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This post appears courtesy of the Ferenstein Wire, a syndicated news service. Publishing partners may edit posts. For inquiries, please email author and publisher Gregory Ferenstein.

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a controversial drone privacy bill Wednesday, declaring that it would expose hobbyists to excessive litigation. Senate Bill 142

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would have put anyone flying a drone less than 350 above someone's property on the hook for trespassing.

"This bill, however, while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation," he wrote in a veto statement [PDF]. With legislation like Bill 142, it would be easy for a hobbyist flying a drone around his neighborhood or local park to accidentally run afoul of trespassing laws. 

See also: Weaponized Drones Are Now Legal In The U.S.

Drone proponents have been carefully watching as lawmakers attempt to figure out the nuances of these airborne devices. Unchecked, an overly zealous approach to protecting public safety and privacy, could have deep implications for the drone tech industry. Threat of legal action or even criminal penalty may dampen interest in the gadgets. Here, tech makers may have just dodged a bullet.

The Trouble With Laying Down The Drone Lines

PC Magazine found that the popular DJI Phantom 3 drone lost communication when it hit 400 feet in altitude and 1,200 feet in distance. In other words, hobbyist and toy drones really aren't meant to go much beyond 350 feet.

So if residents see drones hovering over their yards, they may have just as easily come from hapless users who lost control of their devices as from tech-savvy "peeping toms." Drones are the equivalent of baseballs that occasionally end up on the neighbor's property—except, this baseball is equipped with a 12-megapixel camera.

Brown’s veto had the support of the Consumer Electronics Association, a powerful tech electronics lobby that tends to side against measures that it sees as hampering emerging technologies. The group obviously was pleased with the decision.

California isn't alone. In total, the National Conference of State Legislators counts 19 states with drone laws on the books, many of which prohibit voyeurism.

Mississippi's law literally calls it "peeping Tom" activities [PDF]. Certainly, unless a litigious neighbor catches the drone operator, it's difficult to discern whether the flying object was taking photos. And, if images were taken, the case would have to prove that the pilot intended to catch the subject undressed.

As such, drone-related privacy is a difficult thing to legislate. For now, California, the home of Silicon Valley, has erred on the side of protecting drone enthusiasts and, by extension, the drone makers that cater to them.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the Ferenstein Wire newsletter here

Lead photo by Don Mills



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WordPress can give you a nearly unlimited online market for selling just about any product or service. Many bloggers use a combination of revenue models to make money, including advertisements, affiliate marketing and promoting their own products for...

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Your website's domain name serves as its unique identification on the Internet. A registrar such as Yahoo manages domain names and reserves their use for a single specific person. As the domain owner, however, you are free to move it to another regis...

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Guest author Christopher Lochhead is a cofounding partner of Play Bigger Advisors. He wrote this post with his partners Al Ramadan and Dave Peterson.

“Gravity is working against me. And gravity wants to bring me down.” —John Mayer 

Asking why Google created Alphabet is the wrong question.

The right questions to ask are: Why did Google miss social networking? How is it that limo company Carey didn’t see the opportunity in smartphone-pow

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ered transportation and Uber's founders did? Why did it take SAP until 2011 to get into cloud apps, twelve years after the founding of Salesforce.com? And how come most of the innovation in technology security is coming from startups and not Symantec, McAfee, or Bluecoat?

Existing Markets Have Gravitational Pull

We believe the answer to these questions lie in what might be the most powerful force in business—the gravitational pull of existing markets. Gravity drags executives of existing businesses toward perfectly rationale decisions like listening to customers, meeting salespeople's requests, responding to competitors’ moves, and thinking about new features for current products.

Managers tasked with competing for market share in known categories don't question these priorities. But it turns out they are death when it comes to inventing new products, business models and market categories.

