Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “In Trying to Plant Google Privacy Story, Did Facebook Have a Point?”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “In Trying to Plant Google Privacy Story, Did Facebook Have a Point?”


In Trying to Plant Google Privacy Story, Did Facebook Have a Point?

Posted: 12 May 2011 08:40 PM PDT


Facebook has admitted it authorized an effort to raise privacy concerns about a Google product, but says it was not intended as a smear campaign.

The social networking giant released a statement acknowledging that it hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to alert the media about the questionable use of Facebook user information in a little-known Google feature called Google Social Search.

The feature pulls in publicly available data about users from social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and displays it in the search results of your social connections — often without their direct authorization.

Unsavory emails sent to reporters have since surfaced, deeply embarrassing both Facebook and Burson-Marsteller.

“Google, as you know, has a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America's Internet users,” a representative wrote in an email to one targeted blogger, Chris Soghoian. “[This] latest tool designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users –- in a direct and flagrant violation of its agreement with the FTC.”

Embarrassment escalated after USA Today and then The Daily Beast published stories about the agency’s antics.

While Facebook refuses to say that it took part in a “smear campaign,” the company admits that it “wanted third parties to verify that people did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles — just as Facebook did not approve of use or collection for this purpose,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Mashable.

“We engaged Burson-Marsteller to focus attention on this issue, using publicly available information that could be independently verified by any media organization or analyst. The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.”

Burson-Marsteller has been quick to do a little crisis management of its own, telling Cnet in an emailed statement that an anonymous smear campaign “was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined… When talking to the media, we need to adhere to strict standards of transparency about clients, and this incident underscores the absolute importance of that principle.”


Why Facebook’s Concerns Are Valid


Although the PR campaign clearly backfired, Facebook does raise some valid concerns about Google’s social search product.

Social search, which was launched in October 2009, provides search results with data aggregated from your social graph. Search for a particular restaurant, for instance, and social search might pull up a tweet from someone you follow noting that she ate there recently and didn’t enjoy the food.

To display this information, Google requires an indexable understanding of your social graph, which Google calls “social connections.” The company builds social connections for users by gathering information about your Google contacts and chat buddies, from information and accounts connected to your Google Profile, and through secondary connections.

Google Profiles generally provide most of this information, as many Google users have set up a Google Profile that links to their accounts on social services such as Flickr, Twitter, Blogger and Quora, just as they might also have done on a service like About.me. Although Google doesn’t allow users to connect their Facebook accounts to their Google Profiles, users can still enter a link to the URL of their public Facebook Pages or private profiles, which Google can scrape to display information such as status updates and photos that a user has authorized to display publicly.

The problem that Facebook is pointing out is that even if a user doesn’t explicitly link their Facebook account on their Google Profile, Google can still display his or her public Facebook information.

The way that Google does this is clever, legal and a little unnerving.

Google is able to crawl accounts to surface secondary social connections. For instance, my colleague Christina Warren has put up a link to her personal website on her Google Profile. Because her website displays a link to her MySpace account, information displayed on her MySpace page might unwittingly appear in the social search results of someone who follows her on Twitter.

Similarly, Google can index her public Facebook status updates even if she doesn’t directly post a link to her Facebook account on her Google Profile. If, for instance, she posted a link to her Quora account, which she signed up with using her Facebook credentials, Google could go ahead and pull in all of her public Facebook statups updates anyways.

This is, to be clear, in no way illegal. Google isn’t surfacing any information that isn’t in some way public. Users could conceivably use their own skills to find these links manually, but Google has just automated the process. The problem is that users aren’t being properly informed about how Google is making their social data public. Publicly available information and information that can be surfaced at a moment’s notice by someone you know are two different things.

We admit we were surprised by how much information Google knew about our social graph through accounts we’d linked together indirectly. I have always been vaguely aware that Google knows essentially everything about me, but knowing that anyone can look through my various social connections and networks associated with my name from my personal email address is still a bit of a shock.


Is Facebook Really Concerned About Our Privacy?


So is Facebook really worried about its users’ privacy? Our instincts say no. After all, the only Facebook information that can appear in Google’s search results are those that are public status updates. If Facebook encouraged users to lock down their accounts, they could limit the usefulness of Google’s data-mining efforts.

It’s more likely that Facebook is annoyed that Google has figured out how to use its data without employing its API, so preventing Facebook from controlling how users’ data can be used. Google is selling ads against data that it is pulling from Facebook, putting it directly with Facebook’s own ad network.


How the Campaign Backfired


A few weeks ago, Burson-Marsteller reps began contacting various reporters, encouraging them to investigate how a Google feature called Social Circles (used in Google Social Search) has been quietly violating the privacy of millions of Americans. One of the bloggers, Chris Soghoian, was asked to ghost write a post on the topic. Instead he published several of those emails.

When Soghoian asked who was paying for this campaign, the Burson representative refused to name the client. Concerns were further raised when USA Today published a story saying that the firm had begun targeting “top-tier media outlets” with the same kind of pitches.

On Wednesday night, The Daily Beast published a story identifying Facebook as the agent behind the smear campaign, which a Facebook spokesperson admitted to.

Clearly, Facebook never should have hired a PR agency to “raise awareness” about this issue. Facebook itself has a reputation for disregarding users’ privacy concerns. Calling out Google for doing the same is the pot calling the kettle black.

After all, if it is really concerned about the privacy of its users’ data, Facebook should educate its users on how to hide their account information from Google.

Mashable’s Christina Warren contributed to this report.

More About: burson-marsteller, facebook, Google, smear campaign

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Tetris Rendered Sweeter With Gummi Bears [VIDEO]

Posted: 12 May 2011 06:52 PM PDT


Each day, Mashable highlights one noteworthy YouTube video. Check out all our viral video picks.

Finally, someone has gone ahead and mingled two things that tech nerds hold dear: video games and candy. Apparently, 10 pounds of gummi bears were used to create this film, which renders games like Tetris in 8 bits of sugar.

The director should totally collaborate with The Flaming Lips and their music-packed gummi skull on his next production.

Image courtesy of Flickr, washingtonydc

More About: gummi-bears, pop culture, Tetris, video, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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Google May Pay $500M in Online Drug Ad Case [REPORT]

Posted: 12 May 2011 06:31 PM PDT


Google may settle with the Department of Justice in a case surrounding online ad campaigns run by drug companies.

The case alleges that certain online pharmacies illegally selling prescription drugs ran ad campaigns through Google’s various ad programs.

Thursday night, the Wall Street Journal reported Google had released a “cryptic regulatory filing” showing it had earmarked a $500 million payment to the DOJ to resolve a case. The Journal states the settlement would be one of the highest ever paid to the government in a corporate dispute.

In the DOJ’s investigation, officials are looking into whether Google may have knowingly worked with advertisers who were using Google’s ad platforms to promote illegal activities, such as selling controlled pharmaceuticals to U.S. citizens from pharmacies operating in Canada and other countries.

The WSJ‘s sources say the investigation has been carried out by the FDA and the U.S. Attorney Office in Rhode Island, where the investigation is reportedly ongoing.

Mere months ago, Google told the world it was suing online pharmacy advertisers who broke the company’s rules by offering to sell prescription medication without a prescription on its ad network.

And in 2009, Google took other scammers to court for similarly violating the company’s terms.

More About: ads, DOJ, drugs, Google, google ads

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Deals & Checkin Specials Not Free Enough? You Might Like This New Service

Posted: 12 May 2011 05:57 PM PDT


Daily deals, offers, merchant rewards and checkin specials are becoming de facto ways to entice consumers to pay a visit to new restaurant or shop.

This summer, one startup will scrap the discount in favor of a freebie, offering credit and debt card holders cash gifts at various stores and restaurants.

The startup is FreeMonee, a newly launched endeavor from former senior executives at eBay, Oracle and Visa that’s already raised $11 million in funding. It’s neither daily deal service nor mobile coupling app, but instead a self-proclaimed “cash-gift network.”

