NYC regulators agree with Airbnb in host case: if permanent occupant present, stay doesn’t violate rental laws
The New York City Environmental Control Board granted Airbnb a victory today when it reversed fines handed down to one of the service’s hosts in a case that has huge implications for those looking for more affordable and alternative places to stay in the city. According to the ruling, as long as a permanent occupant is present during the stay, it does not violate the city’s short term rental laws.
At issue was the case against Nigel Warren who lives in the East Village of New York City and was initially fined $2,400 by the Environmental Control Board to reimburse his landlord over renting out his apartment while Warren was away on travel. Apparently it was in violation of NYC’s multiple dwelling law.
But Airbnb stepped in to assist Warren, even though it wasn’t a party in the matter. It submitted legal arguments in support of the host. After the intial ruling, the company released a statement saying:
This decision runs contrary to the stated intention and the plain text of New York law, so obviously we are disappointed. But more importantly, this decision makes it even more critical that New York law be clarified to make sure regular New Yorkers can occasionally rent out their own homes. There is universal agreement that occasional hosts like Nigel Warren were not the target of the 2010 law, but that agreement provides little comfort to the handful of people, like Nigel, who find themselves targeted by overzealous enforcement officials.
It is time to fix this law and protect hosts who occasionally rent out their own homes. Eighty-seven percent of Airbnb hosts in New York list just a home they live in — they are average New Yorkers trying to make ends meet, not illegal hotels that should be subject to the 2010 law.
Today, the board bought the company’s arguments and has rescinded its fine against Warren.
The move could likely create opportunities for more hosts to open up their doors and allow people to rent out their space for temporary stays. Airbnb acknowledges that the law that affected Warren was to crack down on individuals and entities that sought to operate illegal hotels, but says that this isn’t what Airbnb is about.
Photo credit: LUCAS JACKSON/AFP/Getty Images
We’ve been testing the AT&T and Verizon versions of LG’s G2 smartphone, and there are enough minor differences between the two models that we thought we’d take a closer look.
I already wrote up my first impressions of the global unit of the device. After more time with the G2, the quirkiness of the software has begun to grate. LG follows in Samsung’s footsteps by adding a bunch of unique software features to its flagship, but things like a three-finger slide to hide and bring back apps turn out to be clunky and not all that useful.
The G2 has all the pieces required for a great smartphone, but LG’s software layer lacks polish and detracts from the experience. If Google does end up basing the rumored Nexus 5 on the G2, it should end up realizing the full potential of the device. I realize the temptation for smartphone makers to add their own tweaks to Android, but it’s telling that there’s such high interest in stock versions of handsets like the Galaxy S4, HTC One and now the G2.
Speaking of detracted experiences, Verizon has managed to make its version of the G2 worse than the global and AT&T model. One of the G2′s differentiating features is the placement of the hardware buttons on the back of the device. Verizon took those buttons and shrunk them, changed the color, and gave them a more plasticky feel. In other words, Verizon decided to worsen the feel, look and functionality of the device for no apparent reason.
I wouldn’t normally spend this much time talking about buttons, but LG itself has made this a talking point. I like the positioning of the buttons on the AT&T and global versions, but with Verizon’s take, I often end up accidentally putting the phone to sleep instead of changing the volume.
Verizon also decided to put its logo on the front of the G2. I’d normally forgive the intrusion, except that it’s placed unevenly. The Verizon checkmark is too close to the edge of the device and the text isn’t aligned with the earpiece and front-facing camera. It’s a minor detail that won’t bother most people, but for those it does, the placement associates negative feelings with Verizon’s brand.
Verizon has opted for a dark blue rear cover with a tiny honeycomb pattern, instead of LG’s standard black weave. I prefer the textured appearance of the AT&T model.
The AT&T unit comes with two speaker grills at the base of the G2, while the Verizon model has one speaker grill and a small microphone opening. There didn’t appear to be a difference in sound quality or volume.
On the software side, both carrier versions come with minor tweaks and the usual pre-installed operator software. AT&T at least lets you disable its own apps, but with Verizon, you can only hide them. Both come with over 60 apps installed, most of which I wouldn’t use.
The Verizon version of the G2 feels like the equivalent of taking a new car and throwing a bucket of paint on the hood. It still works mostly the same, but it kind of ruins the experience. The LG G2 is a solid smartphone, but it doesn’t quite feel that way on Verizon.
