Tag Archives: Mobile

Journalism As A Career Is Tainting The Quality Of Journalism


 

There was a lot of good economic news this week. Amazing M&A transactions, rising stock markets and even Spain getting an upgrade from Moody’s. And yet when every weekend comes I know I will read another journalist telling me that while a lot seems to be going pretty well, that deep down, the world is falling apart.

Venezuela, Ukraine, will not be seen as minor pockets of violence in the most peaceful period humanity has ever lived in, but as signs of much worse to come. Or the Groupon share collapse will not be seen as Groupon under-performing but as an indication of the first air coming out of the economic bubble.

And again I will shake my head and think, where do media organizations find these apocalyptic writers? But today something dawned on me, something quite obvious but that I hadn’t realized before.

It is not the world that’s falling apart, it is journalism that is falling apart. It is the world as journalists know it, that is falling apart. Newspapers, magazines, laying off people, losing ad revs to Google and Facebook, closing down, disappearing. TV news networks losing audience to reality TV. It is people giving up paper for a tiny, mostly free little screen in the palm of their hands. It is people’s publishing in which so many volunteers do for free what journalists get paid to do that is destroying their livelihood, that is undermining the foundations of what used to be known as professional journalism. And the little professional journalism that is left is a winner takes all situation, all readers flock to a few sources like The New York Times and even those winners have barely managed to survive. With smaller staff. All professions have to adapt to changing times but few as much and as quickly as journalism. It’s like the world knows it needs journalists but has not found a way to fit them into the age of news as mobile snippets on Twitter.

So next time you read some surprisingly negative news think that the maxim of what goes up must come down is many times not true. It is not true in the stock market over decades, and it is not true of all the objects that humanity has already shot way into space and are not coming down, ever. But what is true is that many a writer who is forecasting decline has sadly met decline, personally. And that is permeating into what you are reading.

Photo: khawkins04/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Posted by:Martin V.

The Essence of Wisdom2.0


Stay curious. Have a beginners mind. Know you always have a choice in how you feel or what you do. You are not your emotions, rather they are a part of you.

I was reminded of all of this as I returned to my third Wisdom2.0 conference. I wasn’t even going to go. I decided that after two years of attending, I didn’t need to attend. I’d save some money and time and focus on other things. When a ticket was gifted to me, I made the choice to go back. I was grateful for the opportunity and couldn’t believe I was going, even when I thought I didn’t need to go. I jumped at the chance and was one of the dozens of people there representing Google.

Wisdom2.0 is about connecting and learning more about how each of us, whether we work in or use technology, can make the world a little better, less stressed out, and can become more aware to give back or contribute to the world. Over 2000 of us huddled in the bowels of the Mariott Marquis in San Francisco over the course of four days. Greeting, learning, growing, listening, and teaching each other. We started as a conference, and after the three days, as Congressman Tim Ryan proposed, we ended as a movement.

Wisdom2.0 is about the people and their actions, their companies, or personal missions to give back or create. Each of us there was hungry to learn. I felt drawn to share and connect, like most of us. Others were curious, there for work or to check out what this scene was all about.

Wisdom2.0 is about learning and teaching others how to be less stressed, by staying in the moment and not freaking out about the future, or dwelling in the past. Some of the greatest teachers of our time were on hand to remind and reiterate the techniques to reduce stress, clear your mind, and feel good where you are, in whatever you do.

I continued to learn new things. I engaged with dozens of interesting and motivated like minded people. I felt re-energized to help create my vision of an authentic life where I share my mindfulness side with work and help influence others to take this on so they can live happier, fuller, less congested lives.

I was gently reminded that all of us everyday can choose to be authentic. We choose how we show up to work, to our families, or how we play and interact with others. We can buy products from companies that give back (Give-nesses as 10 year old founder of Make a Stand Lemonade Vivienne calls it) or support and build companies that aren’t serving our planet or ourselves other than to make money. The choice is yours.

Here’s my key takeaways:

Thoughts are distracting.

As speaker Loic Le Meur says in his own article on his Wisdom2.0 experience, “Mediation created a new space in my brain.” I feel the same way. I started meditating two and a half years ago, and it’s provided a way to instantly drop into stillness, and center myself. Don’t let the name intimidate, it just means to be aware. Even if it’s noticing how I walk down the street, feel the wind on my face, that counts.

