Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thanks, Science! New Study Says CrunchBase Is An Information Treasure Trove


“I believe CrunchBase will gain a lot of attention from the academia soon, which is always eager for high-quality data set,” writes Guang Xiang of Carnegie Mellon University, who found that he could predict Mergers and Acquisitions much better using the unique business variables available in CrunchBase than the traditional databases used by academics. Thanks, Xiang, flattery will get you everywhere.

“Traditionally, people only used numeric variables/features for M&A prediction, such as ROI, etc. CrunchBase and TechCrunch provided a much richer corpus for the task,” he writes. Specifically, CrunchBase gave him data on a volume of companies roughly 43 times the normal dataset (2300 vs. +100,000) and access to valuable variables, such as management structure, financing, and media coverage.

For instance, “Strong financial backing is generally considered critical to the success of a company,” but traditional datasets won’t have detailed information on the management, their experience, and the funding rounds.

Even better, the news coverage itself on Techcrunch could also be a predictor of merger or acquisition (because, well, duh, if a company’s doing well enough to make the news, there’s a good chance someone is also itching to buy it out).

But, just when we were starting to blush, Xiang brought out the criticism, “Despite its large magnitude, the CrunchBase corpus is sparse with many missing attributes,” because the community-created database tends to focus on more popular companies and features. That said, even with drawbacks, the researchers still achieved “good performance,” with CrunchBase — Which impressively enough has been managed all these years by superwoman Gene Teare.

M&A activity is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are all sorts of business questions that could be answered using the vast amounts of data provided by CrunchBase. So, statisticians and business analysts, go nuts. And, when you find something cool, let us know first (

from TechCrunch

Steve Would Be Proud: How Apple Won The War Against Flash


Late Thursday, an extraordinary thing happened: Adobe announced in a blog post that it would not provide Flash Player support for devices running Android 4.1, and that it would pull the plugin from the Google Play store on August 15. The retreat comes five years after the introduction of the iPhone, the device which thwarted Flash’s mobile ambitions, almost even before they began.

That Adobe would make such an announcement nearly five years to the day that the first iPhone was sold is kind of funny. I’d like to think that the Flash team has a sense of humor and was well aware of the timing when it posted the blog entry, but I could also see the entry as unintentionally ironic. Either way, it caps off a five-year battle to win the mobile landscape — a war which for Adobe ended in defeat.

At the time the iPhone was announced, lack of support for Adobe Flash seemed like a glaring omission, for a platform that was so hell-bent on being a portable computing device. But it wasn’t until the iPad came out, two-and-a-half years later, that the battle between Apple and Adobe, Flash vs. HTML5, and “open” vs. “proprietary” reached a fever pitch.

The iPad Effect

The iPad was announced in January at WWDC, but wasn’t available until March. And when it did finally become available, people began to notice that the lack of Flash, which then was the de facto standard for video playback and interactivity on the web, was missing. For the iPhone, not having Flash was a minor annoyance — after all, few other smartphones had very good Flash support at the time… But for the iPad, which in many cases was being used as a laptop replacement, at least for consumption of media, that was a big deal.

It wasn’t long before Google latched onto this and began promising an alternative to the “broken” Apple devices which wouldn’t give users access to the full web, as publishers intended them to view it. It’s tough to believe now, but at one point, Flash on mobile devices was actually considered a feature. There was Google’s Andy Rubin in April 2010, announcing that Android would have full Flash support in Froyo, the next version of the operating system to be released.

The Impact Of “Thoughts On Flash”

Battle lines were drawn, and just a few days later, Steve Jobs issued his epic missive “Thoughts on Flash,” which sought to explain, once and for all, why Apple didn’t — and wouldn’t ever — integrate Flash into its mobile and tablet devices. There were numerous reasons, and Jobs debunked the trope of Flash being “open,” as well as its ability to access the full web. He also brought up security, reliability, performance, and battery life issues that plagued devices using the plugin.

Most importantly, though, Apple didn’t want Adobe developers to create cross-platform apps which didn’t take advantage of the most latest features, development libraries and tools. Jobs wrote:

“Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful applications. Everyone wins – we sell more devices because we have the best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest selection of apps on any platform.”

It turns out Jobs was right. When Flash finally did ship on Android devices, it didn’t provide users with the full web, as was promised. Android users who wished to watch videos on Hulu through the Flash browser, for instance, were met with a message saying that the content wasn’t available on the mobile web. Same thing for users who tried to access most premium video sites on Google TV, which also supported Flash. More importantly, even when those videos or interactive Flash elements did appear on Android devices, they were often wonky or didn’t perform well, even on high-powered phones.

The end result was that users stopped seeing Flash on mobile devices as a good thing, and developers quit trying to support the framework on those devices.

The Flash Issue Isn’t Just About Mobile

But the impact of that battle goes beyond just how people view content on mobile phones. While pretty much all developers have settled on building native apps or coding for the mobile web when trying to reach those users, the battle has also had an impact on the way that developers think about multi platform web development. Even when not building for 4-inch screen, they’re increasingly turning to HTML5 to build new user experiences or render interactive applications, rather than writing to be seen in the Flash player.

