Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Amazon and Viacom to Sign Video Deal [REPORT]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Amazon and Viacom to Sign Video Deal [REPORT]”

Amazon and Viacom to Sign Video Deal [REPORT]

Posted: 08 Feb 2012 02:16 AM PST


Amazon and Viacom might sign a video deal as soon as this week, bringing Amazon one step closer to launching a standalone video streaming service, Reuters reports.

Amazon’s Prime Instant Video is currently a part of the Amazon Prime program, which provides members with unlimited two-day shipping and other benefits for $79 per year.

In September, Amazon inked a video deal with Fox; previously, the company signed deals with CBS, NBC, Sony, Warner Bros. and others.

The addition of Viacom to that list is another sign that Prime Instant Video might soon become a full-fledged competitor to Netflix and other streaming video companies. Google and Verizon are also expected to launch an online video streaming service in 2012, which should make for a very interesting year.

The competition for the streaming video crown is also heating up in the UK, where Netflix recently launched its service to compete with Amazon’s LoveFilm.

[via Reuters]

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, youngvet

More About: amazon, Amazon Instant Prime Videos, trending, viacom

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British Cabinet Warns of Possible Internet Outages During Summer Olympics

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 09:05 PM PST

The British Cabinet Office has warned businesses in England that the country may not be able to fully accommodate a surge in Internet use during the 2012 Olympics in London this summer.

Businesses have been told that Internet providers may be forced to ration access to the web during certain times of day and service may fall out altogether at other times.

“A lot of businesses have still not prepared for the enormous risks presented by the London Games,” Kathryn Hurt, an executive at a workspace leasing company, told England’s Guardian newspaper. “There’s been a lot of discussion about traffic hotspots, but very little about potential internet traffic problems. The risk is that home workers are unable to work effectively due to over-capacity.”

A government document called Preparing Your Business for the Games raises the possibility “that internet services may be slower during the Games or, in very severe cases, there may be dropouts due to an increased number of people accessing the internet.”

Streaming video has become an increasingly popular way for people to consume content, and the British government encourages businesses to steer clear of data-heavy web usage. “Consider alternative means of communication (for example, video-streaming may greatly reduce your internal network’s capacity),” the report reads.

The Cabinet Office also encourages businesses to allow employees to work from home and in staggered shifts to lessen the bandwidth burden on high-usage areas.

It’s hard to imagine the Internet simply failing on a large scale like the government report warns of, but the sheer numbers expected for the London Olympics make such a scenario a bit more understandable. Up to 850,000 athletes, spectators, officials, media members and organizers are expected to be travelling to and from Olympic facilities each day, according to the Guardian.

You can read the Cabinet Office’s full report here.

More About: ISP, olympics

XBox-Controlled Military Robot Can Lift 150 Pounds [VIDEO]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 08:19 PM PST

Meet the Roomba’s hardcore sibling.

The disc-shaped vacuum’s parent company, iRobot, has created a 450-pound military machine called the Warrior.

The Warrior gets around on tank-like treads and features an approximately six-and-a-half-foot-long mechanical arm that is equally adept at opening car doors or smashing out windows, according to MIT’s Technology Review.

The publication hails the Warrior as a significant step forward for military robotics because of its strength and adaptability. The robot can navigate uneven terrain and lift up to 150 pounds with its mechanical arm.

The Warrior is less than two feet tall, not counting the arm, and about three feet in length. It can travel at up to eight miles per hour, thanks to its electric motor. And, despite its small size, the Warrior is reportedly strong enough pull a large automobile.

The domesticated Roomba may be iRobot’s most well-known creation, but it’s not the company’s only popular robot. The PackBot is a much smaller machine that American military troops carry like a backpack before deploying for tasks such as neutralizing explosive devices.

But iRobot’s vice president of operations for military and industrial robots, Tim Trainer, told Technology Review that the Warrior will be able to carry out a much wider range of tasks because of its larger size and enhanced navigability.

“With the small robots, you really have to optimize them for specific missions,” Trainer said. “With the Warrior, you can provide more flexibility.”

The Warrior is operated remotely using an Xbox controller, and Trainer told Technology Review that it has the potential to lift aside rubble in search-and-rescue operations, open doors to dangerous areas, and down the line will work in concert with attached x-ray or firefighting gear.

Prototypes of the Warrior have already been used in the field. Two were deployed to explored damaged buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan after the nuclear disaster there last year. In one case, Trainer said, workers duct-taped a vacuum cleaner to the Warrior’s arm so that it could suck radioactive dust out of a contaminated room. So maybe the Warrior and Roomba do still share some family ties.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iRobot.

More About: robots, trending

Super Bowl XLVI Serves a Record 2.1 Million Live Streams

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 07:46 PM PST

More than 2.1 million viewers watched Super Bowl XLVI via live streams. While this paled in comparison to the game’s record-breaking 111.3 million broadcast viewers, it still set a viewership record for online sporting streams.

NBC tells the Associated Press that the Super Bowl was the “most-watched single-game sports event online.”

NBC and the NFL have been streaming certain games online since 2009 but this was the first time that the season’s grand finale was available. Verizon and Bell Canada customers were also able to enjoy the game using mobile apps.

Network policy company Sandvine’s traffic statistics show that 6.2% of downstream network traffic at 9pm on Sunday was dedicated to That’s the type of traffic usually reserved for the Internet’s biggest websites, according to Sandvine. (See chart for details.)

But while and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter featured surges in traffic, Internet usage as a whole was down for the night, thanks to the large number of people tuned into the game on TV. In fact, Sandvine’s traffic charts show that Netflix usage in North America dropped by up to 40% on Sunday night.

When users were online, many used phones or tablets. Google’s Mobile Ads Blog reports that mobile devices accounted for 41% of searches for Super Bowl TV ads during the game itself. (See Google chart for details.)

Top terms, including “Madonna” and “Clint Eastwood” were huge winners in mobile and tablet search. In fact, Google reports that smartphone searches for Clint Eastwood were up 5,500% during the game.

This reinforces the growing trend toward second screen viewing. As a Nielsen study recently pointed out, nearly half of all smartphone and tablet users employ their devices while watching TV.

We’ve known that sports are big performers in the social TV space. One nice thing about major events like the Super Bowl is that they can help set trends for other types of programming.

Did you watch the Super Bowl online or use your phone or tablet while watching the game on TV? Let us know in the comments.

More About: nbc sports, Sandvine, second screen, social tv, stats, Super Bowl

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‘App Economy’ Has Created Nearly Half a Million Jobs Since 2007 [STUDY]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 07:10 PM PST

That app you use to play Words with Friends on your phone or book a reservation using Open Table might be giving the American economy a nice boost, at least according to a new survey by TechNet.

The new “app economy” has created about 466,000 jobs in the United States since 2007, according to the survey.

“America's App Economy – which had zero jobs just 5 years ago before the iPhone was introduced – demonstrates that we can quickly create economic value and jobs through cutting-edge innovation," Rey Ramsey, President and CEO of TechNet, said on the company’s blog. "Today, the App Economy is creating jobs in every part of America, employing hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers today and even more in the years to come."

California took the lion’s share of growth with 23.8% of app-related jobs. The New York-Northern New Jersey- Long Island area tops the regional list with 9.2% of app-sparked growth.

Programmers, user interface designers, tech marketers and support staff can rejoice — all of these positions are impacted by the growing use of apps.

The survey was funded by TechNet, a bipartisan organization with a stated goal to vigorously promote technology, and Dr. Michael Mandel of South Mountain Economics LLC.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have the title “mobile app developer” yet, but other IT positions are projected to see major growth in the next six years. “Computer software engineers, applications” is a term used to describe a sector of jobs that is expected to grow 34% from 2008-2018.

As mobile devices and the cloud help to expand the business of apps, it wouldn’t be a surprise for that number to jump even more.

Have you been impacted by the “app economy”? How? Tell us in the comments.

More About: android, application, apps, economy, iphone, jobs

#Linsanity! Knicks Guard Is Social Media’s Newest Athlete Darling

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 06:39 PM PST

With the NFL season over and Tim Tebow long since bounced from the playoffs, social media users appear to have found their newest object of sports fascination, at least for now. His name is Jeremy Lin, and he is a career underdog who plays point guard for the New York Knicks.

When Lin made his first career start for the Knicks on Monday, he unexpectedly lit up the scoreboard — and the Twittersphere. Lin totaled 28 points and eight assists in the game, and that night his name and the hashtag Linsanity trended on the network. Journalists and fans on Twitter used the hashtag to examine his stats, crack jokes, add tidbits to further burnish his legend, and extoll his virtues as both player and person.

