30 Sep 2015
Brevity is a lovely thing. Short sentences are sweet. A few words often trump many. This is why Twitter is a beloved social platform. Users are limited to a mere 140 characters per post, so their public ravings can be kept concise and clear.
Vitriol-spewing racists and misanthropes are kept relatively in check, while the annoyingly positive and smug show-offs are limited in their scope to ram words down your newsfeed.
This includes a new product that does away with the 140-character limit, and could enable people to post long-form content on Twitter.
People can already post images of long blocks of writing to bypass the limit, but such a workaround is not commonly used by the average Twitterer posting updates on their meals or raging against the UK's rail and transport services.
Twitter has already made moves to support longer comments when retweeting links, so the move to allow lengthier self-expression in general is not entirely unsurprising.
It would also appear that Dorsey is keen on exploring other changes to Twitter, even if his tenure in the hot seat is temporary.
"People have been very precious at Twitter about what Twitter can be and how much it can be evolved," a current senior employee told Re/code. "Having Jack come in and say it's OK makes all the difference in the world."
Dorsey may have his eye on expanding Twitter's reach beyond that of celebrities, brands, online extroverts and cynical media types, but many may oppose the idea of expanded tweets. Such a change could prompt a deluge of manifesto-length musings, rants, views and pontification, eroding the rapidly digestible nature of short tweets.
One could argue that these rumoured plans might turn Twitter into more of a Facebook-like platform. Mark Zuckerberg's social network sports a user base of around 1.5 billion people, so perhaps aping it a little is not such a bad thing for Twitter.
The definition of cool is abstract at best; one person's Rolls Royce is another's Reliant Robin. But that has not stopped The Centre for Brand Analysis deciding which companies have the ‘coolest' brand.
Possibly with too much time on its hands, the Centre has compiled a list of the top 20 cool brands of the year, embracing a range of sectors such as technology, fashion and cars. Sadly, waste disposal, sanitation and tone distribution were not considered.
Technology dominated the list, and the likes of Apple, Spotify, Google, Instagram, Sonos and YouTube made it into the top 20.
Surprising absolutely no one in the world who hasn't been living under a rock for the past decade, Apple took the number one spot. The company won the coolest brand for the fourth year running, no doubt fuelled by Jony Ive's rather fetching, if over-enthused about, product designs.
If Apple is as cool as a bath full of liquid nitrogen, Ray-Ban is the equivalent of a dip in the Arctic ocean while cradling a penguin, as the sunglasses company took the second spot.
One-time hippy commune and world's largest mud convention, Glastonbury, took the bronze medal, giving it the cool factor equivalent of ice-skating naked in a hailstorm.
Netflix, Nike, Instagram and YouTube also featured in the top 10, gaining the cool factor of having a massage from a yeti.
James Bond fans will be distraught to discover that Aston Martin, maker of the most beautiful cars to grace the planet, took only the tenth position.
That's right, the chariot of Britain's beloved fictional spy is held in less regard than a social media site known for pictures of people's food.
Google will be licking its wounds as it came outside the top 10, in the respectable position of twelfth but some way behind rival Apple.
Virgin Atlantic represented the world of transport at position 19, the cool equivalent of eating ice cream really fast, probably owing to its in-flight film service and cabin crew in Vivienne Westwood-designed uniforms.
Many technology and tech-related brands made it into the cool list, so perhaps the lack of diversity in the sector will be eroded as more women and under-represented groups turn their attention to the world's coolest tech brands.
IT conferences are normally an excess of major brands excitedly enthusing over their latest products and touting aspirational but theoretical use cases for their technology.
But the 2015 iteration of Spunk's .conf conference held in Las Vegas is a different beast all together.
Rather than announce a new product that shakes up its portfolio but lacks a real-world use, Splunk preferred to release a series of small but solid updates and products that evolve its core operational analytics platform.
One could argue that Splunk has done nothing revolutionary to its software offerings, but having attended the main conference hall full of whooping attendees and spoken to several customers at the conference, V3 can attest that what the company is doing is garnering strong praise from its followers.
This is probably because Splunk seems to have simply given its customers what they want with updates set to benefits them, and then sitting back to see what the customers do with the extra functionality and enhancements.
