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Before the hurricane: Storm trackers and other survival tools for mobile and desktop users

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Video: Apps to help with disaster preparation

Note: This was originally published in September 2010. As Hurricane Florence strengthened into a life-threatening storm, we updated the article to reflect current content.

I live in South Florida. And while I have no desire to live anywhere else, tropical storms, hurricanes and otherwise lousy weather are a seasonal fact of life here.

Not even 20 years ago, most people would not have been able to make informed decisions about preparing for tropical storms. But today we have portable GPS, our laptops, our smartphones, and my favorite tool as part of our storm-chaser arsenal — iPad.

While many of the same types of tools can still be used on a PC or Mac desktop or laptop, I discovered a newfound and real appreciation for iPad and the iOS for this type of application.

The iPad is a particularly good visualization tool for analyzing hurricane tracks because of the device’s multi-touch and human-oriented interface and how quickly you can get updated reports on the storm’s progress with the different apps out there.

Here’s my list of essential apps and websites that I recommend the next time a big storm starts heading your way, so you too can make more informed decisions about whether you stay in place or evacuate.

With hurricanes bearing down, you’ll want to be prepared.

NOAA National Hurricane Center (Web Site)

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Image:ZDNet

If you’re going to have ONE application or website that you use for relying on projected storm tracks, then the NOAA National Hurricane Center Website is the one you should have bookmarked on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or other smartphone devices. It costs you absolutely nothing and if you really want to learn about hurricanes, this is definitely the place to go.

The National Hurricane Center is the central source of information that just about every other application listed in this article uses as a data source.

The NHC website contains a massive wealth of up-to-date information. You can track and monitor the progress of every single storm in the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic, read various types of graphical computer models, and watch animated satellite and radar maps.

Unfortunately, the NHC site looks like it was designed in the early 1990s — there’s no cool Web 2.0 point-and-click GUI, but all the data is there if you want it. They’ve got a PDA rendered version of the site which you could use on an iPhone or an Android device, but unless you’re the type that likes to page through raw data, it probably won’t be of much use to you.

However, the basic charts and storm projections should be enough to give you a very good idea of where the hurricane is heading and to give you up-to-date and reliable information on how its behavior might change.

While NOAA has a huge wealth of information you want to make sure your browser has pop-up blocking disabled, otherwise you will not be able to click on any of the links which spawn new tabs or new browser windows.

University of Wisconsin Space Science and Engineering Center (Web Sites)

I was recently turned on to the University of Wisconsin’s SSEC by Tech Broiler reader and professional storm chaser/photographer Jim Edds.

Jim uses a number of tools to do his job, but when he wants real-time hurricane data, he heads to the SSEC.

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The data above comes from the SSEC’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) TROPIC website, which you can access on any PC or tablet. Jim likes this site because frequently he is using only 3G service and he is able to access a large amount of data quickly without a large download payload.

Like NOAA, TROPIC has a huge wealth of information and you want to make sure your browser has pop-up blocking disabled, otherwise, you will not be able to click on any of the links which spawn new tabs or new browser windows.

http://www.zdnet.com/http://www.zdnet.com/

Jim is also very impressed with the SSEC’s Geostationary Satellite Images site, which shows high-resolution animated satellite images from several different weather satellites in Flash or Javascript, depending on what type of device you are using.

Radarscope (iOS, Android $9.99)

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Image:ZDNet

Described by Jim as “The ultimate radar application for the iPad” Radarscope is an extremely sophisticated, real-time Doppler radar app for iOS that completely exploits the capabilities of Retina displays on current-generation iPads and iPhones.

It features the ability to select from dozens of long-range doppler radar stations and get data in real-time and also gives you severe weather alerts which you can click on and focus on a particularly dangerous weather area.

Radarscope doesn’t do hurricane tracking but what it does do, it does extremely well. If you live in an area where storms are common, there really isn’t another app out there that provides as sophisticated Doppler data that this program has.

MyRadar NOAA Weather Radar by Aviation Data Systems

While not as a sophisticated radar product by default as RadarScope, MyRadar is an extremely good all-in-one weather app because it has the ability to composite multiple Doppler radars at once, showing a complete picture of weather patterns for an entire region.

The basic version of the app is advertising supported, but there are in-app upgrades that allow you to open more features, such as a hurricane tracker ($2.99), professional radar ($6.99) and Apple Watch functionality ($.99). Ads can be disabled for an additional fee of $1.99.

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Image: ZDNet

NOAA Weather Pro by Apalon Apps

Similar in function to MyRadar, NOAA Weather Pro ($4.99) uses the product data feeds from NOAA to produce composite weather visualizations you can view on your mobile device.

While not as sophisticated as MyRadar with all of the add-ons, I happen to really like it because of the clean and simple user interface. Hurricane tracking is built in, without needing to add other subscription products, which is a nice plus.

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Image:ZDNet

Stormpulse/Riskpulse (Basic storm tracking free, real-time subscription website)

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Image:ZDNet

Stormpulse (and Riskpulse) is probably the most advanced of all of the tools mentioned here, but it’s likely overkill for the average end-user.

