What does the FTC’s new task force mean to data aggregators?
Should antitrust regulations govern how big tech companies collect large amounts of consumer data? That’s a question that’s been getting increased attention recently, with growing pressure from state regulators and legislators for antitrust action against big tech companies. While the U.S. still has a long debate ahead on this issue, European regulators have already been investigating, and in some cases fining, large tech companies for their data practices. Part of the debate in the U.S. centers on whether the control of big data is an antitrust issue, a consumer protection issue, or both. But there are indications that the FTC, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, and State regulators will not sit idly while the debate continues.
Last month’s announcement that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has created a new Technology Task Force to more closely monitor a tech companies signals that enforcement by U.S. antitrust regulators could be on the way.
The FTC’s newTechnology Task Force will focus on “examining industry practices and conducting law enforcement investigations . . . on technology-related matters, including prospective merger reviews in the technology sector and reviews of consummated technology mergers.” The Task Force will be comprised of agency attorneys who will coordinate with the agency’s Consumer Protection Bureau as well as agency technologists. This new federal enforcement tool is the latest effort by the FTC to monitor the impact of technology markets on competition and is also the most significant of several steps U.S. federal and state regulators have taken to date on this front.
One particular concern regulators have is that anticompetitive behavior could negatively impact consumer privacy. In Last September, the DOJ, including Assistant Attorney General for Antirust Makan Delrahim, hosted a meeting with attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia and law enforcement representatives from five other states. The DOJ stated, and several state AGs confirmed, that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss whether technology companies “may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms” and to ensure that consumers’ personal information is protected as much as possible.
Unlike regulators in Europe, neither the DOJ nor the FTC has had any real cases yet that address these issues, While U.S. regulators have commented on the potential overlap between consumer privacy and antitrust concerns, neither the DOJ nor the FTC has had a concrete case to decide tied to anticompetitive issues related to consumer data.
One challenge U.S. regulators face is that it may be difficult to articulate the theory of harm. Generally, harm to a group of consumers as a whole would be best addressed through antitrust laws, while harm to individual consumers is best resolved by consumer protection laws. Some have theorized that big data could allow a big tech company to raise prices and exploit consumers, or that the accumulation and control of data has an impact on privacy and data security, thus lessening the quality of a product or service offered to consumers. But antitrust laws do not make it illegal to charge high prices. And competition theories should not be based on unfairness, which does not constitute harm to competition. In addition, if a tech company’s platform serves two markets, e.g., consumers and merchants, and if transactions on each side are bound to one another (the so called “two-sided market”), a viable antitrust claim would have to involve harm to both sides of the platform.
When it comes to mergers, there is an argument that combining big datasets could pose potential barriers to entry. But any company can begin collecting consumer data, and that data is not unique in any way to constitute a single product market. This means the focus of any merger analysis would likely be on whether the combination will reduce the incentives of merging entities to protect data. To date, the FTC has not challenged a merger on the basis of a reduction in non-price competition over privacy protections, but it noted as far back as June 2015 that it has “explicitly recognized that privacy can be a non-price dimension of competition.”
At the FTC hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century held in the fall of 2018, panelists explained that it would be hard to prove a company’s data collection practices violate any antitrust rules. What was evident from the hearings is that no one yet can point to conduct and results that would make a case of monopolization or exclusionary conduct due to data aggregation. Indeed, there seems to be a consensus among economists and antitrust practitioners that acquiring or possessing big data, on its own, is not enough for regulators to show any violation.
Nonetheless, state regulators and legislators are pressuring the FTC to pursue such cases. In an October 2018 letter to the FTC, attorneys general from 11 states and the District of Columbia asked the FTC to aggressively enforce the antitrust law at the “intersection between privacy, big data, and competition.” The state AGs argued that there can be “possible long-term anticompetitive harms arising from the aggregation of big data by a small number of dominant platforms,” including the possibility that data aggregation can become a barrier to entry. The state AGs argued that dominant firms could stifle competition in “new lines of business, and perhaps particularly in the context of new services” and asked for “[c]reative and vigorous enforcement efforts.” In particular, the state AGs criticized the “misguided application of the consumer welfare standard” and indicated that they thought it may be applied “too narrowly” in some circumstances.
Notably, federal and state regulators do not list what specific statutes or regulations they should be enforcing or how the accumulation of big data by tech companies may violate those statutes and regulations. Unlike the EU’s competition laws, U.S. antitrust laws do not punish dominant market power unless there is also some anticompetitive behavior that has enabled the target to maintain or extend its monopoly. In the United States, the acquisition and collection of consumer data, while certainly valuable and competitively significant, may not raise exclusionary concerns. And the growth of tech companies that focus on gathering information on internet users and consumers does not necessarily indicate that there has been any violation of antitrust laws. Indeed, if a firm is gaining market power through legal means, there is no violation of U.S. antitrust laws. To that end, none of the literature on the antitrust concerns over big data lays a roadmap for how an enforcement action would be handled in the U.S.
Despite the ongoing debate, scrutiny of technology companies — and big tech in particular — will continue to grow. The European Commission and other European competition authorities have laid the groundwork for future antitrust investigations and have been trying test antitrust theories by bringing enforcement actions against tech companies in Europe. The creation of the FTC Tech Task Force signals that U.S. regulators intend to take a similar approach — especially when it comes to data aggregation. What it also means is that the FTC has now dedicated personnel and resources to investigate potential misconduct and test antitrust theories. To the extent a tech company accumulates and maintains large volumes of consumer data but has not yet evaluated how regulators may perceive its business model and data-related practices, now is the time. While the debate continues and there are significant doubts about whether regulators, both federal and state, would be able to frame data practices as an antitrust issue, the very risk of being embroiled in a lengthy and costly investigation deserves careful consideration.
Zarema A. Jaramillo and Kathleen McGee are attorneys at Lowenstein Sandler. Zarema is a partner in the Antitrust and Global Trade Group. Kathleen is counsel in the Tech Group and was recently the Bureau Chief of Internet & Technology for the New York Attorney General’s Office.
via VentureBeat https://venturebeat.com
March 16, 2019 at 02:15PM
Tucker Carlson ignored white supremacist message of suspected New Zealand shooter instead criticizing Democrats and journalists
Tucker Carlson ignored white supremacist message of suspected New Zealand shooter, instead criticizing Democrats and journalists
Screenshot via Fox News
Fox News host Tucker Carlson hit back against outcry from lawmakers and journalists over the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand that left 49 people dead at two mosques.