Video might be the last industry where the Adobe Flash Player continues to have a hold on how content is displayed, but even then, a growing number of sites are moving to HTML5-based video players for delivery. YouTube and Vimeo are leading that charge, displaying their videos in a HTML5 player first, when available, and only falling back to Flash when the player isn’t supported. And many others are following that lead.

Frankly, Flash had never been a huge business for Adobe, even when development for interactive websites using the plugin were in high demand. As time goes on, it will become an even less important part, as its development tools — where Adobe makes the bulk of its revenue — focus on catering to a developer base that is increasingly interested in building HTML5-based web applications. As more can be accomplished in-browser without a plugin, that’s good news for users and developers alike.

from TechCrunch

For Kristi Yamaguchi, Social Media Reshapes the Olympics

This summer's Olympics in London will be shaped by social media like no sporting event in history. But 20 years ago, when figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi took home the gold medal at the 1992 games in France, social media was an unheard of concept.

Yamaguchi became a household name and global celebrity. But without Twitter, Facebook and other platforms, that experience was much different for her than it will be for this summer's Olympic stars.

"Social media has changed so much," Yamaguchi told Mashable in an interview. "It's incredible that you can actually send an athlete a message now. Whether they respond or not, who knows, but you can actually feel a little bit in common with them…
Continue reading...

More About: olympics, Social Media, sports, Twitter

from Mashable!

The SkateBack: Sheathing your iPhone in recycled skateboards is cool, but is it practical?

Screen Shot 2012 06 30 at 2.27.33 PM 520x245 The SkateBack: Sheathing your iPhone in recycled skateboards is cool, but is it practical?

As a child of the 80s, I have an intense soft spot for skateboards and skate culture, so an adhesive backing for your iPhone, made out of recycled skateboard material from real factories was something I just had to check out. The SkateBack is a new product of Grove, the purveyors of fine bamboo cases for the iPhone and iPad.

The SkateBack is a bit of a departure for the company in that it isn’t using bamboo, instead it’s made of 100% post-industrial skate board material, in partnership with MapleXO, who has been using the same material to make jewelry since 2005. Basically they take the leavings of materials that would normally be discarded from factories making skate boards and turn them into beautiful things, a fantastic idea if ever there was one.

The SkateBack comes in three flavors, Calm, Neutral and my favorite, Vibrant. It’s built out of slivers of the material that are glued together to create a uniquely striped pattern. No two SkateBacks are exactly the same. The combination of blonde wood and colored strips on my Vibrant test back is incredibly pleasing and eye catching It elicited many comments from observers over the last week when I took it to Google I/O.

Screen Shot 2012 06 30 at 2.27.03 PM 520x335 The SkateBack: Sheathing your iPhone in recycled skateboards is cool, but is it practical?

Once the SkateBack is assembled, it’s sanded down and a sealant applied, so there is no danger of splintering. The edges are nicely chamfered as well, providing a smooth, handleable finish overall. It’s about as thick as the iPhone 4′s glass back, so it will increase the thickness of your iPhone by about 1/4.

This isn’t a dealbreaker when hand-holding it, as it really doesn’t add much weight at all, but it does mean that any third-party cases or accessories that depend on the width of your phone being constant are incompatible. That means no Mophie JuicePacks, no Olloclip lens accessory, anything that is dependent on the phone being a set thickness.

Screen Shot 2012 06 30 at 2.25.50 PM 520x304 The SkateBack: Sheathing your iPhone in recycled skateboards is cool, but is it practical?

The ideal audience for the SkateBack is those who normally run their phone ‘naked’ but wouldn’t mind having the back protected when setting it down on less than smooth surfaces. It also offers some general shatter protection for the back glass as it should absorb some nicks and bangs.

There’s a lot to love about the SkateBack, the smell of the wood, the feel of it in your hand, the way it gets smoother as it picks up your natural oils. There is, however, one big flaw.

The hole provided in the back of the SkateBack for the flash is far too small, causing refraction and destroying any attempts to shoot a picture with it enabled. Without flash, it’s totally fine. With flash, it’s a complete mess. This is just silly for a number of reasons.

Screen Shot 2012 06 30 at 2.25.20 PM 520x324 The SkateBack: Sheathing your iPhone in recycled skateboards is cool, but is it practical?

First of all, Apple provides distinct guidelines for case manufacturers with test images, recommendations and specific advice that “some devices feature an LED flash to illuminate picture taking. The case should not cover or obstruct the flash with any material.” Here’s a test image that Apple provides with an example of an occluded flash:

Screen Shot 2012 06 30 at 2.04.06 PM 520x224 The SkateBack: Sheathing your iPhone in recycled skateboards is cool, but is it practical?

And here’s an image shot with the SkateBack, one without flash and one with:

Screen Shot 2012 06 30 at 2.30.11 PM 520x368 The SkateBack: Sheathing your iPhone in recycled skateboards is cool, but is it practical?

