Saturday, 1 October 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Facebook Is Getting Too Damn Complicated [OPINION]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Facebook Is Getting Too Damn Complicated [OPINION]”

Facebook Is Getting Too Damn Complicated [OPINION]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 08:55 PM PDT

Ever noticed how the remote for each new TV you check out seems to have more and more buttons? Or how that online game you used to enjoy is feeling less like fun as the options pile on? It’s not your fault. It’s a well-documented phenomenon, found in hardware, in software and on the Web: feature creep.

Engineers, bless their hearts, want to give us access to all the exciting new functions they’ve come up with. But they’re not great at making them simple enough for the average user, or at removing the buttons we no longer need. When a company does have the courage and discipline to slash away at its engineers’ wish lists, and adhere to the KISS principle of design (Keep It Simple, Stupid), it can rise head and shoulders above its rivals and delight its users. Apple is a great example of that, as is Nintendo (the Wii being one of the most simple — and successful — game console designs of all time.)

Unfortunately for its 800 million users, Facebook does not appear to be that kind of company. It used to be, and its inherent simplicity was part of the reason it was so successful. But now it is falling victim to feature creep — and a roster of settings that are becoming increasingly complex.

Take the Ticker, for example, that real-time stream of information which now crowds the right-side of your Facebook page with a lot of distracting noise. Or look at the Like button, which recently celebrated its first birthday. That was a very popular all-purpose tool that spread rapidly across the Web. Everyone knows what it means to Like something. But Facebook couldn’t leave well enough alone.

At this year’s f8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook Gestures, which will allow you to [any verb] a [any noun]. As Zuckerberg pointed out, this will allow you to “read” a book or “hike” a trail rather than like it. That’s great if you like a lot of granularity in your News feed, but I fear that for the vast majority of us it means more confusion, more noise, and the decline of the social network’s single most iconic feature.

Once upon a time, you just friended people; now you have to decide if you want to subscribe to their feed instead. A profile used to be a profile, plain and simple; now it can also be a Page (and converting one to the other can open up a world of pain). And let’s not even get into the debate over Timeline, the radical redesign of the user profile, which will start rolling out to all users in the next week or so and eventually be required for all of us. Got your all-important top-of-the-page picture picked out yet? Booked the hours that it’s going to take to fill in the story of your life, all the way back to birth? (The vast majority of respondents in our poll said filling in their Timeline gaps would take too much time and effort.)

The Other 792 Million

The New Facebook Profile: Timeline

Timeline is a radical departure from previous versions of the Facebook user profile. The most prominent feature is the addition of a cover photo at the top of the page. Users can change this to whatever they'd like it to be.


In 1987, my sister was born. Facebook knows these life events and includes them in your timeline.

Being Born

You can even add a picture and context to your birth, which starts the Timeline.

Timeline Interface

The Timeline is a two-column interface with top photos, status updates, friends and more.


Facebook has added a feature that lets you see where you have visited. This is powered by Facebook Places.

Photos in the Timeline

Here's how photos are displayed in the Timeline.

Friends in the New Timeline

Here's what the Friends page looks like.

Changing Settings

Some of the new Timeline's customization features.


More of the new Timeline

Getting Married

You can add life events, such as getting married, to your profile through the Publisher Bar. You can also announce that you broke a bone, got a new job, etc.

Chances are, as a Mashable reader, you’re on top of some of this stuff. Maybe you’ve even gone through the complex steps required to activate your Timeline ahead of time. Great; that puts you in the top 1% of Facebook users: the early adopters, the people who get excited about change rather than fear it. But spare a thought for the other 792 million users, most of whom don’t even know these changes are coming. There are millions of people who think the Ticker is the new Facebook. They’re in for a nasty surprise.

Even for those at the top of the pile, the complexities are growing. Many friends who cover Facebook for a living have their pet peeves about the site and the increasing number of roadblocks it throws in the path to doing something that should be very easy. Take Lists, for example. Facebook used to treat Lists as a way to prevent certain people from seeing certain information; you could exclude your boss and your parents from seeing all those girls’ night out pictures you were tagged in, say.

But now Facebook has changed its mind and decided that Lists are more like Circles on Google+ — ways to share with specific groups of friends rather than block specific groups of friends. In other words, there are now two kinds of Lists. It is possible to merge your old Lists together, but we’ve heard from users that this blasts your privacy settings. And who has the time to sort out this stuff? It’s getting so that managing your social network, and making sure nothing embarrassing slips out, is a full-time occupation in itself.

Memo To Facebook: Chill Out

The impression we get of Facebook is that of a young company, both in its own age and in the average age of its employees. They’re excited. They want to change the world. They can’t sit still for long. The engineers — and it is a company top-heavy with engineers, starting with Zuckerberg himself — can’t wait to thrill you with their latest feature. And they’re constantly looking over their shoulders at what Google+ is developing.

That all adds up to a dangerous mindset. It ignores the fact that most users just want to post a status update and read what their friends are up to. It treats casual visitors as if they were power users. I agree with my colleague Christina Warren that few people are likely to quit Facebook just yet, or not enough to matter. But that doesn’t mean they won’t get frustrated, confused, and less likely to visit. In less time than you might think, that will open up opportunities for rivals.

What Zuckerberg needs is the discipline and the vision of a Steve Jobs or a Jeff Bezos; the power to resist feature creep and focus on what matters.

Do you agree? Is Facebook becoming more complex and feature-laden than necessary? Let us know in the comments.

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

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, talymel

More About: Facebook, facebook timeline, Social Media, social networking

SpaceX Plans 100% Reusable Spacecraft With Retrorocket Re-entry [VIDEO]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 08:28 PM PDT

Private aerospace company SpaceX plans to develop reusable spacecraft that gently land on Earth or other planets using retrorockets, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

The idea is for both the space capsule and its rocket booster to be capable of “propulsive landing,” where after their reentry into the atmosphere using heat shields, the spacecraft would be lowered gently to a planet’s surface using rocket thrusters.

For Musk’s 100% reusable spacecraft idea to become reality, there’s much rigorous testing to be done. So far, SpaceX has done design work to figure out if it’s possible.

According to Discovery, Musk said the following at the National Press Club in New York Thursday: “Now, we could fail — I’m not saying we are certain of success here — but we are going to try to do it. And we have a design that on paper — doing the calculations, doing the simulations — it does work.”

Is this really practical? It seems like such propulsive landings on Earth would require inordinate amounts of fuel compared to the traditional fiery reentry with a parachute finish. But the Russians have been using a hybrid re-entry approach for years, using parachutes to slow down a spacecraft, and then a rocket burst just before landing to ensure the spacecraft is lowered gently to Earth.

A developmental advantage SpaceX might have is the fact that it’s already developing a launch escape system, which is already in the early stages of testing. And as Musk says, that system’s “escape thrusters are bolted in the side of the spacecraft, so we can also use it for propulsive landings.” He adds that such a system could also come in handy for a voyage and soft landing on Mars.

The first version of that Dragon spacecraft is almost ready, and it’s designed to take astronauts from Earth to the space station and back, and has yet to be equipped with such retrorockets. Tell us in the comments, readers, do you think SpaceX should stick with the traditional re-entry methods to save money, or try to develop this precision-powered landing approach?

More About: NASA, Rockets, space, SpaceX

Social Debate Site Lets You Compare Viewpoints With the Candidates

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 08:01 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: TwoSides

Quick Pitch: TwoSides makes it easy to see every side of an issue and compare viewpoints with others.

Genius Idea: See how your viewpoints match up against the presidential candidates.

The world would be a better place if everyone looked at every side of an issue. Or at least that’s the premise behind TwoSides, a startup launching this week as a social debate platform.

TwoSides provides web denizens with a place to view all sides of an issue, share their viewpoints, and see how their viewpoints match up against those of other site users or the 2012 presidential candidates.

The site centers around user-created Issue Pages. An issue could encompass anything from a political hotbed issue such as gay marriage to something more predictive like the success of the Kindle Fire.

You can either vote to agree with one of the existing viewpoints of an issue, add your own viewpoint, and share or curate evidence to support your points-of-views and potentially persuade others. All viewpoint votes are tallied and displayed in colorful consensus charts.

The more you agree with viewpoints, the better you can compare yourself against friends and other TwoSides others.

The site, explains founder Jono Lee, was born out of his own personal frustration with surfing the web to research all sides of an issue. “There’s a huge problem with trying to find balanced information on the internet,” Lee says.

And while TwoSides users double as Issue Page editors — who will bring their personal biases to the site, no doubt — the point is to foster informed discussions and debates where all viewpoints are represented.

The just-launched product, however, suffers from a small user base and seemingly low levels of activity. A majority of issue pages have only attracted a handful of votes, for instance, and even fewer users are adding their own evidence to back up their views.

The young startup hopes to sidestep the problem with its Election 2012 campaign. The module encourages you to vote on election issues to see how your viewpoints stack up against the 2012 presidential candidates, debate the issues or just learn more about them.

“We want to help increase tolerance and help people be more informed,” Lee says. “We want to eliminate a narrow-minded way of consuming news.”

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, spark-of-genius, startup, TwoSides

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Product Development: 9 Steps for Creative Problem Solving [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 06:30 PM PDT

Ronald Brown is a successful startup CEO with an extensive background in technology and consumer marketing. His new book, Anticipate. The Architecture of Small Team Innovation and Product Success is available via iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Creativity is the main prerequisite for innovation. However, our culture emphasizes critical thinking to the near exclusion of creative thinking (although it was the key to success in the Information Age). Today’s business is dominated by global complexity and commoditization. On the other hand, experts believe that creativity will be the driving force behind business success in the coming decades.

