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Joshua Simon

Joshua Simon

Facebook will now display ads to web users who are not members of its social network, the company announced Thursday, in a bid to significantly expand its online ad network. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Facebook will use cookies, "like" buttons, and other plug-ins embedded on third-party sites to track members and non-members alike. The company says it will be able to better target non-Facebook users and serve relevant ads to them, though its practices have come under criticism from regulators in Europe over privacy concerns. Facebook began displaying a banner notification at the top of its News Feed for users in Europe today, alerting them to its use of cookies as mandated under an EU directive.

"Publishers and app developers have some users who aren’t Facebook users," Andrew Bosworth, vice president of Facebook’s ads and business platform, tells the Journal. "We think we can do a better job powering those ads."

 Targeted advertising has become commonplace across the internet, but Facebook believes it can more accurately target non-members using the vast amounts of data it already has on the nearly 1.7 billion people who use the site. The company says it can use that data to make inferences about the behavior of non-members, an approach known as "lookalike" targeting. "Because we have a core audience of over a billion people [on Facebook] who we do understand, we have a greater opportunity than other companies using the same type of mechanism," Bosworth tells the Journal.

Facebook and Google continue to dominate targeted online advertising, as a report from Princeton University showed last week, though Facebook's use of cookies has come under fire from European regulators who say it violates consumer privacy laws. An independent report from the Belgian Privacy Commission last year criticized Facebook for tracking users who had logged out, as well as those who didn't even have an account. (Facebook disputed the report's findings, and attributed the tracking to a bug.) Earlier this year, the French data protection agency ordered the company to allow users to opt-out of sharing their personal data with advertisers, and to better inform non-users that their behavior was being tracked when visiting Facebook pages.

Facebook updated its cookies policy page on Thursday to reflect the changes to its ad network. Users with a Facebook account can opt-out of the ad scheme by adjusting their settings, while non-Facebook members can opt-out through the Digital Advertising Alliance in the US, the Digital Advertising Alliance in Canada, and the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance in Europe.

Source:  http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/27/11795248/facebook-ad-network-non-users-cookies-plug-ins

Online reviews and public customer feedback have a major impact on consumers’ purchase decisions. They happen to play an increasingly important role in local search, too.

Looking to leverage reviews and feedback to drive your brand’s local search ranking and performance? Here are key insights and best practices to help you get started.

Online Reviews and Local Search

According to a local SEO report by Moz, online reviews are one of the top seven factors influencing where and how a business appears in local search results.

The number of reviews that your brand or organization has, the speed at which these reviews are generated, your numerical ratings, the diversity of sites where you have reviews, even the authority of the people who write your reviews: these are all ranking factors across local pack and organic results.

According to Moz’s survey, these “review signals” are considered an even bigger factor than “social signals.” Even Google itself has recently made it clear that reviews play a major part in local search rankings. In a help article, the search engine identified three primary factors:

Relevance is how well your business listing or your branded content matches what people are searching for. Complete, detailed, and up-to-date business information improves your relevance and helps match your listing and content to relevant local searches.

Distance refers to the proximity of your business listing’s indicated location and/or service area on Google to the location term used in a Google search query. The location term is the user’s location, determined based on location information about the device they used for searching.

Prominence refers to the offline and online prominence of your business. “Some places are more prominent in the offline world,” reads the Google help article, “For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands.” Online prominence, meanwhile, is based on the kind of information available on the web about your business. This includes the quantity and quality of your online reviews, as well as online scores and ratings.

Improve Your Local Search Ranking Using Online Reviews
Claim Your Business Listing on Google My Business
The first step is to get your brand or organization on Google. This means creating or claiming your business listing using Google My Business.

There will be other sites where your business gets reviewed or rated: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Citysearch, Foursquare, what-have-you. But if improving your local search ranking is your priority, a Google My Business account is a must.

Local search results on Google come in a few different shapes and sizes. Say, if you search for the “best Japanese restaurant (in) Chicago,” you’ll see a set of Maps-based results, the “local pack” (since reduced from 7 to 3 listings), and the localized organic results (usually in that order).

Local Map Pack

A well-managed listing on Google My Business fosters significant improvements in local search performance, with particular emphasis on the “relevance” factor of local search. Business listings that have been claimed and updated on Google My Business — and which also boasts of strong reviews and ratings — are the ones most likely to rank at the top of local search, or even be featured in Maps-based results and the “local pack.”

Claim Your Business Listing on All Relevant Review Sites
Once you have planted your flag on Google, do the same on online review sites.
Yelp, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, and Facebook are the recommended places to start with, but make sure you also establish your brand presence on industry-specific review sites and feedback channels, like Zomato (for restaurants), Cars.com, DealerRater (for automotive businesses), and Vitals and Healthgrades (for doctors and healthcare providers).

Look closely at the results for the “best Japanese restaurant in Chicago.” See those organic results just below the local 3-pack?

Page 1 Real Estate

A well-managed listing on Google My Business fosters significant improvements in local search performance, with particular emphasis on the “relevance” factor of local search. Business listings that have been claimed and updated on Google My Business — and which also boasts of strong reviews and ratings — are the ones most likely to rank at the top of local search, or even be featured in Maps-based results and the “local pack.”

