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Olivia Russell

Olivia Russell

Remarkably gifted, knowledgeable and resourceful Market Research Analyst with over eight years experience in collecting and analyzing data to evaluate existing and potential product and service markets; identifying and monitoring competitors and researching market conditions and changes in the industry that may affect sales. I have done masters in marketing from Australian Institute of Business.

As is the case with several other popular tech buzzphrases -- "big data," "cloud computing" and "cybersecurity" come to mind -- dozens of companies have talked up their investments in what they deem to be the "Internet of Things," or IoT. Big-name chipmakers, telecom service providers and cloud service providers all fit the bill here. But a look at just how much IoT exposure these companies have often shows that hype far exceeds reality.

 

Though precise definitions vary from company to company, IoT has been broadly defined as covering embedded devices with web connectivity. In practice, this has meant everything from smartphone-paired fitness bands and heads-up displays, to web-connected cars and ocean liners, to wireless mining, medical and agriculture sensors.

Some of these proclaimed IoT markets are fairly new; others have been around for a while, but have seen growth pick up as manufacturers increasingly add Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee and/or 4G connectivity to their embedded hardware. Altogether, research firm Gartner forecast last fall the installed base of "connected things" would grow to 20.8 billion in 2020 from 4.9 billion in 2015.

But there are some big caveats. First, long-term projections in tech for budding industries are notoriously tricky. Gartner's 2020 forecast is actually down markedly from the 25 billion connected things it projected a year earlier. And additional reductions are possible if businesses take a measured pace to embracing IoT, or if newer consumer product categories such as wearables don't take off as fast as expected.

Second, Gartner expects about two-thirds of the connected things that will be in existence in 2020 -- 13.5 billion -- to be consumer devices. This appears to include smartphones and tablets, and broadly contains a number of products that aren't likely to fuel major growth for telecom or cloud service providers angling to profit from a surge in the number of connected devices.

Chipmakers cite forecasts such as Gartner's to argue that IoT growth will greatly expand their addressable market. But it's worth remembering that in many cases, turning a product into an "IoT device" means little more than adding a cheap Bluetooth or Wi-Fi radio to a system already featuring plenty of chips.

And even in those cases where IoT growth is fueled by the adoption of brand-new devices replete with a processor or microcontroller, these chips are often much less costly than your average PC, server or even smartphone processor.

All of this significantly limits the amount of sales growth chip giants such as Intel (INTC)  and Qualcomm  (QCOM) can realistically expect from IoT adoption. Intel's Internet of Things Group, which provides a variety of chips for embedded systems, accounted for just a little over 4% of the company's second-quarter sales; revenue rose a modest 2% annually, but growth is promised to improve in the second half.

Qualcomm, which last year bought Bluetooth/Wi-Fi chipmaker CSR to grow its IoT exposure, doesn't break out its sales to IoT end-markets. But the lion's share of the $5.8 billion in revenue the company produced in the June quarter is believed to stem from chip sales and royalties derived from a 1.4 billion-unit smartphone market expected to see sub-5% growth this year. The company's IoT exposure would admittedly grow if it acquired NXP Semiconductors; multiple reports state Qualcomm has held talks to buy the Dutch chipmaker, which currently sports a $34 billion market cap.

 

Likewise, many IoT devices will need to be connected to mobile networks to move the needle for a telecom industry whose global service revenue runs into the trillions, with much of the revenue coming from an installed base of more than 7 billion mobile subscriptions. There is admittedly a sizable opportunity to provide 3G/4G connectivity services to business IoT devices in the field, but this could be tempered by relatively low data usage and the fact many devices will connect to wired broadband networks via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
 
As a result, unless a telco goes about buying IoT-related service providers, as Verizon  (VZ)  has been doing, its claims of major IoT exposure probably deserve some scrutiny.
 
As for cloud providers rolling out IoT device-management and analytics services, it's worth remembering that IoT services account for just a fraction of the many, many solutions major public cloud infrastructure platforms provide -- for evidence, just take a look at Amazon Web Services' feature page, where "Internet of Things" is just 1 of 12 major service categories listed.

For cloud leaders such as Amazon (AMZN) , Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google, delivering computing, storage and database services for web and mobile service providers such as Netflix (NFLX) , Pinterest and Spotify is still a larger opportunity than IoT. This is also true of handling traditional enterprise business app workloads. Moreover, the entire public cloud businesses of those tech giants still only makes up a small portion of their total sales.
 
There are chipmakers and service providers for whom IoT will be a larger needle-mover. But with a handful of exceptions, the companies are more likely to be small and mid-sized firms rather than industry giants. For the latter group, IoT initiatives make for great PR, but often yield comparatively modest sums of revenue.
 
Source: This article was thestreet.com By Eric Jhonsa
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 12:25

Want to Live Longer? Have Sex Regularly

Intriguing research shows that an active sex life extends longevity

You’re probably familiar with the standard prescription for longevity: Don't smoke. Exercise daily. Eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet. Get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Don’t abuse alcohol or other drugs. And cultivate emotional closeness with friends and family. But one more recommendation that should be added to the list—make love regularly.

English researchers surveyed the sexual frequency of 918 reasonably healthy male residents of the Welsh village, Caerphilly, who were 45 to 59 when the study began (1979-83). A decade later, they checked back with the men when they were then 55 to 69. One hundred fifty had died, 67 from heart attack and 83 from other causes.  They correlated the men’s sexual frequency from the original survey with their death or survival 10 years later. Compared with the men who had sex just once a month, those who reported it twice a week had only half the death rate. For the entire group, as sexual frequency increased, risk of death decreased.