In a monologue aired hours after the attack, Carlson said it was "absurd" that "left-wing" commentators were "working hard to tie [the shooter] to conservatives in the United States" by discussing the 74-page manifesto that names and praises some prominent American conservative figures, including President Donald Trump. Carlson completely ignored the white supremacist message that was in the suspected shooter's manifesto.
Though the manifesto connected to Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man who claimed responsibility for the attacks, in one part praised Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose," Carlson insisted the shooter's ideology have "nothing to do with anyone in the United States." The manifesto also opened with a section arguing in favor of the "white genocide" conspiracy theory, which was the foundation of the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in 2017 that claimed the life of a counter-protester, but Carlson also failed to mention this.
Carlson then warned his audience of the "ruling class" who might seek to "seize this moment" and attack Trump, gun rights, and free speech, pointing to security policies in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks as an example of an impulsive reaction to political violence.
Calling out Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Carlson pointed to a tweet in which the representative mocked the phrase "thoughts and prayers" that is commonly used by groups like the NRA to provide a cursory response to mass shootings.
"The NRA doesn't even exist in New Zealand... maybe Ocasio Cortez doesn't even know," Carlson said, before warning that "even while you sleep," Democrats are working to invade the Constitution's Second Amendment freedom that grants Americans the right to hold firearms.
Carlson later joined fellow host Laura Ingraham on her show for a segment during which an on-screen banner read: "Left using tragedy to shut down speech."
Seeming suspicious of any report that had mentioned Trump and the shooter's online posts, which appeared to be heavily influenced by fringe, far-right internet communities with members from all over the world, Carlson insisted the attack had "nothing to do with the United States."
"What does this story have to do with Trump?" Carlson. "It was a Brit, in New Zealand, shooting up a mosque, two mosques, that has nothing to do with the United States, with Donald Trump."
Multiple reports cited analysis like a November 2018 report from The Washington Post that found far-right violence has been on the rise since President Donald Trump entered the White House.
Additionally, an October 2018 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found a majority of Americans agree that Trump has "encouraged white supremacist groups" with his decisions and behavior.
Carlson added, "If everything is about Trump, there's no room for everything else, there's a lot of other stuff going on."
Ingraham had opened show by pointing to attacks on Christians and Catholics in the Middle East and Europe by "Islamists, radical Muslims who take it upon themselves to kill any infidel, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Jews, or whoever."
Ingraham's suggestion of a threat against Christians that had gone unaddressed was similar to the suspected shooter's intention for the attack as expressed in what appeared to be his manifesto, where he declared he was "out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims."
Referencing an April 2017 attack on Christians in Egypt's St. Mark's Cathedral and attacks against Christians, Ingraham objected to the political discussion spurred by the massacre in New Zealand, saying when Christians are attacked, "you don't have [people] blaming a political party or a political figure for it. That's the difference."
Many reports took notice of the attack as the latest in a rising tide of hate group activity that follows the upward trend within the United States. Recent data from the Anti-Defamation League concluded every extremist killing in the US in 2018 had a link to right-wing extremism.
The president offered no condemnation of the shooter's apparent motivation in that attack. On Friday afternoon, Trump was asked in a press pool, "Do you see today white nationalism a rising threat around the world?"
"I don't really," the president said. "I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case."
John Haltiwanger contributed reporting.
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March 16, 2019 at 02:03PM
Fresh clashes as France's yellow vests seek new momentum
PARIS (Reuters) - French police fired tear gas and arrested dozens on Saturday in clashes with protesters as the yellow vest movement sought to inject new impetus into its four-month old revolt against President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business reforms.
Protesters threw cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of Paris' Arc de Triumphed monument, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December. Bonfires were started in nearby streets, with at least one car in flames.
Police also used water cannons and had arrested more than 30 protesters by late morning as tensions flared at the top of Paris' upmarket Champs Elysee avenue, where the windows of a high-end restaurant were smashed.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said thugs looking for trouble had infiltrated the demonstrations and gave the order to respond to "unacceptable attacks with the greatest firmness".
"Let there be no doubt: they are looking for violence and are there to sow chaos in Paris," Castaner said in a Tweet.
Protesters have promised to draw bigger numbers to mark the fourth month since the movement erupted in mid November, over since-scrapped fuel tax hikes and the high cost of living.
Named after the high visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars and worn by protesters, the revolt quickly swelled into a broader movement against Macron and his reforms.
However, the weekly demonstrations, held every Saturday in Paris and other cities, have been generally getting smaller since December, when Paris saw some of the worst vandalism and looting in decades.
After the spike in violence, Macron offered a package of concessions worth more than 10 billion euros ($11 billion) aimed at boosting the incomes of the poorest workers and most pensioners.
His government ordered police to crack down on the protests in January, leading to complaints of police brutality after a series of injuries.
The 41-year-old former investment banker also launched a series of national debates which are aimed at determining what polices people want the government to focus on.
Saturday's protests coincide with the end of the debates.
($1 = 0.8829 euros)
(Editing by Mark Potter)
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March 16, 2019 at 01:33PM
JBL's Link 300 smart speaker gives you multi-room audio and the Google Assistant it's on sale for $125 at Best Buy
JBL's Link 300 smart speaker gives you multi-room audio and the Google Assistant — it's on sale for $125 at Best Buy
The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
Filling your house with speakers can be an expensive endeavor. Not only are many smart speakers pricey, but they don’t always work together very well, and they don’t all have access to the same digital assistants.
If you’re a fan of the Google Assistant and you use lots of Google services, then the JBL Link smart speaker series is definitely worth considering. The speakers aren’t overly expensive, have the Google Assistant built in, and sound pretty good. The JBL Link 300, in particular, offers nice big sound and the smarts of Google without breaking the bank.
