Archives for December 2017

WIRED'S 12 Most-Read Opinion Pieces in 2017

Privacy, Facebook, surveillance, net neutrality, gender issues, climate change, hacking: The list of opinion topics that most attracted attention from WIRED readers in 2017 doubles as a list of Things That Gave Us Angst This Year. Here are the dozen most-read Opinion pieces of 2017.

FCC Wants to Kill Net Neutrality. Congress Will Pay the Price

The Federal Communications Commission’s vote to kill net neutrality provisions drew derision from all corners of WIRED, including our opinion section, which ran several op-eds on the topic. In December Ryan Singel, a former WIRED editor who’s now a media and strategy fellow at the Center for Internet and Society, argued that ending the open internet will have profound effects on the re-election efforts of Congressional Republicans in 2018.

Why Men Don’t Believe the Data on Gender Bias in Science

In August, shortly after Google engineer James Damore posted a diatribe about gender differences on an internal company message board, UC San Diego physics professor Alison Coil explained why male scientists devalue research that identifies gender bias in the field. Academics should believe the research showing discrimination, but, Coil asserted, “What this extensive literature shows is, in fact, scientists are people, subject to the same cultural norms and beliefs as the rest of society.”

A Wet Year Won’t Beat California’s Never-Ending Drought

Last January, as California was saturated with rain and snow, the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick, a hydroclimatologist, explained why a wet year didn’t mean the golden state’s drought was over. Nearly a year later, as the state has been incinerated by historically terrible wildfires, it’s all too clear that Gleick was right.

Equifax Deserves the Corporate Death Penalty

What should government do when a company fails to protect the personal data of 143 million people? Give it the corporate version of the death penalty, argued Ron Fein, the legal director of Free Speech for People. Fein’s October essay explained that in Georgia—Equifax’s home state—authorities can file suit to dissolve a corporation if it has abused the authority conveyed upon it by the state.

How Social Media Endangers Knowledge

Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian media analyst, wrote that the rise of social media is reducing humans’ curiosity, as people strive for Likes rather than the pursuit of knowledge. Social media, Derakhshan argued, “engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing.”

Potential Trump Science Adviser Says Climate Change Is Great

In February Benjamin Sanderson, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, warned that a top candidate to be Donald Trump’s science advisor, William Happer, was a climate change enthusiast. Ultimately, Happer didn’t get the job, but the position is still vacant.

Hey, Computer Scientists! Stop Hating on the Humanities

Not every question can be answered with code, Emma Pierson, a physics PhD candidate at Stanford, wrote in April. When ethical questions arise in, say, artificial intelligence applications, sound knowledge of other fields—literature, sociology, or ethics, for example—will help uncover solutions that algorithms alone cannot.

A Blackjack Pro Explains How Ignoring the Odds Cost the Falcons the Super Bowl

February’s match-up between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons ended with a killer comeback for the Patriots. Jeff Ma, the leader of the MIT blackjack team that inspired the book Bringing Down the House, explained that the Falcons lost because the team didn’t follow basic probability rules commonly employed at a blackjack table.

Trump’s Taxes Have Probably Already Been Hacked

Given the tremendous amount of attention given to Donald Trump’s tax returns, it’s almost inconceivable that they haven’t already been hacked, wrote John Powers, who runs a New York-based investigative firm, in November.

Facebook’s Not Listening Through Your Phone. It Doesn’t Have To

In November Antonio García Martínez, who was the first ads targeting product manager on Facebook’s ads team, wrote that Facebook isn’t eavesdropping on its users through their smartphones’ microphones. That’s in part because the social network tracks users so many other ways, it doesn’t need to snoop.

Courts Are Using AI to Sentence Criminals. That Must Stop Now

Writer and technologist Jason Tashea explained how algorithms pervade our everyday lives, from our credit scores to the route Waze suggests we take to the airport. Tashea argued that applying algorithms in criminal cases, with no clear oversight or transparency, could result in overly punitive sentences.

A Murder Case Tests Alexa’s Devotion to Your Privacy

As WIRED editors have explained at length, devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home series listen to our conversations, eagerly awaiting a “wake” word to command them to turn on some Miriam Makeba or calculate how many tablespoons are in a cup (16). But, as civil attorney Gerald Sauer explained in a February piece, smart home devices’ microphones can also effectively collect evidence that can be used against their owners in court.

The Most-Read WIRED Science Stories of 2017

Back at the start of the summer, WIRED science writer Megan Molteni dropped a bomb: “The Tick That Gives People Meat Allergies Is Spreading.” The story went viral, (probably because we published the the words “meat allergies” during peak grilling season), but the piece was more than a clicky headline: Molteni dove deep into the molecular science behind what causes the adverse reaction.

That story is just one example of how the WIRED science team takes a simple concept—running a marathon, making memories, getting old—and explores the complicated science behind it in an approachable, engaging way.

And that’s why these 17 most-read WIRED science stories of 2017 will be great reads for years to come.

Meet the Young Billionaire Who’s Exposing the Truth About Bad Science

After making millions for Enron, launching his own hedge fund, and becoming a billionaire, John Arnold retired at 38. His next act? Fix terrible science.