What constitutes creative thinking? For one, learning to think expansively and visually — to see patterns and "connect dots." You also need to let your subconscious mind do a bulk of the work by temporarily disengaging your logical mind — in other words, Einstein’s process of mental incubation. And, once you have an idea, it’s important to be able to communicate it clearly and accurately to others.

In business, the process of generating and commercializing a good idea has been honed by creative industries for more than a hundred years. This infographic presents nine major steps toward creative problem solving for new product development.

More About: Business, contributor, features, infographics

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Social Good Summit 2011: A Worldwide Success [VIDEO]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 06:02 PM PDT

summit image

Mashable, 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation held the second annual Social Good Summit last week. The event united a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss how new media is creating innovative global solutions.

The summit was a huge success. It had 1,700 attendees during the week, and nearly 30,000 joined throughout the world via livestream. There were more than 45,000 tweets with the hashtag #socialgood in the weeks leading up to and during the event. The conversation was truly global, with high social media participation coming from countries such as Myanmar, Italy and Brazil.

At the event, innovative technologists, influential minds and passionate activists came together with one shared goal: to unlock the potential of new media and technology to make the world a better place. Inspiring speakers — including actors Richard Gere and Geena Davis, athletes Lance Armstrong and Serena Williams, GE CMO Beth Comstock and Skype CEO Tony Bates — participated on stage. They talked about issues from maternal health and female empowerment to non-violence and peace-making via social media.

You can watch all the sessions on Mashable‘s YouTube channel, see photos on Facebook and read our coverage.

Here’s a look at some of the most inspiring sessions from this year’s Social Good Summit:

Social Good Summit : Day 2 : Lance Armstrong & Doug Ulman

THE ORIGINAL SOCIAL NETWORK -- LIVESTRONG WRISTBANDS AND GLOBAL GOOD Lance Armstrong, Founder and Chairman of LIVESTRONG (@LanceArmstrong), Doug Ulman, President and Chief Executive Officer of LIVESTRONG (@LIVESTRONGCEO) and moderated by Lance Ulanoff, Editor in Chief, Mashable (@LanceUlanoff)

Social Good Summit : Day 2 : Serena Williams, Anthony Lake & Adam Ostrow

CHAMPIONS FOR CHILDREN, CHAMPIONS FOR UNICEF Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) , Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director and Mashable's SVP Content & Executive Editor, Adam Ostrow (@AdamOstrow)

Social Good Summit : Day 3 : Tony Bates

THE TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER OF SKYPE IN THE CLASSROOM Tony Bates, Chief Executive Officer of Skype (@Skype) and (@SkypeClassroom)

Social Good Summit : Day 2 : Mandy Moore, Randi Zuckerberg & Derrick Ashong


Social Good Summt : Day 3 : Richard Gere & Henry Timms

Richard Gere makes a surprise appearance at the Social Good Summit

Social Good Summit : Startups for Good Challenge : Sun Saluter

Startups For Good Finalist and Winner : Sun Saluter Roseicollis Technologies aims to deploy technologies that can disrupt both developed and emerging markets. Currently they are implementing the SunSaluter, an inexpensive solar panel rotator, to push solar technology to the forefront of the alternative energy in the developing world.

Social Good Summit : Day 3 : Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Mary Robinson

WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER: THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF HUMAN CONNECTION -- THE ELDERS (@THEELDERS) Archbishop Desmond Tutu (@TheElders), Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and moderated by Lisa Witter, Chief Strategy Officer of Fenton (@lisamwitter)

Social Good Summit : Day 2 : Jeffrey D. Sachs & Hans Vestberg

21ST CENTURY EDUCATION FOR ALL IN A NETWORKED SOCIETY -- PRESENTED BY ERICSSON Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute and Hans Vestberg, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ericsson (@JeffDSachs)

Social Good Summit : Day 2 : Geena Davis, Paula Kerger, Abigail Disney & Asi Burak

WOMEN AND GIRLS LEAD: WHERE STORYTELLING, GAMING AND PUBLIC MEDIA CONVERGE Academy Award Winning-Actor, Geena Davis (@GDIGM), Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS (@PaulaKerger), Abigail Disney, Executive Producer of Women, War, War & Peace (@WomenWarPeace) and Asi Burak, Co-president of Games of Change (@ABurak), moderated by Aaron Sherinian, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations of the United Nations Foundation (@ASherinian)

Social Good Summit : Day 1 : Ted Turner & Adam Ostrow

NEXT GENERATION LEADERSHIP: AN OPENING KEYNOTE CONVERSATION Ted Turner, Chairman of Turner Enterprises, Inc. and the United Nations Foundation and Mashable's SVP Content & Executive Editor, Adam Ostrow (@AdamOstrow)

Social Good Summit : Day 1 : Nicholas Negroponte


Social Good Summit : Day 1 : Nancy Lublin

HMU (HIT ME UP!): YOUNG PEOPLE, MOBILE, AND SOCIAL CHANGE Nancy Lublin, CEO, Do Something (@NancyLublin)

Feeling down about missing out on this Mashable event? Next up is the Media Summit, which will spotlight how technology is changing the way we define and consume media. Join us on Nov. 4, 2011 at the TimesCenter in New York City. There will be exciting announcements, powerful interviews, inspiring presentations and great networking opportunities.

Sponsored by Ericsson

For more than 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 toward a more sustainable world. We call this Technology for Good.

More About: Events, mashable events, social good summit

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10 Facebook Timeline Designs That Will Blow You Away [PICS]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 05:20 PM PDT

Facebook’s new Timeline design gives users a large “cover photo” space at the top of the page. We think this revamp is a great opportunity to get creative with your profile presentation.

We recently asked the Mashable readership to share how they’ve played with the new design. Here are 10 examples of Facebook Timeline cover photo designs we think are particularly creative, and that offer a witty take on the new layout.

SEE ALSO: How to Enable the New Facebook Timeline NOW | HOW TO: Make the Most of the New Facebook Timeline Cover Photo

Take a look through the image gallery below. Share your new Timeline designs in the comments and don’t despair if yours didn’t get chosen this time around. Our coverage of the new Facebook continues, so keep your submissions coming!

1. Ekkapong Techawongthaworn

Playful and fun, we're big fans of Ekkapong's rainy creation.

2. Andrew Grojean

This is a cunning way to keep the old Facebook design.

3. Mathew Barker

Mathew makes us smile with a big photo / little photo visual gag.

4. Rodney Hess

This concept is simple, but very effective.

5. Victor Zapanta

A profile within a profile within a profile...and so on.

6. Mohammad L. Azzam

Here's some mini-me fun from Mohammad.

7. Vinh Nguyen

Vinh offers an imaginative take on the "Timeline" with a look into the future.

8. Lawson Hembree V

Lawson sees his profile pic as a snapshot, with more images spanning out across the cover photo.

9. Maggie Lin

Maggie is mixing up her social networks with a Facebook / Google+ profile.

10. Ekkapong Techawongthaworn

The low placement of the profile pic box doesn't necessarily lend itself to a full body shot, but Ekkapong found a good way to work around that.

More About: Facebook, features, gallery, photography, trending

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Twitter Buzz: How Do You Like Windows 8 So Far? [CHART]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 04:54 PM PDT

What do users of the latest Windows 8 beta think of the nascent operating system upgrade? A good way to find out is through Twitter — by investigating patterns in thousands of comments and opinions.

That’s exactly what social media listening firm Mashwork did, resulting in this chart of data, taking the early pulse of opinions about Windows 8 from Twitter users between June 15 and Sept. 22 of this year.

The most surprising result in this survey of 65,968 tweets is that the most highly anticipated feature of Windows 8 is its unusually short boot time. Microsoft says Windows 8 cuts the boot time of Windows 7 nearly in half. (Check out the video on this page, where a Microsoft techie shows a laptop booting Windows 8 in about 6 seconds.)

As the chart says, this early buzz consists of the opinions of early adopters and developers. But will the general public be as impressed with those quick boot times? We asked Mashworks founder Jared Feldman what he thinks.

“In an era when getting your information as quickly as possible is king, the improved boot time will absolutely be appreciated by the general public, but the biggest talking point I’m sure will be the new user interface,” he says. “The public typically cares less about technical points and responds most immediately to aesthetic changes.”

Take a look at the buzz, and then in the comments, please add your initial reactions to Windows 8. Is its short boot time the most exciting feature?

[Graphic courtesy Mashwork]

Windows 8 Devices

Microsoft demonstrated a lot of Windows 8 devices, including tablet devices, at its Build conference in Anaheim, CA.

Windows 8 Devices: A Closer Look

These are some of the devices running Windows 8 at Microsoft's Build conference.

Windows 8: Lock Screen

"Your personalized lock screen shows you unread emails and other app notifications. The image shown here is a photo of the road leading to Mt. Cook National Park in New Zealand."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Start Screen

"See your apps and content in a glance on the start screen."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Files

"Pick the files you want to send or share from one place."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Internet Explorer

"Touch browsing is fast, fluid and intuitive."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Thumb

"The thumb keyboard feels natural and comfortable."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Touch Keyboard

"Large buttons help you type on the touch keyboard."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows division President Steven Sinofsky

Windows division President Steven Sinofsky takes the stage at Build.

More About: buzz, Twitter, Windows 8

You Spend 8 Hours Per Month on Facebook [STATS]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 04:21 PM PDT

Google may still be the world’s most visited website with users spending nearly 2 hours on the site in a given month. But the average U.S. Internet user spends nearly 4 times the amount of those hours on Facebook, according to a new study.

