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developers Happiness Lifestyle Platforms Study Survey Tech Work-Life

Developer Happiness – 7 Things I Learned About What Makes Developers Happy

dev happiness

Every CEO who leads a company that has something to do with Digitization is dependent on the availability of tech talent and tech recruiting — making it a key factor for the companies success. It is a contested market due to the lack of skilled workers. To get the best developers, you need to attract them with what really matters to them. Here are seven things I learned about software developer happiness.

What makes software developers happy?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that question over the last five and a half years. Happiness is a fascinating subject; it drives so many of our life outcomes, from health to wealth, and yet, we often don’t understand it, let alone prioritize it.

Consequences of Developer Happiness

To give more weight to the topic, we asked 4,000 developers from 98 countries to evaluate their happiness across four key areas: career, quality of life, social freedoms and community.

And so the Developer Happiness Index was born. Here are just seven of the things I learned about developer happiness from working on the report.

Happiness affects a lot for developers — even their code quality

Believe it or not, developer happiness is an academic field of study, a small niche within the broader study of happiness. Through scholars’ work, we know that happy software developers are more productive, write better code, and make better decisions.

Whatsmore, their sense of self is positively impacted: increased motivation and accomplishment, higher creativity, engagement, and self-confidence are all results reported from greater happiness. By contrast, unhappiness causes low cognitive performance, mental unease or disorder, low motivation, work withdrawal and broken flow.

Our results found that developers, on average, self-evaluated their happiness at 61 points out of a potential 100, 4 points less than the average OECD citizen. Hard to say if the comparison is fair, given the different data sets, but it suggests developers are not yet prioritizing their happiness.

Unemployment is destructive to people’s wellbeing

Since we spend a lot of our lives working, work inevitably plays a key role in shaping our happiness levels: work can make us happy or unhappy and our happiness impacts our performance.

What is perhaps less appreciated is that unemployment itself is destructive to people’s wellbeing. This is one of the most robust findings in the study of happiness — it is true across age, gender, and location, according to the World Happiness Report.

Employed people are happier and have less negative emotional experiences in their day to day lives. Further, non-monetary aspects of employment, such as social status, social relations, daily structure and goal achievement, are key drivers of happiness.

Developers in Northern Europe are the happiest in the world

We found that developers from Northern Europe are the happiest in the world. Nordic countries dominate the rankings: Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden all occur in the top ten. Canada ranks joint 8th with Germany and is the only non-European among the top.

Developers on northern Europe are the happiest in the world.

Note: Due to a lack of data, we could not include other regions in the report

Given our sample’s limitations, we compared the findings to the World Happiness Report 2020 (WHR) to check for veracity. Our results are fairly consistent with the report — seven of the top 10 countries are shared across both sets of data. Germany, Canada, and France, which rank 8th, 9th, and 10th in our results, appear 17th, 11th and 23rd respectively on the World Happiness Report. The dominance of the Nordics in both reports is a striking similarity.

Nine of the top ten countries with the happiest developers are in Europe

The World Happiness Report attributes the Nordic populations’ happiness to “the quality of institutions, such as reliable and extensive welfare benefits, low corruption, and well-functioning democracy and state institutions.� Indeed, sustained happiness is connected to a high perceived level of stability and democracy.

Relationships and personal autonomy are also important factors moderating happiness. According to the WHR, “Nordic citizens experience a high sense of autonomy and freedom, as well as high levels of social trust towards each other, which play an important role in determining life satisfaction.�

Stability and well-functioning institutions combined with personal freedom, safety, and autonomy seem to be the recipe that determines happiness in the countries which top both our index and the WHR.

Work-life balance matters most for developer’s happiness

Across all 20 happiness indicators, work-life balance is the most important predictor of developers’ happiness. Work-life balance for developers is not simply about shorter working hours — though that does help.

Northern European developers, who work the shortest hours, are also the happiest. However, Western Europeans and North Americans, who are second and third most happy respectively, work longer hours — significantly longer in the case of Americans.

Developers in Northern Europe are the least likely to work long hours

Trust and flexibility are big contributors to the developer’s happiness with work-life balance. Northern European cultures excel in collaboration, consensus-based decision-making and strong trust between colleagues.

To maintain happy developers, we found it essential to promote a healthy work-life balance and live it. Employers should train and encourage supervisors to be positive role models and offer practical and emotional support in work-life balance topics.

How can managers support Work-Life Balance for developers?

Team, management and recognition are keys to happy workplaces

Given the collaborative nature of software development, it’s no surprise that developers care deeply about the team they’re on. When describing happy work environments, team, management and recognition were the factors that matter most to developer happiness.

Top contributors of positive work environment for developers

Developers say they want to be part of “passionate,� “diverse,� “cooperative,� and “supportive� teams. They expect responsibility to be shared, team members to be open to knowledge-sharing and product colleagues to be process-driven and focused.

Engineering’s relationship with Product can fuel productive, creative solutions or developers can see it as a major obstacle in building stable and valuable products. Collective responsibility and high trust – not just amongst engineers, but among the broader team – is desired by many:

“I value respect among co-workers and owning up to failure as a team rather than pointing towards a specific person or department. For example, not blaming just the QA team for a site-breaking bug making its way to production since multiple failures by multiple parties need to occur for this to happen.�

Management and recognition were also sticking points for developers in our survey. Developers state that they would “rather work for a good manager but use a bad tech stack� than vice versa; “poor management can make people change jobs or give up altogether,� and “the pay is decent, the tech stack is lacking, but my manager does not inspire or promote progress, so I am leaving.�

How to show Appreciation

Female developers are happier than male developers — but they still get paid less

Female developers are happier than male developers overall. They are also more satisfied than male developers with their salaries. This is even though they are paid significantly less than their male counterparts.

We found evidence of the gender pay gap in all territories for which we had sufficient data. The largest pay gaps are in North and South America, where the difference between male and female developers’ pay is 21% and 35%, respectively.

The gender pay gap for software developers is the largest in North and South America

Ageism in tech starts at 29 and the older developers get, the less happy they are

The older a developer is, the less happy they tend to be, particularly in factors related to the working environment and company culture.

Developers with more coding experience are unhappiest with their work environment and culture

Perhaps not surprising since much of tech company culture is built around younger groups. According to research, the average age that tech professionals begin experiencing ageism is at 29 years old, compared to 41 years old on average across industries.

At what Age do people start to experience ageism at work?

Top Image Credit: yan; pexels

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Categories
ad growth platforms CCTV Connected Devices Marketing ott Platforms

OTT Subscriptions are Growing: Why Advanced TV is the Way to Go

advanced tv

Streaming platforms have seen a big surge, along with the growth of subscription video on demand (SVOD). As subscriptions are skyrocketing, OTT becomes the mainstream way of consuming video content. Based on eMarketer forecasts, by 2020, viewers will spend over 50% (130 min per day) of their daily free time watching digital videos on OTT.

In the recent report by Digital TV Research, the global subscription growth predictions look optimistic. Based on these estimates, by 2025, SVOD will reach over 460M in APAC, 100M in LATAM, and about 30M in MENA. In the US, the number of subscribers will reach 317M. Also, there’s a curious forecast regarding Western Europe. Namely, out of 191M subscriptions expected by 2025, only 35M will join this year thanks to the lockdown.

The growing trend urges new OTT services to enter the market. In turn, it drives more viewers to take up a subscription. Along with more advanced TV platforms, the industry sees new ad services. Especially, specific CTV ad services such as Allroll or Roku native ad platform aimed to help publishers grow their OTT channels. As CTV keeps evolving, we’ll see more independent-channel promotion opportunities like these.

