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Jay Harris

Jay Harris

The big data revolution is upon us. Firms are scrambling to hire a new brand of analysts dubbed “data scientists,” and universities have responded to this demand by introducing data science courses into degrees ranging from computer science to business. Survey-based reports find that firms are currently spending an estimated $36 billion on storage and infrastructure, and that is expected to double by 2020.

Once companies are logging and storing detailed data on all their customer engagements and internal processes, what’s next? Presumably, firms are investing in big data infrastructure because they believe that it offers a positive return on investment. However, looking at the surveys and consulting reports, it is unclear what the precise use cases are that will drive this positive ROI from big data.

Our goal in this article is to offer specific, real-world case studies to show how big data has provided value for companies that have worked with Microsoft’s analytics teams. These cases reveal the circumstances in which big data predictive analytics are likely to enable novel and high-value solutions, and the situations where the gains are likely to be minimal.

Predicting demand. The first use case involves predicting demand for consumer products that are in the “long tail” of consumption. Firms value accurate demand forecasts because inventory is expensive to keep on shelves and stockouts are detrimental to both short-term revenue and long-term customer engagement. Aggregated total sales is a poor proxy because firms need to distribute inventory geographically, necessitating hyperlocal forecasts. The traditional way of solving this problem is using time-series econometrics with historical sales data. This method works well for popular products in large regions but tends to fail when data gets thin because random noise overwhelms the underlying signal.

A big data solution to this problem is to use anonymized and aggregated web search or sentiment data linked to each store’s location on top of the existing time-series data. Microsoft data scientists have employed this approach to help a forecasting firm predict auto sales. Building models with web search data as one of the inputs reduces mean absolute forecast error, a standard measure of prediction accuracy, for monthly national sales predictions on the order of 40% from baseline for auto makes with relatively small market shares, compared to traditional time-series models. Although the gains were smaller for the most popular models at the national level, the relative improvement increases as one drills down to the regional level.

In this case, the big data solution leverages the previously unused data point that people do a considerable amount of social inquiry and research online before buying a car. The increased prediction accuracy, in turn, makes it possible to achieve large increases in operational efficiency — having the right inventory in the right locations.

Anonymized web search data has proven to be helpful for other forecasts as well since online activity often is a good leading proxy for purchases and actions of the general public. Having the additional data is insufficient on its own. Processing search data and combining it with traditional sources is vital in creating a successful prediction: We found that raw search query volume is insufficient in parsing out the signals that correlate to true product demand.

Being intelligent about which signals to draw from big data requires care, and best practices can be case-specific. For example, single queries from a user might be less important than multiple queries from a user. Although we used search data in this case study, a firm could just as easily use the location of users visiting their website or link detailed sales data to a customer’s location.

Improved pricing. Using a single price is economically inefficient because part of the demand curve that could be profitably served is priced out of the market. As a consequence, firms regularly offer targeted discounts, promotions, and segment-based pricing to target different consumers. E-commerce websites have a distinct advantage in pursuing such an approach because they log detailed information on customer browsing, not just the goods they end up purchasing, and aggressively adjust prices over time. These price adjustments are a form of experimentation and, jointly with big data, allow firms to learn more about their customers’ price responsiveness.

Offline retailers can mimic e-commerce’s nuanced pricing strategies by tracking consumers through smartphone connectivity and logging which customers enter the store, what type of goods they look at, and whether they make a purchase. Machine learning applied to this data can algorithmically generate customer segments based on price responsiveness and preferences, which generally offers a large improvement on traditional demographic-based targeting.

Our experience with pricing advertising on the Bing search engine is that using big data can produce substantial gains by better matching advertisers to consumers. The success of algorithmic targeting has been well documented and is a key driver of revenue in online advertising market. Advances in measurement technology increasingly allow offline firms to benefit from these types of gains through more efficient pricing.

Predictive maintenance. Smoothly operating supply chains are vital for stable profits. Machine downtime imposes a cost to firms due to forgone productivity and can be particularly disruptive in both complex manufacturing supply chains and consumer products. Executives in asset-intensive industries often state that the primary operational risk to their businesses is unexpected failures of their assets. A wave of new data generated by the “internet of things” (IoT) can provide real-time telemetry on detailed aspects of production processes. Machine-learning models trained on these data allow firms to predict when different machines will fail.

Airlines are particularly interested in predicting mechanical failures in advance so that they can reduce flight delays or cancellations. Microsoft data scientists from the Cortana Intelligence Suite team are able to predict the probability of aircrafts being delayed or canceled in the future based on relevant data sources, such as maintenance history and flight route information. A machine-learning solution based on historical data and applied in real time predicts the type of mechanical issue that will result in a delay or cancellation of a flight within the next 24 hours, allowing the airlines to take maintenance actions while the aircrafts are being serviced, thus preventing possible delays or cancellations.

Similar predictive-maintenance solutions are also built in other industries — for example, tracking real-time telemetry data to predict the remaining useful life of an aircraft engine, using sensor data to predict the failure of an ATM cash withdrawal transaction, employing telemetry data to predict the failure of electric submersible pumps used to extract crude in the oil and gas industry, predicting the failures of circuit boards at early stages in the manufacturing process, predicting credit defaults, and forecasting energy demand in hyperlocal regions to predict the overload situations of energy grids. Machine learning will make supply chains less brittle and reduce the effects of disruptions for many goods and services.

These cases help highlight a few general principles:

  • The value derived from the analytics piece can greatly exceed the cost of the infrastructure. This indicates there will be strong growth in big data consulting services and specialized roles within firms.
  • Big data is less about size and more about introducing fundamentally new information to prediction and decision processes. This information matters most when existing data sources are insufficient to provide accurate or actionable predictions — for example, due to small sample sizes or coarseness of historical sales (small effective regions, niche products, new offerings, etc.).
  • The new information is often buried in detailed and relatively unstructured data logs (known as a “data lake”), and techniques from computer science are needed to extract insights from it. To leverage big data, it is vital to have talented data engineers, statisticians, and behavioral scientists working in tandem. “Data scientist” is often used to refer to someone who has these three skills, but in our experience single individuals rarely have all three.

Radically new applications. The cases that we’ve discussed concern how big data can be employed to improve existing processes (e.g., more-precise demand forecasts, better price sensitivity estimates, better predictions of machine failure). But it also has the potential to be applied in ways that disrupt existing processes. For example, machine-learning models taking massive data sets as inputs, coupled with clever designs that account for patient histories, have to the potential to revolutionize how certain diseases are diagnosed and treated. Another example involves matching distributed electricity generation (e.g., solar panels on roofs) to localized electricity demand, unlocking huge value by equating electricity supply and demand with more-efficient generation.

The value described from predicting demand more accurately, better pricing, and predictive maintenance are the specific use cases that easily justify large firms’ investments in big data infrastructure and data science. These uses are likely to drive value of the same order of magnitude as the investments. The value of radically new applications is challenging to understand ex ante and speculative by nature. It is reasonable to expect losses for many firms, due to uncertain and higher risk investments, with a few firms earning spectacular profits.

Author:  Jacob LaRiviere, Preston McAfee, Justin Rao, Vijay K. Narayanan, and Walter Sun

Source:  https://hbr.org/2016/05/where-predictive-analytics-is-having-the-biggest-impact

It’s been discovered that Samsung has trademarked the term “Beast Mode” in the European Union. This has led to speculations that the South Korean phone maker is planning to add that feature to the Galaxy S8 in 2017.

