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At key RSS meet in Bhopal, saffron body to focus on outreach in Kerala, Bengal, expanding shakhas

When the RSS kick-started its Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal (ABKM) in Bhopal on Thursday, it asserted that the meet had nothing to with politics or the government at the Centre. However, the range of issues it proposes to take up leave little scope for doubt that politics, by default or design, is going to occupy the minds of the delegates in the three-day period.

Dattatreya Hosabale, a senior functionary of the organisation, had made it clear before the closed-door meeting that politics was not on the agenda of the executive body meet. However, he fielded questions of the political kind from reporters soon after the formal inauguration of the meet by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Responding to a question on the recent controversy involving Jay Shah, son of BJP president Amit Shah, he said the case could be probed ”if there’s prima facie evidence, but it is for those who allege to prove it”.

“The necessary inquiry should be done and action can be taken accordingly. At the same time, the onus of proving the same lies on those levelling the charge,” RSS sah-sarkaryavah Hosabale said. However, neither he nor other senior functionaries encouraged any further political discussion.

File image of RSS cadres. PTI

According to sources, the Sangh will make an assessment of the policy implementation by the Narendra Modi government at the ground level – from socio-political issues to economic matters. With the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections round the corner, the political implications of Sangh’s national executive cannot be underestimated.

The primary focus of the meet will be a major expansion of the Sangh’s outreach both across the country and abroad, and consolidation of its influence cutting across the various strata of the society. With this agenda in mind, the RSS will prepare a blueprint for the next three years. The discussion will also be based on the Vijaya Dashmi address by Bhagwat, which was followed by a series of discussions with intellectuals and academicians at 20 places. Besides reviewing the performance of the organisation and its cadre during the last six months and making plans for the next six months, the RSS wants to broadly focus on 10 key areas.

Key areas of discussion and planning

• Expansion plan: The thrust will be on a major expansion of its shakhas based on the Sangh’s nationalistic policy. At present, the RSS has over 53,000 shakhas across the country. According to the Sangh, there has been an exponential rise in membership especially in the age group of 25 to 35 years. “There has been a rapid growth in the Sangh’s activities in the last one year,” said Manmohan Vaidya, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh.

• Economic policies and farm sector: Though Hosabale in a press conference has made it clear that no discussion would take place on demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax, sources said an analysis will be done on the basis of feedback and ground reports received from the Sangh cadre on the impact of economic policies amongst the masses. Farmers’ distress and their issues would be an important agenda of discussion. Mandsaur district in Madhya Pradesh had been an epicenter of the farmers’ agitation in July and farmers from various states including Gujarat expressed serious dissent. The presence of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, which represents farmers and their issues, in the meeting will be an important aspect.

• Assessing Sangh’s influence in Kerala and Bengal: Kerala has emerged as a killing field due to alleged attacks and counter-attacks on the RSS-BJP workers by the ruling CPM cadre and vice versa. The RSS would hope to assess its strength and influence in the two non-BJP-ruled states Kerala and West Bengal, where the BJP wants to have a strong foothold.

• Dalits and Adivasis: The Sangh wants its grassroot workers to establish a stronger connectivity with Dalits and adivasis. The Sangh’s affiliate Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram has been working among tribals over a long period of time.

• Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshi infiltrators: The RSS has consistently been raising the issue of infiltrators across the border. The Sangh wants to take a strong stand on Rohingya Muslims, as large number of them have made their way into the country.

• Border issues and problems: On Pakistan and foreign policy.

• Kashmir issue: On the ongoing turbulence in Kashmir, militancy and infiltration.

• Hindutva, nationalism, ram mandir and gau raksha: RSS supremo Bhagwat has on many occasions emphasized on cow protection. Apart from Hindutva and the Sangh’s nationalistic agenda, a plan will be chalked out for the effective protection of cows and cattle.

• Conversion: Religious conversion has always been a serious concern for the RSS. With the cases of Hindus getting converted to Islam in Kerala and to Christianity in tribal belts, the Sangh wants to take the issue head on.

• Education: The presence of two other affiliated bodies, Vidya Bharati and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), in the national executive provide an indication of the Sangh’s focus on an indigenous education system in Hindi and vernacular languages. On the concluding day, after interactions, feedback will be taken from representatives from various states based on vernacular languages.

