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This Week On The TC Gadgets Podcast: BlackBerry, Bar-Tending Robots, And Drones


Christmas is around the corner, and thus, this podcast is especially merry.

BlackBerry recently introduced the smartphone of yesterday, in the BlackBerry Classic. We’re also seeing an uptick in bar-tending robot products, which leads us to wonder if there has ever really been a lot of difficulty in making yourself a drink.

And drones. Because if you compare the market to last year, there are so many options out there now.

We discuss all this and more on this week’s episode of the TC Gadgets Podcast featuring Matt Burns, Greg Kumparak, and Jordan Crook.

Have a good Friday, everybody!

We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific. And feel free to check out the TechCrunch Gadgets Flipboard magazine right here.

Click here to download an MP3 of this show.
You can subscribe to the show via RSS.
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Intro Music by Mendhoan.

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All Day Raises $2 Million To Be A Media Portal For The Twitter Generation


Would-be media moguls take heart: with nothing more than a Twitter handle and a dream, you can raise capital to become the next Vice or Vox Media Group, or Buzzfeed.

All it takes is a knack for viral content, 2.15 million followers on your marquee Twitter account, and a core team of (incredibly) young social media entrepreneurs. Then you too could be raising $2 million from investors including Upfront Ventures, 500 Startups and Daher Capital — but then, you’d be All Day.

If Buzzfeed is the poster child media company of the Facebook generation, then perhaps All Day (which culls its content from a slew of wildly popular Twitter feeds like History In Pictures and EarthPics) might be its Twitter corollary.

Despite all of the whingeing, hand-wringing, and worrying about the death of media businesses, venture capitalists seem more willing than ever to put money behind new brands. Including the behemoth $500 million financing for Vice earlier this year, new media properties pitching online content have raised at least $645 million.

In December alone, investors poured $70 million into Vox Media, Bustle, and Woven. News that bodes well for the three founders of All Day.

Launched by the 31-year-old Eric Damier, and his co-founders Xavier Di Petta and Kyle Cameron, ages 18 and 20, All Day was on track to make over $1 million per month from the monetization of its clicks, according to this piece in Forbes.

Their accounts are now feeding into All Day as the main landing page, and the goal, according to Damier, is to expand to 60 to 70 million followers by 2015 for its Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts to 300 million to 400 million unique followers across all social media platforms.

“[Damier’s] got one of the best sensibilities for building a social media brand since [Buzzfeed and Huffington Post’s] Jonah Peretti,” says Mark Suster, a partner with Upfront Ventures, who’s backed the media company Maker Studios, which sold to Disney for nearly $1 billion.

Behind the traffic, All Day has another business cooking, which is a tool for advertisers to bid on ad placements throughout its accounts.

For Damier, the new funding round is just another step in what’s been a long road to the executive seat. The serial entrepreneur, who’d spent a year-and-a-half in high school and college living out of his car, first met Di Petta and Cameron through a mutual contact who had been impressed with the work all three were doing on social engagement for YouTube channels in 2008 and 2009.

Success on YouTube led to a gig with Machinima, and Damier and his co-founders moved from YouTube to Twitter and other nascent social media platforms.

“Initially the idea was, ‘Hey, let’s grow our audience on Facebook and Twitter to increase the audience for our YouTube channels,’” Damier said. “But we started getting approached by brands and agencies. That was the first lightbulb that went off that we could make money off of this stuff. Websites were saying they’d be willing to pay to promote some of their articles on our feed.”

Damier’s path to running a media business was a bit circuitous and by no means assured, beginning when he dropped out of Glendale Community College and took a job as a life insurance agent for Citigroup. From there he went into real estate, before starting up an unsuccessful gaming technology company. The gaming startup led to YouTube and it was through the work with YouTube that Damier connected with his young co-founders.

“The way that we see it, with Buzzfeed, Vox, and Woven the whole SEO game has changed,” Damier says. “The access we have through these social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, means we’re doing big numbers. The new generation of media companies is engaging millennials in the social space, and that is different and we’ve sort of figured that out.”