 

When this study was published, critics pounced, saying that sex is a sign of good health, so it probably wasn’t the sex that extended the men’s lives, but the fact that they were healthier to begin with and as a result, had more sex.

Perhaps, but among the men with the highest and lowest sexual frequencies, there were no significant differences in smoking, weight, blood pressure, or heart disease. So compared with the least sexual men, the most sexual did not appear to be significantly healthier.

The only health difference involved cholesterol. Some men were high, others low. But we would expect the men with the highest cholesterol to have a high death rate from heart attack. In fact, high-cholesterol men in the group with the greatest sexual frequency had among lowest death rates from heart disease. The researchers’ conclusion: In middle-aged men, regular sex helps prevent death.

This conclusion contradicts a good deal of traditional advice about health and well-being. The Apostle Paul wrote: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” In traditional Indian and Chinese culture, ejaculation was viewed as a drain on a man's vitality. As men grew older, they were told to ejaculate less and less. And in French, orgasm is called, “le petit mort,” the little death.

 

But the medical literature sides with the British study. Two other studies show that greater sexual frequency is associated with healthier, longer life.

Swedish researchers studied 392 elderly residents of Gothenburg (166 men, 226 women) from age 70 until 75. There was a significant association between death and cessation of sexual activity.

In another study, researchers compared the sex lives of 100 women who'd had heart attacks and 100 similar controls who hadn’t. Prior to their heart attacks, the women with heart disease were much less satisfied with their sex lives.

Why would sex prolong life? There are several possible explanations:

• Frequent sex means an intimate relationship. Many studies show that close personal ties enhance health and extend longevity.

• Sex is exercise, and regular exercise is a cornerstone of health.

 

• Sex is relaxing. Many studies show that a regular stress-management regimen is good for health.

• And frequent sex improves immune function. At Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, researchers surveyed 111 young adults about their frequency of partner sex, and then tested their saliva for a key component of the immune system, immunoglobulin A (IgA). Compared with participants who reported partner sex less than once a week, those who had sex once or twice a week had significantly higher IgA levels.

This research adds some new spin to the slogan Nike uses to promote its athletic shoe: “Just do it.” Yes, do it. Sex is good for you—and it just might prolong your life.

References:

Charnetski, C. and F.X. Brennan. “Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA),” Psychological Reports (2004) 94:839.

Davey-Smith, G. et al. “Sex and Death: Are They Related? Findings for the Caerphilly Cohort Study,” BMJ (1997) 315(7123):1641.

Persson, G. “Five-Year Mortality in a 70-Year-Old Urban Population in Relation to Psychiatric Diagnosis, PersonalitySexuality and Early Parental Death,” Acta Psychiatr. Scand. (1981) 64:244.

Source: This article was published on psychologytoday.com by Michael Castleman M.A.

By combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, researchers found that the atmosphere of the distant “warm Neptune” exoplanet HAT-P-26b, illustrated here, is unexpectedly primitive, composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. The astronomers also detected water and evidence of exotic clouds in the planet’s air.

Credit: NASA/GSFC

Water, Weird Clouds Found on Alien 'Warm Neptune'

Astronomers have spotted water vapor and evidence of exotic clouds in the atmosphere of an alien planet known as HAT-P-26b.

The researchers also determined that HAT-P-26b's atmosphere is dominated by hydrogen and helium to a much greater degree than that of Neptune or Uranus, the alien world's closest counterparts in our own solar system in terms of mass.

 

"This exciting new discovery shows that there is a lot more diversity in the atmospheres of these exoplanets than we have previously thought," David Sing, an astrophysics professor at the University of Exeter in England, said in a statement. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets]

"This 'warm Neptune' is a much smaller planet than those we have been able to characterize in depth, so this new discovery about its atmosphere feels like a big breakthrough in our pursuit to learn more about how solar systems are formed, and how it compares to our own," added Sing, the co-leader of a new study about HAT-P-26b that was published online today (May 11) in the journal Science.

Water and alien clouds

HAT-P-26b lies about 430 light-years away from Earth. The alien planet circles very close to its host star, completing one orbit every 4.2 Earth days. This proximity suggests that HAT-P-26b is tidally locked, showing the same face to its star at all times, said Hannah Wakeford, co-leader of the new study and a postdoctoral researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

 

Sing, Wakeford and their colleagues analyzed observations made by NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes when HAT-P-26b crossed its parent star's face from the telescopes' perspectives. The planet's atmosphere filtered out certain wavelengths of starlight during these "transits," allowing the study team to identify some of the molecules swirling in HAT-P-26b's air.

One such molecule is water.

"For this mass range, this is the strongest water-absorption feature that we have ever measured," Wakeford told Space.com.

The data also indicate that clouds scud across HAT-P-26b's skies, but relatively deep in the atmosphere; they do not block much of the water-absorption signal, Wakeford said. These clouds are probably made of disodium sulfide, not water vapor like those of Earth, she added.

"This would be a very alien sky that you would be looking at," Wakeford said. "These clouds would cause scattering in all of the colors, so you'd get a kind of scattery, washed-out, gray sky, which is interesting, if you were looking through these clouds."

 

Ultrabright light streaming from the nearby star would bombard an observer above the clouds, she added. "There's nothing there to really help stop that sunlight from reaching you."

