Thursday, 9 June 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “9 Well-Designed User Registration Pages To Learn From”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “9 Well-Designed User Registration Pages To Learn From”

9 Well-Designed User Registration Pages To Learn From

Posted: 09 Jun 2011 04:50 AM PDT

Captchas, confirmation emails, account activation, and credit card details — let’s face it, user registration can be a headache. When your goal is to convert visitors to users and get as many sign-ups as possible, the last thing you want is for your registration page to act as a barrier.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Different markets and different services all require different treatments when it comes to signing up.

We’ve rounded up 9 samples of great user registration pages, some simple, some complex. We’ll take a look at each one and give you some ideas about what they did right to help you streamline your process or find some inspiration.

1. Convore

Convore doesn't waste any time getting down to business. As soon as you hit the landing page of this communications and messaging platform you're presented with a registration for the Convore service. Simple, fast and to the point. Convore only collects the most essential information — name, email and password — entered once with no confirmation. Not only is the sign-up process dead simple and easy to find, the registration form flows well with the rest of the content on the page.

2. Ballpark

Project estimation web app, Ballpark, has a nice approach to user registration. While they collect a little more information than Convore, it's still kept to the essentials. The structure of the form here is great. Everything is presented in a very neat and tidy manner with some nice iconography to denote the different types of data being collected. Though it looks simple, a lot of attention has been paid to the details like the soft colors, subtle gradients, light borders and 3D elements that give the signup form a polished, elegant feel.

3. Fourteen Dayz

Time tracking app Fourteen Dayz takes a similar approach to user registration, using a soft color palette with boxes for each step of the registration process. However, the form is minimal and flatter, lacking gradients and drop shadows. Nonetheless, the overall effect is still that of a clean, easy to read, logically organized registration form. The text and font treatment on this form is quite nice, with large headings, plenty of descriptive text and clear, organized labels. Instructions are clear and readily available without having to hunt for them.

4. Spreedly

Sometimes less is more. Spreedly's signup page is dead simple, both in terms of its visual appearance and the information it collects. Pick a username, enter your email and choose a password. That's it. You're done. There's no activation process and upon submitting the form, you can start using the service immediately. This is a great example of making registration easy. Spreedly signup only takes a few seconds and instant access to test accounts means you can start exploring the service right away. It's not until after you've had a chance to fully test the app and have decided to subscribe that you are presented with a screen to begin your subscription and enter payment details.

5. Culinary Culture

Culinary Colture, a social site for foodies, doesn't even bother to move their registration onto a separate page. Like Convore, the signup is right on the landing page. It's a little further down the page, just below the fold, and beside the activity feed, but the treatment on the form here is really nice. The site saves space by eliminating labels for form elements and placing the prompt directly inside the form field itself. Simple, stylish icons inside each input box also help to illustrate what types of data belong in the fields. Finally, the subtle details on the borders and button gradient gives the form a finished look.

6. Launch List

Launch List's registration page starts out with a pricing table at the top and a FAQ below. Select a plan and the FAQ fades away to load a user registration form complete with instructions. The whole visual identity for Launch List is vintage cool. On the pricing table, the teal background, fat icons and the Buck Rogers style rocket of the Launch List logo give everything a clean sort of retro feeling. We like the use of subtle changes in value in this form, from the contrast of light grey text verses white headings to the subtle boxes behind sections of the registration form.

7. Freckle

Time tracking app Freckle asks for a little more information on its registration page. The app's designers have done their best to make the process as painless as possible. There's not a lot of clutter on the page, which is composed almost entirely of just the signup form. Each section is cordoned off into its own box with slightly larger text for lables and inputs. The soft colors and the instructions in the margins give the whole form a friendly, less intimidating feeling, which is helpful for a form that collects personal and payment information right off the bat.

8. Litmus

Email marketing service, Litmus, is another example of a web app that collects a fairly large amount of data upon signup. Like Freckle, Litmus keeps it organized by breaking the form up into logical chunks and providing helpful information where needed. We find the mix of top-aligned labels in the beginning of the form versues left-aligned labels in the payment section to be an unusual choice but overall the form is visually simple enough that this doesn't cause too much confusion.

9. Ember

Ember is a web app for sharing design ideas and inspiration with other designers. The signup process itself is simple but there's a lot more to this registration page than just a couple of form fields. All the form's instructions are clearly listed down the right-hand side of the page while the top left contains fields for personal details like name, email and password. We find the layout interesting in that the pricing table is below where the actual registration details are entered. It's not something you see often but with only two plans to choose from, it works well: Enter your information, pick a plan, and you're done.

More About: business, dev & design, registration, registration pages, social media, web

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Nokia CEO Denies Acquisition Rumors

Posted: 09 Jun 2011 03:22 AM PDT

Nokia is not for sale, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told attendees at the Open Mobile Summit in London Thursday.

Nokia turned its smartphone strategy upside down early this year when it decided to switch from Symbian and MeeGo to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform. The company has been steadily losing market share — largely based on its Symbian devices — and the first Nokia WP7 phone is due to arrive in 2012, which prompted many to question Nokia’s future.

However, speaking about the recent rumors that either Microsoft or Samsung are planning to acquire the Finnish mobile giant, Elop said, “All those rumors are baseless.”

Straightforward as ever (he famously wrote a memo to Nokia employees in February 2011 saying that the company is standing on a “burning platform”), Elop delivered another interesting quote today.

“Apple created Android, or at least they created the environment to allow Android to happen,” he said.

Do you agree with Elop? Did Apple’s iOS really create Android? And, if so, where’s Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 in that equation? Please, share your opinions in the comments.

[via CNET]

More About: acquisition, microsoft, Nokia, Stephen Elop

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J Hilburn Expands Custom Menswear Line With New Funding

Posted: 09 Jun 2011 12:13 AM PDT

J Hilburn, a three-year-old retailer that focuses on made-to-measure dress shirts and other men's apparel, is expanding, thanks to a $5 million Series C round of financing led by Bridgescale Partners.

The funding will be used to grow J Hilburn‘s network of 1,000 personal style advisors, who meet with clients at their homes and offices, record measurements and offer style advice, taking a significant cut of sales generated in the process. The Dallas-based startup sells luxury apparel and accessories at a significant markdown from upscale clothing retailers by selling goods not through traditional retail outlets, but through these advisors.

"A Zegna shirt costs $35 to make, is sold to a retailer for $125, and then sells for $325 at Neiman Marcus," Davis explained in an earlier interview with Mashable. "We go to the same Italian mills, the same factories, wrap a personal touch and service into the product, and sell it directly, without the retail markup," he says. J. Hilburn's custom-fitted shirts typically cost about $100.

In addition, the company will focus on developing new technology and product lines, including the its European, made-to-order suiting collection, which launched Thursday. The suits, which start at $700, are manufactured in many of the same European factories that produce suits for companies such as Zenga, Burberry and Armani, the company says.

J Hilburn only added ecommerce to its business in March, making it easier for existing clients to refill orders, as well as place new orders that harmonize with their existing purchases. The business remains grounded on one-on-one relationships, much like Skype-based clothing concierge service Hendricks Park; beyond accessories, would-be customers need to meet with style advisors before they can order J Hilburn clothing, including suits.

J Hilburn has raised $7.25 million to date.

More About: ecommerce, fashion, j.hilburn, menswear

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Eventbrite Launches an iPad Box Office

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 11:57 PM PDT

Eventbrite has sold more than 31 million event tickets online. Now it also wants to sell them at the door.

The company announced the release of an iPad-based box office on Tuesday. “Eventbrite At The Door” is an app that allows merchants to accept payments, print tickets and collect attendee data on-site.

Eventbrite will begin testing the free app with about six partner locations before releasing a publicly available version. These test venues will use a wireless printer and a credit card swiper attachment, but Eventbrite CEO Kevin Katz says that eventually he hopes to partner with Square once they release an API.

An iPad box office solution is appealing to a range of venues. It’s obviously more portable and more feasible in outdoor situations than the box office software some venues use now (whether it’s cheaper depends on if the Eventbrite’s cut of the ticket sales is greater than the thousands of dollars venues pay to use current box office software). More importantly, however, it scales down to small events that don’t have any box-office infrastructure. For instance, a college student could throw a kegger and print tickets at the door.

