Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “YouTube Matches Congress Members For Debates On New Town Hall Platform”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “YouTube Matches Congress Members For Debates On New Town Hall Platform”


YouTube Matches Congress Members For Debates On New Town Hall Platform

Posted: 18 May 2011 03:00 AM PDT


YouTube is matching up members of Congress for debates on hot issues in a new channel launching on Wednesday.

The channel, dubbed YouTube Town Hall, is filled with debates surrounding the budget, economy, energy, Afghanistan, education and healthcare. Initially topics were chosen by popularity on Google News and Google web search over the past year, but YouTube plans to accept questions from viewers in the future.

Each debate features two members of Congress who explain their points of view on the given topic in videos made especially for the Town Hall channel.

Sides are not necessarily drawn along party lines, and viewers only find out what party each debater belongs to (unless they recognize him or her, of course) after they choose which person’s perspective they support. Those votes will be tallied and displayed on a leader board to show who is “winning” the debate.

YouTube first started encouraging Congress members’ content in January 2009, with the launch of The Senate Hub and The House Hub. YouTube Head of News and Politics Steve Grove estimates that at that time, about half of the members of Congress had YouTube channels. Now, well over 90% have them, and several presidential candidates — including President Obama — have used YouTube to launch their campaigns.

“Politicians are realizing that being on YouTube is not just a hobby,” Grove says. “It’s faster than other media, more ubiquitous than other media. It’s sight, sound and emotion all in one. It’s probably the most comprehensive way you have to get a message out there.”

More About: debate, politics, youtube, youTube Town hall

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Ten New Intel-Based Tablets to Be Unveiled at Computex

Posted: 18 May 2011 02:28 AM PDT


Intel plans to introduce more than 10 new tablets at the Computex trade show, which is held from May 31 to June 4 in Taipei, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Furthermore, Intel’s general manager for Asia-Pacific, Navin Shenoy, said we can expect to see more than 35 tablets based on Intel chips in 2011. The company doesn’t expect any impact from the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, Shenoy said.

In April 2011, Intel chief Paul Otellini promised the company will deliver tablets based on Android, MeeGo and Windows operating system this year. Intel is also working on Medfield, a chip designed for smartphones, but we’ll have to wait another 12 months until we see Medfield-powered smartphones on the market.

Currently, the world of tablets is dominated by ARM-designed chips, but Intel hopes to catch up with its new Oak Trail chips, designed specifically for tablets.

[via WSJ]

More About: Computex, intel, Tablet, tablets

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7 Resources for Startup Investment Opportunities

Posted: 17 May 2011 10:54 PM PDT

investing image

Bill Clark is the CEO of Microventures, a securities broker/dealer that uses crowdfunding to allow investors to invest between $1,000 to $10,000 in startups online. You can follow him on twitter @austinbillc.

In the past, it was more difficult to invest in startups because most deals were regional. If you didn't live in the Bay Area, you didn't hear about the startups that were looking for funding. Now, thanks to the Internet, incubators, demo days, and blogs that cover the scene, access to startup funding opportunities are no longer restricted to those who are physically in the room. It's all about knowing how and where to look for the next big idea.

So with all this access, how can you get in and get the word on the right opportunity? Good deal flow is important, and can separate the good investors from the bad ones. If you don't have access to the best deals, how can you compete and get a good rate of return? Anyone can find businesses that need capital, but what you are looking for are startups that have not been picked over yet. This is when networking and relationships can help you out.

Here are some places to get you started.


1. Angel Networks


Every major city has at least one angel group that you can join. Sometimes it costs money to join, and their investing philosophy might be different than yours, so you should understand it before you sign on. The Angel Network in Austin focuses on companies in Central Texas, so if you are looking for more national exposure, it probably isn't right for you. But they do get very good deal flow, so you will have some good opportunities to invest.

Once you become a member, the group will meet with startups on a monthly basis and provide you the option to invest in their ideas. One additional benefit of an Angel Network is that the due diligence on a startup is done as a group. If you’re just getting into angel investment, this guidance can be extremely helpful.


2. LinkedIn Groups


If you are a member of LinkedIn you can join groups like the Deal Flow Network, the Angel Investor Group or other similar groups that will itemize many startups that are looking for capital. This is also a good opportunity to build your online network by linking directly to people in those groups.

I have built some great online relationships with people through LinkedIn and we share business opportunities and help each other out. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of the people in my network by giving advice or answering questions I might have on a particular investment or topic.


3. Networking Events


Attend entrepreneur events in your area. This is where you get to meet the new startups in town and hear about their businesses in an informal setting. Angel investors also hang out at these events, and they can direct you to other deals. Angels often like to invest together, so connecting with one can lead to additional opportunities.


4. Crowdfunding Sites


kickstarter image

Crowdfunding has started to gain popularity over the last year as a way to fund great ideas. The idea is for many people to contribute to an idea to get it funded. If you need capital to fund your idea you could post your project and see if people are interested.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two sites that are geared toward creative arts and entertainment projects like independent movies or books. Supporting these sites will not get you equity in the business, but it could give you a producer credit and a copy of the final results.


5. Websites


gobignetwork image

There are a few websites that allow investors the opportunity to look at startups that are requesting capital. Once you find a business you are interested, in you will need to contact the business and work with them on the terms sheet. Make sure your lawyer looks over the details and always do your own due diligence before investing. The two biggest sites in this area are Go Big Network and Fundingpost. They have a diverse range of opportunities, and combing through them is sometimes a challenge, since any startup can list if they pay the fee. Still, there is gold to be found.


6. Startup Incubators


y combinator image

There are great incubator programs out there like Y Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups, AngelPad and Capital Factory. New ones are popping up every few months. These programs work with selected startups over the course of about three months and then at the end of the program they host a demo day where the startups present their businesses and seek capital. This is a good place to meet entrepreneurs, other angels, and of course, invest in the startups that are presenting.


7. Buy in the Secondary Market


sharespost image

Did you know that you can invest in private companies like Facebook, Twitter and Zynga online? In the past these opportunities did not exist, but recently, two websites have been posting offers to sell shares from insiders whose shares have vested. You can go to Secondmarket or Sharespost and look through the private securities offerings. Most of the postings require you to buy tens of thousands of shares, so if you don't have $350,000 lying around for 10,000 shares of Facebook, you might be out of luck.

There have been some new opportunities in the last few months for those who want to invest in companies like Facebook and Groupon. People are creating investment funds specifically for purchasing shares in private companies. The fund will hold those shares for you until the company goes public and liquidates them. This will allow you to invest in these companies for a fraction of the cost.


Know Your Role


When you invest in a startup, make sure you know what your level of participation will be up front. You might have the idea that you will be able to constantly give advice or your opinion, but that might not be the case. Or, you might want to sit on the sidelines while the company begs you for help in acquiring contacts. The investment is like a marriage, so make sure it’s all spelled out before you sign the term sheet.

What has your startup investing experience been like? Let us know in the comments below.


For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

image courtesy of Flickr, thinkpanama

More About: business, how to, investing, MARKETING, social media, startup

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Bre.ad Transforms the URL Shortener Into a Promotional Tool [INVITES]

Posted: 17 May 2011 09:46 PM PDT


A new startup is seeking to reinvent the short URL by turning it into a promotional tool for brands and causes.

At its core, Bre.ad is a URL shortener. It shortens links, syncs to Twitter and Facebook, and provides click analytics. But its big selling point is helping users promote brands, interests and charities through a full-page interface.

When somebody clicks on a Bre.ad link, he or she isn’t immediately taken to the webpage it directs to. Instead, it takes that person to a web page created by the person who originally shortened the link. The page displays a message from the person who created the link as well as a 720 x 300-pixel billboard image. The user stays on the page for five seconds before being redirected to his or her link. You can check out the effect by clicking on this Bre.ad link.

These pages (called “Toasts”) can promote anything from a user’s Twitter account to a charity he or she supports. For example, my Bre.ad page has a Toast to Mashable, to my Twitter account and to one of my favorite nonprofits, charity: water. Whenever someone clicks on one of my Bre.ad links, Bre.ad will pick one of my Toasts at random to show that person.

Creating a Bre.ad link is very simple. Just type Bre.ad/ before any URL in the address bar to shorten it (e.g. Bre.ad/benparr.com). Creating a Toast page is easy as well –all it takes is a message and two images. Users can even add a Toast somebody else made. This is especially useful if you want to Toast a favorite team, person or brand.

