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Time is Ltd. uses data from Slack and other cloud software to help companies improve productivity

March 12, 2019 No Comments

Time is Ltd., a Prague-based startup offering “productivity software analytics” to help companies gain insights from employees’ use of Slack, Office 365, G Suite and other enterprise software, has raised €3 million in funding.

Leading the round is Mike Chalfen — who previously co-founded London venture capital firm Mosaic Ventures but has since decided to operate as a solo investor — with participation from Accel. The investment will be used by Time is Ltd. to continue building the platform for large enterprises that want to better understand the patterns of behaviour hidden inside the various cloud software they run on.

“Time is Ltd. was founded… to help large corporations and companies get a view into insights and productivity of teams,” co-founder and CEO Jan Rezab tells me. “Visualising insights around calendars, time, and communication will help companies to understand real data behind their productivity”.

Powered by machine learning, the productivity software analytics platform plugs into the cloud software tools that enterprises typically use to collaborate across various departments. It then analyses various metadata pulled from these software tools, such as who is communicating with who and time spent on Slack, or which teams are meeting, where and for how long as per various calendars. The idea is to enable managers to gain a better understanding of where productivity is lost or could be improved and to tie changes in these patterns to business goals.

Rezab cites the example of a large company undergoing “agile” transformation. “If you want to steer a massive company of 5,000 plus people, you really should understand the impact of your actions a bit more much earlier, not after the fact,” he says. “One of the hypothesis of an agile transformation is, for example, that managers really get involved a bit less and things work a bit more streamlined. You see from our data that this is or is not happening, and you can take corrective action”.

Or it could be something as simple as a large company with multiple offices that is conducting too many meetings. Time is Ltd. is able to show how the number of meetings held is increasing and what departments or teams is instigating them. “You can also show the inter-departmental video meeting efficiency, and if the people, for example, often need to travel to these meetings, how long does that takes vs. digital meetings — so you can generally help and recommend the company take specific actions,” explains Rezab.

Sales is another area that could benefit from productivity analytics, with Time is Ltd. revealing that most sales teams actually spend the majority of their meeting time inside the company not outside as you would think. “The structure of these internal meetings varies; planning for these events or just on-boarding and education,” says the Time is Ltd. CEO. “You can, so to speak, follow the time from revenue to different teams… and then see over time how it changes, and how it impacts sales productivity”.

Meanwhile, investor Mike Chalfen describes the young startup as a new breed of data-driven services that use “significant but under-utilised datasets”. “Productivity is one of the largest software markets globally, but lacks deep enterprise analytics to drive intelligent operational management for large businesses,” he says in a statement.

That’s not to say Time is Ltd. isn’t without competition, which includes Microsoft itself. “Our biggest competitor is Microsoft Workplace Analytics,” says Rezab. “However, Microsoft does not integrate other than MS products. Our advantage is that we are a productivity platform to integrate all of the cloud tools. Starting with Slack, SAP Success Factors, Zoom, and countless others”.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


The #1 Way to Take Your PPC Strategy from Average to Expert

February 9, 2019 No Comments

Explore how online user behavior is a crucial component of being able to take your PPC strategy from average to expert!

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Robots Will Take Jobs From Men, the Young, and Minorities

January 24, 2019 No Comments

Automation may create as many jobs as it destroys, a new study finds, but men, younger folks, and minorities hold positions that are particularly vulnerable.
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Curate Your Audience to Get Better Results from Your Digital Campaigns

January 19, 2019 No Comments

Knowing your audience is an important part of your digital marketing strategy. These tips will help you sharpen your audience targeting.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero



Tumblr will delete all porn from its platform

December 4, 2018 No Comments

Tumblr, a microblogging service that’s impact on internet culture has been massive and unique, is preparing for a massive change that’s sure to upset many of its millions of users.

On December 17, Tumblr will be banning porn, errr “adult content,” from its site and encouraging users to flag that content for removal. Existing adult content will be set to a “private mode” viewable only to the original poster.

What does “adult content” even mean? Well, according to Tumblr, the ban means the removal of any media that depicts “real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.”

This is a lot more complicated than just deleting some hardcore porn from the site; over the past several years Tumblr has become a hub for communities and artists with more adult themes. This has largely been born out of the fact that adult content has been disallowed from other multimedia-focused social platforms. There are bans on nudity and sexual content on Instagram and Facebook, though Twitter has more relaxed standards.

Why now? The Tumblr app was removed from the iOS app store several weeks ago due to an issue with its content filtering that led the company to issue a statement. “We’re committed to helping build a safe online environment for all users, and we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to media featuring child sexual exploitation and abuse,” the company had detailed. “We’re continuously assessing further steps we can take to improve and there is no higher priority for our team.”

We’ve reached out to Tumblr for further comment.

