Thursday, 10 November 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “80% of Smartphone Users Multitask While Watching TV [STATS]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “80% of Smartphone Users Multitask While Watching TV [STATS]”

80% of Smartphone Users Multitask While Watching TV [STATS]

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 05:35 AM PST

smartphone multi-tasking

It’s been said that multitasking makes you less productive, yet that hasn’t stopped the majority of U.S. smartphone users from juggling multiple devices. As many as 80% of people multitask on a mobile device while watching TV, finds a new study.

Using a laptop in front of the TV is no new behavior, yet few TV spots capitalize on the fact many consumers hold an Internet-enabled device in their hands as commercials air. The DVR presented hurdles for advertisers a decade ago as viewers were able to fast forward through ads. Today, tablets and smartphones introduce a new challenge: A more engaged yet distracted consumer. Apps and tools, such as Shazam, might offer one way for marketers to get viewers interacting with ads.

Yahoo Mobile and RazorFish polled 2,000 U.S. adults on their mobile habits and device preferences, to help marketers better understand consumer behavior.

We pulled out 7 intriguing stats on consumer multitasking patterns.

  • 38% of respondents say browsing the web enhances their TV viewing experience, while another 38% say it makes them more distracted.
  • 70% of respondents multitask at least once a week; 49% do so daily.
  • 15% are on their phones for programs’ entire durations.
  • The top 5 programming genres attracting multitaskers are reality, news, comedy, sports and food.
  • 94% of reported multitaskers engage in some form of mobile communication while watching TV, such as exchanging email, sending IMs, texting, talking or social networking.
  • 60% browse the mobile web, of which 44% search for unrelated content and 38% search for related content.
  • Mobile traffic spikes during halftime shows of sporting events; Yahoo Sports saw a 305% increase during the last Super Bowl halftime show.

What do you think marketers can learn from these patters?

Image courtesy of Flickr, JayB.Stevens2010

More About: multitasking, smartphone, study

HTC Titan Coming to AT&T on Nov. 20

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 02:12 AM PST

HTC’s 4.7-inch Windows Phone, Titan, will be joining AT&T’s smartphone roster on Nov. 20, the company has announced.

The Titan’s 4.7-inch, 800-by-480 pixel screen might be too big for some, but it’s great for multimedia which makes it a selling point for AT&T. The company jokingly says that the Titan’s large screen is “probably bigger than the TV you have at home.”

The rest of the specifications is solid although not groundbreaking: a 1.5 GHz single-core Snapdragon CPU, 512 MB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera and HSPA+ connectivity. All of that is packed into a case that measures 130.6-by-70.6-by-9.9 mm, which is bearable given the screen size.

The HTC Titan will be available in AT&T’s stores and online on Nov. 20 for $199.99 with a two-year contract.

More About: att, htc, HTC Titan, smartphone, Titan, windows phone

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Flash Sales Powerhouse Vente-Privee Launches in the U.S.

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 08:39 PM PST

Vente-Privee, the 10-year-old French company credited with developing the luxury flash sales model adapted by Gilt Groupe and others in the U.S., arrived stateside Wednesday. The launch comes less than 24 hours after announced that it would begin shipping worldwide.

Like, Vente-Privee offers deep discounts on designer merchandise, namely apparel and accessories for women. Sales begin at 10 a.m. each day and last 72 hours. For now, the site will run sales on only one to two brands per day, gradually scaling that number heading into the holidays.

Gilt, by contrast, runs sales on as many as 10 or 12 different brands in it’s women’s category each day. Sales begin at noon and last 36 to 48 hours on average.

Vente-Privee’s U.S. division is a joint venture between American Express and the French company. According to WWD, both companies have each invested approximately $35 million in cash and another $5 million in “human capital and technology transfers.” The U.S. division expects to generate $500 million in annual sales within the next three to four years, having brought in $1.28 billion in revenue in Europe last year.

Gilt, which has scaled rapidly — expanding into a number of different verticals and hiring upwards of 700 employees since its launch in 2007 — has yet to turn a profit.

Still, the U.S. market should prove something of a challenge for Vente-Privee. Although Vente-Privee has 14 million registered users in Europe — more than three times the number of signsups Gilt has amassed in the U.S. — the name has little recognition stateside. The same goes for many of the smaller European brands that will go on sale on the U.S. site.

American Express will help with the former problem, at least: The company will be reaching out and incentivizing its 30 million cardmembers to become customers of the site. Cardmembers will be offered a $20 statement credit on their first purchase between now and the end of the year. Membership Reward Points can also be exchanged for Vente-Privee gift cards.

More About: ecommerce, fashion, flash sales, gilt, gilt groupe, vente-privee

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Oink Takes Recommendations a Step Further

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 07:58 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: Oink

Quick Pitch: Oink is a recommendation service which lets you recommend precise objects within physical places.

Genius Idea: Pushing the recommendations a step further than the norm, Oink hopes to make recommending stuff more fun and more social.

If you like a certain place (like a restaurant), you probably like some particular objects within it (like specific dishes). That seems to be the basic idea behind Oink, a new project from Kevin Rose’s mobile app company Milk.

The app – currently available for iOS devices – lets users rate objects within a place; objects such as pepperoni pizza, a mochachino or a ham sandwich. While this is not that different from standard recommendation apps such as Tripadvisor, Oink makes the entire experience more social by adding the concept of “cred”.

As you use the app to recommend stuff to others, you build cred and rise on Oink’s social ladder – similar to the way you earn badges in Foursquare. As you level up, you unlock more functionality, which makes the entire experience similar to a game.

The “Builder” part of the app, which lets you recommend things, is currently in beta, meaning you need to request an invite before you can get in. But anyone can freely download the app from Apple’s App Store and check it out from a regular user’s perspective.

Let’s say I’m really interested in Mexican food. I can choose it from a list of categories and check out what’s one, five, 25 or 100 miles around me, or I can simply go global and check out all the Mexican restaurants covered by Oink users (this is the only option that makes sense in most cases, as the app is still really new and there hasn’t been that many recommendations yet).

If you’re actually sitting in a restaurant, Oink becomes super useful as it acts like an interactive, super-charged version of the restaurant’s menu, showing you which items on the menu are liked or disliked by other users. If you’re walking down the street, then the app becomes similar to Yelp, with a map that displays nearby restaurants and other points of interest, accompanied by ratings.

Finally, you can use the app similar to the way you would use Twitter – by checking out a global feed of all the recent recommendations from all the Oink users.

The multitude of options is one of Oink’s strengths – it’s like Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp put together in a single, fun, beautifully designed app. However, it might also be the app’s weakness, as many users will probably give up on wading through the forest of features, especially in a crowded restaurant or walking through a strange city.

Right now, we see it as an app for geeks, tinkerers and (possibly) gamers, who are completely immersed in technology and don’t mind spending 10 minutes with Oink before ordering a dish at a restaurant. We’ll see if it catches on amongst a wider audience.

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, iOS, Mobile, oink

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“Le Internet Medley” References 40+ Memes in One Music Video

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 06:43 PM PST

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

Memes! Memes! Memes! If you like them as much as we do at Mashable, then do we have a treat for you.

We-we-we so excited. So Y U NO just push play to stroll down memory lane with Nyan Cat, Trollface and Numa Numa guy. Come on, don’t go Dramatic Chipmunk on us. Even if you do, we’re never gonna to give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you.

