Two Singapore Airbnb hosts plead guilty to unauthorized short-term rentals

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Two Singaporeans on trial for unauthorized short-term rentals posted on Airbnb pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday in the first such cases under the city-state’s rules on short-term property letting introduced last year.

The two men were charged for letting four units in a condominium for less than six months without permission from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and face a fine of up to S$200,000 ($152,000) per offense.

Prosecutors however requested fines of S$20,000 per charge for a total of S$80,000 for each of the two defendants, who spoke in court to plead guilty to the charges. Defense lawyers sought fines of $5,000 per charge.

The Singapore government has pledged to seek public feedback on a regulatory framework covering such rentals after the cases of the two hosts prompted a plea from Airbnb that the existing framework was “untenable”.

Airbnb, founded in 2008 in San Francisco, matches people wishing to rent out all or part of their homes to temporary guests.

The firm has clashed with hoteliers and authorities in cities including New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, which are limiting short-term rentals in some cases.

Critics blame Airbnb for exacerbating housing shortages and driving out lower-income residents.

Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait

​Show-stopping bug appears in npm Node.js package manager

Are you a developer who uses npm as the package manager for your JavaScript or Node.js code? If so, do not — I repeat do not — upgrade to npm 5.7.0. Nothing good can come of it. As one user reported, “This destroyed 3 production servers after a single deploy!”

So, what happened here? According to the npm GitHub bug report, “By running sudo npm under a non-root user (root users do not have the same effect), filesystem permissions are being heavily modified. For example, if I run sudo npm –help or sudo npm update -g, both commands cause my filesystem to change ownership of directories such as /etc, /usr, /boot, and other directories needed for running the system. It appears that the ownership is recursively changed to the user currently running npm.”

In other words, this installation changes core Linux file and directories ownership and permissions so they will will crash the system. Many others are reporting that they’re seeing the same problem on Linux on a variety of platforms, macOS, and FreeBSD.

This had led to a lot of heated conversation about the release. Or, was it a release?

Others state that if you look at the actual code, you’ll find that the version out now is a pre-release and shouldn’t be installed. They are correct. The code does indicate that 5.7.0 was not ready for release. Still, others point out that the npm blog announcing 5.7.0 certainly reads like an official release announcement.

This has led to a lot of finger pointing. In the meantime, 5.7.1 has been released, with a fix for this mission-critical problem.

While this problem has been fixed, it revealed more fundamental troubles.

First, npm is a major part of the Node.js and JavaScript. These, in turn, run many of today’s websites. For all of npm’s importance, the npm project has only two — count them, two — developers. This makes the project far too vulnerable to simple errors or even as something as commonplace as both programmers sleeping when something goes wrong.

This isn’t the first time npm has shown just how fragile it is. Two years ago, npm broke catastrophically when a developer jerked out a 7-line npm program called “left-pad”, which thousands of Node.js programs needed to function. Essential programs should not be run on a shoestring with only two core developers.

The installation routine itself is asking for trouble. As one developer on Ycomb observed, the “npm binary is run as sudo and then uses the UID and GID of the invoking user when chowning the directory. I feel like screaming, who thought this was a good idea? If I invoke something as sudo, why does anyone think it should try to detect that and do anything about it? I want to run as the user sudo has set, not my own user, OBVIOUSLY.”

Running any command, especially one that makes serious changes to the operating system as the root or administrative user, is always dangerous. Making matters even more annoying, there’s no need to be the root user to install npm. There have long been multiple ways to install npm as an ordinary user. Do any of these and you can avoid blowing up your production system.

Oh, which reminds me. What are you doing running any brand new code on a production system? This is sysadmin 101. You don’t run a fresh release of any program on a working system. Capiche?

While the code problem was critical, what this entire episode really revealed is an open-source community that needs to do a better job of managing, delivering, and using its program. In all three phases, its developers, managers, and users failed. This can’t carry on if npm is to continue to be an important program.

Related Stories:

​Docker has a business plan headache

Video: Microservices and containers: Eight challenges to this approach

Read this

What is Docker and why is it so darn popular?

What is Docker and why is it so darn popular?

