Panelists talk about rise of alternative data; Foursquare gets more sophisticated with Pilgrim

jeff glueck of foursquare

By Dennis Clemente

Guests panelists talked about alternative data with Foursquare, Captricity presenting their companies

NEW YORK–Last March 1, the Data Driven meetup hosted by Matt Turck sat down with his guests to talk about about alternative data (no relation to alternative facts).

The alternative discussion consisted of Jeff Glueck, CEO of Foursquare; David Loaiza, managing director & chief data scientist of Point72; Andrej Rusakov, founder of Data Capital Management as well Matei Zatreanu, founder of System2.

Zatreanu explained alternative data as a non-traditional form of data, later adding how it’s more intuitive. Still,  many seem to be downplaying its advantages.

What are the uses of alternative data? Before handing you a credit card, banks could determine other alternative means of data if usual information is not available. This could certainly make institutions less rigid, as it helps measure different types of businesses on a case-by-case basis.

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Music sector gets more useful data, collaborations

subdrive-event

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK — “Technology is getting better that it’s allowing people to collaborate wherever they may be,” said Souheil Medaghri Alaoui, product designer of Splice.

“I see how people want to collaborate more but still want to be in charge of their work,” she said. “I think data is being more useful (in this regard),” said Cynthia Meng, engineer of Next Big Sound/Pandora.

Alaoui and Meng were in the panel that included Harry Benson, director of US Strategy of Boiler Room in a talk hosted last March 2 by New York music label and creative collective Subdrive. The talk was its first one titled “Fostering Emerging Music Communities Online and IRL (In Real Life).”

Benson, a renowned cultural marketer and creative director specializing in music, fashion, art and culture, also talked about how virtual reality is still not there when it comes to music immersion.

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These debaters know it will be a struggle to make facts great again

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—There was no faking it. The Daily News Innovation Lab meetup last February 8 at Microsoft was packed for a good reason. The debate, “Proposition: We can solve fake news” had people giddy with anticipation. The debaters would not disappoint.

The hopefuls were Sally Kohn, political commentator and columnist, CNN and The Daily Beast; Dean Pomerleau, co-director, Fake News Challenge; and Melissa Ryan, expert in politics and technology.

The skeptics were John Borthwick, CEO of Betaworks; David Carroll, associate professor of Media Design at Parsons The New School for Design; and Jane Elizabeth, senior manager at the American Press Institute.

Justin Hendrix, executive director at NYC Media Lab moderated the debate with an equal dose of Orwellian seriousness and aw-shucks disbelief following the rise of fake news on social media platforms in the 2016 presidential elections.

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Playing computer games for social good

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK– Why hasn’t computer games (with an educational bent) reached critical mass? “Technology changes so fast. It’s about evolution,” said Asi Burak, the author of “Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the World,” his book written with Laura Parker, which was also launched last January 31.

Burak talked about computer games for social good at the Storycode meetup last January 24 at the Elinor Munroe theater.

In their book, Burak and Parker explored how video games are now pioneering innovative social change around the world. After all, the remarkable growth of gaming has inspired plenty of hand-wringing–from the press, politicians, parents, and everyone else concerned with its effect on our brains, bodies, and hearts.

As the former executive director and now chairman of Games for Change, Burak has spent more than decade championing the use of video games for social good. He has worked with such revered organizations as the White House, NASA, World Bank, and The United Nations.

“Power Play” sees the future of games as a global movement. Burak and Parker profile important people behind some of the movement’s most iconic games, including former Supreme Court judge Sandra Day O’Connor and Pulitzer-Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Burak pointed out the unlikely gamer in O’Connor helped to develop in line with her civic-mindedness with iCivics. As he quotes her: “…One of the reasons learning games make so much sense for teaching civics is that any government’s role is sort of like creating the parameters within which we play the game of life. Regulations, Policy, Law enforcement….”

As mentioned in the book, iCivics reportedly proved instrumental not only at teaching kids, but also at helping game metaphors thrive in the world of education. Burak thinks we need more social games that introduce players into the world of political discourse. As for technology, Burak said virtual reality should be able to address social and political issues.

Burak, who went to Carnegie Mellon, said he was taught to think using both left and right brains. Not all games need to be a war, it turns out, as he  pointed out he also produced a little game about peace.

Games are not just for entertainment anymore, they are meant to solve problems – hand in hand with technology.

Buzzfeed Tasty’s quadrant video system makes choosing 4 recipes easier

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK— How would you like to do things in 4 ways? asked Alvin Zhou of Buzzfeed’s Tasty at the Design Driven meetup last December 13 at Buzzfeed.