Increasing the number of services also encourages viewers to take multiple offerings simultaneously. For instance, in the UK, the proportion of users subscribed to at least 3 streaming services accounts for 14%. That number has grown by 4% since 2017 and keeps increasing.

In the US, where the number of available OTT services has increased by 140% in five years, consumers get a wide range of options to meet their video needs. Most consumers find it’s not enough for them to go with a single service. And this is where small and medium-sized services can fill in the viewer gaps by providing exclusive content.

Advertising on CTV: Why It Works And Is Accepted So Well

Something else that is growing apart from OTT subscribers is the number of people tolerating the CTV ads. For instance, 80% of US CTV viewers watch ad-supported content. The leading cause is the viewers’ behavior and the things they are getting used to while watching videos. To get insights into this, let’s take a closer look at the actual CTV audiences.

Thus, the core audience of US CTV viewers in 2020 is Gen Z representatives (45.7 million), millennials (56.5 million), and Gen X viewers (48.5 million). Most of them are cord-cutters and cord-nevers who have abandoned linear TV or have never consumed one.

By cutting cords, this hard-to-reach audience segment gets to their favorite video content collected all in one place — on the CTV screen. Hence, Gen Zers, Gen Xers, and millennials are open to consuming whatever goes alongside the content they are going for.

Another critical group of the CTV audience, which is still fewer than younger cohorts, is boomers. However, the adoption of streaming video among boomers is growing slowly and methodically. Compared with the same figures a year ago, boomer viewers increased by 8.3%, accounting for 32.8 million viewers. As viewers of this kind have been watching commercial breaks for years, they don’t feel any irritation seeing ads on CTV.

Challenges and Factors Nurturing OTT Ad Growth

While CTV advertising looks like fantastic exposure, it has its limitations, though. Advertisers who decide to leverage CTV need to get ready to face challenges like lack of standardization and ad buying nuances.

When it comes to CTV channel owners, one of their essential needs is accessing tools for promoting their content. In this regard, they can leverage Roku. This platform provides them with the most advanced promotion toolkit compared to its competitors.

However, Roku native promotion tools don’t let channel owners get the most of it. Specifically, with Roku, they are getting 60% fewer installs compared to what could be achieved with the same promotion budgets. A solution can come from marketing platforms, helping channel owners increase their audience and spend less.

However, these limitations don’t mean video content producers and advertisers should postpone CTV ad adoption. Alternatively, the reasons contributing to OTT expansion come from all flanks. The already mentioned speeding up of cord-cutting, cancellation of live sports events, and stay-at-home trends are just a few factors leading to increasing CTV video consumption and OTT subscriptions.

Other ingredients in this recipe are:

  • High viewability. Unlike the way they work on desktop or mobile, OTT ads mainly go full-screen. It means there are no controls to minimize or skip them. Therefore, this creates an advantage for advertisers who can reach a large screen and better engagement. Besides, advertising through OTT grants access to the living room, where families spend time together.
  • Consumer behavior shift. Viewers tend to explore the wide range of OTT services and experiment with multiple subscriptions. Their goal is to get a particular mix of content through various services.
  • Devices and viewership are growing in volume. The market for OTT devices keeps rising and evolving. Hence, it demonstrates more opportunities for publishers and advertisers. Indie content producers especially have their moment now. They can attract new audiences by investing in their OTT presence and producing more exclusive content and ad inventory.
  • Advanced targeting and data. OTT targeting empowers advertisers with the opportunity to set up their ads granularly. Advertisers can serve it to the viewers with specific demographic or lifestyle traits. Along with that, OTT provides more capabilities for data collection, processing, and measurement. Data on specific content viewed, time spent on it, and other parameters help enrich targeting settings.
  • Premium content. New streaming platforms come with plenty of premium content, fueling their consumption growth even more. Both great and small platforms bring tremendous content libraries to subscription OTT. At the same time, platforms like Apple TV+ and Roku pour money into original content, as well as opening the gates to small and medium-size content producers, encouraging them to present and promote their content in front of CTV audiences.
  • Large media companies start adopting data-driven TV ads. Seeing the value OTT brings to today’s media mix, large advertising companies start offering OTT-specific platforms for serving addressable ads.

What to Expect In 2021: Channel Owners’ and Advertisers’ Perspectives

As traditional pay-TV keeps losing its audience, this might be a great opportunity for streaming platforms and CTV content producers. To meet and greet new audiences, they have to offer viewers high-quality and engaging content.

Especially when it comes to young cord-cutters, it’s vital to deliver them a content viewing experience similar to what they are used to. Reality shows featuring celebrities, lifestyle shows, or documentary series are just a few ideas to start with. Content producers who can afford TV series and original movie production will have a CTV moment now, considering Hollywood has been on hiatus over the lockdown.

In turn, brands should pivot their advertising to the OTT environment, which is a breeding ground for them. Today, advertisers get a powerful collection of tools that don’t compare to what linear TV or even digital ads can provide. This includes creating ad-supported content with CTV channel owners and interactive, immersive, and shoppable programmatic ad formats.

Takeaways

OTT content consumption and advertising are rising. This provides both marketers and content creators with tremendous opportunities. What is essential for them now is to meet, and exceed, their viewers’ expectations by providing content of genuine quality and ads.

What about outcomes? We believe it won’t take too long until advertisers and content producers, who are ready to embrace OTT opportunities, achieve remarkable growth.

Image Credit: jeshootcom; pexels

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ecommerce Entrepreneurs Marketing Platforms SEO Startups

5 Easy ECommerce SEO Hacks that are Bound to Improve Your Rankings

improve your seo ranking

What are some of the best SEO hacks for eCommerce websites out there? Remember that ECommerce sites are hard to rank. Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and other platforms make it very easy for anyone to start selling online.

But what do these hacks mean?

Of course, it means that competition is getting more and more fierce.  Not to mention that Google constantly updates its ranking algorithms.

So if you tell me you managed to rank a fresh e-commerce site on page 1 of Google after just a couple of weeks, I’d call you a liar.

With that said, there’s many small, quick, and impactful SEO fixes you can implement that are bound to improve your store’s rankings.

I’m not talking about long-term strategies like outreach for backlink opportunities, crafting an entire blog, guest posting, or anything like that.

I mean smaller actionable ideas and tips you can apply to your eCommerce store within minutes.

In fact, if you follow along, you’ll be done in half an hour tops—and you’ll close this post with a much better SEO for your store.

1. Reorder your title tags

 

🕒 Time investment: about 1 minute (with an app)
âš™ Difficulty: straightforward

 

Let’s start with one of the fastest SEO tips to implement.

Take a look at one of your category pages.

What does your page title look like?

Is it more like…

#1 – H&M | Men’s Shirts | White, Denim & Polo

Or:

#2 – Men’s Shirts | White, Denim & Polo | H&M

If your page title looks like example #1—you might be hurting your rankings.

Why?

According to Moz, keywords closer to the beginning of your title tag may have more impact on search rankings.

Considering that nearly every online shop out there uses the same format of Category | (Subcategory) | Brand

… this might be an indicator that this strategy is working well.

If you’re not using this format yet, you can use the free Avada SEO app to update all of your titles automatically:

product on search engine

2. Reduce network payload to speed up your store

 

🕒 Time investment: 5 minutes
âš™ Difficulty: easy

 

Third-party apps, oversized images, and unoptimized code contribute to a plodding page load speed, which seems to be in Shopify’s nature.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to optimize your page speed at all.

I’ve worked on quite a few Shopify page speed projects in the past.

If you’re looking to speed up your store, there are obvious changes, like compressing your images or looking for a better hosting service.