Docker is hotter than hot because it makes it possible to get far more apps running on the same old servers and it also makes it very easy to package and ship programs. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Read More

We love containers. And, for most of us, containers means Docker. As RightScale observed in its RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud report, Docker’s adoption by the industry has increased to 49 percent from 35 percent in 2017.

All’s not well in Docker-land

There’s only one problem with this: While Docker, the technology, is going great guns, Docker, the business, isn’t doing half as well.

For users, this isn’t that much of a problem. Whatever Docker the business’ future, Docker the technology is both open source and a standard. Docker could close up shop today, and you’d still be using Docker containers tomorrow.

Read also: Weak Docker security could lead to magnified vulnerabilities due to efficiency of containers

Of course, it’s a different story if you have a contract with Docker. But, while that would prove annoying — not to mention an ugly mark on the balance sheet — it shouldn’t impact your business flow. Containers are now a well-known technology. Securing and managing them continue to be troublesome, but deploying and running them? Not so much.

Still, you should be aware that all’s not well in Docker-land.

What’s the business plan?

Docker’s problem is simple: It doesn’t have a viable business plan.

It’s not the market. According to 451 Research, “the application container market will explode over the next five years. Annual revenue is expected to increase by 4x, growing from $749 million in 2016 to more than $3.4 billon by 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35 percent.”

Read also: Top cloud providers 2018: How AWS, Microsoft, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, Oracle, Alibaba stack up

But to make that revenue, you need a business that can exploit containers. So, Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and all the rest of the big public cloud companies, earn their dollars from customers eager to make the most of their server resources. Others, like Red Hat/CoreOS, Canonical, and Mirantis, provide easy-to-use container approaches for private clouds.

Docker? It provides the open-source framework for the most popular container format. That’s great, but it’s not a business plan.

Confusion is not what you want

Docker’s plan had been, according to former CEO Ben Golub, to build up a subscription business model. The driver behind its Enterprise Edition, with its three levels of service and functionality, was container orchestration using Docker Engine’s swarm mode. Docker, the company, also rebranded Docker, the open-source software, to Moby while continuing to use Docker as the name for its commercial software products.

Read also: Docker appoints industry veteran as new CEO

This led to more than a little confusion. Quick! How many of you knew Moby was now the “official” name for Docker the program? Confusion is not what you want in sales.

Mere weeks later, Golub was out, and Steve Singh, from SAP, was in.

Docker has never explained why Singh was brought in from outside to become the leader, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that core container technologies were becoming commoditized. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)‘s Open Container Initiative (OCI) standard turned today’s container fundamentals, including Docker containers themselves, into open standards. There wasn’t much value-add that Docker could offer its enterprise customers.

As Dave Bartoletti, a Forrester analyst, told The Register at the time: “The poor guy has to figure out how to make money at Docker. That’s not easy when a lot of people in the community just bristle at anyone trying to make money.”

The rise of Kubernetes

Making matters much harder for Docker’s business plans is that Docker swarm and all other orchestration programs have found themselves overwhelmed by the rise of Kubernetes.

Read also: Docker LinuxKit: Secure Linux containers for Windows, macOS, and clouds

Today, Kubernetes — whether it’s a grand Google plan to create a Google cloud stack or notdominates cloud orchestration. Even Docker adopted Kubernetes because of customer demand in October 2017.

When your main value-add is container orchestration and everyone and their uncle has adopted another container orchestration program, what can you offer customers? Good question.

Docker has also been dealing with internal changes. Solomon Hykes, a co-founder and former CTO, was kicked upstairs to vice chairman of the board of directors and chief architect. Hykes, a controversy lightning rod, was also the public face of the company. He’s been far more quiet lately.

Red Hat’s answer was to buy Docker’s chief rival, CoreOS. That gave Red Hat not only its own container platform, but its own enterprise Kubernetes platform: Tectonic.

Docker really needs cash from customers

So, what should you do if you depend on Docker the company’s support? I’d look to my operating system and cloud vendors for help. After all, most of them, Red Hat, AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, SUSE, VMware, etc., already incorporate Docker.

Read also: Docker, IBM expand partnership

In the last few months, Docker raised another $75 million in venture capital. This brings the total capitalization of Docker to a rather amazing $250 million from ME Cloud Ventures, Benchmark, Coatue Management, Goldman Sachs, and Greylock Partners. That’s a lot of money, but I still don’t see how Docker will pay out.

