Friday Five: 10/17 – 10/21


TGIF! Check out some of the latest tech stories before heading out for the weekend:

XYZPrinting’s CEO still believes in 3D-printing ubiquity – TechCrunch

Despite a stall in 3D-printing buzz, XYZPrinting CEO Simon Shen still believes the future is full of 3D printers. The Taiwanese company aims to make the 3D printer an everyday tool from the home to the office. According to Shen, the next step to evolve the 3D-printing industry is making it more accessible and affordable. The company is trying to execute based on that goal by expanding into multiple industries. After getting involved in education, XYZPrinting plans to make moves into more professional and manufacturing spaces.

Slack surpasses 4 million daily active users – ZDNet

This October, Slack reached more than 4 million daily active users. The workplace app proved to be a major force among collaboration tools with more than 1.25 million paying users and over 33,000 paying teams. Third-party integration with other apps is cited as one of the keys for Slack’s success by allowing personalization over other collaboration options. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Workplace and Microsoft’s Skype Teams are just around the corner to try and steal the spotlight from Slack.

Gartner: By 2020, you’ll say more to a machine than to your spouse – CIO

Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo delivered some interesting predictions in regards to virtual reality technology, the downfall of the mobile app and the rise of blockchains. Gartner expects the future of both online and in-store shopping to engage customers through Augmented Reality (AR), making retail both interactive and futuristic. The research firm also predicted that 2019 would be the year that brands abandon apps in an over-saturated marketplace that makes it far too difficult to find the apps that are actually useful. Lastly, Gartner is predicting blockchains will be a multibillion dollar industry that will lead to larger and more transparent transactions.

Why Google A.I. is the last user interface – Computerworld 

With the rise trend of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and the push to optimize the technology, some are speculating that A.I. is the new user interface. Through conversing with the computers, not only does it simplify the interface, but it also makes it more adaptive. Google Assistant promises to be an effective AI virtual assistant through the company’s various tools. Gmail, Searches, Contacts, Calendar and even YouTube can all be leveraged to get to know the user better and prompt more specific commands.

Apple Deepens Enterprise Push With Deloitte Partnership – Fortune

In a move that aims to drive up enterprise sales, Apple partnered up with Deloitte. With declines to the sales of iPhones and iPads, the company is getting serious about a role in corporate technology. Though Apple has been accused of neglecting the enterprise space, this partnership along with Apple’s previous enterprise partnerships, seeks to develop and position iOS as an enterprise tool.

What did you read in tech news this week? Tweet us @WalkerSands!

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Walker Sands Prioritizes Culture, Transparency with First-Annual Retreat

When we asked our employees a year ago what they would do with $25,000 to better Walker Sands, we didn’t know what kind of answers to expect.  Our employees presented proposals for everything from personal technology to season tickets for Chicago sports and broadway shows. But one really stuck out – an all company retreat.  What began as an idea turned into a reality this October as we hosted our first ever Walker Sands company-wide retreat at the iO Improv theater in Chicago.  Curious about what this day entailed?  Keep on reading to find out!

Our day began as most do…with a rock paper scissors competition.  Normal Friday, right?  After a hard-fought battle, our digital account executive Michael Noga earned his bragging rights as the Walker Sands Rock Paper Scissors champion. This is when our adventure truly began.

Retreat 4Broken up into random small groups, we embarked on a morning of improv sessions that not only pushed us out outside of our comfort zones, but opened our eyes to the importance of communication styles and teamwork.  We learned improv skills such as playing the long game, putting the team first and the ever popular “Yes, and..” to run through a variety of exercises.  From having to make up a story on the fly – one word at a time, to creating inanimate objects with our bodies sans verbal communication, our creative and problem solving skills were put to the test.  While I’m not sure that we have any future Tina Fey’s or Steve Carell’s Retreat 1among us (although John Everette might beg to differ), the iO team did a great job of showing us how the skills you learn in improv can help us all be better Walker Sands employees and work more cohesively as a team.

