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SD Times news digest: Apple’s record developer earnings, IBM’s new data scientist certifications, and Kite launches Line-of-Code Completion

Apple has announced its highest developer earnings ever. According to the company, developers have earned $120 billion since the app store launched in 2008. Over a quarter of that has been earned just in the past year, Apple explained.

“In the past, starting a small business often meant having to invest in overhead, inventory or retail space. Today, a world of opportunity opens up with some coding skills and an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Esther Hare, Apple’s senior director for worldwide developer marketing and executive sponsor of Women@Apple. “The App Store is the new digital Main Street, and creative developers are tapping into the vast potential of the global app economy. We hope that this program helps to inspire women around the world to learn to code, join the iOS development community and share in the thriving app economy.”

IBM introduces new data scientist certifications
In collaboration with The Open Group, IBM will now be offering new data scientist certifications in order to give organizations the ability to better assess and validate data science skills.

The company has also announced a Data Science Apprenticeship program for its employees. The 24-month program is targeted towards candidates without college degrees and is composed of three main components: education, mentorship, and practical experience.

“The moves we’re making on data science skills training and certification is the right thing to do for IBM, for the burgeoning data scientist discipline and for business, at large. These efforts will not only fuel a new generation of data scientist, but provide a meaningful credential to employers for searching and hiring them. They will help take the mystery out of the recruiting process, and further elevate the field of data science, bringing clarity and confidence to organizations along the way,” IBM wrote in a post.

Kite launches Line-of-Code Completions
In addition to securing $10 million in funding, Kite has announced that it is launching Line-of-Code Completions. Kite will now be able to predict several bits of code at once.

“Traditional completions help you type a single ‘word’ of code at a time. Today, we’re releasing AI models that in some contexts can predict the next several code elements you’re most likely to type. At times this can mean even full lines of code,” the Kite team wrote in a post.

Julia 1.1 now available
Julia 1.1 has been officially released. Julia is a high-level programming language for scientific and numerical computation.

New features include an exception stack on each task, that the macro Base.@locals returns a dictionary of current local variable names and values, and that binary ~ can now be written as a dot.

More information is available here.

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Open-source leader Confluent raises $125m on $2.5b valuation

Confluent, the commercial company built on top of the open source Apache Kafka project, announced a $125 million Series D round this morning on an enormous $2.5 billion valuation.

The round was led by existing investor Sequoia Capital with participation from Index Ventures and Benchmark, who also participated in previous rounds. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $206 million, according the company.

The valuation soared from the previous round when the company was valued at $500 million. What’s more, the company’s bookings have scaled along with the valuation.

Graph: Confluent


While CEO Jay Kreps wouldn’t comment directly on a future IPO, he hinted that it is something the company is looking to do at some point. “With our growth and momentum so far, and with the latest funding, we are in a very good position to and have a desire to build a strong, independent company…” Kreps told TechCrunch.

Confluent and Kafka have developed a streaming data technology that processes massive amounts of information in real time, something that comes in handy in today’s data-intensive environment. The base streaming database technology was developed at LinkedIn as a means of moving massive amounts of messages. The company decided to open source that technology in 2011, and Confluent launched as the commercial arm in 2014.

Kreps, writing in a company blog post announcing the funding, said that the events concept encompasses the basic building blocks of businesses. “These events are the orders, sales and customer experiences, that constitute the operation of the business. Databases have long helped to store the current state of the world, but we think this is only half of the story. What is missing are the continually flowing stream of events that represents everything happening in a company, and that can act as the lifeblood of its operation,” he wrote.

Kreps pointed out that as an open source project, Confluent depends on the community. “This is not something we’re doing alone. Apache Kafka has a massive community of contributors of which we’re just one part,” he wrote.

While the base open source component remains available for free download, it doesn’t include the additional tooling the company has built to make it easier for enterprises to use Kafka.
Recent additions include a managed cloud version of the product and a marketplace, Confluent Hub, for sharing extensions to the platform.

