Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “7 Innovative Ways the iPad Is Used in Retail”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “7 Innovative Ways the iPad Is Used in Retail”

7 Innovative Ways the iPad Is Used in Retail

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 04:48 AM PDT

ipad image

Sandeep Bhanote is CEO of Global Bay Mobile Technologies, a provider of next generation mobile retail software to top retailers including Guess Jeans, True Religion, City Sports and many others. For more information, visit or follow @GlobalBay on Twitter.

In a commercial environment dominated by online and mobile shopping, it's only fitting that the iPad is leading a brick and mortar renaissance to recreate in-store excitement. Across the industry, everyone from retailers to restaurateurs have devised new ways to create brand loyalty, generate sales and enrich customer experiences.

It’s too early in the game to measure concrete ROI and bottom line effectiveness that the iPad has generated for retailers. While iPad retail integration is still in its formative stages, here are seven businesses at the forefront of the iPad retail wave that have leveraged the device in unique, innovative ways.

1. Customization Kiosks

When you see an electronic kiosk in a store, how often do you actually want to get your hands on it? Probably rarely. Traditional kiosks are usually slow and bulky. Things Remembered, a personalized gift store, has ushered in a new era of the self-service "kiosk."

Things Remembered is one of the first retailers to allow customers to design their own gifts on in-store iPads. The once paper-based process has been streamlined through the iPad, offering self-designed engraving and adding some excitement to the shopper's experience.

2. Pre-Flight Entertainment

The Delta terminal at JFK airport may be the exception to the normal headache of air travel. The airline installed almost 140 iPads at its gates, so passengers can order food and drink or simply peruse digital entertainment.

Delta's iPads have no time restrictions or ordering minimums, allowing passengers to happily pass time waiting in the terminal. As Delta travelers order Caesar salads or swipe through the People magazine app, the customers' iPad-driven satisfaction is easy to see.

3. Restaurants 2.0

New York City's 4food has aptly integrated the iPad into the restaurant dining experience. 4food's customers select from iPad-hosted menus and customize their orders via the devices right at their tables.

4food is just one of several iPad-embracing restaurants popping up across the country and we certainly hope to see more of this tasty technology integration.

4. Creating Local Connections

Sports retailer City Sports joined the iPad bandwagon by weaving the device into the fabric of its Washington, D.C. concept store. In addition to accessing product information, City Sports' iPad kiosks allow customers to connect to specific local content such as running clubs and area events.

5. Complete Collections

J.C. Penney, one of the oldest department stores in the world, is proving it can stay relevant by using iPads as part of its "findmore" experience. Sales associates in 50 J.C. Penney fine jewelry departments can now showcase the company's full offerings of bridal jewelry, rather than just what's available in any given location.

6. Digital Designing

Puma is using iPads to allow its customers to design their own sneakers right from its stores. The in-store iPad station, dubbed The Creative Factory, connects Puma wearers around the globe through an app for comparing sneaker designs and learning about the lives of the shoes' creators. Stations can be found in Europe, Asia and Africa but are not yet available in the U.S.

7. Personal Concierge

Among the state-of-the-art amenities at the just-opened Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel is an iPad embedded at the hotel registration counter. During the registration process, guests can virtually explore the hotel's facilities, restaurants, music venues and bars. The iPad is simultaneously a marketing tool for the property and an impromptu day planner for its guest.

Image courtesy of Flickr, tyle_r

More About: business, Gadget, iOS, ipad, iPad 2, List, Lists, MARKETING, retail, tech, technology

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Angry Birds Now Available for Windows Phone

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 02:55 AM PDT

Owners of Windows Phone 7 devices, rejoice: the time to crush those dastardly pigs with angry, feathered projectiles is nigh!

Yes, Angry Birds is now available for WP7, and it goes for $2.99.

The megapopular game has been spreading to a variety of platforms like wildfire in the past year, including Windows, Facebook and even Roku, so it was definitely time to see it on Windows Phone 7 as well.

You can get it here, and if you’re not ready to spend the money right now, don’t worry, a free trial is also available.

More About: angry birds, microsoft, Mobile 2.0, mobile platform, smartphone, windows phone, windows phone 7, wp7

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Google Takeout Lets You Liberate Your Data From Google

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 01:42 AM PDT

The Data Liberation Front – a team of engineers at Google tasked with making it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products – has announced their first service, Google Takeout.

Despite the weird team name, this is just another Google service, into which you log in with your Gmail username and password. It lets you easily take your data out of several Google products; currently supported products are Buzz, Contacts and Circles, Picasa Web Albums, Profile and Stream, but Google promises support for more services and products later on.

Once you recover your data, you’ll be able to save it in open, portable formats, so you should be able to import it to other services easily.

We’ve tried out the service, and it’s really straightforward: you can either recover all your data at once, or choose individual services. Google will automatically calculate the estimated size and the number of files in the package, which will show up under the Downloads tab. You might need to enter your password once again before downloading the package, which Google says is for security reasons.

For testing purposes, I recovered my Picasa Web Album files, and I quickly received a neat zip file containing all my images in several folders. As a side note, I had no idea those images were there, so you might want to try out Google Takeout just to remind yourself what data you keep on Google’s servers.

We like Takeout a lot: it’s a neat, quick and easy way to take your data from Google, whether it’s for archiving purposes or you want to move it to another service. The timing of this release is not accidental, either; Google launched Takeout shortly after showing off its new social networking service, Google+, probably to show how much it cares about user’s data and privacy. We got the hint, Google, but you’ll still have to prove yourself in the long run.

More About: Data Liberation Front, Google, Google Takeout

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Clever Foursquare Hack Turns New York City Into a Giant Game of Risk

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 11:18 PM PDT

The board game Risk, in which players maneuver plastic armies on a map in order to achieve “world domination,” has firmly occupied one corner of nerdom for about fifty years. Foursquare stationed itself in another more tech-oriented corner of that same kingdom about two years ago. Now, at last, the two categories of nerdom meet.

World of Fourcraft” uses Foursquare and Google Maps APIs to turn New York City into a giant game of Risk. Users decide which team they are on by swearing allegiance to one of New York City’s five boroughs. Checking into a neighborhood on Foursquare is the online game’s equivalent to placing plastic man on a country in the board game. An algorithm decides who owns each neighborhood using the number of people who have checked into it on each team. There are currently about 100 players.

“We wanted to make foursquare more compelling for long-term use,” says Ricky Robinett, one member of the seven-person team that created the game during a weekend hackathon at New York’s General Assembly. “[On Foursquare] you have a weekly total that gets swiped at the end of the week. This keeps adding up.”

Three days in, it looks like Manhattan is winning the game, which took the “Best Location Hack” award at the hackathon. Not that winning gets you coupons or anything.

“There are no prizes. There are no celebrations. The only reward is the feeling of pride you normally only get from being re-tweeted,” explain the rules on the site.

Robinett says that eventually he wants to borrow a “level up” feature from World of Warcraft that would make more-frequent users’ checkins more effective at claiming neighborhoods for their teams.

At which point the nerdverse might just explode.

More About: api, foursquare, geeky, general assembly, Google Maps, hack, hackathon, risk!

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Twitpic Founder Tweets Pic Of Himself Being “Arrested” [UPDATE]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 10:51 PM PDT

What do you do when you’re the founder of a popular photo-sharing service? Tweet a picture of yourself getting arrested with it, of course.

Early Tuesday morning, Twitpic founder Noah Everett (who has 2.8 million followers) tweeted that he was getting arrested and was in the back of a cop car. To prove it, Everett the posted a picture in a separate tweet from the back of the cop car (shown above).