Eddie Yoon, a principal with The Cambridge Group, a consulting firm, in a landmark article for the Harvard Business Review, writes:

… category creation is the exception for large companies, not the rule. According to data in Nielsen’s Breakthrough Innovation Report, only 13% of the world’s leading consumer product companies introduced a breakthrough innovation from 2008 to 2010. Although large companies have the resources, capabilities, and growth aspirations to drive category creation, many market leaders merely sit on the sidelines watching new entrants create breakthrough products and business models.

Managing Versus Creating

The Google search business is one of the greatest technology Category Kings of all time. The search business unit is responsible for almost all of Google’s $66 billion in revenue. ComScore says Google has 67 percent market share and the space is growing at an annual rate of 26 percent At most large companies like Google, executives focus on managing and growing existing businesses. In a lot of ways they get paid to not screw up. Clearly, for Google, the smart thing to do is milk this cash cow forever.

The only problem—a legendarily awesome, high-class problem—is what about all of the new innovation Google wants to do? The gravitational pull of the search business inside Google is surely massive. 

In the blog post announcing the change to Alphabet, CEO Larry Page wrote that his cofounder “Sergey [Brin] and I are seriously in the business of starting new things.” 

If you take Larry at his word, he and Brin are decoupling managing the “as-is” business from creating “to-be” businesses. It is likely that entrepreneurially minded executives inside Google had become trapped by the inertial force of the search business. Gravity-bound executives work 80 hours a week doing business reviews, responding to customer demands, flying around hell's half-acre on sales calls, meeting with investors, and so on. That's required to run a successful operation.

The downside is that people “tinkering” on new stuff can seem irritating to executives focused on the core business. A good example of this is the troubled state of Google Now, which is falling behind competing offerings from Apple and Microsoft. Those charged with building the next great business simply don’t get much time, attention, or funding. This gravity dynamic can make it meaningfully harder for the people designing new products, business models, and categories to succeed, especially if they are competing with startups who are solely focused on new category potential. 

If any of this was the case inside Google, devising a strategy to cultivate innovation, while preserving the core business would be smart.

Rocking Out To The Next Wave Of Change

Like the '80s rock bands who used to play stadiums and now headline county fairs—any Loverboy fans still around?—the technology industry is littered with elderly Category Kings who cease to create breakthrough products and categories and lose relevancy over time. Page and Brin are clearly trying to avoid this fate.

In this context, Alphabet can be seen as a way to break the newer parts free from the gravity of the colossal search business, increasing their odds of independent success. Nest, led by the entrepreneurial CEO Tony Fadell, is a clear example.

If it works, Google could become a Category Kingmaker, while growing the core Google business at the same time. If that happens, we'll be talking about Google for decades to come. If it doesn't—well, there are always those county fairs.

Photo by Philip Cohen



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When registering a new domain and setting up a hosting account, the first step is often changing the domain’s name servers. The Domain Name System, referred to as “DNS” for short, is what instructs a visitor’s Web browser on h...

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The goal of an accountant's website should be to bring in new customers.When you're starting a new website, or redesigning an old one, there's more to it than a snappy layout and social media integration. You need a website that keeps users on the page and eventually brings them into your accounting firm. You do this by...

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This post appears courtesy of the Ferenstein Wire, a syndicated news service. Publishing partners may edit posts. For inquiries, please email author and publisher Gregory Ferenstein.

 Silicon Valley often gets knocked for a lack of diversity, but historically excluded groups are making an impressive showing at the top spot of the most valuable companies. 

Just looking at the top 10 publicly traded companies based in Silicon V

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alley by market capitalization, half are run by someone who is a woman, an immigrant, LGBT, or nonwhite. By individual demographics, 20% are women and 30% are foreign-born.

