Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Adobe Announces Flash 11 and AIR 3 for October”


Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Adobe Announces Flash 11 and AIR 3 for October”

Adobe Announces Flash 11 and AIR 3 for October

Posted: 21 Sep 2011 04:05 AM PDT

Adobe today announced the availability of Flash 11 as well as AIR 3 on a variety of platforms, including Android, iOS (via AIR), BlackBerry Tablet OS, Mac OS and Windows, for early October.

The big feature in the new version of Flash is the ability to run hardware-accelerated 3D graphics inside the player. Together with some improvements of Flash’s 2D capabilities, this should enable a 1,000 times faster rendering performance over Flash Player 10 and AIR 2. In layman’s terms, this means console-quality games on all platforms mentioned above.

AIR 3 brings support for native extensions, as well as captive runtime, meaning the developers can automatically pack AIR 3 with their apps which will simplify the installation process.

Other new features of note are rental and subscription options for content publishers, content protection across all supported platforms (including mobile platforms) and HD video quality across platforms.

Check out a preview of the new features in Flash 11 as well as Air 3 in the video below.

More About: adobe, Adobe Air 3, Adobe Flash 11, air, Air 3, Flash, Flash 11

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The Games People Play [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 21 Sep 2011 03:24 AM PDT

We’ve long known that casual gaming is on the rise. Busy professionals, parents and retirees may not be inclined to pick up an Xbox controller, but they’re certainly flinging Angry Birds on the train and growing virtual crops by the bushel.

The ubiquity of mobile and the feats of modern web browsers are certainly at the root of these new pastimes. The result? The demographic once known as “gamers” has become more complex.

The infographic below, courtesy of One More Level, breaks down what’s happening in the casual gaming space.

SEE ALSO: Addicted to Angry Birds? Here's Help [INFOGRAPHIC]

Has a new Facebook title brought you into the gaming fold? Are you a serious gamer with concerns about the direction of the industry? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Source: One More Level Flash Games

More About: casual gaming, Gaming, infographics, video games

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HTC Rhyme Available for Pre-Order Today

Posted: 21 Sep 2011 01:55 AM PDT

HTC Rhyme, the company’s latest smartphone subtly aimed at the female demographic, will be available for pre-order at Target starting today.

The device has a 3.7-inch screen, a single-core 1 GHz CPU, a 5-megapixel camera, 768 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage space.

It runs Android 2.3 with Sense 3.5 and comes with the usual extras, including WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS and a microSD slot for memory expansion. What makes it a bit different from all the Androids on the market is its tiny case and purple color.

Also, the device is coming with a host of accessories, including the HTC Rhyme Charm, a gizmo that attaches to the phone and glows when you receive a call or text message.

The device will be available in stores on September 29, but you can pre-order it at Target Mobile from September 21 through 26. When the device goes live on Target, the price tag will likely be $199 with a two-year contract with Verizon. In the U.K., the Rhyme will exclusively be available under O2′s wing from October 17.

More About: android, htc, HTC Rhyme, Rhyme, smartphone, Target

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Not Google+: The First Antisocial Network [PARODY VIDEO]

Posted: 21 Sep 2011 01:10 AM PDT

Do you feel like there’s simply too many social networks you have to manage? You aren’t alone.

On the heels of Google opening Google+ to the public, the people over at College Humor decided to create their own social network: Not Google+.

Joining Not Google+ is simple: “Don’t join Google+.” The next step is simple as well. “Once you’ve done that, don’t invite your friends to join Google+.”

While College Humor picks on Google for the entire two minute video, it does make a good point: do we really need another social network?

Google seems to think so. College Humor thinks you should play tetherball with a small Portuguese child instead. Let us know what you think of the phenomenon of social networking overload in the comments.

More About: college humor, Google, social networking, Video

Social Good Summit Recap: Day 2

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 08:22 PM PDT

summit image

Day Two has wrapped at the Social Good Summit and we’ve got plenty to report. It was another exciting day with some interesting conversations around media, tech, women’s issues and corporations.

SEE ALSO: Social Good Summit: Liveblogging Elie Wiesel

There were some great highlights from Day Two, which we’ve summed up for you here. If you’re interested in following what’s happening at the Summit, be sure to join us online at our livestream.


Tennis star Serena Williams got onstage with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake to announce that she will be UNICEF’s newest Good Will Ambassador. “We’re going to work her to death,” Lake joked. “This might be the end of her tennis career!” Williams will help represent UNICEF worldwide and will embark on help and good will missions to areas in need. “Playing tennis, I work hard every day … there’s no time off,” Williams said. “I want to be the best at what I do and whether I’m playing tennis or anything else, I want to stand out and make a lasting impression.” Lake responded with two words: “Big heart.”

Beth Comstock, GE’s Chief Marketing Officer and SVP, announced that in addition to GE’s Ecomagination and Health Imagination challenges, the company will facilitate the creation of a “super database” of information around cancer treatment. Comstock hopes the database will be populated by scientists, drug companies and everyday users to help turn cancer from a fatal disease, to a livable chronic disease to ultimately non-existent.

Talking Points

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel took the stage for a Q&A with Mashable founder and CEO Pete Cashmore to talk about new media and ethics. Wiesel, a confessed Luddite, spoke on how technology is changing the world by creating global communities, changing how information is received and remembered, and how technology is reinventing the publishing industry (though Wiesel still prefers to read books and write by hand).

LIVESTRONG had its own panel, where founder Lance Armstrong and president and CEO, Doug Ulman spoke about how the little yellow wristband made such a big difference. Armstrong said they originally didn’t know what to do with the bands, but that they soon took on great significance. Ulman said the bands helped democratize philanthropy and de-stigmatize cancer as a taboo subject. The bands created a sort of global community around cancer awareness which LIVESTRONG’s social media presence has helped to develop.

Ericsson hosted a panel on how social media is helping refugee communities. Often times digital tools can help displaced people feel like they belong or to bring families back together. “Being able to see families being physically reunited … The most important part of the job is to make people who are suffering enormously feel like they have lives as close as possible to our lives,” said Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Interesting Stats

Geena Davis took the stage to speak about the portrayal of women in the media. Her institute conducted a study of recent PG-13 movies and found that 81% of characters that held jobs were male. Female characters were rarely shown as scientists, lawyers, medical professionals, politicians or any other position of status. Davis then said that the more hours of television a young girl watches, the fewer options she’ll think she has in life. Davis is an advocate for gender equality and media and hopes that these stats will help move the needle by 2015. “When are we going to get over the idea that it’s shocking that women can do things?” Davis said.

Mandy Moore, Randi Zuckerberg and activist Derrick Ashong held a Facebook town hall to talk about Nothing But Nets and malaria eradication. More than 1 million children die of malaria every year, Ashong said. Nothing But Nets has used their Champions program — tapping celebrities like Moore to raise awareness and advocate — to get serious funding including a $200 million promise from World Bank.

Quote of the Day

“Human beings all change. Not what they are but who they are. We have the power to change what we do with our life and turn it into our destiny.” — Elie Wiesel

Pictures from Day Two

Take a look through some of these selected pictures from Day Two at the Summit.

SEE ALSO: Mashable's Social Good Summit: Day 1 [PICS]

Lance Armstrong Backstage

Lance Armstrong and Serena Williams

Elie Wiesel

Pete Cashmore and Elie Wiesel

Adam Ostrow, Serena Williams and Anthony Lake

Lance Ulanoff, Lance Armstrong and Doug Ulman

Santinder Bindra, Christopher Mikkelsen, Hans Vestberg and Antonio Guterres

Aaron Sherinian, Paula Kerger, Abigail Disney, Asi Burak and Geena Davis

Backstage in the Green Room

Randi Zuckerberg, Pete Cashmore, Mandy Moore and Derrick Ashong

Christina Warren and Beth Comstock

Preview of the Summit

Head over to our Summit page to find out about upcoming speakers, see detailed agendas for each day and even watch along on our livestream.

Event Details

Date: Monday, September 19, 2011, through Thursday, September 22, 2011

Time: 1:00-5:00 p.m. ET

Livestream: Join us online for the Livestream

Hashtag: Follow the hashtag #socialgood to keep up with the latest developments at the Social Good Summit.

Sponsored by Ericsson

For over a century, Ericsson has seen communications as a fundamental human right. Today, it is the leading provider of technology and services to network operators. Its networks connect 2 billion people and almost half of the world’s 5.5 billion mobile subscriptions. Now, Ericsson intends to do for broadband what it did for the telephone; make it mobile, available and affordable for all. Ericsson's vision is to be the prime driver of an all-communicating world, where Information and Communications technologies (ICT) come together to create a Networked Society. A Networked Society will bring many opportunities and challenges. As Ericsson works in the world, it aims to apply innovative solutions together with partners to make a real difference to peoples' lives, to business and to the economy, enabling change towards a more sustainable world. We call this Technology for Good.

Sponsored by Ericsson

More About: Social Good, social good summit, Social Media

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Erly Groups Social Content Around Shared Experiences

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:52 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: Erly

Quick Pitch: Erly is a social platform for organizing and sharing your personal content based on events and experiences.

Genius Idea: Grouping experiences, not people.

“The human brain stores, indexes and manages information by two canonical paths. The first is people-based and the second is experience-based,” says Eric Feng, the former CTO of Hulu and current founder of experience-driven social startup Erly.

Erly launched last Wednesday as a counter to the typical person-centric social network. Its intention is to help web users group content by experience, and connect with people through shared experiences or events.

“On the social web, everyone is focused on connecting people,” Feng adds. “We didn’t feel like there was enough attention or resources being dedicated to an experience-based way to organize that exact same content, even though that’s what you do in your head everyday for a lot of different things.”

The startup, for the time being, is structured entirely around Collections — think of them as next generation photo albums, or “Twitter hashtags for real life,” as Feng describes them.

Collections, he says, were inspired by big events. He points to how photos and videos from weddings make their way into the Facebook activity feed in a haphazardly, here-today-gone-tomorrow fashion. “You have to manually go from person to person to recreate that content,” he says.

Instead, with Collections, Erly users group together content by experience or event. Photos are automatically aggregated and pulled in from Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Picasa. Videos and links can be intelligently embedded from third-party social sites, and text notes can be added by Collection members to recount memories with more depth.

Collections can be singular or group affairs. They can also either be private to contributors or open to the public. And, as you build more Collections, Erly weaves them together in a dynamic visual timeline, organized by date.

This date-structured timeline hints at Erly’s grander vision to reinvent the calendar. Feng envisions “a calendar that you can live in.” Erly could theoretically enhance and tie together past, present and future experiences. Collections, Feng says, tackle the past tense by helping users recall, remember and recollect. Future Erly products will address present and future tenses by automatically creating collections for users and assisting with the discovery of events, he says.

Erly in its present state somewhat reminds us a bit of Pictarine, albeit with a stronger emphasis on story-telling and an anything-goes attitude toward web content. But, where Erly really wows is with its interface — it’s innovative, intuitive and evocative. Add a few photos, notes or videos to a Collection and it immediately comes alive in a way that puts the traditional online photo gallery to shame.

Perhaps Feng’s “living” calendar is within reach after all. “We want to create … a platform that, in the future, helps you never miss out on the things going on in your life. In the present, it would help you stay in the moment … and in the past, it would help you remember.”

Erly is based in Menlo Park, California. The startup is backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — a natural pairing given that Feng spent a year at the firm working with Al Gore on Greentech initiatives.

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, Erly, spark-of-genius

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Foursquare Hack Switches Your Profile Photo Based on Your Location

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:22 PM PDT

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

You change depending on where you are going. So why shouldn’t your profile photo? One participant at Foursquare’s first global hack day came up with a way to automatically change your picture to match the kind of venue you’re checked into.

PlaceFace, created by Jason Pope and Jonathan Wegener at the weekend-long event in New York, asks users to select profile photos for eight Foursquare categories such as “education” and “nightlife.” When a user checks into a new venue, the app changes his or her Foursquare profile photo to match the venue’s category. Enthusiastic users can also connect their Twitter accounts, so the thumbnails on their tweets change at the same time.