Although Samsung hasn’t revealed the specifications for the Galaxy S8, the handset is rumored to come with Qualcomm’s most powerful processor the Snapdragon 835 or the company’s own next-generation Exynos processor. Both of those chipsets will be built using the 10nm process, the same tech that Apple is believed to be using for the iPhone 8 next year.

Qualcomm is also believed to be working alongside Samsung in developing the Snapdragon 835, possibly making the Galaxy S8 the only smartphone capable of taking advantage of the chip’s full potential, according to Inquisitr.

This is where the rumored Beat Mode feature comes in. Samsung filed an application with the EU to trademark the term earlier this month. Part of the trademark application details that Beast Mode will cover all of Samsung’s devices including smartphones, mobile phones, application software and all of its computers, as pointed out by Forbes.

Although there’s no official explanation as to what Beat Mode actually is, rumors indicate that turning on Beast mode on the Galaxy S8 will allow the processor to perform to its maximum power, according to Android Headline. This would be somewhat an extension to Android Nougat’s Performance Mode where users are able to choose from four presets of high performance.

By turning on Beast Mode on the Galaxy S8, this will also turn off power-saving features. Users will be trading longer battery life for the best possible performance of the Snapdragon 835 or the new Exynos processor. If this is really what Samsung’s Beast Mode is for, the Galaxy S8 could possibly outperform the iPhone 8. Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones have never outperformed Apple’s iPhones, and Beast Mode appears to be the South Korean manufacturer’s way of finally changing that, as pointed out by BGR.

Right now, Beast Mode on the Galaxy S8 is all speculation. However, it wouldn’t be all too surprising for Samsung to do everything it can to redeem itself from the Galaxy Note 7 disaster.

Author:  Ken Manbert Salcedo

Source:  https://www.yahoo.com/tech/samsung-galaxy-s8-rumored-come-015105179.html

Thursday, 22 December 2016 05:29

Netflix’s Twitter account hacked

Netflix’s U.S. Twitter account was hacked Wednesday, with notorious hackers OurMine claiming credit for the attack.

OurMine hacked some high-profile accounts earlier this year, including those of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — password “dadada” — former Twitter CEOs Dick Costolo and Ev Williams, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and others. Oh, and pop star Katy Perry, too.

According to multiple reports and screenshots, OurMine was in control of the Netflix account this morning for less than an hour, and among other things tweeted that “world security is [expletive].”

While the tweets posted by the hackers have since been taken down, the Netflix customer service account shows traces of what transpired.

OurMine is a group of hackers supposedly from Saudi Arabia, and now calls itself a “security group.” It told Mic earlier this year that it is now hacking people for the purpose of promoting its security services.

A check of Netflix’s U.S. Twitter account, which has 2.48 million followers, shows it’s back to normal. Trailers for “The OA,” “Barry” and other Netflix originals are among the recent tweets.

Author : Levi Sumagaysay

Source : http://www.siliconbeat.com/2016/12/21/netflixs-twitter-account-hacked/

Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote by more than 2.86 million ballots, the final tally in the US presidential election has revealed.

According to the Cook Political Report, the Democrat beat the President-elect by 2,864,974 -more than five times the margin garnered by Al Gore in 2000 when he also lost the Electoral College.

The final count comes after 304 electors voted for Donald Trump on Monday, meaning that although two electors defected, he cleared the 270-vote hurdle and will be sworn in as president next month.

Mr Trump's win ranks 46th out of 58 on the list of Electoral College votes secured by US Presidents since George Washington in 1789. His popular vote tally was more than two percentage points lower than Ms Clinton's, at 46.1 per cent against her 48.2 per cent  – or 62.98 million against 65.84 million.

Ms Clinton's tally was just under 72,000 votes shy of Barack Obama's popular vote count in the 2012 election.

Mr Trump won 30 states in the 8 November election, securing 306 of the 538 Electoral College votes – 56.9 per cent of the total.

Only 12 other elections have seen a president receive a lower proportion of Electoral College votes, including George W Bush in 2000 and 2004, and John F Kennedy in 1960.

Confirmation of Mr Trump's victory ended an acrimonious final chapter in an election cycle that saw former president Bill Clinton accuse the director of the FBI, James Comey, of costing his wife the White House, and activists flood the letterboxes of Electoral College members with pleas to abandon the Republican candidate.

Despite the pressure on electors, experts had said a Trump defeat in the Electoral College was extremely unlikely.

Dr Jacob Parakilas, assistant head of the US and Americas Programme at Chatham House, told The Independent: "A lot of this is just a reaction to how outlandish the whole election season has been.

"I think there's also a sense that because Trump won with a significant gap between the Electoral College and the popular vote, that underscores calls for the Electoral College to do something different than it normally does.

"By and large, those calls are going to fall on deaf ears."

Author :Jon Sharman

Source : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/hillary-clinton-3-million-popular-vote-donald-trump-us-election-a7487901.html

Understanding the impact of machine learning will be crucial to adjusting our search marketing strategies -- but probably not in the way you think. Columnist Dave Davies explains.

There are many uses for machine learning and AI in the world around us, but today I’m going to talk about search. So, assuming you’re a business owner with a website or an SEO, the big question you’re probably asking is: what is machine learning and how will it impact my rankings?

The problem with this question is that it relies on a couple of assumptions that may or may not be correct: First, that machine learning is something you can optimize for, and second, that there will be rankings in any traditional sense.

So before we get to work trying to understand machine learning and its impact on search, let’s stop and ask ourselves the real question that needs to be answered:

What is Google trying to accomplish?

It is by answering this one seemingly simple question that we gain our greatest insights into what the future holds and why machine learning is part of it. And the answer to this question is also quite simple. It’s the same as what you and I both do every day: try to earn more money.

This, and this alone, is the objective — and with shareholders, it is a responsibility. So, while it may not be the feel-good answer you were hoping for, it is accurate.

Author:  Dave Davies

Source:  http://searchengineland.com/heck-machine-learning-care-265511

The iPhone 7 may be taking all the headlines, but there is another current model which offers an equally compelling (and far more budget friendly) alternative: the iPhone SE. So what are the differences given the huge gap in their respective price tags? The answers may surprise you, so let’s take a look…

Note: if you do decide to upgrade to the iPhone 7, my detailed iPhone 7 vs iPhone 7 Plus review will help you choose between Apple AAPL +0.52%’s two premium models

Choosing between the iPhone 7 (left) vs iPhone SE (right) is not as simple as you might thing. Image credit: Apple

Design & Size

Apple shocked a lot of people by keeping the iPhone 6 design largely unchanged for a third generation with the iPhone 7, but it was equally surprising to see the iPhone SE launch earlier this year using the old iPhone 5/5S chassis first introduced in 2012. That said it gives users two very different options:

  • iPhone SE - 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 in), 113g (3.99 oz)
  • iPhone 7 - 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 in) and 138 g (4.87 oz)

Yes, the iPhone SE is significantly more compact than the iPhone 7 and this is primarily due to the differences in the two models’ screen sizes (more next). Interestingly it also means the iPhone SE largely stands alone as an oasis in a desert of massive phones and it is super easy to use one handed - especially due to its flat, angular grippy edges.

The flat edges of the iPhone SE (top) make it easier to hold in hand. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

The flat edges of the iPhone SE (top) make it easier to hold in hand. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

By contrast the iPhone 7, while still relatively small by today’s phone standards, is more hazardous due to its curved edges and slippery finish. But it does come with a hidden bonus: dual stereo external speakers. This is a clever addition with Apple amplifying the earpiece to make it work as a second speaker. It’s not as powerful as dual front firing speakers, but it’s the easily the best external audio an iPhone has ever had.

