Friday, 12 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “The State of Mobile Malware [INFOGRAPHIC]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “The State of Mobile Malware [INFOGRAPHIC]”

The State of Mobile Malware [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 02:30 AM PDT

The growth of mobile malware has skyrocketed in the past two years.

Malware specific to Android devices in particular has been making headlines as of late. In March, Google removed 21 apps from the Android Market after the blog Android Police alerted the company that the apps contained malware and were being used to collect user data. Google also invoked a kill switch, which automatically deleted the malicious apps from users’ phones, without any action necessary from the users.

Just one month later, Skype revealed that its Android app was vulnerable if a user had downloaded malicious software to his or her device.

It isn’t just Android devices that are vulnerable, though — all mobile devices are at risk. With mobile malware becoming an increasing risk, it’s important to be educated about the risks and how you can protect your mobile device.

We came across this helpful infographic created by software company Bullguard that explains the current state of mobile malware.

Has your mobile device ever been affected by malware? Let us know in the comments.

[via: Bullguard]

More About: infographics, malware, Mobile 2.0, privacy

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Designer Makes iPad Cases from Bernie Madoff’s Clothing [PHOTOS]

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 12:53 AM PDT

We’ve seen a number of iPad cases made from recycled materials, but this just tops the charts: iPad cases made from Bernie Madoff’s salvaged clothing.

Madoff is an incarcerated American felon, former stockbroker, investment advisor, non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, and the admitted operator of what has been described as the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

After Madoff’s arrest, the U.S. Marshals Service seized and auctioned thousands of items from his New York homes, including his clothing, which designer label Frederick James is now fashioning into iPad cases, via its collection called “The Bernie Madoff.”

The cases, each being one-of-a-kind, range from $250 to $500. Founder John Vaccaro warns purchasers that the cases are strictly for fashion use and should not be trusted to keep an iPad safe in the case of a drop. Regardless, these cases are selling out as soon as they are posted to the company’s website, by word of mouth alone.

Take a look at a sampling of the cases Vaccaro has created so far in the gallery below. Would you buy a $500 case made from Madoff’s trousers? Let us know in the comments.

Ralph Lauren Polo Chino Blue Pants - $350

Murphy & Nye Sailmakers Pants Orange - $500

Murphy & Nye Sailmakers Pants Green - $500

J. Crew Khaki Pants - $250

Mason's Off-White Khaki Pants - $350

Banana Republic Gavin Khaki Pants - $250

Banana Republic Gavin Khaki Pants - $250

More About: Bernie Madoff, fashion, ipad, iPad Cases

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“GoldenEye Reloaded” Video Game is Nostalgic Fun [Hands-On]

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 10:49 PM PDT

goldeneye image

James Bond fans jonesing for some suave British espionage will be getting a (sort of) brand new GoldenEye this fall. Mashable got some hands-on time with an alpha build of GoldenEye 007: Reloaded, Activision’s new first-person shooter video game based on the historic franchise.

Historic? You bet — the original GoldenEye game for Nintendo 64 is largely credited with defining the modern first-person shooter video game. It’s a heck of a title to live up to, and one that Activision did when it released GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo Wii. Reloaded is an update of the Wii game for PS3 and Xbox 360, adding new features and killer graphics.

What’s New

Anyone who’s played the 2010 game won’t find too many surprises with Reloaded. Single player is the same and multiplayer features 16-player matches and the classic four-way split-screen. The graphics have seen a huge boost thanks to the HD upgrade. It also adds achievements and an “Mi6 Operations” mode. Mi6 consists of single player challenges categorized by “assault,” “stealth,” “defence” and “elimination” much like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s “Spec Ops” missions.

Also, Pierce Brosnan is gone as Bond. Reloaded‘s re-imagining now features Daniel Craig as Bond (Craig’s voice appears in the game). Trevor Jalowitz, Executive Producer of the game, says the team turned to the source material rather than copying the previous game. The team even brought in GoldenEye screenwriter Bruce Feirstein and composer David Arnold to help realize the (slightly) new approach.

Reloaded is still gunning for modern shooters like Call of Duty with similar game mechanics, controls and emphasis on cinematic set pieces. Jalowitz says Reloaded isn’t trying to reinvent the multiplayer genre but create a solid, kick-ass game.

Nostalgia Reigns

goldeneye cover imagePerhaps the most fun to be had with Reloaded is its obvious nods to nostalgia. Although the distinctive file folder menu screens are gone, the game has a series of modifiers, both silly and useful, which can be applied to some multiplayer or Mi6 games. You can edit your weapons load-out as easily as you can give characters big heads, paint ball guns or make every enemy the same joke character.

Speaking of which, nearly all of the classic characters are back in the game including Jaws, Boris, Bond, 006 and the always-frustrating Odd Job. There’s even an option to switch from a replenishing health bar to the classic version.


007 gameplay image

Even now the game is a ton of fun. It’s unclear if this is because the game is great (its 2010 predecessor received positive reviews) or if it’s fun to see the classic dam level updated in HD. The controls need some work (some triggers don’t have any functions) and the team is still working out kinks in the Playstation Move functionality. Like the Wii, the Move controller can snap into a gun-like peripheral. We didn’t get a chance to try it but the Activision tester had a hard time hitting pretty much anything using the Move controller.

Reloaded has more stealth sections, allowing users to sneak through levels or go in guns blazing. While the emphasis is clearly on not raising alarms, the health bar and enemy intelligence is meant to be forgiving. Reloaded is a less about challenges of skill than it is about tearing around as Bond.

What do you think? Share your own stories about the original GoldenEye and let us know if you think Reloaded stacks up.

More About: Goldeneye 007: Reloaded, hands-on, James Bond, video game

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What Can Social Media Tell Us About American Society? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 09:37 PM PDT

America is obsessed with its social media tools — more than half of all Americans have a social networking profile. But what does social media tell us about American society? Is our use of social tools a reflection of our interests and behaviors?

Social media strategy firm Hasai decided to find out. The result is an infographic that draws several conclusions about the nature of the average American: Apparently we Americans have a lot to say (48% of all bloggers are U.S.-based), love talking about television (77% have used social media to share their love of a show) and love video games (10% of all US-based web activity involves video games).

Oh, and apparently North Dakota and New Jersey are among the most social states in the union. Go figure.

Check out the infographic and let us know in the comments what you think social media says about American society.

Infographic courtesy Hasai

More About: infographic, social media

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Sneak Peek: Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS Revealed [PICS]

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:47 PM PDT

The first pictures of the long-awaited “Ice Cream Sandwich” upgrade to the Android smartphone operating system were leaked to the world on Thursday. The new interface features a new launcher and app drawer, a revamped notification bar and color changes favoring a certain blue hue.

According to Android Police, other new features include a panorama mode for its camera, a new theme for Gmail that matches that blue hue, and the ability for many older devices to run the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. And on the bottom right, it looks like there’s an app launcher that might work like the Windows 7 “Start Ball.” Missing so far as a version number (will it be Android 4.0?), which Google is still keeping a closely guarded secret.

The two sites that received the photos weren’t saying where they obtained the leaked information, far in advance of the rumored release date of Ice Cream Sandwich around Thanksgiving (or maybe as early as October, according to AndroidOS). See the gallery below for enlarged pictures of the upcoming OS, sent to us courtesy of Android Police and RootzWiki:

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

[via Android Police and RootzWiki]

More About: android, Google, ice cream sandwich, trending

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Movellas Is Like YouTube For Ebooks

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:01 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: Movellas

Quick Pitch: Movellas is like YouTube for ebooks.

Genius Idea: Letting anyone publish and share his or her own ebook.

When novels composed text-by-text on tiny cellphone screens started making their way to the top of bestseller lists in Japan, Joram Felbert thought he could bring the same concept to Denmark with an educational spin.

Movellas, the text-message writing platform he launched in March 2010, soon found partners in about 25 schools. But it was expensive to send stories one text at a time and hard to find much of an audience without breaking the bank.

Instead of pursuing the SMS idea further, the company morphed into a platform that anyone can use for creating and sharing ebooks. About 10,000 short works — many chapter by chapter — have been published on the site since it launched in December. Its biggest demographic is adolescent girls, particularly those who dabble in the Justin Bieber fan fiction genre.

