Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sourcing photos: Sexy women edition

One of my biggest pet peeves is when websites fail to provide attribution for photos.
Content aggregation websites are notorious for grabbing photos online and not saying where they came from.
Many times I’d like to know more information about a photo, such as when and where it was taken, who’s pictured and what exactly is going on.
It’s good online etiquette to provide credit where credit is due. And, while there are fair use applications, copyright issues also come into play.
Lately on Yahoo websites, I’ve seen ads featuring photos of sexy women with the caption “Google Banned This Video! This Shocking Video Went Viral In Days.” I don’t know what product they’re pushing because I haven’t clicked on the ads. (Update: the advertiser is Money Map Press.)
But I wondered where the ad makers got their photos of busty young ladies out having a good time. So I did a Google reverse image search on photos from two of the ads.
One of the photos was easy to identify. It’s of English actress-model Helen Flanagan in the back seat of a car in February 2012. The photos are credited to Splash News Online, according to the Daily Mail. (See two photos at top.)
I wonder if she or the photographer knows it’s being used in an advert, as the Brits say.
The other photo is still somewhat of a mystery. I found a version of it dating back to April 2008. That website appears to credit photographer Mark “The Cobrasnake” Hunter, which makes sense because he takes a lot of wild nightclub and party pictures. But I can’t find confirmation of that.
Over the years, this particular photo has been used on dozens of websites, usually in collections of pictures of hot women.
Anybody have any info on that photo?

Photos: Top two show English actress-model Helen Flanagan; bottom two show an unidentified woman from an unknown photographer.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

About.me: Great site for consolidating your online presence

People today leave a lot of footprints online through their various social networks and creative websites.
About.me is a free service that consolidates your online presence. It’s a place where you can put links to all the websites that define you: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, Flickr, etc.
Each person gets an individual page to list their background and their websites in as much detail as they’d like. They can top it off with a full-screen hero image of themselves to create a super attractive personal page.
But About.me has one other big plus: the ability to contact any member directly. It doesn’t display member email addresses, but has an app that forwards messages to the recipient’s email box.
This is a great function that I’ve already used successfully. It may not be that important to most people, but to journalists like me it’s a great tool. We’re often trying to contact strangers to get or exchange information.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services have ways for people to contact someone they don’t yet know. But none of their solutions are as simple and elegant as About.me.

Photo: Sample About.me profile page highlighting some features.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Adults could follow teens in abandoning Facebook

It’s not hard for me to imagine Facebook going the way of MySpace. The social network is a mess and becoming less relevant to users by the day in my estimation.
A controversial study by researchers at Princeton University predicted recently that Facebook could lose 80% of its users by 2017. The study was debunked by Facebook data scientists and others for its use of Google search data to predict engagement trends rather than studying actual engagement trends. Facebook called the study “utter nonsense,” according to TechCrunch.
The study got a lot of coverage in the U.S. because it played into what a lot of people already feel about the massive social network.
People are expressing a lot of frustration with Facebook as it ramps up advertising and constantly tweaks its News Feed algorithms, changing what information is presented to users.
Facebook faces competition from mobile apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat and other networks like Twitter and Google+.
Facebook may be healthy today, with 728 million daily active users and 1.19 billion monthly active users as of Sept. 30, but online audiences can be fickle.
Articles have been trickling out about discontent among Facebook users.
First, reports started showing young people abandoning Facebook. A European study said Facebook “is dead and buried” to older teenagers, who prefer Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat.
A study by iStrategyLabs earlier this month said Facebook has lost 59% of its college users and 25% of its teenage users in the last three years, IBD reported.
Freelance analyst Benedict Evans says Facebook’s core product, News Feed, is “broken” and has “collapsed under its own weight.”
Too many items clutter people’s news feeds and users can’t read it all and have a difficult time finding things that are relevant to their lives, he said, according to Business Insider.
Facebook is overstuffed with news articles, videos, photos, Internet memes, status updates, games and, increasingly, advertisements. It suffers from featuritis or feature creep. It does everything, but does nothing well.
At worst, Facebook will become like Yahoo, with billions of users, but no one really thinks about it much, Evans said.
In a video, science blogger Derek Muller slammed Facebook for the changes it’s making to the algorithms on its News Feed.
“The problem with Facebook is that it’s keeping things from you,” Muller said. “You don’t see most of what’s posted by your friends or the pages you follow.”
Facebook is now treating content providers like advertisers, trying to get them to pay for better placement in users’ news feeds, Business Insider reported.
Personally, I’ve never been a big Facebook user.
First, I used it mainly as a bookmarking service for interesting articles, because its ubiquitous like and share buttons made that easy. But finding those articles on Facebook now is quite difficult.
Later, for grins, I used Facebook to communicate with dozens of Googlegangers around the world. But friending other men named Patrick Seitz lost its appeal and I eventually unfriended them all.
I also used Facebook to connect with a childhood friend, which was nice. But there are multiple ways to do that now, such as through Twitter, LinkedIn, About.me and other services.
I still keep two Facebook accounts (one personal and one for work), but I don’t visit them very often. The big question is: Are other people feeling the same way?

