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Archive for October, 2013

Nike’s latest online sales

October 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Nike’s latest online sales

WOW! Now you can get really expensive NIKE

shoes for only $80 to $160…Such a deal!

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What Sports Can Teach About the ‘Cautionary Side’ of Big Data

October 31, 2013 Leave a comment
images (2)

October 31, 2013, 5:00 am

By Marc Parry

Steve-Hirdt


Steve Hirdt

New York — When college officials talk about using “Big Data” to improve higher education—the focus of a SUNY conferencehere this week—they often draw an analogyto Moneyball. The movie recounts how Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, revived his ailing baseball team by analyzing data in new ways.

So what might sports teach higher education about data mining? In academe the stakes are higher than in baseball, but progress toward making good use of data has been uneven. Nonetheless, colleges are busy mining students’ data trails to build software that does things like suggest what mathematics problems they should work on or even what classes they should take.

During a panel on Wednesday about the “cautionary side” of Big Data, colleges got some insight from Steve Hirdt, a 45-year sports-data veteran who is executive vice president at the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician to the major North American professional sports leagues. Elias records game statistics—hits in baseball, yards gained in football, points scored in basketball, etc.—and supplies data to teams and news-media clients. When you watch Monday Night Football, Mr. Hirdt is the guy off camera feeding the announcer facts like “Seattle 135 yards: fewest for a winning team in the NFL in the last three years.”

Mr. Hirdt drew on his football and baseball data experience to give colleges two main warnings:

First off, what you initially find in a given data set may turn out to be flat-out wrong upon closer scrutiny. In professional football, for example, a lot of early analysis looked at the role of running, Mr. Hirdt explained in an interview with The Chronicle. The statistics sheets of winning teams would show that they had run the ball, say, 40 times, and passed it 25 times. Aha! Running is the key! “That simple principle—you have to run to win—was so ingrained in a generation of football coaches based on an early look at the data,” Mr. Hirdt said.

The reality was different. In football, Mr. Hirdt noted, if you run the ball, the game clock generally keeps going. If you pass the ball, the clock stops for every incomplete throw. Teams that get ahead, Mr. Hirdt said, run the ball toward the end of games in order to use up the remaining time. If you compare stats from the first half of games, before the time remaining becomes so important, the result is entirely different from the old running-equals-victory dogma, Mr. Hirdt said. “You can see then that the teams are achieving their lead through passing,” he said, “and they’re just accumulating more running plays at the end, when they’re just protecting their lead.”

“A wrong conclusion from a cursory look—to me that’s the real cautionary side of Big Data,” Mr. Hirdt said. “If Big Data is going to amplify the possibilities for misapplication, as well as the possibilities for application, we might be in for a little bit of a rocky road.”

Mr. Hirdt’s second warning: Beware of basing decisions on averages.

He illustrated that point with a story from baseball. In 2006 the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals were down to one playoff game that would determine which team would go to the World Series. The Cardinals had a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning, with the dregs of the Mets’ lineup on deck. The first two Mets batters got hits. Now there were runners on first and second with nobody out. When computers first came into baseball, this kind of scenario was one of the first questions tackled: Is the batter better off sacrifice-bunting? Or swinging away? Data showed that, in general, you’re better off hitting away.

But a slew of factors made this situation different from the average case. It was the ninth inning of the last game of the playoffs. If the Mets didn’t score two runs, they were toast. One reason to swing away, in a typical situation, is the chance to get a big inning with a lot of runs. But that wasn’t even a possibility in the bottom of the ninth inning because three runs would end the game with a walk-off win. In an average game, moreover, the guys who got the two hits would have been two of the team’s better players. Here, the hits came from the seventh- and eighth-place hitters. So whatever the ninth batter did, the good hitters at the top of the lineup would soon come up. What’s more, the Mets’ had an adept bunter available to pinch-hit in the ninth slot, Tom Glavine.

But the Mets followed the conventional strategy. The batter swung away. And they lost.

Mr. Hirdt’s point: Nobody faces an average situation. Yes, knowing the average is a useful guidepost. But people must deal with specific situations, with immediate circumstances that must be brought to bear on decisions.

“It always stuck with me, that the specific sometimes can overwhelm the overall average,” he said. “But are people predisposed to think in terms of, Well, I’ll cover myself by staying with the average?”

With the Red Sox and Cardinals set to play Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night, the question that struck one audience member was what outcome Mr. Hirdt predicted: “Sox in six or Sox in seven?”

“I think it’ll be seven,” he said.

Categories: Uncategorized

Hooray! I am back from a computer crash

October 31, 2013 Leave a comment

The past few days have been very frustrating, but rewarding is that I have learned how good the security is at Word Press! 

MORAL…don’t lose your password!

Your grateful blogmaster (pro tem)

Bud Robinson

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Rock ‘n’ roll to save the Arctic (another slight digression by your blogmaster)

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

   

Greenpeace
Take action today!Stand with the activists being held in Russia by taking action to save the Arctic. By doing so you could win a trip to San Francisco to see Portugal. The Man play live at the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior!

Ships have always been a big part of Greenpeace’s history, and no ship has been involved with that history more than the Rainbow Warrior.

Our new, purpose built eco yacht, the Rainbow Warrior III, will be visiting the West Coast of the United States this fall, helping to spread the word about the organization’s mission, and opening its doors for the public to take a look around.

We’ve invited Portugal. The Man to perform in San Francisco while the ship is there to highlight our powerful Save The Arctic campaign. And we’re offering one lucky winner and a friend the chance to come and hang out with band and watch them perform.

Take action now to help us save the Arctic and you’ll also be entered to win a chance to see the band perform live in San Francisco!

