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Archives for: September 2013

There were 46 posts published in September 2013.

How DCTech Is Bringing Democracy Back To Politics

As I write this, the very-broken US Congress is playing chicken with the Federal budget, using Obamacare and the debt ceiling as bait. Every day, it becomes more apparent that our leaders would rather jab each other in the eye with a sharp stick than work together. It’s ridiculous, disheartening, and, most of all, disappointing.


With that said, there is a silver lining to the incredible dysfunction of our government that gets worse every year. Even though DC is a “political” town, people here are sick of “government as usual,” too — and they’re setting out to change the way we interact with our government and understand what the hell is actually going on.


One of the biggest players in this space, Votizen, was acquired by Causes earlier this year, which proves that we the people are hungry for change — change that we can affect ourselves. Though Votizen is probably the best known of the bunch, there are a lot of smaller startups here in DC that are flying somewhat under the radar — at least for now.


Take Ruckus, a startup that is actually not new to the scene. Its pedigreed co-founders know politics — Ray Glendening is the son of former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening and Nathan Daschle is the son of former US Senator Tom Daschle — and are using the power of social media to connect politically like-minded people. The goal is to empower citizens to share ideas and enable real change on issues they care about, whether it’s marijuana legalization or reforming the tax code.


As Glendening and Daschle learned, people from totally different political spectrums care about similar issues. Once political affiliations are stripped out of the equation, people are more than willing to work together on issues they have in common. Glendening explained, “When you look at politics from the perspective of different movements happening on different issues — marriage equality or education debt relief — you see progress happening outside of DC. We want to find those movements that are happening and help propel progress around the issues.”


Another startup that is tackling a big problem is LegCyte — and I’m particularly excited about what they’re doing. Like Glenending and Daschle, co-founder Aneet Makin has a background in politics. He worked on Capitol Hill and got really frustrated that he couldn’t do his job effectively.


“When Congress decides they’re going to do something, things move very quickly,” Makin said, “and most of the time, these are large, substantial bills. How do you get through a 100 page bill or a 1500 page bill in a timely fashion? If it was a new issue, I would read what the trade publications and the Wall Street Journal was saying, and I’d talk to colleagues — and that is not unique. Everyone does that. I thought it was ridiculous that you had people supposedly analyzing bills when the reality was there was no time to do that.”


Now he’s heading up a big data startup that makes legislation easier to understand. Their software aggregates the information in a bill, runs text analysis, and tells you in plain English what is in the bill. They also run analysis to identify if a member of Congress is slipping stuff into the bill, which I think is my favorite feature!


But they’re not done. Makin said they will be pushing into predictive analytics, so they can show you the likelihood that other members of Congress will support or oppose the language.


Then there’s the Sunlight Foundation, which is not technically a startup, but it does have a very strong startup culture. Sunlight is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that wants to make government more transparent. They do this by aggregating and analyzing Federal government and state legislative data, which their team of journalists rely on to write stories about what’s really going on.


Those Big Data tools and programs are developed in the Sunlight Labs. Tom Lee, the director of the Labs, explained, “It’s a group of designers and developers who use technology to create tools that can help people understand what their government is doing and why and help them connect to it.”


For example, they develop a lot of APIs that put together the data they collect from government sources — sometimes through hand curation, believe it or not — and they’re freely available to anyone who wants to use them.


What I find of most interest is the history of the organization, which was founded 7 short years ago by Ellen Miller and Mike Klein who wanted to do something about the influence of money in politics. “They originally thought of it as a journalist prize,” said Lee,” but, as they spoke to journalists, they found out that the data and tools available weren’t sufficient for the task.” Like Mackin, they decided to solve a tremendous problem.


Now, if only someone would create a tool to make members of Congress be nice to each other, we’d be golden!


Delighted Customers Made Possible by Modernizing Business Automation

At Klapprodt Pools, our 25 employees design and build up to 120 pools a year, maintain 200 pools weekly, and make an additional 150 to 200 service calls each month. We serve the Dallas/Fort Worth area and, over the years, we’ve earned a reputation for gorgeous pools and exceptional service.  But our business, while small, is relatively complex.  And our technology was really holding us back.

Our Problem


We’re in a high-touch business that depends on details and logistics, and it’s not always easy to keep track. Ultimately, a pool is a luxury and our job is to thrill our customers. This means we have to be synchronized, extremely productive, and aware of even the tiniest details of each customer’s unique job.


Employees are on the go every day, designing new pools, or driving around the metro area for routine maintenance calls. We live and die by coordination and need to keep everyone on the same page with current, accurate information that is accessible anywhere, anytime.


Yet, our previous technology set-up made it tough to achieve a high level of efficiency and business automation. Like many small to medium-sized businesses, we’ve grown organically, and had a bunch of single-purpose IT systems supporting the business.


For years, we were using multiple systems across the company for lead management, construction, service, and billing, which meant multiple entries and having to go to multiple locations to get information. Adding to the pain in terms of technology costs, our sales management system was an outsourced service, resulting in a fairly hefty recurring monthly payment.


Our Approach

In solving our problem, we made four key decisions:


  • Take a clean-sweep approach.  Our multiple, ad hoc IT systems isolated our data – a problem that would only continue to get worse (and more expensive) as we grew. It was now or never.


  • Focus on making our data available anywhere, anytime – to eliminate steps, save time, reduce data errors, improve collaboration, and boost employee productivity.


  • Get rid of paper (the enemy!) wherever we could.


  • Avoid reinventing the wheel.  Take advantage of off-the shelf software that was simple, affordable, and able to solve the bulk of our needs with some customization.


