Saturday, 20 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 26 News Updates - including “iPad 2 App Turns Your Real World Surroundings Into 3D Shooter Game”

Mashable: Latest 26 News Updates - including “iPad 2 App Turns Your Real World Surroundings Into 3D Shooter Game”

iPad 2 App Turns Your Real World Surroundings Into 3D Shooter Game

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:19 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: Ball Invasion

Quick Pitch: Ball Invasion for iPad 2 uses simultaneous localization and mapping technology to build real-time 3D maps of the environment as you move the iPad's camera around.

Genius Idea: A 3D shooter game, set in the real world.

Adding the three-dimensional realm of what’s in front to you to a first-person shooter game could make for some pretty entertaining game play. Ball Invasion, an application [iTunes link] for iPad 2, promises just that.

Hold your device’s camera up to a flat surface with plenty of detail — a bookshelf or magazine for instance — and Ball Invasion will map out your surroundings and generate a playing field. You’re then tasked to shoot “malicious and cunning balls hiding in the real world,” with the challenge becoming more difficult with each progressive level.

Ball Invasion is the first product from Stockholm-based computer vision startup 13th Lab.

The startup specializes in simultaneous localization and mapping technology — not to be confused with run-of-the-mill augmented reality — in mobile environments.

“It lets you very accurately position your iPad 2 in 3D space and overlay stuff on reality without any known or printed visual markers, as is required in other solutions,” 13th Lab founder Petter Ivmark explains.

In layman’s terms, the technology turns your real world surroundings into the backdrop for interactive, 3D game play.

That said, 13th Lab has greater ambitions than being known as a cool app maker. The startup aims to create a platform for 3D game development and will make its technology accessible to other developers.

“Hopefully, this will spur a lot more innovation in computer vision,” Ivmark says. “We strongly believe that as computer vision and artificial intelligence evolve the camera will take over from GPS as the device’s most important sensor to understand, interpret and navigate the world.”

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: 13th Lab, Augmented Reality, Ball Invasion, bizspark, spark-of-genius

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HP TouchPad Slashed to $149 and Below — In Canada

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:08 PM PDT

Update, 11:51 p.m. ET: The HP TouchPad now appears to be sold out on Canada’s Best Buy site, while U.S. Amazon still says it has some in stock.

It looks like Hewlett-Packard TouchPads are starting to be sold at drastically lower prices at some Canadian outlets, following HP’s Thursday announcement that it would be shutting down operations for its webOS devices.

Best Buy in Canada is presently selling the 16 GB TouchPad for $99.99, compared to its previous price of $399.99. The 32 GB version of the device has had its price cut from $499.99 to $149.99. The site notes that the sale ends August 22.

HP TouchPad Prices, Canadian Best Buy

The newly lowered prices are not yet widespread on U.S. retailers’ websites. At the time of writing, a visit to indicated that both versions of the HP TouchPad are selling for their standard retail prices. As of 10:43 p.m. ET, prices on stateside momentarily dropped to $100 for the 16 GB TouchPad and $149.99 for the 32 GB TouchPad. However, the devices’ prices now seem to be bumped back up to $299.99 and $399.99 respectively, with Amazon claiming that only one or two of each TouchPad is left in stock.

HP TouchPad16 GB, AmazonUS

According to, HP reportedly sent a memo to its affiliates, saying that the company would be lowering its price for the TouchPad on Saturday, August 20. The site says the memo included the $99 and $149 price points. If reports of the memo are true, it seems some retailers decided to get a slight head start by lowering prices Friday.

The HP TouchPad’s liquidation, as well as the HP announcement regarding the shuttering of webOS operations, comes approximately a month and a half after the device originally went on sale.

More About: Hewlett-Packard, hp touchpad, webOS

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Microsoft to WebOS Devs: Work With Us Instead, Get Free Phones

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:53 PM PDT

The body of WebOS is still warm, one day after Hewlett-Packard announced it would cease developing the platform — indeed, HP may yet find a buyer who can bring it back to life. But Microsoft is wasting no time in luring the mourners away with free gifts and offers of support.

Microsoft’s chief Windows Phone evangelist, Brandon Watson, tweeted this afternoon: “To Any Published WebOS Devs: We’ll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, phones, dev tools, and training, etc.”

The latest version of Windows Phone 7, codename Mango, has reached the release stage and will be officially launched this fall — so it’s prime time for Redmond to try wooing developers. Mango adds features such as multitasking and cloud integration to what has so far been a fairly moribund platform.

And it looks as if Watson has had a smattering of interest. He spent the afternoon tweeting the same reply to inquiries: “Send me an email, tell me where you are located, and we connect you to one of our mobile champs for some personal attention.” (Watson’s email, for those interested, is thephone@microsoft dot com.)

Windows Phone may be among the least popular smartphone platforms at the moment, but analysts expect that to change in short order. A recent prediction from Gartner says WP7 will double its market share in 2012 to 10%, and hit 20% by 2015. If those numbers are for real, app developers who get in early could be looking at a gold rush as new users pour in. And Microsoft, flush with cash and desperate for attention in the mobile space, is hardly likely to abandon the platform any time soon. That will come as a comfort to anyone currently feeling burned by HP.

Will Microsoft’s tactics work? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: HP, microsoft, webOS, windows phone 7

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Ridley Scott To Revisit “Blade Runner”

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:25 PM PDT

It’s been reported that director Ridley Scott has signed on to direct and produce a new installment of Blade Runner for Alcon Entertainment. Although nothing is set in stone, rumors are already swirling that Scott will use 3D to revisit the dystopian universe.

Loosely based on Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner remains a seminal film in the annals of science fiction and modern film noir. Scott’s original film, which was released in 1982, stars Harrison Ford as a man tasked with hunting down robot replicants in a dystopian Los Angeles set in 2019.

Deadline, which broke the story about Scott’s plans to revisit the film Thursday, notes that while the original film wasn’t a big hit at the box office, it has gained a loyal following amongst film historians and science fiction fans.

On Friday, The L.A. Times revealed more information about the project and how it came together. According to Alcon Entertainment’s Andrew Kosove, getting Scott on-board was a big part of the studio’s vision for the film. Speaking to the Times, Kosove said “I believe he sees an opportunity to create something that’s wholly original from the first Blade Runner. ”

Scott, who also directed 2000′s Gladiator, is no stranger to taking a new approach to existing content. The director is finishing work on Prometheus, a film that revisits the world inhabited by Scott’s 1979 class, Alien. Scott took a 3D approach with Prometheus, which Fox will release next summer. Although the studio says that Prometheus is its own title, it started life off as a prequel to the original Alien and reportedly still shares many similarities with the first film.

As for Blade Runner, it’s not clear if the film will be directly related to the original film or just inspired by it. Still, as Kosove told the Times, fans shouldn’t expect to see Harrison Ford return, telling the paper:

“In no way do I speak for Ridley Scott, but if you’re asking me will this movie have anything to do with Harrison Ford, the answer is no. This is a total reinvention, and in my mind that means doing everything fresh, including casting.”

Blade Runner fans will likely need to wait until 2014 to see the results in theaters. First, the film will need a screenwriter and a plan of attack.

If Scott does decide to shoot in 3D, as he did with Prometheus, it will be part of a growing trend of directors taking a 3D approach to either revive or enhance existing franchises.

James Cameron broke new ground with Avatar and is reportedly working on two follow-up films. He’s also working on a 3D version of Titanic. Rather than shooting a new version of the second-highest grossing film of all time, Cameron will be retroactively adding 3D to the 1997 film using post-production techniques.

Although American audiences have softened a bit on 3D films since Avatar broke box office records in 2009 and 2010, the technology is still driving the global film business.

Films like this summer’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon had tremendous overseas performances, driven in large part by 3D ticket sales.

In terms of cinematic history, Blade Runner, along with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, largely defined the science fiction film. Many modern tech films owe at least some of their existence to Blade Runner. Although we’re not convinced that the original film needs a remake or a prequel, we can’t help but love the idea of Scott revisiting that world, especially using modern technology and filmmaking techniques.