It’s really more of a professional-level suite intended for businesses to do risk assessments that have facilities in hurricane-prone areas, or for companies that are dependent on shipping and transportation.

The basic tracker is free with LinkedIn login credentials, and the visualizations are very cool.

What other good hurricane tracking and forecasting apps and websites do you like to use? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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5 tips for brands that want to succeed in the new era of influencer marketing – TechCrunch

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If I told you a decade ago that a spin bike would be a social community, you’d have had a good laugh. But that’s precisely what Peloton is: A spin bike with a social community where the instructors are the influencers.

Peloton is just one example of how social is being integrated into every aspect of the customer experience in an increasingly digital world. Whether it’s considering a new restaurant to check out, a movie to see or a product to buy, most people look at reviews before making a final decision. They want social proof as an indicator of quality and relevance.

Influencers are a natural byproduct of this desire for social validation, and as social permeates the customer journey, creators have become an essential source of validation and trust.

Influencers are a natural byproduct of this desire for social validation, and as social permeates the customer journey, creators have become an essential source of validation and trust. Indeed, social validation is what social platforms are built on, so it’s a significant component of how we derive relevance online — and the deeper integration of social is changing the dynamic between brands and digital creators.

The shifting economy of creator monetization

Brand sponsorships are the holy grail for creators hoping to monetize their online influence. According to an eMarketer report, brand partnerships are still the No. 1 source of revenue for most digital creators.

However, digital creators have a lot more monetization options to choose from, thanks to Patreon, affiliate platforms, paid content platforms and platform revenue sharing, making it easier to earn a living without relying so heavily on brand sponsorships.


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As a result, creators are diversifying their revenue streams, which, for some creators, allows them to be more selective about the brands they work with. What’s more, creators aren’t reliant on just one channel or one form of revenue.

YouTube creators probably have the most diversified revenue, often combining brand sponsorships, subscription models, affiliate deals, tipping/donations, their line of branded products and revenue share. However, it’s important to note that not all monetization options apply to every creator. But with so many options to choose from, making a living as a digital creator is more accessible than ever.

Here are a few of the ways online creators can monetize their content:

Ad revenue sharing: Advertising is the most traditional form of revenue for online creators. With this model, ads are injected into and around the creator’s content, and they make a certain percentage of revenue based on impressions. However, the revenue split can vary based on the platform, and some platforms have a specific threshold creators must hit before they can participate in ad revenue sharing.

Affiliate marketing: Similar to advertising or a brand sponsorship, affiliate marketing is an agreement for a share of revenue based on products sold. This kind of arrangement generally works best when the creator has a blog, website or YouTube account. Affiliate links allow the influencer to proactively choose the products they want to talk about and earn from, rather than having to wait for a brand deal to come their way.

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Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels, rolls out ads worldwide – TechCrunch

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Instagram Reels are getting ads. The company announced today it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform and TikTok rival, Reels, to businesses and advertisers worldwide. The ads will be up to 30 seconds in length, like Reels themselves, and vertical in format, similar to ads found in Instagram Stories. Also like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment, and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

The company had previously tested Reels ads in select markets earlier this year, including India, Brazil, Germany, and Australia, then expanded those tests to Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. more recently. Early adopters of the new format have included brands like BMW, Nestlé (Nespresso), Louis Vuitton, Netflix, Uber, and others.

Instagram tells us the ads will appear in most places users view Reels content, including on the Reels tab, Reels in Stories, Reels in Explore, and Reels in your Instagram Feed, and will appear in between individual Reels posted by users. However, in order to be served a Reels ad, the user first needs to be in the immersive, full-screen Reels viewer.

Image Credits: Instagram

The company couldn’t say how often a user might see a Reels ad, noting that the number of ads a viewer may encounter will vary based on how they use Instagram. But the company is monitoring user sentiment around ads themselves, and the overall commercially of Reels, it says.

Like Instagram’s other advertising products, Reels ads will launch with an auction-based model. But so far, Instagram is declining to share any sort of performance metrics around how those ads are doing, based on tests. Nor is it yet offering advertisers any creator tools or templates that could help them get started with Reels ads. Instead, Instagram likey assumes advertisers already have creative assets on hand or know how to make them, because of Reels ads’ similarities to other vertical video ads found elsewhere, including on Instagram’s competitors.

While vertical video has already shown the potential for driving consumers to e-commerce shopping sites, Instagram hasn’t yet taken advantage of Reels ads to drive users to its built-in Instagram Shops, though that seems like a natural next step as it attempts to tie the different parts of its app together.

But perhaps ahead of that step, Instagram needs to make Reels a more compelling destination — something other TikTok rivals, which now include both Snap and YouTube — have done by funding creator content directly. Instagram, meanwhile, had made offers to select TikTok stars directly.