The Taiwanese-American’s Chinese name, Lin Shuhao, was among Monday’s most-searched terms on Seina Weibo, a Chinese service similar to Twitter, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Videos of his recent exploits with the team have gained more than a million views on YouTube over the past several days. More than a thousand fans commented on Lin’s Facebook Page after he posted a status update on Saturday night following a breakout performance agains the New Jersey Nets. He has even inspired at least one tribute rap online.

Lin was an unheralded high school player in Palo Alto, Calif., and played for four years at Harvard University, about the farthest thing imaginable from a traditional basketball power. He went un-drafted out of Harvard but managed to make the Golden State Warriors’ roster as a rookie free agent last season and become the NBA’s first Asian-American player since 1947.

Like Tebow, Lin is a fervent Christian, a model citizen and a former college star expected by most to fail at the professional level. During the football season, Tebow spawned so many memes and Internet trends that he practically became a meme unto himself. Lin has a long way still to go to reach that level, but gets his next chance to add to his growing mythos on Wednesday night, when the Knicks visit the Washington Wizards.

Lin is expected to be in the starting lineup again, so we’ll see if the #Linsanity continues.

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lin’s Facebook Page.

More About: Social Media, sports, Twitter

Facebook Timeline: Disliked by the Masses [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 06:06 PM PST

Facebook layout changes are rarely welcomed with open arms by the majority of users and Timeline has been no exception.

A whopping of 70% of people who responded to a SodaHead poll would ditch Timeline if they could. Some 20% like it and 10% of survey respondents do not have Facebook accounts.

The survey asked 1,327 people what they thought about the soon-to-be mandatory Facebook Timeline.

The countdown to full-adoption of Timeline started two weeks ago, when Facebook announced that users would see notifications on their home page and then have seven days to clean up their Timelines. Facebook hasn’t set a specific date for the universal adoption of Timeline, but it should happen “within a few weeks.”

Facebook Timeline has made some users worried about privacy since viewers can look through each year of a person’s Facebook life in a few clicks. Facebook gives you seven days to make the switch, so you have enough time to hide the content you would like to keep private.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Timeline-ageddon: Why Now?

The Sodahead survey looked at the respondents’ genders, ages and geographical locations. Men and women equally dislike Timeline, each at a 77% rate.

While few like Facebook Timeline, Millennials are more likely to accept Facebook’s new look — 30% of 18 to 24-year-olds like Timeline. The next closest age group to embrace Timeline is 13 to 17-year-olds (27%) followed by 25 to 35-year-olds (23%).

A recent survey of Mashable readers, meanwhile, found that 79% of more than 1,500 respondents wished the new feature were optional.

Have you enabled your Facebook Timeline yet? Tells us what you think of it in the comments below.

Infographic courtesy of SodaHead

More About: dislike, Facebook, facebook timeline, infographic, poll

12 Pinterest Boards for Valentine’s Day Inspiration

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 05:33 PM PST

1. Etsy

Etsy is a no-brainer for gifts, and even though its Valentine's Day board is rather sparsely populated, the content is super original.

Click here to view this gallery.

Brush off your pink tie and rustle up some sugar — Valentine’s Day is nearly here. To celebrate the season of love, we found some of the most romantic Pinterest Boards out there.

Whether you’re single, attached or celebrating with the kids, these Boards have something for everyone. Some users have Pinned craft or DIY ideas, while others have embraced the sweeter side of the holiday with sugary recipes galore.

SEE ALSO: 15 of the Most Popular Pictures on Pinterest

Take a spin through the gallery, and let us know in the comments which Pinterest Boards and users have inspired you this Valentine’s holiday.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Pink Sherbet Photography

More About: features, Holidays, pinterest, Social Media, Valentines

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Jason Mraz Launches Instagram Contest: Make Photo Art for This Song

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 05:02 PM PST

Emilywhite4031's Entry

Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz wants Instagram users to translate his new song, "I Won't Give Up," into a single image. The contest asks fans to tag their photograph with #IWONTGIVEUP.

"I am grateful for everyone who has heard the love in 'I Won't Give Up,' and I'm excited to see how the song translates into so many visual interpretations." Mraz told Mashable.

Photo from Instagram.

Click here to view this gallery.

Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz wants Instagram users to translate his new song, “I Won’t Give Up,” into one image. The contest asks fans to tag their photograph with #IWONTGIVEUP.

“I am grateful for everyone who has heard the love in 'I Won’t Give Up,' and I’m excited to see how the song translates into so many visual interpretations.” Mraz told Mashable on Tuesday.

Mraz, who is one the most-followed users on photo-sharing mobile app Instgram, won’t have to wait to see his challenge to fans come to life. Users have already submitted more than 3,000 pictures (see gallery above for examples), including one from pop star Selena Gomez. Here’s her entry:

Instagrammers have until Feb. 20 to join the contest. Mraz will then choose 25 winners, who will be invited to meet him at a private showcase in New York City. CanvasPop plans to print the top photos on large-format canvas, and Mraz will sign them at the gathering on March 8.

SEE ALSO: Instagram Users Snap Spectacular Shots at Sailing’s Toughest Event [PICS]

“This contest is all about reaching out to fans and developing a personal connection with Jason’s inspiring song (listen below),” says CanvasPop director of marketing Spencer Callaghan. “We feel the same way about our Instagram print service; it transforms the images from pixels on a screen to a treasured piece of art.”

Instagram is no stranger to having celebrities and the masses — 15 million users at last count — use its service. Just last month, U.S. President Barack Obama joined.

SEE ALSO: Lady Gaga's New Social Network Resembles Pinterest, Reddit [PICS]

Apple dubbed Instagram its App of the Year in 2011, and company founder Kevin Systrom just appeared in Best Buy’s Super Bowl ad.

"The iPhone and Instagram have given people the ability to create art through casual photography,” says Mike Mignano, director of digital product development at Atlantic Records, Mraz’s record label.

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, instagram, mobile apps, Music

Meet the Phone Charger That Scraps Cables Forever

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 04:41 PM PST

Everyone knows that dreaded feeling of being out of town and realizing you left your phone charger at home.

A new charging concept created by Francois Rybarczyk takes the panic out of the situation. It turns the phone’s battery into a removable module with a built-in plug that folds out. Since the charging plug is built into the module, you’ll never be without a power supply.

Called the Autonome (pronounced “autonomy”), the charging module does away with any power cables. The Autonome supplements another battery in the phone, so you can power it up and then hook it back up to the phone to charge it.

An image posted on design site Yanko Design (you can see it in the gallery below) shows Rybarczyk’s plan for a charge that takes only 30 seconds to complete — impossible using today’s technology (unless the battery holds only a miniscule charge). Some emerging technology suggests fast charging could happen soon though.

There are other concepts in the works that could simplify the charging equation. Nokia recently tested a solar-powered phone, but concluded that the device was hard to keep in direct sunlight and that it limited usage time.

Another concept aimed at making charging easier was through a USB wall socket called U-Socket, which switches a wall outlet with two extra USB charging ports.

Of course, the Autonome is only a concept for now, but some enterprising company could buy into Rybarczyk’s idea.

Would you use the Autonome? What are some ways you make your phone battery last longer? Let us know in the comments.

Less Cable-Dependent

A new charging concept called the Autonome (pronounced "autonomy") takes the panic out of forgetting your phone charger.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Mobile

Millions of Facebook’s ‘Active Users’ May Never Visit the Site [VIDEO]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 04:18 PM PST

On the first page of its IPO prospectus, Facebook claims 845 million monthly active users and 483 million daily active users.

But those numbers should come with a disclaimer. The New York Times points out that Facebook defines an “active” user (on page 44) as one who accesses the site through the web or mobile, as well as those who do any Facebook action, without ever directing to

If you Like any website, you are considered an active user. If you automatically share you tweets, checkins, songs played on Spotify on pins to Facebook — without ever visiting Facebook — you are an active user.

According to a December 2011 Nielsen Company report, 153 million Americans visited Facebook. The company says 161 million Americans are active monthly users. Facebook may be off by as many as 40 million “active” monthly users — 805 million rather than 845 million — if the difference is consistent between countries.

The New York Times points out that Facebook’s metrics are more transparent than other major Internet companies, as its active users are engaging in activities related to the social network. Google has come under criticism for its what are criticized as inflated Google+ user totals.

Do you share engage in Facebook-related activities without visiting the site? Let us know in the comments.

Additional Facebook IPO Coverage

Top 5 Social Sites for Film Fans

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 03:56 PM PST

If you ranted and raved about the recent Oscar nominations on Facebook, but none of your friends seemed to care, it's time to either A) find new friends or B) find a social network that caters to your cinematic needs.