“A lot of the girls are dreaming of becoming an author, so it’s the first step for them to try to see how their skills are working,” Felbert says.

After an author uploads a story, he or she can share it with friends through email or on social networks. Others can either open the book in a reader on the site or with iBooks. If they like what they read, they can become a “fan” and get updated on new works by that author.

The Movellas community currently writes mostly in Danish, but the company is making efforts to expand to English-speaking countries. It plans to set up an office in London within the next few months.

Unsurprisingly, it won’t be the only platform focusing on aspiring English-language writers. Figment, Protagonize, WeBook and WritersCafe are a handful of the websites that have created a similar publishing platform.

Movellas stands out with its mobile ebook format and its focus on adolescents. Depending on how you look at it, the site could serve as a more or less narcissistic version of LiveJournal, with a literary spin. It does not, as WeBook advertises, seem to be for “the aspiring novelist hoping to hit the best-seller list.”

Like Figment, Movellas sees a potential revenue stream in charging for the work of its most successful authors. Advertising is another option.

The success of either model depends largely on how Felbert’s theory about young writers pans out.

“The users prefer to read content that is written by people their own age and is community content,” he says.

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: ebooks, Movellas

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Twitter Adds Subtle New Feature

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 07:03 PM PDT

Twitter has rolled out a subtle but significant interface enhancement to its web app, prompting users to publicly reply to a user when they visit that person’s profile page.

You can see how it works in the example I’ve created here using my own Twitter profile, where the field that was formerly empty now reads “Tweet to @charlie_white”.

Perhaps Twitter was hoping the small change would be implemented without fanfare, but keen-eyed user Jeevan Gill (@jsammy17) tweeted to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, asking him if this was a new feature. Replied Dorsey, “@jSammy17 as of today!

Even though Twitter just introduced its new Activity tab to its user interface yesterday, for some reason the company decided not to publicize this subtle tweak. Maybe the company didn’t want to get in the way of the social gaming war now underway between Google+ and Facebook.

Even so, any attempt to stimulate further social interaction on Twitter is probably a good idea, especially given the increased competition it’s facing from Google.

[via ReadWriteWeb]

More About: social media, twitter

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5 Ways Museums Are Reaching Digital Audiences

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 06:31 PM PDT

digital museum

If the last time you were in a museum you were being shuffled in a single-file line by an aging docent, you may be surprised by the dynamic lives these institutions lead in the digital world.

New platforms are allowing museums to break free of the confines of the academic ivory tower and engage with their communities like never before.

Ian Padgham, former social media guru of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art says museums started flocking to social media in 2009. Museums initially used social media just to advertise events and exhibits, but quickly jumped into a world of interactive education and user generated content.

From interactive SCVNGR challenges to crowdsourcing information about works of art, more museums are becoming digital savvy destinations. Here’s a look at some innovative campaigns.

1. Opening the Dialogue

The traditional experience of perusing exhibits can now become a dialogue, thanks to real-time information networks. Museum Nerd, a blogger and social evangelist who shares musings on museum visits, arts advocacy and education, believes engagement is the most important reason for museums to use social media.

During one visit, for example, Museum Nerd asked @MuseumModernArt why there was so much dust in an exhibit. The museum’s communications team investigated and sent a Twitter reply.

"Social media has pushed museums toward being more responsive to the public," writes Museum Nerd in an online chat interview. “It’s allowed a visitor to let the museum know what they like and what they don’t like about their experience in real time.”

When Padgham spearheaded the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s social media accounts (he now works for Twitter), he invited social media followers — the mainstream audience never before prioritized by the museum — to press previews. “It’s not just what The Chronicle says. We want [the local audience] to have a voice and spread the voice.”

Many museum marketers take the potential of their new voices seriously. Francesca Merlino, the Guggenheim Museum’s marketing manager, says her team responds to every inquiry received through the museum’s social accounts.

These social accounts offer a peek behind the scenes of the galleries to show visitors a side of museums never before accessible.

2. Breaking Down the Walls of Inaccessibility

Through social media, museums can tear down the illusion of inaccessibility. During the 2011 Super Bowl, for example, @NOMA1910 (the New Orleans Museum of Art) and @IMAmuseum (the Indianapolis Museum of Art) placed bets via Twitter, showing the public an unexpected collegiality between museum staffers.


On a similarly sporting note, Padgham changed his museum’s Twitter avatar to the San Francisco Giants logo when they were in the Major League Baseball playoffs. Padgham tweeted that he “… knew the graphic design team would kill him, but Go Giants!” Both the Giants and MLB retweeted the San Francisco Museum of Art.

“The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is no longer a place you go to,” says Padgham.”Art can be a part of your hometown spirit. There’s a freedom to no longer be this very proper institution.”

The Guggenheim Museum’s social following reflects its largely international audience. Approximately 70% of its annual visitors aren’t from the U.S. “Social media is really an opportunity to connect with our global following,” the Merlino says. The museum has been running user-generated campaigns such as a partnership with YouTube Play to create great online short videos. The competition culminated in a screening and livestreaming of the top 25 entries. To honor the museum’s 50th birthday, the Guggenheim’s followers uploaded images re-imagining its iconic rotunda. The museum also teamed up with Google SketchUp designers to create and place 3D shelters on Google Earth.

These user-generated content campaigns created the greatest periods of growth and active engagement with the museum, Merlino says.

mystery building

Crowdsourcing is a great way to maximize a diverse following while also creating popular content. Each Thursday, the Museum of the City of New York posts a piece of artwork along with a mystery building on Facebook. Respondents are challenged to identify the unknown location and validate their responses with proof.

Twitter followers of the Tate Modern might even create art for the museum. The Tate is calling for volunteer artists to paint vignettes to be included in an upcoming exhibit.

3. Emerging Cultural Aggregators

For your average fan of the arts, the proliferation of online cultural hubs has created an overabundance of information. “I don’t have time to read 50,000 posts from different institutions,” says Padgham. “I want to find people curating a perfect synthesis. Those will be the next celebrities.”

Museum Nerd is one of those Internet celebrities. @MuseumNerd began tweeting in September 2008. Today, more than 67,000 people follow the flagship Twitter account. Museum Nerd’s social presence now includes a blog, Facebook page, Flickr stream, Foursquare account and Tumblr, as well as some external writing.

4. Mobilizing Visits

Smithsonian SCVNGR

Most museum-goers aren’t going to turn off their phones during a visit. Rather than fight the tide, many museums are integrating mobile into their exhibits. Museums are adopting apps like Sparkatour to guide visitors instead of relying on chunky audio guide devices. The app allows small to mid-sized museums to add audio to all of their video and visual content.

Museums are creating fun competitions out of their exhibits using SCVNGR, a social, location-based gaming platform. For example, the Smithsonian hosted a SCVNGR hunt through nine of its museum's most popular exhibits between June 24 and July 26.

Foursquare rewards and badges are also a great way for museums to acknowledge their social followers. During the summer, the Penn Museum will give away free drinks to the first 10 visitors who check in after 5:00 p.m.

5. The Digital Museum

For patrons who are physically separated from the museums they’d like to visit, digital museums are popping up across the Internet. Here are five museums you can visit without leaving your computer.

Mural Explorer

Philadelphia's Mural Explorer took the city's outdoor graffiti, too large to contain within walls, and gave it an online home. You can view murals by neighborhood and read the stories behind the artwork.

Google Art Project

Google joined the digital museum bandwagon this February with the launch of the Google Art Project, offering a street view-like experience of 17 of the world's most famous museums.

Adobe Museum of Digital Media

No setting would make more sense for the Adobe Museum of Digital Media than the world wide web. This museum's content focuses on the evolution of the digital space.

Monet 2010

Impressionism enthusiasts can tour the Galeries Nationales of the Grand Palais' exhibit "Claude Monet: 1840-1926" without having to buy a plane ticket to Paris. "Monet 2010" is an innovative, Webby Award-winning look at the artist's portfolio.

The Secret Annex

If you can't make it to Amsterdam, The Secret Annex Online offers an interactive tour of the Anne Frank house, the famed home of the young Holocaust diary writer.