The advantage of doing this with Eventbrite instead of a cash box is not just the ability to take credit cards, but also a way to keep track of who attends an event. When making a transaction, the app asks the ticker vendor to enter an email address for the customer. That’s valuable information for marketing future events.

Users have been able to easily track pre-purchased Eventbrite tickets at the door since the company released its ticket-scanning app Easy Entry in May 2010. Square has made it easy for anyone to make credit card transactions. But will small event planners feel the need to bring the two capabilities together?

According to Eventbrite co-founder (and Kevin’s wife) Julia Hartz, it’s something they already do — making the most of ticket sales.

“Eventbrite At The Door is a really natural extension of how to capitalize on any type of ticket sale that can occur,” she says. “That was very much where event organizers were missing out on revenue or collecting the revenue and not being able to connect with their customers afterward.”

More About: eventbrite, Eventbrite At The Door, startups

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The History of Video Games in 100 Seconds [VIDEO]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 11:03 PM PDT

Commercial video gaming is a battlefield of consoles, franchises, huge corporations and highly opinionated individuals.

In this motion graphic, we get a 100-second summary of the industry, from its genesis in the arcade games of yore to its current milestone: E3 2011.

And along the way, the video’s creators (that would be creative shop Column Five) get into the console wars, handheld gaming, and of course, Tetris.

If you like this clip — you nerdy gamer, you — you’ll love our ongoing E3 coverage. Check out these gaming-related posts with news from the conference:

top image courtesy of Flickr, Regonold

More About: e3, gaming, video, video games

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Playable & Recordable Google Doodle Honors Guitar Great Les Paul

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 09:59 PM PDT

When you’re searching for something on Google today, you’ll notice a fascinating instrument at the top of the page: It’s a recordable electric guitar built in the shape of the Google logo, paying homage to guitar great Les Paul, who would have been 96 years old today (Thursday).

Hover your mouse over the strings, and you can strum this little instrument. You can also play notes on your keyboard. Click the rectangular record button positioned where the bottom part of the second “g” in the word “Google” would be, and every note you play will be saved for posterity. Update: We’re hearing the recording function is only working in the U.S.

There’s more. It creates a URL that you can send to others, so they can listen to your masterpiece. Here’s where it gets even more interesting: Send the URL to someone, and when that person pastes that URL into the address bar, you can play a duet together. Try it — play along with me.

Or, you can play along with your own recording, overdubbing just like Les Paul did for the first time way back in the late ’40s. Someone could actually make some real music with this.

Click the doodle itself, and it takes you to sites featuring Les Paul. Try it here.

How appropriate! Les Paul, one of the first electric guitarists and builder of one of the first solid-body electric guitars, was an innovative recording artist who created new ways to overdub tracks in the recording studio. And here his memory is honored with another innovation, a webpage that shows a playable and animated electric guitar — that can record and overdub — on his birthday.

Les Paul, after whom the storied Gibson Les Paul guitar is named, died in 2009 after living to the ripe old age of 94. Kudos to Google for honoring his creative spirit by building the best Google doodle ever.

More About: doodles, Google, guitar, Les Paul Google Doodle, overdubbing, trending

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Spy Shots: Dell’s 7-Inch Tablet Has a Slide-Out Split Keyboard

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 09:04 PM PDT

What the tablet world needs is innovation, and from these newly uncovered spy pics, it looks like Dell is the one stepping up with a design that’s unlike any other.

Rather than copying the look and feel of the iPad as so many other tablet manufacturers have done, Dell has apparently pinpointed one of the iPad’s weakest characteristics and improved upon it: its keyboard.

In these pictures (somehow obtained by Engadget), notice the split keyboard that’s not on this little 7-inch tablet’s touchscreen, but it’s part of a slide-out keypad that gives each of its users’ thumbs an easy shot at quick typing.

We’re getting a feeling of déjà vu here. Isn’t this design getting precariously close to those failed tablets of five years ago that Microsoft and Intel codenamed “Project Origami?” Some of those Ultra-Mobile PCs’ split keyboards were arranged on either side of the screen, and some even had slide-out keyboards.

Maybe Dell figures the reason those Origami PCs didn’t succeed was because they were underpowered, their touchscreens didn’t work well, they were too big, heavy and overpriced — not because their keyboards weren’t good.

Back to the present, Dell presented this prototype in both black and white finishes, and each had a rear camera which we hope has better quality than the iPad’s. Beyond those specs, there’s precious little info about when we might see this tablet design hit the marketplace, if ever.

Still, perhaps copycat manufacturers might want to take a look at this design rather than creating yet another Apple-esque slab. What do you think, commenters? Is this throwback to the past an improvement on the iPad and all the other tablets that look just like it?

Graphics courtesy Engadget

More About: dell, pics, prototype, slide out keyboard, Tablet

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Discover & Share Video & Music Playlists With JamCloud [INVITES]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 08:07 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: JamCloud

Quick Pitch: JamCloud lets you discover, collect, manage and share the videos you love from the web.

Genius Idea: Discover the videos and tracks your friends are enjoying.

Thanks to YouTube, Facebook and SoundCloud, there’s a never-ending supply of streaming video and music for you to watch and listen to online. If you’d like to discover what your friends are watching or save your favorites for later, you might consider a handy new desktop application called JamCloud.

The PC and Mac-compatible application sits on your desktop and lets you search, organize and share your favorite online videos and tracks from YouTube and SoundCloud, and even check out what friends and strangers are enjoying on JamCloud.

JamCloud’s intelligent type-down search feature makes it simple to search for videos and tracks across YouTube, SoundCloud and your playlists. When you find something you like, simply drag it to a playlist and the app will auto-populate the Artist and Title fields and add it to your library.

JamCloud does an excellent job of filtering out junk from search results, so you’re likely to find what you’re looking for in just a few seconds.

The application even connects to Facebook so you can easily discover the videos posted on your Facebook friends’ walls and watch or add them to your playlists. To do so, simply click the Facebook icon in the lower left-hand corner.

You can also import YouTube playlists, follow the activities of other JamCloud users or just your friends, and share what you’re watching to Facebook and Twitter.

The application is currently in beta stage, which means you’ll find a few kinks. Plus, we’d like to see JamCloud integrate with additional web services and add tailored video and music recommendations for users.

Still, JamCloud offers an impressive way to immerse yourself in your own curated online video and music collections, gather up the best of what your friends are watching or lose yourself in the activities and playlists of JamCloud strangers.

JamCloud gave us a first look at its private beta application for PC and Mac, and it’s exclusively giving out 500 invites to Mashable readers. Use “MASHABLE” as the promo code when you sign up.

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, JamCloud, music, ONLINE VIDEO, soundcloud, spark-of-genius, startup, video, youtube

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Get a Job in Social Media, Marketing or Dev and Design

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 07:34 PM PDT

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

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

Mashable Job Postings

Business Development Coordinator at Mashable in New York, NY.

Executive Assistant at Mashable in New York, NY.

Community Assistant at Mashable in New York, NY.

Community Director at Mashable in New York, NY.

Community Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.

Editorial Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.

Tech Reporter at Mashable in San Francisco, CA.

Regional Sales Director at Mashable in San Francisco, CA.

Campaign Specialist at Mashable in New York, NY.

Mashable Job Board Listings

Senior Marketing Manager, Strategic Alliances at Robert Half International in San Ramon, CA.

Associate Marketing Manager at Robert Half International in San Ramon, CA.

User Research Intern at Meetup in New York, NY.

Social Media Specialist & Social Media Manager at LEWIS Pulse in San Francisco, CA.

Digital Team at Obama for America in Chicago, IL.

Digital Art Director at Teach For America in New York, NY.

Front End HTML/CSS/JavaScript Developer/Designer at Clarity Ventures, Inc. in Austin, TX.

Regional Sales Managers at Bronto Software in New York, NY.

Senior HR Associate at Rodale in New York, NY.

Web Designer/Developer at New York State Society of CPAs in New York, NY.

