Sunday, 28 April 2013

StoryKid, Created By Literature PhDs, Is An App That Helps Young Ones Tell Stories (And Their Parents, Too)



storykid screenshot
Children are known for how much they love to play make believe, and StoryKid, an app introduced today during the Disrupt Hackathon in New York, takes this and gives it a new twist by offering a series of pictures as visual cues for a child to tell a story based around them. StoryKid is aimed at children aged 2 to 5 who are already talking but may either be too young or just starting to write. Created by two comparative literature PhDs from Columbia University, the idea is that this will, in turn, help bring children into the world of story telling and literature. And as co-founder Tianjiao Yu tells me, it can also be used by parents when they’ve run out of inspiration for their own made-up bedtime stories.
storykid smallerYu, left, says that she learned to code to create the app, while her co-founder Lu Xiong, right, boned up on design and user experience to work on the visual elements. Their motivation to do this was to take what they’ve been learning out of the ivory towers of higher learning.
“Both of us are interested in the humanities and making them accessible to everyone,” Yu says. “We find creating an app is the perfect way to do this.” StoryKid is one of three ideas that the pair have to make literature more accessible to people. The other two, however, are more about discovery of existing literature rather than creating new things. The two are on the lookout now for a third coder who can help with creating these.

Startup Common Application Wants To Make Startup Job Applications More Efficient



commonapplication
Startups still have a hard time finding the right applicants for their jobs. During our Disrupt NY 2013 hackathon, Codecademy engineer Bob Ren wrote a little web app that takes the Common Application for college admission as its inspiration. Just like high school students can use the Common Application to apply to multiple colleges simultaneously, Startup Common Application will take your application and then submit it to multiple startups.
Large companies typically have a huge pipeline with job prospects, but startups “naturally suffer from not having the big pipelines that big companies have,” Ren told me – and for a small startup, it’s even harder to find the right applicants.
Currently, startups either rely on email, Job Score or Resumator, but the system is still very inefficient, especially for the applicants. You often spend hours getting your applications ready and submitted, but a system like Startup Common Application could just automate all of this for you (and you don’t even have to pretend that you really personalized the system).
Common Startup Application runs on top of Heroku and Ren is working on a number of scripts that will take his users’ data and then auto-submit it to more startups. In the spirit of the Hackathon, Ren coded until 6 a.m. and then slept an hour before getting ready for his demo this afternoon.
Obviously, this is still a hack, so Ren will surely have to work on the design a bit more, but he’s definitely tackling an interesting problem. Given that he can automate much of it, what he really needs right now, of course, is support for as many startups as possible, but there are some pretty obvious ways he could monetize this service if he decides to continue working on it.

Pay With Bits Wants To Be The Square For Bitcoin


Considering the gold rush around peer-to-peer currency Bitcoin, it’s not surprising that one of the hackers at the Disrupt NY hackathon created an application around the currency. Pay With Bits was to be a Square for Bitcoin. The startup essentially allows Bitcoins to be transfered between parties via their mobile phones.
The idea is the brainchild of Cody Byrnes, Prateek Gupta, Jon Bardin, Ben Daniel, Brett Mascavage, and Brad Smith, director of engineering at RadiumOne.
The original idea came from Byrnes, a Developer at COG1 Interactive in San Francisco. Smith sold his startup Focal Labs, which launched at TechCrunch50, to RadiumOne in 2011. The rest of the team (Prateek, Cody, Jon, and Ben) developed FreshTag.me in June of last year.
Smith explains that the team wanted to find a way to make Bitcoin accesible to the masses. You simply enter your Bitcoin account information on Pay With Bits, and you can send money via text message to any other party who also has entered their info on Pay With Bits. Pay With bits serves as a node on Bitcoin network, Smith adds.
Smith says that using Pay With Bits, Bitcoins can be transferred internationally in a secure way within minutes. Because there are no interchange charges from a bank or credit card, Pay With Bits only incurs fees that are a fraction of a percent. In the future, Smith wants to add NFC capabilities as well.
Pay With Bits adds to the growing number of startups in the Bitcoin world, including BitPay andBitinstant.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Bitcoin's Future Could Be In Porn

