Will Ashley Madison Survive and Get Its Affairs In Order?

Ashley Madison was launched in 2001 and has grown to become the 18th most visited website in the “dating” space with 40 million members in 50 countries. The website gets a very impressive 4.5 million hits daily.  According to the website, Ashley Madison is “the world’s leading married dating service for discrete encounters”. In layman’s terms, it’s an online platform that connects people in relationships that want to cheat. Their tagline is: “Life is short. Have an affair”. The parent company is Avid Life Media based in Toronto.

July 15th, a group calling themselves the “Impact Team” contacted Avid Life Media to inform the company that they were in possession of all the customer data, including email addresses, names, home addresses, sexual fantasies, nude pictures and credit card information—and threatened to post all the data online if Ashley Madison was not permanently closed. By July 22, the first names of customers were released and by August 18 the rest. The hackers claim they will release pictures and messages between members very soon. To check if your significant other was looking to see if the grass is greener on the other side go here.

Will Ashley Madison survive? 

Not a chance.

New membership signups will grind to a halt. Current members will not revisit for fear of further exposure. No action, no traction.

Avid Life Media will face on onslaught of lawsuits. The first class action lawsuit was just filed a few days ago claiming $750 Million in damages.

Sadly, three suicides have been reported tied to the data dump. More lawsuits.

Noel Biderman, President and CEO of Avid Life Media will weigh the pros and cons of fighting lawsuits and trying to rebuild the trust and credibility (kind of ironic) of Ashley Madison. He will conclude soon, that there is unequivocally no upside.

The site will go dark soon.

A couple of notes:

. Avid Life Media had planned to float its shares later this year on the LSE raising $200 million. Kiss that liquidity event goodbye.

. I can’t stress enough to take care great care of your personal information and how you store it. I’ve been using Dashlane as my password manager for 4 years. It’s free.

. Cyber warfare is a real and present danger. I recommend you read There will be Cyberwar by Richard Stiennon.

. Future dating platforms should/will look to use blockchain technology to insure data security.

A final thought:

. Cheating is a choice, not a mistake.

@contrariansmind

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What do Stock Markets and Toilet Seats Have in Common?

(As I write this, the free-fall in Asian and European markets continues)

In recent weeks, global markets have taken a big hit. The drubbing continued today with the Shanghai closing down a further 8.5%. European markets are following suit, all down substantially. Pre-Market trading in Dow Futures (-350) points to another steep loss on the opening (16,100) for the NYSE.

As an observer and investor in the capital markets for 35+ years, I’ve seen this movie before and will no doubt see it many times again. The markets are simply readjusting downwards to reflect future expectations. In this particular case, fear begets fear, selling begets selling and heard mentality and the stampede for the exits ensues. When a market cracks to the downside, it’s always violent and fast.

When will the pummeling end? Your guess is as good as mine and the “experts” on Wall Street. Nobody knows.

But, here is what I do know.

The sun will arise tomorrow, the next day, and the day after offering opportunities to pick up equities on sale.

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful” –  Warren Buffett 

Market corrections albeit temporally painful for many are a necessary evil.

The markets will turn in time and offer the best returns on your money as they always have. It is moments like this where contrarian thinking can come in very handy.

Toilet seats just like stock markets will always go up and down.

P.S The Shanghai market in my opinion is a completely rigged market. As good as the Chinese are at making fakes, I sincerely believe the massive gains were produced by immense manipulation and corruption, including fake balance sheets, letters of credit and much more. Further implosion is needed to reflect what might be considered fair market value. Caveat Emptor.

@contrariansmind

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Outbound Email Marketing is an Art and Science – Artsy.net

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Crafting an email that gets opened, read and causes your reader to take action is both an art and science. You can find thousands of articles written already on the subject, my suggested go to expert is Neil Patel.

What I will do is give you an example of a very well done unsolicited email I received today. I did not ask for permission to repost her email found below. It is verbatim.

The subject line:

“Reaching out about Contrariansmind.com” (Attention grabber – got me)

The message body:

Hi – my name is Diana, and I work at Artsy. While researching Claude Monet, I found your page: http://www.contrariansmind.com/tag/risk/. I wanted to briefly tell you about Artsy’s Claude Monet page, and about our mission.

