Sean Mitchell is an interactive designer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the editor of TypeRelease. February may have been a short month, but with it came a slew of new typefaces that... Keep reading →
Memeoirs, the service that lets you create a book out of all your old emails, has launched a new feature that integrates messages sent across Facebook. The feature was announced... Keep reading →
It’s quite possibly the perfect example of the ‘first world problems‘ meme. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tinder CEO Sean Rad revealed the mobile dating app would soon... Keep reading →
A month ago reports started circulating about a possible Yahoo and Yelp partnership, which today is coming to fruition with a collaboration between Yahoo Search and Yelp’s local business reviews.... Keep reading →
‘Smart’ seems to be the big buzzword in recent times. Smart thermostats? Check. Smart TVs? Check. Smart elevators? Check. Smart keys? Check. Smart calendars? Check. Lowdown is the latest ‘smart’... Keep reading →
The UK now has more subscribers to superfast broadband services than Europe’s five largest economies, with connections of 30Mbps or faster now available to 73 percent of the population, up... Keep reading →
The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, believes an online ‘Magna Carta’ is needed to protect the independence of the Web and the rights of its users, The Guardian reports.
On the 25th anniversary of his first draft of the first proposal for what would become the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee warns that the neutrality of the medium is under threat from governments and corporations. He tells The Guardian: ”Unless we have an open, neutral Internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”
Berners-Lee has been a critic of the spying tactics that American and British governments have been accused of, in the wake of revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
His plan for an online Magna Carta would cover principles of privacy, free speech and responsible anonymity, and is being taken up as part of a project called “The Web We Want”, which campaigns for digital rights.
➤ An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web [The Guardian]
Image via Danny Lawson/AFP/Getty Images
It is clear that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba wants to branch out further into digital entertainment — last year it acquired social music-streaming service Xiami and developed a smart TV operating system, while this year it stepped into mobile games.
Now Alibaba has agreed to pay $804 million for a majority stake in ChinaVision Media Group, a Hong Kong firm specializing in TV and film production. This could very possibly mean that Alibaba may soon be taking steps to produce content in collaboration with ChinaVision. After all, throughout last year, Chinese tech firms were already taking steps to make their mark within the online video space, seeking to capitalize on the opportunities as Chinese consumers effectively started taking their TVs to the subway.
An Alibaba spokesperson tell us: We are pleased to collaborate with the ChinaVision Media Group to explore future business opportunities as part of Alibaba’s digital entertainment strategy.”
The company’s strategy has been pretty clear — by beefing up its services to include TVs, music and games, it is hoping to provide a diverse range of offerings to capture the attention of users and keep them within its ecosystem, which could ultimately lead to more e-commerce opportunities.
In April, Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace rolled out functionality for Xiami, apparently to help transform the retail site from merely a shopping platform to a lifestyle and media platform. Subsequently, the company also rolled out smart TVs, which would incorporate e-commerce and support games and other forms of entertainment. Early this year, it launched mobile games on its Taobao shopping app and Laiwang chat app.
Headline image via Peter Parker/AFP/Getty Images
In China, tech firms are making it easier for consumers than ever before to shop and purchase goods online.
Rather than requiring you to have a traditional credit card applied via banks, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba announced that its payments arm Alipay will collaborate with China’s CITIC Bank to start issuing one million virtual credit cards next week, approving the creditworthiness of applicants based on their online shopping histories.
This means that CITIC Bank will impose credit limits based on information from Alipay on the applicant’s online shopping behavior. The minimum credit limit is CNY200 ($33).
Consumers can use the virtual credit card only on e-commerce platforms that accept CITIC credit cards, Alipay says. It can, however, also be used at offline retail outlets that accept Alipay’s Wallet app as a payment method.
In the meantime, Chinese Internet giant Tencent, which owns popular messaging service WeChat, is teaming up with CITIC Bank and Zhong An Online Property Insurance to issue one million virtual credit cards too.
