Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 27 News Updates - including “Daily Dot Launches as Community Newspaper for the Web”

Mashable: Latest 27 News Updates - including “Daily Dot Launches as Community Newspaper for the Web”

Daily Dot Launches as Community Newspaper for the Web

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 04:48 AM PDT

An online newspaper billing itself as “the hometown newspaper of the World Wide Web” made its debut Tuesday in a daring bid to prove that there’s still more of the social web to cover.

Under the direction of former Valleywag editor Owen Thomas, The Daily Dot pledges to cover the biggest online communities — think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit and Etsy — in the style of a hometown newspaper.

What that entails is sharing stories from members of those communities. Expect articles on Reddit to be authored by an active Redditor; stories in YouTube will come from bonafide vloggers.

The site has been operating in private beta for the past few months, averaging 15 to 20 articles per day in addition to a weekly newsletter.

Some of those stories have already attracted widespread notice — particularly this infographic by senior editor/hacker Grant Robertson (full disclosure: he’s engaged to our own Christina Warren), which breaks down the top linkers (“hunters”) and commenters (“gabberers”) on the highly active discussion board, and this article about the proliferation of Casey Anthony-themed merchandise on Etsy around the time the verdict for her case was announced.

Going niche has worked before: Nick O’Neill sold SocialTimes.com and AllFacebook.com to Mediabistro‘s parent company WebMediaBrands in late 2009. Unlike O’Neill’s sites however, which were positioned as resources for marketing and small business professionals, the Daily Dot will focus on reporting what’s happening within these communities for members of those communities — as well as for those who want to know what’s happening without participating themselves.

CEO Nicholas White, formerly a VP of audience development at Sandusky Newspapers, was vague when questioned about the site’s value to advertisers. “We think we can put together a special audience… Influencers with enormous followings,” he said.

The Daily Dot has amassed $600,000 in funding thus far. No launch advertisers have been named at this time.

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Cheaper iPhone 4 Coming Within Weeks [REPORT]

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 03:41 AM PDT

A cheaper version of iPhone 4, sporting only 8 GB of memory, is slated to hit the market within several weeks, Reuters reports citing two unnamed industry sources.

Currently, the iPhone 4 is available with either 16 or 32 GB of storage space.

Although details are scarce, this report seems to be different from rumors claiming Apple is planning to release a significantly cheaper and pared down version of the iPhone. Reuters’ sources, which are tied to Korean manufacturers which produce parts for the iPhone, only mention the reduced storage memory in an otherwise standard iPhone 4, which will reduce the device’s price but is unlikely to provide for a drastic price cut.

Reuters also claims that the next generation iPhone will be launched at the end of September.

The launch date of iPhone 5 has been juggled with more than ever in the device’s history. We’ve seen rumors flying back and forth, some pinning the release date to the beginning of October, and the others claiming Apple will launch it in late September. This latest report tips the scale to the latter variant, but we wouldn’t call it a safe bet.

[via Reuters]

More About: apple, iphone, iphone 4, iPhone 5, smartphone

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How Speech Recognition Is Changing Our World [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 03:09 AM PDT

Speech recognition technology is making the world more accessible. Not only is it changing the way we use computers, but it is making our cell phones more useful and making our comes more connected.

Speech recognition still has a long ways to go, though. As Google will tell you, speech recognition technology is challenging and complicated to implement. There are a lot of steps between you reciting a sentence and the computer or phone writing those words out on the screen.

To better explain the science and impact of automated speech recognition (ASR), Medical Transcription has created an infographic that goes through the technology behind ASR. It also explores some of the most interesting ASR projects in development.

How has speech recognition changed how you live and work? Let us know in the comments.

More About: infographic, speech recognition

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RIM Announces New BlackBerry Curve

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 01:59 AM PDT

RIM has announced the availability of the new, refreshed BlackBerry Curve, which sports a thin, 0.43 inch frame and BlackBerry 7 functionality under the hood.

It has a 2.44 inch, 480×360 pixel screen, an 800 MHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, and a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and VGA video recording functionality. It also sports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and the fabled NFC which is slowly turning into a standard for new smartphones.

The device comes in three version numbers – 9350, 9360 and 9370 – with the difference being connectivity: the 9350 is CDMA-only, 9360 supports GSM and UMTS while 9370 supports both GSM and CDMA.

The new BlackBerry Curve will be available from carriers in Canada this month and from other carriers around the world starting September.

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Google Adds Friend Annotations to the +1 Button

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 09:15 PM PDT

Google is making the +1 Button more social with the addition of friend annotations.

“You may have already noticed faces and names when you hover over a +1 button,” Google Developer Advocate Timothy Jordan said in a post on the Google+ Platform preview. “This change rolled out late last week. Now, you can make these recommendations even more visible to your users. Simply update the +1 button code, and an inline annotation will show next to the button.”

The new annotations appear when a user hovers over the +1 button. Hovering over it will display a list of friends and contacts that have already clicked the +1 button for that page. Google has also unveiled new code for the +1 button that will display the faces and names of friends that have used the +1 button. This feature works much like how the Facebook Like Button appears for Mashable stories, displaying how many people have +1′d the page and which friends have +1ed it.

The changes are small, but they will likely make the +1 button even more sticky. The search giant will need to do more though to compete with Facebook’s button, which has become standard on millions of websites across the world.

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iPad App Creates Continuous Playlists From YouTube Videos

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:13 PM PDT

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

Name: MusicTandem

Quick Pitch: MusicTandem is an iPad app for creating personalized music channels and discovering new artists.

Genius Idea: Endless music listening and watching on your iPad — or Apple TV via AirPlay.

Scour YouTube for music and you’ll find an overwhelming collection of videos to choose from. MusicTandem, a newly-released application for iPad, engineers an easy-listening environment should you wish to sit back and let the application build out custom, personalized artist and music channels, à la Pandora, for you.

Once you pay the upfront application sticker price of $0.99, you’ll gain access to MusicTandem’s all-you-can-eat music listening and watching experience. Start by entering the name of your favorite artist and the application will build out a channel of music videos with tracks from similar artists included, should you so choose.

