marți, 31 ianuarie 2012

Facebook Subscribe Is Dead

You know who I’m tired of seeing on Facebook? Me. Whenever I post an update, no matter what idiotic thought pops into my head, it jumps right to the top of the pack.

 Because of all those subscribers, my posts tend to get more comments than average (often in foreign tongues) and, thanks to Facebook’s ranking method, dominate other people’s news feeds.

That’s because back in September I signed up for the Subscribe feature on Facebook, which lets me run a feed for readers who know me through Mashable. The Subscribe program has been successful beyond my wildest dreams. I have 39,000 subscribers at this writing and I got them in about four months. I’ve been on Twitter for more than four years and have around 8,000 followers there.

Meanwhile, I almost never see what my non-journo friends and family are up to. Since Facebook tweaked its feed back in September, it’s like more than half of my Facebook friends have disappeared. Others have experienced the same phenomenon.

While this provides a nice ego boost, there’s a downside to Subscribe as well. No, I’m not just talking about the porn, spam and irrelevant messages that others have noticed. Since I subscribed to a bunch of other journalists and have a lot of journalists as friends, my News Feed looks more like Google News than Facebook.

Facebook IPO Hot or Not ?  Facebook Subscribe Is Dead ?

Right after Facebook posted a blog item about the switch, thousands of people protested via comments. “Facebook, you’re not near as smart as you think you are. Your algorithms for deciding what I want to see, who I want to talk to or what I think is important are 99.999% of the time the exact polar opposite of what I want,” wrote Facebook member Raymond J. Schlogel.


Anecdotal evidence supports this. A coworker recently told me she missed a friend’s engagement announcement on Facebook because it was lost in her journo-heavy feed. Kevin Cate, an entrepreneur, has also rolled out a Facebook app called Really Huge News that scours your Facebook feed to find the earth-shattering life events that the app’s name promises.

The fact that such an app exists shows that some believe that Facebook’s feed isn’t working as promised. However, the company hasn’t heard much criticism about the News Feed, says rep Michael Kirkland. “It’s tempting to take a personal experience and apply it,” he says, “but with 800 million people, it takes a lot to constitute a trend.” However, Kirkland notes that Facebook’s News Feed is a “work in progress and it’s always been.”

“Personally, there was just a breaking point this summer where I was overwhelmed with status updates and unable to keep up with my friends and family,” Cate says. “So it was either figure out a way to deliver these buried but important updates that my friends and families cared about, or be a bad friend. When I approached the eventual Really Huge News team, we all had the same issue.”

Do This

Nevertheless, I have a proposal for Facebook: Just as there’s a wild card berth for tournaments and playoffs, Facebook should modify its algorithm so that, say 30% of your feed is randomly chosen. In other words, apply the current method of choosing items (based on the number of responses a post receives) to 70% of the feed, but let the occasional oddball update slip through.

 I realize there are ways to do this manually. I could, for instance, put all my reporter friends into one group and my “for real” friends into another, but I’m too lazy to do that. I could set the feed exclusively to “most recent.” But that’s too random for me. I like the idea of having Facebook search for the most “relevant” stories. I just don’t want them to all be relevant, because over time, that’s making Facebook more irrelevant.

Another idea is to somehow divide the feed between public people like me and private people who don’t offer a Subscribe option.

Facts :

 Just how did our little status updates and vacation photos turn into what will likely be the biggest tech IPO in history (and a valuation that rivals some of the world’s biggest multinational banks and telecoms) ?

The world is anticipating Facebook to file for an initial public offering this week, and most indicators point to $10 billion in stock and a valuation at over $100 billion.

Its ad revenue far surpasses its social network contemporaries, its user base is projected to grow in 2012, and its revenue per employee and per user is on a steady upward climb.

Our number-crunching friends at Statista have pulled down a swell of stats on the company’s mind-boggling ascendance in recent years. Most of the numbers indicate that Facebook is built to last.

Does a perspective like that indicate a dangerous gulf between perceived and actual value? And are crazy-big IPOs like this another sign of Dot Com Bubble 2.0?

Facebook’s Road to IPO = Highway to Hell

It feels like it’s happening overnight, but Facebook has been marching toward an initial public offering (IPO) for almost eight years. Mark Zuckerberg created “TheFacebook” way back in 2004, nurturing it from dorm-room dream to Silicon Valley megasuccess during that time, and along the way he repeatedly dodged questions of when the company would offer stock.