Let us know your thoughts about a Blade Runner revival in the comments.

More About: 3D, Blade Runner, Film, Movies, Ridley Scott

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iPhone 5 To Arrive in Early October, Says AT&T Exec [REPORT]

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:56 PM PDT

iPhone 5 release date rumors are swirling again as a new report says an AT&T vice president has confirmed plans to launch the phone in early October.

On Friday, a post from Boy Genius Report said one of its high-level AT&T sources had confirmed that a company vice president had told several employees the device would be out in early October. In addition, the executive told a group of managers to expect things to get busy during the next 35 to 50 days, asking them to prepare their teams accordingly.

Our own sources within Apple suggest the next two months are going to be extremely busy, but can’t be more specific.

The device’s release date has been the subject of much anticipation on the web lately, with alternate reports fluctuating between September and October as possible time frames for the launch. At the beginning of this month, All Things Digital said the next generation iPhone would come out in October. But just last week, a report from a Japanese website indicated the device would be released in September, during a rumored Apple media event. Meanwhile, during his company’s last earnings call, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said he expected the phone out in the fall.

In the past, newer versions of the iPhone have typically been released during Apple’s summer Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). But that didn’t happen this year, following the release of the Verizon iPhone 4 in February.

More About: apple, att, iPhone 5, Mobile 2.0, trending

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Craigslist Alternatives: 5 Barter Sites to Swap Your Stuff

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:04 PM PDT

The stock market might be on an up-and-down rollercoaster ride, but one type of startup that’s currently on the rise is barter sites — online operations where people can reuse, recycle or trade goods and services. Whether that has more to do with tighter family budgets or a trend toward greener purchases, a new-ish wave of entrepreneurs and philanthropists are attempting to exploit the apparent opportunity by launching sites where consumers can either trade their stuff for other things, get rid of unwanted items without clogging landfills, exchange their goods for money or do a little bit of each.

Of course, Craigslist has long existed as a hub for this type of activity and eBay is a great place to unload your stuff for cash. But Craigslist has a fair amount of baggage attached to it, in part because of its use as a resource for prostitutes and johns, and eBay usually requires shipping, which means you’ll get less for items than you could otherwise.

New barter sites, many with an emphasis on establishing local economies, address both concerns. In some cases, these sites are non-profits and aim to help the environment and help consumers save money. In other instances, the goal is to make money. Whatever the motivation, if you’re a consumer interested in exploring the barter economy, here are a few sites to consider:

1. PawnGo

As the name implies, PawnGo isn't so much a barter site as an online pawn shop. Todd Hills, the CEO of PawnGo, ran real pawn shops for years, but saw an opportunity online in 2007. "We started seeing a little different clientele in our brick and mortar stores starting in 2007," he says. "They had very nice assets, but at the same time were very uncomfortable."

Hills speculated that such middle- and upper-middle class consumers saw too much of a stigma attached to traditional pawn shops, but that online would be a different story.

It's also a different sort of deal: Instead of just getting cash for their goods, PawnGo customers get loans. If you have, say, a piece of jewelry that PawnGo values at $10,000, you can get a 90-day loan for that amount or less at a 3-6% interest rate. Hills says the default rate for such loans is only around 15%. Hills's hunch about the potential for online pawn appears to be paying off: The site did 500 deals in June.

2. ThredUp

Children's clothing is a unique market because the goods are highly perishable in one sense — the young ones outgrow them fairly quickly — but in reality, they can last for years. Savvy moms have known this for year and make a point of visiting second-hand stores where you can buy almost-new clothes for cheap.

Eyeing this underground economy, James Reinhart created ThredUp earlier this year. Here's how it works: When you join ThredUp, you get 10 boxes, which Reinhart says hold about 15 items each. When you want to get rid of clothes your kids have outgrown, you post them on the site. If someone indicates that they want the items, you mail them the box. If you want someone else's box, it costs $15.95 in shipping plus a $5 fee, which goes to ThredUp. Reinhart says he's looking to adapt the model to other items, like toys and consumer electronics, in the future. bills itself as the world's largest swap marketplace and claims about 1.2 million members. Swaptree, which focused on media like books and CDs, bought last summer, but CEO Jeff Bennett named the combined company At the moment, the company is in freemium mode, though it makes some money from offline swap events. Bennett plans to broaden the business to include buy-and-sell transactions and collect a transaction fee.

Bennett says he believes the future of barter is local. After all, those shipping fees can really kill your motivation to swap. You can narrow your search down to your town with and see what other local people want (the site includes pictures of the items.) You aren't required to trade locally, though.

To get started, asks you to list the items that you have to trade and then the ones that you want. Then it matches you up with someone who has what you want and wants what you have. Simple as that.

4. U-Exchange

If the economy every really does crash in a big way, U-Exchange could experience a renaissance. The Canada-based site, which has 67,000 members, seems to be more about bartering services than goods. For instance, a man in Ventnor, New Jersey posted recently seeking dental work in exchange for installing hardwood flooring. A lawyer in Marlton, New Jersey will do some legal work for a week at someone's vacation house down the on the Shore.

There are also goods exchanges — a man in Jersey City offered to swap a brand new Motorola Droid X for a used iPhone 4. U-Exchange gets a cut of some trades - there's a one-time $5.99 for vehicles and boats and a permanent property exchange is $16.25 — but everything else is free. The site, which claims 1.2 million uniques a month, makes most of its money through advertising.

5. Freecycle

Freecycle was started as a philanthropic venture and remains one to this day. Started by Deron Beal in Tucson, Arizona, in 2003, the organization originally recycled stuff that was being thrown away and gave it to local charities. "Thinking there had to be an easier way, Beal set up that first Freecycle e-mail group in a way that permitted everyone in Tucson to give and get," a history on Freecycle's site reads.

In practice, the site isn't much different than other barter sites: You can list things you want to get rid of, look for stuff other people are giving away or put the word out that you're in the market for something. There are absolutely no fees. The company likens its business model to PBS and draws its income from a combination of advertising, grants and donations.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

More About: Barter, craigslist, ebay, pawngo, Thredup

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Our Favorite YouTube Videos This Week: The Music Video Edition Vol. II

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:03 PM PDT

Happy Friday, denizens of the web! We know we’ve had a Music Video roundup before, but now is as good time as any to face the music — again!

Plug in, turn it up and jam out. This will be the last YouTube Roundup of this kind (Mashable copy editor Brian Hernandez will be taking over next week) as today is my very last day at Mashable. Happy weekend all, and see you on the other side!

Pearl Jam, "Jeremy"

Josh Catone: When I think "music video," this is what pops into my head. (Sometimes it's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that I think of, but I'm never 100% sure if I am remembering the Nirvana version, or Weird Al's...)

Pavement, "Cut your hair"

Todd Wasserman: Proof that Pavement should have made a movie.

Blind Melon, "No Rain"

Jay Bischof: Who's going to be the first to break the '90s rock theme? Not me.

Dan Black, "Symphonies ft. Kid Cudi"

Brian Hernandez: This was my favorite video of 2010. Why? So much TYPOGRAPHY!

Art Of Noise, "Moments In Love"

Jennifer Diamond: Taking it back to the 80s with Art of Noise.

Rick Astley, "Never Gonna Give You Up"

Stephanie Haberman: To the Mashable community, with love.

Busta Rhymes, "Woo Hah!! (Got You All in Check)"

Todd Olmstead: Hype Williams and Busta Rhymes were an epic combination.

Aerosmith, "Crazy"

Stacy Green: Aerosmith, "Crazy." No further comment.

Lykke Li, "I Follow Rivers"

Stephanie Buck: There's always room for an uncomfortably haunting video from Lykke Li.

"Total Eclipse of the Heart: Literal Video Version"

Meghan Peters: Also taking it back to the '80s -- literally.

