new web technologies

New Facebook Tools Let Developers See What Users Are Doing In Their Apps

Facebook has a new plan for helping application developers monitor the success—or failure—of their applications. And that's true whether they're developing apps specifically to work with Facebook or not.

On Tuesday, the company introduced two new functions in App Insights, a tool that lets developers monitor traffic and Facebook interactions for apps. The new capabilities give app developers more detailed information about user behavior and app performance.

App Insights requires the Facebook software development kit (SDK), but works for general mobile apps as well as desktop apps that are integrated with Facebook.

Developers can now categorize groups of people by using "label cohorts" that group individuals into specific categories based on actions they've taken in a particular app. This information enables simple A/B testing, in which developers introduce a change for a subset of users to see how they react.

For instance, mobile game developers can provide one group of people with a digital gift and then track that cohort to see if it leads them to eventually spend more in the game.

Facebook offers four preset cohort types. These include “action-based,” for groups of people who done something specific, like clicking a button or making a purchase, and “time-based,” for users who all downloaded an app at the same time. Developers can create their own unique cohort types as well.

The second update provides specific, time-based data on how frequently people use an application and what kind of action they take after downloading it. This data is available up to 14 weeks after the person installs the app, and can be found in Facebook’s new App Event retention charts.

These charts monitor different “events,” like installing the application or making an in-app purchase. Developers can use this data to find out how fast users get to a specific level in the game, or how soon after downloading an application a user makes a purchase. 

To start using the new tools, developers should install the Facebook SDK.

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:33:27 -0700
Author: :: Category: Mobile

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Breast Pump Hackathon To Invent A Better Way For Women To Express Themselves

Mothers may wonder why there's no such thing as a smart breast pump yet—and rightly so. As applications and services continue to change the way we exercise, eat, and sleep, the breast pump technology that exists today remains similar to the kind my own mother might have used decades ago. 

To help make breast pumping easier for mothers around the world, 150 participants, including mothers, healthcare workers, educators and engineers are partnering up at MIT for the "Make The Breast Pump Not Suck" hackathon on September 20-21. 

"We think of breastfeeding as being a very natural thing, but the fact is, it can be really challenging," Catherine D'Ignazio, hackathon organizer and research affiliate in the Civic Media group at MIT, told ReadWrite. "It takes education, and a huge commitment on the part of the mother and the family."

See also: Why So Few Women Are Studying Computer Science

Breastfeeding is important for the nutritional health and development of children, and the World Health Organization suggests breastfeeding children up to two years of age. But this natural act between a mother and her child can be quite difficult when relying on technologies like pumps, and is still largely stigmatized.

You might even feel uncomfortable reading about it right now.

Not all woman can breastfeed naturally—so the alternative is breast pumping. To collect the nutrients for their babies, women put suction cups on their breasts, and a loud, medical-like machine, pumps milk from the woman into bottles she can then feed to her child. The process right now is awkward, noisy, and hard to do on a regular basis, especially for women in developing countries where access to maternal care is often nonexistent. 

In emerging countries where women are starting to enter the workforce, D'Ignazio said many women who go back to work after giving birth stop breastfeeding entirely. This can lead to later-in-life risks for allergies and obesity for the child, and the mother can be at an increased risk for different types of cancer and diabetes.

This weekend's hackathon aims to address some of the issues around the difficulty, stigmatization, distribution, and engineering of current breast pumping technologies.  

Making The Pumps Not Suck

The fall event is the second breast pumping hackathon hosted by the MIT Media Lab. In May, a group of about 20 people kicked off the first breast pump hackathon. Since then, interest has grown tremendously, and organizers have received over 500 detailed emails from women willing to share their experiences and concerns about breast pumping.

"Because there’s such an overwhelming outpouring of support from moms and people professionally in this field, we invited people to send us their ideas about breast pumps, and how they would improve it," D'Ignazio said.

Baby MIT Breast Pump Hackathon

Some of the complaints from the current breast pumping experience include:

  • Noise—the weird sucking sound the pumps make can be very distracting.
  • Size—breast pumps need to be carried around in a large bag, as if mothers were lugging around a suitcase. "Why can't breast pumps be the size of an iPhone?" D'Ignazio said.
  • Comfort—to pump breast milk, women must be sitting upright, and almost leaning forward. Many women wrote to the organizers about their desire to lay down while pumping.

