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Google adds another popular feature to its graveyard

(TECH NEWS) Hold off on that BFF necklace – Google might kill your favorite product without warning. Who got the chop this time?

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Happy trails to you

This week, without fanfare, Google quietly retired Map Maker, an interactive feature that crowdsourced the task of editing and updating Google Maps. The announcement was made on Tuesday through Google’s product forums, and so far, the internet has barely noticed.

Map Maker started in 2008, allowing users to edit and update addresses, businesses, roads, paths, natural features, the outlines of large buildings, and more. Users could edit via desktop or mobile, and could moderate one another’s edits. The tool was particularly useful for real estate agents. I’ve used it once myself. After I discovered my home address was listed as a business, I was able to correct the mistake.

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According to the Map Maker team via the product forum, “Today, we want to let you know that Google Map Maker features will officially graduate and be integrated directly into Google Maps in March 2017 when we’ll retire the standalone Map Maker product.”

Minimizing shenanigans

Consolidating Map Maker’s features into Google Maps will streamline their editing and moderating processes, “speeding up the time for an edit to get published.” Particularly enthusiastic map editors are encouraged to join Google’s Local Guides program, which rewards users with invitations to events, data storage, and early access to new products.

It's likely that the company saw a need to consolidate their moderation efforts after a series of offensive and mischievous map edits in 2015. Vandals had edited maps so that searching for racial slurs would bring up the address for the White House.Click To Tweet

The company temporarily shut down Map Maker to address the problem, but reopened it later that year. With all edits happening through Google Maps and Google Search, the company should be able to keep shenanigans to a minimum.

Hold off on that BFF necklace

The change is also another reminder to Google users not to get too attached to any of their products. The company seems to have a habit of shuttering popular features (Reader, Wave, and so forth).

Nonetheless, it looks like most of the functions from Map Maker will still be available through Google Maps. Says the Map Maker team, “We’ve greatly appreciated your contributions to Google Maps over the years and hope you will continue to update the world around you.”

#RIPMapMaker

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Ellen Vessels, Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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How this tinkerer became a Full Stack Developer

(TECHNOLOGY) There are so many ways to become a Full Stack Developer – here’s the path a perpetual tinkerer took.

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brandtley mcminn

It all started with Legos. Long before he became a Full Stack Developer, Brandtley McMinn was a curious child with a mechanical mind, obsessed with Legos (as any mechanically inclined child is). He was a born tinkerer, raised in a home that was partially built by his father’s hands (a fellow tinkerer).

McMinn graduated from Legos to tinkering with lawnmowers, and eventually cars.

In high school, he picked up a programming course at the same time as digging into a book on game programming. Most stories would lead to someone becoming a world class game developer, but this combo was a false start for McMinn.

Like many others, he notes that false starts are common on the path to becoming a developer, and the key is to take a mental break and try again later.

And try, he did.

His senior year of high school, he joined the robotics club, and they needed a webmaster. On a whim, he took to the project and learned HTML and then CSS as the programming language was still new. This became his foundation.

Going to college for the game development program was another false start as he was blocked from taking those courses in his first year at Austin Community College due to prerequisite credits.

So the following year, he signed up for the Web Interactive program. He already had WordPress development under his belt, and he sought to add design skills and more technical knowledge to his repertoire, and to become a more well-rounded developer.

Today, McMinn is a Full Stack Developer for a company whose back end stack is Lumin with some PHP (which was already in his wheelhouse), and Angular on the front end.

He calls the combination comfortable and enjoyable.

His path was that of a curious tinkerer that blossomed into a skilled developer who is endlessly inquisitive and perpetually learning.

McMinn believes the biggest hurdle to becoming a Full Stack Developer is discovering your aptitude and interest.

He recommends experimenting with free or inexpensive online courses, asserting that someone that believes they’re interested in front end should to go to Udemy, find a course that has good ratings, and just try one – he says you could spend $10 on an afternoon-long course on Angular and know whether or not it’s for you.

Experiment. Dig. Keep digging. Keep testing.

McMinn says the trickiest part of becoming a Full Stack Developer is finding where you want to fit in, and then doing the work to discover your interests and aptitudes. There is no ideal path, but moving past this learning curve is tricky for many.

Self starters will thrive as developers, McMinn says, and will dive in and have a desire to learn. People that can move past the inevitable false starts will flourish.

Personalities that prefer to silo themselves away from the team or that believe they know everything, will not likely thrive in the ever-evolving world of development, he notes.

So what’s next for McMinn? He has ample side projects and hobbies that he enjoys, that allow him to continue creating with his hands, and has the entrepreneurial itch, so we anticipate he’ll someday soon be the boss as he continues to tinker.

