Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Leo Laporte: This Week in Tech on course to generate $4 million in 2012

leo laporte 520x245 Leo Laporte: This Week in Tech on course to generate $4 million in 2012

Noted tech broadcast network This Week in Tech (TWiT) grossed $3.75 million in revenue during 2011, and that figure is likely to kick on and surpass $4 million this year, according to founder Leo Laporte.

Laporte took to Reddit — in an ‘ask me anything’ (AMA) thread — which was typically chatty and revealed plenty of details about the 2005-founded network, which runs 25 shows, including flagship broadcasts The Tech Guy and This Week in Tech.

The impressive revenues figures Laporte mentioned come from reader donations and, of course, advertising. Laporte says that the numbers are set to grow higher still as partner Lisa Kentzell — who manages the business side of things – aims to increase income by 50 percent this year, and take the company to the next level:

Lisa says she plans to increase revenue 50% next year. I think she can do it. We are all working very hard to build something permanent (and much bigger than LeoTV).

Responding to questions, Laporte confirmed that Kentzell is his romantic partner, a fact that was awkwardly revealed last year, before going on to explain the importance of her role, which allows him to focus on content:

Lisa and I are excellent business partners. There’s no way I could do the shows I do and run the business. She understands and fully supports what we’re trying to do with TWiT. I think TWiT is much better for our partnership.

Very few startups can work with a single founder. There’s almost always a vision/product person and a business person. I tried to do TWiT without Lisa but it really didn’t take off until she arrived about four years ago.

Laporte’s efforts are entirely self-hosted, but that could have been different at one point. He looked into bringing the content to YouTube, as part of its push for original programming, but a deal never materialised since the show was unable to conform to the Google-owned site’s advertising regulations:

We tried to get on YouTube Live but were turned down. Turns out they only want content that doesn’t already have ads.

On the subject of his future, 55-year old Laporte told Redditors that he plans to continue to broadcast until his voice goes. The veteran tech journalist explained: “I love what I do and I can’t imagine getting up in the morning and not having a show to do.”

Reflecting on the other end of his career, the beginning, Laporte recalled how a stint serving diners in college got him into broadcasting. One day, a customer, annoyed by the goofy accents and voices he put on while working, told him to “save it for radio”. Laporte took the comment literally and auditioned for and landed a role with the campus radio station – his first break.

Among the other stories Laporte revealed is the reason why notable tech figure Jason Calacanis parted ways with the site back in 2010. Laporte says:

As for me and Jason. I really like the guy, but I felt that he used TWiT to promote himself and then launched a copy-cat network. He’s done the same thing before (Propellor was a direct copy of Digg.) After he launched his network I didn’t see any benefit to allow him to continue promoting it on my network.

You can read the full thread over at Reddit for more details.

Oh, and by the way, don’t miss next week’s This Week in Google, featuring TNW’s own Drew Olanoff.

Image via Flickr / PlanetC1

from The Next Web Feed http://thenextweb.com/insider/2012/08/01/leo-laporte-this-week-in-tech-on-course-to-generate-4-million-in-2012/

The Mechanics of a Small Acquisition – How One Startup Navigated a Multi-Million Dollar Exit


Stypi is a YCombinator backed startup that was recently acquired by Salesforce.com.

Their story details the mechanics for how a small company can manage an acquisition. It provides lessons for startups going through the process for the first time.

Stypi is a real-time editor that multiple people can edit at the same time. It also supports several programming languages which makes it an especially cool collaborative tool.

Jasen Chen is one of the founders who now works at Salesforce.com on the Stypi project. His story mostly relates to acquisitions of $25 million or less.

Here are his five insights into the courtship and the eventual exit:

First Contact. That first contact is like meeting someone from the opposite sex. Intentions are confusing but the prospects are enticing. First forays are usually from a founder or the corporate development department of a larger company. These people usually act on behalf of an interested internal team. Get comfortable with this person as this is the individual who will set up and facilitate your meetings. This person is also the one you eventually haggle with over terms.

