Google’s Game Of Moneyball In The Age Of Artificial Intelligence

This post originally appeared on ReadWrite

Google is cornering the talent market in AI and robotics to dominate the next era of computing.

Dan Rowinski January 29, 2014 Web



Over the past couple of months, Google has been playing its own peculiar game of Moneyball. It may not make a ton of sense right now, but Google is setting itself up to leave its competitors in the lurch as it moves into the next generation of computing.

Google has been snatching up basically every intelligent system and robotics company it can find. It bought smart thermostat maker Nest earlier this month for $3.2 billion. In the robotics field, Google bought Boston Dynamics, Bot & Dolly, Holomni, Meka Robotics, Redwood Robotics and to round out a robot portfolio group that is being led by Android founder Andy Rubin.

When it comes to automation and intelligent systems, Google started its acquisition spree in late 2012 with facial recognition company Viewdle and has continued picking up neural networks since then, including the University of Toronto’s DNNResearch Inc. in March 2013, language processing company Wavii in April and gesture recognition company Flutter in October. Google bought a computer vision company called Industrial Perception in December and continued its spree with a $400 million acquisition of artificial intelligence gurus DeepMind Technolgies earlier this week.

Dizzy yet? The rest of the technology industry surely is. It’s hard to compete with Google’s acquisition rampage when it seemed like Google had very little rhyme or reason to the purchases it was making as they were happening. Google beat out Facebook for DeepMind while Apple had interest in Nest. But, after more than a dozen large purchases, Google’s strategy is finally becoming clear.

Google is exploiting an inefficiency in the market to become the leader in the next generation of intelligent computing.

Google’s Moneyball Strategy

Moneyball is a term coined by author Michael Lewis in his 2003 book, Moneyball: The Art Of Winning An Unfair Game. The term is often falsely associated with the use of advanced statistical models used by Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, to build a club that could thrive in major league baseball. But the principle of Moneyball is not actually about using stats and data to get ahead, it is about exploiting systems for maximum gain by acquiring talents that are undervalued by the rest of the industry.

This is exactly what Google is doing: exploiting market inefficiency to land undervalued talent. Google determined that intelligent systems and automation will eventually be served by robotics and has gone out of its way to acquire all of the pieces that will serve that transformation before any of its competitors could even identify it as a trend. By scooping up the cream of the crop in the emerging realm of robotics and intelligent systems, Google is cornering the market on talented engineers ready to create the next generation of human-computer interaction.

Technology Review points out that Google’s research director Peter Norvig said the company employs “less than 50 percent but certainly more than 5 percent” of the world’s leading experts on machine learning. That was before Google bought DeepMind Technologies.

To put Google’s talent hoarding into context, remember that many companies are struggling just to find enough talent to write mobile apps for Android and iOS. When it comes to talented researchers focused on robotics and AI components like neural networks, computer vision and speech recognition, the talent pool is much smaller, more exclusive and far more elite. Google has targeted this group with a furious barrage of aggressive purchases, leaving the rest of the industry to wonder where the available talent will be when other companies make their own plays for building next-generation intelligent systems.

“Think Manhattan project of AI,” one DeepMind investor told technology publication Re/code this week. “If anyone builds something remotely resembling artificial general intelligence, this will be the team.”

Of course, Google is not the only company working on intelligent systems. Microsoft Research has long been involved in the creation of neural networks and computer vision, while Amazon has automated many of its factories and built cloud systems that act as the brains of the Internet. The Department of Defense research arm, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has long worked on aspects of artificial intelligence, and a variety of smaller startups are also working on their own smaller-scale intelligent platforms. Qualcomm, IBM and Intel are also working on entire systems—from chipsets to neural mesh networks—that could advance the field of efficient, independent AI.

What Is Google Trying To Accomplish?

To understand what Google’s next “phase” will look like, it is important to understand the core concepts that comprise Google.

Google’s core objective—which has never really changed despite branching out into other areas of computing—is to accumulate and make accessible all of the knowledge in the world. Google makes money by charging advertisers access to this knowledge base through keywords in its search engine. If there is a brilliance to Google’s business model, it is that the company has basically monetized the alphabet.

