Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “White iPhone 4 Now Available in Apple Online Store”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “White iPhone 4 Now Available in Apple Online Store”


White iPhone 4 Now Available in Apple Online Store

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 03:02 AM PDT


We knew it’s happening today, but it’s still hard to believe our eyes: after an extended period of downtime, the white iPhone 4 is now available in Apple Online Store.

The device should also become available in Apple retail stores when they open later today, as well as AT&T and Verizon Wireless stores and at select Apple authorized resellers.

The price and functionality of the white iPhone 4 is exactly the same as the black version, but the thrill of finally having the often delayed device should be enough to prompt quite a few customers to spend their hard-earned cash. Bear in mind that the shipping time for the black iPhone 4 is “within 24 hours”, while the white version ships in “3-5 business days”.

[via Apple]

More About: apple, iphone 4, online store, white iphone 4


Blurb Releases iPhone App for Creative Storytellers

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 03:00 AM PDT


Blurb, a veteran self-publishing startup for do-it-yourself book makers, is launching Blurb Mobile for iPhone and iPod Touch Thursday to let users tell stories in a whole new way.

The application invites users to create mobile shareable stories using photos, videos and audio sourced from their devices. The idea is to turn mobile users into storytellers with a fast and elegant way to shape their rich media content into engaging stories.

“At the highest level, Blurb is about storytelling,” says Claire Barry, senior director of design for Blurb Mobile. “Blurb Mobile allows people to create a story with a beginning, middle and end — it’s a very personalized narrative.”

Just as a book or magazine editor would artfully arrange content on the page, Blurb Mobile users can pull from their personal mobile media collections and rotate, crop, scale, sequence events via drag-and-drop, incorporate geotags and otherwise edit mobile story content as they see fit.

Authors can also select from one of seven themes and choose to add text or voice captions. Resulting stories can then be shared as digital booklets via email, Facebook or Twitter.

The idea of mobile and social storytelling isn’t exactly new, but Blurb has engineered a uniquely artistic and polished experience that goes beyond simple photo sharing to allow the mobile user to craft a narrative. As Barry puts it, the app is all about “stories you can make when walking around with one hand.”

Blurb Mobile is a free application available for download from the Apple App Store Thursday. Users can purchase in-app upgrades for additional photo, video and audio storytelling tools.


Create a New Story





My Stories





Edit Story





Edit Story





Edit Story





Story





Story




More About: blurb, iOS, iphone app, social media

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Verizon Promises Fix for LTE Outage, Postpones Droid Charge Launch

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 02:23 AM PDT


Verizon‘s LTE network has been having some major issues in the past 24 hours, and the company has issued an official statement about the problem, promising a fix as soon as possible.

Luckily, while the 4G portion of Verizon’s data communication has been unavailable, 3G is working well. According to Verizon, 4G LTE Smartphones should still be able to make calls, but customers are currently unable to activate any 4G LTE devices.

Verizon claims it has determined the cause of the 4G LTE network connection issue, and is “continuing to work to restore connections.”

Meanwhile, Engadget reports that Verizon has postponed the launch of Samsung Droid Charge, which is hardly surprising as it is also an LTE device.

We’ll keep you updated with any new info about the outage.

More About: Droid Charge, LTE, outage, verizon

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Trailer Released [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 09:35 PM PDT


The epic finale of the Harry Potter film series is coming to theaters on July 15, and its trailer just hit iTunes and YouTube.

Update: Finding an embeddable version has been a moving target for us, so if you have trouble viewing this clip we’ve embedded here, you can go to iTunes or YouTube to see it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and final movie in the Harry Potter film series; Part 1 of Deathly Hallows premiered in November, 2010.

Will Part 2 be in 3D? Part 1 of Deathly Hallows was not released in 3D, because of difficulty converting the film from 2D to 3D, according to IMDb. But the film still broke the record for the Potter franchise’s biggest opening weekend, grossing $125 million and going on to earn $954 million worldwide, the third-highest grossing film of 2010.

The upcoming Part 2 will be released in 2D, 3D and IMAX formats.

What do you think, Harry Potter fans? Will you be watching this final installment in 3D, or will 2D be good enough?

More About: 3D, Film, harry potter, harry potter and the deathly hallows part 2, Movies, trailer, trending

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Get Daily Dates Instead of Daily Deals With InboxCupid

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 08:02 PM PDT


The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: InboxCupid

Quick Pitch: A new date in your city everyday.

Genius Idea: Flipping the daily deals model to daily dates.


Most online dating sites are all variations of the same basic idea: Dater A fills out a profile, Dater B likes what he sees and sends a wink or nudge to start the courtship. Some sites throw in matching algorithms or even friend vetting, but they’re all essentially different shades of gray.

InboxCupid is anything but gray. The fresh-faced dating site offers a quirky twist on the daily deals model — instead of offering email subscribers a daily deal per city, InboxCupid serves up a featured dater per city.

Co-founder Kareem Ahmed likens the InboxCupid to an online speed dating network. “You can get exposed to a lot of people with doing a minimal amount of work,” he says.

Here’s how it works: Would-be online daters subscribe to InboxCupid in their city and specify who they’re interested in dating — a man interested in women, for instance. Users can then simply sit back and wait for InboxCupid to fill their inboxes with daily featured dates. If users like what they see, they can hit the “Inbox Me” button to message the featured date and see if there’s a match. To make the connection, InboxCupid charges the interested dater $1.

For those who want to be the featured daily date — and 15% of all subscribers do, Ahmed says — all that’s required is creating a profile and selecting and answering five questions. Wannabe featured dates can choose to answer innocent and innocuous questions such as “What is the worst date you have ever been on?” or the more provocative ones like, “Is sexual compatibility important to you?”

When the profile is complete, the user is added to a first-come-first-serve city queue and will receive a notification prior to being featured. Should the dater get featured, an email blast will go out to the city’s subscriber pool and interested dates are then required to answer the same five questions and pony up the $1 connection fee.

Right now, the just-launched startup is currently only live in Minneapolis, but it’s accepting sign-ups in cities across the U.S. and will open up as soon as supply meets demand, which Ahmed defines as 1,000 subscribers per city.

InboxCupid went from idea to actual site in about one month’s time. Ever the idea man, Ahmed would often think around unique applications of the daily deals trend until the daily date idea struck him as something that’s never been done before.

“We thought it would be crazy to put actual people up as potential dating candidates,” says Ahmed of the two-man team that includes his developer co-founder David Dellanave.

The pair still have day jobs but believe that InboxCupid has a novelty quality that will spark courtesy. “We live in a voyeuristic culture where everyone is so interested with everyone else is doing,” Ahmed says.

Whether InboxCupid can graduate from being just another novel idea to a viable business is for you, the online daters of the world, to decide.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Vanessa Pike-Russell


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark


Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

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Tech and Tweets Saving Lives as Tornadoes Wreak Havoc Again [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 06:40 PM PDT

Tornadoes are wreaking havoc across the South again, and according to TV station ABC 33/40, dozens of people have died so far. Social media and technology is helping to spread the word, perhaps saving many more lives. Watch the dramatic video above as a tornado slams into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where you can easily sense the fear in the shallow breaths of the videographer.

After Tuscaloosa, Alabama was hit hard, now residents of the Birmingham and Anniston, Alabama area take cover. Take a look at this live Ustream video from Birmingham television station ABC 33/40, where meteorologists are broadcasting to thousands of online viewers. The weather personnel are using sophisticated radar tech to spot funnel clouds, warning residents to take cover.

As residents upload dozens of pictures and videos with their mobile devices, the Weather Channel’s Twitter feed for breaking news is busy tonight, re-tweeting images of the destruction.