To optimize customer service while improving efficiency and profitability, we worked with developerPool Pro Office to help us build a custom solution to meet our exact needs. Our end-to-end business automation solution runs on Mac, Windows, and iPads using FileMaker software.


The Results

Our custom-built solution integrates all the company’s business processes, from design through to maintenance. It puts all customer information (pool design, invoicing, location, and maintenance) in a single location.


Today, the sales team uses this solution as a lead management tool for keeping records of appointments and communication throughout the entire sales process. When a job is sold, the customer information and construction plans are passed to our construction team, which uses this solution for scheduling and communication with the customer and subcontractors. When a job is complete, it’s added to our database for future service and warranty work. Our service team uses this database for all warranty and service work. Schedulers use built-in maps within the solution to plan routes efficiently, while our technicians use iPads to access their work orders in the field and update records. They can even invoice customers while on the job.


We support so many different types of services over a big metro area that management previously had a hard time staying in tune from time to time. Not anymore. With this solution, we can gather data in real time, remotely if need be, and analyze it using powerful reporting tools.


Based solely on the savings from the recurring payments that are no longer being made on our outsourced lead and service management systems – a small fraction of what I’d estimate as the full ROI – thesolution paid for itself in a few months. We’re already saving tens of thousands annually. But most important, customer satisfaction, the performance indicator we care about most, has soared.


Top Startup and Tech News Today: 7 Things You Missed Today

1. Microsoft Outlines 66,539 Account Requests From Law Enforcement During First Half Of 2013

Microsoft’s latest reports detail that it received 37,196 requests from law enforcement agencies between the months of January and June, which impacted 66,539 accounts. 77% of the requests filed asked for data such as a user’s name, IP history, and billing address. 21% of requests were given no information. In 2.19% of queries, “at least some” customer content was disclosed, such as subject/body of an email, photos, and address book information. This information was all obtained through lawful warrants or court orders. Microsoft is only allowed to publish these statistics on an annual basis.


2. Should LinkedIn Be Clearer About Harvesting Email Contacts?

Last week, four LinkedIn users filed suit, accusing LinkedIn of accessing their email accounts without permission and harvesting email addresses in order to send out unwanted referrals and invitations. The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages, and has seen a large rise of public interest. “LinkedIn took my EarthLink account and sent an email to each of those in my address book — and many have complained — something that I NEVER would have consented to,” said a retired FBI agent and private investigator. “Not only did I not want my clients to receive such an email (very unprofessional), but my ‘enemies,’ those who I have investigated, and have suffered (deservedly) because of it, (potentially deadly for me), also received emails as they were in my address book list.”   “We do give you the choice to share your email contacts, so you can connect on LinkedIn with other professionals that you know and trust. We will continue to do everything we can to make our communications about how to do this as clear as possible,” said Blake Lawit, LinkedIn’s senior director of litigation.


3. How Startup Blue Jeans Raised $50 Million In A Week Without Even Trying

Blue Jeans, a cloud videoconferencing business run by founder and CEO Krish Ramakrishnan, raised $50 million in days, which puts the current total of Blue Jeans at $100 million. Blue Jeans lets users on different systems, such as Skype and Google Hangouts, communicate with one another. Putting money in the bank wasn’t even Ramakrishnan’s to-do-list; but that changed when he meet Roger Lee, a general partner with Battery Ventures, at a casual meet-and-greet.  Ramakrishnan told Roger Lee of his interest in picking up money, and Lee immediately took action.   “$15-20 million was what we were thinking we would raise. We got an offer all the way to $75 million but I said, no, I won’t take that much. Let’s try $50 million,” said Ramakrishnan.   In the end, Blue Jeans made $50 million, with $26 million coming from Battery, and the remaining $24 million coming from Accel Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Norwest Venture Partners.  


4. Twitter To Make IPO Filing Public This Week

According to new website Quartz, Twitter plans to make its IPO filing public this week. Twitter, which is valued at approximately $15 billion, filed with U.S. regulators on September 12th to go public. However, they did this confidentially and did not provide a timeline. Twitter’s IPO could be delayed by various factors, from changes to market conditions to a potential and unseen shutdown. Twitter is leaning towards picking the New York Stock Exchange over NASDAQ for its initial public offering, said a person familiar with the matter.


5. Cinch Draws From Klout’s Bank of Influencers to Match the Right Expert to Your Questions

San Francisco startup Klout is a social media analyzer that looks at 8 networks, such as Twitter, Facbeook, and Google Plus, and then grades users on how much social media “influence” they have. Last week Klout launched a smaller, related application called Cinch, which draws on its bank of Klout experts. The applications lets user ask lifestyle related questions, such as questions on parenting or pet care – from there, Cinch will search its database of influencers to match the best expert to offer advice to the user.   To use Cinch, you log into the app using your Facebook account and type your question. Cinch will reach out to its experts. Once the app successfully finds you a pertinent expert, you and the said expert can private message each other about your question. Users can see questions others have posted, but the answers are kept private.


6. Apple Reportedly Cutting iPhone 5S Wait Times With In-Store Pickup

Earlier this week, Apple let internet shoppers reserve their iPhone 5S online for in-store pickup; however, this option only lasted a single day. Luckily, it is reported that the reservation system is soon coming back, and that Apple is preparing to start taking online reservations again soon, with some reports saying as soon as Monday. Customers can choose their preferred color, carrier, and storage capacity, and Apple will reveal which local stores, if any do, have such a configuration in stock. Demand for the iPhone has been high so far; even with the reservation system, you may still have a hard time securing your iPhone 5S. But at least now you’ll be able to avoid the lines.