Here's a full list, with historically underrepresented groups bolded:

  1. Apple: Tim Cook
  2. Google: Sundar Pichai
  3. Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg
  4. Oracle: Safra Catz*
  5. Cisco: Chuck Robbins
  6. Intel: Brian Krzanich
  7. HP: Meg Whitman
  8. Salesforce: Marc Benioff
  9. VMware: Pat Gelsinger
  10. Adobe: Shantanu Narayen

The power of minorities, especially immigrants, became front-page news as Google promoted Indian-born Sundar Pichai to CEO. Counting Pichai here is arguable, since Pichai is in charge of Google Inc., while cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are CEO and president of Google's new, publicly traded parent company, Alphabet. But Pichai is in charge of the business that matters—the business investors are buying into and the platforms, like Android and Chrome, that developers are creating products on top of.

Pichai joins leaders such as Oracle CEO Safra Catz (an Israeli-born women) and HP CEO Meg Whitman as the changing face of business leadership. And up top, of course, there's Tim Cook, who sent a message that the many gay and lesbian employees of tech companies can aspire to the top spot when he publicly discussed his sexual orientation in an essay in Bloomberg Businessweek last year.

Researcher and writer Vivek Wadhwa has shown that 43% of Silicon Valley companies founded in the last seven years had at least one immigrant founder. But, diversity reports from tech companies show that their tech and leadership ranks are overwhelmingly white and male (usually around 60%-80%). Interestingly enough, the CEO position seems uniquely welcoming to minorities in Silicon Valley.

Redefining Tech

Careful readers could critique the statistics presented. "Tech" is an ambiguous term. The East Coast has many old-school technology companies, like AT&T and Verizon, both run by white men. But outside the Bay Area, there's also Satya Nadella, CEO of Washington-based Microsoft, another Indian-born American, and Ginni Rometty, a woman who runs New York-based IBM.

Whitman's place on this list is tentative. Hewlett-Packard will split into two companies in November, HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and depending on how the market reacts, she may fall out of the top 10. No matter. Waiting in the wings is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Her company currently ranks just outside the top 10.

To be sure, there is a lack of diversity within the range of minority groups. There is a conspicuous absence of black or Latino CEOs, even though both groups make up a substantial part of the US. That reflects a similar lack of diversity within Silicon Valley's most valuable companies. Pinterest recently revealed that only 3 percent of its employees were African-American, Hispanic, or Latino.

There is no purely objective way to measure diversity in the tech industry, because both are fuzzy concepts. Whatever the definition of of "Silicon Valley" includes, it's clear that groups historically excluded from leadership are making strides in the tech industry and immigrants, especially, have made valuable contributions to the US economy.

There's much more to go until the ranks of CEOs are a true reflection of the American population. But that shouldn't blind us to the progress that is being made.

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Guest author Tony Stubblebine is the CEO and founder of Coach.me, an online productivity community and app.

I love the job title "growth hacker." It’s an indictment of the entire field of marketing.

How many marketers had to forget to do their job before we had to create a new title to remind them about the growth part?

“Now remember, we want these ads to be funny AND ALSO, this is the part we skipped last month, get people to try our product.”

A growth hacker is a marketer who also has responsibility fo

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r the results of their work.

The theme that’s driving new job titles is this: responsibility.People are starting to use the phrase "full-stack engineer."

Usually they think of the stack as being multiple technical layers, i.e. the engineer knows how to write code and install it on the server!

What I hope is that "full-stack engineer" comes to imply some nontechnical layers. What if you built code and then verified that people used it?

We actually do have a word for that type of engineer: hacker. A hacker writes just enough code to get the impact they are looking for.

Work With Impact

Hacker is the only job title that consistently implies having responsibility for impact.

I haven’t yet heard of a new job title for designers, although I think they need one. If you design products that are meant to be used, are you then a design hacker?

That’s crazy. But what do you call designing for Dribbble and designing for products sold by the Fortune 500? Those are two very different modes of design.

You always put something polished and pretty on Dribbble, but for the real products you’re in rapid iteration mode because each exposure to reality is teaching you that you don’t know shit. That’s design hacking.

Probably my least favorite characteristic to hear within a job description is "craftsmanship." Almost definitely the person is saying that the quality of the work is defined by the aesthetic values of peers, rather than by the happiness of the end user.

