Friday, 29 July 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Apple Now World’s Top Smartphone Vendor, Has More Cash than U.S. Government”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Apple Now World’s Top Smartphone Vendor, Has More Cash than U.S. Government”

Apple Now World’s Top Smartphone Vendor, Has More Cash than U.S. Government

Posted: 29 Jul 2011 03:15 AM PDT

It must feel good to be a part of Apple today: the company was proclaimed the world’s top smartphone vendor by Strategy Analytics, and its cash reserves are now bigger than the U.S. government’s balance.

According to Strategy Analytics‘ report, Apple is now the world's largest smartphone vendor by volume with 18 percent market share. Nokia is now number three with 15%, behind Samsung which grew an amazing 520% annually to grab a 17% share of the global smartphone market.

Also, with a $75.9 billion balance Apple is obviously doing really well in the “cash reserves” department, but it sounds even better when you hear the U.S. Treasury Department say that the government now has a total operating balance of $73.8 billion.

Apple’s stock price recently surged passed $400, and its total market capitalization is more than $363 billion, which makes it the second largest company in the world, behind Exxon Mobil. The Cupertino giant is already on top of the world, and the only question right now seems to be: how much higher can it go?

More About: apple, iphone, smartphone, Strategy Analytics, U.S. government, U.S. Treasury

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Jackass Movies Come to Facebook

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 11:08 PM PDT

The complete Jackass series of films is now available to rent directly on Facebook.

Paramount Pictures has made Jackass The Movie, Jackass 2, Jackass 3, along with the digital-only features Jackass 2.5 and Jackass 3.5 available on Facebook. The films can be rented with Facebook Credits.

It’s another sign that Facebook is gaining ground as a movie rental platform. Warner Bros. started making its films available on the social network earlier this spring and has continued at a steady clip.

Along with the rentals, Paramount Pictures also released a new Jackass ClipApp that allows fans to assemble their own Jackass experiences, using over 100 pre-selected scenes from all five movies. The resulting clips can then be shared with friends over Facebook.

As a film franchise, Jackass already has strong digital roots. Jackass 2.5 was the first digital release from a major studio. It generated more than 20 million views in its first week.

More About: facebook movie rentals, facebook rentals, Jackass, jackass the movies, michael jackson

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Hearsay Social Adds Integrated Social Campaigns, $18M in Funding

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 10:11 PM PDT

Hearsay Social is expanding the functionality of its corporate social media management platform and has raised $18 million in funding to do it.

The service, which launched in February, is unique because it provides franchises and businesses with local chapters the ability to monitor and manage social media across the entire organization. State Farm, 24 Hour Fitness, Farmers Insurance Group and others use it to help their local agents and locations engage with their customers via social media while adhering to corporate and government guidelines.

On Thursday, Hearsay has launched three new features for its platform, including:

  • A Rogue Page Finder for locating social media pages that use the company’s branding but are either impostor accounts or social media accounts not in the company’s management system.
  • A system for adding corporate hierarchies and roles for fine-tuned social media management.
  • A tool for launching integrated social campaigns. These campaigns let a company launch branded social campaigns across multiple networks, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. These campaigns can be timed and targeted in different stages so that local branches can manage campaigns appropriate for their audiences.

In addition to the new features, Hearsay announced that NEA and Sequoia Capital have invested $18 million in a Series B round of funding. NEA partner Jon Sakoda will also be joining the company’s board of directors. It previously raised $3 million from Sequoia Capital, Michael Abbott (Twitter), Steve Chen (YouTube), Dave Morin (Path) and Aaron Sittig (Facebook).

The company was founded by Clara Shih (formerly of Salesforce and author of The Facebook Era) and Steve Garrity (formerly of Microsoft).

More About: Hearsay, Hearsay Social, social media management, startup

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Rumors: Is This The New iPhone 5 & iPhone 4S? [PICS]

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 09:24 PM PDT

With the rumor mill heating up about the iPhone 5 becoming available in September, we’re now beginning to see alleged images of the new phone, along with clear shots of what’s being called a cheaper iPhone 4S.

That grainy shot of someone clutching an “iPhone 5″ while riding on a train was given to 9 to 5 by a tipster who observed a man holding it in public.

The tipster told 9-to-5 Mac that the person holding the phone “was likely an Apple employee hunched over the device on the way home from work in San Francisco earlier this week.” The tipster said he got a good look at the device but added that the pictures he snapped “didn't do it justice.” He said when he saw pictures of those two alleged iPhone 5 cases on Mashable showed readers Thursday, he knew he had seen the new iPhone.

At this stage in the iPhone 4′s product cycle in May 2010, Apple placed its new phones inside cases that concealed their true shape. So even if this is the next iPhone in this picture, it might not indicate the precise appearance of the final version.

Our next possibility is shown in a couple of clearer shots of what Vietnamese website says is the new iPhone 4S. The site claims this is a lower-cost model of the iPhone 4. As the story goes, this phone will be released along with the flagship iPhone in September.

This white “iPhone 4S” looks a lot like the current iPhone 4, but the rumored cheaper model won’t have the current iPhone’s glass front and back. Rather, it will allegedly have a plastic back that will make the phone significantly lighter than the current iPhone 4.

[Via 9-to-5 Mac and Macrumors]

Graphics courtesy 9-to-5 Mac and

More About: iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, pics, rumors, Spy Shots, trending

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Community-Driven Record Label Makes Music a Democratic Business

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 08:07 PM PDT

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

Name: Public Records

Quick Pitch: Public Records is an online community for indie music that seeks to replace the traditional record label structure, calling upon its members to help bands with all aspects of the business.

Genius Idea: A commune for music.

It’s becoming a well-worn song: As the Internet makes it easier for musicians to get their music out there, it also makes it harder for anyone to get any kind of tangible recognition — there’s just too much competition, and we’re all too ADD-addled to make it through an entire album nowadays.

“In the music industry, we have seen a dramatic shift in the way people acquire and listen to new music over the past decade,” says Ashleigh Schafer, director of communications for Public Records. “Yet, the businesses that have traditionally profited from selling us physical media still cling to the status quo business model that artists and listeners are increasingly starting to shun.”

Public Records seeks to harness the spidering power of the web that propels musicians into the limelight, replacing the traditional mores of the music industry with a more democratic flavor.

We have yet to lay eyes on the site — as it will be launched in beta in August — but Schafer describes it as a community that will be packed with casual users (music fans), bands and businesses (industry professionals). The site will cater to both members — who will pay an annual fee — and non-members. Members will participate in governing the site, and will pay extra for premium features such as media uploading, downloading, streaming and sale (if you’re in a band).

Much like pre-existing social networks such as Facebook, members can follow bands and keep up to date about their musical progress and events via a newsfeed. Bands and companies can publish updates to their feeds, and share those updates to networks like Facebook as well.

Still, the site isn’t just about keeping up with new bands, it’s also designed to be a kind of democratic community for advancing their careers. The whole site is governed by its members, who elect community directors who set goals and strategies for the assemblage. The site then metes out help to the artists deemed worthy in the form of production assistance, grants, distribution, promotion, help landing tours and more.

Grants are raised internally — through advertising, membership dues and other fees. The company itself is a nonprofit, so all money goes back into the community to advance artists’ careers.

At beta launch, the site will not be as built-out as the final version, slated to roll out in January. It will allow bands to upload music and list events, and fans to create playlists of songs they like and earn virtual currency (“Notes”) for referrals. One can use Notes for on-site purchases (music, merch, tickets).

However, those Notes will gain a lot more clout when the full version of the site rolls out, complete with e-commerce. It will also feature a virtual promoter (provides bands, promoters and venues with an automated system to book shows and communicate via the network), social advertising (users can buy ad space along side of pages or become featured song/artist) and charts.

As the music industry continues to change, crowdsourced record labels like this continue to pop up — we’ve covered a bevy in the past. Still, the question with such service: Will it be able to draw enough users into its fold that it will truly make a difference in a musician’s career?

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: MARKETING, music, public records, spark-of-genius, startup

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Twitter to Add Parental Controls

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 07:07 PM PDT

Twitter has added a way to flag links within tweets as “possibly sensitive.” The company announced late Thursday that there is a new field in the Twitter streaming API that will show up whenever a tweet contains a link, giving Twitter users the option to be warned before they click links that might be too sensitive for the workplace, or for tender ears and eyes.

The new feature is not functional yet, but Twitter was informing developers that it was just added and is now in the testing phase. According to Twitter representative Taylor Singletary, “In the future, we’ll have a family of additional API methods & fields for handling end-user ‘media settings’ and possibly sensitive content.”

According to Gizmodo, Twitter reps say the company doesn’t intend to censor material. But according to Twitter’s media policy document, the company will “remove media that might be considered sensitive such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures.”

In the announcement, Singletary encouraged those who were curious about how this capability would ultimately be used to read that media policy document.

To us, this seems like a feature that’s long overdue, giving users the ability to control the kind of content they or their children are exposed to, letting them use Twitter without fear of being unpleasantly surprised when they click on an inappropriate link.

Graphic courtesy iStockphoto/minimil

More About: api, NSFW, parental controls, sensitive material, twitter

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Google+ Gets a Feature Update Center

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 06:10 PM PDT

In response to user feedback, Google has launched a new section of the Google+ center dedicated to Google+ feature updates.

The “What’s new in Google+” section is essentially a list of release notes for the Google+ Project. The updates are smaller than Google’s traditional blog posts, but longer than most of its Help Center pages. It’s a centralized location for finding out what new features Google has added to its social network.

Most of the “posts” include YouTube video explanations about the feature updates (recorded by Googlers), along with a link to the Google+ post where the feature was announced. The search giant is clearly trying to eat its own dog food when it comes to Google+.

While we appreciate the centralized location for getting updates about Google+ features, we believe the company would be better served setting up a blog for the Google+ project and updating that on a regular basis. At least that way we could subscribe to the updates in our Google Readers (which still counts as the big G eating its own dog food).

Check out the video explanation of the “What’s new in Google+” section from Google+ Community Manager Natalie Villalobos below:

More About: Google, Google Plus, Social medai, trending, What's New in Google+

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10 Tips for Better Startup Marketing

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 05:35 PM PDT

exclamation point image

Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, internationally syndicated columnist and TV host, and the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council. He is also an active angel investor and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs foolishly believe that all they need to do is sign up for a Twitter account, blog about special offers, and hand out a flashy looking brochure, whereupon leads will come pouring in. This couldn't be further from the truth.

These are unfortunate social media fantasies and free marketing delusions. The mere existence of a market for your product or service does not guarantee anyone will listen to or care about your brand. People are bombarded with thousands of messages every day, which makes it difficult for business owners to garner attention and convert that attention into income.

In order for your business to avoid getting lost among the glut of content already clogging direct marketing channels, your promotions and tactics must be highly creative, contain a quality message and fit the audience you are targeting.

I asked a panel of successful young entrepreneurs about the types of promotions they have used to build their companies’ buzz and sales.

