Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “New Scribd App Makes Reading on a Smartphone Bearable”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “New Scribd App Makes Reading on a Smartphone Bearable”

New Scribd App Makes Reading on a Smartphone Bearable

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Online document hosting service Scribd launched an iPhone app Tuesday that aims to make reading on small smartphone screens bearable.

“For the most part, browsers were built for computers and sort of retrofitted for cellphones,” says Scribd Director of Product Matt Riley, “and they really haven’t provided a great reading experience so far.”

To — for lack of better words — “smartphonize” reading, Riley and his team built Float, an app that strips the external links, ads and any clutter from an article to make it easier to read on a small screen. When reading an article on Float, users have a choice between scrolling up and down or swiping right to left in order to see the next page of content. If they pinch the screen to zoom in, the text rewraps.

The app’s easy reading format is useful and improves the reading experience. But it makes less than a bold headline. What is really nifty about Scribd’s new app are the four ways that content gets loaded onto it.

The app links to your Scribd account and downloads any documents in it for offline mobile reading. But it also links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts and searches for links that friends have posted on those platforms and loads such articles into a “social feed” for offline reading. Readers can also browse for articles from more than 150 publications directly from the app. (Disclosure: Mashable is one of them.) Scribd had the foresight to partner with these publications instead of merely scraping their content in order to avoid a Zite-style legal fiasco.

Scribd also joined Apple in borrowing a trick from online reading tool Instapaper. With a browser bookmarklet, you can easily send articles you find online to your account for reading later.

For now Float is completely free, but Riley says eventually Scribd might charge for premium content or show ads on certain pages. Paid or not, it’s not a particular surprise that Scribd is aggressively pursuing a mobile audience. The company launched a send-to-device feature last year and CEO Trip Adler mentioned mobile strategy when he announced a $13 million round of funding in January.

"As the world rapidly changes the way it reads,” he said in a statement at the time, “we are rapidly preparing to change the way we deliver what they read.”

More About: Instapaper, iphone, scribd, smartphone reader, startups

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Nokia Sea Ray Running Windows Phone 7 Caught on Video

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 05:24 AM PDT

Nokia’s first Windows Phone 7 handset, codenamed Sea Ray, was captured in a in a minute-and-a-half long video running Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

Nokia still has a long, hard road ahead before it actually releases a WP7 device, but it’s making progress, perhaps even faster than expected given this new video.

The video, unearthed by wpcentral, apparently leaked from a factory in Hong Kong or China. It depicts Nokia’s smartphone (which, contrary to initial reports, does sport physical buttons) as it goes through several WP7 menus, followed by a very short glimpse at the phone’s camera operation.

A very similar-looking device was shown in June at a presentation by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop. That video shows us quite a bit more of the phone’s features and functions, but this latest one gives the entire thing a more realistic feeling.

Check out the video below and tell us what you think in the comments.

More About: microsoft, Nokia, Sea Ray, windows phone 7

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Apple To Launch Mac OS X Lion & New MacBook Air Wednesday [REPORT]

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 02:02 AM PDT

Apple is preparing for the launch of the next version of its desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, as well as a refreshed MacBook Air. We might see these new product in stores as early as Wednesday, AppleInsider reports quoting sources familiar with the matter.

The new MacBook Air, according to rumors, is expected to come with a 128 GB SSD, 4 GB of RAM, a backlit keyboard and Lion as the operating system.

Furthermore, MacRumors reports that Apple retail stores have received golden master copies of OS X Lion, which will be installed on Apple’s demo computers on the store floors. If true, it usually means that Apple is undergoing final preparations and the launch is imminent.

During this year’s WWDC keynote Apple announced that Lion is coming this July, without specifying a date. Instead of making the new OS available in physical stores, Apple opted to distribute it only via its Mac App Store.

[via MacRumors, AppleInsider]

More About: apple, lion, mac os x, mac os x lion, macbook, macbook air

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What Happens When Your Phone Is Lost Or Stolen [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 12:15 AM PDT

If you’ve ever lost a phone or had your mobile device stolen, you probably have a better understanding than most of the costs and vulnerabilities involved.

Your contacts, your login credentials, perhaps even your banking data is “out there,” and it’s up to you to try to lock it down or get it back. But the fact of the matter is, most of us are pretty lax about mobile security until something bad happens.

Take a look at this data — all about how and where mobile devices are lost and stolen and what happens to them afterward — from mobile security company Lookout.

[source: MyLookout blog]

Top image courtesy of iStockphoto, ms_seal

More About: infographic, lost phone, Mobile 2.0, mobile security, stolen phone

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100 YouTube Videos Come Together To Cover Led Zeppelin [VIDEO]

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 10:23 PM PDT

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

One Led Zeppelin cover band might be absolute torture to endure, but somehow 100 Led Zeppelin cover bands stitched together converge to create something pretty damn entertaining.

The above video is from Kutiman — a.k.a. Israel-based producer Ophir Kutiel — who often uses YouTube as his musical medium.

His YouTube oeuvre includes a song composed entirely of mashed-up YouTube videos ("My Favorite Color") and a music video titled "Thru-Jerusalem", which brings together local musicians to epitomize the sounds of their city. Kutiman also made it onto Time's "50 Best Inventions of 2009″ list for a past project, ThruYou.

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

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Startup Plotting a Pandora for Books

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 08:13 PM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

readName: BookLamp

Quick Pitch: A book recommendation engine built on book content and writing style instead of sales data.

Genius Idea: Making it easier to discover good books that haven’t neared the best seller list yet.

Stephen King fans recognize the name Richard Bachman as a pseudonym that the famous author published several books under early on in his career. Had Amazon’s book recommendation capability existed before King’s identity was ousted in 1985, however, it would be unlikely to have recommended Bachman to a King lover. Similarly, few friends were likely to have heard of the new author.

“At times, being able to ignore the marketing data can be good for the recommendation,” explains BookLamp CEO Aaron Stanton.

BookLamp has created a book recommendation engine that when asked to search for books similar to Stephen King novels will turn up his alter ego’s writings. It works by cataloging what the startup sometimes refers to as “DNA of books.”

The Da Vinci Code, for instance, contains 18.6% Religion and Religious Institutions, 9.4% Police & Murder Investigation, 8.2% Art and Art Galleries, and 6.7% Secret Societies & Communities (among others), according to BookLamp’s engine. The program also catalogs things like denseness and length, all of which allow it to take someone’s favorite book and recommend others like it.

Throughout the last two years, the company has formed partnerships with about 11 book publishers who use the tool to help make decisions about how to market and select books. In early August, it plans to launch a full consumer-facing product in partnership with Random House and Kensington Books, which will both allow their content to be scanned for the site.

Since the process requires BookLamp to scan the entire content of a book in order to catalog it, only the about 20,000 books from these publishers will be available at first. But unlike the current site, which is intended as a demonstration of the technology more than a consumer product, readers will be able to tweek their recommendation criteria. For instance, they’ll be able to request “something like the Da Vinci Code” but “less dense” or “shorter” or “more fight scenes.”

The angel-funded startup is already breaking even and plans to continue pulling in most of its revenue from its publisher partners. Stanton says that he doesn’t anticipate selling books on the site or advertising.

