Medium is now paying partners cash bonuses for quality work – TechCrunch

A year ago, publishing platform Medium debuted a new business model where readers could pay a monthly fee to access exclusive, curated content, and would reward participating partners by offering a revenue share based on a metrics like time spent reading and the more explicit “claps” – Medium’s form of the “Like.” Now, Medium will reward select partners with direct cash bonuses as well, doled out at the company’s discretion.

The update was first noticed by Hunter Walk, who tweeted about the change after receiving a cash bonus of $100 for his Medium story, “Giving Visionary Women Their Due.”

In an email sent to him by Medium, the company said it wanted to offer an update on how his earnings were calculated.

“In addition to earning money when Medium members engage with your work, our system added bonuses to stories that our editors designate as high quality in important topic areas,” the email read.

Until now, Medium rewarded partners based on engagement with the story from each individual subscriber. The $5 per month subscription fee is distributed to each partner who had a story or stories the individual subscriber read during the month.

It’s worth noting the stark contrast between this model and traditional social media, where publishers are rewarded on clicks and shares – something which encourages clickbait and sensational posts. Not only was Medium already rewarding time spent reading – typically, one of the ways to measure content quality – it’s now directly seeding its network by paying for the kind of work it wants to see.

Quality is something Medium has been thinking a lot about, which is why it introduced the subscription model. Without advertising, there’s less of a commercial incentive to publish and spread misinformation, Medium CEO Ev Williams (pictured above) had previously said.

While originally open only to publishers, Medium last fall expanded the partner program to any author on its platform. That means, anyone would be eligible to receive these cash rewards. Payments are deposited into partners’ bank account monthly, and can be tracked on the Partner Dashboard.

Reached for comment (as there had been no formal announcement), Medium confirmed this is the first week the cash bonuses have been added to its partner payouts.

The subject matter Medium is looking for will vary, we’re told, but will include “deep, insightful, expert stories” that the company believes its members will enjoy. (A sample selection is here.)

To determine which stories receive a bonus, Medium curators will read all content published for members, then mark those they believe to be high-quality in an important topic area in order to reward the author.

The bonus level is currently set at $100, but that could change in the future.

“Medium Editor’s bonuses are part of our continuing effort to build a system that pays writers based on value to readers, not click value to advertisers,” a Medium spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’re focused on quality, and on building the best subscription-based platform for reading and writing, where people can discover unique ideas and perspectives all in one place. We want to help create a path for writers that hasn’t existed before.”

Source link

Dropbox prices above its original range at $21 as it heads toward an IPO – TechCrunch

Dropbox today said it is pricing above the range it originally set ahead of its public listing tomorrow, handing the company a valuation inching ever-closer to its original $10 billion valuation.

Dropbox earlier this week said it would price its initial public offering in a range between $18 and $20 per share, settling on a valuation near $8 billion at the high end of the range (or closer to $8.75 billion, based on its fully-diluted share count). With the new pricing, Dropbox will be valuing itself at around $8.4 billion — or a hair above $9 billion based on its fully-diluted share count. That $18 to $20 range, too, was a step up from its original proposed range, which fell between $16 and $18. Dropbox will be raising more than $700 million in the IPO, in addition to existing shareholders selling more than 9 million shares as part of the process.

What all this means is that Dropbox initially tested the waters to gauge interest, and clearly there was a lot. Companies sometimes set conservative price ranges (though this isn’t always the case) and then revise upwards as they see how much interest there is in potential investors buying shares at that price. Dropbox will make its public debut tomorrow, and the usual process here aims to get as much value for the company as possible while still ensuring the so-called IPO “pop” — usually a jump of around 20%. We’ll probably get the formal price in the form of an SEC filing this evening as it gets ready to list tomorrow.

Should that be successful, Dropbox would fall above the valuation of its last financing round, which gave the company a $10 billion valuation amid a hype wave of consumer startups. Dropbox, one of the original pioneers of online storage, in recent years has found itself looking to slowly scoop up more and more enterprise customers as it tries to create a second lucrative line of business. The company deploys a classic playbook of attracting initial customers within teams and then growing up to the point it reaches the C-Suite of companies, though the reverse is certainly possible as Dropbox matures over time.

CNBC first reported the news.

Source link

Sheryl Sandberg says Facebook leadership should have spoken sooner, is open to regulation – TechCrunch

The days of silence from Facebook’s top executives after the company banned the political advisory service Cambridge Analytica from its platform were a mistake, according to Sheryl Sandberg.