What is a “cash-gift network,” you ask? The network is a collection of merchants and financial institutions. The “cash-gift” is FreeMonee’s consumer incentive; it isn’t a coupon or voucher, but a credit applied to your credit or debit account. You’ll get an email, text or gift notice from your financial institution notifying you of the gift, and you can then spend the cash-gift at a specified retailer on whatever you’d like.

Essentially, your bank will recruit you to shop with a retailer, and in exchange for your patronage, you’ll get free cash to spend as you’d like. In this schematic, the merchants cover the costs of redeemed cash-gifts. Banks make a percentage of each cash-gift purchase, which is also paid by the merchant.


Customers are matched with merchants in what the startup describes as a very complex process. “FreeMonee's proprietary and patent-pending Adaptive Matching Technology … analyzes the transaction data of hundreds of millions of debit and credit card holders — while protecting privacy — and precisely matches merchant gifts with profitable consumer prospects that are likely to redeem based on previous purchasing patterns and predictive analytics,” the company says.

In assessing whether the idea has merit, consider American Express’s recent foray into deals and loyalty rewards in partnership with SCVNGR and Foursquare respectively. In both campaigns, card members were encouraged to connect their credit card to their location-based app to enable deals and rewards to go into effect with a swipe at the register.

For AmEx, the motivation is to increase the prestige of its card and to expose consumers to local merchants in its merchant network. More significantly, though, AmEx wants to close the loop between card member, transaction and merchant.

FreeMonee has yet to reveal the two financial institutions its already signed on, but we anticipate that their interests will likely align closely with those of American Express.

FreeMonee’s first program will launch later this summer.

More About: banks, cash-gift network, deals, freemonee, merchants, startup

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Two Thirds Of Moms Shop With Their Smartphones

Posted: 12 May 2011 05:35 PM PDT


Most smartphone-wielding mothers put their phones to work while they shop, according to a survey by mobile ad network Greystripe.

In a survey of 239 mothers, whom Greystripe recruited using mobile banner ads in its network, 66% acknowledged that their smartphones play a role in their shopping trips.

Around 45% said they use their phones to locate the nearest store. The next most common use of smartphones was to compare prices. Only 15% of the women surveyed said they actually made purchases using their phones.

Since Greylock has an interest in portraying mobile phones as an excellent place to target mothers while shopping (women make the majority of household purchase decisions, and this makes them a favorite target of the advertisers Greylock courts), it’s not the most reliable source of research on the topic.

Other research about mobile phone marketing and women has shown more varied results. Last year, a company conducted mobile shopping survey of 1,600 women that found 94% of them were interested in more mobile shopping and mobile marketing.

In the same month, social network SheSpeaks conducted an online survey of similar size that found only 10% of women have downloaded any shopping-related applications to their mobile devices, and 62% are not even interested in doing so.

For now, whether mobile phones are indeed the key to reaching women depends largely on which indicator — shopping app adoption, interest in mobile, reference during shopping trips — you believe proves it.

More About: MARKETING, mothers, shopping, study, survey, women

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The Game of Life: Freelancers’ Edition [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 12 May 2011 04:53 PM PDT


The freelance lifestyle is a not a typical 9-to-5. It brings its own set of challenges and benefits, and this infographic celebrates them all.

From working in one’s pajamas to (knock on wood) an early retirement, from calculating your own taxes to paying for your own insurance, the freelancer’s route and balance between life and career is a little bit different.

If freelancing is something you’ve considered, check out a recent post we wrote on how to score freelance gigs. And if you’ve got tips for current or would-be freelancers, we invite you to leave them in the comments.

Click image to see full-size version.

Graphic courtesy of FreshBooks

More About: freelance, freelance work, freelancer, freelancing

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WordPress 3.2 Beta 1 Available for Download Now

Posted: 12 May 2011 04:27 PM PDT


The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. Learn more about Rackspace’s hosting solutions here.

The latest version of WordPress — 3.2 Beta 1 — is now available for download. Interested parties can grab the .zip file and install away.

The new release brings a slew of interesting features, including a new theme, a facelift for the Admin UI, new fullscreen composing modes and more.

Also new for WordPress 3.2, Internet Explorer 6 will no longer be supported.

The beta promises speed and performance fixes “like you wouldn’t believe,” a more useful admin bar, and notifications about browser updates. The “distraction-free writing” mode gives users fullscreen composing capabilities for both HTML and visual modes.

The new default theme for WordPress 3.2 is Twenty Eleven. It features rotating header images and post format support, among other goodies.

WordPress 3.1 was just released three months ago. With the new beta, the WordPress powers that be aren’t recommending using it on a production site; rather, it’s advisable to wait for a stable release, which should be available by June. In the meantime, beta testers can report bugs to help prep for the official stable release.


More Dev & Design Resources from Mashable:


- How the WordPress SEO Plugin Can Help Your Blog [INTERVIEW]
- Closed or Open Source: Which CMS is Right for Your Business?
- HOW TO: Get Devs to Use Your Company’s API
- HOW TO: Get Started with the Less Framework
- HOW TO: Transfer Your Blog From WordPress.com to WordPress.org [VIDEO]

More About: web development series, WordPress, wordpress 3.2

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Androids Unite: How Ice Cream Sandwich Will End the OS Schism [VIDEO]

Posted: 12 May 2011 03:30 PM PDT


Starting at the end of 2011, the Great Schism of the Android mobile operating system — between Android version 2 for phones, and Android version 3 for tablets — will finally end. The rollout of Ice Cream Sandwich will signal the start of something new.

At Google I/O this year, the company announced that Ice Cream Sandwich was coming and that it would end the 2.X/3.X split between tablets and phones. News about Google Music buried many of Google’s Android announcements.

We’ve clarified a few points about Ice Cream Sandwich with a Google rep. Here’s exactly why this OS will be one of the most significant launches from Google this year.


One OS for All Gadgets


Honeycomb originally launched as Google’s operating system for tablets. Formally dubbed Android 3.0, it represented a break from the 2.X line of OSes (Donut, Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread) that were built with mobile phones in mind.

Even before Honeycomb made its debut, the myriad variations in the 2.X line had caused many complaints, and fragmentation had become a well-worn buzzword on the lips of Android critics.

In July 2010, only 2% of Android users were running the most recent version of the OS, while almost 20% of devices were running the obsolete Android 1.5.

And as of March 2011, after the launch of the 3.X Honeycomb line, a full seven variants of Android were in use on the 310 types of Android devices. At that time, only 1.9% of those devices were running the most current versions of the OS. Some apps scaled and functioned well on 2.3 and 3.0 devices; others did not.

So the fragmentation issue is a valid one, particularly when it comes from developers who have to tweak apps to run across a wide range of operating systems — or resign themselves to apps that will only run on certain versions.

Ice Cream Sandwich will do one important thing for the ever-widening OS ecosystem: It will close the gap between tablet-specific and mobile-specific versions. As of the end of 2011, devs can start building for just one OS across multiple devices. And according to Google, those apps will “just work.”


Apps That Scale


With Ice Cream Sandwich, which will likely be Android 4.0 (Google can’t confirm that yet), devs can build one app that will work across all platforms, including TVs, tablets, phones, ereaders and any other Android-powered devices.

Google says these apps will scale nicely on screens large and small — that’s a big selling point of Ice Cream Sandwich. The OS will bring lots of Honeycomb-like features to smaller screens, too.

The dearth of tablet-ready Android apps is a fact of the Android Market. Not many devs have actually committed to making great tablet apps. In a recent survey, developers overwhelmingly cited fragmentation as the biggest reason. In the Android Market, you’ll see some apps with a single, underpowered app for both mobiles and tablets. Other apps will have a separate version for each device.

We’re looking forward to seeing one really good, thorough, feature-rich app that works beautifully across all devices. That’s the value proposition of Ice Cream Sandwich for devs.


What Happens to Honeycomb?


Honeycomb 3.1 was also just announced at Google I/O and will be coming out at the end of the summer. But does the end of the fork mean obsolescence for Honeycomb?