7. Apple And AT&T Settle Class Action For Unlimited Data Claim Of Original iPad

A judge has approved a settlement for a class-action lawsuit filed against AT&T based on the unlimited data claims of the original iPad. These unlimited data claims were wildly popular, until they were withdrawn by AT&T. But now, if you bought a 3G iPad before June 7th, 2010, you will receive a $40 payout from Apple. If you purchased the original 3G iPad, but didn’t get mobile plan, you’re still eligible for a $20 return, or a month discount for up to a year that lasts under AT&T’s current $50 offering. This class action was born out of the frustration of affected customers’ over the change and the belief that they overpaid. The ruling won’t be finalized until February 2014, so don’t expect your money until then.          


10 Mistakes to Avoid in Planning for OpenStack Cloud

Build your own cloud? With free open source? Too good to be true?  Not quite. 


OpenStack provides you with the opportunity to make resources available to your people by creating your own cloud without paying huge software license fees — that’s true.  But in the years we at Mirantis have been building and deploying production of OpenStack cloud environments , we’ve seen a lot of magical thinking. If you watch out for these ten common mistakes, you’ll be moving in the right direction.



Mistake #10: It’s open source. Who needs a budget?


Very often we hear, “Why do we need a budget for this? We’ll just implement the code off the repo. There’s no license fee.”


That last bit is true. There’s no license fee to run OpenStack, but open source software doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, especially for a project as large and complex as OpenStack. Hundreds of people get paid to work very hard to improve the code, which changes constantly, so the latest version of one component requires you to bring in the latest version of everything else.


The problem here is that the latest code is always unstable, and critical bug fixes happen at the speed of the community, not yours. Sometimes you’re going to need to pay someone to fix your bugs in your timeframe and not the community’s. Thus, open source code is free at any given moment in time, but there’s always change over time, and time is money.


Mistake #9: I can do it by myself.


If your entire cloud is small enough to fit on your laptop, you might be able to do it yourself.  If you’re looking at a medium or large cloud, however, get some help.  Most people implement clouds for reasons that aren’t simple; you must understand what everyone else needs — not just you — in order to do this right. Explicitly document your use cases so that you can figure out whether you need a public, private, or hybrid cloud. Is your workload multitenant, long-running, short-running, dedicated, ephemeral, stable, bursty, or maybe even all of the above?


Maybe the solution to your problem isn’t even in the cloud. Look at your legacy applications. Do they belong in the cloud, or do they need to continue on your existing infrastructure?


None of these decisions can be made in a vacuum.


Mistake #8: Everyone understands the terminology.


You may believe that everyone understands the terminology, but it is critical to understand the whos, whats, whys, whens, wheres, and hows — collectively. Consider the following sentence we heard in a planning meeting:


We built a service to support the service, but when we had problems with the service level, we called services.


Really?  Take the time to understand what your constituents mean in precise terms, because there is no common understanding — even with common words. There’s a lot of chatter on the OpenStack forums about the actual meaning of the word “type.”


Mistake #7: Assuming legacy systems will go away (or be migrated).


There’s a reason COBOL programmers still have jobs. Legacy applications don’t just go away; that’s just the reality.  Just last week, a hyper-enthusiastic system admin told us, “We’re just going to build a cloud and move everything over.” Maybe it’d work, but not quickly. Some legacy systems, such as certain data storage, transactional, financial, and insurance applications are just not ready to move to cloud, especially if business rules have not been well-documented.


Mistake #6: All you need is load balancing.


This particular fallacy comes from thinking of the cloud as a giant router that just shifts stateless traffic to where it can run the fastest. Think about what workloads you’re moving to the cloud. Is it a dev-test environment? Can you ramp up or ramp down? Can you shut it down in an emergency? Do you need a single component or multiple components? In most cases, you can’t scale an application just by cloning its elements; not all constituent services can maintain consistency across replicas unless they’re architected from the get-go.


Mistake #5: We don’t need to talk to the developers.


In OpenStack cloud, applications can exercise far more control over the platform they run on than in a conventional environment, but with great control comes great responsibility. Operations and developers need to play nice with each other —you need expertise at the developer level to, both, properly architect and operate the solution.


That’s not to say that admins and operators should just get out of the way. You’re building an IaaS cloud with OpenStack so developers can use the infrastructure more easily. You want to give the developers just enough choices to make them successful, so create a menu — don’t give them the run of the kitchen.


Mistake #4: Our staff has the skills.


We often hear, “Our staff has the skills. It’s just like Linux.” Sure, if your organization is endowed with source-code masters for IP networking, hypervisor resource management, storage redundancy and optimization, source-code management, security and encryption, driver optimization, distributed application architectures, and any number of other technologies involved in OpenStack, you may be right.  Chances are, though, you’re missing one or many of these skills, and your staff needs to know that.


Everyone can use Linux, but not everyone’s a kernel engineer. Ultimately you can become the source-code master who knows everything, but it’s not overnight.


Mistake #3: We can monetize later.


“Cloud introduces great efficiencies.  It’ll pay for itself.”  Go ahead and try to get that past the CFO.


More than likely, you’re going to need new hardware and it’s not going to be the light and cheap stuff. And smart people don’t work for nothing. You’re going to need to train the people who don’t know everything they need to know. Oh, and do you also have a vacant, water-cooled data center nearby?


You may also need a new business model. Your existing infrastructure was funded with a set of assumptions about utilization by different functions and business owners – assumptions that likely no longer hold true. Where are your users going to get the money to support the cloud?


Understand your users’ economics and you’ll understand the value of your cloud.