According to subsequent tweets (see updates below), his encounter with police stemmed from him being naked in public. We haven’t even been able to confirm if he even was arrested. If true though, Everett has taken oversharing to a whole new level. The speed at which this pic is spreading is another demonstration of the power of social media, though we’re not sure this is the type of picture we’d want to spread across the web.

Updates: Two follow-up tweets from Everett:

“…I guess you can’t walk down your own street half naked…who knew – I got a free ride home by the nice police officer”

“…by half naked, I mean naked”

More About: noah everett, twitpic, twitter

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Square Raises $100 Million, Now Worth More Than $1 Billion

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 09:54 PM PDT

Hot mobile payments startup Square has announced that it has raised $100 million in venture funding, valuing the company north of $1 billion.

The Series C round was led by prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. KPCB partner Mary Meeker will be joining Square’s board of directors, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"Square is eager to continue our momentum and we are proud to have the support and expertise of KPCB among our team of investors and advisors," Square CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement. "Our goal is to empower everyone to accept payments anywhere, and we are on course to accelerate our growth in a meaningful way."

The new round of funding means that Square’s value has quadrupled in the last six months. In January, the company raised $27.5 million in a Series B round that valued the company at $240 million. That means the company’s value has increased by more than $4.5 million ever day since January 10.

Square has been on a tear recently, though. Not only did it add former U.S. Treasury secretary Larry Summers to its board, but it processing $4 million in mobile payments every day and expects to process $1 billion within the next year. It recently released a “pay-with-your-name” payment system.

The company is led by Twitter co-founder and executive chairman Jack Dorsey.

More About: funding, Square, startup

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Final Cut Pro X Experiencing Backlash From Customers

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 09:35 PM PDT

Final Cut Pro X, the newest version of Apple’s professional video and audio editing software, isn’t getting the warmest of welcomes. In fact, the complaints have spurred Apple to start providing refunds to unhappy customers.

First unveiled in April, Final Cut Pro X was designed as a complete rebuild of the 12-year-old software. New features such as 64-bit support, people and shot-detection, automatic audio cleanup, range-based keywording and color-matching between clips were supposed to make it the most useful version of Final Cut Pro yet.

Unfortunately, Final Cut Pro X hasn’t been as well received as Apple hoped. It lacks support for older file types and much of the interface has changed. Professional video editors with movies to edit aren’t exactly excited to learn the nuances of a radically-altered interface. It also got mocked on Conan.

The result has been mixed reviews, with some professional video editors even giving it a one-star rating, rare for an Apple product. Some are even petitioning Apple to declassify Final Cut Pro X as a product for professionals. One petition has more than 4,500 signatures as of publishing.

In response, Apple is apparently appeasing some unhappy customers with refunds, according to The Next Web. Some have also received thoughtful and apologetic emails with their refunds, while others await a response from the technology giant.

It’s hard to tell what kind of impact this storm will have on Apple and its flagship video editing product, but with some customer switching to Adobe, we suspect the company will act fast. Because all Final Cut Pro X purchases run through the Mac App Store, Apple can quickly deliver updates that could quell Final Cut Pro X’s critics.

More About: apple, Final Cut Pro X

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iPhone App Shrinks Your Data & Your Monthly Bill

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 09:10 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: Onavo

Quick Pitch: Onavo helps smartphone users reduce, understand and manage their data usage.

Genius Idea: Data shrinkage.

It’s likely the coveted unlimited mobile phone data plan will soon become a relic of a simpler, less data-hungry mobile past. And yet, our data consumption will only grow exponentially on mobile as devices become more sophisticated and our lives become more centered around them.

“As a society, we’re addicted to data, especially on mobile devices,” says Guy Rosen, co-founder and CEO of Onavo. “There just isn’t the infrastructure there to see this addiction. This is how Onavo came into being.”

Onavo launched its first application for iPhone in April of this year to give mobile users transparency and control over the data they consume.

“Our mission is to empower mobile users to take back control of their mobile data,” Rosen says. “It’s a resource. You’re paying for it. You should get to decide how it’s used, when and how much.”

Onavo, says Rosen, saves you money, plain and simple. “It connects your phone to what we call the ‘magical shrinking machine.’ This means that all the data you consume on your phone is compressed … we shrink it by as much as 80%, which means you pay less.”

How Onavo shrinks your mobile data is a tightly kept secret — all Rosen reveals is that the startup has developed an array of compression techniques. The magical shrinking machine is mysteriously working away; it’s saved app users more than 6.5 million megabytes since launch. “That’s about 75 megabytes a minute,” Rosen says. “Megabytes consumed by more than 55,000 apps,” he adds.

In addition to data shrinkage, Onavo provides the iPhone user with visibility as to which of their applications are consuming the most data. The intention, says Rosen, is to inform mobile users and help them make smarter choices and ultimately save money.

Eventually, Onavo hopes to mature into an even more intelligent service that watches users’ backs as they consume mobile data.

“Today we focus … on compression. What we’re working on is to expand the level of information that we can provide to users,” says Rosen. The idea, he says, is to have an application that manages your data usage for you.

In the more immediate future, Onavo will release an Android build for beta testers. Rosen says the application will be slightly different in nature, but equally impressive.

Onavo is a venture-backed startup with $3 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and Magma Venture Partners.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sd619

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, data plans, iphone, iphone app, mobile data, spark-of-genius

StumbleUpon Lets Bloggers Share Content With New Widget

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 07:55 PM PDT

StumbleUpon just launched a new widget maker for bloggers that allows them to showcase content found on StumbleUpon on their websites.

The Widget Creator lets users create a box featuring content from certain sites (say, all your favorite tech blogs), content that adheres to certain topics (art, music, entertainment, etc), or content that they Stumble.

Just choose what elements you want, and the Creator churns out a line of code that you can then add to your website. The code will generate a box — you can choose the size — featuring your content of choice.

Granted, this widget has the potential to drive more traffic to StumbleUpon — seeing as how when you click on content you are taken to the site — but it could be a useful tool for web publishers who own several domains and want a way to aggregate all their content across sites, according to a rep from StumbleUpon.

Personally, we can see the widget working as a more polished version of the traditional blogroll, fostering a symbiotic relationship between publishers.

What do you think? Would you include a widget featuring your Stumbles on your site?

Image courtesy of Flickr, magerleagues

More About: social media, stumbleupon, widget-creator

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5 Ways the Advertising Industry Is Preparing for a Digital Future

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 06:49 PM PDT

Chris Schreiber is director of marketing at social video advertising company Sharethrough. A leading expert on social content strategy, Chris recently presented a two-hour workshop on viral video at the Cannes Lions festival, entitled “Making Videos Go Viral: Creative, Social, and Technological Techniques.”

Last week, the world’s top brands and agencies descended on the Cannes Lions festival to discuss creativity in modern advertising and to anoint the campaigns that most effectively captured our imaginations. While the conference was renamed this year to the “International Festival of Creativity” (previously the “International Advertising Festival”), it featured an unprecedented amount of participation from blockbuster technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

Over the course of the week, the significant relationship between the powerful new forces in technology and the creative output from the advertising industry became quite clear. As the web increasingly empowers us to choose and share the media we care about, brands genuinely commit to creating content and experiences that thrive in our on-demand culture.

Here are five key themes from the conference that point to major changes in the world of advertising.

1. A New Wave of Experiential Marketing

In one of the opening sessions, brand futurist Martin Lindstrom noted,"It's more effective to feel the brand, not to see it." Experiential marketing was prominent at the conference. A number of brands discussed the ways we will use technologies, such as augmented reality apps and near-field communication (data exchanges with touch), to connect with consumers.

Few brands have committed to experiential marketing more than Nike, which has had a 55% drop in television advertising spending over the past 10 years. They filled the void by sponsoring over 200 club teams, offering revolutionary mobile technology for runners and creating over 10,000 pieces of original content.

