Task: Sell a crowdfunded item

Crowdfunding campaigns have been getting more and more popular in recent years. 

They can be great for small groups of people starting a new business, or smaller companies raising money for new products.

A popular crowdfunding website is Kickstarter. You can find all kinds of interesting products and services—who knows, maybe you could discover the next big thing! If you'd like to find something more unusual, I recommend the “Food & Craft” section.

Start by finding a featured product on Kickstarter's homepage.

Next, try to "sell" this product/service to your teacher. What are the positive selling points of this product/service? What's attractive about it?

Pinterest: safety over free speech

How much should tech companies regulate information? While Facebook and Twitter have up to now chosen to err on the side of free speech, an unlikely platform has taken an important step. Pinterest found that users were searching for information on vaccines, so CEO Ben Silbermann pulled all medical information from the platform.

Vaccines have been a contentious issue in social media, but not in science. While the science is clear that vaccines save lives, there has been a reemergence of previously eradicated diseases like measles. That reemergence has been linked to disinformation shared in social media. 

Visuals: Time we spend on phones

Since smartphones first connected us to the Internet, the time we spend on our phones has been increasing. 

2020 showed us that our whole life can be on the Internet. It is no longer a tool to work. It is something that gives us a voice, an opportunity to build relationships and connect with people. Some people find this useful. Others are worried about developing Internet addiction—when people use the Internet so much that other areas of their lives are damaged (relationships, work, studies, etc...) The American Academy of Pediatrics even proposed the idea of Facebook Depression. It is when people compare themselves with what they see on mass media platforms, and they feel incomplete, depressed and unhappy. 

Most of us have the Internet in our pocket at all times. That means our media consumption and screen time has changed significantly over the last decade.

Please have a look at the graph below about American media consumption.

Digital privacy and advertisements

According to The Economist, in April 2021, Apple, which supplies one-fifth of the world’s smartphones and around half of the United States', introduced a software update that will end targeted advertisement by companies. Its latest mobile operating system forces apps to ask users if they want to be tracked. Many are expected to decline. It is the latest privacy move forcing marketers to rethink how they target online ads.

By micro-profiling audiences and monitoring their behavior, digital-ad platforms claim to solve advertisers’ problem of not knowing which half of their budget is being wasted. According to Group M, the world’s largest media buyer, in the past decade, digital ads have gone from less than 20% of the global ad market to more than 60%.

Will US hedge funds go bankrupt?

An interesting situation has emerged in the American stock market. It has caused the stock of several companies to be extremely volatile.

Hedge funds in the US have opened so many short positions—basically, they have bet that stock prices will fall. Now it is believed that they have short sold more than the number of shares available on the market.

However, savvy retail traders noticed this. They started to buy up these shares in large volumes in the hope to push up the price.

Trading has been so aggressive that the share prices have wildly fluctuated and multiple brokers have been refusing to even allow purchases. The situation has gotten lots of attention, with multiple members of congress showing interest in the behaviors of brokers and hedge funds. Some have called for congressional inquiries.

It isn't clear what the aftermath will be. Only time will tell.

The success of Bookshop

According to The Guardian, a newspaper based in the United Kingdom, Bookshop is a socially conscious alternative to Amazon that allows readers to buy books online while supporting their local independent bookseller.

Bookshop was founded by writer and co-founder of Literary Hub, Andy Hunter. It allows independent bookshops to create their own virtual shopfront on the site, with the stores receiving the full profit from each sale. Customer service and shipping are handled by Bookshop and its distribution partners.

Venture capitalism and online games

Unable to hold face-to-face meetings with potential investors, venture capitalists are seeking new ways to meet start-ups, including a service which arranges virtual meetings inside the video game, Fortnite. matches technology investors with start-up executives through video game sessions in the hopes that companies will find their dream investment.

“Games are an incredible way for people in tech to connect,” said the site's co-founder, Alex Walsh. “It's a lot less stressful since both parties are doing something they enjoy, making it perfect for a first meeting. It's just like any other activity that's been tangential to business for years, like golf, getting coffee, or going for a walk.”

