Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Samsung Galaxy Player 4 and 5 Now Available in the U.S.”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Samsung Galaxy Player 4 and 5 Now Available in the U.S.”

Samsung Galaxy Player 4 and 5 Now Available in the U.S.

Posted: 18 Oct 2011 04:47 AM PDT

Samsung‘s two-fold answer to the iPod touch, the Galaxy Player 4 and the Galaxy Player 5, is now available in the U.S.

These Android Gingerbread-based devices both closely resemble an Android smartphone, but they lack the phone component, just like the iPod touch. They’re a good choice for someone who already has a phone but wants all the perks of Android as well as access to the apps in Android Market without having to sign a two-year contract.

Both devices sport a 1 GHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, 8 GB of storage memory, expandable with microSD memory cards (up to 32 GB) and dual cameras. The Galaxy Player 4 has a 4-inch touchscreen and costs $230. The Galaxy Player 5 has a much more video-friendly 5-inch display, comes with a bigger battery and costs $270.

For comparison, Apple’s iPod touch with 16 GB of storage memory costs $199, while the most expensive version with 64 GB of memory costs $399.

You can pick up the Samsung Galaxy Player 4 and 5 at Amazon and other retail stores.

More About: android, Galaxy Player, multimedia player, samsung, Samsung Galaxy Player

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This Is the First Official Photo of the Motorola Droid RAZR

Posted: 18 Oct 2011 01:40 AM PDT

Ahead of the official unveiling of the Motorola Droid RAZR on Tuesday, Motorola sent media outlets a code that lets you unlock an image of the device, piece by piece. Needless to say, it didn’t take very long for someone to crack the puzzle and publish the first official image of the Droid RAZR in all its glory.

From what we can see on the image, the Droid RAZR will be an incredibly thin and stylish smartphone with rear and front cameras, a metal/carbon fiber case and four capacitive buttons on the front.

You can also check out the official teaser video over at reveal.motorola.com, but the video merely proclaims that the Droid RAZR will be “faster, thinner, smarter and stronger” without actually showing us any imagery of the upcoming phone.

[via DroidLife]

More About: droid, Motorola, RAZR, smartphone

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Ford Vehicles Will Now Read You Text Messages While You Drive

Posted: 18 Oct 2011 01:15 AM PDT

Ford is installing a feature in its new vehicles — and many of its older ones — that can read text messages out loud.

The feature, which is intended to reduce texting while driving, is part of Ford’s voice-activated technology, Sync, and is already installed on all model 2012 Ford vehicles with the exception of the Ranger. Using a Bluetooth connection, it syncs with phones and alerts users when they receive text messages, reads them out loud and allows users to respond with a selection of standard pre-written messages without taking their hands off the wheel.

On Tuesday, it will be made available as an upgrade to Sync vehicles that are model 2010 or later. In order to install the capability, owners can download the upgrade from the Ford Sync site onto a USB drive along with print-out instructions. Older Ford vehicles that have Sync will soon be able to make the update as well, says supervisor of Sync product development Mark Porter.

We shouldn’t need data to convince us that texting and driving at the same time is a bad idea. But we have tons of it. A 2009 study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting while driving increased the risk of a truck getting into an accident by more than 23 times. A 2007 Clemson University study found that text messaging and iPods caused drivers to leave their lane 10% more often during driving simulations. And if you have doubts that texting is detrimental to driving performance, you can prove it to yourself with an interactive game that The New York Times has created to make the point.

So in an age when most car companies have a Bluetooth integration features, why isn’t text-to-voice already a standard option?

Several apps such as DriveSafe.ly and SMS Replier have created popular solutions, but only a few vehicle manufacturers such as Ford and BMW have integrated the feature into vehicles themselves.

One factor in the slow adoption is that not many phones integrate with text-to-speech features like Ford’s. So far BlackBerry phones are the most notable devices compatible with the technology required. Some Android phones also support the technology. iPhones do not.

Porter says that he thinks more phone and vehicle manufacturers will soon start to add it.

“It's very similar to a couple of years ago when Bluetooth devices were just coming out and had a hands-free profile [for integrating with vehicles] and few phones supported it,” he says. “Now it's almost standard.”

Image courtesy of istockphoto, jabejon

More About: BMW, ford, safety, text messaging, trending

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Twitter CEO: Promoted Tweets Working “Better Than We Could Have Ever Hoped”

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 08:18 PM PDT

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says that Twitter’s monetization efforts are working and that new ad formats are coming soon.

“That thing is working better than we could have ever hoped,” Costolo said of its efforts in advertising.

Twitter launched Promoted Tweets last year as part of its effort to monetize its popular social media platform. Twitter followed up with Promoted Trends, and recently the company put Promoted Tweets in users’ timelines.

Costolo also revealed during an interview at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Monday that the company will be testing other ad formats in the next few months and beyond. This includes rich media ads, meaning photo- and video-based advertising will appear in user timelines in the near future.

Twitter’s CEO stressed that social network isn’t about to insert movie trailers into the timeline. Instead, Twitter is planning to find ways to experiment with lots of different ad formats that could be adopted across all users, depending on how users react.

Twitter Has 100 Million Monthly Active Users; 50% Log In Every Day

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 08:02 PM PDT

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo shared some interesting stats about Twitter’s growth, including that it has more than 100 million active users and that signups via iOS device have tripled since the launch of iOS 5.

Twitter has been on a roll in recent months. The company surpassed 200 million tweets per day in June but has since jumped to nearly 250 million daily tweets. The growth has been tremendous: Twitter had around 100 million tweets per day in January 2011.

Costolo shared these stats during an interview at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

Of those 100 million global active users, half of them log in daily. “We had 30% of our monthly active users login in every day at the beginning of the year. Now it’s over 50%,” Costolo revealed.

The company’s growth amounts to about 40% quarter on quarter. But perhaps the most interesting stat is the impact of iOS 5 on Twitter. Apple’s mobile OS directly integrates Twitter, and that has resulted in a boost for the company. Costolo revealed that Twitter signups via iOS 5 devices have tripled since the launch of that iOS update.

More About: dick costolo, Twitter, Web 2.0 Summit

4 Essential Tips for Conquering the App Development Process

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 06:55 PM PDT

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

No sane project manager or app developer wants his business project to fail, but inevitably, the majority of projects do just that. While success or failure is difficult to predict, businesses should put the right steps in place to mitigate potential for project failure.

Craig Johnston, VP of engineering at web development firm Sudjam, recently spoke about four key reasons why app development projects fail during his presentation at Geekend Roadshow, a technology-focused portion of the DMA2011 conference, presented by BFG Communications.

