Get ready to see more geofilters on Snapchat

Snapchat is making it easier to create your own geofilter with new customizable templates.
Image: snapchat

Snapchat wants to make your party planning easier.

The mobile storytelling app has released customizable templates for geofilters, the in-app illustrations that are seen more than 1 billion times every day.

Now, Snapchat users can go to the on-demand geofilter page on desktop to access a setof tools for designing their own. Users choose a theme birthdays, celebrations and weddings and select from several designs. They then add their own text and colors.

These geofilters can be made in minutes and no longer require people to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or another third-party software to create one. The designs still take at least one business day to be approved by Snapchat.

Pricing is staying the same. On-demand geofilters starts at $5 for 30 minutes and 20,000 square feet but can go into the thousands depending on time and size. Geofilters can be set for up to 30 days and at a 5-mile radius.

Birthdays is one of three themes Snapchat offers for its new customizable templates.

Image: snapchat

Interestingly, the update comes shortly after the release of Confetti, an iPhone app that also offers custom templates for Snapchat geofilters. Using Confetti costs between $9.99 or $14.99 per design depending if you want the app to take care of the submission process.

Snapchat taking control of the process makes it much simpler for any user to hand over money to one of the world’s most valuable startups. Geofilters for weddings and events are some of the most popular on the app, Snapchat told The Guardian in May.

On-demand filters is one of several ways Snapchat generates revenue. Brands can pay for a sponsored geofilter, a lens or a video ad within Snapchat Discover or Snapchat Stories.

Geofilters are one way Snapchat is still distinguished from Instagram, which earlier this month launched its own version of Stories, a 24-hour feed of users’ photos and videos. Instagram could soon introduce its own version of filters as well as integrate Facebook’s MSQRD.

Snapchat is continuing to expand its own features. As of an app update Tuesday, Snapchat users can now access italics, bold and underline styles for text in captions. These captions can also be animated in video snaps, similar to what is available for stickers, by being placed on moving objects.

Beyond filters, Snapchat lenses are also now easier to use. Instead of having to press and hold on a face, Snapchat users can simply tap once to apply them.

The app is also making it easier to see content from people you do not follow. Snapchat users can search for an account and view their public snaps on the Stories page without having to add them as a friend.

Still, users’ hopes of Snapchat adding friend groups has yet to be realized.

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Kickstarter launches in Asia. First up: Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Oculus Rift owes its birth to Kickstarter.
Image: Ole Spata/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Kickstarter officially launched on Wednesday in Singapore and Hong Kong, a move the company expects will smooth the way for startups in the region keen to be part of the crowdfunding phenomenon.

This represents the company’s proper entrance in Asia, and it hopes to attract more companies from the region onto the platform that helped launch hits like Oculus, the Pebble watch and Coolest Cooler.

Before this, entrepreneurs who wanted to be on Kickstarter needed to either be a resident in, or have a registered company in regions such as North America, Australia or Europe. Now, Hong Kongers and Singaporeans are added to the list.

Yancey Strickler, CEO and cofounder, told Mashable that while “tens of millions” of dollars have been pledged from backers in the two Asian countries, most projects aren’t from the region, in part due to the earlier requirements.

“The hurdle will now be lower for entrepreneurs here,” he said.

Yancey Strickler poses for a portrait.

Image: Maurizio Gambarini/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

So far, 100,000 people from Singapore and Hong Kong have backed Kickstarter projects in the seven years since the company was launched. Residents in Singapore a country with around 5 million people have pledged nearly US$30 million to around 35,000 projects, he noted.

11 million people have backed 110,000 projects since Kickstarter launched in 2009.

Still, that’s just a tiny fraction of the 11 million people who have backed some 110,000 projects since Kickstarter launched in 2009, so Strickler is expecting backer participation to grow after the expansion.

He wouldn’t specify how much he expects the audience numbers here to grow, but said he doesn’t expect it to catch up to the U.S. market. “My hope is to see a nice, steady presence of projects coming from creators in Asia … We’ve always grown organically. We don’t spend money on marketing or advertising or big launch events.”

He said Hong Kong and Singapore were picked as the first two markets to kick off Kickstarter’s Asian expansion because “there is already substantial backer communities here.”

This means the company has less education to do with regard to managing expectations.