In a statement sent to TNW, Tencent says that users of WeChat (known as Weixin in China) can apply for the card with a minimum credit limit of CNY50 ($8) and a maximum of CNY5,000 ($814). Consumers can use the card when paying via Weixin, or at designated offline retail outlets that support the scanning of Weixin QR codes.
A Tencent spokesperson says: “Introducing this virtual credit card is mainly to help users who have good credit records but are lacking short-term funds to quickly meet their consumption needs. For the businesses, this can maximize sales.”
Both Alibaba and Tencent say that the approval process for their virtual credit cards will take less time than conventional credit applications.
Last month, online retailer JD.com — which Tencent recently announced it was taking a 15 percent stake in — also launched a virtual credit card. However, that wasn’t in collaboration with any banks and was for use only on its e-commerce platform.
Alibaba and Tencent’s foray into providing credit for customers comes as both Internet firms have been selected to take part in the preparation work for setting up five new private banks in China. It seems like Alibaba and Tencent are well on their way to forming complete ecosystems in the Internet world which extend not only to purchasing products but to payment, credit and financial products as well.
Headline image via Shutterstock
Phil Harlow got tired of owning a kegerator and not being able to keep track of who drank how much. So he built a smart kegerator, which lets you not only share beer with your family and friends, but can tell you how much they owe (even though there are no cans or bottles to count):)
Version 1.0 of the smart kegerator is powered by a Raspberry Pi that keeps track of your tab based on the price of the keg and the volume of the beer. Facial detection is only shown in the video, but Harlow says the latest version uses facial recognition so you don’t have to interact with the device at all. He plans to eventually use weight sensors under each keg to get a better estimation of keg volume and a liquid probe thermometer to better estimate the temperature of the beer.
Image Credit: Phil Harlow
Vivek Ravisankar is the co-founder of Y Combinator alumnus, HackerRank, a platform for coding contests used by programmers to hone their skills and a tool for companies to streamline their own recruiting process.
The hiring process for technical talent is broken. Across the board, the number one problem for any company is hiring programmers. Whether it’s a series A-funded startup or a large multinational corporation, hiring technical talent takes up a lot of time, energy, and money – and doesn’t always result in the best hires.
Even if you have many resources devoted to hiring, the number one pain point remains the same. There’s something fundamentally wrong in the evolution of the process.
For a long time, hiring technical talent was something just for software companies and startups, but this is no longer the case. To put it bluntly, software is eating the world and everyone needs coders.
Here are four hacks that every company can apply to their recruiting process to help efficiently and effective find great programming talent, and save time.1. Learn to look past a resume
A trap that many companies fall into is relying too heavily on a candidate’s resume.
Don’t get me wrong – resumes are a great indicator of a candidate’s previous experience, and can give you terrific insight into their work ethic and skill set developed through previous employers. Some companies move fast and break things, and others have a completely different environment. Where you’ve worked can be very telling of your programming philosophy and what camp you fall into.
Most companies look for two things: a great school, and previous experience at a great product company. For some companies, this is all they initially look for. However, putting a resume on a pedestal like this is a seriously flawed approach.
By doing so, you are competing for the same, very small, pool of talent with hundreds of other companies. There are amazing talent across other planes than this; candidates that, for whatever reason, didn’t get an opportunity to go to a great school, or maybe even skipped school to be able to keep hacking.
If a candidate does not have a great resume, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad candidate. Ironically – and this is the case more than you would think – it could be that they have spent their entire life learning their craft and put school second.
Look for those diamonds in the rough – those that may not have a shining resume but do have the programming skills you are seeking.2. Create a consistent bar for your application process
Every company has different values, processes, and cultures. But when hiring, the interview should be designed with objective measurement standards in mind that will clearly indicate whether or not the bar has been cleared.
Programming is a science, not an art, and the hiring process should be the same way. So many interviewers, whether consciously or subconsciously, try to prove their intelligence by asking hard questions – often with the intention of finding people exactly like themselves. They’ll try to trick candidates to see if they fall into a trap; if they do, it’s a fail. If they don’t, it’s a hire.