Johnston says that clarity, simplicity, complexity and constraints are the key areas that project managers should focus on when approaching an app development project.

In short, Johnston believes that “process is the solution.” Having a set process in place enables all team players — from creatives to business types — to be on the same page. But process can only help to solve a problem if you know what the problem is, he warns.

Read on for Johnston’s ideas on conquering the app development process and minimizing project failure rates.

1. Communicate with Clarity

Communicating needs and expectations with designers and developers can be a difficult task for project managers and “idea people” who are not well-versed in technical areas. As a result, sometimes the biggest faux pas in app development is the lack of clarity when communicating ideas to developers.

During kickoff meetings, Johnston explained, project managers and clients often want to press developers to fork over details on the timeline and costs. The important piece of detail that they should be conveying, though, is what the idea is and what they want the developer to create in order to solve the business problem.

The project manager should have a clear idea of the solution in mind, so that he or she can clearly communicate it to the developer. “If you don’t have a clear picture of the solution, you are not qualified to communicate it,” says Johnston.

2. Aim for Simplicity

When communicating an app idea and its desired features, project managers should start with the big picture first, advises Johnston.

When building assembly furniture — such as that from IKEA, for example — it helps to have the complete picture of the furniture on the front of the product’s box, Johnston explained, as the black-and-white instructions are quite confusing without context.

In an app development project, the big picture provides developers with a gauge for context. While small details — such as image sizes, menu title names, colors and so on — are important, they should be communicated in context of the bigger picture.

It’s rather common, though, for developers to experience a parsed-out flood of emails of minute details before the solution (i.e. what the app is meant to do) has even been communicated by a project leader.

“You need to sort out the details, and simplicity helps you find the context to sort out those details,” says Johnston. “Details without clear context will create unnecessary complexity … and unnecessary details also multiply complexity.”

3. Consider Complexity

“Process needs to solve the problem of complexity. More importantly, though, process needs to help us cope with complexity, because it exists in everything we do, whether it’s whittling a piece of wood or developing a large enterprise application,” says Johnston.

As an app gets closer to being finished and the final product becomes clearer, simplicity starts to shine through. Suddenly, everyone can see the idea in action. “Now that they can see that picture,” Johnston says, “[the project manager] can take [the developer's] simplicity and use it against [him], saying, ‘I just want to one more simple thing.”

What a project manager sees as simple, though, may not always be an easy fix or addition. “The reduction in complexity makes a simple problem look like it’s going to be a simple change, but really it can sometimes result in a huge change needed.”

“The underlying complexity of an idea exists regardless of our acknowledgement of it,” says Johnston.

Acting as if complexity doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Therefore, potential areas for complexity should be discussed fully. Johnston says, “Exploring potential complexity allows us to predict the magnitude of changes to an idea. Nothing is 100% predictable, but that exploration gets lost on a lot of projects, because complexity is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about.”

4. Known Your Constraints

“A lot of clients I see feel as though they’re showing constraint with their project, because they’ve only incrementally screwed it up,” says Johnston.

Incrementally pushing boundaries, though, isn’t constraint, he reminds, pointing to the “just one more potato chip” conundrum as a metaphor:

“If you eat a human-size amount of potato chips, and then you say, ‘I’m just going to have one more,’ you can show constraint by just having one more. But then, you can eat that potato chip and say, ‘I just want to have one more. I’ll show constraint by only having one.’ And you can repeat that process, showing constraint one hundred more times until you hit the bottom of the bag.”

So, how do you recognize and handle constraint? Johnston says, “If an idea is changed after development has begun, the idea is unconstrained.” Having an unconstrained idea makes development more difficult, taking up more time and money to finish the initial iteration. As a result, “An unconstrained idea necessitates an equally unconstrained timeline and budget,” Johnston says.

“There can sometimes be an attitude that there has been a tolerance or an endurance by the business in the extension of the budget and timeline, when both have been extended based directly on what the business wanted,” says Johnston. “If you want an extra feature, it costs an extra day. That’s not tolerance; that’s a fair trade. If you go into a restaurant, and you order a meal, and then you order dessert — the dessert costs more. The restaurant didn’t put you over budget — you ordered dessert. You don’t get mad and [fight over the bill].”

The same should be true in the business world. Constraint should be showed by businesses in the way of clearly communicating an initial idea and needs and sticking to those throughout the project. If additional thoughts are thrown into the mix, businesses should be prepared to pay more in the currency of time and/or money.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, nullplus & Flickr, Leo Reynolds, seanhobson, ryanready, bamalibrarylady

More About: app development, features, mashable

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5 Top Celebrities to Subscribe to on Facebook

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 05:23 PM PDT

1. Jessica Alba

Oh, you know, Jessica just shared her photo album with me. No biggie.

Actress Alba's subscribe updates range from concert photos to complaints about her husband (don't get too excited, guys -- they're harmless). She talks about heading to the gym (like she needs it) and explaining the word "ugly" to her daughter.

All in all, a very rich and comprehensive look into the wholesome world of a movie star.

Click here to view this gallery.

Facebook‘s new Subscribe feature has got one thing on Twitter: You can now see Jessica Alba’s photo albums. So what are you waiting for?

Last month, Facebook launched Subscribe, a tool that allows users to follow strangers’ publicly posted activity without having to send a friend request.

SEE ALSO: 7 Top Journalists to Subscribe to | 5 Most Popular Musicians to Subscribe to

Several mainstream celebs have already shared their posts with the world, providing an insider’s peek into red carpet life.

Are you subscribing to any other celebrities’ News Feeds? Let us know.

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, Facebook, facebook subscribe, features, Social Media

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Yahoo Exec: Yahoo is “Fine,” Despite CEO Troubles

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 04:30 PM PDT

Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo’s executive vice president of the Americas, says that the struggling Internet giant is in a great position to be the world’s premiere digital media company. However, he dodged a question about whether he was interested in becoming the company’s next CEO.

“Honestly, It’s fine,” he stated during an on-stage interview at the Web 2.0 Summit, referring to Yahoo. Levinsohn was asked whether he was interested in the recently vacated CEO job. He said that he’s focused on his current job, but didn’t rule out the possibility of becoming CEO, either.

Federated Media’s John Battelle dug further into Yahoo’s issues, asking Levinsohn a question he has asked other Yahoo execs in the past: “What’s Yahoo?” It is an issue that has plagued Yahoo even before Carol Bartz took the reins of CEO in early 2009.

“I think the opportunity for us is to create…the premiere digital media company for consumers,” Levinsohn responded. “That’s it.” He explained that Yahoo will accomplish this goal by delivering “rich media” to consumer across multiple platforms. He said he believes that nobody has successfully brought together “the best of technology and the best of content and media,” and that Yahoo is well-positioned to do just that.