The launch of Instagram Reels ads follows news of TikTok’s climbing ad prices. Bloomberg reported this month that TikTok is now asking for more than $1.4 million for a home page takeover ad in the U.S., as of the third quarter, which will jump to $1.8 million by Q4 and more than $2 million on a holiday. Though the company is still building its ads team and advertisers haven’t yet allocated large portions of their video budget to the app, that tends to follow user growth — and TikTok now has over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.

Both apps, Instagram and TikTok, now have over a billion monthly active users on a global basis, though Reels is only a part of the larger Instagram platform. For comparison, Instagram Stories is used by some 500 million users, which demonstrates Instagram’s ability to drive traffic to different areas of its app. Instagram declined to share how many users Reels has as of today.

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Twine raises $3.3M to add networking features to virtual events – TechCrunch

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Twine, a video chat startup that launched amid the pandemic as a sort of “Zoom for meeting new people,” shifted its focus to online events and, as a result, has now closed on $3.3 million in seed funding. To date, twine’s events customers have included names like Microsoft, Amazon, Forrester, and others, and the service is on track to do $1 million in bookings in 2021, the company says.

The new round was led by Moment Ventures, and included participation from Coelius Capital, AltaIR Capital, Mentors Fund, Rosecliff Ventures, AltaClub, and Bloom Venture Partners. Clint Chao, founding Partner at Moment, will join twine’s board of directors with the round’s close.

The shift into the online events space makes sense, given twine’s co-founders —  Lawrence Coburn, Diana Rau, and Taylor McLoughlin — hail from DoubleDutch, the mobile events technology provider acquired by Cvent in 2019.

Coburn, previously CEO of DoubleDutch, had been under a non-compete with its acquirer until December 2020, which is one reason why he didn’t first attempt a return to the events space.

The team’s original idea was to help people who were missing out on social connections under Covid lockdowns find a way to meet others and chat online. This early version of twine saw some small amount of traction, as 10% of its users were even willing to pay. But many more were nervous about being connected to random online strangers, twine found.

So the company shifted its focus to the familiar events space, with a specific focus on online events which grew in popularity due to the pandemic. While setting up live streams, text chats and Q&A has been possible, what’s been missing from many online events was the casual and unexpected networking that used to happen in-person.

“The hardest thing to bring to virtual events was the networking and the serendipity — like the conversations that used to happen in an elevator, in the bar, the lobby — these kinds of things,” explains Coburn. “So we began testing a group space version of twine — bringing twine to existing communities as opposed to trying to build our own, new community. And that showed a lot more legs,” he says.

By January 2021, the new events-focused version of twine was up-and-running, offering a set of professional networking tools for event owners. Unlike one-to-many or few-to-many video broadcasts, twine connects a small number of people for more intimate conversations.

“We did a lot of research with our customers and users, and beyond five [people in a chat], it turns into a webinar,” notes Coburn, of the limitations on twine’s video chat. In twine, a small handful of people are dropped into a video chat experience– and now, they’re not random online strangers. They’re fellow event attendees. That generally keeps user behavior professional and the conversations productive.

Event owners can use the product for free on twine’s website for small events with up to 30 users, but to scale up any further requires a license. Twine charges on a per attendee basis, where customers buy packs of attendees on a software-as-a-service model.

The company’s customers can then embed twine directly in their own website or add a link that pops open the twine website in a separate browser tab.

Coburn says twine has found a sweet spot with big corporate event programs. The company has around 25 customers, but some of those have already used twine for 10 or 15 events after first testing out the product for something smaller.

“We’re working with five or six of the biggest companies in the world right now,” noted Coburn.

Image Credits: twine

Because the matches are digital, twine can offer other tools like digital “business card” exchanges and analytics and reports for the event hosts and attendees alike.

Despite the cautious return to normal in the U.S., which may see in-person events return in the year ahead, twine believes there’s still a future in online events. Due to the pandemic’s lasting impacts, organizations are likely to adopt a hybrid approach to their events going forward.

“I don’t think there’s ever been an industry that has gone through a 15 months like the events industry just went through,” Coburn says. “These companies went to zero, their revenue went to zero and some of them were coming from hundreds of millions of dollars. So what happened was a digital transformation like the world has never seen,” he adds.

Now, there are tens of thousands of event planners who have gotten really good at tech and online events. And they saw the potential in online, which would sometimes deliver 4x or 5x the attendance of virtual, Coburn points out.

“This is why you see LinkedIn drop $50 million on Hopin,” he says, referring to the recent fundraise for the virtual conference technology business. (The deal was reportedly for less than $50 million). “This is why you see the rounds of funding that are going into Hoppin and Bizzabo and Hubilo and all the others. This is the taxi market, pre-Uber.”

Of course, virtual events may end up less concerned with social features when they can offer an in-person experience. And those who want to host online events may be looking for a broader solution than Zoom + twine, for example.

But twine has ideas about what it wants to do next, including asynchronous matchmaking, which could end up being more valuable as it could lead to better matches since it wouldn’t be limited to only who’s online now.

With the funding, twine is hiring in sales and customer success, working on accessibility improvements, and expanding its platform. To date, twine has raised $4.7 million.

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