Photo: Screenshot of my Facebook page with my Googlegangers.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Johnny-come-latelies with 2014 predictions

Some prognosticators were procrastinators with their 2014 predictions.
Here’s a round-up of interesting predictions for 2014 that came in after my last few articles on the subject.
Of course, we might not even finish the year since Norse mythology has the end of the world set for Feb. 22. The Viking apocalypse is called Ragnarok. (See articles in the Daily Mail and Mirror.)

Christian commentator Pat Robertson

Christian media mogul Pat Robertson made some 2014 predictions in an interview on CBN.

Economic crisis in China

“Sometime during the year there’s going to be some kind of a credit crisis,” he said. “And I think China is going to lead the way. That whole economy is like a house of cards. And when it starts falling, it’s going to affect the entire world.”

Iran gets a nuke

“I do believe the Iranians will have a nuclear device before the end of the year,” he said. “And (President) Obama is using a tactic of containment that’s not going to work.”

Problems for President Obama

“I think the president will be severely hampered. America is going to turn against him much more so than now as that Affordable Care thing starts biting hard as it is. He’s going to be discredited terribly.”
Robertson says Obama will avoid governing and instead devote his time to traveling.

Differing predictions on ObamaCare

While Robertson thinks ObamaCare will be a disaster in 2014, Byron Wien, vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Partners, thinks the problem-plagued health care program will turn itself around.
“The Affordable Care Act has a remarkable turnaround,” Wien predicted. “The computer access problems are significantly diminished and younger people begin signing up.”

M&A

Apple will buy TiVo, predicts Dan Mirkin of Trade Ideas.

Liberty Media, Charter or Comcast will buy Time Warner Cable, predicts BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield.

Verizon will acquire Intel Media and launch the country’s first virtual cable TV service, Greenfield says.

Microsoft will buy one or two media companies, says Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute. The outcome of these moves will pave the way for further media purchases by non-media companies throughout the year.
“It’s going to open the floodgates and 2014 will be marked as the year that non-media companies started buying media companies and you’re just going to see it take off,” Pulizzi said.

Yahoo will buy Business Insider, predicts Chris Ciaccia, technology editor for The Street.
“(Yahoo CEO Marissa) Mayer has been acquiring talent, most recently David Pogue of the New York Times and Katie Couric,” Ciaccia said. “The two companies already have a close relationship, with Business Insider CEO and Editor in Chief Henry Blodget appearing frequently on Yahoo Finance programs.”

Jawbone, Fitbit or both will get acquired, Ciaccia said. Both play in the wearable technology and fitness device market. Potential buyers include Nike, which already makes the Nike Fuelband, and Under Armour, which acquired MapMyFitness for $150 million in November.

IPOs

Uber and Lending Club will go public, says Howard Lindzon of StockTwits.

Hillary Clinton won’t run for president

“Hillary Clinton decides not to run for President in 2016,” Blackstone’s Wien predicted. “She says her work with various Clinton non-for-profit initiatives is important and unfinished. Specifically, she explains that her health was not an issue in her decision. The Democratic race for the top seat becomes chaotic.”

Differing predictions on smartwatches

“Smartwatches are dead in 2014,” wrote Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies. “All attempts at creating a smart watch for the masses have failed. The ones on the market today only appeal to male geeks and ultra early adopters Although we may sell as much as 1.5 million smart watches in 2014, unless someone masters the issue of elegant design and style matched with non geeky technology, they are not going to be a product for the mass market anytime soon.”

But Avram Piltch, online editorial director for Laptop, sees things differently.
Smartwatches will “finally break through” in 2014, Piltch predicts. “In 2014, we expect Google and Apple to enter the smartwatch market in a big way. With Apple’s ability to leverage Siri and Google’s Google Now, both companies have assistant services that should work really well on your wrist, along with the ability to mass produce electronics at reasonable prices. Samsung will step up its game with a follow-up to the Galaxy Gear.”

Google Glass goes mainstream

Google’s computer glasses, Google Glass, will attempt to reach a larger audience in 2014. In 2013, the cyborg headsets were made available to early adopters for $1,500 each.
Dan Rowinski, mobile editor at ReadWrite, predicts that Google will announce a retail version of the device for $299 at its Google I/O conference in May.