Levinsohn used the opportunity to discuss some of the company’s new initiatives, including a premium digital video portal and its recent Facebook integration with Yahoo News. He also boasted that Yahoo had its “biggest month ever” in September.

Levinsohn declined to comment on whether Yahoo and AOL are talking about a potential acquisition.

More About: Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo

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“Walking Dead” Breaks TV Ratings, Makes Big Moves in Social TV

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 04:20 PM PDT

The season two premiere for AMC’s The Walking Dead was a huge hit in the ratings and with socially engaged viewers.

In the 18-49 demographic, which is what advertisers use to set ad rates, The Walking Dead set a record as the most-watched basic cable drama. More than 4.8 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic and 7.3 million total viewers tuned in to the 90-minute premiere.

Beyond just being a hit in the ratings, the show also scored big points in social TV analytics. Entertainment checkin service GetGlue and social TV measuring company Bluefin Labs provided us with data from the premiere.

Increase in Checkins

GetGlue tells us that 43,000 users used the service to check in to the season premiere. This was a substantial increase from last season.

Socially Engaged Viewers

Bluefin provided us with some additional data about the social engagement surrounding the show.

More than 82,000 social media comments from 57,000 different people were recorded for the show. This breaks down to an average of 1.4 comments per person.

On the demographic side, 53.5% of the social TV engagement was from men vs. 46.5% women. The near-even split between genders shows that AMC has done a good job with its branding and messaging. After all, a drama about zombies based on a series of graphic novels doesn’t immediately jump out as being female friendly.

The sentiment for the show was favorable — with 74.6% of comments positive, 12.1% negative and 13.3% neutral.

Bluefin also tells us that The Walking Dead was second only to the NFL in terms of social activity. The company shared with us an engagement graph that shows when activity was at its highest.

At 9:00 p.m. ET, the show hits its peak. A secondary peak hit at 10:30 p.m., right after the first airing of the show ended.

When compared with the season or series premiers of other network TV shows, The Walking Dead outpaced Modern Family, The New Girl and Terra Nova. This is notable because these programs proved to have highly social pre-season buzz or large social followings.

The big trick for AMC will be to see if the ratings — on TV and online — will be maintained in the coming weeks.

More About: amc, Bluefin Labs, getglue, social tv, the walking dead

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Coming Soon? Skype Founder Working On a Netflix Rival

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 04:10 PM PDT

Skype founder Janus Friis is preparing to launch an online video service named Vdio that may go head-to-head with Netflix, according to information gathered by GigaOm.

Vdio, in its current state, is nothing more than a landing page with a Facebook log-in button and a message that teases U.K. residents with a “coming soon” promise. A string of related documents, uncovered by GigaOm, suggest that something grandiose is brewing behind the scenes — and that Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis are the guys behind it.

The evidence: Vdio has been operating under the radar for nearly two years as Project WBS, a Los Angeles-based entity founded in 2009 with employees that all have strong ties to the Skype founders. Project WBS raised $5.6 million in 2010, according to an SEC filing. A staging site for Project WBS is a replica of the Vdio website.

Plus, the Vdio trademark was registered in 2009 by Pulser Music Services, a company also closely associated with Rdio. Rdio is the similarly named music streaming service that Zennström and Friis co-founded.

Little else is known about Vdio apart from the name, landing page, Facebook app, trademark and backers. The product remains cloaked in mystery. The service’s tagline, “Are you watching?,” and its homepage suggest that Vdio may be a streaming entertainment service with a web and mobile subscription model similar to Rdio, meaning it could compete directly with Netflix.

It’s not such a far-fetched guess considering that Rdio was a late entrant to the music streaming market and now competes directly with the much buzzed about Spotify. Still, nothing is known about the actual Vdio product or whether the company has secured the licensing deals needed to offer a product replete with content.

Reps from Vdio could not be reached for comment.

Update: Vdio has confirmed that it is a privately-funded company founded by Janus Friis. Its closed beta service will let users “instantly watch the best in TV and movies.”

More About: netflix, Skype, Vdio

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New Social Network Combines Twitter, Blogging and Reddit

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 03:42 PM PDT

What happens if you combine Twitter-like sharing, the depth of blogging and the voting mechanics of Reddit? You might get Chime.in, UberMedia’s take on social networking.

Chime.in, which makes its public debut Tuesday, shares some similarities to Twitter’s interface, but UberMedia CEO Bill Gross argues that his social network tackles completely different problems than Twitter or Facebook. Unlike Twitter, which describes itself as an “information network,” Gross describes Chime.in as an “interest network.”

Like other social networks, Chime.in lets users share content with others. It has a newsfeed, profile pages and a system for following other users. The social network doesn’t have status updates, though. Instead it has “chimes,” which are a cross between a Facebook status update and a blog post.

Users are allowed to write short articles on Chime.in — up to 4,000 characters. A chime displays a headline, the first few sentences of a chime, a piece of multimedia (an image, a video, etc.), a profile picture, interest tags and options for liking, commenting and sharing. Chimes included threaded comments that include a Reddit-style up or downvote system for surfacing the best comments to the top of a chime.

Gross says that having “yet another social network” isn’t a winning strategy, so Chime.in has a few differentiating factors that he believes will tip the scales in its favor. The biggest selling point is that users have control over their profiles, including the advertising and sponsors that run on the page. Users can include their own ads on the page and keep 100% of the revenue, or they can let UberMedia sell ads for their page and split the revenue 50-50.

Gross believes that control over revenue makes Chime.in more appealing to publishers that want to monetize themselves in social media. UberMedia has already struck deals with E! Online, Disney, Bravo and other publishers who will promote Chime.in while keeping control of the revenue they generate from it.

Chime.in is also built with the mobile world in mind. The mobile apps (iPhone, BlackBerry and Android) allow for all of the actions the website contains. Because of its complexity, the network isn’t available to feature phones, but in return the mobile versions of Chime.in work very much like the website.

One of the problems the social network’s app solves, Gross argues, is quick access to content. Gross says that getting content from Twitter’s mobile apps is a painful process: one has to go to the tweet, open the link and wait for the page to load. In contrast, Chime.in content loads almost instantly, thanks to caching and Chime.in actually hosting content rather than just linking to it.

UberMedia has a long road ahead to making Chime.in a success. The world is already flush with social networks and user fatigue. The company will have to convince millions of people that Chime.in is different enough and useful enough to use in addition to Facebook and Twitter. Gross believes that Chime.in’s focus on interests and its offer to let publishers keep the revenue they generate will make it an attractive choice for users, publishers and companies.

