Inside the pay-for-post ICO industry

In a world where nothing can be trusted and fake news abounds, ICO and crypto teams are further muddying the waters by trying – and often failing – to pay for posts. While bribes for blogs is nothing new, sadly the current crop of ICO creators and crypto projects are particularly interested in scaling fast and many ICO CEOs are far happier with scammy multi-level marketing tricks than real media relations. The worst part of this spammy, scammy ecosystem is the service providers. A new group of media organizations are appearing where pay-to-post is the norm rather than the rare exception. I’ve been looking at these groups for a while now and recently found a few egregious examples. But first some background.

Oh yeah, Mr. Smart Guy? How do I get press?

Say you’re trying to publicize a startup. You’ve emailed all the big names in the industry and the
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Mumford & Sons beware! An AI can now write indie music

A fascinating project called Amadeus Code promises to out-Tay-Tay Tay Tay and out-Bon Bon Iver. The AI-based system uses data from previous musical hits to create entirely new compositions on the fly — and darn if these crazy robot-songs aren’t pretty good. The app, which is available from the iTunes Store but doesn’t seem to be working properly, creates song sketches in minutes, freeing you up to create beautiful lyrics and a bit of accordion accompaniment. The video above is a MIDI version of an AI-produced song and the video below shows the song full-produced using non-AI human musicians. The results, while a little odd, are very impressive. Jun Inoue, Gyo Kitagawa and Taishi Fukuyama created Amadeus Code and all have experience in music and music production. Inoue is a renowned Japanese music producer and he has sold 10 million singles. Fukuyama worked at Echo Next and launched the
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Zortrax launches a new high-speed, high-resolution printer, the Inkspire

Zortrax has launched a new printer, the Inkspire, that prints using an LCD to create objects in high-quality resin in minutes. The printer – essentially an upgrade to traditional stereolithography (SLA) printers – uses a single frame of light to create layers of 25 microns. Most SLA printers use a laser or DLP to shine a pattern on the resin. The light hardens the resin instantly, creating a layer of material that the printer then pulls up and out as the object grows. The UV LCD in the $2,699 Inkspire throws an entire layer at a time and is nine times more precise than standard SLA systems. It can print 20 to 36 millimeters per hour and the system can print objects in serial, allowing you to to print hundreds of thousands of small objects per month. “The printer is also perfect for rapid prototyping of tiny yet incredibly detailed
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3DHubs, once a community 3D printing service, is now sourcing all 3D prints internally

3D Hubs, like MakeXYZ, was a community-based 3D printing service that let anyone with a printer sell their prints online. Founded in the heyday of the 3D printing revolution, the service let thousands of makers gather a little cash for making and mailing prints on their home 3D printers. Now, however, the company has moved to a model in which its high-end partners will be manufacturing plastic, metal, and injection molded parts for customers willing to pay extra for a professional print. “Indeed, more focus on high end printers run by professional companies,” said founder Brian Garret. “So a smaller pool of manufacturing locations (still hundreds around the world), but with more control on standardized quality and repeatability. Our software takes care of the sourcing, so companies order with 3D Hubs directly.” Not everyone is happy with the decision. 3DPrint.come editor Joris Peels saw the value
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Watch this robot fly like a real insect

The DelFly is a super light, super agile robot that flies like a real insect. By using a quad-wing flapping system, this odd little bot can flit, hover, and land like a fruit fly. Part of a research project at the Delft University of Technology, this is the latest version of the DelFly and it can now perform high speed maneuvers including rapid turns. From the release:
The so far unmatched combination of performances makes the lightweight (and thus inherently safe) natural-looking robot ready for many real-world tasks. At the same time, the high agility, combined with the programmability of the robot, opens up a new way of studying insect flight dynamics and control during high agility maneuvers, such as rapid banked turns observed in fruit-flies when evading predators.
The robot flies by rolling in the air and it has four wings to control three axes of flight. It
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It’s the end of crypto as we know it and I feel fine

Watching the current price madness is scary. Bitcoin is falling and rising in $500 increments with regularity and Ethereum and its attendant ICOs are in a seeming freefall with a few “dead cat bounces” to keep things lively. What this signals is not that crypto is dead, however. It signals that the early, elated period of trading whose milestones including the launch of Coinbase and the growth of a vibrant (if often shady) professional ecosystem is over. Crypto still runs on hype. Gemini announcing a stablecoin, the World Economic Forum saying something hopeful, someone else saying something less hopeful – all of these things and more are helping define the current market. However, something else is happening behind the scenes that is far more important. As I’ve written before, the socialization and general acceptance of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial pursuits is a very recent thing. In the old days –
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Economist Tyler Cowen launches a fellowship and grant program for moon shot ideas

Tyler Cowen, who I interviewed here, is a fascinating economist. Part pragmatist and part dreamer, he has been researching and writing about the future for a long time in books and his blog, Marginal Revolution. Now he and his university, George Mason, are putting some money where his mouth is. Cowen and the team at GMU are working on Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program for moon shots. The goal is to give people with big ideas a little capital to help them build out their dreams. “It has long been my view that risk-takers are not sufficiently rewarded in the world of ideas and that academic incentives are too conservative,” he said. “The intellectual scene should learn something from Silicon Valley and venture capital.” Cowen is raising $4 million for the first fund. He announced the fund in a podcast on the Mercatus website. “People
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FINRA takes down an unregistered cryptocurrency security

