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Facebook’s Fight to Combat Online Bullying

As the internet has brought communications to closer and more personal levels, online bullying has become increasingly an issue.  A recent federal report released last week indicated that nearly 20 percent of students in middle school and high school were bullied.  This metric was capturing bullying events that took place during the 2016-2017 school year but also provides a glimpse as to how widespread the issue is, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Much of online bullying takes place within social networks – as kids often leverage such networks to connect with friends and peers.  Facebook, being the largest social network, has employed a strong initiative to combat online bullying on its own platform – and on Instagram – which a popular social network is owned by Facebook.

Facebook recently announced the release of new tools to identify and prevent bullying, says Gaurav Mohindra.  One such tool is a comment screener.  When a comment that appears to be hurtful is submitted to post, the tool will indicate that the message appears to be negative and request confirmation if they want to post the message.  Facebook indicated that early testing of the tool has shown that users have rescinded negative comments prior to posting as a result of the screen.

Instagram further announced a tool called Restrict to provide additional support to assist with online bullying and targeted harassment.  Currently – Instagram has always provided the ability for users to block or unfollow people.  However, users may be reluctant to do so as the blocked party may discern of this action which could lead to additional harassment or bullying.  For this reason, Instagram is rolling out the Restrict feature which prevents restricted users’ comments from being read by anyone but the restricted user.  This may help neutralize negative situations since the post owner will not be aware of any negative comment, and neither will anyone else who may view the post.  Only the restricted user has the ability to read the comments. 

Facebook’s commitment to combating online bulling and harassment is important and critical to creating a safer social network experience, especially for younger users, says Gaurav Mohindra.  Online bullying has become an important issue.  First Lady, Melania Trump, has been a vocal advocate and supporter of anti-bullying initiatives.  Even other corporations, besides Facebook, have taken up the cause.  Burger King recently released a widely accessible PSA against bullying.   Facebook and Instagram have conveyed that additional tools and support to combat bullying will be rolled out in the near future.

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Uber’s New Tools for Drivers

Uber’s growth trajectory is impressive. Within ten years the company has become a transportation behemoth and has disrupted industries along the way, says Gaurav Mohindra. One of the reasons Uber became so successful is because it created a livelihood for many people as drivers. Uber needs its drivers. And Uber knows how dependent it is on its drivers. Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that Uber recently announced the pilot launch of new tools for its drivers.

The new tools center around key areas drivers have asked for improvement, says Gaurav Mohindra. By Uber announcing this new release of pilot tools – they are clearly demonstrating their commitment to their drivers. The new tools are accessible through the driver’s app.

1) Simulated Trip: this new tool was developed to provide drivers the experience of picking up the passenger to dropping them off at their destination – so the driver can appreciate the entire route experience prior to accepting the ride.

2) Top Opportunities: Uber drivers know that certain times to drive are more lucrative than others. There are numerous factors that impact the differences. The new feature, Top Opportunities lets drivers know the best opportunities to maximize their value. This feature will empower drivers to better understand when they can generate the most revenue from their trips.

3) Auto Accept: this feature permits drivers to accept a trip they typically would – without the hassle of having to actively accept the trip. It is designed to help drivers not miss desirable trips, says Gaurav Mohindra.

4) Extra Long Trip Notifications: This notification will help drivers appreciate when they are about to embark upon a longer trip. Longer trips are typically those over an hour. By providing the driver with this information up front, the driver has the ability to accept (or deny) the trip offer with the appreciation of knowing the length of time of the trip.

5) Trip Cancellations Framework: This feature set permits drivers to convey when a cancellation is appropriate – too many passengers or another cancellable event. The cancellation would be remitted to the passengers as well.

Uber has indicated that it will pilot these features for some time and welcomes driver feedback on these features, as well as others, so they can continue to develop more tools and features to assist their drivers. The new Uber features will be deployed as a pilot at first and based on driver feedback it will be determined if they will continue as permanent platform features.