The timing couldn’t be more important. 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists are currently in a Russian prison for standing their ground to protect the Arctic. They were there to raise awareness around dangerous Arctic drilling. Through this campaign you can help raise awareness too.

Join over 4 million others by signing the petition to protect the frozen North and you’ll be entered to win a trip to catch an intimate performance with Portugal. The Man at the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior in San Francisco, CA.

Stand with the brave Arctic 30, jailed in Russia for taking action to save the Arctic. By doing so you could win a trip to San Francisco to see the show!

The science is clear, due to man-made climate change the Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly. This melting has lead to the increase of extreme weather events around the world. Drilling for more oil in the Arctic will only make the problem worse.

Together, we can win this campaign. Finland’s government has already pledged support for our call to designate the high Arctic a global sanctuary, a place where no oil company is allowed to drill. 

Over the next couple years, the campaign plans to petition and lobby the other Arctic nations including the United States to convince them to follow suit. At the same time keeping companies like Shell from drilling for oil in the region. We will need your help to make this happen.

For the Arctic,

Ben Kroetz
Greenpeace Director of Online Strategy

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A Nice Example of a Young Designer’s Foray into Internet Sales

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

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Artists Take Up Digital Tools

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

NY Times

Robert Caplin for The New York Times“Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital,” at the Museum of Arts and Design, an exhibition of works by 85 international artists, architects and designers. Untitled #5 by Richard Dupont.

HILARIE M. SHEETS Published: October 25, 2013

Manipulating 3-D scans of his own body on the computer, Mr. Dupont then marries digital fabrication methods like rapid prototyping and computer numerically controlled milling with traditional plaster casting and other laborious hand work to make figures that can appear both archaic and futuristic. One of his standing nudes, similar in posture to the Kouros statues from ancient Greece, appears to melt into ripples when viewed on one axis, suggesting the psychic experience of man in the modern world.

 Robert Caplin for The New York Times

Shapeways, a 3-D printing marketplace, will scan visitors for 3-D-prints.

“The forms I end up with couldn’t have been done without using digital tools, but you have to disrespect them on some level,” he said. “It’s much more interesting if you can disrupt the expectations of what the technology can do.”

His work is on view now in “Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital” at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, an exhibition of works by 85 international artists, architects and designers including Frank Stella, Maya Lin, Daniel Libeskind, Ron Arad and Hiroshi Sugimoto, who are bending digital techniques to their own expressive ends.

“There’s been an explosion of creativity during the last decade as many artists are exploring the technologies and what boundaries they can push,” said the exhibition curator, Ronald Labaco. He notes that while some of the digital technology has been around since the 1990s, early practitioners approached it more as a novelty. “In recent years I’ve seen a shift in thinking from ‘What can the machine do?’ versus ‘How can I use this as part of the tool kit to achieve what I want to do?’ ”

For Chuck Close, known for his monumental portrait paintings transposed from photographs, the computer’s ability to convert images into data that can be read by an electronic loom got him deeply interested in the age-old medium of tapestry. In the exhibition, his 2009 digitally woven tapestry based on daguerreotypes of five angles of his own face looks almost like a holograph. The faces seem to emerge from the black matte background with a kind of aggressive clarity, an effect he loves.

While traditionally a tapestry might have taken a year or more to weave on the loom by hand, now it can be run off in a day. But the labor is shifted upfront. Mr. Close can spend a year creating a digital weave file on the computer that will direct the loom — establishing a palette with hundreds of steps from the lightest light to the darkest dark, changing thread colors and transitions, making test strips.

“It’s wonderfully complicated because you’re building an image,” said Mr. Close, who compared the process to both photography, in milking the contrast out of a negative in the darkroom, and painting, in mixing up lighter and darker colors. “I find these old-time systems — the daguerreotype and the loom — have real appeal and are something to breathe new life into.”

Many of the artists in the exhibition are playing with 3-D printing, a newer form of rapid prototyping that is beginning to be recognized by the general public with the advent of desktop 3-D printers and newsworthy developments in the medical field like the 3-D printing of a mouse heart capable of beating with electrodes attached.

“The technology allows you to design an object in virtual space and transmit the data to another machine to ‘grow’ or ‘print’ that object in 3-D,” the industrial designer Marc Newson said of these printers, which can dispense a variety of materials — plastics, metal powder and binders, plaster, animal cells — in very thin slices directed by a laser and build an object in layers.

The process allows for the seamless construction of incredibly intricate designs, including Mr. Newson’s 2006 “Random Pak Chair,” on view in the show, made from a perforated metal skin that mimics cellular structures. The physical fabrication of the chair was simplified through the technology, yet the design of its skin using generative software was more complex than anything Mr. Newson had previously done.

“With the assistance of the inventors of the technology, we used a series of algorithms that made billions of decisions about how to grow this object,” Mr. Newson said.

He started with a geometry known as “random close packing” based on Voronoi cells, which are good mathematical representations of many natural structures. “The digital part of this process alone took weeks, grinding away on a series of dedicated computers,” Mr. Newson said. “The metaphor of growth extended to the creation of the design itself.”

For other artists in the show, the machine not only facilitated the production of the work but became part of its meaning.

Roxy Paine created a playful sculpture-making machine, or “Scumak,” that extruded molten flows of maroon-tinted polyethylene onto a conveyor belt. Software varying the parameters of each pour, and the shifting air currents and temperature of the room, which affected how the amorphous shapes hardened, conspired to produce 40 unique sculptures, three of which are in the show. These humorous, almost cartoonish objects invite meditation on the machine as a stand-in for the artist and the collision of control and chance.

