Spotify claims it actually had a better Weeknd than Apple Music

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Yesterday, The Verge reported that The Weeknd’s latest album, My Dear Melancholy, had a very strong debut on Apple Music, pulling in 26 million streams in the first 24 hours. The lead single, “Call Out My Name” pulled in an additional 6 million streams, surpassing the 3.5 million streams the single pulled in on Spotify during the same period, according to The Weeknd’s label, Republic Records.

Obviously that would be a huge win for Apple Music given that it has around 120 million less users than Spotify, didn’t have two exclusive music videos from the project, and didn’t have The Weeknd promoting its service.

But there’s a twist! Spotify says the numbers it initially gave Republic Records were in fact wrong. “Call Out My Name” was…

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Hold Up: What Actually Happened in Sierra Leone’s “Blockchain” Election?

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On March 7, Sierra Leone held the first presidential election using blockchain, the distributed ledger technology poised to transform our world.

At least, that’s what we were told.

That’s according to Agora, the Swiss-based blockchain startup that claimed to have facilitated the blockchain-based election.

“Sierra Leone’s 2018 presidential elections, which took place on March 7th, represents the first time in history that blockchain technology has been used in a national government election,” wrote Agora in a press release distributed on March 8. Media outlets — including TechCrunch, Quartz, and yes, Futurism  covered it accordingly.

But Sierra Leone’s election officials say that’s not what happened. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is the “sole authority” on Sierra Leone’s public elections, and the group has gone out of its way to make it clear that it did not use blockchain in the March 7 election.

First, the NEC shared a quote from Chief Electoral Commissioner/Chairperson Mohamed Conteh via Twitter on March 18:

If that wasn’t enough, the NEC then posted this “Fast Fact” the next day:

So, what exactly happened here?

Agora obtained permission from the NEC to act as “an international observer” at 280 of roughly 11,200 polling stations. Sierra Leone election officials recorded the paper votes as they would in any other election. Then, Agora’s team recorded those same votes on its blockchain. Later, it published those results on its website.

Essentially, Agora’s involvement with the Sierra Leone election was a proof-of-concept experiment. Like: “See? We can record an election and get the same result as government officials.”

On March 20, Agora published its own official statement on Medium attempting to clear up the situation.

In it, the company first laid out the facts of its involvement with the election. Then, Agora addressed where the controversy seems to have begun: a Medium post published on March 16, two days before the NEC’s first tweeted that blockchain wasn’t involved in the country’s elections.

As Agora notes, the author of that post, Tamba Lamin, is the CTO of LAM-TECH, a tech consulting company that sponsors the Sierra Leone Open Election Data Platform (SLOEDP), a software platform designed for the collection and sharing of data about Sierra Leone elections (and apparently an Agora competitor).

In its official statement, Agora says, “Most of the media pushback we have received over the past week stems from…[SLOEDP].” The company even not-so-subtly suggests why that might be:

While we are unclear about the motivations of SLOEDP, their stated description as “an open source platform to facilitate free, fair, safe, secure and transparent elections” is directly competing or overlapping in nature with Agora’s technology. Furthermore, slides from a LAM-TECH public presentation on the electiondata.io website show clear conflicts of interest between our two organizations.

So, was this “controversy” surrounding Agora’s role in the Sierra Leone election simply one election-recording company looking for a chance to paint a competitor as a liar? Or was Agora overtly trying to make it seem like they were more involved than they were?

It might be a bit of both.

While most of Agora’s wording post-election leaves room for interpretation, a couple of lines sure make it seem like the company played some sort of official role beyond that of “observer”:

  • “The National Electoral Commission’s decision to work with Agora…” [March 8 press release]
  • “Sierra Leone is the first government to use blockchain in part of its election process…” [March 8 press release]
  • “[Agora is] engaged in Sierra Leone presidential elections…” [message from CEO Leonardo Gammar to Agora’s Telegram group on March 8]

Agora is now taking at least some responsibility for the misleading media coverage surrounded the Sierra Leone election. CEO Leonardo Gammar told Cointelegraph on March 29:

There was some miscommunication on our behalf, and I think we learned a lot because of it. We made a few mistakes when speaking to journalists, and when we sought to clear it up, it was all too late. We got very excited about the technology and the way in which it could help people  like a lot of companies do in the blockchain space — and I think we came on too strong for the NEC.

