Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “HP TouchPad Gets Updated With webOS 3.0.2”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “HP TouchPad Gets Updated With webOS 3.0.2”

HP TouchPad Gets Updated With webOS 3.0.2

Posted: 02 Aug 2011 01:14 AM PDT

Owners of HP’s tablet TouchPad just received their first over-the-air software update, with a new version of webOS 3.0.2 which brings “hundreds” of improvements and new features.

Besides performance and reliability enhancements, this new version also brings new features to core webOS apps such as Email, Calendar and Photos.

Among the highlights are improved image rendering and faster scrolling in Email, the ability to set your wallpaper from photos in the Photos app, new layout of the Calendar, reduced audio skipping in Music when using other apps, and improved speed and accuracy of autocorrections when typing.

Check out the official release notes for webOS 3.0.2. here.

More About: HP, hp touchpad, Tablet, Touchpad, webOS

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:

Flashback: Google’s Sergey Brin Isn’t the Real Google Guru [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 11:38 PM PDT

Apparently there was a time when Google didn’t dominate almost every aspect of our Internet lives, as a hilarious game show appearance by Google co-founder Sergey Brin demonstrates.

In 2000, Brin went on the CBS game show To Tell the Truth, a storied show where a panel of celebrities attempted to identify a contestant with an unusual occupation. In an attempt to promote his new search engine, Brin made an appearance on the rebooted version of the show along with two impostors who pretended to be the real “Google Guru.”

The result is an absolutely hilarious eight minutes where the celebrities try to identify Sergey Brin with questions about what URL stands for and even “What is a search engine?” Hey, this was right after Al Gore invented email, so we’re willing to cut these celebrities some slack.

You can check out Sergey Brin’s game show debut in the video, which we discovered via Andrew Gerrand on Google+, below.

More About: Google, Sergey Brin, youtube

For more Video coverage:

Top 10 Twitter Trends Last Month [CHART]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 10:28 PM PDT

Twitter Chart Image

July was a month of escapism punctuated by tragic real-life events, if the month’s list of top trending topics on Twitter is any guide. At a time when kids are out of school and escaping the heat to an air-conditioned theater or a climate-controlled living room, it’s not surprising that entertainment topics dominated the list.

In particular, Nickelodeon’s “The ’90s Are All That” block of programming and the looming movie version of Phineas & Ferb dominated discussion, along with mainstays like Justin Bieber and soccer.

On the other hand, reality couldn’t be ignored as the shootings and bombing in Norway and the untimely death of Amy Winehouse also made the charts. Somewhat surprisingly, talk of the debt ceiling didn’t make the list, but that discussion got intense just as the month was ending. Latecomer Cowboys & Aliens monopolized a lot of the chatter toward the end of the month.

You can check Twitter trends from the past in our Top Twitter Topics section.

Top Twitter Trends, July 2011:

July saw both the Copa America football competition in South America and as the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany where Japan was victorious.
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2
The final installment in the Harry Potter film/book series generated a lot of conversation among fans. This was enhanced by the frequent appearance of the other seven Harry Potter films on international TV networks.
Phineas & Ferb
Disney’s Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension hits theaters on August 5. Fans of the old TV show talked about it for weeks.
Norway Explosion/Shootings
An explosion in Oslo and a mass shooting at Norwegian Labour Party’s youth camp on island Utoya, Buskerud in Norway prompted a show of support for the victims with a moment of silence.
Justin Bieber
Why did Justin Bieber trend? Cause he’s the Biebs! Duh.
Users talked a lot about Twitter this month with hashtags like #ThingsWeLearnedOnTwitter & #WhenTwitterWasDown.
The TV channel TeenNick aired a block of programming called “The ’90s Are All That” which contained Nickelodeon shows from the 90s. Some of the trends that came from viewers reminiscing were Kenan & Kel, Drake & Josh, Doug, Clarissa Explains, Ren & Stimpy and Rugrats & Catdog.
Casey Anthony Trial
Many users on Twitter were absorbed by the closing arguments in the murder case against Casey Anthony and later voiced their opinion online when she was pronounced not guilty of killing her 2 year-old daughter, Caylee.
Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse was found dead in her flat. She was 27 and users noted that this is the same age as Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and other members of the “27 Club.”
Cowboys & Aliens
The genre-blending film was released to theaters on July 29 and got a very positive response on Twitter.

Data aggregate courtesy of What the Trend.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, 123render

More About: harry potter, justin bieber, List, Lists, Norway, soccer, social media, Top Twitter Topics, trends, twitter

For more Social Media coverage:

Like Jazz? Use YouTube To Create Your Own Jams

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 09:39 PM PDT

Too agoraphobic to make it to one of those outdoor jazz concerts? Well, then, check out YouTube Free Jazz, an interesting little digital art project that makes music from noise.

YouTube Free Jazz was created by new media artist David Kraftsow, who previously created such innovations as First-Person Tetris (an online game in which the screen rotates every time you move a piece) and YouTube Rave (which turns any YouTube video into a party).

Visit the site and YouTube Free Jazz will create a sound collage from random YouTube videos, reminiscent of jazz. You can type new keywords to create more mashups based on videos with that keyword.

It might not be as pleasing to the ear as the real deal, but, hey, it’s free.

[via MetaFilter]

Image courtesy of Flickr, aparutzi

More About: David Kraftsow, music, youtube, YouTube Free Jazz

For more Media coverage:

Startup Seeks to Be Online Destination for World’s Best Photography

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 08:41 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: 500px

Quick Pitch: 500px.com is a modern online community of photographers from all over the world.

Genius Idea: In the age of insta-photography, 500px celebrates the art in professional photography.

Amidst a seemingly congested crop of photo services — think mobile-focused newcomers like Instagram, long-time veterans like Flickr and every other photo app between — is there opportunity for yet another photo community to standout?

With 35 million pageviews per month, 1.9 million uniques per month and 500% growth over the past 6 months, nearly two year-old Toronto-based 500px may not be an overnight success story, but it does seem to be on the cusp of its breakout moment.

500px photographers can use the site as a portfolio website, choose a theme and layout, and organize their photos into collections. They can also opt to sell their shots. Photography fans can use the site to discover amazing photography, follow their favorite photographers and purchase prints of the shots they love most.

500px, pronounced “five hundred pixels,” is turning heads in photography and internet circles with a primary focus on being the destination site of the world’s best photography.

“We are about the best photography and the best user experience for aspiring and pro photographers,” says 500px director of marketing Andrey Tochilin.

The startup’s most popular photos, along with the curated collection of editor selections, demonstrate the sophistication and quality of the site’s growing user base of mostly professional and artistic amateur photographers.

Plus, at a time when the iPhone is the predominant digital camera of choice for photo-sharers, 500px users are posting photos taken by their Canon EOS 5D Mark IIs, Nikon D90s, Canon EOS 450Ds and Canon EOS 50Ds — the four most popular cameras among the site’s users.

Mobile applications, while not yet available, are in the works and will be released soon, Tochilin says.

500px, initially created by two guys in a basement, is now a five-person team. The startup was bootstrapped until May 2011, when it raised $525,000 in funding.

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: 500px, bizspark, photography, spark-of-genius, startup

For more Startups coverage:

Skype for iPad Makes Its Debut [UPDATE]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 08:13 PM PDT

Update: Skype has pulled its iPad app from the App Store. The company says that the app went live prematurely.

Skype has released its official iPad app to the iOS App Store, bringing its live video service to both 3G and Wi-Fi data connections.

Skype for iPad expands upon the iPhone app’s features, thanks to the iPad’s larger screen real estate. The iPad app includes all of the features you’d expect: video chat, instant messaging, phone calls and quick access to your contacts. Unlike the iPhone app, instant messaging can be used during video calls.

