Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Inviting Your Friends to Google+ Just Got a Lot Easier [INVITES]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Inviting Your Friends to Google+ Just Got a Lot Easier [INVITES]”

Inviting Your Friends to Google+ Just Got a Lot Easier [INVITES]

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 07:03 PM PDT

Inviting your friends to Google+ just got a lot easier, thanks to a subtle change that Google+ has rolled out to its users.

The update gives you the ability to share Google+ invites by simply sharing a link. By sharing your unique link with your friends, up to 150 of them can instantly sign up for Google’s social network. The search giant still offers inviting friends via email as an option.

The update was announced earlier this week by Google+ engineer Balaji Srinivasan. “Since we’re still in field trial, we’re limiting sign-ups from these links to 150 per person for now,” Srinivasan noted in his Google+ post.


While Google has decided not to make Google+ public yet, this should provide yet another boost to Google+’s growth. The social network has amassed approximately 25 million users in its first five weeks, and it continues to grow. One study even predicts that Google+ could have more users than Twitter and LinkedIn within the next year.

To kick things off, I thought that I would share my 150 invites with Mashable‘s readers. If you’re fast enough, you can get an invite by clicking here. And if you need some people to follow, you’re always welcome to add me, Pete Cashmore or the entire Mashable staff to your circles.

More About: Google, Google Plus, invites, social networking

Review: Now You Can Play Angry Birds On a Roku 2 [PICS]

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 03:54 PM PDT

Roku 2 is a streaming video box that’s been radically redesigned, and its newest and hottest feature is the ability to play that goofy but fun game, Angry Birds. Included with this device that’s scarcely larger than a hockey puck is a brand-new game remote with an accelerometer on board. That lets you control objects on the screen using gestures, much like the Nintendo Wii.

For our review, Roku sent us its $99.99 Roku 2 XS model, the top-of-the-line unit that includes an Ethernet port, a USB port for playing video, music and photos from an external storage device, and that new game remote along with the Angry Birds software. The least-expensive model is the Roku 2 HD, a $59.99 box that’s limited to 720p resolution. The middle model, the Roku 2 XT is $79.99, and adds 1080p video playback. Here’s a Roku product matrix to help you keep the three models straight.

Connecting the Roku 2 is a simple process of plugging in its power cable and then connecting Ethernet (or not if you’re using its on-board Wi-Fi) and HDMI cables to your TV or home theater receiver. The tedious part of the setup is getting the Roku acquainted with your various credentials on services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora.

Aside from its newfound gameplaying capabilities and radical design changes, the Roku 2 interface and sources are almost identical to its predecessor. It does an admirable job of playing high-definition content from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus and lots of other video sources that you can see listed here.

As a longtime Roku user, I’ve always admired its simple interface, allowing you to quickly select sources, and skip forward or rewind video playback with ease. Both its 802.11n Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections work well, and overall, it’s a worthy addition to any home theater with one caveat: If you’d like to watch YouTube videos using Roku, you’re out of luck.

The big new feature for this Roku 2 XS is its Angry Birds game, the only game so far for Roku. I’m a big Angry Birds aficionado, so I had great fun playing this Roku version, which adds more physicality to an already excellent game.

The accelerometer in this new remote is accurate and sensitive, and lends itself well to Angry Birds mayhem. To launch a bird, you press and hold the OK button while gesturing with your hand pull to back the slingshot. When you let go of the OK button, you’ve launched a bird on its way toward slaying those porcine scoundrels lurking underneath various woodwork and icy planks. This is big fun.

Roku is tightlipped about what’s in store for this nascent gaming platform, but I think its future is bright. You’ll be able to play against an opponent using an additional controller in future games, and if Roku can attract developers to create good content for this platform, it could be a promising and relatively low-cost way to play some engaging games.

Although the Roku 2 can’t play the variety of video files (such as .mkv files) that competing boxes such as the WD TV or the Boxee Box can, for streaming Netflix and Hulu videos — and now for playing Angry Birds — it can’t be beat.

Roku 2 Gallery

Connect Roku 2 to Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and feed that 1080p video to your TV or receiver via HDMI. There's room for a micro SD card for game and settings storage, too.

Roku 2 Front

It's slightly larger than a hockey puck.

The Purple Tab

The tab has no function, but is a quirky design touch that I like.

USB Port

This is a streaming box, but there's a USB port for plugging in an external drive or future peripherals.


Its rubber pad keeps this diminutive device from slipping around too much.


This is the first time I've seen a remote that's bigger than the device it controls.


It's new, shiny and has an accelerometer on board.

Slot for Strap

Roku recommends attaching the included purple strap in this slot, to keep from smashing your TV while engaging in vigorous game play.

Like a TiVo Bone

The shape of the remote's underside makes it fit perfectly in the hand.

Move It!

It's like a magic wand.

Angry Birds Loading Screen

It takes 23 seconds to load Angry Birds.

Cursor Control

You control the cursor with hand motions.

Angry Birds

It feels just like the iPhone version, but that hand control takes a bit of training.

Flipping the Bird

Hold the OK button, pull back with a hand gesture, and let the bird fly by letting go of the OK button.

Roku Interface

It's largely unchanged from previous versions, but pleasant to use.


The best channel among many on Roku.

Pandora Radio

Another fave is Pandora. Missing? YouTube! Too bad.

More About: games, hands-on, home theater, netflix, pandora, review, roku 2 xs, streaming video, video

10 Travel Tips for Protecting Your Privacy

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 02:30 PM PDT

Fran Maier is the president and executive chair of TRUSTe, the leading online privacy solutions provider. She speaks widely on issues of online privacy and trust and is active in mentoring women in technology. She serves on a number of Internet and trust-related boards, including the Online Trust Alliance.

At the peak of summer, the weather is not all that's heating up – privacy, it turns out, has never been hotter. From senators to major news outlets, it seems everyone has privacy on the mind these days.

What does this have to do with your upcoming vacation? Well, chances are you're packing more than a swimsuit and a beach book – what about your smartphone, laptop, tablet and digital camera? These devices are loaded with personal information and pose significant privacy risks if not properly protected during travel. Exercise a little common sense and follow these privacy tips to help protect your personal information and ensure a safe and relaxing vacation.

1. Use Secure Wi-Fi and "https" Whenever Possible

If you're connecting to a wireless network, be it at a café or your hotel lobby, it should be password-protected to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing the network. You can also ask the venue if they have encryption enabled for their wireless router, which provides an extra layer of defense. If you plan to log in to your online accounts or enter sensitive credit card information over Wi-Fi, make sure the website URLs begin with "https," indicating that they encrypt your data during transmission.

2. Consider Tracking or "Find Me" Apps for Your Digital Devices

Computers, tablets and smartphones are popular theft targets due to their high resale value, but you can equip them with 21st century anti-theft protection. Choose from a variety of apps that allow you to track and potentially recover your devices in the event of theft. Some apps take photos of the perpetrator, geo-locate the stolen devices or even allow you to remotely log in to the devices.