Editor at Gathering Clouds in New York, NY.

Lead Web Developer at Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York, NY.

Director, Digital Health Strategy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York, NY.

Director, Customer Acquisition Marketing – E-commerce at 20×200 in New York, NY.

Interactive Marketing Manager at Citi Habitats in New York, NY.

Social Media Director at Magnet Media, Inc in New York, NY.

Social Media Director at Ansira in Addison, TX.

Social Media Specialist at Community Renewal Team, Inc in Hartford, CT.

UX Developer/Designer at onPeak in Chicago, IL.

Communications Officer – Strategic Partnerships at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, WA.

Digital Strategist at Beckerman in Hackensack, NJ.

Search Marketing Specialist at Embanet Compass Knowledge Group in Orlando, FL.

Tech Leader/Founder/Product Manager at Adility in San Francisco, CA.

Social Game Designer at Xtranormal in San Francisco, CA.

Marketing Director at Rue La La in Boston, MA.

Search Marketing Manager at Embanet Compass Knowledge Group in Orlando, FL.

Senior Java Engineer at in New York, NY.

Software Development Engineers & Test Engineers at Microsoft in Redmond, WA.

Affiliate Marketing Coordinator at White Digital Media in Carlsbad, CA.

Social Media Account Manager at PRR, Inc. in Seattle, WA.

Web Developer at Chicago Public Media in Chicago, IL.

Open Source Programmer at Solution Exchange in Westport, CT.

National Digital Sales Director, Food and Lifestyle Networks at Time Inc. in New York, NY.

Account/Social Media Manager at Momentum Worldwide in West Hollywood, CA.

VP Product Management – Social Media Metrics at NM Incite in New York, NY.

Java Expert at CrowdFunnel in Beverly Hills, CA.

Social Media Manager at Publishers Clearing House in Port Washington, NY.

Account Executive at BestBuzz in Dallas, TX.

Cloud Integration Developer at Workday in Pleasanton, CA.

Senior Digital Strategist at MWW Group in New York, NY.

Web Developer at Sankynet in New York, NY.

Back-End PHP/CMS Developer at American Documentary POV in Brooklyn, NY.

Vice President of Technical Operations and IT at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Director of Design at Yelp Inc. in San Francisco, CA.

Marketing Director for Ashoka’s US Empathy Education Initiative at Ashoka in Arlington, VA.

Mobile Game Developer at Wild Needle, Inc in Mountain View, CA.

Social Media Coordinator at The Recording Academy (The Grammy Awards) in Santa Monica, CA.

Online Engagement Coordinator at Gerson Lehrman Group, Inc in New York, NY.

Interactive Project Manager at The Archer Group in Wilmington, DE.

Manager, Digital Marketing & New Media at Foot Locker, Inc. in New York, NY.

Web Software Architect at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Engineer – Front End at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Director of Engineering, TV/Video at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Executive Creative Director at Code and Theory in New York, NY.

Mashable‘s Job Board has a variety of web 2.0, application development, business development and social networking job opportunities available. Check them out here.

Find a Web 2.0 Job with Mashable

Got a job posting to share with our readers? Post a job to Mashable today ($99 for a 30 day listing) and get it highlighted every week on (in addition to exposure all day every day in the Mashable marketplace).

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, YinYang

More About: jobs

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Kinect Star Wars: First Impressions [PICS]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 06:41 PM PDT

Star Wars is finally coming to the Xbox Kinect. Will it live up to gamers’ lofty expectations?

Ever since Microsoft unveiled the Kinect, I’ve heard gamers ask about the possibility of a Star Wars game. The thought of wielding a lightsaber or dueling a Sith lord has been something that has captured the imaginations of many gamers. Microsoft officially unveiled the game at its E3 press conference in Los Angeles this week.

I had a chance to try out the Star Wars game in one of the “Kinect Pods” at Microsoft’s booth on the E3 show floor. Here are my first impressions (and several photos) of the game:

  • The graphics are solid, though they aren’t as immersive as Call of Duty or Gears of War. You won’t complain about them, but you won’t celebrate them either.
  • The mechanics for using your lightsaber, using the Force, and moving are reasonably intuitive. I had to get used to using the lightsaber with my right hand (I’m a lefty), but Microsoft promises you’ll be able to switch hands in the full version of the game.
  • The controls are clunky. Using the Force is decent, but you can definitely miss commands because the Kinect didn’t recognize the move. Hopefully LucasArts and Microsoft will improve the controls for the game’s launch.
  • Swinging the lightsaber isn’t a killer experience yet. The lightsaber can only turn so far — there won’t be any 360-degree sword-swinging motion. It’s mostly slash and hack.
  • It’s a mainly linear style of gameplay. Kinect controls aren’t ideal for exploration games (Disneyland Kinect is an important exception). In Kinect Star Wars, you’re moving forward through the storyline, jumping ledges and slashing bad guys. Hopefully the full game will be less linear and more exploratory.
  • The demo ends with two Sith lords activating their lightsabers and challenging you to battle. It was a nice teaser for the lightsaber-on-lightsaber battles that will surely make or break this game.
  • Overall the game feels like it has solid potential, if they can tighten up the controls. It’s still early though; the game won’t be released until Q4, 2011.

Kinect Star Wars: Photos

The Kinect Star Wars Logo

I'm preparing to slash one of my enemies

A couple of Jedi newbies

The droids are coming! The droids are coming!

May the force be with you

Video Teaser

More About: e3, kinect, microsoft, Star Wars, Star Wars Kinect, xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox Kinect

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Former Googler, Current Rapper: Meet Hoodie Allen

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 05:55 PM PDT

We’ve all heard the time-honored tale of a Googler leaving the Googleplex to work on a startup, but Steve “Hoodie Allen” Markowitz departed for an entirely different reason: to pursue a full-time career as a rapper.

Markowitz is a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania alum (he graduated last spring) and is currently unsigned. His album Pep Rally was released free online last September.

The rapper’s upcoming release is Leap Year, due out this summer.

Markowitz took some time to speak to Mashable via phone today about his upcoming record, his history at Google, and why an web-savvy white rapper doesn’t necessarily have to go the nerdcore route.

Markowitz started at Google in April, 2010. He worked as an AdWords associate in the company’s START (that stands for “Standarized AdWords Reseller Training”) program.

Then, he left the company in 2011 “in January or February. It feels a lot shorter than it actually is,” he told us. “I was moving so fast, and even while I was at Google there was so much going on that I felt like I was doing two full-time jobs.”

But Markowitz said his “dream and passion” was definitely music, so when he started getting more opportunities to do live shows, he decided to leave Google, which he called a “leap of faith. But it was a lot easier because everyone at Google was so supportive of me.

“I still feel very connected there. All the people I hung out with in San Francisco were Googlers.”

Still, even though Markowitz’s provenance lies solidly in a white-collar, tech-aware world, he draws on that experience in a less obvious way. “It’s not nerdcore,” he said. “I’m much more inspired by the classic lyrical MCs… I think I pull a lot from my own life experience. My perspective happens to be a unique one — going to Penn, working at Google. It does make me kind of different from a typical hip hop artist.”

In fact, the rapper’s online experience plays more into his marketing than his music. “Everything I do is tied to the online space,” he told us. “I take a unique approach to social media; I make a flat universe between me and everyone who listens to my music.”

Leap Year “is almost done,” Markowitz revealed, saying the album should drop sometime in July and is much more mature and stylistically developed than his previous releases.

“It’s exciting to feel like you have something really good on your hands that the people who already support you are going to dig even more. I’ve got all these tracks, and I’m ready to unleash them on the world this summer.”

Like its predecessor, Leap Year will be available as a free download online. And that works for Markowitz’s personal business model just fine. “I’ve made a good living from playing live shows and touring. And the music lives so much more if you put it out there and let people share it for free.”

images courtesy of Flickr, orygynylphotography

More About: Google, hoodie allen, music, rap, rapper, steve allen, steve hoodie allen

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Hands-On: Twitter’s New Photo-Sharing Service

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 05:02 PM PDT

Twitter has begun rolling out its new photo-sharing feature to the masses.