We’re all in this together.

Ariana Huffington said this in her keynote speech. We are a collective consciousness. Our actions, non-actions, words, and how we chose to spend our money, time, and efforts all matter and effect many beyond just you and who you touch. It’s a ripple effect, and every single one of us has that power. If you don’t think you have it, you’re wrong. If you don’t believe it, try it. After all, what do you have to lose?

Wisdom is consciousness, the body, and authenticity.

What is wisdom? Is it passed down generation to generation? Is it what we innately know without reading a textbook or taking a class? Is it from taking a class? Is it how our body feels or reacts? Is it what we as a society have learned over time? It is all of this. It is yourself. It is everyone together. It is also your own authenticity — the ability to show up as your full self, without putting on a mask for your boss, your friend, your kids. It is feeling fear, sadness, hurt, anger, and joy, and being ok with all of it as part of yourself.

I leave the conference with ideas and courage in how I can contribute as an agent of change, my own self-declared purpose, for myself and others to lead a life filled with more engagement, happiness, and less stress. Stay curious, my friends.

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How to write a professional bio for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+


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This post originally appeared on the Buffer blog.

http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2014/02/21/write-professional-bio-twitter-linkedin-facebook-google/#!wOBK5


Talking about yourself is hard. Doing it in 160 characters or less is even harder.

That’s probably why so many of us end up stressed about crafting the perfect professional bio for Twitter – or LinkedIn, Facebook or other social networks.

It has to set you apart, but still reflect approachability. Make you look accomplished, but not braggy. Appear professional, with just a touch of the personal. Bonus points for a bit of humor thrown in, because hey, social media is fun!

All that in just a few sentences? No wonder The New York Times called the Twitter bio “a postmodern art form.”

In this post, we’ll go over the universal principles of a great social media bio – regardless of the network. We’ll also take a look at the big social media networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ – and discover how to make the most of the bio space provided by each.

Six rules for a foolproof bio

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” – Henry David Thoreau

Yes, a bio on social media needs to be brief – and that can be tricky. But instead of lamenting the bio’s space constraints, treat it as an opportunity – after all, writing short has its rewards in social media. Think of the bio like a copywriting exercise or a six-word memoir.

A professional bio on a social network is an introduction – a foot in the door so your potential audience can evaluate you and decide if you’re worth their time.

In that way, it’s a lot like a headline you’re deciding whether or not to click – a small window to make a big impression.

“A formula I learned about writing short poetry is that ultimately what you’re looking for is focus, wit and evidence of polish,” says Roy Peter Clark, author of How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times, in an interview with TIME.

“Focus means that we have a keen understanding of what the message is about, wit meaning there’s a governing intelligence behind the prose, polish meaning there’s that one little grace note, that one little word in a tweet that sounds like us in an authentic way.”

Pack in as much focus, wit and polish as possible by by employing these principles.

1. Show, don’t tell: “What have I done” > “Who I am”

Lots of us are fans, enthusiasts, thinkers and gurus on our social media profiles. But might it be more powerful if we talked instead about harnessing ideas, wrangling revenue, obsessing over culture and shepherding our teams?

The “show, don’t tell” principle of writing means focusing on what you do, not who you are – and that means action verbs. Try this list of action verbs for resumes and see if any of them add a little power to your profile.

LinkedIn senior manager for corporate communications Krista Canfield says the more details, the better to add some show to your tell.

“Don’t just say you’re creative. Make sure you reference specific projects you worked on that demonstrate your creativity,” she says.

2. Tailor your keywords specifically to your audience

“Your Twitter bio should position you as an expert in your field who serves a specific audience,”says Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself.

According to a PayScale Inc. study Schwabel was involved in, 65% of managers want to hire and promote subject matter experts.

Skip the generalist route and focus on what you’re an expert at. Those areas of focus are your keywords, and they should be front and center in any professional bio. All social media profiles are searchable to some degree, so being specific positions you to be able to be found easily for what you’re best at.

3. Keep language fresh and avoid buzzwords like the following:

It happens – a once loved and useful word stops being so useful when it’s overtaxed. In your professional bio, think over the language and make sure it feels fresh, not overused.