Now that the creative juices were flowing, we shifted our focus to employee perspectives and the future of Walker Sands.  Inspired by Pixar’s Notes Day (which you can read more about in Creativity Inc.), employees broke into groups to discuss some of our agency’s most pressing issues.  How can we more efficiently use technology?  How do we continue to diversify our workforce?  What process should we implement to make cross-team collaboration more streamlined and effective?  What if robots take over all of our jobs?  (Ok, that last one wasn’t a real topic of conversation, but you never know what the future holds…)

Retreat 3We really wanted to make this as interactive and empowering as possible, so we worked with our employees ahead of time to figure out what issues they wanted to discuss and assigned our breakouts accordingly.  The end result – over 50 proposals that we as an agency are assessing and hoping to implement over the next year!  It was amazing to see people from all different departments come together and discuss topics they are passionate about and work as a team to ensure the success of Walker Sands.

After a day of collaboration and creativity, we came together to enjoy a hilarious improv performance put on by the iO team.

Not only did this retreat help to refuel and invigorate our employees, it also allowed us to work with people we might not get to on a daily basis.  As we continue to grow and expand, we strive to maintain our tight-knit culture.  This retreat really allowed us to interact with one another in a very real and inspiring way.  I don’t know about the rest of the office, but I’m already counting down the days until next year’s retreat!

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Friday Five: 10/10 – 10/14


TGIF! Here’s a look at the top tech news from this week:

The rise and fall of the Galaxy Note 7 – TechCrunch

It has been a rough week for Samsung. Their flagship product, the Galaxy Note 7, is no longer being produced or sold. Released in August, it was not long before reports started surfacing of the phones sizzling and in some cases catching on fire. One of the largest phone manufacturers in the world is now in full brand-repair mode. It’s even likely that the “Note” brand name will be dropped. Major financial losses aside, the question is now whether Samsung will ever be able to recover.

No one wants to buy Twitter – The Verge

The major news media has been all over talks of a possible sale of Twitter. The publicly-traded company saw its stock surge and then fall as the news went from good to bad. Their most promising suitor was Salesforce, until their CEO announced Friday they were no longer interested. Twitter’s discussions with other possible buyers, rumored to be Google and Disney, amongst others, were entirely uneventful. The major social media network’s slowing user growth and trouble generating revenue has caused investors to worry, but their current CEO and founder Jack Dorsey remains confident in the company’s success. Their upcoming Oct. 27 earnings update will likely address acquisition talks.

Uber Drivers Secure Unemployment Benefits – The Wall Street Journal

Uber is another major tech company stuck between a rock and a hard place. The ride sharing giant has been growing fast, but also continues to encounter problematic legal issues. Uber’s drivers are contracted workers and not technical employees of the company, thus not eligible for benefits. But the New York State Department of Labor ruled Friday that a driver who had been terminated by the company has the right to receive unemployment insurance. This is the second time they have made this ruling, which is addressed on a case by case basis. The decision will be appealed by Uber, but this incident sheds some light on what might be a complex legal future for the company and its presence in New York.

Facebook Workplace Tries to Muscle In on Your Job – WIRED

Facebook will soon be invading the office in a much more productive form. The social media giant announced a paid service designed for business communication this week, taking aim at other enterprise-level software companies like Slack and Quip. Facebook might not be the first site employees turn to for workplace communication, but the numbers are hard to argue with; over two billion people already know how to use their product very well.

How Amazon’s new music-streaming service compares to Spotify, Apple, and Google (VentureBeat)

Amazon announced its answer to Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play. The streaming wars are heating up, with Amazon looking to pair the service with their popular Prime offering. The price point is comparable to the current market, but it will take some time to see where the service could go, particularly as its availability is limited to certain markets and the catalog won’t match Apple or Spotify’s anytime soon. But we all know integration is key for services to become popular, and Amazon’s popular Fire and Echo devices will provide it. It will be tough to enter the already crowded arena, but Amazon is relentless when pursuing a goal. 

Did you come across anything interesting in the news this week? Tweet us @WalkerSands!

