Yelp launches new feature for asking and answering questions about any business

Yelp is releasing a new feature with the simple, self-explanatory name Questions and Answers.

Well, mostly self-explanatory. This is distinct from Talk, a feature where Yelp users can ask an incredibly broad range of questions (as I write this, the New York page currently includes conversations about the travel time to the airport, when it’s legal to kick out a roommate and The Bachelorette).

Instead, these are questions and answers tied to a specific venue, a focus that could make this stand out from other Q&A products. For example, you could ask how long visitors normally stay at the Kennedy Space Center or if a bar allows dogs or about pricing at a tattoo parlor, then get answers from other users, or from the business owner themselves.

Users can upvote and downvote the answers based on how helpful they are, and they can also sign up for notifications whenever a specific question gets answered.

Yelp published question

Product Manager Brian Boshes described this as “great, Yelp-y content” that can help people find the information that’s important to them (which might be mentioned in some reviews, but could be tough to find). He also noted that this is a “potentially limitless way” for someone who’s a supporter or fan of a business to stay engaged with their Yelp page — they can’t keep posting reviews, but they can keep answering questions.

Lastly, Boshes said this provides valuable data for Yelp about what users are looking for. If people keep asking about something (say, the kid-friendliness of a restaurant), then maybe it’s time for Yelp to add that as a piece of information in every profile.

Yelp ran a limited pilot of this feature late last year and is now rolling it out nationwide on iPhone, Android and desktop. You’ll see the Q&A section pop in above the review section of Yelp profiles.

Featured Image: Yelp

Snowden sends an unexpected Valentine’s Day tweet

Edward Snowden.
Edward Snowden.

Image: Radius-Twc/REX/Shutterstock

Even in cold and kleptocratic Russia, living with the knowledge that his home government would like to charge him with violating the Espionage Act, Edward Snowden decided to send a little Valentine’s Day tweet. 

How adorable.

It was an unusually candid move for a man who normally tweets about mass surveillance and government secrets. Though, he did share a similar love message with his followers in December.

Snowden lives in Moscow with his longtime girlfriend Lindsay Mills, with whom he lived with in Hawaii before he leaked information about the United States’ massive surveillance operations to various media outlets. 

The 2014 documentary about Snowden’s revelations, Citizen Four, revealed that Mills had moved to Moscow to live with him. When the movie won the Oscar for best documentary in 2015, she was on stage in Los Angeles, one of several people there to accept it. 

Please, Facebook, don’t ruin our love stories

What a beautiful day. Millions of us are posting our Valentine’s Day wishes to loved ones and liking and reacting to many others. It’s like whole world is in love.

But Facebook always takes things too far.

I started noticing some profile photos of couples framed by dual-colored hearts. It’s a nice, if slightly cheesy touch. Then right below one of these photos I saw the Facebook logo and a suggestion: “Update your profile picture with a frame.” To the right of that, in case I didn’t get the message, was a “Try it” button.

Look, this is how you show love!

Look, this is how you show love!

Image: facebook

People changing their profile pics to mark special days in their own lives or events that touch, sometimes, millions of people, is not unusual. I’m also not a fan. 

I find the act of changing a profile picture to something other than yourself confusing. On Twitter, I know people who insist on using a celebrity’s photo or some other random image. What’s wrong with yourself? 

On Facebook, we’ve changed our profile pictures for holidays and for terrorist attacks. Remember when everyone featured some form of the French flag, usually by overlaying the three colors on their own face? I got behind this one, too, though I think I changed mine to a drawing of the Eiffel tower with a vertical blue, white and red overlay.

It was a clear sign of solidarity. The gravity of the situation demanded it.

Which may be why I’m even more bothered by the way Facebook coaxes us to change our profiles for the most mundane or silly reasons, a never-ending effort to turn its members into sheep: Hey everyone, let’s all put hearts on our profile photos to show just how in love we are.

First of all, I’m well aware that many people on Facebook are not in love. I bet many hate Valentine’s Day. I can only imagine what they think of Facebook’s suggestion.

This is, obviously, part of a much larger trend. Facebook is always coaxing you to wish people happy birthday, even if you barely know them, and when you see others comply, you feel compelled to do the same. It’s an unending font of lame me-too ideas like Friendship anniversaries and Friendship Day, all designed to get its 1.8 billion members all moving in the same direction. 

I am not immune to these ploys. When I saw the dancing friend monster, its body and limbs comprised entirely of friend images culled from my own feed, I felt like I was watching a dancing algorithm. The friends it chose were not my most important, nor was it particularly inclusive. It was the Facebook brain using all its signals to guess at who belonged in the body, the head, and the undulating arms and legs.

