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HQ Trivia replaced its regular show with a tribute to cofounder Colin Kroll, who died aged 34

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 12:14

  • HQ Trivia cofounder Colin Kroll died at the age of 34 on Saturday night.
  • Instead of its usual 9 p.m. Sunday game, HQ aired a tribute to Kroll.
  • HQ host Scott Rogowsky announced that the $25,000 prize for that night had instead been donated to an animal charity in Kroll's memory.

Gameshow app HQ Trivia ditched its usual game on Sunday night and paid tribute to its cofounder Colin Kroll, who died at age 34 over the weekend.

The app did not air its regular show out of respect, and instead host Scott Rogowsky remembered Kroll with a small eulogy.

"Colin, or CK as we called him, was true visionary who changed the game twice. First with Vine, and then with this very app," Rogowsky said.

Scott Rogowsky said a few words about the passing of Colin Kroll in the @hqtrivia app tonight

— HQ Trivia Fans (@hqtriviafans) December 17, 2018

Rogowsky also announced that because Kroll was an animal lover — who would occasionally bring his dog Tater to the office — HQ donated what would have been Sunday night's $25,000 prize to The Humane Society in his memory.

Read more: Tech community reacts to death of HQ trivia and Vine founder Colin Kroll

Other HQ employees mourned his passing on social media, including hosts Sharon Carpenter and Lauren Gambino, as well as Kroll's HQ cofounder Rus Yusupov.

So sad to hear about the passing of my friend and co-founder Colin Kroll. My thoughts & prayers go out to his loved ones. I will forever remember him for his kind soul and big heart. He made the world and internet a better place. Rest in peace, brother.

— Rus (@rus) December 16, 2018

SEE ALSO: The career of Colin Kroll, cofounder of Vine and HQ Trivia who has died at age 34

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Barstool Sports is launching a 'premium service,' and Stoolies are already mocking it as 'officially dead'

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 12:00

  • Barstool Sports is becoming the latest media company to put content behind the paywall to grow direct consumer revenue.
  • Barstool Gold will cost $50 a year and offer exclusive content including podcasts and documentaries to its young male devotees, called "Stoolies."
  • Many media companies are trying to diversify because they're having a tough time selling advertising, but Barstool has the added challenge of having controversial content that can scare off advertisers.

Barstool Sports is joining the stampede of publishers trying to drum up more revenue from readers.

The 15-year-old company known for its bawdy take on sports and culture is launching a new premium service in January called Barstool Gold. The existing content will stay free, but for $50, people will get exclusive material like new podcasts and documentaries.

The service will kick off with a documentary about Barstool founder Dave Portnoy himself and how he started the company as a print newspaper in Boston, supported by gambling ads, before expanding to the web.

Barstool already has a diversified revenue model that many digital publishers likely envy. Majority owned by The Chernin Group, it has branched out to podcasts like "Fore Play" and "Chicks in the Office," video series, TV and radio shows like "Barstool Sports Advisors," and events. The company makes its money by selling advertising and directly from its rabid fan base of mainly young guys, who buy its branded hoodies and other merchandise and tune into pay-per-view events.

Read more: Brands are sticking with Barstool after sexual harassment claims

But Barstool’s foray into a premium service isn’t just motivated by the need to diversify its revenue further in a tough climate for digital advertising. Its no-holds-barred tone also has lately gotten it negative press including a scathing report by the Daily Beast that detailed incidents of harassment and cyberbullying by the company and called Portnoy a "misogynistic troll king."

Barstool's controversial content may limit its growth

Portnoy said Barstool didn’t lose any existing advertisers as a result of the Daily Beast article, but that the controversies may make it harder to win new advertisers. He said controversy had also hurt the brand’s TV ambitions. In 2017, ESPN canceled a Barstool Sports TV show after one episode when it became known that Barstool had published derogatory and critical reports on ESPN journalists. Portnoy said Barstool had three other shows lined up that backed out.

“We have a long history of our reputation speaking for itself,” said Portnoy, who goes by the moniker El Presidente. “It’s affected us in, will we end up with a TV show on a third-party network. Those guys will end up with cold feet. ESPN canceled; we had three other shows lined up.”

Right now, advertising makes up around one fourth of Barstool’s revenue and growing, Portnoy said. But, he said, he doesn’t want to be in a position where he has to tone down Barstool to placate advertisers.

“The motto is, control our destiny, do new things, where we talk directly with our consumers and aren’t dependent on ad revenue,” he said. “Ad revenue is important, but we want to be self-sustaining. We just don’t ever want to be in a situation where the next Daily Beast article comes out and advertisers are like, ‘We can’t do this, and we better apologize and change what we’ve done for 15 years.’”

Barstool enters the paid-content fray at a time when the market is getting crowded with lots of publishers trying to get consumers to pay for their content. But Barstool arguably has a better shot than most because it's built up such a devoted following.

Case in point: Barstool has gotten more than 400,000 downloads of a pizza review app, One Bite, that grew out of a video series of Portnoy reviewing local pizza joints. It had a Black Friday sale on its merchandise in 2017 that led to 35,000 orders totaling single-digit millions of dollars.

Still, if the 244 comments that followed Portnoy’s announcement of Barstool Gold are any indication, the program might not exactly be a slam-dunk. Portnoy for his part dismissed those comments, saying they're just from trolls who don't represent how the site's true fans really think.


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10 things in tech you need to know today

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 08:48

Good morning! This is the tech news you need to know this Monday.

  1. The cofounder of HQ Trivia and Vine Colin Kroll has died at the age of 34. Kroll was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Saturday night.
  2. A report prepared for the Senate on Russian disinformation was leaked to the Washington Post. The Post obtained a draft of the report, which found that a Russian interference campaign, "sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump."
  3. The private Facebook photos of millions of users were accidentally shared with 1,500 apps. Facebook said on Friday it had found a bug that gave as many as 1,500 third-party apps access to the unposted Facebook photos of up to 6.8 million users.
  4. Livestreaming giant Twitch opened a new San Francisco headquarters. The nine-floor office is a gamer's paradise, with two six-person competitive gaming rooms, two live-streaming rooms, and a full arcade.
  5. Uber has been quietly settling big legal fights in the run-up to its IPO, Bloomberg reports. Uber's lawyers have been settling high-profile disputes as the company races rival Lyft to an IPO.
  6. Amazon reportedly wants to curb selling "CRaP" items it can't profit on, like bottled water and snacks. Amazon is rethinking its strategy around items it sells that it refers to internally as "CRaP", which stands for "Can't realize a profit," according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
  7. Apple will release a software update for Chinese iPhones next week to comply with the Qualcomm ruling, Bloomberg reports. Apple said the update will affect features covered by patents, such as adjusting photographs.
  8. A woman is suing Apple because she didn't think the iPhone had a notch. Apple's iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have a "notch" on the top of the device to make room for the front-facing camera.
  9. Google just announced it's shutting down its Allo messaging app for good. The smart chat app never gained the traction Google was hoping for, and it will be sunset in March 2019.
  10. Salesforce is hiring its first chief ethical and humane use officer to make sure its artificial intelligence isn't used for evil. Salesforce will hire Paula Goldman to the role and she will report to chief equality officer Tony Prophet.