The work is nowhere near done, but Google has already done an impressive job over the last 16 years making the world’s knowledge available to anyone with Internet access. Thanks to Google, the answer to just about any question you could think of asking is at your fingertips, and with smartphones and ubiquitous mobile computing, that information is now available wherever you go.

The next step for Google is to deliver that information to users with automated, intellectual context. The nascent Google Now personal assistant product that Google has been driving is the first step in this, but it has a lot of room to grow.

If we take the concept of Google monetizing the alphabet and apply it to everyday objects, we can see where artificial intelligence come into play for how Google plans on changing the fundamental nature of computing.

What if you could use a device—like a smartphone, Google Glass or a smartwatch—to automatically identify all relevant information in your area and deliver it to you contextually before you even realize you want it?

If we mix the notion of ubiquitous sensor data laden within the Internet of Things with neural networks capable of “computer vision” and comprehending patterns on their own, then we have all the components of a personalized AI system that can be optimized to every individual on the planet.

From the movie "Her." From the movie “Her.”

Academic researchers call these computing concepts “deep learning.” Deep learning is the idea that machines could eventually learn by themselves to perform functions like speech recognition in real-time. Google’s prospect is to apply deep learning to the everyday machines like smartphones, tablets and wearable computers.

But what about all the robots Google just purchased? This is a little trickier to discern, but if Google does eventually figure out the intricacies of artificial intelligence, it can then apply these principles to an army of automated machines that function without human interference. For instance, with computer vision, machine learning and neural networks, Google could deploy robots to its maintain its data centers. If a server breaks or is having problems, a robot could pay it a visit, tap into its internal diagnostics or see that it is having a hardware issue. Google’s driverless car could benefit from all of these technologies as well, including speech and pattern recognition.

Google’s research into robotics and deep learning doesn’t have to mean this new technology will be restricted to beefing up its current products. Advances in cognitive computing can be applied to many, many different types of industries, from manufacturing to analyzing financial data at large banks. Like the lessons learned with smartphones, the applications of machine learning technology can be applied almost anywhere—as long as patents don’t apply.

Google Has All The Ingredients To Make AI Work

Google has brains. Lots of different kinds of brains.

From a people perspective, Google’s head of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, is the world’s foremost expert on artificial intelligence. Andy Rubin joined Google in 2005 when the company purchased his Android platform to create a smartphone operating system. But currently, Rubin is taking his job of building Android much more literally as he now heads up Google’s fledgling robotics department. Jeff Dean is part of a senior fellow within Google’s research division working in the company’s “Knowledge” (search-focused) group, which will most likely be the team to incorporate DeepMind.

Jeff Dean, courtesy Research at Google Jeff Dean, courtesy Research at Google

Those names are just a few examples of Google’s best brains at work. Google also has plenty of machine/computer brains that perform the bulk of the heavy lifting at the company.

The search product has been tweaked and torqued over the years to be one of the smartest tools ever created. In its own way, Google search has components of what researchers call “weak” artificial intelligence. Google’s server infrastructure that helps run search (as well as its Drive personal cloud, Gmail, Maps and other Google apps) is one of the biggest in the world, behind Amazon but on par with companies like Microsoft and Apple.

Google has the devices necessary to put all that it creates into the hands of people around the world. Through the massively popular Android mobile operating system, it fledgling computer operating system in Chrome OS and accessory devices like Google Glass or its long-rumored smartwatch, Google can push cognitive, contextual computing to the world.

All Google needs to do is make artificial intelligence a reality and plug its components into its large, seething network and see what happens. That is both very exciting and mildly terrifying at the same time.

The Risks For Google, The Internet & The World

“Behold, the fool saith, ‘Put not all thine eggs in the one basket.’ Which is but a matter of saying, “Scatter your money and your attention.” But the wise man saith, ‘Pull all your eggs in the one basket and … WATCH THAT BASKET.'” ~ Mark Twain, Puddn’head Wilson

In 1991, DARPA pulled much of its funding and support for research into neural networks. What followed was a period researchers called an “AI Winter,” where the field of artificial intelligence research became stagnant and did not progress forward in any meaningful way. The AI Winter from the 1990s was not the first and might not be the last.