Aside from pointing people to literary contentment, their business goal is rather to encourage other publishers to sign on.

“We’re hoping that the BookLamp site is able to do for us is to get into the mindset of the editorial people, ” Stanton says. “So if the executive brings us down and says take a look at this interesting thing, they can say, oh yes, our readers are using this material.”

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, BookLamp, recomendation engine, spark-of-genius, startup

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Chase Carey May Replace Murdoch as News Corp CEO [REPORT]

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 07:41 PM PDT

Current News Corp. COO Chase Carey may be the company’s next CEO, following the long reign of media mogul and News Corp. founder, chairman, and current CEO Rupert Murdoch.

Both the titan himself and the media company have been somewhat beleaguered of late, surrounded by scandal and failure on all sides. Sources of Bloomberg said whether Murdoch stays or goes may depend on his performance in an upcoming hearing.

News Corp. independent directors named Carey as a possible new CEO in meetings yesterday but did not come to a final decision, according to Bloomberg.

News Corp. is the parent company of News of the World, which itself has been the center of a scandal involving phone hacks and one dead whistleblower. Both Murdoch and his son have been asked to give testimony about the matter to a British parliamentary committee next week.

In the meantime, the incident has triggered a string of attacks on related websites, including a false report of Murdoch’s death.

And then there’s MySpace, the company’s flagship digital property, which had to be sold last month at a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s unknown whether MySpace’s failure is tied to the rumors of Murdoch’s replacement, but it’s most certainly related to the slump in News Corp.’s stock prices.

More About: Murdoch, News Corp, rupert murdoch

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Betty White Gets Marine Corps Ball Invitation Via YouTube

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 05:26 PM PDT

Betty White, legendary comedienne and Internet favorite, has been invited to the Marine Corps Ball via a YouTube clip from Sgt. Ray Lewis.

If recent events are any indicator of Lewis’ chances, the young man might be met with a favorable answer.

Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake both accepted YouTube invites to Marine Corps Balls in recent days. Kunis will be joining Sgt. Scott Moore at a ball in Greenville, NC; Timberlake will accompany Cpl. Kelsey de Santis to a ball in Washington, DC.

In his invitation, Lewis spends about a minute showing off his Marine-like calisthenics skills, then makes his case to Ms. White, saying, “I would like to take Betty White — she’s funny, she’s sweet, she’s mature. She’s the all around perfect woman. … I think I could make her laugh, I think she could make me laugh.”

Do you think White should accept Lewis’ invitation?

More About: betty white, marine corps, ray lewis, youtube

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Murdoch’s Sun Newspaper Hacked by LulzSec

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 03:54 PM PDT

Hacker group LulzSec, which previously announced it was disbanding, has evidently decided to come out of retirement.

The site managed to redirect the homepage of what is now News International’s best-selling newspaper, The Sun — sister paper to the News of the World — to the LulzSec Twitter account.

Minutes earlier, the hacker group reportedly managed to redirect the Sun’s homepage to a fake news story on the sudden death of Rupert Murdoch. That hack was widely reported, though few sources save the UK-based Guardian actually saw the hack with their own eyes.

The hacks apparently began taking place as news was breaking about the ongoing News of the World whistleblower scandal. Former NOTW reporter Sean Hoare had exposed the publication’s hacking of source’s phones to The New York Times, the BBC, and international audiences last fall and again last week. Today, it was revealed that Hoare had been found dead. The LulzSec attack, although not explicitly stated as such on the LulzSec Twitter account, would ostensibly a retaliation for any possible involvement on Murdoch’s part.

The Sun, a tabloid with more than 3 million readers, was launched in the late 1960s and quickly became infamous for its scantily-clad “Page 3″ girls. It was credited with swinging the UK’s 1992 election to the Conservative party — which it bragged about in the front page headline “It’s The Sun Wot Won It.” Five years later, it backed Labor leader Tony Blair, who won in a landslide.

LulzSec has previously hacked the websites of the CIA, the U.S. Senate, Sony Entertainment and several others. The hacker collective also seems to have brought down the official website of News International.

More About: hackers, hacking, lulzsec, Murdoch, News of the world, the sun

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Spotify Invites: Get Yours on Mashable [CONTEST]

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 03:32 PM PDT

Ever since Spotify pulled a Christopher Columbus last week and navigated its way to the new world, people in the United States have been hoping to get a hold of one of the much-coveted invites to the service.

Spotify has slowly been rolling out invites to its free service, which limits listening somewhat. But many would rather not wait and have been signing up for the paid version of the service: $4.99 per month for its unlimited, ad-free service, and $9.99 per month for the premium, mobile service. Others have managed to grab an invite via launch partners such as Klout, Chevrolet or Coca-Cola.

If you are still holding out for the free service and haven’t been invited yet, have no fear. Your wait may soon be over. Mashable has 100 invites to Spotify, and we want to share them with you.

How To Enter the Contest:

  • In the comments below, tell us how Spotify will change the way you listen to music.
  • Be sure your email is included in your Mashable Follow account by visiting the settings tab on your profile and adding your email address to the email field if it’s blank. Please do not post your email in the comment thread below.
  • Submit your answer by Thursday, July 21, at 12 p.m. ET.

We’re looking forward to hearing how Spotify will change your listening habits. Good luck!

Rock Out With Mashable on Turntable.fm Fridays at 3:30 ET »

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Borders Will Likely Shut Its Doors This Week

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 03:22 PM PDT

In what could be a boon to competitors Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Borders, the book chain, may close its doors for good this week.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a bankruptcy auction is scheduled for the chain on Tuesday after the deadline for bids on the chain passed Sunday. Unless a buyer emerges, Borders will liquidate its assets and close its 399 stores. The chain also employs about 11,000 people.

Founded in 1971 by brothers Tom and Louis Borders in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Borders was bought by Kmart in 1992 and combined with Waldenbooks. Three years later, Amazon went live and began selling books over the Internet. Borders joined forces with Amazon in 2001 to sell books, music and DVDs online in 2001 and began offering Wi-Fi at its locations in 2003, a year before Barnes & Noble did.

But Borders was slow to jump on the e-reading bandwagon. While Amazon launched Kindle in 2007 and Barnes & Noble introduced its Nook ereader in 2009, Kobo — a device backed by Borders — didn't hit the market until mid-2010. It's unclear what support, if any, will be offered for Kobo owners if the chain shuts down.

Image courtesy of Flickr, doortoriver

More About: amazon, barnes & noble, borders, ereaders, Kindle, kobo, nook

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Happy Oasis Wants To Be FarmVille of the Middle East

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 03:01 PM PDT

Is the Middle East ready for a game that combines FarmVille-like gameplay with a progressive social message? That's the hope of the makers of Happy Oasis, a game that debuted on Facebook last week and has already amassed more than 100,000 active users.

The game itself is modeled quite similarly to FarmVille and its ilk, but localized for the Middle Eastern market. Developed by Aranim Games, a Jordan-based company that has previously created a successful line of comic books in the region, Happy Oasis offers both an Arabic and English language version and tasks players with building up their own "Oasis."

I caught up with the Aranim's CEO Suleiman Bakhit last week at TED Global in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he told me how the company is trying to tailor to the surging online population of the Arab world.