Have an Amazon Alexa device? Now you can hear 10 Things in Tech each morning. Just search for "Business Insider" in your Alexa's flash briefing settings.

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NOW WATCH: I tried cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner using Google Home Hub and found there are two major flaws with it

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How the Internet of Things will transform consumerism, enterprises, and governments over the next five years

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 01:27
  • The Internet of Things is fueling the data-based economy and bridging the divide between physical and digital worlds.
  • Consumers, companies, and governments will install more than 40 billion IoT devices worldwide through 2023.
  • The next five years will mark a pivotal transformation in how companies and jurisdictions operate, and how consumers live.

Being successful in the digital age doesn’t just require knowing the latest buzzwords; it means identifying the transformational trends – and where they’re heading – before they ever heat up.

Take the Internet of Things (IoT), for example, which now receives not only daily tech news coverage with each new device launch, but also hefty investments from global organizations ushering in worldwide adoption. By 2023, consumers, companies, and governments will install more than 40 billion IoT devices globally. And it’s not just the ones you hear about all the time, like smart speakers and connected cars.

To successfully navigate this changing landscape, individuals and organizations must understand the full extent and functionality of the “Things” included in this network, the key drivers of each market segment, and how it all relates to the work they do every day.

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has forecasted the start of the IoT’s global proliferation in The IoT Forecast Book 2018 — and the next five years will be transformational for consumers, enterprises, and governments.

  • Consumer IoT: In the US alone, the number of smart home devices is estimated to surpass 1 billion by 2023, with consumers dishing out about $725 per household — a total of over $90 billion in spending on IoT solutions.
  • Enterprise IoT: Comprising the most mature segment of the IoT, companies will continue pouring billions of dollars into connected devices and automation. By 2023, the total industrial robotic system installed base will approach 6 million worldwide, while annual spending on manufacturing IoT solutions will reach about $450 billion.
  • Government IoT: Governments globally are ushering in IoT devices to spur the development of smart cities, which would be equipped with innovations like connected cameras, smart street lights, and connected meters to provide a real-time view of traffic, utilities usage, crime, and environmental factors. Annual investment in this area is expected to reach nearly $900 billion by 2023.

Want to Learn More?

People, companies, and organizations all over the world are racing to adopt the latest IoT solutions and prevent growing pains amidst a technological transformation. The IoT Forecast Book 2018 from Business Insider Intelligence is a detailed three-part slide deck outlining the most important trends impacting consumer, enterprise, and government IoT — and the key drivers propelling each segment forward.

Representing thousands of hours of exhaustive research, our multipart forecast books are considered must-reads by thousands of highly successful business professionals. These informative slide decks are packed with charts and statistics outlining the most influential trends on the leading edge of your industry. Keep them for reference or drop the most valuable data into your own presentations to share with your teams.

Whether you’re newly interested in a topic or you already consider yourself a subject matter expert, The IoT Forecast Book 2018 can provide you with the actionable insights you need to make better decisions.

Get The IoT Forecast Book


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Amazon reportedly wants to curb selling 'CRaP' items it can't profit on, like bottled water and snacks

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 00:03

  • Amazon is rethinking its strategy around items it sells that it refers to internally as "CRaP", which stands for "Can't realize a profit," according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
  • These items include things like bottles of water, paper towels, and snack foods, which are usually sold for less than $15 and are heavy or bulky, leading to slim margins or worse.
  • It's now trying to focus on more profitable items instead, and wants to get rid of its CRaP items.

Amazon wants customers to buy less "CRaP" online.

The e-commerce giant is rethinking its strategy around some items it sells which it calls internally "Can't realize a profit" — or "CRaP" for short, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

Amazon reportedly does not like selling these items, which involve commonly purchased things like bottled water, soda, and snack foods, because they're usually sold for less than $15 and are expensive to ship due to being heavy or bulky. That means margins are much worse than other items the website sells.

Amazon is now eliminating some items and working with its manufacturers or vendors to repackage some items so they're more profitable to sell online, the Journal says. In some cases, like with Coca-Cola products, Amazon will work out a deal where it ships directly from Coke, instead of an Amazon fulfillment center.

Read more: Amazon is reportedly testing a new feature to convince shoppers to buy its own brands

Amazon is doing this now, according to the Journal, because it can rely on third-party merchants to pick up the slack for selection, which customers now expect from the "everything store." Sales from third parties have grown to account for more than half of all sales on 

The move shows Amazon is not afraid to throw its weight around with vendors, like due to its dominant position online. Amazon has grown to account for almost half of online commerce, according to analysts, and many consumer packaged goods brands don't see it as a choice of whether or not to sell on the website anymore. In fact, nearly half of all online searches start on Amazon, according to Emarketer.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

SEE ALSO: People are accusing Amazon of 'ruining' Christmas by sending items without their own boxes, but there's a really easy fix

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Tech community reacts to death of HQ trivia and Vine founder Colin Kroll

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 22:38

  • HQ trivia and Vine founder Colin Kroll was found dead in his Manhattan apartment early Sunday.
  • The tech community is paying its respects online and saying goodbye.
  • "I will forever remember him for his kind soul and big heart," Rus Yusupov, who co-founded both HQ and Vine with Kroll, tweeted. "He made the world and internet a better place. Rest in peace, brother."

Colin Kroll was found dead this weekend.

He was known principally for cofounding both HQ Trivia and Vine. Kroll worked across the tech sector, including Twitter and Yahoo, and tech industry professionals he worked with and influenced remembered him on Sunday through tweets and statements.

