Facebook today announced a redesign of its “Life Events” feature, which allows people to share significant milestones in their life, like an engagement, graduation, a new job, a move to a new city, and more. The feature has existed since the launch of Timeline, but has to date offered a fairly nondescript type of post. Today, that’s changing, Facebook says. Now, users will be able to add animated photos or videos, photos from the people or Page you’ve tagged (like those of your partner or your new workplace), or you you can pick an image from Facebook’s own art collection, if you don’t have your own.
The photos and videos you post will also have subtle animations, like slowly zooming in, to give the post more attention. And you can still pick an icon to represent the life event, as before.
The idea behind the redesign is to give these sorts of posts a better way to stand out from other posts, the company explains
Of course, Facebook likely wants to increase the feature’s adoption, too, as it’s a straightforward way to collect profile data on an individual that they may not have otherwise filled out – like where they live, where they work, or their alma mater, for example.
Facebook will also now alert your friends directly when you’ve shared some life events, it says.
For certain types of life events – like changes in your current city, work, education, and relationship status – your friends may receive a notification to let them know about the news. This ensures they won’t miss the update if they were just casually scrolling their News Feed. And it’s a way to make sure the event gets seen by your broader network of Facebook friends – including those acquaintances whose updates don’t regularly show in your News Feed, as Facebook’s algorithms have determined you aren’t close.
In addition, when you react to a life event someone else posted with a like, wow, heart, etc., Facebook now shows all the other reactions from friends alongside your own.
Perhaps most importantly, is that Facebook is finally giving life events a place of importance on users’ profiles.
While the feature for years has been touted as a way to remember significant events, it’s actually been fairly difficult to relocate your older life event posts from years ago. With the update, however, life events will have their own dedicated section on user profiles. (You can opt to hide a life event here by tapping the “…” button then selecting “Hide from Timeline,” if you choose).
This will give people visiting your profile for the first time a way to get to know you, by way of the most important moments you’ve shared through this feature. That may not be something everyone is comfortable with, though, so you’ll want to check to see if there are any older life event posts you need to hide or delete.
The updated life events are rolling out worldwide on iOS, Android and desktop beginning today, and completing in the days ahead.
Internet users are already being tracked to death, with ads that follow us around, search histories that are collected and stored, emails that report back to senders when they’ve been read, websites that know where you scrolled and what you clicked and much more. So naturally, the growing podcast industry wanted to find a way to collect more data of its own, too.
Yes, that’s right. Podcasts will now track detailed user behavior, too.
Today, NPR announced RAD, a new, open-sourced podcast analytics technology that was developed in partnership with nearly 30 companies from the podcasting industry. The technology aims to help publishers collect more comprehensive and standardized listening metrics from across platforms.
Specifically, the technology gives publishers — and therefore their advertisers, as well — access to a wide range of listener metrics, including downloads, starts and stops, completed ad or credit listens, partial ad or credit listens, ad or credit skips and content quartiles, the RAD website explains.
However, the technology stops short of offering detailed user profiles, and cannot be used to re-target or track listeners, the site notes. It’s still anonymized, aggregated statistics.
It’s worth pointing out that RAD is not the first time podcasters have been able to track engagement. Major platforms, including Apple’s Podcast Analytics, today offer granular and anonymized data, including listens.But NPR says that data requires “a great deal of manual analysis” as the stats aren’t standardized nor as complete as they could be. RAD is an attempt to change that, by offering a tracking mechanism everyone can use.
Already, RAD has a lot of support. In addition to being integrated into NPR’s own NPR One app, it has commitments from several others that will introduce the technology into their own products in 2019, including Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRI/PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital and WideOrbit.
Other companies that supported RAD and participated in its development include Cadence13, Edison Research, ESPN, Google, iHeartMedia, Libsyn, The New York Times, New York Public Radio and Wondery.
NPR says the NPR One app on Android supports RAD as of now, and its iOS app will do the same in 2019.
“Over the course of the past year, we have been refining these concepts and the technology in collaboration with some of the smartest people in podcasting from around the world,” said Joel Sucherman, vice president, New Platform Partnerships at NPR, in an announcement. “We needed to take painstaking care to prove out our commitment to the privacy of listeners, while providing a standard that the industry could rally around in our collective efforts to continue to evolve the podcasting space,” he said.