Nielsen says 176.2 million people in the U.S. visited Google in August. That’s more than Facebook (163.2 million), Yahoo (149.0 million), Microsoft (134.4 million) and YouTube (128.0 million).

However, in the race for user attention, Facebook is king. The average U.S. user spent a whopping seven hours and 46 minutes on Facebook in August. That’s a full 15.5 minutes the average American spends on Facebook every single day. Compare that to the average Google user, who spent just one hour and 46 minutes on the site.

Another surprise: YouTube wasn’t the second-biggest Internet time waster (one hour, 41 minutes). That title goes to AOL (two hours, 53 minutes) and Yahoo (two hours and 12 minutes).

Overall, U.S. Internet users spent 30 hours online in August, visited an average of 99 domains and viewed an average of 3,123 web pages. And 216 million Americans spent time on the web out of an estimated total of 275 million people who have access to the web.

Facebook has been the web’s ultimate time sink for a while now, but it’s becoming clear that Facebook is taking up more and more of our lives. In August 2010, the average American spent five hours and 46 minutes on the social network. In just a year, that number has grown by three full hours.

How much time do you think you spend on Facebook per month? Give us your guesses in the comments.

More About: Facebook, Google, Nielsen

Jell-O “Jiggle-It” App Makes Your Dessert Dance [VIDEO]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 04:02 PM PDT

Kraft has come up with a clever way to exploit Jell-O’s unique motion properties in the digital age with an app for the iPhone and the iPad that features a gelatin cube dancing to your music.

The free app [iTunes link], created by ad agency Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, uses an audio analyzer to detect a song’s beats per minute and energy level. The agency worked with choreographer Troy Kirby on getting the moves down right.

I can attest that the technology works pretty well. It faithfully interpreted both Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days” and LCD Soundsystem’s “Disco Infiltrator” in a rigorous test. A rep for the agency says the app, which got no promotion, has already received 10,000 downloads. Apparently, a lot of people have decided that there’s room on their iPad for a Jell-O app.

Battlefield 3: EA’s New Shooter Gets Social With Battlelog [HANDS-ON]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 03:32 PM PDT

battlefield image

We got some hands-on time with Battlelog, a new social layer for Battlefield 3, the upcoming first-person shooter from Electronic Arts.

The Battlefield games have always been in direct competition with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series. Call of Duty has outsold EA’s Battlefield in recent years, but EA thinks the tide’s turning. “It’s going up against the next Call of Duty, which is presently the number one game in the game industry,” John Riccitiello, EA’s CEO, told IGN. “A game that last year did $400 million in revenue on day one. Battlefield 3 is designed to take that game down.”

Part of that plan is the Battlelog social layer, a direct competitor to Call of Duty’sElite,” that franchise’s own social layer released earlier this year. Mashable got into the early Beta of Battlefield and put Battlelog through its paces. Here’s what you need to know as the two go head-to-head.


Battlelog shares a lot of features with Elite. Players can create an online persona including some minor customization like what your avatar looks like and how your dog tags are displayed. The profile cribs a bit from Facebook with options to include further details. The profile’s main purpose is to organize and display a player’s individual stats. Any time a player logs game time, those stats — down to how many bullets you fired and with what weapons — are updated on the profile. The profile and stats can be accessed through the console, web or on mobile phones.

The stats page below is for Mashable‘s account. Disclaimer One: This is play time for the entire office. Disclaimer Two: We’re clearly not very good at this game.

stats image

As you use certain weapons or solider classes, such as Assault or Recon, you gain experience. Those weapons and classes then level up, providing you with better guns, perks or stats. One complaint on the Beta (now open to the public) is the high damage ratio, but this should be mediated as players start to go up in rank.

Gettin’ Friendly

Battlelog’s social elements are in how players create teams and respond to games. Much like Facebook, the bottom-right of the screen has a “Com Center” where users can chat with their friends and set up quick games by dragging and dropping friends into a “party.” Players can also set up “platoons” to help track stats among smaller groups of players.

Facebook runs through the entire experience as players can comment on matches, player profiles or even “Hooah” (read: “Like”) posts. Facebook itself is integrated into Battlelog. Users can sync their account with Facebook to automatically pull in their existing friends or share out when they level up or gain new items.

Battlelog as an Online Hub

battlelog image

One of the coolest things about Battlelog is unfortunately only available to PC users. Basically, Battlelog acts as the game hub on the web. Not only can you search for servers but actually launch multiplayer, co-op or single player campaigns directly from Battlelog. We didn’t get a chance to check out server speed, but this quick launch feature certainly helps alleviate the waiting time between games. For example, players can check their stats or interact with friends while the game looks for a multiplayer match with your preferences.

Early Verdict

We only got a short time to test Battlelog but it already looks pretty impressive. The game itself is a blast to play and the social layer only adds more depth and interactivity to the experience. Our biggest criticism is that Battlelog isn’t terribly “social.” Stat tracking has been a part of games for a long time and despite some aesthetic choices, the commenting and discussion aspects are much like game forums of old.

Does it kill the competition though? Call of Duty’s Elite definitely has more social options than Battlelog, including online competitions with real-world prizes and what appears to be a deeper integration into the solo campaign. Battlelog, however, has a much cleaner and more manageable approach. It does less things, but it appears to do them better than Elite.

The Beta for Battlefield 3 is now open, so dig into the multiplayer and let us know what you think of Battelog. Do you like your shooters to be social? Sound off in the comments and please, if you see us in-game, go easy.

More About: features, Gaming, Social Media, video games

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Jeff Bezos is No Steve Jobs — But Amazon Could Be the Next Apple

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 03:00 PM PDT

Watching Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos extol the virtues of the Amazon Kindle Fire on Wednesday, during what was probably one of the most important product presentations of his life, it occurred to me that Bezos could be the tech industry's next Steve Jobs. This is not a new thought, or a unique one. It is, however, the wrong thought to be thinking.

Whether or not Bezos comes to be as regarded, feared and admired as the former Apple CEO is immaterial. What matters is whether or not Amazon is poised to become the next Apple.

I know, it's disappointing to think that Bezos is not Jobs’s heir apparent. The Amazon Kindle Fire presentation with Bezos on a large darkened stage, framed by big images of new Kindle Touches and a color screen Fire tablet behind him was thoroughly Apple-esque. Bezos paced the stage and showed commercials—just like Steve Jobs. There was also a heavy reliance on quotes from pundits. Jobs has done that too, and to good effect. Bezos, however, over-used the quotes, and read some lengthy ones in a halting manner that gummed up the whole presentation.

Still, the Amazon founder and long-time CEO was smart enough to know that the products were the real stars on stage that day. He got out of the way and let the Kindle Fire and new e-ink Kindle's features (and low price points) speak for themselves.

It is those products that make Amazon the most formidable competition for Apple in the tablet and media space, along with its access to consumers and its market approach. Bezos is clearly guiding that strategy, yet I don't ever wonder what would happen to Amazon or its products if Bezos stepped aside.

For some, the Amazon-Apple comparison may seem like a stretch. Amazon's Kindle Fire is no Apple iPad, after all. It's smaller, less powerful and more tightly focused on pure content consumption. Unlike Apple, Amazon does not seem particularly concerned with beautiful devices. Apple builds MOMA-worthy products. Amazon builds clean, simple gadgets that give you straightforward access to their library of content and their vast array of consumer products.

Apple vs. Amazon, Not Google

I think the best way to understand why Amazon will be Apple's true competitor is to look at the ways in which Google, often thought of as Apple's biggest threat, is not.

Don't get me wrong. Google is a huge and powerful company, but it is almost entirely about the back-end, not about selling consumers stuff.

Google makes Web browsers, mobile platforms, search engines and even a desktop OS. It provides the ads for countless Web sites. But it doesn't really deal directly with consumers in the retail arena. It did try once to sell its Nexus One Android phone direct, even going so far as building an online store. Consumers ignored it, and Google eventually shut it down.

Android is a highly successful Mobile platform, but no one is buying Android itself. They're buying phones that run the OS from carriers, and they’re buying into the handset manufacturers’ brands. People look for Verizon phones, Droids (but not "Androids"), AT&T handsets, and so on. They'll fixate on certain Android models, like the Bionic and HTC's Incredible, but many of these devices hide their Android roots under a custom-built interface. Consumers are aware of Android tablets — but Samsung and Motorola make Tabs and Xooms, respectively, not "Androids". No one buys an Android tablet directly from Google.

Google decentralizes further by allowing every Android partner to build and manage their own App library. As a result, consumers end up associating access to Android Apps with the manufacturer, not with Google.

The search giant does sell software services to business. It has a whole suite of cloud apps that compete with Microsoft Office, but the company does not sell them to consumers. Consumers use the free versions of Google Docs and most are still using Microsoft's products.

Everything Google is doing — even the Chrome browser it advertises on TV every day — is a background product. Even Google Search is little more than an information broker. You use it to get somewhere else, not to find and buy Google products.

More Alike Than Not

While Google is busy giving most of its products away for free and letting partners do whatever they want with them, Amazon and Apple are focused on selling products direct to consumers. They both keep a vice-like grip on their ecosystems (one app store, one home-made browser, one e-mail client, one unique interface) and ensure that customers see as little as possible of the technical underpinnings that make it all work.

