Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Pandora IPO, Facebook Photo App & More: This Morning’s Top Stories”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Pandora IPO, Facebook Photo App & More: This Morning’s Top Stories”

Pandora IPO, Facebook Photo App & More: This Morning’s Top Stories

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 05:16 AM PDT

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning’s edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world. We're keeping our eyes on four particular stories of interest today.

Pandora Goes Public

Pandora, which begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, upped its share price to $16 per share Tuesday, valuing the company at $2.6 billion.

Facebook To Release Photo-Sharing App?

TechCrunch has leaked a screenshot of what it claims is Facebook’s forthcoming photo-sharing app for the iPhone.

Google Launches Voice & Image Search

Google announced a host of new search features at its "Inside Search" event on Tuesday, including voice search for Google Chrome and new kind of a search by image feature.

Warner Announces Video-On-Demand Service in China

Warner Bros. is set to launch You On Demand, the first pay-per-view, video-on-demand service in China, later this summer.

Further News

  • HootSuite has released three new publishing tools for faster sharing and better account control.
  • Klout, the startup that measures the influence of social media users, is now factoring LinkedIn connections and activities into its overall scoring system.
  • Results from three separate studies, announced Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's solar physics division, indicate that the sun could be less active in its next cycle.
  • Starbucks is extending its popular mobile payment system to Android and 1,000 Starbucks locations inside Safeway supermarkets this coming July.
  • Facebook announced that it has hired Joe Lockhart, President Bill Clinton's former press secretary, as its new vice president of global communications.
  • Ron Johnson, top retail executive for Apple, is leaving the company to fill the role vacated by Myron E. Ullman III, chief executive of J.C. Penney.
  • The BBC is developing an app that will enable reporters to upload images, audio and video directly to the BBC's servers from an iPhone or iPad.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

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Warner Launches Video On Demand Service in China

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 02:16 AM PDT

Warner Bros. has launched YOU On Demand, the first pay-per-view, video on demand service in China, the company has announced.

YOU On Demand has an exclusive 20-year joint venture partnership with China Home Cinema, Central China Television’s pay TV arm. Through the service, consumers will be able to watch both new and old releases from Warner Bros’ catalog, such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

The service, which is going live by the end of this summer, has the potential to reach 200 million cable households in China. However, movie piracy is a serious problem in China, and it’s not going to be easy getting customers to actually pay for movies which they’re accustomed to getting for free.

In 2007, Warner Home Video severely reduced DVD prices in China in an anti-piracy effort, but the piracy rates in the country remained high.

More About: china, entertainment, Movies, pay per view, video, video on demand, Warner, you on demand

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There’s an Anthony Weiner Doll, And It’s Apparently Selling Like Hotcakes

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 10:08 PM PDT

People just can’t seem to get enough of Anthony Weiner.

A website selling action figures of the embattled politician has received a lot of extra attention recently. According to the LA Times, has barely been able to stay online due to high interest in its recreations of the congressman. We’ve been able to load the website with limited success, and we’re greeted with “Service Unavailable” warnings every few clicks.

The dolls come in two flavors: a standard doll for $39.95 and an “anatomically correct” adult version for $49.95. Both version wear briefs that compel you to “tweet this.”

The site is also responsible for other politically-oriented action figures, including dolls for Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and George W. Bush.

What do you think of’s newest action figure?

More About: Anthony Weiner, twitter

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Stunning Music Video Takes Us Through Jerusalem

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 09:25 PM PDT

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

Maestro of YouTube Kutiman is at it again, this time releasing a music video titled “Thru-Jerusalem” that brings together local musicians to epitomize the sounds of their city.

Kutiman is Israel-based producer Ophir Kutiel, who recently released a song composed entirely of mashed-up YouTube videos (“My Favorite Color”) and made it onto Time‘s “50 Best Inventions of 2009″ list for a similar project, ThruYou.

The particular video — shot, edited and directed by Kutiman — was created for Jerusalem Season of Culture, for which he is the artist of the season.

More About: Jerusalem, Kutiman, music, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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New App Finds Dining Deals & Specials Near You

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 08:11 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: BiteHunter

Quick Pitch: BiteHunter aggregates daily deals, specials and events at dining establishments in a location-based app.

Genius Idea: Pulling information about specials from social feeds of local restaurants and bars.

With the recent explosion of daily deal sites adding to the specials that almost every dining establishment offers from time to time, there shouldn’t be an excuse for paying full price if budget is a priority.

But there is one: browsing through a hundred daily deals sites and combing the Twitter feeds of nearby hangouts is simply more trouble than its worth.

BiteHunter wants to make it less troublesome by creating what CEO Gil Harel calls a “Kayak for restaurants.” Since March, the website has enabled users to search through daily deals from partner sites and discounts at restaurants. On Thursday, it launched an iPhone app that does the same thing based on a user’s current location.

The real-time location aspect and the comprehensiveness of the app both differentiate its capabilities from daily deal aggregators like Dealery and Monster Offers — at least as far as dining is concerned.

In addition to incorporating APIs from sites like Groupon and deals newsletters, BiteHunter also developed a technology that searches restaurants and bars’ social feeds for mentions of specials or other offers. It includes these offers in its search results.

Currently the startup is pulling in revenue by referring its users to daily deal sites and reservation sites like OpenTable. Eventually Harel says he hopes to create his own ad network for the website and app. The smartest aspect of the startup, which is currently operating on a round of seed funding, is that as the deals space gets more competitive its product gets more useful.

“The more players that are providing deals in real-time, the better it is for BiteHunter,” Harel says about the current deals trend. “…for us its just another great service to pull information from.”

Image courtesy of mmewuji.

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: Bitehunter, bizspark, daily deals, startup

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Why Top Brands Are Investing So Much Time In a Social Media Leaderboard

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 07:15 PM PDT

money image

Jesse Thomas is CEO and founder of creative agency JESS3. Follow him @jess3 and invest in (e)JESS3 here.

When I asked Duleepa Wijayawardhana (a.k.a. "Dups"), co-founder and CEO of the self-described “social media exchange" Empire Avenue (EA), if he wanted to be the next Gordon Gekko, he replied, "We want to be bigger than Gordon Gekko." He might just get there thanks to the growing trend of ranking a person's social media capital as well as thousands of new “investors.”

Massive brands like Intel, Audi, Microsoft, Ford Motor Company, Toyota and AT&T have also invested in EA and are quickly rising up EA's business leaderboard. The real-life success of a company seems to directly correspond with EA's scoring algorithm.

The Fortune 500 ranks public companies by the most after-tax revenue for the year, but how does EA determine its scoring? "We really look at the following: Activity (how much and what you do), audience (who’s listening) and engagement/interaction (how are people engaging you),” Dups said. “So if you can break down any network in that way, you can figure out what we listen to."