First, there's the company he cofounded, which he just recently became CEO of in September. A statement on HQ's Twitter read:

"We learned today of the passing of our friend and founder, Colin Kroll, and it's with deep sadness that we say goodbye. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time."

Read more: The cofounder of HQ Trivia and Vine has died at the age of 34

Rus Yusupov, who co-founded both HQ Trivia and Vine, also put out a statement on Twitter saying Kroll "made the world and internet a better place."

"So sad to hear about the passing of my friend and co-founder Colin Kroll," Yusupov said. "My thoughts & prayers go out to his loved ones. I will forever remember him for his kind soul and big heart."

So sad to hear about the passing of my friend and co-founder Colin Kroll. My thoughts & prayers go out to his loved ones. I will forever remember him for his kind soul and big heart. He made the world and internet a better place. Rest in peace, brother.

— Rus (@rus) December 16, 2018

 Some who were attached to HQ Trivia also put their sorrow into words of condolence.

"Colin was extremely talented, a warm and caring person and I will miss him,” Cyan Banister, who serves on the board of HQ Trivia and invested in it through the Founders Fund, told Recode. "It’s too painful and too soon to discuss anything else, but my thoughts are with his family and the rest of the team."

Others in the tech community that weren't directly tied also lamented publicly. 

"Drugs kill people. Everyday," angel investor and tech CEO Florian Seroussi said on Twitter. "I sound like an old fart but f***, another beautiful person died. RIP Colin Kroll."

Even entertainment professionals who got their start on Vinelike Nicholas Megalis tweeted how sorry they were to hear of the news of his death.

"Colin my heart hurts. I’m so sorry, man. God bless you," he said.

SEE ALSO: The career of Colin Kroll, cofounder of Vine and HQ Trivia who has died at age 34

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These are the top issues with voice discoverability, monetization, and retention — and how to solve them

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 22:09

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

The voice app ecosystem is booming. In the US, the number of Alexa skills alone surpassed 25,000 in January 2018, up from just 7,000 the previous January, in categories ranging from music streaming services, to games, to connected home tools.

As voice platforms continue to gain footing in homes via smart speakers — connected devices powered primarily by artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled voice assistants — the opportunity for voice apps is becoming more profound. However, as observed with the rise of mobile apps in the late 2000s, any new digital ecosystem will face significant growing pains, and voice apps are no exception. Thanks to the visual-free format of voice apps, discoverability, monetization, and retention are proving particularly problematic in this nascent space. This is creating a problem in the voice assistant market that could hinder greater uptake if not addressed.

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, explores the two major viable voice app stores. It identifies the three big issues voice apps are facing — discoverability, monetization, and retention — and presents possible short-term solutions ahead of industry-wide fixes.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • The market for smart speakers and voice platforms is expanding rapidly. The installed base of smart speakers and the volume of voice apps that can be accessed on them each saw significant gains in 2017. But the new format and the emerging voice ecosystems that are making their way into smart speaker-equipped homes is so far failing to align with consumer needs. 
  • Voice app development is a virtuous cycle with several broken components. The addressable consumer market is expanding, which is prompting more brands and developers to developer voice apps, but the ability to monetize and iterate those voice apps is limited, which could inhibit voice app growth. 
  • Monetization is only one broken component of the voice app ecosystem. Discoverability and user retention are equally problematic for voice app development. 
  • While the two major voice app ecosystems — Amazon's and Google's — have some Band-Aid solutions and workarounds, their options for improving monetization, discoverability, and retention for voice apps are currently limited.
  • There are some strategies that developers and brands can employ in the near term ahead of more robust tools and solutions.

In full, the report:

  • Sizes the current voice app ecosystem. 
  • Outlines the most pressing problems in voice app development and evolution in the space by examining the three most damning shortcoming: monetization, discoverability, and retention. 
  • Discusses the solutions being offered up by today's biggest voice platforms. 
  • Presents workaround solutions and alternative approaches that could catalyze development and evolution ahead of wider industry-wide fixes from the platforms.
Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

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9 reasons you should buy the $1,000 iPhone XS instead of the more affordable iPhone XR (AAPL)

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 22:07

  • Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup includes the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max.
  • The iPhone XR is more affordable than the iPhone XS, but there are several good reasons to consider the more expensive phone.

The striking design of the iPhone X changed the smartphone landscape in 2018. It's tough to find a new Android phone that doesn't have a "notch," for example.

To follow up the iPhone X, Apple announced not one, but two new smartphone designs: The iPhone XS and XS Max continued the tradition of the iPhone X, while a new model, the iPhone XR, shared similar qualities as the iPhone X, but featured an LCD screen. The LCD would be less costly for Apple to build, and less expensive for customers to buy. Win-win, right?

While the iPhone XR is an appealing option for anyone looking to have an iPhone X-esque experience for less than $1,000, there are several reasons to consider the more expensive iPhone XS, if you're on the fence.

SEE ALSO: Here's how to decide between the red, blue, yellow, white, black, and 'coral' versions of the iPhone XR

SEE ALSO: The iPhone XR is coming soon: Here are 9 reasons you should buy it instead of an iPhone XS or XS Max

1. The iPhone XR is only available in one size. The iPhone XS is available in two sizes.

If you like the look and feel of the iPhone XR, you can only get it in one size, with its 6.1-inch display.

If you like the iPhone XS, however, you have two size options to choose from: You can get the 5.8-inch model, or the 6.5-inch "Max" size, which costs $100 more than the standard iPhone XS.

2. The screen on the iPhone XS looks significantly better than the iPhone XR.

Your phone screen is important. It's the main window for all of your content: your files, documents, photos, videos, and more.

The iPhone XS features a "Super Retina" OLED display, while the iPhone XR features a "Liquid Crystal" LCD display.

OLED displays, in general, are brighter, show more accurate colors, and can achieve far better contrast than LCD displays. The iPhone XR has one of the best LCD displays in a smartphone, but it still doesn't come close to the iPhone XS display, which, thanks to HDR support, is the better way to view high-definition photos and videos. OLED displays can actually turn their pixels off, instead of just dim them like LCD displays, so black actually looks like black on the iPhone XS, and images look much more vivid.

The iPhone XR screen is also a little less great since the bezel, or border around the edge of the display, is thicker than it is on the iPhone XS.

3. The iPhone XR is available in six beautiful colors, but if you want silver or gold, those are only options with the iPhone XS.

The iPhone XR is available in red, blue, yellow, black, white, and coral, which is kind of like orange-meets-pink.

