Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “New York Times & WNYC Launch SchoolBook to Foster Education Community”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “New York Times & WNYC Launch SchoolBook to Foster Education Community”

New York Times & WNYC Launch SchoolBook to Foster Education Community

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 05:01 AM PDT

On Wednesday, The New York Times and public radio station WNYC launched SchoolBook, a website to provide news, data and discussion about New York City schools.

The site aims to increase communication and understanding among parents, teachers, administrators and students. As many school websites are rudimentary and infrequently updated, SchoolBook’s creators hope to fill a gaping hole. It creates a page for each of NYC’s 2,500 public, charter and private schools with student population information, community discussion threads and more.

“In conversations with parents, principals and teachers, we kept hearing how fragmented the conversation was,” said Tyson Evans, an assistant editor on The Times‘s interactive news desk who helped develop the project. “We’re hoping they’ll see this as kind of a place to explore.”

If it’s numbers SchoolBook users are looking to explore, they’ll have plenty to discover. The site’s extensive database is comprised of information from thousands of public records from numerous sources, including city and state departments and non-profit organizations, Evans said. Much of the information was already housed in internal search and reporting tools for Times journalists built by Robert Gebeloff, a computer assisted reporter who specializes in education.

The challenge for SchoolBook, like many numbers-driven reports, was how to present the information in a useful and easy-to-understand way. Evans said he and his team wanted the site to provide more overall context than a tool that produces charts and visualizations. They chose to standardize the data and group scores into three categories: performance, satisfaction and diversity.

SchoolBook’s developers created custom software for the site with Ruby on Rails and were ambitious about writing data validators and imports. This will help ease the process of updating the database when schools come out with new information.

Some may argue SchoolBook is ranking schools based on scores. Gebeloff wrote an extensive guide to the site’s methodology, in which he says, “What we have not done, quite purposely, is grade or rate schools.”

The numbers are only part of the story. It’s the site’s ambitions for building community around education as an entity that sets it apart. Users are asked to log in with Facebook, an experiment The Times wanted to try to out with a standalone site. “We’re curious about the next phase of web identity,” Evans said.

It will be interesting to see how this affects conversation, especially as education can be a sensitive topic. With the controversy about how students and teachers should interact on Facebook, the single sign-in method will likely see challenges and complaints.

Participants can contribute on individual school pages in three ways: ask a question, post content (photos, student newspaper articles, etc.) or suggest an idea. This could be particularly useful for parents considering a new school for their student. If the school has an active community page where the user feels comfortable contributing, it may shed light on whether it’s a good fit.

The Times and WNYC worked with a handful of schools when brainstorming for the site. Evans expects those communities will lead the charge on SchoolBook and it will grow from there.

“We have ideas for how conversations will work but we’ll ultimately be learning from how the community uses it,” Evans said. “The more activity we can see at individual schools, the more we’ll be convinced it was the right project.”

Times and WNYC education reporters will be regularly updating the site with original articles, discussion threads and aggregated news posts from local sources GothamSchools and Inside Schools. Mary Ann Giordano, the site’s editor, will manage content from contributing writers, which may include teacher diaries, Evans said. The news and community aspects of the site were built on WordPress.

Overall, SchoolBook is leading the way in building community around the topic of education. Though projects like The Opportunity Gap from ProPublica and The Washington Post‘s D.C. Schools Scorecard were pioneers in data collection and presentation, they do little to bring readers together to share content and engage in debate. As Evans said, the purpose SchoolBook provides is up to its users — but it’s the site’s empowerment of its community members that will give people a reason to visit.

More About: education, new york city, the new york times

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Twitter & Bing Show Their Love for Each Other..via Twitter

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 04:30 AM PDT

Two years ago, Bing partnered up with Twitter to include tweets next to Web search results. Now, Microsoft’s search engine has extended its partnership with Twitter and publicized it in an odd but fitting: via Twitter.

You can see the entire conversation in the image below. The details of the renewed deal were not disclosed, except for the fact that the two companies will “stick together”.

Google and Twitter had a similar deal in place, but after the initial success of Google’s social network Google+, the company decided not to renew the contract with Twitter, instead opting to launch a new real-time search product in the near future.

[via The Next Web]

More About: bing, real-time search, Search, twitter

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New iPad To Feature a Thinner, Lighter Battery [REPORT]

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 02:20 AM PDT

The iPad 2 is already a very thin device – 0.34 inches, to be exact – but the next generation might be even thinner and lighter, thanks to an improved battery pack.

According to Taiwan Economic News, two suppliers of iPad and Macbook batteries, Simplo Technology Co. and Dynapack International Technology Corp., are ready to produce the new pack as early as Q4 2011, with mass production expected in the first quarter of 2012.

The new batteries will make the iPad thinner and lighter and extend its battery life, but they will also come at a 20 – 30% bigger price point due to the advanced technology used. Hopefully this will not mean a bigger price for the end product as well.

[via Taiwan Economic News]

More About: apple, battery, Dynapack, ipad, ipad 3, Simplo

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Tagstand Wants to Make NFC Technology Simple for Businesses

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 08:32 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: Tagstand

Quick Pitch: Tagstand is an NFC platform that simplifies the NFC stack for businesses and developers.

Genius Idea: Program and manage NFC stickers on the web.

“The way your phone interacts with the real world is going to become quite fundamental,” predicts Kulveer Tagger. Tagger is betting on the trend with Tagstand, a startup serving as a platform that businesses and developers can turn to for NFC tag procurement and management.

Customers can purchase packs of stickers, and then use the Tagstand Manager to program — and reprogram as often they see fit — how those stickers function on objects in the real world. They can also track sticker usage.

Tagstand could theoretically, depending on the whims of the tag owner, allow a consumer with an NFC-enabled device to touch his phone to a sticker to check in on Foursquare one day and view a promotional video or product page the next. The point is clearly to commodify NFC technology — to package it up, sell it to businesses and marketers, and make it consumer-friendly in the process.

One problem: consumers aren’t yet toting around NFC-enabled devices en masse. But should that change — and research firm Juniper forecasts that it will — Tagstand, says Tagger, hopes its first-mover status will solidify it as a harbinger of the NFC revolution in the states.

In the right-here and right-now, Tagstand appears to be pulling in impressive sales and traction for a three-month startup in a nascent market. “We’ve had loads of developers and businesses contact us,” Tagger says. “We’re basically finding out what we think are going to be the first applications of NFC.”

Outdoor marketing is surfacing as the most popular application, he says. A Tagstand customer in India, for instance, made a bulk purchase of 20,000 tags for $10,000. The customer plans to put tags on movie posters at malls and cinemas in India, he says.