I hated it, and yet I posted it.

I did it not because I’m entertained, but because I’m weak. Not sharing these engagement ploys makes me feel like a spoilsport.

Which brings me back to Tuesday’s blatant attempt to manipulate my very real feelings of love and companionship with my wife. I posted something this morning, a Valentine intended to make her smile, maybe even laugh. It was my own photo, my own thoughts. Why would I want to take what is essentially a boilerplate stamp and put it on top of our photo? Can’t people tell we’re in love without it? Why would I want it to look like everyone else’s declaration of love?

Like I said, reading through everyone’s personal stories of love and companionship is deeply moving, but if every photo I saw had a hint of similarity brought to you by Facebook, I’d feel a little less moved. It’s like the difference between handing someone a Hallmark Card with just the pre-printed words in it and writing a personal message yourself.

In recent years, Facebook has, thankfully, tried to help us vary our social media sentiments. The ability to “Like” “Love,” “Laugh,” say “Wow,” show “Sadness” or even “Anger,” was a big leap forward for Facebook and its users, an acknowledgment that we could feel differently about the same post. The reality is, though, most of us still feel compelled to follow the sentiments of others. If everyone thinks a post is sad, will you be the one to laugh about it? Of course not.

I’m not recommending we all get off of Facebook and other social media this Valentine’s Day, I’m simply warning against falling for its tendency to homogenize everything, from love and happiness to grief and sadness. 

Keep posting your love stories, but tell Facebook to keep its Valentine’s Day frames to itself.

VCs swipe left on dating apps

The romance between venture capitalists and dating startups appears to have hit a rocky patch.

VC investment in the space declined over the past year, with smaller average rounds and fewer funded companies, according to Crunchbase company profile data. In particular, U.S.-based startups saw meager funding, with less than $7 million invested in early-stage prospects that described themselves as dating companies.

Globally, disclosed venture, seed and growth funding for self-described dating companies totaled around $47 million for the past 12 months. (The largest fundings are highlighted in the table below.)


Full interactive list here.

Funding for the past year is down from $280 million invested during the prior 12 months. (Though to be fair,the lion’s share of that, $240 million, went to China-based dating app Baihe, a decade-old category leader.)

While recent numbers look low, it should be noted that VCs and dating startups never had a particularly successful relationship history. Often they’re strategically mismatched. VCs look for a loyal, active, long-term user base, and dating apps tend to attract periodic, short-term users. Monetization is also a challenge, as paid apps have to compete with free ones. There also are few deep-pocketed acquirers with interest in the space.

Moreover, venture capitalists haven’t made a lot of money from dating. The most successful U.S.-launched dating app in recent years, Tinder, was incubated by internet publishing giant IAC in 2012 and didn’t rely on VC funding. The sole large U.S. public company in the space, Match Group, is also an IAC spin-out.

Venture investors had hoped mobile dating app Zoosk would deliver a big IPO a couple of years ago, but it fizzled. The San Francisco company, which had raised more than $60 million in venture funding, pulled its planned public offering more than a year ago, citing unfavorable market conditions. It hasn’t closed a round since.

For the companies that did get funded in the past couple of years, there are some common attributes that shed light on what investors want in a dating startup.

The Dating Game Set

Most of all, it helps to be based in China. Over the past two years, the largest funding rounds by far for dating startups have gone to Chinese companies. The largest funding for the past year, $32 million, went to Tantan, a mobile dating app modeled on Tinder. Blued, an app for gay users modeled on Grindr, raised a Series C round of undisclosed size at a reported $300 million valuation.

Investors also seemed drawn to startups offering tools to narrow down and simplify dating options. In this camp is Coffee Meets Bagel, which matches women with a limited number of men who have expressed interest in them. It has raised $11 million to date. Three Day Rule, which provides subscribers with a personal matchmaker, was one of few U.S. dating companies to score Series A funding last year, bringing in $1.2 million. Zurich-based Once, which pairs subscribers with one handpicked match per day, raised $5.6 million.

Perhaps if Tinder’s parent company Match can prove that dating apps can drive long-term growth in revenue per user, domestic investors will take more interest in the sector. For now, this Valentine’s Day looks like a canceled date between the local venture community and the entrepreneurs who think that everyone has a shot at love.

