Google’s Project Loon head is getting into nuclear power

Google X’s raison d’être is embracing far-out ideas, so it’s no surprise, really that former director Mike Cassidy is wading into the decidedly choppy and always controversial waters of nuclear energy.

Cassidy, whose most recent tenure at Google found him heading up the company balloon-based internet initiative Project Loon, has been quietly working on launching Apollo Fusion. The company is a new energy startup working to develop “revolutionary hybrid reactor technology with fusion power to serve safe, clean, and affordable electricity to everyone.” (It’s also apparently the name of a racing bike. Go figure.)

The company’s recently updated site opens with the words “Let’s quietly redefine what’s possible,” which seems to describe its launch strategy as much as anything. Bloomberg, which first noticed the new information, notes that, until a few days ago, Apollo Fusion’s site simply sported a definition of nuclear fusion, and not much else.

Of course, nuclear power is still a going concern, albeit less eagerly embraced than during its salad days. In October of last year, the U.S. opened a nuclear reactor in Tennessee — its first new one in 20 years. And a number of companies like Transatomic and UPower are promising safe new alternatives to the nuclear power of decades past. The new technologies, coupled with ever-increasing concerns about climate change, have caused many to reconsider nuclear energy as a potential alternative.

As its name implies, Cassidy’s solution is fusion-based, following in the footsteps of companies like the Jeff Bezos-backed TriAlpha Energy and Helion Energy. Fusion, which fuses together rather than splits atoms, is considered safer than the more traditional fission, including less waste created as a byproduct. There also isn’t the same risk of meltdown.

Various versions of fusion technologies have been the subject of undelivered promises for decades, including, notably cold fusion. That was debunked shortly after it was first proposed in the late-1980s.

Cassidy himself doesn’t appear ready to offer up much more information on the subject, though he did acknowledge what may likely be an uphill battle in the recognition of nuclear energy as a viable alternative power source.

 “Environmentalists have struggled for a while over whether nuclear power is good or bad,” he told Bloomberg in an otherwise decidedly limited conversation. “I think most of the more thoughtful environmentalists now view nuclear as good. If you can find a way to do nuclear power that doesn’t have the downsides, the risky, runaway meltdowns, or things like that, it’s a real win for the planet.”

It’s no surprise, of course, that the site features a prominent declaration of safety for the company’s technology. The site explains, “Apollo Fusion hybrid power plants are designed for zero-consequence outcomes to loss of cooling or loss of control scenarios and they cannot melt down.”

After all, for many, notions of nuclear power still elicit troubling images of tragedy, bolstered by recent events like 2011’s Fukushima disaster. Public opinions don’t appear to be trending in a positive direction, either. A Gallup poll from roughly this time last year notes that, for the first time (since the poll was launched in the mid-1990s), a majority of Americans oppose nuclear energy, at 54 percent.

At the very least, it’s hard to imagine too many Americans feeling comfortable with a plant opening in their backyard.

Apollo’s site ticks off other boxes as well, including emission-free production and inexpensive construction and operation. And, the site adds, “Because they’re inherently safe, Apollo Fusion power plants can be nestled in the communities they serve, to make power right where customers need it.”

Again, likely an uphill sell, no matter how safe the new technology is stated to be. Still, Cassidy says the company’s tech has already won over a few key players: namely, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both of whom are reportedly “super enthusiastic” about Apollo’s work, though neither currently count themselves among backers of the company.

Facebook, Twitter still failing on hate speech in Germany as new law proposed

Facebook and Twitter have once again been criticized in Germany for failures to promptly remove hate speech being spread via their platforms.

At the same time, the German government has presented a draft bill aimed at more effectively combating hate criminality and criminal offenses on social network platforms, arguing that the companies’ ongoing failures necessitate tighter regulation — with a potential fine of up to €50 million being floated for social networks breaching what are intended to be binding standards for dealing with complaints and removing criminal content.

As with many EU countries, Germany has specific hate speech laws that criminalize certain types of speech, such as incitement to racial violence. The issue has stepped up the domestic political agenda in the country in recent years, following the refugee crisis — with Germany taking in a large number of asylum seekers.

The country also has elections this year, heightening concern over the role social media can play in shaping and influencing public opinion.