Claim Your Business Listing on All Relevant Review Sites
Once you have planted your flag on Google, do the same on online review sites.
Yelp, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, and Facebook are the recommended places to start with, but make sure you also establish your brand presence on industry-specific review sites and feedback channels, like Zomato (for restaurants), Cars.com, DealerRater (for automotive businesses), and Vitals and Healthgrades (for doctors and healthcare providers).

Look closely at the results for the “best Japanese restaurant in Chicago.” See those organic results just below the local 3-pack?

Page 1 Real Estate

The source of almost every single result, save for one, is an online review website: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat. (Results from Foursquare and Gayot, two sites that also display customer reviews and ratings, have actually been cropped out of the image. But they’re on Page 1, too.)

What isn’t on Page 1 is a list of results sourced from a brand website — or, in this case, the website of any of those Japanese restaurants.

This isn’t to point out certain limitations of on-site optimization or domain authority; it’s to offer a glimpse into how much value and trust search engines place on specific review and ratings websites, at least as far as local, non-branded search queries are concerned.

Simply put, in local search, brands and organizations that perform well on online review sites have an edge over those that don’t.

So, create or claim your business listing on all relevant sites. Your presence on these digital properties lets Google know that your business is an active participant in the local search community it has built.

Ensure NAP and Local Data Consistency

When you’re claiming all those listings, always provide correct, consistent, up-to-date business information. You can’t get your local signals wrong.

Hundreds of SEO experts have written particularly about the importance of NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency. But not all businesses are actually paying attention.

In the US, 37 percent of companies have at least one incorrect or missing name on their listings. 43 percent have at least one incorrect or missing address. And 18 percent are missing their phone numbers.
The estimated cost of wrong local data is $10.3 billion in potential annual sales.
This isn’t to mention the effect it has on local search: if your business information across the Web appears unstable or inconsistent, search engines are less likely to reward you with a high-ranking in local search results.

Add Reviews to Your Website

Online reviews count as dynamic content that can boost your SEO efforts: 800 words of review text, say, can make up as much as 70 percent of fresh content for your page.

Reviews can also boost conversion:

Product page visitors who read and interact with online reviews convert at a 58 percent higher rate than those who don’t.
Shoppers who read and interact with product reviews reflect an increase of 62 percent in revenue per visit.

The average order value increases to 3 percent when shoppers engage with reviews.
Reviews also encourage user interaction and boost shopper confidence: important components of any successful SEO strategy.

That’s why it makes sense to add customer reviews to your website pages. The beauty sector in the US, for example, has already embraced this tactic, with 83 percent of beauty brand websites now incorporating reviews as a regular feature of their pages.

It’s not even necessary for you to spend hours every week manually copying and pasting reviews.

You can simply use a widget. Some review websites — TripAdvisor and Yelp, among others — offer widgets or badges that enable you to display your latest reviews and ratings from those sources on your website.

Third-Party Review Website Snippets

You can also install a plugin, which works great if you have a website powered by WordPress. There’s a wide range of plugins that let you build your own review pages, syndicate customer feedback from other sites, collect star ratings and testimonials, and display review content on your pages. Here are a few options:

WP Customer Reviews
WP Review
WP Product Review
Try to find a solution that enables rich snippets for those reviews and ratings. That way, your review content can stand out in search results, similar to how these ones from TripAdvisor are displayed after a local search query (“hotel reviews in London”):

Example of Rich Snippets

Share Reviews on Social Media

Some will say there’s actually little SEO value in social media marketing. The above-mentioned Moz report even describes social signals as having less impact on local search than reviews.

This doesn’t mean you should stop updating your Facebook or Twitter. After all, it won’t hurt your bottom line to have an active social media presence and a community of engaged fans and followers.

Just don’t treat social as another billboard where you shove your products and services in people’s faces. They’ll be more inclined to click on a link if the content seems trustworthy.

Customer reviews happen to play a major role in fostering trust. According to Forrester, reviews are viewed by consumers as more trustworthy than organic search engine results and promotional posts on social media.

Got a new 5-star review on Yelp, Google, or TripAdvisor? Don’t hesitate to share it. Post a link to the review on Facebook or Twitter. Or grab a screenshot and upload it to Instagram.

Screenshot of Review

Mine Reviews for Research

Online reviews can also be analyzed in ways that allow you to refine your SEO strategy. Bigger companies that receive a lot of feedback, for example, utilize text analytics and sentiment analysis tools to mine their review and feedback data and achieve a more complete and accurate picture of the customer experience.

Reviews can also be particularly useful in researching keywords. Here’s a great example: fashion brands used to insist on calling hoodies “hooded sweatshirts.” But trends showed that shoppers preferred to type “hoodies” — either when they were searching online or writing a review of a hoodie they had already bought.

Using Reviews for Keyword Research

If you’re one such fashion brand, it makes sense to switch to “hoodies” in your product descriptions and catalogs, right? With a simple adjustment, you can improve your search relevance and ranking.

Respond to Reviews and Optimize for Search

Responding to reviews lets customers know you’re listening to their feedback. It’s also a neat trick for creating fresh content that’s typically crawled by search engines — not to mention, a fantastic engagement driver.