The new Twitter photo service, which replaces the functionality provided by TwitPic, Yfrog and other photo-sharing services, is part of both Twitter’s photo and video revamp and Twitter’s new integration deep within Apple iOS 5. The photo feature is powered by Photobucket, a fact that is impossible to miss on tweets using the new Twitter feature.

We took Twitter’s new photo-sharing feature for a quick test drive. Check out the pics and let us know in the comments if you can access this new feature yet:

Camera icon

That means the service is live on your account. To post a photo, click the icon.

Oops, that's not an image

If you try to upload a video or a doc, you'll get this alert.

Enter text

Once the photo's uploaded, all you have to do is type your tweet and click send.

Pic displays on the right pane

If you click a tweet with a photo, it appears in the right pane with a "Powered by Photobucket" line underneath. It's just like TwitPic or Yfrog on Twitter.

Another test

If you click the link, it takes you to the tweet with the picture, not the actual jpeg.

More About: photo, photo sharing, trending, twitpic, twitter, Twitter iOS

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Tumblr Unveils New Dashboard Redesign

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 04:22 PM PDT

Tumblr rolled out a new update to its user dashboard on Wednesday, and users are reacting with a mixture of acceptance and dramatic outrage.

The changes to the dashboard are minor — in fact, infrequent users might not even notice the changes at first glance. The big changes affect how users switch between blogs and what information is displayed in the sidebar. The default view is more minimal; only after selecting a specific blog do users see things like post numbers and user messages.

Tumblr’s lead designer Peter Vidani tweeted that he was “positively thrilled to launch the new Tumblr dashboard,” but not all users agree.

A search for posts tagged “tumblr dashboard” reveals that users are expressing their objections via their Tumblr accounts. Some enterprising users have already developed a Greasemonkey script for Chrome and Firefox to restore the old sidebar contents to the default sidebar.

User interface changes and redesigns are usually risky moves because consumers tend to dislike change, even if the change is for the better. Facebook is infamous for making changes to its UI that users not only dislike, but actively campaign against.

Even Twitter’s 2010 redesign was met with resistance from some users; Twitter still gives users the option to use the old user interface, though the company says it will eventually force everyone to use the new design.

Tumblr has made design changes to its dashboard in the past — something that many of the current group of Tumblr complainers seem to be forgetting — and we’re sure the company will make further changes in the future.

I like the new design. I can see how it can be less convenient for users who maintain multiple Tumblr accounts to check their messages, however, turning on an email notification for new messages might be a good temporary solution. As it stands, I find the new icons and improved clarity in the sidebar to be an improvement.

What do you think of the new Tumblr dashboard design? Is it much ado about nothing, or the end of the world as we know it? Let us know in the comments.

[via @caustikgrip]

More About: redesign, trending, tumblr

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Zynga Might Offer Less Than 10% of Shares to Public [REPORT]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 03:56 PM PDT

Zynga is leaning toward a so-called "low float" IPO that would offer a relatively small percentage of shares to the public, according to a report.

The company, which hasn't yet set an IPO date, may make less than 10% of its shares available to the public, according to Bloomberg. The model for such a public offering is LinkedIn, which sold 8.3% of its stock on its opening day. Pandora is selling 8.6%. The average among U.S. tech IPOs last year was 24%, according to Bloomberg data.

Such low-float offerings give companies more control and can lead to higher stock prices since the supply is relatively small. In LinkedIn's case, the stock price rose 108% on the first day. At today’s close, LinkedIn stock was selling for $75.91, which is still 68% above the initial asking price.

More About: ipo, linkedin, pandora, Zynga

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AddThis Launches New Way to Measure Social Sharing

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 03:03 PM PDT

AddThis has launched a new way for publishers to track the sharing that happens in its simplest form — copying and pasting a URL from the address bar and then sharing it out to a social network, email or IM.

For AddThis, which is owned by Clearspring, that could represent a huge new trove of data that the company can provide to web publishers. Clearspring CEO Hooman Radfar says that the company has "seen up to 10x greater sharing from the address bar versus the sharing buttons." With a network that now reaches more than 1.2 billion unique users per month across 9 million sites, that's a ton of sharing that had previously been going uncounted.

To help make sense of that data, the company is also releasing new analytics called AddThis Live View, which shows sharing and click data in real-time. The idea, according to a statement from the company, is that "publishers can use this information to modify site layouts, editorial and content marketing tactics in response to continuous feedback about viewers' activities." USA Today is one of the larger publishers currently using the Live View platform.

For Clearspring, the launch follows recent news of a $20 million funding round, money the company plans to use to continue to build out tools for publishers. Radfar told me recently that, "Now that we have this massive view of what's going on the Web, we're looking at … how we take the power of that entire network and bring it to the individual publisher. Only a handful of companies on the web that have the reach that we do."

Asked specifically about the company's financials (Clearspring has now raised a total of $60 million), Radfar said, "We don't need the money at this point … we're using it truly and honestly for growth." He added that an IPO at some point in the foreseeable future is, "Not out of the realm of possibilities."

For more on how the company's new address bar share counting and Live View works, check out the video below:

More About: AddThis, analytics, clearspring

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Angry Birds to Publish Cookbook Full of Egg Recipes

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 02:59 PM PDT

Rovio’s Angry Birds franchise has been churning out commercial hits at every turn — its widely popular games have accounted for nearly 1.2 billion hours of usage in the U.S., to say nothing of the merchandising. The company has now sold more than three million plush toys and as many as 30 million T-shirts.

Could a family cookbook full of egg recipes with the Angry Birds brand name attached to it be its next big money-maker?

Peter Vesterbacka, Rovio’s head of marketing and business development, announced the book at the Open Mobile Summit in London. Vesterbacka said Rovio’s Angry Birds cookbook will be targeted at families and include mostly egg-based recipes. The title will be self-published and likely distributed by Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble, in book form and as an ebook app, with Rovio banking 90% of all sales.

Few details are known about the cookbook other than its egg-centric nature. But Rovio’s product business has so far proved a substantial addition to the Angry Birds franchise. “It's not a hobby," Vesterbacka said. "We have made a lot of money."

The company would ultimately like to be as viewed as an entertainment brand, and may even make a movie someday, Vesterbacka added.

Eggs, of course, are what those Angry Birds are so eager to capture back from the evil green pigs. Whether a cookbook celebrating the baking of eggs adds to or detracts from the brand name is something consumers will decide with their pocketbooks.

Image courtesy of Flickr, twenty questions

More About: angry birds, cookbook, MARKETING, rovio

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Will Justin Bieber Blend? [VIDEO]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 02:46 PM PDT

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

The Blendtec guys are at it again. Their latest victim? The gloriously maned boy king of pop himself, Justin Bieber.

In the past Blendtec has demolished everything from iPads to Vuvuzelas in its “Will It Blend?” series. Watch them destroy another noisemaker above.

More About: blendtec, humor, justin bieber, pop culture, viral video, viral-video-of-day, will it blend

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HOW TO: Watch What You Eat on World Oceans Day [PICS]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 02:38 PM PDT

water image

Oceana is kicking off World Oceans Day this Wednesday with innovative uses of Instagram and Foodspotting. The organization, which is dedicated to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans, is asking users to become an Ocean Hero by making one of three pledges this World Oceans Day: to recycle, to help clean or to eat sustainable seafood.

After signing the pledge, users are encouraged to submit pictures of their efforts on Instagram using the tag #oceans. You can find some of the pictures below. One of the most interesting twists involves eating sustainable seafood. When users make that pledge, they are directed to a page that encourages them to photograph seafood meals at restaurants that serve sustainable products and upload them to Oceana’s Foodspotting page. That page will then become a resource for people to know what is both delicious to eat and good for the planet.

“It’s kind of a cool idea, especially if it takes off and people contribute,” said Michael Gardner, Oceana’s communications fellow. “Once this gets moving, we should have a nice collection of restaurants across the country to enjoy and those to stay away from.” The page already has guides for cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

pledge image

The campaign is part of a larger Ocean Heroes contest Oceana launched in March. Two winners — one adult and one junior — were picked from 500 nominees. Peter Wallerstein won as the program director at the Marine Animal Rescue in El Segundo, California, where he helps save injured marine mammals. The junior award went to 8-year-old Sophi Bromenshenkel who sold cookies and drinks, and sent out fliers and emails to raise more than $3,500 for a marine conservation program at the University of Miami.

