Tuesday, 4 December 2012

What's The Future Of The Sharing Economy?

As more and more businesses start that are based on using existing resources instead of selling new ones, how can those businesses mesh with an economy built to facilitate consumption?



What's The Future Of The Sharing Economy?WHAT'S THE FUTURE OF THE SHARING ECONOMY?
By Craig Shaprio
As more and more businesses start that are based on using existing resources instead of selling new ones, how can those businesses mesh with an economy built to facilitate consumption?
In San Francisco, you can find the "Airbnb-of-everything." Just as Airbnb capitalized on the fact that many of us have a spare bed, bedroom, or even apartment from which we'd gladly make some money, many other industries have followed suit. Today, you can earn money by filling the spots in your car on a road trip, being a personal tour guide for out-of-town visitors, lending your car out when you're not driving it, or doing odd jobs for people in the city.

At Collaborative Fund, the fund I founded to invest in collaborative businesses, we are helping to support a cultural shift away from excess, hyper-consumption, and ownership, and toward access, sharing, and efficiency. We hear about new stories that exemplify this shift all the time, like programmer Avi Flombaum quitting his day job at a startup where he was CTO because his hobby teaching Skillshare classes earned him $100,000 in one year. Few teachers make that much in traditional schools.Or Curtis Chong, who earned $5,300 in a year letting others drive his Honda Civic worth $4,800 on RelayRides. These marketplaces enable people with excess supply to find demand, unlocking viable economic activity.
Still, there are key questions facing these budding markets: job creation, regulation, and long-term business growth.


Taking a step back from the success of Flombaum and Chong, it's clear we're living in a job-anxious landscape with high unemployment and frustrating under-employment. As startups like Skillshare or RelayRides gain traction, peer marketplaces are coming under the microscope. Economists and journalists question whether the technology boom of Silicon Valley actually creates jobs. The Kauffman Foundation reported that the number of new employer-enterprises (business that hire others) has declined since the 2008 recession, despite entrepreneurship rates increasing.
Apple, the most valuable company in the world, only employs 43,000 people, most of whom work in retail stores and earn roughly $25,000 a year. So we have to ask, do gigs--some full-time, some part-time--qualify as sustainable jobs? If I make the majority of my income selling jewelry on eBay or Etsy, or hosting guests in my spare room on Airbnb, is that my job? If not, what is a job?

In a partnership with design firm IDEO, Collaborative Fund attempted to answer this question by imagining ways people might sustain themselves in the future, and identified some of the businesses already reshaping our definition of work. We were prompted by the term the gig economy--a nation of freelancers that now includes one in three working Americans. While many of the new companies facilitating this lifestyle are young, the sector has shown rapid growth, and municipal and federal regulators are taking note.


Regulation of Internet-facilitated sharing has a standing history. Napster demonstrated how peer-to-peer sharing could wreak havoc on institutions, and even entire industries. Craigslist is still a buy-at-your-own-risk platform. And today, ride-sharing services like Uber--where black-car drivers act like on-demand taxis--has come under fire for operating in gray areas of legality. Airbnb has faced regulatory challenges at the municipal level in San Francisco and New York, and the California Public Utilities Commission issued a cease-and-desist warning to Lyft and SideCar, two popular ridesharing services based in San Francisco.
The regulatory instinct is to resist new forms of economic exchange to protect both buyers and sellers from fraud or danger. But beyond the questions of trust and reputation, regulators and investors alike are wondering: Does it slow down construction if we use Airbnb instead of hotels? Does it slow down Detroit manufacturing if we share cars and rides instead of buying new ones? Does increasing productivity from existing resources hinder economic growth?

The oft-cited Jevons paradox proposes that using a resource with more efficiency actually increases, rather than decreases, the use of that resource. But it's not obvious that efficiency and growth are complements. So, should the laws of small business taxation apply to someone who is a full-time Skillshare teacher, like Avi Flombaum? Some worry that these new businesses will create an informal economy, which lacks the safety nets of social security, health insurance, anti-discrimination, and taxation. These are defining aspects of our social fabric, no matter your politics, and it's time to rethink how we support them in this new economy.

