by John Moe // Posted: 09/17/10 06:12 PM
Hi everyone. John Moe here. Starting Monday, September 20th, Future Tense will be going by the name Marketplace Tech Report.
Producer Larissa Anderson and I have been working closely with the folks at Marketplace ever since we took over Future Tense in May. It’s worked out great. We’ve helped them, they’ve helped us, and together we’ll find more stories you’ll want to hear. Basically, we loved Marketplace so much we married them. And kind of took their name too. Is it creepy to compare two radio shows to a married couple? Sorry about that.
As part of the Marketplace portfolio of programs (along with Marketplace, Marketplace Morning Report, and Marketplace Money), Marketplace Tech Report will keep bringing you stories that explain news and trends and technology and what it all means to you. We’ll be moving to a new simpler URL: marketplacetech.org, which will go live over the weekend. We’ll be bringing our entire archive of past shows and blog posts with us but in the meantime, we’re leaving futuretense.publicradio.org up so you can access the show archives from there as well.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/17/10 12:53 PM
There was some heavy weather in Brooklyn yesterday. A tornado? A funnel cloud?
Regardless, these Dudes, capture all the excitement with a video camera, swear words, and much brohammer commentary. From there it was off to the Vampire Weekend concert.
Will it rise to Double Rainbow level in our cultural zeitgeist? Time will tell.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/17/10 12:02 PM
Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal as the holiday shopping season approaches. People are leaning toward buying smaller stuff. They’re less likely to replace a TV and more likely to try something they don’t already have like a smart phone or an iPad.
Best Buy (CEO Brian Dunn) said smartphone sales continued to rise compared with a year ago, as did portable computer totals, buoyed by the iPad.
However, television sales fell despite the rollout of new 3D models, with both average prices and total volumes notching “low-double digit” declines compared with last year. Mr. Dunn also said internal estimates showed that the iPad had cannibalized sales from laptop PCs by as much as 50%.
50%! So the combination of a slowly recovering (?) economy and lots of innovation in the small device market explain why Best Buy is pushing iPads and started selling the Kindle. Staples says they plan to start selling Kindles in time for holiday as well.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/17/10 11:16 AM
McDonald’s increased foot traffic in its stores by 33% in one day by using FourSquare. This according to the company’s head of social media Rick Wion, talking at a conference yesterday. It was a pretty simple trick, really. They placed 100 gift cards for $5 or $10 on FourSquare as check in bait. So if you checked in at McDonald’s, you have a chance to eat for free. And if you don’t win the gift card, hey, might as well grab something to eat. Check in McNuggets! You were also eligible for the cards if you followed/fanned the company on social media sites, which 600,000 people did. Total cost of the operation? $1000. Wion said that several people in the company’s marketing department had never heard of FourSquare. They have now.
Update: Read Write Web says that, contrary to the Mashable report linked to above, it was a 33% increase in FourSquare check ins, not in feet at the restaurants.
But then there’s the case of Posie’s Café in Portland, Oregon. The proprietor, Jessie Burke, wanted to drive a little traffic to her place by using a Groupon discount. She offered a $13 credit for $6, intending to keep the $6. But Groupon wanted a big cut, 50%, so she was left with the $3, which didn’t allow her to break even. The Groupon was a hit but that just made things worse as she would lose money on each sale until she was $8000 in the hole, unable to make payroll or rent, and dipping into personal savings.
Over the six months that the Groupon is valid, we met many, many wonderful new customers, and were so happy to have them join the Posies family. At the same time we met many, many terrible Groupon customers… customers that didn’t follow the Groupon rules and used multiple Groupons for single transactions, and argued with you about it with disgusted looks on their faces or who tipped based on what they owed.
Most of the customers never came back once they had their discount.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying that the success of the McDonald’s campaign is good for society. I’m merely saying that in terms of people accomplishing a goal in a given area, in this case marketing, they were very successful.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/17/10 11:09 AM
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with the robots, now we gotta worry about rapidly smartifying crows. We’ve known for a while that crows are capable of using tools, but a new article in the journal Science (catchy name) says that New Caledonian crows got mad skillz, using sticks to fish for beetle larvae:
This is a very specialized task, because the crows fish for just one beetle species (the wood boring longhorn beetle) in the trunk of a single species of tree (the candlenut tree).
