Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “AT&T Reveals Five New Android Smartphones”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “AT&T Reveals Five New Android Smartphones”

AT&T Reveals Five New Android Smartphones

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 01:26 AM PDT

The folks at AT&T weren’t kidding when they announced plans to introduce 12 Android devices this year. The company just unveiled five Android smartphones, which brings AT&T’s total Android lineup to 19.

The new smartphones are Motorola Atrix 2, Samsung Captivate Glide, Samsung DoubleTime, Pantech Pocket and AT&T Avail (pre-paid customers).

Leading the pack is the powerful Motorola Atrix 2, with a 4.3-inch, 960×540 (qHD) screen, 1 GHz dual-core CPU, 1 GB of RAM, a 8-megapixel camera capable of full HD video capture and an additional camera for video chat.

Samsung Captivate Glide, as its name suggests, has a side-slide QWERTY keyboard. It also packs decent specifications: a 4-inch, 480×800 Super AMOLED screen, a 1 GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU, 1 GB of RAM, and two cameras, a 1.3-megapixel one at the front and a full HD 8-megapixel one at the back.

Both devices support AT&T’s HSPA+ fast data transfer standard and both are running Android 2.3.

The Pantech Pocket is a mid-range device running Android 2.3, with a 1 GHz CPU, a 4-inch screen, a 5-megapixel camera. To like it, you’ll have to appreciate its form, as the device’s dimensions are 114.7 mm x 7 8mm x 11.3 mm, which makes it a lot wider than most candy bar phones.

Samsung DoubleTime is a device for those who want something different. Its specifications are nothing to write home about — a 600 MHz CPU, 3.2-inch screen and Android 2.2 — but its candy bar form opens to reveal a second 3.2-inch screen and a full QWERTY keyboard.

Finally, the AT&T Avail is for those that don’t like contracts (the other pre-paid smartphone in AT&T’s roster is LG Thrive). It’s a fairly standard candy bar mid-range smartphone, with Android 2.3, a 3.5-inch screen, a 5-megapixel camera and 512 MB of RAM.

Pricing and availability is unknown at this point, but we can expect all five devices to hit the market in 2011.

More About: android, att, Motorola, Pantech, samsung, smartphones

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Giftiki: The Social Gift For the Facebook User Who Has Everything

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 08:42 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: Giftiki

Quick Pitch: Giftiki provides friends a free and social way to pool small monetary gifts together so givers don't have to break the bank and recipients can get what they really want.

Genius Idea: Group gift-giving for cheapskates.

Group gifting sites add social and digital convenience to the tedious task of combining funds for a friend’s gift. San Francisco-based Giftiki launched Monday with a few interesting twists on the online collaborative gifting paradigm.

Giftiki, for starters, is less about recruiting folks to add big sums of money to a pool for some predetermined gift, and more about using the power of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to get several people to chip in small amounts — givers are limited to adding $1 to $10 to a Giftiki pot — for a gift of the recipient’s choosing.

Here’s how it works: After signing up, you’re prompted to send a Giftiki. Pick a Facebook friend, add a monetary contribution (up to $10), pen a personal (but still public) message, select digital gift wrapping and enter your credit card information. Voilà. You’ve just sent your Facebook friend a few bucks. Plus, because the Giftiki is posted to the recipient’s Facebook Wall, your friend’s Facebook friends can see it and chip in to make the pot size grow.

The lucky Giftiki recipient can opt to cash out funds to a prepaid American Express card or transfer them to a partner gift card. At launch, partners include retailers such as Macy’s, Starbucks and Sports Authority.

The idea behind Giftiki first started to take shape after he celebrated a prior birthday, says Giftiki CEO Justin Stanislaw. “I got a lot of unwanted gifts, plenty of Facebook messages and text messages, but really nothing of substance.”

Stanislaw then reached out to friend and future co-founder Bryan Jowers. “We were just fed up with getting gifts we didn’t want,” Stanislaw says. They weren’t the only ones fed up. The Giftiki idea found favor with The Brandery, a consumer marketing accelerator program, and the startup later went on raise $1 million in funding.

We like it too. It’s easy on the eyes, quirky in all the right ways, simple enough to not make gifting a chore and cheap enough (who doesn’t have an extra dollar or two to spare?) that it might actually work.

That’s not to say Giftiki is perfect — but there does seem to be promise.

Look for an iPhone app, gamification incentives and member wish lists in the near term, and maybe even wedding registries in the more distant future.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, PLBernier

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, Giftiki, spark of genius series, startup

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Twitter Secures “Tweet” Trademark

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 08:03 PM PDT

Twitter has settled a lawsuit that will give the company control over the “tweet” trademark, according to a new report.

Twitter doesn’t currently own the trademark to the term. Instead, Des Moines-based Twittad controls the trademark. Twittad, a provider of sponsored advertising on Twitter, has trademarked its tagline, "Let your ad meet tweets.” It also has trademarked various variations of the word “tweet.”

Twitter and Twittad have been in a legal struggle for years over the trademark. Twitter has argued that the term “tweet” was famous as a Twitter term before Twittad secured the trademark. The courts have thus far disagreed.

The two companies have settled their differences though, according to The Wall Street Journal. As part of the settlement, Twittad will transfer the “tweet” trademark to Twitter, though Twittad will continue to use its current trademark.

“Twitter and Twittad have arrived at a resolution recognizing a consistent use of Tweet while supporting the continued success of Twitter ecosystem partners like Twittad,” a Twitter spokesperson told Mashable.

Neither company revealed whether money exchanged hands as part of the settlement, though we’d be surprised if Twitter didn’t have to part with a good amount of cash to secure the trademark.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Blueberry4Park

More About: lawsuit, tweet, Twitter

Time for Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to Step Down?

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 07:04 PM PDT

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

Netflix backpeddled Monday on its highly unpopular decision to split Netflix into two companies. Qwikster, the service that would have delivered your physical DVDs going forward, will never see the light of day. Netflix remains one company with two major businesses: Streaming videos and shipping rented DVDs.

It's a fairly good mop-up job by Netflix founder Reed Hastings. But that only proves Hastings is qualified to be the company janitor, not its CEO.

I saw Hastings speak twice this year: once at the annual Leaders in Tech dinner at CES in Las Vegas in January, and then again at the D9 summit in California. At CES, Hastings was at his apex. Netflix was bigger than ever, and was riding the wave of unprecedented streaming content delivery growth. Hastings heaped praise on FCC chairman Julius Genachowski for pushing through a Net Neutrality plan that would help protect Netflix's streaming movie business. During an on-stage chat with Arianna Huffington, he said he'd likely be around as Netflix CEO for another decade, though he often fantasized about working solely on his other true passion: bringing an incredible education to all the world's children. It was a pretty inspiring performance by one of the tech industry's rising stars.

Six months later, things were still going pretty well for Netflix — but there was trouble brewing in the wings. Hastings admitted that delivering good quality streaming content to Netflix's growing number of streaming customers would cost a lot of money. He groused about growing complaints from users that they couldn’t find anything good or particularly new to watch on Netflix streaming. His response: You “can’t have all the new stuff and have the $8-a-month price we have,” Hastings said. “We don’t have everything … Apple and Amazon are very good at being comprehensive.”

Hastings did promise a firm commitment to the DVD business — but also revealed that it would eventually go away in favor of an all-streaming business.