Now if this applied to your life, imagine being able to restart your day four times, so you can pick the best one and end up with a perfect day. Of course, we don’t live in that world. But Tasty on Buzzfeed does. Watching, say, breast chicken baked in four ways certainly saves you time searching for recipes on Google or YouTube.

The videos are presented in quadrants and come easy to digest the way they’re edited. They’re edited precisely to make 4 videos fly by like it’s just one video. Best of all, the quadrants give us four recipes to choose from in one video. You’re bound to click on one video – and before you know it, you’ve seen them all; the way Buzzfeed presents them animatedly.

Zhou was joined by 3 other presenters, Emery Wells, CEO and founder of frame.io; Caroline Wurtzel, designer of Bustle and Laney Caldwell, product manager of x.ai.

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Credit card tipping via Dipjar, now with 2,000 devices

NEW YORK—If George Constanza of Seinfeld lived in the 21st century, he would have solved the issue he had with tip jars back in the day. They never made a sound. When a pizza hired hand took his eyes off him for a second, he didn’t see Constanza show his generosity. So what does Constanza being Constanza do? He tried to grab his dollar back only to be caught as if he were stealing the latter’s tips.

It’s one colorful story among many that DipJar founder Ryder Kessler shares with the audience at the Mobile Payments NYC meetup last December 8 at Alley. DipJar enables cashless generosity via tip jars and donation boxes for credit cards—with a loud “clinking” sound this time, so a staff will you know you’ve tipped. You simply dip your credit card to make a donation in the amount illuminated in this gadget.

Kessler said he was inspired to think of a solutions eight years ago when he was at a café and he saw how baristas were not getting enough tips, although he didn’t pin down DipJar then just yet. He said he would try lots of different things, working for a startup for four years, before he eventually got around to conjuring the idea for the DipJar.

Initially, Kessler said he cast a wide net of potential customers, but he eventually found his market – the non-profit sector. There are reportedly 1.5 million non-profit organizations collecting $240 billion per year in donations, 90 percent of which are made offline.

Released initially in 2012, the patented DipJar now has 2,000 of these devices collecting nationwide for customers, with more than 6 large organizations as customers.

Kessler thinks DipJar is also addressing the overall decline in fundraising in general, because of the diminished use of cash and checks, which makes the device even more relevant now, especially when many low-income workers rely on tips. Tablets solve this somehow as it works as a payment system now–with a prompt for adding tips.

For this reason, targeting non-profit organizations is even more vital for Kessler. However, being in this sector also means getting VC money is not easy. “Some VCs are allergic to hardware,” plus he is in the non-profit space – not a priority for VCs.

What has he learned these years with DipJar? He acknowledges that he “underweighted hardware, payments, VC money and sales and marketing”.

How does one tip with DipJar? Inside the jar is a standard credit card reader. One only needs to insert his card and pull it out to swipe and it will automatically deduct an assigned amount set by the business or DipJar owner.

Derek Webster hosted the meetup.

Yes, even content strategy can start at back end

NEW YORK—Is content strategy going to be more effective if you consider it part of back-end development? If companies think marketing is all after the website or app is done, they should really think again. More than ever, structure is essential to making content future-friendly.

Carrie Hane of Tanzen Consulting, who works in both front and back end, said developers appreciate it even more if a content strategist can communicate with them about how content should be structured on the back end. Hane spoke last December 7 at the Huge meetup at its offices in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Hane is an independent consultant who helps organizations increase income and decrease costs by rethinking how they create, manage and connect their content.

“You will take blocks of content and break them down into smaller chunks which can be reused, remixed, restyled, and repurposed as needed. With a detailed content model in place, you can plan for implementation in a content management system (CMS) and for display across all your target interfaces,” she said.

She outlines the benefits of having back-end content strategy through the following:

  • Takes content out of its silos
  • Atomizes content, so it can be reused, remixed, restyled
  • Makes content available for each channel device, audience segment
  • Put technology to work to deliver content
  • Focuses on author as user in the design of the CMS
  • Ensures extensibility and scalability
  • Future friendly – ready for whatever is next

Taking this further, she said structured content is cross-platform ready and robot-readable.

Semantic meaning and relationships stored in the database and expressed through the interface. With relationships held at data level, rather than just at page level, you can design interfaces that allow readers to explore the content many different ways.

The future-friendly approach, she said, looks at structure as a developer would—separating out the model, the various interface views, and controlling interactions. “Designing content-first ensures the interface design supports the content. Not only will this process better serve the users, it will allow content to be created in parallel with the design and implementation.”

“Designing future-friendly content means applying as much effort to planning and creating content structures as you would to designing interfaces,” she said.