But most of the time, the trick, unfortunately, is to get rid of as much “fanciness” from your website as you can: sliders, popups, product zoom—all of these extra scripts add up to slow load time.

With that said, the one SEO hack I found to have the most impact on a store’s load speed is hidden images.

These come in many forms.

For example, if you use “secondary product images” on your collection pages, you are effectively doubling the number of images that must be loaded on that page.

how to do tags for seo

(GIF Courtesy of OutOfTheSandbox)

I know it looks cool, and for some products, you might even need this feature.

However, it has a massive impact on your store’s performance and triggers the “Avoid enormous network payloads” warning you might get when testing your page with Google Pagespeed Insights.

Disabling this feature on one of my clients’ store brought his Pagespeed score up by 20 points without hurting his conversion rates.

Consider whether you really need this in your store.

Alternatively, you can reduce the number of products (and therefore images) shown on a collection page, for example, from 2 pages with 12 products each to 4 pages with 6 products each.

3. Implement passive listeners to improve your user experience

 

🕒 Time investment: 1 minute
âš™ Difficulty: easy

 

The scroll event allows reacting to a page or element scrolling.

In layman terms, it allows you to, for example, display additional information when your user starts scrolling a page.

With that said, mobile performance often takes a big hit from these events, as the browser has to wait to redraw the page until the event listener finishes execution.

In other words, it takes time… and it can get incredibly janky.

This makes for terrible user experience—and, in turn, negatively impacts your rankings.

It has even recently been added to Google Pagespeed Insights:

scrolling performance seo

Thankfully, there’s an easy SEO fix for Shopify, and it takes just a minute to implement.

Go to your Shopify admin, and under Online Store > Themes > Actions > Edit Code, find your theme.liquid file.

In the file, find where your Jquery loads. The line you’re looking for should be similar to this:

<script src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/3.3.1/jquery.min.js"></script>

Right below, add the following lines:

<script>
    jQuery.event.special.touchstart = {
    setup: function( _, ns, handle ){
    this.addEventListener("touchstart", handle, { passive: true });
    }
    };
</script>

And, you’re done. A passive listener successfully added!

4. Brainstorm subtopics for your product pages

 

🕒 Time investment: 5 minutes
âš™ Difficulty: easy

 

Subtopics is an incredibly underused SEO hack that can consistently be renewed and improved for every page and/or product in your store.

What is that?

Well, let’s assume your store sells coffee machines. For this experiment, you want to sell a Moccamaster and want your product page to rank for “buy moccamaster.”

You could have a plain product page that lists the machine’s features and why your visitor should buy it.

And sure, with a few high-quality backlinks, you could rank high for that search query.

But is that really all of that page’s potential?

Now let’s see what happens when you aim to inform your user. Let’s use Answer the Public to find out what people want to know about the Moccamaster:

  • what makes moccamaster good
  • moccamaster how much coffee to use
  • moccamaster how to clean
  • where to buy moccamaster filters
  • moccamaster how to brew
  • moccamaster how to clean
  • why is moccamaster so expensive
  • … and many more.

Now imagine if you had different subtopics, <h2> tags for each of those queries, and long, comprehensive paragraphs as answers.

These keywords are a lot easier to rank for.

Because visitors can find answers to their questions, Google will also see your page as more complete: in SEO, this is known as cornerstone content.

So this might even increase your rankings for “buy moccamaster”—that’s a win-win.

5. Get rid of your thin content

 

🕒 Time investment: 5 minutes
âš™ Difficulty: medium

 

What is thin content?

Google has defined thin content as content that has no added value (cognitive SEO dotcom).

In other words, if some page on your store adds very little value to a searcher’s query, you will not rank (well) for it.

And the rest of your website might suffer, too.

Crawling is not free, and if you’re not careful, you might be asking Google, for example, to spend resources crawling a collection page that currently has no products because you’re out of stock.

In other words, a page that adds zero value and doesn’t answer the user’s query.

Thin content can also be low word count copy, duplicate pages, or content copied from another website.

You want to be on the hunt for those pages, either de-index them or add value to the page (tip #4 might come in handy here!).

Wrapping up

I hope you enjoyed those quick SEO hacks and tips as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Give them a try and let me know if they helped!

Top Image Credit: andrew neel; pexels

The post 5 Easy ECommerce SEO Hacks that are Bound to Improve Your Rankings appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
Digital Photography digital tools Hack Learn Platforms Social Tools Software

I Used These 5 AI-Powered Background Removers and Here is What I Found

background removers

Have you ever needed to remove the image background? There are so many use cases in business and marketing when you need to do it quickly and professionally — from making a transparent logo to optimizing a product image for eCommerce to creating eye-catching ads with photos of products placed in unexpected backgrounds. This straightforward operation is usually so time-consuming.

Luckily, with the advent of artificial intelligence and smart photo-editing tools, things have changed. Here I would like to share my investigation of the best AI-powered background removers to help you save time and efforts when preparing images for social media, advertising, branding, or other purposes in your everyday life. 

Background Removers Can Help Your Business and Marketing

Photo via Unsplash

Background removal or placing objects in different backgrounds have become very trendy today. Whether you want to add more style to your photo for CV or prepare teammates’ photos for the “About Usâ€� page on the company’s website, you may need a magic wand that makes it within seconds without the help of a professional photographer. Here we will consider a few more cases when a digital marketer, blog editor, or entrepreneurs can face this challenge.

ECommerce

There is no secret that many eCommerce platforms accept only product images with transparent backgrounds to demonstrate its essence and beauty without distracting the customer from unnecessary details. Adhering to this eCommerce tendency, many eCommerce website owners also cut their products out of the images and place them on solid white backgrounds when preparing product visuals for a catalog.

Creative Advertising

You might notice that most of today’s ads promoting webinars, courses, or conferences include the photo of a speaker with a solid-colored background. As well, many companies have fun with their ads by adding products into the craziest and most unexpected backgrounds. Just imagine a banner showcasing a fridge that stays at the snowy top of the iceberg in the ocean. It must look eye-catching, doesn’t it? From my experience, this simple yet engaging trick helps draw the customer’s attention and convert more sales.

Blogging

The trend of solid-colored or creative backgrounds has also come into blogging. You may need to edit a featured image for your blog article and remove its backgrounds to distinguish the central object. Probably, you would like to create a cover image for your next video on YouTube or post a selfie with a creative background in your feed on Instagram — there are many cases when you need a background remover.

Branding

You are lucky if you have a designer sitting nearby you at the office. However, if you work at a startup with 2-3 people (and none of you is a designer) or you just consider it impractical to hire a full-time designer, you may lack easy-to-use creativity tools to make visuals look professional. When it comes to processing brand assets or getting a transparent logo, a background remover may also come in handy.

How AI Makes Background Removal a Breeze

Photo via Unsplash

Since most traditional photo-editing software for casual users don’t have a background removing function or perform it very inaccurately, there is a growing demand for intuitive tools that offer a one-click problem solution.

Fortunately, artificial intelligence has revolutionized many industries, and photography isn’t an exception. AI-powered image-enhancing software has become an answer and made background removal a breeze. 

Most of the AI-driven tools allow you to cut even the most complicated objects like hair or entire body silhouettes with the highest accuracy within a few clicks. Usually, you only need to mark an object and undesired background, and artificial intelligence will do all the other hard work for you.

5 Best AI-Powered Background Removers

When preparing promotional visuals for clients, I have often encountered a challenge of background removal. So, I needed to find the best and most user-friendly solution to solve my everyday creative issues related to ads.

