Business Insider
Analyzing the top news stories across the web

May 22 2015 5:00 PM

Elon Musk Didn't Like His Kids' School—So He Opened His Own

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Elon Musk didn't like his kids' school, so he started his own, the inventor and entrepreneur said in an interview on Beijing Television. The school is called Ad Astra—which means "To the stars"—and is small and relatively secretive. It doesn't have its own website or a social media presence.

Advertisement

Christina Simon, who writes about private elementary schools in Los Angeles, has done some digging around Ad Astra. She says she's been in contact with a mother whose child attends Musk's school. The mother told Simon that the relatively new Ad Astra School is "very small and experimental," and caters to a small group of children whose parents are primarily SpaceX employees.

Musk says in the interview that Ad Astra, which is a year old, currently has 14 kids and will increase to 20 in September. His grand vision for the school involves removing grade levels, so there's no distinction between students in 1st grade and 3rd. Musk is "making all the children go through the same grade at the same time, like an assembly line," he says in the interview.

"Some people love English or languages. Some people love math. Some people love music. Different abilities, different times," he says. "It makes more sense to cater the education to match their aptitudes and abilities."

Musk pulled his kids out of their school and even hired one of their teachers away to start Ad Astra. "I didn't see the regular schools doing the things I thought should be done," he says.

Musk sees a fundamental flaw in how schools teach problem solving. "It's important to teach problem solving, or teach to the problem and not the tools," Musk says. "Let's say you're trying to teach people about how engines work. A more traditional approach would be saying, 'we're going to teach all about screwdrivers and wrenches.' This is a very difficult way to do it."

Instead, Musk says it makes more sense to give students an engine and then work to disassemble it. "How are we going to take it apart? You need a screwdriver. That's what the screwdriver is for," Musk explains. "And then a very important thing happens: The relevance of the tools becomes apparent."

So far, Ad Astra "seems to be going pretty well," according to Musk. "The kids really love going to school."

"I hated going to school when I was a kid," Musk told his interviewer. "It was torture." When Musk was a child living in Pretoria, South Africa, he was viciously bullied as a student. His classmates pushed him down a concrete stairwell. In one instance, he was beaten so badly that he needed to go to the hospital.

“They got my best [expletive] friend to lure me out of hiding so they could beat me up. And that [expletive] hurt. For some reason they decided that I was it, and they were going to go after me nonstop. That’s what made growing up difficult. For a number of years there was no respite. You get chased around by gangs at school who tried to beat the [expletive] out of me, and then I’d come home, and it would just be awful there as well.” 

His difficult experiences both at home—where he had a strained relationship with his father—and at school would eventually lead Musk to leave South Africa for the United States. You can watch Musk's full video interview here.

Video Advertisement

May 21 2015 5:11 PM

LG Just Unveiled a Bendy TV That You Stick to Your Wall

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

LG wants to make mounting your TV just as easy as sticking a magnet onto your refrigerator. At an event earlier this week, the South Korean electronics giant showcased an incredibly thin 55-inch television with a flexible screen that you can press onto your wall using magnets.

Advertisement

It's just a concept, though—there's no indication when or if a product like this will actually come to market. The purpose of the announcement was really to announce LG's plans to focus on making OLED screens for products moving forward. 

The TV screen itself is less than a millimeter thick, according to CNET. For context, that's about the same thickness as a paper clip. As shown in the image below, a magnetic pad holds the flexible TV screen up to the wall. The TV itself almost looks like paper. 

LG's new display marks yet another concept device that showcases how flexible screens could one day be implemented into everyday products.

Both LG and Samsung have been pioneering flexible display technologies over the past several years, but we have yet to really understand why gadgets with curved screens would even be necessary in the first place. A television such as the one LG showcased earlier this week begins to answer that question a little bit.

Samsung is believed to be capable of developing a fully flexible phone by 2016, a company executive said at an investor event in New York this past November, but it's unclear exactly what the advantages of a bendable phone would be. Both Samsung and LG have released phones with curved screens, but they haven't really caught on with consumers. 

May 19 2015 5:27 PM

People Will Actually Pay for Extremely Expensive Short-Distance Helicopter Flights That Come With Rosé in Sippy Cups 

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Getting a helicopter can be a pain. You call an operator, get the tail number, then have to email or call the operator back and forth until you get ushered on your flight. Often, you'd be better off driving. And chopper services certainly don't work like Uber, picking you up at convenient locations whenever you want.

Advertisement

Two years ago, Warner Music COO Rob Wiesenthal set out to change that. He had been at Sony Entertainment for 13 years when he got the idea to bring a mobile app like Uber's to the chopper industry. He partnered with Steve Martocci, the cofounder of the Skype-owned GroupMe and the music service Splice, to launch Blade last Memorial Day weekend. Like Uber, Blade is an operator and logistics manager; it doesn't own any aircraft. Instead, Martocci and Wiesenthal partnered with Liberty Helicopter and offered flights for New Yorkers to and from the Hamptons. Uber even partnered with Blade for a Fourth of July weekend promotion.