While Mr. Labaco is hoping that people will be drawn first to the diversity and inventiveness of the objects in the exhibition, he wants to give visitors a hands-on familiarity with various digital techniques. One section of the exhibition is devoted to demonstrations of 3-D printing, 3-D scanning and computer software that can manipulate radical vantage points, 3-D montage and scale shifts.

People can get full body scans and purchase miniatures of themselves in three sizes. The design collaborative Unfold, which has examples of its 3-D-printed ceramic vases on view, has brought its interactive virtual pottery wheel. Visitors can shape forms with their hands in thin air and see the results projected on a screen.

François Brument, another designer in the exhibition, who shapes his vases using a sound-to-volume algorithm, has contributed his microphone into which people can speak, whistle or blow to customize their own vase designs.

Throughout the exhibition, Mr. Labaco has installed video clips of artists explaining how they integrate digital fabrication into their creative processes.

“I don’t want people to be frustrated by the technology,” he said. “I want them coming away from this empowered with a working knowledge of what they’re actually seeing.

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Daniel Goleman on finding focus in a world of distractions

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

 

 

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By Molly Petrilla | October 26, 2013, 8:00 PM 

 Nearly 20 years ago,  wrote a book that reshaped offices, classrooms and interpersonal relationships around the world.
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ became an international sensation. It topped bestseller and “most influential books” lists and sold five million copies worldwide. Goleman had a hit on his hands.

But he didn’t stop there. A Harvard-educated psychologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Goleman has continued to write books on social intelligence and other human-centered subjects. His most recent work — Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence — hit shelves earlier this month. We spoke with Goleman about finding focus in a world packed with distractions, the type of attention required to create and innovate, and how the topic of emotional intelligence has changed since he first began studying it 20 years ago.

In Focus you suggest that attention is ‘the hidden ingredient in excellence.’ I think it’s also fair to say that it’s under constant attack these days.
More than has ever been true in human history. We work at a screen that is also designed to interrupt us at regular intervals. At a single click, you can go wandering off into the web or on Facebook for minutes or even hours. We’ve never operated in a universe where we’ve had more distractions, which means we need to become more intentional about focus and make more of an effort than ever to maintain our focus.

What are some ways we can do that?
There’s a whole generation of apps now designed to help us modulate the electronic interruptions, but more to the point is strengthening the brain’s ability to stay focused. There’s circuitry for attention that is very plastic — it changes with repeated experience, which simply means that we can strengthen it by doing the right kind of practice.

There are some very simple attention exercises. One of them is called ‘mindfulness of the breath,’ where you just decide that for 10 or 15 minutes, you’re going to watch the easy flow of your breath in and out, and when your mind wanders away, you’ll bring it back. It sounds simple, but try it for a few minutes and your mind will wander off. The trick is to notice that it’s wandered, let go of where it’s gone to and come back to the focus. That is the mental equivalent of a rep in the gym where you’re strengthening a muscle. And the more you do it, the stronger the circuitry for paying attention gets.

Then there are very practical things you can do, like manage stress. It turns out that when we’re stressed, we give in to impulse more readily, which is why it’s really dangerous to keep Pringles by your computer. Managing stress helps you keep focused. So does getting enough sleep. It’s also good to have high-protein, low-carb meals for breakfast and lunch, and I urge people to sip caffeine over an hour rather than gulp it in a five-minute span. If you have it all at once, you’ll get a crash.

You also write about different types of focus. What’s the best kind for creating or innovating?
When we say ‘focus,’ we think of concentration, but it turns out concentrated focus is not the best kind of attention for every need. When it comes to creativity, you want your mind to wander. It’s in that mind-wandering space that you’re going to come up with novel associations with elements that have never been put together and you’re going to find that some of those novel combinations are actually useful. That’s the definition of a creative insight. But that won’t happen if you’re keeping a keen focus. It only happens in your downtime when the mind is free to wander.

What role does focus play in the business world?
It depends on the context. To meet your deadlines, you need the concentrated focus. To brainstorm, you need the mind-wandering focus. There is also a third system in the brain known as ‘full sensory awareness.’ That’s what you want to bring on vacation or to your weekend in the country.

You also found that there are environmental implications regarding focus.
The brain, it turns out, tends to be systems-blind. We’re hard-wired to notice the grimace or the wink of the person we’re with. We’re hard-wired to notice the rustle in the leaves that might mean a predator. We’re not wired at all to notice the shifts in carbon-dioxide levels that are creating global warming. There’s no part of the brain that has an alarm system for that. What that means is that we’re wired to be indifferent to the environmental crisis. It’s not immediately a threat, there are no signals coming in, and it’s going to happen far in the future, so the brain shrugs. I think that’s one of the reasons that getting people concerned about environmental change is such a heavy lift.

What brought you to the topic of focus initially?
I think it was seeing that my own attention was being distracted, and also I’ve been very interested in meditation for many years. Meditation is re-training your attention, essentially, from a cognitive-science point of view. I put together a longstanding interest with what I perceived as a new need for insights to manage our attention better. Plus it turned out that in the last two or three years there’s been an explosion of new scientific understanding of attention because they’ve started to do brain imaging while people are in different attentional spaces. That’s revealed a whole new level of understanding. I put that all together.

How do you stay focused when you’re working on a new book?
I meditate every morning after breakfast, then I go off to a place where there’s no phone and I can ignore email and spend a couple hours just writing. I have a little studio up the hill behind our house. It’s removed from the house and it’s a place where I can get calm and clear by meditating and then apply that clarity to writing without being interrupted. I love it.