Bre.ad founder Alan Chan believes that people have causes they want to promote, whether it’s their company or a charity they fervently support, so he wanted to find a simple and novel way for them to display their passion. While Bre.ad isn’t public yet (its closed beta launches in the next few weeks), Lady Gaga, North Face and a slew of other brands already have Toast pages. There’s even an Explore function that lets you see which brands, causes and profiles are the most popular.

A URL shortener that creates interstitials has its downsides, though. We suspect some people won’t be happy to click Bre.ad links because it’ll force them to view an ad. The pages are designed not to feel like advertising, and users can choose to skip them. It will be tough to gauge public reaction to Bre.ad until it’s more widely available.

While the Bre.ad beta is still a few weeks away, the company has agreed to give invites to the first 500 people who email mashable@bre.ad with a request to try out the service. Take Bre.ad for a spin and let us know what you think of the service in the comments.

Lead image courtesy of Flickr, mars!

More About: bit.ly, Bre.ad, startup, url shortener

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5 Tips for Building Vibrant Branded Online Communities

Posted: 17 May 2011 08:54 PM PDT


Justin Fogarty is the online community manager at Ariba, a leading provider of collaborative business commerce solutions. Follow Justin on Twitter @justacio or join the thousands interacting on his community, the Ariba Exchange.

The goal of many companies is to facilitate a vibrant online community around a brand or product. “Engagement” is a refrain we've all heard time and again, but it is crucial if you want to gain traction on the social web. We can look to the undisputed champ of engagement, Facebook, to inform our own strategies, communities and web presence.

This isn’t just about creating better Facebook ads, or even in getting more "Likes." The bigger question is, what can our brand communities take away from the success of Facebook’s platform?


1. Facilitate What Customers Already Want to Do


It's not about ROI or advertising dollars at the beginning. It's not about messaging and positioning. Customers will come back to a place with a compelling reason for going there in the first place. Let the user determine the model, and look at the type of user that you want to attract as the primary driver behind the online presence.

In Facebook's case, they started with simply facilitating the sharing of information — from personal profiles to pictures. They've kept that same core model but expanded into everything from shopping to events. What can you facilitate that will help your customers?


2. Extend Traditional Success


Most communities, like Facebook, are natural extensions of what happens in the real world. Facebook mimics personal relationships. Your online community should mimic the positive interactions traditionally formed within your company. If connections are made at trade shows, then start discussions online that would typically take place at a trade show. If your company's growth is from sales in a particular vertical, then facilitate connections with influencers in that market.


3. Keep it Clean


If there are two things we learned from MySpace, not everyone is a web/UI designer, and people prefer a clean community. This is online design 101, but it applies to your brand as well.

The web has the power to infinitely enhance your capabilities online, but start small. Keep a simple, clean interface with a clear direction for a user to personally benefit. It will keep your brand’s image in focus, and give users a sense of the benefits they'll get from engaging with you.


4. Treat Engagement as a Long-Term Process


Your content should be short, frequent and easy to engage with. Facebook's News Feed is effective because of these principles. This keeps visitors coming back and spending more time with your community.

If done right, these returning visitors will slowly phase out some other older, inferior communication tools. For example, think about the things that Facebook has trumped — from classmates.com to that old personal blog you haven't updated in months.


5. Make Engagement Easy


Generally, most people online are "lurkers," viewing sites and communities without ever interacting with them. Enter the "Like" button, which made engagement quick, easy and approachable. With your business, create a community of quick and easy participation. This will get people invested in your message and enable continuous interaction.


Keeping these tips in mind, your business will be well on its way to creating unique experiences, increasing engagement and enthusiasm for your brand, and developing a truly interactive and meaningful community.


For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

More About: branding, community, engagement, facebook, List, Lists, social media, social media marketing

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Photos Come Alive: Thinglink Tags Music, People & Products in Images

Posted: 17 May 2011 08:13 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: Thinglink

Quick Pitch: Thinglink changes how people interact with photos by transforming them into a navigational surface for search, commerce, and social connection.

Genius Idea: Turning photos into interactive stories.


“Every image has a story,” says Ulla-Maaria Engeström. Engeström is the design blogger-turned-entrepreneur behind Thinglink, a Helsinki-based startup that makes image interaction tools. These tools help bloggers, photographers, bands, creatives and companies tell stories by tagging photos with music, people, places and products.

Thinglink’s image-tagging tool can be enabled on WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Drupal and Typepad sites. Users add a small snippet of code to their websites to enable Thinglink tagging. Then, they’ll be able to revisit photos to tag content with links, music tracks, Amazon products and even Twitter users.

The music piece is part of a recently inked partnership with SoundCloud. Users need only copy SoundCloud track URLs and paste them in the appropriate field to add music to their photos.

“Images and sounds make a natural and powerful combination. Both online and offline, they create inspiration and context for consumption,” Engeström writes on the SoundCloud integration. “We make decisions about what to buy, where to go and who to see, based on images. Music inspires fashion designers to create collections, and visual stories inspire those who make music.”

Thinglink for personal use, especially if for Tumblr or WordPress users, is an interesting experiment in image storytelling. Adding the required code is a simple exercise of copy-and-paste, and adding tags is merely a point-click-and-type process.

In testing, I tagged an image with a SoundCloud track and tagged my friends with their Twitter handles. In both cases, I simply pasted URLs into the “Link URL” field (as seen above). The original image simply showed two friends signing karaoke. The Thinglink tagged-photo became akin to an interactive story complete with music and context.

Professionals, retailers and publishers might find more business opportunities than storytelling in the image-tagging practice. Thinglink promises to help convert image viewers into product buyers. Atlantic Records, Paper Garden Records and Elle Magazine have each experimented with the startup’s image-tagging technology.

Thinglink has raised $1 million in funding from Nordic investors Inventure and Lifeline Ventures. The startup competes with companies such as Pixazza, GumGum, Stipple and Thingd in an ever-expanding image-tagging space that’s been slowly evolving for the past few years. These technologies have not yet become widely adopted by consumers or companies, although venture capitalists continue to make investments in the space.

Thinglink serves more than 30 million image views monthly for its clients.


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.

More About: bizspark, spark-of-genius, startup, tags, thinglink

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The Worst Startup in the World [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 May 2011 07:09 PM PDT


We at Mashable get our fair share of questionable pitches, but we’re just grateful we don’t have to sit across a desk from these guys.

Featuring enough buzzwords to make anyone break out in hives, this hilarious clip from College Humor stars two of the skeeviest wannapreneurs east of the Mississippi. They’re not quite the “Hoodie Mafia” hackers we’re used to seeing in dive bars and co-working spaces in the San Francisco Bay area; in fact, we’re not sure they could code their way out of a wet paper bag.

From the 5 Hour Energy to the stupid company names, these guys typify the very worst stereotypes in the startup ecosystem. But hey, we’ve seen worse ideas get as far as an angel round.

And they say we’re not in a bubble

More About: humor, startup, startups, video, wannapreneur

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PayPal Teams With Philanthroper, a Groupon for Good

Posted: 17 May 2011 06:11 PM PDT

philanthroper image

PayPal is teaming up with Philanthroper to spur a little bit of crowdsourced good.

Philanthroper is a “daily deals” site; but instead of offering up cheap tickets to shows or discounted meals, it offers up new and important nonprofits.

Every day, the site showcases a worthy cause and asks users to donate just $1. Users cannot give any less or any more than $1.

While this limitation may seem counter-intuitive, it plays on the idea that a lot of people doing a little bit of good can create massive change. The site is as much about fostering a giving attitude as it is about collecting swaths of money. The goal is to make charity a habit rather than a sporadic or uncommon occurrence. Still, if all of PayPal’s 98 million users signed on, that would be a huge sum of money.

Similar to Groupon, Philanthroper will send daily emails notifying users of the new charity and asking for donation. All the charities will be registered 501(c)(3)s. After users donate, they can share out the site (and their good deed) through their social networks.

phialnthroper text image

The partnership with PayPal makes the donation process even simpler and opens the site up to an entirely new, international audience of potential donors. Despite this international scope, the charities will all be U.S.-based.

Even though Philanthroper does not collect any fees from the donations or charge charities to be featured, PayPal collects a 10% fee on all transactions. So why not just donate $1 to the featured non-profit and circumvent PayPal? The 10% sounds a little shady before considering that PayPal will also be swallowing international credit card fees and hopefully assist with donation matching.

Nonprofits have been a focus for PayPal as of late.