—Sam Apple (January 22, 2017)

Humans Made the Banana Perfect–But Soon, It’ll Be Gone

The history of coffee gives us surprising insight into the future of the world’s most popular banana.

—Rob Dunn (March 14, 2017)

How a Single Gene Could Become a Volume Knob for Pain

Her skin is perpetually on fire. He can’t even feel a bone break. Together they might hold the key to ending America’s opioid epidemic.

—Erika Hayasaki (April 18, 2017)


A Rare Journey Into the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, a Super-Bunker That Can Survive Anything

Shielded by 2,500 feet of granite, people here gather and analyze data from a global surveillance system, in an attempt to (among other, undisclosed things) warn the government’s highest officials of launches and missile threats to North America.

—Sarah Scoles (May 3, 2017)

The Lone Star Tick That Gives People Meat Allergies May Be Spreading

Red meat, you might be surprised to know, isn’t totally sugar-free. It contains a few protein-linked saccharides, including one called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or alpha-gal, for short. More and more people are learning this the hard way.

—Megan Molteni (June 17,2017)

Why Phoenix’s Flights Can’t Take Off in Extreme Heat

Airplanes can’t fly because it’s too hot? That’s crazy, right? No, not if you understand the science behind it.

—Rhett Allain (June 20, 2017)

The Epic Untold Story of Nike’s Two Hour Marathon Attempt

Nike’s quest to break the two-hour marathon did not go as planned. But when you’re pushing the limits of human performance, nothing ever does.

—Ed Caesar (June 29, 2017)

Metformin pills.

Will Warasila for WIRED

Forget the Blood of Teens. Metformin Promises to Extend Life for a Nickel a Pill

Metformin is a slightly modified version of a compound that was discovered in a plant, Galega officinalis. The plant, also known as French lilac and goat’s rue, is hardly the stuff of cutting-edge science. Physicians have been prescribing it as an herbal remedy for centuries.

—Sam Apple (July 1, 2017)

A Math Genius Blooms Late and Conquers His Field

June Huh thought he had no talent for math until a chance meeting with a legendary mind. A decade later, his unorthodox approach to mathematical thinking has led to major breakthroughs.

—Kevin Hartnett (July 3, 2017)

Your Brain Doesn’t Contain Memories. It Is Memories

Your brain’s ability to collect, connect, and create mosaics from milliseconds-long impressions is the basis of every memory. By extension, it is the basis of you. This isn’t just metaphysical poetics. Every sensory experience triggers changes in the molecules of your neurons, reshaping the way they connect to one another.

—Nick Stockton (July 19, 2017)

James Damore’s Google Memo Gets Science All Wrong

The memo is a species of discourse peculiar to politically polarized times: cherry-picking scientific evidence to support a preexisting point of view. It’s an exercise not in rational argument but in rhetorical point scoring. And a careful walk through the science proves it.

—Megan Molteni and Adam Rogers (August 15, 2017)

Why Men Don’t Believe the Data on Gender Bias in Science

One study evaluated postdoctoral fellowship applications in the biomedical sciences and found that the women had to be 2.5 times more productive than the men in order to be rated equally scientifically competent by the senior scientists evaluating their applications.

—Alison Coil (August 25, 2017)

Hurricane Irma: A Practically Impossible Storm

All hurricanes have a theoretical maximum intensity, a thermodynamic limit on how fast their winds can blow. Few hurricanes ever actually reach that limit. But as Irma grew and developed, it came very, very close.

—Adam Rogers (September 7, 2017)

The Impossible Burger: Inside the Strange Science of the Fake Meat That ‘Bleeds’

Impossible Foods thinks the essence of a meat lies in a compound called heme, which gives ground beef its color and vaguely metallic taste—thanks to iron in the heme molecule. In blood, heme lives in a protein called hemoglobin; in muscle, it’s in myoglobin.

—Matt Simon (September 20, 2017)

Cait Oppermann

Are We Ready for Intimacy With Androids?

Hiroshi Ishi­guro builds androids. Beautiful, realistic, uncannily convincing human replicas. Academically, he is using them to understand the mechanics of person-to-person interaction. But his true quest is to untangle the ineffable nature of connection itself.

—Alex Mar (October 17, 2017)

Grad Students Are Freaking Out About the GOP Tax Plan. They Should Be

Removing the promise of a living wage would dramatically affect people’s ability to pursue a graduate degree.

—Robbie Gonzalez (November 8, 2017)

Watch the Boston Dynamics Atlas Robot Do a Backflip. Yes, a Backflip

To be clear: Humanoids aren’t supposed to be able to do this. It’s extremely difficult to make a bipedal robot that can move effectively, much less kick off a tumbling routine.

—Matt Simon (November 16, 2017)

Serial SWAT Hoaxer Arrested in Deadly Call of Duty-Linked Police Shooting

Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Finch was shot and killed by police in Wichita late Thursday, after a fraudulent emergency call drew police to his family’s residence with their weapons drawn. The hoax call — an instance of what’s known as “swatting” — was placed after an argument in the online game Call of Duty.

Wichita police received a 911 call on Thursday purporting to be from an armed man holding his own family hostage. When they arrived at the address, there was no hostage situation, but Finch was shot and killed after opening the door to the house and, according to police, reaching for his waistband several times. According to Finch’s family, he didn’t play video games. He was unarmed.

