Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Facebook’s Privacy Overhaul, Samsung’s New Android Lineup: This Morning’s Top Headlines”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Facebook’s Privacy Overhaul, Samsung’s New Android Lineup: This Morning’s Top Headlines”

Facebook’s Privacy Overhaul, Samsung’s New Android Lineup: This Morning’s Top Headlines

Posted: 24 Aug 2011 05:17 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 four particular stories of interest today.

Facebook Announces Major Privacy & Tagging Changes

Facebook is rolling out one of the largest privacy overhauls in its history, making it clearer for users to understand with whom they are sharing their photos, status updates and locations.

Samsung Announces New Android Smartphones & Naming Scheme

Samsung has announced a few details about a line of Android smartphones it plans to unveil at the IFA trade show in Berlin in early September, as well as a new naming scheme for distinguishing entry to premium-level smartphone models.

Sprint to Carry iPhone 5 [REPORT]

Sprint will join Verizon and AT&T in selling the iPhone 5 beginning mid-October, unidentified sources have told the The Wall Street Journal.

East Coasters Turn to Twitter During Virginia Earthquake

A 5.9 earthquake originated in Mineral, Virginia, Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and true to form, many Twitter users turned first to the microblogging service for information — as well as a few laughs while cell service was down.

Further News

  • Samsung has brought some unusual evidence into its most recent patent battle with Apple — namely, the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey — in an attempt to prove that designs for the iPad and iPhone were established before Apple started filing patents for them.
  • Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams have announced their first project since leaving their full-time positions at Twitter: a partnership with Lift, a new app designed to unlock human potential.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

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Google Doodle Celebrates the Birthday of Jorge Luis Borges

Posted: 24 Aug 2011 02:59 AM PDT

Today’s doodle on Google’s homepage is a nod to Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who was born on August 24, 1899, meaning today would be his 112th birthday.

Borges is known as one of the most prominent figures in the magic realism literary genre, and his two most famous books, Ficciones and The Aleph – both collections of short stories – still confound and amaze readers all around the world.

He was also known for writing reviews of nonexistant works by other writers as well as literary forgeries, which contributed to the air of mystery which surrounded the author throughout his lifetime.

Although many supporters claimed he deserved one, Borges never received a Nobel Prize for literature. “Not granting me the Nobel Prize has become a Scandinavian tradition; since I was born they have not been granting it to me,” he famously commented.

Today’s Google doodle depicts Borges overlooking a complex imaginary world much like the one from his poems and stories. Among other doodles, which Google has been releasing very often in the last couple of years, it stands out as being one of the most difficult to read.

More About: Doodle, Google, google doodle, Jorge Luis Borges

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Samsung Reveals New Android Smartphones and Naming Scheme

Posted: 24 Aug 2011 02:01 AM PDT

Samsung has revealed a slew of new Android Gingerbread smartphones, all named under the new naming scheme which should make it easier to discern which phone does what by looking at the name alone.

Now, when you hear about a Samsung Galaxy phone, this is what the letters in the name mean: S means “Super Smart” and denotes a flagship device, while R stands for “Royal” or “Refined”, and denotes a premium model, just below the S class. W stands for “Wonder”, which translates to a high quality, mid-level device; M means “Magical” and denotes a mid-to-low-level smartphone, while Y stands for “Young”, meaning an entry-level device.

Additionaly, Pro indicates the device includes a physical QWERTY keyboard, Plus means the device is an upgrade from an existing model, while LTE means that the device supports LTE (Long-Term Evolution) standard, which enables very fast data transfer.

This makes our job easier: if we tell you that Samsung has released four new Android smartphones: Galaxy W, Galaxy M Pro, Galaxy Y and Galaxy Y Pro, you already know what that means, right?

We’ll add some details, though: The Galaxy W sports a respectable 1.4 GHz Processor, HSDPA connectivity and a 3.7″ touch screen. Samsung hasn’t revealed the precise specs of the other three devices, except a couple of tidbits here and there: the Galaxy Y is powered by a 832MHz CPU, while the Galaxy M Pro is very thin at only 9.97 mm.

All the devices will be officially unveiled at the IFA trade show held in Berlin from 2 to 7 September 2011.

More About: android, samsung, samsung galaxy

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Where Are Your Facebook Friends Sitting? Ticketmaster Tells You

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 08:34 PM PDT

Ticketmaster, the event ticketing property of Live Nation, is enhancing its interactive seat maps Tuesday so that ticket buyers and event-goers can see where their Facebook friends are sitting, and tag themselves into their seats.

With the upgrade, Facebook members can now connect their accounts to view a Facebook-infused event seat map that highlights where friends at sitting with miniature Facebook flags.

The feature is live for more than 9,000 events on Ticketmaster and Live Nation sites.

The idea, says Ticketmaster executive vice president of ecommerce Kip Levin, is to return the ticket-buying experience to its pre-web social origins. “Online took away from the old experience of going down to the record store to purchase tickets,” he says. “This is a way to go back to that.”

The interactive seat maps experience is now designed to help Facebook users see where their friends are sitting, purchase nearby tickets, tag themselves into their seats, nudge their Facebook friends to do the same and share their seats with friends on Facebook.

A filter on the left-hand side of the map populates with friends attending the event in question. Facebook friend flags are situated on the map to denote their seats. Users can click on names to zoom into a friend’s seat location, or hover over flags to view who is sitting where.

Ticketmaster rolled out the first iteration of interactive seat maps, minus Facebook seat-tagging, roughly one year ago. The first release, says Levin, was one of the company’s most significant product launches in the past five years.

“We studied the way people bought tickets,” he says. “People said they would buy tickets … because they knew where their friends were sitting,” he says.

Ticketmaster’s research suggests that every time a ticket buyer shares his purchase with friends online, the activity converts to $5 in additional ticket sales. The hope, says Levin, is that Facebook seat-tagging will encourage ticket buyers to more frequently share that they’re attending events, and drive up ticket sales as a result.

More About: MARKETING, social media, Ticketmaster

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Twitter Co-Founders Want to Help Unlock Human Potential With New App

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 07:02 PM PDT

Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams have announced their first project since leaving Twitter: a partnership with Lift, a new app designed to unlock human potential.

The project falls under the domain of Obvious Corporation, an entity founded by Williams in the mid-2000s to support his various projects. Obvious was revived earlier this year with Biz Stone and former Twitter VP of Product Jason Goldman as co-founders.

“Our approach is threefold: Build, partner, and invest,” Stone said in a blog post. “We've started working on some ideas ourselves, we're researching how best to create an investment vehicle, and today we're thrilled to announce our first official partnership.”

Their first project is a partnership with with Tony Stubblebine (CrowdVine, Odeo) and Jon Crosby (Path, Songbird). Their new startup is Lift, “an interesting new application for unlocking human potential through positive reinforcement.” Stubblebine and Crosby will be the driving forces behind the project, while Obvious will help with design, strategy, funding and recruiting. In return, Obvious will own equity in Lift.

Obvious and Lift aren’t releasing any more details about the app — it is in private Alpha — but as the first Obvious company, it will have to live up to high expectations. Lift boasts an all-star team, and the support of Twitter’s co-founders will give it an instant audience.

Lift may be Obvious Corporation’s first startup, but it won’t be its last. Williams, Stone and Goldman are just getting started.

More About: biz stone, evan williams,, Obvious Corp

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8 Best Practices for Deploying a Top-Ranked Mobile App

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 06:28 PM PDT

Krishna Subramanian is the co-founder of Velti Mobclix Exchange. You can follow him on Twitter @ksub15 and read the company blog at

Developing a mobile app is the easy part. Getting that app noticed is difficult. And getting the app to go viral is like winning the lottery. Yet many developers get millions of downloads time after time. How?

It’s all about app store SEO, and some developers have mastered it. Here are a few tips and tricks of the trade to help get your app to the top of heap.

Time Is of the Essence

The first two weeks of an app's life are critical and will likely determine its future visibility in the app store. Top applications develop popularity within two weeks of release, and most applications have a tendency to drop in chart position over time. Remember, whatever you do — marketing campaigns, cross distribution and so on — the quicker you do it, the bigger the impact.

top apps graph

Note: A time series analysis provided findings around top application behavior and their statistical differentiation from other applications over time. Rank represents a normalized score to gauge application success on the same scale across different categories. App rank data was leveraged from the top 100 App Store (iOS) apps.

Pricing: Free, Paid or In-App Purchasing?