“The non-profit space is huge for PayPal because of the ability we have to help donations-based organizations, both large and small, build additional revenue streams through mobile technology and social media,” said a representative of PayPal. Their developer support program, PayPal X, is also turning out innovative applications for the nonprofit sector.

Philanthroper is not a far cry from Carlo Garcia’s project, Living Philanthropic, but the former features a simplified donation process and more aggressive email notifications.

What do you make of micro-donations? Can a website really foster a sense of giving? Sound off in the comments.

More About: charity, groupon, non-profit, paypal, philanthroper, social good

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Google to Open New Campus in Mountain View [PICS]

Posted: 17 May 2011 05:17 PM PDT


Google is leasing space for a third campus in Mountain View.

Starting January 1, 2012, the lease will run for a 10-year period, and the space may be as large as 630,000 square feet.

The new space is in addition to the 600,000-foot Shoreline Boulevard property Google is leasing and using to build a huge, very green new facility.

The property to be leased in the new deal is The Quad, a top-shelf corporate park around 3 miles from the main Googleplex. The Quad lies just across the 101 freeway from the original campus, and it’s composed of several buildings. According to the Silicon Valley Mercury News, Google is set to lease six of the buildings; Symantec will occupy a seventh building until the beginning of 2013.

Between the Shoreline property and the buildings in The Quad, Google is looking at up to 1.2 million square feet of additional space. And given the company’s announcement that 2011 will be its biggest hiring year to date, it seems like it’ll need the extra space.

Here are some images of The Quad buildings from real estate firm CB Richard Ellis:


The Quad in Mountain View




Here are some interior shots of the buildings some Googlers will call "the office" starting in 2012.


The Quad in Mountain View




Here are some exterior shots of the buildings some Googlers will call "the office" starting in 2012.


The Quad in Mountain View




Here is an exterior shot of the buildings some Googlers will call "the office" starting in 2012.

top image courtesy of Flickr, paraflyer

More About: Campus, Google, Mountain View, property, real estate, the quad

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Space Shuttle Twitpic Woman Gets Paid, Credited & Snubbed By Media

Posted: 17 May 2011 03:48 PM PDT


Since snapping photos and a short video of space shuttle Endeavour’s last takeoff from her Delta flight Monday, Stefanie Gordon has appeared on MSNBC, CBS in Palm Beach and ABC in Miami. Her Twitpic photos got significant media exposure — popping up everywhere from Anderson Cooper 360 to The Washington Post.

“I told every news organization that contacted me, ‘as long as you credit me and spell my name right, you can use it,’” Gordon tells Mashable.

But when she sat down to watch the ABC News coverage of the launch, Gordon saw her video appear without credit. CBS News also used the video footage without crediting Gordon.

No organization was obligated to credit her according to the photo platform’s terms of service. Twitpic, the Twitter-posting service Gordon used to broadcast her photos and video, recently clarified its terms of service in order to quell the news media’s habits of hijacking newsworthy images without asking permission. The company said media outlets need to ask permission to use images or videos — but did not say they need to credit the person who took them. Yet NBC and CNN both chose to heed Gordon’s request for credit.

“It angers me,” says Gordon. “You take the time, it’s your photo, it’s sitting on your phone … it’s frustrating to see your picture without your name on it.”

Other news organizations treated her like a journalist who would expect to be compensated after capturing a newsworthy event. Gordon says The Washington Post and The St. Petersburg Times each paid $100 for the rights to print each photo. The Associated Press paid $500 plus royalties for each photo, she says.

The range of news organization responses to Gordon highlights an emerging problem: As smartphones and sharing services like Twitpic create an army of citizen journalists, the rules for how traditional media uses the information they collect are still being created. Platforms like Flickr Commons have a creative commons licensing option; what’s posted there is up for grabs by news media — but what rules, if any, should be applied to other valuable media bouncing around the social media universe?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

More About: endeavour, social media, Space Shuttle Twitpic, Stefanie Gordon, twitpic, twitter

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Baseball Fan Storms the Field, Spectacularly Evades Security [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 May 2011 03:01 PM PDT


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

YouTube video of the day: It’s not just about babies and kittens anymore. Today we bring you a daring fan escape that would impress Spider-Man himself.

The gentleman in question stormed the field on Friday night during a Mets-Astros game. Sadly, he was later apprehended. Too bad the dude hadn’t been bitten by a radioactive spider like his fictional doppelgänger — maybe then he would have gotten away.

More About: Baseball, fan-escape, video, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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$40 Million Twitter-Based Hedge Fund Now Open for Business

Posted: 17 May 2011 02:16 PM PDT


Derwent Capital Markets, a London investment firm that has long been touting itself as the first social media-based hedge fund, has opened its doors.

The £25 milllion ($40.5 milion) hedge fund is basing investments on an analysis of 10% of the 10 million tweets sent daily. The firm applies trading algorithms and sentiment analysis to those tweets before making its bets. (We’ve written about why social media analysis makes financial sense.)

Derwent may be the first boutique investment firm to take this approach, but the idea of using information gleaned from social networks as a stock market predictor isn't new. StockTwits, for instance, is a popular third-party Twitter app that provides a forum to discuss investment-related matters. Others in the space include Chart.ly and Covestor.

Three computer science students at Cornell — Johan Bollen, Huina Mao and Xiao-Jun Zeng — also authored a paper, which found that monitoring sentiment in tweets yielded was 87.8% accurate in predicting the "daily up and down changes in the closing values" of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The Financial Times has also reported that a fund in starting up in Japan will base its investments on sentiment found by analyzing blogs.

More About: Chart.ly, covestor, Derwent Capital, investing, StockTwits, twitter

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Barnes & Noble To Launch Low-End Nook Next Week?

Posted: 17 May 2011 01:54 PM PDT


Barnes & Noble plans to announce a new ereader, possibly a lower-end Nook to counter Amazon’s Kindle, next week.

The bookstore chain has invited press to a May 24 event — this date coincides with information in an SEC filing regarding “the launch of a new ereader device.”

Last month Barnes & Noble revamped the Nook Color, giving the device more tablet functionality. Meanwhile, rival Amazon is rumored to be planning to release its own tablet, which fills a market niche above the Kindle and is more directly competitive with Nook Color.

In response, some speculate that Barnes & Noble's new ereader will be a compact, monochrome, lower-priced Nook designed to compete with the Kindle. So far, the Nook has been a successful bulwark against Kindle. Janney Capital Markets analyst David Strasser estimates Nook has 28% of the ereader market.

B&N reps declined comment on the announcement.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Hey Paul

More About: amazon, barnes & noble, e-readers, Kindle, nook

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Why Gift Cards Will Lead the Transition From Plastic to Digital

Posted: 17 May 2011 01:35 PM PDT

credit card image

David Douglas Stone is co-founder and CEO of the digital gifting and incentives company CashStar. Recently named a Prepaid Top 5 Entrepreneur, Stone has served as a senior executive in several emerging growth technology and financial services firms for the past 25 years, including American Express, where he pioneered the first universal prepaid product, the American Express Gift Cheque.

Over the past several years, gift cards have become the most popular kind of gift. They are the most widely-used addressable person-to-person payment method, totaling $91 billion in sales during the 2010 holiday shopping season. We love them because of their convenience. And we hate them because they don't truly feel personal.

The mobile digital device will help to wipe away this awkward paradox. The days of plastic-based payment and gift cards are numbered. The ability to make a payment or send a gift from any device, anytime, anywhere, in any amount, dramatically shifts the convenience paradigm. And the gift card’s shift from plastic to digital may pave the way for other forms of digital payment.

Here, we’ll take a look at the three major factors driving this shift.


1. Embracing Digital Gifting


The first is the exponential growth of businesses that are embracing digital gifting. They are doing so to extend their revenue streams and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. RSR Research reported in late 2010 that half of the top 100 Internet retailers now offer digital gift cards. In January, Starbucks estimated that digital gift cards would represent as much as 20% of its gift card business in the near future.

But there are hundreds of others shifting away from plastic as well — from global brand names to smaller regional and local retailers. According to Urban Wallace Associates, more than 6 million U.S. shoppers bought digital gift cards within the past 6 months — a 150% increase since last measured three years ago.


2. Virtual Goods


The second key trend is increased purchasing and gifting of "virtual goods." This market — already nearly $2 billion in the U.S., according to Inside Network Research — has millions of fans who love to buy and give gifts like virtual cakes, clothing, badges and FarmVille goods.