3. Don't Broadcast Your Absence on Social Media

Announcing your travel plans on a social media account can clue potential thieves to an opportunity to raid your vacant home. This threat is especially magnified if your social media accounts are public.

4. Log Out Of Public Computers

If you check your email at an Apple store or Internet café while on vacation, remember to sign out of your online accounts when you're done. Simply closing the browser window is not enough – some accounts may keep you logged in. Therefore, the next person who tries to log in to their own email or social networking account will have full access to yours.

5. Consider Leaving Your Laptop At Home

If you're thinking about packing your work computer, remember it may contain sensitive information. Border agents have sweeping search powers upon country reentry, and have the power to search and copy the contents of your smartphone or computer. Depending on the device’s information, maybe it's best to leave it at home.

6. Monitor Your Financial Statements In Real Time

A daily check of your credit card and bank account while traveling can't hurt. Tourists are often prominent targets for fraud; therefore, daily monitoring can help target suspicious activity (like double-charges) right away. However, remember to only check these sensitive financial accounts using a secure Internet connection.

7. Password-Protect Your Devices

Your devices and the data they contain are more vulnerable when you are on the road or visiting an unfamiliar place. If you have sensitive information on your digital devices such as medical records, password-protect or even encrypt sensitive files for further protection. If your devices are stolen, you'll have peace of mind knowing your data is safe.

8. Lock Sensitive Documents/Devices In Your Hotel Room Safe

If the place at which you're staying doesn't offer a safe, then securely carry them on your person.

9. Cameras Are At-Risk Too

Your smartphone and laptop aren't the only devices with personal data. Last year I lost my Wi-Fi-equipped camera while traveling abroad. After my return to the U.S., I discovered that the camera had automatically uploaded pictures to my online account. Lo and behold, they were not my photos! The new camera owners had unwittingly uploaded their family vacation photos to my online account via the camera's Wi-Fi-enabled memory card.

10. Check Your Privacy Settings Before Sharing Vacation Photos

When you return from your travels, it may be tempting to immediately upload your vacation photos to your social networking account, but take a minute to review your privacy settings beforehand. That photo of you taking tequila shots at the poolside bar could end up in the network feed of your boss or a future employer.

Images courtesy of Flickr, Giorgio Montersino, jjprojects, Jack Zalium.

More About: gadgets, Holiday, Mobile 2.0, privacy, smartphone, social networking, tech, technology, travel, vacation, wifi

45 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 01:37 PM PDT

At this point of the week, you know the features roundup is headed your way! The only difference this time around is that our tech features involve things like beer and Shark Week!

Okay, now that we’ve gotten your attention, tune in for the latest in social media obervations, startup tips and geeky gadgetry galore. Pack your brain with fascinating facts about the history of mobile phones. Satisfy your curiosity by discovering where those darn-cute Google Doodles come from. And tap into the best LinkedIn apps for sales teams. It’s your world — we just write for it.

Editors’ Picks

Social Media

Planet of the Apes: Can Social Media Help a Reboot of a Reboot?

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 12:26 PM PDT

The Summer Blockbuster Series analyzes the social media campaigns behind major summer movie releases.

Rebooting a classic film franchise is difficult. Rebooting a franchise that already had a high-profile (if critically panned) refresh only a decade ago is even more of a challenge. That’s the task faced by director Rupert Wyatt and 20th Century Fox with the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which opened in theaters August 5.

Rise is a new origin story written as a prequel to the 1968 film, Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston.

Rise joins a growing list of Hollywood remakes or reboots of franchises that already tried (and failed) at making a comeback. Five years after Ang Lee’s Hulk failed to make the green hero into a movie franchise, Marvel Studios tried again with 2008′s The Incredible Hulk. After negotiations with director Sam Raimi broke down for Spider-Man 4, Sony opted to reboot the franchise from the ground up with Andrew Garfield. The Superman franchise is getting its own reboot in 2013, just seven years after Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns failed to bring the Man of Steel silver screen success.

And so, a decade after Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes hit theaters, 20th Century Fox is also trying again.

Let’s look at the social and digital strategy that 20th Century Fox is taking with this film.


The Facebook page for Rise of the Planet of the Apes is aiming for fan engagement. It’s asking fans to “Like” the page to unlock access to more features. These features include research videos, an iPhone app (also available in the App Store) and “exclusive content.”

We’re not sure how well this approach has worked for overall engagement, as the film only has 67,000 likes, but it’s a novel tactic nevertheless.

The rest of the page is sparse in terms of content and features, especially when compared to other films in our Summer Blockbuster series.

iPhone App

In the mobile arena, 20th Century Fox released a special iPhone app, Apes Will Rise [iTunes link] to help promote the film.

The app includes a memory game, access to information about the film, the film’s YouTube channel and access to online ticket information.

We like the app and its features but we wonder why this was limited to the iPhone. Many of these features would seem right at home on the film’s Facebook page or other mobile carriers.


The studio has its own Twitter account, @apeswillrise, and is also using the hashtag #apewillrise to promote the film.

Like Facebook, the Twitter promotion for this film is more limited than what we’ve seen with other would-be franchise films this summer.


The most comprehensive social media promotion for Rise of the Planet of the Apes is its YouTube channel. Not only does the page have a custom design with real-time updates, it also has a ton of HD video, ape films, behind-the-scenes moments, TV spots and various versions of the film trailer.

Even though the channel is just a few months old, it already has more than 32 million views and is in the top 30 most-viewed channels on YouTube for the United States.

Special Effects Livestream

WETA Digital, the special effects team behind the film, held a live video conference unveiling the apes in the film using

This 30 minute presentation did a lot to show the techniques that went into creating the apes as well as the motion capture technology WETA Digital used for the project.

Can a Muted Campaign Lead to Success?

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is expected to easily win the weekend. Early reviews of the film are also positive, which could lead to better word-of-mouth buzz.

Still, we have to wonder if the digital campaign behind the film is as strong as it could be. Rebooting an iconic franchise is hard work. A more robust social campaign would likely give the film a better shot at connecting with audiences.

Does the Rise digital campaign pass muster? Let us know what you think in the comments.

More About: Film, Movies, planet of the apes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Summer Blockbuster Series

Computer Vision Syndrome: Do Your Eyes Have It? Here’s Help [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 11:25 AM PDT

Feeling bleary-eyed after a long day in front of your various screens? Here’s an infographic full of tips and techniques to ease your eyes into the digital world, showing you ways to cope with staring into screens all day.

If that’s not enough, the infographic gives you a peek at present and future tech that will make your eyes positively bionic, as well as new devices doctors are now using to diagnose eye problems much more efficiently than ever.

This must be getting bad — Those Acronym-Making People (TAMP — okay, I made that one up) have created one for the eye health problems that ensue after staring at screens for an average of six hours per day: CVS, or Computer Vision Syndrome:

Infographic created by Mezzmer Eyeglasses

More About: computer vision syndrome, CVS, eyestrain, health, infographic, trending, vision

Hackers Break Into 70 Law Enforcement Websites

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 10:16 AM PDT

Those hackers calling themselves Anonymous are at it again, this time breaking into 70 law enforcement websites and spreading 10GB of email addresses and confidential credit card data.