You can also scroll over to the genre music channel screen and tell the application to build you an 80s Pop or 90s Rock channel, for instance.

For those already familiar with Pandora, MusicTandem will proffer a familiar instruction-free listening and watching experience, minus the song skip limitations.

MusicTandem bucks the track licensing issues and costs of other music applications by sourcing its music video selection from YouTube. The application slightly suffers as a result — video buffering may interrupt the flow of music play. But the application’s intuitive user interface, support or AirPlay and lack of listening restrictions will more than make up for the delays for most app users.

The iPad application is a product of upstart AppTandem, a bootstrapped Teramo, Italy-based company.

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.

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Microsoft Bets on USB 3.0 With Windows 8 [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 06:46 PM PDT

Microsoft has revealed that Windows 8 will boast “robust” support for USB 3.0 devices, though it will continue to support old USB specifications.

Microsoft’s Dennis Flanagan, the director of program management for its Devices and Networking group, explained the engineering work Microsoft is undertaking to support USB 3.0 on the company’s blog. The USB standard is more than 10 times as fast as its predecessor, USB 2.0. Its competitor, Apple, has opted for the faster Thunderbolt standard.

“The decision to invest in USB 3.0 was an easy one to make, but doing so without compromising the existing USB ecosystem was a big challenge to overcome,” Flanagan said in a blog post. “Our design had to follow the revised 3.0 specification precisely in order to enable emerging USB 3.0 hardware. There are also billions of older USB devices that Windows must remain compatible with.”

To make USB 3.0 work with the next generation of Windows, Flanagan says that Microsoft started working with hardware manufacturers early to “meticulously design a new USB software stack for the new controller while maintaining existing interfaces and behaviors, ensuring every device and driver will work.” To do this, they refined a software model checking tool called Zing to test every aspect of its software model.

Other work done to prepare for USB 3.0 included extensive hardware testing and creating a custom tool called MUTT (USB Test Tool) “to simulate a full range of device behaviors that we'd observed over the years.” Essentially, it allowed Microsoft to test 1,000 different USB devices with a single USB thumb drive.

To better explain its work with USB 3.0, Microsoft released a video demonstrating the capabilities of Windows 8 when using the new USB standard. Check it out below and let us know what you think in the comments:

[video via Winrumors]

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Twitter Enhances User Profiles With Image Galleries

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 04:41 PM PDT

Should you post photos to Twitter via its new photo-uploading tool or through a third-party photo-sharing service such as yFrog, TwitPic or Instagram, your photos will soon be featured on your Twitter profile in an image gallery.

Twitter is rolling out “user galleries” to members beginning Monday. Galleries will display the 100 most-recent images the user has tweeted — dating back to January 1, 2010 — from supported photo-sharing services.

Galleries will live on a user’s profile and highlight a few recent images. A visitor can click the “view all” button to see even more images in either a grid view showing image thumbnails or a detail view highlighting the most-recent image and the text of the tweet that was shared along with it.

The update ties into Twitter’s photo-sharing push and will dramatically change the appearance of Twitter profiles. Galleries will provide equal billing to images shared via third-party app makers but also serve to remind users that Twitter is no longer a place just for 140 characters — it’s for photos, too. The update is likely designed to entice Twitter users to add more photos to their tweets.

Galleries, at launch, will be image-only. Twitter Communications Manager Carolyn Penner said in a tweet that users can expect to see the update Monday. “We’re rolling out one of my fave features today: user galleries! View photos an account has shared on Twitter. Sit tight – it’s coming soon,” she tweeted.

Twitter Profile: Recent Images

User Galleries: Detail View

User Galleries: Grid View

User Galleries: Grid View

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The Google Gap: College Kids Aren’t Good At Searching [STUDY]

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 04:14 PM PDT

Students in a two-year ethnographic study referred to Google more than any other database when discussing their research habits. But ironically, say the study’s authors, they weren’t very good at using it.

The series of studies, known as the “Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries Project (ERIAL)” is a collaborative effort by five Illinois universities that aims to better understand students’ research habits. Its findings are set to be published by the American Library Association this fall.

One hundred and fifty-six students who were interviewed at the five schools about their research habits mentioned Google more than any other other database. The 60 students who participated in a “research process interview” — with researchers following them around the library as they searched for information — frequently used the search engine poorly. And when they used other databases, they expected them to work the same way that Google does.

“It wasn’t so much that students were inefficient in their use of Google, but rather that students are often ill-equipped to sufficiently evaluate or refine the results that are returned,” says Andrew Asher, an anthropologist at Bucknell University and one of the project leads. “…I don’t think this is a problem limited to students.”

“They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results,” adds an article on the study by Inside Higher Ed. “Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources. (For instance, limiting a search to news articles, or querying specific databases such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.)”

“Every box is a Google-like box,” is how research co-author Lynda M. Duke put students’ outlook in a recent presentation.

Of 30 students that Asher observed at work at Illinois Wesleyan University, for instance, 27 failed to narrow their search criteria at all when doing so would have helped the database return more relevant results.

“I don't really know what there is to use,” said one first year accounting major who participated in the study. “I know there are books but I don't really know how to find them. Really the only thing I know how to do is go to Google and type in what I'm looking for."

A first year math student offered an alternate explanation: “I’m lazy and I use the Internet.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, flyingdouglas.

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New Yorkers Say Something Nice — Through A Megaphone [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 03:43 PM PDT

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

Think New Yorkers are rude? Think again. The people at Improv Everywhere decided to put a megaphone on a lectern in public places across New York City, encouraging passersby to “Say Something Nice.”

The project was a collaboration between Improv Everywhere and the Guggenheim Museum exhibition “stillspotting nyc.”

It’s nice to know that when given the opportunity, people can spread positive messages to those around them — even in the city that never sleeps.

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Rdio Family Plans Go Live

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 03:16 PM PDT

Music subscription service Rdio has officially unveiled its new family pricing plans.

As announced last month, the new plans will let families or households have multiple Rdio Unlimited accounts under one payment interface. Rdio is offering a discount on the first two accounts that a user adds to their plan, but says subscribers can add as many sub-accounts to their plan as they want.