Further, be prepared for a long courtship. It can cost a lot of money to go through a deal and in the end there may be nothing to show for it. Don’t believe the finish line is just yards away. If you get rejected, then it will hurt all the more.

Courtship. A series of meetings will take place. Mutual NDAs are part of the ritual with larger companies. Decisions to go forward are made quickly after each meeting. Remember, rejection can go both ways. Chen said they decided to end the relationship early with more than half of interested potential acquirers. Meetings move fast when things are going well. Priority for for acquisition meetings are reasonably high.

Term Sheet. The relationship is not exclusive. Hopefully you are lucky enough to be pursuing several. Each company will have its own way for managing the term sheet process. How long this takes comes down to due diligence. It’s not unreasonable to ask for timelimes so expectations can be set.

One you get a term sheet, it’s time to celebrate such an incredible accomplishment. Then it is time to get a lawyer who negotiates the key terms. The lawyer will explain it all and help you decide how hard to push for more favorable terms.

Due Diligence and Closing. When the term sheet is signed, it’s time to start acting like tow companies that have decided to join together.  The terms sheet requires you to reject any other outstanding offers for a period of 45 days. There will be reviews of any document you ever signed. Anyone can back out at any time but the deal is usually a go unless you are hiding something like a lawsuit or stealing code.

A lot of time goes into signing forms and tracking people down for signatures. It’s like any transaction. There can be a lot of last-minute scurrying.

Exit. This is up to you.  Some have giant parties others take time off and by sports cars. Chen says For Stypi, life has not changed very much. They went straight to work the day after closing. For them, Stypi still has a long way to go before they can say they have achieved what they envisioned.

from TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/ARd6jCcb1zE/

Guy Adams Talks About His Time In Twitter Exile After NBC Olympics Tweets [TCTV]

Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.16.14 PM

There has been quite a brouhaha around Twitter, NBC, and The UK Independent reporter Guy Adams these past couple days. It boils down to this: Adams’ Twitter account was suspended after he tweeted out the email address of the NBC executive in charge of the network’s much-criticized handling of broadcasting the Olympics. After a massive uproar online, Adams’ account has since been reinstated, and Twitter has issued a public apology — but it’s safe to say, this has been largely perceived as a massive fail on the part of NBC and especially of Twitter. As a newer and supposedly more progressive company, people seemed to hold the microblogging service to a higher standard, and many are saying that much of the “good will” around the company has been eroded.

We were pleased to have Adams give TechCrunch TV a call via Skype from his home base in Los Angeles to talk about the situation. Watch the video above to hear his thoughts on the suspension, the “dodgy deal” he says Twitter clearly struck with NBC, how Twitter has reached out to make amends, and why after it all he’s still grateful to be back on the service today.

from TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/Z4B4n_u7f2Q/

Who’d have thought? Digg founder Kevin Rose invites questions on Reddit

It’s been long clear that Reddit won the news aggregation war against Digg (the fact that the latter was divvied up and sold last month is proof alone). But now, irony of all ironies, Digg founder Kevin Rose has popped up on one of Reddit’s ‘AMA’ (ask me anything) threads.

kevin rose reddit 520x336 Whod have thought? Digg founder Kevin Rose invites questions on Reddit

For those that aren’t familiar, AMA is used to give the Reddit community the chance to chat to celebrities and notable figures through the site.

It’s a scenario that was not envisigable when the sites were battling it out in 2008. Digg emerged first in 2004, taking market share before Reddit’s 2005 launch. However, with Rose now at Google and no longer involved with his site — which was just relaunched by Betaworks — this isn’t the shock horror it might once have been and is instead testament to Reddit’s influence.

Rose just tweeted the link, which has just gone up on the site. It’s grabbed nearly 150 comments in 10 minutes, so if you’re a fan or just curious, go check out the thread here.

We’re expecting to see lots of interesting information come up here.