Blade was an instant hit among the 1 percent last summer; it powered 800 trips to the Hamptons in just 16 weeks. "Blade was launched with $50,000 and it was immediately profitable," a Blade representative tells Business Insider.

The app has since been downloaded more than 20,000 times. Bookers can either select a future flight that has already been scheduled (it's $575 per seat one way to the Hamptons or Fire Island from New York City) or create a flight for anytime they want. But those who book a whole new flight must pay to fill the entire aircraft up front. Blade will then try to fill extra seats with other Blade members who will offset the cost. A trip to the Hamptons, which normally takes a few hours, takes just under 45 minutes with Blade.

After its success last summer, Blade set out to launch new services and destinations, and it has raised $6 million at a $25 million valuation from some big names in business. Investors include Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Discover Communications CEO David Zaslav, IAC's Barry Diller, Alex von Furstenberg, Raine Ventures, and iHeart Media chairman Bob Pittman. Both Pittman and Schmidt have licenses to fly helicopters and jets.

Blade's service now extends beyond the Hamptons and Mohegan Sun. Its members can fly to Fire Island via a new seaplane service, Blade Aqua. Melissa Tomkiel, who was president of Fly the Whale—an aviation company Aqua partners with—is Aqua's new CEO. Wiesenthal and Martocci are advisers. Users can also book flights for about $650 a seat to Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod from Manhattan.

And, if you have a flight taking off from or landing at any New York City airport, Blade's Bounce service can get you from your jet to the city in just five minutes. Blade Bounce will pick you up at JFK, Newark, Teterboro, Westchester, or LaGuardia and have the chopper waiting to bring you home within 20 minutes of booking for $800 to $900.

The price point may sound steep considering you can take a cab from the airport into New York City for just $50. But for Blade's affluent audience (the company advertises about 17 times a day on CNBC's local network, aiming its services as business executives), it could be considered a small price for convenience.

"For $895 we position it so the helicopter can land 40 feet from your jet," a Blade representative says. "It's a 45-min drive to JFK. If you're spending $100,000 on a jet, the extra $895 really isn't going to count."

Blade also prides itself on its luxury lounges and amenities onboard the choppers. It has lounges in Manhattan on West 30th Street, East 34th Street, and 23rd Street. It offers passengers rosé in sippy cups, and the company says customers will arrive early just to hang out in the boarding area. But Blade insists that just because customers are wealthy, that doesn't mean they're arrogant jerks.

"These people aren't assholes saying, 'I'm some banker flying above traffic and screw you,'" Blade says. "They're people who view it as a fun luxury to them. Seventy percent of people had never flown in a chopper before. We're making it really easy to do, and it's completely done from your app."

Blade says it is much different from BlackJet or Surf Air, which allow customers to fly as much as they want locally for a set monthly fee. Instead, Blade wants to own all flights for distances under 200 miles.

"Unlike things that have failed like BlackJet, you really don't want to have a swinging bathroom door hitting you; that's a little too intimate," Blade tells Business Insider. "The alternative is, 'Let's just fly first class and no one bothers me.' Blade can take a 3-1/2-hour trip and make it 30 minutes, and that could be worth $575 to somebody."

May 18 2015 2:02 PM

Silicon Valley CEOs Just Want a Little Privacy. $100 million and 750 Acres of It.

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

In October 2014, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg paid more than $100 million for 750 acres of secluded land on the North Shore of Kauai. The purchase included two separate parcels: the Kahu'aina Plantation, a 357-acre former sugarcane plantation, and Pila'a Beach, a 393-acre property with bright white sand.

Advertisement

The property is large enough for a set of villas or even a resort. But Zuckerberg apparently plans to only build one home: an ultra-private island hideaway for himself and his inner circle. "When the whole thing is said and done, he might be approaching $200 million on total purchase price," Steve Hunt, a tax manager for Kauai County, said to the Pacific Business News. "This is someone who can afford to buy whatever he wants to buy and he’ll pay the price he needs to get, and privacy is a bigger issue to him than anything else."

Zuckerberg's desire to sequester his family is understandable, given Silicon Valley's generally stifling atmosphere, and, more specifically, a recent lawsuit involving his home in Palo Alto. The suit, filed by developer Mircea Voskerician in May 2014, centers around Zuckerberg's 2013 purchase of four houses adjacent to his home in Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood. 

At the time, it seemed like an odd splurge, and many wondered if Zuckerberg was trying to assemble a compound of sorts. But there was a reason behind the purchase. Voskerician had reportedly told Zuckerberg that he planned to build a large, 9,600-square-foot house on one of the lots behind his property. The home, Voskerician allegedly said, would have a direct view into the master bedroom shared by Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan. 

So Voskerician made Zuckerberg a deal: He would sell Zuckerberg the entire property at a discount if the Facebook billionaire would introduce the developer to his important Silicon Valley contacts. Zuckerberg paid Voskerician $1.7 million for the rights to the property, and then bought the lot from its owners for $4.8 million, according to county records.