2. Content, Not Ads

If this conference is any indication, we are about to see an absolute explosion of new types of content from brands. While this process has already begun (especially with online video), we may just be scratching the surface.

No session was more memorable than Coca Cola's, which delivered a compelling presentation on its "Liquid and Linked" content creation strategy. It emphasizes dynamic storytelling to establish multiple connections with people. Coke is vastly increasing its investment in many varieties of content production to help drive conversation and increase its popular culture relevance.

AOL president Tim Armstrong and Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington also spoke at length about the vital importance of ad content. Former Googler Tim Armstrong addressed the advertiser audience: "Stop taking orders from Silicon Valley." He referenced the importance of creating unique content rather than simply optimizing traditional ads to perform better against technology algorithms. Throughout the conference, it was consistently noted that today's on-demand media consumption habits require brands to create content that people choose to watch (and share), rather than pushing unwanted commercials on its audience.

3. The Shift from Communities to "Collectives"

The "collective" has now begun to replace the "community." The term refers to the new generation of passionate online groups initiated by brands. This year's most buzzworthy collective was Sneakerpedia, a Wikipedia-style site powered by Foot Locker, intended to galvanize "sneakerheads" worldwide to document the history of sneakers. The site has built a ton of buzz, a great example of how a brand can create new collectives around topics people are truly passionate about. Additional collectives included Nokia Push Snowboarding and Lady Gaga's fan group "Little Monsters," created by Interscope Records.

4. The Rise of the "Creative Technologist"

Advertisers are ready to build. As advertising becomes increasingly digital, agencies are looking to bring in more developer talent to help them create new, original products. Jeff Benjamin, VP Interactive Creative Director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, spoke about this transition, calling for "invention" in advertising and noting that "inventors are modern storytellers." The same day, Toronto holding company MDC Partners announced a new $1 million competition for investment in technology-driven projects. Mark Holden, Global Strategy and Planning Director of PHD, noted his future predictions for the advertising industry, that new product development will be essential for the survival of media agencies as media buying becomes increasingly commoditized.

The Domino's Pizza Tracker, a Crispin website for Domino's, tracks the progress of a pizza delivery -- from dough-rolling to delivery.

5. The Gaga Effect

The award for the most overall positive mentions goes to Lady Gaga. The Gaga brand has quickly taken hold globally thanks to the previously listed tactics.

Gaga brand-building tools include the creation of her own collective (dubbed "The Little Monsters," her fans on Twitter number over 11 million), original content (Gagavision video series leading up to her new album release), gaming experiences (Gagaville allowed users to win song tracks by beating game levels) and product development (working with Polaroid on a new product line). In many ways, Gaga is the epitome of the modern brand, deftly leveraging digital tools to distribute her content and broaden her fan base... and other brands are taking note.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alengo

More About: advertising, business, List, Lists, MARKETING, online marketing, social media

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Zynga Prepares to File for IPO

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 05:57 PM PDT

Social gaming juggernaut Zynga is reportedly preparing to file registration documents with the SEC as early as Wednesday. The company behind hit games like CityVille and FarmVille could have its IPO come as early as this fall.

According to CNBC and GreenCrest Capital, the company hopes to raise between $1.5 and $2 billion dollars. That could put the company’s valuation as high as $20 billion.

In Zynga’s case, it might very well be worth that kind of cash. GreenCrest notes that Zynga’s revenues for 2011 are trending toward the $1.5 billion mark. Additionally, it’s operating with profit margins in excess of 40%.

In light of the recent market activity surrounding LinkedIn and Pandora, a Zynga offering could really soar.

With CityVille, Zynga’s most successful game, the company has proved that it can repeat the success it has had with earlier hits like FarmVille. The company has also made some smart acquisitions over the last few months and is making hiring decisions that show the company has big plans for its future.

More About: ipo, social games, Zynga

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Windows Gets an App Store of Its Own: Avenue

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 04:52 PM PDT

Windows users, don’t you wish there was a vendor-agnostic, one-stop shop for downloadable software? Something with easily browsable categories, ratings, reviews and simple purchase options?

Several companies are trying to make an Apple App Store-like software shop for Windows. Yesterday we noted the launch of Pokki, a store that puts mobile-style applets on the PC desktop. Avenue is a user friendly, lightning fast and immediately available option for fully functioning Windows apps.

The Avenue App Store from Netvolution gives Windows users a simple way to find and download Windows-compatible desktop applications. Users can browse apps by popularity or by category, and Avenue also shows featured and new apps.

Right now, the store includes categories for games, communication apps, reference tools, utilities, multimedia and entertainment apps, and more.

“While there are plenty of websites that allow Windows PC users to download software, most target only a specific niche user or are filled with unscreened and unlicensed software,” said Netvolution CEO Matt Smith in a statement.

“Avenue is the first centralized marketplace for all kinds of Windows PC software that’s safe and on par with the app stores that exist for Mac and mobile users.”

It’s also easy to find a ton of free apps using Avenue; in fact, all the apps we currently see in the store are free. We’re hoping to see more paid software soon, though. It would be great to grab packages for Photoshop, anitvirus software and a screencap recording app all at once, for example.

How the Avenue Windows App Store Works

When you find the apps you want, you can click to download them immediately, add them to your wishlist or add them to your shopping cart.

One thing we love about the Avenue app store is the ease of shopping for and downloading multiple apps with relatively few clicks. Right now, you can add many apps from different publishers to your cart, then click once to download them all.

Better still, your Avenue user account will work across multiple PCs, so your apps will be ready and waiting for download and installation when you log in from a new computer.

One issue is that the number of apps included in the store is on the low side, but we expect to see that number rise as the Avenue ecosystem matures.

The Avenue App Store

An App in Avenue

Avenue App Store Shopping Cart

Purchasing Multiple Apps

Downloading Multiple Apps

More About: app store, avenue, netvolution, pc, PCs, Windows, windows app store

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Man Who Claims Half of Zuckerberg’s Shares Loses His Lawyers

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 04:09 PM PDT

Paul Ceglia, the man who claims he owns 50% of Zuckerberg’s Facebook stake, has lost his high-powered lawyers at a critical juncture in the case.

In a filing with the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, Ceglia notified the court that he is changing legal counsel. His current representation, DLA Piper and Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, will be replaced by Lake APC.

DLA Piper is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious law firms, while Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman employs Dennis Vacco, the former attorney general of New York. Lake APC is a San Diego-based law firm, according to its website.

While it’s possible that Ceglia fired DLA Piper and Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, it’s much more likely that both firms withdrew from the case (update: DLA Piper confirms). Small changes in legal representation aren’t all that uncommon, but having two prominent law firms leave a case just before expedited discovery is a major red flag that a case is on shaky ground.

Ceglia entered the public spotlight when he sued Facebook for 84% ownership last July. The claim was farfetched, but people began to listen when he refiled his lawsuit with DLA Piper. Since then, Facebook has gone to war with Ceglia, providing a 27-page motion explaining why Ceglia’s case is flawed and why they believe his credibility is suspect.

More About: facebook, lawsuit, paul-ceglia

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Google Gives Authors Greater Recognition in Search Results

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 03:32 PM PDT

In an attempt to improve the quality of Google’s Search results, the company is rolling out a new feature that will prominently display the authors of certain articles within search results.

“Authorship is a great way to identify and highlight high-quality content,” Google Product Manager Sagar Kamdar said in a company blog post. “Plus, the web is centered around people. People discovering content on the web often want to learn more about its author, see other content by that author, and even interact with the author.”

The new highlighting places a picture of an author to the right of an article he or she has written, along with a link to his or her Google Profile. In the example included above, my photo and name appear to the right of a recent review I wrote about the Jawbone Era.