Members of the group said they were hacking into the law enforcement websites, most located in the Southern and Central portions of the U.S., in retaliation for arrests of its members in the U.S. and Europe last month. According to the Associated Press, the group said in a statement:

“We are releasing a massive amount of confidential information that is sure to (embarrass), discredit and incriminate police officers across the US,” adding that it hoped the leak would “demonstrate the inherently corrupt nature of law enforcement using their own words” and “disrupt and sabotage their ability to communicate and terrorize communities.”

The group was apparently following through on a joint statement it issued last month along with members of another hacking group known as LulzSec:

"These governments and corporations are our enemy," the statement said. "And we will continue to fight them, with all methods we have at our disposal, and that certainly includes breaking into their websites and exposing their lies."

Anonymous and others have become significantly more successful at breaking into websites in the past few months, targeting such sites as PayPal, the CIA, the U.S. Senate’s site, Sony’s PlayStation Network and Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper.

What is it going to take to stop these criminals?

More About: anonymous, crime, hackers, lulzsec

Social Faceoff: Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Google+ [POLL]

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 09:16 AM PDT

In the war for social media supremacy, Facebook is king, but Twitter is a major player and Google is making both companies nervous with Google+. All three can’t be winners, though — most people simply don’t have enough hours in the day to use three different social networks.

So, we ask you: which social media service has your support?

That’s the question of the week for this special edition of the Web Faceoff, a series where we ask you, the readers, to choose between two competing web companies or products. Today, the question is simple: Do you prefer Facebook, Twitter or Google+?

It’s been interesting to see people compare Facebook, Twitter and Google+ against each other. Some say Google+ is a threat to Twitter, not Facebook, while others think Google+ will never go mainstream. More than half of Mashable readers in a recent poll we conducted said they intend to leave Facebook for Google+.

Clearly much has changed since 2009, when Facebook bested Twitter in one of our first Web Faceoffs.

So which social network gets your vote? Let your voice be heard in the poll below, and let us know why you voted the way you did in the comments.

More About: facebook, Google, Google Plus, poll, trending, twitter, web faceoff

Google Doodle Commemorates Lucille Ball’s 100th Birthday

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 08:17 AM PDT

Today would have been comedian Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday, and to commemorate the occasion, there’s an interactive Google Doodle for your viewing pleasure.

If you don’t recognize that boxy device in the picture above, that’s what TVs used to look like back in the ’50s, and if you go to, click on that TV’s channel changing knob and you can watch your choice of seven of the funniest and most memorable clips from the vintage TV hit I Love Lucy.

SEE ALSO: Google's Musical Doodle Lives On — On Its Own Web Page

My favorite, the chocolate factory conveyor belt where Lucy can’t quite keep up, is the best of the bunch, and even though I’ve seen it hundreds of times it still makes me laugh every time.

Happy birthday, Lucy!

Here are some other interactive and animated Google doodles you’ll enjoy:

The Christmas Google Doodle

Each package gets larger with a mouse-over, and a click on it returns search results pertinent to a specific country or the particular items featured in a scene. This one is from December 24, 2010.

Charlie Chaplin Google Doodle

The Google Doodle team stars in an homage to the silent film era's greatest star's 122nd birthday, April 15, 2011.

Google Logo Repelled by Cursor

This one's done in HTML5 and was published Sept. 7, 2010. To get the full effect, here's one you can interact with.

John Lennon Google Doodle

This Doodle commemorated John Lennon's 70th birthday in October 2010.

Martha Graham

Debuting May 10, 2011, this Google Doodle marks dance choreographer Martha Graham's birthday.

Robert Bunsen

Commemorated the birthday of the inventor of the Bunsen burner, German chemist Robert Bunsen on March 31, 2011.

Thomas Edison

The great inventor's birthday was honored on February 11, 2011.

Independence Day

Marking Independence Day 2010.

Pac-Man's 30th Anniversary

A real crowd pleaser was this playable Pac-Man game, which appeared on May 21. 2010. Here's a playable version.

More About: 100th birthday, birthdays, google doodle, Lucille Ball, trending

4 Excellent Indie Games With Real Educational Value

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 07:39 AM PDT

Flinging exasperated birds across your iPhone screen can be fun but mindless. And while Math Blaster was better than doing homework, you wouldn’t often find kids begging their parents for video games about long division (Worst. Birthday. Ever.).

These days, independent game developers are giving triple-A studios a run for their buckets of money. And while white-knuckle shooters and old-timey platformers abound in the indie space, some of the most fun offerings feature immersive mechanics that twist the ol’ noggin in creative new ways.

And therein lies the secret sauce of educational gaming: an experience that’s so entertaining, you won’t even feel your neurons firing.

Whether you’re hunting for new entertainment or trying to hook your kids on something more constructive than text messaging, we’ve highlighted some projects that are innovating the industry. Also, by playing and purchasing these titles, you’ll be supporting independent development.

Are you playing any cerebral indie games right now? Tell us your favorites (and where to get them) in the comments below.

1. Kerbal Space Program

Ever build a model rocket and shoot it off behind the school? (If not, I'll be over here quietly weeping for your childhood.) To ensure maximum altitude and the safe return of the capsule, your miniature engineering skills had to be up to snuff.

Indie sim Kerbal Space Program aims to recreate that challenge on your PC. Your mission: engineer a rocket ship that can get three adorable alien astronauts into orbit without, you know, sending them to a fiery death.

Essentially, you're trying create enough thrust to overcome the weight of your ship, while packing enough fuel to get out of the atmosphere — the same challenges that face real aeronautic engineers. Admittedly, it's also fun watching your idiotic designs explode on the launching pad. The game is still in the alpha stage, and while the selection of boosters, fuel tanks and couplers available may seem limited now, the combinations are endless.

While basically a proof-of-concept right now, keep an eye on KSP. There are plans in the works for more rocket parts, different mission types, community modding and deeper space program management.

Education Factor: Physics, engineering

Price: Free!

2. Universe Sandbox

Too impatient to meddle with rocket parts? Jump right into the stars with Universe Sandbox, an incredibly detailed virtual planetarium.

Every known body in our solar system is accounted for in this game, each with its own granular roster of stats (mass, diameter, density, orbit eccentricity, etc.) that guide its movements according to Newtonian physics. Additional simulations show extra-solar bodies and neighboring galaxies in limited detail.

Zoom down to the surfaces of Saturn's moons, or fly back thousands of lightyears to see our solar neighborhood in cosmic perspective. Quickly search for a celestial name, or glide your mouse across orbital trails to focus in on dwarf planets, moons and stars. The scope of these features alone makes Universe Sandbox a top notch simulation.

