Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Nokia Lumia 800 Could Be the Best Windows Phone Yet [HANDS-ON]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Nokia Lumia 800 Could Be the Best Windows Phone Yet [HANDS-ON]”

Nokia Lumia 800 Could Be the Best Windows Phone Yet [HANDS-ON]

Posted: 26 Oct 2011 03:56 AM PDT

Nokia Lumia 800, the company’s flagship Windows Phone device, has been officially launched at the Nokia World conference in London today.

However, I had a chance to spend a little bit of time with the Lumia 800 prior to the launch. Not enough time to write a review–I can’t speak to the call quality or battery life– but I can say that it felt great in my hand, had a gorgeous screen and a truly winning form factor.

Superb Design

Nokia Lumia 800

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If any company matches Apple when it comes to industrial design for their mobile phones, it’s Nokia. Nokia might not have the same panache or flair for crafting beautiful looking devices, but the company certainly thinks about every little detail.

I’ve been told that Nokia really goes the extra mile when it comes to crafting its handsets. The polycarbonate shells for phones aren’t simply sprayed with paint on the exterior. The whole of the material is dyed so that if scratched, the phone maintains its color. Nokia even tests various lotions creams against the materials it uses to make sure that the exterior of its devices won’t stain.

This precision and attention to detail was made clear in a recent video showing off how the N9 is made. The N9, Nokia’s first and last MeeGo phone, was unveiled in June. Although doomed from the start because of Nokia’s decision to partner with Microsoft and focus on creating Windows Phone devices, the device is beautiful.

Fortunately, all of that hard work and engineering hasn’t gone to waste. The new Lumia 800 takes the N9 design, adds a dedicated camera button and replaces MeeGo with Mango (Windows Phone 7.5).

The Feel

The first thing that struck me about the Lumia 800 was how it felt in my hand. It was light, yet it didn’t feel insubstantial. It seemed to weigh less than my iPhone, but unlike some other devices, it didn’t feel of lesser quality.

Likewise, the shape of the device was very well thought out. The sides of the device are curved, but the top and bottom taper and become flat.

The screen, which I’ll discuss in more detail below, is curved to the design but done so in such a way that it looks and feels as if it is all one single piece of material.

The Screen

The pixel density may not match what Apple is offering in the iPhone 4/4S, but the screen that Nokia is using for the Lumia 800 is a thing of beauty.

Using Nokia’s own version of Super AMOLED Plus, the blacks were black, the colors vibrant and text a joy to read.

Beyond that, the feel of the screen itself was smooth and responsive. The curve of the glass fit so nicely with the fit of the phone that it just felt right in a way that the curved glass of the Nexus S just didn’t feel right to me.


I didn’t have a chance to use the camera other than to load up the software — but the Carl Zeiss optics have a good track record in past Nokia phones.

Nokia has always put lots of efforts into its camera optics and if the Lumia 800 is as good as the N9, users are in for a treat.

As a Windows Phone

When I got to handle the Lumia 800, I did so alongside a number of other Windows Phone devices. Some of these have been announced and some are still prototypes. With Windows Phone, Microsoft has given manufacturers a minimum set of requirements that must be matched.

Phone makers, at their own discretion, can tweak things like the size of the screen, the power of the camera and the speed of the processor. I think this is a smart approach because it ensures that each phone will maintain a minimum set of requirements, but still lets phone makers switch things up to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market.

Despite seeing a lot of nice looking phones from all ends of the market, the Lumia 800 was clearly the best looking, best-feeling and most-promising phone of the bunch.

To Microsoft’s credit, on the software side, it seemed just as quick and responsive as any other phone running Mango. Microsoft is still in the early stages with Windows Phone. The full push to Mango took place earlier this month and users are giving it solid marks.

Having spent some time with Windows Phone on and off over the past year, I like the OS. I’ll be blunt, I’m an iOS user and I don’t see that changing any time in the near future. Having said that, I’ve long-maintained that Windows Phone would be my second choice for a mobile OS. That was before the release of Mango and before the Lumia 800. The time I’ve spent with Mango in the last few weeks has impressed me.

Microsoft is doing some interesting stuff with voice search that is similar to what Apple is doing with Siri. The Microsoft voice recognition isn’t as good, as the types of functions and activities that can be controlled with search aren’t as well defined. Still, it’s clear Microsoft is thinking about approaching navigation, discovery and mobile search in new and unique ways.

Microsoft has done something really special on the software side that allows users to pin certain functions of an application — like just the voice reminder function of Evernote — to a home screen. In short, the software that Microsoft has been building is great. What the company has needed, however, is flagship hardware.

As nice as some of the other Windows Phones are — and they are nice — nothing before the Lumia 800 really stood out against the smartphone competition. That’s changed.

Bringing Out the Big Guns

The Lumia 800 may be the best thing to happen to Windows Phone, not because it’s a great looking phone — but because it has the type of design that might make more users consider Windows Phone as a platform.

That’s what the original Droid did for Android. It gave Android a brand name and in the U.S., a flagship device that could go toe-to-toe with the iPhone. It didn’t matter if a user ultimately ended up buying an HTC or Samsung Android device, the Motorola Droid was what conceptualized and sold the Android OS experience to millions of users.

Microsoft and Nokia are both betting that the Lumia 800 does the same thing. For Nokia, this is Waterloo and it’s time to stand and deliver. At least in my limited time with the device, it’s delivered. This is a phone that has the goods and the OS — Windows Phone 7.5 — is worthy of its beauty.

Now we wait to see how the public at large responds.

More About: Lumia 800, Nokia, Nokia World, smartphone, windows phone

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Nokia Announces Nokia Drive, MixRadio and Sports Hub [VIDEO]

Posted: 26 Oct 2011 03:04 AM PDT

Two new Nokia Windows Phone smartphones – the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 – have impressive hardware specifications, but Nokia made sure to give users a lot of extras on the software side.

At today’s Nokia World conference the company announced three new services, which come free with the Lumias – Nokia Drive, Nokia Music with MixRadio and GigFinder, and Sports Hub.

Nokia Drive is a full, turn-by-turn voice navigation solution with support for 95 countries. It’s available from the start screen of the Lumia 800 for easy access, and offers simple search and real-time GPS, with speed and distance information.

Nokia Music with MixRadio simplifies the music experience for users with the fact that it doesn’t require a sign-up, a login or a password. It gives users a bunch of mixes with full-length music. It’s also possible to create and share your own mixes.

Another new feature in Nokia Music is GigFinder, which enables you to search for live local music and buy concert tickets. All of this is coming in the Nokia Music software update which is coming later this year.

Nokia also announced the Sports Hub, developed in a partnership with ESPN. It users sports news, scores and detailed info about specific leagues, teams and players.

Nokia Lumia 800

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More About: Nokia, Nokia Drive, Nokia Music, Nokia World, Sports Hub, windows phone

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Nokia Unveils Four New Series 40 Phones

Posted: 26 Oct 2011 02:30 AM PDT

Nokia has kicked off the Nokia World conference in London with a slew of Series 40-based devices under the collective name Asha.

There are four new devices – Asha 200, 300, 301 and 303. They’re all running Series 40 6th Edition and they all have a physical keyboard.

