Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Google’s Motorola Acquisition Gets Animated [VIDEO]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Google’s Motorola Acquisition Gets Animated [VIDEO]”


Google’s Motorola Acquisition Gets Animated [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 Aug 2011 02:58 AM PDT

Taiwanese Next Media Animation (NMA), creators of computer-animated reenactments of news events, released a new video on Tuesday depicting the news of Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola.

The video depicts Apple CEO Steve Jobs as Darth Vader and features Google co-founders riding a one-trick pony while “desperately searching for a second act.”

NMA is often on the ball with big tech news, having also animated Google's woes with privacy and net neutrality last August, Paul Ceglia’s recent claim that he owns a large stake in Facebook and Cheezburger Network’s $30 million round of funding in January.


More Google-Motorola News From Mashable:


- Google Buys Motorola Mobility for $12.5 Billion
- Could Google's Motorola Acquisition Ease Its Patent Woes?
- Why the Google-Motorola Deal Is About More Than Mobile Phones
- Nokia & RIM Shares Jump Following Google's Motorola Mobility Acquisition
- On Google, Motorola and Rolling the Dice

More About: Google, humor, Mobile 2.0, Motorola

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Amazon Launches Cloud Services for U.S. Government

Posted: 17 Aug 2011 01:47 AM PDT


Amazon on Tuesday announced the launch of GovCloud, its cloud services “designed to allow U.S. government agencies and contractors to move more sensitive workloads into the cloud by addressing their specific regulatory and compliance requirements.”

Amazon’s move to offer more secure, government-compliant cloud services is an investment towards the continued adoption of cloud services by government agencies.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Evangelist Jeff Barr wrote on AWS’s blog that more than 100 federal, state, and local government agencies are already using other Amazon Web Services products, hinting at the importance of Amazon’s decision to develop government-specific services.

Barr noted that the U.S. Treasury’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency board and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory both use the company’s cloud services, for example.

AWS GovGloud is compliant with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which governs how organizations manage and store defense-related data. The regulations are put in place to make sure that only U.S. citizens and permanent residents can access stored data, both logically and physically.

In order to gain access to GovCloud, government agencies need to sign an AWS GovCloud (US) Enterprise Agreement. “Government contractors, software integrators, and service providers with a demonstrated need for access” may also apply, but must meet certain ITAR requirements.

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels addressed GovCloud’s future expansion in a blog post:

“As the name of the region already suggests, we do not envision that over time GovCloud will address only the needs of the U.S. Government and contractors. We are certainly interested in understanding whether there are opportunities in other governments with respect to their specific regulatory requirements that could be solved by a specialized region.”

Microsoft and Google also offer cloud services that meet strict federal requirements.

[via: InformationWeek]

More About: amazon, cloud, government, security, U.S. government

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Hacker Traces Laptop Thief Using Facebook Information

Posted: 17 Aug 2011 12:44 AM PDT


If you’re going to steal a laptop, make sure you know who you’re dealing with — one London teenager accused of stealing a laptop during the recent London riots certainly didn’t do his homework on who he was robbing.

Greg Martin, an IT security specialist and former FBI and NASA employee, came home to his West Kensington apartment last Wednesday to find that his place had been ransacked and his MacBook Pro was stolen.

Martin, who runs a blog called InfoSecurity 2.0, was obviously the wrong person to be stealing a laptop from — he had previously installed an open source tracking software called Prey on his computer. The free software “lets you keep track of your phone or laptop at all times, and will help you find it if it ever gets lost or stolen,” the product’s website states.

A self-described hacker, Martin wrote on his blog:

“Almost two weary days had gone by [since the robbery], and I’m at dinner on a business trip in Luxembourg, and I received an email which nearly knocked me out of my chair with excitement.”

The robber had finally logged on to the laptop — Martin went back to his hotel to stake out and gather evidence against the thief.

After two hours of watching the laptop thief surf the Internet, Martin was able to collect information on the man’s name, school, address, IP address, Internet service provider, wireless access point and Facebook ID number.

The thief’s Facebook information was the deciding piece of information for Martin — he sent the information on to the London Metro police and went to bed.

After details about the thief — identified as Soheil Khalilfar, 18 — were released to the police, the man’s apartment was raided and the laptop was recovered and returned to Martin.

Modern day thieves are at a much higher risk of being caught with the pervasiveness of technology.

In June, another MacBook thief was nabbed after the laptop’s owner tracked the thief using Hidden app and a Tumblr account.

[via: BBC]

More About: laptop, Macbook Pro, privacy, security, thief

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Every Hour of TV You Watch May Shorten Your Lifespan By 22 Minutes [STUDY]

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 10:18 PM PDT


In case you needed more proof that watching excessive amounts of TV is bad for your health: new research shows that there is a correlation between the amount of time you spend in front of the TV and how long you live.

A study by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia has concluded that, for every hour of television watched after age 25, the average human lifespan drops by 22 minutes. A person who watch six hours of TV per day will, on average, live five years less than people who spent less time on the couch and in front of the television screen. Those are some scary numbers.

The study tracked data from 11,000 Australian participants over the age of 25. It was published earlier this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

This study doesn’t prove that TV is quietly killing us. It’s more likely that lack of exercise and bad eating habits are shortening the lifespans of TV couch potatoes. A person who spends six hours a day staying active is almost certainly going to live longer than a person who likes to lean back in a recliner watching countless episodes of Judge Judy or Law and Order: SVU.

It’s not just TV watching that’s bad for you, either. We recently learned that sitting in front of the computer for six hours a day increases your risk of death by 40%. And with Americans watching more video than ever, the health problem is growing. That’s why we’re fans of the stand-up desk.

[via Yahoo News]

More About: health, stats, television, tv

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Tapl.io Simplifies Place Search on the Web

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 08:34 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: Tapl.io

Quick Pitch: Tapl.io senses when you visit a Tapl.io-supported site and what place you're looking at. Then it finds that place's profiles on other supported sites.

Genius Idea: Simplified Place search.


“We want to eliminate all the unnecessary searches that people are having to make,” Sam Beaudin says of the vision behind startup Tapl.io.

Tapl.io is a new browser application that puts a venue’s various web profiles — across Facebook Places, Foodspotting, Foursquare, Google Places, Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, Citysearch and others — side-by-side for faster access.

“I don’t want to go to ten sites to learn about one place,” Beaudin says. “Tapl.io was born out of necessity. We wanted to make a seamless search experience and allow all these sites, previously siloed, to work in unison.”

Tapl.io, available as a browser extension for Chrome and Safari, delivers what it promises. Find a restaurant on Yelp (or on any of Tapl.io’s supported sites), as you normally would, and a browser toolbar will appear with tabs for each of the restaurant’s other web profiles.

You can also click the share button to tweet or Facebook share a place’s many profiles — in the same tabbed-view that you see — and share that experience with friends who haven’t installed Tapl.io’s browser extension.

Tapl.io, says Beaudin, keeps track of the tabs you use most and clumps those in the upper left-hand corner for faster access. “It customizes itself to a person’s unique search patterns.”

The startup is currently focused on enhancing the restaurant vertical but is in the process of extending its coverage to include travel and venue sites.

Increasingly, mobile users are turning to applications to look up place-related info. Does Tapl.io translate to a mobile environment? Not in its current form, Beaudin says. But the startup is already testing out a few different mobile applications, he adds.

Tapl.io’s simplified search logic seems to match up with Google’s — the latter released Google Related Tuesday, its own browser toolbar for surfacing similar content as you browse and search the web.

Tapl.io was founded by Beaudin and his freshman college roommate Dave Reiss. The pair are currently bootstrapping the startup, but are in talks with potential investors.


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark


Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: bizspark, Search, spark-of-genius, startup, Tapl.io

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On Google, Motorola and Rolling the Dice

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 07:53 PM PDT


The Social Analyst is a column by Mashable Editor-at-Large Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space. You can follow Ben on Twitter and Google+.

Love or hate Larry Page and his decisions, you have to say this about Google’s new CEO: he isn’t scared to roll the dice.

That’s exactly what Page did when Google announced its acquisition of Motorola for $12.5 billion. With that money, Google acquired 24,500 patents, 19,000 employees and a hardware business that is losing money. With an acquisition this big, there are only two outcomes: victory or defeat.

For Google, the Motorola acquisition is a series of gambles. Google is gambling that regulators will approve the deal. It’s gambling that Motorola’s patents will be enough to force a stalemate in the Google-Apple-Microsoft patent wars. And finally, it’s gambling that it has the capability to create the software and hardware for a phone that can truly rival the iPhone.