Long-Term Growth

Most Lyft drivers or TaskRabbits we've encountered are just glad to have income coming from somewhere. And beyond individual gain, these marketplaces boost local economies. Airbnb hosts have contributed $56 million in spending to San Francisco; $43.1 million of that figure supported local businesses around the hosts' homes. But platforms that facilitate opportunity to create wealth must be built to last. Otherwise their impact is nominal, if not damaging to the ecosystem long-term.
You have to be wary of over-exuberance by entrepreneurs and investors, who could latch onto this trend for quick gain instead of creating a true foundation and scalable businesses. Remember the post-The Inconvenient Truth enthusiasm for startups targeting the green and eco-friendly audience? Much like the "Airbnb-of-everything," today, then we saw the "Eco-of-everything."
Here's the history lesson: Many of those "green startups"--even those with big venture backing--failed because they lacked authentic core values, patience from their investors, and, most importantly, a solid foundation built on real business logic.

The Future

The road ahead for collaborative businesses will be filled with many obstacles. Governments will struggle to keep pace with innovation. New businesses without a sound economic plan will fail. In the near-term, our economy will continue to be based largely on consuming new products and services en masse.
However, I'm optimistic. Collaborative businesses are now working their way out of the hype phase and getting tested and refined in ways that will determine their long-term role in the economy. Entrepreneurs and consumers are finding efficiencies and adapting to the reality of a world with fewer resources and latent potential. As jobs evolve away from traditional corporate models and regulatory challenges get worked out, collaborative businesses are poised to generate the greatest financial return on investment over the next decade and beyond.

7 features Apple killed off in iTunes 11

(Credit: Apple) Apple's latest iTunes brings plenty of new features, but also puts some golden oldies out to pasture.



