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This month, Sssh.com hosted a live event called Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths, an interactive panel discussion that brought together prominent women working in the adult entertainment industry against porn’s harshest critics to debate the nature of the industry and women’s changing role in it.

Featuring Kelly Holland (Penthouse managing director), Cindy Gallop (MakeLoveNotPorn), Ashley Fires (Clips4Sale Spokesperson), Frederick Lane (author and lecturer), and moderated by sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals.

If you have an hour to spare, the video of live debate is available online.

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Last month, bill AB1576 passed through the California legislature. Known more commonly as “the condom bill,” AB1576 is a workplace safety bill that requires condoms be worn on all porn sets during any and all instances of anal, vaginal, or oral intercourse. Basically, if you’re going to be sticking it into anything, it better be wrapped up.

The bill also requires that actors be tested every 14 days, a requirement that the porn industry already follows. The biggest difference between this part of the law and the industry’s current system is that the cost of the tests would be transferred from the performer to the studio.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Promoting safe sex is a no-brainer in the sex-positive community and – considering the popularity of porn these days – barrier methods in porn could be a great way to normalize everyones least favorite form of birth control. Then there’s the added benefit of protecting performers, people who are simultaneously cast as whores who deserve what they have coming, victims to be saved, or paragons of personal choice – depending on who’s doing the judging.

And judge they do. With the introduction of AB1576 to the legislature and the subsequent hearings, blogs posts, and articles promoting one side or the other, it seems that everyone wants to claim the safety of performers as their tantamount concern. Both Michael Weinstein of the AIDs Healthcare Foundation (AHF) – the original force behind the bill- and Dr. Isadore Hall, III, of District 64 in Los Angeles – the Assemblymember who first proposed the bill – have insisted from the start that performers (and women in particular) are not being adequately protected from STIs under the porn industry’s own self-regulation. 

Is that true? Are women being exploited under the current system? Or is AB1576 a paternalistic governmental move in a sex negative society? Because performers are the ones most affected by this bill (and therefore really the only ones whose opinions matter),I reached out to three performers and one filmmaker to see if I could get a deeper understanding of what, exactly, is going on inside the porn industry and with AB1576. Here’s what I heard. 

Alana Evans, veteran performer

“We’re not bringing the diseases to the general public. The reality is, they’re bringing them to us.”

alana evansAlana has been performing for 17 years, no small feat in an industry known for its insatiable desire for new talent. Back when she first started, porn was a totally different place and largely independent studios worked with equally independent contractors. Today, the landscape is totally different. “Corporate America is basically running porn,” she sighed over the phone line when I spoke with her last week. 

Alana went on to explain that part of that corporate control can be seen in the fact that most performers today work with agents who, theoretically, work for the performers.

“They’re supposed to be working for you, but a lot of girls are young and they end up working for the agent instead,” Alana described. “With that being said, girls aren’t always going to push for things that are best for them because of the way the industry is.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that she thinks AB1576 is the best way to protect those young women. While Alana personally has no problems with condoms, she believes that whether or not to use one on set should be the choice of the performer, not a requirement imposed by the state. She also pointed out that she has watched the porn industry do a great job in the past 20 years of tightening up testing laws and self-imposing moratoriums when performers test positive and that, “when you have outside forces telling us what to do, it messes up our system.”

Rather than a measure to protect performers, Alana sees AB1576 as a way for Michael Weinstein and the AHF to garner as much publicity as possible, a point that Weinstein himself more or less conceded when he told the LA Times, “We got more publicity for safer sex and condoms than we ever could have gotten any other way.”

Christopher Zeischegg, aka Danny Wylde, former performer

“I think the industry has done a very good job at self-regulation but I don’t know if it’s enough.”

zeischegg_wyldeRecently retired from the porn industry due to health problems brought on by the use of erectile dysfunction drugs, Christopher was extremely active in opposing an earlier version of AB1576, an LA-only law called Measure B. This time around, the 28 year old performer who had been working since he was 19 sounds… Tired.

“It’s a huge clusterfuck,” he told me. “And I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it.”

Christopher described an industry that is less and less able to provide work for its performers, one in which people are taking the small leap from porn to illegal (and therefore unregulated) sex work – such as escorting – as the jobs dwindle. It’s there, he tells me, that their exposure to STIs increases tenfold. 

He doesn’t, however, think that AB1576 is the answer to the problems the porn industry is facing, problems more to do with economics than the safety of workers. One thing he does know? Imposing criminal penalties on performers isn’t going to help.

Mike Stabile, public relations for Kink.com, filmmaker

“There’s a long history of people coming in from the outside and saying, ‘You don’t know better. We’re going to save you.’”

Stabile Headshot CropMike Stabile doesn’t bite his tongue when discussing AB1576. Describing the language used by both Assemblymember Hall and AHF as sounding like “obscenity crusaders from the ‘80s,” Mike, like Alana, thinks that the whole thing is a publicity stunt for an election year. 

“If you really want to make something that’s going to improve sex worker safety, you need to talk to those communities, learn what their concerns are, and handle them properly,” Mike said.

In addition to calling out Dr. Hall for the high HIV rates in his own county, Mike emphasized that condoms in porn can actually injure rather than protect. Another performer and former nurse, Nina Hartley, has been quoted in multiple media outlets on the fact that the average length of intercourse for most Americans is 10 minutes, while the average length of intercourse on a porn shoot is between 30 and 60 minutes and that the difference in time has a huge impact when you’re talking about condoms. 

Condom use on porn sets can cause abrasions that limit the number of shoots a performer can participate in, both Nina and Mike pointed out, potentially drastically reducing their already suffering incomes. Additionally, the prolonged banging with lager-than-average penises can open up abrasions that actually increase the performer’s risk of contracting an STI, both on set and in their personal lives. 