More About: Bill Gross, Chime.in, Twitter, UberMedia

Sean Parker: Facebook Power Users Have Gone to Twitter or Google+

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 03:13 PM PDT

Spotify investor and former Facebook President Sean Parker had some harsh words for his favorite social network: Its problem isn’t privacy, it’s that some of its most active users are leaving for other services.

“The threat to Facebook is that power users have gone to Twitter or Google+,” Parker told the Web 2.0 Summit. They are leaving, he says, because Facebook isn’t giving them enough ways to manage a glut of information.

Parker also defended Spotify’s decision to integrate the music service with Facebook, requiring users to sign up with a Facebook account. “It gives Spotify access to Facebook’s roughly 800 million users,” he said in an interview with Federated Media’s John Battelle.

Battelle continued on the Facebook line, asking Parker what he thinks of the argument that Facebook is perceived as being a “little creepy.” After attempting to dodge the question — and pointing out that he is a major Facebook shareholder — Parker offered this immortal answer. “Look: There’s good creepy and there’s bad creepy,” he said. “Today’s creepy is tomorrow’s necessity.”

SEE ALSO: Sean Parker Joins Twitter, With Apology to Mark Zuckerberg

Parker also had some harsh words for the record labels, arguing that bands can simply bypass them. “You can now be a master of your own destiny,” he said. “I’m not sure why you would sign up with a record label.”

Unless they desperately need an advance, Parker believes, bands are better off on their own. He apologized to his friends in the recording industry but offered the slow-to-grow success of indie band Foster The People as a prime example.

Parker’s argument: The digital revolution has removed barriers to sharing music. It doesn’t cost extra to create another copy of a song anymore and it’s easier than ever to get recommendations for music from friends. The result is that labels are lagging behind because they have layers of bureaucracy and protocols they no longer need. Bands are responding by using other distribution mediums (such as Spotify) in order to take charge of their own destinies.

Finally, Parker attempted to clarify the controversy over whether he was a co-founder of Napster or just an early employee. “I was a co-founder,” he said in a response to a question from Mashable. He explained that he was one of three people with founding shares when the company was first incorporated.

More About: Airtime, Facebook, napster, sean parker, spotify

Herman Cain Sings “Imagine There’s No Pizza”

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 03:06 PM PDT

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

Right? Just when you thought the 2012 GOP Presidential race couldn’t get any weirder, along comes Herman Cain, presidential hopeful, and former chairman and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza.

Here, Cain sings John Lennon’s classic peace-anthem “Imagine” with pizza-themed lyrics including — but not limited to — “Imagine there’s no pizza,” “Eating only tacos, or Kentucky Fried” and “You’re lucky you have pizza.”

In the video, Cain provides a bit of entertainment as he sings at a Godfather’s event. While the video, dutifully dug up by Internet scroungers, harps on Cain’s background in fast food, the candidate’s credentials include a stint as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Cain’s probably going to get some backlash for the video even as he leads the GOP race in most polls. But come on, he didn’t sing at a GOP debate — the man was running a pizza chain when this video was filmed. In terms of skeletons in the closet, this isn’t a big deal. That, and his voice isn’t actually all that bad.

Take a gander and let us know: Is this a career-crushing mistake or quirky aside?

More About: 2012 election, Politics, republicans, Video, viral-video-of-the-day, YouTube

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Zynga CEO Cancels Appearance at Web 2.0

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 02:45 PM PDT

In a last-minute surprise at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco, Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus withdrew from the coveted opening speaker slot.

Interviewer John Battelle of Federated Media linked Pincus’ no-show to Zynga’s upcoming IPO — and an increasingly nervous atmosphere among the online gaming company’s financial and legal chiefs.

Zynga has repeatedly amended its S-1 filing with the SEC (its vital pre-public launch document). The most recent amendment, released on Thursday, revealed that Pincus has an unusually large amount of control over his company.

Pincus has 38.5% of the company’s total voting power, including 100% of its class C shares. Zynga’s premier investor, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has shares that amount to 8.5% of voting power.

More About: Mark Pincus, Zynga

iPhone 4S Video Shows Off Astounding Quality [VIDEO]

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 02:24 PM PDT

Just how good is the video camera on the iPhone 4S? If a short video from Benjamin Dowie is any indication, we’re going to chalk it up to “amazing.”

Dowie shot the footage just after getting his iPhone 4S and as he writes on Vimeo, “Couldn’t believe it came out of a phone.” Looking at the footage, we’re inclined to agree.

Dowie gives strong marks to the automatic stabilization, but what really caught our eye was the amazing depth of field. The DoF on my Panasonic GF-1 with a 20mm prime lens just barely outpaces the iPhone 4S — and that’s really saying something.

Of course, in the hands of a pro-shooter, any camera can produce good looking footage. Dowie, who runs Beanpole Productions in Australia, is a pro. Your own footage may not look quite as beautiful.

Still, it’s impressive to see just how much camera optics are improving. Phones have already replaced the day-to-day pocket camera for many users — with the death of the Flip and improvements to video sensors, phones could start to replace low-level video cameras too.

What do you think of this video? Are you considering replacing your video camera with an iPhone 4S? Let us know.

[via John Gruber]

More About: beanpole productions, iPhone 4S, Video

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Instapaper Redesign Brings Cleaner Reading Experience to iPhone and iPad

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 02:02 PM PDT

Instapaper, a bookmarking tool that lets you save items to read later, released version 4.0 of its apps for iPhone and iPad Monday.

We’ve highlighted the major changes in the gallery below. The apps are available for download in the App Store.

Instapaper for iPad

You can view a new, grid-like layout and navigation bar is in vertical or horizontal mode.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Instapaper, ipad app, iphone app

WATCH: Sean Parker, Twitter and 4chan Speak at Web 2.0 Summit [LIVE]

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 01:59 PM PDT

The Web 2.0 Summit, one of technology’s premiere conferences, is kicking off in San Francisco Monday with the CEOs of Twitter, Salesforce, Zynga, Intel and more.

The Summit brings together some of technology’s biggest names for three days of interviews, panels and discussion surrounding the most important issues in the industry. Today the Summit will feature conversations with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Intel CEO Paul Otellini, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, 4chan founder Christopher Poole and former Facebook President Sean Parker.

This year’s Summit will focus on the impact of data on the competition between the major players in technology.

Mashable will be reporting live from all three days of the Summit, but if you want to watch the speakers for yourself, we’ve embedded a live video stream from the Summit. The conference kicks off at 2:00 p.m. PT Monday and starts up at 9:00 a.m. PT Tuesday and Wednesday.