I was also hoping we could talk briefly about emotional intelligence — another quality you’ve said is important for success. Do you find it’s something that’s taught and encouraged in the workplace?
A lot of companies now have this as part of their human resources. Many companies are hiring for these abilities, are promoting people for them, are helping people develop them. The best companies are the ones where the leaders really embrace this and model it so it becomes a norm in the company. It’s also become a mini-industry now. There are hundreds and thousands of consultants and coaches who are helping companies do this.

Was that the case when you first started looking at emotional intelligence?
No, no. When I started in ‘95 people said, ‘You can’t mention the word emotion in a company.’ Seriously. The landscape has changed enormously since I started. It was a very controversial idea when I first wrote the book Emotional Intelligence, but for many cultural reasons, it’s become far more acceptable.

What sort of reasons?
One is that it’s very data-based. There’s a lot of hard science that supports the importance and usefulness of emotional intelligence in the workplace, in schools, in life. That being the case, more and more people are embracing the concept and applying it in the workplace and in other sectors of society. I was talking to the CEO of a major investment company recently. He said, ‘I hire the best and brightest from the top schools and I still get a bell a curve on performance among people who are the smartest you can find.’ He said, ‘Now I understand why. What differentiates them is the human skill set, not the academic one.’

We’ve talked a lot about success and I’m curious: to what do you attribute yours?
Probably a combination of skill and luck. I try to find topics like emotions or attention where there’s new important science that has implications for our lives. I’m certainly no paragon of either full attention or emotional intelligence, but I do think that they’re very important abilities

Categories: Uncategorized

Can we crowdfund gun control?

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

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By  | October 26, 2013, 8:00 PM PDT

Images from Gun by Gun's first buyback in San FranciscoImages from the first Gun by Gun buyback in San Francisco and, in the upper right, cofounder Ian JohnstoneCrowdfunding is a popular way these days to, for instance, make your new album, launch a new tech product or develop a hoodie that lasts for 10 years. Now, one new group is using it to finance something else entirely –- gun buybacks.

Gun by Gun launched its first crowdfunding campaign in July and held its first gun buyback in San Francisco in August. At that time, it bought 86 guns. In December, it will buy another 100 plus guns with the remaining money from its first crowdfunding campaign. (The amount paid for a gun in a gun buyback varies from city to city, but in San Francisco it was $100; in New York City it is commonly $200.) Gun by Gun is also planning to launch crowdfunding campaigns for buybacks in San Jose and Oakland in November, with the buybacks themselves to happen in December.

“The reason I chose this model is that it is so hard to gain traction on the issue nationally,” says Gun by Gun cofounder Ian Johnstone. “I’ve been around the issue since the early ’90s, and the last major piece of legislation passed in 1995. There are more laws coming off the books related to gun violence than being put on the books. Through crowdfunding gun buybacks, we can start addressing the guns out there. It’s a way of creating an opportunity so individuals can do something about the issue without waiting for Congress to act.”

But with about 300 million guns in circulation now and 87 gun deaths a day, can buybacks truly be an effective gun-control technique?

While Gun by Gun recognizes it is not a replacement for gun legislation, Johnstone says it is an important complement, since any legislative changes would only address future gun sales. Additionally, current buybacks are held on an ad hoc basis, with no single source of funding. In fact, he says most gun buybacks run out of money to buy all the guns offered.

Johnstone, who lost his father to gun violence in the early 1990s, says buybacks are an effective way of reducing rates of homicides, suicides and accidental gun deaths.

For instance, one study found that for every one percent increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate increases 0.9 percent. Low-end estimates assert that 230,000 guns stolen from homes each year enter the pool of guns used by criminals. In fact, Johnstone’s father was killed by a gun stolen two weeks before his death. Johnstone also says statistics show a correlation between suicide rates and gun ownership; public health professionals cite gun ownership as an official suicide risk factor. And a recent New York Times investigation revealed that accidental gun deaths, especially of children, are grossly underreported, occurring about twice as often as official records show.

Hildy Saizow, president of Arizonans for Gun Safety, says, “Gun buybacks are important and have a role, but it’s a somewhat of a limited role in trying to address gun violence. But gun buybacks themselves can mobilize the community, and I think that’s one of the best things you can get from this.” Having held three successful gun buybacks herself that involved anonymous and corporate donors (they gave out gift cards to groceries and Best Buy instead of cash) and took in double the number of guns she had hoped for, she says that buybacks motivate people to not only do something about the issue but also invest in it.

Gun buybacks are currently funded a variety of ways — from individual donations, discretionary funding by elected officials, government grants or seized money, such as from a drug bust. Johnstone says that they have not yet been held on a significant scale in this country, but after a series of gun buybacks in Australia, “the number of gun deaths fell off a cliff,” with suicides dropping by 80 percent. “They had 13 mass shootings in the few years before that, and they haven’t had one since. In every statistical category, the Australian gun buyback was enormously successful. But it was a very different situation because it was armed with legislative changes, and they didn’t have the existing pool of guns we have.”

He also says Gun by Gun could do more than reduce the number of guns in circulation; it could also help develop a set of best practices around gun buybacks, such as how much to charge for each gun, and how to make buybacks more efficient and effective.

Finally, Johnstone says these campaigns could help grow a community of people who want fewer guns. “That’s a powerful message that members of Congress can’t ignore,” he says. “They’re not just signing a petition. They’re doing something to remove guns from their community. They’re sending a powerful signal about what they want.”

(Photos: Courtesy Gun by Gun)

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5 Ways to Increase Online Customer Conversion This Holiday Season

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment
Retial Online Integration Free Webinar
  5 Ways to Increase Online Customer Conversion This Holiday Season

 
  Register

What: Free Webinar

When: October 29, 2013 

Time:
2:00 p.m. (ET)
11:00 a.m. (PT)

Sponsor:
nanoRep

Why do so many people get cold feet before completing an online purchase during the holiday season? Wouldn’t it be great if you could identify in advance, and address the issues that are most likely to cause people to change their minds? Even a small modification to your site can make a significant difference.

