Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 28 News Updates - including “Windows Explorer 8 Gets Ribbon Interface”

Mashable: Latest 28 News Updates - including “Windows Explorer 8 Gets Ribbon Interface”

Windows Explorer 8 Gets Ribbon Interface

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 05:10 AM PDT

Microsoft’s file management application Windows Explorer will get a new interface in its next iteration, the company revealed in a blog post.

First revealed in April, the new Explorer will be a part of the upcoming new desktop OS from Microsoft, Windows 8, which is still in early stages of development. The ribbon interface, however, is very well known from Microsoft Office 2007 onward as well as some Windows 7 applications such as WordPad.

Now it’s coming to Windows Explorer too, along with a bunch of other changes and improvements. Microsoft’s goals are threefold: to optimize Explorer for file management tasks and secure a streamlined command experience while respecting Explorer’s heritage (meaning trying not to anger millions of users who are used to the “old”-style Explorer).

Interestingly enough, Microsoft’s own research (detailed in the very long blog post) shows that almost no one is using the menu bar in Windows Explorer; hence the need for a change.

Personally, I haven’t liked most of Microsoft’s UI changes in the past couple of years, including the Ribbon; my file management app of choice is Total Commander, a shareware tool that mimics the look and feel of the ancient Norton Commander, while adding dozens of advanced options and features.

With that in mind, I’m not sure that adding more stuff to the menu bar is a good idea; I’d rather see Microsoft simplify the UI even more. The ribbon will take up more screen real estate and add a bunch of prominent options that will confuse new users and probably won’t be of much help to advanced users.

The folks at Microsoft are aware of that and address some of these points in the post. The new interface, Microsoft claims, “exposes hidden features,” “provides keyboard shortcuts for every command in the ribbon” and “provides UI customization with the quick access toolbar.”

As far as screen real estate is concerned, Microsoft claims that through some clever design optimizations — even with the new, taller ribbon menu — the next Windows Explorer will allow the user to see more files on the screen than the current Windows 7 version of Explorer.

Of course, we cannot give any final judgement until we see the finished product; right now, Windows 8 is slated to hit the market in 2012.

Based on Microsoft’s detailed insight into the new Explorer, what do you think? Will it be an improvement compared to the old Explorer? What do you think about the Ribbon interface in the context of a file management tool? Please, share your opinions in the comments.

More About: interface, microsoft, ribbon, Windows, Windows Explorer

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Samsung Announces Three New Bada 2.0 Smartphones

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 01:39 AM PDT

It seems that Samsung has decided to let us in on all its secrets ahead of the IFA trade show, held in Berlin September 2-7. After LTE versions of Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab 8.9, the company announced a trio of Bada-powered handsets: Wave 3, Wave M and Wave Y.

All three smartphones are powered by Bada 2.0. The most powerful device in the bunch is Wave 3, which resides in a 9.9 mm metal case and sports a 1.4 GHz CPU, a 4-inch VGA Super AMOLED screen, a 5-megapixel camera, 3 GB of memory and a 32 GB microSD slot.

Samsung Wave M also has a metallic body, but its specifications are far less impressive: a 832 MHz CPU, a 3.65-inch HVGA screen, 150 MB of storage memory (again, with a 32 GB microSD slot).

Finally, there’s the entry-level Wave Y, sporting a 3.2-inch HVGA screen, an 832 MHz CPU and a 2-megapixel camera.

All three devices support Samsung’s new free messaging service ChatON. Price and availability are unknown at this point, but all three smartphones will be on display at Samsung’s stand at IFA in Berlin.

[via Samsung Tomorrow]

More About: Bada, samsung, Samsung Wave, Wave 3, Wave M, Wave Y

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Social TV by the Numbers: VMAs Edition [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 10:21 PM PDT

The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) broke records on both MTV and Twitter. At 10:35 p.m. ET, Beyonce’s live performance and baby bump reveal generated 8,868 tweets per second.

Trendrr put together this infographic that breaks down the social TV aspect of the award show. The 2011 VMAs generated more than 5.5 million social media mentions on Sunday. The majority of those mentions were from Twitter.

The overwhelming amount of mobile device usage indicates that MTV’s second-screen approach with the VMAs really worked. Trendrr also tells us that the fact that “Beyonce” didn’t even register as one of the most popular hashtags shows that the #VMA branding was working successfully. According to Trendrr, this “shows the real maturity of hashtags as vehicle to drive connected TV conversations.”

It’s interesting to see the breakdown across networks like Facebook and GetGlue and to see what times activity was at its peak.

More About: infographic, mtv, social tv, Trendrr, vmas

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iTunes Match Beta Launches for Developers

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 08:40 PM PDT

The beta for iTunes Match, Apple’s service for bringing all of your music to iCloud, has been released to developers.

The service is part of the release of iTunes 10.5 beta 6.1. iTunes Match scans a user’s music and finds copies of those songs in iCloud, regardless of whether those songs were purchased through iTunes. That music can then be played or streamed via iTunes.

The iTunes Match beta is available now to U.S. developers for $24.99 for a 12 month paid subscription. Developers that jump on iTunes Match during the beta period get an additional three months for free. Developers should back up their iTunes library because “Apple will periodically reset your iCloud library during the beta.”

Apple will face stiff competition for its cloud-based offering from startups like Spotify and Rdio. Apple’s strong relationship with the labels gives it a distinct advantage though as it prepares to push iCloud to the masses.

More About: apple, itunes, itunes-match, music

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Mingle for iPhone Turns Missed Connections Into Mobile Opportunities

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 08:08 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: Mingle

Quick Pitch: Introduce yourself anywhere. Easily broadcast who you are to those around you while controlling what you share.

Genius Idea: Preventing missed personal or professional connections.

The next time you’re waiting in line, look around you. Chances are you’ll see other line-waiters passing the time on their mobile devices. Are these empty time slots missed connections in the making? Could this time be better spent networking?

Andy Kim, CEO and co-founder of Mingle, thinks so. His startup makes an application for iPhone — and soon mobile web — that lets you digitally introduce yourself to those around you with a single personality trait or skill, as sourced from your Facebook profile.

“We want to facilitate how people meet people, online and offline,” he says.

Kim dreamt up the idea for Mingle following an observant trip to Costco where he witnessed others around him constantly checking and posting to Facebook via their mobile devices. “Who are these people, and what are they doing?,” he pondered.

At the time, he says, he was looking to hire an iOS developer, which made him especially curious as to whether any of these Facebook-updating strangers had ever built an iOS application. He didn’t have a socially acceptable way to find out.

And so Mingle was designed to be the catalyst for person-to-person introductions by way of mobile for these exact scenarios.

As a Mingle user, you first connect your account to Facebook to create your profile. Then, you use the application to declare where you are, and select one aspect from your profile — choices include occupation, hometown, speciality, interest and so on — to share with those around you.

Once you introduce yourself via Mingle, you’ll gain access to the 30 closest introductions from nearby app users. You can click on an introduction to view a user’s public quality and initiate a private in-app conversation via the “Ask a question” button.

Theoretically, you could walk into a coffee spot, declare yourself a freelance designer in your introduction and get inquiries from patrons looking to learn more about your services.

Part of Mingle’s unique appeal, Kim explains, is that it lets a user put forth the side of her personality she deems most appropriate with each introduction. “People want to be known as different things depending on where they are,” he says.

Does Mingle’s approach to networking actually work? Anecdotally, yes. Kim points to a few feel-good stories. One user landed a job interview at Dreamworks, he says, and another was offered freelance gigs by way of the application.

Perhaps more interesting, however, is that a majority users have bogarted the application to their own linking. Mingle is intended for professional use, but 60% of app activity is of the social or dating variety, Kim says. A future app update is planned to make professional networking a more dominant activity.

Long Beach-based Mingle is currently in private beta. The iPhone application was released eight weeks ago, has been downloaded more than 20,000 times and was even featured by Apple in the App Store. To date, Mingle’s 9,000 users have sent more than 40,000 person-to-person messages.

Mingle is in the process of raising a seed round. It competes with applications such as Yobongo and Sonar in the connection-around-location arena.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, spark-of-genius

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Hyundai Cheats Death in “Banned” Dutch Ad [VIDEO]

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 07:08 PM PDT

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

As viewers of The Seventh Seal know, you can’t really foil Death; you can just hold him off for a while.