Veruca James, performer

“They’re creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

verucaA former accountant, Veruca had forgotten how serious official buildings could be until she walked into the government buildings in Sacramento for the most recent hearing on AB1576. While she didn’t speak herself, Veruca felt that Lorelei Lee and Diane Duke – the two performers representing the opposition to the bill – did a great job outlining all of the reasons that so many performers don’t want to see AB1576 enacted.

She also felt like their voices were heard at the hearings and that certain as yet unexplained nuances of the bill – like exactly how studios would pay for STI tests – were brought to light.

Pointing out that most porn performers are independent contractors who work for multiple studios, big and small, over the course of the two week period that each new test covers, Veruca asked, “Which producer pays for the test?” Would the big studios cover the cost? Would smaller studios piggyback on a test paid for by a larger one? Would there be some kind of communal kitty that everyone pays into that covers the costs? What initially seems like a cut and dry element of the bill becomes imminently more complicated when you really dive into the logistics.

Echoing the voices of her fellow performers, Veruca said she’d be happy to work with the government to figure out the best way to protect performers. In fact, APAC – the for performers, by performers advocacy group that Veruca is a part of – recently met with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of California and, Veruca reports, the meeting was promising. 

So what does this all mean?

The creation of APAC and the fact that OSHA is not only willing but eager to meet with its members is a sharp deviation from what appears to be a pattern of government disregard for the lived realities of many porn performers. Rather than stepping on the backs of performer health and livelihood as a way to gain publicity, HIV/AIDs advocates would do well to really listen to what is being said.

After all, I’d say they’ve made it pretty clear: They’re happy to work with you. 

All images used with permission from the subjects.

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Immersive technology is poised to reshape digital media consumption — if the price is right.

virtual reality

It is the stuff of science fiction and of science fact: Total and believable sensory immersion into a virtual world, known as “presence,” is the future of media consumption, as well as the future of engineering and medicine, education, combat, real estate, tourism — even porn and sex itself. In short, this rapidly evolving technology holds no less than a full promise of revolutionizing human existence, our daily lives, and our livelihoods.

For now, however, it’s a gimmick that is as likely to make you physically nauseous from using it, as it is to convincingly transport you to another realm. Think of it akin to 3D video, which after nearly 100 years of development, remains an immature technology that still leaves much to be desired. While the current crop of immersive devices remain more idea than ideal, the development of this technology is such a big deal for so many stakeholders that it is not a matter of if, but of when — and of how convincing a user’s perception of presence will ultimately be.

Pursuing Virtual Reality is Nothing New

While younger generations may want to claim the concept of virtual reality (VR) and augmented sensory displays as their own, the fact is that the predecessors of today’s prototypes can trace their lineage back 60 years or so — to devices such as the Sensorama of the mid-1950’s — think of an old arcade size- and style machine, where the user sits down and places his or her head into a viewing hood. The Sensorama featured a vibrating chair, plus a pair of stereo speakers, fans to provide airflow intended to simulate wind, and odor emitters for added realism, while the Sensorama engaged its users by mimicking motorcycle and helicopter rides.

A decade later, towards the end of the 1960’s, the first 3D head-mounted displays that altered the user’s view and perspective based on head movements emerged. These units were so bulky that they wore the user as much as the user wore them — requiring an articulated mount to suspend the hefty “headset” from the development lab’s ceiling.

Fast forward 15 years to 1984’s release of William Gibson’s “Neuromancer,” which dealt with a virtual realm that users could immerse themselves in. Fifteen years later, “The Matrix” popularized the notion of a Borg-like collective consciousness, where individuals interfaced with machines as their sole existence — conceptually similar to the “Man-Machine” — a modern corollary to Fritz Lang’s silent film masterpiece, “Metropolis,” which so powerfully warned of an invasive merging of man and machine, back in 1927.

Although we have not yet entered the era of “The Matrix” as Hollywood envisions it, the boundaries of technology are continually pushed — with the U.S. military on the forefront of immersive technology. This is exemplified by the new generation of helmets being developed for F-35 pilots, which will provide jet jockeys with an all-encompassing 360 degree view of the aircraft’s immediate battle space, by using advanced sensor integration — a far cry from when pilots would jury-rig an automobile’s rear-view mirror in their cockpit, in hopes of grabbing a glance at any enemy aircraft approaching from the rear…

Closer to home, and much less expensive (unless you are Facebook, which paid $2 billion for it), is the much ballyhooed Oculus Rift — which the social media giant wants you to have in your home next year.

Oculus Rift: The New Standard Bearer

Beyond effective presence and an inherent “cool factor,” headsets such as Oculus Rift, which will be first marketed to the gaming community, will need a low price point, simply due to its target demographic —a factor that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey concedes, while noting that the retail price of Oculus Rift has yet to be determined.

“I’ve always said is that if VR isn’t affordable it might as well not exist for most people,” Luckey stated. “We’re not looking to make a rich person’s toy, we’re not looking to make a research tool. We want to make a consumer VR headset that pretty much anyone can afford.”

Luckey explains that available content is the commodity that sells hardware, and if the hardware is too expensive, then developers will shy away from supporting it.

“You can’t sell an expensive piece of hardware and expect tons of content to show up,” Luckey said. “We’re not doing market research around what’s the breaking point for people to buy a VR headset; we’re just trying to sell it as cheap as we can while still existing as a company.”

According to Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe, the company hopes to bring Rift to market at around $300 — the same price as the development kit — but Iribe wants the device to eventually be free to acquire, noting that “the lower the price point, the wider the audience.”

“Obviously it won’t be [free] in the beginning,” Iribe says. “We’re targeting the $300 price point right now but there’s the potential that it could get much less expensive with a few different relationships and strategies.”