But Voskerician says his interest in the property was worth far more than $1.7 million, and that he gave Zuckerberg a discount because of the business his referrals would potentially bring in. Apparently that never happened, hence the lawsuit.

Zuckerberg's lawyers have called Voskerician's tactics "extortive" and say that he is "going out of his way to embarrass Mr. Zuckerberg and pressure those around him at every turn."It’s stuff like this that makes me so sad and angry," Chan wrote in an email unearthed in the lawsuit.

Divesh Makan, Zuckerberg's financial adviser, later bought the three other homes around Zuckerberg's house, further guaranteeing his privacy. The homes were purchased for $10.5 million, $14 million, and $14.5 million, according to county records.

According to Arthur Sharif, a realtor who specializes in luxury real estate in Silicon Valley, it's not all that uncommon to see wealthy people scooping up multiple lots to assemble a bubble of isolation around their homes. "That happens all the time," Sharif told Business Insider. "Some people will say to us, 'I don’t care what’s on the market. Just go knock on the neighbor's door, say I like the house, and I’ll pay for the inconvenience of moving.'"

In fact, Sharif said, selling a home just to assemble it as part of larger property is actually somewhat easier than your typical home sale. A home that's meant to serve as a buffer doesn't require as much inspection and maintenance. The opportunity can even be attractive to people who are being bought out by wealthier neighbors. 

"Some people feel like they’ve won the lottery if that happens to them. Usually the house sells for over market value, and maybe they’d want to move in a few years anyway," Sharif said. "If someone is trying to do an assemblage, they don’t even need to see the house. They just need the property."

Acquiring extreme wealth means being able to provide for yourself, but family members usually reap the benefits, too. "For people like Mark Zuckerberg, maybe privacy is necessary, but that's not always the main reason for buying the home next door," realtor Eric Boyenga said. "Some do it to have family members close by, maybe so that the in-laws can watch the kids."

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has deployed similar tactics. In October 2013, she paid a reported $11.2 million for the Roller & Hapgood & Tinney funeral home, located just a few doors down from her home in Palo Alto.

Though it's still unclear what exactly Mayer plans to do with the property, the mortuary proved to be the perfect location for her annual Halloween party last year. The former funeral parlor was transformed into a haunted house for the day, much to the chagrin of a neighbor who complained on a local web site.

Elon Musk has done a similar thing in Los Angeles. In November 2013, he paid $6.75 million for a teardown across the street from his $17 million Bel-Air mansion. 

Still, it's not as if Mayer and Musk are negotiating these kinds of deals themselves. Sharif says that it's very common to have his open houses attended by what he calls a "scout," someone hired by a wealthy individual for the sole purpose of scoping out potential real-estate investments. Homes are often bought and sold under LLCs linked to scouts or business managers. 

"This is from the very wealthiest people, like [Microsoft cofounder] Paul Allen, all the way down the spectrum. It's because they don't want people to know what they're buying," Sharif said. "That’s part of how we can tell it’s someone notable who's interested in the property.”

Many wealthy executives buying luxury real estate have a very clear picture of what they want in a home, from custom-built home-automation systems to environmentally conscious sprinklers and pools. 

Peninsula Custom Homes is a construction firm that specializes in building custom luxury homes in the Bay Area. "These clients are very used to dreaming things up and saying, 'That’s how I want it,'" Bryan Murphy, president of Peninsula Custom Homes, said to Business Insider. "For architects, we have to more creative to accomplish what they want. There’s no manual for this."

As far as the company's clientele, Murphy said the company often builds homes for tech executives, many of whom work in biotech, as well as the VCs who fund startups and the bankers who finance the deals. "Most clients have a Tesla," he said.

Energy efficiency is one thing that PCH is consistently asked to consider by clients. As California suffers through a crippling drought, many clients ask what they can do to improve their irrigation systems. He couldn't speak more specifically than that, however, which is consistent across the industry. Most people working for the wealthiest in the tech community are asked to sign nondisclosure agreements that bar them from discussing the details of their employment. 

This includes everyone who might be involved with the remodeling of a home: architects, painters, carpenters, gardeners, and cleaners, just to name a few. "Privacy has definitely been more of a focus recently, especially with the easy access to information that comes with social media," Murphy said. "Some tech executives are having their own technology used against them in that way."

In addition to his homes in Palo Alto and Kauai, Zuckerberg also has a house in San Francisco.

It's currently undergoing an extensive renovation, including $65,000 worth of renovation work on the kitchen and bathrooms, $750,000 for an addition to the rear and side of the house, and $25,000 to make the fourth floor "habitable." There's an additional $720,000 for an office, media room, half bathroom, mudroom, laundry room, wine room, and wet bar, in addition to a new second-floor half bathroom and remodel of the second, third, and fourth floors.

Each of the construction workers has signed an NDA, according to The New York Times.