The iPhone XS is also available in black, along with "silver" instead of white, and a gold option.

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The career of Colin Kroll, cofounder of Vine and HQ Trivia who has died at age 34

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:59

  • HQ Trivia CEO and Vine cofounder Colin Kroll has died at the age of 34. 
  • Kroll helped create two of the most viral apps of the last decade after getting his start at Yahoo and travel site JetSetter. 
  • Here's a look at Kroll's career. 

Colin Kroll, the cofounder of HQ Trivia and Vine, died on Sunday. He was 34.

Kroll was the CEO of viral quiz app HQ Trivia up until his death on Dec. 16, and helped create popular video sharing app Vine, which was sold to Twitter in 2012.

Kroll majored in computer science and worked at Yahoo and travel site JetSetter before striking out on his own. While he's had success in the tech world, Kroll also faced complaints of an aggressive management style and inappropriate behavior toward women in recent years.

Hours after reports of Kroll's death, HQ posted on Twitter: "We learned today of the passing of our friend and founder, Colin Kroll, and it's with deep sadness that we say goodbye."

Here's how Kroll got his start and helped build two of the most viral apps of the last decade.

SEE ALSO: A record-setting 1.2 million people just competed for a $10,000 cash prize in the hottest app around

Kroll studied computer science at Oakland University located in Rochester, Michigan, about 30 miles outside of Detroit.

Source: Crunchbase

Kroll started his career as a software engineer at Right Media, a platform for buying and selling advertising space. The company was acquired by Yahoo for $680 million in 2007.

After the acquisition, Kroll served as an engineering manager in Yahoo's search and advertising technology, or SATG, group.

Source: Crunchbase, AdAge

Kroll left Yahoo in 2011 to become VP of product at luxury travel site JetSetter. He went on to become chief technology officer. The site is now owned by Trip Advisor.

Source: LinkedIn

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35 Big tech predictions for 2018

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:27

Technology is increasingly disrupting every part of our daily lives.

Smart speakers and voice assistants let us interact with our homes and with retailers in new and seamless ways.

Smartphones are taking over as the dominant shopping device.

Viewers continue to move away from traditional TV toward digital platforms.

And the list is growing.

Nearly every industry has been disrupted by digital technologies over the past 10 years. And in 2018, we expect to see more transformative developments affect our businesses, careers, and lives.

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has put together a list of 35 Big Tech Predictions for 2018 across Apps and Platforms, Digital Media, Payments, Internet of Things, E-Commerce, Fintech, and Transportation & Logistics. Some of these major predictions include:

  • Cryptocurrencies will become more widely accepted
  • Google and Apple will challenge Amazon in the smart speaker space
  • The resurgence of the VR market
  • The real self-driving car race will begin
  • Drone regulations will relax
  • Alibaba’s international expansion
  • Gen Z will become a major focal point for media companies and advertisers
  • Payment security will become paramount
  • Smart home devices will take off

This comprehensive list of 35 predictions can be yours for free today. As an added bonus, you will gain immediate access to our exclusive free newsletter, Business Insider Intelligence Daily.

To get your copy of this FREE report, simply click here.

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Categories: English

Facebook employees still love Sheryl Sandberg and say she shouldn't be fired (FB)

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:10

  • Facebook employees remain loyal to COO Sheryl Sandberg despite her involvement in scandals rocking the company.
  • Workplace chat app Blind, a hotbed for tech workers, surveyed thousands of its users about whether Sandberg should keep her job, and the bulk of Facebook respondents said she should.
  • That runs counter to wider industry sentiment, with thousands of tech workers on the app suggesting Sandberg should be fired.
  • A senior Facebook employee in Europe, Patrick Walker, told reporters last month that there had been a huge upswell of support internally for Sandberg.

Facebook employees remain loyal to Sheryl Sandberg and overwhelmingly feel she should not be fired from the company over recent scandals.

The anonymous work chat app Blind surveyed thousands of tech workers, including a smaller pool of Facebook employees, and asked them: "Should Sheryl Sandberg remain COO of Facebook?"

More than 70% of the 595 Facebook employees who answered the question said "yes."

That sentiment runs against wider industry feeling. More than 6,300 employees in wider the tech sector answered the question, and 55% said Sandberg should lose her job.

Read more: Facebook staff have voiced a 'huge upswell' of support for Sheryl Sandberg after she reportedly feared for her job, says company exec

Blind also asked more than 8,000 of its users whether recent scandals involving Sandberg had "devalued" Facebook. More than 55% of wider tech employees said they had. But again, of the 802 Facebook employees who responded, 72% said "no."

Blind ran its survey between December 1 and December 6 2018.

Sandberg has been a darling of the tech industry not only as one of the few high-profile, successful women in Silicon Valley, but also for her philosophies towards work, outlined in her book "Lean In", and grief, after losing her husband David Goldberg.

But The New York Times outlined in November how Sandberg directly instructed Facebook's communications staff to investigate billionaire George Soros after he criticised the firm. Facebook also commissioned political-style "opposition research" on Soros through a Republican-linked company, Definers — although Sandberg denied knowing this.

The revelations cast both Facebook and Sandberg in a sinister light, not least because the liberal Soros is often the target of anti-Semitic, right-wing conspiracy theories.

Nonetheless, Blind's results tie in with what insiders say about continued internal loyalty to Sandberg at Facebook. Patrick Walker, one of the most senior Facebook executives outside the US, told reporters that staff had rallied around the beleaguered COO after the New York Times revelations broke.

" There's been a huge upswell of support internally for the work that Sheryl does," he told reporters. "It's a very difficult job that she's in."

Blind said it plans to run a similar survey asking its users whether Mark Zuckerberg should remain CEO of Facebook.

SEE ALSO: Mark Zuckerberg reportedly blamed Sheryl Sandberg for the Cambridge Analytica fallout, making her worry for her job

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NOW WATCH: 7 things you shouldn't buy on Black Friday

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Salesforce is hiring its first Chief Ethical and Humane Use officer to make sure its artificial intelligence isn't used for evil (CRM)

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:10

  • Salesforce will hire Paula Goldman as its first Chief Ethical and Humane Use officer.
  • Goldman will spearhead a new Office of Ethical and Humane Use, which focuses on developing strategies to use technology in an ethical and humane way at the company.
  • This announcement comes during a year of protests in Silicon Valley over how companies — including Salesforce — put its technology to use, as tech workers protest deals with the U.S. military and immigration authorities. 

