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Tech Hiring Is Poised To Break Records In 2015

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:32pm

There has never been a better time to be in software, and the hiring trends prove it. According to Dice.com's semi-annual report, tech hiring is at unprecedented levels. For tech professionals, this means that now is the time to ask for a better, higher-paying job. 

Which may not actually be what developers want.

Tech Hiring Is Eating The World

Forget partying like it's 1999. As software becomes essential to the operation of all business, tech professionals are seeing their stock rise to record-breaking levels, as Dice.com's December hiring report reveals.

To wit:

  • 75% of recruiters anticipate hiring more tech professionals in the first six months of 2015 than the last six months of 2014, up from 70% in June 2014;
  • 72% of companies are planning to expand by more than 10% in early 2015, up from 68% in June 2014 and 65% in December 2013;
  • Because of this demand, 64% of hiring managers report having candidates ask for more money (up from 61% in June 2014); and 
  • 40% of hiring managers report an increase in "take this job and shove it" voluntary departures, a 6-point jump from June 2014. 

These are unprecedented levels of hiring for Dice's semi-annual survey, and suggests, yet again, that software is eating the world. After all, most of these jobs aren't being posted by Silicon Valley startups. Instead mainstream enterprises are desperately seeking software talent. 

Money Can't Buy Me Love

Despite the competition for talent, money ultimately may not be what tech professionals, and especially developers, want most. Companies seeking to entice developers should pay attention.

See also: How To Avoid The Community Of Open Source Jerks

Ruurd Keizer, for example, asks why developers don't make millions of dollars (of course, some do). The answer, he notes, is that "great developers love what they do ... simply playing with new technologies and writing awesome code." Greg Kroah-Hartman, a top Linux kernel maintainer, says it this way: "As for a hobby, it's a real problem, my hobby became my job so then what do I do for a hobby?"

The problem for developers, however, is that in a larger enterprise, they're buried under layers of management that can't recognize just how potent their contributions are. Keizer writes:

Even if a great developer manages to pass this indiscriminate hiring wall, and turns out to be a real asset, between him and the CEO there are 9001 layers of management, each of which has to earn more than the last, irrespective of their actual contribution to the company. In this sense the position of developers is much like the one of coffee bean farmers, in that a very small percentage of the money reaches the ones creating the actual product. This still wouldn’t be a problem if development was a more visible art, like sports or music. Developers would be recognized as the creative force and the discrepancy would be impossible to sell to a larger audience.

All of which is true. But in my experience it's that "love of coding" that most inspires developers. Money really inspires no one. 

VisionMobile has actually studied this, and found that most developers want the ability to express themselves through code, not mountains of money:

Recruit And Retain

All of which suggests that if you're trying to hire great technical talent, money can't be the only perk you offer. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Netflix, for example, actively encourage their developers to contribute to open-source projects, as this satisfies both the need for community and the "fun" aspect of developer desires noted above. 

See also: Corporate Programming Languages: The New Lock-In

The other key ingredient, as former Netflix cloud chief Adrian Cockroft highlights, is cloud. Otherwise put, the more you can do to get developers in the door and then get out of their way, the better. 

Hiring managers seem to be getting the message. According to the Dice.com report, 43% of those surveyed report seeing more counteroffers from a recruit's existing employer, up from 33% just six months prior. The competition for tech talent, in short, is fierce. 

Better give developers what they want. Money is only part of it.

Categories: Technology

BlackBerry Launches The Classic, Its Best Hope Yet For Salvation

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:13pm

BlackBerry has finally launched its new-old smartphone, the keyboard-bearing BlackBerry Classic.

The phone, which has been available on pre-order for a month, offers users a rather unique proposition these days: a physical keyboard. The company earned its stripes with devices bearing hardware QWERTY keyboards, and some might argue that BlackBerry’s business really began to slide when it ditched them to hop on the touchscreen trend. 

See also: BlackBerry Goes Back To The Future With Its "BlackBerry Classic"

The Classic offers both—a keyboard and a touch-enabled display that’s actually larger than the one featured in its last hit, the Bold 9900. Along for the ride are the familiar physical navigation keys and trackpad. Altogether, the phone should provide plenty of nostalgia for old-time BlackBerry lovers.

Whether that's enough to make it the hit the company so badly needs is another question.

The Classic Bid To Get Back In The Black

There’s no strange keyboard layout, like the weird one with three rows of keys in BlackBerry's Passport. The Classic's keys, touchscreen and shortcuts were designed to let users fly through their communications “triage,” so they can select blocks of emails or zip through texts with lightning replies, even without looking at the keys. 