In a brief interview on CNBC, Sandberg said that the decision for her and company chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg to wait before speaking publicly about the evolving crisis was a mistake.

“Sometimes we speak too slowly,” says Sandberg. “If I look back I would have had Mark and myself speak sooner.”

It was the only significant new word from the top level of leadership at Facebook following the full-court press made by Mark Zuckerberg yesterday.

The firestorm that erupted over Facebook’s decision to ban Cambridge Analytica — and the ensuing revelations that the user data of 50 million Facebook users were accessed by the political consulting and marketing firm without those users’ permission — has slashed Facebook stock and brought calls for regulation for social media companies.

Even as $60 billion of shareholder value disappeared, Zuckerberg and Sandberg remained quiet.

The other piece of information from Sandberg’s CNBC interview was her admission that the company is “open” to government regulation. But even that formulation suggests what is a basic misunderstanding at best and cynical contempt at worst for the role of government in the process of protecting Facebook’s users.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether Facebook is open to regulation or not. If the government and U.S. citizens want more controls, the regulations will come.

And it looks like Facebook’s proposed solution will end up costing the company a pretty penny as well, as it brings in forensic auditors to track who else might have abused the data harvesting permissions that the company had put in place in 2007 and only sunset in 2015. 

Before the policy change, companies that aggressively acquired data from Facebook would come in for meetings with the social media company and discuss how the data was being used. One company founder — who was a power user of Facebook data — said that the company’s representatives had told him “If you weren’t pushing the envelope, we wouldn’t respect you.”

Collecting user data before 2015 was actually something the company encouraged, under the banner of increased utility for Facebook users — so that calendars could bring in information about the birthdays of friends, for instance.

Indeed, the Obama campaign used Facebook data from friends in much the same way as Cambridge Analytica, albeit with a far greater degree of transparency.

The issue is that users don’t know where their data went in the years before Facebook shut the door on collection of data from a users’ network of friends in 2015.

That’s what Facebook — and the government — is trying to find out.


Source link

As the CLOUD Act sneaks into the omnibus, big tech butts heads with privacy advocates – TechCrunch

As the House advances a 2,232-page spending bill meant to avert a government shutdown, privacy advocates and big tech companies aren’t seeing eye to eye about a small piece of legislation tucked away on page 2,212.

The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, a.k.a. the CLOUD Act (H.R.4943S.2383) aims to simplify the way that international law enforcement groups obtain personal data stored by U.S.-based tech platforms — but the changes to that process are controversial.

As it stands, if a foreign government wants to obtain that data in the course of an investigation, a series of steps are necessary. First, that government must have a Mutual Legal Assistant Treaty (MLAT) with the U.S. government in place, and those treaties are ratified by the Senate. Then it can send a request to the U.S. Department of Justice, but first the DOJ needs to seek approval from a judge. After those requirements are met, the request can move along to the tech company hosting the data that the foreign government is seeking.

The debate around the CLOUD Act also taps into tech company concerns that foreign nations may move to pass laws in favor of data localization, or the process of storing users’ personal data within the borders of the country of which they are a citizen. That trend would prove both costly for cloud data giants and difficult, upending the established model of cloud data storage that optimizes for efficiency rather than carefully sorting out what data is stored within the borders of which country.

In a February 6 letter, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Oath (TechCrunch’s parent company) co-authored a letter calling the CLOUD Act “notable progress to protect consumers’ rights.”

In a late February blog post, Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith addressed the issue. “The CLOUD Act creates both the incentive and the framework for governments to sit down and negotiate modern bi-lateral agreements that will define how law enforcement agencies can access data across borders to investigate crimes,” Smith wrote. “It ensures these agreements have appropriate protections for privacy and human rights and gives the technology companies that host customer data new statutory rights to stand up for the privacy rights of their customers around the world.”

In a recent opinion piece, ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani argues that the CLOUD Act sidesteps oversight from both the legislative and judicial branches, granting the attorney general and the state department too much discretion in choosing which governments the U.S. will enter into a data exchange agreement with.

The Center for Democracy and Technology also opposes the CLOUD Act on the grounds that it fails to protect the digital privacy of American citizens and the Electronic Frontier Foundation dismissed the legislation as “a new backdoor around the Fourth Amendment.” The Open Technology Institute also denounced the CLOUD Act’s provision to “allow qualifying foreign governments to enter into an executive agreement to bypass the human rights protective Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process when seeking data in criminal investigations and to seek data directly from U.S. technology companies.”