Often, newcomers to crowdfunding think the concept of backing a project is the same as buying a confirmed product off-the-shelf, and get annoyed when projects fail to deliver on time or at all, he noted.

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Nearly 10,000 Chipotle workers have signed on to a class-action lawsuit

Nearly 10,000 Chipotle employees have signed on to a class-action lawsuit.
Image: joe raedle/Getty Images

Almost 10,000 workers have a complaint against Chipotle.

The workers are suing the burrito chain for wage theft, claiming they were forced to work off the clock with no pay.

The case was filed in 2014, but 9,961 current and former employees had signed on to the class-action lawsuit as of Friday, CNNMoney reported.

The suit, Turner v. Chipotle, is the largest class action Chipotle has faced. It’s being adjudicated in Colorado.

In April, all hourly employees who worked at Chipotle after February 2012 were mailed a card asking if they wanted to sign on to the suit. Employees in every state with Chipotle locations have signed on, CNNMoney reported.

The workers allege they often had to continue closing down and cleaning up stores after they were automatically clocked out at 12:30 a.m.

The case is gaining steam after a rough year for Chipotle. The chain is still recovering from the E. coli epidemic that rocked its restaurants across the country, and then its stock prices.

In its most recent earnings call, the company said it was still struggling to bounce back from the outbreak’s effect on business. Its sales dropped 16.6 percent, to $998.4 million, in the second quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year.

Chipotle also lost in front of the National Labor Relations Board last week when the organization ruled that the company’s social media policy violated federal labor law.

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Apple told to pay up to $14.5 billion in Irish taxes

Ireland ‘gave illegal tax benefits to Apple worth up to 13 billion’ according to the EU Commission.
Image: NurPhoto via Getty Images

The European Commission has estimated that Apple has to pay 13 billion ($14.5 billion) in retroactive taxes to Ireland after an in-depth state aid investigation.

The 130-page ruling by EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager follows a three-year probe into Apple’s Irish tax affairs.

It establishes that Ireland violated EU law on competition by giving Apple tax benefits which are not available to other companies.

“The European Commission has concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to 13 billion to Apple,” reads the ruling. “This is illegal under EU state aid rules, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Ireland must now recover the illegal aid.”

Those advantages – which amount to “illegal state aid”, according to the ruling – were made during a ruling made by the Irish government in 1991 and 2007.

According to Commissioner Vestager, Apple only paid “an effective corporate tax rate of 1 per cent on its European profits in 2003 down to 0.005 per cent in 2014.” Irish corporate tax is at 12.5 percent.

Apple’s company structure enabled it to “avoid taxation on almost all profits generated by sales of Apple products” in the EU single market, the ruling said.

“This is due to Apple’s decision to record all sales in Ireland rather than in the countries where the products were sold.”

The ruling is likely to increase tension between Brussels and the US, which called on EU authorities to drop the case.

The U.S. Treasury Department has accused the commission of becoming a “supranational tax authority” and said disproportionately targeting US companies could end up costing American taxpayers.

Apple and Ireland deny any wrongdoing and will likely appeal against the ruling.

The Irish finance minister, Michael Noonan, said he would seek approval from the Irish Cabinet to appeal the EU Commission’s ruling to European courts.

“It is important that we send a strong message that Ireland remains an attractive and stable location of choice for long-term substantive investment,” Noonan said, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. tech giant employs 6,000 people in Ireland, mostly at its main site in Cork.

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Uber Local Offers lets Visa cardholders earn discounted rides with in-store purchases

Uber Local Offers lets riders earn points for discounted rides when spending at participating Visa merchants.
Image: Uber

Uber is already an integral part of many people’s commutes, but now the ride-hailing giant wants to buy loyalty from its users via purchases made during the rest of the day.

It has partnered with Visa on a new program called Uber Local Offers, the companies announced Tuesday.

Uber riders who have a Visa credit card registered in the app will be able to earn points at hundreds of participating merchants. For every dollar spent, Uber riders earn one point, where 100 points translates to $10 off a ride.

The program is Uber’s latest effort to incentivize riders to take Uber, amid the constantly growing number of ride-hailing competitors, and keep the experience at top of mind even when you are not in a car.

“This isn’t about earning points for riding more with Uber. This is about earning Uber points when you spend in places you like,” Uber Product Manager Drew Quinn told Mashable. “We hear from riders all the time that they want more ways to get ride discounts and free rides.”

