Day: July 5, 2021

AI bot trolls politicians with how much time they’re looking at phones

Sure, we’ve all snuck a look at our phones in dull meetings. But if you’re working on the taxpayer’s dime, you’d better be ready for artificial intelligence to call you out for gawping at the black mirror in the legislature when you should be, you know, legislating.

That’s what digital artist Dries Depoorter did for his latest installation “The Flemish Scrollers.” His software that uses facial recognition to automatically call out politicians in the Flemish province of Belgium who are distracted by their phones when its parliament is in session. The project comes almost two years after Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon caused public outrage after playing Angry Birds during a policy discussion. (Really.)

Launched Monday, Depoorter’s system monitors daily livestreams of government meetings on YouTube to assess how long a representative has been looking at their phone versus the meeting in progress. If the AI detects a distracted person, it will publicly identify the party by posting the clip — on Instagram @TheFlemishScrollers, and Twitter @FlemishScroller.

The accused representative will be named and shamed with their social media handles. The bot also politely requests they “pls stay focused!”

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According to Depoorter’s website, if there is no session in progress, the software will begin analyzing and learning from archived livestreams instead. Whether this means the software will routinely post evidence of past distraction wasn’t clear. Depoorter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Less than 24 hours into the The Flemish Scrollers going live, the program has already identified four instances of politicians preoccupied by their phones, and sparked discussion among the software’s growing social media following.

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As some followers have pointed out, the software’s tendency to jump to conclusions could be a problem. After all, we can’t know what those politicians were up to on their devices; there are times when useful and important work needs doing urgently, even if it is on the same device everyone uses to waste time.

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Until the AI software starts reading phones over the shoulders of the legislators, then, we’ll have to just trust that being watched by a bot can help politicians curtail their Angry Birds time.

Volvo, Daimler, Traton invest $593 million to build electric truck charging network

Volvo Group, Daimler Truck and Volkswagon’s AG heavy-truck business the Traton Group announced on Monday a non-binding agreement to build a network of high-performance public charging stations for electric heavy-duty long-haul trucks and buses around Europe. The news was first reported by Reuters.

The three major European automakers will invest €500 million (~$593 million USD) to install and operate 1,700 charging points in strategic locations and close to highways. They intend to finalize the agreement by the end of this year and start operations next year, with the hopes of increasing the number of charge points significantly as the companies seek additional partners for the future joint venture.

The venture is meant to be a catalyst to prepare for the European Union’s goals of carbon-neutral freight transportation by 2050. One of the main deterrents for both individuals and freight companies for switching to EVs has historically been a lack of charging infrastructure. By building that infrastructure, Volvo, Daimler and Traton can also expect to boost their own sales of electric trucks and buses.

“It is the joint aim of Europe’s truck manufacturers to achieve climate neutrality by 2050,” Martin Daum, CEO Daimler Truck, said in a statement.  “However, it is vital that building up the right infrastructure goes hand in hand with putting CO2-neutral trucks on the road. Together with Volvo Group and the TRATON GROUP, we are therefore very excited to take this pioneering step to establish a high-performance charging network across Europe.”

The partnership between Volvo and Daimler isn’t unprecedented. In May, the two competitors teamed up to produce hydrogen fuel cells for long-haul trucks to lower development costs and boost production volumes. This latest venture is another signal that major companies are banding together to solve climate-related issues in the industry.

European car industry association ACEA has called for up to 50,000 high-performance charging points by 2030. Traton CEO Matthias Gruendler told Reuters that roughly 10 billion euros would be needed to build out Europe’s infrastructure to be fully electrified by 2050.

According to a statement released by Volvo, this venture is also a call to action for others with a stake in the industry, like automakers or governments, to work together to ensure the rapid expansion needed to reach climate goals.

The charging stations will be brand-agnostic, and battery electric vehicle fleet operators will be able to use both the fast charging during the European 45 minute mandatory rest period for long-distance transport and also charge overnight.

The joint venture will operate under its own corporate identity out of Amsterdam. Volvo, Daimler and Traton will own equal shares in the venture but will continue to compete in all other areas.


Airbnb’s party crackdown has blocked more than 100,000 bookings

Planning to party? Under 25? Airbnb doesn't want you.

Sorry, Gen Z. Airbnb is holding the line on its under-25s house ban, even as America emerges from lockdown — and more people are being blocked than we knew.

Airbnb says its anti-party safety system has blocked more than 100,000 “suspicious” bookings since launching in the U.S. last July. (The Verge previously reported that the number was “above 50,000”; that estimate did not include a number of major cities listed below).

The Airbnb system prevents guests who are 24 or younger, and have fewer than three positive Airbnb reviews, from reserving entire houses near where they live. The initiative was first rolled out in Canada in 2020 after a rash of violent house parties.

“We know that people over the age of 24 are perfectly capable of booking a home for the wrong reasons, too,” the online rental marketplace said in a statement last year. “But based on the positive impact this policy has had on unauthorized parties booked by guests under 25, we believe this is the right action to continue to protect the safety of our community.”

Airbnb confirmed the following local data for its blocked-booking system. Los Angeles, the Land of Irresponsible Influencers, tops the list with at least 15,000 party shutdowns in the past year. Atlanta and Chicago are the next most blocked cities, with roughly 12,000 and 10,000 blocked bookings respectively.

  • ~15,000 in Los Angeles

  • ~12,000 in Atlanta

  • ~10,000 in Chicago

  • ~7,000 in Dallas

  • ~6,000 in San Diego

  • ~5,100 in Charlotte

  • ~5,000 in Phoenix

  • ~4,500 in Las Vegas

  • ~4,500 in Seattle

  • ~3,800 in Austin

  • ~3,500 in St. Louis

  • ~3,000 in Columbus

  • ~2,700 in New Orleans

  • ~2,600 in Denver

  • ~2,600 in Portland

  • ~2,000 in Cincinnati

  • ~1,800 in Salt Lake City

  • ~1,500 in Albuquerque

The system does not block single room or hotel bookings. It will also allow entire house bookings by users age 24 or below if they have a good Airbnb history, or are making longterm rental plans. If your booking is blocked, you will know at the time of your booking attempt, Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit tells Mashable. Breit emphasized that the initiative is focused on “unauthorized parties — meaning a party thrown without the knowledge or consent of the hosts.” 

Safety has become a big selling point for Airbnb amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This spring, the platform implemented an eight-point “summer of responsible travel” plan, which included restricting bookings around Fourth of July weekend for guests and offering 24/7 customer support as well as discounts on noise detection devices to hosts.

Just last month, Airbnb also announced a partnership with competitor Vrbo aimed at removing “party houses” — rental locations advertised with large (and potentially dangerous) gatherings in mind — from their collective marketplace.

“Airbnb and Vrbo plan to work with a trusted third-party intermediary to develop a process that identifies properties that have been permanently removed from each platform due to repeated violations of respective community policies,” the companies said in a press release. “The information will be available for each company to take the appropriate action.”

ManoMano raises $355 million for its home improvement e-commerce platform

French startup ManoMano has raised a Series F funding round of $355 million led by Dragoneer Investment Group. The company operates an e-commerce platform focused on DIY, home improvement and gardening products. It is currently available in six European countries. Following today’s funding round, the company has reached a valuation of $2.6 billion.

In addition to Dragoneer Investment Group, Temasek, General Atlantic, Eurazeo, Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund, Aglaé Ventures, Kismet Holdings and Armat Group are also participating.

“We operate in Europe and we are the industry leader in online sales,” co-founder and co-CEO Philippe de Chanville told me. In France in particular, the company has been profitable for a couple of years already. In 2020 alone, the company’s gross merchandise volume doubled to €1.2 billion ($1.42 billion at today’s rate).

So why did the company raise given that it’s already in a strong position to replicate the same model in other European markets? Because they could and because they didn’t need to. With a high valuation, ManoMano could raise quite a bit of money without having to sell a significant chunk of its equity.

In addition to France, the startup operates in Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the U.K. With today’s funding round, the company wants to develop its activities in the U.K. and Germany in particular — they are Europe’s two biggest markets for home improvement and gardening.

ManoMano sells products to hobbyists and also targets the B2B market with ManoManoPro. It’s already working well in France with very small teams (1 to 5 employees) and the company is expanding this offering to Spain and Italy.

The startup will also invest more heavily in its product and build a better logistics infrastructure. “For the logistics part, we work with third-party logistics companies — we are a tech company,” co-founder and co-CEO Christian Raisson told me.

ManoMano doesn’t have its own warehouses and doesn’t own any inventory. That’s why ManoMano plans to recruit 1,000 people over the next 18 months and most of them will be tech profiles.

While ManoMano has 7 million clients, sales of home improvement and gardening items still mostly happen in brick-and-mortar stores. The startup is well aware that it’s not just a matter of having the best products at good price points.

ManoMano works with advisors (or Manodvisors) so that experts can give advice whenever customers need some tips. Overall, customers have initiated 2.3 million conversations with advisors in 2020. Recommendations and advice will be key to gain market shares. And the company is now well capitalized to innovate on this front and differentiate itself from other e-commerce platforms.

The Importance Of Mental Wellness And How To Achieve It

The human brain controls every function of the body and is one of the most important organs. When an organ is in pain, it is the brain that indicates it so a person can take proper action. If the brain is not healthy, then the functioning of other organs will also suffer.

Mental health is essential for the overall wellness and health of a person. A healthy person is one who is physically, mentally, and emotionally active. In recent times, the number of people suffering from constant anxiety and depression has increased significantly worldwide.

