Start up: Apple Watch v Android Wear, the old smartphone buyers, Google halts Mapmaker (finally), and more


Seems to be free of intentional errors so far. Photo by scarlettfawth on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Slather them over your body like peppercorn sauce. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Philly.com got 555 comments on an article about changes to comments » Poynter

Kirsten Hare: You’re making an effort to keep comments in a time when many sites have scrapped them. Why is that?

Erica Palan: There are definitely folks in our newsrooms — and in the industry overall — who would be happy to see comments go away. But our digital leadership team is committing to keeping comments. Commenters are some of our most dedicated readers. They come back again and again to our stories. Also, the Internet is a big, chatty place. If we don’t give our readers the opportunity to talk about the news, they’ll go elsewhere.

KH: There were 545 comments with this piece! Is that normal?

EP: Ha, not at all! Some of our stories will generate a ton of comments, but 545 is a lot no matter what barometer we’re using. I was really nervous it’d be crickets for awhile, because it was a few hours before it took off! (How embarrassing to write an article about comments and then receive no comments?) To me, it showed that our commenters really do care about being a part of Philly.com.

KH: I noticed you moderated them. Any advice for other journalists or news outlets?

EP: At Philly.com we’ve been really inspired by the work being done by the Engaging News Project. They put out a study that showed that having writers moderate and comment on their own stories improved the tenor of comments overall. A handful of reporters for the Inquirer and Daily News have started to do this and anecdotally, we feel it’s been pretty successful.

I reckon different dynamics apply: that the people with the most useful insights reserve those for places where they’ll be most valuable, which isn’t necessarily comment sections. “Commenters are some of our most dedicated readers” is true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones who attract other readers. (Also, having writers moderate comments on their own stories probably isn’t smart – nor a great use of their time. I didn’t moderate comments at The Guardian; no writer did.)


US smartphone sales among consumers earning less than $30,000 grow more than 50% » NPD Group

As US mobile phones sales transition to predominately smartphones, buyers have become significantly older and less affluent. For the third consecutive three-month period ending February 2015, sales among consumers earning less than $30K per year grew by more than 50%. This demographic is now the largest segment of the smartphones market, accounting for 28% of all sales. In contrast, sales among consumers earning more than $100K a year increased by just 24%. For the three months ending February 2015, buyers aged 55+ also represented 28% of all sales, up 24% from a year ago, and were the fastest growing age segment of the population.

Over the three month period ending in February, overall sales of mobile phones rose 28% compared to last year, while smartphone sales increased 35%. During the same three-month period, the share of sales for non-smartphones declined to just 14%…

…Apple and Samsung accounted for two out of every three smartphones sold over the three month period, although Apple sales increased by 45% and Samsung’s just 10%.

And here’s a brand breakdown:

NPD seems to think it’s the oldies buying the new models. So, old geezers are going to rule the mobile biz?


What to Wear? » Rusty Rants

Russell Ivanovic, of Shifty Jelly, in a comparison that I’ve been wanting to read since the Apple Watch came out:

One of the benefits of being curious about technology and running a company where we get to buy it to test on, is that I get to play with a lot of cool gadgets. When it comes to watches alone I have the Apple Watch, LG G, LG Watch R, Moto 360, Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Sony Smartwatch 3. I thought it might be interesting to compare Android Wear and Apple Watch as they are today.

The must-read for today, if only to keep up with how the two platforms are evolving. I think he’s spot-on with each prediction, too.


Baidu leads in artificial intelligence benchmark » WSJ Digits blog

Robert McMillan:

The company’s Minwa supercomputer scanned ImageNet, a database of just over one million pictures, and taught itself how to sort them into a predefined set of roughly 1,000 different categories. This meant learning the difference between a French loaf and a meatloaf, but also trickier challenges such as distinguishing a Lakeland terrier from a wire-haired fox terrier.

Five years ago, the possibility that computers would surpass humans at this work appeared remote. But computers run by Microsoft, Google, and now Baidu have all done better than the best human results in the past few months.

With practice, humans correctly identify all but about 5% of the ImageNet photos. Microsoft’s software had a 4.94% error rate; Google achieved 4.8%. Baidu said that it had reduced the error rate further to 4.58%.

The so-called deep learning algorithms that Baidu and others are using to ace these tests have only recently made the leap from academia to Silicon Valley. But they’re starting to have an impact in daily life.

