Resource-Aware Graphical Models with Katharina Morik

Katharina Morik

We are delighted to announce, Katharina Morik, TU Dortmund University, Germany, will be joining us on Thursday May 29th, to give a special talk on “Resource-Aware Graphical Models.” We would love for you to join us and this special one-off presentation in SF. To save your spot you just need to register here.

The evening will start with drinks, snacks and networking. Please note the talk will start promptly at 6:30PM.

Abstract

Machine learning can help to enhance small devices. For instance, keeping the energy consumption of smart phones low is one of the major concerns of the users, as is well illustrated by various “charge your mobile” stations at public places. Where the operating systems of smart phones already offer heuristics and battery apps show consumption profiles, machine learning can do more. Predictions allow better optimizations of the operating system, prepare for particular app usages at certain points in time, or manage services such as GPS or WLAN in a context-aware and adaptive manner. This challenges learning algorithms to real-time application of their models. Moreover, it demands the models to run on the resource-restricted device without consuming more energy themselves than they save!

In the talk, graphical models are presented that face these challenges. Using Conditional Random Fields (CRF) for the prediction of files that the user will fetch next on her smart phone can be used by the operating system for organizing the memory. Analyzing groups of apps running on the smart phone may estimate the energy consumption over time.

A novel spatio-temporal random field (STRF) has been implemented, smoothing the temporal changes and distributing the optimization. This graphical model has been used to predict app usage over time. In another application, it has been combined with a trip planner resulting in smart routing for smart cities.

In order to run graphical models on very restricted devices, even those without floating point calculation, one computing with integer values only has been developed. The integer approximation of graphical models shows good accuracy and speed-up and opens up novel applications on resource-restricted devices.

For those interested here is Katharina’s suggestion for further reading

  • Nico Piatkowski, Sangkyun Lee, Katharina Morik (2013). Spatio-Temporal Random Fields: Compressible Representation and Distributed Estimation, in: Machine Learning Journal, Vol. 93, No. 1, S. 115 – 139.
  • Jochen Streicher, Nico Piatkowski, Katharina Morik, Olaf Spinczyk (2013). “Open Smartphone Data for Mobility and Utilization Analysis in Ubiquitous Environments”  in: Mining Ubiquitous and Social Environments (MUSE) workshop at ECML PKDD
  • Thomas Liebig, Nico Piatkowski, Christian Bockermann, Katharina Morik (2014). Predictive Trip Planning – Smart Routing in Smart Cities, in: Mining Urban Data Workshop at 17th International Conference on Extending Database Technology.
  • Nico Piatkowski, Sangkyun Lee, Katharina Morik (2014). The Integer Approximation of Undirected Graphical Models, in: 3rd Int. Conf. on Pattern Recognition Applications and Methods (ICPRAM).

Look forward to seeing you later this month!

 

ForumCon 2014: Agenda Announced!!

forumcon

We are delighted to share that this year’s ForumCon agenda has been announced! And what a agenda it is! We will be joined by experts from across the forum and online community space including: NicoClub, Texture Media, Discourse, Disqus, Gawker, and so many more! Check it out for yourself:

Agenda

Time

Session

7:45am Registration Opens
8:15 – 9:00 Full Continental Breakfast
8:30 – 9:00 Speed Networking
Meet 10 new contacts in 30 minutes
9:00 – 9:15

Welcome & Opening Remarks

Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO VigLink
9:15 – 9:45

What Does “Mobile-Optimized” Mean for Communities?

Craig Dalrymple, Online Community Consultant
Howard Steinburg, Mobile Professional, HScott Mobile

9:45 – 10:15

Lean Communities

David Spinks, CEO of CMX Summit, TheCommunityManager.com and Feast

10:15 – 10:45

Keynote Address

Crista Bailey, CEO Texture Media

10:45 – 11:15 Networking Break
11:15 – 12:00

Panel: Moderation and Management of Your Community

Greg Childs, CEO and Founder of NicoClub
Justin Isaf, Co-Founder of Communl
Patrick Clinger, Founder and CEO of ProBoards

12:00 – 12:45

Conversations about Online Community

From the People Who Know Best – You!

We are leaving this one un-structured. You decide the flow and the conversations that will happen. Bring all your questions and stresses about forums and community and we will use the knowledge of the crowd to find answers. No question is too great or too small and there is no better source of information than the ForumCon attendees to help each other work through the issues we all face in our online community roles.

