App Use Up 28% This Year: Nielsen – AppNewser

According to Nielsen, the average number of apps per smartphone has jumped 28 percent from 32 apps to 41.2012 apps over the past year. In addition, over the last year only 40 percent of mobile phones users in the U.S. had smartphones and today 50 percent of mobile subscribers have a smartphone. The number continues to grow.

The research firm also reported that app usage among Android and iOS users has more than doubled over the last year, accounting for more than 88 percent of app downloads in the last month.

The leading apps continue to lead, with Facebook, YouTube, Android Market, Google Search and Gmail leading the pack. Here is more from the Nielsen blog: “…smartphone owners spend just about the same amount of time on apps each day (37 minutes a day in 2011 compared to 39 minutes today). Finally, privacy continues to be a concern with the vast majority (70% in 2011 and 73% in 2012) expressing concern over personal data collection and 55 percent wary of sharing information about their location via smartphone apps.”

via App Use Up 28% This Year: Nielsen – AppNewser.

The 5 Hardest Jobs to Fill in 2012 | Inc.com

It was also a very busy year for hiring at startup companies, as you know, and it doesnt look like that will slow down in 2012.  We’ve certainly seen opinions on both sides of the fence as to whether or not there is a tech bubble or 2012 will be another active year of investing.  Im an optimist and I believe the pace of investing will remain consistent.  Yes, some companies will fail, of course, but others will scale and grow their teams at a steady clip.Hiring the best of the best is an absolute must if you are going to build a successful company.  You will need to be prepared to compete against big companies with deep pockets and other up-and-coming startups that also have blue chip investors and a game-changing idea.

So, what are the most competitive areas for talent these days? Here’s a look:

Software Engineers and Web Developers

The demand for top-tier engineering talent sharply outweighs the supply in almost every market especially in San Francisco, New York, and Boston. This is a major, major pain point and problem that almost every company is facing, regardless of the technology “stack” their engineers are working on.

Creative Design and User Experience

After engineers, the biggest challenge for companies is finding high-quality creative design and user-experience talent. Since almost every company is trying to create a highly compelling user experience that keeps people engaged with their product, it is tough to find people who have this type of experience (especially with mobile devices including tablets) and a demonstrated track record of success.

Product Management

It is always helpful for an early-stage company to hire someone who has very relevant and specific experience in your industry. This is especially true for product management, since the person in this role will interface with customers and define the product strategy and use cases. However, be prepared, as it will be a challenge to find people with experience in these high-growth industries: consumer web, e-commerce, mobile, software as a service, and cloud computing.

Marketing

I’m not talking about old-school marketing communications. Companies are looking for expert online marketers who know how to create a buzz of inbound marketing or viral traffic through the web, social media, and content discovery. Writing a good press release just doesn’t cut it anymore, as everyone is looking for the savvy online marketing professional who understands how the current state of the web operates and knows how to make it work to their benefit.

Analytics

Since data is becoming more and more accessible, smart companies are increasingly making decisions driven by metrics. Analytics is becoming a central hub across companies where everything (web, marketing, sales, operations) is being measured and each decision is supported by data. Thus, we are seeing a high level of demand for analytics and business intelligence professionals who almost act like internal consultants; they help determine what should be measured and then build out the capability for a company.

via The 5 Hardest Jobs to Fill in 2012 | Inc.com.

Apps Make The Difference in One Tablet Per Child Pilot Test – AppNewser

Nicolas Negroponte, founder of the One Laptop Per Child project, has long been an advocate of simply giving children tools and letting them teach themselves. He recently started testing that idea with a new pilot program.

According to IT Pro Portal, Negroponte got the chance to try his plan in a small rural African village. This village was so isolated that not only could no one read; there wasn’t even anything to read. “You won’t even see printed labels or words on bottles, these people have never even seen words” said Negroponte.

But the kids still managed to figure out how to use the tablets:

Negroponte’s team left boxed tablets in a village and within three hours the children had opened the boxes and worked out how to turn the tablets on. After just a couple of weeks of unassisted use, the children were seen competing with each when reciting the alphabet, which they learned from one of the many pre-installed apps.

But as great as that might be, one could also argue that the tablets would be used much more effectively with a properly trained teacher. Unfortunately, it would be rather hard to stick one of those in a box.

via Apps Make The Difference in One Tablet Per Child Pilot Test – AppNewser.

Recent Survey Data Suggests Parents Are Using Apps as Digital Babysitters – AppNewser

The Pew Research Center regularly pools US consumers on all sorts of things from gadgets to buying habits. One recent poll involved app buying habits of smartphone and tablet owner. It turns out that watching videos isn’t the only activity that shifted from TVs to tablets.

