How Hipstamatic got lost and the patent problem: top stories you have to read

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Every day, tech stories hit the web about everything from Samsung’s mini Galaxy S III to Marissa Mayer’s tricky new situation as geek girl/CEO mom. But other stories are told too: from discussions about the holes in the US patent system which have allowed patent trolls to thrive and the effectiveness of sponsored content on BuzzFeed to the difficulties of pivoting and ‘unpivoting’ a startup. Here are our picks for the best tech stories you might have missed.

No filter: inside Hipstamatic’s lost year searching for the next killer social app

It aimed to be the Kodak of the digital era, but somewhere along the way, Hipstamatic got lost. Two years ago, the startup behind the retro faux-analogue photography app was selling digital lenses, flashes and film and growing its four-million strong userbase and revenue, until it was eventually eclipsed by newcomer Instagram and forced to get more social and find a niche in a competitive market. In this three part series, Fast Company’s Austin Carr deftly tracks Hipstamatic’s journey from award-winning innovative app, to the present day layoffs and uncertain future, through a maze of potential acquisitions, retired products and unsuccessful funding attempts.

The patent, used as a sword

Given the recent court battles between major tech players like Samsung, Motorola, Apple and HTC, you’d be forgiven for thinking that patent litigation is the latest quirky trend. After all, Apple and Google have spent more on patent lawsuits and purchases in the last year than they did on the research and development of new products. Companies can write and rewrite a patent until it’s approved, or file a pre-emptive one for something that doesn’t exist yet, and then spend months in court fighting about whether a competitor violated it. Is the system broken? This article on the flaws in the US patent process offers insight into the true patent trolls and the tricky realm of intellectual property where you can claim to have invented something intangible or could infringe on a patent you didn’t know existed.

The advertorial’s best friend

So, what is the future of online advertising? Well, it doesn’t seem to be banner ads. We’ve become accustomed to sponsored posts in Facebook and Twitter — and the next step seems to be sponsored stories on everything else. Using Buzz Feed’s content sponsorships as an example, The Wall Street Journal explains how advertisers are increasingly recognising the value in subtly branded stories which have a good chance of being shared and spread on social networks. If you could sponsor something that before it went viral, would you?

The forgotten half of social

In this guest post, StumbleUpon’s Jack Krawczyk argues that despite all this rhetoric about how social media has made life more… um, social, many brands are focusing more on broadcast mediums (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and neglecting the other half of social: the tools that allow you to have more personal, intimate conversations. He conducted a study that shows that certain types of content and certain platforms are more likely to be associated with certain forms of conversation — for example, people are more likely to actively discuss humourous things, music and tech-related info on broadcast channels like Twitter, StumbleUpon, YouTube, tumblr and Facebook. Krawczyk suggests that brands should consider the type of conversation their product is likely to generate, and provide mechanisms for people to discuss it using the right platform.

Why America is really worried about Huawei

The real reason why America has deemed Chinese tech giants ZTE and Huawei a big enough security threat to discourage the purchase of their products? It may have something to do with the tech-related espionage the US has been involved with in the past: the government has seen how effectively imported technology can be used for spying and sabotage. But with so many electronics and parts imported from China, how can you avoid using technology that may or may not be used against you, under order of the Chinese government?

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