Tolerance

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It means two things:

In high-quality manufacturing, producing to tolerance means that all the parts are as identical as possible. Getting the tolerances precise permits cars to be made more reliably, and for production to run more effectively.

In human beings, tolerance creates resilience. Tolerance of different abilities and preferences makes it easy to work with diversity of thought and approach and expertise, enabling better outcomes.

Tolerance doesn’t mean permitting behavior that undermines the community. In fact, it requires that we put the community first. Instead, it’s a willingness to focus on contribution instead of compliance.

We need to choose wisely. Are we working with machined parts or with people?

January 20th 2021 Uncategorized

Alibaba shares jump on Jack Ma’s first appearance in 3 months

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Alibaba’s billionaire founder resurfaced as he spoke to 100 rural teachers through a video call, three months after his last public appearance in October, sending the e-commerce firm’s shares up more than 8% in Hong Kong.

A recording of the call was first posted on a news portal backed by the government of Zhejiang, the eastern province where Alibaba is headquartered, and the video was verified by an Alibaba spokesperson.

Speculations swirled around Ma’s whereabouts after media reported in December that he skipped the taping of a TV program he created. Ma, known for his love for the limelight, has seen his e-commerce empire Alibaba and fintech giant Ant Group increasingly in the crosshairs of the Chinese authorities in recent months.

Ma last appeared publicly at a conference where he castigated China’s financial regulatory system in front of a room of high-ranked officials. His controversial remark, according to reports, prompted the Chinese regulator to abruptly halt Ant’s initial public offering, which would have been the biggest public share sale of all time.

Ant has since been working on corporate restructuring and regulatory compliance under the directions of the government. Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce platform, also came under scrutiny as market regulators opened an investigation into its alleged monopolistic practices.

Some argue that the recent clampdown on Jack Ma’s internet empire signals Beijing’s growing unease with the country’s super-rich and private-sector power brokers.

“Today, Alibaba and its archrival, Tencent, control more personal data and are more intimately involved in everyday life in China than Google, Facebook and other American tech titans are in the United States. And just like their American counterparts, the Chinese giants sometimes bully smaller competitors and kill innovation,” wrote Li Yuan for the New York Times.

“You don’t have to be a member of the Communist Party to see reasons to rein them in.”

In the 50-second clip, Ma is seen talking directly into the camera against what appears to be decorative paintings depicting a water town typical of Zhejiang. An art history book is shown amid a stack of books, alongside a vase of fresh flowers and a ceramic figurine of a stout, reclining man who looks relaxed and content.

Ma addressed the 100 teachers receiving the Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award, which was set up by the Jack Ma Foundation to identify outstanding rural teachers every year. The video also briefly shows Ma visiting a rural boarding school in Zhejiang on January 10. The award ceremony was moved online this year due to the pandemic, Ma told the award recipients.

When Ma announced his retirement plan, he pledged to return to his teaching roots and devote more time to education philanthropy, though the founder still holds considerable sway over Alibaba by keeping a seat in the powerful Alibaba Partnership. The legendary billionaire began his career as an English teacher in Hangzhou, and on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, he nicknames himself the “ambassador for rural teachers.”

January 20th 2021 Uncategorized

Landbot closes $8M Series A for its ‘no code’ chatbot builder

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Barcelona-based Landbot, a ‘no-code’ chatbot builder, has bagged a $8M Series A led by the Spanish-Israeli VC firm Swanlaab, alongside support from Spain’s innovation-focused public agency, CDTI. Previous investors Nauta Capital, Encomenda and Bankinter also participated in the round.

We last chatted to Landbot back in 2018 when it raised a $2.2M seed and had 900+ customers. It’s grown that to ~2,200 paying customers, with some 50,000 individuals now using its tool (across both free and paid accounts).

Since its seed it’s also increased recurrent revenues 10x — and is expecting growth to keep stepping up, fuelled by the new financing.

It says the coronavirus pandemic has supercharged demand for conversational landing pages as all sorts of businesses look for ways to automate higher volumes of digitally inbound customer comms, without needing to make major investments in in-house IT.

Landbot’s customers range from SMEs to specific teams and products within larger organisations, with the startup name-checking the likes of Nestlé, MediaMarkt, CocaCola, Cepsa, PcComponentes and Prudential among its customer roster.

