We’re just now learning what level the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused on the East Coast, specifically in New York City, and people are starting to send the wagons around to raise money to assist those in need. We learned yesterday that mentions of blood donation and the Red Cross skyrocketed on Twitter during the peak of the storm, and other organizations are starting to get involved.
Silicon Valley is slowly getting in gear, with Yahoo! doing its normal fundraising on its homepage. There’s only one problem though, it doesn’t seem like the site is raising that much money. Now mind you, any money during this time is fantastic, but if you look back to 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, Yahoo! performed quite well for fundraising during that period.
Let’s look at Yahoo’s homepage today, which features the donation page and tracks how much money has been raised. I believe this is fantastic and it’s something every major site should add, maybe including ours:
According to Yahoo!, 15,968 people have donated $860,679.
Let’s look back at September 5th, 2005, during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath:
Katrina made its second landfall in Louisiana on Monday, August 29th. As I mentioned, the screenshot above was from September 5th, and it shows that 338,360 donors raised $48,259,665.
Why the massive disparity? I have no idea, but I have two ideas.
Without doing a deepdive into traffic stats from sources that aren’t accurate, one could wonder out loud if people even visit Yahoo’s homepage as much as they used to. Katrina was seven years ago and Yahoo! was in a way better place then. Sure, Marissa Mayer is on board now, but the company is trying to pull off a dramatic turn-around. For the umpteenth time.
Even if the traffic to the Yahoo! homepage isn’t down, I suspect that it’s not as trusted as it once was. What I mean there is that during Katrina, the site was a trusted source for news and information, therefore people threw down money to help their brothers and sisters out. Since Yahoo! had great coverage, people were willing to donate through their site.
Today? Not so much. The people I know who visit Yahoo’s homepage go there for celebrity news and trashy videos about…celebrities. Yahoo! is no longer a trusted source for serious news, and this fundraising effort, or lack thereof, reflects that.
But what do I know, right?
People are hit up for donations on every site they visit these days. Facebook just introduced what I believe is a fantastic addition to its Gift product, which allows you to donate money in someone’s name for their birthday. Red Cross included. But are we just numb to all of this now? Do we feel that tweeting and retweeting about a major horrific life event is “enough” and monetary donations are no longer needed?
When I think back to my own fundraising efforts through #BlameDrewsCancer, I honestly believe that if it was out there today, it wouldn’t have been as successful. People are fundraising so hard online, for every little thing, that when a major event happens, we’re simply out of money and sympathy. That hurts me deeply.
The fact that the presidential election is days away doesn’t help either. I personally get 3-5 emails a day from the Obama campaign asking me for money. If I’ve given so much to his campaign, how will I have money to give to a charity or to relief of Hurricane Sandy?
Look at CNN’s homepage and see if you can spot the Hurricane coverage:
Look at this grouping of news that is basically hidden on its site:
It’s silly, and it’s saddening.
Those in a position to do so, need to step up and do something big. Celebrities do concerts and events to raise money, but what do we do in the Valley? Nothing much so far. If Yahoo’s homepage can’t carry us like it did in 2005, who will do something big?
Facebook is doing something, Google is trying to help with information, but who is actively out there trying to raise funds and resources for those in New York City that need it the most?
I’ve talked to numerous friends who are dealing with food and gas shortages in the city. They can’t get from one place to another because of the subway problems and their apartments are without power. We don’t fully know the impact that the storm had as of yet, as the city still seems to be in crisis mode. The NYC Marathon was cancelled, which should tell you something. A friend of mine has had to stay in an expensive hotel for a few days and is running out of money because of it. It’s just a really bad situation.
I don’t know what to do exactly, and if you have an idea, I’m all ears.
Let’s step up together, myself included.
Until then: Text Red Cross to 90999 – Donate $10 to the Red Cross.
[Photo credit: Flickr]
Another day, another regulator seeking to shut down Uber. At least that’s what it looks like, this time in Chicago.