I always knew Amazon could be a formidable opponent for Apple, but it wasn't until Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire that I realized Amazon has positioned itself as a comprehensive provider of hardware, software and services. It has an ecosystem in place, and products that are easy to understand and use. This is Apple’s strategy, too. The biggest difference is that Amazon's retail reach extends far beyond multimedia products and games. As of now, Apple is pretty much out of the loop when you use Safari on an iPad to shop for home furnishings. (At the same time, Apple has one huge retail advantage over Amazon: real-world stores.)

So will Bezos be the industry's next icon? Only if becoming the next Steve Jobs means running the company that's most competitive with Apple.

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

The $79 Kindle.

The $79 Kindle.

The $79 Kindle.

The $79 Kindle.

The Kindle Touch comes in two versions: $139 with 3G, and $99 without.

The Kindle Touch comes in two versions: $139 with 3G, and $99 without.

The Kindle Touch comes in two versions: $139 with 3G, and $99 without.

The Kindle Touch comes in two versions: $139 with 3G, and $99 without.

More About: amazon, fire, Google, ipad, Kindle

Google Maps Launches Helicopter View of Your Route

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 02:29 PM PDT

Google has added a 3D aerial route preview option to its Google Maps product.

With the new feature, Google Maps users can fly alongside routes to get a birds-eye view of directions while planning road trips, biking excursions, hiking trips or regular city commutes.

The 3D preview feature — colloquially referred to as “helicopter view” — is now a part of the Google directions experience. Users simply enter start, mid and endpoint destinations to get directions as usual, and a new 3D play button will appear next to the returned directions.

“The map will switch to Earth view and automatically start flying you along your recommended route,” Google Maps engineer Paul Yang explains in a blog post. “To help you keep track of which step you are on, the current leg of the trip is highlighted in the left panel. You can also jump to a different part of the trip by clicking on a different step.”

Users can also pause the 3D preview by poking about off-route areas, all the while remaining in the 3D Earth view. They also can return to the standard two-dimensional view by clicking on the 2D button in the left-hand directions panel.

3D route previews, on first glance, appear to mash up the Google Earth and Google Maps experiences quite nicely. Take a trip of your own and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More About: 3D, Google, Google Maps, trending

School Lunch Wall Is Like a “Hot or Not” for Food

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 02:07 PM PDT

school lunch

Chef Jaime Oliver is known for crusading against unhealthy food in school cafeterias. The celebrity chef has now brought his campaign online to let users decide for themselves in a “hot or not” style website called “School Lunch Wall.”

Users are encouraged to visit their local schools and snap photos of what’s for lunch. After the images are posted to the site, others get to vote on how tasty or healthy a meal appears.

School Lunch Wall is an enormously simple concept — take a picture, let the public vote — but it’s also a clever way to expose what kind of food kids are actually being fed. At the moment, most of the food on the site doesn’t look bad. But the vote results are also an interesting look at what people consider to be healthy or tasty food.

Users can tag the photos with their name, location and what’s in the meal. So far, only a few photos have information about the school where they were taken.

Check out the site and let us know where you stand: Is this a smart way to start thinking about cafeteria food or just another image carousel of good-looking meals? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Food, health, Social Good, Social Media

For more Social Good coverage:

Which iPhone 5 Feature Do You Want the Most? [POLL]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:38 PM PDT

white iphone 4

Apple will finally end our long national nightmare next week and officially unveil the iPhone 5.

When Apple CEO Tim cook gets up on stage at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., campus, all speculation will end. Until then, though, we can all imagine that each and every one of us has an impact on the iPhone 5′s final incarnation. What will it look like? It may be radically different from the iPhone 4 (and 3Gses) millions of you currently have in your pockets.

Mashable has done a fair share of speculation on what the final iPhone 5′s new look and capabilities. However, Apple makes these products for you, the consumer. So what we think and want isn't half as important as what you hope to see in Apple's next hand-held wonder.

Do you want a thinner product that slides neatly into your sometimes too-tight front pocket? Perhaps you're thinking that the next iPhone would be infinitely better if it had two cameras on the back to capture 3D images. Others may want twice as much storage and the option of more memory. We've heard whispers about larger screens. And some think it makes sense to simply squeeze more pixels into the current screen size. Obviously 4G is high on the list and some want the iPhone to double as a credit card (NFC).

It's unlikely we'll get everything we want in a new iPhone, so let's try and settle on the things we want the most. Vote for your must-have new feature in the poll below.

iPhone Evolution

Polish students designed this beauty, going with the curved back look. Found on VeteranGeek.

iPhone News Blog

This early mockup extrapolates from the current iPhone 4 design. It's a clean design -- one we'd be happy to slip into a pocket. Found on the German iPhone News Blog.

Nowhere Else

Those talented French artists at Nowhere Else envision the iPhone 5 having a rounded back, and accompanied this attractive illustration with an entire infographic full of iPhone 5 rumors and speculation.


On the left is allegedly the iPhone 5 in the hands of someone testing it on a train, and the white phone is allegedly the iPhone 4S, all found by 9-to-5 Mac.


MacRumors' mockup created by CiccareseDesign shows a slim cross section.

Antonello Falcon

Called the "Size Zero iPhone 5," Antonello Falcon's flight of fancy has a 4.6-inch screen, curved glass edges, a thin 8.4mm cross-section and a soft-touch Home button. Perhaps this is more akin to an iPhone 6. Found on VeteranGeek.

This is My Next

This mockup from ThisIsMyNext has been floating around for a while, but it latched on early to the teardrop-shaped cross-section and larger screen.

Roman Sima

Called the "Glossy iPhone 5," this ultra-lightweight design features a plastic cover. Here's Roman's website.


From MacRumors, this design echos the iPhone 4, but thinner.

Piotr Spalek

When iDeals China leaked a shot of a 4-inch screen that was alleged to belong to an iPhone 5, Polish designer Piotr Spalek put together a mockup that matched up with the screen.

More About: apple, iphone, iphone 4, iPhone 5

92% of Americans Take Action for Social Good [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:18 PM PDT

Ninety-two percent of American’s took action for social change this past year, according to the Social Change Impact Report from Walden University.

The report was created as a kind of barometer for who is engaged in social change, what issues matter to them and how they’re working together. Surprisingly, tech did not play a huge role. According to the report, people from Generation Y were more likely to get involved through traditional means than digital. Only 52% of the demographic posted a comment or expressed an opinion through a blog or website (it’s unclear if this also includes Facebook or other social networks).

This, however, butts up against more promising stats such as 80% of respondents believe technology is getting more people involved in social change than ever, and 65% of adult respondents say that social media is not just a fad.

SEE ALSO: World's Top Thinkers Weigh In on Social Good [VIDEO]

Take a look below for some cool stats on social change and also be sure to check out these two other graphics on Social Change and Technology and Social Change and Education.

social change infographic

More About: infographic, Social Good, statistics

For more Social Good coverage:

Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire Costs $209.63 to Make [STUDY]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:02 PM PDT

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire costs $209.63 to make, meaning the company loses about $10 on each one it sells, a new study reveals.

Research firm IHS offers a rundown of the device’s components on its site. Materials for the Kindle Fire, which retails for $199, cost $191.65, but with factory expenses, that comes to $209.63. However, despite the apparent loss, IHS estimates that Amazon is “likely to generate a marginal profit of $10″ on each Kindle Fire sold, when you take into account sales of digital content with the device.

The researcher goes on to reason that Amazon doesn’t make a lot of money from Kindle sales or sales of digital content like ebooks and music. Instead, Amazon’s strategy is to lure more customers to buy higher-margin goods from its site. “So far, no retailer has managed to create an umbilical link between digital content and a more conventional retail environment,” “says the announcement from IHS. “With Kindle, Amazon has created the most convincing attempt at this yet, and it is doing so by using established retail tactics: deploying content to get shoppers in the door, and then selling them all sorts of other goods.”

SEE ALSO: Amazon Kindle Fire Just Hijacked Android

Kindle Fire, introduced this week, is selling at a price that’s lower than some had predicted. It’s also $50 less than Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color, its closest competitor.

More About: amazon, IHS Supply, Kindle, kindle fire, nook color, Tablet

Foursquare Hack Reveals When Friends First Met

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 12:50 PM PDT

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

Google engineer Mihai Parparita met his wife during their junior year of college. But at some point, it occurred to them that they had actually taken a class together two years prior to that without introducing themselves.

It took the couple years of conversation to discover this coincidence, but Parparita recently created a way for other couples — or friends and people who just met — to plot their past intersections. A clever app he put together at a Foursquare Hackathon in San Francisco compares two people’s checkin history and shows them when they’ve been in the same room. The app is called Intersquares.

“It's a way of figuring [out where you saw someone before you met them] but also a good way to relive memories with friends,” he says. “For people who were using Foursquare when they started dating, it’s a nice confirmation of their first date.”

To use Intersquares, users hook up their Foursquare accounts and send a link to whomever they want to compare checkins with. As soon as that person links his or her account, voilà, out spits a list of common checkins.

Intersquares was picked as a Foursquare global hackathon finalist out of 90 entries that were created at local hackathons in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Paris. Winners were determined by Foursquare employees and online votes.

In addition to a giant inflatable shark, Parparita won the honor of his app becoming a part of the Foursquare badge system. People who connect their profile to Intersquares or the other three finalist hacks will get a “Platformer” badge.

“It's not about money, it's about the world glory,” he says.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, gehringj

More About: foursquare, hack of the week

For more Tech coverage:

Facebook Sued Over “Timelines” Trademark

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 12:39 PM PDT

Facebook has been hit with a lawsuit over a trademark dispute surrounding the new Facebook Timeline profiles. asserts that if Facebook is allowed to move forward with the launch of Timeline, it “will essentially eliminate” and cause mass confusion that is affiliated with Facebook.