To use RAD technology, publishers will mark within their audio files certain points — like quartiles or some time markers, interview spots, sponsorship messages or ads — with RAD tags and indicate an analytics URL. A mobile app is configured to read the RAD tags and then, when listeners hit that spot in the file, that information is sent to the URL in an anonymized format.
While there’s value in podcast data that goes beyond the download, not all are sold on technology.
Most notably, the developer behind the popular iOS podcast player app Overcast, Marco Arment, today publicly stated his app will not support any listener-tracking specs.
Yes. I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers.
I won’t be supporting any listener-behavior tracking specs in Overcast. Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes. https://t.co/mplhnrmCsc
— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) December 11, 2018
“I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers,” Arment wrote in a tweet. “Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes,” he said.
The developer also pointed out this sort of data collection required more work on the podcasters’ part and could become a GDPR liability, as well. (NPR tells us GDPR compliance is up to the mobile apps and analytics servers, as noted in the specs here.)
In addition to NPR’s use of RAD today, Podtrac has also now launched a beta program to show RAD data, which is open to interested publishers.
Dell just announced that it has agreed to buy back the VMware tracking stock from the EMC acquisition. The company confirmed the buy-back price of $ 120 per share for a total of $ 23.9 billion. With today’s move, Dell will return to being publicly traded starting on December 28th.
Sixty-one percent of shareholders voted in favor of the deal. It’s unclear how Wall Street will deal with the $ 50 billion debt load the company is carrying as a result of that $ 67 billion EMC acquisition from two years ago, but chairman and CEO Michael Dell got the results he wanted.
“With this vote, we are simplifying Dell Technologies’ capital structure and aligning the interests of our investors,” Dell said in a statement.
A company spokesperson confirmed that Dell is going public again. “Portions of Dell Technologies have been publicly traded through, for example, VMware and the tracker stock. The NYSE:DELL Class C shares will enable investors to invest in the full breadth of Dell Technologies company.” In plain terms, that means the company will be sold on the New York Stock Exchange under the DELL symbol.
Part of the EMC deal was a payout to shareholders based on VMware tracking stock. VMware was a key part of the deal in that it was one of the more valuable pieces in the EMC federation of companies. It still runs as a separate company with separate stock listing.
There was much drama prior to this vote with activist investor Carl Icahn suing the company last month after Dell had announced a price of $ 21.7 billion for the tracking stock last July. The move did get Dell to move the needle on the price a bit, although not as much as Icahn had hoped.
With today’s vote, Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says that the company is looking to move away from activist investors like Icahn and Elliott Management to more traditional institutional investors. “Michael Dell is attempting to rid his short term activist shareholders for more mid- to long-term institutional types as he goes public again,” Wang explained.
As the company returns to the public markets, it means it is in the fairly unique position of going from from public to private to public again. Dell originally went public in 1988 before taking the company private again in 2013 in a $ 24.4 billion buy-back.
At least one other company, Deltek, took a similar path over a decade ago. It was eventually was sold to private equity firm Thoma Bravo for $ 1.1 billion in 2012 before being sold again in 2016 for $ 2.8 billion.
It’s not true that everyone gets their news from Facebook and Twitter. But it is now true that more U.S. adults get their news from social media than from print newspapers. According to a new report from Pew Research Center out today, social media has for the first time surpassed newspapers as a preferred source of news for American adults. However, social media is still far behind other traditional news sources, like TV and radio, for example.
Last year, the portion of those who got their news from social media was around equal to those who got their news from print newspapers, Pew says. But in its more recent survey conducted from July 30 through August 12, 2018, that had changed.
Now, one-in-five U.S. adults (20 percent) are getting news from social media, compared with just 16 percent of those who get news from newspapers, the report found. (Pew had asked respondents if they got their news “often” from the various platforms.)
The change comes at a time when newspaper circulation is on the decline, and its popularity as a news medium is being phased out — particularly with younger generations. In fact, the report noted that print only remains popular today with the 65 and up crowd, where 39 percent get their news from newspapers. By comparison, no more than 18 percent of any other age group does.
While the decline of print has now given social media a slight edge, it’s nowhere near dominating other formats.
Instead, TV is still the most popular destination for getting the news, even though that’s been dropping over the past couple of years. TV is then followed by news websites, radio and then social media and newspapers.
But “TV news” doesn’t necessarily mean cable news networks, Pew clarifies.
