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Four short links: 7 November 2012

Four short links: 7 November 2012

Relativity Toys, Removing Metrics, Parallel Open Source, and Text Karaoke

  1. A Slower Speed of Light — game where you control the speed of light and discover the wonders of relativity. (via Andy Baio)
  2. Facebook Demetricator — removes all statistics and numbers from Facebook’s chrome (“37 people like this” becomes “people like this”). (via Beta Knowledge)
  3. Rx — Microsoft open sources their library for composing asynchronous and event-based programs using observable sequences and LINQ-style query operators.
  4. Typing Karaoke — this is awesome. Practice typing to song lyrics. With 8-bit aesthetic for maximum quirk.
Comment: 1

Strata Week: A realistic look at big data obstacles

Obstacles for big data, big data intelligence, and a privacy plugin puts Google and Facebook settings in the spotlight.

Here are a few stories from the data space that caught my attention this week.

Big obstacles for big data

For the latest issue of Foreign Policy, Uri Friedman put together a summarized history of big data to show “[h]ow we arrived at a term to describe the potential and peril of today’s data deluge.” A couple months ago, MIT’s Alex “Sandy” Pentland took a look at some of that big data potential for Harvard Business Review; this week, he looked at some of the perilous aspects. Pentland writes that to be realistic about big data, it’s important to look not only at its promise, but also its obstacles. He identifies the problem of finding meaningful correlations as one of big data’s biggest obstacles:

“When your volume of data is massive, virtually any problem you tackle will generate a wealth of ‘statistically significant’ answers. Correlations abound with Big Data, but inevitably most of these are not useful connections. For instance, your Big Data set may tell you that on Mondays, people who drive to work rather than take public transportation are more likely to get the flu. Sounds interesting, and traditional research methods show that it’s factually true. Jackpot!

“But why is it true? Is it causal? Is it just an accident? You don’t know. This means, strangely, that the scientific method as we normally use it no longer works, because there are so many possible relationships to consider that many are bound to be ‘statistically significant’. As a consequence, the standard laboratory-based question-and-answering process — the method that we have used to build systems for centuries — begins to fall apart.”

Pentland says that big data is going to push us out of our comfort zone, requiring us to conduct experiments in the real world — outside our familiar laboratories — and change the way we test the causality of connections. He also addresses issues of understanding those correlations enough to put them to use, knowing who owns the data and learning to forge new types of collaborations to use it, and how putting individuals in charge of their own data helps address big data privacy concerns. This piece, together with Pentland’s earlier big data potential post, are this week’s recommended reads.

Read more…

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Commerce Weekly: Will NYC taxis get Square?

Square cab fares, Wal-Mart looks to beat Amazon to the same-day punch, and a major player update in the mobile payments war.

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

Square may be courting cabs

Square not only is gearing up to launch in Starbucks stores in November — it may also be looking to enter the New York City taxi cab market. Ryan Mac reports at Forbes this week that negotiations may be underway:

“Late Monday, private company expert PrivCo said that the San Francisco-based startup and the city of New York will be announcing an official partnership with the city of New York to implement Square’s payment systems across the city’s cabs. If negotiations are completed as expected, said New York City-based PrivCo, the partnership may be announced as early as this month.”

Mac reports that neither Square nor New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) would confirm that a deal was in place, but he notes Square has been testing iPad credit card swipers with TLC since March.

As to its forthcoming foray into Starbucks, Lisa Baertlein at Reuters reports that further innovations are in the works even ahead of the launch. At launch, customers will be able to pay for a coffee by having a barcode scanned off a smartphone, but plans are already in the works to use Square’s GPS to identify a customer in a Starbucks location, who can then pay by giving his or her name to the cashier. Also, Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks’ Americas region, told Baertlein that by summer 2013, customers will have the option and ability to tip using the technology.

Read more…

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You still need your own website

You still need your own website

Brett Slatkin on the federated social web and why a website still matters.

Brett Slatkin's hope for a federated social web hasn't worked out as expected, so he's shifting perspective from infrastructure to user behavior. Here he explains why you shouldn't abandon your website for third-party platforms.

Comments: 2
Commerce Weekly: Streamlining Facebook’s ads

Commerce Weekly: Streamlining Facebook’s ads

One-click Facebook campaigns, PayPal redesigns, and a Best Buy exec identifies in-store mobile issues.