Gammar also said the company has hired someone to help them with its “PR game,” so that they present all future projects accurately.

If there’s one thing the blockchain space doesn’t need, it’s unwarranted hype overshadowing the technology’s true potential.

The post Hold Up: What Actually Happened in Sierra Leone’s “Blockchain” Election? appeared first on Futurism.

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Study shows social media echo chambers might actually be a good thing

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A group of researchers, as part of a social experiment, paid liberals and conservatives on Twitter to follow a bot for a month that tweeted political views from the other side. Shockingly, rather than softening their own views or learning to understand the opposition, most participants dug in deeper. We’re not partisan out of ignorance, it seems, but because we fundamentally disagree. Social media echo chambers take a lot of grief. There’s a popular perception that people get stuck inside their own biased worlds and become oblivious to the ‘reality’ the opposing side understands. But perhaps they’re actually doing us…

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This UN Tracker Shows That Even Far-Fetched Voluntary Pledges Actually Make a Difference

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The 17 goals of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are so broad and ambitious that they seem almost ludicrous.

For example: the signatories want poverty “to end in all its forms everywhere” by 2030. Sure.

Plus, countries can agree they will do their best to meet these goals, from reducing inequality to taking urgent action against climate change, but at the end of the day they’re all voluntary anyway. Let’s be real, it’s very unlikely this is going to happen as soon as 2030 (or ever, cynics may argue).

So why make these goals, and commit to them, in the first place?

The Our World in Data initiative set out to answer this question. Its SDG Tracker collects data from official sources, such as the UN and the World Bank, and organizes them in maps and charts to help us track the progress (or regress) towards each goal. It incorporates contemporary data as well as the Millennium Development Goals, predecessors of the SDGs, have achieved.

Some indicators show an unfortunate trend — the number of deaths from road accidents, for example, increased between 1990 and 2015. But things have improved in a number of key areas, from maternal and child mortality to deaths from HIV/AIDS. The number of people in extreme poverty dropped from from 2.2 billion in 1970 to 705.55 million in 2015.

Overall that tool shows us something critical about these voluntary, unrealistic goals: it shows they work. Lives of people around the world are better because of them.

That could mean that similar agreements could have their intended effect, too. The Paris Agreement, for example, is also voluntary. Though some argue that these commitments are nowhere near enough to save the climate, governments and corporations are now taking action in a way that seemed impossible before the deal.

This works because these voluntary schemes focus on the implementation of measures on the ground. The Montreal Protocol  the voluntary international agreement that reduced the number of CFCs entering the atmosphere  thousands of experts deployed to individual cities to help countries as a whole move away from CFCs.

The SDGs and the Paris Agreement work similarly, engaging businesses and administrations at the local level.

If that sounds boring, think of what it’s achieved so far: Protecting the ozone layer may have avoided as much as 2 million skin cancer cases, and while global population has more than doubled since the 1970s, extreme poverty has been cut in half. International voluntary pacts may seem just abstract PR, but the data shows that they may be the way to go if we want a better world.

The post This UN Tracker Shows That Even Far-Fetched Voluntary Pledges Actually Make a Difference appeared first on Futurism.

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Can You Actually Make Money Charging Bird Electric Scooters?

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Bird electric scooters have officially taken over Southern California. They are inexpensive to rent and can make transportation through a busy city like San Diego or Los Angeles absolutely painless. These scooters are fast and fun to ride, so whether you just need to get from point A to point B, or are looking for […]
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Electric Cars May Be Cheaper Than Gas Guzzlers in 7 Years — If People Actually Buy Them

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We may soon be in the era of the electric car.

Today, they’re around of course, but they’re not yet ubiquitous. That may soon change, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts — by 2025, some EV models could cost less than their gas-guzzling competitors.

The biggest reason? Lithium-ion batteries, a key component of tomorrow’s electric cars, are getting cheaper. Analysts suspect that is enough to make the price of electric cars go way, way down.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves — the global electric car revolution is coming, but its timeline may not be speeding up so much. And there are a bunch of practical reasons why.