Parking in Zuckerberg's San Francisco neighborhood is notoriously difficult. To make sure construction workers would have somewhere to park in the morning—and, presumably, to prevent people from snooping around—the Facebook billionaire allegedly hired pairs of people to sit in cars parked near the house at night.

"This is nothing short of a fortress," one disgruntled neighbor told The San Francisco Chronicle in September. 

Tech billionaires who've accumulated a number of properties will most likely need help managing it. Family offices — companies that help the wealthy manage their money—have become big, secretive businesses.

Google cofounder Sergey Brin has employed as many as 47 people through Bayshore Global Management, a private company that manages his real-estate investments and personal affairs. 

Current and former Bayshore employees contacted by Business Insider declined to comment on their work. But a scan of LinkedIn profiles show that Bayshore employs a former Navy SEAL, an ex-Secret Service agent, and a former SWAT team leader for his security detail. 

Brin has a home in New York City's West Village, in addition to the family's Los Altos Hills residence. Each house has a staff managed by Bayshore, which was named for the part of Mountain View, California, where Google is based. He also employs property managers, domestic staff, and a personal shopper.

May 15 2015 4:56 PM

This Ridiculous Gang-Signing App Could Help Deaf People Use the Apple Watch

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Like a lot of Polish 17-year-olds, Mateusz Mach is into hip-hop. "It is something I identify with," Mach says. Unlike a lot of Polish 17-year-olds, he decided to turn his appreciation into an app business. 

Advertisement

After six months of work, he released Five, a messaging app for Android, iPhone, and Apple Watch that lets you and your friends throw one another custom hand signs, like the kind rappers throw. It's meant to be quick, easy, and above all, fun. 

Mach says his friends use the app to tell one another how far away they are, using a commonly accepted translation for each hand signal. You can even send your custom signs via Facebook Messenger.

"It's faster than typing," Mach says. It's a little bit like Yo. "We are better than Yo," Mach says. "Definitely better than Yo."

Mach and a team of two other contract coders spent the past six months working on Five, with the funding coming from a local investor for whom Mach had done some work before. His previous app, Sagepark.pl, which is currently down, had 10,000 users at its peak, Mach says.

The thing is that this silly app is finding some real-world use, according to the feedback Mach is getting from his users. On the Apple Watch, using hand signals lets you convey more meaning without an onlooker being able to guess what you're saying.

And perhaps more important, it's a really great engine for communicating in International Sign Language (ISL). Mach says he has heard from deaf users who are using it to quickly communicate in a way that makes sense to them.

To that end, Mach is working on building in an ISL dictionary into the Five app, to quickly select words and their equivalents. If that works out, Mach isn't ruling out the possibility of making Five into a more complete ISL translator. For now, Mach is splitting his time between working on Five and his time studying at an International Baccalaureate (IB) school—when I spoke to him, he was staying up late in his dorm.

In the future, Mach is taking Five on the road, preparing to show it off to customers and investors at the coming Bitspiration Festival in Warsaw, Poland. He knows he wants a career in technology, and he certainly wouldn't mind if Five is the engine that gets him there. "That might be cool, yeah," Mach says. "If only I can get money."

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-powerful-women-engineers-in-2015-2015-5?op=1#ixzz3aF0P4KIN

May 13 2015 2:51 PM

Here's How Far Google Is Extending Europeans' "Right to Be Forgotten"

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

A year ago, the European Court of Justice ruled that people could ask Google to remove links that came up in a search for their name.

Advertisement

The "right to be forgotten" decision was a frustrating one for Google, but a triumph for online privacy. Since the ECJ's ruling, Google has received 253,617 requests to remove 920,258 links, the Telegraph reports. The company has removed just over 40 percent of these links across Europe.

In the UK, Google has had 32,076 requests to take down 126,571 links, and has approved 37.5 percent.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the easy cases are dealt with by a team of lawyers, paralegals, and engineers. It's only the difficult cases that are passed up the line to a team of Google executives.

An easy case might have come from a woman who has had a picture of her sunbathing topless while on holiday published without her permission, or might include old reports of petty theft. The WSJ report recalled a more difficult case involving a German national convicted in the U.S. of a sex crime that occurred when he was 16. The man's name was published in American news, but not in Germany. Google decided to take the link down.

The ECJ's ruling didn't give Google much guidance on what kind of requests should be accepted, beyond saying that search results including "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive" information should be removed.

The tech company has decided internally that public figures get less leeway than ordinary people. Results related to crimes that were committed a long time ago, and have therefore been removed from criminal records, are more likely to be taken down. But the results aren't removed from Google altogether.

Over the last year, Google has pulled links down from Google.fr and Google.co.uk—but not Google.com. This means that links removed from domains in Europe can be found through its U.S. site. Europe's privacy regulators don't think this is enough to comply with the EU court ruling, and have called on Google to extend the right to be forgotten globally.

Ultimately, EU regulators and search engines alike are still struggling with the balance between people's personal privacy and the public right to information.