Now, in participating cities, the app will have a new tab called Local Offers on the left drop-down menu. App users can swipe through all available offers nearby and enroll. There is no limit to the number of enrollments.

Uber introduced Local Offers, a new rewards program with Visa.

Image: UBER

To earn points, Uber riders do not need to take an Uber to a participating merchant. Rather, the Uber app will register points as soon as a Visa credit card is used, no coupon or code required.

“The low friction part of this is the coolest aspect for me,” Quinn said. “We like giving users the choice of how theyre going to get to the shop or a restaurant.”

Uber works with other credit card companies, but these deals are focused on taking an Uber. For instance, American Express cardholders earn double AMEX points on Uber rides. Capital One Quicksilver cardholders earn free rides every 10th ride.

Visa’s deal is better for Uber and for riders, says Terry Angelos, Visa’s vice president of loyalty offers solutions. Angelos was previously the CEO of TrialPay, an e-commerce payment system Visa acquired in 2015.

Visa cardholders who use Uber in the United States spend $2 billion within three hours of getting out of an Uber.

“Even if you ride Uber every day, youre probably grabbing lunch or coffee multiple times a day. So, you have these opportunities to have these Uber moments multiple times, more times than a ride,” Angelos said.

Integrating local payments and Uber rides made sense given company data, according to Angelos. Visa cardholders who use Uber in the United States spend $2 billion within three hours of getting out of an Uber.

Lyft, Uber’s largest competitor in the U.S., recently released its own new rewards program with store purchases in mind. In partnership with Starbucks, Lyft riders can earn free drinks every ride.

Visa has yet to partner with Lyft and pointed to the larger scope of Uber’s effort. “Lyft has done it with one partner, but youre earning Starbucks points, not Lyft points. The way that Uber is doing it is with hundreds of partners with different cities,” Angelos said.

Local Offers is first available in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Uber said it plans to introduce the feature elsewhere in the United States later this year.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

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Article about approaching women wearing headphones prompts online backlash

An article on approaching women wearing headphones has enraged Twitter.
Image: Ilektra Vasileiadou Kandylidou/Twitter

LONDON A blog instructing people how to approach women wearing headphones is getting a lot of attention on Twitter for all the wrong reasons.

The article published on men’s grooming site The Modern Man listed tips for approaching women on the street who were wearing headphones.

The tips include pointing at the woman and saying “I want to talk to you for a minute”, as well as “confidently” asking her to take off her headphones.

Image: the modern man

The advice has been attracting a great deal of attention on Twitter, with many people issuing their own versions of the “creepy” tips…

Well that escalated quickly…

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Urgent action needed for working mums, say MPs – BBC News

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“Urgent action” is needed to stop new mothers being forced out of work, says a group of MPs.

The group calls for a similar system to Germany, where it is harder to make women redundant during and after pregnancy.

The UK has seen a “shocking” increase in workplace pregnancy discrimination over the past decade, the Women and Equalities Committee said.

The government said it would consider the recommendations carefully.

Other recommendations from the report include more protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers – such as making it easier for them to attend antenatal appointments.

It also suggested a “substantial reduction” in tribunal fees for discrimination cases.

“There are now record numbers of women in work in the UK,” said the committee’s chairwoman, Maria Miller.

“The economy will suffer unless employers modernise their workplace practices to ensure effective support and protection for expectant and new mums.”

She added that the government’s approach had lacked “urgency and bite” and that the work to combat this “unacceptable discrimination” needed to be underpinned by concrete targets and changes to laws.

In Germany, from the beginning of pregnancy until four months following childbirth, employers can only dismiss an employee in very rare cases – such as the company going bust – and it needs government approval to do so.

In the UK, although it is illegal to dismiss a woman for reasons relating to having a child, a company can find other reasons for making her redundant.

Image copyright Thinkstock

According to government research, the number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their job because of concerns about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination has doubled over the past decade to 54,000.

It added that 11% of women reported being either dismissed, made compulsorily redundant when others in their workplace were not, or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job.

‘Key priority’

The report also called for government assurances that rights and protections would not be eroded, given the uncertainty post-Brexit.

Business Minister Margot James said: “It is completely unacceptable that pregnant women and new mothers are apparently being forced to quit their jobs because of outdated attitudes.