Both organizations acknowledge that improvements to the bill do partially address some of the human rights concerns associated with not requiring an MLAT in a data sharing agreement.

“While this version of the CLOUD Act includes some new safeguards, it is still woefully inadequate to protect individual rights,” OTI Director of Surveillance & Cybersecurity Policy Sharon Bradford Franklin said of the changes.

“Critically, the bill still would permit foreign governments to obtain communications data held in the United States without any prior judicial review, and it would allow foreign governments to obtain U.S.-held communications in real time without applying the safeguards required for wiretapping by the U.S. government. ”

The Consumer Technology Association voiced its support of the altered bill in a press release issued Thursday. “CTA thanks the House of Representatives for taking steps to empower America’s digital infrastructure for the 21st century. The inclusion of the CLOUD Act and RAY BAUM’S Act in today’s legislation ensures Americans can safely create, share and collect electronic data while providing them the resources to do so.”

While some changes made aspects of the bill more palatable to digital privacy watchdogs, some are objecting to the choice to tack it onto the omnibus spending bill.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul spoke out Thursday against passing the CLOUD Act by attaching it to the spending bill.

“Tucked away in the omnibus spending bill is a provision that allows Trump, and any future president, to share Americans’ private emails and other information with countries he personally likes. That means he can strike deals with Russia or Turkey with nearly zero congressional involvement and no oversight by U.S. courts,” Wyden said. “This bill contains only toothless provisions on human rights that Trump’s cronies can meet by merely checking a box. It is legislative malpractice that Congress, without a minute of Senate debate, is rushing through the CLOUD Act on this must-pass spending bill.”

While the content of the CLOUD Act has evolved away from controversy with some modifications, the choice to pass it as part of the omnibus plan without further opportunity for public debate to examine its potential far-reaching implications is proving just as controversial as earlier forms of the legislation.

Source link

John Bolton is Trump’s new National Security Advisor – TechCrunch

With one fell swoop, President Trump just swapped out the “warrior scholar” for the warmonger.

Today Trump tweeted that General H.R. McMaster will step down as John Bolton, a deeply controversial former U.S. ambassador, steps into the role of national security advisor. Bolton will move into the high-ranking foreign policy advisor position just as the U.S. is approaching talks with North Korea, an extremely delicate diplomatic maneuver between two volatile leaders. 

Last month, Bolton argued the legal case for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea — an extreme position in which even the best case scenario could result in broad carnage for the U.S. and its allies.

Bolton established his extreme and hawkish reputation during his tenure as the undersecretary of state for arms control during the Bush administration. In that advisory position, Bolton argued strongly in favor of the Iraq war, tying his justification to the supposed presence of weapons of mass destruction.

If most people could agree that McMaster was a respectable choice for national security advisor, just as many seem to oppose Bolton becoming a prominent figure in shaping Trump’s foreign policy. When Bolton’s name was floated just after the election, Republican Senator Rand Paul penned an op-ed denouncing Bolton as “hell-bent on repeating virtually every foreign policy mistake the US has made in the last 15 years.”

While McMaster was sometimes characterized as a cautious futurist, Bolton’s record on tech is less clear. We’re sure to learn more about the new advisor’s various postures quickly, as Bolton stirs up bipartisan anxiety around U.S. foreign policy, particularly in Iran and North Korea.

After the swift fall of Michael Flynn in early 2017 and the quick appointment of McMaster, Bolton will become Trump’s third national security advisor in less than two years.

Source link

Southern California needs to find its hub for it to develop its own tech ecosystem – TechCrunch

Recognizing the tens of billions of dollars that the Southern Californian region leaves on the table, because it hasn’t taken its rightful place in the American technology industry, a new group called  the Alliance for Southern California Innovation has just released a report to analyze how SoCal can work to assume its pole position.

Through interviews with 100 leaders of the technology ecosystem and an analysis of venture capital funding for the region, the organization has concluded (with the help of the Boston Consulting Group) that the promise of a regional rival to Northern California’s silicon valley won’t be fulfilled without the establishment of a geographic hub and a willingness to overcome regional differences.

Founded by Steve Poizner last year to accelerate the growth of a startup entrepreneurial ecosystem in Southern California, The Alliance is building a network of investors, entrepreneurs and universities to provide ballast in the south to the dominance of the Northern California tech industry.