ABKM’s objective

The ABKM is one of the Sangh’s highest policy formulation and decision-making bodies. The objective of the meeting is to review and engage in future planning of organisational matters and activities.

About 300 Sangh executives and functionaries at an all-India level, 11 kshetras and 42 prants have gathered at Sharda Vihar School in Bhopal for the three-day-long brainstorming sessions– – from 12 October to 14 October.

Another important aspect of this meet is that the present Sar-Karyavah Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi’s three-year tenure will come to an end on March 2018. “This meeting is important as a three-year planning of our progarmmes will be chalked out,” said Manmohan Vaidya.

Change in tradition

RSS holds national level meetings twice a year – in March and October. The Sangh used to pass resolutions in these two meetings on various national and burning issues. But this year, resolutions were passsed only in the March meeting. In the present October meet, no resolution will be passed.

Unlike in the past, the executives and members of all of the Sangh’s affiliate bodies won’t participate. “There is a change in tradition this time. However, national office bearers of the mass-based affiliate organizations like Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, ABVP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, BKS, Vidya Bharti and the BJP will participate,” Vaidya added.

Maintaining confidentiality

The Sangh is in no mood to make its discussions public during the meet. In a bid to avoid any controversy, a clear instruction has been issued to the 300-odd participants comprising top RSS functionaries, executives of its affiliates and national-level leaders of the BJP, to stay away from any kind of communication on social media. The participants have been asked not to post any information or comments on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc.

Published Date: Oct 13, 2017 11:07 am | Updated Date: Oct 13, 2017 11:10 am

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BitTorrent

ICOs are becoming funds

What does a startup do with $48 million? $130 million? $1.7 billion? This question – one integral in the whole ICO craze – hasn’t quite been answered yet but it’s going to be far more interesting as ICOs and cryptocurrencies transform from purely product-oriented companies into actual funds.

Take the news that the creator of the TRON token bought BitTorrent for $140 million purportedly to lend legitimacy to the platform. “One shareholder we spoke to says there are two plans,” wrote TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden. “First, it will be used to ‘legitimize’ Tron’s business, which has met with some controversy: it has been accused of plagiarizing FileCoin and Ethereum in the development of its technology. And second, as a potential network to help mine coins, using BitTorrent’s P2P architecture and wide network of users.”

Given a $4.8 billion market cap, the cost of buying a beloved network brand, even one as tainted by controversy as BitTorrent, is miniscule. Further, it allows TRON to fill its war chest with solid businesses even as its own efforts end laughably with ham-handed announcements about non-existent partnerships and failed pumping by the idiosyncratic John McAfee.

In short, all of those massive ICO raises aren’t going to Aeron chairs and food truck rodeos in the company parking lot. Those smart enough to machinate their way into an ICO raise aren’t interested in product, no matter what they claim. They are interested in becoming investors, gobbling up products and people in order to gain a stranglehold on the space. Further, these ICOed organizations are often already registered as broker-dealers in various jurisdictions and have all of the legalities in place to take and invest large sums of cash. In short, if you think any successful ICOed company will deliver actual product before it would buy itself into multiple iterations of that same product I have a few tokens to sell you.

Startups start small for a reason. None of the current crop of successful ICOs have any technical merits, no matter how dense their white papers. While PhDs and computer scientists have great ideas, ultimately their ideas fail when dashed against the realities of the market. Most startups die because they are underfunded but they are underfunded because the risk associated with their ideas are far too high to ensure a win.

ICOs on the other hand are wild bets that a person who is connected to the crypto space will know better what to do with unearned crypto riches than the owners of those riches. It is a bet that the ICOing org is willing to work a little harder to make 10,000 Ether or a few hundred Bitcoin pay off in the long run and it’s a bet that the congregation of all that crypto wealth will bring the true sharks out to help turn a small investment into a big one. And you never get rich releasing a single product. You get rich buying and controlling multiple products.

The other important consideration? VCs will soon find themselves fighting for deals with ICOed companies. While it won’t happen soon and perhaps the big houses won’t feel it at all, expect smaller VCs to lose LPs as those LPs dump their cash into Maltese ICOs and not Sand Hill Road. It’s an interesting and overdue turnaround.