In a bit of Friday weirdness, we came across a press release that we just had to share with you. It turns out that Anchor Communications has hit a major milestone: Its CEO has notched a Klout score of 68.
Yes, that’s it…that’s the news. Agency chief has a score of 68. The St. Louis-based inbound marketing agency felt that it was worth touting that its leader ranked in the top 5 percent of influencers on the site, and proceeded to put together an announcement highlighting what a big deal he is. Klout hasn’t generated a list of his top influencers yet, nor has he been endorsed for any specific topic, but with a score like that, it’s probably only a matter of time.
Here’s the press release in its entirety:
Saint Louis, MO (PRWEB) September 26, 2013
Anchor Communications’ CEO T.J. Kirgin recently scored a 68 on Klout’s social media influence scale, putting him in the top 5% of influencers on the site. Klout, a five year old company based in San Francisco, uses complicated algorithms to gauge how much interaction users are getting from their social media posts. The score ultimately measures the influence one has on others through social media, and the degree in which friends and followers react to one’s posts. A Klout score is determined based on the following factors:
-Twitter: Retweets and Mentions.
-Facebook: Comments, Wall Posts, and Likes.
-Google+: Comments and Reshares.
-LinkedIn: Comments and Likes.
-Foursquare: To do’s and Tips.
The score can fluctuate and is dependent on consistency and reaction. For instance, if a user tweets 100 times a day but gets no response, they are not effectively creating reactions and interactions, thus their influence and Klout score is minimal at best.
As an individual who is constantly engaged with social media, T.J. Kirgin maintains an outstanding Klout score of 68. The average Klout score is 40; influencers with a score of 60 or higher are in the top 5% users.
Maintaining a high Klout score is important for a number of reasons. Social media is becoming an increasingly important platform to reach a global audience. A strong social media presence is expected of professionals involved in any kind of marketing, PR, writing, politics, communication, or entrepreneurship. Since so much marketing these days is digital, businesses are starting to look for candidates with high Klout scores because it shows that the individual is already very influential on social media. If one has already proven that they can be a mover and a shaker on social media, businesses want those individuals on board to do the same thing for their company.
Klout also offers something called Klout Perks. If one’s Klout score is high enough, they become eligible to redeem perks. Once users are registered, they can earn Klout Perks based on their Klout score. Perks are exclusive products or experiences one can earn based on their score. Perks are given to users based on a variety of things, including location and influential topics. Perks enable brands and companies to connect with influencers in their area of expertise. Recognized influencers get first access to Perks that they can in turn share with their friends and social media audience. Brands and companies hope that if these influencers like the product or service they’ve been offered as a Perk, they will relay this to their audience and increase the exposure and reputation of said brand or company.
With over 20 years of experience, Anchor Communications has transformed from a media buying and planning company into an inbound marketing focused agency. Located on Historic Main Street in downtown Saint Charles, MO, Anchor Communications strives to deliver the very best in inbound marketing and social media marketing by generating more visitors to a company’s site, converting those visitors into leads, nurturing those leads into customers, and then ultimately delighting them so they become lifelong advocates of the brand or company. Anchor Communications recognizes that there has been a dramatic shift in the consumer’s purchasing process and understands the concepts and methodologies required to meet the demands of this new age of consumerism.
For more information on the importance of a Klout score, Anchor Communications, and the inbound marketing methodology, you can contact http://www.anchorstl.com.
Of course, given that the agency is all about inbound marketing, having influence can certainly play to their advantage. But probably declaring that you do as a potential ploy to garner new business is a bit much, right?
We’ve reached out to Anchor Communications for comment and will update this if we hear back.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
Microsoft will increase Windows 8’s and Windows 8.1’s app roaming limit from 5 to 81 devices on October 9
Microsoft today it is increasing the app roaming limit on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 from five to 81 on October 9. This means you’ll be able to install the same app from the Windows Store on more than just a handful of devices associated with a single Microsoft account.
Microsoft says this change is being implemented in direct response to users complaining about the five-app maximum:
Since we launched Windows 8, we heard growing feedback from many developers and from our most enthusiastic customers that the limit of 5 was not enough for their needs. Developers asked for more flexibility in implementing their business models, and customers wanted to run those apps on the variety of tablets, laptops and desktops they owned.
Yet at 81 devices (which is clearly a play on the Windows 8.1 name), the limit may seem a bit redundant. Nevertheless, Microsoft insists it’s there to protect the app builders’ investment and help “prevent abuse.”