We strive to make all of the world’s art accessible to anyone online. Our Claude Monet page, for example, provides visitors with Monet’s bio, over 60 of his works, exclusive articles, as well as up-to-date Monet exhibition listings. The page even includes related artist & category tags, plus suggested contemporary artists, allowing viewers to continue exploring art beyond our Monet page.

I’m contacting certain website & blog owners, and asking them to help us achieve our mission by adding a link to Artsy’s Claude Monet page. In addition to spreading the word about our page, I believe your site visitors would enjoy this content.

If you are able to add a link to Artsy’s Monet page https://www.artsy.net/artist/claude-monet, please let me know, as I’d love to share it with my team.

Best,
Diana

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”
Claude Monet

www.artsy.net

diana.c@artsy.net

 

Analysis of the Subject Line: 

Rather than trying to sell me something in the subject line, Diana appealed to my emotions by mentioning my blog. It compelled me to open the email and explore.

Think really hard before writing your next email’s subject line. Make it about your recipient, not you, your product or service.

Analysis of the Message Body:

Diana starts the email with just a “Hi”. Fail. Having a quick gander at my blog, she could figure out in a second or two my first name and personalize the email.

For business, I only use the first name of the recipient, no “Hi” and no “Dear”.

Diana lost some credibility on the opening, but I was still game to read on.

She introduced who she was and where she worked immediately. Well done. It caused me to click on her work link. I was taken to a gorgeous curated website all about the art world. I spent 15 minutes looking at all the beautiful content. Now she really has my attention.

Back to her email.

She states that whilst searching Monet she stumbled upon a blog post of mine. Indeed she did. Credibility gained back.

Next, Diana briefly describes Artsy’s mission. Notice she hasn’t tried to sell me anything. She is asking me to be a part of movement with a well defined genuine goal.

She says that she is reaching out to “certain bloggers”. She’s trying to make me feel special as being part of a select group.

She brilliantly closes with an “ask for help” and a “call to action”.

Her sign-off “Best” is not fitting as she is asking for my help. “Grateful for your time” as an example would be more suitable.

Diana won me over and then some. I followed Artsy on Twitter, have authored a blog about Outbound Email Marketing and Diana from Artsy and added the link she requested.

Let’s see how the Law of Reciprocity plays out.

@contrariansmind

 

 

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AI FOR DUMMIES: UNDERSTANDING INTELLIGENT APPS

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It might not have seemed like it back in 2011, but iPhone users who got to grips with the the earliest versions of Siri were in fact conversing with the future. Apple’s much – and often unfairly – maligned “pocket PA” app pioneered the use of artificial intelligence as part of an app’s digital architecture, and represented such a leap into the unknown that developers are only now beginning to catch up. Fast forward a few years and artificial intelligence is becoming a standard feature of apps as developers strive to create programs that do not simply respond to their users, but actively interact with them. Seriously, it’s everywhere you look: Facebook recognizes your face when you upload a picture, That’s AI. Spotify recommends tunes to you based on your previous preferences. AI as well. Of course, these forms of AI are based on simple algorithms and work with very narrow fields of data. The principle might be the same, but this is very much the thin end of the wedge. Believe me, we are only just getting started.

The Future is Here

As companies tune in to the power of intelligent apps in increasing numbers, the data metrics available to such apps are broadening. While traditionally we had to access data services like Yelp and FourSquare by directly visiting their websites or by using a search engine, we can now reach them from our smartphone or tablet devices via a centralized mobile API.

But simply having access to a lot of data does not make a platform intelligent; the litmus test for integrated data access platforms is how efficiently that data can be unlocked by a user. The holy grail for app developers is to create a platform that can comprehend, process and appropriately respond to natural human speech. This field of development is known as natural language processing – or NLP – and, while we are still some way away from perfect speech mapping, the vast leaps forward being made by scientists and developers are dramatically improving the search and comprehension capabilities of APIs like Siri and Google Now.

Getting into Deep Learning

The concept of deep learning has been around since the 1980s, but it is the recent developments in the field that have been arguably the most exciting, particularly in terms of the practical application of artificial intelligence.

The aim of deep learning is to teach an artificial entity to recognize patterns and sequences across vast fields of data, and to process and interpret that data organically. Scientists working in this field are operating at the convergence of neuroscience and computer engineering, creating artificial neural networks that mimic the way the human brain processes information.