For serious, though, the GAG Quartet posted the video on Facebook early Wednesday. The clip soon caught heavy attention on Reddit, where user LFreeze created a list with possibly all of the memes. We won’t publish that list here to spoil the fun for you, so let us know in the comments which memes you spotted.

SEE ALSO: MAD's ThunderLOLCats Set Memes-Per-Minute Record [VIRAL VIDEO]

Wait, I forget what day it is. Bueller? Bueller? Rebecca Black?

More About: memes, music videos, viral videos, viral-video-of-the-day

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Find a Job in Social Media, Communications or Design

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 05:47 PM PST

If you’re seeking a job in social media, we’d like to help. For starters, Mashable‘s Job Lists gather all our resource lists, how-tos and expert guides to help you get hired. In particular, you might want to see our articles, How to Leverage Social Media for Career Success and How to Find a Job on Twitter.

But we’d like to help in a more direct way, too. Mashable‘s job boards are a place for socially savvy companies to find people like you. This week and every week, Mashable features its coveted job board listings for a variety of positions on the web, social media space and beyond.

Have a look at what's good and new on our job boards:

Mashable Job Postings

Community Intern (Winter 2012) at Mashable in New York, NY.

Editorial Intern (Winter 2012) at Mashable in New York, NY.

Editorial Intern (Fall 2011) at Mashable in San Francisco, CA.

Editorial Intern (Winter/Spring 2012) at Mashable in San Francisco, CA.

Tech Reporter at Mashable in San Francisco, CA.

Tech Reporter at Mashable in New York, NY.

Mashable Job Board Listings

Marketing and Promotions Manager at NICKELS AND DIMES dba TILT STUDIO in Katy, TX.

Manager, Client & Media Strategy at Morpheus Media in New York, NY.

Social Media Intern at MeeGenius in New York, NY.

Social Media Manager at SapientNitro in Miami Beach, FL.

Marketing Manager, Offers & Promotions at TrueAction Network in New York, NY.

Entrepreneurial Web Developer/Artist at Stern + Associates in Cranford, NJ.

Account Director at Tenthwave in New York, NY.

Account Supervisor at Tenthwave in New York, NY.

PR and Communications Professional at Beck Media & Marketing in Santa Monica, CA.

Product Manager, Online Experience at CustomInk in Fairfax, VA.

Product Manager at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Web Developer at Tenthwave in New York, NY.

PM – Local Business Products at Yelp Inc. in San Francisco, CA.

Digital Assets Manager at Epitaph in Los Angeles, CA.

Digital Assets Manager at Epitaph in Los Angeles, CA.

Director of E-commerce at confidential in West Hollywood, CA.

Interactive Media Manager at Smart Media Group, LLC in Alexandria, VA.

Digital Strategist, Social Media at The JAR Group in New York, NY.

Social Media Manager at Smith Brothers Agency in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Interactive Marketing Manager at GAPRC Group in Pleasanton, CA.

Social Media Coordinator at Newsday in New York, NY.

partner/whizz-kid in social networking company at justleft llc in New York, NY.

Social Media Creative Technologist at IMRE, LLC in Baltimore, MD.

Social Marketing Client Relations and Marketing Manager at IMRE, LLC in New York, NY.

Director of Multi-platform Product at MTV Networks in New York, NY.

Social Marketing Creative Lead at IMRE, LLC in Baltimore, MD.

Online News Producer at Education Week in Bethesda, MD.

Social Media Manager at Landry’s Inc in Houston, TX.

Social Media Coordinator (Contract) at NBC Universal/Oxygen Media in New York, NY.

Lead Javascript Ninja at Platfora in San Mateo, CA.

Marketing Copywriter/Web Content Manager at Keppler Speakers in Arlington, VA.


Business Manager, PdPlus at Personal Democracy Forum in New York, NY.

Director of Brand at WhaleShark Media in Austin, TX.

Junior Salesforce Developer at Everyday Health in New York, NY.

Account Manager at Digital Brand Architects in New York, NY.

Account Executive at Tenthwave Digital LLC in Melville, NY.

Audience Development Manager at GreenBiz Group in Oakland, CA.

Mobile Project Manager at PCWorld|Macworld in San Francisco, CA.

Social Media Strategist at Ameredia in San Francisco, CA.

Marketing Account Manager at C-4 Analytics in Saugus, MA.

Senior Developer at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Technical Product Manager at adMarketplace in New York, NY.

Vans Interactive Marketing Manager at Vans in Cypress, California.

Marketing Manager at CQ Press in Washington, D.C.

Product Manager, Platform at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Community Coordinator at EveryBlock in Seattle, WA.

Communities Manager at National Center for Learning Disabilities in New York, NY.

Information Architect at Forum One Communications in Alexandria, VA.

Sales Director, Consumer Electronics at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Senior Online Web Product Manager at Acquinity Interactive in Deerfield Beach, FL.

Director of Software Engineering, TV/Video at Synacor in Buffalo, NY.

Community Manager at Weber Shandwick in Chicago, IL.

Account Manager at Weber Shandwick in Raleigh, NC.

Mashable‘s Job Board has a variety of web 2.0, application development, business development and social networking job opportunities available. Check them out here.

Find a Web 2.0 Job with Mashable

Got a job posting to share with our readers? Post a job to Mashable today ($99 for a 30 day listing) and get it highlighted every week on (in addition to exposure all day every day in the Mashable marketplace).

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, YinYang

More About: COMMUNICATIONS, design, jobs, Lists, Social Media

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Could Steve Jobs Become Time’s Next Person of the Year?

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 05:08 PM PST

Could Apple co-founder Steve Jobs become the first person to be selected after his death as Time Magazine‘s Person of the Year? A panel of experts for Time clearly think it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC Nightly News, nominated Jobs for the honor during a panel discussion between Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel and a group of six prominent panelists across different industries. Williams said that while planes and cars still move at the same speed, all one has to do is look down a city block to see how Steve Jobs has changed the world.

"Not only did he change the world,” Williams began, “but he gave us that spirit again that something was possible, that you could look at a piece of glass or plastic and move your finger, that's outlandish… may he rest in peace.”

Another panelist, Chef Mario Batali, agreed with Williams’ assertion. "I'm definitely a part of the fact and the belief that smartphones, the cell phone with photographic capability, has changed the world as much as the Bible has," he argued.

The panel doesn’t get the final say on who gets chosen as Time‘s Person of the Year — that decision is made by the magazine’s editors. However, their recommendations and influence definitely have an impact on the final decision.

Other nominees brought up during the panel discussion were “angry people” (an acknowledgment of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street) and Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi (the man who set himself on fire and sparked a wave of revolutions in the MIddle East). Other panelists included actor Jesse Eisenberg, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, attorney Anita Hill and Saturday Night Live‘s Seth Meyers.

Who do you think Time Magazine should select as its 2011 person of the year? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: 15 Inspirational Steve Jobs Quotes

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

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apple, Man of the Year, person of the year, steve jobs, time, time magazine

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8 Digital Trends Shaping the Future of Media [VIDEO]

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 04:25 PM PST

At the Mashable Media Summit last Friday, Pete Cashmore provided a broad overview of media’s trajectory. He covered the rapidly advancing mobile industry, the relationship between tablet technology and the current media climate, and social interaction around TV and music.