Take a look at some of the images from the Oceana community and let us know what you make of the pledges. Do you think they’ll make a difference? Sound off in the comments.

Surf by CraftiAndi

Tide by Zen72

Dogs by Dattta

Horizon by CraftiAndi

Boat by zumaducati

Dungeness Crab at "Farallon"

From Eric Rodenbeck.

Arctic Char at "Volt"

From Mike DiNovi.

Crispy Tilapia at "Passionfish"

From Pop Ongsakorn.

More About: foodspotting, instagram, oceana, oceans, world oceans day

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Facebook Friend Sleeve Tattoo Is a Hoax, Artist Says [VIDEO]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 02:09 PM PDT

The epic, 152-friend tattoo that an anonymous woman flaunted on YouTube is a hoax.

Forbes is reporting that Rotterdam tattoo artist Dex Moelker, who owns the shop where the alleged tatting occurred, confessed. “It is a try-out tattoo, a transfer, that washes off in a couple of days,” he told a Dutch paper. Apparently, it took just a few hours, not 30, to apply.

Blogger Michel Wester pointed out that the hoax is most likely a viral campaign for Pretty Social, a company that allows you to buy bags, posters and other tchotchkes emblazoned with the faces of your Facebook friends. The woman thanks that company in the video, and the vid is featured on the company’s homepage. We’ve reached out to the company for a statement.

We messaged the “tattooed” woman Tuesday via YouTube and she responded this morning, stating that she wanted her identity to remain anonymous, but consented to answer questions. After we sent her our questions, she replied: “Because of the amazing interest worldwide I can’t respond to all of the questions unfortunately. I will try to give a statement tomorrow.”

We wonder if that statement will be that this is all an advertising campaign for Pretty Social.

Want to see some real social media tattoos? Check out this gallery from Mashable features writer Amy-Mae Elliott, below:

1. Blogger

We like Violet Blue's "blogger" tattoo, and it really works with those outrageously groovy shoes!

2. WordPress

Here at Mashable, we're WordPress fans, but to go as far as actually getting the logo inked on your skin? Maybe not.

3. Head Body HTML

This cool HTML tat is a pretty unique way of branding your neck.

4. Retro Apple Logo

Apple's colorful retro logo is the popular choice for many a fanboy, or in this case, fangirl.

5. Android

Natalie Thompson's love of open source software inspired her to permanently sport the little green Android bot on her forearm.

6. Dogcow

Stephen Hackett says his choice of Clarus the Dogcow reminds him "why [he] went to work at Apple, and in IT in general. It's not the technology itself, but the cool things people do with it — the things that really matter."

7. Fail Whale

This Fail Whale tattoo, which adorns the skin of netizen Critter isn't the only one we've seen, but it's certainly the best.

8. Control, Alt, Del

You can't exactly "reboot" a tattoo, so hopefully this guy is happy with his skin art.

9. Sad Mac

You just know he's got the happy Mac symbol on his other leg...

10.Barcode and Ports

In addition to his array of ports, Joe Tech's barcode tattoo actually scans.

BONUS: A MySpace Mistake?

Is this for real? If so, it looks like someone is learning a hard lesson about the fast-changing face of the social web.

More About: facebook-tattoo, MARKETING, pretty-social, tattoo, video, viral video

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You Probably Can’t Get Into the World’s Most Exclusive Website

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 01:59 PM PDT

Sorry, guys — unless you have a verified Twitter account, there’s no way you’re getting into this super cool, super exclusive website. And boy, are you missing out.

Actually, we don’t really know if you’re missing out on anything, because we’ve only managed to go so far ourselves, thanks to editor-at-large Ben Parr (who has a verified account).

The World’s Most Exclusive Website is a kind of digital art project designed by Jeff Greenspan (of Tourist Lane fame), Mike Lacher (who created the Geocities-izer) and writer/technologist Chris Baker. The site limits entry to only the most elite.

You can only access the website if you have a verified account, and from there, the number of Twitter followers you have dictates how far you can go down the rabbit hole. It you’re using an unverified account, you will be redirected to the Olive Garden’s website.

Check out the gallery below to see Ben’s progress — until the door slammed in his face, that is. Ryan Seacrest has gotten the farthest, but it seems that the series of rooms and doors only continues. We’ll have to wait and see if anyone can manage to progress to the end, for which 5 million followers are needed. Someone let Lady Gaga know.

Room One

And we're in!

Room Two

Awesome, Ted Leo is here.

Room Three

Hanging with Seacrest.

Room Four

End of the road, Parr!

More About: Ben Parr, humor, pop culture, The World's Most Exclusive Website, trending, twitter

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U.S. Soldiers Use YouTube To Win Battle With Delta Airlines

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 01:43 PM PDT

A group of U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan won a battle against Delta Airlines’ bag policy, thanks to a video on YouTube.

The soldiers, Staff Sgts. Fred Hilliker and Robert O'Hair of a Reserve unit in Georgia, posted a video Tuesday outlining their plight. As O’Hair explains, the unit showed up with four bags each but were told they could only bring three each and would have to be charged $200 for the fourth. The final tally came to more than $2,800, according to O’Hair.

He says there's a contract between the U.S. government and Delta that allows them to bring up to four bags. He goes on to say that the fourth bag contained a weapons case. (A Delta rep says the contract does not allow soldiers to carry an extra bag.)

Delta responded Wednesday with an entry on its blog that announced a change in policy: "After careful consideration, effective immediately, U.S. military personnel traveling on orders in First and Business Class can check up to five bags and four bags in Economy class.” The previous limit was four bags in First and Business and three in Economy.

Delta also says, "We're continuing to work with the soldiers individually to make this situation right for each of them."

In acting swiftly, Delta may have minimized the damage of the video, which has so far received more than 200,000 views. Other brands have discovered how much a viral YouTube video can hurt their brands, notably Domino's, whose reputation took a beating in 2009, after an errant group of employees posted a video of themselves doing disgusting things with customers' pizzas.

More About: delta, military, travel, youtube

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HOW TO: Start Marketing on SCVNGR

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 01:14 PM PDT

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

What do Neiman Marcus, HP and Buffalo Wild Wings have in common? Not a lot, except that they’ve all created marketing campaigns on SCVNGR. The breadth of industries above showcases exactly why SCVNGR might be a good tool for your business. Mashable spoke with Chris Mahl, SVP of marketing at SVNGR to find out how businesses can get involved with the platform and start cashing in.

Before we jump in, let’s start with an explanation. SCVNGR is a location-based gaming platform — there are default challenges at every venue, and businesses can also "script" their own challenges. Customers with iPhones and Androids can complete challenges to earn points, which are redeemable for rewards, such as free drinks or 10% off a purchase. The Cambridge-based company launched in 2008, and was founded by 22-year-old Seth Priebatsch.

Case Studies

More than 1,000 enterprises have launched challenges and rewards on SCVNGR. Consumers complete challenges to earn rewards. “What we've learned is that when brands launch, they can get people to engage with them for 9 to 21 minutes per play,” says Mahl. “They often pull their friends in, too.”

Because SCVNGR has a partnership with Google, it has more than 320 million places in its database. Thus, SCVNGR has the ability to launch challenges with badges and have leaderboards all over the world.

Since launch, SCVNGR has accrued 1.6 million users. Most users are 13 to 38 years old, but there is a roughly equal breakdown of male and female, so there’s a broad range of customers to target. SCVNGR has been implemented successfully in a variety of businesses. For example:

  • Buffalo Wild Wings hosted what Mahl deems “by far the most successful” SCVNGR campaign during March Madness.
  • Neiman Marcus encourages customers to be fashion leaders and snap photos of their favorite trends. For instance, the “trendsetter” challenges asks users to snap a pic of their favorite accessory for a little black dress. The campaign is live at 42 locations, and sharing to Twitter enters users into a contest for a $2,550 shopping spree.
  • GameStop launched a challenge leading up to the release for Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here’s how you can launch a SCVNGR campaign for your own brand.