Even though television stations often unnecessarily inform viewers of impending rainstorms, this is not one of those times. If you’re in Alabama and hanging out with your computer tonight, check out those Twitter feeds, turn on the TV/radio or watch that livestream linked above. Be safe.

Update: Here’s a tip from one of our Facebook friends:

“There’s a hashtag people can use to follow information- #[state abbreviation]wx. So, for Arkansas, it would be #ARwx, and for Georgia, it would be #GAwx. Spotters, reporters and emergency people are starting to use this more widely. Twitter is more useful than facebook in this regard.”

Thanks, Lorie!

Update 2: Examples of tweets, video and photos from the storm, from Mashable’s Emily Banks:

More About: Alabama, tornadoes, trending, twitter, ustream, weather channel

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Flat, Shiny Keyboard Is Actually a Touchscreen [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 06:02 PM PDT




If you like typing on a touchscreen, you’re going to love this thin Minebea Cool Leaf Keyboard.

Strangely enough, even though the keyboard itself is one large touchscreen, it doesn’t bring any of the versatility such a format (like the Razer laptop’s keyboard we saw at CES) could offer. For instance, imagine substituting a video window for the number pad, or designing your own keyboard layouts for specific tasks, or even displaying tool palettes for Photoshop. Let’s hope Minebea explores that kind of versatility with this keyboard that already possesses multitouch capability.

If you’re touch typist, the inability to feel the keys might be a dealbreaker, but if you’re a germ freak, this flat and shiny keyboard will be a whole lot easier to keep clean. It must be a fingerprint magnet, as evidenced by its shiny nature and included cleaning cloth.

To be released first in Japan on May 13, it’s a USB keyboard with 108 keys that only works with Windows thus far. Minebea reps say a Mac version will be available soon, and the Japanese version will be rolling out first, followed by those that contain the correct character set and key layout for English, German, French and Italian.

When you turn the keyboard off, its surface is reflective enough to be used as a mirror, perfect for looking yourself in the face and asking yourself this question: Why did I just spend $245 on this keyboard?

Here’s a quiet, even meditative, video of the keyboard in action:

Via CrunchGear

More About: keyboards, Minebea Cool Leaf Keyboard, peripherals, touchscreen

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MOG To Go Freemium as Streaming Music From Apple & Google Looms

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 03:31 PM PDT


Here’s some good news for everyone out there who’s not really into paying for tunes: Music subscription service MOG will be launching a freemium service within the next few months.

Envolver.fm reports that the news emerged during the Rethink Music conference on Tuesday, when MOG CEO David Hyman took the stage.

Hyman said that he had been watching the way European service Spotify functioned, and plans to take a page from its book — on a smaller scale. Spotify recently limited its free (ad-supported) music selection, but it will still offer 10 hours of music per month starting on May 1.

Right now, you can listen to MOG tunes for 14 days for free, but you have to enter in your credit card number first. The new model will not require a card to join.

We’ve reached out to MOG for more info, but the bare facts alone signal a pretty big move in the subscription space — especially with Google and Apple‘s rumored cloud-based music services looming large. Rival services like Rdio and Rhapsody don’t offer freemium plans, and those that do (Pandora and Slacker Radio) offer limited access and don’t currently feature on-demanding listening — although Slacker will be introducing that feature soon.

We wonder if with this barrier to entry (i.e.: having to pay right off the bat) removed, MOG will be able to gain a more substantial user base. Spotify has several million users (MOG doesn’t report their user count), and one million paying subscribers. For comparison’s sake, Rhapsody (one of the only services to report user count) has 750,000 users.

What do you think? Does MOG’s upcoming freemium offer entice you?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, shulz

More About: freemium, MOG, music, music-subscription-service, spotify

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Social Media Has Little Impact on Online Retail Purchases [STUDY]

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 03:09 PM PDT


All those marketers who are rushing to increase their social media spend take note: A new study says social media has almost no influence on online purchasing behavior.

The report, a collaboration between Forrester Research and GSI Commerce, analyzed data captured from online retailers between November 12 and December 20, 2010. The research shows that social media rarely leads directly to purchases online — data indicates that less than 2% of orders were the result of shoppers coming from a social network. The report found email and search advertising were much more effective vehicles for turning browsers into buyers.

"The best analogy is in the South, a lot of people go to church on Sunday," says Fiona Dias, executive vice president of strategy and marketing for GSI Commerce. "If you go with the theory that you should market where the people are, then you should be running off to market during church services. Facebook has the same analogy. Buying things from retailers is maybe 10th on the list of things they want to do on Facebook."

Dias says social media outreach is somewhat effective for distributing news about short-term deals. In that case, 5% to 7% of purchases are influenced by social media activity.

What does seem to work is more traditional online marketing, including email and search advertising. Most consumers in the study were exposed to some form of marketing by the retailers before they made their purchase. Seventy seven percent of transactions in hard goods categories (like lawnmowers) and 82% in soft goods categories (i.e. clothing) occurred after the consumers had engaged in some interactive marketing tactic before their purchase. Forty percent of hard goods transactions and 60% of soft goods transactions came to retail websites directly from email and search.

That's not to say that online advertising plays no role in purchasing decisions. The report found that consumers are exposed to such ads early in the purchase funnel — display ads are the first touchpoint for 13% of soft goods buyers, for instance.

Dias says she isn't surprised by the survey's results because she's been telling retail clients for some time that social media outreach is a waste of time and money. Says Dias: "It's been a mystery to me why the media is excited about social media. From a retail and commerce perspective, it seems to have no effect."

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, MorePixels, timsa

More About: online shopping, social media, trending

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Why Wall Street Is Betting Big on Your Social Media Data

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 02:48 PM PDT


Andrew Graham is a media strategist in New York who specializes in finance, energy, and public policy. He has worked as a press contact and ghostwriter for numerous hedge funds and financial technology firms. He established his media consulting practice in 2009, and he also supports digital media programs for the communications firm Greentarget.

Social media isn't only about news, opinion and commentary. It's also a potentially profitable form of raw data, at least if you ask Wall Street.

Many on Wall Street think they can use social media networks to reliably predict how the markets for their investments will trend. One London-based investment manager says it will launch a fund dedicated entirely to using Twitter for investment decisions. The fund, managed by Derwent Capital Markets, has colloquially become known as "the Twitter hedge fund" among some Wall Street insiders. Although the launch has been perpetually delayed, it has an estimated $100 million in capital.

Wall Street's interest in using social networks is far-reaching. Many other social media platforms are receiving attention from investment managers who are searching for the next edge; looking to slice and dice content from social networks to arrive at meaningful conclusions. They are not traditional Wall Street personalities. They're not personalities at all. Instead, they're computer-driven algorithms designed to buy and sell massive volumes of stocks, bonds, options, and other financial instruments on their own. Don't think Gordon Gekko. Think Watson, but for high finance instead of Jeopardy!

This investment philosophy isn't platform-centric as much as it's content-needy. Wall Street doesn't care which platforms users are on, only that social media continues to be a goldmine for content to analyze. There are three primary reasons why this is happening now.


Social Media and Trading: Three Connections


Despite coming into prominence in the mid-1980s, this type of computer-driven trading –- now termed "high-frequency trading" in industry parlance -– generally receives little attention from the mainstream business press. In 2009, it broke into the news, with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal among the outlets that published articles meant to explain the technology to a mainstream audience.