The hack won third place, which means Pope and Wegener are the proud owners of a giant, inflatable remote-controlled shark. It also means they’ll be entered in the global competition, where they have the opportunity to win a boxing-inspired prize belt.

Wegener is no stranger to this scene. At a Foursquare hack day in February, he built what is now a popular app called 4SquareAnd7YearsAgo. It uses the Foursquare API to remind you what you were doing a year ago. Pope, a software engineer at a computer security company, is a Foursquare hackathon rookie. The pair met when Wegener stopped by the hackathon for what he intended to be an hour, and ended up staying the entire weekend.

The team isn’t allowed to update the hack until voting for the global competition is finished, but eventually Wegener says they might update the hack with an option to take photos on a webcam and add more of Foursquare’s 364 different categories — starting with the burrito category.

More About: foursquare, hack of the week

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GE’s Beth Comstock on Why Openness Is Good For Business and the World

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:57 PM PDT

beth comstock

Many people don’t associate big business with social responsibility. Beth Comstock, the chief marketing officer at GE, thinks that’s completely backwards.

Comstock believes the key to business success is innovation. Innovation is driven by understanding and responding to the world’s needs, she said, quoting GE’s founder Thomas Edison at the Social Good Summit Tuesday. “We think it’s our job to make the world work better,” said Comstock. “In our minds, that’s the meaning of sustainability. None of us can do it alone and maybe that’s surprising to hear from a company as big as ours.”

Comstock devotes a lot of energy to GE’s ecomagination, an effort to respond to the world’s environmental problems using clean technologies while driving economic growth. She has read some 5,000 pitches from green startups. Despite GE’s big name, Comstock maintains she is open for hearing great solutions from any and all partners. That openness, she believes, is at the heart of economic success.

“Our biggest challenges right now are emerging markets,” she says. “If you think you have a good business model, we’re open for business.”

As for the future of her own company, Comstock would like to see GE forming new business partnerships. “I’d like us to be seen as a partner of choice,” she says. “I want people to think that we’re an open company and that we’re open for good ideas.” Comstock indicated that one of her goals for GE is to make the company a leader in transparency and to connect with global partners to solve the world’s problems.

A popular refrain from Comstock was that there are too many problems in the world for one company or organization to solve on its own. Partnerships are necessary to get things done, but good partnerships must exist around a shared objective and shared risk. You also can’t just fund an idea and then go away, she said. To scale, you have to stay committed.

To that end, Comstock also announced that GE would facilitate the creation of a "super database" of information about cancer, which she hopes will be completed by a collaborative effort from scientists, drug companies and everyday users.

Image courtesy of Michael Cummings.

More About: Business, GE, Social Good, social good summit

Did Wikileaks Force the Director of Al Jazeera to Resign?

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:30 PM PDT

On Tuesday, Wadah Khanfar stepped down from his role as director of the television network Al Jazeera, following the release of embarrassing documents by Wikileaks.

The documents insinuate that Khanfar was in frequent contact with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in regards to how Al Jazeera was covering stories involving the United States. It appears that Khanfar removed or altered content in response to objections by the DIA.

As The New York Times points out, the cooperative relationship between Al-Jazeera and the U.S. government is in direct contrast with the perception that Al-Jazeera is highly critical of U.S. politics.

The official statement from Al Jazeera is that Khanfar had been planning to resign since June and was just waiting for his replacement to be chosen in order “to ensure a smooth transition.” The network hasn’t addressed the insinuation that the Wikileaks documents are connected with Khanfar’s resignations. On Twitter, Khanfar himself has said that he is “entertainmed by all the rumors of why I have resigned.”

Wikileaks or Political Infighting?

Khanfar’s successor is a Qatari businessman and member of the royal family. As The Atlantic Wire notes, that royal connection might have more to do with Khanfar’s resignation than Julian Assange and company.

According to Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy, “there were already strong reasons to question just how much editorial independence the network really has.” Hounshell goes on to describe Al-Jazeera acting at times like “the official network of the Qatari Foreign Ministry” and opines that Khanfar may not have wanted to take orders from any government, be it the United States or Qatar.

Al Jazeera has played an important role in the broadcast and online discourse taking place in the Arab world. It will be interesting to watch how, or if, its coverage and tone takes on any significant changes in the future.

Photo courstey of Joi

More About: al jazeera, wadah khanfar, wikileaks

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NewsMix Makes a Magazine From Your Facebook “Likes”

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:09 PM PDT

Social software maker Sobees has released NewsMix for Facebook, a social magazine specifically designed for the world’s largest social network.

The NewsMix for Facebook application presents updates from the Facebook Pages you “like” in a magazine-like fashion.

The application joins Sobees‘ other NewsMix applications for web and iPad. The company’s primary goal is to create a digital newsstand relevant to each user and appropriate for each platform.

In the Facebook application, collected stories represent the articles, photos and videos as posted by Facebook Pages. You can also check out Facebook friends’ magazines and “like” Pages you discover as you browse.

The application will appeal to the subset of Facebook users who want a unique and aesthetically pleasing way to discover news items from their favorite brands, media companies and celebrities while on Facebook.

The association between “likes” and news stories in NewsMix may be a bit troublesome for others. Often, users “like” a Page just to get a temporary glimpse at its content or earn some fleeting reward. Thus, clicking the “like” button does not always indicate a genuine interest. So, while NewsMix does a decent a job at the presentation piece, it may not be showing users news they actually want to read.

Have a look at the application and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, khawkins04

More About: newsmix, sobees, social news

Google+ vs. Facebook: The Gloves Are Off [OPINION]

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 05:42 PM PDT

Google versus Facebook

What a day. In the space of a few short hours, Google+ wrenched open the floodgates, allowing anyone to sign up for the fledgling social network — while Facebook retooled its newsfeed so you won't miss any of your friend’s vital updates.

Google+ managed to out-announce Facebook by a wide margin. The search giant offered a slew of new Google+ features, such as turning Hangouts into a bona fide broadcast platform. The search giant even added–you guessed it–search to the service.

For those of you not in Google+, which is most of you, this is a very big deal. Google+ has, by some measures, almost 20 million users and no way of finding anything. I have no idea why Google waited to introduce search until Google+ was out of the hands of Google's more trusted Web cognoscenti' audience. We could have debugged it for them. The company also managed to bury the lead, putting the fact that registration for Google+ is now open to the masses near the end of its announcement.

Facebook took one look at what Google was doing with the only social network that can really challenge it, and jumped. It announced changes to the Newsfeed that might have waited until the start of the F8 Facebook Developers conference, which begins this Thursday.

As I've said before, Facebook's lead in the social space is beyond substantial — but clearly the company feels the heat. Google+'s wealth of announcements and features makes it, I think, instantly competitive with Facebook. Even so, Google+ is so rich that it could overwhelm typical Facebook users who want to confine their usage patterns to the Facebook tools they know and love.

Google’s Hangouts, for instance, is pretty much a stand-alone application. Look at all the things you can do with it:

  • Hold hangouts via Android smartphone
  • Share your screen
  • Draw together
  • Create and edit documents together
  • Hold topic-based hangouts
  • Run your own TV network

Okay, that last one was an exaggeration, but there is the aforementioned new broadcast feature. You and up to nine of your friends can hold a hangout and then broadcast it to the world. Google picked a few stars, like, to run some of the early ones.

There is some one-upmanship in the moves between Google and Facebook, to put it mildly. Google believes in Google+ and sees an opportunity to grab some market share from the still-hot, but relatively mature Facebook.

Facebook has a roadmap, so it's doing more than simply reacting. But you know there has to be some tension in their Palo Alto offices.

The next few weeks and months will be especially telling for Google+. It's been populated with a ton of early adopters and tech-savvy folks. It's like its entire audience consists of One Percenters. What happens when average people join and do what they often do: look around and leave? It took years for Facebook to build up the level of interaction it enjoys today. Google+ Circles will encourage close-knit community interaction, but how will those weaned on ad-hoc groups like Google’s more rigid circles of trust?

On Facebook, most people use little of the rich feature set and have scant patience for all the settings. In fact, most don't even bother with them (how often do you see photos that you know your friends never intended to share?). Google+'s feature set is more organized, but also pretty highly visible. Will this encourage usage or turn people off in the end?

I don't know — I'm too busy sitting ringside, watching the Facebook vs. Google+ bout and enjoying the show.

More About: Facebook, Google, Google+, Opinion

A Brief History of the Emoticon

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 04:55 PM PDT

Did you know the emoticon is almost 30 years old? 29 years ago, Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, first proposed a colon, hyphen and bracket as a way of conveying emotional meaning via plain text.

Fast forward and the simple smiley has evolved — some might say mutated — into various, and very varied, multi-colored, animated characters leering at you from your computer or phone screen.

To mark this anniversary, we’ve taken an abridged look at some interesting moments in the history of the emoticon. Have a look through the gallery and let us know in the comments your thoughts on this form of communication.

1. The Olden Days

Using symbols to convey emotional meaning was not a 1980s concept. A hundred years previous, the "letter-press department" of satirical magazine Puck jokingly created typographical "studies in passion and emotions" so as not to be out-done by cartoonists.

It has since been suggested that one very early use of an emoticon can be credited to none other than Abraham Lincoln. In the original New York Times transcript of an 1862 speech by Lincoln, the symbol ;) appears. There have been interesting arguments put forth as to whether or not this was a winking face, or (as we suspect) simply a typo.

Various reports (that we've been unable to verify) suggest that in 1979, an ARPANET user called Kevin MacKenzie, inspired by an unidentified Reader's Digest article, suggested using punctuation to hint that something was "tongue-in-cheek," as opposed to out-and-out humorous.

Apparently, MacKenzie throught a hypen and a bracket -- -) -- would be a suitable symbol: "If I wish to indicate that a particular sentence is meant with tongue-in-cheek, I would write it so: 'Of course you know I agree with all the current administration's policies -).'

However, as we now know, it wasn't the tongue-in-cheek concept that took off, but the smiley-based emoticon. Although the classic yellow "smiley" design existed before Fahlman got creative with his computer keyboard...

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

2. The Smiley

The yellow smiley face symbol pre-dates and was developed independent of the emoticon, although now it could be argued the two symbols have merged in the general public's conciousness.

Back in 1963, a freelance artist called Harvey Ball designed a yellow smiley face to be used on a button to try and boost morale at a recently merged insurance company. Ball netted $45 for his design and by all accounts it was a success for the insurance company, but it wasn't until the 1970s when it became more widely known.

Bernard and Murray Spain, two brother from Philadelphia, saw the symbol's commercial potential, adopted it, added the phrase "have a happy day" and churned out millions of buttons, bumper stickers, t-shirts, mugs. Thanks to the Spain brothers, the smiley as a symbol of '70s hippie culture was born. Later in the '90s, the symbol was used to depict another counter-culture -- the acid rave scene.

Today, Ball's smiley is celebrated on "World Smile Day," the first Friday in October, when folk are encouraged to "Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile."

Image courtesy of Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation

3. A Proposal

Credited as containing the first modern emoticon, Scott Fahlman's original suggestion proposing punctation-as-symbols was posted on a Computer Science community message board at Carnegie Mellon in 1982.

Fahlman has since explained why he felt such symbols were required. "The problem was that if someone made a sarcastic remark, a few readers would fail to get the joke, and each of them would post a lengthy diatribe in response. That would stir up more people with more responses, and soon the original thread of the discussion was buried. In at least one case, a humorous remark was interpreted by someone as a serious safety warning."

"This problem caused some of us to suggest (only half seriously) that maybe it would be a good idea to explicitly mark posts that were not to be taken seriously."

"After all, when using text-based online communication, we lack the body language or tone-of-voice cues that convey this information when we talk in person or on the phone. Various 'joke markers' were suggested, and in the midst of that discussion it occurred to me that the character sequence :-) would be an elegant solution – one that could be handled by the ASCII-based computer terminals of the day. So I suggested that."