Cash from investors is great, but what Docker really needs is cash from customers.

For most enterprise users, there are no real worries here. Docker or Moby, the container standard is both open source and an open standard. For Docker investors, well, that’s another story.

Related stories

With 1 Tweet, Kylie Jenner Cut $1.3 Billion From Snapchat. Here's the Explanation Everyone's Missing

With a single tweet yesterday, Kylie Jenner sucked $1.3 billion out of the market capitalization of Snap, Inc.  

Her whole message ran just 18 words, and that includes “sooo” and “ugh.” It all ads up to more than $72 million lost, for each word she wrote.

So, was it simply a tweet? Is Jenner just throwing in with the 1.2 million people who signed a petition objecting to Snapchat’s recent redesign?

Or is there something else going on?

I don’t have any inside information, but the timing of the tweet–the exact timing–makes me raise an eyebrow.

Here’s the background. Jenner is a social media influencer of the first order, making between $250,000 and $500,000 per post, according to one estimate.

That’s more money for a single post that almost everyone who reads this article makes in a year. Big-time influencer money. 

Pretty impressive performance for a woman who won’t even be able to drink legally in the United States until August 10 of this year. But Jenner is a Kardashian (half-sister of Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian).

Whatever else anyone may say, the Kardashians are brilliant marketers. I’m not exactly their demo, but I have to respect something about what they’ve managed to build.

And, whatever else they do, they don’t do things like this without thinking it through.

So, three things.

First, the change in Snap’s design potentially impacts the degree to which Jenner–heck, any of the Kardashians–can make money on the platform. Those 1.2 million Snapchat users who signed the petition? They’re her audience.

If there’s a change, of course she’d make noise. Double irony points for doing so on Twitter.

Second, the timing of the tweet: 4:50 p.m. Eastern time–less than an hour after the U.S. markets closed.

Recently, I wrote about how Mark Zuckerberg’s post in January about changing how Facebook’s news feed works sent his company’s stock into a tumble, and devaluing his own stake by $3 billion. Next time he posted, he did it outside trading hours.

So, by posting just outside trading hours, it’s almost as if Jenner knew she could impact Snap’s share price–but didn’t want to overwhelm it.

I don’t have any inside information. It’s just a hunch, but it feels like a a warning shot: Hey Snap, pay attention to what I can do if I want to!

But, it also feels like it’s not intended as a fatal blow. In fact, KJ did tweet again, reminding Snap that it was her “first love.” 


Sure enough, the stock price rebounded later Thursday, too. All’s well that ends well, right? 

At least until the next tweet.

You Won't Get Anywhere by Just Posting on Social Media

Why do so many business owners think that if you posting something on social media, people will flock to you, bang down your door, and buy everything you’re selling? Build it (or post it) and they will come is not accurate anymore, especially in 2018.

So why is all the focus put on what is being posted and nothing else? Because that’s what is easy to see. Everything else takes a little effort, but that’s the difference between treating your social media channels as billboards and using social media to actually socialize with potential customers and clients to generate leads. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, or countless others social media channels–it’s time business owners pay attention to more. 

To provide customer service.

This is what gets a consumer to trust you. The time your manager takes to respond to questions and engage in conversation could (and should) drive sales.  

“Your social media is your storefront where customer relationships happen,” said Karla Campos, Founder of Social Media Sass, an influencer marketing company. “Sure you can have great graphics but if you are bad at customer service, it’s definitely going to have a negative effect on your business. We should pay attention to private messages, customer concerns, and customer sentiment.”

To time everything just right.

Strategy and timing are part of the full equation. Flexibility and going in a different direction while staying on point is a strong trait to have as a manager.

This means don’t schedule everything and call it a day. Be live. Be social in real time. When you’re watching your favorite show and see the hashtag to use on Twitter while watching means nothing if you’re watching the next day on DVR. You don’t want to be late to the party on social media when things are happening now.

To go beyond branding.

Basic brand knowledge, decent imagery, and good writing skills aren’t enough.