Update: In a blog post titled “A better, more positive Tumblr,” the company’s CEO Jeff D’Onofrio minimized claims that the content ban was related to recent issues surrounding child porn, and is instead intended to make the platform one “where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”

“As Tumblr continues to grow and evolve, and our understanding of our impact on our world becomes clearer, we have a responsibility to consider that impact across different age groups, demographics, cultures, and mindsets,” the post reads. “Bottom line: There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community.”

The imminent “adult content” ban will not apply to media connected with breastfeeding, birth or more general “health-related situations” like surgery, according to the company.

Tumblr is attempting to make aims to minimize the impact on the site’s artistic community as well, but this level of nuance is going to be incredibly difficult for them to enforce uniformly and will more than likely lead to a lot of frustrated users being told that their content does not qualify as “art.”

Tumblr is also looking to minimize impact on the more artistic storytelling, “such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations, are also stuff that can be freely posted on Tumblr.”

I don’t know how much it needs to be reiterated that child porn is a major issue plaguing the web, but a blanket ban on adult content on a platform that has gathered so many creatives working with NSFW themes is undoubtedly going to be a pretty controversial decision for the company.


Social – TechCrunch


The View From the Control Room: How InSight Landed on Mars

November 27, 2018 No Comments

Inside Mission Support at Lockheed Martin, which led spacecraft operations for NASA’s InSight lander, tensions ran high as the robot prepared to touch down on martian soil.
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Twitter removes thousands of accounts that tried to dissuade Democrats from voting

November 3, 2018 No Comments

Twitter has deleted thousands of automated accounts posting messages that tried to discourage and dissuade voters from casting their ballot in the upcoming election next week.

Some 10,000 accounts were removed across late September and early October after they were first flagged by staff at the Democratic Party, the company has confirmed.

“We removed a series of accounts for engaging in attempts to share disinformation in an automated fashion – a violation of our policies,” said a Twitter spokesperson in an email to TechCrunch. “We stopped this quickly and at its source.” But the company did not provide examples of the kinds of accounts it removed, or say who or what might have been behind the activity.

The accounts posed as Democrats and try to convince key demographics to stay at home and not vote, likely as an attempt to sway the results in key election battlegrounds, according to Reuters, which first reported the news.

A spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee did not return a request for comment outside its business hours.

The removals are a drop in the ocean to the wider threats that Twitter faces. Earlier this year, the social networking giant deleted 1.2 million accounts for sharing and promoting terrorist content. In May alone, the company deleted just shy of 10 million accounts each week for sending malicious, automated messages.

Twitter had 335 million monthly active users as of its latest earnings report in July.

But the company has faced criticism from lawmakers for not doing more to proactively remove content that violates its rules or spreads disinformation and false news. With just days before Americans are set to vote in the U.S. midterms, this latest batch of takedowns is likely to spark further concern that Twitter did not automatically detect the malicious accounts.

Following the publication of Reuters’ report, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, said in a tweet thread that public research identifying bots is often “deeply flawed” and that many are identifying bots “based on probability, not certainty,” since “nobody other than Twitter can see non-public, internal account data.”

Twitter does not have a strict policy on the spread of disinformation in the run-up to election season, unlike Facebook, which recently banned content that tried to suppress voters with false and misleading information. Instead, Twitter said last year that its “open and real-time nature” is a “powerful antidote to the spreading of all types of false information.” But researchers have been critical of that approach. Research published last month found that more than 700,000 accounts that were active during the 2016 presidential election are still active to this day — pushing a million tweets each day.

A Twitter spokesperson added that for the election this year, the company has “established open lines of communication and direct, easy escalation paths for state election officials, Homeland Security, and campaign organizations from both major parties to help us enforce our policies vigorously and protect conversational health on our service.”


Social – TechCrunch


10 fun facts (and a typo) from the original Google paper by Larry and Sergey

October 27, 2018 No Comments

Yesterday while I was having a blast reading “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” I happened across some fun facts.

We got into some of the more technical goods from the paper yesterday, but figured these would also be an worthwhile — or at least more enjoyable — read. Friday and all.

1. “Wow, you looked at a lot of pages from my web site. How did you like it?” – people encountering a crawler for the first time

They note that they received almost daily emails from people either concerned about copyright issues or asking if they liked the site after looking at it. For many people with web pages, this was one of the first crawlers they had seen.

“It turns out that running a crawler which connects to more than half a million servers, and generates tens of millions of log entries generates a fair amount of email and phone calls. Because of the vast number of people coming on line, there are always those who do not know what a crawler is, because this is the first one they have seen. Almost daily, we receive an email something like, “Wow, you looked at a lot of pages from my web site. How did you like it?” There are also some people who do not know about the robots exclusion protocol, and think their page should be protected from indexing by a statement like, “This page is copyrighted and should not be indexed.”