Connect with McMinn on GitHub.

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Brandmark makes branding and re-branding a breeze

(TECH NEWS) If you’re a small business looking for branding or to re-brand but don’t have the time nor budget, this tool can help you get it done!

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AI brandmanaging

AI is growing, now it can even be your own personal graphic designer.

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The new company Brandmark uses AI to create custom brand identities in minutes. All you need to do is describe your business and leave the designing up to them.

Brandmark

Brandmark describes their system as “more than just a logo,” as they aid people in developing an entire brand identity. This includes a complete style guide, color scheme and even a WordPress compatible website template.

It is the perfect tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs who may not have the budget to hire an in-house designer to join their team.

The creators of Brandmark have attempted to give the platform personal elements as well, so that you can understand the design decisions and even have the chance to make it your own.

Easy peasy

The process is as simple as it can get. All that Brandmark requires is for you to type in a few keywords that best describe your business. For example, a coffee shop might type in “coffee, hot, lounge, mocha, books, relaxation.” These keywords are anything that can be associated with your brand so it is important to include adjectives as well. Consider how you want customers to feel when they see your product or walk into your shop for the first time.

All of these details will help Brandmark create a unique and personal identity for you.

The creators of the tool wanted it to feel like a true designer. That is why they have developed a system that understands design principles. After creating a look, Brandmark will explain the design choice and how it relates to your brand. In addition, you have access to features that allow you to customize the design.

Just like any professional service, Brandmark provides a style guide that can be used to apply your brand - including logo, color scheme and font - to various type of products. Click To Tweet

For instance, the same coffee shop would know how to apply their logo to coffee cups, bags, mugs and menus by following the guide. In addition, website layouts are offered to get your online business started. It’s an all-in-one package to get your business up and running with a professional look.

Give it a shot

Brandmark is currently in beta testing and is available for anyone to sign up and try.

#Brandmark

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Yodatai: the intelligent chatbot that is will wind up any data lovers’ gears

(TECH NEWS) The newest chatbot is about to change your world for good. Yodatai is all about helping you, not pretending to.

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Makin’ waves

The digital data gurus at Knoema have recently announced their release of their messenger-first chatbot, Yodatai.

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This is exciting, as even though chatbots themselves are not new, Yodatai is the “first-ever AI interface to connect with both public and industry data corporate BI databases.”

Awwww, yeah!

Unless you are an analyst or data maven, you may be curious as to what is exciting about this release. After all, for many, the term “chatbot” does not have the best connotation- often bringing up memories of the essentially useless chatbots so commonly found in the “Help” section of a website. And, you know, spam.

But nay, dear reader, this isn’t that old AOL Instant Messenger chatbot you interacted with when you literally had nothing else to do (except for homework).

Yodatai, as far as I can tell, actually seems incredibly useful.

Yodatai

As Yodatai is a messenger-first bot, you can ask her (him? it?) questions directly from your messenger application of choice. Currently, Knoema states that the bot is fully compatible with Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Telegram, Twitter and E-Mail.

It is likely that more messenger-services will be added to this list over time.

Need some information regarding crude oil manufacturing in the Middle East? Ask Yodatai. Need to fact-check a tweet? Send a tweet @Yodatai so the bot can lay the fact down on these fools. (Get it? Like lay the smack down? People still say that, right?) Drawing from Knoema’s ever-increasing database of public information (which the company quotes at “2.5 billion time series from thousands of sources”), Yodatai is sure to have information on pretty much whatever you need.

Connectivity: A+

Even more useful, however, is her ability to connect with private databases. Currently, the bot integrates with the Amplitude analytics platform and more pre-built integrations are in the works.

So, for example, if one needed to know the number of registered users for their website, they could ask Yodatai.

Similarly, if they needed some more in-depth information regarding a product or project, they could, theoretically, ask Yodatai. And, unlike the Jedi Master with whom she shares an eerily similar name, answers are provided in a full sentence, easy-to-read format. Proper syntax and everything.

She’s not a know it all… yet

There will be, of course, questions that Yodatai may be unable to answer. These more complex inquiries may require human assistance, and in the event of such a question being asked, the chatbot will transparently get Knoema’s data experts involved.

As stated on the website, “she learns from them.”

Maybe it’s just me, but images of an ultra-high-functioning, eerily coherent digital baby cannot help but spring to mind.

Yes, please

Needless to say, Yodatai will likely save a ton of time regarding data research and acquisition. No word has been given yet how much access to the chatbot will cost, but many will likely find the cost to be well worth it.

And, as a bonus, as she primarily deals with data, it’s unlikely she will attempt to eliminate humanity! Pretty solid win, if you ask me.

#Yodatai

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