Fiona Apple, "Criminal"

Christina Warren: Mark Romanek is probably my favorite music video director of all time, and although I think "Hurt" by Johnny Cash is probably his best work, I decided to take it back a bit to one of my other favorite videos, "Criminal" by Fiona Apple. Even without the context of the Calvin Klein campaign (which influenced the editorial style of this video), the video/song still hold up 14 years later.

Missy Elliott, "The Rain"

Chelsea Stark: Piggybacking on the '90s... I always loved this video..

Avril Lavigne, "Complicated"

Zachary Sniderman: Once dead-panned this chorus to a high-school history teacher. No joke.

Twisted Sister, "We're Not Gonna Take It"

Robyn Peterson: The worst and best (simultaneously) music video ever made. Embarrassing confession: I just taught my three-year-old girls to sing this song.

Broken Bells, "The Ghost Inside"

Chris Taylor: Broken Bells. Asteroids. Christina Hendricks. Need I say more?

Korn, "Freak On A Leash"

Ada Ospina: "Take On Me" (A-ha) was backup option.

NewVillager, "LightHouse"

Brenna Ehrlich: Rad song. Weird as hell video. NSFW: Theatrical sex.

More About: music, our-favorite-youtube-videos, youtube

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StumbleUpon Drives More Than 50% of Social Media Traffic [STATS]

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 03:47 PM PDT

Which social media site drives the most traffic to the rest of the web? If you think it’s Facebook or Twitter, you’re wrong. StumbleUpon now accounts for more than 50% of all referral traffic from the top social media sites.

New data from StatCounter shows that StumbleUpon is the dominant source of traffic among the world’s top social media sites. For the first 18 days of August, StumbleUpon accounted for 50.27% of all referral traffic from the top 10 social sites. Facebook was second with a 38.9% market share, while Reddit, YouTube and Twitter each garnered less than 4%.

The stats are surprising, to say the least. StumbleUpon has been growing rapidly (it recently surpassed 25 billion clicks of the StumbleUpon button), but it has nowhere near as many users as Facebook or Twitter. The company does track approximately 3 million websites, however, so it has a decent sample size.

While we hesitate to say StumbleUpon drives more traffic than Facebook (can 12 million users really beat 750 million?), the service is clearly growing in influence. Mashable has noticed a consistent increase in StumbleUpon referral traffic for the last few months, and there is nothing that suggests that growth won’t continue.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Laughing Squid

More About: facebook, social media, StatCounter, stumbleupon, trending

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HTC Doubles Down on Android After Google-Motorola Deal

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 02:58 PM PDT

HTC doesn’t plan to ditch Google’s Android or build its own rival operating system in the wake of Google’s blockbuster acquisition of Motorola, HTC’s CEO said Friday.

“It’s not the operating system, it’s the ecosystem,” Peter Chou told The Wall Street Journal, reaffirming the company’s commitment to Android. “We think we can find a way to differentiate to add value, but at the same time leverage our partners, Google and Microsoft, since we have such a great relationship with them.”

HTC’s CEO added that Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility was good for the company because it enhances Google’s patent portfolio, which Google can then use to support and protect Android and its partners.

Taiwan-based HTC is the top smartphone manufacturer in the U.S., partly due to its early bet on Android. HTC produced the first Android-based smartphone, the HTC Dream (aka the T-Mobile G1). Since then, its profits and phone line have soared with devices such as the Evo 4G, ThunderBolt and Droid Incredible. The company is also develops Windows Phone 7 devices.

HTC has been on an acquisition spree itself. Earlier this month it bought a controlling stake in mobile audio firm Beats Electronics for $309 million. The company also recently acquired graphics chip maker S3 for $300 million and cloud computing company Dashwire for up to $18.5 million.

More About: android, Google, htc, Motorola

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This Week in Politics & Digital: Iowa Winners, Debt Downgrades

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 02:11 PM PDT

america image

On this week’s roundup of news at the intersection of tech and politics, we’ve got visual breakdowns of the social political space, the digital results of last weekend’s Iowa debates — and what happened when former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich met CollegeHumor.

The Ames Straw Poll in Iowa raised the stakes in the Republicans’ race to be their party’s pick, even as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty dropped out. Meanwhile, the country is teetering on the verge of a double-dip recession thanks in part to the debt ceiling settlement and Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. This is the Week in Politics & Digital.

Social Media Winners of the Iowa Debate

huntsman image

Last weekend was all about the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, a public vote to test the relative strength of GOP presidential candidates in the early primary state. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won the day, but social media gave us a different result following the Iowa debates. CBS News looked at how the Twitterverse responded to the candidates’ performances. The most positive sentiment surrounded former Utah governor and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman — and a now ex-candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

CollegeHumor Lampoons the Debt Downgrade

Still confused about last week’s S&P downgrade to the U.S. credit rating that sent markets tumbling? In this satirical video, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich lends his deadpan voice to explaining the apocalyptic result of further downgrades. The video ends on a serious note, pointing out the need for jobs and growth to avoid economic disaster.

YouTube & Politics

youtube image

YouTube has become a major resource for politicians and the politically interested. It’s a forum for elected officials to reach out to their constituents, and for people to stay up to date on debates, announcements and gaffes. YouTube is celebrating five years of political activity with two infographics, one on the results of its recent Town Hall and one on the intersection of YouTube and politics in general.

Images courtesy of Flickr, CrumleyFamily, zennie62

More About: 2012 election, politics, social media, week in digital politics, youtube

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German State Bans Facebook’s “Like”

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:50 PM PDT

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein has ordered state institutions to shut down their Facebook Pages and remove the “Like” button from their websites — or face fines.

Schleswig-Holstein’s data-protection commissioner, Thilo Weichert, says that an analysis from his office shows that Facebook builds profiles of both users and non-users with data collected by the Like button, reports the Associated Press. If true, this would violate German and European data protection laws.

In a statement, the data-protection organization urged Internet users “to keep their fingers from clicking on social plugins” like the Like button to avoid being profiled.

"We firmly reject any assertion that Facebook is not compliant with EU data protection standards," a Facebook spokesperson said in another statement. "The Facebook Like button is such a popular feature because people have complete control over how their information is shared through it. For more than a year, the plugin has brought value to many businesses and individuals every day. We will review the materials produced by the ULD [the data protection agency], both on our own behalf and on the behalf of web users throughout Germany."

According to Facebook, the only information that the company receives when a user who is not signed in hits the Like button is an IP address.

German regulators have clashed with Facebook before. Earlier this month, the data protection supervisor in Hamburg warned that Facebook’s new automatic photo-tagging feature could violate European privacy laws.

More About: facebook, germany, privacy

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Listen & Spin With The Human League in Mashable’s Room

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:30 PM PDT

The weekend — and The Weeknd — are whirring through our veins, and to herald the coming of Saturday, we’ll be spinning jams on with New Wave legends The Human League.

If you’re unfamiliar with, get ready for a litany of bouncing avatars to start haunting your dreams. The startup, which is still in beta, comes from the Stickybits team and is basically like (musical) AOL chatrooms of old — user-created, browser-based chat and listening rooms where "DJs" (a.k.a. you and others) can play songs, vote on how "lame" or "awesome" those songs are, score points for picking good tunes, and chat with others in a sidebar. You can choose songs from a MediaNet-powered library or upload your own. Unfortunately, the site is no longer open to anyone outside the U.S. because of Turntable’s efforts to stay DMCA compliant.

We’ve had a few Friday jam sessions, courtesy of the MuseBox and its bands, and today we continue that tradition with The Human League. The band’s new disc, CREDO, dropped this week.

Click here and dance.

More About: human-league, music,

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HOW TO: Properly Use Badges To Engage Customers

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 12:19 PM PDT

Gabe Zichermann is the chair of the upcoming Gamification Summit NYC (9/15-16, 2011), where industry leaders will gather to share knowledge and insight. Zichermann is also an author, highly rated public speaker and entrepreneur whose book, "Gamification by Design" (O'Reilly, 2011) is the first to look at the technical and architectural considerations for designing engagement using game concepts.