The Skype app works with both the iPad 1 and the iPad 2, although the iPad 1 only can receive video. The Skype iPad app can call anybody using Skype, whether it’s on the desktop or an iOS device. It requires iOS 4.0 or above.

More About: iOS, ipad, Skype

For more Mobile coverage:

Klout Adds YouTube Activity to Its Scoring System

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 07:38 PM PDT

Klout now factors in YouTube activity as part of its scoring system for social influence.

The feature, which rolled out on Monday evening, allows a user to sync his or her YouTube and Klout accounts. Once synced, Klout will then analyze comments, engagement, likes, subscriber counts and other information in a user’s YouTube account and factor it into a user’s final Klout score. Klout uses social data from Twitter, Facebook and other social media services in order to score a user’s social influence from one to 100.

While some people may not care about a score of their social influence, more and more brands do. Businesses have been using Klout to identify social influencers in order to offer them perks and freebies. Most recently Klout partnered with Spotify to offer invites to users with high Klout scores.

The San Francisco-based startup has been on a roll in recent months. In June it added LinkedIn, and in July it started factoring in Foursquare data into Klout scores. It also launched a +K button to identify topical experts across social media. The startup has also announced that it will add Google+ once the search giant releases an API for its social network.

Klout has raised $10 million in three rounds of funding from Kleiner Perkins, Greycroft Partners, Mayfield Fund, ff Venture Capital, Lucid Ventures and a host of angel investors, including Paige Craig and Bobby Yazdani.

More About: klout, social media, youtube

For more Social Media coverage:

5 Expert Office Design Tips

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 07:01 PM 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.

Office design is so crucially important to the success of your company, it’s well worth consulting professionals to get it right.

“A well designed office may cost a little more, but it is much cheaper than a poorly designed one. A non-functioning office wastes time and causes frustration because it can hinder basic tasks,” says Paul Kelly, head of marketing for Morgan Lovell, a leading office interior design, build out and refurbishment specialist with offices across the UK.

“Good office design solves these problems, but great office design goes one step further. By opening up new lines of communication, giving staff different environments for different tasks, and making them excited about being in the office, a great office design can invigorate a workforce.”

However, smaller companies and startups may not have the budget to consult design firms, so we’ve spoken to three top experts to bring you five must-read tips on the topic. Have a read of the advice provided by our pros in office interior design and share your tips in the comments section for creating a more pleasant — and more productive — work environment.

1. You Can Never Have Too Much Light Or Space

"American workers spend approximately 90% of their waking hours indoors, many of them at computer workstations far away from the closest window," states Edin Rudic, creative director at MKDA, a corporate interior design firm with offices in New York City and Stamford, CT. "Because limited exposure to natural light can negatively impact mood and productivity," both employees and their employers would greatly benefit from more exposure to sunlight.

Natural light is a much overlooked benefit in office design, but it should be one of your major considerations in office design and layout. As Kelly explains, it can make a big difference to productivity.

"Natural light offers a much wider color spectrum making it easier for us to see details and perform basic tasks," he says. "There are numerous studies showing productivity improvements with natural light, particularly in manufacturing environments. In addition, our eyes are designed to work with the changing light levels of sunlight, in contrast with the harsh continuous artificial lighting in offices. Natural light will reduce eye fatigue and complaints about headaches."

Rudic has advice on how you can get more light in your workplace: "To improve the amount of natural sunlight within an office, create an open environment by tearing down interior walls, using glass walls for private offices and benching desks instead of claustrophobic workstations.

"These techniques will not only enhance the aesthetic of your design, but will also allow natural sunlight to permeate the core of the office, which will have a huge impact on mood and productivity throughout your workspace."

And hand-in-hand with light comes space -- another consideration, and not just in an employee's immediate work area, as Kelly explains.

"Give employees enough space. It's not only important to give staff big enough desks, but you must also consider 'circulation space,'" he says. "This is the space in corridors and between desks that enable people to move around freely. There is nothing more disturbing than having someone bumping into you everything they walk by. Just think of the last time you were on an airplane sitting in front of a hyperactive child."

However, you want to try and get a balance between enough space and managing to cultivate a "buzz" in your office.

"Of course you want to give people a quiet place to work, but you also want to create a dynamic and fun atmosphere where people can interact and bounce ideas off each other," says Kelly. "Open plan workplaces literally and figuratively take down walls between people. Bench-desking brings people together and helps to create that team interaction that you may be after."

Image courtesy of Morgan Lovell

2. Create Break-Out Spaces

Break out spaces aren't just somewhere your employees can munch their packed lunch -- they provide a crucial place away from the desk which can aid creativity.

"Create non-bookable break-out spaces for those informal chats or just a change of scenery. These spaces take down barriers to communication and encourage spontaneity in the office," says Kelly.

Rudic agrees, and has another interesting theory about why such spaces are valuable. "You want to designate casual meeting or lounge areas in your office for employees not only to relax but also to exchange thoughts. Great ideas come from inspiring casual spaces.

"In addition, communal areas are also where your employees can establish and build the corporate community based on shared values and beliefs."

Image courtesy of Morgan Lovell

3. Keep Things Tidy

"When it comes to small offices, it is even more important to make sure that everything works together. In a large office, clients might never see the work area, because there is a 'behind the scenes' space, but there is no such thing when it comes to small offices -- everything is out in the open. Workspaces have to be part of the design. This is a blessing in disguise for the employees. Small office workspaces are usually better designed and more efficient, not to mention the employees are motivated to be far more organized," says Isabelle Glinka, principal of LUX Design, a boutique interior design firm located in Toronto, Canada.

It's crucial to keep your workplace free of clutter, organized and tidy. Kelly shares some tricks employed at the Morgan Lovell offices.

"Keep things tidy. It's amazing how quickly a neat and tidy office can turn into hurricane zone. One of the worst offenders is food at desks. At Morgan Lovell, we have a 'no eating at desks' policy which keeps rubbish in its proper place as well as crumbs off the floor. We also recommend that you ban bins at desks to avoid the inevitable pile up of rubbish at workstations. It also encourages recycling," Kelly says.

"However, all this lost if you don't address the storage issue. Storage is often an afterthought when companies take on office space, but it is usually the second biggest complaint (after temperature). When you space plan your office, make sure you incorporate a storage audit. There are a lot of great storage solutions available on the market now, half-height roller racking is one solution that comes to mind, as it uses less space and lets light through."

Image courtesy of Morgan Lovell

4. Invest In Furniture

Cash-strapped companies may be tempted to save money on budget furniture, but in the long-term, you're not saving anything.

"Spend $200 more per task chair to save thousands of dollars in the long run," advises Rudic. "It may be a relatively small object, but workers spend the majority of their workday sitting in an office chair. Only when they begin to suffer the ill effects of an uncomfortable chair -- low back pain and general discomfort -- do they begin to pay attention to where and how they are sitting.

"Proven to stimulate worker productivity and to reduce the number of sick days, ergonomic office chairs are where wise business owners invest when designing an office space."

Kelly concurs. "Don't skimp on furniture. A cheap chair can cause back pain, contributing to complaints and absenteeism. Invest in a good movable monitor arm to put the screen at eye level to reduce neck pain. A good desk will have systems to get rid of annoying 'cable spaghetti' underfoot."

Kelly also has good advice about your IT infrastructure. "Use technology to make working in the office easier. Wireless connectivity in the office enables staff to work anywhere, giving them an excellent way to change their scenery. Impromptu meetings are easier when you can take your laptop with you."

