Friday, 24 February 2012

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “How Under Armour Wants to Socially Dominate the NFL Draft Combine”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “How Under Armour Wants to Socially Dominate the NFL Draft Combine”

How Under Armour Wants to Socially Dominate the NFL Draft Combine

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 05:09 AM PST

Athletic apparel brand Under Armour calls the NFL Scouting Combine “the most important job interview” of football players’ lives. As the company hopes to leverage the drama of pro football’s annual meat market into sales and marketing buzz, social media will direct the offense.

Through this weekend and into next week, draft-eligible prospective NFL players will undergo pretty much every physical and psychological test imaginable, all under the unwavering gaze of team scouts and network cameras.

Under Armour sponsors the event. Dan Mecchi, the company’s director of digital media, says social networks provide a unique opportunity for the performance brand to increase its relevance to consumers and provide a fascinating window into the players’ week under the microscope.

“We’re trying to reinvent and move what the social media standard is for the brand and how we reach our audience,” Mecchi said in an interview. “Social media is a critical way to bring our audiences closer to the action at the combine.”

The most innovative thing Under Armour has planned is letting a couple of experts take over the company’s official @UnderArmour Twitter handle to share their own combine experiences and answer fan questions.

On Monday, trainer Todd Durkin — who works with players including Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and LaDanian Tomlinson — will use the handle to discuss how he mentally and physically prepares future draftees to boost their stock at the combine. On Tuesday, NFL legend and current analyst Deion Sanders will take control, sharing with Under Armour’s followers how he trained for the combine as a player and what the NFL hopefuls are likely going through as they run drills on the field. It’s the first time Under Armour has ceded control of its Twitter account to an outsider.

On the more standard side, Under Armour will use the hashtag #ThisisyourArmour to guide and own the combine conversation as much as possible, as well as showcase new performance shoes and apparel.

Mecchi said the combine, Under Armour and social media are a perfect three-way match.

“These are the best players coming out of college and they’re operating at peak performance,” he said. “Our gear is made to help them run faster, jump higher, lift more. And Twitter and Facebook just provide another way to share with fans what’s really going on with these kids.”

Under Armour will also use the combine to springboard a new ad campaign featuring last season’s rookie of the year Cam Newton. Fans are encouraged to submit photos via the brand’s Facebook Page of themselves replicating Newton’s signature “Superman” celebration for a chance to win a trip to the NFL Draft in April.

Under Armour’s social media emphasis at the scouting combine is the latest example of how sports brands and teams are finding new ways to employ social media. Letting Sanders and Durkin tweet from the @UnderArmour handle is a special bonus. Starter did a similar thing during the Super Bowl, with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo tweeting from the @StarterBrand handle, and it would be cool to see other companies use that strategy to connect with and provide value for fans and customers.

What do you think of what Under Armour has in store for the NFL Scouting Combine? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Under Armour

More About: Facebook, Marketing, sports, Twitter

Today’s Top Stories: Apple Acquires Chomp, Acer’s Liquid Glow

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 04:55 AM PST

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning's edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world. Today, we're looking at three particularly interesting stories.

Apple Acquires Discovery Engine Chomp

Apple has acquired app discovery engine Chomp, TechCrunch reports. The acquisition could lead to a complete revamp or at least big improvements to Apple’s App Store. Chomp’s 20+ employees will all be joining Apple’s ranks; the company CEO Ben Keighran has already joined iTunes Marketing.

Acer Launches Liquid Glow Smartphone

Acer has launched a somewhat unusually named Android 4.0 smartphone: the Liquid Glow. It’s a 3.7-inch device with a 5-megapixel camera and NFC capabilities. We’ll likely learn more about the Liquid Glow at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona next week; for now we know that the device should hit the market in early summer 2012.

Sony Ericsson Xperias Get Android 4.0 Beta ROM

Sony has launched an Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) beta ROM for its Xperia smartphones. Some of the ICS functionality will not work, since this is merely a preview version, but it’s a chance for users to try out the latest and greatest of what Android has to offer on their Xperia devices.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

More About: Acer, apple, chomp, first to know series, Liquid Glow, sony, Xperia

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Apple Halts iCloud Push Email in Germany due to Motorola Lawsuit

Posted: 24 Feb 2012 01:56 AM PST

Apple’s iCloud and MobileMe push services have been taken down for users residing within Germany due to a patent lawsuit from Motorola, the company has announced.

“Affected customers will still receive iCloud and MobileMe email, but new messages will be downloaded to their devices when the Mail app is opened, or when their device periodically fetches new messages as configured in iOS Settings. Push email service on desktop computers, laptop computers, and the web is unaffected, as is service from other providers such as Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync,” says Apple on its official support page.

Apple and Motorola Mobility have been battling over patents in Germany a lot lately, with Apple complaining (and, so far, winning the argument) that Motorola infringed on Apple's patents on slide-to-unlock.

On the other hand, Motorola recently won permanent injunction against Apple’s iCloud in Germany, which caused the current iCloud and MobileMe downtime.

While Apple appeals the court’s decision, which it deems invalid, affected users can still configure their iOS devices to automatically download new mail in the background – the details are explained here.

More About: apple, germany, icloud, lawsuit, mobileme, patent

For more Mobile coverage:

LG to Unveil Stylish New Lineup of Smartphones

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 09:25 PM PST


LG is gearing up to unveil a new line of smartphones that will be focused on sleek design.

The company will be revealing three smartphones under a new line called L-Style next week at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The Android-powered devices include the 3.2-inch Optimus L3, the 4.0-inch Optimus L5 and the 4.3-inch Optimus L7. The Optimus L3 will debut in the European market in March, while the other two devices are expected to become available in the first half of 2012 and will run on Android’s latest mobile operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) 4.0.

"Design is consistently the top or second most important factor for customers when choosing a mobile phone," said Dr. Jong-seok Park, president and CEO of LG Mobile Communications. "With smartphones, we sometimes took a more functional approach to design but with L-Style we're going back to our roots as a company focused on how our products fit into the lifestyle of our customers."

L-Style's design is comprised of several key elements, including a modern square-style for a comfortable grip, a seamless layout for a more intuitive arrangement of keys, design contract with metallic accents and a “sensuous slim shape” that naturally draws one's attention, according to the company.

More details about the devices are expected to be revealed soon.

More About: LG, Mobile, smartphones

World’s First Live-Tweeted Open-Heart Surgery is a Success [PICS]

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 08:48 PM PST

Doctors at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital have made medical and social media history by live-tweeting an open-heart surgery for the first time.

Yes, you read that correctly.

On Tuesday, Dr. Michael Macris performed a double-coronary artery bypass on a 57-year-old patient. Dr. Macris’ colleague, Dr. Paresh Patel, provided 140-character updates throughout the procedure and answered questions submitted by followers of the hospital’s @houstonhospital Twitter account.

Dr. Macris also wore a camera attached to his head, according to Texas Monthly, and Dr. Patel snapped additional photos.

The tweets, photos and video are all compiled in a Storify story created by the hospital. It’s embedded here below and very graphic — though you’ll be glad to know the patient made it through surgery.

The procedure and live-tweeting lasted about 2 hours. Dr. Patel provided updates on the type of surgery, what Dr. Macris was doing and why, and the duties and roles of other members of the surgery team. The hospital currently has just over 5,100 Twitter followers.

In one post, Dr. Patel called the live-tweeting “an educational look into a common double bypass #surgery.”

February is Hearth Month in the U.S. Heart Month is sponsored by the American Heart Association and intended to raise awareness of cardiovascular health and disease prevention. Houston’s NBC affilate reported that the hospital’s live-tweet event reached 225,000 viewers.

The Storify narrative created by the hospital is incredibly fascinating and educational. It’s also extremely graphic at times. Check it out below, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Thumbnail mage courtesy of @houstonhospital

More About: Social Good, Social Media, Twitter

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Apple Adds ‘Mastered for iTunes’ Section With Better Sound

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 08:25 PM PST

Audiophiles take note: Apple has quietly added a new section to iTunes called “Mastered for iTunes” that promises music the way “the artist and sound engineer intended.”