Forbes contributing writer Mark Rogowsky thinks Google Glass will go commercial, but cautiously.
“Knowing that a full-on commercial launch of a low-priced Google Glass would be met with failure, Google instead releases Glass as a ‘Beta Edition’ for $699,” he predicted. “With a decent supply of apps, early adopters find the functionality very satisfying even while the battery life remains absolutely atrocious. Talk immediately turns to Google Glass 2.0, which is shown just months later, is much more stylish, but has very vague answers about the battery.”

Adam Kmiec, director of global digital marketing and social media, Campbell Soup Company, believes Google Glass “will flop, UNLESS the consumer version has a built in cellular connection.”

Snapchat crashes

At least two prognosticators predict that photo-sharing service Snapchat will crash in 2014.

“Snapchat will implode,” Kmiec says. “It will grow its user base, but won’t figure out how to monetize the platform. All the while, Facebook/Instagram, Twitter and Google will come up with extensions to their platforms that will provide the basic utility of SnapChat, but for a mass audience.”

The Snapchat valuation bubble will burst, The Street’s Ciaccia predicted. The popular messaging app that allows users to send messages to their friends and have them disappear within 10 seconds has been valued at $2 billion. It reportedly turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook and a $4 billion offer from Google.

Photo: Fortune Teller windows by Flickr user Scott Swigart.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

AVN porn award for clever title of the year

Those offended by pornography or sexually oriented humor please read no further.
The AVN Awards for porn were handed out Saturday night in Las Vegas. The only award that interests me (of the 120 video awards given) is the Clever Title of the Year. It appeals to my adolescent sense of humor.
This year, there were 15 nominees. Runners up included “Cray Cray Vajayjay,” “Gone Black … Not Coming Back,” “London Bitches Falling Down,” “Look Dad, I’m in Porn!,” “My Pussy Ain’t Gonna Lick Itself,” “Pump’r in the Dumper” and “Vags With Badges.”
The winner was the Cirque du Soleil parody “Cirque du Hole-A.” This was the sixth year for the award.

Here’s a list of winners to date (updated Jan. 23, 2017):

2009   Strollin’ in the Colon
2010   Who’s Nailin’ Paylin?
2011   The Devil Wears Nada
2012   Beggin’ for a Peggin’
2013   Does This Dick Make My Ass Look Big?
2014   Cirque du Hole-A
2015   12 Inches a Slave
2016   That Rapper Destroyed My Crapper
2017   Aunts in My Pants

No “Abercrombie & Bitch”

Speaking of clever titles, “Abercrombie & Bitch XXX,” a porn movie announced last May, was cancelled.
The movie would have parodied controversial clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch and its CEO Mike Jefferies, AVN reported.
But adult film star Kelly Shibari, who was involved in the project, told me via e-mail Sunday that the project “never happened.”

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hustler parodies Obama administration in new porn movie, ‘White House Orgy’

After screwing America, the Obama administration is now screwing each other, at least in a new porn parody.
Porn studio Hustler Video, run by provocateur and First Amendment supporter Larry Flynt, has just released a new X-rated movie mocking President Barack Obama and his cabinet.
“White House Orgy” marks the fifth porn movie to parody Obama. It is the first since the 2010 release “Barrack’s Presidential Briefs.”
A summary of the plot, if there is any, isn’t readily available. “White House Orgy” is described as a parody movie featuring fantasized versions of the president of the United States, his wife and certain well-known political figures from his administration.
“White House Orgy” was directed by Will Ryder and stars Tyler Knight as President Obama. Mark Wood plays Vice President Joe Biden and Eric John plays Secretary of State John Kerry.
The movie is clearly a “fantasized” version of reality because the women in it are a lot hotter than their real-life counterparts.
Megan Vaughn plays First Lady Michelle Obama. Claudia Valentine plays Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Bonnie Rotten plays Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Mia Gold plays Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Layton Benton plays National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
Here are photos of those public figures and the women who play them in the movie.

First Lady Michelle Obama.

Actress Megan Vaughn as Michelle Obama.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Actress Claudia Valentine as Sonia Sotomayor.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Actress Bonnie Rotten as Janet Napolitano.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Actress Mia Gold as Kathleen Sebelius.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

Actress Layton Benton as Susan Rice.