According to TripAdvisor research, businesses that respond to reviews enjoy 17 percent higher engagement and are 21 percent more likely to receive booking inquiries. So, while rankings are cool, qualified leads and improved conversion rates are cooler.

You don’t have to respond publicly to every single review, but when you do respond, be nice. Address the customer’s concerns. If the review was full of praise, say thank you.

Don’t forget to add a keyword or two to improve the visibility of the reviews you’re responding to. Here’s a great example of the subtle art of optimizing your review response:

Optimized Review Response

Generate Positive Reviews and Hide Negative feedback

Given the impact of reviews on local search, it’s important to have a strategy for acquiring or generating new reviews.

This can be an e-mail or social media campaign, a customer feedback survey, or an awareness blitz telling people to find and rate you on Google or TripAdvisor.

By generating new reviews, you:

Create more opportunities to increase click-through rates (CTR) through rich snippets for ratings and reviews

Encourage an increase in the crawl frequency of pages where your brand is listed or can be reviewed
Build review quantity, velocity, and diversity (studies show that improvement in these areas correlates with better rankings and higher CTR).

It’s important to know when you should and shouldn’t be aggressive in your efforts to generate customer reviews.

First of all, don’t fake your reviews and give yourself five stars. As search engines evolve and become more sophisticated, they’ll get better at weeding out the fakes. It’s not worth gaming the system.

Secondly, avoid requesting reviews and customer feedback on sites that don’t allow the practice. Yelp, for instance, considers review solicitation a violation of its content guidelines and terms of use.

Thirdly, implement a system that helps you identify who among your customers are happy — and who aren’t. You don’t want to usher in a wave of one-star reviews that could destroy your reputation.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS), for example, offers a proven methodology for grouping people according to how willing they are — on a scale of 0 to 10 — to recommend your business, with 0 being likely and 10 being extremely likely.

If you’re able to tap into your NPS data, you can filter your review generation efforts and reach out only to those who are likely to post positive reviews and feedback. So there would be no “Review us on Google” messages that end up in the hands of dissatisfied customers.

Wrap-Up

Search engines love online reviews for the simple reason that consumers trust, actively look for, and depend on what their fellow consumers think. It’s fair to assume that Google has assigned increasing value on reviews because that’s what its users look for and click on. And while search tactics will continue to evolve and vary, they will always be grounded in a simple notion: speak the language of your customers and it will do wonders for your search performance and bottom line.

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/how-to-improve-your-local-search-ranking-using-online-reviews/164501/?ver=164501X3

Every internet-based business has a pool of keywords they focus on when targeting their website to get conversions. Researching keywords and picking up the relevant keyword ideas from different sources is undoubtedly a time-eater and a resource-consuming task. But how can you be sure these keywords play into the hand of your business?

Building out a Keyword List

Every SEO expert or an experienced webmaster knows that creating a good list of keywords that perfectly match your website’s content is only half the battle. Merging a huge pool of keywords into small groups to spread them across web pages in a clever way is a challenging task even for savvy marketers.

After all, there are some questions to think about:

How can I group keywords without wasting tons of time?
How can I make sure I do it the most efficient way possible?
Is there a chance I can do it all on auto-pilot?
And this is where Topvisor comes in. With the Topvisor Keyword Clustering tool, you can get a complete keyword structure for every page of your website in just a few clicks.

How To Segment Keywords Into Relevant Groups Using Topvisor

Rely on Automated Algorithms

When it comes to working with large data, it’s always a good idea to rely on proven automated algorithms that leave zero chance for mistakes. The tricky thing about doing the whole job on your own is what you think might be the best page-by-page keyword structure for your website isn’t necessarily what Google thinks.

Topvisor Clustering Tool is fully automated and based on TOP-10 of the search engine results page. This means it doesn’t even think as you think, it thinks like Google and does it in a completely automated way.

Here how it goes:

The tool will take your keywords, generate and send automated queries to search engines and then match web pages from search results for each keyword.

If the search engine returns the same web pages for different keywords and there are several matches, they will be banded up together (clustered). The keyword with the highest search volume will become a group name.

How To Segment Keywords Into Relevant Groups Using Topvisor

The tool will quickly show you a complete page-by-page keyword structure. The whole process won’t take more than 15 minutes, compared to at least one working day if you do it manually.

How To Segment Keywords Into Relevant Groups Using Topvisor

Pick a Correct Location

Nearly every business targets a particular location, which is why it’s important to enrich your website with keyword relevant to the target location. And that’s where automated algorithms come in hand. Pick a region and the Clustering tool will keep in mind that you want to consider only a local SERP.

Create Keyword-Rich Pages

You are free to adjust how crowded keyword groups should be. You can set a clustering level, which is a minimum number of matches in TOP-10 of SERP required to trigger grouping of these keywords. Clustering with a high clustering level produces more groups with fewer keywords in every group.

How To Segment Keywords Into Relevant Groups Using Topvisor

In Summary

So here we go. Keyword grouping is not a rocket science after all. Sign up for a free account here and get your top-notch keyword structure today.