The new section, which was added this week and brought to light by a New York Times report, includes Nirvana’s Nevermind, Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die and Beck’s Sea Change, among other popular music titles. It also features a host of classical albums such as Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 9 and Holst: The Planets. All the titles sell for the same amount as their non-Mastered counterparts — $9.99 for an album and $1.29 for individual songs.

In a white paper explaining the offering, Apple outlines why some music doesn’t sound as good in a digital format as it did in analog.

“When the CD was first becoming a popular format, many older recordings were rushed to market. To make these recordings available as soon as possible, corners were sometimes cut. In several instances, the wrong master tapes were used or the CD was mastered poorly,” according to the paper. “Many of these mistakes have since been identified and corrected, but even so, a number of record labels are remastering older material for rerelease in high resolution formats like DVD-A or SACD.”

The paper goes on to describe how advances in encoding files for iTunes Plus and advances in digital mastering tools and techniques over the last five years have led to Mastered for iTunes.

“Delicate and artful remastering can let works of genius be experienced as they were meant to be and haven’t been for years.”

Compression, when overused to minimize the file size of a recording, is often responsible for the inferior sound as well. Apple will still compress files for iTunes, but is hoping the white paper will help recording engineers get better sound via iTunes.

More About: apple, itunes, nirvana

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Facebook Murder-For-Hire Plot Lands Two People in Prison

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 08:01 PM PST

A murder-for-hire plot that started with a Facebook message resulted in a prison sentence for Ohio residents Christine Metter and her 77-year-old father. Metter stared at the courtroom floor on Thursday when a judge sentenced her to 10 years in prison for attempting to hire a man on Facebook to kill her ex-husband.

Metter, 41, of Ohio and her father Al Zombory, 77, were convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder in January. Zombory was sentenced to nine years in prison on Tuesday.

It all started with a conversation Metter had on Facebook with a friend from high school. Metter complained about her ex-husband to the friend, saying he had custody of her oldest daughter and planned to fight for custody of the other three children. Metter’s friend, Patrick Sabo, jokingly replied, “Why don’t you save your money and hire a hit man LMAO,” reported Beachwood Patch. But Metter took Sabo seriously. Another possible motive: Metter was allegedly the sole beneficiary of her ex-husband’s $1.5 million life insurance policy.

Sabo, a former Army Ranger, agreed to meet Metter and her father for dinner. Sabo would later tell the court that Metter probably assumed Sabo would know how to kill someone. The duo offered him $50,000 as payment for killing Metter’s ex-husband, David Metter.

After the dinner, Sabo contacted the local police department. An officer went undercover to pose as the hired hitman. Later, the group convened; Sabo and the “hitman” said they finished the job. Metter was shown a doctored photo of her ex-husband bloody and with a fake bullet wound to his head — he had been made aware of his ex-wife’s plans by authorities and cooperated with the photo shoot. Metter reportedly had little reaction after being shown the image.

“I shot him in the head like you guys wanted me to do,” the undercover officer said on a audio tape of the meeting as reported by news station WKYC. “Okay,” Metter replied.

Metter’s attorney placed the blame on her father saying he coerced her during a vulnerable time in her life. During Zombory’s separate trial, he said his daughter was not involved with the plot.

Metter’s attorney attempted to tarnish Sabo’s reputation during the trial, saying he was after fame, but ultimately that strategy did not lead to an acquittal.

Social networks are a powerful way to connect with friends — or in the case of some deranged individuals, orchestrate murder and nefarious plots.

Do you think Metter’s sentence was long enough? How about her father’s? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, wsmahar

More About: crime, Facebook, legal

McFly’s Hoverboard Is Now a Reality? [VIDEO]

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 06:53 PM PST

What do you do when you want Marty McFly’s hoverboard from Back to the Future so badly you can almost feel yourself floating around on it? You do what French artist Nils Guadagnin did: build one yourself.

As you can see in the video above, Guadagnin created a life-sized floating replica, using a couple of electromagnets along with a laser guidance system. That tech allows the board to lift off the ground just like the “real” thing. Never mind that it can only lift 5 pounds so far — Guadagnin calls it a “work in progress.”

Until you can pick up one of these hoverboards at the local sporting goods store, Mattel will be more than happy to sell you a scale replica of Marty McFly’s hoverboard, up for pre-order in a matter of weeks.

What would our world be like if antigravity technology were cheap enough to install in a kid’s skateboard?

[via YouTube]

More About: back to the future, trending, Video, YouTube

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New Drinking Board Game Uses Memes as Spaces

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 06:14 PM PST

For a larger version, click here. For meme playing pieces, click here. For a playable online version, click here.

If you like memes and alcohol, you’ll love this new drinking game that uses 24 memes as spaces of a board game. Cheers to that! Reddit‘s kc_sharky unveiled the game Thursday on the popular news aggregation site.

Meme Drinking Board Game” starts with the Rent Is Too Damn High meme and ends with the Success Baby meme. Sandwiched in between are memes such as Lazy College Senior, Annoying Facebook Girl, Scumbag Steve, Philosoraptor, Angry Ass Wolf and more. To play, roll dice and follow the instructions on each meme.

In less than day, a fan of the game has already created a playable online version of it after seeing the original.

“I am probably going to be partly responsible for some battered livers and heavy headaches.”

“I’m genuinely overwhelmed at the response it’s gotten online,” game creator Marc Sloan (a.k.a. kc_sharky on Reddit) told Mashable. “As my flatmate pointed out, I am probably going to be partly responsible for some battered livers and heavy headaches this weekend.”

The eight playing pieces for the game are memes, too, including Nyan Cat, Nigel Thornberry and Snowy Owl.

Sloan and six friends tested the board game Tuesday while drinking Peroni beer at the University of London before unleashing it to the world Thursday. The session prompted Sloan to tweak a few things.

“Play testing was the best part,” Sloan said. “There was actually about four iterations of it. A group of us played it on Valentine’s Day — forever alone indeed — while it was very rough, and I found a whole load of problems.”

From that point to now, Sloan fixed the pace of the game, made some text funnier and made the game less “brutal” so players could last longer.

The Rage Face Drinking Game inspired Sloan to whip up Meme Drinking Board Game. Sloan and his buddy John Angelcurse used to bring a laminated copy of Rage Face Drinking Game to pubs.

“After the game, and in a rather inebriated state, we couldn’t help but think of drinking challenges for other memes and we eventually thought of enough to warrant trying to make a game ourselves,” Sloan said.

Earlier this year, an unrelated meme-based board game was successfully funded on Kickstarter. Another Kickstarter project for Internet meme playing cards fell short of its funding goal. The cards would have featured 52 memes, including Y U NO Guy, Sad Keanu, Hipster Ariel, Futurama Fry and Pepper-Spray Cop.

BONUS: Guy in ‘College Freshman’ Meme Stars in a New ‘College Senior’ Meme

The board game above features the Lazy College Senior meme, but just this week the Successful College Senior meme emerged. Flip through this gallery for a glimpse of the new meme.

"Successful College Senior" Meme

He's back. DRINK! The college student — whose 2007 photo of himself as a freshman catapulted into meme territory last year — has made an unexpected and triumphant return to web stardom as a senior this week.

The new image immediately caught the attention of Reddit users, who cleverly wasted no time turning it into a "Successful College Senior" meme. A "Lazy College Senior" meme already exists.

Click here to view this gallery.

More Meme News

More About: alcohol, Beer, humor, memes, reddit, trending

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How to Fix Microsoft With Marketing

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 05:27 PM PST

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

Alex Goldfayn’s new book is called Evangelist Marketing: What Apple Amazon and Netflix Understand About Their Customers (That Your Company Probably Doesn’t). He is CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute, a marketing consultancy with clients that include T-Mobile, TiVo and Logitech.