More About: 4chan, dick costolo, live blog, sean parker, Twitter, Web 2.0 Summit

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Occupy Wall Street Global Map is a Birds-Eye View of Discontent

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 01:19 PM PDT

One month after the first protesters showed up on Wall Street, similar movements have popped up in cities throughout the world — and many more are being planned or discussed. As “Occupy Wall Street” evolves into “Occupy Everywhere,” several new services are mapping the social media chatter surrounding them.

Similar to the dashboards news outlets like Al Jazeera and independent projects like IAmJan25 and HyperCities created to track social media surrounding the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street maps now show where relevant geotaged tweets, YouTube videos and Flickr images are being posted, in real time.

“I don’t really have a strong political opinion,” says Humphrey Flowerdew, who started mapping Occupy Wall Street tweets on Cravify.com. “I’m just interested in technology and what practical things you can do with it.”

He and his partner Trung Huynh, who are both based in London, originally built Cravify to aggregate and map real estate listings. When the London Riots started in August, however, they realized that they could use the same technology to track Tweets. The duo created a feature that would alert users when someone tweeted from their neighborhood. Once the feature launched, Huynh and Flowerdew started spreading word of the new service through their personal twitter accounts. Flowerdew says the page had 25,000 unique visitors within 24 hours.

The Cravify riot site’s quickly accelerating userbase convinced Huynh and Flowerdew that there was a demand for this kind of mapping, and it was one factor in their decision to shift into tracking Occupy Wall Street tweets. In addition to seeing where the protests are gaining the most chatter, users can read individual tweets to see how the protests are being perceived in different areas.

“It’s just a different way to get a quick snapshot of what is happening around the world,” Flowerdew says.

The Cravify Occupy Wall Street map shows tweets from throughout the world with the hashtags such as #occupywallst, #occupylsx, #occupyrome, #occupytokyo that are frequently updated.

A similar map, being maintained by geographic system software firm Esri, is more than just a hack, it’s the company’s business. Esri makes software that has been used by organizations such as the State of Texas and FEMA to map disasters in real time.

Its Occupy Wall Street map includes information from Flickr and YouTube, in addition to tweets. Their maps can be tweaked to search for specific terms in a given area. There’s also an embed option that allows anyone to post a map with their specifications on their own website.

While its true neither of these maps show where actions in the physical world take place (Mother Jones and ABC have both taken on this task), they do give an interesting look at where in the world the protests are being most discussed online and how those discussions differ.

“If you zoom out to the whole world and see the tweets coming out of American and the Western world and compare those to the tweets coming out of Asia,” Flowerdew says. “It’s interesting to see the perspective people take. And those are different than [the tweets coming] from South America and Africa … It conveys the world-wide nature of it”

Esri’s Occupy Wall Street map includes geotagged Flickr, YouTube and Twitter posts and can be embedded anywhere.

More About: Cravify, Esri, Occupy Wall Street, ows, social media maps, trending

Digital SwearJar Donates Your Twitter Cuss Words to Charity

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 01:09 PM PDT

swear jar image

The f–king Internet keeps coming up with cool new ways to help charity. This time, SwearJar will get you to pay every time you use a curse word on Twitter.

By signing up with SwearJar, users pledge to donate £1 (about $1.55) or any other value you want to enter, every time they swear. The site will then track how often you swear in tweets and tells you which cuss words you use most. At the end of the week it then sends you a link asking you to pay up.

The site obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously since it also asks users to start tweeting swear words to up their suggested donations. SwearJar is focused on the famine in East Africa with donations going to help UNICEF’s efforts in the region.

While SwearJar might be a folksy take on the old-school swear jars, the issues it’s trying to fix are serious. The UN reports that a child dies every six minutes in East Africa with 12 million people seriously at risk.

SwearJar was built by a crew of organizations but it is nested under the 50/50 Good project, a coalition of nearly 50 different digital projects that pool resources and funding to help fight the famine in Africa.

For anyone who wants to get some sh_t done, the rules are simple:

1. For frickety-frick's sake, don't swear if your followers will be offended.
2. It's £1 per swear (or whatever you can afford).
3. The retweeter pays for retweeted swears (not the original tweeter).

Can a novel idea like SwearJar fight the famine? How often do you swear online? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, ppelisek

More About: africa, charity, Social Good, World

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Verizon Updates Privacy Policy to Get More of Your Info

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 12:37 PM PDT

Verizon Wireless has changed its privacy policy and will be using data collected from users’ phones for internal reports and better targeted mobile ads.

The largest wireless carrier in the U.S. started reaching out to customers Friday, informing them of the policy changes and offering users a way to opt out of data collection.

Verizon says that any of the data it shares with third parties — like advertisers — will not be personally identifiable.

The type of data that Verizon is collecting includes:

  • URLs and search strings
  • Device location
  • App and device usage
  • Information about a user’s Verizon products
  • Demographic information such as gender and age range

Customers that don’t want their information tracked or used for these purposes can opt out by visiting www.vzw.com/myprivacy.

On the one hand, it’s sort of creepy to see to see that Verizon wants to collect and use customer information this way. On the other hand, at least users have the opportunity to opt out.

Mobile operators have access to an enormous amount of data about our usage paterns. Should we really be surprised operators want to use that data to better serve their ancillary revenue streams, which include advertisements?

Our question is: What is Verizon going to offer consumers in exchange for this information? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

[via BGR]

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, wakila

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How Super Strong Glass Keeps Your Smartphone Screen From Breaking

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 11:55 AM PDT

The Tech Innovators Series is supported by Lenovo. 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.

So many consumer electronics have touchscreens these days, and we tend to take them for granted. Sure, they might break or crack, but they’ve gotten considerably more durable over the years. That’s thanks in large part to innovation by a team at Corning, manufacturers of Gorilla Glass.

You may not know Corning by name, but you’re certainly familiar with its accomplishments. The New York-based company produced the first glass light bulbs for Thomas Edison in 1879, pioneered Pyrex cookware in 1915, supplied the windows for the spacecraft Friendship 7 (which was flown by John Glenn for the first U.S. manned orbital flight), created missile nose cones during the Cold War, and was the site of Frank Hyde’s serendipitous discovery of high-purity fused silica in 1932 — the precursor to the optical fibers that connect us to the Internet today.

One of the company’s most recent accomplishments is the development of Gorilla Glass, which actually evolved from the 1962 invention of ChemCor. These days, consumers want more out of their smartphones and tablets — the increased demand also comes with a desire for thinner, lighter, more durable and aesthetically pleasing devices with perfectly sensitive touchscreens. That’s not to say that Gorilla Glass is shatterproof, but it’s definitely more resilient in the face of tumbles, water and general clumsiness than previous glass displays. Mashable spoke with Dr. Shashi Shashidhar, Corning’s business development manager, about Gorilla Glass’ history, how it’s made, how it’s tested and why it’s so strong.