We spoke to some top brands and power users to figure out what all the fuss is about.


intel image

Why are so many brands deciding to invest their time in EA? "We saw a social property that was about to tip and a new opportunity to engage customers in non-traditional and unique ways," said Intel's global strategist, Bryan Rhoads. "The algorithms behind the game mechanics are impressive as well. It's not a simple popularity contest as it looks at your aggregate social equity and capital. Beyond engagement and investing back into the EA community, the scoring allows us to see our overall performance as a social brand."

Rhoads says that Intel’s investment in EA has expanded their larger social community, but feels that the biggest advantage to jumping into the new platform may have been internal. “We saw an opportunity, quickly ascertained any potential risks and started managing our account,” he said. “Far too often brands and firms get set in their ways, here was an opportunity to "lead by doing" … not hold 10 strategy meetings, but get out there, roll-up your sleeves and do some real-time engagement marketing … and have some fun along the way.”


audi image

The trend for brands on EA is to invest in community development, rather than selling stock and excelling at the gaming aspect of the social network. Instead of worrying about their EA network score, their primary goal is to establish new relationships and make their investors feel good about themselves. Audi's senior social media manager, Andrew White, adheres to these principles on EA., "Audi invests, Audi does not sell. We are on Empire Avenue to build relationships and get behind those who believe in our brand,” he said. “If we buy you, we will never sell."

Like Rhoads at Intel, White saw EA as a unique opportunity to connect with fans. “We saw it as a great opportunity to interact and engage with individuals who have interacted with Audi in the past, as well as discover new influentials throughout every industry and interest,” he said.

"Games are a proven vehicle for building good brand awareness and brand loyalty, as well," Dups said about brands using EA as a community-building tool. "Imagine having Audi buying some shares in you; that will likely make you feel pretty good … certainly about yourself, but about the brand too!"

Getting In Early

So if brands aren't necessarily going by their EA network score to judge their return on investment, how do they know if their time is well spent? Robert Scoble thinks it's too early to say whether brands will see a major return on their EA investment. "It’s something fun to play around with, but that’s all I’d be doing right now if I were a company," Scoble said. "That said, you could get a lot of PR by playing around with services in early stages of the game. Everyone remembers [the companies that were early to] blogging and Twitter. No one cares about the 3,000th one there."

Intel is seeing results from being an early adopter. "As one of the first Fortune 50 brands on EA, we got first-mover credit,” explained Rhoads. “People noticed we were participating and were able to interact directly through the game with a very active, pre-existing community. It's very satisfying to invest in that community and I think gratifying and perhaps surprising when a brand re-invests back in you. As far as results are concerned, it's hard to tell."

Individual power-user Chris Pirillo said he's seen positive results based on his time spent using EA: "I’ve definitely seen engagement pick up across the board, from my YouTube videos to my tweet stream to my Flickr account to my blogs and beyond."

While larger companies are always among first adopters for new social networking sites because they have more resources and staff, the true test will be if smaller companies will flock to EA as they have to Facebook and Twitter. Most companies will likely need harder evidence of return on investment in order to justify getting into the game.

ea image

Image courtesy of Flickr, Dave-F

More About: audi, empire avenue, intel, klout, social exchange, social measurement, social media, startups, trending

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Sunspots Suggest a Drop in Solar Activity

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 06:33 PM PDT

Results from three separate studies indicate that the sun could be less active in its next cycle. While the relationship between solar activity and climate is still a matter of scientific debate, some scientists say this could slow down the warming trend on Earth.

The results of the studies were announced on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s solar physics division.

“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory’s Solar Synoptic Network, told “But the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.”

All three studies suggest an upcoming period of less solar activity than the typical 11-year cycle of solar activity would suggest. One indicator was the number and frequency of sunspots, which are caused by intense magnetic forces. Others included the magnetic strength of those sunspots and patterns in a gas stream under the surface of the sun.

Scientists say the sun’s activity will peak in about 2013, reports MSNBC, but that the indicators from the studies point to an extended period of low activity after that.

The sun had a similar period, between 1645 and 1715, that coincided with lower temperatures on Earth. That period on Earth is known as “the Little Ice Age.”

But scientists are still debating whether there’s any link between solar activity and climate. (The Little Ice Age also coincided with a period of increased volcanic emissions that could have played a role.) According to MSNBC, there is little evidence so far to support that it does, and scientists don’t expect to see a large change in Earth’s climate even if the sun does go into semi-hibernation for a while.

Image courtesy of Flickr, nasacommons

More About: Science, space, sun

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Facebook Hires President Clinton’s Former Press Secretary

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 05:20 PM PDT

Facebook has announced that it has hired Joe Lockhart, President Bill Clinton’s former press secretary, as its new vice president of global communications.

“Joe’s arrival brings new skills and greater depth to our incredibly busy team,” Facebook VP of Global Communications, Marketing and Public Policy Elliot Schrage said in a statement to Mashable. “His experience building and running a press office at the White House gives him particular appreciation for the demands of a global 24-hour news cycle and the challenges of responding effectively to intense scrutiny.”

Lockhart served as the 22nd White House Press Secretary from August 1998 to September 2000. During that time, he defended President Clinton during the impeachment trials (the Lewinsky scandal was gaining steam when he ascended to the office) and was press secretary during the Elián González affair.

Lockhart will manage the company’s Corporate, Policy and International Communications teams, according to a Facebook spokesperson we talked to. He will officially start on July 15. While he currently lives in Washington, D.C., he will be moving to California “as soon as family commitments allow.”

Lockhart brings a lot of communications experience to the table beyond his time as Clinton’s press secretary. He was an EVP for Bozell Sawyer Miller and founded Glover Park Group, a strategic communications firm with a big roster of blue chip clientele, in 2001. He was previously a broadcast journalist for CNN, NBC News and other networks.

Facebook has been in need of some communications muscle ever since the departure of former director of corporate communications Brandee Barker. Barker, who was with the company for four years, left the company late last year to start her own consulting firm for early-stage companies. Facebook was reportedly in talks with former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs, but it looks like those talks fell apart.

We’ve dug up an April 2000 video of Lockhart, talking to the press about the Gonzalez affair. Let us know what you think of Facebook’s newest executive hire in the comments.

Image Credit: Doug Mills, Associated Press

More About: Bill Clinton, Brandee Barker, facebook, Joe Lockhart

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Pandora IPO Now Worth $2.6 Billion

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 04:32 PM PDT

One day before its highly-anticipated IPO, Pandora has upped its share price to $16 per share, valuing the company at $2.6 billion.

The price is well above its target price range of $10-$12, which itself was a 43% increase over its original $7-$9 target price. At $16 per share, Pandora will raise $234.9 million. The company will sell 14.7 million shares during its IPO, with the sale of an additional 2.2 million shares possible.

