The UpStream

Facebook to Allow Teens to Post Publicly

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Facebook to Allow Teens to Post Publicly

Facebook has made what might seem like a trivial change to their sharing policy, but one that has drawn a lot of fire from various advocacy groups. The change, described by Facebook,

Up until today, for people aged 13 through 17, the initial audience of their first post on Facebook was set to "Friends of Friends" - with the option to change it.

Going forward, when people aged 13 through 17 sign up for an account on Facebook, the initial audience of their first post will be set to a narrower audience of "Friends.

Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard. So, starting today, people aged 13 through 17 will also have the choice to post publicly on Facebook.

Now, Facebook's policy about preventing teens from posting publicly has been one of the few things that has gotten the company praise in the security realm. Obviously, preventing teens' posts from being seen publicly is important in preventing bullies and sexual predators from interacting with their posts. Obviously, the responses have been varied.

We'll start with the positive. Many people are excited that the default setting has been changed from "Friends of Friends" to "Friends," which makes sense to me. This allows all posts to default to only those you choose, again helping to prevent bullying.

The ability to post publicly, however, is not being received as well. There are a number of reasons for the response. First is the security issues, which we can all understand. Central Florida has recently been going through the suicide of a 12-year-old girl over cyber bullying by 2 young girls, 12 and 14. With a recent arrest in the case, it is certainly a strange time to make this change, but the problem has become so common, no time would work.

On the other hand, another issue at hand is the purpose for the change. Facebook explains it in the above quote as a way for teens express themselves on topics of importance. But, why does Facebook care about the intended audience for a teen's views? Because, if a post is public, it can be used in Facebook marketing.

Getting everyone to share everything that ever happens to them is very profitable for Facebook. Marketing to the highly impressionable teen crowd could be even more profitable for Facebook, but they have to be able to provide information to their advertisers to do so. Allowing teens to post publicly gives them the ability to do just that.

Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy said,

They're hitting kids from a neurological weak spot. Kids don't have the same kind of impulse control that adults do.

That is exactly what advertisers are hoping for. Since Facebook is known for controversial privacy policies and not reversing decisions, all we can do is live in this new world. Maybe this will be the thing that starts the member exodus.

Watch Dogs Misses Holiday Deadline, Delayed Until Spring 2014

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Watch Dogs Misses Holiday Deadline, Delayed Until Spring 2014

One of the most anticipated titles announced at E3 was Watch Dogs. Every two weeks or so, the developers at Ubisoft have leaked a bit more information to the masses, including a website, real-time gameplay clips, trailers and more. It felt like the holiday season could have been saved from the unimpressive new consoles with a great title like this. Unfortunately, Watch Dogs will now be pushed back to the first quarter of 2014.

Citing unexpected bumps in the road and some minor setbacks, the Watch Dogs team said that "In a world of mega-blockbusters we have come to the conclusion that the team needed more time to realize the game's potential. We consider it to be a long term pillar of our future performance, alongside the likes of Assassin's Creed and Far Cry."

That's a pretty big statement for a brand new franchise. The team might have felt like the game was not going to be ready for a while, but was putting off the official message until they knew for sure that it wasn't going to happen in time for holiday season and the new console launches.

Here's the message directly from Ubisoft.

Our ambition from the start with Watch Dogs has been to deliver something that embodies what we wanted to see in the next-generation of gaming. It is with this in mind that we've made the tough decision to delay the release until spring 2014.

We know a lot of you are probably wondering: Why now? We struggled with whether we would delay the game. But from the beginning, we have adopted the attitude that we will not compromise on quality. As we got closer to release, as all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place in our last push before completion, it became clear to us that we needed to take the extra time to polish and fine tune each detail so we can deliver a truly memorable and exceptional experience.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you. We thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the way you respond on the web, at events, press conferences and other opportunities we have to interact. Your passion keeps us motivated.

We can't wait to see you in Chicago next spring. We are confident you'll love this game as much as we love working on it.

Ubisoft's Communications Manager, Gary Steinman, has been very active and upfront about the decision in the blog this week. Fans have been asking questions and he's been answering. Steinman also reiterating the points above by replying directly to a user with, "The team has been working really hard to deliver a really ambitious game within the original timeframe. We tested the game until the very last minute in order to make the most informed decision."

Obviously a lot of disgruntled fans have come out of the woodwork to berate and demean the product, claiming that many have pre-ordered the game and now that Ubisoft has the consumers' money, the game won't come out. However, in the real world, things like push-backs and delays happen all the time. On the other side of it, the game could've been released for the holidays, most likely it would have been buggy or broken, and fans would've complained there, too. Luckily, Steinman and the Ubisoft team have not given in to the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" fans and have stuck to the spring 2014 timeline. Hopefully we'll see some more news leading up to the new release date, including some notes on what was refined or fixed. This should at least appease the fan who is just upset that he or she can't play potentially the greatest new IP to hit a next-gen console since Halo.

Netflix to Appear on Samsung Cable Boxes

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Netflix to Appear on Samsung Cable Boxes

In an attempt to partially merge with the classic television industry they have been helping to redefine, Netflix has announced a partnership with Samsung to make its streaming service available on Samsung Smart Cable Boxes. With the combined interface, users will be able to search for movies and television on Netflix the same way they do in their standard guide.

This type of interface has been tried in Britain via Virgin Media over the past month, and the trial has proven that integrating into the cable box does not negatively impact the concept of Netflix, nor does it threaten normal television. Instead, adding Netflix into the normal television experience allows Netflix to feel less like an after thought and more of part of television.