But that's just the tip of the asteroid. As the game's title suggests, this is a completely malleable universe. Manipulate any or all of the above stats to dynamically change the cosmos. Throw five extra moons into orbit around Venus, make Neptune a black hole, or give Pluto enough mass to reclaim its former planethood — take that, scientists!

Smash planets together, change the gravitational constant and watch the solar system spin into oblivion. The controls are so precise that you're not just exploding celestial bodies — you're deciding how many pieces they explode into.

Perhaps the only fault of this mind-blowing simulator is that the options are ridiculously granular — there's so much to do, you may not even know what you're doing half the time.

Dabbling in this scale model of the universe will certainly put things into perspective, and the meticulous attention to scientific detail should make it a go-to learning aide for every classroom.

Education Factor: Astronomy, physics

Price: $9.99

3. Crayon Physics Deluxe

Crayon Physics has been around for a few years now, but it's always refreshing to watch this concept in action. It's a puzzler at heart — guide the ball to the star, advance to the next level. But it's the open-ended design that makes it special.

There's no right or wrong way to solve a level. Draw anything with your mouse and it will become a physical object on the game board. Advancing the ball could be as simple as dropping a large box on it, or drawing an elaborate pulley and ramp system. Your sketches can turn into wheels, ropes and levers, all of which obey the rules of gravity and collision once you lift your finger off the mouse.

There is a lot of game packed into the deluxe version, so if this kind of creative brain bender appeals to you, snag it. You won't be sorry.

Education Factor: Physics, creativity

Price: $19.95

4. Minecraft

The poster child for modern indie game development, Minecraft was created by lone Swedish programmer Markus Persson and was offered as a buggy alpha release back in May of 2009. For about $12 players who purchased the evolving game would have access to all subsequent iterations, forever.

The popularity of the sandbox building game exploded on social networks like Reddit and YouTube. People follow its development religiously and share their amazing creations across the web. To date, Minecraft has sold 3 million copies, and it's not even finished.

Beyond the business model, the game itself is pretty groundbreaking (groundbreaking — see what I did there?). Every square meter of the procedurally-generated world is a block. Break down a block of wood to acquire the wood; break down a block of stone, acquire that stone. Use the materials in various combinations to craft tools that let you harvest other blocks. Place blocks to build structures, and use tools to mine deeper into the earth for valuable minerals.

What Minecraft lacks in accurate physics, it makes up for in unparalleled sandbox creativity. It's like Legos on crack. There's even a mineral that lets you lay electrical circuits, which players have used to build everything from switch-activated doors to working computers inside the game.

Education Factor: Architecture, electrical engineering, computer science, creativity

Price: €14.95 (about $21)

More About: Crayon Physics, education, gaming, Kerbal Space Program, List, Lists, minecraft, Universe Sandbox, video games

The Not-So-United Android & iPhone States of America

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 06:27 PM PDT

The state you call home may indicate more than you realize about your mobile phone preferences.

In a July report, mobile advertising company Jumptap released a colorcoded map, entitled “United States of Android,” showing the geographical mobile makeup of the United States.

Yellow states are dominated by Android admirers and blue states by iOS fans. BlackBerry is prevalent in the handful of gray-shaded sates. As you can see, Android patriots are amassed in South and Southwest states, while iOS loyalists are pooled together in Northeast and Midwest states. In particular, California, Texas and Florida over-index for Android use and states in New England and the Midwest over-index for iOS use, according to the report.

With California skewing toward Android usage, the company decided to further breakout mobile predilections in the state city-by-city. iOS cities include San Francisco, San Jose, Modesto, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Chico, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Napa. Sacramento, Visalia and Redding are Android cities. Meanwhile, San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside are bubble cities that are too close to call.

We should note, as Jumptap does, that numbers do no represent market share or shipment numbers, but instead reflect the data of the 83 million users on the company’s network.

More About: android, iOS, Mobile 2.0, trending, united states

New App Searches Your Social Graph for the Right Contact [INVITES]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:49 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.


Quick Pitch: searches Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for the contacts who are likely to have the answer to your question.

Genius Idea: Analyzing public posts to find who frequently discusses a given topic.

Snapgoods is a startup that connects people who want to rent or borrow something with the people in their social networks and neighborhood who are willing to lend it out. As with most new online services, the site makes it easy to reach out to your social graph for help with the task. “Know someone with a tent in New York?” I recently asked my Twitter population from the site. “Will pay up to $50 for three days.”

But it’s unlikely that this posting will result in a tent.

“There’s just such a low conversion, when you sort of push into your stream “hey has anyone ever…? Or, hey, does anyone have a…?” Snapgoods co-founder Ron Williams says.

Williams’s solution, which he and his co-founder put online about six weeks ago, is called Instead of posting an open-ended question to your social feeds, helps find the people in your network who would be best to ask. It does this by searching the public activity of your contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

When you search for “tent,” for instance, the web app looks for people who have mentioned tents. It’s also easy to search for people who have talked about and live in a location or who have worked at a specific company. Once you’ve located the appropriate contacts, you can message them all in one swoop — even if they’re not users.

The private beta version of the web app was cut off at about 400 users, but its creators are planning on incorporating the technology into the Snapgoods platform and opening up an API for other third-party sites who want to use it. Just as Twilio gets paid by lending its back-end group messaging technology to companies like GroupMe and Fast Society, would charge for calls to its API. Williams also sees potential for an independent app with a freemium model. is not the first application to help sort the social graph, but it’s take on the problem is slightly different. Aardvark, a Q&A platform that Google purchased in 2010, works your network to find the right answers from the right people, but won’t give you a list of contacts for a given topic like does. Sonar shows you how you’re connected with the people in the room, and LinkedIn will map your entire network.

It’s hard to opine on whether or not will become the next Twilio while it’s still in what Williams calls “nascent ugly baby form” and private beta, but in the day that I’ve been using it, at the least it has made a handy source finder.

Up to 100 Mashable readers can access the private beta by clicking this link.

Would you use a tool like this in your professional life? What online services do you think would be enhanced with this feature?

Image courtesy of istockphoto, drewhadley

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, knodes, networking, social graph, social media

Groupon Has 115 Million Subscribers [REPORT]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:33 PM PDT

With 115 million subscribers to its daily deals emails, Groupon’s customer base has already more than doubled in size this year, a new report suggests.

Reuters, citing an unnamed source, reports that Groupon’s subscriber base has grown 38% since March 31 (when it had 83.1 million subscribers), and 127% since the end of 2010 (when it had 50.58 million subscribers).

The 115 million figure, if accurate, would imply that Groupon continues to sign on new subscribers and expand its pool of potential deal buyers at an explosive rate.

Oddly enough, the remarkable but unconfirmed stat comes in the midst of Groupon’s somewhat awkward attempt to become a public company. The daily deals site leader filed for a $750 million IPO in June, but that was said to be delayed due to SEC questioning.

Now, All Things D is reporting that Groupon will revise its accounting statements and file an amended IPO, possibly as soon as Monday.

