Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Groupon’s New Personalization Features Allow Businesses to Recycle Daily Deals”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Groupon’s New Personalization Features Allow Businesses to Recycle Daily Deals”

Groupon’s New Personalization Features Allow Businesses to Recycle Daily Deals

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 05:00 AM PST

Groupon is rolling out personalization features that will help pinpoint subscribers who are most likely to become a small business’s repeat customers. The features — including an option that allows some users to purchase deals after they’ve expired — will be live in all of Groupon’s 175 North American markets starting Wednesday.

The heart of Groupon’s new features is a system that assigns tags, such as “Always Learning,” “Bring the Kids,” “DIY,” and “White Tablecoth,” to each deal. Users can “heart” qualities that they like as they browse deals or choose tags from a “profile” tab. When they’re looking at all of the deals available, those with “hearted” tags will be marked with a pink heart to make them easier to find.

“It’s still about discovery,” Groupon Consumer Products Lead Suneel Gupta says. “It’s not set categories, but tastes.”

That means tags aren’t explicit qualifications. It also means that it’s not possible to search or filter deals — the newly public company won’t cannibalize its deal emails and customer browsing habits by becoming a database.

Explicitly telling Groupon what you’re into, however, does help the company decide what deals to highlight in your emails. In some markets such as San Francisco, Gupta says, there are about 10 new deals running on any given day. In the past, Groupon relied on an algorithm that used a string of implicit attributes to decide which deals to highlight for each subscriber. Now, users will tell Groupon what they want.

A new dashboard design also allows you to easily flip between multiple default cities. For instance, you could set different cities for home and work. Groupon will tell you exactly how far each deal is from those addresses.

Groupon deals have been criticized for damaging some small businesses instead of helping them. More efficient targeting of who gets deals could help wrangle customers who are more likely to repeat their business.

What could be even more appealing to local business clients is a new option to reopen deals for customers who best fit their criteria. Groupon will promote the deal to a subscriber in the area, even after the deal has closed, if he or she has hearted the qualities that suggest a good chance of repeat business.

This is the first time customers will be able to buy deals after the day they expire.

“We wanted to give merchants better info about the people their deals are targeting, and we wanted to really target the people who like a certain type of deal,” Gupta says. “And we wanted to do this without being boring.”

More About: daily deals, group buying, groupon

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Apple: Siri Is Not Coming to Older iPhone Versions

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 02:25 AM PST

Apple’s voice assistant Siri will remain exclusive to the iPhone 4S, Apple has confirmed.

In an answer to an inquiry from the developer Michael Steeber, asking about a possible special Siri-enabled iOS build for iPod touch and iPhone 4 owners, Apple responded with a resounding “no”.

“Siri only works on iPhone 4S and we currently have no plans to support older devices,” wrote Apple’s representative in the answer.

It’s hardly a surprise: Siri is one of the most recognizable features of the iPhone 4S, and although it could work on the iPhone 4, too, Apple probably wants to give iPhone 4S buyers a little extra something for their money.

Of course, Apple can change its mind in the future, but for now it seems that only iPhone 4S owners will enjoy the benefits of chatting with their phone.

BONUS: 10 Absurd Questions for Siri

The classic question

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apple, iOS, iphone, Mobile, siri, smartphone, trending

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Adobe Stops Development of Mobile Browser Flash [REPORT]

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 12:28 AM PST

Adobe has ceased the development of Flash Player for browsers on mobile devices, ZDNet reports citing an upcoming announcement from Adobe.

“Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations,” says Adobe’s announcement which is reportedly due to be released today.

Instead, Adobe will focus its development efforts on mobile apps and HTML5.

This is quite a hit for Android and its developers, since Flash support on Android devices was often highlighted as one of the advantages of that platform over Apple’s iOS.

It’s also a big victory for Apple, a company that claimed – most famously in Steve Jobs’s open letter on Flash – that Flash simply isn’t reliable, secure or fast enough to be used on mobile devices.

We’re awaiting the official announcement from Adobe and will update this article if necessary.

[via ZDNet]

More About: adobe, browser, Flash, Mobile, smartphones

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HP Buys More Time to Determine the Future of WebOS

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 11:00 PM PST

HP CEO Meg Whitman has told employees that the company still hasn’t decided what to do with webOS, the mobile operating system it gained from its acquisition of Palm.

On Tuesday, Whitman held an all-hands meeting of HP employees to deliver the “news” that the company will be making its decision on webOS in the next few weeks. If HP decides to keep the division, she claims that the company is “going to do it in a very significant way over a multi-year period,” reports The Verge. A source confirms that HP didn’t announce a decision at the meeting.

HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion last year in an attempt to become more relevant in an increasingly mobile world. The company doubled down on its investment with the HP TouchPad and the Palm Pre 3. However, both devices underperformed and former HP CEO Léo Apotheker decided to shut down the division.

After a series of missteps, Apotheker was forced out and replaced with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who quickly announced that the company would reevaluate the decision of whether to sell webOS.

The meeting seems designed to buy HP more time to shop Palm’s assets around. If HP can find a suitor that is willing to pay the price it wants, then the company will sell the division. If nobody is willing to do that, then Whitman seems to be prepared to give webOS and the TouchPad a second chance. She told employees at the meeting that the company would focus on tablets instead of smartphones if it decides to keep webOS.

More About: hp touchpad, webOS

Boost And Expand Your Professional Network With LunchMeet

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:58 PM PST

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: LunchMeet

Quick Pitch: LunchMeet works with LinkedIn to find professional contacts in your area who are available and willing to meet up for a meal, coffee or drinks.

Genius Idea: Makes networking easy, creating opportunities to meet other professionals in your free time.

These days the saying “It’s all about who you know” seems to undermine the idea that hard work is key to climbing the success ladder. Building strong relationships and connecting with the right people can often help you advance your career, land your dream job or gain insight on ways to make your business more successful.

This is the idea behind LunchMeet, a free application tool that helps people strengthen and expand their professional network by having face-to-face, meaningful conversations in their free time. Known as “an app to never eat alone,” LunchMeet allows you to search for other professionals in your area, or a city you plan to visit, who are also available when you are.

"I realized how many people criticize social media for pushing people apart because they spend too much time on technology rather than socializing with people," said Taylan Kay, developer of the LunchMeet app. "LunchMeet actually brings people together and helps them form meaningful connections with people."

The new application, available for iPhone devices, is easy to use:

1. Log in to the app using your LinkedInTM account
2. Enter the timeslots and location of your availability
3. Search for other professionals who are also available in the same area during the same timeslot
4. Call them or use the in-app messaging to arrange a LunchMeet

A LinkedIn account is necessary to use the app. Once users are logged into the app, LunchMeet will generate a small personal profile for you based on your LinkedIn profile information. Don’t worry about privacy issues – your personal information will not be publicized or stored without your permission. Only your connections will be able to see your name and company. All other contacts will only see your professional title.

Arrange a LunchMeet

Schedule a LunchMeet

Users can invite their LinkedIn connections to use the app, post their meeting availability on their LinkedIn status and automatically add meeting details to their iPhone calendar. The app is a great way to network with a range of professionals such as entrepreneurs, consultants, job seekers, talent hunters and business school students.

"There are so many apps out there that don’t have a narrow context and advertise the same idea, such as dating or finding new partners" said Kay. "LunchMeet narrows the context so that users know it is only for professional networking."

LunchMeet was inspired by the book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. In the book, Ferrazzi claims the key to advancing in life and climbing the business ladder is reaching out to other people. He also describes the steps he took to connect with friends and colleagues who have helped him succeed in his life and career.

The app will soon be available on Android devices.

Image courtesy of LunchMeet, LunchMeet

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: bizsparks, LunchMeet

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6 Best Practices for Modern SEO

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:04 PM PST

Erin Everhart is the director of web and social media marketing at the digital marketing and web design company, 352 Media Group. Connect with her on Twitter @erinever.

Google's search results aren't what they used to be. Need proof? Just look at its results page. No longer solely comprised of traditional, organic site matches, Google now lists local maps, images, videos and social cues as well — and it's affecting more than just what you see.

If you rely heavily on search engines for pageviews and sales, as many businesses do, Google search results will drastically affect how your customers find you. If your business needs to be seen and clicked, take into account the following six search engine tips.

1. Local SEO Is Taking Over

There's a good probability that a large chunk of the Google searches you perform will display Google Places listings – and consumers are taking notice. SEO software firm SEOmoz did some eye-tracking case studies on Google's SERP (search engine results page). The results show that users heavily gravitate toward any of Places' listings, whether they're mixed into organic lists, concentrated in a group of seven or even listed in the middle of the results page. The heat map above shows the activity around a Google search for "pizza."

If your business relies on local listings, concentrate on scoring a seat at Google Places. You can do this by using:

  • Citations: Ensure that your correct business information is listed in as many (reputable) sources as possible around the Internet. As always, consistency is king. If you write "Blvd." instead of Boulevard on your Google Places page, make sure your other listings reflect the same.
  • Google Places page optimization: Just like your website, make sure your Places page is properly optimized. Include categories that match exactly, and point your Places page back to a city-specific landing page if applicable.
  • Reviews: Google will only display reviews from Google, but getting reviews from aggregators like Yelp, Superpages or Trip Advisor will help increase your presence.

2. You Can’t Have Search Without Social

The separation of search and social has officially ended. Social cues such as Twitter shares, Facebook likes and social bookmarking heavily influence search rankings. Essentially, search results are personalized for each person. With any SEO campaign you put into motion, include a social aspect to it to facilitate information sharing.

3. Think of People, not Robots, When Optimizing Keywords

People search in Google because they have a question. Anticipate those questions — whether about the best style of yoga pants or where to get the lowest mortgage rate. Your keywords and the content on your pages should reflect the answers to those questions. Keyword research is tedious, but it's arguably the most important aspect of SEO. Transition away from thinking of keywords like data, and put more of an emphasis on the person who will be typing in that keyword.

4. Content Links Are King — Good Writers Are Sorcerers

Google is not stupid — it can spot paid and spam links. For the most effective long-term SEO strategy, move the focus back to great content, both on your website and across other sites. Guest blogging is great, for instance, but to get a leg up on your competition, target blogs that aren't direct matches to your industry.

For example, a client of my company sells golf carts, so we wrote a blog post about the most tricked-out golf carts for tailgates, and the link we got back was one their competitors didn't already have.

5. Check your Backend:, Microformats and Rich Snippets

The Big Three (Google, Yahoo and Bing) have worked together to develop, a set of website standards that will tell search engines what your site is about, making it easier for those engines to read the site's data and index accordingly.

By using rich snippets, for example, you're able to tell Google what information to feature in SERPs: product reviews and prices, upcoming events, recipe cooking times, etc. The added data will increase your click-through rate because users are able to preview more about the link before they commit to the click.

6. It Doesn’t Mean Anything Without Data

Whether you're a one-man SEO show for your company or working in an agency with several clients, your site needs to see results. While ranking reports of keywords is still a great indicator of progress, personalized searches make it difficult to get the most accurate readings. Plus, when Google defaulted to private searches for users signed into their Google accounts, the company made it harder to track how people arrive at your site.

Start relying more on simple key performance indicators (KPIs) to show results, for instance, the number of landing pages you have, the bounce rate of those pages, and the number of keywords driving traffic to each of those landing pages. Google Analytics displays all of this data.

What are some other things you see that are affecting searches, and what are you doing to improve your rankings in these areas?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hillaryfox

More About: contributor, features, Google, search engine optimization, SEO

Bring Carwashers to Your Car With a Checkin

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 07:14 PM PST

The car wash rarely lives up to the enthusiastic disco hit that Rose Royce once dedicated to it. It’s time consuming and inconvenient. But now — like groceries, car service and random tasks — it can be sent to you with the click of a smartphone.

Startup launched a new service on Tuesday that lets drivers to park, check-in (on its website or with an app), and have their car washed while they’re away.

“Believe it or not there's a lot of technology involved,” says CEO and Co-Founder Travis VanderZanden, who was the first employee at Yammer.

About 20 cleaners that the company has hired in the San Francisco area have their own version of the iPhone app that they use to update their locations. When a customer requests a cleaning,’s software automatically locates a Cherry employee nearby who can make the trip, and gives the customer an estimated arrival time.

The customer also gets text messages when the the washer arrives and leaves. plays in a similar space as companies such as grocery delivery service Fresh Direct, car service Uber and task-on-demand site Taskrabbit — the space in between digital and real worlds. VanderZanden says that he hopes to expand to similar services that make real-life tasks easier through technology.

For now, he’s focused on expanding beyond San Francisco. Not needing to establish brick and mortar stores, along with $750,000 in seed funding from Yammer CEO David Sacks, PayPal founder Max Levchin and Square COO Keith Rabois, should help it do so quickly.

In order to succeed, however, it will need to convince people that it’s OK to leave their cars unlocked (the company covers damage or theft) and that a car wash is worth its flat fee of $29.

“As long as you value your time at least $29,” VanderZanden says, “it's pretty much a free car wash at that point.”

More About: car wash, Cherry

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President Obama Threatens to Veto Law to Repeal Net Neutrality

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 06:19 PM PST

The White House has threatened to veto Republican-sponsored legislation that would overturn the net neutrality rules the FCC passed last December.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on S.J. Resolution 6 [PDF], “Disapproval of Federal Communications Commission Rule Regulating the Internet and Broadband Industry Practices”, sometime on Thursday. The resolution, if it were to pass both houses, would begin a process that could overturn the decision of the FCC. The U.S. House of Representatives rejected the FCC’s net neutrality rules back in April.

“Disapproval of the rule would threaten those values and cast uncertainty over those innovative new businesses that are a critical part of the Nation's economic recovery,” the White House said in its veto threat. “It would be ill-advised to threaten the very foundations of innovation in the Internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the Internet a force for social progress around the world.”

The FCC rules prevent broadband providers from blocking access to specific websites and applications. However, the rules are less clear when it comes to wireless providers. Supporters, such as Obama and the White House, believe that some regulations are necessary to stop ISPs such as Comcast from throttling or blocking content. Opponents, such as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), one of the sponsors of the bill, argue that the net neutrality regulations would over-regulate the Internet, stifle the economy and set a bad precedent.

“The Internet and technology have produced more jobs in this country than just about any other sector,” Hutchison said on Tuesday. “It has been the cradle of innovation, it does not have a problem and it does not need fixing.”

With the President’s veto on the table, the bill is unlikely to become law. It would require a 2/3 vote of both houses to overturn the veto. Neither chamber has the votes to make that happen. The issue will likely continue to flare up though as the presidential election cycle heats up.

More About: barack obama, fcc, net neutrality, Politics, President

How Barnes & Noble Stores Help the Nook Tablet Take on Amazon

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 05:52 PM PST

Amazon’s recently refreshed range of ebook devices — the Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Touch 3G and Kindle Fire tablet — is coming to more than 16,000 retail locations in the U.S., the company announced Tuesday afternoon.

Beginning Nov. 15, Kindle devices will be available for purchase at Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Staples, Sam’s Club and RadioShack locations, among others.

The announcement comes roughly 30 hours after Barnes & Noble unveiled the successor to the Nook Color, the Nook Tablet, at a press event in New York City Monday. As Mashable‘s Lance Ulanoff noted, Barnes & Noble spent a significant portion of the event comparing Amazon’s products and business strategy unfavorably to its own.

Amazon’s retail strategy was among many of the targets. Barnes & Noble repeatedly touted the superior experience provided by the Nook kiosks installed at its 700 or so U.S. retail locations. The kiosks are populated with personnel trained to introduce shoppers to the devices and help current owners with their customer service inquiries. Shoppers can also pick up and explore the several devices on display.

You may scoff, but don’t underestimate the power of kiosks — especially in a bookstore like Barnes & Noble. Whereas consumers go into Best Buy or Target to pick up items on their list — perhaps stopping to peer at a gadget or two before heading out — Barnes & Noble is designed for more leisurely, exploratory shopping.

Walk into a Barnes & Noble and you’ll see shoppers browsing book tables or flipping through a stack of possible purchases while they sip a coffee from an in-store Starbucks. Many of those same customers are likely going to wander over to the Nook’s front-and-center location as well — even if they weren’t particularly in the market for an ereader or Android tablet in the first place.

No doubt the widespread availability of Kindle devices will put many more of those devices into consumers’ hands this holiday season. But in retail, we still think Barnes & Noble has the edge.

Click here to view this gallery.

Barnes & Noble's Nook Demo

A look at some of the games and apps available on the Nook Tablet. By the holidays, Barnes & Noble will offer thousands of high-quality Nook Apps from leading third-party developers and content providers that can be enjoyed on Nook Tablet, as well as Nook Color.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: amazon, barnes & noble, Kindle, nook

Two Schools of Thought: The Key Difference Between Apple and Google

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 05:19 PM PST

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

Apple and Google may look similar on the surface, but the companies couldn’t be any more different. That much has become clear to me after reading both the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and Steven Levy’s In the Plex.

Google and Apple are technology behemoths that bucked the system, created game-changing products and are worth more than $550 billion collectively. Both companies have successful mobile phone divisions and web browsers, and both companies have a common enemy in Microsoft.

The two companies are build on completely different foundations, though. Sergey Brin and Larry Page firmly believe in the power of data and numbers, and that reliance on the metrics is the cornerstone of every major decision the company makes. Information was the great leveler at Google.

Steve Jobs, on the other hand, believed in the power of design and often threw out the data. “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups,” he famously said in a 1998 BusinessWeek interview. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

There is no starker contrast of the ying-yang battle of data vs. design. It’s that conflicting yet complementary relationship that sparked one of the industry’s closest friendships and, more recently, one of technology’s fiercest rivalries.

Google: Data Is King

For some reason, I decided to read both Steve Jobs and In the Plex at the same time (the former via Kindle, the latter via audiobook). It was a surreal experience, but it made it clear to me that Google and Apple are polar opposites.

Let’s start with Google. If you need proof that data is king at Google, look no further than In the Plex. The word “data” appears in Levy’s book approximately 319 times. “Design,” on the other hand, appears fewer than 60 times.

The emphasis on design comes directly from the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Here’s how Levy describes them in the beginning of the book:

“[Page and Brin] felt most comfortable in the meritocracy of academia, where brains trumped everything else. Both had an innate understanding of how the ultraconnected world that they enjoyed as computer science students was about to spread throughout society. Both shared a core belief in the primacy of data.”

The result is a company with a deliberately collegiate atmosphere, a strong meritocracy where engineers are king, and most of all a “deep respect for data.” Google is famous for making the tiniest changes to pixel locations based on the data it accrues through its tests. Google will always choose a spartan webpage that converts over a beautiful page that doesn’t have the data to back it up.

“It looks like a human was involved in choosing what went where,” Marissa Mayer once told an upset team of designers about a product design she rejected. “It looks too editorialized. Google products are machine-driven. They’re created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That’s what makes our products great.”

Apple: Design Is in Its DNA

Apple, on the other hand, falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. The word “design” and its variations appears in the Steve Jobs biography 432 times. The word “data” appears just 26 times in the book.

“I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” Jobs once told Isaacson. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.”

That emphasis on design derives from Jobs’s childhood experiences. Early in his life, his father taught him that it was important to craft the back of fences and cabinets properly, even though nobody would see them. Later in life, Jobs traveled through Asia and connected with the simplicity of Zen Buddhism.

Those lessons and experiences became part of his quest for perfection, a philosophy that is now essential to every product Apple ships.


Google has placed its faith in data, while Apple worships the power of design. This dichotomy made the two companies complementary. Apple would ship the phones and computers, while Google would provide Maps, Search, YouTube, and other web tools that made the devices more useful. But when Google decided to release its own mobile OS, their friendship quickly turned into a rivalry. And with Google poised to acquire a hardware company, that rivalry will only get stronger.

What can we learn from the battle between data and design? What can we learn from the relationship between Google and Apple?

Clearly no one school of thought is right: Apple and Google are both wildly successful and profitable companies that changed the world. Building a successful company (or living a happy life, for that matter) is not about embracing someone else’s philosophy, but staying true to your own beliefs about the world and learning from the mistakes you make along the way.

Second, design-focused companies tackle different types of problems than data-focused ones. A design-focused company like Apple (or Flipboard) will focus on creating revolutionary, never-before-seen products, because data isn’t great at predicting market revolutions. Data-focused companies like Google, however, have a better chance at revolutionizing existing markets because their products are simply better and more efficient. The search engine existed before Google, but the company used data to make the most effective one in the world. Apple, on the other hand, is credited with launching multiple revolutions, starting with personal computing.

Finally, while data and design are often opposing forces, they need each other as well. Jobs may have focused on design, but he didn’t ignore the data. When he saw the dropped call data from AT&T at the beginning of “Antennagate,” he rushed back from Hawaii to deal with it. The data provided the context on which he could design a response. Great design, even revolutionary ones, is built on solid data.

The Social Analyst is a column by Mashable Editor-at-Large Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.

Steve Jobs/Android image courtesy of Flickr, Jesus Belzunce

More About: apple, features, Google, larry page, Opinion, steve jobs, The Social Analyst

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Google+ Brand Pages vs. Facebook Fan Pages

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 04:29 PM PST

1. The Muppets

Jim Henson's Muppets have been starring in movies for decades -- long before Facebook or Google even existed. But they've found some interesting ways to incorporate social media into their marketing. In promotion of the upcoming film, the Muppets are ambitiously attempting to get a bazillion likes from all of the related pages on Facebook. (Miss Piggy's separate page, Kermit's, the movie's, etc.) You can even tell a friend they look like a Muppet, although I'd hold off on citing Miss Piggy.

The Muppets' Google+ page, which launched earlier this week, is also off to an interesting start. Followers got to video chat with Miss Piggy, thanks to the Hangout feature.

Click here to view this gallery.

Using Google+? Add Mashable to your circles. You’ll get the latest about new Google+ features and tips and tricks for using the platform as well as top social media and technology news.

This week, Google+ launched brand pages for companies, a concept similar to Facebook’s. But should a company have a Facebook page and a Google+ page?

SEE ALSO: Google+: The Complete Guide

Although it’s still too early to tell what will come of it, many major companies are taking on the additional network. So far, it seems the main differences between the two are Facebook’s applications and advertisers versus Google+’s Hangouts feature. From video chats with Muppets to exclusive deals for liking a page, these are just a few ways companies are getting creative.

Which of the two do you think is better for companies? Let us know in the comments.

More About: branding, Facebook, features, Google, Social Media

Kobo and Its Ereader Acquired for $315 Million

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 03:46 PM PST

Kobo, the creator of the Kobo ereader, has been bought by Japanese ecommerce firm Rakuten for $315 million.

Toronto-based Kobo produces a series of affordable ereader devices. In May, it announced a touchscreen ereader. In September, the Borders-backed company unveiled a new mobile app that lets you see who is reading with you. It also unveiled a feature called Kobo Pulse that adds social activity to the page level.

"We share a common vision of creating a content experience that is both global and social,” Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis said in a statement. “Rakuten is already one of the world's largest e-commerce platforms, while Kobo is the most social ebook service on the market and one of the world's largest eBook stores with over 2.5 million titles."

Ratuken is an interesting owner for Kobo and its ereader. It is one of Japan’s biggest ecommerce companies with more than 70 million users. The conglomerate also has assets in travel, securities, media and payments. (U.S.), Tradoria (Germany) and Lekutian (China) are some of its better-known international properties. Ratuken is also the owner of a professional baseball team, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Ratuken says that it will work to bring Kobo to more customers more quickly through its ecommerce channels. Naturally, it faces stiff challengers in the form of the Amazon Kindle and the new Barnes & Noble Nook.

Amazon recently came out with a tablet, the Kindle Fire, while Barnes & Noble unveiled the Nook tablet earlier this week.

More About: ereaders, kobo, Ratuken

Facebook Users Shared Their Songs 1.5 Billion Times in 6 Weeks [STATS]

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 03:03 PM PST

Music Apps That Have Integrated Facebook's Open Graph

Music discovery services such as Spotify, Rdio, Mog, Slacker and Earbits are attracting significantly more users since Facebook‘s f8 Developers Conference.

Now that music apps are on the Open Graph — and appear in the ticker — Facebook users have shared their listening activity more than 1.5 billion times with their friends, says Facebook’s Casey Maloney Rosales Muller in a blog post published Tuesday.

“Developers have started to demonstrate that when music is discovered through friends, people listen to more music and a wider variety of artists,” he writes. “Our hypothesis was that integrating with the Open Graph would accelerate music discovery and make it a more valuable part of the Facebook experience, while improving key metrics for our partners.”

Those key metrics indeed improved, with some music developers seeing active users on their services more than double:

  • Spotify: Four million people have joined Spotify since Sept. 22. The service became available in the U.S. on July 14.
  • MOG: Mog saw a 246% growth Facebook users since f8.
  • Rdio: Facebook has increased Rdio’s new user registrations 30-fold.
  • Slacker: Available across mobile, TV, auto and web, Slacker saw a more than 11x increase in monthly active users in the month following f8.
  • Earbits: This Y Combinator-funded startup experienced a 1,350% increase in the number of users becoming fans of the band they're listening to.

Other integrated music sites include Rhapsody, Soundcloud, Vevo, Songza, iHeartRadio and AudioVroom.

Facebook anticipates growth for its music partners to continue to increase after it rolls out Timeline to the masses. Only a limited amount of Facebook users have enabled Timeline for the official public launch.

SEE ALSO: 5 Most Popular Musicians to Subscribe to on Facebook

“We're getting closer to a wider roll-out of Timeline and the Open Graph, and we are looking forward to the mobile and web experiences that are being created across all industries,” Rosales Muller says. “What we've seen in music and games on Facebook is just the start, and it all happens through the apps you build.”

To learn more about the Open Graph, which is still in beta, click here.

BONUS: How Spotify’s App Looks on Facebook

Spotify Hearts Facebook

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Ear Bits, Entertainment, Facebook, MOG, Music, Open Graph, rdio, Slacker, Social Media, spotify

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Reddit Turns One-Word Actor into Viral Star [VIDEO]

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 02:48 PM PST

An actor with a bit part in at AT&T ad became a celebrity thanks to a Reddit thread on Monday that prompted the ad to become a viral hit.

Nate Dern, a writer and performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and known for being a finalist on Beauty and the Geek in 2007, posted on Reddit on Monday about a role he got in a new ad from the carrier. The ad shows a boss barking orders to his subordinates about what to do with their BlackBerry Torch 4Gs. The joke is that the boss is telling them to do things like play games and post videos of their kids on YouTube.

Although the ad is not without its charms, it appears to have gone viral not so much for its quality, but because Dern went on Reddit to talk about it. “Hi Reddit. After three years of auditioning, I booked my first commercial. I say ‘Huh?’ in this AT&T spot. Just wanted to share,” Dern wrote before linking to the YouTube page for the ad.

So far, that post has gotten close to 3,000 comments and netted more than 400,000 views since the ad was posted on Monday. Dern and his role in the ad became a meme on Reddit as commenters piled on with cinemagraphs of Dern saying the line and a long comment thread about his delivery of the line. “I am hoping people will realize that he actually is pretty diverse when it comes to acting skills. You should see his ‘Hmm…!’” one wrote. The conversation also spilled out on to YouTube, where some speculated that Dern should win an Oscar for his performance.

Dern, 26, says he has posted things to Reddit before, but has rarely gotten more than 30 comments or so. He says the Reddit success is a fluke. “They have a soft spot for underdogs,” Dern says of the Reddit community, “but this wasn’t about me. It was an inside joke and they ran with it.”

Erik Martin, general manager at Reddit, says that it’s unusual for an actor to propel a video the way Dern did, but Reddit recently prompted some viral success for an eBay ad because commenters hated it so much they couldn’t stop talking about it.

More About: Advertising, att, reddit

Umami for iPad: The Ultimate TV Companion Knows What You’re Watching

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 01:50 PM PST

Umami is a new iPad app that aims to bring an enhanced, second-screen experience to broadcast and cable TV programming.

Second screen apps are becoming standard fare for networks. Using audio fingerprinting technology, these apps can tell what you’re watching — and provide an updated, customized experience based on the show.

At the Mashable Media Summit last week, second screen experiences were highlighted as one of the major media trends of 2012. Until now, however, most of these experiences have been crafted specifically around one show or network.

This requires users to download individual apps for the shows or networks they frequently watch. Umami aims to work with a large cross-section of programs and networks, both broadcast and cable-based. The app offers quick access to cast and crew listings, descriptions of other recent episodes, quick links to official social media accounts and related tweets from across the web.

How it Works

After downloading Umami for the iPad [iTunes link], users just need to start the app. It will listen to the audio coming from a TV or computer and use audio fingerprinting to identify the show.

The basic information Umami offers is surprisingly solid. Even for a program like Scrubs, which no longer has new episodes but is frequently seen in syndication, the app offers up quick access to Wikipedia information, episode summaries and cast members’ IMDb links.

For current shows like Two and a Half Men, the app can go a step further and offer links to official Facebook and Twitter accounts for the show and its stars.

Deeper Potential

Networks or television shows that join Umami’s publishing platform, naturally, have more potential. The app has signed on a number of launch partners — including the National Geographic Channel — and select programs will take advantage of more enhanced features, such as additional information about a topic discussed in a show and links to photos.

A Solid Start

In a demo that the Umami team showed me earlier this fall, I got a glimpse at some of the integration potential for news programming. I like Umami’s user interface, and appreciate the broad approach the company is taking to the second screen.

While it’s clear that partnerships using its publishing platform will yield the best results, even the more basic integration offers up a kind of TV Guide on steroids. I love having quick access to links related to what I’m watching.

It would be great to see Umami evolve into partnering or linking with some of the existing social checkin platforms, such as GetGlue. Part of Umami’s value play is that it is one app, rather than a collection of separate apps. In that vein, embracing other types of checkin services would give it even more value for end-users.

Umami is free and available now. Let us know what you think about second-screen apps and TV personalization in the comments.

More About: ipad apps, second screen apps, social tv, umami

Public Gets Passive Aggressive on White House’s Petition Platform

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 01:35 PM PST

There’s trouble in paradise on We The People, the White House’s experimental crowdsourced petition platform. A new petition has been started to directly address the government’s apparent disinterest and dismissive attitude toward popular petitions.

We The People started earlier this year to let anyone create an official petition and collect digital signatures. Any petition that reached 25,000 votes within a month would be reviewed by appropriate and top-level policy-makers. However, some users have complained that the platform is more about letting the public vent than creating substantive reforms.

Enter the petition entitled: We demand a vapid, condescending, meaningless, politically safe response to this petition. The slightly passive aggressive petition lampoons what signers say is the government’s standard practice of responding to successful petitions:

Since these petitions are ignored apart from an occasional patronizing and inane political statement amounting to nothing more than a condescending pat on the head, we the signers would enjoy having the illusion of success. Since no other outcome to this process seems possible, we demand that the White House immediately assign a junior staffer to compose a tame and vapid response to this petition, and never attempt to take any meaningful action on this or any other issue. We would also like a cookie.

The government has certainly answered more outlandish petitions (ahem, aliens), but the Vapid Petition actually seems well on its way to breaking the 25,000 signature requirement. The petition has more than 9,700 signatures since it started on Nov. 4.

Aside from the petition’s clearly sarcastic tone, it legitimately speaks to a wide-spread frustration with the We The People platform. It will be interesting to see what happens if it gains more than 25,000 votes by Dec. 3 — the petition’s cut-off — and the government is obligated to respond. To its credit, the White House has left the petition unaltered (to our knowledge) and voters can still use all of the site’s social features to promote the petition.

What do you think? If you were the White House, would you fight fire with fire and deliver a deliberately mocking, vapid and condescending response or take the high road? Any chance on that cookie?

Image courtesy of Flickr, El Bibliomata

More About: crowdsourced, petition, Social Media, White House

Starbucks Holiday Cups Come to Life With Augmented Reality App

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 01:24 PM PST

Starbucks is launching its first major augmented reality app this holiday season that will let customers animate their coffee cups with their smartphones.

Starbucks Cup Magic launches for iPhone and Android devices in the U.S. next Tuesday. (In Canada, just the iPhone version will launch.) As demonstrated in the video above, the app works by pointing your phone’s camera at the company’s red holiday season coffee cups and 47 additional objects, such as bags of coffee, on display at Starbucks retail locations.

Doing so will produce animations involving five characters — an ice skater, a squirrel, a boy and a dog sledding and a fox — on your screen. You can also interact with the characters. For instance, if you tap the boy on the sled he does a somersault. Those who activate all five characters can qualify to win an as-yet-unnamed prize.

The app also includes traditional and social sharing capabilities. You can the send ecards as well as holiday offers from Starbucks, among other things.

The object, says Alexandra Wheeler, vp-global digital marketing for Starbucks, is to “surprise and delight” customers during the holiday season.

Although Starbucks experimented with an AR app years ago in an ad, Wheeler says this is the first major AR push by the company. The effort follows some other recent AR programs from marketers including an app from Nivea featuring Rihanna and an Amazon app that lets you point your phone at objects and then buy them.

Cup Magic, created by Blast Radius, caps off a year of successful mobile implementations by Starbucks. The brand launched a mobile payment app in January that has been used in more than 20 million transactions and a QR code program designed, like Starbucks Cup Magic, to enhance the in-store brand experience.

More About: Augmented Reality, starbucks, trending

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Google+ Brand Pages Are the “Wild West”– for Now

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 01:11 PM PST

First, the good news for marketers about Google+: It’s incredibly easy to set up a brand page there. Now, the bad news: It’s incredibly easy to set up a brand page there.

Although there’s a verification system in place, I was able to create this fake Coca-Cola brand page in a few minutes. The biggest hurdle to setting up a fake brand page is you have to agree to Google’s Page’s Terms, which requires that only users “with authority over the subject matter” can set up a Google+ Page. If you violate those terms, Google says it will block or take your page down. It’s also possible to set up an “unofficial” Google+ page for a brand you like, like this one for Coca-Cola.

David Berkowitz, president of emerging media at 360i and one of the people behind what will eventually be Coca-Cola’s real Google+ brand page, says that he expects Google to clamp down on fake brand sites. “It’s the wild west right now,” he says. “They made it so open.”

Jim Prosser, a Google rep, says that the company is providing verification badges so users can confirm the authenticity of a page. “Verification badges are designed to help our users find what they’re looking for by ensuring that people, brands and businesses that are subject to broad-based impersonation are protected,” he says. “Because of this, it's intended primarily for global or broadly known brands.” Such badges appear as a check the right of the brand’s name on its Google+ page; if you run your cursor over the check mark, it reads “verified name.” There is also a link to “report this profile” if you spot a fake site.

Considering the fuss Google put up about fake accounts prior to the launch of brand pages, Google’s current, more laissez-faire approach is surprising, but for marketers it may be vexing as well.

That’s because it can be difficult to find even official Google+ pages. Generally, to find such a page, you have to search the brand name plus “google plus” or “google+.” For instance, the Ford Motor Company has had a Google+ page more or less since the social network launched in July. Yet you have to Google “ford google plus” to find it. A more general Google search for “Ford” won’t bring it up. Searching on Google+ for your brand, meanwhile, will only produce instances in which people in your circles have mentioned the brand.

Not surprisingly, given their lead in the marketplace over Google+, it’s a lot more difficult to set up a fake brand page on Facebook or Twitter. Facebook will automatically reject a brand name that has already been used (like “Coca-Cola”) and requires that users with a “large number” of fans verify their identity.

On Twitter, it’s harder to create an ersatz page because the desired name is likely to be taken. Twitter also verifies brand pages. Nevertheless, Facebook’s system for setting up brand pages was once somewhat chaotic as well. What is now Coke’s official Facebook brand page, for instance, was started by fans, rather than the company itself.

Image of fake Coca-Cola Google+ page courtesy of Fantasy Interactive.

More About: Advertising, Brand pages, Facebook, Google Plus Lists, Marketing, Twitter

Yahoo, ABC Turn Eyes to Presidential Race

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 12:58 PM PST

interview image

Elections are top-of-mind for a lot of Americans rushing to vote on Election Day today. ABC and Yahoo News, though, are looking to the 2012 election with a day of live streaming exclusive interviews with GOP presidential candidates.

The interviews, which can be found on ABC News’ homepage and Yahoo News’ homepage, will run throughout Tuesday and feature some of ABC’s top correspondents chatting with the major GOP candidates in cities across the country. The live streams are part of Yahoo News’ “Newsmakers” series. Parts of the interviews will air on ABC shows, but their main audience will be online.

The lineup includes:

  • George Stephanopoulos to interview Mitt Romney in Chicago
  • Jonathan Karl to interview Herman Cain in Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Christiane Amanpour to interview Rick Perry in Austin, Texas
  • Jake Tapper to interview Newt Gingrich in Washington, D.C.
  • Terry Moran to interview Ron Paul in Clute, Texas
  • Ron Claiborne to interview Michelle Bachmann in Charleston, SC
  • John Berman to interview Rick Santorum in Manchester, NH
  • Sharyn Alfonsi to interview Jon Huntsman in Coral Gables, Florida

It’s impressive ABC and Yahoo are not only live streaming all the interviews online but were also able to wrangle the diverse (and dispersed) GOP field under one digital roof on the same day. The questions so far have tended to be standard fare: Why are you right for the candidacy? How would you fix the economy? There is also still ample time given to difficult and controversial topics.

SEE ALSO: I Want to Vote With My Smartphone

Get yourself in the Election Day mindset and check out the live stream. Do you think the interview series is a brave new precedent or a waste of resources?

More About: livestreaming, Politics, Social Media, streaming, Video

For more Media coverage:

End the Office? Students Want Right to Work From Home [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 12:51 PM PST

Planning on hiring a hotshot kid straight out of college? Here’s a checklist for you: Make sure she can tweet or update Facebook while on the clock. Let her get work email on whatever device she wants. Allow her to work from home on her own schedule, even though she’s unlikely to really think it makes her more productive. And by the way, an increasing number of your employees don’t think they need to be in the office either.

These are all the results of a Cisco survey of 2,800 college students and young professionals worldwide. The survey had a number of questions that make good cocktail party trivia (one-third of students think the Internet is as important as food, air and water) and are rather less impressive the more you consider them (the vast majority, after all, don’t believe that for a moment).

Where the study really gets interesting is when it comes to students’ workplace expectations — or rather, the expectation that they won’t be in the workplace. More than 60% say they have a right — not just a desire, but a right — to work from home on a flexible schedule. Some 70% say coming into the office regularly is unnecessary. That’s despite the fact that only a quarter of students are willing to say working from home makes them more productive.

SEE ALSO: The Perks of Working at Google, Facebook, Twitter and More [INFOGRAPHIC]

They have some backup, at least — 69% of all workers say the office is unnecessary, a figure that has grown from 60% last year.

So is the workplace doomed, or will a weak economy force young adults to learn to love the cube? Let us know in the comments what you think.

More About: Business, career, infographic, workplace

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Want to Run a Contest or Promotion on Google+? Not So Fast

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 12:17 PM PST

Using Google+? Add Mashable to your circles. You’ll get the latest about new Google+ features and tips and tricks for using the platform as well as top social media and technology news.

Google may have finally invited brands to participate on Google+, but it doesn’t plan to let them run promotions. The social network’s content policy bans direct hosting of contests, sweepstakes, offers and coupons on Google+ pages.

Posting a link to a promotion page is fair game, but the policy could disappoint brand marketers who had envisioned using Google+ for promotions without building a separate page.

Given the many ways organizations and individuals can get into legal trouble while running a promotion — including laws that vary by geographic location and sector — it makes sense that Google+ would avoid becoming involved in legal battles by banning promotions on its platform.

“When you have a plaintiff’s attorney who is looking to get money, they will often drag in other companies [to a promotions case],” says Gonzalo Mon, partner of the advertising and marketing practice at law firm Kelley Drye.

Facebook, Mon says, had similarly strict restrictions in place when it released its first content policy. Brands who wanted to run promotions using Facebook had to obtain written permission.

“There are a lot of laws that govern what you can and can’t do, and I think Facebook was concerned that there were promotions on the platform that didn’t comply with those laws,” he says.

Facebook has since updated its policies to allow promotions as long as they are administered within apps and each entrant agrees to fully release Facebook from responsibility. This, Mon says, helps draw the line between what is a Facebook promotion and what is a company promotion.

Brands such as Contiki Vacations, Maybelline and Coca Cola have run successful contests within Facebook apps, but the still-new Google+ has not yet evolved any equivalent compromise.

Examples of Top Google+ Brand Pages

1. Angry Birds

The popular game welcomes Google+ followers with an excited "Ca-caww!"

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Advertising, Google, trending

Election Day 2011: Online Tools to Help You Vote

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 12:06 PM PST

Digital tools for Election Day 2011

Around this time next year, Americans will vote for a president. But today, the fate of state and local races and issues — whose results could echo nationally — lies in your hands.

If you didn’t cast an early ballot or stroll into a poll Tuesday morning, we’ve compiled this list of handy digital tools to help you find nearby voting booths and become knowledgeable on candidates and ballot measures.

The resources below are broken down into national, state and local lists, with an emphasis on the races and issues that are likely to have national repercussions.


You have several resources to find a voting booth near you.

  • State Election Websites: The U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s clickable map leads to each state’s election website, where you’ll find polling places, voting times, guides and relevant social media sites. These states, counties and cities offer spiffy online polling place locators (more keep getting added throughout the day): Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, New York City, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Los Angeles County, Calif., and Pasco and Sarasota counties, Fla. Some states allow you to register to vote on Election Day while others do not, so be sure to check regulations on your state’s election website.
  • Voting Information Project: This service (VIP) aims to be “the 21st Century transmission line between election administrators and today’s voters.” It argues that people don’t go to government websites. To remedy that, VIP offers voting information and gadgets to help voters. VIP uses “open-data of polling place locations to meet voters where they are online and get more voters to the polls,” says VIP spokesman Jordan Raynor. You need to provide only your address to get answers to your questions. Check out the video below or visit VIP’s website or Twitter account (@VotingInfo) to learn more about VIP.
  • Discussion Platform: connects users based on their issues and positions., which launched in beta in September, is a network that may incite timely conversations during today’s elections. The site targets political independents, the apolitical and bipartisan. "You don't have to be a slave to partisan labels," Co-founder Raymond Glendening said in a Mashable post in October. "It's crazy that with the growth of technology we still only have two choices for politics. It's unnecessary to have to settle for black and white options. If we can change the culture of how people communicate and make this an extra outside-the-party thing, political discourse will get better."

State and Local

Americans’ decisions on Election Day will influence two gubernatorial battles in Kentucky and Mississippi and several congressional races, including one in Oregon where voters in five counties can cast votes on iPads. Also drawing headlines are ballot measures regarding labor, voting and abortion rights. Here are some news stories detailing those topics.

Mayoral contests in major cities are on tap in Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and San Francisco (have you seen candidate Ed Lee’s funny campaign video filled with tech luminaries?). Here are news-related Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep an eye on in each of those areas for news, analysis and results.

What Digital Resources Do You Use?

We want to know what tools you have seen and used to transform yourself into an informed voter. Sound off in the comments. We’ll add your best recommendations to our list.

More About: election day, Politics, voting

Top 12 Quotes From the Mark Zuckerberg Interview

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 11:57 AM PST

1. On Why Facebook Works

Click here to view this gallery.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg addressed Google+, Steve Jobs and privacy concerns during Monday’s interview with Charlie Rose. Zuckerberg commented on Facebook’s perceived competition with companies like Amazon, Apple and Google, while Sandberg urged women to be more ambitious in the tech and entrepreneurial industries.

SEE ALSO: What Advice Did Steve Jobs Give to Mark Zuckerberg?

Rose pushed tough questions, and we’ve collected 12 of Zuckerberg’s and Sandberg’s most significant responses. Tab through the gallery above to discover the Facebook perspective, communicated by its most powerful executives.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Andrew Feinberg

More About: Facebook, features, mark zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Social Media, trending

16+ Universities Dive Into Google+ Brand Pages

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 11:41 AM PST

University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne has posted some beautiful images of campus, including some that appear to taken with Instagram or another photo app.

Click here to view this gallery.

Since Google+ launched brand pages Monday, universities across the world have wasted no time setting up pages for their communities to follow.

Interestingly, their early approaches have differed greatly. While some view the page as an advertising tool to perspective students, others are expressing school spirit and engaging with their student body.

Take a look through this gallery to see what the early stages look like. Have you spotted any more schools with new pages?

Using Google+? Add Mashable to your circles. You’ll get the latest about new Google+ features and tips and tricks for using the platform as well as top social media and technology news.

More About: education, Google, universities

Kindle Cloud Reader Comes to Firefox

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 11:27 AM PST

Kindle Cloud Reader, Amazon’s HTML5 app that lets you read Kindle books both online and offline from your browser, is now available for Firefox.

Amazon made the Kindle Cloud Reader available to users of Chrome, Safari for desktop and Safari for iPad in August. The launch of the iPad version stirred up some controversy, since it was seen as a way to subvert Apple’s in-app purchase policies. Cloud Reader lets Amazon sell and store books in software that looks and feels just like an app available in Apple’s App Store, but because the program is distributed directly by Amazon, the company isn’t forced to fork over a 30% share of each sale to Apple.

The Firefox version isn’t at all controversial: It simply makes it possible for you to access, organize and add to your existing Kindle library without downloading any software to your desktop. Your library will be automatically synced between the Reader and the rest of your Kindle apps and devices, meaning that if you leave off on page six while reading in your web browser, you can continue reading in the same place on your Internet-connected Android phone, iPad or other Kindle-enabled device.

BONUS: Amazon’s New Kindles

The $79 Kindle.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: amazon, Firefox, Kindle, kindle cloud reader

You Can Now Add Mashable on Google+

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 11:15 AM PST

Using Google+? Add Mashable to your circles. You’ll get the latest about new Google+ features and tips and tricks for using the platform as well as top social media and technology news.

Google launched brand pages for Google+ on Monday. We’ve already speculated plenty on what the pages might look like and what features we’d like to see — and now we finally have one to check out ourselves.

We hope you’ll add Mashable to your Google+ Circles, because we’d love to connect with you there. You’ll see updates about the top digital and tech news, as well as the latest information and tips for the Google+ platform.

You can also connect with Mashable staff through Google+, and we continue to encourage you to do so. You’ll get their individual, personal posts about their interests and their lives as well as an inside look at Mashable.

One thing that’s still unknown is just how brands will best use their new Google+ pages, so we want to hear from you. What would you like to see on our page? In the comments below, or on our Google+ page, let us know how we can best serve you.

Been waiting for this feature for your brand? Here’s how you can set up your own page.

New to Google+? Check out our guide here.

1. Angry Birds

The popular game welcomes Google+ followers with an excited "Ca-caww!"

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Google, Social Media

I Want to Vote With My Smartphone

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 10:56 AM PST

Ballot Box and Voting on Election Day

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

Smartphones could save democracy, but first we have to use them — to vote.

This morning, I made the mad dash to vote before heading into work. I'd almost forgotten it was Election Day and hadn't left enough time to get to my local school, vote and then catch my regular train. If I didn't vote in the morning, it's unlikely I would have voted at all since I'll be out late tonight and not near my polling place before polls close at 9 p.m. This is not new, but it's also not particularly convenient.

I have a better idea. It's so obvious I can't believe the masses haven't already risen up to demand it: Voting by smartphone. Think about it: We are never without our phones. Most of us own cellphones that can handle data as well as voice. Voting is not a complex process and surely someone could develop an app (or two) that could guide you through the voting process.

It's not as if technology isn't already devouring the voting process. In my town, I've used the old analog, lever-based voting booth system for well over two decades. This morning, for the first time, the district had mothballed the old booths and introduced scanners. I still had to mark my ballot in pen — which seemed like a step back — but then I simply took the 11-by-17-inch ballot sheet and fed it into a scanner, where it promptly disappeared.

This is progress of a sort, but as long as polling places are still places, too many people won't even bother voting. When I arrived at my polling place, it was just me and the election officials (a rag-tag collection of smiling septu- and octogenarians). No lines, no one else voting, no one pulling up outside. It's true, this is a mid-term election year: virtually no national races (no senators, no representatives, and no governors running for office — in my state at least). So perhaps the lack of interest can be understood. Still, I worry that many people don't vote in any year because it's not convenient.

In Your Hands

Putting the power to vote in everyone's hands, literally, could change things. It's true, the moment you introduce technology into the voting process, everyone gets nervous. In the years leading up to e-voting technology rollout, there were countless questions and concerns about the reliability of any of the machines. I do wish that there was a standard method. Instead, different districts and states use a variety of e-voting tools. Some have the write-and-scan method I saw. Others use touch screen. Oregon is testing the iPad.

That last bit is actually interesting because an iPad is the closest we've ever come to a mobile voting system. An iPad with 3G could be used anywhere to cast a vote. So why not take the next step? Phones are identifiable with individuals, right? You have one phone number per device. Each device could be allowed one vote. For further authentication, they could use Social Security numbers. As fellow cellphone-voting proponent Karney Hatch noted last month, we already use phones to vote for trivial events like American Idol winners. The show lets people vote more than once, but that doesn't mean a more stringent voting system can't be put in place for elections. I imagine that voters would get a text or app-based alert notifying them that the voting period is now open. They could then launch a government (local/federal)-approved app and then make their selections. Obviously, the app would have to allow for double-checking your voting selections, but imagine how much clearer an app could make the voting process. It might even give you the option of voting along party lines (“Choose All Democratic Candidates? Click Here. All Libertarians? Click Here”).

Voters would still have to register. Their smartphone number would be part of the registration process and assigned to a location, so that no one can start casting votes outside their district. Yes, if you lose your phone on voting day, someone could vote in your stead, but there are enough phone security tools now in place that you could remotely brick, lock or wipe your phone before that happens. I would suggest that we couple the smartphone voting process with an email verification system. You vote and then an email record of your selections arrives in your inbox. You'll have until the end of Election Day to delete and recast your vote.