In the midst of the ongoing controversies over how tech companies can use artificial intelligence for no good, Salesforce is about to hire its first Chief Ethical and Humane Use officer.

On Monday, Salesforce announced it would hire Paula Goldman to lead its new Office of Ethical and Humane Use, and she will officially start on Jan. 7. This office will focus on developing strategies to use technology in an ethical and humane way at Salesforce. 

"For years, I've admired Salesforce as a leader in ethical business,” Goldman said in a statement. “We're at an important inflection point as an industry, and I'm excited to work with this team to chart a path forward."

With the development of the new Office of Ethical and Humane Use, Salesforce plans to merge law, policy and ethics to develop products in an ethical manner. That's especially notable, as Salesforce itself has come under fire from its own employees for a contract it holds with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"We understand that we have a broader responsibility to society, and aspire to create technology that not only drives the success of our customers, but also drives positive social change and benefits humanity," Salesforce's Office of Ethical and Humane Use says.

Read more: Military work is a lightning rod in Silicon Valley, but Microsoft will sell the Pentagon all the AI it needs

Goldman will report to chief equality officer Tony Prophet. Before Salesforce, Goldman served as Vice President, Global Lead, Tech and Society Solutions Lab at Omidyar Network, a social impact investment firm started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

She has also served on Salesforce's Advisory Council for the Office of Ethical and Humane Use, which includes industry experts and academics. This council focuses on how to build technology in an ethical fashion.

“Working with Paula as a member of the Advisory Council, I was immediately impressed by her exceptional leadership and thoughtful approach to truly complex issues,” Tony Prophet, Salesforce Chief Equality Officer, sad in a statement. “I'm confident Paula is the right person to lead us into this next chapter at Salesforce."

Goldman is also the founder and director of Imagining Ourselves, a project of the International Museum of Women. She has received the Social Impact Award from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, and a Muse Award from the American Association of Museums.

However, she'll have a tough challenge ahead, as she navigates the increasingly murky world of Silicon Valley ethics, as Salesforce itself gets drawn into the debate around right and wrong ways to use technology. 

Salesforce has come under fire

In Silicon Valley, employees and activists continue to protest tech giants' use of artificial intelligence and other technologies that could potentially be used for unethical ends.

For example, at Google, thousands of employees signed a petition — and some even resigned — over Project Maven, a contract with the Department of Defense that would see the company's AI used to analyze drone footage.

Following the internal backlash, Google CEO Sundar Pichai published a set of ethical principles on how it will use AI. Google also decided not to renew its contract with the Department of Defense, and later, decided to drop out of a bid for a $10 billion cloud contract with the Pentagon. Still, there is ongoing controversy internally and externally at Google over Project Dragonfly, a project to build a censored search engine for China.

This controversy has touched Salesforce, too. More than 650 Salesforce employees wrote a letter to CEO Marc Benioff to protest the company's work with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in light of President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance immigration policies. 

Weeks later, tech workers and activists demonstrated in front of Salesforce Tower, the company's San Francisco headquarters. Also, a non-profit group that provides legal services to immigrants rejected a $250,000 donation from Salesforce, saying that it couldn't accept the money unless the company canceled the contract.

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This stylish, funny game about gentrification just won Apple's iPhone game of the year award (AAPL)

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:10

  • "Donut County" was just awarded the distinction of iPhone game of the year by Apple itself.
  • The game, which costs $5, casts you as the pilot of a hole in the ground, with a mission to swallow up anything and everything.
  • The game is silly, and fun to play, but it has something to say about the effects of the tech industry on gentrification. 
  • If you don't have an iPhone, it's also available for the PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac. 

This week, Apple released its rankings of the best apps of the year, with indie hit "Donut County" taking the prize as the top iPhone game of 2018. 

If you've never played "Donut County," which costs $5 on the App Store, I urge you to take a look: It's a stylish, funny game that casts you as the pilot of a remote-controlled hole in the ground that sucks in everything it touches, from snakes and lawn chairs all the way up to mountains and Ferris wheels. 

The game isn't especially challenging — there are some light puzzle elements, sure, like sucking up live fireworks and using them to bust up obstacles into chunks that fit in your portable hole. But like previous award recipient "Monument Valley" before it, "Donut County" is more about the experience than it is about reflexes and skill. 

And what an experience it is. The general idea is that BK, a raccoon, buys the town's beloved Donut County pastry shop and launches a donut-delivery app. When the unknowing townspeople order a donut, though, what they get delivered instead is your portable hole in the ground, which proceeds to swallow up the customer and everything they own. BK, oblivious to the damage he's caused, is just trying to do enough deliveries to earn a quadcopter drone.

It's a not-so-subtle commentary on what happens to a community when the tech industry moves in: The townspeople in the game thought they were just getting a donut, but accidentally invited disaster into their lives. It's a satire of companies like Uber of Airbnb, where a simple concept can lead to all kinds of headaches and ripple effects in other industries — just look at what happened to the New York City taxi business when Uber moved in, for an example.

Tellingly, at one point, BK confesses that he doesn't even know what a donut is, other than that they have a hole, and thought he was just giving the people what they want. The story itself is about the townspeople convincing him that he was wrong, and that maybe the people didn't actually want to be at the bottom of a giant hole. 

It's all complemented by creator Ben Esposito's striking art style, which is appropriately cartoon-y, keeping the mood light as you swallow everything and everyone into the gaping abyss. 

So, yeah, it's silly, and it's short, and it's not especially challenging, but if you have a few hours to kill, "Donut County" is well worth your time. And if you don't have an iPhone, it's also available for PC, Mac, and PlayStation 4, too. 

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There's a scary iPhone feature that erases all your data after too many password attempts — here's why you should turn it on anyway (AAPL)

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:10

  • Apple includes a feature on your iPhone that erases all your phone's data after 10 passcode attempts.
  • The feature seems scary to most users, but it's a lot harder to trigger than you'd think. In fact, it could take more than three hours of entering incorrect passcodes to erase your phone's data.
  • To turn it on, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Erase Data.

For most people, setting up your iPhone to erase itself after too many failed password attempts sounds like a frightening idea — but there's a very compelling reason you should enable the feature.

Hidden deep inside your phone's settings is the option to erase all the data on your phone after 10 failed passcode attempts. This option stays turned off for a lot of people, and for an obvious reason: If someone in your life tries to unlock your phone and fails too many times, there's the risk of losing everything.