Badges are among the most visible elements of gamification, the use of game-thinking and game mechanics to engage media audiences. A badge is one of many tools in an engagement design arsenal that also includes point systems, leaderboards, challenges, rewards, team play and achievement, among others.

However, social media badges are often maligned as boring or weak. This has been exacerbated by the decline of Foursquare's badging system. Many people have, therefore, concluded that badges are lame (what I call "badgenfreude"). In doing so, they miss the point entirely: Well-designed badge systems, like those used by the Boy Scouts or in the automotive industry, continue to remain robust because they follow a simple set of rules.

The four steps to badge nirvana can help you produce a stellar product, service and workplace:

  • Balance delight with aspirational, predictable achievement
  • Design for visual appeal
  • Leverage scarcity principles
  • Integrate tightly with a larger system

Regardless of your particular view of badges, understanding their potential may help you to build gamified engagement into your product or service. What follows are some of the most important design patterns, strengths and weaknesses of designing badges for gamification.

Badge Potential

Badges can perform a number of functions for gamified design, but mostly they are used to demonstrate consumer status and progress. Usually they're either linear to the experience of the user (earned for 1, 5 or 20 check-ins) or orthagonal (earned for activities performed in the early morning, late night or at 30,000 feet). When used in the latter sense, badges are often designed to expose the player to a use of the product they wouldn't have otherwise imagined.

Delight vs. Structure

Badges exist on a pretext of structured challenge and unexpected delight. Beyond the progress indicators of Foursquare, badges provide the user with a slot machine-style reward for completing a specified activity. The system's power is derived from its ability to motivate users to attain predictable and unpredictable rewards. On the downside, the Foursquare badging system is so central to the app's experience that it can quickly become tiresome once the initial enthusiasm wears off.

In Farmville, the badges (called ribbons) are designed to form a series of logical, ever-expanding challenges and achievements. They are stacked by activity, in order of increasing complexity. For example, you can earn one of four ribbons based on the number of friends in your network. A stacking system like Farmville's makes it easy for a user to follow the defined challenge/achievement pattern, but often leaves that person with few moments of delight and surprise. Whereas Foursquare's system is too freeform, Farmville's may be too structured.

Expressing Trust in Badges

Sometimes badges can provide a critical proxy for a trusted interaction that may be difficult to express — these are called reputational badges. ZocDoc, the popular online physician scheduling service, has a badging system highly capable both in simplicity and effect. Based on a performance scale of objective metrics, doctors are awarded a series of simple badges. The metrics measure a doctor's number of returning patients, speed of response and scheduling flexibility. While these factors don't attempt to qualify the doctor's performance as a physician, they do give patients a quick proxy of the doctor's systemic attitude, which many patients value highly.

Scarcity & Collectibility

Another oft-overlooked facet of badges is the psychology of collecting. Although we know surprisingly little about why people collect, we have become increasingly familiar with hoarding and attachment disorder. A couple of universal truisms about collecting are that everyone likes to collect different things at different times, and that scarcity, beauty and symmetry (or completion) play a big role in our desire to collect.

In order to make scarcity work, consider limiting the availability — or raising the bar — for some of the badges your site uses. GetGlue, a popular site for sharing feedback on media content, does a great job using scarce stickers as a form of badging, and has even managed to make some stickers highly collectible.

The System

Regardless of the design your badging system subscribes to, badges can be powerful tools for behavior change. On the other hand, it's important to consider them part of a system of gamification — not the whole experience. The key is to design an authentic, flexible and enduring game experience, and to pay close attention to both the motivation of the player and the visual design.

Sometimes you'll use badges to convey progress; others will demonstrate the contextual value of your app. Often users will earn them deliberately, and sometimes badges will greet participants by surprise. Regardless, they must be backed up by a coherent point system and paired with other mechanics such as leaderboards and challenges in order to create an complete and functional system.

What Not To Do

The Huffington Post gives us a good lesson in badging systems that offer minimal value, vying closely with Amazon for potentially least useful implementation. HuffPo rolled out a badging system in 2010 to some fanfare, as it was one of the first major media sites to use the technique. However, without a coherent point system, challenge arc or other context, the badges leave much to be desired. Furthermore, they don't appear to be substantially affecting behavior.

While I don’t think most users don't take their HuffPo badges seriously, Amazon has a different problem. The ecommerce giant's badges, which are given principally to commenters, are highly meaningful, but stem from a tiny, contextually flat visual design. Not to mention, they haven't changed in years. Both companies need to reconsider their engagement systems given today's advanced gamification techniques. Principally, they must start by understanding user motivation and base their badging on a coherent point system.

In Conclusion

Badges can be powerful tools in one's engagement arsenal. By following the four steps to badge nirvana, you can avoid the slapdash approach that undermines successful gamification. Most importantly, focus on the needs of your users and what drives them by creating a coherent system of engagement-focused interactions. Ensure your badges are attractive, collectible and meaningful to ensure that your consumers care. As in all development efforts, be sure to test and question every deployment that has a direct impact on your key metrics. Practice these steps, and you're sure to reach engagement enlightenment.

Images courtesy of nan palmero, Flickr, schatz

More About: design, game mechanics, gamification, social media, web

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Google: Click-Through Rates Fell in 2010 [STUDY]

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 11:42 AM PDT

Although banner ads may be experiencing big growth this year, they’re not getting any more effective. The average click-though rate for banners fell in 2010, according to a survey by Google.

Google’s report, seen as the industry standard, pegged 2010 U.S. click-through rates (CTR) at 0.09% compared to 0.1% in 2009. That means about one person in 1,000 actually clicks on banner ads, despite attempts to make them more inviting.

However, the Google report, which comes out this week, found that the format of a display ad can make a difference. A 250×250 pixel ad using Flash got the highest CTR of any format — 0.26%. The worst performers were vertical 120×240 banners with Flash and a full (468×60) banner with Flash, which both got rates of 0.05%.

The study also found that most banner ads (54%) served through DoubleClick used Flash, while 28% were image-based ads. Ads using Flash for auto advertiser had the best CTRs at 0.13%. Half-page ads also had the best CTRs overall at 0.18%. (See charts below.)

Shaun Herrmann, account supervisor for ad agency Neathawk Dubuque & Packett, says the CTRs quoted in the report are on par with what she’s seeing, although CTRs are generally lower for younger consumers. Herrmann points out, though, that CTRs aren’t the only measure of an ad’s performance. “You can send a message in a banner ad without having someone click through,” she says. “Click-through-rates are just one way to measure performance.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, Davichi

Media Type

Rich media ads without video were found to have the highest CTRs. Video- and image-based ads were even.

Ad Type by Impressions

Advertisers are really embracing Flash ads. Some 54% of impressions in 2010 used them.

Size Matters

The report found the size of your banner ad has a lot of bearing on its click-through rate. The most clickable format? Square 250x250 pixel ads with Flash.

More About: banner ads, doubleclick, Google

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12 Incredible Internet Activists Changing the World Through Social Media

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 11:22 AM PDT


This August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, a celebration of the millions of people worldwide tirelessly working to improve the lives of the underprivileged. These human rights champions bring food to the malnourished, education to the illiterate, and health care to those without access or resources.

To celebrate World Humanitarian Day 2011, we’re taking a look at online activists making a difference through campaigns, crowdsourcing and blogging.

We’ve lined up 12 incredible Internet activists in purely alphabetical order (note: this is not a ranking!). Take a look through our gallery and share your own incredible humanitarians in the comments below.

1. Chris Hughes

This Facebook cofounder and Director of Online Organizing for Obama's 2008 campaign used his social media prowess to launch Jumo, a social network for non-profits and everyday philanthropists. The site connects 15,000 organizations with a community of similarly minded individuals.

Earlier this week, GOOD magazine acquired Jumo, although Hughes will keep a hand in running the network.

2. Edward Norton, Shauna Robertson, and Robert and Jeffro Wolfe

This team of four, including actor Edward Norton, founded the online giving hub Crowdrise, a platform for crowdsourcing philanthropy. The grassroots initiative turns supporters into fundraisers. We chose this quartet for their social networking and fundraising combo project.