For free apps that don’t have any revenue streams, this change will have no effect. For apps that have ads, the new policy may end up being beneficial to their developers, as users may access them on more devices.
Yet for developers who use a business model that depends on limiting the service that can be accessed simultaneously on devices, Microsoft has a solution. The company provides a set of APIs to build a service-side verification to set a limit below 81.
If you’re in this boat, you’ll want to check out the following links: Using receipts to verify purchases and Guidance on using the App Specific Hardware ID (ASHWID) to implement per-device app logic. You’ll also have to disclose the constraint you set to Windows Store customers and “set expectations appropriately,” Microsoft notes.
In its announcement post, Microsoft noted the word “friction” when describing Windows 8 users installing apps and that this upcoming increase would reduce it. Clearly the company and third-party developers aren’t seeing the app installation numbers they would want, and just before Windows 8.1′s release has been picked as the time to act.
Top Image Credit: Timothy A. Clary / Getty Images
Microsoft’s Xbox One tour kicks off October 1, coming to over 75 cities in the US, Canada, and Europe
After the news partially leaked yesterday, Microsoft today unveiled that the Xbox team will be taking Xbox One on the road between October 1 and the end of the year. You’ll be able to check out the new console “through a series of experiential events” if you’re in one of the over 75 picked cities in the US, Canada, and Europe.
What exactly will the events entail? You’ll be able to play the Xbox One line-up of blockbuster games with your friends for free (attendance costs nothing but space will be limited, so you’ll want to get there early). We wouldn’t be surprised if there were giveaways and prizes to be won as well.
Not all games were confirmed, but Microsoft did specifically mention seven of them: Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, Killer Instinct, Dead Rising 3, Crimson Dragon, Max: Curse of the Brotherhood, and LocoCycle. That’s not a finite list: other games will be present as well.
Again, Microsoft also didn’t give a complete list of all the cities that the Xbox team would be attending. It only revealed 13 of them with specific tour dates:
- Philadelphia: 10/3–10/6
- Paris: 10/10–10/13
- Toronto: 10/10–10/13
- Chicago: 10/17–10/20
- Vienna: 10/17–10/20
- Atlanta: 10/24–10/27
- Dallas: 10/31–11/3
- Berlin: 10/31–11/3
- Phoenix: 11/7–11/10
- San Francisco: 11/14–11/17
- Dublin: 11/14–11/17
- Los Angeles: 11/21
- London: 11/21–11/24
This poster meanwhile lists 25 states in the US and 13 cities in Europe:
The Xbox team will be cruising in custom “Test Drive” vehicles, so you might be able to spot them in advance. They will be appearing at festivals, university campuses, retail centers, and so forth “in search of gamers ready to take the new generation of entertainment for a spin.”
The Xbox One launches on November 22, meaning most of the listed cities will be able to try the console out before it arrives in store.
Top Image Credit: Glenn Chapman/Getty Images
Techstars kicked off its first European Demo Day in London today, providing an opportunity for the 10 startups it has been supporting and nurturing for the last 13 weeks to show off their wares, and potentially bag a vital cash injection.
Being introduced by Lord Young, business and enterprise advisor to the UK Prime Minister, a serial entrepreneur who set up his first company back in 1961 – an almost literally different world – the 10 startups included businesses looking at solving diverse issues ranging from mobile payments to ways to buy your neighbors old shoes. And that’s not even a joke.
So, here you have the 10 startups that presented at Techstars, with our three favourites at the end; that’s not to say the rest aren’t worth taking note of, so no skipping.VetCloud
For vets, as is the case in the medical industry, while technology has improved the tools and facilities they have at their disposal, the accompanying filing and management systems for practices are, at best, ageing.
This is where VetCloud steps in. Aiming to revolutionize (not to mention modernize) vetinary healthcare record keeping and practice management with its SaaS and CRM platform. Using VetCloud, offers the opportunity for clinics to put their data to work in an understandable way that can save them money and increase revenue. For example, by providing the opportunity to see where wastage is occurring, or which pets are eligible for certain special offers (and much more) it provides managers with a better overall picture of the day-to-day running.
Currently in private beta, VetCloud took to the stage looking to reach its funding goal of $400,000 – of which it already has $275,000 committed.
If sharing is caring, then Peerby’s hoping you care quite a lot indeed.