Stylish and feature-laden Pebble Time Round smartwatch is now $90 on Amazon

Smart technology already dominates the world of phones, and may soon be taking over our wrists as well. No longer a mere novelty, smartwatches are becoming more common as the market for wearables continues to expand. On popular modern manufacturer is Pebble, which offers a variety of affordable models including the Pebble Time Round, which can now be had for as little as $90 on Amazon.

The Pebble Time Round is one of the lightest and slimmest smartwatches available today, and offers a more traditional look with its round case and quick-change leather strap. When in clock mode, the Pebble displays a normal watch face, but you also can download a variety of different digital and analog faces to suit your style. The splash-proof housing is made of stainless steel and features 2.5D Gorilla Glass for added durability, while the internal battery offers up to two days of use. The battery’s quick-charge capability adds a day’s worth of power with a short 15-minute charge.

More: Perfect your workouts with a swimproof Fitbit Flex 2, currently 21 percent off

Along with access to more than 15,000 downloadable apps, the Time Round comes equipped with fitness-focused features such as Smart Activity Tracker, Interactive Health Insights, Pebble Health, and Get Up & Go, which offer activity Pebble Time Roundsummaries, progress reports, custom coaching, and more to help you get the most out of your workouts. Automatic Sleep Tracking monitors your sleep cycles and gently wakes you up with a vibrating smart alarm. The Pebble Time Round also allows use of voice commands, and you can sync the watch to your smartphone for hands-free control over music playback.

The Pebble Time Round generally goes for around $130, but the attractive silver-and-red model is now just $90 on Amazon. The black-and-red model can also be had for just $10 more. If you’re looking for an affordable smartwatch with a traditional and understated look, then the Pebble Time Round fits the bill without breaking the bank.

$90 on Amazon

Meetup + Pitch-Off: Tel Aviv 2017

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Output vs. Outcomes

I got a wakeup call from reading “You Need to Manage Digital Projects for Outcomes, Not Outputs,” a Harvard Business Review article by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden. The headline says it all.

How many times have we been lulled into complacency over getting a project or a product done but not necessarily well received, because it was someone else’s gig? This is a great reminder that the job isn’t done simply because we produce something and shove it out the door.

It’s also a cue to pay close attention to what our CRM systems tell us.

Is It Done Yet?

If you look at this idea a certain way, it’s telling us that our concept of a product has changed — it actually changed a long time ago, but old rationales persist. A product is no longer the thing itself — it is the thing plus all the services, processes and procedures we attach. Geoffrey Moore and Regis McKenna before him called it “whole product.”

For a long time, whole product was an idea that many businesses could ignore safely. That group is smaller today, but it still exists. The big turning point was the invention of the subscription, or selling a product as a service.

Suddenly, it was a lot harder to push a product out the door and forget about it. Subscription vendors don’t make much money on an individual sale and must retain customers for repeat business or they’re lost.

Recruiting new customers in this scenario is expensive and can drain the coffers. So getting to outcomes and not simply output for them is critical. What’s also critical is that customers get it, and they’ve been trained to expect subscription-like services from any vendor regardless of what’s on offer.

Maneuvering in the Fog

Gothelf and Seiden’s article introduces the idea of mission command — something we might have thought of as taking initiative back in the day. The Prussian army, interestingly, spawned this alternative viewpoint, according to the article.

In essence, it holds that we should rely on individuals to make good decisions to achieve outcomes. This is especially true in war, an area the Prussians excelled at. In the fog of war, the best-laid plans often can be rendered useless by events, so it’s important to instill in individuals an understanding of the mission and objectives, while giving great latitude to act in the moment.

If you think the answer is to do more detailed planning, then go back to the fog of war — it dashes plans with aplomb. Giving the individual latitude in achieving outcomes, therefore, is critical.

Mission command sounds a lot like what it was like to be in sales a few years ago. Communication was primitive; you met with a sales manager once a month and reviewed the pipeline updating as you went along.

The rep had a territory and was responsible for whatever happened in it, so it was incumbent upon the rep to take actions that would benefit the company without checking in with headquarters all the time.

What’s new is the emphasis it places on the individual to get things done in spite of AI, machine learning and other nifty new decision-support tools.

Measuring Outcome Success

We’re accustomed to staying in our lanes and doing our jobs today, expecting that once a thing is produced that others will take responsibility to get the desired outcome. That’s not a terrible division of labor, but it isn’t the way things always have been, Gothelf and Seiden pointed out, and the Prussian retrospective experience was useful.

This got me thinking about AI and ML, which lately have invaded the CRM space. It also made me rethink my assertion that these technologies can help us avoid the mistakes humans make when we let our brains short circuit by relying on heuristics rather than actually thinking something through.