Rdio breaks pricing down for its family plans as follows:

  • Two accounts, each with access to Rdio Unlimited – $17.99 per month
  • Three accounts, each with access to Rdio Unlimited – $22.99 per month
  • Additional Rdio Unlimited accounts are $9.99 each

Rdio Unlimited gives users unlimited access to Rdio on the Mac, the web browser, connected devices and on mobile devices like the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7.

Each account on a family plan will have its own collection, custom stations, followers and playlists.

Rdio is hoping that having more flexible subscription plans will help its service stand out from its competitors, which include MOG, Rhapsody and the recent-stateside entrant, Spotify.

We like the pricing plans, but wonder how many families have enough users to justify the savings. Still, if you and a spouse — or some roommates — want to each have your own Rdio account, the new bundles are a good deal.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Carnoodles

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iPhone 3GS Still Outsells Everything But the iPhone 4 [STUDY]

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 02:30 PM PDT

Apple’s iPhone 3GS was supplanted by the newer iPhone 4 more than a year ago, but it’s still outselling every other phone on the market, except for the iPhone 4, according to a report.

Apple’s iPhone 4 took the number one spot, followed by the iPhone 3GS in the second quarter, according to The NPD Group. The latter model, which is slower and has less functionality than the iPhone 4, is also much cheaper. AT&T cut the price of the 3GS model to $49 with a two-year contract, in January. Refurbs of that model can go for as low as $9. Best Buy offered the phone for free with contract Monday.

A new 16 GB iPhone, meanwhile, costs $200 with a two-year contract and the 32 GB version sells for $300. Verizon, which began selling the iPhone 4 in February, doesn’t offer the 3GS iPhone as an option.

Even though the iPhone held the top two slots for mobile phone sales, Google’s Android operating system was on 52% of all units sold compared to 29% for Apple’s iOS. RIM’s BlackBerry was number three with 11%. Motorola’s market share fell from 12% in Q2 2010 to 9% in the current quarter, according to NPD. The report also noted the growth of prepaid plans offering smartphones.

In Q2 2010, just 8% of prepaid phones were smartphones, compared to 22% in this year’s second quarter. Since such plans are usually aimed at lower-income and credit-challenged consumers, that growth also explains the continuing popularity of the iPhone 3GS.

More About: iphone 3Gs, iphone 4, npd, smartphone

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4 Tips for Keeping in Touch With Your College Student (Without Being Overbearing)

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 02:15 PM PDT

College Laptop

Dan Klamm is the Marketing & Communications coordinator at Syracuse University Career Services, where he leads social media engagement. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm and @CareerSU.

Hundreds of thousands of young people are heading off to college this time of year. Unlike previous generations, today’s students will not have to completely bid farewell to their parents — they can remain in constant contact with mom and dad through text messaging, email, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, Skype, and a variety of other social platforms.

College is a time to explore, build relationships, discover new things and ultimately grow as a person. Through technology, today’s parents have the unique opportunity to remain connected to their offspring and experience some of the special day-to-day moments in their kids’ collegiate lives. Taken a step too far though, this sustained connection can annoy a student or even cripple his or her ability to develop into an independent, fully-functioning adult.

The number of parents connecting with their college-aged kids via social media has increased so rapidly in recent years that sites like Oh Crap! My Parents Joined Facebook emerged, along with parody videos like The Onion’s “Facebook, Twitter revolutionizing the ways that parents stalk their college-aged kids.”

Here are some guidelines for effectively using technology to communicate with your college student without being overbearing.

1. Let Your Student Set Some Ground Rules

Staying in touch with your son or daughter via social media can be a great way to offer support at a distance, as well as pick up on any danger signs (such as depression or drug abuse). But your ability to have this connection is ultimately dependent on your student’s level of comfort inviting you into his or her social world.

One college student might happily accept his mom as a Facebook friend and even encourage her to connect with his friends, while another would be mortified to know his mom is scoping out tagged photos from last weekend’s fraternity party. Every parent/child dynamic is different. That’s why it’s important to talk with your student and let her set some ground rules for your social media connection. Together, determine which platforms you should use to stay in touch. Find out whether she’s comfortable with you commenting on photos and wall posts. Familiarize yourselves with privacy settings, which offer significant control to students who wish to selectively share content with parents.

2. Respect Your Student’s Space

Don’t insert yourself into personal conversations or private moments that happen to be taking place in a venue to which you have access. Just as you wouldn’t intrude on your daughter’s romantic dinner date at a restaurant, you shouldn’t inject yourself into her Facebook wall-to-wall conversation with her new crush.

Likewise, be mindful of what’s public and what’s private on the social web. If you’re worried about your son’s excessive partying, it might be more appropriate to discreetly message or text him, as opposed to publicly commenting on his 2 a.m. Foursquare checkin (“Shouldn’t you get some sleep? You have an exam in the morning!”) or posting a concerned message on his Facebook wall (which will be visible to his 900 friends and might even pop up in their news feeds). No college student wants to be embarrassed.

3. Branch Out From the Usual Platforms

Facebook and Twitter give you a nice window into your student’s day-to-day activities, but other platforms offer even more useful and effective means for communication.

Consider Google+. Through the “hangout” feature, you can enjoy a casual video chat with your student — great for quickly catching up at a time convenient for you both. It’s also easy to pull in third parties, so you can ask Grandma or Uncle Bob to join in the fun, too! Along the same lines, the “huddle” feature allows for group messaging among select circles of people (such as family) — ideal for keeping your student in the loop with household conversations while he or she is away at school.

Some colleges offer niche online communities for parents. These communities serve as great sources of information about college events and happenings (which can be conversation starters when you talk to your student). Participating in these communities can also help you connect with other parents who are probably experiencing many of the same thoughts, wonderings and concerns as you.

4. Avoid Over-Communicating

Just because you can communicate with your student 24/7 doesn’t mean that you should. Remember, college is a time of growth, exploration and self-discovery. For these things to happen, students need to experience what it’s like to make decisions independently. While you can and should actively support your student’s college pursuits, resist the urge to be a constant voice in his ear (or message in his inbox).