One way to do that, according to this Dutch ad, is to drive a Hyundai Velostar. Or, more accurately, to be a backseat passenger. That’s because the model has three doors instead of four and the back row door opens on the passenger’s side. So, there may be cases, like the one dramatized here, where that makes the difference between life and death.

Ad agency Fitzroy makes the point well. Maybe too well. The ad was supposedly banned most likely for being too graphic. But Amsterdam Ad Blog floats the plausible theory that Hyundai got it banned on purpose. That, or it was never banned in the first place.

Makes sense, especially when you consider that this Volkswagen ad actually ran in the much more squeamish U.S.

More About: ads, cars, hyundai, viral-video-of-day

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Flip Video’s Inventor Launches High-Tech Grilled Cheese Restaurant Chain [PHOTOS]

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 06:15 PM PDT

Flip video founder Jonathan Kaplan has launched his newest venture, a high-tech chain of grilled cheese restaurants.

The Melt made its debut on Monday with the opening of its first location in downtown San Francisco. It will be the first of four to open in the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of the year, with the goal of expanding nationwide in the next few years.

While grilled cheese may not seem like the logical follow-up to the Flip video camera, Kaplan has a plan. The Melt is not your normal restaurant. Sure, it serves delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and soups (they’re good — we’ve tried them), but it’s how you order the sandwiches that makes The Melt unique.

The Melt allows diners to order their meals via their mobile phones. Placing an order on your phone creates a QR code that you can then swipe in the store. Once swiped, your order appears on the “Order Board” and your grilled cheese is placed in a propriety grill with a built-in microwave. Kaplan’s goal is to go from swipe to grilled cheese in two minutes or less.

Kaplan has also thought heavily about the ingredients that make up his sandwiches. The Melt has struck unique agreements with breadmakers, cheese vendors and others to create very specific and rich flavors. A sandwich will cost you $5.95, a cup of soup $3.95 and a combo meal $8.95.

The startup is backed by some major players. Apple retail guru (and future J.C. Penny CEO) Ron Johnson sits on the company’s board. Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz, chef Michael Mina and Benchmark Capital’s Bruce Dunlevie are also members of its board.

We had a chance to preview The Melt last week, before its grand opening. Here are a few pictures of San Francisco’s newest restaurant. Let us know if you’re craving some high-tech grilled cheese in the comments.

The Melt

The Melt's logo.

The Menu

Here's a quick look at The Melt's menu.

Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan, founder of The Melt and inventor of the Flip video camera.

Behind the Counter

There was a team of nearly a dozen employees on hand for The Melt's launch.

The Melt's Scanner

One of the key aspects of The Melt is mobile orders. Just order your food on your phone, swipe the QR code, and in two minutes you'll have your food.

The Order Board

Once you swipe your QR code, your food appears on this board.

The Grills

The Melt's grills are uniquely designed to create a tasty grilled cheese sandwich in less than two minutes.

The Drinks

Every restaurant has to have drinks, right?

Grilled Cheese

This is "The Italian Job" combo. It is fontina and provolone on garlic bread with a sausage and pepper soup.

People Eating at The Melt

Several diners eat grilled cheese during a preview event.

More About: Flip Video, Jonathan Kaplan, The Melt

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Socialcam Spins Out of Justin.tv to Simplify Video-Sharing on Mobile

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 05:23 PM PDT

“It’s fairly common knowledge that a startup can’t execute on two products simultaneously,” reasons Michael Seibel. Seibel, who will be transitioning out of his role as CEO of Justin.tv, is now the CEO of the newly independent startup Socialcam.

Socialcam was created inside Justin.tv in just 60 days to address challenges associated with sharing video via mobile. The iPhone and Android application traffics in quick clip-sharing in the same way that Instagram makes mobile photos instantly sharable.

In four months time, Socialcam “destroyed targets” and surpassed one million downloads, Seibel says.

Now, the product is being spun out as its own entity, and will go it alone with Seibel and a team of three engineers all moving over from Justin.tv. The foursome hopes to dethrone Facebook, YouTube and Apple and become top dog in the mobile video-sharing department.

“The big entrenched players don’t do what we do well,” Seibel boasts. “People are carrying around smartphones. They have a video capture device in their pockets twentyfour-seven,” he says. “But, they don’t have an easy way to take videos and share them with their friends.”

Facebook, YouTube and Apple — the three largest players in the mobile video market, as identified by Seibel — make for an encumbered or clunky social video experience on mobile. It’s too challenging to upload and discover videos on Facebook, too difficult to find YouTube videos from Facebook friends and impossible to see the quality content stored in a friend’s Camera application, he explains.

These factors, he says, have enabled Socialcam to grow at an ever-accelerating rate.

As for Justin.tv, Seibel will be replaced as CEO by former Justin.tv CTO Emmet Shear, who will continue to push forward on TwitchTV, Justin.tv’s new online destination for video gamers.

Considering Seibel’s departure and his statement about a startup not being able to execute on multiple products, one has to wonder: Where does this leave Justin.tv? “We still believe in that product,” he says. “We just believe Twitch and Socialcam are operating in markets that are significantly larger and are more underserved.”

Seibel declined to comment on how Socialcam will be financed, saying only that new investors will have the opportunity to invest in the spun off company.

[via TechCrunch]

More About: justin-tv, socialcam, startup

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The 10 Most Viral Apple Ads of the Jobs Era [VIDEOS]

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 04:27 PM PDT

With his resignation as CEO last week, Steve Jobs ended an era at Apple. Jobs has been justly celebrated as a visionary and a game changer, but we shouldn’t forget his contribution to Apple‘s advertising.

At best, Apple’s advertising under Jobs has given you the gadget fetishism the devices deserve, but in a wholesome, even folksy shell. If you agree, like so many pundits do, that Apple’s devices are “sexy,” then this is the girl- or boy-next-door kind of sexy.

The distinction is notable because Apple’s advertising wasn’t directed at its hardcore fan base, which was going to buy the products anyway, but toward someone who might be lukewarm on Apple, but curious about the iPhone or an iPad. Apple under Jobs presented the goods as gee-whiz cool, but also approachable.

Did it work? We all know the answer. Despite criticism of certain campaigns and resistance, the Jobs-led Apple ads best capture the essence of the company. Just to make the point, we’ve included one ad from the non-Jobs period at Apple as well.

Thanks to measurement firm Visible Measures for bringing this list to our attention.

"Introducing the iPhone 4" (17.3M views)

It's an obvious fact, but interesting nonetheless that although Steve Jobs is an undisputed marketing genius, he's never appeared in an Apple ad. But this 6-minute video introducing the iPhone 4 is chock full of Apple execs, including Jonathan Ive and Greg Joswiak. If the product they're talking about didn't live up to the hype, the video would be pretty over-the-top -- they seem to be talking about The Rapture rather than a new phone. But it did, of course. Still, that didn't stop some, like Orabrush, from poking fun anyway.

"1984" (10.3M views)

What is there left to say about Apple's "1984" ad promoting the then-new Macintosh. Well, this blog post provides some trivia you might not have heard, like: 1. Ad agency Chiat/Day pitched a very similar ad for the Apple II in 1982. 2. John Sculley, Apple's then-CEO, didn't like the ad. 3. Steve Wozniak heard about the trouble Jobs was having getting the ad past management and offered to pay out his own pocket to run the ad.

"Get a Mac" (8M views)

Apple's "Get a Mac" campaign, which encompassed 66 individual ads, is another example where Jobs' marketing acumen may be only obvious in retrospect. When the campaign premiered in 2006, Slate called it "mean-spirited" and found "PC" John Hodgman more likable than "Mac" Justin Long.

"Introducing iPad 2" (6.5M views)

Apple stuck with what worked for the iPhone 4 video for the iPad 2. Once again, Jonathan Ive is on hand to talk about how revolutionary the device is, and once again, he's right.

"Meet the iPad" (3.6M views)

By March 2010, everyone knew what the iPad was, but here Apple sought to humanize it, take the fear factor away and present the device as a sort of Teddy Ruxpin for adults.

"iPad Apps" (3.4M views)

One suspects this ad, for a Formula 1 iPad app, did better in markets outside the U.S. Yanks might better recall the company's ubiquitous "There's an app for that" ads instead.

"Think Different" (3M views)

Steve Jobs's second coming began with this corporate "Think Different" campaign which, you may recall, was a plea to break away from the Wintel duopoly. Things are a bit different now.

"iPad is" (2.8M views)

In 30 seconds, Apple answered the question, "So what is that iPad all about anyway?"