Like previous BlackBerrys, those buttons have tactile contours and plenty of responsive spring when pressed, which should please touch typists. Folks who treasure the ability to manage their device with one hand should note that this phone is also much smaller than the Passport, and was designed for one-handed use—more like the old Bold 9900 from 2011. 

The Classic's other hardware specifications seem to come from that era too. The device features a dual-core Qualcomm processor, 2GB of RAM, a 1230 mAh battery and a 3.5-inch touchscreen (at 720 x 720 pixels, 294 dpi HD resolution). 

BlackBerry, perhaps trying to get in front of any criticism of its compact screen, notes that the display is still 40% bigger than that of the Bold. Jeff Gadway, head of product and brand marketing, also pointed out that "when you bring up a keyboard on an iPhone and compare it with the Classic, the [Classic's] display is within 4%." Of course, he didn't mention which of Apple's super-sized iPhone he was referring to, though it's all but certain he wasn't talking about the monstrous iPhone 6 Plus. 

As for battery life, while the capacity of that power cell doesn't look too impressive, the company made software optimizations that, it says, should keep it going for 22 hours. The smaller screen ought to help save power as well. 

While the lack of screen space and mediocre specs may disappoint mobile gamers, the internals should be perfectly adequate for the productivity-minded folks BlackBerry has aimed the Classic at. So if you just need a self-described "workhorse" to plow through messages, this device should be up to the challenge. 

A Blast That's Better Than The Past?

BlackBerry makes direct comparisons with the Bold, which had plenty of fans. Now the company can’t help but emphasize how the Classic offers similar design cues, but a greatly improved experience, with:

  • A browser that’s three times faster
  • A display with 60% more space
  • Battery life that’s 50% longer

Classic also features an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel selfie camera in front and the latest version of the BlackBerry OS. 

Version 10.3.1 brings with it heightened security, which should please companies, and productivity tools like the Hub, Assistant and Blend—the latter of which lets users manage their work Classics using their personal computers. 

Perhaps the most noteworthy change between the old and new BlackBerries: Android apps. The Classic offers two app stores and can run apps from the Amazon App Store as well as BlackBerry World.

This device is clearly all business, which is actually rather savvy. BlackBerry is going after smartphone users who have been largely ignored lately: hardware keyboard fans, phablet haters who still value one-handed use, and people who demand a long-lasting device. That makes for a blast from the past that could be the company’s smartest play in years. 

The BlackBerry Classic is now available worldwide for $449 (unlocked) at retail stores and online at ShopBlackBerry.com and Amazon. For more information, visit the official product page

Screenshots of BlackBerry's press conference in New York, by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

Categories: Technology

Facebook Will Enhance Your Photos For You

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:16am

Facebook will auto-enhance newly uploaded photos beginning Tuesday, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine reports.

See also: Facebook Is Going To Start Tracking You Even More Closely

In the age of the smartphone, everyone carries a camera around wherever they go. That doesn’t mean we’re all professional photographers though, or that we want to be. Facebook’s new automated service will make it so users don’t have to worry about DIY filtering.

Before the change was implemented, Facebook would show you your unedited photo, give you an option to apply a one-size-fits-all enhancement, or tweak it yourself. Facebook says the automatic enhancement will be faster and more custom than the status quo.

Facebook isn’t the only social site that’s focused on making image sharing simpler. Twitter and Instagram both just rolled out new filters. In lieu of filters, Google+ offers an auto-enhance function similar to the one Facebook is implementing now. 

Photo by Cubmundo

Categories: Technology

What Your Business Can Learn From Ello

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 10:00am

Guest author Yoav Vilner is a co-founder of Ranky.

It’s almost 2015, and it’s time everyone realized that users matter more than anything. Yes, more than the actual product and far more than the short-term revenue that app developers and social networks can earn off them.

Yet not everyone gets that. Certainly not Facebook, which—as this recent Time piece illustrates—is still busy aiming to expand across the globe. Facebook isn’t asking for money upfront but rather selling all of our personal data and spanking us with advertisements in order to earn their dough.

It's a strategy Todd Berger, co-founder of the "anti-Facebook" social network Ello, calls its "world domination approach." Ello is taking  a different path—one based on a "freemium" business plan for users that gives them basic access for free, promises not to sell their data to advertisers, and allows them to pay for additional features such as upgraded profile designs.

