Tag: Company

Rupert Murdoch’s Education Company Will Stop Making Tablets

Students using Amplify's tablets.

Amplify.com

Amplify, the education company owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, will stop selling the tablet computers that were once a central part of the company's plan to shake up the education industry, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak with the press.

Despite an almost $ 1 billion investment by News Corp, Amplify has struggled to gain a foothold in education, which its CEO, Joel Klein, had described as an industry ripe for disruption. Its bright-orange, “ruggedized” tablets were often at the root of its troubles: plagued by technical glitches, the first batch of them was recalled after a high-profile $ 15 million launch in Greensboro, NC.

Ultimately, few districts bought the devices, and the head of Amplify's tablet business left the company earlier this year. News that Amplify was giving up on the tablets was first reported by Bloomberg.

The devices were Amplify's first product. Billing itself as a hybrid technology-and-education business, Amplify built the tablets to work hand-in-hand with its own digital curriculum.

The company's talk has always been big: Klein said in an interview with BuzzFeed News last year that he saw Amplify's tech savvy enabling it to compete with the education industry's textbook giants, Pearson, Houghton-Mifflin, and McGraw-Hill. The company's “educational DNA,” Klein said, gave it an advantage over companies like Apple and Google, whose devices now dominate many digital classrooms.

“There’s a sense that we’re doing something very big and very exciting,” Klein said last April.

Amplify's struggles show that in an industry as entrenched as education, disruption, even for well-funded companies, is difficult. Despite talk of a “digital revolution” underway in the education system, the three largest textbook companies remain dominant, continuing to win massive contracts with large and bureaucratic school systems that often prefer to stick with the products they have used for decades.

The company will continue to focus on its digital curriculum products, which have features like embedded videos and work on a variety of devices, the source said. It will also keep pushing a newer line of assessment tools. School districts already using the devices will continue to be serviced by Amplify, the company said in a statement.

BuzzFeed – Tech

How An Education Tech Company Is Targeting Schools Without Computers

Knewton’s software creates customized learning plans for students based on how they move through coursework on an electronic device. But for schools short on tablets and laptops, the company will now work with plain paper as well.

Knewton

The ed-tech company Knewton peddles adaptive-learning software that is almost futuristic: As students move through lessons and readings on their devices, it collects millions of data points about how children learn, spinning them into different learning pathways and recommendations for teachers. The idea is to create complex profiles of how students learn, then distribute lessons based on their abilities — giving vocabulary refreshers to students who pause on certain words, for example, and allowing those who know the terminology to move on.

But all this takes the presence of laptops and tablets in classrooms for granted. So what about all those schools without the resources to deck students out in technology? Knewton's newest product attempts to bring adaptive learning to the most low-tech of materials: paper.

The venture, a partnership with the technology company HP, allows teachers to scan their students' printed worksheets and use Knewton's technology to generate — then print — adaptive lessons and materials. There's very little technology required: Printed materials are tagged with HP technology and scanned with teachers' smartphones. New printed materials can be assembled on a smartphone.

More than half of American schools have inadequate internet connections, and many more have limited access to digital materials, such as the individual devices for each student that would be required to utilize Knewton's traditional adaptive technology. Knewton hopes to tap into that market.

The ed-tech company has already made inroads with many major publishers, like Houghton Mifflin and Pearson, and will need their cooperation to make the adaptive-print technology work broadly.

BuzzFeed – Business

The Danger Of Calling Uber A “Tech Company”

Via Facebook

As a tech writer, every holiday season I take on a side job as an extended family tech support jockey. In this role I gamely help older family members “Force Quit” the Mail application, restart their iPhones, and change the clock on their Fitbits. And yet this year, as my family turned their conversation to the transit giant Uber, I found they weren’t interested in my opinions. To them, Uber is just a different kind of cab company, not a tech company.

