Sunday, 13 November 2011

Mashable: Latest 7 News Updates - including “3 Free Apps For Getting Things Done”

Mashable: Latest 7 News Updates - including “3 Free Apps For Getting Things Done”

3 Free Apps For Getting Things Done

Posted: 12 Nov 2011 02:20 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.

Each weekend, Mashable selects startups we think are building interesting, unique or niche products.

This week we’ve focused on three new apps that help complete (or even inspire) daily tasks.

Any.DO is a social to-do list that’s easier to use than any other we’ve seen. Hailo makes hailing a cab a matter of checking in on an app, and photo game Onefeat inspires creative feats throughout the day.

Hailo: A Network For Taxi Drivers And Passengers

Quick Pitch: Hailo is a network of licensed London taxi drivers that customers can hail using an app.

Genius Idea: Making it easier for customers and taxis to find each other

Mashable’s Take: Hailing a cab can be a competitive sport. Taxi drivers have no way of knowing for sure where there are customers who need a ride, and customers have no way of telling them.

Hailo aims to help the two parties find each other. Customers can request a ride with a free app. After their license is verified, drivers who register can use their own version of the app to accept those requests. So far the service has signed up about 2,300 of 23,000 London Black Cabs.

At the end of a ride booked with Hailo, the cab driver enters the meter fee into his or her app and the customer’s credit card is charged. Hailo takes a 10% cut for making the arrangement. Founder and CEO Jay Bregman says drivers have already charged £1 million in fares through the system.

Bregman hopes to expand soon into other cities. He says the company has already met with the Taxi & Limousine Commission in New York City and is actively preparing to launch in the United States. There he will have competition from Taxi Magic, which charges the user — not the driver — to pay for the ride with a credit card.

Success for a taxi app is somewhat of a chicken-and-egg problem. On one hand, users won’t want to use an app to hail a cab if there aren’t enough drivers registered to respond. On the other, drivers probably won’t find much use for an app that doesn’t send them customers.

Any.DO: A Social To-Do List

Quick Pitch: Any.DO is a simple social to-do list.

Genius Idea: A to-do list that responds to voice commands and gestures

Mashable’s Take: If app stores were physical places, you’d have a hard time throwing a rock in them without hitting a to-do list app.

The team behind Any.DO has already proven it can stand out in this crowded space. Their first to-do list product, an app for Android called Taskos, registered more than 1.3 million users. Those users are now invited to migrate to Any.DO.

Any.DO helps users create, organize and share tasks with friends, even if those friends don’t use the app. It responds to gesture-based commands such as shaking the phone to remove completed tasks, and it can add tasks through voice recognition. Most of the app’s functionality — sharing, reminders, folders and priorities — is similar to other to-do list apps. What makes it stand out is its simple, intuitive interface.

Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors recently led a $1 Million investment in Any.Do, but free apps can be hard to monetize. An Any.DO spokesperson said the business has “a few things in the pipeline” that could generate revenue, but it’s not ready to talk about them.

Onefeat: A Photo Task Game

Quick Pitch: Onefeat is an iPhone app that turns photo missions into a social game.

Genius Idea: Photo sharing apps have taken off in the last two years, but many of them look the same. Take a photo. Add a filter. Post it to your networks.

Paris-based Onefeat has added a new twist to photo sharing with its iPhone and Android apps, turning photo sharing into a game. Users earn points that can unlock trophies by completing “feats” such as “Get to the end of the world” or “Take a self portrait” that are proposed by other users.

Flipping through feats is as entertaining as completing one yourself, and it’s not surprising that users from Brazil, France and the U.S. are playing regularly.

Image courtesy of istockphoto, barisonal

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: Any.DO, bizspark, Hailo, Onefeat

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Some iPod Nano Owners Could Be In for a Pleasant Surprise [RECALL]

Posted: 12 Nov 2011 01:52 PM PST

Do you have an old first-generation iPod Nano lying around? If so, Apple wants to replace it for you, 5 years after you bought it. Such a deal.

But watch out: There’s a slight risk of your old Nano overheating, and possibly even catching on fire because of a defective battery. Apple says if you own one of the Nanos with this problem, you should stop using it immediately. The good news is, newer iPods aren’t affected by the battery defect.