FINRA, the non-profit organization that tasks itself with policing the securities industry, is charging Timothy Tilton Ayre of Agawam, Massachusetts with fraud and unlawful distribution of unregistered cryptocurrency securities. Ayre claimed that users could buy equity in his company, Rocky Mountain Ayre, Inc., buy purchasing HempCoin, a cryptocurrency. From the release:
In the complaint, FINRA alleges that, from January 2013 through October 2016, Ayre attempted to lure public investment in his worthless public company, Rocky Mountain Ayre, Inc. (RMTN) by issuing and selling HempCoin – which he publicized as “the first minable coin backed by marketable securities” – and by making fraudulent, positive statements about RMTN’s business and finances. RMTN was quoted on the Pink Market of OTC Markets Group and traded over the counter. According to the complaint, FINRA also alleges that in June 2015, Ayre bought the rights to HempCoin and repackaged it as a security
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New techniques teach drones to fly through small holes

Researchers at the University of Maryland are adapting the techniques used by birds and bugs to teach drones how to fly through small holes at high speeds. The drone requires only a few sensing shots to define the opening and lets a larger drone fly through an irregularly shaped hole with no training. Nitin J. Sanket, Chahat Deep Singh, Kanishka Ganguly, Cornelia Fermüller, and Yiannis Aloimonos created the project, called GapFlyt, to teach drones using only simple, insect-like eyes. The technique they used, called optical flow, creates a 3D model using a very simple, monocular camera. By marking features in each subsequent picture, the drone can tell the shape and depth of holes based on what changed in each photo. Things closer to the drone move more than things further away, allowing the drone to see the foreground vs. the background. As you can see in the video below, the
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This tech (scarily) lets video change reality

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a method to turn one video into the style of another. While this might be a little unclear at first, take a look at the video below. In it, the researchers have taken an entire clip from John Oliver and made it look like Stephen Colbert said it. Further, they were able to mimic the motion of a flower opening with another flower. In short, they can make anyone (or anything) look like they are doing something they never did. “I think there are a lot of stories to be told,” said CMU Ph.D. student Aayush Bansal. He and the team created the tool to make it easier to shoot complex films, perhaps by replacing the motion in simple, well-lit scenes and copying it into an entirely different style or environment. “It’s a tool for the artist that gives them an initial
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The Winklevoss stablecoin is one small step toward crypto acceptance

A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency pegged 1-to-1 with another “stable” currency. In most cases, these coins are pegged to the US dollar and, as such, allow for true transfers of actual fiat currencies between parties using the blockchain. If you’re nodding off right now thinking about this, I would posit that these moves, however minor right now, are an important step forward in cryptocurrency acceptance. The latest stablecoin to hit the virtual streets is the Gemini Dollar. This coin comes on the heels of the much-ridiculed Tether, a stablecoin created in 2014 that has been the the brunt of much criticism including suggestions that the team has been artificially pumping the currency with wash trades. The new currency by Winklevoss-run Gemini is pegged directly to the US dollar on the Ethereum blockchain. This means that for every Gemini Dollar there is one actual dollar in a bank account. The
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Not hog dog? PixFood lets you shoot and identify food

What happens when you add AI to food? Surprisingly, you don’t get a hungry robot. Instead you get something like PixFood. PixFood lets you take pictures of food, identify available ingredients, and, at this stage, find out recipes you can make from your larder. It is privately funded. “There are tons of recipe apps out there, but all they give you is, well, recipes,” said Tonnesson. “On the other hand, PixFood has the ability to help users get the right recipe for them at that particular moment. There are apps that cover some of the mentioned, but it’s still an exhausting process – since you have to fill in a 50-question quiz so it can understand what you like.” They launched in August and currently have 3,000 monthly active users from 10,000 downloads. They’re working on perfecting the system for their first users. “PixFood is AI-driven food app with
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LinkedIn sucks

I hate LinkedIn. I open it out of habit and accept everyone who adds me because I don’t know why I wouldn’t. There is no clear benefit to the social network. I’ve never met a recruiter on there. I’ve never gotten a job. The only messages I get are spam from offshore dev teams and crypto announcements. It’s like Facebook without the benefit of maybe seeing a picture of someone’s award-winning chili or dog. I understand that I’m using LinkedIn wrong. I understand I should cultivate a salon-like list of contacts that I can use to source stories and meet interesting people. But I have my own story-sourcing tools and my own contacts. It’s not even good as a broadcast medium. I have 16,000 connections. As a test I posted a story on LinkedIn and on Medium. It’s a post about how to write a book. If the spammers on
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Unbound makes pleasure fashionable