The Dutch company thinks it’s mad that people have to go out and buy things they need to use only once or twice, or very infrequently. Need to hang a picture? Well, that will require a drill – which means buying a drill, if you don’t have one already. Peerby’s answer to this is simply to borrow one from your neighbours.
At this point you may well be thinking this isn’t the first neighbourhood sharing scheme you’ve heard of, and you’d be right. It is, however, probably one of the only ones that puts the onus on requesting the item, rather than signing up and listing which possessions you have to offer. Impressively, the company says that it’s receiving 3,000 requests for items per day and that 80 percent of requests are fulfilled within 30 minutes.
Peerby is already present in all major cities in the Netherlands and was a third of its way to its €600,000 goal, which will go towards international expansion.
PayMins is entering an already crowded marketplace in providing a simple way to accept on mobile payments but its USP is that it bills directly to the user’s monthly phone contract.
Operator billing isn’t in itself unique either but by using this method the checkout process on a mobile device is reduced from around 130-odd keystrokes entering your name, address, card details, secure 3D verification etc. to entering your phone number and then a single button press. The result? Less checkout abandonment and higher revenues.
However, I’m not entirely convinced people would necessarily want to start paying for things they’d normally use a credit card for (not forgetting the protection that brings with it) on their monthly mobile bill instead. Nonetheless, it is an incredibly competitive market which suggests there’s money there to be made, so someone will inevitably crack it.
PayMins was looking to raise $500,000 in total and was 80 percent of the way there before today.
QuanTemplate, similarly to VetCloud, was borne of a team that has an intricate knowledge of the problems facing their industry. In this case, insurance and the mountains of paperwork and countless hours of inefficiency that brokers spend queueing at an underwriters desk. Bizarre as this sounds in 2013, this is apparently the way in which (re)insurance still works.
Naturally, QuanTemplate wants to fix this with its Web-based tools for trading risk, regulatory reporting and creating financial models for the insurance market.
Looking to raise $2 million, with one-third of that already committed, QuanTemplate has already launched in London and will use the cash injection (should it receive it) to expand internationally.
Modabound is the startup that I mentioned in the intro that wants you to sell your shoes to your neighbors. Not shoes specifically, but any of your unwanted clothes, if you’re a woman.
The New York-based startup says that the average female has more than $1,000 worth of clothes in their wardrobe, but rarely wears more than half of what she has. The solution, sell the rest using Modabound’s online marketplace for clothes.
Again, while not the first startup to try to create a fashion marketplace, Modabound is trying to do it a little differently by keeping all transactions face-to-face, paid for via its platform. The benefit of this is not having to wait around for a delivery, simply arrange a time to call by and then walk around the corner to pick up your new shoes.
To start with, Modabound has focused its efforts on select campus universities in New York City and Gainesville, Florida. Places that have a high number of women living in close proximity.
Modabound was looking to raise $600,000, with $300,000 of it already secured. Whether or not the service will scale beyond the enclosed (and ideal) nature of universities to the wider world and fit in with people’s busy daily schedules is a question that remains to be answered.
Iptvbeat is a realtime TV audience analytics platform for broadcasters. If that doesn’t mean a lot to you, you’ve probably heard of the ‘Nielsen Families‘ – the few chosen families whose viewing habits are tracked (and then extrapolated to the population as a whole) via little boxes and special remotes to operate and watch the TV in their home. In the UK, there are around 5,000 Nielsen Families, out of about 60 million families making it a not very representative sample.
By using Iptvbeat’s platform, however, the company says broadcasters can glean realtime, actionable insights simply by analysing their own viewer data. In addition to providing information on live TV, Iptvbeat can also draw information from mobile or time-shifted (PVR) viewers.
Iptvbeat was looking to raise “a large seed round”.
Osper wants to be thought of as a bank for kids.
Up and running with some families in beta already, Osper aims to put kids in control of their own money, but in a safe and educational way.
You’ll likely remember saving up for something that you really wanted as a child, and it’s these experiences in our formative years, Osper says, that shape the way we think about and manage money in the future. Simply, by instilling good habits, control and offering what is tantamount to piggybanks with a target, Osper thinks those people will go on to be able to better manage their own cash as an adult.
➤ OsperOur picks
Those were 7 of the 10 startups on stage, what follows were my three favourites of the day.3 – Moni
As noted with PayMins, the mobile payment transfer market is incredibly active right now with numerous companies – established and startups alike – trying to reach critical mass first.