Microsoft's stock price today is approximately half of what it was in late 1999. While there are many reasons for the company’s stock slip, two problems stand out: mindset and marketing.

The latter is caused by the former. In Microsoft's case, the two strands are intertwined and linked together like corporate DNA.


In February 2005, when Microsoft was still universally acknowledged as the leading technology company on the planet, CEO Steve Ballmer addressed the current state of the company in a speech.

"And so in a sense, the lifeblood of our business is that R & D spend. There’s nothing that flows through a pipe or down a wire or anything else; we have to continuously create new innovation that lets people do something they didn’t think they could do the day before so they get the newest version of a Windows or an Office or a new program, new application that we put in place. And so in a sense, you could say all we have to live with is our innovation."

What he's saying is the lifeblood of Microsoft's business is engineering, product development and feature development. What he doesn't mention is marketing, customers, branding or life-improvement.

If corporate mindset was a continuum, with engineering on one side and marketing on the other, here is where most technology companies, including Microsoft, would fall.

The ideal range, as you can see, falls to the middle-right of the scale. Apple is there, and so is Amazon. Microsoft is to the far-left of that desired range.

Microsoft requires a shift in mindset, toward marketing. Of course, it must remain a top engineering firm, but to compel consumers, to create passion and energy among them, it must shift its focus from purely the "R&D spend" toward aggressive marketing, by demonstrating how its products improve people's lives.

This will be very difficult for a company whose internal culture is so deeply rooted in engineering. But it is absolutely essential if Microsoft wants to get off of the stock price plateau it has occupied for the last decade.

Share Price

Speaking of stock price, I advise my clients — from publicly traded companies to startups — that share price in consumer electronics is a direct function of consumer energy. The more energy in the marketplace for your brand, the more evangelists you develop, and the more sales, revenue and profit you'll enjoy.

See Apple, the most effective marketer on the planet, which is now worth more than Microsoft and Google combined, based on market capitalization. Apple's stock price has grown twenty-fold in the same time period that Microsoft's has halved. The difference is mindset, marketing, and the resulting consumer energy each company creates.

See Netflix, whose share price soared on the strength of consumer passion, that is, until it angered customers last year with a series of harmful decisions. Passion plummeted, customers left, and the stock lost two-thirds of its value in three months.

A Marketing Plan for Microsoft

The mindset shift away from engineering is difficult, but good marketing is not. Here is a six-step marketing plan Microsoft can implement to dramatically improve its effectiveness.

  1. Focus on strengths: The company's strengths, as I see them, are software, productivity and the Xbox. This is where Microsoft can reasonably claim that it is superior to the competition. And this is where its marketing effort should focus.
  2. Adopt strengths: Everything you need to know about Microsoft's problems with identifying its strengths is summarized in the following sentence: Microsoft Office is still not available for Android and iOS devices, although rumors have surfaced that its launch is imminent. Software is a strength, but software for computers became uninteresting five years ago. Microsoft should be adopting its excellent productivity software — as well as its tremendous gaming platform — for phones, tablets and the cloud.
  3. Abandon weaknesses: Smartphones are not Microsoft's strength. In fact, Microsoft phone market share fell 20% in the fourth quarter to 4.7%. Nokia or not, there is little Microsoft can do in smartphones to gain on Android’s and Apple's devices.

    Further, while Microsoft's Bing search engine has resonated somewhat with Internet users, it is not a strength. Microsoft's U.S. search engine share in 2011 was up just 0.1% to 15.2%. Google's was 61%. This war is lost. It's time for Microsoft to abandon and redirect its marketing budget.

  4. Focus marketing on consumers: Consumers, not businesses, create market passion. Corporate customers are critical, but likely saturated with Microsoft products long ago. Rather, Microsoft's marketing should focus on consumers. These are the people who can become evangelists, drive market energy, and ultimately affect the share price.
  5. Gather powerful, qualitative customer insights: If you’re going to market to consumers, you need to understand what consumers think, say and want in the first place. You should know precisely how they use your products — and your competitors' products. To gather these insights, interview customers qualitatively for 20 to 30 minutes each. Internet surveys and focus groups won't uncover the kind of compelling language and messaging that resonates with consumers. There is no replacement for one-on-one customer conversations.
  6. Aggressively communicate: Once Microsoft understands what to say, it must continue repeating its message relentlessly, with a focus on consumer life improvement. Remember when Apple mercilessly hammered Microsoft with its "I'm a Mac" ads? Microsoft requires the same kind of frequency and focus.

Microsoft has the money for these improvements, but its communication has likely been sporadic due to everything I discuss above: Microsoft's mindset is on engineering, not marketing; the company's products are too diverse; and Microsoft doesn't know what its customers find compelling.

In my experience, a company cannot be truly effective unless it markets life-improving products. But in its corporate DNA, Microsoft sees itself as a product engineering organization. The company must shift this mindset — must alter its DNA — in order to unleash the kind of powerful marketing that will energize its customer base, increase consumer passion and drive its share price up.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, JasonDoiy

More About: apple, contributor, features, Google, Marketing, microsoft, Opinion

Facebook Limits Apps that Can ‘Listen’ [VIDEO]

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 04:21 PM PST

One new Facebook music app is not allowed to use the word “listen” and the creator isn’t happy. Colin Costello, the disgruntled app creator of, was told his app should use “play” to be an approved Facebook app.

Facebook music app developers who list “play” instead of “listen” have a better chance of getting their app onto the social media site.

To use “listen” in an app, Facebook says the developer must have a relationship with the rights owners, All Facebook was told in an email. Using the word “play,” requires no rights relationship between rights owner and app developer.

Facebook, it seems, is only allowing major partners to use the word “listen.” Some music apps, such as Rdio and Spotify — Facebook’s most popular music listening apps — can use the word.

Facebook’s Listen With app, which lets users DJ a playlist for friends, is also approved to “listen.”

“I wonder how many (other) actions are being reserved for their partners… If it's a rights issue then why are developers allowed to use "play" without them checking to see if the appropriate relationships are in place with the rights owners? You'd think if the developer didn't have the correct rights in place, Facebook would reject their action whether it was "listen," "play" or "whatever,” Costello told All Facebook.

Watch the video to learn more about Facebook’s app and “listen” policy. Do you think its current policy is fair? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

More About: Facebook, spotify

Gorgeous iPhone 5 Concept Looks Insanely Great [PICS]

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 03:28 PM PST

iPhone 5 Concept by Ciccarese Design

Click here to view this gallery.

The iPhone 5 might not be arriving any time soon, but that hasn’t stopped artists and design firms from creating their own mock-ups.

After analyzing the various iPhone 5 rumors, Italian designer Federico Ciccarese came up with these gorgeous renders.

Ciccarese’s vision of the iPhone 5 predicts a slightly curved back. The body of the phone, in fact, looks similar to Apple’s Magic Mouse. The display is flat and “retina” in nature and the phone tapers off at the top and bottom.

The headphone jack has moved to the side to accommodate the new design and the back looks to be blasted aluminum, similar to what is used on the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and iMac.

This isn’t the first time Ciccarese has mocked up his own version of future Apple products. In addition to previously trying to design the fifth-generation iPhone (what would become the iPhone 4S), Ciccarese has also taken on concepts such as the iScreen, his vision of the rumored integrated television from Apple.

We love the way the mockup details the glowing Apple on the back of the phone. It’s the sort of design touch that we think Jony Ive and company could even appreciate.

What do you think of these mockups? What would you like to see in the iPhone 5? Let us know.

Graphics and concept courtesy Federico Ciccarese/CiccareseDesign

More About: apple, design, iPhone 5, mockups, trending

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BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0: Much Better, Yet Not Good Enough

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 02:38 PM PST

Installing PlayBook 2 on PlayBook 1

Click here to view this gallery.

Blackberry Playbook 2.0, which arrived earlier this week, is a marked improvement on the first-generation PlayBook platform released along with the 7-inch device almost a year ago. It's also still probably not enough to make PlayBook a winner in the consumer tablet race.