First, the researchers caution that for the price of electric cars to dip lower than that of petroleum cars, the cost of the battery pack needs to keep going down, even though the price of lithium and other components may increase in the future. Granted, a price drop may still be possible if they’re mass produced. China, for example, is racing to become a leader in EV manufacturing

China’s pushing EV adoption, too, going as far as suggesting a ban on oil-guzzling cars “in the near future,” according to CityLab. France and the United Kingdom also announced they will ban gasoline cars by 2040, a sign of their commitment to alternative forms of transportation.

But ultimately, if electric cars are to really take off, countries will need a charging network big and efficient enough to actually work. When cars first became popular, gas stations started popped up, first in cities, then in smaller towns, eventually reaching even the most remote rural settlements. This spread was haphazard and over a long period of time, but today’s drivers know that wherever they go, they are almost certainly not going to run out of fuel.

The same can’t be said for electric cars. At least, not yet.

Numbers-wise, China is way ahead, with around 150,000 public charging points already; the U.S. has around 16,000. While China’s numbers may seem impressive, “I don’t think there are more than a couple dozen publicly available charging stations in any city,” Sabrina Howell, a New York University finance expert, told CityLab.

Beijing plans to boost its network of charging stations to meet the demands of 5 million electric cars by 2020, but experts say that simply upping the numbers is not enough. For example, charging several EVs at the same time may cause brownouts if there’s not enough voltage in supply. Souping up the existing electric networks to make room for charging points would likely cost a fortune, studies found.

“I don’t get a sense that China has thought through the charging issue, and the economics of it,” said Henry Lee, the director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program at Harvard University, speaking with City Lab, “Nor do I think that they have a business plan for it.”

When you think about it, putting charging points where drivers will need them most really doesn’t seem all that hard. After all, we equipped the world with gas stations without a business plan or a strategy at all.

But  but  it took a very long time to get there. As climate change threatens the way of life of billions of people around the globe, we don’t have that same luxury.

Even the coolest, cheapest electric model won’t win people over if they don’t know where to charge it.

The post Electric Cars May Be Cheaper Than Gas Guzzlers in 7 Years — If People Actually Buy Them appeared first on Futurism.

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Mark Zuckerberg is “actually not sure we shouldn’t be regulated”

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Mark Zuckerberg went on a media tour today to explain Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and what the company is going to do about it. He said more or less the same things to everyone from Recode to the New York Times to CNN, but one answer stuck out: in response to CNN’s Laurie Segall asking if he was worried about Facebook facing regulations from governments around the world, he replied. “I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated. I think in general technology is an increasingly important trend in the world. I think the question is more what is the right regulation rather than ‘yes or no should we be regulated?’”

Following up, he said,

There is transparency regulation that I would love to see. If you look…

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[Update: Actually live] Audible finally works with Sonos, offers trial with 2 credits and Miles Davis’ autobiography for free

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Avid audiobook listeners will be excited to know that Sonos has just added support for Audible to its line of smart speakers.

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[Update: Actually live] Audible finally works with Sonos, offers trial with 2 credits and Miles Davis’ autobiography for free was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Stop whining, GDPR is actually good for your business

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It’s safe to say that nearly everyone in business today has at some point has heard the acronym GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Many in the digital industries and services arena are either preparing for the changes on the horizon, or are dreading the work that still needs to be done to prepare. In the United States, we’ve already seen the implementation of the email regulations for Can-Spam, but GDPR is something else entirely. In my presentations to marketers, I often refer to the US law as the YOU-CAN-SPAM Act, because in essence, it does not require spammers to get…

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The first Vatican hackathon made a lot of sense, actually

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I’m generally not a fan of institutionalized religion. But that doesn’t mean it can’t put its vast resources – however gained – to good use. VHacks, the very first hackathon organized by the Holy See in history was a great example of that. The hackathon invited 120 students from all over the globe and from all kinds of different ethnic and religious backgrounds to tackle problems in three ambitious domains; migrants and refugees, social inclusion, and interfaith dialogue. The themes echoed what Pope Francis said during his TED Talk last year: “How wonderful would it be if the growth of…

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