Technology Voice Podcast Episode 11-“Big Brother is Manipulating You”

00:00 Start
00:13 Introductions: John Breslin @johnbreslin
Marie Boran @pixievondust
Jack Harty ie.linkedin.com/pub/jack-harty/15/92b/1b9
Andrii Degeler @shlema
Fergal Gallagher @gallagherfergal
Tom Murphy @tom_murphy
01:23 Credit FlirtFM @flirtfm wwww.flirtfm.ie
01:43 Facebook – Unethical Experimentation
10:50 Social Mirror http://www.thersa.org/fellowship/news/rsa-launches-tablet-application,-social-mirror
12:54 Youtube Fan Funding http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaymcgregor/2014/06/27/youtube-announces-60fps-video-fan-funding-and-new-music-show/

16:08 Teaching unions ban coding to be taught in Irish Schools due to bigger fight about Junior Cycle reform.
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/junior-cert-students-will-study-coding-30383449.html

22:09 Interview with Leigh Graves Wolf – Progam Director of Master of Arts and Educational Technology
#GREAT14 NUI Galway, New Engineering Building, July 15 1pm-4pm

Save the Date! #GREAT14 Galway, Ireland July 15, 2014

30:26 Aereo Loses case https://www.aereo.com

37:27 Yo! http://www.justyo.co

40:54 StartApp Competition report http://www.startappcompetition.com
Featuring:
Phil McNamara – Voxpro http://www.voxprogroup.com/news/
Clare Fitzpatrick – Wayra http://ie.wayra.org/en/academia/dublin
Neal O’Gorman – Artomatix http://artomatix.com/about
Bill Tai – VC http://about.me/billtai

50:14 Tech Finance with Jack Harty
Cash Burn
CEO vs Non-Executive Director
Difference between Cash & Profits http://www.investopedia.com/articles/analyst/03/122203.asp

60:51 Amazon’s Firefly http://gizmodo.com/firefly-lets-fire-phone-scan-just-about-anything-and-bu-1592717776

61:00 Startup Galway – http://startupgalway.org

62:00 Wrap up and thank yous

Skyping on Facebook

The early adoption crowd has been waiting all week for Mark Zuckerberg’s “awesome” announcement, which the Facebook founder promised during a visit to the company’s Seattle office last week. Admittedly, in Zuckerberg’s vernacular, the word awesome doesn’t carry quite the same weight as it does for the rest of us, but thankfully, today’s announcement didn’t constitute a description of the billionaire’s breakfast, but rather the not entirely unexpected launch of Facebook’s incorporation of VoIP service Skype into its interface as Facebook video chat.

For the privacy conscious among us, the revelation that Facebook still makes announcements may have come as something of a surprise, given the relative stealth with which it has introduced recent features such as automatic face recognition, but today was all about positive stories for Facebook.

Although talk of the social media giant’s demise may be premature, the amount of Buzz (pun intended) generated by Google+ over the past week will have worried Zuckerberg despite the fact that a profile attributed to him is the most followed on Google+.

Google Hangout, which allows for up to ten friends to chat at once, would likely have had Skype running scared as it was, so pairing its 170 million users with Facebook’s now-confirmed 750 million users makes sense for Microsoft’s $8.5 billion acquisition as well as helping Facebook keep pace with Google in the social media stakes.

However, while Facebook has incorporated group chats into its text chat feature, Facebook video chat remains a one-to-one video chat feature, just like Skype. The process is clean and relatively hassle-free; no external Skype account is needed, and one user with the video chat plug in can call another without it, at which point the recipient will be prompted to install the plug in.

One concern that Facebook will have is that the outages which have dogged Skype in the past couple of months will not blight Facebook’s video chat; such downtime may result in users defecting to Google, never to return, however Skype CEO Tony Bates assured the assembled press at today’s launch that, “the technology is tough”.