Here are five great sites that help you connect with film fans from all over the world.

1. GetGlue


If you love movies, but your interests are too varied to be contained to one medium, then GetGlue is for you. Much like Foursquare, you check in to your favorite activity — everything from movies, TV shows, the big game, music, books and plenty more — using the website or the mobile app. But instead of badges, you earn stickers with every checkin. Some stickers will give you the opportunity to win prizes, but most are simply a great way to show your geeky pride to the people that follow you. Unlike Foursquare's badges, though, you can actually request physical copies of the stickers you've earned, so you can take that pride offline as well.

The interaction on GetGlue is pretty one-on-one. So if you're looking for conversation, the best thing to do is check in after you've watched the movie and include a quick review in your post. Someone will usually chime in with their own opinion and you might make a new friend.

2. iCheckMovies


Some movie fans set a goal to watch everything on a particular list of films, like the Best Picture nominees, the IMDb Top 250 or any of the AFI 100 inventories. With iCheckMovies, just check off the movies you've watched and it will automatically track your progress on a variety of these indexes all at once. You can even create a personal list if you want to target a specific genre or area of interest. When you’ve completed a list, you’ll earn awards that display on your profile to show your movie-watching prowess to the world. Based on the movies you've seen, the site will try to match you with people who have similar tastes so that you can easily follow their progress and discover new movies.

If you want even more interaction, iCheckMovies recently set up forums for users to discuss genres, regional films and for fans of film podcasts to chat about the latest episode. Depending on the level of involvement you want, the site offers free membership or a couple of paid membership tiers, but for most people, the free version is all you’ll need. Be careful, though — checking off movies can become quite addicting.

3. Letterboxd


One of the newest social movie sites out there, Letterboxd is still in beta, so you'll need to request an invite or find a friendly film fan that will send you one. Once you're in, create a personal profile and then populate it by searching for movies. Each title has its own page, complete with a brief plot synopsis, cast information, average star rating from the community and popular reviews written by other Letterboxd users. From here you can mark that you’ve seen the movie, like it, give it a star rating, write a review or put it on a custom list, like "My Favorite Samurai Movies."

Nearly all of your Letterboxd activity is broadcast on the site, so there are plenty of avenues to find users who share your cinematic interests. And because you don’t have to send a friend request, you can follow anyone in order to check out the latest movies they’ve seen, lists they’ve created and reviews they’ve written. Just add your own two cents to one of the ubiquitous comment boxes and get the conversation rolling.

The site is gaining quite a bit of traction with online film critics, so look to connect with some of your favorite personalities from /Film,,, Twitch and more.



If your film standards lean more toward Federico Fellini than Lindsay Lohan, MUBI may be the social movie site for you. MUBI (formerly The Auteurs) focuses on international films, experimental shorts and titles that you might find in the Criterion Collection. On the site, you can set up a personal profile complete with the style of films you prefer, like Fashionable Alienation, Vanguard Cinema and Neorealist, among others.

Next, rate your favorite directors, your favorite movies, post notes to your wall and follow people from all over the world or in your region to see what's playing at the local art house theater. Jump into the forums where you'll engage in discussions like "Cinema that redefines narrative," "Kurosawa vs. Shakespeare," and "Nihilistic Cinema." Some of these conversations are so deep it's like a film class in a box.

If you’re an aspiring filmmaker yourself, check out the Garage to connect with other auteurs who can help you make your cinematic dreams come true.

What really sets MUBI apart is the ability to stream hundreds of these great films directly to a computer or Boxee device on your TV. Most of the short subjects are free, longer films are available for a one-time rental fee of 99 cents to $2.99, or for unlimited access to the entire catalog, it's only $6.99 a month.

5. hasn't even launched yet and it's already generating quite a bit of buzz among movie fans. Like other sites, users can mark a movie as seen, owned, add it to a custom list, give it a star rating or write a review. But with, you can also recommend a movie to a single user, a group of users or the community at-large. All of this activity is grouped together as part of the site's Chatter, a Pinterest-like graphical presentation of everything users are doing.

The Chatter can be broadened to all users, narrowed to only the people you follow or even filtered down to an individual film to see what people are saying about it. From there, it's easy to recognize positive reviews in blue, negative in purple and spoiler-filled reviews are clearly marked in yellow so you don't accidentally click on them. In addition, you can post your favorite quotes from the movie, as well as start conversations so that others can offer their opinions and insights.

The site is set to launch soon for a small group of VIP members, but the developers hope to make it available to a larger audience in the coming months, so get signed up for beta testing now. With its strong visual approach, this is one site you’ll want to keep an eye on.

BONUS: 8 Top Apps and Services for Streaming Your Favorite Movies

1. Air Video

Priced at only $2.99, Air Video is one of the best streaming apps on the market, providing access to your entire video collection anytime and anywhere. Instead of synchronizing videos to watch them on various devices, Air Video allows you to watch them over the air without the hassle of sharing, converting and downloading files. It also gives iPad users access to content purchased via iTunes by streaming it through Safari.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Entertainment, features, Film, Movies, Social Media, social networks

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Apple in Talks to Open Mini Shops Within Sam’s Club Locations [RUMOR]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 03:36 PM PST

Apple may be working on a deal to open up a series of mini shops inside Sam’s Club locations, according to a new report.

According to a report by 9to5Mac, Apple is in early talks to open a store-within-a-store concept inside select Sam’s Club, a subsidiary of Walmart.

Although Apple already sells various products at the discount wholesale chain such as iPhones and iPads, the move would likely introduce Mac desktops and laptops to locations.

This isn't the first time that rumors have circulated about Apple opening mini shops in discount retail stores. In January, Target confirmed to The New York Times that it will be introducing 25 Apple mini-shops within its stores this year. The news came after Target announced it will be partnering with several specialty stores to attract more shoppers to its locations.

Starting May 6, participating boutiques will come to Target for a six-week trial period and then be replaced by another participating brand. Stores involved in the program — called The Shops at Target — include the Candy Store, Polka Dog Bakery and home goods retailer Privet House. However, Apple is not a part of the program.

"One of the reasons our guests love shopping at Target is our design partnerships. They create excitement and leave even the most loyal Target shoppers wondering what we'll do next," Brian Robinson, Target's director of fashion and design partnerships, said in a statement. "With The Shops at Target, we're building on that sense of discovery by offering our guests a chance to experience one-of-a-kind specialty stores and boutiques through collections that have been specifically tailored to their wants and needs."

Although Target is already carrying some Apple products, the store-within-a-store concept will be an extension of that and likely feature floor space and signs dedicated to the brand.

Do you think Apple possibly opening up mini shops in discount retail locations is a good idea? Would you consider buying an Apple computer from Sam’s Club? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Camrocker

More About: apple, computers, mac, Mobile, Target

Lady Gaga’s New Social Network Resembles Pinterest, Reddit [PICS]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 03:18 PM PST

Pop megastar Lady Gaga has pierced her powerful, digitally-willing paws deeper into the online world with the closed beta launch of her new social network. -- the first product created by startup Backplane -- gives Gaga's fans an outlet to create or share Gaga-related content, interact with fellow "Little Monsters" and publicly show whether they like what other users post.

Click here to view this gallery.

Pop megastar Lady Gaga has pierced her powerful, digitally-willing paws deeper into the online world with the closed beta launch of her new social network. — the first product created by startup Backplane — gives Gaga’s fans an outlet to create or share Gaga-related content, interact with fellow “Little Monsters” and publicly show whether they like what other users post. You can request an invite to join the network now.

With a look like Pinterest and an popularity-vote feel like Reddit, the Little Monsters website appears to be latching on to what’s hot on the web right now: sharing visuals and rating content.

SEE ALSO: How Pinterest Is Changing Website Design | 100,000 People Visited Reddit at Once

Backplane CEO and co-founder Matt Michelsen told Mashable that this site and future Blackplane projects have one core mission: “Unite people around interests, affinities and movements.”

To help complete that goal of creating communities (they don’t necessarily have to be social ones), Backplane will look to its expanding staff and four co-founders, several of which have tech backgrounds working at Google, Palantir Technologies and Yahoo. The other three co-founders are Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter, former Google designer Joey Primiani and former Palantir director of operations Alex Moore.

The social network, which has been around in beta for four weeks now, has doled out roughly 10,000 codes, including one to Mashable. Check out our test-run in the gallery above for specifics.

“Backplane is about bringing together communities and Gaga’s community just so happens to be the community we’re using … We think we can really change the world, but we’re fearful that we’re going to be pigeon-holed.”

“Backplane is about bringing together communities and Gaga’s community just so happens to be the community we’re using to learn about proper functionality,” Michelsen says. “We think we can really change the world.”