The relationship between social media and this kind of trading goes something like this:

  • Today, computers make most trading decisions. Some estimate that between 46 and 73% of equity trading volumes in the U.S. are made by these high-frequency systems, which are designed to use computer speed and processing power to crunch massive amounts of data and seek small profits on enormous trading volume. A system that can reliably make a few cents per trade on hundreds of thousands of trades per day is quite valuable to a firm.
  • Social networks have unique qualities that make them particularly well-suited for the machines that now dominate Wall Street. The sheer amount of content produced on social networks is enormous and continues to grow. The content production itself is a voluntary act. Even the ways with which social networks interact with one another –- the so-called semantic web -– make content production across multiple networks extremely quick. And of course most social media content is public at some level, especially when a carefully programmed algorithm is doing the searching.
  • Other competitive advantages are going away. This growing enthusiasm for social content isn’t so much borne from newness as it is from necessity. As the BBC recently reported, the speed at which high-frequency trading can function is approaching its physical limitation. Speed is a competitive advantage for these platforms but it's quickly becoming ubiquitous. If and when speed –- called “low-latency connectivity” -– is further commoditized, firms will require a new way to get a leg up on the competition.

These three realities have conspired to create demand for new ways to parse out conclusions from content on social media platforms. Having reliable sets of information -– Wall Street tends to call information "data points" or "market data" –- is centrally important to high-frequency trading platforms. Experimentation in sourcing information from social networks is rising rapidly.

These initiatives are certainly impressive. But they should also raise some eyebrows.


Where Trading Via Social Data May Fall Flat


It should shock no one to learn that these sophisticated models sometimes make mistakes. Recent history is wrought with examples of algorithm-driven trading gone awry, from the shocking collapse of a large hedge fund in the late ’90s to several high-profile market failures in more recent years and probably scores of horrifying details that have gone unreleased.

The problems ironically begin with the very human tendency to jump to conclusions. Paul Rowady, senior analyst with consultancy Tabb Group, says that high-frequency trading platforms can use social media data as trading indicators, either supporting or rejecting an existing hypothesis.

However, it would become problematic, he said, for a trading platform to mistake a trading indicator for a trading signal. Differentiating between indicator and signal is important. Indicators are derived from raw market-related data, such as content on social networks, and serve as inputs to models. Signals, usually based on multiple indicators, are the output of those models and eventually become orders to buy or sell financial instruments.

Wall Street calls the mathematicians and engineers who develop these models "quants," short for quantitative analysts. They program the models that turn multiple indicators into a specific order.

"Social media can play a role in the form of trading indicators, but at this stage, not in the form of pure trading signals,” he said. “The signal-to-noise ratio for that dataset is simply way too low.”

Figuring out how to determine if a set of social media data is good news or bad news for a particular stock or trade is also problematic. It's easy enough, said Rowady, to use social networks to capture which stocks will move on abnormally high volume in a given day. Reliably establishing whether they will move higher or lower, however, is another matter entirely.

"You can say, ‘There's a headline on this ticker, so volatility is going to go up.’ But as to the bias of that volatility, is [the price] going to go up or down? That's a much harder problem to solve," he said.

Rowady is referring to the difficulty of measuring negative sentiment on a social network, a familiar barrier for many other industries grappling with social media analytics. Users don't frequently un-like something on Facebook, and using Twitter to complain about negative consumer experiences is dependent on that user's personality, not the platform's architecture.

Where are these blind spots, and how should high-frequency trading platforms treat them? How do algorithms find patterns in language used across the social media sphere while at the same time controlling for false-positives? Those are a few of the questions that are keeping Wall Street from mastering the use of social media to inform high-frequency trading strategies.


Social Content is Unlike Business News


It is incorrect to assume that social media content is similar to breaking business news, which Wall Street has long depended on for trading-related information. Business news, of course, is generally filtered by editors and varying levels of fact-checking, and its impact on the markets is dampened by news cycles and copy deadlines. Generally, everyone gets access to breaking business news at the same time, which is entirely by design. Business news is also reliable in all but the very occasional instance -– a news outlet may report a hoax as fact once in awhile, but the press gets it right far more often than not.

On social networks, content is oftentimes published with little to no editorial standards, and the flow of content is constant. Social networks can disrupt, complement, reinforce, or inform the traditional news cycle, but they do not replace it. Any trading algorithm that replaces news feeds with social content or co-mingles the two is inherently faulty.

Going a step further, it would be fairly straightforward to use fraudulent content to manipulate high-frequency trading platforms that misuse social media data. That’s one reason why the Derwent fund set to launch using Twitter is routinely met with skepticism among some Wall Street insiders.


Realistic Expectations for the Future


For Wall Streeters, however, there are a few reasons to be excited about social media's potential utility, despite the occasional red flag.

Because social media is a global phenomenon, capturing sentiment in hard-to-reach markets could become easier. Some of these markets don't have established mainstream press — or, if they do, the press may be censored -– making the technical difference between “real” news and social content immaterial to the strategy.

Certain algorithms can also analyze words in a language-neutral manner. The contextual advertising industry is currently making strides in using multilingual or language-agnostic technology to deploy paid content, and the financial markets probably won't lag far behind.

Perhaps the biggest potential lies with social media's ability to reinforce or refute certain signals that ultimately lead to trading decisions. It's akin to a friend giving the final arm-twist that drives you to order ice cream for dessert, or a helpful mentor saying you probably shouldn't make that one decision. Social media wouldn't be an adequate determinant by itself. But paired with all the other available information, it could nudge a set of observations into an actual decision.

If Wall Street ends up using social networks for this purpose, it would represent a shift in the role of automated and high-frequency trading and potentially earn a role for social media in the market.

Images via wsilver, champura


Interested in more Business & Finance resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: business, finance, MARKETING, money, social media

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YouTube Video of the Day: Slowed-Down Laughing Baby Sounds Evil

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 02:30 PM PDT

It’s Wednesday; does your mind hurt? Yeah? Well, watch this baby laughing at a dog snapping at bubbles — at half speed.

Virally spawned by the folks at Reddit, the only thing that would make this video better would be if the baby were speaking Latin between throaty giggles. Get on that, guys.

More About: baby, video, viral video, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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Chicago-Based Startup Incubator Adds 10 New Companies to Its Roster

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 02:13 PM PDT


Excelerate Labs, a startup incubator and accelerator in Chicago, has announced its newest batch of startups for the summer class.

This will be the incubator’s second class. Its first one, in 2010, has raised $7.2 million in venture funding and hired 65 employees since its demo day. Excelerate Labs is led by Sam Yagan, co-founder of OKCupid, and Troy Henikoff, co-founder of SurePayroll.

“In 2010 Excelerate itself was a startup,” Excelerate Labs CEO’s Henikoff told Mashable. “We had to figure a lot of it out as we were going. Now with a successful year under our belt, we can build on what we learned from last year and do an even better job this year.”

Along with a $25,000 seed investment, all 10 startups in this year’s class also get office space, legal assistance and mentorship from Chicago entrepreneurs.

Thanks to the success of Y Combinator, the startup accelerator that boasts Reddit, Justin.tv, Dropbox, Airbnb and Heroku among its alumni, other cities have been launching their own incubators to develop entrepreneurial talent. Chicago’s tech scene has been booming in recent years with the unprecedented growth of Groupon.

Here are the 10 startups in Excelerate Labs’ newest class:

A Space Apart: A mobile app attempting to create local experiences and communities around specific places or events.

BabbaCo: Creates functional and “super cute” products for parents and their children.

Beyond Credentials: Helps students create digital resumes (“pitch pages”). One of its unique factors: It only allows students and alumni from a top 300 U.S. university.

Buzz Referrals: A server that creates custom referral programs based on social media.

CookItFor.Us: A website for sharing recipes, CookItFor.Us is an attempt to connect fine diners (“cravers”) with amateur and professional chefs (“makers”).