A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Jason Rosenberg

More About: daily deals, groupon

Twitter MBA Scholarship Contest Didn’t Actually Use Twitter

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:03 PM PDT

A contest awarding a $37,240 scholarship for the “best tweet” didn’t actually involve Twitter, according to a representative from the school.

John Yates, 33, won a full MBA scholarship valued at that amount to the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Management.

Yates responded to the university’s call for “best tweet” application — dubbed the #TippieTweet challenge — with a clever, classic-form haiku to answer the prompt, “What makes you an exceptional Tippie Full-Time MBA candidate and future MBA hire?”

The “application tweet” was offered as an alternative to the school’s usual long-form essay question; it tasked candidates to answer the essay question in 140 characters or less, but did not require them to literally tweet their responses.

Yates won over the judges and beat out 57 MBA candidates with the following 68-character poem:

“Globally minded (5)
Innovative and driven (7)
Tippie can sharpen (5)”

“Mr. Yates had the discipline and creativity to submit a tweet by writing a haiku,” the tweet judging committee wrote. “He has taken one of the newest modes of communication in Twitter and one of the oldest forms of poetry in Haiku and combined them into one winning entry.”

The winning “tweet application” would be a monumental social media achievement if not for one little detail — the Twitter-sized essay never made it on Twitter. “He did not tweet this live as that was not something we requested our applicants to do,” Jodi Schafer of the Tippie admissions office says. “I do not believe John has a Twitter account.”

Yates could not be reached for comment.

The financial award package and tweet application contest served as an initial test run for the Tippie School of Management. The school is considering adding a required “application tweet” to its traditional application process.

Readers, we ask you, is a tweet still a tweet if it’s never posted to Twitter?

[via Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

Image courtesy of Flickr, wharman

More About: education, social media, Tippie School of Management, twitter, University of Iowa

Google+ Could Have More Users Than Twitter & LinkedIn in a Year [STUDY]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 03:13 PM PDT

Google+ has signed up 13% of U.S. adults so far and could hit 22%, in a year, passing Twitter and LinkedIn as the number two social media network, according to a new study.

The report, based on a Bloomberg and YouGov poll of 1,003 U.S. adults from July 29 to August 2, revealed that 71% percent of U.S. adults use Facebook, but that number will drop to 69% a year from now. Among people who use both services, 30% say they plan to cut the time they spend on Facebook. However, 31% of Google+ users say they’ve abandoned their Google+ accounts or never posted anything on them.

Twitter and LinkedIn will continue to grow, however.

Twitter is set to add 3% of the U.S. population over the next year for a total of 20% of the U.S. population. LinkedIn, which is expected to add 2%, will also hit 20%. Meanwhile, 45% of respondents who signed up for Google+ said they read content on the site every day. For Facebook, the figure was 62%. For Twitter it was 42% and for LinkedIn, 8%.

More About: facebook, Google Plus, linkedin, twitter

Our Favorite YouTube Videos This Week: The Beer Edition

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 02:41 PM PDT

Friday is International Beer Day, and so Mashable has decided to celebrate responsibly with YouTube videos instead of the harder stuff.

Without further ado, here’s the theme of this week’s YouTube roundup: beer.

Remember all: Mashable is an international publication, so that means it’s 5 o’clock for at least some of our readers. We promise.

SEE ALSO: 8 Social Websites for Brew Lovers | The 10 Most-Shared Beer Ads of All Time [VIDEOS]

The Simpsons - No Tv and No Beer

Josh Catone: Feelin' fine.

1978 Lou Rawls Budweiser Commercial

Lauren Rubin: The great Lou Rawls asks, "When do you say Budweiser?"

For The Win - How to Open a Beer With...Anything

Brian Anthony Hernandez: DO try this at home. This dude teaches you how to open a beer with a table, dollar bill, CD, ring, pen, knife, toothbrush, lighter, spatula, spoon, screwdriver, belt ... and another beer. Cheers!

Duff Beer Song

Brian Dresher: There are so many great Simpsons ones, how do you choose just one? I may have to spend the rest of the day on this research. In the mean time, it's a Duff World after all...

Lager Beer - Mitchell and Webb

Zachary Sniderman:The Lager Beer sketch from That Mitchell and Webb S01E05.

Homer Simpson-When I Was 17 xD

Christina Warren: It was a very good beer.

Bengali Tiger - Beer Tasting and Fun

Meghan Peters: SixPoint Bengali Tiger IPA -- a Mashable Community Team favorite!


Stephanie Haberman: WASSAAAAAPPPPPP.

Strange Brew - Mouse in a Bottle

Robyn Peterson: Who hasn't tried to get a free beer once in their life?

The Onion Is Testing a Paywall

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 02:20 PM PDT

When the New York Times rolled out its paywall this spring, The Onion was quick to poke fun. “'s Plan To Charge People Money For Consuming Goods, Services Called Bold Business Move," read a headline in the satirical news source.

Now The Onion is experimenting with a “bold” move of its own.

The website has begun to test a metered paywall. Non-U.S. visitors who want to read more than about five articles within 30 days will be asked to pay either $2.95 per month or $29.95 annually, according to paidContent.

“We are testing a meter internationally as readers in those markets are already used to paying directly for some (other) content, particularly in the UK where we have many readers,” The Onion chief technology officer Michael Greer told paidContent.

Greer also said that The Onion will take its time if it decides to roll out the billing system to other platforms.

The New York Times paywall has thus far exceeded expectations with more than 1 million digital subscribers. Could a paywall on its tongue-in-cheek counterpart be equally promising? At least one person thinks so.

“In point of fact, The Onion and the New York Times are America’s two best newspapers,” writes Gawker‘s Hamilton Nolan, “so we’re not too mad about their paywalls.”

Image courtesy of istockphoto, rylesc

More About: media, paywall, the onion

This Week in Politics & Digital: Debt to Pay

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 01:56 PM PDT

The big news this week was the U.S. Congress passing a bill to raise the debt ceiling, thereby saving the U.S. from defaulting on its outstanding debt and potentially causing a second recession.

Here, we’ll take a look at what role social played in avoiding financial ruin, as well as allegations that presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich bought his Twitter following and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s take on U.S. history. This is the Week in Politics & Digital.

Debt Bill Passes, Some Blood on the Floor

On August 2, President Obama signed a bill to raise the debt ceiling — just hours ahead of the deadline. The country breathed a sigh of relief, but the bill didn’t come without some headaches. Days earlier, Obama and his staff asked people to tweet using the hashtag #compromise and preceeded to post Twitter info of GOP lawmakers in every state.

The feedback was largely negative with followers claiming the president was spamming their accounts. In total, @BarackObama lost more than 36,000 followers.

Still, despite the criticism, a White House aide claims that the Twitter campaign helped get the debt bill passed.

Did Gingrich Buy Bots to Follow Him on Twitter?

Newt Gingrich may not be a front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, but at least he has all those Twitter followers, right?