Cashmore touched on Facebook‘s frictionless sharing capabilities. “Any action on the web can be automatically shared to your Facebook profile,” he explained. The audience (and the #MediaSummit chatter) especially buzzed when Cashmore talked about flexible displays and bendable device screens, one of several items on his own personal wishlist.

Tune in to Pete Cashmore’s Media Summit speech for a comprehensive overview, and let us know which technology-fueled media changes you’re looking forward to.

The Mashable Media Summit in Pictures

Media Summit 2011

The Mashable Media Summit on Nov. 4 at the Times Center in New York City attracted professionals in digital, tech, advertising, sales, marketing, mobile and publishing from all over the world.

Click here to view this gallery.

Presenting Sponsor: AT&T

More About: features, mashable media summit, media summit, Social Media, Video

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Fox News Invites Audience to Speak With GOP Candidates on Google+ Hangouts

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 03:56 PM PST

Fox News’s Special Report with Bret Baier will be hosting a series of Google+ Hangouts with GOP presidential candidates leading up to the election, the program announced via Google+ this week. The first will be held with Governor Mitt Romney on Nov. 15.

The show is also inviting three members of the public to join the discussion. Google+ allows up to 10 people to participate in a Hangout; many more can tune in as spectators. Those who would like to actively participate in the Hangout are asked to leave a comment on this Google+ thread explaining why they should be selected. Others are welcome to leave questions they’d like Romney to answer.

This is the second GOP presidential debate hosted jointly by Google and Fox News. The first, held with nine candidates in late September, drew more than 6.1 million viewers according to Nielsen — the largest audience of any GOP presidential debate so far this year. More than 18,000 questions and 100,000 votes were sent in via text and videos on YouTube. Google+ Hangouts will allow audience members to get even more directly involved — or a select few of them, anyway.

More About: fox news, Google, Google Hangouts, gop debate, Media, special report

Facebook Brings Recent Stories Option Back to News Feed

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 03:18 PM PST

Facebook is rolling out an update to News Feed that lets people sort information by Recent Stories or Highlighted Stories.

The update adds a “Sort” link at the top of the News Feed. Clicking it brings up two options for organizing News Feed content: “Highlighted Stories First” or “Recent Stories First.” Highlighted Stories will push the most important content to the top of the page — the current way it operates. The Recent Stories option will order News Feed items in reverse chronological order, though it is not as comprehensive as Facebook’s real-time “Ticker”.

The social network revamped News Feed in September in an attempt to make sure users don’t miss the important events in their friends’ lives. This was accomplished through the launch of Ticker and an update that highlighted key events that occurred within users’ social graphs.

As part of this change, Facebook removed the “Top Stores” and “Most Recent” links at the top of the page. It looks like that some users still wanted a simple way to see News Feed items at any time, though. The new News Feed has the ability to see recent stories in News Feed if you had logged in recently, but it wasn’t a comprehensive option.

Facebook says that the Sort feature will be rolling out over the next few days. Do you think bringing Recent Stories back is a good idea? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Facebook, Facebook news feed, newsfeed

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Demolishes Sales Records

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 03:04 PM PST

Modern Warfare 3, Activision’s latest first-person shooter, hit store shelves like a runaway train. The game, part of the Call of Duty franchise, was predicted to be the top-selling video game despite healthy competition from EA’s Battlefield 3 released in October.

Those predictions are not just coming true, they’re being demolished. Several sources have claimed that Modern Warfare 3 is on par to break first week sales records — a title it would claim from its own predecessor, Call of Duty: Black Ops released by Activision in 2010. This, after MW3 already broke records for pre-ordered copies, according Activision.

On opening night, Activision says that approximately 1.5 million gamers lined up outside 13,000 stores to buy a copy at midnight, reported Extreme Tech. We’re not entirely sure how Activision got that number, and those gamers didn’t all necessary translate into sales. However, analysts have prediction sales that trump even those numbers. One analyst told Extreme Tech that 18 million copies will be sold by the start of the calendar year.

The site even did some quick math and found the amount of electricity used by online players was equal to or more than enough energy to power a nuclear power station.

Black Ops holds the current record for the entertainment industry’s five-day opening sales revenue record at $650 million worldwide, the Guardian reported. While hard numbers haven’t yet come in for MW3, Amazon said it generated 32% more pre-orders than Black Ops.

Celebrated games analyst Michael Pachter predicted the game will not only beat the old record but continue selling through the holiday season: “I see compression of sales for virtually every game, would bet that they are 10% higher over the same time frame, so $1.1 billion in the first six weeks,” Pachter told IndustryGamers.


All the hype and financial predictions are warranted, according to critics. The game has an average score of 89% on Metacritic at time of writing. We can verify that the game is a bucket of fun.

The team at Mashable had some time to play with a review copy sent by Activision, and the game feels as great as ever. The single player campaign is littered with set-piece moments like sabotaging a submarine and fighting through New York’s financial district. While visually impressive, these moments frequently make the single player campaign feel like the user is simply watching the action instead of participating in it. Rather than focus on the shooting mechanics, MW3 pushes the user to reach the next cut-scene or vista.

We haven’t spent a ton of time on multiplayer — the real meat of the MW3 experience — but so far it plays great with a ton of perks, weapons and motivations to continue leveling up and improving your abilities. The Elite social layer helps hardcore gamers gain even more insight into how to up their game while connecting them to other users in a central hub.

MW3 is a monster of a game. It’s a blast to traipse around the world both in campaign and multiplayer, even if the surprisingly brief single-player experience can feel a little like derivative cliches on autopilot. First-person shooter fans will get far more enjoyment out of the multiplayer and co-op options. The sales are sure to follow.

Is Modern Warfare 3 on your wishlist? Do you think it can reclaim the first-person shooter crown from Battlefield 3? Sound off in the comments.

Screens from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: games, Gaming, modern warfare 3, video games

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Occupy Wall Street Ads to Run on O’Reilly Factor Tonight

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 02:48 PM PST

An Occupy Wall Street commercial will air Wednesday night during the same show that routinely refers to the protesters as “far-left loons.” Advertising spots on The O’Reilly Factor were crowdfunded using a startup fundraising platform and purchased through Google TV Ads.

O’Reilly Factor viewers who are also subscribers to DISH, DirecTV and Verizon Fios can expect to see the commercial around 8:45pm, 11:15 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. EST.

Wednesday night’s commerical lineup is part of a larger campaign that purchased at least 109 ad spots for the commercial throughout last weekend and Monday. The campaign, which was managed on a “Kickstarter for media buys” called Loudsauce, raised more than $6,000 from 168 people to purchase air time for a YouTube video starring protesters. (See below.) As of Monday morning, the campaign had only spent about $2,900 of that amount on ads across channels such as ESPN Sportscenter, Fox News and the Outdoor Channel. Loudsauce co-founder Colin Mutchler says he expect it will use the rest of the budget tonight.

It probably wouldn’t have been possible to buy this much ad time on a $6,000 budget without Google TV Ads, which auctions ad time for broadcast in a similar way to how it sells online text or image ads. Advertisers pay only for those TV sets tuned into their ad when it runs.

The winning price for time tends to be relatively inexpensive. Ten confirmed airings on ESPN Sportscenter with 99,666 impressions, for instance, cost the Occupy Wall Street commercial campaign $203 (all of the ads, with the exception of those on Bloomberg Business TV, have run on DISH, DirecTV and Verizon Fios networks only). Mutchler plans to outline exactly where the money was spent in a blog post in order to make a point about how accessible TV advertising is to grassroots organizations.