The company’s focus on finances goes beyond considerations of product price, however. Originally funded through Kickstarter donations, many early Oculus supporters reportedly felt “betrayed” when the company “sold out” to mega-brand Facebook — so a free or low cost offering could placate frayed community feelings and lead to a resurgence of support for the company.

For its part, Facebook believes that virtual reality could be the next great evolution in computing.

“Oculus has the potential to be the most social platform ever,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated.

“Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”

The persistent problem of reconciling potential with profitability extends to Oculus Rift as well, with Facebook noting that while it has yet to develop a solid business model for the device, it hopes that revenues will not depend on selling headsets or other hardware — with Zuckerberg envisioning people visiting virtual worlds that are supported by advertisements and that have a retail shopping component (think visiting a shopping mall without leaving home, where social inputs influence purchase decisions).

“We feel like we should be looking ahead and thinking about what the next platforms are going to be,” Zuckerberg said, adding that “We think vision is going to be the next really big platform.”

With a reported 75,000 Oculus Rift developer kits already shipped, Zuckerberg’s hunch seems to be on the right track — but Oculus Rift is not the only freight train roaring down the track to virtual reality…

Google’s “Mockulus Thrift”

For all the fanfare surrounding Oculus Rift as being a technological marvel, the basic premise of it is a simple one, with an example familiar to old-school film photographers: who despite investing countless dollars into high-end gear, still marveled at the images made with “pinhole” cameras, which were often constructed for free, using an old shoe box.

Google took this into the digital age, when it gave Google I/O event attendees a slab of cardboard, which when folded, tabbed, and an Android phone inserted inside, became what some call “Mockulus Thrift.”

A small magnet on the device’s outside acts as a control switch, while a pair of plastic lenses provides the big-screen illusion of other wearable vision devices. No audio component was included.

Officially known as “Project Cardboard,” Google’s Mockulus app offers seven “experiences,” including a YouTube theater simulator; a Street Vue function that provides a VR version of the company’s street view mapping, and a Photo Sphere Viewer that lets users examine images produced using Android’s 360 degree panorama function.

Although some observers characterize Google’s ploy as a joke, others see it as a declaration that the tech giant could easily wade into this arena with its own technology and disrupt everything.

What About Google Glass?

To use the well-worn “Star Trek” analogy, the promise of total sensory immersion is akin to the idealistic vision of Star Trek’s Holodeck — whereas Google Glass is more akin to character Geordi La Forge’s visor, which not only gave him sight, but also informational overlays that provide a more comprehensive view of the world(s) around him.

Perhaps best illustrative of the ideal of “stylish” functionality for everyday usage (it is easier to imagine consumers wanting to wear a Google Glass style device out in public, than wandering about with a big helmet on their heads), the capabilities of the two product types is too divergent to compare as equals.

While an immersive headset could do what Google Glass does, the streamlined device may not be able to emulate the isolative presence of a full headset; so today, it is an apples versus oranges comparison.

Sony’s Morpheus

Perhaps the most “finished” of the commercial options (although not expected to be released this year), Sony’s Morpheus shows the technology powerhouse is not relinquishing the virtual reality space without a fight.

“We really focused a lot on technology in the past, and [now] we really want to focus more on the new experiences that technology enables,” PlayStation’s Magic Lab Director, Richard Marks, says. “One of the things that we believe strongly in is actually prototyping things; we call it: experiencing engineering.”

One of the biggest engineering challenges in bringing virtual reality to market is to affordably deliver a consistently high frame rate along with low-latency, which with today’s technology, requires compromises; but this is not the only technical challenge facing device developers.

“There’s a trade-off. There’s a fixed amount of resolution. So you can either give that to a really wide field of view or you can make [the resolution] feel higher, but the [field of view] narrower,” Marks adds. “We’re trying to get a good balance of that.”

“Right now we’re still working on the issue of the display,” Marks intimates. “Right now we have a great prototype system for our developers … [but] for the commercial system, we’re still working on that.”

Two of the unique aspects differentiating Morpheus from Rift are concept and completion. The former is illustrated by the company’s move from using traditional eye tracking, to focus on “gaze tracking” and the ability to sense non-verbal communication cues, as humans do when communicating face-to-face.

“A lot of different people are looking at how to track your eyes,” Marks offers. “Our focus is more on, if you can track your eyes, what do you do with it?”

“Where someone is looking conveys a lot of information about what the person is interested in, what they intend to do, and it’s a very unconscious thing that people do,” Marks concludes. “You can make the characters smarter because they kind of react in a way that is more intelligent because they know what you’re looking at.”

As for the latter differentiator, completion, Sony has a display device on sale now that will give users a glimpse of tomorrow’s technology today: the $999.99 HMZ-T3W Wearable HDTV. Boasting 2D and 3D video capability along with 7.1 surround sound, the device uses a pair of OLED displays to give users the perception that they are viewing a whopping 750 inch screen from a distance of 65 feet — emulating a real world theatre experience.

Eying Oculus’ pricing trend, Sony claims that while Morpheus will use similar hardware, it won’t cost a thousand dollars — and given the company’s massive content library (an asset not shared by Oculus), back-end monetization is a much more realistic option for the firm.

While the future of these devices is tantalizing, their current reality is one of providing a better viewing experience for users — but the promise is not one of watching, but of doing.

Immersive Interactivity: “The Killer App”

“Up until now, the most immersive medium on the planet has been a five-story IMAX screen,” 3D filmmaker D.J. Roller says. “Now it’s a phone-size, head-mounted screen.”

Consumers really don’t need just a new way to watch videos, however — so it is not only a matter of size or form factor — these “phone-sized” personal devices have buttons so that users can control them.