However, Moni, Laurence Aderemi, co-founder and CEO of the company, explained they’re coming at it from a different angle by focusing on personal money transfers to international destinations.
Currently, the market stands as such that Western Union is often the most frequently used service for quick transfers – bringing with it queueing in line and relatively high commission rates.
In contrast, Moni’s service can be completed from the comfort of a smartphone or tablet in just a few minutes and allows for the transfer of money internationally into a designated account or digital wallet. More than that, it provides tools for easily managing these payments, bringing a level of control and transparency to an otherwise oft-neglected area of payments.
Aderemi told me the percentage Moni takes of each transaction is calculated by taking into account a range of factors, but that it would be significantly lower than Western Union’s.
Moni was in the room trying to raise “a small seed round”
➤ Moni2 – PlayCanvas
PlayCanvas is a cloud-based collaborative platform for creating video games. As an analogy, think of it a bit like Google Docs for game devs, if Microsoft Word is currently what they’re using.
What that means is greater collaboration, in real-time, and freedom from being tied to desktop, locally installed tools and a requirement to host the game yourself.
By providing a complete, end-to-end game development and hosting platform that can provide real-time collaboration between team members with different skill sets, projects can be completed more quickly and more efficiently. More importantly than that, there’s no longer the risk of devs breaking the build with updates.
Games built with PlayCanvas can then immediately be published to the Web or monetized as apps via the Google Play or Apple App Store. As a bonus, because they’re built based on HTML5 standards, games published to the Web will also work happily for mobile and tablet visitors too.
PlayCanvas has already secured $250,000 of its $600,000 goal.
OP3Nvoice was my favorite startup on the day, partially because I can scarcely recall the number of times I’ve wished it existed in the past.
What it does is simple, it makes voice and video files searchable by keywords or tags. By extension it makes the hours and hours of voice recordings and videos that are saved at conferences, on phone calls for audit reasons sortable and searchable, thereby saving hours and hours of trawling through recordings.
In order to spread the technology as wide as possible, rather than build products and apps itself OP3Nvoice integrates its software into existing platforms, and can already be seen in action on educational video platforms like Mobento. In fact, it was Mobento that first made OP3Nvoice realize it could work its same magic on video as well as pure audio files, Paul Murphy, CEO of OP3Nvoice explained to me.
At Techstars Demo Day looking to raise “a large seed round”, the company already booked $300,000 in revenue last year, and is on course for booking around one million dollars for 2013.
Those were my favorites of the bunch, which were yours?
Featured Image Credit – Getty Images
Facebook is constantly making changes to its . The most recent major changes came with Story Bumping and Last Actor, but the site announced Friday that it is altering the algorithm to help advertisers deliver more relevant ads to users.
Hong Ge, Facebook’s Engineering Manager for News Feed ads, that these latest changes come after receiving feedback both from brands and from users regarding what’s best in News Feed.
Ge described the changes that are coming to the News Feed algorithm:
When deciding which ad to show to which groups of people, we are placing more emphasis on feedback we receive from people about ads, including how often people report or hide an ad.
That means people should see ads that are increasingly relevant to them, and fewer ads that they might not be interested in.
For marketers, this means we are showing ads to the people who might want to see them the most. For example, if someone always hides ads for electronics, we will reduce the number of those types of ads that we show to them.
This means that some marketers may see some variation in the distribution of their ads in the coming weeks. Our goal is to make sure we deliver the most relevant ads, which should mean the right people are seeing a specific ad campaign. This is ultimately better for marketers, because it means their messages are reaching the people most interested in what they have to offer.
Readers: Do you feel that you see in are relevant enough?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Facebook is tweaking its News Feed ads algorithm to consider user feedback, including what you report or hide
Facebook today it is tweaking its News Feed algorithm in the coming weeks to show fewer annoying and irrelevant ads. Specifically, the company says it is placing more emphasis on user feedback, including how often people report or hide an ad.
The company says these “updates” will improve the relevance and quality of the ads people see. If you regularly hide or report specific types of ads, Facebook says it will reduce the number of those types of ads it shows you (a change which only makes us wonder why it wasn’t doing this before).
Unsurprisingly, the company argues this is good for both users as well as marketers and advertisers. The former group should see ads that are “increasingly relevant” and fewer ads that “they might not be interested in.” The latter group will meanwhile benefit as their ads will be shown to the people who “might want to see them the most.”