SEE ALSO: Dear Netflix CEO: We Accept Your Apology. Love, DVDs

A few weeks later, CNN Money revealed that Netflix was having a hard time negotiating with studios for continued access to the current movie selections. The service was blowing past usage caps set by studios. As far as I could tell, Netflix was getting nowhere signing new partners. The breakdown of the Starz deal made it clear Netflix was in trouble. Still, Reed Hastings had proved himself an adept leader and I felt certain he would find a way to ride this out.

Then things got weird.

A day after I wrote a piece entitled "Is Netflix Doomed?", the company announced a new pricing matrix that effectively doubled rental and streaming prices for most customers. A once-combined service package was split into two separate fees. Hastings clearly had a hand in this decision. I believe he did so to generate cash for some of the content deals he hoped to make in the coming months. Starz came back to the table, but the deal eventually imploded anyway.

The new pricing scheme took effect on Sept. 1. On Sept. 2, I decided to drop half the service, the physical DVD part, and continue with streaming. I was not alone. Countless other customers either did the same, or walked away from Netflix. Hastings, who once seemed to anticipate consumer needs before they knew them themselves, developed a tin ear. Three weeks after the price hike, Hastings apologized to customers in a blog post and then proceeded to make things worse.

Instead of coming up with a more palatable pricing scheme, Hastings cleaved Netflix into two businesses and introduced Qwikster as the new physical DVD business. It was a move met with almost stunned disbelief. Hasting had pulled his foot out of the mud and stepped into quicksand (or qwiksand, if you prefer).

SEE ALSO: Qwikster From Netflix — the Worst Product Launch Since New Coke?

Over the next few weeks, Netflix did announce some new content partnerships that would bring streaming customers a variety of new cable TV shows to choose from. No new theatrical films though. At this point, even the studios seemed to have tired of the Netflix nonsense.

Sadly, Hastings wasn't done yet. Less than a month after birthing Qwikster to a disinterested public, Hastings pulled the plug. He penned another apologetic blog post, under which a multitude of commenters proceeded to rip him a new one.

As you might expect, Netflix stock has been hammered all along and didn't fare much better today.

The signs are all there. Reed Hastings is done at Netflix. In the space of a summer, he’s done all the damage one CEO could do in a lifetime. I do not think he'll realize his dream of hanging in another 10 years. In fact, at this point, I'm not sure Netflix can last that long.

Sorry, Mr. Hastings.

More About: dvd, netflix, reed hastings

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7 Essential JavaScript Typography Resources

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 05:59 PM PDT

When you think of web typography, CSS instantly comes to mind. And that’s great, because CSS is the primary option when dealing with the style/visual layer of your website.

However, when you hit a roadblock with CSS, take it up a level by using JavaScript (JS).

Open source JavaScript libraries can help you craft responsive web designs (a technique that optimizes webpage layouts for mobile devices), implement fun text effects and more. In this post, we will primarily focus on JavaScript libraries that use modern web typography techniques to underscore and promote current web design best practices.

1. Kerning.js

Kerning.js is an open source JavaScript library that promises web designers complete control of web typography. According to the developer of the project, Joshua Gross, the library is admittedly a "work in progress." However, by extending CSS, it doesn't need JS programming outside of referencing the library in your HTML. Simply use Kerning.js's custom CSS properties such as -letter-kern and -word-color.

With this excellent JavaScript library, you can achieve a variety of type techniques normally associated with print design and desktop publishing, such as perfect kerning and conditional fallback fonts for your @font-face rules.

See live demo.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Punkle

More About: design, dev, features, javascript, typography

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Apple to Honor Steve Jobs With Private Event Oct. 19

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 05:02 PM PDT

Apple CEO Tim Cook has announced that the company will honor the memory Steve Jobs with an employee event on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

The event, open only to Apple employees, will take place at the company’s outdoor amphitheater at its headquarters in Cupertino, California.

“I have experienced the saddest days of my lifetime and shed many tears during the past week,” Cook said in an internal email to employees. “But I've found some comfort in the extraordinary number of tributes and condolences from people all over the world who were touched by Steve and his genius.”

Steve Jobs passed away on Oct. 5 due to complications related to pancreatic cancer. Since his death, there has been an outpouring of emotion by millions of people for the Apple co-founder.

The full email from Tim Cook is included below:


Like many of you, I have experienced the saddest days of my lifetime and shed many tears during the past week. But I've found some comfort in the extraordinary number of tributes and condolences from people all over the world who were touched by Steve and his genius. And I've found comfort in both telling and listening to stories about Steve.

Although many of our hearts are still heavy, we are planning a celebration of his life for Apple employees to take time to remember the incredible things Steve achieved in his life and the many ways he made our world a better place. The celebration will be held on Wednesday, October 19, at 10am in the outdoor amphitheater on the Infinite Loop campus. We'll have more details on AppleWeb closer to the date, including arrangements for employees outside of Cupertino.

I look forward to seeing you there.


Inspirational Quotes from Steve Jobs

Jobs quote from 2005 Stanford commencement address. Posted by livinglauren.

Click here to view this gallery.

More Coverage of Steve Jobs’s Death

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#OccupyWallStreet Protests Grow

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 04:18 PM PDT

The Occupy Wall Street movement, a series of nationwide demonstrations that opposes corporate greed and social inequality, has caught fire this past week.

Professional unions joined with the protesters last week, including the United Auto Workers, the United Federation of Teachers and National Nurses United. Several political figures have shown support as well, such as Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have both said that they sympathize with Occupy Wall Street protestors’ feelings of anger towards big banks’ role in the financial crisis.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began in July after anti-consumerist group Adbusters called for an occupation of Wall Street on Sept. 17. It quickly gained support from groups like Anonymous, who managed to slow and then shut down NYSE.com from about 3:35 p.m. to around 3:37 p.m. today.

Around 1,000 protesters showed up for the first protest. Over the subsequent four weeks, the protests have gained steam and have drawn the attention of the mainstream media. The protests have also expanded — about 1,400 Occupy Everywhere communities have taken form on Meetup.

The web chatter about #OccupyWallStreet has been significant as well and has been a large part of how the protesters have communicated. The protests were the subject of more than 0.5% of all tweets at its peak on Saturday, Oct. 1 according to Trendistic.

One Tumblr blog, We Are The 99 Percent, allows protesters and sympathizers to upload stories about why they protest, or why they support those who march. Most submissions include stories of financial and personal woes, as well as stories of how “Corporate America” has failed them in some way or another. The protests have even spurred at least one Craigstlist Missed Connection: two people arrested together on the Brooklyn Bridge and were in neighboring jail cells afterwords.

Protester videos and photos have also become widely circulated, most notably a video that quickly went viral on YouTube of alleged police brutality. The protesters have also created their own newspaper, called the Occupied Wall Street Journal. You can see the first edition of the publication here.

Are you there? Please share any pictures you may have with the Mashable community by uploading to the widget below, or tell your story in the comments section.

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So you can get a scope of the protest, we have embedded a livestream below.

Livestream: Occupy Wall Street

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at livestream.com

More About: Occupy Wall Street

Guardian to Readers: Here’s Our Upcoming Stories List

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 03:31 PM PDT

UK newspaper The Guardian is making its schedule of upcoming stories available to the public in a two-week experiment, in an effort to elevate transparency in the newsroom. The paper is inviting readers to contribute by contacting the reporters assigned to each story.

The paper has embedded three Google Docs spreadsheets listing stories in progress over on its live blog. The assigned reporter’s name and a link to his or her Twitter handle is listed alongside a short description of each story.