Then again the iPhone SE retains one potentially major advantage over its more expensive stablemate: it retains the 3.5mm headphone jack which the iPhone 7 controversially removed. Looking for an upside? Apple claims the iPhone 7 is water resistant as a result (it’ll survive up to 30 minutes under water), though that doesn’t explain how the likes of Samsung kept the headphone jack while giving their phones similar water resistance.

Both the iPhone 7 (pictured) and iPhone 7 Plus are certified to withstand full submersion in water. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Both the iPhone 7 (pictured) and iPhone 7 Plus are certified to withstand full submersion in water. Image credit: Gordon Kelly


Of course what makes the iPhone SE so much smaller than the iPhone 7 is its display:

  • iPhone SE - 4-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD, 1136 x 640 pixels (326 ppi pixel density), 60.8% screen-to-body ratio
  • iPhone 7 - 4.7-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD, 1334 x 750 pixels (326 ppi), 65.6% screen-to-body ratio. 3D Touch

And yet this is arguably also the iPhone 7’s greatest advantage. Despite having identical pixel densities, the iPhone 7 has a much brighter display than the iPhone SE and its support for what Apple dubs ‘Wide Color’ (the DCI-P3 color space) means it is far more colour accurate as well. In fact it’s the most colour accurate smartphone display in the world.

Both iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus displays are bright, vivid and very color accurate pushing LCD to its limits. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Both iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus displays are bright, vivid and very color accurate pushing LCD to its limits. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

The iPhone 7 also carries forward support for 3D Touch from the iPhone 6S and which Apple surprisingly excluded from the iPhone SE (most likely to keep the price down). 3D Touch is a pressure sensitive technology which detects different strengths of press on the screen to create a raft of ‘peek and pop’ shortcuts (such as previewing emails or web links without opening them and creating app shortcuts like selfie and slo mo video modes on the camera icon).

Examples of 3D Touch in iOS. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Examples of 3D Touch in iOS. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

3D Touch splits opinion with some users finding it indispensable and others ignoring it to the extent they forget it is there (making what is and isn’t 3D Touch enabled a guessing game would help greatly). So its importance to you will be a crucial factor in which phone to choose.


The iPhone 7 is the fastest phone currently available, but before you reach for your wallet know this: the iPhone SE is also a flying machine. This is because it uses the same components as the still speedy iPhone 6S yet combines them with a less demanding, lower resolution display:

  • iPhone SE and iPhone 6S - Apple A9, CPU: Dual-core 1.84 GHz Twister, GPU: PowerVR GT7600 (six-core graphics), 2GB RAM
  • iPhone 7 - Apple A10 Fusion: Quad Core CPU, Six Core GPU, 2GB RAM

Of course the iPhone 7 does have an advantage. Apple says the iPhone 7’s CPU and GPU deliver 40% and 50% performance boosts respectively. This will be well worth the extra money to power users and serious mobile gamers, but for everyone else you’ll be happy to know both phones race along and neither is likely to be troubled for anything iOS apps will throw at them for several years.

The A10 Fusion chipset makes the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Apple's fastest ever iPhones and the fastest smartphones currently available. Image credit: Apple

The A10 Fusion chipset makes the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Apple's fastest ever iPhones and the fastest smartphones currently available. Image credit: Apple

There are other differences. The iPhone 7 has a 450Mbit 4G compatible modem whereas the iPhone SE oddly uses the older iPhone 6 150Mbit part, though this is unlikely to be a problem unless you live in an area with extremely fast 4G.

Similarly the iPhone SE uses the iPhone 6’s first generation Touch ID fingerprint sensor while the iPhone 7 keeps the second generation Touch ID sensor from the iPhone 6S. Does this matter? Not really, the iPhone 7 is that little bit quicker at fingerprint recognition but both are extremely fast and very accurate.


The camera is perhaps the biggest factor in determining smartphone updates these days, so should you pick the iPhone 7 for its heavily marketed camera advancements? You might be surprised learn that the answer is: not necessarily.

Apple promises game changing cameras in the iPhone 7 and (in particular) the dual camera iPhone 7 Plus, but do they deliver? Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Apple promises game changing cameras in the iPhone 7 and (in particular) the dual camera iPhone 7 Plus, but do they deliver? Image credit: Gordon Kell

  • iPhone SE – Rear: 12 megapixel sensor, f2.2 aperture, Focus Pixels, EIS, dual-LED flash, 4K video recording. Front: 1.2MP Front Camera, f2.4 aperture, 720p video recording
  • iPhone 7 - Rear: 12 megapixel wide angle sensor, f/1.8 aperture, Focus Pixels, Optical Image Stabilisation, quad-LED (dual tone) flash, 4K video recording. Front: 7MP sensor, f/2.2 aperture, 1080p recording

As you’ll spot, the real differentiator here is actually the front facing camera since the iPhone SE disappointingly retains the substandard front camera from the iPhone 6. That’s a real shame. The iPhone 7 front camera isn’t class leading, but it is far superior.

iPhone 6S (left) and iPhone SE (right) produce identical results. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

iPhone 6S (left) and iPhone SE (right) produce identical results. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

That aside both phones’ main rear shooters produce very similar results because the iPhone 7 isn’t quite as revolutionary as Apple would like you to believe. Low light photography is where the biggest advancements lie thanks to a combination of a higher aperture (f/1.8 vs f/2.2) and the addition of optical image stabilisation (OIS) which allows for longer exposures.

Despite this the iPhone 7 is still comfortably behind the Galaxy S7 and, most significantly, Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL in the photographic stakes and the iPhone SE remains an excellent shooter. So only camera aficionados wedded to the iOS platform need to make this the deciding factor.

Right now the Google Pixel is clearly the best smartphone camera with the Galaxy S7 second and the iPhone 7 in third place. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Right now the Google Pixel is clearly the best smartphone camera with the Galaxy S7 second and the iPhone 7 in third place. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

Battery Life And Charging

And it is perhaps here that the iPhone SE delivers the biggest surprise of them all because, despite a smaller capacity (1642 mAh vs 1960 mAh), it offers considerably better battery life than the iPhone 7.

The reason for this is its smaller, lower resolution display. Displays still consume most battery power while the iPhone SE also needs to drive less pixels to power it. Consequently even Apple’s official specifications pageadmits you’ll get an extra hour on the iPhone SE when surfing the web using 4G and up to 10 hours additional music playback.

Personally I find the differences to be even greater than this.

The iPhone 7 lacks a headphone jack (unlike most rivals) meaning you can charge it and use wired headphones at the same time. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

The iPhone 7 lacks a headphone jack (unlike most rivals) meaning you can charge it and use wired headphones at the same time. Image credit: Gordon Kelly

The iPhone SE will comfortably get me through a day whereas the iPhone 7 nearly always requires charging by mid to late afternoon. Given neither phone supports fast charging out the box (you’ll need to buy an iPad charger separately for a moderate improvement), this makes ‘splash and dash’ charging less effective and the importance of the iPhone SE’s greater staying power all the more useful.