Facebook also noted the goal of News Feed is to deliver “the right content to the right people at the right time,” whether that means typical social network content or ads. The News Feed algorithm currently chooses between thousands of ads by looking at things such as your interests and the Pages you Like.
As with any Web company that depends on user-generated content, this is a tight-rope balancing act for Facebook. Leaning too much towards users (no ads!) could significantly hurt revenue while leaning too much towards marketers (more ads!) could drive away users from the service.
Personally, I’ve seen ads on Facebook that are scary-relevant and others that are downright terrible. Hopefully these changes, which have been hinted at for a while, will improve the situation, although I’m not particularly interested in spending my time manually hiding and reporting ads.
Top Image Credit: Manjunath Kiran/Getty Images
As September draws to a close, we thought we’d take a retrospective look at some of the more notable mobile apps to hit our radar over the past month.
Without further ado, here’s a quick snapshot of some of the best.New on Android
Communication encryption company Silent Circle released a version of its text message privacy app Silent Text for Android.
The app allows subscribers to Silent Circle, a service that costs around $10 per month, to route encrypted calls, messages and attachments through their Android handset without logging the usual metadata associated with those communications. Attachments can be up to 100MB and of any file type.
Like the iOS version, the Android app is free, but those who download it can get started from the get-go, without the need to create a Simplenote account. Users who do go to the trouble of signing up or logging in, will see their notes synced and maintained across the iOS, Kindle and Web versions of the service.
Music Maker Jam
The app takes a more playful approach than the professional suite available for PCs, and it’s clearly aimed at novices looking to mess around with different sounds and mixes, rather than those wishing to create a smash hit. But it is fun nevertheless, and could get very addictive.
You get access to around a thousand loops from four different genres: Hip Hop, Dance, Electric Jazz, and Rock Ballads. If Dubstep, Techno, Rock Pop or other genres take your fancy, you can buy more for around $1.99 each.
Hotspotio for Android allows users to share their own, or use others’, Internet connection in exchange for public gratitude.
Once installed, you simply select which network you’d like to connect to from ones that are available, or can choose to share your own via your mobile device by using it as a WiFi hotspot.
Chirp, the app that lets you share links and photos using short bursts of ‘digital birdsong’, finally landed on Android this month.
Rather than sending pictures via messages, emails, social networks or storage services like Dropbox, Chirp lets you send links to webpages, pictures and other content to multiple people at once, provided they also have the Chirp app installed and active.
Social photo app Foap landed on Android this month, letting users monetize their mobile photos.
Following its launch on iOS last year, and maintaining the same core experience, the Foap Android app lets users list their snaps for $10 each (split 50/50 between Foap and the user), providing they garner an approval rating of 2.5 or higher from other Foap users.
Moves, the highly-acclaimed activity and location-tracking app , finally launched on Android this month.
As with the iPhone version, Moves for Android keeps a log of where you go and how far you walk, run and cycle, presenting the data in a simple, useful way. In terms of features, the Android version is a little behind the iPhone incarnation, which recently gained support for connecting third-party apps, and last week added user accounts, meaning that users can change device and keep their data. These will come to Android soon though.
Thank God it’s Friday! However, Facebook is reminding not to forget about their pages over the weekend, urging them to .
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Valve unveiled the Steam Controller today, a unique piece of hardware with dual trackpads for playing video games in the living room.
The Steam Controller features two large, concave trackpads on either side, in addition to four face buttons labeled A, B, X and Y. Both trackpads are clickable, similar to the analog sticks on a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 controller, allowing the entire surface to double-up as an extra button. Two shoulder buttons are also located on the back.
Valve says the controller is built with “high-precision input technologies” that focus on low-latency performance; an area that competitive players are always concerned about. Nestled in the controller are dual linear resonant actuators; small, electromagnets which are fitted underneath the trackpads and offer various force and vibration effects.
“It is a higher-bandwidth haptic information channel than exists in any other consumer product that we know of,” Valve said. “As a parlour trick they can even play audio waveforms and function as speakers.”
In the center of the console is a clickable touchscreen that will allow players to navigate the Steam interface with complex gestures without selecting specific menus or options by mistake. Developers will also be able to implement the touchscreen into their games using an API offered by Valve.
The controller is designed to work with all of the games currently playable on Steam, as well as upcoming releases. Valve argues that traditional controllers “force us to accept compromises” and believes that the Steam Controller will vastly improve the accuracy and fidelity of player input.