Many people try to consume a balanced diet and exercise regularly but underestimate mental wellness, which is actually just as important as your physical health. The emotional state influences much of an individual’s life and impacts the health, productivity, and decisions they have to make.

Good physical and mental health is necessary to prevent chronic diseases such as heart problems, obesity, and diabetes. As for mental health, stress and depression are the most common and affect a lot of people.

Unfortunately, there is no one solution to fix stress and anxiety as it keeps recurring. However, counseling and therapy can considerably help those who suffer from a mental problem and improve a person’s well-being.

Why Mental Wellness Important

There have been numerous studies that suggest that mentally well people are happier and are likely to think positively. They can effectively control their actions, behavior, and emotions. Mental wellness helps a person to handle problems effectively, make timely decisions, and improve personal relationships.

However, it’s also clear that stress is part of everyone’s life. We live in a fast-paced world where people think they have too much to do, but end up running out of time. The pressure of balancing your personal and professional life can be difficult.

You have to do personal chores, manage office work, and also look after your family. Then also comes finding yourself in a financial predicament, which is one of the main reasons why you may have consistent stress.

To help those who need it, few counseling practices provide effective therapy and counseling sessions to treat different mental health issues. Some of the common problems clients want treatment for include trauma, anxiety, stress, and relationship issues.

The reasons why you may want to achieve good mental health are:

  • Help to cope with challenges and issues in life
  • Realize your abilities and true potential
  • Keeping yourself busy in productive work
  • Give time and support to your family and friends
  • Try to focus on your personal and professional goals and ambition

In adolescence, a person is running free with little expectation or goal, but things change when he becomes an adult. As a person grows with time, there are expectations and responsibilities to fulfill. Only a person who is physically and mentally healthy can take on these responsibilities and fulfill them diligently.

However, there are some individuals who crumble under pressure, which also gives them the tendency to find relief in alcohol consumption and drug use. The growing trend of addiction is also one of the leading causes of stress, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Common Types Of Mental Illness

how to take care of mental health

Mental illness is sometimes referred to as a collective term that may include various symptoms affecting a person’s health. The severity of symptoms may differ from one person to another. But it does affect a person to cope with work, relationships, and other daily routine tasks.

Stress is connected with mental health, and a person has to take both medication and counseling to find relief. Some of the common mental problems for which a person has to take support of new behavioral sciences are:


One of the most common problems that people of every age face is depression, a mood disorder. Some symptoms are loss of interest, deep and worrying thoughts, lack of energy, and loss of appetite.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

One of the most common neurological disorders in childhood is ADHD. Children who have ADHD are said to have trouble focusing and making decisions. Children may also make careless mistakes and have difficulty getting along with others. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, but it involves medical tests, hearing and vision tests, and medical history.

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

Many people may not know, but they may have OCD which is characterized by recurring thoughts, impulses, and unwanted images. The treatment is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Anxiety Disorders

Nearly everyone gets anxious or frustrated due to different things. Anxiety disorders include various other issues such as phobias, social disorders, and eating disorders. If proper treatment is not timely given, it can significantly impact an individual’s life.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD is another quite common mental health issue that happens after a traumatic event. A person may have worrying thoughts due to physical accidents, sexual harassment, or torture.

The Treatment Options To Consider

taking care of mental health is important

The counseling practice has a team of professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, and occupational therapists. The type of therapy or treatment usually depends on:

  • Type of mental illness
  • The severity of the signs and symptoms
  • Medical history of the individual
  • The medications that person may be taking to find relief

There are several types of therapies that can help a person recover from mental or emotional disorders. Sometimes, a combination of therapies may be effective to reach the desired result. The common types of therapies include:

Family Counseling

Family matters are discussed, and family members must be present to give their point of view and settle issues.

Behavior Therapy

Stress, anxiety, and mental disorder tend to alter a person’s behavior towards people and things. Behavior therapy emphasizes changing unhealthy thoughts and actions with positive ones. The key is to allow the individual to express their feelings and thoughts, whether positive or negative. Expressing out your thoughts helps a person to get the burden off their shoulders and relax.

Cognitive Therapy

The treatment that is common when it comes to mental wellness is CBT (cognitive behavior therapy). The purpose of CBT is to make a person understand that his thoughts directly reflect his actions. If a person thinks about things differently, then it can alter the outcome of a situation. CBT therapy aims to allow a person to know the pattern of negative thoughts that lead to stress and anxiety.

Group Therapy

If a person is open to expressing his thoughts in front of others, group therapy is the best solution. Hearing similar stories and experiences gives confidence to a person to share his own story and get the proper support.

What happens in a Counseling Session?

Counseling and therapy are a fine art where words replace medicine and give relief to a person with mental issues. Many people are pretty apprehensive thinking about talking about their feelings with a total stranger. Finding the right counselor or therapist is hard, but you can easily search for the credentials of psychologists and psychiatrists.

However, some of the questions for which a person must consider and prepare before attending a counseling session are:

  • What brings you to the therapy session?
  • Have you seen a counselor before?
  • What are the problems you are going through?
  • How you pass your day, your personal or professional chores?
  • The expectation you may have about the counseling session

The first session is crucial as you will want to know about the psychiatrist and vice versa. You will need to explain your current mental condition and symptoms. The psychiatrist is not only authorized to prescribe medication, but also to recommend therapy.

At the start of the session, the therapist will ask how your life is going and what thoughts are bothering you. You will be asked to share, and the therapist will observe and take notes, no interruption and no judgment.

The session’s conversation will be kept confidential to talk about your relationship, if there’s any, openly. At the end of the session, the therapist will assign a homework. The progress will then be checked at the next session. Things that are persistently causing you stress and anxiety will also be checked.

Every therapist may employ different methods such as dream interpretation or introducing music or art. Some of the therapists even practice hypnotherapy, meditation, or life coaching.

How Long Will A Person Has To Take Therapy Session

One counseling session is usually 30 to 40 minutes. The total number of hours or days a person has to come for the session may vary from one to another. Some clients may take the sessions for weeks until they find relief.

Therapy is something that may solve the matter in one conversation, or it may take several weeks. The interaction with the therapist also matters. For example, a face-to-face conversation is better than being done through phone or video chat.


Counseling and therapy are two valuable tools that are much better than any medication or medical procedure. Expert consulting firms offer various counseling and therapy sessions if one faces ADHD, PTSD, stress, or any other marital or personal problem.

You can choose the therapy plan according to your needs. You can schedule an appointment and get an initial session where the psychiatrist or therapist will get to know you and where you can also share your emotional or mental health problems to get help.

The post The Importance Of Mental Wellness And How To Achieve It appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Hot cycle summer: 7 things to think about when entering e-bike world

The Gazelle CityZen and the Aventon Aventure: Extreme ends of the e-bike spectrum.

There can be few better feelings in life than riding an e-bike around town on a sun-drenched summer weekend. Yeah sex is cool, but have you tried coasting almost effortlessly at the perfect speed past shops and cafes and parks and sweltering sidewalks, natural AC blasting your body, tunes in your open earbuds, smartphone strapped on the handlebars, barely pedaling, no particular place to go, anywhere in a 60-mile radius your oyster?

I had this sensation testing the $1,900 Aventon Aventure, one of 2021’s most hotly-anticipated e-bikes, and the feeling has been a long time coming. The Aventure is the first e-bike I’ve ridden at length since I spent a whole year doing a full experiential review of the $4,000 Gazelle CityZen. That review ended right before the pandemic, during which I focused on running. Which is also cool, but tends to limit your world to the surrounding 10 miles or so.

Locked down for so long, I hadn’t experienced the miles of sexy green protected bike lanes my neighboring city of Oakland has installed (and some of which its DOT is now threatening to rip out). This was now e-bike heaven: All the vibrant culture and food of what we affectionately call Oaktown, starting to open up again after a tough year, and you’re rolling past it faster than a lot of the traffic, but in the open air, where you can make eye contact, and smile, and stop at a sidewalk BBQ place, and chat with the flirty counter person about the Aventure’s eye-grabbing fat tire design.

I’m not alone in enjoying what you could call Hot Cycle Summer. E-bike sales spiked to record highs in 2020, with imports doubling and the U.S.’ largest independent e-bike retailer selling out multiple times. In the UK, where e-bikes are hotter than EVs, one sells every three minutes. In the U.S., it’s more than one per minute. And though America is lagging in its bike infrastructure, cities around the world are turning into cycle-friendly utopias that put even Oaktown to shame — most notably Paris, through which you can now take a dedicated cycleway along the Seine all the way to the Normandy coast.

The Aventon Aventure presented some issues we’ll get into, not least the dumb name that had me saying “no, no, Ah-venture” to multiple curious passers-by. But while I wouldn’t buy one myself — same as I concluded with the pricier CityZen — it’s going to be great for some people in some circumstances. And the point is this: We should all be joining the e-bike revolution ASAP. It’s one of the best things individuals can buy for a warming planet with increasing climate emergencies, as well as the best way to see the reopening world. It doesn’t matter which one you choose; it matters that you choose, and then that you lobby your government hard for more places to ride on it.

As a record heatwave hit the west coast, the Aventure at least encouraged to start shopping for my perfect e-bike now. Here, from my casual rider’s experience with polar-opposite types, are the main points I’ll be bearing in mind.

1. It really is a seasonal thing.

I can hear the outrage from extreme cyclists now: What are you talking about? We commute every weekday and hit the trails every weekend, rain or shine! Pipe down Lycra, I’m not talking about you. I speak for the bike-curious, the trepidatious majority. In a survey for Oakland’s bike lane master plan, 56 percent of people wanted to bike but only 11 percent were “strong and fearless” or “excited and confident.” The rest of us are “interested but concerned.” We’re the ones who might buy an e-bike but stick it in the garage when colder weather arrives. Even in the supremely temperate Bay Area, I feel no need to get on two wheels when the thermometer dips below 60 Fahrenheit.