The program will launch with a small subset of authors, but will roll out to more authors over time. It’s powered by Google’s new authorship markup, which adds new code to distinguish when a link is pointing to the author of an article.

Our bet is that Google hopes that author profiles in search results will encourage higher quality content, which isn’t always found in content farms.

More About: authors, Google, google search

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Arcade Fire & Spike Jonze’s Short Film Hits the Web [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 02:49 PM PDT

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

Scenes From the Suburbs — a companion film to Arcade Fire’s Grammy-winning album, The Suburbs — has made its way onto the web in its entirety.

The short film, directed by Spike Jonze and co-written by Jonze and brothers Will and Win Butler, jumps on the dystopian childhood bandwagon that’s been chugging around town lately (see books like The Hunger Games and Divergent).

I know how I’ll be spending the remaining 30 minutes of the work day…

More About: arcade-fire, music, Scenes From the Suburbs, Spike Jonze, The Suburbs, video, viral video, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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4 Simple Ways To Get Customer Feedback Online

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 02:34 PM PDT

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Do you know what your customers think about your products and services?

Successful business owners know that no matter how busy they get, it’s critical to take the time to get customer feedback. Understanding what your customers think about your products and services can not only help you improve quality, but can also give you insights into what new products and services your customers want so you can diversify your offerings. Knowing what you’re doing right also lets you make smart decisions about where to focus your energies, and it may even give you fodder for marketing. Plus, your customers will appreciate having ways to communicate with you and knowing they are being heard.

While getting feedback used to be limited to a suggestion box or form on your website, there are now many low-cost approaches to getting customer input and taking the pulse of customers. Here are four easy ways to make customer feedback a core part of your business.

1. Conduct an Online Survey

If you have email addresses for your customers, conducting an online survey can be a great way to get range of different feedback in a short amount of time.

One of the most popular tools for online surveys is SurveyMonkey, whose low-cost, web-based survey solutions are a natural fit for a small businesses on a budget.

SurveyMonkey customer Whitney Greer of brand consulting firm Brandularity uses online surveys extensively with her clients to track and understand brand perceptions and find out what really matters to customers. She also notes that surveys can be an effective way to validate (or debunk) anecdotal feedback before adjusting your approach or product.

“Too often a company will react to a series of customer anecdotes and comments, especially if they’re negative, by thinking they need to make big changes,” says Greer. “Surveying a wide group of customers before you turn the ship is the best way to determine what’s really a burning issue and what’s actually just an isolated incident.”

Once you’ve developed your survey, the next step is getting your customers to take it. Many companies provide an incentive for survey participation, such as entering customers into a drawing for a free product or service. You don’t have to limit yourself to just emailing customers your survey request; if you have a regular newsletter, you can include a link to the survey and information about the incentive. You should make sure to promote the survey on other online touchpoints, such as Facebook and Twitter if it’s open to anyone. If your primary interaction with customers is in-store, you could even load up your online survey on an iPad and ask people to take the survey at the point of check-out for an instant discount.

2. Create an Online Customer Community

All businesses thrive on feedback, but some are more distant from the direct experience and input of their customers. And according to Thor Muller, co-founder and CTO of Get Satisfaction, “these are the companies that find it absolutely critical to have a steady stream of feedback.”

Muller’s company offers a platform for creating customer communities — on the web, on Facebook, via mobile devices and within widgets that can be embedded anywhere. Small businesses can use Get Satisfaction to connect openly with their customers to provide Q&A, peer-to-peer problem solving and feedback.

Internet startup Pixazza uses Get Satisfaction as a forum for its publisher partners to report problems and ask questions about products.

“Though we have had a few publishers post praise and suggest features, the majority of the posts are from publishers reporting an issue or inquiring about how to do something,” says Sarah Waterson, a user interface designer at Pixazza. “These posts help us fix bugs and also give us a good understanding of where improvements could be made to our application.”

3. Use a Hosted Feedback Forum

Another approach to getting customer feedback on an ongoing basis is a hosted feedback forum such as UserVoice. UserVoice’s simple hosted forums and widgets allow customers to submit and vote on ideas for the company, which can then be turned into a prioritized list of feedback. You can also use the product to communicate with users when the ideas they’ve voted for are acted upon. And because UserVoice offers a free version of the product, any company with an online presence and an interest in ongoing feedback can set up a feedback forum.

UserVoice is also available for your Facebook Page; for example, Ubank is using UserVoice’s Facebook app to listen to their customers and actively respond to and engage with these users.

“If you aren’t listening, you aren’t going to be able to deliver the best possible product or service, and you risk losing those customers,” says Evan Hamilton, community manager at UserVoice. “Gathering feedback in an organized fashion is a great way to show your customers that you care and collect great insights for improving your product so you can beat the competition.”

4. Ask For Feedback on Facebook and Twitter

Of course, if you’re just looking for quick opinions from customers, getting this feedback may be as simple as posting a question or poll on your Facebook Wall or via Twitter — you can use this approach to get fast insights into new products, new branding or even new store locations or lines of business.

For example, digital agency 360i advised its client Velveeta to poll its Facebook community for consumer insight into which new flavor packaging concept would highlight the flavors in a more prominent way. Velveeta asked fans to "pick the design that helps the flavor to stand out," and provided photos of each (marked 'A' and 'B'). The community was very responsive to the poll, demonstrating a very high feedback rate compared to other posts. The poll results later helped Velveeta solidify its decision on the new flavor packaging.

What other methods do you use to get customer feedback?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, bluestocking

More About: customer service, facebook, get satisfaction, small business, surveymonkey, twitter, uservoice

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Biz Stone Leaving Twitter To Work on New Projects

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 01:58 PM PDT

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone will be taking a back seat at the microblogging site and will be moving on to work on a few new projects, he announced in a blog post Tuesday.

Stone will once again be collaborating with Ev Williams, another Twitter co-founder, on these new endeavors, which will be sheltered under the umbrella of the Obvious Corporation, an entity Williams founded in the mid-2000s to house multiple projects under one company name.

The Stone/Williams dynamic duo will be joined in their Obvious pursuits by Jason Goldman, yet another Twitter exec. Goldman was the startup’s VP of product before stepping down in December 2010.

Williams himself stepped down from his role as Twitter’s CEO late last year. Just a few months ago, he hinted that a personal retreat to Lake Tahoe had yielded some fresh ideas.

“There are other problems/opportunities in the world that need attention, and there are other individuals I'd love to get the opportunity to work with and learn from,” he wrote at the time.

Twitter’s former COO and current CEO Dick Costolo will remain at the company’s helm.

In today’s explanatory blog post from Stone, the entrepreneur says he’ll still be making appearances at Twitter to help when and where he can. But the majority of his time will be spent on “new endeavors … I’ve decided that the most effective use of my time is to get out of the way until I’m called upon to be of some specific use.”

Of the Obvious Corporation’s upcoming releases, Stone writes, “Our plan is to develop new projects and work on solving big problems aligned along a simple mission statement: The Obvious Corporation develops systems that help people work together to improve the world. This is a dream come true!”

In what has become something of a revolving door of Twitter co-founders, Jack Dorsey, who was also a ground-floor Twitterer, gave up the CEO role in 2008 and unveiled Square, his new project, in 2009. However, Dorsey returned to the startup earlier this year.

It’s enough to leave one wondering who’s on first. However, with Costolo and Dorsey running the show, and Stone and Williams on call, we’re hopeful the company is stable.