But at $250, the JBL Link 300 still isn’t cheap — unless it's on sale, which it happens to be right now for $124.99 at Best Buy. Is it the speaker for you? We put the JBL Link 300 to the test to find out.
A simple, all-black design
If you’ve seen any other JBL Link speakers, then the Link 300 will look familiar to you. It features the same all-black design so it’ll look right at home in any space without drawing too much attention to itself.
On the front of the device, you’ll see a simple JBL logo and nothing else. Around the back, you’ll find a 3.5-inch woofer for pumping out the lower frequencies. The playback controls — including a play/pause button, volume up and down buttons, a microphone mute button, and a Bluetooth button — are all on the top of the speaker. There’s also a Google Assistant button the top that activates the Google Assistant, so you don't have to say, "Hey Google" or "OK Google" to summon your smart assistant.
The size of the speaker isn’t bad, either. It’s a little larger in size than some of the other smart speakers like the Echo or the original Google Home, but it’s also a little shorter. While it will take up a good amount of space on a shelf, we don’t think it’ll be hard to find a spot for it — and it’s still not as big as speakers like the Google Home Max.
Ultimately, we think the JBL Link 300 is a pretty good-looking speaker. The all-black design ensures that the speaker won’t draw too much attention to itself, and while it doesn’t look quite as modern as the Sonos One speaker, it still looks great.
As with any Google Assistant-enabled speaker, setting up the JBL Link 300 is very easy — especially if you already have the Google Home app and have used Google Assistant-enabled speakers before.
If not, start by downloading the Google Home app and signing in with your account. After that, if you plug in the speaker, it should automatically show up in the app. Then, simply follow the on-screen instructions to connect the speaker to your home Wi-Fi network and enable the Google Assistant — and you should be good to go.
After that, you’ll be able to ask the Google Assistant to control your smart home devices, ask it questions, cast content to the speaker from apps on your phone, and so on.
Ultimately, the most important thing about any speaker has to be its sound, and the JBL Link 300 sounds pretty darn good — especially for a speaker in this price range. The speaker is a little larger than most of the other speakers in the Link lineup, so it has a boosted low end compared to smaller speakers. It can also get quite a bit louder than its smaller counterparts, though not quite as loud as the largest speaker in the series, the JBL Link 500.
Since it is part of a multi-room speaker lineup, you can connect the Link to other Link-series speakers or Chromecast-enabled speakers around your home. So if you wanted to have your speakers play the same music in every room of your house, you could sync them up to do that.
There are other features on offer here, too. Notable is the fact that the JBL Link 300 has Google Assistant built right in to it, so you can use it like any other Google Assistant-enabled device. That means you can use the speaker to control smart home devices, tell it to play music, ask it questions, and more. Google Assistant is generally considered to be one of the best digital assistants out there, and for good reason. It’s super smart, and it’s only getting smarter.
The Assistant works with thousands of popular smart home devices, and it has access to Google's smart search engine, so you're more likely to get the right answer to your question than you would with other smart voice assistants.
As mentioned, the JBL Link 300 speaker sounds pretty great, but it’s not necessarily audiophile-level in terms of its sound quality. The low frequencies sound great, and while the high frequencies are certainly present enough for most, we would have liked to hear a little more clarity and detail. That said, we don’t think the majority of buyers will have any complaints with the sound quality, though audiophiles may prefer to look elsewhere.
Price may also be an issue for some, though we think the speaker offers excellent value for money. If you don’t want to spend $250 on a speaker, then we recommend looking at other speakers in the JBL Link line, which may be a little cheaper. However, the speaker is currently on sale for $124.99, so if you can catch that deal, it's an even better buy.
The bottom line
The JBL Link series of speakers is a great way to get smart, multi-room audio on a budget, and the JBL Link 300 is no exception to that rule. The speaker looks good and boasts plenty of bass, and while it may not live up to audiophile standards, we think the vast majority of people will find it to be a great-sounding speaker. Add in the fact that the Link 300 has the Google Assistant and Chromecast compatibility, and you have a fully featured and great-value package.
Pros: Great bass response, nice design, Google Assistant, Chromecast compatible, decent audio, reasonable price
Cons: Could use a little more high-end detail
Buy the JBL Link 300 from Best Buy for $124.99 (originally $249.99) [Price may vary when it's not on sale]
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March 16, 2019 at 01:21PM
Risks and rewards: The future of blockchain games
Blockchain and games have an enticing future. Companies are setting up $100 million fund to entice developers to make games with blockchain, the secure and transparent decentralized ledger technology that powers Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
But plenty of game industry people are skeptical, considering the slide in the value of cryptocurrencies in the past year. A handful are jumping into it and testing the waters. At Tron’s recent summit in January, I moderated a panel with three of these experimenters: Taehoon Kim, CEO of Power Rangers mobile game maker nWay; Dan Chao, head of startup Rogue Nations Games and maker of Crypto Assault; and Jared Psigoda, CEO of BitGuild.
“Our biggest problem right now, to be frank, is that most of the blockchain games that are being made suck,” Psigoda said.
Then again, there was a day when most of the mobile games out there sucked, yet entrepreneurs like Chao made out nicely when they sold their startups to larger game companies. Ubisoft has become active in blockchain games, but a lot of big companies are sitting on sidelines. If they sit too long, they may have to pay a lot to acquire the blockchain game startups. Or those startups will acquire them, Psigoda said, tongue in cheek.
I’ll be moderating a fireside chat with Tron CEO Justin Sun next week at Pocket Gamer’s Blockchain Games Next event on March 19 at 2 p.m. at Bespoke in San Francisco. I’ll also be moderating a panel with Taehoon Kim at PAX East in Boston on March 28. Tron’s Roy Liu will also speak at our upcoming GamesBeat Summit 2019 event in Los Angeles on April 23-24.
Here’s an edited transcript of our panel.
Taehoon Kim: My name is Taehoon Kim. People call me TK. I’m the CEO of nWay. We make real games for emerging platforms, and the emerging platform now is blockchain, so that’s where we’re going now.
Dan Chao: I have a small team just half a block from here. We’ve been working on a blockchain game called Crypto Assault, which is a kind of strategy MMO, where hundreds of thousands of players all live in a world together deploying tanks and jets and killing each other.