It tells me concretely that we need to find the right balance between being freewheeling independent actors in business, and becoming slaves to the information that our systems spit out. It all comes down to what Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee wrote about in “The Second Machine Age”: that we have to find optimal ways to leverage our machines in a 1+1=3 model.

For me, it all comes down to better listening skills, which start with asking better questions. Open-ended questions about customers’ likes, dislikes, and especially customers’ feelings related to our products, are the things most likely to tell us how we’re doing relative to outcomes and not simply output.

The further we progress in this, the more I see a bifurcation happening. We use a lot of quantitative data to determine success in our output goals, but we need to do better with qualitative data to gauge success in outcomes. We still don’t do enough with qualitative data, and if I were an investor, I might look into novel solutions in that area.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at

This passenger-carrying drone will soon hit skies

Meet the EHang 184 AAV.

It’s the first one-person battery-powered drone to ever hit the skies. It was first unveiled at CES 2016 and has been making test flights in Nevada.

The autonomous vehicle can carry one passenger at 60 miles per hour.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Also read: How to get rid of Wi-Fi dead spots in your house” data-reactid=”12″>Also read: How to get rid of Wi-Fi dead spots in your house

The pilotless drone has eight rotors mounted in pairs on four folding arms for liftoff.

EHang, the company that makes it, says it will be ready for consumers to purchase in Dubai in July.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Source:” data-reactid=”15″>Source:

This passenger-carrying drone will soon hit skies in Dubai

Meet the EHang 184 AAV.

It’s the first one-person battery-powered drone to ever hit the skies.

It was first unveiled at CES 2016 and has been making test flights in Nevada.

The autonomous vehicle can carry one passenger at 60 miles per hour.

The pilotless drone has eight rotors mounted in pairs on four folding arms for liftoff.

EHang, the company that makes it, says it will be ready for consumers to purchase in Dubai in July.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Source:” data-reactid=”15″>Source:


Lumina Adds Luster to Linux Desktop

Lumina Adds Luster to Linux Desktop

The Lumina Desktop Environment desktop is a standout in the crowded field of Linux graphical user interface choices.

Lumina is a compact, lightweight, XDG-compliant graphical desktop environment developed from scratch. Its focus is on giving users a streamlined, efficient work environment with minimal system overhead.

Lumina was first developed for the BSD family of operating systems (such as FreeBSD and TrueOS). It is gaining interest among Linux users, having been introduced for a growing number of Linux distros.

I installed Fedora 24, Manjaro and PCLinuxOS on several test computers. I chose these popular Linux distros because they have add-on installations available from the Lumina project. This gave me an opportunity to take a first look at the Lumina desktop without applying an excessive amount of overhead.

Lumina is not yet bundled into any distros. It can be applied to most other Linux distros, but that would require building the packages from source code.

I had the best user experience with Fedora 24. I installed Lumina on all three distros on both hard drives and virtual machines. The performance was much better on bare metal. It seems that Lumina does not function fully on a VM-installed OS.

Lumina Primer

Ken Moore is the founder and lead developer of the Lumina desktop environment and a developer with the PC-BSD project. He began the Lumina project in late 2012 as a hobby project. He wanted to add some functionality and utilities to the Fluxbox window manager.

Moore soon morphed the Fluxbox connection to something bigger. It took him about a year of weekend tinkering to mold Lumina into a basic Qt4 graphical overlay for Fluxbox. He included a small background utility for launching applications and opening files.

By late 2014, Moore began positioning Lumina as a replacement for Fluxbox, which gradually was getting left behind. By the following spring, Moore announced his goal of developing Lumina into a Qt-based window manager, tightening the desktop’s integration as a Fluxbox replacement.

Design Philosophy

What may distinguish Lumina from other relative newcomers to the Linux desktop scene is the way Moore integrated the design philosophy to create minimal system overhead. Lumina uses a modular interface and has a complementary relationship with the underlying operating system.

The entire Lumina desktop amounts to a single library. It has one binary for the entire desktop session and one utility for opening files or launching applications. Lumina provides a few applications, such as a file manager, as convenient options. Users can run, ignore or remove them, according to Moore.

applications menu

Right-click anywhere on the
Lumina desktop background to open a fully populated menu of applications
and system locations.

That approach eliminates the need for any communications daemons or other desktop-monitoring daemons to keep the desktop working. So Lumina can run very fast with minimal system overhead — it requires less than 150 MB of memory.