Where You’ll Find It

Corning has a list on its website that names devices with Gorilla Glass, like the Samsung Galaxy S II, Sony Bravia TVs and the HTC Sensation, to name a few. Noticeably missing is any mention of Apple devices — Apple is notoriously secretive about their products and processes, but Gorilla Glass indeed protects the iPhone’s retina display. The Corning site says, “Your favorite device may include Gorilla Glass, even if you don't see it listed.” Gorilla Glass can be found in 200 million devices, roughly 20% of the handsets in the world. It’s 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic, which explains its popularity in the CE world.

What Is It?

You’re probably wondering what makes Gorilla Glass so unique. Its durability comes courtesy of an ion-exchange process that leaves a thin layer of alkali-aluminosilicate compressed around the glass. This provides extra strength and protection for your displays, says Shashidhar. The glass belongs to a family of ion-exchangeable glass that was marketed as ChemCor in the 1960s, but the particular composition in Gorilla Glass has been improved to provide better protection and usability in consumer electronic. “We looked at why things break and what we need to do in this compression layer to give you a better glass. So even though it came from the 1960s, it was modified about five years ago to be adaptable for consumer electronics,” Shashidhar explains.

“When we were making ChemCor, the glass was pretty thick, and one of the things we had to figure out was how to make it work for a thin glass — ‘thin’ being one millimeter thick and below,” says Shashidhar.

Gorilla Glass creates an “armor that protects the glass from breaking, from scratches, and makes it less prone to breakage than normal glass,” he says. “The armor that we have is built is the strongest of any commercial glass.” It’s stronger because its compression layer is deeper than other glasses, allowing more flexibility and durability.

In addition to being strong, it’s also remarkably thin — from .5 mm to 2 mm — so the glass can replace acoustic glass and is superior to other glass in terms of power conduction and other technical aspects. Plus, its thinness means the devices it protects are lighter, which saves on shipping costs.

How Does It Work?

If you’ve dropped a smartphone a million times and seen it survive every one without suffering a spiderweb of glass shards, you’re probably wondering how Gorilla Glass is tested to endure such trauma. Shashidhar says Corning tests each product based on the way it’s used or creates a test that’s similar to the way it’s used. And if your phone’s screen has shattered into smithereens, it wasn’t sent back to the factory in vain — the damage helps Corning determine how to make glass even stronger.

“We look at all the broken phones and devices that come back, and we go through what's called a 'failure analysis' to figure out exactly how the glass broke. We can look at all the glass pieces and tell that the glass started to break exactly at this point, and from here it spread out,” says Shashidhar, adding that most consumer electronics fall victim to a "sharp fall" – like dropping it on cement or some other high impact event. “Once we find out the cause, we do an indentation testing — we take a diamond tip and press it on the glass and apply a certain load … and see if it starts to break. The threshold at which it starts to crack tells us how much damage the glass can take. That's a very effective test, and that's a good way to see if a glass is good for a consumer electronics or not."

For reference, Shashidhar says that if you do perform this indentation test on a window glass, you can apply about 400 grams — less than a pound — before it starts to crack. But Gorilla Glass can sustain up six kilograms before it shows signs of distress.

Shashidhar says that putting Gorilla Glass on consumer electronics “has really changed the user experience.” Before Gorilla Glass was there, you'd have to press "very deeply" on a plastic screen in order to register that you were touching it. But with the thin and sensitive Gorilla Glass, you barely have to apply pressure. Says Shashidhar, “I would say that getting the glass has really changed the aesthetic look of the devices and also the touch user experience.”

Disclosure: Gorilla Glass is used in some Lenovo products.

Series Supported by Lenovo

The Tech Innovators Series is supported by Lenovo. Lenovo makes machines specifically for the innovators. The creators. The people who move the world forward. Machines like the Lenovo ThinkPad and IdeaPad, meticulously engineered with visibly smart second-generation Intel® CoreTM processors to help the people who do, do what’s never been done.

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New FCC Rules Could End Cellphone Bill Shock

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 11:41 AM PDT

New U.S. regulations will require that wireless providers send customers usage notifications when they’ve hit their monthly limits or are roaming overseas.

Mobile users will receive updates before and after hitting their voice, text and data limits, and they’ll receive roaming notifications while travelling overseas, announced the CTIA, Federal Communications Commission and Consumers Union in a statement Monday.

The Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines, which will affect 97% of U.S. mobile users, will become part of the FCC’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service. According to a 2011 poll by Consumers Union, 60% of U.S. mobile customers support “bill shock” legislation.

“Far too many Americans know what it's like to open up their cellphone bill and be shocked by hundreds or even thousands of dollars in unexpected fees and charges,” says President Barack Obama, who supports the legislation. “But we can put an end to that with a simple step: An alert warning consumers that they're about to hit their limit before fees and charges add up.”

The free and automatic notifications will come by voice or text message. Providers must offer two of the four notifications — overseas, text, voice and data — by Oct. 17, 2012, and must provide all four by April 17, 2013.

Would you like to receive usage notifications from your mobile provider? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, webphotographeer

More About: consumer protection, mobile usage, US Government

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Fall Foliage: 10 Fantastic iPhone Photos That Celebrate the Season

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 11:05 AM PDT

1. Fall by Tom Rauwerdink

Apparently "taken on whim" and later processed with the TiltShift Generator app, we are blown away by the intense color of this marvelous Milwaukee tree.

Click here to view this gallery.

We’ve already celebrated summer with a collection of beach-themed iPhone photos, so now it’s time to turn our attention to fall.

We’ve hand-picked 10 fabulous photos, all shot on iPhones, to mark our favorite season — as William Cullen Bryant phrased it — “autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”

SEE ALSO: 15 Mesmerizing iPhone Photos of Cloudscapes | 15 Fantastic iPhone Photos of Rainbows

Take a look through the image gallery for some fall-themed natural beauty. Let us know in the comments which photos make you want to grab your wellies and wade through piles of autumn leaves.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Adrian Clapp

More About: features, iphone, iphotography, photography, Photos

Adweek Replaces Editorial Director 6 Months After Redesign

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 10:04 AM PDT

Following months of speculation, Adweek editorial director Michael Wolff is out after a year on the job.

Executive editor Jim Cooper, a veteran of former sister title Mediaweek, will now oversee day-to-day operations of Adweek and Adweek.com, effective immediately, parent company Prometheus Global Media announced Monday.