Why that beetle in particular? If a crow eats just three of those larvae, that’s enough food for the day.
Old Caledonian crows, meanwhile, just sit around and complain how it’s not like back in their day before everyone started using these fancy sticks, by cracky.
Next up in the animal world: rapidly evolving anti-stick technology for wood boring longhorn beetle larvae.
I’ll stop now.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/16/10 04:45 PM
by John Moe // Posted: 09/16/10 02:04 PM
That’s the dollar estimate in the first 24 hours in the US and Europe. That’s compared to 170 million for Halo 3 when it was released in 2007.
As is the tradition with these things, Microsoft made the obligatory comparisons to Hollywood movies, sizing up the initial “Halo: Reach” sales against the three-day opening weekends of “Iron Man 2,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Toy Story 3,” and declaring the video game “the biggest entertainment launch of 2010 in the U.S.”
Of course a movie ticket is ten bucks and Halo Reach costs 60. Still, that’s a lot of people willing to shell out 60 bucks for a game.
By the way, this is my new favorite video ever:
by John Moe // Posted: 09/16/10 11:13 AM
If 3D is going to take over our lives, at least we don’t have to look like total dorkwads in the glasses provided by the local cinemultiplex. Oakley announced that they will sell their own 3D glasses with “optically correct” lenses (everyone’s so worried about being OC these days) in time for the holiday season. The perfect gift for the person on your list who wants to look like a big shot at the new Harry Potter film. The specs were tested at Dreamworks’ facilities and are said to be compatible with any 3D movie that comes along. In a related story, any pair of glasses you buy are compatible with the 3D experience that is life itself.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 05:49 PM
I think we need a new story category on this blog: Geek Chow. Stories that probably don’t matter a whole lot in the short term to the average person but might matter a lot in the long run. Often these stories are of tremendous immediate interest to the highly plugged in folks, the hard core tech audience, the geeks (I’m assured “geek” is no longer a pejorative).
Internet Explorer 9 is Geek Chow. Microsoft’s new browser is available for you to download if you are running Vista or Windows 7. It’s supposedly faster, has a cleaner user interface with more screen space dedicated to the web site, less to navigation, and can do a lot more things. Take it away, Ina Fried at CNET.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 05:49 PM
We’ve been waiting for the alleged “Google Me” project to surface for a while now. Supposedly it was going to be Google’s Facebook killer, a social networking site that took on Zuckerbergia.
This despite The Goog’s not so stellar track record of launching Big New Products like Google Wave and Google Buzz (maybe the problem was how much those names sounded like laundry detergents?).
But Google Me never seems to get here. Like killer bees and the widespread adoption of the metric system, it’s always about to arrive.
Now Google’s Eric Schmidt says social networking on Google will be subtle and incremental. You’ll be able to pull in stuff from Twitter or Flickr, find out when someone saw your YouTube video. And play Farmville. Always with the Farmville. We’ll never escape Farmville.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 11:23 AM
Tech Crunch tells us about a new wearable video camera that goes on sale today. The Looxcie (pronounced Look See) mounts to your ear and positions a camera right at eye level. From there it can film up to 4 hours of video as you go about your day. Your narcissistic oversharing day. The device is equipped with Bluetooth that can send the video to an app in your Android phone (other platforms coming soon!). From there you can upload videos to YouTube of yourself walking around because the world is so desperate to see those, you diva. $199, available on Amazon. World ending.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 11:12 AM
Google has fired engineer David Barksdale for accessing private information from users’ Google Voice, Gmail, and instant messaging accounts. The users were apparently teenagers. Barksdale was working as a site reliability engineer or SRE at the company’s Kirkland, Washington facility. SREs have access to some of the company users’ most private information. Barksdale was evidently bragging to an online group he belonged to about being able to do this kind of thing. He evidently took pride in his hacking skills. Gawker broke the story.