This data will be given to hackathon participants, in addition to the technologies provided by the MIT Media Lab, including Arduino boards, materials for wearable prototyping, and access to a 3D printer.

See also: History's Female Programmers Will No Longer Be Forgotten

This event isn't just about fixing the technologies, but also openly discussing an issue that affects women from all walks of life and yet does not seem to exist in the public consciousness.

D'Ignazio, a mother of three, said she didn't learn about breast pumping until preparing for her first baby.

"Why aren't we having more of these public conversations?" she said. "In the end, breastfeeding and pumping is such a huge health issue, and it's a public health issue. So I guess the question is ... why don't we see more startup companies in that space?" 

Organizers are hoping that this event geared towards improving the breast pumping machine and experience will inspire other people to work on the maternal health issue, and kickstart the conversation and production of innovative options new mothers require.

Images by MIT Media Lab.

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:51:06 -0700
Author: :: Category: Web

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Symantec Decides It No Longer Needs To Filter The Gay Out Of The Web

LGBT flag

Companies all over the United States use Symantec’s Web filtering software to limit the types of content that their employees—and sometimes customers—can view.

Pornography, hate speech and illegal content are just some of the Web content categories that companies can choose to block using Symantec's software. Until recently, this meant companies using Symantec software could outright choose to ban users from accessing an entire category of sites that dealt with LGBT issues. However, after working with GLAAD, this is no longer the case.

See also: Drag Queens Read Facebook's Real-Names Policy For Filth

“It’s time that our software reflects our values – and that means filtering out discrimination,” GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a press release. “By removing this outdated filter category, Symantec is helping to ensure that countless young LGBT people have access to critical and sometimes life-saving online resources.”

Symantec, which owns Norton and related Web content filtering software, said it originally had the category in order to block adult material. However, it also blocked sites like The Trevor Project and GLAAD itself, convincing Fran Rosch, executive vice president, Norton Business Unit, Symantec, to finally call the category “outdated.”

See also: Tim Cook Takes A Diverse Stance: Apple's Gay And Disabled Employees Matter Too

“Having a category in place that could be used to filter out all LGBT-oriented sites was inconsistent with Symantec’s values and the mission of our software,” said Rosch. “Inclusion is a key factor in our company’s culture and it’s important that our products meet that same standard.”

For Symantec, this just makes good business sense. Its Web filtering software competitors, like Trend Micro and Websense, still use an LGBT site filter. This now makes Symantec the best choice for technology companies that want to loudly proclaim their inclusivity. 

Photo by Ludovic Bertron

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:30:10 -0700
Author: :: Category: Web

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Intel's MICA Smart Bracelet, For Women Who Want Luxury Tech

Pretty Geeky is an ongoing series that explores the role of style and design in wearable technology. 

Luxury fashion is coming from an unexpected source. 

Chipmaker Intel wants to make wearables look good, a feat that has only been accomplished by a handful of smaller companies looking to capitalize on the fashionista’s desire to dress up while staying connected.

In a partnership with fashion house Opening Ceremony, Intel created MICA, or “My Intelligent Communication Accessory,” a luxury bracelet for the technically fabulous.

Intel’s smart cuff isn’t like most wearable smartwatches or bangles you can buy today. Its high price, retailing under $1,000, and trendy design featuring semi-precious stones, 14-karat gold plating and black or white snakeskin, targets an upscale market of women who want the convenience of a connected device, but are willing to splurge on style.

See also: Welcome to ReadWrite's New "Pretty Geeky" Wearable Tech Series

"Once you start to wear something on your body, it becomes an expression of yourself," said Sandra Lopez, director of business development at Intel’s New Devices Group. "It’s not about putting a piece of technology on your wrist, but much more about both aesthetics and functionality." 