In May, satirical news website the Onion ran an article titled “Obama Fed Grapes While Urging Press Conference To Enjoy Orgy.” The article may have served as inspiration for Hustler’s porn movie “White House Orgy.” Or it could just be an interesting coincidence.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Yahoo gets a failing grade for its over-aggregation of news

When Yahoo introduced a mobile news app at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, I was struck by how liberally it applied the principle of “fair use.”
Yahoo is likely to face the same charges of over-aggregation as other digital media sites like AOL’s Huffington Post.
But Yahoo’s new mobile app, Yahoo News Digest, is worse than HuffPo when it comes to taking information from other media organizations.
When HuffPo does an aggregated news story, it adds attribution and Web links to sources throughout the article. When Yahoo News Digest does an aggregated news story, it takes information from multiple sources and doesn’t provide attribution for any individual pieces of information. Instead it adds a bibliography of sources way at the bottom of the article and leaves it to the reader to figure out what came from where.
That would get a failing grade on a high-school research paper and is unacceptable in the news business. You always have to source your articles, especially if you take information from another publication.
This steps over the line of fair use.
Fair use is a legal exemption to copyright law. It allows people to quote passages of a book in order to review it or quote from a news article to comment on it.
Yahoo is taking shortcuts that short change the original sources of the news it is aggregating.
It’s not enough to include the words “Summarized by Yahoo” at the end of an article, followed by graphics, maps, photos, videos, tweets and then, buried at the end, include a button for “references.”

‘Fair use’ is OK for Yahoo, but not for Yahoo users 

Ironically Yahoo gives itself broad leeway when it comes to defining fair use for its content practices, but holds its users to a much stricter standard.
Last summer, I wrote about how Yahoo-owned Tumblr terminated my account and my three blogs after getting two questionable complaints about copyright infringement from one photographer.
I claimed fair use, but Yahoo didn’t care. It deleted my content and never responded to my appeal.

Photos: Screenshot of Yahoo News Digest (top); and Nick D’Aloisio, creator of Summly and now Yahoo product manager, mobile and emerging products, introduces Yahoo News Digest at CES (CEA photo

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Smart devices trend cluttered CES with non-traditional consumer electronics

Following up on my earlier post about the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, here are some final observations about the show.

Are dishwashers consumer electronics? 

One of the big trends at this year’s CES was the focus by major manufacturers on household appliances that most people wouldn’t consider consumer electronics.
But the addition of computer chips to dumb devices has put them in the same league as other smart devices, like smartphones and smart TVs.
Panasonic was at the show promoting its Breakfast Collection, a range of small kitchen appliances including a toaster, toaster oven, coffee maker and kettle.
Panasonic also devoted considerable attention to its beauty and grooming products, such as heated eyelash curlers, electric toothbrushes and shavers, and a battery-operated nail polish remover. It also touted a hair dryer that moisturizes hair as it dries it. This Panasonic blow dryer with Nanoe technology features U.S. Olympic soccer star Alex Morgan as a spokesmodel.


Samsung was at the show with clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and oven-ranges.
LG Electronics was on hand with washer-dryers, fridges and kitchen appliances.
Many of these smart home appliances connect to the Internet and mobile devices, making them part of the burgeoning Internet of Things.
They just don’t inspire the same kind of awe as a giant super high-resolution television.

Coolest products at the show 

People always ask me to name the coolest gadget I saw at the show.
While the big-screen Ultra HD televisions, also called UHD or 4K TVs, were amazing, they’re a little out of my price range.
I also dug the flying video copters from DJI and Parrot, but don’t have the patience to learn how to use one.
Call me weird but my favorite gadget at the show was a smartphone case from Flir Systems that turns your iPhone into an infrared camera. The quality of the images and sensor technology were astounding.
At $349, the Flir One consumer thermal-imaging system isn’t cheap. But it is definitely cool.
With the imager, you can see in complete darkness. Flir sees applications in security, public safety, energy efficiency, nighttime navigation, industrial production, preventive maintenance, and the enjoyment of the outdoors. Hell, I just want to search for Bigfoot with one.
Jeff Frank, vice president of product strategy for Flir, suggested another application that resonated with me – being able to find your cat in the bushes at night. I’ve been there before.
The Flir One is planned for release in spring.

CES booth babes

Of course, it wouldn’t be CES without sexy booth babes and the debate over whether the show should have them.
The Verge and Venture Beat weighed in with thoughtful pieces about booth babes, while Game Breaker opted for a slideshow of “The Hottest Booth Babes Of CES.” Also chiming in on the issue were Tech Crunch and Chip Chick.