The survey results found that parents who owned tablets (or a smartphone) were more likely to download apps for use by a kid (57% vs 16%). Parents were also more likely overall to download apps when compared to non-parents (84% vs 69%).

Pew has more details:

Our data does not show differences by race, ethnicity or income in downloading apps for children. However, recent work done by Common Sense Media suggests that there may be what they term an “app gap,” where higher-income families (47%) are more likely to download apps and use them with their children than lower income families (14%). The Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America report suggests this is partly due to lower levels of  smartphone and tablet ownership among poorer families, but also because low-income parents are less likely to even know what apps are.

It might be something of a stretch, but I think there’s a good chance that parents really are using apps to distract kids. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in small doses.

via Recent Survey Data Suggests Parents Are Using Apps as Digital Babysitters – AppNewser.

Is Genius Born or Can It Be Learned? – TIME

Is it possible to cultivate genius? Could we somehow structure our educational and social life to produce more Einsteins and Mozarts — or, more urgently these days, another Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes?

How to produce genius is a very old question, one that has occupied philosophers since antiquity. In the modern era, Immanuel Kant and Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton wrote extensively about how genius occurs. Last year, pop-sociologist Malcolm Gladwell addressed the subject in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.

The latest, and possibly most comprehensive, entry into this genre is Dean Keith Simonton’s new book Genius 101: Creators, Leaders, and Prodigies (Springer Publishing Co., 227 pages). Simonton, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the intellectually eminent, whom he has studied since his Harvard grad-school days in the 1970s.

For most of its history, the debate over what leads to genius has been dominated by a bitter, binary argument: is it nature or is it nurture — is genius genetically inherited, or are geniuses the products of stimulating and supportive homes? Simonton takes the reasonable position that geniuses are the result of both good genes and good surroundings. His middle-of-the-road stance sets him apart from more ideological proponents like Galton (the founder of eugenics) as well as revisionists like Gladwell who argue that dedication and practice, as opposed to raw intelligence, are the most crucial determinants of success.

Too often, writers don’t nail down exactly what they mean by genius. Simonton tries, with this thorough, slightly ponderous, definition: Geniuses are those who “have the intelligence, enthusiasm, and endurance to acquire the needed expertise in a broadly valued domain of achievement” and who then make contributions to that field that are considered by peers to be both “original and highly exemplary.”

Fine, now how do you determine whether artistic or scientific creations are original and exemplary? One method Simonton and others use is to add up the number of times an individual’s publications are cited in professional literature — or, say, the number of times a composer’s work is performed and recorded. Other investigators count encyclopedia references instead. Such methods may not be terribly sophisticated, but the answer they yield is at least a hard quantity.

Still, there’s an echo-chamber quality to this technique: genius is what we all say it is. Is there a more objective method? There are IQ tests, of course, but not all IQ tests are the same, which leads to picking a minimum IQ and calling it genius-level. Also, estimates of the IQs of dead geniuses tend to be fun, but they are based on biographical information that can be highly uneven.

So Simonton falls back on his “intelligence, enthusiasm, and endurance” formulation. But what about accidental discoveries? Simonton mentions the case of biologist Alexander Fleming, who, in 1928, “noticed quite by chance that a culture of Staphylococcus had been contaminated by a blue-green mold. Around the mold was a halo.” Bingo: penicillin. But what if you had been in Fleming’s lab that day and noticed the halo first? Would you be the genius?
Recently, the endurance and hard work part of the achievement equation has gotten a lot of attention, and the role of raw talent and intelligence has faded a bit. The main reason for this shift in emphasis is the work of Anders Ericsson, a friendly rival of Simonton’s who teaches psychology at Florida State University. Gladwell featured Ericsson’s work prominently in Outliers. (See the top 10 non-fiction books of 2008.)

Ericsson has become famous for the 10-year rule: the notion that it takes at least 10 years (or 10,000 hours) of dedicated practice for people to master most complex endeavors. Ericsson didn’t invent the 10-year rule (it was suggested as early as 1899), but he has conducted many studies confirming it. Gladwell is a believer. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good,” he writes. “It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Simonton rather dismissively calls this the “drudge theory.” He thinks the real story is more complicated: deliberate practice, he says, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating genius. For one thing, you need to be smart enough for practice to teach you something. In a 2002 study, Simonton showed that the average IQ of 64 eminent scientists was around 150, fully 50 points higher than the average IQ for the general population. And most of the variation in IQs (about 80%, according to Simonton) is explained by genetics.