“There can be just as little space in the social networks as on the street for crimes and slander,” said Federal Justice and Consumer Protection Minister, Heiko Maas, in a statement today (translated from German via Google Translate). “The biggest problem is that the networks do not take the complaints of their own users seriously enough.”

Back in December 2015, Facebook and Twitter gave a commitment to the German government that they would remove criminal hate speech from their respective platforms within 24 hours. Google also agreed to do so on YouTube.

Last May, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft also all agreed with the European Commission on a code of conduct that committed to removing hate speech within 24 hours.

However, in the latest German government-funded study monitoring the performance of the companies, the Ministry of Justice said Facebook has become worse at promptly handling user complaints, saying the company deleted or blocked 39 percent of the criminal content reported by users — a seven percentage point decline versus the first test of its performance.

In addition, only one-third of content reported by Facebook users was deleted within 24 hours of the complaint being made, according to the survey.

Twitter’s performance is also criticized, with the survey finding that only one of a hundred user messages had been erased, and none of the deletions took place within 24 hours.

The pair’s failings also contrast negatively with Google, which is reported to have made significant improvements regarding YouTube content complaints since the tests began — with the study finding that 90 percent of user-reported criminal content was deleted from the platform, and 82 percent of the deletions occurred 24 hours after the notification.

“Google shows with the platform Youtube that it is better,” said Maas. “Therefore, it is now clear that we must further increase the pressure on social networks. We need legal regulations to make companies even more obligated to eradicate criminal offenses.”

We reached out to Facebook and Twitter for comment on the findings. Twitter declined to make a statement but a spokesman said the company has made changes in the past few weeks aimed at reducing the spread of abusive content on its platform which may not have been in place at the time of the survey.

However, these tweaks appear most focused on using technology to try to automatically identify abusive/problem accounts, or give more tools to users to enable them to filter their own feeds, rather than putting more resource into content complaint processes specifically. (Although Twitter does claim to have improved the transparency of the reporting process, such as notifying users when a complaint has been received and if it is being acted upon.)

At the time of writing, Facebook had not responded to our questions, but we’ll update this story with any response. Update: In an emailed statement a spokesperson for the company said: “We have clear rules against hate speech and work hard to keep it off our platform. We are committed to working with the government and our partners to address this societal issue. By the end of the year over 700 people will be working on content review for Facebook in Berlin. We will look into the legislative proposal by the Federal Ministry of Justice.”

Responding specifically to criticism that it does not take user complaints seriously enough, Facebook said it has changed its internal procedures for interpreting its community standards guidelines in recent months, and has also provided specific guidance for its Community Operations (CO) team regarding hate speech in Germany.

It also said it has “invested heavily” in the CO team — both globally and locally in Germany. By the end of 2017, Facebook says it will have more than 700 employees working with content moderation partner Arvato, based in Berlin.

 It also disputes the result of the German government-funded survey (which was carried out by jugendschutz.net), saying the results “do not mirror our internal experience and tests by independent organizations such as FSM” — claiming the latter’s tests of its processes found the opposite: a significant improvement in removing illegal content. (An FSM test based solely on user flagging from January found 65 percent of illegal content was removed from Facebook within 24 hours, and overall it had a deletion rate of 80 percent, according to Facebook.)

“We do not believe that the results of the current jugendschutz.net tests reflect the progress we have made in improving our systems and will analyze this test thoroughly,” Facebook said, adding: “Obviously, we are disappointed by the results and we would like to thank Jugendschutz.net for testing our systems and will study all the reports carefully to help us improve the way we operate. We have clear rules against hate speech and work hard to keep it off our platform. We are committed to working with the government and our partners to address this societal issue.”

Last week Facebook also came under fire in the U.K. for content removal failures pertaining to child safety, after a BBC investigation found the platform failed to promptly respond to the vast majority of reports the journalist made. The news agency had been checking Facebook’s own claims of improved performance after an earlier BBC investigation unearthed secret Facebook groups being used to share child abuse imagery. But it concluded that Facebook had failed to improve over the past year.

