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You Can Now Watch (Some) Shows On Hulu For Android Without Hulu Plus


Up until today, Hulu’s mobile app was mostly useless for anyone who didn’t want to cough up 8 bucks a month for Hulu Plus. You were free to watch ad-supported shows on your computer’s browser — but once you went mobile, you were out of luck.

Seems Hulu is reconsidering that approach.

In an update pushed to the Google Play store today, Hulu’s Android app has picked up the ability to watch select shows without requiring you to be on Hulu Plus.

Will you be able to watch everything that Hulu has to offer? Nah — you’ll only get the last episode or two of each show that would normally be available without a Plus account on And even there, it sounds like licensing quirks have prevented some shows from making the jump to free on mobile.

But free stuff is free stuff — and next time you’re bored on the bus and are just dying to watch Gordon Ramsay critique some kitchen/hotel/delicious-looking-food-you-can’t-eat, you’ll be glad to know this works now.

No word yet on whether other platforms will be getting similar access.

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Play Chef With Forage’s Twist On Restaurant Delivery


San Francisco is a great town for foodies and Forage, the brainchild of Foodzie founders Rob and Emily LaFave has emerged as an option for those who want to cook their favorite restaurant dishes at home. The service, which launches today, gathers all the ingredients used in selected restaurant recipes and hand-delivers them right to your door. The promise is that amateur chefs will be able to make these same great meals as the pros in under 20 minutes.

The LaFaves joined forces with their co-founder and CTO Josh Fraser at TechStars Boulder to create this twist on the crowded restaurant meal-delivery startup trend. It’s since piqued the interest of Twitter’s Ev Williams and Whole Foods Board Member Hass Hassan, both of whom have invested an undisclosed, but modest, sum into the company, according to Emily LaFave.

Forage pairs up with notable SF restaurants like Dosa and Hapa Ramen, and then sources ingredients from some of their more popular dishes. Alta SF’s pierogies tend to sell out before 8 pm every night, for instance. But folks can order from Forage to get the same exact ingredients, and then follow its instructions to make those same dishes in the comfort of their own homes.

The idea came from Emily’s background working in restaurant kitchens and culinary school. “We could cook anything in less than 20 minutes,” she says. “This isn’t about chopping your onions for you. Think pork ramen stock and fresh ramen noodles from Hapa Ramen, fresh pierogi dough from Alta SF, dosa batter from DOSA, or Greek marinated meats from Souvla, all restaurants in San Francisco.”

Emily believes Forage picks up where Foodzie left off by incorporating a restaurant cooking element instead of just delivering food items. Joyus swallowed up Foodzie in a combo cash and stock deal a couple years back.

While most of the dishes are sourced from SF restaurants, Forage will deliver their meal kits all over California. Emily mentions plans to expand beyond the Golden State as things get rolling, but the main goal for now is to teach the foodies in California how to cook like a restaurant chef.

“I believe most people will build their cooking skills by showing up and cooking each week, not through a culinary program like most professionals,” she says. “You can learn something even in 20 minutes.”

The cost for the meals is $60 a week, which buys you four credits. Each credit equals a meal serving, for a flat price of $15 each.

You don’t get to choose which dishes you want when you want them, however. Each week has a specific food theme. Some weeks it’s all South Indian meals, while another might be Greek or Eastern European. The meals are selected each week by Forage’s editorial team and head chef Stephen Beaumier (formerly of Cyrus, Quince and Noma).

Foragers, as those who order from the site are called, can also submit meals they would like to see shared at some point. Forage then does the legwork to connect with the restaurant and get access to their recipes.

“With the innovation in the delivery model and chef ­derived ingredients, we can create fresher, higher quality, and more interesting ingredients to speed up cooking time and maximize flavor,” Emily says.

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Wikipedia Revamps Its iOS App With Offline Access, Support For Editing While On The Go


Wikipedia has today made a significant update to its iOS application, which most noticeably features a cleaner, “distraction-free” design, as well as the ability to edit Wikipedia articles from your smartphone or tablet device. Under the hood, the app received a number of other improvements as well, including speed increases, offline access, a reading history, and more.

The changes on iOS follow the launch of a similarly revamped Android app, which rolled out last month.

Today, some users don’t think of accessing Wikipedia via a native application on their iOS devices, especially because Apple’s mobile operating system includes integrations with the online encyclopedia. In iOS 8, this also allows users to search and read article snippets directly from the iOS interface itself, via Spotlight. Meanwhile, the Apple App Store offers a large number of third-party Wikipedia clients, many of which include offline access as their differentiating feature.

With the revamped app, however, readers may see less need for those third-party experiences, it seems.

The Wikimedia Foundation claims that with update, it paid attention to the important details, like “how quickly the app starts, how fast pages and images load, and how quickly search results are returned.”

“The updated app has been totally rewritten from the ground up in native code,” explains Wikipedia product manager Dan Garry. “With this new rebuild, our primary focus was on speed…The result is a snappy experience allowing Wikipedia readers to get to the content they’re looking for faster than ever before. Our official app is the fastest way to get into the content of Wikipedia.”

Also noticeable is the new look, which more heavily emphasizes the actual content, while the navigation, search, and sharing features are less obtrusively displayed.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that Wikipedia iOS users can now edit articles from their phones or tablets, even if they’re not logged in. This feature first arrived on Android, and is also something that the third-party apps don’t currently offer.

And finally, Wikipedia has partnered with network operators around the world to provide its content free of data charges through an effort known as “Wikipedia Zero,” which focuses on delivering access to this resource in developing and emerging markets.

The new app is live now here on iTunes.