With 1.3 million followers, Gingrich has more than any other Republican candidate. But a former staffer claims Gingrich paid “follow” agencies to create fake Twitter accounts that follow him. The anonymous staffer told Gawker that 80% of Gingrich’s followers are fake; a quick scan revealed many accounts that have never tweeted or have no profile picture and bio info.

A follow up by PeekYou revealed that only 8% of Gingrich’s followers are actually human.

This of course doesn’t prove Gingrich paid a firm and it still leaves him with an enviable 100,000 real followers.

Learn History From Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has co-founded Learn Our History, a site aimed at teaching important events in American history to a young demographic. One lesson, for example, provides a digital re-enactment of 9/11 and the War on Terror.

The videos cost $10 each and are meant to correct “our children’s classes and learning materials [that] are often filled with misrepresentations, including historical inaccuracies, personal biases and political correctness.”

What do you think of this week’s big stories in digital and politics? Sound off in the comments.

More About: #compromise, barack obama, debt, Debt Ceiling, debt ceiling bill, education, mike huckabee, newt gingrich, politics, week in digital politics

Lean Your iPad or iPhone Against a Running Faucet With Gravity-Defying Stand

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 01:36 PM PDT

Leaning your iPhone or iPad against a running faucet is probably one of the last things you’d want to do, which is why this Elecom stand created by Japanese design firm Nendo may seem somewhat odd.

The “Jaguchi” (Japanese for “tap”) stand can hold just about any tablet or smartphone, making it look like your device is resting on a faucet with a frozen stream of water rippling out of it.

Elecom (in Japanese) says you can either lean your device against the virtually flowing faucet, or place this decorative sculpture against a wall for an even more-perplexing illusion when you’re using your tablet or smartphone.

Nendo‘s stands are shown in four colors and two sizes, but the Elecom site lists their price as “open.” Let’s hope the company imports these to the U.S., pronto.

Clear version

iPad, but any tablet will do

Comes in Blue

Rear view, smartphone version

Available in black

Front view

Milky white version


[via Designboom, graphics courtesy Elecom]

More About: accessories, Elecom, ipad, iphone, Nendo, smartphone, stand, Tablet

The 10 Most-Shared Beer Ads of All Time [VIDEOS]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 12:54 PM PDT

Beer ads have a reputation for hitting the lowest common denominator. Just get a few babes in bikinis, throw in a fart joke or two and you’re done, right?

Actually, this list of the most-shared beer ads of all time, as measured by Unruly Media, is bereft of both elements. True, a few of the ads don’t have much to say beyond “men are pigs,” but one or two could be called poignant.

Others, however, might better be called “weird,” including a deadpan paean to Pabst Blue Ribbon by a guy named Tom Raper, and what looks like a brewery run by Willy Wonka.

SEE ALSO: International Beer Day: 8 Social Websites for Brew Lovers

So, on International Beer Day, sit back with your favorite brew and check out these top ads.

1. "9/11" (Budweiser)

Bud's ad acknowledging the 9/11 attacks ran only once -- during the 2002 Super Bowl. The ad shows the brand's Clydesdales seeming to bow before the New York skyline.

2. "Walk-In Fridge" (Heineken)

While women get excited about big walk-in closets, men are tickled by a walk-in fridge with lots of Heinekens. And no, you're not going mad. The people in this ad are speaking Dutch.

3. "Men With Talent" (Heineken)

A variation on "Walk-in Fridge" shows men getting excited about a TV talent competition. Why? Because the contestants are doing their stunts with Heinekens.

4. "Hipotesis" Quilmes

A bunch of friends decide that it's important to spend time together in this ad for Argentine brand Quilmes. Shout out to Alain Espinosa for the translation.

5. "The Asteroids Galaxy Tour" a.k.a. "The Entrance" (Heineken)

A James Bond type enters a bar where a retro-looking singer is crooning an annoyingly catchy song in this rather over-the-top ad from Wieden + Kennedy in Amsterdam.

6. "Swear Jar" (Budweiser)

A big hit from Budweiser's failed venture, "Swear Jar" never aired on TV, probably because it was too edgy.

7. "Pabst Blue Ribbon Commercial" (Pabst Blue Ribbon)

The hipster's favorite beer gets a deadpan ad by a man named Tom Raper who is proud of his country and disappointed in Anheuser-Busch, which was bought out by "some Arabs who probably don't even have a country." He also ushers in what may be the best beer tagline ever: "Drink it, you assholes."

8. "Wassup" (Budweiser)

"Wassup" had the misfortune of hitting in 1999 -- way before YouTube. Still, it was pretty viral in its day, when people used to repeat lines they heard in ads rather than just send links.

9. "Most Epic Beer Commercial Ever" (Hahn Super Dry)

Imagine the coolest brewery ever, with an in-house drummer whose set is used to filter the beer and a giant Elvis suit. Now add the Knight Rider theme.

10. "Clydesdales Donkey" (Budweiser)

A plucky donkey becomes an honorary Clydesdale in this Bud spot saluting the, uh, underdonkey.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ultramarinfoto

More About: advertising, Beer, budweiser, Heineken, MARKETING, youtube

Turntable Friday: Listen & Spin in Mashable’s Room With NYC Underground Artists

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 12:29 PM PDT

It’s Friday. It’s 3:30 p.m. on the East Coast. You know what that means: time to head on over to Mashable‘s Summer Fridays room and get down with your inner DJ.

If you’re still unfamiliar with Turntable, know this: It is the lovechild of streaming music services and social media. You and dozens of other cartoonish avatars stand and chat in a virtual club. Five folks at a time get to DJ their tunes, from Turntable’s extensive library or from their own machines. If you like the music, your avatar bobs its head and the DJ gets points. If enough people don’t, the song gets skipped.

This afternoon, thanks to our friends and Turntable room partners over at Musebox, we’ve got a lineup of New York underground artists as guest DJs. There’s hip-hop musician Max Burgandy, a recent star of Mashable‘s Music Monday series. We’ve also got Eric Eisler from scrappy four-piece The Dig, and all-star singer-songwriter Anna Rose.

So come one, come all, and head-bob with us here.

More About: music, turntable,

QR Codes on Oxfam Clothes Reveal Celebrities Who Donated Them [VIDEO]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 12:14 PM PDT

oxfam image

Oxfam added a digital twist to one of its stores in London earlier this year — one to make high-end fashion stores envious. Take a smartphone picture of the QR codes attached to the tags on Oxfam’s items, and you’ll see videos of celebrities telling the stories behind their former pieces that were on sale.

The store, called the Oxfam Curiosity Shop, was a pop-up shop this past spring within London’s Selfridges department store. It garnered all manner of celebrity clothing donations and some hand-picked vintage styles.

Proceeds from the sales go toward supporting Oxfam‘s charitable efforts. Big-name celebrities including Annie Lennox, Colin Firth, Helen Mirren and Kate Moss, donated pretty impressive clothing.

The shop paired with tech company Tales of Things to attach QR codes to every item. Potential buyers could scan the codes with their phones or with an RFID reader in the store. After scanning, a short video launched of a star explaining what the article of clothing means to them or where the money will go.