If most of Larry Page’s gambles pay off, then the $12.5 billion price tag will seem cheap compared to the billions they could print making high-end hardware. If Page’s gambles fall flat, then the company’s stock will tank and investors will be calling for his head.

And you thought playing craps in Las Vegas was nerve-wracking.

Let’s take a look at the gambles Larry Page and his company are making, and what each successive gamble means for one of the world’s largest technology companies.


Gamble #1: Regulators Will Approve the Deal


Before Google can do anything with Motorola, it has to first convince regulators that the deal isn’t anti-competitive. It won’t be easy: Google is already the target of an FTC antitrust investigation. And this is, by far, the biggest deal in the search giant’s history.

Google has a couple of things going for it, though. It smartly secured the support of its Android partners. LG, HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have all come out in favor of the deal because it will help Google “defend Android and its partners.” The truth is that they probably don’t like the Motorola deal, but are willing to swallow it because Android is the best option they have.

Google can also point to a need to control the hardware and software process of creating phones, thanks to the success of Apple and iOS. Apple’s complete control of the software and hardware process helped make it the world’s most valuable company.

If Google’s gamble fails, it will have to pay Motorola a $2.5 billion breakup fee. That is a huge number that shows Google’s commitment to the deal, but also shows that there is a huge risk that regulators will grind the deal to a halt.

My gut says that Page will win on this gamble, but regulators will force a lot of conditions on the deal.


Gamble #2: Motorola’s Patents Will Protect Android


If Google can get the green light from regulators, it will turn its attention toward putting its new patents to good use.

Here’s my bet: once Motorola is safely in Google’s hands, it will quickly bring Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and its other technology competitors to the table to broker a series of patent settlements unlike anything the industry has ever seen. Google will have enough patents to rival Microsoft and overshadow Apple’s smaller patent library. It could be enough to convince all sides to call a truce, which would be the ideal endgame for Google.

Of course, Motorola’s vast patent library wasn’t enough to scare away Apple when Motorola sued Apple. Motorola is also in an ugly patent battle with Microsoft. It’s anybody’s guess how the other tech giants will react.

If Google can’t broker a truce, expect it to bring out the big guns and sue its competitors into oblivion. The patent war is one that Google cannot afford to lose. Larry Page is a wartime CEO, and he will not let Google get steamrolled because it didn’t fight back.


Gamble #3: Google Can Design and Build a Better Phone


If Google can use Motorola’s patents to end the patent war, the $12.5 billion will be money well spent. But Motorola’s business is mobile hardware, and don’t think that Google doesn’t appreciate the hardware assets it could soon obtain.

A lot of people seem to think Google will spin off Motorola’s hardware business. I don’t agree, and here’s why: I believe Larry Page relishes the challenge of dethroning the king of technology, Steve Jobs.

Jobs was able to create a software and hardware company that works with near-perfect harmony. Jobs was able to create a business with high-end products and enviable profit margins. Jobs was able to create the world’s most valuable technology company.

Larry Page is confident, hyper competitive, brilliant and a visionary who isn’t afraid to make big bets nobody else is willing to make. In other words, he thinks he can accomplish what Jobs accomplished. That’s why he’s not about to cede the lucrative smartphone and tablet market to Apple.

It all boils down to this: with control over both the hardware and the software, Google is betting that it can design a phone that can truly compete with the iPhone. It would be the first true Google phone. If the search giant can create a device that is considered an equal to the iPhone, it will hit Apple where it hurts and potentially reap big financial rewards. Failure will forever tarnish Google’s reputation and cement Apple’s position as the technology company of the future.

Larry Page has put a lot of chips on the table. Google’s stock price will determine whether it was a smart gamble.

Lead image via Flickr, Alexcreative

More About: apple, Column, Google, larry page, microsoft, Motorola, The Social Analyst

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What Shows, Teams and Celebrities Are TV Watchers Following? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 07:17 PM PDT

Earlier this month, TVGuide.com released a revamped version of the TV Guide Watchlist. The Watchlist is a way for users to find the content they want to watch and share what they are watching with friends.

TVGuide.com has distinguished its offering from other social TV guides in the space by tracking multiple content streams, including online content (from services like Netflix and Hulu), content airing on cable, satellite or network TV, and for Comcast Xfinity users, On-Demand listings.

The new TVGuide.com Watchlist lets users not only follow their favorite shows, but also their favorite sports teams and celebrities.

TVGuide.com provided us with some data showcasing the most added shows, actors and sports teams from the last week. Check out the infographic below and let us know if any of the results surprised you in the comments.


More About: infographics, social tv, tv, tvguide.com

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Funky Nurse: Online Game Supports Teen Cancer Patients

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 06:24 PM PDT

video game image

Miniclip and Teenage Cancer Trust have designed a game that turns a difficult subject into a fun and fresh experience.

The game, called “Funky Nurse,” is short but surprisingly hard to win. The player takes on the role of nurse in a cancer care unit and must manage patients’ happiness by bringing them to entertainment rooms, keeping them fed and providing medical care while scrounging for hospital upgrades. The game was developed with input from three former teen cancer patients.

Eye-opening stats on teenagers with cancer in the UK are displayed at the end of every level. “Every day in the UK, six young people aged 13 to 24 are told they have cancer,” reveals one. “That’s about 2,100 a year.” Another points out that one in 312 males and one in 361 females will get cancer before they are 20. You can also learn more about Teenage Cancer Trust, upgrade your ward or proceed to the next level.

Teenage Cancer Trust is a charity aimed at caring for youths with cancer. The charity says most teens diagnosed with cancer are placed in kids’ wards or in elderly wards, leaving them isolated. Teenage Cancer Trust builds special wards in hospitals to provide a friendly, effective area for teens to get better together.

funky nurse image

Funky Nurse promotes the charity to more than 65 million monthly players on gaming site Miniclip.

Miniclip has supported the charity since 2009, including free online advertising and fundraising events. Teenage Cancer Trust has 17 units in the UK with another 16 planned for the near future. The organization helps young people fight cancer by also funding clinical and research staff, an education program for schools, family support networks and an annual conference for patients.

What do you think of supporting a charity through a video game? And how far did you get?


Image courtesy of Flickr, Ken-ichi

More About: gamification, gaming, social good, social media, video game

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S&P Downgrades Google Stock Rating To “Sell”

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 05:27 PM PDT


Equity analysts at Standard & Poor’s downgraded Google’s stock rating from “buy” to “sell” Tuesday, following the search giant’s decision to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

In a statement on the rating reversal, S&P equity analyst Scott Kessler said that the Motorola purchase puts Google at risk. S&P does not believe Motorola’s patent portfolio will ease Google’s patent woes.

Google shares closed at $539 Tuesday, dropping 3.3%.

“After further consideration of GOOG's plans announced yesterday to purchase Motorola Mobility (MMI 38, Hold), we see greater risk to the company and stock. We expect the transaction to be consummated next year, but later than early '12, which GOOG indicated. Moreover, despite MMI's extensive and valuable patent portfolio, we are not sure it will protect Android from IP issues. We also believe the purchase of MMI would negatively impact GOOG's growth, margins and balance sheet. Based on revised DCF analysis, we are cutting our 12-month target price to $500 from $700,” Kessler said of S&P’s decision to downgrade the stock rating.

Google’s decision to purchase Motorola was unexpected, leading many to speculate over the company’s real intentions. Google said it hoped “to supercharge the Android ecosystem” with Motorola’s patent profile. Mashable’s Christina Warren argues that the Google-Motorola deal is not just about mobile — Google is keen on marrying its software with Motorola hardware.

[via WSJ]

More About: Google, Standard & Poor, stock

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Kayak Explore for Mac Makes Trip Planning Beautiful

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 04:59 PM PDT


Online travel website Kayak has just released a new Mac app that lets users plan their vacations, customized by destination and budget.

The app, Kayak Explore for Mac [Mac App Store link] is free and available in the Mac App Store. It’s an expanded version of the “Explore” feature on Kayak.com, but it adds a better user interface and options like sorting by type of trip. You can choose what time you want to travel or find optimum travel times for your intended destination.

Users are given an overview of various hotel and flight options for their trip, including access to reviews and photos. A flight or trip can then be booked on the web by clicking on the app.

We played with the app briefly and were impressed with its speed and ease of use. It certainly makes planning a trip or looking at vacation options more pleasant.

What do you think of Kayak’s new Mac App? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Kayak, mac apps, mac apps store, travel

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What to Consider When Developing a High-Traffic, Real-Time Web App

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 03:56 PM PDT


Martin Odersky is CEO of Typesafe and creator of the open source Scala programming language. This post was co-authored by Chris Conrad, an engineering manager who is part of the Search, Network and Analytics team at LinkedIn.