May 12 2015 3:45 PM

Rude iPhone Checkers Won't Be Any Less Rude Now That They Have Apple Watches

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Before the Apple Watch was sold to the public, one of the narratives forming around the device was that it would save you time. The idea was that instead of constantly pulling out your phone to look at notifications and alerts, the notifications and alerts would go straight to your wrist. A slight turn of the wrist would save you from taking out your phone. This, in turn, would save you from getting lost in your phone, diving down a rabbit hole of apps and fun. 

Advertisement

"We’re so connected, kind of ever-presently, with technology now," said Kevin Lynch, head of Apple Watch software, in an interview with Wired. "People are carrying their phones with them and looking at the screen so much.” He added, "People want that level of engagement ... But how do we provide it in a way that’s a little more human, a little more in the moment when you’re with somebody?”

In other words, in addition to saving time, it would also stop you from being a rude jerk who looks at your phone when hanging out with people. You could quickly glance at your watch, and be on your way.

After more than two weeks with the watch, I have some bad news. The watch will not save you from being a jerk. You will still be a rude person, even if the alerts are pushed straight to your wrist, saving you from pulling out your phone. Here are four examples.

**

One day, I was eating dinner with my wife. We have a newborn. The kid can sense when we are eating. It makes him quite jealous. So, like a baby, he whines until his mother goes and feeds him. When Mamma went over to the couch to feed him, I sat at the table alone.

I started to check notifications on my watch, which involved swiping down from the top, and then scrolling with the digital crown to see all the notifications I got. 

Mamma started to talk to me, but I was so engrossed with scrolling, one-by-one on each notification, that I wasn't paying attention. Do you know what happens when you don't pay attention to a sleep deprived mother of a newborn who is at home all day alone with your cry baby child? It's not fun. 

Now, had I just done what I always do, which is hit the home button on my iPhone 6 Plus, which allows me to see 3 notifications at a time, then I would have more quickly seen that I had nothing pressing happening. I probably still would have been in trouble, but at least I would have seen those messages more quickly.

**

I got lunch with Pete Spande, Bcsiness Insider's chief revenue officer. He's great. We had ramen. During the lunch, I felt my wrist buzzing. I did not opt to check my wrist. Because it would be rude to be looking at your watch when you're talking to someone. So, instead, I just felt buzz after buzz. (The Apple Watch sort of feels like a digital fart more than a buzz, to be honest.)

Eventually he looked at his phone, I think. I started to scroll through notifications on my wrist, which was not efficient. I would have been better off looking at my phone.

**

I desperately needed a haircut, but between work and the aforementioned newborn, I could never get to a barber during my own time. So, I went during work hours. (Don't tell Henry.)

While in the barber's chair, I had my watch on. This is the perfect use for the watch! If anything big or important is happening, I can quickly peek at my watch. If the site collapsed, I could stop the haircut midway through and rush back to the office.

While sitting in the chair, I twisted my left wrist once, just to look at the watch. A few minutes later, I got a buzz on my wrist, I twisted to see an incoming email. The barber stopped. He looked at me. He said, "Are you in a rush?" 

Gulp.

I didn't feel like explaining to him that I was wearing the new Apple Watch, and I was getting email. Because that's pretty nerdy and embarrassing. (Which is another problem! This thing is supposed to be cool, but in the early days it feels geeky. You are literally slapping an iPhone to your wrist. It feels like the ultimate fanboy signal.)

He went back to cutting my hair. Then 5 minutes later. He paused cutting my hair to take out his phone and check a text, or some other sort of notification that he got. "Ah-ha," I thought to myself, "Too bad he didn't have a watch to quickly check that notification."

Another 10 minutes passed, and he was brushing some hair off my shoulders. I thought to myself, "Screw it, I'm looking at the watch." This time he noticed what it was. He saw the apps. He said, "Is that the Apple Watch?" 

"Yes," I said.

"Cool!" he said. "It looks pretty awesome, do you like it?"

**

An NYU student asked to talk to me about journalism. So, I obliged. At the outset of the interview, I warned her that I had this Apple Watch and that I would be checking it from time to time when I felt it buzz. 

I was fairly subtle when I was checking my wrist, but I still felt like an enormous ass doing it. 

**

So, what does it mean? Well, for one, whether you look at your phone during a meeting or your watch during a meeting, you're sending the same rude signal to the person you're talking to. For another, it's a reminder that this thing isn't going to free me from my phone, it's going to tie me even tighter into the phone. 

Previously, my phone would be in my pocket, easily ignored. Now, it's basically on my wrist tapping me every few minutes to say, "Hey! Maybe something important is happening, but probably not. Either way, look at me!"

That's not necessarily a fault of the watch. That's my fault. I set up alerts and notifications on the watch. I opt to get email notification sent straight to my wrist. That's a choice I've made. That's part of what makes the watch interesting — you get out of it, what you put into it. 

That said, if I strip away the notifications, what do I have? A $400 digital watch. 