Thumbail image via Flickr / Joi

from The Next Web Feed http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2012/08/01/whod-have-thought-digg-founder-kevin-rose-invites-questions-on-reddit/

Samsung’s legal team in hot water for publicly releasing inadmissible evidence from Apple patent trial

 Samsungs legal team in hot water for publicly releasing inadmissible evidence from Apple patent trial

In an interesting turn of events in the Apple/Samsung patent trial, Samsung’s legal team is in some hot water this evening with Southern District Court Judge Lucy Koh. It’s all over the ‘Sony-style’ design mockups that Samsung has been harping on for the past week or so.

See, there were some mockups created by Apple designer Shin Nishibori that were designed to demonstrate how Sony’s design sensibilities could be melded with Apple’s to create a phone. The design was said by Samsung to exemplify that Apple was working from another company’s designs in creating the iPhone, something Apple has accused Samsung itself of.

Screen Shot 2012 07 31 at 6.00.07 PM 520x385 Samsungs legal team in hot water for publicly releasing inadmissible evidence from Apple patent trial

But Apple whipped out a prototype predating Nishibori’s design that dated back to 2005, arguing that the Sony designs were just a riff on what it had done before. This negated Samsung’s point, at least in the eyes of Judge Koh. Koh ruled that Samsung could not present evidence related to these ‘Sony-style’ designs, or another prototype design that Samsung says it was working on in 2006. It very closely resembles the iPhone, as you can see in the image from All Things D, who posted the documents along with a statement from Samsung.

None of these documents are anything new, as they’re all part of the court filings that both parties had made earlier in the week. But contextually, the point that Samsung was trying to make is clear: we were doing an ‘iPhone-style-phone’ before the ‘iPhone’.

Screen Shot 2012 07 31 at 6.00.17 PM 520x390 Samsungs legal team in hot water for publicly releasing inadmissible evidence from Apple patent trial

The statement references the F700 phone that Samsung announced in December of 2006, before the iPhone was released. That, along with the prototype above, says Samsung, should have been enough to prove that the company didn’t copy the iPhone.

“The excluded evidence would have established beyond doubt that Samsung did not copy the iPhone design,” adding petulantly, “fundamental fairness requires that the jury decide the case based on all the evidence.”

Basically, the Judge told them no, so the legal team spit the evidence out all over the media in order to get its message out. And Judge Koh is ticked off bigtime. All Things D reports her saying, “Tell [Samsung lawyer] Mr. Quinn I’d like to see him today. I want to know who drafted the press release, who authorized it from the legal team.”

Not smart. This could have some repercussions for Samsung, who likely felt that getting this information out was worth the ramifications. But Koh could very well drop the hammer. And this is just Day 1 folks, tomorrow Apple VP Phil Schiller takes the stand for questioning.

Image via Samsung

from The Next Web Feed http://thenextweb.com/apple/2012/08/01/samsungs-legal-team-in-hot-water-for-publicly-releasing-inadmissible-evidence-from-apple-patent-trial/

New Darknet Wants To Match-Up Cypherpunks In Crypto Utopia


Earlier this year French entrepreneur Ramine Darabiha called for a cypherpunk revival. Looks like he might be getting his wish.

Cryptosphere is a new darknet now under development. A darknet is a private and/or anonymous network, sometimes using the public internet for connectivity. Silk Road, a marketplace for illegal drugs, is probably the most famous. You can’t use Cryptosphere yet, but eager hackers can take an early look at what’s done so far in Github.

Cryptosphere is inspired by two other peer-to-peer systems: Freenet and the late MojoNation.

MojoNation was a peer-to-peer network where members swapped resources in exchange for a digital currency called Mojo. The project was backed by a startup called Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow, which employed Bram Cohen, who went on to create BitTorrent, and Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn, the creator of Tahoe-LAFS, a peer-to-peer storage system.

Freenet provides the ability to upload and download content completely anonymously (or so the developers say) through a distributed peer-to-peer network. To participate, you download a client/server program that stores a certain amount of encrypted data on your hard drive and makes it available to other Freenet users. You have two choices: you can connect only with friends and other trusted users, or you can choose to participate with the whole network.