As Berger told BetaBeat:

“Freemium is working the world over,” Mr. Berger said, “Versus: ‘No, no, it’s free, it’s free! But we’re selling all your data to god knows who at exorbitant rates in order to create new scams for people who didn’t ask for it.'”

Ello offers more than feel-good principles, a potentially ad-free model, and a possible threat to the Facebook throne. Although the social network has taken its share of arrows for an elusive business model, a glitchy site design, and difficulty living up to the enormous wave of interest it started drawing earlier this year, it still offers a key insight for businesses of all stripes.

See also: What The Ell Is Ello? The Ad-Free Social Social Network Everyone Is Talking About

In short, today’s users may prefer to settle for less rather than be exploited and ignored. 

How Ello Is Like Occupy Wall Street

Like the Occupy movement a few years back, Ello is a case of frustrated citizens reclaiming their authority to speak up against giants. Internet users are making it clear they want autonomy: We want to feel that the Internet is ours. We get irked when news leaks of companies abusing our information or privacy because we inherently believe the Internet is a service by the people and for the people. 

No matter what area you work in, the Ello phenomenon serves as a strong reminder that users matter more than profit margin or marketing campaigns. Too often companies behave in a way that shows they seem to believe they are the ones in charge. In fact, though, your business is nothing without customers. 

Ello gained so much traction because its public launch as an ad-free social network timed perfectly with the growing concerns over user privacy and advertisements on Facebook. Online advertisements have become inevitable and inescapable, but there’s a way to advertise while still prioritizing the experience of your customers.

Putting Users First

Today, your customers are huge influencers over the course of your business. This is why we keep hearing about engagement and the importance of creating personal bonds with your online community.

It’s no wonder that successful entrepreneurs are launching new platforms designed to do just that. That would explain Eric Schmidt's investment in Commerce Sciences, which aims for new levels of website personalization and engagement, or the new venture by Soluto co-founder Ishay Green, Spot.IM, which helps websites transform their existing traffic into an on-page social community. 

Treating customers as numbers to collect data, failing to take users’ complaints seriously, and not demonstrating that you care about their needs is a surefire way to lose your customers’ faith and put your entire business at risk. 

“Companies are hunting cookies and IDs, but does that makes the customer happy?” Ivan Guzenko, VP of UK-Based SmartyAds, says. “The customer should return as the king, not as the target audience.”

Guzenko adds: 

The technology used right now to target people is working unfairly. I believe the user should actually get money for viewing ads and disclose only the information he sees right.

Why This All Matters

The Internet marketplace is a nation, and its citizens want a voice. Whether sharing user experiences about local stores online, rating a company on Yelp, or choosing where to spend money, the voices of users matter. 

Take a look at the death of the black market website Silk Road. Users didn’t simply take the FBI's raid of the hidden site as the inevitable end of the Internet black market. Instead, they sought new ways to re-create it. Much the way Ello's functionality remains a pale shadow of what Facebook offers, the bot-ridden Silk Road imitators, replacements may not be up to par with the old model.

Still, users often value authority over quality. Stay at the top of the rat race by giving users a sense of power, control, and voice. 

While Facebook is busy trying to dominate the world by selling the information of their billions of users, Ello is learning from the serious backlash of Facebook’s privacy actions. 

What This Means For Your Business

Think of your competition. Identify the leaders in your niche and figure out their weaknesses. What aren’t they giving their customers? How can you provide customers with those missing elements and possibly convert them to your product or service? How can you improve your advertising and data collecting strategies in a way that genuinely puts customer concerns first?

Because Ello picked up so much steam so fast, it faces a risk of burning out. So avoid following in Ello’s footsteps, and be sure that you can follow up on the promises you make possible clients—or risk even more wrath if your service fails to meet expectations.

Users migrate all the time, so getting them to feel your service is impossible to leave is key. What’s important to learn from Ello is the importance of retaining the customers you already have and strengthening their bond to you. Facebook’s pull is strong—right now, arguably the strongest of all social media sites—but if Facebook doesn’t begin to pay more attention to its users’ concerns, it may be standing on a rickety platform. 

Don’t find yourself in this position—prepare to weather storms with your loyal customers by your side.

Lead photo by Thomas Hawk

Categories: Technology

The Top 6 Video Games Of 2014

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 9:00am

While 2014 hasn't been a banner year for many (e.g. law enforcement, Congress, the CIA, etc.), it has produced an excellent crop of video games. The industry itself continues to grow, with revenues rising eight percent to an estimated $81.5 billion worldwide.