1. Partner with Others in Your Space

wong imageAt Blank Label, since we make custom dress shirts, we’ve done promotions with other custom product makers, everything from chocolate bars to jewelry, mattresses and even women’s shoes. We create promotional campaigns to spread the word about the industry and shed some light on cool companies in the space.

Danny Wong, Blank Label Group, Inc.

2. What (Else) Does Your Customer Need?

auteri imageWith Career Coaching for Word Nerds, I provide one-on-one coaching to freelance writers and other publishing professionals. But I knew that my clients would also love the chance to connect with experts within the industry, so I organized a speed networking event that attracted 75 people. Now I host monthly virtual events and have plans for additional in-person events.

Steph Auteri, Word Nerd Pro

3. Take Advantage of Currently Trending Topics

Mickiewicz imageOne of the best ways to build buzz for your business is to ride the coattails of a currently trending “hot topic.” For example, when GAP unveiled a logo designed by Laird & Partners to much criticism on the web, 99designs took advantage of the opportunity with a crowdsourcing competition [to show] that our community can deliver a much better design.

Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs

4. The Power of Video

Partridge imagePeople tend to forget the power of video. I have learned that when talking pound-for-pound on engagement rates, YouTube stars have it on lockdown. launched with a video drip campaign of 10 YouTube stars (100,000+ subscribers each) and it ended up generating a staggering 40,000 unique visitors in less than 30 days. When you need power, turn to video.

Dale Partridge,

5. Start Your Own "Top 10" List

Kuadey imageAt, we realized we had unique information about which gift cards are most popular among our customers. We therefore started an annual "Top 20 Gift Cards" list. Last year's list was picked up by numerous news outlets and blogs, including Mashable. Walmart, which was number-one on the list, issued a press release bragging about it, which only legitimized the list even more.

Kwame Kuadey,

6. Crowdsourcing

Holmes imageThe marketing team at HootSuite is good at creating online buzz. Our crowdsourced international translation project has done an amazing job creating awareness. We try to work with our users as much as possible, and this was a great way for us to reach out to our global fans and engage them online.

Ryan Holmes, HootSuite

7. Contests and Competitions

sommer imageUse social media (especially Twitter) to hold a contest for your business. Ask trivia questions, play hangman or offer a phrase to unscramble. The winner gets a prize or discount off your services. This way, you have hundreds of people talking about your brand publicly, but you only need to reward one winner. Holding a contest weekly and/or monthly is a great way to build consistent buzz and conversation.

Lucas Sommer, Audimated

8. Personalized Outreach

lenz imageFind influencers in your market and reach out to them individually. Make your initial contact with them creative and jaw-dropping. For example, instead of an email, sit down and record a video addressing them directly. It speaks volumes when you show that you took the time to personalize all of your messages.

Logan Lenz, Endagon

9. Take it Offline

sisson imageYou’d be surprised what things you can do offline to create online buzz, such as sending simple but creative thank you cards or gifts to your current clients that get them talking about you online and shouting your praise. Or, send your product to clients or brands you want to get in front of, but add a twist. For example, if you sell kitchen goods, send along a bread maker with a fresh hot loaf in it!

Natalie Sisson, The Suitcase Entrepreneur

10. Be Your Own Advertising

bodi imageThink about how much you drive during the week and how many people see your vehicle while out and about or at a stop light. Put something on your car that others can see, and makes them take a second look. Even if it’s just your web address, people will immediately have it in their mind.

Ashley Bodi, Business Beware

Image courtesy of Flickr, wrestlingentropy

More About: business, how to, MARKETING, social media, startup, trending, yec

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Surprise! Old Spice Guy Isaiah Mustafa Keeps His Crown [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 04:44 PM PDT

We can all breathe easy now. After four days of back-and-forth between Old Spice Guy Isaiah Mustafa and wannabe Old Spice guy Fabio, the former has regained the crown.

The contest, which The Associated Press described as a “Hunk Off,” encompassed more than 100 videos from the two, culminating in some slapstick with a giant dinosaur bone.

The flurry of activity, which included videos where both responded to fans’ tweets, came after many advertising pros wondered how the Procter & Gamble brand and ad agency Wieden + Kennedy would follow 2010′s uber-successful “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign.

So the real question is: Did Old Spice win this round? Let us know in the comments.

More About: advertising, Isaiah Mustafa, MARKETING, old spice, old spice guy, trending, twitter, wieden & kennedy, youtube

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$8 Million iPad 2 Features Diamonds, Dinosaur Bone

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 03:46 PM PDT

Looking for the perfect dalliance to indulge in whilst lounging in your opulent villa? Might we suggest a rousing game of Angry Birds — played on your solid gold iPad 2, encrusted with diamonds and boasting shards of real, live (well, dead) T-Rex bone?

This beauty can be purchased via the website of Stuart Hughes, proprietor of “exclusive elite gadgets,” for a mere $8 million.

I think I’ll just hold my horses until the iPad 3 comes out. I hear that one contains bits of brontosaurus, and that’s my favorite dinosaur.

[via Buzzfeed]

More About: humor, ipad, pop culture, t-rex

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Google+ One Month Later: What’s Next?

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 02:51 PM PDT

Already using Google+? Follow Mashable’s Pete Cashmore for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as social media and technology updates.

It’s been exactly one month since Google+ made its debut. The social network was designed to be more than just Google’s response to Facebook; it’s “an extension of Google itself,” as Google SVP Vic Gundotra told us before launch. After the failure of Google Wave and Google Buzz, Google+ is the search giant’s last best chance to grab a piece of the social-networking pie.

So one month in, how’s it doing?

Pretty well, by most accounts. Google+ has become the fastest-growing social network in history. Thanks to a fair number of positive reviews, it has acquired more than 20 million users — a phenomenal accomplishment by any standard.

At the same time, there are signs that Google+ is losing steam, and that it could have an early adopter problem.


Rapid Growth

When Google+ first launched, Mashable readers had a largely positive reaction to it. Nearly 50% of respondents in our poll said they loved it, even before they played with it.

The love affair didn’t stop there, though. There was high demand for Google+ invites during the social network’s first week of existence. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, far from shunning the rival service, quickly became Google+’s most popular user. Many of our readers even said they planned to defect from Facebook in favor of Google+.

Google+ continued to gain steam andhit 10 million users sometime around July 12. Celebrities and public figures such as William Shatner, Paris Hilton and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have embraced the service, although tech celebs like Leo Laporte and Robert Scoble remain the social network’s dominant figures.

Google+ had 20 million unique visitors on June 22, according to comScore.

Growing Pains

Google+’s ascension to the upper echelons of social networking hasn’t been entirely smooth. Its first major issue: poor handling of Google+ profiles for businesses and brands.

When the service first launched, many companies (including Mashable) rushed to create profiles. But it soon emerged that Google didn’t intend businesses to use the platform, and it asked companies to hold off on creating profiles.

Google suspended some business profiles and left others open. This inconsistent approach resulted in a firestorm of criticism from some quarters. The search giant has since accelerated the launch of Google+ business profiles, though this clearly should have been a priority from the start.

The search giant has also received some flak for a wave of suspensions last weekend surrounding the company’s “common name” policy. It suspended profiles with uncommon names in an attempt to fight spam and fake profiles. In doing so, it suspended several legitimate accounts and pseudonyms. Google has since said it is evaluating its suspension practices.

The social network’s biggest problem isn’t this kind of controversy, however; it’s finding ways to sustain growth. Traffic has dipped in the past week. Anecdotal evidence also suggests the big rush to join Google+ has passed. It’s filled with early adopters, but still lacks the mainstream audience that keeps a social network relevant.

What’s Next?

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.

Google+ Hangouts

Google+ has a unique video chat feature called Hangouts, which lets you chat with up to 10 people at the ame time.

Google+ Photos

Google+ allows you to upload and share photos with your friends. It includes photo tagging and a simple browser-based image editor.

Google+ Profile

Google+ Profiles are like most profile pages -- it includes basic information about the user like interests, occupation and profile photos.

When we first reviewed Google+, we had a positive but cautious assessment of the social network. A month later, that assessment remains unchanged.

Google+ is a solid product, but that’s to be expected from this company. The real challenge is attracting the mainstream users beyond early adopters. Getting to 20 million users might sound impressive, but it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook’s 750 million users.

That said, Google+ hasn’t even launched publicly. The tech titan hasn’t spent any time marketing Google+ to its mainstream users. Once it opens the doors, millions of people will see notifications in their Google navigation bar and be reminded that people are talking to them on Google+. And all it takes for Mom and Dad to learn about Google+ is one little link on the homepage they already visit.

Google+ is a long-term play and cannot be measured in short-term gains or losses. It’s going to be many more months until we know what place, if any, Google+ has in the social media universe.

More About: facebook, Google, Google Plus, social networking, trending

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Dog Howls Translated Into Argument [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 02:03 PM PDT

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

Ever wonder what your howling pup is on about when he aims his “ooooo”s at another beast? Wonder no longer, because this subtitled vid says it all.

This is the hottest jam since those two babies talking about the Bronz Zoo cobra. And by “hottest jam” I mean “distraction to get you through the remaining moments of your Thursday.”

[via The Daily What]

More About: dogs, humor, video, viral video, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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Why Social Accountability Will Be the New Currency of the Web

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 01:45 PM PDT

John C. Havens is author of Tactical Transparency: How Leaders Can Leverage Social Media to Maximize Value and Build their Brand. He speaks and writes about emerging media and can be reached at

In 1932, a small town in Bavaria called Worgl created an economic experiment to counter the devastating effects of the Great Depression. The Mayor issued a new currency and encouraged citizens to spend it quickly to put money back in the system. People were motivated to participate in an economy based on action.

Within months, the town's unemployment rate had dropped by over 30%. Dubbed "The Miracle of Worgl," the experiment was eventually terminated by Austria's Central Bank in 1933 for fear the nation's existing currency would lose relevance. Unemployment immediately returned, and Austria's economy collapsed further in the wake of Hitler's rise to power.

Where's the Whuffie?

Like the town of Worgl, we're facing a deficit in the economy of online influence. Focus has been largely placed on volume and reach of an individual's ideas versus the implications of their actions. We're so focused on growing our own brands that the megaphone has become more important than the message.

The notion of the Whuffie, conceived by Cory Doctorow in his novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, created the precedent for online social capital in the Web 2.0 world. The Whuffie Manifesto further states that "when reputation is wealth, only those who do good and well unto others are the richest."

Accountability Based Influence

But how can you measure when people "do good?" Sites like DailyFeats have created models in which people self-badge positive actions that then aggregate their overall “Life Score,” which CEO and co-founder Veer Gidwaney says "is a reflection of the good that you do every day."

But a core part of DailyFeats is the accountability factor. The notion of “good” is defined by an individual, and then supported via the closed-loop context of a person's social graph. This “accountability based influence,” or ABI, is complementary to current measures, but evolves the idea of reputation based on action in communities where a closed-loop context makes sense. And it's in these contexts that social capital is most easily converted into the virtual currencies moving to the forefront of the new digital economy.