Make Your Own Campaign

SCVNGR is all about interaction, so as a business owner, you have the ability to “create an engagement story.” Mahl emphasizes that the challenges are entirely scriptable and customizable. Such creative license allows a business to get exactly what they want out of the platform. As such, launching a SCVNGR campaign is both “brand safe” and scalable. The nice thing about SCVNGR is that you can have “cross-place play,” so users can visit a business with multiple locations and the points accumulate from each venue (this is an option Foursquare doesn’t currently offer).

Register for the site, and select “I am primarily a builder.” A temporary password will be emailed to you, and you’ll see a welcome screen on the site. Choose “Click here to begin.” You’ll now arrive at the builder — you can opt to set up your SCVNGR independently, or you can work with the SCVNGR team to get started.


Now you’re ready to create challenges, which are what Mahl calls a “multidimensional interaction” and an invitation to play for rewards. Click “Create Challenge,” choose a location, give the challenge a name and assign it a point value (2 to 5 points). Then you can write the text of the challenges and assign it a challenge type: Specific Text Response, Open Response, Photo Challenge or QR Code. You can also upload an image, audio or video file that the user will experience on the challenge prompt (I uploaded a picture of the logo I’m referring to so the user knows what to look for). Then, you can create a “Done Message” — a type of congratulations for when the user completes the challenge. Once you’re done, click “Save & Continue.”

When you’re coming up with challenges, Mahl has a mantra to keep in mind. “If it’s cool, people with do it — that’s the nature of game dynamics,” he says. SCVNGR provides some best practices for writing challenges that fit with a brand’s style. Here are some more general tips from Mahl, too:

  • Keep it short. Don’t create a challenge that takes ten minutes to do.
  • Let them explore. Try to create a new experience for the user by encouraging them to discover something new about a brand or business.
  • Let them express themselves. For open-ended questions, let the users ruminate and ideate — they love to give brands a piece of their minds.
  • Time is of the essence. Create content that is timely — you can always modify and update challenges to keep things fresh and relevant.
    • Note that users can create their own challenges, too, but only after they’ve completed a number of challenges and proven themselves to be a sort of “power user.” This creates a whole new level of brand engagement, says Mahl, and transforms the users from players into “authors.” SCVNGR staff combs through the user-generated challenges and curates them to weed out any inappropriate ones.


      Now that you know how to create challenges — and you can write up to five custom ones — you can outline some rewards. The rewards are items and perks that can be redeemed with the points earned from challenges, so you want to incentivize people to play with excellent rewards. Click “Create Reward.” Again, enter a place, a title and a reward description. Assign a point value to the reward, and you can set a limit for how many times the reward can be earned. You can also set an expiration date if the reward is seasonal.

      Keep in mind that a reward can be digital or physical. Mahl says you could offer a sneak preview for a movie or even the ability to enter into a random selection for a big grand prize. During Coca-Cola’s SCVNGR campaign, the brand offered a free bottle opener and an AmEx gift card for $9, so the user could get free soda for himself and a few friends.


      The last item is a trek — essentially, a walking tour of an area. Select an “anchor point,” which is the starting point and home base for the trek. The way the trek works is that each time someone checks in to a location, they’re directed to the next one, so it’s a bit of a scavenger hunt (hence the app’s namesake). Under “Some Details,” you can add a custom map image, choose whether this will be a competitive trek or not — is it a race or a leisurely tour? — and whether the trek should have a linear route or a “SmartRoute,” which issues the next destination based on distance and crowding. Once you fill this out, click “Save & Continue.”

      With that, you’re all set — your challenges, rewards and treks are live. Mahl suggests having a training week when your staff can play around with the platform and get used to it so they can answer any questions a user might have. Once the campaign is underway, you can check on the progress and download a .csv report of user activity.

      Once your campaign is live, Mahl says you can rest assured that SCVNGR will stay out of your business and let you run the show. “We're gardening,” says Mahl. “We’re keeping the place clean and not interrupting — there’s no advertising.”


      A unique aspect of SCVNGR is LevelUp. "[LevelUp] combines the best parts of the checkin — the challenge and the reward — into one bite-sized unit," founder Seth Priebatsch told Mashable in March. As of May, SCVNGR partnered with AmEx to make redemption even easier.

      In short, rewards are automatically synced onto one’s AmEx so that redemption is paperless. No staff are required. SCVNGR is currently alone in that space.

      Above and Beyond

      If the five custom challenges aren’t enough for you, you can get more creative — but it comes at a price. You can email to find out more about pricing and options.

      If you have any questions at any time during your campaign, you can submit them through the “help” button in the builder and expect a response within 24 to 48 hours, or you can email

      What other SCVNGR tips do you have? Let us know in the comments below.

      Series Supported by Global Strategic Management Institute

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

      More Social Media Marketing Resources from Mashable:

      - HOW TO: Start Marketing on Gowalla
      - HOW TO: Start Marketing on Foursquare
      - HOW TO: Start Marketing on Facebook
      - HOW TO: Use HootSuite as a Marketing Tool

      More About: location based social networks, MARKETING, scvngr, Social Media 101 Series

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Men’s Lifestyle Publication Thrillist Hits the iPad [PICS]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 01:00 PM PDT

Thrillist, a lifestyle and product-focused e-mail newsletter for men that has since expanded to the web and smartphones, has stepped further into the mobile space with the release of its first iPad app.

Unlike Thrillist’s apps for iPhone [iTunes link] and Android devices, which are designed for on-the-go discovery of stores and venues, the iPad app [iTunes link] is designed to accommodate a more leisurely reading experience. Users can rotate a wheel at the top to explore content by recency, popularity and proximity, and by experience (eat, drink or shop). A carousel of thumbnails at the bottom enables users to explore all of the venues in a given category.

The app’s primary goal is to encourage people to keep browsing, says Chris Steib, Thrillist’s director of product development, noting that it’s difficult to keep people moving laterally on a website. The site is not currently optimized for mobile devices, and although it lays out well in the iPad’s Safari browser, navigation is comparatively slow and laborious. (Steib says about 2% of traffic to comes from the iPad currently.)

In addition to browsing, users can opt to bookmark, share (via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter), pull up images and, where available, play video at the top of each listing. They can also click on the “Show History” button on the bottom right to pull up a venue they forgot to clip earlier.

Design-wise, it’s not the most beautiful iPad app we’ve seen — we wish multimedia was formatted in-line with the text, and otherwise more closely resembled a digital magazine — but it certainly does allow for a seamless browsing experience.

More About: apple, ipad, magazine, thrillist

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Sony Pictures Admits 37,000 Users Got Hacked

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 12:07 PM PDT

Sony confirmed that a recent hack of the Sony Pictures Entertainment website exposed information from more than 37,000 users.

LulzSec, the group behind the attack, originally said that one million accounts were vulnerable. The group only released the database files and logs for a portion of those users, however — a portion that was in the range of 37,000 users. More precisely, the group said that the user information for at least a million users was vulnerable because of the insecurity of Sony’s website.

Sony released a statement to the Wall Street Journal noting that “the website did not ask for any credit-card information.” Instead, the personal data that was exposed from the site included “names, genders, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, user account names and passwords.”

So in the grand scheme of things, last week’s attack was more of an embarrassment for Sony than a large-scale risk for registered users. If you were registered at Sony Pictures websites and your name is on the lists released by Lulzsec, you need only worry about making sure your passwords on other sites are different, and that you have a good spam filter to deal with the extra unsolicited email that is likely to result. Your credit card details are safe. Still, the episode underscores the reality of web security in the modern age. It used to be that users could feel comfortable trusting big brands like Sony, organizations that had the resources to keep things secure.

But that just isn’t the case any more. Sony has become a popular target — and for good reason, given the cataclysmic nature of the PSN breach — but it is hardly the only major company with a lax web security record. Earlier this week, LulzSec briefly hacked into one of Nintendo’s U.S. webservers. Although no user information was compromised and Nintendo hardened up its server configuration files, the situation was yet another example of the insecurity of the web.