As we watch the company’s valuation soar, it does so against a backdrop of other companies based on open source selling for big bucks in 2018 including IBM buying Red Hat for $34 billion in October and Salesforce acquiring Mulesoft in June for $6.5 billion.

The company’s most recent round was $50 million in March, 2017.

Confluent raises $50M to continue growing commercial arm of Apache Kafka

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Report: Developers want clear role requirements

Employers that want to keep their developers happy should make sure they’re clear about the details and requirements of a position. HackerRank released its 2019 Developer Skills Report, which found 68 percent of developers say nothing irks them more than being unsure of what is expected of them.

“Hiring and retaining skilled developers is critical for businesses everywhere. Recruiters and hiring managers need a deep understanding of who developers are, what they care about and what they want from their employers. For example, nearly half of developers view values misalignment as a deal-breaker when considering a job opportunity,” said Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder and CEO of HackerRank. “We want to match every developer to the right job, and this data gives engineering teams a blueprint to find and keep the best developers for their roles.”

The report is based on the responses of more than 71,000 software developers from more than 100 countries.

As far as what makes employees optimistic about a position, professional growth and learning was key for about 65 percent of developers, and work-life balance for about 46 percent. But in addition to a lack of clarity, 49 percent of developers said a lack of aligned values and 14 percent of developers said a lack of diversity both increased unhappiness with a position or workplace.

The issue of diversity is hardly helped, the survey found, by the United States’ recent tighter immigration policies. HackerRank explained that a third of hiring managers reported U.S. immigration policies as a detriment to their ability to find suitable talent. These same policies, the report found, are discouraging to developers outside of the United States, with 27 percent of them responding that they or someone they know have been put off by the tighter restrictions.

But developers concerned with their workplaces were very likely to raise those concerns, with 38 percent of respondents saying that they spoke up. The following 23 percent just up and quit their positions.

The number one concern once a developer has been hired and begun working, the survey found, was messy code, with 65 percent of respondents ranking it at the top, followed by poorly written documentation, ranked at the top spot by 57 percent of respondents.

The survey also looked at the programming languages being used by developers, and found JavaScript was the most used programming language of 2018, surpassing last years’ most-used language, Java, with over 60 percent of respondents saying that they knew JavaScript. In addition, the report found that React will likely overtake AngularJS as the most popular JavaScript framework in 2019, with a jump in knowledge from 20 percent to 26 percent of respondents.

Other technologies that are on the rise include IoT, with 53 percent of respondents predicting it will be adopted most in the near future, and deep learning following closely behind at 50 percent. On the other hand cryptocurrency and blockchain was considered “unpredictable” by respondents, with around 20 percent of the developers calling the technology’s growth over the next two years “overhyped.”

The survey also noted a generational divide marked by what sorts of projects developers considered their first programming project, as well as what sorts of music they listen to while coding. For millennial and Gen Z respondents, calculators and simple websites gave them their start (while they bopped to electronic music and hip-hop according to the survey), while a majority of Gen X and Baby Boomer respondents started with a game (while enjoying electronic and classical music, and classical and rock music, respectively).

The full report is available here.


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Some US government websites won’t load after HTTPS certificates expire during shutdown

In a government shutdown, everything deemed non-essential stops. As we found out, renewing the certificates on its websites is considered non-essential.

Several government sites are currently inaccessible or blocked by most browsers after their HTTPS certificate expired. With nobody available to renew them during the government shutdown, these sites are kicking back warning errors.

According to Netcraft, a U.K.-based internet security services company, many government domains can’t be accessed until someone fixes the certificates. Some sites, like one Justice Department subdomain, are at the time of writing completely inaccessible because the domain is included in Chrome’s HSTS preload list, used by browsers to force browsers into using HTTPS only when accessing pages on the domain.