Exchangery: Helps create regulator and technology-friendly commodities exchanges.

Food Genius: A mobile app that provides dish suggestions and matching coupons.

Joystickers: Focuses on creating products that help people interact with their touchscreens. Its big product is “Flow,” a paintbrush for touchscreens that already has some momentum on Kickstarter.

MapDing: A location-based marketplace only for smartphones. Users can set notifications for when items they’re looking for become available.

Power2Switch: A portal and dashboard that helps people manage their energy costs. It also finds users cheaper alternatives to their current electricity supplier by analyzing billing info and other data.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, danleap

More About: A Space Apart, BabbaCo, Beyond Credentials, Buzz Referrals, CookItFor.usE, Excelerate Labs, food Genius, Joystickers, xchangery, y combinator

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No Tweets Allowed at the Royal Wedding

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 01:48 PM PDT


Any 140-character loving guests attending the April 29 wedding of Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton will be sorely disappointed, as signal-blocking technology will be installed at Westminster Abbey to nix cellphone use.

According to Yahoo, the idea was suggested by members of the royal family and confirmed by police and security. They hope nixing phones and tweeting will cut down on news photos and videos featuring cellphone-toting guests, distracting ringtones and info about the wedding getting out ahead of the ceremony.

The absence of Twitter at the actual event doesn’t mean the web will go silent, obviously — in fact, talk of the Royal Wedding is accelerating rapidly on Facebook and Twitter.

And, hey, at least no one will be fired during the event — a Buckingham Palace guard was already dismissed from his royal wedding day duties after calling the bride-to-be a "stuck up cow" and "posh bitch" on Facebook.

Thumbnail courtesy of Flickr, The British Monarchy

More About: kate middleton, prince william, royal wedding, twitter

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Are You Satisfied With Apple’s Response to the iPhone-Tracking Debacle? [POLL]

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 01:40 PM PDT


How bad has LocationGate dented the iPhone's brand perception? A bit, but not as bad as last summer's AntennaGate.

New research from YouGov's BrandIndex shows that while the iPhone's image among consumers is still positive, it has slipped in the week or so since researchers revealed that location information is stored on the device and is unencrypted. YouGov polls 5,000 people a day online. A +100 score means a consumer has a positive view of a brand and a -100 means he or she has a negative one.

The company’s research reveals that the iPhone's brand perception plummeted from a buzz score of 31.7 on April 21 to 7.4 on April 25, before Apple officially responded to the issue. While that's a big drop, the iPhone's buzz score fell from 24 to -21 last summer after reports surfaced that the iPhone 4 had a design flaw that prevented users from making calls while holding the side of the device.

Ted Marzilli, senior vice president and global managing director for BrandIndex, says that his data shows that existing users weren't that troubled by the LocationGate news. The dip in brand perception means that "people are hearing the news and interpreting it negatively." Meanwhile, Google and its Android operating system seem to have been spared the same kind of ire, Marzilli says.

Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer of the branding firm Landor Associates, says many are unfazed by the issue and most younger consumers probably don't have an issue with being tracked. "If you're using Foursquare or any location-based service, how are you surprised about why that information's in your phone?" Meyer adds that there's little that can bring Apple down. "They're kind of the darling right now," Meyer says. "But that can't last forever."

What do you think? Are you satisfied with Apple’s response to LocationGate? Let us know your thoughts in the poll below and feel free to add more of your thoughts in the comments.



More About: Antennagate, apple, geolocation, iphone, LocationGate

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Get a Job in Social Media, Design or Development

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 01:24 PM PDT


If you’re seeking a job in social media, we’d like to help out. For starters, Mashable‘s Job Lists section gathers together all of our resource lists, how-tos and expert guides to help you get hired. In particular, you might want to see our articles on How to Leverage Social Media for Career Success and How to Find a Job on Twitter.

But we’d like to help in a more direct way, too. Mashable‘s job boards are a place for socially savvy companies to find people like you. This week and every week, Mashable features its coveted job board listings for a variety of positions in the web, social media space and beyond. Have a look at what's good and new on our job boards:


Mashable Job Postings


Executive Assistant at Mashable in New York, New York.


Community Assistant at Mashable in New York, New York.


Community Intern at Mashable in New York, New York.


Ruby on Rails Developer at Mashable in San Francisco, California.


VP Product (NYC or SF) at Mashable in New York, New York.


Editorial Intern at Mashable in New York, New York.


Tech Reporter at Mashable in San Francisco, California.


Regional Sales Director at Mashable in San Francisco, California.


Mashable Job Board Listings


Senior Interactive Marketing Manager at Redbox in Chicago, Illinois.


Social Media Manager at SolarCity in San Mateo, California.


Product Manager at Facebook in Palo Alto, California.


Data Scientist at Howcast in New York, New York.


Social Media Coordinator at MTV in New York, New York.


Web Analyst/Interactive Marketing Analyst at RedEngine Digital in Fairfax, Virginia.


Community Moderator at Mother Nature Network in Atherton, California.


Account Assistant at Beyond Marketing Group, LLC in Irvine, California.


Mobile Software Engineer at HomeAway in Austin, Texas.


Web Developer/Programmer/Desinger at Prime Concepts Group, Inc in Wichita, Kansas.


Director of Mobile Product at Synacor in Buffalo, New York.


Sr. Web Engineer at Dwell One in Chicago, Illinois.


Social Media Applications Developer at The Walt Disney Company in Orlando, Florida.


Flash Programmer at M Thirty Communications in Toronto, Canada.


Account Executive, Digital Media Public Affairs Firm at Connections Media in Washington, D.C.


Interactive Content Producer at WETA in Arlington, Virginia.


SEO Web Developer & Email Marketing Professional at TopRank Online Marketing in Spring Park, Minnesota.


Conversion Rate Optimization Professional at TopRank Online Marketing in Spring Park, Minnesota.


Senior Director, Community and Social Content at lynda.com in Carpinteria, California.


Sr. Web Product Manager, Nickelodeon Parents & Preschool at MTV Networks in New York, New York.


Jr. Internet Marketing Specialist/SEO at WebpageFX in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.


Sr. SEO Manager at Credit Sesame, Inc in Sunnyvale, California.


PHP Front-end Web Developer/designer at Credit Sesame, Inc in Sunnyvale, California.


Online Communities Coordinator at National 4-H Council in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


Senior Interactive Developer at Sabertooth in Los Angeles, California.


Social Media Manager at Blue Shield of California in San Francisco, California.


Facebook Developer at Movement Strategy in Boulder, Colorado.


Marketing Analyst II at MarijuanaDoctors.com in Miami Beach, Florida.


Senior Paid Search Strategist at Morpheus Media in New York, New York.


Project Manager for Fashion/Craft Book at BurdaStyle in New York, New York.


Digital Communications Coordinator at Seattle Goodwill in Seattle, Washington.


UI/UX Developer at BancVue in Austin, Texas.


Front End Developer at BancVue in Austin, Texas.


Audience Marketing Manager at Government Executive in District of Columbia.


Kasasa Social Media Coordinator/Copy Editor at BancVue in Austin, Texas.


Director of Online Production and Programming at MTV Networks in New York, New York.


Senior Web Developer at Ziff Davis Enterprise in New York, New York.


Digital Campaign Coordinator at Vladimir Jones in Englewood, Colorado.


Director, Social Media at Macy’s Inc in New York, New York.


Sr. UX Designer at Quidsi Inc in Jersey City, New Jersey.


Senior Application Engineer Mobile at match.com in Dallas, Texas.


Front-End Developer at Teach For America in New York, New York.


Online Community Moderator at Cellular South in Ridgeland, Mississippi.