The next logical extension is for consumers to give digital gift cards that can actually be used to buy real stuff. Facebook already sells its credits as gift cards in retail stores. As the popularity of Zynga, Facebook and digital gift card currencies grow, they may well become major payment modes in both the virtual and physical worlds.


3. Personalization


The third major trend is personalization. The digital age not only enables it but stimulates it. Plastic is a form factor that knows nothing about you, nor can it easily express your personal gifting sentiments. Digital gifting is radically different. The Home Depot eGifting program, for example, enables consumers to upload not only photos but can now also capture live video on its digital gift cards.

Mobile apps are proliferating to support creative and new forms of retail promotion and value. Digital forms of stored value offer new experiences and opportunities never before possible with plastic. Three examples illustrate how versatile and pervasive the post-plastic era is becoming. These include:

  • Starbucks Foursquare checkin: To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Starbucks gave the first 600 customers to "check in" an instantly redeemable mobile gift card.
  • IntoNow: This social TV companion app partnered with Pepsi to give users instant digital gift cards for watching certain TV ads.
  • Chase GiftShelf: Chase's iPhone app lets you redeem credit card points on the go for digital gift cards at Gap, Chili's, Papa John’s, The Container Store and a dozen other retailers.

Conclusion


These developments provide only a glimpse of what is possible in the post-plastic card era. Digital gifting and payments are creating new possibilities of "instancy." If you forgot to bring your nephew a present, you can order him a digital gift card for his birthday as you’re walking toward his house. Or you can send your niece one via Facebook and personalize it with a photo or short video telling her how proud you are of her.

It is no longer a question of “if” but rather of “how fast.” Market interest is clearly there. Starbucks' new mobile card, for example, has already generated more than 3 million transactions, proving that mobile payments using digitally stored value can work.

Skeptics remain, but they're of the same mind as those who said people would never prefer credit cards over cash. People, however, love convenience and immediacy. In 1975, one of the major credit card companies made a name for itself with the tagline "Don't leave home without it." Today, you will never have to leave home without a means of paying digitally. Those in the market who support that transition will be the winners.

Disclosure: Starbucks, The Home Depot, Gap, CVS, Chase, Chili's, Papa John’s and The Container Store are clients of CashStar.


For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

Image courtesy of Flickr, b.franchina

More About: App, credit-card, digital payment, ecard, ecommerce, Gadget, gift card, Mobile 2.0, tech, technology, transaction

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Atomic Tom Lampoons Facebook Obsession [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 May 2011 01:20 PM PDT

Atomic Tom garnered a fair amount of buzz back in October for a viral video in which the band members played a song via their iPhones on the New York subway. Now they’re out with a new video — and this one is Facebook flavored.

We asked lead singer Luke White why Atomic Tom chose a social networking motif for this particular song, “Red Light Warning Sign.” His reply: “The video is a satire of our obsession as a species with the type of distraction social profiles present. It asks the question, ‘When was the last time you called or had a drink with your real friends?’”

Even though the video ends with the band destroying their Facebook profiles in effigy, White isn’t about to blame the social network for the fall of civilization. “The funny thing about distractions is that we can control them, or they can control us,” he says. “Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. The ruining of a relationship or falling out of friends is never the fault of an inanimate (and sometimes innovative) distraction.”

More About: atomic tom, facebook, music, social media, video

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The Case For Making Online Textbooks Open Source [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 17 May 2011 01:05 PM PDT

As companies compete to digitize the textbook market, there is one approach that shakes the traditional publishing business model: open source textbooks, whose proponents believe online educational tomes should be free.

Many universities, including MIT and Carnegie Mellon, post course lectures online for free use. A New York Times article last year explained some of the barriers to applying the same approach to textbooks.

For one thing, the textbook authors must agree to have them distributed online without charging royalties — something that may work well in the software world, where engineers often work on projects while keeping a day job, but typically avoided by writers who put their sweat equity into one book at a time. Also, books for K-12 classrooms must meet state standards, and most states don’t have procedures in place for approving open source textbooks.

But there’s no arguing that having at least a few open source textbooks (even when purchased through companies like Flat World Knowledge that charge for downloading or printing them) would cut down on the average $900 per year that the average student spends on textbooks. Online School has compiled this infographic to explain the cost savings.


[Source: onlineschools.org]

More About: ebooks, infographics, open source textbooks, textbooks

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Facebook Dislike Button Scam Gets More Sophisticated [WARNING]

Posted: 17 May 2011 12:48 PM PDT


Facebook does not have a dislike button, but that hasn’t stopped spammers from trying to use it to scam users.

Online security firm Sophos rang the security alarm Monday with a post warning users about a scam that asks people to enable the dislike button.

Clicking it takes you to a page that asks you to copy and paste Javascript code into the address bar. Executing it activates the malicious code.

It looks like the bulk of the damage from the scam occurred during the weekend. Nobody on team Mashable has seen the scam, and there is no evidence of the scam on public status updates from the past 24 hours. (It’s important to note that Facebook search isn’t comprehensive, and the scam may have found a way to hide from public search results.)

This isn’t even the first time spammers have used the nonexistent Facebook dislike button to scam users, but this weekend’s attack seems to have been more sophisticated. Facebook’s new security tools likely limited the scam’s effects.

Were you or any of your friends hit by the Facebook dislike button scam? Share your stories in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, striatic

More About: dislike button, Dislike ButtonS, facebook, like button, scam, security, trending

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Slacker Radio Adds On-Demand Access to 8 Million Songs

Posted: 17 May 2011 12:36 PM PDT


At long last, music streaming service Slacker Radio is out with a premium, on-demand service. That puts Slacker in direct competition with MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody and Spotify.

Slacker Radio has been teasing an on-demand offering for a while, and Tuesday users finally have access to more than 8 million songs at $9.99 per month.

The app, available on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch [iTunes link], Android and BlackBerry, will now let users search for specific songs and albums and add them to playlists (either via mobile or on the web). Users can also cache music and playlists for offline listening.

So what makes Slacker different from all those other on-demand offerings? Says Slacker CEO Jim Cady: a focus on radio stations. “Radio is still the best discovery tool for the average consumer,” he says.

Until today, Slacker’s biggest competition was Pandora. Both focused on creating stations around specific artists and songs, letting users discover new music in a more passive manner. Slacker had a leg up, in our opinion, since it let users cache music for offline listening (if they purchased the $3.99 per month Slacker Radio Plus option, that is).

Looking at the Slacker homescreen, you can see that the app is much more focused on radio than search. Slacker’s 153 curated stations are near the top of the screen, followed by the option to create a playlist by typing in an artist. Cady says that app was designed so that users could drill down to find music, rather than having to search.

For example, you could click on Slacker’s “Indie Station,” decide that you like Twin Shadow’s “At My Heels,” click on the song, access artist info, and find more albums to listen to on-demand and to cache.

Alternately, if you like Twin Shadow, you could also just search for the artist and nab the albums, or check out what stations the band is featured on and find similar artists from there. Cady says that the whole UI was designed so that the user would hypothetically never have to bring up the keyboard.

Rival music subscription apps put a much stronger emphasis on on-demand than they do on discovery. All feature radio, but few to the extent that Slacker does.

The app still has a few glitches. It crashed a few times during our tests and had a couple of issues playing songs we cached for offline listening — but once the kinks are worked out, we can see this kind of service appealing to lean-back users who are not wholly satisfied with always being a passive listener.

However, the app could be disappointing to hardcore music fans. Slacker has about 8 million songs, while both MOG and Rhapsody have 11 million. Also, the lag time around releases seems a little longer on Slacker. For example, The Antlers’ new album, Burst Apart, came out May 10 and it’s still not available for on-demand on Slacker. You can listen to tracks via radio, but they’re grayed out when it comes to playlisting. Rdio and Rhapsody, though, already have the album available in full.

What do you think of Slacker’s offering? Will you make the switch if you already use another on-demand service?

Photo courtesy of Flickr, João Pedro, uai!

More About: android, blackberry, ipad, iphone, Mobile 2.0, music, music subscription, Slacker-Radio

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Blip.tv Puts the Spotlight on Web Shows

Posted: 17 May 2011 12:08 PM PDT


Online video network Blip.tv has just relaunched its website, focusing on helping users discover the best and highest quality original web series.

“There isn’t a good place dedicated to discovering original web content,” Blip.tv co-founder and CEO Mike Hudack told us. That’s what the new blip.tv design hopes to change. The content featured on the site is handpicked to highlight the best quality, most professional offerings available. Currently 1,800 original series are organized into 16 different categories.