Hidden Heroes

Hidden Heroes simultaneously developed a web-based exhibit on thankless technology (think shipping containers and tea bags), as well as a traditional walk-though exhibit touring different cities.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, archives

More About: Arts, museum, social good, social media

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Facebook Fires Back at Google+ With New Gaming Features

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 05:37 PM PDT

Facebook has unveiled a slew of new features for Facebook games just hours after Google launched its gaming platform.

The first feature, the Game Ticker, transforms the right-hand Facebook Chat column into a newsfeed of friends’ game activity. The column displays what games your friends are playing as well as their achievements and high scores. It’s designed to be social, so clicking on a Game Ticker story takes you to that game so you can play with your friends. And just like Facebook News Feed, you can control which stories appear and don’t appear in the stream.

The world’s largest social network also introduced a new expanded-screen mode for games. Current players of social games will appreciate the added real estate for harvesting their crops or attacking their enemies. The final addition to Facebook’s gaming platform allows users to bookmark their favorite apps or games so they’re easily accessible from the News Feed.

The move is a counterattack to today’s launch of Google+ Games, which debuted Thursday with 16 games, including Angry Birds and Zynga Poker. It looks like the competition between the two Internet giants is getting even more intense.

More About: facebook, gaming, google games, trending, Zynga

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Apple to Launch Cheaper iCloud-Based iPhone? [RUMOR]

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 04:42 PM PDT

Another day, another iPhone 5 rumor? Not quite. The Apple rumor making the rounds Thursday is that the company will launch a low-cost iPhone 4 alongside the iPhone 5. The new device will have substantially reduced flash storage, and may be so cheap to make that carriers offer it for free. Its name: the iCloud iPhone.

The rumor comes courtesy of one Trevor Sheridan, writer of the blog It seems to be well-sourced — Sheridan claims to have spoken to three independent sources “who are all connected to Apple in different capacities,” and one of them appears to have given him the scoop on Lion’s launch date ahead of time. Not a bad report, but we’d have a lot more confidence if we — or any other site reporting this — knew anything about Sheridan’s bona fides. (Pro tip, Trevor: a short bio page can come in very handy.)

Sheridan’s sources say the iCloud iPhone will “look like a small iPad,” and that it will retail for $400 — or no money at all once you factor in the 2-year contract signup discount. The sources are a little short on details of exactly how this will rely on iCloud more than any other iPhone. In iOS5, iCloud will back up your entire phone, including apps. But is Apple ready for a device that runs entirely from the cloud, straight after the launch of iCloud? More to the point, are the carriers ready? Would users have enough data bandwidth to make such a phone viable? We doubt it.

It does make sense for Apple to produce a low-cost version of the iPhone 4 after the iPhone 5 launches — after all, that’s exactly what the company has done with the iPhone 3GS (now $49 at the AT&T store). As Sheridan points out, using figures from the analysts at iSuppli, flash memory is roughly 15% of the cost of an iPhone 4. So if you were to keep it down to, say, 8GB of internal memory, and replace the expensive back cover of the iPhone 4 with cheaper plastic, the result would make a lot of sense as a budget device.

With Android phones now outselling iPhones, it wouldn’t be surprising if Apple wanted to boost its market share on the low end — and having an iPhone that is free (with contract) would go a long way toward that goal. We’re sure that the marketing genii at 1 Infinite Loop would want to include a buzzword like iCloud in the phone’s title, as well as touting the fact that you have access to your music and photos without actually having to upload them. That would be a great way to make lemonade out of the lemon-like concept of an 8GB phone. But a memory-free iPhone seems exceedingly unlikely.

More About: apple, iphone, iPhone 5, rumors

For more Mobile coverage: For Video: Introducing Chill

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 03:59 PM PDT

Sure, social music service is addictive and fun. But after a while, watching all those avatars bobbing their heads can get a little dull. Isn’t there anything else we could do in a chatroom together, besides listen to five DJs?

Enter Chill, a new service that allows you to watch videos with friends and strangers.

Chill comes from the founders of and Namesake, and is very similar to in style and execution. You must have a Facebook friend already on Chill in order to join. Once you choose an avatar, you can either create a room or join one that already exists (there aren’t too many options at present, as the site just launched Wednesday). Rooms can be shared on Twitter or via email.

Once in the room, you can load up your VJ queue with videos — you can search for videos on YouTube or Vimeo within the site, or add a direct URL to any other online video. You then get up on the VJ stage and start spinning videos. Other users vote on whether they like your vids are not (thumbs up, or thumbs down), which garners you points. Right now, however, those points don’t score you cooler avatars, as on But those are coming soon, we gather.

The site’s interface is rather lovely — if a bit cheesy — and we could really see the idea taking off, especially with bands looking to premiere music videos. Sure, it’s not a wholly original idea (remember YouTubeSocial?), but it’s coming at a time when people are already interested in social listening and viewing.

Would you watch videos in a chat room on Chill? Let us know in the comments.

[via Mrdocrock]

More About: Chill, music, startup,, video, Vimeo, youtube

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Facebook Advertisers Can Target Users by Zip Code

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 03:47 PM PDT

Advertisers wishing to target Facebook members in specific zip codes can now do so. The social network has made the new targeting option available to advertisers via Facebook’s Power Editor and Ads Manager self-service tools.

Facebook has confirmed that zip code targeting, which was spotted by Politico, is now available in the U.S.

“The zip code targeting launched yesterday and this change was made due to requests for such a change,” a Facebook spokesperson tells Mashable.

Advertisers, previously able to target members by country, state or province, can now direct ads and sponsored stories to users in more localized areas.

“Over the past few months Facebook has been showing sidebar modules asking users to confirm which of several zip codes they are closest to or live within,” Inside Facebook reports.

Now that advertisers have the potential to reach hyper-local audiences, what types of ads should Facebook users expect? Local merchants and small businesses are the most likely candidates to promote products and services by zip codes. Politico also theorizes that the addition of zip code targeting will factor into upcoming elections.

“In an election cycle when social networking is expected to play such a big role, Facebook's new program signals its intention to be a major player in the sprawling, and lucrative, market of local campaigns,” the site contends.

Image courtesy of Inside Facebook

More About: advertising, facebook

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Online Radio: How Do the 4 Leading Services Compare?

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 02:57 PM PDT

turntable image

Caroline Giegerich is the blogstress behind the Daily Marauder and a digital marketing consultant. Follow her on Twitter for more social media and emerging tech insights.

In 1895, Nikola Tesla transmitted a radio signal 50 miles from New York City to West Point, NY in the first test of radio transmission. The golden age of radio took shape from the 1920s through the 1950s.

As traditional radio begins to the see the shadow of online radio, it's clear that a transitional point is upon us. Last week, Pandora surpassed popular terrestrial radio stations in New York City for the first time. Online services including Pandora, Spotify, Turntable and Rdio have been rapidly growing thanks to the strength and speed of cloud computing and a renewed appetite for online music discovery.

SEE ALSO: Music Subscription Faceoff: How Does Spotify Measure Up? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Each service has carved out a specific niche: Spotify is music on demand, Turntable is social music curation, Pandora is a personalized playlist and Rdio is the leader of the socially connected experience. Here we break down these four pioneers of the online DJ experience and examine some key criteria.

The Largest Mix: Spotify

Spotify is the clear winner with more than 15 million songs. Turntable comes in second place with 11 million songs (although reports estimate that the service will be adding 6.5 million to its song library), followed by Rdio at 10 million and Pandora in last place with 800,000 songs.

The Perfect Mix: Pandora

pandora image

When Turntable was first unleashed, I thought of the service as the re-invention of Napster crack. It recreates the atmosphere of a dark basement battle between amateur DJs trying to one-up one another. In Turntable, users can take turns “DJing” in discrete rooms based on their own musical style.

That said, there are a few drawbacks. For the most part, the rooms heavily favor indie music, electronica or hip hop. Also, because of the competitive nature, the music can get so bleeding edge that popular favorites don't get played. Where else would you find a massive crowd of strangers who all know the old school hip hop duo Blackalicious? The cool kids are certainly out with reckless abandon, but the service doesn't necessarily speak to the masses.

SEE ALSO: 4 Social Music Services for Your Office Soundtrack

Rdio, on the other hand, allows you to follow friends based on what they're listening to. It creates a playlist for you from their selections. But watch out — repetition can be a bit of an issue.