And is that such a bad thing? So long as you budget for a bike you’re only going to use half the year (or join one of the increasingly cool e-bike sharing schemes), there’s no shame in getting back into your car in the winter. One of the most potent promises of e-bike world is that it can help cure our addiction to emissions-spiking summer AC. This I discovered on the hottest day of 2019 with the CityZen: Even my swamp cooler at full tilt was no match for the cooling relief of going outside and hurtling down hills at 25 MPH (then using electric power to get back up them: wash, rinse, repeat).

Don’t be sad when Hot Cycle Summer is over. Be happy it happened, and will again, and that it can help save the world while raising our smile quotas.

2. You don’t need that much power.

There is a fine line between e-bicycle and e-motorbike, and the Aventon Aventure sidles right up to it. There’s a throttle on the handlebar, like a demon on your shoulder, offering you the opportunity to go up to 20 MPH without pedaling. My advice: Don’t touch it. The sudden lurch isn’t worth it, especially in a bike lane situation where there might be a car door opening in your future. Save it for emergencies, like if you’re out on the open road, or tired on your final uphill.

Same advice goes for pedal assist levels 3 through 5, pretty much. I didn’t like the way they made the bike lurch after a four-way stop, or the motor noise they made, or the exercise they took away. According to my Apple Watch, the average heart rate on my summer rides so far hasn’t exceeded 100. Which is fine — all workouts are good but I never slipped into the effortless cardio-boosting feeling from my CityZen year that I described as “my heart is beating happy.”

3. Fat tires feel great. But the weight!

Credit to the Aventon Aventure: its fat tires made Oakland feel like all the streets had been repaved instead of just optimized for bikes. I love me some good road bike, but it’s hard to ignore the bone-rattling sensation you get from the average city street on thin tires. There are pot holes in the Bay Area that feel like tiny concussions.

In theory, the Aventure’s fat tires should have made them great for bike trails too. In practice … well, as I discovered minutes before leaving on a vacation to the bike-trail-filled land of California’s High Sierras, they were literally too fat for my car’s bike rack. So “in practice” will have to wait until I find some other way of transporting them up there. Amtrak, maybe?

In 2019 I complained about the CityZen’s unwieldy 50-pound weight, which made it a pain to take on and off public transit. The Aventure weighs a CityZen and a half at 75 pounds. Even walking it across a street can feel like a haul. Sure, there are plenty of situations where the weight won’t matter: if you live on the ground floor next to a long stretch of beach road, I can imagine this being the perfect boardwalk e-bike. In the city, its heft is kind of a nightmare.

Your mileage may vary. My mileage has me shunning the weight-means-power tradeoff, and looking at the lighter end of the spectrum. Probably not the 19 pound HPS Domestique, 2021’s lightest production e-bike, or Trek’s lightest-ever mountain bike at 34 pounds, both of which just launched for a cool $12,000 apiece. But hopefully something closer to them than to the scales-tilting Aventure.

4. Consider your ass.

Having just slammed some tires for being too fat to fit, let me proudly stand up for the rights of people like myself with larger-than-average posteriors. The Aventure’s saddle feels our pain; it’s heavy but cozy. The upright posture you get from its handlebars is more pleasant, too. I was okay with leaning forward on the CityZen more, but there was no way I was riding on its regular seat, and immediately had it swapped out for the widest thing in the store.

Maybe one day, bike manufacturers will realize that few humans have the tiny butts required for the so-called “standard” road bike saddle.

5. Color screen no, saddlebags yes.

The Aventon Aventure arrived with a color display for your battery percentage and mileage information built in. I do not know why it would do such a thing. In the direct sunlight of Hot Cycle Summer, this screen is harder to read than a regular LCD. The screen caused the only really messy part of my confusing construction process (the Aventure ships partially built to save on costs), as its two tiny screws were missing. And it’s the main thing I worry about when leaving the bike locked up: Some opportunistic asshole with a hex key is going to mistake that for a smartphone.

Same goes for the Aventon app that connects to the bike via Bluetooth. It mostly records rides, something my watch and phone are quite happily doing already.

When thinking about the bells and whistles of the bike, consider what you’ll actually be doing with it. I got used to carrying saddlebags all the time with the CityZen; even if you only plan to ride, you will invariably pass a cool shop, or remember some grocery item you needed, or change plans to something that involves beach towels. The Aventure boasts a a front basket, which I haven’t needed once. Saddlebags are like a bag of holding or a TARDIS; each seems to have infinite internal room and are great for any random side quest.

6. E-bike security varies wildly.

The CityZen had a key that had to be stuck in the bike in order to turn it on, and to eject the battery. The Aventure has a key that has to be stuck in the bike in order to … eject the battery. In theory, a wily thief (who’d gotten past my D-lock) could turn on the bike and ride away for the length of the battery charge (which, given the Aventure’s impressive 720 Wh battery, would likely take them many miles away).

That is, if the wily thief had done what I had to do repeatedly, and Googled the manual to remember which buttons to press in which order and for how many seconds. That’s probably the bike’s best security feature: An annoying user interface.

7. Manufacturers still don’t know their market.

We are still in the very early years of the e-bike revolution. The vast majority of potential buyers are still untapped. For all those can’t-keep-them-in-stock sales, there is not one groundbreaking innovative design that matches the medium and the moment. No Model T Ford, no Tesla of e-bikes has yet taken hold of the market. I like to think that somewhere in some garage an inventor is tinkering with a design that is light and secure with moderately wide tires, a super-cozy newbie-friendly seat and handlebar setup, and plenty of options for low-level pedal assist.

Maybe this combination is impossible to manufacture at scale; maybe we just haven’t thrown enough R&D money at the problem yet. Either way, we have to live in the real and rapidly-warming world. Your e-bike purchase or rideshare subscription isn’t going to be perfect, but it is urgent — especially as we’re nearly halfway through summer already. And who knows: by the end of it, maybe you’ll be filled with the desire to buy lycra and keep going.

Want To Become A Day Trader? The Pros And Cons Of Day Trading

Day trading is a risky method that some people sell as a get-rich-quick scheme to using the stock market. People who understand the stock market could turn day trading into a successful career, but, it’s also easy for people to lose a large amount of money. There are several pros and cons to day trading that people have to know before they dive into this venture, and we’re going to highlight the biggest ones below.

First off, let’s talk about day traders.

Day traders are people who purchase and sell stocks throughout the day with the goal of cashing in and making money on small fluctuations in highly liquid indexes or stock prices. Just like investing, the ideal situation involves buying a stock at a low price and selling it at a high price. However, the timeline gets shortened from years to hours.

Day traders want to make money by successfully making several sales during the same day. So, you could buy 1,000 shares of a particular stock and see the price go up in a half-hour. You could sell those stocks you just bought for a small profit. Each time they make a sale, the person makes the difference minus the commission.

The Biggest Pros And Cons Of Day Trading

the pros and cons of day trading

There are several benefits of being a day trader if you know what you’re doing and understand the stock market.

Pro One – Instant Results

One of the biggest benefits of day trading is that it’s very fast-paced and you can see instantaneous results. It’s fast enough that you’ll know a few minutes after you purchase your stock whether you made a good choice or not. The trade will either move against you, and you lose, or it’ll move in your direction and allow you to make a profit.

Pro Two – There Is No Overnight Risk Involved

Whatever you manage to make or lose by the end of the day finishes out in your account. So, you get more instant results. You don’t leave any of your trades to change overnight. The market can swing drastically from one point to the other, and you can’t pull out of a trade until the market reopens in the morning.

When you day trade, you pull all of your trades before the market closes, put them in your account, and start with a clean slate right away in the morning. It doesn’t matter how the market fluctuates overnight.

Pro Three – It’s An Adrenaline Rush

The adrenaline is another big perk for day traders. Depending on the size of your account, you could make hundreds or thousands of dollars if you buy the right trade and sell them at the correct time in a matter of minutes. The adrenaline rush can be very addicting when things go your way, and this is what initially draws people in. However, adrenaline can also lead to making costly mistakes, so you do have to be careful.

Pro Four – No Time To Overthink

There is no overthinking in day trading as you get with traditional trading. The markets don’t stop long enough for you to make drawn-out decisions regarding your potential trades. Instead, you have to make split decisions.

The markets can move very quickly, so you have to jump at an opportunity when you see it without thinking about it too much. This is another reason why people tend to flock to this type of trading.

Pro Five – Different Trading Strategies Available

You have several trading strategies available to you when you day trade across the major markets. Some of the most popular techniques people use to day trade include counter-trend trading, breakout trading, and trend-following trading.

You can experiment and see which one works best for you, and it’s possible to incorporate a few different strategies into your trading.

pros and cons day trading

Con One – You May Need $25,000

When you first start day trading, you may have to have $25,000 on hand. Whether or not you do depends on how you want to trade. If you plan on trading options and stocks and you’re trading on a margin account, you will need this money before you start trading.

If you plan on trading using a cash account, this pattern day trading rule won’t apply to you. Some people may not have a problem coming up with this amount, while some people will struggle.

Con Two – Smaller Profits Due To Smaller Stop

Generally speaking, people set up their stop losses differently when they day trade. You’ll usually have smaller stop losses since there is a potential to lose so much due to how fast-paced this trading form is. A smaller stop means that you’ll have smaller profits.