Not all stories are included on the list, of course; exclusives and embargoed content is kept private to protect both sources and the paper from competitors. (On Monday, for instance, The Guardian left off mention of a developing scandal involving UK defense secretary Liam Fox.)

Dan Roberts, national news editor at The Guardian, says the experiment — which is similar to one being run over at The Atlantic Wire — is a logical outgrowth of the paper’s move towards a more open news environment. Often readers will point out what’s wrong with a story after it has been published, or complain that an important news item failed to be covered too late after the fact, Roberts says. This will allow them to address these issues early on.

“If we tell people where we’re headed they can point out important aspects to cover,” Roberts says. “Likewise, if we’re missing a story they can tell us early enough, instead of moaning about it the next day.”

When asked if he is concerned about opening up access to competing papers, Roberts says the potential advantages far outweighed any edge the paper would be giving competitors. “We’re [already] getting a lot of help from Twitter,” he says. “Some of our best sources are [readers] who see what we’re doing and help us along.”

Part of the beauty of Twitter is that readers and reporters can now quickly connect without clogging up the latter’s inboxes. “If we put up every reporter’s email address we’d get a lot more pushback [from staff]; their inboxes would fill up quite quickly,” Roberts says. “Twitter allows us to pick out the good things and ignore the daft ones.”

Roberts says it has attracted a "surprising amount of interest" thus far. “We've had hundreds and hundreds of people get in touch,” he says. “Three or four concrete story ideas have developed."

The experiment will run for two weeks, and may become a permanent part of The Guardian‘s operations. The trial period will primarily be used to optimize the format, says Roberts.

More About: Social Media, the guardian

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Dungeons & Dragons Gets A Facebook Game

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 03:15 PM PDT

dungeons and dragons image

Dungeon Masters, start your engines. Dungeons & Dragons, the original table-top role-playing game, is coming to Facebook.

Atari has created a new social game for Facebook called Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter.” Players can customize their own characters, find loot and fight ghastly, digital beasts.

The app looks much like a top-down strategy game — and somewhat similar to the actual style of the tabletop version.

While the game is known for long sessions and user-created narratives, Heroes of Neverwinter offers short bursts of gameplay and a largely standardized plot from the game’s creators. Fans of the slower, more complex original might decry this as breaking from the game’s roots, but it’s probably a smart move to appeal to social gamers who are, for the most part, casual users who play for shorter periods of time.

The game will feature more than 50 dungeons, 40 monsters, 30 skills and hundreds of items. Gamers can play solo, recruit friends or even become a sort of digital Dungeon Master and come up with their own mini-narratives as side quests.

Heroes of Neverwinter, which is currently in open-beta, joins a group of other games targeted to nostalgic players. Oregon Trail received a social gaming update for Facebook, and The Sims Social has been one of the top Facebook games since its launch at the end of summer.

It’s good to know Heroes of Neverwinter hasn’t foregone the traits that made its tabletop ancestor so popular. But will it be able to attract new users without alienating its base? If a sentence like: “Legions of Halflings, Dragonborn, and Eladrin will sharpen their blades and ready their spells as Facebook players around the world create their unique heroes and set forth for adventure!” appeals, this social game might just have some legs.

Will you gear up for Dungeons & Dragons as a social game? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Facebook, Gaming, social gaming

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Google+ Traffic Falls 60% From Post-Launch Highs [REPORT]

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 02:51 PM PDT

Traffic to Google+ spiked 1,200% in the first few days following its public launch Sept. 20, but has since plummeted by 60%, according to a report from a data analytics company.

Chitika tracked Google+ traffic before and after the social networking service opened its gates to all users.

“The data shows that, on the day of its public debut, Google+ traffic skyrocketed to peak levels. But, soon after, traffic fell by over 60% as it returned to its normal, underwhelming state,” Chitika says of its findings, as illustrated in the chart below.

Google+ hit 25 million unique visitors in its first month of operation, comScore found, making it one of the fastest growing social networks of all time. Google+ has since released a slew of updates and new features, and opened its doors to the public. It has even had public figures broadcast to fans via Google Hangouts.

But is Google+ a hit or miss? It’s hard to say. In mid July, Google CEO Larry Page revealed the Facebook-challenger had 10 million users who share 1 billion items each day. We haven’t heard from the company on how Google+ has grown in users, shares or traffic since. The most recent unofficial count pegged the number of Google+ users at 43 million.

Meanwhile, Chitika’s findings — likely a representation of traffic patterns and not a wholly accurate reflection — seem to suggest Google+ may not be convincing new users (or even Google executives) to stick around.

Mashable has reached out to Google for comment.

More About: Google, traffic

Liberace Pug Plays Sad Sonata [VIDEO]

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 02:41 PM PDT

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

And now for something completely different: A black pug in a (superhero?) costume “playing” the piano. We’re not very good at Japanese but we’re assuming the video’s title translates to, “I’m so sorry we did this to our piano dog ★ He’s a Pug. Seriously, we’re sorry.

The video is both adorable and crushing thanks to the cute get-up and the irrepressibly sad pug, named “Chocoholic.” That and his defeated collapse at the end when he plays, with his adorable chin, the musical equivalent of “wah wah.”

More About: Video, viral-video-of-the-day, YouTube

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Dear Netflix CEO: We Accept Your Apology. Love, DVDs

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 02:16 PM PDT

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

Dear Reed,

We were delighted to learn that Qwikster is no more this morning. You finally came to your senses, shuttered that DVD ghetto you had planned and admitted us back into the Netflix family.

After our last letter, we’ll admit, we didn’t hold out much hope of you changing your mind. You seemed so hell-bent on washing your hands of us, so certain we were tainting your chances to create that dynamic, forward-looking streaming service of your dreams. And we don’t flatter ourselves that we changed your mind. It was the subscribers — or more likely, it was Wall Street, which has sent your stock plunging more than 60% since July.

Still, if there’s one thing movies have taught us, it’s forgiveness. Well, okay, Unforgiven taught us the opposite, but we’ll let that go. By the way, did you know that Unforgiven is one of many thousands of movies you can currently only see on Netflix DVD, and is nowhere to be found on streaming? Just thought we’d mention that.

SEE ALSO: Dear Netflix CEO: Here’s Why You’ll Miss Us. Love, DVDs

Seriously, though, that’s kind of the point. If you want Netflix to be comprehensive — and that does seem to be what the customers want — you can’t possibly forget about us. You need us, like it or not. So you just got Breaking Bad and Walking Dead on streaming? Bully for them. But if you want to see The King’s Speech, or Inception, or Thor, or Avatar or Weeds season 6, streaming can’t satisfy you. Only we can. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

The fact that you ever thought otherwise suggests you haven’t been thinking like a movie fan for a while. So here’s a suggestion: take a couple of us home tonight. Any of us will be happy to accompany you; we’re not jealous. We suggest something big and brash in Blu-Ray, or some major release of the last year you’ve been meaning to see. Let your gaze linger over our special features, our deleted scenes, our director’s commentaries. Then tell us: can streaming do that for you?

And if we might make one more suggestion: Before you radically restructure the company again, focus on the user experience. For instance, we couldn’t help but notice that the Netflix iPad app is a little limited. We’re not mentioned at all on it, for one thing! What are we, chopped liver? There’s no way to reorder your queues, either, and customers do like to do that — play with the order in which they’re going to get us. They like to push the good stuff to the top of their streaming queue, too. It’s kind of a Christmas morning experience, if you will. By the way, remember A Christmas Story? Totally not available on streaming. Just FYI.