Honeycomb is “a pretty wholesale change” from the 2.X line, according to a Google rep. But Honeycomb isn’t a dead evolutionary line; rather, Ice Cream is a continuation of Honeycomb.

And although the 3.1 and (likely) 4.0 variants will launch about six months apart, Google is hoping development for tablet and TV apps on 3.1 won’t stall. In the mobile world, six months can seem like an eternity.

Manufacturers and carriers will need to keep up with this rapid iteration, and their handling of the 2.X line hasn’t exactly been reassuring. But Ice Cream Sandwich will be open source — so when it rolls out in OTA updates and on devices is largely up to corporate entities outside of the Googleplex.

Here’s the part of the Google I/O keynote that details some Ice Cream Sandwich features:

More About: android, fragmentation, Google, ice cream, ice cream sandwich

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Netflix Arrives on Select Android Devices [VIDEO]

Posted: 12 May 2011 02:36 PM PDT


Android users, rejoice: Netflix is finally available — at least on select devices. U.S. Netflix users who have an HTC Incredible, Nexus One, Evo 4G, HTC G2 or Nexus S can download the app from the Android Market and watch TV shows and movies over 3G or Wi-Fi.

Why is the app only available on a smattering of Android smartphones? On the official Netflix blog, Roma De from the product team says that a lack of “standard streaming playback features” is a challenge for bringing Netflix to more devices. De says that Netflix is “aggressively qualifying phones” and expects that the app will work on a large majority of Android phones in the next few months.

Last November, Netflix cited concerns over the lack of standardized DRM and content protection mechanisms for the delay in bringing Netflix to Android. It’s always possible that future Android OS software releases could make the process less complex by standardizing various protocols and policies.

As for the app itself, we haven’t been able to test it, but the screenshots look like it packs in all the features as its iOS and Windows Phone 7 counterparts. That includes access to browsing by genre, title and access to a user’s Watch Instantly queue.

[via Engadget]

More About: android, Android apps, netflix

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10 Tech PR Disasters of the Past Decade [PICS]

Posted: 12 May 2011 02:16 PM PDT

Facebook's plan to use a public relations firm to raise privacy concerns about Google demonstrates just how deep tech rivalries run. But Facebook's not the first technology company to get caught using ham-handed public relations techniques.

Below are some of the top tech PR blunders. As the list demonstrates, Facebook has some illustrious company, and 2011 appears to be a banner year for PR fumbles.


Microsoft Astroturfing (2001)





After the Department of Justice lobbed an antitrust suit against Microsoft in 1998, the company responded by sending emails defending itself to The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers.

But rather than sending the emails from its own account, Microsoft sent them from a front organization called Americans for Technology Leadership.

The attempt to influence the debate with a phony grassroots campaign was dubbed "Astroturfing."

Image courtesy of Flickr, purpleslog


Dell Hell (2005)




Dell chose the wrong customer to ignore in 2005. At the time, when social media was still in its infancy, ex-TV Guide writer Jeff Jarvis started detailing his travails with Dell on his blog, Buzz Machine. Jarvis's campaign eventually caught the eye of mainstream media and undid the effect of millions in advertising.

There's a happy ending to the story, though: Dell learned its lesson and is now a leader in social media customer relationship management.

Image courtesy of Flickr, re:publica


Facebook's News Feed Controversy (2005)




In retrospect, Facebook's news feed was one of the biggest innovations in social media. But when the company introduced the feature in September 2006, it didn't go so well.

As CEO Mark Zuckerberg later acknowledged in an open letter to users, the company didn't explain what the new features were and didn't offer users much control.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr, deneyterrio


Sony's Exploding Batteries (2006)




In the mid 2000s, laptops began exploding and bursting into flames, freaking out consumers everywhere. Analysts soon found the culprit: Sony's lithium-ion batteries.

Sony wound up recalling 4.1 million such batteries and Dell, which used the parts in its notebooks, was dragged into the morass.

Image courtesy of Flickr, sarabbit


Yahoo in China (2007)




Yahoo became the subject of human rights advocates' ire when it was discovered that the company helped the Chinese government track down dissidents in that country.

Yahoo sent its general counsel to apologize before Congress, but Congress was unimpressed.


Apple Antennagate (2010)




A major flaw was discovered not long after Apple released its iPhone 4: when the caller touched the lower-right side, the phone, it had trouble receiving and making calls.

The problem was compounded by Apple's initial response, which was to ignore the problem. Within a couple of weeks, Apple offered a stopgap solution -- free cases for all iPhone 4 owners. That move cost Apple $175 million.

The issue didn't seem to hurt iPhone 4 sales, but it did tarnish Apple's reputation as an upholder of rigorous standards for product design. The fact that neither Apple nor CEO Steve Jobs never apologized also didn't help.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Emmanuel Alanis


Digg Redesign (2010)




Seeking a bigger piece of the social media pie, Digg rolled out a new version of the site in late August 2010 called V4 that added a "My News" link where users could, in theory, see what their friends on the network were Digging.

Other changes included the loss of the "bury" button and the ability for publishers to run their RSS feeds on the network instead of relying on users' Diggs. The reaction from the Digg community was instant: Users staged a protest on Digg rival Reddit. The move offered a blow to Digg's prestige and traffic from which it has not yet recovered.


Apple's LocationGate (2011)




Last month two researchers found that Apple's iPhone keeps track of its user's location. That data is stored on both the user's device and on the user's PC when iTunes is activated. After several critical stories about Locationgate appeared in the media, Apple eventually officially replied to the incident with a Q&A about the issue that stated, "Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so."

Apple also responded to the issue with an iOS update.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Orcmid


Amazon Cloud Outage (2011)




In April, Amazon's AWS services, a cloud computing platform used by Hootsuite, Reddit, Foursquare and others, went down taking down those services too.

The incident prompted a technically oriented, 5,600-word explanation (see the word cloud above) that lacked the word "sorry."


Sony PlayStation Hack (2011)




A hacker attack against Sony's PlayStation Network in April resulted in the theft of user information for more than 100 million accounts, including, possibly, 2.2 million credit card numbers.

As of mid May, Sony was still grappling with the issue.

More About: amazon, dell, digg, facebook, microsoft, sony, sony playstation, Yahoo

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Cellphones Could Be Killing Bees [STUDY]

Posted: 12 May 2011 02:00 PM PDT


Colony collapse disorder — the phenomenon of disappearing bees, observed all around the world — could be partially attributed to cellphone use.

The disappearance of bees is a serious issue, since they pollinate many of world’s agricultural crops. So far, scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact causes of the syndrome, leading to the theory that several issues are reducing the bee population.

A recent study, conducted by Daniel Favre at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, sheds more light on the issue by showing that cellphone signals are seriously affecting — or even killing — bees. To conduct the study, Favre tested honeybees’ reactions to nearby cellphones in different modes: off, standby and making a call.

“The results of the present pilot study clearly show that the presence of actively communicating mobile phone handsets in the close vicinity of honeybees had a dramatic effect,” Favre says in his report. “Honeybees are sensitive to pulsed electromagnetic fields generated by the mobile telephones.” In other words, the cellphone signals confuse bees to the point where they leave the hive and don’t return.

Of course, once could argue that the cellphones are — generally speaking — far away from bee populations, which makes the devices an unlikely cause for their deaths.

“Phones are not present in the close vicinity of honeybees in real life,” Favre concludes in his report. “This study provides elements for the establishment of further experiments involving such apparatus placed at increasing distances from the bees.”

The entire report in PDF format is available here.

[via FastCompany]

More About: bees, cellphones, study

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Miso Sync: A Second Screen Experiment Using Android & Boxee [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 12 May 2011 01:40 PM PDT


Mobile devices and tablets offer TV networks new opportunities to create interactive programming that extends to second screens.

But, do users, in fact, want to watch TV and engage with related content simultaneously? Entertainment checkin application Miso presumed the answer might be yes, but it wanted to test the hypothesis to learn more.