The Asha 303 features a 2.6-inch screen and a QWERTY keyboard, and is powered by a 1 GHz processor. Nokia estimates its retail price at about 115 EUR. The device is expected to start shipping in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Asha 300 is a similarly specced device with a regular numeric keypad. It has a 1GHz processor, 5-megapixel camera and memory card-powered storage up to 32 GB. It will be available in the fourth quarter of 2011 for 85 EUR.

Nokia Asha 201 and 200 are the same QWERTY device, with the difference being the fact that the 200 supports dual SIM functionality. Both will be available in the fourth quarter of 2011 for 60 EUR .

Nokia Lumia 800

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More About: Nokia, Nokia World, smartphone, Symbian

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Nokia Launches the Affordable Lumia 710

Posted: 26 Oct 2011 02:14 AM PDT

Besides its flagship Windows Phone, the Lumia 800, Nokia has today launched a more affordable WP smartphone – the Lumia 710.

It has a 3.7-inch screen and the same 1.4 GHz processor as the Lumia 800, as well as the same amount of RAM memory – 512 MB – but unlike that device, it only has a 5-megapixel camera.

It comes in stealthy black and crisp white, and those bent on further customization will have a choice of black, white, cyan, fuchsia and yellow back covers.

The estimated retail price for the Nokia Lumia 710 will be approximately 270 EUR.

The Nokia Lumia 710 will first become available in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan toward the end of 2011, and it’s coming to other markets in early 2012.

Nokia Lumia 800

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More About: Lumia 710, Nokia, Nokia World, smartphone, windows phone

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Lumia 800: Nokia’s First Windows Phone

Posted: 26 Oct 2011 01:51 AM PDT

At the Nokia World conference in London Nokia has officially unveiled Lumia 800, the first Windows Phone-based device from the Finnish mobile giant.

The device is physically very similar to the MeeGo based Nokia N9, and we have no objections to that, as it is a beautiful polycarbonate device with a 3.7-inch, curved-glass, AMOLED screen.

The Nokia Lumia 800 sports a 1.4 GHz processor with hardware acceleration and a graphics processor, 512 MB of RAM and 16 GB of internal user memory. It also has a Carl-Zeiss, f2.2 aperture, 8-megapixel camera designed to work well in low-light environments. It will be available in three colors: cyan, magenta and black.

It’s not just about hardware; Microsoft has also packed the device with free software. Lumia 800 will be the only Windows Phone with Nokia Drive, which offers full, turn-by-turn voice navigation.

Furthermore, the phone is coming with an entirely new service from Nokia called Nokia Music and MixRadio. It gives users a bunch of mixes with full-length music, without the need for a signup, login or a password.

Finally, Nokia announced a partnership with ESPN, showing off a sneak peak of the Sports Hub, which offers users sports news, scores and detailed info about specific leagues, teams and players.

All of the three software features – Nokia Music, Sports Hub and Nokia Drive – are completely free on the Lumia 800.

The estimated retail price for the Nokia Lumia 800 will be approximately €420 ($584).

The device is available for pre-order in select countries now on Nokia’s website. It’s coming to France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK in November; it will be available in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan before the end of the year, and in further markets in early 2012.

Nokia didn’t say when exactly the device will be available in the U.S., but it did say it plans to introduce “a portfolio of products” in “early 2012″.

Nokia Lumia 800

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More About: Lumia 800, Nokia, Nokia World, windows phone

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Moredays Adds Life to Your Digital Calendar

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 07:40 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: Moredays

Quick Pitch: Moredays helps you organize your life and save your memories in a fun and simple manner.

Genius Idea: A digital calendar-scrapbook combo with the elegance and style of a classic Moleskine journal.

You likely approach your daily calendar of events and to-dos with a practical, can-do frame of mind. But what if, by simply documenting these events with whimsical sketches and stickers, you could turn everyday chores into colorful, living memories?

This is the intention of Moredays, a private beta startup with a singular focus on the aesthetics of staying organized.

“The vision is to help people organize their lives,” Moredays co-founder Filip Molcan says. He argues that the average person is put off the complexity and poor design of online task managers, calendars and productivity tools. “We believe that people would [organize their lives] if we gave them tools they like.”

Simply put, Moredays is nothing more than a fancy digital calendar for entering events, tasks, notes and contacts. But Moredays possesses an attention to design and detail that, in a perfect world, will make chronicling your life’s events as nostalgic as doodling in a notebook.

The idea is that you don’t just enter an event or task on Moredays, you breathe life into with your photos, a Google map, or artsy sketches and cutesy stamps.

Moredays launched its beta product three weeks ago and currently has 5,000 users. The experience is rough around edges, no question, but the product does have a dreamy appeal to it that makes us anxious to see how the experience is further refined through bug fixes, must-have feature additions — think coming-soon Google Apps, Evernote and iCloud syncing — and the release of iPhone and iPad applications in a few weeks time.

Moredays is based in San Francisco and is currently bootstrapped. The startup is seeking to raise its first round of funding.

Mashable readers can sign up for early access to Moredays.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, spark-of-genius

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8 Spooky Sets of Social Halloween Icons

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 06:44 PM PDT

1. Vector RSS Icons

Take your RSS feed to the dark side with these sinister symbols.

Click here to view this gallery.

If you decorate your house for Halloween, why not do the same for your blog? We’ve found eight great collections of social media icons that will add some spook to your site.

From pumpkins to cauldrons, from bats to black cats, these graphic ghouls will transform your site into a veritable Halloween grotto of gruesome.

Take a look through the gallery for our picks. Link us in the comments below to any other spooky icon sets you’ve seen.

More About: dev and design, features, gallery, Halloween, icons

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YouTube Trolls Power Insult-Generating Search Engine

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 05:58 PM PDT

Cat Insults

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YouTube is pretty great, but YouTube commenters? Not so much. For every smart, insightful, useful comment below a YouTube video, there are usually 25 trolls either talking about genitalia, belittling the content or belittling those smart, insightful, useful commenters.

Chicago-based web developer Adrian Holovaty has put all that negativity to (relatively) good use with the YouTube Insult Generator, a website that lets you cull insults from commenters with a simple search.

Here’s how it works: A certain number of people always “Dislike” a YouTube video, and fans of the video make fun of those dislikers for having bad taste or just being jerks. The Insult Generator finds these responses to the dislikers and fits it into the site’s search bar, using YouTube’s API. The results you get are like comebacks against people who don’t like the search term.

Holovaty admits the system isn’t perfect, but check out some of the results above for an idea of when it does work. The Insult Generator may just be a bit of fun, but it’s also a glimpse into the patterns of YouTube commenters. Fun social experiment? Useless diversion? What do you make of Holovaty’s project?

Image courtesy of Flickr, Trevor Coultart

More About: Search, Social Media, trolls, YouTube

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Social Consumers and the Science of Sharing [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 05:18 PM PDT

If you’re buying a car, do you check Facebook? Or do you read up on Kelley Blue Book values and scour the company website for every spec, from horsepower to miles per gallon? What about music — do you check Top 40 radio charts or scope out what your Facebook friends are actually listening to on Spotify?

Social media has infiltrated the purchasing funnel, helping consumers make informed decisions, from what to have for lunch to where to go on vacation. Depending on the decision, sometimes you turn to your social graph, and sometimes you turn to Google. So, as a brand marketer, you want to know what online channels you should be targeting in order to reach the perfect audience for your product.

But regardless of what kind of consumer you’re trying to reach or what you’re selling, your SEO better be top notch — search is the most important influence on the web.

The infographic below, featuring data from M Booth and Beyond, analyzes the differences between high and low sharers and various purchasing decisions, helping brands to understand how should be targeting consumers.

What kind of consumer are you? Let us know in the comments below.

More About: infographics, Marketing, Social Media

Windows XP: It Will Not Die

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 04:52 PM PDT

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

Ten years after it first arrived and a year after Microsoft stopped selling it, Windows XP survives.

It is an incredibly resilient piece of programming that has millions of fans around the world. But we can't hold on forever. Microsoft promises to end support for the aging code in 2014. Though those few remaining years may not be enough time for all the people I know who are still running XP to finally stop.

There are many reasons for Windows XP's persistence. It was the most popular operating system in the world in 2006, with, by one estimation, 74% of the desktop and laptop market (leaving aside other still-running versions of Windows at the time). That's just five years ago. At its apex, Vista accounted for an estimated 17%. Windows XP's hold was strong. It penetrated deeply into businesses and spread quickly. Part of this was its ubiquity. Most shipping desktops and laptops in the early part of this century were running Windows XP. And as Jason Brooks of eWeek pointed out to me, it was the last version of Windows with no-activation volume licenses.

Vista never took hold. It was confusing for some and apparently not as stable for others. Personally, I never had any major issues with Vista. However Microsoft and the PC industry pretty much doomed Vista when they got behind the Netbook craze. Those tiny, lightweight, modestly powered laptops were supposed to drive Linux into homes and businesses, but didn't take off until ASUS shoved a copy of Windows XP into one in January of 2008. Soon, ASUS and its competitors were moving millions of netbooks (and some Nettops) all running Windows XP. This, a year after Windows Vista hit the market.

It's no wonder that years later, when I asked people in Google+ if they were still running Windows XP, a surprising number said yes. A disturbing majority said they were only running it at work. Yes, there are still many businesses out there still running Windows XP. Trace Dominguez told me "We’re still on it at work… Though I wish we were on Win7." This was a common theme.

"Oh yeah. The brand spanking new HP laptop that my employer just handed to me is Windows XP SP3. I think it will be next year before Win7 is imaged on new machines," said Rob Verlander.

Businesses, in particular, have been slow to change because they can't, in these cash-strapped times, afford the new hardware that comes with Windows 7 (at least not for an entire business or enterprise). Plus, they're terrified that crucial business systems and services won't even run with Windows 7. If those tools are old enough, this is probably true. Microsoft is aware of these fears and did build a Windows XP Mode into Windows 7, but it only works if you also download a Microsoft's Virtual PC. I've done it and it's kind of a pain.

According to the Internet Developer's Portal W3Schools, 36% of those visiting its web site still run Windows XP. The good news is that roughly 43% run Windows 7 (another measure puts Windows 7 just slightly below Windows XP). Obviously, this is all anecdotal information, but it does jibe with what my friends on Google+ told me Windows XP is still out there, running at home, work on the road.

There is, though, something else that occurred to me as I looked at these numbers. Windows 7, which has more than doubled in system penetration each year (at least according to W3Schools numbers) is looking like it'll have Windows XP-sized success. This is fantastic news for Microsoft—or is it? You know where I'm going here. Windows 7 is Vista that works. It is, to be honest, the best Windows yet. By fall 2012, Windows 7 saturation could be at 75% (or more). Microsoft recently reported moving 450 million copies. All those happy Windows 7 users will have just one answer for Windows 8: "No way, no how, not now."

In eight years I figure I should be writing this very same article about Windows 7.

What about you? Are you on Windows 7 or Windows XP? Are you ready to upgrade? Or are you a switcher and embracing the Mac OS? Share it all in the comments below.

More About: microsoft, Opinion, Windows, Windows 7, Windows Vista, windows xp

Findings Turns Your Ebook Highlights Into Shared Reading Libraries

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 04:32 PM PDT

The act of highlighting a noteworthy passage in an ebook is being socialized by Findings, an online destination where readers can collect, share, discuss and discover such highlights from ebooks and web texts.

Findings’ creators, the folks at startup incubator Betaworks, refer to their creation as a “social commonplace book,” and “a platform for sharing and discovering what people are reading.”

The Findings experience is centered around shared passages and user libraries. Libraries are like digital bookshelves and consist of all the texts — with highlights and quotes automatically organized by book, source or author — the user has clipped from.

Readers can use the Findings bookmarklet to clip snippets of text from ebooks and websites. They can also sync Findings with their Amazon Kindle Highlights for an instantaneous way to share and starting discussing their collection of saved passages.

“With Findings, we are trying to do something that is dedicated explicitly to the task of curating quotations,” Findings co-creator Steven Johnson says. “That narrowness of focus has allowed us to concentrate on a couple of key features that make Findings particularly useful.”

Findings focus is currently on quote organization and social libraries, which, Johnson says, gives the service the ability to pinpoint the specific parts of texts resonating with readers.

“The combination of sharing and metadata means that we can start pinpointing the exact pages and passages that people are fixating on right now,” he explains.

The clipping and sharing piece is certainly something we’ve seen before, and there’s plenty of social networks for readers. What strikes us as most promising, however, is Findings potential to transform those intimate and personal aha! moments we experience when reading a good book into shared experiences and opportunities for social discovery. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the collection and organization of passages create a lovely-looking digital library reflective of our reading palettes.

Of course, that vision won’t be complete until iOS and Android tablet users can also sync their highlights with Findings, but we suspect that day isn’t too far off.

Image courtesy of Flickr, CarbonNYC

More About: betaworks, Findings, reading

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White House and Gen Y Fund Place Hope in Young Entrepreneurs

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 03:51 PM PDT

obama campaign

The fragile economy and slumping jobs market are causing unrest in America and across the world. As a response of sorts, the U.S. government and the Young Entrepreneur Council are putting their faith into young, fresh-faced entrepreneurs with the launch of the Gen Y Fund, a startup accelerator aimed specifically at students.

The Gen Y Fund is the first private enterprise to take advantage of the government’s reforms to its Income Based Repayment (IBR) program, which will start in 2014. IBR was first introduced by President George W. Bush to help alleviate student debt repayments. The program extended the repayment period allowing students to pay back their loans in lesser amounts over a longer period of time. The White House announced IBR will take on more of an entrepreneurial spirit, helping students not just to repay their loans but also to start businesses by lowering barriers to entry. Both the fund and the IBR reforms were recently announced by the White House.

Even though the Gen Y Fund is not partnered with the White House and will receive no government funding, it is intimately tied to supporting young entrepreneurs. The $10 million fund will invest $15,000 to $50,000 into early-stage ventures from students across multiple verticals. It is pairing these investments by further alleviating student debts and providing mentorship and guidance, much like an accelerator.

The Fund will select students through an application process on the Gen Y Fund website. The students will get a variety of perks. For instance, they’ll have their federal student loans paid for up to three years. Some students will receive campus housing for up to two years and have access to business and entrepreneurship courses from partner universities such as Princeton and Georgetown. The students will also get mentorship from the Young Entrepreneurship Council (YEC) to help refine and develop their business plans.

The concept is both simple and ambitious. Basically it implies young entrepreneurs will naturally come up with good ideas so long as financial barriers like debt and seed funding are taken care of. “There is obviously a crisis going on in America right now,” says Scott Gerber, founder of the YEC and Gen Y Fund. “Young people are facing a tough economy and especially entrepreneurs that are recent college grads which is a quickly growing spectrum in the job market.”

Of course, the Gen Y Fund is purely altruistic. The Fund receives money from private investors who are then rewarded with some equity in the student ventures. Gerber, however, says the idea is not to pull a fast one on young business-people, but rather to put some meat behind their investment and mentorship opportunities.

Gerber has long been a proponent of youth entrepreneurship both through the YEC and pushing policy-makers to help students enter the marketplace. The Gen Y Fund is taking advantage of the IBR reforms and Gerber team is working to pass a Youth Entrepreneurship Act which would aid student debt forgiveness.

The Gen Y Fund runs on a little bit of blind faith that young people, without financial burdens, will naturally have innovative ideas that can turn into feasible businesses. It’s an impulse that runs through the White House as well: "When President Obama launched the Startup America initiative earlier this year, he called on the private sector to do more than business as usual to promote the next generation of high-growth entrepreneurs,” says Tom Kalil, deputy policy director at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The new Gen Y Fund answers this call to action, drawing more young entrepreneurs “off the bench” to start innovative companies that boost job growth, and complementing the Administration's ongoing efforts to help borrowers manage student loan debt."

The Fund is aiming to invest in as many as 100 startups over the next three to five years. If the fund is proven a success, Gerber hopes to extend it for generations of young people to come.

What do you make of the Gen Y Fund? Does the answer to America’s financial woes lie in young innovators? Is the government right in reforming IBR? Sound off in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Mathematical Association of America

More About: america, Business, entrepreneurs, Politics, Small Business, Startups, US

The Steve Jobs Biography Gets Animated [VIDEO]

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 02:57 PM PDT

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

The Taiwanese are at it again! This time the animators at NMA.TV are taking on the new Steve Jobs biography, lampooning some of the most talked-about anecdotes in typical NMA-style.

Our personal favorite is the interlude between a dancing Jobs and Bill Gates. NMA has covered Apple in the past — usually in a favorable light. That hasn’t stopped Apple from rejecting NMA’s iOS app from the App Store.

Check out more of NMA’s animations below.

Facebook announces big changes at F8 conference

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apple, NMA, steve jobs, viral-video-of-day

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4 Free Ways Your Startup Can Recruit Top Talent

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 02:46 PM PDT

Mona Abdel-Halim is the co-founder of Resunate, the makers of the Apply widget for startups. You can start attracting top talent for free by getting an Apply widget for your company at You can also connect with Mona and Resunate on Facebook and Twitter.

How does a new company find top talent before someone else does, and with as little cash as possible?

As a startup entrepreneur, you're trying to find and recruit the best (and most passionate) employees to help strengthen your company. The good news is that with 14 million unemployed people competing in today's job market, your company has lots of options.

A top-notch recruiting strategy doesn't necessarily have to break your budget. Here are four creative ways to recruit talent, and most are free.

1. Sponsor Class Projects at Your Local University

When looking for new talent, tap into your local university. Many classes, especially senior and graduate classes, will ask students to work on company-sponsored projects over entire semesters. Consider sponsoring one of these class projects to target student talent. You'll be able to monitor student work for an extended period of time, to assess their skills and work ethic, and ultimately to determine whether they would be a good fit for your organization.

2. Join Local Meetup Groups

Meetup groups are a great way to find people who share the same passions. Whether through common interest or career field, there's probably a meetup about it. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn best practices from other professionals, and to network with industry people before you extend employment offers. Search sites like by meetup topic and city.

3. Tap Your Startup Network

Network with other startups in your area. Don't look at them as your competition, but rather as your allies. Network with them and their employees by targeting local startup communities, like AustinStartup and Silicon Florist, for example. Many provide access to local job boards. Although posting to these boards isn’t always free, try pitching a company profile of your startup to site admins. The exposure will pique the interest of local job seekers.

Finally, keep an eye on these sites for local startup news. Odds are if a startup fails, its employees will be looking to join another company soon after — why not make it yours?

4. Post Locally

Don't forget your local markets. Take advantage of their resources and markets to post ads for your startup's open positions. Consider Craigslist too, although doing so might result in some spam mail. Local universities are also great resources to tap — career centers often allow you to post jobs for free.

Sometimes it's difficult to convince people to jump onboard a startup, particularly if it's relatively new. However, there are ways to convince them to take on a new opportunity. Alleviate concerns by using a professional recruiting approach to instill confidence in candidates, but don't be afraid to network on a social level as well. You'll get a sense how potential candidates comport themselves, and whether they'll fit into your startup culture.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RichVintage

More About: contributor, entrepreneurs, features, jobs, startup

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Tablets Used 90 Minutes Per Day on Average [STUDY]

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 02:38 PM PDT

Americans who own tablet devices such as the iPad or Galaxy Tab use them frequently, a new study finds.

According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center and The Economist Group, the 77% of tablet owners who use the device daily are on them an average of 90 minutes a day.

What are those tablet owners — a category that now includes 11% of U.S. adults, according to Pew’s estimates — doing with their devices? After browsing the web, which two-thirds of tablet owners do on their tablets on a daily basis, the most popular activities are checking email (54%) and reading news (53%). One in four access social networks through the device, and a third play games on a daily basis. Another 17% read books, and 13% watch movies or videos.

Echoing findings from a similar study from the BBC, Pew found that tablets inspire broader and deeper news engagement. A third of users say they are turning to new sources for news on their tablets, and 42% regularly read in-depth news and articles on their devices.

Getting tablet owners to pay for this content is another matter, however. A mere 14% of those who regularly read news on their tablets have directly paid for content on the devices. Twenty-three percent do, however, pay for a print subscription that includes digital access — meaning that more than a third are paying for news access in some form or other.

Typically, tablet news readers are accessing news primarily through the browser (40%). Another 21% are perusing news mainly through apps — which perhaps suggests that publishers should invest greater resources in developing tablet-friendly versions of their websites and web apps, rather than apps formatted for operating systems like Android and iOS.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sjenner13

More About: apple, ipad, journalism, Media, News, Pew, tablets

Amazon Stock Plummets as Kindle Weighs on Earnings

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 02:33 PM PDT

Amazon‘s stock fell 17% in after-hours trading Tuesday after the company’s net income missed analysts’ estimates and the Kindle weighed on profits.

The company’s net income fell 73% in the quarter to $63 million, while analysts polled by Bloomberg expected a net income of $115.8 million. That figure was already a 50% drop from the year-ago period. Part of the reason is Amazon loses money on each Kindle it sells including the new Kindle Fire, though the company likely makes up the loss with sales of ebooks, music and other digital media.

Prior to Tuesday’s drop, Amazon’s stock was up about 30% for the year and analysts had predicted a sell-off if the company didn’t meet all of its targets. The company came close to meeting its revenue target of $10.9 billion for the quarter with $10.88 billion.

Amazon’s outlook is further complicated by the possibility that it may have to charge sales tax in some states, eroding its competitive edge. The company will begin charging such taxes for transactions taking place in California starting next September.

BONUS: Amazon’s New Kindles

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More About: amazon, earnings, Kindle, kindle fire, stock

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IBM Names Virginia Rometty First Female CEO

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 02:20 PM PDT

IBM has named 30-year company veteran Virginia Rometty as its first female CEO.

Rometty will succeed the outgoing Samuel Palmisano (both pictured) in the post on Jan. 1, 2012. Palmisano will remain chairman of IBM’s board. Rometty, who joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer, currently serves as svp and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy for the company.

SEE ALSO: Why Women Make Excellent Entrepreneurs in the Digital Age

Palmisano has been CEO of the company since 2002. Under his watch, IBM exited some commoditized businesses like PCs, printers and hard drives and has overseen expansion into China, Brazil, India and Russia, among other emerging markets.

Though there was a time when women CEOs at tech companies was unheard of, in the last 20 years there have been several, including Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard and Meg Whitman of eBay.

More About: ebay, HP, IBM, meg whitman

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Why Women Make Excellent Entrepreneurs in the Digital Age

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 02:04 PM PDT

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

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

In 2010, women became the majority of the U.S. workforce for the first time in the country's history. Also, 57% of college students are now women. While men continue to dominate the executive ranks and corporate board rooms, women now hold a number of lucrative careers: they make up 54% of accountants, 45% of law associates and approximately 50% of all banking and insurance jobs. These statistics, which appeared in Hanna Rosin’s Atlantic article “The End of Men,” have prompted considerable attention and debate.

Women are advancing in entrepreneurship as well. An American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses report found that between 1997 and 2011, the number of businesses in the U.S. increased by 34%, but the number of women-owned firms increased by 50%. That compares to a growth rate of just 25% for male-owned firms and has allowed businesses owned by females to reach 49% of U.S. firms — near parity with their male counterparts.

Why exactly are women advancing so quickly as business owners? Are women better equipped to thrive in this digital age? Is today's business climate more inviting for aspiring women entrepreneurs?

The "Man-cession" and the Fall of the Single Income Household

The growth in women-owned businesses can partly be attributed to sheer necessity. Increasingly, families must rely on a dual-income household. Following increased unemployment rates and a higher cost of living, women stepped in to supplement household income, often to compensate for an out-of-work spouse.

Men took a bigger hit in the employment market during the recession. Traditionally male-dominated industries, like construction and manufacturing, have been severely affected by the economy. On the other hand, fields traditionally dominated by women, such as healthcare and education, have added jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that women make up more than two-thirds of employees in 10 of the 15 job categories projected to grow the fastest in the coming years.

As the recession hit, job-holding women worked more hours to support their households; and more women became the family's sole wage-earner. In 2008, employed women contributed to 45% of household earnings — the highest figure in that decade.

The Digital Age and Childcare

Entrepreneurship in the digital age lends itself to childcare, a consideration that affects any discussion of women in the workforce. Young, single, urban woman are outearning their male counterparts; however, this trend reverses as workers age and start families. And even though many companies are replacing "maternity leave" with more gender-neutral "flex time," it's clear that working women will always be seeking that balance of career and family.

Virtual workplaces and digitally mobile lifestyles give aspiring women entrepreneurs the flexibility to achieve that balance. Digital tools mean that women can now build a business from home and create unique work schedules.

Essential Skills in the Digital Age

Do women's strong communication and social skills make them more equipped to thrive in our post-industrial digital age? In short, do women have specific skills — whether the result of biology or social conditioning — that can help them succeed as entrepreneurs? In my experience helping entrepreneurs and small business owners launch their brands, I believe there are several traditionally "feminine" leadership qualities that are more significant now than ever.

1. Women possess strong communication skills and social intelligence. The digital economy requires these skills, and women enjoy a slight edge over their male counterparts (according to numerous studies). Rosin's article discusses a Columbia Business School program that teaches sensitive leadership and social intelligence, including a lesson in reading facial expressions and body language. "We never explicitly say, 'Develop your feminine side,' but it's clear that's what we're advocating," says Jamie Ladge, a business professor at Northeastern University.

2. Women make good listeners. One study found that the collective intelligence of a group rose if the group included more women. Anita Woolley, assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, asks, "What do you hear about great groups? Not that the members are all really smart, but that they listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They're not autocratic."

Whether due to biology or cultural conditioning, women tend to be better listeners and are stronger at drawing people into conversation. This translates to several advantages for the entrepreneur, who can better attune herself to customer needs and build more effective teams of employees, contractors and partners. In fact, many women entrepreneurs often describe building their business as building a team.

3. Women collaborate. Women have worked well together since the earliest female enterprises, whether dividing grains in the village or working in quilting bees. Even some of today's cultural stereotypes have legs, for instance, women's joint trips to the restroom!

A 2009 Time magazine article by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay says, "[Women are] consensus builders, conciliators and collaborators, and they employ what is called a transformational leadership style — heavily engaged, motivational, extremely well suited for the emerging, less hierarchical workplace." The article, entitled "Women Will Rule Business," cited projections from the Chartered Management Institute in the UK. Looking ahead to 2018, CMI believes the work world will be more fluid and virtual, and the demand for female management skills will be stronger than ever.

4. Women prefer lower risk. Researchers have begun focusing on the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk, thus evaluating whether groups of men spur each other toward reckless decisions. Whether testosterone influences decision-making or not, research shows that, as a whole, women prefer lower risk opportunities and are willing to settle for lower returns.

Risk aversion may go hand-in-hand with motivations for starting a business. A 2007 study from the Small Business Administration (Are Male and Female Entrepreneurs Really That Different?) observes the differences between male and female entrepreneurs in the U.S. The results found that male owners are more likely to start a business to make money, and have higher expectations for their business. Women are more likely to prioritize that business and personal lives work in harmony.

The digital age offers a wealth of low-risk opportunities. Ventures like blogging, web-based services, ecommerce and software development require smaller upstart costs than manufacturing-based, brick and mortar type businesses. Cloud-based tools and virtual workforces further lower the cost of entry, making the idea of starting a business more feasible and/or palatable for risk-averse entrepreneurs.

But a strength can also be a weakness. Yes, the tendency to minimize risk can lead to higher success rates for female entrepreneurs (that 2007 SBA study linked above found that woman-owned businesses were more likely to have positive revenues). However, risk-phobia can also mean women are more likely to limit the size of their businesses, and less likely pursue outside funding from investors to fuel growth (which might partially explain the abysmal discrepancy in VC funding between the sexes).

On average, men-owned firms are larger than women-owned firms. In firms owned by men, twice as many have 10 or more employees, and three times as many have reached the $1 million revenue mark.

It's up to each individual business owner to define the goals of his or her business. If a woman chooses to pursue a smaller business venture that lets her balance her business and personal life in more harmony, more power to her. For now, I think we should celebrate the growth in women entrepreneurs, but also wonder if woman-owned high growth startups are an under-utilized resource in our economy. It's time we made space for the underdog — if that term even applies anymore.

Images courtesy of Flickr,, Bertelsmann Stiftung

More About: contributor, economy, entrepreneurs, features, Opinion, Startups, U.S., women

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Occupy the URL Takes OWS Protests to the Internet

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 01:35 PM PDT

The Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to cities across the world. Now they’re also spreading to banks’ websites.

A program called Occupy the URL, launched Tuesday, will turn any website into a protest, complete with pop-up photos of Occupy Wall Street protesters. Users need only insert the URL they wish to occupy.

The program doesn’t actually change a website it targets, but rather creates a mashup of the page and protester images under a new URL. But the new site is more than just a collage over a screenshot of the targeted website: links from the original page remain live in the new URL.

“We just wanted to provide a way for people anywhere online to show their support,” says Jim Pugh, who created Occupy the URL. “I think there are different sites out there that people would be interested in occupying: Wells Fargo, Bank of America.”

Pugh is the CTO of Rebuild the Dream, an organization launched in June with similar (and similarly vague) goals to Occupy Wall Street. Though he has visited Occupy protests in San Franciso, New York and D.C., the photos featured in the program are pulled from Flickr Creative Commons.

The goal, he says, is to get more people involved in the movement.

Craig Kanalley, who pointed the site out on Twitter, had a different take: “Now you can Occupy a URL. In case you didn’t think Occupy was a meme yet,” he tweeted.

Pugh agrees with the tweet, saying, “I think it's definitely a meme. I think at this point, you see people all over with knowledge of it. You see various funny graphics popping up. You see sites like this one popping up a little more. It's definitely something that has captured the public's interest.”

Update: As a commenter has pointed out, this site also offers the opportunity to occupy web pages.

More About: Occupy Wall Street, social movements

Google Blog Manager Flies to Twitter

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 01:19 PM PDT

The woman who started and managed Google‘s blogs will now be shaping Twitter‘s voice.

For the past nine years, Karen Wickre has been senior media liason at Google, where she built the now more-than-150-strong Google blog platform. Here’s how she described her role in the blogs in a 2007 interview with SearchEngineLand:

“I shepherd them. I call myself the managing editor, and I'm the gatekeeper for the new blogs. I've been with Google a long time and have worked in publishing a long time, so I can't help but pay attention to the words — to the ways in which Google is communicating with the world.”

Wickre also launched Google’s official Twitter presence, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She announced Tuesday on her personal blog that she would be crossing over to work for the microblogging platform.

“I’ll be working closely with the marketing & comms teams (and probably a few others) in a new role: editorial director,” she writes. “As you might guess, it will involve a fair amount of wordsmithing as well as nurturing a consistent Twitter voice across our public messages and information pages.”

As wordsmiths ourselves, we can appreciate the potential of Twitter’s blog. Despite generating boatloads of interesting data that has inspired many analyzing tools, the company only adds a handful of posts each month — many of which are focused on product features or company milestones.

Might Wickre give it a facelift? Anyone who has enjoyed learning about everything from Dead Sea Scrolls to Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee through Google’s blogs surely hopes so.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Shawncampbell

More About: Google, Twitter

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Apple Newsstand Drives 268% Increase in Digital Subscriptions at Conde Nast

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 12:58 PM PDT

Digital subscription and single-copy sales have spiked following the launch of Apple’s Newsstand app two weeks ago.

Magazine publisher Conde Nast has seen a 268% jump in digital subscriptions sales per week on average, Monica Ray, Conde Nast’s EVP of consumer marketing, announced Tuesday. Single copy sales across its titles have risen 142% compared to the previous eight weeks.

The app, which accompanied the release of iOS 5 earlier this month, offers publishers two things they have long been asking of Apple: greater discoverability within the App Store ecosystem, and the ability to automatically deliver new issues to subscribers' devices.

Ray acknowledged that the growth in sales has been partly fueled by the attention the launch received — the launch of the Mac App Store had an even greater effect on app sales for some developers — but expressed confidence that the publisher would “see a consistently higher level of growth going forward than [it] did prior to the app’s introduction.”

Nine of the company’s titles — Allure, Brides, Glamour, Golf Digest, GQ, Self, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired — are currently available on the Newsstand. Vogue, Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler are scheduled to join them by early 2012, Bob Sauerberg, president of Conde Nast, said earlier this month.

Presenting Sponsor: AT&T

More About: apple, conde nast, iOS 5, Media, newsstand, trending

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Steve Jobs The Movie: Sony Wants Aaron Sorkin to Write It [REPORT]

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 12:44 PM PDT

Sony is moving forward on a cinematic adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and is courting Aaron Sorkin to write the screenplay, according to one report.

The LA Times cites a source “briefed on the project but not authorized to speak publicly,” who says that Sorkin is on a shortlist of screenwriters being considered for the project. The West Wing creator is considering the project, this source says, but has made no decision.

Sorkin won an Academy Award for his adaptation of another Silicon Valley story, The Social Network. The writer also has a strong relationship with Sony — which produced The Social Network and the last film he penned, Moneyball.

Sorkin seems like a natural fit, given his penchant for witty dialogue and strong but flawed male protagonists. But there are a couple of reasons why he might not choose to do it. The fact that the Jobs story treads the same sort of tech-based territory as The Social Network may prevent the writer from taking on the project. Typecasting is a major fear in Hollywood, and it’s not just for actors. Sorkin may not want to be pegged as a writer of geeky drama.

Additionally, as the LA Times points out, Sorkin actually knew Jobs. Two weeks ago, Sorkin penned his own memories of Jobs in a column for Newsweek. Whether or not that relationship would conflict with the process of bringing Jobs to the silver screen is something Sorkin will have to decide for himself.

But for film and Apple fans, the thought of a Sorkin-penned screenplay is extremely attractive. It’s hard not to become enamored with the idea of what a writer of Sorkin’s caliber could do with a character like Jobs.

SEE ALSO: "The Social Network": Mashable's Complete Movie Review

Part of what made The Social Network such an achievement was that the work of Sorkin, director David Fincher and Jesse Eisenberg elevated an idea that was laughable (a Facebook movie?) into a work of art.

With The Social Network, there was an onus on the cast and crew to convince the audience that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were worthy of being immortalized on film. With Jobs, that argument doesn’t have to be made. The legacy and Apple is implicitly understood.

The challenge with making a film about Steve Jobs is the inverse of making one about Facebook; it’s not about convincing an audience that a film needs to be made, it’s about living up to the expectations set forth by the character that is center to the story itself.

Sony has a good track record for these sorts of projects. With Mark Gordan (Saving Private Ryan) as producer, it has a shot at succeeding artistically and financially. Do you think Sorkin would be a good choice for the project? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: The Life and Times of Steve Jobs

1955 - 1960s: Birth - Childhood

February 24, 1955: Steve Jobs is born in San Francisco. He is adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs.

1969: Jobs meets Steve Wozniak at Homestead High School.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Aaron Sorkin, apple, steve jobs, the social network

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Timeline: How Netflix Lost Two-Thirds of Its Value in 3 Months

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 12:41 PM PDT

It’s hard to believe that a mere three months ago, Netflix stock had reached its all-time high at $300 per share. After Monday’s announcement that the company lost over 800,000 subscribers due to its price hike, the stock took a sharp dip.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has admitted to the company’s many mistakes that have spanned the past few months.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways Netflix Can Stop the Bleeding

Here we look back at the events that contributed to Netflix’s sharp downturn.

Do you think the brand retains enough industry clout to survive? What should Netflix do to turn the company around? Sound off in the comment section below.

1. Netflix Stock Hits All-Time High

July 13, 2011

Netflix stock more than doubled over the previous year, then increased by 15% in May to reach its last all-time high in July of $300.

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Image courtesy of Flickr, Great Beyond

More About: Business, features, netflix, reed hastings, stock

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13 Free Halloween Fonts

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 11:42 AM PDT

1. Skullphabet by Skull-A-Day

Simple and bold, the "Skullphabet" font celebrates with great graphic ghoulishness.

Click here to view this gallery.

Halloween is nearly upon us. If you’re anything like the Mashable crew, you’ve already designed your perfect pumpkin, stockpiled mounds of candy for trick-or-treaters, planned an awesome costume and organized an appropriately ghoulish gathering.

Whether you’re sending out Halloween party invites, creating homemade Halloween cards or designing posters for an eerie event, you need a suitably spooky font.

SEE ALSO: Show Us Your Social Media and Tech Pumpkins [CONTEST]

We’ve found 13 fearsome fonts perfect for All Hallows Eve, and what’s more, they’re all free for personal use. Take a look through the gallery for our spook-tastic selection. Please share in the comments any other great, gruesome examples you’ve come across.

More About: design, features, fonts, gallery, Halloween, trending, typography

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The U.S. Requests More User Data from Google Than Any Other Country

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 11:22 AM PDT

Google started publishing requests from governments for user information about a year ago. On Tuesday, it revealed the number of user accounts involved in those requests — revealing that the U.S. not only makes more requests than any other country, but also requests data for far more user accounts than any other country.

Between January and June of 2011, the U.S. made 5,950 requests to Google for user data, more than three times more than the amount requested by India, the next highest country on the list. This isn’t surprising, as the U.S. has remained the leader throughout the period for which Google has made data available, but it is a 70% increase since Google last reported requests.

The number of user accounts affected by these requests on behalf of the U.S. was 11,057 — almost five times as many as India. Google filled nearly all of the requests from the U.S., unlike the requests from most other countries, which it filled anywhere from 0% to 87%.

Google’s motive in making these requests more transparent is a U.S. law regulating government access to online user information called The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

“The law was written in 1986 and is woefully out of date for today's technology — the provisions of the law no longer match people's reasonable privacy protections for their digital data,” wrote Google policy council Will DeVries in a blog post attacking the law last September.

Google has joined with tech giants such as IBM, eBay and Amazon in a coalition lobbying to reform the law, which it considers murky and outdated. The coalition’s main complaint is that law enforcement agencies don’t need a full search warrant to look into suspect’s digital data — only a judge-approved subpoena.

The vagueness of the law poses a problem drastic enough to unite heavily competitive companies. Many Internet users, especially corporations, hesitate to use cloud-based services because they are concerned about their information being compromised.

“They all realize that there’s a competitive disadvantage here,” explained ACLU legislative counsel Chris Calabrese in an interview at a Senate hearing on proposed updates to the law last year. “They all want to move their services online. They all want to take advantage of the economies of scale that cloud computing presents, and they know that their customers want to move all of their email online and they want to use social networking tools. But customers have consistently explained to them that they’re worried about their privacy, they’re worried about how their data is going to be shared, and so they want the government to provide assurances that this information is going to be protected in the same way that it would be protected if it were sitting at home in a drawer or computer.”

As of now, the law has not been changed. But Google is consistently bringing attention to the issue by announcing features that make government requested data more transparent. Last month, for instance, it released the raw data for its report on government requests in the hopes independent developers and researchers would use it to create either compelling visualizations or draw hypotheses about government behaviors online.

“As with many other Google products, we like to launch and iterate,” says the project’s FAQ. “The Transparency Report is no different. As we've worked on this project, we've figured out the best way to disclose more information.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, tshein

More About: ECPA, Google, transparency

9 Sites That Measure Companies’ Social Responsibility

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 09:49 AM PDT

The Commerce With a Conscience Series is supported by Fedex. FedEx does more than shipping. They offer solutions like transporting heart valves to those in need and helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life. See how.

Applications that measure the corporate social responsibility, or CSR, of a company take many forms. Some websites crowdsource opinions and facts on companies, while other sites use their own set of metrics to gauge social good. Still others rely on the Global Reporting Index, which formalized and mainstreamed disclosure on environmental, social and governance performance more than a decade ago. With additional input from Martin Smith, founder of JustMeans and StartingBloc, below are the tools that stand out among the rest, along with five issue-specific resources that can assist you with purchasing decisions.

1. The Good Guide

The Good Guide helps consumers choose individual products by rating their environmental impact, health and social responsibility on a scale of 1 to 10. A team of specialists in life cycle assessment, environmental engineering, chemistry, nutrition and sociology created the ratings system, which now has more than 120,000 products listed. You can access the guide online, through the mobile app (handy when making in-store decisions) or you can take the toolbar with you as you shop on the web. The Good Guide is listed as a "For Benefit" company and is B Corp certified.

2. B Corp

B Corp created a ratings system in 2009 that measures the social and environmental impact of small to medium-sized companies. The designation helps investors and consumers tell the difference between socially responsible companies and companies with great marketing. Certified B Corporations maintain an in-depth legal structure that “expands corporate accountability so they are required to make decisions that are good for society, not just their shareholders,” according to the non-profit’s website. There are over 450 Certified B Corporations across 60 different industries from food to clothing to law, and anyone can access their data online.

3. JustMeans Insights

JustMeans Insights, which launched just last month, helps investors, the media, practitioners and consumers measure a company’s CSR, environmental impact and sustainability performance against its competitors. Insights provides the data visualization tools to compare these companies. “We look at a number of standards including the Global Reporting Initiative, dig through thousands of historical reports, and then pull all of that into a data visualization tool normalized to financials, employees, etc,” Martin explained. “The result is that anyone can then compare companies across industries, sectors, geographies along the same normalized metrics.”

4. Crocodyl

Crocodyl takes the opposite approach from JustMeans and crowdsources their information on the impact of corporations. Through their wiki-based website, Crocodyl analyzes a company’s stance on public policy, health, sustainability, human rights, social justice, labor, and issues relating to corporate responsibility. This enables NGOs, journalists, activists, whistleblowers and academics from around the world to pool their knowledge about specific corporations into one place, share publicly and then take action to hold businesses accountable.

In addition to these applications, here are some issue-specific tools that can help you make purchasing decisions.

Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index (Equality): Released each fall, the HRC’s CEI report provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. This year, 337 U.S. businesses made their list of "Best Places to Work.” (Environment): Climate Counts uses a 0 to 100 point system based on a company's climate footprint and its effort to reduce its impact on global warming. It also notes whether companies support progressive climate legislation, and if their climate actions are publicly disclosed.

Eat Well Guide (Food): The Eat Well Guide is an online directory of fresh, local, and sustainable food in the U.S. and Canada including farmers’ markets, restaurants, grocery stores, family farms and more.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (Seafood): The MBAq sustainable seafood guide lists the most ocean-friendly seafood options by assessing fish populations in conjunction with fishing and fish-farming methods. You can use their online search tool, downloadable pocket guides, or mobile apps.

Fair Trade USA (Workers’ Rights): Buying Fair Trade products helps workers and farmers in developing countries earn a decent living and secure a better life in developing countries. Fair Trade USA audits the global supply chain and certifies products, which are listed on its website. Choose from over 7,000 products from over 50 countries.

What tools do you use to measure the social good of a company or product or make purchasing decisions? Let us know in the comments below.