Clues about planet formation

Using the transit data, the study team also calculated the "metallicity" of HAT-P-26b's atmosphere — how much of it is made up of elements other than hydrogen and helium. (To an astronomer, anything heavier than helium is a metal.)

In Earth's solar system, metallicity goes down as a planet's mass goes up. For example, Neptune and Uranus both have metallicities about 100 times greater than that of the sun (which is almost entirely hydrogen and helium), whereas the much larger Saturn and Jupiter are just 10 and five times more metallic than the sun, respectively.

But HAT-P-26b does not fit that pattern. Though the exoplanet is about as massive as Neptune, its metallicity is more in line with that of Jupiter, the researchers in the new study found.

This surprising bit of information holds clues about HAT-P-26b's formation and evolution, Wakeford said.

 

"It suggests that this smaller planet actually formed closer to its star, more like where Jupiter formed," she said. "And we didn't know before that you could form [such] planets in that region. We expected the smaller worlds to be formed further out, where they would accumulate clumps of icy debris and richer heavy elements during the formation in the [protoplanetary] disk." (In these scenarios, planets such as HAT-P-26b migrate inward, toward their stars, after they form.)

Over the last decade or so, NASA's Kepler space telescope and other planet-hunting instruments have revealed a staggering array of alien worlds and solar system architectures. The new study, and others like it, should help researchers better understand the reasons for this variety, Wakeford said.

"This is the first step toward looking at the diversity in the formation process as well," she said.

Source: This article was published on space.com By  


Google Voice is a handy, free service that lets you make phone calls and get voicemail through the internet. It works on iOS, Android, and on the web through your web browser. It also allows you to select a special phone number that the receiver will see, instead of revealing your real phone number. That’s quite handy.

Let’s take a look at how to set up Google Voice on your iPhone or Android smartphone.

Set up Google Voice on iPhone

  1. If you don’t have the Google Voice app, download it from the App Store.
  2. Open Google Voice and sign-in, or select, your Google account.
  3. Tap Search to select a phone number to use. Select the number that you want your contacts to see when you call them. You can search by city, and pick the number that you want.
  4. Tap Select when you choose your number, and then tap Next to confirm the phone number you selected.
  5. On the Link this device to Google Voice screen, tap Next.
  6. You will be asked to enter your phone number.
  7. Type the verification code you received.

 

Once you have verified the code, you will be ready to use Google Voice with your iPhone.

set up google voice
set up google voice

Set up Google Voice on Android smartphone

  1. If you don’t have the Google Voice app, download it from the Google Play Store.
  2. When you open the app, you will be asked to go to voice.google.com on your computer to set it up.
  3. On the Welcome page, click Continue.set up google voice
  4. Search for available numbers by city or area code.
  5. When you find the number that you want to use, click Select.
  6. Click Next to confirm the number you selected.
  7. You will be asked to add a number; if you haven’t added your phone number to your Google account, then click Send Code.

 

Once you have verified the code, you will be ready to use Google Voice with your Android smartphone.

Source : Digital Trends by Carlos Vega

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 17:32

13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People

Too many people succumb to the mistaken belief that being likeable comes from natural, unteachable traits that belong only to a lucky few—the good looking, the fiercely social, and the incredibly talented. It’s easy to fall prey to this misconception. In reality, being likeable is under your control, and it’s a matter of emotional intelligence (EQ).

In a study conducted at UCLA, subjects rated over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likeability. The top-rated adjectives had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive (innate characteristics). Instead, the top adjectives were sincerity, transparency, and capacity for understanding (another person).

 

These adjectives, and others like them, describe people who are skilled in the social side of emotional intelligence. TalentSmart research data from more than a million people shows that people who possess these skills aren’t just highly likeable, they outperform those who don’t by a large margin.

We did some digging to uncover the key behaviors that emotionally intelligent people engage in that make them so likeable. Here are 13 of the best:

1. They Ask Questions

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to listening is they’re so focused on what they’re going to say next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect them that they fail to hear what’s being said. The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost.

A simple way to avoid this is to ask a lot of questions. People like to know you’re listening, and something as simple as a clarification question shows that not only are you listening, you also care about what they’re saying. You’ll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking questions.

2. They Put Away Their Phones

Nothing will turn someone off to you like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a conversation, focus all of your energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.

Related: 8 Body Language Tips That Will Make You More Likeable

3. They Are Genuine

Being genuine and honest is essential to being likeable. No one likes a fake. People gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It is difficult to like someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel.

Likeable people know who they are. They are confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin. By concentrating on what drives you and makes you happy as an individual, you become a much more interesting person than if you attempt to win people over by making choices that you think will make them like you.

4. They Don’t Pass Judgment

If you want to be likeable you must be open-minded. Being open-minded makes you approachable and interesting to others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen.

Having an open mind is crucial in the workplace where approachability means access to new ideas and help. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. This doesn’t require you believe what they believe or condone their behavior, it simply means you quit passing judgment long enough to truly understand what makes them tick. Only then can you let them be who they are.

5. They Don’t Seek Attention

People are averse to those who are desperate for attention. You don’t need to develop a big, extroverted personality to be likeable. Simply being friendly and considerate is all you need to win people over. When you speak in a friendly, confident, and concise manner, you will notice that people are much more attentive and persuadable than if you try to show them you’re important. People catch on to your attitude quickly and are more attracted to the right attitude than what—or how many people—you know.