Writes the company on its website:

“Apple has determined that, in very rare cases, the battery in the iPod nano (1st generation) may overheat and pose a safety risk. Affected iPod Nanos were sold between September 2005 and December 2006.

This issue has been traced to a single battery supplier that produced batteries with a manufacturing defect. While the possibility of an incident is rare, the likelihood increases as the battery ages.”

Apple’s providing a place to check your Nano’s serial numbers and order a “replacement unit.” So far, it’s unclear exactly what Apple will send you if you have the correct serial number on your old Nano. We presume the company wouldn’t dig up old iPod Nanos from the distant past, nor would it swap out the batteries in the one you have now.

So if our guess is correct, you’ll be able to trade in that old beat-up and scratched-up iPod for a shiny new one. We’ve contacted the company to find out, but we can’t imagine Apple sending anything but the latest Nano:

iPod Nano Comes in 7 Colors

Click here to view this gallery.

We’ll update this post if and when we hear from Apple. In the meantime, start digging around in those old dresser drawers — there might be an old iPod in there for you to cash in on a new one.

More About: apple, ipod nano, recall

Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

Posted: 12 Nov 2011 12:31 PM PST

1. Honda Small Sports Electric Vehicle

Honda has a handful of attractive electric vehicles up its sleeve, and it'll be showing the enticing prototypes at the Tokyo Motor Show starting December 3. The best of the bunch is this compact two-seater, named the Honda Small Sports EV Concept, built to maximize "the fun of driving while achieving excellent environmental performance." Most of the details are top-secret so far, except a few alluring drawings, two of which you see here. [via Autoblog]

Click here to view this gallery.

The new tech intros seem to get better every week, and this week was no exception. It’s as if we had a time machine, peering into the future to find the coolest cars, newest HDTVs, robotic wonders and even a new kind of T-shirt. Check out our top picks for this week.

More About: honda, iphone, robots, Top 10 Tech

Smartphone Etiquette for the Classic Dinner Date [Infographic]

Posted: 12 Nov 2011 11:31 AM PST

Date night is coming up, so it’s the perfect time to brush up on your mobile phone etiquette. Here’s a comprehensive infographic packed with helpful hints, just in time for Saturday night.

Rather than simply overwhelm you with tons of unfocused tips, man-about-town and Forbes contributor Michael T. Mathews concentrates on social media and smartphone etiquette for the classic dinner date, including activities before, during and after the encounter.

To gather this treasure trove, he interviewed social media marketers in New York City, combined those tips with his own experience, and tossed in a dash of common sense, resulting in an infographic that rings true to us.

Of course, we’re sure Mashable readers — all of whom are socially adept, refined, civilized and good-looking — won’t need this list, but it could certainly be handy for those friends and acquaintances of yours who are not quite so well-versed in the rules of the genteel. Feel free to pass this along to those unfortunate souls.

In the meantime, we’d like to hear from you: Do you have additional tips to add to Mike’s list? What’s the worst breach of smartphone and social media etiquette you’ve ever seen on a dinner date?

Special thanks to Mike Matthews (Twitter: @MobileMatthews) and Forbes for this infographic.

More About: etiquette, infographics, smartphones

4 Strategies for Working With Designers Without Killing Each Other

Posted: 12 Nov 2011 09:35 AM PST

Fourteen years ago, in my first job where my title was "Information Architect," I clashed with a designer. We were working at a large advertising agency that was known for stunning design work. The art directors wielded a level of power at the agency that I have never seen anywhere else, and the result over the decades was a portfolio of gorgeous print and TV ads. The design-first method had worked well for this agency, winning them awards and a long roster of Fortune 500 clients, so they naturally decided to use this approach in their newly launched web department, too.

Things went well for a while, until I attended a kickoff meeting for a new website project. The designer came to the meeting with an already completed graphic design, before any information had been provided about who the site was for or what it would do. This designer had been at the company longer than me, and she had been happily designing sites without an information architect for several months. As far as she was concerned, this was a process that worked well for her, and why shouldn't it? She had complete control of the site, her designs looked lovely, and they were not in any way influenced by user needs, site goals, or reality.

What followed was a long, drawn-out battle for control of the site between me and the designer. This battle usually sounded something like this, played out again and again:

Me: And when you click on this button where does it take you?