This fall when you send your student off to school, take comfort in the fact that he or she is just a poke, tweet, or Google+ hangout away. While leaving the proverbial nest to go to college has always been a big adjustment, technology can make the transition a little less intimidating and a lot more enjoyable for all involved.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, atreides64

More About: education, parenting, social media, students

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iPhone 3GS Is Apple’s First Free Device — for One Day

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 01:45 PM PDT

Best Buy just beat Apple to the punch when it comes to offering a free iPhone — even if it is the bottom-of-the-line 8GB iPhone 3GS, for one day only Monday, which (naturally) requires a two-year contract.

Rumors and reports have suggested that Apple intends to announce a free iPhone alongside the iPhone 5. The upcoming freebie is said to be based on the iPhone 4, have significantly lower onboard storage, and to be called the iPhone iCloud.

If there’s any truth to that report, this Best Buy offer may not look like such a good deal in a few months’ time. Not to mention the fact that the iPhone 3GS is just $49 at its regular price, and requires you pay for data, with hefty termination fees. If you’re on the lookout for a cheap iPhone 3GS, you may have a better time getting a second-hand, out-of-contract device on Craigslist or similar sites. Check out The Unofficial Apple Weblog’s guide to finding one and pairing it with a pay-as-you-go data plan.

Nevertheless, this is a significant milestone in Apple’s history. Never before has a major retailer offered an Apple product for free to all customers, strings attached or otherwise. It’s another indication that the next frontier in the iPhone’s battle with Android is reducing cost at the low end — and getting bargain-hunting consumers to at least consider an iOS device.

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What Corporate Structure Is Best for Startups Considering VC Funding?

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 12:15 PM PDT

money image

Nellie Akalp is CEO of CorpNet.com. Since forming more than 100,000 corporations and LLCs across the U.S, she has built a strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in starting and protecting their business the right way. LIKE the CorpNet.com Facebook page for exclusive discounts and giveaways! To learn more about Nellie and see how she can help your business get off the ground quickly and affordably, please visit here.

Starting a new business involves a seemingly endless line of important decisions, from company name, to logo, to even the product or service you'll be offering. Among these decisions, one of the most important (and often overlooked) is business structure.

The business structure is the legal form of your company. The three most common structures in the U.S. are the C Corporation, S Corporation, and LLC. As an entrepreneur, you need to carefully consider which is right for you. Do you need to avoid personal liability if your company is sued? Will you have a partner and/or investors? Do you want the business to pay its own taxes or carry the profit/loss over to your personal returns? And lastly, are you planning on VC funding?

When it comes to VC funding, the answer is relatively simple: The C Corporation is the best option for anyone seeking funding from an angel investor or venture capitalist for several reasons.

Benefits of a C Corporation

A C Corporation lets you manage multiple classes of stock (i.e. common and preferred). This flexibility is necessary if you plan on raising multiple funding rounds. If you plan on offering stock options down the road, you'll also be able to issue different classes of stock.

The other two corporations, LLC and S Corporation, have a tricky pass-through tax treatment for VCs, since it results in UBTI (unrelated business taxable income) for them. Meanwhile, only the C Corporation lets you easily transfer stock (another big requirement for VCs).

Some VCs actually have specific conditions written that prevent them from investing in any entity besides a C Corporation. That alone would seem to make the decision pretty simple. If you're considering angel or VC funding, the C Corp is the way to go.

But, of course, like anything in business, things aren't always so simple. C Corporations can be overkill for small businesses. The amount of paperwork involved with the C Corp is significant, and there is also something known as “double taxation.” Unlike the LLC or S Corporation, the C Corporation is taxed separately and must file its own taxes. In some cases, the owners of a C Corporation can end up with a pretty hefty tax burden as they need to pay taxes on both the corporation's profits as well as whatever income or dividends they personally collected.

Two Routes to Creating a C Corporation

Considering all those factors, there are two routes for the new business:

Create a C Corp from the start: You may have more paperwork and you may have to pay more in taxes in the beginning, but if you definitely plan on seeking VC funding (and within a relatively short time frame), you might as well start as a C Corp and save yourself the hassle.

Create an LLC then convert to a C Corp later: This option should be pursued only if you truly aren't sure you'll ever look for VC funding or if your plans are many years down the road. The LLC gives you a low-frills way to protect your personal assets and track ownership.

The specific steps for converting from an LLC to a corporation will depend on the corporate laws in whatever state your LLC is registered. In many cases, you'll be creating a new C Corp and then making the original LLC a subsidiary of it. This is a relatively standard process and your attorney or online legal filing service will be quite familiar with the steps required.

Looking Ahead

Too often, in the flurry of startup chaos, many entrepreneurs fail to properly consider their business structure options. If you're just starting out, you should review the pros and cons of each in light of your situation today, as well as what may be down the road.

Image courtesy of Flickr, borman818

More About: business, funding, startup, venture capitalist

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Gilt Brings Exclusive Sales to Facebook

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 10:48 AM PDT

Gilt has added ecommerce functionality to its Facebook Pages, giving fans early — and in some cases, exclusive — access to a range of merchandise across Gilt’s categories for women, men, children and home.

Each category will have its own sale beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Mondays.

This week, Gilt Women is offering three products — a necklace, cuff and skirt — selected by one of its buyers exclusively to Facebook fans. Gilt Man is likewise making three products available only on Facebook, and Gilt Home is giving fans early access to merchandise from Vera Wang’s Home line.

Gilt Children has partnered with Nickelodeon for its Facebook kickoff, offering early access to a range of SpongeBob-themed goods.

Users can purchase items directly on Facebook using their Gilt username and password and checkout.

Gilt has long seen the value in providing Facebook fans with extra incentives: Historically, fans have been able to preview the site’s daily flash sales an hour early, and Gilt City extends special privileges to its rewards program members via a private Facebook Group.

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Why Tech Is Key to the U.S. State Department’s Mission

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 10:47 AM PDT

It’s clear that digital tools and social innovation now play a crucial role in national affairs, elections and international diplomacy.

The Arab spring saw popular uprisings coordinated and fueled by social networks. WikiLeaks has blurred the line between cyber crime and digital vigilantism by posting state and corporate secrets from sources all over the world.

