Facebook today confirmed dwindling engagement with public posts to subscribers cited by The New York Times’ Nick Bilton, other journalists, and I, but calls us isolated cases, noting public figures with more than 10,000 fans are now getting 34 percent more Likes and comments than a year ago. While Facebook often changes the news feed to improve the user experience, the inconsistency is irksome.
So here’s the story. Yesterday, Nick Bilton of the New York Times wrote that when using Facebook’s Twitter-esque Subscribe feature to post public updates to his subscribers, he’s getting a lot fewer Likes and comments than a year ago. He suggested this is because Facebook is showing more ads instead.
Other journalists including me cited similar experiences, where our Facebook follower counts had grown significantly, but we were getting equal or less engagement now than in the months after Subscribe launched. I suggested that along with the presence of ads, people sharing more posts that compete for news feed space and Facebook’s tendency to give more feed presence to new products may have been responsible for the drought.
PeopleMatter, a SaaS for hourly worker human resources management, has raised a $19 million round of venture funding led by Scale Venture Partners, with Intersouth Partners, Morgenthaler Ventures, Harbert Venture Partners, Noro-Moseley Partners, C&B Capital and Silicon Valley Bank participating. This brings PeopleMatter’s total funding to $47 million.
As more businesses look to the cloud for talent management, PeopleMatter is focusing on a specific sector by providing a way for companies to manage hourly workers. Mostly used by companies in the hospitality, retail and food services industries; PeopleMatter’s software manages hiring, talent management and HR, as well as scheduling. It’s built purely for the needs of service-industry employers and their hourly workforces, and users can manage all of their applicant tracking, hiring, onboarding, training and scheduling.
Current clients on the PeopleMatter Platform include Ruby Tuesday, Bruegger’s, Thortons, The Krystal Company, Flash Foods, American Retail Services, Noodles & Company, and franchise locations of Domino’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Carl’s Jr.
Facebook today will wage its war against your phone’s “phone” application on a new front with an update to Messenger For Android that adds VoIP calling for Canadians. It’s also improving group messaging. By combining voice-over-data calling with unified instant, asynchronous, and email messaging, Facebook could dominate communication in the developing world.
Here’s why this war is worth it. Facebook’s mission to connect the world breaks down into two channels: 1) public and semi-public posting to your profile and the news feed, and 2) private communication. It already hosts a lot of both of those stacks. The big parts that remain out of its grasp are serious email and short-form public publishing like Twitter, SMS and voice.
Facebook already has a band-aid email system built on @facebook.com; Subscribe and public status updates to challenge Twitter; and data-based Messenger to take on SMS. What was missing was voice. Typically connected over cellular and landline connections, old-fashioned voice calling is an expensive, outdated but essential part of how people communicate with their friends and family.
TripleLift is a New York City-based startup aiming to help advertisers embrace what Chief Strategy Officer Ari Lewine calls “the rise of the visual web.”
“The web is increasingly dominated by images, and images are quickly becoming the primary currency with which brands communicate with their potential customers,” CEO Eric Berry told me in an email. “TripleLift identifies how consumers engage with brands across the web and uses that data to create more relevant and effective advertising. “
The company was actually founded a year ago (by Lewine, Berry, and President/CTO Shaun Zacharia, who all previously worked at online ad company AppNexus), and it has already run campaigns with some major advertisers. However, the company has only received a little bit of attention from the press — now it’s ready to do more of a publicity push, and it’s announcing that it raised a $2.1 million seed round at the end of last year.
BlackBerry 10 may have launched with over 70,000 apps, but fans of taking pictures of their lunch were saddened to learn that Instagram wasn’t one of them. While there’s still no official version of Instagram for BlackBerry 10 devices, the folks at BerryThai obtained and released a repackaged version of the app ready to load onto a Z10 near you.