More About: biz, biz stone, ev williams, evan williams, Obvious, twitter

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Google’s Swiffy Converts Flash Files to HTML5

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 01:29 PM PDT

Google's Swiffy Converts Flash Files to HTML5

Google Labs just launched Swiffy, a new web-based tool that allows developers to easily convert Adobe Flash animation SWF files into HTML5. This will allow developers to make Flash ads and basic ActionScript interactions accessible to users on devices that don’t support Flash, like the iPhone and iPad.

Swiffy is very similar to a tool that Adobe released earlier this year called Wallaby. The main difference is that Swiffy is web-based, whereas Wallaby is a client that runs on a Mac or PC. Additionally, Wallaby’s code is designed to be edited and reused, whereas Swiffy’s code is optimized and compressed in such a way that makes editing difficult.

The Swiffy demo page shows off the power of the tool. In addition to converting basic banner ad animations, click-event interactions can also be converted to HTML5. To be clear, this won’t convert videos, complex animations or games, but the tool meets its desired goal quite adequately.

Swiffy takes advantage of more advanced SVG features, which means that the only browsers that support the converted code right now are Webkit-based. That means Safari and Chrome on the desktop and Mobile Safari on iOS will support the converted files.

We’re impressed by what Google has cooked up. A web-based conversion tool will be a boon to advertisers who don’t want to have to recreate certain assets for display on Flash-free devices.

More About: Flash, Google, google code, HTML5, swf, swiffy, wallaby

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Tumblr Users Targeted in Phishing Scam

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 01:16 PM PDT

Popular microblogging service Tumblr has been hit by a largescale phishing attack over the past few days.

Following standard phishing protocol, the attack works by luring users to enter their Tumblr credentials to access something special. In this round of Tumblr attacks, the most common scenario is the offer of access to adult content. Users are directed to what looks like a standard login page and told to enter in their Tumblr login information.

The GFI Labs Blog has a great rundown of the entire attack and how it has been spreading across the network.

What makes this attack a bit more sophisticated than the average email or Facebook Wall Post phishing scam is that a number of users have had their Tumblr sites compromised and co-opted.

Some users were simply redirected to a new URL and asked for their login credentials, but for others, the faux login screen actually appeared on their Tumblr domains.

Essentially, the attackers were able to put custom code in the compromised users’ Tumblr themes, giving their Tumblr blogs the appearance of a login screen.

The three URLs thought to be at the heart of the attack are currently inaccessible. However, this doesn’t mean the attack is over.

Tumblr users — and all web users — should keep an eye out for suspicious looking sites and follow basic web security practices to keep from getting duped.

The Anti-Phishing on Tumblr blog has some good advice for users who have been compromised, or had their sites redirect or load phishing content.

More About: phishing attacks, security, tumblr

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Paste Magazine Launches Paid Online Publication, mPlayer

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 12:56 PM PDT

Paste Magazine Launches mPlayer

Paste magazine went online-only in September 2010, much to the chagrin of folks who grew up with the mixtape-toting mag. Now Paste has launched a new, interactive version of the print product, called mPlayer.

The beta version of mPlayer will be available for free until September of this year (after that date, the product will cost $36 for a yearly subscription). A new issue will hit the web every week, and previous issues will exist in an archive within the product.

“The mPlayer lets us do more than what we could do with print,” says Nick Purdy, Paste‘s publisher. Given the choice between print and this newest version, he says, the magazine would go with mPlayer.

Paste 2.0, at first glance, looks a lot like iTunes. You have a navigation bar on the side with the cover of that issue, along with a table of contents. To the right, you’ll find the stories, designed to look like album art. At the top of the page, you’ll find a music player that streams a selection of seven MP3s per week, which you can also download (Paste suspended its famous music sampler last year). Either link the song to the article (so that it only plays when you’re reading about the band in question), or unlink it, so that you can keep listening no matter where you roam.

When it comes to content, mPlayer will feature little material from the Paste website, which will live on after the new product’s launch. Both will have the same music reviews, but mPlayer adds long-form features, as well as video (original and otherwise) and other exclusive content, which could come in the form of chapters from reviewed books, say. There’s not much of a social integration — you can “Like” articles via Facebook Connect and share them via various channels, but no commenting is allowed. Purdy and Co. say that could come soon, though.

If you check out mPlayer today, you might balk at the freshness of the content — there’s a review for Bridesmaids, for one, and a feature about The Decemberists, whose latest album came out in January. But Paste President Tim Regan-Porter says that this issue’s articles are not indicative of future iterations. This launch is more about format than content, and further issues will be much more timely.

Paste is a well-respected, iconic brand, but asking folks to shell out cash for an online edition is a bit risky. After all, there’s scores of music blogs out there, and many of them offer free MP3s daily. There are also services entirely dedicated to free downloads, like mySpoonful, RCRD LBL and Epitonic.

“The biggest thing that Paste brings is our point of view, our curation, our editorial layer,” Purdy says. “It’s not as simple as finding free MP3s around the web. You need to have some kind of guide.” RCRD LBL, mySpoonful et all do offer a guide — they hand-curate a daily dose of MP3s complete with artist info, delivered to one’s inbox. So what Paste will offer — in a way short-form blogs do not — is a more editorial, writerly point of view, an experience for the leanback crowd.

Paywalls have been a dicey subject of late — traffic to The New York Times declined after its wall went into effect in April — and long-form journalism can be a tough sell. We’re not sure seven free MP3s per week will be enough to warrant a price tag for most people.

Still, Paste plans to expand mPlayer beyond the just the browser, launching a tablet app for both iOS and Android in the coming months. A tablet app lends itself much better to the leanback experience than a computer screen. Still, the app would have to compete against preexisting products, like Spin‘s stellar offering, which offers a streamable mixtape of music in the issue.

What do you think of the new Paste? Will you open your wallet when September comes?

More About: magazines, media, mplayer, music, paste, web apps

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A Closer Look at Google’s Facebook Competitor [VIDEOS]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 12:38 PM PDT

Google’s new social network, Google+, has finally made its debut. It’s the company’s most ambitious social project to date, and it comes with a lot of features.

In fact, it has so many features that it’s easy to get confused about what Google+ is. Luckily, Google has released a set of 11 videos explaining the Google+ Project and some of its core features (Circles, Hangouts, Huddle, Instant Upload). These videos also provide a little insight into why Google built its own social network in the first place.

SEE ALSO: PHOTOS | REVIEW | POLL: What do you think of Google+?

Check out the videos here and let us know what you think of Google+ in the comments.

The Google+ project: A quick look

Google provides an overview of the entire Google+ project.

The Google+ project: Explore Circles

Google+ Circles is Google's take on the friend list or the Twitter list.

The Google+ project: Explore Settings

In this video, Google explores the different settings available on Google+.

The Google+ project: Explore Mobile

Google+ will launch with an Android app. In this video, Google explores the app's features.

The Google+ project: Explore Hangouts

Google+ comes with a group video chat feature called Hangouts. This video explains how it works.

The Google+ project: Explore Sparks

In an attempt to get users to share more content, Google+ includes a feature called Sparks. It provides recommended content based on keywords or topics.

The Google+ project: Circles

In this video, Google talks about the impact of friends and social groups.

The Google+ project: Hangouts

Google talks about spontaneous hangouts in this video.

The Google+ project: Huddle

Google introduces Huddle, the company's group-texting feature.

The Google+ project: Instant Upload

Google+ for mobile includes an instant upload feature for photos and videos. They're uploaded to a private album where they can then be shared from the desktop.

The Google+ project: Sparks

Google talks about exploring interests through Sparks in this video.

More About: Google, Google Plus, social network

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Lady Gaga Joins Tumblr

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 12:36 PM PDT

Lady Gaga must spend half of her time in front of the computer. Already a big presence on Facebook and Twitter (not to mention GagaVille), Mother Monster has joined the Tumbeasts.