Alec Ross is the person tasked with expanding role of digital in U.S. foreign development. Ross is the senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was a role specifically created for Ross as a means of cementing tech’s place in diplomacy.

Of course, the role isn’t all about putting out fires. Ross and the State Department have been working on ways to augment developing communities — both domestic and international — with technology. The complicated role means that Ross has a lot to say about digital entrepreneurship, global philanthropy and 21st century statecraft.

Mashable had a chance to speak with Ross about the challenges of infusing diplomacy with technology, and the huge potential for social innovation in the near future. Ross will be further addressing these topics at Mashable’s Social Good Summit.

Q&A With Alec Ross, Senior Adviser for Innovation in the Office of Secretary of State

Within global foreign policy, are there one or two big trends you see across that pantheon, or is it very much localized?

I think that the overwhelming trend I see is that living in an increasingly networked world means that power is devolving from nation states and large institutions to individuals and small institutions, and I think that is the case globally…

You can see that on things for both good and ill. So… the fact that things like [research and development] can be done by individuals or by small groups [rather than] a large company and [for] hundreds of millions of dollars? This is a good thing. If you’re the State Department, you view something like WikiLeaks as a bad thing …

I think it’s fair to say that most governments are not a fan of WikiLeaks, but a lot of people would argue that WikiLeaks is in some ways on the good side of the divide. It’s forcing transparency on governments, which for some people is exactly the point.

Right, and I understand that point of view … It’s interesting you know, my perspective might have been somewhat different if I weren’t in government, but being in government and seeing first-person the degree to which it is necessary for there to be confidential discussion between countries, for me, I don’t believe in hyper-transparency. I believe that implicit openness in government is a good thing. But do I think that everything that every single member of government does 100% of the time, 365 days a year, should be done with a live video camera on them? Absolutely not.

At the UN Social Innovation Summit, you said the 21st century was a lousy time to be a control freak and that the era of government being one guy in a red tie talking to another guy in a red tie is over. Why is it over?

“After Tunisia and Egypt, nobody is questioning the abstraction of leaderless revolutions.”

It’s not that it’s over, it’s that the moment in time when foreign policy could be conducted exclusively between two men both wearing pinstripe suits, white shirts and red ties is over because we do live in a world where access to information is so dramatically increased and where citizen participation is both possible and demanded. So, if you look at Tunisia and Egypt, a lot of the reasons for their rebellions in those two places — a lot of what people spoke out against — was the opacity in the conduct of their government.

… I do think there are few places on planet earth at this point where the democratizing nature of the Internet — or where at minimum, the ability to publish and distribute at the individual level — has been something that people in power aren’t giving very serious thought to.

How was it being “the tech guy” in the State Department?

I’m in the Secretary’s office, and I might be driving the day-to-day, but [Hillary Clinton] has essentially institutionalized technology and innovation in a very aggressive way and very quickly. So, rather than this being something that’s rooted in the individual — me — it’s rooted in the institutional. That’s the only way to drive a change agenda through an organization that has a 194-country footprint.

So at first, some of the things that I spoke about when I came into the department — things like leaderless revolution or virtual organizations — might have been really edgy or a little off-center. But after Tunisia and Egypt, nobody is questioning the abstraction of leaderless revolutions, and after WikiLeaks, certainly everybody understands the power of virtual, globally distributed organizations.

Can you tell me a bit about Civil Society 2.0?

One of the ways in which [Hillary Clinton] came to believe that civil society could best be supported is by … increasing the technology capacity of civil society organizations. And so, if you think about the one thing that the United States has, one thing we have is a reservoir of very talented techies who would love to be able to give back in a meaningful way. So what we’ve done in that sense with Civil Society 2.0 is we’ve built a bridge between America’s techies and grassroots civil society organizations around the world.

… We’ve done four of these. We’ve done them in Santiago, Chile, we did one in Moldova, we did it in Jakarta, Indonesia, we did one in Vilnius, Lithuania, where we trained more than 70 organizations from 22 countries. The actual content varies from place to place, so in Jakarta, for example, the content was rooted in disaster relief and climate change, and in Lithuania, a lot of it was focused on supporting activists.

How do you deal with the general criticism that non-profits and developing communities need food and supplies more than they need tech and websites?

Yeah. So, first of all, I would acknowledge that they do need food and supplies — you know, I don’t think it’s an “either/or.” Before coming in to the State Department, I spent the preceding 14 years working at NGOs. So, they do need basic needs met, but in many contexts where basic needs are already being met, the road toward being a robust organization means being a digitally savvy organization …

There’s a big world of people who live on under a dollar a day — nearly a billion people. But there’s an additional billion people for whom basic needs are essentially being met, but they’re still living in abject poverty. And what they need are some of the business skills, some of the organization skills, to be able to migrate out of poverty even though basic needs are already being met.

What kind of opportunities are there in technologically “leapfrogging” developing communities where there isn’t as much digital infrastructure?

“I'm very skeptical about government's ability to effectively regulate online content. I don’t think the skill sets are there.”

… There are vast swathes of planet earth that will leapfrog in terms of their telecommunications infrastructure and in terms of their banking infrastructure. So, if you are in the East Congo, for the foreseeable future, you likely will not ever get a 20th century financial services infrastructure or telecom infrastructure. Copper wire is not going to be, you know, laid extensively through the Kivu region in East Congo. Similarly, I don’t expect to see Bank of America branches popping out on street corners in Goma, Congo.

So then is mobile the new frontier?

I do think that. I wouldn’t even say it’s the “new” frontier, it’s the current frontier. …In less than three years, the number of mobile handsets globally has gone up by more than 20% — 75% of that increase has been in the developing world. So we are past the tipping point …

You know wireless deployments are taking place at great scale. So what? To what end? … The one breakthrough that I’m hoping and praying for is that some genius somewhere comes up with a way, or ways, to deliver world-class education at an appropriate literacy level in native languages into very poor communities in the interior of Africa.

It’s interesting, especially speaking to someone like you, the tendency to focus on the positive aspects of the Internet. But there are also dangers, since the Internet is still very much, at least in terms of content, unregulated.