Community Manager at Weber Shandwick in Chicago, Illinois.


Traffic Coordinator at Weber Shandwick in Baltimore, Maryland.


Digital Marketing/Social Media Specialist at Ace Hardware Corporation in Oak Brook, Illinois.


Art Director at Pappas Group in Arlington, Virginia.


Conceptual Copywriter at Pappas Group in Arlington, Virginia.


Online Marketing Executive at Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection in New York, New York.


Full Time Drupal Web Developer at Jasculca Terman and Associates in Chicago, Illinois.


Social Media Marketing and Sales Associate at WHECO Corporation in Georgetown, Texas.


Mid Level Java Engineer at MediaNews Group Interactive in Denver, Colorado.


Mid Level Feeds Engineer at MediaNews Group Interactive in Denver, Colorado.


Audience Development Team Lead, YouTube Operations at Google, Inc in San Bruno, California.


Online Producer at The Knot Inc in New York, New York.


Digital Marketing Manager at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Orlando, Florida.


SAP Professionals at Maxonic.com in San Jose, California.


Java Server/Backend Engineer at Maxonic.com in Sunnyvale, California.


Account Manager, Display Advertising at Adknowledge in Ft. Myers, Florida.


Asst. Manager, Search Engine Marketing at Direct Brands Inc in New York, New York.


Mapping and Imagery Software Developer at MapQuest/AOL in Palo Alto, California.


Manager, Recruiting at Buddy Media in New York, New York.


Digital Manager at Digital Media Management in West Hollywood, California.


Social Media Manager at More Cabbage in Cedar Hill, Texas.


Intern, Summer Incubator Program at OMD in New York, New York.


Mobile Marketing Manager at RedBox in Villa Park, Illinois.


Executive Editor at Sony Music Entertainment in Beverly Hills, California.


Executive Producer at Sony Music Entertainment in New York, New York.


PHP/SQL/Javascript Lead Developer for Social Gaming at TapFury in New York, New York.


Search Engine Optimization Manager at The Knot Inc in New York, New York.


IA/UX Designer at FTI Consulting/Financial Dynamics – Design & Digital in Morristown, New Jersey.


Director of Marketing at Galileo Learning in Oakland, California.


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What LocationGate Says About How Users Perceive Information Privacy

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 01:11 PM PDT


In the week since data scientists first publicized the existence of an iOS database that stores the location coordinates from cellular towers and Wi-Fi hotspots, Apple has faced questions and criticisms from users and politicians.

Apple’s formal response to the issue certainly clarifies what the company is doing and what types of data are being stored, but it doesn’t address the growing reservations users have with the amount of information captured by their devices.

We often write about the new and exciting possibilities created by location-based services. Social networks like Foursquare and Facebook Places help bridge the gap between virtual communities and the physical world, and a growing number of applications and websites can use our location data to provide us with relevant and contextual information.

What users have a hard time reconciling, however, is the security and privacy implications (real, imagined or potential) that come with allowing third parties access to this information.

In its official statement and Q&A, Apple deftly cuts to the heart of the debate:

Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.

In Apple’s case, the company wasn’t logging user location per se, merely the location of cellular towers and Wi-Fi hotspots that interact anonymously with a device. Still, the visual image of what towers or hotspots a device has interacted with is something that has understandably freaked out users.

Any information that is transmitted to Apple (which users opt in to in location services settings) is anonymous and encrypted. But the local database log was unencrypted, however, and caused more headaches and questions.

It’s easy to understand why users would worry and immediately jump to the worst-case scenario — even if the worst case in this instance was that someone with access to your phone or iTunes backup could have a rough idea of what cellular towers have interacted with your device. After all, just this week, Sony revealed that the user information for more than 70 million PlayStation Network and Qriocity users was compromised by crackers.

The two events are completely unrelated, but the Sony PSN fiasco is a reminder that even the largest companies — companies and networks that users should be able to trust with their information — can be vulnerable to risk.

Users must decide for themselves whether the advantages of technology, social networks and new media are worth these potential risks.

More About: apple, geolocation, iphone, privacy

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Is Your Mobile Contract Outliving Your Device? [STUDY]

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 12:56 PM PDT


The results of a new survey suggest that most of us feel our phones are outdated long before our network contracts expire.

With many manufacturers releasing between 15 and 30 new devices each year — and given the rapid evolution of mobile operating systems and applications — a two-year contract might as well be a life sentence for some.

A study by gadget site Retrevo shows that 62% of mobile users feel their smartphones are out of date before their contracts are up for renewal.

And it makes sense that consumers would feel this way. Over the past year alone, the 5MP camera as “emerging technology” has given way to the 8MP camera. We now have several dual-core phones; this time last year, single-core phones were standard. And 4G, front-facing cameras and HDMI outs are all new in the past 12 months, as well.

But if you follow the money, this works out just fine for the phone networks and manufacturers. After all, in the same survey, the majority of users said they would not pay extra fees to get a one-year contract instead of the standard two-year contract. And over the term of a two-year contract, users who care about having the latest device might shell out extra money anyway to get the newest gadgets as many times as they want.

Hence, as long as folks will still pay out-of-pocket for the latest phones, don’t expect the two-year contract to go away any time soon. The status quo is just too profitable for the major players in the industry to want to change it.

Lead image courtesy of iStockphoto, bakalusha

More About: Mobile 2.0, mobile contract, mobile device, Mobile phone

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Matchmaker Site for Bands & Venues Makes Booking Shows Easy

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 12:38 PM PDT


If you’re in a band, you know that booking shows can be a huge pain. Enter BandSurfing, a new platform that allows musicians and venues to find each other in the digital morass.

BandSurfing soft launched in March, a brainchild of former musician Javier Romero. (He used to be in a band called Mistletoe that included musicians who now play with The Thermals and Minus the Bear.)

“A few years ago I was trying to book a tour for my band and noticed how difficult it had gotten,” Romero says. “I was used to the process being fairly easy, but with the saturation of bands and venues using MySpace or email as a primary booking tool, things came to a near standstill.”

In essence, Romero discovered bookers were getting spammed. In response to this issue, the budding web developer and coder started bootstrapping to create BandSurfing.

Getting started with BandSurfing takes mere moments (I created my own profile for my ever-evolving fictional band, Velvet Baby Lane). Bands enter bios, pictures, tracks, genres, desired perks and check off which requirements they meet (over 21, signed, have an album, etc.), and venues enter similar stats, as well as what perks they can provide and what they require from a band. The site also features a reviews section, so users can rate bands and venues.

Bands and venues can then surf through applicable acts/locations and message any that strike their fancy.

The site operates on a freemium model. Bands can make three booking submissions per month for free, and then there’s tiered pricing for more submissions.

Bands and venues: What do you think of this service?

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Finding Josephine

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Pepsi Vending Machine Lets You Gift Drinks to Friends Via Social Media [VIDEO]

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 12:13 PM PDT

Coca-Cola launched a viral video last year that featured a magical vending machine that spat out pizzas and free Cokes. Now, rival Pepsi has introduced a real vending machine that has a magical property of its own: It's social media-enabled.

PepsiCo's Social Vending Machine, announced Wednesday at a trade show in Chicago, lets users send free soda to their friends. To do so, users select a beverage and enter the recipient's name, mobile number and personalized text message with a code redeemable at another vending machine. Consumers can personalize the message with a short video recorded by the machine. There’s also an option to send a free beverage to a stranger.

The new machine "extends our consumers' social networks beyond the confines of their own devices and transforms a static, transaction-oriented experience into something fun," said Mikel Durham, chief innovation officer at PepsiCo Foodservice, in a statement. Not surprisingly, Coca-Cola is also experimenting with the possibilities of vending machines. Aside from its fictional “Happiness Machine,” Coke has also introduced interactive machines with touchscreens.