The rapid rise of Pandora’s IPO can be partially attributed to the market’s optimism for Internet companies. LinkedIn’s stellar IPO has paved the way for other Internet companies to shoot for higher valuations. Unlike LinkedIn though, Pandora is not yet profitable, losing $1.8 million on $137.8 million in revenue in 2010.

The Internet radio company has more than 90 million registered users and is adding “a new registered user every second on average,” according to its SEC filing.

More About: business, ipo, linkedin, pandora

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Want To Meet Justin Bieber? Try Building a School

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 03:49 PM PDT

You want to meet Justin Bieber? Well, you’re going to have to do some good first. The Canadian pop prince has teamed up with Pencils of Promise to launch Schools 4 All, a project to provide an education to some 75 million children across the world who don’t have access to it.

The site has set up a platform — much like Crowdrise — where anyone can set up a personal fundraising page to build a school in a developing country. Pencils of Promise enlisted the help of to build a custom platform. Users can customize their pages, add videos, create widgets and share updates through their social networks.

The goal was to reach a younger generation of digitally savvy users without making the process too complex — but having Justin Bieber as a prize doesn’t hurt either. The page that raises the most money will get to choose which school gets a visit from Bieber and Adam Braun, Pencils of Promise’s founder.

Having Bieber on board automatically meant a spike in participation from younger fans, the kind of people that can most relate to education issues. Schools 4 All is an example of kids helping kids and using celebrity in a smart way. Of course, anyone can start a fundraising page — parents, teachers, education enthusiasts, Bieber enthusiasts — but the demographic clearly skews young.

schools4all image

The homepage also does a great of tracking the overall progress of the project, which ends June 30. So far, Schools 4 All has raised more than $145,000, which will pay for about seven new schools to be built. A leaderboard shows which pages have raised the most money. And it isn’t a vicious fight between 13-year-olds — Pencils of Promise is encouraging participation from families, and even entire schools.

What do you think? Did Pencils of Promise and Schools 4 All get it right? Let us know in the comments.

More About: bieber, biebs, charity, education, justin bieber, non-profit, pencils of promise, schools, schools 4 all, social good, social media

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LinkedIn Users: You’ve Got Klout

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 03:12 PM PDT

Klout, the startup that measures the influence of social media users, is now factoring LinkedIn connections and activities into its overall scoring system.

Klout can now assess your ability to drive action on LinkedIn, as well as appraise who you’re influencing on the service and exactly how you’re influencing them.

Once you add LinkedIn from your Klout dashboard, your LinkedIn connections and activities are pooled with your Twitter and/or Facebook actions, and incorporated in your Klout score and score analysis.

“LinkedIn has been one of our biggest requests from users,” Klout CEO and co-founder Joe Fernandez says. “It’s clear that people put a huge value on their business connections and we are thrilled to be able to include activities and connections from LinkedIn in calculating the Klout score.”

And why might your Klout score matter? For starters, experimental brands and businesses are testing out programs that provide special perks to social network users with high Klout scores. Klout is also now working to identify topic experts. Plus, your Klout score can travel with you across the web — Twitter clients such as Seesmic show Klout scores attached to tweets — and affect how your status updates are perceived.

More About: influence, klout, linkedin, social media

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Apple Store Guru Leaves To Lead J.C. Penney

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 02:28 PM PDT

Ron Johnson, top retail executive for Apple, is leaving the company in order to fill the role vacated by Myron E. Ullman III, chief executive of J.C. Penney.

The New York Times reports that the switch will occur on November 1, at which time Johnson — who previously worked as vice president of merchandising for Target — will leave the company whose retail strategy he spearheaded.

Johnson joined the Apple team in 2000, and is credited with conceptualizing the way physical Apple Stores are run, the first of which opened in 2001. From the Genius Bar to mobile checkout, Johnson was the man behind the plan. Today, Apple has more than 300 such stores.

Though this is the second senior executive to leave Apple — Bertrand Serlet, the senior vice president of Mac Software Engineering, left in March — Barron’s reports that the move has not affected Apple’s shares.

The stock was up almost 2% today, which the publication attributes to the settlement that occurred between Apple and Nokia with regard to patent lawsuits.

Naturally, analysts are buzzing about what impact Johnson’s move will have on the company. No one seems to be making any dire proclamations, but many seem disappointed by Johnson’s departure.

Ben Reitzes from Barclays Capital told Barron’s: “Apple is still undergoing significant retail expansion plans, expecting to open 40 new stores this year (75% international). The key for Mr. Johnson's successor, in our opinion, is the ability to continue successfully opening stores in China which is still largely an untapped market for Apple.”

Do you think Apple will feel the absence of Johnson? Or will the system he set in place sustain itself?

Image courtesy of Apple

More About: apple, business, J.C.-Penney, ron-johnson

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HANDS ON: Google Desktop Voice Search Gets It Right 7 Times Out of 10 [VIDEO]

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 02:13 PM PDT

Google announced a host of new search features at its “Inside Search” event on Tuesday. On the desktop side, the company announced voice search for Google Chrome and a new search by image feature.

We decided to take the Google voice search for a test drive. As you can see in the video, Google’s voice search works quite well. It looks like the same engine that Google has used across mobile devices is integrated with the desktop.

Out of 22 attempted searches shown in our video, Google correctly recognized what we were saying 15 times. That puts its accuracy at about 68%. If you don’t count the number of do-overs, however, the accuracy is more in the range of 85%.

Google recognizes words, phrases and names, for the most part. However, the search engine does have issues with special characters, unusual names and URLs.

One nice feature — you can use the Google calculator feature with voice search.

What do you think of Google voice search? Let us know in the comments.

More About: chrome, demos, Google, google voice search, trending, voice, voice search

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Starbucks Mobile Payments Coming to Android & 1,000 Safeway Locations

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 01:35 PM PDT

Starbucks is extending its popular mobile payment system to Android device owners, and introducing the alternative payment option at 1,000 Starbucks locations inside Safeway supermarkets — Vons, Pavilions, Dominick's, Randalls, Tom Thumb and Genuardi's stores included — this coming July.

By July, the coffee retailer and crossover consumer packaged goods company will be accepting mobile payments at roughly 9,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S.

Starbucks for Android will be available exclusively on the Android Market beginning Wednesday, June 15. The application has been optimized specifically for Android, and offers device owners — running version 2.1 or above of the OS — the same pay-by-phone barcode-scanning experience as those on the iPhone or BlackBerry.

The application also allows the user to manage his Starbucks Card balance, reload his card, view his My Starbucks Rewards status and find nearby stores.

“With the addition of Starbucks for Android to the Starbucks app line-up, a Starbucks mobile payment app may now be used on approximately 90% of smartphones currently in use," said Adam Brotman, Starbucks’s vice president and general manager of digital ventures.