While interacting with social media and other consumer websites has become routine for many of us, ensuring a seamless, positive user experience is still the Holy Grail for web developers. The volume of queries and messaging on websites increases every day, as does the challenge of keeping the underlying infrastructure running smoothly for millions of users.

Below, we’ll highlight key challenges facing web developers of high volume sites, provide examples of how to address these hurdles, and discuss the role of emerging open source platforms as a modern approach to overcoming them.


Three Key Challenges


  • Performance: While web application developers of high volume sites face many challenges, performance tops the list. With consumers now demanding blazing computing speeds and uninterrupted service, a wait time of 250 milliseconds can mean the difference between a successful service and a failed one. For key user operations, such as interactive, real-time slicing and dicing of large data sets, performance is essential. The application needs to perform flawlessly and logically in order to attract and keep consumers.
  • Efficiency: When operating services on a massive scale, it's essential to make the most efficient use of hardware assets. For example, optimize the use of memory and available processing resources. In practice, this often means using event-driven and distributed architectures like node.js, versus previous generation thread-based models like traditional Java Servlets. Developer productivity programming languages are further facets of efficiency. Fewer lines of code, made possible by concise languages like Ruby, generally translates to higher productivity for application developers.
  • Reliability: Systems need to remain resilient against component failures, including hardware, software and network crashes. An ever-expanding ecosystem of applications depends on reliable access to user-generated content, like LinkedIn's, for instance. As such, the network needs to target "five nines" availability goals that have previously been benchmarks for the telecommunications and electrical power industries.

  • Real-World Applications


    LinkedIn faces these challenges every day and is always looking to incorporate the most advanced technology to keep its services running smoothly, reliably and efficiently. For example, to support the Signal product introduced last year, LinkedIn created a high performance web service written in Scala. This service is accessed through a REST/JSON-RPC model that enables quick ad hoc data manipulation and fast iteration from the web-based user interface.

    For its real-time people search service (with a peak demand exceeding the hundreds of queries per second), LinkedIn uses a scatter-gather approach that distributes search queries in parallel across a large server farm. This approach balances quick response time with efficient use of server resources.

    To support reliability, LinkedIn created a cluster management and workload distribution library called Norbert, which it implemented in the open source Scala programming language. It then incorporated open source technologies from the Apache ZooKeeper, Netty and Protocol Buffers projects. Norbert is a key component of several mission-critical applications at LinkedIn, most notably its social graph engine, which fields a high volume of requests per day.


    Open Source – Solving Today's Modern Programming Challenges


    In the last few years, many new open source technologies have emerged to help web application developers. Open source projects such as Norbert, now available under the open source Apache license at sna-projects.com, are readily available to web developers charged with tackling such challenges.

    Open source programming languages and frameworks that enable parallel and distributed computing can be especially helpful in keeping today's most trafficked websites running steadily and smoothly. Below are key considerations to keep in mind when programming for today's multicore paradigm:

    • For applications that benefit from highly interactive user experiences, like LinkedIn Signal, developers should consider breaking data-intensive functionality into asynchronous web services that can be integrated into the web-based user interface using REST-style APIs.
    • To encourage "efficiency by default" for today's web-scale applications, developers should look to modern frameworks like Akka and Norbert that incorporate capabilities like event-driven processing, asynchronous I/O and cluster-aware fault tolerance.
    • For applications that can truly scale up and scale out, developers should favor languages like Scala that provide first class support for functional programming, which discourages the use of mutable state. This allows applications to more easily scale hundreds of cores on a single server, and thousands of servers on a network.

    In summary, web applications and their supporting infrastructure need to be robust and efficient as more of society shifts its everyday interactions online. Fundamental advances in technology, many driven by the open source community, are making it possible for today's web application developers to stay ahead of the scalable computing needs of consumers.

    Image courtesy of Flickr, Fon-tina

    More About: apps, linkedin, programming, Web Development

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Apple Releases OS X Lion 10.7.1

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 03:10 PM PDT


Lion users, get ready for a software update. Apple has just released out its first update for OS X Lion. The latest Mac OS, 10.7.1, is available as of Tuesday.

The update weighs in at a mere 17.4 MB, a nice departure from the hefty updates of old. It offers reprieve from a number of bugs and issues.

This is what Apple says has been resolved:

The 10.7.1 update is recommended for all users running OS X Lion and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability and compatibility of your Mac, including fixes that:

  • Address an issue that may cause the system to become unresponsive >when playing a video in Safari
  • Resolve an issue that may cause system audio to stop working when using HDMI or optical audio out
  • Improve the reliability of Wi-Fi connections
  • Resolve an issue that prevents transfer of your data, settings, and compatible applications to a new Mac running OS X Lion

For detailed information on this update, please visit this website: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4764.

Has the update fixed any Lion bugs you’ve encountered? Let us know in the comments.

More About: apple, lion, mac, mac apps

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Facebook Gets Music Via Chrome Plugin

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 02:48 PM PDT


We’ve been holding out for some kind of partnership that would bring music to Facebook for a while now. Well, no dice on that, kids. However, a recently launched Chrome plugin called Music+ is sure to tide you over until that glorious day comes.

Music+ is a plugin that was developed during the Echo Nest Social Music App Challenge. It uses the music intelligence service’s API (as well as Facebook’s API) to make it easy to find and listen to music while surfing the web.

Simply install the plugin in Chrome, and start discovering music. At its simplest, you can pull up a toolbar in which you can search for playable music to listen to while browsing (courtesy of Rdio and MP3s on blogs). Those songs can be shared with friends on Facebook via message, or they can be posted as a playable stream on your wall.

Start surfing, and the app gets interesting. If you go to a blog and highlight a band name and right-click, you can listen to songs by that artist instantly. However, the app really shines when used with Facebook. You’ll have to disable secure browsing in order for it to work (which is a pain), but once you do, every artist on the site will have a “Play” button next to their name, allowing you to listen to tracks by that artist right within Facebook. You can then surf around the site as usual, without having to stay on the page to continue listening (as seen with Facebook Page apps like Bandpage).

The app also adds a column to the left of any band Page containing similar artists, an awesome addition when it comes to music discovery. It also allows you to add artists to your queue for later listening.

All in all, this is an awesome app when it comes to facilitating music discovery. No more toggling over to YouTube or a music subscription service to check out a band while reading. It’s all woven into the Facebook browsing experience.

More About: Echo Nest, facebook, music, social media

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4 Ways Non-Profits Can Jump Into Google+

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 02:29 PM PDT

google plus

If you and your non-profit have steered clear of Google+ during its “people only” phase, now is a good time to reconsider. Yes, your Facebook and Twitter presences are still important — and will continue to be — but the new social network in town has lots of great features you can take advantage of right now.

While Google publicly announced that group and business pages are imminent, non-profits should not wait to wet their feet. Non-profit social media consultant Beth Kanter recommends communications staff spend 15 minutes each day dabbling in the new network.

We asked non-profit staff for their best practices experimenting with Google+ and their hopes for the future of the new social network. Here are four ways non-profits can make the most of the growing network.


1. Host Exclusive Hangouts


Looking for a great way to reward your major donors or dedicated volunteers? Use Hangouts, Google+’s video conferencing feature, to host a hangout with a celebrity or major player in your organization. Your supporters will love the individualized attention of a small hangout that rewards their commitment.

Tammy Gordon, AARP‘s director of social communication and strategy, hopes to kick off their 9/11 day of service with an inspiring speech from a celebrity ambassador in a hangout. “It will be a great way to connect with key volunteers,” says Gordon.

The host of the hangout should create a circle for the event’s participants, such as “9/11 day of service volunteers.”

The AARP team is nervous about using a particular staff member’s personal account to host a large-scale hangout. This concern is probably shared by many organizations longing for the launch of group and business pages.

One way to overcome these worries is to have the speaker host the hangout. If the host is a part of your non-profit’s team, consider the hangout an opportunity for your volunteers to maintain a human contact at your organization.


2. Cater to Your Circles


Circles are a great way to target key messengers, rather than bombard non-interested parties. Try organizing circles by unique interests, geographical location or donation history.

Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation’s social media outreach chair, organizes her circles by their interests. Her circles include policy professionals, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers. She emphasizes that followers can be in multiple circles, so arrange circles with greater precision.

Carefully curated circles are a great way to crowdsource ideas from your valued followers. You can ask your volunteers what types of events they would like to see, or ask your donors for upcoming campaign ideas. Spark conversations among people with shared interests.