So Miso created Miso Sync, a private beta application for Android.

Built by Miso’s in-house innovation team Miso Labs, Miso Sync works only with Boxee. On launch, the application can determine whether there’s a Boxee device in the room, connect to the device and automatically identify what the user is watching and how far along he is in the show.

Miso Sync then displays character or show information on the mobile screen in real-time, timed and synced with the show’s content — much like what VH1 did with Pop-Up Video, but on the second screen.

For example, if a user is watching The Office, Classy Christmas Part 2 via Boxee when the character Holly Flax appears on screen, Miso Sync sends along information on Amy Ryan, the actress who plays Holly Flax. If the app is closed, Miso Sync sends the user a ping when a new piece of content is available.

Miso recruited Boxee users with Android devices to participate in a four week experiment. The application was seeded with second screen content on six shows: The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, NCIS, CSI: Miami and Undercover Boss.

Based on its data, Miso believes that the second screen functions best as an active vehicle and that users want a highly personalized experience.

“We learned that people want extremely customized and relevant information, and what they want changes drastically depending on a number of factors including the type of show,” the company says.

So yes, users do want interactive programming, but so long as it’s specific to who they are and what they’re watching.

Founder Somrat Niyogi says once the startup figures out the use cases that get people excited, it will make the Android app available to the public and release a version for iPhone. More importantly, the startup wants to integrate Miso Sync with set top boxes, he says.

“Imagine this,” Niyogi says. “You turn on the TV, your phone is on stand by, and immediately you get a push notification that says ‘You’re watching American Idol. Want to share this with your friends?’ … then 10 minutes in, a performance completes and we deliver … a push notification: ‘What do you think of Haley’s performance?’”

It’s a futuristic vision for sure, but the entertainment and technology sectors are showing a heightened interest in this area. For starters, Yahoo acquired TV tagging application IntoNow and ABC is working on its line-up of TV-syncing iPad apps.

Still curious? Download [PDF] Miso’s full report on the experiment.

More About: android, entertainment, entertainment checkins, miso, miso sync, second screen

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Why Some Brands May Need To Rethink Their Social Media Strategy

Posted: 12 May 2011 01:24 PM PDT

fan image

Arron Kallenberg is the founder of FanSignal.com and co-founder of RevHarvest.com and Claim.io. You can find him on Twitter as @kallena.

Social media is widely recognized not only for creating deeper, more connected relationships between people, but for the promise it makes to brands to help them become more human. But just because a brand is humanized doesn’t mean everyone will suddenly want to be its "friend" or naturally decide to "Like" it.

A brand that desires to leverage social media to create meaningful, more integrated relationships with consumers is faced with a task that is significantly more complicated than simply “being human.”

The idea of engaging socially with a brand (even a humanized brand) is still a very nascent phenomenon in our culture. All of the social networks that currently exist were built to connect people with people — not people with brands.

As a result, the ability to form a relationship with a brand has more or less been tacked onto social networks as an afterthought.


The Challenge of Context


The kinds of relationships we create with brands are fundamentally different from any of the relationships we form with people. Consider LinkedIn, a social network that curates strong professional relationships between individuals. LinkedIn is powerful precisely because the type of relationship it facilitates is not causal. The people you connect with on LinkedIn are not necessarily your friends on Facebook. And even if they are, you still engage with them in an entirely different way.

Now think about the consumer-brand relationship. This relationship is neither casual nor professional. There isn’t anything that fosters this type of relationship online. As a consequence, brands are asking consumers to connect with them in obscure contexts. For example, when a brand tries to join a conversation on a social network, it can be perceived as awkward — like the creepy guy who invited himself to the party.

Some people can rationalize being a brand's friend, liking it on Facebook and talking to it on Twitter. However, for every one of those people, there are several more who have legitimate relationships with brands but do not view Facebook or Twitter as the appropriate place to cultivate those relationships.

By asking these people to connect with a brand in a manner that is normally reserved for a specific type of human relationship, you taint a consumer-brand relationship that might have otherwise been welcomed with open arms. People are obviously willing to form relationships with brands in the real world. However, in the online world, brands need to do a much better of job providing ways for consumers to engage with them appropriately.


Consumers Are Comfortable With Branded Content


Ironically, brands may already have the beginnings of a platform that, if made more social, has the potential to curate much stronger, more integrated relationships with consumers in a way that current social networks can't. Consumers are already familiar with the idea that brands communicate with them via ads.

Currently, most brands ignore the potential to extend that conversation into a truly social experience. Brands need to start developing ads that function less like a one-way conversation that beg consumers to like them, and more like a distributed social network that engages the consumer and his friends in an explicit way.


Without providing consumers with integrated ways to connect around and relate with brands, the consumer-brand relationship will continue to be as awkward and forced as friending your boss on Facebook.


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

Image courtesy of Flickr, Rupert Ganzer.

More About: brand, business, engagement, facebook, MARKETING

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Taliban’s Twitter Account Starts Tweeting in English

Posted: 12 May 2011 12:51 PM PDT


The Taliban has extended its propaganda efforts into the social media realm, sending its first tweet in English from the handle @alemarahweb.

The account started tweeting in Pashtun in December 19. Its roughly 750 tweets detail what the Guardian calls “highly exaggerated reports” of strikes against the Taliban’s enemies. As of Thursday, some of these tweets have been written in English. Most of them are death tolls.

This matches the message that the Taliban has distributed through its spokesmen and other media, including the Internet. Despite declaring the Internet unholy and banning its use for millions of Afghan citizens in 2000, the Taliban has maintained a website since at least 2001.

When the Guardian pointed out the account this morning, it had just 224 followers. Now the tally is about 1,200 and rising fast. @alemarahweb itself, however, only follows 12 accounts, including a combat advisor to the Afghan Army, a charity that teaches carpet weaving and an educational children’s circus.

More About: Taliban, twitter

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Google Versus Facebook: Following the Money

Posted: 12 May 2011 12:22 PM PDT


If you’ve been disconcerted by the news that Facebook was conducting a smear campaign against Google, perhaps a little look at the financials might clear up a few key points.

Both companies have already been in fierce competition for online ad dollars for a few years. Google makes the majority of its income from search ad programs like AdWords and AdSense, but as the incumbent in online advertising, it has to watch its back very carefully.

Facebook’s ad revenue hit an impressive $1.86 billion for 2010, and the site may account for as much as one-third of display ad impressions. For 2011, Facebook is expected to bring in $4.05 billion in advertising revenues worldwide, $2.19 billion of which will come from the U.S. market.

Also, given Google’s recent launch of +1 — a half social, half traffic-generating web search feature — Facebook might be feeling even more pressure to make sure users are wary of the tool and less likely to use it without overthinking it. After all +1 is a Facebook Like competitor. And both +1 and Likes can generate valuable data used in ad targeting. So if Facebook can convince the web-surfing world that Google is negligent about user privacy, +1 won’t be as valuable as Google might otherwise hope.

Ultimately, these two corporations are not making web apps for the pure joy of protecting user privacy; they’re in it to make money. And if Facebook can grab a bigger piece of that pie, it certainly will.


Facebook Versus Google: Following the Money





Facebook Versus Google: Following the Money





Facebook Versus Google: Following the Money




[source: eMarketer]

More About: advertising, facebook, Google, Revenue

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World’s First Wi-Fi Mouse Has 9-Month Battery Life [VIDEO]

Posted: 12 May 2011 12:10 PM PDT


HP has revealed a wireless mobile mouse that it says is the first on the market to connect using Wi-Fi. The mouse won’t require an easily misplaced USB dongle, and HP says its nine-month battery life is a lot longer than Bluetooth or wireless USB mice.

HP claims it’s easy to pair up the mouse and a Windows 7-equipped laptop, connecting with Wi-Fi without using an often-scarce USB port. The mouse’s range is 30 feet, similar to the distance most Bluetooth mice can operate.