With the various pricing models available across app stores, picking the sweet spot for your app’s price becomes even more critical. In the early days of the app store, developers had to create two versions of a single app: One paid and one free. Today, in-app purchasing allows developers to manage one audience across a single free app and receive incremental revenue from loyal customers by having them purchase additional content from within the app.

The majority of top paid apps have cut prices at least once during their life cycle, including those that have dramatically changed their chart position. Usually the first price cut (or shift from paid to free) has the most significant effect on chart position.

The majority of top paid apps have cut prices at least once during their life cycle and 10 percent of top apps that have had the most dramatic chart position change have cut prices. The first price cut (or paid to free) has the most significant effect on chart position. Advanced Software Development launched their app FlipANickel at a $1.99 price point, and after seven days, they dropped the price to $0.99. This significantly increased its category rank, which jumped from 2,200 to 229.

Earning Downloads

The ideal scenario for gaining downloads is working with Apple or other app stores to get featured placement. This, however, is reserved for the elite. Many developers do not have the luxury of cross-promoting a new app to users via their existing apps, which is the easiest way to get new downloads. Also gone are Apple’s incentivized downloads, meaning developers can no longer guarantee placement in the top of the app store. Less than six months ago, developers could gain 100,000+ incentivized downloads within 24 hours, giving them instant, Top 25 status. But ad networks can still help your app’s performance.

Mobile ad networks typically allow you to buy traffic on a CPC or CPM, basis but many will still allow you to buy on a non-incentivized CPI (cost per install or performance) basis. Tracking conversions and downloads is a pretty complicated process that requires you to work closely with your ad network partner. But there are still some gross inadequacies.

Tracking downloads or app opens consists of cross-checking the device IDs of users that clicked on an ad against the device IDs of apps that were downloaded. This is still extremely clunky, and often results in double counting the same downloads. It is also difficult to accurately track this information across mobile apps.

Don't even look at other mediums such as Facebook, Twitter or online advertising until you have a successful track record for buying across mobile.

More Quick Tips

Still burning with questions? Here are some quick tips and best practices for success:

  • Android app rankings differ from app store to app store and are based on a multitude of factors surrounding downloads, including location, devices and engagement levels.
  • size graph

  • Size matters! If your iOS app file size is over 10MB, which we usually see in the Adventure & Role Playing Game, Health, and Travel categories, it will require a Wi-Fi connection to download. This immediately cuts you off from a large portion of potential users.
  • Speak to your audience. Take a look at where your highest concentration of users exists. If the users are from South Korea, for example, it might be beneficial to create a localized version of your app.
  • Listen to your audience. Real-time optimization, creating dynamic content, getting in-app feedback, leveraging analytics and adapting your architecture will all help increase virality. Build the app that your users want to use.
  • Distribution platforms such as Mobage from ngmoco/DeNA, openfeint from Gree, and Game Center from Apple are all ways to tap into existing users and the social features of mobile apps. Third-party app stores are also a good way to boost downloads.

App store ranking algorithms are an ever-changing art that platforms and app stores will constantly improve as developers strive for visibility at the top. These tips will help make your app more discoverable on a consistent basis.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, izusek

More About: App, dev, Mobile 2.0, mobile app

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Earthquake Call Fail: BlackBerry Messenger Beats the Phone Carriers

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 05:12 PM PDT

The 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Virginia and rolled through much of the east coast Tuesday caused more inconvenience than damage. Case in point: though no cellphone towers were knocked out, high call volume meant massive service interruptions for users of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

But one cellphone-based service managed to work as normal, according to Bloomberg: RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger.

BBM, which can run on either a phone’s data connection or local Wi-fi, and uses unique wireless protocols, has gained a reputation for reliability and security. In the Chilean earthquake of 2010, and in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in New York, it was the only service left standing.

In London earlier this month, BBM was deemed a little too reliable and secure: it was the primary method for rioters to communicate and coordinate. RIM’s unwitting role in the riots has come under scrutiny from the UK government.

But on a day when the carriers have all experienced what one Sprint spokesman called “an intermittent mass calling event”, and the Department of Homeland Security advised that we not try to call family members on the east coast, RIM has added a much-needed sheen to its reputation.

Its stock closed a dollar higher in late New York trading — not a huge bump, but considering RIM’s share price is off 53% this year overall, not to mention the fact that BlackBerry has slipped to third place in the smartphone market, the company will take what it can get.

More About: bbm, blackberry, smartphones

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5 Ways Merchants Can Start Utilizing Facebook Credits

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 04:19 PM PDT

facebook work image

John Corpus is the founder and CEO of Milyoni. Milyoni helps companies monetize fan pages for live concerts, movies or sporting events or by selling merchandise. Follow the company on Twitter at @milyoni.

Facebook Credits are hot. More and more businesses — both large and small — are exploring how they can incorporate Facebook Credits into their overall social strategy. But they all have the same question: How?

The most common use of Facebook Credits has traditionally been to purchase virtual goods in social games, such as Zynga's FarmVille and Mafia Wars. New digital content from entertainment and lifestyle companies such as movies studios, concert promoters and sports teams has created an even greater awareness for how to use Facebook‘s "social currency."

Universal Pictures just launched a campaign offering cult film The Big Lebowski for rent directly through the movie's Facebook fan page. It was made available to rent on-demand for 30 Facebook Credits.

Other retailers are issuing Facebook Credits as incentives in exchange for some type of action, like social engagement, online purchases or brand loyalty., for example, ran ads on Facebook offering 50 Facebook Credits with any purchase from their site. The GAP UK also provided Facebook Credits to customers who signed up for its email newsletter.

As your business looks to get into the Facebook Credits game, here are some things to consider.

1. Sell Digital, Not Physical Goods

Facebook Credits can be used to purchase virtual goods, digital goods and Facebook Deals. They still cannot be used to directly purchase physical goods or redeem anything outside of Facebook. Now, however, there are a variety of digital goods and content available (Skype calls, music, movies, additional ammunition for game battles, etc.). There is an endless list of opportunities to monetize.

2. Incentivize Fan Engagement

While the real value of a Facebook Credit is 10 cents, the perceived value is much more. As little as 30 Facebook Credits can give users access to movies, live concerts, dozens of games and more. Additionally, there are some events and entertainment where Facebook Credits may be the only currency accepted. Credit are a lot like "airline miles" that fans will seek out and accumulate from issuing companies.

3. Think Globally

Facebook Credits are an international mode of payment available in more than 47 currencies. Whenever possible, incorporate the global community in your promotional efforts. While the U.S. still makes up a large portion of the Facebook population, there is significant growth in other countries. Live concerts on Facebook, for example, have drawn participants from more than 25 countries. Recent success stories include concerts by Widespread Panic, David Gray, and even new bands like The Parlotones.

4. Deploy Digital Content

Over time, users accumulate Facebook Credits from many different brands. Think about simple ways to offer fans valuable digital content. Why not host the launch of a new music video or movie release to reward existing fans and recruit new ones? While the average Credit balance may be low today for Facebook users, expect it to grow significantly as Facebook Credits become more mainstream as the social currency of choice.

5. Be a Sponsor

If your app is consuming Facebook Credits, seek out brands and partners that will sponsor or promote your app and offer Facebook Credits to their fan base as an incentive. If you are planning on offering Facebook Credits to entice new fans, consider finding a relevant movie, concert or other credit-based event that you can promote alongside it to make the offer more appealing.

Facebook Credits may seem like uncharted territory, but that also means there’s a wealth of opportunity. With 750 million users, Facebook is the must-use vehicle for companies looking to connect, engage and monetize fans. Those who take advantage of it early can look forward to better relationships with current fans and a valuable tool for earning new ones.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Jakob Steinschaden

More About: business, facebook, facebook credit, MARKETING, social media

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Earthquake Exchange: Our Favorite Social Media Reactions

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 03:37 PM PDT

Several Mashable staffers at our New York City headquarters felt tremors from the 5.9 magnitude earthquake Tuesday, but only after we saw tweets begin to roll in from Washington, D.C. Our counterparts in San Francisco, however, really couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.

As San Francisco Bureau Chief Chris Taylor put it on Twitter:

Damage from the earthquake was minimal, and no injuries have been reported. While earthquakes are frightening, especially for those of us who aren’t used to them, many people used Twitter to deal with that fear — or lack thereof — with laughter. Here’s a roundup of the social media reactions we enjoyed.

















Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Furchin

More About: Earthquake, foursquare, social media, twitter, virginia earthquake

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How Happy Are Your Photos? New Web Tool Sees Emotions in Pictures

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 02:40 PM PDT

The Hack of the Week Series highlights a new hackathon programming project each week.

Monday was a happier day than Sunday — at least for the subjects shown in The Guardian’s daily photo feature, “24 hours in pictures”.

A new website called The Emotional Breakdown looks at this page on The Guardian’s website every day and categorizes the facial expressions in its photos as happy, sad, angry, surprised or neutral. In Monday’s slideshow, for instance, 25% of the expressions were happy. That’s an improvement over Sunday, when 40% of the site’s expressions were angry.

The tool also works when you type in the URL of other sites. A Boston Globe photo blog about the London Riots contains more expressions categorized as sadness rather than the anger one might expect.

Plugging in fashion blog The Sartorialist returns a graph dominated by neutral and angry expressions.

“I guess you can’t be high fashion if you’re smiling or surprised,” says Andy Mangold, one of The Emotional Breakdown’s programmers.

Mangold and his partner Anthony Mattox created the site at Photo Hack Day in New York last weekend. They used Google’s Charts API to create the graph and’s facial recognition API in order to analyze the emotions in the photographs.

“It was really interesting how [] built a way to quantify facial expressions, which is something very qualitative,” Mangold says.

Many of the 40 other teams at the hack day also found interesting ways to use the API. Facialytics, for instance, uses the API to graph facial expressions in movie clips.

After abandoning an idea to track the stock market based on broker expressions, Mangold and Mattox settled on the idea to use the API with The Guardian‘s daily photo summary.

“We wanted to do something that was relevant to what was going on in the world at that time,” Mangold says.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mooneydriver

More About: APIs, hack of the week, photo hack day, tech

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How User-Generated Content Is Changing SEO

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 02:13 PM PDT

Cathy Halligan is the senior vice president of sales and marketing for PowerReviews. Prior to joining PowerReviews, she was chief marketing officer and vice president of product management and multichannel integration at Halligan also held executive positions at Williams-Sonoma, Gymboree and Lands’ End.

Google is at the social game again with the recent unveiling of Google+, a big bet for the company and an effort to show that it can keep up with Facebook in this increasingly important space.

However, it's important to recognize that the launch of Google+ is not just a run at Facebook — it's a reflection of the increasing importance the company places on social signals in how it indexes, ranks and presents information to consumers. And despite some well-publicized failures in the past, Google has already had some significant success in social that has eluded the media spotlight.

Google has long been the first choice of consumers who are looking for information online, and it has monetized its search offering well (32% revenue growth to $9 billion-plus in Q2). But more recently, Google is on the path to becoming the consumer's choice when she is shopping for everything from a refrigerator to a hotel room. What's significant is that this path is fueled by social. "How so?" you ask.

Consider this:

  • Social media, by definition, is the creation and exchange of user-generated content (UGC). Consumers have consistently indicated that the UGC with the greatest impact on their buying behavior is customer reviews. Google values keyword-rich, publicly available UGC and incorporates it into search engine results and into Google properties like Shopping and Hotel Finder.
  • Google constantly innovates the user experience, and incorporated the UGC (a.k.a. social content) consumers rely on to make a purchase decision more than a year ago.
  • Google's Search Engine Results Page (SERP) has changed radically, as have the company's other properties, which are now fueled by UGC/social.
  • It's worth looking at the evolution of SERP in more detail to better understand this.

    Let’s first examine the Google results for Samsonite Luggage in January 2010, which had no social media integration. (Apologies for the somewhat blurry image.)

    Consumers are visual and want to know price, which is why Google incorporated photos of the product and price into ads and its Shopping OneBox. No social elements are incorporated at this stage and likely little UGC was used in determining the search results. Since the consumer relies on customer reviews, she went to the retailers' site (,,, to get that social content.

    In April 2010, Google incorporated customer reviews in many places.

    Let’s look at a current Google search result for "refrigerator."

    Google introduced left-hand navigation, making Google shopping one click off the SERP. New value is delivered to the user via local places, product availability, price comparison, and social content. You’ll notice the UGC — customer reviews are included in the Shopping OneBox.

    Above is a Rich Snippet in an organic Google search result, prominently displaying a star rating and 97 reviews.

    Above is an example of UGC prominently displayed on Google's property, Shopping.

    Launched last month, Google's newest property, Hotel Finder, prominently displays UGC.

    The results:

    Within a year of Google taking in e-tailers’ reviews, that UGC is fully integrated across Google and impacts search results in a very noticeable way.

    Twenty-nine percent of consumers now use Google to read product reviews, or “social UGC,” according to Internet Retailer.

    How Does This Affect Your Business?

    So what's the bottom line? Google has found success in social by incorporating it into the elements of its business for which it is the market leader: search and web browsing. The experience that hundreds of millions of people have with Google every day is in fact social – UGC drives the search and browsing experience, and the experience on Google properties like Shopping and Hotel Finder. Google relies on businesses to generate this social content from their customers, which in turn benefits those businesses in the form of traffic to their sites. There are a few important steps that businesses can take in order to continue receiving traffic from Google:

    • Execute better than anyone on the fundamentals. Consumers are looking for the right product at the right price, an easy-to-navigate user experience, with a pain-free checkout and fast delivery. Google is not in the retail business, but it is monetizing the way people will find yours. As a result, sites that execute on the fundamentals will have an advantage over those who don't.
    • Increase the quantity and quality of customer reviews. This user-generated content matters now more than ever, including that which is generated via mobile while consumers are in your brick-and-mortar location. Organize reviews into the mobile experience so that they’re easy to find and browse, with at-a-glance summaries highlighting pros, cons, and best uses of a product, in addition to average rating.
    • Search and social used to be two separate spheres, but those worlds are quickly colliding. While Google is doing all it can to catch up with Facebook, you would be wise to try to catch up with Google as well.

      More About: customer reviews, ecommerce, Google, SEO, social search

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Samsung Contests iPad Design Patent Using “2001: A Space Odyssey”

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 01:53 PM PDT

Samsung has brought some unusual evidence into its most recent patent battle with Apple — the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Last month Apple filed a motion to stop Samsung from selling its Galaxy Tablet and some smartphones based on patents that the iPad-maker holds. When Samsung filed its opposition brief Monday evening, patent blog Foss noticed that one exhibit it included was an image taken from Kubrick’s film.

The image includes tablet-like devices, and Samsung’s lawyers are attempting to use it as proof that designs for the iPad and iPhone were established before Apple started filing patents for them.

“In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers,” reads the explanation for the exhibit. “The tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor.”

Although, as Foss's Florian Mueller says, “It would be amazing if the court agreed with Samsung that this constitutes prior art for that particular iPad-related design patent,” we can understand why it’s tempting to make the comparison.

In fact, we pointed out the similarities between the description of the device in Arthur C. Clarke’s book and the iPad last September. Here’s Clarke’s account of his fictional device:

When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug in his foolscap-size newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers…Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him. Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-size rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort.

So yes, Samsung has a point. But the same can be said for concepts like tanks, virtual reality games, earbud headphones, video chat, automatic doors, radar and the escalator that appeared in science fiction before reality.

Image courtesy of Flickr, heilemann

More About: apple, patents, samsung, science fiction

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Sprint To Sell the iPhone 5 [REPORT]

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 01:40 PM PDT

Here’s some potential good news for the ailing Sprint Nextel: The carrier is expected to get Apple’s iPhone 5 and begin selling it in mid-October, according to a report.

Sprint will join Verizon and AT&T in selling the hotly-anticipated Apple device The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The move comes after Sprint lost $847 million in its most recent quarter. Like T-Mobile, Sprint has suffered from its lack of access to the iPhone, the best-selling phone on the market.

Apple’s move isn’t completely unexpected, however. Back in May, Peter Misek, an analyst with Jeffries & Co., predicted that Apple would announce distribution deals not only with Sprint, but with T-Mobile as well.

Still, investors greeted the news warmly, propelling Sprint’s stock price up 10%.

More About: att, iphone, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, verizon

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Tom Waits Holds Private Listening Party on YouTube

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 01:26 PM PDT

Tom Waits teased his upcoming album, Bad as Me, Tuesday via a YouTube video entitled “Tom Waits’ Private Listening Party.”

In the video, Waits deadpans for the camera while skipping through song clips on the album. After receiving a phone call, Waits cuts the music and goes on a hilarious rant against music piracy and the dissolution of artistic privacy. The audience is then, ironically, given more snippets from the album.