So don’t expect these ICOed companies to invest in fancy offices and ping pong tables (although they will.) If you’re a startup founder expected these ICOed companies to invest in you.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Apps

Facebook launches gameshows platform with interactive video

Rather than build its own HQ trivia competitor, Facebook is launching a gameshow platform. Today the company announced a new set of interactive live and on-demand video features that let creators adds quizzes, polls, challenges, and gamification so players can be eliminated from a game for a wrong answer. The features could help Facebook achieve its new mission to push healthier active video consumption rather than passive zombie watching that hurts people’s well-being. Creators and publishers who want early access can sign up here.

Gameshow launch partners include Fresno’s What’s In The Box where viewers guess what’s inside, and BuzzFeed News’ Outside Your Bubble where contestants have to guess what their opponents are thinking. Plus, Facebook is testing the ability to award prize money with (Business) INSIDER’s Confetti, where viewers answer trivia questions and can see friends’ responses, with winners splitting the cash.

“Video is evolving away from just passive consumption to more interactive two-way formats”, Simo tells TechCrunch. “We think creators will want to reward people. If this is something that works will with Insider and Confetti, we may consider rolling out payments tools.”

When asked if Facebook was inspired by HQ, Simo repeatedly dodged the question and avoiding mentioning the startup’s name, but relented in saying “I think they’re part of a much broader trend that is making content interactive. We’ve seen that across much more than one player.”

Facebook won’t be taking a share of the prize money in this test. For now, it’s also forgoing its cut of its $4.99 per month subscriptions option that lets fans pay for exclusive content, which rolls out today to more creators. Facebook also just launched its Brand Collabs Manager that we scooped in May, which helps brands browse creators by demographic and portfolio so they can set up sponsored content and product placement deals.

Initially Facebook is not taking a cut there either. For all three of these features, though, Simo says “that doesn’t mean we never will.” Creators can sign up for these monetization options here.

The new interactive video features will be available to all publishers and creators, alongside the global launch of the Android version of Facebook’s Creator app for web celebs. The tools range from offering basic in-video polls to creating a full trivia gameshow. Creators and will be able to write out their trivia questions and designate correct answers, as well as “write down the logic of the game” says Simo.

While polls will work for Live and on-demand videos, gamification that impacts the outcome of the broadcast is only for Live. Brent Rivera and That Chick Angel are two creators who will be testing the features in the coming weeks. Facebook already found that fans enjoyed polling on its Watch show Help Us Get Married, which let viewers influence the wedding planning decisions about themes and the venue.

Facebook’s last attempt at original video, its Watch hub, saw mediocre adoption as the content felt also-ran rather than something special or must-see. That’s why Facebook is expanding Watch to offer a broader range of shows for more creators, including potentially longer or non-episodic content. That includes bringing Facebook videos originally only hosted on Pages into the Watch destination.

Facebook’s family of apps will get another chance at an original video home run when Instagram launches its long-form video hub tomorrow, according to TechCrunch’s sources.

What we’re seeing here is positioning that diverges Facebook and Instagram’s video efforts. Facebook’s might be more interactive, about playing and watching with friends, and embrace more novel new formats like mobile gameshows. Instagram, with its history of polished photos, could house more traditional high-end entertainment content.

“We’re not trying to do one show or one trivia game. We’re trying to get every creator to create such gameplay. The beauty of the creators space is that they each have a unique audience” Facebook’s VP of video product Fidji Simo tells me. With 2.2 billion users, making an in-house one-size-fits-all game may have been impossible.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Delhi

Pew: Social media still growing in emerging markets but stalled elsewhere

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s (so far) five-year project to expand access to the Internet in emerging markets makes plenty of business sense when you look at the latest report by the Pew Research Center — which shows social media use has plateaued across developed markets but continues to rise in the developing world.

In 2015-16, roughly four-in-ten adults across the emerging nations surveyed by Pew said they used social networking sites, and as of 2017, a majority (53%) use social media. Whereas, over the same period, social media use has generally been flat in many of the advanced economies surveyed.

Internet use and smartphone ownership have also stayed level in developed markets over the same period vs rising in emerging economies.

Pew polled more than 40,000 respondents in 37 countries over a roughly three month period in February to May last year for this piece of research.