Check out the Twitter Bio Generator and Silly Twitter Bio to see some bio cliches in action.

LinkedIn recently compiled its most overused words for 2013. Are any of these in your bio?

4. Answer one question for the reader: “What’s in it for me?”

No matter what feats you’ve accomplished, potential followers mostly want to know one thing about you: What’s in it for me?

In marketing, that’s known as a value proposition – the promise of value to be delivered. What can followers expect from you? What value do you bring?

5. Get personal and hire a stand-up comedian to write your bio

That last little tidbit of the bio – usually where a funny quip or a more personal fact goes – often trips us up the most. Being funny is tough – that’s why social media agency owner Gary Vaynerchuk often hires stand-up comedians to write social media posts. And it’s tough to pick one element of a fully rounded personality to focus on.

The key again, is specificity. Lots of us love social media, coffee and bacon. But if you love llamas, jelly donuts and spelunking, you just might stand out and connect with some interesting new people. Tell a one-of-a-kind story. What hobbies and passions are uniquely yours?

6. Revisit often

As your skills, areas of interest and expertise evolve, so should your bio. Check it every quarter or so to make sure it still reflects you the best it can.

“The very best practitioners of short writing on blogs, on social networks, are people who are working over their prose. They’re revising it, with the same care they would if they were putting it on paper,” says Clark.

http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2014/02/21/write-professional-bio-twitter-linkedin-facebook-google/#!wOBK5

5 Ways to Overcome a Fear of Running


If you’re like us, watching all those powerful runners (many of them actually smiling!) mincing through fall leaves and breaking through marathon finish lines can be incredibly inspiring to take up running. Whether you’ve been on a break or are starting for the very first time, these running tips from Running Like A Girl author Alexandra Heminsley will get you out the door—and to a healthy finish line.

1) Don’t worry about distance The important thing is that you’re out there, you’re running. It isn’t important how far you go, how fast you go, or how you look. You can work on those things later if you choose to, but the key is to getting out the door and running. If you can get your shoes on and get moving, you’re a runner. The biggest step has been taken.

2) Be practical You can overcome so many fears by making some simple steps to avoid those worst-case scenarios. Get a route you know well, and know is safe. Find a short cut just in case you struggle or feel pain. Make sure someone knows you’re going if you’re running alone, or get a friend to be in the area. Don’t wear the same sneakers you last wore to a Jay Z gig. If you’re a woman, get a bra you won’t feel self-conscious in.

3) Don’t let others judge you You are running, and anyone judging you for that is probably as envious as judgemental. You might sweat. You’ll come to feel proud of that. You might be flushed. You’ll come to cherish finish line photos of you looking that way. You might not be the fastest. You’ll be being “the best you,” though.

4) Remind yourself how you’ll feel afterwards Your first run—or your first run in a while— might hurt a bit. But you will feel great for the rest of the day. The equation of pain on the road vs. lasting elation is vastly tipped in your favor, so hold on to that thought that as you’re lacing your up your shoes.

5) Remember it’s not just for your legs or lungs This is about more than a badass body. It’s about knowing for the rest of the day, the month, and your life that you were afraid of something and you didn’t crumble: You stood eye-to-eye with your fear and won. Running can teach you about more than times and distances; it can teach you that what you’re capable of is infinite.

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Smart Travel Advice: Open Yourself Up To The World


Don George describes himself as a “travel evangelist” but he is much more than that. Yes, he loves to talk about the life-changing possibilities of travel, which started for him when he visited Paris in college. But he is also a best-selling author and writer, regarded by many as the preeminent travel writer of his generation. He’s served as the global travel editor for Lonely Planet, the travel editor for the San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle and Salon.com and currently is an editor at large for National Geographic Traveler. And he’s an online journalist, having recently launched his own website. Don’s current project is selecting the best from his hundreds of published articles and essays for an anthology that will celebrate the two passions of his career: travel and travel writing. “I know firsthand how travel can change your life,” he says. “And I love speaking, teaching, and writing about this.”