Mistake #2: The cloud fixes itself


A cloud is not auto-magical, but, with the right monitoring and maintenance, it can, indeed, fix itself — sometimes.  But you need to make sure you have the right monitoring and the right redundancy, especially for alerting when capacity thresholds are near. You might not know it’s broken until it doesn’t fix itself; then you’re going to get that 3:00 A.M. call, and you must be prepared.  Remember that engineer who knows everything?  She’s not always going to be available.


Mistake #1: Failure is not an option


Finally, there’s the romantic old-school belief that failure is not an option. In fact, when it comes to cloud, failure isn’t just an option — it’s a core design principle.  Fail often and fail fast, so you can move quickly. Just make sure that your systems and applications are prepared for the moment when something goes down and they have to adjust.


“Automate all the things,” as the saying goes — especially the notification of failure.  This way, you can really enjoy this new technology as your systems keep going even when something doesn’t go quite according to plan. That’s when your organization gets the maximum benefit from the cloud.


Isn’t that why you wanted OpenStack in the first place?


Top Startup and Tech News Today: 7 Things You Missed Today

1. Google Looks To Help Startups Start Up, Unveils Hub Network


Google announced on Wednesday that it would be partnering with co-working spaces and startup hubs (a place where companies can get access to an office, mentors, and other resources) to create a hub network. This initiative is being overseen by Google for Entrepreneurs. Google already has startup hubs in London and Tel Aviv, but this new network will cover seven less-prolific startup towns, from Chicago to Nashville to Minneapolis. Google says that they will back these hubs financially and technologically. Companies at the hubs will have more access to Google products, which includes cloud storage, Google App Engine credit, and Google Maps API. Google will check in with the hubs once a month and arrange annual events. Startups will have access to many Google marketing employees for mentorship.


Outreach to startups is becoming increasingly common among big companies, as they try to find innovation before another company does. Earlier this month, Samsung created its own accelerator.


2. China To Lift Ban On Sale Of Video Game Consoles: Reports


China is moving to repeal a 13-year ban of the selling of video game consoles. This came through a set of rules issued by the State Council in regards to the new free-trade zone in Shanghai. Foreign companies are now free to begin selling their products in China as long as the companies operates within the free-trade zone. However, each device must be pre-approved by the Culture Ministry. Consoles were initially banned in 2000 over concern that video gaming would be detrimental to the younger generation.


3. App Developers Refuse To Give Up On BlackBerry 10


BlackBerry isn’t in a good place right now, especially not after just having posted a billion-dollar loss for the second fiscal quarter. But, some good news for BlackBerry comes in the form of a report from Digitimes, in which application developers claim that they aren’t going to bail on the Blackberry 10. At the BlackBerry Jam Asia 2013 conference this week, many developers said they planned to continue building and supporting applications for the BlackBerry 10. Some developers say that smaller mobile platforms like the BlackBerry 10 are more attractive, because the iOS and Android app stores are too noisy, and thus harder to break in to. BlackBerry is currently in talks with Fairdox Holdings for a $4.7 billion acquisition. It this buyout goes through, it is uncertain what lies ahead in BlackBerry’s future.


4. Web Site Leaks Images of Gold iPad Mini


Apple is taking note of the tremendous success and popularity that was the gold iPhone 5S. After their numbers blew away Wall Street’s prediction and even their own predictions, Apple has decided that the more gold, the better, and may launch a gold iPad mini. ZOL, a Chinese web site, has leaked images of an iPad mini in the same color scheme as the 5S. There have also been leaked images of the iPad mini in Apple’s “space grey” color, so Apple may be bringing new color schemes to all of its iDevices. In additional to the new color scheme, pictures of the new iPad mini also confirmed that it will also have touchID fingerprint scanning and retina display.


5. Samsung Exec Reportedly Admits Galaxy Gear Smartwatch ‘Lacks Something Special’


When a new product launches, the last thing you want is bad press, whether it be internal or not, and it seems like someone at Samsung missed this memo. According to a report from The Korea Times, a Samsung executive admitted that the company wasn’t happy with the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch. ”We’ve acknowledged that our Gear lacks something special,” said an unnamed Samsung official to the site. “With more investment for user interface and user experience, Samsung devices will be better in terms of customer satisfaction.” Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear smartwatch launches early in October and is seem as a preemptive strike against Apple’s rumored “iWatch.” Galaxy Gear preorders opened just last week.

6. Panasonic Quits Smartphones to Focus On…Feature Phones


Japanese electronics giant, Panasonic, confirms that it plans on stopping development of smartphones for the mass market. This is not new; the company said in July that it wanted to review its smartphone strategy after posting losses due to weak sales of smartphones in Japan; this is the only market where the company had any presence in the smartphone market. Panasonic says that it instead plans on reallocating the resources to manufacturing and selling feature phones (the clam-shell type handsets that came before the smartphone era). Features phones still have a large following in Japan and account for roughly 30% of all mobile phones sold. This figure is, however, shrinking, as time passes.

7. Key dates from Google’s 15-year history

September 27, 1998: is born.
May 9, 2000: The search engine becomes available in 10 new languages
June 26, 2000: The first search engine to index 1 billion web pages is… Google!
April 1, 2004: The beta version of Gmail is launched
February 8, 2005: Google Maps is born.
November 13, 2006: Google purchases YouTube for roughly $1.6 billion.
May 25, 2007: Google Maps Street View is born.
November 5, 2007: Google announces the OS, Android.
September 1, 2008: Google chrome is born.
July 7, 2009: The Google Chrome OS, which is based on Linux, is announced.
January 5, 2010: The “Google phone” is introduced by HTC.
June 15, 2011: Google presents the first Chromebook, equipped with Chrome OS
June 28, 2011: Google+ is born.
June 29, 2011: Google starts testing their cars in Nevada.
April 5, 2012: The first Google Glass prototype is worn.