Bad as Me will be the first new album from Tom Waits since Real Gone in 2004, and is his 22nd studio record. Anti- Records will release it on October 25. The first single, “Bad as Me,” [iTunes link] can be purchased digitally now.

What do you make of Waits’ preview? Are you intrigued by the album? Should other artists launch with listening parties? Let us know in the comments.

More About: music, social media, video, youtube

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Hurricane Irene: 12 Ways to Track the Storm Online

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 01:13 PM PDT

There’s a lot of excitement on the East Coast this week. In addition to Tuesday’s earthquake, Hurricane Irene will likely make an appearance this weekend in the Carolinas and possibly elsewhere.

As I write this, Hurricane Irene is wreaking havoc on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, but who knows where it will go? The National Weather Service reported Tuesday morning that the storm is moving northwest at 10 mph. By Thursday, it’s expected to strengthen into a Category 3 storm.

Predicting the path of a hurricane is notoriously difficult work. Since things can change quickly, you can, in effect, become your own meteorologist by using many of the same tools the pros use. In this day and age, there are a wealth of online tools that can help you track the hurricane. If you’re one of the millions of people in the path of Hurricane Irene, you might want to avail yourself of the following resources.

1. National Weather Service

If you want the official word on what's going on, check in to the National Weather Service's site. Though there are sites with better graphics, the NWS is a good all-around resource for all things weather-related, including oil spills and even space weather.

2. NOAA's nowCOAST

NOAA nowCOAST lets you make a customized, real-time map using NOAA data. If you're interested in variables like the sea surface temperature and precipitation estimates, this site may be for you, but for others, this may be TMI.

3. MyFoxHurricane

A great resource from MyFoxTampaBay and the FOX Network, MyFoxHurricane has tons of pictures and an obsessively updated blog.

4. The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel has all the stuff that the other sites have along with lots of video, of course.

5. AccuWeather

AccuWeather has forecasts and lots of news, with just about every angle into the hurricane you can think of.

6. Ibiseye

Ibiseye is a big map with information about the storm's track and intensity. A graphical synopsis of the storm's winds, pressure and wind field is also available.

7. Weather Underground

The Weather Underground has the usual features of the other sites plus the site's trademarked "Wundermap," on which you can choose layers of information to display.

8. Stormpulse

Stormpulse integrates information from the National Hurricane Center to give you a real-time map of the storm's progress.

9. NASA Earth Science Office

Are you curious about what the hurricane looks like from outer space? Check out the latest satellite pictures direct from NASA's Earth Science Office. The site offers a number of different satellite views, include infrared and water vapor readings.

10. Storm Advisory

The Google Maps-based Storm Advisory lets you zoom in and out at high resolution.

11. Twitter Resources

CNN Weather's Twitter feed provides constant updates on the hurricane's progress. Other Twitter feeds worth checking out include: @BreakingWeather, TWCBreaking, MyFoxHurricane, @Hurricanes, @Wunderground, Stormpulse, @NASAHurricane and @HurricaneTrack.

12. iPad Apps

By now, most of the sites listed above have iPhone and Android apps. A few, like The Weather Channel, let you track the storm via your iPad.AccuWeather and MyFoxHurricane also have iPad apps.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Eric Hood

More About: hurricane, Hurricane Irene, Weather

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Search Stereotypes: What Web Content Reveals About Cultural Biases

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 12:41 PM PDT

Sandra Ordonez is a web astronaut who specializes in digital strategy and collaboration. A passionate open source chica, she currently serves as external communications lead for Joomla!, and previously served as Wikipedia’s director of communication.

Few things bothered Sylvia Martinez more than what the web thought of her and other Latinas.

Martinez, a VP and digital content director at the recently launched that focuses on the coveted Latina mom market, has been combating one of the web's dirty little secrets for years: Common web searches that include the word “Latina(s)” surface an inordinate number of porn sites.

In her many years working for Latina-focused sites, not only was it difficult for this industry veteran to ensure that her positive, Latina-empowering content be found when searched, but she was also tired of having to deal with the sleazy, sexual emails she and her colleagues routinely received as a result of this phenomenon.

"The online stereotype of the hyper-sexualized Latina is simply not true. Statistically, most Latinas are the exact opposite: smart moms with families. This is exactly why we launched Mamiverse — to fill the websphere with more content that is truly reflective of who we are," Martinez said.

Martinez knows firsthand the effect this virtual reality has on the collective Latina consciousness, and society's perception of them. While she admits there has been improvement in recent years, the sexualizing of the term "Latina" is still widely seen as a challenge, particularly considering the resources porn companies invest in digital strategy. An open-ended search with the word Latina on Netspeak, which provides a list of the most common searches for a particular word, confirms this reality.

Not surprisingly, "Latinas" are not the only group facing similar virtual challenges. A Google search of various "groups" resulted in what can be seen as equally stereotypical, either positively or negatively.

Top Three Search Results and Suggested Group Information

The following descriptions are based solely on meta site descriptions found after each title. The actual sites returned were not visited. This is only a sample of searches conducted.

  • Latinas: All three results are pornographic. Descriptors include “hot,” “young” and “legs wide open.” Seems to hint that women on 8th street, a historic street in an internationally-known Latin neighborhood in Miami, are sexy and "doable." (Search for Latin women results in various dating sites for men seeking Latin women).
  • Latin Men: Since "Latinos" is used to describe an entire group of people, we used the term "Latin men." One link is for a site that helps you secure a stripper or exotic dancer. The other two links are porn sites. Descriptors are a bit too pornographic to list in this article.
  • Asian Men: Two links for the “Angry Asian Man” blog and an article exploring whether Asian men are good in bed. Only descriptors are found in one sentence that directly addresses stereotype: “We all know the stories about Asian men’s sexual prowess, or the lack thereof, and the age old jokes about the ‘size issue.’”
  • Asian Women: Two links for organizations that provide Asian women with domestic violence support (NYAWC and SAKHI) and a dating/marriage site for single men looking for both Asian women and Asian girls. Only descriptor includes the word “survivor.”
  • Black Men: A Wikipedia article describing the term “black men,” an article explaining why white women prefer black men, and a link to Black Men Magazine, which seems to focus on pop culture and sexy women. No descriptors, but phrases include “racial” (comes up twice), “mugger button” and “Ink Candy Party.”
  • Black Women: A link to a "black women’s interracial marriage site," a link to “Black Voices News and Opinion” on The Huffington Post and a Wikipedia article describing the term “black people.” Descriptors include “slaves” and “enslavers,” with a sentence describing them as "surviving."

The Virtual Chicken or Egg Scenario

In an age where a large segment of the population shapes their perception of the world through information found online, one begs to question whether search results reflect stereotypes and discriminatory views already found in society or if they create them.

Search algorithms are designed to provide users with the most relevant information for a particular search term. Usually, numerous inbound links to a page can dramatically affect its search positioning. From this perspective, one could surmise that the information included in a well-performing page has been deemed relevant and informative by the collective web community. This would also imply that stereotypical and/or discriminatory information for group searches are also widely accepted or popular.

However, two caveats exist:

1. The Digital Divide: Haves & Have Nots

The web is not fully representative of society. Lack of technological tools and education prevent many from creating content online, and thus having their voice equally represented. Those most affected worldwide by the digital divide include women, people of color and the disabled. While the web may seem like a universal representation of ideas, in reality it is reflective of the values, philosophy and culture of a select group of people that share various similarities, such as access to technology.

2. The Virtual Lobbyists: SEO Specialists & Digital Strategists

SEO specialists and digital strategists serve as virtual lobbyists, fighting for special attention to their cause or company. Generally, the more money an organization can pump into improving SEO, SEM and social media, the better a website or page will perform.

The Game Changer: Content Activism

No one can dispute the effect Wikipedia has had on information, media literacy and how the world perceives events. Not only is it used as an online encyclopedia, but it has increasingly become a go-to source for information on breaking and developing news stories.

Understanding the site's significance, the Wikimedia Foundation launched an effort to attract more women editors last year. Research revealed that only 13% of editors were women, with the site's most common contributors consisting of highly educated, tech-savvy, white males. Considering that women account for half of the world's population, these findings also suggest that articles are half complete, since the female perspective is missing. It also may suggest that the many web conversations are also half complete, since Wikipedia routinely comes up in many first page search results, if not accessed directly, by information seekers.

The changes Wikipedia has prompted are too many to list here, but it is a great example of how online information sharing has instantaneous, dramatic results on the "real world." And information sharing for a specific issue is as powerful as both the number and quality of people behind it.