In April, Wolff launched a controversial redesign of Adweek, Mediaweek and Brandweek, merging the three publications into one. Adweek emerged with a bolder tone and a greater emphasis on rich photography and the media industry, more closely resembling the New York Observer than the quietly mannered, meticulously reported industry publication it had been.

As someone particularly interested in the media industry, I enjoyed the new Adweek, but advertisers, unfortunately for Wolff, did not. As Gawker‘s Hamilton Nolan pointed out, “Trade magazines do not generally become successful by being provocative and buzzy. They become successful by relentlessly covering the trade in question.”

There’s also the problem, of course, of eking out more revenue with one publication versus three.

Join Mashable for the 2011 Media Summit

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Adobe Reader App Lands On iPhone and iPad

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 09:56 AM PDT

Adobe is porting the Adobe Reader software experience over to Apple mobile devices Monday with the release of Adobe Reader for iOS.

Adobe Reader for iOS will enable users to view, access, interact with, share and print PDF files wirelessly (via AirPrint) from their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.

“Now you can quickly and efficiently view the widest range of PDF file type — including PDF Portfolios, password-protected PDF documents and Adobe LiveCycle rights-managed PDF files,” explains Anuj Gupta, Adobe project manager.

Once installed, you can use the app [iTunes link] to open PDF files from any other application, including email, that supports the “Open In … ” action. You also can read text annotations, search text, zoom in on text or images, navigate large documents via thumbnails and copy text to the clipboard.

This marks Adobe’s first official version of Reader for iOS devices. The app works with iOS 4.2.5 and later versions. Adobe Reader for Android was released in May 2010. The company is releasing version 10.1 Monday to keep the two apps on par with each other.

Open In...

Click here to view this gallery.

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6 Reasons Your Company Should Send You to the Mashable Media Summit

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

There are many ways to stay informed about the ever-changing media industry, but imagine being in a theater with the biggest influencers in digital media, who all want to share their most valuable knowledge with you. Welcome to the Mashable Media Summit 2011. And you don't have to imagine; you can attend.

Held on Nov. 4 at The TimesCenter, the one-day conference will examine how technology is transforming journalism and advertising, and creating new media business models and opportunities.

Talented speakers from some of the biggest and most interesting media companies will convene to discuss the latest trends, break news, and share what’s working.

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.

Or better yet, persuade your company to buy your ticket. Here are six compelling reasons why attending the 2011 Mashable Media Summit is a valuable investment for you, and your organization.

6 Reasons Your Company Should Buy Your Mashable Media Summit Ticket

1. Industry leaders: Experts from Google, Facebook, Gilt Groupe, GetGlue, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, AllThingsD and Reuters, among others will speak about the latest trends and innovations happening in media.

2. Learn something new: Original content will be shared on stage, including discussion of the evolving role of social media in news organizations, creating technology for advertising, web identity, Facebook and journalism, new innovations in publishing, new models of content and ecommerce, the value of real-time analytics and the future of social TV.

3. Networking: Connect with high-level media professionals across advertising, journalism and technology.

4. Inspiration: Get motivated by new ideas and information.

5. Relationships: Form new partnerships and reconnect with familiar faces in the industry.

6. Spend time with Mashable staff: After the conference there will be a reception. Following that, Mashable will be hanging out with speakers and attendees a few blocks away. Sometimes, the best ideas are exchanged over drinks!

A Look Back at Last Year’s Mashable Media Summit

Mashable Media Summit

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rubenhi

More About: announcements, Business, mashable, mashable media summit, Media

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Grockit Makes Online Test Prep Social

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 08:52 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: Grockit

Quick Pitch: Grockit makes test prep social.

Genius Idea: Partnering with universities and expanding internationally.

Test scores are often the key to admittance into our favored high schools, colleges, professions and even preschools. As gaining admission to competitive institutions increasingly relies upon standardized tests, the opportunity to build a business around test preparation has also increased. Grockit, a test prep startup, considers itself different from other similar products.

“Grockit is all about social,” says CEO Roy Gilbert. “Most other educational products are not like that. They're about some fancy product that will teach you everything.”

Venture capitalists evidently agree that this is a valuable distinction. Grockit announced Monday that it had raised $7 million in funding, for a total of $24 million.

The startup’s platform, which was founded in 2007, applies social gaming principles like badges and point tallies to test prep. It presents questions to students based on their progress, and allows them to join group study sessions, leave comments on questions and chat with other students as they work through courses. The startup recently integrated with Facebook to make sharing progress with social networks and inviting friends to join a study group easy.

Since 2010, Grockit has expanded from offering only the GMAT to dozens of tests, including the SAT, LSAT and GRE. Gilbert says more than 1 million students around the world have used it as a study tool.

Many of its current initiatives focus on expanding that student base. This month, Georgetown, Grockit’s first university client, will provide students and alumni with access to its tools. Grockit has also made efforts to cater to an international market by launching its first platform for a test given outside the U.S. Students in India preparing for the entrance exam for business school, where Gilbert estimates 20% of Grockit’s userbase lives, can now use the tool to study.

What will further increase Grockit’s diversity and reach is a new one-for-one program that gives access to the test prep platform to one disadvantaged student for every monthly pass purchased.

Grockit costs $29.99 per month for access to its online learning platform and $50 per hour of tutoring.

Image courtesy of istockphoto, CEFutcher

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.

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YouTube Merch Store to Sell Songs, Concert Tickets and Merchandise

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 07:49 AM PDT

YouTube has launched The Merch Store, a tool allowing musicians to sell digital downloads, concert tickets, branded merchandise and more directly from their respective YouTube channels.

The Google-owned video platform partnered with a number of different companies to enable the ecommerce add-ons, including Topspin (for merchandise, concert tickets and other experiences), Songkick (for concerts), and Amazon and iTunes (for music downloads). The company did not disclose whether it would be taking a cut of sales made through those services.

The Merch Store will be rolled out globally over “the coming weeks,” Christian Weitenberner, senior technical account manager at YouTube, writes in a blog post. We believe it has the potential to transform the way music artists think about YouTube — not just as a side channel for music video distribution, but as their home destination on the web, a la MySpace in the mid-’00s.

The company is hosting an information session and panel at the Mercury Lounge in New York City Thursday. Interested parties can RSVP here.

More About: Entertainment, merch store, Music, YouTube

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Is Memory the Secret to a Super-Fast Web?

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 07:16 AM PDT

There might be a trick to vastly improve the performance of most data centers and, consequently, the web itself — simply throw out the hard drives in data centers and replace them with dynamic random-access memory (DRAM).