Personality traits also matter. Simonton writes that geniuses tend to be “open to experience, introverted, hostile, driven, and ambitious.” These traits too are inherited — but only partly. They’re also shaped by environment.

So what does this mean for people who want to encourage genius? Gladwell concludes his book by saying the 10,000-hour rule shows that kids just need a chance to show how hard they can work; we need “a society that provides opportunities for all,” he says. Well, sure. But he dismisses the idea that kids need higher IQs to achieve success, and that’s just wishful thinking. As I argued here, we need to do more to recognize and not alienate high-IQ kids. Too often, principals hold them back with age-mates rather than letting them skip grades.

Still, genius can be very hard to discern, and not just among the young. Simonton tells the story of a woman who was able to get fewer than a dozen of her poems published during her brief life. Her hard work availed her little — but the raw power of her imagery and metaphor lives on. Her name? Emily Dickinson.

via Is Genius Born or Can It Be Learned? – TIME.

Who wants to be a genius? | The Economist

THOMAS EDISON gave his famous formula for genius as 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Modern-day students of geniuses and prodigies, though, argue over the relative contributions of more tangible factors—of genetics, of physiology, of hours spent in training. Most believe that geniuses have special genes. Almost nobody takes the opposite stance: that prodigy performance, in any field, lies within the grasp of anyone who cares to try hard enough.

Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University, falls into the minority camp. Given ten years of deliberate practice, Dr Ericsson says, anyone should be able to attain prodigy-level performance in his discipline of choice. The intuitive objection to this idea is the “Mozart argument”, as it is called by Brian Butterworth, a neuroscientist at University College London who has studied the psychological aspects of arithmetic for many years. This argument is that not everyone can become a Mozart merely by dint of hard work. Dr Ericsson wonders why not. After all, he argues, did not Mozart become Mozart by dint of hard work?

This may seem to be easily refuted by popular legends about geniuses such as Mozart, Paganini and Gauss, which report that they all showed exceptional skills in early childhood before receiving a shred of formal instruction. But Dr Ericsson points out that most of these stories are, indeed, legends. Rather than rely on such myths, he insists on studying those experts and prodigies who are living today.

Practice makes perfect

Dr Ericsson does not believe that the exceptional abilities of such people are due to their innate talent. Rather, he explains their performance by pointing out that they have developed powerful memories for storing information about particular topics. Psychologists recognise (and brain-science confirms) a distinction between short-term “working” memory and long-term memory. Dr Ericsson believes that prodigies get such impressive mileage out of their working memories by placing important pieces of information into their long-term memories in a way that makes them accessible to working-memory processes. According to Dr Ericsson, this “long-term working memory” is the essential ingredient for expert performance in any field, from chess to typing to golf, and can be developed at will.

Recently, some neuroscientists tried to observe long-term working memory in action. Nathalie Tzourio-Mazoyer at the University of Caen, in France, and her colleagues, measured the brain activity of a maths prodigy as he performed some feats of arithmetical acrobatics. Their subject, Rüdiger Gamm, can calculate the fifth root of a ten-digit numeral within seconds, and as quickly raise a two-digit number to its ninth power. When asked to divide one integer by another, he unhesitatingly recites the answer to 60 decimal places. Dr Tzourio-Mazoyer’s research, published in this month’s Nature Neuroscience, represents one of the first efforts to watch such a performance as it unfolds in the brain.

Through the use of positron-emission tomography (PET), an imaging technique, Dr Tzourio-Mazoyer’s team found that Mr Gamm was using more of his brain than normal controls, with whom they compared him, as he performed his mathematical tricks. Both Mr Gamm and the controls showed activity in 12 parts of the brain, but in five additional areas, Mr Gamm alone showed any activity. Three of these areas have previously been linked with the formation of episodic memories, which are a kind of long-term memory.

Mr Gamm appeared to be using his long-term memory to store the working results that he needed to complete his calculations—for example, all the dividends and remainders of a division sum. His use of this extra memory space meant that he could circumvent that perennial pitfall of mental arithmetic, losing one’s place. In other respects, Mr Gamm’s brain does not appear notably unusual. Nor does he perform with exceptional aptitude on tests of skills that lie outside his area of expertise, such as verbal recall. Moreover, Mr Gamm, who is now 26, was not born with this computing ability. He developed his skills, through four hours of practising memorisation daily, only after he had passed the ripe old age of 20.

As both the PET scan and his past experience bear out, enhanced memory appears to be the key to Mr Gamm’s ability. So this study seems to provide some neurological evidence for Dr Ericsson’s idea that long-term working-memory function underpins prodigy-level performance. So far, so plausible. But Dr Ericsson also maintains that such memory function, and the superlative performance that goes with it, can be attained by anyone—biology no bar—given enough practice and perseverance.