Photos: 
Samsung’s Chef Collection of kitchen appliances introduced at CES 2014 (Samsung photo);
U.S. Olympic soccer gold medalist Alex Morgan is the spokesmodel for Panasonic’s new high-tech blowdryer. (Panasonic photo);
Flir One consumer thermal imaging system for the iPhone 5 and 5S. (Flir Systems photo)
Booth babes at CES (Sample from slide show by Game Breaker.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Twitter entices users to ‘Gain more followers’ for a price

After watching shady third-party services offer to boost Twitter users’ follower counts for a price, Twitter has decided to join them.
In mid-December, Twitter started offering businesses the opportunity to get their accounts promoted to potential followers in users’ timelines. This is in addition to the Promoted Accounts that have run in Twitter’s “Who to Follow” section.
Now, it appears Twitter is rolling out the service to anyone who wants more followers on the micro-blogging, short-message-broadcast service.
Over the weekend, I started getting messages from Twitter under my profile summary that encouraged me to “Gain more followers.”
“Promote your account and get discovered by more people on Twitter,” it said. The ad led to the company’s advertising campaign page. Users can target potential followers by region and interests with their “promoted account.”
Promoted accounts are basically ads that prompt users to follow accounts for businesses or brands. They make it easy to do by including a “follow” button directly in the post.
I’m just a journalist who uses Twitter to keep up on news and for fun. I don’t see the need to pay for followers. But I’m sure there are more than a few egomaniacs on Twitter who will like the idea to boost their self-worth with more “followers.”
Twitter recommended that I bid $2.50 to $3.50 for each new Twitter follower I get. At the midpoint, that would mean my 700 Twitter followers are worth $2,100. But that seems inflated, given how many of my followers are spam accounts or inactive users. According to StatusPeople, 6% of my Twitter followers are fake and 40% are inactive.
Twitter ads such as “promoted tweets” and “promoted accounts” have been available to individual users and businesses since last April. But I’ve never been promoted to join before. I sense that Twitter is increasing promotion of its ad tools.


Photos: Screenshots of Twitter’s ad pitches to me. 

Related reading:

Twitter investors love ad rollout, but users pushing back. (Dec. 26, 2013)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

CES 2014: Highs, lows and WTF moments

The 2014 International CES, better known by its old name the Consumer Electronics Show, ended its week-long run in Las Vegas on Friday.
What follows is my annual list of observations that didn’t make it into my official coverage of the show for Investor’s Business Daily and Investors.com. (For a rundown of my news coverage of the show, click here.)

CES buzzword of the year: Curved 

The biggest buzzword at this year’s show was “curved.”
LG Electronics, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony all prominently displayed curved-screen Ultra HD televisions at their exhibits.
Huawei, LG and Samsung also showed off curved-screen smartphones. Plus, a host of companies had smartwatches and fitness bands with curved displays.

CES buzzwords through the years:

2010: Green
2011: Smart
2012: Ultra
2013: Super
2014: Curved

Best keynote address: Yahoo 

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer headlined the best keynote address at CES 2014.
She drew a rock star-sized crowd at the 1,700-seat LVH Theater. The charismatic young executive delivered news and entertainment in her presentation.
Mayer announced an acquisition (Aviate), a mobile news app (Yahoo News Digest), digital magazines (Yahoo Tech and Yahoo Food), and a new suite of online advertising technology.
She was joined by recent hires Katie Couric (veteran broadcast journalist turned Yahoo global anchor), David Pogue (former New York Times tech columnist turned Yahoo vice president of editorial for Yahoo Tech), Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp and Summly creator Nick D’Aloisio.
On the downside, Mayer needs to work on her speaking skills. She came across as stiff and uncomfortable. It wouldn’t hurt her to smile more and show some enthusiasm.
Recognizing that it was Las Vegas, Mayer entertained the crowd with performances by Grammy Award-winning singer and musician John Legend and “Saturday Night Live” comics Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson.
See her keynote, minus Legend and the SNL stars, on Yahoo Screen.
For a transcript of the SNL sketch at Yahoo’s keynote, click here.

Best press event: WWE 

World Wrestling Entertainment knows how to put on a fun show. The sports entertainment company introduced its WWE Network at the show.
As the first major 24/7 over-the-top television network, WWE made news at CES. But its press event at the Wynn Hotel was a blast. It featured comedic turns and showy machismo by some of WWE’s pro wrestlers including Triple H, John Cena and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Second best press event: MakerBot 

MakerBot, a unit of Stratasys, launched three new 3D printers along with new services at an intimate event at the Mandalay Bay.
3D printing was a hot topic at CES this year because of more affordable, easier-to-use consumer printers. The technology appears poised to break through to mainstream users this year.
What made MakerBot’s press event a winner was the enthusiasm and personality of co-founder and CEO Bre Pettis.