Facebook Timeline, a feature that was unveiled last week and will be rolled out over the coming weeks, transforms the Facebook user profile into a virtual scrapbook that lays out your digital history., on the other hand, lets users view and create multimedia timelines for historical events such as the American Civil War or the rise of Apple, Inc. The five-year-old site partners with The Boston Globe and other media organizations in order to create timelines for different sports teams. It also happens to own the U.S. trademarks for “Timelines,” “” and “Timelines&design.” alleges that Facebook’s launch of Timeline infringes upon its trademarks. Not only that, but the company alleges that the social network destroyed its Facebook Page ( in favor of a redirect to an introduction page about Facebook’s new user profile pages.’s Page appeared to be working normally though as of Friday afternoon.

From the court complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for Chicago:

Facebook's use of the term "Timeline," and its redirection of Internet traffic from Timelines' Facebook page to Facebook's new "Timeline" offering, infringes on Timelines' federally registered trademarks in that it causes confusion as to the source of the services offered to users of the Internet. Indeed, Facebook's "Timeline" offering and its misdirection of users attempting to access Timelines' offering is intended to prevent Internet users from accessing information about and to allow users to instead use Facebook's "Timeline" offering.

Facebook has dealt with many lawsuits in its young life (many of them from the Winklevoss twins), but this one might present a challenge to the social network.

What would you do if you were Facebook? Let us know in the comments.

The New Facebook Profile: Timeline

Timeline is a radical departure from previous versions of the Facebook user profile. The most prominent feature is the addition of a cover photo at the top of the page. Users can change this to whatever they'd like it to be.


In 1987, my sister was born. Facebook knows these life events and includes them in your timeline.

Being Born

You can even add a picture and context to your birth, which starts the Timeline.

Timeline Interface

The Timeline is a two-column interface with top photos, status updates, friends and more.


Facebook has added a feature that lets you see where you have visited. This is powered by Facebook Places.

Photos in the Timeline

Here's how photos are displayed in the Timeline.

Friends in the New Timeline

Here's what the Friends page looks like.

Changing Settings

Some of the new Timeline's customization features.


More of the new Timeline

Getting Married

You can add life events, such as getting married, to your profile through the Publisher Bar. You can also announce that you broke a bone, got a new job, etc.

More About: Facebook, facebook timeline, trending

For more Business coverage:

How Apple and Facebook Nearly Fell Out — Over the HP TouchPad [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 12:17 PM PDT

Tech titans Facebook and Apple have a contentious relationship that is frequently put to the test. But a Facebook for TouchPad application was very nearly the last straw, Mashable has learned from multiple sources.

Facebook and Apple, united by a common interest in beating Google, will finally put their differences aside to launch the long-overdue Facebook for iPad app Tuesday.

We also expect announcements on a new Facebook for iPhone application, a Facebook HTML5 mobile app platform, and perhaps even Facebook integration in iOS 5.

This all marks a significant leap forward in the sometimes hostile Facebook and Apple relationship. It began well when Apple first set up an Apple Students group on Facebook in 2006 — “a monster success” for both companies, according to a source who spoke with Mashable on the condition of anonymity.

But the companies would butt heads many times in the following years.

How Ping Went Wrong

The most publicized confrontation involved Ping, Apple’s attempt at an iTunes social network. Ping first launched with Facebook integration in September 2010, but Facebook quickly pulled Apple’s access to its APIs. This alerted the media to a growing rift between the companies.

A source familiar with the chain of the events attributes the Ping debacle to a disagreement over iOS 4. Apple had fully integrated Facebook into the iPhone and iPad’s operating system, and was ready to launch the mobile-social fusion when API negotiations broke down. Apple, lacking confidence in Facebook’s ability to build a great application, asked to build its own Facebook for iPhone app. Facebook responded with a firm no. Negotiations came to halt.

Meanwhile, Apple was working away on Ping — and due to the stalled iOS 4 talks, decided to keep Facebook mostly out of the loop. Facebook, surprised by Ping’s launch, turned off Apple’s access to its APIs. The rest was history.

Jobs vs. Zuck

App Icon

The Facebook icon looks the same. Note the Cydia and iFile icons. Right now, in order to access Facebook for iPad, you need to be running a jailbroken iPad 1 or iPad 2.

Loading Screen

Facebook Login

News Feed

The default screen is the Facebook News Feed.

News Feed Options

You can select various filters for the app, just like in Facebook on the desktop.

Side Panel

Sliding the main window to the right reveals an enhanced Facebook sidebar. This interaction, which is similar to Twitter for iPad, provides access to Groups, Events, Places and Messages.

Side Panel

In landscape mode, the panel appears alongside the elongated news feed if swiped to the right.

Status Update

Sharing a status update works as expected. Tapping on the lock icon shows you visibility options.

Visibility Options


Photo albums are displayed in a grid-like manner, using the same styling Apple uses in its Photos app.

Add Photos

You can create a new album or add photos from your device to an existing album.


Notifications are accessible throughout the app.

Facebook Chat

Facebook Chat works on the iPad. Users can communicate iChat style through the panel on the right.

Facebook Chat

Facebook Chat works quite well, but note the lack of hyperlink support.

Like or Comment

A modal window gives an option to "Like" or comment on a post or status update.

Places Check In

Who says the iPad isn't mobile! Facebook Places is supported in the app.

Places Map view

Places Friends View

Facebook Groups

Groups can be accessed from the side panel.

User Wall

User Info

User Wall Interactions

In landscape mode, comments and likes on a status update or wall post appear in the right hand panel.

Viewing Comments on a Photo

Replying to Comments

Logging Out

To log out, tap the arrow underneath your name in the left side panel.

Account Screen

Facebook for iPad supports multiple accounts, which is great for users who share an iPad with other family members.

Remove an Account

To remove an account, tap and hold the profile photo and then tap on the "X."

Remove Account Options

When an account is removed, all the information about it is wiped off of the device as well.

Roughly three months ago, Steve Jobs — then the Apple CEO — paid a visit to Facebook to discuss a Facebook for iPad application with CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg promised Jobs that the social network would release its first ever tablet application for iPad. Jobs, however, learned during his visit that HP was about to release a native webOS Facebook application for the TouchPad.

Indeed, back on February 9, 2011 — the date HP revealed its almost defunct TouchPad tablet — HP SVP of Applications and Services Steven McArthur did tout the fact that the company had been working closely with Facebook.

The Facebook application that HP finally launched in July, however, appears to be an unofficial build that disappointed users.

So what happened to the rich Facebook for TouchPad application that HP promised?

HP Plays the Cuckold

Image courtesy of

When Jobs learned of the webOS Facebook app during his summer visit to Facebook, he was livid. Zuckerberg vowed to get the app pulled. But Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm and then the GM of HP’s webOS division, refused to halt the release of the app. Facebook responded by restricting HP’s access to its APIs — just as it had done with Apple’s Ping, a year earlier.

Was Facebook playing both sides? Absolutely, says a source close to HP. Facebook was made aware of the application and device integrations. The company knew what was coming, changed its tune right before release — and only did so to appease Apple.

For its part, HP was furious. It had hoped the Facebook application would help differentiate the TouchPad from other tablets on the market. Another source says that HP may have considered legal action. In any case, the TouchPad was discontinued shortly after.

Kiss and Make Up?

So Facebook and HP may be on the outs, but Facebook and Apple appear to have patched up their differences.

Not only are the pair finally aligned on the Facebook for iPad application, but they’ve been working together closely on Facebook’s HTML 5 mobile app platform.

This is the closest Apple and Facebook have been to creating something meaningful together, one source says. They’re partnering because they share a common enemy: Google.

Still, there are no guarantees. Both companies are said to be scrambling to work out the final details prior to the iPhone 5 launch event on Oct. 4.

We’ve reached out to Apple, Facebook and HP for on-the-record comment.

Mashable’s Editor at Large Ben Parr and Entertainment Editor Christina Warren contributed to the reporting of this story.

More About: apple, Facebook, facebook for ipad, HP, Touchpad, trending

Will You Fill in Your Facebook Timeline Gaps? [POLL]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 12:00 PM PDT

Facebook Timeline allows users to see their past updates — including wall posts, photos or announcements. It can document your entire life, starting at birth and ending at present.

But, like many, you’ll probably find that your Timeline has a huge gap between your birth date and the mid-2000′s. Facebook began for college students in 2004 and opened to the public in 2006. And before then, the idea of posting personal information to the web was in its infancy. Because many of us never documented our earlier years online or even on a computer, filling out the time period before you began using Facebook will take some time and manual effort.

We want to know: Will you fill out your Facebook Timeline? Answer our poll below, and in the comments, let us know what you might post — or avoid posting. Baby pictures? Your first perfect test score? Diary entries from junior high? Your responses may be featured in a follow-up post on Mashable.

The New Facebook Profile: Timeline

Timeline is a radical departure from previous versions of the Facebook user profile. The most prominent feature is the addition of a cover photo at the top of the page. Users can change this to whatever they'd like it to be.


In 1987, my sister was born. Facebook knows these life events and includes them in your timeline.

Being Born

You can even add a picture and context to your birth, which starts the Timeline.

Timeline Interface

The Timeline is a two-column interface with top photos, status updates, friends and more.


Facebook has added a feature that lets you see where you have visited. This is powered by Facebook Places.