After trying out dozens of alternatives, I have selected these top five AI-driven background removers that are almost equally cool and helpful.

SocialBook Free Background Remover

It is one of the best free AI-powered background removers available on the web. You don’t need to spend time on setting up software or app since SocialBook allows you to remove the image background online.

You just need to enter a website, upload your image, or add an URL to it. Several clicks and voila! You can download your picture with a transparent background. 

It’s my favorite tool when it comes to background removal. Thanks to artificial intelligence, it allows you to select the most complicated objects very precisely. SocialBook Background Remover is particularly helpful when you need to cut people out of the photo.

Its AI-based technology recognizes an object automatically, removes the background, and doesn’t add a watermark on the image.

Topaz Mask AI

Topaz Mask AI is an AI-based image background remover that uses MI and trimap technique. It is very user-friendly too. You will not see as many buttons and tools inside of this software as in Photoshop. If you don’t need to do professional photo retouch but only remove the background, Topaz Mask AI may be an excellent solution. 

There is great news for those who always spend much time on precise cutting edges out. The neural network of this tool has been trained to distinguish tough edges. The only con I’ve found is the price. Topaz Mask AI is quite expensive if you only use it for background removal.

fotor

Fotor is a convenient image background eraser that allows selecting the area and cutting it out from the picture almost instantly. Its particular feature is that you can preview all the changes and adjust your selection if needed.

Moreover, Fotor’s functionality is not limited by only one function and has an extensive photo-editing toolset, which, however, comes only in a paid plan. Its slight disadvantage is that it puts a watermark on the image.

inPixio

inPixio is a free tool that allows removing undesired backgrounds without extra-efforts. You only need to upload an image and use a red brush to select an area you want to erase. The rest work will be done by this smart tool.

The size of the brush is adjustable, so you can use it to cut even the smallest details in foregrounds. It’s easy to use, doesn’t put a watermark, and doesn’t require a subscription. The only con is that you need to remove the background from images manually.

Bonanza Background Burner

Bonanza is an online tool that doesn’t require special setup, unlike its alternatives. Using advanced algorithms, it can cut out objects from the image automatically. Before showcasing a result, it offers you several versions of the image with different changes, so you can choose whichever you like most.

Although it enables you to remove the background very quickly and easily, it doesn’t do it accurately enough, especially when it comes to cutting out people from the photo.

Conclusion

Here is my selection of the most helpful and easiest to use background removers. Thanks to artificial intelligence, image enhancement and background removal are now easy to do even for non-professionals.

The tools mentioned above can help you prepare amazing images for eCommerce, advertising, blogging, and branding within several minutes. I hope that this overview has been useful for you and will help find a background remover that suits you best.

Top Image Credit: liborio dibuono; Unsplash

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Categories
Platforms software development Tech

10 Examples of Software Development Failure

Software has become so ubiquitous in our 21st century lives that we often take it for granted. We assume that it’s always going to work when we need it. Or, perhaps even more dangerously, we don’t fully understand the negative repercussions of an error, issue, or failure.

But not everyone has the same luxury of being aloof to the horrors of a software development failure.

As someone who is closely connected in this industry – and has a pretty good pulse on where it’s headed – I’ve seen firsthand how many companies and developers have suffered from software development shortcomings and issues (some that should have been prevented and others that cropped up out of nowhere).

So as a tandem piece to an article I published a while back on examples of failure in artificial intelligence, I’m going to use this article to focus on a few software development failures – some serious and others quite humorous. The hope is that it opens all of our eyes up to just how much is on the line when it comes to software development projects.

10 Real Life Software Development Failures

We tend to think large organizations, Fortune 100 companies, and hot brands never mess up in the same ways that our smaller businesses do. But the reality is that they screw the pooch on occasion, too. And when they do, the stakes are often much higher and more visible.

Here’s a look at some real life situations where software development failures caused massive waves and lasting ripples:

Heathrow Airport Disruption

In February of this year, more than 100 flights in and out of London’s Heathrow airport were cancelled, delayed, or otherwise disrupted after technical issues compromised the departure boards and check-in systems. As a result passengers were left without the critical information they needed about their flights. On top of that, there was limited functionality for electronic tickets (which have become quite common in recent years).

While a Heathrow spokesperson issued a statement and said they couldn’t share any more details about what caused the systems to be affected and/or which systems were impacted, they did promise to continue closely monitoring their systems. (But I can promise you, for all of the calm boilerplate statements they released to the public, there was chaos and shouting behind the scenes.)

Deadly Flaw in Medical Infusion Pumps

The company CareFusion designs and manufacturers advanced medical equipment for some of the top hospitals around the world. Unfortunately, they also have their fair share of recalls. And some of them are more dire than others.

In 2015, the CareFusion Alaris Pump, which is designed to automatically deliver fluids and medicine to hospital patients, had a software error that caused the pump to delay infusion. Thankfully the issue was caught very early on, but the consequences could have been dire – potentially leading to accidental overdosing.

But that’s not all. CareFusion’s week got a lot worse when just four days later they had to issue a Class I recall for a separate line of ventilators. The issue? A software flaw that could cause patients to suffocate.

F-35 Fighter Plane Glitch

A couple of years ago, a software glitch in an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet was identified to have a bug. The bug actually caused planes to incorrectly detect and lock in on the wrong targets when flying in formation.

As the company explained, each of the planes flying in formation must detect a target from varying angles. But the software was unable to differentiate between one target and multiple targets. In essence, the F-35s were seeing double. (And that’s not something you want when flying in formation at high speeds and high altitudes.)

Uber Software Bug Catches “Cheater�

Okay, let’s take a temporary break from the serious ones. Here’s one that’s pretty funny (unless you’re the main character of the story, that is.)

In France, a bug within the Uber app actually revealed a man’s affair with another woman to his wife. It ultimately led to a divorce and got Uber slapped with a $45 million lawsuit.

The bug, which causes Uber notifications to be pushed to a device even after you log out of the account on a specific device, actually sent several notifications to the Frenchman’s wife – clearly outlining his rendezvous to his mistress’ flat. The wife allegedly received the notifications because her husband had once called an Uber from her phone.

Software Bug Aids in Bank Heist

In 2016, a group of advanced hackers/thieves hijacked the Bangladesh Bank System and successfully transferred out over $81 million in four different transactions. They had another $870 million lined up, but a spelling error tipped off the bank and caused these additional transfers to be canceled.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

According to a release by the Bangladesh Bank authorities, there’s a printer set up to automatically print read-outs of all transactions made. But there just so happened to be a glitch in the system (which could have been caused by the thieves, I supposed) that interrupted this printing process. So it wasn’t until several delays later that the transfer receipts were tracked down. This gave the thieves ample time to “get away� and cover their tracks.

TSB Bank Outage Locks Clients Out

When you store your money in a bank, you expect to be able to access it whenever and wherever you want. But, alas, technology doesn’t always afford this freedom. And while you’ve probably experienced a minor glitch in online banking in the past, I bet you’ve never had to go through one like this.

In April 2018, millions of TSB Bank customers were locked out of their accounts after a “simple� upgrade to the software led to a massive banking outage. The system upgrade was planned, but apparently not well enough.

Immediately after TSB turned on the new system, customers began experiencing issues logging in. Others were shown details of other people’s accounts. There were also reports of inaccurate credits and debts. Many customers were locked out of their accounts for two weeks before regaining access.

Hospital Computer Failure

Also in 2018, Wales National Health Service (NHS) experienced a widespread computer failure that led to issues accessing patient files. In many hospitals and facilities, doctors were unable to see patient files. This meant they couldn’t access X-ray results or bloodwork. It also led to a backlog in appointments, since patients couldn’t be seen and the system didn’t allow for cancellations.