OS-Agnostic Desktop

Moore’s methodology focuses on what users want to do: run apps to get stuff done. The Lumina desktop environment does not drive an excessively burdensome fancy interface that gets in the way. Moore designed Lumina around a system of built-in plugins.

The Lumina desktop handles OS-integration in an efficient, compartmentalized manner. It is not limited to being a system interface. It does not try to provide utilities for configuring every aspect of the system.

Instead, Lumina provides an OS-agnostic system interface. It has the ability to embed support into the interface for various OS utilities — control panel, package manager and such — so that the user can access them readily.

Getting Started

Your first step in checking out the Lumina Desktop is to pick a compatible Linux distro. You first must have the distro installed. Then you either create the installable packages from source code from the Lumina repository or run the integration commands for an available distro-specific package.

Check out the complete list of available packages and compatible Linux distros, and for a detailed set of background and user instructions, check out the Lumina handbook.

Installation is fairly simple. It amounts to issuing a few standard commands in a terminal box. Just make sure you use the distro’s prescribed method for applying super user privileges, or the system will deny you access to the new installation package.

The installation process itself takes less than five minutes. After you install Lumina, log out, chose Lumina from the Session dropdown list in the login screen, and log in again.

Lumina creates the desktop and its application menus dynamically the first time you use it. You will see a few status messages flash by as it sets up in your distro.

For example, on first run, the content of the Favorites area is populated with the common apps in the distro’s bundled software. Obviously, this changes as you add or remove installed software.

Look and Feel

I noticed a similarity to the appearance of several lightweight desktops. I saw some commonality with the screen layout in KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon and MATE. It has a nice feature that numerous other lightweight desktops avoid — the ability to add application launchers to the desktop. You also can add quick launch buttons to the panel.

Depending on the distro package you feed Lumina into, you will get the panel on the bottom or the top. That matters little, however. You can go to the settings panel of your particular distribution and change its position to any side, top or bottom of the screen.

Wherever you place the panel, it has a Start menu button at the left end, a task manager, and a system tray containing status and control icons at the right end.

The Start or main menu has a search bar, a Favorites section, buttons to access commonly used directories, browser applications and files. It also has a Preferences utility. The bottom of the menu displays a Leave button, which will take you to Logout, Reboot, and Shutdown, and a Lock button which activates Xscreensaver.

applications menu

The Lumina Start menu has a
search bar, a Favorites section, buttons to access commonly used
directories, browser applications and files. You can pin shortcuts
directly to the desktop.

Using It

The main menu’s Browse Applications button lets you access a list of registered applications based on the Show Categories box at the top of the menu. It switches among the three options to display the applications with each click. The button changes appearance slightly as you click each option.

For example, the simple category menu shows a list of applications in each category when you click on the category label. Another click on the button shows a diagonal half-fill of the box in the center. This displays a categorized linear alphabetic list of applications.

Lumina desktop views

The Lumina desktop lets you
decide which of three views of the menu’s categories you want to see. This
display shows a categorized, linear alphabetic list of applications.

The third display shows a simple alphabetic list of all applications with no category divisions. Preferences takes you to another menu to start the Lumina Configure Desktop utility. You can set the audio volume, select the Workspace and select the desktop font.

Right-click anywhere on the desktop background to open yet another menu. This feature is similar to the LXDE/LXQT and Xfce desktops. Applications leads to a cascading category menu of all applications.

This popup menu provides access to a terminal window; file browser app; Preferences menu for setting Screensaver, Desktop and Display options; and Applications menu with a cascading list of titles by category. It also has a Leave button with access to a shutdown window to Logout, Restart, Shutdown, Suspend and Lock.

The Lumina Desktop Environment also provides a group of utilities to perform some of the routine functions that are required of a modern desktop.

The file manager is an important component. Its features include numerous functions such as multiple open tabs with different views and bookmarks to common locations.

A Lumina Search tool lets you look for applications, file and directory content. A Lumina text editor in the tools collection is basically a Leafpad or Notepad clone.

Bottom Line

Virtual workplace functions seem to be supported, but I could not find any reference to setting up or using a workplace switcher or moving among open workplaces, other than the panel bar open window placeholder.

Other than a menu option that lets you send an application window to a specific desktop, I did not find any workplace switcher or any other reference to setting the number of workplaces.

Overall, Lumina seems to be off to a good start as a productive desktop environment for Linux distros, but until more convenient distro-specific packages are available, it may remain little more than an experiment for regular Linux users. Until then, it will take its place in a lineup with the likes of Pantheon and Enlightenment desktop environments.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.