For better or worse, immersion and interactivity have been tied at the hip. After all, there is little value in entering a virtual world if you are unable to interact with it. Back to the 3D movie analogy, today’s tech may provide “depth” to a scene (with an occasional butterfly or other element seeming to flutter past and behind you), but without the ability to change the movie’s outcome, or to involve yourself with any of its elements, then you are merely an observer in the story, rather than a participant.

Additionally, actively participating in a virtual realm is better when you can do it anywhere, at any time.

This tie in to mobility is perhaps the most important next step for these devices, as this evolution will offer several benefits: For example, by providing a “big screen” alternative to the current small screen of mobile devices, these platforms will take a step toward being integrated personal communications, data and entertainment hubs for consumers — and perhaps ring the death-knell for traditional in-home PCs. This next generation tech model envisions the use of a headset as a remote display for a smartphone, tablet or other device — a personal theatre, if you will.

Another milestone will arrive when immersive wearables shed their wires (as well as their reliance on an additional computer or other device to power and feed media to them) — evolving into “IP headsets” — similar to the way webcams evolved from PC-dependence to IP-addressable, connected self-sufficiency.

An ironic aspects of immersive interactivity is that videogamers, utilizing the technology as a toy, may likely be the mass-market segment the provides the commercial traction needed to develop mankind’s greatest tool, to be used for more “serious” applications. Given the half-plus century scientists have already put into immersive technology, expecting perfection in the near term is wishful thinking; but the palpable sense of presence is improving with each generation and the long term promise is bolstered by the benefits that immersive interactivity will bring to mankind. It really is just too big a deal to ignore…

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Earlier this month, Fleshlight launched a new product that they called the Fleshlight LaunchPAD, which is basically a holster that attaches to an iPad and allows the user to have enhanced video chat sex or POV masturbation sessions. I wrote that any advancement in sex toys for boys is welcome in my book but a closer look at the product had me feeling kind of… Meh.

After a great conversation with MiKandi founder and former sex toy designer Jennifer McEwen and a sillier one with my boyfriend during which he mimed the different ways a penis-haver could use the LaunchPAD while walking down a busy city street, I realized that this toy could use some major improvements.

Because I know the boys are all jealous over the fact that they have practically no sex toys while the girls have all the fun, I’m not going to just hate on the Fleshlight for their maybe-not-totally-necessary iPad holster. Instead, in the spirit of sex-positivity, here are our suggestions on ways Fleshlight could vastly improve on the current design, plus one truly innovative and interesting way that it could be used.

Number one is that they really need to get on the haptic technology bandwagon. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of haptic tech, the best explanation is those racecars in old school arcades that would shake as you “drove” them. That’s haptic technology, at its most basic level.

With the advancement and popularization of cell phones, that technology can now be applied to more grown-up toys. For example, companies like Vibease and OhMiBod have pioneered apps that connect to vibrators and dildos, allowing couples to get down and dirty even when they’re on opposite sides of the world.

For the Fleshlight LaunchPAD, haptic technology only makes sense. While I’m not an engineer, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be too hard to sync the motions happening in a porn video, for example, with the actions inside a Fleshlight. The Fleshlight Vibro already has vibrating technologies built in, so why not team up with a software engineer who specializes in haptics to create an app that communicates with the Vibro?

Along those same lines, I’d love to see Fleshlight develop the toys that we’ve all been waiting for: one that truly lets you feel like you’re fucking your partner (or porn) through the computer. I’m not sure what the drag is on the development here (not enough knowledge? stalling for Oculus Rift?) but it is way past time for you sex toy designers to get up on it. The first person who does it right is going to make billions.

Any sex toy designers who are interested in developing this toy should check out Ambrosia Vibe, which met their minimum funding goal on Indiegogo in one week. Claiming to be the world’s first bionic dildo, the Ambrosia Vibe transforms actions taken on the dildo onto a vibrator that then stimulates the wearer.

A sexual experience that combined the Ambrosia Vibe on one end and the Fleshlight LaunchPAD using the Vibro on the other, connected via haptic technology and a video feed would be so awesome. Video chat sex is already great but can you imagine how much greater it would be with these toys? I can.

Haptic technologies are really just the tip (couldn’t resist) of what could be done with the Fleshlight LaunchPAD. My favorite suggestions out of the conversations I’ve been having around this toy is using it for gender exploration. This could be a great tool for trans folks who are trying to decide if they want to go in for full genital surgery or even just for people who are interested in getting a taste of what it means to be a different gender.

Going further down the haptic tech/gender exploration rabbit hole, what if a user could strap on the Ambrosia Vibe and use it to fuck a Fleshlight that was connected via haptic tech to another Ambrosia Vibe that was fucking their partner?

I think my brain just exploded.

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porn innovation

There is a common perception that the adult entertainment industry is a technology leader whose innovations are so irresistible and unique that mainstream users eventually adopt them: finding homes in our homes and businesses for hi-tech products and services originally intended for the consumption, delivery or production of porn.

However, even a casual examination of the historical examples of erotica’s interface with technology reveals that the premise of the adult entertainment industry innovating technology that later becomes adopted by more mainstream markets is overblown at best, despite this being a widespread belief.

One might first go back to Guttenberg, where the first job off the printing press was a copy of The Bible, with the first mass-produced porn following shortly afterwards. This watershed moment in history was perhaps the first technological innovation in communication since a tower or other elevated, manmade construction provided greater reach to an orator’s voice and the ability for larger audiences to see him.

Consider also, that at the time of Guttenberg, the church did not encourage individual Bible ownership by ordinary people — it was the exclusive province of the clergy. As a result, it is reasonable to suspect that the first examples of mass-market porn greatly exceeded the number of Bibles printed at this time; so while the average person of the era may have associated the printing revolution with porn, porn was not the motivator for this epoch innovation.