Jared Psigoda: I’m the CEO of BitGuild. We’re a blockchain gaming company. We originally started building games on Ethereum, and later migrated to Tron. We also have Guild Chat, our social messenger, which allows you to trade crypto, get crypto coin drops. We have a bunch of other projects that we’re working on.
GamesBeat: Could you tell us what you’re doing in the realm of blockchain and games and crypto? Why are you here? What got your interested in blockchain?
Kim: I’ll step back and talk about the blockchain gaming ecosystem right now. Currently, the way I look at it, it’s mainly people who are already crypto holders. It’s people who have all these cryptocurrencies and they’re all trying to make money. It’s not necessarily the gamer crowd yet. Naturally, you see games that are more gambling-focused, pyramid scheme games, games that feel like lotteries. Real games haven’t yet arrived on blockchain.
We’re working closely with Tron to figure out how we can get more mass-market adoption. How do we get gamers into games that have blockchain elements for trading and real-world value in game items? We’re doing some R&D right now, and we’re also working on a separate game that brings a whole new experience for this type of genre.
Chao: Like a lot of people, CryptoKitties popped up on the radar for me and I was really interested. I’ve always loved hopping to a new platform to see if something relevant is there. When Facebook games, and subsequently mobile games, came out, that was very interesting. I love solving new problems and seeing–what is the value add for blockchain in games? Is there really something there? It was maybe last April that we started looking into making blockchain games, seeing if we could bring something a bit different from what we were seeing already.
Psigoda: I’ve been a hardcore gamer for as long as I can remember. Pretty much all the MMOs you can think of, I played them, from Ultima Online to EverQuest to World of Warcraft. All of the Diablos, everything like that. One of the interesting things I saw in those games was the one of the most fun things to do was to trade items with other players. If I’m playing Diablo as a mage and you’re a barbarian, if I pick up a really cool barbarian item—those games were all built around being able to trade items and trade currencies. Also, one of my first businesses was a World of Warcraft gold farm in China. The concept of virtual currencies being worth real money has been an obvious concept to me since I was 12 years old.
Once I saw blockchain come out, with the ability for these virtual tokens to have real value and for you to trade them frictionlessly through the blockchain, there was this eureka moment. Hey, we can make some really cool games that make us feel like we did in the ‘90s, when there was trading. It’s not like the mobile games there are now, where you just keep spending money yourself, but you can never trade your items with another player. It’s a pretty fascinating industry, and it’s just getting started. We wanted to be a part of it.
GamesBeat: Three to five years from now, the definition of success here might be that we get the CEOs of Electronic Arts and Activision and Ubisoft sitting up here talking about blockchain games. What’s going to get us to that kind of outcome, to that kind of future, where this meets its full potential?
Kim: It reminds me of the free-to-play business model. A long time ago the big publishers were laughing at it, saying it would never work, and now they’re all over it. It’s just a matter of time before they understand this.
Chao: What really gets us there is cracking the game design that actually works with blockchain. I’m not convinced we’ve seen it yet. What I always say to people is that my depressing outlook on blockchain in the future—if it’s just used to tokenize cosmetic skins in Fortnite, then that’s probably not the most exciting thing it can do. But also, finding a game design that’s not just gambling or a CCG, something like that, that’s going to be the real thing that breaks it wide open. Whether it’s something that looks like Roblox—there are a lot of things to think about. It’s going to have to be that game design that really cracks it open.
Psigoda: I agree. Our biggest problem right now, to be frank, is that most of the blockchain games that are being made suck. 2018 wasn’t too great of a year for blockchain games. It’s going to require time. As you mentioned, 10 years ago, when we were at the Game Developers Conference talking about this new thing called free-to-play games, where instead of going to Best Buy and spending $60 to buy a game, the game would be completely free, and you could just buy these items in the game for 99 cents or a couple of dollars—if you talked to Blizzard or Activision or EA or any of those companies back then, they’d say “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. We’ll never do anything like that.”
But if you look now at the entire mobile game industry, and a lot of the PC game industry, pretty much all of the most popular games are free to play with microtransactions. We found out that it’s more profitable to make a game free than to make people spend money for it up front. Fortnite does $10 million a day in revenue, something like that? When EA and those guys come back to talk in three years, new generations of game design are always done by the scraggly startups. They’re not done by the big guys. The big guys, if we’re lucky, will come in and buy us in a few years. Or we’ll buy them. [laughs]
Kim: The term “blockchain games” is going to disappear. Once we reach mass-market adoption, it’s just going to be games, and they’re going to have blockchain elements to them.
GamesBeat: What do you think of the choices you have to make now? Which platform do you choose, whether it’s Tron or EOS or others? What are some important things that you have to decide at the beginning? What decisions do you have to make right now about what to support?
Kim: If you’re making an app or game that’s exactly like what’s out there, obviously you go to Ethereum. But the reason we’re working with Tron is because they’re very forward-thinking. They’re working closely with us to make changes to the platform and create new experiences, lowering the barrier to entry for regular gamers. That’s the main reason we’re working with Tron.
Chao: When we were first getting started, it came down to market cap and users. You wanted to pick the blockchain with the most users. But now that’s changing a bit. Obviously there are Tron and EOS, which support games in a great way. They’re really helping out with marketing and visibility. On the technical side, transactions per second is a big deal, as well as gas prices. Really optimizing for lower gas prices is super important.
But you have to weigh that with how much the users actually care about having the entire game on chain. For example, our game is actually mostly—99 percent is off chain. It’s like playing a normal game, with a centralized server. The units, the map, all the commands, all that stuff is on the server when they’re moving around. But the purchase of the units is all done on chain. Whenever a new unit is created, that’s also done on chain.
At first I was a bit nervous about users not being okay with that, but ultimately it doesn’t really seem like they care. They just want to play a fun game, and then they want to get some amount of their investment out of it. That’s a kind of long-winded way of saying, does transaction speed matter? Once transaction speed gets down to under a second, can you start to do everything on chain, and is that really still the right choice? Obviously there’s the gas cost there. There’s also a lot to do with seed funding. Some of the other ecosystems like Tron are helping out in that manner too. That can be very important when you’re starting a new business.