Though Pepsi’s model represents an evolution in the possibilities for vending machines, the lack of a Facebook or Twitter tie-in is a glaring omission. But considering some recent experiments with Facebook-enabled objects, a vending machine tie-in with the social network seems imminent. A PepsiCo rep says Facebook or other social media integration “are Phase 2 — being explored as it evolves.”

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HOW TO: Start Marketing on Foursquare

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 11:55 AM PDT


The Social Media 101 Series is sponsored by Global Strategic Management Institute. GSMI’s Social Media Strategies Series are the leading educational events for organizations looking to advance their online capabilities. Learn more.

There are more than 8 million users on Foursquare — up from just 1 million a year ago. This explosive growth means one thing — you might want to get your business on Foursquare. After all, Radio Shack reported that the average Foursquare user spends 3.5 times more at its retail shops than the average customer.

The most recent iteration of the location-based app, Foursquare 3.0, expanded the features and made it much easier for businesses to jump on the bandwagon and start marketing. Best of all, it’s free. Foursquare is winning the location-based app game because it has the biggest user base [aside from Facebook Places] and it pleases both parties — customers want to be recognized, and businesses want to know who their biggest fans are. Mashable spoke with Eric Friedman, Foursquare’s director of business development, about how businesses can get started on Foursquare and the various marketing options they have available to them.

“Foursquare works well when a moment of commerce happens,” says Friedman. And commerce is exactly what business owners are looking for. Plus, as smartphones penetrate the U.S market (currently, about a third of U.S. consumers have a smartphone), there will be even more Foursquare users.

“We’re on every single platform that’s out there, so there’s never been a better time for businesses to start using Foursquare,” Friedman says. “There’s no cost, it’s easy and it works.”

Want to get started? Below, Friedman walks Mashable through all of the steps.


Brands With Brick-and-Mortar Locations


“[Small businesses] have the same resources available to them as a super large QSR, an Italian restaurant or a Starbucks, and that’s a really powerful tool,” says Friedman. He’s referring to the Foursquare for Business Merchant Platform, which creates an even playing field for restaurants, retail stores, museums, mom-and-pop shops and other businesses. The owners can claim venues on Foursquare, establish specials and analyze data on Foursquare’s dashboard. Here’s how to do it.


Claim Your Venue


To claim your venue, search for it on Foursquare.com. It’s likely that someone has already created your venue to check into it, and you can claim it by proving that you own it. If you can’t find it or you are opening a new venue, click “Add a new venue to Foursquare,” which is at the bottom of the page. Fill out the information in the wizard. Once all the information is plugged in, your venue page will come up. Click “Claim here” on the venue page.

Foursquare will ask you a few questions about the business (i.e. “Is this a chain?”) and whether you are authorized to claim the venue. Then it will ask how you’d like to verify your ownership — either by phone or by mail. If you verify by phone, Foursquare will call you and provide a 4-digit PIN that you can enter on the site. If you opt to verify by mail, the PIN will be sent via postcard. Once you’re verified, you will also receive a Foursquare window cling so customers know you are a Foursquare-friendly establishment. (Fear not, efficiency lovers: If you have numerous locations, you can verify in bulk.)


Adding Specials


Once you’re verified as the owner of a location, you can use Foursquare’s Merchant Platform to create specials to reward your customers. The method for creating specials is pretty self-explanatory, and the wizard walks you through each step as you create your special. You can have two specials running simultaneously at a given location. Foursquare 3.0 introduced a new group of specials:

  • Swarm Special. A special is unlocked when a certain number of people are checked in. For example, an ice cream store can give away a free scoop of ice cream when 10 people are checked in at once. You can set a limit for how frequently this special can be unlocked so that you don’t give away too much product.
  • Friends Special. A reward for when friends check in together. You can specify how many friends need to be checked in and what they receive for being checked in.
  • Flash Special. A special for the first X people who come at X time. It’s great way to incentivize customers to stop by during your slow hours.
  • Newbie Special. A reward for people who check in to your business for the first time. Offering a reward for a user’s first checkin — even if it’s a small one, like 10% off or a free side dish — is a great way to start a relationship with a new customer.
  • Check-In Special. A reward for every single checkin. Restaurants can offer a free soda or a discount, while retailers might offer a few dollars off a purchase.
  • Loyalty Special. A reward for a user’s third, fifth, seventh checkin — you determine the interval — to incentivize customers to return a few times to cash in on their special. Loyalty specials can be recurring (“every three checkins”) or not (“on your third checkin”).
  • Mayor Special. The mayor is the person who has checked into a venue more than anyone else. In theory, he is your best and most loyal customer. As such, he deserves a prize, whether it’s a discount, a free t-shirt, a beer or a meal on the house. Mayors tend to be proud and protective of their mayorship, and you might even see some turf wars when the mayorship changes hands. You can offer something whenever a new mayor earns the crown, or you can offer a daily reward for the mayor.

Now that you’ve seen the offerings, click the special you’d like to do and fill in the requirements for unlocking the special. Once you finish entering the stipulations and select what venues will feature the special, it will be live (though it won’t show in the “Nearby Specials” filter until a human verifies that the special is legitimate). There are two one-sheets you can print off to explain Foursquare — one for employees, so they know how to recognize a special, and one for customers, so they know how to get in on the Foursquare action.


Dashboard Analytics


Once you’ve claimed a venue, you can access a dashboard of analytics that show how many checkins you’re getting each day, the time of each checkin, as well as a breakdown of the genders and ages of your Foursquare customers. Plus, there are two lists: one of your top visitors in the past 60 days (your most loyal customers), and one of your most recent customers, along with their Twitter handles (so long as they provided that info when they logged into Foursquare). In my experience, only about 25% of people push their Foursquare checkins to Facebook and Twitter, so having access to the Twitter handles of loyal and new customers provides businesses with an opportunity to reach out, follow up and see how a customer’s experience was. That personal touch is likely to bring customers back, and it may also turn that person into an evangelist for your business.

Also, remember that Foursquare is flexible, and you can make changes in real-time. You can run two specials simultaneously at each venue, so experiment and figure out what works for you and your business. With the right campaign, you could actually be saving money — Friedman says several business have stopped advertising altogether, since Foursquare allows them to reach customers for free.


Brand Pages


But not every business has a brick-and-mortar location — look at MTV and Zagat, for example. If your company is a brand without a physical presence — a magazine, a TV channel, a university of a consumer packaged good — you can use Foursquare Pages and Partner Badges to reach consumers.

Foursquare Pages are “a place for brands to have a program and have a cool way to interact with consumers,” Friedman says. The Foursquare website outlines a step-by-step process for setting up a Foursquare Page, which must be done manually (in the future, businesses will be able to create their own brand Pages). Business owners must submit a form; the Foursquare team will reply in about two weeks.

Your Page is highly customizable, and you can have a custom banner to incorporate your logo. The grey box on the right can be populated with information about your brand, along with links back to your own site or to social media sites. And of course there are tips you can leave for your followers so that when they check in to certain places, your tip pops up. The History Channel leaves factoids all over the country at places like New York’s Highline and London’s Tower Bridge, which provide context as you traverse the city. Likewise, Zagat leaves restaurant tips for dishes and cocktails.