What separates blip from other content destination sites, however, is that everything is curated by actual human beings. This really shines through in the recommendation section visible on every show page and in every category. An algorithm isn’t showing users what other shows are similar; the site editors and show creators are making their own suggestions.


Show Pages Help Promote Shows, Not Just Blip


Each of the 1,800 featured web series has its own show page. The design of these pages is similar to what you might see on Hulu or on Sony’s Crackle.com — in other words, these pages look professional.

Each show has a show poster that is displayed alongside episode clips and offers an extra touch of branding. Show producers can integrate their Twitter and Facebook feeds with their show page, post links to their websites and promote merchandise. The pages also make it easy for users to browse archives and producers can even organize content into various series.

The hope is that this can be a place that content creators want to promote and use. Lots of blip producers cross-syndicate their content to other services, in addition to using their own sites.


Better Playback Experience


The blip.tv video player is now larger and better looking. It gets out of your way, but still provides easy access to video controls. Easy access to an episode list is visible at the top of the player, and it opens in a modal window.

Sharing options also use a modal window, which makes it easy to share a link on Facebook, Twitter, embed a video on your own site or email to a friend.

Again, the experience is much more akin to Hulu instead of YouTube, and this makes a difference in terms of the overall destination experience.


Plans for the Future


The blip.tv team reiterated that the new site is just the first step; more features and better functionality are planned for the future. For instance, users will be able to add and “follow” shows. Frankly, I can’t wait for this feature to launch, because it feels like the only missing piece in the current iteration on the site.

Furthermore, separate experiences are being worked on for connected devices and other platforms like iOS and Android. The goal was to focus on the web experience first and then look at other platforms.


Building Blip as a Brand


The new blip.tv website shows lots of promise not just for users — who have a great new destination to find and discover original web series — but also for blip to build itself out as a brand.

Over the last year, we’ve been impressed by how blip has focused its energies on differentiating itself from its competitors and building itself into a television network for the Internet era.

With the new website, the company is even closer in reaching that goal.

More About: blip.tv, Film, original web content, tv, web series

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How HTML5 Will Transform the Online Video Landscape

Posted: 17 May 2011 11:58 AM PDT


The Future Web Series is supported by Elsevier‘s SciVerse Application Marketplace and Developer Network. The SciVerse applications platform enables developers to build apps based on trusted scientific content. Learn more.

One of the most exciting — and polarizing — aspects of HTML5 is the specifications for HTML5 video. The promise of HTML5 is immense; no longer just a markup language, as robust applications can be built and deployed using the power of the browser.

One of the big promises of HTML5, at least for video, is that it will be possible to serve and play back hardware-accelerated video in the browser, on a smartphone or tablet, or in an embedded device, all without having to do lots of special coding.

Let’s look at some of the ways HTML5 is already influencing the future of online video, as well as some of the challenges that still exist.


Styling Video


Most content publishers serve video in HTML5 primarily to deliver a solid experience to users who are on devices that do not support Adobe’s Flash player. Although this is a valid (and increasingly popular) use case, there are additional advantages to using HTML5 video.

One of those advantages is the fact that because the <video> tag is just another HTML element, it can be styled with CSS3 and JavaScript.

This lets developers create special transformations, custom controls and other effects directly in the markup and stylesheet. Apple has a cool video effects demo using the Tron Legacy trailer and some mask properties in the WebKit rendering engine.

With Firefox 4, Mozilla has proven that it is embracing HTML5 in a big way. The Mozilla team released a set of video demos showcasing the power of HTML5 video when paired with CSS3 transforms in the lead-up to the official Firefox 4 release.


WebGL 3D Video Player


Think HTML5 can’t compete with Flash? Think again. Pablo Odorico from Argentina created an amazing 3D video player demo for Google’s Chrome Experiments. Using HTML5 and WebGL, Odorico uses GLSL shaders to process video from HTML5 in real time.

The goal was to recreate YouTube‘s Flash 3D player, but without using any plugins and with hardware acceleration. YouTube’s Flash 3D player might be a bit more advanced, but this experiment supports all the major features, including side-by-side mode.

This experiment conveys the potential of HTML5 when it comes to video: Creating modern effects and techniques in a way that can be supported across platforms and devices, without the need to rely on plugins.


“3 Dreams of Black” by ROME and powered by WebGL


Chris Milk, the director of last year’s amazing HTML5 video for Arcade Fire is once again collaborating with Google, this time for the new Danger Mouse album, ROME.

The experiment went live earlier this month, and it’s yet another example of what is possible for video and HTML5. Most of the effects and features in the “3 Dreams of Black” video are powered by WebGL and JavaScript — not strictly using the HTML5 video tag. Still, it’s important to consider that HTML5 video isn’t just about the player; it can be about a bigger, better experience.


Challenges Still Exist


In spite of its promise, the <video> tag is one of the most controversial and contentious aspects of the HTML5 specification. The controversy stems over the various codecs that can be used with HTML5.

There are three different video codecs — or formats — that can be used with the <video> tag. These formats are H.264, Ogg Theora and WebM. The technical merits of these formats vary — for what it is worth, H.264 tends to have the best size-to-quality ratio and has best support of commercial encoding, serving and processing tools. H.264 is also well-supported by hardware vendors and chipset makers.

The problem with H.264 is that it is controlled by the MPEG LA, and as such, needs to be licensed for use. The licensing costs don’t mean much to the average video consumer, but could potentially cost video producers or software makers lots of money. Ogg Theora and WebM are royalty-free, which means that software developers and content distributors can use the codec without having to pay licensing fees.

The problem is that because the HTML5 spec doesn’t have a baseline video codec, it’s up to the browser to choose what formats it supports by default. Firefox and Opera don’t support H.264, but they do support WebM and Ogg Theora. Safari and Internet Explorer support H.264, but not Ogg or WebM. Google Chrome did support all formats, but announced in January that it would phase out H.264 support in HTML5 and focus on WebM and Ogg Theora.

This has potentially complicated an already complicated situation even further, because it means that the only foolproof way to serve HTML5 video is to encode in multiple formats, either manually or using solutions like Brightcove, Encoding.com and the new Vid.ly.

(It’s worth noting that Firefox, Chromium and Opera will all still play back H.264 content within the Adobe Flash player. As long as the HTML5 video player has a Flash fallback option, it will still work in those browsers.)


The Future


The codec battle aside — and to be clear, most large publishers are still targeting H.264 — the potential of HTML5 for video is immense, not just on the web, but in mobile and tablet applications and on connected devices.

Last December, Christian Kaiser from Netflix wrote a blog post detailing what needs to happen for HTML5 streaming via Netflix to become a reality. We think this paragraph sums up the potential of HTML5 video perfectly:

Then Netflix, or any other video streaming service, could deliver to a standard browser as a pure HTML5 web application, both on computers and in CE devices with embedded browsers. Browser builders and CE manufacturers could support every OS and device they choose, leveraging the same implementations across multiple streaming services instead of building and integrating an one-off implementation for each service. Consumers would benefit by having a growing number of continually evolving choices available on their devices, just like how the web works today for other types of services. We believe that this is an attractive goal.

What do you think of HTML5 and its place in the future of web video? Let us know in the comments.


Series Supported by Elsevier

The Future Web Series is supported by Elsevier‘s SciVerse Application Marketplace and Developer Network. In 2010, prominent science publisher Elsevier launched SciVerse to provide developers with access to ample research data so they can build apps on top of trusted scientific content. SciVerse also sponsors "Apps for Science," a $35,000 developer challenge to accelerate science. Learn more.


More Dev and Design Resources from Mashable:


- 8 Powerful & Inexpensive Desktop Design Apps
- Why Everyone Is Talking About Node
- How JavaScript & HTML5 Are Remaking the Web
- 8 Essential Developer Apps for Multiple Platforms
- 8 Essential Web Typography Resources

More About: HTML5, html5 video, video, Web Development, webgl

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Apple Store Rings in 10th Birthday With Mystery Launch [RUMOR]

Posted: 17 May 2011 11:45 AM PDT


Whether the next iPhone has near field communication (NFC) capabilities is anyone’s guess, but reports indicate that NFC payment capabilities might be coming to Apple retail stores.

Citing “multiple Apple sources,” BGR says that various changes taking place at Apple retail locations could indicate that Apple is preparing to roll out some new NFC-capable point-of-sale systems.