Gordon hopes that business pages will include opt-in circles so followers can select the type of information to receive. The AARP plans to offer circles on health, social security, consumer entertainment and politics.


3. Huddle or Hangout with Your Coworkers


The Worldreader team jokes that it got a lot done during its “turbo-hangouts,” says Susan Moody, director of communications. With an international team that spans continents and time zones, Worldreader can use Google+’s new option for easy conferencing.

Similarly, AARP’s communications team is planning a hangout this Wednesday for its first Google+ webinar.

While Google+ is not the first platform to host group video conferencing, many companies have long paid for the service. Now, impromptu group calls can simplify and streamline collaborative brainstorming among coworkers.

Huddles are another way teams can stay in touch. Running late for a presentation? Have a brilliant idea to share during off hours? You can share updates with a group by name, email address or circle using the group texting feature of Google+’s iPhone app. Your huddle history is stored in the app, making it easy to connect with your team.


4. Unite Volunteers in a Huddle


If you’re putting on a major event, streamline communications for your volunteers via huddle. Just add the names of everyone who has signed up to a circle and let the messaging begin!

This can be especially helpful if you’re organizing highly coordinated or quickly changing events such as parades, rallies or protests.

Huddles may also be the perfect solution for sharing information with people on different email servers or mailing lists. The groups have no administrators, so people can easily add new volunteers to the conversation. If a volunteer drops out, he can easily remove himself from the list.

While Brigida has participated in some trial huddles among non-profit staff members, she hasn’t fully explored the potential of the Google+ group texting platform. However, its speed and ease will hopefully encourage ample implementation by non-profits.


Still Not Convinced?


Still confused about how your organization can maximize its Google+ experience, where group pages are currently forbidden? Think of it this way: People come to social networks to connect with other people. While each non-profit has a unique voice, it’s really you — the individuals behind the logo and mission statement — who are the heart and soul of your non-profit. Even if most of your audience is not the early adopter, tech-loving crew, Google’s latest brainchild can work wonders for your organization’s internal operations.

Have you and your non-profit tried Google+? Let us know in the comments about your experiments and successes.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, GiorgioMagini

More About: Google, Google Plus, non-profits, social good

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Virtual Currency Beats All Other Kinds of Mobile Game Purchases [REPORT]

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 01:59 PM PDT


According to data from mobile analytics firm Flurry, more than two-thirds of mobile in-app purchases
for games on iOS and Android go towards buying consumable items — and that, for the most part, means virtual currency.

Mobile game developers are increasingly shifting away from a standard premium pricing structure and instead offering free games that can be augmented with in-app purchases. Last month Flurry reported that revenue from free-to-play games with in-app purchase options now exceeds the revenue of premium games. In fact, Flurry finds that consumers spend an average of $14 for an in-game transaction.

This follows a similar Flurry report from 2010, which revealed that virtual goods revenue is significantly higher than revenue from ad-supported mobile apps.

The new report looks at what kinds of in-app items consumers are buying.

Flurry has designated in-app purchases into three categories:

  • Consumable — Items like virtual currency or special items that can help a player get through a game faster and ascend to the next level. These items are designated as “consumable” because once used, they can’t be used again.
  • Durable — Items that can continue to be used in a game after purchase. This can also apply to additional levels or add-on packs in a game.
  • Personalization — Items that don’t impact game play but can create a more personalized user experience. This could be something like clothes or outfits for an avatar.

According to Flurry, 68% of in-app game purchases are for consumable goods, with virtual currency purchases (think games like FarmVille and Smurf Village) being by far the most popular type of consumable good.

These trends mimic many of the purchasing trends seen in other types of games, such as those on Facebook and an increasing number of MMOs — not to mention World of Warcraft. The challenge for game developers will be to continue to provide new areas of value for the player in a maturing market.

How long will the virtual currency craze last? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: flurry, in-app purchases, mobile games, social games, stats

For more Mobile coverage:


Twitter Photo Uploads Now Available to App Makers

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 01:42 PM PDT


Soon Twitter users will be able to use the service’s official photo-sharing and uploading features from their favorite third-party apps. The company has made photo upload functionality available to developers.

Twitter introduced its media upload API Monday to allow developers to attach images — in PNG, JPG, and unanimated GIF formats — to tweets.

The release comes ahead of Apple’s Twitter-infused iOS 5 update, and is clearly intended to get app makers and users acclimated to the new photo-sharing option.

“Photos are a fundamental way that people share context, information, jokes, and personal moments on Twitter,” Jason Costa, developer relations manager, wrote in a post on Twitter’s developer blog. “Following last week's wider release of photos to Twitter.com users, we're ready to share our media upload API.”

Twitter will also soon equip its own mobile apps with photo upload support, Costa says.

Twitter’s photo-sharing and uploading service, powered by Photobucket, was pushed out to all users last week. It competes directly with Twitter photo-sharing apps such as Twitgoo, Lockerz, TwitPic and yFrog.

Developers wishing to leverage the Twitter photo upload API will need to adhere to the service’s display guidelines and rate limits.

Image courtesy of Flickr, shawncampbell

More About: api, Photos, twitter

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MySpace Memories: 14 Stories From the Social Network

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 01:26 PM PDT


In honor of MySpace’s 8th anniversary, we asked the Mashable community to send in their memories from the social network. While opinions were mixed, most of the responses were centered around nostalgia, personalization and music.

Mashable community members met significant others, connected with artists and learned to code on MySpace. They also commented about three separate MySpace marriages, how much they miss personalizing pages with graphics and songs, and how the site jumpstarted their careers.

We handpicked a few of our favorite comments and included them below. Be sure to check out the Follow pages of the users with our favorite submissions, which are linked to in the slide names.


Steve Joseph





erinwye





Robert Kiefert





Frances Livings





Davidson Scott, Kathy Hernandez, Yemoonyah





John Weaver





James Nichols





Natalie Norris





mickyb273





Jamie Lipson





Brad Ruszala





Andrew Vazzano





April Denton





Alessandra Bifulco




For more Social Media coverage:


Why 11 Businesses Launched Online Instead Of With a Storefront

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 01:10 PM PDT


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

Ever wonder why some businesses choose to nix the brick and mortar? Mashable spoke to 11 businesspeople about their decision to exist entirely online.

Scroll through the gallery to discover real-world advice from web entrepreneurs in every industry from jarred pickles to online clothing swaps. They’ve explained why online storefronts were right for their products and services, and they’ve shared invaluable advice for fellow business owners, including the tools made them successful.


1. thredUP




Founders: James Reinhart, Chris Homer & Oliver Lubin

Service: Online children's clothing, books and toys swap for parents

Where are you based?: San Francisco, CA

How big of an area do you service? Nationwide, as well as to U.S. military families stationed overseas.

Why online vs. a physical storefront? thredUP is essentially a national hand-me-down network. While consignment stores and swap parties are great local solutions, they often provide limited selection when it comes to the sizes and types of children's items you need. thredUP brings the swap party to a national level, allowing families to hand-down outgrown items to one family, and in return receive the next size up from another family.

How do you promote your online storefront? Word of mouth, blogger outreach, daily deals and public relations.

Any other advice for small businesses? If possible, try to think through a re-engagement plan in advance. The mistake many small businesses make is driving "one-timer" customers, failing to follow-up and losing money in the long run. Track your new customers through your sales funnel and inject targeted emails when possible ... When approaching a daily deal, many companies ask the question, "How do we get people to purchase this offer?" What you should ask is, "How do we get people in the door with this offer, then promptly turn them into repeat customers?"


2. Paper Feet




Founder: Jimmy Tomczak

Product: Paperfeet are minimalist sandals upcycled from durable and waterproof billboard vinyl that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Where are you based?: Ann Arbor, MI

Why online vs. a physical storefront? Barefoot footwear is a growing niche; there's typically not enough people in one physical location -- especially in Michigan -- to sustain a storefront.

Why does your product work better online? People who are into barefooting are actively involved in online groups like the Barefoot Runners Society, The Society for Barefoot Living, and Living Barefoot. They then search the web for the exact product solution they're looking for.

Any advice for small businesses that choose online storefronts? An online business has to be compelling. If no one knows about you, no one cares. Share the story. Make the impact. Start now. When paperfeet.com launched, we had people share "their favorite adventures" and explain "why paperfeet?" when pre-ordering. This really helped us get to know our customers and turned out to be a lot of fun, too.


3. Bella Puzzles




Founder: Lara Braithwaite

Product: Personalized puzzle guest books and heirlooms

Where are you based?: Portland, OR

Customer base: Primarily U.S. clients, but an increasing number of international clients

Why online vs. a physical storefront? An online shop allowed me to bootstrap the business with the profits of previous sales. As a result, I've been able to grow Bella Puzzles into a six-figure business without any loans ... The custom nature of my product appeals to customers around the world. A physical storefront would greatly limit the number of potential clients.