Photos in the Timeline

Here's how photos are displayed in the Timeline.

Friends in the New Timeline

Here's what the Friends page looks like.

Changing Settings

Some of the new Timeline's customization features.


More of the new Timeline

Getting Married

You can add life events, such as getting married, to your profile through the Publisher Bar. You can also announce that you broke a bone, got a new job, etc.

More About: Facebook, facebook timeline, poll

22 Essential Tools for Testing Your Website’s Usability

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 11:10 AM PDT

The Web Design Usability Series is supported by, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off.

A site’s ease of use, or its usability, is an integral part of its success, especially with websites becoming more and more interactive, complex and packed with features. User-centered design is all about building websites that fulfill the goals and desires of its users, and at the heart of this concept is that a user must be able interact with your website effectively.

Testing usability is an art and a science. There are many times when usability testers rely on qualitative measurements, intuition, opinions and feedback from users and experience. However, there are also factors you can test quantitatively to ensure that a site is usable.

In this post, we’ll discuss six crucial factors that affect usability. For each, you’ll be provided with some tips, tools and ideas on how you can measure these usability factors.

We’ll focus on practical usability testing, so the emphasis is on pragmatic and inexpensive strategies that most site owners can do. These things apply regardless of what type of website (blog, e-store, corporate site, web app, mobile device, etc.) you’re evaluating.

What other tools have you used to test website usability? Let us know in the comments below.

1. User Task Analysis

The most important and obvious thing to test for is whether users are able to accomplish their tasks and goals when they come to your site. Not only that, you have to ensure they’re able to do so in the best and most efficient way possible.

The first thing that must be done is determine what the core user tasks are. For example, in a blog, some critical user tasks are reading blog posts, being able to find older posts and leaving comments.

Perform a task analysis for each task. Evaluate task performance under these considerations:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for new users to learn to perform the task? For more complicated tasks, are there sufficient help features such as tutorials, in-line tips and hints, tool tips, etc.?
  • Intuitiveness: How obvious and easy is the task to accomplish?
  • Efficiency: Are users performing tasks optimally? Are there ways to streamline and reduce the time it takes to complete the task?
  • Preciseness: How prone to errors is the task? What are the reasons for any errors? How can we improve the interface to lower errors and unneeded repetition?
  • Fault Tolerance: If a user makes a mistake while performing the task, how fast can he recover?
  • Memorability: How easy is the task to repeat?
  • Affordance: Are interactive elements (such as buttons, links and input text boxes) related to the accomplishment of a task obviously interactive and within convenient reach? Is it evident what the results of a user action will be when the user decides to interact with it by clicking, mouse hovering, etc.?

Evaluating user tasks is a little tricky because many things associated with this are subjective, can vary greatly between different users and require you to create your own criteria for what can be considered a success.

That said, one of the best and easiest ways to perform task analysis is remote user testing. You can test participants regardless of their location, and you save the money related to the logistics of conducting your own user testing studies (booking a location, equipment, searching for participants, etc.).

Check out these remote user testing web apps:

Intuition HQ

IntuitionHQ allows you to see how users interact with your website and records the duration in which a task is completed.


This app allows you to perform micro-usability tests, including the measurement of task performance. You give participants a task, such as "Click on the link that takes you to the home page of the site," and it records data related to task accomplishment success and duration, thereby giving you information on learnability and efficiency.


This remote usability testing tool gives you loads of features without the requirement of knowing how to code. It has a nice interface for setting up your tests and offers you excellent reporting features for task analysis.


FiveSecondTest is a quick and easy way to test the learnability, intuitiveness and affordance of user interface elements, such as buttons and links.

2. Readability

Content is at the heart of any type of website. For example, even in web apps — which aren’t typically as content-centric as, say, a blog or web magazine — not being able to read and understand the user interface is a hindrance to one’s ability to perform tasks efficiently and accurately.

Readability hinges on these considerations:

  • Ease of Comprehension: Is the content easy to understand and internalize? Are the words being used familiar to the average Internet user or are they too complex and uncommon? Are sentences and paragraphs as concise as possible?
  • Legibility: Are fonts big enough? Is there enough contrast between the text and its background?
  • Reading Enjoyment: Would users appreciate and enjoy the content? Is the information accurate, of high quality and well-written? Do font characteristics such as size, spacing and color make reading longer passages easy or do they strain the eyes?

Let’s look at some tools that you can use to quickly evaluate how readable your website’s textual content is.

Juicy Studio: Readability Test

This free tool allows you to input your website's URL and then subsequently provides you readability scores based on some popular readability evaluation algorithms.


This tool is useful when you're evaluating readability of website copy before it's made public on your site. With WordsCount, you can copy and paste your text, and the app will output readability scores.

Check My Colours

To evaluate legibility, you can test the contrast of your foreground (text) against its background. With Check My Colours, you simply plug in the URL of the webpage you want to check, and it will test page elements against optimal W3C color contrast algorithms. The higher the contrast, the more likely your text is legible and pleasant to read.

3. Site Navigability

For most sites, it’s imperative that the user be able to move through multiple webpages as easily as possible. Navigability consists of numerous user interface components, such as navigation menus, search boxes, links within the copy of a webpage, sidebar widgets that display recent or top content and so on.

Here are the major considerations for when you’re testing your site’s navigability:

  • Information Architecture (IA): How well are webpages categorized and organized? How well are navigational features constructed?
  • Findability: Are there sufficient site features such as search boxes, archive pages, links and navigation features that aid in finding relevant webpages?
  • Efficiency of Navigation: How fast and in how many actions (number of clicks, how much text, etc.) does it take to get to page of interest?

There are numerous tools available to help you evaluate the usability of your site’s navigation and information architecture. Most evaluations of this nature should be undertaken before the site launches. For example, testing the intuitiveness and accuracy of content categories is a good idea before the website grows bigger because it may be more difficult to change when the site generates more content.

There are numerous methods for testing navigability. Card sorting is an activity where you place content categories on cards and ask participants to place them in groups. This gives you an insight on how to develop your content hierarchies and content relationships, as well as test any existing organizational systems. Tree testing involves generating a list of topics and subcategories and then tests how well and how easy it is to find a category based on the tree.

This tool provides you with the ability to conduct card sorting remotely.


OptimalSort is a robust web app for conducting card sorting activities.


For tree testing, check out Treejack, an easy-to-use web app created by the same folks that developed OptimalSort.


Creating a site map — a list of webpages that a website has or will have — can greatly aid navigability analysis. WriteMaps is a tool that you can use to generate, manage and share your site maps.


PlainFrame gives you the ability to quickly and rapidly test your site navigation. Once you've created a sitemap (perhaps as a result of card sorting and tree testing), just input the navigation structure and test it remotely in real time.


Navflow can give you information on how your users move through webpages. It gives you plenty of information, such as path analysis, which allows you to follow how a user gets to certain webpages on the site.

4. Accessibility

A website should be accessible to everyone, including those of us with disabilities that affect how we experience the web.

When evaluating a website’s accessibility, it’s important to look at it from a universal design point of view. People often mistake web accessibility as being only for those with barriers like blindness or mobility issues. However, we should broaden our view to include anything that might hinder a user accessing your site from a number of browsing situations. This is especially critical with the rapid adoption of mobile devices, tablets, netbooks and web-enabled TVs and gaming consoles. Internet users also have a much wider array of web browsers than ever before: IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and so forth.

All of these options render our work in different ways and present interaction challenges. For example, selecting a link on a touchscreen tablet is completely different from clicking it on a desktop computer.

The general goal of evaluating a site’s web accessibility is how well it deals with these varying circumstances.

Here are considerations to take into account when performing web accessibility analysis:

  • Cross-Browser/Cross-Platform Compatibility: Does the site work in as many browsing situations as possible? Is the site responsive, flexibly changing the layout depending on how the user views it?
  • Semantic HTML Markup: Especially for those who use assistive technologies like a screen reader, the quality and accuracy of the webpage’s structure is important. Are HTML tags being used correctly?
  • Color Choice: Are the colors used high contrast? Do the colors create a hindrance to people will colorblindness or poor vision?
  • Use of HTML Accessibility Features: There are HTML features and techniques that aid users with visual impairments. Are these features and techniques being used?

Here are a few tools you can use to quickly identify and resolve web accessibility issues.

Juicy Studio: Local Tools

This is a suite of tools for evaluating website accessibility. Aside from the Readability Test tool mentioned earlier, there's a CSS checker for identifying accessibility issues related to the visual layer of a website, an image analyzer for checking your image elements and more.


Vischeck simulates how images and webpages would look to a person who's colorblind. This can help you identify weaknesses in color selection.

W3C Markup Validation Service

This tool allows you to provide a URL to check for HTML markup issues. It can give you some assurance that your site is coded properly for web accessibility.


WebAnywhere is a web-based screen reader that you can use to see how your site is experienced by people requiring assistive software. It will give you insight on issues related to the HTML structure of your webpages.


Browsershots shows you how your website looks in different browsers. This is helpful in seeing whether your site renders correctly in each of them.

5. Website Speed

One factor of usability that’s not completely evident is the need for a website to be speedy and responsive. In fact, web users deeply care about how fast they’re able to get the information they need. The better performing a website is, the more efficient a user will be when completing his desired tasks.

Here are considerations for evaluating the speed of a website:

  • Webpage Response Time: How fast (in units of time, such as milliseconds) does it take to load an entire webpage?
  • Webpage Size: How big is the webpage, in terms of file size?
  • Code Quality: Does the website use web development best practices for website performance?