It is just the first example of how porn popularizes mainstream innovations.

The best (or at least a more current) example of this may be in the dominance of JVC’s VHS over Sony’s technically superior Beta format during the VCR format wars.

Many observers contend that a tidal wave of VHS porn videos fueled a cycle of consumer demand that extended to playback and recording devices, as well as to the rapid spread of video rental outlets as a distribution channel — crediting the porn industry with a win for VHS. Certainly, home video turned porn into a commodity quickly embraced by consumers, in part due to the easy availability of sexually explicit fare that despite previous generations of film-based “stag” reels, never approached the critical mass achieved by tape-based home video, but the dominance of VHS has a less salacious explanation:

Sony’s Betamax was a proprietary format that would have limited revenues for other companies seeking a slice of the home video market, and as such propelled a JVC-led VHS consortium to dominance, due to VHS’s lack of stringent licensing terms. One can find a current corollary on the digital video front, where Adobe’s proprietary Flash format fell into disfavor, despite its once widespread acceptance — trounced in favor of open source solutions enabling more freedom for users and more profits for tech companies.

Once again, the adult entertainment industry did not invent home video, nor did it necessarily sway the consumer market towards the choice of one format over the other — but it is reasonable to assume that porn played a significant role in speeding up the mass-market adoption of this breakthrough technology.

The same can be said for personal computers and the Internet, e-commerce, streaming multimedia, broadband, and more — these technologies all stemmed from the mainstream — but the rapid growth in popularity of these tools among consumers may rightfully be laid on porn’s doorstep. The same goes for hi-definition video, webcams and live video feeds, augmented and virtual reality, haptics and more.

Another aspect of this equation involves the lower cost of VHS camcorders (or as was common, video cameras tethered to separate recorder decks), which were fast adopted by wannabe Spielberg’s hoping to film their own sexual escapades; producing homemade skin flicks and giving birth to massive amounts of amateur porn produced since.

This phenomenon democratized porn and significantly contributed to its broader societal acceptance.

Likewise, amateur porn arguably fueled the rapid uptake of camera phones — with this trend continuing through the present day, as evidenced by the “selfie” craze. Solidly within the mainstream realm today, the popularity of self-shot, self-depicting digital imagery traces its current uptick back to younger adults and other users sharing their sex lives through this new, self-expressive creative medium: a convenient alternative to swapping old-school Polaroid pictures.

These examples illustrate that porn does not necessarily invent the technologies that may become quite closely associated with it, but it decidedly influences society’s view of adult entertainment and the folks who produce and consume it. Thus, familiarity with fornicators flashing their assets in front of a camera, rather than leading to contempt, lead to greater understanding and acceptance of this artistic medium.

This normalization of pornography continues today, as consumers realize that porn is an everyday thing, rather than the stereotypical portrayal as the province of organized crime, where exploited “sex slaves” perform under duress with an unseen mobster’s hand, just out of camera frame, pointing a gun at their heads and demanding their obedience.

There are also certain business practices said to have originated in adult and then spread to mainstream, such as affiliate programs and various billing techniques. Here again, however, adult affiliate programs — considered revolutionary by some observers — are merely an evolution of sales commissions, which are as old as commerce. Likewise, looking at timeworn magazine or newspaper subscriptions settles any notion that adult “invented” recurring billing. Even the immensely popular adult “tube” sites stem from mainstream powerhouse YouTube, from which they get their name.

Altogether, the abundance of evidence, whether real, rhetorical or circumstantial, shows that while porn popularizes mainstream innovations, it rarely if ever creates them — with the next example of the trend set to unfold as immersive, wearable technology such as Oculus Rift and Sony’s Morpheus, promising an unheard of level of “presence,” emerges. While it is doubtless that many alien monsters will be virtually slain in the gaming world these devices are initially targeting, while furthering the promise for medicine and science, the massive consumer adoption needed to bring these devices to the mass-market will not likely occur until the next generation of porn is ready for their use.

Providing the next best thing to being there, who, after all, could resist ownership?

 

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The war on adult content leaves many in the grey area of the adult industry stranded on precarious ground.

war on adult content

Recent months have marked a sharp increase in the types of businesses that are closing their doors to adult content creators. March saw a number of mainstream payment processors and crowdfunding sites take a staunch position against adult performers, even when their use of these services had nothing to do with creating adult content. In April, Chase closed the bank accounts of a number of adult performers and their partners, including those of performers who were not using their accounts for business. Last month, MailChimp briefly suspended the account of an adult boutique over an innocuous newsletter rounding up sexy apps currently on the mobile market. And now Google is taking further steps to make it harder for adult businesses to make a profit.

Earlier this month, Google sent out a message to adult sites using AdWords to announce that the search giant will no longer accept ads that lead to adult sites.

“Beginning in the coming weeks, we’ll no longer accept ads that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts including, but not limited to, hardcore pornography; graphic sexual acts including sex acts such as masturbation; genital, anal, and oral sexual activity,” the e-mail from the Google AdWords Team read. “When we make this change, Google will disapprove all ads and sites that are identified as being in violation of our revised policy. Our system identified your account as potentially affected by this policy change. We ask that you make any necessary changes to your ads and sites to comply so that your campaigns can continue to run.”

The e-mail included a link to the Google Advertising Policy log, which added, “Under this policy, sexually explicit content will be prohibited, and guidelines will be clarified regarding promotion of other adult content. The change will affect all countries. We made this decision as an effort to continually improve users’ experiences with AdWords.”

Further communications from the Google AdWords Team last week reveal this change will impact not only sites that feature pornographic visuals, but any sites that contain language referring to sexual acts, something that will impact educators in the field of human sexuality.