Best company-sponsored concert: Monster 

Monster Inc., a top maker of audio and video products, celebrated its 35th anniversary with a bash at the Paris Hotel, topped by a concert by rock group Fleetwood Mac.
TV and radio personality Nick Cannon hosted the company’s retailer awards and music event. Singer Javier Colon, season-one winner of “The Voice,” performed as the opening act.
It was great to see Fleetwood Mac again. The last time I saw them perform was 25 years ago, when Christine McVie was with the band, but not Lindsey Buckingham.
The band performed “The Chain,” “Dreams,” “Second Hand News,” “Tusk” (a highlight of the show for me), “Rhiannon,” “Big Love,” “Eyes of the World,” “Gold Dust Woman,” and “I’m So Afraid.” I had to catch a cab to the airport at that point. I wish I could have stayed till the end.

Companies copying Apple at the show 

Apple doesn’t exhibit at CES, but usually other companies at the show are trying to copy its products or beat its rumored products to market. Apple’s influence wasn’t felt as much at this year’s CES compared with past shows. But there were a few times when companies were obviously imitating Apple.
Samsung debuted two tablets with the word Pro in the name. That’s something Apple has done with its MacBook line and is rumored to be doing with its iPad line. And one of those Samsung tablets, the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 has large screen (12.2 inches, naturally), similar to what Apple is working on for its iPad Pro. The word “pro” signifies professional and is used for higher-end products.
At the show, 3D printer maker 3D Systems used the Pro moniker for a more expensive version of its consumer printer, the CubePro.
And two companies used Apple-style theatrics in their presentations.
MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis did a version of Steve Jobs’ “one more thing” bit to make a big announcement at the end of his press conference. Only Pettis used “Oh, and…” for his reveal. Like Jobs, Pettis had the words projected on a screen behind him.
Like Apple’s events, Yahoo ended its presentation with a musical performance from a headliner (John Legend).

Fun extra: Premiere party for “Intelligence” 

I attended the premiere party for the new CBS series “Intelligence” starring Josh Holloway (“Lost”), Marg Helgenberger (“CSI”) and Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a Time”).
It was held at the Tao Las Vegas nightclub at the Venetian Hotel and hosted by CBS Interactive unit Cnet.

Worst flop at CES: Michael Bay 

Long after the products introduced at CES are forgotten, people will remember director Michael Bay’s epic fail at the Samsung press event at the Mandalay Bay.
The “Transformers” filmmaker appeared to have a panic attack when his teleprompter malfunctioned and his attempt at improvising failed. He said “Excuse me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” and rushed off the stage.
His on-stage meltdown blew up Twitter and social media. Professional and amateur comics made wise cracks about the incident. Some people came to his defense, sharing their own fears of public speaking.
Here are some of my favorite responses on Twitter.

“Michael Bay stormed off stage at CES after his teleprompter broke. No script, big explosion & a disappointed audience. Dude’s still got it!” wrote Funny or Die.

“Any comedian could’ve told Michael Bay never to try out new stuff at a corporate gig,” comedian Matt Goldich said.

“‘I’ll just wing this.’ - Michael Bay when he started directing ‘Pearl Harbor,’” comedy writer Mike DiCenzo said.

“Apparently Michael Bay thought they could just fix it in post,” said Gizmodo writer Matt Novak.

“Hey Michael Bay, when this sort of thing happens you just yell “Line!” wrote Yahoo Games senior editor Ben Silverman.

“I thought Michael Bay seemed downright presidential at the CES in Vegas today,” said comedian Dennis Miller.

“Unlike Michael Bay I stay on stage and let the audience leave,” said comedian Gilbert Gottfried.

“Michael Bay’s CES meltdown: ‘From infomercial schlock to complete humiliation in less than a minute,’” Salon.com wrote.

“Michael Bay stars in this action-packed CES thriller, presented by Samsung!” advertising agency Initiative said, along with a fake movie poster. (See photo above.)

“For the first time in 20 years, the absence of a script proves to be an actual issue for Michael Bay,” said writer Brian Collins.

“Even Michael Bay can’t explain his value as a director,” said comedy writer Mike Rotman.

“Michael Bay should have asked his old buddy Shia LaBeouf to quickly come up with something for him to say,” IGN TV executive editor Eric Goldman wrote. (LaBeouf has been under fire lately for plagiarism.)

“Michael Bay walked out of that auditorium faster than I did watching the last Transformers movie,” wrote blogger Jill Badlotto.

“YOU HAD ONE JOB TELEPROMPTER, ONE JOB,” tweeted blogger James Pettigrove.

“Michael Bay on Amazon right now, giving every teleprompter a negative review,” said BuzzFeed writer Samir Mezrahi.

Here’s a few more quickly made parody movie posters about the Bay incident by writer Charles Gerian. (Posted to Twitter here and here.)



