Archive for June, 2014

Facebook Apologizes for Emotion Manipulation Experiments – Sort Of

Monday, June 30th, 2014

facebook social experiments

Facebook has apologized (sort of) for so-called emotion manipulation experiments that came to light over the weekend. That’s when a massive study published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science started suddenly drawing attention.

Though conducted over two years ago between Jan. 11 and Jan. 18, 2012, the recently published study results have set off a considerable debate. It’s another controversy for a social site constantly criticized for its use of member data.

The study apparently manipulated the news feeds of 689,003 members to determine whether sharing of emotional postings, both positive and negative, would affect their emotional state — and in the end how they engage socially.

facebook social experiments

But the uproar over the weekend led Facebook to reach out to followers in an effort to explain the company’s actions. In a post on his own blog, Facebook data scientist Adam D.I Kramer explained:

“The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product. We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.”

By way of apology, Kramer added:

“The goal of all of our research at Facebook is to learn how to provide a better service. Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone. I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”

Among commenters on Kramer’s post were those who seemed genuinely nonplussed by the experiment. Meanwhile, others echoed criticisms in the academic community that reference in Facebook’s terms of service to “research” doesn’t give the social network the right to use its members as guinea pigs without their consent.

As Kashmir Hill, who writes about digital privacy for Forbes notes:

“Based on Kramer’s remarks and Facebook’s statement, it’s evident that the company still doesn’t understand the core concern of critics: That testing whether users’ emotions can be manipulated through content curation is creepy.”

The fallout from this latest experiment is yet another reminder of the care businesses of all kinds must take when dealing with the data of your customers and community.

It’s also more evidence that Facebook is manipulating news feeds — including perhaps the news you’re sharing with your followers.

Facebook Photo via Shutterstock, PNAS

The post Facebook Apologizes for Emotion Manipulation Experiments – Sort Of appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Spanish banking veteran resigns

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Juan Mar?a Nin served as the right-hand man to Isidro Fain?, chairman, and played a key role in steering the lender through Spain’s financial crisis

Ofgem hails reduced risk of power cuts

Monday, June 30th, 2014

On the most pessimistic scenario set out by National Grid, Britain had faced a one in four chance of disconnections to consumers in 18 months’ time

Tell It to Uncle Sam: 5 IRS Reports You Have to Make

Monday, June 30th, 2014

small business irs reports

It seems that the government wants to know everything you do – and you’re required to self-report it. If you don’t, you may be liable for penalties (and they usually aren’t even tax deductible). So don’t overlook these reports below.

1.    Workplace Injuries

Covered employers (those with more than 10 employees) are subject to numerous recordkeeping and reporting about workplace injuries and illnesses under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While small businesses (10 or fewer employees) are exempt from these requirements, there are two instances when even the smallest companies must report:

  • A death of a worker.
  • An incident that sends three or more workers to the hospital.

The report is made orally and must be done within eight hours of the incident. Find more about all recordkeeping and reporting from OSHA.

2.    Cash Transactions

If you receive more than $10,000 in cash in one or more related transactions in the course of your business, you must report the transaction to the IRS as well as to the party that paid you. “Cash” means bank drafts, cashier’s checks currency, money orders, and traveler’s checks with a face amount of more than $10,000.

Reporting is made on IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business. (It is also called FinCEN Form 8300.) It is filed with the IRS Service Center listed in the instructions to the form, regardless of the location of the business (there is no e-filing for this form).

The form must be filed by the 15th day after the date the cash was received. Thus, if you receive a payment in cash of $11,000 on July 1, 2014, you must report it by July 15, 2014. If the deadline falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, file by the next business day.

Failure to file this required report can result in civil, and even criminal, penalties.

3.    Retirement Plans

Retirement plans, other than SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs, are subject to annual reporting requirements. Reports are made on an IRS form in the 5500 series (depending on the type of plan); they are filed with the Department of Labor’s Employee Retirement Security Administration.

Small plans covering only an owner (or owner and spouse) or partners (partners and their spouses) are exempt from filing if the assets of the plan don’t exceed $250,000. However, even for these plans an information return must be filed in the final year of the plan.

Failure to file can result in penalties. However, under a pilot program for these plans, no penalties will be imposed if they self-correct (i.e., file the required return) by June 2, 2015.

Caution: If you’ve done a ROBS (rollover as business startup) but have not filed returns on the belief that you’re exempt because of plan assets being under the $250,000 threshold, you have an opportunity to catch up with filing requirements under this pilot program. (Qualified plans under a ROBS arrangement must file annually regardless of plan assets because the plan, not the individual, owns the business.)

4.    Hiring Workers

You can only hire workers who are U.S. citizens or residents or are authorized to work in the U.S.

A number of states require certain employers to verify the eligibility status of a worker through an electronic system. For example, North Carolina mandates the use of E-Verify for companies with 25 or more employees. Find state by state information.

You can also voluntarily use the federal government’s E-Verify to determine the eligibility of workers. It’s free.