Plus, their website is pretty hilarious. We recommend you check it out.

3. Gary White and Matt Damon

The duo makes the list for their non-profit's innovative use of social media. Right now, the site is holding an open call to let a fan take over their Twitter feed for a week in September. We think a savvy move like giving a committed fan access to their 400,000 followers makes White and Damon's organization worthy of a nod.

4. Joe Green and Sean Parker

Napster and Facebook veteran Sean Parker and political activist Joe Green's Causes brought philanthropy to the world's largest social network, Facebook. Their viral platform integrates giving into the everyday fabric of social networking. The Causes co-founders score a spot on this list for uniting 150 million passionate folks on the web into the world's largest philanthropy network.

5. Matt Flannery

Kiva founder Matt Flannery introduced the principles of microfinance to the Internet masses. Anyone, anywhere, can make a small loan to a person working hard to earn a living in one of the 60 developing countries where the non-profit operates. The organization has facilitated over $235 million-worth of microloans on the Internet.

6. Rachel Beckwith

For Rachel Beckwith's ninth birthday, she asked her friends and family to make donations to charity: water rather than give her a gift. Her mom set up an online fundraising page to help her reach her goal of collecting $300 for children in Africa without clean drinking water. Rachel was disappointed when she fell short of her goal, raising only $220 by her birthday in June.

Then something awful happened. The nine-year-old was killed in a car crash in July. Since then, donations have flooded in through her fundraising page, totaling $1.1 million so far. Although Rachel may not be with us, her Internet activism will help thousands of children around the world.

7. You

The United Nations' Citizen Ambassadors contest is giving you the chance to virtually pitch the UN's Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, your 30-second solution to making the world a better place. It's not exactly an elevator pitch. Internet humanitarians can upload pitches to YouTube.

The winners will be citizen ambassadors to the UN for a two-year term and will be invited to the UN's New York headquarters to meet the Secretary-General himself.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, coloroftime

More About: philanthropy, social good, United Nations

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Samsung Accuses Apple of Manipulating Evidence in Patent Fight

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 10:25 AM PDT

Apple is fighting multiple legal battles with Samsung, claiming Samsung copied both the iPad and iPhone. But Samsung’s lawyers are fighting back, accusing Apple of falsely manipulating graphics showing similarities between the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone and the iPhone 3G.

Dutch publication WebWereld (translation) reports that Apple submitted a side-by-side graphic to a Dutch court at the Hague of the iPhone 3G next to the Samsung Galaxy S, with Apple’s lawyers calling the graphic “an example of the similarity relevant to copyrights.”

But the picture showed the two smartphones exactly the same size. That’s where Samsung‘s lawyers called foul and accused Apple of distorting Samsung’s devices to look more Apple-like. In reality, the two smartphones are not the same size — the Galaxy S is 122.4mm tall versus the iPhone 3G’s 115.5mm height.

Update: That pic shows the Samsung Galaxy S, not the Galaxy S II. The text has been modified to reflect that. Thanks to our commenter for pointing that out.

[via Computerworld UK, graphic courtesy WebWereld]

More About: apple, lawsuit, samsung

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8 Startups That Are Changing the World

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 09:40 AM PDT

Startups for Good Challenge

From life-changing technologies that reduce poverty and disease to online volunteerism for busy professionals, the Startups For Good Challenge contestants proved they had more than just a great business idea: They also are working to make a positive impact on the world.

We’re thrilled to announce the eight finalists for the Startups For Good Challenge. These finalists will compete on stage during the Social Good Summit on September 22 for a chance to win $10,000 for their company.

The winner will be selected by judges, including representatives from Mashable, the UN Foundation, 92nd Street Y and guest judge, Yossi Vardi, who has helped launch more than 60 high-tech companies such as ICQ, a popular instant-messaging system.

To learn more about the Social Good Summit, please visit the agenda to view topics and speakers for each day of the event.

The 8 Startups For Good Finalists That Are Changing the World

Who: Awaaz De means “give voice.” Awaaze.De provides hosted and open source voice solutions that help organizations engage communities in any language, leveraging the power of voice and mobile phones to make social media accessible for everyone.

How are they changing the world?: Awaaz.De is empowering individuals and organizations in emerging countries to access and share local content. This enables farmers in rural India to get relevant and timely agricultural advice, and connect with local buyers through a voice classifieds application. Teachers in village schools use Awaaz.De to get tips on activities and lessons, ask questions and share experiences with other teachers in their region.

Who: Catchafire connects professionals who want to apply their on-the-job skills to non-profits and social enterprises that need their help in areas such as marketing, public relations, design, social media, strategy and finance.

How are they changing the world?: Catchafire believes that a great pro bono experience can transform someone’s life, help social good organizations realize their goals around the world, and make a global social impact.

Who: Kopernik provides life-changing technologies to the developing world. They connect technology providers, technology seekers and investors to provide local products that are proven to reduce poverty and disease but are often unavailable to the people who need them most.

How are they changing the world?: Kopernik has reached out to nearly 50,000 people across Asia and Africa that lack access to electricity, clean drinking water and other basic services. Within these communities, Kopernik has drastically reduced dependency on dangerous, inefficient, and polluting technologies by collaborating with donors on the web to provide products that will improve lives.

Who: em[POWER] is concerned about what happens to a population that is forced to pick through landfills to find food, shelter and a source of livelihood. They seek to revitalize waste scavenging communities by improving the sorting efficiency of recyclables, turning organic waste and waste water into electricity, creating high quality compost and providing the nucleus for a host of community-owned businesses.

How are they changing the world?: em[POWER]‘s vision is to convert a form of poverty into a mechanism that can be used by a community to improve living conditions and make a positive contribution to society.

Who: Prove My Concept is an online enterprise platform that allows young people to create, develop and test their business ideas.

How are they changing the world?: Prove My Concept is fueling the early onset of entrepreneurialism in young people. It is a community where ideas can be turned into reality, international networks are widened and new concepts are shared with small businesses, social enterprises and charities around the world.

Who: Sparked offers convenient online volunteerism for busy professionals who don't have time to lend their expertise through traditional channels. They make volunteering as fun, social and easy to use as Facebook, Farmville, or Twitter. It’s volunteerism for the digital age, or “microvolunteering.”

How are they changing the world?: Sparked has channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of skilled professional labor to charities that was previously unavailable to the social sector. Success stories include a volunteer from Ohio who helped a Maasai warrior build a well in Kenya (entirely online) and a volunteer from Jordan translate a document into Arabic for the Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati.

Who: Simple Energy is changing how millions of people save energy by revolutionizing how utilities engage their customers. They combine energy industry experience, behavioral science, game mechanics and social networks to change how people save energy

How are they changing the world?: By driving customers to become more energy efficient.

Who: Roseicollis Technologies aims to deploy technologies that can disrupt both developed and emerging markets. Currently they are implementing the SunSaluter, an inexpensive solar panel rotator, to push solar technology to the forefront of the alternative energy in the developing world.

How are they changing the world?: Two SunSaluter prototypes were deployed in Mpala, Kenya, and reports indicate that they are improving the lives of one thousand Kenyans. These cost efficient and environmentally friendly solar panels have the capability impact developing nations around the world.

Social Good Summit Event Details

Date: Monday, September 19, 2011, through Thursday, September 22, 2011
Time: 1:00-5:00 p.m. ET
Location: 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., New York, NY
Tickets: $30 per day or $100 for 4-day pass.

Register for Social Good Summit 2011 - Presented by Mashable, 92Y and UN Foundation - September 19 - 22, 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

Livestream: Unable to join us in person? RSVP for the Livestream to join us online.