Interestly, Fahlman explains that the unhappy face symbol evolved further than he meant it to: "In the same post, I also suggested the use of :-( to indicate that a message was meant to be taken seriously, though that symbol quickly evolved into a marker for displeasure, frustration, or anger."

So what does Fahlman think about how the emoticon has developed? "It's interesting to note that Microsoft and AOL now intercept these character strings and turn them into little pictures," Fahlman says. "Personally, I think this destroys the whimsical element of the original."

If you agree, then we've a tip for you. Take a leaf out of Mashable European Editor Stan Schroeder's book and type your smilies backwards: (:

"When you type it backwards, scripts don't recognize them and they don't get turned into yellow ugly ones," says Schroeder. "They stay old school. (;"

4. Evolution & Easter Eggs

Text-based emoticons fast developed from the simple happy/unhappy face. Other characters were introduced to suggest further emotions, and even crude depictions of famous people/personas. Fahlman says this happened within months of his original post.

"Within a few months, we started seeing the lists with dozens of 'smilies': open-mouthed surprise, person wearing glasses, Abraham Lincoln, Santa Claus, the pope, and so on. Producing such clever compilations has become a serious hobby for some people."

When chatting on the internet became a serious hobby for the general public, emoticons evolved even further to be shown on screen as tiny images. Services like ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger and later MySpace started offering a wide range of emoticons that could be generated at the click of a mouse, rather than memorizing the charcaters needed to create them. These then evolved into animated versions.

There were also many "hidden," or "Easter egg" emoticons not shown on main menus that could be generated if you knew the correct character sequence. The emoticons shown here are the hidden emoticons available for Yahoo! Messenger. While Skype and MSN have their own versions, Facebook's "Chris Putnam" emoticon, depicting the designer, is a famous, although ultimately useless, hidden option.

In 2007, Yahoo! Messenger carried out a survey about emoticons. With 40,000 respondants, we think it's safe to say the results were a decent snapshot of how the average Messenger user felt about the medium.

82% of those who use Yahoo! Messenger said they used emoticons on a daily basis and 61% felt that they "best expressed themselves" in IM using emoticons.

5. The Future

Today, the iPhone's text messaging function does not automatically support emoticon graphics.

Gmail Chat's default emoticon setting is text-based with simple animation.

Have we gone past the elaborate emoticon phase in our ever-evolving history of digital communication?

Should recent calls to stop using emoticons be heeded?

Has the smiley become a tired cliche, soon to become obsolete, or is it still useful in the emotionless medium of SMS, IM and email?

Have your say on this topic in the comments below.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Laihiuyeung Ryanne

More About: emoticons, features, gallery

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Sheen vs. Kutcher: Who’s Dominating the Social Media Conversation? [STATS]

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 04:22 PM PDT

In the epic battle between Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher, which actor had more social staying power? On Monday night, audiences got to watch Kutcher join the cast of Two and a Half Men — while former Men star Sheen get roasted by way of Comedy Central.

Charlie Sheen dominated the social conversation, according to data from social media monitoring company Visible Technologies as well as information from social TV analytics platform Bluefin Labs.

Bluefin Labs Signals Pulse pegged The Roast of Charlie Sheen with 148,000 total comments, from 98,000 unique authors. In comparison, the new season of Two and a Half Men scored 92,000 total comments from 75,000 unique authors. Men came in third place for the night in Bluefin’s social TV dashboard, right behind Dancing with the Stars.

Visible Technologies broke down the number of tweets about Kutcher and Sheen in terms of volume and sentiment. While more tweets were about Sheen, he had proportionally more negative tweets than @Aplusk.

Check out this sample of tweets about both stars.

When it came to the roast itself, Amy Schumar had 38% of the mentions, beating out the likes of Mike Tyson, William Shatner and Seth MacFarlane.

“Men” Still Ratings Champ

The overnight ratings for Monday night are now in and Roast of Charlie Sheen scored 6.4 million viewers. That’s a record for the Comedy Central series, besting the 6.1 million viewers that tuned into the Jeff Foxworthy roast back in 2005.

As for Two and a Half Men, the Kutcher’s debut episode brought in a jaw-dropping 28.7 million viewers. For a network program, even a top-rated comedy, to score that many viewers is nothing short of astounding. Now let’s see how many viewers tune back in next week!

What show did you watch and tweet about last night? Let us know in the comments.

More About: ashton kutcher, Bluefin Labs, charlie sheen, social tv, visible technologies

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Glam Media Acquires Ning

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 03:59 PM PDT

Glam Media has acquired Ning, the platform that lets users create their own social networks, for an undisclosed amount. As part of the deal, Ning co-founder Marc Andreessen will be joining Glam Media’s board of directors.

“Acquiring Ning adds a natural extension to our social media platform, new distribution channels and a talented Silicon Valley team,” Glam Media CEO Samir Arora said in a statement.

Glam Media says that it will use Ning to create the first “next generation media company in the post-social world” by leveraging Ning’s technology and content with Glam’s 2,500 publishers and massive advertising platforms. One of the company’s goals is to create social media brand campaigns that utilize Glam and Ning’s technology. Another is to infuse Ning’s technology into Glam’s existing products, including GlamAdapt, GlamCreate and GlamConnect.

Ning will become a new business unit within Glam Media. Ning’s current CEO, Jason Rosenthal, will become the EVP of social media and the general manager of Ning.

Perhaps Glam’s biggest catch in the deal is Marc Andreessen, the Silicon Valley powerhouse that co-founded Netscape and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Andreessen, who sits on the boards of Facebook, eBay and HP, will be joining a board that already stars Accel’s Thereisa Ranzetta and DFJ’s Tim Draper.

"Glam Media is one of the most dynamic companies in the digital media space, and I am excited to help guide their further expansion,” Andreessen said in a statement.

Ning was founded in 2004 by Andreessen and Gina Bianchini, now the CEO of MightyBell. At its peak, Ning had more than 1 million social networks and a valuation north of $500 million. However, that wasn’t meant to last. Its user base began to shrink, Gina Bianchini left the company and the startup pivoted with premium offerings that never captured the imagination of the market.

We doubt that Ning got anywhere near $500 million in its sale to Glam. It’s a sad story of the fall of a once-great social media company. It’s up to Glam to find a way to utilize Ning’s remaining assets.

Update: Ning sold for approximately $200 million, AllThingsD reports.

More About: acquisition, glam media, ning

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Google +1 Buttons: Coming Soon to Display Ads

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 03:48 PM PDT

If you see a banner ad you like and want to share with friends — as unlikely as that may sound — Google will soon let you do that.

The company’s +1 buttons, rolled out earlier this year, will start appearing in Google display ads in October, according to a post on the company’s Inside AdWords blog. As mentioned in the blog, the +1 button is now on about a million websites, yielding more than 4 billion impressions a day.

For advertisers, the upside is clear: “For the first time, you'll be able to run social-enabled ad campaigns that work across millions of sites in over 40 countries around the world,” writes Eider Oliveira, senior software engineer, on the blog. Google’s search ads have carried +1 buttons since March, however.

When consumers see the ads, they can +1 it. In Google’s hypothetical example, Elaine +1′s an ad she likes. The next time her friends see the ad, they’ll also see Elaine’s recommendation and her picture. At the same time, Elaine’s friends are more likely to see the ad because such recommendations figure high in Google’s search algorithms.

It also doesn’t matter whether its a search ad, a banner or a website. The results are tallied whatever the format. Advertisers can also opt out of the whole program, as can consumers and publishers.

Google is not the first company to consider a social media-enabled banner ad. Digg has been running “Diggable” banner ads in its network for a year or so, and there are lots of “Like”-able banners within Facebook’s network — but that has done little to increase click-through rates for Facebook banners.

Will Google have more success? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Dear Netflix CEO: Here’s Why You’ll Miss Us. Love, DVDs [OPINION]

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 02:50 PM PDT

Dear Reed,

Honestly, we were a little surprised to read your blog entry Monday. We know how you’ve felt about us for a while now. You keep talking about your hot young streaming business. But we didn’t think you’d shun us quite so publicly. We had no idea you’d lock us up in a separate company with a tacky name. I mean really, Reed: Qwikster? Is that what we deserve, after all we’ve been through together?

We’re no fools, Reed: We know you put us there so you could either sell us or let us wither away in a hermetically sealed spin-off that couldn’t tarnish your main business. And nor are we sentimental (okay, quite a few million of us are pretty sentimental movies). We can’t lie. We have eyes. Streaming looks good. At its best, it’s better-looking and more convenient than we are.

But here’s the thing we think you’ve missed. Streaming is young, a slip of a thing. It has grown fast, yes, but it has nowhere near our breadth. (In fact, without the Starz deal, which expires in February and also leaves you without streaming rights to Disney and Pixar films, streaming may look thinner than ever.) We’re a mature and experienced content system. We have everything, every scrap of human knowledge, and entertainment that streaming hasn’t even begun to think of yet.

Why does that matter? Oh Reed, how soon you’ve forgotten to think like a customer. Why did people come to Netflix? It wasn’t simply for the streaming; they could have gone to Hulu for that. It was the same reason they walk into libraries and giant book stores: because it’s comprehensive. Whatever they could think of watching, it would be there. Anything. Sometimes you could watch it immediately, which was great. Other times — most often, in fact, when people had gone searching for something particular — you’d have to wait a day or two for the red envelope to arrive. No matter. People can be patient when they know they’re going to get what they wished for. (And if movies have taught us anything, it’s to really go after whatever we wish for.)

So for all the hotness of streaming, dear Reed, you’re going to see its shortcomings soon enough. You have already admitted your streaming library “can’t provide unlimited content.” You’re going to understand why 12 million people opted for both streaming and us — when clearly, if they wanted to just choose streaming, they already had the technology to do it. You’re going to see how useful we’ve been as part of an all-in-one service — the backbone of Netflix. You’re going to learn what it is they were looking for — everything in one place — and what they’ll do when they suddenly don’t have that any more.

In short, you’re about to get whipped by the Long Tail. Good luck with that.

Your DVDs

More About: DVDs, hulu, netflix, Qwikster, reed hastings

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7 Tips for Surviving & Thriving at Networking Events

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 02:29 PM PDT

Nellie Akalp is CEO of Since forming more than 100,000 corporations and LLCs across the U.S, she has built a strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in starting and protecting their business the right way. “Like” the Facebook page for exclusive discounts and giveaways. To learn more about Nellie and see how she can help your business get off the ground quickly and affordably, please visit here.

Whether you're launching a startup or looking for new opportunities, networking events are an essential part of the game. Some lucky individuals dive right into these events and come out with five great leads and a new hiking buddy. But for others, these orchestrated events can be a total drag, full of awkward moments and monotonous small talk.

Whether you're a seasoned veteran or new to the networking scene, here are seven ways to make the most of these events.

1. Remind Yourself: You're There to Give, Not Get

All too often, new entrepreneurs and job seekers go into a networking event thinking it's their one shot to get X, Y or Z. By setting the stakes so high, you suck all the fun out of the event and put an inordinate amount of pressure on your shoulders.

Change your mindset. You're not there to get. Instead, you're there to contribute to the event, help others or just learn what other professionals are doing. This little change in thinking will boost your sense of purpose and self-worth and erase that overwhelming pressure. Before you know it, you'll find yourself having a good time, developing strong relationships and attracting loads of referrals.

2. Don't Appear Desperate

Whether you're dating or networking, neediness is a major turn-off. As discussed above, when your main purpose is getting something from the event, you send the message that you're deprived of something (a job, customers, clients) and you're looking to the person you're meeting to save you. So no matter how badly you need a job or new client, you've got to set that aside when interacting with others.

3. Have Sincere Conversations

There's a lot of jargon out there, and these buzzwords block any kind of meaningful conversation or relationship. Yes, you should prepare and practice answers to expected questions like “So what do you do?” But these answers should be simple, natural and in plain English. Your goal is for anyone (not just those in your industry circle) to understand and connect with what you're saying.