Featured Image: All Day

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EDI Is Trying To Kickstart The Classic Dive Watch


Two entrepreneurs and engineers have taken to Kickstarter to fund a new line of dive watches, EDI. The watches, in addition to looking just a bit like sword-hand divers of the early Blancpain era, use an EDI E-353 automatic movement with self-winding features, as well as a handsome steel case. What’s truly interesting, however, is the provenance.

Almost none of this watch is European, a serious departure for any watchmaker. The movement is designed to “EDI specifications” in a Liaocheng factory while the case, face and band are also milled in China. Most die-hards would sniff at this but we must remember that even venerable Panerai was once only assembled in Switzerland but mostly manufactured in Asia.

The creators, Philip Allen and Richard Harrison, designed the watch at their HQ in Spain and outsourced the manufacturing. The result is a classic-looking diver with three face colors, screw-down crown, and a micro-adjusting strap for wearing with wet suits. The price, in CAD, comes out to be about $500 US and they’re looking for an ambitious $180,000 to fund the project.

Chinese-made divers are, in truth, a dime a dozen. You can find hundreds of examples on eBay and Alibaba. However, if this team is working with a solid manufacturer to custom specifications, then we’re talking about an entirely different watch. As I learned from playing the McKenzie and Marr handmade guitar, great craftsmanship is great craftsmanship, wherever it happens. I think the guys at EDI have taken this to heart.

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Facebook Has So Much To Announce, Its f8 Conference Expands To 2 Days In SF March 25-26 2015


Facebook has more news to share at f8 than can fit in a single day, so it’s adding a second for its developer conference now slated for March 25th and 26th, 2015 at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. Registration for the first two-day f8 will open in early 2015, but developers hoping to attend can sign up for a reminder of when they can vy for tickets.

Facebook explains the expansion, telling me “Facebook’s developer community is bigger today than it ever has been. The scope of the company’s products has broadened, and there’s more content to share than can fit into a single day. The additional day means double the number of technical sessions, product demos, and onsite experiences for Facebook’s growing developer community.”

Facebook’s previous f8 conferences includes the ones it held in 2011 and 2014 at the Concourse center in SF were all single day affairs.

Last year’s was jam-packed with announcements including its Audience Network mobile ad network, anonymous login, the App Links deep linking framework, the mobile Like button, and a massive reduction in what data about people’s friends apps are allowed to pull from users. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also announced the conference would now happen every year rather than every few years like before.

Similar to other big developer conferences like Google I/O, the events typically start with a a keynote full of news in the morning, then continue with deep dive info sessions and hands-on demos to teach developers how to use the new tools at their fingertips.

While we don’t know anything for sure, expect new developer capabilities, improvements to Facebook’s advertising system, and an expansion of the Parse mobile-backend-as-a-service development platform.

Yesterday, MixPanel raised a $65 million Series B round to fund expansion of its mobile analytics service that lets developers track everything users do in their apps, and even predict what they do next. I suspect Parse’s analytics, currently much more basic than MixPanel’s, will get a big upgrade.

This ties into Facebook’s Build-Grow-Monetize strategy outlined at last year’s f8. Facebook provides Parse, social login, and sharing features to help developers Build powerful apps. Through viral distribution and Facebook’s own ads and off-site ad networks assist developers seeking to Grow their userbases. Then once they’re big enough, apps can host Facebook’s auto-fill ecommerce checkout feature or host ads through the Audience Network to monetize.

Expect Facebook to strengthen each part of this sequence as it tries to keep developers and their advertising dollars away from competitors like Twitter and Google.

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Gillmor Gang LIVE 12.19.14


Gillmor Gang – Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, Alexia Tsotsis, John Taschek, and Steve Gillmor. LIVE recording session has concluded for today.

Gillmor Gang on Facebook

Our sister show G3 on Facebook

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Apple Responds To BBC Panorama’s Portrayal Of Supplier Conditions


Apple was the subject of a recent investigative report by BBC’s Panorama program, which presented as part of its findings various instances where suppliers of the Mac maker violated Apple’s own stated standards for its partners. The breaches reported by the BBC included problems at Pegatron factories outside Shanghai, as well as issues at the bottom level of the supply chain, in Indonesian tin mining operations.