Next on the agenda for Tagstand is to give startups access to NFC payments capabilities and release an API for its tag management system.

Tagstand is a graduate of Y Combinator’s summer of 2011 session. The startup is in the process of raising additional funding.

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, nfc, spark-of-genius, Tagstand, y combinator

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Netflix Now Enforcing Limit of One Movie Stream at a Time

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 07:47 PM PDT

Netflix has started to restrict its users from streaming more than one movie at a time as part of its price hike. The change could have a major effect on how families use Netflix. No longer can one person watch a movie from the iPad while the rest of the family watches another film on the Xbox, for example.

As website Stop the Cap points out, Netflix has always had a policy that limited streaming, with those on a single DVD or streaming-only plan limited to streaming one film at a time.

But it appears as if Netflix just started enforcing this rule Sept. 1. The changes seem to coincide with Netflix’s price hike, which took effect Sept. 1 as well. Now, if you attempt to launch two movie streams, Netflix will block it and tell you that your membership plan doesn’t support multiple movie streams.

We received the error message (above) in our tests, confirming other reports. However, we also learned that television shows seem to be exempt from the movie streaming rules. For example, we were able to stream a movie and a TV show simultaneously but unable to stream two movies at the same time.

The move is sure to upset some customers as Netflix continues to deal with a number of setbacks. Its talks with Starz recently broke down and customers are not happy with the recent price hikes. Netflix’s revenues are at record highs, but without Starz, it loses some of its best content. It’s unclear how customers will react to this latest change.

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Yahoo’s Stock Jumps Following Firing of CEO Carol Bartz

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 06:49 PM PDT

Investors welcomed news of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz's firing enthusiastically in after-hours trading on Tuesday evening, with shares of the company finishing the session up more than 6% to $13.72 per share.

As we noted earlier today, Bartz's tenure ended abruptly this afternoon when Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock informed her (via phone) that she was being terminated, a move that Bartz was able to share with the entire company via an email sent from her iPad.

Yahoo has named its CFO Tim Morse as interim CEO and appointed an "executive leadership council" to help fill the void as the company searches for a permanent leader.

The jump in Yahoo shares on Tuesday is nearly equal to the small gain the company has eked out since Bartz took over in January 2009.

More About: carol bartz, Yahoo

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Why Browsing Is So Important to Content Discovery

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 06:48 PM PDT

Laura Larsell is the information ontologist at Trapit, a content discovery, personalization and curation platform currently in beta.  Laura holds an M.A. in library sciences from the University of Texas at Austin.

I love libraries and bookstores. I love the tactile, olfactory and social experiences these physical spaces allow. Clearly the Internet has given us ample and exciting new opportunities to engage with information resources, but the digital realm is still a ways off from satisfying many of our real-world needs.

Putting aside the physical niceties of brick and mortar information repositories, one thing the Internet has yet to reproduce is the ability to easily and pleasantly browse its vast reaches. Browsing is a crucial component of information discovery; it allows an information seeker to expand organically upon an initial vague, often unarticulated need.

Imagine head to the stacks at your local library to browse through the cookbooks. As your eye traverses the shelves, you spot a book on kimchi. This book is exactly what you wanted to read, even if you couldn’t have initially articulated that desire.

Experiences like these sit at the heart of browsing — aimless navigation by subject or genre that brings you to something unexpected, yet ultimately rewarding. Browsing is a common manner of information resource discovery. However, the practice is not well-supported by the search-based or social methods of information discovery that dominate the web today.

How We Lost Browsing to Searching

Search assumes a direct path between the seeker and the sought. Ironically, "search" works best when you have a pretty good sense of what you are looking for. But most people, most of the time, do not have concrete ideas of what they really want.

Netflix knows this. Amazon does too. The two offer users the ability to browse collections by subject or genre. Think of when and why you've used the search box, versus when you’ve chosen to simply browse. Search is used to locate known resources (I want to watch The Last Picture Show), and browsing to encounter unknown resources in an organized and meaningful way (I want to watch something funny).

Incidentally, search as we know it was birthed alongside the sort of subject indexing that supports browsing (as is often pointed out, Yahoo! is an acronym for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle). But because subjects tend to be higher level than keywords, they cannot yet be accurately assigned by computers. In other words, a document that uses the word "cats" 100 times might be considered by search to be more about felines than a document that mentions the word 10 times — even though we know this is not necessarily so. Subject cataloging needs human eyes, and the web grew too big and too fast for such a project to remain feasible.

This was and is unfortunate, because the larger the collection, the more useful browsing becomes.

The Bookshelf Analogy

My bookshelf at home lacks organization, but it works for me because it’s small, and I am intimately familiar with its contents. A visitor, however, would literally have to look at every book I own in order to arrive at a successful choice.

Now, imagine if I had divided my books into fiction and non-fiction. A stranger who knew he was more interested in non-fiction would only have to look at a fraction of my books. If I were to further subdivide and group by narrowing subject matter, I save even more time, and present the opportunity to find increasingly relevant books without the use of happenstance. Organizing a collection also provides information about the collection as a whole, and makes for better browsing.

Browsing can also be a visually pleasant experience. This isn't a trivial enjoyment. As I skim a bookshelf, I receive visual clues that tell me something about the contents of the books (genre, price, credibility).  List form search results offer their own clues, but oftentimes only a clickthrough informs you whether the page is worth reviewing (Google recognizes this, and has added a convenient preview function to their list results).

The Internet is like a monster version of my randomly organized bookcase. Even though your computer help you to manage all of its information, it's hard to get a sense of how much exists on any given topic. And searching for "history" is an entirely different experience than browsing the history section at the bookstore.

Search is a daunting entry point to discovering what web has to offer on a given topic. Most searches return vast results full of outdated, duplicated and dubious content. Users rarely push past the first page of results. The real problem on the web is that search requires direction. As librarian Barbara Fister notes, "When faced with an information need, a primary criterion most searchers consider is convenience. A good answer is valuable, but not if it's too hard to find."

From Search to Social

The emergent discovery model today is social media. The explosion of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ allows users to share information on a peer-to-peer basis. This form of distribution hinges on human recommendation rather than mysterious and sometimes problematic algorithmic search rankings.

In the social model, you encounter my overwhelmingly unorganized bookshelf, but I reply with a suggestion. This saves you the time and work of searching. My selection probably satisfies you, particularly because, in this instance, it was made for you as an individual, rather than for a wider social network audience. However, it also limits your knowledge of what my collection could potentially offer.

Discovering information sources via the social model allows seekers to bypass the initiative required by search. Instead the "best" contents of the web bubble up to the user via news feeds and trend lists. It also hosts engaging dialogue around content, which adds novelty to the discovery process. But to seek information this way requires people to be diligent listeners — something many are unwilling or unable to do, especially as our social networks become noisier.