John Ousterhout, research professor of computer science at Stanford and head of a new project called RAMCloud, proposes exactly that: Create a data center storage solution “where information is kept entirely in DRAM and large-scale systems are created by aggregating the main memories of thousands of commodity servers.”

It sounds simple, but also preposterous. Everyone would like to be able to keep all the information in fast, random-access memory, but it’s too expensive. Hence, for long-term storage, we use hard drives.

And indeed, in terms of cost per gigabyte, Ousterhout estimates 2,000 servers could provide 48 terabyte of DRAM storage at $65 per gigabyte, meaning that RAMCloud-based storage would be a 50 to 100 times more expensive than hard disks.

Cost per access per second is another matter, however. Ousterhout claims that, when measured by this metric, DRAM is 10 to 100 times cheaper than disks.

Of course, price is not the only issue at hand; there are questions about durability, availability and scalability, most of which are addressed — but not entirely solved — in this white paper.

Nevertheless, the implications — if the model proves to be a success — are very interesting.

The team behind the project estimates that RAMClouds can provide storage with 100 to 1,000 times lower-access latency, and 100 to 1,000 times the throughput of disk-based storage systems. This, the RAMCloud team claims, would pave the way for “a new breed of data-intensive applications,” which, in turn, would mean a faster web for everyone.

More About: Data Center, RAMCloud, storage, web

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7 Ways Universities Are Using Facebook as a Marketing Tool

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT

The Facebook Marketing Series is supported by Buddy Media. Power your connections and turn fans into real connections with technology powered by Buddy Media. Download Buddy Media's free guide for Successful Retail Social Posting to learn how to drive results with your social postings.

College LaptopSocial media use by universities has become ubiquitous. When earlier this year, researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth asked a representative sample of U.S. schools whether they use some social media, 100% of them said they did. Four years ago, just 61% of them said the same.

Facebook is the most prevalent social media tool in higher education — 98% of the universities in the study said they had a presence there.

“Prospective students, parents, current students, alumni — one common area in which they are all present in one way or another is on Facebook,” says Kevin Morrow, the executive director of public affairs at Syracuse University.

For this and other reasons, schools are pretty much unanimous in their use of Facebook. How they’re using the tool, however, varies greatly.

“The book hasn't been written,” says Michael Kaltenmark, director of web marketing and communications at Butler. “We’re still figuring it out on a daily basis.”

Here are seven ways schools are leveraging Facebook.

1. Virtual Tours

Syracuse University is one of the many colleges that use a service called YourCampus360 to build a virtual tour into their Facebook Pages in addition to their websites.

Students can virtually navigate the path that an in-person tour might take, watch videos and scroll 360-degree images of campus landmarks without spending money to travel there.

Other universities, like Stanford, take a simpler approach to showing off their campuses on Facebook. Stanford’s album, Summertime at the Farm: A Walking Tour, is just one of many you’ll find on its page that show off the picturesque 8,180-acre campus.

2. School Pride

Butler’s particularly photogenic mascot, Blue II, has his own Facebook Page.

Facebook has helped students bond with Blue II — he takes rides on four-wheelers and inspects their empty campus pool — but he also drums up school spirit at athletic events.

“Especially when we get into basketball season,” Morrow says, “the team will win a game and then play again two days later. There’s not a lot of time to plan, and we won’t get a mailer out two days from now. So Facebook is a good way to tell people when the game is and that there are viewing parties at these times and these places.”

3. School Swag

The University of Kansas Facebook Page links to some of its more creative school pride digital and print-out memorabilia. Whether a jack-o-lantern stencil or screensaver is more of your style, there are plenty of options. Texas A&M does something similar with a section dedicated to gear, digital goods like wallpaper and its iTunes U store.

4. Alumni Groups

When it comes to alumni, many schools have separate Facebook Pages for different clubs across the country.

At Butler, there is one Facebook Alumni page, but different clubs have created groups like “Butler University Alumni Chicago” for discussing local events.

“With the alumni page, it can be kind of fun because we can post alumni events, but we can also post, if an alumni is doing something great, a news article about them from their home town,” says Ashley Plummer, who coordinates Butler University’s social media presence with Kaltenmark. “It’s a great way to reconnect with those people.”

Plummer says some of the most popular posts on the alumni page have been calls-to-action, such as “What is your favorite memory from the first day of school?”

“It allows us to draw our alumni that much closer to the institution,” says Kevin Morrow. “We have alumni that are scattered all over the world, and having a good Facebook presence allows them to stay connected to find out what other alumni are doing, find out what is going on at the institution.”

5. Sharing Department Content

It’s not unusual for every department at a university to have its own Facebook Page. At Syracuse University, this happened without any coordination from the marketing team. Department pages now work together with the main page in an approach that Morrow calls “Decentralized Federation.”

“When it comes down to it, you want to make sure that all of the constituents are getting the most relevant information for them, and in our opinion that can’t come from one place. There are just so many goals that a university has, you can’t really do it through one channel.” explains Kate Brodock, the executive director of digital and social media at Syracuse University.

The university also has separate pages for different geographic regions.

“What’s nice is that each can have its own specialized content, but there’s also a strong sharing component between the Facebook Pages — a nice sharing of content with one another, so they can kind of do some cross-pollination with different audiences,” Morrow says.

6. Reaching Out to Prospective Students

Just like university websites, university Facebook pages often cater to prospective students. The Texas A&M page, for instance, has a “howdy” portal that gives easy access to university information. It’s also not unusual for schools to create Facebook groups for admitted students.

In fact, there’s an app for that. Inigral’s Schools App creates a closed community of students within Facebook. Essentially, each student gets access to two real-time streams. One provides updates from everyone at the school. The other contains updates that only pertain to topics the student has indicated she or he is interested in. Students can join groups and interact without friending other participants.

The University of Texas at Tyler invites admitted students to join the school’s app. It found that students are five times more likely to enroll if they use the application.

7. Facebook Places Advertising

Last fall, the University of Kentucky plotted giant, wooden markers that look like Facebook Places markers around its campus.

“We’re encouraging students to check in, so when they do, it’ll show up in their news feed and maybe their friends still in high school will see it over and over again,” the school’s marketing director Kelley Bozeman told Ad Age at the time.

Clearly, there are many ways for universities to use social media platforms, especially Facebook. In what ways does your college or alma mater use Facebook? Do you engage on the platform? Let us know in the comments below.

Series Supported by Buddy Media

The Facebook Marketing Series is supported by Buddy Media. Power your connections and turn fans into real connections with technology powered by Buddy Media. Download Buddy Media's free guide for Successful Retail Social Posting to learn how to drive results with your social postings.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, atreides64

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