In this webinar, noted e-commerce conversion expert Tim Ash will walk you through five ways to increase your online customer conversion this holiday season including:

  • What you can do to address potential issues before they become problems
  • How to encourage your customer each step along the buying process
  • How to make it easier to buy on your site
  • How you can immediately improve conversions by changing how your category and product pages are presented
  • How to improve your customer service

Click here to register for this free webinar today!

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London Works to Raise Profile as European Tech Hub

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment
Thursday, October 24, 2013
London Works to Raise Profile as European Tech Hub | King.com, the maker of the popular Candy Crush game franchise, is trying to become the first London tech start-up to hit gold on the public market. And if the company is successful, it could help cement the city’s reputation as one of Europe’s top start-up communities, Mark Scott reports.
The company has filed to go public in the United States, and analysts expect a multibillion-dollar valuation. The move feeds expectations that more of the city’s leading start-ups, many of them clustered in East London, will mature into public companies.
“In the last 10 years, London has become the most mature of the European tech hubs,” said Harry Nelis, a London partner at the venture capital firm Accel Partners. “The hope is that some of the new generation of start-ups may start to look at going public in London.”
The British capital’s growing credibility in the technology industry is partly the result of government efforts to reduce the city’s reliance on financial services, which still dominate the local economy. Local lawmakers have invested more than $80 million to rejuvenate buildings into co-working and events spaces, attracting companies like Microsoft and I.B.M. to East London – or Tech City, as some local politicians call the area. Policy makers are also working with local start-ups to make it easier to hire international workers and to help fledgling firms to get access to London’s financial markets.
Other cities in Europe, like Berlin, have budding tech scenes, but London has the benefit of its roots as a global financial center. In the last four years, the number of tech companies in East London has roughly quadrupled, to around 1,400, according to British government statistics. The city also attracts more venture capital than European rivals like Paris and Stockholm.
Still, London’s technology sector remains in its infancy compared with Silicon Valley. In the first half of the year, London’s start-ups raised $351 million, less than 10 percent of the investment directed to companies in California, according to Dow Jones Venture Source.
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Microsoft: It Is Time To Take Chrome OS Seriously

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

photo

Chrome

Since Google (GOOG) first unveiled Chrome OS in 2009, it has been met with significant skepticism. Why buy a system that runs only one browser when you can buy a Microsoft (MSFT) Windows computer that runs that same browser and more?

Still, Chrome OS has carved out a nice niche market for those that want an inexpensive, simple machine that is free from viruses and gets faster over time. The highlights so far are:

  • According to NPD Group, Chromebooks have captured 20-25% of the sub-$300 laptop market in the first half of 2013 and 3% of total back-to-school PC sales this Fall.
  • Around 22% of all school districts in the US are using Chromebooks, and the number is increasing.
  • OEM partners now include HP, Acer, Samsung, Toshiba, Lenovo and LG.

The New Generation of Chromebooks

OEMs have now announced new models for the fall season, including several that are powered by Intel Haswell chips, each with price tags under $300. As these become available, early indications are that they are grabbing more market share. On Amazon (AMZN), for example, four of the top five best selling laptops are Chromebooks. That is not a misprint. Now Amazon is obviously not the only distribution channel out there, but that is simply incredible.

What’s more incredible is that this is despite the fact that the current crop of Chromebooks are all flawed in some way or another. The new HP Chromebook has innovative hardware, including micro-USB charging, and a great casing and screen, but is powered by the aging 2012 Exynos ARM processor and only 2GB of RAM. Similarly, the Acer Chromebook has a more powerful Haswell processor and 4GB of RAM but comes in a cheap casing with a cheap screen. What happens when one of these OEMs puts out a model with good performance and solid hardware?

Looking Ahead

I expect Chromebooks to start making a more significant push for market share next year when the existing models are upgraded with new components while maintaining their sub-$300 price tag. A strong driver over the medium term will be advancements in ARM processors. Chrome OS is better positioned to power inexpensive, ARM-powered laptops than Microsoft’s Windows RT, which has been dismissed by OEMs, confuses consumers that expect Windows machines to run legacy software and is less efficient than Chrome OS on the same hardware. Although the ARM threat is the reason Microsoft created Windows RT in the first place, the platform is unfortunately on life support right now after being abandoned by all major OEMs.

The reality is that we are still at the beginning stages of Moore’s law when it comes to ARM processors. ARM A57 processors promise significant increases in performance next year. Rumors point to Samsung (SSNLF) releasing a 14nm Exynos 6 processor in 2014. This will likely power an updated version of the $250 Samsung Chromebook that has ranked as the top selling laptop on Amazon for all of 2013 notwithstanding the fact that its current Exynos 5 processor is barely up to the task of powering a laptop.

The Ball is Now in Microsoft’s Court

The biggest threat to Microsoft’s utility position in the PC market obviously comes from iOS and Android. But Microsoft has a history of dismissing new products to their detriment, and the story is no different with Chrome OS.

When the original Linux-powered wave of netbooks threatened to gain share in the low-end market a decade ago, Microsoft took decisive action by giving OEMs inexpensive licenses for starter editions of Windows. That strategy worked to eliminate the Linux netbook threat because Windows was clearly preferred by consumers as long as the price differential was small enough.