Alright, we’ll stop rubbing it in. We’re truly grateful you came to your senses, and we’re looking forward to our date. And please, let us never mention that awful “Q” word again.


Your DVDs

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BlackBerry Outage Hits Europe, Middle East, Africa

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 01:57 PM PDT

Users in three continents were affected by a service outage by RIM’s BlackBerry.

Though RIM has acknowledged the outage in a public statement, it has yet to outline the cause or suggest when service will resume. The Telegraph, however, notes that all the affected users are routed through a data center in Slough, England.

A Vodaphone rep also told Dow Jones Newswires “RIM has advised us that they’re working to resolve the issue as a matter of urgency.” Another Vodaphone rep in Egypt also blamed RIM for the outage over Twitter:

Reps from RIM could not be reached for comment.

The company, which has faced a shrinking market share and a falling stock price, had a similar outage in North America in 2009.

It’s a particularly big blow as BlackBerry has a reputation for solid service when other options go down, as happened during August’s east coast earthquake.

More About: blackberry, outage, RIM

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Twitter to Reformat All URLs With T.co

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 01:36 PM PDT

Twitter announced Monday that it will soon begin reformatting all links posted to its service with t.co, regardless of length.

Previously, only links that were 20 characters or greater were reformatted with t.co.

T.co is Twitter’s official URL shortener, which is designed to prevent malware and phishing attacks. Unlike other URL shorteners, such as bit.ly, Twitter displays the domain name in full so users know what they’re clicking on. Existing URL shorteners, such as bit.ly, will continue to function as normal, although fewer characters will be displayed.

For example, if you entered this YouTube URL:

It would appear as a shortened version of the original URL:

This same process will now apply to shorter links as well.

More About: t.co, Twitter

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Facebook Apps Just Got More Mobile-Friendly

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 01:31 PM PDT

Facebook is bringing its platform to mobile. The social network is allowing app developers to connect users more easily to the mobile or web version of their apps when using the site on a mobile device.

To start, Facebook is launching support for the Facebook mobile website and Facebook for iPad, iPod touch and iPhone. In the future, it will extend support to other platforms like Android.

So is Facebook allowing developers an easy way to create mobile-friendly versions of their Facebook apps? Not quite, although that appears to be the longterm goal. Instead, Facebook is going to allow developers that already have a mobile web or iOS version of their app a more seamless way to integrate the experience within Facebook for mobile.

This means that if I send a request to play Words With Friends from Facebook on my desktop, for example, my friend can respond to my request on Facebook for iPhone. The native Words With Friends app will automatically launch on his phone.

Facebook developers that already have iOS apps will get to integrate Facebook’s Single Sign-On in their app to tie the two together. Facebook is also offering tools for mobile web app developers. Mobile web apps will be able to take advantage of integrating with the Facebook API and even be able to accept Facebook Credits.

Right now, Facebook is positioning the mobile platform primarily as a way to improve app discovery and increase engagement on mobile devices. It’s the engagement aspect that is going to be critical. I have long criticized Facebook for not having a more robust mobile strategy. Monday’s announcements are baby steps, for sure, but it shows the company is not ignoring this market.

You can check out some of the games and apps Facebook is launching with on its mobile app showcase.

Are you looking forward to using Facebook apps on your smartphone or tablet? Let us know.

More About: Facebook, facebook mobile, iOS

Netflix Stock Continues Freefall After Nixing Qwikster

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 01:21 PM PDT

Netflix‘s decision to kill off an unpopular idea — a separately branded DVD service — was unpopular with investors.

After rising as much as 10%, Netflix’s stock ended the day down about 5% as the company’s shares continue to slump. The decline comes after Netflix’s stock lost half its value in September and has fallen almost two-thirds since its high of $298.73 in mid-July.

The charts below show Netflix’s stock’s performance over the past five days and the last six months.

Netflix Stock Chart

Netflix Stock Chart by YCharts

Netflix Stock Chart

Netflix Stock Chart by YCharts

Image courtesy of Flickr, _tar_0_

More About: netflix, Qwikster, stocks

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Groupon Deal Counter Intentionally Misrepresents Total Purchases

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 01:08 PM PDT

Groupon’s deal counter will no longer accurately reflect the total number of Groupons customers have bought for each deal, the company said in a statement Monday.

Instead of showing the actual number of Groupons purchased, the company will display an imprecise count that has been reduced by between 0.5% and 19.5%.

The daily deals service is amending the counter’s language to reflect its new policy on intentional ambiguity. The counter will read that “over” a certain number of deals have been bought.

“Some clever people are using the counter to make (consistently incorrect) estimates of our total company sales,” Julie Mossler, Groupon’s director of communications, explains, “which we don't like for the same reason you probably wouldn't like if people tried to guess your weight all day.”

In essence, Groupon’s own deal counter is now intentionally and “consistently incorrect.”

Groupon first started tweaking the deal counter’s numbers in late September. Within a few weeks time, all deals on Groupon will have the new counter and reflect lower than actual sales, Mossler says.

But why? The change, as Mossler indicates, is to prevent folks from guessing the company’s revenue — a guessing game that could hurt the company on its already rocky road to going public.

Yipit, a deal aggregator service, releases a monthly report on the state of the daily deals industry. It pegged Groupon’s gross revenue at $143.4 million for the month of September. The figure, according to Yipit, represented a 6% increase from August, but competitor LivingSocial’s gross revenue grew by 32% to $59.3 million during the same period.

Groupon, currently in a quiet period, cannot publicly respond to claims of how well it’s doing — though CEO Andrew Mason did impulsively fire off a lengthy and spirited memo to employees to counter negative media reports. The memo was promptly leaked to the press and later added to another amended version of Groupon’s S-1 filing.

Groupon’s defensive response to fudge its own numbers is an unconventional maneuver that will make it nearly impossible for those “clever people” to continue to predict Groupon’s revenue while it’s forced to hold its tongue.

More About: groupon

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Facebook’s iPad App Finally Arrives [PICS]

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 01:00 PM PDT

Facebook for iPad Login Screen

The first step to Facebook for iPad is logging in.

Click here to view this gallery.

Facebook has finally launched its official iPad app, after months of speculations and leaks.

Facebook for iPad, now available in the iOS App Store (update: it’s still rolling out), looks much like the version that leaked in July. The app is designed primarily as a consumption experience, which is why the app emphasizes photos. Photos take up the entire screen, and users can pinch to zoom in on them. Navigating through a photo album is done simply by swiping left or right.

The Facebook iPad App includes a left-hand navigation bar for accessing the News Feed, photos, messages, Groups and settings. Notifications, chat, status updates, search and Facebook’s other key features made the cut as well.

The app does offer a few new features. Users can play their favorite Facebook games in full-screen mode, thanks to the launch of the Facebook Platform for mobile devices and iOS. Games from EA, Zynga and more will support additional features such as Facebook Credits.

Facebook didn’t forget about video, either — Facebook for iPad supports HD video and Airplay, so users can watch Facebook videos through their Apple TVs or their other Apple devices.

The app is launching with surprisingly little fanfare, given the anticipation of the app’s launch and the multitude of leaks and speculation surrounding it. We reported that Facebook was supposed to launch the app at Apple’s iPhone 4S event.

Inside Facebook for iPad

The version of Facebook for iPad that leaked in July is remarkably similar to the app launching today. This essentially confirms a blog post by former Facebook Engineer Jeff Verkoeyen, who claimed that the app has been feature complete since May.

Check out our in-depth tour of the app that leaked in July below.