Payvment launches a one-click Facebook ad service, PayPal revamps its website with consumers and mobile in mind, and a Best Buy exec says in-store mobile use has a scale issue. (Commerce Weekly is produced as part of a partnership between O'Reilly and PayPal.)

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Commerce Weekly: Streamlining Facebook's ads

Commerce Weekly: Streamlining Facebook's ads

One-click Facebook campaigns, PayPal redesigns, and a Best Buy exec identifies in-store mobile issues.

Payvment launches a one-click Facebook ad service, PayPal revamps its website with consumers and mobile in mind, and a Best Buy exec says in-store mobile use has a scale issue. (Commerce Weekly is produced as part of a partnership between O'Reilly and PayPal.)

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Four short links: 18 June 2012

Four short links: 18 June 2012

Facebook Sociology, Microbiome Mapping, Attention Surplus Disorder, and Makematics

  1. What Facebook Knows (MIT Tech Review) — Analyzing the 69 billion friend connections among those 721 million people showed that the world is smaller than we thought: four intermediary friends are usually enough to introduce anyone to a random stranger. and our close friends strongly sway which information we share, but overall their impact is dwarfed by the collective influence of numerous more distant contacts—what sociologists call “weak ties.” It is our diverse collection of weak ties that most powerfully determines what information we’re exposed to.
  2. Human Microbiome Mapped (The Scientist) — the Human Microbiome Project sequenced DNA of bacterial samples collected from 242 healthy volunteers. 3.5 terabytes of data, all accessible through public databases. One fascinating finding: Although each body part is characterised by some signature microbial groups, no species was universally present across every volunteer. “One of the HMP’s original mandates was to define the core microbiome, or the bugs that everyone shares,” said Huttenhower. “It looks like there really aren’t any.”
  3. Kids Today Not Inattentive (Neuroskeptic) — There’s no evidence that children today are less attentive or more distractible than kids in the past, according to research just published by a team of Pennsylvania psychologists. (via Ed Yong)
  4. Teaching Makematics at ITP (Greg Borenstein) — Computer vision algorithms, machine learning techniques, and 3D topology are becoming vital prerequisites to doing daily work in creative fields from interactive art to generative graphics, data visualization, and digital fabrication. If they don’t grapple with these subjects themselves, artists are forced to wait for others to digest this new knowledge before they can work with it.
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Visualization of the Week: 30 years of tech IPOs

Visualization of the Week: 30 years of tech IPOs

How Facebook stacks up against other tech IPOs.

This week's visualization comes from The New York Times and compares the last 30 years of tech IPOs (hint: watch for the big blue dot).

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Four short links: 25 May 2012

Four short links: 25 May 2012

Music Industry, Subscribe to Me, Pipe Progress, and Modern Careers

  1. Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss — transcript of a thoughtful music industry insider considering the effect of the net on the business. The other problem? I’ve been expecting for years now to see aggregate revenue flowing to artist increase. Disintermediation promised us this. It hasn’t happened. Everywhere I look artists seem to be working more for less money. And every time I come across aggregate data that is positive it turns out to have a black cloud inside. Example: Touring revenues up since 1999. Because more bands are touring, staying on the road longer and playing for fewer people. Surely you all can see Malthusian trajectory?
  2. Kottke on Quarterly — I eyed TED’s book club and thought “hmm, interesting business model: you like my taste, sign up and I’ll send you things”. Quarterly is a “my taste as a service” service. (via Sacha Judd)
  3. Pipe Viewer — clever little command-line utility to show progress of pipes.
  4. Sheryl Sandberg’s HBS Class Day Speech — two things stood out, beyond the honesty of the talk: If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat (that’s her quoting Eric Schmidt) and [careers] are not a ladder; they’re a jungle gym (her quoting Facebook’s head of HR). (via Sacha Judd)
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Commerce Weekly: Facebook continues its mobile acquisition spree

Commerce Weekly: Facebook continues its mobile acquisition spree

Facebook buys Karma, strategies to battle showrooming, and grocery shopping gets mobile.

Facebook puts its IPO money to use, seven strategies to help retail businesses survive "showrooming," and grocery shopping sans checkout lines. (Commerce Weekly is produced as part of a partnership between O'Reilly and PayPal.)

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