Tips can be timeless, or they can be geared to promote an event. For example, The New York Times left tips all over Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics. Tips can be saved to a user’s to-do list, too. The Foursquare site points out tips for crafting good tips:

  • Tips can direct people to a certain place or instruct users to try a certain item. The point of Foursquare is to enhance someone’s experience in a location — if you have some insights, share them.
  • Don’t leave a tip that is obvious — try to share insider information, a secret menu item or a fun tidbit

Brand Badges


Once a brand has a Page, it can also offer badges for Foursquare users. Of course, Foursquare has its own badges that users love unlocking, including:

  • Crunked. Four stops in one night.
  • Photogenic. Checking in to three places with a photo booth.
  • Swarm. Checking in to a place with 50 other people.

But the brand badges are more self-promotional, and they’re unlocked for checking in to places and doing fun things that are relevant to your brand. (Foursquare doesn’t disclose individual badge prices, which can vary, but “$25,000 a month with a multi-month commitment” is typical.) Users must “follow” a brand on Foursquare to unlock badges, some of which include:

  • MOMA — Art Addict. Three checkins at MOMA or PS1 in one month.
  • The Wall Street Journal — WSJ Lunch Box. Two checkins during lunch at a restaurant that’s been reviewed in WSJ’s “Lunch Box” column.
  • Gogo Inflight — Mile High. One checkin while in flight.

New York Magazine recently did a Foursquare integration with its “Where to Eat 2011″ feature. Below each highlighted restaurant, users could add a restaurant tip to their to-do lists. Checking in to 5 of the restaurants in the list earns a user the Where to Eat 2011 badge, which could also unlock discounts and prizes at these restaurants.


Advice From Foursquare


Friedman has some tips for businesses about how to optimize Foursquare:

  • The best kind of Foursquare specials are those that make users feel, well, special. You don’t need to give a discount and lose your margins. Offering exclusive access to a sample sale or a special dessert that is only available for Foursquare users is a great way to get people coming back and checking in. Plus, not offering discounts means you can attract and maintain customers without affecting your bottom line.
  • Remember to utilize the fine print when you’re filling out your special.
  • Use Foursquare to grow your business — run a special during your slow times to keep a steady flow of customers all day.
  • Make sure you train your staff on how to recognize and reward Foursquare users.
  • Remember to set an end date for a campaign if it’s a limited-time offer or a one-day special.

“We try to give all the answers on Foursquare,” says Friedman, but if you have questions, leave them in the comments. Also, if you’re a business owner, tell us what your experience with Foursquare has been like.


Series Supported by Global Strategic Management Institute


The Social Media 101 Series is sponsored by Global Strategic Management Institute, a leading source of knowledge for today’s leaders. Learn more by visiting GSMI’s website, liking it on Facebook and following it on Twitter.

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Visa Gives Square a Stamp of Approval With Strategic Investment

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 11:41 AM PDT


Visa has invested in Square, a startup that makes a tiny credit card swiping device for smartphones and the iPad.

Square raised $27.5 million in funding in January, so it’s not likely strapped for cash. But more valuable than the undisclosed amount of funding from Visa is the stamp of approval that comes with it.

Square offers small businesses a free alternative to expensive credit card terminals and asks for 2.75% of each purchase in exchange. About $66 million worth of transactions have been made using the device since it launched publicly in October, and that number is likely to increase as Apple introduces the devices in its stores.

At first, however, convincing small businesses that their transactions were safe with a startup was a hurdle. As thousands of them signed on, the challenge wasn’t made any easier by an open letter from competitor electric payment processor VeriFone that accused Square of having a security flaw. Visa’s investment shows confidence in both the startup and its security.

Meanwhile, Visa spokesman Ryan Donovan told The New York Times that the credit card company was interested in Square for its ability to increase the number of small businesses that accept payment cards.

More About: mobile payments, Square, Visa

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Google Docs for Android Turns Your Photos into Docs

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 11:10 AM PDT


Google has finally released a native application for Google Docs on its Android platform, providing a clean interface for accessing your documents and images.

The app focuses on making it easy to find and manage documents through filters, collections and starred content. It also comes with a widget for one-click access to create documents, jump to your starred documents and upload photos.

The one important feature Google Docs for Android lacks is native document editing. If you choose to edit a document, the app will throw you to its mobile editing interface within the browser. Apparently, Google didn’t feel like native in-app editing was an essential launch feature.

In the meantime, the photo-to-text capabilities are most likely to get attention. If you take a picture of a document that’s on your desk and upload it to the Google Docs Android app, it will use optical character recognition (OCR) to turn the photo into editable text. Google warns that it’s not capable of recognizing handwriting, so don’t expect to turn your calligraphy into a Google doc anytime soon.

More About: android, Google, google docs, OCR, Optical Character Recognition

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Mashup Combines Music Blogs’ Top-Rated Tracks With Spotify

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 10:42 AM PDT


Raise your hand if you have time during the work day to listen to and read all of your favorite music blogs? Well, there’s a site out there that will aggregate only the top-reviewed songs, plugging into Spotify for your jamming pleasure.

Pitchify, created by Norwegian IT consultant and web developer Anders Austad, combs through reviews on music blogs Pitchfork and Drowned In Sound, looking for music that has received an average rating of eight or above. The site then checks whether the music is featured on Spotify, adding it to the site, an RSS feed and a Twitter feed. There’s also a “Random” button, allowing you to shuffle all the songs, and a place to search for similar artists to those you like.

When you click on an album, Spotify opens, and you can listen with ease. Granted, those of us in the U.S. are at a disadvantage, seeing how the music subscription service is not yet available stateside.

Although simple, Pitchify is a handy way to listen to music pre-approved by music snobs. It’s reminiscent of the Chrome extension Exfm, which scrapes music blogs that you visit for MP3s to create a playlist, but in this case, you’re privy to more than just downloadable jams.

Yes, a more diehard music fan would read the review as well as listen to the song, but there are links on the site to the reviewers’ musings, so one can always click for their pearls. And, yes, sometimes reviewers are full of you-know-what (and one’s musical taste is rather objective), but the site still seems a good way to cut through the clutter and possibly discover some new music.

What’s your favorite blog for music discovery?

[via Hypebot]

Image courtesy of Flickr, Steve Snodgrass

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YouTube Founders Acquire Delicious From Yahoo

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 10:08 AM PDT


The future of social bookmarking service Delicious is no longer in doubt. Yahoo has sold the site to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, who will fold it into a new company they have created called AVOS.

Delicious makes it clear in a FAQ about the deal that user data will be preserved and that the new team will “add new features and grow the service overall.” Yahoo does ask that users sign in to Delicious “and agree to let Yahoo! transfer your bookmarks to the new owner,” before the move is completed in July.

The deal follows months of speculation about the fate of Delicious, which Yahoo has been actively looking to sell (or “sunset,” according to a now infamous presentation) since December. Last month it was rumored that Yahoo had sold Delicious for $5 million, a fraction of the price it reportedly paid for the startup back in 2005, though terms of the AVOS deal have not been disclosed.

Breaking away from Yahoo should come as good news to Delicious users that have remained loyal to the service through the recent turmoil. Among the priorities mentioned in the FAQ is a bookmark extension that works with Firefox 4.0, one of many things that has gone neglected as Yahoo trimmed resources from the project.

In the interim, a number of startups have made it easy for Delicious users to migrate over, with SpringPad reporting that 2 million Delicious bookmarks got moved to its servers within 10 days of the initial “sunset” drama. Google also launched a tool to make it easy for Delicious users to move their bookmarks to its Google Bookmarks service.

Now, we’ll wait to see what Hurley and Chen have planned for the service and how it fits into their larger plan. Hurley indicated he was planning to shift focus to other projects last October.

More About: Chad Hurley, delicious, steve chen, Yahoo, youtube

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For Students, What Is the “Facebook Effect” on Grades?