"[You use] traditional farming techniques, there are different kinds of buildings and markets you can build. You can build an Islamic garden block by block," he told me. "We're taking some of the Arab habits and traditions and turning them into social gaming mechanics." During Ramadan, for example, the game will be introducing a Mosque building system. You can get a sense for the game’s look and feel in the video below:

Notably, Happy Oasis is also capitalizing on recent events in the Middle East to appeal to youth culture. For instance, both men and women can buy and drive cars in Happy Oasis, an issue that has been pushed to the forefront recently in Saudi Arabia, where women have taken to social media to defy the country's rules against female driving.

Bakhit thinks his company's insight into the culture will help his game prevail over Zynga, a company that has shown an appetite for international expansion but has yet to take hold in the Middle East. "There are serious cultural issues that are extremely sensitive … most western companies won't know how to deal with these issues," he said.

For Bakhit, Happy Oasis and the comic book company that preceded it were born out of a personal mission to teach the world about Arab culture after being the victim of a beating shortly after 9/11 near his university in Minnesota. He said, "I had a decision to make, go home or do something about it. I decided the best way to deal with this was to go speak to school children and spread the message that not all Arabs are terrorists."

From there, Bahkit went back to Jordan. It was there that he started Aranim, which sold 1.2 million comics last year. Much like Happy Oasis, the comic books feature localized story lines and fictionalized Arab heroes, some of which may find their way into the game, Bahkit tells me. Aranim is currently funding its social games through continuing comic sales, though the 12-person company is looking to raise additional capital, Bahkit said.

You can check out some images from the game below:

Happy Oasis

Happy Oasis

Happy Oasis

Happy Oasis

Happy Oasis

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Chill Out in a Musical Kaleidoscope With Bear Hands’ Video

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 02:45 PM PDT

Each Monday, Mashable highlights an exclusive new video or song. Check out all our Music Monday picks.

When Brooklyn-based band Bear Hands set out to create a video for its jangly song about unrequited love, “High Society,” it shook off the shackles of narrative and instead composed a fly’s-eye video made up of images of the band.

Drawing upon the influence of photorealist Chuck Close, guitarist Ted Feldman, along with co-director Andrei Bowden-Schwartz, created the vid using four computers and 10,000 images. “We did 78 takes of that song, which did not make my band happy,” Feldman says.

“This video was a monster,” he says. “We had been assembling the video in parts on different computers, and we were only able to watch our first cut of the monster in full two days before I had to fly back north to play a show in Connecticut.”

The song, “High Society” — from the band’s full-length debut disc Burning Bush Supper Club– has a cinematic quality that could have easily lent itself to a more structured narrative. It tells the tale of a man named Frank, who is in love with a man who doesn’t feel the same way (he’s “engaged to be alone”). In fact, most of the songs on the disc lend themselves to narrative visualization — the video for “Crime Pays,” for example, takes a more direct route (with the crime and whatnot).

Still, the band doesn’t go the cinematic story song path in this case. “We didn’t like the idea of sort of arbitrarily fitting our songs into a narrative, or fitting us, the band, into a narrative, because that feels kind of phony,” Feldman says.

Instead, the band members fit themselves — literally — into a kind of kaleidoscoping imagery, making the song more about sound and atmosphere than the plight of Frank. The video starts in close, focusing on lead singer Dylan Rau’s mouth here, a tattoo there, then begins splintering off into more and more squares featuring a symbol, guitar strings, etc. Those images become ever more plentiful, until they make up Rau’s face once more.

“Every image in this video is taken from just us performing, so as complicated as it ends up being, it’s a pretty simple concept,” says Feldman.

More About: bear-hands, music monday, video, youtube

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G.Co: Google Has a New URL Shortener

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 02:16 PM PDT

Google has unveiled g.co, a new URL shortener that will link only to Google products and websites.

The search giant already owns goo.gl, a URL shortener it launched in 2009. Unlike g.co, the goo.gl URL shortener can be used for any link on the web via the Google Toolbar.

“We'll only use g.co to send you to webpages that are owned by Google, and only we can create g.co shortcuts,” Google VP of Consumer Marketing Gary Briggs stated on the company’s blog. “That means you can visit a g.co shortcut confident you will always end up at a page for a Google product or service.”

The tech titan, which has been using the goo.gl URL shortener for its products until now, clearly wants to limit the confusion about where its goo.gl links lead to. Separating Google products from goo.gl should go a long way to solving that problem.

Google isn’t the only company to use .co as its official URL shortener. Twitter obtained t.co last year to improve how links are shared and secured on its platform.

More About: G.co, Goo.gl, Google, url shortener

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HOW TO: Gamify Your Marketing

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 02:03 PM PDT

Adam Kleinberg is co-founder and CEO at Traction, an interactive agency that aligns psychology with technology to create ideas that work. Look for Traction’s LinkedIn page and free toolkit. Catch him tweeting at @adamkleinberg and blogging at tractionco.com/blog.

The scale of the audience accessible through gaming is simply staggering. In terms of potential reach, it rivals television as a medium. Yet, according to Forrester, 84% of marketers have no plans to use games in their marketing efforts.

Is this a giant missed opportunity just waiting to be seized? Or is the notion of "gamification" just one more chance for marketers to fall prey to Shiny Object Syndrome?

As with most shiny objects, the answer is "it depends." Let's examine the opportunities marketers have to gamify experiences.

Who Are Gamers?

Throw your stereotype about “gamers” out the window. In short, just about everyone is playing games. Gamers span virtually every demographic, according to a May report from Forrester: 65% of Xbox gamers are male, 59% of "social gamers" are women, and mobile gamers are split right down the middle.

They are also spread evenly across generations, especially social gamers — 23% of whom are Boomers between ages 45 and 65. Gamers tend also to be more motivated than non-gamers to be connected to others, and they display a higher than average propensity to interact with brands on social networks.

The What and Why of Gamification

Of course, marketers are not playing games. They've got metrics to achieve, brands to build, ROI to measure. Why consider gamification? What kinds of behaviors can you expect to drive?

Gamification can be leveraged to drive adoption, engagement, loyalty, sharing, even sales. While all of these are worthy business objectives, don't get all worked up just yet — as you’ll see with any marketing plan, the devil is in the details.

Before deciding if you should gamify your marketing, it's important to understand some vocabulary. These terms tend to be inconsistent in the literature, but it’s important to understand the underlying concepts these terms represent.

First and foremost, gamification is not equal to games. Gamfication is the application of gaming concepts to non-game experiences in order to drive desired behavior from an audience.

What kind of concepts? A few definitions:

  • A game is structured play, usually for fun.
  • Gameplay is interaction inside of a game.
  • Game Mechanics are constructs or tactics commonly used in games to encourage gameplay. These are things like badges, points, leader boards, levels, challenges, achievements and virtual sheep you can put on your virtual farm.
  • Game Dynamics are strategies commonly used in game design based on psychological motivations. These include things like "Appointments," in which someone does something to gain a reward, "Avoidance," in which someone does something to avoid a punishment, or the "Free Lunch" dynamic, in which people feel they are getting something because of their behavior.
  • Currencies are ways to give people incentives based on various motivations in a digital world: the need for financial reward, the need to do good, the need to help one's community, the need for recognition and influence, the need for pleasure. We can assign currencies to each one of these motivations to reward people for desired behaviors.