A $400 Million Software Glitch

To assist in the sale of the company to Tesla, SolarCity Corp retained an investment bank. But it wasn’t until after the $2.6 billion agreement was signed that the bank, Lazard Ltd., discovered they had actually undervalued their client by roughly $400 million. While the error was too late for the SolarCity shareholders, Tesla did make an offer to provide some stock to make up for the difference in valuation.

Missile Strike False Alarm

You might remember this one, because it was pretty big news at the time. Back in 2018, citizens of Hawaii were given a state-wide alarm to take immediate cover in the face of an inbound ballistic missile strike. As you can imagine, people panicked and did whatever they could to “protect� themselves. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I supposed) it turned out to be a false alarm.

The biggest issue with the entire debacle was that it took more than half an hour for the alert to be retracted. And while investigations would later show the problem to be the result of human error, they did find some very troubling flaws in the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s alert origination software.

Toyota Car Accidents

A few years back, Toyota drivers began reporting a troubling issue: Their cars were accelerating without them actually touching the gas pedal. And after a few accidents, which were carefully investigated, it was discovered that software errors in the system were causing these dangerous issues.

According to reports, the software installed on these Toyota cars had a variety of issues like memory corruption, disabling safety systems, incorrect memory handling, and systems with single points of failure. Toyota eventually recalled millions of vehicles and the company’s stock price would eventually drop by 20 percent in a matter of weeks.

It’s Time to Take Software Development Seriously

Are you scared yet? (I’m kidding…)

This article isn’t meant to stop you in your tracks and make you run away from software. My intention is to remind you that software is imperfect. And yet at the same time, finding the right software development company is paramount to the success of your projects.

Software developers are a dime a dozen. Good software developers are rare. Sometimes it’s fine to outsource in-house tasks, but do your due diligence and look for an individual or team that’s both skilled and thorough. And once you find them, don’t let them go!

You can completely insulate your business from risk, but you can maximize downside protection. And a good software developer will take you a long way in pursuit of that goal.

The post 10 Examples of Software Development Failure appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Data and Security Hack infoSec Platforms security Tech Web WordPress Security

WordPress Security Fundamentals

wordpress security

WordPress dominates the global market of content management systems (CMS). Its tremendous popularity makes it a lure for malicious actors. The WordPress Core in its current state is fairly secure by design, which explains the relatively small number of hacks exploiting it. Here is a guide to WordPress security fundamentals.

Cybercriminals are increasingly adept at piggybacking on flaws related to WP plugins, themes, hosting providers, and website owner’s security hygiene.

Who is Targeting WordPress and Why?

Most incursions zeroing in on WordPress sites are orchestrated through the use of automated tools such as crawlers and bots.

These entities are constantly scouring the Internet for crudely secured websites. If they pinpoint a documented vulnerability, they take advantage of it in a snap.

Spam

Here’s a little bit of wiki information: spam accounts for roughly 50% of all emails sent.

Malefactors may gain a foothold in your server via a security loophole in a plugin or an outdated version of the WordPress engine to repurpose the server for generating spam.

Siphoning Off Server Resources

Cybercrooks may infiltrate poorly secured WordPress sites, access the underlying servers, and harness their processing power to perform coin mining surreptitiously.

Black Hat SEO

One of the growingly common WordPress hack scenarios is to gain unauthorized access to a website’s database and furtively embed keywords and hyperlinks related to another site.

Embedding keywords and hyperlinks is a shortcut to hijacking and boosting the rankings of an attacker’s site on search engines.

Info-Stealing Foul Play

Seasoned hackers know the true value of data, especially in such areas as e-commerce and user behavior patterns. Felons can rake in hefty profits by retrieving this information and selling it to interested parties on the Dark Web.

Your Top Priority 

WordPress security should be every webmaster’s top priority as remediating a hacked WordPress site is easier said than done. You have to assess every single line of code to spot dodgy content, eliminate it, and re-enter valid strings.

Another thing on your to-do list is to change all authentication details, including database and server passwords.

Another facet of the issue is that the search rankings of a compromised website may deteriorate dramatically down the road, which translates to fewer visitors and lower monetization.

An extra thing to consider is that people won’t go to a site unless they trust it. A breach will most likely impact your reputation, which takes a lot of time and effort to restore.

WordPress Security: The CIA Triad

In information security terms, the CIA acronym stands for “confidentiality, integrity, and availability.� This CIA model is the stronghold of every digital security initiative. When it comes to WordPress, the anatomy of CIA is as follows:

Area 1: Confidentiality

  • Sensitive Data

WP plugins, themes, and global variables are a Pandora’s box filled with confidential information or breadcrumbs leading to such data. If you slip up by setting the value of WP_DEBUG parameter to “trueâ€� rather than “false,â€� this will unveil the path to your websites’ root directory. You don’t want that.

Author pages can also be verbose in this context because they often include usernames and email addresses. An attacker may try to guess or brute-force an author’s password. If it isn’t strong enough, a site compromise is imminent.

  • User Credentials

To its credit, the WordPress platform takes password strength seriously, helping users avoid the scourge of weak credentials. However, these efforts might not be enough.

An additional technique that can make an attacker’s life harder is to enable two-factor authentication. Restricting the number of failed sign-in attempts is worthwhile, too.

Area 2: Integrity

  • Data Verification

WordPress is committed to handling data securely and does a lot to ensure this. But, these mechanisms don’t work beyond its core, so web developers should get the hang of validating the rest of the code.

Using a site’s database directly could be a less secure approach than leveraging features like “update_post_meta.� The latter can fend off SQL injection, a sketchy tactic aimed at executing harmful code via forms embedded in a web page.

The harmful code tactic can become a launchpad for depositing dangerous strains of Windows and Mac malware onto visitors’ computers.

To thwart SQL injection raids when running a complex query or when handling a custom table, it’s best to apply the WPDB class combined with the “Prepare� function for all queries.

  • Query Sanitation

Queries related to WordPress site management are generally secure as long as SSL is turned on and you resort to trustworthy hosting services. But not all hosting services are trustworthy, so this isn’t a bulletproof ecosystem.

It’s in your best interest to monitor user intentions and ascertain that an incoming query comes from a registered user.

WordPress employs what’s called nonces to verify actions initiated by users. These security tokens are formed alongside every user-originated request. Since nonces are paired with specific URLs, they are subject to mandatory inspection on the receiving side before the request is executed.

  • Third-Party Code

Most WordPress compromise incidents revolve around vulnerable plugins, themes, and unpatched versions of the WordPress engine. In other words, the less third-party code the smaller the attack surface.

In case you can’t do without a specific WP component of that sort, be sure to do your homework and scrutinize it first. The things you should pay attention to include the user feedback, the date its latest build was released, and the PHP version it supports.

Additionally, check expert reviews on well-established security resources such as Wordfence.

Area 3: Availability

  • Updates

As far as the WordPress engine is concerned, it gets security updates automatically. However, the process isn’t as hassle-free with themes and plugins. You may have to check for updates and install them manually.

Furthermore, it might be a bumpy road because you can’t be sure that these third-party entities work flawlessly until they are tested extensively. Users often go through a lot of trial and error with them.

  • User Roles and Privileges

Sensitive data should be safe as long as it’s in the right hands. Therefore, you need to diversify access permissions to ascertain that each user can’t access more information than they actually need. A great way to manage privileges is to create user roles. The user roll technique will also prevent third-party components from tweaking the WordPress Core files.

  • Email

WordPress works with email at the level of the server it’s installed on. To protect it from snoops, you should consider using the SMTP communication protocol.