But as Daring Fireball's John Gruber points out, it's not that simple. Here's how he explains the feature (emphasis ours):

"After the 5th failed attempt, iOS requires a 1-minute timeout before you can try again. During this timeout the only thing you can do is place an emergency call to 911. After the 6th attempt, you get a 5-minute timeout. After the 7th, 15 minutes. These timeouts escalate such that it would take over 3 hours to enter 10 incorrect passcodes."

So while it seems scary in theory, it's highly unlikely that a child, significant other, or friend could accidentally erase all your data. On the flip side, turning this feature on could protect your phone's sensitive data from falling into the hands of the bad guys if it's lost or stolen.

Here's how to turn it on: Open Settings, then scroll down to Touch ID & Passcode. You'll be prompted to enter your passcode. Then scroll down to the bottom until you see Erase Data, and toggle it on.

SEE ALSO: Here's the best and easiest way to switch from an Android device to an iPhone

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From Meghan Markle to the World Cup: Here are the top 10 searches on Google in 2018 (GOOG, GOOGL)

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:09

  • Google has unveiled its Year in Search for 2018.
  • The annual compilation contains the top worldwide Google searches of the year.
  • This year's list includes several tragic deaths as well as the World Cup.

As 2018 draws to a close, Google is looking back on the top searches of the year.

Google narrows down the top-trending searches in the world over the past 12 months, terms that had the highest spike in traffic this year compared with 2017. These are not necessarily the terms that were searched the most often.

The year has been rife with tragedy — with the high-profile deaths of Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and several others. But 2018 also brought a royal wedding and an exciting World Cup.

Here are the top-trending Google searches of 2018:

SEE ALSO: Google just announced it's shutting down its Allo messaging app for good. Here are 18 other Google products that bombed, died, or disappeared

10. Kate Spade

In June, the fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead at 55 in her New York City apartment, apparently of suicide.

Spade launched her namesake brand in 1993, a year before she married her husband, Andy. Over the following years, the couple ran the business together out of their apartment in New York's Tribeca neighborhood, transforming it into a $27 million business by 1998.

The couple eventually sold the business to Neiman Marcus in 2006, but their love of handbags didn't end there. Years later, after the birth of their daughter, they made a second foray into fashion, launching Frances Valentine, a handbag-and-shoe company, in 2015.

9. Stephen Hawking

In March, Stephen Hawking died at the age of 76.

The theoretical physicist made several discoveries that transformed the way scientists viewed black holes and the universe. Though he had Lou Gehrig's disease — the neurodegenerative malady also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS — which impaired his motor functions, he went on to become a mathematics professor and eventually the director of research at the University of Cambridge's Center for Theoretical Cosmology.

Hawking was also known to bridge the gap on complicated subjects by infusing humor and wit during his lectures. His character and personality produced several anecdotes and references in pop culture, including appearances on various TV shows.

8. XXXTentacion

In June, the rapper XXXTentacion was shot dead in his car after leaving a motorcycle dealer in South Florida.

At the time of his death, XXXTentacion — whose real name was Jahseh Onfroy — was awaiting trial for a 2016 domestic-abuse case. He faced charges of aggravated battery of his pregnant girlfriend, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering.

Onfroy rose to fame off of his 2016 single "Look at Me!" His debut studio album, "17," reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart and was certified gold in 2017. Onfroy's second studio album, "?," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart in March.

By August, four suspects accused of killing Onfroy had been taken into custody.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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The Nintendo Switch is the hottest game system this holiday — here are its 20 best games

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:09

The Nintendo Switch is approaching its second birthday, and there's already a killer line-up of games available.

Whether you're looking for Nintendo staples like "Mario" and "Zelda," fast-paced first-person shooters like "DOOM", or narrative-driven indie RPGs like "Golf Story," there's something for everyone on the Switch.

Good news! We've put together a list of the best games to enjoy on Nintendo's latest console:

SEE ALSO: The 31 best Nintendo Switch games under $20

1. "Super Mario Odyssey"

The pure joy of playing "Odyssey" is hard to convey. It's the best Mario game in years, and easily one of the best Mario games ever made. It's certainly the best game on the Nintendo Switch, which is really saying something.

Read our review of "Super Mario Odyssey" right here.

Check it out in action right here:

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2. "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild"

"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is a rare gem.

It's the kind of game that changes player expectations — what they expect of themselves and what they expect from games.

Read our review of "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" right here.

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Half of the world is now officially online, but several thorny new problems now threaten the digital economy

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:09

  • About half of the world's population is now online, the World Economic Forum said in a new report.
  • But the transformation to a digital economy and society faces some big challenges, the forum said.
  • Among the biggest are that the pace of internet adoption is slowing markedly and trust in the digital economy is waning.

The internet has reached a major milestone — half of the world's population is now online.

The digital transformation of economies and society continues apace and promises a range of benefits, from better health to reduced inequality to greater access to information, the World Economic Forum said in a new report issued Sunday night. But as the digital era takes hold, policymakers, businesses and citizens are facing some profound anc difficult-to-solve problems, the forum noted in the report.

Internet adoption is slowing, which threatens to leave billions on the wrong side of the digital divide, possibly even permanently, the report warned. With cyberattacks up and trust in tech companies down, more than half of people around the globe think technology's downsides outweigh its benefits. And both the public and private sectors are struggling to keep up with the pace of digital change and set rules that benefit everyone.

"While recognizing that digital developments fuel many opportunities in political, commercial, and social spheres, a key point of this paper is the need to focus on inclusion and addressing digital divides," said Lynn St. Amour, who helped put together the report as the co-chairperson of the forum's Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and Society committee.

The committee brought together people from governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations around the world who worked together for 18 months to produce the report, entitled "Our Shared Digital Future
Building an Inclusive, Trustworthy and Sustainable Digital Society." Among the participants in the working group were World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, former Vice President Al Gore, and CEO Gillian Tans.

Read this: 'The web had failed instead of served humanity': Tim Berners-Lee was crushed by Russia using Facebook to meddle in the US election

Internet adoption has slowed markedly

Perhaps the biggest problem facing policymakers amid the digital transformation is the slowdown in internet adoption, the report said. Being able to go online is essential to being able to take part in the digital economy and world.