This information comes as BGR, MacRumors and MacStories all report on secret meetings taking place to coincide with the 10th anniversary, this Thursday, of the first Apple retail store. However, all reports indicate that something big will be happening early next week.

From BGR:

  • Apple stores have apparently already received hardware to install and expect more hardware Friday or Saturday. All materials that Apple stores have received have been instructed to be under lock and key until after close on Saturday night.
  • Apple employees will be putting up black curtains at all stores so that passersby can’t see inside.
  • Employees have had to download gigabytes of data from Apple corporate labeled, “training” in a password-protected zipped folder that won’t be accessible to managers or anyone else until Saturday afternoon.
  • Lastly, all Apple retail stores have mandatory meetings on Sunday, May 22. Most meetings are scheduled for the morning, but there are evening meetings as well.

Whatever it is, it sure seems like something is happening next week. Let us know in the comments what you think it is.

More About: apple, apple retail store, Apple Store, nfc

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Adventures of Tintin Trailer Hits YouTube 7 Months Before Premiere [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 May 2011 11:29 AM PDT

The trailer for Paramount Pictures' The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn has hit YouTube seven months before the movie is set to premiere.

The movie, a collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, uses motion-capture 3D technology (a la Avatar) to create very realistic computer animation. The first few seconds of the trailer tease the effect by showing characters in shadows and in a glass reflection.

The movie, based on the Belgian comic strip character, is set for U.S. release on December 23. Anticipation is so strong, though, that a fake YouTube trailer has gotten 80,000 views by telling viewers "Wait, don't leave!" and then showing a few screenshots.

What do you think? Are you excited about this release? Is the animation as good as you expected? Let us know in the comments.

More About: avatar, movie trailers, paramount pictures, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, youtube

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The Blekko Boom: Hottest Search Engine You’ve Never Heard of Inks Flipboard Deal

Posted: 17 May 2011 11:18 AM PDT


On Blekko, searchers double as editors, helping the upstart search engine refine and curate the best websites for any given query. The people-centric formula is antithetical to the typical machine-driven approach of search engines, but Blekko is slowly turning skeptics into believers.

Case in point: Flipboard, the trendy social magazine for the iPad, is a Blekko convert. The companies announced Tuesday that Blekko will power Flipboard’s application search.

Flipboard already partners with media organizations to feature their content, but it also allows users to add sections of their own choosing. This is where Blekko comes in. When a user performs an RSS feed or keyword search, Blekko will deliver its human-curated results.

The idea is to deliver the best possible content sources to application users and eliminate spam results entirely. Flipboard, by way of Blekko, can potentially help new users avoid frustrating search experiences.

Blekko will also benefit. The deal will help bolster the startup’s reputation and ensure that it continues to see exponential growth in search queries.

In April, the five-month-old Blekko powered more than 50 million search queries. It also saw traffic jump 30% over March with 750,000 unique visitors.

Can Blekko beat Google by employing searchers as soldiers? Probably not just yet, but this is a battle to be watched.

More About: blekko, Flipboard, Search

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HOW TO: Optimize Marketing Materials for Mobile Devices

Posted: 17 May 2011 10:54 AM PDT


The Mobile Content Series is supported by Mygazines, the better way to enhance and distribute brochures, catalogues, newsletters and other documents on every device. To complement this post, view an exclusive videocast, "Mobile Content Delivery: Native App Vs. Web App".

It's no secret that mobile is the future. While ownership of TV sets in the U.S. fell for the first time ever, smartphone ownership continued to explode — it’s up 60% versus a year ago. Marketers who had traditionally focused on getting their message across through broadcasts on television and radio or in print magazines and newspapers are quickly working to adapt their messages for mobile.

Mobile is a new paradigm. It has its own rules, standards, technologies, and challenges. Here's how marketers are working with designers and developers to optimize branded materials for these new platforms.


Pare Down


The golden rules of mobile: simplicity, brevity, accessibility. The screens are small, the Internet connections slow and people don't have a lot of time. The best mobile experiences are those that condense the bigger picture into a bite-sized chunk, friendly for on-the-go consumption.

"Successful mobile websites and applications will do fewer things, but do them better," says Daniel R. Odio, CEO of PointAbout. On mobile especially, it's important that things ‘just work.’ "


Purpose-Driven


Think about the use cases for different consumer devices. Nicole Amodeo, director of creative products at the mobile ad platform company Medialets, stresses three key points for anyone creating content for mobile: "Why, when and where does your consumer use a device?" When exploring answers to these questions, it's important to allow "your target audience and their particular use cases to dictate the experience, the content, the features and utilities," Amodeo adds.

Before deciding on a platform for mobile marketing material, think more about what makes the most sense for the user and use cases. For example, does it make sense to create create an app, or phone- and tablet-optimized website?


Mobile Sites


There are two key points for designing for mobile: speed and usability. Content on a mobile is commonly created for an “on need” basis. A user browsing for online content on a mobile device is generally searching for something specific, not just casually surfing the web.

A user will need to gather the data they are after, quickly and easily without having to wait a long time for a page to load on a 3G connection. Therefore, when converting a traditional website into a mobile version, it's important to make sure a number of things happen:

  • Auto-Detect Mobile Phones. Mobile-friendly websites automatically detect that users are on a mobile device and then display the appropriate version of the site.
  • Clear Calls to Action. The most important features of the site should be the at the top of the page and should include clear calls to actions.
  • Avoid Mobile-Unfriendly Elements. The design should avoid mobile-unfriendly elements such as Flash, large images, video, and complex layouts.
  • Fluidity. Design with a fluid layout that will gracefully adapt to a range of typical mobile screen resolutions.
  • Touch Interface. Touch screens don't have hover states — it's all about fingers tapping, so don't build a site that requires users to move their mouse over menus or other elements. Also, make sure links and other clickable elements are big enough to tap with a fingertip.
  • Scrolling. Limit scrolling to one direction — the site should only scroll vertically. Having to manage a page that scrolls horizontally and vertically is difficult to navigate.
  • One Window. Avoid pop-ups and new windows. A user's entire experience should take place in a single window.
  • Simple Navigation. Simplify your navigation. Typically, a site's traditional navigation is too complex for a mobile site.
  • Clean Code. Most desktop web browsers allow a lot of leeway when rendering HTML and will usually display a site correctly, even if the code has flaws. Mobile browsers usually have less room for error, so there is an added value to having clean, simple code.
  • Use Alt Tags. Sometimes images won't load, either because of issues with the mobile browser or because a user's connection is too slow. Always include descriptive alt tags for images, in case they don't appear.
  • Label Forms. Some modern websites embed form labels inside the form field. On mobile, it's much more difficult to keep track of the fields, and users often make use of "next/previous" buttons built into they keyboard. Without clear labels alongside the form fields, it might be impossible to know what information is supposed to be in which field.
  • Escape Hatch. Sometimes users just need to use your normal site. If possible, always have a link back to the original, unoptimized site.

Responsive Web Design


One of the largest challenges in designing for mobile is the vast amount of devices to cater to. Rather than designing a mobile-specific website, responsive design allows websites to automatically adjust to a devices resolution, orientation and feature set.

The technology behind responsive websites is a relatively simple mix of CSS and a flexible grid-based layout. The best responsive websites even take into account device rotation, displaying different content depending on if the phone is in landscape or portrait mode. Taken to the extreme, a responsively designed site might even use GPS to display content relative to a user's location.


Mobile-Friendly Calls To Action


The world hasn't completely transitioned to mobile (yet). Until that day, one important way to leverage traditional media is to tie it into mobile. What are an ad’s viewers being asked to do, and can they do it on mobile? If an ad is going to be seen by consumers on the go, making mobile-friendly calls to action is important. If an ad asks users to check out a website, make sure the website loads well on a smartphone.

Embrace mobile technology. Instead of asking users to call a phone number or visit a website, use a QR code to let consumers quickly learn more about a product or even receive some sort of exclusive content, such as a free MP3 or other product tie-in.


Apps


Sometimes the best way to optimize marketing materials for mobile is to create an app. Users expect apps to complete simple, narrowly defined tasks quickly and easily. Think about how simple many popular mobile apps really are — they do one thing and they do it well.

The most successful way to market through an app is to create some sort of branded experience, tool, utility or game that both transmits a marketing message but still provides a level of utility and enjoyment for users.

A fantastic example would be the toilet paper brand Charmin's app, which helps users locate the nearest public restroom.