Photos: Samsung U9000 curved-screen Ultra HD TV (Samsung photo); 
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer speaks at the 2014 CES (CEA photo); 
WWE Network launch event with Stephanie McMahon, Paul “Triple H” Levesque and Shawn Michaels (Patrick Seitz photo); 
MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis at CES 2014 press event (Patrick Seitz photo); 
Fleetwood Mac in concert at Monster event at CES 2014 (Monster photo); 
Huffington Post coverage of the Michael Bay incident at CES 2014; 
Fake Michael Bay movie poster by advertising agency Initiative; 
Fake Michael Bay movie posters by Charles Gerian. 

SNL sketch at Yahoo keynote at CES 2014

“Saturday Night Live” comedian Cecily Strong did a tech-oriented Weekend Update segment at Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s keynote address at the 2014 International CES. She was joined by SNL colleague Kenan Thompson playing a befuddled Al Sharpton.
Here’s a transcript:
Strong: I’m Cecily Strong and here are this year’s top tech stories.
The founders of Snapchat last year turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook and $4 billion offer from Google. It’s a surprising show of integrity from the guys who invented the app that lets you look at pictures of boobs for five seconds.
Miley Cyrus edged out Kim Kardashian for Yahoo’s top search of the year. So, I’m guessing the top search for next year is going to be “how to increase my daughter’s self-esteem.”
The virtual currency Bitcoin rocketed in price and popularity in 2013. So if you prefer to invest in a more stable currency, just stuff your mattress with Monopoly money.
The FCC announced that it’s now taking steps to lift the ban on in-flight cell phone calls – news that’s the best for people that are the worst.
Nick D’Aloisio, a programming whiz who wasn’t even born when Yahoo was founded in 1994, sold his news-reading app Summly to Yahoo in March for a supposed $30 million. And I think I speak for most ladies when I ask, is he 18 yet?
One of 2013’s most popular apps was GymPact, a program that rewards users with money if they meet their fitness goals. But what would really be great is an app that pays you not to post on Facebook that you went to the gym.
It was announced that the popular meme Grumpy Cat is being developed into a feature film. The frontrunner to play the constantly scowling cat, you guessed it, Kristin Stewart.
One of the most popular Tumblr blogs over the past year was Hot Dog Legs, which featured pictures of hot dogs posed like legs. At last, said people with a very particular fetish.
We have some of the top innovators in technology from around the world here today. Here to share his insight is the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Thompson: Hello, Cecily. Yeah, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here either.
Nevertheless, thank you, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yoo-hoo. Who would have thought that a small chocolate milk company like Yoo-hoo would turn into one of the world’s biggest tech companies?
Strong: It’s great to see you, Al. Are you enjoying CES?
Thompson: Oh, absolutely. When you think the cutting edge of technology, you think Al Sharpton.
Strong: You do?
Thompson: No. Look, Cecily, I would love to be big on the Internet, but it’s not happening. Because I can’t twerk or be a cat who’s had a bad day. It’s amazing what people care about. I’ve been trying to get folks to listen to me for 30 years. Maybe I should have danced around talking nonsense while dressed up as a fox.
Strong: So, Al, why are you in Vegas?
Thompson: Well, I’ve got my own vegan soul food restaurant out here. It’s called Sharpton’s Soy Shack. I’m encouraging all of y’all to try our tofu turkey necks smothered in spinach gravy. Sharpton’s Soy Shack, located right across from the service entrance to Circus Circus.
Strong: Sounds nice. Now, I know you’ve been eating healthy and losing weight.
Thompson: Oh, yeah, I’m very skinny now. I mean, I know I don’t look like it. But it’s just every time I come to Vegas, I gain about 100 pounds in 90 minutes. But, you know, back when I lost the weight, I did lose it using one of the apps.
Strong: Oh, like a fitness tracker.
Thompson: No, Apple Maps. Yeah, I got lost and wandered around the wilderness for days. I almost starved to death.
Strong: I’m glad it eventually worked out.
Thompson: Yeah, so am I. I’m proud of how I look. A couple of months ago, I took a shirtless selfie like Geraldo Rivera. I tried to post it online, but my computer melted.
Strong: So, you’re not really great with technology.
Thompson: No, but I’m glad it’s around. Now you can watch my show “PoliticsNation” on your regular TV and on the littler TV in your computer and on the itty-bitty baby TV inside your phone.
Strong: That’s cute.
Thompson: So, thank you, Marissa Mayer and all the folks at Yoo-hoo, for your help. You all definitely made a better search engine that Goobles did. 
You can watch it online here.