Some UX designers may consider a site or app’s flow and neglect to think about content as part of an entire back-end strategy, which could help immeasurably in terms of managing content and marketing it properly. It’s time designers think that loren ipsum text has a purpose beyond just being a placeholder text.

How IoT is improving processes, interaction, even computer vision

NEW YORK—When a meetup isn’t just a meetup, it’s an actual learning experience. Vaughn Shinall, head of product outreach at Temboo, did more than the usual company profile in his talk by providing the audience with some valuable tips for bringing IoT (Internet of Things) to anyone’s business at the Hardwired meetup last November 16 at WeWork in Chelsea.

Shinall’s Temboo, which offers software stack for IoT applications, gave the following tips:

  1. Start with a small but real, concrete problem
  2. Focus on saving time or money to create real value at the start
  3. Quick wins will help build confidence and expertise for IoT
  4. Get internal backing based on having a working system
  5. See how the data and functionality you’ve created can have additional uses
  6. See how existing applications can be modified for other uses
  7. Build new IoT capabilities on top of existing ones

Providing these tips is essential, as over half of business processes are projected to incorporate IoT by 2020, with about 22 billion IoT devices estimated to be connected already to the internet by 2018.

Shinall showed a factory that has retrofitted its existing operations IoT capabilities to reduce waste. It added automated alerts and sensors to its processes.

It was the modular music studio BLOCKS, however, that was the highlight for the evening for people hearing it for the first time. ROLI, the music tech startup behind it, has raised $43 million from FirstMark Capital. It will reportedly be in all Apple stores globally this holiday season.

The other presenters were Charlie Key, founder and CEO of Losant (IoT solution platform); David Lyman, founder and CEO of BetterView (drone marketplace for aerial photography jobs) and Leif Jentoft, co-Founder of RightHand Robotics (intelligent machines for e-commerce order fulfillment)

Key of Losant talked about real time GPS asset tracking which is expected to grow, as sensors, GPS units and cellular modems have become readily available.  About 38 billion devices are equipped with tracking capabilities. As such, many now see the value of tracking the location and health of nearly everything, including shipments.

The actual devices used will rely on cost, physical size, environmental conditions, geographical location and many more. Losant provides systems integrators and product manufacturers with the flexibility to choose and connect to any hardware using any communication method on any network. Its application services and additional platform capabilities cover remote asset management, GPS tracking and mapping, reporting and M2M data integration.  Understanding GPS data natively to visualize locations and geofence the information is crucial.

How does it make money? “People pay us based on data points,” explaining that the compay “works with companies with physical assets like tow trucks.”

As a platform for capturing and analyzing drone data, Lyman of BetterView claimed that they have software that makes it easy to capture data.  It reportedly combines drone-gathered, expert-analyzed imagery with public data like assessor’s permit, fire station proximity, and historical weather to pinpoint risks, estimate costs, and drive action around buildings and properties.

Founded two years ago, BetterView combines public data, drone imagery and computer vision plus human experts to analyze data to its 70 customers. It claims to have a 3,500 pilot network, analyzed, 4,200 rooftops or the equivalent of 130 million square feet.

Lyman said if you’re too early (in the drone space), you can get burned. If it holds its promise, he estimates the industry to rake in 1.8 million sales in by 2020. “We see adoption in commercial business.”

Already, drones and AI are improving insight and transforming how we interact with the physical world.

Another presenter, RightHand Robotics provides end-to-end solutions that reduce the cost of e-commerce order-fulfillment of electronics, apparel, grocery, pharmaceuticals, and countless other industries.

Analyzing data and extracting insights from IBM Watson Analytics

NEW YORK— Last November 10, the meetup called Data Science & Analytics for Communications Industry showed us how IBM Watson Analytics is making it easier for business professionals to analyze data and extract insights for businesses across data intensive disciplines, including marketing (social media and networks), sales, operations, finance and human resources.

Host Rachel Wells showed us how Watson Analytics works a smart-data discovery tool with guided data exploration, automated predictive analysis, dashboard creation and visualization service. It is designed to help different professionals — from salespersons to company CEOs – find patterns and pursue ideas for their business.