What makes him the world’s smartest traveler? It’s not just his impressive resume, but his approach to travel that distinguishes George. Living in Paris, Athens, and Tokyo for three years after graduating from college, he explored Europe, Asia, and beyond – often without the help of a guidebook – before settling into a career in travel journalism. “The more I traveled, the bigger the world became, and the more the wonders of the planet revealed themselves,” he says. “Over time I realized one fundamental truth: The more I open myself up to the world, the more the world opens itself up to me.” And that brings us to his travel advice, which is to be open, or as he puts it, to practice the “fine art of vulnerability” which can lead to connections and illuminations. “The world is essentially a friendly place and the people you encounter — whatever their backgrounds and beliefs — are more similar to you than different from you,” he adds. “Ask for locals’ advice and help on the road, and your journey will be enriched in unimaginable ways.”

The World’s Smartest Traveler is a weekly series about the visionaries who inspire us to travel smarter. Its curator, Christopher Elliott, is the author of the upcoming book, How to Be The World’s Smartest Traveler (National Geographic Books).


Photo: Don George

Meg Whitman buys more time as HP beats earnings estimates


Meg Whitman buys more time as HP beats earnings estimates
HP

Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman

Hewlett-Packard reported earnings that beat Wall Street’s earnings expectations.

Analysts had expected a big drop in quarterly revenue, but HP exceeded estimates on both profits and revenues. HP reported earnings per share of 90 cents on revenue of $28.2 billion. It also raised its earnings estimates for the fiscal year. That should buy some time for Meg Whitman, chief executive of HP, as she seeks innovative new technologies to turn HP around.

On recent earnings calls, Whitman has said that it would take until 2015 or 2016 to turn around HP.

Analysts had expected HP to report a profit of 86 cents a share on revenues of $27.2 billion for the fiscal first quarter ended Jan. 31. A year earlier, HP had reported a profit of 82 cents a share on revenue of $28.36 billion. (All figures are on a non-GAAP basis, which analysts use to determine whether a company hits or misses its targets).

HP did report better-than-expected earnings in November for its fiscal year end, and that helped drive the stock up 5 percent year-to-date.

As an aside, speculators have been fixated on what HP, the world’s largest maker of printers, could do in the 3D printing market. So far, chief executive Meg Whitman has only promised that HP is watching the market closely and will have something to offer in the market since it is adjacent to HP’s strong market for printers. Meanwhile, HP’s core market of making PCs and the printers that go with them is hurting.

Of course, 3D printing, while interesting, will likely have very little impact on HP’s bottom line for a long time to come. In the meantime, the PC market has been getting weaker as smartphones and tablets take off. HP recently launched an Android-based “phablet,” or half phone, half tablet, in the Indian market.

HP also raised its earnings guidance, saying it would now report fiscal year 2014 earnings of $3.60 to $3.75 a share.

In the first fiscal quarter, HP’s PC group saw revenues rise 4 percent from a year ago. Printing was down 2 percent, enterprise was up 1 percent, enterprise services was down 7 percent, software was down 4 percent, and financial services was down 9 percent. Overall, revenue was down 1 percent and earnings were up 9 percent in the first fiscal quarter.

Whitman said in a statement that HP was in a stronger position than it had been for some time. She said HP was making progress across several parts of its portfolio, and that “two years of turnaround work is setting us up for an exciting future.”

http://venturebeat.com/2014/02/20/meg-whitman-buys-more-time-as-hp-beats-earnings-estimates/

If anything, Bitcoin is inflationary


Bitcoin fails as a form of “money” according to how economists look at money. This has lead many economists to conclude that Bitcoin will fail. What it really means is that economists need to change how they look at money.

The Internet is the history of disruptive innovation. The telephony system had evolved slowly for over a 100 years, then the Internet came along and changed everything. The old engineers, steeped in telcom lore, unwilling to challenge old assumptions, claimed that the Internet would never work. And, according to their principles, it doesn’t. For example, when I use Facetime with my brother who lives in Japan, there is a lot of “latency” or “lag” between when I say something and I see my brother react. That’s what the old telcom engineers warned us about: the “packet switching” nature of the Internet would cause unpleasant lag in telephone calls.

But did I mention my free video call, in high definition, from my iPhone in the United States, to his iPad in Japan? That this works at all, and so cheaply, is inconceivable according to old telcom principles. No matter how right the old telcom engineers were, they were still obsolete. Nobody cares about their old principles; the Internet is a whole new set of principles of free, world-wide, high-speed connectivity.