With the likes of Gatwick airport, shoe brand Kurt Geiger, BMW, and luxury smartphone maker Vertu showcasing different uses of Splunk at .conf, it is not surprising the company has almost taken a back seat in its own conference, allowing customers to showcase its technology rather than dictate uses for their products.
Snehal Antani, chief technology officer at Splunk, said this fandom Splunk has from its customers, means the company allows its direction be dictated by its customers.
"People come up with really cool new ideas that I've never thought of," he told V3. "Our customers are inventing these uses cases and letting us know what they're doing and we're trying to internalise it. [Splunk] is customer driven and so customers are teaching us, it's not the other way round."
It is this approach that paints Splunk as the Lego of the IT world, whereby Splunk provides the pieces for users to build with, rather than providing an overly ridged and closed platform with uses cases limited to specific industries.
And Splunk is being very smart here, as the world of machine data analytics is still a relatively immature facet of the technology world with a myriad of use cases, and if the company tried to prescribe the path the tech trend should be on then it may end up stifling innovation rather than enjoying the fruits of its open platform.
02 Sep 2015
Fresh from announcing the creation of a new company called Alphabet to oversee the various weird and wonderful units that form Google, the company has now unveiled a new playful logo.
Tamar Yehoshua, vice president of product management at Google, said in a blog post that the redesign was an effort to create a logo that was more suited to the numerous ways in which people reach Google’s services.
“Today we’re introducing a new logo and identity family that reflects this reality and shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens,” he said.
“As you’ll see, we’ve taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).”
"You’ll see the new design roll out across our products soon. Hope you enjoy it!"
In a back-slapping video Google showed how it has evolved its services over time and that the four colours used across its services are indicative of its brand.
Google is using its search engine to uncover potential tech talent, it has been revealed, after a coder secured a job at the firm by entering a particularly technical query.
Max Rosett explained on The Hustle website that he was embarking on a career change and, as part of his research, turned to Google to solve a problem. This was when the magic started.
“One morning, while working on a project, I Googled 'python lambda function list comprehension'. The familiar blue links appeared, and I started to look for the most relevant one. But then something unusual happened,” he said.
"The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said: 'You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?' I stared at the screen. What? After a moment I decided, yes, I was most definitely up for a challenge.”
From there Rosett explained that he was engaged in a series of coding challenges via Google's foo.bar webpage.
“I won’t post the problem here, but solving it required a bit of knowledge about algorithms. I had the option to code in Python or Java. I set to work and solved the first problem in a couple hours. Each time I submitted a solution, foo.bar tested my code against five hidden test cases,” he said.
"Once my solution passed all of those tests, I could submit it and request a new challenge. Over the next two weeks, I solved five more problems. After I solved the sixth problem, foo.bar gave me the option to submit my contact information."
A recruiter then called Rosett and, after he went through a more traditional one-to-one interview process, he ended up being hired by Google.
"Three months ago, I thought I wasn’t ready to apply for a job at Google. Google disagreed," he said.
Slow internet speeds remain a bugbear for many in the UK, even as the government touts its ongoing funding of rollouts of services across the nation.
But life in the slow lane proved so intolerable for one Wiltshire farmer that he took it on himself to solve the problem with a homemade 4G adapter and his own fibre-optic lines.
As the BBC reports, Richard Guy, from Salisbury, built his own 4G adapter using an assortment of components, including solar panels to power the unit, and then ran fibre-optic cable from the unit to his home.
Guy explained that it works because a 4G signal can be attained in one area of his farm. He put a mast in the ground and attached a 4G adapter to the top, housed in a toolbox to keep it safe. From here he ran fibre-optic cables back to his home 1,100 meters away. A solar panel at the top of the mast ensures that the 4G adapter is always powered up.
This has completely transformed his internet experience, according to Guy, making it possible to do everything from online shopping to finding key government information.
“The 0.8Mbps I had before was very slow for following the pages of Amazon or the Defra website, but with this it’s like lightning. It's like selling a Morris Minor and buying a Lamborghini.”