Other than that unique Wi-Fi trick, this ambidextrous mouse is much like any other, with 1200 to 1600dpi resolution, five customizable buttons, a four-way tilt scroll wheel and a familiar-looking form factor. The HP Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse will be available in June for $49.99.

Here’s HP’s promo video:

More About: HP Wi-Fi Mouse, mice, Pointing Devices

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UFC Fighters To Get Bonuses for Tweeting

Posted: 12 May 2011 11:49 AM PDT


The Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) organization, is going to award fighters with monetary bonuses for using Twitter, the head of UFC announced at the UFC Fighter Summit in Las Vegas.

UFC and Strikeforce (another MMA promotion company, owned by the UFC) have a unique plan on how to do that. Starting June 1, they will divide their fighters into four categories based on their Twitter follower count. Then, after every three months, three fighters from each category will get a $5,000 bonus based on how many followers they’ve gained, the biggest percentage of new followers gained and the most creative tweets, judged by UFC head Dana White.

This is an interesting and innovative approach to social media, uncommon in mainstream sports, where players are often reprimanded for tweeting. The UFC’s approach allows the big stars who already have a large Twitter following have the same chance of getting a bonus as the up-and-comers.

UFC fighters and the MMA community are very lively on Twitter. Feuds between fighters — common in the sport — are fueled by comments on Twitter, and tweets from fighters and trainers are often a source for news about upcoming fights.

On the other hand, young, new fighters often earn a couple of thousand dollars per fight (and in MMA, every fight has the potential to cause injuries that could keep a fighter out of the octagon for weeks or months). Now fighters will also be able to use their wit and creativity to make a living.

Image courtesy of EliteSportsTours.ca via Flickr

[via MMAfighting]

More About: bonus, dana white, MMA, tweet, twitter, ufc

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Mobile Photography: 20+ Resources for Apps, Snaps & Inspiration

Posted: 12 May 2011 11:28 AM PDT

The rise of mobile phone photography as an art form, rather than just a convenient way to grab casual snapshots, has greatly inspired us here at Mashable.

We’ve showcased galleries, accessories and apps over recent months, packed with fabulous hardware, even better software, and some amazing photography from all around the world.

Here, we’ve gathered together more than 20 great resources, so bookmark this page and take a look below.


Galleries




Accessories & Video



Tips, Tricks & Apps



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

More About: android, apps, iphone, iphotography, Lists, Mobile 2.0, mobile photography, photography, Photos

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Hot Coupon App Automates Savings Via Loyalty Cards

Posted: 12 May 2011 11:10 AM PDT


The newly launched SavingStar web, iPhone and Android apps reward consumers with cash back when they redeem paperless coupons, and the startup believes it can cut through the mobile coupon clutter with a product that mirrors how consumers purchase groceries on a regular basis.

Here’s how it works: A SavingStar user signs up and enters his or her grocery and drugstore loyalty cards. He can then browse ecoupons from more than 100 merchants and click on them to link them to loyalty cards. Then, when the customer buys the items in questions, the savings are posted to the SavingStar account.

The user can choose to deposit accrued funds to a bank account, transfer the money to PayPal or Amazon gift cards, or donate the savings to charity.

The SavingStar experience works via web or mobile, and it’s an approach that appears to be resonating with consumers. Just three weeks after releasing its mobile apps and website in late April, SavingStar crossed the 100,000-user-registration mark, the company told Mashable. It’s now also signing on upward of 10,000 new users per day.

Investors First Round Capital and Flybridge also see the value — perhaps less in ecoupons and more in the startup’s growing collection of UPC data — and have participated in both of SavingStar funding rounds. SavingStar has raised $10 million to date.

The startup sees it relationships with national retailers as the magic ingredient that sets it apart from the myriad of mobile coupling applications.

“Couponing is one of those ubiquitous American activities,” says CEO David Rochon. “SavingStar is the first and only national fully digital way to save at grocery stores and drugstores.”

Shopkick, an application that rewards users with points for walking into stores and scanning barcodes, just doesn’t work in the real-life grocery shopping experience, Rochon says. “I don’t know anybody, in my family at least, that’s going to do that,” he says. “I do know my brother, my sister, my mother, has downloaded my iPhone app and are in stores saving money because they know how to do that.”

Soon SavingStar will introduce additional redemption options. Shoppers could choose to put their savings toward airline miles or gas credits, for instance. The startup also plans to evolve to offer daily deals for packaged goods, Rochon says.

In the future, SavingStar will work to better understand consumer behavior and attempt to help retailers convert shoppers into loyal consumers.

“As we progress and mature, we will be able to know consumers better and find values that are specific to them and their family,” says Rochon. “And that’s really important in the digital age.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, betsyxallen

More About: coupons, mobile coupons, savingstar, startup

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LG Promo Prompts Parsing of Pixels [VIDEO]

Posted: 12 May 2011 10:49 AM PDT

A recent online promotion for LG's Optimus phone in Germany highlights a simple fact: 5 million is a lot.

The Pixel Hunt effort, by Vodaphone, went like this: A photo composed of 5 million pixels was displayed on a website. Consumers were asked to find 100 photos hidden within that picture. Each of the 100 photos was equal to one pixel. The winners got a 5 megapixel Optimus phone.

It took a month for consumers to click all 5 million pixels. Clearly, some tried many times since just 300,000 people visited the site. For such consumers, a pixel might not have been worth 1,000 words, but it was worth a significant portion of their time.

[Via Creativity Online]

More About: advertising, digital cameras, LG, MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, smartphones, Vodaphone

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Listen to the Mashable Connect Playlist, Featuring OK Go, TV on the Radio, Oh Land & More

Posted: 12 May 2011 10:17 AM PDT

Music From Mashable’s Connect Conference by Mashable

The Mashable staff is in Disney World for the Mashable Connect conference, and you best believe we’re not sitting here, listening to the Aladdin soundtrack on repeat.

No, we’ve complied an eclectic playlist to accompany our event, replete with music from bands that have graced the digital pages of Mashable. Check out the player above, and read below for more info on the bands gracing your eardrums.

Thanks to all the bands and labels that gave us permission to include their music in this awesome playlist.


1). “Back From Kathmandu,” OK Go: In November, viral video masters OK Go teamed up with Range Rover in the Evoque Pulse of the City project. The band set out to create a huge "OK Go" sign, written in GPS across Los Angeles. Footage was included in the video for “Back From Kathmandu.”

2). “Steak Knives,” Man Man: Philly-based experimental rock band Man Man, whose fourth album Life Fantastic [iTunes link] just dropped, is slated to premiere a video on Mashable as part of our Music Monday series.

3). “Moniker,” Bearstronaut: This Boston-based band taught us how to trade a track for a tweet in our feature, “Top 10 Twitter Tips for Bands, By Bands.”

4). “White Nights (Twin Shadow remix),” Oh Land: From ballerina to electro-pop badass, Danish musician Nanna Øland Fabricius (a.k.a. Oh Land) has captured the attention of the music world, nabbing a spot in Vevo's Lift program and playing stage shows replete with projections and other technological marvels. She premiered a video for the song “Perfection” on Mashable.

5). “The Future,” The Limousines: The Limousines were also featured in our “Twitter Tips for Bands” feature. The San Francisco-based band was able to score a kind of collaboration with DJ Samantha Ronson by merely paying attention to mentions of the band on Twitter.

6). “Laws of Gravity,” Rubik: Finnish indie pop band Rubik premiered two new videos from its album Solar [iTunes link] on Mashable.

7). “Breaker Breaker,” Peter Bjorn & John: When Peter, Bjorn & John set out to create their newest album, Gimme Some, they decided to strip down to essentials, penning an album that replicates the experience of attending one of the band's live shows. Directors Jamie Margolin and Dezi Catarino captured the live-performance experience in the video that we premiered on Music Monday.

8). “This Moment,” French Horn Rebellion: We tested EarPeace’s ear plugs during a particularly noisy French Horn Rebellion concert. The band hails from Brooklyn, NY, and will be releasing its debut album soon.