Bitcoin Porn

In keeping with its barely legal mystique, the future success of virtual currency bitcoin may lie in porn.
Bitcoin, an electronic coin that exists only on computer servers and is not backed by any national government, has skyrocketed in the past few weeks, seeing an exponential rise in both price and popularity. But the currency has a serious problem: Very few businesses actually allow consumers to pay using bitcoins, making them about as valuable as Monopoly money for everyday use.
Enter pornography.
“Generally speaking, porn is an early adopter of anything related to new technology. If you look back, they were the first to adopt many of the new video formats,” said Fred Ehrsam, a former Goldman Sachs currency trader who left a desk in New York to create Coinbase, a company that processes bitcoin payments for merchants.
But there’s more to it than the adult entertainment industry’s historical interest in emerging sectors. Bitcoin, Ehrsam explained, was born as a passion project of computer programmers with a penchant for libertarian politics.
“A weird mix, frankly, of Internet nerds and privacy advocates were the early adopters,” Ehrsam described them.
A sizable number of those early adopters happen to run businesses that provide online hosting or website design services, two products that pornography businesses, like others with major web presences, use in spades. If porn sites start to see they can pay their suppliers in bitcoins, they will likely be willing to accept the currency themselves.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Facebook Home Means You'll Never Check Facebook Again (It'll Check You)

Facebook Home

At a press conference Thursday, Facebook unveiled Home, a new smartphone software design it cryptically said “isn't a phone or operating system,” but is “more than just an app” and will deliver a "completely new experience."
That "new experience" doesn’t stop at the phone’s screen. What Home seeks to deliver is not only a Facebook environment for our phones, but also a Facebook environment for our lives.
With Home, Facebook has crossed the line between something people check -- that they have control over, and deploy according to their wishes and needs -- to become something that’s always on, checking in with us, fighting for attention, waving people we know in our face. Rather than a tool we use to talk to others, the phone, thanks to Facebook, has become something that communicates to us. And it’s Facebook that gets to do the talking.
Home, which will be available for download on a handful of smartphones next week, is essentially a Facebook-ified version of Google’s Android operating system, modified by Facebook engineers to place the social network at its core. A flow of updates from the News Feed will be the first thing people see when they turn on their phones -- the newly named “cover feed,” a slideshow of friends’ photos and status updates, will take over the phone’s primary screen, though users can swipe past to access other applications. Home also touts “chat heads,” a feature that brings together texting and messaging, replaces names with Facebook photos and lets users message within any application. Ads will be on their way to the cover feed soon, Facebook conceded. And though the social network didn’t say as much, technology observers, such as Om Malik, have pointed out that Home will let Facebook scoop up even more personal information about everything from our locations to our calls.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Google Reader Enthusiasts Angered By Google's Joke About Shutting Down YouTube

Google Reader Youtube


Google has always been known for its great April Fools' Day pranks. In fact, it was Google who arguably started the pranking tradition in the tech industry (which in 2013 includes TwitterNetflixHulu and others). All the way back in 2000, Google first pranked users by telling them they had created a new program that allowed users to search with their minds. Google has generally gotten good press for its efforts. But they hit a bump this year.
For one of this year's pranks, Google made a video saying that it was going to shut down YouTube. What was meant to be a lighthearted joke -- over 4 billion hours of video are watched each month, YouTube isn't going anywhere -- turned into a bit of a PR issue. Pretending to kill YouTube seemed to remind many, or at least many who have Twitter accounts, that Google is actually killing Google Reader. Last month, Google upset a whole lot of devoted users when it announced that it is planning to discontinue the RSS reader, the unspoken reason being to focus users on Google+. Just when that fire had died down, Google found a way to reignite it.

Kim Jong Un, North Korean Leader, Calls Nuclear Weapons A 'Reliable War Deterrent'

Kim Jong Un

SEOUL, April 2 (Reuters) - North Korean nuclear weapons act as a deterrent to potential aggressors and as a foundation for its prosperity, the country's leader said in a speech delivered on Sunday and published in full by the country's KCNA news agency on Tuesday.

"Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty," Kim Jong-un said in a speech delivered to the central committee meeting of the ruling Workers Party of Korea.

The speech appeared to emphasize a shift to economic development and accused the United States of seeking to drag North Korea into an arms race in a bid to create obstacles to economic improvement. (Reporting by David Chance; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
SEOUL, April 2 (Reuters) - North Korean nuclear weapons act as a deterrent to potential aggressors and as a foundation for its prosperity, the country's leader said in a speech delivered on Sunday and published in full by the country's KCNA news agency on Tuesday.

"Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty," Kim Jong-un said in a speech delivered to the central committee meeting of the ruling Workers Party of Korea.

The speech appeared to emphasize a shift to economic development and accused the United States of seeking to drag North Korea into an arms race in a bid to create obstacles to economic improvement. (Reporting by David Chance; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)