  • Why Gamification Works

    In a word, progress.

    In 2010, Harvard Business Review reported on the results of a study into what motivated people at their jobs. Hundreds of people kept daily diaries over several years to identify what really kept them motivated day-to-day. The answer, overwhelmingly, was a sense of progress.

    Game mechanics are essentially a collection of tools that measure and report statistics. Those statistics represent progress. Collect five more points to level up. Check in at two more locations to get a badge. If nine more people agree to purchase, they’ll all unlock a deal.

    Currencies are the rewards at the end of the rainbow — perhaps recognition on a leaderboard, a donation to a cause you care about, or a coupon. They measure your overall progress, as well.

    According to Forbes, Groupon is the fastest-growing company — ever. It's also an example of a company that uses game mechanics (a progress bar showing how many people have bought and how many are needed to activate the deal), game dynamics (you get a great deal because others have unlocked it) and currencies (the deal itself).

    How Brands Are Gamifying the Customer Experience

    Brands across the spectrum are using gamification in clever and unexpected ways:

    1. Starbucks

    Starbucks has rewarded visitors who check in to multiple locations on Foursquare with a Barista badge, and their most loyal customers with a $1 off mayors special.

    2. Nike

    Nike and Apple have teamed up to gamify your exercise regimen. Nike+ lets you save runs, set goals and challenge friends. They even have public featured challenges in which to participate, like "Men vs. Women," to see which team can run the most in a year.

    3. Ribbon Hero

    Microsoft has launched gamified software training (giving Clippy, the annoying animated paperclip, a second chance at life) with Ribbon Hero. You can download the extension to Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010, which uses gamification to help you learn the software. Microsoft calls Ribbon Hero a game, but I call it gamification because its primary purpose is a training tool. The "game" is a means to an end.

    4. CauseWorld

    Kraft put utility ahead of branding with its sponsorship of CauseWorld, an app that allows users to earn points or "Karmas" by checking in and scanning products at grocery stores. Users can then turn those points into donations to their favorite causes. CauseWorld leverages game mechanics like team play, points, leaderboards and achievements, while rewarding users with multiple currencies -- donations to charities and mobile coupons for Kraft products.

    Considerations for Successful Gamification

    So, you've identified gamification as a strategy for your brand, app or landing page. What next?

    Follow these guidelines to achieve success:

    1. Have an objective. If your reason for considering gamification is "because everyone is doing it," you might as well give up now. Start with real business goals. Figure out what you want to achieve. Then, you'll be in position to assess which user behaviors will translate to success.

    2. Engineer a path to your goals. Many marketers have long used the "funnel" as a model for planning communications; it’s useful because it’s a behavioral-tactical model. You identify the behaviors you want to elicit (awareness, interest, consideration, purchase) and then you choose tactics that can provoke each of those behaviors.

    You should use a similar approach in designing a gamified brand experience. First, identify the behaviors or actions you want from participants, alongside their relative value. Then you can identify strategies and tactics — game dynamics and mechanics — to engineer a path toward your goals.

    3. Rewards, rewards, rewards. Incentives must mean something. Game mechanics are a means to an end. Buffalo Wild Wings recently conducted a program called "Home Court Advantage" using SCVNGR, a location-aware platform that allows you, or even your customers, to create challenges at specific places. In this instance, users racked up points to win free chicken wings or a grand prize trip to the NBA Finals.

    According to SCVNGR, over 180,000 participated in over one million challenges and posted nearly half of them to their Facebook walls.

    Don't reinvent the wheel. Not every gamified experience requires a ton of back-end engineering. A number of companies like BunchBall, Badgeville and Gamify, have made implementing game mechanics as easy as customizing a WordPress site.

    Basic game mechanics like points, levels and leader boards are turn-key, but can be customized to your brand's content.

    4. Take a holistic view. It is vital that you look at the big picture, especially if you're applying gamification principles to a product.

    For instance, Klout is jockeying for position as the authoritative metric for social media influence scoring. They use an algorithm to make it simple for marketers: A Klout score of 15 = not so good. A Klout score of 99 = awesome!

    However, Klout is jeopardizing its core objective by applying gamification principles to its user experience. It added the game mechanic of “group play” to encourage viral spread. (Klout allows you to gift five “K” points to people who have influenced you to log in). But if a company wants to gauge the influence of a user, they don’t want it to be affected by a system that can be “gamed.” The second business objective (increasing membership) may undermine the first business objective (establishing credibility).

    While Klout has done some gamification exceptionally well — like getting brands to offer perks to those with high influence scores — their mission to become "The Standard for Influence" is being threatened by their lack of a holistic view.

    5. Make it fun. American Express Travel has gamified a new marketing program called NEXTPEDITION. Players answer a series of fun questions to earn a custom-made mystery trip based on their “travel sign.”

    The game cleverly disguises marketing as a diversion. For example, American Express asked me what I'd do during The Zombie Apocalypse (I'm going to build a flamethrower out of my old grill and car parts). The 15 questions I answer may serve to vaguely qualify me as a credit lead (their agenda), but are much more about entertaining me (my agenda).

    Ask Why When You Gamify

    Many brands are having tremendous success using gamification to provoke their customers toward action. You could too. Or you could totally flop.

    The critical difference will be if you've asked yourself "Why?" at every step in your process.

    "Why am I doing this?"

    "Why will people care about this reward?"

    "Why will this strategy work?"

    If find you've got good answers to these questions, it just might be time to inject a little play into your work. If not…

    Game over.

    Image via nan palmero

    More About: business, gamification, how to

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Rebecca Black’s Follow Up to “Friday” Has Arrived [VIDEO]

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 01:24 PM PDT

167 million views and countless parodies later, Rebecca Black has released a sequel to "Friday" on YouTube. We're told that the new video, called "My Moment," tells "the story of her sudden rise to fame," with clips of Black's life since “Friday” started to go insanely viral back in March.

The debut is part of an apparent push to cash in on Black's popularity, with the singer also announcing she'll have a 5-track EP out in August. The single goes on sale on iTunes and other online retailers on Tuesday.

A release about “My Moment” highlights some of the singer's "achievements" since Friday took off, including her TV appearances, her role in Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night" video and status as "the Number One most popular topic on Twitter in 2011 to date."

SEE ALSO: Top 5 Rebecca Black "Friday" Covers

Of course, all of that is more of a result of Black's status as one of the most popular memes of 2011 and not what would represent a dramatic shift in the world's musical taste (in late March, "Friday" had only been played 12 times on the radio despite its vast digital reach), but the singer seems poised to make a go of it as an artist.

In any event, give the sequel a watch and let us know what you think in the comments — can anything from this video come close to matching the viralness of the original?:

More About: memes, music, Rebecca Black, trending

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Portugal. The Man Gets Tarantino-Esque Music Video With Dogsleds

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 01:20 PM PDT

Each Monday, Mashable highlights an exclusive new video or song. Check out all our Music Monday picks.