9). “Knight of Wands,” Au Revoir Simone: The video for "Knight of Wands" — off of the band's third album, Still Night, Still Light [iTunes link] — premiered on a dedicated Flash website and garnered a MTV OMA nomination for “Most Innovative Music Video.”

10). “Not Like Any Other Feeling,” The Thermals: The Thermals also lent their expertise to “Twitter Tips For Bands,” with the band‘s “Twitter Czar" and drummer Westin Glass suggesting that musicians have a personality on the microblogging site.

11). “Same Old Song,” Lovett: Lovett kicked off our first Music Monday, premiering the video for “The Fear” off his first, self-released album, Highway Collection [iTunes link].

12). “Fine Lines,” LA Font: We discovered this LA band via music streaming startup, Earbits, and included the video for “Fine Lines” in one of our YouTube roundups.

13). “Will Do,” TV on the Radio: Brooklyn-based TV on the Radio premiered an album-length film on YouTube featuring every track from the group’s new album, Nine Types of Light [iTunes link].

14). “Fine By Me,” Andy Grammer: Another Music Monday alum, LA-based Andy Grammer also premiered an interactive video for his song, "Keep Your Head Up,” on Vevo. The video scored him the MTV OMA for “Most Innovative Music Video.”

15). “My Body,” Young the Giant: Young the Giant premiered a video for "Cough Syrup” on Music Monday and also shared its essential on-the-road apps.

16). “Lucky Me,” Project Jenny, Project Jan: The Internet can be a powerful tool when it comes to collaborations between artists of all ilks. Laptop band Project Jenny, Project Jan harnessed said power when it set out to create a video for its new song, "Lucky Me," producing a lovely, painterly vid courtesy of a Turkish artist the band had never met.

Image courtesy of Flickr, all that improbable blue

More About: andy-grammer, Bearstronaut, french-horn-rebellion, LA-Font, Lovett, man-man, mashable connect 2011, music, oh-land, OK Go, rubik, soundcloud, the thermals, The-Limousines, tv-on-the-radio, twin-Shadow, young-the-giant

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Event Swag: 5 Ways To Give Attendees What They Want

Posted: 12 May 2011 09:47 AM PDT


Erin Bury is the community manager at Sprouter.com, an expert Q&A site for startup founders around the world. You can follow her on Twitter @ErinBury and read her blog at ErinBury.com.

At the end of a long day at a conference, event attendees can hopefully walk away with a few key lessons, some business cards, and ideas they can apply to their work. But often, they also leave with an armload of conference swag from trade show participants, sponsors and the organizers. Common swag items include T-shirts, pens, postcards and flyers with company info and discounts.

Swag bags are often filled with the same old stuff, much of which is being tossed in the trash as soon as attendees leave the building. Just because an item is free doesn't mean it's desirable or useful, and handing out 100 pens doesn't mean you'll convert any of those conference goers into customers or users.

Here's how to make sure your swag catches the attention of event attendees and doesn't end up in a garbage can.


1. Make It Something People Want


This seems like an obvious point, but it doesn't seem like many companies actually think about it. Put yourself in the position of the conference attendee. Would you pick up that item if you walked by that booth? If the item was in a big swag bag, would it catch your attention, or would you throw it away without thinking twice?

Chances are if you wouldn't use it, neither would anyone else. Also, make sure it's something people don't have 10 of already. Sure, USB keys and coffee mugs are desirable, but chances are you won't be the only company at the event giving them out.


2. Seed Your Supporters


You'll likely have a small swag budget, especially if you're at a startup. One idea to make sure your items end up in the right hands is to create a smaller batch of items and make sure they get more exposure.

David Spinks, founder of BlogDash, had a limited budget this year for South by Southwest. So instead of buying 100 smaller items, he decided to get 20 T-shirts and give them out to good friends with the promise they would wear the shirt at least one day of the conference. This way, he got the exposure he wanted, the items actually went to good use, and he managed to stay under budget.

Hashable did something similar but on a larger budget. It sent its biggest supporters to SXSW for free. They wore branded T-shirts the whole time and used Hashable instead of carrying business cards. It was great branding for them, and the attendees were likely happy to wear the shirts in return for a free trip.


3. Go Digital


One of the trademark items at SXSW was the extremely heavy, overloaded swag bag. This year the organizers moved away from physical items and instead created a digital swag bag for attendees, accessible through a SXSW online account. The "SXswag" bag included discounts on apps and services, music downloads and even a free set of "We met at SXSW" Moo cards. It cut down on waste, but the jury is still out on whether the majority of people actually accessed the online bag (I know I didn't).

Digital swag is an emerging trend and a great way to save money, but make sure it's easy to access and that it's desirable enough to get people to log on.


4. Go Green


One of the biggest criticisms of swag is that it isn't eco-friendly. Thousands of flyers, postcards and promotional items are created, and many of them are left behind in hotel rooms, or worse, forgotten in a company's storage room. Digital swag is a great eco-friendly way to cut down on waste, but there are others.

One way is to forgo swag in favor of a charitable donation. Canadian Foodie Girl blogger Andrea Toole attended a conference where a company gave its swag budget to charity, and attendees voted on which cause the money should support. This encouraged a lot of people to stop at its booth.

There’s also plenty of eco-friendly physical swag available if you know where to look. Promotional items company Rightsleeve has an entire section devoted to green swag, which includes everything from recycled calendars to eco-friendly steak knives.


5. Pop Culture Is Your Friend


Some of the most popular swag items at conferences find a way to incorporate pop culture trends. At SXSW in 2010, ShareThis had a variety of stickers with “quotes” from Kanye West (“I’mma let you finish … but ShareThis has one of the best sharing services of all time!”) and Mr. T (“I pity the fool who doesn't ShareThis!”). They were funny and relevant, while still getting the brand message across. It was no surprise that Charlie Sheen's face popped up on swag this year at SXSW, and it was in high demand.


Swag can be a great way to get your brand's message out there and start some conversations about your company. But you don't want your company's marketing treasure to be someone else's trash. Take the time to think about what you’d actually want from a conference, and try to create items that reflect that.


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

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alxpin

More About: business, conferences, Events, List, Lists, MARKETING, startups, swag

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Senators Want Cyberattacks To Be Disclosed

Posted: 12 May 2011 09:30 AM PDT


If a group of five senators have their way, the SEC will one day require companies to publicly disclose cyberattacks like the one that shut down Sony’s Playstation Network for the past three weeks.

The politicians, which include Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller and four other Democrats, sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking it to create guidelines that would require companies to report major network attacks.

In addition, they wrote, guidelines should require companies to explain details about intellectual property that may have been compromised during an attack and include vulnerability to cyberattacks in corporate risk disclosures.

As Sony has demonstrated, a hacker attack can be devastating to a company’s bottom line and potentially to its investors. One analyst told the WSJ last week that he estimated the April attack will cost Sony about $1.24 billion.

Google, Intel, PayPal and Mastercard are just some of the many companies that have also recently suffered significant attacks.

Yet too few companies warn investors of cyber security risks. According to the WSJ, a 2009 study by insurance underwriter Hiscox Inc. found that 38% of Fortune 500 companies made a “significant oversight” by omiting risk of data-security breaches in their public filings.

More About: cyberattack, hackers, SEC, sony

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Twitter Gives Mac Version a Facelift

Posted: 12 May 2011 09:14 AM PDT


Twitter has released the first major update to its Twitter for Mac client, adding support for multiple windows and better usability.

The update features some minor tweaks to the user interface, including a more traditional application title bar. The new title bar also acts as a navigation window of sorts, allowing users to easily switch between “pages” in the app. A designated “new tweet” button is also now visible in the bottom left of the main app window.

The UI changes are minor, but overall the app now feels more polished and more finished. The app might not still conform to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines enough to appease some critics, but I think that the interface works, especially in context to the greater Twitter app ecosystem.