“We are seeing strong traction from industries like eCommerce, Financial Services and Marketing Agencies,” CEO & co-founder Jiaqi Pan tells TechCrunch. “The ecommerce segment is one we have seen the most growth in since COVID-19, where we increased 2x the number of customers from ecommerce industry.”

The new funding will be used to double Landbot’s team during 2021 (currently it employs 40 people) — with hiring planned across sales, marketing and engineering.

The startup, which launched its ‘no code’ flavor of chatbot builder back in 2017, previously relocated HQ from Valencia to Barcelona to help with recruitment.

Since Landbot’s launch, the burgeoning ‘no code/low code’ movement has become a fully fledged trend driven by demand for productivity- and lead-boosting digital services outstripping most businesses’ supply of expert in-house techies able to build stuff.

Hence the rise of service-builder tools that make customizable tech capabilities accessible to non-technical staff.

The pandemic has merely poured more fuel on this fire — and low-friction tools like Landbot are clearly reaping the rewards.

Interestingly, as well as competing with other conversational chatbot builders, like San Francisco-based ManyChat, Landbot says it’s seeing traction from customers who are seeking to replace web forms with more engaging chat interfaces.

Its drag-and-drop chatbot builder tool supports information workers to design what Landbot bills as “an immersive web page experience filled with gifs and visual elements to capture the attention of the end-user” — so you can understand the appeal for SMEs to be able to replace their boring old static forms with an experience any smartphone user is familiar with from using messaging apps like WhatsApp.

“In terms of the main competitor in the no-code space, we have some overlap with ManyChat as the most direct competitor for Chatbot. On the other hand, as we have a lot of customers using us to replace their forms we are competing also against form builders like Typeform,” says Pan, the latter another Barcelona-based startup which similarly bills itself as a platform for “conversational” and “interactive” data collection.

Landbot notes it recently acquired India-based Morph.AI, a chat-based marketing automation tool, which it’s using to help convert social, website and ad traffic into leads — also with the aim of further expanding into presence in the Asian market.

To date, 90% of its customers are international, with 60% coming from the U.S., U.K. and Germany.

Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Juan Revuelta, general partner of Swanlaab, said: “The beauty of Landbot is in the drag and drop solution of the product. The simplicity is critical to making this product accessible to everyone across many different types of business. If you’re a small company you don’t have the luxury of time or money to solve issues in customer service or run lavish marketing campaigns.

“Landbot helps all businesses to have truly frictionless conversations with customers and exchange the data they need to make smarter decisions and scale. The team has had a remarkable 2020, and we’re excited to support them in helping more businesses this year.”

January 20th 2021 Uncategorized

Comic for January 19, 2021

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Dilbert readers – Please visit Dilbert.com to read this feature. Due to changes with our feeds, we are now making this RSS feed a link to Dilbert.com.

January 20th 2021 Uncategorized

Former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski among list of last-minute Trump pardons

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Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer and serial entrepreneur who had been sentenced to 18 months in prison on one count of stealing trade secrets, has received a pardon from President Donald Trump.

The full pardon, which was one of 73 issued late Tuesday evening, means Levandowski will avoid a prison cell. The president also commuted 70 sentences. Levandowski received his sentence in August 2020. However, Judge Alsup, who presided over the case, said he didn’t need to report to prison until the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic had passed.

Levandowski could not be reached for comment.

Levandowski’s pardon was supported by technology founders and investors, including Founders Fund’s co-founder Peter Thiel and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey;  trial lawyers Miles Ehrlich and Amy Craig; and businessman and investor Michael Ovitz. Other people connected to Thiel organizations also supported Levandowski, including Trae Stephens, partner at Founders Fund and Blake Masters, who is COO at Thiel Capital and president of The Thiel Foundation.

Here is the full description, which includes people who supported the pardon, that was posted by the White House:

Anthony Levandowski — President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski. This pardon is strongly supported by James Ramsey, Peter Thiel, Miles Ehrlich, Amy Craig, Michael Ovitz, Palmer Luckey, Ryan Petersen, Ken Goldberg, Mike Jensen, Nate Schimmel, Trae Stephens, Blake Masters, and James Proud, among others. Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology. Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation. Notably, his sentencing judge called him a “brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs.” Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.

Levandowski has been a polarizing figure in the autonomous vehicle industry. He is by all accounts — even among some of his harshest critics — a brilliant engineer. His bravado and risk-taking combined with a likable, even affable personality won him followers and rivals.

