Saturday, 12 November 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Create Your Own Online Clothing Boutique, Earn 10% of Sales”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Create Your Own Online Clothing Boutique, Earn 10% of Sales”

Create Your Own Online Clothing Boutique, Earn 10% of Sales

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 08:04 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: StyleOwner

Quick Pitch: Create your own online boutique and get a 10% cut of sales.

Genius Idea: You’re stylish and influential. You have Klout. You’ve probably helped sell a clothing item or two through a recommendation you made over Facebook, Twitter or on your blog. Shouldn’t you be getting a cut of those sales?

That’s the premise behind StyleOwner, a Manhattan-based startup that lets users create online boutiques featuring merchandise from a range of 75 individual brands, as well as big-name retailers such as Saks and Nordstrom. Users can host their boutiques on and on their own blogs. For every sale made through their stores, users get a 10% cut (minus taxes, shipping and, where applicable, return costs).

The startup is helmed by an impressive crew: Joel Weingarten, who previously taught robotics at the University of Pennsylvania as a visiting research fellow; Jordana Silver, who worked in design and sales at Michael Kors for eight years; and Tracy Gardner, formerly the president of J Crew retail.

Weingarten says StyleOwner primarily targets three groups of users. The first group is made up of entrepreneurial 21-year-old college students and stay-at-home moms who are passionate about fashion and love to make recommendations to friends. The second group is composed of stylists and industry professionals who want to extend their personal shopping businesses. And the third group is fashion bloggers who want to start earning affiliate revenue on items they’re already featuring on their blogs.

In addition to boutique owners, StyleOwner also gets a cut of each sale made. The startup raised $1.97 million in an angel round earlier this year from Accel Partners, Forerunner Ventures and a number of prominent individuals, including Andy Dunn of Bonobos. One thousand stores have been created to date. Now the company is focused on building out its feature set for store owners, including a mobile app.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

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

More About: bizspark, spark-of-genius, styleowner

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Siri, Read My Mind: Did Hackers Just Build a Brain-Powered iPhone?

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 06:55 PM PST

If you believe this video — and that’s a big if — the era of thought-controlled phones has begun. A pair of hobbyist hackers claim to have taken Siri, the iPhone 4S feature that obeys voice commands, and turned it into an app that obeys brainwave patterns.

“It works! It really works! It’s so freaking amazing,” Josh Evans and Ollie Hayward announced Tuesday on the blog they created to chronicle what they call “Project Black Mirror.”

In the accompanying YouTube video, Evans wears EEG pads on his forehead and squints in concentration. A circuit board attached to an iPhone on the table beeps shortly later, and a mechanical voice says “calling Graham,” the third member of the project, whose phone then rings.

The hackers explain that they used the EEG pads to record the “signature brain patterns” of 25 Siri-based commands. By pairing the signatures with the commands, they effectively create a brain pattern-to-voice dictionary.

That means their system doesn’t necessarily know what a person is thinking, but it knows that certain electrical activity in the brain translates to certain commands.

When the system identifies the electrical signature in the brain, it feeds the appropriate command to a sound synthesizer chip, the audio output of which is plugged into the iPhone’s microphone jack.

The Case For

It’s hardly an implausible system. Computer interfaces controlled by electrical energy in the brain have been in development for years. A company called Emotiv created an EEG-based videogame controller in 2009. Emotiv founder Tan Lee talks about the technology in this TED video.

Scientists at the Honda Research Institute unveiled a technology in 2009 that makes its robot, Asimo, responsive to thought commands. It also used EEG technology to translate electrical signals into commands.

The Case Against

But Honda also said the real-life applications of the technology were limited. That was partly because of the way our thoughts get easily distracted, and partly because brain patterns can differ greatly between two people who are thinking the same word. In other words, anyone who wanted to use the technology would need to train it.

Jonathan Hefter, the CEO of technology company Neverware, says that if Project Black Mirror does work, it probably has similar limitations and is unlikely to be capable of executing a large number of commands.

“Black Mirror does not seem to be using a general dictionary of human thought, what we would call mind reading,” he says. “Their EEG can’t really tell the difference between you thinking about a movie you like and a song you like. ‘Mind reading’ will require a much higher resolution scanner, like an fMRI or an embedder array, and a common map and dictionary of what our natural thoughts look like.”

There’s also a possibility that the Black Mirror demonstrations posted to YouTube are the result of creative camera work rather than an interesting hack. The blog incorrectly calls the technology used to measure electrical activities of the brain ECG instead of EEG. ECG is used to measure activities of the heart.

It seems that this is a mistake someone familiar enough with the technology to use it in a thought command project would be unlikely to make. The setup is also somewhat suspicious, according to Dami Oomojola, who similarly used four electrodes in a brain computer interface he created to move a cursor on a computer screen.

“[In their setup] they are far more likely to be picking up the electrical signals generated by moving the larger muscles of the face such as when blinking the eyes,” he says, “[and] the lack of shielding in the leads from the head also mean there is going to be lots of ambient noise in their signal.”

Those who are willing to believe that the project is genuine may soon have a chance to put some skin in the game. The hackers’ demo video is intended for a Kickstarter funding page.

More About: apple, kickstarter, mind control, siri

Adobe Admits: Apple Won, Flash For Mobile is Done, HTML5 is the Future

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 05:26 PM PST

Adobe developer relations lead Mike Chambers has posted a lengthy explanation of why the company decided stop development of the mobile browser version of Flash.

The response comes as the health of the entire Flash ecosystem is in doubt. Adobe announced that Flash Player 11.1 would be the last version of Flash for mobile devices, though the company would continue to fix critical bugs. The company is also abandoning Flash on connected TVs.

“The decision to stop development of the Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers was part of a larger strategic shift at Adobe,” writes Chambers. “One which includes a greater shift in focus toward HTML5, as well as the Adobe Creative Cloud and the services that it provides.”

Chambers iterates five main reasons why Adobe decided that its resources were better spent elsewhere:

  1. Flash was never going to gain ubiquity on mobile devices, thanks to the fact that Apple resolutely refused to adopt the technology on the iPhone or iPad. “No matter what we did, the Flash Player was not going to be available on Apple's iOS anytime in the foreseeable future,” he says.
  2. Meanwhile, HTML5 is ubiquitous. “On mobile devices, HTML5 provides a similar level of ubiquity that the Flash Player provides on the desktop,” Chambers says.
  3. Users don’t consume content on mobile in the same way they do on desktop. Differences in screen sizes, latency from wireless networks and the ubiquity of app stores made Flash less relevant on handheld devices.
  4. Developing browser plugins for mobile is much more challenging than the desktop. It requires more partnerships with OS developers, mobile hardware manufacturers and component manufacturers. “Developing the Flash Player for mobile browsers has proven to require much more resources than we anticipated,” Chambers admits.
  5. Adobe wanted to shift more resources to HTML5, and dropping Flash for mobile frees them to do so.

Chambers then goes into the difficult task of assuring developers that Flash itself is healthy. He explains that Adobe has made a “long term commitment to the Flash Player on desktops” and is focused on letting developers create mobile apps through the Adobe AIR platform.

It’s his thoughts on HTML5 vs. Flash that may be the most intriguing. Chambers admits in the final portion of his post that HTML5 will take over more and more of the functionality of Flash.

“If a Flash feature is successful, it will eventually be integrated into the browser, and developers and users will access it more and more via the browser and not Flash,” he states. And while HTML5 and CSS3 have a long way to go to match the ubiquity or functionality of the Flash Player, “the trend is very clear.”

“A lot of the things that you have done via Flash in the past,” he concludes “will increasingly be done via HTML5 and CSS3 directly in the browser.”