Others, like this NASA page and one U.S. Courts website, however, aren’t using HSTS and are still accessible via an interstitial warning.

So what’s happening?

Every time your browser lights up with “HTTPS” in green or flashes a padlock, it’s a TLS certificate encrypting the connection between your computer and the website, ensuring nobody can intercept and steal your data or modify the website. But TLS certificates are notoriously delicate things. Certificates expire — a common mistake as people often forget to renew them. Depending on the security level, most websites will kick back browser errors while other sites won’t let you in at all until the expired certificate is renewed.

Except in this case, they can’t — because there’s nobody there to buy and install a new certificate.

As it stands, it’s the responsibility of each department and agency to renew the certificate for their own domain. Depending on how many workers have been furloughed and sent home in each agency, renewing a certificate might not be a top priority when they’re short-staffed and overworked already.

There is some good news.

Most major government websites aren’t down or likely to go down any time soon. Most government certificates aren’t set to expire for many more months. Also, any government website hosted on, or won’t get certificate errors, as these domains automatically renew their certificates every three months with Let’s Encrypt.

Until the government opens up again, don’t expect these websites until then. But depending on how long this shutdown lasts, you can certainly expect things to get a lot worse.

How Trump’s government shutdown is harming cyber and national security

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Redpoint Ventures is raising another $400M to invest in Chinese companies

Redpoint Ventures is doubling down on China. The firm, headquartered in Menlo Park, has filed documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $400 million across two new China-focused funds.

The firm has set a $300 million target for its second flagship China fund, a significant increase from the $180 million it garnered for its debut China fund in 2016. Redpoint is also raising a $100 million opportunity fund that will also focus on the Chinese tech startup market.

Redpoint launched its dedicated China fund, led by managing director David Yuan and partners Tony Wu and Reggie Zhang, in 2016. Wu isn’t listed on the latest filings and may have taken a step back from the China team. We’ve reached out to Redpoint for additional details.

Investing at the seed, early- and growth-stages, Redpoint’s portfolio includes Stripe, Snowflake and Brandless. Its China fund has deployed capital to Yixia, a video blogging platform valued at more than $3 billion;, an online marketplace for used cars; and iDreamSky, a Chinese game distributor that recently debuted on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Following a banner year for venture capital fundraising wherein firms brought in $55.5 billion across 256 vehicles, per PitchBook, VCs are already off to a strong start in 2019. This week, Resolute Ventures, an early-stage firm based in San Francisco and Boston, closed its fourth fund on $75 million, and Silicon Valley-based BlueRun Ventures nabbed $130 million for its sixth flagship fund. Earlier this month, Lightspeed Venture Partners announced $560 million in capital commitments for its fourth China fund.

Lightspeed announces new $560 million fund for China

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Data Privacy Day highlights the growing importance of data protection

The importance of data privacy is more evident than ever on today’s National Data Privacy Day, created to raise awareness of privacy and data protection best practices.

“As we continually share more data on our connected devices, businesses are collecting and using this personal information more than ever before. Just think about everything we do online – from health care and banking transactions to posting family vacation photos to pinpointing our location at any given time. Data Privacy Day provides an opportunity for everyone to encourage organizations to improve data privacy practices and inform consumers about the number of ways their information is being used,” said Kelvin Coleman, executive director of  the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) that leads National Data Privacy Day. “In short, privacy is good for business. If companies protect data and respect privacy, they will earn the trust of their customers. It is, however, up to all of us to learn about and practice simple steps to help protect our personal information.”

In addition, today marks the first Data Privacy Day since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in the EU, and while some industry leaders believe the day is a great reminder that organizations and individuals must stay attuned to data privacy, others believe it is redundant.