Facebook is also facing continued pressure for how its platform is misappropriated to spread so-called “fake news” — an issue that has gained prominence in the wake of the U.S. election when large numbers of bogus political stories were seen to have circulated via the platform — potentially influencing how Americans voted. CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially tried to shrug off the issue, before conceding at the turn of the year that the billion+ user platform does indeed have “a greater responsibility than just building technology that information flows through.”

Since December, Facebook has been piloting a series of measures aimed at fighting the spread of fake news problem, including in Germany since January, working there with local third-party fact-checking organization Correctiv to try to identify and flag dubious content.

However, early signs are that Facebook’s efforts on the fake news front are not too promising either, with Recode reporting earlier this month that it took the platform a full week to label one made-up story as “disputed” — despite the source being a self-confessed fake newspaper.

“Shouldn’t/couldn’t Facebook move faster on this stuff, especially when it’s a clear-cut case like this one? Yup! But that would require Facebook to make these kinds of (easy) calls on its own, and Facebook really doesn’t want to do that,” was Recode’s Peter Kafka’s conclusion of its performance there.

Germany’s Maas also touches on the fake news issue, arguing that the proposed domestic law to tighten content complaint procedures for social media platforms will also help kill fake news.

“We will not establish a commission of truth in a free society in which freedom of expression applies. But because the rules we propose are directed against the spread of criminal content, they are also a means against criminal ‘fake news,’” he said. “‘Fake News’ are punishable, for instance if they fulfill the facts of the offense, slander or the evil slander.”

Among the proposals in the draft law are that social networks operating in Germany be obliged to:

  • Provide users with a readily identifiable, directly accessible and constantly available procedure for the transmission of complaints about criminal content
  • Deal with user complaints without delay and to examine the relevance of criminal law
  • That obviously criminal offenses be deleted or blocked within 24 hours of receipt of the complaint
  • To delete or block any criminal offense within 7 days after receipt of the complaint and
  • To inform the user of any decision regarding his complaint

The obligation to delete or block criminal content reported by a user would also apply to all copies of the criminal content on the platform, under the proposals.

The draft law would also require social network operators to report quarterly on the handling of complaints about content relevant to criminal law — including detailing the volume of complaints; their decision-making practices; and the “staffing and competence of the work units responsible for dealing with the complaints.”

These reports would also have to be made accessible to the public online.

Social networks that do not create an effective complaint management system capable of deleting criminal contents effectively and swiftly could be punished via fines of up to €5 million euros against the individual person responsible for dealing with the complaint, and larger fines of up to €50 million against the company itself. Fines also could be imposed if the company does not comply fully with its reporting obligation.

The proposed law also would require social networks to appoint a “responsible contact person” in Germany who could be served in criminal proceedings and civil proceedings — and would themselves be on the hook for a fine of up to €5 million.

New version of Google App Engine supports all programming languages

Google announced that an entirely overhauled version of App Engine was generally available as of today. It made the announcement at Google Cloud Next being held this week in San Francisco.

App Engine is Google’s platform-as-a-service for building application backends without having to worry about maintaining a complex infrastructure.

The big news is that App Engine now supports any programming language, so a developer can create the app in whatever language they are comfortable using. Google sees this as a game changer, making the platform more open, which is a big theme with the company as it transitions to try and lure enterprise customers to Google Cloud Platform in general.

Sam Ramji, VP of product management at Google points out that App Engine was initially an entirely closed environment. “What we are launching is an open generation of App Engine,” Ramji said.

In the previous version there was a limited set of runtime libraries and once you built an application, it was very difficult to take it out of Google. The company has indicated that part of its philosophy on being open means making it easy to move and avoid lock-in, even if that means leaving Google Cloud Platform.

 With the new version of App Engine, Ramji pointed out, you can get a Docker image with your application if you want to leave — and you can move it wherever you wish.

Initially, it supports supports 7 languages including Java 8, Ruby, Go, Python 2/3, C#, PHP 5/7 and Node.js. But it also allows programmers to bring their own language runtimes, frameworks, and third party libraries and App Engine handles all the management for the developers giving them that flexibility to bring the tools they like to work with without having to deal with the management, the biggest advantage of using a cloud service in the first place.

Finally, the company will let developers bring a programming package (binary) to App Engine as a Docker image.

While App Engine is known for easy management as a cloud tool, Google points out that doesn’t necessarily mean you give up all control. Developers can still get under the hood to whatever degree they are comfortable, using familiar tools should they need to undertake custom debugging or customized integration.