This is a much more contentious point. Twenty years ago, Dr Ericsson tried to prove it by training some ordinary laboratory volunteers up to prodigy-level performance in a number-memory task. Average people tend to have a “digit-span” of seven—in other words they can recall a string of seven random digits after hearing it read out once. But after a year’s practice, two of his particularly dedicated subjects were able to increase their digit-spans to lengths of 80 and 100.

Just as Dr Ericsson took people with no discernible talent and turned them into champions, so, in a fashion, did a Hungarian, Laszlo Polgar. When he began training his daughters, it was widely believed that women could not play serious tournament chess. But through a deliberate (and still continuing) psychological experiment, Dr Polgar and his wife created a trio of world-class chess champions out of their own daughters, overturning this prejudice.

By 1992, all three had reached the women’s top ten worldwide. The third, who presumably received the most refined training regimen, became the youngest grandmaster in the history of the game and is reckoned by her peers to have a good chance of becoming world champion one day. With remarkable, if not hubristic, prescience, Dr Polgar had written a detailed book on the subject of child rearing, entitled “Bring Up Genius!” before beginning the coaching of his children. But would any child reared by such a parent have become a chess prodigy?

Ellen Winner, a psychologist at Boston College who has been studying the relationship between exposure to the arts and subsequent academic achievement, believes not. She argues that only children with the “rage to master” a skill could make it through the gruelling years of training needed to achieve expert ability. The rage to master may be the point at which nature unequivocally makes its constraints felt. Even Dr Ericsson concedes that there might be a genetic component separating the child willing to persevere with a rigorous schedule from the child who would rather play videogames.

Put it another way: even if there are no born mathematicians or musicians, there may be “born achievers”. The particular area in which such people make their mark might be determined purely by the kind of environment or skill to which they were exposed and how hard they then applied themselves. But among many psychologists this all-purpose view of genius is not a popular one. Dean Simonton of the University of California, San Diego, dubbed it the “drudge theory” of genius in a recent book review.

Dr Simonton considers genius to have more of a genetic component. Yet this conviction has not stopped him from writing a book of profiles of psychologists who were reckoned to be geniuses. The American Psychological Association will publish this book later this year, so that its members may learn from Dr Simonton’s observations on the great prodigies of psychology. And though Dr Ericsson is not on his list this year, in ten years from now he doubtless will be—if he wants it badly enough.

via Who wants to be a genius? | The Economist.

How To Be A Genius – Forbes.com

Geniuses don’t exist in the present. Think of the people you’ve met: Would you call any of them a genius in the Mozart, Einstein, Shakespeare sense of the word? Even the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grants don’t call their winners geniuses.

We throw the g-word around where it’s safe: in reference to dead people. Since there’s no one alive who witnessed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart pee in his kindergarten pants or saw young Pablo Picasso eating crayons, we can call them geniuses in safety, as their humanity has been stripped from our memory.

Even if you believe geniuses exist, there’s little consensus on what being a genius means. Some experts say genius is the capacity for greatness. Others believe it’s that you’ve accomplished great things.

Forget this pointless debate. Chasing definitions never provides what we want: a better understanding of how to appreciate, and possibly become, interesting creative people. Instead let’s run through the history of geniuses and pull out some telling patterns.

Have a great, or horrible, family

Picasso, Mozart, Beethoven, Einstein and Goethe are popular geniuses whose parents were interested in their creative lives. Mozart and Beethoven both had fathers who were professional musicians and they were taught by them during childhood to play instruments. Can you guess what Picasso’s dad did? Yes, he was a painter, and he spent many hours with young Pablo.

One popular legend surrounding Einstein is that he was obsessed with a compass given to him by his dad. The more potent factor in his development was family friend Max, who taught Einstein science and philosophy. Then, of course, there’s Van Gogh. The only healthy relationship he ever had was with his brother Theo.

But lousy families can make geniuses, too.

Beethoven’s dad was cruel, torturing him during practice sessions. Unlike many child prodigies who burn out at adolescence, Beethoven kept his passion for music. Leonardo da Vinci barely knew his father.

Isaac Newton was also born to a single-parent home and hated his stepfather. From that broken relationship may have come the seed of unrest that fueled his independent life and ideas.

Be obsessed with work

Show me a genius and I’ll show you a workaholic. Van Gogh produced 2,000 works of art between 1880 and 1890 (or 1,100 paintings and 900 sketches). That’s four works of art a week for a decade. He didn’t even get started until age 25.