Microsoft is taking a similar strategy to drive sales of Windows on small laptops against competition from tablets and inexpensive Chrome OS laptops. Although Microsoft does not disclose OEM Windows licensing fees, reports are that Microsoft has discounted Windows 8 licensing fees for small laptops, with some reports from earlier this year that licensing fees for small laptops were discounted from $120 per copy to $30.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, that strategy is not the slam dunk it was when Microsoft was trying to knock Linux out of the netbook market years ago. For one, a $30 licensing fee on a sub-$300 machine is still 10% or more of the total cost of the machine, a not insubstantial number. More importantly, Windows 8 is a polarizing operating system and there are a significant number of people that simply do not want to deal with Metro. Although it’s possible now with Windows 8.1 to minimize your interaction with Metro, it’s still a significant part of the OS. With Chrome OS, you boot straight into the browser without any distractions, and that’s perfect for many people. Chrome OS is also a light-weight OS that can be more efficient and faster than Windows on the same hardware.

As a result, Chrome OS is threatening to become a beachhead in the laptop market even in the face of aggressive pricing tactics from Microsoft on small laptops. And the trend promises to become more significant next year and beyond as the Chrome OS platform matures and ARM processors become faster. OEMs like Samsung will continue to push Chromebooks as an outlet for their in-house ARM processors. With the ability to leverage ARM processors, smaller hard drives than Windows machines, and a free OS, Chromebooks should maintain a significant price advantage over Windows machines going forward. Google’s vision of fast, incredibly inexpensive laptops is becoming the reality, and Chrome OS and Android will continue to push prices down. The $100 laptop is not that far off.

An Inevitable Long-term Decline in Windows Consumer Licensing Revenue

For Microsoft, the Windows franchise is not going away anytime soon, particularly in the business world where Microsoft can basically charge whatever it wants given the reliance on Windows. Even in the consumer PC market, Windows will maintain 80%-plus market share for the foreseeable future. But small market share from alternative operating systems can have effects on profitability that are much larger than their share through pricing pressure on the consumer OEM Windows license fees. When Microsoft lowers its Windows OEM license fees from $120 to $30 per unit, that represents a 75% decrease in license revenue from each unit. The fact is that in the consumer market at least, with competition from Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, and price pressure from sub-$300 Chrome OS laptops, the days of $120 OEM consumer licenses for Windows are coming to an end.

Microsoft should embrace this reality now. One solution would be to offer Windows RT to OEMs for free, which would serve the dual purpose of stealing some of Chrome OS’s thunder and igniting OEM interest in Windows RT. I am not expecting that to happen, which is why I am looking for Chrome OS to take double digit consumer laptop market share and Windows consumer licensing revenues to decline over the next several years faster than the overall PC market.

The technology world has changed and the consumer OEM licensing model for Windows (and Office) is coming under pressure. I am avoiding Microsoft stock until Microsoft can demonstrate that its devices and services strategy can generate sufficient profits from the consumer market to offset expected declines in the consumer OEM licensing mode

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Cotton’s Struggle for Predictability

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

SOURCING JOURNAL SPECIAL REPORT: 

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

The global price of cotton has fluctuated wildly this year, and its
volatility has roiled both markets and farmers. With supplies potentially
plunging to historic lows and meager prices carried over from last year,
many producers have been compelled to shift their attention to other
crops. What is the future of global cotton production and how will it
affect the apparel and textile industries? Will a constrained supply lead
to skyrocketing prices in the near future? Or can we expect low prices to
be the new norm? Read more...

Robert P. Antoshak, the Managing Director of Olah, Inc., astutely analyzes
all the possible scenarios in this timely white paper produced exclusively
for Sourcing Journal.

Sourcing Journal’s “Sourcing 2013: Reflections and Projections,” is sold out! If you are still interested in attending, please email tara@sourcingjournalonline.com and we will add you to a wait list. The event will bring together key industry leaders from across the spectrum with scheduled panels including, Sourcing Trends 2014, Alternatives to China, The Current State of Retail, Political Dysfunction in the Supply Chain and Lowering Your Landed Costs.

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Janus The Roman God Of Reflection And New Opportunities

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

EBA10 Jan, 2013

What Can We Learn From Janus?

Posted by: Bev James

What Can We Learn From Janus The Roman God Of Reflection And New Opportunities? - Bev James

I’m your best friend; I’m your worst enemy,

I’m Janus, God of Doorways. Beginnings. Endings. Choices.

I’ve just returned from BBC Radio Bristol where I joined presenter Jemma Cooper to talk about the challenge of New Year’s resolutions: why people set them, why most of us don’t stick to them and what can we do to change our approach so we increase our chances of success. New Year is a great time to start afresh, to create a new chapter in our lives – and resolutions can be a great way to kick-start change, provided we make sure our goals are ones we really want to achieve.

For many people January is a time for reflection. Another year has passed: we have lived for 365 days since we last made a resolution – but what exactly have we done with the time we’ve been given? On New Year’s Eve did you find yourself saying, “Gosh – where did that year go? Time just flew by, I didn’t do half the things I had planned to do!” Or did you say, “Wow, what a year that was. How am I going to top it this year?”

Statistically, most people have ditched their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January each year – so why do we persist in setting new ones? And what can we do to make sure that, this year, the outcome will be different?

I have found an interesting piece of trivia that I would like to share with you. Janus was a Roman god, whose name comes from the Latin word ianua which means ‘door’. He is the god of doors, gates and bridges. The month of January was named after Janus because the month represents new beginnings. Janus is shown having two faces looking in opposite directions, one at the past and one at the future.

I like the symbolism of Janus because January is the doorway to a new year, where anything is possible should we choose to create or take opportunities.

It can be all too easy to jump into a new year without taking a moment to reflect on what we have learnt – whether good or bad – from the last year. Each year I create a learning log for myself. This consists of events, experiences and people who have impacted my life in the previous 12 months. Even bad experiences can hold valuable lessons – so everything goes in the log. Even though some experiences may have been negative the lessons learned can be positive.