Conclusion


There are many design and development tips to keep in mind when optimizing marketing — or, for that matter, any — content for mobile. But it all comes down to leveraging design and technology to keep things simple, clean, fast to load and easy to digest on the go.

Keep it simple.


Series Supported by Mygazines

The Mobile Content Series is supported by Mygazines, an interactive marketing solution that lets you enhance, distribute and track your content on any web enabled device, including desktop, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones. To complement this post, view an exclusive videocast, "Mobile Content Delivery: Native App Vs. Web App." Keep informed by following Mygazines on Twitter.

More About: MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, Mobile Content Series, mobile marketing

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What Would a Human Rights Logo Look Like?

Posted: 17 May 2011 10:26 AM PDT

logo map image

The concept of “For the people, by the people” has been applied to human rights with a new online logo contest that seeks to create an internationally recognized logo to act as a symbol and beacon for human rights issues across the globe.

The Logo for Human Rights is a non-profit organization that paired up with jovoto, an online platform for the creative community, to help crowdsource designs. The contest has already received some high-powered support. The Logo for Human Rights has partnered with Canada, Chile, Germany, the Czech Republic, Senegal, Singapore and Uruguay.

logo submissions image

A list of 10 finalists will be selected by a jury comprised of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and four Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Muhammad Yunus. The public will then be able to vote for a winner from those finalists.

The competition runs until July 31 and public voting starts August 27. The finalists will be presented at UN General Assembly in New York.

It may seem odd that so many countries and international heavy-hitters have signed on for a logo competition. However, the contest speaks to the power that brands and brand recognition have on society. The goal of the contest isn’t just to add window dressing to human rights issues but to create an symbolic banner to focus, organize and highlight all human rights efforts the world over. Accordingly, the rules state that the logo can’t use any words besides “Human Rights” and must be understandable without accompanying text.

Entries can be submitted as pencil on paper, paint, computer graphics or — as the site cheekily says — drawn with a stick in the sand. What matters most is that the symbolism is convincing.

What do you think of attaching a brand mentality to human rights? Do you think a unified, internationally vetted logo will help bring light to human rights issues? Sound off in the comments.

More About: brand, charity, crowdsourced, human rights, human rights issue, logo, logo for human rights, non-profit, social good, social media, UN

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8 Tips for Nailing Your Next Startup Job Interview

Posted: 17 May 2011 10:00 AM PDT


Alex Berg is the Chief Product Officer of Bonanza and Bags Bonanza. Bonanza is a marketplace focused on creating a browse-friendly experience that helps you discover unique items. Prior to Bonanza, Alex served in leadership positions with Wetpaint, Expedia and Blue Nile.

While unemployment remains high, some sectors are hiring at a breakneck pace. New startups are cropping up in cities across the U.S., with hotspots emerging in New York, Chicago, Austin, Seattle and, of course, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. If you've been limiting your job search to more established companies, you might just be missing out. For every Twitter, Groupon and Zynga, there are dozens of smaller-stage companies emerging and hiring everyone from programmers to interns.

However, when it comes to hiring decisions, startups are a breed of their own. With their unique value systems, knowing a startup's particular “fit” criteria can mean the difference between a second round of interviews and being shown the door. Equally important, of course, is understanding how well the startup fits you.


1. Why “Fit” Matters


Startups are for believers. This isn't to say that Pollyannas abound at your average startup, but most folks are there to make a significant impact. This is true with regard to their own day-to-day roles as well as the impact that their company makes on the world at large. Startups like to disrupt markets and challenge Goliath-like competitors. Getting everyone on board is crucial to their success, and the wrong fit stands out like a red-shirted crew member in a Star Trek landing party.

Fit goes beyond merely finding believers, though. In larger companies, you can often avoid interactions with the office jerk, but the small size and fox hole mentality of a startup can turn a jerk into a real morale killer. Not surprisingly, startups are laser-focused on making sure the fit is right. When there are less than a dozen employees in a company, every one really matters. The challenge is that what constitutes fit varies from startup to startup. Some startups celebrate collaboration and autonomy, while others are manically focused on productivity or technical innovation.

And, of course, fit is a two-way street. It has to be right for you, as well. Find out as much as you can about the culture before you go in. Check out LinkedIn and sniff out info from people in your own network. Read reviews on sites like Glassdoor, but take these with a grain of salt. Company review sites can be a haven for the disgruntled and startups likely don't have lots of ex-employees anyway. Ask pointed questions of managers and individual contributors and see how their answers line up. Don't compromise any strongly held beliefs and don't expect the startup to adapt to you either. If the fit is not right, be ready to walk away — buyer's remorse of the career variety is the worst kind.


2. Getting Noticed


Once you have your sights set, the first thing to do is get on the radar. Startups' focus on fit makes them a fairly incestuous lot. They tend to hire friends and former colleagues, so relationships really count. The best way to get noticed is not through the front door. Hop on LinkedIn and comb through your contacts. There's a good chance that someone in your extended network knows someone who knows someone who can get you in touch directly. Take the burden off of your contact by making it clear you aren't asking for a recommendation, only that they pass you along.


3. Spring Cleaning


While you're mining your network, make sure your LinkedIn profile is current and nicely polished. A pretty resume template looks very “1997,” and many startups have a bias against those not taking advantage of what they consider superior tools. Besides, at some point, the decision maker is going to pour over your profile looking for someone who can provide an unsolicited reference. So make sure your skills and job history are current and your endorsements are strong.

Lastly, do yourself a favor and Google your own name before they do (and they certainly will). Make sure your online presence is the very best version of you. You don't need to eliminate your personality, but that late night tweet or old spring break photo might be perceived unflattering.


4. Do Your Homework


Before your interview, find out who you will be meeting with. Get the names of your interviewers and research their backgrounds. You might even get lucky and know someone who has worked with them and can give you the inside scoop. When asking for feedback on a company or prospective manager, resist the temptation to send the easy email. Offer to buy a coffee instead. In a world where emails get forwarded fast, you'll find people understandably reluctant to dish online. When candor matters, cappuccinos are currency. Even if you don't have a direct connection, understanding your interviewers' unique backgrounds can give you insights into how they think and what they are looking for.

When candor matters, cappuccinos are currency.

Preparation goes beyond the interviewers, though. Get to know the company's products and get to know them well. Have pointed questions and suggestions written down and ready for discussion. Candidates who don't bother to try a company's products demonstrate an appalling lack of interest and are often shown the door.


5. Showing You Have What it Takes


Startups don't want people who do what's asked of them and little more. They want people who genuinely love what they do. Be ready to tell multiple stories about how you went above and beyond the call of duty. If you don’t have any examples in your work experience, create one as a side project. Taking on an extracurricular project shows passion, curiosity, and enthusiasm — characteristics that are incredibly attractive to startups. When interviewing engineers, my teams always look for “tinkerers” — engineers dabbling in Ruby on the side, or designers escaping their day-to-day template work with more exciting outside projects. Demonstrate that you're more than a solid contributor and have all-star potential, and remember that showing is always more powerful than telling.

A close second to having initiative is being adaptable. In a world where terms like “fast failure” and “pivot” are celebrated, you have to be ready to flex. Startups change direction. Sometimes it's simply a collection of tactics, but on occasion it's the entire company strategy. Prove you're not just tolerant of change, but actively embrace it. If you were a part of a new initiative at your previous employer, be ready to tell the story.

Startups also value candidates who are focused on what can be done, rather than on what cannot. This might sound obvious, but early stage startup teams in particular are focused on validating the appeal and market for their products. This requires rapid and repeated trial and error. What makes this possible is a culture that champions what can be done, and done quickly. Startup productivity comes to a grinding halt when the focus shifts from the possibilities to edge cases. Demonstrate your openness to new ideas and creative thinking, taking care to build on the ideas of others rather than tearing them down.


6. Tilt Your Scale Toward “Work”


Every company talks about valuing a work/life balance, but the fact of the matter is that most startups' scales are weighted more heavily toward work. If your situation requires a predictable 9-to-5 schedule and 40 hours a week, a startup probably isn't the right place for you. If you are accustomed to longer hours and the occasional night or weekend, that's the kind of thing they want to know.


7. Beware of the Oncoming Bus


Take care when referring to your previous employers and managers. While your last manager might have indeed been incompetent, you're not going to earn any points by throwing them under the bus. If you do, you'll come across as jaded and start raising big, red “fit flags.” Find the positive in your previous gigs and, when pressed about why you are looking, retain a positive outlook. If the situation warrants it, by all means be candid, but don't be petty. No one hires that guy.