Designer: I haven't worked that out yet, but it'll be fine.

At the time, I thought I had encountered a particularly obstinate designer, but in fact I had just bulldozed my way into the biggest challenge in information architecture (IA): navigating the line between beautiful design and usable IA. Because this was early in the web world, the agency had yet to learn about this balance between usability and design, and I hadn't either. And in the intervening years, things haven't changed much. Designers still want to make things beautiful, UXers still want to make things usable, and those two goals are frequently at odds. What has changed for me, though, is the approach I now take to working with designers.

1. Get the Right Designer on the Project

We don't always have the luxury of selecting the designer who will bring our wireframes and prototypes to life, but on occasion this happens. All UXers should have a roster of designers who are UX-friendly who they can call when the opportunity arises. More and more frequently, I have clients who either ask us to handle design or ask for designer referrals. When this happens I always feel like I've won the lottery. I have a collection of designers I've met over the years who are great at working with highly functional sites; if you have the opportunity to influence the designer selection, you need to be ready to jump in with names and portfolios.

2. Don't Just Throw Wireframes Over the Fence

Last year, I worked on an unusual project where the timeframe was so compressed that there was no time for wireframes. Instead I spent many, many hours each day on the phone with the designer discussing the interface, working out where each element should go and exactly how it should function. While I wouldn't recommend this process as a rule, the end result was a beautiful working relationship and an interface that we were both thrilled with.

Many agencies are structured such that designers are just handed a stack of wireframes and told to execute on them. The end result tends to be either a site that looks like a very pretty version of the wireframes, or one that is only very loosely based on the UX design. To strike the right balance that prevents designers from either taking an overly literal interpretation of wireframes or from developing their own new interaction models, designers need to be involved early and often. As soon as you've got a few wireframes done, pull your designer in to start mocking up a visual design so you can work together through anything that needs to be rethought.

3. Give Designers Space to Do Their Thing

People go into design because they want to express their creativity, to play with shapes and color, and to have fun doing it. In some ways, information architects just come in and rain on designers' parades by imposing structure and preferring the obvious over the unique. But there are designers out there — more and more all the time — who look forward to working with information architects because working off of wireframes makes their jobs easier. These designers still want to play and have fun, and (in the right place and time) new and interesting designs and interactions can make people happy, so it's a good idea to include a design-centric section on sites that warrant it, where the information architecture takes a back seat to the design. This works for areas of a site that needs to provide a visceral feel for a brand, or portfolio sections of sites that need to showcase work or case studies. If you respect the designers' need to create something beautiful, they are more likely to respect your need to create something usable.

4. Don't Discount the Importance of Design

It's important to remember, as Don Norman has famously said and Dana Chisnell recently reiterated, that beautiful design makes people happy. Good UX design is the backbone of good visual design, and one cannot exist without the other. Back when I was engaging the designer at my first IA job in thermonuclear warfare, I did it because I only barely registered design as something that mattered to the user experience. But the joy inherent in beautiful design is important as well, so sometimes when a designer overrides your UX design on aesthetic grounds, the designer is right. UXers need to weigh the pros and cons of all design decisions very carefully in order to determine where visual design should triumph over UX design, and vice versa.

There are still struggles, of course, and there are projects where designers want to go one direction and the UX team wants to go another. But I do seem to encounter fewer and fewer all-out wars between design and UX teams. When designers and UXers work well together, the ultimate winners are the users, who get a product that is not only easy to use but lovely to interact with.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, JamesBrey, and Flickr, Phil Roeder

More About: advice, design, mashable, tips

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Top 6 Mashable Comments This Week

Posted: 12 Nov 2011 09:32 AM PST

One of the best parts about working in the Community department here at Mashable is getting to read and respond to the comments that you, our readers, leave on each article. Recently, we launched a new feature to showcase your best comments each week.

Included in our weekly roundup will be comments that are on-topic, thoughtful or just plain funny. We love how these kind of responses drive a conversation and entertain us and the rest of the Mashable community.

Here are this week’s top comments on Mashable:

What Do Google+ Brand Pages Need?

Brian Rich lets us know the 3 things that need to happen on Google+ brand pages for him to start becoming an active user of the service.

Comment posted on: "Google+ Brand Pages Are the "Wild West"– for Now"

Click here to view this gallery.