I am not proposing that we abolish all other forms of voting. Not everyone has a smartphone. Some people will never trust the marriage of the election process and digital technology. They can still vote the old-fashioned way. But if we let everyone who wants to vote by phone do so from wherever they are and over a 24-hour period, I bet voter participation will double. We have a year to figure this out before the next presidential election. I propose we at least have a trial program in place by Nov. 8, 2012.

Oh, and while we're looking at where and how we can vote, would someone mind changing Election Day to a weekend?

What do you think? Is voting via smartphone a good idea? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments below.

SEE ALSO: Election Day 2011: Online Tools to Help You Vote

More About: election day, Opinion, smartphone, trending, voting

For more Mobile coverage:

How Natural Language Processing Helps Uncover Social Media Sentiment

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 10:41 AM PST

JRehling is former senior software engineer and NLP expert at Meltwater Group, where he was responsible for adding natural language technology to the company's news and social media monitoring services. He also blogs about NLP.

Every day, people discuss brands tens of thousands of times across social media sites. Companies want a slice of that pie to determine how their audience communicates, and more importantly, to discover important information that drives business.

However, the sheer volume of social conversations makes that difficult. Digital marketers and PR professionals are turning to social media monitoring and CRM tools to help filter that social noise and properly engage with their target audiences.

Can these tools really help detect and analyze how a customer feels about a brand? It's possible with Natural Language Processing (NLP).

What Is NLP and How Does it Work?

NLP goes by many names — text analytics, data mining, computational linguistics — but the basic principle remains the same. NLP refers to computer systems that process human language in terms of its meaning.

Apart from common word processor operations that treat text like a mere sequence of symbols, NLP considers the hierarchical structure of language: several words make a phrase, several phrases make a sentence and, ultimately, sentences convey ideas. By analyzing language for its meaning, NLP systems have long filled useful roles, such as correcting grammar, converting speech to text and automatically translating between languages.

What's NLP’s Role in Social Media?

NLP can analyze language patterns to understand text. One of the most compelling ways NLP offers valuable intelligence is by tracking sentiment — the tone of a written message (tweet, Facebook update, etc.) — and tag that text as positive, negative or neutral.

Much can be gleaned from sentiment analysis. Companies can target unhappy customers or, more importantly, find their competitors' unhappy customers, and generate leads. I like to call these discoveries "actionable insights" — findings that can be directly implemented into PR, marketing, adverting and sales efforts.

The Limits of NLP in Social Media

As with most computer systems, NLP technology lacks human-level intelligence, at least for the foreseeable future. On a text-by-text basis, the system’s conclusions may be wrong — sometimes very wrong. For instance, the tweeted phrase “You're killing it!” may either mean "You're doing great!" or " You're a terrible gardener!" No automated sentiment analysis that currently exists can handle that level of nuance.

Furthermore, certain expressions ("ima") or abbreviations ("#ff") fool the program, especially when people have 140 characters or less to express their opinions, or when they use slang, profanity, misspellings and neologisms.

Finally, much of social media interaction is personal, expressed between two people or among a group. Much of the language reads in first or second person ("I," "you" or "we"). This type of communication directly contrasts with news or brand posts, which are likely written with a more detached, omniscient tone. Furthermore, each of the above social media participants likely varies their language when they choose to post to Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Tumblr. The English language and intonation differs hugely based on the source and the forum.


NLP is a tool that can help move your business forward by providing insight into the minds of your target audience members. However, it is not meant to replace human intuition. In social media environments, NLP helps cut through noise and vast amounts of data to help brands understand audience perception, and therefore, to determine the most strategic response.

Image courtesy of Flickr, weeta

More About: contributor, features, natural language processing, Social Media

AT&T Ad Goes Viral By Telling It Like It Is

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 10:00 AM PST

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

Many smartphone ads tout all of the wonderful ways their devices will help you keep on top of your job, but we all know that there’s more to smartphones than that.

Perhaps that’s why this ad from AT&T promoting Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Torch 4G has struck a chord. The ad broke on Monday, but is already up to close to 400,000 views. Why? There’s something inherently funny about brutal honesty delivered as if it was plain vanilla management speak. Here, the boss barks out orders to do things that employees are going to do with the phones anyways, such as loading videos of their kids on YouTube and checking in everywhere on Foursquare.

Updated: As our readers have pointed out, a posting on Reddit had a hand in sending this video viral. An actor in the commercial posted the video with the caption, “After three years of auditioning, I booked my first commercial. I say “Huh?” in this AT&T spot.” After one day, the post has nearly 3,000 comments.

To see an expanded use of this deadpan technique, check out the “Truth In Advertising” video below, which made the rounds in ad circles a few years back. Warning: Language is NSFW.

More About: Advertising, att, blackberry torch, trending, viral-video-of-day, YouTube

12 Tips to Make Your Company More Creative

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 09:44 AM PST

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

Last year, reports said creativity was on the decline in the U.S. However, reports this year indicate that creativity is more important than ever to business success. IBM weighed in with a massive study, interviewing over 1,500 CEOs around the world. Those CEOs collectively agree that employee creativity is the most important talent for the 21st century.

Although it seems to be on the decline, creative capacity is more important than ever. Many large companies deem creativity a major competitive advantage.

So, where do you start? What will be your strategy to bolster not only your own creativity, but also that of your business?

First, you'll need creative employees — then, an environment that fosters and promotes that creativity. Let's divide these categories further.

Employee Creativity

  • Hire for innate creativity. Even if a candidate's domain skills come first (e.g. engineering, finance, marketing), stay on the lookout for creative skills – it's easy and relatively inexpensive. Bringing people on-board with high "creativity quotients" will pay off enormously in the long-run.
  • Assess current employees. Once you identify creative types within your organization, deploy them for special projects or team leadership positions.
  • Train for creative thinking skills. It's a structured and rich process, and everybody, regardless of inherent abilities, can improve their creativity with practice.

Personal Relationships

  • Teach marketing principles. Since business success is so much about marketing, and marketing is so much about creativity, it would be hard to imagine a more fertile ground for sharpening creative thinking skills. Advertising and design (product and graphic) tasks are also effective in getting creative juices flowing.
  • Allow for reflection time. Employees need places where they can get away from mainstream energy and potential conflicts. Creative professionals recognize solitary time as part of the "incubation" process, necessary for clarifying and polishing ideas.
  • Encourage play. Impromptu team recreation builds trust and reinforces collaboration. Make it accessible on a daily basis.
  • Mix it up. Multi-cultural and mixed gender teams tend to have higher creative output.
  • Visit customers. Ideas are most valuable when they are put in context of customer needs and circumstances. Learn from customers, allow them to suggest ideas, and be sure to share concepts, drawings and prototypes with them.
  • Encourage industry networking. Interaction with peers builds tacit knowledge.

Management Involvement

  • Define a powerful vision. Vision is the single best agent for galvanizing teams. While high performance teams need the freedom to direct their own time and efforts, management directs the process through a vision that team members can get excited about.

Physical Surroundings

  • Create big open spaces. There's a reason design firms and ad agency offices are visually free flowing, interesting, and non-constraining: environmental clutter is distracting and stressful.
  • Create friendly spaces. Individual workspaces should put people at ease. Some prefer music. Some work well with clutter, like piles of books or papers, while others like things tidy and minimal. The goal is to meet everyone's needs the best way possible. Bottom line, you want employees to feel good being at work.

Image courtesy of Flickr, lodge28

More About: Business, contributor, Creative, features, productivity

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