It’s like Napster or BitTorrent, but you’re unable to tell what you’re storing. It could be a perfectly legal file, like a Linux distribution, or it could be something more sinister, like child pornography (more on that later). You may have only pieces of files. The Freenet application handles routing of requests through encryption keys, and can also use your computer as a relay between other machines in the network. If you want to download something, you can find files through public directories with encryption keys that enable you to locate and decrypt a file. When you download something you can’t tell where it’s coming from. This provides an extra layer of security and makes it hard to track down who’s hosting and downloading what. Freenet’s main disadvantage, other than being in the dark about what you’re sharing (which some may see as a strength) is that it’s really slow. Also, be warned though that even though Freenet has been around for 12 years now there’s never any guarantee that its security can’t be broken. It’s developed by humans, and humans make mistakes.

Cryptosphere tries to strike a balance between these two previous systems. Unlike MojoNation, Cryptosphere isn’t trying to create a digital currency. “The goal is to incentivize people to provide storage service by making that the way they buy the right to store other things on the network,” explains Tony Arcieri, the project’s lead developer. “In Freenet there’s no incentive to provide reliable service.”

Other than the barter element, the biggest difference between Cryptosphere and Freenet is that while with Freenet you don’t know who you’re file sharing with, unless you enable the friends-only mode, Cryptosphere makes this explicit so that you can barter.

“I think the main thing I’d like to try which is fairly novel is using a collaborative filtering algorithm (i.e. Amazon-style recommendations) to select optimal peers to perform exchanges with/barter with for storage space,” Arcieri explains. Sounds like a match making service for paranoid file swappers.

It’s an intriguing project, but not one without its difficulties. Freenet is noted for the amount of child pornography distributed through the system. Since Cryptosphere will encourage sharing with strangers based on how generous they are with bandwidth and storage, not what they are sharing or download, this could become just as much of a problem there. The encrypted nature of the system provides users with “plausible deniability” but that might not be good enough based on new laws in the U.K.. And legal issues aside, most people have an ethical issue with hosting child pornography, knowingly or not.

Arcieri says one way to deal with the problem may be to create an IP address block list, which would have to be provided by law enforcement. This would enable users to block known distributors of child pornography. But it’s not a fool proof way to stop distribution of kiddie porn or other objectionable material.

But really the value of darknets is that can provide people a medium to exchange information in places where it’s dangerous to do so. For this usecase the crypto needs to be bullet proof to avoid the sort of public embarrassment ( not to mention the potential danger to actual users) that tools like Hackstack and Cryptocat have faced. Also, “plausible deniablity” might not be enough cover under a malevolent dictatorship.

By the way, if you’re still depressed about how people are using Freenet, here’s an interesting take on this situation: a Hacker News commenter lamented that the tool will likely end up being used, much as Freenet before it, for distributing child pornography. But another commenter has a more optimistic take: the prevalence of child porn on Freenet is actually an indicator of freedom. Dig:

Child pornography producers and consumers are similarly persecuted, though clearly with much more sound reasons.

At least in western countries, there aren’t a lot of instances of repressed communication that need to be conducted across a channel like this — especially few legitimate ones. This is not to say that such a system isn’t useful; just that I believe the fact they’re so full of child pornography and the like is actually, in a roundabout way, an indicator of a healthy society.

An interesting case, though I think in western nations signal-to-noise is a bigger problem than state censorship (consider the ratio of mentions of ocean acidification to mentions of the Kardashians).

Photo by m thierry / CC

from TechCrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/xHPxr7Im-t8/

First Look: Simple Reimagines Banking

Simple Hero 520x245 First Look: Simple Reimagines Banking

You and I probably don’t see eye to eye on everything. You may not agree with my taste in music, or my politics, or my positions on the Oxford comma and tucking in of collared shirts (pro, and only when worn with a tie). But regardless of your race, creed, religion, or stance on the iPad, my guess is we can agree on one fundamental axiom of modern life: banking sucks. Simple is poised to change that.