Advances in deep learning represent the next steps in speech and image recognition, which in turn enables developers to create more powerful and more useful APIs to meet the consumer demand.

But it is computing giants IBM who are really setting the standard in terms of deep learning and its practical applications. The tech firm’s artificially intelligent computing system, Watson is currently working on projects as diverse as matching patients with therapists for Talkspace and assisting with relief operations in natural disaster zones for ENGEO, and offers a tantalizing glimpse into the future of AI.

What Tomorrow Holds

Thanks to these kinds of advances in artificial neural network technology, the landscape of apps and software is changing. In the future we can expect to see apps that not only respond to data, but actively understand it. We will see applications that are able to make sense of their environment, learning and developing organically in the same way that humans do.

And once this technology is put in the hands of app developers, the world of smartphones and tablet computer devices will never be the same. This goes far beyond the trippy psychedelia of the images created by Google’s Deep Dream; this is the future of the relationship between man and machine. And, I’m sure you’ll agree, it looks like it’s going to be exciting.

@contrariansmind

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WHY REAL-TIME ON-DEMAND PLATFORMS WILL RULE THE NEXT GENERATION OF APPS

 

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Nowadays, both businesses and consumers are demanding far more from apps than most can provide.Ever since mobile devices such as Apple’s Smartwatch hit the market and innovative cloud-based technologies are being introduced regularly, future applications will be held to the highest of standards.Providing a more personalized and intuitive user experience than the majority of apps on the market is no longer a choice. To stand out from the crowd of software designers and thrive in this ever-changing industry, deploying AI technology and real-time information processing in your future apps is a necessity.

Real-Time, On-Demand Platforms

Searching for enormous amounts of information manually is unproductive, difficult and time-consuming. Furthermore, humans aren’t equipped with the mental “horsepower” to process large chunks of data quickly enough to respond to fluctuating scenarios, such as real-time bidding prices, market pricing, and other time-sensitive situations.

Real-time platforms provide professionals such as buyers and advertisers with the tools needed to make timely decisions, from an informed point of view. For instance, a publisher can use a real-time, on-demand platform to help discover the perceived value of their premium content.

One example of such a platform is known as Real-Time Bidding (RTB). RTB is a technology that allows networks to evaluate their online ad space inventory, and subsequently price each impression, which an advertiser bids on for placement. Advertisers and publishers can respond to real-time market demand, immediately.

Artificial Intelligence and Future Design

Research and development into Artificial Intelligence is making apps smarter than ever before. AI empowers software and cloud technologies with the ability to combine multiple data sources for creating user-specific experiences in real-time. And the reality experienced by each user is based on their individual lives and daily routines.

Developers now have access to a plethora of SDKs and APIs that provide cognition to apps, allowing them to develop reasoning while recognizing and understanding context. Several companies are designing new technology that will take AI and app development to new heights:

  • IBM Watson

Watson is unlike conventional computers and software platforms that are programmed to respond to logic and rules. Created by IBM, Watson is a platform which utilizes a revolutionary cognitive framework to develop proficiency—and eventual mastery—of a particular subject.

  • Expect Labs MindMeld

Created after three years of development by a former AI researcher from Bell Labs and MIT, MindMeld is the first cloud-based service that provides companies with a platform to create smart, voice-controlled interfaces for any device or application.

The Benefits for Both Buyers and Sellers

Future platforms will enable price transparency and simplify price discovery; the amount buyers will pay for a product or service will be known by all parties—and how much they are willing to buy.

As a buyer, imagine no longer paying the asking price for a product or service, but bidding on a value that you feel it is worth. In addition, you can also learn what others think of the product’s value as well.

As a seller, you’ll always know the real-time market demand for a product or service, and what the demand is at different price points. You could also control inventory more efficiently by using on-demand systems with rules and algorithms engineered to automate data delivery, thus returning only relevant information.

Artificial Intelligence and on-demand information processing is connecting the entire world, in ways not yet imagined. Our reliance on intelligent apps to perform difficult research or provide us with personalized entertainment is growing—at an alarming rate. There is no shortage of data flowing online. Assimilating endless amounts of data and making sense of it, to later deliver customized offerings to buyers and sellers, is the future of development in a sea of uncertainty.