Empire Avenue: Accountability via Investment

"We saw a future coming where the value of what an individual produces online, including the networks they create, will become part of the very economic fabric of our societies," notes Duleepa Wijayawardhana, CEO of Empire Avenue, a “social stock market” that encourages users to buy and trade shares in each other to increase virtual currency.

The service is a perfect example of ABI as it applies to the notion of investment in users. By buying stock in someone online, you're declaring them to be socially credit-worthy. Investment implies a literal endorsement of another member's character and reputation.

The service has created a paradigm in which user's scores could eventually be utilized for reputation scoring outside of the platform. Positive reputation within the community could translate to increased credit and benefits outside of Empire Avenue's social stock market.

The Rypple Effect: Accountability via Work

"As we move toward a more social and transparent workplace environment, influence is becoming less dependent on your place in the org chart and more on the real, measurable impact you have on your colleagues," says Nick Stein, director of content and media for Rypple, a social performance platform for goals, feedback and recognition. "The idea is that all ongoing feedback, both positive and constructive, helps build an employee's real reputation at work."

The service lets users create custom badges, but the focus on feedback goes deeper than simple game mechanics. Features like "Loops" let users provide ongoing and actionable critiques of colleagues so feedback can be assessed at any time. As Stein points out, "this enables individuals to develop influence based on their real impact rather than a perception of where they sit in the company hierarchy."

The influence created by individuals is also portable, at least within the closed loops of a specific organization. So while there's no immediate plan for a "Rypple Score," the company utilizes an ABI ranking that reflects a person's long-term career reputation. But while the enterprise becomes social, work reputation based on action will certainly become more relevant as employees move forward.

CrowdTwist: Accountability via Specificity

There's a lack of accountability with most measures of influence because they aren't able to delineate vertical-specific interest among community members.

"We're looking more deeply into a brand's landscape to understand how and where their audience is engaging with the brand itself," says Irving Fain, CEO of CrowdTwist. "Because our platform extends across many platforms (social, purchase, site, etc.), there are a number of ways in which we can better define these metrics."

The service also pushes brands to be more accountable to fans. While the platform utilizes gamification methods to reward points for engagement, the incentives are focused on products or prizes rather than badges. A recent campaign with LiveNation encouraged fans to engage with content on a concert site (view a blog post, “like” a Facebook status update) to get points that could be traded for things like dinner with your favorite band. Pageviews per visitor ascended from three per week before the campaign to 26, and people spent over six more minutes per visit perusing the site.

By identifying and delighting the various segments of their advocates, brands will gain ABI with relevant incentives and targeted engagement.

Lenddo: Accountability via Potential

Models of ABI based on offline actions have existed for decades via community-based lending. Future potential and reputation are the means for currency exchange where an entire neighborhood is responsible for loans. It's a model being replicated in the online world by Lenddo.

"You can think of a Lenddo score as a page rank for people's financial reputation," says Lenddo CEO Jeff Stewart. "The best way to improve your Lenddo score and better access to loans is to have many friends from multiple circles who are willing to put their reputation at risk to vouch for your good character." Helping people with these loans at scale means Lenddo can create relationships that move beyond financial transactions to build a global community that encourages good will.

Ven: Accountability via Values

"Facebook will become the biggest bank in the world," says Stan Stalnaker, the founding director of Hub Culture, a social network that revolves around a virtual currency called Ven. "This will happen the moment they allow for P2P exchange of Facebook credit between users. If they can link that to Likes, and map the value of Likes and other activity on their imprint of the social graph, these values will begin to function like money."

But Stalnaker has already created this P2P exchange via Hub Culture where, like citizens of Worgl, members are expected to put Ven into virtual circulation as much as possible. Based on a portfolio of units that includes leading currencies, commodities and carbon futures, the Ven is less volatile than other global currencies and is traded for everything from knowledge, to travel discounts and even to a Nissan Leaf.

Stalnaker recognizes that the notion of virtual currency is in its infancy. When the disparity of definitions surrounding currency and influence someday merge, a “singular value” will reflect a common exchange of goods. Until then, he notes that "what currency really is … is language. We all speak in English dollars and some people speak in Rubles. What the Internet needs is its own language for currency."

From Words to Wealth

Douglas Rushkoff, author and coiner of the term "social currency" notes in his book Program of Be Programmed that "only by understanding the biases of the media through which we engage with the world can we differentiate between what we intend, and what the machines we're using intend for us — whether they or their programmers even know it."

We're in an era in which the bias of social media, value-added content broadcast via the Internet, has created a glut of data attached to identity largely through the medium of words versus action. So like the citizens of Worgl, we need to ask ourselves — how can we evolve the notion of online economy based on influence? How can we find a language of currency for the Internet?

The answer lies in ABI — accountability based influence that shifts our obsession over our Klout scores to ask, "How can my actions speak louder than my words?"

More About: brands, influence, klout, social media

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BlackBerry Messenger 6 Aims To Socialize the App Experience

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 01:21 PM PDT

RIM released BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) 6 Thursday. Long a staple of the BlackBerry experience, BBM remains a strong platform with 45 million users, 70% of whom use it daily. This latest iteration of BBM adds a new social app layer to the messaging platform.

On supported apps, users will be able to utilize various BBM features within the app itself. While playing a game, for example, users can invite their BBM friends to join and continue to chat in real-time, all from within the app itself.

Some of the apps that will support BBM 6 include: Foursquare, The Huffington Post, Wikitude, Telemap, Scoremobile and Poynt.

We can see how this social layer will be useful, especially for location-based applications. You can see how Foursquare will integrate BBM 6 with its app in this video:

BBM continues to be the crown jewel of the BlackBerry experience. Apple will be forging its own iOS-centric communications platform with iOS 5, but for now, BBM is in a class of its own.

SEE ALSO: Why Apps, Not Apple, Are Killing BlackBerry

Users can download BBM 6 today from the BlackBerry App World, along with several BBM connected apps. More of those apps are set to launch in the coming months.

What do you think of the way RIM is trying to socialize the app experience? Let us know in the comments.

More About: bbm, blackberry, blackberry messenger, RIM

For more Mobile coverage:

Sprint Nextel Loses $847 Million, Stock Falls 20%

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 01:09 PM PDT

Sprint Nextel's woes continued as the company posted a net loss of $847 million in its second quarter, sending the company's stock down as much as 20% in afternoon trading.

The loss came on a 4% jump in revenues compared to the year-ago period, to $8.3 billion. The modest rise was buoyed by news that may signal better times for the company: a $2 increase in the post-paid average revenue per unit (ARPU), from $55 to $57. That was Sprint’s largest year-over-year growth in seven years.

Sprint also played up the fact that its overall subscriber base was up 1 million for the quarter, to 52 million. However, the company lost 101,000 customers along with their lucrative monthly contracts. Some 114,000 left the previous quarter. Sprint and T-Mobile are the only two U.S. wireless carriers not offering Apple's iPhone, and T-Mobile is in the process of being bought by AT&T.

However, at least one major analyst believes Sprint and T-Mobile will get access to the iPhone 5 when it launches this fall.

Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics, is among those who believe Apple will offer the device to multiple carriers, as it does in Europe. Entner says despite Thursday's numbers, Sprint is "laying the foundation for the future" with a higher ARPU — since customers stay with a carrier on average four to five years.

More About: apple, att, iphone, sprint, verizon

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Arrested Development Movie a Go … Again

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 12:45 PM PDT

Brace yourself Bluth fans, the long-rumored Arrested Development movie is actually going to happen. Actor Will Arnett, who starred as G.O.B. on the 2003 – 2006 Fox comedy series, claimed that the film is in the works and should be in theaters next year.

Arnett’s confirmation on a recent episode of the WTF with Marc Maron Podcast is just the latest in a series of rumors surrounding a film since the program went off the air in February 2006.

Never a hit on broadcast television, Arrested Development has always had a strong online fan community. Various fan campaigns like (now defunct) tried to rally support for the series.

Even today, the Facebook page for the show, has more than 1.2 million fans. The show is one of the most popular shows of all time on Hulu and is also available on Netflix.

Stars from the show including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Michael Cera have gone on to far greater success in movies in the years since the series ended.

Arrested Development fans have been down this road of film promises in the past. Let’s just hope this time, it’s for real. After all, there’s always money in the banana stand.

[via Laist]

More About: arrested development, Film, Movies, television, trending

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Google Launches Hotel Search Tool With Room Price Data

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 12:33 PM PDT

Google has launched Hotel Finder, an experimental search tool, which enables users to define key lodging preferences in hopes of finding the perfect hotel for their travel needs.

Users input their preferred location, dates, price and rating details, and Hotel Finder delivers its top recommendations, in a list or on a Google Map. For the moment, it’s only available in the U.S.

Here’s how Google aims to improve hotel hunting with this tool:

  • Finding the perfect location. If you’re not a local, it can be difficult to figure out what area of a city you should stay in. Hotel Finder highlights popular areas on the map results. Google calls this the “tourist spotlight,” and it is used to determine an optimal zone for you to stay in. The shape of this area can be adjusted to focus on a smaller area. This is useful if you’ve got a rough destination in mind, such as along the Hudson River or near Times Square.
  • Getting a good deal: Users can choose a price range to search within, as well as compare that hotel’s historical pricing data to its current listing price. Clicking on a hotel will bring up the cost of a room per night and how that compares to previous prices. Google calculates what percentage the cost is above or below the normal. Bargain hunters, start your engines.
  • Comparing hotels: Hotel Finder simplifies comparative shopping. When users click on on a hotel, its full details pop up, including photos, Google Places reviews, pricing and other information. You quickly flip through results by using keyboard shortcuts (“J” and “K”) within the list view — a feature also found in Google Reader and Google News.
  • Making a shortlist: Users can build a shortlist of hotels they’d like to compare further. These results are marked with a red dot in the Google Maps view, and appear at the top of the page in the list view.

Click on the “Book” button in either view and a list of external options are shown. Clicking on a booking option pulls up that site — such as Priceline or Expedia — in a new tab. (Google isn’t getting into the business of booking hotels itself.)

Take a look at Hotel Finder’s features in the gallery below, test it out and let us what you think about the new tool in the comments below. How does it compare to other hotel-shopping methods?

Google Maps Search Results

Hotel search results can be visualized with the tool's Google Maps integration. Shortlisted hotels appear with a red marker and all other results appear in blue.

Hotel Details

When a user clicks on a hotel, a multitude of details pop up, including photos, Google Places reviews, pricing and booking options.

Search Results in List View

Aside from visualizing results in Google Maps, search results can also be viewed in a list, with the user's shortlist of hotels appearing at the top of the page.

Google Hotel Finder

Hotel Finder's home page is simple and outlines its key benefits.

More About: Google, Hotel Finder, hotels, travel

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

Gamification: How Competition Is Reinventing Business, Marketing & Everyday Life

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 12:19 PM PDT

The Buzzword Breakdown Series is supported by The Network, Cisco’s technology news site. The Network features technology news, trends and information on video, collaboration, core networks, mobility, security, data, Cisco culture and social media.

games imageCan life, and all the menial or routine tasks that come with it, be transformed through game mechanics into an engaging, social and fun recreational activity? Such is the idea behind the emerging trend of “gamification.”