App Icon

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Facebook, facebook for ipad, trending

Mashable Community Guidelines: Commenting Do’s & Don’ts

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 12:35 PM PDT

Commenting is an integral part of the Mashable community. It allows everyone to participate, contribute and connect.

We truly value the comments on our site and are constantly looking for ways to improve the dialogue. That’s why we’ve put together some community guidelines with tips on how to make the most of Mashable comment threads.

In addition to helping foster great conversation, the below guidelines — as well as the context in which comments are made — are taken into account when making moderation decisions. We hope this list of do’s and don’ts will help you better understand our evaluation process and why some comments are deleted.

Commenting Do’s & Don’ts

Do: Focus on intelligently discussing topics by furthering the conversation and informing the participants with resourceful and constructive ideas:

Don't: Use profane language or threaten others. We encourage you to take responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you're participating. Maintain intelligent discussions in the Mashable community by being respectful and considerate.

Do: Speak from relevant personal experience that adds value to the conversation:

Don't: Link to personal blog posts, websites or social media accounts that are irrelevant to the conversation. This is considered self promotion and does not belong in the Mashable community space. We welcome links that help further the conversation and reserve the right to delete those we deem unnecessary.

Do: Help us maintain an inviting interaction space by self-policing threads and flagging spam. Although we have a hands-on approach to community engagement, we do sometimes miss problem commenters or trolls. To flag spam, hover over the bottom right-hand corner of the comment box. Click the small gray flag that appears:

Don't: Post spam — it will be marked as such and removed from the site. Repeat offenders may see their Follow account suspended or, in extreme cases, their IP address banned.

Do: Engage in polite and valuable conversation threads with fellow readers:

Don't: Attack fellow readers. We understand that you won't agree with everything that Mashable community members say. Please state your opinions in a constructive and respectful manner. Profanity, hateful speech, prejudice, persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated. Respect others' values, beliefs and emotions. We reserve the right to remove any content that might be found extremely offensive or threatening.

Do: Point out positive attributes of articles and let authors know when they've done a good job. We invite you to ask authors your questions about the article topic if you'd like more information:

Don't: Attack Mashable authors. If you find an error, please alert us kindly. We understand and recognize that we make mistakes and will do our best to correct errors as soon as possible. If you disagree with an author's point of view or writing style, we respect your opinion. However, we expect you to share your thoughts in a rational and respectful manner. We will distinguish between constructive arguments and smear tactics. Any misrepresentation will be deleted.

What Did We Miss?

This is your community as much as it is ours. We’d love to get your thoughts in the comments below about things you think should be added to our guidelines.

A big thanks to our readers who are already upholding a high standard of quality for conversation in the comments on Mashable. Your contributions help make our site an inviting and intelligent space for all community members.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ra2studio.

More About: comments, community, mashable

iPhone 4S: Leaked Hands-On With Siri [VIDEO]

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 12:17 PM PDT

Usually a shaky video of a phone in use is not a big deal — that all changes when that phone is Apple’s iPhone 4S, five days before its launch.

The sound-free video, above, leaked on the Chinese forum AppVV.com, appears to show a 4S being put through its paces. The BrowserMark number is significant as it’s roughly double the number you’ll get on an iPhone 4 running iOS 5 — meaning the iPhone 4S will browse the web at twice the speed of its predecessor.

There are other iPhone 4S videos out there, but all appear to be demonstrated by an Apple employee. This is the first video that is decidedly not Apple-moderated.

The site does not explain how the phone was obtained ahead of launch. So how do we know it really is an iPhone 4S? Because Siri appears to be baked right into the OS — note the preferences screen that allows you to select English (in Australian, British or American dialects), French or German. Also note the options to have Siri talk back and to activate the service when you lift the phone to your ear.

Want to learn more about Siri? We have its history, and an interview with the app’s co-creator, here.

[Via Macrumors]

More About: apple, iPhone 4S, siri, Video

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UNICEF’s Little Orange Box Goes Digital This Halloween

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 12:08 PM PDT

unicef image

UNICEF, which has helped raise more than $164 million since 1953 with its iconic orange boxes, is taking its Halloween fundraising digital. The charitable organization is launching an online "Trick-or-Treat" portal and including QR codes on its instantly recognizable orange boxes.

The main feature of the web portal is UNICEF’s Digital Costume Party — a web app that lets do-gooders create virtual costumes and share them over social networks while donating to a cause.

Users can upload photos of themselves and then try on various digital costumes and photo filters for free. More digital costumes and photo effects are available for $5 and $10 donations. That money will go to helping children in need, and clicking on either donation level will show how your money can help.

The orange box is also going digital thanks to the inclusion of a Microsoft QR code. People can donate by scanning the code with their smartphone or texting TOT to “UNICEF” (864233).

SEE ALSO: The Secret to Achieving 3X Better Fundraising Results [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Trick-or-Treat portal still offers a healthy serving of Halloween-flavored fun. There are tools to help plan parties, share spooky Halloween stories or order your free UNICEF orange boxes to collect money.

Are you more likely to give from your smartphone? Let us know in the comments.

unicef box image

More About: Halloween, Social Good, unicef

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Facebook Acquires Social Q&A Service

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 11:28 AM PDT

Facebook has acquired two-year-old social question-and-answer startup Friend.ly for an undisclosed sum, the companies announced Monday.

The Friend.ly team will join Facebook and focus on new products for the social network, while the Friend.ly site will continue to operate as a separate service, the startup says.

“We're excited to announce that we recently acquired Friend.ly, a Silicon Valley startup that created a really compelling way for people to express themselves and meet others through answering questions,” a Facebook representative said in a statement shared with Mashable. “We've admired the team's efforts for some time now, and we're looking forward to having Ed [Baker] and his colleagues make a big impact on the way millions of people connect and engage with each other on Facebook.”

Facebook has a history of making talent-motivated acquisitions — the Friend.ly buy appears to fit the talent acquisition bill, rather than product acquisition. Earlier this year, Facebook acquired the team behind Sofa for its design sensibilities.

Mountain View-based Friend.ly, a service similar to Formspring, raised $5.5 million in Series A funding.

Image courtesy of Friend.ly

More About: acquisition, Facebook

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3 More Industry Leaders Join the Mashable Media Summit

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 11:16 AM PDT

The Mashable Media Summit unites industry leaders and experts to reveal the latest innovations occurring in media. Held on Nov. 4 at the TimesCenter in New York City, the one-day conference will examine how technology is transforming journalism, advertising and media business models.

Three new industry leaders have joined our dynamic lineup of speakers:

These talented speakers and many more from across the media landscape will convene to discuss the latest trends, break news, share what’s working and the best practices they are seeing in their field.

Register for Mashable Media Summit 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

Tickets include a full day of discussion with thought leaders on stage, intimate networking sessions as well as breakfast, lunch and a networking reception. Get your tickets now before they sell out.

To get a taste of what's to come, here are a sample of topics that will be covered at the Mashable Media Summit 2011. More information will be announced soon.

Mashable Media Summit Topics

Sponsorship Opportunities

A limited number of sponsor opportunities are available for the Mashable Media Summit. This is an excellent opportunity to get in front of Mashable's audience of more than 18 million influential monthly unique visitors and our engaged community across social networks. Contact sponsorship@mashable.com for opportunities.

A Look Back at Last Year’s Mashable Media Summit

Mashable Media Summit

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More About: mashable, mashable media summit, Media

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Will Your iPhone 4S Work in an iPhone 4 Case? Probably

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 11:09 AM PDT

Although the inside of the iPhone 4S contains some major differences from its predecessor, the exterior of the iPhone 4S looks exactly like the iPhone 4.