May 6 2015 3:07 PM

Here’s Why a Country With Only 10,000 People Just Banned Facebook

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Facebook has officially been banned in the small island nation of Nauru, a move refugee advocates and opposition leaders have slammed as an act of "dictatorship," according to ABC Australia.

Advertisement

The ban is reportedly part of a larger government plan to censor "internet sites that show pornography, particularly those featuring children." But many believe the government is concerned about the number of people who had been using the social media site as a platform for political protest.

"The real agenda here is curbing the rights of people to access social media," opposition MP Matthew Batsiua told Pacific Beat. "This is all about [Justice Minister David] Adeang and his cronies being worried about the ever increasing number of people who have taken to social media to criticise his dictatorial style, which even the president is either unwilling—or too scared—to rein in."

Many of the country's 10,000 inhabitants have become frustrated with the government's lack of transparency, evidenced by its "shutting out members of the opposition, having an ineffective parliament where basically there's no scrutiny or debate on policies and activities," and now curbing social media, Batsiua said.

The ban won't just affect political activists, however. Refugees being housed in the Nauru detention center who used Facebook to keep in touch with family members overseas will now be cut off. The government has reportedly also put restrictions on where and when people can protest.

"The ability to arrest ... assemblies three or greater now extends to public areas and that effectively means inside the refugee compounds itself," Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition told ABC. "It's not far short of being a dictatorship."

May 5 2015 3:38 PM

The 1977 Magazine Article That Said Apple Computers Might Be a Huge Hit

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

And now, some breaking news from 1977: There is a new company in California that makes computer kits for individual hobbyists. It's called The Apple Computer Company, according to Kilobaud magazine, and it looks like it might be a huge hit.

Advertisement

"Rich Travis of Sunshine Computer Company in Southern California reports he sold ten Apples in three weeks ... his customers were looking for a complete, ready-to-run system that was inexpensive," writes Sheila Clarke of Kilobaud. "Because the system is really easy to buy and use, the system may well be in the homes of several hundred hobbyists within a few months."

After Business Insider recently published a charming set of photos taken by Apple's earliest employees, veteran tech writer Sheila (Clarke) Craven got in touch and sent us this gem from February 1977: "The Remarkable Apple Computer," a lengthy dissection of Apple's launch product that Craven wrote after flying to San Francisco and interviewing founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. (Kilobaud eventually went out of business and its founder, Wayne Green, died in 2013.)

Craven says she believes it was the first article ever written about Apple. We checked with Wozniak, and he agrees. "Seems quite the way it was," Wozniak told us. "The only thing I can note is that we were demonstrating the Apple ][ before we shipped any Apple I’s, so we knew that it was a temporary project."

We've published the entire Kilobaud article below. But be warned—it's a dense catalog of computer arcana from the days when using a computer required knowledge of the BASIC programming language.

"My interview with the two Steves took place while they were still in the folks’ garage," Craven tells Business Insider. She remembers it this way:

"I flew up from LA, and the two Steves picked me up in a red Chevy Luv Truck, tossed my suitcase in the back, and put me between them in the front seat. We went someplace for lunch, and talked about their plans.

Of course, Steve Jobs did all the talking. After lunch we drove to his parents home in Palo Alto—never went inside the house—straight to the garage. On a workbench sat a PC board. above the workbench on a shelf sat a TV set where wires dangled from it to the PC board.

The whole time Steve Jobs was talking, explaining, outlining future plans for marketing and development, he was just about dancing on his tippy toes in his tennies. Then Woz sat at the workbench, initiating the operating system (I suppose) to demonstrate a program. Woz was pretty quiet. I got that he was the engineering brain power, and Jobs was the idea guy.

One of the things Jobs told me was that they would make certain there would be an Apple in every classroom and on every desk, because if kids grew up using and knowing the Apple, they would continue to buy Apples and so would their kids. The computers would be donated by Apple Computer. I understand that when that article came out, orders starting pouring in, and Apple Computer was seriously launched."

At the time, Apple consisted of just the two Steves in Jobs' parents' garage. There was no office, Craven says. Craven spent four hours with the pair, including lunch. After Wozniak booted up the machine, Jobs loaded a game of Blackjack onto it to demonstrate its powers.

Craven regarded the Apple I as "just another homebrew product" rather than the beginning of a machine that would change the world. "We never met again, although of course I continued to encounter Jobs at computer expos, Comdex, CES, etc.," Craven says, although "I don’t think he ever manned a booth."

The article says some things that were true of Apple then and, 40 years later, remain true today. Such as:

  • "For the inexperienced, getting a program up seems to have been made relatively simple."
  • Updates would be made available to existing customers for free.
  • Apple was trying to create "a network of program exchange" to develop games and other apps that would make the computer more fun and more useful.
  • "Steve Jobs confesses that the Apple is not for everybody." (It cost $788.66, a lot of money at the time.)