How do you promote your online storefront? I started with an Etsy shop. I promote that shop and my own website through Etsy, Twitter, Facebook and my blog.


4. Daily Gobble




Founder: Dazhi Chen

Service: Dining rewards program that offers members exclusive discounts (10-50% off) at partner restaurants.

Where are you based?: Currently, we service the New York Metro and San Francisco Bay Area.

Why online vs. a physical storefront? Our website serves as a digital storefront for over 500 partner restaurants. It's far more sustainable driving traffic to a website that is accessible to diners anywhere than a single physical storefront, or even a single restaurant's website for that matter.

Why does your industry/product work better online? Our founder, Dazhi Chen, tried to launch a similar program before the onset of smartphones and widely-accessible Internet. Without the Internet, we would not be able to use the accelerated rebate model via PayPal that is fundamental to our program.


5. She Hit Pause Studios




Founder: Matt Schwartz

Product: Polaroid prints

Where are you based?: Brooklyn, NY

Why online vs. a physical storefront? I have no patience to sit in a store all week. For me I view it as waste of time and overhead, and it would kill my creativity and flexible lifestyle that I cherish as a reward of what I do.

Why does your specific product, or the art industry in general, do well online? Buying work online is much more relaxed than going into a gallery. I converse back and forth with customers, letting them know anything they want to know about me or the work. I even tell people the temperature it was when I was shooting a particular photo or the cost to fill up a bath tub with gumballs (for "Girl with Gumballs on Feet"). When people buy artwork, they are buying a piece of me or a story I created.

What online tools do you use to sell/market your artwork? Bi-monthly newsletter, Etsy shop, recently hired social media/SEO manager.

Any advice for small businesses that choose online storefronts? Read as many books that you can about business. One of my favorites is "The Purple Cow" by Seth Godin. Outsource whatever you can afford to if there is someone who can do it better. It is important to be in competition with yourself, as opposed to people in your industry. Everything takes time.


6. U.S. Wellness Meats




Founder: John Wood

Product: 100% grass-fed meat, including beef, bison, lamb, poultry, rabbit, seafood and dairy

Where are you based?: Monticello, MO

Why online vs. a physical storefront? Monticello, MO, is the smallest county seat in the state, with 98 counted in the 2010 census. Our business in northeast Missouri is in a very rural and thinly populated locale in the U.S. The economic climate is tough, and grass-fed meats have a very limited market reach in a 75-mile radius of our business address. Consequently, online was the obvious route to take during our yellow sticky note brainstorming sessions in March and April 2000.

Why does your industry/product work better online? The quick answer is convenience, and the ability to source smart protein sources not readily available at the neighborhood market. We have worked hard to procure products with a unique story, which is critical for building trust for our selection of online products. Being online, we are able to answer product questions immediately, via phone or email response. This communication window is what builds trust, which is required before online buyers will spend money.


7. McClure's Pickles




Founder: Bob McClure

Product: Pickles

Where are you based?: Brooklyn, NY

Why online vs. a physical storefront? Costs of physical retail locations minimize margin, increase overhead and create a reliance on the "found you effect," meaning you are at the mercy of the customer coming to your location.

What online tools do you use to sell/market your product? Social media marketing, our retail partners blogs/feeds, word of mouth, press with online presence.

Any advice for small businesses that choose online storefronts? If you're trying to drive traffic to your site and you haven't had any major press, link up with other online retail venues (Foodzie and Food52 are food-specific, but they help take the burden off marketing it all on your own).


8. OfAKind




Founders: Erica Cerulo & Claire Mazur

Service: We promote emerging fashion designers. We commission designers to create limited-edition pieces that are only available for purchase on our site, and we tell their stories -- where they came from, what inspires them, how they produce their work.

Where are you based?: New York, NY

Why online vs. a physical storefront?

Erica: We both grew up in small-ish cities -- I'm from Peoria, IL, and Claire is from Wilmington, DE -- so we had very little access to interesting designers that we read about in magazines like Elle or Harper's Bazaar. We wanted to give people outside of big cities access to designers who we think are going to be the next big things. At the same time, when you're in places like New York or L.A., boutiques can be intimidating, and it's really hard to find time to uncover new designers. We want to make the discovery process easier.

Claire: It also just seemed so much easier than opening a brick-and-mortar store and dealing with all of the physical maintenance, the rent and utilities, having to pay people to man the store -- all to only be able to reach a very limited audience.

What online tools do you use to sell/market your product?

Erica: The biggest driver for us is that our site uses Tumblr as its CMS, meaning that all of our content and our product shows up in our followers' dashboards with links to buy where applicable. That has been so huge for us -- especially since the Tumblr fashion community is getting stronger and stronger by the day.

Any advice for small businesses that choose online storefronts?

Claire: I think one of the smartest things we did early on was start a blog before we launched the business -- we maintained it while we were busy sourcing products and building the site. It helped us to figure out our voice and determine what we wanted our brand to be (and not to be).


9. Sevenly




Founder: Dale Partridge

Product: Crowdfunded t-shirts for charity

Where are you based?: Los Angeles, CA

Why online vs. a physical storefront? With the power of social media and our extraordinary ability to leverage the "share" (online's version of word-of-mouth), we can build, tweak and provide an experience to our customers unlike any physical retailer. By activating emotions through video, online challenges, photographs and detailed information that you can not find on the rack, we are winning the race of customer satisfaction in almost all arenas.

How do you promote your online storefront? We leverage online influencers, people you never heard of that have millions of followers, fans and subscribers.

Any advice for small businesses that choose online storefronts? People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Focus your homepage on the deeper elements of why you're in business in the first place. This is what creates cult-like brands.


10. Kings County Jerky




Founder: Chris Woehrle

Product: Grass-fed beef jerky

Where are you based?: Brooklyn, NY

Customer base: On a macro level, I'd say it's comprised of two camps: avid fans of great-tasting beef jerky, and food-conscious types drawn to artisanal products with new and unique flavors made from quality ingredients, like grass-fed beef. We've also made one especially interesting and unexpected discovery: The majority of our customers are female.

Why online vs. a physical storefront? Because we make our own product, our initial investment had to go entirely into building our (quite costly) manufacturing facility. Knowing we could sell our product through an online store allowed us to put all of our investment into building that infrastructure, and not have to worry about investing in a brick-and-mortar outlet.

When and why do you choose to take advantage of physical sales/promotions? We take advantage of physical sales opportunities and promotions every time they present themselves. We are passionate ambassadors of our brand, and no web platform can communicate our message and enthusiasm like we can in a face-to-face encounter.

Any advice for small businesses that choose online storefronts? Choose your webstore platform wisely. A lot of third-party webstores have terrible user interfaces, poor or overly complex navigation and lousy customer service.


11. Weddington Way




Founder: Ilana Stern

Service: Online group shopping for bridal parties

Where are you based?: San Francisco, CA

Why online vs. a physical storefront? One of the biggest problems for brides when it comes to bridesmaid dresses is that their bridesmaids live all over the place, which means it is a lot of work for her to coordinate everyone because it's difficult (if not impossible) to get everyone in one physical place together to shop for and try on dresses ... We streamline a complex purchasing experience for them, which means they can have fun checking out dresses, sharing opinions, etc., while the site and our team takes care of the logistics of placing orders, ensuring fit questions are answered and tracking each bridesmaid (removing this major "to do" from the bride's plate).

What online tools do your visitors use? The ability to share and rank dresses as well as create and save different lineups is an important piece of the group shopping experience. Additionally, the ability for brides to track each bridesmaid's activity is something brides love because they can stay on top of the process without bugging their bridesmaids (which means that bridesmaids love it too!).

When and why do you choose to take advantage of physical sales/promotions? Brides can order fabric swatches from Weddington Way, which is an important part of how we bring the offline/physical element to our customer -- we send them large swatches so they can really get a good sense for what different fabric and color combos look like in person. This touch and feel helps brides to feel comfortable buying online without going to a brick and mortar store.


More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:


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

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, enot-poloskun

More About: brick and mortar, business, ecommerce, online, small business, Small Business Resources, storefront, web

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


Foursquare Updates iPhone App With Inline Photos

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 12:49 PM PDT


Foursquare has added photos inline with checkins in an update to its iPhone application Tuesday. The new version adds color to the activity stream and refreshes the look and feel of the app.