 If buzz is any indication, that stake will soon be worth a lot. Facebook is said to be filing for its much-anticipated public offering on Wednesday this week, and estimates for how much the company will be worth once it’s done are in the $100 billion range.

Actually, some very lucky people have been able to own a chunk of Facebook for a while now. Apart from major investors like Microsoft and Russia’s Digital Sky — both of which invested substantially in the company over the years — Facebook employees have been able to buy and sell their stake in Facebook on secondary markets since 2009.

That would make the social network about four times the value of Google at the time it went public in 2004 with a valuation at $23 billion the day after.

Although Facebook has been the target of acquisition interest since its beginnings (Friendster was reported to have been interested as early as 2004), Zuckerberg had faith that he and his team could be more successful on their own, rejecting any and all offers.

 Zuckerberg never had much to say when asked about an IPO, preferring to keep the focus on the products Facebook was putting out and the network it was building. But the company began to take its first serious steps toward an offering in early 2011, reaching out to investment banks to help the company navigate the complicated financial waters.

While talks between Facebook and Yahoo progressed far in 2008, the $1.6 billion reportedly being offered wasn’t enough for Zuckerberg.

To experience Facebook’s road to IPO in more detail, browse the gallery. And let us know if you intend to buy stock — and why — in the comments.

And now the IPO filing appears imminent. Besides the reports from various financial publications, Facebook recently pushed out its new Timeline feature to all users and stopped its share trading on secondary markets, both without explanation. We should know the answer very soon.

Self-guided bullet

 The breakthrough comes courtesy of engineers at the government’s Sandia National Laboratories. They’ve successfully tested a prototype of the bullet at distances up to 2,000 meters — more than a mile. The photo above is an actual image taken during one of those tests.

The U.S. military has been after self-guided bullets for years. Now, government researchers have finally made it happen: a bullet that can navigate itself a full mile before successfully nailing its target.

 Wanna Buy  Self-guided bullet ?

A light-emitting diode was attached to the bullet, showing the amazing pathway that the munition made through the night sky.

The lab’s day-to-day operations are run by an auxiliary of Lockheed Martin. Of course, Lockheed’s been a longtime partner in the military’s quest for the ultimate self-guided munition. In 2008, they scored a $14.5 million contract as part of Darpa’s “Exacto” program, which sought to develop sniper rifles with guided bullets.

 Each self-guided bullet is around 4 inches in length. At the tip is an optical sensor, that can detect a laser beam being shone on a far-off target. Actuators inside the bullet get intel from the bullet’s sensor, and then “steer tiny fins that guide the bullet to the target.” The bullet can self-correct its navigational path 30 times a second, all while flying more than twice the speed of sound.

 Self-guided bullet Hot or Not ?

They’ve also been involved in the agency’s “One Shot” initiative, which is trying to develop scope-mounted lasers that can help snipers compensate for weather conditions.

The world's cheapest house - 20 square metres for US$715

 The flat-roofed 20 sq meter house will cost Rs 32,000 (EUR500 - GBP440 - US$715 ), can be built in a week and came about from an aim to deliver a viable package for beneficiaries of the Indira Awaas Yojana shelter rehabilitation scheme in Tata's native India. The scheme provides Rs 40,000 per house for people below the poverty line, scheduled castes and tribes, freed bonded laborers and ex-servicemen.

There is absolutely no doubt that the human condition thrives on challenge. Fresh from creating the world's cheapest car, the US$2500 Tata Nano, Tata Corporation is now intending to create the world's cheapest house.

If Tata can hit its targets, the scheme will bring much greater access to shelter for millions of Indians. India is world's second most populous nation with 1.21 billion people and it is growing at such a rate that it is expected to pass China (currently 1.34 billion) by 2030. It has already surpassed China for the number of people who live in poverty (800 million people).

luni, 30 ianuarie 2012

Gibbs Quadski - amphibian vehicle

Gibbs Technologies has one more amphibian vehicle schedule to hit the market in 2011.

 The Quadski is the first personal off-road vehicle to make a seamless high-speed transition between land and water. Quadski’s fuel tank allows it to travel for up to two hours on water and has a land range of 600 kilometers.

The Quadski is an ATV that converts to a jet ski in less than five seconds. It features a top speed of 50 mph on land and water, a proprietary marine jet propulsion system, and five-second-wheel retraction.