The results show how developing markets are of clear and vital importance for social behemoth Facebook as a means to eke continued growth out of its primary ~15-year-old platform — plus also for the wider suite of social products it’s acquired around that. (Pew’s research asked people about multiple different social media sites, with suggested examples being country-specific — though Facebook and Twitter were staples.)

Especially — as Pew also found — of those who use the internet, people in developing countries often turn out to be more likely than their counterparts in advanced economies to network via social platforms such as Facebook (and Twitter) .

Which in turn suggests there are major upsides for social platforms getting into an emerging Internet economy early enough to establish themselves as a go-to networking service.

This dynamic doubtless explains why Facebook has been so leaden in its response to some very stark risks attached to how its social products accelerate the spread and consumption of misinformation in some developing countries, such as Myanmar and India.

Pulling the plug on its social products in emerging markets essentially means pulling the plug on business growth.

Though, in the face of rising political risk attached to Facebook’s own business and growing controversies attached to various products it offers, the company has reportedly rowed back from offering its ‘Free Basics’ Internet.org package in more than half a dozen countries in recent months, according to analysis by The Outline.

In March, for example, the UN warned that Facebook’s platform was contributing to the spread of hate speech and ethnic violence in crisis-hit Myanmar.

The company has also faced specific questions from US and EU lawmakers about its activities in the country — with scrutiny on the company dialed up to 11 after a major global privacy scandal that broke this spring.

And, in recent months, Facebook policy staffers have had to spend substantial quantities of man-hours penning multi-page explanations for all sorts of aspects of the company’s operations to try to appease angry politicians. So it looks pretty safe to conclude that the days of Facebook being able to pass off Internet.org-fueled business expansion as a ‘humanitarian mission’ are well and truly done.

(Its new ‘humanitarian project’ is a new matchmaking feature — which really looks like an attempt to rekindle stalled growth in mature markets.)

Given how the social media usage gap is closing between developed vs developing countries’ there’s also perhaps a question mark over how much longer Facebook can generally rely on tapping emerging markets to pump its business growth.

Although Pew’s survey highlights some pretty major variations in usage even across developed markets, with social media being hugely popular in Northern America and the Middle East, for example, but more of a patchwork story in Europe where usage is “far from ubiquitous” — such as in Germany where 87% of people use the internet but less than half say they use social media.

Cultural barriers to social media addiction are perhaps rather harder for a multinational giant to defeat than infrastructure challenges or even economic barriers (though Facebook does not appear to be giving up on that front either).

Outside Europe, nations with still major growth potential on the social media front include India, Indonesia and nations in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Pew research. And Internet access remains a major barrier to social growth in many of these markets.

“Across the 39 countries [surveyed], a median of 75% say they either use the internet occasionally or own a smartphone, our definition of internet use,” it writes. “In many advanced economies, nine-in-ten or more use the internet, led by South Korea (96%). Greece (66%) is the only advanced economy surveyed where fewer than seven-in-ten report using the internet. Conversely, internet use is below seven-in-ten in 13 of the 22 emerging and developing economies surveyed. Among these countries, it is lowest in India and Tanzania, at a quarter of the adult population. Regionally, internet use is lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, where a median of 41% across six countries use the internet. South Africa (59%) is the only country in the region where at least half the population is online.”

India, Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa are also regions where Facebook has pushed its controversial Internet.org ‘free web’ initiative. Although India banned zero-rated mobile services in 2016 on net neutrality grounds. And Facebook now appears to be at least partially rowing back on this front itself in other markets.

In parallel, the company has also been working on a more moonshot-y solar-powered high altitude drone engineering to try to bring Internet access (and thus social media access) to remoter areas that lack a reliable Internet connection. Although this project remains experimental — and has yet to deliver any commercial services.

Pew’s research also found various digital divides persisting within the surveyed countries, related to age, education, income and in some cases gender still differentiating who uses the Internet and who does not; and who is active on social media and who is inactive.

Across the globe, for example, it found younger adults are much more likely to report using social media than their older counterparts.

While in some emerging and developing countries, men are much more likely to use social media  than women — in Tunisia, for example, 49% of men use social networking sites, compared with just 28% of women. Yet in advanced countries, it found social networking is often more popular among women.

Pew also found significant differences in social media use across other demographic groups: Those with higher levels of education and those with higher incomes were found to be more likely to use social network sites.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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