As Mashable’s Amy-Mae Elliott pointed out last week, that means most iPhone 4 cases will work just fine with the iPhone 4S.

Still, in the run-up to Friday’s launch date, we’re seeing a lot of conflicting information about what cases and accessories will and won’t work with the new iPhone 4S.

The iPhone 4S does have a few minor design changes from original iPhone 4. Notably, the mute switch and the two volume buttons have moved ever-so-slightly to accommodate a new antenna. Eagle-eyed iPhone fans will recognize these changes from the launch of the Verizon iPhone back in February.

Although most iPhone 4 cases will still work with the Verizon iPhone 4/iPhone 4S, cases that were designed to specifically mold to the side button layouts may be slightly off.

1. Case-Mate Pop Case, $29.99

Click here to view this gallery.

The good news is that over the course of the last eight months, the vast majority of case makers have updated their molds to account for the new design. Most simply have an elongated rectangle on the side of the case to account for the buttons. A few have gone as far as to create specific button holes in cases for Verizon iPhones.

What this means is that if you purchased a case for your iPhone 4 within the last six to eight months, chances are, that case will fit the iPhone 4S. For users who got a case or bumper when Apple launched the iPhone 4 in June 2010, the situation is slightly more complicated and you might want to bring your case with you when standing in line to get the new phone.

Still, the cases sold alongside the iPhone 4S in Apple Store in the U.S. and across the world should be fully compatible with the iPhone 4S.

And for the super-paranoid, we’ve already put together a list of some iPhone 4S-friendly cases.

1. Rabbit Smile Mail Icon

A cute concept makes for a unique case. There's a phone icon version available too.

Cost: $18

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apple, iPhone 4S, iphone cases

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10 Essential PR Tips for Startups

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 10:49 AM PDT

Erica Swallow is a technology and lifestyle writer. Sign up for her course on “PR for Startups” to learn more about getting media coverage for your fledgling business.

It can be challenging for unknown startups to garner press attention — budgets are tight, relationships with journalists may not be that strong and explaining a new concept is difficult. Not to mention, early-stage startups usually only employ a few people focused on product and development. Therefore, marketing and public relations are often tackled piecemeal by whomever has time.

Good press, though, can be one of the biggest drivers for startups looking to grow their user bases, and as a result, a pretty important component for success.

As a tech journalist, I’ve been pitched by hundreds of companies and have developed a taste for what works and what doesn’t. Read on for my startup tips.

1. Know What’s Newsworthy

Before you begin pitching your startup, stop to think about what is truly newsworthy, especially to the publications you're targeting.

Sadly, many startups simply aren’t newsworthy, because they aren’t unique or don’t offer any added value beyond their existing competitors. If your startup is in that boat, it’s really not a matter of figuring out how to pitch your company — instead, you may want to consider improving your product before hitting the pavement.

That being said, if you feel your startup is unique and worthy of coverage, figure out the right angle with which to approach a journalist. A few common ideas include:

  • The startup’s launch
  • The launch of a new product, feature or offering
  • The release of a compelling study or interesting data
  • The company’s response to a current event
  • News of a high profile partnership

Once you figure out what qualifies as newsworthy, begin crafting your message by first understanding all of the details about what you’re pitching.

2. Have a Concise, Value-Driven Message

Before sending out any pitches, take time to craft your company’s message. Be able to explain your startup in one sentence so that anyone — techie or not — can understand its purpose. For example, here is how a few of my favorite startups describe themselves:

  • Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique spaces around the world online or from an iPhone.”
  • Skillshare is a community marketplace to learn anything from anyone.”
  • Lot18 is a membership by invitation website for wine and epicurean products from coveted producers at attractive discounts.”

Cut down on industry jargon so that any average Joe can understand your pitch with one read.

After you’ve crafted your company pitch, stick to it for everything you pitch — unless, of course, you find ways to improve it over time.

Besides your company’s description, you’ll also need to create a message for the news event you’re hoping to get covered. Figure out how to explain your story pitch in only a few sentences. Journalists get tons of pitches every day — it’s very likely that the journalist you’re pitching will only read the first few sentences of your email.

When finding your voice for the pitch, try not to force a hook. For example, a lot of press releases and pitches that I receive around key holidays try to make the enclosed news sound more relevant due to the upcoming holiday. If the hook is unrelated, though, it just bogs down the message and makes it difficult to understand.

Once you’ve crafted your message, making sure that it is clear and concise, be certain that it answers these questions for the journalist: “Why is this newsworthy? Why should my audience care?”

3. Understand a Journalist’s Coverage Area & Audience

Determine which demographic — and therefore, which publication — would be interested in your startup. Then research which journalists at that publication cover the vertical in which your startup or its news would fall.

Consider making a list of the top 5-10 journalists in your industry that you’d like to build relationships with and then move forward, focusing on those journalists every time you have a story to convey. Read up on the journalists’ articles and get a clear understanding of what each of them covers. When you pitch them, showcase that you follow their work and feel that your startup fits in with their coverage.

You don’t have to come right out and say that you’ve read all of a journalist’s articles to convey that information, though. For the sake of originality, try to stay away from the cliche first sentence of, “I read your recent post called ‘XYZ,’ and I think you’d be interested in my startup.” If you can’t think of a compelling format, go with something like, “I noticed you’ve covered location-based networks quite a bit at Publication X, and I think you’d be interested in learning about how my startup is changing that space by [fill in blank].” Be sure to differentiate your company from ones that the journalist has already covered, however.

While pitching individual writers sounds more promising to many PR folk, you should always determine the official pitching method for your preferred publication. For example, stories for Mashable should be pitched to news@mashable.com. That inbox is monitored at all hours of the day and relevant pitches are forwarded to the correct editors and writers. Contrary to popular belief, news inboxes aren’t always bottomless pits.

4. Customize Your Pitches

People generally don’t like to be part of blast emails, and journalists are no exception. When you want a particular person to cover your story, customize your pitch to be relevant to his coverage area and audience.

Take the extra time to craft custom emails for a small list of journalists that you really want to cover your story. They will most likely notice that you’ve taken the time to write a thoughtful email and be more likely to respond.

5. Avoid Press Releases & Simple Mistakes

I’ve rarely encountered press releases that were helpful. Generally, they are lengthy, full of empty quotes from company reps and tainted with marketing jargon. Just stay away from them. Period. Instead, stick with custom emails.

Now, I know you’ll be tempted to copy and paste information from one email to another — and you should. After all, your company’s description and the news pitch won’t change much. Be careful, though, of copying incorrect information, such as “I love your work on TechCrunch,” when the writer actually works for VentureBeat.

Another common mistake is to misunderstand a writer’s coverage area. Just because a reporter has written about the top startups in Canada doesn’t mean he wants to know about your Canadian printing company.

6. Have Useful Assets Available

As you get down to pitching time, make sure you have all assets ready that a journalist might request, such as:

  • A company or product description
  • Photos relevant to the story
  • Screenshots of the product

In some cases it may make sense to include a screenshot or photo in the initial pitch, but most of the time just mention that you can send over photos, screenshots and more details if the writer is interested in learning more.

7. Consider Timing with Exclusives and Embargoes

Timing is essential when pitching news. You want to give the writer enough time to report, but you don’t want to pitch the idea too soon that the writer forgets about it by the time your company launches or announces the news officially. I personally prefer to receive news one week in advance of the official announcement. And when possible, I love to have the option of covering the news as an exclusive, when a publication is given the right to be the first publication to report on a given story.