It also tends to obscure as it illuminates. The social model highlights popular content, but ignores the niche. Social discovery does a disservice to individual information seekers who have little incentive to dig deeper.

But the real problem for undirected and overwhelmed information seekers (and I argue we are in the majority) is that the structure of a social network is shaped by social rules, and not by the beautiful subject hierarchies or systems of classification that, while painstakingly and artificially constructed, can allow for effortless and organic navigation.

Even Twitter, where hashtagging allows for folksonomous cataloging of links, is no place for the lighthearted browser. Following niche topics requires seeking out and following subject experts. On the other hand, many Twitter lists are highly reminiscent of library resource guides. Certainly, high quality subject experts are tweeting their hearts out, but users must also be cognizant of their individual agendas. Furthermore, their connections are a sort of a sprawling metropolis, not the neat, navigable shelves and sections of a library.   

Why We Need to Bring Back Browsing

Browsing gives information seekers a high-level sense of what exists within a collection, while presenting easy entry points to explore the unknown. It also allows for lesser-known works to stand alongside — and compete with — the more canonical ones they resemble.

However, the web continues to grow enormously, making human indexing — of the sort that libraries have been doing for centuries — impossible.

Projects dedicated to pure human indexing of the web still exist, the Open Directory Project being the largest. But considering these projects ultimately rely on crowdsourcing, the rapid proliferation of digital information, and a lack of bibliographic control of the web, such projects begin to look like trying to move the ocean with a bucket.

Perhaps a truly human indexed open web is too lofty a goal, and those who pursue it are blindly clinging to old world practices. Regardless, we have to find better ways of giving structure to big data, because the problem of information overload is only becoming more dire, and the shadow cast by sources gone viral, more large.

The advent of machine learning, and specifically the ability to use human feedback to forge distinct and organized information, offers the potential for new tools to better organize big data with minimal human effort. At the startup where I work, we’re developing techniques to more easily group like content. By responding to user feedback, the system can hone in on a keyword-identified concept with surprising and increasing degree of accuracy. And once you can algorithmically surface content relevant to "hotdogs" and "BBQ," it is relatively easy for a human to place those into the more ephemeral and larger bucket of "summer foods." This is the sort of work that can make browsing possible.

Similarly,, an acquisition of Google, is an application that browses the commercial sector of the web. It allows users to navigate their online shopping using visual cues like material, color and shape (all what you'd use in a real store). boasts, "stop guessing at keywords" — music to the ears of would-be browsers.  

The beauty of digital information is that we are no longer restricted by physical space. There exists the opportunity for simultaneous structures of organization. The more ways we find to slice and dice content, the more opportunities for discovery become available. We can have it all — search for seekers who know what they want, social for seekers who want to listen and engage, and browsing for seekers who wish to meander and let the collection speak for itself.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, Wuka, and Flickr, Practise.

More About: content, data, information, Search, Social Media

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Facebook for iPhone Gets Big Privacy Upgrade [PICS]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 06:47 PM PDT

Facebook has updated its iPhone app with a slew of new features and privacy controls, many of which mirror recent enhancements to the website.

Facebook for iPhone 3.5 [iTunes link] now lets users tag friends and places in posts and share external links from the web view. It also makes it easier to control who can see what posts, matching the enhanced controls now available on The app also features redesigned Profile and Group walls, making both more streamlined and clean.

Additionally, Facebook fixed a number of bugs and made some performance enhancements. We really like the update and are especially impressed with Facebook’s new privacy options tour that accompanies the app the first time it is launched.

On the downside, 9to5 Mac reports that Facebook has taken this update opportunity to remove the Facebook for iPad code that accidentally leaked out in July. An official iPad app remains missing in action.

Let us know what you think of the new update in the comments.

Update Notes

New Privacy Controls

This pop-up guide launches when you start Facebook for iPhone after installing the update.

Tour: Tagging

Tour: Location

Tour: Groups Control

Updated Status

A status update tagging a person and a location.

Status Privacy Options

You can select the audience and/or friends list for your post controls.

Status Privacy Selection

Status Messsage

Profile Wall View

The layout and "About" section are slightly modified and more streamlined.

Groups Wall View

The wall view for Groups is more streamlined as well.

Share External Links

External links can now be shared within Facebook.

External Link Preview

A preview of an external link share.

More About: facebook, iphone, iphone apps

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Yahoo Forms “Executive Leadership Council” to Replace Carol Bartz

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 05:54 PM PDT

Yahoo has formed an “Executive Leadership Council” to govern the struggling Internet company in the wake of Carol Bartz’s firing. To fill the void left by Bartz’s departure, Yahoo CFO Tim Morse has been promoted to interim CEO.

“The Board has also named key senior Yahoo! executives to a newly formed Executive Leadership Council tasked with supporting Morse in managing the Company’s day-to-day operations until a permanent chief executive is appointed, as well as supporting a comprehensive strategic review that the Board has initiated to position the Company for future growth,” the company said in a statement released on Tuesday evening.

Yahoo’s new executive council contains most of Yahoo’s key players. Mike Callahan (EVP, general counsel and secretary), Blake Irving (EVP & CPO), Ross Levinsohn (EVP, Americas), Rich Riley (SVP of the EMEA region) and Rose Tsou (SVP of the APAC region) will sit on the council. Co-founders David Filo and Jerry Yang will not sit on the council, but will remain as Chief Yahoos. As we reported earlier, Yahoo is now conducting a thorough search for the company’s next CEO.

The move doesn’t change anybody’s title (except for Morse) and it doesn’t come as a surprise. Bartz’s departure leaves a power void that Yahoo will need time to fill. Bartz, known for her bombastic and strong-willed nature, definitely got the last laugh with her feisty email to all Yahoo employees, informing them that she had been fired over the phone by Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

More About: carol bartz, Tim Morse, Yahoo

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5 Tips for Getting More Video Views

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 05:53 PM PDT

Justin Nassiri is the founder and CEO of VideoGenie, a company that helps brands gather, moderate and track customer contributed video. Prior to founding VideoGenie, Justin served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, directing the operations and navigation of a nuclear-powered warship. He is a graduate of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Video is increasingly becoming a preferred medium for online communication. Current research suggests that the emotional connection of video is the surest way to the hearts of customers. Apart from the ubiquitous phenomenon of YouTube, ChatRoulette connected all types (and we mean all types) of people; Google+ now allows users to hang out via webcam; and Netflix and Hulu are challenging cable by streaming television.

The problem is, with so much video content out there, how do you ensure that yours gets noticed? Here are five steps to ensure your audience presses "play."