And that is as it should be. I really believe that. I’m very skeptical about government’s ability to effectively regulate online content, and frankly, I don’t think the skill sets are there. I think the skill sets for regulating online content lives within the networks themselves, and not necessarily with people in office buildings in national capitals.

I feel very much of a part of the “netizenry” when I believe that, you know, I almost have more faith in the crowds to help inform what is responsible behavior and responsible content online than I do people in suits and ties.

What do you make of arguments calling online philanthropy or digital philanthropy “slacktivism.”

“If America’s innovators want a seat at the table, they’ve got to aggressively engage and demand that seat.”

First of all, I think that one ought not make a generalization about any philanthropic effort that just lives on the Internet. I mean, those efforts are as varied as efforts that are organized on street corners or in communities or anywhere else. So I hate to say, you know, “Online activism or online philanthropic efforts are all X.” I think the community and those efforts are sufficiently far along that to stereotype them in one way is intellectually lazy …

I think that when online philanthropic efforts fall short, they fall short not because they’re online but because the non-profit itself has picked the wrong transaction … If, at the end of the day, what you are optimizing for is somebody to click the “Like” button, then I don’t think you’ve necessarily created a powerful philanthropic outcome. If, however, you are driving people to take action in a more material way — whether it’s taking out their credit card, whether it is volunteering time — then it can be powerful. But there’s actually art and science that goes into driving people who are learning about something online and driving them to taking a meaningful step offline …

Do you think that other social and tech thought leaders need to be aggressive and ambitious in terms of looking ahead to the future?

I do. I mean, if people want to sit at the grownups table then they need to engage aggressively in the social, political and economic dialogues that are informing our future … I think that if we’re going to have a more economically prosperous tomorrow, it’s going to be because we’ve built the industries of the future, and the only way that Washington is going to help support the industries of the future is if America’s innovators have got a seat at the table. They’ve got to aggressively engage and demand that seat.

Note: The interview above has been lightly edited for clarity.

Image courtesy of Flickr, paloma.cl

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.

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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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Twitter To Join Facebook & RIM for Riot Talks With UK Government

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 10:28 AM PDT

Twitter has confirmed that it will attend a meeting with UK Home Secretary Theresa May and other UK officials about the role social media played in riots earlier this month.

Facebook and BlackBerry-maker RIM confirmed their participation in the meeting last week, but at the time a Twitter spokesperson only said, “We’d be happy to listen.”

After it became clear that some rioters were using social media and BlackBerry messenger to coordinate violence, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament that the government was examining whether to ban suspected troublemakers in the riot from using social media and other digital communication tools.

“When people are using social media for violence we need to stop them,” he said, to the chagrin of many free speech activists. “So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, ukhomeoffice

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Starbucks Expands iTunes Pick of the Week Program With Apps, iBooks & More

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 10:15 AM PDT

Starbucks, in partnership with Apple, is expanding its longstanding iTunes Pick of the Week program to include iPhone applications, extended samples of books from the iBookstore, television episodes and other media types.

Beginning Tuesday and continuing each week thereafter, Starbucks customers will notice new Pick of the Week cards — in limited supply at nearly 8,500 Starbucks operated stores and licensed stores — redeemable for a complimentary iTunes store entertainment offering.

“With the explosion of app downloads and digital versions of books — the kinds of content that we already love to curate and help our customers discover through Starbucks Digital Network — this is a great time to expand an already successful program,” Adam Brotman, vice president of digital ventures at Starbucks, tells Mashable.

Starbucks will kick off the expanded Pick of the Week program by offering customers the premium music-identifying Shazam Encore application on August 23. The following week, Starbucks stores will feature EA and Firemint’s SPY mouse game.

Apple and Starbucks are working together closely on the initiative; they’ll be jointly selecting each week’s application or media offering, Brotman says.

“We’re excited about the expansion of this program because there are so many different ways that we can enhance our customers experience through content,” he says. “The expansion of this program is a signal of things to come in how we plan to innovate by engaging with customers through content.”

The news confirms reports that surfaced last week. Financial terms of the relationship among Starbucks, Apple and content makers is not being disclosed.

Starbucks will continue to refresh its weekly iTunes music offering online via Starbucks Digital Network.

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Topshop Targets Student Shoppers With SCVNGR Campaign

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 09:51 AM PDT

UK-based retailer Topshop has partnered with location-based mobile gaming app SCVNGR to get students into stores for back-to-school shopping.

Beginning September 5, anyone within a 500-meter radius of a Topshop location can play the game via SCVNGR’s apps for iPhone [iTunes link] and Android devices. Players choose the reward they want — say, a 20% in-store discount or a chance to win a £500 shopping spree — and complete challenges to achieve the required number of points.

As with Neiman Marcus’s SCNVGR campaign last spring, challenges are designed to get shoppers more thoroughly engaged with merchandise. Participants will be asked to snap photos of their favorite “back to college” outfits and items corresponding with certain trends, among other tasks.

The program won’t end once class is in session, however; new challenges and rewards will be released October 6.

The SCVNGR campaign is the latest in a sequence of digital and mobile initiatives developed to draw visitors into shops and more thoroughly engage them while they’re there. Last spring, the retailer set up an augmented reality-powered fitting room in its flagship store in Moscow, followed by Instagram-styled photoshoots at outlets in the U.S., UK and Ireland.

The campaign is even more significant for SCVNGR, as it marks the startup’s first major brand partnership outside of North America. As such, SCVNGR will be an unfamiliar name to most — “our presence in the UK is small, but growing fast,” admits SCVNGR founder and CEO Seth Priebatsch — but the app is relatively intuitive to first-time users and, unlike location-based social networks, it doesn’t require a large existing userbase to be successful.

Priebatsch adds that the company will launch a number of other UK and Europe-based campaigns in the coming months, having received its most recent round of funding from UK-based Balderton Capital.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Magnus D

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Bounce To Pose Your Life Questions to Millions of Facebook Users

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 09:29 AM PDT

Bounce — the fabric softener brand — is asking its Facebook fans to hand life decisions over to fellow fans of the brand.