While the number of internet users worldwide grew by 17% in 2007, it's only expected to increase by 5.5% this year, the forum reported, citing data from the International Telecommunications Union. And the 50% adoption rate worldwide masks wide differences in adoption rates around the globe. Only 44% of people in the Asia-Pacific region are online and just 22% in Africa, according to ITU data.

"Digital connectivity is foundational to meaningful social and economic participation of individuals and countries in the 21st century," the forum's working group said in the report. "Unequal access to the internet increasingly means unequal access to opportunities, jobs or ability to deal with unexpected events."

The forum recommended that governments and multilateral organizations invest in widening access to the internet and in removing barriers to adoption.

Trust is waning in the digital economy

Another thing holding back the digital transformation are cyberattacks. Some 74% of businesses will be hacked this year and hacking attacks cost the world economy some $400 billion each year, according to the report.

And the problem is worsening. In just the first half of this year, cyberattacks compromised 4.5 billion records, which was up from 2.7 billion in all of last year. 

"Digital connectivity plays a pivotal role in unlocking innovation and prosperity around the world," the working group said in the report. But, it continued: "the increasing number of cyber-risks presents a major obstacle to our continued and collective path to progress."

The forum called on governments and businesses to prioritize cybersecurity and to work together to reduce risks.

Amid all the cyberattacks and other problems, confidence in the digital economy is ebbing, according to the report. Just 45% of people around the world think that the benefits of the digital economy outweigh the drawbacks, the forum group said, citing data from marketing firm Dentsu Aegis.

SEE ALSO: This former judge is heading the World Economic Forum's approach to AI — here's why she thinks regulation is unlikely, and what should be done about AI instead

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NOW WATCH: Here's why virtual reality still hasn't taken off, despite being around for nearly 2 decades

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Apple quoted me $1,500 to repair a MacBook Pro, so I paid less than $500 at an 'unauthorized' Apple repair shop instead

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:08

  • Apple quoted me $1,475 to repair a liquid-damaged MacBook Pro. 
  • An unauthorized Apple repair shop quoted me $425 to perform the same repair.
  • I went with the unauthorized repair shop.
  • The repair shop replaced a single chip, whereas Apple would likely have replaced the entire logic board that hosts the most important parts of a laptop. 
  • Going the cheaper route was easily the best option for me, but it might not be for everyone. 

When my wife's 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro stopped working, I did what most Mac users might do: bring it to the Apple Store.

I was expecting the repairs to be costly. But when Apple quoted me $1,500 to repair the MacBook Pro, I was shocked.

To be specific, the repair would cost me $1,475, before tax. With taxes, the total cost would surely rise above the $1,500 mark.

Unfortunately, I didn't get AppleCare+ when I bought the laptop, which would have helped cover the cost of the repair. More on that later.

Indeed, it turned out that my wife had accidentally spilled water on her MacBook Pro, and to repair it, it would cost us almost the same price we paid for the laptop when we bought it refurbished.

Based on the quote, I suspect Apple's repair would involve replacing the "logic board," which includes the most expensive parts of a computer, like the processor, the RAM, the storage, and the graphics processor. Without a logic board, a laptop is essentially just an empty shell and a screen. 

Before committing to Apple's repair or buying a whole new computer, I had one more option to check out: an "unauthorized" Apple repair shop in New York City that fixes Apple products, called Rossmann Repair Group, run by Louis Rossmann. ("Unauthorized," in this case, means Rossmann Repair Group doesn't follow Apple's protocols and procedures to repair a device.)

Rossmann's repair quote also shocked me, but in a good way: $425.

Compared to Apple's $1,475 quote, Rossmann's quote was significantly more tempting, so I went with the unauthorized option. 

After tax, Rossmann's repair cost me around $465, and I saved myself about $1,000. Today, my wife's MacBook Pro is running just as well as it did before she accidentally gave it the water treatment. And she still has all her data, too. 

Why the unauthorized repair cost so much less than Apple's quote

Rossmann's repair team replaced a single, small chip on the logic board, instead of replacing the entire logic board, which is what I suspect Apple would have done. 

It's entirely possible that Apple's repair team could have also replaced the single chip for a dramatically lower repair cost, but Apple takes a no-risk-whatsoever approach when it comes to repairs, especially with liquid damage.

Even if a laptop appears to work properly after a simple minor chip replacement, it's possible that liquid damage could cause problems later down the line. With that risk in mind, Apple would rather totally replace the logic board, even if it's going to come with a huge price tag. That way, Apple and its customers have the guaranteed peace of mind that the laptop is fully functional, just as it was when you first unboxed it.

But, Apple's version of "peace of mind" can come with a huge cost, especially since we didn't have AppleCare+. With liquid damaged Mac laptops, you're essentially getting a new computer — albeit with the same specs as the original — if you go the Apple repair route. Only the shell and the display are original. 

Should everyone take their broken Mac laptops to "unauthorized" repair shops?

It depends.

My experience was at a single unauthorized repair shop in New York City, and it doesn't necessarily represent the experience others might have at other unauthorized repair shops around the country, or world. I can only say that my experience at Rossmann Repair Group was excellent and significantly cheaper than Apple's option. 

If you need to repair your Apple computer, the route you take will likely depend on the specific issue you're having with your device, your budget, and how much you value "peace of mind."

It also depends on the warranty status of your Mac, and whether or not you bought the AppleCare+ extended warranty. If it's still under warranty, you could get a repair done for free, depending on the issue. Rossman even suggests you take it to Apple if an issue can be fixed free of charge because the device is still under warranty.

With AppleCare+, you're covered for two accidental damages, which includes liquid damage. A liquid damage repair with AppleCare+ would cost you $300 on top of the $380 price of AppleCare+ for a 15-inch MacBook Pro. So, had I bought AppleCare+, Apple's repair would have cost me $680, slightly over $200 more than Rossmann's repair. 

Despite the great experience I had with Rossmann, I would have gone the Apple route had I bought AppleCare+ for my wife's MacBook Pro. For an extra $200, I'd get that peace of mind and zero risk of further issues related to the original liquid damage. 

But saving $1,000? I think I'll take and accept the risk.

For those who are out of warranty or didn't buy AppleCare+ and are facing massive repair quotes from Apple, taking your device to Rossman Repair Group or another trusted unauthorized repair store is realistically good option. If you're outside of New York City, Rossmann accepts mail-ins for repairs, too. Otherwise, you could always research an unauthorized repair shop near you — be sure to read online reviews, and get a feel for the place before committing your computer and your money. Again, if you don't go with Apple for first-party repairs, there's no guarantee their repair will completely fix the problem, especially in the long-term.

