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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘social networking

[NEWS] Some Friday links

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  • Bloomberg notes that Brexit may be good for European criminals, looks at the negative impact of Brexit on Japan’s retail chains, examines the way a broken-down road reflects India-China relations, looks at Russia’s shadow economy and observes Ukraine’s effort to attract shippers to its ports.
  • The Globe and Mail notes the mourning in Québec for the Nice attacks.
  • MacLean’s reports on a New Brunswick high school overwhelmed by Syrian refugees and examines the dynamics of Brazil’s wealthy elite.
  • National Geographic notes that Brazil’s capuchin monkeys have progressed to the stone age.
  • The National Post reports on evidence of cannibalism among Neanderthals, notes Kathleen Wynne’s criticism of “All Lives Matter”, and engages with the idea of a guaranteed minimum income.
  • Open Democracy engages with Scotland’s strategy for Brexit.
  • Wired looks at a New York City park built to withstand rising seas, mourns the disappearance of the CD, and notes that scenes of murder will never disappear from our social media.

[PHOTO] “Instagram Now Has Half a Billion Users”

Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier reports. That Instagram is so tightly integrated with Facebook is, I’m sure, an added bonus for that social network.

Instagram passed 500 million users, and growth is accelerating as the photo sharing app clears a hurdle that has stalled competitors.

The most recent 100 million users joined up faster than the previous 100 million, indicating the app owned by Facebook Inc. won’t be hindered any time soon by the growth plateau that plagues competitor Twitter Inc. Instagram said daily active users have reached 300 million. That’s about double what Snapchat Inc. and Twitter see.

Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for about $750 million. Since then, the photo network has grown exponentially due to the ease of sharing images—a medium that can cross language barriers and create connections between people even without formal social ties. About 80 percent of Instagram’s users come from outside of the U.S.

Instagram was able to rely on the world’s largest social network to assist growth, while tapping into Facebook’s advertisers to start ramping up its business. In the last year, Instagram started focusing on being a destination for photos and video from events.

“It’s all about knowing what’s happening in the world right now and coming to Instagram as a media destination,” Kevin Systrom, the company’s chief executive officer, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Emily Chang. He understands that he’s echoing words also said by Twitter Chief Jack Dorsey. “What social media outlet doesn’t say this? That’s the great opportunity of our time.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 22, 2016 at 9:36 pm

[LINK] Five links on the Microsoft purchase of LinkedIn

I have a profile on LinkedIn, but I’ll be damned if I’ve actually used the service for anything. I don’t quite know what it is for–most of the people I’ve talked to seem to be a like mind. That is perhaps why I was surprised to learn, from the CBC among others, that Microsoft was buying LinkedIn for $US 26 billion.

In a release Monday, Microsoft announced it would pay $196 US for every share in LinkedIn, a professional networking website at which users post their resumes online and can contact other companies and professionals. It has 430 million members, according to its most recent regulatory filings.

The price represents a 49 per cent premium from Friday’s closing price of LinkedIn shares.

“The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centred on connecting the world’s professionals,” Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said in the release. “Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft.”

[. . .]

If the deal is approved by regulators, LinkedIn will stay on as an independent unit within Microsoft, and chief executive Jeff Weiner will stay on at the company.

In LinkedIn, Microsoft gets access to more than 400 million customers and the opportunity to sell them more business tools, cloud services and other products.

Bloomberg’s Robert Lafranco was responsible for an infographic noting that the sale benefited LinkedIn’s founder personally to the tune of one billion US dollars.

Joshua Brustein’s article “How Microsoft Thinks Office Can Help LinkedIn and Vice Versa” notes what Microsoft thinks LinkedIn ownership can do for the company. The goal of integrating a social network with hundreds of millions of users with its office software is appealing.

As it stands now, LinkedIn is generally a place where people go when they’re looking for work, and Microsoft Office is a tool they use to actually do work. Keeping those two activities separate limits their appeal: Many people just don’t see a reason to check in on their LinkedIn accounts very often. Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn—one of the biggest deals ever in the tech industry—is based on the theory that people will start using both LinkedIn and Microsoft Office more if they’re combined.

In a presentation to investors on Monday, the companies stressed how much the two services could reinforce one another. LinkedIn has information that can help Microsoft Outlook users do last-minute prep for meetings. The same goes for a Skype call, or maybe even a document being shared through Office365. At a time when there’s a layer of social networking laid on top of just about everything, running a suite of productivity software that’s largely isolated can be a big disadvantage.

By buying LinkedIn, Microsoft is giving Office a social network of its own. In theory, it’s the perfect fit, because both are focused tightly on the working world. The collaboration could get people to use Microsoft software more often, making it less likely that they’ll cancel their subscriptions at the end of the year. Having access to LinkedIn’s data will also help make Microsoft’s personal assistant, Cortana, a bit smarter. Microsoft gives the example of the virtual assistant telling someone that the person she’s meeting with went to the same college she did, and giving her a quick update on how the school’s sport’s team did, presumably to give her some easy fodder for chitchat.