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Friday Five: 10/3 – 10/7


Happy Friday! Before running off to the apple orchards or pumpkin patches (hello fall!), read up on this week’s tech news:

You Can All Finally Encrypt Facebook Messenger, So Do It – WIRED

Is there someone you want to talk to online but don’t want your S.O., your mom, or the government to know? Good news for all you sneaks out there — Facebook Messenger finished rolling out “Secret Conversations,” an opt-in feature that allows users to encrypt messages. The added layer of security means even Facebook, law enforcement or intelligence agencies can’t get access to encrypted messages. Yikes. This is nothing new for WhatsApp users, who were introduced to this feature last spring. Following Facebook’s continuous rip off of Snapchat, users can also set expiration time for messages from five seconds to one day. The catch: you have to manually encrypt each conversation, and both parties must have the update for this feature to work.

Google’s Self-Driving Car Program Odometer Reaches 2 Million Miles – Wall Street Journal

Google is a better driver than you. This week, Google’s autonomous car program hit the 2 million miles driven on public roads–that’s an estimated 300 years of road experience. Google says the cars are safer than when people drive them, and their fleet has experience driving in the city and dealing with construction zones, bikers and police cars. The program started over 7 years ago, but over the last year the program jumped from one million to 2 million miles. Joining Google in the autonomous car frenzy is Ford, Uber, Apple and Lyft. In fact, Lyft’s co-founder claims autonomous vehicles will account for the majority of Lyft rides in the next 5 years. Google still hasn’t divulged details about its business strategy for the autonomous cars, but it’s already miles ahead of traditional automakers.

Zuckerberg teases a prototype standalone Oculus VR headset – TechCrunch

At this week’s Oculus Connect developer conference, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg introduced a demo of a new virtual reality device. The prototype of the headset includes a key feature: positional tracking. This enables you to “walk” through an experience and see it from every angle, rather than in 360 video experiences that are restricted to a spherical viewpoint. This device will close the gap between mobile VR and the PC experience. There’s no release date yet, but it’s supposed to be more affordable and accessible to VR enthusiasts.

The Cult of Apple Has Officially Lost Its Mind – Gizmodo

The holidays are looming in the distance, so let’s get that gift list started. We all know that one person who is outright obsessed with Apple and is that guy who pays someone to stand in line all night so he can be the first to get the newest iPhone. While you’re probably not willing to buy that guy a new iPhone or iPad or whatever, here’s something you can put in his stocking: the “New Mac” candle. To take consumer loyalty to an obscene level, Apple accessory maker TwelveSouth now sells a 100% soy wax candle with scenes of “mint, peach, basil, lavender, mandarin, and sage.” It’s $24 and oh, wait–it’s already sold out.

Snapchat’s Spectacles: How Digital Eyewear Could Escape the Nerd Factor – Fast Company

Snap Inc. recently announced Spectacles, digital sunglasses that are akin to GoPro’s action cameras and a less freaky version of Google Glass. The $130 glasses capture snapshots and short videos (a light goes on to let the outside world know you’re recording) and are positioned to be more successful than Google Glass. In some minds, the playful look of the glasses is fun and sensational, but to others (i.e. Indiana University’s student newspaper IDS News) you might end up looking like Redfoo or Cookie from Ned’s Declassified SChool Survival Guide.

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Walker Sands Helps Save the SF Bay with #WSgrowsSF Campaign


For 6 months now, we’ve been settling our roots in San Francisco. We’ve still got a ways to grow, but we want to give back to the community that has quickly become our second home. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Save the Bay for its inaugural Bay Day on Oct. 1, a celebration which aims to bring awareness and protection to the SF Bay.

For every social post shared with our hashtag, #WSgrowsSF, we donated $1 to Save the Bay.

Want to participate? Great! Pull out your phone, take a nature-themed photo and share it using #WSgrowsSF. Have a plant at your desk? Perfect! Snap a selfie and post away. Or, use this as an opportunity to enjoy lunch outside. Can’t get out today? No problem. We’re collecting photos through Saturday, Oct. 1, so you have time. Invite your coworkers, friends, family and even your pets to join in on the fun!

Check out how Walker Sands is celebrating Bay Day and learn more about how we’re bringing San Francisco together to Save the Bay here.

Happy growing!

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