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/segment-keywords-relevant-groups-using-topvisor/163385/

My Slate email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., your message will bounce. There is no This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If there were, though, it’s a good bet that he’d get a lot of messages that were intended for me (poor guy).

For just that reason, Google decided to do things differently from other email providers when it launched Gmail.

Namely, it decided to ignore periods in its users’ email addresses altogether.

That’s right—they make absolutely no difference. As a post on Google’s help forums clearly explains:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. = This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. = This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. = This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
You could even email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and your message would still make its way to the very same donut-loving dude.

This is not new—it’s been this way for years, and I’m sure a lot of people reading this realized it long ago. But the funny thing is how many people haven’t—and I’m embarrassed to admit that I was among them until my colleague Josh Levin blew my mind with this factoid recently.

All these years I’ve been making a point of pronouncing the “dot” whenever I tell people my gmail address, when in fact I could have just as easily remained dot-less. For that matter, I could start telling people that I’m will.or.emus and leaving them to wonder whether I share my account with a flock of flightless birds.

rtx1un5p

That got me wondering: In which other domains are the dots superfluous, and in which do they make a crucial difference? And how do different companies decide which standard to observe?

For some reason, none of the companies I contacted were eager to discuss their policies or rationale with regard to dots in user names, either because they considered my query unworthy of a response, or because they’ve never really given it a lot of thought themselves. Left to my own devices, I experimented a bit and arrived at the following tentative taxonomy:

DOTS MATTER: Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Mail, Apple iCloud

DOTS DON’T MATTER: Gmail, Facebook

DOTS STRICTLY PROHIBITED: Twitter

It’s worth noting that several services, including some of the dot adherents, do offer other special characters for those intent on adding semantically null symbols (or even whole words) to their handles. For instance, Gmail will ignore a plus sign and anything that follows, so that Homer Simpson could use This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to filter out unwanted senders.

Did I miss any important ones in the list above? Anyone have a theory as to why some companies persist in differentiating based on dots while others dropped them long ago? It seems to me that Google and Facebook have the right idea, although of course it would be impossible for older services to follow suit at this point without deleting a lot of users’ accounts in the process. Perhaps this is simply one of those standards that will never really be standardized across services.

Source:  http://www.businessinsider.com/why-the-dot-in-your-gmail-address-doesnt-matter

You CAN be smart and good-looking. That's the message from Microsoft's Magic Mirror - a so-called smart mirror that can recognize and greet users, read their emotions and display the weather, time and other information. All the while looking just like a regular mirror.

"Imagine when you wake up in the morning, you're able to use the mirror to style your hair, do your make up, and while doing that, you can also view the weather," Izzat Khair, a member of Microsoft Singapore's developer experience team explained.

The Magic Mirror has a hidden facial-recognition camera that can detect eight human emotions, including anger, happiness and surprise. Microsoft plans to expand the mirror's features, allowing it to show app-fed news as well as Facebook and Twitter feeds in a display panel.

The mirror was still at the demo stage but had real business potential, Khair said, pointing out that the advertising and marketing industries, for example, could use the technology.

"Imagine on the monitor of the mirror, you're able to play an advertisement. And you have a camera that can snap a photo of the users that are viewing the advertisement," he said.

The mirror's facial-recognition features could then provide real-time information to advertisers on how viewers reacted to the advertisement, he added.

Microsoft's smart mirror, called Magic Mirror, and showcased at the InnovFest Unbound 2016, a digital technology conference in Singapore, has a facial recognition feature and can tell the weather, date, time and location.

Microsoft's smart mirror, called Magic Mirror, and showcased at the InnovFest Unbound 2016, a digital technology conference in Singapore, has a facial recognition feature and can tell the weather, date, time and location.

The Magic Mirror was one of a number of tech products on display at InnovFest UnBound 2016, a digital technology conference, to illustrate the changing ways users were interacting with technology.

In an address at InnovFest on Tuesday, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said he wanted the country to build an operating system database for 100 million smart objects over the next five years, as the Internet of Things trends took off.

Microsoft is working with Singapore's government agencies on boosting the city-state's IoT ecosystem, as well as on talent development, research, cyber security and public sector partnership, as part of the country's Smart Nation initiative.

In keeping with the focus on cyber security, Khair said that the data processed by the mirror was stored on a private cloud that Microsoft's programmers could not access, and the data was deleted after seven days.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/19/microsofts-magic-mirror-developed-in-singapore-is-part-of-its-contribution-to-the-smart-nation-initiative.html

Friday, 20 May 2016 06:12

It’s the Internet, Stupid

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that presidential candidates are starting to talk about Internet issues.

The bad news is that presidential candidates are starting to talk about Internet issues.

Since the 2012 election, the Internet has emerged as a widely discussed political topic. Advocates of an open and accessible Internet number in the tens of millions and include people of every political stripe living in every part of the United States.

This growing community supports Net Neutrality, worries about violations of their privacy by government spies and corporations too, and believes the Internet is a crucial platform that everyone should be able to access at affordable prices.

Whether you’re one of the more than 10 million people who protested congressional efforts to pass Internet-censoring copyright legislation or one of the millions who urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt real Net Neutrality protections, you’re part of a growing political base that expects our elected leaders to support our rights to connect and communicate.