When Research in Motion (RIM) first began showing off the PlayBook and its QNX-based operating system, I was impressed. The card-like interface — reminiscent of HP's now open-sourced WebOS — was elegant, smart and powerful. It used not only the screen, but the black frame around it to initiate on-screen interactions.

The PlayBook was a true multitasker: with live video windows running right alongside live web pages and games. But there were also big issues.

RIM insisted on a marriage between your BlackBerry phone and the PlayBook. The Blackberry Bridge should have been a cool concept: access your phone's mail, contacts and tasks on PlayBook via a Bluetooth connection.

Unfortunately that bridge was rickety — and for some, completely broken. Without that connection, the PlayBook had no native email client. This was shocking, considering mail management was one of the BlackBerry platform's best features.

BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 ($199 for the 16 GB model), which launched on Tuesday, solves this and myriad other issues. Now there's a smartly designed native e-mail client. If you don't want to use BlackBerry Bridge, which works perfectly now, you don't have to.

The updated PlayBook can now act as a true hub for your messages, contacts and calendar—and not just for your main e-mail account. It can also bring in Facebook and Twitter contacts.

Getting Started

Once I entered my username and passwords for my work e-mail and Facebook and Twitter accounts (I could’ve done LinkedIn, too), the PlayBook was bursting with contacts. Sending, receiving and managing e-mail worked smoothly.

Unlike the email interface on, say, the Amazon Kindle Fire, PlayBook's client looks like it was built from the ground up to work with the hardware and platform. The Facebook contact integration is a nice bonus; I do sometimes like to focus on my Facebook messages. If you want to use Facebook in full, PlayBook 2.0 has a native Facebook client.

RIM has not convinced Twitter to build a native client, however, so that home screen link still takes you to Twitter's mobile web site. This is fine for basic tweeting, but no good for posting photos and videos from the PlayBook. I eventually found a $5 app that resembles Twitter's new Web interface. It works OK.

PlayBook 2.0 happily sucks in all your Twitter contacts, but since it thinks everyone you're following is a contact, this ends up being a bit overwhelming if you follow thousands of users. Sorry, RIM, Stan Lee is not actually one of my contacts, I just follow him on Twitter.

In the messaging app, you can manage all your Twitter Direct Messages. But that’s not typically how we use the service. Twitter integration needs to be about initiating tweets — and PlayBook 2.0 fails miserably in this area.

I can't tweet a photo or video from the platform, as I can on the iPad. I can, of course, tweet from within the Web browser — but that has nothing to do with the PlayBook.

Speaking of the browser, it's great. Pages load quickly and zooming in and out is smooth and effortless. The 1024×600 pixel screen makes web pages look sharp in portrait or landscape mode, and the browser now includes a one-touch "Reading" view that strips away everything from the page except the article you're reading. It's nicely done and works without a hitch.

RIM also updated its interface with an Application Dock. This comes with five apps: Messaging, Contacts, Browser, Calendar and AppWorld. You can add one more, or add a folder and start dragging and dropping apps into it. This is pretty much what Apple iPad owners can do, and it's quite convenient for organizing apps into categories such as "Productivity" and "Action Games".

Business Chops

PlayBook 2.0 is a more productive device. The virtual keyboard is much improved, with auto-correct suggestions — though they’re hard to read in blue text on black. It isn’t really built for thumb-typing. I felt as if I was stretching my thumbs to reach certain keys and often missed the narrow spacebar.

I do have a new option for typing on the PlayBook. BlackBerry Bridge now lets you use your RIM phone as a remote control. I can type on a BlackBerry device and control the PlayBook's mouse and cursor with the BlackBerry' phone's touchpad and touch screen. This worked like a charm on the brilliantly-designed BlackBerry Bold 9930. The remote capabilities also let you control on-screen presentations.

SEE ALSO: RIM Co-CEOs Are Out, Heins Is In

The Documents to Go Suite is pre-installed, so you can create documents that work seamlessly with Microsoft Word and spreadsheets that port smoothly into Excel.

Here's another neat PlayBook trick: Print To Go. The app is a sort of mobile documents manager, but it's the way you gather those documents that's interesting. You download a print-to-file app on your PC and then print documents, files and photos to Print to Go — which then wirelessly delivers them to your PlayBook.

The Print to Go interface on the PlayBook is a bit of a weak link, however. I found it difficult to organize the documents and folders. When you launch one of the documents, the PlayBook was unaware that you started in Print To Go and offered no obvious way to switch back. Even so, it's an easy way to grab PC-based documents for a quick business trip with your PlayBook.

There are other highlights. The gaming experience is good (likely thanks to the 1 GHz dual core processor and full GB of RAM). Photos and videos that I either download or take with the device look excellent. There's even built-in video chat — but just like Apple's FaceTime, it's platform-limited. For now, I can video chat with anyone who has PlayBook OS 2.0 (eventually it will work with Blackberry OS 10 devices).

As you might have guessed, I don't know anyone who owns a PlayBook. However, I was able to test with a friendly RIM rep. The quality was about what you'd expect, and as long as neither of us moved a lot, there wasn't too much lag.

Put simply, there's a lot of good stuff in the new PlayBook platform. So why don't I love it?

Not All Good

First of all, RIM has not changed the hardware. It's black, elegant and larger than the Kindle Fire. But the buttons are the worst on any tablet I've tested. They feel cheap. The power/sleep button is hard to press, yet was accidentally triggered more than once in my backpack.

As slick as the PlayBook 2.0 interface is, I experienced numerous crashes during my testing. I frequently could not launch apps. Other times, they'd simply stopped working. Facebook took a dive when I tried to use the camera. The camera takes almost three seconds to boot up. The browser wouldn't load until I closed some apps, and the touchscreen is still not as precise or responsive as that of the iPad.

BlackBerry has filled the PlayBook 2.0 with plenty of apps. AppWorld offers access to thousands more. But I still couldn't find a decent drawing app, like Sketchbook Pro on the iPad. There’s no Amazon Kindle Reader App. There's a video store pre-loaded on the device, but it's not really well integrated. And this may be the PlayBook's biggest problem.

In the year since RIM introduced the PlayBook, we've learned some valuable lessons about the tablet market. Yes, you can compete with Apple, but only if you do it in a very specific way. First of all, your product needs to be super affordable: $199 is the new sweet spot for non-Apple pads.

The 16 GB Playbook is now $199. That's good news; it’s the same as the Amazon Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet (while beating them both on storage space and functionality—the Playbook has two cameras).

But the Fire and (to a lesser extent) the Nook succeeded because they, like Apple, offer ecosystems of content. In other words, they make it simple to consume books, movies and music on the device. Think of it as frictionless consumption. PlayBook has a great platform, but no ecosystem to speak of.

I had entered my credit card info to buy that over-priced Twitter app. Then when I used the video store, I had to start all over again. New user name and password, new credit card details. Same thing for the music store. Each time I launched one of PlayBook's media stores, I was shown a new user agreement. This will not fly for consumers.

Overall, RIM has done a decent job of making the PlayBook a usable tablet. Based on the areas where PlayBook truly shines — e-mail, calendaring, document creation, remote control via phone — I see it as a strong contender for the business tablet space. The iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook, though, have nothing to worry about.

More About: blackberry, RIM, RIM Playbook, tablets

How Pinterest Helped Clean a House — and Save a Marriage

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 01:45 PM PST

Jennifer Borget might be a great sewer, but she hates cleaning. Her husband does most of it — the dishes, vacuuming, laundry, bathrooms — and nags her to clean up her sewing and craft area.

But she refused to be a “Stepford wife,” she says, until Pinterest inspired her to make cleaning crafty.

The 26-year-old TV news reporter joined Pinterest last year to get better ideas for clothing styles. She loves to make dresses and matching hair bows for her 2-year-old daughter. Clothing patterns, ribbons, fabric, crafty paper and other sewing items flooded the living room of the family’s two-bedroom Austin, Texas, home. Dresses, hair bows and toys bulged out of a chest in her daughter’s bedroom.