To showcase its catchy anthem “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)” from the upcoming album, In The Mountain In The Cloud, Portugal. The Man went to Alaska’s icy climes to weave a tale of a dogsledding exhibition gone horribly awry. And those icy climes, it turns out, exist right in lead singer John Gourley’s backyard.

Push play on the video above and you’ll be transported to a landscape out of time — an eerie, snow-encased world in which a trapper (Gourley) can accidentally shoot himself in the head, and then carry on singing after his life has slipped away.

While such a whiteout world might seem exotic to the average city dweller, this is home for Gourley, who hails from Wasilla, Alaska. (No, he doesn’t know Sarah Palin.) His parents both competed in the Iditarod.

“It felt like we were a bunch of kids doing a high school project and running out and jumping on my parents’ dogsled and filming something on the fly,” Gourley says of the video, which premieres today ahead of the album’s July 19 drop date.

Gourley himself dogsledded until high school, where the sport wasn’t looked upon as the coolest pastime.

“My dad would come to pick me up from high school in a beaver skin cap, big gloves, his parka and everything,” he says. “It was so funny to see him show up — his beard all frozen from being out with the dogs.”

A bad case of frostbite, rather than abject embarrassment at his father, was what took the joy out of sledding for Gourley. Still, the singer braved 25- to 50-below Fahrenheit weather to create this chilling (pun wholly intended) vid, which is a smaller section of short film that premiered on IFC, directed by Mike Ragen.

The song has a kind of rallying quality, one that would likely be helpful to a frost-bearded traveler mushing through the countryside with many miles to go. But Portugal. The Man wasn’t trying to match lyrics to images.

“I think it’s more about the sounds than the subject matter,” Gourley says. “The reason I got into music was obviously because of bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, things like that. But it was also people like Quentin Tarantino putting these really great songs to these amazing scenes in movies.”

Indeed, “Got It All” has a Tarantino-esque quality. If you’re at all bothered by images of dogs munching on singing corpses, we suggest covering your eyes toward the end.

More About: music, music monday, portugal-the-man, video, youtube

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Spin Magazine Premieres Nirvana Cover Album on Facebook

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 12:52 PM PDT

Nirvana’s iconic album Nevermind turns 20 this year. To celebrate, Spin magazine is releasing a cover album that will be available in its entirety Tuesday on Facebook .

The album — cleverly titled Newermind — is a companion to Spin‘s August tribute issue (see the cover to the right) and features a melange of musical styles: Titus Andronicus, The Vaselines and Surfer Blood all cribbing Cobain’s crooning.

Check out an exclusive stream below of JEFF the Brotherhood taking on “Something in the Way” to get a taste of what to expect. (The band recorded this version on cassette and then digitized it. How retro.)

You’ll be able to check out the whole album download Tuesday on Spin‘s Facebook Page. The content will be behind a “Like Gate,” so you’ll have to “Like” Spin before accessing the tunes.

The magazine is also offering artist reflections of the disc via a gallery packed with musings from the likes of Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl and Wayne Coyne.

When it comes to injecting digital into old media, Spin has stood as one of the most innovative music publications from its excellent iPad app (featuring a streaming playlist for every issue), to its integration with Shuffler.fm (which allows you to listen to all the tracks of a music blog as you read). Spin has also offered tunes for Likes in the past — it’s currently featuring a Bonnaroo mixtape in exchange for some love.

What do you think of the magazine’s Nirvana tribute?

More About: facebook, JEFF the Brotherhood, kurt-cobain, like-gate, MARKETING, music, nevermind, newermind, nirvana, spin magazine

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Apple Product Design: 35 Years of Consumer Electronics [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 12:17 PM PDT

When it comes to industrial design, few consumer electronics or computer makers have the legacy or influence of Apple, Inc. In the last 35 years, Apple has introduced a myriad of products and devices, some very successful, some, not so much.

Artist Mike Vasilev created this infographic for Mashable, highlighting the major Apple product releases and design changes from 1976 through 2011.

With rumors of the iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and a smaller, lower-cost iPhone all spreading through the technosphere, we feel certain that at least one more item will be added to the “redesign” list before 2011 closes out.

What is your favorite Apple design of all time? Let us know in the comments.

Graphic created by Mike Vasilev

More About: apple, gadgets, infographics, ipad, iphone, Mashable Infographics, tech

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“Dark Knight Rises” Trailer Hits the Web [VIDEO]

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 11:46 AM PDT

Warner Bros. has posted the first teaser trailer for the third installment of The Dark Knight Rises, the third film in the rebooted Batman film franchise, on Facebook.

The trailer, which first graced screens this weekend before showings of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, is mostly a 90-second compilation of scenes from the previous two films — but it does contain a few scenes from the new one. A scene showing Batman (Christian Bale) preparing to fight Bane (Tom Hardy), one of the caped crusader’s greatest adversaries, should get fans excited.

Warner Bros. decided not to host the video on its servers, but instead posted it to its Facebook Page. Presumably the studio is trying to amass more Facebook fans to help promote the film.

The movie hits theaters in summer 2012 and also features Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Morgan Freeman reprises his role as Lucius Fox, and Michael Caine returns as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s trusted butler and adviser.

Check out the trailer and let us know in the comments what you think .

More About: batman, facebook, Film, movie, the dark knight, The Dark Knight Rises, trailer, trending, warner bros

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How Journalists Are Using Facebook to Share the News

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 11:31 AM PDT

The Facebook Marketing Series is supported by Buddy Media, Power Tools for Facebook. Are you posting blindly? Use our insights to help you deliver the right content at the right time and get the results you need. Download our data report now.

Facebook is a treasure trove for journalists — with the ability to message almost anyone and search for people based on location, college, employer and interests, it’s a great platform for finding sources. Just this April, Facebook even launched Journalist Pages.

And now, a new study released by Facebook offers advice for journalists who are building their brands, promoting content and culling for sources on the 750 million-strong social networking site. Vadim Lavrusik, Facebook’s journalist program manager, and Betsy Cameron, a data analyst, compiled the data to “provide journalists with some best practices and insights on optimizing their engagement and distribution on Facebook to better reach their audiences.” Major findings and tips are below.

What You Post Affects Engagement

When crafting your posts, there are a number of things to consider. Here are some ideas on optimizing posts (along with how much more engagement they spur, as compared to an “average” Facebook post):

  • Ask a question. Posts that include a question or call to action receive the highest amount of feedback and spur dialogue among fans.
  • Give a piece of your mind. Offer some analysis and reflection — these posts get 20% more referral clicks than those without it.
  • Look closer. Asking fans to “take a closer look” or to “read” increases engagement by 37%.
  • Invite them in. Fans are more likely to feel a connection to a journalist if they feel that they know the reporter more. Offering your own perspective and taking fans “behind the scenes” gets 25% more engagement.
  • Be clever. Posts with puns and other catchy and clever language get 18% more engagement.

While brevity is emphasized on sites like Twitter, and one-liners are appropriate for Facebook, journalists get better feedback and engagement when their posts have a little more substance and reporting in them. Consider this:

  • 4-line postings see a 30% increase in feedback over average posts
  • 5-line postings showed a 60% increase in feedback over average posts

Diversify Your Post Content

As you probably learned in Facebook Marketing 101, consumers like multimedia, such as video and pictures. Since a journalist’s job is to report, it helps to go beyond the written word and really show readers what you’re seeing. Images get 50% more Likes than text posts, and links that are posted on the wall with a thumbnail image in the preview get 65% more Likes and 50% more comments than posts that are sans thumbnail.