In collaboration with industry partners, its new data discovery models called Expert Storybooks is aimed at helping guide users on how to understand, learn and reason with different types of data sources to surface the most relevant facts and uncover patterns and relationships for predictive decision making. Examples of the types of Storybooks IBM will make available are as follows:

  • AriBall – a Storybook that will help users analyze the performance of baseball players to build predictions about player performance that they can use to gain an edge in their fantasy lineup.
  • Deloitte – a Storybook that measures the effectiveness of incentive programs to help sales leadership determine how and when to effectively deploy short term incentives for revenue uplift.
  • The Weather Company – a Storybook that helps users incorporate weather data into their revenue analysis to understand how weather is impacting their business.
  • OgilvyOne – a Storybook that shows users how to analyze marketing campaign data while integrating disparate data points such as weather information to bring creative inputs into campaign planning.
  • Twitter – a Storybook that helps users analyze social media data from Twitter to measure reputational risk, and also get a better understanding about how social sentiment could reveal drivers behind fluctuations in stock prices in real time.
  • American Marketing Association – a Storybook that helps users identify and analyze the key drivers of customer profitability.
  • Nucleus Research – a Storybook that enables users to benchmark projects for return on investment (ROI) and to project expected returns for proposed technology projects based on Nucleus Research data from more than 500 ROI case studies.
  • MarketShare – a Storybook that helps users achieve a clear understanding of how their investment strategy compares to industry standards, as well as a view into how to optimize investments across online and offline media channels such as TV, paid search, digital display, online video, radio, print, and others.
  • Intangent – a Storybook that will help finance managers examine the relationships between pay, performance, and credit risk in lending to better align incentive compensation with risk taking.

Instead of fumbling over data, searching for answers or testing hypotheses, the Watson Analytics user can focus on understanding the business and effectively communicating results to stakeholders. Business users often struggle figuring out what analysis would be relevant and how to tell the story in a report or diagram. Watson Analytics automates these steps to accelerate users’ ability to get to the answers quickly and on their own.

As users interact with the results, they can fine-tune their questions and the data to surface the most relevant facts and uncover unforeseen patterns and relationships, which will enable predictive decision making for all levels of users.

However, Wells is quick to point out the differences between IBM Watson, which means the whole process of reasoning which does its full A to Z job, while IBM Watson Analytics is all about helping anyone explore data easily.

So many visual storytelling ways, but who’s watching?!

NEW YORK–“I don’t believe in VR (virtual reality),” said Olivier Laurent, editor at Lightbox, a blog by the TIME’s photo department, in a meetu on the topic, “Visual Storytelling and the Future of Photos” last November 2 at the Libris by Photoshelter in Union Square. It was  certainly a gutsy admission, considering that tech titans have rolled out or are launching their own VR devices with fanfare.

Laurent moderated the discussion with panelists Paul Melcher, founder of Kaptur Magazine; Ben Plomion, chief marketing officer at GumGum, a computer vision company and; and Peter Krogh, photographer for PBS and The Library of Congress, among others.

Laurent challenges VR’s potential by referring to technological devices in the past, “Who has a 3D TV?” There was one raised hand in the packed room. What Laurent is saying makes perfect sense, of course. Yes, Facebook has the Oculus; Google recently launched its Daydream VR. Samsung and Sony have their own VR devices as well. This was not the main topic of the evening but it resonated with us because some tech products get some hype but never hit critical mass (eg. Google Glass).

But companies are latching onto VR because there’s always a craving for new ways to tell stories. Photographers, videographers and all practitioners then try to adapt to the new tools–for the purpose of adding a skill as the market demands.

Whether we want to embrace this or not is no longer a question, though. At some point, everyone will need to use cinemagraphs, VR, 360 and still movement in camera and gif, as enumerated by Melcher. There’s GoPro, Drones and many more.

“(Over the years), professional photographers have had to learn Photoshop and LightRoom,” he said. That was years ago but with more tech tools coming out, it seems the visually inclined will need to acquaint himself with more tools, software and equipment as technology keeps reinventing ways for us to tell stories.

However, there’s an even more problematic scenario other than the constant flow of new tech tools at our disposal. How do you get people’s attention span when a study by Microsoft last year pointed to how the ill-focused goldfish is said to have the attention span of nine seconds? How do people compare? We now lose concentration after eight seconds, it turns out. The survey consisted of 2,000 participants whose brain activities were studied using electroencephalograms (EEGs).

These are all compounded by the billions of images uploaded daily. Who has the time to tell their visual stories, if not absorb them?

Laurent, however, may be a purist in his observation about what images stick with people the most. He cites how the Tiananmen protester’s photo blocking a tank is remembered more than its video where he was shown moving left to right to block the tank.

What is future of photography? It may be about create an image that will feel like you’re in there, according to Melcher. “It may be better than any set of cameras.”

“We are developing a new vernacular. Image as data,” Krogh said.

On images as ads, Plomion said, “Ads that follow you. This already started four years ago. There will be more ads catered to us.”

Going back to the future of VR, Melcher said VR is mostly focused on hardware but the growth will be in content.

“In terms of aggregated reality, we’re not there yet,” Plomion said.