With the update, Foursquare for iPhone users will now see friends’ photos and checkins coupled together in the activity stream — just as they would on Foursquare.com.

Users can even select “here now” to view all the photos and shouts from friends at the same venue in a single stream. “Commenting on a friend's night out? You'll see all the other photos and comments as you're composing your witty retort. Everything is in one place,” says Foursquare’s blog post.

The location-based social network — which added U.S. President Barack Obama as a celebrity user Monday — also retooled its iPhone application to make for a crisper and cleaner user experience. “There's a new design scheme and a cleaned-up header, and, as has been frequently requested, bigger tap targets,” Foursquare says.

In early August, Foursquare gave its website a photo-facelift and started displaying images inline with checkins, foreshadowing Tuesday’s iPhone app release. Foursquare promises its Android and BlackBerry users that similar features are on the way for them as well.

Image courtesy of Flickr, steve

More About: foursquare, iphone app, Photos

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Men Sentenced to 4 Years for Inciting Riots on Facebook

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 12:21 PM PDT


Two men have been sentenced to four years in jail for attempting to use Facebook to “organize and orchestrate” disorder.

Twenty-year-old Jordan Blackshaw and 22-year-old Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan (pictured) were sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday. The two were arrested last week following days of rioting in London and surrounding areas, beginning August 6.

According to the Guardian, Blackshaw created a Facebook event called Smash Down Northwich Town. Sutcliffe-Keenan also set up a page encouraging rioting in Warrington. Neither post appears to have resulted in an actual disturbance, however.

“The sentences passed down today recognize how technology can be abused to incite criminal activity, and send a strong message to potential troublemakers about the extent to which ordinary people value safety and order in their lives and their communities,” Assistant Chief Constable Phil Thompson warned. “Anyone who seeks to undermine that will face the full force of the law.”

Approximately 3,000 people have been arrested and 1,200 people have appeared in court for riot-related offenses thus far, says the Toronto Star. Sentences have been harsh: One Londoner was sentenced for six months for stealing a $5 case of water from a local supermarket, and a woman from Manchester who did not take part in the riots received a five-month sentence for wearing a pair of stolen shorts her roommate gave her.

On Monday, one man was arrested for planning a water gun fight on Facebook.

Last week, 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.

Home Secretary Theresa May and other UK officials are set to meet with representatives from Facebook and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion to discuss “whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality," says Cameron. Twitter has not confirmed whether it will be joining the talks.

[via The Guardian]

More About: david cameron, facebook, london riots, trending, uk

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Beauty Delivered: How Birchbox Is Disrupting the Cosmetics Industry

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 12:10 PM 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.

Female-helmed startups are having a hey day. Harvard Business School has bred the powerhouse duos behind Gilt Groupe, Rent the Runway and and a cosmetics company you may have heard of, Birchbox, run by Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna. Born out of the notion that women need a beauty editor to help them “curate the clutter,” Birchbox is a $10 monthly subscription service — you fill out a beauty profile, and then every month, a little box of high-end beauty samples from the likes of Kerastase, Laura Mercier and Nars arrive at your door. The YouTube channel offers product demos, and the website has tips and tutorials to help you “discover products you love.”

Mashable spoke with Beauchamp about how she and Barna built Birchbox, how they got brands on board, and how Harvard helped prepare them for the big leagues.

Name: Katia Beauchamp, 28

Company: Birchbox

Year Founded: 2010

Fun Fact: Prior to Birchbox, Katia worked in structured finance and commercial real estate for three years. She attended Harvard Business School to leverage her finance background into a career in entrepreneurship. Her foray into beauty isn’t too surprising — she had interned at Estee Lauder during her years at Vassar.

How did Birchbox begin?

Hayley and I met in business school. We were best friends and not two people who were intent necessarily on starting our own business. In late 2009, we were going to be heading into our last semester, and we came up with this idea for a few reasons. First, we thought there was a real void in one thing for women — people had come up with a great way to sell women’s fashion online, but beauty hadn’t been really cracked, in our opinion. And the reason was because it’s extra challenging to develop an online business for beauty, because it has a touch, try and feel element to it. So that, coupled with the fact that Hayley had a best friend [Mollie Chen] who was a beauty editor, really inspired the idea because [Hayley]‘s a very passive beauty consumer, but she always had the best products, and I always noticed it. I would ask, “Why do you have the newly launched Benefit mascara?” And she would say, “Oh Mollie gave it to me.” All the time!

By looking at the market and thinking of what hadn’t been discovered yet or served yet, we were inspired by the idea that every woman would want a best friend who’s a beauty editor and is helping them curate the clutter. We came up with this idea of a subscription business where we were leverage brands’ samples that they were already creating and getting them in the hands of a more qualified consumer. Creating an efficient marketplace was the vision, but focusing on delight for the customer, as well. So efficiency plus surprise and delight — we were excited by the intersection of both.

How did you get the brands on the Birchbox bandwagon?

"We were inspired by the idea that every woman would want a best friend who’s a beauty editor and is helping them curate the clutter.”

The brands [came on board via] cold emails to the presidents and CEOs initially, just telling them about the idea and seeing if they want to chat and hear more. It was great because we did hear back from those brands right away. And the ask was, “We have this idea, would you help us test it?” Hayley and I didn’t come out and say, “We’re going to launch, we need hundreds of thousands of samples!” We said “We’re going to test it during our last semester of business school, will you be a part of that?” And they were extremely receptive to that, got back to us immediately and we met with them a few weeks after. And it was amazing how quickly they said yes.

And then after the beta test at school, we had results and we had data. And they answered two really big questions for us. The first was, would consumers pay for samples? And the second was, would these great brands work with us continuously?

When we launched and we had a little bit of street cred, but we really had to go after brands in the first few months.

What was the turning point in the Birchbox story?

I think it happened a few times — you have to be a little bit naive and optimistic to get this going anyways. There’s the first phase, of just the idea and getting a lot of nodding heads from professors who said it sounds like it could be interesting. And then we had to get the industry, and hearing their quick reception gave us an immediate sense of “Wow, this really could work, they really want it.”

We signed up 200 paid subscribers pretty quickly, but then there were still so many moments of fear. When we launched, we had 600 and we wondered, “Are they going to tell their friends that this is great? How are they going to feel about the boxes?” We didn’t know.

Around October, when we started getting our first vloggers to do unboxing videos, it was a pretty surreal moment to see tens of thousands of people watching them open a Birchbox. And the person on the screen was saying the words that we really wanted them to say about our service. Things like “this is so exciting” and “I’ve never tried this product before” and “I would have never used this product.” I think that was a pretty exciting moment. Then the holidays were right after that, and that was a really good time for us, but that isn’t to say that there were so many days when we worried about whether there would be supply and demand. This is something where you can’t get complacent. It’s never, “Yes, we’re winning.” One thing I say to myself and to the team a lot is, “We’re still really just starting, and there’s a long road ahead of us.” We’ve had some great traction, but there’s still so much to do.

What’s the biggest challenge when you’re starting your own business?

Starting [laughs]. Being in business school and having the tendency to analyze everything — what are all the possible outcomes and what’s your idea. Your idea usually isn’t a small thing, it’s usually a pretty huge idea. For us it was: change the way people shop for beauty online. I think it can be pretty daunting to go after a huge idea, and also you want to run every potential outcome for the idea. You can get so wrapped up in those numbers and how you’re going to do everything that it can take a long time to start. I think because we had this incredibly pressed deadline — graduation — we didn’t have the luxury of really laboring over it. We said, “We’re going to take a small version of our vision and launch it with the small amount of money that we have and see if people like us.” And that really empowered us and helped us see the minimum viable product for us, and that was such an important way for us to feel comfortable personally with taking a leap of faith and to really get our brand and our customers excited. And then knowing how excited they were about our smaller vision, we knew it was only going to get better.

You have a successful startup less than a year after launch. That’s pretty awesome — what is your vision of success?

I don’t have a firm vision of success — it’s definitely not a number, and it’s not somebody we would sell to. For us, I think it’s really building a company that’s adding value to the employees, to the brands, to the customers and being able to support itself. I think that feels like success. We’re making money, and the fact that it all works — it’s not a Ponzi scheme or a house of cards! — is something that we strive for, and that’s what makes us feel successful. And also, it’s knowing the people who are working with us feel like they’re having an incredible opportunity and they’re building the skill sets they want.

Do you feel like you learned to be an entrepreneur at Harvard? Do you think entrepreneurship can be taught?