1. Location, Location, Location

The location of video content on your site is more important than you may think. Just as newspapers strategize selling prime advertising space close to the headlines, you also need to think about locating your video. Therefore, embed front and center. You can't hide your video below the fold (or in this case, below the scroll) and expect stellar pageviews. Furthermore, don't publish your video to a microsite and then expect viewers to migrate. Give your video prime real estate by placing it on your landing page, and then post to the video tab of your site's Facebook fan page.

2. Tap Your Fan Base

Fans are the best resource for spreading news, and therefore, video content. You know the ones: the die-hard followers on Twitter and Facebook who are always the first to comment, respond and retweet. Make sure they feel special — send your video to them directly before it goes live on your site, and make sure to emphasize their exclusive VIP access. Encourage them to share it with their followers soon and often. Turn your fans into marketers. They're more likely to generate unique views than a simple company tweet, for example. Finally, engaging your ardent followers will ensure that they stay your biggest advocates.

3. Share Smartly

There's no way to get noticed without sharing content. The majority of the time, dumping your video onto the web and hoping that people stumble across it will not generate a viral movement. Be diligent about sharing your video. That means using all the obvious channels like Facebook and Twitter, but it also means sharing smartly.

For example, assume that followers likely subscribe to more than one site channel. If you plan to repost content from one channel to the other (and you should), tweak the text of your message. You don't want to make your biggest fans feel like they're being spammed.

4. Gamify

People love a good contest, or at least, they love being rewarded for something easy — like watching a video. Therefore, offer an incentive, or notify fans that when your video reaches a certain number of views, you'll release a follow-up "secret" video, for instance.

You could consider offering something of value, such as a discount code, but often the promise of extra or exclusive content is enough to incentivize sharing.

5. Be Authentic

Some videos have a really high clickthrough rate, while others get barely any clicks at all. Some of the most mundane videos appeal to the widest swath of a community (remember Subway's Jared?). However, it's not a crapshoot: The golden rule is to make your video authentic, more than just the subject you're filming. Commit to that authenticity from the beginning of the recording process to the final publishing phase.

At the end of the day, you can never perfectly predict which videos will resonate with your community, but a metrics-driven approach can help to simplify the guesswork.

More About: business, Social Media, video

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Why Carol Bartz Was Fired as CEO of Yahoo [OPINION]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 05:34 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.

It’s finally happened: Yahoo has fired CEO Carol Bartz. We know that Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock informed her of the news today because of the epic email she sent via iPad to all employees announcing that she had been fired.

The move ends a rocky nearly three-year tenure of failed initiatives and unmet expectations. Bartz, the strong-willed former CEO of Autodesk, was brought in to clean house and streamline operations at the company after it rejected Microsoft’s generous acquisition offer and decided to go it alone.

Bartz’s firing wasn’t unexpected. As I argued in a recent Social Analyst column, a battle over Yahoo’s future has been brewing for months. Investors were unhappy with her performance. Yahoo’s share price has risen a meager $1.15 since Bartz took the helm. And most significantly, the company hasn’t found a way to create new revenue streams, stabilize its finances or retain its top engineering talent.

Here’s what I said about Yahoo in my column:

“As long as Bartz is in charge, there will be two camps battling for the future of Yahoo: the group that wants to give Bartz a chance, and the faction that wants change now. This internal battle will only create more friction and distractions for the company, unless Bartz can find a dramatic way to silence the growing chorus of critics.

Neither side seems to have an answer to a more fundamental question, though: how Yahoo becomes "the world's premier digital media company," the company's recently stated goal? Bartz had better find an answer to that question soon, before Yahoo's shareholders start looking to someone else for the answer.”

Surprise: Yahoo is now looking to somebody else for the answer.

Why Was Bartz Fired?

When Bartz first took the job back in January 2009, we were skeptical of the move. Here’s what our Editor-in-Chief Adam Ostrow said at the time:

“First reaction: what exactly does Autodesk have to do with a consumer-focused Internet company like Yahoo? Bartz certainly sounds like she has a long history of running a big company – Autodesk has more than 7,000 employees and $2 billion in annual revenue – but what expertise and vision does she have that's relevant to one of the world's biggest Web companies, in desperate need of re-inventing itself?”

His words have turned out to be prophetic. Bartz had no clue how to reinvent a stagnant web company into a digital media powerhouse. Despite all of the tools at her disposal, her legacy will probably be defined by Yahoo’s ridiculous squabble with Alibaba.

Bartz may have been an effective manager, but didn’t have the vision needed to lead Yahoo. What Yahoo needed was a Steve Jobs. Unfortunately co-founder Jerry Yang failed at that task, which led to the hiring of Carol Bartz.

The Alibaba controversey isn’t what did Bartz in, though. It wasn’t her inability to provide direction for the company, either. Ultimately, the reason she is no longer CEO is simple: she failed to create shareholder value.

Yahoo’s share price was $11.59 the day before her appointment. When the markets closed on September 6, the stock was worth $12.74. That is an increase of less than 10%, with most of that value being derived from the skyrocketing value of its China assets. The entity known as Yahoo is worth less today than it was when Bartz took over as CEO.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the founder or most-seasoned CEO on the planet. If you can’t increase shareholder value, you will not last long as CEO at a publicly traded company. Jerry Yang and Carol Bartz both learned this the hard way.

Bartz’s inability to move Yahoo’s stock price is why she is no longer at the helm of one the Internet’s most important and storied companies. Now it’s up to Jerry Yang and Roy Bostock to find a new CEO who can provide the vision and leadership the struggling company so desperately needs.

More About: carol bartz, Column, The Social Analyst, Yahoo

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Carol Bartz’s Memo to All Employees: I’ve Just Been Fired

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 04:34 PM PDT

Carol Bartz confirmed that she is no longer the CEO of Yahoo in a memo that appears to have been sent from her iPad to all employees of the company.

Mashable has obtained a copy of the note, which reads:

To all,

I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.


Sent from my iPad

The firing apparently came as a surprise to Yahoo employees.

Mashable reached out to a source at the company when the initial report of Bartz’s departure surfaced, at which time the news had not yet reached our contact’s desk. Several minutes later, however, the short missive from Bartz included here, sent to, appeared in our contact’s inbox.

In other words, someone either forgot to turn off Bartz’s email account before doing the deed or decided (however unlikely) to let Bartz have the last word, which in a way is fitting, given Bartz’s reputation for colorful candor.

As of 8:08 p.m. ET, Yahoo employees have yet to receive an official memo from the company updating them on Bartz’s departure.