Con Three – Addicting

Day trading can be extremely addictive, and this is especially true if you get on a streak where you’re making profits. You could compare it to a casino game. It’s very easy to make bad decisions and wipe out a huge amount of money, and then you lose more money trying to make the original amount back. This is why you have to be very careful and only trade with what you can afford to lose.

Day trading has huge risks associated with it, but there are also huge profit potentials. If you’re interested in day trading, take your time, learn how to do it properly, and never bet anything you can’t afford to lose.

The post Want To Become A Day Trader? The Pros And Cons Of Day Trading appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Tom Blomfield takes first board post at Generation Home, after leaving Monzo and Angel investing

Following on from mid-June when first-time buyer mortgage lending startup Generation Home raised a $30.4m Series A round and a £300m loan facility from NatWest, it’s now adding to its board.

Although known for becoming an Angel investor since leaving Monzo, the challenger bank startup he co-founded, Tom Blomfield hasn’t joined any startup boards.

That changes today with the news that he is joining Generation Home.

The startup launched last year with radically a different model for home buying – effectively allowing relatives to become co-equity holders in the properties their children bought, and go along for the ride.

Generation Home founder and CEO Will Rice says the platform, therefore, unlocks far larger amounts of capital from ‘the bank of mum and dad’ than normally happens when money is loaned or gifted to the next generation.

The UK property problem is acute. According to the English Housing Survey 2020, the average U.K. renter spends 35% of their income on rent compared with 18% for homeowners paying a mortgage. High rents inhibit their ability to save and house price inflation locks more people out of homeownership.

Using Generation Home, parents can contribute deposits as an equity loan. Generation Home then takes responsibility for the repayment of funds to the parents upon a sale of the property or remortgage. Repayment of the loan can also be triggered once the homeowner’s equity in the property reaches a pre-agreed level, and the value of the loan can reflect changes in the house price. Plus the loan can be converted into a gift at any time, through the Generation Home platform.

Speaking to TechCrunch about his move to join the board, Blomfield said: “I met Will last year and what really excites me was the product. I think it’s so relevant, and it hasn’t really been covered in the mainstream press much. The problem with first-time buyers, trying to get a mortgage, is that they almost invariably rely on help from their parents or sometimes their friends to help. I’ve had experience with this and a lot of people actually mean it as a loan and they intend to get that money back. But mortgage lenders make you sign a piece of paper saying this is an absolute gift. So hundreds of thousands of parents around the country are basically committing a – well-intentioned – fraud to help their kids get on the property ladder. So what I loved about the Generation Home product is that they’ve got this new legal structure where parents can effectively lend that money towards the deposit, but it’s structured as a loan if they want it to be. They have the right to get their money back eventually without having to lie. So that’s one thing that really really attracted me to the company. It’s just so so relevant to everyone, and people are just kind of blind to this problem.”

I asked him if he thinks there’s a “Monzofication” of FinTech business models in FinTech, as suggested by the success of Monzo’s model, where the user is put front and centre?

“There’s certainly a lot in common between what we do at Monzo and what Generation Home is trying to do. Big mortgage lenders focus on the mortgage product and the customer is like an inconvenience. As a customer you have to fit with whatever the mortgage provider will offer you and it’s totally inflexible. It’s very similar with Monzo – we tried to flip it around, and focus on what customers really want and care about every day. Simple stuff like notifications when you spend money or alerts before you go into overdraft – those are now commonplace and they weren’t, five, six years ago. I think Generation Home is doing the same thing which is focusing on the stuff that customers really, really care about, and then providing that flexibility and more features to meet their needs, rather than just raming everyone into the straitjacket of what a mortgage is doing,” he said.

Obviously AI, a no code startup for data analysts, increases its seed round to $4.7M

Obviously AI founders Nirman Dave and Tapojit Debnath

Obviously AI founders Nirman Dave and Tapojit Debnath

Nirman Dave’s two startups are very different, but both have a DIY spirit. The first, called CircuiTricks and founded during his gap year after high school, created kits to teach students about electronics and physics. Now Dave is chief executive officer of Obviously AI, a no code AI/ML platform that enables people without technical backgrounds to build and train machine learning models. The Berkeley-based company has raised a seed extension that brings the round’s total to $4.7 million, up from the $3.6 million it announced two months ago. The extension was led by the University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC), a deep tech investment firm, with participation from Trail Mix Ventures and B-Capital.

UTEC principal Kiran Mysore told TechCrunch that he found Obviously AI on Product Hunt while helping a friend without an AI/ML or coding background build machine learning models. After using Obviously AI and benchmarking it against other AutoML products, Mysore was so impressed that he reached out to the startup and led the investment round.

No code/low code startups have gained a lot of attention—and funding—over the past year. Some notable examples are Noogata and Abacus. Dave says Obviously AI’s niche is mid-market businesses that don’t have a data science team, or have people who know data analytics but are not programmers.

Obviously AI uses proprietary technology called “Edge-Sharp AutoML” to build and train machine learning models that are customized to their clients’ needs, and can be integrated into their existing cloud services and databases. It focuses on marketing, software, direct-to-consumer, fintech and insurance companies, and currently has more than 3,000 clients, who have used more than 82,000 predictive models hosted on Obviously AI’s model.

Its new seed funding will be used to expand in Asian markets including Japan, where it will partner with client Dai Nippon Printing (DNP), one of the country’s largest printing companies, on its go-to-market strategy.

In an email to TechCrunch, Takeya Shimomura, research and development manager at Dai Nippon Printing, said, “At DNP, cutting edge predictive analytics for marketing and sales is very important to us. However, the tools today are very complicated and take months to get results. With Obviously AI, we were able to onboard several of our analysts seamlessly and got up and running in just a few hours.”

Dave met Obviously AI’s co-founder and chief technology officer Tapojit Debnath while both were international students at Hampshire College. After graduating, they started internships at startups in the Bay Area. Dave was a data science intern at Streamlabs, the live-streaming software platform.

Originally hired to work on video encoding algorithms, Dave also spent a lot of time building machine learning models for the company’s marketing and sales team. Debnath, who was a machine learning intern at retail software startup B8ta, had a similar experience.

The two realized there is a talent shortage of machine learning engineers, and many companies rely on “citizen data analysts,” or people who understand data science, but don’t have coding experience.

Obviously AI's machine learning model report user interface

Obviously AI’s machine learning model report user interface

“These are people that work with a lot of data but they’re not programmers themselves, and these are the kind of folks we designed these tools for. The goal is that you understand the data, and you can take that data and use the software to build a model really fast, without waiting for hours or days,” said Dave.

He and Debnath quit their jobs in 2018 to start working on the startup, doing chores for their Airbnb host in exchange for rent while learning how to pitch to investors, before joining U.C. Berkeley’s SkyDeck accelerator program.

Dave said that many auto AI/ML software platforms “brute forces a bunch of different algorithms on a data set, and picks one that performs the best.” For example, they might run 100 different algorithms before picking the one that performs the best, which means the time spent automatically building the other algorithms is wasted.

What Obviously AI’s Edge-Sharp AutoML does differently is look at a specific group of machine learning models that can be used on a data set before automatically shortlisting the top five models for a client’s needs, automatically tuning their hyperparameters and returning prediction results.

Obviously AI’s pricing plans start at $75 a month. Its typical clients are mid-sized businesses or small teams in larger businesses that don’t have a data science team, or whose data scientists are preoccupied with other work.

For example, a small microlending company in India with a team of about 15 people was manually deciding which applicants to give loans to when they decided to switch to AI models. They started using Obviously AI to automatically predict the chances of an applicant defaulting and how much they should be loaned. Now the company uses Obviously AI end-to-end in their app, which means customers can see the size of a loan they are likely to get immediately after applying.

Another use case is a German mobile gaming company that wanted to use a dynamic pricing model and needed to figure out how much individual users would be willing to pay for products like in-game tokens. They use Obviously AI to make that prediction based on a player’s interaction with a game.

Part of Obviously AI’s seed funding will be used on machine learning research and development to serve more use cases. Dave said that Obviously AI focuses on supervised learning use cases, where clients have data and know what to predict. Unsupervised use cases are where they have a data set, but don’t know exactly what they want, and use machine learning models to tell them if there are any interesting patterns in it. Unsupervised learning algorithms can be used for things like automatic categorization or recommendation engines on e-commerce platforms.


The best VPNs for unblocking and watching American Netflix

We all love settling down for a marathon streaming session, right? Lining up all your favourite snacks and drinks, surrounding yourself with cushions and blankets, and then spending hours in front of a screen can be a truly therapeutic experience, but there is one big problem with this hobby: There is only a limited amount of content out there to keep you satisfied.

Regular streamers can quickly get to a point when it feels like there’s nothing left to watch, and what are you supposed to do then? Don’t panic, because there is a simple solution to this problem.

If you’ve reached this seemingly hopeless point, you should consider investing in a VPN.

What is a VPN?

VPNs are security tools that provide protection for your information by creating a private network that hides your real IP address. All of your activity is untraceable and secure, because all of your online traffic passes through an encrypted tunnel. Nobody can see into the tunnel, and everything inside the tunnel is protected against online threats like hackers, viruses, and malware.

The act of hiding your real IP address is what can trick leading streaming sites into thinking you are based in another country.

Why should you consider investing in a VPN?

First and foremost, VPNs are used to provide protection for your sensitive information. This is obviously important, but there’s another reason that VPNs are so popular. These tools can be also be used to watch content that is normally blocked in your location.

By hiding your real IP address and connecting you to a server in another country, you can watch all your favourite content from that location. For example, you could watch all the extra films and shows on American Netflix that are not usually accessible outside of the U.S. There is so much content out there that can be accessed with the help of a VPN.