Want to be featured in our weekly round-up? It’s easy! First, sign up for Mashable Follow, our content curation and social space. Next, read our comment guidelines to get an idea of what we’re looking for. Finally, start posting!

We can’t wait to hear what you’ve got to say about the topics we love.

More About: comments, community, mashable follow, top comments

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62 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Posted: 12 Nov 2011 08:33 AM PST

Here at Mashable, we’re always looking out for you (in a non-Big Brother way) so if your iOS 5 upgrade left you with a dead battery, you may have missed a feature or two. Never fear though, because we’ve gathered the weekly features right here for you.

Google+ had a hot week with the launch of its new brand pages. Although it’s too early to tell what’s to come of it, we did learn what users felt was missing from the social network. The newest tablet to enter the competition was released by Nook, and it might give the others a run for their money.

Looking for even more social media resources? We have everything you’re looking for below.

Editor’s Picks

Social Media

For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Tech & Mobile

For more tech news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s tech channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Business & Marketing

For more business news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s business channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Image courtesy of simpo-jo

More About: Business, Features Week In Review, List, Mobile, Social Media

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4 Chat Services for Contacting International Clients

Posted: 12 Nov 2011 07:08 AM PST

world image

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

Everyone loves international clients, but not everyone likes the headache of trying to reach those clients to talk shop. Business is becoming more global and most companies, from startups to corporations, will need to think about cross-border clients.

So how do you call your partner in Hong Kong or your supplier in London without breaking the bank? There are a bunch of ways to use popular chat services that will help expand your business’ international scope. Read on for some quick tips and let us know what you use to conduct your global business.

1. Skype

Before we jump in, yes, you can just email your international clients. But, this often doesn’t create a true real-time dialogue no matter how fast you, or your clients, can type. For better or for worse, Skype is still one of the best ways to chat across the seas. Skype has video and audio conferencing as well as an instant messaging system. There are a lot of other video clones out there, but Skype is still the most reliable video conferencing service, especially when dealing with people in different countries.

Twestival, an international online social media charity fundraiser, was organized largely thanks to Skype and some late night coffee runs. Amanda Rose, Twestival’s mastermind, held daily calls and chats with her teams based in London, Ireland, Russia, Japan and more in order to sync details and check progress.

2. Gchat, Facebook, Google+

Gchat is an absolute gift, assuming your team uses Gmail. Google’s built-in chat service lets users message, call or video conference, a good option for businesses that need to check in with employees throughout the day rather than schedule individual meetings. It’s far less formal but just as effective (and reliable) as paid services or Skype.

Another similar option is Facebook’s chat service. While a lot of people actively dislike its aesthetic and user interface, it still stands as a viable chat tool. A Facebook account is, of course, necessary to use the service, but at this point odds are pretty high your clients are already online. This option, like Gchat, is more of a passive system that is better for quick chats rather than formal business meetings.

Google+ offers a unique spin on the chat function with its Hangouts. A limited number of users can sign into a hangout to share ideas and conference. Hangouts have been growing in popularity as a way to schedule meetings with remote business teams. While Hangouts are a better option for doing business, Google+ has comparably fewer users so you might need to explain how to use a Hangout before you set up a meeting.

3. Free Conference Calls

It seems like everyone and their grandmother has signed up for a free conference line. These numbers allow many users to call in and share a communal line. Depending on where you register for the number, you will often get a local (or at a least national) number. However, most services worth their salt will also give you a toll-free or international number that overseas clients can call without picking up huge long-distance fees. For example, has an international account option that will create in-country call-in numbers for global participants.

4. Go Local

If your international dealings are limited to one country or geographic region, consider signing up for popular local chat services. For example, one of the largest chat services in China is QQi. Signing up for local services will help those clients feel more comfortable using familiar technology. Of course, QQi isn’t much help if your clients are in London, so be careful about which services you join.

Bonus: Time Zones

One of the most difficult things about chatting with international clients is figuring out what time it is over there. Anyone that’s done international business has either called, or been called, at an ungodly hour because of a time zone miscommunication. Do yourself a favor and look up a good time zone converter online like, which also has a handy meeting planner to help keep everyone on the same schedule.

Image courtesy of Flickr, pasukaru76

More About: Business, features, mashable, open forum, Small Business, World

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