More About: carol bartz, Yahoo

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Google Voice Users Can Now Export Texts, Voicemails & Phone Numbers

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 03:50 PM PDT

An update to Google Takeout, the search giant’s data export service, now allows Google Voice users to retrieve all of their account data.

“We believe that our users should be able to export any data that they create in (or import into) one of our many products,” Google engineer Anthony Jawad writes in a post on the news.

“This means that all of the data associated with your Google Voice account, from your call history to voicemail messages, greetings and call recordings, is now available for download,” he adds.

The Google Takeout update, also announced by way of the quirky YouTube video below, comes courtesy of The Data Liberation Front, a team of in-house engineers building products to help users move their data in and out of Google.

Google Takeout was first released in July. The service launched with the ability to export data from Buzz, Contacts and Circles, Picasa Web Albums, and your Google profile.

More About: Google, Google Takeout, Google Voice

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Carol Bartz Out as CEO of Yahoo

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 03:49 PM PDT

Carol Bartz’s tumultuous tenure as the CEO of Yahoo came to an abrupt end on Tuesday, Mashable has confirmed with sources close to the company.

It also appears that Bartz was able to send an email to all Yahoo employees from her iPad informing them that her departure was not voluntary and that she was fired by the company’s Chairman.

The news was first reported by All Things Digital, who also reported that Yahoo CFO Tim Morse has been named interim CEO.

SEE ALSO: The Battle for Yahoo's Future

Bartz was brought into Yahoo in January 2009 to turn the company around after it balked at Microsoft’s $44.6 billion takeover offer. Since then, she’s trimmed costs through aggressive job cuts and shuttered a number of businesses, including Zimbra, Geocities and Delicious.

She also firmed up a search and advertising partnership with Microsoft that sees Yahoo’s search results powered by Bing. That deal, however, is yet to see the type of returns the company was hoping for — in fact, Yahoo blamed part of its still languishing financial performance on that deal in its most recent earnings announcement, which saw overall revenue down 5% year-over-year.

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Reddit Transforms Into a Separate Company

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 03:07 PM PDT

Social news website Reddit has announced that it has spun off from parent company Conde Nast and become a separate operation — albeit one that isn’t changing hands.

Reddit Inc. will be 100% owned by Advanced Publications, the parent company of Conde Nast. “We can set up a structure that has the benefits of outside influence, without giving up equity to an outside firm,” Advance Publications biz dev chief Steve Newhouse told AllThingsD.

The newly-formed company will have more operational freedom than before. Conde Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg and CTO Joe Simon will join the company’s board of directors, along with Advance’s Newhouse and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

“Reddit has become the engine for creating innovative and influential communities online,” Ohanian said in a Google+ post. “I’ll do everything I can to help and guide the Reddit, Inc. team and our CEO to grow true to the vision we’ve had since that summer of 2005.”

First order of business for the reformed Reddit: find a new CEO. “As part of the new structure, Reddit Inc. has also started the search for a CEO who can help us reach our full, unbridled potential,” Reddit general manager Erik Martin said in a blog post. “Make no mistake, Reddit owes its past, present, and future success to the community. We wouldn’t seriously consider any individuals for the CEO position unless they understood the community and were passionate about serving its needs.”

Since its acquisition by Conde Nast, Reddit has had to fight for resources. It was forced to launch a freemium program because it was unable to secure the money it needed to run its servers and hire new engineers. Since then, however, the site’s traffic has exploded, partly due to the collapse of Digg. Greater autonomy will allow the company to hire more engineers — and potentially ascend even greater heights.

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.XXX Domains Go On Sale Wednesday

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 02:38 PM PDT

Registered trademark and brand holders will get a chance to secure .xxx domains Wednesday, if only to fend off cybersquatters.

The ICM Registry, which doles out domains to third parties like GoDaddy and Network Solutions, is giving brands 50 days to claim their domain. For example, Coca-Cola can grab Stuart Lawley, the CEO of ICM Registry, says it should cost around $200 for brands to get their .xxx domains. Unlike other top-level domains, which charge roughly $50 a year to maintain rights to a URL, brand holders will pay a one-time fee for .xxx domains.

“The truth is, no one is going to be going to, but some may not want their brands associated [with .xxx domains] in any way,” Lawley says.

After the 50-day period, there will be a 17-day period where domains are sold exclusively to the adult entertainment industry. Lawley says the appeal of such domains is that they will provide more traffic and offer a verification of sorts.

“It’s a win because you’ll be able to surf porn safely,” says Lawley, adding that it’s also a win for consumers wishing to avoid porn since they can filter out all .xxx sites.

The .xxx top-level-domain is the first to be approved by ICANN since .co, which was approved for commercial use in July 2010. ICANN has also approved a so-called “dot-whatever” plan that will allow for all kinds of suffixes. That proposal has been opposed by marketers, who claim it is a shakedown. For his part, Lawley says he is empathetic to marketers and thinks ICANN should have removed trademarked URLs from the table at no cost to the brands.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Christopher VanWilliams

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YouTube Links Last Twice as Long as Those on Twitter or Facebook [REPORT]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 02:26 PM PDT

Top 25 Most Shared Stories in July

When it comes to spreading popular content around the web, where you post matters. A study that link-shortening service released on its blog Tuesday shows that different kinds of links rise and fizzle at different speeds — depending on the platform they are posted on. Chief Scientist Hilary Mason and her team have borrowed a concept from nuclear physics — half-life — to explain the patterns of how people clicked on 1,000 popular links across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube links. Half life, in this case, is “the amount of time at which [a] link will receive half of the clicks it will ever receive after it reached its peak.”

A link to breaking news typically has a short half life; it is no longer relevant after a short amount of time. Something less timely, like a funny video, wouldn’t see the same steep drop off — so those cute kittens tend to have a longer half-life. (And we’re not talking about the half-life of Schrodinger’s Cat.)

Mason found that the type of content, however, isn’t the only predictor of how a link gets shared. It also matters where it is shared. The half-life of links posted on Facebook is on average 24 minutes longer than links to the same content posted on Twitter. And links in emails and instant messages remain active slightly longer than links on Facebook.

Link activity on these three platforms — Twitter, Facebook and email/IM — follow a similar pattern. Mason told Mashable this is likely a result of the way that the platforms interact — links posted on Twitter are likely to be shared further, through Facebook and email — though hasn’t attempted to quantify this relationship.

YouTube, on the other hand, has an entirely different kind of clicking pattern. Whereas the average half life for the 1,000 links on Twitter, Facebook and email/IM was three hours, the average half life on YouTube for the same links was 7.4 hours.