Gamification is most often defined as the use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications. The term also suggests the process of using game thinking to solve problems and engage audiences.

The word “gamification,” much like the phrase “social media” a few years back, is being lobbed around in technology circles as the next frontier in web and mobile. Just as nearly every application, website, brand and marketer now employs social media in some capacity, so too will these entities gravitate toward game mechanics in the years ahead.

A recent Gartner report from April of this year suggests as much. Analysts predict that by 2015, more than 50% of organizations will gamify their innovation processes.

“By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application,” the Gartner report concludes.

Here we take a deeper look at the term, the trend, the mechanics and the real world implications.

An Intro to the Gamification Trend

Gamification, as a concept, is far from a new idea.

“Companies have been using games in non-game context for a long time,” says Gabe Zichermann, the author of Game-Based Marketing and the CEO of

Zichermann cites the military, Hollywood and the hospitality sector — think airline frequent flier programs and hotel loyalty clubs — as three key industries utilizing game mechanics prior to the “coming out party” of gamification in 2010.

“What’s changed over the past couple of years is the confluence of a few different factors,” he says. Zichermann, like many others, specifically points to the success of startups such as Foursquare and Zynga as instrumental in embedding the idea into techie consciousness.

The second, and perhaps more significant factor, says Zichermann, is that once long-standing marketing techniques are now failing. “They’re failing because people today are seeking more reward and more engagement from experiences than ever before,” he explains. “The younger generation — the millennial generation and younger — is more game-attuned than previous generations.”

Today’s youth mandates a more engaging experience, he argues. “Gamification is required to bring those things into balance, and to make things engaging enough so people will pay attention to them and stay focused on them for a longer period of time.”

The gamification trend is particularly hot in today’s world because, should we follow this line of thinking, younger entrepreneurs are building applications and services for younger audiences who demand these features.

SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch agrees. “It feels like the next natural evolution of human-technological interaction to me,” he says.”As we complete the social layer, we’ll begin construction in earnest on the game layer.”

The Mechanics

The five most commonly used game mechanics, as identified by Zichermann, are as follows:

  • Points: Points are everywhere, and they’re often used in non-game apps as a way to denote achievement. Points also measure the user’s achievements in relation to others and work to keep the user motivated for the next reward or level. They can even double as action-related currency. Health Month, for instance, uses points in an interesting fashion. The site asks users to set up weekly health-related goals and stick to them for an entire month. Each person starts with 10 “life points” and the goal is to end the month with at least 1 life point. The player loses a point every time he breaks a rule, but friends can help the player “heal” and earn back points.
  • Badges: While badges have their origins in the physical world, Foursquare popularized the digital variety with its oh-so-clever set of real-life merit badges that range from easy (Newbie badges are awarded to users on their first checkin) to nearly-impossible to unlock (it takes 10 movie theater checkins to earn the Zoetrope badge).
  • Levels: Zynga uses levels to make the seemingly mundane task of tending to crops all the more enticing, and LevelUp encourages mobile users to level up and get better discounts for becoming more loyal patrons.
  • Leaderboards: Leaderboards rank users and work to motivate and encourage them to become players. Foursquare started with city-centric leaderboards, but now places the emphasis on ranking users against their friends. Earn a few points for a checkin, and Foursquare will show you which of your friends you’ve flown by on the leaderboard.
  • Challenges: These range from the simple to complex and often involve communal activity or group play. Priebatsch gamified his South by Southwest Interactive keynote with a group challenge that required all attendees to work together in rows. A proffered $10,000 donation to the National Wildlife Foundation was used to sweeten the deal.

Game Design & Plug-and-Play Gamification Platforms

“At the start of any new market … you need to have these catalyzing technology platforms,” Zichermann says.

He’s speaking, of course, of gamification platform providers such as Bunchball, Badgeville and BigDoor. Businesses can use these platforms to add plug-and-play game mechanics to their websites and applications.

The platforms, in Zichermann’s eyes, bring a scalable technology solution to market that makes it easier for companies to participate in the gamification trend, and it allows them build and deploy products faster.

Priebatsch, however, is a bit uncertain of these platform providers. “This sub-set of the trend has always confused me a little bit,” he says. “I see a real difference between utilizing game mechanics to improve a core experience from the ground up, and what I call ‘bolt-on gamification,’ where you basically just tack a badge on to something and call it a day. That doesn’t really work in my opinion.”

The two do agree on the significance of game and product design. “[Platforms] don’t obviate the need for good design,” Zichermann says.

Game and product design, as Zichermann sees it, is an important science. Design, he argues, needs to be centered around the customer’s needs and wants and should determine the mechanics that companies use.

Nike+, says Zichermann, is an example of a brand properly merging design with mechanics, mostly because Nike is always iterating on the product, he says. “Gamification isn’t like doing an ad campaign — it requires ongoing maintenance.”

Recycle rewards company RecycleBank is getting it right on the design front as well, he says. “They’ve had tremendous success by designing really compelling and interesting gamified systems that people can interact with to recycle more,” he says. “They know their audience really well.”

Gamification & Real World Problems

Email overload, fitness phobia, diet and medication apathy. These are all real world problems and challenges that game mechanics can address.

Simple applications such as The Email Game and Health Month are meant to be stimulating and enjoyable tools to help people complete tasks they would otherwise dread.

“The game mechanics that I use are all about helping people feel less guilty about failure, since we’ve found that this is one of the primary obstacles to following through on a diet or fitness plan,” explains Health Month creator Buster Benson.

“Games are one area of life where failure isn’t taken personally. In games, failure is expected, and there’s always a way to play again,” he says. “Games help us appreciate the story of our failures and successes as an entertaining narrative rather than as a story about how you just aren’t good enough for this or that.”

Health Month users have been most responsive to the notion of being “healed” by friends when they lose their points. “By far, the most popular game mechanic is being able to ‘heal’ other players when they fall off the wagon,” he says. “Social forgiveness and camaraderie are fairly untapped game mechanics, and yet really powerful.”

One radical example of gamification in real life is changing the way people drive in Sweden.

Kevin Richardson came up with a genius idea to get drivers to slow down: The Speed Camera Lottery.

“One troubling observation is the obscene amount of energy that goes to the one bad driver who speeds. Police, courts, fines, traffic school, points (the bad kind), increased insurance, and on and on,” Richardson writes of the speed camera conundrum. “And where is the reward for people doing the right thing? What happened to that? Obeying the law is a pretty lonely endeavor.”

Eventually, Richardson’s thoughts materialized into an idea and he submitted the following to Volkswagon’s Fun Theory contest (see video above): “Can we get more people to obey the speed limit by making it fun to do? The idea here is capture on camera the people who keep to the speed limit. They would have their photos taken and registration numbers recorded and entered into a lottery. Winners would receive cash prizes and be notified by post. Better still, the winning pot would come from the people who were caught speeding.”

Richardson’s Speed Camera Lottery idea won the 2009/2010 challenge, and the idea has since been tested by the Swedish National Society for Road Safety in Stockholm. The result: A 22% reduction in driver speed in the first week after implementation.

“That’s game thinking at its purist form,” says Zichermann. “It gives people direction about what they should be doing in small, incremental positive ways.”

One has to wonder, can anything be gamified? “Everything can be made more engaging and more fun by using game techniques,” Zichermann argues.

Take cancer, a potentially awkward thing to gamify. “I don’t presume to think that we can make having cancer into a purely fun experience,” he says. “But, we have data to show that when we give cancer patients gamified experiences to help them manage their drug prescriptions and manage chemotherapy, they improve their emotional state and also their adherence to their protocol.”

“You cannot gamify anything,” Priebatsch says, taking a slightly different position. “Game mechanics can fix lots of problems and do lots of great things, but they are not a good fit for everything. Just like social is super powerful, but not a great fit for everything … everything has limitations and the beauty of both of these mega-trends is that they’re a great fit for more situations than not.”

The Gamified Apps & Services You Love

The gamification trend would not exist without you, the players of the world. So, I asked my Google+ followers to chime in on the topic with this question: “What mobile or web applications (or hardware/software setups) successfully use game mechanics to motivate you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do?”

The answers poured in. Here’s a sampling of the responses:

“Easy one: Foursquare :) by giving my position, you earn points to challenge friends, badges and Mayor titles of the place you rule!” – Julien Houdayer

“My Garmin 405 Watch motivates me to exercise — I run that last mile when I would otherwise stop.” – Adena DeMonte

“Run Keeper makes my bike rides 10x cooler than just doing them with out statistics. I’m always excited for my next ride because because I want to increase my top speed or lower my fastest mile. Huge motivating mechanics.” – Marcus Andrews

“ has been a great motivator for me to run. The program provides positive feedback, challenges to enter in, and charts detailing my progress over past months. There is also a “leveling” component at the top of the screen where runners can advance from “orange” level to “blue” level and so on depending on how many miles a runner has recorded. The scheme reminds me of the karate student advancing from one belt to another, and provides both a sense of progression and accomplishment.” – Chris Cabe

“Pomodoro is a great ‘get things done’ application that uses game mechanics to reinforce using the Pomodoro Method. The Pomodoro Method involves working in 25 min. increments with a five minute break, followed by another 25/5. Repetition is the key, and the game mechanics work kind of like a dungeon crawler. It’s great.” – Kevin Bogle

“FitFun is an iPhone app that makes me get up throughout the work day in the office and do a push up or two.” – Aye Moah

“The Strava iPhone app definitely has me looking forward to hills on my bike rides. By allowing me to define sections of my ride as climbs and then keeping track of a leaderboard for fastest times up those sections, I not only have a gauge on my own fitness but also of what is possible. All without having to deal with club rides. Without the app, I don’t think I would even time myself on climbs.” – Rob Taylor

“Waze is addictive. I rarely use it for its intended purpose: navigation. Mostly I’m just tracking where I drive and keeping my rank up there. And a couple times I may have gone out of my way to do some road munching … ” – Jeff Hester

“Foursquare (I go to different places) and Fitbit (I walk more) for me.” – Gina Trapani

Series Supported by Cisco’s The Network

The Buzzword Breakdown Series is supported by The Network, Cisco’s technology news site. The Network features technology news, trends and information on video, collaboration, core networks, mobility, security, data, Cisco culture and social media. To subscribe to The Network, click here. You can also submit your story ideas here.

More Tech Resources From Mashable:

- Apple Product Design: 35 Years of Consumer Electronics [INFOGRAPHIC]
- How 9 Food Trucks Use Tech To Drive Business
- Mobile Hacking: How Safe Is Your Smartphone?
- How 4 Cities Are Deploying High-Tech Bike Sharing Programs

Images courtesy of Flickr, tedeytan, tantek, Iván Cabrera, jalm1

More About: Buzzword Breakdown Series, foursquare, game mechanics, gamification, nike plus, Zynga

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Instagram Photographers Cash In on Keepsy

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 11:50 AM PDT

Amateur photographers, designers and artists have become budding iPhoneographers thanks to the insta-styling and sharing of iPhone app Instagram and its burgeoning user base. Now, top Instagramers can also make money on their filtered iPhone photos.