January marked the nationwide rollout of Starbucks’s mobile payment system. By the end of March — just nine weeks later — Starbucks told its shareholders that it had processed more than 3 million mobile payments via its Starbucks Card Mobile application for iPhone and BlackBerry.

“We we were the first to offer large scale mobile payments,” said Chuck Davidson, Starbucks category manager for innovation on the Starbucks Card team, during a press conference Tuesday. “And we’ve seen the demand for our applications grow.”

In addition, Davidson disclosed that he is often asked about the brand’s status on using NFC technology for its mobile payments system. “Quite frankly, we’re not willing to wait for the NFC system to mature in the United States,” he said. He anticipates that consumer adoption of NFC-enabled phones is still two to three years out.

Add Your Starbucks Card

Input your Starbucks Cards to pay with mobile.

Check Your Balance

The application displays your current Starbucks Card balance.

Pay With Android

Click "Touch to Pay" and you'll be presented with a barcode to scan at the register.

Reload Card

Reload your Starbucks Card with your credit card inside the Starbucks for Android application. Reloading via PayPal is not an option for Android users at this time.

My Starbucks Rewards Status

Here you can view your My Starbucks Rewards program status and watch as you accumulate stars for each purchase.

Find Nearby Stores

Use Starbucks for Android to locate nearby Starbucks stores.

More About: Android App, mobile payments, safeway, starbucks, starbucks card mobile, Starbucks for Android

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100+ Gadgets & Accessories to Make Your Soul-Crushing Office More Fun

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 01:07 PM PDT

Even if you’re lucky enough to enjoy your job, spending time in a boring office is the pits. Here at Mashable, we believe a fun workplace with stylish touches can make all the difference.

Over the last year or so, we’ve worked hard to bring you some lovely lists chock full of inspirational accessories for the office, and gadgets to help keep you amused between the hours of 9 and 5.

Have a look for ways to brighten up your workplace, and comment below to let us know what you’d like to see in our next list of office resources.


Don’t settle for anything less than best. Here we’ve gathered up resources that will point you in the right direction for the most stylish office kit around.


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We’re bringing you the light side of office life with some fun bits and bobs to help your day go that little bit quicker.

BBC Developing iPhone App for Live Broadcasting

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 12:34 PM PDT

The BBC is developing an app that will enable reporters to upload images, audio and video directly to the BBC’s servers from an iPhone or iPad.

Reporters can even use the app to broadcast live from their devices over 3G, reports. It should be available to BBC staffers in a month or so.

The app is being built on top of Luci‘s existing software for recording and broadcasting multimedia content on the iPhone, allowing the BBC to keep development costs low, says Martin Turner, head of operations for newsgathering. Once completed, journalists will then be able to set up live, on-location broadcasts without satellite or codex equipment.

Several large broadcast networks in the U.S., including CBS and CNN, have launched iPhone apps that enable citizen journalists to record and submit multimedia content, some of which has been incorporated into on-air broadcasts. We’ve often found the iPhone’s video-recording capabilities invaluable for on-the-spot interviews at Mashable.

To our knowledge, however, the BBC is the first major broadcaster to utilize the device for live broadcasts for its journalists. Given that its reporters are more likely to have their iPhones on hand than a trunk full of broadcasting equipment at any given moment, we expect the app will prove fruitful for the organization.

We have reached out to the BBC for additional details and will update this post accordingly.

For iPad users looking for access to BBC content outside the UK, the corporation’s iPlayer app will be rolling out in the next few months.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Binary Ape

More About: bbc, iphone app, journalism, media

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How Cities Are Using Web Video To Take Control of Their Public Image

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 12:06 PM PDT

Andy Meek is a senior business reporter for The Memphis Daily News, a city in which businesses like FedEx and AutoZone have ensured a hotbed of entrepreneurship. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyMeekTN.

The stakes are high for maintaining a city’s positive image. Bad perceptions can lead to lost economic development potential, and can be hard to reverse once they take hold.

But if your town’s image is in question, you no longer have to write an op-ed in the local paper. Instead, try what the city of Grand Rapids, MI did — pick up a video camera.

Community-Powered Video

In response to an article posted on Newsweek's website in January that put Grand Rapids into the number 10 spot on a list of America's Top 10 “Dying Cities,” several thousand Grand Rapids residents gathered downtown to sing. The throng filmed itself in what became a nearly 10-minute long, one-take "lip dub" of Don McLean's "American Pie." The project's director, Rob Bliss, used sponsorships and donations to fund the project's $40,000 expense.

In doing so, they stuffed a slew of Americana into what Roger Ebert later described as "the greatest music video ever made." Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, "I (heart) this video so much. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy."

"What’s so powerful about the Grand Rapids video is that, in less than 10 minutes, you get a slice of life and a flavor of the city that leaves a lasting impression," says Glen Gilmore, the former mayor of Hamilton, New Jersey, one of the state's largest cities. He’s also followed by 100,000 people on Twitter. Gilmore observes, "As you watch it, you say to yourself, ‘These look like great people. They’d make great neighbors. I’d like to live there.'"

A Digital Roadmap

However, a city doesn't need to create a massive and expensively choreographed production to tell its own compelling story. Others are using YouTube channels to promote the ordinary slices of life that make their cities unique.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg recently unveiled a plan drafted by the city's chief digital officer, Rachel Sterne. Dubbed NYC's "Roadmap for the Digital City,” the plan hopes to manage the city's digital presence across a myriad of social media platforms.

On NYC's Economic Development YouTube channel, for example, city council members communicate planning and development within New York City.

In the following video, a local New Yorker talks about why she enjoys shopping at the Essex Street Market.

Telling Your Story

The Denver Chamber of Commerce recently created the above video that follows $10 through the local business cycle. It includes graphics that show the money's impact on area jobs, publicly funded services and more.

This year the Greater Memphis Chamber won an honorable mention for the below video, “The Fatted Calf,” as part of the TED inaugural Ads Worth Spreading challenge. It’s one of a series of videos that comprise The Soundtrack Project, a multimedia storytelling vehicle the chamber created in order to give voice to Memphis businesses.

The Memphis Symphony Orchestra created original music as the project's soundtrack.

Just as media and entertainment have evolved in the social media era, so too are civic organizations able to participate with the right vision and a few inexpensive tools. How does your city or town present itself on the social web? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

More About: -local, business, cities, civics, economy, social media, video, youtube

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Consmr Aims To Be the Yelp for Supermarket Goods

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 11:50 AM PDT

A new site is hoping to become the Yelp or Rotten Tomatoes of supermarket products.