Another key term to know is “embargo.” An embargo is “a request by a source that the information or news provided by that source not be published until a certain date or certain conditions have been met,” as stated on Wikipedia.

An embargo is useful if you anticipate that reporters will need extra time to accurately report the news. This gives them time to interview sources at your company, for example, while still getting the story out right when everyone else does.

8. Offer Up Unique Data

When pitching, include data and numbers that support your ideas when possible. In fact, an interesting study, infographic or other data sometimes warrants its own pitch. If your company has gathered proprietary information that tells a compelling story, pitch it.

9. Follow Reporters on Twitter

Make it your goal to build relationships with the group of journalists that cover your industry.

Meeting up for lunch or drinks isn’t always the best option when it comes to keeping the conversation alive, though — oftentimes, a journalist may only want to meet up when you have a story to pitch. After all, he or she is probably busy doing other things.

A great way to stay in touch is to follow your key reporters on Twitter. Writers often tweet when they’re looking for sources, and they share articles and other news that they’re interested in. Use these pieces of information to learn more about each journalist and tailor your communications accordingly.

Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with a little interaction. When you find something you think a journalist may enjoy, tweet it over. And when he or she shares an interesting article or tweets something entertaining, feel free to interact.

If you’re unsure of who to follow, check out Muck Rack, a list of journalists on Twitter.

10. Reverse Pitch Using HARO & NewsBasis

It’s much easier to pitch a reporter when you already know what he or she is writing. Use tools like HARO and NewsBasis to find and respond to reporter requests for sources.

If your company or someone within your company matches a journalist request, respond by clearly explaining how you could add value to the story. Oftentimes, this type of coverage helps position individuals at your startup as subject matter experts.

Your Questions

Treat these 10 tips as an appetizer for all there is to know about public relations for startups. If you have specific questions or need advice about press for your startup, let me know in the comments below! I’ll do my best to answer all of your inquiries.

Images courtesy of Flickr, bionicteaching, miuenski, ktpupp & iStockPhoto, selimaksan

More About: features, Marketing, pr, press, startup

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YouTube Wants to Put Your Science Project IN SPAAACE!

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 10:00 AM PDT

YouTube Space Lab

Science is cool. Science in space is even cooler. Two science experiments hand selected by noted physicist Stephen Hawking (and judges from NASA, the European Space Agency and Cirque du Soleil) to be performed in space by astronauts is beyond cool. It's also the premise of YouTube Space Lab.

The brain-child of Zahaan Bharmal, Google's head of marketing operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, YouTube Space Lab is now accepting submissions from students, 14 to 18 years old, for two coveted spots on a Japanese rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). Once there, the students' science experiment ideas will be conducted by astronauts and streamed, live, on YouTube.

Bharmal cooked up the idea as an entry in one of Google's internal competitions where founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page let any and all Googlers pitch project ideas. "I pitched the idea and lucky for me, the wonderful folks at Google and YouTube liked it," said Bharmal.

Though his title might not indicate it, Bharmal is passionate about science. "I was a science student. I loved science in school. I studied physics in Oxford … and I came up with the idea, based on how space inspired me and the belief that it can inspire many others."

The idea is simple, yet inspired. A global program where teens from around the world can design experiments that can be carried out on ISS. To enter, students simply create a two-minute video explaining their science idea and post it on YouTube's Space Lab page. YouTube will accept entries until Dec 7. Then judging will commence.

In early January, they'll announce 60 finalists. Eventually, Hawking and the other judges, including NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations
William Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator of Education and former Astronaut
Leland Melvin, ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, JAXA Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and
Cirque du Soleil's founder Guy Laliberté (and the YouTube community), will whittle the list down to six finalists, two from each region: the Americas and Asia Pacific and one from each age bracket. YouTube, the judges and sponsor Lenovo will announce the two winners (again, one from each age category) at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C., early next year.

Those winning experiments will soar into space next year and will be conducted on the International Space Station sometime in summer 2012. YouTube will stream the experiments live. When asked if the science submissions have to be particularly visual— it is video, after all — Bharmal explained that the judges, including Hawking and the astronauts, are "the real experts" about what will work in space. "We're working with them to develop broad and clear guidelines to encourage the most interesting and diverse set of experiments"

Bharmal's hope is that the competition will turn into the "the word's coolest, largest scientific classroom." [We'll take] "the wonder of space and put it together with the immense power of YouTube you'll get something pretty powerful to inspire the next generation of scientists"

In addition to the chance to have their experiments performed in space, those aspiring scientists could win one of six zero gravity flights on a Zero G flight (a.k.a. a "Vomit Comet"). The two global winners will also have an opportunity to witness the Japanese rocket launch or attend cosmonaut training camp in Star City, Russia.

Many of you may be too old to enter, but what kinds of physical science and biology experiments would you suggest for Space Lab? Describe them below in the comments.

More About: International Space Station, lenovo, space, YouTube

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How the Remote Workforce Is Changing

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 09:13 AM PDT

The Digital Careers Series is supported by Elance, the world's leading site for online work. Check out Startup Cloud for tips on how to build a remote team.

As advances in technology have made it a practical possibility for millions, remote working has increased dramatically over the last decade.

While once working from home was considered a bit of a novelty, we argue that it is now so mainstream it’s more interesting to consider how the remote workforce is changing.

Mashable spoke to human resources professionals and other experts to get some interesting insight on this subject. Have a read below and let us know in the comments how you see the remote workforce changing — now and in the future.

1. It’s Growing

The remote workforce has grown rapidly over the past decade, but the recession has had an impact. In a recent press release, the WorldatWork organization revealed that for the first time since 2003, the number of people who worked remotely for one day per month dropped. The U.S. teleworking population in 2010 was estimated at 26.2 million — nearly 20% of the U.S. adult working population.

However, the percentage of people who remote work more often than once per month increased. WorldatWork says 84% of teleworkers did so one day per week or more in 2010, up from 72% in 2008.

Susan Bergman, MA, SPHR, The Society for Human Resource Management's director of the Knowledge Center, comments on the current state of remote working. “I see a trend toward more employees working remotely; this is supported by recent SHRM surveys. A December 2009 SHRM poll revealed that 52% of companies provide ‘virtual work options’ for their employees or scenarios that allow for work away from the company premises, and 22% anticipated an increase in the number of employees working remotely over the next year.”

And while workers and companies both see the benefit in remote working, the figures will continue to grow.

“Telework or remote work is one aspect of workplace flexibility. Employers are finding that telework and other flexible work arrangements are effective tools in attracting younger employees who appreciate greater flexibility and to recruit remote workers from a wider talent pool,” says Susan Bergman.

“It's not just younger workers who want to work remotely; it's attractive to busy parents, workers nearing retirement and workers in metro areas where commuting is very time consuming,” she says.

2. It’s Mainstream

Ten years ago, people might have been surprised if you told them you worked from home. Today they’re more likely to be surprised if you don’t have some kind of flexible working arrangement that means you can.

“For the longest time, remote working was regarded as a pipedream. As its acceptance slowly built, companies started to see some benefit in reduced costs, but it was probably done more to appease employees and retain someone who might have otherwise left. In 2011, remote working has become ‘mainstream,’” says Michael D. Haberman, SPHR, VP & director of HR services at Omega HR Solutions.