Storage And Price

Easily the best thing about the iPhone SE and perhaps its greatest differentiator is price, but the iPhone 7 does come with bigger storage options:

  • iPhone SE - 16GB ($399), 64GB ($499)
  • iPhone 7 - 32GB ($649), 128GB ($749), 256GB ($849)

With 16GB all but useless given the iPhone SE’s advanced camera and 4K video, the 64GB option is the clear sweet spot and since this is $150 less and twice the storage of the entry level 32GB iPhone 7 it becomes a very tempting budget friendly option. Especially for those who want to retain the 3.5mm headphone jack.

As for the iPhone 7, the $749 128GB option is the clear standout for most customers. Note most buyers outside the US will find prices higher than this, in particular the UK and India where Apple increased prices dramatically this year.

iPhone SE vs iPhone 7 Plus (proportional size difference). My tip is to buy one of these phones and skip the iPhone 7. Image credit: Apple

iPhone SE vs iPhone 7 Plus (proportional size difference). My tip is to buy one of these phones and skip the iPhone 7. Image credit: Apple

Bottom Line

Aside from the disappointing front camera, the iPhone SE is almost a perfect budget iPhone. It’s compact, fast, long lasting and takes great photos. By contrast the iPhone 7 is more divisive with its omitted headphone jack and relatively modest camera upgrade.

Consequently my recommendation is simple: go small (iPhone SE) or - if you have the money to spend - go big for the iPhone 7 Plus which has a superior display, clever dual rear camera and vastly better battery life that easily justifies its additional $100 outlay at each storage capacity.

For me the iPhone 7 is a phone caught in no man’s land. Easily outclassed by its bigger brother at the high end and not offering anywhere near the bang for your buck of the iPhone SE.

Author : Gordon Kelly

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2016/11/05/iphone-7-vs-iphone-se-whats-the-difference/#cebd40d1a8bd

 Google Trends is a unique and useful tool for journalists to keep track of what people want to know about. But it’s also invaluable for companies watching their brand health and analyzing consumer interests for the purposes of content creation – even though most users only scratch the surface of the wealth of information Google Trends has to offer.

That being said, here are seven ways to use Google Trends you’ve never thought of before, leveraging some of the service’s newly released and often-underused features:

Dig deeper into trending topics

Google Trends now boasts a “story-centric” homepage, where it aggregates data from Google Search, YouTube and Google News and ranks the most searched for stories. This is by far the most comprehensive trends aggregate you’ll find on the web.

So if I click on iOS Apple Inc., which is number 3 on the trending list above, I’m taken to a dashboard about the story everyone’s talking about: a security flaw in iOS 9 & iOS 9.0.1.

The dashboard shows me the relevant articles on the topic, a trending video, as well as changes in interest in the topic over the past few days

trending list

If your business is in the tech niche, then this would be a great opportunity for content creation – posting a piece on a widely trending topic will help draw traffic to your site. You can even make sure that you capitalize on the topic when you see evidence that interest is growing.

Find real-time marketing opportunities

Google Trends is now offering minute-by-minute, real-time data from more than 100-billion searches through the engine monthly, which allows you to evaluate search trends during different times, or even at major events, such as the Oscars or the World Cup. You can choose any time period from the past week to see the minute-by-minute data.

So how can you use this data for real-time marketing? By watching spikes in search terms during major events, you can quickly determine what topics are grabbing people’s interest.

A classic example of real-time marketing using Google Trends information comes from Oreo’s timely tweet during Super Bowl in 2013, when the lights went out in the New Orleans Superdome for 34 minutes.

Oreo’s marketing team threw this ad together on the fly. Twitter users loved it and shared it — the single tweet has had more than 15,000 retweets up to today.

Think about events that would be a good marketing venue for your brand and look for fast opportunities to employ real-time marketing to increase your brand’s reach on social media.

Research niche topics by geography

Now, you can search for just about any topic in Google Trends and see the popularity of the topic in searches by geography. If you haven’t started a local marketing campaign yet, this is a great place to begin. If you’re hoping to expand or improve it, this is also a great resource.

Let’s say I’m an organic chicken distributor looking to expand my business. Where should I set up shop?

Just type “organic chicken” into Google Trends and it comes up with helpful data about regional interest in the search term, including a ranking of search by city.

Google Trends

So if I already have locations in Vancouver, Portland and Seattle, San Francisco might be a viable option for me.

I can also dig deeper by scrolling down and looking at the related searches that might apply to my product (such as “buy organic chicken”) or other products I offer (“organic chicken food”).

google trends 2

Click on any of these items to see their niche topic details, including super-helpful geographic data.

Research brand health

Google Trends is a great way for larger brands to understand their brand health compared to their competitors. This kind of information can help inform where companies need to work harder to increase their influence.

Let’s say I work with Nissan, and I want to see how our brand measures up to other auto companies in the state of Florida. I just set the following terms on my Google Trends search:Google Trends search

Google Trends search

And instantly, I can see the top auto/vehicle queries for Florida in the last 30 days.

Looks like Ford, Honda and Toyota are doing better in this state, so I know I’ve got some work ahead of me. Depending on the goals you have for your brand, you can also search by certain city in Florida, by the entire US, by a different country, or worldwide.

Research local shopping trends

Another great (and underused) feature of Google Trends is the ability to search for shopping trends in isolation. This data will show you consumers’ purchasing intent for different searches. If you’re a realtor, or looking to be one, this kind of information can be very valuable.

Check out this map put together by Benjamin Spiegel from Marketing Land:

To create this compelling graphic, he searched Google Shopping for the highest purchase intent for beauty products for each state last February. The resulting map shows us the products people most want to buy in these states.

If you sell beauty products, this data could show you where you’ll get the most value for your advertising spend. Adjust your marketing and content campaigns to match the demand in each market.

Brainstorm content with Google Correlate

Google Correlate can help you figure out what topics people want to read about, which can ultimately help you figure out what topics you should be writing about, or how to relate a topic to others that people are interested in.

Using Google Correlate, you can find associations between search trends and any other data point that you want to write about. It’s the only tool on the internet that can do this with search data, yet it goes largely unused.

The Google tutorial explains that Correlate is like the opposite of Trends:

Google Correlate is like Google Trends in reverse. With Google Trends, you type in a query and get back a data series of activity (over time or in each US state). With Google Correlate, you enter a data series (the target) and get back a list of queries whose data series follows a similar pattern.

Let’s say I run a niche blog for baking recipes, and I want to draw more traffic to my site. I can type “baking” into Google Correlate:

And I see instantly that baking has a pretty high correlation with the search terms “egg free,” “sausage,” and “broccoli.” Knowing this, I might decide to write up some new recipes with these ingredients in mind, since that’s where search interest lies.

If you’re statistically inclined, Google Correlate even allows you to upload your own dataset to see what search terms correlate with it. Just click the “Enter your own data” link next to the search bar and upload your Excel file.

Let Google do the analysis for you

In a recent change to Google Trends, the Google News Lab has begun doing their own analyses of trending stories every day and offering useful information about the topics, which you can download from the Google Trends Datastore. If you’re a journalist or content creator, or if you have one on your team, this can be an invaluable tool.

What if I’m writing a story about the latest GOP debate? I can use this tool to find data about the most searched for GOP candidate by county, the debate issues ranking by minute, and the candidates’ rankings post-debate, among many other relevant topics that can serve as useful statistics to add meat to the story.

This is a great way to add credibility to what I’m going to say in a written piece about public interest, without waiting for the next Gallop Poll.

So those are my favorite seven new or underused features of Google Trends that you can use to develop a marketing strategy, improve your SEO, or brainstorm content.