“I tried to shove things in the corner of the living room, my craft area, and warned my husband to stay away,” she wrote in a blog post. “I blamed my disorder on our small living quarters.”

But in January, she had a change of heart when she saw a fabric organizer pin. A tutorial showed Borget how to wrap fabric around thin boards. Her fabric spilling out of a picnic basket is now neatly arranged on her bookshelf.

Next, she spooled ribbon that was normally tangled, onto clothing pins and tossed them into a glass jar. After that, she organized her patterns into a binder and moved on to sorting through her daughter’s toys. Her daughter’s dresses are now in a clear comforter bag. Borget started her own home organizing pin.

“My husband is very impressed with my Pinterest projects,” she said. “He likes the remote basket and my fabric organizer best.”

She says Pinterest saved her marriage. Well, there was never a threat of divorce, but the couple now has fewer reasons to argue about keeping the house tidy, and they’re happier.

“I still don’t like cleaning at all, but if it has to do with making something new and organizing things I like it,” Borget said.

Check out her crafts in the gallery below.

The Crafty Mess Makers

Jennifer Borget makes beautiful outfits and hair bows for her 2.5-year-old daughter. Her crafty spirit leaves her house a bit messy and Borget hates cleaning.

She has turned to Pinterest to find ideas to keep her house orderly. Check out her board, Order in the Court! -Organization.

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Borget

Click here to view this gallery.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Borget

More About: marriage, pinterest, trending

Twitter Cheers on J.K. Rowling’s Adult Fiction

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 01:29 PM PST

Image via @_Snape_.

Click here to view this gallery.

Harry Potter fans flocked to social media sites on Thursday to celebrate the news that author J.K. Rowling will be taking a crack at adult fiction.

The best-selling author has announced that she will be returning to writing, and the content this time will be geared toward adults. Rowling will be working with a new publisher — Little, Brown and Company — for her latest book. No details about the name, storyline and release date are known at this time.

"Although I've enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world," Rowling said in a statement.

"The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry's success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life."

SEE ALSO: Twilight vs. Harry Potter: The Social Universe Picks a Winner

Fans of the wildly popular Harry Potter series posted the news to sites such as Twitter and Facebook and made the announcement go viral.

Hashtags and keywords related to Rowling trended worldwide on Twitter, and the author become one of the most-searched terms on Google.

Even the fictional characters from Rowling’s previous books such as Professor Snape and Voldemort sent out tweets with their reactions. Meanwhile, U.K.-based crime novelist Ian Rankin sent out a tweet suggesting that Rowling’s novel could be crime-focused and set in Edinburgh, Scotland — his and Rowling’s home town.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if J K Rowling’s first novel for adults turned out to be a crime story set in Edinburgh? My word yes,” @Beathhigh tweeted.

For more Twitter reactions, check out the gallery above. Will you be reading Rowling’s next novel? Could it possibly live up to the success of Harry Potter? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Daniel Ogren

More About: harry potter, trending topics, Twitter

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KickStumbler, a StumbleUpon for Kickstarter, Will Steal Your Day

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 01:19 PM PST

At some point, Kickstarter became more than just a way to fund art, music and other creative endeavors. It became entertaining content in itself.

A new website called KickStumbler plays up the entertainment value of Kickstarter projects by applying a StumbleUpon concept to them (StumbleUpon declined to comment on what they thought about the imitation). Users can hit a button on the site’s toolbar in order to see a new random project. They can also choose to Stumble within specific categories or keep it to video only.

The Kickstarter projects that are featured often contain stories. What would inspire an industrial designer to make a rabbit-shaped hook named Frank? What does photography described as “romantically morbid” look like? And can anything really be cool enough to meet a goal of raising $2 million?

Even if you never fund one, it’s easy to get sucked in to the site.

“I wrote this because I really found myself wanting to use it,” explains Anthony Volodkin, KickStumbler’s creator, “that’s actually the most time-consuming part, it’s easy to get distracted with the projects themselves.”

Volodkin spends his days running Hype Machine, a music discovery app that keeps track of what music bloggers are talking about. He told Mashable that KickStumbler, which he created over a few sleepless weekends, was born from a personal obsession.

“When not making Hype Machine, I've been obsessively browsing and funding projects,” he says.

If you launch KickStumbler on your browser, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing the same. Let us know in the comments if you stumble across any particularly interesting projects.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, FMNG

More About: kickstarter, kickstumbler, stumbleupon

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Black Hole Creates Fastest Wind Ever Clocked [VIDEO]

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 01:07 PM PST

Black holes may be invisible, but astute observers can find them by looking for the effect of their intense gravity on other nearby celestial objects. That intense gravity can sometimes “steal” gas from nearby stars, which can collect in a spinning disk around the black hole. That spinning disk can create fast-moving wind in outer space.

That’s what’s happening with a certain black hole named IGR J17091. (Astronomers aren’t the type for creative names.) But there’s something special about this particular black hole: the wind being created by its disk is the fastest wind ever recorded in the universe.

“This is like the cosmic equivalent of winds from a category five hurricane,” Ashley King, the lead author of a study on IGR J17091, said in a statement. “We weren’t expecting to see such powerful winds from a black hole like this.”

The study was conducted by University of Michigan astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and published in the Feb/ 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

How fast is the wind coming off IGR J17091? About 20 million miles per hour, or 3 % of the speed of light, according to NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory. That’s over ten times the top speed ever clocked by similar black holes around the universe. And IGR J17091 is sort of a black hole “featherweight” — not even close to the size of its larger brethren.

“It’s a surprise this small black hole is able to muster the wind speeds we typically only see in the giant black holes,” study co-author Jon Miller in a statement. “In other words, this black hole is performing well above its weight class.”

For more on IGR J17091, watch the video above. Then let us know what you think in the comments.

Images courtesy of NASA

More About: NASA, Science, space

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NCAA Lets Facebook Fans Pick March Madness Field

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 12:55 PM PST

It’s an annual rite for college basketball fans to grumble about how they would have done a better job than the NCAA’s official selection committee when picking the March Madness tournament field.

This year, a team of ten Facebook-savvy fans gets a chance to prove what they know, and demystify the selection process for others, thanks to a first-of-its-kind NCAA contest.

Announced today, the Super 10 contest winners will travel to Atlanta for Selection Sunday to make their picks using official data while using social media to document their experience.

The winners were chosen after submitting 30-second videos demonstrating their passion and basketball knowledge to the NCAA’s March Madness Facebook Page. In Atlanta, they’ll attend the ACC conference tournament, tour the Turner Sports broadcast studios where March Madness coverage will take place, and be given an in-depth primer on how teams are selected for the field.

Then they’ll adjourn to a war room with some former members of the official committee and create their own bracket to be posted to Facebook and an hour before the actual version is released on March 11.

“One push this year is to make the process more transparent,” Jeff Hathaway, chair of the NCAA’s selection committee, told Mashable. “We’ve done these mock selections for members of the media, college coaches and broadcast talent, but now to give these 10 fans an opportunity will be a tremendous experience for them and a great opportunity to shed some light on how it actually works.”

Colin Casey of Jersey City is one of the chosen fan committee members. An MBA student interested in sports business, Casey said he’s excited to get both a fan and professional perspective on the inner workings of one of American sports’ most popular events. He also said he plans to tweet photos and thoughts throughout the weekend using the #Super10 hashtag, “for everyone else out there who is just as curious as to exactly how this process works.”

The unique and innovative window into Selection Sunday wouldn’t have been possible to pull off before platforms like Facebook and Twitter became a major piece of sports fans’ lives, according to Dave Moll, who helps manage the NCAA’s digital operations for Turner Sports.

“It’s definitely all based in social media,” Moll said.