More innocent times.

2. A billion web documents predicted by 2000

“It is foreseeable that by the year 2000, a comprehensive index of the Web will contain over a billion documents. . . The goal of our system is to address many of the problems, both in quality and scalability, introduced by scaling search engine technology to such extraordinary numbers.”

Now in 2018, there are reportedly 130 trillion documents on the web — an extraordinary number indeed. And sure enough, their search has scaled to meet it.

3. Google took up 55 GB of storage

“The total of all the data used by the search engine requires a comparable amount of storage, about 55 GB.”

Now, Google is 2 billion lines of code. As noted by one of their engineering managers in 2016, the repository contains 86TB of data.

4. “People are still only willing to look at the first few tens of results.”

Please note: “tens.”

They write about the need for more precision in search. Remember the days when people regularly clicked past page 1?

5. Percentage of .com domains: from 1.5 to 60, to now 46.5

They note how “commercialized” the web was already becoming, leaving search engine technology “to be largely a black art and to be advertising oriented.”

“The Web has also become increasingly commercial over time. In 1993, 1.5% of web servers were on .com domains. This number grew to over 60% in 1997.”

According to Statistica, the number of .com domains is down to 46.5% as of May 2018.

“With Google,” they wrote, “we have a strong goal to push more development and understanding into the academic realm.”

6. “There are two types of hits: fancy hits and plain hits”

After going into some technical detail about optimized compact encoding, they reveal that they’ve their complex compact encoding preparations are categorized simply — endearingly — into fancy and plain.

7. Already defending user experience in anticipating search

From the start, it seems Brin and Page fought for users to not need to excessively specify their queries in order to get desired information. They wrote:

“Some argue that on the web, users should specify more accurately what they want and add more words to their query. We disagree vehemently with this position. If a user issues a query like “Bill Clinton” they should get reasonable results since there is a enormous amount of high quality information available on this topic. Given examples like these, we believe that the standard information retrieval work needs to be extended to deal effectively with the web.”

It’s interesting that this was so clearly in their thinking from the beginning. At last week’s Search Summit, Googler Juan Felipe Rincon said, “The future of search is no search, because search implies uncertainty. Instead, it will be about how you populate something before someone knows what they don’t know.”

8. There was a typo

In the second paragraph of section 3.2, they write “Couple this flexibility to publish anything with the enormous influence of search engines to route traffic and companies which deliberately manipulating search engines for profit become a serious problem.”

Did you catch it? The verb should be, “companies which are deliberately manipulating search engines become” or “companies which deliberately manipulate search engines become.” Of the utmost gravity, we know.

Just goes to show that even if an incomplete verb phrase won’t keep you from doing some pretty cool stuff in the world. And of course, that even the best of us need editors.

9. Search Engine Watch shout out

We tweeted this yesterday, but felt the need to share again for extra emphasis. Our very own Search Engine Watch was cited in the paper, stating that top search engines claimed to index 100 million web documents as of November 1997. Been a fun 21 years.

10: They chose these photos

Happy Friday, everyone.

Search Engine Watch


What Spotify can learn from Tencent Music

October 7, 2018 No Comments

On Tuesday, Tencent Music Entertainment filed for an IPO in the US that is expected to value it in the $ 25-30 billion range, on par with Spotify’s IPO in April. The filing highlights just how different its social interaction and digital goods business is from the subscription models of leading music streaming services in Western countries.

That divergence suggests an opportunity for Spotify or one of its rivals to gain a competitive advantage.

Tencent Music is no small player: As the music arm of Chinese digital media giant Tencent, its four apps have several hundred million monthly active users, $ 1.3 billion in revenue for the first half of 2018, and roughly 75 percent market share in China’s rapidly growing music streaming market. Unlike Spotify and Apple Music, however, almost none of its users pay for the service, and those who do are mostly not paying in the form of a streaming subscription.

Its SEC filing shows that 70 percent of revenue is from the 4.2 percent of its overall users who pay to give virtual gifts to other users (and music stars) who sing karaoke or live stream a concert and/or who paid for access to premium tools for karaoke; the other 30 percent is the combination of streaming subscriptions, music downloads, and ad revenue.

At its heart, Tencent Music is an interactive media company. Its business isn’t merely providing music, it’s getting people to engage around music. Given its parent company Tencent has become the leading force in global gaming—with control of League of Legends maker Riot Games and Clash of Clans maker Supercell, plus a 40 percent stake in Fortnite creator Epic Games, and role as the top mobile games publisher in China—its team is well-versed in the dynamics of in-game purchasing.