“I hope people realize that this is true,” he says, “and also that they think, ‘oh my God, we can do this kind of thing.’”

A second campaign for Occupy Wall Street ads that aims to raise $15,000 is already up on the site.

More About: bill o'reilly, Occupy Wall Street, the o'reilly factor

Biscotti Is a Lifetime of HD Video Conferencing for $199

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 02:12 PM PST

Biscotti TV Phone on an HDTV

Click here to view this gallery.

Your next video conferencing solution could be Biscotti. No, not the crescent-shaped cookie, but a $199 device that's shaped like a Biscotti and is officially called “Biscotti TV Phone.” It sits atop your HDTV and lets you make HD video calls to anyone with another Biscotti or on the Google Gmail network.

Biscotti, Inc., which was founded in 2008, unveiled the sleek, black new TV phone Tuesday night at the Consumer Electronics Association CES Unveiled NY show. It was just one of a number of new gadgets arriving this year and early next. Biscotti is not the first HDTV video conferencing solution. Most notably, Cisco (with UMI) and Google and Logitech (with Google TV and the Revue) have made the leap. Yet none have been particularly successful. Some think these products were simply too complicated. Biscotti, on the other hand, is more or less plug-and-play.

The device connects to your HDTV via an HDMI cable. Unlike most other HD devices, Biscotti actually has you run your cable box connection through the device. So the back sports both HDMI-in and HDMI-out ports. Biscotti conducts the video calls over the Internet, which means you'll need Wi-Fi to use it—there's no wired, Ethernet option.

Once you've created a Biscotti account, you can call anyone on the Biscotti network anywhere in the world. It also works with all Gmail accounts, but does not support Skype. Video calls can be conducted with Gmail Chat-enabled PCs, phones, and, of course, similarly equipped TVs. Because you feed your cable box through the device, Biscotti TV Phone can place an incoming call alert overlay on top of what you're watching. This eliminates the need to use the input switch on your HDTV.

There is a remote, but if you set up auto-answer, you never have to use it. Biscotti can even use “Consumer Electronics Control” CEC to turn on the TV (if the device is CEC-enabled) when a call comes in and turn it off if no one is there to answer. It does keep track of missed calls. The $199 fee covers the cost of the device and all calls.

Overall, Biscotti's goal is to make video calling as easy as possible and in the brief demo we saw, it looked quite straightforward. At 720p, the image quality was acceptable and the wide-angle lens worked well in a large room (you can digitally zoom and pan, as well). The interface offers only a few choices, keeping the process simple and obvious.

That simplicity could help Biscotti succeed where others have failed this holiday season. To be fair, the Logitech review camera is cheaper (by $50), but you have to buy Logitech's Google TV box to use it. Cisco's UMI is $100 more for a 720p device and you have to pay for the UMI service: $9.95 a month or $99 a year. Biscotti is pay once, use forever—or at least as long as Biscotti lasts.

Biscotti ships on Nov. 21. What do you think? Do you want a Biscotti TV Phone or might you buy one for one of your less digitally included relatives? Let us know in the comments below.

More About: Biscotti, gchat, gmail, HDTV, video conferencing

Google+ Badges Make it Simple for Users to Connect With Brands

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 01:41 PM PST

Google has unveiled Google+ Badges for brand pages, a widget that lets brands promote their presence on Google’s social network.

Google+ Badges are similar in form and function to Facebook‘s Like Box social plugin. The easily embeddable widget lets users either +1 a webpage or add that page to their Google+ circles. The widget also displays the faces of other users who have +1ed the webpage. It doesn’t have Facebook’s ability to display your friends’ faces first, though.

The launch of Google+ Badges coincides with Monday’s launch of Google+ Brand Pages, finally giving businesses the ability to create a presence on Google’s growing social network.

The Google+ Badge has a few other tricks. “The Google+ badge also contains a snippet of code that connects your website to your Google+ page,” the company said in an email to developers. “In addition to helping us better index your Google+ page, this snippet will help you show more personal recommendations around the web by linking your +1's on sites, your Google+ page, search and display ads.”

Google also revealed that the badge is a requirement for inclusion in Google Direct Connect, a feature that makes it possible for users to find a Google+ Page from Google Search. Users type in the “+” operator, followed by the name of a brand participating in Direct Connect. The search result will lead users directly to the company’s Google+ brand page.

The widget was a necessary component for Google+, given the success of its Facebook counterpart. While it doesn’t have the same benefits Facebook enjoys with Open Graph, the Google+ Badge gets the job done. Google still has a long, uphill battle to convince both brands and users that its social network is an ideal place to do business.

1. Angry Birds

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

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Google, Google+, trending

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Did Petition Prompt Facebook Rape Fan Page Removals?

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 01:39 PM PST

Facebook Removes Rape Fan Pages

Several Facebook fan Pages encouraging rape and violence against women have been taken down. While the removal of the pages are in accordance with the social network’s policies, many people are giving credit to a petition that has more than 180,000 online signatures.

Earlier this year, Facebook declined to pull the page “Kicking Sluts in the Vagina” and other similarly graphic, questionable pages.

“It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining, just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook,” Facebook said in August.

The social network claims to remove pages that violate its Terms of Service, for reasons such as hate speech.

A Facebook rep told Mashable Wednesday the company could not comment on why these pages have been removed, including those mentioned by the petition. The social network defends its policy on removing content.

“We find many of these pages to be ignorant, just as we may object to other statements made on Facebook and around the web, but we believe that people have the right to hold such opinions as long as they don't result in direct harm,” Facebook states.

The petition, launched in September by member John Raines, encourages Facebook to remove pages advocating rape and sexual violence. Its efforts spanned social platforms, including a Twitter campaign earlier this month using the hashtag #notfunnyfacebook to rally awareness. Senior organizer Alex DiBranco commented on the petition, saying the hashtag had been used 200 times per hour at peak.

“Facebook could and should do more to stop them from popping up in the first place and to swiftly remove those that do exist. First, Facebook needs to clarify that pages that encourage or condone rape –like the ones mentioned above — are in violation of their existing standards. Secondly, they need to make a statement that all pages that describe sexual violence in a threatening way will be immediately taken down upon being reported. Finally, Facebook must include specific language in their Terms of Service that make it clear that pages promoting any form of sexual violence will be banned.”

The petition does not state how many pages should be removed, but all three aforementioned pages don’t appear in Facebook search. Others, such as “How Dare You Call Me a Rapist !!! Jk, Get in the Van,” which has more than 262,000 Likes, are still up and running.

Do you think Facebook should step in and remove pages promoting violence? Where should the line be drawn between jokes — no matter how unfunny — and serious incitement of hate crime? Let us know your opinions in the comments.

More About: Facebook, fan page, womens rights

Eddie Murphy Out as Oscar Host, Twitterverse Explodes

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 01:16 PM PST

Legendary funny-man Eddie Murphy has quit as host for the the 2012 Oscars. Murphy left just one day after Brett Ratner, a producer for the awards show, resigned after using a derogatory slur in a press conference for his latest movie, Tower Heist, which also features Murphy.

When asked during a Q&A session about rehearsing, Ratner said “rehearsing is for fags,” the L.A. Times reported.