Apps that don’t deploy AI and real-time information—are already dead in the water.

@contrariansmind

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Send a Postcard and Make Somebody’s Day Special

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“Go ahead, make my day” – Charles B. Pierce and spoken by the character Harry Callahan from the 1983 film Sudden Impact.

Want to make somebody feel extra special?

Summer of 2015 is upon us and travel is in full swing. If you are fortunate and travelling, you will no doubt come across postcard stands. Grab a few, some stamps and write a few short lines. Continue reading

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Half of All Accelerators and Incubators of Today Will Be Gone by 2016

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*This blog post is not based on any research or data, simply my gut feel. 

Just a few years ago, the startup ecosystem was vibrant with fresh new innovative ideas. Founders would apply to accelerators or incubators run by executives with experience, credibility, capital and for the most part – some gray hair. It was a badge of honour for a startup to apply and be accepted into a program. Startups left with some very serious value add.

Startups graduating from great accelerators like Ycombinator caused many “entrepreneurs” to jump into the arena and create a plethora of accelerators trying to emulate Ycombinator’s success. Some good, most garbage. Continue reading

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The Incredible Story Behind Bitcoin – “Digital Gold”

By Jeff Robinson

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I listen to most of my books using Audible. At the end of the day, I find it most relaxing to having someone read to me. In 2014 I listened to 64 books, mostly nonfiction.

Bitcoin has fascinated me since it first arrived on the scene in 2009. To this day I still struggle with how to understand it fully or explain it to others.

Enter “Digital Gold”, Nathaniel Popper’s new book about Bitcoin.

Nathaniel does a masterful job at making Bitcoin intelligible for the masses. Digital Gold charts the rise of the Bitcoin technology through the eyes of the movement’s colorful central characters, including an Argentinian millionaire, a Chinese entrepreneur, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, and Bitcoin’s elusive creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. Already, Bitcoin has led to untold riches for some, and prison terms for others.

Personally I’m a big believer in the block chain technology that drives Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. My new startup WaynePay will accept Bitcoin.

Whether or not you think Bitcoin will be widely adopted in the coming years, this book is well worth your time.

P.S. Today, the Founder of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht will be sentenced. Prosecutors are asking for at least 20 years.

P.S.S. Here is an excellent video explaining Bitcoin.

@contrariansmind

* Update: Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life, without parole. You can read more about it here.

 

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Shake, Rattle & Roll – The Incredible Price Rise in Shake Shack: $SHAK

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Five months ago, Shake Shack went public on the NYSE. It was originally priced in the $17-$19 range but went out at $21.

The stock opened at $47.21, 125% above its IPO price and quickly hit a high of $52.50 before retreating. The shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “SHAK,” ended their first day at $45.90.

This past Friday, the shares closed at $92.86 giving the company an insane $3.2 Billion market capitalization.The underwriters sought a “fair” valuation of $600 Million when pricing the issue.

All industry comparables indicate the shares are grotesquely overvalued. 

There has never been a time where a few sayings hold so true – “Sell in May and Go Away”.

And one of my favorites of all time: ” The pigs get fed and the hogs get slaughtered”.

And finally:” The Faster they Rise, the Harder they Fall”.

@Contrariansmind

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You Thought Candy Crush Was Sweet? Try Bungee Mummy – Gaming News

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In early 2015 I was asked to give my feedback on a game being released by Steampunk Wizards, a gaming company based in Malta. I like the team, their vision and V1 of their first game: Bungee Mummy.

Below are a few of my thoughts on the game…

Some gaming industry facts for context: 

  • 58% of Americans play video games.
  • Average age of players: 30.
  • 62% of all gamers are adults.
  • 45% are female and over 18.
  • Average of 2 gamers per household.
  • 51% of households own at least one console.
  • Average age of purchaser: 35.
  • 77% of gamers play at least four hours per week.
  • 36% play games on their smartphone.
  • Parents are involved in their kids’ game purchases 89% of the time.
  • 79% of parents place time limits on video game playing, compared with 78% who limit Internet usage and 72% who limit TV viewing
  • The average gamer fights with their partner over their gaming hobby twice a week.
  • The world-wide video game industry grew 9% in 2013 and now exceeds $76 billion, with projections it will reach over $86 billion by 2016.

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