I hope so! I don’t think i was born one, but I definitely think there a lot of tools they teach. In general, the way HBS classes are taught is that they require you to take 20 pages of information and make decisions. That’s what the class is every day, that’s how the case method works, and I think it’s an incredible exercise for what the life of an entrepreneur is. You have to make a lot of decisions every day, and the longer you put it off, the less likely you are to get to it. So taking a little bit of information and trying to make the best assumptions you can — that was incredibly helpful. Now they have an entrepreneurship program at Harvard, and it’s growing — since Gilt and Rent the Runway, they’ve invested a lot more in getting students to understand the tactical elements and tools that are really necessary to do this.

So, I definitely think it’s something that can be taught. For me, being in the entrepreneurship class and hearing from failed and successful entrepreneurs was the moment when I thought, “Wow, I don’t think everyone had the stomach for this.” And I got really excited, even when people talked about taking out a third mortgage, failing and then trying another idea, I said, “That’s the life I want.” Because I really felt that working everyday and loving what you’re doing is not something everybody gets to do, and when you’re working for yourself, it’s such a privilege to see yourself persevere through challenges.

What makes you a great entrepreneur?

Um, everyone’s going to say this, but I don’t think I’m a great entrepreneur. I have a will to survive and hopeless optimism — it’s a never-ending sense that things are going to work out. There is no “no” for me. Ever. I don’t even hear it. One of the biggest things is that you have to stay a little naive, I think, and believe that you can do anything, that you can change peoples’ minds, that you can change behavior.

You, Gilt, Rent the Runway — these are all female founder duos. How do you divvy up the responsibilities, and could you have done it alone?

I don’t ever want to think about doing it alone! We divvy it up pretty cleanly — Hayley does everything internal for the business, and I do everything external. And then of course we talk about all the big decisions for the company together. And even the smaller decisions where it’s just, “I need to pick your brain and bounce some ideas off you” and we touch base with each other. And it’s amazing for a few reasons. The obvious is that we have different strengths and perspectives and experiences, which helps us — we think — create a better outcome for Birchbox. The sum of both of us is greater than the parts. I’ve never questioned that, and it’s such a blessing to have each other. The other reason is, it’s kind of like if you’ve ever been a runner, having a partner to help you get through when you’re exhausted gives you the energy — you kind of run behind your partner [until you gain strength]. It’s amazing, you just tend to be off at different times. And that’s what it’s like to have Hayley. If I’m having a bad day and thinking, “How are things doing to be okay?” she’s having a great day and she’ll say, “Listen to all the great things that have happened today on my side of the world!”

I think that trade-off really helps — it can be a roller coaster, but having a partner helps to smooth the ride.

What inspires you?

Hayley said it really well the other day — I think there are different phases of what inspires you when you’re starting a business. At first, it’s the idea and the excitement about the idea and the possibility of the idea and thinking, “Will this take off?” And then there’s delivering to the brands that have given us something that’s very treasured to them, and then it’s really delivering to the customers who are paying. We have made a promise to give them something that is good enough for what they’re spending, but that also really delights them. And every month we have this task of delighting them again.

And I think today, it’s really the employees. That’s what happens — you build this organization full of really talented people, and every day it’s inspiring to see everyone help the organization rise to the occasion. And that’s really where the responsibility lies, because we have so many talented people who have so many other options, and we get to be around them. It’s really an honor.

Outside of Birchbox, to be horribly philosophical, having this one life inspires me. Every day is an opportunity to feel very empowered and very lucky for having impacted at least this small corner of the world we live in is pretty inspiring.

As an entrepreneur, you live, eat and breathe Birchbox and business. How do you pull back and see the bigger picture?

You try to, but it is a little bit hard. Getting back to working out has made me feel a little more like myself, because it had really been such a long time. And I think really making the time to not do emails and to spend true quality time with people, because it’s so easy not to, having your mobile device with you everywhere. If I’m meeting with a friend for an hour, I’m not going to think about whatever it is I have to do when I get home or talk about it either. You have to realize that there are so many other things happening in other people’s lives, and it still feels like all of those things can get drowned in the day. So consciously making mental room for others.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

"There is no “no” for me. Ever. I don’t even hear it.”

We met with one of our friends yesterday who’s leaving to start his own company, and he was getting really bogged down in what we were just talking about — building these huge models for all of the scenarios. Hayley and I said, “Stop right there. Make three of these products and put up a website and see if anybody will buy it. Baby steps!”

And it’s a lot easier today to get started — there are amazing tools and platforms with which you can launch an ecommerce store. And of course, one of the hardest things to think about is, how are you going to get people there? But now there are so many tools to help you do that, and partners that are willing to take a chance on great ideas. You just have to open your eyes a little and see that you don’t have to spend so much money to acquire every customer. You can think creatively and do a small test to say, “Okay, am I the kind of company that can continue on this path and bootstrap it?” — which is such an important question to answer — or, “Am I the kind of company that has proven something and, if I could put more money on it, that’s all I need because I have the proof that I’m heading in the right direction.” And you’ll never know, but [the test] helps you tell a more compelling story when you want to fundraise, if that’s the right path for you.

You mention free tools — do you mean social media?

Yes, social media — we built the company on social media, honestly. The first thing that happened on YouTube was one of the biggest moment for us, and then Facebook and Twitter became huge referral sources for us. We’re realizing that this is where our community was convening and people were talking about Birchbox, so it was a huge realization in terms of where we could be allocating resources. So Mollie, the beauty editor who was the inspiration for Birchbox, is the director of content, and she has a small team that helps write and create all the content.

But also, I honestly think partnerships with large- and medium-sized companies that are willing to think outside the box are a great resource if you have a idea that they think is compelling. They’re looking to stay fresh and exciting and new to the people who subscribe to their emails or the people who visit their sites. So I really think there’s a huge opportunity to leverage brands that are larger than you, where really all you’re doing is giving them something good to talk about.


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More About: Birchbox, ecommerce, entrepreneurship, Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Series, startup

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PowerInbox Runs Facebook, Twitter & Groupon Inside Email

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 11:52 AM PDT


PowerInbox lets email users run applications inside Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail or Outlook. The startup, which launches Tuesday, is also announcing that it raised $1.1 million in a funding round led by Atlas Venture.

At launch, PowerInbox includes email applications for Facebook, Twitter and Groupon. Each app brings it with it the ability to view and engage with site content from inside the email message.

“Email hasn’t really changed in its last 40 years of existence,” PowerInbox founder and CEO Matt Thazhmon tells Mashable. “Looking ten years in the future, I’ll put money on it, email will still have Reply, ReplyAll and Forward, but next to those buttons, you will see an edit button and an app store button … This is the future of email that we are working hard towards and our launch today is the first step towards making this vision a reality.”

Stock notification emails come to life with the PowerInbox browser extension installed. A Groupon deal email includes a live countdown on time left to buy, and indicates whether the deal has tipped. A Facebook notification email displays photos, comments and Likes, and allows the user to comment from inside the message. A Twitter follower notification lets you follow back, tweet inside the message and view the person’s recent tweet.

PowerInbox users can expect apps for managing Netflix movies, bidding on eBay auctions, booking flights and playing casual games.

Developers are also encouraged to build their own email applications, and Thazhmon says that startup is fielding a lot of interest from the developer community.

PowerInbox has raised $1.1 million from Atlas Venture, Longworth Ventures, Correlation Ventures and several Angel investors.

More About: email, PowerInbox

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Lady Gaga’s “Yoü and I” Video Leaks Online Ahead of Her Twitter Reveal

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 11:40 AM PDT

Lady Gaga was all set to launch her latest music video (via her 1,000th tweet) on Thursday. But it looks like the Internet has beat Mother Monster to the punch.

Perez Hilton has the vid in question, for the song “Yoü and I,” which Gaga has been teasing via Twitter for the past couple of weeks. The country-esque jam, in its visual incarnation, features appearances by Gaga’s male alter-ego, Jo Calderone, and her mermaid self, Yuyi.

NSFW: Mermaid sex.

Update: Shortly after the video appeared on Perez Hilton, Lady Gaga posted her 1,000th tweet, which says:


More About: Lady Gaga, music, video, you-and-i

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Google Related: New Toolbar Offers Other Sites You Might Like

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 11:28 AM PDT


In a move that shows the continuing evolution of its search product, Google on Tuesday introduced Google Related, a bottom-of-the-page bar for the Chrome and Internet Explorer browsers that suggests similar pages you might be interested in.

If you’re on a restaurant’s homepage, for example, Google Related might call up a map of the restaurant, reviews from Google Places and sites from other competing establishments. If you’re reading an op-ed, Google Related might offer an essay that takes the opposite opinion.

The suggestions are designed to be unobtrusive. Displayed on a thin bar at the bottom of your screen, they get magnified if you track your cursor over them. If you like something that’s suggested, you can give it a +1.