Sexually explicit content includes graphic depictions of sexual acts, including but not limited to hardcore pornography. This also includes graphic sexual acts such as mastrubation, genital, anal, and oral sex. We will restrict the content similar to the nature of the examples below: images or language depicting any sexual acts in progress, images or language depicting masturbation or genital arousal, images or language depicting any type of genital, anal, and oral sexual activity, language explicitly referencing arousal or masturbation, explicit language to reference genitalia. [...] This includes but is not limited to graphic language describing a sex act or images (computer generated images included) depicting a sex act.

The AdWords Team noted that nudity and “other” adult content will not be prohibited, but that guidelines will be imposed on these types of content as well — a move that will, without doubt, impact a number of photographers and artists.

While this change to AdWords doesn’t affect sites’ page ranking on the search engine itself, it nevertheless represents another example of Google’s increasingly consistent attitude toward adult content across its products. Almost a year ago, Google prohibited the monetization of adult blogs on its free hosted blogging platform Blogger.

“Do not use Blogger as a way to make money on adult content,” read the Blogger Content Policy after the update. “For example, don’t create blogs that contain ads or links to commercial porn sites.”

As with the AdWords change, which tells adult content creators to change their ads so these are not in violation of new terms, the Blogger update ignored that for many bloggers — those posting their sexual experiences, sex toy reviews, erotica, and news in the adult industry — adult ads were often the only monetization option available to them because of their chosen niche. Adult content creators to whom blogging had long since become a source of income faced a simple choice when Blogger cut them off: stay and blog for free or self-host.

Many of these bloggers turned to self-hosting, which costs money to set up and maintain, and lost all incoming links that they had accumulated over the years, which affected their ranking. This is a great loss, as ranking has been increasingly difficult for adult content creators on the search giant. There are two main reasons for this. The first is evident: if Google determines that a site is “adult,” it doesn’t show up on a search when a SafeSearch filter is on, which is its default setting. The second reason is less obvious: an “adult” label makes it difficult for sites to rank normally due to changes in the search algorithm that require that searches specifically signal that the person making the query is looking for adult content — even when SafeSearch is turned off. (To get a sense of how this works, go ahead and run an Image Search for “tits” and then run one for “tits porn.”) Naturally, a lot of users don’t use search in that way unless they are looking for porn, which has the effect of reducing discoverability for adult content producers whose products are not within the porn category but still fall under the Google-imposed “adult” label.

Reliance on AdWords came as a way to slightly even the playing field for adult content creators, by giving their sites prime real estate through ads. As part of Google’s advertising arm, AdWords delivers relevant text ads alongside search results on Google and a number of partner search networks such as Ask.com and AOL, as well as displays relevant media ads across over the million websites and mobile apps in the Google Display Network.

It hasn’t been an easy relationship. For years now, advertisers using AdWords to drive traffic to adult properties faced some level of restriction. A number of adult properties were banned outright, such as those containing “sex-related services and information” and sites that either provide or promote sex work. In 2011, the ambiguity of what, exactly, “promote sex work” means got Google into hot water when they cancelled an AdWords campaign for the Dublin-based Turn Off the Blue Light non-profit, whose site focused exclusively on lobbying for sex workers’ rights.

For adult properties that were not banned, ads were possible, but these ads — marked “Approved (adult)” by Google — could not include images or video, only text, and were blocked in some 30 countries. Even in countries without such restrictions, “Approved (adult)” ads only triggered when people performed adult-specific searches — meaning that all keywords chosen by these advertisers when placing the ad had to be specifically adult in nature. Additionally, members of the web and mobile Display Network were free to bar adult ads on their properties, greatly decreasing the potential exposure for “Approved (adult)” ads.

Despite these restrictions, a number of adult properties successfully leveraged AdWords to get visibility, contributing to Google’s $50 billion advertising revenue last year. But as has been made clear by Google’s recent messages to advertisers of adult properties, this relationship will be coming to an end as early as mid-month, though the revised policy may not appear until July.

The American organization Morality In Media has taken credit for this change, as part of a joint effort with Enough is Enough, Concerned Women For America, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Covenant Eyes, and Net Nanny Community. In May, this coalition met with Google to discuss how to “protect individuals, families and children from exploitation” by putting an end to the tech giant’s involvement with pornography but is highly unlikely that pressure from these groups truly had any influence on the company. For some time now Google has been making policy changes across its products to uniformly distance itself from adult content.

In 2006, the tech giant began collaborating with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and joined both the Technology Coalition, which fights online child sexual exploitation, and the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography, a group of 34 leading banks, credit card companies, electronic payment networks, third-party payment companies and Internet services companies dedicated to eradicating child pornography. Fighting child pornography is a laudable cause and there was little reason to believe that it would impact adult content creators that were operating within the bounds of the law.

But it wasn’t and isn’t simply a matter of child pornography, as Elliot Schrage, former vice president of global communications and public affairs at Google, would clarify in 2007, when he said, “When a child isn’t seeking out objectionable content, but someone deliberately forces such content on them, this amounts to exploitation — and requires government involvement and cooperation by ISPs and other online services.” In short, Google believes that showing adult content to a person who has not given consent or — in the case of a minor, cannot give consent — to view adult content, is “exploitation.”

Over the years, the tech giant has taken more and more steps to restrict the visibility of any adult content to prevent this scenario from happening. Before Schrage clarified the company’s position, Google already had put SafeSearch in place on its search engine to offer users content control. This content-control was pretty hit-and-miss at the beginning, prompting a Harvard study to note, “Google SafeSearch seems to lack a principled or rational basis for allowing certain pages while blocking others. [...] A manual review of additional sensitive search results indicates that this apparent arbitrariness extends to a large number of search terms including searches about sexual health, pornography, and gay rights.”

