Inside the mind of Scott Amron.
Scott Amron, of the product design lab Amron Experimental, is known for his clever creations. But every design is downright useful.
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Ticketmaster admits user data was stolen in breach
Ticketmaster has said some customers’ personal information and credit card details have been stolen in a data breach.
The ticket sales website said in a statement that it was hit by “malicious software” on Saturday through a third-party supplier to Ticketmaster.
All customers the company believes were affected – less than 5% of its customer base – have been contacted and advised to change their password.
In a statement on their website, Ticketmaster added customers in North America were not affected.
The company offered 12 months free identity monitoring service to anyone whose details may have been stolen.
The statement said: “On Saturday, June 23, 2018, Ticketmaster UK identified malicious software on a customer support product hosted by Inbenta Technologies, an external third-party supplier to Ticketmaster.
“As soon as we discovered the malicious software, we disabled the Inbenta product across all Ticketmaster websites.”
It went on to say: “As a result of Inbenta’s product running on Ticketmaster International websites, some of our customers’ personal or payment information may have been accessed by an unknown third-party.”
A spokesperson for the National Cyber Security Centre said they were aware of the incident and working with partners to understand what happened.
Ticketmaster added that it is working with relevant authorities, as well as credit card companies and banks, and had its own forensics teams and experts analysing the breach.
Ticketmaster said the breach mainly affected UK customers, but that Ticketmaster International customers are also being advised to change their passwords.
Anyone who attempted to buy tickets between February and 23 June of this year, and international customers who bought or tried to buy tickets between September 2017 and 23 June 2018 could have been affected.
The software was running on Ticketmaster International, Ticketmaster UK, GETMEIN! and TicketWeb.
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Affected data includes name, address, email address, telephone number, payment details and Ticketmaster login details.
It is not clear how many people in the UK were affected, but according to LiveNation, which owns Ticketmaster, they sold more than 387,000 tickets per day globally in 2011.
You say you hate Instagram’s changes, but your eyeballs say otherwise
IGTV can now be found within the Instagram “mothership” app (left) or in a standalone IGTV app (right).
Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom has reportedly said the photo-sharing app’s motto is “do one thing and do it well.” For a time, that ethos was clear, and a generation of users came to rely on Instagram as one of the most serene places on your home screen—a self-curated chronological scrapbook with vacation pics, fashion shots, and unlimited foodie content. Where other apps were pushy, busy, and bright, Instagram’s focus didn’t seem to be on engagement; it seemed to be on the edit.
But that’s all changed. In 2018, Instagram is less pastoral playground and more Frankensteined fun house, chock-a-block with features. Instead of doing one thing (photo-sharing), it’s increasingly trying to do everything. In 2013, it released a direct messaging function, which dramatically expanded in 2015. That same year, Instagram ditched its signature square crop in equanimous favor of all photo types. In late 2016, it added Stories, a Snapchat-like service that allows vertical images and videos to be uploaded on a timer, disappearing after 24 hours. That same year, it disrupted the much-loved reverse-chronological flow of the feed, shifting to an algorithm that seems to many users to sort content almost at random. Last week, the company unveiled IGTV, which allows users to post longer videos—up to 1 hour in length—to the IGTV service in the app, or to a standalone IGTV app, which many see as a challenge to YouTube’s reign. And as this story was in its draft phase, the app debuted a new new feature—private video chat.
“Remember me?” — Lord Kelvin
Rich Brooks via Flickr
None of this has gone unnoticed, especially among those earlier adopters, who can trace along their own profile the platform’s growth from a few million users making bright orange sea of Kelvin-ed beach shots rimmed in black matte frames to 1 billion users producing historically unprecedented volumes of, well, contemporary art. The technical quality of the content has risen, but for those with a long memory, it seems that somewhere along the way Instagram lost what made it special.
Some blame the introduction of stories (Buzzfeed memorably called the service a “home-wrecker”). Others point their finger at an increased ad load. And still others rage at the death of the reverse-chronological newsfeed. But despite these widely-agreed-upon woes, Instagram appears to be doing better than ever. What gives?
IGTV accommodates vertical videos up to an hour in length.
Perhaps the most intriguing explanation for the gap between Instagram’s likability and its usability can be tied to a uniquely 21st century truth: user experience, or UX, designers know us better than we know ourselves.
Nate Bolt is the founder of Ethnio, a user experience research recruiting platform. Before that, he managed UX researchers at Facebook and Instagram. He says Instagram’s success in heavily-criticized services sounds counterintuitive because it is. “Sometimes you build stuff that people love in terms of their behavior, and talk [bad] about constantly,” Bolt says. “It is the most bizarre thing.” In other words, while some claim Instagram’s every step is a misstep, most users continue to like, swipe, and upload. Many appear to actually be using the app more.