Spotify offers the ability to create and subscribe to playlists. Popular music services like We Are Hunted have even jumped on with their own lists.

For now though, Pandora and its music genome API still win here. Pandora creates playlists based on keywords, audio texture and user input. Like Rdio, variation is sometimes lacking.

Music Discovery: Turntable/Spotify

turntable fm image

The competitive nature of Turntable pushes it to the top of the list for music discovery. Most Turntable DJs attempt to surpass each other with some exceptionally eclectic playlists, even though it falls short of including genres other than indie, hip hop and electronica.

For more casual hunters Spotify is the winner, thanks to its vast catalogue of music, numerous playlists across all genres and its ability to search through comparative artists. Users can click on an artist name to load a new window with similar artists. There are also phenomenal Spotify playlist generators such as Spotibot or playlist search tools like Sharemyplaylists.

Auto Pilot vs. Music on Demand

Not every music service offers the same kind of user experience, which is a good thing. While at work, for example, you might want an auto pilot, hands-off experience like Pandora, Rdio or Turntable offer. Users interested in actively digging up new finds might be more inclined to monitor Spotify or take a hands-on approach with Turntable.

Selling the Music

Whichever service helps record labels sell music will be the one they throw their adoration behind. Spotify took its time convincing U.S. labels that they could help them make money. Unfortunately in Europe, only 15% of users pay for a slightly more robust Spotify subscription, according to company representatives.

All of the services except for Spotify allow users to purchase songs. The idea is to get casual listeners hooked on a new find which they’ll then buy. Spotify, however, is trying to push revenue through its subscription rather than individual music sales.

Social Features: Rdio

rdio image

Rdio is the clear winner here. Not only does it display what my friends are listening to, but it also offers an embeddable music player.

Spotify also has some cool social features, allowing playlist and track sharing. The ability to start conversations and show comments is, however, limited.

Turntable comes packed with nifty chat features, allowing DJs to share information about the music they’re playing or to talk smack about other DJs, as the case may be. Turntable also allows you to see which rooms your friends are in so you can join them. The social experience can be inconsistent, however, since so much is defined by the users in each room.

Pandora is the weakest of the bunch, with only a link to connect through Facebook.

Price: Spotify

Spotify wins price by a landslide. Spotify offers 15 million songs to choose on demand for free (though there are ads). This dwarfs Pandora’s 800,000 songs, while also allowing more control over ad volume. Rdio is solid, but there isn’t the same variation in music styles. It also comes with a $4.99/month starter package. Turntable is free but it doesn't allow users to play music on demand since the goal is to create a shared listening experience.

And the Winner Is …

In the end, Spotify wins out over the other music services. Spotify’s “freemium” version surpasses Pandora's offerings and is only poised to grow.

Which web radio services do you use and why? Share your opinions in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Flickr, icatus

More About: cloud computing, music, social media, spotify

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Conde Nast Elevator Twitter Account Goes Silent To Save Mystery Author’s Job

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 02:37 PM PDT

Sometimes, the absurdities of one’s workplace are just too delicious not too share. That was the idea behind short-lived Twitter account, @CondeElevator, which went silent Thursday to preserve the anonymous tweeter’s job at the media company.

@CondeElevator first came on the scene August 6, launching with the tweet: “Woman #1 to Woman #2, holding an omelet: ‘What’s the occasion?’ Woman #2: ‘…huh?’ Woman #1: ‘I would need an occasion to eat that.’” The 140-character vignettes that follow are all of this nature, depicting Conde Nast employees engaged in flighty, banal and sometimes outright cruel dialogue. Gems like these have amassed the account 60,389 followers in less than one week.

However, it seems that the person behind the feed has gotten a bad case of cold feet, tweeting Thursday: “Girl or Guy #1 [in elevator alone]: This got really crazy. Love my job. Better stop. #sorry”

Conde Nast, a notoriously secretive company, has garnered a rep over the years for being an elite organization — home to magazines like Vogue and media giants such as Anna Wintour (a picture of Meryl Streep as Wintour in The Devil Wears Prada serves as the account’s avatar). This secrecy and status fed into the account’s intrigue, causing many media outlets to stage a hunt for the person behind it.

Gawker suspects that the Twitterer works at GQ, as several staffers were the first to follow the account. The Daily Beast has John Jannuzzi, a style editor at Lucky magazine, pinned as the culprit (but our sources say he’s innocent). The publication also points out that most of the tweets come from the elevator bank that serves floors four through 16 (which go to Teen Vogue, GQ, Glamour, Architectural Digest, and Golf Digest).

Whatever mag the tweeter calls home, s/he still remains anonymous. However, if this case is anything like that of @BPGlobalPR or @MayorEmanuel, his/her identity will likely come to light. The “Girl or Guy” might lose his/her job, but, hey, there’s probably a book deal in there somewhere.

We’ve reached out to Conde Nast and @CondeElevator for comment.

More About: conde nast, CondeElevator, humor, pop culture, twitter

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Westfield Malls Unveils App for When You Shop

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 02:08 PM PDT

Westfield Malls has taken the wraps off of an in-mall shopping app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices that is both simple and useful — two adjectives that rarely apply to apps in the fashion and shopping category.

The app leverages Google’s commerce search technology, enabling users to browse the inventories of multiple retailers at each of Westfield Malls’ 55 U.S. locations.

Looking for a black cocktail dress and aren’t sure where to start? Open up the app, type in your query, and the app will pull up the pictures of items matching your search, complete with prices and location information. Unfortunately you can’t see if they have the item in your size in the app, but phone numbers are provided so you can call the store and check. You can also save items to a shopping list for later referral.

In addition to search, you can access mall maps, special retailer offers, movie show times, shopping hours and even leave a text or audio note to help you remember where you parked.

Check out the video above for a full visual preview. You can download the app in the iTunes store, Android marketplace and via BlackBerry App World.

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Google+ Games Going Live

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 01:13 PM PDT

Google+ users may notice something new on top of their streams on Thursday — a small icon signifying that Google+ Games had gone live.

The social network began offering a range of games from publishers including Zynga, Rovio and Wooga, but minutes after Google announced the offering on its Official Blog, it disappeared. It’s likely to return very soon though. “Games will be gradually rolling out so you might not see it right away,” a Google rep says.

In the blog entry,Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering for Google, stressed that the games, when they do eventually go live, won’t be appearing in everyone’s stream, an apparent veiled jab at Facebook, which lets game updates appear in its Top News and Most Recent streams.

“That means giving you control over when you see games, how you play them and with whom you share your experiences, Gundotra wrote on Thursday. “Games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don't.” Likewise, your scores will only be displayed to people in one of your circles when they themselves are interested in playing games too. “If you're not interested in games, it's easy to ignore them,” Gundotra writes. “Your stream will remain focused on conversations with the people you care about.”

The blog entry displays 16 game titles including Zynga Poker, Angry Birds and Sudoko.

The launch of games on Google+ is no surprise. Back in June, a reference to “Google+ Games” appeared in Google+ code. Google has been taking its time to make sure Google+ is fully functional before wide release and before it starts accepting branded profiles, but gaming is clearly a big step toward building a viable competitor to Facebook.

What do you think? Does Google’s strategy with games on Google+ make sense? What games would you like to see on the platform? Let us know in the comments.

Update: If you don’t have access to Google+ Games yet, check out the Google-produced video below for a look at what to expect.

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Greater Manchester Police Names & Shames Rioters on Twitter

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 01:07 PM PDT

In the name of swift and public justice, the Greater Manchester Police has begun tweeting the identities of people convicted of criminal damage and disorder during riots this week in Manchester and Salford.

The department is also requesting the public’s help in identifying suspects via photos and videos posted to its website and Flickr account.

Wednesday, the Greater Manchester Police notified its Twitter followers that criminals were going through the courts and would soon be “named and shamed.” Thursday, the Twitter account began rattling off the names, births dates, addresses and sentences for those convicted.

“We promised we’d name all those convicted for their roles in the disorder – here we go …” the @gmpolice account tweeted.

At least 12 convicted of riot-related crimes have been shamed via Twitter so far. The department is also updating its Facebook Page.