More About: lulzsec, security, sony, Sony Pictures, spe

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How Small Businesses Are Using Mobile [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 11:29 AM PDT

Small and medium-sized businesses rely heavily on mobile technologies. In fact, our smartphones and other mobile devices have become so critical to day-to-day operations that a majority of small companies around the U.S. say they couldn’t run their companies without mobile technologies.

These businesses are using mobile apps like Square and Foursquare for a wide range of specific tasks, from processing payments to conducting marketing campaigns.

In more general terms, SMBs say that using mobile technologies helps them gain a competitive advantage, increase productivity and efficiency, and allow their employees to work remotely — something that might lead to 50% of the SMB workforce working from home or remotely by next year.

In addition to using mobile apps, many SMBs are making their own. Mashable has a ton of resources for businesses wanting to make apps. Check out our how-to for building mobile apps of your own as well as our mobile development tips for SMBs.

This infographic comes to us via Intuit and design shop Column Five.

Click image to see larger version.

top image courtesy of Flickr, blakespot

More About: infographic, Mobile 2.0, smb

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Evernote Peek Uses iPad 2 Smart Cover To Help You Study

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 11:07 AM PDT

Note-taking platform Evernote has just released Evernote Peek, a first-of-its-kind application for the iPad 2 Smart Cover that is designed to help you study and improve your memory.

The application works in conjunction with the Smart Cover so that each time you partially lift the cover, your iPad 2 will awake and you’ll be presented with a question. Lift the cover a bit more and you can peek at the answer.

The Evernote Peek Smart Cover application is a modern interpretation on the age-old practice of memorizing study materials with notecards. Here, the notecards are replaced by your Evernote notes and your memorization skills are put to the test each time you lift your Smart Cover.

Evernote Peek connects to your Evernote account so you can select your notebooks and turn them into study guides. The application also includes a selection of Evernote-generated notebooks on study topics. These notebooks include World Capitals, Collective Nouns and Word Quiz.

When you’re ready to quiz yourself, simply select a notebook and close your Smart Cover. Then, lift it a smidgen to see your first question. When you peek at the answer, mark whether your guess was correct or incorrect, and close the cover to continue.

The application was created after Evernote’s CEO and founder Phil Libin and VP of marketing Andrew Sinkov were toying around with the iPad 2.

“Of all its features, the thing that floored us was the ingenious Smart Cover,” Sinkov says. “It didn't seem like an accessory so much as an extension of the device. As we sat there opening and closing the cover, a question struck us, could we use the cover to control an app that would make Evernote even more useful?”

Evernote Peek is the answer to that question.

More About: evernote, Evernote Peek, iPad 2, iPad 2 Smart Cover

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The Top 6 Xbox Announcements at E3 [PHOTOS]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 10:41 AM PDT

Microsoft kicked off the E3 with lots of Kinect, Xbox Live and the first trailer to what is guaranteed to be a smash success, Halo 4.

Although Microsoft didn’t have any new hardware to show off (unlike Nintendo and Sony), the gaming giant showed off some highly anticipated upcoming games such as Tomb Raider, Mass Effect 3, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Gears of War 3 and Forza Motorsport 4. Microsoft also unveiled a revamped version of Xbox Live and announced a few other surprises.

We’ve combed through all of Microsoft’s announcements this week and boiled them down to the top six announcements you need to know about. Without further ado, here are the top six headlines for Microsoft Xbox at E3:

1. Tomb Raider Gets a Reboot

Microsoft showed off the new Tomb Raider. It's a prequel exploring the origins of how Lara Croft became the tomb raider. We've known about the game for a while, but this is the first time Microsoft showed actual gameplay.

Tomb Raider

In the opening scene, Croft has to free herself from bondage and escape a collapsing tomb.

Tomb Raider

We're impressed with what we've seen so far.

Tomb Raider

Croft dramatically looks over a cliff.

2. Xbox Live Gets YouTube, Bing & Live TV

Xbox Live is getting a facelift. Larry Hryb (pictured), director of programming for Xbox Live, introduced the new features.

New Xbox Live

Showing off some of Xbox Live's new movie search capabilities

New Xbox Live

YouTube is coming to Xbox Live.

New Xbox Live

Another shot of YouTube on Xbox Live

New Xbox Live

Live TV is also coming to Xbox Live this year. You can control live TV with your voice through Kinect.

New Xbox Live

Bing is coming to Xbox Live. It's not full web search, but voice commands for searching through Xbox Live content.

New Xbox Live

UFC President Dana White came on stage to announce UFC content was coming on Xbox Live.

3. Kinect Disneyland

Disneyland is coming to Kinect. Disney and Microsoft have partnered to recreate the entire park on Xbox 360, and it looks pretty convincing and detailed.

Kinect Disneyland

The rides on Kinect Disneyland are essentially mini-games. In this one, you're flying with Peter Pan on the Peter Pan's Flight ride in Disneyland. You need to collect coins while avoiding cannonballs.

Kinect Disneyland

Another ride they showed off, Alice in Wonderland, goes through the entire Alice universe.

4. Star Wars Kinect

You can finally fling your lightsaber around using Kinect. Microsoft showed off some of the gameplay and a few of the moves.

Star Wars Kinect

It's not just lightsabers, though. You can move objects by moving your arms.

5. Kinect Fun Labs

Microsoft announced a new experimental lab program for Kinect. It's a place for the "leading edge of Kinect innovation." It's essentially a collection of Kinect experiences made by developers that don't quite fit the game mold.

Kinect Fun Labs

One of the labs, Kinect Me, scans your body and transforms you ...

Kinect Fun Labs

... into a 3D Kinect avatar. It definitely wowed the audience.

Kinect Fun Labs

Another Kinect Fun Labs experiment allows you to draw in 3D. You can draw a sparkling line in front of and behind a person's image on the screen and view it in 3D.

6. Halo 4

Halo 4 is real and it hits store shelves in late 2012.

More About: e3, gaming, kinect, microsoft, xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox Kinect

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HOW TO: Maximize Your Brand’s Relevance With Facebook Post Targeting

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 10:19 AM PDT

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Brian Honigman is a search analyst at LunaMetrics, a Google Analytics certified partner that also specializes in social media and search engine optimization. You can follow him on Twitter @Brian_Honigman and read his blog at

Facebook has a handy feature for Page admins that allows them to better target posts for specific subsets of fans. This allows only certain fans to see particular updates on the Page's wall and on the targeted user's news feed.

Page admins can choose to target by location or by language. Targeting is helpful because it allows marketers to sent highly relevant information and updates to their audience and customers.

Below are four ways Facebook marketers can better use targeting to maximize their results.

1. Targeting Posts to Spur Relevant Conversations

Many brands have an international audience that speaks a wide variety of languages. Accordingly, brands will split up their Fan Pages by language or location to meet that particular audience's needs.

For instance, VH1 has a Facebook Page for its English speaking audiences, as well as VH1 Latinoamérica for its Spanish speaking audiences. The targeting feature allows Page admins to post directly to specific countries, even allowing for state/province and city-specific targeting.

In addition to geographical targeting, you can connect with specific audiences by utilizing any of the 60+ languages Facebook supports. It’s more effective to target posts by language and location than to create different Pages, and will lead to higher levels of fan engagement.

2. Targeting Posts for Contests, Competitions, Sweepstakes & Promotions

Hosting a promotion on your company's Facebook Page is one of the most successful ways to encourage engagement from existing fans while also driving new users to Like your Page. It’s important to remember, however, that many of these sweepstakes and promotions have a limited geographical reach.

For example, Viking River Cruises is hosting a “Win a Cruise” Facebook competition that is only valid in the United States. They obviously want to promote the competition, but not to their entire international following.

3. Targeting Posts for Product Line Launches

When launching a product line, it's important to understand which platforms will be the best for gaining traction and buzz for your new merchandise.

L'Oreal Paris USA's launch of their Infallible Le Rouge lipstick line is a perfect example of targeting updates about a featured product. A brand like L'Oreal has a huge international following. Filling fans' news feeds with irrelevant updates about products they can't purchase will merely waste time and become annoying.