7 features Apple killed off in iTunes 117 FEATURES APPLE KILLED OFF IN ITUNES 11Image:
(Credit: Apple)
Apple's latest iTunes brings plenty of new features, but also puts some golden oldies out to pasture.
The software, which went out yesterday as a free update, comes with a redesigned player and a more extensive album view for browsing music. Apple's also more deeply integrated iCloud and its stores within the software.
But some of that march towards simplicity has come at the expense of some old features. Few of the deep-sixed features seem like logical deletions, and others are already bringing ire from longtime users who expected to see them on the other side of the update.
Read on to find out what's gone.
1. Cover Flow
Cover Flow was the headlining feature of iTunes 7 in 2006. The feature put album covers in a "flow" together, that let you flip between them as if they were floating in front of you.
Short of the built-in visualizer, it was really one of iTunes' biggest eye candy features, but it was also a way to show off the fluidity and smarts of the software when browsing through music with a multitouch trackpad. Apple's even been sued over using it, and initially lost a $625 million patent lawsuit until the judge reversed the jury verdict.
Apple completely nixed Cover Flow in iTunes 11 in favor of its new album view, which will expand out an album to show you the songs within when you click on it. The Cover Flow feature remains on iPhones and iPods.
(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)
2. The de-duper
In the world of collecting and organizing digital music, you might get a duplicate or a thousand in your library. By default, iTunes won't let you re-add another music file if you've already added it, but accidents happen and large libraries can overlap.
In iTunes 10.7 and earlier, Apple offered a built-in tool that would sniff out duplicates and put them on a single page. It wasn't great, but it was something, and free. In iTunes 11, the feature is missing in action.
Third-party tools like $40 TuneUp can bridge the gap with a feature that finds and deletes duplicates, grabs album art, and fixes metadata. Mac users can also use the $15 Dupin.
(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)
3. iTunes DJ
iTunes DJ was a neat feature that would let you put together a never-ending playlist in a pinch. You could even tweak it to make sure it wouldn't play the embarrassing chunks of your music collection by limiting selections to a certain playlist or genre (see above).
What made it really stand out, however, was a feature Apple added in iTunes 8.1 that let other people at your party put in a request for a song from their mobile device, and even vote on upcoming tracks. If a party host agreed, that song would go on, making the whole thing feel a little more social. Google's defunct Nexus Q device (which iscurrently being reworked) wanted to take that same idea and turn it into a standalone product. In iTunes 11, though, it's MIA.
4. Gapless playback editor
As the name suggests, the gapless playback feature plays songs back to back, without any break -- something that's useful for tracks meant to be in immediate succession. One of the best examples: Pink Floyd's "The Wall."
Curiously enough, gapless playback in iTunes 11 still works just fine. You just can't tweak any of your existing music to make use of the feature from the options editor. That's a bummer for any live-show or big 1970s concept CDs you might have planned on ripping.
What devil magic is this?
What devil magic is this?
(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)
5. Multiple windows
In an effort to simplify iTunes' user interface, Apple also stripped out one of the features power users loved: the option to break out functions into their own windows.
This was particularly useful if you wanted to do a little multitasking, like listening toInternet radio while going through and producing a playlist, all the while keeping those two actions separate. Another example: shopping in Apple's online store while managing an iOS device.
With iTunes 11 you're limited to just that one window and whatever task is in front of you -- just like on the iPhone or iPad.
Maybe it's not such a bad thing this is gone.
Maybe it's not such a bad thing this is gone.
(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)
6. The other sidebar
Apple merely hid the source list sidebar, but you can still get that one back. What we're talking about is the feature that would give you genius recommendations based on any song you were currently on, often polling the iTunes Store for music you might not even have.
On the plus side, this means Apple is not jamming its store down your throat nearly as much, but it's moved some of those recommendations so far out of the way that you really have to hunt to find them.
Apple's effectively replaced this sidebar with a special genius recommendations menu that pops out right next to a song when you click on a context menu. This shows you songs you already have in your library, but doesn't introduce you to new stuff that might be a better match. For that you need to look at the "related" or "listeners also bought" links from within a song's page on iTunes -- assuming it's there.
7. Quick volume control, song progress in mini player
Apple's mini player now does quite a bit more than it used to, such as providing search and displaying album art. Even so, it's missing a few handy things such as the volume knob and progress indicator that would show you how far along in a song you were.
The mini player in iTunes 10.7 (top) and in iTunes 11 (bottom).
The mini player in iTunes 10.7 (top) and in iTunes 11 (bottom).
(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)
You can still access the volume settings without leaving the mini player, though it takes an extra step -- you can either click on the AirPlay icon and adjust the master volume, or click on the album art and adjust it from the pop-up window. But the progress bar? That's long gone.
Anything we missed? Leave it in the comments. Also be sure to read CNET's full review of iTunes 11 right here.

iTunes 11 gives the media hub a much needed refresh

Graphene Towers Promise "Flexi-Electronics"

3-D graphene blocks—grown between forming ice crystals—add elasticity to the super strength and conductivity of sheets of graphene, a 2-D form of carbon first isolated less than a decade ago