12:45 – 1:45 Lunch
1:45 – 2:30

ForumCon Tech Fest

Hear from forum technology innovators as they pitch you and a panel of experts. We have invited five brave participants to the stage to give you their best 5 minute pitch. Then we will be opening up questions to the floor and the experts. We’ll grill these companies and end with a panel vote on who is most worthy of being awarded this year’s ForumCon Tech Fest Winner.

Expert Panel:
Brian Glick, Entrepreneur in Residence at HomeBrew and Former Google+ Communities Product Manager
Crista Bailey, CEO Texture Media
Vlad Dusil, COO PurseBlog

2:30  - 3:00

Buzzing Communities

Richard Millington, CEO and Founder of FeverBee

3:00 – 3:05 ForumCon Tech Fest Winner Announced!
3:05 – 3:20 Networking Break
3:20 – 4:00

The Future of Discussion on the Web

Jeff Atwood, Founder of Discourse
Josh Miller, Co-Founder of Branch, Acquired by Facebook
Daniel Ha, Founder of Disqus
Thomas Plunkett, Co-Founder of Gawker

4:00 – 4:45

Keynote Address

Courtney Couch, Co-Founder & CEO, Muut

4:45 – 5:15

Closing Remarks

Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO VigLink

 

If you haven’t heard of ForumCon before, then we’re doubly excited to share this news. Every year we produce ForumCon and it remains to be the only event dedicated to the future and business of forums and online communities, providing a platform to share tips, tools, and best practices for managing, and growing forums.

This year’s ForumCon is going to be held on Thursday, June 19th,  at the Hotel Kabuki in downtown San Francisco’s Japantown. We will be starting the day with last year’s hit, speed networking, and ending the day with another networking reception

ForumCon 2014 is going to be our best year yet! And we would love for you to join us. Follow this link and get your special VigLink 25% discount off normal ticket price.

Can’t wait to see you all on June 19th!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Senior Marketing Manager and chief ForumConer

Promoting your site with Pinterest

We know a lot of you are using, or are starting to use, Pinterest, but you aren’t sure how to get the best out of it for helping promote your site. Since we are also newbie pinners, we thought we would bring in an expert, Bradley Taylor, to explain all the most pin-portant points we should know.

Pinterest is a rapidly expanding social network which you can use to promote your personal or professional site. The promotional potential of Pinterest is enormous; it currently has over 70 million users and research has revealed that users who were notified of products on Pinterest spent 70% more money on those products than users who were referred from other online networks. If you promote yourself effectively, you can capitalize upon this lucrative online audience.

 

pinterest

 

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a pin board style photo sharing website which enables users to create and manage theme-based image collections of their personal interests or professional services and products. Users are able to browse neighbouring pin boards for images which they can then ‘re-pin’ onto their own pin boards. They also have the ability to like and comment upon photos. This wealth of activities facilitate multiple ways in which you can innovatively promote your site.

Discover the Pinterest community

In order to promote your business to as large an online audience as possible, it is crucial you engage with other members of the Pinterest community. A great way in which you can increase your site’s online popularity and reputation is through following the activities of other Pinterest boards which are relevant to your site. If you regularly re-pin interesting pins and leave relevant comments on other boards, you can encourage and sustain further discussions and participation with other interest users. By communicating with other users. You can establish an online presence and develop trust between other users, thereby raising your credibility and motivating others to visit your site. Sustained, relevant communication between a large network of users facilitates a direct channel through which you can continue to promote your site to as many users as possible.

Generate original, thought-provoking content

In order to promote your site to its full potential, it is crucial that you generate content which users will be motivated to share with others across Pinterest. According to recent surveys, roughly 80% of all pins on Pinterest are re-pins. This highlights that your primary promotional objective should be generating unique, engaging content which other users will be urged to re-pin. There are multiple ways in which you can achieve this; generate vibrant and enticing infographics and photographs to spark user curiosity. When creating new content, you fundamental aim should be generating something which other users will feel compelled to share with others. If you can achieve this, you will exponentially increase the promotion of your site throughout Pinterest and other social networks.

 

Pinterest

 

Unite all of your current social networks

Following on from the previous point, it is highly beneficial to the promotion of your site if you share your Pinterest board across your other social networks. By amalgamating your social networking communities, you can generate a greater amount of online traffic towards your site. By facilitating total access to your site from across a myriad of social networks, you can substantially heighten online awareness towards your site; attracting, and engaging with, as large an audience as possible.