Naturally, Related would be prime real estate for advertisers. At the moment, however, it appears to offer only regular search results.

The launch is further evidence of the changing nature of search. Google has tinkered with its results of late by incorporating +1s from users as well as social search results from Twitter, Flickr and Quora. Related may also be a way of evening the score with Microsoft, which currently includes recommendations from Facebook friends in its Bing search engine.

This video from Google explains Google Related further:


More About: bing, Google, microsoft, twitter

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Lyrics App Gives You the Words to 5.5 Million Songs on iTunes

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 10:57 AM PDT


Musicians are not always the most articulate folks — often letting the sound and emotion of a jam outweigh vocal clarity — which can make singing along to your favorite tunes a bit of a chore. Enter musiXmatch, a new iOS app from the lyrics provider that makes uncovering the words to any jam a snap.

The app — which is available for Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile 7 and now for iPhone and iPod touch [iTunes links] — scans your music library, allowing you to listen to your music and tap to uncover lyrics while you jam. Right now, the app has around 5.5 million songs, so pickings are relatively robust.

Users can also share lyrics to their social networks, check out trending searches and search for specific songs.

Music recognition service Soundhound has a similar offering, allowing users to identify songs and pull up lyrics for “Now Playing” tracks on one’s iTunes. That service, however, only has access to 500,000 lyrics at present.

Image courtesy of Flickr, pfly

More About: iOS, lyrics, Mobile 2.0, musixmatch

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3 Tips for Building a Web App That Can Scale

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 10:23 AM PDT


Lew Cirne is founder and CEO of New Relic, the leading SaaS-based web application performance management company supporting 10,000 customers including companies from Comcast to Zynga.

Twitter generates about eight terabytes of data a day. That's a hell of a lot of data for one application. Some SaaS companies might look at that number and think that they'll never need to handle that much data, or if they did, it would take far more infrastructure and server hardware than they could afford to maintain.

In both cases, they might be wrong.

Any SaaS business can handle as much data as Twitter and many can do it on only a handful of servers. It's all a matter of understanding your data and planning your technology investments to be as scalable as possible. Sounds easy enough. So where do you begin?


1. Plan to Scale, Even in the Beginning


It may sound like premature optimization, but planning to scale is really just basic business strategy. Ask a few of these questions: How many people will realistically use the application in the next 6 to 12 months? What kind of data do you plan on creating or storing on their behalf? How long can all your customers “fit” on one server? What can you do when you have more customers or more data than that?

Take into account past growth patterns and expected growth rate and begin to determine the potential technological limits you'll encounter. It's also important to have mechanisms in place for unexpected growth. Think of it like an accounting process: When will infrastructure expenses outweigh the income? Planning to scale isn't just about building the technology to accommodate growth. It’s also about informing business decisions.

Having a rough strategy for future growth will help you design your application and the infrastructure to operate it. You don’t need to build out all scaling capability at the start, but also don't assume that the cloud will just scale by itself. You should keep some practicable ideas in the back of your mind for when the times comes.


2. Understand Your Data


Many fast growing SaaS companies feel like they're just moments away from being buried under a mountain of data streaming in from their customers. There are so many ways to provide access to data, but you're not quite sure how to weed through it all.

The key is to pay close attention to how users are actually accessing the data. For the majority of popular use cases, there is probably a much smaller set of data to care about. Understanding the most likely use cases for your application makes it easier to create and optimize a data handling strategy that will allow you scale.


3. Keep it Simple


Technology fads come and go. Every few months you hear about some new type of database or application framework that promises to magically shorten your development time or increase your scalability. The best technology, however, is the one you already know.

While many of these new tools offer great speed and functionality, they often lack experience with some of the more “boring” aspects of data handling such as redundancy, replication or failover, for instance. By keeping things simple and using technologies that you know, it becomes easier to respond to changes in the business and new demands on the application.


At the heart of planning for scale is understanding where you are in the arc of your business. Business growth goes hand-in-hand with technology growth. The more tuned in you are to demands on your business, the easier it will be to adjust and scale your application.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kemie

More About: dev & design, how to, SaaS, scalability

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Who’s Winning the YouTube Town Hall? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 10:08 AM PDT

youtube town hall image

A little while back, YouTube launched an online town hall to get the public interested and voting on the issues that matter most, and now the video site has released an infographic showing some of the results.

Every week YouTube posts user-submitted questions and U.S. representatives respond with short videos. Users then watch two videos head-to-head and vote on their favorite. Party affiliation is hidden until after the vote to get the public listening to ideas rather than thinking along party lines.

In two months of existence, YouTube’s town hall received 50 videos from U.S. representatives viewed a cumulative 1.3 million times. The most viewed video is a response from Senator Jerry Moran, R.-Kan., speaking about American economic growth.

The infographic below highlights some other data points, like most viewed topics and which issues received the most votes. There is even more data on the YouTube blog. The team went through all the town hall transcripts to find out which words were most used by each party. For example, while addressing the topic of Afghanistan, Republicans talked about “progress,” “withdrawal” and “success,” whereas Democrats talked about “war,” “mission” and “security.”

Take a look at the graphic and the stats and let us know what you think. Also look out for this week’s topics: Spending cuts in the budget, transparency about the productivity of legislators and the cost of the war in Afghanistan.

youtube town hall infographic

More About: 2012 election, politics, video, youtube

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Are Advertisers Right To Complain About ICANN’s “Dot-Whatever” Plan? [POLL]

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 09:34 AM PDT


The advertising community is up in arms about a proposal that would make top-level domain names open-ended.

Under ICANN’s so-called “dot-whatever” plan, a company like Pepsi would be compelled to buy the “.pepsi” domain and whatever other iterations might apply. On Monday, the Interactive Advertising Bureau voiced its displeasure with the scheme, charging it would force advertisers to bid on the domains against cybersquatters, causing “incalculable financial damage” to brands.

The IAB’s opposition came after the Association of National Advertisers had also called on ICANN to abandon the plan. On Tuesday, another big group representing advertisers, the 4A’s, went public with its opposition. Are these advertisers putting their own financial concerns ahead of progress or are they voicing a legitimate concern? We’d like your opinion — vote in the poll below:


Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ahlobystov

More About: advertising, domains, ICANN, MARKETING

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Shuffler.fm Turns Music Blogs Into Audio Magazines

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 09:19 AM PDT

itunes image

After one year on the music/tech scene, Shuffler.fm has made quite a name for itself as a tool for music discovery. Now, the web app is out with a slew of upgrades, and the news that an iPad app is on its way.

Shuffler.fm launched last summer as a kind of Pandora/StumbleUpon for music blogs, allowing you to surf through blogs whilst listening to jams covered.

The site has built out its functionality, allowing users to listen to tunes from one music blog — a kind of blog radio station — as they surf that blog. This was a feature that we really wanted in the first iteration of the service, which automatically shuffled blog posts when a song finished playing (you had to pause a song if you wanted to read the rest of the blog). Now, Shuffler.fm is much more like Spin magazine’s iPad app, which allows you to listen to all the tracks in the mag while you read (which is probably no coincidence, seeing as how Shuffler partnered with Spin a few months back to provide a similar functionality on the magazine’s website).

New features also include the ability to check out popular songs and artists, search for music and news from your favorite artists (a great way to find playable tracks from acts that you’re into), and to save tracks to your own playlist, as well as subscribe to blogs. Music blogs can also easily add their blogs to Shuffler.

Shuffler has also given us a sneak peek at its iPad app, which isn’t quite ready for primetime (bug city). Keep an eye on Mash, though, for a walkthrough when it hits the iTunes Store.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Carnoodles

More About: ipad, music, music discovery, shuffler.fm, spin

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Back to School: 42 Digital Resources for Students & Parents

Posted: 16 Aug 2011 08:37 AM PDT


It’s getting to be that time of year. Your chances of seeing school supply commercials have increased exponentially. Kids are breaking out last year’s Elmer’s in anticipation of glorious glue feasts. Teens are cramming their entire summer reading into the last week of August. Yep, it’s back to school time, folks.

One thing that makes back to school a tad less stressful? Tech, of course! What did you think we were going to say — studying? Pssssh.

Take a gander below at these tech tools, apps, social media and parenting tips that will ease you or your kid into another school year. Here are Mashable‘s best education-related posts from the past year! Enjoy, you teacher’s pet, you.


Tech & Mobile Education Tools



Education via Social Media



Education Tips & Stats



Extracurricular Tech Education


Image courtesy of iStockphoto, flyingdouglas.

More About: education, Kids, List, parenting, school

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