The New York Times reports that Gaga’s Tumblr — titled Amen † Fashion — launched Monday night, and posts are already receiving “Likes” into the several thousands. The blog mostly features snapshots of clothing and quotes from Gaga herself. Sample: “He ate my heart, so I put his in the ‘Alejandro’ video.”

Tumblr is becoming a place for musicians to promote their music and interact with fans. For example, musician Butch Walker became the first musician to be promoted in Tumblr’s “Tumblr Tuesday’s” posts today. Walker premiered the first single from his upcoming record on his Tumblr today as well.

Tumblr has been making it easier for artists to share new music. It recently partnered with Soundcloud so that users can record music while on the go and share it to Tumblr, via the platform's mobile and desktop apps, or in-browser, as well as auto-publish new tracks to Tumblr.

Musicians: Will you follow Gaga’s lead?

More About: Lady Gaga, MARKETING, music, tumblr

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The Pope Sends His First Tweet, From an iPad

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 11:52 AM PDT

Holy tweet! The Pope is on Twitter.

His Holiness used the Vatican’s news account to send his first tweet, which announced the launch of a news information portal (and, of course, praised Jesus).

Unlike other tweets sent from the account, the tweet from the Pope was sent using Twitter for iPad.

Does the Pope have an iPad? You bet! Or at least he used one to launch the new site.

We wouldn’t expect any less, technologically speaking, from the leader who has overseen the launch of the Vatican’s YouTube channel and “Pope2You” mobile and Facebook apps as well as encouraged priests to blog.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, catholicism

More About: catholic church, ipad, pope, trending, twitter

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What Do You Think of Google+? [POLL]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 11:25 AM PDT

Google has unveiled its answer to Facebook: Google+. Will it give the king of social networking a run for its money, or will it fall flat like some of the search giant’s previous attempts at social?

Google+ is both a social layer and a full-fledged social network. Users will find a new navigation bar, complete with new sharing options. It leads to the Google+ homepage, where users can access their friend streams, share and edit multimedia, create group video chats and more.


Google calls this a project that will evolve over time. It’s also one of the more ambitious projects in the company’s history. Will that translate into users and success, or will it become the next Google Buzz? Vote in our poll and let us know what you think in the comments.

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Venture Capital: 5 Tips for Nailing the Full Partnership Pitch

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 11:02 AM PDT

Gaurav Tewari is a principal at Highland Capital Partners, focusing on the software, Internet, digital media, mobile and technology-enabled services sectors. Follow his blog, and find him on Twitter @GTMIT.

So you made it to the "full partnership pitch." You have already had one (or likely multiple) meetings with a subset of a firm's investment team, including a principal and perhaps a general partner. You've impressed your point person (or people) sufficiently so that you have been invited to present to the broader partnership. What do you do now? Here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Focus on Style, Not Just Substance

This may sound counterintuitive. However, if you have been asked to come in and present to the full partnership, you have already done a good job defining, defending and articulating your business plan, and addressing many questions and concerns. Your initial contacts from the firm have likely already written up one or more memos introducing your company, and have had multiple internal discussions about your company's compelling prospective investment.

Now it’s showtime! Most likely, the partnership will already be familiar with the facts around your team, market, business model, product, customers, competition and financial projections. They are now looking for the "X factor" — your ability to present with pizzazz, to capture and sustain the attention of the room, to project a degree of informed enthusiasm and to showcase your natural leadership and sales abilities with a healthy spark of charisma.

2. Balance Confidence With Thoughtful Introspection

You know your business better than anyone else. It is important for you to project confidence and conviction around the viability, magnitude and trajectory of your business. It is the job of those in the room to challenge your assumptions or to present perspectives that counter your thesis. It is your job to respectfully but credibly convey what you are doing and how you will actualize your plan.

At the same time, be introspective. The best CEOs and entrepreneurs know their strengths but also recognize where they need help. This is a good time to demonstrate that you are open to coaching and help from your prospective investors. For instance, talk about where there are holes in your team, where you need help and what keeps you up at night. Investors prize their ability to add value to their portfolio companies — help them help you.

3. Dream the Vision, But Live the Numbers

CEOs and entrepreneurs are typically good at communicating their big-picture excitement for their company and its market opportunity. In fact, this ability to "sell" others on your big vision probably played a key role in your initial success with employees and investors.

During the partnership pitch, be sure to complement your qualitative vision with a firm grasp of your key numbers. As companies evolve and grow, investors expect them to become increasingly data-driven and grounded in quantitative facts. As my colleague Dan Nova is fond of saying, "You can fly an airplane at low altitudes by looking out the window, but when you're above the clouds, you need control panels and instrumentation to avoid veering off course, or worse, crashing into a mountain." Demonstrate your data-driven management by exhibiting fluency in the key numbers of your business. What constitutes "key numbers" will differ depending on the nature of your business, but it is safe to say that historical and forecasted financials, capital structure, important operational metrics, terms of key contracts, major expense categories, etc. are fair game.

4. Take Notes, and Don't Be Afraid to Say "I Don't Know"

During the partnership pitch, you and your team will invariably receive questions and suggestions from the audience. Some of these will be discussion points, but from time to time, people will ask you a question for which you legitimately may not know the answer off the top of your head. Don't destroy the credibility you have built by guessing. Trust me, it will show, and nothing is worse than saying something inconsistent or contradictory when you are trying to cement trust and authority among a group of skeptical investors. The awkward moment of silence that generally follows such a mishap can be deafening.

Instead say, "I don't know, but I will find out and get back to you." Take notes to show that you are keeping track of open issues and are serious about following up. Investors don't expect you to be a know-it-all. They do expect you to know your business and market, but they also expect you to be honest and straightforward with them when you don't know something. Prospective investors don't want to have to guess whether you really know what you're talking about in a future board meeting, and they also don't want to deal with someone who is not organized enough to keep track of and follow up on issues.

5. Keep Your Team Members Engaged

This is your first partnership presentation with XYZ Capital, but it may be the tenth or twentieth pitch on which your team has accompanied you. I can't tell you how many times I have sat in on presentations where, while the CEO is presenting, the other team members slouch in their chairs and have that pained or tuned-out look that suggests, "I'd rather shoot myself than hear this again." This behavior is distracting and unproductive. It subtly sends the message that either your team does not respect you or does not believe in the pitch.

Instead, make sure that your team is well-rested and adequately caffeinated prior to the pitch. They should sit straight and listen attentively to the presenting team member. Find ways to get your team involved in the pitch. Give people speaking roles, for example, have them talk about their backgrounds when going through the team section of your presentation, or ask someone on your team to flip the slides while you are engaging the room. You don't want your team members to make off-the-cuff comments or gratuitously break the flow of the presentation, but there is a middle-ground where they can participate and engage without detracting from the main presenter.

Following the above guidelines will, hopefully, increase your hit rate and positively impact the likelihood of achieving a signed term sheet. Give yourself a pat on the back for making it to the full partnership pitch — and good luck!

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, aldomurillo

More About: business, investment, List, Lists, Pitch, startup, startup investment tips

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Google+: First Impressions

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 10:43 AM PDT

Google has just unveiled Google+, its ambitious answer to Facebook. It turns all of Google into one giant social network, thanks to a core group of social products and a new navigation bar that integrates sharing into every single Google product.

I spent much of Monday testing Google+’s features. Some first impressions:

SEE ALSO: PHOTOS | VIDEOS | POLL: What do you think of Google+?