No matter how you sugarcoat this week’s episode of Flash theater, it’s clear that Apple has won the Flash argument and Adobe has lost it. This was clear to many of us in the tech industry early on, but the argument gained steam when Steve Jobs posted a lengthy open letter arguing that Flash was no longer necessary.

While Flash will be around for many years to come, it’s clear that even Adobe thinks HTML5 is the future. Flash’s days are numbered.

More About: adobe, adobe flash, apple, Flash, steve jobs

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5 Steps for a Successful QR Code Marketing Campaign

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 04:37 PM PST

Hamilton Chan is CEO and founder of Paperlinks, which provides the leading QR code infrastructure for businesses. Codes generated through Paperlinks app can be scanned by the free Paperlinks iPhone app or by any QR code reader on any smartphone platform.

While the debate rages on whether QR codes are a passing fad or a marketing phenomenon, those little suckers continue to pop up all over the place. From product packaging to retail signs and even to food, almost any surface in the universe seems fair game for a QR code.

However, if brands deploy QR codes merely to claim they are using the latest social media marketing tool, then QR codes are doomed to fall in the "fad" bin, never to realize their full potential. The task for marketers is to use this interactive tool to deliver useful and meaningful experiences to their users.

SEE ALSO: Why QR Codes Are Here to Stay

So, how can you assess whether you are using QR codes to their full potential? Although very few QR marketing statistics exist, here are a few tips for businesses looking to deliver a meaningful QR code experience.

1. Define Your Purpose

The first thing to realize is that QR codes can be as much about utility as they are about marketing. The more your QR code enhances or streamlines the lives of customers, the more engagement you can expect. As such, the most important step in making your QR campaign a success is to think clearly about the purpose of your code.

  • Is the purpose to provide an instructional video, a photo catalog of products, contact information or product suggestions?
  • Or are you looking to incentivize mobile purchasing behavior through coupons and loyalty rewards?
  • What is the advertiser hoping to garner – an email address, social media engagement, a phone call?
  • Are you seeking to provide information about a single product or about the entire brand line?

The clearer you are about the purpose of your campaign, the easier it will be to discern whether your goals have been achieved.

2. Call On Your Customers

Now that you have defined your purpose, craft a customer call to action. Think of your QR code as a doorway, only you need to explain what's hidden behind the door. The brief text sitting next to your code should be the world's shortest elevator pitch.

For instance, you'll see high scan rates if your code says, "Scan this code for an exclusive gift" or "Scan this code for our lowest price." Be sure to explain any incentive associated with the code truthfully — it will increase trust, consumer interaction and the overall return on your campaign.

3. Design and Usability Is Key

Understand that looks matter. Ideally, opt for a designer code rather than a black-and-white checker box. Designer codes earn higher scan-through rates, look better on your materials, and even provide an element of security to assure users that this is indeed the brand's QR code (and hasn't been somehow covered over).

SEE ALSO: 5 Big Mistakes To Avoid in Your QR Code Marketing Campaign

In addition, the design of the mobile landing page is critical. The cardinal sin in QR code campaigns is directing users to your desktop website. Not only does a desktop site provide little added value over what a user could have obtained without the code, but the site usually looks and functions terribly on a mobile phone. If you do not have a mobile-friendly version of your website, consider using one of the many available tools to create one. Using one of these platforms makes it easier to update content in real time and track campaign analytics.

4. Measuring Scans

The most important metric of a QR campaign should not be the number of daily scans. Rather, the length of engagement time that your code is generating should be a marketer's primary indicator of campaign success.

If people are spending two to three (or more) minutes on a link, the campaign is a success. The power of a QR code is to transform the user experience from a "quick glance" to a "deep dive." When users spend a lot of time on your QR site, it shows that you have developed something captivating — a brand worth the interaction.

On the flip side, having a low number of scans should not discourage the advertiser, although generating zero scans is a definite red flag. If no one is scanning the code, it's likely that something is wrong its scanability, or that its placement is not conducive to scanning (think high-up ads on the subway).

Another thing to keep an eye on is the number of scans over time. If your QR code has been constant displayed (e.g., in your retail window or on your cashier counter), you should see a long tail of interactivity as people continue to engage with your code. Achieve this by providing fresh content and incentives. Unlike other marketing vehicles (TV commercials and newspaper ads) that typically only generate one big spike in impressions, QR codes allow businesses a consistent promotional tier. If the number of scans drops to zero after the first week, this is a sign that there wasn't enough allure to the experience.

5. Social Metrics

Finally, businesses should look at the points of interaction beyond the QR code experience to judge the success of a campaign. Did a business receive more hits to its website, more followers on Twitter, more fans on Facebook? While trying out the latest high-tech marketing tools is fun, we must ultimately be driven by results.

The QR code experience is limited only by your imagination. The more creatively you can provide a meaningful customer experience, the more interaction your QR code campaign will enjoy.

QR codes provide metrics by tying real-world marketing (outdoor signs, magazine ads, etc.) to the mobile web. By being imaginative, purposeful and experimental with campaigns, advertisers and consumers alike can reap rich QR rewards.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, youngvet

More About: contributor, features, How-To, Marketing, QR Codes

Google Leaves Trail of Clues to Mystery Musical Event

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 03:28 PM PST

One thing Google appears to be learning from Apple is this: how to build buzz around a product launch by being short on details but long on clues.

That’s certainly the case with the invite Google sent us and others in the tech press Friday, to an event next Wednesday in Los Angeles. The company isn’t saying what the event is about, exactly, but here are your clues:

1. It’s being held at Mr. Brainwash’s Gallery — yes, that Mr. Brainwash, the videographer and artist of doubtful legitimacy featured in the Oscar-nominated Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.

2. The title of the invite: “these go up to eleven.” That would be a reference to This is Spinal Tap, of course, and to Friday being 11/11/11. But don’t get thrown off the scent; the key part of this clue is the plural.

SEE ALSO: 11/11/11 Is “Nerd New Year:” Here’s How to Turn It Up to 11

3. The event will be livestreamed at, and the invite features a waving android logo in the corner. By Jove, Holmes, this may have something to do with Google’s mobile platform!

4. The photo of Mr. Brainwash’s gallery on the invite also features a T-Mobile banner. Random advertising, red herring, or clue?

5. The RSVP link for the event includes “Music 2011″ in the URL.

Could we be looking at something so prosaic as a set of speakers? At Google I/O, the company gave us a demo of Project Tungsten, wherein sets of speakers could be remotely controlled via an Android tablet.

The speakers would also know to play an album when you swiped a CD embedded with Near Field Communication in front of them. That’s an interesting gimmick, but who buys CDs any more — let alone NFC-enabled ones?

We’re hoping there’s something more to the mystery, and look forward to letting you know next week. In the meantime, feel free to add your guesses in the comments.

BONUS: Mashable’s Google I/O Coverage

More About: android, Google, Mobile, speakers, T-Mobile

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Notorious B.I.G: The Ultimate Baby Pacifier [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 02:38 PM PST

Attention all parents who’ve ever struggled to get your child to stop crying (read: all parents). Your child doesn’t need a diaper change or dinner; your little tot needs Biggie Smalls.

That’s according to this dad, who found the one song that could get his daughter to stop crying was none other than the Notorious B.I.G’s “Hypnotize.” Biggie’s beats are making this little girl quite happy, whether due to their soothing vibes or hypnotic nature.

Think Biggie’s explicit language may be a bad influence on your child? Take this dad’s advice: “She can’t understand any of the lyrics yet, so we’re safe.” Give that man a gold medal for parenting!

Parents, what strange lullabies get your kids to calm down? Let us know in the comments.