Image courtesy of MKDA

5. Brand Your Workplace

If your workplace could just as easily be the offices of A.N. Other Inc., then you've gone wrong somewhere. Branding your office is just as important as branding your stationery, our experts say.

"Branding should not stop with the business card and website. It should be infused into the space where everything happens. It should be all around the employees and it should speak to the clients. It should be the environment," says Glinka.

"Wallpaper on the wall is not needed, nor is the coordinated Post-It dispenser or the framed images on the wall, but in a way, these details are the whole point of the office. It gives the space an identity -- it tells others and reminds us what we are here to do," she adds.

"Branding is individual to each company and office, but with a little imagination, you can make your space reflect the business identity without spending a fortune. For example, one small office we designed was heavily based on technology. We used their colors and made a binary pattern on a wall using nothing but a little paint."

Another nice touch? A logo, says Glinka. "Putting it on a feature wall is a simple way to create visual interest. Carry any identifying factors through the space, be its color, a shape or idea. If your company is based on the fact that you are a small, but modern business, make sure that the furniture and lighting send the right message. No one is going to believe that you take your company seriously if you say you are modern as you sit on a flowery Victorian couch you inherited from your grandmother. It is all about the message and the image telling the same story."

One great way to combine branding and function is to use your identity as a space identifier, she adds. "A logo for a company we once worked with had bubbles in it. At the same time they needed a way to guide their clients through the space since they did not have a receptionist. We put their branded bubbles on the ground, some in blue, some in green. The different colors lead to different rooms, making it very easy for them to explain to the client where to go: 'Just follow the green bubbles.' Clients notice touches like this in an office, but so do everyday users. It makes the space a little bit less corporate and more personal."

Rudic has further advice on this topic. "Enhance your company's culture by showcasing your 'brand' and 'community.' Your corporate culture is the soul of your firm and impacts the way the public and your own employees experience your organization.

"The physical appearance of your office can lay the foundation for your corporate culture. In designing your office space, inject your firm's slogans, logos, philosophy, attitude, products and color palette into the environment in order to showcase your firm's corporate culture at the most elementary level. The clothing does not make the man, but it does make him more attractive!"

Image courtesy of LUX Design

Image courtesy of psiodmok

More About: architecture, business, design, interior design, office design

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

Did Newt Gingrich Buy Most of His Twitter Followers?

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 06:08 PM PDT

GOP candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has had one consolation during his faltering Presidential campaign: the size of his Twitter following.

His account, @Newtgingrich, is currently followed by more than 1.3 million users — a very impressive number, especially compared to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, who has yet to reach 63,000 followers.

But now there’s more trouble for Newt, as one of his former staffers is alleging that the candidate paid various “follow agencies” to create fake accounts that follow him. “Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them,” the anonymous staffer told Gawker. “If you simply scroll through his list of followers you’ll see that most of them have odd usernames and no profile photos, which has to do with the fact that they were mass generated.”

The staffer alleges that 80% of Newt’s followers — more than a million accounts, in other words — fall under the heading of fake.

You can test out the theory yourself by looking at Newt’s followers here. At time of writing, for example, three of the first six followers are accounts that have never tweeted, have no profile photo or biographical information, and have a very small number of followers themselves. The picture looks a little better for Newt when you examine the first 100 of his followers listed by Twitter: just 25% meet those criteria, a far cry from 80%. (That said, we have our doubts about plenty of accounts that meet just two of those criteria, such as “Angus Jack McFaux”.)

We look forward to a more thorough analysis from anyone with the time to scan all of Newt’s 1.3 million Twitter followers.

More About: followers, newt gingrich, politics, twitter

For more Social Media coverage:

Apple Launches iCloud Beta [PICS]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 05:35 PM PDT

Apple has unveiled the beta for iCloud, the company’s new suite of media streaming and cloud-based services.

The new beta, which is available to all users with an Apple ID (update: some of our readers are having trouble accessing iCloud with Lion), features web-based version of Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Find my IPhone and iWork. They are accessible if you visit iCloud.com while using iOS 5 (available to Apple developers) or Mac OS X Lion. It does not include Apple’s cloud music services, including iTunes Match.

Apple also unveiled the pricing structure for iCloud. The first 5GB of storage on the service are free. An addition 10GB will cost $20, 20GB will cost $40 and 50GB will retail for $100. It’s a good deal more expensive than Amazon Cloud Drive, which gives 20GB of space for $20 and lets users store an unlimited amount of music for free.

We’re playing around with the iCloud beta now, and while we’ll have more to report, our initial conclusion is that the iCloud beta is a modified version of MobileMe. It includes similar interfaces, which isn’t a surprise. The addition of iWork support is a welcomed addition though, as is the simplistic and universal interface for all of Apple’s cloud services.

We’ve taken some screenshots of the beta and embedded them below. Check them out, and let us know what you think of the iCloud beta in the comments.

Mashable reporter Christina Warren contributed to this report.

iCloud Beta Login Screen

This is the login screen for the iCloud beta.

iCloud Icons

iCloud's beta includes Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Find My iPhone and iWork.

iCloud Contacts

This is the interface for contacts.

iCloud Calendar

This is the interface for calendar.

iCloud Mail

You need an @me.com email address to use iCloud Mail.

iCloud Keynote

This is the opening screen for Keynote in iCloud.

iCloud Numbers

This is the opening screen for Numbers in iCloud.

iCloud Pages

This is the opening screen for Pages in iCloud.

iCloud for Mac OS X

This is the iCloud icon for the Mac OS X version.

Install iCloud Screen

This is the first screen you'll see when you attempt to install iCloud for Mac OS x lion

More About: apple, icloud, iOS, itunes, iwork, mac os x, mac os x lion, mobileme

For more Dev & Design coverage:

News International Under Scrutiny for Routine Email Deletion Requests

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 04:48 PM PDT

A technology firm told members of British Parliament that its client, News International, requested the deletion of hundreds of thousands of emails since April, 2010.

The firm, India-based HCL, revealed this information in a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee of U.K. Parliament, which is investigating News International over the phone hacking scandal.

In the letter [PDF], HCL lists nine times it was asked to delete emails between April 2010 and July 2011.

HCL handles the live email systems for News International. That means that the vast majority of emails it manages were sent during the last 15 days. Messages older than 15 days are managed by a different provider. In essence, HCL helps deal with situations that are beyond the client support desk’s skills.

Most of the deletion requests appear to be normal email management tasks. One request, in April 2010, for instance, was to delete more than 200,000 delivery failure messages. In this incident, HCL says that the messages were successfully removed by the News International help desk before HCL could do anything.

Other requests covered common email maintenance tasks like deleting public folders or clearing clogged outboxes. If you have ever managed a mail system for a large organization, you know it can often require lots of tweaks.

The only incidents that could raise questions about News International’s intentions would be those in September 2010 and January 2011, when HCL was asked about deleting historical email.

In the first case, HCL was asked to work with a third party vendor to delete archived email from News International’s systems. The rationale by News International was that cleaning up the archived databases for the mail servers would make email more reliable and more manageable.

In January 2011, News International asked HCL if it would be able to truncate an email database — that is, delete or compress parts of the data in the database. HCL was unable to do this and told News International to talk to a third-party vendor.

We’ve already seen so many ethical lapses in the phone hacking scandal, it’s easy to immediately look at any requests for email deletion, no matter how innocuous, with suspicion.

That’s certainly how some of the British MP’s see the situation. The Guardian quotes one member of Parliament as saying, “It certainly looks as if … News International were deliberately thwarting their investigation.”

In a statement, News International said that “[it] keeps backups of its core systems and, in close co-operation with the (police’s) Operation Weeting team, has been working to restore these backups.”