Which events would you like to see leverage social media for similar behind-the-curtain looks through fans’ eyes? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Facebook, march madness, NCAA, sports

38 Million Americans Visit Social Networks on Mobile Devices ‘Near Daily’ [STUDY]

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 12:45 PM PST


Are you reading this story on your phone via a link on Twitter, Facebook or some other social network? You’re not alone.

A new study by research firm comScore says 64.2 million U.S. citizens use their mobile devices for social networking, with more than half of them doing so “almost every day.”

A full 38.2 million people use social networks on their phones or tablets on a “near daily” basis, according to the report. What exactly are they doing? Reading updates from friends, the study says, with 84.6% of mobile social networkers checking out “posts from people known personally.” Posting status updates was the second most popular activity, with 73.6% of users partaking. It’s important to note comScore counts reading blogs as social networking.

While the study found users are most likely to read posts from friends, it also says people are increasingly using their social networks to interact with brands and organizations. Almost 58% of U.S. users read posts from companies or brands, and about 32% are said to be likely to click on ads while social networking.

The overall number of people experiencing social networks through their phones or tablets is surging. That 64 million figure is up 77% from the year before, and daily users are up 88%. That growth is tied directly to smartphone adoption, which comScore says is up to 41.8% of the phone-owning audience — up from 27% just a year ago.

SEE ALSO: Social Networking on Mobile Devices Skyrockets

The top app that people use to get their social on is Facebook. On both iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) as well as Android, Facebook is the top social-networking app on mobile. Twitter is a distant second, much lower in the ranks than Facebook and even placing behind the social game Words With Friends on both platforms. (The list of top apps on iOS and Android is below.)

Although mobile social networking is rising rapidly, it’s not the reason people buy a smartphone. The study says a particular phone’s social-networking abilities was far down the list of factors in a purchase decision, the No. 1 being the network quality of the mobile service provider. The phone’s operating system and overall app selection also rank highly.

How often do you get social on your smartphone or tablet? Do you think the comScore study accurately reflects how people use social media on mobile devices? Let us know in the comments.


More About: android, ComScore, Facebook, iOS, ipad, iphone, iPod Touch, Social Media, social networking, social networks, Twitter

Tumblr Takes a Stand Against ‘Self-Harm’ Blogs

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 12:33 PM PST

healthy living

Tumblr will release a new policy blocking blogs that promote self-harm — such as anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation and suicide — in a change to the platform’s Content Policy. The company is asking its community for input on the revised policy, which will be live within the next week.

“We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users' freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits,” a Tumblr staff blog post says. “As a company, we've decided that some specific kinds of content aren't welcome on Tumblr.”

While Tumblr, as a company, strongly opposes self-harm and does not want to host such content, it has been torn between whether to prohibit the blogs altogether or direct readers to organizations such as the National Eating Disorders Association, as a public service.

Tumblr’s proposed solution is to change its policy and sponsor public service ads, with links to organizations and help hotline phone numbers, that will appear alongside search results for terms such as anorexia, anorexic, bulimia, bulimic, thinspiration, thinspo, proana, purge, purging, etc.

Below is the proposed change to Tumblr’s Content Policy:

Active Promotion of Self-Harm. Don't post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or mutilate themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seek counseling or treatment for depression or other disorders. Online dialogue about these acts and conditions is incredibly important; this prohibition is intended to reach only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification. For example, joking that you need to starve yourself after Thanksgiving or that you wanted to kill yourself after a humiliating date is fine, but recommending techniques for self-starvation or self-mutilation is not.

The blogosphere has been known to host support group-like communities for individuals with self-harming behaviors. Pro-ana or thinspiration blogs, glorifying eating disorders and overlooking recovery, have been investigated by The Oprah Winfrey Show and PBS Frontline, among others.

Do you think Tumblr has proposed the right steps to rid the platform of blogs promoting self-harm? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Viorika

More About: Social Good, tumblr

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5 Exciting Speakers Join Mashable Connect

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 12:22 PM PST

Mashable’s largest conference, Mashable Connect, is returning to Orlando, FL from May 3-5, and this year we will explore the future of digital with some of the brightest minds in the industry. We’re pleased to announce five digital leaders have joined our dynamic list of speakers.

Register for Mashable Connect 2012 in Lake Buena Vista, FL on Eventbrite

Additional Confirmed Speakers

  • Duane Bray is a partner at IDEO, where he heads the firm's Global Digital Business. He routinely explores the intersection of technology and people, revealing and elevating the emotional connections that we forge with digital media.
  • June Cohen is executive producer of TED Media, and was responsible for bringing the TED Conference online, and growing its audience from 1,000 attendees to 150 million viewers worldwide. Previously, she was VP of content at, the pioneering website from Wired Magazine.
  • Alexander Ljung is the founder and CEO of SoundCloud, the world's leading social sound platform that enables anyone, anywhere, to create and share their originally created sounds across the web.
  • Joe Trippi and his team pioneered the empowerment message and the online community tools that have become the basis of movement politics all around the world. Joe was heralded on the cover of The New Republic as the man who “reinvented campaigning."
  • Adora Svitak is the author of three books and an international teacher, speaker, and activist. Since the age of four, she has been exploring what she can do with the written word: everything from championing literacy and youth voices to guest blogging for Mashable, Edutopia and the Huffington Post.

These are only a few of the many prominent figures who will be speaking at Mashable Connect. You can see a full list of speakers here.

Event Information

Our annual destination conference, Mashable Connect, brings our community together for three days to connect offline in an intimate setting at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World®. Registration is now open.

Held in a unique location away from everyday distractions, Mashable Connect is a rare and valuable opportunity to be surrounded by digital leaders across industries. You'll spend time with Mashable's passionate and influential community, hear from top speakers who will provide insight into the the technologies and trends that are shaping the next era of digital innovation, and get to spend time with the Mashable team.

To keep Mashable Connect as intimate as possible, only a limited amount of tickets are available.

A Look Back at Last Year's Mashable Connect

1. Mashable Connect Race Powered by Gowalla

Team members check in to a race location at Magic Kingdom during the Mashable Connect Race powered by Gowalla.

Click here to view this gallery.

Supporting Sponsor

Sponsorship Opportunities

A limited number of sponsor opportunities are available for Mashable Connect. This is an excellent opportunity to get in front of Mashable's passionate and influential audience. Contact for opportunities.

More About: Conference, digital, disney world, education, event, lecture, mashable connect, networking, orlando, speakers, technology

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Apple at Odds With Rival Browser Makers Over ‘Do Not Track’ Button

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 12:15 PM PST

All the major browser makers plan to install a “Do Not Track” button this year — except for one, according to an attorney representing the Digital Advertising Alliance.

Stuart Ingis, counsel to the DAA, says that Apple, creator of the Safari browser, is “not engaged” in the process at this point. Of course, that doesn’t mean the company might not come on board later; the DAA is holding the door open.

Apple’s lack of an opt-out privacy option for consumers comes after a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that Google was overriding Safari’s privacy protection features to glean data from consumers. Apple is not a DAA member, and the company could not be reached for comment.

Update: An alert reader notes that a Do Not Track feature appeared last week in the standard preferences for Safari 5.2.

Apple’s stance contrasts with DAA members, who vowed to go the self-regulation route after the Obama Administration issued a “Consumer Bill of Rights” for online data tracking Thursday.

Perhaps the highest-profile DAA member to agree to a Do Not Track button is Google, which plans to offer the option on its Chrome browser.

The button, a proposal favored by the Federal Trade Commission, will be available in Chrome by the end of the year. "We're pleased to join a broad industry agreement to respect the 'do-not-track' header in a consistent and meaningful way that offers users choice and clearly explained browser controls,” Google Senior Vice President of Advertising Susan Wojcicki said in a statement.

If you take the “Do Not Track” option, then Google and other DAA members have agreed to stop using web-based behavioral data to create so-called “interest-based ads” and won’t use the information for health care, employment, credit and insurance purposes, Ingus says.