Consmr, which launched Tuesday, ranks consumer-packaged goods based on reviews from consumers, bloggers and a couple of editorial publications. Ryan Charles, the founder of Consmr — who previously served as head of mobile, interactive products and marketing at Zagat — says although there's no mobile Consmr app yet, he envisions consumers accessing the information in-store to make informed purchases.

A recent survey by consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail supports his vision. The report found that one-fifth of consumers research food and beverage purchases, nearly one-third research pet products and 39% look up information on baby products.

Charles has added a gamification layer in an attempt to make sure the page is loaded with information. The site offers Foursquare-like badges (called “Pieces of Flair” as seen in the movie Office Space) for amassing followers and submitting reviews.

The badges are also a form of advertising. Consumers who review or try certain products will get branded badges when they check in. The checkins appear on their Facebook and Twitter feeds. The site currently has two advertisers: Greek yogurt brand Chobani and beverage brand AriZona.

In addition, some reviewers like Dubba — who writes the ice cream blog On Second Scoop — are already known in the blogosphere. The site also includes product reviews from Rodale publications Men's Health and Women's Health.

Charles acknowledges that sites like Amazon also have some reviews of CPG products, but he says he feels in general the market is underserved. "The issue with consumer packaged goods is there's some information online, but it's fragmented," Charles says. "They'll have reviews of Fage, but none for Chobani. This is a way of tackling this."

More About: Consmr, CPG, rotten tomatoes, yelp, zagat

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Pandora IPO Set for Wednesday

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 11:36 AM PDT

In the first test of investors' appetite for high-profile IPOs since LinkedIn's successful public offering last month, Pandora is expected to begin trading Wednesday.

Pandora is offering 14.7 million shares for $10 to $12 per share. The company increased the size of its IPO last week by 43%.

Unlike LinkedIn, though, Pandora is not profitable. The company lost $1.8 million in fiscal 2010 on revenues of $137.8 million and stated in a recent SEC filing, "We expect to incur operating losses on an annual basis through at least fiscal 2012." Pandora has 34 million active users. Advertising generates 90% of the company's sales.

Pandora's public offering is expected to be followed by IPOs for Groupon and Zynga. Groupon has filed its preliminary paperwork for such an offering. Zynga is reportedly close to filing.

[via Bloomberg]

More About: groupon, ipo, linkedin, pandora, trending, Zynga

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UK Ministry of Defense Warns Troops Against Careless Talk on Social Media [VIDEO]

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 11:21 AM PDT

The UK Ministry of Defense has posted two YouTube videos to warn its servicemen and women about the dangers of sharing too much information on social media sites.

In one video, a mother posts a seemingly innocuous update about a “VVIP visit” to her son’s operating base. In the next scene, she serves tea to a figure in a balaclava. “It’s not just your friends and family reading your status updates,” the video’s text warns.

The other video follows two women documenting their nights out on Foursquare and Twitter. Again the balaclava-clad figure appears — this time dancing with the girls in a club. The text on screen asks, “Is it just your mates who know where you’ve checked in?”

A Ministry of Defense website dedicated to personal security online features the former video. An introduction encourages people to be wary that unsavory characters might be looking to use their information maliciously. “These range from criminals looking for ways to con you or steal your identity, to those who may wish us harm,” the post says. “While it is unlikely that you'll fall victim, you should be aware of the risk.”

Resources on the same site explain what information is revealed by posting on specific sites and how to to set security options.

Over-sharing personal information on social media sites is a potential risk to anyone’s safety, and we’re not surprised that the UK MoD’s efforts remind Telegraph writer Tom Chivers of the World War II propaganda that cautioned personnel and their families against casually mentioning sensitive information.

“Careless talk costs lives,” was the key slogan in Britain, Chivers notes.

More About: safety, uk, youtube

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5 Mobile Apps Trying To Do Some Social Good [VIDEOS]

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 11:02 AM PDT

mobile good image

A recent contest challenged developers to create apps for low-income Americans to help them get educated, find jobs, get healthy, manage their finances and so on. The contest, called Applications for Good, was organized by One Economy and AT&T to get devs inspired to do some social good.

A panel of judges narrowed the entries to five winners. You can watch the winning videos below. They feature apps for immigrants to send money to their home countries, find healthy food, get the most value from food stamps, facilitate conversations between teachers and students over social media, and manage an Individual Development Account.

Applications for Good gave cash prizes totaling $50,000, but the real goal was to motivate the developer community to start thinking about social good not just as pro-bono work but as a potential market.

One Economy, a non-profit that connects underserved communities with technology, has offered to continue assisting some of the app developers — even those who did not win — by helping them field test or connecting them to partners.

A common complaint about the smartphone market is its relatively low penetration when compared to “dumbphones,” which is why some of the winners use SMS or features that don’t require an iPhone.


The Grand Prize Winner and People's Choice Winner, it helps immigrants send money to their home countries.


MobileSaver helps people manage an Individual Development Account.


TalkChalk enables safe communication between teachers, students and parents over Facebook, email and SMS.

Nutrition Mission

Nutrition Mission uses gamification to connect users to healthier food options.

All Income Foods from Arthur Grau on Vimeo.

More About: applications for good, att, charity, contest, non-profit, one economy, social good, video

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Google Launches Mobile Icons, Image & Voice Search on Desktop [VIDEO]

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 10:34 AM PDT

Google announced a revamp of its mobile search interface, allowing easy access to restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the vicinity of your phone — in effect, cutting further into Yelp’s local search business.

At an event called “Inside Search” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the search giant launched a slew of new features for its mobile and desktop search products.

The mobile version of Google search gets those icons, instantly accessible at the bottom of the search screen. It also gets a new translate feature for Google Goggles, allowing you to point your phone at text in Russian and getting an instant text translation. Both features are launching today.

The desktop version will be rolling out a couple of new features — voice search and drag-and-drop image search. You will be able to click on a microphone icon next to the search bar and speak your query. You will also be able to pull an image into the search bar, and Google will give you its best guess for what that image represents. These features will be rolling out to users over the next week.

Finally, Google Fellow Amit Singhal, who leads Google's search algorithm and ranking team, announced a new version of Google Instant, called Instant Pages.

With this feature enabled, the top results come pre-loaded, allowing for near-instant page display and shaving vital seconds off the average search. “Speed is still the killer app,” said Singhal. Instant Pages will be rolling out in the Chrome browser only, over the next few weeks.

We’ll be bringing you hands-on looks at all the new Google features, so check back during the day.

More About: Google, Search, search engine

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The Roxy Theatre Lets Patrons Control Its Playlist

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 10:18 AM PDT

You know that music that plays between bands at shows? You know how it’s always kind of random and terrible? Well, what if you had the power to strike “Love Shack” and the like from a venue’s playlist? The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood is now giving its patrons that power.