Before you get excited and run off to snap and share some ridiculous photos, know this: this is most definitely not a new, BlackBerry 10-centric version of Instagram, it’s a port of a slightly older Instagram Android build. As such, you’ll have to sideload the app onto your BlackBerry 10 device — it’s not exactly a difficult process, but you do need to be least somewhat proficient with a command line (CrackBerry has some great guides for sideloading from a Windows or an OS X machine)
As you’d probably expect, the experience is hardly a perfect one. Snapping photos and sharing them seems to work just fine (though the Z10′s camera doesn’t always grab the best shots), but scrolling through the photo feed is an awfully sluggish affair and new users won’t be able to create an account from within the app. For now though, this (or something like it) may be all that BlackBerry 10 devotees have to look forward to for now. According to a recent report from AllThingsD, the Instagram team isn’t particularly bullish on BlackBerry 10, with one unnamed source noting that they weren’t sure a native version of the Instagram app would ever be released.
Aktana has raised $5 million in angel funding for its suggestion engine designed for sales people in the field.
Aktana’s technology provides data insights into sales activity that learns from interactions with a decision-based engine on the frontend and a backend that uses machine learning to determine better go-to market strategies. In all, it is meant as a virtual assistant for sales reps.
The service has multiple uses, such as giving guidance about what customers to call in a geographic region; categories to pursue; and which customers with whom to engage that competitors may not be reaching.
When Facebook hit a limitation in Android’s virtual machine, Dalvik, that would halt its app development, Google and Facebook worked together to create a patch for Gingerbread. “We’re a significant app to them, and they’re a significant platform for us,” Facebook’s Director of Mobile Engineer Mike Shaver explains. It’s another example of Facebook’s hardcore mobile engineering training coming to fruition.
Today at a “whiteboard session” on Android at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Shaver talked to a group of reporters about the Dalvik fix, Facebook’s relationship with Google, and how it’s turning not just software engineers but project managers, designers, and even customer support staffers into mobile developers.
The turning point was when Facebook hired mobile training house Big Nerd Ranch to put employees through an intensive, 40-hour iOS and Android development crash course. Shaver said “it’s eight hours a day, five days a week. If you have a guest come, they’re sent away. Zuck can leave a message. This is what you do. People come out with their heads a little melty but they can write production code that Monday.” Big Nerd Ranch is the same squad that’s taught iOS development at Apple and Android development at Google. Facebook has trained 450 mobile engineers with the program since July.
Open Garden, one of the finalists at TechCrunch Disrupt New York last year, just launched the newest version of its Android, Mac and Windows app that makes sharing your mobile Internet connections even easier. In many ways, this 2.0 release, which the company presented at the Launch conference this morning, fulfills the promises Open Garden made when it first launched.
The new version, for example, now automatically creates a mesh network between all the Open Garden-enabled devices within reach and automatically picks the fastest connection to route traffic. If one phone is connected to Wi-Fi, for example, other phones can then use this connection to offload their 3G and 4G bandwidth through this one phone or laptop (or even multiple devices to increase the bandwidth available to all devices on the network).
Samsung is about to show off a new flagship phone at an event on March 14, and details continue to leak out about the new smartphone. The New York Times’ Brian X. Chen reports today that eye movement-based content scrolling will be among the Galaxy S IV’s features. Chen’s source, a Samsung employee, also says that the emphasis will be on software, not hardware at the upcoming press event.
Samsung’s next smartphone will be able to track a user’s eyes and scroll articles and other types of content based on where they’re focused, the source said, so that if a user was reading a web page and hit the bottom, the device could automatically scroll more content up into view. There’s no guarantee it will be demoed on stage, according to the article, but the Korean company should be showing off more new software features, instead of demoing hardware advancements.
A software-centric approach to an Android flagship device launch is nothing new. HTC showed off its own new flagship device, the One, at an event in NYC last month and the bulk of the presentation focused on Sense 5.0. Android OEMs seem keen to highlight what it is that makes the experience of using their devices fundamentally different from using the Android phones of other makers, a good strategy when each successive generation of devices seem to share more in common than not when it comes to specs and internal components.