And it seems this isn’t the first time it’s happened, either.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 05:34 PM
Walmart will begin offering their own branded wireless service (partnered through T-Mobile) starting next Monday. The retailer already offers cell plans through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. This will add a service option for a plan under its own name.
You’ll have to pay for the phone, but they’re relatively cheaper - you can get a Nokia for $35. And it’ll cost $45 each month for unlimited calling and texting. But data is insanely expensive. $40 for 1gb, which compares to AT&T’s $25 for 2gb or T-Mobile’s own $30 for unlimited. The data can be shared among multiple phones in the same family but still that’s a ton of cash.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 03:06 PM
The rock band Weezer has a new album out and they’re approaching promotion of it in a kind of different way. They’ve made themselves available to various YouTube celebrities and appear in a slew of videos made by those people. The videos are featured on YouTube’s home page today. The idea is that the band gets exposure to all the video artists’ audience, the video artists get new eyeballs from the band’s loyal followers, and YouTube gets some innovative videos for their home page that people will want to go watch.
Weezer did something similar a couple years ago, pulling various YouTube stars (often from unintentionally funny videos like “Chocolate Rain”) to appear in a video for their song “Pork and Beans”).
by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 12:12 PM
Last month, President Obama signed a law that bans cell phone use by prisoners. But, phones apparently keep finding their way in facilities - hidden in packages. One facility has phones in footballs thrown into the prison exercise yard. A corrections department captain in South Carolina was shot in his home several months ago - it was an action ordered by an inmate from a cell phone. He and others would like to see Congress allow the use of technologies that would prevent cell use in prisons - jamming signals or other tech.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 12:12 PM
Angry Birds is probably the most popular mobile phone game of the last year (read comedian Paul F. Tompkins’ take on it). In the game you launch a variety of birds at a variety of buildings in order to destroy these green pigs and reclaim your eggs. Or something. It’s strange but it’s a lot of fun, in part because it’s so challenging. But now players can get an extra advantage in the game by purchasing a new character, the ultra-powerful Mighty Eagle, for an additional fee. We’ve seen this in games before: the game is cheap or free (Angry Birds costs $3) but upgrades cost extra. They hook you, then they reel you in.
Here’s the video that previews Mighty Eagle:
by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 06:00 AM
The U.S. Department of Transportation will hold a Distracted Driving Summit next week. Tomorrow, OnStar is expected to announce new connectivity features for its service. And today, Representatives from Ford and a tech company called Nuance are in DC urging congress to be cautious in crafting new distracted driving laws. They say narrow legislation could stifle new technology that could make cars safer.
But while congress debates law, technology marches on and the car of tomorrow will be able to do things the car of today can only dream of. As connectivity becomes easier and more ubiquitous, our cars will be able to talk to each other and avoid accidents. That’s according to Raja Sengupta, a professor at UC Berkeley, with whom we speak today. We also check in with Marketplace reporter Alissa Roth who fills us in on the lack of legislation presently covering this issue.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 05:31 PM
It’s a complicated issue to explain but in short: when the switch to digital television happened, there were parts of the spectrum that were no longer in use. The FCC plans to make them available. What it means for you: bigger stronger wi-fi networks.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 05:18 PM
I guess I would tune in to a live YouTube stream of sports. Aaaaaand I can’t think of anything else. A concert? Not if I could see it later. Regardless, YouTube paired up with some content partners to offer live telecasts today. According to Tech Crunch, it wasn’t exactly a hit. Fewer than 500 people tuned in for Tony Hawk.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 12:11 PM
Three industrious burglars in Nashua, New Hampshire have reportedly made off with up to $200,000 in stolen cash and merchandise. They did it the new-fashioned way: checking Facebook for people who said they were out of town on vacation and then going and getting stuff. They were caught. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to set your status on Facebook to be able to be seen by everyone and then say you’re out of town. But perhaps this is a form of Darwinism too.
by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 12:02 PM
The FCC is set to approve use of unlicensed bandwidth for wireless use. Turns out there’s all this room on the spectrum and it can be used to make super powerful wi-fi networks that can cover entire university campuses. Or entire hotels.