Google updates Drive with a focus on its business users

Google today announced a number of major updates to Drive, its online file storage service, which all aim to make it more useful for the company’s business and enterprise users. In addition, the company announced that Drive now has 800 million daily active users, which probably makes it the largest online file storage service in the market today.

“You’re probably familiar with Google Drive as essentially a personal file storage solution,” Google VP of Engineering Prabhakar Raghavan said in an interview ahead of today’s announcement. “We took a look at that and said that a graphical user interface on top of the Unix ‘ls’ command is not that much of a value-add. So we asked: What does it take to really become a player in the enterprise.”

Maybe the most interesting news here is the launch of Drive File Stream. “If you have a Windows or Mac laptop, you should not have to worry about how much on-board hard-drive space you have, did you sync the right thing to the right service, all of that should be managed behind the scenes for you,” Raghavan said. File Stream will handle all of this for you.

To better support the enterprise, though, Google is mostly focusing on making Drive a better service for teams. That means Team Drives, Google’s solution for enterprise file sharing that launched in preview last year, is now generally available, for example. During the preview, which lasted about six months, the team identified a number of issues, especially around permissions, that it needed to fix ahead of a general launch, and it’s now ready to open the project up to all businesses.

Also generally available now is Google Vault for Drive, which offers tools to support the archiving and data retention needs of large enterprises, especially in regulated industries. Raghavan tells me this was long overdue, but the team was waiting for the wider launch of Team Drives before moving Vault for Drive to GA, too.

With this update, Google is also bringing Quick Access from Android to iOS and the web. Quick Access uses the company’s machine learning smarts to learn from your usage patterns and interactions across its services to present you with the right files at the right time. “When you come to drive, you’re looking for a file. You know it’s there, but then you wonder if it was shared with you, if it’s a recent file, should I search for it, etc.,” Raghavan said. “We have enough machine learning power to look at your signals and serve up the file that we think you’re looking for.” This feature is now generally available in both regular Google Drive and Time Drive

The importance of creating high quality video assets for effective video marketing

In today’s fast paced digital world your marketing strategy must keep up. If you want to get impressions on social media and improve your conversions then you need strong content and appealing assets such as videos and images which will make an impact.

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Having a strong digital marketing strategy has never been more crucial for businesses today. If you want the online portion of your business to succeed, you need a unique and well-designed website. You need a product that is valuable to customers and will benefit customers in some way. Finally, you must be using social media, from Facebook to Twitter and LinkedIn, to market your product or service.

These days marketing online is all about content marketing. There is a huge amount of content available on the internet but not a lot of it is of a high quality. You want to make sure you are giving potential customers interesting content which has a high value for them. Content can come in all shapes and sizes from blogs to feature articles, to images, memes, gifs and video assets.

Posting regularly on social media channels and posting effectively is key. You need to have a strong sense of your audience, what they want and what will make them want to engage with your product. When you have done this research, you will know how to sell your product on these platforms. Video marketing comes in here, as videos are one of the best ways to raise brand awareness, get people excited about what you do, and convert viewers into paying customers.

Video assets are the most effective assets you can have. You want to invest enough money in creating strong video assets which tell the story of your brand and speak to viewers on an emotional level. With the right videos you can explain your product, tell customers how they will benefit from buying it, and make a lasting impression.

Video works because humans respond best to images and particularly moving images. Live animation videos are ideal as we respond best to other humans and the details of their facial expressions. Animations can also be great for explaining complicated products with a visual journey and simple icons.

Videos are also ideal because they can be shared on social media platforms. A huge amount of the work is done for you thanks to the power of word of mouth. People want to share content with their friends when they find it interesting, timely and relevant. If you can tailor your video content to truly speak to your audience and get them excited, you can make an unparalleled impact on your business.

Video is relatively cost effective to create, and reaps a huge return on investment for businesses. Your product is quickly demystified and you tap into the market in a relevant and effective way. With YouTube ranking as the world’s second most popular search engine, it couldn’t be clearer that video is the way forward.