Despite the better engagement on photos, only 10% of the content on Journalist Pages are photos.

Coverage Trends

What gets people talking? Education, politics and your own thoughts. Here’s a breakdown of content subjects and how they perform as compared to the “average” Facebook post:

  • Education posts got twice as many Likes.
  • Politics received 70% more Likes and 60% more comments.
  • Journalists sharing their own thoughts and analysis saw 40% more Likes.

But there’s more to Facebook than comments and Likes — you want your audience to share your content with their own network. Here are the stories the tend to do well (again, relative to the “average” Facebook post), along with an example post from a journalist that exhibited good engagement.

  • International news stories see 70% more referral clicks — "For 60 years, Pakistan's military has focused obsessively on its rivalry with India. Large elements within that military appear to be switching obsessions…" – Fareed Zakaria
  • Politics stories get 60% more referral clicks — "I'm sitting down with President Obama tomorrow for an exclusive interview – click below and tell me what you think I should ask." – George Stephanopoulos
  • A journalist’s own insights and commentary get 20% more referral clicks — "For all of you high school students accepted into college – congratulations, but think about deferring for a year and taking a 'gap year' – I did…" – Nicholas Kristof

When to Post

Reporting is a 24/7 job, but Facebook activity comes in waves. While you can’t determine when news will happen in order to achieve optimal engagement, you can strategically promote your content — like an upcoming special report — to a more engaged audience at certain times.

Journalists tend to receive the highest amount of feedback later in the week, from Thursday through Sunday. Sunday has the best engagement, with posts seeing 25% more Likes and 8% more comments than an “average” post.

Referral clicks are highest on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday — links posted on Saturday get 85% more clicks.

While it’s no surprise that Facebook is a non-stop consumption site, there are certain hours that spike with activity and feedback. Not surprisingly, early morning hours see high engagement, as people want to know what’s going on in the world before they start the day — links posted between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. see up to a 40% spike in engagement. There’s another spike around 10 a.m., and then another toward the end of the workday at 5 p.m., presumably when people are getting ready to shut down the office computer and head home. Night owls who are trolling Facebook around midnight and 2 a.m. EST also spike feedback on Journalist Pages.

What kind of content performs well on your Journalist Page? Let us know in the comments.

Series Supported by Buddy Media

The Facebook Marketing Series is supported by Buddy Media, Power Tools for Facebook. Are you posting blindly? Use our insights to help you deliver the right content at the right time and get the results you need. Download our data report now.

More Facebook Marketing Resources from Mashable:

- 4 Ways to Set Up a Storefront on Facebook
- HOW TO: Create a Facebook Engagement Policy
- HOW TO: Engage and Mobilize Facebook Fans Beyond the “Like”
- 5 Creative Facebook Places Marketing Campaigns

More About: facebook, Facebook Marketing Series, journalism, journalists, Journalists on Facebook

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CNN Starts Live Streaming to the Web, iPad & iPhone

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 11:23 AM PDT

Select cable subscribers will be able to access 24-hour live broadcast streams from CNN and HLN on CNN.com, the CNN App for iPad and CNN for iPhone, CNN has announced.

Right now, the live access to CNN is only available to AT&T, Comcast, Cox, DISH Network, Suddenlink and Verizon customers. That leaves out some of the major cable providers, like Time Warner Cable and Cablevision.

CNN, a Mashable content partner, is joining the ranks of other cable networks like ESPN in providing access to its live broadcast content on a multitude of devices and platforms. In the industry, this is widely known as TV Everywhere. For cable companies and networks, TV Everywhere is perhaps the most potent answer to online subscription streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. The idea is to give cable subscribers additional platform options.

For content companies like CNN, it also means more potential eyeballs. In a statement, Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide said, “A principal goal for CNN is to make more of our content available to more people on more platforms, and CNN’s participation in the TV Everywhere initiative is another step forward in that effort.”

Last week, I spoke to Ron Frankel, the CEO of Synacor, a company that powers TV Everywhere portals for various ISPs, including Suddenlink. Frankel told me that TV Everywhere is already showing real promise with consumers.

“The response and uptake we’re seeing is phenomenal,” he said. “Thanks to HBO Go, millions of people are now familiar with entering in their account ID to access TV Everywhere content.”

HBO launched its TV Everywhere initiative, HBO Go in May, and the app has already been downloaded more than 3 million times.

With Netflix’s recent price hike announcement causing outrage from users, this could be TV Everywhere’s opportunity to get a foothold into a market that at one point seemed Netflix’s to lose.

What do you think about TV Everywhere, live streaming of television broadcasts online and the convergence of devices? Let us know in the comments.

More About: cnn, HBO GO, HLN, Synacor, television, tv, tv everywhere

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News of the World Whistleblower Found Dead

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 11:09 AM PDT

A former News of the World reporter who connected former NOTW editor Andy Coulson to phone hacking by his staff has been found dead.

The Guardian reports that Sean Hoare, who worked as NOTW‘s showbiz reporter before being dismissed for substance abuse problems, was found dead by police in his Watford, England, home. Police did not confirm Hoare’s identity.

Hoare first made his allegations in a New York Times investigation into the alleged phone hacking. Hoare told the newspaper that when the two worked together at The Sun, Hoare played a recording of hacked messages for Coulson, and at NOTW, Coulson, who has since served as a communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron, “actively encouraged” Hoare to continue to do it. Hoare later told the BBC that Coulson had asked him to tap into phones.

Hoare weighed in on the current allegations last week, when he told The New York Times that NOTW reporters were able to locate people using their mobile phone signals. The reporters got that information by reportedly bribing local police.

Hoare’s apparent death is the latest news to emerge from the continuing scandal involving Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Over the weekend, NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks was arrested in Britain over allegations of phone hacking and bribing police, and Scotland Yard Chief Sir Paul Stephenson resigned. Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton also resigned last week.

More About: Les Hinton, News Corp, News of the world, phone hacking, Rebekah Brooks, rupert murdoch

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Social Media Monitoring: Is Vertical Specialization the Next Big Thing?

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 10:35 AM 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.

Cruvee is unlike any other social monitoring tool on the market — in contrast to competitors, such as Radian6 and Crimson Hexagon, Cruvee focuses solely on one vertical, the wine industry. The free social monitoring tool helps wine brands track and engage in conversations across the web about their brands.

Acquired by VinTank earlier this year, Cruvee is used by 1,800 wineries (out of about 6,500 total wineries) in the United States and measures 1.5 million conversations about wine per day.

So, what makes Cruvee so special? Paul Mabray, VinTank’s chief strategy officer, says that Cruvee’s strength is in its ability to understand wine-specific language and taxonomy, as well as the fact that it monitors wine-specific social platforms.