It might be difficult to visualize how exactly you can apply these tools to your own business goals, which is why I recommend trying them out and checking back often – opportunities will arise and the ways to stay on top of the game are endless.

Have you ever experimented with these Google Trends features? Have another great tool to share? Leave me a note in the comments section below:

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Author: Aaron Agius

Source: http://www.advancedwebranking.com

Thursday, 08 December 2016 07:20

The Dark Net: SA's market place for sin

It looks innocent enough, that little green "g" icon in the top corner of your computer screen — exactly like the old Google one. Except, it isn’t. On it you’ll find another world — a mire of avarice and lust, wrath and envy.

This is the Dark Web, or Dark Net, a manifestation of forbidden fantasies in pixels and binary coding, a search engine for sin.

Want to ferret money offshore illegally? Indulge sexual proclivities that aren’t discussed in polite society? Need a guy to do you a favour involving some kneecapping? The Dark Web offers it all, though clunkily.

In this case, that "g" refers to "Grams" — a search engine on the Dark Net, for all the different marketplaces that exist in this more open but hidden corner of the Internet.

Type in an innocuous word such as "light", and these are the results: a bargain rate on 1g of light brown heroin (from a trusted dealer in Norway), or an LED lamp guaranteed to help you clone credit cards.

If you’re looking for something specific — say, cocaine, heroin, fake IDs, stolen bank cards,  counterfeit money, or even prescription drugs — it’s all here, accessible even from the southern tip of Africa.

On one level, the Dark Net is a libertarian’s dream, a thumping triumph of free-market principles unfettered by nosy government or any other intervention whatsoever. Only, put this argument under a microscope, and it starts to unravel.

On some Dark Net sites, it’s a bit of a Kafkaesque twist on Amazon.

Marketplaces with names like Agora, The Majestic Garden, Oasis, AlphaBay and Hansa offer anything from a tutorial on how to become a fake Uber driver (only 99c), instructions on how to make a bomb to a how-to on forging a UK passport.

Is the new guy in the office stealing your thunder? Is a politician stressing you out? No problem — hire a hitman, who’ll break bones to specifications — US$3,000 to maim someone, $10,000 to assassinate him. Up to $180,000 if he’s high-profile.

There are other, perhaps more surprising, criminal activities.

For example, company officials sell information to traders, which allows them to make a killing by insider trading. (Imagine, for example, what those who knew of Nhlanhla Nene’s sacking weeks in advance could have made?)

While you might think SA is so far behind the digital curve that this is purely of academic interest, many of these services are available in this country. And the Dark Net provides an equally alluring avenue for SA’s crooks to peddle their products — extending their reach globally to make a killing.

The Hawks, the priority crime directorate inside the SA Police Service, told the Financial Mail that between 8,000 and 9,000 South Africans routinely use the Dark Net. And that number is growing.

"Especially when you consider the sort of crimes, it’s heinous. It’s not petty theft, it is all your socially damaging crimes — child pornography, drug trade, human trafficking, renting a hitman," says one officer.

This increase in SA means the Dark Net is "starting to look like a threat" to society, the Hawks add.

To get a better understanding of how real this threat is, the Financial Mail spent the past month trawling various websites inside the Dark Net. What we found was alarming.

On the Hansa marketplace, you’ll find a vendor selling a strain of weed called Royal Swazi, shipped from SA.

There, 60g will set you back $150 (R2,100), which is many times what street dealers would get locally.

An Amazon-style website provides a detailed description of how it is grown near Piggs Peak in Swaziland, and a list of terms and conditions that seem rather odd for a website operating on the fringes of legality.

As an evidently civic-minded dope dealer, for example, it specifies "no under-21s", and asserts the "right to cancel" any order — though one wonders which court it would approach to invoke that right. And it promises to deliver within 35 days.

As data intelligence consultancy Terbium Labs explains in a report this month: "The Dark Net drug trade, if we can call it that, is far more organised and mundane than you might expect ... reviews follow a standard template, where users rank the stealth, shipping time, purity, high, and overall experience."

Surf over to another website, and an SA vendor offers to ship 20g of amphetamine sulphate (a variation of "tik") for $285. Like a traditional Amazon webpage, the feedback section has gushing reviews from users.

Evidently, some SA merchants are now making a killing thanks to the Dark Net. On the other side of the coin, experts say a large number of South Africans are using the Dark Net to buy products too, including drugs.

This isn’t as difficult as you might think. You use special software and a special Web browser (usually Tor) to mask your identity and location.

From there, it’s easy pickings.

Most websites say they deliver worldwide. Vendors who deliver to SA include companies that peddle MDMA (ecstasy), fake €50 notes, drivers’ licences and ID cards for most nationalities, and fake credit cards.

In other instances, SA-issued bank cards, with their pins, are being sold, listing the amount available in the account for criminals seeking to duplicate the cards. [Typically, you pay 10% of what’s in the account].

While "assassination websites" aren’t hard to find, it’s unclear whether these "hits" are actually carried out. The "Besa Mafia" site, which offered to "kill people or beat the shit out of him", turned out to be an elaborate scam to swindle Bitcoins.

However, at least one other assassination website offered its services in SA, though it warned it didn’t offer an "extensive service" in this country.

The man behind the largest search engine on the Dark Net, who spoke to the Financial Mail (but who asked not to be named), says the amount of money being spent on the Dark Net makes it a huge global market.

"These dark markets are serious players. When you are dealing with seven or eight-figure dollar values — more than $1m — and (the markets are getting between) 5% and 10% commission, that’s significant money."

SA, he says, is still far behind other global destinations for Dark Net commerce, with not too many SA credit cards being found on the websites.

One reason, he says, is that shipping to and from SA is more risky. "It is very difficult to participate in these dark markets [as an SA] merchant, but as a buyer there is this total problem [that] shipping to SA sucks — it’s awful and that in a way has protected it."

In the US, he says, shipping happens through private agencies like FedEx.

"Now if you ship to SA, no-one is going to pay the overhead of shipping, so they will put it in a standard box and send it. But now you are entering the government space [as the Post Office is state-owned]," he says.

So what, in fact, is the Dark Net?

Perhaps most literally, it is the Internet below the Internet you know. Most people don’t know it, but the Internet they use — Google, company websites, news sites or banking sites — represents just 1% of the entire Internet traffic out there.

Prof Martin Olivier from the University of Pretoria’s computer science department, compares the traditional World Wide Web to driving around Sandton: you see the corporate headquarters of SA’s top companies but you know that inside those buildings are areas that are access-controlled, which you don’t see.

Those access-controlled areas are a deeper layer most people don’t see, known as the Deep Web. One layer below that, even more hidden, is the Dark Net.

Olivier says the Dark Net is like islands in the sea of the Internet, unlinked to anything else, a perfect place to hide anything known only to the person who hid it and whoever he shared it with. "It is like any secret place: what you do with it depends on what your motives are."

For criminals, the attraction is obvious.

As Troels Oerting, a director of European crime fighting agency Europol, told Jane’s Intelligence Review in 2014: "[Buyers can] get the illegal commodity delivered risk-free to a place of their choice by the mailman or a courier, or maybe by drone in the future, and can pay with virtual currency and in full anonymity, without the police being able to identify either the buyer or the seller."

What makes the Dark Net dark is the hidden service protocol, which lets anyone make a website or messaging server to communicate anonymously. Normally an authority can take a website down for breaking the law, but on the Dark Net a site remains up because there is no central figure with the power to take it down.