"Smile" (2.4M views)

The quintessential Apple ad: A very human moment is translated through new technology.

"We Believe" (2.3M views)

A manifesto of sorts from Apple that, as the video above illustrates, puts human connections before hardware.

Bonus: One from the non-Jobs era.

One from the era between Jobs' dismissal in 1985 and his return in 1996, this Newton ad is illustrative in a few ways. Most notably, it makes a lot of promises. Ads under Jobs lingered much more over features to spotlight what the devices actually could do. The voiceover is also the opposite of warm. It's the hard sell. Jobs' ads never beat you over the head like this one did.

More About: advertising, apple, ipad, iphone, MARKETING, steve jobs

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Beyonce’s Baby Revelation Breaks Tweet Record

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 03:28 PM PDT

2011 MTV Video Music Awards

MTV’s 2011 Video Music Awards (VMAs) were a huge hit on TV and online.

According to Twitter’s global PR team, Beyonce’s baby reveal at 10:35 p.m. ET gave Twitter a record bump of 8,868 tweets per second. That means that Beyonce’s VMA moment received more mentions per second than the Women’s World Cup, Japan’s New Year or Osama bin Laden’s death.

We talked with MTV last week about its social strategy for the VMAs, which included a highly refined second-screen experience focused on keeping people talking online and watching on TV. It looks like the strategy paid off. According to @MTVPress, the 2011 VMAs scored the biggest television audience in MTV’s history with 12.4 million total viewers. That’s a breakthrough and a record for the 30-year-old network.

The VMAs are famous for creating buzzed-about moments — from Madonna in a wedding dress to Lady Gaga in a meat dress — but since 2009, the award show has had a particularly influential run on Twitter.

SEE ALSO: 5 Captivating Moments from the 2011 VMAs [VIDEOS]

MTV provided us with a few additional stats from the show:

NFL Team Replacing Paper Playbooks With iPads

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 02:59 PM PDT

Instead of telephone-book sized playbooks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have handed out iPads to each of the team’s 90 players.

Players will use the tablet computers to store their playbooks, reference game footage and review videos of opponents, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

There are two major advantages to a digital playbook: The first is that players no longer will need to ask for a DVD to review game footage at home and they can flip through plays instead of fast-forwarding to the right spot in the game. The second is that while printing plays on paper creates a risk that copies will end up in the wrong hands, the content on a lost iPad can be deleted with the press of a button.

Coach Raheem Morris told the St. Petersburg Times that it took about two minutes to convince Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer to spend $500 to $600 for each iPad.

The Bucs are not the first group of professionals to trade paper tomes for lightweight iPads. Several airlines have announced intentions to equip their pilots with iPads instead of paper operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks and weather information.

Schools and businesses are also increasingly finding ways to replace papers with iPads. This might be the first time, however, that an iPad will be put to use in a work environment that regularly involves rain, sweat and flying Gatorade.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, dcsproduction

More About: football, ipad, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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15 Case Studies to Get Your Client On Board With Social Media

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 02:16 PM PDT

Jonathan Rick is a social media strategist in Arlington, VA. You can follow him on Twitter @jrick and read his blog at JonathanRick.com.

In business, definitions are everywhere. They're your first line of defense in mission statements, job descriptions, expense accounts, statements of work, accounting principles and the like. If you fail to define the parameters and jurisdiction of a tool or concept, you'll be left with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous but ultimately vague application: “I know it when I see it.”

Understandably, the plague of ambiguous definitions is why a plethora of pundits have sought to corner the elusive term "social media" within the scope of the dictionary. For instance, Booz Allen Hamilton defines the phenomenon as "electronic tools, technologies, and platforms." Wikipedia prefers to dub social media as "Web-based and mobile technologies." Finally, Duct Tape Marketing nominates social media as "the use of technology combined with social interaction.” Got all that? If you don’t, your clients surely won’t follow either.

In order to sell the field that everyone is talking about, but on which few can illuminate, we first need to reframe the conversation. Instead of striving for Merriam-Webster precision, social media strategists would do better to focus on case studies.

Specifically, social media strategist Ari Herzog has argued, when you reach for the term "social media," don't spew broad buzzwords like Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. Instead:

  • Narrow your focus to responding to customer complaints, as Comcast does on Twitter.
  • Build brand loyalty, as Bisnow does with e-newsletters, as Skittles does on Facebook, and as the Wine Library does with its podcasts.
  • Issue blog posts and tweets instead of news releases, as Google does with its blog, and as its now-former CEO did with Twitter.
  • Re-purpose your existing content, and thus enlarge your audience, as The New York Times does with Twitter, as the FBI does with Scribd, and as Dell does with SlideShare.
  • Manage your reputation, as countless companies do — or try to do — with Wikipedia.
  • Conduct crisis communications, as Johnson & Johnson does with its blog.
  • Hold contests to improve your algorithms, as Netflix did with the Netflix Prize.
  • Crowdsource your challenges, as the U.S. Army did with its field manuals.
  • Demonstrate thought leadership, as recruiter Lindsay Olson does with her blog.
  • Research free advertising opportunities, as Allstate does on YouTube.
  • Showcase your wares, as Zappos does with its blog, and boost your sales, as Dell does on Twitter.
  • Recruit employees, as Booz Allen does on LinkedIn.

In these contexts, "social media" refers not to platforms, but to what those applications enable: social interaction.

Think of these interactions the next time you confront a reluctant client. Instead of touting Twitter in general, instead emphasize the importance of reaching new and savvy stakeholders using the platform. Instead of evangelizing for a blog, show how blogging can generate leads. Instead of pointing to videos gone viral, explore video tools that will help your client develop a brand identity.

By unpacking social media’s broad definition on a case-by-case basis, you will not only render it familiar to a client, but also present it as something entirely doable.

More About: business, MARKETING, Social Media

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Chrome Extension Translates Google+ Posts & Comments

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 12:55 PM PDT

If communication barriers on Google+ got you down, never fear. Google has released a tool to ensure that updates from its international user base can be easily translated.

Google Translate for Google+, released Monday, is a simple browser extension for Chrome that translates posts and comments into more than 50 languages.

“We’ve heard from a lot of Google+ users wanting an easier way to understand posts written in other languages. I’m an engineer on Google Translate and thought we could do something about that,” writes Google Translate front-end and mobile development lead Josh Estelle in an update on Google+. “Once you’ve installed the extension, refresh Google+ and you’ll see Translate links next to posts and comments. Click the links to instantly see translations.”

The addition won’t prevent all Google+ updates from getting lost in translation, but it will certainly make it easier for users to chat with others who speak different languages.

More About: Google, Google Plus, google translate

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New “Grey’s Anatomy” TV Ads Get Shazamable

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 12:43 PM PDT

When ABC starts running promos Monday night for season eight of the hit drama Grey’s Anatomy, fans can unlock extra content with the Shazam smartphone apps.

In the past few months, Shazam has ramped up its Shazam for TV initiative — it could be considered an aural QR code.

Using the Shazam apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone 7, users can not only tag and identify audio tracks or radio playing in the background, but unlock special messages or features from TV ads. Last week, Shazam and Vevo teamed up to make Lil Wayne’s latest video “Shazamable” too.

For Grey’s Anatomy, promos for the upcoming eighth season can be tagged using the app. Once tagged, fans will be given a sneak peek at the drama series.

Additionally, more content will be unlocked in the next few weeks, including a music video by Scars on 45, as well as other scenes from the show.

It’s a cool concept. We like that fans are rewarded for going the extra mile. It’s also a smart pivot for the startup, especially now that the music identification space has more players.

Grey’s Anatomy premieres on Sept. 22. The Shazamable promo spots will start airing tonight in prime time on ABC.

More About: grey's anatomy, shazam, television

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15 Digital Agency Work Spaces That Evoke Creativity [PICS]

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 12:29 PM PDT

An inspiring environment can greatly aid the creative process. It follows then, that those whose maintain ’round-the-clock creative jobs will benefit from inspirational surroundings.

We asked the Mashable readership to submit images of their offices. From thought-bubble cocoons, to brainstorming walls, to a vegetable patch, we’ve rounded up photos of some amazing spaces that encourage employees to become visionaries.

Browse the photo gallery to peek into the weird, wonderful and wacky work spaces companies use to brainstorm. Let us know in the comments which space you would find most inspiring.