SEE ALSO: Parents Tell Their Children They Ate Their Halloween Candy [VIDEO]

More About: baby, parenting, viral-video-of-day, YouTube

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10 Epic YouTube Videos That Will Get You Pumped for Skyrim

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 02:20 PM PST

1. Shredding Metal Theme Song

This face-melting rendition of the game's theme is a riotous call to pick up the controller and get straight to the dragon slaying.

Click here to view this gallery.

On midnight 11/11/11, RPG fanboys (and girls!) everywhere finally got their wish: The years-long wait for Bethesda Softworks’s medieval sandbox epic The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was finally over.

The overwhelming excitement for this game, building steadily since its stunning previews at E3 in June, has been pouring out onto the Internets in droves. Specifically, Youtube has seen a wealth of pre and post-release videos, ranging from the utterly cool to the dramatically foolish.

Stuck in your cube, salivating for Skyrim? Or are you coming down off of a Red Bull buzz and want to take in some sights before starting another quest? Check out these standout web videos all about the blockbuster game.

More About: bethesda, features, games, Gaming, playstation 3, skyrim, videos, Xbox 360, YouTube

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Coca-Cola Launches Its First U.S. QR Code Program

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 02:10 PM PST

Millions of Coca-Cola cups circulating this month will sport QR codes for a program that supports the brand’s holiday mascot, the polar bear.

The brand is partnering with the World Wildlife Fund for the initiative, which aims to help conserve the polar bear’s Arctic habitat. Consumers who scan the codes, which appear on cups distributed by 7-Eleven, will download a Snowball Effect by Coca-Cola app for the iPhone and iPad platforms that turns into a Facebook-connected, snowball-throwing game. Those who generate the most points in the game will win prizes including iPads (80 total will be given out) and a trip to the Arctic for two. The program runs through March.

The app also leads to a site where consumers can donate to the WWF’s cause. Coca-Cola will match each $1 donation up to $1 million (it also donated an additional $2 million). The brand’s association with polar bears goes back to 1922, when Coke first used one in a French holiday ad.

Though Coke has run other QR code programs in Japan and Germany, this is the first time the brand has executed one in the U.S., says Peter Callaro, group director of integrated marketing content at Coca-Cola. The company worked with Scanbuy, which ran a QR code program for Taco Bell in August. Mike Wehrs, president and CEO of Scanbuy, says creating readable codes on cups is a challenge.

“Rounded with condensation running down it is incredibly difficult,” he says, noting that Coca-Cola wanted a QR code solution that would “work across the board.”

Callaro says a QR Code program using cans may be next. “We’ve started to look into it,” he says. “It’s a very involved process.”

More About: coca cola, Marketing, QR Codes

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Apple Admits iOS 5.0.1 Did Not Fix All Battery Issues

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 01:52 PM PST

Apple has acknowledged that the iOS 5.0.1 update that promised to address reports of poor battery performance on iOS devices has not, in fact, fixed the problem for some devices owners.

"The recent iOS software update addressed many of the battery issues that some customers experienced on their iOS 5 devices," Apple said in a statement to AllThingsD. "We continue to investigate a few remaining issues."

After the update was released Thursday afternoon, many device owners took to Apple’s support forums to complain that they were continuing to experience battery issues despite having downloaded the update and having reset their phones.

“Installed the new IOS 5.0.1 two hours ago,” one user wrote. “Five percent battery drain in 45 minutes with Wi-Fi and location services turned on and me not touching the iPhone 4S. The new update doesn’t seem to help much.”

In a poll conducted on Mashable Friday morning, more than 900 respondents (32%) said they were experiencing the same battery performance issues they had suffered before the iOS 5.0.1 update. Another 350 (12%) said performance was even worse. Six hundred respondents (21%) said the update had fixed the problem.

Users started complaining about the battery life of their iPhone 4Ses immediately after they were released. Owners of other iOS devices made similar complaints after upgrading to iOS 5. Apple claimed the problem was a software issue, and the iOS 5.0.1 update was issued to address it.

The recent round of complaints suggests, however, that not all iPhone 4S owners are having software-related problems. Some of the more serious cases — particularly those that haven’t been improved by the iOS 5.0.1. update — could stem from hardware issues. We’ll have to wait for further information from Apple to know for sure.

Start the Update

Tap the Settings icon, select General, tap Software Update. If you need the update, here's where it'll let you know.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apple, battery life, iOS 5.0.1, iphone, trending

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Goes to War … With Modern Warfare 3 Sales

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 01:30 PM PST

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the latest game in Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls franchise, has been released, adding to the general excitement and mayhem of a blockbuster Autumn for the video game industry.

The big fight taking place right now is between the world’s top-selling first-person shooters, EA’s Battlefield 3 and Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. While those two giants have been lobbing grenades across the trenches, a slew of triple-A games have given fans a glut of options.

Skyrim is a first-person, open-world role-playing-game that drops the player in “Skyrim,” a fantastical nation more-or-less constantly besieged by dragons. It’s the players job, nay, destiny, to rise from a lowly commoner to a hero of legend. There are a bevy of skills, spells, projectiles and weapons placed through the game. There is also an in-depth character creator allowing every player to create a person, or creature, that suits them. Each of these can be improved and leveled up through in-game experience or merchant shops. Think of it like a massive, medieval-themed Grand Theft Auto where the goal is to save the world rather than control it.

The game has already generated a ton of buzz and positive reviews. Skyrim currently holds an average score of 96% on Industry analysts are predicting the game will be one of the biggest sellers this season. While some say Skyrim has no shot of overtaking Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3, the game’s pre-order numbers show promise.

PunchJump reported that Skyrim was one of the top three pre-ordered games at Walmart. The game even became the number-one best-selling pre-order game at the week before its launch.

SEE ALSO: 10 Epic YouTube Videos That Will Get You Pumped for Skyrim

Game companies sometimes shy away from releases that coincide with others. Bethesda, however, has entered the fray and seems to be competitive with both Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. It will be interesting to see first-week sales for all three games to see just how each fared. It might help that Skyrim is a vastly different game from the two blockbusters. Where those shooters favor Hollywood moments and close-quarters, Skyrim prefers sprawling vistas and near-infinite side-quests and narratives.

That breadth, however, is causing some graphic problems with the game. Kotaku reported that installing the game onto an Xbox 360 can actually cause graphics not to load properly or a drop in resolution due to the sheer processing power the game demands. Bethesda has acknowledged the issue and is working on a fix but is recommending Xbox users hold off installing the game for the time being.

Is Skyrim at the top of your wish list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Concept Art from Skyrim

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: game, Gaming, skyrim, video game

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Hands On: Motorola Droid Razr Is Super-Thin, But Not Quite Super [PICS]

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 01:15 PM PST

The Motorola Droid Razr rolls out to the United States on Friday, bringing an unusually thin smartphone into the hands of Android aficionados. Let’s put it to the test.

Its claim to fame is its industrial design — the ultra-thin Motorola Droid Razr (Verizon, $299.99 with 2-year contract, $111.11 if you order it from Amazon on 11/11/11) is a mere quarter-inch thick. That’s the big story here. For those of the metric persuasion, that means it’s sporting a thickness of 7.1mm, quite an achievement considering the amount of tech goodness crammed into such a tiny package. Everyone who saw it was impressed by its slim form factor and smart good looks. If you’re sold on Verizon and Google‘s Android smartphone operating system, that might be enough to get you to plunk down your three bills.

Upon closer examination, it feels unusually light. It has a Gorilla Glass screen, but its plastic sides feel cheap. I like its handsome woven Kevlar back, the same material of which football helmets are made. To the untrained eye, it might be mistaken for more-expensive carbon fiber. But I like Kevlar as a material used on the back of a phone. It’s tough. It’s not the pleasantly grippy material I liked so much on the Motorola Atrix 2, but it’s still excellent.