Psigoda: For us, I’ll summarize it in two points. The first point, as mentioned, is the question of centralization versus decentralization. I think it was CryptoKitties that had an interesting data point, that 99 percent of their traffic or something like that left their website when they saw they needed to install MetaMask to play the game. I’m not of the opinion that absolutely everything needs to be decentralized, because in the long run what players care about is playing a good game. It’s not about our grand vision of decentralized products.
Number two, again, is the choice of your blockchain. As I mentioned, we started out on Ethereum. We launched seven or eight games on Ethereum. To us, it was not acceptable to spend a dollar in transaction fees to buy an item that cost 50 cents, and then wait five minutes for the transaction to go through. The decision came down to which blockchain was really going to be able to support games. EOS was one of them. Tron was one of them. We thought very hard about both of them. They’re both fast. They both have little to no transaction fee.
The main deciding factor in why we chose to move to Tron was the community. There are many blockchains now where you can say they’re technically able to run a blockchain game. They have fast transaction speeds and so on. But the bigger question is, who is going to play those games? Those games are being played with the token of that blockchain. Tron games are being played with TRX. If you have another blockchain that technically solves your problem, but they have 200 holders of their token, then you don’t have a community to play your game.
We found out, with Tron—we’ve had the greatest support from the Tron foundation as well as the community, and there are a lot of people in the Tron community who really want to figure out more ways to use their tokens. Gaming has been one of the most obvious ways for them to do that.
GamesBeat: We all remember how important whales were in the free-to-play space, for mobile games and social games. The community with a lot of whales, maybe, is the one you want to be attracted to.
Psigoda: Tron has some whales, yeah.
GamesBeat: If you apply your imagination to it, what could happen with blockchain games? I didn’t think that much about blockchain and crypto until I talked to Tim Sweeney of Epic Games. He said that this could be the way we get to the metaverse, the virtual world of virtual worlds that comes up in stories like Snow Crash or Ready Player One. Is that one of the end goals that you think is possible?
Psigoda: Again, most people have probably seen Ready Player One. If you haven’t, I’d recommend it. When we talk about the metaverse, we’re almost thinking of a life in the future where we spend a significant amount of our time inside of virtual worlds. I’d almost argue that we’re partially there. The reason I say that is, sometimes, if we stop and think and look around at how many of us are glued to our screens every day, whether that’s your mobile phone or your computer or a tablet—just get on a subway sometime and look around you. When 99 percent of the people in a room are staring at a mobile phone screen, are they really here, or are they somewhere out there?
Adding on to that, in the future—we talk about things like how artificial intelligence is going to lead to far fewer jobs in certain industries like manufacturing. Even doctors, in the future, could be replaced by AI. Adding virtual reality to that, how virtual reality has evolved over the years, we’re looking at a possible picture some time in the future where all of us, or a significant portion of the population, spends a lot of time inside of virtual reality, or inside of these virtual worlds.
What will happen is that there are going to be people who earn their livings inside virtual spaces. People have done this in games like Second Life or Entropia Universe or EVE Online for years. In my opinion, blockchain is going to enable assets you acquire in these video games or virtual worlds—you’ll be able to convert those directly into a hamburger at your local McDonald’s. Items you acquire in these metaverses or virtual worlds, through the power of blockchain, are going to be translatable into real money in the real world. Nothing else other than blockchain can make that happen.
Chao: I’d say maybe don’t watch Ready Player One. Maybe save yourself two hours there. [laughs] But that’s not my point. My point is, I’m a gamer first. I’m not a blockchain utopian thinker. I don’t think it’s going to solve everything. My thing that I really wonder about—blockchain items, in order for them to have value, we can’t give them away for free. There has to be some initial cost in order to acquire these items.
Currently we have games—whether you’re sitting there in ARK or Minecraft or whatever, punching a tree getting wood out of it, that wood comes for free, right? If that eventually gets crafted up into an item, it’s going to be hard for that item to be worth something, because all that wood comes out of a non-zero-sum economy. That’s where I think, whether it’s the metaverse or whatever—that’s going to be the hard part to crack. Are we all going to be okay with an economy where we get nickeled and dimed for every single resource and item we create?That’s why I think this works really well with cosmetic items, but it has a hard time working with functional items, at least from a business standpoint.
via VentureBeat https://venturebeat.com
March 16, 2019 at 01:18PM
Investigators have reportedly found more evidence that could connect the Ethiopian Boeing 737 Max crash to a deadly accident five months before
Investigators have reportedly found more evidence that could connect the Ethiopian Boeing 737 Max crash to a deadly accident five months before
New evidence has emerged from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash that connect it to the previous deadly Lion Air Boeing crash in October 2018, Reuters reported Friday.
According to Reuters, investigators at the crash site found a piece of equipment from the plane that suggests its stabilizers were tilted upward, which would have then forced down the nose of the jet. Sources told Reuters that the stabilizer was in a similar position to the Lion Air plane crash.
The piece of equipment found is known as a jackscrew, which controls the angle of the horizontal stabilizers. These stabilizers can be triggered by the automated system, which is known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), The New York Times reported.
The authorities are currently looking into whether MCAS could be behind the Lion Air crash.
MCAS is designed to counteract the plane's tendency to tip its nose upward during flight, which increases the likelihood of a stall by pointing the nose downward. This was a by-product of the Max's larger, more fuel-efficient engines, which disrupted the plane's center of gravity.
Reports from the Lion Air investigation indicate that a faulty sensor reading may have triggered MCAS shortly after the flight took off.
Sources familiar with the matter told The Times that this new evidence played a part in American regulators' decision to ground 737 Max planes earlier this week.
"The FAA is ordering the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory," the organization announced Wednesday. "The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today. This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision."
via Business Insider https://ift.tt/1IpULic
March 16, 2019 at 12:57PM
Finding Success at the Intersection of Sports and Culture
Marcus Damas, founder of the Fueled by Culture agency and former professional basketball player, discusses the similarities in the way that he approaches both basketball and business. He also shares a story about doing motion-capture for the video game NBA Live and how that experience led to him landing EA Sports as a client.