Startup Keepsy, a photo album and scrapbook maker, is showing off the work of Instagram’s most-celebrated users — many of whom were profiled in our feature on the top 15 photographers on Instagram. Keepsy is featuring curated photo albums and making them available to the public as printed keepsakes.

The Keepsy Instagram gallery spotlights the photo collections of 21 Instagram photographers from across the globe. Fans can browse the photo books or purchase printed copies. Instagram artists — who set the price of their books — will take home 50% of the profit from album sales.

The Instagram photo gallery, says Keepsy co-founder Blake Williams, is meant to highlight “exceptional talents and give them a place to showcase and sell their best work,” as well as “inspire other mobile photographers to discover and push the limits of this amazingly powerful piece of technology that they hold in their hands.”

Keepsy, he says, will continue to add to the gallery and take Instagram photographer nominations from its users.

Previously, Keepsy released the Instant Album, which let Instagram users build and create printed photo books from their shots.

The Top Photographers on Instagram

@mikekus: Photographer's Choice

Who: Mike Kus. A graphic designer, web designer and illustrator living in Bath.

Followers: 82,085

Photos: 451

Favorite Filter: Earlybird

How he's using Instagram: "I try to use Instagram to document my daily life and to photograph what surrounds me. I live in Bath, U.K.; so most of my pictures [are] places and people around Bath."

Inspired by: "I carry my iPhone everywhere and when I see something that interests me I take a shot. There's nothing I particularly set out to do. I like photographing architecture and people, mainly."

@mikekus: Editor's Pick

In addition to Instagram, Kus uses TiltShiftGen to add contrast to his photos and desaturate colors. But that's it for Kus when it comes to camera effects apps for iPhone.

"I only use TiltshiftGen and Instagram. I have experimented with other apps but haven't found anything I like as much as these two," he says.

@fashion: Photographer's Choice

Who: Malachy Sherlock. Hobby street-style Instagram iPhoneographer. Strategist for multichannel retailers and brands by day.

Followers: 66,969

Photos: 600

Favorite Filters: Earlybird, Walden and Brannan

How he's using Instagram: "I view Instagram as a new form of entertainment that has empowered and mobilized a global network of visual storytellers.

I use Instagram to connect with both individual and brand storytellers - storytellers that create powerful images that entertain, inform, educate and inspire me on a daily basis.

The content created by brands and individuals that I regularly follow takes me about one hour per day to consume and interact with. There may be as many as 20 to 30 live images per hour during peak publishing times. I have set times during the day that I consume the content that is created by the image makers that I follow around the world and It obviously has displaced other forms of entertainment that I'm using like Tivo, Netflix, Gaming and web browsing.

I post a single image every day and I include a geotagged location and a caption."

Inspired by: "I'm really inspired by the moment and then the individual style of each character I try and capture. I tend to frame the image with the fabric of the city as a backdrop and fashionably blend in the element of weather, light and time of day to tell a simple story.

I try and anticipate what will happen and capture it on the fly. Most of the times I fail, but everyday I'll somehow find an image that works for me.

I'm mostly influenced by the techniques and style of street photography and photo journalism, but I also love and learn from simple snapshots and mixed-media images that I see on Instagram."

@fashion: Editor's Pick

Sherlock's camera effects app arsenal includes Camera+, TiltShiftGen and Swankolab.

Sherlock also uses Flipboard and Webstagram as third-party Instagram applications.

@looking_glass: Photographer's Choice

Who: Chi Vo

Followers: 57,523

Photos: 761

Favorite Filter: None. Vo processes her photos outside of Instagram.

How she's using Instagram: "Instagram is my photo journal where I post photos and thoughts that mean something to me.

A lot of what I post is a reflection on the current events happening in my life that I would like to share and hopefully inspire and connect with others. I lead a pretty crazy and hectic life and Instagram helps me take time off to reflect on the things happening in and around me and to put it down in photos and words.

It also provides me an opportunity to network socially with like-minded and creative individuals. They challenge, inspire and motivate me in both my life and photographic interests. I have met many interesting individuals through Instagram and keep in touch with them on a regular basis."

Inspired by: "My photos are spur of the moment. Raw. Whether I am walking down the street or driving my car, I actually stop in the middle of the road sometimes to pause and capture that moment. Moments in life pass us so quickly that sometimes we don't actually see the beauty in the things that surround us.

I have over 5,000 photos on my iPhone. When I get a break from my hectic schedule, I reflect on the recent events in my life, and browse for that photo / moment that best portrays my feelings and thoughts which I wish to share. It is a way for me to better understand myself and life, to convey a mood and distill what I have captured."

@looking_glass: Editor's Pick

Vo is an avid user of Camera+ and loves the application's filters, cropping, lighting and framing options. She also uses Leme Camera for more serious editing, and appreciates PicFx, TiltshiftGen, Noir Photo and Pro HDR.

Vo's Instagram tip for Mashable readers is: "Share something that you have a connection with. You may find like-minded individuals to explore that connection with. Make it social."

@inkedfingers: Photographer's Choice

Who: Carli Kiene, coowner of InkedFingers Fotography & Design, a wedding and lifestyle photography business.

Followers: 51,063

Photos: 682

Favorite Filter: Brannan

How she's using Instagram: "Instagram reminded me that photography is an art. I'm a photographer by trade but because I had a seven pound camera in my hand all the time and didn't own a point and shoot that took good enough photographs, I never took photos of my own life, or if I did, they ended up on hard drives.

I first found Instagram during a camping trip in November of last year. We turned in early one night and I sat all zipped up in my tent looking for new apps (thankfully we had WiFi out in Bastrop, TX) and from the moment I took the first photos I was in awe of how easy it was to take a beautiful photograph.

With our photography company, Inkedfingers, we spend HOURS editing our images, going through each image, color correcting, changing curves, adding presets, and in less than a minute I created an image that from a layman's point of view, is almost indistinguishable on that tiny screen from what our $3,000 camera took. It's almost unbelievable. Instagram took the science out of taking a beautiful image.

At first, as part of the IG community, I tried to be anonymous. There was a freedom in knowing I could take whatever caught my eye without the pressure of a pay check, trying to please someone. I was making a memory of my own life. Then, inspired by other users in the community, I began to post photos of what I did for a living -- the latest postcard or rubber stamp we'd create or how I had my office set up -- and I got such positive feedback I posted more work-related photos.

Lately I've posted more behind the scenes shots, during an engagement shoot or what the church looks like during the rehearsal. I think others enjoy seeing something they might not see everyday and we've gotten from business from a few IG-ers!"

Inspired by: "Other IG users. It truly is a community. There are some users that I've become best friends with and connected with outside of the IG world and we find we have much in common aside from a love of photography!

What else inspires me? Whatever is around me at that moment: the sun's reflection on the water after a run, the way the books sit on my shelf or the light falling across the buildings downtown as I'm stopped at a red light. That's the beauty in Instagram. The app wasn't intended for photographers. It's intended to make every man a photographer, every man an artist. That is a beautiful thing.

There was an art installment recently in Austin, called 'Play Me I'm Yours.' A curator set out pianos outside all across the city and told anyone they could play the pianos whenever. It reminded me of IG. It put a piece of art in whatever man's hand would reach out far enough to seize the opportunity. Unlike the community of Twitter, no common language is required. Only two eyes to open and see ... to find common ground with people all over the world. I love that. The world is a better place because of it."

@inkedfingers: Editor's Pick

As for Instagram tips, Kiene advises Mashable readers to simply "post whatever catches your eye" and take advantage of the app's tilt-shift feature.

"If you're thinking of buying a point-and-shoot camera, my initial thought would be: don't. Just buy an iPhone," she adds.

@poeticaesthetic: Photographer's Choice

Who: Kristen

Followers: 49,954

Photos: 870

Favorite Filter: Earlybird

How she's using Instagram: "Upon discovering Instagram when it was still in its Beta stages, I thought it would be a great way to keep a photo journal of sorts for myself. Little did I know that it would become a networking tool, a portal to view phenomenal images from around the world, and ultimately a full fledged addiction. I use Instagram as an extension of my photographic obsession. I'm not always able to tote around my full DSLR set up, but I am never without my iPhone. Instagram has enabled me to capture and share images that might not be shared otherwise, at least not with such a broad audience."

Inspired by: "I am inspired by romance, music, literature, and fellow photographers. I tend to see and think geometrically, so lines and angles play a huge role in how I photograph, but emotion plays an even larger role. If I can look at a subject and feel some connection to it, I know it's worthy of a photograph."

@poeticaesthetic: Editor's Pick

Kristen prefers to keep her iPhone photo editing to a minimum, but she also likes the app Filterstorm.

"This app allows me to desaturate images, while tweaking the contrast and sharpening for a nice, contrasty and slightly noisy black and white finish," she says.

@babysmurf: Photographer's Choice

Who: Kristine Herryanto

Followers: 48,088

Photos: 276

Favorite Filter: Earlybird

How she's using Instagram: "I love seeing good pictures. Instagram is such a fun way to do that on mobile phone."

Inspired by: "I love traveling, and have been lucky enough to have a chance to travel quite often. The landscape, historic buildings, stylish streets and the people I encounter in other parts of the world are the main source of my inspiration. I can't get enough shots of European cities such as Paris & Vienna."

@babysmuf: Editor's Pick

"When I started using Instagram, the social aspect was the thing that kept me going back," Herryanto says. "The idea of the Popular Page was brilliant. That's how I discover users who have created awesome work."

Herryanto also uses Camera+ and Filterstorm to style and edit her iPhone photos. She also uses Cross Process, ShakeItPhoto and Hipstamatic.

@colerise: Photographer's Choice

Who: Cole Rise, a photographer and pilot.

Followers: 47,466

Photos: 263

Favorite Filters: Earlybird and Sutro

How he's using Instagram: "As a landscape photographer, it's often I'm on the road exploring, trying to find the next photo. So naturally, Instagram is invaluable when it comes sharing where I am and what I'm shooting. Exploring is fun! So, being able to share that experience in a meaningful way is absolutely fantastic. Plus, between developing rolls of film and post-production, it's usually weeks before i can share the results of a shoot. Now anyone can take a real-time peak through my viewfinder.

With the square format, it's also great compositional practice for medium format (6x6). Frame it up first on your phone, and if you like what you see, expose a frame or two of your 120 film. It's like my phone's become a sort of director's finder -- those little eyepieces you'd see a director using on set to help him visualize a shot before filming. Instagram's great because it makes that process social, which, in many ways for me, makes it a more valuable tool than Twitter.

Then, of course, there's it's everyday applicability. When I don't have the heavy equipment on hand, I have my phone. It's a fast & lightweight way to share those random life situations where you suddenly find yourself thinking 'other people have to see this!'"