On any given day, there are about 4,000 hidden services available on the Dark Net, 40% more than four years ago. But Dark Net sites are ephemeral — on and off constantly, never all on at the same time. Tor is used by about 2m people a day while about 250,000 people a day make use of the hidden services search engine, says one Dark Net operator.

By sharing your site’s public key, a 16-digit address made up of numbers and letters, you invite people to your site. For example, journalism service ProPublica (which is legal) uses the key: propub3r6espa33w.onion.

While the hitmen, drugs and porn dealers are obviously the most eye-catching corners of the Deep Web, not all of it is illegal.

A study released this month by Terbium Labs that looked at 400 sites shows that 54.5% of all content on the Dark Net is legal: security warnings, political party activism, community groups for people who distrust the authorities.

Some more notable sites include WikiLeaks (a legal site) or Sci-Hub (less legitimate, if more benign than some), which provides 58m academic papers free-of-charge, which were taken from institutions. Surprisingly, the Dark Net has extensive eBook libraries on subjects as un-criminal as investigative journalism.

Of the rest, illegal drugs accounted for 12%, pharmaceutical drugs (like human growth hormone) 3%, illicit marketplaces (where anything from drugs to porn are sold) 6.5%, hacking (selling ransomware kits or other tools) 1.25% and another 1.25% are concerned with outright fraud (selling bank accounts, for example).

Then, most distressingly, 1% involves a category called "exploitation" – sites targeted at children. "This is a legitimate and real concern on the Dark Net and is not as infrequent as you might hope it to be," say the Terbium researchers.

The paedophiles are, with good reason, the most reviled of the Dark Web’s communities, serving an estimated global network of 500,000 people.

Says one Dark Net operator: "These guys have serious emotional problems.

"They have all these levelling systems [which measure trust between users] and they are creating original content. They are serious producers of child pornography and they charge a lot of money."

This, to many, is the real disease of the Dark Net. "It is overwhelmingly infested with the dregs of society, looking for children in pain, and that is the hardest thing to come to grips with: that the majority of users are looking for abused children," he says.

The libertarian notion that the Dark Net is simply about free "choice" is demolished by the fact that it is largely a refuge for some of the most wicked elements of society.

Stock manipulation is also a growing market. On one site, says the operator, you would pay a buy-in fee to collude with other traders to pump and dump stocks.

The Hawks, which has a cybercrime unit dedicated to trawling the Dark Net for illicit behaviour, believes a large number of the 8,000 to 9,000 South Africans who use it do so for criminal purposes.

Brigadier Piet Pieterse, head of the Hawks unit, says that in SA the Dark Net is mostly used to share images of child pornography, mass marketing fraud, sell drugs and barter illegally obtained credit card information.

Pieterse says the applications of what the Dark Net could be used for are endless. It could hypothetically disrupt SA’s already fraught government tender processes, giving buyers an advantage.

Other policemen say it is surprising how often classified government documents are posted on the Dark Net.

An officer in Pieterse’s unit (who did not want to be named as it could compromise his investigations) says many people — even in government — just don’t understand the threat the Dark Net poses for SA.

"No-one really understands what it is about and the impact it has," she adds.

Either way, the Dark Net has the potential to do deep damage in a society where the law-enforcement authorities are already struggling to investigate and hold criminals accountable for crime in the physical world.

Incidents of South Africans seeing their computers "hijacked" and then "ransomed" back to them by hackers are also becoming more common.

Typically, the computer freezes and a message pops up saying that if the users want all their files to be "released", they need to pay a specific amount in Bitcoins to a specified e-wallet. These ransomware kits are frequently sold on the Dark Net, often by Russian or East European hacking outfits. As Time magazine reported, these hackers are not going after the heavily fortified systems of banks or corporations but "straight for easy targets: small businesses, schools, hospitals, and computer users like us".

How are they getting away with it?

What’s most extraordinary about the Dark Net is that this illicit trade is being conducted under the noses of law enforcement agencies across the world, who seem powerless to stop it.

Intuitively, you’d imagine police should be able to track purchases and effect arrests down the supply chain. But it’s not that simple. Sellers post goods using vacuum-sealed fingerprint-free bags (often dipped in bleach as a further precaution), with printed labels. About 90% of shipments get through, The Economist has estimated.

For extra security, merchants change their Web addresses from time to time to keep unwarranted snoops (journalists or cops) away. The URLs aren’t straight-forward, using a jumble of letters and numbers.

The Tor browser, which hides the user’s location and masks what someone is searching for, introduces an added challenge for the police. Olivier uses the analogy of passing a letter in an envelope around a circle of anonymous people in different locations in which each person puts the letter in another envelope – making it impossible to tell where it originated from.

The distribution network works so well because it relies on a system of favours and trust – the old "honour among thieves". Criminals feel comfortable there, say the Hawks, because they "trust each other".

So, someone can order cocaine from one of the US marketplaces for delivery in Johannesburg. Payment is made through a crypto currency — most often, Bitcoins, which is a decentralised, anonymous and reputable transaction gateway which isn’t controlled by an accountable central institution. Bitcoins are then deposited into a seller’s "virtual wallet" and within a short time the drugs are delivered.

Says a Hawks officer: "The guy delivering the drugs is unlikely to know what he is dropping off or why. He most likely doesn’t have criminal intent but he got a call asking him to make the delivery if he wants his debt forgiven."

Yet the Dark Net isn’t entirely accountability-free, as the case of Silk Road illustrates. Silk Road was the most popular black market website, flogging everything from drugs to hitmen.

But in 2013 its founder, Ross Ulbricht (pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts), was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. He later claimed his motive with Silk Road was "about giving people the freedom to make their own choices".

Today, if you link to the original Silk Road, all you see is an image stating "the hidden site has been seized" and the FBI logo.

Interestingly, not every illicit marketplace is utterly without conscience. Silk Road, for example, said it would sell only "victimless" contraband, while other sites refused to sell weapons or poison. One marketplace, Evolution (which has also closed), refused to sell "child pornography, services related to murder, assassination, terrorism, prostitution, Ponzi schemes and lotteries", reports Wired magazine. Yet it did allow credit-card data to be sold.

All of which leaves SA’s law-enforcement authorities, who these days seem caught up in playing politics, quite jittery. The State Security Agency (SSA), like the Hawks, has been trying to keep an eye on the Dark Net. But, says spokesman Brian Dube, it’s tricky to trace shady transactions that use Bitcoins.

Quite how much money is involved is unclear. But one company that conducts research into the Dark Net, law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, estimates it could run into billions of dollars.

Dube says the SSA monitors channels used on the Dark Net to look for any mention of terrorist attacks planned against SA infrastructure. This isn’t so far-fetched, he says, as there are certain sites that offer services for terrorist organisations. Most simply spread propaganda and act as a communications hub — a kind of Facebook for terrorists. But terrorist cells are increasingly recruiting through the Dark Net.

Equally, the classified documents posted online — often obtained through hacks, theft, or disgruntled employees — are often impossible to remove.

"As soon as the information is made public this ‘confidential’ information is copied, saved and viewed by thousands of people, making the managing of this type of information leak impossible," says Dube.

This is perhaps one of the more benevolent uses of the Dark Net – a safe place for whistle-blowers to post documents without fearing recrimination from zealous politicians seeking to target them.

Prof Basie von Solms, director of the Centre for Cyber Security, says if you are a whistle-blower the Dark Net is the safest bet. "That is the place you will probably make it available or even put it up for sale and make a buck," says Von Solms.