There are numerous plugins that facilitate the process of sending emails via a tamper-proof SMTP connection.

You will need to add a new Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record, which requires access to the domain name’s DNS settings. The above-mentioned record is tasked with ensuring that the domain allows the SMTP service to send emails.

  • Auditing

The importance of keeping tabs on data integrity stems from the fact that attackers will be able to modify the code if they manage to access the server.

Thankfully, this issue can be addressed by means of specially crafted plugins. For example, the security plugin by Sucuri is a good choice. It checks your entire file database for a plethora of harmful code samples.

  • Backups

If you’re using a trusted hosting provider, it most likely performs the whole backup routine for you.

Even if your provider doesn’t offer an automatic backup feature for your site, there are plenty of alternative options to choose from. For instance, some services can back it up to cloud storage like Amazon S3 or Dropbox.

  • Hosting services

Low-quality hosting services are a common source for adverse scenarios where WordPress websites run obsolete PHP versions. There tends to be a big gap between managed hosting and one that simply provides a directory with database access.

You would always be better off finding a reputable managed hosting for your WordPress site. Although this could be a pricey option, you can rest assured that the security will be at a decent level.

Summary

The WordPress engine itself is getting regular updates that deliver patches and improvements, and the ecosystem around it isn’t nearly as secure.

The good news is, if you follow safe practices when installing themes and plugins, adding new user roles, and writing new code, your website should be on the safe side.

The post WordPress Security Fundamentals appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Healthcare multi-device users Platforms ReadWrite UX design UX new behavior

Why HealthTech Companies Must Become More User-Centric or Risk Failing

healthtech companies

HealthTech companies have been instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic. These companies have made medical help outside of traditional facilities more accessible, kept communities informed, collected contact-tracing data, and facilitated the recent reopening of society. Here is how healthtech companies must become more use-centric or risk failing.

No doubt, HealthTech has cemented its role as a necessity in the digital age.

In May, the UN pledged to boost HealthTech production for COVID-19. Meanwhile, the UK has announced a £1.25 billion government package for young HealthTech companies. The wave of support for the industry has spurred rapid growth and has poised HealthTech to be part of everyday life on a long-term basis.

As HealthTech platforms become more popular, user experience (UX) is set to become a bigger priority.

Currently, HealthTech solutions are focusing on practicality over usability because he need to reach markets is more pressing than tailoring features and processes.

Nonetheless, to be successful, HealthTech companies have to put UX front and center. Research shows that 70 percent of customers will abandon a service that has a bad user experience.

Among a new landscape, new user behaviors, and new UX expectations, HealthTech companies that do not put users first, risk losing consumers and even failing. Here’s why:

HealthTech companies in a new landscape.

COVID-19 has completely changed how people interact and the tools they use to maintain a sense of normality. Government-enforced quarantines have meant people are at home more, while social distancing rules limit outside physical contact.

These environmental changes are leading evolutionary changes, especially in the relationship between humans and technology.

Drones

Already, drones have been used to spray disinfectant over large urban areas, robots are delivering medical supplies, and telemedicine companies are catering to people with no insurance or high deductibles.

These new adoptions co-align with how people are turning to online services to continue their daily lives. Traditionally-offline services are now available via the internet, and so, people’s digital literacy is improving.

However, there is still a sharp gap between the tech-savvy and tech beginners.

The disparity presents a challenge for HealthTech companies that now have to provide solutions for the different user segments. They have to consider both avid users and those who are less-practiced with technology.

HealthTech companies and new user behaviors.

During the lockdown, people are online more often and for longer periods. In some parts of the world, internet usage has even gone up by 50 percent. The internet surge could mean that people are no longer browsing from their mobile phones but instead using their desktops.

The change in hardware is key to HealthTech UX, which has to be optimized for larger screens.

The lockdown has led to an incline in cases of poor mental health, anxiety, and stress.

In the midst of such uncertainty, people want solutions that relieve, not antagonize, their fears. As a result, people are looking for ways to preserve their health via quick, accurate medical advice with limited physical contact.

For HealthTech then, UX needs to answer these new demands and develop systems that are instant, reliable, and remote.

To be a wholly trusted mode of support, HealthTech also requires empathetic, ‘human’ language, alongside engaging characteristics like animations, interactive graphs, and downloadable information.

HealthTech can equally look to other spheres for inspiration around UX.

Streaming sites are currently offering measures like collaborative watching, where people in different locations can view the same film or show at the same time.

HealthTech companies have to consider if they can harness such features and apply them to their customer journeys. For instance, people may want to join consultations together or read progress reports simultaneously.

Regardless of the pandemic, people still have a desire to connect — HealthTech has to identify if this is a core new user behavior for the future or a short-term reaction in the existing climate.

HealthTech companies and new UX expectations.

On average, a person owns eight networked devices – and that figure is expected to rise substantially within the next decade.

Wearable devices like blood pressure, sleep, and step monitors generate huge amounts of data that users want to access in a clear and digestible format.

Particularly amid and following COVID-19, people are more alert and want instant answers. HealthTech UX therefore needs to be minimalistic to effectively process numbers and calculations.

For less tech-ready user groups, guided, and easy-to-understand UX is a must.

Tech-ready groups are likely to look for chatbots to get fast information, book appointments, and reduce their overall waiting time.

In telemedicine specifically, chatbots are a smart tool to keep medical professionals and patients connected, without being a huge drain on resources.

For chatbots to be most efficient, complex algorithms are needed to make conversations in-depth and natural. This is something HealthTech developers will need to prioritize when making UX changes.

Messaging Apps

Another thing to consider is that many users anticipate that chatbots mirror the layout of bots they are already familiar with. Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp are the messaging apps with the most active users in the world, so mimicking their formats would be wise.

Likewise, as voice recognition devices become more commonplace in people’s homes, HealthTech will have to adapt and establish a user flow based solely on sound. This optimization would be beneficial for multiple user segments.

Younger generations are already accustomed to voice recognition, and older generations with limited mobility would welcome movement-free instructions. Alternatively, voice recognition can aid physicians in documenting patient information.

For example, Suki is a startup that uses voice commands to help physicians create clinical notes or orders for tests and prescriptions.

HealthTech companies offering greater value

As new user needs are still surfacing throughout COVID-19, HealthTech companies have to be flexible and pivot to best meet emerging UX expectations. User testing and research should be a continuous, iterative process, that balances unprecedented circumstances with heightened sensitivity toward health.

Still, in COVID-19 and the era that follows, patients are also consumers. As HealthTech accelerates, the industry will become more competitive. Companies built around customer preferences will have the most significant advantage.

By having a more user-centric approach, HealthTech will not only scale faster in the new normal and garner loyal followings but also offer greater value to people when they need it most.

Image Credit: cottonbro; Pexels

The post Why HealthTech Companies Must Become More User-Centric or Risk Failing appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Branding ecommerce Marketing Mobile Platforms Sales sales advice

5 Reasons Your Own Website is Killing Your Sales

website killing sales

More people than ever are shopping online. In 2019, e-commerce retail sales equated to 14.1% of global sales and by 2040, 95% of purchases are expected to come from e-commerce. Here are five reasons your own website is killing your sales.

Clearly, there’s never been a better time to sell online.

However, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to actually making sales. Having a brand website is important, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a successful business.

Your website is potentially the first impression consumers have of your brand. It showcases your back story, your vision, and your overall product line. But, if your sales aren’t exactly setting the e-commerce industry on fire, it might be time to make a few changes.

Not getting as many sales as you’d hoped? Here are 5 reasons why your website may be having a negative impact.