More About: email management, HCL, News International, phone hacking

For more Media coverage:

Airbnb: “We Screwed Up And We’re Sorry”

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 03:55 PM PDT

Airbnb, the self-described “marketplace for spaces,” has issued an unconditional apology for how it treated one of its users after her place was ransacked by thieves.

In addition to the apology, Airbnb has launched a new Trust & Safety Center and issued a $50,000 retroactive insurance guarantee. This protects hosts, past and present, from property damage caused by Airbnb guests.

Last week, the story of “EJ,” a San Francisco-based event planner in her 30s, drew national media attention. She wrote about how her life has been turned upside-down after she rented her place out for a week on Airbnb. When she returned, she found almost all of her personal possessions stolen or destroyed.

The result was a firestorm of controversy that wasn’t quelled by a response from Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky or an explanation posted by Airbnb investor and Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. In fact, it got worse when “EJ” publicly refuted Airbnb’s claims that Airbnb was doing everything it could to assist her in her time of need. The result was a crisis in confidence — not only for Airbnb, but its entire business model.

Airbnb’s Response: “We Have Really Screwed Things Up.”

On Monday, Airbnb’s CEO made steps to fix the situation and repair the damage caused by the crisis. “We felt paralyzed, and over the last four weeks, we have really screwed things up.,” Chesky said in ablog post. He explained further that his previous statement didn’t “reflect [his] true feelings.”

“With regards to EJ, we let her down, and for that we are very sorry,” Chesky wrote. “We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure she felt safe and secure. But we weren't prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball. Now we're dealing with the consequences.”

The company also officially announced the launch of the Airbnb Trust & Safety Center, dedicated to informing its users about how to protect themselves against fraud and explaining the new measures Airbnb is taking to protect its users from a similar experience.

The biggest change is the addition of the Airbnb Guarantee, essentially a $50,000 insurance policy that protects Airbnb hosts if guests vandalize their personal property. If a guest steals a host’s things or damages his or her place, Airbnb will compensate that guest for the damage. The program launches on August 15, but it will also apply retroactively to any hosts that have reported damage previously.

The company is also enhancing its customer service. Starting next week, it will have a customer support hotline available 24 hours a day. It is also doubling its support team — a previously announced move — and has hired an eBay veteran as its Director of Customer Support. The company has also established a task force dedicated to reviewing suspicious activity and implementing new security features.

Airbnb’s mea culpa may be too late for EJ, but it was the right move to restore user confidence in its platform. As we wrote last week, Airbnb failed to protect its customers and instead served its own self-interests. The accusation that Airbnb tried to get EJ to take down her blog post was especially damaging, but will likely fade in the wake of today’s apology.

Airbnb was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. It struggled to stay afloat until it received an investment from the Y Combinator startup incubator and seed venture fund. It recently raised $112 million in funding, putting the company’s value at $1.3 billion. Its investors include Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, DST Global, General Catalyst, Ashton Kutcher and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

More About: AirBNB, y combinator

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

10 Social Good Startups Worth Your Time [VIDEOS]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 03:20 PM PDT

eco light bulbs

Community website COMMON has rounded up 10 promising startup initiatives that are using tech to do some social good. The contest to find them, COMMON Pitch, drew in applications from Norway to Colorado in a bid to win publicity and funding.

On August 19, the 10 finalists will present their projects in Boulder, Colorado to a live and virtual audience of industry leaders and venture capitalists. These fresh ideas range from reinventing microwave popcorn to bringing showers to the homeless for just a nickle.

Here are the mostly-video pitches of COMMON Pitch‘s 10 finalists. Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments.

1. ArtGizmos makes custom apparel so companies don’t create excess merchandise.

2. The Bell Lightprovides light for $30 to $40 per year to individuals in developing countries without access to electricity.

3. BetaShower gives people in developed or developing countries access to 3-minute showers for $0.05.

4. Colorado Front Range Eco Town is a grassroots campaign to build a large-scale eco-village.


5. BookSwap connects members’ private libraries for easy book sharing.

6. MediaCause links digital marketing volunteers with non-profits seeking their skills.

7. Meeps is a social network to connect with like-minded strangers.

8. Quinn Popcorn reinvented microwave popcorn.

9. Ritual Chocolate is a sustainable chocolate company, emphasizing quality over quantity.

10. SunSaluter provides electricity generating solar panels to communities in developing countries.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, NREY

More About: COMMON Pitch, non-profit, social good, startups, video

For more Social Good coverage:

Cosmo Launches iPad-Only Magazine for Men

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 03:03 PM PDT

Cosmopolitan, long the resident authority on heterosexual dating and mating for teenage and adult women alike, has launched its first magazine for men, CFG: Cosmo for Guys.

Men won’t find this guide to women by women on newsstands, however. Instead, CFG is launching solely on the iPad, available via the App Store [iTunes link] for $1.99 per issue, $3.99 per month or $19.99 per year.

Cosmo Editor-in-Chief Kate White believes there is a demand for the product. Approximately 7.4% of Cosmo‘s readership is male, according to data from MRI. And more than one-third of visitors to cosmo.com every month are men, White says.

Since White arrived at the magazine in 1998, she says she has received hundreds of letters and emails from men who confessed that they were stealing their girlfriends’ or their wives’ copies when they weren’t around.

“They said it was like having the other team’s playbook,” she recalls. “And a fair number of those emails said I ought to do something for guys.”

White says she mocked up a cover for a men’s Cosmo years ago, but couldn’t imagine men actually purchasing it. But when the iPad came along, she realized that it would allow men to read privately, in a way that was more interactive and engaging than what a website could offer.

Furthermore, the iPad has enabled Cosmo to test out, in a cost-efficient manner, what is still an arguably volatile market for magazines. With the exception of one “special projects” hire, White was able to leverage Cosmo‘s existing editorial and design resources to produce the magazine, which is scheduled to publish 12 issues over the next year.

The app itself is strong. In fact, with its moving flowcharts, resizable video and compactly designed features, it’s much more interactive and engaging than the bonus issue Cosmo released for the iPad this spring.

Working in conjunction with Hearst’s digital team, Cosmo‘s design department has departed from the magazine format a little, especially from a navigation standpoint. Instead of a traditionally crowded table of contents, for instance, the app’s home screen features five pairs of section titles and thumbnails to choose between. Users can hold down one of the thumbnails to display all of the stories in that section.

I was particularly impressed with the “Will She Like It?” and “Read Her Mind” features, which pull in live poll data from cosmo.com to help men understand what fashion trends women find appealing, and what movie they are going to want to see this weekend, among other things.

Whether the app itself succeeds, White intends to build out the CFG franchise. This fall, the team is launching both a CFG radio show on SiriusXM (channel 109) and a book bearing the CFG label.

As for the original Cosmo? White says it’s coming to the iPad soon. Meanwhile, it’s enjoying strong sales on Barnes & Noble’s Nook ereader alongside many other women’s magazines on the device.

More About: cosmo, cosmo for guys, hearst, ipad, magazines, media

For more Media coverage:

NYC’s Website Reinvented by the City’s First Hackathon

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 02:38 PM PDT

About 75 developers from across the United States (and at least one from Canada) accepted New York City Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne’s invitation to spend 36 hours of last weekend envisioning a better nyc.gov.

The city’s first ever hackathon offered little incentive: There were no cash prizes, no iPad giveaways, and the city has not committed to using any of the designs to replace the website it launched in 1996 and last redesigned more than five years ago. Five of 14 teams whose designs were chosen by judges for various honors will be thanked personally by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in meetings this week.