Zuckerberg said at today’s launch that while he wouldn’t rule out group video calling in the future, possibly as a paid, premium feature, he, “wouldn’t undersell the importance of today”, which he described as “symbolic of the way [Facebook] are going to do things, which is a focus on Facebook providing a social infrastructure, and outsourcing the creation of apps to independent entrepreneurs whom he described as, “best in class”.

This seems to be a deliberate tactic to not go toe to toe with Google, who can, it seems, create any app that Facebook can, only better, as evinced by their already rolled-out group chat.

Rather, Facebook seems content to rely on the fact that it has 750 million and growing members, and that companies that have not as yet embraced social media will come to them with apps, “Companies that are best in class are thinking about “how are we going to offer our product in a social way?””

Zuckerberg is clearly hoping that these companies, of whom he cited Netflix as a potential example, will seek safety in numbers and choose Facebook as their social platform of choice.

Neurons Behaving Like Social Networks

The way our brains communicate within themselves and the way we communicate between ourselves seem to be increasingly similar. In a recent report, An Embedded Subnetwork of Highly Active Neurons in the Neocortex researchers from Carnegie Mellon University observed that in a part of the brain called the neocortex neurons show the same pattern of behaviour as those displayed in social networks.

Neurons are the brain’s transmitters of information. They transfer signals either electrically or chemically. However in the seems that in the subnetwork of this particular part of the brain some neurons are more active than others.

Alison Barth is the Associate Professor on the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU.) To assess the firing of individual neurons she invented the fosGFP detection method which was used in a transgenic mouse. This type of functionality allows the observer to determine the how much a given cell is stimulated without damaging the cell itself.

In an email that Professor Barth sent to us she wants to make it clear that she, “had no intention of studying what neurons do when we’re on Facebook, or how Facebook is like the brain.  But the analogy to differentially interconnected networks (such as social networking sites, like Facebook) that was quoted in the CMU press release is quite reasonable and provocative with respect to our work.”

In that news release Professor Barth is quoted as saying, “It’s like Facebook. Most of your friends don’t post much — if at all. But, there is a small percentage of your friends on Facebook who update their status and page often. Those people are more likely to be connected to more friends, so while they’re sharing more information, they’re also receiving more information from their expanded network, which includes other more active participants.”

According to Professor Barth some questions that now need to be looked at are, “Why are some neurons more active?  How do they become this way?  What drives them to be interconnected to each other?  It’s quite plausible that social networks will help stimulate new hypotheses to understand the organization and behavior of micronetworks, like those that exist in the brain.”

In a previous article HTM: New Algorithms And A New Way Of Programming we discussed the work that Jeff Hawkins was doing on Hierarchical Temporal Memory in which he is using the physical structure of the surface layer of the neocortex to determine how the brain efficiently codes information into memory in the most energetically economic way.

The algorithms that he is developing are never going to be an exact copy of the brain but it is possible to get a model for coding and decoding information that is a very close approximation of how the brain works and thus benefit ourselves accordingly.

In the Victorian age the workings of the mind were compared to the leading technology of the time which was steam. “Letting some steam off” was an expression that entered the language amongst others that reflected this kind of thinking. Latterly in the computer age there has been a tendency to model the brain as something akin to a computer and associated paradigms have emerged around that idea.

But as we learn more and more about how the brain really works we can see that what actually goes on in our heads and what goes on in the world are inextricably intertwined. The steam age and the computer age as marvellous as they were may only be very crude approximations of the technical sophistication of our own brains.

With each new discovery in the field of neuroscience it becomes increasingly more possible to use this information and design and engineer systems based on the systems that go on inside our skull that work very well for us.

As we discover and observe phenomena like information transmitted through social networks working in a very similar way to the way neurons move signals through our brains there is every reason to suppose that future discoveries may reveal more surprising connections between what goes on inside inside our brains and what happens outside in the world.

