Category Archives: Start ups

Tech Tools For the Blind And Deaf

“Desire2Learn’s blind workers help make better accessibility tools for classrooms,” reports Christina Farr of VentureBeat.

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Slow Media

Hamish McKenzie has a thoughtful piece at PandoDaily on the latent demand for “slow media.” By this he means digital books, long form reporting, and careful analysis, as opposed to the unceasing onslaught of crappy blog posts and zillions of shoddy articles that sites churn out to keep their “content” “fresh.”

Rather than lament the decline of literary culture, McKenzie frames the issue in terms of media economics. It’s not that people dislike reading top caliber, longer writing, it’s that no business model yet exists to fund such publishing endeavors. McKenzie discusses start ups that are attempting to create such a business model and explains how an assortment of existing strategies–affiliate links, sponsored content, pay walls, special events and memberships–are grasping for long term success.

Slow Media, on the other hand, has opportunities beyond display ads. It favors deep engagement rather than brief contact with ad meat. It trades on relationships with the audience rather than fleeting touches. It builds affinity rather than habits. So far, we have seen media owners struggle to monetize those differences, and so many instead rely on the mechanics of the now to generate mass as quickly as possible, even as the ad units upon which such an approach is predicated produce diminishing returns. In these early decades of the Internet, the economic disincentives for longform reporting or analysis have been too great. What may emerge, however, are new ways to unlock the power behind that deep engagement and loyalty.

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How To Make War on Patent Trolls

Author Tim Wu argues for policy reform on our patent system in the New Yorker’s Elements blog.

Patent infringement is easy to allege and expensive to disprove. The problem is compounded by the excessive leniency with which patents have been issued over the past two decades, particularly for software and high technology. That creates ripe and lucrative opportunities for blackmail and extortion. One recent study suggests trolling costs the U.S. economy close to thirty billion dollars a year. The mathematics of deterrence suggests that the government needs to make the life of a troll miserable instead of lucrative.

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LinkedIn Continues To Evolve

Mathew Ingram writes at paidContent

The site now offers “channels” or categories of news, much like a magazine would, and users can follow or subscribe to those channels, as well as to individual authors who are part of LinkedIn’s Influencer program, another relatively new addition.

When a user clicks on the News heading in their LinkedIn toolbar, they now get a splash screen that outlines the different categories or channels of news they can subscribe to. There are some fairly obvious examples such as Economy, Entrepreneurship and Leadership, as well as broader categories such as Healthcare, Technology and Social Media — and a few somewhat more unusual channels too, like “Things I Carry” and “My Best Career Mistake.”

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Memoto, The Lifelogging Camera

Memoto SXSW

Jenna Wortham/ The New York Times

Reporting from SXSW in Austin, Jenna Wortham sketches the new product from Memoto, a tiny, wearable camera that captures moments every 30 seconds.

Memoto’s camera hints at some of the issues that will emerge about privacy, ownership of data and social etiquette as automatic lifelogging devices like theirs, or Google Glass, become more prevalent in the wild. There are also larger questions about how secure the sensitive information captured on these devices will turn out to be, or what happens should these companies go out of business, potentially taking reservoirs of personal information captured over the years with them.


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App.Net Offers A New, Free Plan

“, the project that emerged from founder Dalton Caldwell’s desire to build a social platform that wasn’t driven by advertising, is adding its first free option today,” reports Anthony Ha of TechCrunch.

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Sparks Fly Between The New York Times And Tesla Motors: A Critical Car Review Becomes A Flame War

Last week John Broder of The New York Times wrote a critical review of Tesla Motor’s Model S electric car and the charging stations the company installed on the East Coast. Due to unusually cold weather and software issues, Broder’s planned trip from DC up I-95 ended on the back of a flatbed truck. (Actually, the truck drove Broder to a charging station, where he then finished the journey.)

In response to this review Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, wrote a harsh rejoinder to the Times where he accused Broder of purposefully sabotaging the ride. Musk uses charts and graphs to display the car’s locations, speeds and battery life and alleges that Broder failed to charge the car properly, drove at high speeds to deplete the battery, and at one point, spun around in a parking lot—all to kill the car. (Musk is a popular entrepreneur and a technology icon. His other business endeavor, SpaceX, manufactures rocket ships.)

The flame war continues.

Broder responded twice today. His second, more fully developed comeback is evenhanded and earnest. After sketching out his background at the Times and how this car review came to be, Broder goes point-by-point addressing each of Musk’s accusations. Where Musk says Broder drove around in circles, Broder says he was driving around trying to find the electric charging dock. (Much of the car’s lack of range is explained by the cold weather sapping life from the battery.)

And where Musk makes Broder out to be a petrol-Hummer-loving saboteur, Broder merely says, you’re supercharger network kinda sucks.

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Journalism Worthy Of Web Culture: Syria Deeply And The Single Story Website

Nieman Journalism Lab

Nieman Journalism Lab

In reporting war and conflict, the traditional news article can often be a detriment to understanding. By sketching narratives that any reader can understand, journalists often state and restate basic facts and storylines, leaving layered back-story or relevant tangents unwritten. New names, battlefields and rising death tolls are reported, but these are mere additions, extra sentences slapped on at the end.

What if instead, complex subjects were reported in an innovative way, using interactive timelines and maps where readers decide how “deep” they want to dive into a subject?

Lara Setrakian, founder of the website Syria Deeply, writes on the success of such a journalistic endeavor:

It is part news aggregator, part interactive backgrounder, part original reporting space. Most importantly, it aims to fuse all of the kinds of content that have become critical to this crisis: professional reporting, citizen journalism, and social media. We wanted to visualize more, convey greater nuance, and focus on civilian stories, rather than just emphasize the big shots and the battle action that normally lead our headlines.

And here is the actual site: Syria Deeply

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Response From A PPlanter Designer

After writing a post on the fascinating new PPlanter, one of their designers, Julia Schmitt, was kind enough to write in and provide some key details.

Hey there, I’m one of the PPlanter designers. To answer your question about how it works – there is a 5-layer filtration system built into the center module (where the urinal and sink are located) to help capture excess nutrients, pollutants, and salts prior to urine/sink-greywater being pumped into the bamboo planters. Indeed, you’re right – we could use the center urinal module with ANY nutrient/salt-tolerant plants. That’s part of what makes the system modular/reconfigurable as we describe it. For multiple urinal units, we could bring out 10+ bamboo planters, or just locate the urinal adjacent to a large garden, farm, or compost pile as long as there are plants that are nutrient/salt tolerant.

We like to point out that this project will initially be intended for festivals and food-truck confluences. Down the line, once we’ve gotten enough funding, fixed any bugs that exist, and made it more rugged, we could deploy it on streets for more permanent use by anyone and everyone.

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