we shook hands.

Low light and the nervy exertion of conversation with a stranger made it hard to form much of an impression of the man with whom I was now committed to spending a polite amount of time. I had a notion he was short. I could see that his belly strained against a crumpled shirt's buttons. But I noticed his hair: thick, dark, sprinkled with grey.

He presented his credentials: he'd worked in the city, he said – at his own architectural practice and, later, at a private equity firm – but he never wanted to wear a suit again. They were all packed away; some had come from Savile Row. I asked questions about meat and livestock. He showed me photos of his sheep and his farm's accommodation – a tumble-down shack little bigger than an outdoor loo. He said a house he'd designed was soon to be built on the land, which he was regenerating with indigenous grasses.

I asked more questions. He talked – about the harbourside home he'd built years ago for his young family in the suburb where he'd grown up; he'd retained it after the divorce and his little yacht was moored below it. He told me about his late grandfather, a prominent businessman.

A photo the man sent and the accompanying text exchange. "The boys" refers to sheep off to an abattoir. He painted a ...A photo the man sent and the accompanying text exchange. "The boys" refers to sheep off to an abattoir. He painted a self-portrait of himself as a decent man, perhaps a bit eccentric, a bit-bruised.

 

Eventually, he asked me about me, about my work. "You must be well-connected?" he asked. The man had an ugly broken top tooth and I didn't like that. I didn't like that question, either. Pretentious nong, I thought. Two strikes, you're out. But when he stood to pay the bill, I saw he was tall, over six foot, and for a moment I imagined running a hand through that thick hair. I remembered what women are told about men: "Don't be so picky."

We met again a week later. The conversation turned to matters of culture: he talked about the script he'd written for a comedy series about office cleaners, and said that sometimes he went to the ballet on his own. I told him I liked gardening. He said that, next time, he'd bring me some sheep shit. He told preposterous stories and laughed uproariously at himself. He had an odd, old-man sense of humour but I laughed with him. On our third date, he forgot to bring the sheep shit but showed me photos of his children and said he baked cakes on Sundays for their school lunches.

More text exchanges between the writer and the man included photos of the NSW Southern Highlands property the man ...More text exchanges between the writer and the man included photos of the NSW Southern Highlands property the man claimed to be buying. 

Using the subtle brushstrokes of a watercolourist, he painted a self-portrait of himself as a decent man, perhaps a bit bruised, perhaps a bit eccentric, but gentle, kind. Studying that artwork from all angles, leaning on instinct, unreliable narrator that it is, and, finally, blinded by flattery and desire and too many glasses of wine, I was inclined to take a risk. We kissed on our fourth date. I emerged for breath and could see the lights sparkling on the Harbour Bridge.

In a text message that pinged as a taxi's easy-listening radio romanced me home, he asked if I'd go away for a weekend in the country with him. A week later, as I drove down a highway to meet him at a rental cottage in a valley, quivery with nerves, another text arrived: Fire will be on. Dinner cooking. If my dog bails you up, her name is D----, she's very friendly.

Of course I Googled him. Wouldn't you? It would be foolish not to establish the basic truth of his identity before things went much further.

I pulled into the driveway behind a battered Land Rover Defender ute as the day's last glow fell behind the mountains. And there he was, on the veranda, tall, with that hair, a kelpie bouncing around his boots.

We ate the lamb he'd barbecued for dinner and drank red wine beside the fire and I fed him oozy French cheese on sourdough. I cooked him eggs and applewood-smoked bacon for breakfast. We walked through a dewy garden and discovered an old hut, a mini-museum of pioneer photos and farm equipment: shovels and pitchforks, scythes and saws, an axe. But I didn't see the sinister. I wasn't looking for it.

OF COURSE I Googled him. Wouldn't you? The man sat in a context of his own making; it would be foolish not to establish the basic truth of his identity before things went much further.

My search threw up a link to an ancestry-site family tree that included his name and those of his siblings and ex-wife, matching what he'd told me. I found a photo of his grandfather – they shared the same extreme nose and dastardly brows – and evidence of the family's connection to the harbourside suburb. (Later, when he opened his wallet in front of me, I glimpsed his licence and a waterfront address.)

The bio line on a fallow Twitter account supported his story, with a list of interests that intrigued me – the environment, politics, science, agriculture and ideas. There was little about his architectural work online. Innocuous: a bus shelter design registered under intellectual property laws. Worrisome: a 2010 news item on an architecture website about his co-director in the practice – he'd been struck off the architect's register for professional misconduct. 

I asked the man about it and he said he'd known for a long time that his partner was a problem. "I stuck by him for too long." He seemed exasperated and I retreated.