Your website isn’t mobile responsive

61.51% of the world’s population own a mobile phone — that’s around 4.78 billion people. By 2021, purchases made via mobile are predicted to be worth $3.56 trillion.

With more consumers using their phone to research products, learn about businesses, and make purchases, your website needs to deliver it’s A-game, and deliver a great user experience.

Let’s say you’re interested in buying a set of golf clubs. You head to Google using your phone, find a store selling your perfect set, but the website doesn’t conform to mobile screens.

What are you going to do? My best bet is that you’re going to click off pretty sharpish.

To prevent losing potential customers, your website should be responsive to screen size, load quickly, and provide a good user experience.

How to fix:

  1. Shift to a responsive design, based on a fluid/stackable grid pattern. This will ensure your content resizes no matter what screen size is used.
  2. Consider image sizing in your CSS. Alternatively, if you’re using a different URL for mobile, upload smaller product images instead.
  3. Contemplate touch screen elements for tablet and smartphone devices.

Your website is too slow

Nobody likes to wait. In fact, 40% of people abandon a website if it takes 3 seconds or more to load.

It’s not only customers a slow website can have an impact on. According to a speed study by Google, your bounce rate declines for every second your website takes to load.

Did you know that slow web pages affect your search ranking and the cost per click of your Google ads? So, how can you win over customers and search engines by improving your site speed?

How to fix:

  1. Use fast hosting. Quick, reliable hosting is imperative for any e-commerce site, especially if you’re experiencing high traffic or transactions. Look at limitations on bandwidth and memory when you choose a host.
  2. Minimize HTTP requests. The more components a site has, like images and scripts, the more HTTP requests are made, making your website take longer to load.
  3. Combine your files. While CSS, JavaScript, and HTML files are important, minifying them to eliminate unnecessary code and whitespace will reduce their size to make your website faster.

Your SEO is lacking

Not getting many people visiting your store? Perhaps SEO is having an impact. Good SEO techniques put you further up in search engine results, sending more users to your website.

SEO can take time to implement so don’t expect changes to happen overnight. However, with the correct techniques, you may need to rely less on paid advertising.

How to fix:

  1. Be clever with keywords. Do your research to discover what potential customers are searching for. Remember, when implementing keywords into content, avoid stuffing them into text.
  2. Target local SEO. If you’re a small business, local SEO is essential. Use local keywords and sign up for a Google My Business account.
  3. Use on-page SEO techniques. Take advantage of optimizing meta titles and headings with keywords. Optimize your URLs with your most important keywords.

Your site isn’t secure

Making sure your website is secure increases trust and credibility as a reputable business. After all, you want your customers to keep coming back to you, and spread good reviews about you via word of mouth.

What can you do if your store is lacking the security it needs?

How to fix:

  1. Get an SSL certificate. An extended validation certificate (EV SSL) is the most effective type recommended for a high level of security, especially when you’re processing payments and obtaining sensitive data from customers. Make sure you monitor your certificate and not have it expire on you, letting your website exposed. You can use Sematext to track this for free.
  2. State your refund policy to enhance trust. A clear refund policy not only encourages users to trust your company, but it can also improve sales by increasing customer confidence in your brand.
  3. Display your contact information. You may not have a physical store, but customers still need to know how to contact you for inquiries or complaints. Make it easy for them by using a specific contact form, email address, or phone number.

Your site is hard to navigate

A visually pleasing design isn’t everything, but it does form the first impressions of your business and enhance user experience. It only takes 0.05 seconds for a user to decide if they’re going to stay on your website or not.

If you want people to stick around on your website long enough to browse your products or services, then you have to improve your user experience.

How to fix:

  1. Use clear navigation with a search bar. Avoid confusion by placing the most important links at the beginning and end of your navigation to make it easier for people to spot them. Organize your offerings in categories so users can easily find what they’re searching for.
  2. Use clear product images. Not only will you enhance trust, but you’ll increase conversions too!
  3. Optimize your landing page. Consider where users are coming from and tailor it to them. For instance, if you’re running a Facebook ad with a 20% off coupon, make sure your landing page mentions the discount. It’s also important to regularly test your landing page to improve conversions.

Improve your conversions by continually analyzing your website

If you’re struggling to make sales, don’t sit around waiting for things to change.

Getting your e-commerce website to where you want it to takes time. But, by using the correct methods, you can significantly increase sales.

Use our tips as a starting point and evaluate your website on a continual basis to keep making improvements along the way.

Image Credit: charles deluvio; unsplash

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eSignature eSignature market PandaDoc Raises $30M Platforms ReadWrite Software

PandaDoc Raises $30M to Lead a Paradigm Shift in eSignature Market

PandaDoc Raises $30 Million

The eSignature industry’s pioneers have been selling – more or less – the same product for almost 20 years. The basic functionality is the same across a growing number of vendors, and the service usually comes at a high cost for unlimited business use.

Still, the industry has enjoyed continued growth as part of a more substantial shift toward digital transformation, making way for significant acquisitions and IPOs and further market saturation.

As electronic signatures have increased in popularity, they’ve become the gold standard for getting a deal done. But, an urgency in today’s post-COVID world displays that a paradigm shift is well in order.

The $25B+ electronic signature market is due for a shakeup

As the pandemic continues to change our everyday lives and the way we conduct business, it’s becoming increasingly important to find all-in-one solutions that deliver on the workflow needs for remote teams, helping them continue working effectively and efficiently.

Adaptability and competence are in contrast to the limited capabilities provided by the traditional, singular use of eSignatures solution.

The document automation solution company – PandaDoc – is working to change how businesses think about their eSignature solutions.

eSignature Disruption

Making this innovation possible, the company just received $30 million in a Series B extension led by new investors One Peak and participation from returning investors, Microsoft’s Venture Fund (M12), Savano Capital Partners, Rembrandt Venture Partners, and EBRD Venture Capital Investment Programme.

Entrepreneur, investor, and former RingCentral COO, David Sipes, also participated as an investor in this round and will join the PandaDoc Board of Directors.

PandaDoc is all you need for document automation

PandaDoc has an all-in-one document automation software that streamlines the process of creating, approving, and eSigning proposals, quotes, and contracts – and their eSign plan is free.

“Electronic signatures are important — they are the final part of closing a deal and today, eSignatures are helping to keep businesses running while we all social distance. That’s why electronic signatures have always been a part of our DNA and why we felt strongly at the start of the pandemic that businesses needed a free solution,â€� said Mikita Mikado, PandaDoc CEO and Co-Founder.

“But, eSigning is just the tip of the iceberg. Once you adopt eSignatures, you quickly realize it’s not enough — you need to automate the generation of these documents, you need to edit them, you need to streamline and track approval workflows, and more. These solutions are where PandaDoc shines.â€�

 PandaDoc’s Free eSign plan

Launched in March, PandaDoc’s Free eSign plan is a forever free product that allows customers to upload, send, and collect signatures on an unlimited number of documents for an unlimited number of users. To date, the plan has seen new sign-ups in the tens of thousands and product usage at twice the average rate.

As free eSign users become familiar with PandaDoc, they often discover a need for broader document automation capabilities, which is where the company’s paid plans fit. While adoption of their product has made them a leader in the eSignature market, it’s helped to propel PandaDoc beyond 20,000 paying customers.