Gibbs Technologies plans to license the design and technology for the Quadski and is seeking expressions of interest.

The design is a modern take on the concept of recreational vehicles. In addition it is ideal for life saving, search and rescue, military, emergency services and aid workers who will be able to reach areas and people no two or four-wheel drive vehicle could reach.

Alan Gibbs and Englishman Neil Jenkins. In 1995 Alan Gibbs built his first amphibian. Shortly after he discovered a concept for an improved method of lifting the wheels.

Gibbs Technologies has its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The company was established by New Zealand entrepreneur

Recognizing the potential for amphibian technology, Alan Gibbs founded Gibbs Technologies in 1996. Gibbs Technologies has other two amphibian models produced prior to the Quadski: the Aquada and the Humdinga.

The Quadski will be available on the market at a price point of $46,000.00.

duminică, 29 ianuarie 2012

What is ACTA ?

ACTA is an international trade agreement negotiated by the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Morocco, Singapur as well as a few other countries, whose aim is to enforce copyright and tackle counterfeited goods (hence its acronym: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement).
Download and read the final version of the text.
The main problem with this treaty is that all the negotiations were done secretly, keeping the public and civil organizations out of the table. All the information until 2010 relied on leaks that reveal intentional secrecy to misled the public. ACTA negotiations started on 2007 and finalized in 2010.

Which countries already signed ACTA?

October 2010: Japan and United States, who crafted the treaty, together with Canada, Australia, New Zeland, Singapure and South Korea
January 2011 European Commission, in charge of negotiations, together with non elected representatives from 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech republic, Denmark,Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lituania, Luxemburgo, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.
The signature of ACTA by European countries does not mean the deal is done, needs to be ratified by the European Parliament. They will vote on june 2012to either ratify or reject ACTA. Please read more how to act and call your MPs, tell them tovote against ratification. This would disarm ACTA in Europe.

Which countries have not signed ACTA?

Mexico and Switzerland. In both countries situation is not clear. Mexican Senate voted a non-binding resolution rejecting the ratification of the treaty last year, after celebrating multistakeholder public hearings that prove ACTA was anticonstitutional in Mexico.

Help stop ACTA in Europe

The main two things to do are contacting Members of the European Parliament and helping spread the word about ACTA.
Current main action: call members of the INTA committeeto ask that their report on ACTA recommend the Parliament reject it, and to tell them about the dangers of ACTA.

Kader Arif, rapporteur for ACTA in the European Parliament quit his role as rapporteur saying:

”I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament's demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly."

“This agreement might have major consequences on citizens' lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade.”

ACTA is legislation laundering on an international level of what would be very difficult to get through most Parliaments

Stravros Lambrinidis, Member of European Parliament, S and D, Greece

The European Parliament has had no representation in ACTA negotiations. Just accepting or rejecting an agreement is not an exercise of democracy as under the Lisbon Treaty.
 Reporters without Borders, European Parliament Sakharov Prize Winners

Any measures concerning people's right to go online need to be brought in through the proper democratic channels, not via self-regulation, and made into EU law
Zuzana Roithova, Member of European Parliament, EPP, Czech Republic

It is extremely regrettable that democratic debate has been eliminated from talks that could have a major impact on such a fundamental freedom as free expression.
 Rohit Malpani, OXFAM, from a press release criticising possible impact of ACTA.

We are in danger of ending up with the worst of both worlds, pushing IP rules, which are very effective at stopping access to life-saving drugs but are very bad at stopping or preventing fake drugs.
Andrea D´Incecco, public affairs manager from EuroISPA (Business association of European Internet Service Providers)

We can only assume that the final text could do great harm in developing countries and undermine the balance between the protection of intellectual property and the need to provide affordable medicines for poor people.

Michelle Childs of Médecins Sans Frontières, Nobel Peace Prize winners, has issued a very critical statement on ACTA.


 It's good to see that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, otherwise known as ACTA, is at last getting the attention it deserves.

I suspect this is due to people becoming increasingly invigorated and educated after the SOPA and PIPA defeats, as well as the Megaupload takedown, in the last couple of weeks. However, this very welcome explosion of interest has also resulted in inaccurate, out-of-date and misinterpreted information flying around like so much shrapnel.