“Without the strategic pieces like targeting, creating profiles aligned with your ideal audience, regularly reading and responding to the analytics behind which posts engage (or don’t) and why (or why not), posting is not only a waste of time but a waste of money,” said Jamie Prince, founder of Flourish, an integrated communications agency. 

Facebook and Instagram offer great insights. There are also third-party resources you can use too, but why pay for them when the social media giants are telling you how people are reacting to your content for free? Seeing what people are liking, how they’re engaging with it, and when it’s all happening is vital for moving forward with your strategy.

To listen.

If you’re just pushing out content, you’re basically the social media equivalent of a person who won’t stop talking. (Who wants to listen to someone who only talks, and never listens or responds?)

Social media is not a billboard on the highway for people to drive by and look at. If someone posts a question, answer it. And don’t wait a week to do it. Answer it within 24 hours. Make it a point to log onto your accounts once a day to see what people are saying. They’re telling you what they like and don’t like by their interaction, or lack of, so listen.

To respond… and be social.

It is a two-way conversation with your audience, rather than a one-way conversation, that was owned in the past by traditional media.

“An effective and holistic social media strategy includes having a dialogue with your fans,” said Dian Oved, a marketing strategist behind Empower Digital who works to verify big names on social media. “Asking them questions, responding to comments, and paying attention to what is trending on social media is extremely important.”

To generate leads.

Remember when I said you can’t just post and think people will buy whatever you’re selling? That’s because people have been trying that for years. Now, you need to pay those platforms if you want to be seen, especially on Facebook.

Spending some money to create a good strategy with images or video and target your ideal customer or client online can bring in quality leads over time to nurture, then convert.

To work with others.

When you post on your platforms, you’re only reaching your audience. By teaming up with other brands who serve the same audience, you’re expanding your reach.

When you invite influencers or members of the media to post on their social media accounts about you by tagging you or promoting you in another way, it acts as a third-party endorsement. 

To look at data.

The great thing about social media, both organic use and paid, is the access to data. You can see what works, what doesn’t and modify your strategy.

“Even for the most creative brand needs to utilize data analysis tools, most of which are free,” said Monica Dimperio, Founder at Hashtag Lifestyle, an agency that connects luxury brands with influencers. 

Years ago, posting for the sake of posting may have worked. Today, social media is like a science and needs to be approached as the complex marketing giant it is.

How Augmented Reality is Transforming B2B Sales Process

The gap between someone’s expectations and reality is a persistent problem in the B2B sales world. Far too often, customers have a very different belief about what the product should be and what they receive. The result might be something that’s the wrong size, color, shape, or doesn’t function the way the customer expected. This unfortunate process leads to disappointment, inaccuracy, and painful revisions.

In other words, what the customer wants and what the company can do are often two incredibly different things. Buyers love endlessly customizable products and options, but salespeople often balk at this idea, believing that customization may interfere with inventory and cycle time metrics. Not every manufacturer can keep up with uniquely tailored goods for each customer. That’s why augmented reality and 3D visualization should play a vital role in the sales process.

Leveraging 3D & AR technologies are proving to be ideal for rapidly achieving customer confidence in the purchasing process. The more complex or spatially-oriented a product is, the riper it is to adopt a visual selling strategy. These applications offer customers a whole new world of immersive experience as they can see with their own eyes exactly what to expect. Allowing them to take part in the design means greater satisfaction, personalization, and loyalty.

The Power of Visual Configuration

Atlas Software, a cloud-based sales platform, says that visual configuration helps increase sales efficiency by 24%, boost conversation rates by 10%, and decrease the sales process by 30%. Furthermore, companies that have reached ‘digitally maturity’ yield 19% higher lead-conversion rates, 35% more quotes, 34% superior performance, and 105% larger deal size when compared to those who rely on outdated legacy systems and sales processes.

“Manufacturing is ripe for disruption from 3D and AR technology in the sale process because it allows customers to be immersed in a complex product without the time and expense that is tied to [a] physical product in brick and mortar environments,” said Atlas Software CEO, Marc Murphy.

Murphy believes that sales play an integral role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (also called Industry 4.0) and it forces manufacturers to ask themselves how their investments are effectively changing the purchaser’s buying experience. 