For example, the improvement Martinez cites above might be most reflective of the dramatic growth of Latinos online in recent years. In 2007, only 56% of Latinos went online as compared to 71% for Caucasians, and 60% for Blacks. By 2011, it is estimated by eMarketer that the percentage of Latinos will jump to 62.9%. The numbers are much higher for Latina moms, one of the fastest growing demographics online. According to Clickz, 82% of mid- and high-acculturated Latina moms are online.

We begin to see that one of the most effective types of activism a citizen can engage in is not a physical demonstration or even a monetary donation, but rather producing online content and connecting with like-minded individuals on the web. While this form of activism may appear passive, it has proven effective at creating real cultural change that sticks. Instead of being marketed to, individuals are given a variety of information to make their own decisions. Thus, in this context, the result of that interaction is quite dependent on the quality of information available to them online.

When it comes to Latinas, more sites like Mamiverse might be what the doctor ordered to tip the perception of Latinas, both online and offline, toward a more positive and accurate image. It is this burgeoning spirit of content activism that might be the most important for the world's new breed of humanitarians, civil rights activists and others focused on justice.

"Both Latinas, and the web in general, need more sites like ours," Martinez said. "Mamiverse represents a virtual mirror that reflects the true nature of our lives, which are often challenging, humorous and awe-inspiring — and not smutty."

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sam74100

More About: content, discrimination, gender, race, Search

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On Twitter, HP TouchPad Finds Buzz After Death

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 12:05 PM PDT

Twitter conversation surrounding HP’s ill-fated TouchPad has increased from just 2,000 tweets a day one week ago to more than 50,000 tweets as of August 22.

Social analytics firm Simply Measured created a chart outlining the rise in Twitter conversation surrounding the TouchPad and its associated terms.

Looking at the data, early discussions concerned the future of webOS in the wake of TouchPad’s discontinuation. By Friday, however, the conversation shifted to blowout pricing of the device. This continued throughout the weekend, as would-be buyers scrambled to find devices on the cheap.

Source: Simply Measured

The TouchPad may not have been a success before HP decided to pull the plug on the device — lowering its price 80% to clear out units — but on Monday, it managed to top’s bestsellers list.

Rather than pontificate on what the success of a $99 tablet says about the market in general, we’ll just agree with Ian Betteridge.

Still, it’s fascinating to see the huge juxtaposition in social activity before and after the device’s cancellation. Does this suggest HP dropped the tablet too quickly? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: data, hp touchpad, stats, twitter, webOS

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Facebook’s Big Privacy Changes: An Overview [PICS]

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 11:55 AM PDT

Facebook unveiled a massive wave of privacy changes on Tuesday. It’s one of the biggest privacy overhauls in the company’s history, one that includes more than a dozen changes to profiles, status updates, locations and tags.

In fact, there are so many changes that it’s easy to get confused about what changes Facebook is making and what impact they will have on your privacy. The updates are significant enough that Facebook will make every single one of its 750+ million users go through a tutorial about the updated privacy settings.

That’s why we’ve written this short guide to all the changes Facebook has implemented. Refer to this page for a quick rundown of all the new privacy features now available on the world’s largest social network.

Screenshots: Facebook Privacy Changes

Privacy Controls: Profile Editing

You can edit the visibility of individual parts of your profiles right from the profile editing page. In the past, this had to be done from the Privacy Settings page.

Tag Approvals

Facebook has implemented tag approvals. You now need to approve location or photo tags before they appear on your Facebook profile. This feature can be turned off.

Photo Tag Approvals

You can accept or reject photo tags right from the photo page.

View Profile As

The "View Profile As" feature, which lets you see your Facebook Profile page as one of your friends, is now prominently placed on your profile page.

Greater Control of Status Updates

Facebook has made it easier to understand who sees your published content. Icons indicate whether a status update will be public, appear only to friends or has been customized for a friend group or list.

Adding Locations to Status Updates

Places has been integrated into Facebook's Publisher Bar. The result is that location is more prominent in Facebook. The mobile apps will now have a "Nearby" icon that replaces the old "Places" icon.

More Control Over Photo Privacy

When untagging yourself from a photo, you will also be given the option to request the photo be taken down or block that person entirely.


The major privacy changes to Facebook Profiles include:

  • Greater profile control: Profile visibility controls now appear directly next to content when you edit your profile. For example, if you only want your close friends to see which music you like, you can change it directly from the profile editing page.
  • In-line cues: Facebook will display a globe, friend or gear icon to indicate whether a piece of content is public, only seen by friends or customized for a friend group or list.
  • “View Profile As”: The “View Profile As” feature has been moved from the Privacy Settings Page to the top right-hand corner of the user profile. This is designed to make it more accessible.
  • Overhaul of the Privacy Page: The privacy overhaul will result in a much cleaner and simpler Privacy Page, since most of the privacy settings are now integrated at the profile page level.


The major privacy changes to Facebook Tags include:

  • Tag reviews: Facebook has implemented a system where users can approve or reject photo, status or location tags before they appear on their profiles. This profile can be turned on or off, depending on user preference.
  • Photo tagging changes: Because of the tag reviews feature, Facebook felt comfortable allowing a user to tag anybody in a photo, regardless of whether they are friends. This makes it simpler to tag people in group shots. Users must approve these tags before they appear on a user’s profile.
  • Tags in the Publisher Box: It’s easier to see who is being tagged in a status update. The left-hand side of the Publisher Box now includes an area for managing tags.
  • New untagging features: If a user untags herself from a photo, she will be given the option to send a request to the photo’s uploader to remove it. She will also have the option of blocking that person entirely.

Status Updates & Location

The major privacy changes to location-sharing and status updates include:

  • Public updates: The “Everyone” option in status updates has been renamed “Public” for greater clarity.
  • No more lock icon: The lock icon under the Publisher Box has also been changed. It will now display the globe, friend or gear icon based on whether the update is public, for friends or custom.
  • Facebook Places integration: Facebook Places has been integrated into the Publisher Box. Users can now tag a location into any status update. The same applies to photos and photo albums.
  • No more GPS restriction: Users can now tag any location in a status update or photo, regardless of whether they’re actually nearby. This makes it possible tag a location for a photo album after the user has returned home.
  • Mobile changes: The Facebook Places icon will no longer appear in the mobile apps. Instead a “Nearby” icon will take its place. It will display which users have tagged their location nearby.


We asked some privacy and safety groups to respond to Facebook’s privacy changes. Here are two of those responses:

1. Electronic Frontier Foundation:

“We have been asking Facebook for granular controls over privacy setting for some time now, and are pleased that Facebook is now providing inline controls. We also appreciate the introduction of greater control over tagging.

Social network services must ensure that users have ongoing privacy and control over personal information stored with the service. To effectuate that, users need clear user interface that allows them to make informed choices about who sees their data and how it is used. We look forward to seeing how these controls work in operation, to see if users understand them and it reduces the amount of unintentional over sharing on Facebook.

It is also good to see more competition on privacy controls between social networks. Google’s introduction of circles gave users of Plus inline controls for sharing, and now Facebook is providing more granular inline controls. We hope this trend of competition continues.

One disappointment is that Facebook is considering phasing out the setting that could disallow users to prevent their friends from checking them into places. As we understand it, there is no set deadline for this control, but it will be available for at least 60 days, and those who select the option will be grandfathered into keeping it. Even if a user does not want or need the control now, we recommend that they select the option now, to be sure that this control remains available to them.”

2. Connect Safety:

“This is a significant step forward in Facebook privacy for users of all ages – one that all of us Safety Advisory board members really liked. Giving users the chance to think about the level of exposure they want with each status update or photo posted encourages everybody to be a little more mindful about our social-media use, and that’s a good thing as we all work out the social norms of social media.”

More About: facebook, Facebook Places, facebook privacy, privacy

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East Coasters Turn to Twitter During Virginia Earthquake

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 11:40 AM PDT

A 5.9 earthquake originated in Mineral, Virginia, Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Tweets began pouring in from D.C. nearly 30 seconds before we felt the quake at our headquarters in New York City and well before any reports about the quake emerged from the media.

It’s not yet clear how far the earthquake spread, although an early user-generated map gives an idea of where it has been felt. On Twitter, witnesses are saying that tremors have occured as far south as Atlanta, Georgia, and as far north as Toronto, Canada.