Google is accumulating many individual brains in the field of AI into one big basket. If Google fails (or loses interest) to create the next generation of artificial intelligence, another AI Winter could definitely be a possibility.

Google also betting a lot of money on the fact that it can take the components of artificial intelligence and robotics and apply it to everything it touches. Between DeepMind and Nest, Google has spent $3.6 billion in the automation industry this year and those were just two companies. Google has lots of eggs in this basket, and if it fails, it could cost Google years, employees and the bleeding edge of next-generation computing.

Academics and pundits are also worried about the implications of privacy with Google’s chase of the contextual Internet centered around the individual. With Nest, Google could know just about everything that you do in your home (when you leave, when you get home, how many people are in the house and so forth). Part of aggregating the world’s knowledge is parsing information about the individual’s that inhabit that world. The more Google knows about us, the better it thinks it can enhance our lives. But the privacy implications are immense and well-justified.

There is also a large ethics question surrounding the use of artificial intelligence. Some of it centers around science fiction-like scenarios of enabling robots to take over the world (like Skynet in Terminator or the robots in The Matrix). But, in addition to privacy concerns, there are many different ways AI could be abused to severely augment the service economy. As part of the DeepMind acquisition, Google agreed to create an ethics board for how it will use the technology in any future applications.

Zynga Buys NaturalMotion For $527M, Signaling A New Tack For The Gaming Giant

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Zynga has long been famous (or infamous?) for its data-driven approach to game design. The company never focused on building strong character IP, or intellectual property, in favor of releasing games that had been thoroughly funnel-tested.

But now that founding CEO Mark Pincus has stepped aside and let Xbox executive Don Mattrick take the reins, perhaps the company is going in a totally new direction.

Mattrick is sending a big signal on that front today with a $527 million deal to acquire NaturalMotion, the Oxford, U.K.-based gaming company behind franchises like CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja. The deal involves $391 million in cash and about 39.8 million shares of Zynga stock at yesterday’s price, leaving Zynga with about $1.2 billion in cash and marketable securities on hand. (There is also sad news today, with layoffs for 15 percent of the company’s workforce.)

Torsten Reil, who runs NaturalMotion, doesn’t come from a cookie cutter gaming background.

He had actually been working on Ph.D. in Complex Systems in Oxford’s zoology department when he decided to go in a totally different direction. He used his biology background to design software that could realistically animate 3D movement. Those products went on to become a middleware business that helped animate games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise and films in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Then a few years ago, Reil and NaturalMotion pivoted to building their own games, using their proprietary animation software to make freemium titles like My Horse and most recently, Clumsy Ninja.

Reil is a perfectionist, and he’ll delay games for months until the details are just right. That attention and care has attracted support from key partners like Apple, which let the company demo Clumsy Ninja and CSR Racing on-stage at the WWDC and iPhone 5 keynotes. (Let me just stress that being invited by Apple to go on-stage at their marquee events is like winning the “Best Picture” Oscar for an app developer.)

When he launched Clumsy Ninja last fall (a whole year after the company teased it on-stage at the iPhone 5 launch), Reil told me,

“We want to get the game right. We want to make people laugh and smile. We don’t want to design it to be a hard-core monetizing game. It has to be a delightful, wholesome experience.”

It doesn’t sound like stereotypical Zynga, does it?

Well, times have changed on the iOS platform. It used to be comparatively cheap to launch lots of casual, social games on the platform. But if you look at the top-grossing charts today, they’re almost the same as a year ago with companies like King, Supercell and MachineZone at the top.

That’s because it’s so expensive now to market and acquire users on mobile platforms. So if you’re going to launch a game, it takes much more time and investment than it did a year ago. So that’s why a new and even more deliberate approach is necessary. It’s not enough to fast-follow on proven gaming categories, which was Zynga’s strategy on the Facebook platform.

