Site Busts Morons Posting Photos of Their Debit CardsGaining followers this week is the Twitter account @NeedADebitCard, a service which aggregates publicly tweeted photos of peoples' debit and ATM cards. While some of the photos are blurry or cropped, most clearly display the full names and account details, and in some cases even addresses, of their owners.
Several posts proudly show expired or damaged cards being cut in half, their owners presumably believing that to be sufficient in deterring thieves. (Though it's intended as a preventative measure against just these sorts of situations, the absence of the card's three-digit security code doesn't necessarily guarantee that the owner's account will remain secure.)
Most of the account's retweets can be found with a quick public search on Twitter for "debit card + instagr.am" - it's not really difficult to find good examples, most of them taken by young people who probably haven't considered the dangers of identity theft and credit card fraud. The account, whose byline implores "Please quit posting pictures of your debit cards, people," appears to have been active since late May.
Several of the original photos and tweets have unsurprisingly been deleted after news of the account started to spread earlier this week. @NeedADebitCard resembles previous privacy-shaming site PleaseRobMe.com, a privacy awareness site that aggregated and streamed FourSquare check-ins of people posting when they were away from home.
QUESTION: What do you think drives this sort of irresponsible behavior? Are sites like this a good deterrent/reminder for people, or are they doing more harm than good by broadcasting things like debit card numbers to a larger audience?
SOURCE: The Verge
RIM Denies They’re In a “Death Spiral”Blackberry maker RIM announced made some disappointing announcements on Thursday: Last quarter's sales and losses were worse than expected, and the new BlackBerry 10 platform won't be ready until next year. RIM shares fell some 14% in after-hours trading on Monday; they're down about 95% since mid-2008. The company also said it plans to cut about 5,000 jobs and that’s it’s operating at a loss for the first time in 8 years.
There is some limited good news: RIM still has almost 80 million subscribers, is still selling some phones and still has some big customers, particularly in the government sector. On Tuesday, CEO Thorsten Heins told Canadian radio that “There’s nothing wrong with the company as it exists right now,” and that “the company is not ignoring the world out there, nor is it in a death spiral.”
QUESTIONS: Is there any hope for RIM? If you were the new interim CEO, what would you do first to right the ship. If RIM can't turn things around, how does this story end? Acquisition? The death of the Blackberry brand entirely?
Bill Gates Vetoed Prototype eReader in 1998In 1998, 8 years before Sony introduced the "Sony Reader" and 9 years before Amazon introduced the Kindle, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was shown a prototype for a new eReader and rejected the concept. He didn't like the interface, which he complained didn't match the company's Windows brand, and therefore felt it wasn't right for Microsoft.
The anecdote came to light this week as part of an extensive Vanity Fair piece by Kurt Eichenwald about Microsoft's downfall, which he links to "astonishingly foolish management decisions." The piece includes a number of interviews and also relies on internal corporate records to trace the history of the Steve Ballmer era. Eichenwald in particular calls out a Microsoft management policy known as "stack ranking," which forces each unit in the company to categorize employees as top performers, good performers, average or poor, which was extraordinarily unpopular and forced teams to be overly competitive internally.
According to the article, the group who built the e-reader prototype was assimilated into the division dedicated to managing Office software. Former employee Steve Stone complained that the group was no longer able to focus on developing innovative technology that was useful for consumers. Instead, they had to think about how to make as much money as possible from Office.
Still, the article comes at a peculiar time: Microsoft’s stock is trading up 15% from a year ago, following promising announcements about the next iteration of Microsoft’s mobile OS, Windows 8 as well as the company’s first tablet.
QUESTION: A legitimately stupid decision by Bill Gates, or just a case of hindsight being 20/20? Do you agree that Microsoft under Ballmer has suffered a "Lost Decade," as the Vanity Fair piece alleges?
SOURCE: Vanity Fair
Hipmunk Involved in Patent DisputeJust days after travel startup Hipmunk’s announcement of a new $15M investment, a company called i2z Technology LLC told the company that it has to buy a license for a 1994 patent that covers a method for displaying data in multiple computer windows. According to GigaOm, i2z is a Texas shell company run by a California lawyer that is targeting a variety of online travel companies including Kayak, Google, Yelp and Microsoft.
Under i2z’s business model, sometimes referred to as patent trolling, firms that don’t make anything collect patents in order to extract licensing settlements from companies that do. In a new twist, trolls have begun laying in wait for start-ups to receive funding before pouncing.
Hipmunk is fighting back, filing a lawsuit asking a federal judge in San Francisco to declare that it’s not infringing the patent and that the patent should be invalidated because it’s obvious. Hipmunk’s complaint notes that this is the second time it has been threatened by a patent troll this year and that the patent has nothing to do with Hipmunk’s technology.
The patent in question is US Patent 5,345,551, “a method and system for synchronizing the presentation of data from different, but related, sources in different windows of a computer display.” Like many patents related to software, it covers seemingly common-place functions.
QUESTION: Think there's any chance this company will succeed at protecting a 20 year old patent for technology that seems commonplace? Should patents like this expire at some point, after enough people have built upon the core technology?
Yahoo and Facebook Make PeaceAs part of the final settlement of their much-discussed patent infringement kerfuffle, Yahoo and Facebook have agreed to an extensive strategic deal, according to AllThingsD. The agreement includes a joint advertising sales effort and cross-licensing of key patents between the two companies. Both companies' boards have approved of the deal, which is expected to be announced today.
No actual money will be involved in the settlement, though the advertising deals could prove profitable for both companies if executed well. There is also the open possibility that Facebook may pay Yahoo to license selected patents down the road. According to AllThingsD, these negotiations started almost immediately after Yahoo's CEO Scott Thompson was ousted (following the controversy over inaccuracies in his professional biography), furthering the narrative that the lawsuit was Thompson's big initiative and not approved by other leading figures at Yahoo.
The move comes amidst public discussion about who will get the permanent Yahoo CEO job. Interim president Ross Levinsohn, who was integral in negotiating this deal with Facebook, is considered a strong candidate, as is Hulu's CEO Jason Kilar. (Kilar has said he's not interested in the Yahoo job.)
QUESTION: Think, based on his handling of this situation, Levinsohn deserves the top Yahoo job?
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