Smartphone AR applications are quickly moving AR to the mainstream. Companies and sales teams will have to adapt to the market’s quickly changing demands and expectations as computer power and hardware is doing so to keep pace with visual platforms.

The next generation of manufacturing salespeople will need to leverage emerging technology–it’s the fuel for modern relevancy and growth. 

How To Track Elon Musk’s Roadster On Its Journey Towards Mars

The successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy earlier this month was a landmark technical achievement, but it has quickly come to be symbolized by something a bit sillier — the image of a red Tesla Roadster floating through space, with a dummy in a spacesuit behind the wheel.

The car and its passenger — known as Starman — were the test payload for the Falcon Heavy, and they’re now on a long journey out into the solar system. If you’re curious what that path looks like, an aerospace engineer and SpaceX admirer has put together a website that uses NASA data to track the Roadster’s course. It’s called Where Is Roadster?, and it’s fascinating, with both live data on the Roadster’s location and an interactive tool that shows its future course.

It’s often mentioned that the Roadster is “on its way to Mars,” which can give the impression that it’s making a beeline for the Red Planet. But the Roadster, like all things in the galaxy, is subject to the tug of gravity, so instead of a straight path, it’s tracing a long arc away from Earth and the sun.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.

And the distances involved are truly vast. Right now, the Roadster is still much closer to Earth — 2.25 million miles away — than to Mars, 137.5 million miles away. Meanwhile, Mars is moving too, so when the Roadster first intersects its orbit this July, the planet itself will already be millions of miles away. After that, the Roadster will actually return to something close to Earth’s orbit, though again, Earth itself won’t be anywhere close.

According to the site’s data, which is taken from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Roadster won’t actually be close to Mars until early October of 2020. And as far as we know, it doesn’t have any landing equipment or thrusters that would make it possible to actually get the car down to the surface.

Unless, of course, Elon Musk has another big secret up his sleeve.

How Parkland Students Are Setting and Keeping the Record Straight

I don’t want your condolences you fucking piece of shit, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.   — Sarah Chad,  Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, on Twitter, February 14, 2018

The brave students of Parkland, Florida, who saw seventeen of their classmates and teachers murdered on Valentine’s Day, are doing something astonishing: courageous grieving—and a strategic counteroffensive in the twin fogs of disinformation and gunsmoke. Their uprising provides a new model for all of us who live in two worlds: The real one, where the blood is, and the digital one, where the lies are.

Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is an Ideas contributor at WIRED. She is the author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. She is also a cohost of Trumpcast, an op-ed columnist at the Los Angeles Times, and a frequent contributor to Politico. Before coming to WIRED she was a staff writer at the New York Times—first a TV critic, then a magazine columnist, and then an opinion writer. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and PhD in English from Harvard. In 1979 she stumbled onto the internet, when it was the back office of weird clerics, and she’s been in the thunderdome ever since.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas are civilian teenagers, not trained soldiers, but their presence of mind as citizens of these two worlds kicked in during the massacre. They sent texts while under fire—not just expressing fear and love, but creating contemporaneous notes about what was happening to them. “Sam,” one brother texted another, “My teacher died. And he’s sitting in the doorway.” A student named Kaitlin Carbocci received a text from her sister, also a student at the high school: “kaitlin I am not joking they just shot through the walls someone in my class is injured.”

Many of these messages have been presented as heartbreaking—and they are—but their specificity also seems keenly designed to thwart future efforts to rewrite history. A tweet by @Luvanth at 2:42 pm was the first to trigger a newsroom alert. “There’s a real school shooting going on right now i’m not even playing i just heard 10 gunshots there’s police everything i’m shaking.” Later, another student tweeted: “Just to make it known, for those who might not know Douglas or be near Parkland, that the building the shooter chose was well known as the ‘Freshman building’ its wasn’t all 9th graders but had the highest amount of young students. He knew that, everyone who went here knew that.”

And the students not only noted facts, they made video, which instantly built an evidentiary archive to counter the disinformation that now pounces on every mass shooting. No Alex Jones was going to claim that the friends, classmates and teachers of these students were not murdered in cold blood by a teenager wielding an AR-15 military-style rifle. Videos by students appeared on social media while the attack was still underway. In one, students, some shaking with fear, raise their hands while police officers storm the room. In another video, a hurt student is carried out of a classroom.