New Features & Better Functionality


Twitter for Mac [Mac App Store link] didn’t just get a minor facelift, it also added a host of new features. The biggest improvement is the ability to view timelines, lists, accounts, replies, direct messages and other views in their own window.

Simply select Window, Open in New Window to open a view in its own instance. You can also use the default shortcut, CMD-Shift-T. The new window system, which is reminiscent not only of TweetDeck, but also the latest version of Twitterrific for Mac.

The ability to view specific lists, search queries or accounts in a separate window certainly makes Twitter for Mac more usable for power users.

As the official Twitter blog notes, the new Twitter for Mac also contains autocomplete for usernames and hashtags. Refreshing timelines is also now accessible iOS-style by pulling up to refresh. This feature will work really well in the context of the new scrolling style in Mac OS X Lion that works particularly well with multi-touch gestures.

Twitter for Mac is free and available in the Mac App Store. In the comments, let us know your thoughts on the new update.

More About: twitter, twitter for mac

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One-Third of Smartphone Users Load Apps Before Getting Out of Bed [STUDY]

Posted: 12 May 2011 08:58 AM PDT


The mobile web has become such a significant part of our everyday lives that 35% of people are firing up apps on their smartphones before getting out of bed, according to an Ericsson ConsumerLab study.

Furthermore, 18% of consumers use social networking apps before they rise for the day; 10% use them while commuting, 34% use them late in the evening and 20% use them in bed before going to sleep.

Interestingly, consumers’ behavior on the web has changed due to the Internet’s constant availability on smartphones and tablets. “Prior to the introduction of smartphones, consumers tended to use the internet in "chunks" – they would tend to confine their internet activities to when they had an opportunity to sit in front of a computer,” the study says. “Smartphones allow people to go online the very instant they get the impulse. Internet access is thus becoming more spontaneous and unplanned.”

The study also shows that consumers’ habits do not depend so much on the device they have — the apps they use are more important. The form factor also isn’t critical, as consumers are using apps on tablets in a similar way as they do on smartphones.

According to the study, many consumers cannot imagine their lives without apps that reside in the cloud. “Consumers expect, and increasingly depend on, the ability to access online services easily at low cost and complexity from multiple locations during the day,” the study says.

The 18-month study on mobile Internet usage was conducted in a number of locations, including the U.S., Europe and Japan. Have a look at the full report.

More About: apps, ericsson, internet, Mobile 2.0, mobile internet, smartphone

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YouTube Launches Top 100 Chart for Music

Posted: 12 May 2011 08:38 AM PDT


YouTube is launching a new top 100 chart for music videos that mixes official music videos with user-uploaded and viral videos, resulting in a list where the likes of Lady Gaga and Rebecca Black mingle freely.

YouTube announced the chart on its blog, noting that it will be published weekly, and it will archive charts for anyone interested in tracking trends (you know, like how Justin Bieber has had a stranglehold on web culture for approximately two years).

The chart is located on the YouTube Music page, and as of right now there’s no real surprises when it comes to content — most of it is Gaga, Bieber and other pop stars. Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is at number eight.

What do you think of YouTube’s new chart? Would you check it regularly to see what music is currently hot on YouTube?

More About: justin bieber, Lady Gaga, music, Rebecca Black, video, youtube

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5 Ways Social Media Has Changed Marketing Campaigns

Posted: 12 May 2011 08:23 AM PDT


The Modern Media Agency Series is supported by IDG. Marketers should know about two Ps for publishers — personalization and portability are as important to advertisers as they are to publishers. Consumers expectations are rising for information they want accessed on any device. IDG Global Solutions President Matt Yorke says this is new territory filled with a lot of promise. Read more.

“Social media engagement.” It's a phrase that generates a lot of buzz, but what does it actually mean? And, more importantly, why does it matter to companies that are integrating social media into their PR and marketing strategies?

We turned to some of the leading communication experts to discover the importance of sparking online engagement and how this new focus has forced PR, marketing and advertising campaigns to evolve.


Defining Social Media Engagement


Ask five people to define engagement, and you'll likely receive five different answers. Liz Hawks, SVP and global co-chair of FH Moms Practice, explained it like this: "Engagement is speaking with her (in this case, Mom) where she is, when she is looking for info and in the way she is looking for it."

Rob Clark, Edelman's director of insights and measurement, suggests thinking about engagement as the step from attention to action. "This may be a one-click social gesture such as a digg or like, or it may be a blog post written in response with a trackback, or it may be a letter written in response to an online campaign. All are a level of engagement," he explains.

Likewise, Chuck Hemann, vice president of digital strategy and analytics for Ogilvy 360DI and author of the upcoming Social Media Metrics for Dummies, agrees that retweets, comment, or "shares," are all forms of engagement. However, he cautions that companies need to dig deeper. "If you look at retweets only, for example, what is the net impact of a retweet? Now, if you looked at retweets in combination with clicks (ideally clicks-per-post), now you’re headed in the right direction."


5 Ways Social Media Engagement Enhances Communication Campaigns


While experts may disagree about exact definition of “engagement,” there is one thing they all agree on: Social media, and specifically the ability to engage with stakeholders, has changed PR and marketing.

"Social media has completely changed our work, and when executed well, it has positive implications for multiple divisions, from consumer insights to product development/innovation to marketing to corporate reputation," says Hawks.

Let's take a closer look at some of these changes.


1. Start With a Foundation of Data


All across the web, Internet users are "liking" and following brands, leaving reviews and posting comments, thereby creating a massive amount of data points from which marketers can learn.

"Developing all of our engagement campaigns on a foundation of consumer-behavior data helps ensure that our efforts will indeed resonate –- that she will be active with our messages rather than passive," explains Hawks.

Hemann encourages brands to think about two "buckets" of metrics: behavioral and diagnostic. Behavioral includes everything from shares to sales, while diagnostic metrics are more tool-specific, such as impressions of a Facebook Page or likes-per-post.


2. Better Understanding of the Audience's Needs


A core element of social media revolves around conversation. Online conversation follows the same patterns as "offline" conversations — it requires both talking and listening. If brands are always talking, they're not listening, and if they're not listening, they won't understand the audience's needs.

Or, as Hawks puts it, "[Social media] has helped us to better understand our audiences — ‘listening’ to their dialogue either validates insights we have or teaches us new insights. It leads with the consumer's needs, rather than the brand's desires, which completely flips traditional models."

By monitoring online conversations about your brand, industry, product or related services, you can strengthen product development, customer service and a variety of other core business functions.


3. Bypass Gatekeepers and Interact Directly With Target Communities


Before social media, companies relied on traditional PR, marketing and advertising to deliver messages to target audiences. Often, a "middle man" (such as a newspaper reporter) ultimately determined what was written or said. With marketing and advertising, companies could maintain control over the message, but these mediums also lacked a mechanism to collect immediate feedback and real-time interactions.

This ability to bypass gatekeepers and facilitate direct interactions with consumers and communities is one of the most important aspects of social media. As a result, communicators can be more efficient, responsive, helpful and resourceful.

Clark says, "Social media lets us identify the people we need to talk to, and the people we want to talk to. It gives us the chance to build, track and maintain the relations we have with our stakeholders with the added benefit of taking conversational communication and preserving it for an audience to witness and add to."


4. Monitor & Measure Simultaneously


Companies shouldn't expect to generate overnight results via social media. After all, building and activating a network takes time. "Social media does tend to create a false sense of hope for immediate results. However, showing performance in social does take time," says Hemann.

That said, communicators should take advantage of real-time feedback. Monitor online feedback and conversations — or lack thereof — and adjust as needed.” This gives us a great opportunity to maintain some level of control. If something's not working, you can fix it now rather than waiting until the campaign is over to find out if it was a success or failure, says Hawks.