In 2009, Google enabled users to lock SafeSearch on, making this setting impossible to change unless the person wishing to do had the Google account password of the user that had enforced that restriction. And, as mentioned previously, at the end of 2012 Google tightened its web and image search function to require that users clearly signal that they are looking for adult content in order for it to show up in search results at all, regardless of whether SafeSearch is on or not. At the time, Google clarified: “We are not censoring any adult content [...] you just may need to be more explicit in your query if your search terms are potentially ambiguous.”

In 2010, Google introduced Safety Mode to YouTube, its video-sharing network. Learning from SafeSearch, YouTube’s Safety Mode was launched with the option to lock the filter on the browser, making change possible only with the Google account password of the user that had enforced that restriction. A lesser-known aspect of YouTube’s Safety Mode is its connection to SafeSearch — turning on one also turns on the other.

YouTube, it should be noted, prohibits sexual content outright, but also maintains age-restrictions on videos that contain “Vulgar language, violence and disturbing imagery, nudity and sexually suggestive content and portrayal of harmful or dangerous activities.” Users are encouraged to preemptively age-restrict their own videos, but YouTube might do it for them. The imposed age-restriction can be appealed by “Partners,” people who are part of the YouTube advertising program, but only once. Age-restricted videos are invisible by default, requiring that users log in to their Google accounts and verify their age before they can access them, and are not be eligible to join the YouTube advertising program — though videos from giants like Hollywood and the music industry that one might think would fall under the age-restriction category, such as Beyonce’s “Partition” music video, seem to always get a pass.

In January of 2012, Google’s social network Google Plus lowered the age requirement for users from 18 to 13, which spurred a spree of image-flagging across the social network as the Photos Team made a dash to tidy things up for the newcomers. Due to ambiguity in policy, the results were uneven and concerns about accidentally running afoul of the policy remain a reality for photographers, models and artists on the social network. In April of 2014, Google Plus enabled Pages on Plus to age-restrict much like YouTube, by marking themselves “18 and over” or “21 and over.” To date, Google Plus has not made age-restriction available to Profiles.

Shortly after the Google Android Market metamorphosed into Google Play in March, 2012, they began to stringently enforce restrictions on adult content that they had, up until then, been fairly lax about, going as far as to ban a Reddit app because sometimes posts appearing on that networking service direct to adult sites. At the end of March of this year, Google Play expanded its restrictions on apps to include erotic content as well. If the adult restriction was ambiguous, the ban on erotic makes the situation even worse.

In April, 2012, Google introduced its cloud storage service, Drive, with a content policy that prohibits sharing files that are sexually explicit. “Writing about adult topics is permitted as long as they aren’t accompanied by sexually explicit images or videos, or any material that promotes or depicts unlawful or inappropriate sexual acts with children or animals. Additionally, we don’t allow content that drives traffic to commercial pornography,” reads the policy — meaning that sharing a Doc with colleagues about anything as benign as a spreadsheet of traffic stats for adult URLs could result in account suspension. Individual user tests on this have revealed that the nudes taken by the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz are considered pornographic and sharing them is limited by the service.

In June of 2013, Google updated its developer policy for Glass apps (called Glassware) to prohibit “nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material” and briefly suspended the developer account of the adult Android app store Mikandi for releasing Tits & Glass, an app that would enable users to create and share adult content using the wearable technology. That very same month, Google banned the monetization of adult content on Blogger.

In November of 2013, Google introduced Helpouts, which connect people who need help with experts via Hangouts video chat (previously GTalk and Plus in-network Messenger). The tech giant made its position on adult content abundantly clear from the get-go, banning experts on topics such as: “Dating sites, dating services, general dating advice or companionship services; Abortion; Birth control; Adult dating, companionship, or escort services; Excessively exposed skin/nudity; Non-fine art containing nudity/adult concepts which are gratuitous or intended to be sexually gratifying, lingerie; Sex toys and other sexual wellness products; intimate massage; Strip clubs; Adult job searching sites; Mail order brides; Content intended to arouse; Pornography; Otherwise sexually explicit content.”

A month later, it was revealed that the Android KitKat update packed a list of 1,400 banned words to prevent these from auto-completing or auto-correcting due to their “adult” connotations (bizarrely, this list included things like “lactation,” “uterus,” “STI,” and “preggers”). A similar list of banned words for predictive search on Google Instant had been discovered shortly after its launch in 2010, but it recently drew attention once again when activists found that “bisexual” was still on that blacklist in 2014.

A number of the moves that Google has made in the past decade are to ensure that it is not seen as profiting from pornography, but a great deal more have been made to prevent adult content from showing up when people don’t want it. Unfortunately, based on accounts from the many users who have reported suspension for content violation on any number of Google services — myself included — and the amount of content that should be age-restricted or disallowed by those same standards, but isn’t, it’s obvious that the company doesn’t have an internal consensus on what qualifies as “adult” content. This lack of clarity on the part of Google has created an unsafe environment across its services for adult content creators, who are basically waiting for the inevitable accidental policy violation that will result in their loss of access to everything from Gmail to Google Calendar.

Unlike porn sites that might be considering turning to ICM Registry’s dot-xxx top-level domain, its adult-only search engine, and ad networks, “gray area” adult content creators that are not in the business of pornography will not fare better in that competitive pornography-centered space — and that’s not even getting into the obvious concerns about how trivial it would be to block the domain extension in the root zone, thus censoring the entire digital adult ghetto.

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uplust

Pornostagram Changes Name to Uplust

From XBIZ

With a new name, new look and new features, Pornostagram.com, a social networking platform that welcomes hardcore images and sex talk, has changed its name toUplust.com in an effort to avoid any confusion with the popular Instagram hub.