“Electronic signatures are now at the tipping point where it should be expected as part of a broader solution, and not a separate add on. A solution that supports a deal before, during, and after the signature with document workflows, insights, speed, and the end-user experience,� added Mikado. “We’re finding that the market agrees. While we’ve provided this free option, it’s become a lead magnet for us and is helping to accelerate the company’s growth plans for the future.�

Optimized solutions for the remote work arena

As with many technology companies set up for optimizing remote working, the company has experienced significant growth through the COVID-19 crisis. However, the company believes this shift in digital transformation, and the need for all-in-one workflow solutions has been a long time in the making and will continue long past the pandemic.

“The pandemic has certainly accelerated the growth and adoption of document workflow management, but the future of business generally, and sales specifically, is headed in this direction. Once a company realizes there is an easier way to manage documents, contracts, and proposals, from creation to edits to signings to paying, there’s no turning back,� said Mikado.

 HIPAA and FERPA compliant 

While the company’s focus continues to be on helping sales and revenue teams of all sizes, it’s already seen growth in new verticals. Helping to address the growing needs outside of sales, the company has recently achieved both HIPAA and FERPA compliance. The PandaDoc optimum compliance opens the door in the healthcare and education industries providing higher productivity and ease to those most impacted due to the global health crisis.

While eSignatures have, for years, been an increasingly important part of doing business, it’s clear the pandemic has accelerated the need for straightforward, agile solutions.

Companies need extensive documentation capabilities that are trusted in a crowded market of fundamentally similar products. The overall digital transformation starts now, as PandaDoc applies new inroads into faster workflows in their solutions for the industries, company eSignatures.

The post PandaDoc Raises $30M to Lead a Paradigm Shift in eSignature Market appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Airdrop Data and Security dating Lifestyle Mobile online dating Platforms social apps Tinder

The Curious Case of Using Airdrop as a Tinder Alternative

airdrop as tinder alternative

Back in 2011, Apple engineers masterminded an awesome feature called AirDrop. It’s intended to facilitate file transfers among supported devices. The process is amazingly simple and doesn’t require device pairing at all — it works out of the box and only takes a few clicks or taps to complete a file exchange. Here is the curious case of using Airdrop as a Tinder alternative.

AirDrop uses a combo of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocols so the data transfer speeds are huge.

Interestingly, some tricks may allow you to extend the use of this feature beyond simply sending files.

For example, you can find out the phone number of another person who is in the same subway car with you. I’ve been recently using this feature to meet new people on my way to work, in public transport, and all kinds of diners.

Sometimes I walk out of the subway with a new friend. Intrigued? Here are ins and outs I’ve found of using the unorthodox way of using AirDrop.

How AirDrop works

AirDrop is a service for data transfers within a peer-to-peer network. It can function via a classic local network and over the air between any Apple devices. I’m going to dwell on the latter scenario, where two nearby devices don’t have to be connected to the same network.

For instance, two people are riding the subway and their smartphones aren’t connected to the same public Wi-Fi.

To start a data transfer session via AirDrop, the sender’s smartphone broadcasts a BLE (Bluetooth low energy) advertising packet that contains hashed information about the sender’s iCloud account and telephone number.

The packet then requests a connection via AWDL (Apple Wireless Direct Link), which is reminiscent of Android’s Wi-Fi Direct.

On the receiving side, the status of the AirDrop feature can be one of the following:

  • Receiving Off — the device cannot be detected at all.
  • Contacts Only — it can only receive files from the user’s contacts. For the record, a contact is a phone number or email tied to your iCloud account.
  • Everyone — the device can receive files from any users nearby.

Depending on the privacy preferences, the phone will either accept the AWDL connection or it will simply ignore the BLE advertising packet.

If the “Everyoneâ€� option is selected in your privacy settings — then the devices will get connected via AWDS at the next stage. Then, they will form an IPv6 network connection with each other.

AirDrop will be operating within this network as an applied protocol using mDNS (multicast DNS) via standard IP communication.

How to meet new people using AirDrop

You’ve had enough of boring theory, so let’s now move on to practice. Although online dating is very popular, you can grab your smartphone and go hook up with someone offline using modern technology. But first, keep the following nuances in mind:

  • The trick only works if the receiving smartphone is unlocked at the moment.

    Ideally, your target should be gazing at their device. People are mostly looking at their devices places where they are bored — like the subway — or any other place you have to sit there and wait.

  • Take your time.

    A successful “conversion� usually occurs after you send a couple of pics, therefore you need to stay at the same spot for at least five minutes.

    I think of a successful “conversion� as a moment when you negotiate over AirDrop to continue chatting in the messenger. The connection is sometimes hard to do on the go because it could be problematic to figure out right away who has accepted your payload.

    Your target may walk away before you get the chance to settle on further communication.

  • Personalized files work better

    The best payload seems to be an eye-catching piece of media content you’re sending via AirDrop. A vanilla image with a meme in it probably won’t do the trick.

    The content should be aligned with the situation and imply a clear-cut call to action.

The classic method – nothing but the smartphone

This one is suitable for everyone who owns an iPhone, and it doesn’t require any particular skills except the ability to socialize. Turn on the “Everyone� mode in AirDrop settings and head to the subway.

According to my observations, almost all iDevices broadcast the owner’s name, which allows you to easily determine their gender and prep the appropriate payload.

The payload

As previously mentioned, a unique payload is more effective. Ideally, the pic should include the owner’s name. The fun part is that this image used to be shown right on the victim’s display without any extra actions on their end.

The person didn’t even have to tap “Accept� or anything like that, so you could instantly see the reaction.

I mostly created these images using the graphics editing component built into the Notes app, plus a crude version of the mobile Photoshop tool. As a result, I would often have to walk out of the subway car before the right image was ready.

While I was refining my drawing skills, iOS 13 was released. One of the changes introduced in this version is that images received from unfamiliar users are no longer displayed on the screen. Instead of the graphical preview, the person only sees the sender’s name.

In other words, the only way to address the target by name in iOS 13 onward is to specify it in your iPhone settings. For instance, you can rename your device as “Hi Emily!� Speaking of which, here’s a quick tip: you can include emoji in your gadget’s name.

Of course, this technique isn’t nearly as impressive as sending a custom image, but it still increases the odds of the target tapping the “Accept� button.

Further actions are a matter of your creativity and sense of humor. There’s one thing I can say for sure: those who join this game and start replying with images or send you notes are usually very easy-going and interesting people.

On the other hand, those who don’t reply or simply reject your message tend to be snobs who think too highly of themselves. Also, the fear factor plays a role in some cases: shy and oversensitive people are afraid to interact with a pushy stranger.

The bottom line

Your new Airdrop hobby is the perfect way to have fun in the subway. It’s got a wow effect that lures curious people. I bet some of your new acquaintances won’t mind playing along.

Some people might even change their plans and exit the subway at your station to have a coffee together. I’ve met a lot of new people in a year’s time and continue to communicate with some of them.

Unfortunately, not all tricks targeting Apple devices are as harmless as this one. Malicious actors are increasingly infecting Mac computers and iPhones with malware these days, and many of these campaigns also have a flavor of social engineering.

An example is the ongoing adware distribution stratagem that relies on deceptive pop-up alerts stating that your Adobe Flash Player is out of date. Instead of installing the purported update, though, these ads promote browser hijackers and scareware.

To keep your Apple devices safe, avoid application bundles that may conceal malicious code under the guise of benign software. Be sure to keep your operating system and third-party apps up to date – this will address all recently discovered vulnerabilities and harden the overall security of your iOS or macOS device.

Furthermore, refrain from clicking on links received from strangers as they might lead to malware downloads and phishing sites.

It’s a good idea to audit the privacy settings of your most-used apps. In particular, make sure they don’t have access to sensitive data such as your location unless they really need it to work right. Also, keep your devices locked when not in use and specify strong passwords to prevent unauthorized access.

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