Their notes, video, and testimony is already, just days after the event, creating a fuller and more direct record of this massacre than any before it.

But telling the truth isn’t enough on the broken and infected internet of 2018—and the students, who were barely born when Facebook launched, know this. They had to quickly move to counter lies, half-truths and hypocrisy that might obscure the truth of the day. (Indeed: Disinformation, much of it pushed by pro-gun Russian groups and botnets, appeared immediately, some of it connecting the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, to far-left groups and spotlighting his mental illness, which the president promptly picked up and tweeted about.)

The students did not stand for this. In interviews, posts, and tweets, they brought antibodies to the info pathogens. Newtown parents, Las Vegas adults, and other survivors of recent mass murders have not been digitally confident this way: They have been slower to recognize memes as memes.

But on day one the Parkland students pulverized weak memes like “thoughts and prayers.” And when Tomi Lahren, the rightwing firebrand, tried the usual palaver about how liberals and lunatics—not guns—are to blame for the deaths, tireless Kyra, as @longlivekcx, tweeted: “A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates. A gun has traumatized my friends. My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy. This could have been prevented. Please stfu tomi.”

It takes uncommon courage and clarity to set celebrities like Lahren straight, not to mention the president of the United States. Maybe the kind of courage and clarity that only an adolescent aware of her power online, her mind sharpened by tragedy, can lay claim to.

So the students are making their incontrovertible record. They are distributing it in social media and mainstream media, giving interviews, publishing editorials and saturating the airwaves with the truth. In the meantime, they are crowding out lies and dismantling them: calling bullshit on gibberish from the GOP and the president.

As one student who tweets as @sighnatasha said, “to the republican legislators who will continue to ignore the american people and their cries for gun control and gun laws just to continue to receive money from the NRA: a big fuck you. your own people are being killed daily. the elections in november shall speak.”

And as Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior, put it, “Everything I’ve heard where we can’t do anything and it’s out of our hands and it’s inevitable, I think that’s a facade that the GOP is putting up.”

In a final step, the Parkland students are refusing to retreat. While excoriating Congress and President Trump for hypocrisy and cowardice, they are also demanding concrete reforms. In many cases, they are asking for the outright dismantling of the NRA. On Friday, at a neighboring high school in Parkland, dozens of students protested the NRA and Trump’s gun policies, warning the president, who has announced a plan to visit, to stay “far away” from their town.

This uprising might be just getting started. Two days after the Parkland shooting, on Friday, special prosecutor Robert Mueller announced a grand jury’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for waging “information warfare,” since 2014. Using fake American personas, social media platforms and other digital media to advance their infiltration and influence, defendants allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States, sow cultural and political divisions and defeat Hillary Clinton. As the Parkland students seem to grasp intuitively, the war has been on the internet for years. Smear campaigns, propaganda and disinformation have become the internet’s stock in trade.

But the Parkland students also see the internet as a place to defeat lies with truth. It is testament to their brilliance and their bravery beyond measure that, in their darkest hour, they have taken up the fight for truth. May the rest of us have the sense to join them.

When Tragedy Strikes

Photograph by WIRED/Getty Images

Did Russia Affect the 2016 Election? It’s Now Undeniable

For some time, there has been a conflation of issues—the hacking and leaking of illegally obtained information versus propaganda and disinformation; cyber-security issues and the hacking of elections systems versus information operations and information warfare; paid advertising versus coercive messaging or psychological operations—when discussing “Russian meddling” in the 2016 US elections. The refrain has become: “There is no evidence that Russian efforts changed any votes.”

But the bombshell 37-page indictment issued Friday by Robert Mueller against Russia’s Internet Research Agency and its leadership and affiliates provides considerable detail on the Russian information warfare targeting the American public during the elections. And this information makes it increasingly difficult to say that the Kremlin’s effort to impact the American mind did not succeed.

The indictment pulls the curtain back on four big questions that have swirled around the Russian influence operation, which, it turns out, began in 2014: What was the scope of the Russian effort? What kind of content did it rely on? Who or what was it targeting, and what did it aim to achieve? And finally, what impact did it have?