Old economists have the same problem as old telcom engineers. What economists say about Bitcoin is correct, after a fashion, but it’s obsolete.

For example, a major critique of Bitcoin is that there is a fixed supply (21 million coins), and thus can’t expand to accommodate demand. This causes the value of Bitcoin to rise (“deflation”). This in turn encourages hoarding (why spend the coin when it’ll buy twice as much tomorrow?). And this in turn causes the value to rise even further. This means nobody will be able to buy anything using Bitcoin because everyone else will be hoarding them.

That’s true for normal currencies, but not true for Bitcoin. The idea that hoarding money makes it unavailable only applies to physical money, because you can’t move it around and subdivide it. This doesn’t apply to electronic currency, because somewhere in the world you can always find somebody willing to part with a billionth of a coin so that you can use it to purchase something. Hoarding has no effect on the “supply” (sic) of money available for transactions.

Well, another reason hoarding is bad is because it causes volatility. As people hoard Bitcoin, a bubble forms, a sort of ponzi scheme driving up the value until the music stops, after which the price collapses. Such volatility makes it too impractical to use as money.

Again, volatility matters more for physical currency than electronic currency. Volatility is only a risk for the duration that you hold onto the currency. This matters, for example, if you need to save money to pay rent at the end of the month. But, in a fully liquid electronic system, such timing goes away. Instead of a monthly, weekly, or even daily wage, you could get paid once per second. The incoming pennies every second can then automatically be spent every second on rent, food, gasoline, and so on. Even in situations like Zimbabwe’s trillion-percent inflation, earning/spending electronic money on a 1-second timeframe means volatility doesn’t much matter.

Bitcoin’s timeframe is around 10-minutes for transaction, so volatility matters somewhat more. But here’s the thing: the amount payment processors charge for Bitcoin is less than what they charge for credit cards like American Express or Visa. The total risk associated with Bitcoin, including volatility, is still less than the total risk associated with other payment methods. And in any case, a recent study has shown that Bitcoin volatility has been steadily decreasing.

So we’ve proven that Bitcoin’s deflationary issues don’t matter, but here’s another thing: it’s not even deflationary.

The word “Bitcoin” can mean many things. It can refer to the coins (B⃦) themselves. It can refer to the “blockchain” (public ledger) that holds those coins. It can refer to the “bitcoind” software that most everyone uses to process the blockchain. It can refer to the “protocol” that the software implements. It can refer to the general algorithm that the protocol/software implements. It can refer to the general idea of “cryptocurrency without centralized control”.

If 21 million coins aren’t enough, somebody can simply fork the blockchain, starting a new one with another 21 million coins. Or, somebody can fork the software/protocol, creating a new currency with more than 21 million coins (and other useful properties, like shrinking the transaction window, or changing the proof-of-work algorithm). Or, somebody can come up with a wholly new cryptocurrancy vastly different than Bitcoin.

People have done all these things. There are a vast number of “Bitcoin” things running around.

For example, “Bitcoin mining” can now only be done by those who invested a lot of money in custom silicon chips (“ASICs”). It takes two years to create a new chip, so only enthusiasts who invested two years ago can profitably mine Bitcoins today. However, many forked Bitcoin variants use different mining incompatible with these chips. You can still mine these “alt-coins” (as they are called) using a desktop computer with a graphics card. I do this. I mine whichever alt-coin is more profitable at the moment, and then exchange them for true “Bitcoins” at the end of the day. Thus, I’m earning about 0.02 Bitcoin per day (about $10) through mining — but without directly mining Bitcoin. This demonstrates that more “coins” are being created than just the 21 million limit on Bitcoins.

Some of these alt-coins, namely Litecoin and Dogecoin, can be used to buy things online. For a payment processor, or online trading site, handling multiple types of coins is as easy as handling one. If Bitcoin is volatile and has a high risk premium, a buyer could easily switch to Litecoin, which might have a lower premium. If more people would use Litecoin, then that means fewer people would use Bitcoin, and that the value of Bitcoin would drop.

QED: Bitcoins are inflationary in the long run.