That’s a good thing, right? Here’s the problem. Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle haven’t caught up with the rest of us. When facing intelligent questions about their views on important Internet issues, they just plain get it wrong most of the time.

Kasich: Let’s Not Talk About It

During last Thursday’s GOP debate, Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly pushed Gov. John Kasich for his views on the important issue of encryption.

“Tech companies and a group of MIT scientists warn that if they create a way for the FBI to have a back door into our encrypted communications, then the bad guys will exploit it, too. And they say that this is going to cause more security problems than it would solve for everyday Americans. Are they wrong?” Kelly asked.

“Megyn, it’s best not to talk anymore about back doors and encryption,” Kasich said. “It will get solved, but it needs to be solved in the situation room of the White House with the technology folks.”

“But this is public testimony,” Kelly pressed.

“I just have to tell you that it’s best with some of these things [that they] not be said,” the governor said.

Maybe it’s an odd sense of secrecy and decorum motivating his answer. Or maybe Kasich would rather not talk about encryption because he knows very little about it. In 2016, we should expect our politicians to be better versed on matters that affect everyone’s right to communicate in private.

Clinton: It’s Complicated

Other candidates have been more detailed than Kasich — but no less misguided.

In December, Hillary Clinton offered her view on encryption. “If we truly are in a war against terrorism ... then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating,” she said. “It’s more complicated with some of what they do on encrypted apps, and I’m well aware of that, and that requires even more thinking about how to do it.”

Well, the thinking is pretty far along at this point. Encryption isn’t the evil it’s often portrayed to be. It doesn’t shield only terrorist communications. In fact, investigations into the Paris and San Bernardino attacks show the culprits communicating by more conventional means. Encryption is most often used to safeguard businesses, protect people from human rights violations, and keep the data of innocent Internet users safe from criminal hackers.

Were a President Clinton to succeed in weakening encryption services offered in the United States, terrorists would simply go elsewhere to find bulletproof, end-to-end tools. Much of the encryption software developed in the U.S. is already out of our hands, owing to relaxed export controls over the past decade. Law-abiding Americans who use encryption for legitimate ends would suffer the most from attempts to disable these tools.

Cruz: It’s Lunacy

Politicians have flexed their feeble tech muscles on other Internet issues too — like Net Neutrality.

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire last month, a member of the audience asked Sen. Ted Cruz about the FCC’s 2015 decision to protect the open Internet. In the middle of a lengthy, fact-free rebuke of President Obama and the FCC rules, Cruz said, “Anyone who wants to innovate has to go to government regulators to get permission to launch some new website to do something novel on the Internet. That is lunacy.”

One problem, senator. Absolutely nothing in the FCC’s Open Internet Order gives Obama or anyone else the authority to decide who gets to launch a website and who doesn’t. The order is clear that no one — neither the government nor a corporation — should interfere with a user’s right to access the free and open Internet. That includes our right to create websites and services without permission.

Cruz’s dog-whistle politicking turns a deaf ear to the millions of people, Republicans and Democrats alike, who have spoken out in support of Net Neutrality.

Trump and Clinton: Shut It Down

When it comes to alleged government regulation of online content, Cruz should be more concerned about fellow Republican Donald Trump, who on multiple occasions has said the government needs to shut down the Internet to keep America safe.

“I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our Internet,” Trump said in December.

Here’s the thing, Mr. Trump: The Internet doesn’t belong to any one nation. The only politicians who believe that sit in the Chinese Politburo. And China’s attempts to nationalize the Internet include building a “Golden Shield“ that bars Internet users there from accessing “dangerous” ideas about human rights, free speech and democracy.

China’s Great Firewall is not the sort of precedent Trump or any other presidential candidate should follow. Right, Secretary Clinton?

“Resolve means depriving jihadists of virtual territory,” Clinton said in December. “They are using websites, social media, chat rooms and other platforms to celebrate beheadings, recruit future terrorists and call for attacks. We should work with host companies to shut them down.”

Unfortunately, the social media companies that host much of our communications have a spotty record when it comes to determining what is a censorable offense and what’s merely contentious public discourse. Forcing host companies to police speech on social media is a path riddled with First Amendment potholes.

Bush: It’s Crazy

So what is the government’s role when it comes to the Internet? The millions of people who have spoken up about it since the 2012 election believe the government should put the rights of Internet users first. That means the government shouldn’t regulate our online content but should enable us to innovate, speak and share without interference from governments and corporations alike.

What say you, Gov. Bush?

“The idea of regulating access to the Internet with a 1934 law is one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard,” Bush said while taking a question about Net Neutrality from fellow diners at an Iowa pizza joint.

It’s not crazy, unless you really think that the only test of a law is how old it is. (How’s that Constitution holding up, by the way?)

The laws the FCC returned to aren’t some Depression-era relic. Congress updated Title II in overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That paved the way for the explosive growth of the Internet we know today. This law applies to the cable and phone company networks that connect us to each other.

These companies are always looking for new ways to filter, prioritize and even block Internet traffic. Net Neutrality rules follow the law to provide the safeguards millions of Internet users have called for.