The city’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection department (BACP) last week issued proposed regulations that would essentially prohibit car services from using electronic devices to measure time and distance to determine fares when picking up and charging users. And since Uber is all about using mobile phones as a way to not just hire black cars on-demand, but also to determine how far they traveled and what a rider’s fare should be, that means that the new regulations, if accepted, could mean a shutdown of Uber’s black car service in Chicago.
Uber goes into more detail about the proposed rules on its blog, but the two important sections are Section 1.10.a, which would prohibit any “mechanical, electronic, or digital meters/equipment to measure and calculate passenger fares based on distance and/or time traveled,” and Section 1.10.c, which would brand any car that used those devices as “an unlicensed taxicab.”
The problem, according to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, is that Chicago limo services already charge by time and distance today — mainly by looking at a watch or at the odometer. The difference in what Uber provides is that its app makes the experience more accurate and transparent.
“The taxi industry has decided to pull out every weapon they have to try to crush Uber in Chicago,” Kalanick told me. Early last month, the company was sued by Chicago taxi and limousine companies in the city. It also received some minor citations from the BACP on the same day the lawsuit was filed, Kalanick said. But the new regulations pose the biggest threat Uber has faced in that city.
“The laws as they are in Chicago are very innovation-friendly today,” Kalanick said. “What they’re proposing are un-innovation-friendly rules. It’s not clear what good they’re trying to accomplish.”
To combat the move, Uber is urging its riders to email their comments to the BACP, telling the agency to “Remove the No Measured Rates Provision (PPV Sec. 1.10)” from its proposed regulations. It’s also asking them to contact local officials with the same request.
It’s not clear how effective that campaign will be, though public outcry in both Boston and Washington, D.C., stunted proposed bills and regulations that would impinge on its operations in those markets.
Small businesses may have been even more affected than big companies by Hurricane Sandy, as they don’t have the same resources. When Squarespace sent an email on Monday morning, it looked like they had tried everything to keep the servers alive. They asked for forgiveness in advance. But the unbelievable happened: They kept the service going by bringing fuel buckets to the 17th floor in the dark for more than 54 hours.
When ConEd lost power, the data center switched to a generator powered by fuel pumped from the basement. They had enough fuel to stay online for three or four days. “Peer1 stayed online during the last 3 major natural disasters in the area, including a blackout that lasted for days,” Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena said in the first email sent to customers.
But little did they know that this time around, there would be significant flooding. “At 5AM, we learned our data center’s fuel pumps and fuel tanks were completely flooded and unable to deliver any more fuel. […] We have simply run out of power, backup power, and cannot access our fuel in a flooded basement.” The email was classy, apologetic and nobody could blame the company.
“We will do everything in our power to get Squarespace running as soon as possible, and we will remain online for as long as it is safe.” With that sentence, customers could have expected that they would try to contact the right people to restore power. But it didn’t take long to realize that they had another plan in mind.
Fog Creek, the company behind Trello, and Peer1, the hosting company, joined forces over the hours. Little by little, all those people organized bucket teams with shifts, a stock on the roof and caffeine. They reported the events on Squarespace’s status page.
It shows the level of dedication a founder and CEO can have for his company, as he was one of the first in the data center to figure out a plan.
Here are some selected status updates. Go read the whole thing.
We have an understanding that when the fuel header on the roof stops refilling our tank, we will likely be in a window where shutdown will occur within 2 hours. That has not happened yet, which is good. We have fuel at the building, but cannot tap into the damaged building infrastructure yet
We have been running hour by hour by manually carrying fuel to our generators (17 floors) with support from the building. As the night goes on, this is becoming a bit more difficult to sustain, as fuel trucks will appear more intermittently. For now, we remain online. Thank you all for your patience.
As before, we do not have a sustainable solution to the energy problem, but we persevere in our efforts to get more fuel on site and get a pump connected
We continue to manually provide fuel to the generator, a plan which appears to be working, but is likely not sustainable. The building now has powerful pumps clearing out the basement, which we hope will expose the main pump lines — which would allow us fuel for days. Hopefully our manual efforts, joined with the building, can see us through. We have loaded enough fuel to carry to the morning, at which point we’ll provide another status update
Good news and bad news.