“You could say that Twitter is the best way to post something if you want people to see it quickly,” Mason says. “But one platform isn’t necessarily better than another. We’re just showing that the platforms have different dynamics.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, flyparade

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Miramax Adds Content to Netflix Latin America

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 02:03 PM PDT

Miramax announced Tuesday that it will bring hundreds of its titles to Netflix in Latin America.

Netflix announced its formal rollout plans for the Latin American and Caribbean markets Monday, the first part of its major international push.

The new Miramax deal is similar to the agreement the studio signed in the U.S. back in May. Latin American subscribers will be able to stream films like Chicago, The English Patient, Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction across supported devices.

Since the Walt Disney Company sold Miramax’s film library and assets to Filmyard Holdings in December 2010, the studio shifted its focus away from new releases, and towards leveraging its library of films in the digital marketplace. In addition to deals with Netflix, the studio also brought movie rentals to Facebook last month.

As for Netflix, it’s betting a big chunk of its future growth on international expansion. With recent price hikes, the end of the Starz content deal and an increasingly competitive landscape, Netflix will need to provide its users across the globe with access to plenty of content. Meanwhile, its competitors aren’t sitting still. Hulu launched in Japan last week, with a big library of American films and TV shows.

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Conan O’Brien Puts TV Studio on Airbnb for $1 Per Night

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 01:48 PM PDT

You can rent some pretty classy places on Airbnbthe country of Lichtenstein, say, or a Swiss ski resort. But how could those places possibly compare to a 25,000 sq ft TV studio in the heart of historic Burbank, California, steps from the Warner Bros. commissary?

That — at least in theory — is what late-night luminary Conan O’Brien started offering on Airbnb Tuesday. (Here’s the listing.) The “cozy and charming” one-bathroom studio also offers “a celebrity-grazed sleeper sofa”, a “40 ton industrial air conditioning system,” a kitchenette with its own intern, “25 LCD television monitors (no HBO),” and a shower, though apparently that must be shared with guest bands.

All this for the bargain price of $1 per night — though you’d better book fast. Only four nights are available, from Oct. 10 through Oct. 13. Potential guests are required to send emails to Team Coco explaining why they’d like the room. So far, it seems, no one has made the cut.

We’ll see if the show actually follows through on its amusing stunt (note to Team Coco: Team Mashable is interested, and will definitely bring its own linen.) We’ll also see if this helps distract from what turned out to be a pretty bad summer for Airbnb.

via Betabeat

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Groupon Rethinks the Timing of Its IPO [REPORT]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 12:42 PM PDT

Citing volatile market conditions, Groupon is rethinking the timing of its IPO, according to a report.

The company isn’t canceling its IPO but is “reassessing the timing on a week-by-week basis,” according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited a person familiar with the matter.

Groupon had planned to go public after Labor Day. The company was set to price its shares by mid-September and had planned a roadshow for investors next week. That roadshow has been canceled, according to the report.

Groupon could not be reached for comment.

Groupon, which filed for its $750 million IPO in June, before the market tanked, isn’t the only company to get cold feet about going public. Zynga has also reportedly put off its IPO, which was originally set for September, until November.

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Amazon Testing 7-Eleven Package Pickup Lockers

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 12:27 PM PDT

Online retail giant Amazon is about to try out a locker-based delivery system at select 7-Eleven stores, according to multiple reports.

The new system will allow a customer to select at checkout a nearby 7-Eleven store for package pickup. The customer would then enter a PIN to retrieve the package from an Amazon locker — akin to a P.O box — inside the designated store.

The locker setup was spotted by Geekwire reporter John Cook at a Seattle Capital Hill-area 7-Eleven on Sunday. A store clerk informed Cook that the Amazon lockers would be activated on Friday.

How will it work exactly? Amazon is mum on the matter, but The Daily, citing an unnamed source, has a few details on the prototype in-store package-pickup system.

The customer will receive an email notification with a bar code on his or her smartphone. At the 7-Eleven store, the customer stands in front of the locker system — a cross between an ATM and a safety deposit box — and it scans the bar code and then provides a PIN that the customer punches to retrieve the package.

The pilot program, if successful, could be rolled out to 7-Eleven locations across the U.S. by next summer, according to The Daily.

Amazon could not be reached for comment.

Images courtesy of Geekwire, John Cook.

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10 Killer Apps for the Coworking Professional

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 12:06 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.

Imaginative freelancers and open-minded collaborators come together each day to bounce ideas and innovate in coworking spaces. These shared offices rent desks to solo workers and tiny companies. Whether you’re new to coworking or a veteran of the space, there are plenty of digital tools that can transform the work experience, whether that be by connecting with experts or better managing finances.

We took a look at the tools coworkers and coworking spaces are using to maximize productivity. Here are the top 10.

1. Cobot

Cobot is a sleek, easy-to-use coworking space management software developed by Co.up in Berlin. The service offers invoicing, membership agreements, room bookings and other resources for members.

If your space likes the easy accessibility of keeping shared information stored in Google Docs, Cobot might be a good fit. If you're unsure if the service is right for your coworking space, you can try it for free for 30 days.

2. FreshBooks

FreshBooks was designed to help businesses get paid by their clients with ease -- the FreshBooks team understands that people go into freelancing hoping to avoid such a tedious chore. "Our job is to make sure they do as little of that paperwork as possible," says Stuart MacDonald, chief marketing officer of FreshBooks.

The service works with a number of different payment providers, sending online invoices to your clients. MacDonald says the service is ideal for people who get paid for their time and expertise, like artists, designers, developers and writers.

3. HipChat

HipChat is a group-chat service that's ideal for remote teams, and it's lauded for its simplicity. "Hipchat is the easiest to get people started, which is important for us because we're not limited to just tech-savvy folks," says Alex Hillman, cofounder of Independents Hall.

You can access your chat room through a desktop, web or mobile application, so it's easy to connect no matter where you're working.

4. iTeleport

Do you find yourself switching computers often? iTeleport is a great iOS app for accessing your home base computer remotely. Whether you switch between desktop or laptop to iPad or iPhone, you'll never be without your needed information and documents.

5. Loosecubes

Coworkers love their jobs and love their spaces. If you're on the road and don't want to return to the old era of the coffee shop, try Loosecubes to find available desks near you. "Being able to cowork, even when you're miles away from your home coworking space, is a great perk of this global community," says Beth Buczynski, author of Gone Coworking.

Toby Morning, chief evangelist of Citizen Space, considers Loosecubes and similar services Liquid Spaces and Desk Wanted to be great marketing tools for his space, constantly attracting new coworkers.

6. Mavenlink

Mavenlink is a Google app for product management that works seamlessly with your other Google extensions, streamlining group collaboration, budget tracking and file sharing.