Reflecting on personal highlights from the previous year can be very motivational. Just as TV talent shows often run summary clips of contestants’ best dancing, singing, sporting achievements or comedy moments, so too, you can focus on your own performance highlights and replay in your mind a short show reel of your personal best bits. What would your highlights look like for last year? What were your personal podium moments?

If you don’t have as many as you would have liked, don’t give yourself a hard time. Instead, create in your mind a preview of the year ahead. What do you want your personal show reel to feature at the end of this year? What will your highlights look like?

Like Janus we can look back and look ahead at the same time – to learn from the past, while creating a vision of the future that excites us, motivates us and make us want to be better than we are today.

There are many reasons that people don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions. I think one of the main reasons is that few people truly believe that they can achieve their goal. (How often have you heard someone say, “I’ve decided to go on a diet, but I know I’ll never stick to it.”) Worrying that we may fail before we have even started just creates a preview of a future that we don’t want. So why not change the picture in your mind to one that paints a future that you really do want. Make sure that your goal truly is your goal, and not something you feel you should be aiming for, because someone else would like you to.

Other tips for success:

1. Don’t create a long shopping list of goals that can overwhelm you. Instead, focus on just one thing to start with, and apply laser like focus to achieving it.

2. Make sure your goal is one you are committed to and not just something you feel you ‘should’ do.

3. Write your goals down – or better still, create a vision board with pictures and statements that can you can look at for inspiration, every day.

4. Remember that a single setback does not make you a failure. If you stray from your path, just get back on track as soon as you can. A single bump in the road doesn’t have to derail your whole plan.

5. Consider who can support you. Is it time to hire a life coach to help you clarify your goals and help you turn your ideas and plans into action?

Finally – fine tune your self-belief and practice getting out of your own way. The most powerful resolution of all may simply be to keep telling yourself, “I will achieve my goals.”

Categories: Uncategorized

SGIA Highlights —Day 1: The Quickening

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

sgia

 

By Richard Romano
Published: October 24, 2013

The SGIA Expo kicked off on Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., expecting to draw near-record crowds. According to SGIA President Mike Robinson, 21,500 pre-registered for the show—only slightly below last year’s ~22,000 expo, held in Las Vegas. (Vegas traditionally draws the largest crowds—well, there’s no accounting for taste.) Perhaps most significantly, 49% of this year’s pre-registrants have never been to an SGIA Expo before. Indeed, SGIA analyst Dan Marx identified one of the drivers of increased SGIA Expo attendance the fact that commercial print providers see wide-format and related areas of specialty graphics as substantial areas for growth, calling wide-format “the shining star of the printing industry.” Like last year, exhibit space on the show floor was sold out.

At last year’s SGIA Expo, the focus was on flatbed printing and if this year’s show has a theme at all, it’s textiles. Specifically, digital printing of textiles. “Soft signage,” to name one digital textile application, has emerged as a top application, and new (some brand new) models have been introduced to help print service providers tackle what has traditionally been a tough nut to crack.

Weaveworld

Last June, Agfa Graphics announced its brand-new Ardeco direct textile printer, and it’s actually being shown for the first time anywhere here in Orlando. A 3.2-meter aqueous dye-sublimation printer, the Ardeco prints directly on polyester materials without need of a transfer sheet. Unlike many other fabric printers that require a secondary system to fuse the pigment to the fabric’s fibers, the Ardeco features a built-in calendering unit that helps boost speed and productivity (up to, says the company, 1400 square feet per hour). The Ardeco is a four-color device, available in 8- or 12-head configuration. It also offers an optional inline cutting system. The Ardeco is targeted to the soft signage market which, said Peter Wilkers, Agfa President, North America, represents a $1 billion market, growing at 16% annually. Agfa also announced a new workflow solution called Asanti, based on the classic Apogee, that offers automation and productivity solutions specific to sign and display printers, boasting “dedicated device settings for dedicated applications,” said Andy Grant, Agfa’s Global Head of Software.

The New Agfa Ardeco 3312 Soft Signage Printer

Durst is no stranger to textile printing, and they are using the SGIA Expo to showcase the new Rhotex 322 (an upgrade of the 320), a 3.2-meter disperse dye-sublimation industrial printer capable of printing direct to fabric. It boasts twice the speed of the 320, features a new media loading system that requires only one person and reduces the loading time to two minutes, offers an inline hot air dryer, and prints up to 1,057 square feet per hour. The Rhotex 322 is also targeted toward the soft signage market.

The Durst Rhotex 322

Cold Is the New Hot…But Then So Is Hot

I have written on occasion of EFI’s GS Pro-TF thermoforming system (a modified GS2000 UV printer, software, and special inks), which, it was announced at the show, is now available commercially. And not only that, it was announced on Wednesday that the thermoforming system won an SGIA Product of the Year award. But at the same time, whilst thermoforming is hot (as it were), for EFI it could be said that cold is also hot. Specifically, so-called “cool cure” LED. EFI introduced the VUTEk GS3250lxr (take that, copy editors!), a 3.2-meter roll-to-roll UV printer that uses LED drying technology. This is not the company’s first LED printer, but further represents the direction EFI is going. The advantages of LED curing are myriad, but among them is the ability to print on thin plastics without the heat of the curing lamps deforming the substrate, causing head strikes and other printing problems. EFI’s new ink sets have also been designed to withstand stretching and other manhandling, especially when used for vehicle graphics. And if anyone at the show happened to notice that EFI’s booth personnel were largely garbed in pink, it was to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month, via what the company was calling—in a pun (and cause) dear to my heart—“Pinkjet,” a program that is supporting cancer charities for the duration of the show. During the SGIA Expo, EFI is donating $1 for every Twitter retweet (@EFI_Print_Tech, #EFIeverywhere, #Pinkjet), Facebook like or share associated with the campaign (www.facebook.com/EFI.Digital.Print.Technology), and $10 for every photo shared with EFI via Twitter or Facebook. Additionally, EFI will donate $1,000 for printer orders signed at SGIA and shipped by November 30.