Yes, banking sucks. And not just a little. Banking sucks a lot. What’s worse, when it sucks, not only does it drive you insane, it costs you money. Lots of money.

An overdraft at my current bank, PNC, costs upwards of $30. Earlier this week, the bank settled a class-action lawsuit for $90M after customers accused it of reordering transactions from largest to smallest in order to increase overdraft fees. In essence, they would use the large charges to make the balance fall to zero as quickly as possible, then hammer the account with the small charges to rack up overdraft fees. I personally had my account decimated by these charges in the past, with sub-$1 transactions costing me a hundred times their value in fees. And to add insult to injury, some services, like Paypal, will repeatedly ping your account with new transactions when the previous ones are rejected, each resulting in a new fee. [A representative from PNC declined to comment for this article, saying only that the bank does not discuss individual customer accounts.]

When I spoke with the manager at the Grand Central PNC branch last year about the bank’s abusive fees and seeming inability to block fraudulent charges from hitting my account — even after being notified multiple times — he was apologetic but unable to offer much help. When I told him about my hope to eventually move my money to Simple, and the company’s stated goal of removing abusive fees, he chuckled and told me he had never heard of it.

My problems with PNC were legion. The bank’s phone support was a nightmare, with long hold times and reps often giving incorrect information. Despite repeated attempts, I was unable to get them to change my address when I moved to New York until a month ago. And while the branch staff was courteous and tried their best to help out, they were often unable to solve even seemingly basic problems, like blocking the aforementioned fraudulent transactions.

The bank’s website and app were, predictably, atrocious. Depositing checks through the app seemed promising until I learned there was a limit of $1000 per day, $3000 per month, which rendered it mostly useless for me. And the website’s user experience, while not a complete train wreck, is far from ideal.

Simple (formerly known as BankSimple) is working to change the way banks interact with their customers. I signed up for the beta list shortly after Alex Payne, Twitter’s former API lead, left the company to help start Simple in May 2010 [Payne announced this week he had left the company]. I received my invitation a little less than two weeks ago, and was fortunate enough to chat briefly with Josh Reich, Simple’s CEO, about the intricacies of setting up a financial company, as well as Simple’s upcoming plans.

Josh Reich BankSimple 520x318 First Look: Simple Reimagines Banking

Josh Reich, CEO of Simple.

The renaming of Simple from BankSimple is subtle but important; as the company stated in a blog post about the name change, “Simple replaces your bank, but we are not a bank.” The company is a front-end built on top of a group of FDIC-insured partner banks: currently, The Bancorp Bank and CBW Bank.

This distinction is important because as the company quickly found out, opening a bank, or even just a front-end to other banks, is not a process that works on Internet time. The company had difficulties finding a partner at first, and has been in private beta since late November of last year. According to Reich, “We entertained the thought of [opening a bank]. We spoke to a few different people who at the time were trying to buy a bank. And from our perspective we wanted to solve the user experience problem.”

Reich emphasized that the lack of a balance sheet, and the corresponding business models that encourage nickel-and-dime fees, is Simple’s greatest strength. “We don’t have a balance sheet right now,” he said, adding that this frees up the company to focus on more pressing matters, like mobile banking. “Even if we were the best balance sheet managers, that wouldn’t fundamentally solve the user experience problem.”

The iPhone app launched in May, but invitations had been trickling out until this week, when the company opened the floodgates.

Simple Card 220x294 First Look: Simple Reimagines Banking The card came in about a week, and I’ve been using it exclusively for personal expenses for most of this week. Unfortunately, small business accounts are not yet available. It’s also worth noting that signup is not open to everyone yet, even if you do get an invitation; one friend of a friend who is not a U.S. citizen — though authorized to work here — had his application rejected.