And if you find yourself stuck on the receiving end of a stuffy, jargon-filled elevator pitch, try to shift the dynamic with a simple question like “So what does that mean?” You'll get into a more natural, and interesting, conversation.

4. Ask Open-Ended Questions

This is a great skill for anyone who can't stand all the repetitive small talk associated with meeting people the first time. The goal here is to always ask people questions that can't be answered with a simple yes or no. Pick questions that demand a real answer, like, “How has your industry changed in the past 10 years?” “What are your customers asking for the most?” and “Why do you think that is?”

As a general rule of thumb, "why" questions generate the most interesting answers and conversations.

5. Limit Your Drinking

You might think that a few stiff drinks will help you relax and mingle. There’s nothing wrong with a drink or two, but know your limit. When talking with potential employers, clients or referrals, you want to be as sharp, clear and on top of your game as possible, and alcohol doesn't always help in these areas. In fact, recent research shows that people are more likely to go over their limit when drinking at a work function than at a bar or party.

Remember, you want to portray yourself as someone others want to work with, not necessarily drink with.

6. Connect With Everyone (and Never Look Over Anyone's Shoulder)

Maybe your goal is to find a new job as a community manager, but you're “stuck” talking to an IT engineer. Don't write off the opportunity. I can't tell you how many people have found a client or job through someone who knows someone who knows someone. What's the lesson here? Appreciate each person you meet, don't be dismissive, and never ever scan the room while talking to someone. You just never know where a conversation may lead.

7. Practice

Think of networking like any other professional skill. While others in the room may look like born networkers, they are likely just more experienced. It's something you have to learn through trial and error. And the only way to improve is to just get out there and do it.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RonTech2000

More About: Business, features, networking

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Digg Revamps Again: Will Topic Newsrooms Save the Site?

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 01:50 PM PDT

After alienating a significant portion of its user base last year with an unsuccessful redesign, news aggregation platform Digg is launching another new approach to news. The platform announced Tuesday a new feature that will automatically pull in content from publishers, sort it by topic and rank it according to the opinions of some of the site’s most reputable users.

The new feature, called “Newsrooms,” has the same basic objectives as last August’s fateful redesign: create a better way for individuals to find news that matters to them, and introduce a broader base of content to the site.

Digg’s 2010 redesign encouraged users to “build their own Digg” by following publications and users, including those on a “suggested user list.” Through their feeds, publications were effectively submitting their own stories automatically.

“We stopped pulling those feeds in,” CEO Matt Williams tells Mashable. “It was impacting the experience of Diggers because they weren’t getting credit for submitting stories anymore. In their minds, a bot was getting credit…[The attempt at personalization] was a good idea, it was just overshadowed by all the other things about Digg that changed with it.”

The new solution, which is still in invite-only beta, focuses on following topics rather than users or publications. Topic newsrooms range from broad categories like technology to specific categories like Lady Gaga. An algorithm takes into account how much buzz stories are getting on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Until they are actually submitted by a user, they stay in a section called Newswire. Once officially submitted (with a click), other users can vote stories up or down, and much like Digg’s core page, the most popular stories hit a topic-specific front page.

Users can develop more influence in a particular topic by participating in it, and their votes count for more. This is also true on the main Digg page, but in topic newsrooms users are ranked on a transparent leader board and receive badges for their participation.

Williams hopes that the new system of combining expert influencers with widely discussed stories from the web will float the most meaningful news on a given topic to the top of its page. Instead of following publications or celebrities, users can now follow these Newsrooms in order to populate their personal Digg pages with news that’s interesting to them.

“The strategy of personalizing news is still there,” says Williams, who replaced founder Kevin Rose as Digg CEO shortly after the disastrous redesign. “I think it was just ahead of its time.”

Digg has a long way to go in making up for the bad timing. The site lost more than one-third of its team, including its founding CEO — and, according to several sources, the site its dominance over competitor Reddit.

Newsrooms and expert influencers seem like a more sensible way to personalize news for a platform whose users thrive on recognition. But can it reverse the damage? Let us know what you think in the comments.

More About: digg

For more Social Media coverage: Acquires European Campaign Platform

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 01:17 PM PDT

change image, the U.S.-based activism platform, announced Tuesday that it is acquiring Actuable, Europe’s largest campaign platform. The acquisition creates the worlds largest online activism platform.

The two platforms have each nearly quadrupled the size of their memberships since the beginning of the year and expect to have tens of millions of members in just a couple years.

SEE ALSO: Social Good Summit: Liveblogging Elie Wiesel

“ has always been an inspiration to me," said Francisco Polo, founder of Actuable. "Over the last few months, we realized that we share a clear vision of how to drive social change in the digital era: by empowering everyday people to create, build and win social action campaigns …”

Both platforms allow any user to start campaigns and petitions to create real-world change. While has always had international projects, acquiring Actuable more clearly solidifies’s global scope. and Actuable are planning to merge platforms by the end of the year. There are no details on how leadership or branding may change.

More About: activism, Social Good

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Klout Adds Google+ To Its Social Scores

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 01:01 PM PDT

The third social network icon on your Klout dashboard is now Google+, just behind the Twitter and Facebook buttons.

Latching onto news Tuesday that anyone can sign up for Google+, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez revealed the Google+ integration via a tweet: “Boom! I just connected my @klout account with Google+.”

Fernandez told Mashable it will take a few days for Klout — which calculates users' social influence and assigns a score from 0 to 100 — to pull in everyone’s data and “normalize it across the population.”

“We have always believed that influence was the ability to drive people to actions and Google+ has great signals such as +1s and comments,” Fernandez continued. “One thing we have noticed is that the conversation frequency and quality on Google+ really sets it apart from other platforms.”

Fernandez has always been open about his desire to add Google+. He and his team were just waiting for Google to release the platform’s first developer application programming interfaces. Google made that Google+ API available last week.

In August, Klout doubled the number of services it measures, adding Blogger, Flickr, Instagram, and Tumblr to its scoring system. With the addition of Google+, Klout users can connect to 11 services. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare and YouTube are the others.

What do you think the Google+ integration? Will you use Google+ more now? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: What Klout’s New Topic Pages Look Like

The San Francisco-based startup also released another new feature last week that lets users gain insights on top content influencers as well as users who have received the most +Ks for respective topics.

To populate a user’s Topic Pages (see screenshots below), the San Francisco-based startup analyzes the user’s content created across the 11 networks it calculates.

Clickable Topics on Your Dashboard

On your Klout dashboard, you can click on a topic to open its Topic Page.

Social Media Topic Page

For example, here's the social media Topic Page, which displays top influencers and top +K recipients.

Journalism Topic Page

Here's the journalism Topic page.

Top +K Recipients

You can click on "Top +K Recipients" to get a closer look at which users are snagging the most +Ks.

Best Content Stream

The "Best Content" tab will show you popular content from the past 90 days.

More About: Google, klout, News, Social Media, social networking

Instagram 2.0 Launches: A Faster App With Live Filters & Hi-Res Photos

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 12:46 PM PDT

Instagram version 2.0 arrives in the App Store Tuesday, giving the app’s 9 million users live filters, instant tilt-shift, high-resolution photos and a much speedier experience.

“This is the biggest change since the day we launched,” CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom tells Mashable.

“It represents a complete overhaul of the heart of Instagram,” Systrom adds. “It’s a change in innovation around the camera, and the next generation of what we’re going after: a super-fast, super-usable app.”

The most noticeable change in version 2.0 is the Instagram camera. Now, every photo-related action — applying a filter, adding the tilt-shift effect, rotating the photo — has been compressed into a single view, which you can see as you shoot.

By clicking on the new top bar, Instagram users can toggle photo borders on and off, adjust flash settings, rotate the camera and apply tilt-shift with pinch-to-zoom gestures. On the bottom bar, users can grab a photo from the camera roll or tap the eye icon to preview filters in real time through the lens, before snapping the shot.

Applying these features to a live shot was, says Systrom, the most arduous task for the startup. “The hardest thing is taking the filters that we had done in the past and converting them into live filters,” he says. “Our filters are complex.”

While it previously took the application six seconds to apply a filter, Systrom says it now only takes six milliseconds.

Instagram-obsessed photo-takers will also notice the addition of four new filters: Amaro, Rise, Hudson and Valencia. The filters were created by popular Instagram iPhoneographer Cole Rise and represent his old-film-with-a-fresh-twist aesthetic.

Filters, as Systrom sees it, remain the application’s biggest draw. “We want to get really serious about creating filters that are gorgeous and make people excited to take photos with Instagram.”

But of all the features introduced in version 2.0, Systrom is most excited by the addition of high-resolution photos. The startup now saves 1936×1936 resolution captures to the photo roll on the iPhone 4 (and 1536×1536 on the iPhone 3GS). Systrom sees the upgrade as adding permanency to shots, and making them appropriate for print publication.

Altogether, the updates in version 2.0 represent Instagram’s lens to the future. “This is important to bringing Instagram to masses,” Systrom says. “This will take us from 10 million to 100 million users … and changes the game in the terms of usability and efficiency.”

Of course, everyone still wants to know the status of an Instagram application for Android, so we put the question to Systrom one more time. “Getting [version 2.0] out the door opens up a lot of time to work on new stuff,” he says coyly. In other words: Don’t hold your breath just yet.

More About: instagram

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Facebook Changes News Feed So You Never Miss Vital Updates [PICS]

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 12:30 PM PDT

Facebook is launching a series of changes to the News Feed, including the addition of a real-time “ticker.”

The changes, which will begin rolling out Tuesday night, are designed to keep you always up to date on the important events in your friends’ lives, even if you haven’t logged in for a few days. “Today’s updates are about not missing important updates in News Feed,” Facebook News Feed Product Manager Keith Schacht tells Mashable.

The first change is designed to make it possible to see all the big events in your friends’ lives since the last time you checked your feed, regardless of whether it’s been three minutes or three weeks. “News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper,” Facebook says in a blog post.

To do this, it has removed the “Top Stories and “Most Recent” links on the top of the News Feed and replaced it with a smarter feed that adjusts content based on the last time you checked it. If you haven’t been on Facebook for three days, it will pull out the top stories from your network. This means you won’t miss important relationship status changes, photos or big life events.

If you’re a more frequent visitor of Facebook, your News Feed will be filled with more recent content in chronological order. The social network is also giving you the ability to tweak the top stories in your News Feeds by marking or unmarking updates as a “Top Story.”

The second change affects how photos are displayed in the News Feed. Simply put, photos will be larger and more prominent. This was one of the top user feature requests. The goal was to bring photos front and center and make them even more beautiful.

“It’s just an incredibly popular form of content,” Schacht says.

The final update Facebook is rolling out is the addition of a news ticker above the chat column on the right-hand side. The ticker, which the social network has been testing with a small group of users for the past few weeks, is a real-time feed of all the activity happening in your social graph. Unlike the News Feed, which focuses on the past, ticker focuses on present activity. Essentially, it replaces the function of the “Most Recent” section of the News Feed.

Clicking on an item in the ticker will bring up that content in a hover window on the page, where you can comment or interact with the content in real time. Schacht says that this results in instant conversations. “By surfacing what’s happening right now anywhere on the site, we are creating shared experiences with your friends,” he says.

The changes follow two other big changes to the Facebook News Feed. The first, a revamp of Friend Filters, affects how much you hear from your friends in the feed. The second, the launch of the Subscribe Button, lets you control what kind of updates you get in your feed.

The social network will be making more announcements this week at its f8 developer conference, where it is expected to unveil a music and media-sharing platform and a major profile redesign.

Check out the video and screenshots of the new features, and let us know in the comments what you think of the revamped News Feed.

Facebook Revamps News Feed

Facebook's News Feed now delivers top stories to you based on the last time you logged in. That way, if you haven't logged in for a few days, you won't miss important life events in your News Feed. Users can also adjust their News Feeds by marking or unmarking updates as "Top Stories".