The swatting call was reportedly made after an online match in the wargame Call of Duty, with a bet of $1.50 on the line.

The alleged perpetrator, who responded to news about the swatting live on twitter, has been arrested in Los Angeles. Tyler Raj Barriss, 25, known online as “SWAuTistic,” has been previously arrested for making hoax calls to police, including two bomb threats in 2015. More recently, he may have been responsible for a bomb threat that disrupted the FCC’s vote to repeal net neutrality rules.

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Security researcher Brian Krebs, himself a former swatting victim, tracked down what appear to be tweets by the perpetrator of the attack. After the fatality was reported, the swatter tweeted: “I DIDNT GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDNT DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION.”

Krebs also managed to briefly interview the apparent perpetrator via Twitter before Barriss’ arrest. He told Krebs that he had been paid for previous swattings. While he said he felt remorse for the death, he was “too scared” to turn himself in to police.

According to an interview with a man claiming to be the perpetrator on the YouTube channel DramaAlert before the arrest, Barriss was not involved in the inciting online match. Instead, one of the involved players contacted him and asked him to make the fake call.

The phenomenon of swatting has been on the rise in recent years, particularly among online gamers and hackers. According to Krebs, many perpetrators are minors and receive token punishments for their false reports. In some jurisdictions, filing a false police report is a misdemeanor, making it less likely that a swatter could be charged with murder for a resulting death.

Police had not disclosed the charges against Barriss as of this morning.

5 Fun Team-Building Activities for Competitive Businesses

Company culture is critically important for employers and employees alike — yet the prospect of business-led team-building exercises can be a bit chilling for some. The longer one’s career, the better the chance that they’ve endured a particularly cheesy or mirthless afternoon of “mandatory fun” at some point along the way.

Taking a break from the daily routine can pay big dividends, whether it comes in the form of departmental offsites or company-wide activity days. To be clear, team-building exercises won’t magically fix a toxic workplace, or create a sense of culture from scratch. But when done correctly, they can work wonders in strengthening existing bonds, and encouraging serendipitous collaboration between people/teams that don’t typically work together. 

Assuming your team tends to be a competitive bunch, here are a few fun group activities to try.

To start, consider recruiting some volunteer referees and judges to make sure the competition stays fair, and that the teams understand the various rules. Divide the teams in a way that deliberately breaks up any departmental or personal cliques — it’s always fun to pit top executives against each other, of course — but also consider ensuring that very new employees have at least one familiar face on their teams.

The toy car race

A timed engineering challenge is a great way to test a team’s grace and creativity under pressure. There are lots of variants to this activity, but an easy one to pull off is to distribute a small amount of materials — e.g. rubber bands, straws, a paper towel tube — to each team and instruct them to build a ramp for a toy car.

The team that gets their car to go the furthest distance from the starting point is the big winner. 

Pro tip: make sure every team gets the exact same kind of car — or even have one official “judge’s car” that is used on every ramp, in the name of fairness.

The stock photo challenge

The organizers of the 2nd annual “Workpop Olympics” — a day-long competition / team-building activity — decided they were tired of sifting through cheesy stock photography and instead commissioned their colleagues to try creating unique imagery that corresponded to some key phrases in the hiring and HR technology world: candidate experience, mobile-friendly, AI, user adoption, workflow, and more.

Photos were judged on three criteria: whether they were creative, whether they’d pop out of a crowded social media feed, and whether they actually seemed connected to the assigned word. 

This unique exercise definitely produced unique results — and while not all of the photos will be in circulation on Shutterstock or Getty Images any time soon, the event produced a lot of laughs and some impressive outside-the-box thinking. 

The sales pitch

If a team had to take out an advertisement or make a commercial to sell their services, what would they say? This exercise encourages teammates to get to know one another outside of job descriptions, as hidden talents and crazy life experiences rise to the surface. It’s important that the pitches stay authentic; players won’t learn as much about their colleagues if their pitch is that they’re all experienced slayers of White Walkers. 

The maze (or minefield)

After flexing their muscle with feats of ingenuity, creativity and performance, it’s time for the teams to show how well they can focus and follow someone else’s lead.

Tape out a grid on the floor; depending on your space and your available time, you can adjust the size of the grid accordingly. Have the teams line up in single-file on one side of the grid, and then proceed to attempt to walk through the grid, one square at a time. The catch: the grid is strewn with invisible bombs, seen only by the judges. If a bomb is activated, the player goes to the back of the line. No coaching is allowed; each player must make it through on the strength of memory. 

Pro tip: while it can be fun to time this exercise, and thus add some pressure, this may result in teams just quickly rushing through the course, heedless of making mistakes. If they’re instead scored on how many bombs they trigger as a team, they’ll approach the game more carefully. 

Lip sync for glory

Lip sync battles have perhaps jumped the shark a bit, but it’s hard to argue against the comedic value of seeing coworkers leave their hearts on their stage after a passionate albeit silent rendition of a song close to their hearts. Of course, devious event organizers may allow rival teams to assign songs to one another, upping the difficultly. Make sure someone has a camera ready.