At first glance, the fact that Tencent Music has a lower subscriber rate than its Western rivals (3.6 percent of users paying for a subscription or digital downloads vs. 46 percent paying for a premium subscription on Spotify) is shocking given it has the key ingredient they each crave: exclusive content. Whereas subscription video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video have anchored themselves in exclusive ownership of must-see shows in order to attract subscribers, the music streaming platforms suffer from commodity content. Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Deezer… they all have the same core library of music licensed from the major labels. There’s no reason for any consumer to pay for more than one music streaming subscription in the way they do for video streaming services.

In China, however, Tencent Music has exclusive rights to the most popular Western music from the major labels. The natural strategy to leverage this asset would be to charge a subscription to access it. But the reality is that piracy is still enough of a challenge in China that access to that music isn’t truly “exclusive.” Plus while incomes are rising, there’s extraordinary variance in what price point the population can afford for a music subscription. As a result, Tencent Music can’t rely on a subscription for exclusive content; it sublicenses that content to other Chinese music services as an additional revenue stream instead.

“Online music services in China have experienced intense competition with limited ability to differentiate by content due to the widespread piracy.” Tencent Music, SEC Form F-1

This puts it in a position like that of the Western music streaming services—fighting to differentiate and build a moat against competitors—but unlike them it has successfully done so. By integrating live streams and social functionality as core to the user experience, it’s gaining exclusive content in another form (user-generated content) and the network effects of a social media platform.

Some elements of this are distinct to Tencent’s core market—the broader popularity of karaoke, for instance—but the strategy of gaining competitive advantage through interactive and live content is one Spotify and its rivals would be wise to pursue more aggressively. It is unlikely that the major record labels will agree to any meaningful degree of exclusivity for one of the big streaming services here, and so these platforms need to make unique experiences core to their offering.

Online social activities like singing with friends or singing a karaoke duet with a favorite musician do in fact have a solid base of participants around the world: San Francisco-based startup Smule (backed by Shasta Ventures and Tencent itself) has 50 million monthly active users on its apps for that very purpose. There is a large minority of people who care a lot about singing songs as a social experience, both with friends and strangers.

Spotify and Apple Music have experimented with video, messaging, and social streams (of what friends are listening to). But these have been bonus features and none of them were so integrated into the core product offering as to create serious switching costs that would stop a user from jumping to the other.

The ability to give tips or buy digital goods makes it easier to monetize a platform’s most engaged and enthusiastic users. This is the business model of the mobile gaming sector: A minority percentage of users get emotionally invested enough to pay real money for digital goods that enhance their experience, currency to tip other members of the community, or access to additional gameplay.

As the leading music platform, it is surprising that Spotify hasn’t created a pathway for superfans of music to engage deeper with artists or each other. Spotify makes referrals to buy concert tickets or merchandise —a very traditional sense of what the music fan wants—but hasn’t deepened the online music experience for the segment of its user base that would happily pay more for music-related experiences online (whether in the form of tipping, digital goods, special digital access to live shows, etc.) or for deeper exposure to the process (and people) behind their favorite songs.

Tencent Music has an advantage in creating social music experiences because it is part of the same company that owns the country’s leading social apps and is integrated into them. It has been able to build off the social graph of WeChat and QQ rather than building a siloed social network for music. Even Spotify’s main corporate rivals, Apple Music and Amazon Music, aren’t attached to leading social platforms. (Another competitor, YouTube Music, is tied to YouTube but the video service’s social features are secondary aspects of the product compared to the primary role of social interaction on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp).

Spotify could build out more interactive products itself or could buy social-music startups like Smule, but Tencent Music’s success also suggests the benefits of a deal that’s sometimes speculated about by VCs and music industry observers: a Facebook acquisition of Spotify. As one, the leading social media company and the leading music streaming company could build out more valuable video live streaming, group music sharing, karaoke, and other social interactions around music that tap Facebook’s 2 billion users to use Spotify as their default streaming service and lock existing Spotify subscribers into the service that integrates with their go-to social apps.

Deeper social functionality doesn’t seem to be the path Spotify is prioritizing, though. It has removed several social features over the years and is anchoring itself in professional content distribution (rather than user-generated content creation), becoming the new pipes for professional musicians to put their songs out to the world (and likely aiming to disrupt the role of labels and publishers more than they will publicly admit). To that point, the company’s acquisitions—of startups like Loudr, Mediachain, and Soundtrap—have focused on content analytics, content recommendation, royalty tracking, and tools for professional creators.

This is the same race its more deep-pocketed competitors are running, however, and it doesn’t lock consumers into the platform like the network effects of a social app or the exclusivity of a mobile game do. It recently began opening its platform for musicians to add their songs directly—something Tencent Music has allowed for years—but this seems less like a move to a YouTube or SoundCloud-style user-generated content platform and more like a chess move in the game of eventually displacing labels. Ultimately, though, building out more social interaction around music will be critical to it in escaping the race with Apple Music and the rest by achieving more defensibility.


Social – TechCrunch