Like other smart jewelry, MICA receives notifications including texts and meeting alerts, but they're discreetly hidden on a 1.6-inch curved sapphire glass touchscreen display on the underside of the wrist. What people will see is the the obsidian, tiger’s eye, pearls or lapis stones that make the luxury cuff, well, luxurious.

Intel is still working with third-party apps, so the company isn’t ready to announce the full capabilities of MICA yet, but it's expected to have a more comprehensive set of features—more than the SMS already announced—when it’s available to the public in November. 

The cuff is data-only, so it has no phone or voice capabilities. At launch, AT&T will be the exclusive network provider.

MICA is designed to be a standalone device, and it comes with its own distinct sim card and 3G data, so if you don’t have your phone, you can still get mobile notifications. The bracelet can be charged with both a micro USB and Intel's wireless charging bowl. Intel hasn't disclosed what the battery life will be, and if it needs to be charged regularly, as in, more than once a day, it might make the bracelet a nonstarter.

It’s Pretty, But Is It Worth It?

There’s no doubt MICA is an attractive piece of jewelry. I’ve lamented that the current crop of wearables is too ugly to put on my wrist, either because they dwarf my small bones, or because despite attempts to brand them otherwise, smart accessories still look like shrunken smartphones with rubber tied around them.

Though I might not be entirely fashion-conscious, I do enjoy matching my clothes and accessories.

Because the MICA comes in two colors—black and white—it goes with virtually any outfit. And being designed specifically with women in mind, it fits nicely on my arm.

But here’s where it gets ugly—the MICA cuff only comes in one size; a 6.7 inch circumference. If my hands-on experience is any indication, that size is rather small. I’m not as thin as the models posing with the cuff in Intel’s advertising, but my wrists do tend to measure on the small side. And even I had a hard time turning it around comfortably, and moving it up and down my arm.

See also: What Fashionistas Want In A Wearable

According to Lopez, Intel's industrial design team looked at the average size of wrists for women in general, and created one size they thought women would want. A one-size-fits-all model is standard for jewelry designers, but it might not cut it in technology.

Just as watchmakers should make multiple sizes and styles of smartwatches—thank you, Apple!—for different demographics planning on shelling out a few hundred dollars for a connected device, fashion designers dabbling in tech accessories should consider that not all women or men have the same size wrists.

MICA isn’t for everyone, but for women willing to spend almost a thousand dollars on a piece of connected designer jewelry, MICA might be a good option, providing battery life and app compatibility gets them through the day. But tech consumers looking for a wearable that does as much as a smartphone shouldn’t splurge on this first-generation fashion and communications accessory.

Fashionistas can find MICA at Barneys New York this holiday season. 

Model photos by Intel. Other photos by Selena Larson and Owen Thomas for ReadWrite.

To submit product pitches or story ideas, or to contact the Pretty Geeky editors, please contact

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 09:51:24 -0700
Author: :: Category: Mobile

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This App Helps You Park Like A Rock Star

Circling the lot for a parking space is still one of our most infuriating pastimes. Now researchers think they’ve found a solution, no shady payouts or middlemen included.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo have invented PocketParker, an app that turns a user’s smartphone into a passive sensor to track other app users. A remote computer analyzes user actions and determines whether a parking lot likely has a free space.

To test the app, researchers had 105 smartphone in Buffalo use the app for a month and a half, for a total of 10,827 car arrivals and departures. The researchers installed cameras at parking lots to check their work and determined that PocketParker is able to correctly predict the number of available parking spaces 19 times out of 20.

The researchers will present their findings at Seattle’s Ubicomp conference this week.

See also: San Francisco Tells Parking Apps To Stop Auctioning Spaces

There’s certainly a demand to make parking simpler, but so far the proposed solutions have fallen short of the mark. Monkey Parking was a short-lived app that allowed San Franciscans to buy and sell public parking spots, which they didn’t own in the first place. It’s no wonder that San Francisco’s city attorney soon sent it a cease and desist.

Monkey Parking, along with competitors like Sweetch and Park Modo, still have active websites. However, they all cost money and a free alternative like PocketParker could replace them all—without creating a new sharing economy to piss off the city, either.

Photo by Matt Page

Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:13:32 -0700
Author: :: Category: Mobile

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