Bigger Photos

Photos will now be larger and more prominent in News Feed

Recent Updates

Users that user Facebook more frequently will be greeted with more recent status updates and activity.

Facebook Ticker

The new ticker appears on the top of the Facebook Chat bar on the right-hand side. Unlike News Feed, the ticker displays the real-time activity of your friends.

Interacting with the Ticker

Clicking on an item in the ticker opens up a windows where you can interact with your friends through likes and comments. This is designed to foster instant conversations.

More About: Facebook, Facebook Ticker

From IM to Checkins: How Meebo Stayed Relevant In a Changing Social Web

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 12:26 PM PDT

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

Back in 2005, the social web as we know it today was in its earliest of stages. Before Twitter, the advent of Facebook Chat and Google+, the most common way of sharing information with one another over the web was with instant messaging. Startup Meebo sought to bring that experience to the web browser, rather than keeping it confined to a desktop app. Six years later, Meebo has expanded beyond the instant message and is focused on creating dynamic socialized web experiences.

Mashable spoke with Sandy Jen, the CTO and co-founder of Meebo, about how the startup has changed over the last six years, the challenges of serving 173 million web users and the future of social sharing.

Name: Sandy Jen

Company: Meebo

Year Founded: 2005

Employees: 200

Q&A with Sandy Jen

Meebo just turned six years old. The technical and web landscape has changed significantly over the last six years. What change has had the biggest impact on how Meebo operates as a startup and as a business?

The biggest change has been how people are moving more and more of their lives online, specifically their expectations about their social experiences. When Meebo was conceived, the web was just starting to become a dynamic environment — productivity tools were transitioning over to having a much greater web/cloud presence. Six years later, the ecosystem Meebo lives and breathes in is akin to the Wild West, where standards have yet to coalesce, and technology is progressing faster than the browser can even allow. Not only do you have to adapt to a changing user/website interaction, but you also have to consider the business and revenue implications that result from the emergence of such a dynamic web.

What was your original vision for Meebo and how has that changed over the years? Is your underlying vision still the same or has it shifted?

The original mission for Meebo was to become the web’s communication hub, and in those days we started with just instant messaging. The underlying vision was to connect people to who and what was important to them. That fundamentally hasn’t really changed. Although IM is but one part of a larger product offering, Meebo’s vision is still to shape the web around people, and the checkins product is a giant leap for us in that goal.

I first became familiar with Meebo through the Meebo Messenger app. While Meebo still supports that product, it seems like the focus of the company has evolved more into real-time content sharing and adding interactions and checkins using the Meebo Bar and the Meebo MiniBar. Can you explain the impetus for that shift and what that shift has meant to users?

As the web has evolved, it’s gotten bigger, hairier and a lot more difficult to navigate. IM was all about connecting you to your friends and allowing for synchronous communication. Communication in today’s world is much, much more than that. It encompasses not only your immediate friends, but your social network acquaintances, people you share interests with, folks you find interesting, topics and trends you regularly invest time and energy in, just to name a few. We saw that change happening pretty early and purposefully adapted Meebo to shift to a much larger and distributed scope, precisely because that’s where communication was shifting. What this means for our users is that we are in a unique position to be able to offer a product that can truly provide a new way to explore the web — a web organized around human beings and real content, rather than stuff produced by algorithms.

What technical challenges has Meebo faced as the company has grown, and how have you dealt with those challenges?

Scaling is something we’ve excelled at but continue to make strides [in] as our audience size grows. As I mentioned before, since more and more of users’ experiences are moving online to more cloud-based services, users are becoming savvier. Adapting to new technologies as scale increases, whilst maintaining an extremely high quality of product, is a delicate balance. There’s also the age-old choice between sticking with what you have, improving it or trying out a completely new solution with known risks. Always fun.

Mobile continues to be a major disruptor in terms of how we share information and communicate. Beyond the existing Meebo mobile apps, what are Meebo’s plans for bringing more of a robust social experience to the mobile web?

Integrating checkins and the idea of a web powered by people and their interests is something we’re super interested in translating to a mobile experience. As we saw with the shift from desktop to browser, we’re seeing the shift from browser to mobile browser. It’ll take some time, but we’re still in a lot of the prototyping phases for some of our more robust mobile experiences.

What have been the biggest challenges that you have faced as a business in the last six years?

Transitioning from a startup product company to a revenue-generating, stand-alone business is a classic struggle that many companies face. We are no different and have worked hard to create the right team to build that business. Advertising is our main source of revenue, and we’ve treated it with just as much focus, care, and attention as any other product we’ve produced.

Meebo now has 200 employees and an audience of 173 million people worldwide. Has that sort of growth hampered Meebo’s ability to be agile in launching new products or iterating existing products? How do you deal with keeping your backend powerful enough to support all of your users?

We aren’t as fast or nimble as we were when we were only 20 people, but it doesn’t mean we can’t strive to be. It’s important to understand when and how to deploy the right processes to enable your team to be as productive as possible. Anarchy and chaos has its place when you are starting out, but it tends to chafe after a while when you get larger. Empowering your employees to take ownership, make decisions and effect change in the company is the most important factor for keeping quick and agile. Hiring is the key to ensuring your technology stays relevant. I hired folks that were faster, smarter and more brilliant than I could ever be, and they add so much new DNA to the team. They help keep your backend powerful. You give them the tools to succeed and they will.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are starting out right now?

It’s the same advice I’d give entrepreneurs at any time — stop wasting time and give it a go. No one’s going to tell you how to do it, you have to figure it out for yourself. Instead of drafting business plans, going to entrepreneurial conferences and worrying about if you need funding or not, focus on what’s important and that's getting your product (or venture, or whatever) out the door to your users. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but you’ll have so much fun it’ll blow your mind.

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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: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Series, features, mashable, meebo, sandy jen, social sharing

How Online Services Are Changing the Way Bands Consume Music

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 12:07 PM PDT

turntable image

Max Blau is Paste Magazine‘s multimedia editor, where he oversees all audio, video and photo content on the website. He is also a freelance writer, photographer and videographer. Follow him at @MaxBlau or check out his blog.

It seems that just about every month or so, a new online music service or website launches, impacting the way we consume music. Whether it's a game-changing streaming service like Spotify or a social music experience like, our listening patterns are slowly evolving alongside our continued use of these products.

The same goes for musicians, many of whom actively use particular services and websites as part of their own music consumption. As individuals who seek to disseminate their own music, artists occupy a unique position by sharing their own songs as well as listening to others' songs. Recent services, including Spotify, MOG, Pandora, Grooveshark and countless others, have a strong impact on the artists, albums and songs they consume.

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

We spoke with a number of bands and musicians, including Portugal. The Man, OK Go, Rachael Yamagata, Trombone Shorty and several other artists about their favorite online music services, and how those platforms have changed the way they listen to music.

1. Darren Lackie - We Were Promised Jetpacks

Preferred online music service: Spotify.

How often do you use Spotify? Almost every day... it's great.

Why do you like Spotify? It's stupidly simple to use! I really like individual artist pages on it, with the list of their top five most popular songs. I think it's a great way to introduce a new band to someone. Myself and Sean, our bassist, have been DJing at a club in Edinburgh for the past month, and we have been using Spotify to help us create our playlists for the night. We use the same login details, and can suggest songs to each other through Spotify by using its playlist feature.

How has Spotify benefitted you as a music listener? To be honest, because of Spotify and music being so readily available to stream online, I haven't really gone out to a shop to buy an album. I have discovered a lot of new music through Spotify, though, and as a direct result of that, I've been to see a lot of the bands I have discovered!

How has Spotify changed your music consumption patterns? I pretty much listen to music every chance I get, and Spotify definitely makes that easier! I have a good setup in my living room with huge speakers, so anytime I'm in there, there's music blasting.

Name an artist you discovered on Spotify. Dum Dum Girls.

2. Michael Benjamin Lerner - Telekinesis

Preferred online music service:

How often do you use 1-2 times a week.

Why do you like I like because it's a great way to communicate with your fans, a great way to communicate with your friends to see what they are listening to, and to discover new music or introduce new music to others.

How has benefitted you as a music listener? It's another avenue to discover new music and new artists. Another way to find and purchase new music.

How has changed your music consumption patterns? Not really on a personal level, though I can see how it would. I'm a consumer to begin with, and I buy new music 2-3 times a week. hasn't really changed that in a positive or negative way.

Name an artist you discovered on Freelance Whales.

3. Jenavieve Varga - Lost In The Trees

Preferred online music service: The NPR Music App and All Songs 24/7 Music Channel.

How often do you use the NPR Music App and All Songs 24/7 Music Channel? While brushing my teeth, getting ready for a night out on the town, frantically packing for tour, relaxing with a bottle of wine, sitting in LA traffic, reading magazine, making costumes for the band, changing my strings -- and it's the perfect soundtrack for a midnight cigarette.

Why do you like the NPR Music App and All Songs 24/7 Music Channel? I feel like Forest Gump! It's like a box of chocolates -- it's always a surprise what song is going to come on next. I get a nice mix of indie, world and classical all in one place. Also, I don't have to worry about figuring out what song should come next.

How has the NPR Music App and All Songs 24/7 Music Channel benefitted you as a music listener? I get to listen to artists I already like and find out about new ones, all mixed in together.

How has the NPR Music App and All Songs 24/7 Music Channel changed your music consumption patterns? It hasn't at all. It's just made it easier to discover music I love.

Name an artist you discovered on the NPR Music App and All Songs 24/7 Music Channel. Gaspar Claus! I'm totally crushing on him after hearing "Barlande," the album he did with Pedro Soler. It's so fantastic.

4. Jeff Weathers - Quiet Company

Preferred online music service: Seriously, I used to have folders on my browser with bookmarks that lead to YouTube videos with songs. Whether it was the actual video or not, I typically just wanted a decent quality of the recording. This was my attempt at finding a song that someone had mentioned or a song I felt like revisiting from 10 years ago. It was also where I would run across some Japanese metal band's video that perfectly mirrored one of the Deftones'. But then, low and behold, I was turned on to Grooveshark.

How often do you use Grooveshark? More often than I urinate.

Why do you like Grooveshark? It's lightweight -- you don't have to download anything and the buffering is quick. You can create a profile, save and organize a library and playlist. Sharing a playlist has become immensely helpful. Whenever Quiet Company needs to learn a few covers, I make a playlist and share it with the guys, or if I just want to send a friend specific new music, I can. Your profile is visible to your friends also using the service if you want, so I can keep tabs on what my brother is listening to -- that's where I get all my hipster band updates. It's also nice to see how much your buddy is listening to Lady Gaga, so that you may beat him appropriately… Grooveshark has a nice link to Facebook too, so you can see comments people have left on songs or albums, and it aggregates that information.

How has Grooveshark benefitted you as a music listener? Grooveshark has been refreshing because it made music sharing and discovery feasible and applicable again for the contemporary. I've hit a point in my old age of 29 where my music tastes have really shifted from my angst-driven youth, and I've started listening to a wider variety of genres. Having the music library and social integration that Grooveshark provides has certainly enabled me to chase a broader spectrum of music. For example, my friends don't listen to dubstep, but I really enjoy it. Being able to browse the large dubstep selection through Grooveshark helps me know which album I should drop my hard-earned money on.

How has Grooveshark changed your music consumption patterns? Having nearly unlimited access to music, I've been reminded how much I liked certain old records, and [it] encouraged me to re-purchase ones I lost or wore out on CD. Most importantly, when I get home at 3:30 a.m. from going out and think it would be a great idea to buy that remix of a Ke$ha song on iTunes, I just put it in my Grooveshark library. When I wake up the next day, I can put the money I would have spent toward more appropriate music. (However, I may or may not delete the remix from my GS library.)