Most of the discussion of this to date has focused on ideas of political advertising and the reach of a handful of ads—and this discussion has been completely missed the point.

So let’s take these questions one at a time.

1. What was the scope of the Russian effort?

The Mueller indictment permanently demolishes the idea that the scale of the Russian campaign was not significant enough to have any impact on the American public. We are no longer talking about approximately $100,000 (paid in rubles, no less) of advertising grudgingly disclosed by Facebook, but tens of millions of dollars spent over several years to build a broad, sophisticated system that can influence American opinion.

The Russian efforts described in the indictment focused on establishing deep, authenticated, long-term identities for individuals and groups within specific communities. This was underlaid by the establishment of servers and VPNs based in the US to mask the location of the individuals involved. US-based email accounts linked to fake or stolen US identity documents (driver licenses, social security numbers, and more) were used to back the online identities. These identities were also used to launder payments through PayPal and cryptocurrency accounts. All of this deception was designed to make it appear that these activities were being carried out by Americans.

Additionally, the indictment mentions that the IRA had a department whose job was gaming algorithms. This is important because information warfare—the term used in the indictment itself—is not about “fake news” and “bots.” It is about creating an information environment and a narrative—specific storytelling vehicles used to achieve goals of subversion and activation, amplified and promoted through a variety of means.

2. What kind of content did it rely on?

As the indictment lays out in thorough detail, the content pumped out by the Russians was not paid or promoted ads; it was so-called native content—including video, visual, memetic, and text elements designed to push narrative themes, conspiracies, and character attacks. All of it was designed to look like it was coming from authentic American voices and interest groups. And the IRA wasn’t just guessing about what worked. They used data-driven targeting and analysis to assess how the content was received, and they used that information to refine their messages and make them more effective.

3. Who or what was the operation targeting, and what did it aim to achieve?

The indictment mentions that the Russian accounts were meant to embed with and emulate “radical” groups. The content was not designed to persuade people to change their views, but to harden those views. Confirmation bias is powerful and commonly employed in these kinds of psychological operations (a related Soviet concept is “reflexive control”—applying pressure in ways to elicit a specific, known response). The intention of these campaigns was to activate—or suppress—target groups. Not to change their views, but to change their behavior.

4. What impact did it have?

We’re only at the beginning of having an answer to this question because we’ve only just begun to ask some of the right questions. But Mueller’s indictment shows that Russian accounts and agents accomplished more than just stoking divisions and tensions with sloppy propaganda memes. The messaging was more sophisticated, and some Americans took action. For example, the indictment recounts a number of instances where events and demonstrations were organized by Russians posing as Americans on social media. These accounts aimed to get people to do specific things. And it turns out—some people did.

Changing or activating behavior in this way is difficult; it’s easier to create awareness of a narrative. Consistent exposure over a period of time has a complex impact on a person’s cognitive environment. If groups were activated, then certainly the narrative being pushed by the IRA penetrated people’s minds. And sure enough, The themes identified in the indictment were topics frequently raised during the election, and they were frequently echoed and promoted across social media and by conservative outlets. A key goal of these campaigns was “mainstreaming” an idea—moving it from the fringe to the mainstream and thus making it appear to be a more widely held than it actually is.

This points to another impact that can be extracted from the indictment: It is now much more difficult to separate what is “Russian” or “American” information architecture in the US information environment. This will make it far harder to assess where stories and narratives are coming from, whether they are real or propaganda, whether they represent the views of our neighbors or not.

This corrosive effect is real and significant. Which part of the fear of “sharia law in America” came from Russian accounts versus readers of InfoWars? How much did the Russian campaigns targeting black voters impact the low turnout, versus the character attacks run against Clinton by the Trump campaign itself? For now, all we can know is that there is shared narrative, and shared responsibility. But if, as the indictment says, Russian information warriors were instructed to support “Sanders and Trump,” and those two campaigns appeared to have the most aggressive and effective online outreach, what piece of that is us, and what is them?

Persuasion and influence via social media cannot be estimated in linear terms; it requires looking at network effects. It is about the impact of a complex media environment with many layers, inputs, voices, amplifiers, and personalities. All of these elements change over time and interact with each other.