Piggyback popular pins!

Research is key to the promotional success of your site. It is vital that you analyze the most popular pins currently active on Pinterest. If you are conscious of the most popular products, services, topics and creative styles which are being shared across Pinterest, then you can tailor your pins to appeal to these interests. By customizing your Pinterest content to associate yourself with popular trends, you can promote your site to a larger audience, who will in turn be more inclined to visit your site because it is appeals to their stylistic interests and hobbies. For example, if your site addresses content associated with interior design, you can affiliate yourself with current trends such as Sash Smart; whose pins feature interesting window and glass designs or if you are interested in weddings follow Martha Stuart Weddings whose pins feature decorative wedding ideas. Subsequently, users will be motivated to visit your site because it caters specifically to their interests. Moreover, they will be inclined to re-pin or recommend your site to others who share this common interest; thereby promoting your site to a previously inaccessible audience.

 

pinterest

 

A little more on Bradley, he is a motoring enthusiast and loves writing about cars, everything automotive, and sharing tips on how to be the best blogger possible. You can find him on Twitter and connect with him on Google+ for more info and to read his other top writing tips.

 

Update on the Recent SSL Vulnerability, “HeartBleed”

As you may have read, a serious vulnerability was recently discovered in OpenSSL, a widely-used cryptography library that helps protect the privacy of communication on the Internet.  Many sites have been affected by this bug, including VigLink.

Like many other sites, we have updated all of our production servers to a fixed version of OpenSSL and have re-keyed and re-issued all of our digital certificates. In addition, we have reset all open publisher sessions as an extra precaution, so you may need to log in again the next time you access viglink.com.

We have no indication that VigLink has been compromised in any way by this vulnerability.  But we do recommend that all of our customers consider changing their passwords as a precaution.

VigLink takes our customers’ security very seriously.  If you have any further questions about this matter, please feel free to drop us a line at support@viglink.com.

 

Top Photo Gear for Fashion Bloggers

If you’re serious about fashion blogging, sooner or later you’re going to start taking your own photos. Serious photos require a serious camera, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sprinkle in some fun snaps from your phone. With an iPhone 5s and a photo editing app like Snapseed, you can get some great images. But when it comes to getting truly stunning images, a digital SLR is the the only way to go. Here are the top two cameras to consider:

  • Go Full Frame with The Nikon D610
    The Nikon D610 is the best value in a full frame sensor. Full frame sensors offer a few important advantages for the fashion photographer. Physically larger sensors (not number of megapixels) perform better in low light situations, they generate more bokeh (less depth of field so more background blur), and they go wider for less money. With a 24.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, the Nikon D610 is the most affordable way into full frame.

  • Go anywhere with the Canon SL1
    If want your camera with you at all times, go for the lightest, smallest DSLR you can find. The very affordable Canon SL1 is currently the smallest DSLR in the world, but still packs a solid 18-megapixel sensor and a 3 inch screen.

With any SLR camera, you’ll need to consider the right lens. While lenses can get pricey, with the resolving power of today’s sensors, lens quality has never been more important. For fashion, if you only get one lens, get the best 50mm prime lens you can afford, ideally one with an aperture of 1.8 or lower. 50mm works great for portraits and walking around, and they’re fairly compact. Zoom lenses are big, bulky, and just don’t produce images as nice as prime lenses.

In the end, it’s all about getting the right tool for the job. You don’t need the $44k medium format Hasselblad H5D-200, but you should seriously think twice about going for a prosumer point and shoot like the Canon PowerShot G1 X – a do it all camera never really does it all well. Nothing matches the image quality of a DSLR, and when it comes to the content of your blog, quality is king!

Forums Rock and Our Report Proves It

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 4.50.25 PM

At VigLink, we obviously love forums. We operate ForumCon, the largest conference for forum owners. Part of why we love forums is, plainly put, they deliver. In our Q4 Content-Commerce Report we found the only type of content site that outperformed forums in terms of EPC (earnings per click) was deals and coupon sites. Forums outperformed blogs and editorial sites by more than 50%. They even beat out pin boards, which is one of the fastest growing content categories and highly focused on shopping.

As people who have spent a lot of time with forums, we weren’t surprised by these numbers. Forums consistently deliver clicks from users who have sought out a recommendation for a product or who trust the posters to provide unbiased, relevant product guidance.