At the same time, the article contains some nuggets that illustrate how comically primitive computing was at the time. For that $788 you would get:

  • "A complete system on a board. Complete that is if you're willing to forgo extras now, like hard copy output, floppy disk storage, and color graphics."
  • "If you must purchase a black and white monitor, add the cost to the system; but you'll probably run over my proposed budget."
  • "Although the Apple-1 comes with 4K bytes of RAM, 4K more is available for $120."
  • "BASIC is the language of the people," say Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, Apple Computer Company owners. Soon, they add, people won't care which chip is used in the CPU, but will want to know more about the computer's capability and how easy it is to use."
  • "We're not in the business of making things more expensive," say Jobs and Wozniak, when discussing their design philosophy."

Craven's main impression was that "the two Steves care ... they're responsive to user enquiries and are open to suggestions and criticisms (to a point)."

Here is the article.

remarkableapple (1)
remarkableapple (1)2
remarkableapple (1)3
remarkableapple (1)4
remarkableapple (1)5
remarkableapple (1)6

May 4 2015 4:49 PM

Why Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook Really, Really Want to Get Into the News Business

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

In late November, Twitter CFO Anthony Noto accidentally sent a public tweet he'd rather have kept private. "I still think we should buy them," his tweet, which has since been deleted, read. "He is on your schedule for December 15 or 16—We need to sell him. I have a plan."

Advertisement

Noto was most likely trying to send a direct message to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. And the company he was interested in buying was Mic, tech industry sources tell Business InsiderMic is a media start-up that has received more than $10 million in financing to become a publication of choice for millennials. The sources say Twitter made a loose verbal offer to buy the start-up late last year and that a dollar amount nearing $90 million was discussed. But Mic wasn't interested, and the brief talks never went any further.

Mic isn't the only media company Twitter has been interested in. Twitter is in talks to buy the news application Circa, Business Insider reported on Friday. (A Twitter representative declined to comment on Noto's direct message or say whether Twitter had acquisition interest in Mic or Circa. Both Mic and Circa declined to comment.)

Twitter may not end up buying a media company, but its interest in Mic and Circa is just one battle in an ongoing war over the future of news. Every social-media platform, from Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat, is trying to find a way to win control over content and its distribution. Even Pinterest is hiring a media team in New York to chat with publications about how they can partner together, a social-media executive told Business Insider.

Traditionally, media companies have operated independently and controlled their own destinies. They owned the whole content supply chain, from research to writing to publication to distribution. In the digital era, they built their own websites, which drew loyal readers (direct traffic), and they sold most of the ads that ran on their sites, keeping 100 percent of the revenue.

Those days are gone. Now the fate of publishers increasingly depends on social platforms such as Facebook, where billions of people discover news to read and videos to watch. And the social platforms are equally interested in the media business.

There are three reasons media and social platforms are converging:

  • Engagement. Having original, native content keeps people in apps like Facebook and Snapchat longer.
  • Mobile. Increasingly, content is being consumed on mobile devices, not desktops. Social platforms offer better mobile experiences than many publishers do.
  • Money. Advertising companies spend about $80 billion on television ads in the U.S. Those ad dollars are finally shifting toward digital video content in a meaningful way. All the social platforms want a chunk of it. That means they need video content to sell ads across. Those videos can be generated by users, media companies, or internally.
  • Though publishers might be worried that the platforms are going to siphon off the ad dollars that keep them alive, publishing straight to platforms isn't a new concept. Dan Roth implemented this at LinkedIn a few years ago, encouraging people referred to on LinkedIn as influencers to write articles there first. While LinkedIn's referral traffic to some publishers decreased, it is still a complement to many of them rather than a competitor.

    Facebook wants media companies to start publishing articles on its platform first and their websites second. The company has reportedly met with a dozen publishers, including BuzzFeed, The New York Times, and National Geographic, and it may host advertisements next to the content and split the revenue. Or Facebook may give some publishers all the revenue from certain ads to get publishers on board, according to a recent story by The Wall Street Journal.

    These partnerships are most likely weeks away from launch. For Facebook, the decision to focus on media is “100 percent" being driven by the industry's movement toward mobile, a person familiar with the company's plans said.

    Right now, it takes a long time—eight seconds on average—for an external article or video to load once a Facebook user clicks a link. It takes an especially long time if the user is browsing Facebook on a phone because many news companies have sites that are not perfectly optimized for mobile. If Facebook starts hosting articles itself, it can speed up the process and create a better user experience, which ensures users will continue engaging with content in the future. "Mobile [news consumption] is a terrible experience, and the mobile web is a wreck," a source familiar with Facebook's thinking told Business Insider. 

    Facebook doesn't seem interested in buying media companies. Still, the idea of Facebook hosting original content has some publishers concerned. Facebook's native content plans could mean its algorithm, which dictates content in a user's News Feed, will favor publishers that partner with the company. Anyone who doesn't cooperate with Facebook's native plans could be punished from a traffic-referral standpoint. A Facebook representative says the company's media partnership plans are still being developed and tested. 