1. XSolve & Chilid

Polish companies XSolve and Chilid's joint office boasts hammocks. "We use them when we want to break away from the computer screen," says project manager Tomasz Nowacki. "It's one of main places in our office, and often helps to develop creative ideas."

2. XSolve & Chilid

The work space also houses a large pink deer. Nowacki says, "Pink deer greets our customers and guests who visit the office. It's impossible to be sad and feel depressed thanks to his presence. He gives us a lot of positive energy."

3. Media Safari

"Media Safari's office design is a key element to our business success," says digital director Matt King, "with the potential to have a dramatic effect on mood, motivation and productivity. This impacts how people feel at work and the quality of our ideas."

"Our red chairs, open spaces, river perspective, bright colours, the jelly bean machine and fresh flowers all contribute significantly to our creative thinking and help to reflect Media Safari's core brand value to 'explore communication' with passion."

4. Strategic America

"The Strategic America offices are filled with idea spaces, rooms that allow for brainstorming and working with clients without scaring them," explains Brooke A. Benschoter, senior stategic consultant. "Each room is appropriately named 'Ideas Room,' 'Strategic Room' ... you get the idea."

"The Strategic America offices in Des Moines Iowa include among their idea spaces the 'Fireside Room' featuring 'Our Couch' which is also the name of the company's creative blog. Plus, the fireplace comes in handy with those Iowa winters."

5. noise

This pic shows the Noise New York team brainstorming with the Noise San Francisco team.

"Our killer HD video conferencing system allows the product and creative team to work fluidly and seamlessly. They're practically in the room with us!" says Katie Gordon, human resources manager.

6. noise

However, as with all the best parties, it's in the noise kitchen where all of the major decisions go down.

7. Grape Digital

Grape Digital's unique work space embraces the social concept to the max. "We felt as one of the leading social media and digital agencies in the world, we needed to be as truly social as possible," says Grape Digital's MD Mark Malone. "In the UK there is nothing more sociable than a good old pub. What we used to share in the pub we now share on Facebook and Twitter — we can do both."

8. Grape Digital

"You can relax, have a drink and have no worries other than being as creative as possible for our clients," says Malone. "Feel free to pop into our pub for a pint next time you are in London."

9. Square One

From Square One: "Our office is the old FBI headquarters, in the heart of Dallas' Historic West End District. Our office ecosystem was designed to foster creativity and collaboration: our walls are covered with creative inspiration, our halls are filled with music, there are Xboxes in our conference rooms, and our bar is stocked with beer. The superheros around our office may look like decoration but they actually represent the pillars that we stand by."

10. Teehan + Lax

Teehan + Lax's common lounge "is a place for daily planning scrums, discussing company business and sharing client work. It's also an area for taking breaks, playing video games, watching movies and shooting hoops."

11. Teehan + Lax

Meanwhile, the company's "Labs" group has an office dedicated to "digital innovation and experimentation." As at Google, everyone at T + L takes time off client work to get involved in Labs experiments.

12. Digitas Boston

Employees hold a creative brainstorm in one of the lounges at Digitas' Boston office. The company says that "colorful art, comfortable furniture and a well-organized setup make it an ideal place to discuss new ideas."

13. Redweb

This is Redweb's "innovation area." Head of innovation David Burton describes it as "a new area that we use as a greenhouse for ideas and experimenting with new technologies."

"It is a very different area to the rest of our offices, and that's on purpose, as we want people to think and behave differently when they're here," Burton explains. "This area is a greenhouse where we cultivate ideas and withhold judgement."

"We have sofas, glass stools, inflatable chairs, unicycles, toys and plenty of things to scribble on — all tools to get people out of their comfort zone and thinking afresh."

14. Redweb

"Our giant black perspex wall is a great tool for creative sessions and collaborative brainstorms," says Burton. "It's awesome to think big, to write and draw big and park ideas so you can keep moving forward. It's also highly reflective so you can check your hair out at the same time!"

15. Engauge

Smaller "huddle" areas at Engauge facilitate quick brainstorming sessions and creative reviews, showing that bigger isn't always better.

16. Invoke Canada

Invoke's office in Vancouver, Canada hosts a multi-functional space for collaboration, bike parking and — as you can just make out in the background — "swashbuckling cheetahs."

17. Grip Limited

"Grip's seventh floor chill-out space has tall ceilings, a low table and a high-concept mix of contrasting furniture — perfect for long meetings and lateral thinking," says company copywriter Ian Mackenzie.

18. Peppermint PR

Peppermint PR waited four and a half years for their company allotment garden. In March 2011 they were allocated a 126.5-square meter plot of land. Once or twice a week, the team drops its office tools and dons wellies for an outdoor brainstorming session in the fresh air. In addition to ideas for clients, the team has cultivated potatoes, beans, lettuces, raspberries, zucchini and herbs.

19. VML

VML's conference rooms are aviation-themed to correspond with its Kansas City airport location.

20. Inspired Digital

Manager Arturs Mednis explains that the Inspired Digital office is "a place where employees work, have a good time and get inspired. Of course, they are digital as hell; however, it's not that bad — they also like analog things, nice surroundings and enjoy each other's company."

21. Inspired Digital

"The interior is comfortable, colorful and very homely," says Mednis. "One office wall is decorated with a naturally-colored wooden mosaic — a true source of inspiration. Another wall is equipped with IdeaPaint board. Got an idea? Write it down instantly! A 'window wall' provides a unique view to one of the trendiest streets in the city. That's another way to get inspired — by watching people, the sky or buildings."

22. Inspired Digital

"Brainstorms and meetings will never be boring because they are held in a wooden sauna-room, or 'bedroom,' full of pillows. If someone has to get away they can hide in the newspaper-decorated 'egg.' When Inspired, people are full of energy, they can relax by playing novus or geting crazy at the foosball," says Mednis.

BONUS SLIDE: [wire] stone's Doggie!

We were surprised at how many dogs showed up in the photo submissions we received. While they were all gorgeous, this little chap really stood out. Do you think that's his office chair, or is he just keeping it warm for his master?

Image courtesy of Inspired Digital

More About: business, design, MARKETING, office

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Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile Invest $100M in Google Wallet Competitor [REPORT]

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 11:40 AM PDT

Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile are planning to invest more than $100 million to take on Google with Isis, the companies’ mobile payment project, according to a report.

Isis, which the three carriers announced last November, is a mobile payment system that uses near-field communication. The three companies hope that it will be a viable competitor to Google Wallet, a NFC solution from the search engine giant that is rolling out in the market this year.

According to Bloomberg, the three carriers have earmarked $100 million for the venture. Previously, no funding had been announced.

Mashable could not reach reps from the carriers for comment on the report.

In addition to enabling mobile payments, Isis would also let consumers redeem coupons at the point of sale. Isis has built partnerships with the top credit card firms — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express — to make that possible. The service is expected to roll out sometime in 2012.

Meanwhile, Google unveiled Google Wallet in May. A range of merchants, including CVS, Petco and 7-Eleven now accept Google Wallet for payment.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, coreay

More About: att, Google, google wallet, nfc, T-Mobile, verizon

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10 Unique Laptop Bags for the Fashionable Techie

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 11:22 AM PDT

If, like many of us, your laptop is your office, entertainment center and gateway to your social circle, then it deserves a decent wardrobe. We’ve found 10 excellent bags in which to carry your precious portable computer.

You’re safe from black nylon — we’ve searched long and hard to bring you the more interesting, unusual and attractive bags available across the web.

SEE ALSO: 10 Cool and Unusual Laptop Sleeves [PICS]

Have a look through the photo gallery for our hand-picked selection of brilliant bags. Let us know in the comments which of the options you’d consider.

1. OMGPwnies

OMG! ThinkGeek's "pwnies" artwork looks fab on this case, which fits laptops up to 17 inches, along with a few other bits and bobs too.

Cost: $49.99

2. Plaid Doctrine Eco Tote

In addition to protecting your laptop, Plaid Doctrine's Eco Tote also accounts for the planet. The water-resistant fabric is made from recycled bottles.

Cost: $449

3. Ruff Day at the Office

This sweet, stripy case features a veritable pack of adorable cartoon dogs.

Cost: $35.99

4. VAX Walden

With dimensions suitable for 17-inch laptops, this cool, modern case boasts an external side bag for quick access to smaller items.

Cost: Approx $130

5. Royal Canadian Correspondent

If the idea of vintage tech juxtaposed with high tech works for you, then you'll like this brill bag.