What makes us even more excited about forums is that we see a huge transformation taking shape in the space. The general (and somewhat correct) view of forums is that they are something of an Internet dinosaur, well-loved but a bit crusty. Many forums are running on archaic software. Too many forums in the past have opted for saturation-style advertising that overwhelms the discussion threads.

Many of our savvy forum customers have been reducing the display ad pollution to make their sites more friendly. Some have stopped subjecting registered users to display ads of any shape or form, opting to monetize those loyal visitors only through affiliate links on products mentioned in native content. That behavior is actually being echoed by large publishers who have steadily reduced the number of impressions and ad units available on their sites after remnant firesales made it hard to sell ad inventory at premium rates.

The forum category itself is enjoying an exciting wave of innovation. NextDoor, the red-hot hyper-local online community and social network, is growing like crazy. Quibb, Quora and other modern QA sites are reinventing the old forum as something more general yet more interesting.

You also have Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Exchange and founder of the new startup Discourse.  His new company is about to release its 1.0 version of a new type of open source software designed to power forums. Discourse aims to radically improve the user experience and social interactions by allowing forum visitors and posters to focus on what’s most important – civility, participation and high quality discourse. Atwood is explicitly aiming to replicate the success of WordPress by creating a vibrant ecosystem of services and tools around open source forum software. Then there’s Huddler, which truly represents the next generation of forums with a compelling mix of expert editorial and community engagement.

In fact, we think forums will perform even stronger as a category as we route more traffic through the VigLink Exchange via broader product and merchant coverage. Since we launched our link optimizer technology (which allows merchants to bid for traffic on links to product mentions), EPCs for these exchange-priced clicks have roughly doubled.

As we continue to invest in the platform, we are connecting more merchants to more publishers more often. The total number of optimized and auctioned links is growing. Total revenue is rising for our forum owner customers, even though they already generate some of the most valuable clicks on the web. That’s great for forum giants like Internet Brands, ProBoards and Huddler as well as smaller but vibrant online communities like AskAndyAboutClothes. We can’t wait to see what the next quarter and next year brings for our friends in the forums.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Affiliate Managers: Close the Gap on Mobile EPCs

Last month Oliver Roup, founder and CEO of VigLink, spoke at Affiliate Management Days San Francisco on the topic of mobile affiliate marketing. The audience was primarily composed of affiliate managers at large networks, agencies, and brands and Oliver’s talk came as a bit of a wake up call.

He began by providing context around e-commerce and mobile shopping: mobile shopping is mainstream, but actually buying from a mobile phone lags big time.

  • Overall, online sales are cannibalizing in-store sales: E-commerce sales are up 30%, while in-store sales are down 3.3%
  • Of all these online shoppers, 57% of them use mobile sometimes, and full 1/3rd use mobile exclusively.
  • Surprisingly, a full 50% of time spent shopping is done on mobile
  • Even more surprisingly, just 16% of online sales come from phones and tablets.

For affiliates and publishers, the net result is that mobile clicks are worth less than desktop clicks. On average, for every dollar earned from a desktop click, only $0.53 is earned from a mobile click.

mobile epc vs desktop

To explain why this a discrepancy exists, Oliver pointed to three main reasons:

Small screens are challenging 
Mobile phones and tablets demand a different user experience to really drive sales. The most successful retailers get this. They build intuitive, clean, easy to use, and fast mobile web shopping experiences. Some do this so well that they actually drive more sales per click on mobile than desktop. It’s definitely possible.

Mobile is, well, mobile
Much of the time spent on a mobile device is done away from the confines of a desk. By its nature mobile is wherever the user is and often, these environments are distracting. Waiting in line, watching TV, riding the train – these are not ideal moments to go through the 24 screens required to complete a purchase.

Mobile has tracking issues
It’s a difficult (but not insurmountable) technology challenge to track all the mobile clicks that lead to purchase. Clicks on mobile that lead to purchase on the desktop are hard to track back to the referring website. Clicks on mobile that lead to purchase via a retailer’s mobile app are also hard to track back. But since when was anything worth doing ever easy?

If retailers want to compete for mindshare among the content producers that drive commerce, they need to close the gap on mobile earnings per click before their competitors do.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Facebook Bests Twitter in Traffic Quality

The latest findings from Publisher Roundtable show that Facebook ranks #1 when it comes to how satisfied publishers are with the quality of traffic. That’s the good news. The less good news is that only 40% of publishers are actually satisfied with their Facebook traffic. The next best was Pinterest with a discouraging 31% satisfaction rate.

social sat

The current Publisher Roundtable interview probes questions around how publishers build their audience. Over 250 publishers have already joined in. So far we’ve learned a lot about which channels drive repeat visitors (Social), which channels drive first time visitors (SEO), and which channels don’t help much at all (SEM).