When you’re being given attention, such as when you’re being recognized for an accomplishment, shift the focus to all the people who worked hard to help you get there. This may sound cliché, but if it’s genuine, the fact that you pay attention to others and appreciate their help will show that you’re appreciative and humble—two adjectives that are closely tied to likeability.

6. They Are Consistent

Few things make you more unlikeable than when you’re all over the place. When people approach you, they like to know whom they’re dealing with and what sort of response they can expect. To be consistent you must be reliable, and you must ensure that even when your mood goes up and down it doesn’t affect how you treat other people.

 

7. They Use Positive Body Language

Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they’re positive) will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the person who’s speaking are all forms of positive body language that high-EQ people use to draw others in. Positive body language can make all the difference in a conversation.

It’s true that how you say something can be more important than what you say.

8. They Leave a Strong First Impression

Research shows most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction. This may sound terrifying, but by knowing this you can take advantage of it to make huge gains in your likeability. First impressions are tied intimately to positive body language. Strong posture, a firm handshake, smiling, and opening your shoulders to the person you are talking to will help ensure that your first impression is a good one.

9. They Greet People by Name

Your name is an essential part of your identity, and it feels terrific when people use it. Likeable people make certain they use others’ names every time they see them. You shouldn’t use someone’s name only when you greet him. Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation.

If you’re great with faces but have trouble with names, have some fun with it and make remembering people’s names a brain exercise. When you meet someone, don’t be afraid to ask her name a second time if you forget it right after you hear it. You’ll need to keep her name handy if you’re going to remember it the next time you see her.

10. They Smile

People naturally (and unconsciously) mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. If you want people to like you, smile at them during a conversation and they will unconsciously return the favor and feel good as a result.

 

11. They Know When To Open Up

Be careful to avoid sharing personal problems and confessions too quickly, as this will get you labeled a complainer. Likeable people let the other person guide when it’s the right time for them to open up.

12. They Know Who To Touch (and They Touch Them)

When you touch someone during a conversation, you release oxytocin in their brain, a neurotransmitter that makes their brain associate you with trust and a slew of other positive feelings. A simple touch on the shoulder, a hug, or a friendly handshake is all it takes to release oxytocin. Of course, you have to touch the right person in the right way to release oxytocin, as unwanted or inappropriate touching has the opposite effect. Just remember, relationships are built not just from words, but also from general feelings about each other. Touching someone appropriately is a great way to show you care.

13. They Balance Passion and Fun

People gravitate toward those who are passionate. That said, it’s easy for passionate people to come across as too serious or uninterested because they tend to get absorbed in their work. Likeable people balance their passion with the ability to have fun. At work they are serious, yet friendly. They still get things done because they are socially effective in short amounts of time and they capitalize on valuable social moments. They minimize small talk and gossip and instead focus on having meaningful interactions with their coworkers. They remember what you said to them yesterday or last week, which shows that you’re just as important to them as their work.

 

Bringing It All Together

Likeable people are invaluable and unique. They network with ease, promote harmony in the workplace, bring out the best in everyone around them, and generally seem to have the most fun. Add these skills to your repertoire and watch your likeability soar!

Source : talentsmart.com

 

Hi, Backchannelers. Steven here. For many years, when people described how the internet worked — whether they were talking about shopping, communicating, or starting a business there — they inevitably invoked a single metaphor. The internet, said just about everybody, was a contemporary incarnation of the wild, wild West.
This implied two things. First, the thrilling feeling of possibilities — anything goes, and that means even the most febrile imagination can not envision the opportunities in this virgin turf. The second was a scarier feeling that comes from the lawlessness of a territory too new for rules to be drawn. Anything goes, and that means you have to watch carefully for ripoffs and scams.

Over 20 years into the consumer internet revolution, and we’re now wise to many scams. And like any well-explored frontier, many of the stakes have been claimed, and are now lushly developed. Through a mix of market forces and regulation, we’ve brought civilization to the electronic provinces. There are still risks — watch out for cyber-thieves holding your data hostage through virus incursions! — but we’ve all accepted that the net is a reasonable place to do business, communicate with each other, and even to access crucial services, like heath care.

 

These days, the biggest threats on the internet seem to come not from small-time rogues, but big-time corporations that have embraced the internet technology, and often a favored position in the marketplace, to lock in and limit what people might do. The Obama administration tried to address this power imbalance, by attempting to level the suddenly tilted playing field. That’s why we got net neutrality, which preserves equal access to the open net for small teams of small means.

This same argument is also behind the logic of a last year’s Obama-era regulation to stop Internet Service Providers from selling user data to the highest bidder, without permission. It made perfect sense — after all, landline phone carriers can’t sell information about your calls. Most of the population has few or no choices to make in choosing an ISP. Yet, ISPs take note of every site you visit, your location, how long you are on the site, who you send email to…just about every aspect of your life. So it makes perfect sense for consumers to expect their private information to remain private, unless they knowingly allow the Comcasts and AT&Ts of the world to sell it off. It’s not surprising that only the big online bullies (and their paid flunkies) raised objections to the Obama regulation to protect this privacy.

Yet last week both the Senate and the House — overwhelmingly with Republican votes — voted to overturn those limits, and to ban the FCC from ever imposing them again. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation, permanently making the internet a place for rapacious data collecting from largely unwitting consumers. (Here’s a list of those who voted against your privacy; bookmark it for 2018!)