One policewoman who spoke to us anonymously says the growth in the Dark Net in SA is a reaction to government’s desire to impose more controls on the Internet by policing it more vigorously. The more draconian these laws become, the bigger it will grow. "You limit freedom and people will always seek out places to live out those freedoms, whether criminal or not."

It’s a noble sentiment, suggesting a higher raison d’être for the Dark Net. But the most depraved fringes of this hidden Internet world make it more of a menace than a saviour right now.

What it means: The "free choice" notion is demolished by the fact that it is a refuge for some of the most wicked elements of society.

Source : http://www.financialmail.co.za/

Saturday, 03 December 2016 06:57

50 Ways to Make an Extra $100 Today

If I offered you an extra $100 today, would you take it? I know I would. Extra cash always comes in handy.

American budgets across the country could use a cash influx. Last year the average American spent $805 on holiday spending. Coming up with an extra $100 today is a great way to ease holiday costs or beef up savings.

Many people focus on saving money, but increasing your income is the other side of that coin. You can utilize your skills, your social media or your free time to make a little extra green today.

Put social media skills to work

Sell photos: If you’re big into Instagram, try selling some photos. Stock photo sites hire photographers.

Sponsored posts: If you’ve got a large following, brands will pay to get access to them. You can charge per post, or set up a long-term agreement with a company.

Host an event: Sell tickets to an event where you help people build their social media followings. If you’re a whiz, people will pay for your knowledge!

Work as a freelance virtual assistant: You can use your skills to build a company’s social media. You can charge $30 an hour easily, and make $100 in less than four hours.

Do a social media audit: Charge a flat fee to examine a person or company’s social media accounts and suggest ways for them to grow. Give them detailed feedback, and hard data to really provide value.

Take care of someone

Babysit: Babysitting is cold, hard cash just there for the taking. You can find families that need a sitter by asking friends, or joining a site like Sitter City. Six and a half hours at $16 an hour gets you to $100!

Housesitting: Similarly, housesitting can be a way to score a bit of cash. Ask co-workers or friends if they need a housesitter, or check out websites like Caretaker.org.

Pet sitting: People love their pets, and you can turn that love into a career. People make full time salaries from pet sitting. 

Dog walking: Spend some time with cute dogs, get some exercise and get paid. Dog walkers make an average of $10-$30 an hour.

Mover: Everyone hates moving. I know I’l pay a premium to not have to do all the lugging myself. This is a great way to get some serious exercise and make some extra cash.

Host family: Become a host family for a foreign exchange student.

Make shopping work for you

ReceiptHog.com: This company will pay you to shop literally anywhere. Take a picture of the receipt and submit it. They use the data for market research and you make money.

Ebates.com: Ebates will also pay you for shopping. Shop at a store through their links and you’ll earn a percentage back. Percents can range from 2 percent to 12 percent, and they often do double cash back deals

Swagbucks.com: On the internet all day? (Who isn’t?) Swagbucks will pay you to take surveys, watch videos or shop. Get paid while feeding your internet addiction.

Surveysays.com: Take surveys and get paid!

SurveyJunkie.comOpinionated? Here's another site that will pay to hear your thoughts.

Research studies: One of the most popular ways to make extra cash is to participate in research studies. What you make can range hugely. You get more for overnights, even into thousands. Robert Rodriguez partly financed his first film with money from medical research.

Sell unused gift cards: Sites like cardwoo.com will buy gift cards with at least $20 on them for cash.

Secret shopper: One of the best ways to make money on the side is to be a secret shopper. You’ll provide feedbak on employees, store cleanliness and apparel, and get paid for it.

Instacart: Deliver food with Instacart. You’ll take a mini quiz and go through a phone interview, and then you’ll be a one person food delivery truck.

Work online

There’s a lot of ways to make money online. Find your strength and play to it.

Freelancing: Offer freelance services for something you’re good at. Photography, writing, editing can all be done online. Freelancing means you can set your own rates, so you can make that $100 with one project.

Raise your rates: Already a freelancer? Raise your rates. You should do this annually with each client. It’s a simple way to put more cash in your wallet today.

Rent out your car: If you’re not a big driver or have a second car, you can rent it out on sites like Turo. It’s like Airbnb for your car.

Sell your crafts: Make money off your art! You can open a whole store on Etsy, or you can simply list your items on Craigslist.

Fiverr: A very popular way to sell services online is Fiverr. You can offer design, editing, music, animation…if you’ve got a skill, you can sell it on Fiverr.

Write: If you don’t want to go freelance full time or build a side business, you can still make some quick cash by writing occasionally. For example, the book series Chicken Soup for the Soul pays $200 per selected story. 

Old school money making ideas

The great thing about these ideas is that you can set your own price on your labor or your things.

Rake leaves: People will pay good money not to have to rake, bag and cart off the leaves that pile up from those trees this time of year.

Shovel snow: Similarly, if it’s snowing in your area already, grab a shovel and clear some driveways.

Clean out the closet: Sell your gently used clothes to second-hand stores. You’ll create space and generate some cash.

Have a yard sale: If you want to get rid of more than just clothes, have a good old fashioned yard sale. Invite your neighbors to take part to increase your visibility and get more people to stop.

Clean gutters: Another seasonal side hustle is cleaning gutters. People hate to do it themselves, and it’s the perfect time of year to get it done.

Rent your driveway: Small living is very in at the moment. Someone with a tiny house or living in an RV will pay you to keep their home in your driveway.

Rent your garage: If your garage is just playing host to your old junk, put that space to work. People will pay to store their cars there, or to use it as an office if it has electricity.

Clean houses: House cleaning is a task many people outsource, so there’s lots of demand. If you don’t mind the dusting and scrubbing it entails, you can easily make $100 to clean one house.

Fix cars: Become your neighborhood mechanic and fix neighbors' and friends' cars. 

Event planning: Putting together an event is no joke, and you can charge accordingly. Birthday parties, retirement parties or even big weddings will make you plenty of cash.

Teach others

Have a skill that other’s are dying to learn? Put that to use and make some cash.

Tutor: Set up hours at a local library and advertise online and with fliers. Tutors can make $25-$35 easily.

Coach: Contact local high schools and see if they need a sports coach. They usually come with a monthly stipend, but some places will pay hourly.

Referee: Becoming a certified referee usually takes some cash upfront, but you can make a wonderful hourly rate being a ref.

Teach English: You can offer private English lessons to people who want to improve their skills.

Edit: You can edit students' papers for a fee. Some consultants make upwards of $50/hr.

Music lessons: If you play an instrument you can charge anywhere from $25-$50 an hour for lessons.

Cooking lessons: If you’re a whiz in the kitchen, offer small cooking classes at your home. Or you can offer private cooking lessons. Especially around the holidays, people will pay to know how to make a turkey and a pumpkin pie.

Miscellaneous ideas

Sell your stuff: You can sell clothes, furniture or books pretty much anywhere. Ebay and Craigslists are classics but try the new app letgo. Just upload a photo of your item and let people come to you.

Write to Congress: You can get paid to write letters to Congress! If you have good writing skills and a passion for it, this is a great side hustle.

Mock juror: I know people hate jury duty, but you can make between $10-$60 an hour to serve on a mock jury.

Handyman (or woman): If you’re handy around the house, sell your skills to the world.

Organize: Similar to cleaning someone’s house, some people will pay for you to organize them. If you’re a neat freak, put those skills to use.