In reality, local news is the most popular, with 37 percent getting their news there often. Meanwhile, 30 percent get cable TV news often and 25 percent watch the national evening news shows often.
However, if you look at the combination of news websites and social media together, a trend toward increasing news consumption from the web is apparent. Together, 43 percent of U.S. adults get their news from the web in some way, compared to 49 percent from TV.
There’s a growing age gap between TV and the web, too.
A huge majority (81 percent) of those 65 and older get news from TV, and so does 65 percent of those ages 50 to 64. Meanwhile, only 16 percent of the youngest consumers — those ages 18 to 29 — get their news from TV. This is the group pushing forward the cord cutting trend, too — or more specifically, many of them are the “cord-nevers,” as they’re never signing up for pay TV subscriptions in the first place. So it’s not surprising they’re not watching TV news.
Plus, a meager 2 percent get their news from newspapers in this group.
This young demographic greatly prefers digital consumption, with 27 percent getting news from news websites and 36 percent from social media. That is to say, they’re four times as likely than those 65 and up to get news from social media.
Meanwhile, online news websites are the most popular with the 30 to 49-year-old crowd, with 42 percent saying they get their news often from this source.
Despite their preference for digital, younger Americans’ news consumption is better spread out across mediums, Pew points out.
“Younger Americans are also unique in that they don’t rely on one platform in the way that the majority of their elders rely on TV,” Pew researcher Elisa Shearer writes. “No more than half of those ages 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 get news often from any one news platform,” she says.
If your luck is anything like mine, as soon as you jump on an important call, someone decides it’s a great time to blow some leaves off the sidewalk outside your window. 2Hz’s Krisp is a new desktop app that uses machine learning to subtract background noise like that, or crowds, or even crying kids — while keeping your voice intact. It’s already out for Macs and it’s coming to Windows soon.
I met the creators of Krisp, including 2Hz co-founder Davit Baghdasaryan, earlier this year at UC Berkeley’s Skydeck accelerator, where they demonstrated their then-prototype tech.
The tech involved is complex, but the idea is simple: If you create a machine learning system that understands what the human voice sounds like, on average, then it can listen to an audio signal and select only that part of it, cutting out a great deal of background noise.
Baghdasaryan, formerly of Twilio, originally wanted to create something that would run on mobile networks, so T-Mobile or whoever could tout built-in noise cancellation. This platform approach proved too slow, however, so they decided to go straight to consumers.
“Traction with customers was slow, and this was a problem for a young startup,” Baghdasaryan said in an email later. However, people were loving the idea of ‘muting noise,’ so we decided to switch all our focus and build a user-facing product.”
That was around the time I talked with them in person, incidentally, and just six months later they had released on Mac.
It’s simple: You run the app, and it modifies both the outgoing and incoming audio signals, with the normal noisy signal going in one end and a clean, voice-focused one coming out the other. Everything happens on-device and with very short latency (around 15 milliseconds), so there’s no cloud involved and nothing is ever sent to any server or even stored locally. The team is working on having the software adapt and learn on the fly, but it’s not implemented yet.
Another benefit of this approach is it doesn’t need any special tweaking to work with, say, Skype instead of Webex. Because it works at the level of the OS’s sound processing, whatever app you use just hears the Krisp-modified signal as if it were clean out of your mic.
They launched on Mac because they felt the early-adopter type was more likely to be on Apple’s platform, and the bet seems to have paid off. But a Windows version is coming soon — the exact date isn’t set, but expect it either late this month or early January. (We’ll let you know when it’s live.)
It should be more or less identical to the Mac version, but there will be a special gaming-focused one. Gamers, Baghdasaryan pointed out, are much more likely to have GPUs to run Krisp on, and also have a real need for clear communication (as a PUBG player I can speak to the annoyance of an open mic and clacky keys). So there will likely be a few power-user features specific to gamers, but it’s not set in stone yet.
You may wonder, as I did, why they weren’t going after chip manufacturers, perhaps to include Krisp as a tech built into a phone or computer’s audio processor.
In person, they suggested that this ultimately was also too slow and restrictive. Meanwhile, they saw that there was no real competition in the software space, which is massively easier to enter.