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TechCrunch Open Sources Its WordPress Async Task Library


Back in early 2012, when the TechCrunch developer team (Nicolas Vincent, Alex Khadiwala, Eric Mann, and John Bloch) started working on the TechCrunch redesign, one of the main goals was to improve site performance. During the development process, we implemented several tools to help achieve that goal.

One of the approaches we took was to offload time-consuming tasks into background tasks. We built a library called WP Async Task to structure those background tasks.

In June, we gave a presentation called “Non-Blocking WordPress” in which we talked about some of our approaches to performance. There was a lot of interest in our asynchronous tasks from the audience, and people wanted to know if they could get the code anywhere and use it.

We’re happy to announce that, as of today, the WP Async Task library is open source and available on GitHub. We’re big believers in the power of open source software and want to give back to the community that’s provided us with our publishing platform. Check out the code and look at the documentation on how to use the library in your own code.

Why Make Tasks Asynchronous?

We try to reduce the number of processes that could lead to blocking and increased load times for each page. That usually occurs when “a process that is blocked is waiting for some event, such as a resource becoming available or the completion of an operation.”

On the TechCrunch site, loading CrunchBase cards on article pages is an example of a process that could slow down the site, since the information needed for each card becomes available via the CrunchBase API. To improve performance, we cache a copy of their data for about 12 hours. But when we initially retrieve that data or refresh it, we don’t want the API call to affect our page load time.

In both instances, we instead kick off an asynchronous call back to our site with the instruction to retrieve and cache this data to be available the next time it is needed, instead of waiting for a response from their API. Meanwhile, if we have a cached version of the data, we use that with the card. In that way, the CrunchBase card isn’t rendered for that page load.

On the previous TechCrunch design, page load time could take more than 17 seconds for a page to load. Since the redesign, we’ve improved overall performance by 5 to 8 times by implementing the WP Async Task library, among other important back-end and front-end improvements.

Below you can watch the video of Nicolas and Alex during their presentation at Big Media Enterprise Meetup San Francisco in June 2014. We also would like to give a special thanks to 10up developers, John Bloch and Eric Mann.

JavaScript required to play TechCrunch.

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eBay Reports More Diverse Staff Than Other Tech Companies


According to a report released Thursday, eBay maintains one of the highest rates of gender diversity in the tech industry — 42 percent of its total employees are female. Women make up 24 percent of the company’s tech employees. Although this may seem like a relatively low number when considering women make up almost 50 percent of the company’s non-tech employees, it puts it slightly ahead of Pinterest, where 21 percent of tech employees are women.

Facebook, Google and Twitter recently released their own diversity reports. Only about 10 percent of tech employees are female at Twitter, and the numbers aren’t much better at Facebook and Google, at 15 and 18 percent respectively.

eBay may be experiencing slightly higher rates of gender diversity than its peers due to proactive recruiting measures the company has taken. Three years ago, President and CEO John Donahoe launched the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) to “attract and engage women to build lasting careers at eBay.” The result: The number of women in leadership doubled, and now 28 percent of the company’s leaders are female.

This is a promising sign, as tech companies rolling out diversity numbers commit to adopting similar initiatives in an effort to diversify their staffs.

When it comes to ethnic diversity, it seems the company still has some work to do. Although in all positions, 7 percent of employees are black and 5 percent are Hispanic, that number dips when looking at tech and leadership positions specifically, where each ethnic group makes up 2 percent of employees.

More than half of tech employees at Facebook, Google and Twitter are white, but at eBay, Asian employees are the most well-represented ethnicity in tech positions.


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Alibaba Invests $120M In Kabam At A Valuation Above $1B


Chinese conglomerate Alibaba is making another big investment in an American startup. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is investing $120 million in mobile game developer Kabam, best known for such games as “Dragons of Atlantis” and for buying the naming rights to UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.

Kabam COO Kent Wakeford confirmed to me today the $120 million figure and that the investment brought Kabam’s valuation above $1 billion. Along with the investment, the WSJ notes that the deal also includes an agreement to publish Kabam’s games across Alibaba‘s apps in China, including Mobile Taobao and Laiwang.

“Truly successful games companies have to be globally successful,” Kabam CEO Kevin Chou told the WSJ. “This strategic collaboration with Alibaba provides Kabam the resources, infrastructure and distribution to help bring our current and future durable franchise games to China and elsewhere in Asia and make an immediate impact.”

According to Wakeford, Kabam is taking a pragmatic approach to its new efforts in China. While the country offers a huge opportunity — representing approximately 50 percent of the global gaming market — there are significant issues that Kabam had to consider. “The Chinese market is very complicated,” he told me during our call. “You’ve got to deal with fragmentation in the Android ecosystem, [many] different types of devices, different payment SDKs… a lot of work goes into culturalizing a game for the market.”

Wakeford says that Kabam did a lot of market and user research to determine what game to launch in China, taking extra care to look at genre and intellectual property preferences (Kabam makes games from the Fast Furious, Lord of the Rings, and Godfather franchises, among others). Based on that research, the company decided that a Lord of the Rings title set for release in the U.S. later this year will serve as Kabam’s launch title across Alibaba’s platforms.

This collaboration is the latest in a series of investments and talks between Alibaba and American startups in recent months. In March, Alibaba led a $280 million round in mobile messaging and gaming platform Tango, and earlier this week it was reported that the company was in talks with ephemeral messaging app Snapchat.

Alibaba has only recently started bringing Western games to its audience. Back in May, the company released indie title Blek on Mobile Taobao. By comparison, that move was barely dipping its toes in the water — as Kabam notes in its blog post, games like The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth and Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North have each generated more than US$100 million in revenue.


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