Searching for and Finding Current News

Free online news is everywhere. Headlines are even available on a mobile phone. Tasty apps like Flipboard, Pulse, and Zite deliver a stream of frequently updated stories. CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and USA Today provide one-click access to Miley Cyrus’ latest PR stunt to all, regardless of interest. Most of these services offer information without requiring the user to register or pay for access.

Microsoft has been struggling to generate as much Web traffic as Google. In September 2013, Microsoft changed the logo for the Bing News Service and revamped the site’s approach to content. ran a story with a headline which gave me a bit of a shock: “Microsoft Downgrades MSN News Service.” With Microsoft’s increased emphasis on Bing, it makes little sense to offer a competing news service via the MSN portal. The TechEYE report explains that Microsoft MSN News drew 100 million visitors a month. My interpretation of the TechEYE analysis is that MSN News is likely to remain on a downward trajectory. At the same time, Bing News will be enhanced with what eWeek called “a more modern, responsive user interface that retains its focus on photos and imagery.” In-depth news at Microsoft seems to be out of step with users who want nuggets, pictures, and videos for smartphones and tablets.


Google and Yahoo news services provide headlines. Some stories lead to lists of articles from other current news sources and to video content. With Web traffic mirroring the 1% versus the 99% set up of the US economy, most of those looking for news will rely on large services like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.


However, in the 99% of news sites, there are some quite useful sources for information. Very useful services are available to a business person wanting information from sources other than the Associated PressBloombergBusinessweekReuters, and major US newspapers.


Let me highlight a handful of the services which make it possible to get a broader perspective on a news story. For content not available in English, I suggest you use Google Translate to convert Farsi, German, or Russian into a language you know. For now, Google Translate is available without charge, but that could change, of course.


Newsnow. This is a UK based service which offers a free and a commercial version of its service. Navigate to With a single click you can select a stream of stories in English from the US, UK, and other countries’ English-language news content. A search box makes it possible to search a 30 day back file of content. When you click on a story to read, Newsnow redirects you to the source’s Web site. Sometimes a story will not be available. In that case, you can navigate to the source directly and search for the story on the Web site’s server. One of the most useful features of Newsnow is that it makes it explicit when a story was available on the service. As new stories arrive, older stories are pushed down in the result list. The free service is ad supported and works like a live demonstration of some of the features of the for-service offered to commercial customers. My research team rates the service at four out of five stars.


Another useful service is World News. Navigate to You will see a splash page which shows the major stories of the moment. The service is extremely useful because a query returns results which date back to 2001. In order to access the back file, you will have to click past the video news story and narrow the query to the “News” category in the left-hand sidebar. Once the page refreshes, you will see a date ordered list of headlines, the source, and a snippet from the news story. Unlike HNGN, World News includes content in French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Non-English news is available from Google, but you have to run your query in the language of the Google index you want to access; for example, and use French or and use German. World News lets you do your research from a single Web site. My research team rates the service at four out of five stars.


TheBigProject is one of those 1995-style sites which are largely overlooked by today’s online user. Point your browser at You will see a very large, single page with hundreds of hot links to news services. Of particular value is the list of European news sources in English. In addition, there are links to global news sources in a wide range of languages. Google Translate can make an unfamiliar language understandable, but the translation is not letter perfect. The interface is dated. The upside of TheBigProject is that like HNGN, the Google Custom Search system generates results. My research team rated this service at four out of five stars.


Silobreaker is a for-fee service. A trial subscription is available. The system provides access to a wide range of news from Web logs, commercial services, and government entities. The Silobreaker search returns results which are quite useful. First, the system processes content in the major languages and includes an on-the-fly translation function. If you get a news story in Farsi, a mouse click renders the story in English. Second, Silobreaker includes a relationship map showing the connections of individuals named in news stories to companies and one another. Third, if you search for a person, Silobreaker displays a map that pinpoints the last known location of the individual. My research team rated this system five out of five stars.


When does a business person shift from mainstream news services (AOL, Bing, Google, etc.) and use a less well known service? There are no hard-and-fast rules that apply to every business person looking for information. My team and I identified some broad guidelines which you can consider in terms of your own information needs.


First, if you are looking for mainstream coverage of well known companies and people, the Google-style services will do the job. However, if you are looking for people or companies outside the US, you will want to tap services which include non-US content.


Second, if you want to verify a fact, you will need to use a service which has a back file. World News is useful for this purpose. If you do not find what you need, you will want to consider signing up for a commercial service like Silobreaker, LexisNexis, or one of the other professional information systems. Free works reasonably well, but for some information, commercial services save a researcher time.


Third, if you need information about the context in which a company or person works, you will want to tap into a business intelligence centric system. Silobreaker has already been mentioned. You may want to explore, developed by a former Israeli armed forces officer.


An important point to keep in mind is that a large amount of information is generated everyday. News services can only process of fraction of the available content. Some news services aggressively filter stories which contain certain words or phrases. US news services may not cover stories which are important outside the US but of little interest to the average American online user. Despite challenges, it is possible to find a news service that will more or less meet your information needs by using the information above.

by Stephen E Arnold at


Top Startup and Tech News Today: 7 Things You Missed Today

1. Apple Maps Sends Errant Drivers Onto Airport Runway


Ever since Apple kicked Google Maps as its default map application and created its own application, the world has been awry with errors stemmed from incorrect Apple mapping. Although Apple has updated their map time and time again, and less errors have been reported, Apple Maps has done it again – this time, they sent Alaskan drivers down an airport runway. “The company’s Maps app misled drivers, leading them to drive across a main runway” at Fairbanks International Airport, according to The Independent, “Fairbanks International Airport told a local newspaper that twice in the past three weeks drivers from out of town have driven through the airport after being given bad directions by their iPhones.”