Backplane, partially funded by Gaga, plans to launch Little Monsters out of beta and unleash more sites in 2012. Once more sites are unveiled, Backplane intends to release a dashboard on its site this summer that would combine the communities.

Gaga’s strong social media presence should work into Backplane’s advantage and help build a large user base — let alone attention to the startup — for Little Monsters. Gaga joined Google+ in January and has already accumulated more than 330,000 followers. That’s in addition to her almost 19 million Twitter followers, which is the most for any user on the microblogging service, and 47 million Facebook fans.

Her involvement with two Google initiatives in 2011 is also a testament to her digital presence: a Chrome commercial and Google Goes Gaga, a sit-down session with Google executive Marissa Mayer to promote Google Moderator. At that time, Mayer said, “At Google, we've seen Gaga build her career by embracing technology … as well as constantly innovating for her fans.”

Additionally, Gaga was the first artist to reach 1 billion views on YouTube; she beat President Barack Obama to 10 million Facebook fans; Vogue released a Lady Gaga-focused iPad-only magazine app; and she became creative director at Polaroid.

BONUS: How Lady Gaga Used the Web to Propel Her Last Album

In the months leading up to the May 23, 2011, Born This Way album release — and even now — Gaga has paved a path for stars and brands to get inventive with the ways they use digital and social media to promote themselves and connect with fans. Gaga is no stranger to success on the web. The promotional juggernaut in 2011 ramped up her all-encompassing web presence, fostering partnerships with Zynga for the FarmVille-inspired GagaVille, Starbucks for a massive scavenger hunt, VEVO for exclusive premieres, HBO for a concert special, Rdio for free lifetime subscriptions, iTunes for a promotional countdown, Best Buy and Livestream for an album signing and Gilt Groupe and Amazon Cloud Player for deals.

Below, we've compiled a huge swathe of the digital and social media initiatives behind Gaga's Born This Way, which is now nominated for three Grammy awards, including her third-straight nod for Album of the Year.

Zynga's GagaVille

On May 17, Zynga launched the Farmville-style GagaVille, which garnered much ridicule from Gaga haters and laughs from even the most devoted Little Monsters.

Jokes aside, Lady Gaga like other big brands this year found a way to leverage the enormous social gaming population, which is expected to reach 68.7 million players by the end of 2012.

Gamers were able to unlock and stream unreleased tracks from Born This Way and bonus remixes. The game incorporated Gaga's style and personality with users having access to crystals, unicorns and sheep on motorcycles. The GagaVille campaign also incorporated Zynga game cards (buy a $25 card and receive the Born This Way album and bonus tracks for free); Words With Friends (use a Gaga word of the day and be entered for concert tickets); and RewardVille (win virtual goods to use in other Zynga games).

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: celebrities, Entertainment, Lady Gaga, Little Monsters, Music, Social Media, social networks

Prop 8 Is Unconstitutional — Social Media (Mostly) Says Good Riddance

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 02:52 PM PST

A federal court decided on Tuesday to uphold a ruling from 2010 that declared the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional — and it caused a hubbub on the interwebs.

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to uphold a lower court’s decision that declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2010.

Within less than an hour “Prop 8” became a trending term on Twitter, according to The Facebook page for No on Prop 8 had 1,433 likes for a single post about the upholding of the ruling. The page as a whole has 300,000 likes.

The two big websites in support of California’s proposition 8 — National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the Protect Marriage site — paled by comparison.

NOM’s Facebook page doesn’t have a wall, and only 937 likes in total. Its Twitter account with 4,571 followers pales in comparison to No on Prop 8′s 10,921 Twitter followers — although both accounts appear to be active.

There are many more accounts on Facebook dedicated to same-sex marriage equality, while others are devoted to lambasting organizations such as NOM.

The Protect Marriage Facebook page is technically active — but recent posts detail Russian scientists drilling into antarctic ice sheets and a meme that spells out “we will rock you” in photos. The page is operated by Louis J. Marinelli who was the former social media manager for the National Organization for Marriage until he later had a change of heart.

NOM Executive Director Brian S. Brown says in a letter on NOM’s blog, “A Supreme Court victory would preserve the marriage laws of 44 states, denying same-sex marriage radicals in their campaign to force gay marriage on the entire nation in one fell swoop. But if we lose at the Supreme Court, marriage will be jeopardized not just in California, but in all 50 states.”

The site calls for donations in support of its campaign to ban same-sex marriage.

In the majority opinion, Judge Stephen Reinhardt says, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

See the ruling here

After it became public knowledge that Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled the passing of prop 8 was unconstitutional in 2010, had a long-term same-sex partner, some questioned whether or not he could be objective with this issue or if it was a conflict of interest.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, arakonyunus

More About: Facebook, San Francisco-San Jose, social networks, Twitter

Zuckerberg to Be Taxed at Lower Rate Than Most Facebook Employees

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 02:38 PM PST

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s future tax rate is likely to be in Mitt Romney territory while more recent Facebook employees will be taxed around the rate of Warren Buffett’s secretary.

While the gulf in rates raises 1% vs. 99% tax fairness issues, the picture is more complicated than that. Facebook’s decision to remain private for so long also contributed to the difference.

After Facebook released its S-1 document related to its IPO last week, back-of-the-envelope calculations revealed that Zuckerberg would pay $1.5 billion to $2 billion in taxes after cashing in stock options worth around $5 billion.

That figure was determined by taking 35% — the top federal income tax rate. Zuckerberg would also have to pay a tax of about 10% in California.

However, since Zuckerberg’s income will primarily be based on sale of Facebook stock going forward, his income will be treated as capital gains. The current rate is 15%. Mitt and Ann Romney estimate they will pay a rate of 15.4% for 2011 on income of $20.9 million because that income came from capital gains. The disparity between the rate that the rich pay — Romney and his wife are worth more than $400 million — became a hot-button issue recently as the Occupy Wall Street movement protested the gap between the top 1% and the rest of the country.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama underscored the fairness issue by inviting billionaire Warren Buffett and his secretary, Debbie Bosanek. Bosanek pays a tax rate of 35.8% while Buffett, who makes most of his money via capital gains, pays 17.4%.

Since they hold restricted stock units rather than standard stock, most of Facebook’s 3,200 employees will pay a rate closer to Bosanek’s than Buffett’s. That’s because RSUs — which Facebook began granting in 2007 instead of stock options — are treated as income and taxed at 35% or so. RSUs have become popular in recent years as startups began holding off longer on IPOs.

By limiting their pool of investors to less than 500 (the Security and Exchange Commission’s limit), companies like Facebook can stay private, but still reward its employees and give them incentive to stay. But RSUs, which in Facebook’s case will convert to common stock six months after the company’s IPO, are treated as income, while standard stock (though not stock options) is treated as capital gains.

While some have pointed to Facebook’s “Warren Buffett problem” as proof of the tax system’s unfairness, Gary Reing, a tax lawyer, notes that one of the reasons companies like Facebook use RSUs is because the employees usually couldn’t afford to buy the stock. Says Reing: “If they have the money, they can buy Facebook’s stock like anyone else and get the 15%.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, John-Morgan

More About: facebook ipo, mark zuckerberg, taxes

An Idea for Fixing Education: Skip College, Work at a Startup

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 02:22 PM PST

Skip college, work at a startup. That’s the idea behind a new two-year program called Enstittue that started accepting applications Tuesday.

As newspaper headlines about recent college graduates read along the lines of “educated, unemployed and frustrated” and the average college student takes on a record-breaking amount of crippling debt (on average, $25,250), the program isn’t the first to suggest that there might be something remiss with our certification system.

Enstitute has, however, proposed a somewhat unusual solution.

Co-founders Kane Sarhan and Shaila Ittycheria have rounded up 30 entrepreneurs from the New York City tech scene — including the founders of Thrillist, Birchbox, Pixable and Warby Parker — and asked them to take apprentices under their wings for two years. The minimum requirement to apply for an apprenticeship is a high school diploma, though college students and graduates are also welcome.

During the first year, 15 selected fellows will fill basic administration roles, working with top-level executives at startups. In the second, they’ll specialize in a specific business area at the same startups, theoretically emerging from the process with marketable skills.

Sarhan and Ittycheria, though both formally educated at traditional four-year universities, based the idea on their own experiences in the job market.

“It wasn't about the classroom,” Ittycheria tells Mashable, “It was about the experience I got working for a company … I saw so many friends and classmates who were graduating with no jobs and no skills that would get them jobs.”

The question is whether a two-year apprenticeship at a startup would be any more valuable in those students’ job searches.