Watch more content from around the world with a VPN.

Watch more content from around the world with a VPN.
Credit: Pexels

We’re all in need of something that can bypass geo-restrictions to access all of this blocked entertainment, and that something is a VPN. These services are kind of like keys to the online world, granting you access to more of the shows and films you love.

How do you use a VPN to unblock Netflix?

If you think the process of accessing American Netflix is going to be tricky with a VPN, think again. It’s actually a really simple process that absolutely everyone can understand.

All you need to do is open up your preferred VPN, select an American server in order to spoof your IP to a U.S. address, and then head to Netflix. This quick and easy action makes Netflix think you’re in the U.S. when you’re actually in the UK, so you can watch all that great content that is normally unavailable. Not too complicated, right?

If you’re worried that this whole thing sounds a bit illegal, then maybe we can reassure you. It’s currently legal to watch Netflix while using a VPN, although we should point out that Netflix states in its terms of service that it may restrict your account without compensation or notice if you are engaged in “improper” use. We’re not entirely sure what that means, but consider yourself warned.

We should make it very clear that you still need to be subscribed to Netflix for this trick to work. A VPN is not going to grant access to the streaming site for free. A VPN provides access to more libraries from around the world, once you’re subscribed.

What is the best VPN for Netflix?

There are a lot of VPN services out there that can effectively unblock American Netflix, but which is the best? There are plenty of strong options for you to consider, but we wouldn’t want you wasting your time checking everything out. To save you time, we’ve handpicked your best options. Each service has a different set of features that will suit some users better than others, and it’s all about finding something that works for you.

ExpressVPN is one of the best services for unlocking Netflix.

ExpressVPN is one of the best services for unlocking Netflix.
Credit: Pexels

It’s difficult to pick the best VPN for accessing American Netflix, but ExpressVPN does stand out from the competition for a number of reasons. It has a streaming-friendly interface, security focused features, and strong connection speeds. All of this provides users with a straightforward and speedy streaming experience. Speed is probably the most important feature to consider when it comes to picking a VPN for streaming. Using a VPN to connect to another country often affects your download speed, which can be devastating when you are trying to binge on your favourite show. We found that using ExpressVPN consistently results in the lowest buffering time when streaming Netflix in 4K. It is however one of the most expensive VPNs.

ExpressVPN is at the top of this list because it combines essential features with impressive results, but it isn’t the only option available to you. We have lined up all the best VPNs for unblocking Netflix, with something for everyone on this list. We’ve highlighted the best deals on the likes of PureVPN, CyberGhost VPN, NordVPN, and ZenMateVPN.

These are the best VPNs for Netflix in 2021.

13 memorable moments when people stood up for the least powerful among us in 2021 (so far)

Choir members walk through the audience as they perform for We are Resilient: A Rally for George Floyd to celebrate the life and legacy of George Floyd in Boston on May 29, 2021.

If 2020 was the year of activism, then 2021 seems to be following in its footsteps.

While many of last year’s protests took place online given the pandemic, the dam broke over the summer as people took to the streets, many in face masks, to call out police violence and systemic racism. This year, COVID-19 vaccinations have paved the way for even more people to stand up for those without privilege IRL again.

As we transition into another new normal about halfway through the year, workers’ rights, reproductive health, and racial justice are shaping up to become definitive issues. During the pandemic, the world was forced to take note of many societal inequalities that had been present, but largely ignored, all along.

The following is a look at some noteworthy moments in 2021 so far when people stood up for the afflicted. While not exhaustive, and in no particular order, these photos demonstrate what can happen when a collective is courageous enough to support the least powerful among us.

1. India’s farmers protest

Mashable Image


Indian farmers protested new laws that they said would hurt their livelihood. The protests, called some of the largest in world history, began in 2020 but continued into early 2021. In response to marches in February, the government cut off the internet at protest sites around New Delhi. Delhi police went so for as to launch a criminal investigation against the creators of an online toolkit aimed at helping the farmers’ cause. The agricultural sector employs more than half of India’s population.

2. Colombians protest tax hikes

At the end of April, protesters took to the streets in Colombia after the government decided to raise taxes as citizens complained of struggling to feed their families. COVID-19 had wreaked havoc on Colombia’s economy. The mass protests, which saw 42 deaths, led to officials rescinding the tax markups days later. Demonstrators also called for more public education funding, better jobs, and improved healthcare.

People protest against the tax reform proposed by the national government. (Photo by: Daniel Garzon/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

People protest against the tax reform proposed by the national government. (Photo by: Daniel Garzon/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Credit: VW Pics/Universal Images Group v

3. Amazon workers try to form a union in Alabama

In April, Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama tried to form a union but the effort was ultimately defeated. Prior to the unionization vote, Amazon hired a law firm with a reputation for union busting.

Credit: Elijah NouvelagE /Getty Images

4. Rep. Cori Bush explains the racism she faced while pregnant

In May, Rep. Cori Bush shared her personal experience as a Black mother during a hearing on the Black maternal mortality crisis. Black people in America are three times as likely to die during or after birth than white people. “Every day, Black birthing people and our babies die because our doctors don’t believe our pain,” Bush said in a tweet after the hearing.


5. McDonald’s employees fight for a $15 minimum wage

McDonald’s employees marched for a $15 minimum wage in Fort Lauderdale in May. McDonald’s announced that month that it’d raise some hourly wages as it competes for workers. Entry level crews at corporate stores now start at $11 per hour and shift managers start at $15 per hour. The company expects average hourly wages (but crucially not the minimum) to be $15 an hour by 2024.


6. The one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder prompted reflection across the country

On May 25, cities across the country, and some internationally, hosted commemorative events both in person and online on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death. His murderer, officer Derek Chauvin, was found guilty just weeks prior to the anniversary.

Angela Harrelson, aunt of George Floyd, and Paris Stevens, cousin of George Floyd, can be seen speaking in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, in the photo below.

Angela Harrelson, aunt of George Floyd, and Paris Stevens, cousin of George Floyd, speak in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, on the one-year anniversary of Floyd's murder.

Angela Harrelson, aunt of George Floyd, and Paris Stevens, cousin of George Floyd, speak in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, on the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder.
Credit: BRANDON BELL / Getty Images

7. Texas valedictorian speaks out against ‘dehumanizing’ abortion law

In June, Paxton Smith, a high school valedictorian, delivered an unapproved graduation speech against Texas’ heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after six weeks, a time when most people don’t know they’re pregnant.

“I have dreams, and hopes, and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does,” she said. “And we have spent our entire lives working towards our future, and without our input, and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us.” 

8. Palestine supporters rally at Lincoln Memorial

In May, supporters of Palestine gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to call for an end to the U.S. funding Israeli weapons and providing general aid as well as to raise awareness of a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The demonstration came after 11 days of brutal fighting between Israelis and Palestinians that killed more than 200 Palestinians, about a third of whom were children, and at least 12 Israelis, including two children. The fighting also destroyed water, sewer. and electricity systems in Gaza. Israel had been widely criticized for waging a disproportionate response to rocket fire from Hamas militants before a cease-fire was set. Israeli officials defended the country’s actions, and U.S. President Joe Biden at one point said Israel wasn’t overreacting.

TOPSHOT - Supporters of Palestine hold a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on May 29, 2021. - More than 1,000 rallied Saturday in Washington in support of  Palestinians and calling for an end to US aid to Israel. The demonstration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial came as a ceasefire that ended 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip has so far held. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – Supporters of Palestine hold a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on May 29, 2021. – More than 1,000 rallied Saturday in Washington in support of Palestinians and calling for an end to US aid to Israel. The demonstration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial came as a ceasefire that ended 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip has so far held. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Credit: AFP via Getty Images

9. Tulsa Race Massacre survivors gather on 100-year anniversary

The last three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when a white mob set a Black community ablaze and killed hundreds of residents, joined together during a rally memorializing the tragedy in June. Along with activist Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, the survivors and a crowd sang to honor the anniversary.

“Ain’t gonna let no racism turn me around,” the crowd sang. “I’m gonna keep on walking, keep on talking, walking up to freedom land.

The three remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when a white mob set a Black community ablaze and killed hundreds of residents,  sing together at the conclusion of a rally during commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the massacre on June 1 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The three remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when a white mob set a Black community ablaze and killed hundreds of residents,  sing together at the conclusion of a rally during commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the massacre on June 1 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Credit: BRANDON BELL/ Getty Images

10. Activists protest oil sands pipeline

Police in riot gear arrested environmental activists at the Line 3 oil sands pipeline pumping station near the Itasca State Park in Minnesota in early June.

Environmentalists and Indigenous groups have been fighting the $4 billion Line 3 oil pipeline for years.

Police in riot gear arrest environmental activists at the Line 3 oil sands pipeline pumping station near the Itasca State Park, Minnesota on June 7.

Police in riot gear arrest environmental activists at the Line 3 oil sands pipeline pumping station near the Itasca State Park, Minnesota on June 7.
Credit: KEREM YUCEL / Getty Images

11. Keystone XL pipeline shuts down

In June, after Indigenous tribes, local environmentalists, and ranchers rallied together for more than a decade against the Keystone XL pipeline, the pipeline’s developer pulled the plug. The pipeline, 300 miles of which had already been built, was to transport oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“It’s a great day for Mother Earth,” said Larry Wright Jr., chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, according to NPR.

On June 9, 2021 the developer behind the Keystone XL pipeline officially ended the project after a decade-plus battle by Indigenous tribes, local environmentalists, and ranchers rallied to shut down the pipeline.