The Most Important SEO Strategies to Use in 2018 to Boost Your Business

Today, your website is your storefront. Even if you have a brick and mortar business, many people will find you online or check you out online because getting in their car. Sure, it’s nice to have a great website with content that makes you stand out, but that doesn’t mean anything if you’re not being found online. That’s where the real challenge is.

How do you ensure your ideal customer or client is find you? By making sure your website is optimized so search engines will push you to the front of the line, or search results. You need to pay attention to your SEO.

Focus on attracting long clicks

A long click means when people navigate to your page, they spend time digesting the content — reading the copy, clicking through to other internal pages, etc. instead of bouncing off the website.

According to Jeffrey Bumbales, Founder of JB Digital Solution, long clicks are future-proof. When people navigate to your page and stay, it means a few things:

  • The content is relevant to their search query

  • The content is valuable and so is the user experience

  • The content is current and up-to-date

 “Search engines use bounce rate, time on page, and hundreds of other metrics to assess value and relevance,” Bumbales said. “If you were previously attracting long clicks and notice that they are dwindling, it likely means someone else has released some content that is more thorough or more up-to-date.” 

Speed up your website

Business owners should make sure their website is mobile friendly and loads under three seconds on a mobile device.

“Google stated recently that 56 percent of sessions are abandoned if the website takes longer than three seconds to load, said Amine Rahal, founder and CEO of IronMonk Solutions, a Google Partners agency. 

Have good PR

Public relations is vital to SEO. When you are featured on an influential website with a high domain authority and your website is linked, it increases your domain authority by sending a message to the search engines that your website is important.

PR doesn’t only help your SEO. It provides benefits in other areas as well. For example, all the backlinks I’ve earned myself in popular media outlets helped get my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages verified.

Make sure Google My Business is current

Businesses need to ensure they have up to date Google My Business listings.

“This means updated photos, responding to reviews, updating your hours for holidays, including a 360-degree virtual tour, and accurate phone, address, and name across their listing and site,” said Joe Sloan, a marketing and communications coordinator. “They need to do this because this is by far the most typical first impression of your business.”

This will help you rank higher in local searches and your website rank higher if your information is consistent on your site and your listing.

Pay attention to your metadata

Dani Benson, SEO Specialist at Talent Inc., suggests fixing duplicate metadata or creating it if there isn’t any. A study by Search Engine Journal found that 63 percent of website owners completely abandon any efforts to create a meta description and almost 54 percent of websites have duplicates.

“Duplicate content, even metadata, will prohibit the page from being indexed – meaning, it will lose the opportunity to rank for keywords and, therefore, not show up in organic search results. If the metadata is missing, it will result in a missed opportunity to describe this page is to the customer and explain why it answers their problem,” Benson said. “If you don’t write it yourself, the search engine will write it for you. Don’t you think you can market your product better than a computer?”

The more information you provide the search engine — and the customer — the more likely they are to trust you over your competitor. 

While Google’s algorithm is constantly changing, these tactics aren’t going to change anytime soon and will increase your chance of being found online.

JD.Com: Is The Current Stock Price Justified?


Since my article last month about why it was time to sell Square (NASDAQ:SQ) attracted quite a few heated responses, I would like to preface this article with the following note: unless otherwise indicated, my recommendations are not intended to predict day-to-day actions. My approach to investing has always been long-term value/growth. I try to compare the market value of a company with my own assessment and make my investment decisions that way. So as always, please use your own discretion when trading.

That being said, I’d like to share with you the reasons why is my current top holding, and then address some of the most common concerns investors may have.

Reason #1: Sound Management

Source: Twitter

JD’s founder and CEO, Richard Liu, reminds me a lot of Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. He is determined, bold, and persistent. His company, named after his own name (D stands for Dong, which is part of Liu’s first name), is entrenched in his personal vision and belief. Many already know and have compared JD with Amazon, due to JD’s similar operational strategies such as having its own logistics department and its automated warehouses. However, I think the most striking similarity lies within the two founders. Like Bezos, Liu focuses heavily on the future of the company, as opposed to near-term profits. He reiterated this point in his latest earning’s call:

over the long-term, our commitment is to improve our profitability on an annual basis. And with that in mind, we do not manage earnings on a quarterly basis, and if any certain quarter has outsized profitability, we may decide to reinvest part of that excess return back into the business to pursue further growth. So that strategy has not changed. […] so if you look at it over the long-term, any excess return beyond our expectations will be reinvested roughly 30% to 40% of those excess returns back into the business and half of that will be in technologies.

– Richard Liu, 2017 Q3 earnings call

Under Liu’s leadership, JD has become one of the most ethical and trusted companies in China. It is known for never selling counterfeit products, and its deliveries are fast and reliable. Most recently, JD announced a Blockchain Food Safety Alliance with Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University, in an effort to bring safer food supply to China, a huge need for the Chinese.

Reason #2: Robust Growth

JD’s upside comes from its tremendous growth potential.

There are currently only 4 large-cap companies in the current market that are top 20% in all of the following categories:

3-5 Yrs Foward EPS

Rev Growth (TTM vs Prior TTM)

Rev Growth (past 5 Yrs)

Book Value Growth (past 5 Yrs)

Source: Fidelity (account required)

As one can see, JD is part of an elite group of growth companies. While past performances are not always indications of future, it does show what JD has been capable of doing. In addition, the ever-growing Chinese E-commerce market will certainly help JD’s case. The Chinese online retail market share is expected to continue its vigorous rise.