  • Design: Aesthetically, it’s all Google — minimalist with plenty of white space. Nobody is going to complain about the design, but nobody is going to cheer about it, either.
  • Usability: Google+ isn’t overwhelmed by its many features. It’s easy to navigate and its icons speak for themselves. After a few minutes of exploring, I quickly got the hang of it.
  • Google+ Stream: The core of Google+ is the Stream, which doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s a lot like Google Buzz or the Facebook News Feed.
  • Google+ Circles: Circles is well-implemented. It’s far easier than creating a Twitter List or a Facebook Friend List. The drag-and-drop functionality is a welcome addition, and the cute animations that appear when you perform actions give the product personality. That doesn’t necessarily mean users will take the time to create friend groups.
  • Google+ Profiles: Google+ Profiles essentially port the existing data on your Google Profile. There’s nothing particularly special about Google+ Profiles, yet. One of the nice things is that it includes a Tabs feature, where users can add content from their Google Buzz or their Google +1s. This feature already exists on Google Profiles, but we bet developers will be able to add tabs to Google Profiles in the future, customizing and personalizing profiles.
  • Google+ Hangouts: Hangouts is one of the more innovative concepts of Google+, and we think it’s a cool approach to getting users to accept group video chat. The camera switching feature (it changes who’s on camera based on who’s talking) is far superior to having multiple video feeds open at the same time. That said, it will require users checking their Google+ streams every day for potential chats to join. If Google+ gains traction, Hangouts will be a killer feature.
  • Google+ Sparks: Sparks may end up being Google+’s most underrated feature. The company has essentially created a recommendation engine without calling it one. It’s designed to augment Google+, and if it works as Google designed it, it will create winners and losers in the publishing world, making Google +1 buttons actually matter. Before that becomes a reality though, it needs traction and it should consider acquiring advanced content recommendation technology from a company like Trapit or my6sense.
  • Google+ Photos: The photo editor is essentially Facebook photos but with a photo editor. It’s quick and well-organized, making it a welcome addition to Google+. It should take a cue from Instagram and create simple ways to make photos more “artistic” and personalized.
  • Mobile: The mobile version of Google+ is really simple, which is fine for a first release. It only has two unique features: instant photo uploads and Google+ Huddle. Instant photo uploads is a cool idea, but we worry about auto-uploading all of our photos for privacy reasons. We can see some users not being happy about auto-uploads, even if the albums they’re uploaded to are private. This could potentially create a lot of “garbage.”
  • Google+ Huddle: Huddle is basically a group-texting feature for the Circles you create. It makes sense as a product, but it isn’t terribly exciting. I’m going to stick with GroupMe for now.

SEE ALSO: What Do You Think of Google+? [POLL]

Conclusion: Google+ is a bold and dramatic attempt at social. There’s a reason why Google calls this a “project” rather than a “product” — they don’t want people to think of this as the final product, but as a constantly-evolving entity that permeates every corner of the Google empire.

Overall, Google+ is solid. But I’m not going to call it a Facebook killer or a game-changer. The last Google product I said that about was the ill-fated Google Buzz. Perhaps that’s why Google’s rolling this out slowly via invites, the same style Gmail used to release itself to the world.

If Google can persuade users to come back every day, it has a winner. But the company will have to do even more to provide a truly compelling alternative to Facebook. At the moment, Google+ cannot compete with the king of social, but Google doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to take on Mark Zuckerberg’s giant quite yet.

Google+ Logo

This is the Google+ logo.

Google+ Icons

The Google+ icons. Starting top left and circling to the right: Circles, Hangouts, Home, Sparks, Profile, Photos.

New Google+ Navigation Bar

All Google sites will sport the new Google+ navigation bar. It includes notifications, profile information and content sharing options.

Google+ Stream

This is the Google+ Stream, where users share content and see what their friends are sharing. It is similar to the Facebook News Feed.

Google+ Circles

Google+ Circles is Google's version of the Facebook friend list or the Twitter List. Users can select multiple friends and drag-and-drop them into groups. This makes it easier to send stuff to friends, family or the entire world.

Google+ Circles Editor

This is the Google+ Circles editor in action. Google has created unique animations for adding and removing friends through HTML5.

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks is Google's content recommendation and discovery engine. Users can search different topics and find relevant articles, videos and photos. Users can then share that content with their friends.

More About: First Impressions, Google, google buzz, Google Plus, social media

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Too Lazy for Google? Try Asking Twitter’s #Lazyweb [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 10:23 AM PDT

Have you ever turned to Twitter with a question — whether the answer was already available online –that you just wanted your Twitter friends to answer?

If you have, Twitter’s #lazyweb hashtag can help. It lets you outsource your questions to the wider web of Twitter users and get answers, presumably even from people outside your own network.

The #lazyweb hashtag itself has been on the decline since around the time Twitter became a more mainstream tool. At that point, users with questions were more likely to simply throw the query out to their personal networks and hope for the best.

SEE ALSO: How Twitter Works as a Q&A App [INFOGRAPHIC]

Have you ever used #lazyweb on Twitter? Do you think this hashtag needs a comeback or perhaps a Twitter-integrated Q&A app of its own?

As you ponder that, check out this #lazyweb-themed infographic from Q&A app InboxQ and design shop Column Five.

Click image to see full-size version.

More About: infographic, lazyweb, q&a, twitter

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Google Launches Google+ To Battle Facebook [PICS]

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 10:09 AM PDT

Google has finally unveiled Google+, the company’s top secret social layer that turns all of the search engine into one giant social network.

Google+, which begins rolling out a very limited field test on Tuesday, is the culmination of a year-long project led by Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of social. The project, which has been delayed several times, constitutes Google’s answer to Facebook.

The search giant’s new social project will be omnipresent on its products, thanks to a complete redesign of the navigation bar. The familiar gray strip at the top of every Google page will turn black, and come with several new options for accessing your Google+ profile, viewing notifications and instantly sharing content. The notification system is similar to how Facebook handles notifications, complete with a red number that increases with each additional notice.

SEE ALSO: VIDEOS | REVIEW | POLL: What do you think of Google+?

At its core, Google+ is a social network. The first thing users are introduced to is the Stream. It’s much like the Facebook News Feed, allowing users to share photos, videos, links or their location with friends.

Screenshots: What Google+ Looks Like

Google+ Logo

This is the Google+ logo.

Google+ Icons

The Google+ icons. Starting top left and circling to the right: Circles, Hangouts, Home, Sparks, Profile, Photos.

New Google+ Navigation Bar

All Google sites will sport the new Google+ navigation bar. It includes notifications, profile information and content sharing options.

Google+ Stream

This is the Google+ Stream, where users share content and see what their friends are sharing. It is similar to the Facebook News Feed.

Google+ Circles

Google+ Circles is Google's version of the Facebook friend list or the Twitter List. Users can select multiple friends and drag-and-drop them into groups. This makes it easier to send stuff to friends, family or the entire world.

Google+ Circles Editor

This is the Google+ Circles editor in action. Google has created unique animations for adding and removing friends through HTML5.

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks is Google's content recommendation and discovery engine. Users can search different topics and find relevant articles, videos and photos. Users can then share that content with their friends.


That’s where Google+ begins to diverge from Facebook, though. The focus of this social project is not on sharing with a mass group of friends, but on targeted sharing with your various social groups. To do this, Google uses a system called Circles.

Gundotra explained that most social media services (read: Facebook, Twitter) haven’t been successful with friend lists because they’ve been designed as a “tack-on” product rather than being integrated at every level. Gundotra also believes that current friend list products are awkward and not rewarding to use.

Google+ Circles is an attempt to address that challenge. The HTML5 system allows users to drag-and-drop their friends into different social circles for friends, family, classmates, co-workers and other custom groups. Users can drag groups of friends in and out of these circles.

One of the nice things about the product is its whimsical nature — a puff of smoke and a -1 animation appears when you remove a friend, and when you remove a social circle, it rolls away off the screen.