Earlier this week, the company unveiled a free, Linux-based operating system called SteamOS, which has been optimized to run video games in the living room. Players will be able to install the platform on their existing hardware, or access it with new Steam Machines being built by third-party manufacturers. The Steam Controller announced today will run both on Steam and Steam Machines running Steam OS.
Valve says it’s also designed a high-performance prototype, which many believe to be the long-awaited and highly-anticipated Steam Box.
SteamOS and Steam Machines is a balancing act for Valve, as it tries to open up its hugely successful distribution platform to a larger number of players. Steam Machines, like the upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, will be designed with ease of use in mind.
Valve says there will be several boxes covering “an array of specifications, price, and performance”, but there’s likely to be a large number of PC enthusiasts who also want the ability to upgrade their hardware at their own speed. That is, after all, how PC gaming stays ahead of traditional consoles built by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo – at least from a specs standpoint.
A hardware beta has already been detailed, but ultimately players will have to wait until next year before they can spend some of their hard-earned cash on a system running SteamOS.
Earlier this month, some users of Facebook’s began seeing an option to . Now it appears that the social network has extended the same functionality to its .
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Yelp confirms Harvard study about fraudulent reviews, says its algorithm discards 25% of user submissions
Earlier this week, a Harvard Business School study (PDF) titled “Fake It Till You Make It: Reputation, Competition, and Yelp Review Fraud” found businesses that don’t have a good reputation online try to “fix” the problem by submitting fake reviews. This was by some publications as a claim that the percentage of fake reviews featured on Yelp is growing.
A quick look at the study, however, shows that this is not in line with the findings. In fact, Yelp today confirmed the study is accurate and noted its algorithm, also referred to as its review filter, only selects about 75 percent of the service’s 42 million contributed reviews:
This means about 25% of the reviews *submitted* to Yelp are not published on a business’s listing or recommended to consumers. Among these reviews are the ones the Harvard study found likely to be fakes submitted by businesses themselves.
We’re not sure where the confusion started, but this sentence in the conclusion may have done it: “We show that the problem is widespread – nearly one out of five reviews marked as fake, by Yelp’s algorithm.” This was twisted to say that 20 percent of reviews on Yelp are fake. As you can see in the quote above, that’s not true.
In fact, the paper’s authors themselves note that measuring the percentage of Yelp reviews that are fraudulent is not within their abilities. “Because one cannot directly observe which reviews are fake, we focus on reviews that Yelp’s algorithmic indicator has identified as fraudulent.”
The paper’s abstract breaks down its findings more succinctly:
- Roughly 16 percent of restaurant reviews on Yelp are identified as fraudulent, and tend to be more extreme (favorable or unfavorable) than other reviews.
- A restaurant is more likely to commit review fraud when its reputation is weak, i.e., when it has few reviews, or it has recently received bad reviews.
- Chain restaurants – which benefit less from Yelp – are also less likely to commit review fraud.
- When restaurants face increased competition, they become more likely to leave unfavorable reviews for competitors.
In summary, a business’s decision to commit review fraud is driven more by competition and reputation incentives “than simply the restaurant’s ethics.” None of this is very surprising; if, however, a study comes out showing how many fake reviews slip past Yelp’s algorithm, we’ll be much more intrigued.
Top Image Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images
When the two-hour season premiere of “” airs on Friday at 9 p.m., the focus will be on the story of Matt Podolak, a 31-year-old who died and was found to have been poisoned by antifreeze. And the story came straight from the newsmagazine’s .
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Lookback lets developers record and review the screen, gestures, face and sound of their app testers
Refining the perfect user experience for an iOS app can be tricky. As a developer you already know how the various menus and buttons should behave, so it’s always important to get some raw feedback from new users.
Lookback is a new tool that lets you record and collect user experiences without any additional hardware solutions. Just integrate the SDK and send out the custom version of the app to testers with a tool such as Lookback. Anyone trialling the app can then use a simplistic interface designed by Lookback to decide when to start and stop recording their in-app experience. Once they’re finished, the data is uploaded to the Lookback website, where you can review and analyze it at anytime.
(Take a look at an example recording here.)
Each recording shows exactly what they did in the app, alongside a video (with corresponding audio) of the front-facing camera. So if a tester is getting a little frustrated or confused, you’ll instantly be able to recognize which areas of the app need some work.