“Really the goal was to bridge the worlds of government and technology and having a dialog,” Sterne says. “This really showed what people want.”

So what do people want? Most of the winning designs’ homepages focus on search, mirroring Bing and Google. Sterne saw: StackOverflow-like forums that encourage users to help each other, as well as gamification, location and social elements. In other words, these are the trends you’d expect from coders working with APIs from Google, Bit.ly, Foursquare and other popular web services.

New York City also introduced two new APIs at the event: one that works with 311 and another that constantly updates apps that use the city’s more than 400 open data sets with the latest changes.

Here are the five winning designs. What changes would you like to see on your city’s government website?

Best Use of Social: @NYC

Most Innovative: Ask NYC.gov

Best Use of Local: nyc.gov Redesign

A location feature pulls in data based on the user's zipcode.

Best User Interface: Team Apple Seed

Best Use of Location: nyc.gov Local Filtering

A feature pulls in data based on the user's zipcode.

For comparison, here is a photo of NYC’s current website:

More About: general assembly, government, hackathon, new york city, rachel sterne

For more Dev & Design coverage:

Book Marketing: How 4 Authors Are Finding Success With Social Media

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 02:21 PM PDT

Andy Meek is a senior business reporter for The Memphis Daily News. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyMeekTN.

The book industry is in upheaval. The recent news that Borders will liquidate and shutter all of its 399 stores is the latest sign of print's unstable market.

In many ways, tech advancements have forced the industry's deterioration. While print struggles to catch a foothold, tech-savvy authors are managing to bridge the gap. Therefore, I'd like to introduce four tech-savvy authors whose statuses range from rookie to bestseller. Thanks to social media, they’re writing their own rules about branding and fan engagement.

1. John Green – The Fault in Our Stars

Author: John Green

Twitter: @realjohngreen

Facebook: John Green

Website/Blog: JohnGreenBooks.com

John Green's latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, is riding high on the charts. It recently landed the number-one spots on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. But here's the thing – his story won't be published until 2012.

Green promoted the book to his 1.1 million Twitter followers, according to The Wall Street Journal:

On (a) Tuesday afternoon, he posted the title of his new book on Twitter, Tumblr and the community forum YourPants.org. An hour later, he upped the stakes by promising to sign all pre-orders and the entire first-print run, while also launching a YouTube live show. Mr. Green discussed his plans for signing the book and also read a section to give viewers a sense of what The Fault in Our Stars would be about.

On the same day of the WSJ article, Green responded by tweeting, "I am genuinely uninterested in marketing, but I am VERY interested in being part of awesome communities."

Publisher @penguinusa also tweeted the news: "did you hear? @realjohngreen's new #ya novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is #1. One catch, he's still writing!"

To which Green could not resist shooting back: "@penguinusa HAHAHAHAHA Don't make fun of me corporate overlord or I will refused to finish it! ;)"

2. Laura Hillenbrand – Unbroken

Author: Laura Hillenbrand

Twitter: @laurahillenbran

Facebook: Laura Hillenbrand

Website/Blog: LauraHillenbrandBooks.com

Earlier this year New York Times bestseller Laura Hillenbrand – the author of Seabiscuit – participated in a new media experiment to promote her new book Unbroken, which follows a WWII pilot who was shot down, only to survive a Japanese prison camp.

NPR produced what it described as a "book club-meets-social media experiment" across its Facebook, Twitter and web presences -- places where Unbroken was widely discussed. On the NPR Books Facebook Page Hillenbrand also contributed to the discussion.

By achieving direct access to the author, readers like Robin Politowicz became inspired to write back:


Was there a moment in your research that just stopped you in your tracks? A particular incident or injustice or cruel twist of fate (of which there were so many) that gave you pause? Wonderful book – listened to the audio version on a long vacation drive, and had to think of errands to run once we got home so that we could finish listening :-)

–Robin Politowicz

Dear Robin,

Good question! There were so many breathtaking moments in Louie's story. I think the one that was most striking to me was the one when he was on the raft, and the Japanese bomber began strafing him and his raftmates. This was incredible enough, but in seeking cover under the raft, Louie ended up having to fight off sharks, striking them in their noses while the bullets showered down. I can't imagine that there's been another man in history who has been simultaneously fired upon and attacked by sharks. That he survived it continues to amaze me.


3. Blake Northcott – Vs. Reality

Author: Blake Northcott

Twitter: @ComicBookGrrl

Facebook: Vs. Reality

Website/Blog: BlakeNorthcott.com

If you're a new writer who's looking ahead to a seemingly daunting publishing task, take a tip from Toronto writer Blake Northcott.

She recently self-published Vs. Reality, a work she's calling a "comic book-inspired urban fantasy novel." The Kindle version is now available through Amazon.com.

During the nine months spent writing her comic and movie blog, she amassed a 16,000-strong Twitter following, and collected more than 1,700 personal Facebook friends. Furthermore, in the space of one week earlier this month, her re-launched blog got 4,500 page views.

To put the numbers in perspective, her Twitter tribe is roughly the same size as that of publisher Image Comics. And a few days ago, Goodreads.com notified Northcott that she is the tenth most-followed Canadian on the site.

Northcott's social media presence includes what she describes as an "instant feedback mechanism that tells me people are listening."

"People are so passionate about books, comics and movies," says Northcott. "When you connect with them on their level, and they know you're legitimate, they respect you a lot more. Social media facilitates the 'secret handshake' where you get into the club, and people know you're one of them."

4. Duane Swierczynski – Fun and Games

Author: Duane Swierczynski

Twitter: @swierczy

Facebook: Duane Swierczynski

Website/Blog: Secret Dead Blog

If Quentin Tarantino ever decided to put down his camera and pick up a novelist's pen, the result might read like the action-packed work of Duane Swierczynski. He writes hard-boiled thrillers that have the inventiveness, colorful characters and crackling dialogue of comic books.

His latest book, Fun and Games, was released a few weeks ago. To coincide with the release, Swierczynski devised a promotional contest that met with great fan approval.

To boost his pre-order numbers, Swierczynski invited fans to send him a confirmation once they had pre-ordered the book. In return, he randomly picked winners to which he sent personally chosen prizes - for example, signed copies of his five previous novels, a copy of Rockstar Games' recent title L.A. Noire, and even the right to name a minor character in the third book of his current trilogy. Additionally, he sent everyone who pre-ordered his book an offbeat postcard he picked up from the road, complete with a handwritten note of thanks.

"I was just talking to a friend the same age as me [late 30s] about how much harder it was to find like-minded people back in the early '90s," says Swierczynski. "Sure, there was 'zine culture, but other than that, you couldn't help but feel kind of all alone in the universe ... Social media makes it so much easier, and so many people I've met online have turned out to be good friends in real life. So [social media] is not really a 'strategy' – it's a matter of craving that hive-mind experience. And as part of that hive-mind, you should give as much as you take."

Image courtesy of Flickr, matthileo.

More About: amazon, authors, books, business, Facebok, MARKETING, publishing, social media, twitter

For more Social Media coverage:

Facebook Lets Expectant Parents Add Unborn Children to Friends & Family

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 01:46 PM PDT

Expectant parents can announce the good news to their Facebook friends via a brand new Facebook family member status option.

Facebook’s 750 million users can reveal their soon-to-be bundles of joy by updating the “Friends and Family” section of their profiles to include an “Expected:Child.” Parents can also choose to add a photo, the name of the unborn child and a due date.

Once added, the unborn child is listed alongside family members on the user’s profile, and a notification is posted on the user’s Facebook wall.