Google Search App’s Revamped Carousel UI for Recipes Now Rolling Out

Back in December, it had been spotted that Google was tweaking its search interface to offer users a more refined way to look up recipes. The company is now officially rolling out the update that is sure to give culinary enthusiasts a lot more to cook up.

Google Search App's Revamped Carousel UI for Recipes Now Rolling Out

As and when the new update is made available, Google Search (aka Google app) users will now find advanced suggestions when looking up a particular recipe. A carousal of tappable suggestions will be seen below the search box, offering different versions of the same recipe. So, say you’re looking up chicken wings recipe, hitting the search will then bring up options like ‘honey’, ‘buffalo’, ‘fried chicken’ and more to please chicken wings lovers of all kinds.

Once you select a particular flavour, you’ll see recipes related to your choice from a number of popular sources with bigger cards that add more information with step-by-step instructions, according to Google’s blog post.

In addition to this, the new Search interface is also meant to help you discover new recipes that you wouldn’t otherwise have known about. All of this without having to leave your Google Search page, which is what Google has been aiming for in recent months.

In September, Google was reportedly testing a new interface to make shopping for specific outfits and home décor options easier without having to switch to a different website to purchase.

The new advanced recipe feature is currently being rolled out for Google’s mobile app with no word yet on when the feature will roll out for desktops.

Google’s Santa Tracker Revamped; Android App Gets a Pokemon Go-Like AR Game

Google's Santa Tracker Revamped; Android App Gets a Pokemon Go-Like AR GameThe holiday season is here and just like last year, Google has provided an yearly update to its Santa Tracker App on Android as well its Web version. The fun Android app and the Santa Tracker website were launched two years ago by the search giant for the purpose of entertainment and to celebrate the festive season. This year, interestingly, an augmented-reality game has been added to the Android app apart from design changes to the village.

The augmented-reality game introduced within the Santa Tracker app, called Present Quest, seems to draw its inspiration from Pokemon Go. It asks users to roam around, and using Google Maps collect gifts and drop them at Santa’s Workshop.

Apart from the mini-game, the app comes with a redesigned village and videos just like before. However, most of the videos are currently locked and will be unlocked as we reach closer to the Christmas Day. The primary feature of the app, which allows you to track Santa, will be unlocked and be available on Christmas Eve, i.e., on December 24.

Santa Tracker provides users with a countdown to the Christmas Eve and is meant to provide entertainment to people of all ages. Users of Chromecast can cast from the Android app and explore the village and track Santa’s route through their television.

The new additions to the app seem to be interesting and are likely to keep you engaged till the Christmas Eve, when you will finally be able to track Santa’s route

BSE Launches AI Mechanism to Track News Related to Listed Companies

BSE Launches AI Mechanism to Track News Related to Listed CompaniesStock market major BSE on Monday said it has launched an artificial intelligence mechanism to track “news related to listed companies” on digital media.

According to BSE, the artificial intelligence mechanism based on a systemic solution has been envisaged to deepen its regulatory oversight on newer channels of communication.

“The primary objective of verification is that the mechanism will detect and mitigate potential risks of market manipulation, rumour, and reduce information asymmetry arising from it on digital media platforms, including social media,” the BSE said in a statement.

“It provides accurate information involving listed companies and BSE through the exchange website for the benefit of investors.”

According to the regulated stock exchange, the solution employs an advanced level combination of statistical modeling and big data analytics.

“BSE will continue to deploy and enhance advanced technological innovations to track social media. This would enhance market integrity, orderly functioning and investor protection in the Indian capital markets,” the statement said.

As per the BSE, alerts generated by this social media solution will be closely monitored by BSE from the standpoint of material information and also vis-a-vis possible rumours appearing in various media including print and on-line channels as per SEBI regulations.

“Any differences observed therein are required to be explained by the companies, and their responses are then disseminated on the exchange website for the benefit of investors and market participants for taking informed decisions,” the statement said.

The BSE elaborated that in the recent past, news media has undergone a sea of changes with digital media and social media becoming the frontline in news reporting or sharing information digitally for easier, faster, and wider reach.

“Further, more and more people are embracing social media for various purposes including for their financial planning,” the statement added.

“On this background, any material news or rumour floating in the social media can have a very big potential for impacting the sentiments of the investing population which can further impact price/volumes of securities traded on exchange platforms.”