The police force is seeing some push-back from Twitter followers who are questioning the decision to publicly out culprits.

“And are @gmpolice *really* tweeting the names of people convicted? And 8 months for stealing clothes? What f*cking century are we living in?” Manchester resident Julian Yon said in one of many tweets directed at the department’s Twitter account.

Some have rallied to defend the department. “@gmpolice ignore @julianyon you are doing a great job these thugs deserve to be out there after the trouble they have caused well done GMP,” @DaveWard121 tweeted.

Others are put off by the level of detail shared. “@gmpolice fully agree with naming and shaming those who did wrong but addresses is a step to far what if it causes more uproar in the towns,” @donnasheedy tweeted.

In an immediate response, Greater Manchester Police tweeted, “@donnasheedy legally bound to publish address and dates of birth so no-one of the same name can be misidentified as the culprit.”

The debate continues about the ethics of these Twitter tactics. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Mobile Video: 3 Ways to Improve the User Experience

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 12:25 PM PDT

Jeroen Wijering is the creator of the incredibly successful JW Player, which has generated millions of downloads since its release in 2005. In 2007 he co-founded LongTail Video, focusing on a full-fledged online video platform that includes encoding, delivery, syndication and advertising.

With the Android and iOS platforms growing like weeds, online publishers are scrambling to “mobilize” their video players. Because Apple's iOS doesn’t run Flash, most of these publishers turn to the HTML5 <video> tag for delivering their clips to mobile devices.

While universalizing mobile video is a critical first step (better to have your videos play than not), it only marks the beginning of the process. The mobile user experience (UX) model is vastly different from that of the desktop browser, which means additional work is needed in areas such as interface, streaming and advertising. These UX differences hold several implications for video players.

Touch vs. Mouse

The most obvious difference is user input. A mouse controls desktop video players, whereas both iOS and Android rely on capacitive touchscreens. Since a fingertip is both bigger and more difficult to position than a mouse cursor, buttons on mobile video players must be larger than their desktop equivalents.

When using a mouse, there is the so-called “mouse-over” state — when the mouse is positioned over a button, but not clicked. Some video players rely on this tool to pop up a volume slider or selection menu. However, the tool is not available on touch devices, so mobile players cannot rely on it.

On the other hand, touch devices do allow users to control applications by sliding one or more fingers across the screen. This type of interaction (found in features like gestures and multi-touch) is relatively new and still unexplored, but could become widely used over time. Some basic gestures, like sliding over a webpage or scrolling through a playlist, are already widely recognized today.

Full-Screen vs. Windowed

Another key differentiator is screen size. Mobile screens are three or four inches in diameter, a big leap from 14-inch laptops or 20-inch desktop monitors. Therefore, on both Android and iPhone, videos are usually played back in full-screen, instead of a smaller window within an HTML page. This means that visual interaction with other parts of the page — including companion ads that pop up — is lost on mobile devices. Publishers should not rely on this advertising model.

In full-screen mode, both Android and iOS expose only system-provided video controls like pause and seeking. Important online video components such as additional share buttons and overlay ads are simply not possible. Therefore, any custom controls or graphics are best displayed before the video is started and/or after it has ended.

On-the-Go vs. At-the-Desk

Mobile devices are frequently used on-the-go, meaning their Internet connection may be poor and unreliable. Connection speed can change dramatically, even within a single video playback session, for example, when a user switches from 3G to Wi-Fi. Therefore, iOS devices support a specific type of video streaming that continuously adapts video quality to the available bandwidth connection: HTTP live streaming. It is highly recommended to use this functionality for mobile video playback.

Unfortunately, Android only supports this type of streaming as of version 3.0. To ensure optimal video quality, players can offer an up-front video quality selection. As Android manufacturers migrate from the 2.x to the 3.x platform, HTTP live streaming can — and should — replace this manual quality selector.

An additional “watch later” tool is convenient for mobile players. Users who are casually browsing on a mobile device can tag a video to save for later viewing. The publisher will then remind the user about the video at a later point. Publishers can implement "watch later" functionality using cookies, logins or one of the emerging services dedicated to this functionality.

In sum, the vast differences between desktops/laptops and mobile devices require a major redesign of existing video players. But things don’t stop at the player. The surrounding website needs optimization as well, with less content, fewer sidebars, less clutter and more focus on the video itself.

Mobilizing your video is not about swapping Flash for HTML5. Instead it’s about adapting your content to the device and facilitating a unique and interactive type of user experience. Mobile video consumption is exploding, but it's also still evolving, as are the platforms that serve the content to consumers. By going above and beyond the bare minimum now, you'll be well positioned as mobile continues to grow.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, PashaIgnatov, and Flickr, Luca Zappa.

More About: Mobile 2.0, mobile development, video

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Weather Channel Forecasts Now Include Tweets

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 11:53 AM PDT

The Weather Channel, in partnership with Twitter, is launching The Weather Channel Social, a new web, mobile and on-air initiative that will pair weather-related tweets with city forecasts.

On the web, The Weather Channel Social application is shown on local forecast pages and will showcase tweets — matched for relevance — with information on nearby weather conditions.

Tweets will appear on every local forecast page, in real time, in the company’s iPhone application. Tweets will also be featured during The Weather Channel’s live television broadcasts. The network plans to show tweets before, during and after weather events, and will use live programming to discuss and report on weather trends bubbling up on Twitter.

In addition, The Weather Channel has created 220 local Twitter feeds for cities with populations of more than 100,000.

“Adding Social to all of our platforms makes our storytelling more complete,” says Cameron Clayton, executive vice president of digital products of The Weather Channel, “enabling us to partner our expertise and forecasting with real-time local input about the weather from our consumers in a way that is relevant and personal.”

The network points to a number of statistics to make its case. On average, U.S. Twitter users send 200 weather-related tweets per minute. The figure jumps to 300 to 500 tweets per minute on an active weather day. And when there’s a significant weather event, Twitter users have been known to post more than 2 million related tweets in a day.

To further promote its social endeavor, The Weather Channel has taken to the influence network Klout to offer users with high scores a perk in the form of a free Weather Channel umbrella.

The Weather Channel Social was developed by Razorfish and is sponsored by Citi. Twitter and The Weather Channel will share in revenue from the sponsored initiative, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, PashaIgnatov

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Facebook: We’re Not Giving Out Your Number

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 11:13 AM PDT

Facebook has publicly responded to rumors that it is harvesting numbers from mobile phones and then making them public.

The source of the rumors is a misinterpretation of a feature called “Contacts.” When you download Facebook’s mobile app, this feature syncs your phone’s address book with your profile. From then on you can access all of the numbers in your phone from your Facebook profile.

What has made some users uneasy is this: Contacts uses your mobile phone contacts to match your friends’ Facebook profiles with their numbers. If a friend hasn’t included her number on her Facebook profile, it looks as though Facebook has just given you her number when in reality it came from your own phone.

The feature also uses the numbers in your phone’s contact list to search for potential friends on Facebook. If it finds somebody who has posted a number on Facebook that matches one in your phone book, it will suggest that you add them as a friend.

To see the feature in action on your own profile, go to the Accounts tab at the upper right-hand corner, select “edit friends,” and then choose “contacts” from the menu on the left.

A viral Facebook post warned users that Facebook also posts the numbers it finds on your phone to other users’ Contacts tabs. This is not the case, the company said in a post on its wall late Wednesday.

“Our Contacts list, formerly called Phonebook, has existed for a long time,” the statement says. “The phone numbers listed there were either added by your friends themselves and made visible to you, or you have previously synced your phone contacts with Facebook. Just like on your phone, only you can see these numbers.”

While Facebook says it is not sharing phone numbers collected from mobile phones, its ability to populate them in this way is still disturbing to some users, who left a total of about 9,000 comments on the message.

“You should have to opt INTO this feature, rather than have it happen automatically and have to uninstall it,” wrote user Heather Hollowell.

You can remove your mobile phone contacts from your Facebook profile by visiting this page.

More About: facebook, privacy, trending

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Mercedes Provides RFID Facebook Checkins at PGA Championship

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 10:43 AM PDT

Mercedes is the latest automaker — and likely the only one in the U.S. — to experiment with computer- and smartphone-less Facebook checkins via RFID.