Marcus and host David Meltzer cover topics such as how to react to pressure with appreciation, how athletes can take advantage of the influence they hold and the relationship between preparation and confidence. The pair also discuss handling the expectations of others and how the conversations we expect to be difficult are often the most rewarding.
via Entrepreneur https://ift.tt/1V7CpeP
March 16, 2019 at 12:46PM
Blake Harris talk — How ‘The History of the Future’ almost didn’t happen
Blake Harris is a historian of the video game wars. His first book — Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle that defined a generation -- came out in 2014 and it chronicled the fight between Sega and Nintendo in the 1990s as Sega stole a march on Nintendo with the launch of the Sega Genesis. The book was written in a dramatic way, and it was licensed for a film adaptation by Hollywood directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
That book’s success let Harris quit his day job as a Wall Street trader, and it enabled him to research his newest book, The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the revolution that swept virtual reality. Harris spent more than four years on the book, with close access to Palmer Luckey, who founded Oculus as a 19-year-old living in a trailer in front of his parents’ house.
After Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 for nearly $3 billion, Harris was able to get exclusive access to the executive team to chronicle the revival of virtual reality. But after Luckey was let go in March 2017 and Facebook learned the inside story that Harris was picking up, he lost access. That made his work harder, but Harris persevered and published a 500-page tome on the story.
In the book, we see the role that CEO Mark Zuckerberg played in Luckey’s departure, as well as the fraying of the relationship among the top leaders. We asked Facebook for a comment to some of the stories in the book, but did not receive a response. I attended a book reading that Harris gave in Mountain View, California, and this is a transcript of that session. In it, I asked some questions, as did members of the audience. I also did an interview with Harris that will run on another day. I found Harris’ talk, interview, and book to be very illuminating on the history that I covered on a day-to-day basis as a writer at GamesBeat.
Here’s an edited preview of our interview.
Blake Harris: Ten years ago, or even seven years ago, I had a day job trading commodities for a financial brokerage in New York. I was working for Brazilian clients, trading coffee and soybeans and corn and all this stuff. When I first started out of college, it was fun. It was a lot like the movie Trading Places, with all that chaos. Then everything went electronic and it wasn’t very fun, but that gave me more time to daydream about writing.
Throughout my 20s I was screenwriting on the side, very unsuccessfully. I ended up spending all the money I had saved up from this job making movies, also very unsuccessfully. One of the big turning points for me, a disappointing turning point, was that my screenwriting partner and I wrote a script called The Sordid Tales of an Evil Tyrannical Ex-Dictator. It was about a dictator who was overthrown from his country in Europe, comes to the United States, and works at a DMV in the Witness Protection Program. This was the script we were sure was going to finally break us and make us millions of dollars and launch our careers and let me wear shorts every day. Then, a week after we finished it and sent it to our manager, Sacha Baron-Cohen announced he was doing a movie called The Dictator. Everything we had put together was immediately worthless.
I understood that. If I was a studio I’d much rather bet on Sacha Baron-Cohen, who has a great track record and is very funny, than me and my buddy Jonah. Around that time — I was probably 27 years old — I’d always been hoping to make it as a writer, I was starting to think that maybe wouldn’t happen. I guess I had always imagined somewhere in my mind — this was probably inspired by Dave Coulier on Full House — if I don’t make it by the time I was 30 or 35, I was going to give this up, it was never going to happen.
But I was always going to write, and since I was going to do that, I wanted to make sure to write things I really love, because there’s always a possibility that Sacha Baron-Cohen might be working on a similar project, and what I’m doing might end up being–not worthless, but commercially not viable.
As seems to often be the case when I’ve interviewed people who found success, the one project that I set out to do with no monetary goal in mind was the one that ended up being successful. It doesn’t always work that way, but it tends to be in the ballpark. This was the one I did purely out of passion and not to try to fit some template of an action comedy about a dictator.
Before I even set out to write Console Wars, I really just wanted to read it. I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I now, as an adult, love behind the scenes business stories. I remember going to a Barnes and Noble on 86th Street in Manhattan — I live in New York — and asking where the video game history section was, thinking it would be near the music history or film history. Then I learned that there was no such section in the store, and there wasn’t even a single book in the store about video games, the history of video games, the business of video games. The only somewhat related thing they had were walkthrough guides.
That just seemed very odd to me. At the time I hadn’t played games in many years, but I knew it was a big industry. I liked watching other people play. I’m very bad at video games, which is partly why I don’t play all that much. But I love the industry and I love what’s being done out there. And so, again, before even really imagining that there was a project here, I just started trying to get in touch with Sega and Nintendo employees from the early ‘90s.
My biggest worry was that–as a kid growing up I imagined that working at Sega or Nintendo was like working at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Although I guess the working conditions weren’t that great there. Like going to his factory, maybe. I would talk to these people and they would say, “No, working at Sega and Nintendo was just like any job, punching a time card.” But almost everyone I spoke with, especially in the beginning, they described it as the greatest experience of their lives. That was inspiring to me.
I ended up accumulating more and more contacts and starting to put together an outline and a story. Console Wars is essentially a narrative, a case study, of how Sega went from five percent of the market to 55 percent of the market and toppled Nintendo’s monopoly, and then shot straight back down. The rising part of that trajectory, there’s a lot of business lessons I learned. One of them was that Sega did a really good job of identifying that they were an unknown, as was I, and they aligned themselves with younger celebrities who would help their brand.
I literally googled for celebrity gamers and Seth Rogen’s name came up. He was definitely out of my league. I didn’t expect to hear back from him. But I knew this guy liked Nintendo, probably also liked Sega, so I had my manager send him a copy of a treatment I put together. Miraculously, he was interested in meeting. I met with him and his partner Evan Goldberg in January of 2012, seven years ago now, and I remember meeting with them on a Thursday. Not only was it surreal and unusual to be hobnobbing with someone who I knew from the movies, but I remember thinking, “Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever had a meeting with an actual decision-maker.” I’d always met with creative executives that would end up with us telling each other that our people would call each other and nothing would happen.
