Repeat after me: voice verification is coming to your bank

A friendly voice asked me to repeat the seven-word phrase three times. After that, I logged in and verified that I was actually the one who’d recorded the phrase. Just like that, I’d set up my voice password with Vanguard.

So just how safe is voice verification? Secure enough that I trust that Vanguard’s technology will be able to reject an attempt by anyone who’s not me from accessing my account.

Still, there are bad guys out there who are trying to get around the technology. Earlier today on CNBC, Gene Frantz from Google Capital and and Vijay Balasubramaniyan from Atlanta’s own Pindrop Security talked about some of the threats and security measures being developed to secure voice recognition. Expect to see more of this technology in retail, e-commerce, financial services and government.

Repeat after me: “At Vanguard my voice is my password.”



Add Revision Path to your list of podcasts

Producing a high-quality podcast is tough work. Choosing a format, lining up guests, using the right equipment and figuring out how to promote the podcast itself are all necessary to build a following in a crowded market.

I wanted to give a shout out to an Atlanta-based team that’s turning out a pretty sweet podcast. Revision Path is publishing weekly interviews with Black professionals from around the globe in web and technology-related fields. Maurice Cherry, the site’s editor-in-chief, wanted to create a forum for “stories, processes, experiences, insights, and creative inspirations” that are often underrepresented in the digital space. As of this post, Cherry and audio engineer RJ Basilio had produced a total of 112 episodes.

Revision Path gets sponsorship from Atlanta-based Mailchimp in addition to a variety of corporate and individual sponsors. The site also includes a job board.

This weekend, I listened to an excellent interview on Revision Path with Ryan Williams of Jopwell, a New York-based service that’s using technology to connect companies and minority candidates. Williams talks in depth about the needs his company aims to fill, and what it takes to build a billion-dollar brand. Jopwell is one of the Y Combinator portfolio companies, which always makes for a great story. I wish them luck!

Go check out Revision Path!

Crowdfunding set to take huge leap

Crowdfunding is about to change in a significant way. The Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to vote today on rules that would allow entrepreneurs and small companies to raise equity capital from friends, family and other investors. Up to now, the rules have only allowed accredited investors to participate in such deals.

The vote is widely expected to pass and comes more three years after President Obama signed the JOBS (Jumpstart our Business Startups) Act. For entrepreneurs and growing businesses, the new rules provide vast new avenues for capital and allow far greater numbers of individuals to participate in equity deals.

If you’re dying to check out the webcast of the SEC meeting at 10 a.m. EST on Oct. 30, you can find it here.

And for those eager investors out there, make sure you perform your due diligence before jumping into those deals!

Making meetings work

The case for facilitation


Bill Lynch – Owner, Meeting Outcomes

Last spring, the Harvard Business Review took a close look at time, a precious resource many organizations struggle to manage. The widely circulated piece included a study on a company whose employees spend 300,000 hours a year supporting a weekly executive meeting. The meeting – and the employees’ collective efforts to prepare for it – have had a “profoundly disturbing” impact on the organization, the article said.

The example is extreme. But we probably don’t have to look very far to find evidence of poorly managed meetings. Would a good facilitator help?

That’s what I set out to determine in this podcast with Bill Lynch, owner of Meeting Outcomes. After a successful career in Oregon state government, Lynch decided to start his own consulting business.

As Lynch states in his norms for interaction when facilitating a group meeting, everyone is expected to participate. “Sometimes, the people who aren’t as assertive get left out of the conversation, yet they present a perspective that’s different,” he said. “You lose that diversity in the conversations, and that diversity leads to better decision-making.”

You can listen to our conversation or download it here:

For more information, contact Lynch through his website.

Hour of Code: promoting STEM education

Update (12/12/14): Laura Frazier of The Oregonian filed this story on Hour of Code events in Portland, linking to this post. Thanks Laura!

This week, students worldwide are taking part in the second annual Hour of Code campaign, an initiative of the Seattle-based non-profit The goal, organizers say, is to make computer science available in more schools, and expand opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies, particularly among female students and underrepresented students of color.