    In January, Snapchat launched Discover, a section of its app reserved for select media companies. It chose 11 launch partners and stuck their logos on its app. It then asked them each to create five articles a day in a Snapchat-friendly format (short and visual with a vertical layout).

    Snapchat lets publishers keep 100 percent of the revenue if they sell an ad campaign for the platform and 40 percent if Snapchat sells it. Snapchat also has an internal team producing original videos and short news stories for the app. CNN political reporter Peter Hamby was just poached to be the startup's head of news.

    Some partnering publications love Discover. Daily Mail U.S. CEO Jon Steinberg wrote on Medium that Snapchat channels saw hundreds of thousands, or even millions of views per day. That means the opportunity for his advertising sales team is massive. Steinberg says selling Snapchat ads is his team's No. 2 priority, behind selling The Daily Mail's own website.

    Other publications, however, have complained that Discover views have seriously declined over the past few months. The Information's Tom Dotan says publishers have seen views drop as much as 50 percent since January. Recently, Business Insider polled a group of heavy Snapchat users and found a lot of them didn't use or didn't like the product.

    Snapchat-sold ads also seem to be sparse; a number of its sales executives including COO Emily White have left the company in recent months. Publishers who weren't invited to participate in Discover also have cause for concern. Snapchat's product is currently extremely selective, and it dictates exactly which 11 media brands its users should be reading. If a reader is loyal to another publication, that reader must go elsewhere to find that content.

    Still, Snapchat feels there's an opportunity to bring branding and loyalty back to media companies. On Twitter, for example, all links look the same, and users aren't always sure whether they're clicking on a reliable news source.

    "We tried to build something that tried to bring back the editorial perspective, because we believe it's really valuable to have someone who's smarter than us figure out what's important, because that's a full time job and a really hard one," CEO Evan Spiegel said in February.

    A Snapchat representative warned that it's the "early days" for the company's media efforts and it's too soon to say whether Discover will include more publishers in the future.

    It's one thing for social platforms to partner with publications or deeply integrate their content. It's another for them to produce, own, and distribute news. If Twitter were to acquire a media company like Mic.com, it would suddenly make the company a direct competitor to many of its power users—journalists and media organizations—instead of a distribution partner. Twitter, unlike Facebook, does not use an algorithm to dictate which tweets show up in a user's stream. Would that change if Twitter had internal content it wanted to promote?

    A source familiar with Twitter's interest in media says the company has no desire to cannibalize other media companies. Instead, owning a media company would allow Twitter to more quickly test tools and products for publishers before rolling them out to the broader community. Twitter today can use partnerships with publications to test things, but that process is slower than if it owned a content creator outright.

    Any such deal would be similar to Comcast's 2011 acquisition of NBC Universal. Comcast didn't block competing networks from its cable service. Instead, the acquisition gave Comcast a better understanding of media companies and their needs and made them better able to serve all the networks. "Twitter wants to be the No. 1 place for news, but what it is really concerned about is beating Facebook," a person familiar with the company's thinking said.

    "If Twitter owned a media company, it could pilot stuff all the time, and if it performs well, they can allow other publishers to [use the same tools] ... They're not trying to alienate other publishers because they're going to give them everything they'd give a media company they own ... Anything to get a leg up on Facebook is what they want to do.” A Twitter representative stressed that the company had "always been a complement to news" and intended to be one moving forward.

    While social platforms might love media companies, publishers aren't sure how to feel about their suddenly gigantic partners. "For publishers, Facebook is a bit like that big dog galloping toward you in the park," David Carr of The New York Times wrote in October. "It's hard to tell whether he wants to play with you or eat you."

    Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter have hundreds of millions of visitors every day, meaning they can drive a lot of referral traffic for publishers. But partnering with platforms means giving up control of who sees their articles and how those stories are promoted. It also means splitting a meaningful chunk of revenue with a third party. Then there's the question of who will get to collect user data and who will get to own analytics.

    Currently, media companies sell advertising based on how large their readership is (uniques and page views). But if their readership moves to other platforms, the whole business model gets disrupted. Steinberg, the CEO of The Daily Mail U.S., believes digital media companies should be prepared for a "post-traffic era.” "Direct traffic is almost like a measure of how much the audience loves your content," Steinberg says. "This will be the way publishers secure carriage on networks/platforms. Not unlike getting a cable channel on the Comcast system. And then you will monetize on these platforms."

    BuzzFeed, where Steinberg was formerly president, is already focused on that. CEO Jonah Peretti says only 5% of BuzzFeed's billions of monthly video views happen on buzzfeed.com. Most of its content is watched on YouTube or Facebook. "Our goal is to be agnostic or indifferent about [where our content lives]," Peretti told Re/code in March. "In an ideal world we'd do whatever is best for the consumer.” He isn't worried about splitting revenue with platforms. He believes there are more companies demanding content than there are media companies who know how to produce quality work.

    READ MORE STORIES