Series supported by Fedex


The Commerce With a Conscience Series is supported by Fedex. FedEx does more than shipping. They offer solutions like transporting heart valves to those in need and helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life. See how.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mableen

More About: Business, Commerce With a Conscience Series, features, mashable, Social Good

Throwable Camera Creates 360-Degree Panoramic Images [VIDEO]

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 09:31 AM PDT

Are you, like so many others, tired of all those old-fashioned cameras you have to hold in order to take pictures? Well here’s a camera you get to throw.

The Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera is a foam-padded ball studded with 36 fixed-focus, 2-megapixel mobile phone camera modules capable of taking a 360-degree panoramic photo.

You use the camera by throwing it directly in the air. When the camera reaches the apex — measured by an accelerometer in the camera — all 36 cameras automatically take a picture. These distinct pictures are then digitally stitched together and uploaded via USB where they are presented in a spherical panoramic viewer. This lets users interactively explore their photos including a zoom function.

SEE ALSO: The Development of the Camera: From Ancient to Instant [INFOGRAPHIC]

The results — as seen in the video above — are pretty darn impressive, but the Ball Camera is definitely not meant for shaky hands. Any spin on the ball when it’s thrown could distort the final image and you certainly wouldn’t want to drop the thing despite its 3D-printed foam padding. The 2-megapixel cameras are adequate but the quality drops as soon as users try to zoom in on distant elements. Besides, it looks a little difficult to fit the thing into a purse, let alone your pocket.

Right now, the Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera is not available to buy, though its creators have it pending a patent. Cool idea, but is it practical? Would you ever buy a camera you could throw? Let us know in the comments.

More About: cameras, gadges, photography, Tech, trending

Leonardo DiCaprio Dives Into the Startup Scene

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 09:01 AM PDT

Leonardo DiCaprio has joined the growing list of celebrities who are also startup investors. The first startup to benefit from both his following and pocketbook is visual social media platform Mobli, which announced Tuesday that DiCaprio was part of a $4 million seed round that it raised from “high profile investors.”

“Mobli allows people from all over the world to share moments,” says DiCaprio, who will take on an advisory position at Mobli.

Here’s how Mobli works: Users take photos and videos and the app automatically tags each image with a location (courtesy of Foursquare's API) or major event in the vicinity. Users can also write tags like "sports" or "football" or "New York Giants." This tagging system makes it possible to follow specific users, locations and topics. Images for any keyword or place can also be located through search.

Part of what separates Mobli from other visual social media platforms is the participation of “high-profile” folks like DiCaprio. Well-known users like Paris Hilton and David Arquette have helped user acquisition — and now that Mobli is being more specific about what kind of investors stand behind it, it’s easier to understand how the startup might have gained such influential users.

DiCaprio uses the platform, but sparingly. He’s posted seven times, but managed to collect more than 8,000 followers along the way. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, an environmental organization, has posted 24 times.

With celebrities and social media platforms, however, a little seems to go a long way. For instance, Justin Bieber — who has been doing some startup shopping of his own — sent a single Instagram photo on Twitter and created a wave of traffic that resembled a pattern a site might experience if it were being hacked.

In DiCaprio’s case, his and his organization’s combined 31 Mobli posts have accounted for 163,244 “media views” on Mobli. There are non-celebrities using the platform — Mobli says that it is gaining 10,000 new users every day — and many of them have more media views than DiCaprio. Few, however, have earned them with so little effort.

Twitter itself benefited greatly from the influence of celebrity early adopters who it didn’t count among its investors.

When the next Twitter comes along, the celebrities whose influence help build it might very well have skin in the game.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Lukas Haas, another investor, at Mobli’s offices.

More About: celebrity investors, Leonardo Dicaprio, Mobli, Startups

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Grand Theft Auto 5 Officially Announced, Rumor Mill in High Gear

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 08:43 AM PDT

gtav image

Rockstar Games has officially announced Grand Theft Auto 5 as the next game in the award-winning video game series. The announcement came in suitably mysterious style. Logging on to the Rockstar’s website leads to the above image … and not much else. Eagle eyes will notice the game’s trailer is set to hit on Nov. 2. Rockstar is also promoting the hashtag #GTAV to build social buzz.

Grand Theft Auto (GTA) gained tremendous acclaim — and a fair bit of notoriety — for its violent, open-world gameplay. Players can steal cars, kill innocents and rise in the ranks of local mafias and gangs. Grand Theft Auto is largely credited with popularizing open-world gameplay where players can deviate from a central plot to take on side tasks like driving a taxi, mini-games or simply wandering a digital city. Grand Theft Auto 5 will be the first GTA game since 2008′s Grand Theft Auto 4, which followed an Eastern European immigrant’s rise to power in New York City Liberty City.

With the announcement of Grand Theft Auto 5, the “Internet” has gone into high gear trying to make predictions about the game. The “5″ is clearly designed to resemble a paper bill but cash has always played a huge role in the GTA games.

Some are guessing GTA5 might be based in Hollywood though that, along with similar speculation, is more of a wish than a fact.

Do you think the new GTA can top the previous games or are those boots too large to fill? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Gaming, grand theft auto, video games

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iPod Designer Builds the World’s Most Beautiful Thermostat

Posted: 25 Oct 2011 08:24 AM PDT

Tony Fadell, the man who oversaw 18 generations of the iPod, announced the first product of his stealth startup Nest Labs Tuesday: a sexy, world-saving … thermostat.

“Nest” is a $249 programmable thermostat that can also program itself.

At first, users might frequently adjust the thermometer when they get up in the morning, leave for work, get home from work and go to sleep. Eventually, however, it will learn their patterns and adjust the temperature to appropriate levels automatically. If they leave on a trip, the thermostat will figure out the house is empty and turn the heat and air conditioning to an energy-saving mode.

90% of programmable thermostats are rarely or never programmed, even though the EPA estimates that programming a thermostat to reduce heating or cooling while out of the house can cut 15% off of a heating and cooling bill. By making it easier to “program” temperature, Fadell’s thermostat could put a much bigger dent reducing energy waste and bills than its traditional counterpart. He has told several publications that users can expect to cut up to 30% of their utility bills.

All this, and Nest is a looker, too.

"If you don't make it look beautiful, people don't cherish it," Fadell told Wired. "I want it to be a jewel on the wall so that it's a conversation piece. People come over and they go, 'What's that on your wall?' and you go, 'Oh, you've got to check this out.'”

The thermostat is round like a jewel. Instead of faint numbers that make users squint, the temperature on Nest is bold and large, front and center. To adjust, you twist the rim around the “jewel.” It turns blue when it’s cooling things down and red when it’s heating them up. A small leaf image discreetly points users toward energy efficient settings.

Should users forget to make a temperature adjustment before they leave the house, they can control the thermostat with any Internet-connected device, an iPhone app or an Android app.

“The Nest is the iPod of thermostats,” says Levy.

And it is. But it’s also still a thermostat, and a thermostat that costs about $100 more than most competitors. Can an Apple-eye for design turn a traditionally boring product into something for which people pay a premium to display?

We likely won’t begin to find out until November, when the device goes on sale. Best Buy and Nest Labs’s website are taking pre-orders.

BONUS: A History of the iPod

Oct. 23, 2001: The iPod

The very first iPod launched with "1,000 songs in your pocket."

It had 5GB of storage space, weighed 6.5 ounces, featured a 160 x 128 pixel display and FireWire connectivity and cost $399.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: nest labs, The nest, thermometer, Tony Fadell, trending

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