California Consumer Privacy Act follows in the GDPR’s footsteps
Industry Watch: It’s time for data privacy legislation
Preparing for the GDPR in the eleventh hour

Colin Truran, principal technology strategist at Quest Software, explained that in 2019, a day for raising awareness of data privacy should no longer be necessary. “In the era of GDPR, multimillion-dollar lawsuits, and career-ending data breaches, awareness of data privacy is higher than ever. It may sound cliché, but every single day of the year should be a day for businesses and individuals to do more to protect personal data.”

Truran believes that Data Privacy Day needs to change and evolve to meet today’s needs in order to stay relevant in the current data landscape.

“Data Privacy Day has been a fixture of the calendar since 2007, and I believe it needs to evolve to stay relevant with the rapidly changing data landscape,” Truran said. “Beyond raising awareness, the 28th of January needs to become a day where businesses are genuinely held accountable for their data protection practices. To celebrate a day like this, we should be calling on all organizations to be transparent and publish exactly what they’re doing to safeguard their customers’ data, making Data Privacy Day an annual check-in on the health of data protection and to ensure there are no hiding places for data misuse. The day is an opportunity for organizations to demonstrate how competitive they are in upholding the rights of the individual and protecting their data.”

With legislation such as the GDPR and California Consumer Privacy Law working to force companies to be more responsible for user data, companies will need to change their mindset when it comes to handling personal data.

However, Patrick McGrath, director of product management at Commvault, still thinks of today as an opportunity for “data privacy advocates to recognize that their efforts have transformed the way the business world protects personal data.”

“As we recognize another Data Privacy Day, we call on responsible IT and business leaders to take action to compel the larger business community and their own organizations to recognize people’s inherent right to keep their private data private and join us in advocating for stronger and widely adopted privacy practices,” said McGrath.

According to the NCSA, if you collect data you can build trust by protecting it with reasonable security measures, being open and honest about how you are collecting and using the data, and actually practice what you say you will do.

For consumers looking to protect their data, the NCSA suggested thinking before you post about yourself and other, owning your online presence by setting privacy and security to something you are comfortable with, and making sure your usernames and passwords are strong enough to protect key accounts.

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Uber is exploring autonomous bikes and scooters

Uber is looking to integrate autonomous technology into its bike and scooter-share programs. Details are scarce, but according to 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, who said Uber announced this at a DIY Robotics event over the weekend, the division will live inside Uber’s JUMP group, which is responsible for shared electric bikes and scooters.

I'm told that this team will actually live in Uber's @jump_rides group. @UberATG will continue to focus on self-driving cars

— Chris Anderson (@chr1sa) January 20, 2019

The new division, Micromobility Robotics, will explore autonomous scooters and bikes that can drive themselves to be charged, or drive themselves to locations where riders need them. The Telegraph has since reported Uber has already begun hiring for this team.

“The New Mobilities team at Uber is exploring ways to improve safety, rider experience, and operational efficiency of our shared electric scooters and bicycles through the application of sensing and robotics technologies,” Uber’s ATG wrote in a Google Form seeking information from people interested in career opportunities.

Back in December, Uber unveiled its next generation of JUMP bikes, with self-diagnostic capabilities and swappable batteries. The impetus for the updated bikes came was the need to improve JUMP’s overall unit economics.

“That is a major improvement to system utilization, the operating system, fleet uptime and all of the most critical metrics about how businesses are performing with running a shared fleet,” JUMP Head of Product Nick Foley told TechCrunch last month. “Swappable batteries mean you don’t have to take vehicles back to wherever you charge a bike or scooter, and that’s good for the business.”

Autonomous bikes and scooters would make Uber’s shared micromobility business less reliant on humans to charge the vehicles. You could envision a scenario where Uber deploys freshly-charged bikes and scooters to areas where other vehicles are low on juice. Combine that with swappable batteries (think about Uber quickly swapping in a new battery once the vehicle makes it back to the warehouse and then immediately re-deploying that bike or scooter), and Uber has itself a well-oiled machine that increases vehicle availability and improves the overall rider experience.

Uber declined to comment.

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