Inspired by: "An envy of birds, a love of space, an affection for cows in vast fields and a good storm hovering over a mountain range. That, and little bits of arbitrary humor."

@colerise: Editor's Pick

Rise has several tips for Mashable readers and wanna-be iPhoneographers.

"Shooting through a knit sweater stretched over your phone makes for some awesome light-play, giving your photos a look similar to that of a pinhole camera," he says.

"You can also put a droplet of water between the lens and the LED flash on the IPhone 4 for some really great in-camera light leaks," he adds.

In addition to Instagram, Rise also enjoys CrossProcess for editing and Camera+ for effects.

@danrubin: Photographer's Choice

Who: Dan Rubin. Rubin is the cofounder of Instagoodies, the director of user experience for Sidebar Creative and a photographer.

Followers: 46,671

Photos: 638

Favorite Filter: Brannan. Rubin likes the thin border and faded tones.

How he's using Instagram: "Instagram has made photography part of my daily routine. Looking at the world through a lens changes the way you see things, and having that lens with you at all times means you are always looking, and never have to miss a shot. I don't always carry my dSLR, Polaroids, or my other myriad film cameras with me, but my iPhone -- and Instagram -- is always at the ready.

I'm always traveling, and Instagram has made it so easy to share my photos with Twitter and Facebook that I actually do it, allowing friends and family to track my exploits and live vicariously through my travel schedule.

I have many cameras. I am a photographer. But I shoot every day because of Instagram.

Inspired by: "My instinct is to say 'anything and everything' but I know for a fact that isn't true. I love architecture, landscapes, and especially shooting normally crowded locations without anyone in sight (an excuse for practicing extreme patience in most cases).

I also attempt to show normal, everyday scenes and objects in a different light, though I'll admit there are times when I post something just because I like it."

@danrubin: Editor's Pick

Here are some tips from Rubin on how to make the most of our iPhone photos:

  • "Shoot with the iPhone's default camera app, rather than Instagram's built-in camera. This way you get a high-resolution, un-cropped original that you can post-process in other apps before sending through Instagram. It's also much faster if you need to shoot something in a rush.
  • If you have an iPhone 4, use the built-in camera app's HDR mode (be sure to go into the iPhone's Settings under Photos and enable Keep Normal Photo so you can choose the best exposure later), which often produces images that appear slightly sharper, with more shadow and highlight detail but without the over-used (and fake-looking) HDR produced by third party apps.
  • When using the iPhone 4's HDR mode, be sure to set the exposure of the image by tapping on either a light or dark area of the scene (or somewhere in between). This effectively 'hints' the HDR setting to give you either more shadow or more highlight detail than the default exposure (and practice makes perfect).
  • Don't shoot from eye-level. Eye level shows us what everyone always sees, even though it's seen through your eye. Squat down, find a different angle, move further from or closer to your subject than you normally would — whatever takes it one step beyond normal. This will help make even the most everyday subject look anything but."

Rubin has made it a hobby of his to check out iPhone camera apps. His favorites right now are Filterstorm, CrossProcess, Lo-Mob, iDarkroom, Touch Retouch and Camera+.

@laurenlemon: Photographer's Choice

Who: Lauren Randolph, a creative portrait photographer living in Los Angeles.

Followers: 45,882

Photos: 701

Favorite Filters: Brannan and Hefe

How she's using Instagram: "As a photographer, I've always shot photos of everything I do and the places I go. With the quality of mobile photography being higher than ever, it's just so handy to use my iPhone as my on-the-go camera, capturing the little moments in life that I want to be able to look back on.

It's fun being able to share, while following photos of what others are doing as well. It has become my favorite way of keeping up with friends and people I know all over the world -- being able to see the things you'd normally miss out on."

Inspired by: "I'm inspired by location, color, and light -- those are usually what initially catch my eye. I love shooting pictures of my friends and family, and the different characters I know. I'm almost obsessed with documentation, and use photography as my own way of capturing my personal history."

@laurenlemon Editor's Pick

Randolph keeps her iPhone photo editing via camera effects applications to a minimum.

"Since Instagram, I've pretty much narrowed my photo apps down to just a select few," she says. "Sometimes I'll make some adjustments using the Camera+ app; and I love PhotoForge because of the real specific editing I can do with my mobile photos -- more along the lines of the editing I'll do with my regular digital photography. Still, I really try and do as little editing with my mobile photos as possible."

@chrysti: Photographer's Choice

Who: Christy Hydeck. Hydeck is an artist, photographer and soon-to-be published author; she calls her work "artography."

Followers: 43,787

Photos: 1,877

Favorite Filters: Earlybird, Inkwell and Toaster

How she's using Instagram: "I'm a big believer that there is extraordinary beauty in everyday things. Instagram is an amazing outlet for me to share the things that inspire me in the hopes that it inspires someone else too. Additionally, I love the accessibility. Anyone and everyone has the ability to create stunning imagery -- I love showing the creative potential the iPhone has."

Inspired by: "I don't think there is much that doesn't inspire me. Color, light, nature, emotion -- all play a consistent role in what I see and try to capture."

@chrysti: Editor's Pick

Not one to limit her photo editing to a single application, Hydeck says she has pages and pages of folders on her iPhone that are full of camera effects applications. Standouts right now include PicFx, Swankolab, PictureShow, iQuikDoF, qbro, PostalPix, LensFlare and Iris Photo Suite.

"Tomorrow that list will change," she says. "I go through spurts with which apps I use most often."

And if you're in search of some Instagram-related advice, look for the #instadvice hashtag. Hydeck often uses the hashtag to leave tips and tricks on photo-editing and sharing.

@joshjohnson: Photographer's Choice

Who: Josh Johnson. Johnson, a one-time manager, is now a full-time photographer.

Followers: 43,462

Photos: 2,460

Favorite Filter: X Pro II

How he's using Instagram: "I've seen my feed change from a place to showcase my pictures into a little community within a community.

The basic question is 'How do you meet new people on Instagram? How do you get your photos noticed?' It's a real problem, especially if you're brand new. This is why I created the nightly forums, the weekly challenge and the #jj community gallery. They've all been big hits. The #jj community gallery has over 100,000 submissions and is the 6th most popular hashtag on Instagram."

Inspired by: "I started out in management and was miserable. The best decision I've ever made was to follow my passion and jump into photography as a lifestyle. I believe there are beautiful images scattered through our everyday lives. The secret to finding them is to slow down. Slow down enough so you can really see. It's exciting that more and more people are being surprised by their creativity. It's exciting that so many are now walking around with the tools to create and publish art. That's what our cellphones have become. Amazing."

@joshjohnson: Editor's Pick

Budding Instagramers can add more pop their photos by capturing pictures a little underexposed and applying the Lomofi filter, Johnson says.

Johnson also likes qbro and Filterstorm for occasional use, but prefers to keep his photo editing primarily to Instagram filters.

@nirl: Photographer's Choice

Who: Nir Leshem

Followers: 42,345

Photos: 1,262

Favorite Filter: Gotham. "It brings out the dark side of me," he says.

How he's using Instagram: "Everything I see along my day immediately transfers to a squared picture with a title. My main subjects are usually colored sunsets and sunrises which always fascinated me. Clouds, the beach and some angles in the street I find interesting. Usually I try to catch obvious subjects that we pass everyday and not notice."

Inspired by: I love scenery, the sea, sunsets, sunrises, nature in general and colors at 5 a.m. when everyone is asleep."

@nirl: Editor's Pick

Leshem really enjoys Instagram for its social and sharing features. He especially loves "the interactiveness with people I've never met from practically everywhere."

His other favorite iPhone camera apps are Pro HDR, Camera+, Filterstorm and Iris Photo Suite.

@jenniferjeffrey: Photographer's Choice

Who: Jennifer Jeffrey, a for-hire copywriter adept at brand messaging and content strategy.

Followers: 41,677

Photos: 446

Favorite Filtesr: Earlybird and Brannan

How she's using Instagram: "I use Instagram to share a glimpse of my life in San Francisco with others -- and to peer into the lives of people around the globe.

I only share iPhone photos on IG, and it's important to me to stay within the mobile boundary to challenge myself and grow. The IG community is quite eclectic and diverse, and I adore seeing how many different ways people use the app. From @cryingjune who makes incredibly minimalistic photos to @tonydetroit who creates ultra-processed gritty shots of urban Detroit, I am continually inspired by what I find there."

Inspired by: "A sense of wanting to be in the moment, to capture what I'm seeing around me -- from graffiti to street signs -- and share it.

@jenniferjeffrey: Editor's Pick

Jeffrey isn't a big user of third-party Instagram applications. "I did spend several hours with a friend last weekend printing IG photos to film, then transferring the photos on to different mediums -- wood blocks, metal plates. It was really wonderful to see them in a non-digital context," she says.

She's also keen on instagram-only photo editing. "I've tried so many [camera apps] -- you should see how many I have on my phone -- but I don't like fussing with my photos too much, so I've stopped using most of them. The only one I use regularly is Camera+ to brighten or add clarity," Jeffrey says.

@skwii: Photographer's Choice

Who: Jussi Ulkuniemi, iPhoneographer and photographer/artist based in Finland.

Followers: 41,594

Photos: 491

Favorite Filter: Apollo

How he's using Instagram: "I started using Instagram mainly as a photofeed for iPhoneography and editing, but not long after I really got hooked. I also started using it as a social network, chatting with … worldwide friends. I've already met some of them in real life and still can't believe what friendships have formed out of it!"

Inspired by: "My photos vary a lot, so it's kinda hard to say what inspires them. A lot comes from the people I follow in Instagram. Some come from crazy artists like Takashi Murakami and many other modern artists. I love gaming and Japanese manga, so those clearly have had an effect on my art."

@skwii: Editor's Pick

Ulkuniemi has several tips for getting the most out of Instagram. First, he says, choose specific filters for intended effects.

"For Earlybird, for example," he says, "add some contrast and shoot the saturation skyhigh. Your picture may look a bit horrible before adding the filter, but just wait and see, you'll love the strong pastel tones of the finished product."

"Also, for photographing with an iPhone, having almost no control of things like aperture, shutter speed or anything has its good and bad sides," Ulkuniemi adds. "The really good thing is that you can concentrate absolutely on the composition and angle. iPhones are also fit for the most extreme kinds of angles: try sticking your camera lens below grass or into a crack in the wall."

Lastly, he says, shoot with an idea before you snap. "You can spend a whole day taking crappy, shaky shots, or you could think, visualize and make art that you and others love."

@bbyrd: Photographer's Choice

Who: Brandy Byrd. Graphic designer at CMT and MTV networks.

Followers: 40,027

Photos: 1,182

Favorite Filter: Earlybird (it's the only filter she uses)

How she's using Instagram: "I think of Instagram as a daily journal, but with photos. I shoot in real time, so looking back, my photos remind me of things I did that day, or things that caught my eye. I also see it as a creative outlet. I'm a graphic designer, so it gets me away from my computer and makes me see things differently."