He took me away for another weekend, to a little house on a river. I took the tiller on a tinnie and we explored inlets and shorelines. His dog stood with his front paws on the foredeck, sniffing the muddy air. I nearly upended us with an amateur's manoeuvre. He grabbed the tiller and we laughed. I lay on a divan in a boathouse while he cooked us salmon for lunch up in the house. I tried to concentrate on a book but my mind roamed. Boat shed is rather lovely … I texted him. So are you, he texted back. At the end of the weekend I drove home, music blaring, feeling like a teenager.

One day soon after, the man arrived at my place and pulled a toothbrush from his pocket. "I'll leave this here," he said. One night in a whisper he told me he was thinking about things he'd thought past. "Commitment," he said, was a word on his mind. He'd had a fond vision of me with grey hair, he said. For my birthday, he gave me a tiny silver antique box, finely engraved with a floral design. He guided my hands to open the oblong piece. Inside was a slim pencil. "For a writer," he said.

A routine of sorts emerged: in the weeks his children were with their mother, the man and his dog divided their time between his farm and my apartment. His Sydney house was about to be remodelled, he said; everything was in boxes and he was looking for somewhere to rent for the duration. Besides, he said, it held unhappy memories; he'd rather not be there for now. One day he sent me a photo of bush falling into the harbour. My Tintagel (just in the trees there somewhere), he wrote. I didn't want to crowd him. I didn't push to see the house.

He worked more detail into his self-portrait: He sent me photos of a dirt track running through scrubby land. Heading off up the back to slash today, he captioned it, with a comment about the curse of Sifton bush. His dog with sheep. His shack. The front of his ute, axle-deep in mud. My day, he tapped out.

In messages, he shared photos of his children, often in boats: his daughter cuddling the dog on a little wooden boat (we have pulled up after a sail with our seadog); both kids on a large wooden pleasure cruiser he'd told me he was renovating (isn't she a beaut? A little more work, if the rain stops this week). But I observed early-days decorum. I didn't push to meet his sheep or his children or his boats.

The wooden cruiser the man said he was renovating. He also sent photos of his children on the boat.

The wooden cruiser the man said he was renovating. He also sent photos of his children on the boat.

Oh, I was good: I let his dog dig up my garden and I fed him well and often. He liked steak: medium to well-done. He liked fire: he built timber towers in my barbecue and would stand staring into the flames. One day – my God, had I become a Stepford wife!? – I washed his clothes. And, as a new routine started to emerge – his cancellations, mostly via text message, of plans made – I forced back eruptions of anxiety.

When he told me he had to rush to the farm to deal with a bore pumping out mud and wouldn't make it to mine one night, I texted no probs … I'm on deadline anyway. I was sympathetic when a business deal went "tits up"; when he had a reaction to sheep drench – the doctor reckons I've become sensitive to it through overuse; and when he had to keep his children unexpectedly – sorry, there's a kerfuffle with their mother. 

There were so many things to go wrong: school carols and his son's cricket and footy trials and his daughter's tennis. There were meetings with business partners, solicitors, real estate agents and builders, with two men he described as "the Yanks" for whom he said he scouted for Australian investments, and with an agronomist to look at a larger farm he was considering buying. One day, we explored the vast property, opening and closing gates as we drove through it; he pointed out wombat holes and a spot above a lake he thought would be good for a new house.

He spoke endlessly about his plans. And here was another reason for my anxiety: I worried about how little interest he seemed to have in me and how glib he was when I talked about myself or my work.

Just before Christmas 2014, he failed to appear for a lunch at which he was to meet my family and his phone rang out when I tried to call him. I curled up in a ball. The next day, as the sisterhood on my shoulder raged, I sent him a meek text message asking what had happened. God, sorry, he replied. His daughter had had an asthma attack. 

I confided in a friend about the man, the romance, its deficiencies, my apprehensions. She happened to work for The Sydney Morning Herald's investigative team. "Let's do some title searches on him," she suggested. I shook my head. "No, no," I said, and rolled on my chair back to my desk. "I have to try and trust him." He wasn't a story, he was a love affair.

IN EARLY January 2015, the man arrived at my place and pulled a string of pearls from his pocket. I didn't need the pearls, but my need for the message their lustrous charcoal surfaces seemed to emit was acute. The next day we had morning tea with my brother and his family. My nieces and nephew giggled. "You looked so natural together," my sister-in-law told me later.

It was as well that I held elation in check. Lost my dog, he said in a text mid-afternoon the following Friday. He was due to drive up from his farm for a weekend with me. A few hours later, another message pinged. Just got to the vet. Looks like a snake bite. Can't see me driving tonight. I replied suggesting he call me.