The “Bounce it Off Millions” program, which began Monday, asks fans to submit their question. So far, the queries haven’t been so earth-shaking. One fan asked what he should eat for lunch. Another wants to know where she should go on vacation.

However, the top four polls will run in a Facebook ad unit that will let 150 million-plus Facebook users weigh in. A Bounce rep says this is the first time a Facebook ad has run with an embedded poll. A Facebook rep could not be reached for comment.

The question campaign follows a spring program from the Procter & Gamble brand, which attempted to turn the question “Sheet or bar?” into a social media discussion point. That effort featured video of two “Bounce fanatics,” one a sheet person, the other a bar fan, doing things like sticking a bar on someone’s back and persuading a cop to leave a bar instead of a parking ticket.

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HP TouchPad Tablet Soars to #1 Best-Seller on Amazon

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:49 AM PDT

In death, HP’s TouchPad is finally a hit.

Over the weekend, retailers in the U.S. and Canada started slashing the price on the ill-fated iPad competitor to as low as $99.

It turns out lowering the price will move units. The 16 GB and 32 GB models of the TouchPad currently top Amazon.com’s best-sellers list for electronics. Amazon.com is sold out of units, however, many of its affiliates and retail partners are offering the tablet, albeit at prices that don’t match the $99 lows of the weekend.

For TouchPad owners who bought units at full price, Amazon.com and Best Buy have both adjusted their return policy, allowing early adopters the option to return their devices.

Meanwhile, PCWorld reports that HP is promising a second wave of TouchPad units in the next few days for people that want a chance to get a tablet on the cheap.

Do you have any interest in picking up a $99 or $149 TouchPad? Let us know in the comments.

[via Engadget]

More About: amazon.com, hp touchpad, tablets, webOS

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Is Facebook Use Plateauing? [STUDY]

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:37 AM PDT

Haven’t sent your friend a virtual Facebook gift in a while? You’re not alone, a new study reports.

Researcher Global Web Index compared Facebook usage in July 2009 to June 2011 and found that several Facebook activities, like virtual gifting, are on the decline. Such gifting fell 12.9% in the U.S. and 7.5% worldwide over that period.

Other activities that seem to be falling out of favor include messaging to friends (down 14.8% in the U.S. and 7.4% worldwide), joining a group (12.8%, 6.5%), searching for new contacts (12.7%, 4.5%), installing an app (10.4%, 3.1%) and instant messaging (7.5%, 1.5%). Those activities are not only falling faster in the U.S. than elsewhere, but are declining even more among under-30 college-educated users in the U.S. The report found only one significant increase in Facebook activity: uploading videos, which was up 5% in the U.S. and 7.6% worldwide.

A Facebook rep dismisses the study. “In general, I would say that we do see from time to time, stories about Facebook losing engagement in one region or another. Often, these conclusions are incorrect, either because of the limited nature of the studies or because of seasonal factors (such as the fact that less people are using the Internet in the summer),” she says. “Facebook is very pleased with growth overall and with the way people are engaged with the site.”

Another researcher, eMarketer, which cited Global Web Index’s report, predicts the number of Facebook users in the U.S. will rise 13.4% this year, after 38.6% growth in 2010 and a 90.3% rise in 2009. EMarketer sees Twitter having a similar plateau: Adoption of the service rose 293.1% in 2009, but will only grow 26.3% this year. The primary growth for Facebook and Twitter is coming from the so-called BRIC nations — Brazil, Russia, India and China — plus Indonesia, eMarketer reports.

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Miramax Brings Streaming Movie Rentals to Facebook

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:17 AM PDT

Miramax joined fellow studios Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal Monday by launching its own video rental service on Facebook, making many titles available for online viewing for the first time.

The Miramax eXperience offers 20 rentable titles to U.S. consumers, and 10 to both the UK and Turkey (full lists below) in what PaidContent notes is the largest Facebook streaming movie venture to date. Rentals are to be made available to France and Germany in the near future.

In addition to rentals, the app also contains a soon-to-be-launched Casting Call game that lets users cast friends as characters in Miramax films. Participants can unlock bonus content as they play.

Rentals cost 30 Facebook credits, or $3, of which Facebook keeps a third. Rentals can be saved for 30 days, although users only have 48 hours to watch a video after they begin playing it.

The app did not perform well in initial tests. I was charged three times and was still unable to watch Adventureland in Firefox. And while Miramax says the app has also been formatted for watching movies in the browsers of Google TVs and iPads, I found the experience on the latter largely unworkable — the dropdown menu often didn’t respond, and when I clicked to play a preview clip of Adventureland, I was told the file could not be found.

We’ve reached out to Miramax to see if these issues are universal and if it will be issuing a fix.

UPDATE: A third-party spokesperson recommended that iPad users access the app via apps.miramax.com/ipad.html for now, as it is currently experiencing some redirection issues on the device.

In a blog post, Miramax CEO Mike Lang said that in addition to streaming rentals, the company’s ultimate goal is to give users the ability to buy and store films “in their own cloud-based digital locker,” which they could then access from a variety of devices.

Titles, U.S.

  1. Adventureland
  2. Chicago
  3. Clerks
  4. Cold Mountain
  5. From Dusk Till Dawn
  6. Extract
  7. Gangs of New York
  8. Gone Baby Gone
  9. Good Will Hunting
  10. Jackie Brown
  11. Kill Bill
  12. Kill Bill 2
  13. No Country for Old Men
  14. Pulp Fiction
  15. Shall We Dance (2004)
  16. Sin City
  17. Spy Kids
  18. Swingers
  19. The Switch
  20. Trainspotting

Titles, UK

  1. Chicago
  2. Cold Mountain
  3. From Dusk Till Dawn
  4. Good Will Hunting
  5. Jackie Brown
  6. Kill Bill
  7. Kill Bill 2
  8. Shall We Dance (2004)
  9. Sin City
  10. Spy Kids

Titles, Turkey

  1. Adventureland
  2. Chicago
  3. Clerks
  4. Cold Mountain
  5. From Dusk Till Dawn
  6. Gone Baby Gone
  7. Good Will Hunting
  8. Jackie Brown
  9. Spy Kids
  10. Swingers

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How Marketers Can Get More From Infographics

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 08:08 AM PDT

Laura Hampton is the head of content engagement at user experience agency Zabisco. Read more in the Zabisco blog.