If the most fundamental network of signal transmitters we have acts like one of the largest social networks that we have created (leaving aside how it is managed) then it is reasonable to expect that there are going to be plenty more lessons to be discovered and learned over the coming years.

Faye Dinsmore: Irish Facebook Phenomenon

Faye Dinsmore is a graduate of trinity College Dublin and she is now signed to IMG Models, one of the world’s top international modelling agencies. She is originally from Ballintra, Donegal and is the youngest of a family of fourteen. Faye now spends her time between Paris, New York and London. She is one of those rare Irish models that have achieved international acclaim.

On the advice of her agency she set up a Facebook Page. Something Faye herself thought to be an incredibly self-obsessed thing to do. She only ever expected to have just a few hundred people ‘liking’ her but to her surprise the number of fans of her page has just passed 225,000. This makes her, by a considerable margin, the Irish person with the most likes on Facebook.

Just recently, Technology Voice got the chance to ask Faye about how she managed to become so successful on Facebook.

How much of a user of Facebook were you before you started your fan page?

Basically, I’d started to get a huge number of friend requests on Facebook every day, as well as countless messages from people all over the world, who might have read or seen an editorial or campaign I was in. It seemed like a sensible idea and something a lot of other international models do, so as strange as it felt I started a fanpage and essentially made my personal profile all but invisible. I think for the first 24 hours I only had one fan and that was me.

As regards using Facebook, I was a heavy user of Facebook prior to that. Sadly, I was in Ireland only twice in 2010, so Facebook is really the one and only way I stay in touch with friends back home.

What kind of strategy did you use to get to get such high numbers?

I can’t say I had any sort of strategy. I’ve had an iPad since I started my fanpage, so any time I found a little downtime on set or at a show, I just started posting behind the scenes pictures, sharing interesting articles from fashion websites, doing status updates and so on. I guess some people liked what I was sharing. Eventually I found a Facebook fanpage slightly restrictive so I started a blog which has proven popular.

Sometimes people share posts I do thousands of times. Bit by bit the blog has become more popular outside of fashion capitals. For example, in December more people visited my blog from Dublin, Ireland, than most of Ireland’s major fashion magazines have monthly readers. (Over 40,000 people from Dublin alone visited my blog in December).

Finally, I always do my own posts as opposed to one of my agencies in Paris or New York doing them. Oh, and one other thing, I regularly do particular posts for say fans in Colombia or Indonesia or Ireland, posts that you only see if you are in a particular country or even city. I use Google Translate to put a phrase into Indonesian or whatever the language happens to be. I think people really appreciate that.

How meaningful or useful is it to have such a lot of ‘friends’?

It has become substantially more meaningful in New York in recent months, and that trend will extend to other fashion capitals in the coming year. So for example, an increasing number of big clothing labels will now specify in a contract with a model that she must also use her Facebook fanpage, if she has one, to promote a given campaign. And for most major international models that’s no problem as they all now have Facebook fanpages that they regular update.

How hard is it to manage in terms of hours and effort?What sort of advice would you give to others who wanted to increase their Facebook presence?

I guess I spend on average about 10 minutes a day, maybe less. Advice, me! Mmm… If people are not sharing or liking your content then their friends won’t ever come across your page and as a consequence you may find it hard to grow a presence. Just be yourself.

Oh and you’ve got to have some perspective. What I mean by that is that one hundred fans can be a lot of fans depending on how niche the product or person. A local football club in a particular village appeals to people in that village, say a maximum of 500 people in total. A band or an artist that plays all over the world appeals to a potential audience of hundreds of millions. I may have close to quarter of a million fans, but when you put that in perspective, perhaps it’s not that much.

With so many people on Facebook it is difficult to go viral – what in your opinion was the tipping point for you – is it the fact that the industry is so pioneering and so it is either first to market or those with considerable influence will rise up?