Here are some of games that made 2014 a year worth remembering.

Hearthstone

Category: Most Unnecessary Huge Success By A Game Studio That Already Controls Players’ Souls
Cost: Free (though featuring addictive in-game purchases) for PC, Mac, iPad, Android tablets

Relative to how most games are developed, Hearthstone was basically an afterthought. Blizzard initially created “Team 5” to assess targets of opportunity that larger teams couldn’t get to, then dissolved it, leaving Eric Dodds and Ben Brode to create Hearthstone. Two people! Now the game boasts over 20 million players, making it another phenomenal success for Blizzard—as if the company needed additional control of players’ lives and pocketbooks.

Hearthstone is an online collectible card game, something like Magic: The Gathering. It's also very easy to pick up, with rules that aren't hard to understand, completely unlike Magic: The Gathering. It’s also free to play and has a beautiful, intuitive UI (again, totally unlike M:TG). Players play against each other online in one of two modes.

Released in March of this year, the game has already received two expansions: Curse of Naxxramas in July and Goblins vs. Gnomes this December. Curse added 35 new cards and a four-part single-player adventure, while Goblins vs. Gnomes added 143 new cards.

Dragon Age: InquisitionThis dragon is probably not interested in chatting

Category: Most Dialogue Trees
Cost: $60, for PC, XBox One, XBox 360, PS4, PS3

Dragon Age: Inquisition is the latest effort from BioWare, the game studio that also brought you Baldur’s Gate II and the Mass Effect series. By all accounts, DA:I is absolutely massive in every way you’d want a fantasy RPG to be. There's a huge world to explore, lots of different story options, tons of lore, dozens of side quests, and so forth.

Of course, being a BioWare joint, it has a lot of dialogue trees, because every character has a lot to say about a lot of things. Sort of like real life! Only less insipid, because all the characters in DA:I have professional writers. So, better.

Transistor

Category: Best Talking Sword
Cost: $20, for PC, Mac, PS4

A singer without a voice pulls a talking sword out of a man’s chest and is soon attacked by robots in a giant, beautiful, sci-fi dystopia. If that doesn’t grab you, maybe the above trailer will.

Transistor has a cool story, a female protagonist (which pretty much all forms of media could use more of until it’s no longer notable and just the norm), is pretty to look at, has a killer soundtrack, and interesting gameplay (this review has a pretty good breakdown of how that works).

Shovel KnightShovel your way to victory!

Category: Best Callback To The Platformers You Grew Up With
Cost: $15 for PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U

If card games, AAA fantasy RPGs and action RPGs aren’t your thing, maybe you’d enjoy some old school platforming. Shovel Knight, the outcome of a Kickstarter campaign, has the look of classic old school side-scrolling games like Mega Man and Super Mario. You’re also a knight with a shovel, which is perhaps a selling point only to me.

Beyond its nostalgic look, Shovel Knight's game mechanics are also quite solid and have been compared to DuckTales (i.e. the shovel is similar to Scrooge McDuck’s cane) and Dark Souls (though you don't have lives, and instead you lose gold when you fail). As some reviewers noted, it also has a story that’s more interesting than the old NES platformers it resembles (which is to say, basically all of them).

Super Smash Bros.

Category: Best Way Of Determining Whether Mega Man Or Pac Man Would Win In A Fight
Cost: $60 for Wii U, $40 for Nintendo 3DS

Fighting game franchises tend to have very devoted fanbases, and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. claims one of the largest. The release of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U this year marks the first new entry to the franchise since 2008. The five years were worth the wait.

The latest edition of Smash Bros. boasts a deep roster of playable characters, from Nintendo cornerstones like Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, and Zelda to new contenders like Pac Man, Mega Man, and the dog from Duck Hunt (who works with the duck from Duck Hunt). Super Smash Bros. attempts, and mostly succeeds, in satisfying both the hardcore fighting game fan's need for a deep and complex fighting game and the casual fan's desire for fun new ways to play with their favorite Nintendo characters.

Super Time Force Ultra

Category: Best Use of Time Travel & Action Movie Callbacks and Best Game Featuring A Sony Executive
Cost: $15 for PC

So here’s a lighthearted game with a team of heroes constantly time traveling to accomplish important tasks like getting all the web plugins from the future so their boss can watch cat videos without ever needing to download new plugins. The team is composed of callbacks to action stars—like Melanie Gibson and Dolphin Lungren.