Hacking and craftsmanship are presented as being at odds. It’s Google culture vs. Facebook culture.

But sometimes, craftsmanship and hacking comes together into something that is both well made and well liked. Unfortunately, we don’t have a word that means that unambiguously.

I would want to say professional. A professional programmer needs to take responsibility for code that is well crafted and matters. But if I said that I was looking to hire for professionalism, I’d hear from a bunch of programmers who were really rigorous about writing unit tests.

Another word for this combination of skills is "unicorn," as if this is an impossibly rare and difficult standard. (Before it was used to describe highly valued startups, "unicorn" was frequently used in recruiting circles to describe hard-to-find candidates.)

One of my coworkers—an engineer, designer, founder, seamstress, public speaker, i.e. supposed unicorn—calls engineers with product design sense “the secret weapon of startups.”

Horning In On A New Career Path

But I hate the word "unicorn" because it implies that being able to take a project from idea through execution through launch is some sort of magical feat.

Yo, we’ve been talking for years about how making startups got a lot easier and cheaper. What are the career development implications of that?

If you can turn yourself into a software developer from one summer of cut-and-paste from Stack Overflow, then you can turn yourself into a unicorn in two summers.

In other words, unicorn could be a normal career path.

Now, I have a friend who is working on self-driving cars. I think that there is some hard computer science involved. This friend could be a software engineer specialist. That seems fine to me.

But everyone else? Especially in startupland, why don’t you just demand that every single person in your company become triple-threat unicorns? Design-> Construct-> Market.

You’ll get weird pushback from people who built their identities around being a specialist.

“Yo, I’m a 24-year old expert on this technology that was just released 4 months ago.”  — Junior Developer

But actually, working all three areas—design, construction and marketing—makes the core competency stronger.

“Yes, maybe a map would be a good way for people to browse our products. I’ll put a simple version on the site this afternoon.” — Senior Developer

I’m thinking about a different coworker, a first-time marketer. This person is responsible for about half of our revenue — so very strong job performance. They also edit source code directly in GitHub (mostly copy), pull performance reports directly from the database (via Rails console connected to a Replica database), and design-hack marketing iterations based on A/B data.

That’s what a newly-minted unicorn looks like. All of that was learned on the job. In other words, you can train triple-threat employees. More importantly the rarity implied by the word "unicorn" results from our expectations of what’s possible, not any natural limit of human potential.

For the record, I am a rusty mid-level programer with an oddball specialty in regular expressions, a low-empathy, medium-utility, poorly aligned, strangely colored product designer, one-trick social-media growth hacker, a strong sales-closer with weak dollar sense, a PR hack, a small-team engineering manager, and an occasional CFO. In other words, I’m a startup CEO.

This article was originally published on Medium. It is published here by permission of the author.

Photo by Faruk Ates



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There's a new wireless technology in town, courtesy of the Wi-Fi Alliance. The group just announced a new Wi-Fi Aware certification program, which lets wireless devices discover each other, communicate and share basic information directly—no external network or additional hardware necessary. 

Users might get an alert that Fac

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ebook friends are in the same coffee shop, or a warning about how long the queue is at the airport gate. Developers can also offer more nitty gritty privacy and availability settings on an app-by-app basis. 

See also: How Google's Latest Boosts Bluetooth Beacons

Think of it like proximity technology, but one that doesn't rely on GPS or your actual physical location—only where your phone is in relation to another Wi-Fi Aware device. And, the organization claims, the new approach offers a few distinct advantages compared to other location-based approaches. 

Raising Awareness 

Developed over the past three years by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit organization backed by Microsoft, Apple, Intel and hundreds of other tech companies, Wi-Fi Aware shares a few similarities with Bluetooth settings, like those offered by beacons

Both offer proximity-based functionality, and the ability to communicate without being on the same network. However, Wi-Fi Aware doesn't rely on pre-installed transmitters and, since it's based on Wi-Fi standards, the new technology has a longer range than Bluetooth. It also lets applications offer or seek services on nearby devices and exchange basic information, without having to first making a full connection to those gadgets. 