8. Follow Up


Don't disappear once you've left the interview. It's important that you not only stay top-of-mind but also that you build your own personal momentum as a candidate. Get business cards or email addresses from your interviewers. For extra points, go beyond the mere thank-you note that expresses excitement about the opportunity and add something to the conversation. Flub an answer? This is your chance to fix it. Have an epiphany in the car afterward? Share it. Continue to demonstrate passion and interest and you'll rise to the top.


Above all, the most important thing you can do is find out what the startup uniquely values, ensure it aligns with your own interests, and then demonstrate that you're the perfect fit. Startup teams labor over hiring decisions heavily. The skills conversation takes about five minutes. The fit conversation? That one can take hours.


For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, drewhadley, Andresr, Chepko

More About: business, employment, job interviews, jobs, List, Lists, small business, startups, tips, trending

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The 10 Hottest Private Companies in Tech [REPORT]

Posted: 17 May 2011 09:40 AM PDT


SecondMarket, a firm that facilitates investments in private companies, released a report Tuesday that discloses which companies buyers are most interested in.

Interest was determined by how many investors on the platform listed each company on their “watch lists.” When SecondMarket investors and potential investors add a company to these lists, they get relevant articles about them in their SecondMarket profile newsfeeds. It’s somewhat analogous to “liking” a Page on Facebook.

Just like in December, when SecondMarket released a similar report, Facebook takes the cake again (see full list below). This shouldn’t be a surprise, as the social network is reported to be eyeing an IPO in 2012 that could value the company at as much as $100 billion.

LinkedIn, which has its IPO set for Thursday, fell from second to fourth on the list as Groupon jumped from sixth to third. Groupon is also facing a handsome payday, anticipating a valuation as high as $15 billion when it goes public.

Twitter, on the other hand, managed to sneak into the second slot on the most-watched list with no payday in sight.

SecondMarket also listed “rising stars,” companies that had the highest quarter-on-quarter increase in wish list appearances. Among them are Foursquare, Dropbox, Spotify, Skype and Gilt Groupe.

Not all of these companies necessarily have shares available on SecondMarket’s platform. The ones that do are largely sold by ex-employees, who accounted for 86% of completed transactions in Q1 of 2011. In contrast, founders accounted for just 2%; it was the first quarter any have sold shares on the platform in the past 12 months.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, AlexKalina

More About: Dropbox, facebook, foursquare, gilt groupe, groupon, linkedin, private market, SecondMarket, Skype, spotify, twitter

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Give Your Facebook Photos a Makeover With Lancome App

Posted: 17 May 2011 09:15 AM PDT


Lancome has launched a Facebook app that enables fans to sample a new line of eye makeup with their Facebook photos.

The app contains a series of how-to videos, commercials and a virtual makeover tool, the latter of which is particularly special.

We’ve seen similar tools before, but Lancome’s is exceptional because it actually works. Users can select one of their photos and use the app to apply different eye shadow colors and liners to the shape of their eyes. They can also adjust the intensity, rendering a more natural-looking makeover.

We only wish the tool would automatically allow us to switch out our existing profile photos with the newly made-over image — something that would be not only convenient for the user, but would help the campaign spread among a user’s friend network as well.

The app is part of a larger, multi-phased campaign surrounding the launch of the 10 eye makeup palettes, which includes a 10-day sweepstakes and a contest with virtual styling platform Polyvore to design clothing sets that compliment the 10 palettes.

The campaign, which is in fact one of the most well-integrated web promotions we’ve seen from a beauty brand to date, was further bolstered by ad buys on Facebook and mobile, as well as a partnership with Elle’s blogger network, Style Coalition, in which 20 bloggers posted their own video interpretations of one of the color palettes.

More About: beauty, facebook, Facebook app, fashion, lancome, MARKETING

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YouTube & Newseum Pay Tribute to Fallen Journalists

Posted: 17 May 2011 08:56 AM PDT


YouTube has teamed up with the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to create a video memorial for men and women who lost their lives pursuing the news.

The organizations launched a memorial YouTube channel on Monday that is intended to be a virtual version of the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial, a two-story structure of glass panels etched with the names of 2,007 fallen journalists.

New names are added to the physical memorial every year, and the preliminary list for 2011 already includes 19 journalists who have died in 11 countries.

“We live in a world that feels smaller every day,” wrote Steve Grove, of YouTube News and Politics. “As we become accustomed to nearly ubiquitous coverage of the news and events unfolding around the world, it's easy to forget the price that is sometimes paid to obtain quality, accurate reporting on important stories—particularly in areas of conflict or in cases of government repression of the media.”

At the Newseum, the memorial is accompanied by a gallery of the journalists’ photos as well as kiosks where visitors can access information about each individual. YouTube’s version hosts videos that profile or represent their work, and it allows anyone to nominate a video that deserves to be added to the collection.

Photos courtesy of Flickr, InspirationDC

More About: journalism, memorial, Newseum, youtube

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Polaroid 300 Brings Back the Fun of Instant Film

Posted: 17 May 2011 08:40 AM PDT


The Gadget of the Day Series is supported by the Energizer® Inductive Charger, which brings you the next generation of charging with Qi technology. Qi is the new universal standard for wireless charging … now that's positivenergy™.

Product: Polaroid 300 Classic Instant Camera

Price: $99.99 (but it can be found online for less — Amazon is currently offering it for $84.95). Available in red, blue and black. Film is sold in packs of ten, for $9.99, but you can find bulk discounts.

What It’s Good For: The cost of the 10-packs of film force you to think more carefully about taking a picture — you consider the light, composition and shooting angle in a way that you never do with casual digital snaps.

Who It's Good For: Anyone who loves the unpredictable and often beautiful results you get with the “toy camera” category of snappers, as well as lovers of all things vintage, Lomography fans and hipsters.

Limitations: Shooting at night with the automatic flash created harsh, flat images with bleached out areas. Similarly, shooting in strong sunshine also led to bleached out photos. There is a middle ground, but with just four scene settings and no other way to adjust the camera’s settings, it’s not easy to find. Finally, the cost of the camera and the film leaves the 300 in an expensive niche market position — photos are a buck a snap.

Bottom Line: Tons of fun for vintage photography fans, but unlikely to inspire the next generation.


A Look at the Polaroid 300


The rise and fall — and rise again — of the Polaroid brand is an interesting study in market demand and a fascinating lesson about the power of nostalgia. After suffering in a digital photography marketplace, the Polaroid instant camera has been given a reprieve — and some celebrity backing — returning in the form of the Polaroid 300.

The 300 is a rebadged version of Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 7, so sadly there are no design nods to the classic Polaroid snappers of the past. It’s a chunky plastic camera offering simple settings, even simpler operation, and business-card size instant photos. The sheer bulk of the camera — it doesn’t fit into a pocket or some handbags — means you’ve got to commit to taking the Polaroid 300 out with you.

The Polaroid 300 is fun — hold-your-breath-waiting-for-the-photo-to-develop fun. It’s easy to use and is sure to delight younger children with its cute business card-sized pics revealed before your eyes just seconds after the shutter has snapped. The Polaroid 300 turns the photograph back from a disposable digital file to a tangible thing, an object to be treasured, to be carefully placed in a wallet, on a pinboard or in an album.


Polaroid 300 Front View




The lens pops out of the body and doubles as the on/off button.


Polaroid 300 Top View




The viewfinder is quite a distance from the lens, which is something to bear in mind if you're shooting objects close to you.The four settings are "indoor," "cloudy," "fine" and "clear." The slit on top is where the photo comes out.


Polaroid 300 Back View




The large flap on the back is where the film loads -- it simply snaps into place.


Polaroid 300 Side View




The four AA batteries load into the side of the camera. From the angle, you can also see that it's quite a bulky gadget, even with the lens in.


Polaroid 300 Flash




The Polaroid 300 has an automatic flash. The button beneath the flash takes the picture.


Polaroid 300 Sample Photos




Two sample photos taken in strong sunlight appear washed out.


More Polaroid 300 Sample Photos




More sample photos show the kind of images you can expect from the Polaroid 300.


Series Supported by Energizer®


The Gadget of the Day Series is supported by the Energizer® Inductive Charger, which brings you the next generation of charging with Qi technology. Qi is the new universal standard for wireless charging. Energizer® has always been designed with performance and responsibility in mind … now that's positivenergy™.

More About: cameras, Gadget of the Day Series, gadgets, photography, polaroid, review, tech

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