The Pentagon, U.S. Capitol and New York City Hall were temporarily evacuated. (UPDATE: Contrary to earlier reports, the Pentagon was not evacuated, says The Washington Post.) Call service is reportedly down in D.C.; we’re experiencing similar problems with AT&T cell service in New York, no doubt because of sudden clogging. No physical damage has yet been reported. (UPDATE: A spokesperson for the National Cathedral in D.C. has confirmed that “at least three pinnacles on the central tower have broken off.”)

And, of course, more than 7,000 people have checked into the Earthquakepocalypse venue on Foursquare in New York City at the time of writing.

Image courtesy of Flickr, humbertomoreno

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Facebook Makes Massive Privacy & Tagging Changes [PICS]

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 11:00 AM PDT

Facebook is launching one of the largest privacy overhauls in its history. The initiative will make it clearer with whom you’re sharing photos, status updates and locations.

“We want to make it easier to share with who you want, no matter what it is,” Facebook Product Manager Kate O’Neill told Mashable during a preview of the new features.

The changes, more than a dozen in all, fall into two key areas: privacy changes to user profiles and changes to how users share content. They will roll out during the next few days.

Profile controls will now be embedded right on the profile page. In the past, changing settings such as who can see your photos or musical interests was done through the bulky Privacy Settings page. Now those settings appear on the right-hand side of nearly every section of the user profile when you’re editing your settings.

Facebook has also decided to bring the “View Profile As” feature directly onto the profile page. This feature allows you to view your profile page as one of your friends would see it. It was previously available in the privacy settings section, but will now appear on the top right-hand corner whenever you visit your profile.

The biggest change to profile privacy controls though is the addition to tag reviews. O’Neill told Mashable that users wanted greater control over who tagged them and how those tags appeared on their profiles. Users will now be able to approve or reject tags before they become visible to anybody else. This includes photos, locations and posts.

Changes to Sharing

The second set of changes affect how you share content. The Publisher bar has been modified and now includes three elements: locations, tags and control over who can see that status update.

You can make it so friends can tag you without approval, but you must approve tags from non-friends — which leads to another change to profiles: You can now tag anybody in a post or a photo, regardless of whether that person is a Facebook friend, subject to tag approval. This makes it possible to tag a large group of people from work or an event.

“Because I share an experience with them doesn’t mean I want to be Facebook friends with them,” O’Neill says.

Places has also been integrated directly into the Publisher bar. You can tag a location from the browser or the mobile apps. In addition, the restriction to tag places only a short distance from your GPS location has been scrapped. For instance, if you were at a party but didn’t write about it until you got home, you can now tag that location in your status update.

As a result of this change, the Places icon in the iOS and Android apps have been removed. In its place is a “Nearby” icon that displays recent checkins in your area. Checking into a location happens from the status update. Users can also tag locations to photo albums or individual photos or videos.

Facebook has also made some changes to the status controls. In the past, a lock icon controlled who could see your status update. Now that icon will change based on whether it’s a public update, one meant for friends or a custom update to a friend list or group. The “Everyone” option has been renamed to “Public” for clarity. You also now have the option of changing the visibility of status updates even after they’re published.

The last change to sharing content involves untagging. Facebook says that users were unclear what untagging themselves from photos actually meant, so it has provided more options for when they untag themselves from Facebook content. Now there are three options: untagging yourself from a photo, asking the photo uploader to remove the photo and blocking that person on Facebook.

This range of privacy changes seem to be proactive for a company that has been strongly criticized for its privacy practices. Privacy and safety groups have had a positive reaction to the changes overall. Perhaps at last Facebook will no longer be a company that only reacts when users launch protests.

Check out the screenshots of the changes below, and let us know what you think of the many privacy changes in the comments.

Privacy Controls: Profile Editing

You can edit the visibility of individual parts of your profiles right from the profile editing page. In the past, this had to be done from the Privacy Settings page.

Tag Approvals

Facebook has implemented tag approvals. You now need to approve location or photo tags before they appear on your Facebook profile. This feature can be turned off.

Photo Tag Approvals

You can accept or reject photo tags right from the photo page.

View Profile As

The "View Profile As" feature, which lets you see your Facebook Profile page as one of your friends, is now prominently placed on your profile page.

Greater Control of Status Updates

Facebook has made it easier to understand who sees your published content. Icons indicate whether a status update will be public, appear only to friends or has been customized for a friend group or list.

Adding Locations to Status Updates

Places has been integrated into Facebook's Publisher Bar. The result is that location is more prominent in Facebook. The mobile apps will now have a "Nearby" icon that replaces the old "Places" icon.

More Control Over Photo Privacy

When untagging yourself from a photo, you will also be given the option to request the photo be taken down or block that person entirely.

More About: facebook, Facebook Places, facebook privacy, privacy

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6 Ways To Disconnect From Social Media

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 10:29 AM PDT

Vacation photo of Juan Aldape, iReport winner

Here at Mashable, we love social media, but we also know sometimes you need to cut the cord. In a partnership with CNN’s iReport, we asked you to share how you disconnect and take a break from the digital world.

Many of you said you make a physical move to get away from computers and email, by going on vacation or getting out of the city. Others found respite in non-digital hobbies. We’ve picked our favorite entries and included them in the gallery below. You can see more photos in iReport’s gallery and all entries at the iReport topic page.

What are other ways to disconnect from the social web? Please share your own methods in the comments below.

Nathalie Aulder Rides Her Bike

Nathalie, of Campwood, Texas, says she disconnects by riding her bike in West Texas. "I hate the phone ringing, and I dislike email, but I have to use them constantly at work. When I get home I turn off the phone and computer. When I get away I bring a phone and laptop, but only use it in emergencies. It's just the sound of silence and the wind in my face."

Funda Ray Gardens

Funda Ray of Hibbing, Minn., said that she loves gardening. "I have a very small garden, this year I have planted three different kind of tomatoes, my favorite is sweet million tomatoes. I also planted yellow onions and green onions and herbs."

Funda Ray Gardens

Funda Ray continues, "I enjoy caring for my flowers too. It's wonderful way to disconnect and connect with nature, just in my backyard!"

Michael Thomas Explores London

Michael Thomas of Johannesburg, South Africa, said traveling helps him escape. "My wife, Nicole, and I recently spent 3 weeks in London, Paris, and Switzerland, making the most of the summer hours, museums, galleries, theatres and pay-as-you-go bikes (best way to see London). Art, culture, history, nature (the actual versions) were a great way to disconnect from technology and connect with each other and things we're passionate about. Admittedly we used a GPS to get around Switzerland but no Facebook, Twitter, iPhones or email for 3 weeks."

Juan Aldape Ditches the Digital Camera

Juan says he tries to cut off from the tech world as much as he can while traveling: no MP3 player and very little digital camera. "Maybe just once," He says. "[It's] nice to have my own thoughts without distractions or incoming updates." Here he is in the Utah desert in summer of 2010.

Chanel Brown Travels With a Pre-Paid Cellphone

Chanel Brown is an ESL teacher in Cheongju, South Korea. She says she recently unplugged by taking a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "During this trip, I had no access to computers and I was using a prepaid cellphone. It was bliss not knowing what was going on with the world and just enjoying the company of my family ... Sometimes, we all need a little break to unwind and remove ourselves from this technologically dependent society. My break is in traveling."

Bill Hornstein Gets Out of Range

Bill Hornstein of Los Angeles said, "I like to get out of cellphone range when I disconnect. Death Valley is 300 miles from my house. Sometimes I go to Joshua Tree National Park (pictured here). The Xterra allows me get off the paved roads and camp in very remote places. There is a real sense of freedom to not be reachable for a short time."

Photo courtesy Juan Aldape.

More About: ireport, social media

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OK Go Takes on the Muppets [VIDEO]

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 09:43 AM PDT

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

The band OK Go has released a new video for its version of the theme song for The Muppet Show. The video features the band alongside Kermit the Frog, Rolf the Dog and more.

The song is from the new Muppet tribute album, The Green Album [iTunes link], in stores today. The album contains covers of various songs from The Muppets, covered by OK Go, Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket and other artists.

The Muppets are in the midst of a cultural rebirth. In November, Disney is bringing The Muppets to theaters. The film stars Amy Adams, Jason Segel and of course the Muppets themselves. It’s one of my most-anticipated films of the year.

Do you love the Muppets? Share your thoughts on the creatures, the new album and the video in the comments.