The carmaker has set up 10 kiosks at the PGA Championship in Atlanta. Some 25,000 people have also been given VIP passes with RFID chips embedded in them. Those attendees can go on an iPad at the event and register — a process that takes under a minute — to use the passes to check in at the kiosks and Like any of the Mercedes cars at the event. They can also take pictures at the kiosks (which have built-in cameras) and check in via Facebook Places.

The idea of using RFID to enable Facebook checkins is fairly new, especially in the U.S. A forerunner of the technique was Coca-Cola, which ran a program at its amusement park in Israel last summer, letting park attendees check in and Like attractions using an RFID-enabled wristband. Automaker Renault also unveiled Facebook kiosks at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April. More recently, a hotel in Ibiza, the Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel, offered guests the ability to check in, Like things and upload photos at various kiosks on the hotel grounds.

A video below shows how the technology Mercedes is using, from ODIN Technologies, works in practice.

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The Making of iPad Head Girl [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 10:22 AM PDT

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

Remember that iPad Head Girl video we posted the other week? Well, the folks behind the head have posted a video explaining just what went into creating the cranium, a clever ad campaign for Cosmo‘s iPad-only magazine for men.

Cosmopolitan — of sex tips and dating quips fame — launched its first magazine for men, Cosmo For Guys the other week. The magazine will not be gracing newsstands but will live 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.

To herald the coming of the mag, Cosmo teamed up with Michael Krivicka’s viral video marketing agency, Thinkmodo (the folks behind such fake viral hits as “Frank's Marriage Proposal in Central Park”) to create “iPad Head Girl.”

Check out the video above to see how it all went down.

More About: cosmo for guys, ipad, ipad-head-girl, video, viral video, viral-video-of-day, youtube

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How Blurb Tapped Into the Burgeoning Self-Publishing Industry

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 10:00 AM PDT

The Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Series is supported by Diet Coke®. Now, the drink that helps you stay extraordinary brings you extraordinary people. Find Diet Coke® on Facebook for access to a whole lot of extraordinary.

For the last six years, Eileen Gittins has made it her mission to help anyone and everyone become an author via Blurb. What started as a self-publishing startup for do-it-yourself bookmakers has become a multi-platform storytelling service, adding an app for iPhone and iPod Touch in April, and most recently, an iPad iteration. Mashable spoke with Gittins about the conception and evolution of the company, her inspirations and, of course, cowboy boots.

Name: Eileen Gittins

Company: Blurb

Blurb’s Net Worth: $19 million invested

Fun Fact: I love cowboy boots and I have many pairs, vintage and new. And I wear them inappropriately, with crazy outfits where they don't necessarily go together.

What inspires you?

In this particular company and in general, people who can get passionate about anything, I just love that. I just get energized by ideas and by people who are committed wholeheartedly to whatever it is they're doing.

Our customers are like that, and our employees are like that. We interview people specifically for that [quality]: Tell me about something you love, something you care very deeply about. And if they pass that test, then the interview continues. If they don't, then the interview kind of stops.

And the reason we do that is because that's our customer base. Our customers are people who are taking the time and the energy and the creative juices to create a book — of some kind. It can just be a book of their photos, it could be something really special to them, a cookbook, their blog, whatever. But they're pouring their heart out, right? They're pouring their soul, their heart, the brand of them into this book. And it’s a privilege every day, and an inspiration every day to see the range of creative expression in the books that people make from all over the world.

What is your vision of success?

Blurb is already a winner, because every day we're giving voice to people all over the world — the ability to produce something of great beauty that you could never do before as a normal person if you weren’t a published author. You could never produce a truly high quality book like this and just order one copy before. You could never do that. So that's its own reward already; that's on the “soulful selling” side.

On the business side, we want to change the world one story at a time. We want to have that kind of worldwide impact: in the 21st century, what it means to [publish] a book and how people tell stories. And what's behind that for us is images: Photographs are the new lingua franca. It used to be the way that people communicated was almost exclusively through words, either spoken like we are now or written. Increasingly, people are communicating via pictures, images. We think that's a really important shift. And we want to enable that kind of communication storytelling through physical books and through digital books and through mobile media.

What about your idea was game-changing?

We're in the business of enabling people to create a story once and then publish it wherever. And this is a big differentiator.

Let me take you into where we've been over the last few years when it comes to enabling people to make a book. Now historically, a book meant a printed book, but we've known for a long time that that wasn't always going to be the case. So as the iPad came out, we really learned all about it. Because the iPad, unlike the Kindle or Nook, enables a rich media experience: color, two-page layout, etc. So right now, our beta [iPad app] — which will be out later this year publicly — will let you create your book once using any of Blurb's tools. We offer three options for book making: 1) a browser-based book-making tool; 2) a downloadable client that works on a Mac or a PC called BookSmart; and 3) if you're a designer and you want to use Adobe InDesign, we've got a template generator that will enable you to use InDesign and then just upload a PDF directly to us. So you can use any of those tools to make a book.

Now here's the kicker: You will then be able to output that book from the same file to any medium. You can purchase an iPad version, you can purchase a hardcover or softcover, and in our bookstore (because we're not only about "you can make it" — we're also about "you can market it, and you can sell it"), you can then make it available to your fans, your family, your friends and your customers in whatever form they want to purchase it, whether that's in iPad form or a printed book.

Right now, to get that done is a custom development job, and that's what publishing houses are doing. What Blurb is doing is saying, “No, no, no, you should be able to make it once and then publish it to whatever medium.” That's the ticket — that push for distribution, which is all about social. Because we think social is the new way to distribute books — meaning you can let the world know that you've just created something. Instead of going the old way — through physical bookstores and distributions — we think the new way is all through online, viral, word-of-mouth and social networks.

What was the pivotal point in your early startup days?

There was one question for the company before we actually got funded, and I think I will call out that as pivotal. And that was: Could we make money as a business on a book of one? Meaning if somebody made a book, and they only ever ordered one copy, could we have a viable business? And the reason why that was so important was that's the opposite of traditional book publishing.

In traditional book publishing, they take a bunch of risk on an author and spend a bunch of money up front. They invest, they put in all this time and energy, they put editorial on it, they put marketing, PR, publicity, distribution and then they hope on the other end that that book will sell 30,000, 50,000, 100,000 copies worldwide. So they make it up on volume. And so they recoup all their investments on all their books that actually become bestsellers.

We said, “That may not work, because our audience may never want to sell books at all.” In fact, a lot of the books may not have any commercial value. It’s a book of your vacation, or your family's cookbook. They may be a gift you're giving. You're not going to sell them at all. So we couldn't have a business model that presumed sales. So we had to think, “Okay, how will we create a business [based on] one copy?” And that was the pivotal question. That drove 50 other decisions for the company in terms of, "How can you do that?"

What was the biggest challenge you faced while launching Blurb?

[Establishing the business model] was the first challenge. The second challenge was that when I went out to raise money in 2005, everything was going online. So the blogosphere was going crazy, online gaming, Wiki, Flickr, publish your photos online, all that was happening.

The venture community thought I was a little insane to be looking to take those digital photos back to analog form, into digital books. Even though back in 2005 our vision was always that they wouldn't be physical forever. In fact, that's why we have the name Blurb — it sounds very online-y and webby.

But to the venture community at that time, the idea of taking everyone's images and content back into digital books was a little bit crazy. But we did get funded, and since then we've been usually successful.

What are the biggest influences on your business model?

The rise of the creative professional within our market. And by the way, when I say “creative professional” I mean the higher-end enthusiast to the professional. These are people who have a DSLR, these are people who are really into it. In fact, we just launched our Instagram book. I would include the rabid, passionate Instagram user in this category.

These are people who really want to create; they want their stuff to look beautiful. And what that means is they're very discerning about quality. Because if they've just spent all this time applying filters and bringing it into Photoshop, and getting it just right — man, when you print that book, it better look as close to what that thing looked like on the screen as possible because they actually really, really care.

What that has meant for us is we have had to really focus on color, print quality, binder quality in a way different than if we were just addressing someone who wants to send her mother a picture book of the baby's second birthday party.