Each character on the team has special powers, and you play each level as one character at a time until they die, then you rewind time and play as the next one, only the previous times you’ve played through the level affect subsequent run throughs. A gameplay video might make this clearer:

Super Time Force will soon be available on the PS4 and Vita. As a result, Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida is now part of Super Time Force. One hopes this makes Nintendo include Shigeru Miyamoto in the next Smash Bros. 

Images courtesy of Blizzard, BioWare, Supergiant Games, Yacht Club Games, Nintendo and Capybara Games

Categories: Technology

U.S. Intelligence Implicates North Korea In Sony Hack

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 8:27am

Just as Sony Pictures canned the premiere of The Interview, the film that triggered its now-infamous cyber attack, U.S. intelligence sources told The New York Times Wednesday that North Korea was indeed “centrally involved” in the hack. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un previously denied responsibility, but unnamed “senior administration officials” now tell The Times they have reason to believe the country was behind the exploit: Data forensics unearthed a computer that had been previously used in cyberattacks on South Korea. The evidence strongly suggests—though does not definitively prove—North Korea’s involvement. 

See also: Latest Message From Sony Attackers Puts Suspicion On North Korea

The White House hasn’t yet decided whether to publicly point any fingers, said the sources, even though it essentially considers the matter a cyberterrorism campaign. But diplomacy is key. Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. could easily escalate—particularly since the latest threats levied by the supposed attackers on Tuesday invoked the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Warning

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places "The Interview" be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. 

Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.

The world will be full of fear.

Remember the 11th of September 2001.

We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.

(If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)

Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. 

All the world will denounce the SONY.

Sony put the kibosh on release plans Wednesday, as several theaters—including Regal Entertainment, AMC Theaters, Cinemark and Carmike Cinemas—canned their plans to show the comedy, which features an assassination plot against Kim Jong Un. 

See also: "Stop Sharing Our Humiliating Emails!" Sony Lawyer Demands

Sources at both NBC News and USA Today have corroborated The New York Times report, those outlets tweeted, though Wired finds the evidence rather weak

Lead image courtesy of Sony

Categories: Technology

Hackers Take Down Another Media Target

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 8:18am

On Wednesday, hackers claiming to be affiliated with the Syrian Electronic Army may have penetrated the website of the International Business Times, an online business-news publication.

"It does indeed appear that we have been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army," said IB Times editor-in-chief Peter Goodman in an email. "Our IT people are evaluating. We are taking appropriate security measures."

The hackers, who support the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad, appear to have deleted a story about Syria's shrinking army. While it still appears in Google News, the link to the article returns a 404 "page not found" error on the IB Times website. 

Google News still shows the deleted story.

If the goal was to suppress the article, the hackers weren't completely successful: A version of the article was published with a new URL.

The International Business Times is owned by New York-based IBT Media, which also publishes Newsweek.

Another article with the headline "Hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army" now appears on the website. The article contains a screenshot which appears to be the site's content-management system. Goodman's username appears in the screenshot, along with a notification which indicates the article about Syria's army was successfully deleted.

In the article, hackers threatened to delete the entire IB Times website.

The IB Times Twitter account acknowledged the incident in a tweet:

Spear-Phishing The Media

In an email to staff earlier Wednesday, IB Times managing editor Mark Bonner warned staff not to open any emails that appeared to come from IBT Media cofounder and chief content officer Johnathan Davis. Those emails included a link to a suspicious website, according to a source familiar with the incident.

Goodman said it was "unclear at this point, but possible" that his account had been penetrated. An attack like this targeting high-level individuals to obtain their login credentials is known as "spear phishing."

Later on Wednesday, Bonner told staffers that the IB Times content-management system was down and that writers should submit articles to editors via Google Docs. A source confirmed that the screenshot of the IB Times content-management system posted in the "Hacked" article appeared to be authentic.

The IB Times hack comes on the heels of the large-scale hack of Sony Pictures, apparently conducted by hackers who objected to the studio's release of The Interview, a movie about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Sony has cancelled the movie's release amid threats of terrorist attacks on theaters which screen it.

In 2009, Gawker Media, the publisher of Gizmodo, Jezebel, and other websites, experienced a distributed denial-of-service attack aimed at rendering its sites inaccessible. And for four months beginning in late 2012, hackers in China attacked the computer systems of the New York Times, attempting to gain access to email and files

Together, these incidents suggest we're entering an ugly world where people who object to a movie or a news article on political grounds won't just leave nasty comments or tweet harsh criticisms. They'll seek to eliminate their targets' ability to publish.

Photo by Shutterstock; screenshots via IB Times

Categories: Technology