5. Put Employees on the Front Lines


Incept, a Canton, Ohio-based call center, was making cold calls to recruit blood donors. But, they knew people weren't sitting at home, waiting for a blood drive phone call, so they needed to turn to other channels to connect with potential donors. They turned to social media, creating Twitter accounts for their employees, as well as a blog and Facebook Page. Since training and empowering their employees to post content, interact and build networks, Incept has reduced average monthly turnover from almost 20% monthly to 8% per month, creating an annual direct cost savings of nearly $200,000. Additionally, Sam Falletta, president and chief results officer, says Incept has picked up two new clients from relationships that began on Facebook.


What Does This Look Like In Action?


Hallmark, along with agency partner Fleishman-Hillard, established consistent touchpoints for moms to connect with like-minded peer moms, influencers and Hallmark itself by providing contextually relevant content that women will want to spend time with, share and act on. According to Hawks, the content comes from multiple locations –- including Hallmark, third-party experts and other moms. Hawk explains that Hallmark leverages a variety of PR, advertising and other channels to gain moms' time, information and — ultimately — action or transaction.

One example of this effort occurred in January, around the Blissdom blogger conference. Hallmark established metrics, such as:

  • The amount of time influencer moms spent creating videos about Hallmark and its priority product, as well as the amount of time their followers spent looking at that content (because moms giving Hallmark their time is an objective).
  • The number of blog posts written about Hallmark, as well as the number of comments made on those posts.
  • The number of endorsements offered in those blog posts.
  • The number of photos and videos included in blog posts aligning with Hallmark's positioning or demonstrating its products. (Hawks said this was key because they know this kind of content is more likely to be shared.)
  • How many other consumers shared these blog posts via their own social networks?

While not every brand has the resources of a Hallmark or large agency, even small- to medium-size business can learn to think in terms of these "non-impression, engagement" metrics, which are becoming key indicators of success as more and more companies focus on creating and leveraging online engagement.

How do you incorporate engagement into your social media efforts?


Series Supported by IDG

The Modern Media Agency Series is supported by IDG. Marketers should know about two Ps for publishers — personalization and portability are as important to advertisers as they are to publishers. Consumers expectations are rising for information they want accessed on any device. IDG Global Solutions President Matt Yorke says this is new territory filled with a lot of promise. Read more.


More Social Media Resources from Mashable:


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Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Moodboard_Images

More About: Agency, bloggers, facebook, MARKETING, Modern Media Agency Series, PUBLIC RELATIONS, social media, social media agency, social media marketing, twitter

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Top 8 Android Apps for Education

Posted: 12 May 2011 08:06 AM PDT


Alright, time to put down the Angry Birds and put your Android to better use.

Whether you’re currently in school or just seeking a little self-improvement, a plethora of Android apps are just waiting to enhance your knowledge base, expand your skill sets, improve your memory and more.

We’ve picked a few of the top applications in a number of categories, including math, music, geography, astronomy. Take a look at these apps, and in the comments, let us know which ones you already use to keep your most powerful organ in top shape.

(And to all you teens trying to convince your parents that buying you an Android smartphone is a good idea, you’re welcome.)


Celeste




Celeste SE combines 3D graphics of the heavenly bodies with fun facts about astronomy. Aim your device's camera at the sky and see exactly where each object is located, day or night.


Algebra Tutor




Algebra Tutor is one of the highest-recommended math apps in the Market. It gives step-by-step instructions and shows where you've made mistakes. Even for older Android users, the app is good for brushing up on rusty skills.


CueBrain




Need to work on your language skills? Try CueBrain, which offers vocab training in a variety of languages.


Wikipedia




For a modern fount of knowledge, we can't beat Wikipedia. Its Android app brings the website's bottomless depths of knowledge to your fingertips in a convenient interface. This is currently the highest-rated encyclopedia app in the Android Market.


MapMaster




For geography nuts, MapMaster is where it's at (rimshot!). This educational game tests your knowledge of famous places and capitals around the world. You can also compete against up to 10 friends on the same device.


Sight Read Music Quiz 4 Piano




Reading music is a dying art -- even many professional pop stars wouldn't know a middle C if it bit 'em. Stay ahead of the curve with this simple and enjoyable music reading app.


Flash Card Maker Pro




This one is great for students and for parents of younger children. Flash Card Maker Pro, as the name implies, lets you make your own study aids. It uses speech recognition for optimal memory building and fact retention.


Kindle for Android




Finally, we give you the Kindle app for Android, which you can use to download classics by authors from Leo Tolstoy to Jane Austen. Best of all, both the app and a huge library of literary classics are completely free.


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

More About: android, apps, education, educational, mobile apps

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Facebook App Helps Musicians Collect Unclaimed Royalties

Posted: 12 May 2011 07:45 AM PDT


About $5.3 million in unclaimed royalties are floating around, just out of the grasp of deserving artists. RootMusic, maker of the Facebook app BandPage, teamed with performance rights non-profit SoundExchange to put that money in the right hands.

Musicians garner royalties whenever their music is streamed on the Internet or played on digital satellite radio or cable music channels. SoundExchange, an organization enlisted by Congress to distribute digital performance royalties, collects those royalties and distributes them to bands. However, bands have to be registered with SoundExchange in order to get the cash. Unfortunately, some of those bands are unaware of the money they’re making and don’t register.

To right that wrong, RootMusic gave SoundExchange a list of artists who have used its Facebook app, BandPage, so that the organization could connect with any artists with unclaimed royalties. How many bands were missing out on the dollars? 7,462 out of the 150,000 bands using BandPage. That’s a lot of Ramen and guitar picks.

A lot of apps like BandPage are cropping up, including MySpace’s new offering. This partnership definitely will make RootMusic more attractive to bands choosing which service to use.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, shulz

More About: bandpage, facebook, money, music, rootmusic, Soundexchange

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Buddy Media Acquires Social Commerce Platform Spinback

Posted: 12 May 2011 07:29 AM PDT


Facebook management platform Buddy Media has acquired Spinback, a social commerce and analytics platform that launched in October 2010.

"Thousands of websites have social sharing functionality, but they don't understand how this sharing affects their business in terms of direct sales, indirect sales, conversion metrics," says Michael Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media. “With this acquisition, Buddy Media can now answer the question 'what is the ROI of social media?' better than anyone else in the market in a holistic way, both on Facebook and off, and on Twitter and email."

Spinback has more than 20 clients, and its EasyShare social plugin allows consumers to easily share products and purchases via Facebook, Twitter and email. Lazerow says Spinback provides an “elegant" way to analyze all the sharing on a website and explain how it affects a company's bottom line, especially because 90% of purchasing decisions are subject to social influence.

This acquisition marks Buddy Media's "first real effort" to go web-wide. Lazerow says the reasoning behind this is that "25% of all ad units and ad impressions are on Facebook, the other 75% are across the web.”

Spinback data has found that the average Facebook share generates $2.10 in incremental sales and has a 10.9% conversion rate. Spinback has also found that the “magic hour” for social commerce is during lunchtime — from 12:13 to 1:45 p.m. (You can see some of Spinback’s other findings in the graphic below.)

In addition to providing this data, Spinback provides clients with a thorough report on the most influential sharers. Spinback knows who the users are, what books they like, what television shows they watch and what music they listen to — all while abiding by Facebook’s privacy standards. For example, the most active social sharers are women aged 27 to 33, and this demographic drives the highest conversion rates on social media sites. This information can help retailers more effectively allocate their marketing dollars.

Andrew Ferenci, co-founder of Spinback says the startup was born out of necessity. "We saw a problem with how sharing has been done," he says. “It’s easy to throw a share button up, it's a lot harder to track it."

Lazerow explains that “this is not a 'talent grab' acquisition — this is a product and a real business." Spinback’s entire team will move into the Buddy Media offices in New York. While Spinback primarily works with retailers, Buddy Media will expand the Spinback tools to its corporate and agency clients, too. Ferenci says he foresees an advantage to using the two platforms together.

"Buddy Media has established itself as the best global Facebook CMS for brands. With our analytics, we can do very big things with Buddy Media," Ferenci says.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, MarsBars

Disclosure: Buddy Media is a Mashable sponsor.

More About: acquisition, Buddy Media, social commerce, social media

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