The service is in beta and free to try out at the moment – firms such as Spotify, Yammer and iZettle have already adopted it, so it’s almost certainly worth checking out. A small caveat from Lookout’s website though: “Lookback is designed for testing with informed users only. You are not allowed to submit a Lookback-integrated app to the App Store.”
Image Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Most of the major e-commerce sites give you the option to send your order as a gift to another person. To help smaller merchants and the rest of the Web capitalize on this thoughtful form of online shopping, Amsterdam-based Give.it is today launching an embeddable button.
The idea is that you embed it onto a product listing, blog, review or advert – anywhere on the Web really that you might find a potential customer. Interested shoppers then hit the link and select the friend they would like to gift it to via their chosen social network.
Payment is authorized through PayPal and the recipient is notified of the gift through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or email. They can then pick their shipping address, as well as the size or color, thereby ensuring that the receiver gets exactly what they want.
Give.it has already developed plugins for a number of the big e-commerce platforms such as Magento, Big Cartel and Shopify; the embeddable button launching today isn’t a unique idea by any means, but if it’s easy enough to setup and use, who knows – it might just catch on.
Image Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Facebook announced another tweak to the that determines which ads appear in users’ , giving more weight to the feedback it receives on ads, particularly how often they are or reported.
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After a years-long battle in court, Facebook won a $3 million-plus cash settlement and permanent injunction against the company behind Power.com, a now-defunct website that set out to create a one-stop portal for a user’s several social media channels.
The small win for the tech giant closes a protracted battle against Vachani and Power Ventures, which a judge ruled as having violated spamming and copyright laws by sending out tens of thousands of unsolicited messages to Facebook members.
Facebook’s Associate General Counsel Craig Clark says the victory justifies the social network’s insistence that third-party apps use , a service that lets users access their account from other sites without disclosing their login information:
We are pleased with today’s ruling awarding over $3 million in damages and injunctive relief. We will continue to enforce our rights against bad actors who seek to harm Facebook and the people who use it.
Power Ventures founder Steve Vachani espoused grand plans for his startup when it launched in 2008. The site would become an aggregator for users’ many social media channels, including Facebook. Think of a beta-version Hootesuite or Klout, an app that links up to other networks to consolidate that data onto a single landing page.
Vachani, back in 2012, said a Facebook win would set “a dangerous precedent” for the future of users rights to own and control their information:
Power, together with unwavering support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has fought tirelessly over the users rights to truly own and control their data. This decision dangerously manipulates and broadens laws so that that millions of users who want to access their own data or tell their friends about new services could now face criminal liability.
With this decision, ironically Facebook could now face billions of dollars in damages and endless lawsuits and criminal damages over the tools it has provided hundreds of millions of its users tools to import their contacts and invite nearly 1 billion of their friends into Facebook.
Click here to read the injunctive order, filed Wednesday in the United States Northern California District Court in San Jose.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
The clever folk at TNW Labs think a lot about how to help you receive new information fast, and share it fast too. That thinking has resulted in a new app that we’re launching today, Push.co.
offers a way to receive news and other notifications via push notifications, browse them all within one app, and quickly share the ones you find interesting via Twitter or Facebook.
We’ve found that many people don’t want to install a lot of apps for content they consume on the Web, but they still want to receive push notifications on their mobile device when something new is published.
At launch, you can subscribe to feeds for news outlets like The Next Web, the BBC, TechCrunch, The Verge and Wired. Sure, some of what Push.co offers can be achieved with Twitter’s mobile notifications, but this is so much broader than breaking news, and with far more possibilities.
Anyone can create their own ‘app’ for others to subscribe to, right from the Push.co website. Say you want to offer a company news feed, people can get that pushed to their phone for free. You could create a private feed that alerts you with a push notification every time you sell an item in your online shop or sell a ticket for an event that you’re organising. If you’re a sales manager who wants to make sure your team members get updates on their targets wherever they are without the excuse of “I missed the email because my inbox is so busy,” Push.co is the answer.
If you subscribe to The Next Web on Push.co, you’ll see that you can subscribe by category, instead of just one big feed of everything we put out. If you’re a WordPress.org user who wants to implement Push.co on your blog, you can get this functionality too, via a plugin that you can contact to try out.
So, that’s Push.co from TNW Labs. It’s iOS-only for now, but Android and Firefox OS versions are due in early 2014. Give it a try and let us know what you think.
➤ Push.co 
It’s round two for Facebook’s mobile ad network test: After in September 2012, and then in December of that year, the social network is in test mode again.
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