“Infographic” is a bit of a buzzword at the moment, but these colorful charts and illustrations have grown in popularity because they work — for businesses, for brands and for audiences.

A quick web search will bring up a variety of infographics on just about any topic you can think of. As a visual communication device, infographics lend themselves to the representation of statistical data or explanation of complex relationships. But that's not where their value ends. In fact, infographics can communicate just about anything, so long as it's engaging, relevant and more compelling as an image than as pure text.

Infographics come in a variety of formats, too. Layout, orientation and styling are limited only by the creativity of the designer. We're even starting to see the rise of “infomotion” — infographics with moving elements and interactivity that further engage the audience.

Infographics With Impact

Illustration courtesy of Chad Hagen, Nonsensical Infographic

The benefits of a great infographic are multiple — for the audience, better communication of ideas will improve their experience, while the style and ease of that communication will speak volumes about the organization or brand that produces it.

While creating a truly standout infographic may seem a daunting task (especially when there are so many good infographics competing for attention), the basic premise is very simple: Create something engaging and relevant that communicates with your audience.

And that's where every infographic should begin — with communication. Every day, we use a whole range of communication methods to complete tasks, improve our knowledge and share ideas. Any infographic must therefore be clear on its message and the overriding impression it aims to make.

But it's not just messaging that is key in creating infographics with impact. The platform and use of infographics also play a large role in how they will be received.

As an example, an infographic intended solely for use on the web may fit better into a portrait orientation, making use of standard web design functionality. Further interactivity may also be possible on the web — take a look at the BlackBerry small business infographic. Its authors make use of a handy zoom function to get more out of the available space and text size.

Alternatively, an infographic may be intended for use in print. Consider even the use of infographics in transport advertising, such as the London Underground — especially the large pieces opposite the platform or the overhead spaces. In terms of engagement, the infographic would benefit from a location where there is enough time and viewing distance for the viewer to immerse himself or herself in the details.

Extracting Maximum ROI

As with everything in which we invest time or money, we need to see a good return on our investment when it comes to infographics. This might be measured as a traffic boost to a website or an increase in calls from interested customers. But infographics are equally important in terms of brand building, and a well-executed infographic can boost the reputation of the company it represents in ways that are difficult to measure.

What we can do to improve our infographic ROI is to ensure it is used and re-used as much as possible. An infographic might start out as part of your website. If it's relevant and useful, it could then be used within your PR efforts to accompany an editorial on a related subject. Or, it might be re-used as part of an offline marketing campaign.

Infographics also have an inherent viral potential. If they're genuinely relevant and engaging, infographics will be shared across the web, through social media, email and via online publications. Improving the sharability of this medium is therefore critical. Beyond simple social buttons on your own site, it’s important that the graphic be well branded, and that it will deliver the same message when it is removed from the context of your website.

Yet despite all of the opportunities infographics offer, they remain significantly underused. As consumers’ attention to traditional advertising continues to decrease, it is vital that communication methods continue to evolve. Infographics are an important part of that evolution, and savvy brands and marketers should take note.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, SpiffyJ

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Do You Remember Print News Stories Better Than Those You Read Online? [POLL]

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 07:17 AM PDT

If a new research report is correct, you’re better off printing this story out and reading it if you want to remember it.

A study by three doctoral candidates at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication found that print news readers remember “significantly more” than those who read news stories online. Print readers also remember “significantly more” topics than online readers, the report found. Print readers and online readers recall headlines equally well.

The three authors — Arthur Santana, Randall Livingstone and Yoon Cho — took a sample of 45 students. Of those, 25 read the paper edition of The New York Times and 20 read the newspaper exclusively online. The participants were asked to read each version of the paper for 20 minutes. Then they were quizzed on what they read.

The research paper offers a few possible reasons for the disparity: Online news “is ephemeral,” the report states. “It can appear and disappear without warning, thus creating an element of distraction.” Moreover, the layout of a paper newspaper gives readers an indication about which stories are thought to be more important. By contrast, “Online newspapers are apt to give fewer cues about the news story's importance, thus giving readers more control over story selection.”

What do you think? Take the poll below to let us know.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Zoetnet

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Libya’s Top Level Domain Name Registry Hacked

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 06:40 AM PDT

Nic.ly, the site of Libya’s top level domain (TLD) name registry, has been defaced by hackers, with the content of the site replaced with an anti-Muammar al-Gaddafi message.

The front page of Nic.ly currently sports these messages: “HACKED By Electr0n” and “bye bye Qadaffi.”

This hack sounds minor compared to the problems the country is facing, including heavy fighting in Tripoli, the country’s capital. However, it’s interesting to note that the TLD .ly is used by several popular web services, including URL shorteners Bit.ly and Ow.ly, which appear to have been unaffected by the hack.

[via Naked Security]

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Skype To Acquire GroupMe, Internet Restored in Tripoli: This Morning’s Top Headlines

Posted: 22 Aug 2011 05:39 AM PDT

Social Media News

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

Skype To Acquire GroupMe

Skype announced Sunday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire group messaging service GroupMe.

Internet Restored in Tripoli

Internet connectivity has apparently been restored in Tripoli after rebel forces took control of Libya’s capital city late Sunday. Local DSL access in Tripoli had previously been cut off for all but a few government officials.

Ex-Wikileaks Spokesman Destroyed 3,500+ Unpublished Documents

Former Wikileaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg says he destroyed more than 3,500 unpublished documents sent to the whistleblowing site, citing the need to protect sources when he left the organization in September 2010.

Google+ Begins Verification Badge Program

Google has begun handing out verification badges to celebrities, public figures and others who have amassed vast numbers of followers on Google+.

Further News

  • LG latest Android smartphone, the LG Optimus Sol, is expected to hit Europe mid-September.
  • From now until September 23, Dunkin’ Donuts is giving customers who check in to U.S. locations using Foursquare or Facebook Places a chance to be named the "President of Dunkin' Nation."

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

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