Register for RSVP for Social Good Summit 2011 LIVESTREAM - Presented by Mashable, 92Y and UN Foundation - September 19-22, 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

Sponsored by Ericsson

For over a century, Ericsson has seen communications as a fundamental human right. Today, it is the leading provider of technology and services to network operators. Its networks connect 2 billion people and almost half of the world’s 5.5 billion mobile subscriptions. Now, Ericsson intends to do for broadband what it did for the telephone; make it mobile, available and affordable for all. Ericsson's vision is to be the prime driver of an all-communicating world, where Information and Communications technologies (ICT) come together to create a Networked Society. A Networked Society will bring many opportunities and challenges. As Ericsson works in the world, it aims to apply innovative solutions together with partners to make a real difference to peoples' lives, to business and to the economy, enabling change towards a more sustainable world. We call this Technology for Good.

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Thanks to Mashable’s Socially Savvy Supporters

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 09:36 AM PDT

Thanks to this week's advertisers and partners for enabling us to bring you the latest social media news and resources. Mashable’s sponsors are as social media savvy as our readers!

Advertise with us and get noticed.

Mashable is seeking site sponsors for our large, diverse audience — social media users, venture capitalists, early adopters, developers, bloggers and many more. You’ll receive hundreds of thousands of views per day in addition to weekly recognition as part of our “thank you” to our premium sponsors. Are you interested? Contact us for more information and to receive our media kit and rate card.

This week, our valued sponsors are: MessageMaker Social, Cisco, CBS Interactive, Lenovo, Campaigner®, CITGO and the Fueling Good Campaign, The Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Truck, The Awareness Social Marketing Hub, AceProject, 7MainStreet, LoopFuse, BMW i, Discover Digital Group, Global Strategic Management Institute, Ford,, Sprout Social, Site24x7, IDG, CUNY School of Professional Studies, Oneupweb, SoftLayer, SRDS, Buddy Media, Clickatell, Microsoft BizSpark, MaxCDN and Eventbrite.

MessageMaker Social is the social media management system (SMMS) that lets you publish and manage targeted content across a large number of social interaction points while generating actionable intelligence. This smart, simple SaaS solution elevates your company's social presence among thousands of social Pages and accounts, helping you meet compliance regulations, maintain brand consistency, maximize engagement and generate actionable intelligence — without adding additional human resource costs.

MessageMaker Social supports Mashable’s Social CEO Series. Follow MessageMaker Social on Twitter.

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Awareness supports Mashable’s Social Media For Business Leaders Series. Follow Awareness on Twitter and Facebook.

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7MainStreet is the first company to combine social networking, e-commerce, and comprehensive business reviews and listings. 7MainStreet helps organizations of all sizes.

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BMW i is a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit

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Discover Digital Group is a unique consultancy that focuses on identifying new e-revenue opportunities for both Fortune 1000 and startup clients alike. From developing new digital products to generating new audiences and revenue for existing online products, it creates smarter, more effective solutions for your business challenges. Follow DDG on Facebook to get a taste of the insights that are offered.

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With the explosion of mobile devices, advertising dollars will begin to shift to mobile for tech marketers this year. IDG Global Solutions President Matt Yorke talks about the rise of social and how IDG helps marketers create social campaigns. The line is fading between social media and traditional media. Earned media or sharing of information within social networks is becoming mainstream whether on a PC or mobile device. Learn more.

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Why Blocking Social Media During Civil Unrest Is Never the Right Choice [OPINION]

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 09:03 AM PDT

This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

David Gorodyansky leads the execution of all business operations at AnchorFree, makers of HotSpot Shield, an application that secures a user’s connection on public networks and allows them to access any website from any location, and was featured as one of Inc’s 30 Under 30 in 2011.

When people come together and gather their collective minds, they can accomplish nearly anything. On the other hand, this capacity can apply to situations both great and terrible. For instance, the sheer power of numbers can be dedicated to raising awareness for a worthy cause, or it can be used to fight back against a repressive regime, only to devastate the streets in a violent riot.

Thomas Jefferson said that the government should fear the people. Especially when those people are capable of powerful acts of defiance, it's not surprising to see the government act on that fear by attempting to prevent the mobilization of a frustrated collective.

SEE ALSO: Should Governments Monitor Social Media to Prevent Civil Unrest?

Lately, these efforts at quashing unrest have targeted the tools people use to communicate and coordinate, specifically the social media that has become indispensable for mass communication. The censorship of Facebook and Twitter during the Arab Spring might have seemed tyrannical to Western onlookers, but media communication censorship has occurred elsewhere.

The UK government called for the suspension of the BlackBerry Messenger service during this month's London riots in an effort to prevent the populace from thwarting police efforts. And San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) blocked cell service at four of its stations to circumvent protests.

The problem with such attempts to block social media is that they are reactionary measures made through fear. The actions neglect to address the issues underlying people's unrest, potentially harm the innocent, and ultimately fail to accomplish the intended goal of repressing the momentum of an uprising. Shutting down social media is not the right choice, unless the government's aim is to reinforce its already Draconian presence.

A modern society is built upon the unification of people from diverse backgrounds, nationalities, genders, races and religions. We have come far to reach a balance of coexistence, based on the ability of different peoples to freely exchange ideas and opinions.

As social media is the outlet of choice for today's community-minded citizen, silencing it is detrimental to societal growth, no matter how temporary the measure. Censorship defiles the freedoms that benefit civilization. Worse still, it gives the impression that a government is willing to impede the communication of its entire populace in order to hinder the efforts of a select few.

Communication is not inherently good or evil, neither harmful nor benign. However, by manipulating communication tools to indulge one's own agenda, or by shutting down the tools themselves, you demonize their inherent potential for good. These actions demonstrate a shortsighted concern with how dissidents are coming together, while neglecting to address why they feel oppressed in the first place.

Furthermore, social media is not the only tool in the arsenal of the malcontent: Dissenters will find ways to dodge online censorship and utilize alternate networks of communication. By blocking the quickest, easiest and most open forms of communication, a government effectively pushes offending communication further underground, where it will be nurtured by the most dedicated members of the opposition — those most likely to take extreme actions.

SEE ALSO: How Users in Egypt Are Bypassing Twitter & Facebook Blocks

Still, if shutting down social media can stop the spread of dangerous violence, isn't that of greater immediate benefit to the general public than free and easy communication? Again, the answer is no. The suspension of communication tools disregards innocent bystanders subsequently impacted by the loss of vital social media. More harm will be done to your unintended targets than to those engaged in protests or rioting.

In times of fear and uncertainty, citizens rely on each other for news and information. People are likely to seek out social networks for news on avoiding unsafe areas, on finding safe havens in the event of injury. By blocking this flow of information, you increase the chance that a commuter blindly stumbles into a looting riot, you incense a panicked bystander trying to reach his cordoned-off street, and you prevent a parent from confirming that her child is safe.

Shutting down social media increases risk, while solving so few of the problems of civil unrest. It is the wrong choice during a time of crisis. While open communication may allow the circulation of dangerous ideas, we cannot allow paranoia to outweigh its positive benefits, namely, our continued growth and survival as a connected society.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, peepo, Flickr, deep_schismic, Xabier.M

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HP Stock Price Falls 23% to 6-Year Low

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:41 AM PDT

Hewlett-Packard’s plan to spin off its consumer PC unit, abandon webOS and the tablet market and buy software firm Autonomy for a reported $10 billion didn’t go over well with investors, who hammered the stock on Friday.

HP’s stock price fell 23% Friday morning to less than $23 a share. That’s the lowest the stock has been since 2005.

The company’s bold moves came after its webOS unit lost $336 million, mostly because of the doomed TouchPad launch. Sales for HP’s consumer PC unit fell 23% in the last quarter. (Numerologists, take note of the recurring presence of the number 23.)

Still, not everyone believes that HP was right to cut its losses. Investors apparently don’t and neither does Sarah Rotman Epps, a consumer analyst with Forrester Research. “HP withdrew itself from the post-PC competition before it even got started,” she says. “The reality is they didn’t try very hard.”

More About: Hewlett-Packard, Touchpad, webOS

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Burberry Brings Fragrance Sampling Campaign Exclusively to Facebook

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 08:08 AM PDT

Burberry is launching a new Burberry Body fragrance in September, but you can’t pick up a tester at counters yet. The UK-based fashion brand is distributing the first round of samples exclusively to its 7.6 million Facebook fans.