EFI’s Thermoforming System Wins an SGIA Product of the Year Award

Take Two Tablets and Call Me In the Morning

In these show recaps, we (the royal we) often speak of big hardware announcements, but one unique new product was offered by MacTac, the supplier of pressure-sensitive adhesives. Called DesignScape 3D, it’s an iPad and Android tablet app that offers designers, print service providers, and other wide-format output producers a unique interactive guide to MacTac’s substrate offerings. Users can view six “environments” (shopping mall, retail store, convenience store, etc.) which are arrayed with a variety of applications within those environments: floor graphics, bench graphics, standalone signage, and so on. Clicking on each of those applications brings up MacTac’s product offerings suitable for each, complete with related products (like laminates) and performance guides. The app also gives the user the ability to request physical samples. It’s a very cool idea. DesignScape 3D is not available via the App Store, but can be requested via the user’s MacTac product distributor.

MacTac’s DesignScape 3D

Cuts Like a Knife

As SGIA’s Dan Marx pointed out in a press event to kick off day 1 of the SGIA Expo, competition in the wide-format space has become fierce (“gone are the days of cushy margins,” he said) and commoditization is creeping in. It’s safe to say that anyone can generate high-quality output with the state of today’s wide-format printing equipment. And when you see how many commercial shops are muscling onto this space, competition will only get fiercer. Where companies need to differentiate themselves is often in the finishing. What is done with the print after it is output? That includes installation, but part of the equation is also speed and productivity in simple things like cutting.

Last summer, I wrote about an xpedx wide-format printer summit at which an Esko cutter stole the show. Here in Orlando, a brand new Esko cutter may very well steal this show. The cutter in question is the Kongsberg C digital finishing platform. If the name conjures images of King Kong, you would not be wrong. The thing is a beast. The “C,” says Greg Stewart, Esko’s Segment Manager, Sign & Display, “is ‘C’ as in “complete.’” You may have noticed that 3.2 meters has become a common output size. So, the new cutter complements these output devices, handling media up to, yes, 3.2 meters wide. And is it fast. It also handles complex shapes with aplomb, and “supports high speed, fast acceleration, high quality creasing and exclusive, powerful 3kW milling capabilities.”

More to Come

This was just day 1 of the SGIA Expo. Look for more reports—and video!—as the show goes on.

Categories: Uncategorized

Mobile First Look 2014 New York Jan. 15-16

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

mobile commerce daily

By 


October 24, 2013

Macy's is a mobile role model

Macy’s is a mobile role model

Featuring Macy’s, eBay, Coca-Cola, Office Depot, Lowe’s, Zappos, Anheuser-Busch, Campbell Soup et al.

Registration is open for the third annual Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference Jan. 15-16 featuring speakers from Macy’s, eBay, Coca-Cola, Office Depot, Lowe’s, Amazon’s Zappos, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Rue La La, Citi, REI, Campbell Soup, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Forrester Research, Yahoo, The New York Times, USA Today, Frank & Oak, ForeSee and Cumberland Farms. This two-day New York event is a must-attend for brands, retailers, ad agencies and publishers looking to develop and implement mobile-surround strategies and tactics in 2014, a year where rapidly evolving consumer behavior will begin reshaping marketing and retail for the next decade.

At this exclusive summit organized by this publication at the Time & Life Building in Midtown Manhattan, attendees will get to listen and meet with key executives moving the needle for mobile advertising, marketing and commerce. The conference, whose agenda is below, will be limited to only 200 delegates and is divided into brand- and retailer-led keynotes as well as concurrent deep-dive panel discussions with marketers, ad agencies and market researchers on various mobile verticals and disciplines.

“Marketers and retailers can be sure of one thing in 2014: mobile will upend established business wisdom and practices,” said Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. “Mobile behavior is now deeply embedded in the daily lives of consumers, forcing those interacting with them to rethink their marketing and retail strategies.

“Expect to see more empowered consumers who are one tap away from shifting loyalty if their needs are not fulfilled seamlessly through mobile-driven experiences,” he said. “Indeed, 2014 may mark the start of an era where all marketing is mobile.”

Mobile's the real thing for Coca-Cola

Mobile’s the real thing for Coca-Cola

Key insight and analysis
Completely editorially led, Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 will offer enough insight and analysis for attendees to make informed opinions in a year where the fight for the consumer’s attention and wallet will be more intense than ever.

In addition to research on mobile marketing and mobile commerce, the summit will also focus on the issues, opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in mobile advertising, banking and payments, content and publishing, database/CRM, email, legal/privacy, mobile commerce, search and social media.

Also under discussion will be the role of advertising agencies as mobile redefines their role as brand custodians as well as a recap of holiday 2013 from the mobile standpoint.

Attendees will get access to all presentations made at the event.

The event is priced at $695 for two days, which includes breakfast, lunch and cocktails on day one and breakfast and lunch on day two. Refunds will not be given 72 hours before the event or for no-shows on the day of the conference.

For sponsorship including tables, lunch keynotes, moderating slots, seat drops, charging station, breakfast and cocktail hour, please contact Jodie Solomon atads@mobilemarketer.com.

Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 is part of this publication’s exclusive summit series.

The summit agenda can also be accessed viahttp://www.mobilefirstlook.com.

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