These Internet users are becoming more visible in 2016. Come November their presence could be felt as more Internet rights advocates go to the polls. Our issues are beginning to get through to the candidates on a few fronts: Both Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders support Net Neutrality protections while Sen. Rand Paul has been an outspoken advocate for online privacy and against unwarranted government surveillance.

At the Free Press Action Fund, we don’t endorse or oppose candidates for public office. But we do pay close attention to what they’re saying about Internet policy.

We’ve already been to dozens of campaign stops in Iowa and New Hampshire asking tough but basic questions about our digital rights. We’re going to hit the trail in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states to press candidates for smarter answers than the ones most have given so far.

Source:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timothy-karr/its-the-internet-stupid_b_9138596.html

Google hopes to quickly make its virtual reality platform Daydream a mass-market product. "Our intention is to operate at Android scale, meaning hundreds of millions of users," senior product manager Brahim Elbouchikhi said at a session on monetizing Daydream apps at the Google I/O developers conference. "In a couple of years, we will have hundreds of millions of users on Daydream devices." And in order to keep those users entertained, Google wants app developers to build experiences that are long, highly interactive, and devoid of "freemium" mechanics that could break users' concentration.

Daydream was first announced yesterday, and Google launched a site for virtual reality developers this morning, so they can get started before the first Daydream-ready phones start rolling out this fall. The site covers creators of games and apps for both Daydream and Cardboard, the low-end VR platform that Google currently operates. But based on messaging at I/O, the overlap between those categories could be minimal. "Cardboard apps were about fun, snackable, short experiences, largely non-interactive," said Elbouchikhi. "Daydream apps are quite the opposite. They're about immersive content, longform, highly interactive." He cited research that suggested mobile VR users favor once-a-day sessions of 30 minutes or longer, in the comfort of their home — "nobody is wearing these headsets in the street, FYI."

Google hopes to quickly make its virtual reality platform Daydream a mass-market product. "Our intention is to operate at Android scale, meaning hundreds of millions of users," senior product manager Brahim Elbouchikhi said at a session on monetizing Daydream apps at the Google I/O developers conference. "In a couple of years, we will have hundreds of millions of users on Daydream devices." And in order to keep those users entertained, Google wants app developers to build experiences that are long, highly interactive, and devoid of "freemium" mechanics that could break users' concentration.

Daydream was first announced yesterday, and Google launched a site for virtual reality developers this morning, so they can get started before the first Daydream-ready phones start rolling out this fall. The site covers creators of games and apps for both Daydream and Cardboard, the low-end VR platform that Google currently operates. But based on messaging at I/O, the overlap between those categories could be minimal. "Cardboard apps were about fun, snackable, short experiences, largely non-interactive," said Elbouchikhi. "Daydream apps are quite the opposite. They're about immersive content, longform, highly interactive." He cited research that suggested mobile VR users favor once-a-day sessions of 30 minutes or longer, in the comfort of their home — "nobody is wearing these headsets in the street, FYI."

"YOU'RE NOT GOING TO WANT TO HAVE FREE-TO-PLAY MECHANICS."

Elbouchikhi called out some of the bad habits that VR content can slip into, like substituting novelty for real interactivity or substance. "It's easy and tempting to say 'Oh, I'm just going to drop someone somewhere amazing," he said. "That is a great experience for 30 seconds. And then as soon as you achieve presence, you say, what do I want to do?" He also cautioned against adopting some strategies that have worked outside VR, like making users stop an experience to pay for microtransactions. "You're not going to want to have free-to-play mechanics, energy mechanics, time based mechanics. it's not going to work," he said. The Play Store will support in-app purchases, but he suggested that developers use this to offer a demo version of experiences for free, then let interested players buy full access once they're inside.

In Daydream, interactivity also means using the included motion-control remote, which all developers will be required to do. Google wants to do away with the standard method of interacting with Cardboard apps: staring at an option and selecting it by waiting or clicking a button. Instead, developers should treat the remote like a laser pointer, taking advantage of its internal sensors. "If you're bringing an app over from Cardboard, just using the controller as a clicker does not count as taking advantage of the controller," said VR design team member Alex Faaborg.

The session also impressed on developers that they have a responsibility to welcome people to a new medium, both by creating high-quality work and by helping ease them into the language of VR with things like experience intensity ratings. Among other things, developers should avoid, say, promising a relaxing beach experience and then attacking users with zombies, said Faaborg. "We don't want blatant surprises."

Source:  http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/19/11716154/google-daydream-android-vr-developers-guidelines

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 03:06

Google's AlphaGo Thrashes Go Master

Google's AlphaGo on Tuesday rocked the worlds of Go and artificial intelligence when it beat 18-time international Go champion Lee Se-dol the final round of the Google DeepMind Challenge.

 

DeepMind Challenge Match 5
DeepMind Challenge Match 5: AlphaGo vs. Lee Se-dol
Lee lost the first three rounds last week but came back and won the fourth game.

 

One criticism of AI programs is that they have done well relying on logical inferences based on heuristics and memory, but they lack intuition and can't learn from their mistakes or derive new knowledge without human programming.

AlphaGo's victory changes that, according to Mike Jude, program manager, Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

Go "depends as much on logic, like chess, as it does on intuition," he told TechNewsWorld. "The results of this competition imply that AlphaGo has transcended the brute-force approaches to solving games of logic."