Unfortunately the broader “impact in daily life” isn’t specified. Google used it for voice recognition in Android, but that’s not quite “daily life”.

Also notable: Chinese companies starting to challenge western ones in this field.


After several public Google Maps hacks, Google forced to suspend Map Maker to prevent more fake edits » SearchEngineLand

Barry Schwartz:

Google has temporarily suspended Google Map Maker, a service to allow the community to make edits to Google Maps similar to how Wikipedia edits work. The reason the service was suspended was because of the recent public edits made to show how easy it is to make fraudulent edits to businesses.

We covered the loopholes that showed how Edward Snowden was at the White House and how Android relieved itself on Apple. But these hacks and fraudulent edits have been going on for a long long time.

Indeed – recall locksmiths and the US Secret Service and the restaurant a rival said was closed at weekends. The problem with the “peeing Android” edit was that it was multi-stage, by a “trusted” editor. This isn’t going to be solved easily.


High profile tech start-up Ninja Blocks goes bust » The Age

Rose Powell:

Ninja Blocks built and sold home automation systems that allowed users to control electrical devices through their smart phone. It managed both the software and also manufactured a range of sleek hardware products.

The company was launched three years ago and sustained its growth through sales and a series of successful crowdfunding campaigns: $103,000 in 2012 and $703,000 in 2013. Both brought in double or triple their original goal. It also raised $2.4m in three funding rounds, which included leading Australian tech investors Square Peg Capital, Blackbird Ventures, Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar as well as Sing Tel’s Innov8.

Crowdfunding campaigns require significant, ongoing public communication. The company went quiet in April as their latest product, the Ninja Sphere, ran over time and over-budget.

In a blog post, the team wrote the fact it was receiving “far below what they would expect to get somewhere else” their burn rate could not be sustained.

Unclear if the dollar amounts are Australian or US, but shows that hardware remains a tough business in which to succeed. (Side note: Powell’s byline describes her as “journalist”. Helpful.)


Hard numbers for public posting activity on Google Plus » Stone Temple Consulting

Eric Enge dives very deep into numbers that many have tried to dive deep into many times before:

Our extrapolated total suggests that about 23.4 million people have put public posts on Google+ within a given 30 day period. There is a hyperactive group of 358K+ people who do 50 or more public posts per month. After adjustments, we see these two numbers drop to 16M and 106K respectively.

These numbers should give you a good sense of what’s really going on in the G+ stream at this point.

Note that we also found that a small percentage (0.16%) of the total profiles examined currently return 404 errors (which means that the page does not exist), suggesting that the accounts have been abandoned or shut down.

The invalid profiles may include profiles that were robotically created in attempts to artificially game Google+. Those of you who are active on G+ are familiar with your follower count dropping at those times when Google clears a bunch of these out.

Isn’t going away, though, for reasons Enge then goes on to explain.


Four reasons why the Apple Watch will be a success » GlobalWebIndex

Jason Mander:

while the smart(est) money will probably wait for v2 of the Apple Watch to become available – the one where all of the initial annoyances and shortcomings have been addressed – there can be no doubt that, Apple’s first foray into this sector will finally push it into the mainstream. Quite simply, it’s inevitable that this watch will be a success – and here are four reasons why.

GWI provides wide-scale demographic information about web users worldwide. Of particular interest: it finds that those who have already bought a wearable are the most interested in using an Apple device, as here:

(Makes a change from all the “why Apple’s Watch will flop” pieces, anyhow.)


Regulator probes pitfalls of ‘sharing economy’ » FT.com

Barney Jopson and Tim Bradshaw on the US FTC’s plan to look into a number of companies:

In the US, the past actions of the FTC — which enforces federal antitrust and consumer protection laws — indicate that it sees ride-hailing apps such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar as a positive force for competition
It has written to state and city legislators urging them not to pass laws that would put them at a disadvantage to traditional taxis.
But the agency wants to probe two practices that are central to peer-to-peer platforms — the accumulation of personal data and the use of rating systems — as well as questions over legal liability for injuries.
“We want to see to what extent sharing economy platforms should be able to monitor participants by collecting, let’s say, location data,” said Ms Lao. “And if they do monitor, how can they do so while adequately protecting the privacy of the participants?”


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