Here is a great example: a friend of mine, who happens to be a brilliant developer, is in the interview process right now. He’s interviewing with a number of top companies. Each of these companies obviously operate in different ways, but he has NO clue what to expect in each interview. What will they ask? What specific skills might come up? How do you know which specific skillset are they interested in?
Catching the candidate off guard to see how they respond is an unfruitful tactic used by too many companies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with preparing a candidate for an interview – this is actually a great sign that they are truly interested in the company, and are willing to do the work ahead of time, be ready for your questions, and be immersed in the company as quickly as possible.
Remember to ensure that your interviewers are prepared. Every interviewer in the panel should know what is expected from the candidate, know what questions to ask, and what specific skills and talents the company is seeking. With this in mind, a company can make an informed and completely objective decision.3. Fine tune your recruiting process with data
The most streamlined processes in any business are data driven, and that is no exception for the recruiting process. How can you objectively evaluate and select a candidate without data (which is, by definition, objective)? And more importantly, how can you expect to improve your hiring process if you have no understanding of its previous effectiveness?
Plain and simple: recruiting should generate a lot of usable data. You should be able to quantify a programming candidate’s skills, but you should also be able to do the same with your interviewers. You want to be able to identify which interviewer is doing a great job, which questions have led to successful hires, and which questions led to busts – and use this to mold your recruiting process moving forward.
It’s important to identify these questions and interviewers by percentages of interviews held that went on to be hired.
Although most technical interviewers will be developers, that doesn’t mean that the best developer will be the best interviewer. This requires an entirely different skill set, and is one that needs to be recognized, and more importantly, tapped into. It’s important to not make these decisions just by gut feeling, but with supporting data.4. Recruiting can’t be outbound: The future lies with inbounds
Despite the natural inclination to reach out, the process of constantly pinging programmers with recruiting inquiries isn’t sustainable anymore. This has always been the logical method for recruiters, but it does not guarantee a good response in today’s market. The key is to generate inbound interest.
When was the last time you bought something because you got a cold call about it? Or saw an ad for it? Everything we buy is either because we are naturally attracted (inbound) or hear great reviews from a friend (referral).
This same line of thinking can be applied to recruiting: a programmer is naturally attracted to a company’s approach to business, or has heard great things about the company from a friend.
A number of companies have started hosting contests to attract thousands of programmers to solve a particular challenge. The last security challenge conducted by the payment company Stripe attracted 16,000 security enthusiasts, and the AI challenge by Netflix attracted 100,000 programmers!
Developers are a different breed – they love to try and solve problems and will even do it for free when challenged.
Tell the world what you’re working on – not through a fancy job description, but in a fun and engaging way. Every company claims they are the fastest growing company on the planet with 40 percent month-over-month of some parameter, funded by top-tier investors, etc. It’s nearly impossible to stand out this way. Instead, make people want to come to you by getting creative.
What do you think about the technical hiring process? Do you think it’s broken? If so, how would you fix it? The technical interview process is due for some big changes, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
Twitter is confusing. Early on, skeptics questioned, “What problem does it solve?” Even its founders couldn’t quite describe it, let alone foresee what it would become.
It wasn’t clear what [Twitter] was. They called it a social network, they called it microblogging, but it was hard to define, because it didn’t replace anything. There was this path of discovery with something like that, where over time you figure out what it is. – Ev Williams (source)
How can stupid-sounding startups with untested ideas become so successful?“It sounded crazy, so we went with it.”
Last month I met Abdur Chowdhury, ex-Summize/Twitter and now CEO of Pushd. He spent the last year and a half building a team and infrastructure for experimentation. They created three products and killed them all before launching publicly.
With each one, they learn and invest in technology for their next idea. The small team of six are positioned to move quickly and accept that failure is progress as long as they learn.
Their latest product is an odd one. Abdur unabashedly admits it’s kind of crazy. They call it Gummy.
Gummy is a mobile app where users create Gummies, digital cards people pass to nearby friends. The app uses GPS and Bluetooth to deliver Gummies to friends only when they see each other.