So what is now happening with us is we are seeing work come in from famous, high-end working photographers, from big brands like Lexus, and Honda, and Ralph Lauren and Pixar and others. We're seeing a lot of brand books come through ad agencies. And the reason for it is because, while these people could make books previously, they used to need a big budget. Now your budget as an agency is the cost of one book. Presumably you have in-house creative people who do this, so it's people-time, but literally your budget can be 30 bucks.

How did your social network of peers influence your business?

I meet up with people all the time. I'm a big LinkedIn user — I use it all the time to get connected. And this is how people now can get connected to me. So I hear from people all the time. Now the bad side of this, of course, is as a CEO, you're visible and people reach out to you all the time with all kinds of crazy stuff. You just don't have time to respond to every single thing.

But I do get LinkedIn messages now from people that I actually do want to meet. Same thing with Facebook. Pretty much every day I'll get a message in from either LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, from somebody who wants to connect up with me or the company. And I'll say at least half of the time, it's really interesting.

How does your startup utilize social media? (Any excellent case studies?)

Blurb itself has a Facebook Page, we have a YouTube channel, we have a dedicated person in our marketing department who is our community manager and whose job it is to be engaged in our conversation — not to be a marketer in those mediums, because that just doesn't work and it's not appropriate, but to participate in the conversation.

When we launched the Instagram book, Twitter just lit up like you can't believe. It was unbelievable — and worldwide — the amount of tweets about Blurb's new Instagram book. Ditto when we launched the social version of Blurb mobile. The number of folks who were tweeting about it and Facebooking their mobile stories onto their accounts — because you can do that within the app — it just exploded. So as a business, we're very conscious.

It used to be your website where people could connect with you, but that's still a wall — it's your corporate site. These other mediums (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) are a more personal connection, and given the nature of what we do, and how personal people's stories are, it's critical that we pay attention, that we're in the conversation. One of the things that we're looking to do later this year is a camera-phone conference. We have speakers from companies like Instagram and Bolt Peters, and some others to put on a day where we talk about how you can use social media to get your visual stories out there. So we're looking to sponsor things like that to really progress the notion of an imaging workflow for camera phones.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Do something you love, because when you're starting a company, especially for an early-stage entrepreneur, it's marginally taxing. There will be dark times. If you don't have that passion behind it personally, if it’s not something that you just believe in and you love, then it's hard to sustain yourself through the moments when it's really, really hard.

The second piece of advice is get friends to be a sounding board in your network, and that can be online or offline or both. Because the hardest thing that will happen when you're an entrepreneur is you'll get tunnel vision unless you get people around you who will see your psyche and your soul, and they’ll keep you honest.

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Cablevision & Viacom Resolve iPad Streaming Dispute

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 09:48 AM PDT

Cablevision and Viacom have announced that they’ve settled their legal dispute over Cablevision’s Optimum apps for iPhone and iPad.

In June, Viacom announced that it was suing Cablevision over its live streaming app for iOS. It allows Cablevision subscribers to use their iPad as a TV and to stream live and on-demand programming while inside their home. On Tuesday, Cablevision updated its app to support the iPhone and iPod touch.

Viacom claimed that by providing customers with access to live TV on the iPad, Cablevision was breaking its content distribution agreement. Cablevision’s response was that treating the iPad as any other cable box didn’t violate anything.

So how was it all settled? Very, very quietly. Check out this statement that the companies jointly released late Wednesday:

“Viacom and Cablevision have agreed to resolve their pending litigation, and the Viacom programming will continue to appear on Cablevision’s Optimum Apps for iPad and other IP devices. In reaching the settlement agreement, Cablevision and Viacom were able to resolve the iPad matter and an unrelated business matter to their mutual satisfaction. Neither side is conceding its original legal position or will have further comment. [emphasis ours]”

This isn’t the first time Viacom has faced off against cable providers over the iPad. In April, Viacom sued Time Warner Cable (who promptly countersued Viacom) over the fact that Time Warner’s iPad app allowed access to some Viacom-owned television networks. In June, the two companies entered a standstill agreement, putting litigation on hold.

Without knowing how this agreement ended up working out, it’s impossible to say who walked away with the upper hand. Regardless, it’s yet another example of the changes taking place in the content distribution space.

More About: cablevision, ipad, ipad streaming, lawsuits, tv, tv everywhere, viacom

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New Twitter Analytics Tool Helps You Decide Whom To Follow

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 09:26 AM PDT

Twtrland is a new service that converts Twitter streams into detailed profiles to try and make it easier to decide whom to follow.

Simply plug in the Twitter handle you want to analyze, and Twtrland will build a profile for you. (See mine above.) The profile includes info like how often the user is retweeted, how many times she or he tweets per day, a breakdown of tweet content (plain tweets, pictures, @replies, etc.), most-retweeted tweets (Famous Words), top followers and a sampling of tweets.

According to the service’s site, one of the main problems Twtrland is trying to solve is: “Deciding if someone is follow-worthy. These are not your real life friends, but people that are supposed to interest you. Hard to decide based on last 10-15 tweets, avatar and description. We go deep in his history, and sum it all up to the simplest profile we could think of to help you decide in a glimpse. to follow or not to follow.”

Although the service isn’t the most visually stunning at present, it is a neat way to lay out a user’s info, and analyze your own Twitter activity — as well as satisfy that burning desire to reflect on one’s own musings.

More About: trending, twitter, Twtrland

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AOL To Buy Back $250 Million of Declining Stock

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 09:12 AM PDT

AOL is planning to repurchase $250 million of its outstanding common stock during the next 12 months, the company said in an announcement Thursday.

Before the announcement, AOL was valued at $11.03 per share, down 36% since the company disclosed Q2 2011 earnings Wednesday.

Despite ad revenues being up for the first time since 2008, the company said that ad gains had flattened over the summer and revised its profit expectations downward from the beginning of the quarter.

Investors still aren’t sure that AOL’s efforts to evolve from an Internet subscription service — which, though declining, still makes up a third of the company’s revenues — into an ad-based media company will end profitably.

The announcement has at least succeeded in stemming the stock’s freefall for the short term; AOL shares have since shot up to $11.94 apiece, up 16.44% from the open.

At its present value, $250 million would buy the company more than a fifth of its 106 million outstanding shares. AOL will likely spread out the buyback over the next year, and has reserved the right to suspend or discontinue the repurchase program at any time.

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Facebook Reorganizes Your Chat List — Again

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:51 AM PDT

Facebook‘s chat bar has gone through multiple iterations recently, and today you may have noticed a new format. Friends whose profiles you interact with most often are listed in one section at the top of your list, followed by a section of “more online friends” below.

The changes were implemented Thursday morning in response to user feedback from a redesign of chat in July, says a Facebook spokesperson. About 28,000 people had “liked” a Facebook Page entitled “I hate the new Facebook sidebar chat.”

The redesigned chat now stretches from the top of the browser to the bottom instead of being contained to its previous pop-up box, and until today it showed only a selection of friends instead of everyone who was online.

Prior to July, all online friends appeared in the same bar in alphabetical order. One of the major criticisms of the most recent iteration of the chat bar was that it didn’t show all friends who were online. Today’s update rectifies that by adding the “more online friends” category beneath the friends you interact with the most.

The Facebook spokesperson said this most recent change is not a test.

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Nokia Is the Top Handset Maker in Second Quarter [STUDY]

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:24 AM PDT

Nokia sold more handsets than anyone else in the second quarter, but will likely lose the top slot in Q3, according to a report from Gartner.

Nokia sold 97.9 million units in the quarter, giving the handset maker a 22.8% share, in units. That was down 111.5 million units and a 30.3% share in Q2 2010. The report, however, notes that Nokia’s top position is not a reflection of successful new product introductions, but of retailers in Europe and China clearing out old Nokia inventory by cutting prices.

"The sales efforts of the channel, combined with Nokia's greater concentration in retail and distributors' sales, saw Nokia destock more than 9 million units overall and 5 million smartphones, helping it hold on to its position as the leading smartphone manufacturer by volume," said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a statement. "However, we will not see a repeat of this performance in the third quarter of 2011, as Nokia's channel is pretty lean."

On the other hand, Samsung‘s number two ranking, with 69.8 million units and a share of 16.3% came as the company successfully migrated its product line to higher-end smartphones, according to the report. Samsung’s decline from a 17.8% came largely because the company stop selling so many lower-end devices.