Bcapital: How Will the Brexit Impact Your Bottom Line?

No one can watch the news for five minutes without hearing about the Brexit. This is the name of the movement to take Great Britain out of the European Union. Just a few days ago, the people of Great Britain voted to make this happen. There are a lot of financial consequences to this decision. Over the past few years, many people in the country have become tired of the rules of the European Union. Immigration is really high right now, and many people feel like their culture is being taken away from them. From a financial perspective, many banks are worried about what is going to happen. Any companies with European exposure have had to plan for the consequences of this decision. 

Bcapital on Brexit Impact

How Does it Affect Me?

The Brexit will have an impact on your finances if you have any money invested in the stock market. Since the decision, the stock market is down about five percent. There will continue to be volatility in the stock market until further details of the plan roll out. Many people are concerned about what will happen to the economy of Great Britain. There are even some people in Scotland who are now demanding a vote on leaving Great Britain. If you have money invested, be prepared to ride out the volatility. Selling after the stock market goes down is never a good idea. In fact, there are a lot of buying opportunities if you know where to look. Using the services of a quality Forex trading service can help in this process.

Investing in the Brexit

Whenever there is a big market selloff, there are always opportunities to invest in companies that should not have gone down. If there is a truly domestic company, the earnings of this company should not be impacted. For example, Kroger is a company that does all of its business in the United States. Whether or not Great Britain leaves the European Union has little or no impact on the company’s earnings. Instead of panicking, now is the time to look for stocks that are on sale. BCapital is an investment firm that has experience with investing during tough times. They are a great option for anyone who needs extra guidance in this area.

Political Problems

Going into an election season, political events are going to dominate the news. The Brexit will be discussed in depth by many networks, and as an investor you need to know how this affects your portfolio. Safe investments like gold and utilities will go up during this time. Over the long term, this is a temporary setback in the overall market. If you want to earn a high return, buy into companies that were sold off for no reason. Domestic companies with little international exposure are a great play here. Using a quality Forex trading service can help in this process. There are a lot of trading services to choose from, so make sure you do your research on companies with a good reputation for helping customers. Instead of panicking, use the Brexit as an opportunity to add to your portfolio.

How you can use text messages for internal communications

BulkSMS is a great way to communicate in real-time with your clients and prospects, but do you know texting is great for internal communication too? As most people have their phones always with them, there are more chances that your SMS will be read and responded especially when compared to email. Here are a few simple ways organizations can use text messages internally with their team and leverage this efficient and fast means of communication.

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  • Reminders of meetings

A number of things are going on within an organization or company on a particular day. At times things like meetings and conference calls slip out of mind. The simple solution to this is by sending out alerts to remind professional when and where to be for meetings. You can send message to an individual or to a group.

  • Emergencies and closures

Have you ever showed up to a meeting and then you were told about the email that you probably missed about the cancellation of the meeting? This is where transactional sms proves helpful and assist to inform professionals in real-time about any meeting cancellations or office closures.

Text message is also a great way to keep your team in the loop in case of an emergency during office hours. Whether you are texting real-time instructions and updates after a natural disaster or you just want to remind your team about a day off, text message can keep everyone more protected and informed in the office.

  • Surveys

Management and the employees always try to make their office a better place to work, and with this type of cooperation real results can be seen. Employee suggestion or satisfaction surveys can be easily administered via text, by just having your employees send an bulk SMS to get a link to the survey.

  • Staffing

When it comes to recruiting more people, most of the companies prefer to hire internally, as they already know their professionals and trust them. Why go through the cost and time recruiting outside the organization, when you could advertise internal opening to present staff? Texting gives simple access for employees to available positions within the organization. Instead of constantly sending emails to your staff, all they have to do is send an text SMS to get a link to latest vacancies.

  • Use polling to plan next event

Not sure whether to have your company New Year part on Friday eve or Saturday eve? Ask your employees. Depending on the majority of votes you can decide the right time for the party or any other event.

  • Communicating to offsite staff

Suppose you have a fleet of drivers spread across the city, or a sales team always on the road- what is the simplest way to reach them? Transaction SMS. If you want to send a message instantly, text message is the best solution.

So, contact smart message service today and improve the way you communicate with your employees without breaking your bank.