While many users will complain about the lack of a removable battery, as far as the Razr’s design goes, that’s a plus. The back is uninterrupted by doors and latches, giving it a much cleaner look. However, I’ve never been fond of the big “chin” at the top of the back of many Android smartphones (see our gallery below for pics of this compared with an iPhone 4S), and this super-thin model’s design is marred by that raised ledge that contains the 8-megapixel camera/lens, its LED flash and a speaker. That “chin” is at least double the width of the rest of this otherwise-thin phone.

On the side is a plastic door for the SIM and microSD cards, and it feels so flimsy that I wouldn’t be surprised if it broke off after a few months of hard use. That, along with the plastic volume controls on the other side, imparts that overall feeling of lightweight cheapness to this otherwise beautifully designed handset.

Here’s a complaint I haven’t often seen: Why does no smartphone maker (except Apple) object to cellular providers placing a company logo front and center — and on the back, too? This might be seem like nitpicking, but I really don’t want to be reminded of Verizon every time I look at the screen of my smartphone, and that’s what I’ll have to do with the Droid Razr with its Verizon logo glaring at me from the bottom of the screen.

Speaking of the screen, I’ve seen better. Completely spoiled by Apple’s “retina” display, for close-up viewing angles, no matter how many superlative-sounding names you attached to this (albeit generously sized) 4.3-inch “Super AMOLED Advanced qHD” screen, I could still see distracting and visible pixels. Not good. I’d give it a C+.

A plus for spec hounds (see detailed specifications here) is its dual-core 1.2GHz processor, making everything happen in a snap. It’s satisfyingly fast. Along with its 4G LTE connectivity, this phone is a speed merchant.

SEE ALSO: Motorola Droid Razr Specs Compared to iPhone 4S, Galaxy S II, Droid Bionic, More

However, even with all this processor power and graphics goodness, for some reason the Droid Razr can’t scroll smoothly enough for my taste. No matter what app I’m using or what I’m doing with the phone, if I’m scrolling from one screen to the next or from top to bottom of a long Twitter list, it’s just not the kind of buttery-smooth movement I’d like to see on a phone with this kind of power and technology. This is an example of a product with superior specs but inferior usability.

The 8-megapixel camera does an admirable job of shooting both stills and 1080p video, with vibrant color and sharpness in both. Its focus and exposure snaps into place a little slower than I’d like, and its motion stabilization when shooting video doesn’t help much, but its level of quality is still slightly higher than most Android smartphone cameras I’ve used. See the gallery for a couple of unretouched examples of its photos, demonstrating the picture quality that’s possible in good lighting conditions.

Android users can find better screens on which to view their beloved operating system, but they won’t find a thinner 4G LTE smartphone than the Motorola Droid Razr. There’s improvement on the horizon as well — Motorola promises the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system will be available for this Droid Razr in early 2012. That’ll be a plus, adding better usability and an enhanced feature set to Android, which still feels to me like a work in progress.

SEE ALSO: Android Ice Cream Sandwich Coming to Droid Razr in 2012

Overall, even though it has more shortcomings than I’d like, I think the Motorola Droid Razr is a notable technological achievement. It offers a large screen that looks acceptable until you get too close, along with the satisfying speed of its dual-core processors, graphics and connectivity. Although it doesn’t have the smooth usability of other smartphones, its pleasant good looks and ultimate pocketability make it a strong contender for your Android dollar.

Thin, Light, Big Screen

It feels good in the hand.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: android, Motorola Droid RAZR, review

New Yorker, Wired and More Coming Free to Kindle Fire for 3 Months

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 12:48 PM PST

It’s not just apps making their way to the Kindle Fire — some 400 magazines and newspapers will also be made available when the device goes on sale Tuesday, some through extensive free trials, Amazon announced on Friday.

Magazine publishers appear to be particularly bullish about the content consumption device, which they hope will bolster middling digital sales on the iPad and Nook Color. The Kindle Fire’s $199 pricetag will help many publishers get the digital editions of their magazines into the hands of their core readers.

“The challenge is that we have a big segment of the mass market in middle America, who are not early adopters and are price sensitive,” Liz Schimel, chief digital officer at Meredith noted in an earlier interview with The Wall Street Journal. “This device breaks that barrier.”

Conde Nast appears to be particularly confident about the platform. The publisher announced that 17 of its magazines, including Glamour, GQ, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired, would be available for free on the device for the first three months. Many titles from Hearst, Time Inc. and Meredith will be available on the Kindle Fire Newsstand from day one as well.

It’s unlikely, however, that all of these editions will already be optimized for the Kindle Fire in the same way that, say, Esquire is optimized for the iPad. Newspapers will be better off, because they pull from a feed, but magazines will likely take longer to fully adapt to the 7-inch format and Android operating system on a weekly or monthly basis.

More About: amazon, conde nast, kindle fire, trending

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One Day on Earth Crowdsources 11/11/11 Moments Across the World

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 12:40 PM PST

Volunteer videographers around the world are shooting footage Friday for the second “One Day On Earth” documentary, which aims to capture the world in moving pictures.

One Day On Earth is an entirely crowdsourced project. Anyone, anywhere in the world can join. Its website, at the center of the operation, has many social layers — members can share updates and photos, blog and connect with others. The project functions in a close partnership with Vimeo.

The filming was intentionally chosen for 11/11/11 because it’s such a memorable date, much like last year’s date 10/10/10.

One Day On Earth partner organization, the UN Development Programme, has deployed cameras for filming with its teams in more than 120 countries, in locations including Mogadishu, Jerusalem, Colombia and Liberia. Boaz Paldi, head of UNDP’s video unit, revealed they’ve thus far captured footage of Haitian President Michel Martelly clearing rubble in an IDP camp in Port au Prince and a women’s empowerment project in Herat, Afghanistan. Paldi shared this email with Mashable, sent from a team member filming on the ground in Afghanistan:

“Had a great day in the field, filming a women empowerment story. As we hit the road from Herat to Adreskan district in Western Afghanistan, we felt a tad deflated upon receiving a DSS call to be extra careful since “there is information of a credible threat of suicide bombing in Herat”. Once at the field location, we were quickly able to put it all behind as we witnessed and captured on camera an amazing ‘ordinary’ woman accomplishing a lot in a diehard male bastion.”

SEE ALSO: How Thousands of Volunteer Filmmakers Captured "One Day On Earth"

A worldwide premiere of the 2010 documentary will take place in late February 2012 in partnership with UNDP.

If you were going to capture one thing happening on earth 11/11/11 to include in the documentary, what would it be?

The “One Day on Earth” Trailer

More About: documentary, one day on earth, Social Good, UN

Rick Perry Reveals Top 10 Excuses for His Mental Lapse

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 12:25 PM PST

U.S. presidential candidate Rick Perry poked fun at himself Thursday night on The Late Show with David Letterman, jokingly firing off 10 excuses for why he flubbed his talking points during Wednesday’s on-air GOP debate.

Skip the first 52 seconds in the video above to listen to the Texas governor, or check out the top 10 list below.

  • 10. “Actually, there were three reasons I messed up last night: One was the nerves, two was the headache, and three … um … um … oops.”
  • 9. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think things went well.”
  • 8. “I was up late last night watching Dancing with the Stars.”
  • 7. “I thought the debate was tonight.”
  • 6. “Hey listen, you try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you — that is one handsome dude.”
  • 5. “Uh, El Nino?”
  • 4. “I had a five-hour energy drink six hours before the debate.”
  • 3. “I really hoped it would get me on my favorite talk show, but instead I ended up here.”
  • 2. “Yeah, I wanted to help take the heat off my buddy Herman Cain.”
  • 1. “I just learned Justin Bieber is my father.”