Cost: $75

6. Patent Leather Carry Case

A striking design helps this playful patent leather case stand out from the crowd.

Cost: £155 (approx $250)

7. Speck A-Line

This bag's unusual shape makes it a stylish, alternative option for 13-inch laptop owners.

Cost: $69.95

8. Pinstripe Messenger

Have fun with pinstripes when you carry this great messenger, which features two external and -- count 'em -- six internal pockets.

Cost: $115

9. Nintendo Messenger

Gamers will enjoy this Nintendo-themed bag. With its reversible front panel, it's practically two bags for the price of one.

Cost: $36.99

10. Harris Tweed Satchel

The ultimate in preppy chic, this Harris Tweed satchel offers some serious sartorial style.

Cost: £105 (approx $170)

BONUS: Red Fox

Finally, we've bonused this foxy bag because it might be a bit "out there" for most people, but anyone with the nerve to tote it will have tons of fun.

Cost: $52

More About: accessories, Bags, cases, gallery, laptop accessories, Lists

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Walmart’s Vudu Surging in Digital Video Market

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 10:55 AM PDT

Eighteen months after buying online movie service Vudu, big box retailer Walmart has a bonafide hit on its hands.

According to a recent report from IHS Screen Digest Media Research, Vudu has eclipsed both Amazon and the Sony PlayStation Store in the U.S. online movie store rankings.

During the first half of 2010, Vudu accounted for just 1% of the online movie market, based on revenue percentage. For the first half of 2011, Vudu had 5.3% of the market, putting it in third place after behemoth iTunes and Microsoft’s Zune Video Marketplace.

The Wall Street Journal sums it up best, writing “Vudu could become Wal-Mart’s biggest Internet-related success to date‚ although that doesn’t say much.”

When Walmart first acquired the online movie service — which offers high quality streams of first-run movies at a la carte pricing — we commented on the potential of the deal. As Mashable‘s Adam Ostrow wrote in February, the deal “puts Walmart head-to-head with the likes of Netflix and Amazon. But also, Walmart is a huge retailer of televisions — it has the ability to drive sales of Internet-connected TVs with Vudu on board.”

Both scenarios have seemed to work out exactly this way. In fact, since including Vudu in our roundup of media streaming services back in February, Vudu has come to an increasing number of connected TVs, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players. Earlier this month, Vudu even became available on the iPad, using HTML5 to bypass the need to use the App Store distribution platform.

Why Has Vudu Succeeded?

As a company, Walmart hardly has the best track record when it comes to digital initiatives. The company recently pulled the plug on its MP3 music store. As the WSJ notes, the company has also failed to capitalize on its brick and mortar retail success when it comes to Internet sales.

Before acquiring Vudu, Walmart unsuccessfully tried to launch its own DVD-by-mail business and a movie download service. So why has Vudu been different?

For one thing, Vudu doesn’t advertise its Walmart affiliations. The only part of Vudu’s website that even appears to show off the parent company is the section that lets users find compatible Blu-ray players, TV sets or game consoles. Even then, Amazon.com and Best Buy are also listed as buying options for supported devices.

Vudu’s biggest differentiator against the competition, however, is its quality. As I said back in February, “from a quality standpoint, Vudu is unmatched. HDX rentals really blow the boundaries of what one expects from a streaming service.”

This remains true. Vudu also consistently has one of the strongest libraries of first-run and new release content. And, like Netflix, Vudu has benefited from working with lots of different device makers to support its service.

The big question that some analysts are asking is, “How does Vudu tie into Walmart’s core business?” Frankly, we’re not sure if that even matters right now. For the moment, Vudu is the first digital offering that Walmart has that actually is gaining customer support.

Do you use Vudu? Let us know your thoughts on the service in the comments.

More About: Movies, video streaming, vudu, WalMart

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Analyst: Amazon Tablet Will Be iPad’s Top Competitor

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 10:32 AM PDT

Amazon’s Android tablet device hasn’t even been announced yet and research firm Forrester is already betting on its success.

“If it's launched at the right price with enough supply, we see Amazon's tablet easily selling 3 million to 5 million units in Q4 alone, disrupting not only Apple’s product strategy but other tablet manufacturers’ as well,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, the report’s author.

The device, rumored to launch this October, could even kick app development for Android tablets into high gear, Epps says. Currently, estimates suggest that less than 500 apps optimized for Android tablets are available in the Android Market. By contrast, more than 100,000 apps have been built specifically for the iPad.

What is that magic price of Amazon’s tablet? Forrester says that if Amazon releases a 9-inch LCD touchscreen tablet for $299 and has enough supply to meet demand, it could outperform Apple’s first quarter with the iPad, which moved 3.27 million units.

Amazon should be able to price it that low because, like with the Kindle ereader, the company stands to profit from selling services and goods on the device, so it can afford to sell hardware at a loss, Forrester says. The lion’s share of Apple’s revenue, on the other hand, comes from sales of the iPad itself.

More About: amazon, android, apple, ipad, trending

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Tokyo Police Club Debuts “Little Sister” on Mashable

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 09:59 AM PDT

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

tokyo police club imageCanadian indie-pop quartet Tokyo Police Club has released its latest song right here on Mashable as part of its “10 Days, 10 Covers, 10 Years” project.

The song is part of a project in which the band will rehearse, record, live stream, create album art, master and release a cover song from each year of the last decade (2001 to 2010) each day from Aug. 24 to Sept. 3 from Red Bull Studios in Los Angeles. Sounds easy right?

For Aug. 29, Tokyo Police Club has released its cover of “Little Sister” by Queens of the Stone Age for your listening pleasure. The band got some help from one-time Michael Jackson guitarist Orianthi. “Little Sister” beat out other contenders from 2005 including 311′s “Don’t Tread On Me,” Caesars’ “Jerk It Out” and Maroon 5′s “Sunday Morning,” which all appeared on a teaser list of possible covers.

Tokyo Police Club partnered with Polaroid for “10 Days, 10 Covers, 10 Years.” All the cover shots are Polaroids taken from the band’s daily Polaroid photo diaries on the project website. Polaroid is sponsoring an interesting, if not exhausting, music experiment.

What do you think of the cover compared to the original? And what do you make of bands jumping on sponsored side-projects? Sound off in the comments.

Tokyo Police Club — “Little Sister” feat. Orianthi

polaroid image

More About: cover songs, music, music monday, Social Media

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Zynga To Delay IPO Because of Market Conditions [REPORT]

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 08:45 AM PDT

Zynga is delaying its IPO — originally set for next month — until November, according to a report.

The social gaming company is spooked by the “rocky stock markets,” according to the report in The New York Post, which cites two sources with knowledge of Zynga’s plans.

Mashable could not reach reps from Zynga for comment.

In late June, Zynga announced plans to go public. The company, which is behind FarmVille, CityVille and Mafia Wars, among other titles, hopes to raise $1.5 billion to $2 billion in its IPO. But since the debt ceiling debate this summer, tech stocks have been hit hard.

Zynga’s is one of several social media IPOs planned over the next few months. Another high-profile social media IPO, Groupon’s, has also reportedly been delayed, but because of SEC accounting concerns, rather than stock market conditions.

More About: facebook, groupon, IPOs, Zynga

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Security Breach Causes Nokia To Shut Down Developer Forums

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 08:31 AM PDT

Nokia has temporarily shut down its developer forums as a security measure after a hacker gained access to users’ records.

“During our ongoing investigation of the incident we have discovered that a database table containing developer forum members’ email addresses has been accessed, by exploiting a vulnerability in the bulletin board software that allowed an SQL Injection attack,” says a message at developer.nokia.com/community, where the forums are normally located.

The compromised database table includes forum members’ email addresses, and in some cases (fewer than 7%, Nokia claims), either birth dates, homepage URL or user names for AIM, ICQ, MSN, Skype or Yahoo. It does not contain passwords or credit card details, and other Nokia accounts aren’t affected.

Nokia claims it has taken down the forums as a precautionary measure while it conducts further investigations. The site should be back online “as soon as possible.”

SQL injection attacks are a common method amongst hackers of gaining unauthorized access to data. In recent months, we’ve seen several high-profile attacks conducted with this method, including an attack on Sony Pictures, when more than a million user accounts were compromised.

More About: developer forums, hack, hacker, Nokia, security breach

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MTV Video Music Awards 2011: 5 Captivating Moments [VIDEOS]

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 08:19 AM PDT

2011 MTV Video Music Awards

You can find 48 high-quality videos of performances, acceptance speeches and tributes from Sunday’s Video Music Awards at MTV.com’s “On Demand” video carousel.