News

San Francisco Ban’s E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes, or vaping, have been receiving much recent attention.  Much of the attention is positive – in that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional smoking, but there is also much negative attention.  The negative attention is largely focused on a large number of teenagers who have adopted vaping on a regular basis, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Recently, San Francisco banned the sale of e-cigarettes within its city limits.  San Francisco is the first major city that has adopted such a ban.  The ban is being applauded by many vaping critics who admonish the industry for not combating teen-use and is criticized by others for still permitting traditional cigarettes within city limits.  As of now, an ordinance has been approved by San Francisco city leaders and the mayor intends on signing it.  The soon-to-be new law will prohibit e-cigarettes that have not been pre-market reviewed by regulators, from being sold within the city.  Currently, manufacturers are not being reviewed in this fashion, thus nearly all e-cigarettes will be prohibited within the city.

One of the largest e-cigarette manufacturers is Juul.  Juul is based in the bay area and will see a loss by the ban.  The concern for Juul in losing a city is significant because this ban may spread into other cities looking at San Francisco as a model, says Gaurav Mohindra.

The purpose of the ban to thwart teen-use.  The rampant scale of vaping in schools has been called an epidemic by many officials.  Recent surveys indicate that most high schoolers, and a majority of middle-schoolers have tried vaping in the past year.  The Center for Disease Control addresses kids and teen e-cigarette use on their website.  They specifically note that it is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults to use e-cigarettes.  In addition, nicotine can negatively impact young brains.  E-cigarettes also contain other potentially harmful substances besides nicotine.  Young people using e-cigarettes may also become more prone to smoking cigarettes.  The vaping industry is trying to regulate unlawful use by young people.  Efforts have been made to prohibit marketing of flavored vapes to younger demographics.

The ban may seem like a drastic measure and rather broad, in that, it is addressing all age groups and not just young people.  However, such a ban will encourage the vaping industry to conduct more studies and improve their marketing campaigns, says Gaurav Mohindra.  So overall, this ban may lead to a better product.

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Blockchain Improves Shipping Supply-Chain

IBM has been actively applying blockchain in various areas where it can have a significant effect.  Recently IBM devised a blockchain solution for the shipping industry.  IBM collaborated with the global shipping company Maersk to devise the strategy, says Gaurav Mohindra.  Their collaboration started in 2017 and led to the launch of a new platform named TradeLens.  TradeLens is a blockchain platform that can track shipping containers.

Shipping companies have been signing up to leverage TradeLens, and as a result, the platform is accumulating more data to effectively track and improve its analytics.  One of the key features of TradeLens is that it is neutral and governed on open standards.  Neutrality and open standards are the basis of many blockchain platforms. 

Recently, shipping companies Hapag-Lloyd and Ocean Network Express, two of the largest shipping companies in the world, announced that they would join the TradeLens platform.  With the addition of these two new companies, TradeLens now has 5 of the largest 6 shipping companies on its platform.  These five companies account for roughly 60% of the ocean-going cargo.  Mediterranean Shipping and CMA CGM SA are two of the largest shipping companies in the world and had agreed to join TradeLens earlier this year.  Having large industry players join TradeLens is a big deal, it legitimizes the platform and encourages smaller companies to join the platform, says Gaurav Mohindra.

blockchain Supply-Chain

The platform permits users to share information on goods as it passes through trade supply chains.  The benefit of this is that data maintains its integrity and as result shipping containers can be traced from origin to final destination, with the entire journey and en route ports captured and validated along the way.  The platform will reduce the cost of the typical maritime supply chain administration such as paperwork and chain authentication.  The paperwork and administration of typical maritime supply chain is a significant cost metric of shipping.  As a result, TradeLens should reduce overall shipping costs, says Gaurav Mohindra.

TradeLens is not the only shipping oriented blockchain platform.  Cosco shipping, a large Chinese shipping company, is participating in Global Business Network (GBN).  GBN is a blockchain platform being leveraged by Asian shipping companies in a similar way as TradeLens.  As more and more companies become comfortable with such blockchain platforms, and interoperability and compatibility between competing systems will likely emerge.   The key to success for any such platform is to have wide-acceptance and participation from many companies, having more participants will increase the electronic ledger recordings and improve the integrity and validity of the platforms.

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Chicago Has Staggering Life Expectancies within Neighborhoods

In a recent article published by the Guardian, author Jamiles Lartey highlights the vast life expectancy ages amongst residents. His analysis carefully looks at two Chicago Neighborhoods – Streeterville and Englewood.  In Streeterville, residents can expect to live up to 90 years old, whereas in Englewood the life expectancy is drastically reduced to age 60.