Source: Statista

Reason #3: Cheap Valuation

For a company with such positive outlook, the current valuation is cheap in my opinion. JD’s next year’s P/E is estimated to be 47.9, which is neither cheap nor expensive for an emerging growth company. However, the Price/Sale Ratio, one that more accurately reflects the value of a company that doesn’t focus on earnings, is only at 1.25, which is ridiculously low. In comparison, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and BABA (NASDAQ:BABA)’s P/S ratios are at 3.47 and 15.34, respectively. Should JD continue its growth and improve its margin (more on this below) as expected, I expect P/S to match up more closely to its peers. Additionally, JD’s price/book ratio is also the lowest of the three.

Source: Fidelity (account required)

Reason #4: Strong and constant partnerships

As many already know, China’s tech giant Tencent currently owns 21.25% stake in JD, one that surpasses its CEO, who owns only 16.2% (Liu still owns 80% of the voting power). As a result, JD gets access to the huge Wechat user base. On Oct 20 this year, JD and Tencent launched JD-Tencent Retail Marketing Solution, which provides a better understanding of Chinese consumers for both JD and Tencent. I expect the effect of the project to start surfacing in 2018.

JD’s ambition doesn’t stop with Tencent. I’m not going to list all of their partnerships, but just know that in December alone, they’ve announced the aforementioned Blockchain Food Safety alliance with Walmart and IBM, introduced New York fashion label Derek Lam’s debut, sponsored the Shenzhen Marathon, announced that they will open hundreds of unmanned stores, partnered with the accelerator firm Plug and Play, pitched to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau about delivering seafood with drones, and invested in Vipshop with along with Tencent (more on this below.) In short, This is one busy company with endless possibilities.

Reason #5: Good financial health

With a 1.1 Current Ratio (Compared to BABA’s 1.7 and AMZN’s 1.0), JD is capable of paying down its debts. it currently has an investment-grade of Baa3 rating from Moody’s, and a BBB from S&P. Both firms also revised the outlook for JD from “Stable” to “Positive” as well.

Concern #1: Profitability and Profit Margin

Income Statement, standardized by S&Q Capital IQ.

Source: Fidelity (account required)

Unlike Amazon in its early days, JD actually posted their first profit in May this year, proving to the world that they are able to profit while growing their business. Nonetheless, One legitimate concern that many investors have is the thin profit margin. Its net profit margin for the most recent quarter is merely 1.23%. A company can have huge revenue, but without a healthy profit margin, it won’t be attractive to investors. To that concern, Liu emphatically made a promise to the investors in the latest earnings call:

I can promise you that net margin would increase every year. […] If you look at our promises in the past 10-plus years, all of our promises would always realize in the end.

– Richard Liu, 2017 Q3 earnings call

Whether you believe him is up to you. But CEOs, especially one like Liu, generally do not make promises in such absolute terms unless he believes that it will 100% come true. Falling short on such a promise would be extremely discouraging to investors and hurts their confidence in the company. JD’s gross margin seems to support Liu’s promise as well, as it has been on a steady increase every year.

(Data extracted from Morningstar)

For what it’s worth, JD is actually doing better than Amazon’s early days, as Amazon had consistently operated at a loss.


Also, a big part of JD’s operating expenses comes from the traffic acquisition cost (the fees JD pays to partner websites to run its ads or services). That is something I believe can be reduced in the future.

Concern #2: Competition

Despite having two completely different business models, Alibaba is still considered to be JD’s #1 competitor, which has some people worried about the potential risks of BABA dominating market shares. However, a Stifel analyst, who recently resumed coverage of JD with a “buy” rating, noted that there is room for both companies in China’s huge e-commerce market.

One weakness JD had was its apparel business, as they were “only one-third to one-fifth of their major competitors”, according to Liu on their Q3 earnings call. However, that changed when they partnered with one of the largest online retailer in China, Vipshop on Dec 18.(NYSE:VIPS) Vipshop’s main strength is its apparel business, which compliments JD where it lacked the most. I think this move makes a lot of sense for JD, who needed to attract more female customers.

Other Concerns?

As JD is my favorite stock right now, I can be biased when trying to build a bear case. So please let me know in the comment if you have any other concerns regarding the stock, and I will try to address them. Please note that broader market concerns such as North Korea – US relationship, US dollar vs Chinese Yuan strength, etc, while certainly worth considering, generally do not fall into my consideration, as I try not to speculate on macroeconomics and limit my research to company-specifics.


Given its combination of growth, value, and health, JD is a rare opportunity in today’s market, especially for those who missed the boat on Amazon in the early 2000s. The growth path is clear, the upside is huge while the downside is extremely limited. I rate JD as a strong buy, with a price target of $70 (using 2.0 forward P/S, $100 billion Market Cap.)