I don’t know if there has been a tipping point, but instead there are occasional mini tipping points. For example, if you appear in a magazine that is distributed all over South America and Spain in a particular month then you’ll get a big increase in fans from these areas. Sometimes, something you post goes somewhat viral, but you can almost never predict that.

Google Analytics & Facebook Fans

Traffic to Faye’s blog from Facebook has reached 40,000 visitors from Dublin alone. Contrast that figure with the number of fans that the Irish publications of Social & Personal – Dublin, Tatler, and Image have – Faye has more likes than all of them combined.

In the world of social media, where high numbers can equal influence which can then equal attention, Faye’s status updates makes her a major influencer in her particular niche in the lucrative world of fashion. They have a reach that surpasses anyone else in Ireland and have a global spread as well.

However, what seems to separate her from other high profile people and organisations is her willingness to not only share her observations and experiences with her audience but to engage with them as well. As always, the key to social media is being social.

Optim.al: Accessing the Facebook API

Facebook is huge. It has over half a billion sign ups and even allowing for dummy and secondary accounts that still leaves a lot of people actively engaged with its service. A good deal of Facebook’s potential commercial power is based on the access to personal information that it has obtained from its user profiles and the monitoring of their activities, their likes, their shares, their posts and so on. But even an enormous, well-funded company like Facebook which has the ability throw immense resources at any given challenge realises that it cannot do everything itself.

As Sasha Ziman, Sales Director of Optim.al, puts it, “The notion of the API and the development of relationships with companies such as Optim.al is that they know they don’t have all the answers and so they have invited vendors to try and innovate using their tools.”

Optim.al is a platform where advertisers, big and small, can go on and create campaigns and test a lot of their creative ideas for their Facebook campaign and figure out which creative ideas and variables are the best.

Optim.al is a part of Xa.net which was founded by Rob Leathern who in his own words, “engineered a great deal of multivariate testing and optimization for display ads, emails and text ads at LinkedIn and NexTag and saw an opportunity to extend these methodologies to the rapidly growing and evolving Facebook ad ecosystem.”

Optim.al are among the very few Facebook data API partners and they have direct access to the Facebook ad-server. Their multivariant platform tool can substitute for Facebook’s own interface.

The advertiser can give permission to Optim.al to target their connections so they can advertise to them. Or, very neatly, they can advertise to everyone except their connections. They can also reach out to the friends of their connections which for many Facebook users can be a very large group.

The advertisements themselves are broken up into the headline, the body copy, and an image. The primary body text is broken up into two pieces. It was felt that the ‘call to action’ should be dealt with as a sole element and is therefore treated as a variable itself.

Sasha explains further, “[With this creative optimization platform] not only can we test out which ads and parts of ads are doing best but we can also figure out which audience components are successful as well. Not only can you get indications of responses from gender you can also break up the analytics according to their likes and interests.”

The full factorial of options, the multiple and varied ways that and advertisement can be created, combined and recombined can get deep, complicated and unwieldy very quickly. The issue with running every possible combination of an ad is the time and energy that is required to sift the information from the noise.

Fortunately, to help users avoid being overwhelmed there are simpler routes through the system. There are videos available to help with working through the options and it is possible to outsource the entire experimentation to Optim.al itself.

There are a lot of the other platforms which help advertisers manage their Facebook campaigns but this technology which was developed in-house by their own engineers has the ability to give its users insights to improve campaigns that they might otherwise have found very hard to obtain. It enables advertisers to pinpoint what makes their creative work great or not great.

The key here is audience segmentation, audience targeting and really creating ads that resonate with that audience. The power of being able to access a service like Facebook directly is that you have hundreds of millions of people who will tell you exactly who they are and what they like.

Whether Facebook will open its doors further to allow more third parties to have access to their API has yet to be seen. Considering how valuable the social graphs are that it possesses it us unlikely we will see a third-party eco-system that exists around say, Twitter.