SEE ALSO: 5 Years of YouTube Politics [INFOGRAPHIC] | Justin Bieber’s Social Media Stats

Rick Perry: "Oops"

2012 presidential candidate Rick Perry drew a massive blank Wednesday night during CNBC's "Your Money, Your Vote" GOP debate. On stage in Michigan, Perry attempted to rattle off three federal government agencies he would eliminate, but failed to remember number three: "Commerce, education and the … uh, um, what's the third one there. Let's see … " The mental block lasted about 40 more seconds before Perry uttered, "Oops."

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More About: 2012 election, Entertainment, Politics, viral videos

Veterans Day: 8 Online Ways to Thank Our Troops

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 12:06 PM PST

Today, Veterans Day, we honor those who defend our country. Our service members remind us that there are few things more important than doing what we can to make a difference in the lives of others.

Social media has become an essential tool for veterans and veterans and families to keep in touch and find support. Here are a few ways you can give back to veterans, reflect on this day and say thanks online. Don’t forget, you can always tag your tweets #HappyVeteransDay too!

The Veterans History Project is an online collection of American war veterans’ accounts so that future generations can hear directly from service members and better understand the realities of war.

The U.S. Military Facebook page helps millions of military personnel, veterans and families stay connected. The page has launched its “A Nation Gives Thanks” app, which gives people the opportunity to thank active military members, veterans and their families for their service.

The History Channel has taken to Twitter for its new Thank a Vet social campaign. Tweeting #thankavet adds your message to the History Channel wall of thanks on its website.

Google for Veterans and Families was created by Google employees who have served, along with their families and friends. The interface combines Google products and platforms as a resource for vets and their families. Tools such as VetConnect help service members communicate and share their experiences with others via Google+. Google is currently working on Tour Builder, which will allow veterans to build 3D maps of the places they served, then personalize with photos, videos and stories.

If you’re attending a memorial service or Veterans Day celebration this weekend, or if you’re part of a service family, be sure to check in on Foursquare. The location-based social network has created a Service badge to honor veterans.

CNN iReport is using Facebook collaboratively to honor vets this year. Users can upload photos of veterans and tag “CNN iReport” for the photo to appear on the Facebook page. CNN iReport has then taken the best submissions from Facebook to post on the “Honor a Veteran” page on CNN’s website.

The personalized stationary company Tiny Prints has teamed up with on its Facebook page so you can send a free holiday greeting card to the troops. Choose between two styles of cards — “Holiday for Heroes” or “Brave Blessings

Last, but not least, today Amazon is giving a free MP3 download of Veterans Day Honor, an album to celebrate and honor those who have served. The free album includes 12 songs preformed by military bands and ensembles of the U.S. Armed Forces. The album will be full price again starting tomorrow, November 12.

Images courtesy of Flickr, royal19, and iStockphoto, CostinT

More About: Facebook, features, Media, Social Media, trending, Twitter, Veterans Day

Microsoft Takes Windows Phone 7 Marketing Up a Notch With Wild NYC Event [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 11:30 AM PST

A number of new Windows Phone devices — including the excellent Focus Flash — launched this week and Microsoft decided to celebrate with a big media blitz in New York City.

Microsoft built a six-story Windows Phone with truly “live” Live tiles in the middle of Midtown Manhattan. As you can see from this video mashup, there was a lot going on.

In the last few months, Microsoft has ramped up efforts to better promote its mobile platform, features and devices. When Windows Phone 7 launched last year, almost everything about the platform — including the messaging — seemed unfinished. Windows Phone had a lot of potential, it just didn’t seem ready.

A year later, things are different. Not only does Microsoft have a strong partnership with Nokia — whose Lumia 800 is truly lustworthy — it also has a stronger lineup of devices from other manufacturers aimed at a variety of markets and price points.

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango feels like a very finished product. Multi-tasking works well, copy and paste is included and the OS natively integrates with social accounts from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Developers are starting to notice too, with more major apps and services finding their way to Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft’s biggest obstacle now is one of awareness. That’s why we hope Microsoft follows up its in-person media blitzes with salient, well-messaged advertising across media channels. We also hope the company and its device partners continue to work with the wireless carriers to educate sales staff about the phone and its features.

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

Nokia Lumia 800

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More About: microsoft, trending, windows phone, windows phone 7

X-ray App Lets Users “See Through” Models’ Clothing

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 10:57 AM PST

Since the dawn of the X-ray, teenage boys have dreamed of glasses that would see through clothing. Now, they have an app: MoosejawXRAY

Outerwear retailer Moosejaw has released an augmented reality app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices that lets users see through the clothing featured in its winter catalog. Male and female models are shown stripped down to their under-layers when the app is positioned over catalog pages, as shown in the video above.

Of the many augmented reality apps we’ve seen to date, this is arguably the most inventive. It’s an effective way to bolster buzz and engagement with a relatively unknown catalog, but we wonder if it rather, ah, distracts from the clothes themselves.

[via Creativity Online]

More About: Android App, Augmented Reality, iphone app, moosejaw, trending

13 Tech Tools for a Paper-Free Life

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 10:40 AM PST

Ari Meisel is co-founder at Less Doing, where he works on making every task in life and business more efficient. He used self-tracking to overcome Crohn’s Disease and compete in Ironman France. You can follow him on Twitter @liontex and read his blog at

I was recently working on a real estate development project, and the mountain of paperwork that was produced and wasted was heartbreaking. Every time the plans changed, an oversized set of prints was made — a copy for the owner, the builder, the engineer, and one for the town building department.

We're talking about 60 sheets of paper that might have garnered four minutes of attention, and were then discarded. This doesn't take into account the invoices, delivery slips, contracts, faxes, etc.

The point is that using paper is inefficient, it's bad for the environment and it locks us down, preventing mobility. Let's get rid of it, shall we?

The following services, apps and gadgets aim to completely eliminate the need for paper in your life.

1. LifeLock

LifeLock is a service that helps prevent identity theft by automatically removing your name from every mailing list you don't want to be a part of.

The service renews monthly to ensure you are permanently removed from lists and not placed on new ones. Within three months of signing up for Lifelock, I had reduced my paper mail intake by about 70%.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apps, contributor, features, paper, productivity, Tech, tools

Unlocked iPhone 4S Devices Shipping in 1 to 2 Weeks

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 10:09 AM PST

Apple is now selling unlocked and contract-free iPhone 4S devices from the U.S. Apple Store.

The unlocked, contract-free devices start at $649.99 for the 16GB version. The 32GB iPhone 4S is $749.99 and the 64GB iPhone 4S is $849.99.

These devices can be used only on supported GSM networks, like AT&T in the U.S. and various carriers abroad. If you want to use an iPhone 4S on Sprint or Verizon, you must purchase the device directly from the carrier.

Apple says that an unlocked iPhone is the “best choice” for users who “don’t want a multiyear service contract or prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad.”

In a somewhat related story, a recent leaked memo indicates that Sprint will be locking the SIM on iPhone 4S devices. When Sprint first started carrying the iPhone 4S, there was some confusion over the status of its SIM lock. When locked, the SIM can only be used to roam abroad. This means that customers have to pay Sprint roaming fees, rather than buy local microSIMs for coverage needs.

Sprintfeed obtained a memo sent to Sprint stores that states that iPhone 4S devices will be SIM locked as of Thursday. The memo goes on to state that customers who purchased a device before Nov. 11 will not have their devices retroactively locked.