Disclosure: I am/we are long JD, FB.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

5 Steps Top CEOs Follow To Create Dynamic CES Presentations

While most employees are enjoying a holiday break, some conference rooms are buzzing with presentation designers, marketing professionals and executives who are preparing to take the stage at the giant International Consumer Electronics Show, CES 2018 in Las Vegas. As a communication advisor who has spent plenty of weekends in those conference rooms, I’ll reveal exactly how CEOs of the world’s largest tech companies are preparing to make a splash at the mammoth conference.

If you’re an entrepreneur, leader or business professional who wants to wow an audience, these five steps will help you prepare a winning presentation.

1. Start by story boarding.

Just as award-winning film directors don’t start the process by picking up a camera, dynamic presentations aren’t created by first opening PowerPoint. Great speakers storyboard–drawing, sketching or white boarding their ideas.

Before you design slides, consider the personal stories that you want to tell. For example, check out this keynote from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank at CES 2017. “Every great brand is like a great story,” he began. Plank kicked off the presentation with his personal story. He talked about his passion for athletics as a college football player. He vividly remembers practicing in the summer at the University of Maryland when he came up with the idea of making an alternative to the “sweat-soaked, drenched, cotton t-shirt.”

Slides complement the story, but the story comes first.

2. Design visually-appealing slides.

When Plank was telling his story, he didn’t use bullet points. He showed family photographs. Great presenters don’t use bullet points. It’s a well-established rule in the neuroscience literature that pictures are more easily recalled than text on a slide. Researchers have found that if your audience hears your idea, they will recall about 10 percent of the content. If they hear the information and see a picture, it’s likely they will retain 65 percent of the content. Tell stories and show pictures.

3. Build in wow moments.

Audiences won’t don’t remember the font choice on slide 14 or the chart on slide 28. They do remember wow moments, the one experience they’ll talking about long after the presentation is over. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich builds in wow moments in each of his CES keynotes. In Intel’s 2016 CES keynote when it introduced consumer drones, part of the stage was set up to look like a forest. It had a replica of an outdoor bicycle trail with fake trees. As a cyclist navigated the trail, a drone followed the rider and recorded the journey. Krzanich described it as “The first truly intelligent consumer drone” powered by Intel Real Sense technology. Watch for wow moments in Intel’s keynote at CES 2018.

4. Work the stage.

All too often, business speakers forget that audiences experience a presentation through words, body language and vocal inflections. It’s important to rehearse what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. A powerful presence includes: eye contact, hand gestures, and open posture. Having an “open posture simply means that you own the stage. Keep your arms wide open. Don’t cross your arms in front of your body or keep your hands in your pocket. Set your arms free. Walk the stage. People with open posture–or what researchers call “postural expansiveness” appear more confident.

5. Practice…a lot.

Great speakers make their presentations look effortless because they put a lot of effort in getting right. I always recommend using a video recording to capture your rehearsals. Watch the recording and others for feedback. Ask yourself the following questions: Are you making eye contact with different sections of the audience? Are your gestures open and confident? Are you reading from slides? If so, you need to put in more hours to internalize your key ideas.

Busy leaders don’t like the fifth step, but there is a very real difference between presenters who haven’t put in the time and those who have rehearsed the entire presentation over and over. The latter are less nervous, more confident and, as a result, more dynamic.

CES is a big stage for the biggest tech companies in the world. Your stage might be smaller, but no less meaningful for your career and your company. Put in the steps to make it great.

How the Secondhand Clothing Industry Is Getting a Major Makeover (and Tapping $220 Billion of Retail Value)

If you were to want some nice, secondhand clothes and accessories even a decade ago, your best bet would have been to go to a thrift store and simply try your luck with what you could see on the racks. Not so in today’s age of big data, mobile and artificial intelligence. Like many other industries, thrift is getting reborn thanks to technology, with companies like thredUP leading the charge to make thrift digital.

How tech is rewriting the thrift story

Customers have been able to buy a host of used items from sites like eBay and Craigslist for years, and you now have the option of working through social media, too, such as with Facebook Marketplace. But as thredUP’s CEO and co-founder, James Reinhart, explains, thredUP has been able to use technology to establish a clothing-based platform and distribution system that’s hard to differentiate from a buy-it-new experience.

“ThredUp leverages technology to do all the work that traditionally made secondhand unappealing to customers. We step in as the middleman between buyers and sellers to vet, price, photograph and sell every single item–and do this at a massive scale of up to 100,000 items per day. […] Every item is hand inspected, and only the quality garments make it online.”

To shop thredUP, you simply browse and search for items on the company’s site, just like you would at Amazon or the sites for other major retailers or brands. Personalization algorithms even make recommendations for you based on data purchase history. You pay with payout credit or your credit card, like you’re also used to, and then your order gets packaged and shipped to you, hassle free. What’s more, there’s always something new. Around 1,000 items get added to the site every hour, and the company accepts over 35,000 brands, including evergreens and luxuries like J. Crew, Lululemon, Kate Spade and Michael Kors.

And like Amazon, thredUP is finding a balance between online and brick-and-mortar for a more omnichannel experience. They’ve opened three Smart Thrift Stores this year alone. You can scan each item in the stores to find up to thousands of similar SKUs.

Donating is as easy as buying

“In the past, people had to lug bags of clothes to their local thrift store, where it would be subjectively evaluated. Now, it’s as easy as ordering a thredUP Clean Out Kit, and sending it in via prepaid shipping label.