Reich assured me that opening up Simple to small businesses is one of the company’s top priorities. “A bunch of people have been asking for it… The big difference from a compliance perspective is that you want a small business account to be titled in the name of the business. And so the difference is that when you sign up we want the sign up process to be as quick as possible. And during that process we go out and check that you are who you say you are… Getting that exact same process done for small businesses is a little trickier.” The company is still looking for a partner with less than a 24-hour turnaround for business verification.

The most striking thing about banking with Simple at first is the refreshingly minimal design. My PNC debit card is a flaming, orange and white monstrosity, made illegible with a watermark of the logo overlapping the numbers, complete with a poorly-printed drop shadow and an equally cluttered verso. My Simple card is white, with the company’s name and logo in one corner and the Visa logo in the opposite one. More than once while paying with the debit card it’s gotten remarks from cashiers and bartenders; amazingly (at least in a post-iPod era), no other bank seems to have done a plain white card before. Unsurprisingly, the card has elicited moans of envy when used in the company of my more tech-savvy peers, and to be honest using it right now kind of feels like whipping out a business card set in Silian Rail.

The comparison to Apple above is no accident. In fact, after using the service for a few days, I found myself struck by not only Simple’s aesthetic similarities to Apple, but also its philosophical ones.

The name says it all. The company’s drive for simplicity permeates everything from the packaging that the card is shipped in, to the massive “Call Customer Service” button in the app, all the way to its promise to never punish its customers with hidden fees; yes, the overdraft fees that decimated my PNC account a few years back are gone. Kaput. Same goes for ATM fees at Allpoint ATMs (Allpoint is the largest network in the country with over 43,000 ATMs), though unlike some other online banks the fees the machines charge on top are not reimbursable. Allpoint ATMs can be found through the iPhone app, but remember: different networks use the same ATM models, so an identical ATM might charge you a fee somewhere else. Somewhat predictably, Simple is not putting an end to all fees; still, the fees schedule is comparably short. At the same time, some of the items on that list, like the $5 per month “inactivity fee”, struck me as odd even if they weren’t downright shameless.

When I asked about the international balance check and withdrawal fees, Reich told me that the inactivity fee was being removed from their fee schedule, and explained: “Our stated mission is that we don’t profit from fees. We get charged by the card network and we just pass that around. We don’t have enough leverage to change Visa and Mastercard fees.” In addition, he added, “We plan on revising a lot of them. Our customer relations team has a lot of discretion, and [referring to the inactivity fee] so far we haven’t charged any fees of that sort.” One area of particular leniency is the $2 card reissue fee; Reich confessed, “Every now and then someone posts a photo with a card number.”

He also noted that on some Allpoint ATMs, older versions of the software may incorrectly report a fee, or even actually charge one. If this happens, he urged, “call us and we’ll fix it.” When asked why all ATM fees are not reimbursed even though some competitors offer full reimbursements, he countered, “If you look at the accounts which do reimburse, they usually make that up elsewhere. Because we’re not profiting from fees, we don’t have the money to reimburse it.”

The account is an interest-bearing checking account known as a Negotiable Order of Withdrawal account. Think of it as a savings account with all of the benefits of a checking account. Before you get excited, however, be warned that the interest is a pittance: the current rate is 0.01% annual percentage yield.

Even the copywriting reminds me a bit of a younger, slightly more flippant Apple. Here’s one gem from the Policies & Agreements page: “Just in case you didn’t read the legal documents closely when you applied for a Simple account, here you go. You should. It’s important stuff.”

Much like Apple did with the iPhone and iPad, Simple is working on getting the basics right and making some hard choices (like the aforementioned international restriction) up front. Consider the release schedule. The company has been in private beta for eight months, and the iPhone app is currently at version 1.3.3. The bank does not yet support outgoing transfers, small business accounts, or any deposits other than incoming transfers (though Dwolla, Paypal, and Square are available as backup options). Luckily, direct deposit is available. Simple is taking it slowly, learning from their customers, and not releasing anything until it’s ready. And from what I can tell, for the vast majority of people currently using a checking account, it’s ready.