Unbound founders Polly Rodriguez and Sarah Jayne Kinney have long and varied careers. Rodriguez worked for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill before heading to Deloitte Consulting and dating startup Grouper. Kinney was a graduate of University of Cincinnati worked at Puma and then at Esquire and O, Oprah’s magazine. She worked shooting products for fashion houses in New York. The duo met in 2014. Now they make fashion-forward vibrators. Their latest, the Palma, is the most fashion-forward yet and it just launched at TechCrunch Disrupt. “Unbound is closing the very real orgasm gap by putting knowledge and product in the hands of women all over the world,” said Rodriguez. “Unbound is the first brand taking sexual wellness mainstream through elevated design and accessible pricing.” The new device masquerades as a ring, offers multiple speeds, and is completely waterproof. It’s made of surgical grade steel and
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The JBL Eon One Pro is a powered sound system for speakers and performers

As a speaker I often find myself mumbling into a microphone with little thought about the sound system powering it. While most PAs are massive affairs requiring a soundboard operator and lots of wiring, I’ve also had to hoot into portable PAs, a practice I rarely relish. But who was I to judge the quality of a portable PA system? When JBL asked me to review their new $1,299 JBL Eon One Pro I decided to send it to a real professional, my childhood friend Rick Barr, who helped me tag-team on the review. The most important reason that Rick liked the Eon One Pro was the built-in battery. Everything else, he said, was icing on the cake. [gallery ids="1706524,1706523,1706522,1706511,"] Rick is a professional musician, performing shows every weekend, and some weeknights, in a wide variety of venues. His go-to PA is the Bose L1 Model II with the
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Robots can develop prejudices just like humans

In a fascinating study by researchers at Cardiff University and MIT, we learn that robots can develop prejudices when working together. The robots, which ran inside a teamwork simulator, expressed prejudice against other robots not on their team. In short, write the researchers, “groups of autonomous machines could demonstrate prejudice by simply identifying, copying and learning this behavior from one another.” To test the theory, researchers ran a simple game in a simulator. The game involved donating to parties outside or inside the robot’s personal group based on reputation as well as donation strategy. They were able to measure the level of prejudice against outsiders. As the simulation ran, they saw a rise in prejudice against outsiders over time. The researchers found the prejudice was easy to grow in the simulator, a fact that should give us pause as we give robots more autonomy. “Our simulations show that
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Mobile spyware maker leaks 2 million records

mSpy, a commercial spyware solution designed to help you spy on kids and partners, has leaked over 2 million records including software purchases and iCloud usernames and authentication tokens of devices running mSky. The data appears to have come from an unsecured database that allowed security researchers to pull out millions of records. “Before it was taken offline sometime in the past 12 hours, the database contained millions of records, including the username, password and private encryption key of each mSpy customer who logged in to the mSpy site or purchased an mSpy license over the past six months,” wrote security researcher Brian Krebs. Bug hunter Nitish Shah found the data and notified mSpy about the leak but couldn’t reach anyone who could shut it down. He showed Krebs how to access the data, which included personal data on customers. mSpy is a platform that allows parents to see
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Lockheed Martin teams up with drone racers to add AI

Lockheed Martin and the Drone Racing League are working together to make driverless drones much, much smarter. The project, aimed at bringing AI to commercial drone flyers, is “challenging teams to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technology that will enable an autonomous drone to race a pilot-operated drone – and win.” The racers can win up to $2 million in prizes. Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson announced the challenge at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco today. “At Lockheed Martin, we are working to pioneer state-of-the-art, AI-enabled technologies that can help solve some of the world’s most complex challenges – from fighting wildfires and saving lives during natural disasters to exploring the farthest reaches of deep space,” said Jackson. “Now, we are inviting the next generation of AI innovators to join us with our AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge. Competitors will have an opportunity to define the future of autonomy and
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The Pansar Augmented watch hides it smarts behind an analog face

The Pansar Augmented is a Swedish smart watch that looks like a standard three-handed wristwatch. However, with the tap of a button, you can view multiple data points including weather, notifications, and even sales data from your CRM. Pansar is a Swedish watch company that uses Swiss movements and hand assembled components to add a dash of luxury to your standard workhorse watch. The watch is fully funded on Kickstarter. It costs $645 for early birds. The watch mostly displays the time but when the data system is activated the hands move to show any data you’d like.
The world is full of interesting data: be it the quest for information on the perfect wave, keeping track on your stock value, or the number of followers you’ve acquired since yesterday. Pansar Augmented collects the data that matters to you and streams it conveniently to the hands of your watch. This
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MIT researchers teach a neural network to recognize depression

A new technology by MIT researchers can sense depression by analyzing the written and spoken responses by a patient. The system, pioneered by MIT’s CSAIL group, uses “a neural-network model that can be unleashed on raw text and audio data from interviews to discover speech patterns indicative of depression.” “Given a new subject, it can accurately predict if the individual is depressed, without needing any other information about the questions and answers,” the researchers write. The most important part of the system is that it is context-free. This means that it doesn’t require specific questions or types of responses. It simply uses day-to-day interactions as the source data. “We call it ‘context-free,’ because you’re not putting any constraints into the types of questions you’re looking for and the type of responses to those questions,” said researcher Tuka Alhanai. “Every patient will talk differently, and if the model sees changes
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