Those supporting this awful rollback say it’s about fair play (after all, services like Google and Facebook weren’t subject to the rule) and freedom. But no one is forced to use Google or Facebook, and those companies make their money from advertising. The ISPs often are monopolies in their region — and consumers pay them. Anyway, if Congress wants Google and Verizon to play by the same privacy rules, why not make it so no company can sell private information without permission?

And the freedom the GOP talks about is largely the consumer’s freedom to get fleeced by big corporations.

No, the internet is not so much the wild, wild West anymore. Increasingly, it’s more like Westworld.

And we’re the androids.

 

Last week, Pam Edstrom died.She was the early spokesperson for a new company called Microsoft, leaving the company in 1984 to co-found the PR company Waggoner-Edstrom, whose key client for many years (indeed, to this day) was that same Microsoft. Pam was instrumental in shaping, for better or worse, a lot of the conventions that are now standard in tech PR. For instance, pre-Wagg-Ed, as it was commonly called, reporters generally spoke to tech execs with no PR folks in the room. Now, even startups (when they can get away with it) follow the Wagg-Ed model of having detailed strategic publicity plans, implemented by hand-picking the right reporters.

I won’t remember Pam for those client-friendly innovations, but for her honesty and her passion — for both her clients and for her belief that tech would be a huge and beneficial benefit for society. Though not averse to spin, the truth mattered to her. If a critical story was fair, she’d defend the reporter, even if Bill Gates himself was furious. (Believe me, I know.)

In the midst of a tense reporter-company standoff, you could crack a joke with Pam. I’m sorry that there will be no more laughs.

This week on Backchannel:

Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains: Aggregators like TripAdvisor and Expedia used to offer the lowest prices around. But that’s starting to change, as hotels and airlines attempt to take back the booking power. Doug Garr digs into the knotty world of online travel brokers, and explains why you might be better off booking directly through a hotel’s front desk.

Handcuffing Cities to Telecom Giants: Right now, there are efforts underway in at least 17 states and at the FCC that would essentially privatize public rights of way, all in the name of 5G. One problem with that? 5G doesn’t exist yet. Susan Crawford explains why we should be very skeptical of anything done in its name.

Obama’s Secretary of Defense Won’t Stop Trying to Fix the World: In Washington, D.C., Ash Carter built bridges between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon. With his new gigs in Boston, he hopes to strengthen them. Our Jessi Hempel caught up with Carter to discuss his next steps, and what they mean for Silicon Valley.

 

Like this newsletter?

We’ve got another one coming. In the next couple of weeks, Backchannel will debut a second newsletter, featuring a “person of interest” and seeded with links to not only our stories, but also hidden gems elsewhere that you won’t want to miss. But you have to sign up to get it, even if you currently receive the one you’re reading now. All you have to do is sign up at the link below, and you’ll get the new one as soon as it ships.

Source : backchannel.com

 

In the new year, columnist Thomas Stern argues we should adopt new strategies for monitoring and analyzing the competition. Here are his suggestions.

With search marketing in a relatively constant state of evolution, refreshing competitive strategies is an exercise that is easily overlooked. As we enter a new year, it seems like a good opportunity to highlight a couple of the competitive strategies my agency, ZOG Digital, employs for our clients for both paid and organic search.

1. Paid search conquesting

Paid search conquesting is the act of bidding on your competitor’s brand and/or branded product names. What we love about conquesting is that it can allow for brands with less product awareness to siphon conversions from better-known companies.

 

However, we’ve seen time and time again that brands make costly errors when it comes to their competitive keyword targeting and content strategy. Here are some important considerations with conquesting:

Use keyword targeting best practices

Most search marketers understand the importance of match types and negative keyword lists with their own brand and non-brand campaigns, but for some reason this gets overlooked with competitive targeting. Beyond your competitor’s brand names, look to target names of their products and purchase consideration keyword modifiers like “reviews,” “ratings,” “durability,” “reliability,” and so on. You should look to exclude keyword modifiers that are irrelevant from a conversion perspective, such as “corporate address,” “manual,” “installation,” “stock” and “merger.”

Compelling content is key

Even when marketing a commodity, ad copy and landing page content used for competitive conquesting is critical to success. Users searching for specific brands or branded products need to feel drawn to click something other than what they were searching for; this isn’t an easy proposition, and unfortunately, this core principle is often missed.

For ad copy, dig into the competitive queries you’re targeting and map the modifiers to attributes of your own brand and products. If you stack up favorably with ratings and reviews, this is an easy ad extension to implement for applicable keywords. If your products offer the same or better features (e.g., AWD, waterproof, lifetime warranty and so on), be sure to make these clear in your ad copy.

UberEATS is a great example for this type of competitive ad copy:

conquest_postmates

For landing page content, you’ll want to consider the aforementioned mapping exercise, but also consider going further and directly compare your brand/products with a competitor’s. The comparative queries (“product vs. product,” “product or product”) are a great opportunity here — direct users to your website to see the comparative messaging you want them to, as opposed to a review website. Simplisafe is a great example of this type of landing page strategy:

Finally, conquesting can be a costly exercise, especially considering the CPCs of different competitors’ brand names and products. If the cost is too prohibitive for your brand, consider targeting a competitor’s brand and product keywords through RLSA. The reach will be limited, of course, but at least you’ll continue to be top-of-mind for consumers during their consideration process.

 

2. Analyze a competitor’s historical data and emerging trends

Although paid search conquesting offers one of the few ways to directly target consumers who are searching for your competitors’ brands and products, a mountain of actionable insights can be gleaned from the activities your competitors have undertaken historically, as well as what they’re potentially doing to stay ahead.