However, the data will still be used for market research, product creation and to abet law enforcement.

Image courtesy of Flickr, marcopako

More About: apple, do not track, FTC, Google, Obama Adminstration, privacy, trending

Soldier Bradley Manning Formally Charged in WikiLeaks Case

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 12:07 PM PST

Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army soldier suspected of handing classified government data to WikiLeaks, deferred his plea Thursday at his military arraignment at Fort Meade, Md.

Manning was formally accused of 22 charges associated with the biggest leak of classified documents in U.S. history. The most serious of those charges is “aiding the enemy,” which can carry the death penalty. However, Army prosecutors said that option was off the table. Instead, if Manning was found guilty, they would seek to put him behind bars for life.

Some of the other charges against Manning include disclosing classified information to a person not authorized to receive it, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy and violating Army computer use rules.

Manning’s defense lawyers argue that he was troubled and shouldn’t have been granted top-secret clearance.

After choosing to not enter a plea, Manning also passed on the chance to choose between a jury by a military jury or by a lone judge.

Manning was arrested in May of last year. He served as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq with top-secret clearance. His alleged leak included over 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, 400,000 U.S. Army reports about Iraq and another 90,000 about Afghanistan, as well as the now-infamous “Collateral Murder” video.

The soldier was first held in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Va. He was transferred to a medium-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., only after public outcry about his treatment.

In Britain, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still under house arrest while he appeals extradition to Sweden to answer for allegations of rape and sexual misconduct. Assange is reportedly planning to tape his own talk show from house arrest, where he will interview “‘political players, thinkers and revolutionaries.” That 10-part series will be run on the network Russia Today.

If Manning is found guilty of all charges, should he be locked away for life? Sound off in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, dra_schwartz

More About: bradley manning, julian assange, wikileaks

New Website Lets You Build Stories Out of Reaction GIFs

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 11:51 AM PST

Words aren’t always enough to express your feelings. At least, that’s according to the makers of That’s So True, a site that allows you to convey your emotions with reaction GIFs.

Reaction GIFs are short, multi-image animations of people — often TV or movie celebrities — acting out specific emotions. The recent uptick in these GIFs’ popularity sparked tech startup Spartz Media to launch That’s So True on Thursday.

“Reaction GIFs capture emotions better than pictures alone can; it’s one thing to see a picture of a person’s surprised face and quite another to see that person’s eyes bolt open with surprise,” 25-year-old Spartz Media founder Emerson Spartz told Mashable. “The GIF brings the story to life in a way that words alone cannot.”

That’s So True has a custom builder, which lets you input text and choose from a gallery of categorized reaction GIFs. You can also upload new GIFs for you and others to use in your stories.

“The GIFs are used to ratchet up what would otherwise be a flat, text-only story format,” Spartz says. “Ultimately, we are giving people a new and visually-stimulating way to tell short stories.”

That’s So True expands Spartz Media’s growing properties — OMG Facts, GivesMeHope and MuggleNet, among other brands — that attract 160 million monthly pageviews via websites, mobile sites and apps.

GIFs in general have become a popular vehicle to showcase notable moments of 2012. In January, a GIF of comedian Tina Fey photobombing Amy Poehler during the Golden Globes went viral. And this month, popular Super Bowl GIFs captured the best moments of the game, halftime show and commercials.

What do you think of GIFs? Have you used them? Do you like them? Sound off in the comments below.

A Look Back at Popular GIF Themes

Ten trends emerged last year in the GIF world. Let’s relive them right now.

90s Characters Dancing

Whether it's AC Slater dropping it like it's hot on Saved by the Bell, Carlton busting his signature moves on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or sitcom world's token middle daughter Stephanie Tanner swagging in Full House, 90s dancing caused major lols in 2011.

Propagated this past year in particular by a healthy crop of 90s nostalgia Tumblrs, expertly clipped moments of television royalty shaking their tailfeathers in a variety of goofy ways (did you forget the Urkel dance?) adds a heaping helping of humor to remembering the good old days of TGIF.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: GIFs, humor, Media, memes, Startups, trending

Hey Pinterest, This Fancy Startup Actually Lets Us Buy Stuff

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 11:33 AM PST

A familiar-looking site called Fancy has beaten Pinterest to the punch — by monetizing its user-curated collection of images.

Fancy, which lets users organize images from around the web into “lists,” announced Thursday that it would begin conducting transactions directly on its site. Previously, users could click on a link listed with an item to buy it on a third-party site. Now they can shop directly on Fancy — and the site will take a cut of every purchase.

Fancy founder Joseph Einhorn says that this is the first time the site will be accepting revenue, although the site has previously ran deals on behalf of brands that gave consumers who “Fancy’d” a certain number of items codes for discounts. It didn’t charge brands to run those promotions.

“What is better for a merchant?,” Einhorn says, “getting a person to click on a link that sends them to a website, or giving them completed orders?”

Merchants need to claim items already posted on the Fancy site in order to sell there. Right now, the startup will only accept one merchant per item. Eventually, like Google, it will list many merchants who sell an item. If no merchant claims an item, users still need to travel to a third-party site in order to make the purchase.

Fancy, though it is similarly organized, is not just like Pinterest. The one-year-old site has focused on things you can buy from its beginning, while Pinterest seems to tend toward what Einhorn good-willingly calls “endless self expression.”

Pinterest, which is reportedly 11 million users strong, hasn’t yet established a major revenue stream. The startup has likely collected some modest amounts by referring buyers to merchants.

Fancy provides an example of one way Pinterest could eventually monetize its site. It may not have Pinterest’s user base, but it does have investors backing it that could help it grow quickly.

Among them are Ashton Kutcher and Bob Pittman, the founder of MTV. Holding company PPR, which has a portfolio that includes Gucci, Puma, Bottega Veneta, Alexander Mcqueen, among others, is also a shareholder.

We’re guessing it was through one of these influential channels that Kanye West ended up tweeting that Fancy “is really dope” to his 6.7 million followers on Monday.

It’s not that Fancy is ever going to “take on Pinterest,” per se, but it does beg the question of whether there is indeed room for more than one significant social image-cataloging site — with more than one business model — on the web.

“I think there are going to be a zillion successful social ecommerce sites on the Internet,” Einhorn says. “Just like there are a zillion companies successful in ecommerce.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, chieferu

More About: Fancy, pinterest, social ecommerce

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Forget Generation Y: 18- to 34-Year-Olds Are Now ‘Generation C’

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 11:18 AM PST

It’s hardly news that young adults are the most digitally connected, but now Nielsen has come up with a new name for this group based on their common behaviors: “Generation C.”

The C stands for “connected,” and the group comprises Americans between 18 and 34 — who are defined by their digital connectivity, Nielsen and NM Incite's U.S. Digital Consumer Report says. They consume media, socialize and share experiences through devices more than other age groups.

The most recent U.S. Census finds 18- to 24-year-olds make up 23% of the population. Yet they watch 27% of online videos, constitute 27% of visitors to social networking sites, own 33% of tablets and use 39% of smartphones. When it comes to watching TV, they are exactly in proportion with their ratio of the population, representing 23% of TV viewers.

“Their ownership and use of connected devices makes them incredibly unique consumers, representing both a challenge and opportunity for marketers and content providers alike,” Nielsen writes. “Generation C is engaging in new ways and there are more touch points for marketers to reach them.”

The below graphic visualizes different Nielsen numbers on American media consumption. Some stand out figures from the graphs show that tablets are the only device that men own in higher numbers than women and that whites use more tech devices than blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.

Are you a part of “Generation C?” Do you think this is a valid characterization of the age group? Let us know in the comments.

Click the image to enlarge.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, izusek

More About: generation y, millenials, Nielsen, trending

2020: The Rise or Demise of Wireless Carriers?

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 11:02 AM PST

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

Kolja Reiss is Managing Director for mopay Inc., one of the world leaders in mobile payments technology reaching more than 3.3 billion consumers in 80 countries.

