In/Flux: Meet Seattle's latest design wunderchild. Why so many iPhone users at MSFT HQ? LivingSocial slims down.

Crosscut's weekly tech round-up tackles Microsoft's new hacker rewards program, a tablet replacement for Photoshop and LivingSocial's latest 'workplace innovations'.
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Twitter activity in Seattle, divided between users active in the area for more than a consecutive month (locals) and those whose activity is typically centered elsewhere (tourists).

Crosscut's weekly tech round-up tackles Microsoft's new hacker rewards program, a tablet replacement for Photoshop and LivingSocial's latest 'workplace innovations'.

Tweets expose Microsoft's guilty iPhone users

There are iPhones aplenty at Microsoft HQ, and tourists to Seattle don’t explore beyond downtown much.

These are some of the findings of a new collaborative project from the map experts at MapBox and big data analysts at GNIP. Since September 2011, roughly 3 billion tweets have been “geotagged” worldwide – meaning they are embedded with metadata on the location of the tweet, the brand of phone it was sent from and other information. By mapping this raw data and running it through various filters, Eric Gunderson of MapBox proudly claims the team has revealed “demographic, cultural and social patterns down to city level detail, across the entire world.”

This column has previously examined tweeting patterns in the Puget Sound, but this analysis digs far deeper, giving armchair sociologists a lot to hew on. The police may find it interesting as well, with the data clearly depicting a lot of tweets sent from our major roads and highways.

LivingSocial: Now that's lean management

Let us count the ways that Groupon, LivingSocial and other coupon services enrich our lives. All the trapeze and cheese making classes we never would’ve attended otherwise. The discounts on hot yoga, teeth cleaning, laser hair removal – ah, all the thrifty laser hair removal!

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But these are lean times in the online coupon biz, with a business model that's showing diminishing returns. This week saw the latest indication, when LivingSocial closed the doors of its Seattle office. LivingSocial spokeswoman Elizabeth Hebda tells Crosscut that none of their approximately 40 local workers have been laid off, and are all working remotely for the time being. She also pointed out that the company is still hiring, with a few openings in Seattle. Time will tell whether this remains the case however – LivingSocial was cited by Amazon as a losing investment last year, and word on the street is they’re scrambling to raise money.

Microsoft's new hacker rewards program

Hackers have long viewed Microsoft products as target numero uno, given their presence on over 90 percent of the world’s computers. This week the company made moves to keep it that way.

Microsoft has announced one of the most lucrative hacker bounty systems in the tech industry, offering huge payouts to those who can expose cracks in their programs’ security walls and “calling upon the clever hackers of the world to work with us.” Google, Facebook, and other tech companies have offered similar programs for years, with MS preferring to rely on their internal security teams. This marks a dramatic reversal. Microsoft now offers payouts of over $100,000, dwarfing nearly all their competitors.

According to Dustin Childs with Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Department, these payouts are a response to the black market for these system exploits, which already pays handsome fees for info on vulnerabilities. “The market has shifted and more researchers are going through vulnerability brokers, which means that we don’t get information as early as we would like,” Childs tells us. In this way, the program hopes to incentivize hackers to work for Microsoft directly, rather than through backchannels. Response among the online community has been uniformly positive.

A Seattle-based Adobe threat

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Software company FiftyThree is a big fish in a small pond, but not for much longer. Based in Seattle and New York, their sole offering to date is an application named Paper, a graphical sketchbook exclusively on the iPad. While lacking in the graphic design firepower that puts Photoshop on its pedestal, it’s intuitive and elegantly designed, and offers index-finger sketchers their best option to draw and “paint” on a tablet. As such, it’s picked up accolades and millions of users since its release in 2011.

This week it picked up quite a bit more than that, receiving over $15 million in funding from a variety of high profile funders, including Twitter/Square founder Jack Dorsey. The company has been vague regarding what they’ll do with the money – beyond expanding their Seattle and New York staff – but co-founder Georg Petschnigg sounds like he has plans to cut into Microsoft and Adobe’s turf. “We haven’t even seen something like Office emerge on the tablet side,” Petschnigg said, and FiftyThree plans to build a “a suite of mobile tools for creativity.”

Tech Bytes from Elsewhere

Want to work at Google? An executive pulls back the curtain on Google’s job interview questions.

An iEnemy Within: A tale of insider intrigue starring Apple and Seattle law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.

Eternal Sunshine: Scientists are getting closer to a process for knocking specific memories out of existence. Soon that embarrassing work party behavior could be banished into the ether.

Do Over! Microsoft backtracks on some of Xbox One’s more unpopular features. Gamers react with their usual even-headed calm.

  

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About the Authors & Contributors

Drew Atkins

Drew Atkins

Drew Atkins is a journalist and writer in Seattle, and the recipient of numerous national and regional awards. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Seattle Times, The Oregonian, InvestigateWest, Geekwire, Seattle Magazine, and others. He also previously served as the managing editor of Crosscut. He can be contacted at drew.atkins@crosscut.com.