“All current noise cancellation solutions require multiple microphones and a special form factor where the mouth must be close to one of the mics. We have no such requirement,” Baghdasaryan explained. “We can do it with single-mic or operate on an audio stream coming from the network. This makes it possible to run the software in any environment you want (edge or network) and any direction (inbound or outbound).”
If you’re curious about the technical side of things — how it was done with one mic, or at low latency, and so on — there’s a nice explanation Baghdasaryan wrote for the Nvidia blog a little while back.
Furthermore, a proliferation of AI-focused chips that Krisp can run on easily means easy entry to the mobile and embedded space. “We have already successfully ported our DNN to NVIDIA GPUs, Intel CPU/GNA, and ARM. Qualcomm is in the pipeline,” noted Baghdasaryan.
To pursue this work the company has raised a total of $ 2 million so far: $ 500K from Skydeck as well as friends and family for a pre-seed round, then a $ 1.5 M round led by Sierra Ventures and Shanda Group.
Expect the Windows release later this winter, and if you’re already a user, expect a few new features to come your way in the same time scale. You can download Krisp for free here.
Leica’s pricey — but sexy — CL camera is the closest thing you can get to an original portable luxury shooter without spending more than a used Toyota Corolla. The CL, which launched last year, is essentially a pared-down M series camera that has gotten rave reviews over the past year. Now, in time for Noel, Leica is offering a Street Kit that includes the CL along with a Leica Summicron-TL 23 mm f/2 lens. This flat pancake lens gives you a “tried and true 35 mm equivalent focal length for the quintessential reportage style of shooting” and should suffice for street shots taken on the wing while wandering the darkened alleyways of certain Central European cities.
Now for the bad news. Leica is traditionally some of the most expensive and best-made camera gear on the market, and this is no different. While you get a camera that should last you well into the next millennium, you’ll pay a mere $ 4,195 for the privilege, making it considerably less than the M series but considerably more than the camera on your phone. The package saves you a little over $ 800 if you purchased each item separately.
That said, it’s nice to see a bundle like this still exists for a solid, beautifully wrought camera, a nice lens and even a leather carrying strap. Besides, isn’t the creation of photographic art worth the price of admission? As noted Leica lover Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “Au fond, ce n’est pas la photo en soi qui m’interesse. Ce que je veux c’est de capter une fraction de seconde du reel.” Preach, brother.
Pivotal has always been about making open-source tools for enterprise developers, but surprisingly, up until now, the arsenal has lacked a serverless component. That changed today with the alpha launch of Pivotal Function Service.
“Pivotal Function Service is a Kubernetes-based, multi-cloud function service. It’s part of the broader Pivotal vision of offering you a single platform for all your workloads on any cloud,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new service.
What’s interesting about Pivotal’s flavor of serverless, besides the fact that it’s based on open source, is that it has been designed to work both on-prem and in the cloud in a cloud native fashion, hence the Kubernetes-based aspect of it. This is unusual to say the least.
The idea up until now has been that the large-scale cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft could dial up whatever infrastructure your functions require, then dial them down when you’re finished without you ever having to think about the underlying infrastructure. The cloud provider deals with whatever compute, storage and memory you need to run the function, and no more.
Pivotal wants to take that same idea and make it available in the cloud across any cloud service. It also wants to make it available on-prem, which may seem curious at first, but Pivotal’s Onsi Fakhouri says customers want that same abilities both on-prem and in the cloud. “One of the key values that you often hear about serverless is that it will run down to zero and there is less utilization, but at the same time there are customers who want to explore and embrace the serverless programming paradigm on-prem,” Fakhouri said. Of course, then it is up to IT to ensure that there are sufficient resources to meet the demands of the serverless programs.
The new package includes several key components for developers, including an environment for building, deploying and managing your functions, a native eventing ability that provides a way to build rich event triggers to call whatever functionality you require and the ability to do this within a Kubernetes-based environment. This is particularly important as companies embrace a hybrid use case to manage the events across on-prem and cloud in a seamless way.
One of the advantages of Pivotal’s approach is that Pivotal can work on any cloud as an open product. This is in contrast to the cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, which provide similar services that run exclusively on their clouds. Pivotal is not the first to build an open-source Function as a Service, but they are attempting to package it in a way that makes it easier to use.
Serverless doesn’t actually mean there are no underlying servers. Instead, it means that developers don’t have to point to any servers because the cloud provider takes care of whatever infrastructure is required. In an on-prem scenario, IT has to make those resources available.