One of the advantages of buying an iPhone 4S in other parts of the world is that the devices are generally sold unlocked, whether they are purchased on a contract or off. Apple started selling unlocked devices in its U.S. stores last year.

iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S looks and feels exactly like the iPhone 4.

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More About: apple, iPhone 4S, sprint, trending, unlocked iphone

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10 Essential Tips for Planning the Perfect Industry Event

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 09:37 AM PST

‘Tis the season to plan your 2012 event strategy. Here are 10 quick tips to help make event marketing work for your brand, strategy and your bottom line.

1. Don't Reinvent (Or Compete with) the Wheel

If a non-competitive brand plans to host an event, consider partnering with that company instead of trying to one-up it. Even if your brand is a long-standing household name, you'll likely tap a new community. A solo attempt to appeal to that company's audience would be challenging and, without help, risky. The fee you would incur to sponsor the event would replace the money you would spend to solicit attendees on your own — with a smaller personal task list and headache.

2. Paying To Play Is Not Selling Out

Your crucial goal is to avoid coming across as "selling something." Savvy influencers are unlikely to throw money at flashy promotions that lack novel experience. Therefore, work closely with your partner company early on, and learn from that team’s experience and event vision. Steer clear of thinking you can deliver an overused "event in a box." Instead, get creative by cycling between the digital and live event experience with something their audience wants, not what you want for their audience.

3. Leverage your Existing Partnerships on Behalf of Your Event Partner

An event can add value to your existing relationships. For example, if your brand has endorsement deals with athletes or celebrities, that talent might be willing to market to an event audience alongside you. Be sure to promote that VIP presence across your partner's social channels and your own. Everyone wins with a VIP networking opportunity — it's worth every premium dollar, especially when it means you can add key contacts to your own Rolodex.

4. Support the Community

Consider supporting an organization (for or not for profit) that your target audience is passionate about. Because many organizations can't afford extensive event planning, your third-party support means a lot. Furthermore, these events are generally easy on the wallet and create brand loyalty with core influencers who attend. Added bonus: This passionate audience is likely to share event photos, posts and other highlights across their social media channels, which, if watermarked with your logo, means a great ROI for your brand.

5. I Scratch Your Back, You Scratch Mine

If you are sponsoring a brand's event, why not negotiate by asking it to support one of your future events? Establishing these long-term partnerships will benefit your reach within their community. The alliance benefits the partner brand too, netting it more impressions and activity on a larger industry scale. Don't expect them to repay you in dollars, however, but rather in barter — whether through digital or print ad units or (gasp!) editorial support. This collaboration will save you costs on your bottom line and create a priceless buzz.

6. Be Careful Not to Get Lost in the Brand Parade

CES, SXSW, Blogworld, film festivals, etc. are great places to access reporters and consumers in one place, but these event-saturated gatherings can often get jam-packed. That means it can get difficult to differentiate brand party A from brand party B when everybody is under one roof. There is another high risk: You'll never know what other brands have in their pockets to easily one-up your flashy spend. Therefore, carefully analyze your full event budget. If you can pull a large crowd without expending too many resources on additional PR and marketing strategies, then a solo event is best. If you need some help, consider paying another brand to manage a guaranteed attendee list. It will mean a better use of precious resources and less of a headache than soliciting your own attendee list.

7. Strategically Navigate Crowded Brand Tiers

It's hard to predict exactly how many other brands will end up in your partnership circle, but you can anticipate your placement in the tier. If your goal is to generate straight media impressions, for example, your best option is to fork over for the top placement dollars to stamp your name, and thus, guarantee press hits at every possible instance. If you just want into the crowd, pay the minimal amount and get creative with your brand's onsite presence, being sure to integrate your event partners' goals with your own. If you find yourself in a crowded tier, remember there's a lot more power and reach when you activate everyone's social network and resources for the greater good.

8. Bridge Online and Offline Experiences

Event planning means combining traditional digital media buys with robust face-to-face experiential activations, especially in today's 360-degree landscape. Events should be used to gather content for digital sharing later, to initiate a campaign's activation points and to bridge online and offline experiences.

9. You Will Be Very Meticulously Measured Every Step of the Way

Mere estimates of impressions and reach are now unacceptable forms of reporting. Now every hashtag and livestream is not only available, but also immediately collectable, quantifiable and deliverable. Because anyone can potentially double-check your wrap report facts, it's important to use reliable third party tools to back up your ROI claims. Many of these tools, such as RowFeeder and Klout, require setup prior to the event for comprehensive results, so be sure to set these in motion as soon as you've created that event hashtag.

10. "Good, Fast, and Cheap" – You Can Never Have All Three

Event planners always hear this request from our vendors. But let's flip it on ourselves instead. Although we presumably exhibit pragmatic planning character, we notoriously wait until late in the game to secure partnership deals — in order to negotiate the "last minute deal" price. Therefore, we end up with "fast" and "cheap," but let the "good" fall short.

For the 2012 event year, reach for the "good" and "cheap" combo instead. Sign up early with your partners. You'll be pleasantly surprised that getting in on the ground floor before an event becomes non-refundable is very refreshing. Plus, that collaborative, co-branded integrative strategy will net measurable ROI impressions, cultivate true loyalty with your target core market and give you time to create a (perhaps cheaper) event that with a longer tail of impact.

Image courtesy of Flickr, eveos, toolmantim

More About: event planning, Events, features, Marketing, pr

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Thanks to Mashable’s Socially Savvy Supporters

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 08:58 AM PST

Thanks to this week's advertisers and partners for enabling us to bring you the latest social media news and resources. Mashable’s sponsors are as social media savvy as our readers!

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This week, our valued sponsors are: Vocus, MessageMaker Social, Lenovo, BMW i, Discover Digital Group, Sprout Social, IDG, CUNY School of Professional Studies, Oneupweb, SoftLayer, SRDS, Buddy Media, Clickatell, Microsoft BizSpark and Eventbrite.

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With the explosion of mobile devices, advertising dollars will begin to shift to mobile for tech marketers this year. IDG Global Solutions President Matt Yorke talks about the rise of social and how IDG helps marketers create social campaigns. The line is fading between social media and traditional media. Earned media or sharing of information within social networks is becoming mainstream whether on a PC or mobile device. Learn more.

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Jim Romenesko, Media News Blogger, Resigns From Poynter

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 08:36 AM PST

Jim Romenesko, who has run the Poynter Institute’s media aggregation blog for 12 years, resigned Thursday after a spat with Poynter about attribution on the blog.

Fittingly, Romenesko was brought down by another journalist. Erika Fry, an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, noticed that Romenesko often pulled whole paragraphs verbatim from stories he was aggregating. Fry caught the attention of Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online, who addressed the issue in a blog post Thursday.

“ works hard to meet the highest standards of journalism excellence, and I learned late Wednesday that we have not consistently met those standards,” Moos wrote. On Friday, Moos announced on the blog that she had accepted Romenesko’s resignation.

Poynter bought Romenesko’s blog 12 years ago. Since that time, it has become a hub of information about journalists and the media. It is known not only for its choice of stories, but also for the discussion threads that take place there. Romenesko told The New York Times that he had expected to leave under different conditions. “This really did throw me for a loop," he told the publication. "I think I'd probably prefer to go quietly."

Romenesko will continue blogging on, which will cover media as well as “other things I’m interested in,” according to a message on the site.