Interested parties are invited to visit the Burberry Body tab on its Facebook Page to request a sample. The company is shipping samples to a broad range of countries.

Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer, announced the program via a YouTube video (above) cross-posted to its Facebook Page. Burberry’s fans are proving supportive of the campaign too.

Earlier this year Oscar de la Renta, a New York-based luxury fashion house, launched its flagship fragrance via a campaign on Facebook. After giving away 25,000 samples — a supply it exhausted in just three days — the brand's Likes grew by 40%, said Erika Bearman, Oscar de la Renta’s director of communications.

In past interviews, beauty marketers have noted that Facebook fans tended to be their most loyal and engaged customers and, as such, make excellent recipients for sampling programs.

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Internet Star The Weeknd Releases Free Mixtape

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 07:29 AM PDT

This Friday morning, the bountiful beast that is the Internet has bestowed upon us a brand new days-of-the-week-themed musical offering: Thursday, a new mixtape from The Weeknd.

The Weeknd, Toronto-based R&B singer Abel Tesfaye, is an Internet-born star who released his debut mixtape, House of Balloons, for free via his website in March (click the arrow on his website to access it yourself). The album, which is NSFW, managed to capture the attention of both the music biz — the artist is still, however, unsigned — and the web as a whole.

Now, Tesfaye is dropping a new album that you can download for free via his website, which is presently about as shaky as Girl Talk’s was when he dropped All Day. You can also stream the album on YouTube. The last in the series of mixtapes, Echoes Of Silence, is slated for release this fall.

Tesfaye entered the music scene at first as a shadowy entity — no one knew his name — but as buzz for the previous album grew (facilitated in no small part by support from musician Drake), he has gained a cult following even though he is largely reclusive and has only really communicated with fans via Twitter and other social media channels.

We’re about halfway through the newest mixtape, and it’s just as dirty and drug-riddled as the last one. Check out the first song on the album below:

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Content vs. Community: How Online Publishers Can Nurture Both

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 07:00 AM PDT

Jordan Kretchmer is the founder of Livefyre, an engagement platform that goes beyond threaded comments to help you increase the conversation on your web properties, attract new readers and commenters from all over the web, and build hyper-active communities around your content. Follow Jordan on Twitter at @jkretch.

The last five years of web innovation heralded a frenzy of shiny new products that provided people with fresh ways to interact. Simultaneously, the amount of content produced sky-rocketed, with more compelling material than ever before.

However, the past decade hasn't fostered thoughtful interaction between that content and its consumers. It could be argued that the now-ubiquitous "like" button has replaced thoughtful participation and diminished the relevance of actual conversation. As a result, publishers and bloggers of all sizes are constantly bleeding site content to social channels in order to encourage crucial engagement and interaction outside of their homepages.

As publishers continue to rely on the outside social web to foster their communities, they often witness dire consequences. Sites have experienced a dramatic decrease in core metrics and a dispersion of their most passionate community members. As a result, publishers are placing a higher value on keeping their readers engaged within their own walls.

Ultimately, we've been offered the opportunity to completely rethink the passive "comment sections" of the past. Today, the comment section provides a tool to build community engagement around a publisher. The trick is not to think about comments in terms of five years ago. The game has changed, and savvy publishers will also alter their approach to match the new community landscape.

Engagement is About Humans, Not Clicks

Let's face it: Content is becoming commoditized. Within minutes of any event, identical information can be found on thousands of sites around the web. There are only two ways that publishers can keep their edge in this environment: 1) build a strong editorial point of view; and 2) awaken a passionate community.

Nothing provides a better backdrop for conversation than inspired content that sparks community interaction, specifically in the comment section.

Recently, publishers have nurtured that human desire to participate by covering sites with shiny "share" buttons that push their unique content onto other sites. In theory, other potential readers will find it. "Share" buttons can be useful amplifications tools, but they're often not turned on with a strategy in mind and don't help build a feedback loop back to the publisher's site. The problem is, when you focus so much on distributing your content, you also end up scattering your community conversations along with it.

Despite its knowledge, the industry has spent several years continually sending its communities away. Publishers that care about distribution more than community are taking their eyes off the ball. The reason people click a share button is because it takes them to places that better understand how humans want to interact (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Google+, etc.). If publishers offered the same degree of human interaction on their own sites, readers would have less reason to click those buttons in the first place.

The key to solving the problem of building community engagement is to focus on humans as first priority. Not technology, not buttons, not widgets. Today's community wants to engage around your content, and they'll do it on your site when provided with a human experience that truly engages.

Creating An Engaging Human Experience

Trying to have a conversation in a static comment section is slow, disorganized and inefficient. The experience is akin to hanging up the phone and redialing after every sentence, which frustrates and discourages people from continuing to participate.

Real-time conversation streams can fix that problem by making conversations more like a fluid dinner table discussion. Whether a few people participate or thousands, real-time conversations are magnetic to watch and participate in.

Secondly, an element of social connectedness will make it easy to mention and notify friends from every social network and from your community — right from the comment box. Make your content the center of the conversation by aggregating the social web back to your site.

A more social and real-time community will self-perpetuate content. It increases page rank, page views, perceived authority, content accuracy, quality, brand, and ultimately, valuation. The proof lies in Huffington Post’s valuation and subsequent acquisition by AOL.

More Innovative Social Platforms

Publishers today are paying off years of technology infrastructure debt. Most publishers are built on top of custom infrastructure and/or single-point third-party systems that restrict the company's ability to change with the times. These systems are burdens that require millions of dollars a year in upkeep, in addition to being static, cumbersome and slow to progress.

Beyond technology, most publishers have a decentralized decision-making process when it comes to social strategy. In fact, many publishers are unsure of who within their organization is responsible for managing comments, social user registration and loyalty programs.

Large publishers need to create a process for selecting social platforms that is based on a clearly defined strategy, and most importantly, to appoint one person or team to direct it.

In the past year, major publishers around the world have created centralized digital and social teams directly responsible for integrating the next generation of social platforms. These forward-thinking publishers are able to make fast decisions and react to market innovations and user expectations nimbly. They're ahead of the game, and reaping the benefits of being there.

Think about it this way: Ten years ago, Facebook didn't even exist. Five years ago, Twitter didn't exist. On the other hand, almost every publisher has technology powering its web presence (like a customer CMS) that's much older than either Facebook or Twitter. How can you expect to keep up with your community when you're stuck with a multi-million dollar investment and a 20-year-old piece of software?

Publishers are used to making large top-down investments that are meant to provide long-term, sustainable and competitive advantages. But the old way of doing things doesn't cut it anymore. Meanwhile, bloggers and small content producers are adopting new technologies at lightning speed. Communities change their technology preferences even faster than bloggers and small content producers. Have you heard of Google+?

The answer is plain: Publishers need to swap cumbersome infrastructure for flexible systems and simple APIs. Innovation is more important than product maturity. Best-of-breed focus is more beneficial than "one-stop-shop" solutions. Finally, finding dedicated partners with specific expertise will help you stay ahead of the curve.

Publishers can integrate powerful, innovative community platforms in a fraction of the time by adopting agile applications that use APIs. That way, every time people change the way they interact with content, publishers won't be left behind in the dark ages.

On the other hand, more important than changing out the technology is changing the way publishers think about technology. You can't pull off the monolithic IT thing anymore. Publishers that understand the value of community understand the importance of having an agile technology strategy. It makes the difference between falling woefully behind and maintaining a competitive edge.

What's Next

To succeed today in building strong communities, we have to think more creatively about the role of conversations and the people who join them.

We have to provide easy access to users' social graphs both inside and outside the publisher community.

We have to build real-time tools that are complimentary to Facebook and Twitter. The integration will better disseminate content and conversation, instead of simply building one-way connections to those networks.

We have to embrace new infrastructure and decision-making to transition to new conversation technologies quickly — before the conversation splinters further.