My phone remained silent until the following morning; he texted to say his phone connection had been hopeless and he'd just got my message. [She's] on a drip and will be here for a few days, so I may as well come to Sydney. She's very quiet and has her head on my lap. In messages during the afternoon we discussed what I'd cook for dinner. Steak. 

Around 3pm he texted to say he was leaving. It was a three-hour drive. At 9pm another text arrived: he'd decided to get a second opinion from a vet friend in Moss Vale; he and the dog were now there and he'd stay there overnight. Sorry about all of this. He arrived at my place mid-Sunday afternoon. He sat on my couch and his tears welled as he talked about his dog's near-death experience.

Still, anxiety's skin-tingle and stomach-churn took up residence in my body. Was he seeing someone else? What's going on? His stories seemed so insane. 

"Stop stressing," my brother said.

"You're going to ruin it," my brother's wife said.

"It's fine," a girlfriend said. "It's fine."

The psychologist I saw from time to time, a wonderful woman who had helped me cope with my father's death, tried to calm me. She wasn't seeing red flags, she said; the life of a man with two children, a farm and business interests was going to be complicated.

And maybe I was worrying about nothing. My mother visited from interstate and he took us out for dinner. He whisked me away for another weekend at a remote beach; one afternoon, he sat with pencil and architect's scale ruler and sketched out the chalet he wanted to build on a block of land he said he'd bought in the Victorian alps. I met his children over a suburban Thai meal. We had a weekend in Melbourne and dinner at the home of a couple he described as close friends. In late April we spent a week in Tasmania; on the flight across, he gave me an envelope holding three opals.

One morning at breakfast, he lifted his head from The Australian Financial Review and told me former treasurer Wayne Swan wanted to meet him to discuss his ideas. The cogs in my brain clattered as I decided whether to dispute or file the claim. I filed it – the man did seem to have an insider's knowledge of business matters – albeit with raised eyebrows. 

Another day he said quietly, as though he were embarrassed about it, "I have a disgusting amount of money." It had come, he said, from a couple of substantial property deals.

Meanwhile, his farm with the shack had sold, he said, but he hadn't been able to secure a new property. The one we'd explored had been bought, he said. Then a Southern Highlands spread called W------- came up: a mansion, cattle, grapes and olives. He told me he'd made an offer on it. One day, we drove down to see it and, while the man talked to the owner, a well-known fashion designer, his wife showed me through the house. It was vast and grand and I was relieved when we finally went outside and I saw a vista of lake and trees and found a neglected little vegetable parterre.

Would you like the study next to mine, or the one down the corridor?, he asked me soon after. He told me that the property's land would be put into his children's trust fund but the house itself would be in his name – so his ex couldn't cause trouble if I was living with him. Around that time, I was falling asleep one night when I heard what seemed to be a gasping sob; I embraced him; he'd never thought, he said, that he'd find someone who wanted to share a country life with him.

But the sale dragged on for months. It was on, it was off. There was a water rights issue, there were issues with contract inclusions. A neighbour from an adjacent property had barged in, claiming he had an option for first right of refusal. The neighbour was going bust. The neighbour was buying a sliver of land off the estate. The neighbour was buying the lot. And the man was full of doubt: he knew nothing about wine or olive oil, the house wasn't his style, he was a follower of the "tiny house" movement.

For months, it was all he talked about. I listened. I was not from this world of deals and numbers with many zeros. Perhaps this was the way it was for these people. But nothing made sense; his stories shifted and contradicted themselves. I told a friend that sometimes I wondered if the man was a fantasist. 

One day, I asked him how a farmer's hands could be so soft. "A grazier, not a farmer," he corrected me. He pointed to sunspots on his hands and said he wore gloves when he worked. He raised the subject again some days later. "I've been thinking about why my hands are soft," he said. "It's because of the lanolin in the wool." But you wear gloves, I said. "You can't wear gloves when you're working with sheep," he replied.

And the cancellations continued. Towards the middle of the year, he finally invited me for dinner at his Sydney house. I was barely surprised when, around lunch, he called to say his daughter was unwell – another asthma attack – and we'd have to postpone. My instincts were howling at me that something was awry. 

I bored friends witless rehashing each incident. Over sushi, one asked me how long I was going to stay with the man. But I'd lost my sense of self and reason and was barely functional. Around that time, I heard a radio program about domestic violence. "I was addicted to hope," a victim said, to explain why she stayed so long.