“Tackling this issue is a key priority of mine and this government and I would like to thank the committee for its important work. We will consider its recommendations carefully and respond in due course.”

Last week, a study for the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that the earning power between men and those women returning to work after having a child becomes steadily wider. Over the subsequent 12 years, women’s hourly pay rate falls 33% behind men’s.

Claire Dawson, head of employment at law firm Slater and Gordon, said that, despite the fact that the UK prohibits discrimination against pregnant women and women returning from maternity leave, “we regularly act for clients who have been made redundant while on or shortly after returning from maternity leave”.

“The last thing they want to do at this time in their lives is engage in a legal battle and in many cases, they simply can’t afford to,” she added.

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‘Smart energy’ revolution to balance electricity demand – BBC News

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A “smart energy” revolution could help ensure that the UK does not suffer blackouts, according to National Grid’s new UK chief.

Nicola Shaw, its executive director, said technological advances will reduce the need to build new conventional power stations in the UK.

An “internet of energy” will allow fridges, washers and dishwashers to help balance energy demand.

Some commentators say the UK needs more gas-fired power to prevent blackouts.

Ms Shaw agreed that more investment in gas-fired power was needed, but argued that between 30% and 50% of fluctuations on the electricity grid could be smoothed by households and businesses adjusting their demand at peak times.

“We are at a moment of real change in the energy industry. From an historic perspective we created energy in big generating organisations that sent power to houses and their businesses. Now we are producing energy in those places – mostly with solar power,” she told BBC News.

London-listed National Grid runs electricity and gas networks in the UK and the northeastern United States.

More and more people and companies were adjusting their energy consumption to use more when power was at its cheapest, Ms Shaw said.

Image copyright National Grid
Image caption National Grid UK executive director Nicola Shaw

“All of that is a real revolution a smart energy revolution that’s changing the way we think about energy across the country,” she said.

This change was being driven by people and firms generating energy, storing it and using it flexibly through new controls and online software.

The move toward flexible energy use is supported by the National Infrastructure Commission. And the advances in energy software are described by the World Energy Council as the biggest change in 21st Century energy – along with solar power.

Price signals to consumers will be key to the change, as the UK relies on increasing amounts of intermittent renewable energy.

Already some firms benefit from using extra power when it is cheaper off-peak. That trend is spreading to households: a firm in Cornwall is offering a “sunshine tariff” that aims to persuading households to use cheap solar power when the sun is out, for example.

Energy experts say that in future consumers will be able to ask for their appliances to be connected online to the grid.

Peak hour

A signal could then turn on, say, a washing machine, when there was plentiful energy from wind power, or turn off a freezer for a few minutes to smooth out a spike in demand at teatime.

Prof Phil Taylor, professor of energy systems at Newcastle University, said: “People are used to the idea that they pay more for using the trains at peak time, or they queue more if they use the roads at rush hour.

Image copyright Getty Images

“Technology has enabled us to bring this price flexibility to energy consumers. No-one will be forced to link their home to the energy internet, but if they do choose to use it, it will save them money, save pollution and save power stations needing to be built.”

The challenge for National Grid is to attract more companies to adopt what is known as “demand-side response”, or DSR. Some firms are nervous, others have not heard of it – and business models are changing at breakneck speed.

Turn me on (and off)

  • Marriott Hotels has a contract that temporarily turns off its water-chilled air conditioning system at times of peak demand. The water temperature drops so slightly that guests do not notice the difference.
  • Japanese electronics giant Sharp is devising controls and software to allow solar storage batteries in homes to sell energy back to the grid when the demand (and price) are high. The firm says it expects the system to pay its way without subsidy by 2018.
  • Aggregate Industries – which makes road materials – is helping to smooth spikes in the grid even though it generates no power at all. The bitumen in giant containers stored near Heathrow airport can be stored at temperatures of between 130 and 185C. If a rise in demand is predicted for later in the day, the company is advised by a computer to heat the bitumen to the maximum temperature, then turn off the power until the demand – and price – subsides. Aggregate is also rewarded for gobbling up extra energy when there is a glut of wind power on the grid. Head of sustainibility, Donna Hunt, said: “I think this is a no-brainer for us because we’re saving energy. We’re not generating carbon whilst the power is off, and we’re making an income for allowing our assets to be used flexibly.”