The system may be broken, but level of educational attainment and employment (as well as salary) still correlate in the United States. No such trend has been established with startup apprenticeship.

Enstitute, however, wants to help establish this type of real-world experience as a credential. It’s working with recruiters from large technology companies to set up interviews for entry-level jobs with program graduates that would give them a chance to compete directly with college graduates.

“I'll put money on it now that our fellow will outperform any green college graduate,” Ittycheria says.

In the meantime, the program is also encouraging applicants to defer their enrollment at universities they’ve been accepted to — just in case.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, bo1982

More About: education, Enstitute, Startups

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Yahoo Chairman Steps Down

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 02:11 PM PST


Yahoo‘s chairman of the board, Roy Bostock, is leaving the company. Bostock has been chairman since 2008.

Bostock revealed the news to shareholders in a long letter describing the company’s recent restrategizing. A far cry from a resignation letter, Bostock is upbeat about Yahoo’s future and its recent moves, saying that, since the company is in a position to “drive innovation and growth going forward,” he will not seek re-election at the next shareholders’ meeting.

He also said three other Yahoo directors will not seek re-election. The board today elected two new ones, Alfred Amoroso and Maynard Webb, Jr., and is currently seeking “additional” directors.

Bostock’s departure follows the appointment of Scott Thompson as CEO, the former chief technology officer of PayPal, in January. Shortly after Yahoo hired Thompson, site co-founder Jerry Yang left the company to pursue “other interests.”

SEE ALSO: 5 Things Yahoo's New CEO Must Do Now

Bostock’s time at Yahoo will probably be most remembered for his firing of Carol Bartz as CEO. When Bostock gave Bartz the news, she immediately dashed off a public message on her iPad. Bartz’s reign as CEO was marked with decline and a few odd public outbursts, although it also led to the company’s partnership with Microsoft on search.

In his letter, Bostock alludes to Yahoo possibly changing its arm’s-length relationships with Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan. It’s widely believed that Yahoo will end or reduce its stake overseas in order to refocus on its core products based in the U.S.

The full text of Bostock’s letter to Yahoo shareholders is below.

Do you think Yahoo’s recent “cleansing” of its old guard will save the company? Or is the Internet company doomed to march toward irrelevancy? Have your say in the comments.

SEE ALSO: Bing Overtakes Yahoo as the Number Two Search Engine [STUDY]

February 7, 2012

Dear Fellow Shareholders:

I write today to update you on the actions the Yahoo! board has taken, and the actions it is pursuing, to increase shareholder value and position the Company for growth. These actions result from a process I initiated about six months ago in a special meeting of the independent directors in which we analyzed the reasons why Yahoo! was not meeting either our own expectations or those of our shareholders.

The board decided then to move aggressively on three fronts to position Yahoo! for future success: one, we initiated a search for a new Chief Executive Officer with a vision and set of skills to lead Yahoo! into the future; two, we undertook a comprehensive strategic and structural review of the business; and three, we decided to assess the composition of the Company’s board of directors relative to its ability to enhance the prospects for Yahoo!’s future success. We have made progress on all three fronts.

First, and most importantly, we have appointed Scott Thompson as CEO to lead our company. Scott is a capable and dynamic leader who brings the experience and expertise the Company needs to achieve robust growth and success in the marketplace. Over the coming months and years, Scott will lead an outstanding team of Yahoos to deliver engaging user experiences driven by innovative products.

Second, we have made significant progress on the comprehensive strategic review which is overseen by the board’s Transactions and Strategic Planning Committee, chaired by director Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit. The Committee’s guiding principle has been to assess alternatives which would increase value for all Yahoo! shareholders, and the Committee has been open to any transaction or initiative that would serve this objective.

As part of this review, we have pursued a wide range of discussions with potential partners. We have engaged with potential investors and reviewed proposals concerning an equity investment in the Company, although at this time there have not been any proposals which have been deemed by the Committee to be attractive to our shareholders. We are also in active discussions with our partners in Asia regarding the possibility of restructuring our holdings in Alibaba Group and Yahoo! Japan. The complexity and unique nature of these transactions is significant. While we continue to devote significant resources to these discussions, we are not in a position at this time to provide further detail or to provide assurance that any transaction will be achieved.

Finally, the board has concluded that in order to accelerate the Company’s transformation, the combination of a new Chief Executive Officer with an enhanced team of independent directors would provide Yahoo! with the expertise and perspectives necessary to drive innovation and growth going forward. Therefore, Mr. Joshi, Mr. Kern, Mr. Wilson and I have volunteered not to stand for re-election at the next shareholders’ meeting.

Furthermore, the board today elected two highly qualified independent directors, Alfred Amoroso and Maynard Webb, Jr. Mr. Amoroso served as President and CEO of Rovi Corporation until December 2011 and, among other positions, had previously served as the President, CEO and Vice Chairman of META Group, Inc., the President and CEO of CrossWorlds Software, Inc. and as a member of the world-wide management committee of IBM Corporation. Mr. Webb, the Chairman of LiveOps, Inc., served as that company’s CEO until July 2011. Prior to that, Mr. Webb was Chief Operating Officer of eBay and Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Gateway, Inc., in addition to management, leadership and board positions at several other companies spanning his 30-year career.

The board continues its search for additional independent directors. This search is being led by director Patti Hart, CEO of International Game Technology, Inc., who chairs our Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. We anticipate announcing additional directors to round out the board as soon as this process concludes.

Separately, as previously announced, Jerry Yang has resigned from the board of directors and other positions within the Company to pursue his many interests outside of Yahoo!. Working with Jerry was always a delight. He is a visionary and a pioneer who contributed enormously to Yahoo! since he co-founded the Company in 1995. He will be missed. The board thanks him deeply for his service and commitment to the Company.

Thus, following this year’s Annual Meeting a majority of Yahoo!’s directors will be new to the board this year, and all directors will have joined the board since 2010. We believe that this reconfigured board, with a fresh set of perspectives and diverse set of skills, will enable the Company to move forward even more aggressively.

It has always been a privilege for me to serve as Chairman of Yahoo!. The employees of Yahoo! remain the heart, soul, and future of the company. And with Scott Thompson leading them, they are the reason why I believe Yahoo! will create significant shareholder value over the coming years.

In September, this board moved proactively and decisively to improve the performance of the Company for the benefit of its shareholders. These actions could not have been accomplished without the support and active participation of each director on the board. For that, I thank them. And I thank them for the knowledge, expertise, talents and commitment they have brought to Yahoo!. We all take pride in the fact that we are positioning Yahoo! for success in the future. Yahoo! is an incredibly strong brand with formidable assets. I have every expectation that under Scott’s leadership, working together with the reconstituted board, the Company will thrive for many years to come.


Roy Bostock
Chairman of the Board

More About: carol bartz, Roy Bostock, Scott Thompson, Yahoo

Fashion Startup Moda Operandi: Now Opening to the World

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 01:51 PM PST

Moda Operandi, the closely watched online retail operation from ex-Gilt exec Aslaug Magnusdottir and Vogue contributing editor Lauren Santo Domingo, is in transition.

Once accessible only via application, the year-old site is opening its doors and bolstering its content offerings in an attempt to draw new shoppers in and keep them there.

Moda Operandi sells clothing “straight off the runway” through a series of three-day online trunk shows. Instead of waiting for items to appear in stores half a year later, shoppers are able to place pre-orders with a 50% deposit.

Designers then produce those orders and ship them to Moda Operandi as soon as they are available — about six weeks for jewelry, and four to five months for ready-to-wear — which Moda packages and sends to customers.

For many, the site’s appeal lies in the access it gives them to the more artistic or extravagant items in a designer’s collection — the ones that might not make it to their local Neiman Marcus because they lack mainstream commercial appeal. Ordering through Moda Operandi ensures shoppers will get their hands on items they saw in the shows.

The company made a series of high-profile hires at the end of 2011, funded by the $10 million Series B round it raised in June. Among them is Roopal Patel, former women's accessories editor at Neiman Marcus; Taylor Tomasi Hill, the much-photographed former style and accessories director of Marie Claire; and Ashley Bryan, previous head of U.S. marketing for Net-a-Porter.

The site is evolving under their direction. The design and user interface are vastly improved, and magazine-like shoots and editorial content are making the site stickier. And as of this week, Moda is also now open to everyone: Previously, interested parties had to fill out a membership application to gain access to the site, which could take several days to process. (The company accepted 100,000 members in its first year.) The membership wall created a protected environment that appealed to many of Moda’s initial sellers, but which Magnusdottir says is no longer necessary.

“When we first launched the business, it was the first time designers were showing their latest collections right away with a lot of detail shots,” Magnusdottir explains. “It gave designers comfort in the beginning to know that their latest collections were only being displayed to a limited group of people that actually love fashion.”