Smartphones and tablets have improved customer convenience and have fostered an economic boon for wireless carriers, ecommerce sites and app manufacturers. And thanks to their constant pursuit of innovation — and attempts to best the competition — wireless carriers have evolved the original concept of the mobile phone from a simple handset and communication tool to a staple of our daily lives.

Yet with these innovations, carriers have also had to change their business models to reflect the fact they no longer simply facilitate communication; rather, they are now part of a broader mcommerce ecosystem. From television, broadband and ISP services to mobile payments, it's quite clear that wireless carriers will continue to be a presence in our lives for many years to come. However, if we fast forward just eight years to 2020, what will their role be?

2020: The Year the Carrier Becomes All Things to All People – Right?

Today, if you can do it online, chances are you can do it on a wireless carrier's network via your mobile handset or tablet. As each year progresses, carriers debut more and more innovative offerings with the goal of making the consumer's life easier. Within the next eight years, wireless providers could become the only service providers on which we rely. Here are some of the innovations wireless carriers have begun to cater to.

  • Entertainment: In the home, companies like Verizon have begun to bundle TV, Internet and wireless services together into one big package. Consumers can use their computers to change the channel, stream newly released movies still in theaters and dial/email their contacts hands-free. Outside of the home, consumers are able to DVR recordings, or even watch television through their mobile devices, utilizing their carrier's wireless network.
  • Productivity: Tablets have added an additional layer for consumers to become more productive throughout their days, thanks in part to the "Internet everywhere" mindset. Whether delivering a presentation in a business setting or navigating an unfamiliar neighborhood, customers can now access a myriad of functions on a carrier's network. And don’t forget all of the scheduling and text/IM capabilities either.
  • Gaming: Wireless companies are partnering with gaming companies to offer live action gaming for players who live continents apart. Direct carrier billing enables them to buy the virtual goods they need to keep the competition moving.
  • Mobile Shopping and Commerce: Perhaps the biggest argument many in the industry are making is that by 2020, mobile payments — at point of sale through NFC, or online with carrier billing initiatives — will necessitate a greater use of the wireless carrier's network, thus increasing our daily need for the services carriers provide.

2020: Is the Wireless Carrier Even Relevant Anymore?

Some are taking a completely opposite view: that carriers will not drive innovation in the coming years, that by 2020, they will merely be a pipeline for data transmission, that consumer business will be in the hands of other companies such as Google and Apple.

The last 10 years have shown that most global carriers have missed major trends which have changed — and are still changing — our world. For example, the first meaningful smartphone came from Apple, rather than from any manufacturer with close ties to carriers such as Motorola, Nokia, etc. The first meaningful mobile wallet came from Google (even though ISIS was first in the market). Mobile VoIP was revolutionized by Skype and Google (a.k.a. Google Voice), all while carriers remained bystanders, missing each opportunity.

Now, it's true that carriers will not go down without a fight. They will do everything in their power to hold their leads among consumers. But if the proliferation of Google and Facebook has taught us anything, it's that these powerhouses can — and eventually will — try to play in the big leagues. It wasn't that long ago we heard rumors of a Facebook phone and, for a time, there was a healthy amount of speculation as to what this would mean for the established telecom giants.

Of course, there's always the possibility of government intervention. The failure of the AT&T/T-mobile merger proves that consolidation on this level will simply not be tolerated, regardless of the company's financial instability or inferiority.

So, what do you think? Will 2020 see wireless carriers emerge as our lifelines to the world, or will a proliferation of new data networks render these carefully built networks less relevant?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, belterz

More About: apple, contributor, Facebook, features, Google, Mobile, mobile carriers, Opinion, prediction

10 Best Strategy Games for Android

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 10:46 AM PST

1. Plants vs. Zombies

PopCap's irreverent strategy game has players trying to protect a house from invading zombies by planting defenses in five rows. The game's difficulty curve is brilliantly plotted. By the time there are dozens of defenses and enemy types to juggle, the player won't feel overwhelmed because of the game's steady pace.

Click here to view this gallery.

Are you an Android gamer who’s tired of flinging birds and cutting ropes? Looking for a cerebral experience on your Google phone or tablet of choice?

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Action Games for Android

You’re in luck, as the Market offers plenty of great strategy games. From turn-based planning to fast-paced tower defense, here are our top strategy picks for Android.

More About: android, Entertainment, Gaming, Google, Mobile, mobile games

For more Entertainment coverage:

‘Earmark’ Was Most-Searched Term on Google During Republican Debate

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 10:26 AM PST

The four remaining Republican presidential hopefuls went toe-to-toe in Arizona during Wednesday night’s CNN debate, dishing out terms like “romneycare” and “bridge to nowhere.” But which was the expression that sparked the curiosity of debate watchers and Internet searchers across the nation? “Earmark.”

Google’s Politics and Elections team monitored the search engine during the two-hour Republican debate. During that time, searches for “earmark” skyrocketed by 2,300% above the normal rate for the term.

In Congress, an earmark is a guarantee of federal funding for a certain project, sometimes hidden away in bills intended for a different purpose altogether. Because earmarks can be tucked inside unrelated bills and sometimes benefit voters from a politician’s home turf, they’re often the target of those who argue against excessive government spending. And during Wednesday night’s debate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum got into a spat about that very issue.

Romney has been tagging Santorum as an “earmarker” in recent campaign ads. During Wednesday’s debate, Rick Santorum defended his earmarks by explaining that there are “good” and “bad” earmarks, using the example of salvaging a military aircraft project as a “good” earmark.

Santorum went on to attack Romney for taking advantage of earmarks for the Salt Lake City Olympics, for which Romney was CEO. Romney returned fire by criticizing the earmark process in general.

"While I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the bridge to nowhere," he said to Santorum.

“You’re misrepresenting the facts,” responded Santorum. “You don’t know what you’re taking about.”

Finally, the two found common ground on the line-item veto, which allows the president to veto small provisions of a bill without touching the rest of it.

But the back-and-forth between the candidates was enough to pique the interest of millions of Americans, who turned to Google’s search engine to learn more about earmarks and the “bridge to nowhere” metaphor, which was second on Google’s list of debate-related searches. “Bridge to nowhere” is a reference to earmark spending on projects that benefit a politician’s supporters.

Google also found that searches for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spiked during the debate in Arizona and nationally. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum enjoyed the highest number of absolute searches across the nation.

Do you think Google trends are an effective way of seeing what parts of a debate resonate with an audience? Sound off in the comments below.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, manley099

More About: GOP primary, Politics

Get Ready to Grab a Free Song From This Oscar Ad, via Shazam

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 10:09 AM PST

Viewers of this weekend’s Academy Awards telecast may want to have their smatphones handy when a Tide ad comes on. If you have the Shazam app, you can download a free song from that ad.

The tune, “Pop Goes the World,” is a remake of a Men Without Hats song by Savoir Adore. (See below for the original version.) The ad, for Tide’s new Tide Pods laundry detergent, will feature a “Shazam bug” to access the song plus content about Tide Pods. Users have to install the Shazam app to access it.

The ad is the first one from the Procter & Gamble brand to feature a Shazam integration. “The marketing campaign for Tide Pods was designed to make you take notice that this isn’t your typical new and improved laundry detergent,” a rep for the brand says.

Nevertheless, Tide is hardly the first brand to offer a Shazam bug. Nearly a third of this year’s Super Bowl ads were Shazam-enabled, according to a Shazam rep.

Advertisers using Shazam in this year’s game’s ads include Toyota, Best Buy and Pepsi. In addition, the movie trailers for John Carter, Act of Valor and The Avengers all featured Shazam integration, which was used to access more information about the films.

Shazam, initially known for identifying music, has been employed as something of an aural QR code since last year, when the company launched its “Shazam for TV” initiative. One of the first Shazam-able ads, for Transformers 3, unlocked a free download of a Linkin Park single.

More About: academy awards, Advertising, Marketing, shazam, Tide

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