On a Saturday morning in October 2015, I stood in a toilet cubicle at Sydney airport, shaking and leaning against the walls for support. A plane I needed to be on was in the final stages of boarding. Close friends were to be married that afternoon in Townsville and the man and I were meant to be there. He wasn't answering his phone. I had no idea where he was. I flew without him, huddled in a window seat, choking, sobbing.

I DO an excellent curled-up ball. I know just how to place a pillow over my head so it blocks light and noise and reality. In times of personal crisis, I am an excellent faster. Any food other than ice-cream is of no interest to me whatsoever. I am always happy to see my scales at these times. But it is unwise to hold the pillow-over-head position for long.

My sushi friend got me upright. He brought coffee and pastries and was polite enough not to comment on my pyjamas. "Steph," he said. "Enough!" I emailed the man and told him I was done. That night, a Melbourne friend sat on the phone for hours with me as, at my laptop in Sydney, I became a journalist again and the man became the story.

On one of our first dates, he'd dropped a clue. Then, I'd decided to trust rather than snoop. To protect identities, I can't reveal more, but now the clue led me to another woman's public social media accounts. Another girlfriend.

She seemed to have been dating the man for a year or two before he contacted me, and he continued to see her after he met me. Her Facebook and Instagram accounts show they took similar outings to those he and I had: restaurant meals, a Tasmanian trip, drives in his ute down bush roads. In some photographs, they're holding hands. She looks like an excellent woman. We have friends in common. Sometimes we share the same links and we both love a glass of champagne.

The man went away with her in January 2015. Storms threatened, but at the expensive Central Coast resort, Bells at Killcare, he enjoyed a swim and quiet time on their veranda – reading the book I'd given him for his birthday, Don Watson's The Bush. Later, in the Hunter Valley, they stopped at wineries and a pub. It must have been a nuisance for him to keep me informed about his snake-bitten dog's wellbeing. Or perhaps it was sport: through the days they were north of Sydney, and I was at home in Sydney fretting about his dog and his honesty, he sent me 14 text messages spinning a bush yarn about the unfolding veterinary emergency in which he said he was immersed south of Sydney.

The man's stories were never simple little lies: instead they were sturdy things – minutely choreographed, episodic and sprinkled with wry humour and elements of truth. And multiple times, they matched occasions when the woman's social media accounts revealed he was with her. 

One afternoon in June, for example, he had texted to say he couldn't see me that night as planned – a problem with the babysitter. Around 8pm, he texted to say he was with his sister at the fashionable city restaurant where my brother is the sommelier. My brother had been looking after them well, he said, adding that his sister had needed to confide in him and a neighbour was watching his kids. Bewildered, I called my brother. He was cross with me. "Of course it was his sister," he snapped.

Scrolling through the other woman's social media feeds, I found a photo match for the date. Alongside a photo of a basket of dumplings, she named the restaurant and thanked it for the complimentary food and Veuve Clicquot. My brother realises now that, as he guided them through the rowdy space to a table, the woman was ahead when the man quietly told him that she was his sister. A risky game, but what fun.

You'll be wanting to know what fable he told to explain why he missed the Townsville wedding: he offered the first chapter the night before our flight when he claimed his ex-wife had failed to collect his son from a school disco, and developed the plot over the following days with a family crisis. Sorry for not keeping my drama at bay, he texted. 

The other woman's photos show they were enjoying scallops at a northern beaches restaurant while I lay in a ball in my Townsville hotel room, sick to the stomach and wondering how I'd make it to the wedding.

I've had better nights than that which I spent online discovering the extent of the man's mendacity while, on the phone from Melbourne, my friend kept me calm. But the process of discovery proved to have healing qualities; it would be beneficial, I decided, to continue the therapy.

When I finally searched the public record, as my colleague had suggested months earlier, I found that the name of the man's ex-wife was on the title deeds of the harbourside house: I believe he couldn't show the home to me because he no longer lived there. Then I discovered something else: the cheat I had dated for 16 months was also an undischarged bankrupt with a criminal record.

INTERNET SEARCHES reveal only so much. Phone calls are more illuminating. The nice woman on the end of the phone at the country abattoir where my ex-boyfriend claimed to have his sheep slaughtered looked up her books but couldn't find any record of him or his sheep. The head of the private equity firm at which he'd claimed to have worked in his Savile Row suits said my ex-boyfriend had brought a joint-venture proposition to the firm years before but, in the middle of discussions, oddly, disappeared. He was never employed by the firm.

The architect who had been a co-director in my ex-boyfriend's architectural company, and who I'd read was suspended for professional misconduct, had a great deal more to say. Let's call the architect Peter. 

"He's a compulsive liar," Peter said, when I reached him on the phone. "He can't accept failure, so he will hide and hide things from you until he can't hide them anymore." Peter says he was best man at my ex-boyfriend's wedding. He worked alongside him for years before his true character became clear.