Here are some free tools you can use to quickly learn about your website’s performance.

Pingdom Tools

This free, web-based tool is dead-simple to use. All you need to do is plug in your website's URL, and it will give you a report that displays your website's response time and webpage size.

Page Speed Online

Aimed at website owners and web developers, this tool from Google allows you to type in your website's URL. It will evaluate your site based on its best practices for web performance.

6. User Experience

User experience (UX), at its core, tries to study and evaluate how pleasant a website is to use. This factor is largely subjective because it deals with user perception, which can be vastly different from one user to the next.

The way UX can be evaluated is through user feedback. By asking questions of users, you can gain a better understanding of how they feel about the site.

Some considerations when evaluating UX:

  • Fulfillment: Do users feel satisfied after interacting with the website?
  • Usefulness: Does the user feel like he’s obtained value from using the website?
  • Enjoyment: Is the experience of being on the website fun and not burdensome?
  • Positive Emotions: Do users feel happy, excited, pleased, etc. when they interact with the site?

When evaluating user experience, a qualitative approach is often the only option. We can’t accurately quantify such subjective things as feelings and emotions.

Through the use of web design feedback tools and surveying tools, we can gain some insights into how users feel.

Feedback Army

Feedback Army gives you the ability to pose open-ended questions to website reviewers. You get 10 responses for $15.


UserVoice gives you facilities for obtaining and managing feedback from your users. If you choose to, you can make feedback public and allow other users to vote. This can let you see popular opinions and shared thoughts among your user base.

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The Web Design Usability Series is supported by, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off. The possibilities are endless. How will you use Try it today.

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29-Year-Old Deaf Woman Hears Her Voice for the First Time [VIRAL VIDEO]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 10:39 AM PDT

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

Sloan Churman was born deaf. For 29 years, she has relied on reading lips and, to a very limited extent, hearing aids.

Two months ago, she received Envoy Medical’s Esteem Implant, which utilizes ear drum vibrations to bring hearing back to its users. The reaction, captured by her husband on video, is nothing short of extraordinary. Her pure joy is contagious.

Here’s what she said on her YouTube page:

“I had an implant put in 8 weeks ago called The Esteem Implant by Envoy Medical. I was born deaf and have worn hearing aids from the age of 2, but hearing aids only help so much. I have gotten by this long in life by reading lips. This was taken as they were activating the implant.”

Check out the video, and feel free to share your reactions in the comments.

More About: envoy medical, esteem implant, trending, viral-video-of-day, YouTube

Facebook & USA Today Plan a Super Bowl Ad Extravaganza [EXCLUSIVE]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 10:28 AM PDT

Facebook and USA Today have teamed up to build an application that will rate the commercials broadcast during Super Bowl XLVI, Mashable has learned.

The app, called the “USA Today-Facebook Super Bowl Ad Meter,” will reside on Facebook and USA Today’s online properties, and be accessible on mobile platforms. It will allow users to view, rate and share Super Bowl ads.

This marks the first time that online consumers will have a say in the winner of USA Today’s long-running Ad Meter.

The Facebook app rankings will become the main measure of ad performance, USA Today tells Mashable. The regular USA Today Ad Meter live focus group will supplement results of the application.

“The USA Today-Facebook Super Bowl Ad Meter is going to give millions of people the ability to not only interact with the various Super Bowl commercials, but to rate the ads and share with their friends on Facebook,” says Mike Hoefflinger, director of global business marketing at Facebook. “Making the Ad Meter social brings it to an entirely new level and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

The companies are planning to shop around Super Bowl XLVI ad packages and sponsorship opportunities for the app at next week’s Advertising Week event in New York, according to sources familiar with the matter. A USA Today spokesperson confirmed that the companies will be selling joint packages for advertisers who are interested in both platforms. Both companies see the potential for big-name sponsorships to an app based around the biggest advertising event of the year.

USA Today, a Gannett property, is motivated by the desire to make its Super Bowl Ad Meter, now in its 24th year, more relevant. Each year, USA Today assembles volunteers and electronically charts their second-by-second reactions to ads shown during the Super Bowl to determine overall rankings.

"Social media is changing the face of consumer engagement and this partnership more than ever, puts the consumer at the center of the conversation around advertising's biggest annual event," says David Payne, senior vice president and chief digital officer of Gannett.

Facebook attempted to capture the attention of would-be ad viewers in 2011, but it was late to the line of scrimmage and did not appear to secure rights to all of the Super Bowl advertisements.

It seems the social network is anxious to get in on the game early, partner with a seasoned veteran and become the definitive social network — better than Hulu or YouTube, that is — for ranking and sharing Super Bowl ads.

More About: Facebook, Super Bowl, Super Bowl ads, usa today

Thanks to Mashable’s Socially Savvy Supporters

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 10:12 AM PDT

Thanks to this week's advertisers and partners for enabling us to bring you the latest social media news and resources. Mashable’s sponsors are as social media savvy as our readers!

Advertise with us and get noticed.

Mashable is seeking site sponsors for our large, diverse audience — social media users, venture capitalists, early adopters, developers, bloggers and many more. You’ll receive hundreds of thousands of views per day in addition to weekly recognition as part of our “thank you” to our premium sponsors. Are you interested? Contact us for more information and to receive our media kit and rate card.

This week, our valued sponsors are: Diet Coke®, Vocus,, Spredfast, MessageMaker Social, CBS Interactive, Lenovo, CITGO and the Fueling Good Campaign, The Awareness Social Marketing Hub, AceProject, BMW i, Discover Digital Group, Sprout Social, IDG, CUNY School of Professional Studies, Oneupweb, SoftLayer, SRDS, Buddy Media, Clickatell, Microsoft BizSpark, MaxCDN and Eventbrite.

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Lenovo does not just manufacture technology. They make Do machines — super-powered creation engines designed to help the people who do, do more, do better, do in brand new ways.

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CITGO and the Fueling Good Campaign, helping to change the world one mile at a time through contributions to local charities.

CITGO and the Fueling Good Campaign support Mashable’s Stars of Social Good Series. Follow the Fueling Good Campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

The Awareness Social Marketing Hub is the leading social media marketing software for marketers to publish, manage, measure and engage across the social web. The Awareness Social Marketing Hub is leveraged by companies of all sizes including Sony, MLB, American Cancer Society, and Starwood Hotels. Request a demo here.

Awareness supports Mashable’s Social Media For Business Leaders Series. Follow Awareness on Twitter and Facebook.

AceProject is a collaboration-oriented project management web application that empowers you to manage projects, tasks and time sheets. Create your free AceProject account here.

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BMW i is a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit

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Discover Digital Group is 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.

DDG supports Mashable’s Social CMO Series. Follow DDG on Twitter and Facebook.

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

IDG supports Mashable’s Modern Media Agency Series.

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SRDS connects agencies, brands and media through its online database of media planning data. SRDS is committed to making it easier to buy online ad space and build integrated marketing campaigns. Sign up for a free 14-day trial of the SRDS consumer and business database here.

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Buddy Media supports Mashable’s Facebook Marketing Series, which is about how brands can advertise on Facebook. Follow Buddy Media on Twitter and Facebook.

Clickatell was the first provider of Online SMS Gateway connectivity, and after 10 years, is still the leading provider. Clickatell can deliver your SMS text messages to over 818 mobile networks in more than 222 countries and territories.

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BizSpark is a program which offers new software businesses and entrepreneurs access to Microsoft design, development and production tools with no upfront costs for up to three years. Learn more or connect with a Microsoft BizSpark advisor here.

BizSpark supports Mashable’s weekly Spark of Genius Series, which showcases promising startups. Follow Microsoft BizSpark on Twitter and Facebook.

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Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Can a High-Tech Jet Make Flying Enjoyable Again?

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 08:59 AM PDT

Love to travel, but hate to fly? Then we have some exciting news for you. This week Boeing delivered the first 787 Dreamliner to Japanese airline ANA, promising a vastly improved passenger experience.

Although the hassle of check-in, security and inevitable delays are still for you to negotiate, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner offers innovative technology that every traveler can get excited about. These improvements should mean that once you get onboard, you’ll not only be more comfortable in-flight, but you’ll disembark feeling better too.

SEE ALSO: How Airlines Have Taken Flight With Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC]

Take a look through the photo gallery below in which we’ve highlighted some passenger benefits of the 787. Let us know in the comments which other features you’d love to see in your dream commercial plane.

1. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Described as the next-gen commercial airplane, the 787 Dreamliner will allegedly "revolutionize" air travel. While that's yet to be seen, we can look forward to significantly increased passenger comfort, thanks to some interesting changes and innovations.

2. More Space

The 787 boasts larger windows, vaulted ceilings and a considerably larger entryway for a lighter, roomier feel. Boeing says passengers will feel like they really do have enough room to move about the cabin -- bliss for anyone who likes to stretch their legs in-flight.

3. More Storage Space

The 787's cabin architecture means more storage space aboard. Boeing promises every passenger will have room for at least one "large roll-aboard bag" in an overhead compartment near their seat. In addition, the latches on the bins feature a more "intuitive" design.

4. Improved Lighting

Airplane lighting can be harsh. With a more natural "blue sky" effect created by soft LED lighting, the 787 will simulate the light of the day outside. As the hours pass, the plane will go through the full spectrum of light -- from dawn to dusk.

5. Bigger, Cleverer Windows

The 787's windows are more than 30% larger than those of comparable planes. They're also a lot more advanced.