“ThredUP’s proprietary automation processes, photographs, and lists items online more quickly than a human ever could. Our machine-learning algorithms know what to buy and for how much, based on seasonal trends and historical data, and we use these millions of data points to set prices up to 90% off retail.”

A diverse and varied customer base

Reinhart asserts that millennials are among the company’s biggest buyers and donators. This makes a lot of sense–not only are millennials tech-savvy and comfortable working online, but they’re also keen on eco-friendly ways of living. Additionally, despite stereotypes, they’re quite concerned with making their money go further, as they face a tougher job market and higher debt.

But people over age 65 are big customers, too. These individuals likely appreciate that thredUP offers a relatively inexpensive way to maintain a good wardrobe even as income slims during retirement. They also often clear out closets and downsize as they start to enjoy their golden years.

And guess what. Even millionaires use thredUP. In fact, Reinhart asserts that up to 10 percent of the company’s most active customers fit this socioeconomic bracket. But this isn’t all that hard to explain, either–successful individuals don’t get that way through waste. And as more and more CEOs and entrepreneurs lead businesses based on a sharing economy, the concept of secondhand is hardly a turnoff.

Achieving into the future

ThredUP’s approach has caught the eye of major backers, including the likes of Golman Sachs, Highland Capital and Trinity Ventures. The company also has hit some impressive milestones:

  • 1,000 employees across San Francisco headquarters
  • 4 distribution centers
  • New York City press office
  • Expanding shipping to 44 countries
  • On track to sell 10 million items in 2017

And like any good company, thredUP continues to evolve. Reinhart notes that each consumer tosses between 60 and 70 pounds of clothes every single year, and that there’s about $220 billion of retail value sitting in consumer’s closets, 70 percent of which is unworn. To keep combatting this waste, the business recently launched Goody Boxes, which lets customers try around 15 clothing items before they buy. This initiative likely will help customers see even less risk in using the site.

Shoppers still patronize more traditional competitors like Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army in big numbers. Those businesses get significant support not only for their thrift focus, but also for their community work. But thanks to companies like thredUP that effectively use technology to cater to multiple audiences, thrift is enjoying a massive rejuvenation. To quantify, thrift is projected to be a $33 billion industry by 2021 and is growing 20 times faster than retail.

The biggest lesson? You don’t necessarily have to work with something new to innovate. Sometimes, the biggest innovation is putting a modern spin on handling what you’ve already got.

Science Says Fitness Trackers Don't Work. Wear One Anyway

Personal technology is getting a bad rap these days. It keeps getting more addictive: Notifications keep us glued to our phones. Autoplaying episodes lure us into Netflix binges. Social awareness cues—like the “seen-by” list on Instagram Stories—enslave us to obsessive, ouroboric usage patterns. (Blink twice if you’ve ever closed Instagram, only to re-open it reflexively.) Our devices, apps, and platforms, experts increasingly warn, have been engineered to capture our attention and ingrain habits that are (it seems self evident) less than healthy.

Unless, that is, you’re talking about fitness trackers. For years, the problem with Fitbits, Garmins, Apple Watches, and their ilk has been that they aren’t addictive enough. About one third of people who buy fitness trackers stop using them within six months, and more than half eventually abandon them altogether.

As for that guy at work whose Fitbit appears to be bionically integrated with his wrist, it’s unclear whether wearing the thing actually makes him more fit. Most studies on the effectiveness of fitness trackers have produced weak or inconclusive findings (blame short investigation windows and small, homogenous sample sizes). In fact, two of the most well-designed studies to date have turned up less than stellar results.

The first, a randomized controlled trial involving 800 test subjects, was conducted between June, 2013 and August, 2014. The results, which were published lastyear in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, found that, after one year of use, a clip-on activity tracker had no effect on test subjects’ overall health and fitness—even when it was combined with a financial incentive. (In a perverse twist, volunteers whose incentives were removed six months into the study fared worse, in the long run, than those who were never offered them at all.) The second, an RCT out of the University of Pittsburgh conducted between October 2010 and October 2012, examined whether combining a weight loss program with a fitness tracker, worn on the upper arm, could help test subjects lose more weight or improve their overall health. The results, published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that subjects without fitness trackers lost more weight than their gadget-wearing counterparts—a difference of about eight pounds. And while it’s true that weight is not a great proxy for health, the findings also showed that the test subjects with fitness trackers were no more active or fit than those without.

All of which is, frankly, pretty embarrassing for companies that manufacture fitness devices—not to mention disquieting for the people who wear them.

And yet, none of this means you should ditch your fancy new fitness tracker. Have companies like Fitbit and Garmin been slow to incorporate sticky features into their products? Yes. Unequivocally. By 2013—the year Apple brought attention-enslaving push notifications to its phones’ lock screens, and around the time the Lancet study was getting off the ground—fitness trackers and their accompanying apps had only just begun to leverage theories from psychology and behavioral economics. But today’s products are different.

The fact is, most existing studies on fitness trackers—including the two I cited above—hinge on devices that are several years old. (Think glorified pedometers that don’t connect seamlessly with the supercomputer in your pocket.) And while peer-reviewed research on the latest wave of workout gadgets is still sparse, signs suggest newer wearables are finally becoming more addictive.