Consultancy will survive COVID-19

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted the consulting industry in ways that seem potentially ruinous. But do not lose hope. Yes, consultants are used to traveling a lot, and widespread travel restrictions make that impossible. And much of consultancy work is done face-to-face in internal and client meetings, which can’t be done when gatherings are prohibited. There is also the fear that businesses will suspend contracts in the economic downturn.

But we have an advantage this time that we haven't had in past catastrophes. We have the internet. We can have virtual meetings, share documents online and even give presentations with conference software that lets everyone be in the same “room” at the same time. So travel restrictions are less disruptive than in the past—people can do much of what’s needed almost as well from home.

COVID-19 overloads the internet

Many businesses are asking their employees to work from home to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Suddenly workers need to use telecommuting networks all day long. It’s putting a huge demand on internet services. 

Also, many schools have been closed. So children are home doing classwork online and watching videos or playing games. In Italy, internet usage went up by 90% in March when schools were closed. 

So home network providers are being tested in a way they never have before. Large providers say they can handle it, but no one knows when this situation will end. Hopefully the internet will keep working until then.

Netizens shame COVID-19 profiteers

The Japan Times published an opinion piece arguing that the issue of people hoarding surgical masks has served to show people’s true nature. It notes that the outbreak has resulted in the spread of fake news and racism, and some unscrupulous people have been reselling face masks and even toilet paper at highly inflated prices on sites such as Mercari.

The author says that social media has also become a tool for shaming those engaged in bad behavior in Japan. Sites such as Twitter have made it simpler to spread footage of morally dubious activity. For instance, users uncovered truly ridiculous posts, including one in which 35 packs of masks were being sold for ¥75,000 by someone who claimed to have risked their health getting them.

Antivirus company selling your data

An antivirus program has been found to have been selling users' data to a wide variety of companies. A subsidiary of the Avast antivirus group, a popular and well-reviewed line of antivirus software, has been selling every purchase, every page, even every click that users have made. Clients have included tech companies, consulting companies, a soft drink company and even a large hardware store. 

The program is called Jumpshot, and it is able to supply clients with a so-called "All Clicks Feed." That option tracks every click and all time spent across websites in highly precise detail.

Avast has since made the information-sharing aspect optional, though the company has said that the information gathered before the change will be kept rather than deleted. 

It has been said that users should be skeptical of free programs. There is an adage on the Internet that if you aren't paying for the product, then you are the product

Japan minister in hot water again

The minister in charge of cybersecurity said he doesn't use computers.

Yoshitaka Sakurada, who just last week was criticized for stumbling over basic questions during Diet deliberations, found himself once again in hot water Wednesday after making it known that he doesn't use computers even though he is a deputy head of the government panel on cybersecurity and is tasked with overseeing policies on such matters.

During a Lower House Cabinet Committee meeting, Sakurada, who is also the minister in charge of the Olympics, said: “I don't use computers because since I was 25 I have been in a position of authority where secretaries and employees handle such tasks for me.”

Sakurada was answering questions posed by Masato Imai, an independent Lower House lawmaker. “It's shocking to me that someone who hasn't even touched computers is responsible for dealing with cybersecurity policies,” Imai said.

India weighs in on net neutrality

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman R.S. Sharma has called for the Internet being kept open and free, and not cannibalised.

“No one owns the Internet... so, it should be open and accessible to everyone,” Mr. Sharma said, suggesting that service providers should not indulge in gate-keeping of this important platform.

The TRAI issued the much-awaited recommendations on Net neutrality and has sought to bar service providers from any discriminatory practice on Internet access.

Mr. Sharma said the Internet was an important platform for the country, especially in the context of innovation, start-ups, online transactions, government applications and the Digital India program. “So, it is important that the platform is kept open and free and not cannibalised,” Mr. Sharma said.