Elsewhere, the report noted strong growth for Android, which now has 43.4% of the global market for smartphone platforms, in units compared to 17.2% in Q2 2010. Nokia’s Symbian OS fell to a 22.1% share from 40.9% over that time, while Apple’s iOS had 18.2% compared to 14.1%.

Overall sales of mobile phones also jumped 16.5% to 428.7 million units for Q2 2011 versus the same period in 2010.

Image courtesy of Nokia

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Spotify to Indie Labels: We’re an “Alternative to Piracy”

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:09 AM PDT

Spotify has faced some heat from indie labels that weren’t happy with the service’s payoff, and the company is now responding with a statement about how it hopes to help the music industry.

Century Media, a heavy metal and hardcore label group, pulled out of Spotify this week “to protect the interests of their artists,” according to Hypebot.

“Spotify in its present shape and form isn’t the way forward,” Century Media said in a statement. “Physical sales are dropping drastically in all countries where Spotify is active.”

Mode Records, a contemporary classical and jazz label, soon voiced its criticism as well in a blog post by label owner Brian Brandt. “If one cares about music, then you should support the artists and labels you like: buy a real CD, or buy the album or track from someone like iTunes,” he said. “While the major labels and pop music may be able to reap a real income stream from Spotify simply due to the sheer volume of streams, the Spotify model is not financially sustainable for any indie niche label.”

In its response, Spotify said it wants to provide a wide range of music for its users and it wants to get the music to fans legally.

“Spotify was launched out of a desire to develop a better, more convenient and legal alternative to music piracy,” the company said.

You can read the full rebuttal below:

We are sorry that Century Media have opted not to offer its music to their fans through Spotify. Spotify has one of the biggest music libraries in the world — of over 15 million tracks — and is committed to offering our users the widest possible selection of music across artists and genres from around the world.

Spotify was launched out of a desire to develop a better, more convenient and legal alternative to music piracy. Spotify now monetises an audience the large majority of whom were downloading illegally (and therefore not making any money for the industry) before Spotify was available.

Spotify is now generating serious revenues for rights holders; since our launch just three years ago, we have paid over $100 million to labels and publishers, who, in turn, pass this on to the artists, composers and authors they represent. Indeed, a top Swedish music executive was recently quoted as saying that Spotify is currently the biggest single revenue source for the music industry in Scandinavia.

Spotify is now also the second single largest source of digital music revenue for labels in Europe (IFPI, Apr 2011). Billboard reported in April that Spotify territories saw an average digital growth rate of 43% last year. By contrast, neighbouring countries (without Spotify) saw only 9.3% digital growth.

We are very proud of the positive contribution that Spotify makes towards growth in the music industry.

What do you think? Will Spotify save or doom indie labels?

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Near Field Communication: A Quick Guide to the Future of Mobile

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:00 AM PDT

The Buzzword Breakdown Series is supported by The Network, Cisco’s technology news site. The Network features technology news, trends and information on video, collaboration, core networks, mobility, security, data, Cisco culture and social media.

NFC Transmit ImageBefore it became a hot topic sometime early last year, few civilians had come across the term “near field communication” (NFC). Corporations, however, had been excited about the technology’s potential since at least 2004 — when Nokia, Sony and Royal Philips Electronics founded the NFC Forum. Samsung, Motorola, Microsoft and more than 140 other organizations all joined the party shortly after.

NFC allows a device, usually a mobile phone, to collect data from another device or NFC tag at close range. In many ways, it's like a contactless payment card that is integrated into a phone. In other ways, it's similar to Bluetooth, except that instead of programming two devices to work together, they can simply touch to establish a connection.

So why are some of the world’s most influential companies so excited about it? We’ve compiled notes on what NFC is, why its useful and how it’s starting to permeate the product world.

How Does NFC Work?

NFC devices share a core technology with RFID tags, contactless payment cards and inductive-coupling. In the words of the NFC Forum, “loosely coupled inductive circuits share power and data over a distance of a few centimeters.”

According to the Forum, NFC can operate in three modes:

  • Reader/writer mode: A reader/writer can collect and write information on a smart tag. “The tag is essentially an integrated circuit containing data, connected to an antenna,” explains a white paper from NFC-developer Innovision.
  • Peer-to-peer mode: Two NFC devices can exchange data between each other.
  • Card emulation mode: An NFC device appears to a reader like a contactless payment card or contactless transportation card.

What Can NFC Be Used For?

Personal Rosetta Stone Image

  • Transportation: NFC works with most contactless smart cards and readers, meaning it can easily be integrated into the public transit payment systems in cities that already use a smart card swipe.
  • Ease of Use: Unlike Bluetooth, NFC-enabled devices don’t have to be set up to work with each other. They can be connected with a tap. If NFC-enabled phones become prevalent, you'll likely be able to initiate a two-player game by touching two phones together. You'll be able to link a headset to your phone or print a photo just by touching your device to a printer.
  • Smart Objects: NFC can have similar applications as bar codes do now. You can put one on a poster and let pedestrians scan it on their phones for more information. But being able to add more information to any object by integrating a tag has led to some interesting applications that go far beyond billboards. A company called Objecs, for instance, sells an NFC tablet for gravestones. Touching an NFC-enabled phone to the Personal Rosetta Stone provides additional information about the deceased.
  • Social Media: Before Foursquare took off, a German company called Servtag was working toward a similar concept for NFC-enabled phones called Friendticker. The company applied more than 250 NFC-tag stickers at various locations in Berlin that users would swipe their phones past in order to alert their friends that they were "checked in" at that location.

While Foursquare may have stolen the thunder for location-based networking, there are still plenty of social media applications for NFC in the works. In 2009, a German university (Technische Universität München) submitted a prototype to the NFC Forum competition that integrated with Facebook. The application, NFriendConnector, allowed people who met in a physical space to exchange profile data through their phones. Their respective statuses would automatically be updated (for example, "I just met so and so"), and they could choose to include their location ("I just met so and so at this bar"). Instead of stalking a new acquaintance’s profile after a night out, this application provides an option to run a matching method based on variables the user provides (such as interest, dislikes and hobbies) while still chatting with them in the bar.

What’s The Fuss About Mobile Payments?

In the news, NFC is most often discussed in relation to mobile payments or “the digital wallet.” Unlike many other wireless technologies, NFC has a short range of about 1.5 inches. This makes it a good choice for secure transactions, such as contactless credit card payments.

Credit card companies, mobile network providers and startups are all gunning for the opportunity to facilitate digital transactions when NFC-enabled phones become widely available.

What Major Players Are Interested in NFC?


  • Google: In May, Google revealed a contactless payment system called Google Wallet. Citi, MasterCard, Sprint and First Data partnered on the effort to make an app that enables mobile payments and loyalty cards using NFC. At first, it will support Citi MasterCard and a Google prepaid card and be compatible with the Nexus S 4G.
  • Amazon: Amazon is also exploring an NFC-enabled mobile payment system.
  • Apple: One of the most popular Apple rumors of late is that the iPhone 5 will be NFC-enabled. The same rumor turned out to be false regarding the iPad 2.
  • Microsoft: Not one to be left out of a party, Microsoft is also rumored to be planning NFC capabilities for its next phone releases.
  • PayPal: The company has partnered with Bling Nation, a Palo Alto startup that has been installing contactless payment terminals at local merchants since 2008. When users attached an NFC-enabled sticker to their phone, they could swipe to make payments and receive rewards. Previously, Bling Nation users were paying from accounts at partner banks. Since last summer, they've also had the option to pay using their PayPal accounts.
  • Credit card companies: Contactless payment stations that use cards can easily accept payments that use NFC as well. Thus, pretty much every major credit card company that has started the process of distributing payment stations to provide tap-and-go payments using cards is also interested in NFC-enabled payments.
  • Mobile phone providers: Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile partnered to launch an NFC contactless payment network called Isis last year. Initially, it was partnered with just Discover. Since then, Visa, MasterCard and American Express have signed on.

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The Buzzword Breakdown Series is supported by The Network, Cisco’s technology news site. The Network features technology news, trends and information on video, collaboration, core networks, mobility, security, data, Cisco culture and social media. To subscribe to The Network, click here. You can also submit your story ideas here.

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