So it’s not about Bitcoin, but the entire ecosystem of alt-coins that needs to be evaluated for inflationary or deflationary tendencies. On the whole, the system is inherently inflationary (anybody can fork the system at any time), but it depends upon the willingness of payment processors and customers to use new kinds of coins.

We might find that it’s self-regulating as alt-coins are accepted or dropped from the system. New alt-coins might be created when the price of existing coins rises. Lesser alt-coins might stop being accepted when their price decreases. We might find a decade from now that the Bitcoin-ecosystem turns out to be more stable than national currencies.

What we see here is that old timers (the economists) are right on every principle, that a physical currency limited to 21 million coins would be inflationary, volatile, and unusable as money in the economy. But, they are ignoring how online currency changes those rules, and that Bitcoin isn’t a single currency, but an entire ecosystem. For economists to be right, they have to hold onto their immutable principles for old currencies and ignore all the innovation happening online.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman opined back in 1998 that “by 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s”. After being mocked for that, he gave this rebuttal:

“I don’t claim any special expertise in technology… The issues about Bitcoin, however, are not technological! Everyone agrees that it’s technically very sweet. But does it work as money? That’s a very different kind of question.” — Paul Krugman, from Business Insider

But he’s wrong. That Bitcoin is technology has everything to do with whether Bitcoin works as money. It’s like old time telcom engineers who claimed that while they didn’t understand computer networking, they didn’t have to, because it was long distance transmission of data that mattered, regardless whether it was computer data or voice data.

Consider my claim that the Bitcoin-ecosystem is inherently inflationary. Let’s take that to the logical extreme and assume that anybody who has Bitcoin gets rid of them as fast as they can, as they would any inflationary currency. They only acquire Bitcoin if they can immediately spend them. If that’s the case, and assuming that Bitcoin accounts for 10% of the U.S. underground economy, then the value of Bitcoin comes out to one penny, or 1¢, or $0.01. It’s simple math, taking the $2 trillion underground economy (IRS estimate) and taking into account the 10 minute transaction window enforced by the Bitcoin protocol.

I arrive at this 1¢ value by technology, now explain it with economics. I’m pretty sure squaring the two will discover something new about the properties of money, all monies, that economists hadn’t considered before, at least, been able to convincingly prove. I predict that in 20 years (these things take time), some economists are going to win Nobel Prizes for their theories on cryptocurrencies.

The technology of decentralized cryptocurrency is here to stay. It’ll be used by those dissatisfied with existing currencies (namely, the underground economy unhappy with the surveillance mandate placed on existing money). Instead of poo-pooing this technology claiming it won’t work, the successful economist is going to be one that analyzes it, gathers data, and explains why it does work.

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YouTube Gets Google’s Card Design And Puts Stronger Focus On Playlists

YouTube is rolling out a new design to its users today that takes its cues from the “card-like” design Google now uses on many of its other web and mobile apps. The aim of the redesign, Google tells me, is to emphasize playlists by putting them front and center in the left sidebar.

In addition, however, the company also center-aligned the site to make it look better on any screen and give it a “feeling similar to the mobile apps you’re spending almost half your YouTube time with.” This move allows it to easily employ the card look, which is clearly the main organizational metaphor for any Google product these days.

As part of this design tweak, YouTube also added new icons to the sidebar and introduced a new persistent menu button next to the YouTube logo in the top-left corner of the screen that will bring up the guide with playlists, subscriptions and everything else that’s usually in the sidebar. Overall, the site looks a bit fresher and brighter now and — thanks to some tweaks in the typography — quite a bit more readable.

As part of the emphasis on playlists, Google now shows you all of the playlists you have created and those from channels you liked in the sidebar. In addition, it now highlights playlists on YouTube channels with a new playlist tab. For those who want to create playlists, YouTube is also making it easier to do that. When you make a playlist now, YouTube will pop up a new page that lets you organize your videos.

The new design starts rolling out today, though it may take a few hours or even days before every user will see it.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 3.24.09 PM

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/20/youtube-gets-googles-card-design-and-puts-stronger-focus-on-playlists/

TC

With $8M In Fresh Funding, Ezetap Is More Than Just A Square For Emerging Markets


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There are almost 900 million active cell-phone users in India now, and from newer startups to some of the biggest companies in the world, everybody is chasing the next mobile disruption that could potentially result in a business model for all of the emerging markets.