Needless to say, the double resignations put the Oscars — which take place Feb. 26 — in a weird spot, and the Twitterverse has predictably exploded with suggestions for who should fill their slots. We’ve combed through Twitter to informally gauge how the public is reacting.

Most of the responses seem happy that Murphy, and Ratner in particular, have dropped out of the broadcast. “Billy Crystal,” a previous host, started trending on Twitter shortly after Murphy’s announcement Wednesday. Other names have been suggested, including Ricky Gervais as host and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone as producers. Or maybe the maybe the Muppets could host, others have suggested.

Take a look through some of the responses and let us know what you think about the double resignations. Are the Oscars better off without Murphy? Did Murphy do the right thing? Who would you pick to host the Oscars?

Zach Braff

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Image courtesy of david_shankbone, via Flickr

More About: Media, Oscars, Social Media, trending, Twitter, Video

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Google+ Users Are Still Mostly Male

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 01:04 PM PST

If you were to throw a dart at Google+, it would be more than twice as likely to land on a man’s profile as a woman’s profile. Although the social network, according to recent estimates, has improved its gender ratio since it first launched, men still drastically outnumber women.

SocialStatistics and FindPeopleOnPlus, third-party sites that gather data from about select Google+ profiles, both report that about 68% of Google+ users are Male. In July, they estimated that the percentage of male users was 87% and 74% respectfully.

This improvement, however, is partly due to a change Google+ made in mid July that allows users to pass on the option to state whether they are male or female. And even if the option to keep gender private made no dent in gender ratio, Google+ still has a long way to go before men and women are represented equally in its circles.

The most obvious factor in women’s relatively small presence on Google+ is that the new social network has attracted a largely technology-focused crowd. On the almost two million profiles tracked by FindPeopleOnPlus, two of the top five most popular occupations listed (excluding “student) — software engineer and software developer — are computer science related. The top employers listed in the same profiles are IBM and Google. While technology is not the only topic of conversation on Google+, it is enough so to have persuaded The New York Times to announce that it would use its Google+ page to post technology related news (it has since expanded to other news as well).

“This network has shown itself to be a place that encourages deep conversation,” wrote the paper in its first post on Google+, “and from what we've observed so far, many of you are passionate and smart consumers of technology.”

Women earn only 17 to 18 percent of the bachelor's degrees in engineering and computer science, according to the New York Times, and it makes sense that a network with a disproportional number of technology professionals does not include equal numbers of men and women.

Women may not dominate computer science demographic, but they do use social networks such as Twitter and Facebook more then men, according to a study from Pingdom that is based on Google Ad Planner data.

Google+ ads and marketing have focused a lot on women, suggesting that Google has hopes that more of them will eventually take to its platform. But given the lopsided gender ratio in tech, the social network is unlikely to attract more women without also becoming more mainstream.

On Monday, Google+ introduced brand pages, which allowed businesses and media outlets to join for the first time. The presence of brands and news outlets has the potential to round out the conversation to new topics — could it also help even out the gender ratio?

More About: Google, trending, women

Firefox Turns 7, Releases a Polished Firefox 8 [REVIEW]

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 12:53 PM PST

It’s a big week for Mozilla, as Firefox celebrates its seventh birthday and Firefox 8 hits the interwebs.

In recent years, Firefox has lost ground to browsers such as Google Chrome. Yet Firefox remains a significant and important part of the browsing landscape.

Firefox 8 is Mozilla’s fifth major release in 2011. After releasing Firefox 4 in March, Mozilla adopted a rapid release schedule similar to what Google employs with its Chrome browser.

The last few major releases have focused more on under-the-hood enhancements and quicker adoption of new web technologies, rather than sweeping changes to UI or functionality.

Firefox 8: More Refined Than Ever

Mozilla is clearly adjusting to the new rapid development cycle. Firefox 6 and 7, both felt unfinished. Firefox 8 is more polished and complete. Like the iterative updates found in Google Chrome, it’s clear Mozilla is now focusing on refining performance and features and not reinventing the wheel.

Visually, Firefox 8 looks nearly identical to its predecessors. The one visual change is the addition of Twitter as an option in the search locales dropdown box. Users can now search Twitter from the Firefox search bar the same way that they can query Google, Bing, Amazon or eBay. It’s a nice touch and one we hope indicates Firefox is investing deeper native Twitter integration.

Firefox is also changing how add-ons from third-party programs are installed. These add-ons are now disabled by default. This is a good move, especially for users who are often faced with browser extensions they don’t even remember installing The first time you start Firefox after installing the Firefox 8 upgrade, you’re given the chance to enable or disable add-ons installed by other programs. In my case, I was able to disable a CS5.5 add-on from Adobe.

Firefox 8 also has better WebGL support. You can experience the new 3D rendering options by enabling Google MapsGL in Firefox.

Better Memory Performance

One of my criticisms of Firefox 7 was that it was a memory hog — at least on my MacBook Pro — when compared to the latest version of Google Chrome.

Although Mozilla hasn’t highlighted improved Mac performance in its release notes, my tests in the past 24 hours with Firefox 8 show that Firefox has better performance, particularly with Adobe Flash content, than in previous versions.

This may be due to improvements in the Flash plugin itself, but in my unscientific tests, I saw that processor load was lower in Firefox (when playing back Flash content as well as with other open tabs) than in Chrome or Safari 5. Your individual mileage may vary, but Firefox 8 is certainly proving to be a better, more stable performer on my machine.

Another Year Older

The Firefox 8 release coincides with the browser’s seventh birthday. In the past seven years, Firefox and the web browsing landscape as a whole have experienced fundamental shifts.

From the rise of web video, web apps and cloud services, to the growing importance of mobile browsing — surfing the web in 2011 is a different experience than it was in 2004.

Firefox’s biggest challenge isn’t competing with Internet Explorer for marketshare — or even fending off advances from Chrome. It’s the mobile and tablet space.

Just as Firefox fought to combat Internet Explorer as the default web browser on the desktop seven years ago, it battles the default WebKit-based browsers on the leading mobile platforms.

What do you think of the new Firefox 8? Has Firefox changed how you browse the web in the past seven years? Let us know.

More About: browser, Firefox, mozilla

Siri in the Kindle? Amazon Buys a Voice Recognition Startup

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 12:42 PM PST

Some CEOs like to shout their acquisitions from the rooftops. And then there’s Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who would prefer that you didn’t know his company just bought a startup called Yap.

Here’s how cloak-and-dagger it got: Yap technically merged with a subsidiary called Dion Acquisition in September, according to SEC filings. Only now did an eagle-eyed tech blogger based in Yap’s hometown, Charlotte, N.C., notice that the address listed for the post-merger company was an Amazon building in Seattle.

Why all the secrecy? Well, it could have something to do with Amazon’s need for voice recognition technology to compete with Apple’s Siri. Yap had an Android and iOS app called Yap Voicemail, which was still in private beta (and has now been mysteriously discontinued); it transcribed your phone calls for you. Yap’s founders suggested their intellectual property went way beyond that, and that it was a potential competitor to the do-it-all voice recognition app Vlingo.

If the Kindle range of tablets — led by the Android-based Kindle Fire — is going to compete with the iPad in the long term, then having some strong competition to Siri is a must. Siri is currently baked into the iPhone 4S, but plenty of users have been able to get her up and running on an iPad 2, and there seems little doubt that Apple will be officially incorporating her into the iPad 3 in 2012.

With strong voice recognition, Amazon could push the Kindle as a supremely easy device for accessing your media hands-free. Finding songs, playing and pausing movies, even turning pages in a book (or buying a new one) could all be done via voice. Indeed, given the Kindle’s much-touted video mirroring capability, this could be a back door into making the Kindle a voice-based remote control for your TV.

Would you consider buying a Kindle with Siri-like functionality? Let us know in the comments.

More About: amazon, apple, siri, vlingo

Google Adds +1 Button to Image Search

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 12:32 PM PST

Google‘s proliferation of the +1 button continued Wednesday as the company added the feature to image searches.

The button, which was introduced in March as an answer to Facebook’s “Like,” is equivalent to a stamp of approval from Google users. Over the past few months, +1s have appeared next to news articles, on websites and even in ads.

Why images? In Google’s Inside Search blog, Xiaorui Gan, a software engineer at the company, describes the following scenario: “Let's say you're looking to summit Mount Kilimanjaro and want to inspire a few of your climbing buddies to join you. You search for [mount kilimanjaro summit] and switch to Images mode to find rows and rows of photos testifying that this peak can indeed be conquered. By hovering over one of the images, you can quickly recommend this photo to your friends by clicking the +1 button.” Soon, she continues, you’ll be able to see which photos in your search results they recommended as well.

While that seems like a contrived example, Google is clearly keen on integrating photos into its social media options. Earlier this month, Google began letting users +1 photos that appear in Google+ as well.

Meanwhile, in a test of Google’s Image Search, we were able to +1 an image, but our +1 didn’t show up in searches yet. Perhaps Google is still working out the kinks for this feature.

What do you think? Do you long to +1 images you like or do you think this is a superfluous feature? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Google, trending

Amazon Reveals Kindle Fire Apps: Facebook, Netflix, Pandora and More

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 12:20 PM PST

Amazon disclosed Wednesday which companies will immediately offer apps for the Kindle Fire, ahead of the device’s Nov. 15 launch date.

Android apps and games from Facebook, Netflix, Pandora, Twitter, Zynga, Rovio, EA, Gameloft, PopCap, Rhapsody and The Weather Channel, among many others, will be available to buy in the Amazon Appstore.

The $199 touchscreen Android tablet, which is shaping up to be a potential hit this holiday season, will also give users free storage in the Amazon Cloud and Whispersync for books and movies. In total, consumers can choose from 18 million apps, games, movies, TV shows, songs, books and magazines.

The addition of popular apps and games will likely be a strong selling point for consumers and boost sales figures for the Kindle Fire. An early report in October said more than 250,000 Kindle Fires had been pre-ordered in five days after its unveiling (see gallery below). If true, that figure is likely much higher at this point. In comparison, Apple sold 300,000 iPads — including pre-orders — when it released the iPad in the U.S. in April 2010.

The Kindle will compete against several tablets such as Barnes & Noble’s $249 Nook Tablet, which comes out this week.

SEE ALSO: Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet vs. iPad 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 [CHART]

Amazon also said additional Kindle Fire apps include Allrecipes, Bloomberg, Comics by comiXology, Cut the Rope, Doodle Fit, Doodle Jump, Fruit Ninja, Jenga, LinkedIn, Zillow, Airport Mania, Battleheart, Pulse, The Cat in the Hat, Quickoffice Pro, Jamie’s 20-Minute Meals, IMDb Movies & TV, and Monkey Preschool Lunchbox.

“We started talking to app developers everywhere the day we introduced Kindle Fire, and the response has been overwhelming,” says Dave Limp, VP Amazon Kindle, in a statement. This is only the beginning — we’re adding more apps and games every day across all categories.”

SEE ALSO: Is Kindle Fire Demand Beating the iPad? | Amazon Kindle Fire Just Hijacked Android

On Tuesday, Kindle Fire will land in 16,000 U.S. retail locations such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Staples, Sam's Club and RadioShack.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: amazon, apps, Facebook, Gadgets, kindle fire, netflix, pandora, rovio, Zynga

National Emergency Alert System Flops: Were You Alerted? [POLL]

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 11:55 AM PST

No Alert on Cable TV

Click here to view this gallery.

It seems the first ever test of a national alert system on TV and radio failed this afternoon. We’ve heard reports that the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency alert, scheduled to be issued at 2 p.m. ET, went out on radio stations and local TV stations, but was missing on cable news channels.

Mashable readers have reported not seeing the alert on SYFY, WE and CNN. Other people have said the alert, which was supposed to last 30 seconds, went on for more like 20 minutes. Twitter users have turned to the social network to share their opinions and perspective of the alert’s failure, too — “EAS” is now a trending topic in the U.S.

We want to know: Did you hear or see the alert? Share your answer in our poll and leave us a comment with more detail.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, subjug

More About: alert, EAS, fema, trending

10 Tips and Tricks for Better Google+ Brand Pages

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 11:49 AM PST

1. Access Your Brand Page

Once you've set up your brand page, you access it through your personal Google+ profile.

On your home page below your name and avatar pic is a drop down menu.

Open this menu to see your page, click on it to access it.

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.

Brands of all sizes are flocking to Google’s freshly-launched Google+ brand pages.

Further to our quick guide to setting up a Google+ page for your business, we’re bringing you some handy tips and tricks, ideal for anyone new to the social networking site.

Share in the comments below any hints you have found useful for brand pages.

More About: features, gallery, Google, How-To, tips and tricks, trending

Cable Companies Battle Digital Divide With $9.95 a Month Broadband

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 11:15 AM PST

Cable companies Cox, Charter and Time Warner Cable have teamed up with Microsoft and Best Buy in an initiative that will offer broadband Internet to low-income families for $9.95 a month and PCs for $250.

The program, called Connect To Compete, is part of an outreach by the Federal Communications Commission to the roughly 35 million U.S. households that lack broadband Internet, though only 5.5 million such homes will be eligible for the offer.

The $9.95 broadband Internet offer, which will begin next summer, will be extended to low-income families for two years. Eligibility is automatic for those who already take part in the National School Lunch Program. Brian Dietz, a rep for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, says that Connect To Compete will target parents via community groups and the Parent-Teacher Association.

The Internet service will have a minimum download speed of 1 Mbps, about 10% of the average cable download speed, according to The Associated Press. The $9.95 price is about a quarter of the average, Dietz says.

In addition, Microsoft will sell PCs loaded with Office for $250 to families who qualify. Redemtech will sell refurbished PCs for $150, including shipping. Best Buy and Microsoft also plan to offer “digital literacy” training for consumers.

The rationale for the program, according to a statement from Connect to Compete, is to keep citizens without access to broadband from falling behind. The organization points out that more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies require online job applications, that students with broadband at home have a 7% higher graduation rate and that giving more families access to broadband will create $32 billion in annual economic value or $100 per American per year.

Connect To Compete’s outreach isn’t the first time a cable company has sought to address the so-called Digital Divide. In August, Comcast also launched a program providing $9.95 broadband Internet access to low-income families.

Image courtesy of Flickr, mikemol

More About: best buy, comcast, fcc, microsoft, time warner cable, trending

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Teachers: Embrace Technology or Students Will Leave You Behind

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 11:06 AM PST

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

Robert Romano is the CEO/Founder of BookheadEd Learning, where his vision has blended the traditional and technological experiences of reading in the company's flagship product, StudySync®. You can read more about his company at

We ask our students to be good observers, consider the world carefully and to analyze the implications of what they see. As educators, it’s time we do the same.