On June 9, 2021 the developer behind the Keystone XL pipeline officially ended the project after a decade-plus battle by Indigenous tribes, local environmentalists, and ranchers rallied to shut down the pipeline.
Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

12. Marching for trans youth

Demonstrators gathered in New York in June for the Brooklyn Liberation March in support of Black trans and gender-nonconforming youth. They carried signs that said “Protect Trans Youth,” “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “Trans Youth Power.” The march was in response to a slew of state laws targeting trans youth, blocking them from healthcare access and school sports.

Credit: Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images

13. High school grad tells his coming out story

A high school valedictorian continued to tell his coming out story and talk about his struggles with mental health during his graduation speech in June even after the principal tried to stop him by crumpling up his prepared remarks. Bryce Dershem of New Jersey said he was glad to recite his speech – which he had memorized – to help people feel less alone.

How To Rank Highly In Local Searches

In 2019, 90% of consumers searched the internet to find a local business. In 2020, 57% of customers bought from a local business for the first time. How will customers find your business? What can you do to make it stand out in the virtual crowd?

The first thing to be aware of is Google’s Local Pack, which offers local businesses prime real estate within Google’s search results. Local results are displayed above organic results, they are highly visual in nature, and they draw their information from Google My Business (GMB) listings. Indeed, MOZ ranks GMB listing factors as the most important determinant of local pack rankings.

The next three categories in order of decreasing importance are backlink quality/authority/anchor text, review quantity/freshness/diversity, and website keywords/domain authority, respectively. For a local business wanting to rank at the top of searches, the areas on which to focus effort are clear.

How Can A Local Business Optimize Its GMB listing?

how businesses rank locally on google

You have to follow 3 steps. The first is by far the easiest: claim your business profile. Google can’t display a listing it doesn’t have. The second step takes a bit longer, and it is to complete every section of the profile thoroughly.

GMB listings include NAP (business name, address, and phone number), website, photos, hours of operation, business category and attributes, products and services offered, and anything else from the business that you deem relevant.

Once the first 2 steps are completed, the third is one of continuous maintenance: keeping the listing updated. Obviously, this includes changing the location listed when the business moves. Otherwise, no change is needed. Other ways to keep the listing fresh are to create weekly posts, respond to reviews the business gets from customers, and answer questions members of the public might have.

When it comes to single location businesses, the story can end here. They can simply optimize their GMB listing and link it to their website homepage to do well in search rankings. For local businesses with multiple locations, the story continues.

It is in these businesses’ best interests to pursue local landing pages (LLPs for short). A local landing page is a web page that stands alone. It exists to serve a specific business location, allowing you to link each LLP to its own listing on Google My Business. That way, each location can rank well in its own hyperlocal search.

What should be included on a local landing page? While there are some factors specific to an LLP, good website design sense also applies in this case. Consumers spend 74% of their time on the site’s first 2 screenfuls, so put the most important information above the fold.

Clarity, conciseness, and strategic use of keywords are the ingredients for a good main headline. Consistent formatting and clear schema markup help search engines return more informative results for users.

Beyond the basics, specific factors that boost the search rankings of an LLP are the inclusion of hyperlocal content, well-executed usage of Google Maps and Google 360, location photos, a directions button, and social media profiles specifically dedicated to a single business location. Keep the links customers need to click on an LLP to a minimum for a shorter sales funnel. Coupons and sales specific to a single location can also increase conversion.

Why Keeping Your Business Mobile-Friendly Is Extremely Worthwhile

rank locally on google

One other thing that business websites of all kinds should be aware of is how their site looks on mobile devices. When it comes to local searches, 84% of them are made on mobile devices like smartphones. If a customer can’t navigate your website on mobile, they may be more inclined to try another business than pull out a desktop.

Convenience for the customer takes priority. Some ways to make a mobile site easier to use include adding floating call to action buttons, incorporating click to call phone numbers, and ensuring coupons are mobile-friendly as well.

When it comes to the business itself, LLPs can also show options that increase convenience for the customer. 2-way communication like texting is a feature many younger consumers enjoy. If a store’s hours change or a temporary closure occurs, that information should be on both the LLP and GMB.

Anatomy of a Local Landing Page

The post How To Rank Highly In Local Searches appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Surprise: iPhone 13 will (probably) be called iPhone 13

Well, well, well.

We’ve got a shocker for you, dear readers: Apple’s next flagship smartphone will be called iPhone 13.

This information, which comes from Economic Daily News (via MacRumors), sounds like the most obvious piece of news ever. There was, however, some speculation that Apple might name its next flagship differently, perhaps due to the connotations of the number 13, which is considered to be an unlucky number in some cultures.

Also, we shouldn’t forget that the current iPhone naming scheme is only two generations old — before iPhone 11 there was iPhone X — so Apple straying from this path wouldn’t be as surprising as it initially may seem.

Still, it wasn’t meant to be. Supply chain sources say the naming scheme will be the same as last year, with Apple launching four new models: the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro, the 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, and the 5.4-inch iPhone mini.

The report also claims that Foxconn will be producing all of the iPhone 13 Pro Max devices, 68 percent of the iPhone 13 devices, and about 60 percent of the iPhone 13 Pro devices, with the rest being built by Luxshare, while Pegatron is exclusively building the iPhone 13 mini.

The iPhone 13 is widely expected to be a fairly small upgrade compared to the iPhone 12, with a near-identical design, and the same screen sizes, though some of the new models are expected to feature 120Hz displays. Other potential improvements include faster processors, more storage options, a bigger battery, and an improved ultra-wide camera.

None of this is likely to be officially confirmed until the iPhone 13 launches, which will probably happen in September.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge designs ‘Fleabag’ gin to help emerging artists

Yes, it actually says *those* lines on the bottle.

I love you. It’ll pass.

If you’re still not quite over hearing Fleabag and Hot Priest utter these devastating words on your TV screen, then we have some news for you.

Show creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has collaborated with Edinburgh Gin to design a limited edition Fleabag gin bottle that tells the story of one of the best British shows of the 2010s. The bottle is emblazoned with the iconic lines of dialogue from the show’s final episode, to utter into the inevitable G&Ts you’ll be making.

What’s more, 100 percent of the profits will create financial support for emerging artists.

The hand-draw, screen-printed bottle design was designed by Waller-Bridge and features Fleabag looking into the Edinburgh night sky. A fox represents the show’s truly moving final moments, and the words “I love you,” have been hand-written by Waller-Bridge, while the response “It’ll pass,” has been scrawled by Andrew Scott, who plays Hot Priest.

“If that isn’t incentive enough to hunt one down and hold it against your cheek, I don’t know what is,” Waller-Bridge said in a press statement.

Mashable Image

Credit: edinburgh gin 

Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, is a significant place to Waller-Bridge as she first performed Fleabag at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013, which led to her rise to fame. The chair on the label is a nod to the bare staging of the original play, which she performed as a one-woman show.

“Gin and theatre are my two great loves. We wanted this bottle to capture a glimpse of Edinburgh in all her mystery and wonder, through the eyes of Fleabag who found her first home there,” said Waller-Bridge. “I hope every purchase inspires outrageous and creative conversations over ice while bringing the beloved Fringe festival back to life.”

As any gin lover will attest, it’s about what’s inside the bottle that really counts. The covetable vessels will be filled with Edinburgh Gin’s Classic London Dry gin, with pinebuds, lavender, mulberries, and citrus botanicals.

Profits from the sales will go towards creating subsidies that will enable the “next generation of talent to return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2022,” according to the press release. The distillery hopes to raise £150,000.

Gin-loving Fleabag fans can pre-register on Edinburgh Gin’s website for presale access on July 20. The gin, which is priced at £48 ($66.50) per bottle, will then go on general sale to the public in early August and will be delivered during the festival, which takes place from August 6 to 30.

SoftBank buys perpetual Yahoo trademark license for $1.6 billion

As firework volleys launched out of New York City harbor last night, a very different celebration was likely taking place just a few blocks down the street at Verizon’s official headquarters in Midtown.

The telco, which owns TechCrunch for hopefully just a few more weeks pending the close of the Apollo acquisition of our parent company Verizon Media, announced overnight that it had signed an agreement with Z Holdings, a division of Japan’s SoftBank Group, to sell trademarks within the Japan market around the Yahoo brand and related tech infrastructure for approximately $1.6 billion.

The extremely descriptive Z Holdings owns SoftBank’s internet businesses in Japan, most notably Yahoo Japan, whose web portal remains the country’s most trafficked news website. Under its most current agreement with Verizon Media (formerly Oath, formerly AOL + Yahoo), Yahoo Japan paid a regular royalty for the rights to use the Yahoo brand name in Japan and associated technologies. Those royalties will now stop in lieu of a one-time upfront payment.

The resolution of the agreement was one of the key nuances left to figure out in Apollo’s $5 billion buyout of Verizon Media. The deal will give Verizon significant additional consideration as it works to pare down its debt load acquired from a spending spree on wireless spectrum auctions, such as its $52.9 billion acquisition of C-band spectrum earlier this year.

In a press statement from Z Holdings, the company said that “Although the Yahoo Japan License Agreement will be terminated, Yahoo Japan and Verizon Media will retain their cooperative business and technology relationship. Yahoo Japan will continue to deliver more convenient and innovative services under the ‘Yahoo! JAPAN’ brand, based on its mission statement: ‘UPDATE JAPAN.’” Expect further patches to Japan to be delivered shortly, I guess.

The 7 best Zoom and work-from-home moments of 2021, so far

We still aren't perfect at video calls.

At this point — what, a year and half into the pandemic? — you’d think the world would be accustomed to Zoom. And, for the most part, we all have gotten better at video chatting and working from home.