Historical data: Paid search keywords, ad copy

We’ve talked in previous posts about our affection for SEMrush; their Ad History report is one of our favorites for competitive insights. This reports breaks out keywords and search volume, along with estimated CPC and traffic percentage.

From a historical context, the most valuable data comes from the Coverage %, which applies a percent of visibility based on how often an advertiser was found for a keyword over the past 12 months. If you know your competitors have some paid search prowess, you can safely assume that keywords that have the longest visibility (Coverage %) are performing well.

From a competitive perspective, you can take pertinent keywords from this report, create ad copy that differentiates your brand/products and start bidding.

Emerging trends: SEO and paid search keyword changes

As search marketers, we can get tunnel vision with a core set of keywords and an ongoing performance optimization intent. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it should be balanced with a continual eye on competitors’ keyword changes, both for existing and new terms.

For SEO, competitors making significant gains in keywords you’re already monitoring can mean that they have enhanced site content, corrected technical issues, received an influx of social shares and/or picked up high-quality links or citations. Big jumps can also signal a positive alignment with algorithm updates and should be investigated to address any competitive gaps that may have emerged.

For paid search, new keywords and position changes can signal a potential shift in a competitor’s strategy, new products or a new testing approach. You’ll know the keywords that stand out and whether any should be added to your targeting; for keywords that are questionable, let your competitors test before jumping in. The aforementioned Ad History report is a great way to manage this.

 

Conclusion

A competitive strategy refresh is a process that involves ongoing monitoring with deep-dive analyses on a regular basis. The second part is more difficult to manage than the first; we recommend defining a cadence for the deep-dive analyses. It can vary by industry, but our team has found that performing the analysis bimonthly provides enough data to draw actionable insights and optimize your search marketing accordingly.

Source : searchengineland.com

We'll show you how to protect your online privacy as governments around the world, including the U.S., step up their online surveillance efforts.

One of the most important skills any computer user should have is the ability to use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect their privacy. A VPN is typically a paid service that keeps your web browsing secure and private over public Wi-Fi hotspots. VPNs can also get past regional restrictions for video- and music-streaming sites and help you evade government censorship restrictions—though that last one is especially tricky.

The best way to think of a VPN is as a secure tunnel between your PC and destinations you visit on the internet. Your PC connects to a VPN server, which can be located in the United States or a foreign country like the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, or Thailand. Your web traffic then passes back and forth through that server. The end result: As far as most websites are concerned, you’re browsing from that server’s geographical location, not your computer’s location.

 

We’ll get to the implications of a VPN’s location in a moment, but first, let’s get back to our secure tunnel example. Once you’re connected to the VPN and are “inside the tunnel,” it becomes very difficult for anyone else to spy on your web-browsing activity. The only people who will know what you’re up to are you, the VPN provider (usually an HTTPS connection can mitigate this), and the website you’re visiting.

A VPN is like a secure tunnel for a web traffic.

When you’re on public Wi-Fi at an airport or café, that means hackers will have a harder time stealing your login credentials or redirecting your PC to a phony banking site. Your Internet service provider (ISP), or anyone else trying to spy on you, will also have a near impossible time figuring out which websites you’re visiting.

On top of all that, you get the benefits of spoofing your location. If you’re in Los Angeles, for example, and the VPN server is in the U.K., it will look to most websites that you’re browsing from there, not southern California.

This is why many regionally restricted websites and online services such as BBC’s iPlayer or Sling TV can be fooled by a VPN. I say “most” services because some, most notably Netflix, are fighting against VPN (ab)use to prevent people from getting access to, say, the American version of Netflix when they’re really in Australia.

For the most part, however, if you’re visiting Belgium and connect to a U.S. VPN server, you should get access to most American sites and services just as if you were sitting at a Starbucks in Chicago.

What a VPN can’t do

While VPNs are an important tool, they are far from foolproof. Let’s say you live in an oppressive country and want to evade censorship in order to access the unrestricted web. A VPN would have limited use. If you’re trying to evade government restrictions and access sites like Facebook and Twitter, a VPN might be useful. Even then, you’d have to be somewhat dependent on the government’s willingness to look the other way.

 

Anything more serious than that, such as mission-critical anonymity, is far more difficult to achieve—even with a VPN. Privacy against passive surveillance? No problem. Protection against an active and hostile government? Probably not.

HideMyAss Pro 2

HideMyAssA VPN service provider such as HideMyAss can protect your privacy by ensuring your internet connection is encrypted.

The problem with anonymity is there are so many issues to consider—most of which are beyond the scope of this article. Has the government surreptitiously installed malware on your PC in order to monitor your activity, for example? Does the VPN you want to use have any issues with data leakage or weak encryption that could expose your web browsing? How much information does your VPN provider log about your activity, and would that information be accessible to the government? Are you using an anonymous identity online on a PC that you never use in conjunction with your actual identity?

Anonymity online is a very difficult goal to achieve. If, however, you are trying to remain private from prying eyes or evade NSA-style bulk data collection as a matter of principle, a reputable VPN will probably be good enough.

Beyond surveillance, a VPN also won’t do much to keep advertisers from tracking you online. Remember that the website you visit is aware of what you do on its site and that applies equally to advertisers serving ads on that site.

To prevent online tracking by advertisers and websites you’ll still need browser add-ons like GhosteryPrivacy Badger, and HTTPS Everywhere.