Photo: SNL cast members Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson at the Yahoo keynote at CES. For more photos, check out Zimbio.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Do psychics exist? No, based on their way-off predictions for 2013

Self-professed psychics were way off in their 2013 predictions.
Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t diagnosed with senile dementia. He didn’t leave office and wasn’t replaced by a woman.
Prince William and Duchess Kate did not have a daughter last year.
Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson did not get married.
Tom Cruise did not leave the Church of Scientology.
North Korea did not launch a missile at South Korea, igniting fighting between the two countries.
CERN did not announce that time travel was possible.
Those were a few of their misses for last year.
The psychics got a couple of softball predictions right (the death of Nelson Mandela and the breakup of Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber), but they were wrong way more often than right.
Check out last year’s psychic predictions here.
Their 2013 predictions were nearly as bad as those of entertainment and sports reporters.

Photo of Zoltar fortune-teller amusement machine by Flickr user Amboo Who

Bold tech predictions that came true in 2013

I was six for 10 in my 2013 predictions.
My best prediction was the forced retirement of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. I also predicted that Best Buy founder Richard Schulze would not buy back his company as he had pledged.
I also was right with some of my less daring predictions: Facebook’s sales rise, along with user disenchantment; Apple releases greatly revamped Apple TV set-top, but no television; Redbox Instant by Verizon flops; and Nintendo Wii U flops.
Some of my misses were doozies: Katie Perry did not win an Oscar for the song “Wide Awake.” She didn’t even get nominated. Whoops.
Also, I had predicted that no one would buy Tumblr, but Yahoo picked up the blogging platform. Plus, I said Twitter would get acquired, but the microblogging service went public instead.

Other prognosticators who hit the bull’s eye

So how did other fortune tellers do last year? (Note: I’m only looking at bold predictions here, not widely believed rumors or obvious trends.)
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mark Rogowsky accurately predicted that Microsoft would buy Nokia’s handset business.
Informa Telecoms & Media was correct in predicting that Netflix would have a breakout hit original TV series. It arguably had three: “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black” and the return of “Arrested Development.”
Rocco Pendola, The Street’s director of social media, accurately predicted that Zynga CEO Mark Pincus would step down. In July, Don Mattrick, former president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business, was tapped to replace Pincus as CEO.
BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield was correct in predicting that Apple would launch a streaming music service to compete with Pandora and Spotify. He was wrong on the name though. He called it iRadio, but Apple named it iTunes Radio.

Photo: Netflix original series “House of Cards” proved a breakout hit in 2013.

Top 20 celebrities predicted to die in 2014

If you listen to people who play dead pools, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor has been at death’s door for three years. For the fourth year in a row, Gabor has been picked as the celebrity most likely to die in the coming year, according to the Stiffs.com dead pool.
Gabor, 96, continued to breathe as 2013 ended, defying the odds makers.
Of the top 20 celebrities marked for death in 2013 by Stiffs.com, seven croaked last year. (That compares with five in 2012 and seven in 2011.)
The deceased public figures included Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, South African President Nelson Mandela and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The winner of the 2013 Stiffs.com contest, DePressED, correctly guessed seven deaths from a list of 10 names.
Of course, most picks are public figures in ill health or at an advanced age. Few players dare to make a wild card guess of a young celebrity based on a risky lifestyle. (For instance, no one guessed that actor and race-car driver Paul Walker, 40, would die in 2013.)
Here’s the list of public figures (with ages) predicted to die in 2014:
  1. Zsa Zsa Gabor, 96
  2. Billy Graham, 95
  3. Kirk Douglas, 97
  4. Fidel Castro, 87
  5. Olivia de Havilland, 97
  6. George H.W. Bush, 89
  7. Luise Rainer, 103
  8. Run Run Shaw, 106
  9. Eli Wallach, 98
  10. Herman Wouk, 98
  11. Nancy Reagan, 92
  12. Bob Dole, 90
  13. Valerie Harper, 74
  14. Prince Philip, 92
  15. Maria Franziska von Trapp, 99
  16. Roberta McCain, 101
  17. Abe Vigoda, 92
  18. Hosni Mubarak, 85
  19. Irwin Corey, 99
  20. Mickey Rooney, 93
Here are some notable younger public figures predicted to die this year:

80.  Bashar al-Assad, 48 (down from No. 57 in 2013)
86.  Lindsay Lohan, 27 (down from No. 34 in 2013)
135.  Amanda Bynes, 27 (up from No. 239 in 2013)
136.  Andy Dick, 48
143.  Brock Lesnar, 36
145.  Charlie Sheen, 48
153.  Edward Furlong, 36
157.  George Zimmerman, 30
169.  Lance Armstrong, 42
177.  Miley Cyrus, 21


Photos: Actress-singer Miley Cyrus (top) is predicted to die in 2014 by two players in the Stiffs.com dead pool. Also, cover of the Dec. 16, 2013, issue of the Globe tabloid.

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