Chris Sorenson of MacLean’s is not optimistic about this.

So what, exactly, would LinkedIn, with some 105 million active monthly users, add to Microsoft’s menu? Some say LinkedIn will help broaden and deepen the appeal of Microsoft’s products among business customers. Others believe Redmond, WA-based firm is hoping LinkedIn’s reams of data about people and their employers can be tapped by its Cortana digital assistant to prep Windows 10 users for sales and other meetings. “It sounds smarmy, but a good salesperson will tell you that an emotional connection helps seal the deal,” wrote Mark Hachman, a senior editor at PCWorld.

For LinkedIn, meanwhile, the tie-up mostly offers it a reprieve from competition and angry investors. Earlier this year, LinkedIn’s stock plummeted 43 per cent in a single day after executives released a sales forecast that came in well below expectations. Though LinkedIn was once touted as superior to Facebook when it came to having a lucrative business model—it makes money by selling “premium” subscriptions to users as well as access to recruiters and marketers—the company has struggled to keep users engaged in recent years, sparking fears on Wall Street about overall growth potential. Now, LinkedIn can leverage Microsoft’s vast enterprise portfolio to build its user base. “Imagine a world where we’re no longer looking up at Tech Titans such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, and wondering what it would be like to operate at their extraordinary scale—because [now] we’re one of them,” wrote LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner in a memo to employees about this week’s deal.

Yet, despite the potential advantages for both sides, there’s no guarantees the merger will work. Indeed, Microsoft has a long history of making poor acquisitions or, at least, failing to properly capitalize on them. Back in 2013, Microsoft purchased Finnish device maker Nokia for US$7.9 billion in a deal that was supposed to make both firms more relevant in a mobile market increasingly dominated by Apple and Google. Instead, the merger, which critics likened to two drunks leaning on each other, ultimately resulted in a US$7.2 billion write down for Microsoft last year. Microsoft’s 2007 purchase of online ad firm aQuantive for US$6.3 billion followed a similar script, with the software giant writing down nearly the entire cost of the deal five years later. And while Microsoft’s decision to scoop up Skype for US$8.5 billion in 2011 has hardly been a disaster, it’s not as if the communications platform—which, incidentally, was previously owned by a group of investors that included the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board—has transformed Microsoft’s business in a meaningful way.

Bloomberg View’s Conor Sen sees this in the context of economic bubbles.

For a better sense of where the bubble might be, consider how Microsoft is raising the cash to fund the deal. The money will come entirely from new bond issues, adding about $25 billion to a debt load that has already increased by about $15 billion over the past year:

Corporate debt issuance has surged since the 2008 financial crisis for a variety of reasons, including central banks’ easy-money policies, low or negative interest rates in much of the developed world, and foreign central banks’ more recent moves to purchase corporate bonds directly. In the U.S., corporate bonds outstanding amounted to 27 percent of gross domestic product as of March 2016, up from 20 percent at the end of 2007:

To be sure, some of the debt issuance is a form of tax arbitrage: Instead of incurring tax liabilities by bringing in cash from abroad to pay for stock buybacks, U.S. tech and pharmaceutical companies are instead borrowing the money at home. That said, when a source of funding is too cheap it will be abused, and excess issuance is generally a big danger sign, whether it involves tech IPOs in the late 1990s, mortgage debt in the middle 2000s, energy debt in the early 2010s, or corporate debt today.

Justin Fox, also of Bloomberg View, sees this in the context of a closed-in digital frontier. Where else is there room for innovation?

“Even the very biggest app publishers are seeing their growth slow down or stop altogether,” Recode’s Peter Kafka wrote last week. “Most people have all the apps they want and/or need. They’re not looking for new ones.”

This could just be the result of a temporary bottleneck. Lots of people, myself included, currently own smartphones with only 16 gigabytes of storage. That’s often not enough space even to upgrade all the apps we’ve already downloaded — I’ve been having to delete apps on a regular basis for the past six months. Someday I’ll get a better phone and this will change, right?

Still, it seems like it’s more than just a storage-capacity issue. A handful of dominant mobile apps are crowding out the rest in terms of mindshare. And, at least in the developed world, there aren’t many untapped customers left to go after.

This situation may represent the new normal for the mobile internet and the internet in general. There could well be lots of revenue growth left — in the annual Internet Trends slideshow she released earlier this month, Mary Meeker of the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers pointed to rising advertising spending on mobile and the great potential of voice interfaces. Apple and Google, meanwhile, are hoping that app subscriptions will increase mobile spending. What there doesn’t seem to be, though, is a lot of truly virgin digital territory.

