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July 17th, 2012
10:36 AM ET

Open letter to Marissa Mayer

Getty Images

Dear Marissa Mayer:

First off - congrats on a double dose of incredible life-changing news!

I know you're incredibly busy adjusting to life after Google, cranking up your new CEO gig at Yahoo!, and finalizing your go-bag for the birth of your son in October. But please consider a few thoughts from a well-intended geek mom and journalist.

FULL POST

May 29th, 2012
03:58 PM ET

Diamond Jubilee: UK puts weather before Windsors

I remember the Queen’s Golden Jubilee ten years ago. When the commemorative flypast took place, I was festering in a box room on an ex-council estate in East London. I think I was hungover.

Actually, I was 22 years old. I know I was hungover.

Three miles west of my less-than-regal living quarters, more than a million individuals had mobbed The Mall and the wider environs of Buckingham Palace. Many were armed with union flags, others just with cameras, hoping for a fleeting glimpse of the boyishly handsome Prince William. There was, by all accounts, a party atmosphere – aided I’m sure by the fact that the Great British elements had opted not to rain on this particular parade.

But more than the event itself, I recall an outpouring of surprise from the press and the public alike that the occasion had not been a washout in the wider sense. The Windsors were perceived to have a popularity problem.  Papers such as "The Guardian" decreed that they were out of touch with the populace, and the populace would be out of sight come the Jubilee.

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May 17th, 2012
11:00 AM ET

Is Facebook a must-buy for journalism?

Now that Facebook is friends with Wall Street, this journalist is giving her timeline a rethink.

I rejoiced when it launched Facebook Pages, as this was a chance to build a professional presence on the network separate from my personal feed.

I was also riveted by the work of Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Internet activist and Google executive who devised the "We are all Khalid Said" Facebook page after a businessman who died in police custody last year. The page helped spark the revolution that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

And I was thrilled when Facebook hired a dedicated journalist-program manager to build ways for reporters to be more socially savvy.

But now Facebook will answer to its shareholders as a publicly traded company. To keep Wall Street happy, it will have to make more money - quarter after quarter.

Journalists have to face up to the fact that we - along with some 800 million Facebook users worldwide - are the product being sold.

FULL POST

May 10th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Instagram: My addiction and affliction

Nicol Nicolson's Instagram page

I made an exhibition of myself on CNN last night.

My dear friend and colleague Ramy Inocencio was proficiently analyzing Toyota’s latest earnings when, 35 seconds into his hit, a pair of arms rose up over his left shoulder. They belonged to me. And they proceeded to run the gamut of soccer-style celebrations: the fist pump, the airplane, the Saturday Night Fever 45° point…  The spectacle lasted 15 seconds but, watching it back, it’s an agonizingly long 15 seconds. And the thing is, as shamelessly scene-stealing as this episode appeared to be, it wasn’t my fault. It was Instagram’s.

While the wider world obsesses over the imminent opportunity to purchase shares in Facebook, I am instead obsessing over Facebook’s latest purchase. Don’t get me wrong. I was "gramin" long before Mark Zuckerberg got his prosperous paws on the photo-sharing site. But as with any addiction, Instagram crept up on me, posing as a harmless hobby before eventually enveloping me in its allure.

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March 6th, 2012
02:29 PM ET

Know Your Oreo

The News Stream team is fond of sweet treats; we often have a stash of chocolate sitting by our desk. So imagine our joy when we realised it was the humble Oreo cookie's 100th birthday, and we had a valid excuse to buy some packets.

It's a fairly simple recipe – two part chocolate biscuit, one part cream filling – but the Oreo has become the world's top-selling cookie, sold in more than 100 countries.

But here's the piece Oreo trivia you really want to hear:

50% of all Oreo eaters pull apart their cookies before consuming them, and women are more likely to twist them open than men.  FULL POST

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
U.S. Troop Deployments: Digging into the data
November 17th, 2011
02:35 PM ET

U.S. Troop Deployments: Digging into the data

When U.S. President Barack Obama addressed Australian troops at a naval base in Darwin after promising to deploy 2,500 U.S. marines to northern Australia over the next several years, it got us thinking: which other surprising locations are American soldiers sent to?

So I found some statistics from the U.S. Department of Defense from December 2010, got hold of a couple of highlighter pens, and got to work.

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Filed under: Data • General • Personal musings
October 24th, 2011
11:10 AM ET

AsiaD & Start-up Saturday: the News Stream download!

I am never an early riser.

Well, except for special occasions, and last Thursday was indeed a very special occasion.

Why?

Because the first-ever “All Things D” conference – AsiaD – kicked off in Hong Kong from Oct 19th to 21st, marking a significant milestone in the region’s digital history. For the non-geeks out there, “All Things D” conference is one of the largest and most prestigious technology conventions in the world. Organized by two of the most respected tech columnists, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, the conference brings together top-tier innovative and successful business pioneers as well as technology titans with an exclusive preview of industry trends.

Enough adjectives there?