Thanks to the iOS app Play My Song [iTunes link], patrons of the Roxy can control what songs are played between acts and share those songs via their social networks.

Play My Song is pretty easy to use for venues. All they have to do is download the app, create a location, select which songs patrons can play (via the iOS device’s library) and connect the device to the venue’s sound system. Venues can also choose how often users can play songs, and if the venues choose to pay for the premium subscription, they can have even more control over what music concert-goers can play.

Those concert-goers only need to download the app to control the playlist while at the site.

Other venues are already using the app, but the Roxy is definitely a prestigious addition to the Play My Song base. It’s also the first venue in California to adopt the service.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Adrian F

More About: iOS, iphone, iPod Touch, Mobile 2.0, music, playmysong, roxy-theatre

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HOW TO: Optimize Marketing Copy For Mobile

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 10:00 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".

When writing copy for any medium, it’s easy to drown in a sea of lead-ins, clever anecdotes and introductory sentences. There’s hardly time for that on the web. Marketers don’t have the luxury of leading up to anything. The only option is to be direct.

Website visitors typically won’t read big blocks of copy — they want to get in and out and move on to the next site. Think of copywriting for mobile as distilling down web copy even further. If web copy is skimming the cream off the top of the milk, mobile copy is skimming cream off of the cream.

What Makes Mobile Unique?

Users on the web are notoriously distracted and hop around from page to page. Mobile users are distracted even further. Their devices are buzzing with push notifications from their apps, text messages and emails are constantly popping up on the screen. They might be standing in line at a grocery store, waiting for a movie to start, in a taxi, in an elevator or walking down the street. These scenarios — and mobile use in general — are defined by three key factors:

  • 1. Pockets of Use. Picking up their mobile device is a secondary task. They’re just trying to fill up a pocket of time while doing something else. Users have just a few moments to check their phone or look up a piece of information while they’re completing a primary task (waiting in line, elevator, etc.).
  • 2. Perpetual and Inherent Distraction. Traditional web users may face distraction from email, chat and the infinite number of other webpages they could be on, but when those users land on a page, they typically stick around until they become bored or want to check out some other piece of information on the web. Mobile users, on the other hand, face perpetual off-device distractions — use of their mobile device is secondary. Byrne Hobart, founder of investment research firm Digital Due Diligence, observes that mobile marketers are “writing for an audience that’s in the middle of something else.” They might be waiting for their subway stop, their floor on an elevator, their line to be called at Whole Foods, a friend to show up at a restaurant. Point is, the number of off-device distractions for mobile users is limitless.
  • 3. The (Very) Small Screen. Mobile devices have tiny screens — they simply do not fit a lot of content. It’s critical that marketers keep this in mind as they write copy. What will fit onto a user’s screen without scrolling?

Mobile Is How We Live and Communicate

When creating mobile content, keep in mind what it represents. For many users, their phone is the headquarters of their lifestyle. It’s a connection to friends, family and coworkers. It’s a locker for nostalgic photos and texts from last night that probably should be deleted. Users personalize the background, download apps that fit their needs and look up information on the go. For many users, their phone is the first thing they see when they wake up and the last thing they see when they go to bed. It’s by their side 24/7, and it’s their connection to the world.

Marketers — and everyone else — should keep this in mind as they create content for mobile. Here are some things to consider when writing for mobile.

Be Goal-Oriented

The Hyperfactory‘s Joanne Eberhardt notes that the best mobile content “cuts copy to a minimum and only spews the necessities — necessities being what your target should see during those fateful two seconds that determine a click/tap.”

Hobart suggests that content be laser-focused on a specific task. “People are less inclined to meander on mobile apps and web — they’d rather meander in the physical world, given the choice.” Create content focused around your goals and avoid going on tangents — mobile users simply don’t have time or interest.

Use Strong Headlines: Think Like You’re Tweeting

When I reached out to the Grand Hotel group’s head of digital, Steven Rojas, he insisted that this interview be conducted over SMS to ensure the conversation was mobile-content-friendly. Rojas manages a number of Twitter accounts, so I asked him to share his secret for perfect mobile content. It’s easy he says, “Make it quick. Make it smart. Make it witty. And above all make it retweetable!”

Even if you’re not writing a tweet, think about the word “retweetable.” Really, what Rojas is eluding to is that the best mobile content is tweet-worthy, even if it’s not being written for Twitter. Mobile copy should be very much to the point while sacrificing as little power as possible. Get an idea across quickly. To do this, content will have to be quick and clear so that users get the point right away, but with just enough mystery and intrigue to encourage them to continue reading and to also share the content with others.

Screen Sizes Vary Among Mobile Devices

When writing copy for the web, space on the page allows for visual cues that can draw the readers’ eye towards the marketer’s objectives. Anna Lindow, director of marketing strategy at personal finance startup Bundle, points out that “when it comes to mobile, copywriters have to place extra consideration on being extremely direct, clear and succinct, because presentation options will likely be limited or even inconsistent across devices and platforms.”

Sam Altman, CEO of Loopt, has spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to create a mobile experience. Altman stresses that “it’s important to get your brain to think within the confines of a small, mobile screen and avoid the tendency to think big and then just shrink it.” The “shrink it” mentality just creates more cycles and more iterations. “If you switch your thought process, you’re more likely to get it right the first time,” Altman explains.

Frontload Your Content

Most of the time, people are only going to read headlines or the the first couple lines of marketing content. Therefore, it’s important to put the most important content up front. Don’t hold back and don’t rely on leading up to something big. Put the big reveal up front!

Think about how readers will browse the content. Try to avoid requiring too much clicking, but you also don’t want long pages that require a lot of scrolling. The way to do this is to be concise and efficient with your words — minimize the number of pages that readers have to click through. Try to keep content on a single page, if possible. But don’t cram so much onto a page that the site takes a long time to load — users will give up if they have to wait too long.

Test Your Content to See What Performs Better

Eberhardt encourages clients to experiment and find a balance between information and space. “It’s a continuously evolving industry with technology and trends, and you cannot be afraid to make waves,” she says. Marketers and clients too afraid of turning away possible clicks or downloads sometimes end up creating extremely safe and dull material.

One way to find out what works is to test two versions of your copy. Use tools like Google Website Optimizer to try out two (or more) versions of your content. A/B testing tools allow marketers to pit two versions of the same content against each other. The software splits users into multiple groups, showing different versions of the content to each one, and then automatically selects and implements the content that results in the most conversions, whether that be click-through rate, time on site, etc.

You should also use humans to test the content, as humans will be reading it. Nearly all mobile content is created on desktop computers with big screens, desktop browsers and a mouse. You should have a few people play around with the site on a real mobile device — not simulators — to provide feedback on usability and readability.