In the early days of the commercial internet, digital homesteaders could stake big claims. Now a small group of companies — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, mainly — already controls most of the territory. Facebook is only 12 years old, and five-year-old Snapchat now seems like it may be breaking into the mainstream. It’s not impossible for newcomers to find a niche. But as I’ve written before, the advantages to size seem to be growing. Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, announced today, is just one more indication of that.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 13, 2016 at 11:59 pm

[NEWS] Some Monday links

  • Bloomberg notes UEFA’s opening of a disciplinary case against Russia for fans’ violence, and looks how an anti-corruption drive has not been hurting China’s Hainan.
  • Bloomberg View notes the flaws in Gawker’s shock approach.
  • CBC looks at tributes to the dead of Orlando, and reports on Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn.
  • The Calgary Herald describes the story of Alberta’s Stephan family, pushed by the tragedy of psychiatric illness into alternative medicine and eventual neglect of a meningitis-infected toddler.
  • MacLean’s shares an Orlando victim’s texts to his mother.
  • National Geographic imagines what happened sixty-five million years ago after the Chixculub impact.
  • The National Post notes that the father of the Orlando mass killer supported the Taliban on his television show.
  • Open Democracy notes the astonishingly weak British constitution.
  • The Toronto Star looks at the first gay pride rally in Kyiv.
  • Wired looks at Apple’s contributions to smartphone technology and examines how the Islamic State outsources terror.

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Al Jazeera looks at the rejection of political Islam by Tunisia’s Ennahda party.
  • The Australian Broadcasting Corporation notes the ambition of Zambia to become a major food-exporting country.
  • Bloomberg notes the negative impact of booming immigration on the New Zealand economy, observes Ireland’s efforts to attract financial jobs from London-based companies worried by Brxit, reports on the elimination of Brazil’s sovereign wealth fund, and notes a lawsuit lodged by Huawei against Samsung over royalties.
  • Bloomberg View notes that Russia can at least find domestic investors, and worries about the politicization of the Israeli military.
  • CBC reports on the Syrian refugee who has become a popular barber in Newfoundland’s Corner Brooks, notes the sad news of Gord Downie’s cancer, and wonders what will happen to Venezuela.
  • Daily Xtra writes about the need for explicit protection of trans rights in Canadian human rights codes.
  • MacLean’s notes Uber’s struggles to remain in Québec.
  • National Geographic notes Brazilian efforts to protect an Amazonian tribe.
  • The National Post reports about Trudeau’s taking a day off on his Japan trip to spend time with his wife there.
  • Open Democracy wonders what will become of the SNP in a changing Scotland.
  • The Toronto Star looks at payday lenders.
  • Wired examines Twitter’s recent changes.

[URBAN NOTE] “A Trip Advisor for rental apartments?”

Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc describes the push for a landlord registry and licensing system.

When the members of the Municipal Licensing and Standards committee meet tomorrow at City Hall, they’ll be considering the latest attempt to license the apartment sector, with a motion to create a public consultation process around how such a system might function, and how the city should rate multi-unit buildings, which provide homes for hundreds of thousands of Torontonians.

For those with long memories, the lobbying and caterwauling that will begin to escape from the powerful landlord industry in the wake of this meeting will likely rival the complaints from Toronto’s restaurant sector circa 2000, when Mel Lastman’s famous “rat shit” quote ushered in a new era of public health ratings for eateries (now known as DineSafe).

Times have changed, and the licensing debate that begins after Thursday’s session will be informed and shaped by the open-data movement.

Firing the first volley, ACORN Canada, a tenants group, and a New York civic tech firm, RentLogic, have teamed up to create something called Toronto Landlord Watchlist, which is modeled on New York City’s Landlord Watchlist, a project of the NYC’s Public Advocate (currently, Letita James). The site, which went live this morning, contains information drawn from inspections triggered by tenant complaints. That data has been used to compile a list of what the organizers call Toronto’s 100 worst apartment buildings. (The data sets are available here.) Let the searching begin…

In New York, RentLogic has set up a beta site for a Big Apple apartment rankings service, which draws on all sorts of granular information from open-data releases, including reports on rodents, electrical problems and hot water interruptions.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 24, 2016 at 9:00 pm

[NEWS] Some Tuesday links

  • The Atlantic notes the import of the assassination of the head of the Taliban.
  • The BBC observes Spotify has more revenues, but is still not making money.
  • Bloomberg suggests Brexit would embolden central European populists and slow down growth, and looks at Coca Cola’s end of production in Venezuela.
  • Bloomberg View suggests a new class of educated Chinese professionals will hurt middle-class wages.
  • The CBC notes the lifting of the mandatory evacuation order for northern Alberta oil sands camps.
  • Daily Xtra looks at the importance of Facebook in spreading knowledge to PrEP.
  • Gizmodo notes the proliferation of cephalopods in the world’s oceans.
  • The Miami Herald describes how desperate Venezuelans are turning to urban gardening.
  • The National Post looks at Kevin O’Leary’s interest in Canadian politics.
  • The Toronto Star reports on the lifting of the American arms sales embargo against Vietnam.
  • Wired notes Grindr can still be hacked to identify users’ locations.
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