More About: muppets, music video, OK Go, video, viral-video-of-day

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QR Code Campaign Fights for Education Equality in Iran

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 09:20 AM PDT

qr code image

The activist organization Can You Solve This? is using QR codes to raise awareness for education inequality in Iran. The grassroots initiative, launched in Berlin Saturday, is spreading QR codes on stickers, t-shirts and posters to attract people to the campaign.

“You really need to stand out to make an impact on students, and this really appeals to our audience without saying ‘sign this’ and ‘sign that,’” says campaign organizer Esra’a Al Shafei of Bahrain.

The campaign’s message, Can You Solve This?, has a double meaning. The first element is for people to “solve” the code’s meaning by scanning it. The second part asks people around the world to join together to fix the problem of educational inequality in Iran.

“Normally with human rights campaigns people are overdosed,” says Ruha Reyhani, an organizer from Berlin. “Because this appears like a riddle, people feel inticed to participate”

The site directs users to take four steps: Scan the image, watch a video, mail a letter to an official and then share the campaign with their social following. The website includes form letters to send to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Navanethem Pillay, or German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle.

Following the launch in Berlin, the movement quickly spread to Cologne and Hamburg. The QR code has already been traced to Africa, Mexico, Afghanistan, the UK and the U.S.

Organizations from Iran, the Netherlands, Germany, the Middle East and individuals have joined forces to end what the organization calls a systematic discrimination of students.

Reyhani claims the Iranian government has discriminated against students, particularly of the Baha’i faith, a group of 300,000 people. She claims students are often prevented from registering for classes, restricted from taking exams or rejected from universities. In May, the Baha’i Higher Education Institute, an online university set up by the Baha’i community for students excluded from the mainstream system, was shut down.

“The Baha’i are systematically excluded,” says Elise Auerbach, the Iran Country Specialist for Amnesty International. “They dont have the opportunity to go to university and get an education.”

In addition to minorities, students known for activism in politics, women’s issues or human rights are often removed from the education system. The Iranian government began enforcing gender quotas to reduce the ratio of women in universities.

Do you think QR codes are an innovative way to engage people in a human rights campaign? Let us know if the comments.

Campaign for the Right of Education in Iran

A clip from the promotional video on Can You Solve This?'s website

More About: education, iran, QR Codes, social good

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United & Continental Replace Flight Manuals With iPads

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 08:57 AM PDT

United Airlines announced Tuesday that it is replacing its pilots’ flight decks with iPads.

Rather than carry around 38 pounds of operating manuals, charts and logbooks, the 11,000 pilots at United and Continental will use a pre-loaded iPad. United started distributing iPads to pilots earlier this month and plans to have devices to all pilots by the end of the year.

United joins a growing list of airlines that have started converting some or all of their pilots to using electronic flight bags. Alaska Airlines announced in May its intentions to switch from paper to the iPad. Last week, Delta and British Airways started testing the use of iPad and other consumer tablets as replacements for traditional paper flight bags.

According to United, moving away from paper to the iPad will do more than increase efficiency and improve safety:

Each iPad, which weighs less than 1.5 pounds, will replace approximately 38 pounds of paper operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks and weather information in a pilot’s flight bag. A conventional flight bag full of paper materials contains an average of 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot. The green benefits of moving to EFBs are two-fold — it significantly reduces paper use and printing, and, in turn, reduces fuel consumption. The airline projects EFBs will save nearly 16 million sheets of paper a year which is equivalent to more than 1,900 trees not cut down. Saving 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 3,208 metric tons.

Electronic flight decks will allow pilots to update their materials instead of waiting for printed distribution, and the decrease in weight will also be easier on a pilot’s luggage.

Our question is: what happens in the event of a device failure? We assume that backup systems will be in place so that paper flight kits or replacement iPad devices will be available in the event of a broken pre-flight tablet.

The iPad — and tablets in general — are proving to be disruptive in a variety of difference industries. Schools, universities and Fortune 500 companies are increasingly turning to touch-based tablets as opposed to printed books or manuals.

More About: Airlines, ipad, ipad pilots, united airlines

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Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color Adds Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 08:21 AM PDT

Barnes & Noble has added six Time Inc. magazine titles for Nook Color users, including Time, Sports Illustrated and People.

The interactive versions of the titles will be free to those who already subscribe to them. The bookseller now offers more than 200 magazine and periodical titles for the Nook Color. By the end of the year, Barnes & Noble plans to make all 21 U.S. Time Inc. titles available, and they’ll be available on other top tablets as well. The Nook magazine special editions include extras like video and audio podcasts, photo galleries and other features. Nook customers who don’t have the Color device can also access Time and Fortune‘s E-Ink versions.

The announcement coincides with new editions of Meredith Corp. titles Parents and Fitness for the Nook Color. Meredith also plans to make Better Homes and Gardens available to Nook Color owners this fall.

The expansion of titles for Nook Color comes after publishers of women’s magazines like O, The Oprah Magazine and Women’s Health have seen sales of their Nook Color editions match and even beat sales of iPad versions.

More About: barnes & noble, ipad, meredith corp, nook color, Sports illustrated, Time Inc

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Conde Nast Brings iPad Presentation App to the Enterprise

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 07:49 AM PDT

Magazine publisher Conde Nast has launched an enterprise edition of Idea Flight, its app for group presentations on the iPad, as well as several notable upgrades to the original version.

How It Works

Idea Flight [iTunes link], which has been downloaded 85,000 times since its launch in June, lets one person (“the pilot”) control up to 15 users’ (“the passengers”) iPad screens remotely while running through a presentation, keeping slides in sync. Presentations can be unlocked to let passengers revisit the slides at a later time.

Users need a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection to participate. Only PDF presentations, which easily be pulled up from email, iTunes or Dropbox, are supported at this time.

The app is free for passengers; pilots will need to make a $7.99 in-app purchase.

New Features

In the updated version (Idea Flight 1.1), pilots and passengers can jot down and save notes during a presentation, a feature that’s not only highly useful, but provides an opportunity for the audience be further engaged with the material in front of them.

Pilots can also now manually adjust the size, scale and orientation of their presentation, as well as set a boarding passcode to prevent unwanted access.

Idea Flight for the Enterprise

Conde Nast also released an Enterprise edition [iTunes link] of Idea Flight in public beta.

A Conde Nast spokesperson said the company received “tremendous interest” from education professionals and decided to make a $9.99 version available to them via the iTunes Stores’s Volume Purchase Program.

The $9.99 price covers the in-app upgrade fees and waives any potential upgrade fees in the future. The company has also pledged to work with educators to further optimize the product for them.

Conde Nast’s Broader Mobile Strategy

In an email interview, Conde Nast President Bob Sauerberg said Idea Flight arose out of an initiative late last year to develop digital products independent of the company’s existing brands, several of which — including Vogue, Wired, Conde Nast Traveler and Glamour — have launched one-off smartphone apps and/or iPad versions of their print publications.

“Idea Flight is the result of a small group of incredibly talented individuals who personally desired a way to view content natively on their iPad, as well as present it in a controlled manner. We knew that if they wanted and would use this app, there was a good chance there would be a market for it,” Sauerberg said.

The company will continue to develop independent apps as part of a broader strategy to position the company as a digital innovator and create new revenues streams, he added — a strategy not dissimilar to Hearst’s, which launched a "think tank" for app development and advertising across the company's many brands earlier this summer.

Time Inc., meanwhile, is working to bring all 21 of its titles to multiple tablet devices by the end of the year.

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American Express Offers Businesses Points for Buying Online Ads

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 07:37 AM PDT

Small businesses will now get American Express points for buying online advertising, thanks to a new offer from the company’s small business arm.

American Express OPEN announced Monday a new Business Gold Rewards Card, which gives double points for all spending on marketing — online and off. The points are good for a range of products and services, including retail purchases, access to dining and entertainment events, travel and gift cards. A program introduced in June also lets users cash in those points for Facebook ads.

Card owners get two points for every dollar they spend on advertising. Each $6,750 spent is good for $50 of Facebook advertising, for instance. The benefit for using the card to buy airfare is even better — three points for every dollar spent.

The program is designed to make small business owners aware of other OPEN services like an online reputation management tool, an ad creation management program and a search advertising solution.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Davichi

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Why One Entrepreneur Left His Dream Job to Build a Better Sharing Platform

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 07:25 AM PDT

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

Posterous entered the world when self-described “Apple fanboy” Sachin Agarwal, a student of stellar product design, left his cushy job at Apple after he felt a “burning need” to build a better way to share photos and content on the web.