My experience is all anecdotal, but it points to a critical problem with the latest iteration of the web, which companies like Uber are busy ushering into the mainstream. It doesn't feel like technology, at least not in the way that we popularly conceive of it, and casual bystanders (read: most potential users) don't see it as technology. And that’s a serious problem. The Silicon Valley tech company ethos, forged throughout decades of building hardware and software, is predicated on the notion that, equipped with better ideas and better technology than the establishment, the innovators can bypass establishment rules on their way to changing the world. The problem: “Move fast and break things” works when the “things” are software. It works slightly less — and poses a serious safety concern — when those “things” are people.

Uber, like Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Instacart, or any of the poorly labeled “sharing economy” apps, are part of what research analyst Jan Dawson has labeled “the digital layer“: services that are powered and made possible by technology, but exist primarily in the physical world. Packaged in app form, Uber’s technology has rendered it transformative. But to call Uber an app doesn't quite do the service justice. Uber is, for better or worse, a massive, world-changing dispatch company.

Uber is, for better or worse, a massive, world-changing dispatch company.

Uber's physical-world experience of getting in a car and ending up in a different place is so familiar that my family, which doesn't pay attention to Silicon Valley or VC valuations, thinks of Uber like a traditional cab company with a push-button feature. And yet, companies like Uber seem to see it the other way around, envisioning themselves purely as tech companies positioned to destroy market inefficiencies with their world-changing ideas.

The problem is that tech companies — at least many of the social, software, and digital media startups I cover — move differently and have vastly different expectations than, say, widget-producing traditional companies. “Move fast and break things,” Facebook says! Digg sent me a sticker last month that said “Fuck it, ship it!” After all, what's the worst that can happen? You roll out some dumb, bad software update or hardware that nobody uses or you scale too big, too fast and your company goes under so you start another one. It's software or soon-to-be-obsolete hardware, so who cares?!

Via Twitter: @fuckitshipit

That all goes out the window with the digital layer, which takes all that wonderful, complicated, and fragmented internet you've got trapped in what is essentially a pocket computer and connects it to the physical world, turning that device into a remote control for your life. But the physical world operates at a different (read: much slower) pace from the tech and startup world. The physical world is full of logistics and red tape and regulatory battles and, most importantly, people. Just ask Uber: Disrupting a physical-world service is a terribly costly, time-consuming, and maddening endeavor and it's why the company has had to become experts in local city regulations in roughly 50 different American cities. It’s precisely because of these hurdles that any tech reporter who spends their time covering the sharing economy is now, essentially, a labor reporter.

Just ask Uber: Disrupting a physical-world service is a terribly costly, time-consuming, and maddening endeavor.

Ultimately, the red tape and the logistical hurdles and the regulatory battles of the physical world exist to protect people. Providing physical-world services for people is complicated and risky by nature. To Uber and its competitors' credit, the company has provided an overwhelming majority of its customers with a safe and reliable service (which, of course, is why it's so popular), but there have been sobering reminders of what happens when important logistical procedures like background checks for drivers take a backseat to expansion pressures. Last month's rape of a Delhi woman by an Uber driver is one such horrific reminder.

And yet, Uber and Lyft continually try to duck local governments and law enforcement. Currently, Uber and Lyft operate illegally in multiple major U.S. cities, with the companies failing to comply with local laws in order to scale to demand, as is embedded in their tech company DNA. To try and keep up with the Silicon Valley/startup pace of innovation, Uber has had to adopt aggressive tactics, as Uber NYC executive Josh Mohrer told BuzzFeed News last year. “It's not just like Facebook where you can say, 'let’s add a bunch of servers.' There’s human beings providing services, running their business on a platform and that’s not scaling up a bunch of servers,” he said. “It’s convincing a bunch of human beings to bring business on our platform. So we’re unabashedly aggressive in the way that we do that and what that means is there’s very little I won’t do to get in front of someone and tell them about Uber. And that includes taking taxi rides and taking rides with competitors.”

The apps and companies that will contribute to the digital layer are transformative technologies with the power to reshape and reorganize our physical world. On-demand services like Uber, Airbnb, Instacart, and Homejoy are responsible for a growing subset of contract gig workers, or “micropreneurs,” who shift between services picking up small payouts for odd jobs. Surveying the industry, it’s hard to ignore the number of contract employees: As of August 2014, the New York Times reported Lyft had over 60,000 contract drivers, while services like TaskRabbit have over 30,000 freelance users. According to the same Times report, 17.7 million Americans “worked more than half time as independent contributors” in 2013.