For example, scanning a code on a dress donated by Annie Lennox reveals that she wore it to Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday party.

That sense of collective memory is what lies behind Tales of Things, a collaboration between scholars at Brunel University, Edinburgh College of Art, University of College London, University of Dundee and the University of Salford. The team is focused on exploring social memory and the emerging “Internet of Things,” the idea that all objects will someday be connected to the Internet.

“In modern life, it is all too easy to discard objects, sell them on eBay, donate them to shops without a thought of our time with them,” said Andrew Hudson-Smith, a member of Tales of Things and director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London. “Yet, if we step back and think, we realize that each object has memories attached.”

That was the goal behind attaching QR codes to the Curiosity Shop. A sense of collective memory not only brings the items to life, but it will give them more significance to potential buyers.

“For us it is about changing public perceptions of second-hand goods and increasing the value of the items, moving away from the idea of having to buy the latest thing and instead valuing what we have and moving away from a throwaway culture,” Hudson-Smith says.

What do you think of adding QR codes to everyday objects? Does knowing the origin of an object make you more willing to buy it? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Oxfam

More About: 2d code, charity, curiosity shop, fashion, non-profit, oxfam, oxfam curiosity shop, qr, qr code, social good, Tales of Things

Would You Use a Google Self-Driving Car? [POLL]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 11:57 AM PDT

Imagine it’s 2015 and Google has just announced a partnership with a prominent car manufacturer to provide the first publicly available self-driving cars. Instead of you having your hands on the wheel, Google’s technology would drive the car for you.

Would you buy such a car? Would you install Google self-driving car technology into your own vehicle if you had the option?

These are questions we’ve been asking here at Mashable after hearing about one of Google’s self-driving cars getting into an accident. It turns out that the accident occurred while in manual mode (a person was driving), it still brings up important questions about the future of the automobile.

You could argue that self-driving cars simply can’t make the life-and-death decisions that humans need to make while behind the wheel. A glitch or malfunction in the hardware or software could potentially cause a self-driving car to go off the road or worse. Should we trust software with our lives and the lives of our families?

SEE ALSO: Riding in the Google Car That Drives Itself [VIDEO]

On the other hand, the self-driving car may very well turn out to be a better driver than people, who are affected by emotions, hunger, distractions and sleep deprivation. There were 10.2 million traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2008; could self-driving cars lower that number? You could also argue that society would be improved by people spending time on productive tasks while in the car. You could be writing novels or playing with your kids during the time you spend stuck in traffic.

Would you use a Google self-driving car? Vote in our poll below and let us know why you voted the way you did in the comments below.

More About: automobile, cars, Google, Google Self-driving Car, self-driving car, technology

Share Your MySpace Memories [OPEN THREAD]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 11:41 AM PDT

For many people, MySpace was their first foray into social networking, and the site was the world’s top networking site until Facebook surpassed it in early 2009.

MySpace entered the social networking scene eight years ago this month, but the website you see today is drastically different from the one that debuted in 2003. No longer the social media behemoth it once was, MySpace is now partly-owned by Justin Timberlake and used mainly for the promotion of musicians and entertainers. However, this change in culture doesn’t stop the “MySpace Generation” from having memories — fond and otherwise — of the service.

What’s your biggest memory from MySpace?

This month is MySpace’s eight-year anniversary. To mark the occasion, we want to hear your best (and worst) memories of the service as it was when social media was in its infancy. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How did you personalize your profile?
  • Did you ever post any typical MySpace style photos? Still have one? Post a link to it in the comments!
  • Did the order of your Top Eight ever cause drama with friends?

Tell us your best stories in the comments.

More About: myspace, open thread, social media, social networking

HOW TO: Destroy the Internet (Sort Of)

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 11:19 AM PDT

The Internet can be an infuriating place. Especially on Friday afternoon, when online fatigue is at its weekly high and those of us who are left at our desks during the “summer Friday” season are stewing in envy.

So what could be a better Friday diversion than a browser plug-in that destroys the Internet? Well, maybe actually leaving your desk. But that’s probably not an option, so bear with us.

Kick Ass” is a browser plugin that lets you shoot nostalgic video game fighter pellets at elements on any website in order to destroy them. Annoying pop-up ad? Gone. Stupid forum comment? Zap. The web page of your least favorite congressperson? Aim and fire.

The game can be launched via drag-and-drop bookmarklet to very handily destroy anything on a web page. Even though the destruction is only visible in your browser, it’s an oddly satisfying little plugin. Simply steer the tiny triangle around the page with the arrow keys and shoot with the space bar to destroy. After you hit escape, the triangle and any damage you’ve waged using it will disappear.

Creator Erik Rothoff Andersson, an 18-year-old who recently graduated from high school in Sweden, says he put the browser plugin online more than a year ago. It only started gaining traction when he posted it on Reddit, but since then, the download page has had more than 1 million downloads and been Facebook Liked about 15,000 times.

Erik’s twin, Johan, designed the iPhone app [iTunes link] after Kick Ass started taking off.

Which means that for $0.99, you can continue your simulated attack on the Internet during your commute.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Cote

More About: Asteroids, Friday, kick-ass, video games

“Saved by the Bell” Recreated as Interactive YouTube Game [VIDEO]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 11:01 AM PDT

YouTube maestros The Fine Brothers have created another 8-bit interactive YouTube game, this time targeting one of the most iconic Saturday morning sitcoms of all time: Saved by the Bell.

Following the “Choose Your Own Adventure” motif of previous Fine Bros. games for Twilight and Harry Potter, the interactive video series tasks viewers with figuring out the sordid underbelly that is the Palisades.

Just kidding. Actually, you play as perennial teen heartthrob Zack Morris and choose to help Kelly, Jessie or Screech in their moments of crisis. You know, those moments of crisis that are utterly unlike anything that actually happen in high school but seem so utterly believable when watching the show in elementary school?

The game is chock-full of references, characters and humor that will leave any SBTB superfan (like myself) laughing out loud.

What was your favorite Saved by the Bell episode? (Mine was when the gang did the rap version of Snow White.)

[via Vulture]

More About: 8 bit, 8-bit interactive game, fine-brothers, saved-by-the-bell, sbtb, the-fine-brothers, trending, youtube

SiriusXM To Get Pandora-Like Upgrade

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 10:44 AM PDT

SiriusXM satellite radio plans to offer personal radio channels like Pandora’s that can replay, skip and ban songs, along with five hours’ worth of time-shifting capabilities on most channels and unspecified on-demand features.

Part of the long-rumored SXM 2.0 technology, SiriusXM will soon be a service akin to a TiVo for music. Beyond the new music discovery features, the company plans to make 25% more channels available.

But to use these new features and channels, you’ll need a new radio. At the end of this year, SiriusXM will roll out two next-generation radios capable of handling these new features, and an unnamed auto maker will roll out a 2013-model car equipped with the 2.0 tech next year.