Read the article on xbiz.com

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Monetizing Mobile Apps

The Mobile Team at Apptentive share common mistakes to avoid when monetizing mobile apps.

Read the article on apptentive.com

Retention is King

Managing Partner of Quint Growth, Jamie Quint, asks “How do we get better at keeping the users we already have?”

Read the article on andrewchen.co

 

 

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tim cook wwdc

Apple CEO Tim Cook took the time to blast Android yesterday while giving an audience of 6,000 developers an update on iOS7 adoption. Citing some 130 million new customers in last 12 months, Cooks shared that half were Chinese customers who switched from Android for “a better experience.” A stat that Cook remarks as incredible. But is it really?

Android has an enormous 78.6% marketshare in China. Apple has only recently began to adoption efforts in China, so of course it’s only logical that new customers will come from the dominating OS. I mean, where else would they come from? Even with 65 million new Chinese users coming from Android to iPhone, it’s much too early to scoff at the mobile OS Hulk.

The Delicate Balance Between Security and Openness

That said, Cook brought up some interesting critiques of Apple’s largest mobile competitor. Particularly that it’s fragmentation problem is not only driving customers away, but exposes the ones who stay to “a toxic hellstew of vulnerabilites.” The way Google releases updates to Android leaves users at the mercy of OEMs or carriers- and as well as at the mercy of Google, as OEMs and carriers first need Google to release the updates to them before they can pass it down the wire. Buying direct from Google is the only way to be sure you’re getting the latest updates as they’re released.

Security and user protection are often cited as reasons to justify more restrictions. In his speech, Cook concedes that Android does dominate the market- the mobile malware market, that is. I find the timing interesting given last week’s exploit against Apple’s ‘Find my Phone’ feature, in which cyber attackers hacked into iPhones and demanded payment in return for unlocking them. It’s important to remember that we’re not talking about malware, but an exploit in Apple’s features that gave the attackers access to hijack the devices. For all the restrictions Apple imposes on its users, it’s still susceptible to security breaches. Do the higher restrictions in the name of security justify the loss of consumer freedom? It all depends on what you what you value more- freedom to make your own decisions or ease of mind.

People love Android because it’s always strived for a balance between security and openness. No OS is 100% safe, but by educating users to practice due diligence when downloading, folks can reduce their chances of becoming victims of cyber attacks. Here are our tips for protecting yourself.

Practice Safe Downloading

safe-downloading

Below is a list we complied back in December 2009 of precautions you should take before downloading anything (mobile or web).  Please take the time to review it as it can be the difference between a working Android and a cracked one.

  1. Put on your sleuth cap. Research the developer of the application before downloading. Applications in the MiKandi marketplace are not created by MiKandi.Developers use our marketplace to connect with you, the end user.  So before you hop into bed with an app, get some details on the Developer.  A Developer’s contact information can be found in the app description.  If it’s not, just give us a shout at info@mikandi.com and we’ll send you the info.
  2. Read the fine print. Always read the legal information and privacy policy the Developer provides and review what information they want to collect.  In order to install an app, you will be notified of security permissions the app is requesting access to.  Be wary of apps that request more access than necessary.  Be cautious about sharing your personal information, and click Cancel if you are not comfortable with granting access.  In the end, it’s best to refer to the first guideline and email the Developer with any questions.
  3. Be cautious who you share your location with. Some apps allow you to share your location with the Developer, friends, or public at large.  Refer to Guideline #2 and find out why the app you want needs that information.  There are many fun apps out there that require access to your location.
  4. Listen to the tribe. MiKandi’s review process is driven by the community, as opposed to imposing our own review process. We leave the feedback to our community of users.  Take note of what other end-users are saying about the app you want.
  5. Report abuse. Obviously, illegal content is NOT tolerated on MiKandi.  If you discover an app with illegal content, please report the app in question at developer@mikandi.com
  6. Install a mobile security app. Lookout provides trusted protection against phishing, malware, and spyware. You can download the app free on MyLookOut.com or in Google Play.

Developers are more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding their application. Developers who stock apps on MiKandi are subject to the MiKandi Terms of Use.  All apps are subject to MiKandi’s Privacy Policy.

MiKandi Permissions Explained

mikandi permissions

When you download any Android app, you must allow the app certain permissions before it can install on your device. Here is the list of permissions MiKandi asks for before you install, and why.

Your Personal Information (read sensitive log data)
This gives us access to MiKandi log data only. It does not give us access to log data of other apps. We retrieve this debug information so we can help improve the app, such as when the app crashes or other login problems.

Network Communication (full internet access) 
MiKandi needs internet access to stream content and apps to you.

Storage (modify/delete SD card contents) 
This allows you to manage (install/uninstall) free apps on your SD card though MiKandi.

Phone Calls (read phone state and identity) 
MIKandi uses this permission to track different versions of Android, so that we can do a better job of serving you content that is optimized for your device.

System Tools (retreive running applications) 
MiKandi uses this permission in order to install and manage applications that you download through MiKandi.

Network Communication (view network state) 
This tells MiKandi if you are connected to the Internet via data or WIFI.

My Accounts (discover known accounts) 
This allows MiKandi to securely store your account credentials on your device.

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porn earbuds

Winzz, the Taiwan-based company behind the wireless virtual reality sex toys for long distance couples, announced last week earbuds that promise to enhance how you watch porn.

The so-called world’s first 6-way earphone delivers sound that is “so close, so real, so 4D experience” through “360 degree surround sound” that adjusts female voices to soud “more pleasing and less sharp” and male voices to be “fuller and rounder.” The earbuds will run you $24 with coupon. Not too shabby, but methinks they might want to charge a little more and get a designer better versed in Photoshop.

earbuds-photoshop

Source lovepalz.com

 

 

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