How to choose a VPN provider

There was a time when using a VPN required users to know about the built-in VPN client for Windows or universal open-source solutions such as OpenVPN. Nowadays, however, nearly every VPN provider has their own one-click client that gets you up and running in seconds. There are usually mobile apps as well to keep your Android or iOS device secure over public Wi-Fi.

Of course that brings up another problem. Since there are so many services to choose from, how can you tell which ones are worth using, and what are the criteria to judge them by?

 

First, let’s get the big question out of the way. The bad news for anyone used to free services is that it pays to pay when it comes to a VPN. There are tons of free options from reputable companies, but these are usually a poor substitute for the paid options. Free services usually allow a limited amount of bandwidth usage per month or offer a slower service. Tunnel Bear, for example, offers just 500MB of free bandwidth per month, while CyberGhost offers a free service that is significantly slower than its paid service.

CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhostEverybody loves free services; but when you want to use a VPN, the free version usually isn't the best deal.

Then there are the free VPNs that use an ad-supported model, which in my experience usually aren’t worth using at all. Plus, free VPNs are usually anything but; in lieu of payment they may be harvesting your data (in anonymized form of course) and selling it as “marketing insights” to advertisers.

The good news is VPNs aren’t expensive. You can usually pay as little as $5 a month (billed annually or in blocks of several months) for VPN coverage.

We won’t get into specific VPN service recommendations in this article; instead, here are some issues to consider when shopping around for a VPN provider.

First, what kind of logging does your VPN provider do? In other words, what information do they keep about your VPN sessions and how long is it kept? Are they recording the IP addresses you use, the websites you visit, the amount of bandwidth used, or any other key details?

All VPNs have to do some kind of logging, but there are VPNs that collect as little data as possible and others that aren’t so minimalist. On top of that, some services discard their logs in a matter of hours or days while other companies hold onto them for months at a time. How much privacy you expect from your VPN-based browsing will greatly influence how long you can stand having your provider maintain your activity logs—and what those logs contain.

TunnelBear interface

TunnelBear
TunnelBear is one of the author's favorite VPNs, but there are many good choices on the market.

Second, what are the acceptable terms of use for your VPN provider? Thanks to the popularity of VPNs with torrent users, permissible activity on specific VPNs can vary. Some companies disallow torrents completely, some are totally fine with them, while others won’t stop torrents but officially disallow them. We aren’t here to advise pirates, but anyone looking to use a VPN should understand what is and is not okay to do on their provider’s network.

Finally, does the VPN provider offer their own application that you can download and install? Unless you’re a power user who wants to mess with OpenVPN, a customized VPN program is really the way to go. It’s simple to use and doesn’t require any great technical knowledge or the need to adjust any significant settings.

Using a VPN

You’ve done your due diligence, checked out your VPN’s logging policies, and found a service with a great price and a customized application. Now, for the easy part: connecting to the VPN.

 

Here’s a look at a few examples of VPN desktop applications.

TunnelBear, which is currently my VPN of choice, has a very simple interface—if a little skeuomorphic. With Tunnel Bear, all you need to do is select the country you want to be virtually present in, click the dial to the “on” position, and wait for a connection-confirmation message.

SaferVPN works similarly. From the left-hand side you select the country you’d like to use—the more common choices such as the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. are at the top. Once that’s done, hit the big Connect button and wait once again for the confirmation message.

SaferVPN

SaferVPN

With SaferVPN, all you need to do is choose the country you wish to have a virtual presence in.

HMA Pro is a VPN I'll be reviewing in the next few days. This interface is slightly more complicated, but it’s far from difficult to understand. If you want to select your desired virtual location click the Location mode tab, click on the location name, and then choose your preferred location from the list. Once that’s done click the slider button that says Disconnected. Once it flips to Connected,you’re ready to roll.

There are numerous VPN services out there, and they all have different interfaces; but they are all similar enough that if you can successfully use one, you’ll be able to use the others.

That’s all there is to using a VPN. The hard part is figuring out which service to use. Once that’s done, connecting to a VPN for added privacy or to stream your favorite TV shows while abroad is just a click away.

Source : techhive.com

Two billion photos find their way onto Facebook’s family of apps every single day and the company is racing to understand them and their moving counterparts with the hope of increasing engagement. And while machine learning is undoubtedly the map to the treasure, Facebook and its competitors are still trying to work out how to deal with the spoils once they find them.

Facebook AI Similarity Search (FAISS), released as an open-source library last month, began as an internal research project to address bottlenecks slowing the process of identifying similar content once a user’s preferences are understood. Under the leadership of Yann LeCun, Facebook’s AI Research (FAIR) lab is making it possible for everyone to more quickly relate needles within a haystack.

 

On its own, training a machine learning model is already an incredibly intensive computational process. But a funny thing happens when machine learning models comb over videos, pictures and text — new information gets created! FAISS is able to efficiently search across billions of dimensions of data to identify similar content.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Jeff Johnson, one of the three FAIR researchers working on the project, emphasized that FAISS isn’t so much a fundamental AI advancement as it is a fundamental AI-enabling technique.

Imagine you wanted to perform object recognition on a public video that a user shared to understand its contents so you could serve up a relevant ad. First you’d have to train and run that algorithm on the video, coming up with a bunch of new data.

From that, let’s say you discover that your target user is a big fan of trucks, the outdoors and adventure. This is helpful, but it’s still hard to say what advertisement you should display — a rugged tent? An ATV? A Ford F-150?