Copywriting for Apps

Generally, content for apps should follow the same rules as any other copy for mobile, but there’s a bit more to take into account. When it comes to apps, usage will be a bit more deliberate than the general web. While users on the web could be looking for anything, app users tend to be a bit more focused. They are actively opening an app, so bigger imagery and more text might be appropriate, especially because it’s built into an app and thus won’t have to load over often-shaky mobile connections.


Creating content for mobile isn’t the same as creating content for the desktop web. Acknowledging and embracing that fact is key to successful copywriting for mobile. Think about the limitations of small screens, constant distractions and low-quality mobile web connections. And don’t forget to try your content out on real humans using real mobile devices. Readers on the go want bite-sized information that will serve them in that very moment. Give them what they want.

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 Mobile Resources from Mashable:

- 4 Free Apps For Discovering Great Content On the Go
- HOW TO: Optimize Marketing Materials for Mobile Devices
- Mobile Development: 5 Tips for Small Businesses
- The 3 Most Effective Approaches to In-App Advertising
- 5 Reasons You’re Consuming More Mobile Content

More About: business, content, copywriting, MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, Mobile Content Series, mobile development, mobile web, small business, Web Development

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HOW TO: Get Started With the COMPASS CSS Framework

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 09:28 AM PDT

compass image

Anybody who’s built a website of any size knows how quickly CSS can get out of hand. Style sheets can grow bloated and lengthy, making it difficult to find things, introducing redundancy and producing an end product that makes code maintenance tedious. Let’s face it — CSS is not very well-designed.

Over the years, a number of solutions have cropped up that attempt to deal with these problems. One of the most popular is the CSS framework, COMPASS.

Below, we’ll give you a quick introduction to how COMPASS works, and some tips on how to make it work for you.

What is COMPASS?

COMPASS is an open source CSS authoring framework written in Ruby that attempts to fix a lot of the shortcomings of CSS. It also streamlines development by providing a number of utilities and tools to make writing your CSS files easier and faster.

Those features include:

  • Support for variables and mixins.
  • SASS-style nesting of CSS rules.
  • Helper functions for images, fonts, colors and more, including mathematical calculations.
  • Flexible tools for ensuring cross-browser compatibility and graceful fallback states.
  • Integration of a Blueprint module, including several default styles for rapid prototyping and styling commonly used elements.

With all that and dozens more tidbits to offer, COMPASS provides a robust authoring environment for CSS creation that automatically monitors your code as you write it, compiling it down to pure CSS for use on your site. So while the COMPASS gem is needed for authoring, your website needs no special software or libraries to display CSS written in COMPASS.

How Does COMPASS Work?

Now that we’ve gone over what COMPASS is and discussed a few of its features, let’s take a look at some of them in action. In this, we’ll use a few variables and a custom mixin, as well as an image helper and nesting to show how COMPASS makes it easy to reuse content throughout your CSS files.

$dark-accent:   #333; $light-accent:  #eee;  @mixin default_fonts {     font-family:    helvetica;     font-size:      10pt;     color:          $dark-accent; }  #info_box {     width:      400px;     height:     300px;     padding:    10pt;     border:     1px solid $dark-accent;     background: $light-accent;     @include    default_fonts;      input[type=button] {         background:  image-url('button.png') top left repeat-x;         color:       #fff;         font-weight: bold;         border:      none;     } }

Here you see that we’ve set up a couple of variables (dark and light accent) which we use in the mixin, in addition to the CSS rules for our info box.

Next, the mixin itself contains the rules for our default fonts. After that comes an example of how nesting works. The rules for our input button, in this example, only apply to those found within the info box.

Finally, the image URL helper here is used to generate the output for the background image, so we don’t have to type the full image path each time (path information is defined in a small config file that sits in the root directory of your project).

Now let’s take a look at the COMPASS-compiled output:

/* line 10, ../sass/demo.scss */ #info_box {   width: 400px;   height: 300px;   padding: 10pt;   border: 1px solid #333333;   background: #eeeeee;   font-family: helvetica;   font-size: 10pt;   color: #333333; } /* line 18, ../sass/demo.scss */ #info_box input[type=button] {   background: url('/images/button.png') top left repeat-x;   color: #fff;   font-weight: bold;   border: none; }

As you can see, the mixins become included, variables substituted, image URLs generated, and inheritance is determined via the nesting. When generating the CSS, COMPASS also includes comments that clearly show us where each element is defined in its corresponding CSS file. If there’s an error at the time of generation, COMPASS will drop a helpful stack trace right into the CSS file where the error occurs.

At first glance, the original COMPASS code may look more verbose than the generated CSS output, but when you consider that those variables and mixins can be used throughout your entire project, you begin to see the advantages. COMPASS all but eliminates the need for adding presentational classes (e.g. “align-right” or “big-text”) without making you constantly repeat yourself. In addition, it’s feasible to completely change a color scheme for an entire project simply by updating a few variables and perhaps changing an image path or two.

This is only a small example of the power and flexibility COMPASS offers, but you can begin to see its amazing potential.

Where to Go From Here

If you’d like to learn more about COMPASS, you can check them out at The documentation is particularly well done.

Keep in mind that COMPASS uses SASS and Blueprint, so you may want to read up on those as well.

You’ll also need a working installation of Ruby and RubyGems to install and use COMPASS.

Finally, we recommend taking a look at the Setup & Install Guide on the COMPASS website.

More About: coding, compass, CSS, dev & design, framework, web design, Web Development

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Facebook Collaborates With Social Browser RockMelt

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 08:40 AM PDT

Facebook has collaborated with RockMelt on a new version of the socially savvy web browser.

The browser, which is available for download Tuesday, includes more customizable Facebook chat integration and a built-in manager for friend requests, messages and notifications.

Facebook has also made a slight change to its site. When RockMelt users are on, friend requests, messages, notifications and chats will show up directly in RockMelt instead of on Facebook itself. When a user initiates a Facebook chat while on, it will open a RockMelt chat window.

"We give people a way to share and communicate with their friends wherever they are," Eric Vishria, RockMelt’s co-founder and CEO, told The New York Times. "Over time, you will see a lot of product innovation come out of the partnership with Facebook."

But product innovation, the Times points out, is not what RockMelt needs the most. The browser has only a minuscule percentage of marketshare. Could the world’s largest social network help with that?

Ethan Beard, director of platform partnerships for Facebook, said there are no plans for helping RockMelt’s distribution.

“We’re committed to working with startups like RockMelt that are transforming their industries by designing products to be social from day one,” he said in a statement.

More About: browser, facebook, RockMelt

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LulzSec: We Hacked the U.S. Senate

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 08:21 AM PDT

Hacker group LulzSec, which recently claimed responsibility for high-profile attacks against Sony and Nintendo, says it successfully attacked the U.S. Senate's website over the weekend.