Inspired by: "All kinds of things. Music, color, space …"

@bbyrd: Editor's Pick

Byrd is in the Instagram-and-only-Instagram camp.

"I only use Instagram," she says. "All of my photos are shot with my iPhone 4, with Instagram's Earlybird filter. No other editing."

More About: instagram, iphoneography, Keepsy, mobile photos

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Spotify Sued for Patent Infringement

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 11:13 AM PDT

A few weeks after finally entering the U.S. market — and reportedly amassing 70,000 paid users — music subscription service Spotify is being sued for patent infringement by wireless multimedia platform creator, PacketVideo.

According to TechDirt, the patent in question is for a “Device for the distribution of music information in digital form.” The patent was filed in the ’90s, and was purchased by PacketVideo a few years ago. Now, the company is claiming that Spotify is infringing on the patent, causing “irreparable harm and damage” to its business, according to the suit.

We reached out to Spotify for a response. Here’s what its representatives had to say: “In just under three years, Spotify has become more popular than any other music service of its kind. This success is, in large part, due to our own highly innovative, proprietary hybrid technology that incorporates peer-to-peer technology. The result is what we humbly believe to be a better music experience – lightning fast, dead simple and really social.

“PacketVideo is claiming that by distributing music over the Internet, Spotify (and by inference any other similar digital music service) has infringed one of the patents that has previously been acquired by PacketVideo. Spotify is strongly contesting PacketVideo’s claim.”

We’ll keep you updated should the suit progress further.

More About: legal, music, packetvideo, patent, spotify, suit

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IntoNow Tags Project Runway in Network Deal

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 11:01 AM PDT

IntoNow, a TV-tagging application owned by Yahoo, plans to release an application for Android, and revealed details of an intricate partnership with Lifetime Television surrounding season 9 of the network’s reality hit, Project Runway.

Under the deal, arranged by Yahoo, IntoNow’s iPhone and just-released Android applications may even be promoted during on-air broadcasts of Project Runway Season 9 trailers and episodes.

Application users will be invited to “tag” episodes — a.k.a. check in to shows via IntoNow’s propriety SoundPrint TV-listening technology — to unlock additional content, participate in polls and enter contents.

Content extras, says Yahoo Media Products Vice President Adam Cahan, will involve bios on guest judges, sneak peeks at future episodes, photo flipbooks and more. Yahoo will also include a number of engagement events that are synchronized with each show, he adds.

Cahan sees Lifetime and Project Runway as perfect partners for the on-air and mobile campaign. Reality shows are immensely popular among IntoNow’s 1 million users currently on iOS, he says.

Those iOS early adopters will also be greeted with an application update Thursday. The app will now feature a new set of show recommendations based on factors such as expressed interests and friends’ activities. Cahan refers to the new recommendations as a personal calendar for television that tells the viewer what he could be watching at any given time.

IntoNow is doing 36,232 tags per day, on average. The service surpassed 5 million tags 138 days after its release. But, IntoNow has not gained momentum following its sale to Yahoo in April — at the time, the startup was averaging 25,000 to 35,000 tags per day.

Others participating in the television check-in game have seen modest success with campaigns similar in nature to IntoNow’s Project Runway promotion. GetGlue has hosted a number campaigns with network parters around the second experience. So too has USA Network, using its own lineup of companion applications. But what users want from a TV-mobile combo experience is still unknown, Cahan says. “I don’t think anyone in this space has cracked what users are drawn to,” he says.

Perhaps, IntoNow’s Android release and Project Runway campaign will allow the still-infant application to better determine what television viewers want and help it find a substantially larger audience.

In a separate initiative run by A+E Networks, Project Runway, for the first time ever, will also allow fans to vote for their favorite designers via Twitter.

More About: Android App, entertainment, IntoNow, MARKETING, project runway, television, Yahoo

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Promoted Tweets Are Here At Last. How Will You Respond? [POLL]

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 10:35 AM PDT

Twitter announced Thursday that it would up its advertising game by rolling out promoted tweets from specific brands over the next couple of weeks. For now, you’ll have to follow those brands to see the promoted tweets in question, but we suspect this is just the beginning of a lot of incremental tweaks to a potentially profitable product.

Here’s what we want to know, and what Twitter itself is likely a little nervous about. The first time you see a promoted tweet in your timeline, no matter what the reason, how will you react? Will you slam your laptop shut in frustration, or will the fact that promoted tweets are easily distinguishable from the rest of your timeline — and that you can dismiss them with a single click — win you over? Take our poll, then tell us all about it in the comments.

More About: advertising, Promoted Tweets, timeline, twitter

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TaskRabbit for iPhone Lets You Outsource Your Chores

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 10:24 AM PDT

TaskRabbit, a service for outsourcing tasks and chores you don’t want to deal with, has unveiled its iPhone app.

TaskRabbit, previously known as RunMyErrand, has made a name for itself for its “service networking platform.” Basically, it gives busy people with a little extra cash the opportunity to pay people to run their chores. These “taskrabbits” do things such as deliver groceries, wait in line for you, fold your laundry or assemble your furniture. In return, you pay them a fee and TaskRabbit takes a cut of the transaction.

The new app, available now in the iOS App Store, makes it easier to assign these mundane or time-consuming tasks to others while on-the-go. Its straightforward interface lets you choose the type of task you need completed (shopping, cleaning, delivery, etc.). Once you pick a task, you simply have to choose the location of the task, estimate the expenses, set your price and write a description of the task. You can even snap a photo or create a one-minute voice memo for your task.

“Taskrabbits” can also use the app via the “Browse Tasks” feature. This brings up a map of tasks in your area that you can complete. For example, the task of “Ride from Nob Hill to SFO” is near my location. I can choose to apply for the task, and either the user or TaskRabbit will assign the task to someone.

The TaskRabbit iPhone App also has another nice feature: It lets you browse the profiles of its “taskrabbits.” There’s even a button where you can hire a specific user for whatever task you need to have completed.

The service, funded by FbFund, First Round Capital, Baseline Ventures, Floodgate Fund, Collaborative Fund and Shasta Ventures, is available in San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles. It plans to expand to New York City next.

More About: fbfund, iOS, iOS app, iphone app, taskrabbit

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Blurb Mobile Adds Social Stream & iPad App

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 09:57 AM PDT

Creative storytelling app Blurb has released updates that make it much more social, as well as an iPad app designed for easier, more immersive viewing.

Blurb [iTunes link], which started off as a self-publishing startup for book makers, released its iPhone app in April — a beefed-up photo and video-sharing app that lets users create shareable stories using photos, videos and audio sourced from their devices.

Before, users could get social by sharing stories on Facebook,Twitter and email, but now Blurb has added an element that was already present in apps of Instagram’s ilk: a social stream. Now, you can connect the app to your Facebook and Twitter accounts and instantly see a stream of stories created by friends using Blurb. Users also now have the ability to comment within the app.

In addition to these tweaks, Blurb also rolled out an iPad app Thursday. It’s basically the same as the iPhone app, but presents the user with a much bigger canvas — and screen — for story creation. We can see Blurb on the iPad being a wonderful tool for creating presentations and scrap-booked home movies.

Blurb is only available on iOS devices.

More About: blurb, iOS, ipad, iphone, photo sharing, startup, video, video sharing

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Promoted Tweets Set To Appear in Your Twitter Timeline

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 09:25 AM PDT

Twitter users will start seeing ads in their timeline over the next few weeks. The company officially announced on Thursday that a new Promoted Tweets option will roll out with a number of advertisers.

This is a big move for Twitter and certainly its most invasive advertising play to-date. Up until now, Promoted Tweets have only shown up in Twitter search or along user’s sidebars as a promoted Trending Topic. Now, Promoted Tweets will show up directly in the stream, with one caveat: You’ll only see ads from accounts that you already follow.

In that sense, Twitter hopes to make the ads something that users will find useful or at least be able to stomach. The company writes in a blog post: “From the start, our philosophy around advertising has been simple: We put our users first and strive to create products that enrich the Twitter experience for every Twitter user.”

The new breed of Promoted Tweets will sit “at or near” the top of a user’s timeline. However, once a user sees it for the first time, it will begin scrolling down the timeline like other tweets. Twitter also says that the tweets can be “easily dismissed from your timeline with a single click.”

SEE ALSO: What do you think of Promoted Tweets? [POLL]

Initial advertisers for the new program include a number of companies that already have significant Twitter followings, including Starbucks, JetBlue, Gatorade, Groupon, HBO and Sephora. A number of non-profits including The American Red Cross and charity: water are also participating.

The launch doesn’t come as a surprise — it’s long been suspected that Twitter would put ads in the stream. Mashable reported exclusively in June that such a product would be launched within the next two months. Now that they’re here, we’ll see if more prominent Promoted Tweets are the new DickBar or the golden monetization goose that Twitter’s been searching for.

What do you think of the new Promoted Tweets format? Let us know in the comments.

More About: advertising, Promoted Tweets, twitter

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Google+ Hangouts: 4 Creative Ways People Are Using Group Video Chat

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 09:20 AM PDT

Already using Google+? Follow Mashable’s Pete Cashmore for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as social media and technology updates.

While we’ve yet to find out how Google+’s “Hangouts” will mature and evolve, we’ve already seen some great uses of the built-in, group video conferencing service.

Although the tech for Hangouts has been around for years, it seems the simplicity of the Google solution is getting people’s creative juices going. From intimate concerts to a new way of co-working via cooking lessons, Google Plussers are making the most of the functionality in fun, new ways.

SEE ALSO: Google+ Tips & Tricks: 10 Hints for New Users

Take a look at the way Google Plussers have been using Hangouts in the short time since the service has been live. Please share in the comments any innovative or exciting uses you’ve come across.

1. Writer's Co-Working Hangout

Do you like the idea of co-working, but wish there could be more cats? That's the innovative use of Hangouts from Mary Robinette Kowal, puppeteer and award-winning author of Shades of Milk and Honey.

Kowal explained the concept of "Writer Hangouts" to Mashable. "They are a co-working thing and are very much like the idea of meeting people in real life at a coffee shop, but with the added benefit of having more control over your environment. As a writer, I'll often schedule writing dates at my local coffee shop, just to get myself out of the apartment. Writing can be so solitary sometimes."

"With the G+ Hangouts, I'm able to do the same thing, but with people from all over the world. At the last Hangout, we had people from Ireland, the Netherlands, and three of the U.S.'s timezones."

While in the Hangout, the participants minimize the Hangout view when in the midst of writing, but stop for scheduled breaks where they can chat, socialze, generally have a water-cooler moment and (as in the screengrab above showing Rebecca Blain) show off their kitties.

"I'm lucky in that I live in a city with a lot of writers, so real life hangouts are easy," says Kowal, who offers some advice for anyone interested in starting their own Writer's Hangout. "The Google+ Hangouts are fantastic for writers who feel isolated. They take the lonely out of writing."

2. Cooking Lessons

If you love cooking and socializing, then a Google+ cooking Hangout might be for you. Self-confessed "food geek" Lee Allison saw the potential of Google+'s new video conferencing service, and has launched the Google+ Cooking School.