But better isn’t perfect. While last year was replete with Zoom screwups, 2021 has seen far less failure. Still, halfway through the year, we managed to scrape together seven of our favorite Zoom and work-from-home fails and funny moments. Here they are.

1. That lawyer who accidentally showed up to virtual court with a cat filter on

Remember Rod Ponton, the Texas lawyer who went viral when he couldn’t figure out how to remove a cat filter during court? How could you forget?

2. This teacher and his lovely dog Lila, who really caused an issue

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I’m glad to know Lila is doing fine now. Poor girl.

3. The politician who video called into a debate on a distracted driving law while…driving his car

Andrew Brenner, a Republican state senator in Ohio, might get the award for the dumbest possible Zoom mishap. He supported a law for stricter penalties for distracted driving while clearly driving and participating in the video call. Brenner seemingly tried to hide where he was with a shoddy virtual background…which did nothing to conceal his seatbelt. It’s just comically bad.

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4. A rocky grilled cheese tutorial

OK, so this one is just my fantastic colleague Nicole Gallucci getting schooled on making a grilled cheese by the one and only Guy Fieri. It might not be a huge mishap, but it is a funny work-from-home moment.

5. There’s no other way to say this: a live streamed butt injection

Miami Herald crime reporter David Ovalle documented perhaps the strangest multitasking ever: appearing in court and getting a butt injection simultaneously.

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6. OK, another strange one in Miami from Ovalle

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You’ve got to respect that he would show up, to be honest.

7. And finally, Jason freakin’ Sudeikis

The wonderful, hilarious actor called into the Golden Globes in a frankly sick tie-dyed hoodie. This was, in no way, a Zoom fail. But it was a wonderful work-from-home moment that I wanted to celebrate.

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Iceland ran the world’s largest trial of a shorter work week. The results will (not) shock you.

Yet more compelling evidence that companies need to change our work hours.

From 2015 to 2019, Iceland ran the world’s largest trial of a shorter working week. An analysis of the results was finally published this week, and surprise! Everyone was happier, healthier, and more productive. Please pretend to be surprised.

The report was jointly prepared by the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) in Iceland and UK think tank Autonomy, who note that Iceland’s experiment could be used as a blueprint for future trials around the world.

“This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success,” said Will Stronge, Autonomy’s director of research. “It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks — and lessons can be learned for other governments.”

Iceland’s test consisted of two trials run by Reykjavík City Council and Iceland’s national government. The former involved over 2,500 people while the latter had 440, together making up more than one percent of the country’s workforce. Workers were moved from 40-hour work weeks to 35- or 36-hour weeks with no reduction in pay, and a wide variety of workplaces took part, including offices, preschools, social service providers, and hospitals. Not all participants worked traditional nine-to-five jobs either, with workers on non-traditional shift times also included.

Regardless of these variables, the results of the trials were overwhelmingly positive. Productivity either remained the same or actually increased, and worker wellbeing was considerably improved. Perceived stress and burnout went down, while health and work-life balance went up, as employees were given more time for housekeeping, hobbies, and their families. Both managers and staff considered the trials a major success.

“For me it is like a gift from the heavens,” said one manager in Reykjavík, according to the report. “And I like it a lot.”

Workplaces tried out various time reduction strategies to accommodate the shorter work hours. These included delegating and prioritising tasks more effectively, having shorter and more focused meetings, and yes, letting meetings that could have been emails just be emails.

The trials’ success has helped Iceland’s trade unions negotiate for permanently reduced working hours since 2019, affecting tens of thousands of their members. The report states that around 86 percent of the country’s entire workforce now either has shorter working hours, or the right to shorten their hours.

“The Icelandic shorter working week journey tells us that not only is it possible to work less in modern times, but that progressive change is possible too,” said Alda researcher Gudmundur D. Haraldsson.

This is far from the first time the benefits of a shorter work week have made themselves known. When Microsoft Japan trialed a four-day work week in 2019, productivity increased by almost 40 percent. New Zealand firm Perpetual Guardian permanently switched to a four-day work week in 2018 after their own trial saw productivity increase 20 percent. Companies around the world have tried shorter work weeks again and again, continually confirming the International Labour Organisation’s 2018 report that shorter work hours typically produce happier, more productive workers.

“We should continue on this journey, and I believe the next step is to reduce working hours to 30 hours per week,” said Icelandic parliament member Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir.

Across the board, shorter work weeks have proved better for employees, employers, and society in general. It’s high time life caught up to the science.

A weird bug can mess up your iPhone’s WiFi, but there’s a fix

For some users, it's easy to fix. For others, not so much.

There’s a bug that makes it fairly trivial for someone to cause problems with Wi-Fi on iOS devices. Discovered by security researcher Carl Schou, all it takes is creating a public Wi-Fi hotspot with a specifically crafted name, and when someone with an iOS device connects to it, boom: Their Wi-Fi is disabled.

The weird thing about this bug is that it’s been discovered and publicly shared a few weeks ago, and there’s still no word about a fix coming.

Schou originally tweeted about the issue on June 19. If an iOS device connects to a Wi-Fi network called “%p%s%s%s%s%n”, its Wi-Fi will get disabled. Judging by comments from others, what happens from there can be quite different, depending on unknown factors: Some people have been able to enable the Wi-Fi on their devices simply by resetting network settings. For others — Schou included — this didn’t work, and neither did restarting the iPhone.

Several outlets, including 9to5Mac, have picked up the news back then. It appears that the bug has to do with the syntax of some programming languages, where “%(character)” is a string format specifier. It’s a fairly common type of bug, where a character string that’s used in programming mistakenly ends up somewhere where it can cause trouble, causing an app to crash.

As others experimented with the bug, it turned out that you can use other network names to produce the same effect; Schou proposed “%secretclub%power”, and Security researcher Alex Skalozub, who spoke with The Register, said a name like “%Free %Coffee at %Starbucks” would also work.

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This makes the issue a bit more serious, as it’s fairly easy to concoct a Wi-Fi network name that sounds like something you’d want to connect to. Though it doesn’t appear the bug can be used to steal your data or anything nefarious like that, a prankster could set up a public Wi-Fi network that would mess up the iPhones of everyone that connected to it — and with the right name, it could take in a lot of people.

Bringing this story back into attention was Schou’s tweet on Sunday that he still hasn’t been able to fix his Wi-Fi. Ultimately, he did it by manually editing an iPhone backup, and removing the offending Wi-Fi network names from the “known networks” .plist — something a typical iPhone user certainly isn’t eager to do. Another user suggests removing the offending Wi-Fi network name from iCloud Keychain on a Mac.

While it’s comforting to know that a fix for this bug exists, it’d be nice if Apple fixed it on their end. Schou says he contacted Apple about the issue but hasn’t heard back. We’ve done the same and will update this article when we hear from Apple.

E-commerce logistics startup Locad gets $4.5M seed round led by Sequoia Capital India

E-commerce is booming in Southeast Asia, but in many markets, the fragmented logistics industry is struggling to catch up. This means sellers run into roadblocks when shipping to buyers, especially outside of major metropolitan areas, and managing their supply chains. Locad, a startup that wants to help with what it describes as an “end-to-end solution” for cross-border e-commerce companies, announced today it has raised a $4.5 million seed round.

The funding was led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge (Locad is currently a part of the program’s fifth cohort), with participation from firms like Antler, Febe Ventures, Foxmont, GFC and Hustle Fund. It also included angel investors Alessandro Duri, Alexander Friedhoff, Christian Weiss, Henry Ko, Huey Lin, Markus Bruderer, Dr. Markus Erken, Max Moldenhauer, Oliver Mickler, Paulo Campos, Stefan Mader, Thibaud Lecuyer, Tim Marbach and Tim Seithe.

Locad was founded in Singapore and Manila by Constantin Robertz, former Zalora director of operations Jannis Dargel and Shrey Jain, previously Grab’s lead product manager of maps. It now also has offices in Australia, Hong Kong and India. The startup’s goal is to close the gap between first-mile and last-mile delivery services, enabling e-commerce companies to offer lower shipping rates and faster deliveries while freeing up more time for other parts of their operations, such as marketing and sales conversions.

Since its founding in October 2020, Locad has been used by more than 30 brands and processed almost 600,000 items. Its clients range from startups to international brands, and include Mango, Vans, Payless Shoes, Toshiba and Landmark, a department store chain in the Philippines.

Locad is among a growing roster of other Southeast Asia-based logistics startups that have recently raised funding, including Kargo, SiCepat, Advotics and Logisly. Locad wants to differentiate by providing a flexible solution that can work with any sales channel and is integrated with a wide range of shipping providers.

Robertz told TechCrunch that Locad is able to keep an asset-light business model by partnering with warehouse operators and facility managers. What the startup brings to the mix is a cloud software platform that serves as a “control tower,” letting users get real-time information about inventory and orders across Locad’s network. The company currently has seven fulfillment centers, with four of its warehouses in the Philippines and the other three in Singapore, New South Wales, Australia and Hong Kong. Part of its funding will be used to expand into more Asia-Pacific markets, focusing on Southeast Asia and Australia.

Locad’s seed round will also used to add integrations to more couriers and sales channels (it can already be used with platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon, Shopee, Lazada and Zalora), and develop new features for its cloud platform, including more data analytics.


MaxAB, the Egyptian B2B food and grocery delivery startup, raises $40M for expansion

Globally, food and grocery delivery startups have been raising mega-rounds of late, especially those in Europe as the pandemic has given rise to more people ordering online more than ever. This growth has translated to an increase in volume across e-commerce platforms all over the world.