Do it on your terms, but have a goal of enabling people to engage in the ways that they want. The content itself should be the hub for web discussion, and not just another spoke on the wheel. These practices will increase the value of your community, your content and your brand.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, ra2studio, and Flickr, vittaly

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iPad 3 Coming in Early 2012 [REPORT]

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:22 AM PDT

Apple has reportedly begun trial production on its next-generation iPad tablet device and it’s scheduled to launch in early 2012.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has begun ordering chips, display panels and other key components for the iPad 3. It is reportedly expected to feature a high resolution (2048×1536), 9.7-inch display, up from the iPad 2′s 9.5-inch, 1024×768 display. (The report didn’t say anything about the iPad 3′s rumored OLED screen, however.)

One supplier claimed that Apple has already placed orders to develop 1.5 million iPad 3s in the fourth quarter.

Apple announced the iPad 2 in March, just 15 months after the launch of the first-generation iPad. The accelerated release cycle has helped Apple maintain a dominant share of the tablet market, which Thursday claimed its first victim: the HP TouchPad.

Apple could not be reached for comment at press time.

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Chegg Acquires Homework Help Site To Expand “Student Graph”

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 06:14 AM PDT

As textbook marketplace Chegg forays into digital textbooks, it’s not dwelling on the reading experience. Rather, it’s surrounding its marketplace with tools that keep students coming back to its site instead of browsing rival stores like Amazon and

Chegg has made three acquisitions in about a year to fill out its toolbelt, and on Friday it announced a fourth — a student-to-student tutoring site called Student of Fortune.

The news follows Thursday’s launch of a redesigned website that better integrates two of Chegg’s newly acquired companies into its main site and an announcement that the company has expanded its digital offering by about 25,000 books.

Chegg’s December acquisition, Cramster, powers a “homework help” section of the site that walks through step-by-step solutions from textbooks and provides student and expert advice. Its August acquisition, CourseRank, powers a “courses” section that gives students access to course schedules at their schools, along with reviews and grade distributions for each class. The two services — as well as a student-targeted daily deals site — are now housed under one Chegg log-in name. Chegg’s June acquisition, student-to-student marketplace Notehall, will likely join them at a later date.

This focus on services rather than books is an unusual behavior for a business that is primarily a textbook vendor. Contrary to several etextbook companies that have focused marketing efforts on the features in their digital book formats, CEO Dan Rosensweig tells Mashable that Chegg’s stance on digital format is “agnostic.”

Chegg’s reader program is HTML5-based and can run on anything with a browser. It comes with standard highlighting, note-taking and search features. Instead of taking on the responsibility for developing further interactivity, Rosenweig says that Chegg wants to develop a “student graph.”

In other words, as Rosenweig has oft repeated, Chegg wants to be a place where students hang out 365 days a year instead of just the two days they buy textbooks. It doesn’t matter what digital formats eventually win out over others — Chegg will have the students to sell them to when the winners are determined.

Buying Student of Fortune adds about 300,000 users to Chegg’s already millions-strong “student graph.” The remaining question is whether this and Chegg’s other recent acquisitions will indeed shift it from “online textbook rental company” to the “social education platform” it now dubs itself — and, of course, whether that helps it sell more textbooks.

Photo courtesy of istockphoto, dlewis33

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iPad 3 Slated for Early 2012, HP Discontinues WebOS: This Morning’s Top Headlines

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:46 AM PDT

Social Media News

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

iPad 3 To Launch in Early 2012 [REPORT]

Apple is beginning to assemble components for the next-generation iPad, set to launch in early 2012, anonymous sources have told the WSJ.

HP To Discontinue WebOS, TouchPad

After confirming that it is looking into spinning off its PC business, Hewlett-Packard made a more shocking announcement Thursday: It is going to "discontinue operations for webOS devices” and its just-launched tablet, the HP TouchPad.

Foursquare: Now You Can Check Into Events

Foursquare has launched a feature that allows users to check into events, thus sanctioning users’ natural Foursquare behavior.

Apple in Talks With China Mobile [REPORT]

Executives at China Mobile have allegedly had meetings with Steve Jobs about bringing the iPhone to the world's largest mobile operator.

Apple Cracks Down on Knockoffs in New York

In an ongoing battle against trademark infringement, Apple has filed a lawsuit against two sellers of knockoff Apple accessories based in the New York City neighborhood of Flushing, Queens, according to documents unsealed Thursday in Brooklyn federal court.

Google+ Hangouts Can Now Be Initiated From YouTube

Users can now initiate a Google+ Hangout from the "Share" dropdown of any video on YouTube.

Further News

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

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QR Code Marketing: 5 Tips for a Successful Campaign

Posted: 19 Aug 2011 05:35 AM PDT

qr code image

Laura Marriott is CEO and and acting board chairperson of NeoMedia. She was also named one of the industry's Mobile Women to Watch 2010 by Mobile Marketer, Top 50 U.S. Executives by Mobile Entertainment and Top 10 Women in Wireless by FierceMarkets. Marriott is highly regarded for her global voice and expertise in mobile marketing.

Mobile barcodes are turning up everywhere – buses, magazines, television, bar coasters. According to recent research from comScore, 14 million U.S. mobile phone users scanned QR or barcodes in June alone, mostly via newspapers, magazines and product packaging, both at home and in-store. My company's own data reveals that barcodes that offer access to a discount or coupon or that allow the consumer to learn more about a product or service are the most popular.

Given that mobile barcodes are finally cracking the mainstream, they have enormous potential to present brands with brilliant results. Here are five mobile barcode best practices to help ensure a successful campaign.

1. Be Everywhere

Mobile barcodes should be incorporated into all digital and traditional media so the consumer has 360-degree exposure to the mobile marketing campaign. This will also ensure that consumer experience, dialogue and interactivity are at the heart of the campaign and not simply an afterthought.

2. Drive Value and Make it Easy

Giveaways, discounts, free tickets and exclusive access will compel consumers to interact with and scan your code. If your code simply offers the customer a chance to view a TV advertisement or link to a website, it's best to try again. Scanning a barcode should provide the consumer with a brand experience that is exclusive, dynamic and interactive.

Take into account where a mobile barcode is located on the ad. Consumers must be able to find it easily and scan it quickly. For outdoor ads, place the code at eye or arm-level. In a print ad, the barcode should not fall over a fold as this will hamper scanning. Be sure to leave some white space around the mobile barcode, and use a minimum of 1 x 1-inch print specification. For TV or cinema, the code should to remain onscreen long enough for the viewer to launch the scanning application and scan the code.

3. Keep it Simple

Branded or custom QR codes are certainly getting some buzz, but it's also important to create a code everyone can recognize. Producing your code in simple black and white checkered format will increase the number of phones and code readers that can scan it. Also, ensure you use global, open standards (i.e. Datamatrix) to maximize universal customer reach and impact.

4. Build Customer Affinity

Remember that the consumer who has just scanned your code is on the move. She will be viewing the brand content on a mobile screen and, therefore, expects instant results. Make sure the barcode links through to a mobile-enabled site rather a PC-designed site. Remember that "dead links" (codes that go nowhere or deliver the wrong information) are the equivalent of a slammed door — the consumer will not try again.

Matthias Galica, the CEO of ShareSquare, provides tips for marketers and brands using QR codes, and specifically emphasizes testing a barcode for functionality across a variety of devices and scanner applications before launching. It's important, especially because the consumers that scan codes are likely tech-savvy and vocal — the kind of consumers you want on your side.

5. Account for Objectives and Analytics

Boost sales, increase customer engagement, build brand loyalty, educate your audience. Whatever the campaign objective, be sure to define its goals before integrating a mobile barcode. Consider monitoring the campaign via a barcode management platform. Your business will be able to leverage the provider's expertise, better assess your campaign effectiveness and evaluate its real-time success through analytics.

Following these practices will help analyze mobile ad spending and increase the success and ROI of your future barcode campaigns.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, franckreporter, TimArbaev

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