He has been vilified as a thieving tech bro, unceremoniously ejected from Uber, and forced into bankruptcy by a $179 million award against him. He has also been heralded as a star engineer who was an early pioneer of autonomous vehicles. Levandowski was one of the founding members in 2009 of the Google self-driving project, which was internally called Project Chauffeur. He was rewarded handsomely  — about $127 million by Google — for his work on Project Chauffeur, according to the court documents.

The criminal case that led to Levandowski’s sentencing in August is part of a multi-year legal saga that has entangled Levandowksi, Uber and Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that is now a business under Alphabet.

In 2016, Levandowski left Google and started Otto with three other Google veterans: Lior Ron, Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette. Uber acquired Otto less than eight months later. Two months after the acquisition, Google made two arbitration demands against Levandowski and Ron. Uber wasn’t a party to either arbitration. However, under the indemnification agreement between Uber and Levandowski, the company was compelled to defend him.

While the arbitrations played out, Waymo separately filed a lawsuit against Uber in February 2017 for trade secret theft and patent infringement. Waymo alleged in the suit, which went to trial but ended in a settlement in 2018, that Levandowski stole trade secrets, which were then used by Uber.

Under the settlement, Uber agreed to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into their hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement that included 0.34% of Uber equity, per its Series G-1 round $72 billion valuation. That calculated at the time to about $244.8 million in Uber equity.

While Levandowski wasn’t a defendant in the Waymo v Uber suit, he would soon face a bigger obstacle.

In August 2019, the U.S. District Attorney charged Levandowski alone with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets while working at Google. Levandowski and the U.S. District Attorney reached a plea deal in March 2020. Under that agreement, Levandowski admitted to downloading thousands of files related to Project Chauffeur. Specifically, he pleaded guilty to count 33 of the indictment, which is related to taking what was known as the Chauffeur Weekly Update, a spreadsheet that contained a variety of details including quarterly goals and weekly metrics as well as summaries of 15 technical challenges faced by the program and notes related to previous challenges that had been overcome.

The U.S. District Attorney’s office had recommended a 27-month sentence. Levandowski had sought a fine, 12 months home confinement and 200 hours of community service. Alsup ultimately determined that home confinement would “[give] a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets. Prison time is the answer to that.”

Instead, Alsup sentenced Lewandowski to 18 months, but delayed his prison time until the pandemic was under control. Levandowski also agreed to pay $756,499.22 in restitution to Waymo and a fine of $95,000.

January 20th 2021 Google

Changing the narrative around mental health at work

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It can be debilitatingly lonely to live with a mental health disorder. I began my mental health journey in 2013, when I was diagnosed with depression in my final year of college. Soon after, I began publicly writing about my experience. I found that sharing about my mental health helped me and others in so many ways, especially in places where there is still a lot of stigma. People would message me and say, “Thank you, I thought I was the only one going through this.” I’ve been a mental health advocate ever since. Building a sense of shared experience and normalizing these conversations is so important. 

I was reminded of the value of open communication when I first joined Google in Singapore in early 2019. I am currently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD). Because of my PTSD, situations like one-on-one meetings in enclosed spaces could be panic-inducing. Thankfully, I trusted my manager enough to share this, and she was incredibly supportive. She suggested meeting at our open cafes or taking calls from home, and she shared about mental health resources available at Google. Her compassion, understanding and guidance meant a lot and helped me find my way.  

Through her recommendation, I also became an active member of Blue Dot at Google, our global peer support network that aims to destigmatize mental health conversations. In Singapore, we organize programs like mental health conferences and Blue Dot booths to raise awareness of these issues. I also spoke on an internal panel called “You Can’t Ask That,” aimed at addressing potentially sensitive questions around stigma and mental health. These programs create spaces for community, learning and compassionate listening. 

I’ve learned people just want to have a safe space where they can put down their armor and be vulnerable—yes, even in the workplace. Organizations of all sizes need to place a stronger emphasis on employees’ mental wellbeing, especially during tough times, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

After working at Google for almost two years, seeing how the company approaches mental health has been reaffirming—from employee resource groups and assistance programs that offer confidential counselling to company-wide days off to make sure people aren’t burnt out. I am heartened that we also often see leaders speaking openly about their mental health, encouraging an open, supportive and inclusive work culture. 