According to Seeking Alpha, SiriusXM said in its quarterly earnings call:

SXM 2.0 is a major upgrade and evolution of our satellite- and internet-delivered networks that span our hardware, software and audio and data content. We are rolling it out in phases, bringing more content and capabilities to our satellite platform, while also employing connectivity technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth and the Internet to create exciting complements to our core radio services.

This is big. SiriusXM has just eliminated the main reason why I stopped subscribing to the service last year: I preferred the music discovery features of Pandora. With the new radios, bandwidth and features, Sirius will now be able to compete on more of an equal footing with other Internet-based music services.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Ian Hayhurst

More About: music, pandora, satellite radio, siriusXM, sxm2.0

One of Google’s Self-Driving Cars Gets into an Accident [UPDATE]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 10:10 AM PDT

Update: A Google representative tells us that the accident occurred while the vehicle was in manual mode, not self-driving mode, which means there is still no recorded instance of a self-driving car causing an accident.

One of Google’s famous self-driving cars has reportedly been involved in one of its first traffic accidents.

The accident occurred near Google’s Mountain View headquarters in California. According to a report from Jalopnik, the accident involved two Toyota Priuses. It looks like the Google self-driving car rear-ended the other Prius, at least from our initial assessment of a photo Jalopnik published. We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

While this is not the first accident the Google cars have been involved in (one of the cars was rear-ended by a driver), it’s the first time we’ve heard of a Google self-driving car being the cause of an accident.

Google’s self-driving cars have been on the roads for nearly a year now, mostly in California. Recently, the search giant successfully lobbied to get self-driving cars on the streets of Nevada. We’ve even been in the back of one of the vehicles, and we can attest that they can successfully maneuver through dozens of cones at speeds up to 40 miles per hour.

While Jalopnik believes that the fender-bender is proof that self-driving cars may not be in the best interests of society, we have a different take. There were 10.2 million traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2008, which results in 39,000 deaths. That’s 17.9 people per 100,000 licensed drivers. If Google self-driving cars can beat those statistics, they could actually prevent more accidents than they create. We also waste millions of hours commuting and driving through traffic; imagine if you had that time to be productive instead.

Clearly Google self-driving cars are not ready for prime time — nobody thinks they will be for years to come. However, it’s not inconceivable that the time sink that is driving will become a thing of the past, and that would be a good thing for all of society.

What do you think of Google’s self-driving cars? Are they a potential benefit to society or a disaster waiting to happen? Let us know in the comments.

Graphic courtesy Jalopnik, used with permission

More About: automobile, car, Google, Google Self-driving Car, self-driving car, tech

Why Mobile Design Should Never Be an Afterthought

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 08:57 AM PDT

Tom Wentworth is chief marketing officer at Ektron Inc., a provider of web content management and marketing optimization solutions.

As the web evolved over the years, companies pursued a basic mobile strategy that could be summed up as follows: Cram all the content you can onto a website, and then adapt it for mobile use by lopping off a few pieces. Trimming down content to fit on a smaller screen may have made the presentation more "mobile friendly," but it didn't really focus on what mobile users wanted, and how to truly engage them.

The game has changed. These days, companies need to move from being "mobile friendly" to thinking "mobile first." According to Gartner, by 2013, more people will access websites through mobile phones than through desktop computers. Mobile devices are more than just another customer channel; they represent the most significant evolution in user interactions since the mouse.

Readjust Your Perspective

Start by understanding your users and design an experience with their priorities in mind.

Unlike desktop and laptop users, who multitask between work, play and casual research, mobile users are focused. Smartphone users are transaction-oriented. Then account for the newest users in the mobile camp — those equipped with tablets. They're focused on a broader experience.

Smartphone users don't want to be overloaded by content. Usually they have an objective, and will move on quickly after it's completed. If they pull up a restaurant site, for instance, chances are they want to make a reservation, find the contact information or take a quick look at the menu.

Tablets are leisure surfing devices people use while lounging at home. Users are often more open to immersive experiences, so to present a tablet user with an interface designed for a smartphone is to miss an opportunity for engagement. For example, when a tablet user checks out a restaurant site, he is open to a wider experience. He may want to watch a video of a chef whipping up a sizzling dish. He may wish to view nutritional information. Optimize his experience with video, colors and more features to satisfy his palate.

Think Mobile First

  • For smartphones: Stay away from extensive use of Flash, fixed-element layouts and complex navigation paths. Flash-driven sites may look terrific on a traditional browser, but on mobile devices, that fantastic-looking site will display an error message. When it comes to slow page loads or complex navigation, according to Aberdeen, a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversion.
  • For tablets: Take the "less is more" approach. Tablet websites should be simple, clean, touch-friendly, easily navigable and objective.
  • Prioritize: Too many sites resemble an episode of Hoarders, where the organization crams unrelated promos, links, images and videos. These extra features tend to answer the needs of internal stakeholders, but don't benefit the website user.
  • Focus on the user: Don't try to be all things to all people. It's more important to measure functionality than pageviews.
  • Evolve: Transition from a point-click mentality to a touch-and-swipe practice. Mobile devices present new, simpler ways to interact with content, so take full advantage.

Companies need to be targeted in their consumer engagement by presenting the information their users need in a convenient and digestible manner. Think mobile first, because that is where the critical mass dwells.

Image courtesy of Flickr, blakespot.

More About: business, design, ipad, Mobile 2.0, smartphone, Tablet, tech, tenchonlogy, web design, website

The Guardian Enters Ebook Market With Guardian Shorts

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 08:29 AM PDT

British newspaper The Guardian has launched “Guardian Shorts,” a new series of ebooks “providing detailed guides to topical news stories, public policy, sports and cultural events.”

The first ebook of the series is Phone Hacking: How the Guardian Broke the Story and is about how The Guardian uncovered the phone hacking done scandal carried out by News of the World. It is currently available on Kindle for £2.29 ($2.99) and the paper promises that an iTunes BookStore version is coming soon.

The media company plans to “cover all subject areas in which the Guardian has expertise, ranging from current news topics and opinion pieces to the highlights of our writing on books, music, film, food, sport, business, travel, education and many more,” according to the product’s FAQ page.

The Guardian will release “Guardian Shorts” ebooks several times per month, based on the news cycle. They will range from 5,000 to 30,000 words and cost between £1.99 and £3.99, while some will be free.

This move comes at a time when traditional publishers are trying to take advantage of the burgeoning epublishing market. With Kindle books outselling real books on Amazon — one of the industry’s biggest players — and traditional publishing taking hits from left and right, the publishing world has turned to ereaders and tablets as an escape.

The New York Times announced its ebook bestsellers list late last year, taking note of the importance of digital books. The Guardian isn’t the first publisher to enter the ebooks market — Vanity Fair, for one, just published an ebook covering the rise and fall of Rupert Murdoch.

What are your thoughts on news organizations publishing in-depth ebooks on previous coverage? Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Flickr, adamtbailey

More About: digital publishing, ebooks, guardian shorts, media, the guardian

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