"I wanted a tool for people to connect with each other even when they're not at Link [Coworking], and Mavenlink does that very easily," says Liz Elam, Curator of Link Coworking.

7. Ohours

For freelancers and small business folk looking to connect with experts in their fields, Ohours is a great way to find people. Experts host open office hours, using video chats to connect across the globe. The service is also used to arrange face-to-face meetups. Open office hours are a great way to learn about new industries, without investing in a grueling crash course.

8. Socialcast

Socialcast is a microblogging and sharing platform connecting people in real discussions. Industry professionals can engage in messaging, town hall meetings and polling. The program even includes analytics to measure the strengths of your network.

9. Wave Accounting

If you're done dealing with loads of different receipts, try Wave Accounting, a free online accounting app for small business. The app is ideal for people who may not have the resources to hire accounting personnel.

Wave is also ideal for collaboration. It's easy to grant partial or full access to different users to view your records. "I can let my bookkeeper see my business accounting without showing how much I paid for my wife's birthday present," says Rob Maurin, Wave's senior director for marketing and community.

10. WorkFlowy

If you're a master of the simple to-do list, Workflowy might be the app for you. The speedy, simple interface is perfect for people balancing lots of tasks simultaneously. The service comes with no predefined formatting constraints, so it feels as seamless as jotting tasks on a sticky-note.

The Future of Digital Coworking

While there are tons of tools out there, Angel Kwiatkowski, founder of Cohere, believes the community is missing an overarching network for coworkers to connect. “We need help finding or developing a tool that allows for members of different coworking communities in far away states and countries to find one another and collaborate,” says Kwiatkowski. “I’m hoping that in the next year, we’ll have a great digital tool at our disposal that would allow a member of Cohere in Colorado to easily search out another coworker in say, Pakistan, who might be able to help with a problem or share ideas on a project.”

Are you a coworker using a tool we didn’t mention? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Sprint Sues to Block AT&T, T-Mobile Deal

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 11:44 AM PDT

Less than a week after the U.S. Justice Department stepped in to try to prevent AT&T from buying T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel has jumped into the fray by suing both companies.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., Sprint argues that the deal would harm consumers and business customers and entrench the “duopoly” of AT&T and Verizon, which could use their heft to harm Sprint and other competitors.

“With today's legal action, we are continuing that advocacy on behalf of consumers and competition, and expect to contribute our expertise and resources in proving that the proposed transaction is illegal,” said Susan Z. Haller, vice president of litigation for Sprint, in a statement.

The DOJ’s case is essentially the same. Its complaint charges that the takeover would violate antitrust laws and "would substantially lessen competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services across the United States, resulting in higher prices, poorer quality services, fewer choices and fewer innovative products for the millions of American consumers who rely on mobile wireless services in their everyday lives."

Leigh Horner, a spokesperson for Sprint, told Mashable that the company wanted to weigh in on the Justice Department’s suit. “We have an expertise in the industry,” Horner says, “and we wanted to make sure we were active in the court proceeding.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, walknboston

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Checking In Is the Least Popular Smartphone Activity [STUDY]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 11:03 AM PDT

Foursquare Gowalla Map Image

Checking in to locations with geosocial services like Foursquare is the least popular activity among smartphone users, finds a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

While more than half of the smartphone owners in the survey of 2,277 adults report accessing social networks, sending photos and viewing email, just 12% of smartphone owners say they use checkin services.

Geotagging updates to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are also fairly uncommon. Just 9% of Internet users and 14% of social media users say they include their location with their social posts.

Smartphone users are much more likely to find directions or search for recommendations, with 55% of respondents saying they use similar services.

The relatively shallow market penetration of checkin services is not surprising. In November, Pew released survey results showing 4% of online adults use location-based services and only 1% use these services on a given day.

Even though the new study focused exclusively on mobile checkins, as opposed to including online checkins that may occur without a mobile device, the percentage of users didn’t jump. Five percent of mobile owners (including smartphone owners) say they check in.

Checkin services are not mainstream, but does that make them all hype? Or could there be a twist — like location-based gaming — that could win them a spot on the average smartphone?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Images courtesy of Flickr, Ed Yourdon

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Andrew Belle Premieres “The Ladder” on Mashable [VIDEO]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 10:55 AM PDT

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

Indie musician Andrew Belle’s new music video, “The Ladder” — for the title track from his sophomore album — premieres today on Mashable. This animated video’s hand-drawn appearance and story fit the lyrics well. Visually, it is a bit reminiscent of Radiohead’s classic “Paranoid Android” from 1997.

Belle has been cited by MTV, Billboard and iTunes as a musician to watch and has an extensive social media following. He was a guest DJ in Mashable‘s Summer Fridays room earlier this summer.

The artist maintains two Twitter accounts, @AndrewBelle and @team_belle. The @team_belle account is for the musician’s very active street team. On Facebook, Belle has more than 27,000 fans. Last winter, Belle embarked on a 20 Days, 20 Questions with his Facebook and Twitter followers, posting a new answer each day to YouTube.

We’ve seen independent and mainstream artists alike embrace a more multifaceted approach to social media. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — and even Instagram — allow these artists to connect with the people who listen to their music, while also sharing a more personal part of their own work.

What do you think of the video?

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Pantless Knights Create a Tribute to Steve Jobs [VIDEO]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 09:50 AM PDT

Comedic songwriters Pantless Knights are at it again with a new, tech-related tribute video honoring Steve Jobs.

The video, produced by Seedwell, re-works a popular Jay-Z song “What More Can I Say” from The Black Album. Pantless Knights’ “The New Dork” also parodied a Jay-Z track, “Empire State of Mind.”

Check out the above video “We Are All Steve,” in which several different people appear in Steve Jobs’s signature look – glasses and a black turtleneck – rapping from Jobs’s perspective about his global influence and general awesomeness.

The Pantless Knights don’t exclusively rap about the tech world, but this isn’t the first time they’ve donned Jobs’s garb. Way back in 2009, their spoof “I’m on a Mac” went viral and was viewed nearly 2 million times on YouTube.

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Why Niche Social Networks Encourage More Meaningful Interaction [OPINION]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 09:03 AM PDT

This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Tom Cortese is co-founder and CEO of, where he oversees the company's day-to-day operations, and continues to build a unique space for family and close friends to share and preserve their memories. Follow him on Twitter @tcortese.

On Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, it's all about the feed. Tidbits of information, usually about current happenings, move down the screen at a stock ticker's pace, giving off an infectious energy. It's an energy that not only keeps us returning to these sites, clamoring for more, but one that also dictates what we share and with whom we choose to share it.