Our classrooms may appear as we experienced them — a row of windows, a blackboard (OK, maybe they're white now), inspirational posters. But the kids looking back from those same uncomfortable chairs are fundamentally different. They are like a Bronze Age tribe being asked to use stone axes. It’s time to put down the stone.

It's true, no matter what we do, our kids will leave us behind — it’s the natural way. But we must provide them with the knowledge they need to improve the world. Our generation is the one developing all the new tools that offer limitless access to knowledge. So, why wouldn’t we offer these advantages — the ones kids can't keep their fingers off of, even during class — and help kids acquire the skills they need to survive in a connected world?

SEE ALSO: Why Education Needs to Get Its Game On

To be fair, we have begun to transition away from “stone.” Textbooks, for example, are being digitized. But is that sufficient change? The good news is that our children will no longer be lugging twenty pounds of pulp on their backs. Revisions to their reading content can be updated on the fly, not each decade with new printings.

But is that really leveraging the full power of technology? If you think about how we use technology in our adult lives, it's primarily a communication experience — email, WebEx, text messages and collaboration tools. It's social, but we’re not letting these collaborative tools into the classroom.

We'd be blind not to recognize and utilize students' inclination for social interaction and their obsession with mobile technology. This is our opportunity to join them on this side of the millennium. If we don't, we will lose their attention, and to some degree, their respect. They know we're teaching them, for the most part, like we were taught — like our parents were taught.

Here's some typical summer AP English homework: "Read Walden and write a report on Thoreau's theme." I’d bet that SparkNotes sees a surge of traffic in the last week of summer. It's not that Walden doesn't contain big ideas relevant to today's kids. But they’ll do better by constructing meaning from it socially — not alone with a text and a Google search for “Walden Thoreau Themes.” They need something tangible to learn by imitation or iteration, which is the way we all learn most everything. They need to see and hear what academic discourse sounds, looks and feels like.

I understand this is easier said than done. The best solutions are still being explored and developed. But there are many online resources that are changing education significantly. Companies are spending capital to develop interactive visions for math and science. curricula. There are some great solutions out there, and it's just beginning. But it takes the will and desire for change to ensure today’s students are taught in a way that is relevant. If used correctly, the tools of the 21st century leverage the best of the old and build on the successes of traditional teaching.

To be sure, our students will leave us behind no matter what we do, and I'm OK with that. But when they do, I will rest easy knowing we did our job the best we could — that we led by example and were not afraid of the future. All it takes to know this is the right path is to observe the world as it is today and consider the implications for our children and what's really at stake here. From there it's easy — leverage all the tools available to foster creativity, inspire curiosity, and provide the knowledge our children need for success.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Bike_Maverick

More About: contributor, education, features, Opinion, technology

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Keep Calm and Carry On: FEMA Testing National Alert System at 2 p.m. ET

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 10:50 AM PST

Today at 2 p.m. ET, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency will do a 30-second test run of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). You’ll hear a message stating, “This is a test,” on U.S. radio (including) satellite stations, and TV and cable stations will display “Emergency Action Notification has been issued” on the screen.

You may recognize the alert — state and local governments use it frequently for weather alerts and emergencies — but the EAS has never been tested on a national level.

FEMA is coordinating with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the test. In the event of an actual national emergency, the alert system would “deliver critical information that will save lives and property,” according to FEMA.

UPDATE: The alert seemed to fail for many. Answer our poll: Were you alerted?

“The alert and warning landscape is in an important state of transition; from the current system of radio, television, cable, satellite, and wireline broadcast media-based alerting to a future system that integrates new technologies for a more universal access to alert and warning messages,” FEMA said in a statement. “Future testing of the EAS will assess the effectiveness and reliability of other technologies to achieve the ultimate goal of timely alert and warning to American public in the preservation of life and property.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, BradenGunem

More About: fcc, fema, radio, TV

How to Manage a Rebrand

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 09:57 AM PST

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

So, you’ve launched a company, but you want to go in a different direction regarding the logo, name and maybe even some product features. A full relaunch is not easy, but it could be the “X factor” that drives your startup to success. Mashable spoke with Cassie Lancellotti-Young, VP of marketing at Savored — a restaurant reservation site that launched in 2010 as VillageVines — and Luke Brassinga, a principal at social media marketing firm Likeable Brands.

What Necessitates a Rebrand?

First off, let’s explain one thing: A rebrand isn’t just a name change. “True rebranding involves updating a company’s goals, message and culture,” Brassinga says. There are several good reasons for a rebrand — a merger, an acquisition, a diversified product line, an outdated company, an unsuccessful brand or a split company (think Netflix and Qwikster, prior to the reversion) can all merit a relaunch.

Brassinga says there are also times when you should not perform a rebrand. A rebrand is a tough move to pull off, so if your company has significant brand equity, you could very well end up losing customers if the process isn’t done well (again, look at Netflix and Qwikster). A rebrand is better suited for a startup or small business that experiences a profound shift in identity.

Savored, which used to be VillageVines, is one such small business that benefitted from a rebrand. The site, which offers reservations at top restaurants for a $10 fee in exchange for 30% your total bill, underwent a name change in June, less than a year after the site’s initial launch. VillageVines was live in five cities, but by its name alone, you might not know what it offers. But “Savored” connotes delicious food and is a much more direct word, ultimately making it a better name for the company. It was a well executed rebrand that was done with good reason.

How Do I Change My Vanity URLs on Social Sites?

When you come up with a new name, you should make sure you can get not only your .com domain name, but also the handles on various social sites so your communities have a new place to congregate around your brand.

Facebook: Just like you can’t change your personal Facebook vanity URL, you can’t change a Facebook Page URL once you have more than 100 fans. (This seems unnecessary, but makes sense when you think about people selling their fans.) But the Savored team was undeterred. “Once we found an appropriate contact at Facebook to approach about our situation, we found the team there to be extremely accommodating, and they actually did allow us to simply switch our page name to Savored in light of the circumstances,” says Lancellotti-Young. We’re not sure how successful that would be for a business that doesn’t have millions of dollars of funding, so if the aforementioned trick doesn’t work, you may have to create a new Facebook Page and encourage your fans to migrate to the new Page.

Twitter: You can easily change your Twitter handle, as long as the desired username is available. If your ideal handle is taken but inactive (and you have trademark and copyright information), then explaining your case to the Twitter team could nab you that handle. On the contrary, you could just start a new handle and have your fans follow you there. Lancellotti-Young says Savored opted to start a new handle instead of migrating its fans because “we realized that by simply killing @VillageVines and making it @Savored, we’d lose a lot of our important tweeting history from the VillageVines brand,” Lancellotti-Young says. This tweeting history was important to the Savored story and indicated that VillageVines had developed a solid product and fan base long before Savored launched. So the team took over the @Savored handle and started from scratch, keeping @VillageVines as an “archive” and as a way to direct fans to @Savored (see above).

If you decide to keep your old brand handle, be sure you check in for direct messages and @replies so you can offer the same level of customer service and guide that tweeter toward the brand’s new social profiles.

YouTube: You can’t change the user name on a YouTube account, but you can create a vanity URL that directs to your old page — this video clip explains the process. In short, if there had been, the company could have set up a vanity URL ( for the rebrand. The Savored URL would redirect to the old VillageVines channel page, but the Savored URL would show in the address bar. This prevents users from having to re-upload videos and losing all the comments and subscriptions. Doing this basically puts a “mask” of the new brand on the old YouTube page.