The organization has awarded $10,000 grants to schools across the country who have committed to providing an hour of coding instruction to each student this week, recognizing the schools’ efforts to embed technology into the curriculum.


A full map of winners across the country. Credit:

Portland, Oregon’s Sabin K8 school was one of the grant recipients. Claudia Tautfest, the school’s IB coordinator, agreed to answer my questions about tech education in schools.

CC: Can you give us an overview of technology education at Sabin?*

CT: At Sabin, Technology, or more specifically, Design Technology, is one of the “specials” that students in grades 3-8 attend. In the early grades students learn keyboarding skills, create documents using Microsoft Word and Publisher and presentations using PowerPoint. They also manipulate and chart data using Excel. During this time of the academic year we begin to investigate some of the skills used to create code. We participate in Hour of Code and then expand our knowledge using programs such as Scratch tutorials available at Khan Academy and Code Academy.  Older students in grades 6-8 will be introduced to html, Simple Basic and Java.  Because we are an International Baccalaureate school we help students understand the design process and create projects following a specific design protocol.

During Design Tech class we take the time with the 8th graders to collaborate with the school’s counselor to investigate and present information about Portland area high schools and then in the spring we research different career options.

Outside of the Design Tech class, technology is used for content presentations (projectors and document cameras), project research, writing and math skills, map skills using Google Earth and investigating “how to’s” using YouTube tutorials. Our teachers connect students to a variety of Internet tools they can use at home to reinforce their skills. For example teachers and parents can monitor student math skills using our school’s subscription to IXL.

Another way technology is important for our students, is its use in assisting students with special needs. Technology provides support for writing, listening and visual learning.

Parents are involved in several ways. Some volunteer to teach classes after school as part of our SUN program, others come into the classroom and assist teachers when they are using the iPads.  Many parents support us through their participation in PTA fundraising for technology.

CC: How will Sabin use the grant?

CT: To make this decision we’ve reached out to all the teachers and the Site Council (a committee of teachers, administrators and parents) to get a good idea of what the most effective use of this grant would be.

Right now our major challenge is access to computers.  We have been very fortunate by having great support from the PTA. We’ve been able to purchase laptops for the 6-8 classes (4 laptops for each classroom) and 2 carts of 27 iPads used primarily by grades K-5. We have a computer lab of 31 PC’s, which is used for testing, morning availability for classroom sign-up for research and word processing, and afternoon Design Tech classroom. During the time of standardized testing, the lab is not available for weeks at a time. For this reason we’re looking at purchasing another mobile cart with 25-30 devices.

CC: For students, how do you make the connection between coding classes in school and future career opportunities?

CT: As an introduction to Hour of Code, we discuss with students the advantages of learning to code, not only for knowledge’s sake but also as a skill that is highly sought after and financially rewarded.  I think Hour of Code does an excellent job in making this point in their introductory videos. Of course careers in coding especially resonates with the older students who are aware through the media and class discussions of the key roles coders play in digital gaming, Internet applications, and data security.

(This video is from a Google Hangout today. The blog post continues below.)

CC: How can educators bring more technology content into daily instruction?

CT: Teachers’ relationship and confidence in using technology in the classroom has evolved incredibly over the years. I remember a time when teachers would actually retire rather than learn how technology could be integrated into their educational practice.  Now with desktop, laptop, iPad, Chromebook and WiFi availability teachers only worry about accessing these tools for their classrooms. Teachers learn about new technology and applications through the media and Portland Public Schools does a great job at offering and publicizing training opportunities.

Here’s the link to the full list of schools receiving grants from this year:

*Full disclosure: As a former reporter at The Oregonian, I covered Sabin as part of my responsibilities on the education beat 🙂

Palmetto State innovation: 3D Systems


3D Printed Dental Wax-up Credit: 3D Systems

One of my latest fascinations is additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. I’ve been reading up on the subject to try to go beyond the hype and really understand the practical applications of AM. From the operating room to digital gadgets, the possibilities abound.