Name an artist you discovered on Grooveshark. Distance is a DJ that I've really enjoyed lately -- he's spooky. Really sparse transparent recordings makes you feel like you are out in the dead of night with a slow low rumble off in the background. SBTRKT and Foals are some other recent discoveries.

5. Ben Sollee

Preferred online music service: I'm using Spotify a ton these days, and a touch of Pandora to discover new things.

How often do you use Spotify? Everyday. I use Spotify to listen through musicians' catalogues.

Why do you like Spotify? It's accessible. The user boundaries are low and [there are] very few expectations. I just get to enjoy/study music.

How has Spotify benefitted you as a music listener? Well, it's not like I've saved money 'cause I've found some beautiful recordings that I bought. However, it has enabled me to listen through things that I would not have had the money to experiment on.

How has Spotify changed your music consumption patterns? I'm freer to roam the musical pathways in artist's lives. And as an artist, it's made me realize that all I make now and in the future will be archived and interwoven with all that I've done. So, I need to make it count. It's a great time to take chances and make great art.

Name an artist you discovered on Spotify. I've rediscovered Brad Mehldau's work, especially his newer stuff. Brilliant!

6. Timothy Nordwind - OK Go

Preferred online music service: I use Pandora at the moment.

How often do you use Pandora? When I am home and not on tour, I use Pandora almost every day to hopefully hear music I've never heard before.

Why do you like Pandora? I like that I can customize my music listening experience while still being able to count on hearing music I've never heard before, and will probably enjoy.

How has Pandora benefitted you as a music listener? Pandora allows me as a music consumer to plug in a band I love, like say, Metric, and then hear a newer lesser known band like Io Echo, who I might not be as familiar with, but have come to really like.

How has Pandora changed your music consumption patterns? I'm not sure if Pandora has changed my music consumption patterns. I've always been pretty good about consuming music. But it's certainly made it easier and convenient to listen to and discover the things I want to discover.

Name an artist you discovered on Pandora. Another great band I discovered on Pandora is Best Coast. I can't remember whose channel I was listening to? It might have been The Breeders.

©Jeremy & Claire Weiss

7. Craig Wedren

Preferred online music service: I bounce around between MOG, Pandora, Spotify (just got into it recently) and Turntable (also via a recent introduction). I still listen to my own collection mainly, but I'm sure that will change, as it seems to be in the ether…

How often do you use these services? I use outside music services (i.e. not my own collection) maybe three times per week.

Why do you like these services? With Pandora, I'm always curious about (and sometimes baffled by) who they lump together. Turntable's more of a game of pass the mic, and is therefore less passive than the others. So I probably won't use it as much because I'm usually doing other things while listening to music; however, when I use it, it's maybe the most fun. Might turn out to be a novelty, though -- we'll see. MOG and Spotify are basically just fairly comprehensive and rad.

How have these services benefitted you as a music listener? Hasn't affected me yet.

How have these services changed your music consumption patterns? Again, not yet. I still tend to buy albums the old fashioned way -- trolling the Internet and purchasing/downloading MP3s!

Name an artist you discovered on these services. I haven't discovered anybody yet, but a few days ago I turned my friend on to "The Electrician" by the Walker Bros via Spotify -- that's a very deep and wonderful rabbit hole.

8. Rachael Yamagata

Preferred online music service: iTunes is still the online music service I'm most familiar with.

How often do you use iTunes? I'm on it a few times a month.

Why do you like iTunes? I like the organization of the whole thing. You can look up by song, by artist, by album. It links you to other artists that you might like based on other people's purchases and it's certainly easy being in tandem with anything Apple. If I'm into a cover of something, but don't know who did it, they list multiple versions. I'm not uber tech savvy, and it's been easy for me to navigate.

How has iTunes benefitted you as a music listener? The instantaneous nature of hearing something and being able to purchase a copy with a click of a button has certainly satisfied the "I need it now" impulse. As an artist, of course, I'm sensitive about MP3s versus vinyl payment systems that actually get back to the artist -- even buying single tracks instead of a full album makes my head spin, as I'm one that records with the album in mind. However, I find myself buying multiple copies when I really like something because I'm always interested in the artwork, etc. of an actual physical copy.

How has iTunes changed your music consumption patterns? I think I probably buy more music now actually. Ever since the invention of the iPod, … I marveled a bit. One can go a lot of ways with this topic, and it's particularly hard for an artist in the music industry to not hate what's going on in some respects -- only because we need to eat as well…You put so much time into writing and touring and recording that it is criminal to not have a way to survive on that work. All that said, keeping that integrity in mind, I find myself wanting certain music as soon as I hear it...Rather than to go too far into the philosophical arguments about the whole shabang, I'd say it brings me closer and faster to music that I may not have remembered to grab, but which I love. When I'm hooked, I then get invested and grab the physical copy, go see the show etc. I've also found myself purchasing videos I love.

Name an artist you discovered on iTunes. Shizer. For me, it's answered more of the question who sang that song in a movie kind of a thing -- looking up soundtracks and stuff.

9. Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews - Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Preferred online music service: Pandora.

How often do you use Pandora? I use it every day.

Why do you like Pandora? I can plug in any artist's name and hear any song from any of their records and also similar artists. What it also actually does for me is, if I forgot my iPod, I can plug in Kermit Ruffins.

How has Pandora benefitted you as a music listener? Sometimes it makes me want to buy a CD by someone I never heard before.

10. Boots Factor - Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers

Preferred online music service: My girlfriend tends to use Pandora a lot around the apartment, but I've been checking out Spotify a fair amount.

How often do you use these services? Not that often. I'd say every once in a while. I still like to play my records around the house. But like I mentioned, if my girlfriend is working on her computer, she'll usually have Pandora open and I can't help but listen to what she has playing. It's usually good stuff because she has excellent taste in music and men.

Why do you like these services? Most music is available at your fingertips. Not only that, but if you're hungry for new music, that music service's main job is to feed you new music. And I think you can trust it because they only recommend band's that are "similar" to the band you're listening to. It works out about 75.8989% of the time (I just did some math quickly in my head).

How have these services benefitted you as a music listener? In a positive way. I've definitely discovered bands recommended to me because of their assumptions on my taste. For instance, Pandora put on The Zombies in a stream I was listening to. I know a couple of their big hits, but they must have put on a deep cut because I had never heard the song before, but I loved it, went to iTunes and purchased the greatest hits...

How have these services changed your music consumption patterns? I'd say it's helped facilitate it. I don't really listen to the radio that much anymore, but putting my musician's hat aside, I think I'm always looking for new and interesting music as a consumer. I would never underestimate the power of discovering a new band and going, "Where have these guys been all my life?!" I remember feeling that sensation as a kid, and when I feel it as an adult, it's never less gratifying.

Name an artist you discovered on these services. The Zombies and Rhett Miller's solo work are just a couple.

11. Zach Rogue - Rogue Wave/Release the Sunbird

Preferred online music service: Spotify and Rhapsody.

How often do you use these services? Just recently, just about every day.

Why do you like these services? Between the two services, I'm able to listen to an almost unimaginable amount of music. They're not always as helpful on some of the lesser-known new bands, but I'm continually surprised by what I find. It is an endless and never-ending library. 

How have these services benefitted you as a music listener? Since the launch of Spotify, I've been strangely shocked about just how much things have changed for me in just the past few months. When you realize you can listen to almost anything you want whenever you want, it rattles your sense of normalcy. I've never been into illegally downloading music unless it is something live or out of print. So now, everything is out there and basically free and available. I listen to way more music than ever before.

At home I use Sonos, and there is an iPhone app for it. So when I'm home, I basically walk around the house with my phone, changing up playlists all day long. It's insane. But, even though I feel like a kid in a candy store, I don't know if this is such a good thing. I know Bob Lefsetz would say it's the best thing since Les Paul, and I will admit I love using it. But isn't there supposed to be a bit more sacrifice that goes into choosing music? I know most record labels have been stealing from artists and consumers for years, but I fear we are making music more disposable than ever before. To me, liner notes matter. Time and the benefits of waiting for some things does have its merits. Call me crazy. 

How have these services changed your music consumption patterns? I've found that I tend to buy more new music (I made a rule: if I listen to something on Pandora or Spotify more than 2 times, I usually buy it) since it is so easy to check out. On the other end, I tend to buy less older music. I mean, I can't afford to buy every single thing Bob Pollard, David Bowie, and Bob Dylan have released. But I'm sort of a completist, so it's nice to be able to hear a bit of everything. I hope 7", B-side, weird compilation stuff starts getting more available in this space. That would be amazing. Above all, I have started buying a lot more vinyl overall. Nothing trumps that.

Name an artist you discovered on these services. Dirty Beaches, The Cave Singers, Wye Oak, The Rosebuds, Iceage, to name some off the top of my head. I tend to hear new stuff all the time. Plus, I've been able to get into tons of back catalog stuff of artists that I was already into. 

12. Oliver Chapoy - Warm Ghost

Preferred online music service: Spotify!!!!

How often do you use Spotify? Everyday.

Why do you like Spotify? They really nailed it. At first I was skeptical, but the fact that I can just think of a record I want to listen to, that I may or may not already own, type it in the search bar and immediately start listening blows my mind. MIND BLOWN.

How has Spotify benefitted you as a music listener? It's really allowed me to discover/re-discover music that I've never had the chance to listen to before. It's also freed me from having to download albums which just end up taking up too much space on my laptop. The fact that I can listen to a playlist on my iPhone that I've enabled in offline mode is amazing.

How has Spotify changed your music consumption patterns? Yes. I no longer need to download music. I do continue to buy just as much music on vinyl, if not more...

Name an artist you discovered on Spotify. I've been going back to a lot classics that either I've never owned, never got into at that moment or just haven't heard in years, like Love & Rockets, The Cult, Ultra Vivid Scene, Eurythmics, Cabaret Voltaire, etc. Finally been able to listen to some newer artists like Active Child and Shabazz Palaces. It's great to hear someone talk about an artist they love and immediately be able to engage your ears.

13. Jason Sechrist - Portugal. The Man

Preferred online music service: I like to use Pandora, and I'm looking into the Spotify system.

How often do you use these services? Usually whenever I am on the go, visiting with people, or helping DJ a small situation. I use it a couple times a week.

Why do you like these services? Sometimes you just want to check out new music -- it's great for that. There are times when you feel like you cannot make up your mind on what to listen to -- that's when these systems help me.

How have these services benefitted you as a music listener? I like being able to find new artists based on the ones you like at the time. It's great for finding crazy obscure bands in the HEAVY genres!

How have these services changed your music consumption patterns? Not really, I've always been interested in vinyl and the experience it brings.

Name an artist you discovered on these services. Wye Oak.

14. Tristen

Preferred online music service: In the last month I've been really into Spotify. Spotify is the best thing since Lala disappeared (aka was bought by its mega-giant corporate competitor iTunes, who then shut it down).

How often do you use Spotify? I use Spotify when I don't have access to my record collection -- usually when I'm away from home or on my computer working, which is very often.

Why do you like Spotify? The Internet and the free exchange of information with sites like Spotify have allowed me to be able to search for music I like. I'm not subjected to the radio's playlist. I am my own DJ now.

How has Spotify benefitted you as a music listener? It's FREE information/art. I'm old enough to remember saving my money up to buy the very limited amount of music I could afford and going to the library to rent music. The Internet has really opened up the ability for computer owners to self-educate. This is really going to help educate/entertain middle-class music lovers who now have the ability to hear all the music the world has to offer for free. I'm fine with the deterioration of recorded music as a commodity and giving all people access to the world's art. Of course I worry about the artist having the ability to make money off of their art, but now that the Internet makes it free we are returning to the days before it was a product -- before records were being sold to a captive audience. If that destroys the fame and fortune of the rock star, so be it.

How has Spotify changed your music consumption patterns? Spotify has made it really easy to share my playlists with friends, and also to check out what my friends are listening to. If I want to learn a song, I can stream it on Spotify instead of YouTube (which was my previous go-to). It's the FUTURE. Get on board, ya'll.