Lemonade stand: Or a water stand, or a tea stand! Better with cute children, but not impossible for adults. Sell water at a stadium on game day and capitalize on the hoards of people.

Sell ads on your car: We’ve all seen the cars with the ads plastered on them. If you’re fine with it, you can make $200-$400 a month just for driving around.

Session musician: Recording artists need musicians to play at their studio sessions. If you’re talented and happy to play someone else’s music, this can be a very lucrative gig.

Sell your jewelry: Precious metals and stones are always in demand. Turn those pieces of jewelry that you never use into cash you can use today. Pawn shops and jewelry stores are good places to start.

Write resumes: You can charge a flat fee to help people get their resumes looking professional.

Use your trivia knowledge: Some cities or companies host trivia nights that reward you with cold, hard cash. The Big Quiz in NYC offers $100 and $200 in prizes.

As you can see, there’s always a way to make a little extra cash. Turn your skills or your stuff into extra money today.

Source : https://www.entrepreneur.com

Friday, 25 November 2016 02:53

India’s tech bubble is about to burst

The Silicon Valley “tech bubble” is a popular topic of discussion among business pundits, entrepreneurs and analysts who have dissected and predicted the upcoming “burst” for nearly the last decade. For all the talk of winter is coming and a slowdown in private capital markets, it’s hard to say if, or when, this will ever come to a head — at least in Silicon Valley.

But there’s no question a tech bubble is emerging, just not where you might think.

India’s tech bubble

Overvalued startups focused on growth over revenue are a problem that stretches far beyond U.S. borders, and it’s an even bigger problem in India. Granted, a tech bubble bursting in India isn’t going to send shock waves through the ecosystem worldwide, let alone the public markets in that country, as it would in the U.S. However, it will impact the pace of innovation and investor risk appetite in the short-term in India and other emerging markets (other than China, the behemoth outlier) who share similar market characteristics (like Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria).

The successes — or failures — from what works for the Indian consumer in their home market translates to the rest of the world significantly more so than following the successful models of companies like AlibabaTencent and others in China. Even if you don’t care about other emerging markets, experts agree India will soon be the most important economy in the world.

Rural India goes mobile

Much of India’s future success depends on whether the government can leverage its demographic potential by training its workforce and providing adequate infrastructure for businesses. This challenge is compounded by where the growth in mobile consumers is occurring. According to The Economist, India will see more people come online in the next 15 years than any other country, with the majority of that growth coming from rural, not urban areas.

These new mobile consumers will generally be poorer and lack the purchasing power needed to support a booming tech sector. While India’s internet and smartphone penetration is growing incredibly fast, this does not directly translate either into users having the ability to buy voraciously like their Chinese counterparts or new companies able to deliver goods in a timely fashion to rural communities.

More to the point, mobile data plans in India, like other emerging markets, do not make the robust use of the internet possible for the vast majority of people. That is not a simple problem to fix, but it is certainly easier to resolve than trying to improve livelihoods and logistics from the top down. Plus, the regulatory context in the country leaves a lot to be desired — just ask Facebook about “digital colonialism” related to its “Free Basics” initiative.

An inevitable burst

Morgan Stanley released a report earlier this year estimating e-commerce sales in India of $119 billion in 2020 — a seven-fold increase from its 2015 prediction. Travel is expected to account for 60 percent or more of e-commerce, with electronics coming in at 30 percent, according to the Boston Consulting Group and Retailers Association of India. A four- to seven-fold increase in market size does not seem too crazy — until you pair it with e-commerce startup valuations in India.

Look at the top e-commerce company in India — Flipkart, most recently valued at $15 billion. That is just shy of Morgan Stanley’s estimate for the entire e-commerce market in the country, and does not even include the next two competitors, Snapdeal and Amazon India. Flipkart has approximately 45 percent market share, which means the company should have roughly $7 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) in 2015 using Morgan Stanley’s calculations. So the company is basically valued at more than two times its GMV. But GMV is not sales or revenue to Flipkart; it is total sales of online products.

Another reason for the flood of investment into India is the fear of missing out — or FOMO.

Flipkart likely takes a nominal revenue share or take rate like Amazon does, but they also must shoulder significant user acquisition costs, meaning they are losing money on every transaction for the foreseeable future. Granted, this is not unlike Amazon’s past strategy, but Amazon was never valued at equal to the entire market’s value either. Add on the fact that approximately 40 percent of the market is non-travel and you have to wonder how these numbers add up. It is no surprise that Flipkart saw its valuation marked down by almost a quarter by three fund investors.

Another reason for the flood of investment into India is the fear of missing out — or FOMO — on something akin to China’s enormous success. In one camp, you have investors Naspers and Softbank whose portfolios include very successful bets in the Chinese and Indian markets (JD.com, Tencent and Flipkart for Naspers, and Alibaba and Snapdeal for Softbank). In the other camp, you have the investors like Amazon who misfired on Chinese growth and do not want to repeat past mistakes. Beyond that, there are local and international VC firms like Sequoia and Accel, as well as more opportunistic investors like Tiger Global that sense opportunity and do not want to be left out.

What’s next for unicorns in India

So what does this mean for the other unicorns in India? Investment in Indian startups decreased in the first half of 2016 to $2.1 billion, a 40 percent decline from the same period in 2015, when startups raised $3.5 billion. Anecdotally, it seems as though this retrenchment is not due to a reassessment of the startups in question but is part of a global reassessment of investor appetite for tech startups worldwide. It is likely that market leaders like Flipkart, Ola and others will get devalued markedly, but will continue to receive investor interest due to FOMO.

This does not portend well for the rest of Indian startups that are not No. 1 or No. 2 in their market segment. In addition, for some companies, it may be too early to dive into a fledgling market that lacks a needed expansion of the middle class. While e-commerce retailers and marketplaces can leverage technology to achieve low capital costs up and down the value chain, this is less true for food or grocery delivery companies that have to contend with India’s poor infrastructure.

When the number of turns per hour is the key metric for success and profit, logistics is critical. Add to that high user acquisition and retention costs thanks to innumerable discounts and subsidies, and it is hard to believe these burn rates can last much longer given the poor unit economics. Consider food delivery startup TinyOwl’s recent termination of 100 employees, shutting down operations in smaller cities and raising prices — that is likely just the beginning. When asked about those changes, TinyOwl CEO Harshvardhan Mandad said earnestly, “The market dynamics changed. People now want to invest in sustainable businesses.” When do they not?

Looking ahead

A potential bright spot is the crop of Indian startups that are taking the learnings from their home market and applying it to other, more mature markets while waiting for India to become viable. Zomato, for instance, a listings service for restaurants, expanded overseas from its New Delhi headquarters because the Indian market was too limited. Most of India’s restaurants are extremely inexpensive and a customer’s average ticket is too low to justify the support, whereas other parts of Asia and even Europe are much more ripe for the pickings. InMobi, a mobile advertising platform headquartered in Bengaluru is another Indian startup with substantial operations overseas, including the United States. Their motivation is simple: The mobile ad market is bigger outside India.

So how bad is the bubble in India? Is it at the point where Silicon Valley was in the dot-com bubble from 1999-2001? No. This is private market overvaluation, not public markets. But compared to the “bubble” we have in Silicon Valley, it is undoubtedly worse.

All said and done, India will be one of, if not the biggest, internet market of the future, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening anytime soon.

Source : https://techcrunch.com

Author : Dileepan Siva

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