 

Learning to Run

 

The AI solutions Google has been working on through deep learning "were very good at stuff like Pong, where you had to do an action right then, but didn't do so well in games like Pac-Man, where you had to plan something out, because the learning solutions they have so far were based around reaction and not planning," observed Jim McGregor, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

 

"With Pac-Man, you have to be able to plan ahead for various interactions, and it changes every moment," he told TechNewsWorld.

 

AlphaGo does demonstrate the possibility that AI systems eventually might be capable of intuitive thought, but "we're in the infancy of developing these solutions, and the algorithms we've developed have been in response to some kind of stimulus -- you get the data, how do you recognize it, what you do with it," McGregor said.

 

That doesn't mean researchers won't be able to incorporate long-term planning into AI systems, "but you have to learn to walk before you can run," he noted.

 

Humans Still Rule

 

The human brain "can change its configuration on the fly; computers can't do that," McGregor pointed out.

 

AI systems "are all about learning," he said. "They're about creating an algorithm to do a specific thing or things, and even then it takes a long time to succeed."

 

IBM's Watson -- which won Jeopardy and is being used to help treat lung cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center -- is being taught to perform image analysis and recognize anomalies in people's medical images in the context of broader information such as data from their Fitbits.

 

"Both are deep learning neural network-based systems," said Frost & Sullivan's Jude, but "Watson was developed to be an artificial general intelligence system -- that is, domain indifferent -- while AlphaGo is a special-purpose system designed to play Go."

 

Possible Uses for AlphaGo

 

Any application that requires a response to a complex, changing environment would benefit from AI technology such as AlphaGo's, Jude suggested. That includes health, weather prediction and market analysis.

 

AI has the most potential in scientific research, McGregor contended.

 

In medicine, researchers could develop massive databases of how one protein or chemical interacts with others, which would allow algorithms to be built much faster. Databases of digital medical records and diagnoses could be built and input into AI programs, which would revolutionize diagnosis, he said.

 

Semiconductor research is another possibility. "Right now, we're taking the periodic table and experimenting with all the elements we can to improve semiconductor technology. Think of what we could do with research in terms of modeling," McGregor pointed out.

 

"The best way to use AI is where we're very limited in what we can process and how," he said.

 

Source:  http://www.technewsworld.com/story/83235.html

 

Learning to Run

The AI solutions Google has been working on through deep learning "were very good at stuff like Pong, where you had to do an action right then, but didn't do so well in games like Pac-Man, where you had to plan something out, because the learning solutions they have so far were based around reaction and not planning," observed Jim McGregor, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"With Pac-Man, you have to be able to plan ahead for various interactions, and it changes every moment," he told TechNewsWorld.

AlphaGo does demonstrate the possibility that AI systems eventually might be capable of intuitive thought, but "we're in the infancy of developing these solutions, and the algorithms we've developed have been in response to some kind of stimulus -- you get the data, how do you recognize it, what you do with it," McGregor said.

That doesn't mean researchers won't be able to incorporate long-term planning into AI systems, "but you have to learn to walk before you can run," he noted.

Humans Still Rule

The human brain "can change its configuration on the fly; computers can't do that," McGregor pointed out.

AI systems "are all about learning," he said. "They're about creating an algorithm to do a specific thing or things, and even then it takes a long time to succeed."

IBM's Watson -- which won Jeopardy and is being used to help treat lung cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center -- is being taught to perform image analysis and recognize anomalies in people's medical images in the context of broader information such as data from their Fitbits.

"Both are deep learning neural network-based systems," said Frost & Sullivan'sJude, but "Watson was developed to be an artificial general intelligence system -- that is, domain indifferent -- while AlphaGo is a special-purpose system designed to play Go."

Possible Uses for AlphaGo

Any application that requires a response to a complex, changing environment would benefit from AI technology such as AlphaGo's, Jude suggested. That includes health, weather prediction and market analysis.

AI has the most potential in scientific research, McGregor contended.

In medicine, researchers could develop massive databases of how one protein or chemical interacts with others, which would allow algorithms to be built much faster. Databases of digital medical records and diagnoses could be built and input into AI programs, which would revolutionize diagnosis, he said.

Semiconductor research is another possibility. "Right now, we're taking the periodic table and experimenting with all the elements we can to improve semiconductor technology. Think of what we could do with research in terms of modeling," McGregor pointed out.

"The best way to use AI is where we're very limited in what we can process and how," he said.

Tesla just made a very smart move: it hired Peter Hochholdinger to oversee production of its vehicles.

Hochholdinger came from Audi, where he spent his entire career doing nothing but building Audis.

At Business Insider, we've tested many vehicles that he bolted together, and no other luxury car maker assembles a more consistent product.

 

There are several reasons why Audi is the shining star in the VW Group, and Hochholdinger has been responsible for one of them.