These massive social sites are today’s fast-paced, online cities. Inside their walls we are compelled to create large networks of connections. We watch as updates move through our feed, and we add to the communal stream of consciousness, knowing that what we share has a shelf life of mere minutes. Then it's buried, and our social feeds continue to churn and deliver the next batch of evermore recent updates.

So where's my online country retreat, where calm inspires reflection? Where the pace is slowed and I can mingle with a smaller, more intimate group? We learn so much from each other when we share and connect. But, when we are connected to a broad group, we tend to share things that are easily digested by a broad audience. The insider details are lost.

SEE ALSO: Why Mainstream Social Networks Complicate Our Identities [OPINION]

The big three social networks — Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+ — all encourage maximum connections. They also prioritize only the most recently shared information. As a result, we seem to share similarly across all three. These sites encourage a certain breed of information sharing, but this one breed, popular though it is, is not the end-all, be-all of online social interactions — it's just a singular mode of expression.

There is room for more.

Are Circles the Answer?

Google+ got us all thinking about sharing differently with different people. G+ placed its “Circles” right between us and a connection. Google's thesis — that we share differently with different groups offline, and should therefore do the same online — makes a lot of sense. Even Facebook bought into the argument, and recently added new sharing controls similar to the G+ Circles. But it’s not just whom we're sharing with that affects what we choose to share. Where we are, what else is “happening” around us, and other context cues also help shape our online show-and-tell.

Sharing using G+ Circles or Facebook's new controls makes me feel like I'm standing in one open space, alternately shouting and whispering to reach different people. As a user, it's awkward to share certain family-specific information in the same place that I'm sharing with colleagues or friends. I need to remain acutely aware of who is in each Circle, and put aside my fears that I may have accidentally dropped someone in the wrong bucket (something I've done more than once). Perhaps this is why casual observation seems to indicate that people are rarely sharing differently to different Circles anyway.

More importantly, just because I have family and colleagues neatly carved out on G+ and Facebook doesn't mean that I have family-specific or work-specific interactions. Instead, colleagues, family, friends and followers alike all seem to share the same types of information: interesting links, recent photos and short updates. The fact that all three big social networks inspire a very similar brand of sharing has everything to do with the fact that they are nearly identical, at this point. They are quasi-public (friends of friends is a big group) or public, with information homogeneously dumped into a chronological listing topped by a small, blank input field.

Focused Social Networks

Focused social networks, on the other hand, provide contextual clues and specific features to inspire a custom type of sharing. LinkedIn is a social network with a very specific purpose. Logging into LinkedIn is like walking into a job fair or a networking event. You put your game face on, and only share information relevant to your career aspirations or recruiting needs. And you only connect with other professionals. It's the ultimate "Circle." As a result, it encourages a specific type of sharing and a specific type of connection.

It would be meaningless to write a recommendation for a former colleague on Facebook, Twitter or G+. It would have no lasting impact because it would quickly disappear down the feed. LinkedIn organizes information around an individual's resume, and thus, information attached to that resume, like a recommendation, lives on and can serve its purpose long after it was initially shared.

LinkedIn might be the current king of the focused social networks, but there are plenty of others slowly gaining traction, or at least trying to. is a social network for endurance athletes. As a runner, Athlinks is my "running buddies" circle. This social network automatically imports results from running races, triathlons and the like, and makes it easy to share information about my latest running shoe purchase, or the absurdly long race for which I plan to train. It even generates a list of my local "rivals." It boasts custom functionality that supports a specific type of sharing with a specific social circle. Its functionality, however, wouldn't have a home within a big, one-size-fits-all networking site.

Other focused social networking sites are designed for a variety of other common, real-world social circles, providing relevant context and functionality. Some are full sites, others mobile apps, and plenty live in tandem with the big networks — Facebook apps, for example.

Room for Diversity

Online and off, the place we’re in or the site we’re on plays a role in setting the mood and tone of our conversations. The place itself even helps set the tone for who you should bring along with you.

We can foster a variety of different social interactions online if we provide the unique tools to support them. There is room online for more diversity in what we share. Once we move beyond the current formula, we can connect in new, unique ways online — all with the goal of getting to know each other even better.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, 4×6

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Sony Hires Homeland Security Veteran as Security Chief

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 08:17 AM PDT

More than four months after hackers brought down its PlayStation Network, accessing the personal information of more than 100 million users, Sony has hired a veteran of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as its security chief.

Philip Reitinger, the former deputy under secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been named senior vice president and chief information security officer at Sony, the company announced Tuesday. Reitinger will oversee information security, privacy and Internet safety across the company. In addition to serving at the Department of Homeland Security, Reitinger also worked at Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sony’s stock has fallen about 45% since the April hacker attacks. Meanwhile, the company just kicked off a new ad campaign for PlayStation featuring fictional Sony executive Kevin Butler.

Image courtesy of Flickr, blindfutur3

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You Can Compose Nokia’s New Default Ringtone

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 07:34 AM PDT

Nokia’s instantly recognizable default ringtone has hardly changed since its 1994 release. Now, the mobile giant is ready to make over the simple tune. This time, Nokia wants you to be the composer.

“The tune should be fresh, expressive, original, creative yet distinctively a Nokia Tune,” Nokia says.

Think you can pull it off? In addition to creating the next Nokia anthem, the grand prize winner will receive $10,000. Nokia will also give consolation prizes of $1,000 to five runners-up.

Entries must be submitted by Oct. 2. The five entries with the most public votes, as well as an additional five entries selected by a panel of judges will enter the finals. The judges will choose the grand prize winner.

The new Nokia tune will come in a selection of Nokia devices released in 2012. Nokia expects the selected tune to be available on about 100 million devices.

To participate, head on over to and create your Nokia-inspired masterpiece or vote for other entries.

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RIM Investor Urges the Company to Sell Itself [REPORT]

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 07:21 AM PDT

A Research In Motion investor proposes that the ailing company should sell itself or spin off its patents to appease shareholders, according to a report.

Jaguar Financial Corp. CEO Vic Alboini told Bloomberg on Tuesday that RIM should also create a committee of four or five independent directors to look into those options. Alboini declined to say how big a stake Jaguar has in RIM, but said the proposal is backed by large shareholders who collectively own less than 5% of RIM.

This isn’t the first time a RIM investor has attempted to take a more active role. In June, billionaire Stephen Jarislowsky called on RIM to split the roles of chairman and CEO. RIM currently has two co-CEOs — Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. Both are also co-chairmen. Jarislowsky’s call has so far been unheeded.

The proposal is the latest challenge to RIM, whose stock has fallen about 35% in the past year. RIM’s share of the smartphone market fell from 25.7% to 21.7% from April to July as consumers flocked to smartphones based on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms at RIM’s expense.

Reps from RIM could not be reached for comment on the report.

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