Allison's "number one cooking rule" is "never cook for someone when you can cook with someone." Participants pre-buy the list of ingredients, as posted on Google+ by Allison, and make delicious food under his instruction. Dishes tackled so far include potstickers, gyro flatbreads, poissons en papillote (fish wrapped in paper) and chicken paella, with more planned soon.

The cusinine-themed Hangouts have gained momentum quickly. "We have always had full rooms. They are quite popular with several folks who return again and again. I'm hoping that my delivery, skills and technical production get better each time," says the web chef.

"The best part about Hangouts is how simple and effective they are. I love the immediacy and personal interaction."

3. Live Concerts

Live music delivered via the web is nothing new, but Google+ has brought an intimacy that is wowing music fans and musicians alike.

Jazz guitarist Rob Michael has played on Google+, as has indie singer-songwriter Daria Musk. Musk started using Hangouts as a performance venue soon after the launch of the new service.

"I had just thought it would be fun to play a show where I didn't have to lug my amps through the rain," says Musk. "I ended up discovering a global community of thousands of G+niuses [her Google+ fans] whose faces I will always know, whose excitement about my music I will always cherish, who will forever be in my heart."

Musk's first Hangout concert was held on July 16. News soon spread around the social web and thousands of Google Plussers were soon vying for one of the 10 slots. The demand led Google's director of engineering, Chee Chew, to "daisy-chain" Hangouts so more people could view the show. It lasted for 6.5 hours. Since then Musk has performed twice more, putting in 7.5-hour performances.

Musk told Mashable about that first performance. "As I performed through the night in a little studio in the woods of Connecticut, I got to see the sunrise in Norway, watch little girls dancing to my songs on an Australian Sunday morning, see the city lights in Buenos Aires, the smiling face of a woman in Malaysia... G+ changed my life forever in a night."

4. A Marathon Hangout

If Google gives you a new social media toy to play with, why not take it to the max? That's what Mark Olsen of and Phillip Olsen have done.

The pair has started the Google+ "Marathon Hangout," a non-stop video chat session that began in Mark Olsen's basement at 5:45pm on July 20, 2011, and has since celebrated a solid week on air. "The goal was to be the longest Hangout session ever and have the most interactions. This goal has been met," says Olsen.

Those interactions have so far been astonishing. Available via Google+ and also streamed live over on HangOutOnGPlus, Olsen estimates as many as 5,000 people have joined in, with many more viewing the stream.

"It has been simply amazing to have people from around the globe come in and interact with us regarding many topics, but primarily about social media, Google+ and Google Hangouts," says Olsen.

As well as "ordinary" Plussers, Hangout participants have included Michael Dell, Michael Mozart of Fail Toys and even Google staffers who have been advising the Olsens (and their informal team of helpers).

More About: gallery, Google, Google Plus, google plus hangouts, Google Plus Lists, List, Lists, video, video conferencing

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New Google Service Improves Web Page Load Speed

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 08:45 AM PDT

Google has just released a new tool that will help webmasters speed up their page load time.

Google’s new Page Speed Service takes many of the optimizations outlined in the company’s Page Speed Online API and applies it to sites automatically.

It’s a turnkey online service that automatically takes care of the optimizations by rewriting pages and delivering them to users using Google’s servers.

The tool works by having users point the CNAME for their URL at Google’s own servers. From there, Google can do the optimizations and rewrite pages as needed.

On the Google Code blog, Google says that it has seen speed improvements from 25% to 60% on some sites. Google has a gallery and a comparison test that users can try themselves.

Right now, the tool is only available to a limited set of webmasters, but you can request access by filling out this form. Google says that pricing will be competitive.

It’s rare that Google rolls out plans for a pay service, but this is a case where we think it makes sense. Would you be interested in using Google’s services to automatically optimize your website page load?

More About: Google, page speed, page speed services, website optmization

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Parody: Netflix Relief Fund Saves Customers From Price Hike [VIDEO]

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 08:27 AM PDT

How tough was it on upper middle class Americans when Netflix initiated a price hike earlier this month? Pretty damn tough according to this video.

In this latest Funny or Die video, Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander tees off not so much on Netflix, but on you, dear reader, if you happen to be among the well-pampered, tech-savvy elite. For instance, Samantha’s cozy existence has been turned upside down by greedy Netflix and she blames herself — maybe it was because she scratched one of those disks from The Wire? Yet, she somehow finds the strength to attend her Advanced Pilates workshop. You can help others like her via the Netflix Relief Fund.

If you think this is over the top, you’re right, but then again, take a look at the comments to our original post on the Netflix announcement. This is the biggest disaster for Bobos since the PowerMac G4 Cube.

More About: funny or die, netflix, viral videos

Android Now Owns 39% of Smartphone Market [STATS]

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 08:12 AM PDT

Android retains its crown as the top smartphone operating system in the U.S., while RIM continues to falter, according to the most recent data from Nielsen.

In assessing the latest data from June, Nielsen found that 39% of the smartphone market belongs to Google’s Android operating system. Apple has 28% of the market, while RIM and the BlackBerry OS are down to 20%.

When we compare those figures with the data Nielsen released for February through May, Android is up 3%, Apple is up 2% and RIM is down 3%.

When it comes to top phone manufacturers, however, Apple is the clear winner. Like RIM, Apple has the advantage of controlling the software and the hardware for its smartphone platform. Unlike RIM, Apple sells only three smartphones in the U.S.: the iPhone 4 (AT&T), the iPhone 4 (Verizon) and the iPhone 3GS (AT&T).

HTC is the biggest Android manufacturer, according to Nielsen, with 14% of the Android market. Motorola and Samsung have 11% and 8% respectively.

More About: android, blackberry, Google, iphone, smartphone, stats

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12 Food Trucks Mashable Readers Love

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 07:53 AM PDT

The Social-Savvy Food Truck Series is supported by the Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Truck. For more information on the scoop truck and where it stops, click here.

The food truck phenomenon has been a much talked about trend in recent years — and now we know why.

We asked you to tell us your favorite food trucks, and with more than 100 submissions, it’s clear the mobile food industry has truly reached across the United States. Most readers represented different regions and tastes — only five trucks were mentioned more than twice. Some big cities that are known for their armies of food trucks, such as New York, Los Angeles and Austin, were mentioned a few times, but the smaller cities really took the cake. Who knew places like Harrisburg, PA, and Lansing, MI, had die-hard mobile food communities?

Below you’ll find a gallery of the 12 food trucks Mashable readers can’t get enough of.

Which food truck is your favorite? Give it a shout out in the comments.

2 Fat 2 Fly - Columbia, SC

"2 Fat 2 Fly is my favorite food truck (and one of the first food trucks in Columbia, SC)! How can you beat delicious wings stuffed with such mouth-watering flavors as Mac N' Cheese, Sucka Punch (jalapenos, cheese, and bacon), Thanksgiving (stuffed with stuffing, of course) and Chicken Parmesan? I'm getting hungry just typing this. The amazing taste of these super-sized wings is only enhanced by the innovative and always-entertaining owner/operators Corey and Ramone." - Susie Norgaard

Photo courtesy Corey.

Streetza - Milwaukee, WI

"Their crust and sauce is amazing, and the variety of selections keep me coming back. They also do an incredible job of keeping us informed via Twitter on what the slice of the day is, along with when and where the will be every day. They ARE the best! Having the ability to build your own Streetza truck keeps it fun also." - Doug Cvetkovich

PDX671 - Portland, OR

"PDX671 is a food cart in Portland, OR that featured Island Style Barbecue from the Pacific Island of GUAM. Not only is the name unique (PDX is Portland's airport code and 671 is Guam's area code), but the food itself is unique, exotic, and so delicious. Nothing compares to it really." - Marie Sablan

Photo courtesy Ed Sablan.

Trailer Park'd - Lansing, MI

"Trailer Park'd in Lansing, MI is by far not only the best food truck I have enjoyed, but rivals the best restaurant food. What can I say? Free Range, Organic, and dare I say… LOCAL!!! Fresh seasonal food with Chef Jesse's creations is a recipe for success. The business plan is genius and the food is incredible!" - Michael Wi

Photo courtesy Anna Daugherty.

Marination Mobile - Seattle, WA

"I die for their kalua pork sliders." - Michelle Tanaka

Photo courtesy Valentina Vitols.

Purple Carrot - East Lansing, MI

"They are a great farm to truck that serves up some of the best food in the Midwest. I've had their brunch, lunch and tapas dinners and they are always serving up amazing farm fresh food, that is beautiful too! My favorite dishes are the Crispy Trout Sammy, Strawberry White Chocolate French Toast with Michigan berries and maple goat cheese and the Chicken Galantine with Michigan cherries, pistachios, radish top pesto, and pea tendrils. Oh and I almost forgot, their truck is one of the cutest I've seen!" - Jordan Sutton

Photo courtesy Nina Santucci.

Taco de Paco - Baton Rouge, LA

"It's a gourmet fusion taco truck that seems to take anything that is an amazing dish in itself, adds a Cajun/Louisiana spin onto it, and makes a taco out of it. The food is amazing, innovative, and they're leading the charge for food trucks here in the state of Louisiana. DEFINITELY my favorite food truck, and the favorite of all my friends!" - Reagan Harris

Photo courtesy Reagan Harris.

Wafles & Dinges - New York, NY

"Number one: The "Spekuloos" spread. Think cinnamon nutella / peanut butter. Totally unique, totally to die for. I am allergic to peanuts (actually all nuts) and have never enjoyed peanut butter. Spekuloos gives me a reason not to look back... I suggest you try a Spekuloos and strawberry waffle with powdered sugar – and then try to disagree with me." - Niko DeMordaunt

East Side King - Austin, TX

"Beet Fries, Veggie Meshi (you've never really tried brussel sprouts til you have them this way)." - Kenneth Macias

Photo courtesy Marshall Wright.

Southern Mac & Cheese Truck - Chicago, IL

"They have such fabulous, delicious creations. They offer a Foursquare deal, they are very active on Facebook/Twitter which makes them super easy to find and track down. And they are very nice – both online and in person!" - Nicole Lumbreras

Photo courtesy Nicole Lumbreras.

Seabirds - Orange County, CA

"Seabirds Food Truck – 100% vegan and good as hell!" - Jordan Kasteler

Photo courtesy Shelby Steen.

Fukuburger - Las Vegas, NV

"Fukuburger serves the best Japanese cheeseburgers I've never had (who's ever had a Japanese Cheeseburger?). Regardless – one of the best burgers I've had, period – Japanese or not. The cooks are super nice, make you feel like a brother or cousin the way they'll just start joking around with you." - Daniel Horning

Photo courtesy Daniel Horning.

Series Supported by Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Truck

The Social-Savvy Food Truck Series is supported by the Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Truck. In New York City or San Francisco and want a free scoop? Follow @BenJerrysTruck and @BenJerrysWest for details!

More About: Food, Food truck, Social-Savvy Food Truck Series

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