One year later, and designers are starting to see Moda as a natural part of the way they sell their product, Magnusdottir says. “There’s a general push in the industry to get that product out there faster, and now brands are livestreaming and inviting coverage that features their collections in a lot of detail right away.”

For designers, Moda Operandi isn’t just a way to sell more inventory; it also helps them better estimate what items are going to sell and in what quantities, says Magnusdottir. That helps designers plan how to stock their own stores, and can be used as evidence of commercial viability to third-party buyers.

Plus, the company passes along the 50% deposit upfront to fund production costs — critical for smaller designers who typically don’t get paid until they deliver their collections to stores six months later.

One of the most appealing parts of Moda’s business model is its low inventory risk. Unlike more traditional retailers — think brick-and-mortar operations like Saks Fifth Avenue, or even newer online properties like Net-a-Porter and Gilt — Moda doesn’t have to make any guesses about what will sell: The company only purchases items that have already been ordered.

Moda does get stuck with customer returns, which the company then sells through curated sales. A spokesperson for the company estimated less than 10% of items are returned, of which all are for store credit.

This year is about scale, Magnusdottir says. Moda has no intention of lowering its prices — few items cost less than $800, and the average order is an impressive $1,400 — but it is planning to introduce significantly more European brands to shoppers this year. It’s also expanding internationally, developing partnerships and making hires in both established and emerging luxury markets to help target customers there.

Presently, 60% of Moda’s 100,000-plus members are international, and account for 30% of the company’s revenue. The site has been shipping internationally since launch.

Mobile is also on the roadmap. The company hasn’t yet launched any apps, but about 15% of revenue comes from tablets and smartphones, according to Magnusdottir.

“It took the first year to really make sure everything running smoothly, to ensure that we were taking care of our customers in the best possible way and giving them the service they needed,” Magnusdottir says. “We’ve brought on some amazing people to the team, and now we’re at a place where we can just focus on scaling this platform.”

More About: fashion, moda operandi, retail

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Apple Says it Will Boot Developers Who Manipulate App Store Rankings [VIDEO]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 01:29 PM PST

Apple says it will not tolerate manipulation of App Store rankings even if a third-party service is responsible for doing the dirty work.

Making it to the top of the charts is tough, considering more than 500,000 apps are available for download. Apple knows app developers pay third-party services to increase app rankings and some of them have wiggled apps into Apple’s top 25 most-downloaded chart through illegal methods.

“Once you build a great app, you want everyone to know about it. However, when you promote your app, you should avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts,” Apple warned developers Monday on its site. “Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership.”

SEE ALSO: 8 Best Practices for Deploying a Top-Ranked Mobile App

The New York Times Bits blog wrote about a Walter Kaman’s post on Touch Arcade’s forum. The programmer said he found a $5,000 service promising to push his app to the top of Apple’s most-downloaded list by using software “bots” that download an app repeatedly until its rating reaches the top 25 list. The man behind the fraudulent service showed Kaman eight of its clients who were all on the top 25 list through bot downloads. Kaman says he didn’t pay for the service he called “the biggest fraud ever.”

“It’s really disheartening to know that Apple is aware of this issue, but yet, they still allow these 8 apps on the App Store to use bots,” Kaman wrote on the forum. “For all these time that I’ve been working hard at developing my app, I am very disappointed to know that these 8 other apps are getting insane exposure on the app store by paying a mere $5,000.”

Watch the video above to learn more, and tell us what you think about Apple’s warning to app developers in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Jorge Quinteros

More About: app development, app store, apple, apple app store, apps, mashable video

Anonymous Hacks Syrian President’s Email. The Password: 12345

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 01:09 PM PST

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been under fire from world leaders to step down this week. He’s also under fire from hacktivist group Anonymous, who leaked hundreds of his office’s emails on Monday.

While Anonymous is infamous for its hacking know-how, it doesn’t take a genius computer programmer to guess one of the passwords commonly used by Assad’s office accounts: 12345. The string of consecutive numbers is the second-weakest password according to a 2011 study.

Anonymous broke into the mail server of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs, accessing some 78 inboxes of Assad’s staffers, according a report from Israeli daily Haaretz. The password 12345 was associated with several of the accounts.

Mansour Fadlallah Azzam, the minister of presidential affairs and Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s media adviser, were among the victims of the inbox hacks.

Haaretz obtained and published one email that included documents intended to prepare the Syrian leader for his December 2011 interview with Barbara Walters. In the interview, Assad claimed the Syrian government was not killing its people.

“We don’t kill our people,” Assad told ABC “No government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person.”

SEE ALSO: 25 Worst Passwords of 2011 [STUDY]

In the leaked email, Syrian spokesperson at the U.N. Sheherazad Jaafari advised Shabaan and Luna Chebel, a former Al Jazeera reporter and current Assad staffer, on what the Syrian president should say to manipulate Americans:

“It is hugely important and worth mentioning that ‘mistakes’ have been done in the beginning of the crises because we did not have a well-organized ‘police force.’ American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ It’s worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by policemen, police dogs and beatings.

“The major points and dimensions that have been mentioned a lot in the American media are: The idea of violence has been one of the major subjects brought up in every article. They use the phrases ‘The Syrian government is killing its own people,’ ‘Tanks have been used in many cities,’ ‘Airplanes have been used to suppress the peaceful demonstrations,’ and ‘Security forces are criminals and bloody.’”

Jaafari’s email also advised that Assad should emphasize the openness of Facebook and YouTube to show the true situation in Syria. Press entry restrictions should be spun as a proactive measure not to have foreign journalists misrepresent the country.

What do you think of Anonymous’s vigilante role in international affairs? Is diplomacy the place for hacktivists? Let us know what you think in the comments.

BONUS: What Is Anonymous?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, visual7

More About: anonymous, hacking, hacktivism, Syria

Ferris vs. Ferris: Super Bowl Ad and Movie Compared [VIDEO]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 12:49 PM PST

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

What do you get when you combine an iconic movie with a buzz-winning Super Bowl ad? An overdose of awesome.

The skilled editors at AkooTV juxtaposed scenes from John Hughes’s 1986 masterpiece Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with Honda’s Super Bowl ad homage.

The ad has been a huge hit online. Zeta concluded that the ad had the most online buzz and it won Hulu’s AdZone contest for best Super Bowl ad. The ad has also ranked highly in sentiment analysis.

SEE ALSO: Super Bowl Breaks Social TV and Broadcast Records

After looking at the two works side-by-side, we’re even more impressed with the dedication that RPA (the agency behind the CR-V spot) put into the project. The ad is absolutely loaded with cues and nods to the original film, from the background roller coaster passenger in a Detroit Red Wings jersey (a nod to the perpetually worried Cameron Frye) to the reappearance of ditzy secretary, Grace.

Our only quibble is that it would have been great if the instrumental song used in the museum sequence was a Smiths cover, a la the Dream Academy’s version of “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” used in the original film. Regardless, for this Ferris Bueller obsessive, this is an ad that continues to delight.

Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero. Let us know what you think of this mashup in the comments.

More About: akootv, Super Bowl ads, viral video, viral-video-of-day

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How Pinterest Is Changing Website Design Forever

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 12:28 PM PST

Even if you haven’t ever visited popular visual bookmarking site Pinterest, you might recognize its design elements — which have been popping up everywhere since the startup burst onto the mainstream scene in 2011.

The site doesn’t use traditional web building blocks.

“It’s almost like a window-shopping mode,” says Khoi Vinh, the former design director for

“It puts the ball back in the user’s court,” muses Andrew Beck, a web designer at Blue Fountain Media.

“It flattens the information hierarchy,” describes Jeff Croft, a web designer and co-founder of ebook lending site Lendle.

Pinterest puts web content into sticky-note sized blocks users can organize onto pinboards that fill the entire browser screen. The majority of each block is filled by a photo, and the ability to “like,” “repin” or comment at the bottom make it look like its own mini web page.

Though the hot Palo Alto startup is staying mum about its user numbers, one study found it drives more traffic to websites than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.

SEE ALSO: 7 Tips for Planning a Wedding on Pinterest | Pinterest Becomes Top Traffic Driver for Retailers [INFOGRAPHIC]

As it has gained in popularity, so too has its unusual design.

Quora launched a new feature in December that incorporates a topic “boards.” In January, social video startup redesigned the site to contain “bricks” of videos shared by the people who you follow, complete with social activity from other Chill users. And several content visualization projects such as Scrolldit, which launched in December, took on the Pinterest block-by-block content feel.