So anyone trying to tell you there was little impact on political views from the tools the Russians used doesn’t know. Because none of us knows. No one has looked. Social media companies don’t want us to know, and they obfuscate and drag their feet rather than disclosing information. The analytical tools to quantify the impact don’t readily exist. But we know what we see, and what we heard—and the narratives pushed by the Russian information operation made it to all of our ears and eyes.

The groups and narratives identified in the indictment were integral parts of the frenzied election circus that built momentum, shaped perceptions, and activated a core base of support for now-President Trump—just as they helped disgust and dismay other groups, making them less likely to vote (or to vote for marginal candidates in protest).

In the indictment, Trump campaign officials are referred to as “unwitting” participants in Russian information warfare. This gives the White House an out—and a chance to finally act against what the Kremlin did. But the evidence presented in the indictment makes it increasingly hard to say Russian efforts to influence the American mind were a failure.

Molly K. McKew (@MollyMcKew) is an expert on information warfare and the narrative architect at New Media Frontier. She advised Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government from 2009 to 2013 and former Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat in 2014-15.

7 Tips For Growing Your Business Quickly and Sustainably

Starting a business is hard, but growing one can be even harder. How do you set up a business to scale easily, what are the pitfalls and opportunities that you should look out for?
To get a better understanding on this, I spoke with Dr. San Ludhra who after working more than ten years in the medical field, San decided to start her own medical clinic in the heart of London.

In less than two years, she opened a second clinic, and after just four, she scaled her business internationally, opening clinics in different locations worldwide, including Dubai, and Kuala Lumpur.  

San shared with me seven tips to help scale your business quickly and sustainably.

It’s all about the data.

The keys building a business and achieving sustainable growth is in hard data. San often tells her clients, “the more you know, the more you can grow.”
The data you need to be looking at can come from a variety of sources and often revolves around customers and potential clients, and it includes:

  • How customers move through your sales funnel
  • How long it takes to convert
  • How long they remain a customer
  • What causes them to leave/stay
  • How they engage with you
  • What attracts their attention
  • What their pain points are
  • What are the biggest issues with your product/service
  • What they love about you

Understanding this data can help you convert more clients and retain them for longer, which impacts both your top and bottom-line growth.

Keep things as simple as possible

Complexity not only kills performance but did you know that as businesses grow and scale, the key dynamic that slows – or impairs – progress is the effect of complexity. Keeping your processes simple makes it easy to stay engaged with clients and helps to drive efficiency.

Ask for Help When You Need It.

Too often, entrepreneurs and business owners view asking for help as a sign of weakness, and they struggle on alone with the help they need is often just a phone call away.
But asking for help is not a sign of weakness, on the contrary, it is actually a sign of strength, a willingness to be vulnerable in front of others. And you will be surprised that when you do ask just how willing people will be to help you.

Time is your most precious commodity! 

The one thing that we cannot create, and it doesn’t matter how much money you make, is time. There are only 24 hours and day.
Be ruthless with it. Being able to scale and meet growth goals requires meticulous time management and prioritizing each day to use your time efficiently. The better you can manage your time, the more control you will have in managing your business.

Just NO!

Not only do you need to say to time thieves as mentioned above, but you also need to say No to anything that is not directly aligned with your goals.  Scaling requires making tough choices. Ask yourself what functions really need performing and hire only the best, qualified and most driven people. So no to mediocrity,

Be adaptable 

You need to be firm in the goals that you have set, but flexible and adaptable in how they will be met.
Harnessing and cultivating the ability to switch quickly directions in response to the market is key to success. Go where your ideal customers are, do your research, adapt; it will pay off! 

Continually Invest in yourself

Your business growth will often mirror your own growth and personal development. If you refuse to grow as a person, odds are your business will suffer.
Be coachable, seek out mentoring and join a high-end mastermind group. The latter especially will massively catapult your business to success. Accountability and peer group support any be overlooked when scaling a business!

The challenge for most entrepreneurs it’s not starting a business it’s scaling a business, scaling is both difficult, and you need to make sure that you grow it sustainably and to do that the more of Dr Sans tips you can adopt, the more sustainable your growth will be.