The unused bands of spectrum were generated by the conversion of television signals from analog to digital. Because digital transmission uses a smaller slice of spectrum, more “white space” was freed up around each broadcast signal. It is those white spaces that the F.C.C. is now seeking to put to use. The new airwaves are particularly attractive because television signals are low-frequency waves, meaning they can travel farther, go more easily through walls, trees and other obstructions, and provide more reliable connections.
Testing is already under way in Wilmington, NC and Claudville, VA.
But, some people aren’t happy about this. Like Dolly Parton and the National Association of Broadcasters. They want the FCC to make special rules that would prevent TV interference and keep some spectrum reserved for wireless microphones.
by John Moe // Posted: 08/17/10 06:00 AM
Will you have to change your name to escape all the data about you on Google? One person who thinks you might is Eric Schmidt, who just happens to be THE CEO OF GOOGLE. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Schmidt envisioned a day when young adults will change their identities, to get away from their digital pasts.
Wow. The guy who runs Google says Google will know so much that we’ll have to hide from that which he helped create? Really?
“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.
Schmidt’s statement, which may be off-the-cuff speculation but is still pretty darn provocative, kind of flips technology on its head. Instead of molding our technology around who we are, we would need to re-do who we are in order to get away from who the technology has made us out to be.
We talk with Sherry Turkle about this. She’s the director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self and the author of the forthcoming book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.
We also speak with Mary Madden of the Pew Internet and American Life Project who fills us in on the latest data about how young people manage their internet lives. And we talk with Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. He advocates not changing your name but being able to declare reputation bankruptcy.
by John Moe // Posted: 07/09/10 06:00 AM
Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reports on a new classified project by the National Security Agency codenamed Perfect Citizen. The NSA is working with companies and government agencies that run critical infrastructure to put sensing devices on their computer networks.
Siobhan Gorman reported the story for the Journal. We speak to her for an explanation of how it will work and, since it’s classified, how much we’re ever likely to learn about it. We also check in with Stewart Baker who served as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. He’s the author of a new book, Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism.
And to lighten things up, just a bit, we briefly examine the curious case of the Double Rainbow Oh My God video.
by John Moe // Posted: 07/08/10 06:00 AM
We like to bill ourselves as your guide to technology and the modern world. But today we explore technology and the future world, as presented by the master satirists at The Onion. They’ve been bringing funny but certainly not real news to the web for 14 years now, most recently branching out into video for The Onion News Network, an extended parody of mainstream media. Their most recent project is a 12-minute newscast from the year 2137 (acquired, they say, by wormhole technology) and things aren’t going well: humanity is trying to figure out how to die and those that remain are sometimes gored by gigantic mutant beetles. The video, funny but more than a little disturbing, marks The Onion’s first foray into paid content.
We speak with Marc Lieberman, VP of Business of Development for The Onion, and Carol Kolb, head writer for The Onion News Network.
by John Moe // Posted: 06/30/10 08:07 AM
Dell used to be one of the best selling PCs on the market. Their computers were thought to be well made, affordable, and backed by outstanding customer service. But that was several years ago and Dell has fallen from grace quite a bit since then, amid charges of irregular accounting practices, terrible customer service, and computers that break. New York Times reporter Ashlee Vance wrote about documents that were recently made public as part of a lawsuit against Dell. The documents indicate that Dell employees knowingly shipped out millions of computers from 2003 to 2005 that were likely to break, spill chemicals, and even cause small fires.
When the computers were returned for repair or replacement, they were given new faulty equipment and shipped right back out again to customers like Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, and the Mayo Clinic. We speak with Vance about the story. We also check in with Matt Wold of Geek Squad about the specific problems at issue, how you can see if your own computer is affected, and what you can do about it.
09/26/10 11:15 AM
There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.
On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.
- Can social networks help prevent the flu?
09/20/10 02:43 AM
- The Wikipedia entry on the Iraq War in 12 handy bound volumes
09/17/10 01:02 AM
- Free public domain classical music on the way
09/16/10 06:00 AM
- Microsoft and political repression in Russia
09/15/10 06:00 AM