Pinterest didn’t invent the basic design structure, but it did help make it cool.

Most designers cite a layout plugin called jQuery Masonry while describing the look of Pinterest’s site. Launched in February of 2009 by designer David DeSandro, it makes it easy for web designers to create a vertical layout like that of Pinterest.

It also broke the system of organizing information online based on reverse chronology, as favored by Twitter and Facebook. Reverse chronology is a tired, overly-used system; as Vinh says, “I almost thought it was the default way to organize information on the web.”

Though many sites experimented with the jQuery Masonry layout, it didn’t immediately catch on with sites that were offering a service.

“The sites I saw before Pinterest that used this design were pretty much tech demos of how you could do this,” Croft says.

SEE ALSO: 15 of the Most Popular Pictures on Pinterest

Pinterest, as far as the designers Mashable spoke with could remember, was the first site to take the idea to mainstream success. It showed how the design could solve certain challenges eloquently and how the traditional reverse chronology layout could be broken without scaring users away. In fact, it was attracting them in invitation-only droves.

Consequently, the design caught on. Croft says that five clients in the last six months have mentioned Pinterest when discussing what they want their website designs to look like.

“At a pure level, there’s an advantage if you ave set of information that benefits from people accessing it in a non-linear fashion,” Vinh says of the layout. “For most people, they saw it on Pinterest and want to be almost as cool as Pinterest.”

A Quora “board.” after its December redesign.

1. Hands

Pinterest via Edris Kim.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: design, pinterest, trending

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Former Zynga Engineer: One Player Spent $100,000 on Mafia Wars

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 12:14 PM PST


An anonymous user, claiming to be a former Zynga engineer, has been posting allegedly internal information about the company to Reddit.

Among other things, the ex-employee says some customers spent outlandish sums on virtual goods and services in many games — including one user who spent $100,000 on Mafia Wars.

The alleged ex-Zynga employee goes by the handle “mercenary-games” on Reddit and began posting about a day ago. He says he worked at Zynga for eight months but that he quit the company six months ago.

The person makes many claims about the game company, but one of the most eyebrow-raising is the alleged amounts of actual dollars some of its customers spend playing the games through Facebook. He says he’s seen someone spend $20,000 on FrontierVille and another player “commit” up to $100,000 on Mafia Wars. Further, Zynga has a special name for players who spend in excess of $10,000: Zynga Black.

The company supposedly focuses almost all of its attention on players who spend money, treating those who play for free as “spam.” The post author claims those players are the “hardcore” crowd, to whom Zynga caters, tweaking features to encourage gameplay habits that bring in the most money.

SEE ALSO: Understanding Zynga: A Post-IPO FAQ

The post, filled with unsubstantiated claims about Zynga corporate culture, sparked a lot of heated discussion. A few other posters claim to be current Zynga employees and, while some refute the author’s claims, others support them.

The alleged revelations about how Zynga makes money parallel somewhat with Facebook’s recent IPO filing. Just as Facebook revealed its interdependence on Zynga for a significant part of its income as a potential weakness, Zynga’s dependence on what the author calls “addicts” put a great deal of financial control in the hands of a small group.

Do you spend money on Zynga games? What’s the most you’ve ever spent and what did you buy? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: Inside Zynga’s New Offices

Zynga's New Headquarters

There is a Zynga RV at the entrance.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Facebook, frontierville, games, Mafia Wars, Zynga

Anonymous Takes Revenge on Oakland Officials, Posts Private Data

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 11:57 AM PST

Vigilante hacker collective Anonymous made public personal information of Oakland, Calif. city officials Tuesday, in response to what the group calls violent behavior toward Occupy Oakland protestors.

Information released by Anonymous contains names, birthdays, home and work addresses, and phone numbers of city officials including Mayor Jean Quan, city council members and the Chief of Police Howard A. Jordan.

The information is still available on Anonymous’ Facebook page.

Mashable has reached out to the Oakland Police Department and the mayor’s office; we’re waiting for a response from the police department. Quan's spokeswoman Sue Piper noted that most of the information posted was already publicly available.

“They did not hack the city’s system,” Piper wrote in an email to Mashable.

In a video posted Tuesday on YouTube and Anonymous’ Facebook page, the group condemns city officials for using force against occupiers and closing city institutions. Anonymous also tweeted about the hack:

Hackers spared council member Rebecca Kaplan, telling her: “Thank you for your support and being a true leader in the community.” But the group targeted council member Ignacio R. De La Fuente, noting the well-publicized trial and sentencing of his son who was charged with sexually assaulting four women — a charge the elder Fuente allegedly denies.

Anonymous also posed this question to city attorney Barbara Parker: “Why did you allow numerous targeted arrests to happen, with no charges filed? We expect more out of you. From your community involvement, one would think you would be front and center in the fight against the corruption in OPD and in our Government.”

This hack comes one day after local business leaders staged an anti-Occupy protest called “Day of Action” to raise awareness of the group’s tactics that disrupt downtown business.

A crowd of Occupy protestors demonstrated against the group and rallied against the charges facing 11 occupy protestors arraigned on misdemeanor charges for blocking a sidewalk.

This isn’t the first time Anonymous has targeted the Oakland P.D. In October 2011, the group called for “doxing” (digging-up information with the web, usually by hacking) of Oakland officials after last year’s incident involving veteran Scott Olsen being shot in the head with a non-lethal weapon while participating in the occupy protests in Oakland.

Less than a week ago Anonymous claimed responsibility for releasing details of a call between FBI officials and Scotland Yard regarding how they intended to prosecute Anonymous hackers.

Occupy Oakland protestors are expected to show-up in droves Tuesday night to the Wiley W. Manuel county courthouse for the Oakland City Council’s meeting to consider making gathering without a permit an offense that could result in arrest. Protesters say the right to gather without a permit and protest should be protected by the First Amendment.

As the Chronicle reported, Fuente believes blocking city streets without a permit should not be tolerated. The city of San Francisco does not require a permit to gather, but does reserve the right to arrest individuals blocking streets if it is a risk to the public.

What Is Anonymous?

More About: anonymous, hacker, Occupy Wall Street, ows

Pandora vs. Spotify: Who Will Win the Battle for Streaming Music?

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 11:45 AM PST

Matthew Bryan Beck is an NYC-based singer-songwriter, producer, editor, graphic designer and photographer. He writes the tech/social media blog Sludgr. Follow him on Twitter and Subscribe on Facebook.

Once upon a time, the future of streaming music rested squarely on the shoulders of Pandora Radio.

Built on the Music Genome Project, a patented mathematical algorithm that scans over 400 musical attributes (like rhythm, tempo, syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies, etc.), Pandora creates customized "stations" based on similarly-matched artists, songs and styles.

Several years ago, users clamored over to Pandora, finding its selection startlingly accurate. Pandora played songs users actually wanted to listen to — as if by magic. Often, users would discover new artists and download songs separately on iTunes.

Soon, Pandora developed a solid mobile app, and its corner on the market seemed sewn tight. Pandora had the elusive “cool factor.”

Then came Spotify.

But Even Spotify Has Its Drawbacks

The Swedish site launched as an invite-only service in Europe in October 2008. Spotify’s exclusivity only strengthened its mystique in the U.S. Delayed by licensing issues (deals were finally cut with Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, EMI Music and Warner Music Group, among others, for digital streaming rights), Spotify finally debuted stateside to much anticipation and fanfare.

Many people giddily signed up for a six-month Spotify trial — only to find the service lackluster.

Spotify’s free account can't use the iPhone or Android apps, and the desktop application is choked with ads. Plus, the service only allows you to stream a limited number of tracks, unless you upgrade to a paid account. The Spotify Unlimited $4.99 option removes the ads and has unlimited desktop streaming, while the $9.99 Premium option increases the bit-rate to 320k, removes ads and enables mobile access.

SEE ALSO: Why Pandora Isn't Scared of Spotify

Pandora features a similar premium option: Pandora One, a $36 per year subscription, removes all visual and audio ads, increases bits-per-second to 192k, and removes the 12 skips per day limit (although you’re still limited to six skips per station per hour).

Social Media Integration

People spends tons of time on social networks, and building streaming music apps into that user experience proved key to skyrocketing Spotify's exposure.

Spotify nixed its invite-only status and scored deep Facebook integration, announced at last September's F8 conference. “We knew that the service would have to be inherently social," said Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. "There couldn't be a better place to do this than Facebook.”

However, now Spofity forces users to sign up through their Facebook accounts, something Pandora does not. People have raised privacy concerns over Spotify/Facebook information access; the app publishes to the Facebook Ticker what tracks you listen to, but some people would rather keep their music tastes private.