However, the willingness of Facebook to allow companies to have direct access to its ad-servers may be indicative of an increasing self-awareness of the limits of its own capability that comes with maturity borne of experience.

Weedle: Creating a Fabric of Credibility

Iain MacDonald started Weedle with the desire to provide a fundamentally better way of connecting people who have skills to people who need them within a trusted environment. Weedle employs 18 people at present, most of whom are mathematically and software orientated, and has users in over 160 countries. Not bad for a company that is only about a year old.

The origins of Weedle began when Iain needed to solve an arboreal problem at his home. He explains further, “I needed to find somebody who could help me cut down some trees at the bottom of my garden. I spent a bit of time asking my friends and my family if they knew somebody but unfortunately they didn’t. Then I went to Google and I found people who said they were very good tree surgeons but they were strangers to me. I found it very hard to trust them in terms of their competence, their value money, their reliability or their trustworthiness.

“I was pretty sure that the right person was out there. That they were out there looking to connect with me and I’m looking for someone with a skill I need and I am trying to connect with them. But the reality is that it is currently very difficult for us to find each other.”

Iain designed Weedle so that people who are searching for someone with a skill can go beyond just depending on how the suppliers have presented themselves, either via advertising or simply having membership of a professional or trade body. Using social networks as a means of verification there is now a way to assess other factors such as reliability and suitability in terms of being able to work with them.

“When you are looking for a lawyer or someone like that, often when a friend recommends them to you and you end up going to the lawyer they can turn out to be not the sort of person you are looking for. We can circumvent that waste of time by being able to see all the details of the person who has the skill before you contact them.

“What we have is a fabric of credibility. Say, I go to Weedle and I make my skill page. In order to be found when someone searches for me there are a couple of things we take into account in the context of our search algorithm. So, the first one is the content of my skill page and does it match for what someone would be searching for. The next element we take into account is who this person is actually connected to. We may have someone who has created a skill page and is connected to fifty people but they may be less credible then someone who has connected a skills page that maybe only connected to five people.”

How does Weedle compare to Facebook and Linkedin?

“Facebook is very good for communicating with your friends and Linkedin is very good for managing your white-collar network of contacts. But it is not so good if you are looking for a plumber or a carpenter.

“Even if you were looking for a corporate lawyer to float your company on the Nasdaq you’ll get a resume or a some type of CV. What people are really looking for is what projects has he or she been involved in, what role did he play, how long did it take him to do it and to see examples of the expertise that he has.

“It’s not just about say, a yoga teacher who simply states they have worked in ABC Yoga for the last five years. On Weedle you will see; this is where they trained, this is where they worked and here is a video of her giving a yoga class. Here are photographs of the yoga studio, here is a list of ten people that are in your network that went to their class.”

How much of a role does Semantic Web technology have in your system?

“It’s really very significant: A lot of sites using search have gone down the hierarchical directory structure route. A person would have to pick from a drop-down box and choose ‘telecom industry’ and then ‘mobile telephony’ and then ‘mobile network.’ It’s very hierachical and pigeon-holes people into specific positions.

“The particular benefit of using a semantic ontology is that we have no hierarchy to the classification of our user skills. If you go on to the site declaring that you are a carpenter then all you need to do is say “I am a carpenter.” We know that we need to present that search result in a population of search results generated when others search for terms like carpenter, woodworker or joiner.

“We can apportion levels of relevance to the skill pages we have versus search strings. Machine learning combined with Semantic Web technology creates a much better user experience.”

The underlying idea that determines credibility and trustworthiness both offline and online is social proof. Any claim you may make about yourself personally or professionally is validated, or not, against how you are perceived by your social network. Professional bodies may declare you competent and award you some sort of certification and send you out the door to ply your trade but it is how you handle your day to day dealings that really count for most people.

Iain has come up with a system that allows you to access the layers of social trust that surrounds us all and enables access to the sort of vital information on someone that would only normally become available over time and after, possibly, a number of encounters.