grapheneThe graphene towers' honeycomb structure gives it super strength and resilience.Image: L. Qiu, Monash University
It can support 50,000 times its own weight, springs back into shape after being compressed by up to 80% and has a density much lower than most comparable metal-based materials. A new superelastic, three-dimensional form of graphene can even conduct electricity, paving the way for flexible electronics, researchers say.
The team, led by Dan Li, a materials engineer at Monash University in Clayton, Australia, coaxed 1-centimeter-high graphene blocks or 'monoliths' from tiny flakes of graphene oxide, using ice crystals as templates. The work is published today inNature Communications.
Graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon that was first isolated less than a decade ago, has exceptional mechanical strength and electrical conductivity, but making use of these properties means first finding ways to scale up from nano-sized flakes (see ‘Graphene spun into metre-long fibers’).
Li and his colleagues adapted an industrial technique called freeze casting to do just that. This involves growing layers of an oxygen-coated, soluble version of graphene called graphene oxide between forming ice crystals. On cooling the aqueous solution of graphene oxide flakes, a thin layer of the nanomaterial becomes trapped between the growing crystals, forming a continuous network that retains its structure once the ice is thawed.
Researchers have used this method before, but the resulting material had poor mechanical strength — a property that Li attributes to the oxygen layer that coats each flake, which weakens bonding between neighboring flakes in the network.        
In the latest study, researchers show that by partially stripping the oxygen coating before freeze casting, they could enhance the bonding between adjacent flakes in the network, producing much stronger materials.
After freeze casting, the honeycomb-like network held its shape as the ice was removed. The researchers could then chemically convert the graphene oxide into graphene, strengthening inter-sheet bonding, and so the material itself, still further.
Fill the void
Li attributes the new graphene's properties to its structure: the individual graphene sheets are neatly aligned, forming an ordered network of hexagonal pores.
Rodney Ruoff, a researcher in graphene assemblies at the University of Texas at Austin, says that the material “is very interesting for the extremely low density that the researchers achieve, as well as its exceptional mechanics”. He adds that the structure could be used as a scaffold for flexible battery electrodes, or form the basis of many composite materials. “It would be interesting to fill the pores with rubber materials, for example,” he says. “There is a great interest in making rubber thermally or electrically conductive without harming its elastic properties.”
Li says that the superelastic graphene has potential for use in biomedical applications. “Biomaterials people are very interested in this structure because the pore sizes match existing tissue scaffolds very well,” he says.
This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature. The article wasfirst published on December 4, 2012.

McAfee's Rookie Mistake Gives Away His Location

The former software mogul was at a resort in Guatemala, according to geolocation metadata stored in an Internet photograph uploaded Monday

Fugitive former software mogul John McAfee accidentally gave away his own whereabouts yesterday (Dec. 3) after he let a website post a photo of him with the geolocation metadata still attached.Vice Magazine, a gonzo-journalism publication based in Brooklyn, put up a storyyesterday morning proclaiming, "We Are With John McAfee Right Now, Suckers."
The real sucker turned out to be McAfee himself, founder of the anti-virus software company that bears his name and a person of interest in the recent killing in Belize of his neighbor, a fellow American named Gregory Faull. 
The photograph that Vice posted of its reporter with the eccentric entrepreneur was quickly dissected by Twitter user @simplenomad. He examined the image file and discovered it had been taken earlier Monday by an iPhone next to the swimming pool at an upscale resort in Guatemala called Ranchon Mary.
"Check out the metadata in the photo," @simplenomad tweeted. "Oooops."
Once the news was out, Vice scrubbed the data and reposted the image, and McAfee blogged to claim that the metadata had been "manipulated" in order to throw the authorities off his trail. That post has since been taken down.
Today (Dec. 4), McAfee admitted the mistake on his blog, but blamed it on an "unseasoned technician at Vice headquarters."
McAfee's explanation is bogus. As a very tech-savvy person, he should have known that smartphone cameras write the location, date, time and camera settings to the digital image file. If the unmodified image is uploaded to the Web, it's not difficult for a viewer to access that information. [How To Set Your Smartphone's Privacy Settings]
"Vice Magazine reporters are indeed with me in Guatemala. Yesterday was chaotic due to the accidental release of my exact co-ordinates," McAfee wrote on his blog. "I apologize for all of the misdirections over the past few days. It was not easy to exit Belize and required many supporters in many countries."
McAfee became an international media sensation after Faull's death in mid-November. His whereabouts have become a guessing game, even as he calls reporters in New York and blogs about life on the lam.
A false report Saturday claimed that he'd been captured on the Mexican border, hours before the New York Times posted a magazine-length article detailing his saga.
To turn off geolocation on an iPhone, as Vice's photographer should have, go into Settings --> Location Services.
A master switch lets you turn everything off, but if you choose to leave it on, there are also individual toggle switches for each app that uses location data, including the Camera app and all installed social-networking apps.
To turn off location settings in Android's stock Camera app, open the app and click on the menu, where there's a simple toggle switch for "Store location."
McAfee now claims to be safe and says he has further plans to engage with the press.
"I am in Guatemala and will be meeting with Guatemalan officials this morning," he wrote. "If all goes well I will do a press conference tomorrow."