I'm not a legal expert, but I have been covering ACTA for a long time now. Reading some of the stuff out there, I thought it would be worthwhile to reread the text of the finalised treaty, just to make sure I was certain what was correct and what was not.

It's a good time to take stock, so here are some key points about the contents and process of the treaty and about the next steps. If I'm wrong on any of these points, please comment to let me know.

ACTA is not law anywhere yet

ACTA has been signed by: Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, the US, the EU, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

But, despite the fact that everyone in that list up to "the US" signed last October, none of these signing 'parties' have ratified it yet. Signing is separate from (and often a precursor to) ratification. Signing essentially means the government will try to get the treaty ratified.

Ratifying treaties is usually the job of the national legislature (in the case of the EU, it is the European Parliament). There's probably an interesting story to be told about each country's ratification process (and this is certainly where anti-ACTA activists should focus their attention), but until that process is completed, the treaty is meaningless.

By the way, these are the countries that took part in the ACTA negotiations but have not yet even signed the treaty: Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Switzerland.

ACTA's formulation was secretive and it focuses entirely on the rights of the content industry

This is the best-known bit, so I'll be brief. ACTA is a trade treaty even though its subject matter is civil and criminal enforcement, and its odd classification meant that it could be negotiated behind closed doors. It was only through leaks that the wider public got to see what was going on, and the resulting pressure probably helped get rid of some of the nastier bits in the early drafts (more on which later).

The language of the treaty also seems to suggest a certain one-sidedness. From Article 28, here's what looks to me like the biggest reference to anyone who isn't a rights-holder, a government, a judge or a criminal:

Each Party shall endeavour to promote, where appropriate, the establishment and maintenance of formal or informal mechanisms, such as advisory groups, whereby its competent authorities may receive the views of right holders and other relevant stakeholders.

"Other relevant stakeholders" is about it, I'm afraid.

ACTA demands the criminalisation of 'commercial-scale' copyright infringement

Each signatory (that has ratified ACTA at a national or union level, but let's take that as a given from now on) has to make "copyright or related rights piracy on a commercial scale" a civil and criminal offence. Now, remember that ACTA deals a lot with knock-off physical goods, but this applies to digital infringement too.

The penalties must include "imprisonment as well as monetary fines", although the two do not need to be imposed in tandem. Aiding and abetting has to be a crime too.

So, what's 'commercial scale'? In the section on criminal penalties, we have this: "Acts carried out on a commercial scale include at least those carried out as commercial activities for direct or indirect economic or commercial advantage."

Then, in Article 27, which deals specifically with digital infringement (my emphasis):

Each Party's enforcement procedures shall apply to infringement of copyright or related rights over digital networks, which may include the unlawful use of means of widespread distribution for infringing purposes. These procedures shall be implemented in a manner that avoids the creation of barriers to legitimate activity, including electronic commerce, and, consistent with that Party's law, preserves fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy.

"Widespread distribution" is a fundamental characteristic of the internet, so read that as you will.

ACTA criminalises DRM circumvention

Also a crime: breaking digital rights management and decrypting material that's been scrambled for copyright protection purposes.

Ratification of ACTA means not only that breaking these measures must be illegal, but also that it must be a crime to distribute technology or services that are "primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing an effective technological measure; or [have] only a limited commercially significant purpose other than circumventing an effective technological measure".

Oh, and stripping rights management information, such as the embedded data identifying the author or artist? Crime.

ACTA does not force ISPs to snoop

This treaty has gone through many revisions and is a big improvement over earlier drafts. By way of example, ACTA used to compel signatories to introduce three-strikes laws. For these revisions you can thank some of the negotiators, but also whoever leaked those earlier drafts so the rest of the world could see what was going on and apply some pressure.

Many if not most instances of the word "may" in the finalised ACTA once read "shall". There's a big difference between these two words. Section 4 of Article 27 reads (my emphasis):

A Party may provide, in accordance with its laws and regulations, its competent authorities with the authority to order an online service provider to disclose expeditiously to a right holder information sufficient to identify a subscriber whose account was allegedly used for infringement, where that right holder has filed a legally sufficient claim of trademark or copyright or related rights infringement, and where such information is being sought for the purpose of protecting or enforcing those rights.

That's not compulsion. It's saying the signatory's courts can, if they want, force ISPs to snoop, but it's not saying this has to happen. In other words, this bit's meaningless. It makes no difference. See also: the section that says countries may criminalise filming the screen in a cinema.