The language of wine is already complicated enough, but when you throw in the 140-character confines of Twitter, for example, it gets even more difficult to interpret. Mabray explained, “If I say ‘cab sauv’ on Twitter, because I only have 140 characters, what I’m really saying is ‘cabernet sauvignon.’ Or if I say, ‘blackberry in a six word spread of Twisted Oak,” there’s a high propensity that’s going to be a tasting note about Twisted Oak winery, and not about Twisted Oak golf course, for example.” Because Cruvee’s algorithm was built around wine conversations, it is able to parse such granular details.

Furthermore, Cruvee is able to monitor 77 wine-specific platforms, both mobile and web-based, that may be seen as too niche to track by other social monitoring tools. For example, it pulls in conversations from the Drync iPhone app and CellarTracker cellar management software.

A Look at Cruvee

Because Cruvee focuses solely on the wine industry, it includes a number of features that you won’t see in other social media monitoring tools. Take a look at the embedded gallery below for screenshots of the tool in action.

Winery Overview Page

Wine brands input winery information into Cruvee. That data is then syndicated to more than 76 partners, with an aggregate audience of more than 2.2 million potential customers, through Cruvee's API. Some partners include Drync, VinoVisit and Winelog.net. The data is also also syndicated to a wine brand's Facebook Page.

"Besides being syndicated to all of our partners, the information in Cruvee can also be used by the wineries themselves to satisfy one-off requests from critics, writers, and bloggers (Cruvee Directory), as well as integrating into their own initiatives or even powering their own website or trade portal," explained Mabray. "We are also seeing companies begin to bootstrap applications on top of Cruvee's data, rapidly accelerating product development and innovation in our industry -- case in point is the restaurant menu iPad app called Tastevin."

Wine List Page

Wine brands can also input information about each of their wines.

Wine Details Page

Each wine entry may include a number of details, including the wine's name, wine type, alcohol content and details about its production, among other options.

"The wine details tab and related tabs illustrate the comprehensive nature of the data that Cruvee collects and how Cruvee has been built from the ground-up for this purpose," says Mabray.

Data Syndication ROI Dashboard

The data syndication ROI dashboard enables wine brands to see "where their data is distributed through our partner network and where their data is in demand," says Mabray. "Through Cruvee's syndication network wineries are able to see what types of applications, businesses, and services are accessing their data and in what levels."

Social Media Dashboard

The social media dashboard "provides a high-level snapshot of the latest activity across all social media campaigns created by the user from the 6 broad categories monitored by Cruvee," says Mabray.

The true value for wineries comes in with the types of systems Cruvee monitors. Mabray explained: "Besides monitoring conversations and posts from sites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Delicious and so on, the system also monitors over 77 wine-specific platforms, 110,000 blogs and more than 50,000 forums. This list grows organically as the system discovers new locations where wines and wine brands are discussed."

Social Media Campaign Edit Page

Like other social media monitoring tools, Cruvee enables users to set up campaigns specific to current promotions or marketing initiatives. However, it does so with the language of wine in mind.

"Since Cruvee's social media monitoring system was built with wine in mind, it already has the ability baked in to apply filtering and context validation of conversations that are either impossible or very difficult to employ in general purpose tool sets," says Mabray. "The user merely has to dial up or down the necessary 'wine context' needed for each keyword in their campaign."

Monitoring Conversations

After a social media campaign is active, the user can access a feed of conversations related to a given campaign. Cruvee recently added a feature that shows the Klout score for the commenter, so that wine brands using Cruvee can see a general measure of the user's influence.

Facebook Application

Cruvee's API syndicates a wine brand's winery and wine details to its Facebook app, which enables wine brands to publish those details to their Facebook Pages, including Buy Now buttons that lead to their e-commerce sites. More than 900 wineries -- about 50% of Cruvee users -- use the free Facebook app. Here's an example of Jordan Vineyard & Winery's use of the app.

Is This the Beginning of a Vertical Social Media Monitoring Trend?

Cruvee is the first vertical social media monitoring tool we’ve seen, and it is being widely adopted in the wine industry, with nearly 30% of American wineries using it, as reported by VinTank. With Cruvee’s growth, we wonder why other industry-specific social media monitoring tools haven’t made their way to the stage.

After all, most industries operate on jargon — in the automobile industry, for example, social media monitors running solely on keyword searches, rather than industry-specific algorithms, would likely have a difficult time parsing whether the sentiment behind a post mentioning “sick rims” was positive or negative, or that it wasn’t talking about glasses or BlackBerry-creator RIM, for example.

Mashable spoke with Altimeter Group Industry Analyst Susan Etlinger, who focuses on social and mobile analytics, to hear her thoughts on whether this is a trend we’ll see blossoming in coming years. In short, Etlinger says:

“I am not convinced that this is the beginning of vertical social media monitoring. I think it does raise the bar for the monitoring tools out there to improve their domain expertise. Furthermore, I think domain expertise will become an even bigger differentiator than it is now. Building industry-appropriate lexicons is going to become critical in the next year, because the only way to truly understand a conversation about a particular product or industry is to understand the environment, the relationship between the customer and the business.”

Etlinger says that social media conversations are akin to detective work: “Every post in social media is a clue to something — it’s a clue about the relationship between that person and the business he or she is discussing. If you don’t understand the context of the conversation, then you are very vulnerable to drawing the wrong conclusions.”

We’d like to open this conversation up for discussion. Readers, do you think that Cruvee is leading the way towards a vertical social media monitoring trend? Have you seen other industry-specific social media monitoring tools on the market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Thomas_EyeDesign

More About: business, Cruvee, social media, social media monitoring, wine

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William Shatner’s Google+ Account Gets Temporarily Shut Down

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 10:03 AM PDT

William Shatner boldly went where few celebs have gone — and he paid the price for it.

The actor’s Google+ account was taken down early Monday, although it now appears to be back up.

Shatner complained about the incident on Twitter, stating, “My Google+ account was flagged for violating standards. Saying hello to everyone apparently is against the rules maybe I should say goodbye?”

Shatner rejoined Google+ Monday with the following announcement: “I am back plusers! I still do not know what happened but I will refrain from saying hello again for a while just in case. My best, Bill.”

The issue could be related to verification. Google is trying to make Google+ as free of pseudonyms and fake accounts as possible. Accordingly, Google has gone after at least one Second Life user, who tried to build a Google+ profile around the virtual account.

Despite Google’s vigilance, there are some clearly fake Google+ accounts out there, including one supposedly run by the late Hunter S.Thompson. Some celebs, like Ashton Kutcher and Lady Gaga, have what appear to be real accounts.

At the moment, there seems to be no verification system for Google+. So telling a real celeb account from a fake one can be a challenge. Such are the growing pains for a new social network.

Google reps could not be reached for comment.

More About: Google, Google Plus, twitter, William Shatner

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Egyptian Women Take a Stand Against Sexual Abuse

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 10:00 AM PDT

egyptian woman image

A group of Egyptian women are taking a stand against sexual harassment and abuse with the creation of HarassMap, a crowdsourced way to monitor and protect women in Cairo.

The site asks women to report any sexual assault by calling, texting, emailing or tweeting (#harassmap) the site. The reports are then placed on a searchable map and colored by type of abuse. The acts reported can range from catcalls and ogling to more dangerous situations like stalking and even rape. Women who report incidents are given counsel on how to file a police report, find psychological help and self-defense classes.