We were able to give the crew 90 minutes off because the tank is full. That’s about 4 hours of power given daytime usage. We’ll start back up at 1:30. Our awesome teammates are hoofing lunch over the Brooklyn Bridge for us. As we’ve said before, this situation is untenable. We can’t keep manpower going 24/7 for days.
The building’s first attempt at an alternative method for pumping fuel to the 18th floor has failed, as the fuel pump wasn’t powerful enough. They believe they have sourced an alternate pump, but given the situation in New York City right now, we’re in a wait-and-see posture. Fuel- and water-pumps are in short supply.
The basement is not draining at all either, despite the large pumps that were brought in late last night. DEP and ConEd have been here for a few hours. They fear a water main has ruptured somewhere and is pushing water (and other stuff) into our basement as we pump it out. This is pure speculation at this point.
We’ll keep you posted and thank you for your continued good wishes.
Some bad news.
We may not be able to deliver more fuel, as the building is shutdown mode. Last estimate is that we have about 3 hours left. Things change constantly, and we will keep you updated.
We were able to temporarily resume carrying fuel for an hour, which means we have about 4-5 hours of fuel left on the roof.
Datacenter engineers are on site attempting to finish a more permanent pump solution, which we should know more about within the hour.
We have confirmed that the fuel pump is now working. We can now operate off of fuel indefinitely and there are continuous deliveries scheduled. Additional issues remain, the largest of which being that our generator will need to be taken offline at some point to clean the fuel filter. We can avoid that downtime if Peer1 can provide a street level generator. If this generator failure does occur, we expect the level of downtime to be on the order of an hour, instead of the multi-day outage we were facing at the onset of this crisis. We remain in a difficult situation, but the most difficult challenge we were presented with is now behind us. As of this writing, Squarespace has miraculously avoided all downtime related to Sandy, but we still have many challenges ahead with respect to getting back to anything normal.
Have a good night, guys. You’ve earned it.
The startup has a very noble aim — bringing people who live in real-life communities closer together — but at its launch, many people were a bit skeptical. Would people really want to sign up for yet another social network? How would Nextdoor differentiate from the social networking superstar, Facebook? Could Nextdoor be attractive to people beyond tech-savvy urban centers such as San Francisco?
It turns out, the answer to those questions has so far been “yes.” Nextdoor’s CEO Nirav Tolia stopped by TechCrunch TV to give us an update on how things have been going for the company in the 12 months since it launched.
According to him, Nextdoor now has users in more than 5500 neighborhoods that span across all 50 states, and more than 300,000 member messages are traded on the site every single day. These posts are not the kind of widely appealing photo-sharing and status updates that populate Facebook, Tolia said. On Nextdoor, people post about things that are relevant to their neighbors — this means everything from lost pets, to block parties, to extra fruit from backyard trees, to car break-ins.
You can watch our entire talk with Tolia in the video embedded above to hear about the challenges Nextdoor has faced over the past year, what it is planning for the months ahead (international growth is a biggie), how Nextdoor might go about making money (it has secured some $18.6 million in venture capital since launch, so bringing in money of its own will start to be a focus at some point) and more.
Go here to read the rest: One Year In, Nextdoor, The Social Network For Neighborhoods, Talks Numbers [TCTV]
It was quite the morning here in Redmond, on the Microsoft campus. A morning keynote – the company abhors a late start – kicked off BUILD, Microsoft’s key development conference, launching what could be described as the real season of Windows 8 application development.
The driver behind Windows 8 application development has thus far been in a large way Microsoft. The company has worked with – and paid, and paid for – companies to develop for its new platform. In fact, Microsoft kept the Windows Store rather constrained for some time in terms of who could submit applications to it; this kept supply low.
All that is over now, Microsoft wants nothing more than more developers building applications for its Windows 8 platform, which has now shot into the market, selling a firm, if not spectacular, 4 million upgrades in its first 3 days on the market.
That figure, and what appear to be non-flopping sales of the Surface RT tablet, and Microsoft has delivered a real, and growing userbase to its Windows Store. It needs to service that crowd. And that means it needs more total applications.