5.    Foreign Accounts

If you have a foreign bank account that had a value at any time during the year exceeding $10,000, you have to report the account to the U.S. Treasury. The reporting is done on FinCEN Form 114; it must be filed electronically. The deadline is June 30, 2014, for 2013 accounts exceeding the threshold. There are no extensions permitted.

Note: Reporting is required even if you also reported the account to the IRS on Form 8939 with your tax return.

Conclusion

Make sure to learn about all of your reporting requirements. If you miss one, you may be able to escape penalty by arguing reasonable cause and correcting the error as quickly as possible.

Always consult with an attorney if you have any questions about your legal obligations to report your activities to the government.

Dollar Photo via Shutterstock

The post Tell It to Uncle Sam: 5 IRS Reports You Have to Make appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Ineos to buy out BASF stake in Styrolution

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Anglo-Swiss company to take full control of joint venture set up in 2014 by the two companies in €1.1bn transaction expected to complete in Q4

Scottish shale deposits less than England

Monday, June 30th, 2014

In spite of lack of certainty over the commercial value of Scottish deposits, energy minister says exploiting them is essential for economy

Tax take from oil and gas at decade low

Monday, June 30th, 2014

As a result of a squeeze on profits from lower production and higher costs, state revenue from oil and gas has fallen 24% from a year earlier

‘Energetic Bear’ malware linked to Russia

Monday, June 30th, 2014

More than 1,000 organisations have been infected by malware known as ‘Energetic Bear’, said to be operated by a state-backed group with ties to Russia

27 Percent of Mobile Sites Are Misconfigured Leading to Lower Traffic

Monday, June 30th, 2014

percent of mobile sites

Want to know why the mobile version of your site isn’t reaping the benefit of all that mobile traffic you’ve been hearing about? Well, it could be because poor configuration of your mobile site is causing it to rank poorly with search engines.

That’s right. A new study says up to 27 percent of mobile sites are not configured properly.

And that could be costing you a huge amount of traffic, not to mention loss of revenue, because potential customers never even find the mobile version of your site.

A recent research report (PDF) from SEO and marketing platform BrightEdge explains:

“While the ranking outcome of a correctly implemented mobile configuration is virtually the same regardless of the type (e.g., responsive, dynamic, separate URLs), an incorrectly implemented site resulted in a drop in smartphone rank by almost two positions (1.82 on average).

This drop in the search rankings may not seem like much, but click-through rates are highly sensitive to rank. Thus, this drop in rank leads to a 68 percent drop in traffic.”

But more alarming than the loss of traffic to your mobile site is the fact that mobile makes up an increasing amount of overall Web traffic.

For example, Android and iPhone devices now account for an estimated 23 percent of organic traffic. And that share is expected to grow by 50 percent this year.

Add to that, tablets now make up about 12 percent. Meaning, together mobile makes up almost a third of organic traffic today, the report concludes.

Steps for improving traffic to your mobile site vary depending upon the configuration you are using:

Let’s look at the main problems the report identified for each of the three prominent types of mobile configuration:

  • Responsive: In this configuration, content remains the same but the way the content is displayed changes based on the size of the screen on which it is being read. Conditional loading speed is the greatest challenge here. Making sure the mobile page loads as quickly as the Web version of your site may require changes in the number and size of images, videos and other files.
  • Dynamic: In this configuration, display and content vary depending upon the device used to view the site. One of the greatest problems, in this case, according to the BrightEdge study, is neglecting to optimize the mobile version of your site’s content in the same way you optimized the desktop version.
  • Separate URLs: In this configuration, devices are actually directed to different URLs depending upon the type of device being used to access your site. In this case, proper tagging is needed to let search engines know the two sites are connected. Coding on the mobile site is needed to be sure the search engine can effectively crawl it.

The separate URL configuration had, by far, the largest number of errors, the study concluded.

The company says it gathered the data for the study using its Data Cube tool which collected over 100 terabytse of search related data from across the Web each week for analysis.

Image: BrightEdge

The post 27 Percent of Mobile Sites Are Misconfigured Leading to Lower Traffic appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Grigor Dimitrov Reaches Wimbledon Quarterfinal, Awaits Murray

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov notched yet another memorable win in his career and reached the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament.

In his 1/8 final match, the 23-year old from Haskovo defeated Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in 3 sets (6:4, 7:6, 6:2) to reach his best ever round of the oldest tennis Grand Slam.

The match had to be suspended for nearly 2 hours at 6:5 for Dimitrov in the second set, as the rain made the court too slippery. The Bulgarian started where he had left off, after the weather cleared up, and took a 2-set lead through a tie break.

In the third set, both players’ serves dropped slightly, and Dimitrov made 3 double faults in a single game. Nonetheless, this did not affect the score, as he demonstrated calm and determined play on the receiving end. After 2 breaks of serve, he went on to win the set comfortably.

In Wednesday’s quarterfinal, Dimitrov will face the favorite of the home fans, and reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who beat Kevin Anderson 3-0 earlier during the day.

The win over Mayer guarantees Dimitrov 360 points for the ATP ranking, where he has a chance of climbing into the top 10 after the tournament.

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