This vast disparity is the most significant of two neighborhoods sharing a city boundary.  The distinction highlights that Chicago is still a very bi-polar city, says Gaurav Mohindra. Streeterville is located near Lake Michigan and is populated with numerous luxury condo high rises.  The average income in Streeterville is nearly $100,000 have 80% of residents hold college degrees.  In contrast, in Englewood, around 8.2% of residents hold college degrees.  Having an advanced degree has been tied to longer life expectancy in numerous studies around the world.  In general, it has been found that advanced degrees typically result in higher salaries which can provide better access to health care.

Englewood is considered one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods.  In a city that is already suffering from violent crime, being recognized as one of the more dangerous parts of the city – contributes to loss of life at younger ages.  The article also notes that Englewood has one of the highest rates of lead contamination in the country.  Exposure to lead causes numerous health ailments, including aggressiveness in children.

Chicago recently elected a new Mayor – Lori Lightfoot.  She overwhelmingly won support throughout the city.  Many of the constituents supporting Lightfoot were eager for her to improve the disparities amongst the neighborhoods in Chicago, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Having been in office for a short period, Lightfoot has already started making changes.  She quickly became a vocal antagonist against aldermen accused of wrongdoing and publicly asked for their resignations.  Lightfoot also recognizes the violence and crime plaguing the city and the interplay between cities and the Chicago Police Department.  Previously, Lightfoot served as the chief administrator of the Chicago Police Department Office of Professional Standards.  In that role, Lightfoot oversaw the investigations of police misconduct.  Subsequent to that role, Lightfoot was appointed to become the President of the Chicago Police Board.  In that position, she was tasked with the responsibility to provide recommendations on disciplinary actions in police misconduct matters.

Lightfoot’s unique background as a public servant and private sector attorney give her a unique vantage point to assess the Chicago’s issues, says Gaurav Mohindra.  Hopefully, with her stewardship, neighborhoods in Chicago will see more balance and overall the quality of life will improve across the city.

Blockchain
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A Basic Primer on Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology has been getting a lot of recent attention.  It has been deemed the New Internet, and industries are quickly trying to incorporate the technology to simplify existing processes in secure and meaningful ways, says Gaurav Mohindra.  The following primer will explain the basics of blockchain technology.  This reference is useful for those looking to understand the elementary concepts of what makes up the blockchain.

A blockchain is essentially a list of records.  These records can be called blocks.  Blocks are encrypted using various cryptographic techniques.  Each block is unique, in that, it contains a reference to the block that precedes it along with transaction data.  Accordingly, the blocks can then hold a sequential order. The transaction data can essentially represent anything. 

The blocks are designed, largely through cryptography, such that the transaction data cannot be modified, says Gaurav Mohindra.  The purpose of this is to create a record (of a transaction) stored in time.  The transaction can between two parties.  Assume two people are transacting on a vehicle.  The block would represent the entire transaction between the two parties.  And, the transaction data would include information on the vehicle (year, make, model, Vehicle Information number, the purchase amount, mileage, etc), and also include information on the buyer and seller. 

Blockchain-Technology
Blockchain-Technology

Once that buyer decides to sell the vehicle in a subsequent and separate transaction, the new transaction would be represented as a new block.  The new block would be in the same “chain” as the past block – but would include the transaction data associated with the 2nd transaction.  By design, one would be able to view the entire vehicle ownership history of a vehicle through a safe and secure modality.  This is a significant improvement on how vehicle transaction information is collected, stored, and referenced today.  One improvement is that it is uniform across all states, and secondly, blockchain can help ensure that accurate data is being stored about the transaction.

Another benefit of deploying blockchain is that it carries no transaction cost.  There are costs in maintaining the architecture and infrastructure.  But there is no cost to adding blocks to a chain.

In the above example of a vehicle transaction, once a user initiates a block representing a transaction – that block is then verified by numerous computers around the net.  This verification process ensures the veracity of the transaction and the legitimacy of the entire chain.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to input false or erroneous information into a block because the verification process requires authentication by millions of computers.  In other words, when a transaction is going to be recorded – it is cross-checked by millions of computers spread across the world, and those cross-checks are recorded.  So, if one wanted to input false or erroneous information – one would have to create millions of false verification records to support the incorrect data.  And that, is why blockchain is considered to be a perfect medium for recording and transmitting data, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Safety-Features
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Tesla – New Safety Features

Tesla has recently made quite a bit news in light of Elon Musk’s disputes with the SEC and his no-filter tweets.  It’s also drawn quite a bit of attention due to decreased sales and profiting from selling energy credits to other auto manufacturers.