The Alliance estimates that Southern California’s tech community could be one-third the size of Silicon Valley’s by supporting or further developing the six pillars it already has for innovation to occur.

The potential impact making these changes could have is an added 200,000 new jobs and growth of $100 billion for the whole economic region.

“Over the past several years we have observed a significant decrease in startups leaving SoCal,” said Greg Becker, CEO of Silicon Valley Bank . “We’ve also seen a substantial inflow of venture capital from all over the world.”

In fact, as is well-reported, the luster of Silicon Valley is fading. As BCG writes in its report:

The good news for SoCal and any region with tech ambitions is that the Bay Area has in some ways been too successful. Our research revealed a saturation level causing unprecedented challenges, starting with exorbitant housing prices and runaway operating costs that accelerate a startup’s “burn rate”—its monthly spending.

Los Angeles investor Mark Suster, a general partner with Upfront Ventures, has been beating the drum for Los Angeles as a new tech hub for a while — and billion dollar exits for Ring and Dollar Shave Club, in addition to the public offering for Snap, lend credence to his position.

Suster has also noted for years that the region produces more technology doctorates than any other geography in the United States. Caltech generates more patents than any other university while UCLA boasts more startups founded by its graduate than any other school in the nation. Meanwhile, UCSD in San Diego has a deep bench of biotechnology expertise stemming from its proximity to the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, the Salk Institute, and the Scripps Research Institute.

However, to thrive, BCG recommends taking six steps to bolster the the ecosystem and its chances to begin to catch up to Silicon Valley.

The consulting firm says that Southern California needs more local venture capital; the individual geographies need to work to promote their regional strengths; regions need to collaborate more closely with each other; founders need to start gunning for that IPO slot instead of taking acquisition offers; the region’s commitment to diversity needs to be emphasized; and finally the embarrassment of entrepreneurial riches needs to be promoted abroad.

“Southern California is a region of extreme innovation; however, it is so spread-out, making it hard to navigate,” said Steve Poizner founder and board chair of the Alliance, in a statement. “We believe by finding, filtering and aggregating exciting startups from top universities, research institutes, and incubators/accelerators, we can demonstrate the combined strength of SoCal in a compelling way to top investors and thought leaders.”

Source link

More evidence ties alleged DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0 to Russian intelligence – TechCrunch

It may be a while since you’ve heard the handle “Guccifer 2.0,” the hacker who took responsibility for the infamous DNC hack of 2016. Reports from the intelligence community at the time, as well as common sense, pegged Guccifer 2.0 not as the Romanian activist he claimed to be, but a Russian operative. Evidence has been scarce, but one slip-up may have given the game away.

An anonymous source close to the U.S. government investigation of the hacker told the Daily Beast that on one single occasion, Guccifer 2.0 failed to log into the usual VPN that disguised their traffic. As a result, they left one honest IP trace at an unnamed social media site.

That IP address, “identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow,” the Daily Beast reported. (The GRU is one of the Russia’s security and intelligence organs.)

Previous work by security researchers had suggested this, but it’s the first I’ve heard of evidence this direct. Assuming it’s genuine, it’s a sobering reminder of how fragile anonymity is on the internet — one click and the whole thing comes crashing down.

It’s a bit of a foregone conclusion now, since in the time since the hack the notion of Russian interference with the election has gone from unnerving possibility to banal fact. And while a single impression like that may sound a bit flimsy, investigators would of course be putting it together with all kinds of other activity and patterns to be clear this wasn’t just a random intern checking his feeds at an open terminal.

Source link

Tapas Media aims to turn digital comics into the next big entertainment franchise – TechCrunch

Tapas Media has its own platform for digital comics — but like a lot of publishers, CEO Chang Kim has ambitions beyond the comics world.

Comixology is the big name in digital comics. The company, which was acquired by Amazon in 2014, is focused on selling print comics from major publishers in web- and mobile-friendly formats. (It’s also working with publishers like Marvel to create exclusively digital content.)

That’s a very different approach from Tapas, which Kim compared to YouTube — it allows individual creators to publish their work and (hopefully) reach an audience. And unlike the superhero-dominated world of American comics, the most popular titles on Tapas seem to be more romance and fantasy themed, and are usually drawn in a style that’s closer to Japanese manga.

Tapas was founded in 2013, and it now says the platform has more than 32,000 creators who have created more than 48,000 titles. And it’s reaching an audience of 2.1 million monthly visitors.