And if and when these companies succeed, they'll do it on the backs of their engineers and technology. They are tech companies. But to think of them as tech companies in the “move fast and break things” sense feels dangerous. Downloading a social app opens you up to harassment, hacking, and any number of other digital concerns, but downloading and hailing and stepping into a cab brings with it far more visceral — and potentially serious — risks.

Uber Drivers Network in New York protest Uber X fare cuts outside of the Long Island City office in Queens in September.

BuzzFeed News | Johana Bhuiyan

When I finally joined my family's Uber conversation, the subject turned to an argument over regulating businesses and stemming the tide of disruption, but that seems to obscure the larger point: that tech companies whose tendrils reach into and wrap around the physical world must be seen as such and not simply as software providers.

And that means, for better or worse, not skirting rules imposed by local governments. It's harder that way, sure. There's a lot of rules and permits and certifications and local legislative approval to seek, and many of these logistical hurdles have been put in place by the progress-fearing and corrupt. But there's hope, too, for techno utopians: Uber, Lyft, and these wildly popular on-demand service apps have the ability and goodwill from users not only to thrive but to expose the antiquated and ridiculous flaws and bureaucracy in our regulatory systems (in Washington, D.C., Uber’s rise illuminated the city’s corrupt livery culture), but the only responsible way to do that is to meet those systems head-on.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Digital Ad Company Will Pay $750,000 For Bypassing Browser Privacy Settings

Two years after Google settled a lawsuit for the same practices — installing software on Apple products that bypass cookie blockers — PointRoll reaches a multi-state settlement, BuzzFeed News reports exclusively.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Tashatuvango/Tashatuvango

In 2012, Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer found that PointRoll, a Gannett-owned company, along with Google, Vibrant Media, and Media Innovation Group were using code in their advertisements that circumvented cookie blockers many Apple products and browsers have installed by default. In March of 2012, a private class action suit was filed against both Google and PointRoll and a year later Google settled the suit. The attorney generals of the multi-state suit led by New Jersey then began to investigate PointRoll.

Now, two years after the original report, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that PointRoll has settled for $ 750,000. According to an announcement that BuzzFeed News received exclusively, New York State will receive an estimated $ 110,000 out of the settlement. The remaining settlement will be divided among New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and Illinois — all of which were parties to the suit.

By bypassing cookie blockers in Safari, PointRoll was able to configure their advertisements to follow users from site to site and gather information about users in spite of any privacy settings. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the cookie-bypassing code was present in advertisements on 10 of the top 100 U.S. websites. PointRoll ran these ads between December 13, 2011 and February 15, 2012.

As part of the settlement PointRoll, which was founded in 2000 and acquired by Gannett in 2005, will also have to “implement a privacy program within six months that includes employee training,” “not misrepresent or omit material facts concerning the purposes for which it collects and users consumer information,” and “cooperate with compliance monitoring by the participating sites,” among other things.

“When it comes to the privacy of consumers on the Internet, every company is expected to play by the same set of rules: No one should have to fear a business is violating their privacy by bypassing personal settings on their computers or mobile devices,” A.G. Schneiderman said.


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BuzzFeed – Tech

topseos.com Australia Names eTraffic Pty Ltd as the Second Best SEO Company

topseos.com Australia Names eTraffic Pty Ltd as the Second Best SEO Company
NAPLES, FL–(Marketwired – November 14, 2014) – The independent authority on search marketing vendors, topseos.com Australia, has named eTraffic Pty Ltd the 2nd best search marketing firm in Australia for the month of November 2014. eTraffic Pty Ltd …
Read more on Marketwired (press release)

Six Reasons To Fire Your SEO Agency
I'm a firm believer in the power and success of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — but I've had to fight an uphill battle. There are some digital marketers who scorn SEO, are skeptical of SEO agencies, and cling to the misguided idea that SEO is a …
Read more on Search Engine Land