The VMAs — which ramped up its digital offerings this year with a “second-screen experience” on desktop, iOS and Android — had numerous memorable highlights, including tributes to Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears, onstage confirmation of Beyonce’s pregnancy, and a no frills performance from Adele.

Update: At 10:35 p.m. ET, Beyonce’s pregnancy moment (see video below) shattered Twitter’s tweets-per-second record with 8,868 TPS, which beats out these top moments from this year: FIFA Women’s World Cup, New Year's Day in Japan, Osama bin Laden’s death and the Super Bowl.

Hardly to be outdone, Lady Gaga opened the show as her male alter ego, and Katy Perry closed the night with a Video of the Year win for her song “Firework.”

SEE ALSO: YouTube Cover Song Face-Off: Katy Perry's "Firework"

What was your favorite moment of MTV's award show?

5 Highlights from This Year’s Show

“I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside me,” Beyonce said at the beginning of her “Love on Top” performance, confirming she and her husband, Jay-Z, will soon have a baby. At the end of the song, she dropped her mic, unbuttoned her top and rubbed her baby bump.

To honor Britney Spears as the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, MTV assembled an army of girls — dressed in Princess of Pop’s iconic outfits — for this short tribute.

The first nine minutes of the show featured Jo Calderone, Lady Gaga’s male alter ego who we were introduced to August 16 during the premiere of Mother Monster’s “Yoü and I" video.

After Russell Brand and Tony Bennett paid tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars performed "Valerie" in her honor, altering the lyrics a bit to say, "Amy, oh Amy, I love you, darling. … We’ll miss you, baby. You got the world singing."

No manic lighting effects. No choreography. Just a pianist and Adele’s voice.

Photo courtesy of MTV/PictureGroup

More About: beyonce, britney spears, Lady Gaga, mtv, video, video music awards

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Pulse Launches Bookmarklet & Chrome Add-on for Later Reading

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 07:57 AM PDT

Newsreading app Pulse has released a bookmarklet and Chrome add-on that let users save stories they’re reading on the web to read later on pulse.me, as well as Pulse’s apps for iPhone [iTunes link], iPad [iTunes link] and Android devices.

The launch puts Pulse into direct competition with other tools for later reading, such as Instapaper and Read It Later, all of which boast various advantages in terms of app integrations and browser compatibility. Pulse’s major advantage is its integration with its own apps.

I also prefer Pulse’s web reader to its competitors, namely for its elegant design and because it allows me to read what’s in my queue without opening a separate tab.

Try it out for yourself and, in the comments, let us know what read-it-later application you prefer.

[via TechCrunch]

More About: alphonso labs, mobile apps, pulse

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NYC Crowdsources Tropical Storm Irene Damage Map

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 07:28 AM PDT

New York City launched a crowdsourced project Sunday that allows residents to plot damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene on a Google map.

Though the storm’s toll was less severe than expected, more than 150 people have used NYC Severe Weather Crowdmap to report incidents like fallen trees, downed cable lines and flooded basements.

The site makes it clear that it is not a replacement for 311.

“The purpose of the NYC Site is for you to let the City and fellow New Yorkers know about weather conditions and weather-related service disruptions in your neighborhood,” it reads. “Insofar as any posts made concern weather conditions and weather-related service disruptions, the City will not take action.”

If the site looks familiar to New York City residents, it might be because it looks and functions much like a site that was launched after a blizzard covered the city in more than 20 inches of snow in December 2010.

That crowdsourced map was launched independently of city efforts and focused not just on damage, but on cleanup efforts. Neighbors could list when they had a snowblower or shovel available or if they were hosting a “cleanup party.” It also mapped snowball fights and sledding hills.

The city’s severe weather map has more targeted goals.

“This is an information sharing site,” it states on its homepage.

More About: crowdsourcing, Hurricane Irene, new york city, Tropical Storm Irene

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13 Best Practices for Restaurants on Facebook

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 07:14 AM PDT

The Facebook Marketing Series is supported by Buddy Media. Now that Facebook will no longer allow your brand to hide comments from your followers, knowing the right strategies for moderating is paramount. Download our guide to Facebook publishing and moderation now.

Everyone has to eat, and 700 million of those people are also on Facebook.

Naturally, there are a lot of restaurants on the world’s largest social network, though there could be a lot more, and many of the ones that do have Facebook Pages could be better. To that end, Mashable spoke with social media stars from the hospitality industry about some best practices when it comes to Facebooking food.

1. Be Transparent

“We never want to delete any negative reviews,” says Ashley Tyson, social media manager at 4Food. In fact, 4Food streams all @-mentions on a 240-square-foot media wall inside the restaurant. “Nobody expects a restaurant to always be perfect, but an honest response and quick offer to resolve the situation is what differentiates a good restaurant from a bad one.” Above, you’ll see that when Judy complained about a wrong order at her local Jimmy John’s, the company showed initiative and replied with an email address and a willingness to work hard to regain trust.

And just like you shouldn’t only pay attention to good reviews, you shouldn’t play favorites to those with a large social network. The average Facebook user has 130 friends. But just because someone has more or less doesn’t mean they’re a more or less valuable customer. Be sure to respond to everyone and address everyone’s concerns — in a timely manner. Chipotle‘s Joe Stupp says it’s company policy to answer every (or almost every) Facebook post, whether it’s positive or negative, typically within an hour or two. And people do appreciate the round-the-clock responses, no matter how “popular” they are on Facebook. “Just because somebody has a high friend count or a high Klout score on social media doesn't necessarily mean they are important in their community,” says Stupp. “Vice-versa is also true.”

2. You Must Respond

You want to engage your fans on your Facebook Page, but you also want them to know that you are engaged, too. Be sure to answer questions, address concerns, and acknowledge when people take the time to post on your Page.

Even if it’s just a thank you for a nice remark, be sure to respond to your fans. “Never underestimate how far the words ‘thank you’ can go,” says Amanda Spurlock, Zagat’s social media editor.

3. Educate Your Fans

Restaurants have a unique opportunity — they can showcase the food, provide recipes, explain the origin of a dish and shoot videos of the chefs in action. That kind of content never gets old, and it doesn’t even have to be original — there’s so much stuff on YouTube, and all you need to do is unearth it. The Mermaid Inn posted this how-to video on its Facebook Page to show fans how to cook and eat lobster — an item they sell, so it’s related to the restaurant but also adds value.

Tyson says that because 4food receives new shipments of fresh produce and product every day, she likes to “use social media to educate our followers on fresh shipments, how we prepare our food (from scratch, with no artificial ingredients or fillers), where it comes from, etc.” She adds that as the locavore and sustainability movements gain steam, consumers are more interested in this angle than ever before. “People want to know they’re eating the freshest, tastiest and most healthful product possible,” Tyson says.

4. Show Off Your Goods

Food not only tastes and smells delicious — it looks beautiful, too. Post pictures of your dishes like Hill Country does, because those “food porn” pics are sure to make people salivate and get them in the door. There’s a reason things like Foodspotting exist — people like looking at artful food. However, Spurlock has a word of caution before you start uploading pics: “Make sure that the photos are appetizing because not all cellphone photos of food turn out appetizing, even if it does look nice on the plate.”

You don’t even always need a picture — sometimes a sensory description will do the trick. Case in point: Beauty & Essex‘s bacon Bloody Mary:

5. Don’t Just Sell — Be Interesting

Yes, your restaurant is a business, and your goal is to make profit. But you don’t have to do the hard sell on Facebook — oftentimes restaurants are overly promotional. “While consumers love to hear about new menu items and special offers, they don’t want to interact with anyone that appears too self serving,” says Tyson. Think about your brand and then try to find the right mix of promotions and special offers, education, customer service, engagement, etc. Use a diverse set of content to establish and build your brand.

On National Oyster Day (who knew that existed?), Island Creek Oyster Bar posted a YouTube video — it’s a soft sell that doesn’t desperately scream “Come eat here!” yet still plants the seed that could get consumers to crave oysters. Sharing fun facts pertaining to your cuisine or the team is also a fun way to get people excited about your food, and it humanizes the brand.