The status option seems to have been quietly rolled out to users last Wednesday, according to the British Daily Mail. At release, “a glitch in the system meant practical jokers could enter their friends’ names as expected children,” the paper reports. “This has now been fixed.”

The Mail also suggests the option is meant to appease expectant parents who would otherwise create profiles for their unborn child — and break Facebook’s terms of service.

“We're always testing new features,” a Facebook spokesperson tells Mashable. “Earlier this year, Facebook started providing the option to add an ‘Expected: Child’ as a way for users to more accurately express their identity.”

While some parents-to-be will delight in the ability to share the good news with their Facebook friends, no doubt others will balk at the idea. The Mary Sue Blog points out that the Facebook family member addition could be a potentially awkward one should the pregnancy not go as planned.

[via Laughing Squid]

Image courtesy of Flickr, salimfadhley

More About: facebook, pregnancy, social media, status update, trending

For more Social Media coverage:

White House Twitter Q&A Adds 3,100 Followers Per Day

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 01:34 PM PDT

U.S. President Barack Obama’s #Compromise campaign, which blasted his Twitter followers with the handles of reps to write to, may have cost him some 36,000 followers. (Although he has 9.4 million followers left, and the White House now says the drop was worth getting a debt ceiling deal done.) But now it seems the White House Twitter account is picking up the slack.

@WhiteHouse has added 22,000 followers in the last six days, the administration says. That’s 3,100 followers per day, or a 37% increase on the amount of new followers @WhiteHouse got each day previously. More important for the account’s influence is all the engagement it’s getting: @ mentions of the White House account surged from 500 per day to more than 9,000, a 450% increase in the kind of metric that services like Klout care about.

The reason for all this retweeting? Office Hours, the daily question-and-answer session launched last Tuesday, starring officials from the National Economic Council answering questions on fiscal policy. While that might not sound like the biggest draw on Twitter, there are a handful of reasons that explain why followers are flocking. Firstly, the economics duo — Brian Deese and Jason Furman — are answering our questions on the debt ceiling, which has been on many minds of late. Secondly, as the name of the program suggests, they’re keeping regular, pre-announced daily hours that are amenable to U.S. users. Monday, for example, Deese will be fielding your queries from 5 p.m. ET.

And thirdly, the pair appear to have a sense of humor — as shown when they rickrolled a questioner complaining of boredom. A random Rick Astley video care of the White House may not help anyone’s understanding of economics and the debt crisis, but it certainly provided some much-needed levity.

More About: barack obama, office hours, twitter, White House

For more Social Media coverage:

MTV’s 30th Anniversary: Has YouTube Killed the Video Star?

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 01:16 PM PDT

At 12:01 a.m. on August 1, 1981, the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll” were spoken over a montage of the first space shuttle launch. And with that, the cable network MTV was born. Originally accessible by a few thousand people on a northern New Jersey cable system, MTV is now in hundreds of millions of households across the globe.

Over the past 30 years, MTV has evolved from a small cable network that broadcasts broadcasts music videos into a true lifestyle brand that encompasses television, the Internet, the motion picture industry and even comic books.

Fittingly, the first video that aired on MTV in 1981 was Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles. The words were true. Almost overnight, the music video became one of the most important promotional and marketing vehicles for the music industry. Artists that best utilized the new format — Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Weird Al Yankovic — became not just stars, but icons. In short, video really did kill the radio star.

YouTube Killed the Music Video Channel?

Thirty years later, is the music video still relevant? And what then, of MTV. We spoke to Shannon Connolly, VP of digital music strategy at MTV Networks, about the evolution of MTV and the impact that digital distribution and technologies — especially YouTube — have had on the music side of MTV.

“At a macro level, new technology has fundamentally changed how people experience music,” Connolly said. Before the rise of YouTube and near-instant access to everything, “people waited around to watch a video on television” or used the TV as a way to “discover new music and artists.” That was true as recently as five or seven years ago, but it isn’t true anymore.

“We’re stoked about this in a way because it’s forced us to evolve and figure out what is the new role MTV wants to play in the music landscape,” Connolly said.

“For us, this is a great opportunity to change our role and say, ‘You know, we’ve evolved beyond being a music video jukebox.’ We’re still one of them and we think music videos are a great and important art form, but that’s not our core competency. Now, it’s about curation.”

She added that the role of curation is even more important today than it was five or 10 years ago because “there is infinite music and infinite access.”

MTV says it knows that music has never mattered more to its audience, and it finds ways to interweave music curation and music discovery across its platforms and brands. It’s easy to make a joke that MTV no longer plays music videos, but that isn’t really true.

MTV Networks has a number of dedicated digital cable channels that exclusively play music videos, MTV Hits and MTV Jams, for example, and it still has blocks of programming dedicated to music television. Beyond that, however, Connolly says the music directors at the network use the original programming that MTV broadcasts as a way to introduce new and emerging artists to a broader audience.

MTV’s Future

When I asked Connolly to envision where MTV is headed in the next five years, she emphasized that MTV is all about creating multi-platform music experiences.

“Everything is multi-platform. Every app, every partnership, we think ‘How is this going to extend from the tablet to the mobile to the connected TV.’ ” MTV’s approach to music experiences is no longer just about the TV as the main screen but instead the Internet as the main screen.

A Look Back at the First Day of MTV

We decided to put together a gallery of some of the first videos that aired on MTV on August 1, 1981. Check out these videos — Rod Stewart was in heavy rotation — and contrast them with some of the videos we premiere here in our Music Monday series to see just how much music and video as art forms have evolved over the last three decades.

In the comments, let us know your favorite music video from the past 30 years.

1. The Buggles -- "Video Killed the Radio Star"

2. Phil Collins -- "In The Air Tonight"

3. Talking Heads -- "Once in a Lifetime"

4. David Bowie -- "Fashion"

5. Blondie -- "Heart Of Glass"

6. The Pretenders -- "Brass in Pocket"

7. The Who -- "You Better You Bet"

8. Rod Stewart -- "I am Sailing"

9. Rod Stewart -- "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

10. Fleetwood Mac -- "Tusk"

BONUS: First minutes of MTV Launch

More About: convergeance, mtv, music, music videos, youtube

For more Media coverage:

Zynga’s Words With Friends to Launch on Facebook

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 12:46 PM PDT

Words With Friends, the popular Zynga mobile game, is heading to Facebook, Zynga has confirmed.

The new version of the word game will offer continuous play. That means if you start a game on your iPhone or Android device, you can continue it on Facebook, and vice-versa. The Facebook version will also notify players when it’s their turn, or they’ve been invited to a game. A recent update to Words With Friends allowed you to challenge your Facebook contacts to a game, but this is the first time the game will be available on Facebook itself.

It is also the first time Zynga has brought a mobile game to Facebook. The company’s best-known games, including FarmVille and Mob Wars, began on Facebook. There’s no official launch date for the Facebook version of Words With Friends, but it could come as early as this week.

Words With Friends was introduced in 2009 by startup Newtoy, which was snapped up by Zynga when the game became wildly popular. It’s a variation on Scrabble, with added chat functionality and a very relaxed two-week time limit for moves. Users can play up to 20 games at once. There’s a free version for iPhone, iPad and Android with ads; the iPhone and iPad have ad-free versions for $1.99 and $2.99 respectively.

The official Scrabble game is free on Facebook, but costs $2.99 for the iPhone version and $9.99 for an iPad iteration. There is also a free Android app.

Despite the game’s similarities to Scrabble, Zynga has so far avoided the fate of Scrabulous, a Facebook-based word game that Hasbro thought was too close to Scrabble. The owners of Scrabulous voluntarily pulled the game in 2008 and released another word game called Wordscraper that never quite caught on. Hasbro worked with Electronic Arts to release its Scrabble game for Facebook that year.