The 787 ditches plastic window shields in favor of a passenger-controlled electrochromic dimming system. This means you can electronically lighten or darken your window at the press of a button. That way, even if you've darkened your window as a courtesy to other passengers, you'll still be able to watch the cloudscapes through the tinted display.

6. Air Pressure

The 787's lighter, composite fuselage design means the plane's pressurization can be changed with no concerns about weight impact.

From a practical point, the 787's lower pressure cabin should mean a more pleasant flying environment and around 8% more oxygen absorption. This is good news for anyone who suffers from headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue when flying.

In addition, the air in a 787 is "cleaner" than other commercial planes. Fresh air comes from "air scoops," rather than via the engines. In addition to HEPA filtration, the 787 also employs a gaseous filtration system, reducing irritants even further.

7. Less Turbulence

If turbulence is your bete noire as far as flying goes, then you'll be interested to know the 787 boasts "Smoother Ride Technology." This senses turbulence and counteracts it. Boeing predicts this tech will lead to an eight-fold reduction in the number of passengers who experience motion sickness.

8. Who's Flying?

Over 50 airlines have signed up to buy Boeing 787 Dreamliners, including Air Canada, Delta, British Airways, Qantas, Qatar, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, so you might get lucky on a forthcoming flight.

Boeing isn't the only manufacturer with a futuristic vision though -- keep a look out for the rival Airbus A350 airplane, which will offer equally exciting innovations.

More About: features, future tech, gallery, Tech

Canadian Mother Will Broadcast Her Natural Birth Online

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 08:28 AM PDT

A chiropracter in Ottawa gave an unusual invitation to the World Wide Web this week.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Nancy Salgueiro with,” she said in a YouTube video, “and I’d like to invite you into my home to watch my live birth online.”

The mother of two, who runs a website that promotes natural birth, has set up a sign-up list for access to the live stream on that site and her Facebook Page. About 800 people have already signed up to watch, according to Canadian television station CBC. Her 2-year-old son will cut the umbilical chord.

Even the thought of a front seat to the miracle of life is enough to make many people’s stomachs turn. And that is exactly Salgueiro’s point.

“The reason why I’m doing this is because in our culture we’ve created this idea with fear and this visual image of what birth is,” she says, “and we don’t know what to expect when we’re going to give birth. And I really believe it’s important for women to see what normal, natural birth is like.”

Although she’s made videotapes of her previous births public, and there a wide variety of YouTube videos dedicated to natural births, she says that being able to check in on the entire process, not just the point where the baby enters the world, is an important factor that will be achieved with a live video stream.

“There’s only so much variation to how a baby comes out,” she says.

Salgueiro’s intentions seem more in line with a teacher’s than a reality TV star’s. The sign-up sheet to be notified when she goes into labor begins, “Attention: Natural Birthing Moms To Be.” But it’s easy to understand why she’s getting attention — and not all positive — from a much more diverse crowd.

Commenters on the websites of several Canadian television stations that covered the story have accused her of attention grabbing, removing the last private arena from the world and being gross. “What happens if something goes wrong during the birth?,” “Is she looking for sponsors?,” they ask.

The audience for which the live stream is intended, women considering natural births, seems to be appreciative.

“I am 2 1/2 months pregnant with my first, and planning a homebirth with this baby,” reads one of many supportive messages on her website. “I think this is wonderful and empowering, and you are very brave.”

More About: birth, trending, Video

Dunder Mifflin Also Releases a Tablet — And It’s a Triangle [VIDEO]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 08:02 AM PDT

Amazon shook up the tablet market this week with its Kindle Fire, but the big news in fictional tablet introductions occurred on The Office Thursday night.

In the episode, Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) presents the triangle-shaped tablet, called “The Pyramid,” to a roomful of skeptical employees.

The device itself is hilarious, but maybe not so much to real-life executives at Hewlett-Packard and RIM, whose own tablets have gotten a similar reception, albeit in a less amusing fashion.

More About: rainn wilson, Tablet, TV

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Video Q&A Platform VYou Makes Broadcasting Personal

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 07:45 AM 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: VYou

Quick Pitch: VYou is a video Q&A platform.

Genius Idea: A video-sharing site with an interactive twist.

VYou’s homepage is a cross between the stacked boxes of the Brady Bunch intro and the moving photographs of the Harry Potter series — and the result is just as bizarre as that combination sounds.

From one box, a 16-year-old girl waves and mouths, “Ask me a question.” In the box to the right of her is a shot of the SOMArts gallery in San Francisco. The Leo Burnett research and development team takes turns holding signs that spell out LBRD from a box that is sandwiched between a man hyperventilating into a paper bag and another who is chugging from a 2-liter bottle of water.

If you click on any of the boxes, you can ask its star a question or view their responses to a list of questions that others have asked. You can follow them to receive their new answers in a personal newsfeed. The tech press thus far has had a hard time deciding whether VYou is Formspring meets YouTube, Quora meets Youtube, Twitter meets YouTube or, my personal favorite, “Formspring + video + crack.” But whatever it is, it is addicting.

CEO Steve Spurgat started the platform in November 2010 with knowledge sharing in mind. At the time, his idea of an archetypal use case was a World War II veteran who wanted to document his experience. Questions, he reasoned, help viewers find the information that they’re looking for quickly; they essentially become metadata.

While the platform is used by many experts for this purpose — America’s Test Kitchen, for instance, uses its profile to tackle questions like “Can you freeze buttermilk?” (answer: yes) — most people who have created the 500,000 videos on the site aren’t stuck on a particular theme. They’re just sharing their thoughts and experiences. The occasional “Can we see you naked?” question does inevitably come up (answer: hmm, probably not).

VH1 has leveraged the platform for celebrity interviews and has customized integrations for celebrities, customer service and interactive advertising is one revenue stream the startup plans to pursue.

The Q&A structure makes VYou an intimate Q&A platform, not a video posting app, he says.

“[When people are talking about their] knowledge and opinions, the camera is turned facing in," Spurgat says. “Whereas with experiences, the camera is facing out. When I think of other video sharing apps, they're really only focused on that third one.”

But the startup is taking steps toward other social video apps like Tout, which focuses on short video status updates, and Mobli, which organizes photos and videos by user, topic and place. On Monday, VYou released an iPhone app that includes a status update feature for posting what’s on your mind without answering a question. The same feature will launch on the website next week.

Even as it becomes more like competing social video apps, Spurgat hopes that the app will stand out by being more focused on one-to-one interactions that broadcasting ignores.

“In the theatre the actors and the audience are all together,” says Spurgat, a former play-writing major. “Then there was film where the audience was together looking at a screen, TV where the audience is in different rooms looking at a screen and now its computers with one person looking at a screen. … Now it’s coming full circle, and that’s part of the background for why we created VYou. There’s this need for intimacy. Social media kind of takes our interactions and puts it into the form of news. And in real life we interact one-to-one.”

But does VYou only create an illusion of personal relationships, or something more? Incidentally, that’s a question that’s already been asked on the platform.

“I think ultimately a friendship is more than just asking superficial questions or even deep questions where you get a 2-minute one-sided response,” responded user Jaimeleigh. “But at the same time, I’ve met people on VYou or talked to them on VYou and sent them an email and then formed a relationship from there. It might be a catalyst for a friendship, but mostly I think it’s satisfying vanity.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kutaytanir

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: Video, Vyou

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Chrome Set to Overtake Firefox in Market Share [STATS]

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 07:33 AM PDT

Chrome is poised to overtake Firefox as the world’s second most popular browser after Internet Explorer by December, according to web analytics firm StatCounter.

Chrome’s share of the global market for the month is hovering around 23.6%, roughly 3% behind Firefox. At 41.7%, Internet Explorer is still the dominant player in the market.

Chrome, which became available to the public in December 2008, has increased its share of the market by approximately 8% since the beginning of the year. Firefox’s, meanwhile, has declined 4%; IE is down 9%.

Should growth rates continue at their present levels, Chrome will take hold of 26.6% of the market in two months — above Firefox’s expected 25.3% share. Chrome already overtook Firefox in the UK in July, StatCounter reported.

Chrome’s rise since its public launch in December 2008 has been steady and significant.

Chrome’s share of the market has increased by approximately 8% so far this year.

Firefox has accelerated its rate for releasing new versions as a way of competing with Google Chrome. But the new six-week cycle has been met with largely negative feedback from individuals and businesses struggling with add-on compatibility and frequent interface changes.

Despite these complaints, Mitchell Baker, chairman of Firefox owner Mozilla, holds that the “rapid release process is the right direction” for the browser’s developers.

[via Computerworld]

Image courtesy of Google

More About: chrome, Firefox, internet explorer, StatCounter

IBM Eclipses Microsoft in Value for the First Time in 15 Years

Posted: 30 Sep 2011 07:13 AM PDT

Marking a comeback against a longtime rival, IBM has lapped Microsoft in market value for the first time since 1996.

Big Blue had a market cap of $214 billion on the close of the market on Thursday compared to $213.2 billion for Microsoft.

The news comes after IBM’s stock has been on a steady climb since a nadir in late 2008.

International Business Machines Corporation Price Stock Chart

International Business Machines Corporation Price Stock Chart by YCharts

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s stock price rose after a low point that same period, but it has retreated from a high in late 2009.

Microsoft Corporation Price Stock Chart

Microsoft Corporation Price Stock Chart by YCharts

This year, IBM’s stock price has gained 22% while Microsoft’s is down 8.8%. Apple, now the most valuable firm in the world, surpassed Microsoft in value in 2010. According to Bloomberg, IBM is now the fourth-largest company by market value and the second most-valuable tech firm.

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