Tesla's announcement comes just weeks after the car maker:

Lost two key manufacturing executives
Greatly accelerated its production timeline, aiming to deliver 500,000 vehicles annually by 2018 rather than 2020


Endured recalls of the both its Model S sedan and Model X SUV
Took pre-orders for an astonishing 400,000 Model 3 mass-market vehicles
Outside the auto industry, no one has ever heard of Hochholdinger, but that doesn't matter — the proof is in the pudding, and Audis are some fantastic pudding. The brand is also the closest luxury marque to Tesla, demographically: Audi has stormed the top-tier of the luxury market by appealing to a younger, hipper buyer than Mercedes, BMW, or Lexus.

 

But there's a more important factor at play here: in the ongoing "disruption" of the traditional car business, it's clear who's serious and who isn't.

Tesla is unquestionably serious — there are over 100,000 Tesla vehicles on the road.

Google has racked up a huge number of miles with its driverless cars.

 

And Apple? Well, what about Apple?

Apple hires obscure or unremarkable
Apple has its top-secret "Project Titan," which could be anything at this point: an actual car, a super-advanced infotainment system, or something else.

But so far, its Apple Car hires have been obscure or unremarkable.

 

 

apple vanClaycordApple has been driving around minivans with tech rigs attached to their roofs.

 

Tesla already had some solid car people onboard, so the Hochholdinger announcement is only surprising to the degree that it signals CEO Elon Musk turning over significant authority to a proven expert: if he thinks he's going to push around an Audi guy, he doesn't understand how rough things can get inside the executive corridors at the VW Group.

 

Google has also been adding car people: its biggest hire of late was John Krafcik, an industry veteran with decades of experience who was an advocate of the most important shift in auto manufacturing since Henry Ford fired up his first assembly line. It's called "lean manufacturing," and it's revolutionized the way cars and trucks are built.

 

Krafcik has already moved Google closer to the traditional industry, through a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to develop self-driving technologies in the new Pacifica minivan — a clear signal that Google wants to be a supplier of technology, not a manufacturer of vehicles.

 

Apple, meanwhile, most recently hired Chris Porritt, who was a high-ranking engineer at Tesla, but whose real claim to fame was his time at Aston Martin, where he created extremely expensive luxury cars that are 100% not intended to drive themselves.

Nut and lots of bolts

Tesla and Google are making meaningful progress in developing the transportation technologies of the future. 

Ford, General Motors, and FCA have also joined the party — as has the rest of the industry, although not in the same dramatic fashion as, say, GM did when it invested $500 million in Lyft and bought autonomous-driving startup Cruise Automotive earlier the year.

 

Tesla Model 3

But Apple looks like it's either throwing spaghetti at the wall or trying to maintain some kind of cryptic placeholder so it doesn't fall behind.

Its most dramatic recent move in mobility was literally thousands of miles form the action: itput $1 billion into Didi Chuxing, which is Uber's biggest ride-hailing competition in China.

You can see the outline of a business plan here: the Apple Car is designed in Cupertino and built in China specifically to serve a ride-hailing customer and support more iPhone sales.

But this overlooks a key problem: Apple can't build cars in China without a joint-venture partner. In China, building cars isn't like building iPads.

Maybe Apple has a well-thought-out plan in place for the Apple Car. But the company's hiring and other decisions don't point in that direction.

 

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/this-is-why-tesla-and-google-are-the-future-of-cars-and-apple-isnt-2016-5

 

 

Google has made a significant change to its search results pages by extending the length of titles and descriptions. This was first spotted by Ross Hudgens on Twitter, and later reported on by Jennifer Slegg at The SEM Post.

 

 Google has made a significant change to its search results pages by extending the length of titles and descriptions. This was first spotted by Ross Hudgens on Twitter, and later reported on by Jennifer Slegg at The SEM Post.

Long title tags being tested again in the SERPs. Seeing 69 and 70 character results today.

 

Here’s What Has Changed


Title tags have been increased to 70–71 characters, which is up from its previous 50–60 characters. That’s at least enough to fit in another word or two.

 

Meta descriptions have been increased by 100 characters per line, and extended from two to three lines. That’s a significant increase, and presents far more of an opportunity to tell searchers what the page is about.

Slegg reports that Google is still truncating the descriptions to two lines for many search results still, so you may still see them coming in at around 160 characters at times. When a three line snipped is displayed they come in at 278 characters per line.

It’s important to note that this may be a test which Google could reverse at any time. By the company’s own admission, it is always A/B testing. So it’s a good idea not to base your SEO efforts on these numbers until it’s known for sure if the test will become a permanent change.

 

 

What Do SEOs Think?


For the post part, the change has gone unnoticed. According to this Reddit thread the change in organic search happened on May 4th, and it’s only now that anyone is really talking about it.

“The analysis that I’ve done has shown that Google updated the search results layout to give organic listings an increased title tag size – as well as increased width of the Featured Snippets/Answer Boxes, but have decreased the height of the Featured Snippets/Answer Boxes.”

 

 

Commenters in the Reddit thread for the most part agree the change hasn’t been noticed. Redditor Jonathan Jones also wrote in his own blog that the change has impacted CTR in a positive way, which could be a sign it will be here to stay if it continues to product positive change.

Jones recommends measuring your CTR from prior to May 4th to now to see if you’ve noticed any positive or negative change as a result of the longer search snippets.

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-titles-and-descriptions-2016/163812/

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