“Self-reported feedback is notoriously hard to rely on,” Bolt says. “Even public sentiment is hard to rely on, when something’s new.” For example, research suggests self-reports are systematically skewed, whether the report is made to your doctor about your health behaviors, or to a media researcher about your time spent playing games. These inconsistencies have many sources, from memories that go fuzzy over time to the seemingly innate human desire to provide socially-acceptable answers to the fact that shifts in emotional states can alter our perception of time.
Public sentiment, meanwhile, is important to the long-term success of any business, but that has to be balanced with the fact that consumers are notoriously averse to change. Remember when Google changed its logo in 2015 from a serif font, which it had used for decades, to a sans serif font? Barely. But at the time, three years and a few trillion Google searches ago, the internet had a complete and utter meltdown over a few curlicues.
User experience researchers are aware of these difficulties, so they bypass knee-jerk reactions in favor of cold, hard behavioral data. Quantitative and qualitative measures, adapted from psychology, medical research, and other scientific domains, help companies like Instagram track success. Surveys and focus groups are still employed, but observational methods are often preferred. Fortunately, high-tech tools make capturing this information easier than ever.
With screen-sharing, UX researchers can watch users navigate a digital product and swiftly identify bottlenecks and surprising uses. And at Bolt’s company, Ethnio, a request pops up on a user’s screen in real time, asking them to participate in a discussion of the service with a trained researcher. By identifying people when they’re in the middle of using a product, the company can gather more critical, real-time feedback from a diverse sets of users. As a result, companies have a better sense of how customers interact with their products than ever before.
Instagram stories offer augmented reality face filters.
Of course, UX design doesn’t exist in a bubble—it’s shaped by the demands of current users, as well as the company’s hopes and dreams for who future users might be.
For that reason, Instagram’s transformation from meditative space to multimedia sandbox could easily be blamed on teens. Increasingly, the app just isn’t designed for those early adopters who fondly recall a quieter time online, but for young people who, after all, are the future. Facebook has essentially bottomed out in that department—in 2015, 71 percent of teens told Pew they used Facebook, compared to just 51 percent three years later. But 72 percent of teens report using Instagram, according to a Pew Research Center report published in May. That means the app is second only in all of social media to YouTube, the horizontal video service used by a whopping 85 percent of teens. Instagram’s brighter, buzzier design and investment in the eerily-YouTube-like IGTV service may be attempts to gain—and, more critically, maintain—such widespread appeal among Gen Z.
Alternatively, Instagram’s aggressive roll-outs could represent a larger shift in focus. Systrom, the company’s co-founder, has long opined about his desires to create something different from other social media apps. There’s that “one thing” motto—and his uncharacteristically dogged efforts to automate deletion of harmful comments. But just because Systrom continues to run Instagram doesn’t mean Facebook’s influence on the app can be discounted. Facebook’s business-minded goals of monetizing our attention, connecting people across multiple Facebook-owned platforms, and using machines to automate processes and even predict behaviors have all reshaped the photo-sharing app. As the stories tool, which offers augmented reality face filters, but few real editing tools compared to the main feed, clearly illustrates, Instagram’s priorities are shifting away from the edit, and into engagement.
For better or worse, pulsating pink orbs; infinite scroll; notifications in pink, orange, and blue; and other clamorous designs do drive engagement. Stories on all of Facebook’s platforms from Instagram to WhatsApp are growing 15 times faster than corresponding newsfeeds. Instagram gained more than 200 million monthly users since September 2017. And the algorithmic feed, while still detested two years after it was introduced, generates more engagement than the reverse-chronological feed did, according to the company. It’s long been said that actions speak louder than words. On Instagram and other data-driven apps, that’s finally true.
As for IGTV, it’s too soon to say what will happen. But the same researchers and designers that gave us every other skepticism-inducing feature in the Instagram suite are confident that vertical longform video is the way to go. While taking on YouTube may seem impossible right now, the odds are good that wherever Instagram leads, our fingers will eventually follow.
One of the best pocket cameras just got better
The RX100 VI features a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* 24-200mmi F2.8 (a F4.5 high magnification zoom lens), which is a big departure from the 24-70mm equivalent found in previous versions
This story was originally published on PopPhoto.com.
This month Sony announced an updated model to the compact RX line with the introduction of the RX100 VI. We’ve been big fans of this line of compacts since they were first released in 2012 but the compact camera market has changed profoundly since then, leaving only a few high-end models alive, with the RX100 sitting at the top of the pecking order. The VI brings familiar features and form factor, but changes it up in a major way when it comes to the lens.
