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Apple Debuts iOS 9 Public Preview for iPhones, iPads

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Apple wants you to get its hands on its latest mobile software sooner rather than later.

The iPhone and iPad maker on Thursday opened the download floodgates allowing the general public to test iOS 9 before its formal debut later this year.

Apple brings dozens of new features to iOS 9, its latest mobile software for iPhones and iPads.

iOS 9, which made its first appearance at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June, comes with a range of new features and technologies aimed at improving productivity

The software will be available from Apple’s public preview site. (Some users can access the site, while others may have to wait a bit longer. Be patient.)

It isn’t the first time the company has allowed its customers to download and run a major pre-release version before its formal release. The first public preview program was for iOS 8.3 earlier this year. The company said that its preview programs help “shape” its future products.

A word of warning: don’t install the software in your primary iPhone or iPad. Although the preview version is likely stable enough for your day-to-day, the final bugs won’t be ironed out for weeks and months down the line.

Apple is expected to release iOS 9 later this year alongside the new iPhone, likely at an event in August or September.

Microsoft Makes Office 2016 for Mac Available, First for Office 365 Users

Microsoft is starting to roll out the final version of Office 2016 for Mac,
beginning with those who have access to the new version via their Office 365 subscriptions.

The Gilmer Free Press

Effective July 09, 2015, Microsoft is making the new version of its Office suite for Mac generally available, first for Office 365 subscribers.

Office 2016 for Mac—which includes new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote—is available in 139 countries and 16 languages starting today. The new suite, the successor to Office 2011 for Mac, has been in public preview since March 2015.

Those with Office 365 subscriptions are able to get their hands on the product first.

Office 365 customers with a qualifying subscription—meaning Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal, Office 365 ProPlus and certain Office 365 business plans that include the right to download the Office apps locally—can install Office 2016 for Mac today from their 365 account pages. Students (and parents) who are covered by Office 365 Education plans also can get Office 2016 for Mac as part of their subscriptions.

In August, Microsoft will make Office 2016 for Mac available to volume licensing customers for download from the Volume Licensing Center.Office 365 and volume-licensing users will get Office 2016 for Mac for “free,“ as they’re paying for it as part of their subscription.

Some time in September, Office 2016 will be available to those who want to purchase a “one-time perpetual purchase” (non-subscription) from retailers, according to Microsoft. Microsoft officials are not yet releasing pricing for this version.

Microsoft is planning to make regular updates and new features for Office 2016 for Mac at least quarterly, officials said.

For those wondering about the next releases of Office—the full Office 2016 for Windows suite and the touch-first Office Universal apps for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile—both are on their way. The Office Universal apps will exit preview and be generally available for Windows 10 as of July 29, which is the day the operating system begins rolling out, Microsoft officials said today. The full Office 2016 suite for Windows is still on track to exit testing and be generally available this fall, officials confirmed.

“We Screwed Up,” Says Reddit CEO in Formal Apology

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Last Thursday, the firing of a well-respected reddit employee responsible for facilitating the site’s famous “Ask Me Anything” posts proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, as dozens of the site’s discussion areas were taken offline by moderators in protest. The first subreddit to go offline was the “Ask Me Anything” subreddit at /r/IAmA, primarily so that moderators could figure out what to do after the firing; it was joined over the course of the next twelve hours by more than 200 other subreddits. The protest wasn’t necessarily about Taylor’s firing but rather in response to what the unpaid army of volunteer moderators characterized as a long history of neglect and miscommunication by “the admins”—reddit management.

Though reddit CEO Ellen Pao posted several responses to the protest, they were quickly downvoted into invisibility by angry users. Shortly after noon central time today, Pao made a top-level post to the /r/announcements subreddit, which was quickly voted up to the front page. The post’s title: “We apologize.“

“We screwed up,“ the post begins bluntly. “Not just on July 2, but also over the past several years. We haven’t communicated well, and we have surprised moderators and the community with big changes. We have apologized and made promises to you, the moderators, and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven’t delivered on them. When you’ve had feedback or requests, we haven’t always been responsive. The mods and the community have lost trust in me and in us, the administrators of reddit.“

The discussion in the apology’s thread also addresses a key point of contention: who will handle AMAs going forward. In the first post to /r/IAmA when it was brought back online, the moderators flatly stated that they would not be working with reddit management. “...We will no longer be working with the admins to put together AMAs,“ reads the post. “Anyone seeking to schedule an AMA can simply message the moderators or e-mail us at , and we’d be happy to assist and help prepare them for the AMA in any way.“

A note appended to the post on July 5 said that reddit management would be working with the moderators—but only in a limited, “hands off” fashion.

reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian agreed with this a few steps below Pao’s post. “With our announcement on Friday, we’re phasing out our role being in-between interesting people and the reddit audience so that we can focus on helping remarkable people become redditors, not just stop by on a press tour… We’re still introducing and sourcing talent for AMAs, just now giving the moderators the autonomy to conduct them themselves.“ Separately from the main apology thread, Ohanian has also apologized multiple times for his flip comments last week as the crisis unfolded.