And of course, you should keep your old website URL and have it redirect to the new website — this makes it easier for customers to find the new site without jumping through hoops to reestablish connections (like if they have it bookmarked).

How Do I Announce the New Brand?

So you’ve changed your name — now how do you let the world know? Here are some tips for getting the word out and explaining the rebrand and what it means to users.

A Personal Note: Your CEO should send an honest, heartfelt message to your customers/users/subscribers explaining the rebrand, why it came about, what this means for the company and what it means for the consumers. Promise (and mean it) that there will be no adverse effects on customer service or product quality and reiterate how important your extant fans are. Be responsive and receptive to complaints and feedback that come your way — your customers come first and need to be treated well in order to adapt to the rebrand.

Press Outreach: Try not to have just the rebrand be the story — “Hey, we have a new name” doesn’t add any value and merit a blog post or newsletter blast. But if you rebrand and add new features or bells and whistles, your customers will have more incentive to stick with you through the change. That also gives the press more reason to cover the rebrand — there’s real news the audience should know about. Make it clear to the press that it’s just a rebrand and not a new product. “We bundled news about our new website (including our new content from Zagat), new name and (five) new markets as one bigger tale to better convey the fact that we’d been around a while,” says Lancellotti-Young. This move gave the brand street cred and created much more of a story for bloggers and news sites to pick up.

Google AdWords: AdWords are a great and effective way to get the word out about your new brand, but there are ways to maximize AdWords’ effectiveness. Because VillageVines already had a Google AdWords campaign running and had built up an edge on Google, they used AdWords to beef up Savored’s SEO by piggybacking off of VillagesVines’ success. Lancellotti-Young says that buying keywords for VillageVines and redirecting them to Savored would be “a nightmare” for SEO rankings, so the company went with ads like, “VillageVines is now Savored.”

When you’re setting up AdWords for the new brand, be aware that Google requires your new site to be live in order to approve the ads that direct there.

SEO: You’ve probably received a good amount of press for your “old” name — how do you parlay that SEO advantage to your new brand? Reach out to the press that’s already covered you to let them know of the change (they may make updates, and the rebrand announcement may merit an additional blog post). Savored also used a “commenting strategy,” whereby the team commented on old press posts (see above) with information about Savored and the five new cities it had expanded to.

Consistency Across the Web: Be sure your brand pages and team’s individual social profiles (LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) are all updated to reflect the change. The Savored team started making a list of everything that needed to be updated to “Savored” about a month before launch so that when the rebrand was about to go live, the team could divide and conquer to ensure a seamless transition.

Partnerships: Make sure any partners are abreast of the rebrand and have the proper logos and information in place so they can update things on their end. Savored notified partners 7 to 10 days in advance to make sure resources could be allocated to make the change in time for the launch, and Lancellotti-Young recommends giving ample lead time.

Has your business been through a rebrand? Have more tips? Let us know in the comments below.

More About: branding, features, mashable, open forum, rebrand, Small Business Resources, trending

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9 in 10 Teens Have Witnessed Bullying on Social Networks [STUDY]

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 09:21 AM PST

teen dating

Teenagers can be mean. But a recent survey suggests that they’re no more so on social networks than they are in real life.

In a survey of 12- to 17-year-olds released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday, 12% of teenagers reported being bullied in person sometime in the last year, compared to 8% who reported being bullied online.

Most of the teenagers surveyed (69%) said that their peers are “mostly kind” to each other on social networking sites.

Bullying does happen between teenagers on social networks. Roughly nine in 10 teenagers said that they had witnessed someone being mean or cruel to another person on a social network, and 12% said that they witness cruel behavior frequently on those networks. In a recent poll of young adults by the Associated Press and MTV, about 56% of respondents said they had been harassed online at some point.

“I think people get – like when they get on Facebook, they get ruthless, stuff like that,” said one middle school girl who participated in the survey. “They act different in school and stuff like that, but when they get online, they like a totally different person. You get a lot of confidence.”

Compared to adults in the Pew survey, teenagers were more likely to say that their peers are mostly unkind to each other on social sites, to witness cruel behavior online and to use negative words when describing how people act online.

But about seven in 10 teenagers in the Pew survey said that they’ve had a positive outcome, such as feeling good about themselves or feeling closer to another person, from interactions on the same sites. Said one high school girl in the survey:

“I think people act different on Facebook because that's like their – I mean, I think the self that they show you on Facebook could be their true self, like who they actually want to be.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Kalashnikov_O

More About: bullying, cyberbullying, pew study, trending

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16% of Cellphones Have Poop on Them [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 09:02 AM PST

Worried your cellphone may fall into the 16% with poop on it? You should be scared — not just of the germs lurking on your mobile, but on all your favorite tech gizmos.

Before you type anything else into your keyboard, consider this: Keyboards, on average, are five times dirtier and have 60 times more germs on them than toilet seats. They are 150 times over the acceptable limit for bacteria.

This infographic, created by Keeping It Kleen, reveals the specs of our tech gadgets we don’t really want to know. For instance, the dirtiest device in your house is the TV remote. Same applies in hotels; the remote even beats the infamous bedspread.

If you want to keep your mobile out of the 16%, take some relief knowing you can keep your tech clean with sanitizing wipes, UV light cleaners, rubbing alcohol or microfiber cleaning cloths.

Will these findings change any of your tech cleaning behaviors?

More About: germs, infographic, Mobile, technology, trending

Asus Unveils First Quad-Core Tablet, Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 08:39 AM PST

Asus unveiled a promising successor to its Asus Eee Pad Transformer tablet, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, on Wednesday.

The 10.1-inch tablet is thin and fast. It sports a 8.3mm-thick body, a 1280×800 display, a Nvidia Tegra 3 processor (making it the world's first quad-core tablet), 1GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera capable of shooting 1080p video, a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera and a microSD slot. It weighs 1.29 pounds and has 12 hours of battery life.

The Transformer Prime will run Android 3.2 when it begins shipping in December, with an upgrade to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) promised for the end of the year.

The device costs $499 for a 32GB version and $599 for a 64GB model. An optional attachable keyboard costs $149. It comes in two colors: “amethyst gray” and “champagne gold.”

2011 has been a less than stellar year for Android tablet sales. Of the 70 million tablets expected to be sold worldwide this year, a little less than 20% are running Android. Nearly 70% are iPads, according to Gartner’s estimates.

Third-party evidence suggest that the predecessor to the Transformer Prime, the Transformer, has been something of an exception. According to Digitimes, Asus is on track to sell 2 million Transformer devices by the need of the year. (Asus CEO Jerry Shen also confirmed on stage in June that the company was selling around 300,000 Transformer tablets per month after it began shipping in April.)

At $400, the Transformer has been the cheapest Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) tablet on the market, and its detachable keyboard made it a convenient alternative for those who wanted to type, but didn’t need the full capabilities of a laptop.

Given what we know of the hardware, Asus may very well have another strong seller on its hands, although the $100 increase in price will make it a more difficult sell given that the entry-level (16GB) iPad is also priced at $499.

The Transformer Prime costs $499 for a 32GB version and $599 for a 64GB model.

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[via Engadget

More About: android, android tablet, asus eee pad transformer prime, nvidia tegra 3, transformer prime

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