Another way to promote your brand is to let others do it for you. After all, word of mouth marketing is the most effective (and authentic). Stupp recommends that you motivate your customers to become ambassadors by treating them well, listening to them, talking to them, informing them and being interesting and engaging. Once you do that, your loyal fans will spread the word for you (for free!) online and in real life.

6. Share Your Press

You’ve worked hard to get good reviews and spur people to write blog posts about your food. Go ahead and share it with the world. This goes in tandem with avoiding the hard sell — by being awesome, you’ll motivate people to spread the word. More publicity means more customers, and it will snowball as long as your product is delicious and your customer service remains excellent. Chicago eatery Graham Elliot is great at posting press, which shows that the restaurant gets a lot of press, and also serves to brag about the cool things they do, like hosting a pop-up restaurant at this year’s Lollapalooza music festival.

7. Flaunt Your Social and Digital Savvy

A small percentage of restaurants are on social platforms and seeing success. Jimmy John’s, the Midwest sandwich chain, is one of them. Not only do they have an iPhone app for ordering, but it’s also their Facebook profile picture, which is a great way to increase awareness of said app. At the very least, be active on Twitter and Facebook, and it’s also great to have a blog or an app. And all of these things should be promoted on your Facebook Page, like the Jimmy John’s company blog.

8. Be Consistent Online and Offline

Be sure that your community managers are “as well-versed in your restaurant food and service and intangibles as your best employees in the field,” says Stupp. You don’t want people to get answers on Facebook and hear a different story when they show up for dinner. It can be hard to maintain seamless communication — especially if there are different locations that may have different offerings or hours, but it’s important to stay in the loop and make sure that the information put out by your restaurant is accurate and consistent across all platforms, whether they be social platforms or in-person. Being inconsistent will lead to confusion and frustration for your customers, who may feel like they were promised one thing, only to be told something else upon arrival.

9. Don’t Give Away Too Much

Whereas a bike store or car dealership are typically single-purchase businesses (how many bikes and cars does one person need?), restaurants are in a unique position in that someone could be a customer every single day. And while group deals and offering discounts might be good for a one-time promotion to increase Likes, you don’t want to give too much away.

The NBC Facebook and Chipotle promotion for a buy one, get one free burrito was a huge success that got a lot of people buzzing and in the shops, but the business didn’t have to lose too much money on it, because for every free burrito, there was a paid burrito. Just giving away product or offering steep discounts a la Groupon can have detrimental effect on the perceived value of your product, thereby making customers less likely to want to pay full price once the deal is over.

A once-in-a-while promotion that isn’t too generous — like the Mermaid Inn’s Social Media Monday word of the day for 20% off — keeps people coming back week after week without giving too much away. Plus, you’ll get a sense of your social media influence if you offer a code or buzzword on Facebook for in-store redemption.

Experiment with different times and codes to discover when people are more inclined to be driven to your store by social media, says Tyson. You want to use Facebook to enhance traffic and sales, but to do so most effectively, you have to know when people are paying the most attention to you.

If you’re looking to build loyalty and Likes and keep people coming back, don’t just give away product. The best thing to do is respond to people, talk to them like they’re your friends and show your appreciation for them. To customers, that’s worth more than a free sandwich.

10. Be Charming

Work can be stressful, so when someone sneaks away from the office for lunch or dinner, they want to be delighted. Whether you’re a quick sandwich lunch stop or a white-tablecloth establishment, you can be charming and human. Which Wich, a sandwich chain, literally flirts with its customers on Facebook, presenting a Like-gate that’s modeled after a middle school-esque “Do you like me? Check one. Yes/No” note.

We know there’s a human behind your Facebook Page, so you don’t need to stifle him — let a genuine voice come through.

11. Respect and Appreciate Your Team

A company is nothing without the people who comprise it, and the same can be said for restaurants — it takes many people to run the machine. When a customer posts about a positive experience on Facebook, be sure to pass it on to the team and also thank the customer and tell him you’re doing so — both parties will feel special and appreciated.

However, sometimes people write about not-so-positive experiences, and that can be a trickier situation to manage. “If someone complains about a particular individual or restaurant prior to an objective investigation, take the correspondence off the wall but make sure you let the customer know this and why you are doing it,” says Stupp, adding that your team has a “right to fair treatment” and should not “be guilty in the eyes of the public until proven innocent.” Be sure you resolve any issues, apologize for the perceived wrongdoing and let the customer know what steps have been taken to remedy the situation — follow-through is key if you’re trying to get that customer back in the door.

Also realize that your staff is on social media sites and are essentially ambassadors for your store. Show some appreciation, and they’ll appreciate their job even more.

12. Facebook Is Not Twitter

Sure, it’s easy to automatically syndicate your Twitter posts to Facebook and vice versa, but is it a good idea? No. “You have to think of Facebook as it’s own platform,” says Spurlock. Just consider the 140-character limit on Twitter. That means Twitter-to-Facebook posts will be extremely short (and photos and links won’t show up like they do when you post directly to Facebook), and Facebook-to-Twitter posts will likely get cut off and people may be annoyed that they have to go to Facebook.

“If someone is following you on Twitter, they don’t want to be told to go to Facebook every time for more information on each of your posts,” says Spurlock. “Also it gets rid of any incentive for someone to follow you on both platforms if everything you’re doing on them is the same.”

Variety is the spice of life, and food establishments should know that.

13. Target Consumers With Facebook Ads

A new Facebook feature allows advertisers to target consumers based on zip codes, which means that you can blast an ad to those who live within walking distance of your restaurant. There are some tricks of the trade when exploring the world of Facebook advertising, and it can be an effective way to build your fan base on Facebook.

Series Supported by Buddy Media

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Today’s Top Headlines in Tech & Social Media

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 06:35 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.

Samsung Announces LTE Versions of Galaxy S II & Galaxy Tab 8.9

Ahead of the IFA trade show in Berlin beginning Friday, Samsung has announced LTE variants of the Galaxy S II smartphone and Galaxy Tab 8.9 tablet. The new versions of these devices will have fast wireless data transfer capability with download speeds as fast as 100 Mbps.

Apple Patent Claims Delays Galaxy Tab 10.1 Launch in Australia

The launch and advertisement of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet has been delayed until at least September 30 after Apple stepped up its patent infringement battle in Australia’s federal court.

Eric Schmidt: If You Don't Want To Use Your Real Name, Don't Use Google+

Google+ was meant to be an identity service, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said this weekend, shedding some light on Google's reasoning behind Google+'s controversial real-name policy.

Social Media-Related Libel Cases Double in UK

According to research from UK legal firm Sweet and Maxwell, libel cases resulting from posts from social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have doubled in the last year.

Further News

  • Samsung is set to enter the mobile messaging market with ChatON, a free texting, group chat and video/image sharing app compatible with multiple smartphone and feature phone OSes.
  • The City of New York has launched a Google Maps-powered application to help residents report on damage caused by this weekend’s tropical storm.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

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Facebook Ads: 5 Tips for Success

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 06:11 AM PDT

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

Facebook Ads have emerged as a popular and cost-effective way to promote a small business online. According to recent research from MerchantCircle, 22% of small businesses have used Facebook Ads, and 65% say they would use Facebook Ads again, citing ease and flexibility as the top reasons to run another campaign. But not everyone enjoys success with Facebook Ads — among the one-third of users who say they wouldn’t run another campaign, nearly 70% say that it didn’t work to acquire new customers.

With this in mind, here are five tips to ensure you’re set up for success with Facebook Ads:

1. Set Goals and Plan Your Approach Accordingly

The first step is understanding what you want to achieve with your ad. Are you looking to building awareness for your company, drive traffic to your web site, promote a specific event or generate sales?

Facebook offers a number of different ad options that work to achieve different objectives. If you’re looking to build awareness and grow your fan base, you might want to start with standard marketplace ads. These ads point to your Facebook Page and allow users to “like” your page directly within the ad unit. If you already have a sizable fan base, you might also try a “Page Like” sponsored story, in which the ad shows friends who have liked your Page.

"Targeting with Facebook Ads allows you to advertise to the right people based on their real interests. You can even target people who are friends with people who already “like” your Page. This social context will show up around the ad,” says Grady Burnett, VP of global marketing solutions at Facebook. “A study from Nielsen shows that on average, people are 68% more likely to remember seeing an ad with social context than without, twice as likely to remember the ad’s message and four times as likely to purchase.”

When you want to promote a particular post from your page, such as a special offer or important news, you can also use “Page Post” sponsored stories to convert your post into a News Feed item.