To see more results, check out our press release. If you haven’t yet, join Publisher Roundtable and see where your numbers stack up compared to publishers of a similar size and type. It’s totally free and takes about 15 minutes.

 

The VigLink Q4 Content-Commerce Report

Littlewoods is the leading online performance marketing advertiser in terms of earnings-per-click (EPC) rates. The most lucrative categories for publishers are housewares, jewelry, and flowers. Clicks from mobile devices are worth 53 cents on the dollar compared to clicks from desktops. These are just some of the surprising findings of VigLink’s inaugural Content-Commerce Report.

Because we are tracking over 10 billion monthly page views across more than 300,000 sites and enable the automatic monetization of clicks to more than 35,000 participating merchants, VigLink has a unique position to observe, aggregate and analyze trends in the emerging Content-Driven Commerce marketplace.

So what, you ask, is Content-Driven Commerce? It’s a category with roots in affiliate or performance marketing but is rapidly expanding into something entirely new – a marketplace and exchange for content that drives shopper intent (traffic) and the merchants who want those shoppers (sales). Simply put, Content-Driven Commerce is the seamless, automatic monetization and insertion of links to e-tailers in native content. Content-Driven Commerce is the most native form of advertising, with zero interruption to the user experience. All the secret sauce sits on VigLink servers including advanced contextual logic that automatically finds and links mentions of products and brands to the highest bidding relevant merchant.

In June 2013, VigLink opened the first Exchange for Content-Driven Commerce, the last frontier in online advertising that did not have RTB capability. The VigLink Exchange (VLX) allows publishers to accept multiple bids for a click in near real time from different merchants and send the click to the highest relevant bid. These clicks are coming from publisher properties that are using VigLink Insert and Convert, two of our revenue optimization technologies that automate link insertion and monetization for publishers. Publishers that submitted existing links to the Exchange for optimization increased their EPCs between 200% and 300%, on average (this is one of the key findings of our report).

EPC of clicks priced through the VigLink Exchange

To document all the happenings in our network as well as the transformation of Content-Driven Commerce in general, we are now compiling metrics across a wide variety of categories and topics. This matters to merchants, publishers and anyone else who wants to better understand how content is shaping the world of online commerce. For example, our look at the Top 50 Advertisers in terms of EPC gives publishers a glimpse into which merchants are paying the most. Similarly, merchants can benchmark their own EPC offerings against those of peers and better understand whether they are paying enough to change publisher behavior and drive real traffic and conversion. We are also tracking the impact of mobile device usage on Content-Driven Commerce, looking at conversions and the ultimate payout from merchants for clicks coming off these devices (including smartphones and tablets). Mobile is the future of the Web, but it still lags desktop in terms of retail performance. We aim to track this over time and point out who’s making the most headway.

Our goal with this report is to provide the industry with more transparency, to help publishers create shoppable content that is as valuable as possible, and to focus merchants on the metrics and benchmarks that will help them win more sales from these publishers. Please look for this report to come out on a quarterly basis. As we ramp up, we’ll be adding new metrics and new findings. Also, as the VigLink Exchange grows and pulls in new publishers as well as more clicks, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of how a new, more liquid market is driving competition, performance, and profits. Please read the report and shoot us your feedback. It’s a work in progress and we look forward to your comments.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Community is War

Cross-posted from the new ForumCon blog. ForumCon is the only conference dedicated to the business of forums  and community management and will be held this year in San Francisco on June 19. Join us!

 

We were delighted to co-host SFCMGR last week and bring along two very special guest from the online community world, Lane Becker and Thor Muller, co-founders of Get Satisfaction. They brought down the house with their very honest and unique take on the business of communities, likening the experience not to the happy, smiley, fields of flowers often portrayed and rather to ideas of war and conflict. They shared their stories from their time in the community “trenches” including some of our most favorite nuggets of “wisdom”, which are all helpfully wrapped up in 140 character snippets – thanks to everyone who attended and tweeted:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my most favorite nugget from the night, that you must(!!) go and check out.

 

SFCMGR is heading to Pinterest next month. I will make sure the most interesting insights are shared out live via @ForumCon and on the Facebook page. Please check back here a few days after for the round up of all the evening’s best findings!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager