Saturday, 13 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Jonathan’s Card: Starbucks Shuts Down Social Experiment Over Fraud Concerns”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Jonathan’s Card: Starbucks Shuts Down Social Experiment Over Fraud Concerns”

Jonathan’s Card: Starbucks Shuts Down Social Experiment Over Fraud Concerns

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 09:04 PM PDT

Jonathan Stark’s community-giving Starbucks Card is no more. At 7 p.m. PT Friday, Starbucks reluctantly pulled the plug on Stark’s pay-it-forward social experiment following allegations of fraud or misuse.

Starbucks made the decision to shut down the communal Jonathan’s Card, already in violation of Starbucks Card program terms, after it came to light that funds were being misappropriated.

Adam Brotman, vice president of digital ventures at Starbucks, phoned Stark earlier Friday evening to inform him that the card would be deactivated. Starbucks, he says, was rooting for the experiment from the sidelines, even though the company’s terms do not permit the use of shared registered cards.

“I’m sad about it, first and foremost, because we were legitimately cheering on this experiment,” Brotman says.

Friday morning, entrepreneur Sam Odio’s "How to use Jonathan's card to buy yourself an iPad” blog post lit the web on the fire. Some saw the card exploit as an evolution of the experiment; others saw it as theft. Odio even later offered to return the funds. Once the exploit was public, however, Starbucks felt compelled to deactivate the card.

Stark launched Jonathan's Card on July 14 as a social adaption of the "take a penny, leave a penny" concept. Hundreds of people donated several thousand dollars to the communal coffee project before it was shut down.

The Jonathan’s Card website has been updated with the following message: “We believe this is the start to a bigger more glowing picture. In the last 5 days or so, we’ve received hundreds of stories of people doing small things to brighten a stranger’s day: Paying for the next car at the drive through. Sharing a pick me up with someone who has had a rough time. Charging up a phone card and sharing it with strangers at the airport … So, tonight we lose our barcode. But of course, we never needed it in the first place.”

The @jonathanscard Twitter account, which was previously updating followers with the card’s balance, observed its end with this final tweet: “The next chapter begins”

More About: Jonathan Stark, Jonathan's Card, social media, starbucks

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5 Reasons Your Product Documentation Is a Marketing Asset

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 08:37 PM PDT

Mike Puterbaugh is the VP of marketing at MindTouch, the leader in social knowledge bases, product help and enterprise collaboration. You can follow him on Twitter at @mputerbaugh23.

As a CMO, it's important to understand what clever technology developers and open source leaders have known for years: Great product documentation isn't loathsome — it's marketing, and darn good marketing at that.

Today, the smartest apps and campaigns dominate headlines and boardrooms. Meanwhile, documentation has become marketing's secret weapon.

Documentation is the language that accompanies a product, often outlining its development, design, technical language and marketing strategy in clear, definitive terms.

Ultimately, good documentation won't comprise a cost, but rather, a profit. Furthermore, it's an SEO godsend. Documentation can indicate how to evolve products and spark cross-functional communication. It can reveal holes in the sales funnel that otherwise would have eluded you.

In marketing terms, documentation can put you into contact with prospective investors and customers alike. And while much of marketing can be asynchronous and speculative, documentation remains reliable and predictable.

Here's why you need to start thinking about strategic documentation.

1. Credible Language vs. Marketing Lingo

Documentation can be your best bet as a source of leads.

Integrate documentation into your marketing automation system (Omniture, Eloqua or Marketo, for example) to enhance communication about your product's features and benefits. Unfortunately, many marketers forget or disregard this step, despite the minimum work involved.

On the other hand, should your documentation look or read like marketing copy? Of course not. Documentation is decidedly not marketing copy. It should be credible, and absent the jargon and salesmanship that customers and prospects have come to expect from the marketing kind. Understandable, your documentation should still be able to demonstrate how well your company understands its market and target customers.

Furthermore, you can discover much about a company based on its documentation. It allows investors and participants a peek behind the company curtain. Savvy buyers — and even users of free products — use documentation as a gauge for company seriousness and dependability. Again, developers have known this since the dawn of the web.

At one time or another, you've probably assumed that documentation contains highly technical language. That may be the case, but not exclusively. Documentation should be granular, but also social and searchable. The best documentation contains both generalist and specialist material, designed to engage each intended audience.

2. Search Engine Optimization

Documentation should be keyword-rich, densely linked and expertly structured. Importantly, it doesn't raise the red flags that other types of content might.

Keep in mind that fresh, social, collaborative and, therefore frequently updated documentation makes it more Google-friendly. Making documentation social from the beginning will ensure steady traffic and save unnecessary stress and upkeep.

Scatter keywords through your documentation, link deliberately, and apply filters and tags. Most importantly, update every now and then to make sure your documentation remains current.

Documentation is an incredible SEO asset, but too often it doesn't get treated as such. Sometimes marketing won't have a hand in the construction process. Other times documentation is left unrevised, and thus, outdated.

3. Cross-Functionality

Company documentation makes for better cross-department communication and collaboration. It forges connections among product, marketing, services and support. Therefore, it's strategic for everyone.

First and foremost, documentation responsibilities should probably fall within the CMO's duties because that's where its effect starts and stops. But regardless of ownership or flow charts, documentation can get your SEO and your product team talking in ways they never have before. The same goes for support, PR, services and tech teams.

4. Community Building

Documentation is also a wonderful way to create a community around your product or service.

Although documentation has a bad rap for being wonky, realize that it can actually present an opportunity for community and customer congregation. Why not give them more to do, allow them a seat at the table, and let them find themselves in the product?

There is a profound ladder of engagement that begins with documentation. Documentation sits at the bottom, forming the foundation of interaction. From it, all further engagement flows — interactions can span over social media, to more monolithic, top-down content, and eventually evolve into emails and phone conversations.

Documentation is a company's lifeblood, seldom seen but crucial to function and health.

5. Identifying Needs

Finally, documentation is a very effective way of identifying unmet customer needs.

It holds a wealth of information that your product team will drool over, and yet that feedback loop is seldom taken advantage of. What are the most commented-upon items, for example? The most viewed? The most cited?

Furthermore, your documentation should contain analytics — there is no greater company intelligence. Ideally, analytics consist of correct, statistically significant signals that reveal cause and effect, with which you can reliably make decisions.

Used correctly, documentation can make your company a better informed, intuitive operation.


Previously, documentation was thought of as a necessary evil. Or worse even — a black hole that consumed budgets and brain function. But two major things have since changed:

First, we invested in social software. And documentation can be inherently social. For many companies, it's a collaborative tool — a link between internal departments and external audiences. Collaboratively creating documentation content drives down costs and makes the task less daunting.

Secondly, documentation can inform other functions and services. Tie-ins, integrations and all manner of APIs mean more automation, and therefore less long-term work. Ultimately, documentation should leverage and gather all of the great work your company is performing elsewhere.

As a CMO, there is no more strategic, high-margin initiative you can undertake than optimal documentation.

It's not a sexy undertaking, but it will earn you the respect of your peers, more effective company management and a more collaborative team. Because it's not about this quarter or this year, but rather, it's about affecting competitive advantage and long-term growth.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, AK2, and Flickr, marciookabe, Nearsoft

More About: business, MARKETING, SEO, Web Development

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Retail Site Leverages Video To Sell High-End Goods

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 07:51 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: Joyus

Quick Pitch: A women’s retail site built around video.

Genius Idea: Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, former president of Google’s Asia Pacific and Latin American operations, and Diana Williams, former director of product management in eBay’s fashion division, are kicking video and ecommerce integration up a notch with Joyus, a women’s retail site centered around video that launched in public beta this month.

Video’s role in ecommerce is growing, particularly in the fashion and beauty categories. Brands such as Burberry are live streaming fashion shows and distributing tightly edited short films across their respective digital properties, while retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue and Net-a-Porter now let shoppers view videos of clothes on moving models before users make a purchase, among other developments.

The site is organized much like high-end flash sales site Gilt, with limited-time sales on a range of luxury apparel, beauty and home goods. Each sale is accompanied by a short infomercial — typically two to four minutes — in which a guest contributor gives an overview of the product and its uses.

The infomercials are great for marketing merchandise that most shoppers aren’t inherently familiar with — like, say, TATCHA beauty papers, which claim to remove excess oil and prevent breakouts. Joyus brought in professional makeup artist Matthew VanLeeuwen to demonstrate the papers to visitors who weren’t necessarily sure they needed to have this product in their cosmetics bags.

The videos are instrumental in both product discovery and sales, as well as developing customer loyalty, says Theresia Gouw Ranzetta, a partner at venture capital firm Accel Partners. Accel and Harrison Metal were the lead investors in Joyus’s initial, $7.9 million round of funding, announced earlier this month.

Co-founder Cassidy added that early data suggests sales are most likely to occur when viewers watch between two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half minutes of a video on the site, suggesting that video can increase direct sales as well as engagement.

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: fashion, joyus, spark of genius series

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Missing E: How a Troubled Tumblr Add-On Was Reborn

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 06:35 PM PDT

The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. Learn more about Rackspace’s hosting solutions here.

Nearly two weeks after Tumblr requested that unofficial browser extension Missing e go offline, the useful utility is planning to make its way back to users.

Missing e is an unofficial browser extension that adds functionality and enhanced features to Tumblr. The ability to reblog yourself, enhance the “Ask” feature and a host of dashboard tweaks are just some of the many features in the extension. Originally, the project started off as a few userscript enhancements, but over time, it evolved into an extension that was frequently updated and frequently developed.

Missing e is one of the few extensions I have installed on every browser on my laptop and iMac. In fact, I like Missing e so much, I reached out to its developer Jeremy Cutler earlier this summer and asked if he would agree to be interviewed for a story on various Tumblr hacks.

Just days before Cutler and I were scheduled to meet in person, Tumblr reached out and asked him to take the extension offline until some issues could be sorted out.

On its face, it looked like Tumblr had problems with the way that Missing e was making some of its API calls, as well as questions about whether or not Missing e followed the guidelines set out in the Tumblr API License Agreement. After Cutler agreed to make changes so that the code was more efficient, as well as removing a feature that would hide the Tumblr Radar, it appeared that the bigger problem, at least from Cutler’s perspective, was the way that Missing e modifies the Tumblr Dashboard for its users. Cutler was left with the impression that without stripping away every feature that would make Missing e useful, he would be unable to satisfy Tumblr.

When we met last week, Cutler opened up to Mashable about some of the technical, ethical and social challenges that have in essence, forced him to throw in the towel on Missing e.

The loss of Missing e wasn’t something that the community took lightly. More than 2,500 users signed a petition to save Missing e and prominent members of the Tumblr community expressed their support for the extension.

Still, Cutler wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue with the project. When we spoke to Cutler last week, the entire issue was still raw. As he wrote on his own Tumblr last week, “it’s hard not taking this personally.”

Tumblr, it turns out, is most responsible for the change in fate for Missing e. You see, earlier this week, some new features made their way into the Tumblr Dashboard. These are features that bore striking resemblance to some of the preferences in Missing e

As Cutler told us via email:

“I had been working a little bit on the code when the mood struck, but when they began releasing features similar to those in Missing e, I have to admit that I got my back up. I am glad that they are trying to improve, whether or not they’ve taken their cues from me. Still, I think the way they’ve implemented these new features leaves a little to be desired. The new release will fix the tag wrapping problem and allow users to make automatic tag reblogging optional.”

At this stage, Cutler is preparing to release a new version of Missing e. This version will not use the API in any way, which to Cutler, should clear him of any violation of the API License Agreement. One of the casualties of not using the API will mean that timestamps on posts in the Dashboard will not supported.

Cutler is also going to remove the popular Follow Checker and Unfollower features from Missing e. As he puts it, “that amount of scraping really isn’t fair to Tumblr’s servers.” And while he expects to lose some users over this feature, he’ll also be getting rid of his biggest source of support queries.

For its part, Tumblr has been quiet regarding the issue. After speaking with Cutler several times last week, the company hasn’t contacted the developer again since the incident received some press attention.

Frankly, as disappointed as we have been that this entire situation has unfolded this way, we’re happy to see that Missing e is going to be back in action. Cutler, who is a software engineer in his day job, is the type of person most companies want as add-on developers.

Series Supported by Rackspace


The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. No more worrying about web hosting uptime. No more spending your time, energy and resources trying to stay on top of things like patching, updating, monitoring, backing up data and the like. Learn why.

More About: api, developers, jeremy cutler, missing e, tumblr, web development series

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San Francisco Blocks Cell Service To Thwart Protest, Draws Ire of Anonymous

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 05:25 PM PDT

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) shut down cell service at four San Francisco stations Thursday night to thwart a protest attempt. The decision has drawn the ire of many, including members of hacker collective Anonymous.

In July, a BART police officer shot and killed Charles Blair Hill, a transient who reportedly pulled a knife on BART officers. The incident enraged protesters who disrupted BART service a week later.

Another protest was planned for Thursday night. Protest organizers were said to be coordinating via mobile devices; this prompted officials to interrupt wireless service for three hours.

Anonymous, inflamed over what it believes to be cellphone censorship, has initiated an #OpBART campaign against BART and is taking to Twitter and other channels to rally supporters.

Anonymous is asking followers to file a complaint with the FCC and bombard BART with emails and faxes. The group posted BART contact information in a post on Tumblr. The @YourAnonNews Twitter account also hints at more disruption to come.

BART, meanwhile, stands by its actions. “Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on August 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police,” says a statement from BART. “BART asked wireless providers to temporarily interrupt service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.”

James Allison, deputy chief communications officer for BART, later told CNET it had disabled mobile services at Embarcadero, Montgomery Street, Powell Street and Civic Center stations. “BART staff or contractors shut down power to the nodes and alerted the cell carriers,” he said.

BART’s decision to shut off cell service comes just days after UK rioters used BlackBerry Messenger to communicate and coordinate efforts.

Image courtesy of Twitter, YourAnonNews

More About: anonymous, BART, social media, trending

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Google+ Posts Now Appear in Google Search Results

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 04:18 PM PDT

Google has begun integrating Google+ into search results with public Google+ posts now appearing in Social Search.

Whenever a user publicly shares a link on Google+, an annotation will show up under that link when it appears in a friend’s search results. For example, if I share a Mashable article about Google+ eliminating pseudonyms publicly on my Google+ page, users who have added me to their circles will see a note that I shared that link if they stumble upon it in Google Search.

Google+ now joins Flickr, Twitter, Quora and Google Buzz as other inputs for Google’s Social Search product. Social Search debuted in 2009 at the Web 2.0 Summit, partly as a response to Bing’s integration with Facebook and Twitter. Social Search highlights what links your friends are sharing on the web and returns results it believes are relevant based on your friends’ interests.

Social Search integration is only the beginning for Google’s plans for combining its search engine and social network. Google intends to revive real-time search with Google+ data and will launch a search engine for Google+ posts. Of course, the tech giant did the same thing with Google Buzz, and we all know what happened to that product.

Do you think Google+ makes Google Search a better product? Let us know what you think in the comments.

More About: Google, Google Plus. Social Search, google search, trending

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Jonathan’s Card: Is The Starbucks Social Experiment Over?

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 03:17 PM PDT

Jonathan Stark’s feel-good social experiment mutated after entrepreneur Sam Odio repurposed $625 from Jonathan’s Card onto a Starbucks Card of his own that he’s selling in the name of charity.

Odio, fielding both criticism and support from commenters on Mashable, Hacker News and other sites, is now offering to return the money if Stark believes his actions constitute theft.

“It was my impression that Jonathan was interested in seeing how the card was used, regardless of the purpose,” Odio tells Mashable. “If Jonathan believes I stole money off his card I’d gladly return it — after all, it’s his property. However I’d then consider this social experiment over.”

Odio made a similar statement, directed at Stark, on Twitter. Stark did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stark launched Jonathan's Card on July 14 as a social adaption of the "take a penny, leave a penny" concept. The card has since taken on a life of its own. Earlier Friday, Odio revealed that he had created a script to transfer donated money off Jonathan’s Card and on to other cards.

Odio then listed a $625 Starbucks Card on eBay with the intention of donating proceeds from the auction to charity. The listing was later removed by eBay because it exceeded the maximum limit of $500 for a gift card. Odio now plans to list two separate cards to meet eBay’s criteria.

There’s one more odd twist to the saga. Odio’s older brother Daniel, also an entrepreneur, has been donating to Jonathan’s Card since August 7 — the same date Sam started repurposing funds. Daniel has added back exactly $625 over the past few days; he shared a screenshot of his transactions with Mashable to prove his claim.

Daniel Odio, who fully supports his younger brother’s actions, hopes to promote his own startup Socialize through his donations. “Either someone is hacking the card or using the card,” he tells Mashable. “Either way, it’s probably the developer audience Socialize is interested in reaching.”

Jonathan’s Card continues to fluctuate in balance. As of 6:05 p.m. ET, the account was out of money for the third time in 10 minutes. Does this mean the experiment is drawing to a close? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Update: At 7 p.m. PT Friday, Starbucks shut down Jonathan’s Card.

More About: Jonathan's Card, social media, starbucks

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Online Petition Urging Bert & Ernie To Marry Gets 8,000 Signatures in 9 Days

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 02:26 PM PDT

As part of an effort to support LGBT teens, an online campaign wants Sesame Street‘s Bert and Ernie — the male puppet roommates with an Odd Couple-esque relationship — to say “I do.”

The campaign includes a petition on and a Facebook Page that has already amassed a rather large following. The petition has garnered close to 8,000 signatures in nine days.

“We are not asking that Sesame Street do anything crude or disrespectful,” it reads. “Only that they allow Bert & Ernie to marry, or even add a transgender character to the show. It can be done in a tasteful way.”

The petition’s creator, Lair Scott, was inspired by the “It Gets Better” series of videos launched by columnist Dan Savage. “The videos are giving support and hope to the youth out there, and I am just trying to do the same,” says Scott.

Sesame Streetresponded to the petition Thursday on its Facebook Page — pointing out that the puppets are neither gay nor straight.

“Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” says the post. “Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”

What do you think of the petition’s aim? Should everyone’s favorite roomies tie the knot?

More About: Bert and Ernie,, facebook, sesame street

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Our Favorite YouTube Videos This Week: The Cat Edition, Vol. III

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 02:18 PM PDT

Seeing that it’s Friday, it’s likely that your mental capacity has degraded to the point at which only one lucid thought can dwell in your mind. We’re guessing that word is “cats.”

Yup, we’ve already had two YouTube Roundups centered around felines, but can you ever really get enough of those furry little fiends? We think not. And if you beg to differ, you might want to check on the status of your soul.

I'm a Stupid Cat! (NSFW)

Matt Silverman: It has bad words, but they are outweighed by its genius.

The Cat Lady

Josh Catone: You tell 'em, Lisa.

Kitten Surprise!

Ada Ospina: Don't mix pancake batter while watching this video.

Cat Loves Booty Shaking

Charlie White: It's not just cats that love booty shaking.

Chef's Blend Cat Food 1979 TV Ad

Todd Wasserman: Not the best of the Chef's Blend oeuvre but a nice edition, especially if you're a fan of feline doo-wop.

"I Hate Cats," Rodney Rude (NSFW)

Brian Hernandez: Three words: "I hate cats!"

"When This Is Over," Kitten Berry Crunch

Brenna Ehrlich: My friend Shaun made a music video. It has cats in it. Because, you know, why not?

More About: cats, favorite-youtube-videos, video, youtube

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Facebook, RIM To Meet With UK Government Over Proposed Social Media Ban

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 01:57 PM PDT

Facebook and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) are set to meet with Home Secretary Theresa May and other UK officials as the government investigates what roles the platforms played in organizing recent riots in London.

Twitter, a service used by rioters and victims alike, said in a statement that it would not be joining the talks. “We’d be happy to listen,” the statement said.

Facebook’s official statement read a little differently: “We look forward to meeting with the Home Secretary to explain the measures we have been taking to ensure that Facebook is a safe and positive platform in the UK at this challenging time.”

On Thursday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron alarmed free speech activists when he told Parliament that the government is examining whether it is possible to prevent suspected criminals from sending messages via social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

“We’re working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality,” Cameron told the House of Commons.

The investigation, which has been outlined in pretty vague terms, has incited widespread criticism from the media and free speech activists alike.

U.S. journalist Jeff Jarvis asked on his blog: “If you take these steps, what separates you from the Saudi government demanding the ability to listen to and restrict its BBM networks? What separates you from Arab tyrannies cutting off social communication via Twitter or from China banning it?”

“Censorship is not the path to civility,” Jarvis added. “Only speech is.”

[via PC Magazine]

Image courtesy of Flickr, ukhomeoffice

More About: censorship, david cameron, facebook, RIM, twitter, uk

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Sprint Pulls 4G BlackBerry Playbook

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 01:26 PM PDT

In another setback for RIM and non-Apple tablets, Sprint Nextel has pulled its support for a PlayBook model that would have run on the carrier’s 4G network.

The move, prompted by lack of demand from business customers, was originally reported in The Wall Street Journal and confirmed by a Sprint representative. “RIM has decided to prioritize and focus its 4G development resources on LTE,” a statement from RIM reads. “We remain excited and committed to delivering innovative and powerful 4G tablets to the US market together with our carrier partners. Testing of BlackBerry 4G PlayBook models is already under way.|

Without Sprint’s backing the PlayBook will have no support from a U.S. carrier. Neither AT&T nor Verizon have offered backing for PlayBook, but both support Apple’s iPad 2.

Although RIM has recently suffered because of a lack of demand for BlackBerry smartphones, Sprint’s decision also comes as tablet PCs have failed to gain much traction against the iPad. In a sign that RIM’s not the only one struggling to compete with Apple, Hewlett-Packard cut the price of its TouchPad by $100 last week. That device had only been on the market for a month.

More About: blackberry, ipad, RIM, RIM Playbook, sprint

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5 Web Tools to Enhance Your Online Sales Strategy

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 01:15 PM PDT

Donna Wells is the CEO of, a leading web platform for companies to easily share knowledge and train employees. It makes training easier, faster and more cost-effective than ever before.

These days, startups are using cloud-based business apps to store tools for virtually all of their needs. These tools are optimized for the cloud and mostly paid for on a monthly basis. Best of all, they help the company reach and exceed its sales goals so that it can deliver quality products.

At my company, we rely on Salesforce, the poster child for online relationship management tools. While Salesforce is an excellent cloud-based option, it can't be all things to all businesses. Using supplemental cloud applications has my startup accelerate sales in new ways. As we grow, we're always exploring new tools and looking for every advantage.

Out of the hundreds of subscription tools to help your sales and marketing efforts, here are my top five recommendations.

1. Get Satisfaction

Get Satisfaction, a Software as a Service (SaaS)-delivered helpdesk application, gives my company a simple way to manage incoming customer questions while simultaneously building a vibrant community.

Get Satisfaction can give your customers (and prospects) a place to discuss your product around the clock. This is a big benefit for a startup that wants to answer questions rapidly and engage with its user community, but that perhaps doesn't have the resources for a 24/7 call center.

Beyond customer service, the app has also proven to be a useful tool for sourcing and evaluating demand for customer-requested features. As an added bonus, Get Satisfaction helps with SEO, as all of the conversation can organically improve search rankings.

2. LivePerson

LivePerson is a sales tool for connecting with potential customers at the critical discovery stage. Every visitor who spends more than one minute on your designated landing pages is offered the chance to chat with your live representative, in real time, about your product. The LivePerson widget can be installed on any page where you foresee a customer might need assistance -- in my company's case, we currently focus on our features and pricing pages.

LivePerson also provides insight into who is on your site at any given time. You can see what page they're reading, how many pages they've viewed, from which source they arrived (SEO, SEM or referral), their time zone, browser and more. And LivePerson integrates directly with Salesforce, allowing companies to evaluate whether the individual is a paying customer or a previous trial user.

3. Optimizely

For most online service providers, it's critical to convert visitors and free trial users into paying customers as efficiently as possible. While you may have a website built for conversion, there are always improvements to be made.

Optimizely is a very inexpensive tool my company uses to run simple A/B tests on our pages. The app splits web traffic into test groups, and provides real-time reporting on how those groups are performing. This allows designers to make tweaks and adjustments in a short period of time. An Optimizely subscription starts at $79 per month -- a no-brainer for even the most bootstrapped of startups.

4. Zuora

One of the benefits of using Salesforce as a CRM platform is that other tools play nicely with its data and interface. However, virtually all of the new cloud services need a subscription management system to meter, price and bill their customers. But subscription businesses are complicated. It's not as simple as a one-time ecommerce transaction for books or shoes. That's where Zuora comes in.

Zuora enables businesses to segment their customers and set pricing plans. The information is integrated into Salesforce and seamlessly carries through to billing and renewal. Zuora handles the entire recurring payment lifecycle -- credit card hassles and all.

5. SEOmoz

Last but not least, SEOmoz can be used to optimize your brand's search engine presence. Though we acquire our customers through numerous channels, organic search traffic is highly valued. SEOmoz is a terrific tool that helps with SEO benchmarking and tracking. With it, you can monitor how well your pages rank, your highest performing keywords and how to boost your site to the top of search results.

Your brand will have a hard time welcoming new customers if it can't be found via search. SEOmoz is an excellent dashboard tool for monitoring and improving search efficiency.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, billoxford

More About: apps, business, cloud, startup

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Netflix Rolls Out Kid-Friendly Tab

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 12:56 PM PDT

Netflix is testing a new “Just for Kids” interface that allows children to browse media by character.

Select users who have the feature will notice a new tab on the main menu of their accounts between “Watch Instantly” and “Browse DVDs.” It opens to a sliding bar of characters from popular children’s television series and movies.

Clicking on one of the figures opens a new window that shows media choices featuring that character. As in the site’s current “Watch Instantly” section, clicking on the thumbnail of a movie or television episode launches instant play.

A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment on the new user interface, saying that it is being tested and the company has not announced anything further.

Tester accounts seem to have been assigned randomly. The person on our staff who had the feature enabled on her account was not one of our employees who watches Netflix with their children. She had no recommended movies that fall into the children’s genre.

What does not seem random is Netflix’s interested in building a user interface that children can easily access themselves.

By age 8, more than two-thirds of children use the Internet on a daily basis, according to a report by The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. This frequent Internet use combined with historically healthy appetites for television make them ideal targets for an online streaming site like Netflix.

And as tablets make streaming increasingly portable, kids are becoming an even bigger market. A study released in November found that 31% of children ages 6-12 wanted an iPad over any other electronic device.

An interface that allows kids to locate and watch media by themselves could a be a huge Netflix selling point for their parents — especially when it comes time to take a long roadtrip or visit the supermarket.

More About: Children, netflix

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Turntable Friday: Listen & Spin in Mashable’s Room With The Glitch Mob

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 12:29 PM PDT

We don’t know about you, but by the time 3:30 p.m. ET rolls around on a Friday, we’re dancing on the ceiling. Luckily for us (and you), that’s about the time when our Summer Fridays room gets into full swing.

If you're unfamiliar with, get ready for bouncing avatars to start haunting your dreams. The service, which is still in beta, comes from the Stickybits team and resembles AOL chatrooms of old — a series of user-created, browser-based chatroom/listening rooms where "DJs" (a.k.a. you and others) can play songs, vote on how "lame" or "awesome" those songs are, score points for picking good tunes, and chat with others. You can choose songs from a MediaNet-powered library or upload your own. Sadly, the site is no longer open to anyone outside the U.S. because of Turntable’s efforts to stay DMCA compliant.

This Friday, Mashable staff, MuseBox and The Glitch Mob will be manning the decks, spinning tracks and taking you through the dregs of your work week.

Click here to join.

More About: glitch-mob, musebox, music, startup,

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How Young Is Too Young For Social Media? [COMIC]

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 12:22 PM PDT

Seeing as you can already add your fetus to Facebook, this is probably foregone conclusion.

Mashable Comics are illustrated every week by Kiersten Essenpreis, a New York-based artist who draws and blogs at

More Mashable Comics:

1. The Earliest Social Network Ever Discovered

2. First-Generation GPS

3. There's a Badge for That

4. It Was All Just a Huge Misunderstanding

5. Stand-Up Web Developers

6. HOW TO: Survive Those Awkward Online Moments

7. Obi-Wan Kenobi: Mobile Sales Rep

8. The 19th Annual Internet Meme Convention

9. Online Predators

10. HOW TO: Parent a Digital Native

More About: humor, Kids, mashable comics

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Zynga To Launch Pioneer Trail: Social Gaming Meets Oregon Trail

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 12:02 PM PDT

Social gaming juggernaut Zynga will flip the switch later today on The Pioneer Trail, a new social adventure game within FrontierVille.

Unlike all of Zynga’s previous games, Pioneer Trail is a linear adventure with a set beginning and end. Users outfit a wagon and traverse not one, but three different maps with their own unique set of missions and achievements. It also places an emphasis on a storyline where users get to choose their own adventure.

FrontierVille general manager John Osvald explained to Mashable that Zynga wanted to use different social gaming mechanics for this extension of the FrontierVille franchise. In FarmVille, Empires & Allies and Zynga’s other social games, gameplay improves as users add more friends as neighbors or allies. In Pioneer Trail, that concept is discarded. Instead, the game only lets users travel the trail with three of their closest friends, which Zynga hopes will result in more intimate gameplay.

For users who can’t find three friends to join them in Pioneer Trail, Zynga will soon roll out a feature for matching them with existing players. Users can also add computer characters to their team, though the game will progress slower without having friends constantly playing. Osvald says that the typical game will take approximately three weeks to complete, although one set of power users were able to beat the game in 36 hours.

The game features a journey through three separate maps: Beaver Valley, High Plains and Avalanche Pass. Each area has an expansive map that is five times the size of any previous Zynga game, and each one has distinct art. Trekking through each area requires cutting down trees, acquiring Trail Points and helping people along the way. Each friend is given a distinct skill set (doctor, hunter, etc.), all of which are essential to surviving the trail without succumbing to illness or a broken wagon.

Once a team completes the game and reaches Fort Courage (the game’s finish line), users can transfer the prize tickets and resources they earn to their FrontierVille town. Users are scored on how well they played the game (based on the decisions they made, how efficiently they traveled the trail, etc). If users aren’t satisfied with their score, they have the option to travel the trail again. Users can spend the points they earned on previous Pioneer Trail trips on bigger wagons and more resources, making the game easier to complete the second or third time around.

Zynga has been experimenting with new types of game mechanics as its highly anticipated IPO approaches. Although the company’s revenue is booming and has been profitable since 2010, it hasn’t been able to surpass 236 million active users in the past 12 months. The company is hoping that new games like Pioneer Trail will help the company attract those new users.

Check out the screenshots below and let us know in the comments what you think of Pioneer Trail.

Avalanche Pass

Beaver Valley

High Plains

More of the High Plains

More About: frontierville, Oregon Trail, Pioneer Trail, social games, social gaming, Zynga

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Starbucks Card Social Experiment Hacked by Entrepreneur

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 11:56 AM PDT

Sam Odio, a serial entrepreneur who previously sold his photo startup Divvyshot to Facebook, has manipulated Jonathan Stark’s now-famous communal Starbucks Card to transfer $625 of the balance to his own Starbucks Card.

In a blog post entitled, “How to use Jonathan’s card to buy yourself an iPad,” Odio describes the exploit and makes a case for himself as a modern day Robin Hood — taking the money donated by others for coffee purchases and donating it to charity instead.

Stark, however, isn’t buying it. “It’s obviously not in the spirt of the experiment,” Stark tells Mashable of Odio’s card exploit. “It’s not what the money was put there for. The point of this is to be wide open and trusting, and to expect the best of people. If [Odio] thinks this is good, and that people will see it that way, it’s up to him to decide.”

Stark launched Jonathan's Card on July 14 as a social adaption of the “take a penny, leave a penny” concept. More than 500 people had donated a total of $8,700 as of Wednesday.

Odio, who describes Stark’s social media experiment as “yuppies buying yuppies coffee,” created a script — which he’s also made publicly available via Github — that alerts him whenever the card balance reaches a certain level.

“For the last week I (and others) have been using this script to transfer donated money off Jonathan’s card and onto our own Starbucks gift cards. It’s easy: just head to your local Starbucks, pop open your computer, run this script, and when the music plays, cash in,” Odio writes.

Now, Odio is selling the $625 Starbucks Card on eBay with the reported intention of donating the proceeds to Save The Children.

Stark says that he’s aware of the script and has been alerted that others are taking similar actions. But, he doesn’t believe it’s his place to shut down the experiment or stop publicizing the card’s balance. “There’s nothing I can do,” he says.

“I believe that people get what they deserve, good or bad,” Stark concludes.

With the script readily available to all, the feel-good experiment, which Stark had hoped would bring out the best in people, may start to bring out the worst in some.

Odio’s site has been up and down following an influx of traffic after he shared the blog post on Hacker News. The full text of his post is included below.

Jonathan Stark recently released his Starbucks card to the public as a social experiment. It was quickly picked up by CNN, Time, and many others. For those of you who are living under a rock, here’s what is going on: anyone can donate to the card and anyone is welcome to use the card. Just walk up to a Starbucks counter and show them this image.

Jonathan purportedly did this as a “social experiment.” Would there be a balance on the card? Would anyone care? Jonathan himself has put over $100 on the card to get things started. Some have argued in disbelief that this must be some sort of Starbucks viral campaign, though Jonathan denies it.

Since I don’t find the idea of yuppies buying yuppies coffees very interesting I decided to mix things up a bit. I coded up a script that would alert me whenever the card balance reached a certain threshold. And here’s the twist: for the last week I (and others) have been using this script to transfer donated money off Jonathan’s card and onto our own Starbucks gift cards. It’s easy: just head to your local starbucks, pop open your computer, run this script, and when the music plays, cash in.

Through this strategy I’ve personally netted $625 by spending less than 5 hours at Starbucks. That’s enough for an iPad.

I’m not getting an iPad, though. Instead I’m selling the card on eBay and donating the proceeds to Save The Children. Assuming the card sells for face value I’ll have fed 20 children for a month. So here’s your social experiment Jonathan: will people bid up the price of the card to face value (or possibly exceed it)? Or am I alone in thinking that helping a stranger find their next caffeine fix is not what we should be worried about in today’s world?

Update: Odio’s original listing was removed by eBay. “Bummer, eBay removed the listing since it exceeds the value of one starbucks card: I’ll be reposting as two,” Odio tweeted.

Update #2: At 7 p.m. PT Friday, Starbucks shut down Jonathan’s Card.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Thomas Hawk

More About: Jonathan's Card, social media, starbucks, trending

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HOW TO: Personalize Your Marketing With Social Data

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 11:20 AM PDT

Patrick Salyer is CEO of Gigya. Gigya makes sites social by integrating a suite of plugins like Social Login, Social Analytics and Game Mechanics into websites. He can be reached on Twitter @patricksalyer.

The term "permission marketing" seems pretty self-explanatory. It encompasses activities like someone opting-in to receive emails from your company or promotional offers from partners. Simple enough. But evolutions in social data gathering have advanced the concept and opened a treasure trove of ways that brands can effectively reach and understand their audiences.

While social data opens up a world of opportunity for marketers, it's also important to balance gathering data on your customers and, well … creeping them out.

One of the easiest ways to gain access to social data is to enable social login on your website. Visitors can log in to your site without needing to manually fill out registration forms and you get a glimpse at their social graph. Below are some ways to effectively gather and use social data via social login while doing right by your customers and prospective customers.

Transparency is a Good Thing

Gaining access to social data doesn’t have to be a shell game. Your users will actually appreciate the transparency of a social login because they benefit from their social identity being pulled into your site. It allows them to see if their friends are also on site via activity feeds, game mechanics or whatever other social elements you have on your site. When you're pulling in their social data, show your users exactly what you're accessing and give them a sense of what you're going to do with the data.

Don't Get Greedy

Social network profiles come with more information than you really need. Don’t tick off your visitors by taking more than is useful — for example, their profile and interests may be more than enough. Facebook, however, offers 39 specific permission object queries (78 if you count looping in a user's social graph) and LinkedIn has more than 200. You probably don't need to see that much from your site visitors and, in fact, asking them for more than four specific permissions during authentication can lead to a significant decrease in conversions.

So just ask for the pieces of profile data which you think will be most helpful to your business. If you decide that you want to gain access to different pieces of profile data, you can always go back and change the permissions.

What to Do With Social Data?

Gaining access to social data is only half of the equation. Once you have that information, you have a number of options for cleverly and tastefully keeping your users active on your site and eventually marketing to them. One technique is to use the friends list data to show them what their friends are doing on the site (via activity feed) or show them their rank relative to their friends and other users (via game mechanics). Once they see that their social graph has been pulled into the website, your site visitors will be much more likely to engage with content and share with their friends.

After you’ve built a healthy user base, you’ll be able to pick out your power users and influencers. For example, if you own an online sporting goods store, you can use social profile data to dig into your visitors and establish which influential users (those with high numbers of social network friends/followers) are interested in basketball. Having that information is incredibly valuable as you can subsequently offer those specific sets of influencers relevant, targeted content. This will make their experience that much more enjoyable and entice them to share with their social graph.

With Great Data Comes Great Responsibility

Hyper-specific ad targeting is another means to monetize social data in a safe, non-invasive way. However, as with collecting that data, ad targeting should be done without violating your individual users' privacy. This is especially important in ad targeting since their data is handed to third-party advertisers. Advertisers salivate over the prospect of being able to target influential and high-intent consumers. Consider segmenting your users by degree of influence and essentially place a value on each of those segments so that advertisers can decide how they want to spend their money. This way, you can target without releasing your visitors’ identities.

Social Data Doesn’t Have to Be Creepy

Marketers don't need to act like Big Brother in order to effectively gather and use social data to benefit their business. Your site visitors shouldn't feel like their privacy is being violated when they log in. Instead, they should feel like they’re entering a tailored experience. That trust needs to be nurtured through transparency and moderation. Permission marketing is set to grow through the next few years. However, marketers will quickly find that collecting and using social data is done best with some restraint.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kizilkayaphotos

More About: MARKETING, permission marketing, social data, social media

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Amazon’s Bezos Dreams Up Protective Airbag for Smartphones

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 10:45 AM PDT

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos certainly does have an active imagination. He and Amazon VP Greg Hart have applied for a patent for protecting delicate, expensive smartphones from droppage by deploying a tiny airbag when the handset senses an imminent impact.

In an impressive design flourish that reminds us of a Mars landing craft, this invention will also enable micro air jets (steered by a laser rangefinder) to orient the phone on its way down to the ground, making sure the impact occurs precisely where that mini-airbag resides.

Will this be a real product anytime soon? Well, probably not, but the far-fetched scheme surfaced when GeekWire spotted the names of Bezos and Hart on a patent application for the idea. So now if anyone else dreams up a product using such protective paraphernalia, they’ll have to shell out to Bezos and company for the privilege of using it.

Still, it seems unlikely this technology would be ready for mass use any time soon.

Sure, there are accelerometers in many smartphones, and present-day hard drives can sense of they’re being dropped, instantly locking up their read heads to minimize damage. But battery power is at a premium in smartphones, and we’re wondering if those cute little air jets and airbag will require lots of juice to keep them ever-vigilant. Beyond that, such protective devices must be slightly bulky, adding unwanted girth to smartphones that get skinnier every day.

Don’t get us wrong — we love this flight of fancy, but wonder if it might be more practical, say, five years from now. If this idea doesn’t work on smartphones, perhaps it could be more practical aboard a micro-spacecraft headed for a Mars landing.

More About: Airbag, Bezos, future tech, patent, smartphones

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Google+ To Suspend Users Using Pseudonyms

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 10:26 AM PDT

Google+ has decided to ban the use of pseudonyms and nicknames in place of real names. In response to feedback though, users will not be immediately suspended for violating Google’s Common Names Policy.

The change comes weeks after Google came under fire for suspending countless accounts that violated its Common Names Policy. The policy, designed to fight spam and prevent the creation of fake profiles, suspended several high-profile users for using their commonly-known pseudonyms instead of their real names. It resulted in a firestorm of criticism and questions about potential safety issues.

That hasn’t stopped Google from deciding to eliminate the use of pseudonyms on its social network. Google+ Product Manager Saurabh Sharma explained that the decision was made “to make connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world” on Google+.

Sharma also announced a change though — instead of immediately suspending accounts in violation of the policy, the company will be giving users a four day grace period to fix their profile names before they’re suspended.

“During this period, you can continue to use Google+ as usual,” Sharma said. “We’re hoping that most affected users will be able to quickly fix their profile name while continuing to enjoy all that Google+ has to offer.”

Google+ Gets Backlash

Response to the announcement was overwhelmingly negative from Google+’s users. Some of the responses were harsh. Here’s a selection of the responses:

- “Still don’t get it, do you?” ~ Larry MacGregor (+105)

- “What about the people who are isolated in the real world because of the realities of their real world circumstances? Do they really no longer get to connect? That’s incredibly sad.” ~ Melissa Draper (+53)

~ So, if someone commonly goes by something similar to, oh let’s use the example Lady Gaga; what determiners do you use to decide whether that meets your Names Policy? I still don’t think you guys are on the right track. In fact, you are woefully lost.” ~ Gregg Wanciak (+49)

~ “So, if I decide to put my real name out there, Can I sue Google when some nutjob shows up on my doorstep? Why in the world would Google encourage anyone to make themselves vulnerable in this way? This is just so dumb.” ~ Mrs Fours (+22)

There is clearly a vocal group that is opposed to this change, mostly for safety reasons. Google’s bigger problem may be finding a way to enforce its Common Names Policy in a consistent way. Some users use pseudonyms in real life — do they need to use their real names or is their common pseudonym fine for Google+? Where is the line drawn?

Google+ clearly is going through growing pains — it’s to be expected of any new social network. Whether the common names controversy becomes a blip of the radar or an enduring problem remains to be seen.

More About: Google, Google Plus

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14 Million U.S. Adults Used QR Codes in June [STUDY]

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 10:18 AM PDT

In a sign of growth for the technology, some 14 million people in the U.S. — more than twice the population of Massachusetts — used a QR code in June, according to a new report.

Those people, representing 6.2% of the total mobile audience in the U.S., scanned a QR or bar code on their mobile device, comScore estimates. The report also showed that QR code users are more likely to be male (60.5%), between the ages of 18 to 34 (53.4%) and have a household income in excess of $100,000 (36.1%)

Magazines and newspapers are the preferred vehicle for scanning QR codes (49.4%), followed by product packaging, (34.3%). The preferred place to scan was at home (58%) and then retail stores (39.4%).

ComScore’s report was based on a sample of 14,452 adults. The study was the first time comScore measured QR code use.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Clever Cupcakes

More About: ComScore, Mobile 2.0, QR Codes

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Rebecca Black Quits Middle School After Bullying

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 09:51 AM PDT

YouTube sensation Rebecca Black might have gone from anonymous California middle school student to online celebrity overnight, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t still bullied like millions of other kids.

Black’s viral song “Friday” has amassed more than 167 million views on YouTube, been parodied by celebrities and musicians and was covered on the hit show Glee. Mainstream artists like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga have given their support to Black and “Friday.” Black has even poked fun at herself and the song’s lyrics.

The song might be derided and mocked (and at Mashable, we’re certainly not immune from taking part in some of the mockery), but it’s also been one of the biggest viral sensations of 2011. Five months after the video first appeared online, 14-year-old Rebecca Black is a bona fide star.

Fame has its consequences, though. In an interview aired this week on ABC’s Nightline, Black revealed that she was forced to quit middle school because of real-world harassment. Constant bullying over the lyrics of “Friday” and harassment over her newfound fame made it impossible for Black to continue going to school. Black’s mom is now home-schooling the teen.

Teenage harassment, online and off, is a sad, if unstoppable, part of life. Although politicians, celebrities and activists are doing what they can to try to stop cyber-bullying and harassment, most of these initiatives aren’t designed to deal with the type of harassment that comes from overnight success and online fame.

Black is famous, in large part, because “Friday” is loathed and despised. It’s developed its own place in popular culture, but the reality is the song and the artist are famous because of online mockery. It would be naive to think that that online mockery — some of which crosses the line from joking and into territory that is vicious and cruel — wouldn’t have real-world consequences.

So the question becomes — is online fame worth the real-world consequences? Let us know by voting in our poll and sounding off in the comments.

More About: cyber-bullying, Friday, Rebecca Black, trending

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Personal Computers: A History of the Hardware That Changed the World

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 08:50 AM PDT

On this day in 1981, IBM launched the “Personal Computer.” Revealed at a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, the 21-pound PC cost $1,565, boasted 16K of memory, and had the ability to connect to a TV set, play games and word process.

While IBM wasn’t the first or only company with a personal computer on the market (the Apple II was launched in 1977), it kick-started the home computing revolution. A year later, the personal computer was selected as Time Magazine‘s “Man (or rather, Machine) of the Year.”

Fast-forward 30 years and the IBM Personal Computer is a relic from another era, almost unrecognizable in comparison to the slick devices on which we compute today. From those earliest machine beasts to today’s tablets, we’ve taken a look at some historical highlights of the personal computer. Take a look through the gallery, and share your PC memories in the comments below.


While computers sold in kit form had been available to hobbyists during the '70s, it wasn't until later on in the disco decade that consumer-friendly computer systems hit shop shelves. Prior to this, you wouldn't be boasting about your "personal computer," you'd be talking up your "microcomputer."

As technology evolved and prices dropped, the late '70s brought about a vision of a "home computer" under every American roof. The wife would use it to store recipes, the husband to manage the family accounts, and the kids to type their homework and maybe play a bit of Pong.

The popular computers of the time — the Commodore PET, Atari 400, Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 and Apple II — were all comparatively easy for the average family to get started with. An Apple advert from 1978 describes the II as "a fully tested and assembled mainframe computer." It boasted, "You won't need to spend weeks and months in assembly. Just take an Apple home, plug it in, hook up your color TV and any cassette tape deck -- and the fun begins."

Image courtesy of The Mac Mothership

The IBM Era

"This is the computer for just about everyone who has ever wanted a personal system at the office, on the university campus or at home," C. B. Rogers, IBM vice president and group executive said in the IBM Personal Computer's 1981 press release. "We believe its performance, reliability and ease of use make it the most advanced, affordable personal computer in the marketplace."

Just one year earlier, IBM execs had tasked a lab team to create the company's first consumer-facing PC — and to do it fast. At the time, the plan was met with skepticism. IBM says one analyst was quoted: "IBM bringing out a personal computer would be like teaching an elephant to tap dance." But IBM wanted an offering on the market to compete with the likes of Apple, Commodore and Atari, who were all making headway in the burgeoning home computing market.

Under the leadership of Don Estridge, the PC was built from third-party hardware and software. This decision saved time and money, versus building a machine from the ground up. The processor came from Intel and the MS-DOS software from Microsoft. This solution actually helped the IBM PC succeed within the industry. As an open, well-documented system, other manufacturers made peripherals and software for the system.

As far as public perception, the IBM name went a long way to help the PC's success. Former IBM engineer David J. Bradley told PC World that the question of the day was: "Do you want to buy a computer from International Business Machines or from a company named after a fruit?"

Over the next 10 years, IBM evolved the Personal Computer, increasing processing speed tenfold over the original model, instruction execution rate a hundredfold, system memory a thousandfold (from 16KB to 16MB), and system storage by 10,000, from 160 KB to 1.6GB.

Put simply, the IBM Personal Computer is the ancestor of all modern PCs. As a platform, the PC's growth was astonishing -- from a 55% market share in 1986 to an 84% share in 1990.

Image courtesy of IBM


In the 1990s, the personal computer market changed dramatically when many of the big brand names that had helped establish it during the '80s disappeared. Amiga, Commodore, Atari, Sinclair and Amstrad all fell to strong competition and competitive pricing.

Compaq (later bought by HP) and Dell, with its direct sales model, became the big names in Windows-based personal computers. The release of the successful Windows 3.0 operating system in 1990, the even more successful Windows 95 in — yep, 1995 — and its follow-up Windows 98 meant the Microsoft name became synonymous with computers for most consumers.

Although it saw success in the early '90s with the PowerBook, Apple struggled to maintain market share against Microsoft's dominance throughout the decade. It wasn't until Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997 and the iMac — and then later the iBook — were revealed that Apple's fortune in the PC market improved.

While most home computers were still desktops during this decade, portability soon became important. And although many manufacturers had previously launched machines dubbed "portable," thanks to power management improvements, the laptop that we know and recognize today was a product of the '90s.

IBM launched its laptop in 1992 with the ThinkPad 700-series. It was the first of a long line of very popular portable PCs. Other manufacturers soon followed suit, with varied success.

Image courtesy of Jon Callow


The computer industry had a rocky start in the early 2000s with the Y2K, or "Millennium Bug." It threatened to plunge the earth into a technology-free wilderness when computer systems around the globe crashed at midnight, supposedly unable to cope with the new date format.

Although glitches did surface, the results weren't as bad as predicted, and we carried on computing happily through the decade. The big news for the 2000s was, of course, the rapid rise of the Internet. Relatively low-cost "Internet appliances" or "net PCs" made a brief bid for popularity in the early part of the decade, offering consumers a plug-and-play way to get online. However, decreasing costs of full-fat PCs meant increasingly sophisticated consumers were happy to go whole-hog.

Apple, bouyed by the popularity of the iPod, launched Mac OS X 10 in 2002. It soon saw varying degrees of success throughout the 2000s with its pro-level machines, PowerBooks, iBooks, iMacs, Mac Minis, MacBooks and toward the end of the decade, the MacBook Air.

Meanwhile, Microsoft made millions of consumers very happy with the 2001 news that Clippy would no longer be present in future versions of Microsoft Office. Otherwise, it was a huge decade for Microsoft. During this era, the company launched Windows XP (the massive OS that Microsoft could barely kill off), and then 2005's Vista (which Microsoft could barely keep afloat). Thankfully in 2009, Microsoft released Windows 7, which meant it was finally safe for consumers to return to the Windows fold.

As far as hardware trends in the 2000s, desktops shrunk quickly, and laptop popularity rose dramatically as features improved and prices dropped. But the netbook was the exciting new factor: Small, light, ultra-portable PCs, such as the seminal ASUS Eee, meant big business for connected consumers who were eager for an easy way to get online while out and about. Mobile broadband also helped increase adoption rate, which many netbooks offered for "free" with mobile broadband contracts.

The evolution of the personal computer doesn't end at the netbook though. There was imminent new tech on the horizon that would excite consumers enough to splurge their hard-earned cash — 2010 saw the dawn of the tablet era.

Image courtesy of Scrambled_Egg

The Future

The immediate future of the personal computer seems to be firmly rooted in the tablet. While traditional productivity tasks on a PC still require a physical keyboard, most consumer applications — social networking, media consumption, browsing, casual gaming, email — can be easily carried out on touchscreen devices.

A recent Samsung survey suggested that 90% of U.S. consumers either already own a tablet, or would consider buying one. And as tablets become more advanced, they will increasingly replace other PC form factors, rather than exist alongside them.

A 2010 Forrester report suggested that tablets will outsell netbooks by 2012, and that by 2015, 23% of all consumer PC sales in the U.S. will be tablets.

We are, as Steve Jobs said, entering a "post-PC era," in which personal computing will get smaller, lighter, more portable and more personal, even, as the years go by.

Toward the end of the decade, we can look forward to innovations that will seem as revolutionary as the IBM Personal Computer back in 1981.

While only time will tell what direction the personal computer takes, we could expect wearable wrist-based computers that project hologram displays; acoustic input via the skin for tiny, ultra-portable PCs; or even PCs that get under our skin via high-tech implants.

Image courtesy of Johannes Neusel via Yanko Design

More About: computers, history, IBM, laptops, netbooks, tablets, tech

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Federal Judge: Students’ Raunchy Facebook Photos Are Protected by First Amendment

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 08:14 AM PDT

A federal judge in Indiana has ruled that students who posted photos of themselves with penis-shaped lollipops on social networks should not have been punished by their school.

“Not much good takes place at slumber parties for high school kids, and this case proves the point,” begins the opinion by the Fort Wayne division of the U.S. District Court, which ultimately ruled that the photos were protected by the first amendment.

It was at several sleepovers where the students, two 10th-grade girls, took photos of themselves with the lollipops and in other fully clothed suggestive positions. They then posted those photos on Facebook, Myspace and Photobucket. When the principal of the high school was alerted to the photos by parents, he suspended both girls from the Volleyball team for violating the school’s extracurricular code of conduct.

The judge ruled on Thursday that the code, which broadly bans “bring[ing] discredit or dishonor upon yourself or your school,” is unconstitutionally vague and that the school violated the girls’ first amendment rights by suspending them.

“Ridiculousness and inappropriateness are often the very foundation of humor,” the opinion states. “The provocative context of these young girls horsing around with objects representing sex organs was intended to contribute to the humorous effect in the minds of the intended teenage audience.”

That court also addressed the somewhat trivial and silly nature of the incident.

“The case poses timely questions about the limits school officials can place on out of school speech by students in the information age where Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, texts, and the like rule the day,” it wrote. “…one could reasonably question the wisdom of making a federal case out of a 6-game suspension from a high school volleyball schedule. But for better or worse, that's what this case is about and it is now ripe for disposition.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, Thomas Roche

More About: education, facebook

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’90s Nickelodeon Shows Interpreted as Art on Tumblr Blog [PICS]

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 07:53 AM PDT

Prepare to feel old: 20 years ago, Nickelodeon launched Nicktoons, giving current 20- to 30-somethings enough common ground for a lifetime of awkward first conversations. Fanartica pays tribute to those much-loved cartoons, as well as a bevy of other Nick shows.

This Tumblr is replete with artistic renderings of all your childhood faves like Pete & Pete, Clarissa Explains It All and Rocko’s Modern Life. Nearly 20 artists contribute to the blog, which should provide you with ample nostalgic fodder to get you through the rest of your Friday.

Spoiler: Artie (a.k.a. “The Strongest Man in the World”) from Pete & Pete is a crowd fave.

Salute Your Shorts

Rocko's Modern Life

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters

Legends of the Hidden Temple

More About: Fanartica, nickelodeon, pop culture, television, tumblr

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China Cracks Down on Fake Apple Stores

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 07:36 AM PDT

The Chinese city of Kunming has stopped 22 fake Apple stores from using Apple’s trademarks — including its iconic logo — after the company submitted a complaint to the local government.

The crackdown began on August 2, according to a post from the Kunming government. All stores were ordered to stop using Apple trademarks by August 10.

The goverment announced that all 22 stores have complied with its requests, although China Daily reports that compliance was sluggish just days before the deadline, “with some owners merely covering their Apple logos with blank sheets of paper, or just covering part of the Apple logo.”

Reports of fake Apple stores in Kunming arose last month after a traveler in the city wrote a blog post about discovering three fake stores within a time span of a few days.

Despite a few clues that they were fake, the stores were built to match the look and feel of Apple’s retail outlets. The signage, light wood floors and tables, white walls, glowing Apple logos and Geniuses in blue t-shirts and large lanyard name tags almost checked out, but the blogger noticed a few shortcomings, including the lack of names on name tags, low quality building materials and in one case, a spelling error — “Apple Stoer.”

The Kunming government agency says that it will set up a complaint hotline in order to prevent future instances of trademark infringement, China Daily reports.

Apple is a highly sought after brand in China, but only has four official stores in the country — two in Beijing and two in Shanghai. One recent study pointed China out as the second largest market for downloads from Apple’s App Store. Meanwhile, the number one market — the U.S. — has 236 Apple stores.

The high demand — as evidenced by the iPad 2 selling out within four hours in Beijing this May — is certainly a catalyst for con artists looking to fill a need where Apple isn’t stepping in. The sheer number of fake Apple stores, though, has caught the company’s attention. With such a booming market, maybe it’s time for Apple to expand its presence in China after its trademark battles subside.

Image courtesy of BirdAbroad

[via PCWorld]

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Angry Birds Maker Rovio Worth $1.2 Billion [REPORT]

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 07:16 AM PDT

Rovio, the maker of Angry Birds, is set to receive funding that would give the company a $1.2 billion valuation, according to a report.

Citing “people with knowledge of the discussions,” Bloomberg is saying that Rovio is considering taking the funding from a “company in the entertainment business.” Rovio rejected similar offers from other investors, according to the report.

Michael Pachter, managing director of research at Wedbush Securities, speculates in the article that the investors may be Electronic Arts, Zynga, News Corp. or the Walt Disney Co.

The latest round of funding follows a $42 million round in Series A investment from venture capital firms Accel Partners and Atomico Ventures in March.

Though Rovio seems to be a one-trick pony, it is fully exploiting Angry Birds‘s potential. A movie and TV show are on the way. Just recently, a line of baby clothes hit the scene, and the game itself was one of the first to show up on Google+.

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Thanks to Mashable’s Socially Savvy Supporters

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 06:35 AM PDT

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With the explosion of mobile devices, advertising dollars will begin to shift to mobile for tech marketers this year. IDG Global Solutions President Matt Yorke talks about the rise of social and how IDG helps marketers create social campaigns. The line is fading between social media and traditional media. Earned media or sharing of information within social networks is becoming mainstream whether on a PC or mobile device. Learn more.

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iPhone 5 Could Be Revealed September 7 [RUMOR]

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 05:34 AM PDT

A report from one Japanese website marks September 8 as the date of Apple’s next media event, at which some expect the company to launch the iPhone 5.

The company has historically released its new phones at its summer Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). This year, in the wake of the Verizon iPhone 4 release, that tradition failed to pan out.

Apple’s annual September media event seems like a logical alternative, although it has in the past been reserved for iPod launches.

The date of the event, like most things Apple, is still safely in rumor territory. MacRumors says that it has asked blog Kodawarisan for the source of the date, and found it came from “a source in the know.”

Even if the date is accurate, it might not be when Apple decides to reveal the iPhone 5. AllThingsD heard from “sources familiar with the matter” that the iPhone 5 wouldn’t launch until October.

Update: We originally reported the rumored date of the media event as September 8. This is true in Japanese time. We have updated the article to reflect US time zones, which makes the date September 7.

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Google+ Games Launches, Android Update Revealed & More: This Morning’s Top Stories

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 05:13 AM PDT

Social Media News

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

Google+ Games Going Live

Google is rolling out Google+ Games, which offers a range of titles from publishers including FarmVille creator Zynga, Angry Birds maker Rovio and Wooga.

Facebook Fires Back at Google+ With New Gaming Features

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

Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS Revealed

The first pictures of the long-awaited "Ice Cream Sandwich" upgrade to the Android smartphone operating system have apparently leaked. The new interface features a new launcher and app drawer, a revamped notification bar and other cosmetic changes.

LinkedIn Makes Changes to Social Ads Following Privacy Uproar

After receiving user backlash over privacy for its newly launch "social ads," LinkedIn has announced changes to its ad formats.

Facebook Advertisers Can Target Users by Zip Code

Advertisers wishing to target Facebook members in specific zip codes in the U.S. can now do so.

Facebook Denies Privacy Violation Accusations

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

Further News

  • 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.
  • In partnership with Twitter, the Weather Channel is launching The Weather Channel Social, a web, mobile and on-air initiative that will pair weather-related tweets with city forecasts.
  • Yahoo has given its image search product a makeover.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

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