Staff of the airport asked Apple to disable directions around the area entirely until the problem was solved. The problem has not been solved and Apple has not disabled directions; so, Fairbanks has resorted to barricading their entrance ramp.


2. One In Eight Single Men Would Choose A New iPhone Over A Girlfriend


In a survey conducted by discount site, one in eight single men said they would rather have a new iPhone 5S instead of a girlfriend. The survey polled 550 single British males and found that 3% said that they were willing to drop their current girlfriend for a new iPhone. “You don’t expect to see one in eight men prepared to forgo love, or in the case of three per cent, ditch their current partner to get their hands on [a new iPhone]” a SaleLand representative said.


It may not be in their best interest to say this – or let their girlfriend hear them say this. No one wants to be left behind for a mobile device – especially when it’s one that will become outdated in a year.

3. Twitter Launches Emergency Alerts


On Wednesday, Twitter launched a system for emergency alerts to help spread information when other forms of communications are down. Twitter alerts can be useful in natural disasters or other emergencies when traditional channels of communication are overloaded or unavailable. “We know from our users how important it is to be able to receive reliable information during these times” said Twitter product manager, Gaby Pena. “Twitter Alerts is a new way to get accurate and important information when you need it most… Today, we’re launching Twitter Alerts, a new feature that brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information from credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren’t accessible.”


Users who sign up for Twitter Alerts will receive a notification directly to their phone for tweets marked as alerts. A number of organizations have been authorized to send alerts, and Twitter will expand this to include “public institutions and NGOs around the world.” Some of the already okay-ed organizations include the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, World Health Organization, and government agencies.


4. Samsung: We’ll Have a Gold Phone Too


After seeing the huge uproar caused by Apple’s gold phone, Samsung has decided that it’s going to release a Gold phone too. On Wednesday, Samsung posted a photo on its Twitter feed advertising a gold-colored Galaxy S4 Smartphone, with the caption: “Introducing the new #GalaxyS4 Gold Edition – for a style that’s uniquely yours!” The advertisement even adds on “Elegance is a touch of gold.” The announcement came just two weeks after Apple announced the iPhone lineup would get a new gold color. A Samsung spokesman didn’t respond to a request for a comment about when the company begin planning and implementing the idea for a gold-colored Galaxy S4.


5. T-Mobile No Longer Stocking BlackBerry Products At Retail Stores


With BlackBerry facing uncertainty and hardship in the future, T-Mobile has decided to pull all stock BlackBerry devices from their retail stores, citing weak demand among everyday consumers. Instead, T-mobile will now ship in-store and online BlackBerry orders directly to buyers. VP David Carey of T-Mobile said that business customers represent a large percentage of the BlackBerrys that T-mobile does sell, and that there will be demo models of BlackBerry handsets in stores, it’s just not possible to make a purchase in store. Although sales for BlackBerry are not halting entirely, this is not a strong show of support. Although AT&T and Verizon are still carrying on BlackBerry within their stories, this could change, and a lack of support from the nation’s largest carriers would spell significant trouble for the already burdened phone maker.


6. Apple, China Mobile Deal May Be Coming Soon


Apple may soon announce a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier. Posters leaked on Thursday show that China Mobile may be getting ready for an advertising campaign to promote the iPhone’s arrival to its customers. China Mobile, which has about 700 million subscribers, is rumored to start carrying the iPhone 5S and 5C. Investors have been waiting for  a deal with China Mobile for a while now, as it has been speculated that the company had been working on a deal for quite a while. A deal with China Mobile could give the company’s iPhone business a large boost in numbers.


7. Fairfax Says It Won’t Abandon BlackBerry Bid

Prem Wasta, the head of Fairfax Financial Holings LTD said that he had every intention of completing the acquisition of BlackBerry. This is in response to the many doubts people have been having about the $4.7 billion deal for the smartphone maker. BlackBerry announced earlier this week that Fairfax signed a letter of intent that contemplating buying Blackberry for $9/share. Fairfax, which is also coincidentally, BlackBerry’s largest shareholder, is trying to attract other investors to get it on the action. There is no breakup fee should Prem Wasta of Fairfax decide to walk away, but Wasta told the Associated Press that he was not in the business of making an offer and then walking away.


We thought long and hard before we offered $9 dollars a share and we’re not in the business of offering a number and at the last minute changing the figure. Over 28 years our reputation is stellar on that front. We just don’t do that.” Said Wasta. Wasta did note that the deal was subject to six weeks of due diligence, but emphasized that he had no plans of abandoning BlackBerry. If the deal goes through, BlackBerry will go private and no longer be publicly traded.


5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Payment Gateway

Picking the right payment gateway for your online business is a necessary task (you want to get paid, right?), but the process of finding one can be confusing.  No two payment tools are the same. Each provider has unique fees and features that are best for different industries or company sizes.


Overwhelmed by all of the options? It’s understandable, especially due to the sheer volume of payment processors on the market, but don’t fear! Formstack, an online form building platform, has put together a handy website, as well as the infographic below, comparing several of the most popular payment gateways used by startups and small businesses.