In addition to clarifying how AMAs will work, Pao also explained that reddit is tasking full-time employee Kristine Fasnacht (/u/krispykrackers) as “Moderator Advocate.“ Presumably, this role will provide a single point of contact for the unpaid volunteer moderator army to request assistance from site administration for things they cannot do on their own (which includes pulling metrics and analytics for their subreddits).

Apologies at this point are a good thing, but Pao’s comment about lost trust definitely isn’t baseless; a petition on Change.org for Pao’s removal as CEO has gathered more than 170,000 signatures (about 160,000 of which were added since Thursday evening).

Always Click The First Google Result? You Might Want To Stop Doing That

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When you go to Google for anything, be it a weather report or a phone number or an explanation of string theory, you assume that the top results will always be the very best. Those are, at least, the only ones you click: Studies suggest it’s a rare, rare Googler who bothers scrolling past search result number five.

But according to a highly critical new paper out from legal scholar Tim Wu, Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca and data scientists at Yelp, many of us are totally missing out on the information that’s most relevant, and critical, to our lives.

They claim, essentially, that Google manipulates local search results to favor Google products: meaning that, whenever you search a restaurant, doctor or local business, Google will show you results from its empire of sites … even if there are demonstrably better options out there.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Yelp vice president of public policy Luther Lowe uses this example: If a parent searches “pediatrician NYC,” he or she will, in a prominent first-page listing, see the names of seven pediatricians who happen to have Google+ or Google+ Local pages. The parent will not, however, see the names of Melissa Varma, Rebecca Farber or Julissa Baez — three New York pediatricians whom Google otherwise ranks highly and who have really killer patient ratings … but on the sites of Google’s competitors.

“The Google organic ranking algorithm does a great job at identifying helpful content on the Web,” Lowe said. “But it’s sadly not being deployed in the most common user behavior on Google: local search.”

According to Yelp, from one-third to one-half of all Google searches are local.

They primarily involve something called the “Local OneBox” — the special, extra-prominent list of seven links that Google displays at the top of local search results.

Local OneBox takes up a big chunk of first-page real estate, frequently at the very top of the page, which means people are disproportionately more likely to click into it than they are into regular links. Local OneBox also pulls exclusively from Google’s versions of specialized search sites, such as Google+ Local.

When data scientists from Yelp asked more than 2,500 people to review the OneBox results, however, they found that users overwhelmingly clicked pages from other review sites (i.e. TripAdvisor, ZocDoc, Yelp itself) over the ones from Google+ Local.

Moreover, Google’s own algorithmic system for rating and ranking the quality of Web pages — called, appropriately, PageRank — usually places Google+ Local results well below those from competitors, Yelp says.

“The fact that Google’s own algorithm would provide better results suggests that Google is making a strategic choice to display their own content, rather than choosing results that consumers would prefer,” the paper claims.

You can actually see this for yourself with a little bit of intermediate Googling. Try searching a term like “dermatologist” or “mechanic” or “pancake house” on Google, and check the results. Then open another tab and search the same thing, but put this parenthetical at the end: (site:zocdoc.com OR site:yelp.com OR site:healthgrades.com OR site:tripadvisor.com OR site:plus.google.com).

Essentially, the first search shows you Google’s standard results, with its own reviews given top billing; the second search shows you how Google’s algorithm actually ranks the quality and relevance of available reviews within that specific set of sites.
What people click on Google

The majority of Google searchers don’t look past the first five results. This chart illustrates click rates, by page position, according to the analytics firm Moz.

There is, as always, a lot of salt to be had with these findings: chief among them, the fact that Yelp is competing fiercely against Google for real estate in the local reviews space and has actually joined with other reviews sites to lobby E.U. antitrust officials investigating Google’s search practices. (The majority of the white paper is actually about regulatory issues, like monopoly and consumer harm — though that’s a little above our pay grade over here.)

On top of that, the Google search algorithm is complicated: It orders search results according to a wide and ever-changing array of signals, some or many of which this research may have failed to capture. Google has, predictably, called the research flawed.

“This isn’t new — Yelp’s been making these arguments to regulators, and demanding higher placement in search results, for the past five years,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “This latest study is based on a flawed methodology that focuses on results for just a handful of cherry-picked queries.”

Even if that’s the case, however — which Yelp, of course, disputes — it’s worth taking these types of corporate motivations into account when you conduct your next Google search. The majority of Internet users will click the first or second or third link that Google serves up, whatever it is; but when people are making decisions about their health or their money or even their next meal, that type of uncritical clicking could have consequences.

Our advice? Consider scrolling past that Local OneBox, or affixing some kind of parameters like the above parenthetical to your next important search. And remember that not even Google — or Yelp, or TripAdvisor, or ZocDoc, for the matter — is necessarily looking out 100% for you.

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