With this deal, Zynga gets a good portfolio of current and upcoming games, a character with real franchise potential in Clumsy Ninja, a middleware business and a 260-person gaming company that is culturally focused on quality.

As for NaturalMotion and its investors, the company was backed with $11 million from Benchmark Capital and had former EA executive Mitch Lasky on the board. Balderton Capital, which used to be Benchmark Europe, was NaturalMotion’s first venture investor.

Lasky, who overlapped with Mattrick while both were at EA, shared some of his thoughts here.

“NaturalMotion will provide Don with a fantastic slate of mobile products (both new, innovative ones, as well as sequels of their current hits),” he wrote in a blog post. “Combined with Zynga’s reach, social networking expertise, and advanced audience measurement tools, NaturalMotion and Zynga should be a very potent combination.”

Search Engine Ranking Is All About Social

Google loves awesome content, it’s always been a massive part of how their search algorithm works. Years ago, linking would be a massive part of whether your site appeared high in search rankings or not, it was critical. This was based on the simple automation premise that good content gets links back to other sites. That unfortunately was not always the case, as many SEO’s found out and exploited over a period of years. Google realised this (we all knew they would eventually).

They’re passionate about bringing the best possible results to you through search, they’ve invested bucket loads of cash and time into making search a better experience both in terms of quality of results and the whole user experience. Since Google+ there have been a lot of predictions into how google+ will integrate into search and vice versa. Will +1’s count to a sites search position? Will google+ brand pages get placed ahead of facebook or twitter profiles?

Googles had a few issues with social network developers too — with the amount of content being restricted from google search results.

They’ve also been working on answering questions directly in search.

What might get a little scary for certain industry’s is when google start answering questions that people are bidding to answer…

This search question “Best Hotel In London” brings up the usual sponsored ads at the top and side, but then also a newer alternative just underneath.

On top of these changes, there have also been some early testing (beta was around June 2013) for Google Review Extensions. Review extensions allowed people to include one line reviews in the adwords that companies were paying for. Theres a more thorough blog post about this from SearchEngineLand here.

So, what has this all got to do with social and search being more important for each other? Well to answer that, lets first look at this image below:

Searchmetrics Data

You can see from the top 8 factors on this chart that social is important for 7, of the top 8 factors to appear in natural search.

This is a great reference point when reviewing an existing site you may have or thinking about building a new one. Obviously, setting up a Facebook Page or Pinterest Board alone is not enough. Google is already measuring forms of engagement here too with facebook comments, likes, shares and google +1’s (which are all forms of engagement, even if some are just clicks). So don’t just create the profiles and think you’re done. Content calendars, tone of voice and a whole social media strategy needs to be created or adopted to make sure you are making the best of the content you’re creating to compliment your audience, social profiles and website.

It’s now got easier but a lot more difficult.

Well let me first tell you how its got easier..


It will be easier to track conversions now that you’re looking more seriously at social and your site together, rather than 2 separate entities.


Easier, because you can update site and social together in unison and give people a more “together” experience rather than feeling that site and social are two different things. People should feel that your social profiles extend the story you are telling on your site and your site centres & concentrates on specifics of your story or business.

KPI’s Are Go

Social, SEO & Digital people should be more joined up in your business. Rather than thinking (and i’m not saying everyone does) that people that work in different digital specialties are from a different planet, with their own language, they should be able to work collaboratively together with a common goal and list, record, measure those achievements as a unified KPI.

More difficult..

Collaboration Can Be Hard.

New systems may need to be put in place, more meetings set up and additional costs getting all the right people in a room more often. But with every challenge comes an opportunity — and here it is about making your ‘digital talent’ more unified to achieve common goals together. Look into enterprise sharing and collaboration such as Huddle or Box. Think about the content thats being produced and how your mixture of social channels can tell the story in different ways. Each social network has its own nuances around eticat, messaging and general use. Each team needs to be an equal partner is this new relationship.


With this in place — who is the person to sign off the plan? The CEO? The CMO? The COO? unless its a digital agency or real digital business, chances are the people at the very top don’t know their meta tags from their asshole. Why should they? they are busy keeping their customers, suppliers, distribution and management happy. There needs to be an assigned leader to oversee this practice that can evaluate all the options from all of the parties and agree with the KPI’s being set.

My Industry Is Boring.

I hear this a lot. Especially in B2B — people just think the industry sector, whatever it is, lets say “office cleaning” is boring for people to include in social — even worse on their website. First, whats the common thread here? Well i’d expect to see stock images of happy people cleaning desks when I visit a site when I’m researching an office cleaning firm.

I’m really looking for recommendations and trust coming from real testimonials of people using the firm in a similar position to me. If people are involved in video testimonials, then i’d think they were even more trusted, as they’ve gone out of their way to say “these guys are awesome”. The creative solution is the answer here. For some inspiration — and a fairly boring industry (a florist) have a look at this.

So in summary having your social, SEO and content working together in unison with common goals and a clear content strategy — all defined with purpose against key KPI’s (views, social sharing, sales, repeat visits etc) will be the key pillars that your site and social presence will need to be successful. Moving forward in 2014 and beyond search and social will have to continue to merge, as google knows (Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman mentioned in a recent Bloomberg interview here that they underestimated social and won’t make those mistakes again) social is growing and search will only progress if it is totally emerged in this space too.

It’s time to book some flights and get those teams in a room.

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President’s State of the Union: A Plan Without Action Isn’t a Plan. It’s a Speech. Let’s Act on Energy.

President Barack Obama talked about energy in his State of the Union address as every President since Richard Nixon has done. In his State of the Union address, President Obama came out strongly for the continued development of natural gas as a major American resource.

That is great news and music to my ears. I have championed a comprehensive national energy strategy – the Pickens Plan – since 2008, with natural gas as a cornerstone. The goal has been to get off OPEC oil by using natural gas for heavy duty trucking.

While I’m obviously heartened by the President’s endorsement of that, I’m also a realist. A plan wihout action isn’t a plan, it’s a speech. The OPEC oil threat is real. Our national security is threatened by it as is our economic future. After 40 years we just take OPEC for granted, and that’s a big mistake.

As far back as his first State of the Union, President Obama talked about creating and moving energy in new ways. He said “We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across the country.”

Few, if any, miles of new power lines have been proposed, much less sited, engineered or installed. Great plan. No action.

In January 2009 our national energy mix was as it had been for decades: Diminishing domestic oil production, falling levels of natural gas reserves, solar and wind were interesting but difficult to bring to market. Then the Potential Gas Committee released its biennial report that, for the first time, counted what was then known as “unconventional” gas – now known as shale gas – as economically recoverable using modern drilling techniques and the nation’s energy profile was turned on its head.

Credit goes to private individuals and companies taking a chance, risking their money, and using the best minds in the nation to develop new production techniques. They were not the result of a plan – not a Republican plan nor a Democratic plan.

Last night the President endorsed a principal element of the Pickens Plan when he called for new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks to run on natural gas and other fuels. I’m for unleashing every American resource to back out OPEC oil, be it ethanol, batteries or anything American. But ethanol and batteries won’t move America’s 18-wheelers.

We need to be watchful that the President follows through on this by incenting the move from imported diesel to domestic natural gas, by working with major interstate truckers, express delivery companies, and truck manufacturers, as well as state and local governments.

Oil is not a player in the production of electricity in America. It accounts for only about one percent of power generation. The rapid move from coal to natural gas (as well as to wind) to produce electricity has led the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to claim that greenhouse gasses from fossil fuels were the lowest in 2012 than any time since 1994.

The real advantage these new reserves of natural gas and oil bring to us, is that we move farther and farther away from the next energy crisis. That is a mixed blessing because our national leaders – for over 40 years – have only acted when a crisis has loomed over their collective heads.

We have over eight million heavy trucks on our roads. Everything from refuse and recycling trucks that go back to “the barn” every night, to over-the-road trucks that run coast-to-coast over the same routes on a regular schedule. Simple arithmetic tells us where to put natural gas refueling stations on the most heavily traveled Interstate highways.

In last year’s State of the Union speech, President Obama said, “The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and to greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.” That is still a good policy. With so much natural gas we should be looking for ways to utilize our vast supplies – especially where we can use it to replace imported oil.

The President’s focus on natural gas in the 2014 State of the Union speech is important because it helps us keep our eye on the ball. Now, we have to work with leaders at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the companies that will build, fill, and drive the trucks across America to make certain we keep moving toward an economy that is not dependent on OPEC oil.

If the president is serious on natural gas and trucking in America, here’s an idea: Lead by example. Sign an executive order mandating government vehicles use natural gas, and that those who contract with the federal government for goods and services do, too. Because natural gas is so much cheaper than diesel, you can make the case that such an order is fiscally responsible as well as environmentally beneficial.

President Obama was right on one other point last night: Let’s make this the year of action. There is a domestic energy renaissance in America, with natural gas production leading the way. Let’s act and take advantage of it.

Read more coverage of the State of the Union on LinkedIn.

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Posted by:T. Boone Pickens

Facebook Announces Paper, A Curated Visual News Reader Launching Feb. 3 On iOS



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You miss great content because you aren’t subscribed to the right sources. So Facebook wants to bring you content serendipity with Paper, a standalone iOS news reader app it revealed today that delivers human and algorithm-curated full-screen articles and photos in categories you select like Tech, LOL, and Pop Culture. Paper launches to everyone in the U.S. on February 3rd, the day before Facebook’s 10th birthday.


Paper is the first app out of Facebook Creative Labs, an initiative to let small teams within Facebook build standalone mobile experiences as if they were nimble startups. Facebook Creative Labs will carry out the strategy Mark Zuckerberg discussed on yesterday’s earnings call of conquering mobile with an array of single-purpose experiences rather than cramming more functionality into Facebook’s core app. [Check out our profile of Facebook’s standalone app initiative: “Facebook’s New ‘Creative Labs’ Lets The 6,000-Employee Giant Move Fast Like A Startup“]


Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 4.05.19 AM


I was the first to catch a glimpse of the radically visual News Feed redesign that would become Paper a year ago. TechCrunch writer Ingrid Lunden discovered more about on the project in June, and Re/code’s Mike Isaac revealed details on the news reader earlier this month. But now Facebook has officially outed Paper with a blog post, feature tour, and the vision video embedded below.


How You Read And Write Paper


Paper fulfills Zuckerberg’s desire for Facebook to become the modern age’s newspaper.


2_Sections[7]When you download Paper, you’re greeted with a reimagined interface for the News Feed. The top half of the screen shows big photos and videos, while the bottom half shows status updates and link stories. You can swipe from right to left to browse through the stories. If you tap one, it unfolds with a delightful animation to take up the full screen where videos auto-play. Pinch a story and it folds back up returning you to the Paper feed.


The content gets really interesting, though, when you start adding “sections” to your own Paper.


You can add sections including “Score” (sports), “Headlines” (world news), “Cute” (BuzzFeed-style adorable animals), “Planet” (sustainability and earth porn), “Enterprise” (business), “Exposure” (photography), “Flavor” (food), and “Ideas” (a different intellectual theme each day).


3_HiResPhotos[7]Each Section combines stories chosen by Facebook’s human editors and surfaced by the Paper algorithm that have been posted publicly to Facebook by a publication, blogger, public figure, or average Joe. The goal isn’t to just pump articles by The New York Times, but also posts by expert yet undiscovered bloggers, commentary by industry pundits, and opinions from laymen. For now, everyone who adds a Section to their Paper will see the same story in it, but Facebook says it’s considering personalizing the sections so you might see more about your favorite teams and sports in the Score Section over time.


Paper also lets you share your own stories. The visually-focused composer gives you an accurate preview of how your story will appear to other users, so there’s no wondering what photo will be featured or if an article’s blurb will be cut off like when you share using Facebook on the web or mobile.


For now there will be no ads in Paper, but Facebook tells me the team is considering how they could be naturally integrated.


Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 4.03.24 AM


Content Serendipity


Paper’s human plus machine curation creates what I call “content serendipity”. Normally on Facebook, you only see posts from friends and Pages you’ve subscribed to. But with a traditional newspaper, there are articles the editors think are great and you might enjoy, but that you wouldn’t have thought to seek out. You trust the editors’ taste, and give articles a chance even if they don’t strike you at first glance.


Paper creates this opportunity for Facebook to surprise like a newspaper, but on mobile. It can show content you might have missed by bubbling up public content with lots of Likes or that a Paper editor thinks is brilliant. Sure, friends act as curators of the web at large, but not everyone’s friends share content in the areas they’re interested. I might be the only one of my friends that digs business news or foodie stuff, and Paper could deliver it to me without me having to track down specific Pages to Like.




Facebook says it won’t be heavily promoting Paper within its standard app, but it still poses a big threat to other news reader apps like Flipboard, Prismatic, Circa, and Pulse. Each has its strengths. Flipboard has magazines curated by other users, while Prismatic relies on artificial intelligence to provide the most relevant articles. Facebook’s massive treasure chest of data on what people share could be its not-so-secret weapon. Then again, some of Facebook’s standalone apps like Camera and Poke have failed miserably despite their advantages so we’ll have to wait to see how things shake out.


The 15-person Paper team spent well over a year building the app. It was spearheaded by Facebook’s VP of Chris Cox and endorsed by Zuck but product managed by Michael Reckhow, and designed by Mike Matas. Rather than be bogged down by the company’s bureaucracy, the team hacked at Paper like Facebook did back in its more “move fast and break things” days.


If Paper succeeds, it could get more people sharing publicly. Who wouldn’t want the chance to be surfaced in Paper and accrue legions of Likes and new followers? This incentive could sway content creators from ditching Facebook for Twitter, and is just one more way the social network is trying to steal thunder from the micro-blogging service.


The web’s a big place, but Paper could use big data and big-brained editors to make it feel small enough to comprehend, just a like a newspaper.


For more on Facebook’s big new standalone app strategy, check out my feature pieces: “Facebook’s Plot To Conquer Mobile: Shatter Itself Into Pieces” and “Facebook’s New ‘Creative Labs’ Lets The 6,000-Employee Giant Move Fast Like A Startup



Canada’s Wind Mobile Offering Unlimited U.S. Talk, Text And Data Roaming For $15 Per Month



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Roaming is the worst, but a new plan from Canadian network operator Wind MobileZ, which is one of the few carriers not a part of Canada’s big three telecommunications companies, is going to start offering subscribers an unlimited roaming plan beginning Monday, February 3rd for just $15 per month.


The roaming plan inconceivably comes with unlimited talk, text and data across the U.S. Rogers, one of the leading Canadian service providers, offers a paltry 500 MB of data, along with unlimited sent texts and 100 minutes for $80 to compare (and that’s the most you can get). Bell offers 500 MB for $50, with an extra $30 required for talk and text (so same as Rogers) and Telus offers 300 minutes and unlimited text, with only 300MB of data usage for $65.


It doesn’t take a comparative mathematician to figure out that Wind Mobile’s deal is a heck of a lot cheaper than anyone else’s. In fact, as a frequent U.S. traveler myself, I’m tempted: I generally pay at least that much, and usually a bit more picking up a prepaid sim card from a U.S. carrier when I pop over for a work trip. Of course, to make that work, you need to sign up for a Wind plan to begin with, which has its own limitations because of the network reach of the alternative carrier, and the wireless frequencies used by its network. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Wind’s main roaming partner in the U.S. is T-Mobile, and that it’ll provide either 2G or HSPA (3G) speeds for data. Also, just like Wind’s unlimited plan at home, the roaming one will be subject to throttling depending on usage.



Wind Mobile had to withdraw from Canada’s wireless spectrum auction earlier this month, after it essentially decided it couldn’t pony up table stakes to compete with the big boys. This new move should attract at least some switchers who were on the fence, especially among the frequent travellers, but overall the picture is still a bleak one for anyone trying to break the rule of the big three in Canada’s wireless industry.