One such startup is Ezetap, a mobile payment company backed by some of the biggest names in the VC industry, including Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive and founder of Social+Capital Partnership, and Angelprime, an Indian seed fund run by serial entrepreneurs.

Today, Ezetap is raising $8 million in Series B funding led by Helion Advisors, Social+Capital and Berggruen Holdings. This round takes the total fund raised by Ezetap to around $11.5 million (including $3.5 million it had raised in Series A funding in November 2012). The fresh capital will be used to expand Ezetap in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

Ezetap is much like Square, at least in terms of the basic model. It uses a rectangular device that can turn any mobile phone into a point-of-sales terminal when plugged in. The device including a card reader and chip, costs around $50, and Ezetap has been able to sell around 12,000 of them to date. The startup is aiming to have over 100,000 such devices installed across Asia-Pacific, Africa and Middle East in a year.

“From day one, we wanted to go global and really felt that mobile payments in general is a great opportunity for emerging markets. There’s disparity in cash versus electronic payments leading to the challenges of financial inclusion,” Abhijit Bose, CEO of Ezetap, told TechCrunch.

Ezetap was incubated in 2011 by Angelprime, a $10 million seed fund backed by Mayfield Fund, Palihapitiya and several others in the Silicon Valley. It’s run by three veteran entrepreneurs — Sanjay Swamy, Shripati Acharya and Bala Parthasarathy. With the latest round, Ashish Gupta of Helion is joining the startup’s board. Helion is an India focused, $600 million fund.

Ezetap is the second attempt by Abhijit and Sanjay to build a mobile payment company in India. In 2006, Sanjay was the CEO of mChek which had raised around $10 million by 2009, and Abhijit worked with another venture-funded payment startup called Ngpay.

Back then, mChek and several others fizzled out because of several challenges.

“I believe there was nothing wrong with mobile payment back then, it was just the timing,” said Bose.

Indeed, the environment has changed dramatically. Back then, there were only 10 million credit cards. Today there are around 316 million credit card holders in India. More importantly, the telecom infrastructure has improved tremendously, allowing users to do much more than just voice calls and texting.

“For us, Android and iOS are the game changers, too. Moreover, consumers are much more willing to use mobile payments for ease of use,” said Bose.

After building the product for one year, Ezetap officially launched with a Citibank mobile payment pilot in January 2013. Since then, the startup has signed up several banks and newer e-commerce companies, including Flipkart and online grocery retailer BigBasket. In Kenya, Ezetap partnered with Mastercard and Equity Bank to launch its services in March last year.  Later in May 2013, Ezetap’s solution received global certification from Europay, Mastercard and Visa.

Both Ezetap and Square are using similar models to enable mobile payments, but for completely different target markets, which is perhaps why Bose doesn’t like being called “the Square of India.” While Square focuses more on working with merchants such as Starbucks, restaurants and bars, Ezetap’s merchants include India’s biggest e-commerce company Flipkart and even much smaller mom-and-pop shops.

“I always hate it when people call it that [Square of India]. Fundamentally, we are attacking underserved markets and are both similar in thinking about mobile payments. But we want to build a business that makes us number one mobile payment platform in emerging markets,” said Bose.

To be sure, Ezetap is not the only mobile payment startup that’s beginning to do well. With around 2 million customers using its mobile wallet, MobiKwik is aiming to reach the 100 million mark in two years. While MobiKwik and at least two dozen others are offering mobile wallets, startups such as Mswipe are more similar to Ezetap. Mswipe raised its Series B funding earlier this year from investors including Matrix Partners. All these startups are shaping an ecosystem of mobile payments in India that goes beyond just creating a non cash economy.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/20/with-8m-in-fresh-funding-ezetap-is-more-than-just-a-square-for-emerging-markets/

In Praise Of The Under Appreciated HR Director


In 2014, the best Human capital is what businesses need to win, and that puts a lot of pressure on HR

Here’s a question for business owners and managers. When was the last time you hugged your HR department?

It occurs to me that the human resource manager, human resource assistants, recruiters or whatever you call the people in your HR department are the unsung heroes of business in 2014. They have to find the right people, train the people, and then retain the people for it as long as possible. With all the talent available these days, that’s a very very tall order.