Moos’s decision to call out Romenesko has spurred some controversy in journalistic circles. Reuters columnist Felix Salmon wrote a profanity-laden blog post defending Romenesko. “Jim Romenesko is a KING of the blogosphere,” Salmon wrote. “He's the kind of person you should be looking to as an exemplar of best practices in the blogosphere. If your guidelines go against what Jim is doing, then there might well be something wrong with your guidelines. You do not throw him under the bus like this just to get out in front of a CJR piece.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, johnthurm

More About: Jim Romenesko, journalism, Media, poynter, trending

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How Hashtagging the Web Could Improve Our Collective Intelligence

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 08:25 AM PST

Laura Larsell is the information ontologist at Trapit, a content discovery, personalization and curation platform currently in beta. Laura holds an M.A. in library sciences from the University of Texas at Austin.

I rolled my eyes when the Library of Congress announced in the spring of 2010 that it would be archiving Twitter. Great, I thought — drunken tweets about burritos preserved for eternal posterity.

But the Library of Congress, as it turns out, was more forward thinking than I could have imagined. Twitter data, presumed to represent the pulse — and sometimes the future — of popular consciousness, now commands big bucks from hedge funds that in turn use Twitter data to make investment predictions. Even scientists are tapping into Twitter data for research purposes.

Why all the fuss over tweets? Twitter hosts valuable, communal conversation in real-time. And Twitter trends become more powerful the more users contribute to the dialogue. Finally, Twitter allows the chatter of millions to be parsed into channels (hashtags) of real-time conversation that covers widely varying topics. Jokes, rumors, political movements, pop culture fanaticisms, the collective screaming of teenagers — they all bubble to the surface and shift and change like an oil slick, much like a collective human consciousness.

While Twitter generates mass interest and curates collective thought, until usage stats rise significantly, its trends cannot represent the true pulse of world conversation. That needs to change.

Applying Twitter Logic to the Web

Twitter captures an admittedly small slice of the collective world consciousness — in the U.S. only 78.2% of households have access to the Internet, and only 13% of online Americans actively use Twitter. It is also a platform as much about stats and bot spammers as it is about honest conversation.

Despite the clutter, Twitter continues to generate an abundance of sociologically interesting data every day. Researchers from Cornell University recently used Twitter data to look for and examine trends in mood over time. They determined that collective mood patterns fluctuate in predictable ways over the course of the day and year. While this conclusion may seem obvious, before Twitter came along, documenting this type of pattern would have required a massive survey and multiple studies.

One thing that makes Twitter so powerful is its use of a standard language: hashtags. Any hashtagged tweet is automatically linked to every other tweet that shares the same tag. This allows for consistent dialogue and measurement.

However, the Internet as a whole is not a very consistent medium. Patterns emerge in specific areas of the web, but no uniform underlying structure exists to merge these patterns. Content may go viral or score a high page rank, but it doesn’t easily connect to related topics or encourage a larger conversation. It is a frustrating vestige of print culture that my web curation should be limited by my search ability.

Furthermore, what happens to long form digital conversation in the era of Twitter? Consider especially that long form conversations include more invested and potentially expert perspectives. These perspectives are different from the collective consciousness, and yet, are not easily parsed into mainstream channels.

The Watermelon Story

A big part of what I do every day is train an algorithm to tag documents in the manner of my choosing. The software is in beta, and is presently only culling from a selection of web content, but it does pretty well with simple concepts.

Early on, I set the machine to find content relevant to the subject/tag "watermelon." It's a limited data set, but this is what I've found so far: People write about watermelons consistently throughout the summer, most frequently in mid-summer. Again, this may seem an obvious conclusion, but proving it would have taken an incredible amount of time and effort on my part.

So what do people write about watermelons online? Recipes involving or featuring watermelons are by far the most popular watermelon content, and the most popular serving suggestions feature various kinds of boozy drinks and popsicles. The second most popular posts are how-tos that guide readers through the watermelon selection process (knock on it, listen for the right sound).

More niche discussions about watermelon include analyses of racial stereotypes, a story about Palestinian prisoners' daily fruit allowance, and a report on a new variety of cold weather watermelon grown in Turkey.

What conclusions can we draw from this sampling of watermelon content? Over time I'll be able to draw quantitative conclusions about the state of watermelon journalism on the web. Watermelon may not be aggregated often (there are no watermelon sections of the newspaper), however, the ability to easily track more important ideas involving watermelon (like racial stereotypes) over time could prove illuminating.

Content Organization = Collective Knowledge

Twitter can gather direct, mass conversation into subject categories like #watermelon, but the conversation is limited by the short form nature of the platform. If longer form methods of online communication could be aggregated into a similar form of direct conversation, it would serve both spectators and authors alike.

For that to happen, citation must be standardized. Current citation methods like hashtags are rarely, if ever, exhaustive, and they often take on the subjective viewpoint of the author or sharer.

Imagine the level of constructive debate and creativity that we might achieve when we organize and bucket all web content into Twitter-like categories. Imagine the kinds of things we might learn about our collective culture.

Images courtesy of Flickr, misspixels, D Sharon Pruitt

More About: algorithm, content curation, contributor, data, features, trending, Twitter, web

Hulu Plus and ESPN ScoreCenter Coming to Kindle Fire

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 07:59 AM PST

The Amazon Kindle Fire app partnerships just keep coming. Amazon announced Friday that Hulu Plus and ESPN ScoreCenter are coming to the Kindle Fire next week.

Earlier this week, Amazon announced that official apps from Facebook, Netflix, Rhapsody and Zynga will be ready to download and use on the Kindle Fire, direct from the Amazon Appstore.

Slated for release on Nov. 15, demand for the $199 Kindle Fire is already strong, with many analysts predicting that it will be one of the big hits this holiday season.

Because of its price point and strong content strategy, the Kindle Fire might be the first tablet that has what it takes to compete with the iPad. In addition to third-party Android apps, Amazon is offering its own customized Kindle reading experience, access to Amazon Cloud Player and streaming access to thousands of TV shows and movies for Amazon Prime members. Now that it has Hulu Plus support, the Kindle Fire becomes one of the most versatile media consumption devices around.

Barnes & Noble announced its own media tablet, the Nook Tablet, earlier this week. The Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire share many similarities, but Amazon may have the edge in the content partnerships it can sign.

Make no mistake, the battle over next-generation tablet is as much about content as it is about specs and price.

Does Hulu Plus support make the Kindle Fire more appealing? Let us know.

BONUS: A Look at the Kindle Fire

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More About: hulu plus, kindle fire, subscription streaming, tablets

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World’s Fastest-Growing Facebook App Will Scare the Crap Out of You

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 07:44 AM PST

I became forever terrified upon discovering “Take This Lollipop,” an interactive video that launched two weeks before Halloween, yet still continues to haunt millions on the Internet. After giving the application permission to access my information (something my generation often doesn’t think twice about), a blue lollipop appears on the screen with a razor in the middle. Slightly concerned, but mostly intrigued, I click the piece of candy.

Let’s take a tour of the video.

1. Hallway

After clicking on the lollipop, you're led down an eerie hallway.

Click here to view this gallery.

As of this morning, “Take This Lollipop” has been liked by 9,976,146 people, making it the fastest-growing Facebook application ever — a result the video’s creator never expected. Jason Zada is also responsible for “Elf Yourself,” a viral online campaign for Office Max that has earned than 164 million views.

“I’ve never seen anything grow this fast that isn’t hugely supported by something,” says Zada, who hoped around 100,000 people would enjoy his side project. He threw the script together in about 30 minutes, and with the collaborative efforts of his production company, Tool of North America, and developer Jason Nickel, completed the interactive video in four weeks. It was simply a side project for Halloween.

“I just wanted to scare people. It’s kind of a horror movie that has no blood, no guts, but there’s this person that you don’t want looking at your information,” says Zada. “And that to me was the scariest of all.”

Scary indeed. Ironically, you cannot share your experience with the video on Facebook, the most powerful sharing network in the world. People can only see their own information and photos in the video. However, some have uploaded their own reactions to the video on YouTube. Those top four videos have each outdone Zada’s original 100,000-view goal, creating an additional viral layer. Zada unintentionally created a snowballing viral sensation.