Social Media Trends for 2014

– By Bill Nolan

More than just a trend, social media is now your business to know! We had a great year for social media in 2013. A real coming of age. Some platforms surged ahead, others faded away like a bad habit, and we found some diamonds in the rough. Hopefully you were able to put some of the Savvy Social insights to great use during the past year. But, this is no time to slack off. Time to get rejuvenated and keep your company moving ahead of the game in the coming year. Here is what we see trending and likely to dominate in the beginning of 2014…

There is no denying it, social media is here to stay and is crucial to your company’s marketing. It has transitioned from something your business should have to something it must have. As its benefits such as referral traffic, lead generation, and revenue have become obvious, 2014 will see more and more companies commit the necessary time and resources to their social media strategy.

Google+ is a PLUS! Google+ continues full speed ahead.
2014 could be the year that this powder keg blows! The numbers for this network increase monthly due to great interaction within the community, hangouts, and the terrific SEO aspect. If you throw in its other great features along with Google Authority’s ability to further enhance your brands exposure, then you can easily see this platform is heading one way… UP!

Foursquare may have forgotten where they were at.
Foursquare is spiraling out of control and all signs are suggesting it may not recover. Unimpressive traffic coupled with decreased revenue is bad news. With other, more popular networks offering location based features, indications are that Foursquare may become extinct in the new year as their users migrate to other networks… unless we are missing some big news or new feature?

VIDEO… need we say more?
Video, micro video, and photo sharing on your company’s social media platforms is huge. This should not be a surprise, but the rate of growth is surely a sign that you better figure out how to make it happen or you will be left way behind. Like I have mentioned in the past, utilizing YouTube, Vimeo, etc, in addition to adding photos within your posts will help get your products noticed. Also, micro video (3-16 seconds) sharing on sites such as Vine and Instagram are expected to skyrocket. But how many of these short clips are just of people acting goofy, etc? Keep in mind that in order for these brief videos to really benefit your business, your content will need to be very creative.

Smile, you need to get candid on camera!
Instagram is transforming itself into a legitimate contender for a spot in the Top 5 for social media platforms. With over 50 million unique monthly visitors, this video and photo sharing site has evolved from a standard “selfie” photo platform to a tool that can undoubtedly promote your brand. With the emerging popularity of micro video, the additional time allotted for video on Instagram gives it a definitive edge over other platforms such as Vine.

Is LinkedIn becoming disconnected?
Or should we say all about selfie? LinkedIn continues to allegedly be a top platform for business to business growth but we have mixed feelings about this site. It continues to feel like a “hey look at me” type of network which isn’t unusual considering it was started for the purpose of posting resumes. Many groups there are ghost towns and people hand out endorsements like they are handing out candy. Minimal interaction and diluted profiles drop this platform down a few spots on our 2014 list. If you want four or five social networks and have ample time to invest on LinkedIn then give it a try, otherwise I would pass at the moment. How quickly opinions have changed here.

Pay, PAY, PAID! $$ Billions more has been spent on paid advertising for social media in the past year.
Sometimes even your business’ best content can get lost in the clutter and this is the main reason that promoted pages/posts, tweets, adwords, etc, have become so popular and reasonable. If you want your company to reach thousands of users that typically wouldn’t see your posts, you have new products to introduce, or you simply want more likes and followers for your company then this is the road to take. But don’t worry about breaking the bank, with so many options available you can decide how much or little that your business wants to invest for this shot of social media adrenaline. It is worth the investment and the networks are providing so many OPTIONS!

Lastly, and for now, not yet the least… does MySpace have a legit place in Social Media?
Some say it’s about to make its presence known again. What do you think? We have decided to leave this one open for discussion.

In light of all the new social media platforms available, those still in their infancy and those that have come and gone in the blink of an eye… this list of trends could only cover the top news makers. Keep these tips in mind and your business will prosper as we head into 2014. Also, check in with the Savvy Social on our Facebook page and website every Friday in the new year as we continue to provide you with the latest ideas and insights that keep your social media marketing running like a well oiled machine!

Further Reading

Social Hour WeBlog

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Sourballpython creates unique brands, manages social marketing and creates complete web & print design marketing packages.

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