The thing is, the folks at Grove know better than this. They’ve been making cases for the iPhone since 2009 and their bamboo cases show no signs of this occlusion issue on the iPhone 4 or 4S, I’ve personally gotten great shots with those cases on phones with flashes. The iPhone models use a larger oval opening that avoids all of the problems neatly. So why didn’t the SkateBack? Was it a structural issue? A design choice?

Either way, it’s a big problem for anyone who uses the flash to take pictures. Until the issue is resolved, you’ve definitely got to consider whether you’re willing to give that capability up or not. Ironically, I didn’t notice the problem immediately because I almost never use the flash, preferring to use long shutter apps to gather enough light at night. But, from time to time, it is nice to have the option and the SkateBack requires the use of a supplied plastic blade to remove it, so you can’t just slip it on and off.

If that issue gets fixed, I’d have no problem recommending the SkateBack to anyone looking to jazz up the look of their iPhone in an environmentally sound and beautiful way. But, if you use flash photography at all, you’d better hold off for now.

SkateBack for iPhone 4/4S $49.00

from The Next Web Feed

NFC Is Great, But Mobile Payments Solve A Problem That Doesn’t Exist

Screen shot 2012-06-30 at 1.52.37 PM

For the past few years, we’ve been told over and over again that NFC will eventually replace the common wallet. And yes, NFC is a great technology. Parts of Europe and China are using it for public transport transactions, and the sharing of content between devices is incredibly cool (just check out this commercial). And moreover, the ability to ditch all of your loyalty cards and combine them in one place (potentially) PassBook-style would be highly convenient. But where mobile payments are concerned, there is no problem to be solved.

Let’s just start with the small stuff. For one, the motion itself should be no different. It’s not like contactless payments via mobile is a more physically efficient form of living and transacting. You grab your credit card out of your wallet in your pocket, and swipe it through the reader (or in some cases tap it, just like the phone). In the case of NFC, you grab your phone out of your pocket, open Google Wallet (or whatever), and tap it to the reader. It’s the same exact motion.

But that doesn’t even matter when we start to consider the real obstacles for NFC mobile payments. There are two issues: the smaller is that, along with not being any faster or easier physically, no one is actually getting rid of their wallet. For one, everyone needs an ID and an ID isn’t safe in a pocket or loose in a bag. So, until I can use my phone as a form of identification at the airport, with the police, or to go to a Dr.’s appointment, my wallet will still remain. And it’s fair to assume that at least some people prefer to have a little cash on them, just in case.

I took a quick Twitter poll using PopTip (a newly launched TechStars company), and it turns out that the few respondents I had mostly feel comfortable without any cash. But, I also assume that the majority of my Twitter followers are generally tech-savvy early adopters, so I still stand behind the fact that you’ll continue carrying a wallet, or some other carrier of small, valuable pieces of paper like insurance cards, IDs, etc.

Moreover, all merchants would need to be set up for NFC transactions to allow the consumer to ditch their wallet, not just forward thinking giants like American Eagle, Macy’s and OfficeMax. It’s not like consumers will stop shopping at non-NFC merchants just because they aren’t set up — paying with a credit card is just as easy, so why even go through the trouble of setting up Google Wallet? Google Offers is a nice incentive, but it isn’t enough to sway all consumers, and it certainly isn’t attractive enough to woo merchants.

In essence, the only true value given to the consumer is the fact that it’s “cool.”

And then the problems intensify when we visit the merchant side of things. There is no benefit to merchants to implement these systems. Sure, Google and Isis can try to convince these SMBs that NFC is the future, but in reality it’s only an added cost to overhaul the system. Even at a minimal cost, the only value is a slight increase in efficiency pushing customers through POS. Companies could potentially market through their POS using NFC, as is the case with Google Offers, though I’m not sure this is welcome on either side. As Mirth so gracefully stated at Disrupt, merchants aren’t quite as enthusiastic about deals services as consumers are.

This comment thread on LoopInsight says it well:

There’s no tangible, proven way to get any return on investment for the implementation. So why do it?

Credit cards are ubiquitous. Credit cards are fast and easy. Almost all merchants have the ability to process payments via credit card. So why? Why are we solving a problem that doesn’t exist?

And even if there is some added benefit, most research predicts that the ubiquity of mobile payments via NFC is between five and ten years away. That’s more than enough time for another disruptive payments solution, likely something that doesn’t require a complete merchant systems overhaul, to supplant NFC before it ever hits its stride.

Again, NFC is an incredibly useful technology. In fact, the social media implications of NFC ubiquity in mobile devices (not at POS) are kind of mind-boggling. Just look at these TagStand figures, and pair them with Google’s recent announcement of 1 million NFC Android devices shipped every week, and then imagine Facebook and Twitter bigger than they’ve ever been before. That is the future of NFC.

Very soon, we’ll be using it in all kinds of interesting and productive ways. I just don’t think mobile payments is one of them.

from TechCrunch