While there has relatively been no action in Africa in terms of raising investments, startups in MENA continue to garner interest, mainly in B2B e-commerce. Today, the latest of these is coming out of Egypt.

MaxAB, a startup based out of Cairo that serves a network of traditional food and grocery retailers across Egypt, has raised $40 million in Series A financing.

The company, which claims to have launched in a new city every month this year, will be expanding its physical footprint across the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, MaxAB plans on hiring more talent and scaling its recently launched business verticals, including new supply chains and embedded finance solutions.

Founded in November 2018 by Belal El-Megharbel and Mohamed Ben Halim, MaxAB’s platform manages procurement and grocery delivery to shops in Egypt. Store owners can use the platform to purchase goods, request delivery or logistics to move the goods, and access a customer support team.

“It’s not just the technology platform; we operate our own warehouses, we operate our own fleet. And the idea was quite simple.”  CEO El-Megharbel said to TechCrunch. According to him, small merchants in Egypt, representing a large chunk of the nation’s GDP, find it hard to procure their inventory. On the other hand, manufacturers also have to suffer immensely and incur so many costs to serve a market like Egypt, where over 400,000 small mom-and-pop shops sell 90% of groceries in the country.

“We saw that there is a massive role in optimizing this supply chain using technology so that we can have the right amount of products at the right place at the right time,” explained El-Megharbel, the chief executive who left Careem in 2018 to start MaxAB.

He calls MaxAB the Amazon for retail in the Middle East. There’s a slight comparison. In emerging markets, it can be challenging to find third-party e-commerce delivery companies to work with. Those available are either expensive or inefficient. This is why MaxAB has its own infrastructure. The company doesn’t build warehouses from scratch. Instead, it buys them outrightly and revamps them to fit its needs. After that, MaxAB uses internal technology tools to better manage inventory flow in, within, and out of the warehouse.

El-Megharbel noted that up until last year, MaxAB was focused on offering a single type of supply chain in one city. That was before and after completing its $6.2 million seed round with 9,000 merchants on its app. But with this new round, MaxAB solidifies both infrastructure and technology into a multi-supply chain and multi-city business.

The new development is accompanying a period of growth the company experienced in the last two years where it now services more than 55,000 merchants and delivers over 2,000 unique products. In terms of staff size, the company has grown more than 5x to 1,600 people and is looking to add to that number.

Image Credits: MaxAB

Talking about the embedded finance solutions, the plan for MaxAB is to offer financial services to its merchants. First of all, given the company’s database of merchants, MaxAB can predict their financial status. Then orking with banking and non-banking partners, MaxAB will offer credit facilities and capital financing to these merchants. 

MaxAB’s Series A investment is one of the largest in this financing round across the MENA region. Impact investor RMBV led the round with participation from the IFC, Flourish Ventures, Crystal Stream Capital, Rise Capital, and Endeavour Catalyst. Exiting investors, Beco Capital and 4DX Ventures also took part. This round brings the company’s total investment to date to $46.2 million.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the unique structure of Egypt’s economy, with hundreds of thousands of shopkeepers and small businesses becoming the lifeline of our country at the time of crisis,” said managing partner at RMBV Ahmed Badreldin in a statement. “We are delighted to be backing visionary entrepreneurs that have created a transformative business with impressive growth that is a catalyst for financial inclusion and job creation. We look forward to supporting MaxAB in its next phase of development as they continue delivering on growth and innovation.”

The pandemic has significantly increased technology adoption and enhanced the company’s unit economics. As a market leader, MaxAB has taken advantage to consolidate its position and scale sustainably amidst competition.

“There is competitiveness in the Middle East. Most of them are marketplace models but do not manage their supply chain per se. And this is what makes our model more unique is that we own the end-to-end cycle. It’s painful, but we believe that this is what this industry, the food and groceries B2B e-commerce space, needs,” the CEO said.

After expanding across MENA, does the company see any opportunity southward into sub-Saharan Africa where it might face competition from the likes of Sokowatch? “Not in the near future,” answered El-Megharbel. “I think this market [the Middle East and North Africa] is almost $200 billion per year. So we have a long way to go there before we go to sub-Saharan Africa.”

Kickstart your career with this stacked online course bundle

The 2021 Career and Self Development Master Class is on sale.

TL;DR: The 2021 Career and Self Development Master Class is on sale for £28.94 as of July 5, saving you 98% on list price.

Just because 2020 was a wash, doesn’t mean 2021 has to be. While you’re waiting for the world to get back to normal again, why not start going after what you really want in your career? And if you’re looking for a little guidance along the way, this 2021 Career and Self Development Master Class can help. From CV crafting to wage negotiations to interviewing, you’ll learn the insider tricks to making an impression and getting what you want.

All in all, you’ll gain access to over 460 lessons and 10 courses that will help you be confident in your skills and what you’re worth in the job market. You’ll start by mastering one of the toughest aspects of a job that could be holding you back: the interview process. If you look great on paper but get flustered in person, don’t panic, you’re normal. You just need a bit of coaching on how to wow your employer and answer any question like a pro.

The coursework will actually dive into how top tech companies like Apple and Google interview employees so you can master any tech or IT interview. Plus, you’ll learn the secrets to passing the pre-HR automated screening test, so you get the chance to impress them in person. Once you’re hired, you’ll be prepared to ask for more money while proving to your employer that you’re worth it.

And if you’re not even sure what career path you want to get into, there’s a course for that too. You’ll also learn new ways to improve your work in any field by learning how to connect your ideas to business transactions. Another course will even teach you to pick up speed-reading so you can study up on industry papers and news. 

Your instructors include professionals like Stefan Devito, who boasts a 4.6 out of 5-star rating across over 2,000 student reviews. Devito has analysed investment gurus like Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk for years to learn how they gained success, and has turned what he’s learned into an easily digestible format for students like you. You’ll also learn from Mauricio Rubio, founder of Agile KB and a seasoned project manager, among others. 

While these 10 courses are valued at £1,447, you can get started on improving yourself for just £28.94 with this deal. What better way to start the new year?

Drones that hunt screaming humans just want to help

Do not be alarmed. This drone is here to help.

Scientists are training drones to hunt people down by following the sound of their screaming.

Yes, it does sound like the beginnings of a Terminator/Quiet Place-style dystopia, but it isn’t meant that way. Rather, these drones are intended to save lives.

Researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics (Fraunhofer FKIE) are developing scream-seeking drones to help rescue workers quickly find people who are trapped or injured in emergency situations. Mounting an array of microphones onto a drone, the researchers can hone in on screams by using processing techniques such as beamforming, which enables the microphones to detect which of them is closest to a sound and then hone in on it.

Speaking to Mashable via email, researcher Macarena Varela explained that she and colleagues Wulf-Dieter Wirth and Manfred Okum previously developed a similar system in 2016, but it had been too big and heavy to mount on a drone.

“In 2018, Dr Wirth was convinced that we could use MEMS [microelectromechanical system] microphones instead of the traditional condenser microphones, making the system much smaller,” said Varela. “This was the beginning of our dream to be able to mount it on a drone for the purpose of SAR (Search and Rescue).”

The research was presented at the Acoustical Society of America’s 180th meeting in June.

Credit: Macarena Varela

The researchers’ system currently utilises 32 microphones in its array, though Varela notes they haven’t yet experimented to find the minimum number it could use while still being effective. Even so, they consider that more is better in this case.

“Since MEMS microphones are so small and affordable, we are planning to double the amount of microphones in the near future instead of reducing them,” said Varela.

Increasing the number of microphones will allow researchers to more accurately estimate the angle of sounds they detect, as well as pick up audio that is further away. This will enable the drone to determine the location of the victim with increased precision.

“Ideally, to use beamforming techniques, it is practical to use an array of identical microphones delivering synchronous data,” said Varela. “We opted for a very particular array called Crow’s Nest, where all microphones are randomly positioned in a sphere. This type of array provides sound coverage in every direction and [is] equally good in all directions.”

“The data from all microphones is combined, after adding delays or phases to it, in order to achieve the maximum sensitivity for a selected direction, and thus forming a sensitivity beam,” continued Varela. “Then, by varying or scanning the direction, the search for sound sources is achieved.”

The researchers use the monopulse radar technique to establish the exact angle of the sound. This technique compares at least two simultaneous beams received from slightly different directions, determining which signal is stronger to detect the position of a target.

Valera and her colleagues are currently developing and testing filtering methods in order to reduce noise such as the sound of the drone’s rotor. At the same time, they are also experimenting with various detection methods for picking up the sound of people in distress, including AI and neural networks. For both purposes, Fraunhofer FKIE’s researchers are using an audio database which includes “impulsive sounds…. that victims may produce, such as tapping, clapping and screaming.”

“In previous tests in the lab, we were able to detect impulsive sounds, such as clapping, having rotor noises present,” said Varela. “We are currently processing the data with the drone flying.”

Varela provided Mashable with video demonstrating their ongoing research.

Drones are already used in search and rescue efforts, capable of reaching areas that are difficult to access as well as covering a lot of ground much more quickly than humans or dogs. However, such efforts typically rely on a human monitoring a camera mounted on a drone. Locating victims of a disaster quickly is often critical to their survival, so any technology that helps first responders find them is useful.

It may be some time before we see this system in action, though. Varela says that it “depends on how many hours [she and her colleagues] can work on it.” Testing is still ongoing, and the researchers haven’t had any concrete deadlines. Still, they believe the system has significant potential.

“A big part of the work is to now transfer the methods already implemented on the big system to this smaller one,” said Varela. “Nevertheless, we also face new challenges, such as the drone noise while flying. In other words, we have the expertise in our team, so it’s a matter of time.”