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 09:30 AM PDT


Social media has several effects on academic work — some more positive than others. But what is social networking’s overall impact on college students’ performance?

According to data gathered from several sources by OnlineEducation.net, Facebook and Twitter are used to great benefit — sometimes. Students welcome online engagement and resources; around 75% of student respondents said they’d like to do some online collaboration for class, in fact.

Also, social media may have a positive impact on students’ sense of themselves in the community. Social media-using students were twice as likely as other students to feel well-liked by their peers and to participate in extracurricular activities. And 20% more of Facebook-using students (as compared to students who didn’t use Facebook) said they felt connected to their school and community.

However, negative effects abound. Students who use Facebook and hit the books simultaneously found their multitasking led to 20% lower grades than those of their more focused peers. Facebook-using students also made less money during school from part-time work, putting in around five hours per week as opposed to 16 hours per week for a typical, unplugged counterpart.

Not only do grades and finances suffer, but students might actually end up feeling more depressed or lonely. Almost half of students believe they are sadder than their friends on Facebook, and 25% of college students have shown signs of severe depression in their status updates at one time or another.

In a word, the results are inconclusive. But with around 96% of all college students on Facebook, only the most dedicated academics would consider giving up social media for a slightly better GPA.

In the comments, we’d like to know what impact social media had or has on your academic work. And if your college career pre-dates social media, how do you think college is better or worse because of Facebook?

Click to see larger image.

Lead image based on a photo from iStockphoto, EricHood

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Group Video Calling Arrives on Android & iPhone

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 09:00 AM PDT

Fring, a VoIP calling and chat service, is out with new releases for iPhone and Android Wednesday that enable users to make free group video calls with up to four of their Fring friends. The company claims to be the first to bring group video calls to mobile.

The group video calling feature, first introduced in a private beta build in early April, is now accessible to all Fring users upon application update or download.

Group video calls are supported over Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G with Fring using what it calls “Dynamic Video Quality” technology to automatically adjust video bit rates and frame rates to accommodate network bandwidth.

“Users love seeing all their friends at the same time, on one screen, but want to be able to do it when and where they want,” says CEO and co-founder Avi Shechter. "This video call revolution lets fringsters be free to get together, wherever."

Fring’s cross-platform, multi-network offering now supersedes the mobile video calling functionality of its competitors, but whether the feature will be a hit with mobile users remains to be seen.

Fring, founded in 2006, says it has tens of millions of users in more than 200 countries and reports to add 1 million new mobile users each month.

More About: Android App, fring, group video calling, iphone app, Mobile 2.0

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Bounce Tries Building Buzz for Fabric Softener on Facebook

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 08:52 AM PDT


Bounce, the fabric softener brand, suffers from the same problem a lot of brands in low-interest categories do: People don't talk about it much.

In the social media age, that's a problem, but the brand has a two-part solution. Phase one: Create a false controversy. Earlier this year, Bounce marketers began promoting the idea — among mommy bloggers — that you're either a bar person or a sheet person.

Phase two is a lighthearted social media campaign seeking new uses for Bounce. The program will launch with a video that features two Bounce fanatics — one a sheet person, the other a bar fan — doing things like sticking a bar on someone's back and persuading a cop to leave a bar instead of a parking ticket. This weekend, the Procter & Gamble brand will ask consumers to send in their ideas for new ways to use Bounce. The top ideas will be featured in a new video on the brand’s Facebook Page, though Bounce’s homepage already lists several.

Though social media marketing is a fairly new discipline, the first technique is becoming common. Earlier this year, Toyota got some mileage out of a campaign that mulled the plural of Prius and Kraft's Miracle Whip pitted the brand's lovers against its haters. As for new uses, the most prominent example is Diet Coke and Mentos's geyser viral of 2006, which neither brand had originated.

Sarah Hofstetter, senior vice president of emerging media and brand strategy at 360i, says that the latter campaign "might be taking what would be an interesting wall post on Facebook and turn it into a campaign idea — which is interesting."

Hofstetter says with categories like fabric softeners, the trick is to piggyback on "borrowed relevance" from related issues. For instance, Procter & Gamble successfully reinvented its Old Spice brand last year with a campaign centered on feeling clean and sexy rather than on specific product attributes. P&G’s latest work for its Pepto Bismol brand is more about overindulgence than stomach pain.

On the other hand, Bounce sees itself as a brand that transcends a somewhat prosaic category. A Bounce rep says that Bounce T-shirts (or "B-Shirts") that will be given out during the Facebook campaign have been coveted items in the past. "It's fun brand," she says.

More About: advertising, Bounce, facebook, MARKETING, Procter & Gamble

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16 Digital Resources for Wedding Inspiration and Planning

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 08:27 AM PDT

wedding cake image

The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is right around the corner (well, this Friday at least). The two lovers are not, of course, the only people that will ever get married, ever. It’s very possible that you, dear reader, might need some online help for your own nuptials.

Social media and the Internet can be treasure troves of information for planning a wedding. Here are some tools and resources so you can plan your own Royal Wedding. That, and some bizarre proposals for inspiration.


Tools & Resources


Junebug


Geeky Proposals



Interested in more Social Media resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL)

More About: List, Lists, marriage, roundup, royal wedding, social media, wedding

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YouTube To Blast Off With Space Shuttle Endeavour Crew

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 08:00 AM PDT


YouTube has partnered with NASA for a live interview with the crew of the upcoming Endeavour voyage that will be streamed from space.

The interview, which will be conducted by PBS’s Miles O’Brien, will consist of questions submitted by YouTube users via Google Moderator. Commander Mark Kelly (husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was recently the victim of an attempted assassination) will be the focus of the interview, but the other members of the crew will participate. It will be streamed live on PBS NewsHour‘s YouTube channel.

Tiffany Montague, Google’s manager of space initiatives, told Mashable that the live interview is expected to occur May 2 at 2:15 p.m. ET but could be rescheduled depending on whether Endeavour launches on schedule. Montague said that YouTube will also be carrying a live stream of the Space Shuttle‘s launch.

Google suggests that users submit their questions via video clips no longer than 20 seconds. Google also suggests that users utilize creative props, charts and other visual tools. Questions must be submitted by April 30 at midnight ET. The ones with the most votes will be used in the interview.

STS-134 is the penultimate flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle fleet and the last launch for the Space Shuttle Endeavour. It is scheduled for takeoff on April 29 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its mission is to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and an ExPRESS Logistics Carrier to the International Space Station. The voyage is expected to last 14 days.

We’ve included a few videos about STS-134 below for your viewing pleasure, including one narrated by William Shatner. What do you want to ask the crew of STS-134? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of NASA

More About: endeavour, Google, ISS, NASA, space, space shuttle, STS-134, video, youtube

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RIM Acquires Tungle To Bolster BlackBerry’s Social Calendar

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 07:48 AM PDT


RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, has acquired Canadian scheduling application Tungle for an undisclosed amount, the companies announced Wednesday.

The Tungle team will immediately become a part of RIM, but the company’s goal, Tungle claims, stays the same: “For Tungle to become integrated with your daily activities and be ubiquitous within the applications you're already using.” Tungle has been featured in several Mashable lists of must-have mobile apps.

“By working with Tungle to add cloud-based, cross-platform calendar capabilities to the BlackBerry platform we can further enrich our customers' experience with BlackBerry and continue to help them get things done,” says Tom Goguen, RIM’s VP of collaboration and social networking.

RIM also recently acquired relationship manager Gist. BlackBerry is still considered a top player when it comes to communication as well as email and calendar management. With its recent string of acquisitions, it seems that RIM is determined to keep it that way.

More About: App, application, blackberry, RIM, scheduling, tungle

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