More About: android, facebook, gaming, ipad, iphone, Mobile 2.0, words with friends, Zynga

For more Social Media coverage:

What Does Social Media Mean for the Future of Mortality? [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 12:32 PM PDT

With 48 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, 200 million tweets being posted every day and the average Facebook user creating 90 pieces of content each month, this generation is publishing an unprecedented amount of data that will live in the cloud indefinitely — even after we're gone.

Back in July at TED Global in Edinburgh, Scotland (which I also covered for Mashable), I gave a 5-minute talk about the implications that the social media boom will have on the future of mortality, and what might become possible as technology's ability to understand and process the hundreds of thousands of pieces of content we're creating in our lifetimes continues to grow exponentially.

In my talk, I discussed a number of services that are already emerging for figuring out what happens to our online identity and social media accounts after we die, as well as a couple of examples of how people are already planning their digital legacy. Ultimately, I hypothesize that technology will one day be able to recreate a realistic representation of us as a result of the plethora of content we're creating converging with other advances in machine learning, robotics and large-scale data mining.

At the very least, the 1 billion or so people currently making use of social media will leave behind a legacy unlike anything created by any previous generation. At the most, we'll soon have a number of philosophical questions to deal with about the nature of our existence and what comes after it.

Check out my talk in the video below and let me know what you think in the comments.

More About: social media, TED, ted global

For more Social Media coverage:

Online Friendship Between Musicians Turns Into Album [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 12:18 PM PDT

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

Ever wanted to collaborate with your favorite musician? You could follow in the footsteps of L.A.-based musician AM, whose email to Shawn Lee helped yield the upcoming album Celestial Electric.

A few years ago, AM was coming home from tour when he heard one of Lee‘s tracks on the radio. AM dug the song’s ’70s vibe, so he reached out to Lee via email — hoping that the electronic missive would make it to the musician rather than a PR person or manager. Lee responded, and the two became overseas friends (Lee resides in London).

A few years later, the two started collaborating. Lee would send AM drumbeats, and AM would write songs over them. They continued trading tracks until they had enough songs for an album. You can check out a bit of their process in the video above, part of a series called "Building The Track.”

“It was a good chemistry,” AM says of the endeavor. “He could trust that I was going to come up with something cool, and I could trust that he was going to make it sound cool. So we didn’t have to be in the same room together, because we just knew that the instincts were matching.”

Going in, the musicians didn’t really know what would emerge. But AM says they limited the scope of the album by restricting the instrumentation to the bare minimum, including one electric guitar, a handful of cheap synthesizers, and Lee’s drum beats.

“In terms of the sound of the record, man, we didn’t really have a plan,” AM says. “It just came out that way. We knew that it was going to be groovy and funky and synthy.”

And groovy it is. The disc sounds like a synthed-out throwback to the ’70s. Check out the track “Somebody Like You” below.

“I still can’t believe I’m playing with Shawn,” AM says. “I’m still a fan. This has nothing to do with managers or anything, this is just pure artist-to-artist, and that, to me, is proof that if you’re a fan of somebody’s work, you should reach out to them — because there’s nothing to lose.”

Somebody Like You- AM & Shawn Lee by AMSOUNDS

More About: AM, music, music monday, Shawn-Lee, video

For more Media coverage:

Apple Puts TV Shows in the iCloud

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 11:59 AM PDT

Apple has quietly enhanced iCloud support for the iTunes Store, allowing users to re-download past television purchases and access them from iTunes, on Apple TV and within iOS devices.

In June, Apple rolled out iTunes and iCloud integration, which gave users the ability to download their music purchases onto other devices and to automatically sync new purchases across all devices.

The addition of TV shows means that movies are the only media type that are not automatically backed up to iCloud.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball discovered cloud support for TV shows when he installed an update for his Apple TV 2. The update also means that Apple TV users can now purchase TV shows, rather than just rent them. It also means that users can stream previous purchases from an Apple TV, without having to link up to a Mac or a PC. This instantly adds more versatility to the device.

As for iTunes and iOS users, the “Purchased” section of the iTunes store now carries a heading for “TV Shows.”

Our tests found most of the shows we have purchased from iTunes in the past, but it doesn’t look like the whole library is there. Let us know if you’ve purchased any shows that aren’t appearing in iCloud.

More About: icloud, itunes, iTunes Store, television, tv shows

For more Media coverage:

X Games Ushers in Human Tweeting [VIDEO]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 11:23 AM PDT

Ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, which is behind the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign, introduced “Human Twitter” last week during the X Games on ESPN. The program worked like this: Viewers who tweeted using the hashtag #humantwitter had a chance to have their tweets spelled out on TV by 160 letter-holders. (Why 160 when Twitter famously limits tweets to 140 characters? To account for line breaks. The agency didn’t want to continue a word on the next line.)

The effort resulted in relevant tweets related to Travis Pastrana's devastating injury and the X Games' first-ever Moto X forward front flip by Jackson Strong. The program was a creative response to Twitter, which isn’t the most advertiser-friendly of mediums on first blush. However, Human Tweets wasn’t designed to promote anything in particular. A Wieden rep says it was meant to be a “fun, interactive event ESPN wanted to do that is meant to give fans a way to interact with the athletes at the X Games.”

[via Creativity Online]

More About: ESPN, old spice, twitter, Weiden + Kennedy, x games

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

Google Buys Daily Deals Aggregator Dealmap

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 11:07 AM PDT

Despite a flood of new entrants, the daily deals category is still red-hot, as evidenced by Google’s purchase of deals aggregator Dealmap. The acquisition was confirmed Monday; the terms were not disclosed.

Formed in May 2010, Dealmap claims about 2 million users who check in to get access to deals from 450 sources that are organized by location. Users who log in via the website or mobile apps find deals in their area.

“We believe Google provides the ideal platform to help us accelerate our growth and fulfill our mission,” says Dealmap’s blog. “We're passionate about helping people save money while having great local experiences, and in Google we've found the perfect partner that shares this passion, as well as our vision and strategy.”

The purchase comes after Google’s $6 billion bid for Groupon was famously rebuffed last December. By the next month, though, Google was in the process of rolling out its own Groupon competitor, Google Offers, which is now live in New York; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco and Oakland, California. The service will also be available soon in Boston, Austin, Denver, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, simonmconico

More About: daily deals, Dealmap, Google, groupon, LivingSocial

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

Twitterverse Rallies To Prevent Suicide

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 10:50 AM PDT

The Twitter community saved a South African mother’s life following a string of suicidal tweets Friday.

Beginning at 9:17 p.m. local time, the distressed mother began sending troubling messages, quickly catching the concerned attention of her followers.

Although her tweets have since been removed, the South African website Memeburn quoted her saying, “Please don't save me, I just didn't want to die alone. … If u hate the mother of your kids, hurt her, leave her, break her down and take them from her and then isolate her. Take all she loves away. … Asking god almighty to forgive my final sin, love my angels, forgive my humanity, take my pain away.”

Realizing the tweets’ severity, her friends and family started seeking help via Twitter, searching for anyone who knew her whereabouts. Nicholas Dawes, editor of South Africa’s weekly Mail and Guardian, joined the conversation early, drawing national attention to the woman’s tweets.


As the conversation spread, Twitter users retweeted her home address and phone number. They sent wishes her way using the hashtags #SaveGina and #FindGina.

Early Saturday morning @SynStalker and @etiennebeneke reported the woman had been located and was safe with her family. @SynStalker is organizing an In Awe of Twitter Tweetup this Friday to celebrate the power of Twitter in times of need.