Using that map, the site can identify abuse hot spots. Volunteers then make calls to local shopkeepers, residents and police explaining how they can make their at-risk communities safer for women.

The project is led by American-born Rebecca Chiao and a group of other local volunteers. Chiao sees the site as the start of a quiet sexual revolution on the heels of Egypt’s popular uprising. HarassMap, like the revolutions, will hopefully prove that social media and digital tools can continue to make a difference in Egypt.

harassmap image

Crowdsourcing is a gutsy way to prevent sexual assault, which is historically under-reported by victims that may feel ashamed. This is especially true in Egypt where women can actually be held to blame for being assaulted. "People have been under a lot of pressure, and overcrowding, noise, stress are increasing," Chiao said of Egypt in an interview with the Toronto Star. "They take out their frustration on people below them. Women are seen as objects of sexual temptation. If you're harassed as a women, it's supposed to be your fault." The consequences for men are often negligible.

As the Star reports, a 2008 survey of more than 2,000 men and women by the Egyptian Center for Women's rights claimed that 83% of Egyptian females and 98% of foreign females said they had been exposed to some form of sexual harassment.

HarassMap is trying to expand by reaching out to schools and NGOs, but perhaps the most promising note is that about half of the project's volunteer base consists of men.

What do you think of HarassMap? Do you think a project like this can make a difference?

Image courtesy of Flickr, Al Jazeera English

More About: cairo, crowdsourced, Egypt, harassmap, non-profit, sexual abuse, sexual assault, Sexual Harassment, social good, women

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College Students Can Now Rent Textbooks Electronically From Amazon

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 08:54 AM PDT

Kindle Textbooks Rental for College Students

A month or so before back-to-school season begins in earnest, Amazon has jumped into the lucrative college textbook market with Kindle Textbook Rental.

Amazon claims students can save as much as 80% off textbook list prices by renting from the Kindle Store. The company is offering tens of thousands of textbooks, which students can rent for periods ranging from 30 to 360 days. Amazon has also extended its Whispersnyc technology so that students can access all their notes and highlighted content in the Amazon Cloud, even after the rental agreement is over.

Amazon’s entry, which comes after rival Barnes & Noble‘s, arrives as the National Association of College Stores estimates that U.S. college stores posted $10.25 billion in sales for the 2009-2010 fiscal year with each student spending $745 on average.

Amazon, of course, has had tremendous success converting the general market to ebooks. In May, the online retailer announced sales for its digital book format had surpassed hardcover sales. Meanwhile, publishers — aware of the migration into ebooks — are attempting to get ahead of the trend as well. In January, McGraw-Hill launched its first cloud-based textbook, which was aimed at the K-12 market.

More About: amazon, barnes & noble, e-textbooks, Kindle, textbooks

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Facebook & NBC Team Up to Host Republican Presidential Debate

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 08:26 AM PDT

republican elephant image

NBC and Facebook are teaming up to co-host a broadcast of the U.S. GOP presidential debate before the New Hampshire Republican primary next year.

NBC will air the debate as a special broadcast of Meet the Press, moderated by the show’s host David Gregory. At the same time, it will stream live on Facebook “to create an interactive experience.”

Starting Monday, users can start discussions and post questions for the debate at either the Meet the Press or US Politics Facebook pages. Some of the questions posted on the pages will be used in the debate.

As the longest running show on television, Meet the Press is no stranger to hosting political discussions. Facebook is a bit newer to the role, but its importance as a political platform was highlighted by President Barack Obama’s successful efforts to use Facebook and other social media to mobilize young voters in the 2008 election.

Since then, Facebook — and social media in general — has become so much of a political tool that it hosted a live discussion with the president earlier this year. The upcoming debate in New Hampshire won’t be the GOP’s first debate that involves social media. The candidates are also scheduled for a Twitter debate on July 20.

Facebook first played a role in debate coverage in the 2008 elections, when it worked with ABC to involve its users. In that partnership, Facebook users were able to participate in Debate Groups, view behind-the-scenes footage and view Facebook polls, but this is the first time that the debates will be live streamed on the platform.

"Voters expect to be able to learn about and interact with candidates on Facebook,” said Joel Kaplan, vice president of U.S. public policy at Facebook, in a statement.

More About: 2012 election, facebook, New Hampshire republican primary, obama, politics

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Ivanka Trump Announces Baby’s Birth on Twitter

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 08:12 AM PDT

Ivanka Trump gave birth to a baby girl Sunday — and she took to Twitter shortly after to announce the news to the world.

Trump, Celebrity Apprentice judge and daughter to Donald Trump, is married to Jared Kushner. This is their first child and no word yet on the baby’s name.

Twitter and Facebook are becoming the go-to sources for celebrities to share news of their newborns. David and Victoria Beckham shared photos of their week-old daughter, Harper Seven, recently on Facebook and Twitter.

And a week ago, Kate Hudson and Muse frontman Matt Bellamy announced the birth of their son on Twitter. The newborn’s name is Bing — short for Bingham.

Image courtesy of David Shankbone, via Flickr

More About: baby, Celebrity Apprentice, Ivanka Trump

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MuteMath Releases New Track Via Interactive Audio/Visual Remix Board

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 08:08 AM PDT

Each Monday, Mashable highlights an exclusive new video or song. Check out all our Music Monday picks.

Watching a music video is usually a passive experience. But this is not the case with a new vid/art project from New Orleans-based MuteMath. The band has created an interactive video mixer to introduce “Odd Soul,” the first song on its upcoming third album, also titled Odd Soul.

The mixer, dubbed “Visual Stems,” features six different videos that comprise parts of the song: drums, guitars, bass, vocals, synth and BG vocals. Users can mute various sections of the song (a cool tool for aspiring musicians, as you can listen to a certain part of the song all by your lonesome), check out solos and change the volume levels of each of the six videos. There are two versions of the project: one for up-to-date browsers featuring six separate vids, and one for slower browsers boasting four videos (with two parts crammed into one video).

The project was created in collaboration with Teleprompt, and was brought to fruition by graphic designer Andrew Le.

MuteMath is no stranger to inventive music videos. Back in 2007, it created a video for the song “Typical” during which the jam was played backwards.

We asked the band members if they felt any pressure to come up with increasingly elaborate videos over the years — given their first viral foray into video-making, and the recent influx of interactive, unconventional music videos (see: “The Wilderness Downtown,” “3 Dreams in Black,” “Back From Kathmandu,” etc).

“It’s not really pressure as much as just getting bored with releasing music the same way every time,” lead vocalist and keyboardist Paul Meany told us. “We find ourselves on ‘what if’ rabbit trails a lot. Someone will start an idea ‘What if we…’ And then one of us will answer, ‘but then what if it…’ Until we keep pushing the idea into something that is obscenely impossible, and then we go back a few ‘what if’s’ and there’s the idea we usually go with.”

The “Visual Stems” project is certainly a fun way to engage with the band’s new single — if you want to listen to the unencumbered version, we’ve embedded it above — but it’s more of a toy than a real remix board. However, the band is also launching a remix contest in which fans can download the song stems and give them a real makeover, so we can see the project being a good starting point for aspiring remix artists.

More About: music, music monday, mutemath, remix, video

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