A company from my home state happens to be one of the leading innovators in AM. Rock Hill, SC-based 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) just made Forbes’ 2014 list of America’s Best Small Companies, following a listing earlier this year as one of Forbes’ most innovative growth companies. 3D Systems has an extensive catalog of AM solutions, including 3D printers, materials and cloud-sourced parts.

Additive Manufacturing? A process by which
digital 3D data is used to build up a component in
layers by depositing material. (Source: 
ASTM International)

Here are a few videos from 3D Systems that show the range of possibilities in AM.

If you’re a business owner who’s using AM in your company, or if you’re an individual who recently invested in a 3D printer or plan to, I want to hear from you!

Facecast: ABC News rolls out one-minute, daily newscast on Facebook


Screen grab from Facecast: “The One Thing,” featuring ABC World News Tonight Anchor David Muir. The social media newscast had more than 60,000 views in the first two hours.

Smart move, ABC News. The network this morning announced that “World News Tonight” Anchor David Muir would host a daily social media newscast on Facebook, starting today. The one-minute show, called Facecast: “The One Thing,” will highlight the day’s trending news stories. It’s the first-ever daily newscast exclusively for social media hosted by an evening news anchor, the network said.

“Video on Facebook is growing fast and it’s exciting to see ABC and David Muir create unique content for this platform,” said Andy Mitchell, Director, News and Global Media Partnerships, said in a news release.

ABC News clearly sees the opportunity here to strengthen its brand in the intensely competitive network news business. Facebook is chipping away at YouTube’s dominance in online video publishing and sharing, so the platform makes sense. It’s probably only a matter of time before ABC’s competitors follow suit and begin to broadcast via social media, or surprise us with some other tactic.

Inside the lab: an introduction to cancer research

My visit to Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute

Adam Marcus, PhD  Photo courtesy of Winship Cancer Center

Adam Marcus, PhD
Credit: Winship Cancer Institute

I jumped at the chance this month to tour Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University’s center for cancer research and patient care. Adam Marcus, an associate professor in hematology and oncology, generously offered to give a small group of TEDxPeachtree attendees a look at the incredibly important work happening at Winship.

Marcus oversees a group of researchers at Winship who analyze data from the sequencing and growth of cancer cells. Winship is one of 68 centers nationwide designated by the National Cancer Institute for scientific excellence focusing on cancer, and the only institution in Georgia with this distinction.

TEDx Peachtree attendees joined Adam Marcus (r) for a behind the scenes tour of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.

TEDx Peachtree attendees joined Adam Marcus (right) for a tour of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.

At the TEDx event in October, Marcus gave a compelling talk, “Every Cancer is Personal,” explaining how individual cancer cells invade human tissue and just how clever the cells can be.

A few highlights from our visit to Winship:

  • Marcus and his team of researchers spend portion of their time trying to get to the underlying causes of how cancer cells grow within the body. “Cancer is a master of evolution,” Marcus says.
  • Dietary habits, particularly the expansion of Western diets across the world, are increasing the incidence of particular types of cancer in some parts of the world. “In certain regions, certain cancers dominate,” Marcus says.
  • While some scientists spend most of their careers at centers such as Winship, many researchers move from one institution to another as they advance through their careers. “The biggest problem we have is the transfer of knowledge” when professionals leave, Marcus says.
  • Analyzing big data is becoming crucial in the field, requiring cancer researchers to acquire new skills. Marcus pointed to Google’s new cloud-based platform that enables cancer genomic research at a large scale as an example, adding: “We need the talent and the expertise to analyze the data.”

Keep up with Winship through their social channels on LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube.

Social Media 101 @ Georgia Tech

Atlanta-based social strategist Steffan Pedersen posted another great recap on his blog. This time, Steffan and Cox Communications social media leader Adam Naide spoke to business students at Georgia Tech. As a recent graduate of UGA, Steffan no doubt gave some excellent advice.

I understand the pain you mention in your post, Steffan … that would be like me speaking at Clemson! #Gamecocks

In all seriousness, keep up the great work, Steffan!