However, Tesla remains dedicated to building cars of the future.  Recently, Tesla announced a series of safety features that it is releasing to make its vehicles safer and secure on the road.  This is refreshing to hear, especially since Tesla has most recently been in the news for not so positive items, says Gaurav Mohindra.  Tesla made headlines when an autonomous vehicle got into an accident, its batteries were causing vehicle damage, and its stock losing value.

The new safety features include Land Departure Avoidance and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance.  This features permits users to allow corrective steering to kick in in order to keep them in their intended lane or to slow the vehicle down.  This can be a huge safety feature – especially for drivers who may have fallen asleep at the wheel or become distracted by the mobile device.  Recent studies have shown that distracted drivers are on par with inebriated drivers when considering impaired motors skills and response times.  Accordingly, such a safety feature could be applicable in situations where one least expects it to be beneficial.  These features have become perfected with the numerous sensors and cameras that Tesla employs on its vehicles – along the millions of miles it has captured as data points. 

Having this message data set – provides the ability to determine patterns.  Here, the patterns of when drivers are veering out of their lane – and for not the intended use.  Tesla has been at the forefront of employing technology to improve their vehicles.

The feature detects to see if the vehicle is steering out of the lane, whether the turn signal is on, and whether the driver’s hands are on the wheel.  By assessing these data points, it can be understood – with a higher degree of confidence – whether the intended steering was intended or not, says Gaurav Mohindra.

 Tesla will be providing the new safety features in the upcoming models.  But they will also make the features available to Tesla Model 3, via a software update.  The software update will be compatible with vehicles made after October 2016.  The fact that Tesla is making the features available to previously sold cars further illustrates their commitment to safety, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Apple Worldwide Developers
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Apple Worldwide Developers Conference – 2019

Apple kicked off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, June 3.  This widely anticipated event showcases new innovation and products that will be released in the near future by the company, says Gaurav Mohindra.  The conference is being attended by nearly 6,000 people and has been an annual tradition since 1987.

A conference ticket costs $1,599 is held from Monday through Friday.  The conference is made up of a keynote address – given by Apple CEO Tim Cook, and numerous presentation sessions, one-on-one product consultations, and various get togethers.

It is carefully watched by investors, technologists, and Apple enthusiasts to understand new products and initiatives being driven by the Company over the next year. 

The 2019 WWDC conference is being held at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California – not too far from Apple headquarters in Cupertino.  There were numerous product announcements made at the event including iOS 13, MACOS, Catalina, WatchOS 6, TVOS 13, iPadOS, the latest generation Mac Pro, and the Pro Display XDR, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Apple Developers

The new iOS 13 will provide a new look called Dark Mode, there are additional updates to popular existing applications such as Photos, Maps, Messages, and others.  Apple is also emphasizing their commitment for users to be able to manage privacy and security all by including new related security features in the latest iOS 13.

iPads are becoming increasingly popular modalities for Apple.  Accordingly, Apple has updated the iPad OS.  The new iPad OS will include a new Home Screen specifically designed for the tablet.  Apple is also improving the ability to work on multiple apps and files simultaneously.  This is a big value add since its very common to have several apps opened at the same time.  In addition, new gestures for editing text and desktop browsing will be included.

The new WatchOS 6 will feature new faces for the watch, and track activity trends over time.  There will be additional tracking and focus on health and fitness.  This is refreshing to see as Apple has been committed to health and fitness for some time.

The new MACOS Catalina will feature improved access to music, TV, and other media apps.  It will also provide the ability to work in conjunction with your iPad for ease of transition and use.

The new Mac Pro is the most powerful Mac ever.  It is designed for versatile use and functionality.

The new Pro Display XDR is a new 6k monitor.  This will feature brilliant colors, contrast, and brightness.  As Apple is focusing more on media such as streaming TV and other content, having a best in class monitor will only better showcase content.

