Want to learn Arabic? Klingon? Duolingo turns to the crowd to create new language classes

Do we really need to learn more than one language? Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) said that he sat through a demo where English (voice) was translated to Mandarin (voice) then to Mandarin sign language. The end receiver then used Mandarin sign language with a response which made it’s way all the way through the channels into English Sign language! That’s the future.


For the past two years, startup Duolingo has helped people learn new languages while crowdsourcing translations of real-world web content. Now, it’s tapping the crowd for new language classes, too.

To date, the company, which has 10 million users, has released mobile and web classes for six languages. But founder and CEO Luis Von Ahn, who also created ReCAPTCHA, said the startup receives about 50 messages a day from users requesting new languages. In total, he estimates users have asked for the addition of classes for hundreds of new languages.

“We simply cannot add so many by ourselves,” he said. “When we get asked for a language, a fraction say I’m willing to help. We took a cue from that and developed a system that lets the community contribute classes.”

Through the startup’s new Language Incubator, users can apply to add a new language to the site. Duolingo reviews the…

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Can sensors help seniors hold on to independence? Lively is betting on it

There’s also a new shoe that sends vibration into elderly people’s feet that helps them maintain their balance and avoid falls. No more, “I fell and I can’t get up” commercials! Watch out #LifeAlert!


Plenty of startups target younger consumers with sensor-embedded wristbands, watches and other gear that offer paths to a fitter physique, healthier habits and peak athletic performance. But San Francisco-based Lively wants to use sensors around the home to help the elderly preserve something that can often feel even more precious with age: independence.

Mobilize_badge_product-showcaseLaunched last year, the startup sells sets of sensors that can be attached to objects in a senior’s home to learn and share information about the person’s routines. Sensors attached to pill boxes could track when medication is taken or, clipped to a keychain, could indicate when the person leaves and returns home. Once it learns a person’s habits, it can send alerts to loved ones and caregivers when it senses deviations from the norm.

“This isn’t about monitoring, it’s about caring,” said co-founder and CEO Iggy Fanlo. “It’s about creating an activity-based social network and…

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Poll the Audience:

Digital Dysruption is NOT the same as Digital Disruption


You may be thinking that the title of this post or blog contains a misspelled word, but you’d be wrong. I actually created this word to represent what I see happening in the digital world today. There’s a lot of content about digital disruption out there, but the word “disruption” just doesn’t articulate the phenomena we experience everyday. In Texas, we’d say it just doesn’t cut the mustard!

The word “disruption” is defined as “Disturbance that interrupts an event, activity, or process.” This implies that the event, activity or process will continue after the interruption or disturbance passes.

However, that is simply not true. Digital Technology and disruptive innovation is changing the world, permanently. Things will never be the same.

Furthermore, the term “digital disruption,” doesn’t capture the magnitude of these fundamental changes. Any MBA graduate can tell you about the “Value Disciplines Model.” It’s a concept described in the book “The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market” by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. In the book, Treacy and Wiersma introduced the three following values:

  • Operating Excellence: characterized by low or lowest price and hassle free service, like Walmart.
  • Product Leadership: characterized by products that are the best in their market and highly valued by customers, like Apple.
  • Customer Intimacy:  characterized by occupying only one (or a few) high-value customer niches and being obsessive about understanding the individual customers in detail, like Amazon.

Treacy and Wiersma found that, in order for companies to be successful; they had to have a minimum competence in  all of three values above, but had to be the best or the market leader in only one! They represent the idea with the following diagram:

Value Disciplines Model
Courtesy of The Enterprise Advocate

Treacy and Wiersma asserted that enterprises that sought to be the best at more than one of these values actually reduce their competitiveness which would result in loss of market share and profit. The reason for this is because the basic enterprise culture, structures, people, facilities, processes and business models that lead to excellence in any one discipline are incompatible with achieving excellence in the others.

For example, Operationally Excellent enterprises tend to have a limited range of products and configurations as this is cheaper to build and deliver than a vast range of products and configurations typical of a Customer Intimate enterprise. Tracey and Wiersema thus proposed that Enterprises  must make a key strategic choice about which value discipline to select.

And if you were to believe Treacy and Wiersema a few years ago, then you’d be correct. Now, you’d be wrong! And in the future, Every company must be the best or the market leader in all three disciplines or they will dysrupted permanently!

Notice that I used the word “Dysrupted,” I coined this term to expand the definition of disruption to reflect the fundamental and permanent change to the status quo which we know today.  The word “Dysfunctional,” defined as “Not operating normally or properly,” provides the missing element when combined with the word “Disruption” to make the point that the affected event, activity or process  will never again function normally. Taken together, the term “Dysruption” means a “Disturbance that fundamentally interrupts an even, activity, or process to such a degree that it will never operate normally (in the same way) again.”