Suggesting that there may be a little bit of PR-wizardry behind the scenes, Guy also revealed that he intends to take his setup to market with a new business called Agri-Broadband.
“It’s something farmers can take part in. They dig the trenches and build the tower and we apply the technology to it and it all works just fine,” he said.
The idea could well catch on, given that 4G avaiability in remote areas continues to increase and that, for most farmers, digging up their own land is something they do on a fairly regular basis.
However, for the average homeowner or business in a remote area, it may not be the best idea to start churning up public highways and running your own fibre lines.
Apple Music has 11 million users just over a month since it became available with the iOS 8.4 update that rolled out to devices at the end of June.
Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president for internet software and services, revealed the number to USA Today. "We're thrilled with the numbers so far," he added.
Cue also said that two million of the 11 million have opted for the $14.99 a month family plan that can be used by up to six people.
The figure of 11 million is just over half that of Spotify, which revealed in June that it has 20 million subscribers.
On the face of it Apple gaining an equivalent of half of Spotify’s user base in a month is impressive going. But, breaking it down, Apple’s sign-up rate actually seems less spectacular than it first appears.
Apple’s users are not paying a penny at the moment to use the service, so a huge explosion of people getting music for free is perhaps not surprising. It could well be the case that many thousands choose not to pay once the free service ends.
Furthermore, given that almost every iPhone and iPad owner in the world could start using Apple Music if on iOS 8.4, the figure of 11 million choosing to take a three-month free trial of a heavily advertised and promoted service from Apple seems surprisingly low.
For instance, Apple sold 61 million iPhones in Q2 2015 alone, so 11 million is only a dent in that number.
Also, Spotify may ‘only’ have 20 million users despite having been in the market for many years, but it has done a lot more work educating users and growing the brand to reach this figure.
In fact Spotify lists its 'active user' base as over 75 million, suggesting that it still has a huge potential base of over 55 million people it could convert to fee-paying users. This is five times that of Apple.
A final point is that many Spotify users feel loyal to the brand, or just don’t want to go through the hassle of having to recreate their lovingly cultivated playlists on Apple Music, and have not bothered to sign-up for Apple Music, even with the free-trial offer.
Apple too will no doubt see its numbers growing, especially with the arrival of iOS 9. Many people may not have bothered updating to iOS 8.4 and will be awaiting iOS 9 before bothering to upgrade. This will then bring them Apple Music and could see user numbers soar.
Even so, the figure of 11 million should give heart to Spotify and suggests that Apple may not have everything its own way in the music market in the years ahead.
Diversity, or the lack of it, is a hot topic in the technology industry today. It's a talking point at conferences and roundtables, and often features in V3 articles.
But stereotypes of what an IT worker is and should look like remain hard to shake off, despite the best efforts of technology firms like Intel with its $300m diversity fund.
To break down the cliché that IT workers are male and unwashed nerds, women at technology companies have taken to Twitter to share images of themselves under the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer.
The tweeting trend was sparked off when female platform engineer Isis Wenger was featured in an advert for a job at San Francisco-based security company OneLogin.
Wenger explained in a statement on LinkedIn that the advert, which was featured alongside another with male OneLogin workers, received a torrent of negative comments on social media, ranging from people thinking she was not the "right face" for the advert, to sheer disbelief that an IT worker could look like her.
"The reality is that most people are well intentioned but genuinely blind to a lot of the crap that those who do not identify as male have to deal with," she wrote.
"This industry's culture fosters an unconscious lack of sensitivity towards those who do not fit a certain mould. I'm sure that every other women and non-male identifying person in this field has a long list of mild to extreme personal offences that they've just had to tolerate."
Wegner noted how she had been the subject of misogynistic comments and behaviour in various IT positions.
This prompted her to post a picture of herself on Twitter holding a card saying: "I help build enterprise software" with the #iLookLikeAnEngineer hashtag.
The tweet generated strong support from other women in technology, who also started uploading pictures of themselves under the hashtag, although Wegner said that she has also received negative attention among the comments, which she will continue to bring to light.
The opportunity for women to address the male-heavy gender balance of the IT industry is thought to be better than it ever has been, but the need to post under such a hashtag and weather misogynistic abuse indicates that the technology world still has some way to go.