Being part of television means that Netflix will essentially change from an additional service that you have to have something special to watch, into a series of interactive premium channels. HBO and Showtime have proven for years that premium channels are something that people want and will pay for, so operating under that model could enhance their subscriptions.

Netflix CCO Jonathan Fiedland said in an interview this week,

Having the Netflix app on a set-top box is a natural progression. Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for consumers to enjoy Netflix while cable operators see value, too, because it makes their broadband service more attractive.

In this new world, no longer do you have to have a Roku on top of your existing cable box, or try to interact with the always painful smart TV apps available on some televisions, but instead use your existing cable box and remote as you always have. As Fiedland said, making it easier will be better for people who are not entirely comfortable with technology.

Microsoft Makes Games with Gold a Permanent Feature

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Makes Games with Gold a Permanent Feature

Since first announcing Games with Gold at E3 2013 as a temporary program designed to reward loyal, paying customers with free titles, the program, as originally pitched, was to last through the end of the year and to be retired.

Well, after a successful run of almost 5 months, Microsoft has announced that Games with Gold will be a permanent feature of the Xbox 360. Apparently when a program brings about 120 million hours of gameplay, it is worth keeping. Personally, I have downloaded and played several of the titles made available through the program, so I am glad it will remain.

The question this leaves for most is, will Games with Gold be available on Xbox One? Most of the titles available through the program thus far have been older AAA titles. On the new console, there will not be any older AAA titles, at least not ones that were intended for the Xbox One. Microsoft could make Xbox 360 titles available for free on the One, but that might not get the same response.

Personally, I do not expect the Xbox One to have Games with Gold at launch, especially with launch titles getting delayed. Providing something for free when there are fewer than expected paid titles will not make the console a financial success. That being said, it might gain Microsoft some needed positive press in an environment where the Internet and most gaming press are deciding against the new console.

What do think? Will Games for Gold come to the One at launch? Let us know in the comments section.

SoftBank to Purchase Distributor Brightstar

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2013 by Scott Ertz

SoftBank to Purchase Distributor Brightstar

After it purchased Sprint for $21.6 billion, who now owns Clearwire, SoftBank is enhancing its position in the wireless industry once again. Instead of bolstering their US carrier offering, this time SoftBank is purchasing a company you have never heard of: Brightstar.

Based in Miami, FL, Brightstar is the largest distributor of wireless phones in the world, bringing in $7 billion across 50 countries. They are responsible for negotiating the deals between manufacturers carriers, as well as insurance and buy-backs. They have also been working with Verizon Wireless to create Viva Movil, Latino-specific VZW stores in the US.

Following the $1.26 billion acquisition the company will remain in Miami, but the chairmanship will transition to SoftBank, though current President and CEO, Marcelo Claure, will remain in those roles. He will also retain 43% of the company, valuing the company at $2.2 billion, including outstanding debt.

While the acquisition will certainly help Sprint and Softbank's position in negotiating for devices, something Sprint seems to have had trouble with lately, only recently getting the HTC 8X nearly a year after everyone else, it could also hurt the company itself. Some of Brightstar's biggest customers are competitors of Sprint and SoftBank, meaning those competitors might no longer be interested in interacting with a middleman held by a competitor. It could also hurt the Viva Movil project with Verizon.

Meet Splice, a Source Controlled Music Creation Program

posted Sunday Oct 13, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Meet Splice, a Source Controlled Music Creation Program

Long-time readers and listeners of the show will know of my love for mainly two things: cool tech toys and music (and the Giants, but they shall not be discussed right now). That being said, obviously things like Spotify quickly grab my attention and interest. So when I discovered the music-tech startup Splice, the situation was no different.

Splice is interesting because they take on music in a different way. First, the company is all about making the music creation process easier. For those who are not tech-savvy and wish to collaborate with artists or producers around the world, the programs and systems in place or either too difficult for the novice to use, or they're way too outdated and cumbersome, like MegaUpload. Second, the company introduces the music-making process to the tech world, head-on. How? By including version control so that changes can be made on the fly without worrying about undoing the others' work, or waiting for them to send you back the revision. It's kind of like a hybrid between GitHub and Team Foundation Server in that regard.

Splice's Steve Martocci puts it like this in a blog post,

Splice streamlines the fragmented process of creating and sharing music, freeing musicians to spend their time and energy on the creative process. Splice simplifies music creation by bringing all of the steps into one, frictionless digital home. The Splice community provides artists with a new means to connect with fans and other artists to solicit feedback throughout every step of the creative process - from ideation to the finished product. Founded by entrepreneurs Steve Martocci and Matt Aimonetti, Splice is located in New York City, NY and Santa Monica, CA.

Splice, currently in a private beta, integrates nicely with the popular software Ableton Live versions 8 and 9. Saving projects is easy once you install Splice; the program creates a "Splice" folder, letting you save your projects in Ableton right to the cloud, kind of like SkyDrive. Others can then access and work on their own versions on their own time and Splice automatically keeps up with all the tracks, samples, edit, cuts and more. All the artist has to do is make music, which is exactly what they wanted to do in the first place.

So far the company has raised $2.75 million in private funding and this little startup really looks promising. I can assure you I will be the first to update everyone on how Splice pans out, and hopefully we'll see them add integration into things like Pro Tools and Audition once more funding is acquired. For now, I'm playing with Ableton and learning how to use a new sequencer, so I can play around with the nifty idea that is Splice.

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