Conference panels are often sedate, friendly affairs. But that wasn't the case when Google chairman Eric Schmidt went up against Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, investor and well-known libertarian gadfly.
The debate at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen Monday night tackled the question of whether technology has improved our lives over the past 30 years. Schmidt argued that it had; Thiel claimed progress had stagnated because tech has largely retreated from the real world into a virtual one.
"Google also has $50 billion in cash," Thiel added. "It has no idea how to invest that money in technology effectively ... if we're living in an accelerating technological world, and you have zero percent interest rates, you should be able to invest all of your money in things that will return it many times over. The fact is you're out of ideas."
Just a little update on our report from last week about LinkedIn and what appeared to be new test pages for its website: the company today has confirmed the changes and says that it will be rolling them out to all its 160 million-plus users in the next couple of weeks.
The key, as we said last week, will be simplicity: a stronger link to the site's newsfeed, LinkedIn Today, as well as an interface that will make it easier to add new people, and check on what others you already know are doing — essentially an attempt to make the site significantly more social, and with that social activity focused on what staying at LinkedIn rather than going elsewhere to continue your browsing.
Is this a move away from what LinkedIn has become for most people — a place you go when you're looking for a new job or to hire someone for a new job? Possibly, but not too far from that. "This simpler and cleaner design makes it easier to navigate the page and quickly find the updates you're looking for – whether that's a news article your boss has recently shared or it's to see who has just started a new job," writes Caroline Gaffney, LinkedIn's product manager in charge of the homepage, writes in a blog post on the changes.
As we noted last week, it's ironic that these changes are coming at a time when LinkedIn has lost one of its key partners in the social media infosphere: Twitter has cut off its API, which means no more Twitter stories into LinkedIn. This has upset some users (example: one reader who wrote to me "Just bring back the Twitter stream. LinkedIn is...fighting to remain relevant."
We heard from a source that this Twitter development wasn't the reason for the changes, which have been in play for months now. But it's still a strong case for why social media sites worth anything, LinkedIn included, need to focus on their own platforms and their own network creation as a route to growth.
A little rundown of some of the new features:
– More modern design. It may seem trivial to some, but as Steve Jobs said once very famously, design is not just about how something looks but how it works (quoted coincidentally just the other day in a story in the NY Times). And this seems to be the case here: LinkedIn's redesigned the look to be more modern and is trying to use it to get people to use the site more.
– Relevant updates. A lot of the changes seem cosmetic but there seems to be some changes under the hood, too. Gaffney notes that "the most important" network updates and articles are now appearing at the top fo the feed.
– Cleaned-up update stream. Again, more ability to scan and view updates to your feed, with some automated refreshing now in there. And taking another page from Facebook and Twitter you can now see what people in your network are talking about more easily.
Gaffney notes that this is just the first step, and indeed LinkedIn seems to be gearing up to make itself a more natural landing page — dashboard, if you will — for the professional who likes to engage in a bit of social networking. That would be in contrast to how I bet many typcial users enters the site — via Google searches on specific people
and companies. Also, that makes it a nice complement to Facebook (less worky; more friendly) and Twitter (not really so much of a homepage as a straight feed).
This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
Small businesses are past the fact that they need to use social media. Customers are using social tools to communicate, shop, research and discover — most of which are rapidly becoming a mobile experience. And so, entrepreneurs are shifting how they run their business around that fact.
The question now becomes "how?" Booz and Company conducted an in-depth study with Buddy Media of social media's marketing impact, and found that most businesses were not utilizing tools and services properly.
Social media is transitioning from a tool used by companies for a limited number of purposes, mostly involving external communication, to an integral part of the business environment, which is transforming the internal dynamics of major corporations, according to a new study by FedEx and Ketchum, titled "From Social Media to Social Business."
The study is based on quantitative surveys and telephone interviews with a total of 85 executives and communications "thought leaders." The list includes well-known social media pontificators like Jeremiah Owyang and Brian Solis, and execs from companies including IBM, Southwest Airlines, Bank of America, AT&T, Chevron, G.E., Cisco, and Time Warner Cable. On the executive side, the majority of participants were from large companies: 88% had 2,000 or more employees, and 68% had annual revenues over $2.5 billion.
Dropbox, TigerText Announce Partnership: Users Can Send Files With Expiration Dates, Remotely Revoke Access
Secure messaging service TigerText announced a partnership today with Dropbox that will allow users to send documents securely, with features like a pre-set lifespan and the ability to recall a file attachment at any time. Documents will be encrypted and cannot be downloaded, copied or forwarded.
TigerText president and Co-founder Brad Brooks tells us that the partnership has a wide range of targeted users, from "anyone who uses Dropbox" to businesses that need to send secure files. Brooks sees wide-ranging applications of the technology, from transporting confidential legal and medical files (the platform is HIPAA compliant) to facilitating group collaboration in financial services firms to delivering event tickets with an expiration date and recall ability. He says a large agency in Los Angeles approached TigerText because they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on courier services driving around scripts.
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