In 2008, my ex-boyfriend used a forged document. A subsequent NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal hearing into the case nearly ruined Peter, who was the nominated architect responsible for the firm's work. The tribunal found that Peter's handling of the matter was unsatisfactory and he was banned from applying to re-register as an architect for two years. (He regained his registration in 2016.) "It was devastating," Peter says. "We were like brothers."

In the course of the hearing, it emerged that my ex-boyfriend had never been registered as an architect in NSW and likely had never even qualified as an architect. In 2011, three years after he used a forged development application, my ex-boyfriend stood and faced a magistrate in Manly Local Court. The magistrate didn't buy his stories and gave him a two-year good behaviour bond.

And there were more shocks: he had been concealing debt: as a result, in 2009, both men were declared bankrupt. After a set period of three years Peter was discharged from bankruptcy. But my ex-boyfriend's furtive proclivities continued. He failed to disclose crucial pieces of financial information to his bankruptcy trustee and is still listed as an undischarged bankrupt. He is not due to be discharged until 2018.

A man who is bankrupt faces some impediments in the pursuit of a high-net-worth lifestyle. Generally, he is not in the business of buying and selling properties in the Southern Highlands of NSW or the Victorian alps, or of renovating expensive wooden boats. But a skilled tyre-kicker with delusions of grandeur, a quick mind and an amiable manner can pretend he is.

One Saturday during our relationship, he said he'd take me to see the wooden boat that day; the builders were just about finished. Through the afternoon, in front of me, he made three phone calls to inquire about the work's progress. At the end of each call, he said the builders weren't ready for us; another couple of hours, he said, explaining in some detail the challenges of a particular bit of joinery. 

A man scrambling for false status and self needs to have a few tricks up his sleeve: I can see now that the calls that day were pure pantomime. No one was on the other end of the phone. While we were together, I never saw the boat. He never owned it. 

On a sultry morning early in January 2016, some weeks after I'd told him I was done, and as I adjusted to my own private post-truth world, I decided I wanted to see it. It's moored at the Point Piper marina, down the road from the prime minister's harbourside home. Someone going into the members-only marina had left the gate open and I slipped in after them. 

The boat is beautiful. She's made of mahogany. "She is considered to be one out of five most classic motor yachts in the world," reads a marine sales company's ad for it. The asking price is $135,000. I know now that she's been on the market for years.

THERE ARE things I still don't know about my ex-boyfriend: I don't know how he found the money for our weekends away or our restaurant meals or the tips he gave to taxi drivers. I don't know if he gave investment advice to "Yanks". I don't know if he has ever laid a hand on a sheep, or slept well in a shack after a day's labour on his own land. I don't know where he lived. I don't know how difficult he made his ex-wife's life. I can only imagine.

I do know, though, that photographs can lie, too. Take that shot he sent me in 2015 of his ute bogged in a creek with the caption, my day. Google's reverse image search function unearthed the complete shot from a Land Rover owners' forum: my ex-boyfriend had cropped out the central body of the vehicle and two blokes standing looking at it. He was not one of the two. The photo was taken in Queensland in 2012. The vehicle was the same model and make, but the full picture showed it didn't have the blue-striped doors of my ex-boyfriend's ute. He'd embellished his self-portrait as a rugged man of the bush with a doctored photograph of someone else's ute, someone else's day.

We had no plans on the day he sent me the photo. He didn't need to think of an excuse for cancelling. It was a gratuitous folly. Or a missive from a hollow man lost.

In texts, the man embellished himself as a rugged country man. The writer later found this image was another man's car, another man's day.

In texts, the man embellished himself as a rugged country man. The writer later found this image was another man's car, another man's day.  

WHEN WE start these things, in that gloriously alive state of vulnerability and excitement and hope, we can see so few pieces of the puzzle. We are primed to believe in the goodness of people, and truth as the default position. We want so much that we turn our heads away from the flaws and the oddities. Don't look, we think, they do not matter. We are complicit. And once immersed in intimacy, extrication can seem impossible. This is the human condition in the effort of love.

My ex-boyfriend conscripted me to play a bit part in his chimerical life. He was the magnificent lead character in his own Neverland, trapped in a pathology a lifetime in the making, enslaved by his own wild needs.

I remember now, a night at home. I'd cooked a meal. We sat on my couch. The television was a background hum. We sat close. He asked me a question. "Can I put my head on your lap and will you stroke my forehead?" 

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Follow Stephanie Wood on Facebook.

Source: This article was published smh.com.au By Stephanie Wood

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