"Devices form clusters and exchange small messages about services available nearby, enabling immediate discovery," the organization wrote in a press release. "Once an interesting service has been discovered, an app can easily initiate a Wi-Fi connection for follow-up activity such as sharing photos or playing a multiplayer game." 

Kevin Robinson, Wi-Fi Alliance director of product marketing, told ReadWrite via email that "Wi-Fi Aware improves on existing proximity offerings by delivering a here-and-now contextual awareness solution that works well indoors and in dense environments." 

He wouldn't discuss Bluetooth specifically, but noted that "a disadvantage of many existing proximity technologies is they only offer one-way conversations," he said. "So you can discover proximity to a uniquely identified service or device, but the benefits stop there." Wi-Fi Aware, however, allows for two-way conversation with no need for Internet or GPS connectivity. 

That makes it seem like a successor to Wi-Fi Direct—which lets a device create its own Wi-Fi network for other gadgets to join. It's not. The group considers Aware a complement to Direct, not a replacement. Think of it as the technology that makes the introductions and exchanges bits of basic information, but lets Wi-Fi Direct establish a fuller connection when more information (or a connection to peripherals, like printers) is involved. 

Forget Long Lines, And Short Battery Life

Plenty of proximity technologies can let users know they're near an airport security checkpoint. Apps that support Wi-Fi Aware, however, can let people know the current wait time at the checkpoint, or find other checkpoints with shorter wait times. 

The organization makes special mention of the benefits that proximity-based or "personalized" experiences can bring to social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Snapchat and others. People can find friends easily, share photos at a concert or initiate a mobile gaming session at a crowded clubhouse. Interference should be no issue; in fact, the Wi-Fi Alliance promises that Wi-Fi Aware shines in crowded settings. 

All that communication might sound like a power drain, but the group promises minimal cost to battery life. Once two or more devices are connected, it says, they adopt a common "heartbeat" where pings are synchronized to save energy. 

The certification program has only just launched, but several chipmakers have already pledged support, including Intel, Marvell, Broadcom and RealTek. Meanwhile, app updates from the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn are also expected, possibly arriving by the end of the year—which could make for an extra social, contextually aware holiday season. If it can help beat back long checkout lines, then maybe it will be a merry season indeed. 

Image courtesy of the Wi-Fi Alliance



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Oculus CTO John Carmack at Oculus Connect in 2014.

In mere months, Oculus will show off its latest cool tools for virtual reality game and app makers. The Facebook-owned company announced Thursday that its second annual developer conference, Connect 2, will get underway September 23 to 25 in Hollywood, Calif.

Developer conferences have become much more than geeky industry

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events in recent years. They’ve become hype machines for tech companies, who do their best to tempt developers into making apps—the lifeblood of any budding platform—in addition to whetting appetites among tech enthusiasts. 

See also: Oculus Will Bring Virtual Reality To Real Reality On June 11

According to Oculus, the first Connect conference last year drew a thousand attendees. This time around, those numbers could balloon, now that the VR company plans to open up consumer-ready headsets for pre-orders later this year. (The product will ship some time in early 2016.)

The developer tools also cover more than just one device: According to the company's blog post, the event will go over “everything developers need to know to launch on the Rift and Gear VR.” Samsung’s Oculus-powered Gear VR headset is also on the verge of a commercial launch for later this year. 

Expect keynote addresses from Oculus honchos Michael Abrash, John Carmack and Brendan Iribe, along with plenty of demos, likely with the very latest version of the Rift. The company plans to hold a June 11 press event in San Francisco, where it’s expected to show off the model heading to people's faces. 

In other words, VR’s about to get real. Brace those eyeballs. 

Oculus Rift invitation for June 11 press event

Images courtesy of Oculus



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