To figure this out, you would want to create a vector representation of the video you analyzed and compare it to your corpus of advertisements with the intent of finding the most similar video. This process would require a similarity search, whereby vectors are compared in multi-dimensional space.

In this representation of a similarity search, the blue vector is the query. The distance between the “arrows” reflects their relative similarity.

In real life, the property of being an adventurous outdoorsy fan of trucks could constitute hundreds or even thousands of dimensions of information. Multiply this by the number of different videos you’re searching across and you can see why the library you implement for similarity search is important.

“At Facebook we have massive amounts of computing power and data and the question is how we can best take advantage of that by combining old and new techniques,” posited Johnson.

Facebook reports that implementing k-nearest neighbor across GPUs resulted in an 8.5x improvement in processing time. Within the previously explained vector space, nearest neighbor algorithms let us identify the most closely related vectors.

More efficient similarity search opens up possibilities for recommendation engines and personal assistants alike. Facebook M, its own intelligent assistant, relies on having humans in the loop to assist users. Facebook considers “M” to be a test bed to experiment with the relationship between humans and AI. LeCun noted that there are a number of domains within M where FAISS could be useful.

“An intelligent virtual assistant looking for an answer would need to look through a very long list,” LeCun explained to me. “Finding nearest neighbors is a very important functionality.”

Improved similarity search could support memory networks to help keep track of context and basic factual knowledge, LeCun continued. Short-term memory contrasts with learned skills like finding the optimal solution to a puzzle. In the future, a machine might be able to watch a video or read a story and then answer critical follow-up questions about it.

More broadly, FAISS could support more dynamic content on the platform. LeCun noted that news and memes change every day and better methods of searching content could drive better user experiences.

Two billion new photos a day presents Facebook with a billion and a half opportunities to better understand its users. Each and every fleeting chance at boosting engagement is dependent on being able to quickly and accurately sift through content and that means more than just tethering GPUs.

Source : techcrunch.com

Life tool: we use search to guide many aspects of our everyday existence

An estimated 1.2 trillion searches are tapped in to Google every year. But while it may feel like Google’s primary purpose is to help us find our nearest dry cleaner, it is a hugely profitable business that dominates the search industry. Last year, its advertising revenue was $79.4bn.

Whether it’s Google, Yahoo or Bing, we use search engines to guide every aspect of our lives, whether we’re looking for a place to eat, sleep, or book flights.

And with fibre broadband being rolled out across the country by BT, searching online has never been easier, or quicker. But how can we use search engines to maximise results?

Avoid using words like ‘the’, ‘want’ and ‘at’

They’re known as stop words, and search operators ignore them, which can slow down your search. Cut them out and get results much faster. Ashley Williams, head of SEO at Meta Search Experts, also suggests adding a minus (-) sign before words you don’t want to appear in a search.

For example, if you wanted to search for apple pudding recipes but you didn’t want to bake apple crumble, you might search apple -crumble pudding, to avoid results showing you the dessert you don’t want.

 

Use quotation marks

If you’re searching for a specific phrase, add quotation marks around it so you don’t lose a word or two. For example, say you want to search for crumble and custard, but don’t want results for just crumble, or just custard, then add quotation marks around “crumble and custard”.

How to find the best recipes

There’s a more advanced way to find a phrase on a website than just pressing Ctrl F and hoping a word will pop up. This hack is especially good for recipes. Say you want to find a smashing treacle tart recipe, and you think you saw a brilliant recipe on BBC Good Food several months ago, Google will help you find this.

Search engine optimisation
Intelligent searching: SEO is a key factor to consider CREDIT: GETTY

Simply add the word “site” and a colon before the website address, then add your search terms after. Writing site:bbcgoodfood.co.uk and then treacle tart, will only bring up results for treacle tarts on bbcgoodfood.co.uk, says Tom Jeffries search manager at Bizdaq.

 

The power of ‘AND’

Omitting words such as “at” and “the” are all well and good, but using the word “AND”, as long as it’s written in capital letters, is a really essential search tool. For example, searching for “company name” and “employee name” would allow you to search for an employee at a company, helping you to refine a search.

Another way to search effectively for a name is by putting a forward slash between the first name and the surname. Rather than searching for Andrew Smith Doctor, which will bring up all of the Andrews and anyone with a Smith surname, adding a slash means only Andrew Smiths appear in the search engine.

Keep it relevant

Another nifty function is using the word AROUND to ensure searches bring up relevant content. Samuel Hill, marketing executive at Gorvins Solicitors in Manchester, explains: “If you wanted to research José Mourinho’s interactions with Arsène Wenger, you could simply include both terms in a search, but you’d find thousands of articles in which these two terms may appear many paragraphs apart, with little or no relation to one another.

‘‘But if you instead search ‘mourinho’ AROUND(10) ‘wenger’ then the first results will be those in which Mourinho appears within 10 words of Wenger. Bear in mind that for this to work, both search terms must be in quotes, AROUND must be capitalised, and the number needs to be in parentheses.”

Quick translations

When you have more than five million free BT Wi-Fi hotspots around the UK, it’s easy to use your smartphone for everything. Broadband Genie's head of strategy Rob Hilborn suggests that, rather than flicking through the dictionary, simply tap in “translate ‘I really like cake’ into French” into your search engine and the correct phrase will pop up.

 

Best of all, the quality of the translation has improved leaps and bounds, so your translation will be a lot more accurate than perhaps five years ago, saving your bacon when you’re travelling abroad.

Source : telegraph.co.uk

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