If you’re just beginning to research the best payment tool for your company, consider the following five factors:


1. Fees. When choosing a gateway, you will generally encounter three different fees that vary by company: monthly fees, transaction fees, and setup fees. Some tools will require a membership fee, billed monthly, for letting you use their service, while others will simply charge a flat cut or a percentage of every transaction.  Setup fees, while usually small, are a one-time expense you will encounter when initially setting up a payment gateway.

It’s important to plan your budget and company vision before researching fees and charges. Many of the smaller payment gateways do not charge monthly fees, but a more robust system might be better for your business if you expect rapid growth.

2. Currencies. If you primarily conduct business in the United States, this factor will be less of a concern. However, if you are an online company with international consumers, you need to be sure that your chosen provider supports your customer base. Some payment gateways are built with the domestic consumer in mind and only accept USD. Others might accept Euros and the Canadian dollar, but if you need even more options, PayPal and Sagepay accept up to 20 different currencies.

3. Recurring Billing. This feature allows you to set up an automatic billing cycle for customers who operate on subscription. Recurring billing is a must for businesses with monthly payment plans. Additionally, nonprofits have found utility in recurring billing, as this functionality allows organizations to easily collect funds from repeat donors.

4. Mobile Payments. According to Localytics, over 60 percent of consumers believe mobile payments will replace credit card purchases, even in point-of-sale environments. Payment gateways with this functionality allow consumers to transfer money using their mobile device, either with a branded app or a mobile-optimized site. Because this feature is provided through the designated payment gateway, it still holds the same compliance and security standards.

As a startup owner, it might be easy to dismiss this feature as unnecessary when building your company. However, the inclusion of mobile payments might expose you to a powerful demographic of early adopters in technology. If you choose not to include mobile payments when initially launching your company, consider incorporating this functionality in a future iteration.

5. On-Site Payment. With some gateways, your customers will be directed to a third-party site to complete their purchases, instead of staying on your webpage. Off-site payment is often a component of “lower” plans within payment gateways, meaning you can upgrade to include on-site payment.

When choosing a tool, consider the user experience when purchasing a product on your site. If you don’t mind your user leaving your page when completing a purchase, you can probably get away with not having on-site payment. However, this feature can increase brand retention by keeping the entire purchase process on your site, so weigh your options wisely.


For even more insight into your options, check out this infographic:



Top Startup and Tech News Today: 7 Things You Missed Today

1. BlackBerry Messenger For iPhone and Android Delayed By Rogue Play App


BlackBerry, which was supposed to have launched its official BlackBerry Messenger app for the iPhone and Android, has postponed its launch after a rogue version of this app was released on Google Play. Andrew Bocking, head of BBM, said that the release of an “older” version of BBM for Android was posted onto file sharing sites, and then eventually Google Play. The early version “resulted in volumes of data traffic orders of magnitude higher than normal for each active user and impacted the system in abnormal ways.” BlackBerry cannot release the application yet, as the release of the official versions makes it hard to block users of the unreleased version.


The rogue version of BlackBerry Messenger currently has over a million downloads. A Google spokesperson said that they “remove infringing apps as soon as [they] become aware of them.” The rogue BlackBerry Messenger app is expected to be taken off Google Play soon.


2. Samsung To Introduce ‘Curved Display Smartphone’ In October


At an event dedicated to showing off the Galaxy Gear and Galaxy Note 3, Samsung executives announced that they planned to “introduce a curved display smartphone in October.” Other details such as price, exact release date, and operating system were not included. Although Samsung has released curved-screen phones before (Nexus S), this new phone will differ because it is not the glass itself that will be curved, but the screen.


Samsung has recently applied for a patent for a smartphone that is curved alone the vertical axis. It is possible that Samsung intends to make good on a concept it revealed last January. This potential device featured an OLED screen that curved around the side of the phone. Samsung executives declined to give more details.


3. HTC Could Face Sales Ban Following Loss To Nokia In Patent Case


On Monday afternoon, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that several HTC smartphones infringed Nokia-owned patents. The ITC found HTC guilty of infringing two Nokia-owned patents, but found HTC innocent of infringing a third. An injunction preventing HTC from importing several smartphone models could be issued as a result of this ruling. The models affected would be the HTC Amaze 4G, Inspire 4G, Flyer, Jetstream, Radar 4G, Rezound and Sensation 4G.


Nokia issued a statement, saying that “Nokia is pleased that the initial determination of the ITC confirmed that HTC has infringed two of our patents.”

4. Samsung, LG Display Businesses Declare Patent Truce


Everyone remembers the Apple-Samsung patent battle that resulted in millions of dollars being transferred from one tech giant to the other. But, that patent battle isn’t the only patent battle Samsung has been involved in. Samsung and LG have finally reached a settlement to resolve a dispute involving several of the companies’ LCD and OLED patents. The terms of the settlement have not been released, but this settlement will mark an end to the large legal fight.


5. Yahoo Working On ‘Not My Email’ Button to Address Recycled Address Woes


Last month, Yahoo started letting user claim unused account names, saying that it had tools in place to ensure that the new users wouldn’t receive emails trying to reach the previous owners of the account. Unfortunately, these measures have failed. However, reportedly, Yahoo will introduce a solution to this problem: the “not my email” button. This button will let users reject emails from their Yahoo inbox, training the system to recognize emails suspected of being “not my email” before they resurface.