At the end of that meeting–we spoke for a couple of hours, and then later that day I got a call that Seth wanted to produce a movie based on the book that I hadn’t written yet. But I had interviewed about 100 people, so I had a good sense of the story. He also wanted to produce a documentary. That was amazing and life-changing. I remember going back to my commodities job four days later on Monday and thinking, “Wait, my life was supposed to change, but I’m back to work at 6:30.”
Eventually Scott Rudin joined the project, and we ended up going out with the book proposal. Flash forward a bit from here, but the last note here was that I remember, when we went out with the book proposal, that even with this great package of people who were way more successful than I was, who were making movies and documentaries based on this–we went to 25 publishers, and 22 of them passed because they said video game books don’t sell. I remember thinking that was a weird thing to say. That’s a segue way to saying that if anyone out there is interested in writing a video game book, I always try to make myself available to provide advice, because I thought that was a pretty crazy thing for them to say. I’m glad that Console Wars sold well, and I like reading video game books, so if you have an idea, get in touch.
That came out in May 2014. It was a very big, life-changing experience for me. I quit my day job. I remember telling my manager that it was kind of sad that I would never write a book as good as Console Wars, and he said, “No, you’ll keep getting better with each book.” I said, “Well, I hope so, but I’ll never find a topic that has such a convergence of pop culture, technology, entertainment, larger than life personalities, and billions of dollars.”
It remains to be seen whether VR and the legacy of Oculus will come anywhere close to Sega and Nintendo, but I did end up sinking my teeth into this story, spending three and a half years working on it. I think the earliest memory I have of it was–because this was such a big deal, that I had a book coming out, it was also a very big deal when someone wanted to write an article about me. I think the first publication to contact me was Popular Mechanics. They did a profile on me. It was such a big deal that my dad came to the photo shoot. Everyone in my family was super excited about it. The issue came out on Mother’s Day of 2014, so I slipped out of Mother’s Day brunch to get an issue of Popular Mechanics. I was so excited to finally see myself.
Before I even got to that point, though, I was so interested in what was on the cover, which was Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, and this cover story about how his company had sold to Facebook for a few billion dollars. I was somewhat familiar with Oculus, but I never stopped to pay much attention to it. I thought it was a good sign when I was heading back to the restaurant and not giving my mom the issue with her son in it because I was captivated by the story about Oculus.
After that, I knew that I wanted to write a book about Oculus, or in the near future I suspected that would be something I’d like to do. But also, to tell the stories in the way I liked to tell them, it requires really credible access to the people involved. I want to be able to place readers in the room with them, on their shoulders, in their heads. It took me about 14 months from my first visit to Oculus to get permission from Oculus and Facebook to be introduced to anyone at the company and set up interviews. That finally happened in February 2016. This was one month before Oculus launched the Rift product, CB1. I felt like I was right there, on the precipice of something great.
My last book was a rise and fall story, and I thought this one was just going to be upward to the top of the world. That’s not how it turned out. I wouldn’t say this has been a rise and fall story, but I think anyone who’s interested in VR has been a little surprised by how it played out over the past few years. Also, the fact that the main character, one who appeared on the cover of Popular Mechanics and inspired my interest, he was no longer at the company within less than a year. It turned the book upside down. But as writers we go where the story takes us. I tried to follow that story when it went to places I never imagined I’d be writing about, particularly politics and crazy sub-Reddits.
This book took three and a half years. This was three and a half years of me working full time on it. Console Wars took three years, but I had a day job for two of those. It was not the emotional investment that this one was. Because this one got into politics, and a lot of times politics I don’t agree with, it was pretty exhausting. I kind of can’t believe it’s finished. It was a running joke between me and my wife — or not a joke, because she didn’t find it funny at all — that I’d be done with the book in the next couple of weeks, because I said that every week or so for two and a half years. She deserves a huge award. I wish she were here. She got the dedication in this book. My mom was pretty upset about that, but Katie really deserved it.
The publisher didn’t sign up for this three-and-a-half year project either. They expected the book to be done in 18 months. For the most part they were supportive. There were some ups and downs. Because I didn’t turn it in on time — I ended up turning it in two years later — that was two years I wasn’t getting paid. My wife was wonderful enough to financially support me during that time. I’m glad she did. I’m glad I didn’t take the easy way out of just trying to finish the book for the sake of fulfilling a contract. I made sure to get to the bottom of the topics I was investigating.
Question: There was a post that went on your Reddit AMA where you mentioned that at a certain point, Facebook pulled access due to something they saw in one of the advance copies you sent them. Would you be able to talk about that?
Harris: Oh, yeah. It wasn’t an advance copy. In general, I’ve always tried to be very open and transparent and semi-collaborative with the people whose stories I’m writing, because I feel like they’re owed that much. Obviously that doesn’t mean they’ll have editorial approval over what I write, but I find that sharing with them–at worst they can give me feedback I disagree with. But often it spurs other ideas.
Early on, or I guess throughout the two years of my relationship with Facebook, we had a pretty good relationship. I shared materials with them and the people involved. When it came to the issue of Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, and his not being at the company anymore–for those who are unfamiliar with him and his exit from Facebook, the short version is that in September 2016, he made a $10,000 donation to a pro-Trump organization. That organization’s goal was to put up billboards across the country, meme-like billboards, a very internet-inspired organization. Their objective had nothing to do with the internet, but the way the story was reported was that, essentially, Palmer and this group had been responsible for all the crazy shit you’d see on the internet, all the hateful, misogynist, anti-Semitic stuff from the past election season. That wasn’t true, but it certainly felt true, if you were on social media, because it kept being reported and referenced in articles reporting the same thing.
From that point on Palmer was basically sidelined at Oculus for six months, and then he exited the company. There were not too many details when that happened, in March 2017. I had come to know Palmer pretty well through where I was at this point in the project. I knew that it wasn’t his choice to leave. But initially Facebook declined to comment about what happened. Then, after I continued sharing material with them, I told them, frankly, my biggest concern with the book was Palmer’s exit and how to handle it. I couldn’t have one of the main characters in the book just disappear and say, “Whoops, that was the end.” I needed to provide some explanation.