The startup was first embraced by early adopters for its simplicity, but was often pitted against the trendier, higher traffic-generating Tumblr. Three years later, Posterous is now developing its own identity thanks to its wildly popular new group sharing features.

“What we’re finding is that Facebook’s network has gotten too big,” Agarwal says. “It’s because they are so successful that people feel like they don’t have easy controls to indicate who can see what. It’s because of their success that we have this opportunity [with groups].”

In an interview with Mashable, Agarwal discusses how he was able to leave his dream job in pursuit of the unknown, elaborates on what inspires him, shares advice for other would-be entrepreneurs and talks about his experiences with Y Combinator’s fraternity-like network.

Name: Sachin Agarwal

Company: Posterous

Year Founded: 2008

Fun Fact: There’s a restaurant in Newcastle, England named after him. “My mom and dad met and got married in London, England. That's where I was born and I lived in England until we moved to the United States when I was three years old,” Agarwal explains. “They opened a restaurant in Newcastle, England soon after I was born. The name: Sachin's. That restaurant still exists today, but I haven't been there in over 25 years.”

Q&A With Sachin Agarwal, founder & CEO of Posterous

What was your role at Apple and why did you leave?

I was an Apple fanboy my whole life. I got my first computer when I was 12; it was an Apple. I never looked back and have never had a PC. It was never a question.

Apple is what influenced me to become a computer science major at school and ultimately that was my dream job. I knew all along that is where I wanted to go.

“For me, it came down to a burning need. I was living in New York and keeping in touch with all of my friends in San Francisco. I was always blogging, taking photos and posting photos — it was simply too hard. I wanted to build a better system.”

When I graduated in 2002, I interviewed all over the place and got offers from Apple and Amazon. I honestly really considered the Amazon offer … but I ended up at Apple. I was there for six years, and the whole time I was there I was working on Final Cut Pro.

We started out as the darlings of Apple. Over the course of six years, I watched the stock go up 20x, but it wasn’t because of Final Cut Pro. So, I was able to sit back and watch the rise of the iPod and iPhone.

For me, it came down to a burning need. I was living in New York and keeping in touch with all of my friends in San Francisco. I was always blogging, taking photos and posting photos — it was simply too hard. I wanted to build a better system.

Posterous went through Y Combinator’s incubator program. How has that helped you?

I think incubators like Y Combinator help a ton to get you past the first 50 hurdles that you’re going to hit.

Some of the things that I’ve never had to face before in my career — legal issues, marketing and PR — I would have just been out there alone. For first-time entrepreneurs, it’s a huge, huge value to have that support and network.

I was in a fraternity in college. The similarities between Y Combinator and a fraternity are ridiculous. When we did it [three years ago], there were 22 companies and 40 to 50 people in total, which is generally about the size of a pledge class at a fraternity. You bond really well and become really close to everyone in your batch because you’re basically working alongside them constantly. You’re at the same stage of your company.

We’re still friends with everyone. We still get together. But then there is the greater network. You still feel this connection where you can go to [other Y Combinator startups] for help or they can come to you for help. There’s this unwritten rule that you’re going to help each other.

What inspires you?

I'm inspired by companies that build the best possible product and provide the best possible service. On the product end, Apple and Audi are two companies that go above and beyond to build products that are truly user-focused.

But service is equally important. And that's why I love companies like American Express and Amazon. Even Costco makes my list. It's not about saving money: It's about the trust they have earned from me.

I think it's inspiring to see companies that don't have to take shortcuts on product or service quality to be successful and profitable.

What is your vision of success?

Success means being able to do what I enjoy every single day.

First, that means being able to spend time with my friends and family. They are the most important part of my life. I believe in work/life balance, and I don't think you have to kill yourself to have a successful startup. I don't ask that of my team.

“Success means being able to do what I enjoy every single day.”

Second, it means enjoying my work every day. For me, this means that I am working on a service that is an indispensable part of people's lives. It means I'm working with a great team, and on an ambitious problem. I love waking up in the morning, excited about work.

What about your startup idea was game-changing?

Our disruptive idea was simplicity — that you could create and update your blog via email when competing services were making blogging more complicated. Email was the perfect platform to bet on since all mobile devices have email, and you can send photos and other attachments.

We've extended beyond blogging but continue to focus on the value of simplicity and how it can solve consumer problems. Fortunately, many aspects of the online sharing process are still broken, which creates opportunities for Posterous.

What was the pivotal point in your early startup days?

We launched group sharing on Posterous in December 2010. Posterous had been around for about a year and a half, and we were best known for our blogging product. But we had another set of very passionate users. These users loved Posterous as a way to share privately with a group of people.

Since we had the foundation for group sharing already built, and we were already focused on email posting, we decided to launch Posterous Groups. It was a product driven by our own user base.

This was a pivotal point for Posterous. Group-sharing is growing like crazy. People are looking for easier ways to control who sees what they post online, and two-way group sharing makes sense to people.

What was the biggest challenge you faced with your startup?

The greatest challenge is building a strong team. Hiring is hard. We only want the best, and, as a result, Posterous has hired more slowly than other startups at our stage. The risk of hiring a mediocre performer is enormous, so we've tried to keep our standards really high. Balancing this discipline against what the Posterous community is asking for is incredibly difficult.

What are the biggest influences on your business model?

Services that charge their customers directly rather than rely on advertising. If you are delivering tangible value, your customers will pay for it … and you'll never have to sacrifice user experience because an advertiser wants a flashing button.

How does Posterous utilize social media?

Our users are some of the most social media savvy in the world, so we're very active on many social media platforms. It's a great way for me to stay on the pulse of our user base and make sure they are happy.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

“If you are delivering tangible value, your customers will pay for it … and you'll never have to sacrifice user experience because an advertiser wants a flashing button.”

Starting a company is one of the hardest things you can do in life. You will be challenged every day, and you will have to sacrifice a lot if you want to be successful. So my advice is that you shouldn't rush into starting one. Don't start a company just for the sake of starting a company. Wait until you have an idea that you believe in so much that it keeps you up at night.

It was very hard for me to leave Apple — I loved my job and the company. Working at Apple was a dream come true. But then I had another dream: I wanted to make sharing online easier and safer. This idea kept me up at night, and eventually drove me to work nights and weekends to make it happen.

Until you have that idea, get more experience. It's really valuable to work for an established, successful company before starting your own company. I learned a ton at Apple about how to design, develop and ship products — this experience still helps me every day at Posterous.

And before Apple, I worked at my parents’ restaurants in Los Angeles. I learned how to run various aspects of the business including accounting, payroll, marketing and more.

I'm a big believer in education and experience. The longer you wait before starting a company, the greater your chances are for success.

Image courtesy of JJ Casas

Series Supported by Diet Coke®

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.

More About: entrepreneurship, Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Series, posterous, startup

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35% of Tablet Owners Use Them in the Bathroom [STUDY]

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 07:04 AM PDT

Tablet owners love the devices so much that they’re taking them everywhere — even the bathroom — according to a new study.

Staples Advantage, Staples’ business-to-business unit, polled 200 tablet owners from companies of various sizes and across multiple industries in June. The survey found 35% of tablet owners use the device in the loo. The respondents also admit to taking their tablets to restaurants (30%), on vacation (60%) and using them in bed (78%).

Eighty percent of those polled also said they see tablets as a means to help them achieve an improved work/life balance. Some 60% say they get more work done using a tablet. Communication is also a strong motivator to buy the devices; 40% say they bought one to stay connected with colleagues and clients and 75% use the tablets to check email.

While tablets are no doubt impinging on consumers’ home lives like never before, the 35% figure for tablet bathroom use may actually be lower than some would suspect. A 2008 survey from AOL Mail found 59% of people check their email from the bathroom.

More About: bathroom, ipad, tablet pcs

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Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet Now Available for Pre-Order

Posted: 23 Aug 2011 06:22 AM PDT

Lenovo’s business-oriented ThinkPad tablet, announced in July, is now available for pre-order.

The device sports a 10.1-inch, 1280×800 IPS display, and it’s powered by a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor and 1 GB of RAM. It comes with Wi-Fi and 16, 32 or 64 GB of storage memory plus a number of ports: mini-HDMI, USB 2.0 and micro USB.

It comes in three variations: the $499 one is Wi-Fi only and it comes with 16 GB of memory. The pricier two models both come with 3G; the 32 GB version costs $569, and the 64 GB one goes for $669. You can pre-order all three devices now, with a shipping date of August 29.

More About: lenovo, Tablet, ThinkPad, ThinkPad tablet

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