Overall, the announcements at WWDC were well received and there is much excitement in the new products forthcoming, says Gaurav Mohindra.

uber
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Uber – New Features

On May 15, 2019, Uber announced a set of new features that will roll out to their customers, says Gaurav MohindraIt has been an exciting time for Uber, especially in light of their recent IPO which has attracted new investors and Wall Street.  Uber has been in the news with recent acquisitions of ride-sharing companies and also with their entry into new markets – such as Uber Eats and Uber Freight.  It’s refreshing to see them add new features to their core ride sharing offering in the US.

In announcing the new features, Uber conveyed that the new services are specifically for Uber Black and Uber Black SUV – which happen to be part of the very first services they ever offered.  The new features stem from existing luxury service users who requested additional features and improvements.

Uber

The new features include the following: 

  • Quiet Mode: with the tap of a button, you will be able to enjoy the silence with regards to no radio or small talk.
  • Help with Luggage: you can preemptively let your driver know that you will require assistance with your luggage and bags.  This feature can be ideal for travel bound users or shopping bags.
  • Temperature Control: convey a temperature preference to your driver prior to embarking on your ride.
  • Extended Pickup Period:  users will be afforded additional time to get into their car to start their ride.  Currently, Uber tries to encourage riders to enter the vehicles in an efficient manner to minimize delays and maximize driver efficiency.  Thus, this is beneficial for users knowing in advance they may require additional time.
  • Premium Support: users will have the ability to access phone support when needed.  This can help assist with unique or special requests.  
  • Professionalism: users may request a driver who carries a commercial/professional license.
  • Consistent Vehicle Quality: users may have preferences on vehicle types, color, interior styles, and can leverage their unique preferences on a regular basis.

These new features and enhancements will be rolled out in dozens of US cities within a relatively short period of time.  Uber users will be pleased to see their requests and feedback have been translated into these features and enhancements, says Gaurav Mohindra.  This is a good example of a company taking a look at its core customer group – and ensuring they are meeting their needs. 

Uber making the customer a priority is a great example of a customer-centric company that values its core asset – customers.

Game of Thrones
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Game of Thrones – Series Finale Recap

The final episode of the wildly popular television series Game of Thrones aired on Sunday, May 19 to much anticipation and fanfare.  The series which ran for eight seasons on HBO attracted millions of viewers from around the world and gave way to countless blogs, podcasts, and analysis to determine the motives and motivations of characters and predictions for how the series will end.

The final season was widely criticized for seeming inconsistent with past seasons and some storylines feeling somewhat rushed, says Gaurav Mohindra.  But the series finale ended the story with a new king and provided closure for the main characters.

The episode commenced with Tyrion surveying the damaged caused to King’s Landing by Daenerys.  She, along with her dragon Drogon, burned much of the city causing widespread destruction and death.  As Tyrion walked through the city, his morose demeaning carried the shock and horrors caused by the battle (and largely of war, in general).  It came as no surprise that he resigned from his position as Hand of the Queen – which didn’t really matter since he was imprisoned for treason, nonetheless.

 While imprisoned, Tyrion had an audience with Jon Snow to convey his dismay in Daenerys and to convince him that her actions, while noble in her mind, were tyrannical and will continue.  This was the push that Jon may have needed to kill Daenerys.

Subsequent to her death, her last remaining dragon, Drogon, proceeded to burn the Iron Throne causing it to melt away.  This scene was rather symbolic that Daenerys’ death ultimately led to her motive to “break the wheel” and release people from tyrannical rule, says Gaurav Mohindra.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 806Credit: HBO
Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 806 Credit: HBO

The episode continued by dealing with the fallout of Daenerys’ death.  Jon Snow was imprisoned, and Tyrion was brought to the council of Lords to explain his actions.  The Council elected a new King, Bran Stark, of House Stark.  The election came as somewhat of a surprise, says Gaurav Mohindra.  It was rationalized that Bran had the knowledge of the past, and with that knowledge, he can successfully guide the future.

Sansa Stark successfully argued for Winterfell being a separate nation, and she ultimately was elected the Queen. Her sister, Arya, decided to explore unknown lands west of Westeros.  And Jon Snow was banished to the Night’s Watch as a penance for murdering Daenerys. Tyrion was selected by Bran Stark to serve as his Hand of the King.

It was great to see that all of the main characters had been provided an ending well suited to their storylines.  All in, Game of Thrones was an enjoyable series that captivated viewers throughout its run, and there’s no surprise that it will be remembered as one of the most popular television shows of all time.