The Sony RX 100 VI with and without popup flash.
The RX100 VI features the familiar 20.1 MP 1.0-type stacked Exmor RS CMOS image sensor with DRAM chip, upgraded BIONZ X image processing system and a Fast Hybrid AF system with 315-point phase-detection AF points that cover 65 percent of the sensor. According to Sony the updated AF system allows the camera to focus in as little as 0.03 seconds–the fastest for cameras with a 1.0 sensor.
An updated AF system allows the camera to focus in as little as 0.03 seconds.
The 24-200mm lens isn’t the only major upgrade though. The RX100 VI also utilizes Sony’s high-density Tracking AF to improve tracking and accuracy. It can shoot 24fps with continuous AF/AE tracking, has a buffer limit of 233 images, a new LCD touch shutter and focusing screen, has the ability to shoot 4K video and, for the first time, 4K HDR video.
It’s a whole lot of camera squeezed into a compact body, and despite all of these new features the RX100 VI remains roughly the same size as its predecessor.
Top view of the Sony RX100 VI.
Interested in other high end compact cameras? Here are some options:
Leica Q Fujifilm X100F Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200 Canon Powershot G9 Mark II Ricoh GR II
The Sony RX100 VI is expected to begin shipping next month and will retail for $1200.
This article was originally featured on Popular Photography.
This is what it’s like to speak with Google’s reservation-making AI service
Google Duplex is slowly rolling out.
No big deal. Just an artificial intelligence system calling to make a reservation at a Thai place on a city corner.
Social media’s political role got its start in the Middle East
“We carry around these incredibly vulnerable pieces of our lives with us.”
Reporter Ayman Mohyeldin got an unexpected call from a source at the end of 2015, in the weeks following coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that shocked the world. “You know the picture of the French attacker?” he remembers his source asking, “I have all of the data on his cell phone if you want it.”
Mohyeldin’s source wasn’t some daring spy with fierce hacking skills. A year earlier, one of the ringleaders of the attack, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had been in the Syrian city of Ruqqa when his iPhone broke. Like anyone else, Abaaoud visited a local repair shop to patch his phone, where a technician also downloaded the phone’s hard drive—standard practice to back up the data. And like an unknown (but surely not insignificant) number of phone techs, he’d kept the backup in case it ever proved useful.
When pictures of the attackers started popping up on TV, anti-ISIS activists surfaced the selfies, memes, and gruesome videos of militant activities taken from Abaaoud’s phone the year before. Data security is a problem for terrorists, too. “They were very susceptible to the same things that we worry about here,” said Mohyeldin, now a host at MSNBC.
PopSci editor in chief Joe Brown and MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin discuss freedom in the age of technology
Mohyeldin recounted the story during a live-streamed conversation with Joe Brown, editor in chief of Popular Science. The pair teamed up last week in New York to discuss how advances in technology and the rapid spread of information reverberate in the political realm. These changes often play out in the Middle East before coming to the United States, Mohyeldin said.
“When you look at terrorist groups like ISIS, they’ve been on the cutting edge of encrypted messaging for some time,” said Mohyeldin. Government agencies had been tracking the whereabouts of many of the terrorists leading up to the 2015 Paris attacks, but their messages went completely undetected. Despite the media getting its hands on Abaaoud’s data, the damage had already been done. “In some ways, we’re a little bit behind here,” Mohyeldin said.
In the same vein, social media as a political tool came of age in the Middle East well before it was a major contender in American politics. When the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, the U.S. was still years away from maintaining an official Twitter account for its President. It’s only in the last few years that the impact of social media on the political process in the United States has started to catch up. Brown compared the use of social media in Egypt during the Arab Spring to its later role in the American 2016 election. “You had a group of people who were not in control, using non-mainstream media outlets to take control,” he said.
Now, we’re grappling with the uncontrolled mass dissemination of unverified, often false information. “Social media cannot be ignored, you cannot put the genie back in the bottle,” Mohyeldin said. But he cautions that many proposed attempts to regulate its usage—asking people to verify their accounts with personal identification in the same way they would open a bank account, for example—could be harmful.
“That sounds good for those of us who live in free societies,” Mohyeldin said, but a lot of people living under authoritarian governments “would be extremely afraid of that idea.” He would rather err on the side of having incorrect information circulating in the ether, knowing there will be accurate news to counter it, than open an avenue for the government to squash information and ideas deemed undesirable.
Mohyeldin co-hosts “Morning Joe First Look” on MSNBC at 5 a.m. ET during the week and anchors the 5 p.m. hour of “MSNBC Live” on Sundays.