For starters, wearable fitness trackers themselves have turned into wildly capable machines. It’s no longer enough to measure steps and active minutes; features like sleep-tracking and 24/7 heart rate monitoring have also become table stakes. So, too, have the beefy batteries necessary to make features like continuous heart-rate detection worth a damn. Fitbit’s newest “motivating timepiece,” the Ionic, can go four days between charges. The Fenix 5, Garmin’s flagship fitness watch, can last up to two weeks.

“If it’s comfortable, it’s waterproof, the display’s always readable, and it’s got a long battery life, there’s less excuse for people to take it off,” says Phil McClendon, Garmin’s lead product manager. For technology companies, few metrics matter more than engagement. Application developers call it time in app. Online publishers (like WIRED!) call it time on site. Wearable manufacturers are all about that time on wrist.

The software’s gotten better, too, along with user experience. Collecting information is one thing. Presenting it in a way people find comprehensible, motivating, and actionable is another. Consider something as simple as a reminder to move—another feature ubiquitous among newer fitness watches. Buzzing people once an hour, regardless of their current activity, is annoying (if my device tells me to get up and move while I’m on a hike, it’s going off a cliff). Instead, most wearables now tell you to move only if you’ve been sedentary for more than a predetermined period of time. And according to Fitbit, at least, those reminders work. “People who would get six reminders to move a day, on average, after a few months, they get about 40 percent fewer reminders to move,” says Shelton Yuen, Fitbit’s vice president of research. “That’s a very detailed example, but I feel like it’s such an important one, because it means the user’s innate behavior is changing.”

Of course, Fitbit would say that. But outside experts agree that fitness tech is improving. “There are two things, specifically, that apps and devices are actually getting better at,” says University of Pennsylvania researcher Mitesh Patel, who studies whether and how wearable devices can facilitate improvements in health. The first is leveraging social networks to stoke competition or foster support. Researchers led by Penn State psychologist Liza Rovniak recently showed support networks to be highly effective at increasing physical activity in unmotivated adults, but Patel suspects the leaderboard format, a popular way of promoting competition by ranking users, fails to inspire anyone but those people at the top of the charts (who probably need the least encouragement anyway).

The second is goal setting. “We know that people need to strive for an achievable goal in order to change their behavior,” Patel says, the operative word there being “achievable.” The problem with early fitness trackers was that they all used the same goal (step count) and they all set the bar way too high (10,000 steps). But the average American takes just 5,000 steps a day. Asking her to double that figure isn’t just unrealistic—it can actually be discouraging.

But today’s fitness wearables tailor their feedback to users’ individual habits. Rather than tell you to take 10,000 steps, Garmin’s Insights feature will nudge you if it senses you’re moving less than you usually do on a given day of the week. Fitbit now allows users to set and track personalized goals related to things like weight and cardiovascular fitness.

These are just some of the ways wearable manufacturers have begun borrowing theories from psychology and behavioral economics to motivate users in recent years—and there will be more to come. “They’re constantly adding features,” says Brandeis University psychologist Alycia Sullivan, a researcher at the Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions and coauthor of a recent review of fitness tracker motivation strategies. Now that these devices are small, powerful, and packed with sensors, she says, expect most of those features to show up on the software side of things. “That’s where these companies are most able to leverage the data they’re accumulating toward interactive, personalized information you’ll actually use.”

It may have taken them a while to catch up with the Facebooks and Netflixes of the world, but our fitness devices are finally poised to hijack our brains—and bodies—for good.

Space Photos of the Week: When Billions of Worlds Collide

This is what it looks like when two galaxies collide. Those colorful bands of debris are gases being flung out into space as a result of this violent cosmic dance. Galaxy NGC 5256 contains both merging galaxies. Each contains its own galactic nucleus and in between the two is a supermassive black hole that’s quickly sucking up material from the impact.

This bright red star is called π1 Gruis and its bluish partner to the left is π2 Gruis. The European Southern Observatory’s Digitized Sky Survey snapped this photo of the space surrounding these stars. To the right, in bright blue, you can see the spiral galaxy IC 5201.

This photo might look a little more familiar—that’s Earth! Little Rock, Memphis, Jackson, New Orleans, Birmingham, and Miami to be exact. This illuminating photo was taken from the International Space Station by current crewmember Mark Vande Hei.

This glowing purple and blue image of a galaxy cluster called Perseus might help scientists solve one of the biggest mysteries in science: dark matter. To understand dark matter, scientists are trying to interpret new x-ray data from the cluster, one the largest objects in the known universe. The sudden jolts of intensity they’re observing might provide answers..

Hubble does it again! This photo is of galaxy cluster Abell 2163. One of the largest galaxy clusters on record, containing around 4,000 galaxies, Abell 2163 is also the hottest ever found. Scientists are studying the material jutting out from inside the cluster to better understand dark matter and phenomena like gravitational lensing.

A peep at our home galaxy is always heartwarming. In this dazzling image, the Milky Way arches over the Very Large Telescope. See those two bright smudges at the bottom? Those are the Large and Small Magallenic Clouds.