The group has posted a sampling of the data from files on its website, adding that members decided to attack because they “don’t like the U.S. government much” and “their sites aren’t very secure.”

Martina Bradford, the deputy Senate sergeant at arms, claims that the group did not access any private information. “The server they got into is for public access and is in the public side,” she said. The firewall protecting more sensitive parts of the network had not been breached, she added.

Bethesda Softworks, PBS and Fox have also been recent targets of LulzSec attacks.

[via International Business Times]

Image courtesy of Flickr, gregw66

More About: lulzsec, us senate

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Samsung’s Droid Charge Delivers on the Promise of 4G LTE

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 08:00 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: Droid Charge by Samsung

Price: $299 with a 2-year Verizon contract, $569 without.

What It’s Good For: Surfing the web, making phone calls, listening to music, taking photos and playing games.

Who It’s Good For: Verizon users who want a robust, lightweight phone that delivers screaming 4G LTE speeds.

Limitations: The battery life is disappointing — definitely don’t leave home without a charger. Plus, the device is expensive, especially for a single-core smartphone.

Bottom Line: The Droid Charge might not be the best specced phone on the market, but paired with Verizon’s 4G LTE network, it has some of the best data speeds we’ve seen. This is another contender in a growing cadre of great Android handsets.

A Closer Look at the Droid Charge by Samsung

The Droid Charge is Verizon’s second 4G LTE handset, following the similarly specced HTC Thunderbolt. The phone ships with Android 2.2 Froyo and includes Adobe Flash Player 10.3.

It features a 1GHz processor, 32GB of storage space (microSD) and a 4.3″ AMOLED Plus display. The rear camera is 8 megapixels and records video in 720p, and the front camera is 1.3 megapixels. The phone is thin and weighs about five ounces.

As more dual-core smartphones start to enter the market, we can’t help but wish the Droid Charge took advantage of those faster chipsets, a la the Galaxy S II. Still, even running Froyo and at 1GHz, the Droid Charge was speedy and responsive in our tests.

Samsung TouchWiz UI isn’t going to be for everyone, but we didn’t mind the alterations it made to the stock Android interface. The Samsung widgets didn’t do much for us, but a few of the Verizon-specific widgets, including a bandwidth monitor, were quite handy.

When it comes to the Droid Charge, the real story is about the network. We tested the device all over New York City and were impressed to find we had access to 4G LTE speeds more often than not. 4G LTE trounces everyone else in the bandwidth game, and in our speed tests, we frequently got speeds that exceeded not only our office broadband Internet, but even our home connections.

The speed is so good, our only fear was exceeding bandwidth limitations on the device. Our test plan included unlimited data but we blew through 3GB of bandwidth in just a few days of hardcore testing. When the speeds are that fast — consistently in the 15 Mbps range — it’s easy to use a lot of data.

The Droid Charge comes with a built-in hotspot feature that lets users share the 4G LTE data connection with up to 10 other devices. Users can set-up a USB, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. The hotspot setup process was a snap and we were quickly able to share data with our laptop, iPad and other devices. Tethering with a cell phone is often a subpar Internet experience, but Verizon’s network was so fast, it was no different than using any other Wi-Fi connection.

Of course, the price of all that speed is in battery life. The Droid Charge consistently died on us around the 6 hour mark, and even when in standby mode, the device just eats battery power. My year-old iPhone 4 (which needs a new battery) consistently outlasted the Droid Charge, even when the Charge wasn’t in use and the iPhone was.

The camera — both video and still — aren’t anything spectacular, but it does take serviceable photos and video.

At the end of the day, the Droid Charge isn’t really about the phone specs or features, it’s about the network and the data speeds. On that front, the phone bests the competition. If you’re looking for a phone that can double as a 4G LTE MiFi, look no further.


The Droid Charge uses Samsung's TouchWiz UI. While we're partial to stock Android, we don't have a problem with the Samsung interface at all. It's clean and easy to navigate.

LTE vs. Wi-Fi

On the left, a speed test using our cable Internet connection. On the right, Verizon's 4G LTE network.

As you can see, LTE absolutely trounces Cablevision's 30Mbps Internet package. This particular speed test was an anomaly; we rarely saw speeds this fast, but it shows the power of the network.

LTE Speed Test History

This screenshot shows a history of various speed tests we took at different points in time. With one exception, the LTE speed tests always exceeded 10Mbps.

In comparison, 3G speeds using the same Verizon network never got above 2Mbps.

Camera Test

The 8 megapixel rear camera on the device is serviceable, if not overly impressive.

The Samsung software allows for extended options like scene modes and white balance settings, but every shot we took had an aquamarine hue.

Droid Charge Front

The Droid Charge at an angle. The 4.3" AMOLED Plus screen is a joy to use indoors and out.

Droid Charge Rear

The back of the device is non-descript. The placement of the camera is dead-center, so watch your fingers when taking photos or video.

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: android, Droid Charge, Gadget of the Day Series, mobile phones, samsung, verizon

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Google Invests $280 Million in Solar Energy

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 07:42 AM PDT

Google is investing $280 million to create a fund that will allow SolarCity — a company that helps homeowners and businesses starting to use solar energy as a power source — to finance more solar installations across the U.S.

In SolarCity‘s model of financing, homeowners and businesses lease the costs of the installation and maintenance of the system. By being able to prepay a certain amount and thus decrease the monthly payment rate, they can set up their lease rate to be less than their standard energy bills. To make it even easier for customers to make the switch to solar power, SolarCity also makes guarantees for the maintenance, warranty and the power output of the panels.

This is Google’s largest investment in renewable energy projects so far, but the company’s total investments in this sector are more than $680 million. In April 2011 Google invested $168 million in a Mojave Desert solar energy plant, and later that month, the company bought 20 years worth of wind energy to power one of its data centers in Oklahoma.

Check out a video describing the initiative below.

More About: Google, solar energy, SolarCity

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USA Network’s Covert Affairs Launches Alternative Plotline on Twitter

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 07:21 AM PDT

The USA Network show Covert Affairs has launched a new plotline that takes place in Budapest — but don't look for it on TV. It’s only happening on Twitter.

A "Tweetcast" of the plot began Monday, a week after the show's second season began. The mission in Hungary was developed by the program's writers and will include videos, audio streams, photos and classified documents. Fans can also influence the plot by jumping into the conversation. A resolution to the plot will run during the show's July 12 episode.

The effort was partially inspired by Christopher Gorham, who plays the blind Auggie lead character on the show and has an active Twitter following. As Gorham explained to Entertainment Weekly, the idea of CIA operatives disclosing their every move on Twitter requires some suspension of disbelief. Gorham says, "It's not the regular Twitter. … When you're following the Tweetcast, you're becoming a CIA officer and it's an interoffice Twitter."

More About: Covert Affairs, twitter, usa network

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