6. ID Theft Ring Scammed Thousands Of Cell Phones From Verizon, AT&T, Apple, Best Buy


A Michigan operation allegedly used “credit mules” to scam thousands of free or subsidized phones from AT&T, Verizon, Best Buy, Radioshack, and Apple stores. During a four month investigation, Secret Service agents watched as individuals carrying iPhone boxes and shopping bags from cell phone stores left a store in Taylor, Michigan without their boxes and devices, but instead with wads of cash. The government alleges that the phones were being unlocked or hacked for sale in overseas markets. The credit mules sometimes scammed new, subsidized phones by using stolen identities to sign new two year cell phone service contracts with different carriers. Other times, they used “account takeovers,” by posing as an established customer who wanted to add a new line to their plan.


In April, the Secret Service seized more than $800,000 and 5,300 phones from the store. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan seeks to keep the haul. A spokeswoman from the U.S. Attorney said there are currently no criminal charges pending.


7. This Is The No.1 Reason Why Apple Is Replacing The iPhone 5 With The 5c


This year, Apple broke its tradition of keeping its most recent iPhone model on the market and selling the no-longer newest iPhone model at a discount. Instead of slowly selling out the iPhone 5, it began selling the iPhone 5C. Why? Because of money. It is suggested that building an iPhone 5C costs roughly $173 to $183. An iPhone 5 costs around $20 to $30 more to build. Apple could either keep on producing the more expensive model, and sell it on contract for $100 (as it previously did), or it could produce a cheaper model for less money, and sell it at the same price. With this logic, it’s no wonder that Apple isn’t worried about the 5C cutting into their margins.


Does Social Media Fail Businesses?

Social media is a catalyzing innovation almost as kinetic and broad as the internet itself. It has the power to morph and consolidate collective sentiments on a scale unfathomable only a few years back.

Here’s an example: I was on an airplane during the now-notorious (at least from a Democrat’s perspective), first Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It was a short flight, so I didn’t feel the need to overpay for internet access. This was a welcome development; other than old pictures of my kids, there was nothing on my phone to divert attention from the debate screened a few inches from my nose.


When the duel was over, I thought to myself, “Okay that was a fair fight, pretty even, no big deal.” Yet, when I landed, I opened Twitter and saw, over and over and over again, that Romney had apparently kicked Obama’s rhetorical ass. And that for those of the liberal persuasion this was the worst thing to happen since Clarence Thomas was born.


And you know what? The Twittersphere did manage to rewrite my history of something I watched with my own eyes. I don’t have the chutzpah to debate it; arguing that the first debate wasn’t horrible for the President is like saying Dippin’ Dots really will become the ice cream of the future — in other words, just plain wrong (and distasteful).


Just like it’s impossible to argue that social media can’t change the perception of certain events, it’s also clear that certain people have used the mediums to re-appropriate their images. Even though Mike Tyson bit off another man’s ear in real life 20 years ago, I like him now, because he’s hilarious and humble on Twitter. George Takei will likely end up best remembered for his fleeting Facebook posts instead of his dutiful work as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in Captain Kirk’s posse on Star Trek for several decades.


Nevertheless, “social media,” in its current form, is clearly suboptimal for businesses looking to promote their products. When I think about businesses with great social media presence, a usual suspect like JetBlue comes to mind. Yet, that notion doesn’t make me want to fly JetBlue any more than I already do. It doesn’t really tell me much about the company’s flying experience. All it says to me is that JetBlue has done a good job hiring young people who understand Twitter. Basically, unless you write something incredibly asinine or get attacked by the Church of Scientology, your social media presence is only going to graze the bottom line of your business.


This is because there seems to be a hole in the landscape (mixed metaphor) when it comes to businesses capturing moments and sharing them with their communities. Companies use social media to listen, and they use it very effectively. There are all sorts of great management tools that help business respond and react to what people are saying.


People can take advantage of social media to quickly share moments and get immediate responses, but business don’t have the same luxury because the mediums are all so fragmented and specialized. What small businesses really need is a hybrid of all these platforms so they can create and share small bytes of news that still manage to give a 360-degree view of the business.


For example, you own a popular bakery on Main Street and, for years, your customers have been asking for red velvet cupcakes. And, for years, you’ve told them the same thing: When I find a food dye that I am convinced is safe, we’ll have our cupcakes and eat them too. Suddenly that day comes, thanks to a great tip from a friend who doubles as an importer-exporter from a planet without cancer.


So what’s the best way to blast out this sweet news online? Twitter? Good luck. People who follow businesses tend to follow a lot of others folks, too —so there’s a great chance of your small message getting buried under a steady stream of crap. Update your website? That takes too long and costs too much. Good luck getting a new design or a worthy page on your site for less than $1000 in opportunity costs. Instagram is great, but it’s somewhat niche, and a photo can’t really tell the entire story of a new business event. Additionally, None of these tools provides proper tracking of who, exactly, is interacting with the brand and how.


This is where Crushpath comes in. Businesses want to connect with their customers on the move, sending out announcements, alerts and discounts to segmented audiences all day long, all from their mobile devices. How do businesses do that now? They don’t.


In this sense, social media has failed small businesses — the channels are too fragmented. Pictures go on Instagram. Links get laid down on Twitter. Items to discuss get posted on Facebook. High-level news gets published on LinkedIn. Only email happens on email.


Crushpath believes deeply in the idea of helping the community market on the move in an integrated way. That can be accomplished by letting businesses create extremely fast pitches — small one-page items capturing the moment with a high level of aesthetic presentation that lets small businesses talk directly to their customers and own social channels like never before. Imagine a platform that allows the baker to announce the red velvet cupcakes from her phone, and blast out the news via the content type of her choice on SMS, email and Facebook – all with the click of a single button. There is finally a shape online that is built, from the ground up, to deliver small business messages directly to customers.