Where are we now? Roughly 18 hours ago, the Windows Store, according to the inimitable WinAppUpdate, crossed the 10,000 app mark. Before that point, the same service noted that the Windows Store was approving around 500 applications a day; by that mark, we should be at around 10,375 applications in the store. That’s very back-of-the-envelope, so bear it with salt.
I highlight this to make a point: App stores are big, empty spaces that need filling; and much like a library shelf, even 10% empty space cries out loudly. In short, you either need to be bursting, or you’re not even in the running. Continuing the thought of emptiness, it’s key to keep in mind the number of categories that Microsoft encourages you to explore in the Windows Store, and the huge tilt in the current Windows 8 app store towards games; there are categories in the Windows Store that feel a bit barren.
Therefore, 10,000 apps, whatever the real, total figure is at this very moment, is nothing more than a start, a first attempt. By artificially constraining app submissions for so long, Microsoft may have overly squeezed the number of apps that its very first adopters can enjoy. Perhaps not.
However, this is merely the groundwork for what is going on right now, as Microsoft attempts to stomp on the accelerator with such force that developers cobwebbed in building for Windows versions past are forced to shake loose, land at their keyboards, and begin developing for the Windows 8 store.
Microsoft’s message is exceptionally clear: Windows 8 is the best version of Windows yet; the install base will be simply massive; this creates a functional, and economic opportunity that you, as a developer, simply cannot pass up. Oh, and here’s a Surface, a Lumia 920, and 100 gigabytes of SkyDrive capacity to get you started. Really, you are going to love it. The various pieces of that will resonate in different ways depending on what happens next.
That Windows 8 is the best version of Windows ever is an odd claim, as Windows 8 changes much of how Windows has long worked. Thus to call it the best version of Windows yet is to denigrate that which came before it; and Windows 7 was pretty good, as you know. Therefore, it’s a hard statement to swallow, even if it may be true. If the company instead said that this is the most innovative version of Windows, or something similar, that may have been a stronger sell.
That the developer potential will be unmatched is hard to argue; Windows 8 will sell hundreds of millions of copies. What Microsoft hasn’t done is explain how it will deliver the vast number of Windows 8 users who will not be operating using a touch-enabled machine, to a Store for which much of the apps built for it lean on touch-based input. That’s an open, sticking question. Simply selling 400 million Windows 8 licenses doesn’t mean that Windows 8’s app store will have 400 million active customers. Still, even at a low rate of engagement, Windows 8 will have a massive userbase, and thus this claim is, with some caveat, believable, and accurate.
The free goodies only impact the few thousand developers who are here, on-site, at BUILD. The damn event sold out in 53 minutes; most people who wanted to come, it would seem, didn’t get to.
Therefore the draw to Windows 8 for developers almost feels lacking, in that it’s not an automatic slam dunk. And the perverse side to this is that as the number of apps in the Windows Store rises, a sign of Microsoft’s success, the harder it will be for individual developers to stand out, lowering their potential economic reaping, and thus making the platform in a sense less attractive.
Windows Phone 8 development, assuming that Windows Phone development remains mostly strong – despite whining, hitting the 120,000 app mark has been a triumph for the small mobile OS – could lead to spill-over to Windows 8, meaning that apps designed for one could be ported to the other. Odd that Windows Phone could help Windows 8, but that’s the case.
Finally, a good note on Microsoft’s built-in flexibility on how one can build apps for Windows 8. That was the right move.
Taken altogether, the value proposition that Microsoft is putting forward has strong elements to it, but also a fair share of question marks. In a very real way, having strong, official data of Surface RT sales would be exceptionally useful towards closing some of those questions. But, things are early, and Microsoft, if it revs the engine now, could boost the number of apps in its Windows Store before the holiday tsunami hits.
That appears to be its goal. Hence BUILD. The company has the next several days to preach its gospel to an elite – or perhaps just lucky – set of developers. If it can’t convince this cadre, it’s in a serious spot.
TNW will keep an eye on app flow into the Windows Store. If it slackens, or picks up, you will be the first to know.
Top Image Credit: ToddABishop