Curiously, I asked where the idea came from. Abdur explained:
Me and the team sat in a room, brainstorming ideas. Then Ben [one of the mobile engineers on the team] suggested a concept around sticking pieces of media to friends and people in the real world. It was absurd. It sounded crazy. So we ran with it.
A week later, the team had the first version of the Gummy app.
They didn’t talk to people. They didn’t do market research. They didn’t create a landing page to see if people would enter their email. They just built it.
For the past year, they invested in the team and technology to prioritize speed of iteration with disregard to traditional methods of customer development and company building.Some things just have to exist first
As I’ve written about before, not all feedback is equal. Someone that proclaims interest in an imaginary product provides a far less reliable signal of true desire than a person that has attempted to build their own solution to the same problem. Furthermore, a paying customer is an even better indicator that they truly care. Feedback fidelity varies and matters a lot.
You’ve heard them all before: Lean methodology, customer interviews, landing page tests, concierge experiments, and other tactics for testing hypotheses and measuring demand before building a product. In many cases, these are good advice but sometimes it’s a waste of time or worse, directs entrepreneurs away from something truly great.
In Twitter’s case, no interview or experiment would have predicted its success; in fact, it may have even deterred the founders from building it in the first place.
Sometimes actual product usage is required for meaningful learning. This is often true of consumer products like Twitter, Snapchat, or Foursquare that introduce significant shifts in user behavior.
We like to think we act rationally, but we don’t, particularly when it comes to products driven by emotional needs. Like Twitter, Abdur and team can make intuitive assumptions but ultimately, actual user behavior will reveal if Gummy is a good or bad idea.Unpredictability and anti-patterns
Late last year, Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures published a study on billion-dollar startups, partly in attempt to identify patterns in these wildly successful, “unicorns.” While some commonalities exist, their paths to success are diverse.
Humbly, the 14-year VC vet admitted the difficulty in picking winners. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Aileen. She shared Cowboy Ventures’ investment thesis and her approach to evaluating potential investments.
A few years ago, she met with the founding team of an early startup. The founders lacked the positive signals investors typically look for. Their pitch was unpolished, product vision unclear, they had little understanding of their metrics, and traction didn’t stand out from competitors. Aileen passed on the deal.
That startup is now valued at more than $4 billion.
Aileen and other wise investors rely on intuition and patterns when unicorn hunting, but at the end of the day, startups are by definition, unpredictable. If they weren’t, fewer startups would fail and investors would look like fortune tellers. While best practices exist, most startups fail and some of the most successful are outliers, built on anti-patterns.
WhatsApp, recently acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in cash and stock options, challenged traditional Silicon Valley logic. Semil Shah wisely articulated the risk of hive mind thinking in his recent piece about the wildly successful messaging app:
Silicon Valley and the tech world at large are filled with a variety of conventions. These conventions are now created, captured, and shared ad nauseam disguised as blog posts, tweets with links, and countless message boards. The benefit of such a canon is we all have access to a rich repository of knowledge — the cost, however, is we all, perhaps unwittingly, are exposed to the same suite of playbooks, which contain the same conventions, which could, if we’re not paying close attention, and especially when amplified in an echo chamber, trick us into believing a certain reality which, in turn, script our actions and lives down a path of predictability, or worse, mediocrity.YOLO
Abdur and the team are far from naive. They’re very aware that Gummy probably won’t work – at least not in its initial form.
Honestly and humbly, Abdur shared a number of reasons why Gummy is a bad idea but still worth doing:
Changing the way people think about their encounters and having forethought about someone is good. Technology that makes us see others and be more compassionate is really cool. While this product probably won’t work, creating things that are new, novel and make you think of others are worth trying out.
I respect that.
Abdur’s passion and belief in his team, coupled with an understanding that meaningful learning must come from actual user behavior, is what sets them apart.
Conventional “best practices” and ways of thinking may not be right for your startup. The most innovative entrepreneurs often go against traditional wisdom. Consider the input of experienced entrepreneurs, learn from their successes and failures, but realize there’s no right way to startup.