Past conference speakers have included Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and AsiaD’s line-up featured a mix of Asian and Western tech luminaries including Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey and hometown hero Jack Ma from Alibaba Group.

Even though I didn’t get to sit through the entire programme (of course work comes first! Disclaimer: my boss reads this), I was fortunate enough to tweet-spam the first few sessions when Walt spoke to Yahoo Co-Founder Jerry Yang, ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih, among other guests. You can review all the conference-related tweets at “#AsiaD”.

For me, one noteworthy highlight from last Thursday’s morning session was the amazing “light field camera” demo by Lytro Chairman Charles Chi. The team unveiled the product in California only six hours before rushing to Hong Kong, and many reports have already coined it the “revolutionary new camera” for its ability to refocus images. Check out the company’s Living Pictures Gallery to grasp the concept.

Needless to say, a digital convention deserves a digitalized coverage, and without doubt, the team of talented and professional editors at All Things D truly defined the meaning of real-time, seamless online reporting. For more on the talks, speakers and demo at AsiaD, visit AllThingsD.

Although AsiaD concluded Friday afternoon as I obsessively refreshed my Twitter feed at work for updates, I slapped myself awake again on Saturday for another digital meet-up in Hong Kong – Startup Saturday 2011.

While D conferences occurred at the top level, local entrepreneurs are also organizing similar meet-ups in a growing grassroots movement. “Startup Saturday 2011” is a perfect testament for the booming entrepreneur community in Asia.

Co-organized by StartupsHK and BootHK, the one-day event attracted hundreds of startups, investors, developers and tech enthusiasts, including the “super angel investor” Dave McClure from 500 Startups.

AsiaD speaker AirBnB CEO Brain Chesky also made an appearance on stage as he shared his outlandish yet ingenious startup journey including selling “Obama-O” and “Captain McCains” cereals, and paying a personal visit to every single one of the early AirBnB users in New York.

Through roundtable discussions of both HK and US startups as well as an investor panel, I had quite an interactive crash course on the entrepreneurial scene in Asia. Take a look at the Twitter feed #SUS2011 for a detailed recap, and check out Jason Li’s live art notes of the entire conference.

October 5th, 2011
09:40 PM ET

A day in the life of an iPhone addict

Anyone who knows me will tell you I cannot live without my phone. It virtually holds my life together. But instead of an emotional ode to my iPhone, I thought the best way to truly show you how attached I am to it is to take you through a day in my life.

11am: iPhone alarm rings. I suppose I could have used an actual alarm clock, but I can’t eyeball my email on my alarm clock, can I? (Note that I didn’t actually say “read” my email; I just like to skim the subject lines to decide how guilty I should feel for not actually reading them.)

1pm: On the way to work, I’m struck by an inane thought. In the past, I’d keep it to myself, or use as small-talk. Now? Out comes the phone, and inane thought becomes an, er, “insightful” tweet.

130pm: Arrive at work. Instinctively use foursquare to “check in” and share the fact that Ravi Has Arrived At The Office with the world. Co-workers give me funny looks. FULL POST

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Filed under: Gadgets • General • Personal musings • Technology
August 25th, 2011
02:22 PM ET

"Stay hungry. Stay foolish." The impact of Steve Jobs on a CNN news team


Rarely is news of a CEO stepping down a worldwide trending, all-caps-making event. But it is when it's Steve Jobs.He led a company that transformed a vast array of businesses - personal computing, portable and online music, smarter mobile telephony and post-PC computing. He delivered a string of products that appealed to our emotions by focusing on the user experience and consumer happiness.

He even pioneered a retail experience that was shanzhai'd in China.

Anyone who's held an iPod has no doubt pressed a mental pause button today to consider an Apple without Steve Jobs. And yet, Steve Jobs has made an impact not only on consumers the world over, but producers as well - producers of business plans, even producers of one hour news bulletins.

In 2009, a colleague and I threw out a question. "If Steve Jobs produced a news show, what would it look like?"

FULL POST

August 16th, 2011
03:22 PM ET

Fighting famine, one packet at a time

This is what emergency food aid looks like.

I'm holding a packet of “Plumpy Nut,” a high-calorie peanut-based paste donated by UNICEF for tonight’s News Stream focus on famine relief.

Some 12 million people are facing starvation in Africa today. “Plumpy Nut” is one of many nutrition supplements being used to stave off starvation.

“Plumpy Nut” looks like and tastes much like peanut butter. It’s a nut-based product that contains milk, soy, sugar, minerals and vitamins.

And it hits the top needs of the malnourished - it has a significant calorie count (500 kcal), high-quality protein, and a long shelf life. They’re also sweet so young children are willing to eat it.

A parent can simply tear off a corner of the packet, and feed it to a child straight from the package. Each packet has enough nutrition for an infant, but not enough for a teenager.

It is not a miracle cure. “Plumpy Nut” and other emergency food aid supplements do not address long-term malnutrition.

But it is helping fight the acute famine we’re seeing today in the Horn of Africa, fighting famine one packet at a time.

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