ACTA probably means signatories have to block or take down infringing websites

In Article 8, which deals with injunctions and civil enforcement, ACTA says that every signatory's courts must be able to order an infringer to desist, and must be able to force a third party under its jurisdiction to "prevent goods that involve the infringement of an intellectual property right from entering into the channels of commerce".

However, the same article also includes this follow-on. I confess I don't completely understand it, but it looks to me like it may allow governments to stick to damages instead:

Notwithstanding the other provisions of this Section, a Party may limit the remedies available against use by governments, or by third parties authorised by a government, without the authorisation of the right holder, to the payment of remuneration, provided that the Party complies with the provisions of Part II of the TRIPS Agreement specifically addressing such use. In other cases, the remedies under this Section shall apply or, where these remedies are inconsistent with a Party's law, declaratory judgments and adequate compensation shall be available.

As I say, I could use some clarification on this bit. Help me out and I'll update.

ACTA's guide to damages calculation is questionable

The civil enforcement penalties for copyright infringement in ACTA include damages, to be paid by the wrongdoer to the plaintiff. Now, calculating the actual cost of so-called piracy has always been a tricky business. Rights-holders have occasionally come up with some ludicrous estimates of the damage, that usually involve lots of multipliers.

Part of the problem in estimating the real cost is that an unlawful download does not necessarily mean a lost sale. The person downloading an album, for example, may like it so much that they then go and buy it. Equally, it may be that they were never going to buy it whether they downloaded it unlawfully or not.

Over to Article 9 of ACTA:

In determining the amount of damages for infringement of intellectual property rights, a Party's judicial authorities shall have the authority to consider, inter alia, any legitimate measure of value the right holder submits, which may include lost profits, the value of the infringed goods or services measured by the market price, or the suggested retail price.

You see the problem.

ACTA demands 'provisional measures' with no immediate right of reply

A tricky one, this. From Article 12:

Each Party shall provide that its judicial authorities have the authority to adopt provisional measures inaudita altera parte [without the other party being heard] where appropriate, in particular where any delay is likely to cause irreparable harm to the right holder, or where there is a demonstrable risk of evidence being destroyed.

That looks bad on the surface, but it goes on to say that the applicant must provide "any reasonably available evidence" to get the provisional measure (probably an injunction) and is also liable to compensate the subject of the measure if it turns out an infringement didn't take place.

The drug question

One of the big criticisms of ACTA is that its definition of 'intellectual property' could be taken to apply to medicines. Critics say this means the treaty represents a huge, pro-Big Pharma crackdown on the manufacturing of generic drugs.

That may be the case. I'm not an expert on this, but I can call out those who have said ACTA doesn't define intellectual property at all. It does, by referring back to the TRIPS agreement that was ACTA's predecessor. And TRIPS pretty much includes medicines in its remit.

Next steps?

As I say, I'm an observer not an activist, but those fighting against ACTA haven't yet run out of time.

Influencing ACTA during its formulation was always going to be difficult at best, given its designation as a treaty. However, now that it's finalised, activists have to remember that they cannot influence the contents of the document anymore. It's now a "yes or no" question.

Those who want to fight ACTA need to go to their elected representatives or whoever it is that ratifies treaties in their country (or union, thinking of the EU) and say it's too flawed to accept. As I say, time hasn't run out for them yet, but there's not much of it left.

As the European Commission has said, failure to ratify will mean it's "back to the drawing board".

sâmbătă, 28 ianuarie 2012

100 elephants being slaughtered every day by poachers

misc/misc 2009/ivory_Stockpile_IFAW

Cheap Auto Insurance Company Reviews
Cheap Auto Insurance Group
From house to home, Insurance Group offers a wide range coverage including personal auto and mechanical breakdown as well as homeowners insurance.

Nationwide Insurance
Nationwide offers first-at-fault accident forgiveness to loyal   which is perfect for that accidental fender-bender.
 Brand new to break down, GMAC knows cars- they’re the only auto insurance company in America to have started in the auto insurane.

Nationwide Insurance
Nationwide offers first-at-fault accident forgiveness to loyal   which is perfect for that accidental fender-bender.
 Brand new to break down, GMAC knows cars- they’re the only auto insurance company in America to have started in the auto insurane.

See More :