Being able to share my experience, and listen to how others are going through their journey has helped me feel less alone and find meaning. Whether in the workplace or outside, I want to tell those who may be struggling in silence: You’re never alone. Help is available, don’t be afraid to ask for it. You’ve got this! 

January 20th 2021 Uncategorized

$550? There’s a Reason AirPods Max Cost So Much

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WebProNews
$550? There’s a Reason AirPods Max Cost So Much

When Apple released the over-ear AirPods Max in December, the headphones came with a staggering $550 price tag. According to iFixIt, there’s a good reason.

iFixIt is well known for its teardowns of popular tech. Whenever a device or gadget comes out, the site is quick to break it down to its component parts and give readers the low-down on what makes it tick

The AirPods Max didn’t disappoint, with iFixIt’s teardown showing the sophistication of Apple’s most recent headphones.

With all their intricate, precision-engineered parts, AirPods Max remind us more of a mechanical watch than of any pair of headphones

There was no comparison between the AirPods Max and competitors.

And after tearing down some of the competition, we’re more understanding of that $550 price tag. Sony and Bose both charge less, but internally, the AirPods Max’s obsessive craftsmanship makes those other extremely capable devices look like toys by comparison.

Perhaps most significantly, these are also the first AirPods that are user serviceable, earning a score of 6 out of 10.

$550? There’s a Reason AirPods Max Cost So Much
Matt Milano

January 20th 2021 apple

India Wants WhatsApp to Abandon Its Planned Privacy Changes

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WebProNews
India Wants WhatsApp to Abandon Its Planned Privacy Changes

India has asked WhatsApp to reconsider its announced privacy changes, the latest backlash the company is facing.

WhatsApp made headlines when it notified users it was changing its privacy terms. Under the new terms, the company would share data it collects with other Facebook-owned companies, regardless of whether users have accounts with them or not. Users originally had until February 8 to accept the terms or stop using WhatsApp.

Needless to say, the backlash was swift and severe. Users began abandoning WhatsApp, migrating to Signal and Telegram, while new downloads of WhatsApp plummeted. As a result, the company announced it was moving back the implementation date till May 15.

In the meantime, however, India is asking WhatsApp to abandon the plans altogether, according to Reuters.

“The proposed changes raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens,” wrote the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in an email to WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart and seen by Reuters. “Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes.”

Given how popular WhatsApp is in India, not to mention the company’s plans to expand its services there, India’s request could pose significant issues for WhatsApp’s proposed changes.

India Wants WhatsApp to Abandon Its Planned Privacy Changes
Matt Milano

January 20th 2021 Facebook

Reddit Updates the Technology Behind Its Avatars

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Reddit’s updates for the period from Jan. 6 through 19 were highlighted by sprucing up its avatars and revamping its notifications experience. The foundational technology behind avatars was updated to make them more scalable and secure and give them better telemetry. This enables Redditors to do things like change the color of their beard without…

January 20th 2021 Uncategorized

Oracle Forms New Cloud and AI Organization

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WebProNews
Oracle Forms New Cloud and AI Organization

Oracle has formed a new organization, focused on the cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) and helmed by executive VP Don Johnson.

Oracle has been making significant headway in the cloud market, although it still lags behind market leaders AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Nonetheless, the company is doubling down on its cloud and AI business, and has scored some big wins agains its bigger rivals.

According to Business Insider, Oracle is tapping Don Johnson, the former Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) boss to run the new organization, called Oracle Cloud Platform & AI Services. Johnson was once considered a top contender for the co-CEO job, making his appointment to the new role an indication of its importance.

Interestingly, the new organization does not replace or operate independently of OCI, but will serve as an extension and expansion of it.

“It’s important to note: this is an extension of OCI, not a division of it,” said an email announcing the change that was seen by Business Insider. “Together we’ll operate this as a unified OCI team, with a common all-hands, product roadmap, the usual meetings and processes, etc. One big tent and a common culture.”

The email also emphasized how much the company is betting on the cloud moving forward.

“Oracle is now fundamentally a cloud company, with a clear and simple vision: a marriage of the best cloud infrastructure, and leading data platform, together with the most pervasive cloud applications,” the email continued.

Oracle Forms New Cloud and AI Organization
Matt Milano

January 20th 2021 Uncategorized