The BBC’s report details issues including overcrowding at Pegatron dormitories, involuntary overtime, underage workers and excessively long work weeks. The mining operations in Indonesia describe operations that essentially gather tin without any kind of organized mining operation in place, which is then sold piecemeal to smelters to make up the material they provide further up the chain to component makers.

In response, Apple issued some official statements on the record, detailing its track record in improving conditions at supplier facilities, and its continued efforts to do so. Apple has never claimed perfect adherence to its supplier policies, and in fact updates its website regularly to provide a current look at compliance. It details issues that it finds at suppliers in its own reports, and outlines the steps it undertakes to resolve them.

A lengthy internal email obtained by The Telegraph, which TechCrunch has confirmed with its own sources is legitimate, provides a much more detailed response to the BBC’s conclusions. The letter is penned by Apple SVP of Operations Jeff Williams, and says directly that both he and Apple CEO Tim Cook were “deeply offended” by the accusations made by the British network’s program.

Williams’ letter notes that Apple has never denied that tin from illegal sources makes its way into its products, and that in fact the company has admitted as much on the record previously. Apple’s philosophy around this is that by continuing to allow their suppliers to buy from Indonesia, they can push to improve working conditions, whereas closing off the area entirely won’t do anything to address the ongoing problems, as component makers further up the supply chain for other companies (and perhaps for Apple, without its knowledge, for that matter) will continue to use tin that’s illegally sourced.

The letter also addresses the reports regarding factory conditions at Pegatron’s facilities; Williams says that problems being identified doesn’t condemn Apple’s practices, but is rather part of their ongoing attempt to audit and improve supplier facility conditions. He highlights some of the positive change they’ve enabled, including much-improved compliance with the company’s 60-hour maximum work week policy, and the identification and disbanding of groups that purport to find people work, only to hold worker passports in exchange for a portion of their wages.

The BBC’s undercover reporters have definitely shed more light on conditions in factories at Asian suppliers, and the serious problems that remain, but some of the damning visuals accompanying the piece may depict signs that actually reflect recent improvements in conditions, though they don’t appear that way when viewed through a North American lens.

Sleeping workers, for instance, could actually reflect something that The Daily Mail recently reported as a newfound benefit afforded workers, who previously worked longer hours and were punished severely for napping at their desks.

Ultimately, even that kind of relative “improvement” in conditions still leaves workers at these facilities far worse off than their North American counterparts. But Apple’s recent practices with respect to transparency under Cook does seem to indicate a genuine commitment to continued improvement: Suppliers were never even officially acknowledged or named until January of 2012. Regardless, there’s clearly still a lot of work left to be done.

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Reddit Announces RedditNotes, A Way To Share Equity With Readers


Reddit, the world’s favorite repository for funny and/or pornographic images (and wide-ranging discussions on almost any topic), has announced a RedditNotes initiative, a method to give equity to the site’s readers using a lottery method.

The 950,000 notes will be given away at random to folks who have been on the site before 9/30/14 and will be given out next fall.

The company wrote in a blog post:

To celebrate all of you and your contributions, we plan to give away reddit notes in a random lottery. As of this point, it looks like we’re going to have approximately 950,000 reddit notes to divide among active user accounts. There aren’t as many reddit notes as there are accounts, so if you get one, lucky you! Eligible recipients of reddit notes will be determined based on activities before 9/30/14 (when we first announced this project), and we plan to give them away in the fall of 2015.We’re still working out details on both the technological and legal aspects of the project, especially regarding how reddit notes will work within existing government regulations. We look forward to sharing that information with you early next year. If you have feedback or ideas for us, feel free to visit/r/redditnotes – and keep being awesome!

Again, details are slim but you’ll be able to buy and sell the notes like equities and even use portions of them as tips. Reddit is also hiring a cryptocurrency head, which suggests that top posts may soon see more than an upvote given out as thanks.

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