Da Vinci’s journals represent one clear fact: Work was the center of his life. He had neither a spouse nor children. Picasso was a machine, churning out 12,000 works of art. He said, “Give me a museum and I’ll fill it” and made good on that boast. Shakespeare wrote more than 40 plays, plus dozens of sonnets, poems and, of course, grocery lists.

These are people who sacrificed many ordinary pleasures for their work.

The list of lazy geniuses is short. There are burnouts, suicides and unproductive years in retreat–but none could be called slackers. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers contends that the key to any success is 10,000 hours of practice.

The debate over talent vs. effort is moot: History makes it clear you always need extraordinary effort.

Have emotional or other serious problems

For all their brilliance, most geniuses did not live well-adjusted lives. Picasso, Van Gogh, Edison, Einstein and Nietzsche (and most major modern philosophers) were often miserable. Many never married or married often, abandoned children and fought depression.

Newton and Tesla spent years in isolation by choice and had enough personality disorders to warrant cabinets full of pharmaceuticals today. Michelangelo and da Vinci quit jobs and fled cities to escape debts.

Kafka and Proust were both hypochondriacs, spending years in bed or in hospitals for medical conditions, some of which were psychological. Voltaire, Thoreau and Socrates all lived in exile or poverty, and these conditions contributed to the works they’re famous for.

Happily positive emotions can work as fuel, too. John Coltrane, C.S. Lewis and Einstein had deeply held, and mostly positive, spiritual beliefs that fueled their work.

But the real lesson is that all emotions, positive or negative, provide fuel for work and geniuses are better at converting their emotions into work than more ordinary people.

Don’t strive for fame in your own lifetime

Most people we now consider geniuses received little publicity in their lifetimes compared with the accolades heaped on them after their deaths. Kafka and Van Gogh died young, poor and with little fame.

Desiring fame in the present may spoil the talents you have. This explains why many young stars have one amazing work but never rise to the same brilliance later: They’ve lost their own opinions. Perhaps it’s best to ignore opinions except from a trusted few and concentrate on the problems you wish to solve.

To focus on learning and creating seems wise. Leave it to the world after you’re gone to decide if you were a genius or not. As long as you’re free to create in ways that satisfy your passions and a handful of fans, you’re doing better than most, including many of the people we call geniuses.

via How To Be A Genius – Forbes.com.

Beautiful Onboarding By SpeakerDeck

Just gorgeous! I even love how they solve the ‘blank slate’ problem.

The only bummer is that I loaded an odd-sized PDF for reposting on my blog. However, their uploader recalculated the aspect ratio and now all of the slides are horribly out of proportion. I’m sure if you have a standard presentation this will work for you, though. :)

Facebook is getting its own app store for all devices, all platforms, all prices | VentureBeat

Facebook is launching a new App Center, “a place to find social web, desktop, and mobile apps” — and not just Facebook apps.

The App Center will bring Facebook’s 900 million users all the best in iOS apps, Android apps, web apps, mobile web apps, and even desktops apps. “The goal is to solve the app discovery problem… based on what you and your friends enjoy,” a Facebook rep told VentureBeat in a phone chat today.

You won’t just find free apps here, either. Facebook is also introducing paid apps. The company stated it expects in-app purchases to be developers’ primary money-makers for the time being; however, making paid apps available through the Facebook platform is the beginning of a very interesting business opportunity, both for devs and for Facebook.

Not only will Facebook’s App Center apps be personalized (as only Facebook, with its huge social graph, can personalize); they’ll also feature an iTunes App Store-like focus on quality. Each app will have star ratings gathered from users, and Facebook will also be collecting data on how often users come back to the app and how long they stay on it. Those scores will combined to determine an application’s overall quality.

The scoring data will also be viewable by app developers, who can then use the information to tweak and perfect their creations.

App developers are today being asked to go to Facebook and create an “app detail” page with descriptions and screenshots, just like they’d do for Google Play or the iTunes App Store. Creating these pages is a requirement for being listed in the App Center.

App distribution and helping developers grow their apps has been a big concern for Facebook lately. The company has been highlighting Timeline-based growth for lifestyle, video, and media apps over the past several months. For apps such as Goodreads, that Facebook-linked growth has been truly phenomenal and has earned its own nickname: the Facebook Timeline bump.

Basically, as we’re sure Facebook would eagerly point out, when you have a captive audience of one billion people, distribution opportunities are through the roof. And as Facebook mobile web guru James Pearce told us in a recent meeting at Facebook HQ, the company is keen to become a top distribution destination for developers, especially for mobile web applications.

via Facebook is getting its own app store for all devices, all platforms, all prices | VentureBeat.