But this approach isn’t limited to your own posts; Burnett also notes that “you can use Sponsored Stories — Facebook’s newest marketing tool — to help surface the word-of-mouth recommendations about your business that are already happening in the News Feed. For example, you can sponsor stories about people checking in to your business or “liking” your Page."

Whatever your goals and approach, make sure that you are set up to measure success. While click-through rate (CTR) is an important metric to track, it’s not the only one, and according to Webtrends, the average CTR for Facebook ads is only about 0.05%, which is half the industry standard of 0.1%. Clint Fralick, VP of client services at social media agency Pandemic Labs, recommends that you aim instead for increases in comments, Likes, impressions and active users.

“If you pick up 500 new fans, but all those other numbers stay the same, you haven’t gotten them engaged — and you probably won’t make any money off them,” says Fralick.

2. Get Creative with Targeting

The Facebook ad interface makes it very easy to select the demographic profile of an audience you want to target, including age, sex, location, education level and interests, but it is also unique in its ability to micro-target very specific audiences.

Sheila Hibbard, founder of small business marketing firm The Marketing Bit, notes that while most advertisers come to Facebook with the traditional advertising mindset that says “more is better,” that isn’t the case with Facebook.

“It’s better to have a couple thousand very targeted people than tens of thousands of disinterested folks,” says Hibbard. She suggests that you zero in on a very specific target audience with your ads, even if it means reducing the size of your audience. For example, if you’re using Facebook Ads to promote an event or a seasonal sale, you might want to only target your existing fans, who may be more likely to respond to an immediate offer.

When targeting local audiences, Fralick also recommends that you look beyond self-reported location and “use every possible angle to find those locals,” since not everyone lists their city in their profiles. “Put the names of popular local businesses, colleges and clubs into the ad manager to find the people that city and zip code doesn’t,” Fralick says.

Another creative idea is to develop and target birthday ads, says Anthony Nitz, founder of Facebook marketing firm PageonFacebook.com.

“One of the most fun targeting methods is sending an ad that shows up the week before your fan’s birthday,” says Nitz. “I tell business owners to create an ad that links to video of them wearing a birthday hat or throwing confetti while delivering a birthday message, or their staff singing ‘Happy Birthday’ that ends with a special offer and a link to where they can download their special birthday-only coupon. I can assure you that when someone sees an ad in their sidebar that says ‘Happy Birthday,’ and they click on it and the guy from the local deli is singing Happy Birthday to them, it gets huge mileage.”

3. Choose Text and Images That Pop

When designing your ad, Facebook recommends that you write clear, targeted ads with concise text that speaks directly to the audience you will reach. Be sure to highlight any special offers or unique features that differentiate you from the competition. If your goal is brand and company name recognition, Facebook also suggests using your company name in the ad title or somewhere in the body of the ad.

While your ad can include up to 135 characters, Ben Nesvig of Fuzed Marketing cautions businesses “not to feel like you have to fill the entire ad. Sometimes a simple line does the trick.” For example, some experts recommend asking a question or making a bold statement rather than touting your features.

Either way, remember to include a call-to-action that encourages users to click on your ad and explains to the user exactly what you expect them to do when they reach your landing page.

The pictures you choose for your ad are also critical, since this is what will catch people’s eye, and you should think beyond your logo.

“Typically the best photos for conversion are close face shots of people — smiling women tend to generate a high click rate,” says Harley Rivet of Deep Dish Digital. Rivet recommends that you avoid typical stock photos and instead try use more natural photos with colors that contrast with the blue color scheme of Facebook, such as red, yellow and orange.

4. Create and Test Multiple Ads

“One of the biggest mistakes I see business owners making is creating and running only one ad within each campaign,” says Caroline Melberg, founder of Small Business Mavericks. “Even the smallest change in the words you choose or the graphic you use can have a large impact on the click-through rate for your ad, so it’s best to create multiple versions of your ad and test them to see which ad gets the best response.”

Facebook makes this process easy: Once an ad has been created, you have the option to “Create a Similar Ad” and simply swap in a new picture or text.

Melberg suggests creating four different ads for the same campaign, running them for a day or so and then viewing your ad statistics on Facebook to discover which ad performed the best. You can then create a new ad that is similar to your best-performing ad, but tweak it just a bit to see if you can beat the previous performance.

And, don’t forget to swap out ads after a short period to reduce fatigue. According to WebTrends, social ads have a very short shelf life, with interest waning after three to five days.

5. Be Ready To Capitalize on the Traffic

According to Nesvig, a common mistake small businesses make with Facebook Ads is focusing on their ad while neglecting fresh content on their Facebook Page. “They might spend a $100 on ads, but the last update on their fan page was a month ago,” says Nesvig.

Fralick agrees. “Your ads are only as good as your Wall. Remember that most people don’t click through to your Facebook page; they click ‘like’ right in the ad. Have status updates or special offers planned that follow up on the messages in your ads, and get people to connect more than once.”

In fact, Fralick urges clients to think of a click as the beginning of the campaign, not the end. “When someone likes your page, they’re giving you permission to talk to them over and over again,” says Fralick. “That’s just as valuable as an outright sale.”

Have you run ads on Facebook? What was your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

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Another Samsung Galaxy Tablet Launch Gets Delayed by Apple Patent Fight

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 05:51 AM PDT

Samsung has agreed not to sell or advertise its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia before Sept. 30, after a modified version of the tablet failed to satisfy Apple, which claims the device is a blatant copy of its iPad.

In July, Samsung stopped selling the original Galaxy Tab 10.1 and promised to show Apple three samples of a modified version of the device. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Apple said that while the modified version had “some reduced functionality” it “will still infringe” its patents.

The two companies will return to court Friday, when Apple will detail the patents involved in the case with regards to the modified version of the tablet. Samsung is set to provide its answer by Sept. 16, and a new formal hearing between the two companies is set for Sept. 26 and 29.

Recently, Samsung was also barred from selling the Galaxy Tab in most of Europe on similar grounds.

Check out our gallery comparing the two companies’ products involved in this case.

The Original iPhone

Apple released the first iPhone in June 2007.

Samsung BlackJack 2

This is the smartphone Samsung was selling in 2007, the BlackJack 2.

Samsung Galaxy S

This is the Samsung Galaxy S, which debuted in 2010.

The iPhone 3G

Released in 2008, the iPhone 3G differed only slightly from its predecessor but had a slightly different back/side-housing.

Samsung Showcase i500

The Samsung Showcase i500 was released in 2011 and shares similarities with the form factor and aesthetic of the iPhone 3G.

The iPhone 3GS

Released in 2009, the iPhone 3GS looks identical to the iPhone 3G, but was significantly faster under the hood.

Verizon Droid Charge

Apple amended its lawsuit against Samsung to include the recently released Droid Charge in the list of infringing devices.

Sprint Epic 4G

Sprint's version of the Galaxy S was the only version to include a slide-out keyboard. Nevertheless, Apple still included the Epic 4G in its list of infringing devices.

The Nexus S 4G

Google's Nexus S and Nexus S 4G devices have a curved glass screen but also share a similar shape and icon layout as the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS series.

Galaxy S Captivate

The application bar in the TouchWiz interface in the Galaxy S Captivate from AT&T resembles Apple's iOS.

Galaxy S 4G

T-Mobile's Galaxy S 4G shares similarities with earlier iPhone devices.

Galaxy S Vibrant

T-Mobile's first Galaxy S device, the Vibrant, also shares a similar body style as the iPhone 3GS.

iPhone 4

Apple released the iPhone 4 in June 2010.

Galaxy S II

The well-reviewed Galaxy S II is starting to hit stores in Europe and Asia.

AT&T Infuse 4G

AT&T's Infuse 4G looks similar to the body style and button layout as the iPhone 4.

The iPad

The iPad was first released in March 2010 and managed to reboot the entire tablet PC market.

The design, which many criticized as simply being an oversized iPod touch, was unlike any other tablet computer on the market.

Galaxy Tab 4G

Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 4G was originally released in a 7" form factor.

Slower than expected sales convinced Samsung to reconsider its size strategy.

iPad 2

The iPad 2 was released in March 2011 and has managed to sell out in every market.

Thinner than its predecessor, while still retaining the same beautiful screen, the devices is dominating the tablet market.

Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung went back to the drawing board and re-designed the Galaxy Tab 10.1 after showing it off at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2011.

The final version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is thin -- Samsung claims it's thinner than the iPad 2.

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