“It really started as a social experiment — the old adage ‘don’t take candy from strangers,’” explains Zada. “People did the hard part for me — they convinced each other to try it. You have this lollipop that you know you shouldn’t take, but if your friends tell you to try something that’s potentially really scary, would you do it?”

Although much of the video’s press coverage has addressed the issue of invading privacy online, Zada feels otherwise.

“There are a lot of headlines that it’s scary, how social media is a scary place. On one hand I guess so, but Facebook is very secure — it’s not like your information is being put out there against your will. You have to create your profile. You’re in control of the information you put out there.”

Facebook privacy is not a new concern. But the fact that more than 9.5 million people choose to take that stranger’s candy is something to think about. Is our generation reckless with that choice, or are we just more trusting?

For those audacious enough to take the lollipop, what was your initial reaction to the video? Share your opinions below in the comments.

More About: Facebook, features, interactive videos, privacy, Social Media, trending, viral videos, web apps

Veterans Day 2011: Google Doodle Salutes Troops

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 07:28 AM PST

Google is remembering troops this Veterans Day by flying a yellow ribbon on its homepage.

Its latest Google Doodle, a watercolor-style pastoral scene, swaps the “l” in the Google logo for a tree with a yellow ribbon tied to it. Displaying yellow ribbons is a tradition that predates the civil war in songs and folklore as a symbol of loyalty to loved ones welcomed home.

“In recent years,” says the website of Yellow Ribbon America, “it has been displayed to show our support for our service men and women to keep them first and foremost in our hearts and prayers.”

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Animated Google Doodles [VIDEOS] | Where Do Google Doodles Come From?

Veterans day, originally named Armistice Day, is celebrated in the U.S. every Nov. 11, the day fighting between the Allied nations and Germany officially ended in 1918. Google last honored the holiday with a Doodle in 2009.

The annual National Veterans Day Ceremony will take place on Friday at 11 a.m. ET in Arlington National Cemetery. Regional sites for Veterans Day activities can be found at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

BONUS: More Google Doodles

The Christmas Google Doodle

Each package gets larger with a mouse-over, and a click on it returns search results pertinent to a specific country or the particular items featured in a scene. This one is from December 24, 2010.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: google doodle, Veterans Day

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Adobe Updates Flash Player for Android, Promises Future Security Updates

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 07:10 AM PST

The Flash Player for mobile devices may be dead, but it’s not going to disappear just yet. Adobe has released Flash Player 11.1 for Android, bringing several security updates and fixes.

The new version fixes many critical memory corruption, stack overflow and buffer overflow vulnerabilities, and is recommended for all users.

Although Flash Player 11 is the last major version, this latest update will not be the last security update for mobile Flash.

“Adobe will continue to ship security updates for Flash Player mobile after the final feature release,” Adobe’s senior director of product security and privacy Brad Arkin said on Twitter.

This might be comforting for some users and developers, but we don’t know for how long Adobe plans to release security updates for Flash Player mobile. We’ve asked Adobe for comment on the matter.

Android users can download the latest Flash Player from the Android Market. The desktop version of Flash has also been updated to 11.1; users can download and install it from Adobe’s website.

More About: adobe, android, flash player

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Walmart Offers Major Gaming Deals on Black Friday

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 07:03 AM PST

Some Black Friday deals can be underwhelming (how many $5 USB drives do we need?), but the sale Walmart just revealed for games and gaming equipment may just be enough to lure us out on Thanksgiving night.

From 10 p.m. on Thursday night through all day Friday, Nov. 25, Walmart stores are offering huge door-buster sales to feed our video game hunger.

PlayStation 3 bundles and Xbox 360 with Kinect bundles will be priced at $200 each. The Xbox set also includes a $50 Walmart gift card. The standalone Kinect and game bundle is $100, as is the blue Wii console.

The games themselves are where we get to the good stuff. Recently released titles like Batman: Arkham City, Just Dance 3 and Battlefield 3 will retail for $28. Other games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Dance Central 2 are slated for an even lower price: $15.

Are you planning to shop early or stand in line this year to get these deals?

More About: black friday, holiday shopping, video games, WalMart

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Did the iOS 5 Update Solve Your iPhone Battery Issues? [POLL]

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 07:01 AM PST

The iOS 5.0.1 update that promised to address iPhone 4S battery issues appears to have done little to nothing for some device owners.

As 9to5Mac noticed, dozens of iPhone 4S users complaining that they continue to experience poor battery performance despite having downloaded the update and resetting their phones.

“Installed the new IOS 5.0.1 two hours ago,” one user wrote. “Five percent battery drain in 45 minutes with Wi-Fi and location services turned on and me not touching the iPhone 4S. The new update doesn’t seem to help much.”

“Same here,” another user wrote. “Updated about 1.5 hours ago, battery has drained 20% since then with no usage!”

Some owners did report improvement, however. “Installed iOS 5.0.1, charged the phone to 100%. Went out running with 3G and GPS activated. Runned for 1 hour and it dropped 8%. Amazing so far!” wrote forum member matias cabrera.

Users started complaining about the battery life of their iPhone 4S devices immediately after they were released. Owners of other iOS devices have also complained of battery problems since upgrading to iOS 5. Apple claimed the problem was a software issue, and the iOS 5.0.1 update was issued to address it.

The recent round of complaints suggests, however, that not all iPhone 4S owners are having software-related problems. Some of the more serious cases — particularly those that haven’t been improved by the iOS 5.0.1. update — could stem from hardware issues.

Take our poll below, and let us know what issues you’re experiencing in the comments. If you are, adjusting your time zone settings could improve your device’s battery life.

More About: apple, iOS 5, iOS 5.0.1, iPhone 4S

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Twitter Ordered to Give Up WikiLeaks Data

Posted: 11 Nov 2011 06:43 AM PST

A federal judge on Thursday ordered Twitter to give up information about three account holders under investigation for possible connections to WikiLeaks. The decision rejected an appeal by the three account holders that argued their IP addresses should be considered private.

Those account holders — Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp and Birgitta Jonsdottir — have addressed the situation on Twitter. Gonggrijp, a Dutch citizen, used his feed to direct users to a blog post arguing that the decision is a blow to Internet privacy.

“The consequences of this decision for me are extremely limited: there's not a whole lot you can learn from records that Twitter has on me that you can't learn from reading my blog,” he wrote. “There are bigger principles at stake though, and this is not a good ruling for online privacy.”

Jonsdottir’s feed led readers to an Electronic Frontier Foundation article on the subject with her quote: “With this decision, the court is telling all users of online tools hosted in the U.S. that the U.S. government will have secret access to their data.”

Appelbaum, a U.S. citizen, stated: "Today is one of those 'losing faith in the justice system' kind of days.”

The case began in January when the U.S. government subpoenaed Twitter to hand over private messages between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and others within the organization. The EFF, the American Civil Liberties Union and attorneys representing WikiLeaks fought the subpoena, but in March, a federal judge granted the U.S. government access to the accounts.

That led to another round of appeals, which Judge Liam O’Grady, from the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., rejected on Thursday. O’Grady’s 60-page opinion stated that Twitter users “voluntarily” hand over their IP addresses when they sign up for an account and agree to Twitter’s terms and conditions. Twitter’s privacy policy states that it “may disclose information about an account if Twitter believes it is reasonably necessary to comply with a law, regulation or legal request.”

Representatives from Twitter could not be reached for comment on the decision.

Image courtesy of Flickr, shawncampbell

More About: privacy, trending, Twitter, wikileaks

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