You could also take a broken Apple laptop to an authorized repair shop, where you might get a cheaper quote than Apple's own. But that's not a guarantee. Either way, your best bet it to check out all your options and their prices.

SEE ALSO: Apple's Refurbished Mac Store is its best-kept secret where you can buy devices in perfect condition with a nice little discount — here are the best deals

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai's testimony to Congress exposed the abject failings and futility of Washington's version of tech policy (GOOG)

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:08

  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning.
  • It was a total waste of time.
  • Republican lawmakers fixated on the unproven idea that Google and big tech is censoring conservatives.
  • Meanwhile, important questions about data privacy, oversight of artificial intelligence, and military contracts were never asked.

Sundar Pichai's 3 1/2 hour testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday was noticeably lacking in enlightening answers.

The Google CEO was there as a witness to talk about transparency and accountability at the Californian technology giant, and it was a rare opportunity for serious scrutiny of Google's — and the broader tech industry's — data-collection policies and social impact.

Instead, Republican lawmakers fixated on the notion that tech companies like Google are deliberately biased against conservatives, trying to censor them from social networks and search results. They cited random anecdotes and disputed studies.

Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio complained about the negative news stories that appeared when he searched for the Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare. Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas ranted about Wikipedia undoing one of his staffer's edits, without ever actually asking a question. Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a congressman repeatedly accused of racism, nonsensically asked why an unflattering message about him flashed up on an iPhone being used by one of his grandchildren. Pichai carefully responded, "Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company."

(Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu quipped, "To some of my colleagues across the aisle, if you're getting bad press articles and bad search results, don't blame Google or Facebook or Twitter — consider blaming yourself.")

5 minutes just isn't enough

On the relatively few occasions Pichai was pushed more substantially on issues, his reticence and obtuseness was telling.

Asked repeatedly about "Dragonfly," Google's efforts to build a censored search engine for China, Pichai clearly avoided answering questions, giving only the mealy-mouthed answer that Google wasn't planning to launch it "right now." When pushed, he said more than 100 employees were working on the project at one point — far less than the 300 reported by The Intercept, which initially broke the news of Dragonfly's existence.

In another exchange, asked about whether Google was tracking a congressman's cellphone, Pichai said he'd need to check the settings, which may have been technically correct but sidestepped the obvious point that Google is tracking (at least) hundreds of millions of people's devices, and not necessarily with their informed consent.

But other key subjects, from Google's involvement in military contracts to how the executive team approved huge payouts for employees accused of sexual misconduct, were never mentioned at all.

One big problem was the format itself, something that has caused issues in previous hearings featuring technology executives like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Congresspeople only have five minutes each to ask their questions, which is barely enough time to even get into specifics, especially when Pichai (or any other witness, for that matter) spends half of that time giving boiler-plate answers and filibustering.

Fewer and better-informed questioners, with more time each, could produce vastly more illuminating answers from the Committee's witnesses. If Pichai's hearing taught us anything, it's that this model for hearings is broken.

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Nintendo's biggest game of 2018 proves that the gaming giant still hasn't figured out how to make online games

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 21:08

  • Nintendo's biggest game of 2018 is available now: "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is the latest entry in the long-running fighting game series, and the first on Nintendo's Switch.
  • The new game is already being heralded as the best in the series, and it's deserved; the game is excellent.
  • Unfortunately, the online multiplayer section of the game is marred by persistent lag and confusing design choices.
  • "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is the first major game release with online multiplayer since Nintendo launched its paid service, Nintendo Switch Online, in September. It costs $20 per year and is required for online play.

The biggest Nintendo game of 2018 is, unsurprisingly, an overwhelmingly good game. 

"Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is available for the Nintendo Switch as of December 7 — a massive, sprawling encyclopedia of gaming history. At its heart, the "Smash Bros." series is about Nintendo characters fighting to the death.

"Ultimate" is essentially a fighting game, but it contains so, so much more than that: A 700-plus list of songs spanning three decades of games; a surprisingly deep and expansive single-player campaign; a traditional fighting game "story" mode for each of its 70-plus characters; and, notably in this case, an expanded online multiplayer section.

Nintendo launched a paid online service in September, dubbed Nintendo Switch Online, which is required for online play. "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is the first major Nintendo release since that service launched, and it has a major online component.

Though "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is excellent in nearly every way, its online component is a mess: Persistent lag and bizarre design decisions hamper what would otherwise be a strong argument for Nintendo's new, paid online service.

As a longtime "Smash" fan who's been waiting — hoping! — for a great online experience from the franchise, it's been a tremendous let down thus far.

Here's why:

SEE ALSO: 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' brings more than 70 characters to the Nintendo Switch — here they all are

Things start with a lot of promise.

Like so many other fighting games, "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" has to do two things at once: appeal to the ultra-dedicated/extremely critical base of hardcore fans and, at the same time, appeal to the far larger group that encompasses everyone else.

The online mode in "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is a focal point for this dichotomy. Hardcore fans want custom game settings, and to play against like-minded players, but most people going online with "Smash" are just looking for a fun game. 

In this regard, Nintendo definitely caters to the latter group, but there's plenty for the former as well.

The options are simple, and easy to understand!

You can jump in with "Quickplay," which defaults to matchmaking you with any multiplayer setting, and one to three opponents. It's the "I just want to play some 'Smash' online" option.

"Battle Arenas" offer more customization, allowing you to search for specific game types and player counts. It's intended for people who have strong feelings about how "Smash" should be played. 

But even if you just jump into Quickplay, you're still able to filter by what type of game you'd like to be matched with. Upon first inspection, there's a nice amount of detail to the online section of "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate." 

It's the "online" part that's the problem.

It's impossible to overstate the difference between playing "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" online and offline — it's like two different games.

Of the dozens of matches I've played online, a shockingly small percentage could be described as "smooth." At some point in every match, and often throughout every match, I've hit crushing lag. 

What do I mean by "lag"? Even if you don't know the term, you've no doubt experienced it: A video buffering in YouTube/Netflix/etc.? That's lag.

In the case of "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate," that disconnect is far more detrimental.

Sometimes it's a stutter in gameplay here or there. Sometimes it's a several second stop in the action. It's unpredictable, frustrating, and — worst of all — it makes the game nearly unplayable.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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