As remote working becomes more the norm, the number of people who enjoy the ability to work from home occasionally has also increased. This may be on a formal basis in which the employee can work from home a set number of days a week basis, on an ad hoc basis when there’s a childcare issue or a practical need to be at home, or on a crisis basis.

As harsh winters and recent hurricanes have shown, getting employees used to working from home can benefit a company should disaster strike. Bergman notes a trend towards teleworking for business continuity reasons in case of a crisis scenario.

“More employers put telework policies in place after 9/11 and various natural disasters,” she says. “Today, employers see remote work capabilities as key to keeping their business operating when there are disruptions.”

3. It’s Maturing

While early remote workers may have invested considerable time and energy into remaining visible whilst working remotely, overdoing it on the always-on/comms front, and ensuring a higher work output to avoid any suggestion of being less prolific, most modern companies have relaxed into accepting remote workers and trusting them to be productive.

The cliche of the remote worker in their pajamas watching daytime TV is no longer upheld by many, perhaps because as more people experience remote working themselves they see the benefits — no commute, a distraction-free environment, less office politics — as offering major advantages.

In fact, recent studies have suggested that today’s remote workers enjoy the same access to information as office-based colleagues, but do so without the hassle of interruptions people in traditional workplaces have to contend with.

“The commonly held assumptions regarding remote work continue to be challenged by employees' experiences and by academic research,” reveals Kathryn Fonner, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“For example, my colleague Michael Roloff of Northwestern University and I recently conducted two studies that challenge commonly held assumptions regarding some of the challenges associated with remote work. In one study, we found that office-based employees exchange information with colleagues more frequently than do teleworkers working at home at least three days a week, but teleworkers and office-based employees reported the same level of access to quality and timely information. These findings challenge the notion that telework limits access to the information network, and indicate that telework may benefit remote workers by shielding them from workplace distractions and information overload.”

“In another study, we found that teleworkers' frequent communication with colleagues using various technologies did not have a significant influence on their feelings of connection with others, but rather, significantly increased their feelings of stress due to being interrupted. In turn, stress from interruptions diminished their sense of belonging and identification with the organization. This challenges assumptions that working remotely hinders teleworkers' identification with their organization, by showing that teleworkers actually feel less identified with their organization when constant connectivity to the workplace threatens the expected benefits of their remote work arrangement and generates stressful interruptions,” Fonner says.

4. It’s Learning New Skills

The increase of remote working also means new skill sets for both employers and employees. We asked Angela Baron, an adviser in engagement and organization development for the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, for her input in this area.

“We have seen a general increase in remote working in the UK. However whilst technology has enabled remote working, it is more the demands of business that is driving it. As a result, remote workers tend to be professional people based at home for part of the time or people whose jobs keep them on the road for long periods which makes it sensible that their base becomes their home or a more accessible drop-in center,” Baron says.

“As a result, much of the remote working we see taking place is ad hoc and informal. However there is undoubtedly a growing group of mobile workers who are working in a number of locations — their homes, customer workplaces, various sites, etc.”

“This is requiring a new set of skills around empowering employees to be more self-reliant and self-motivating, developing managers to manage remotely,” she says. The managers, in particular, must “develop the communication skills to keep remote workers connected to the team and ensure adequate knowledge exchange and alignment to team and organizational aims and objectives.”

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Conde Nast Makes a Foray Into Film and TV, Led by CW Founder

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

Conde Nast is getting into the film and television businesses, the magazine publisher announced Monday.

Dawn Ostroff was appointed president of the newly formed entertainment division. She founded the CW’s broadcast network and led the channel from 2006 to 2011. At CW, she developed popular series such as Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and America's Next Top Model, on which Vogue‘s Andre Leon Talley was a judge.

What that entertainment division will accomplish is not yet clear, although a statement sent by the company Monday morning suggests the development of original programming for television, film and digital could be in order.

In a phone interview with Mashable, Ostroff said the first order of business is to develop a strategic plan and hire a team.

“We really need to take a look at all of the assets, all of the goals for all of the different companies and brands, and really start to hone in on what makes sense for which brands and which magazines,” she says. “There’s so much opportunity across the board, be it features, or television for broadcast or cable, or digital channels — who knows what other opportunities there might be for Conde Nast in the entertainment space. As we start to really talk to people within the building and understand more about the brand and the goals for each magazine, it will be clearer for us what we want to do.”

Although Ostroff’s plans are still unformulated, she stressed the importance of distributing content “across all platforms and mediums” — including digital channels — and developing a “library” of content for Conde Nast.

When asked if the magazines themselves would be looking into developing more video content for their respective websites and apps, Ostroff explained her group’s goals would be broader. “[We want] to do something more entertainment-based for all of the different brands, not necessarily direct extensions of the magazines.”

Entertainment is a logical next step for Conde Nast as the company looks to diversify its holdings beyond the print business. (Its licensed restaurant business is a prime example.) Besides Talley’s foray into reality TV, the company cooperated with the production of a documentary about Vogue titled The September Issue, which brought in more than $6 million in global box office sales in 2009.

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Amazon Lets You Manage Your Print Magazine Subscriptions

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 08:43 AM PDT

Further insinuating itself as a middle man between publishers and consumers, Amazon has introduced a service that lets consumers manage their print subscriptions.

The program, the Amazon Print Subscription Manager, lets subscribers update their address, track expiration dates, cancel, renew or report a problem for all their print magazine subscriptions. Print Subscription Manager has been available to Amazon customers who purchased their subscriptions on Amazon since 2009, but now it’s available to everyone, regardless of how they subscribed.

Amazon’s evolving role presents a challenge to the status quo since the online retailer has used its dominant distribution in the past to strike deals with publishers that were advantageous to itself. Amazon has provided a mere 30% cut of each title sold through its Kindle Store, but raised that to 70% last December if publishers agreed to make their titles available in all Kindle formats, including for the ereader, desktop application and mobile apps for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry formats.

Amazon has also locked in exclusives with publishers, including DC Entertainment. Its physical titles are no longer carried by Amazon rival Barnes & Noble because of Amazon's exclusive deal on the digital versions of those titles.

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U.S. Gov’t Pressing Google to Hand Over WikiLeak Supporter’s Email Info [REPORT]

Posted: 10 Oct 2011 08:20 AM PDT

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The U.S. government has targeted a WikiLeaks volunteer using secret court orders that would force Google and Sonic, a small Internet provider, to hand over information from his email account, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The government is using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to obtain a list of email addresses from Jacob Appelbaum, the 28-year-old developer behind the Tor Project Inc., a non-profit that helps people maintain their anonymity online. The order asks Google and Sonic to turn over information from Appelbaum’s email accounts on both services.

WikiLeaks, a controversial site that has previously published highly confidential government documents including thousands of secret U.S. files and diplomatic cables, suggests people use the Tor Project to maintain their anonymity when submitting information to WikiLeaks. Appelbaum has volunteered for WikiLeaks but has not been charged for any wrongdoing.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act allows the American government to obtain information from people’s email accounts without a search warrant or notifying the person whose information is being taken. Many Internet companies (including Google and Sonic, which are involved in the Appelbaum request) have fought the act, claiming it is unconstitutional. Unlike a standard search warrant or request for information, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act only requires “reasonable grounds” that the information would be “relevant and material” to an investigation, WSJ reports.

Sonic fought the order and lost and Google declined to comment on the proceedings. However, both pressed to inform Appelbaum of the order.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act predates the Internet’s widespread usage. It was passed in 1986 before the complex ways people use the Internet today could have been anticipated. Tech companies are lobbying Congress to update the law with more rigorous conditions.

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