4. Targeting Posts For Local Events

Many big brands have product launches, celebrity endorsements, cocktail hours and other types of events that encourage the consumer to come participate in and help spread brand awareness. Post targeting in Facebook can help filter out news about these events to users geographically unable to attend a promoted event.

Steve Madden's Facebook Page often shares information about promotional events hosted throughout the United States, but without utilizing the post targeting feature. Targeting the proper geographic location goes a long way toward attracting a more relevant audience and higher levels of interactivity when it comes to promoted events on Facebook.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, scibak

More About: business, facebook, facebook marketer, facebook marketing, MARKETING, social media, social media marketing, targeting

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How Mobile Phones Are Saving Lives in the Developing World

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 10:01 AM PDT

The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

You text your friends, you call your mom, you use your smartphone to upload pictures of your day-to-day life. But did you know your phone has a higher purpose? Even if it’s just a Nokia “candy bar” phone or a flip-phone, that handheld piece of machinery can save lives. And there are startups all over the world that are innovating and creating new technologies that will change the global health landscape in dramatic ways. Read on for two promising startups that are equipping health care workers in developing nations with souped-up cellphones, and helping them treat more patients, faster.

Medic Mobile

As an international health and bioethics student at Stanford, Josh Nesbit researched pediatric HIV and wrote his thesis on treatment initiation for HIV-positive kids in rural Malawi. His research inspired him to start FrontlineSMS:Medic out of his Stanford dorm room. It started with a pilot program in Malawi, in an area where two doctors were shuttling around to diagnose and treat 250,000 people. Nesbit provided Java-run $10 mobile phones to community health workers to decentralize the care and create an “SMS patient coordination network.” In short, the phones helped medical workers efficiently gather health data and follow up with patients.

“In six months, our pilot in Malawi saved the clinical staff 1,200 hours of follow-up time and more than $3,000 in motorbike fuel,” Nesbit says. Further, it doubled the number of patients who were treated for Tuberculosis (TB). Once treated, patient follow-ups were completed by SMS rather than an in-person exam, which saved time, transportation and money.

“We’re looking at how mobile phones can make the health care system and the people working in it more efficient, with the end goal of saving more lives,” says Nesbit. FrontlineSMS:Medic is now known as Medic Mobile and runs off open-source data from OpenMRS, Ushahidi, Google Apps and HealthMap.

Medic Mobile serves 4.5 million people in 11 countries, including northeast Africa, Honduras, Nepal and Colombia. But perhaps the most famous use of Medic Mobile was in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. Nesbit coordinated with the DigiCel Command Center on the ground in Haiti, and they created a 4636 database, where the 80,000 incoming texts to the number “4636″ were tagged and mapped to help the rescue effort.

Aside from crisis situations, SMS messages are also in use by governments, ministries of health and NGOs like the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which tracks vaccines via mobile phone (see flow chart above). Facebook has even jumped in the mobile health care game and created a SIM app. Nesbit hopes that’s only the beginning.

“It could be really exciting to have those health worker- and patient-focused apps developed so you can run them on $10 Nokia phones,” Nesbit says. “On iPads and iPhones, the killer app is the cool app — but in public health, the cool app is the one that everyone can use.”

And to that end, Medic Mobile just launched its first SIM app for global health organization PSI. Named Kuvela, it can operate on 80% of the world's phones, whether it’s a $15 handset or an Android smartphone. This means data collection can reach a new level of accessibility and affordability, especially as mobile phone penetration skyrockets in developing countries.

But Nesbit hopes this is only the first of many Medic Mobile apps that empower health care workers and patients alike. He envisions applications that help patients schedule appointments, access remote consultations and get in touch with health care workers during a medical emergency.

“We’re getting close to that Walmart-like efficiency that we’d like to see in global health,” Nesbit says.

To get even more mobile phones on the ground where they’re needed, Medic Mobile has partnered with HopePhones. You can donate new or used cell phones by clicking the “Donate phones” button on the website. Just turn off and deactivate your phone, print a free shipping label and send the phone in. It will go to Medic Mobile and its affiliates around the world.

Mobile Diagnostics

UCLA Professor Aydogan Ozcan, 32, is also using mobile technology to improve health care in the developing world, but he’s turning the phone into an actual medical device. Ozcan is creating portable and lightweight microscopes that affix to cellphones, thus transforming them into a platform for conducting microanalysis of blood, bodily fluids and water samples. In short, your cellphone can become a mobile medical lab that can diagnose life-threatening diseases.

The microscopes are small, thanks to an innovative lens-free technology known as LUCAS — Lensless Ultra-wide-field Cell Monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging. The lensless design was made possible by recent advances in computer science and physics that allow scientists to understand how light interacts with various bacteria. So lenses are replaced by algorithms and computer codes that examine how light plays off the cells in question. Using light, Ozcan’s team can detect “digital shadows” of cells and bacteria and then compare them to patterns that are stored in a library of images to immediately detect TB, malaria, certain STDs, HIV and other diseases.

“With this toolkit, the patient will give the blood and the technician will prepare the microscope slide with the patients red blood cells on it, and our microscopes will quickly image it and enable remote and immediate diagnosis,” Ozcan explains. Not only is it fast, but it’s also “remarkably cheap,” costing just 10 to 15 cents per test.

The technology works on almost any kind of phone. For a cameraphone, you can install an attachment to make use of the existing camera, or you can install a separate unit that uses the cell phone as a vehicle to transmit the MMS images via USB — the cell phone essentially acts as an intermediary between a patient and a central PC station in a remote hospital. With the promise of immediate diagnosis, health care workers in developing worlds who shuttle from village to village and see hundreds of patients can provide an immediate diagnosis and plan of action right then and there, and they can record data and keep a record of the patient. This level of organization and efficiency doesn’t currently exist.

In Africa, one hospital might cover 1,800 kilometers — for a health care worker on a motorcycle, that’s a lot of terrain to cover and a lot of patients to treat. But MMS-diagnosis will improve health care in remote locations and circumvent having to physically go to hospitals, and yet hospitals will have far more of an impact on the lives of its patients by implementing mobile technology that can diagnose and treat at any distance.

“The concept of a hospital will diffuse away,” says Ozcan. It will no longer be a central hub where people come and go, but a central database that offers affordable, accessible and better quality health care.

Ozcan’s research is funded by millions of dollars from the NIH, U.S. Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation. But Ozcan’s group focuses on perfecting the technology, not manufacturing it for market. However, it recently received $400,000 from the NIH for commercialization, and it is working with a startup whose main mission is to commercialize Ozcan’s technology. Once it does get mass-manufactured, Ozcan says the cost per microscope will be $10 to $15, a very affordable price for such a revolutionary tool.

“It's a very exciting time for all the researchers who are aiming to provide new solutions for global health with cell phones and computers,” says Ozcan. “They are creating a very interesting toolset for us to do cutting edge science and engineering at a fraction of the cost.”

What other mobile innovations have you seen in health care? Let us know in the comments.

Series Supported by BMW i

The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles; it delivers smart mobility services within and beyond the car. Visit or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

Are you an innovative entrepreneur? Submit your pitch to BMW i Ventures, a mobility and tech venture capital company.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, milosluz, DNY59, and Josh Nesbit, Medic Mobile, Ozcan BioPhotonics Group at UCLA

More About: Global Innovation Series, health, health monitoring, healthcare, LUCAS, medic mobile, MMS, Mobile 2.0, SMS, ucla

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Meredith Vieira Says Goodbye to NBC’s Today [VIDEO]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 09:51 AM PDT

The Today crew succeeded in getting departing co-host Meredith Vieira to cry on her last day of the show Wednesday.

In the clip above, Al Roker and Matt Lauer tell Vieira how much they’ve learned from her and how much they’ll miss her as she tries to hold back the tears. The telecast, which aired Wednesday morning on NBC, also featured her sharing a quick dance with — of all people — Abe Vigoda as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing’” played.

Vieira announced her plans to leave the show on May 9, saying that she wanted to spend more time with her family.

More About: Abe Vigoda, Meredith Viera, nbc, today

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