Signup was painless, as was transferring money from my current bank. One nice touch in the signup process: when prompting you for a password, rather than requiring an obnoxious format (e.g. P@ssw0rd), they ask for a short phrase, which is infinitely more difficult to crack. The card works like any other debit card, and transactions appear in the app quickly (not within minutes, but not more than an hour or two). This helps if you’re trying to keep tabs on how much you spend and when.

The Simple iPhone app is extremely bare-bones, but functional. I had one crash after adding a contact from the address book, but otherwise have had no complaints other than a small visual quirk with the search bar in the Activity tab. The app allows you to set a passcode, which is required for use whenever you open the app or launch it from the background.

Safe to spend First Look: Simple Reimagines Banking

One of Simple’s most touted features was the Safe-to-Spend feature. In theory, it’s not that different from the “available” balance on your bank’s website, though it takes into account scheduled transactions. Soon, however, the company will launch Goals, a feature that allows users to mark a certain amount of money for saving each month which is reflected in the Safe-to-Spend balance. Reich says Goals will launch “in the next six weeks. It’s been available to staff and a small group of beta testers for a couple of months now.”

Whole Foods 220x187 First Look: Simple Reimagines Banking Transactions can be tagged as in Quickbooks or Mint, but unlike those services Simple can (optionally) map those transactions for you. The mapping was useful but imperfect; some locations had their addresses cut off, confusing me to no end, and others had corporate addresses that were far from the places I swiped the card. Transaction search is done locally rather than on the server, and while I imagine they can fit quite a few transactions in the local database, I wonder how this will hold up over time, especially for frequent spenders.

Where Simple really shined for me, however, is with the ability to pay anyone directly from the app or site. Add a contact, and you’re two taps away from typing in the amount and sending a check by mail. While I can’t wait until this expands to include bank transfers, I can sit tight with Venmo for now. Hopefully I’ll be able use it to pay what few recurring bills I have that still require physical checks (I’m looking at you, Empire Blue).

The web site, while equally well designed, doesn’t do much that the app doesn’t do, so I don’t see myself using it much. Still, it has one killer feature that I may end up using once I have more data in Simple: users can export their transactions as JSON or as a CSV. While Mint generally does the trick, I might someday want to dig deeper into the data myself. And of course, it’s incredibly reassuring to know that I can take my personal finance data with me if I choose to leave.

Who will benefit from Simple? At this point, if you have a checking account, get paid mostly via incoming wires or direct deposit, and are a U.S. citizen, it’s worth signing up. I plan on using Simple for all of my personal banking for the time being, and for the first time in my life I can say not only that I feel good about my bank’s mission, but that I actually enjoy using it.

The company has plenty of plans for improvements to the app and service as well. In-app check deposits will be coming soon, with “the highest deposit limit available now”, according to Reich. They’ll also be doing peer-to-peer payments, much like Venmo or Dwolla, between Simple account holders.

At the end of our conversation, Reich asked me what I thought of the app. I told him my candid opinion, and mentioned the incredulous look I got from the branch manager at my bank when I told him about Simple. His response? Speaking to me over the phone from the top of a hill moments after completing a three-hour hike, he quipped in a wry Australian accent, “You should have seen the look on my branch manager’s face when I told him about it.”

from The Next Web Feed http://thenextweb.com/insider/2012/08/01/first-look-simple-reimagines-banking/

Dropbox details security breach, says two-step authentication and other security boosts on the way

 Dropbox details security breach, says two step authentication and other security boosts on the way

In a post on its blog, Dropbox has detailed a recent security breach that resulted in a ‘small number’ of accounts being logged into in an unauthorized manner. The breach was caused by passwords stolen from ‘other websites’, says Dropbox’s Aditya Agarwal.

One of the accounts accessed was an employee’s, which contained a document with user email addresses, causing spam issues, which was one of the first warning signs that something was wrong. The company then hired outside investigators to figure out what exactly was going on. Agarwal says that checks have been put in place to stop something like this from happening again, presumably by not storing customer info in employee Dropboxes.

The site says that there will be four new steps taken to prevent issues in the future, including two-step authentication, similar to what Google has (optionally) in place in Gmail.

These are the precautions:

  • Two-factor authentication, a way to optionally require a unique code in addition to your password when signing in. (Coming in a few weeks)
  • New automated mechanisms to help identify suspicious activity. We’ll continue to add more of these over time.
  • new page that lets you examine all active logins to your account.
  • In some cases, we may require you to change your password. (For example, if it’s commonly used or hasn’t been changed in a long time)

Obviously, if these users had not been using the same password on multiple websites, this wouldn’t have been an issue for Dropbox. We never recommend that you use a password on more than one online service for this explicit reason.

Agarwal mentions that apps like 1Password can help you to store strong, if forgettable, passwords. The users who had their accounts accessed have been contacted by Dropbox directly and have been aided in protecting them for the future.

Image Credit: Johan Larsson

from The Next Web Feed http://thenextweb.com/insider/2012/08/01/dropbox-details-security-breach-says-two-step-authentication-and-other-security-boosts-on-the-way/

Digg’s hyper-simple new version is now live

magazines 520x245 Diggs hyper simple new version is now live

Digg gave us a small preview yesterday of what was to come with the ground-up refresh of one of the web’s most revolutionary media sites. Today, they’ve officially launched the new Digg after a blazing six week sprint at Betaworks. The new Digg looks a lot like a web magazine and is all about curating the web’s most interesting content.

Gone is the tacky, once-cool Web 2.0 shine of old Digg, but so too it appears — at first glance — is much of anything that distinguishes it from any WordPress web magazine.

On the frontpage the Twitter account suspension controversy takes center stage today, while a mixture of fun, frivolous material and important news makes up the rest of the content.

The most prominent link is to the Guardian’s piece on the subject, presumably selected by some combination of curation and its user popularity by way of the stalwart Digg thumbs-up. A few embedded tweets are also present. There’s a highly relevant ”I want to personally apologize for this oversight,” from Chloe Sladden of Twitter Media, and a less useful joke from a media commentator.

digg 520x612 Diggs hyper simple new version is now live

The site uses a completely new codebase and refreshed infrastructure, which one can only imagine was much-needed after many iterations of the ageing former site. The new Digg uses Facebook sign-in only, perhaps in a move to dispel some of the anonymity that caused Digg’s comment sections to devolve in the past — or perhaps just to make things a little simpler for the Betaworks engineers.

Digg has simultaneously released its new iPhone application. Just as with the site proper, the focus is all on displaying content in a minimalist way. It’s reminiscent of other content apps like Flipbook for iPhone.

diggiphone 520x390 Diggs hyper simple new version is now live

It’s hard to imagine that Betaworks expects Digg to find a second wind as a top-of-the-web leader, but it’ll no doubt continue to be a solid performer with good traffic. And maybe, with more time to develop the site beyond this brief sprint, we’ll get a glimpse at a deeper strategy for Digg.

Magazines to read photo by Longzero.

from The Next Web Feed http://thenextweb.com/apps/2012/08/01/diggs-hyper-simple-new-version-is-now-live/

Digg is Back With New App and Site Re-Launch

Social bookmarking website Digg launched the first version of its new site on Tuesday after going back into startup mode to rebuild the site from the bottom up. V1, for version 1, was built on "fresh code" and the team says they plan to build it out quickly.

The new site features more images and stories selected by editors. It is free from ads and appears to have space for bigger stories.

On July 20, Digg reverted into a startup again and began building the code with plans to officially launch a new site in six weeks. The revamp of the site will include new personalized recommendation features to make the site more relevant and social for users. Plus, new commenting features, continu…
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from Mashable! http://feeds.mashable.com/~r/Mashable/~3/k1CWLy-8zbM/