15. Madi Diaz

Preferred online music service: I use Shazam all the time. It's my favorite!

How often do you use Shazam? Multiple times per week. Almost any time I hear something I don't recognize.

Why do you like Shazam? It keeps me a little bit more in the loop, and keeps track of what I looked up, so if I don't have time to dig into whether I really like it or want it, I can always go back later.

How has Shazam benefitted you as a music listener? It definitely helps me stay interested in knowing what I'm listening to in the background of whatever I'm doing.

How has Shazam changed your music consumption patterns? It's changed my pattern a bit -- gives me a little more gumption to stick my neck out and try new things.

Name an artist you discovered on Shazam. Agh! So many! Washed out, The xx, Dawes ... so many. Too many.

16. Jesse Hodges - Pterodactyl

Preferred online music service: was really the first social networking music crossover I ever [saw]. I don't remember how I discovered the site, but I do remember really enjoying being able to look back at my listening stats and see what songs or artists other users were obsessing over. Now I use Pandora a lot, especially when I'm hanging out with my lady friend dancing around to the Four Tops station while we cook dinner.

But to be totally honest, Twitter has really changed the game up for me in the past year. I mean I got to interact with @SEAL directly and now I can commonly refer to this experience as #SEALGATE.

How often do you use these services? I use Pandora a few times a week but I'm on Twitter all day long, every day. Whether I'm jamming the newest Free Spirit joint courtesy of @jonahthought or seeing what kind of pho Greg Fox (@GDF_X and one of my favorite drummers) is consuming at the moment, Twitter really solidifies a new type of bond via modern communication. We can connect quickly, recommend shows, music and random shit like cool videos. If those guys are writing about it...I'm most certainly going to investigate.

Why do you like these services? I get up-to-date feeds from my friends on what new stuff they are into, and we have a lightning-quick back-and-forth when it comes to recommending things. I also get turned on to things I might not normally find out about, due to the randomness of retweets and wacky people I follow and who follow me. I made a little quip about how cool it would [be to have] Trent Reznor and Seal do a track together, and Seal wrote me back several times saying he thought it was a cool idea too.

How have these services benefitted you as a music listener? I certainly take more chances as a consumer now. I'm much more willing to go out on a limb because my recommendations are coming from such a personalized and well-groomed series of sources.

How have these services changed your music consumption patterns? Absolutely. I've never really illegally downloaded music off of the Internet, and I only used to buy small physical format items (i.e. 7"s and tapes). Now I'm getting even smaller formatted materials (MP3s) via one of the shortest means of expressing a thought in today's increasingly brainless modern society...ahem, I mean limitless.

Name an artist you discovered on these services. Colleen Green is one, and I'm really psyched I found her! If it weren't for Twitter I'm not sure I would have found her stuff, and now I have a ton of it. Check her out on Twitter (@colleengreen420). Also provided me with one of my favorite songs of a couple years ago: "High at the Cinema" by PENS.

17. Trevor Hall

Preferred online music service: To be honest, I am not too hip with online music services, but I often use the Pandora app on my phone.

How often do you use Pandora? Almost every day.

Why do you like Pandora? It allows me to find new music that is similar to artists I enjoy. I've discovered a lot of my favorite bands this way.

How has Pandora benefitted you as a music listener? If I discover a band that I enjoy, I usually buy their album off iTunes.

How has Pandora changed your music consumption patterns? It has actually made me buy more music since I'm always discovering new music that I like.

Name an artist you discovered on Pandora. Groundation.

Image courtesy of Flickr, icatus

More About: Entertainment, features, Music, online music services, pandora, spotify,

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Humanoid Robot Charges Up, Takes a Load Off [VIDEOS]

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 11:55 AM PDT

One of the most accomplished and fascinating robots in existence, Aldebaran's NAO, has been traveling throughout Europe, showing off its latest technical achievement: the ability to charge itself. The French-built humanoid robot can find its charging station, plug itself in, sit down, chill and even unplug itself when it's all done.

As with any robot, increasing levels of autonomy will set it apart from your run-of-the-mill toy and even remote control robots. The 23-inch NAO can already do many things on its own. Using a wide array of sensors, including two cameras, four microphones, an accelerometer and sonars, NAO can stand, sit, recover from a fall, detect small objects and pick them up, avoid obstacles and react to touch. Now, with the ability to charge itself on the new NAO Energy Station (NEST) when its batteries run low, NAO can live a semi-independent life.

In fact, NAO, which runs on a 500 MHz X86 CPU and with 256 MB of RAM, has been programmed to play soccer, interact with other NAO robots, help autistic children and even fetch a can of beer. Too bad NAO is — for now — only a research robot and is used primarily as a teaching tool at high schools and universities around the world.

Under development since 2005, the three-fingered, 11-pound bot currently gets just 90 minutes per charge, definitely not enough for a walk in the park. Still, it’s pretty wild to watch NAO position itself, plug in and then sit down to wait for the charge to complete. It looks almost human — another small step toward total domination by our robot overlords.

Check out the robot in action above, and then take a look at our gallery of the best robot videos below (including an early one of NAO).

1. Giant Robot Dinosaurs from Japan

A video entitled "Giant Robot Dinosaurs from Japan" is never not going to be good. The next logical step is clearly to use these creations in a new feature film called "Rob-assic Park" in which an amusement park gets overrun by robo-dinos while Jeff Goldblum stalks around looking tall and saying I told you so.

2. CES 07: Honda Asimo Humanoid Robot Demo

A bit of a YouTube star, if there's ever a robot to be voted least likely to rise up against his human overlords, it's Honda's humanoid "Asimo" who resembles a kid in a space suit and boasts a nice line in running, climbing stairs and conducting symphony orchestras.

3. Aldebaran Robotics' Nao

This amazingly advanced robot boasts cognitive skills, a high level of motion (with 25 degrees of freedom) and is programmable, so you can customize it to do pretty much anything. Currently available to academic institutions for a high price, a consumer model is planned for 2011, so watch the demo above to start getting excited.

4. Dancing Sony Robots

Sony's Qrio (notable for being the first bipedal robot capable of running) never reached production (it's development was axed at the same time robo-dog AIBO got his marching papers), but as this video shows it could bash out some sweet moves in its time.

5. BigDog Overview

The DARPA-funded BigDog is a quadruped robot designed to be used as a kind of robotic mule in the field. This video demonstrates its incredible stability over all kinds of terrain, and even when taking a hit. It's certainly much improved from the early beta.

6. Toyota's Robot Quartet Band

This video is in Japanese, but music, or for that matter robot awesomeness, needs no translation. If this has got you hot for robots playing instruments, then be sure to check out the violin-playing android, also from Toyota.

7. Hanson Robotics ALICE

Hanson Robotics busies itself by "awakening intelligent robotic beings and granting them sparks of true consciousness and creativity." Its Alice-bot is one example of the progress it has made with giving robotics realistic facial impressions with the aim of enabling "machine empathy" in the future. Be afraid robo-phobes.

8. The Robot Barman

Human barkeeps fear for your future! This "alcohol administering automation" created for Japanese beer brand Asahi could well be tending bar in a few year's time -- if they can programme it to have selective vision and a suitable sneer when someone orders anything with "Lite" in its name.

9. Robot Fish

If you've got the technical ability to re-create something from the underwater world as a robot you'd go for a shark, right? Not these guys. They make a blue goldfish. And it doesn't even have any frickin' lasers.

10. NASA Robonaut Humanoid Space Robot

The benefits of using robots in oxygen-free outer space have not gone un-noticed by the NASA brainiacs. NASA's Robonaut, a futuristic space-man with flexible fingers, could one day be used in space to carry out repairs, leaving the humans free for more important tasks. Like tweeting.

BONUS: Cleaning Cat Uses iRobot Roomba 560 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

If the amount of videos on YouTube capturing cats sat on robotic vacuum cleaners is anything to go by, then the accepted wisdom that cats are clean animals certainly appears to be true.

More About: aldebaran, humanoid, Robot, robots

Foursquare Posts 1 Billion Checkins [VIDEO]

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 11:33 AM PDT

Foursquare, which hit 10 million users a few months ago, has announced that it posted its 1 billionth checkin sometime last week.

The announcement is the latest milestone for the location-based services firm. Foursquare accomplished the benchmark in about two-and-a-half years. The company launched in March 2009.

If you’re playing along at home, that means that each of Foursquare’s users has checked in an average of 100 times.

The video below, posted on Foursquare’s official blog, captures what a week of checkins looks like. As you can see, a lot of the activity is taking place in the U.S., Western Europe, Brazil and Japan.

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Google+ Hangouts Go Mobile & Get More Collaborative

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 11:21 AM PDT

Google+ is making its public debut Tuesday with a bevy of life-inspired updates to Hangouts, the social network’s group-video-chat-with-a-twist feature.

“We think Hangouts should keep pace with how you socialize in the real-world,” Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google, says of the updates to Google+ Hangouts.

Google+ users can now join Hangouts from their Android devices. (Google says iOS support is coming soon.) Select users can turn video chats into public broadcasts. Plus, users can also share their screens, use a sketchpad to doodle with participants, collaborate on or present a Google Doc, and join or create Named Hangouts.

SEE ALSO: 4 Creative Ways of Using Google+ Hangouts | 5 Free Tools for Recording Hangouts

Users can access this latter batch of updates by clicking the “Try Hangouts with extras” button in the Hangouts green room. “The extras are still under construction,” Gundotra explains, “but we wanted to preview these features and get your feedback sooner versus later.”

Google has also released the Developer Preview of the Google+ Hangout API. This adds to the basic set of APIs released last week. “It enables you to add your own experiences to Hangouts and instantly build real-time applications, just like our first application, the built-in YouTube player,” says Richard Dunn, Google+ platform for Hangouts technical lead.

SEE ALSO: Google+ Now Lets You Search for People & Topics

Of course, the timing of Google+’s public launch, the Hangouts enhancements and API, the mobile updates and the rollout of Google+ search is not lost on us. Facebook is set to release a slew of significant updates at its f8 developer conference this Thursday. The world’s largest social network has already challenged Google’s social endeavor by pushing out Smart Lists, a more intuitive interpretation of Google+ Circles. Consider this Google’s counter strike.

Here’s a look at each of the new additions to Hangouts:

Google+ Hangouts on Android

Pictured: Stream View (left), Green Room (center), Portrait Mode (right)

Hangouts currently supports Android 2.3 and above devices with front-facing cameras.

"On Air" Hangouts

When you select to go "On Air," up to nine others can join the hangout as usual, but anyone can watch the live broadcast.

This feature is available to a limited number of broadcasters at launch.


Share what's on your screen with Hangout participants.


Draw or doodle with Hangout participants.

Google Docs in Hangouts

Write, plan or present something in a Hangout.

Named Hangouts

Join or create a public Hangout about a certain topic.

More About: Google, google plus hangouts

GetGlue Embraces Its Inner Foursquare With New iPhone App

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 11:01 AM PDT

Just in time for the Fall TV season, social checkin service GetGlue has launched a brand new version of its iPhone app.

The new GetGlue for iPhone [iTunes link] has a redesigned UI that puts the focus on the conversations taking place around the checkin process.

Check out this video GetGlue put together highlighting the new changes in the app:

Improved Checkin Experience

The checkin experience with GetGlue now looks very similar to Foursquare. The checkin button is now in the middle of the screen, just like with other location-based services apps.

After checking in, you get a list of your stats and any stickers that have been unlocked. You can also easily view the new Friend Leaderboard. The Leaderboard is different for every TV show, movie, artist, book and topic — you don’t just see who has the most checkins, you see a list of folks relevant to what you are currently watching.

Conversation Filters

The biggest addition to GetGlue is the new conversation filter. As GetGlue’s founder and CEO Alex Iskold told me earlier this month, the conversation view was something his team has worked on for quite some time.

The idea is simple. Rather than looking at a stream of comments detailing what people are watching, the conversation view is designed to highlight the most interesting tweets and checkin-based comments.