Photos & Group Video Chat

It’s clear from the extended demo that Gundotra and his team have thought about every aspect and detail of Google+ thoroughly. The photo, video and mobile experiences are no exception.

Google has created a section specifically for viewing, managing and editing multimedia. The photo tab takes a user to all of the photos he or she has shared, as well as the ones he or she is tagged in. It’s not just photo tagging, though: Google+ includes an image editor (complete with Instagram-like photo effects), privacy options and sharing features.

The video chat feature might be one of the most interesting aspects of Google+. Gundotra and his team thought about why group chat hasn’t become a mainstream phenomenon. He compared it to knocking on a neighbor’s door at 8 p.m. — most people don’t do it because it isn’t a social norm. However, if a group of friends are sitting on a porch and you just happen to walk by, it’s almost rude not to say hi.

That’s the concept behind “Hangouts,” Google’s new group chat feature. Instead of directly asking a friend to join a group chat, users instead click “start a hangout” and they’re instantly in a video chatroom alone. At the same time, a message goes out to their social circles, letting them know that their friend is “hanging out.” The result, Google has found in internal testing, is that friends quickly join.

One cool feature of Hangouts is that it doesn’t place a chat window on the screen for each participant. Instead, Google changes the chat screen to whoever is currently talking. It quickly switches from video feed to video feed, moving faster in bigger groups. The maximum members in any video Hangout is 10, though users can get on a waitlist and wait for someone to leave.

Content Discovery Through Sparks

To spur sharing, Google has added a recommendation engine for finding interesting content. The feature, Google+ Sparks, is a collection of articles, videos, photos and other content grouped by interest. For example, the “Movies” spark will have a listing of recent and relevant content for that topic.

The system is algorithmic — it relies on information from other Google products (e.g. Google Search) as well as what is being shared via Google+ and through +1 buttons.

The goal, according to Gundotra, is to make it dead-simple for users to explore their interests and share what they find with their friends. Google+ is attempting to become the one-stop shop not only for sharing content, but for finding it as well. In some ways, it reminds us of Twitter and its mission to become an information network, and “instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most important to them.”


Google will also be launching mobile apps for Google+, starting with Android. The Android app includes access to the Stream, Circles, Sparks and multimedia.

The addition of these features in a mobile app isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise, though, is the app’s auto-upload feature. Any photo or video you take on your phone through Google+ will automatically be uploaded to your computer, ready to share. These uploads aren’t public, but the next time you log onto your desktop, the photos button in the status bar will have a number, indicating how many new uploads are available for sharing. It keeps these photos and videos available for sharing for eight hours after upload.

Gundotra says that Google intends to launch apps for Google+ on other platforms in the future.


Google freely admitted to me during our conversation that its previous attempt at social, Google Buzz, did not live up to expectations. Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president of product, says that part of the problem was that Buzz was just “tacked on” as a link on millions of Gmail accounts, something that Google won’t be repeating. Horowitz also says that, unlike the Buzz rollout, Google+ is a project that will roll out in stages.

In many ways, it reminds us of Gmail’s rollout. Invites to Google’s email service were so sought after at one point that people were selling them for $50 or more on eBay. While that type of fervor may not hit Google+, we expect the artificial scarcity will drive up interest while giving Google time to work out the kinks.

No matter what Google says, Google+ is the company’s response to the rise of Facebook. The two companies are in heated competition for talent, page views and consumers. While Google controls the search market and has a strong presence on mobile with Android, it hasn’t been able to crack the social nut. Its most successful social product, YouTube, had to be acquired, and it still ranks as one of the most expensive acquisitions in the company’s history.

Has Google finally nailed social with Google+? We’re going to publish more of our thoughts on Google’s new social network in the next few hours, but we will say this: Google no longer gets a free pass in social. It must prove that it can draw users and keep them engaged in a way that doesn’t replicate Facebook or Twitter’s functionality. Only time will tell if Google has finally found its magical arrow.

Readers are invited to follow both Mashable and Ben Parr on Google

More About: Circles, Google, Google Circles, Google Plus, Google Sparks, Google Stream, social media, social networking, Sparks, stream, trending

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MoviePass: Unlimited Movie Tickets for a Flat Monthly Rate

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 09:57 AM PDT

A new startup, MoviePass, is hoping that film fans will be interested in paying $50 a month to see an unlimited number of movies in the theater. Kicking off its private beta in the San Francisco Bay Area just in time for the big Fourth of July movie weekend, MoviePass is hoping to bring the subscription model that Netflix pioneered for movie rentals to physical movie tickets.

We spoke with Stacy Spikes, the co-founder of MoviePass, about the service, its plans for other markets, and other details.

The idea behind MoviePass is an enticing one. The price of movie tickets increases every year, so a monthly $50 subscription could pay for itself with just a few shows.

Right now, MoviePass is making deals directly with the major online ticketing services, which means that as long as a theater is serviced by a MoviePass ticketing provider, you can go to that theater.

Using a geo-aware HTML5 web app (with native apps in the works), you can buy tickets day-of-show from standard online ticketing companies like Once you’re at the theater, the app will give you the redemption code to snag tickets from a kiosk or ticket counter.

To prevent abuse, there are a few rules and regulations regarding the service.

  • Users are limited to seeing one movie per day. We understand this limitation, but it’s a bummer for those of us who like to see multiple movies on a rainy Saturday.
  • Users can only see a movie one time. If you want to re-watch Transformers 3 or another summer blockbuster, you’ll need to pay for your ticket.
  • Tickets are non-transferrable.
  • Tickets must be purchased the day of the show.
  • 3D and IMAX tickets will cost an additional $3. The user will just pay the difference in ticket price between 2D and 3D but can still purchase and pick up tickets the same way as with a regular 2D film.

San Francisco is the private beta market, in part because of the wide-range of ticket prices at theaters throughout the Bay area. During the beta, the MoviePass team hopes to discover what price works best for customers and how the service can bring them more value.

Spikes says that the plan is to expand the beta into more markets by August and to go nationwide this fall. He also told us that do to the difference in ticket prices in different markets, it’s possible that the $50 price point might not be consistent across the country. In New York and Los Angeles, where movie tickets are most expensive, a monthly pass might cost more than in Atlanta or Austin.

I asked Spikes about whether a MoviePass subscription will be valid in multiple cities and he said that the company is looking at possibly offering a “roaming” or “nationwide” plan for an extra fee.

He also pointed out that as MoviePass builds subscribers, it can offer more incentives and better pricing. He likened this to Netflix’s subscription history. Through the years, Netflix has been able to lower its base subscription rate (even for by-mail subscribers) because for every person that consistently rents 20 or 30 movies each month, another dozen only rent one or two.

We really like the idea behind MoviePass and think that the way it is using geolocation to authorize identity and provide tickets is smart. We also like that the company is working with popular online ticketing services to open its base of theaters.

We look forward to seeing how the beta goes in San Francisco and we hope we can try the system out in New York City in time for the fall movie season.

What do you think of the idea behind MoviePass? Would you like to pay a flat-fee for unlimited movie tickets?

More About: Film, moviepass, Movies,, netflix

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Buy Tickets For Transformers: Dark of the Moon on Facebook

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 09:11 AM PDT

Been itching to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon? Well now you and your friends can buy tickets to the third installment of the nostalgia-drenched series via Facebook.

Paramount and social shopping company 8thBridge teamed up to create the promotion, which is activated when you “Like” Transformers: Dark of the Moon on Facebook. From there, users will be able to buy tickets to the movie and invite friends to purchase tix as well.

This isn’t the first time Facebookers have been able to buy tickets via the social network. Last June, Disney launched Disney Tickets Together, which let users pre-order passes to Toy Story 3, as well as invite friends along.

More About: 8thBridge, facebook, Film, MARKETING, Paramount, Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon

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