Ms Shaw acknowledged that some were anxious about the lights going out as the smart energy revolution progressed.

However, she said: “I don’t think people should fret. There’s an awareness of the issues. There’s lots of activity on the market that will solve this problem. Be enthusiastic – it’s a moment of change that should take us to a better place.”

Wiring up

The big questions are how far smart technology can ease the burden on the grid and how quickly it can make its mark.

Deepa Venkateswaran, from Bernstein energy analysts, said: “The smart grid revolution is going to be exciting. However, there’s a time frame – we need some time to get wired up and respond dynamically, but in the short term we need new gas stations to replace some of our ageing coal stations which are going to close.”

Ms Shaw agrees with the need for new gas power, but is wary of committing to new power stations while technology is producing unexpected improvements at a sharp pace.

The issue is central to the UK’s laws on cutting greenhouse gases. Under Ms Venkateswaran’s scenario, the UK will be locked into generating gas-fired electricity until well into the 2030s. This would wreck the government’s target of ending gas-fired generation in the early years of that decade.

Ministers are working on a long-term climate strategy, which was promised for last November but is now not expected until sometime before the end of this year.

The pressure is on the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to devise policies that will both keep the lights on, bills affordable – as well as carbon emissions down.

Follow Roger on Twitter: @rharrabin

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Mother Teresa: ‘The saint who was my mother’

(CNN)It’s impossible for me to forget Mother Teresa — soon to be Saint Teresa of Kolkata. She gave me a chance to escape poverty and live a different destiny in England.

I was born in Kolkata in 1977, although there is no official record of my birth. I’ve no memory of my birth parents and there are conflicting reports as to where and when I was born, and to whom.
Some paperwork traces my origins back to the 24 Parganas district, born to destitute parents in an impoverished part of Kolkata’s urban sprawl.


When I was 18, I returned to Kolkata for the first time since leaving. It was a difficult journey for me. I had no connection with the place, the culture, the environment.
Honestly, it forced me to confront some difficult issues relating to my sense of self and my identity. It wasn’t until much later that I better came to terms with my roots, and it was another decade until I returned to Kolkata.
I did go and see her on that first trip though, and it was the year that she died.
I don’t know if I said, “thank you for giving me life,” but I should have.
This is what she said to me: “Nothing is difficult, just different. If you can’t find anyone to help you achieve what you want to do, do it alone and don’t be afraid of the unknown.”

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Facebook’s algorithms surface a fake news story — just days after editors were removed

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That didn’t take long.

Just days after removing editors from curating Trending Topics, Facebook’s news-driven section surfaced a fake story about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

This is just about a worst-case scenario for Facebook, which had previously been battling allegations that its Trending editors had discriminated against conservative news outlets.

Facebook removed the article after a few hours.

Trending Topics editors originally used data from Facebook users to then curate news stories and write Facebook-friendly headlines and synopses.

Now, algorithms are running almost the entire thing. The headlines are gone, and so are the editors, having reportedly been laid off.

Those editors also served as something of quality control, making sure the news section was stocked with topics that made sense and were legitimate. They even operated based on an extensive list of media outlets.

It would appear this is a trick that the algorithms have not yet perfected. The fake story came from a website called “” A Facebook search found that it has gained a following among far-right conservatives, with Facebook pages for “Females for TRUMP,” “American Preppers Network” and actor Scott Baio (who spoke at the Republican convention) having recently shared posts from the publication.

The story in question claimed that Megyn Kelly had been exposed as a “traitor” for backing Hillary Clinton. There’s no evidence out there that this is the case. The post from “EndingThe Fed” points to a report from another website that then links to yet another website, “Conservative101,” which has a screed that seems to just be some stream-of-consciousness writing based on various other news reports.

The rise of these kinds of digital media operations has been sharply chronicled by John Herrman at the New York Times, who found many similar pages that serve tens of millions of Facebook users with politics-based pulp psuedo-news. Herrman wrote:

Its an environment thats at best indifferent and at worst hostile to traditional media brands; but for this new breed of page operator, its mostly upside In front of largely hidden and utterly sympathetic audiences, incredible narratives can take shape, before emerging, mostly formed, into the national discourse.

A Facebook spokesperson said that the Trending review team accepted the story over the weekend and then reconsidered it on Monday morning. They added that Facebook is working to make its detection of hoax and satirical stories more accurate.

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