We’ve seen people send extraordinary tweets before, but this weekend the social network’s community proved it can save lives.

More About: social media, suicide prevention

For more Social Media coverage:

5 Ways Google+ Will Drive Social Video Growth

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 10:49 AM PDT

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

Chris Schreiber is director of marketing at social video advertising company Sharethrough. Before joining Sharethrough, Chris worked in the Global Communications and Public Affairs Department for Google, helping design and execute communications strategy for key consumer applications and social media initiatives.

The new set of features offered by Google+ represents the next chapter for the social web, helping it move from a platform that facilitates conversation and content sharing to a mechanism that can deliver much deeper social experiences. This new forum for creating connected audiences will pay off big for brands that create great video content.

In particular, Google+ is opening up a number of different opportunities for brands to get their videos seen and shared. It's quite possible that we will look back on the Google+ launch as a landmark moment for social video advertising, because of the new possibilities it created for people to share, co-view, chat and text about entertaining videos.

Here are five ways Google+ will help the social video industry.

1. More Focused Sharing

While some have taken advantage of Facebook’s features to segment their personal friend network, many have let their friend pool remain one large network with whom they share everything.  This means that when they share a video on Facebook, it goes out to a very broad audience, which includes many people who won’t be interested. Some of us may also hesitate to share a video if it means that everyone in our network — including family and even co-workers — will see it.
The Google+ “Circles” feature, which offers an intuitive way to segment your friend groups, will ease the process of sharing creative brand videos with groups that you know will appreciate them. While I would normally be a little reluctant to share a video as absurd as Skittles Moneyshot with my widely varied Facebook friends, my newly created “Social Video Junkies” Google+ circle will appreciate it.

2. Co-viewing Experiences

The Google+ Hangouts feature allows for live video chat in the same “room” as multiple friends.  Hangouts’ tight integration with YouTube allows for genuinely new social video group experiences.

We all love sharing hilarious videos with friends. The only thing better than getting comments on your Facebook feed or via email is to hear people’s laughter and reactions live, “in person.” Hangouts will offer a new real-time, collaborative viewing experience for social video campaigns, which will massively amplify the benefits of these videos for the brands that create them.

3. Mobile Reach

Now imagine you have created a Hangout with friends. You’re all hysterically laughing at a video together, but one of your friends is not online to join. Google+’s “Huddle” feature now comes into play. With Huddle, you can text groups of people or individual friends via the Google+ mobile app to let them know you’re gathering to watch a video.  When friends receive a new message in Huddle, Google+ sends a push notification to their phone.
Huddle stands to be a really interesting way to extend conversations that start at the desk and move into the mobile space. It’s a great way to connect a disparate audience around a good piece of content.

4. Better Data

Data is king at Google. The Google+ Business profiles already promise to include deep analytics, and while little has been announced as yet, one can imagine that powerful new types of social data insights will become available to advertisers about their YouTube campaigns.

By providing rich data capabilities, Google+ could allow advertisers to gather new insights on the quantity and quality of sharing for their campaigns. Google+’s new collaborative features could also introduce interesting new data categories for advertisers, such as average co-viewing view length (how long a group watched a brand’s video together) versus individual view length stats or engagement metrics via Huddle (mobile) versus Hangouts (desktop). 

5. SEO Opportunities

While the relationship between the +1 button, Google+ and Google Search is still being sorted out (probably even by Google itself), there are clearly going to be opportunities for advertisers to boost their search results with videos that go viral. Whether content is surfaced based on the +1s of people in your circles or through broad social sentiment around search results, popular social video campaigns stand to gain more search relevance as users interact with it. And once a great video gets discovered, Hangouts and Huddles are sure to follow.

More About: Google, Google Plus, List, Lists, social media, trending, video, web video, youtube

For more Social Media coverage:

Twitter Confirms Significant Round of Funding

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 10:03 AM PDT

Twitter confirmed Tuesday that it has raised a “significant round of funding led by the venture firm DST Global, with the participation of several of our existing investors.”

The announcement comes just weeks after rumors suggested that Twitter was in the process of raising $800 million in funding at an $8 billion valuation.

In a post on the company’s blog, Twitter talks about expanding the company’s reach with the new funding. “We will use these resources to aggressively innovate, hire more great people and invest in international expansion,” the company says.

The company, however, does not disclose the size of the round, its current valuation or whether it will cash out early employees and investors, as suggested by earlier reports. If the previously reported $800 million figure is accurate, Twitter has raised more than $1.15 billion in funding to date.

The round’s lead investor, Digital Sky Technologies, is a prominent late stage venture firm with sizable stakes in Facebook, Groupon and Zynga.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment further on the funding round.

More About: DST, funding, twitter

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

Viral Star iamamiwhoami Releases New Video Before Her First Live Performance

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 09:51 AM PDT

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

One week before her first live performance at Sweden’s Way Out West, Jonna Lee (a.k.a. iamamiwhoami) is out with a new video — a continuation of the vid for “;john,” which accompanied an announcement that she would emerge from the shadows to play the summer music fest.

iamamiwhoami started as an anonymous YouTube entity in December 2009, sending music bloggers links to artful, epic videos with meandering mysterious storylines.

Now, however, more than a year later, we know that iamamiwhoami is a project headed by Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee. The project even garnered Lee and Co. an MTV OMA nomination for Most Innovative Artist. However, it lost to Lady Gaga.

The above video — for the song “Clump” — picks up right where “;john” left off, with Lee lying on a bed of what appears to be toilet paper rolls, intercut with scenes featuring a mysterious, hairy creature romping in the tall grass. It’s a highly sensual video — without showing any skin — so be forewarned if you have an over-the-shoulder kind of boss.

[h/t Kevin Anderson]

More About: iamamiwhoami, music, video, viral video, viral-video-of-day, way-out-west

For more Video coverage:

Marketers Expect To Increase Advertising on YouTube, LinkedIn & Foursquare [STUDY]

Posted: 01 Aug 2011 09:35 AM PDT

In the world of social media marketing, Facebook and Twitter dominate — but advertising on YouTube, LinkedIn and Foursquare is expected to increase in the coming year, according to research conducted at the May 2011 Pivot Conference.

Of the marketers surveyed, two-thirds were already participating in social media advertising, and 18% more planned to initiate campaigns in the next year. Success rates were nearly split down the middle, with 54% of those running ads reporting that they were satisfied with their social advertising activities.

Among survey respondents, 93% have deployed campaigns on Facebook, while 78% of respondents have advertised on Twitter.

The survey points toward an increase in advertising spend on YouTube, LinkedIn and Foursquare. At least 20% of respondents plan on deploying programs on those platforms in the next year.

It looks like a number of social platforms will be losing out on the advertising front in the coming year as well. More than 50% of advertisers responded that they have never — and do not plan to — run campaigns on MySpace, Meebo, Gowalla, Mylife and Tagged.

Despite the fact that a large number of advertisers surveyed have activated social campaigns, Facebook’s social advertising platform seems to be the only one that’s getting good ratings out of marketers. The above chart from eMarketer illustrates how ad offerings on social sites stack up against one another. Perhaps most surprising is the finding that only 22% of respondents believe that Foursquare’s ad offerings are “excellent” or “good.”

Regardless of the iffy feelings that marketers have toward current ad offerings on social platforms, this study indicates that marketers are ready to experiment with more social platforms beyond Facebook and Twitter.

What are your thoughts on social advertising? Which platforms does your company use and which does it plan to try in the coming year? Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ooyoo

More About: advertising, digital advertising, facebook, foursquare, linkedin, online advertising, twitter, youtube

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

Back to the top