The comics themselves are monetized through micropayments. Usually, the first few chapters of a title are free, then you have to pay to keep going.

Chang said his team is also working with some of the most popular creators on the platform to develop new intellectual property, which could be translated into movies or TV or other media. Eventually, he said he’s hoping that Tapas could launch the next Harry Potter.

Dungeon Construction Co game

That level of success is a long way off, but Tapas is already exploring ways to adapt its IP. For example, it’s announcing a partnership with Red Kraken Apps to develop a mobile puzzle game based on its Dungeon Construction Co. comic.

In addition, the company has partnered with Hachette Book Group and Ten Speed Press on titles, and it’s signed distribution deals with Tencent and Kakao.

Tapas announced earlier this month that it has raised $5 million in additional Series A funding. (The company has raised $10.8 million total.) Now it’s revealing more details about the round, which comes from ID Ventures, SBI Investment Korea, Medici Investment and EN Investment. Sean Park of ID Ventures is joining the board of directors.

“ID Ventures invested in Tapas Media because we believe in the impact their platform has on the digital and mobile publishing industries,” Park said in a statement. “Their remarkable extension into licensed content and co-development will see their continued dominance, as ID Ventures’ investment looks to help Tapas Media capitalize on their platform’s adoption and innovation as well.”

Source link

Hold this beam for me, friend robot, and let us construct a house together – TechCrunch

Being a neophyte in the world of woodworking — I’ve made a shabby but sturdy shed — I can appreciate the value of a good partner who can help measure, cut, hold stuff and generally be a second pair of hands. The usual drawback with humans is you have to pay them or feed them in return for this duty. So imagine my delight in finding that ETH Zürich is pioneering the art of robot-assisted woodworking!

The multi-institutional Spatial Timber Assemblies DFAB House project is an effort to increase the efficiency not just of the process of framing a home, but also of the design itself.

The robot part is as you might expect, though more easily said than created. A pair of ceiling-mounted robot arms in the work area pluck and cut beams to length, put them in position and drill holes where they will later be attached.

Most of this can be accomplished without any human intervention, and what’s more, without reinforcement plates or scaffolding. The designs of these modules (room-size variations that can be mixed and matched) are generated specifically to be essentially freestanding; load and rigidity are handled by the arrangement of beams.

The CAD work is done ahead of time and the robots follow the blueprint, carefully avoiding one another and working slowly but efficiently.

“If any change is made to the project overall, the computer model can be constantly adjusted to meet the new requirements,” explained Matthias Kohler, who heads the project, in an ETHZ news release. “This kind of integrated digital architecture is closing the gap between design, planning and execution.”

Human workers have to do the bolting step, but that step too seems like it could be automated; the robots may not have the sensors or tools available to undertake it at present.

Eventually the beams will also be reinforced by similarly prefabbed concrete posts and slot into a “smart slab,” optimized for exactly these layouts and created by sand-based 3D printing. The full three-story structure should be complete and open to explore this fall. You can learn more at the project’s website.

Source link

Snapchat’s new feature is aiming to turn Snap Map into a next-gen newsfeed – TechCrunch

Snapchat may still be getting a lot of heat for their redesign, but the company is continuing to devote resources to build out Snap Map, the map-based feature it introduced last year.

A new feature called Map Explore will let you thumb through Snap Map updates in a more methodical way, so that you can see where your friends are and where they’re traveling. These statuses are generated by your friends’ movements rather than them physically typing out something on their own. Snap Map is importantly an opt-in feature, so if you’re understandably creeped out by the privacy implications, carry on.

The feature, first noted by The Verge, is furthering Snapchat’s idea of a map-based feed in Snap Map, but Map Explore integrates some more conventional UI elements and notifications to call users’ attention to items of interest that might otherwise get lost in the expanse. It’s just a start, but it’s definitely a necessary move. Expecting users to pan around a map is daunting enough for the immediate surrounding area, but when you’re trying to get users to see where your friends are vacationing or doing other cool stuff, it’s a lot more difficult.

The feed can give updates on the jet-setting habits of friends who are going on trips; it also can give location updates when they’re off to the beach or at another noteworthy spot. What’s perhaps most interesting is that Snapchat says they’ll be using the feature to push updates or breaking news updates to users based on areas of the Snap Map that are seeing a lot of traffic tied to news events.

The feature is going to be rolling out globally in the next few weeks.

Source link