Social media integration doesn't necessarily equal automatic success. Brands and marketers have learned this the hard way. Just because a Hollywood studio or production company makes a slick Facebook game to promote a movie doesn't mean that film is going to smash the box office.

Music Services That Almost Stole the Show

Take iLike and The first streaming music service to have a Facebook app, iLike saw early success in 2006, attracting a half million registrants in the first four months after launch. At the time, it seemed the only game in town. But where is it now? Well, MySpace bought the service in 2009. At time of writing, iLike sees only 53,888 visitors per day and uses a total of one server.

UK-based "scrobbles" tracks played on third-party media software, then builds a profile of the user’s musical preferences. The service had a day in the sun, but also failed to secure a foothold into Facebook or MySpace. still lingers (mostly due to overseas traffic) with a healthy 876,599 visitors per day, but it has no social media buzz, no “cool factor.”, iLike, Napster, Rdio and other under-the-radar streaming music services are to Pandora and Spotify what Microsoft is to Apple and Google: Even if some people still use the services, it's dead in the water in terms of social media cred.

Pandora operates annually at a loss of millions due to complicated digital streaming rights and bandwidth costs. If the service cannot combat the Spotify horde swatting at its crown, Pandora will find itself permanently dethroned.

Image courtesy of Flickr, flattop341

More About: contributor, features, last fm, Music, music streaming services, pandora, spotify

Airplanes Can Now Take Off and Land With GPS. Will Flights Be Faster?

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 11:22 AM PST

The Federal Aviation Administration is finally making the leap from radio-based navigation to a modern GPS system.

Congress passed Monday a $63 billion bill to fund and extend the FAA’s programs through 2015, reports ABC News. For the past four years, the FAA has been surviving on life support. Some 23 stopgap measures have funded the administration’s core services, but modernization programs were largely suspended and left hostage to uncertainty.

Currently, most commercial aircraft rely on radio-based navigation for making a landing. That technology hasn’t changed much since World War II. Now that’s changing. Part of the $63 billion will be devoted to the FAA’s switch to “NextGen,” a satellite-based navigation system.

According to the FAA, a satellite-based system would dramatically reduce delays and congestion by streamlining landings and departures. Under the bill, 35 of the country’s busiest airports have until June 2015 to modernize approaches so pilots can land with GPS. (Airplanes have used GPS before, but not for approaches or takeoffs.)

NextGen will allow more precise and better organized approaches, the agency says. That should translate into quicker travel times with fewer delays and diversions. Planes will use less fuel and make less noise on so-called “continuous descent” arrivals, lessening the notoriously “dirty” aviation industry’s environmental footprint. In a continuous descent arrival, aircraft can land safely with less engine power than they use with today’s “step-down” approaches, where aircraft land in segmented stages.

NextGen will also allow pilots to know the precise location of nearby air traffic, increasing safety and reducing the danger of mid-air collisions. Current on-board radar updates an airplane’s location every six to twelve seconds, but GPS updates in a fraction of that time. And satellites can also be used during taxi, lessening the risk of on-the-ground incidents at busy airports.

“(The bill) will take us into a new era,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

Long-term FAA authorization has been thwarted for years by disagreement in Congress over the federal government’s role in aviation. This bill is a compromise between Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

The bill makes it more difficult for aviation employees to form unions and doesn’t include passenger protections (against Democratic wishes), while it also includes continued subsidization of rural airports which couldn’t survive on their own, but provide a critical link to small communities (distasteful to Republicans).

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law within days.

For more on NextGen, watch this video courtesy of the FAA:

What do you think about the FAA’s move to NextGen and GPS? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, narvikk

More About: congress, faa, gps, trending

How Much Do Tech Companies Make Per Employee? [CHARTS]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 11:12 AM PST

As the U.S. limps back from recession, the tech industry has been hailed as a boon for growth and job creation.

But upon closer inspection of multi-billion dollar valuations and scrappy startups on their way to profitability, you might notice that the revenues these companies command are wildly disproportionate to the number of people they employ.

Facebook, which some have valued at $100 billion after filing for an IPO last week, employs a mere 3,000 people. Compare that with General Motors, which raised the biggest IPO in history in 2010. Its estimated market cap at the time of this writing is only $41.4 billion, and they employ a whopping 202,000 workers to create that value.

This should come as no surprise. It takes a lot more people to build a car than to build an app.

We thought it might be interesting to parse all these billions in relation to the actual people who work for these companies. How much money and value is being pulled in per employee? And which tech companies are getting the biggest bang for their payroll buck?

Our friends at research and analysis firm Statista have put together these handy charts to show which companies are maximizing employee return.

Are you surprised to see the results? Do you think these kinds of numbers are sustainable? Have your say in the comments section.

Charts courtesy of

More About: apple, Business, charts, Facebook, features, infographics, Revenue, tech companies, valuation

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Teen Sends Her MIT Admissions Letter to Space [VIDEO]

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 10:54 AM PST

A 17-year-old accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched her admissions letter 91,000 feet to the edge of space and videotaped its journey.

Erin King of Georgia used a weather balloon, GPS-equipped ham radio transmitters, a GoPro Hero camera and a helium tank to turn her letter into a fun science project.

She launched the balloon on Jan. 16 in Lumpkin, Ga., and two hours later it landed more than 75 miles away near Cordele, Ga. After the balloon released, King and her father jumped in the car while they tracked the letter to its landing place, which was in low trees near a cotton field. The letter was secured inside the tube and King was able to keep it after all.

SEE ALSO: Father and Son Launch iPhone Into Space [VIDEO]

MIT sends acceptance letters to students in a cardboard tubes. Then students are asked to do something creative with the tube and post the final product on MIT’s Hack the Tubes blog.

“2012 is the anniversary of an old MIT balloon hack, so we put a letter in all of the Early Action admit tubes telling them we wanted them to hack the tubes somehow,” said Chris Peterson, head of web communications for MIT Admissions, on BoingBoing.

Several other students submitted entries, but King’s was the best, Peterson told BoingBoing. She uploaded a video of the tube reaching the edge of space. King has done several balloon watches during high school, but this is the first MIT has seen. Now she plans to join the MIT class of 2016.

What other fun ways can universities send admissions letters? Let us know your ideas in the comments.

Photo Courtesy of Erin King

More About: space, Video, weather balloon

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How Facebook and Twitter Help Sound the Official Earthquake Alarm

Posted: 07 Feb 2012 10:38 AM PST

When a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck the Philippines Monday, residents and local media outlets used Twitter and Facebook to alert residents and quell tsunami-inspired panic.

But they’re not the only ones using social media to sound a digital alarm when disaster strikes. Officials in the U.S. do that too.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a scientific agency of the U.S. government, is tasked in part with researching natural disasters and getting the word out when they hit. They’re doing much of that information sharing online. Scott Horvatt, Web and Social Media Chief at the USGS, says the organization uses a combination of Facebook and Twitter to spread information about “any significant earthquake event.”

“On Twitter, specifically, our @USGSted account automatically tweets out these significant events,” says Gerber (TED stands for Twitter Earthquake Dispatch).

@UGSGted tweets are sent out with the hashtag #quake. Once they’re tweeted, Horvatt’s system monitors tweets per minute with that hashtag. TED tweets are also automatically picked up and retweeted by the main @USGS account to its more than 186,000 followers.

Next, Horvatt and the USGS start crowdsourcing and responding to followers’ questions. They send out a “Did You Feel It?” message with a link to a form that collects first-hand reports of major earthquakes, helpful to seismologists while they turn raw data into plain English. Gerber says his team tries to respond as quickly as possible to questions during and after a quake.

On Facebook, the USGS cross-posts all earthquake information it tweets along with the same “Did You Feel It?” links. That’s breaking one of the first rules of social media (don’t cross-post), but in the case of emergencies, it’s best to get information out on all channels.

The USGS system isn’t limited to the United States. Through an international partnership called the Global Seismographic Network, the USGS can learn and distribute information about events across the world.

Is the USGS planning any kind of social media-based early warning system? Not at the moment, says Horvatt. But social media does give the USGS a leg up when scouting for seismic trouble. By monitoring social chatter about a possible earthquake, Horvatt’s team can alert seismologists to focus in on what may be happening in a certain geographic area.

“One of the goals behind the @USGSted account is that we have seismometers placed around the country, and in some areas they're less dense in terms of numbers,” says Horvatt. “The account lets us measure and take a look at the number of tweets coming across about an earthquake. It has the potential to give a bit of heads-up about something possible happening, but it's not meant as an early warning detection system.”

What do you think the future holds for social media and disaster alert systems? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Claudiad

More About: Earthquake, Facebook, Social Media, trending, Twitter

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