When checking-in to Family Guy last night, for example, I saw a lot of comments that referenced the Charlie Sheen Roast, which featured an appearance by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. In previous versions of the app, most of the recent comments would be of the “I’m watching X” variety.

Foursquare Aspirations Loom Large

Just as with the new GetGlue brand dashboard, the new GetGlue iPhone app has more than a passing resemblance to Foursquare. It’s clear that what Foursquare has done for location-based checkins, GetGlue wants to do for entertainment.

While I’m usually uneasy with apps that take so many visual cues from other applications, in this context, the changes make sense. If GetGlue is going to become the go-to service for entertainment checkins, it will benefit from an interface that closely aligns with the most popular location-based checkin system.

Fortunately, features like the leaderboards and the conversation views stand on their own.

Do you use GetGlue? Let us know your thoughts of the new app in the comments.

More About: entertainment checkins, getglue, iphone apps

For more Entertainment coverage:

Why Oscar de la Renta Is So “Haute” on Social Media

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 10:25 AM PDT

The Social CMO Series is supported by the Discover Digital Group, a unique consultancy that focuses on identifying new e-revenue opportunities for both Fortune 1000 and startup clients alike. Follow DDG on Facebook to get a taste of the insights that are offered.

That iconic American fashion house Oscar de la Renta has emerged as one of the leaders in social media marketing in its industry has proven to be something of a surprise. Leaders in progressive online marketing tactics tend to be those with vast marketing budgets or those who target young, digitally savvy consumers — not brands whose staple, as CEO Alex Bolen says, are $4,000 cocktail dresses.

We first wrote about the company when it streamed its Resort 2011 collection on Facebook in June 2010. At the time, only a handful of fashion brands were livestreaming, period — and even then, it was usually non-shareable; available only on the brand’s own websites. But during the Oscar livestream, the designer took questions from the audience over Facebook and Twitter.

Since then, we’ve watched social media personality OscarPRGirl become one of the most recognizable personalities on Twitter and Tumblr, and the impressively popular launch of the house’s first fragrance in 10 years via a Facebook sampling campaign. The company ran through 25,000 samples in a mere three days, says Erika Bearman, Oscar de la Renta's director of communications.

Most recently, the brand decided to crowdsource photo coverage of its Spring/Summer 2012 collection through a project called #odlrlive. According to Bolen, approximately 1,000 photos of the show were uploaded to Tumblr with the hashtag #odlrlive, generating a kaleidoscopic display of photos from editors, bloggers, models and viewers at home behind a video livestream.

This weekend, Fashion Week, we caught up with Bolen to discuss Oscar de la Renta’s digital and social media marketing efforts to date, as well as the challenges that lie ahead as the company pushes into new international markets.

Q&A With Alex Bolen, CEO, Oscar de la Renta

How and when did you decide that Oscar de la Renta needed to be involved in ecommerce?

It was years ago now. To be honest, I was very unconvinced that our product would be viable online at first, and when it became clear that it was, we redesigned our site in 2008. We’re going to revamp our website again very soon, probably the early part of the year.

Why are you redesigning?

Very generally, we need to evolve. We need to engage with customers as well as we can online, and in order to do that, our site needs to develop. Specifically, we need to leverage HTML5 and better integrate social.

At what rate is your ecommerce business expanding? What percentage of your sales now occur online?

Assuming things continue at this rate through [December], sales on our site will more than double this year. We expect that trend to continue and perhaps accelerate.

Online sales are still less than 5%. I’ve told you before that we expect our ecommerce site will become our largest store at some point; our growth there is well in excess of our brick and mortar retail growth rate.

What’s driving the double-digital growth?

We’re seeing growth across the board. I would love to tell you sunglasses are key to our growth, but it’s really everything. More customers from more parts of the world are buying more things.

Despite that fact, we’re approaching the online world imperfectly. We could have done more business this year if we had been able to reach people in other geographies better, if we’d done a better job with mobile commerce. We’ve reorganized internally [as a consequence], and now have a completely independent ecommerce team. It was probably a mistake to think of ecommerce as part of our brick and mortar retail strategy, when they have their own separate sets of challenges.

Do you expect growth to cap at any point? Or could ecommerce one day make up 100% of total sales?

I am reluctant to make predictions about future of online; I’ve been wrong so often. It’s hard for me to imagine a world in which all of our sales are [executed] online. Every day our new developments online allow us to reach new customers. I don’t see any cap in the growth, but I think brick and mortar retail will continue to be an important part of our business.

"We are not all things to all people, but we should always try to be more things to more people.”

What does a brand like Oscar de la Renta, whose staple, as you’ve said, is $4,000 cocktail dresses, stand to benefit from social media?

A couple of things. $4,000 cocktail dresses are very much our staple, but the dialogue we have with our community in the social media world may change that. We’ve certainly started to think more broadly about our products because of it.

How is social media strategy conceived and executed at Oscar de la Renta?

We are blessed to have a very talented team in our communications department. I [maintain] a very active dialogue with Erika [Bearman], our communications director, and her team to figure out how we best talk to our community. And to be honest, things change so rapidly, it’s difficult setting strategy today for something 12 months in advance.

At this stage, we’re experimenting. We’re anxious to try new things. We’re not sure what will work well, what will cause our community to engage with our brand more. We’re looking at what we want to invest more time in doing, but how that will develop isn’t always clear. There are so many platforms and options.

How did the idea for OscarPRGirl come about?

Well, Erika came to me and said, ‘I would like to try something,’ and described very generally what OscarPRGirl could become. Very fundamentally, I trust Erika’s judgment. We speak a lot about what OscarPRGirl is doing. It’s very old school in a sense, she has developed a voice that people wanted to listen to and has been successful at engaging our fans.

Did you have concerns about having a personality speaking for the brand? Did you ever try to get Oscar himself to participate on social media, i.e., maintain a Twitter account?

I think that in the social world people can smell a rat a mile away. There’s a need for authenticity. Trying new things is authentic for our brand, social is authentic. Oscar has certainly participated in many of our social media initiatives — he’s taken questions from fans in real-time during our livestreams, for instance — and is hugely engaged with the online world and technology like the iPad. But communicating via Twitter is not Oscar’s thing.

Oscar de la Renta’s runway shows have been livestreamed for several seasons now. How are you benefiting?

I can’t tell you that there is a tremendous measurable brand benefit, although it does up our engagement. There are clear sales benefits too. Several shows ago, we offered jewelry after the show and sold every piece. The idea of just being able to watch the show at one’s desk is less new than it once was though, so we’re trying to bring consumers in for more exciting insider moments, like we did with #odlrlive.

When you establish yourself on a social media channel (i.e. Twitter, or Tumblr), what goals do you set?

Engagement. People talk about likes and fans and gathering big numbers. We’d rather have a smaller group of deeply engaged evangelists for our brand. Ultimately, the goal is to get people to think more about Oscar de la Renta and less about our competitors.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your presences and campaigns on those channels? Do you find greater value in impressions or sales conversions, or is there another metric you prioritize?

Everything you’ve just mentioned is important, and we look at all of them. This is a business, so sales and profits are the measure of our success. How we measure the success of a specific strategy or campaign in the interim requires a different set of metrics. A year ago people talked about fan numbers, now people talk about engagement. We want more people to spend more time interacting with our brand, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

How do you measure engagement?

I think likes and retweets are not the full equation. The power of social in our estimation is a true dialogue. We’ve stopped monologuing, broadcasting to people, and have started to engage in a discussion — meaning we adjust to what we hear, we don’t just talk.

Recently you launched a fragrance through a sampling campaign on Facebook. Why did you decide to hone in on that audience or platform?

It was an experiment. We had our Facebook Page, but it wasn’t something we had used all that well. We were so surprised by the results of that campaign. We had a very quick response, a very international response.

Do you think Facebook or Twitter will ever become major sales channels for you? If not, what value do they offer you as a company?

We expect Facebook will become a major channel of commerce. Whether it becomes one of ours depends on us developing products that are right for our brand and that channel of our commerce. We want to try to be in front.

Right now we’re planning a major fcommerce initiative that will launch in a month and a half or so. We’ve developed a specific product for Facebook that brings together a number of fragrance and beauty and other parts of our brand, at a reasonably high price point for the channel: $65. We have some reservations about whether $65 items will sell well on Facebook. We’ve been meeting to discuss what to do if it’s an abject failure, or if it sells out in an hour. We have plans.

On Twitter, OscarPRGirl is not a proactive seller of product, and I’m reluctant to change that. It’s not something people expect from OscarPRGirl. People clearly want advice from our brand. How do we bake that in to How do we bring that to customers online in a way that’s authentic or appealing? That’s what we’re asking ourselves.

How has your marketing budget shifted over the past five years? The past year?

We still spend most of our money on print media, and I suspect that that won’t change in the near or even medium term. Let’s face it, Vogue is still the most important publication in the world to reach fashion folks. We will continue to have important advertising in those sorts of publications.

Our online budget has increased massively, and that will continue. The promise of online advertising is that we can completely narrow-cast to the right set of eyeballs that want to buy Oscar de la Renta products. That promise has not been fulfilled yet; the metrics that we have are at best imperfect for analyzing the success or failure of our initiatives.

Let’s talk about click-through rates, for instance. Click-through rates are interesting, but it doesn’t always convert. And we don’t know when or if [those visitors] come back to buy.

But with print you can’t measure anything.

That’s right. There’s lots of stats publishers can give you. It’s not like measuring clicks and impressions, but they’re data points.

How is Oscar de la Renta expanding internationally? Is social expanding with it — i.e. on to new, local networks and languages?

Yes. The Facebook sampling program brought to our attention how many fans we have internationally. Beyond an occasional correspondence from OscarPRGirl in Spanish or French, we’re generally communicating in English. One of our key initiatives is to be multi-lingual, to be able to ship and deliver more efficiently in international markets. How quickly we will engage with the Tumblrs of Russia and elsewhere remains to be seen, but it’s definitely coming.

And China?

I think that for us China is something we’re on the one hand actively exploring — brick and mortar and newer forms of commerce and communication, as examples — but we’re preceding with caution. It’s a part of the world we think is important to get exactly right, and I think our brand, to be honest, is not as well understood in China as we would like it to be. We’re not so much preceding slowly or cautiously but thoughtfully.

As a brand, what is the value in positioning yourself as a digital pioneer?

Innovation is what people expect of us in our business: innovation in fabrics, print design, styling, communication, the ways we’re offering product and brand. Being innovative and in front is very much a part of our brand.

What advice would you give other luxury brands in the space going forward?

We have a huge opportunity, a whole new world of people we weren’t able to speak to before. Figure out the best way to do that for your brand and what fits in with your DNA. I’ll go back to something Oscar has told me frequently: ‘We are not all things to all people, but we should always try to be more things to more people.’ I think that’s the way to do it.

Series Supported by Discover Digital Group

The Social CMO Series is supported by the Discover Digital Group, a unique consultancy that focuses on identifying new e-revenue opportunities for both Fortune 1000 and startup clients alike. From developing new digital products to generating new audiences and revenue for existing online products, it creates smarter, more effective solutions for your business challenges. Follow DDG on Facebook to get a taste of the insights that are offered.

More About: fashion, features, mashable, oscar de la renta, Social CMO Series

For more Business coverage:

Google+ Now Lets You Search for People & Topics

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 10:17 AM PDT

One of the weak points of Google+ so far has been, ironically enough, its search. Searches for specific people often went nowhere, and forget about searching topics.

On Tuesday, however, Google introduced expanded search capability that finds people and topics. For instance, if you search “motorcycles,” you’ll get posts from Google+ on the topic, and “Scrabble” will yield recipes and such from other users. (See pictures below.)

“Google+ search results include items that only you can see, so family updates are just as easy to find as international news,” Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of engineering, wrote in a blog post.


Gundotra also revealed that 1 billion items are shared on the network every day.

More About: Google

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