Eventually I did get an explanation from a handful of people on a pretty senior level, people who could speak on behalf of the company. I came to believe that that explanation was fictional. They were going so far as to say that he chose to leave the company, which I would bet my life is not true. Some other details seemed to not add up. I started thinking about why they were telling me this and not just saying, “No comment,” or presenting a more plausible story. I was thinking that because of my narrative non-fiction writing style, which intentionally does not attribute specific information to sources, I felt like they were essentially trying to launder misinformation through that style.
I was hearing the same story from multiple people, having it confirmed. Palmer couldn’t talk to me, or wasn’t talking to me, I assume, because he was legally gagged from doing so. I felt I was being used to put this information out there. I ended up sending a chapter that was just a straight-up question and answer transcript with one of the people there, to see how they would react when their names were put on this material.
The conversation was on the record. The irony of the conversation I sent was that, in the conversation, I had asked this person if they felt that Palmer had been treated poorly by journalists who broke the news about him, because the conversation with the journalists had been off the record, and then this person said said, “No, no, it’s not off the record unless you specifically get a journalist to agree it’s off the record.” I thought that if there was any doubt about it, this was certainly not an off the record conversation.
After I shared that with them, the situation escalated to a whole different bunch of people who I had no relationship with. They asked me not to publish that. They gave me a different story about why Palmer was fired, having to do with bad performance reviews, which I also knew was not true. Also, around that time, the head of AR and VR at Oculus told all the employees not to speak with me anymore. That was pretty much the end of that relationship. I felt like I was lied to, and also I was no longer able to speak with employees. A lot of them continued to speak with me, of course, because they were not happy with the situation.
via VentureBeat https://venturebeat.com
March 16, 2019 at 12:29PM
PagerDuty IPO: Is AI The Secret Sauce?
Because of the government shut down earlier in the year, there was a delay in with IPOs as the SEC could not evaluate the filings. But now it looks like the market is getting ready for a flood of deals.
One of the first will be PagerDuty, which was actually founded during the financial crisis of 2009. The core mission of the company is “to connect teams to real-time opportunity and elevate work to the outcomes that matter.”
Interestingly enough, PagerDuty refers to itself as the central nervous system of a digital enterprise. This means continuously analyzing systems to detect risks but also to find opportunities to improve operations, increase revenues and promote more innovation.
Keep in mind that this is far from easy. After all, most data is just useless noise. But then again, in today’s world where people expect quick action and standout customer experiences, it is important to truly understand data.
The PagerDuty S-1 highlights this with some of the following findings:
As for PagerDuty, it has built a massive data set from over 10,000 customers. Consider that this has allowed the company to leverage cutting-edge AI (Artificial Intelligence) models that supercharge the insights.
Here’s how PagerDuty describes it in the S-1 filing: “We apply machine learning to data collected by our platform to help our customers identify incidents from the billions of digital signals they collect each day. We do this by automatically converting data from virtually any software-enabled system or device into a common format and applying machine-learning algorithms to find patterns and correlations across that data in real time. We provide teams with visibility into similar incidents and human context, based on data related to past actions that we have collected over time, enabling them to accelerate time to resolution.”
The result is that there are a myriad of powerful use cases. For example, the AI helps GoodEggs to monitor warehouses to make sure food is fresh. Then there is the case with Slack, which uses the technology to remove friction in dealing with the incident response process.
For PagerDuty, the result has been durable growth on the top line, with revenues jumping 48% during the past year. The company also has a 139% net retention rate and counts 33% of the Fortune 500 companies as customers.
Yet PagerDuty is still in the nascent stages of the opportunity. Note that the company estimates the total addressable market at over $25 billion, which is based on an estimated 85 million users.
Data + AI
But again, when looking at the IPO, it's really about the data mixed with AI models. This is a powerful combination and should allow for strong barriers to entry, which will be difficult to replicate. There is a virtuous cycle as the systems get smarter and smarter.
Granted, there are certainly risk factors. If the AI fails to effectively detect some of the threats or gives off false positives, then PagerDuty’s business would likely be greatly impacted.
But so far, it seems that the company has been able to build a robust infrastructure.
Now the PagerDuty IPO -- which will likely hit the markets in the next couple weeks -- will be just one of the AI-related companies that will pull off their offerings. Basically, get ready for a lot more – and fast.
Tom serves on the advisory boards of tech startups and can be reached at his site.
via Forbes - Entrepreneurs https://ift.tt/dTEDZf
March 16, 2019 at 12:23PM
Jonathan Scott Not Clouding This Issue
Jonathan Scott is the CEO of Supply Clouds. Supply Clouds is a cloud based booking technology that connects schools with agencies who provide teachers. Jonathan Scott started out as a teacher but went into to supply teaching instead to finance himself to become an entrepreneur.
Like a number of entrepreneurs he looked at, examined and identified something that he thought could be improved and came up with a solution before fully committing his energies in to setting up his own business. Up until Supply Clouds, if schools wanted to book, a supply teacher it would have to contact four separate agencies over the phone which meant wasting valuable process. According to Jonathan Scott this was a very “disjointed” way of employing the services of a supply teacher. Supply Clouds is a three way communication tool that connects schools, agencies and supply teachers together. When jobs are advertised, it is streamlined by one message to four different agencies. The system even provides assistance in giving directions to each school that way each supply teacher knows exactly where each school is.
Jonathan had been a Dyslexia Action Ambassador and like so many entrepreneurs, he himself has dyslexia. As a dyslexic entrepreneur, he firmly believes that “we don’t have the mindset to follow patterns”. If you’re looking for innovation, but going over and over the same things again and again your own following an expected pattern and that is why so many entrepreneurs don’t allows follow a single mindset. But although he admits himself that he wasn’t always that popular with his peers and got used to academically failing. “If you go through life failing then you have nothing to lose, you become powerful and you become dangerous and when failing becomes the norm you become disruptive in every aspect of life”. That is why so many people identify entrepreneurs as risk takers. According to Jonathan the UK has the mindset of copying and won’t take risks, this compares to America with “first foot forward”.
via Forbes - Entrepreneurs https://ift.tt/dTEDZf
March 16, 2019 at 12:08PM