Yes, the government says that the unemployment rate dropped to 6.7% today. Theoretically, that’s good news, especially if you ignore the low number of jobs created in December. But it also means that a lot of people have just stopped looking for jobs and left the work force. And that might make the HR department’s job a little harder because some of those people could be diamonds in the rough for your company. Perhaps their skill set doesn’t exactly line up with what you’re looking for, maybe they are over 40 and have had jobs in industries that don’t exactly match yours, or maybe they just were honest about how much money they wanted to make when they filled out applications. For whatever reason, they’ve climbed out of the talent pool and therefore can’t be used as human capital.

How important is finding and keeping talent? Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, opened the 2013 event in Davos by asking “Is talentism the new capitalism?”. He talked about the importance of talent and how having the right people can provide a huge competitive advantage for any organization. Everyone has the same computer programs, analytic tools, and syndicated data to work with, but the key to making all those things work right is having the right talent to use them, interpret them, and put them to work for your business. And in most companies, finding that talent falls squarely on the shoulders of the overworked and undervalued human resource department.

Many businesses try to help their HR department with this daunting task by getting them applicant tracking software so they don’t have to spend as much time looking at every application that comes in for every opening no matter how big or small it is. We all know how the software works, whether it’s Taleo or Kenexa or another vendor’s system. The HR person puts in the parameters they are looking for, adds the keywords, presses the button, and the job is posted for all to see. Then the system scans the applications, looks for the best matches, and puts them in a file. The applicants who don’t match the qualifications set by the HR department sometimes get a nice rejection letter but tend to go into another file never to be seen again.

Technology is good, and having been a hiring manager I know that often times most of the people applying for a job simply aren’t qualified. That’s why applicant tracking software was invented, to weed those people out so that the overworked HR department or recruiter can concentrate on the best people based on their keywords.

But technology has its limits. In an ever-changing world where so many people are trying to reinvent themselves or enter a new industry, applicant tracking systems don’t see how the skills these candidates bring to the table can match the keywords for the open positions. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just the way computers work and the applicant tracking system is doing the best job you can based on the information it was given. So is the recruiter really getting the very best person for the job? According to the applicant tracking software, they are. But in reality they may not be. And if that perfect person ends up getting noticed by your competitor, your company has lost the opportunity to acquire a valuable piece of human capital.

To try to show this theory in a real world experiment, I applied for a job that I am well-qualified for yesterday after 5 PM. The application was through an applicant tracking system which was nice enough to send me an automated response saying they had gotten my stuff and would consider me for the job. At a little after 11 PM last night, six hours after making the application and most likely while the HR department at this company was far from their desks, I received a rejection letter for the job I just applied for. I can’t prove this, but I can bet that my application was never seen by the retina of any human eye. It didn’t match the keywords or got bounced for some other reason and the recruiter or HR director at this company will never know that I applied for the job. They lost the chance to at least investigate the acquisition of good human capital. And if I get a similar job at their competition, they lose the never ending battle of having the best people in their company.

I don’t envy the role of a recruiter or HR director in this day and age. Too many tasks, too little time, and not enough help makes the job one of the most challenging in any firm. But companies who don’t invest in finding the best human capital and looking beyond the applicant tracking systems are likely missing the opportunity to grow a world-class organization. Not having the human touch in the recruiting process could theoretically make the difference between success and failure for a project or an entire company.

I worked for a decade at Viacom, and the chairman of the company, Sumner Redstone, was well known for saying that his most valuable assets go down the elevator at the end of the day. He knew that it was the people that worked for him that made his brands great. He also knew it was the people that did the work that generated the profits that he and his stockholders enjoyed. Even the strongest brand has to be powered by human capital.

So I go back to the question I opened this post with. When was the last time you hugged your HR department? What have you done for them to make their jobs a little easier, a lot more productive, and help contribute more to the acquisition of the very best human capital out there? In 2014, it’s about the people working in the companies that will decide success or failure. Think about that when you’re looking at your HR budget or when you walk past that department in your company. Those people need a hug, and a whole lot more.

Mercer released a report about the importance of human capital. You can find a link to download the Executive Summary here. If you’re in HR, you might want to print it and leave it on your boss’s chair.

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